Monday, November 23, 2015

on appreciation aka i'm about to get real gross and sappy and i'm not sorry

if you're friends with me on twitter or facebook, you probably know about the drama my family had this weekend with a gas leak in our building, getting evacuated for 2 1/2 hours in the cold, and then having no heat or hot water for the rest of the weekend. after taking a very, very cold shower last night and then jumping into bed with like a million covers, washing my hands in warm water this morning was like a dream.

on my way to work today, there was the usual insane traffic trying to get out of town (all my bayonne peeps know that the struggle is REAL.) a truck driver slowed down to let me merge in, even though he had the right of way (i had a stop sign). i waved and said "thanks sir, i appreciate it!", even though he obviously couldn't hear me. but those words triggered a deep feeling in my cold, dead heart. it's been a rough fall for me, with the book debacle, family issues, and ikey getting sick. and that's not even counting the stress of trying to buy a house, which i totally brought on myself so i know i shouldn't complain about.

but it occurred to me in that moment that this week, (american) thanksgiving week, is the perfect time to choose to focus on all that i am thankful for. this sounds trite, i know, but in practical terms, i mean to make a conscious effort this week to stop and appreciate the things i do have, the things that go right, the relationships in my life. i'm going to say thank you more; going to stop and think, "wow, that was nice!" when someone goes out of their way for me; going to smile and acknowledge the people around me who make my life livable, from the crossing guards to the trash collectors to the coffee shop workers.

my parents taught me to be polite, so i'm definitely a please-and-thank-you kind of girl, but i'm going to focus on the words and the sentiment behind them, rather than just as an automatic response. instead of rushing through the thank-you moment, i'm going to pause in each one, and take an extra second or two to really feel the gratitude and appreciation. i have a feeling that just making this effort will make this a happy week for me and the people around me. (and let's hope it forms a habit!)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Learned Extroversion: an Anxiety-Sufferer's Guide to Professional Development

This post has been brewing for a long time, and continues my long-standing tradition of posting about conference talks (basically just a place for people to find my slides) and personal stuff and little else in between. Today is on the personal side of things, with professional implications.

I was watching a tv show the other day, and someone was talking about how they are a "learned extrovert" and something clicked in my head. This was right after some drama that went down with my dentist's office, whereby they needed me to come in and sign some paperwork and couldn't understand why I never answer my phone. Good question, that. I mean, I'm not a snake person after all, so what's my big deal with the damned phone? (Aside from the fact that I have some hearing issues that make it near impossible for me to actually understand what the other person is saying and result in a constant refrain of "excuse me? can you repeat that?")

This is where the idea of learned extroversion comes in. People always "accuse" me of being an extrovert, and I try to explain that the colloquial definition (and maybe literal, I don't particularly feel like looking it up right now) of an extrovert is someone who is energized by social interaction, NOT someone who is good at it. If social interaction drains you, you're probably actually an introvert at heart. But definitely somewhere along the line I picked up the rules and rhythm of socializing, and at times can be quite proficient at it. The problem is, in order to do it I need plenty of preparation, a good understanding of the type of people I'll be around, a feel for the type of space and level of formality, and just the right amount of alcohol. If any one of those factors is off, I'm flailing. I can sometimes still do pretty well, but it takes a hell of a lot more out of me. And even the most successful, seemingly effortless social forays leave me exhausted and second-guessing myself for days, or even weeks.

So this goes back to why I hate answering the phone, or why I hate unplanned social interactions in general. I haven't had time to assess the situation and prepare myself, so they fill me with untold anxiety. (I'm "lucky" in the anxiety department. I don't ever seem to worry about normal things like money or mortality or any of the bad things in life that can ACTUALLY HAPPEN. Anxiety for me comes on suddenly and often inexplicably and lingers even after the trigger event or trigger moment is long gone, and presents itself at various levels of severity, from vague sense of impending doom to all-out hammering heart and shortness of breath.)

This summer I went to a pretty high-level leadership academy at Harvard, and it was a really tough experience for me, which has been lingering in the back of my brain and bugging me ever since. It was a good example of how awful things can be for the learned extrovert when events are not what they were expecting and they are not properly prepared.

First, I went into the week-long workshop stressed out about the fact that the only reason I had applied was because my work told me I had funds to spend on professional development, and so I sought out what I thought would be a worthwhile experience, only to be told later that those funds, for unknown reasons, were no longer available. And this is not an inexpensive event, and Cambridge is not an inexpensive place to stay. So being thousands of dollars out of pocket for something I was doing mostly because I thought I had money to spend put me in a bad place right from the start. Then there was the fact that I had 2 vacations with friends in the following 2 weeks, one of which I was flying to directly from Boston. (Vacations are fun, yes, but vacations are also STRESSFUL, duh.)

Also, the academy was far more intensive than I had prepared for: they were long days with very little opportunity to decompress by oneself built in. I actually had to miss a couple of sessions in order to find a quiet place to sit alone and recover from all the interaction. At the end of the day(s) I really should have holed up in my hotel room, catching up on reading (of which there was A LOT) and ordering room service while mindlessly staring at the tv, but I have friends in Boston, and made new ones at the event, so I did more socializing after hours than I had expected to.

I feel bad for my fellow attendees, like I let them down by needing to opt out of some of the group work and discussion, but I do feel like it was the only way for me to be "present" at the rest of the sessions. I was also a bit bummed out that my stress levels kept me from getting as much out of the workshop as others did, and the disappointment I felt when I saw (seemingly) everyone else having a transformative and deeply enriching experience when I was feeling cynical and stressed out fed into the anxiety loop and just made everything that much harder.

My advice for anyone applying for an immersion program or intensive academy, especially if you have depression and/or anxiety, is:

a) DO NOT FORGET YOUR MEDS (I brought mine on the trip but didn't have them on me during the first day of sessions and that was NOT SMART.)

b) Choose one or two nights for after hours socializing and resist the temptation to go out on the other nights, even just for dinner. It's a great bonding experience, but if you're anything like me, dinner leads to happy hour leads to hotel bar drinks leads to staying up way later than you had planned.

c) Be honest with yourself and others about how you're doing. People are surprisingly understanding and accommodating when you're open about where your head's at.

d) Leave work at work. Let colleagues know ahead of time that you will not be available and don't check your email during the day.

e) Reach out to your touchstones. Part of my problem was being cut off from my supportive and helpful online community of librarians, who really are a lifeline for me. This academy expressly asked that we not use our phones during sessions, or tweet or post what was being talked about. I definitely understand these rules, but I wish I broke them just a little bit. My online PLN helps me make put ideas and theories in context, and more importantly, helps me feel a little bit less crazy through commiseration, compassion, and humor. Being so out of touch with them added to my feeling a bit adrift and isolated within the group.

Finally, it's important to know your limits. Conferences and workshops are meant to push you and inspire you, but you have to know when you're overwhelmed and consequently starting to shut down. Prioritize what you want to learn and what you want to get out of an experience, and hold yourself to that, but also give yourself the space you need to unwind and decompress. This is pretty much my lifelong challenge: learning when I should be hard on myself, and when I should just chill the fuck out.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

ankle injuries and horror movies

so yesterday i was laid up with a strained peroneus brevis muscle which apparently is from walking too much on uneven surfaces in crappy shoes with not enough support. i asked twitter for suggestions for horror movies i could watch on netflix or amazon prime, and i figured i'd share the resulting list here, as a reminder to myself, but also for you good people! i should say that i specified that the movies not feature extreme gore or gratuitous violence towards women, because that sort of thing makes my stomach hurt. thanks to everyone on twitter and facebook for your suggestions, it's much appreciated!!!
  • absentia 
  • american mary
  • babadook 
  • conqueror worm
  • dark skies
  • devil's backbone
  • grave encounters
  • harper's island (series)
  • haunter
  • hide and seek
  • housebound 
  • nightcrawler
  • oculus
  • pontypool
  • rosemary's baby
  • the awakening
  • the host
  • the house of the devil 
  • the innkeepers
  • the others
  • the pact
  • the possession 
  • the taking of deborah logan
  • the tall man
  • under the skin
  • what we do in the shadow
ok so that's it for now. i'm also thankful to my lovely internet friends for recommending ankle braces so this recurring injury hopefully decides to recur less often. these are the 2 that people seem to like: McDavid Laced Ankle BraceASO Ankle Stabilizing Orthosis

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Google Drive: Going Beyond Docs and Sheets

Tomorrow I'll be speaking at the 2015 Long Island Library Conference, in Melville, NY.

Here's they abstract for my talk, which is at 3pm in Salons 1, 2, & 3 (upstairs):

Google Drive is a free and easy way to create, share, and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. There are also simple tools for creating forms and surveys. Learn all the tips and tricks for getting the most out of Google Drive, including what you need to know about permissions and revisions, and how to add extra functionality to your spreadsheets and forms with Google Apps Script!

I'll be going over the basics of why and how you can use Google Drive, and then give some live examples of some tips and tricks, including crafting good form questions, analyzing form results, and, if time permits, some more advanced stuff like using functions in spreadsheets.

Some links and resources I'll be talking about include -

Google Drive "Hacks":
Google Drive Encryption Tools:
Google Drive and Privacy:
I'll also be talking about Google Drive in my book, "Knowledge Management for Libraries" (Rowman & Littlefield) due out in August 2015, so look out for that! ;)

Friday, March 27, 2015

as usual, i have a lot to say about a thing...

I feel like the library world needs its own rally to restore sanity right now. There are some loud voices on extreme ends of certain issues, but I think the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, like with US politics. There are some people from outside the field saying some pretty nasty things and I honestly feel like the vitriol has pushed some major issues to the side.

What the hell am I talking about? I'm talking about Lisa Rabey getting sued by Joe Murphy. I'm talking about the reductionist nature of the where the rhetoric has ended up. People who don't work in the field, who've never met any of the people involved, have turned this case into a lot of things it was not. As someone who was close to the case for several reasons, I feel obliged to speak on a few things. 

First, I've met Joe Murphy and worked with him on several projects, one being a special issue of a journal he was editing and I wrote an article for, and the other being a talk series at Yale that he invited me to speak at. He never sexually harassed me, nor did he sexually harass anyone in my presence. 

Second, I know Lisa Rabey personally, and quite well. I don't believe she ever lied. I know she went to a conference, and was told stories about Joe by others, and decided to tweet about what she heard. 

You don't care about my personal opinion, but I'm going to give it to you anyway. I've been a librarian for over 10 years now, and I feel I have a bit of insight into the profession that some outsiders are missing when they look at this case. 

First, I do worry about people's reputation being ruined based on lies. That's wrong. But I worry that people can get sued for tweeting a completely genuine opinion about someone. Maybe Lisa did not use the right words. I personally would not have used the phrasing she used, because I am a far more timid person than she is. But I think it's telling that she could be sued over her words, while there are men on Twitter right now saying vile things to her and others involved in the case, and even threatening violence, but they will not get sued. There's a power dynamic at play here and to pretend there's not is disingenuous. 

I also think that we're in a murky area when we talk about sexual harassment and even sexual assault. A lot of women, myself included, are only just now being exposed to new rhetoric and the stories of others that are causing us to look back at our own life experiences and re-evaluate them. For years we were told that we were being treated in ways deemed acceptable by society, that it's now clear were not, in fact, acceptable. Many of us are horrified to realize that things that happened to us in the past crossed lines and we can finally talk about that out loud, and the effect it had on us. But that doesn't by any means that there's a clear standard for what is sexual harassment or sexual assault. We're all still working this shit out, and it's icky, and it's difficult, and it's not fun for anyone. 

So here's the thing. Having met Joe Murphy, having dealt with him professionally, I did not speak out on his behalf when accusations were made against him, because the truth of the matter was that I honestly couldn't in good conscience do so. Knowing that Lisa was basing her comments on things people had said to her, and having had similar experiences at conferences myself (though NOT involving Joe, let's be clear about that) I felt I had no right to question these women's accounts. To me, there were enough creepy dudes in the field who acted in this way, that it all seemed very plausible. 

So where are these women now? They have chosen not to be a part of this. That's their decision. You can judge them however you want, but I mentioned before that I'm a timid person, so I wonder if I would have had the courage to come forward. As I said  before, sexual harassment is a murky thing. Let's not pretend it's as easy as just saying "I was assaulted." Because it's not. We have our own guilt. Did I get too drunk? Did I flirt? Was I showing too much cleavage? Society has trained us to blame ourselves and we do. So it gets really hard to step forward and point a finger at someone in public when we bear so much of the weight of our own degradation. Margaret H. Willison posted a link to this article, which I think really speaks to the insidiousness of harassment:

I also think there's another reason that more people didn't speak out on Joe's behalf, besides themselves having seen this kind of behavior by other library dudes at conferences. There had been, and may well still be, that whole library rock star trend thing happening. While I feel like the profession does in fact benefit by having dynamic, passionate people speaking on its behalf, I think there began to be a disconnect between the people in the trenches, working actual library jobs, and the people speaking on their behalf at big conferences and venues. Increasingly these people were leaving full-time librarianship to go into consulting or professional speaking, and those of us still working full time in the field didn't feel like these people represented us. We didn't like them getting all the attention or winning all the awards, while we felt like we did all the work. For more on that see Julie Jurgens's excellent post ego, thy name is librarianship, or my article on the topic in The Journal of Creative Library Practice.

Thankfully, I honestly do think I've seen this trend dying down, but I think there was a lot of resentment happening for awhile there towards people who seemed to be more passionate about their personal brand than they were about libraries. I'm more than certain that this resentment led me, and others, to judge some people harshly and perhaps unfairly (and in other cases, entirely fairly.) But I don't doubt some good people got grouped in with the bad. I will not give my opinion of Joe Murphy and where he falls on that spectrum. It's not for me to say. I'm trying really hard to balance being honest with being fair, because I do think we could use a little frank discussion here, but I don't think we should vilify anyone in the process.

The point I mean to make with those last 2 paragraphs is just a long-winded way of saying it's possible Joe was not very liked by some people in library-land, and while I'm certain those people weren't plotting his doom, they also weren't going to be bothered to speak up on his behalf.

Now I want to make it very clear that these are just my impressions of the situation. I could be very wrong. Sometimes I'm bad at gauging a situation, and I think I'm speaking on behalf of people other than myself, and I'm waaaaaaaay off base. To me it just feels like maybe some of us are thinking some of these things, but we're dancing around them. If I'm right, then hopefully the sunshine will act as a disinfectant for some of the toxic stuff going on right now in our field. If I'm wrong, then please know that I'm just trying to work though some of these issues and push the conversation in a productive direction, and forgive me for speaking out of turn. I care so deeply about this profession and this community, I don't want us to waste any more of our energy than is completely necessary on in-fighting, when we should be directing that energy towards fighting for libraries.

Going forward, I want us to be able to speak openly without fear of lawsuit, and I want us to be able to go to conferences without worrying about getting harassed OR getting our reputations ruined. It's gonna be tricky for awhile. I don't have a prescription here. Conferences are fun, and you are grown adults who should be able to have fun and flirt and hook up if you want. But please remember to treat your colleagues as colleagues, and not potential hookups. Don't go out of your way to make someone feel self-conscious about their appearance or their gender or whatever. The discussion surrounding codes of conduct are a very good start. Also, don't use the profession as your personal dating service or as a vehicle to advance your personal brand. People might not tell you to your face, but it generally rubs them the wrong way. Or me anyway. There I go again speaking on behalf of everyone.

I'm going to shut the comments off on my blog for a bit, because honestly I'm afraid of trolls. This may sound counter-intuitive when this post is calling for discourse and discussion, but I think Twitter is a more public forum to have those discussions than here. Also, I'm not a brave soul and I'm afraid of people saying mean things to me in my personal space.

Again, I'm sorry if this missive is way off-base. I love this profession. I love the people in it. I feel extremely protective of the profession AND of the community, and I had to get some of this stuff out of my system so I could move forward in peace.