Monday, December 17, 2007

The Quick Fix

Business is based upon the timely analysis and application of relevant and precise information. With this in mind, how are financial shortfalls resolved in the corporate world? With responsible consideration, foresight ... and due consideration afforded the on-site information professional, of course.

CFO: "We're in financial trouble."

Executive Office: "Why?"

CFO: "Because we've mishandled our accounts. We don't have enough money."

Executive Officer: "It's time to get rid of unnecessary expenses. What do you suggest?"

CFO: "Stop the daily flower delivery; delay staff paycheques; close the library and fire the librarian. You know, the 'frills'."

Executive Officer: “What ever. Do it.”

It's true. It happened on Friday. I see elements of Slippery Slope or even Avalanche happening here. With such responsible consideration and foresight, it's no surprise the corporate debt goes unpaid.

Incidently, as I write this, I've received a call from the company asking that I come to negotiate an independent contract for my services. Now, as an independent contractor, do I wish to enter into an agreement with a company that exhibits an inability to honour its financial responsibilities?

I'll write a bit more about it in the coming days. In the meantime, this librarian has resumes to prepare.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Which kind of librarian are you?

This morning I read fellow blogger Library Bitch’s posting entitled Check The Meaning, in which he shares an astute perspective of the current state of morale in libraries. Via this short response, I wish to note that his observation is one with which I agree. Whether "Petty Fiefdoms" or "Empire Building", call it what you will, I suspect that the ongoing resistance to change observed in libraries comes down to the individual's need to feel secure in a profession experiencing high flux.

Historically, librarians have been the keepers of the books, those rare and valuable tomes of knowledge. A challenge to the librarian's position has arisen over the past years in the form of computer technology, most markedly when the kid with an IT diploma from the corner community college was determined by accountants and CFOs to provide a greater and more identifiable return on investment than that provided by the librarian. Return On Investment, folks. This is business, at all levels of librarianship, and our profession is scrambling to maintain, if not re-define or create our place within the professional information field.

Some librarians identify the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill base to better meet challenges, to personal, professional and client/patron benefit. They are moving outward, beyond the traditional roles recognized within librarianship. Other librarians recoil from opportunity, entrench and defend an antiquated approach that is no longer wholly relevant to our profession, our business, or our client/patron relationship. The world is changing; so must our profession to maintain relevance.

I don't know the cause or understand this almost ‘parochial’ smugness to which LB refers. However, I do understand the several violent slaps I received from established, old school librarians when I entered professional librarianship.

Indeed, I was once told by a head research librarian in mid-2006 to not use email to deliver requested research reports as attachments to clients (though the clients requested such), but rather to use a fax machine. In weaker moments, the head research librarian confided a limited knowledge and understanding of computers, stating that they made her “feel uncomfortable”. She was greatly disturbed by my use of current technology to maximize client service, and chose to convene a committee of senior librarians to review options for document delivery. Eventually, the ‘new’ technologies already employed by myself and other research librarians were formally adopted into library document delivery policy; however, I was (very) strongly reprimanded by the head research librarian.

Since then, I have been informed by insiders that I threatened the position of the head research librarian with my knowledge of current information sources, technologies and practices, and ... most unbelievably ... because I am male. My star was rising too quickly and I had come to the positive notice of the powers-that-be; 'noted in dispatches', as it were. Also, because I am male and knowledgeable, confident, well-spoken, well-dressed ... aka 'professional' ... clients assumed I was the manager. The situation became untenable, a toxic work environment, and I am no longer with this library as the result of this and several other events of similar nature.

I suspect that many librarians believe, as they "Keep Sentinel at the Gates of Knowledge", that they have an expert knowledge and understanding of the content of the tomes jealously guarded beyond those metaphorical gates. What an unfortunate and presumptuous error! Still, take heart. I recently read a statement by Winston Churchill, made at some time or other, that is useful in maximizing this opportunity to the benefit of our personal and professional endeavours:

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Which kind of librarian are you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Corporate Tumult: Comes with Mouth-Breathing Morons & Knuckle-Dragging Idiots

My apologies for the delay in posting a new scribble to this blog. I had to fly out-of-province for some family business. Now that I've returned, I'm in the process of negotiating a contract with my present employer. Things are a wee bit hectic.


There've been some interesting happenings afoot in the professional life of this librarian. Most of it revolves around the misunderstanding of what we librarians contribute to the corporate organisation. Throw in an IT consultant ("I've been coding since the '70s!") who feels that librarians "don't know nothin' about nothin'"; directors who believe that the library/librarian are simply administrative assistants and, in this case, should fall under the direction of the Business Communications department (Isn't that Marketing, etc?); the fumbling micro-management of the 'certified' Communications manager who insists upon hand-held instruction to get his head around this librarian's Master's degree-in-practice before determining what this librarian is to do; and, the CFO who really doesn't "understand why the librarian is involved in any way, shape or form with this company's information. Aren't there serious disclosure issues here? Our secretaries can do the same work for less money!" So let them. (See: Let's set the tone... for a description of my role within the company.)

It's frustrating and I'm looking for a new job, but we're heading into the Holiday and winter months in a professional field that really seems to be drying up in Canada on the best of days. I can see where this is heading, unless the stars are in my corner & I employ some of that professional savvy...


I love my work; there's a reason why I became a librarian. However, time & time again it's an uphill battle for basic recognition and respect for our professional contribution. (That's our ongoing 'Library Advocacy' in Pro-Speak.) I know that I'm not the only librarian with such frustrations; librarians meet at the pub for a reason. I'm fast reaching the conclusion that the ROI (yes, 'Return On Investment' in Corp-Speak) is too low to continue with this schlep.

I'll let you know what happens in a day or two. In the meantime, I have a mail merge to do. No one else in-house can figure out MS Outlook and imported Excel address lists. Lucky me, as the result of my efforts towards Information Literacy, I'm now in charge of the company's mail. (The degree of information illiteracy in the corporate sector is stunning.)


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Isn't this nice

Indication that my years of university study and work experience have paid off...

cash advance

Cash Advance Loans

Yes, I am a librarian. However, please stop reminding me of my paltry salary. Blood-sucking vampires....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Recognize my Optical Character, dammit!

Every now & then, we're faced with a day of grunt work. Today, mine is OCRing a stack of e-docs, double quick, to make them searchable within my online document repositories.

A joy of OCRing using Abobe Acrobat 7 is revealed when the documents contain 'renderable text'. This type of text prevents the OCRing process from completing. The quickest solution I've discovered thus far, but one which is highly labour intensive, is to TIFF each document to strip out the problem coding, then re-assembling the doc into .PDF for OCRing. It's dirty and time consuming, but it works. At least I can Batch OCR once all the files are reassembled.

Now, I have 53 contracts of 50 pages each waiting to be processed in the afore-mentioned manner. Time to hire a tech.

A resource I've found useful with this matter is Acrobat for Legal Professionals / Troubleshooting Acrobat OCR. I will retain the homepage link on my sidebar for future interest.

Life as a librarian: "Bringing easy access to you!"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Musings - The Who

It's a day of humming/ha-ing for me: low energy and meagre inspiration. I thought I might write something to our profession, but my yawning is too frequent and the professional disillusionment is simply too heavy a weight upon my burdened shoulders today.... Instead, what's happened is that I'm scribbling something that I originally intended as a response to posting on Metropolis of Mind, entitled Dave & Eddie Back Together Again: Best News All Decade Or Too Little Too Late?

For the author of the afore mentioned, the 2007 reunion and tour of Van Halen inspires eloquence. Metro's scribble sends me back through the Time Machine to December 2006 and The Who performing at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. For me, anticipation of that show defined 'Excitement!', but I knew that my memories of the classic line-up, that from the band’s prime years of 1966-1978, were what would carry the evening.

What made original The Who line-up remarkable in performance and on vinyl was the tonal separation of the four musicians that, somehow, pulled us into a breathtaking vortex. The individual contribution to the sound of The Who by Roger, Pete, John & Keith created a Gestalt -- the 'power' sound.

Each original Who member was a phenomenal creator and contributor; the absence of any negates the Gestalt, leaving a noticeable void. I find the post-Who Are You? (1978) material to be weaker as the result of Keith's passing; the quality of the post-2002 material Wire & Glass (2006) suffers from the absence of both Keith and John. (I still think John's death was an idiotic way to go).

Pino Palladino, The Who's current bassist, is renowned for his ability & style. He is a highly respected studio musician, but he isn't John Entwistle. Neither is Zak Starkey a Keith Moon, nor even a Kenny Jones for that matter. (Jones was drummer for The Small Faces and The Faces, before sitting for The Who after Keith's death. Jones has very serious creds in my book). During the TO show's rendition of 'My Generation' in particular, Palladino played 'note-on', but lacked the energy ... the aggression ... of Entwistle. Starkey just does not have that 'Electric Mayhem' element that animated Keith Moon.

While covering the standards, Palladino and Starkey each were professional and straight-forward. I did notice Palladino flub the solo on "My Generation", but he made a good catch. Generally, Starkey provided a terrific cover of classic Moon, rarely deviating from the original recordings. The audience roared to life during renditions of "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Baba O'Reilly", "Pinball Wizard" and "Who Are You?". (Yes, Bic lighters came forth to spark clouds of reefer). However, neither Palladino's, nor Skarkey's contribution to the new material equalled the intensity and improvisation of the classic Who line-up. The Gestalt is gone. It simply was not 'The Who'.

Evidence to this was provided during the performance of new material from 'Wire & Glass'. In performance and on the CD release, Palladino's bass is padded and sent to the rear of the mix, whereas the Who bass sound, (Entwistle's sound), is expected to be forefront and chainsaw-like. Starkey's contribution to the new material is pedestrian and unimaginative. Moon was never so staid. However, it is worth to note that Zak Starkey is the son of Ringo Starr, whose best friend and drinking partner was Keith Moon. Both Greats instructed and inspired Zak, and I feel Zak's style is an even balance of the two mentors' contributions.

Townshend qualifies the new line-up perfectly: "The Best Who Cover-Band in The World". 'Tis true, Chairman Townshend. That's what grounded the experience of the Toronto 2006 performance. Though the original line-up is gone, it was still wonderful to experience the collective and absolute shiver, whether it was inspired by actuality, memory, or a combination thereof.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tongue Tied

So, ummm ... I did the federal Oral Interaction test for French language competency last week. I'd received an email, rather out-of-the-blue, from a FedGov position I'd applied for sometime back in the early summer, requesting my presence at such-&-such a place at such-&-such a time. I knew I wasn’t ready for this, but I was told, basically, that there was no way to reschedule the test, except.... Well, here:

Note: Scheduling of alternative dates will only be considered for religious purposes, death in the family, pre-existing travel plans or cases of serious illness (a medical certificate or other proof will be required).

I arrived well on time. (It felt like walking to the gallows). I did the test. I choked.

The best part was when the interviewer stopped me to ask, "What language are you speaking?" I'd slipped into Russian! Not only that, but I didn't even know I could speak the Russian that I was speaking. It was a complete case of nerves taking over. I'd slipped into this pre-conscious state, into the comfort language of my infant years. I switched back into French and we had a jolly laugh.

Then, I started losing my French vocabulary. I'd try to think of an equivalent word in English, only to realise I couldn't remember how to speak English. Thanks, mother tongue. I could only think in Russian, but that was proving too freaky.

At this point I could read the writing on the wall. It was very clear. It didn't have to be in any particular language. I could understand it quite clearly. Hmmmm.

The results of the test were supposed to be available within 48-72 hours. They haven't arrived yet. However, I don’t think they need to get back to me. You know, it’s just a feeling.

More language classes, more conversation practice, more calm. And where the hell did that Russian language come from?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Back into the Stacks

I’m heavily involved in detail work today. Lots of editing, comparison of lists to ensure that duplicate databases mirror one another, and administrative paper work are coming together surprisingly well to create a good Monday. My schedule for the week is filling quickly, and I feel that something is actually being accomplished.

Taking a wee break to rest the cognitive gears this morning, I read
Amazing Things Found In The Stacks. With a laugh, I recalled the instances when streakers sped up & down the stacks of the university library in which I was once employed. It always seemed to happen on the third/top floor of the library and at each exam or mid-term period. Granted, everything of note that was to happen in the library seemed to happen up on the third floor. As I’ve mentioned, there were flashers and streakers, but also a variety of illicit invitations, romantic canoodlings, emotional tantrums & breakdowns, and love and drug deals made or broken with expected consequences. I still shake my head: How does exposing one’s wang to a study group of foreign students give one satisfaction? Why the library? Why, ay all? You know, I have a Psych degree, but I still don’t understand it. Perhaps I should make another trip into the texts found around the BFs?

Yes, I started out as a student assistant in one, then another, academic library throughout my undergraduate years. In fact, it was the experience of an academic library that inspired me to become a librarian. Things move quickly and, even before I completed my graduate LIS studies, I assumed the management of a law library. Really, it was running the full show as a solo act: loose-leafs, promotion, budgets, vendor negotiations, information literacy, alert services, research, and advocacy, amongst others, added spice to my day. It was business in support of the practice of law. This gig lasted for 2 ½ years, until I was cherry-picked into the Big Smoke to act as a research librarian for the legislators of the province. If you wish to learn professional-level office politics, spend some time in an office at the very heart of provincial politics. I moved on.

It is tough finding a professional librarian position in Canada. Competition is fierce for the handful of quality positions that are all-to-infrequently posted. Eventually, however, one was found and here I am. I find this corporate librarian gig in mergers & acquisitions interesting for the time being. Turn-around times are intense and fixed to an immediate (and dizzyingly stratospheric) dollar value; the quality of my work influences the outcome of business transactions. As the sole MLIS in-house, I approach my work as an advocate of the profession, promoting the ‘librarian’ as the ‘information professional’ in a forum where success for all is based upon accurate and timely information. I am acutely aware of the responsibility of organizing and disseminating company information. I enjoy my work and am proud of my contribution; however, I find myself increasingly missing the academic library experience, the original inspiration for my becoming a librarian. Exam-time crazies, the excitement of academic pursuit, the professional knowledge that the library is the center of learning, the collegiality, are aspects I wish to colour my profession life, as odd as that might sound. This is a rose-coloured perspective, I know, but in actuality my rose-coloured glasses fell to the side a while ago.

Turning to the experience of my professional colleagues, other than the obvious making application to positions available, what need I do to return to an academic library? I am concerned that I am pigeon-holed by the nature of my professional experience. Curiously, while many of my applications to academic libraries go unanswered, I am sometimes told that I have "insufficient experience". This comment never fails to make me laugh: four years professional librarian experience, coupled with a further six years library assistance experience is construed as “lack of experience”? What makes my lip curl, just a wee bit, is when the same position goes to a new graduate. I do congratulate and offer the very best wishes to every new grad.

It’s time for me to get back to work. There are no streakers here today, and all the stacks are ‘virtual’, but I can still hope....

Monday, October 29, 2007

Let's set the tone...

A good friend & colleague, the Library Bitch, suggested that I kick off a blog of my own. The L-Bitch generously went so far as to suggest that I re-post, as my initial posting, a piece I'd previously sent to the Library Bitch blog. So, following that very sage advice, here I go.

With a Bitch of a blessing, I am re-posting that afore mentioned piece. It is as good a place as any to start. Please join in and have your say, too. Above all, let's acknowledge the real knee-knocking chaos, lunacy & idiocy that defines our professional world of supposed order.

Now, without further ado, a bit about myself....

I am a librarian.

The librarian at work: For the past several months I have been building Extranets to house financial and government documents relevant to mergers & aquisitions. This has involved my development of taxonomies and a cataloguing system, according to a foreign government regulatory standard suitable to the materials and circumstance, to facilitate access to a specific user group. I have processed many thousands of documents to date, carefully placing each into refined matrices. I grant user access to the Extranets, monitor activity levels, hand-hold or firefight as necessary, continue to develop new document warehouses and process content as it is presented for my ministrations.

The librarian at home: The house needs to be vacuumed and groceries haven’t been done in weeks. The dining room table has a disassembled computer gathering dust, stacks of magazines and various useless flotsam. The bathroom is gross. My bedroom is a mess, with clothing hanging from chandeliers. The cat is threatening to leave unless things shape up. She motions to the old furball she created and I did not clean up. The furball is collecting dust.

The librarian’s concern: In this seeming balance between the highly structured work environment and the completely disorganized home life, I am aware that some latent obsessive-compulsive trait might be rising within my personality. I recently found myself perceiving cleaning duties at home as I might develop and organize at work. This upsets me deeply.

The librarian’s solution: I will keep my work and personal lives separate: order at work/disorder at home. I will listen to my collection of late-70s UK punk at every opportunity. I will not count stairs as I climb here & there. I will not count the number of black Jettas I see during a walk, nor will I sub-group them into model years. I will not avoid cracks or lines on the sidewalk, but I won’t make a point of avoiding them. I will clean my bathroom, eventually, because it’s just gross. Indeed, I will wash my hands after cleansing the bog, but I am aware that I must avoid doing so repeatedly. However, I will not count the number of times I wash my hands because that will just make the OC fear rise again like so much coffee-stomach bile.

G, I am a librarian ... and it's pissing me off....

(Originally posted to Library Bitch, October 24, 2007 12:15 PM)