Friday, December 5, 2008

Wrangling, Corporate-style

In two weeks, I will split my single library collection into two satellite libraries. Well, the splitting is already completed, on paper anyway. No, what happens in two weeks is the physical division and relocation of the library to its two new accommodations.

This comes as part of my law firm's renovation of our downtown TO office space. Each and every office, corridor, cubicle and kitchen is being re-created according to a designer's imagination and specification. The library, once a single, large and dusty room situated on one floor of our two-floor office tower space will become two, smaller libraries, one for each floor and holding content specific to that floor's user group/legal practice area need.

Splitting a library collection according to user need/practice area takes a lot of work, as you can imagine. Everything from updating the newly created OPAC, colour-coding spine labels to make things easier for lawyers, actually determining which text will go where, duplicating regularly accessed print reference resources, all while managing the library on a daily basis makes for involved times.


Now, throw both a Building Committee and a Library Committee into the fray!


I made a mistake. This professional presented a two-year projection of library services and space requirements designed to maximize services while minimizing physical footprint to the Building Committee via the Library Committee. This professional made a gross error by presenting accurate physical measurements of linear-foot shelving requirements. This professional did not pad or exaggerate figures. This professional should have padded and exaggerated the figures ... a lot. The library was granted 20% less than its minimal footage requirement.

Now, my library is small. By the standards of other libraries, my print holdings are miniscule. It is a single research/reference/administrative/all-hats-worn librarian, full-time operation. Oh, sure, I could sorely use the assistance of a technician, but funds being what they are.... However, regardless of size, we all know that at the very least … well … you gotta have space to place what you gotta have on hand. On top of this, the physical space requirements of libraries change on a daily basis as new materials are added and old materials are removed from the collection. It is the library as organism story.

For a two-year projection, after heavy weeding of old or disused materials, I presented a requirement of 530 linear feet to shelve the collection. At the very minimum, the library requires 500 linear feet to hold the current collection, heavily weeded collection. The library has been granted a total of 440 linear feet to hold the complete, heavily weeded collection. An additional 60 linear feet has been granted to allow for a total of 500 linear feet, but this is on paper only. The additional shelving will not be built. In Corporate Speak, the additional shelving has been “Deferred”. This roughly translates into “The Building and Library Committees recognise the requirements of the Library, will appear to grant additional footage, but will not actually build the additional footage.” Why was 60 feet deferred? Simply, it was deferred because library shelving is ugly and expensive. Quote/unquote.

How will I fit a size 10 foot into a size 8 shoe? By doing what libraries right around the world are required to do: justify holding retention by rate of use and alternate (read: electronic) availability.

Step 1: First to go are the older series of ongoing bound journal subscriptions. Though their colourful and grand spines look wonderful on the shelves of law libraries and are integral to legal research and the practice of law, their return on library space/use can be low. So, in my case, out are all but the current series of Carswell’s Practice Cases, the Dominion Law Reports, Ontario Reports, for example. Though distasteful to do so, these materials are going into off-site storage with their continued retention pending review. The content of these publications is available and searchable via our electronic subscriptions WESTLAWeCarswell, DLR Plus and QuickLaw. Yes, questions about duplication of services arise (i.e., maintaining both print and electronic access), but I’ll deal with them once the move is over. At this stage, if a hard copy is required, it can be recalled from off-site storage within 24-hours, at a cost, or accessed by the patron traveling to another, larger library.

Step 2: Yet another weeding of texts is under way, this time with no allowance for bruised egos. Partners love to have older editions of their publications filling in-house library shelves. Well, if partners will not approve sufficient space to house the working collection, then all ‘archival’, or non-working materials must go. It is into storage, donation or recycling with the lot. Sorry folks, this is a lean, mean legal-research machine: updated editions of current holdings only, with the old edition tossed; replacement of print content when an electronic alternative becomes available, etc.

Hopefully, I will be able to shoe-horn the current collection into the reduced space allowance by employing the above mentioned methods. However, how am I to address ongoing collection growth? Steps 1 and 2 will continue ad nauseum.

Oh, the joy of my recently discovered 2004 article
Executing a library move; a planned approach to moving your library by Catherine Dimenstein in Information Outlook. It is a good read containing useful recommendations, most of which I was happy to acknowledge as ‘done’. Certainly, there are several publications available to assist in planning a library move. However, most apropos is Ms. Dimenstein’s underlining the importance of a close collaboration between librarian and architect when designing a new library to ensure that library requirements are adequately addressed.

I wish I had been more aggressive in my interactions with the Library Committee (consisting of lawyers, IT and bean-counters, all with individual veto of the librarian’s recommendations). I wish I had knocked down the doors to Building Committee meetings and communicated library requirements directly to the architect. Then, I wish I had been permitted to pass beyond the hallowed Glass Ceiling to continue the argument before the Executive Board. I wish a lot of things, especially the inspiration of how to deal with this extra stack of print material, roughly the height of a seven-story building when stacked end-on-end, that I cannot fit into my new space allowance.

An ongoing story. The postings will continue. I've started smoking and drinking a fair amount, but the bastards won’t get me down.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Reefer Madness

Here's a question for you: How does one go about getting an upstairs neighbour to stop smoking reefer indoors at all hours of the day and night?

She says it's for pain, so I'll give her that. Her husband, however, joins in, too. What's his excuse? Sympathetic pain?

I wouldn't mind so much, but my clothing is beginning to smell like I've holidayed in an Amsterdam cafe. At times, there's so much reefer smoke in our flat that it's like walking through a haze of acrid skunk weed. Well, I guess it is walking through a haze of acrid skunk weed.

The problem is that we share a forced-air heating system. I've already covered all the heating vents and installed an apartment-size exhaust fan. Really. It's starting to get cold and I'm smelling like a Head.

Now, I can recognize the quality of their herb, but it's their herb and not mine. They've never even offered to share. It's all very rude.

Any suggestions?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Docketed out the door?

Last Friday, the Director of Finances for my firm took me out for lunch. "Uh-oh", said I.

I was informed that, henceforth, I must docket my research time. Further, I must docket a minimum of 250 hours over the next six months (i.e., starting at 500 hours per annum with likelihood to increase). It was indicated subtly that my salary (and job) is now dependent upon my hours docketed. I am charging at $160.00 p/h to the client. My salary breaks down to approximately $26 p/h before taxes. I wonder to whom the difference will go?

I support docketing research time to associated case work. To me, it is common sense, as is client charge-back when using resources such as eCarswell and QL. However, in making my salary dependent upon docketed hours, any activity that cannot be docketed loses priority and will fall to the wayside. It becomes a matter of my job security. Thus, to the wayside will fall all non-case-specific library work, including the day-to-day management of the library, information literacy programs that I am expected to develop and present, and the enormous amount of 'forensic librarianship' that is still required to pull this library from its previous state and into the 21st century.

Also, I am a professional librarian and researcher. I produce product quickly and efficiently. Where an articling student or lawyer can/will spend two days researching a question, I can usually produce in a fraction of the time. With docketing, efficiency is no longer 'productive' towards the necessity of logging hours to maintain a salary. To fulfill docketing requirements, I wonder whether I must slow the speed of my return. After all, I must wait for someone to come to me with a research request before I can docket time. Then, I must maximize the opportunity.

Now, librarianship aside, the introduction of a docketing-dependent salary changes the terms of my contract of employment with employer. I am unsure how to approach this matter. At this stage, no new agreements are in writing or signed, yet the expectation by my employer that I abide by these new 'terms' exists. My salary is still paltry; in fact, it is a good $13k less than the students I instruct and assist on an ongoing basis.

(The explanation recently provided to me by the Chair of the Library Committee concerning the difference between articling student / librarian salary was that good law students are hard to find. And good, experienced law librarians are easy to find? This is from the same person who believes I can and should get my docketed hours up to 1600 per annum. Doesn't sound like much? Well, it works out to around 6 2/3 hours of docketable research per day, in addition to all other library duties required by a single librarian operation. NOTE: I'm contracted to work an 8 hour day comprised of 6 1/2 work + 1 1/2 cumulative break time.)

I am rather at a loss. Are other law firm associated librarians expected to produce to a fixed minimum rate of docketable hours? My initial research indicates not. So much of what we do is out of the realm of 'billable'. We do ask for matter numbers as a matter of course because we want to recover as much as we can in costs. My experience with other firms, and the experience of colleagues with whom I have discussed this issue, is that most lawyers see law librarianship as a service. Whether or not our service is billable is immaterial, so long as the lawyers get what they need.

Incidently, I will mention that I am again seeking new employment. Though it would benefit tremendously, I do not believe the corporate culture of my current employer allows for the professional services of an MLS/MLIS.

I was graciously told during the lunch meeting that I may have anything on the menu. I had a couple of large glasses of wine.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the Move

How long can a librarian go without blogging? No, there is no deep philosophy suggested; the answer depends upon what is happening from one day to the next in the life of the blogging librarian.

For several months I really had nothing to say, though I was ranting a-plenty. There was too little to offer a readership, other than the experience of a job search. I wasn’t having fun with my job search, so I didn’t expect a readership to listen to my job search ‘Moan & Groan’, 'Piss & Rant', 'drink too much and feel like I'm Citizen Librarian'.

During this time, I was relegated to the shadowy world of the under-employed librarian. Not familiar with the shadows? Lucky you! You see, the shadows are an area that many employed librarians acknowledge only peripherally, and then only with derision and suspicion. “What did that person do to end up in the shadows?”, “Why aren’t they working? What’s wrong with them?”

During my five months of under-employment, (I did maintain a part-time public library contract at this time), this law librarian of five years professional experience and assistant experience stretching back to 1995 prepared and submitted nearly one hundred application packages for positions located from one end of our country to the other. I interviewed high and low, kept my fingers crossed, met some wonderful people, but was the target of some of the most outrageous comments made by interview committees and the like.

After reviewing my resume, one interview committee stated that it was highly unlikely that I had accomplished all that I had presented for their perusal. So, what were they saying: That I was lying on my resume and misrepresenting my career and accomplishments? I did the honours of scratching them off my list of prospective employers myself, before they had a chance to say, “We’ll be in touch”. Who would willingly work in that kind of job atmosphere? Not me.

At the point I had been away from law libraries for three months another interview committee suggested that my skills were “now too out-of-date” and that I should “seriously consider returning to school for more up-to-date training.” (Sure, update this, Ma’am.) How a professional in our field could be so rude to a professional colleague is beyond me. It is stunning, in fact. (Incidentally, this TO law firm did hire another individual with ‘stellar credentials’ (or so the firm informed me). However, the individual did not last the firm’s three-month probation period. Whether the individual failed to meet the firm’s standard, or vice versa, I am not aware. Makes one think, though, huh?) Luckily for me, by the time the position became available again I was gainfully employed full-time as a law librarian. I still am.

OK, I have to cut this short; work beckons. Before, when I had so few words to share, I had all the time in the world to write. Now, when I might actually have something to say, I haven't quite so much time available.

What I meant to do this time, but will have to wait until next, is write about how a librarian can build a law library where once there reigned chaos. Felted dust on creaking selves and thirty-five year old magazines....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh, what trip is this?

Hi All,

My apologies for being so low-down unproductive of late, but I've been on an adventure. In fact, the adventure continues.

What's this about adventure? Well, this librarian is currently charged with drawing a law library from the 19th-century into the 21st-century! Literally. Kicking and screaming. Clawing. Offensive language used frequently by all.

There are many stories to share, and share them I will. For now, though, I have rude, little Articling Students to tend to. You know, they really are like little children. They believe that they know all, make a mess of everything, have to be taught manners & proper behaviour ... & every now and then need to be disciplined.

You see, after all, you don't want to piss off your firm's law librarian, do you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bill Plummer & The Cosmic Brotherhood

I've discovered the album I've needed to hear for a long time! The album is by a fellow named Bill Plummer and is enitled Bill Plummer & The Cosmic Brotherhood, released on ADC Impulse Records.

Check out the review posted to Waxidermy back in early 2006. The review sums up the scene well, so I won't go into it today. However, I've gotta say that if you like your psychedelic sitar mixed in with you mid-'60s exotica jazz, then you've found an amazing trip with this album. Consider this a melange of Dave Brubeck , Martin Denny and Ravi Shankar. Waxidermy provides a sound clip of Paris Fortuna, if you're interested. (Sadly, there is no sitar on this particular track.)

Max Waller provides the following information about the musician and this album:

Born in Boulder, Colorado in 1943, Bill Plummer moved to Los Angeles twenty years later to pursue a jazz career. Already trained on piano, string bass, trumpet, marimba and vibraharp, he added the sitar to his repertoire under the tutelage of Ravi Shankar. He played and toured with Herb and Lorraine Geller, Nancy Wilson, the Paul Horn Group, Buddy DeFranco Quartet, and Pete Jolly Trio amongst others. In 1966 he toured with Tony Bennett and Buddy Miles and formed an experimental group The Jazz Corps, which included Lynn Blessing and Maurice Miller.

His love of jazz and interest in Indian music comes together on this 1967 album where jazz workouts sit alongside Eastern ragas and blend with some contemporary pop/rock influences - exotic renditions (ala Lord Sitar or Folkswingers) of Bacharch's ‘The Look Of Love’ and Byrds' ‘Lady Friend’ are enchanting rather than cheesy. The sitar extravaganza should appeal most to psych fans of an Eastern persuasion: the trippy ‘Journey To The East’ (with deadpan spoken vocals) has since appeared on Journey To The East (LP); the ten minute 'Arc 294' is a heady cacophony, where exotic instruments do battle on a field of freeform jazz.
Should you have any additional bio information about Bill Plummer, or know of a Bill Plummer discography, please let me know. This guy is great!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

It was suggested that a man, over the age of 40, won't easily find employment in our biz of librarianship. Is this true? If it is true, what are some reasons? I just don't know.

I find this all rather disturbing, because ... well ... I'm looking for the next step in my career (i.e., looking for a professional posting) and ... hmmm ... I have a confession....

I, too, am White, 40+ ... and Male.

Hey, wouldn’t Red Green say something here like, “I’m a man … but I can change … if I have to … I guess”? [Who is Red Green? Well, someone has to tell you. Look here:]

For a while I've had the sense of something untoward in the biz, but I find myself repeatedly avoiding that ... ummm ... sense. I just don’t want to go there; it’s too nasty. Ours is so pure and noble a profession.
Perhaps, I realize that to acknowledge that funky smell is to give it form, credibility … reality. If I don’t acknowledge it … well … hopefully it will go away. I’m not so sure about that, though.

I must say that while writing this note, at this very moment, I feel the trepidation of approaching a taboo subject. I ask, “How can I, a white, 40+, male dare claim any sort of discrimination when I have all the benefits and advantages of my white, 40+, male world?” I worry that someone within the profession will recognize me and I’ll be labeled as a trouble maker, a hot potato. I worry that to speak my concerns would be to smear myself with a very peculiar, unemployable smell. I don’t know that I can ... or should.

However, upon reviewing some of my earlier posts, I recognize that I have alluded to the topic on two previous occasions. For example:

… 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 ... a.k.a. 'professional' ... clients assumed I was the manager.

See: Which kind of librarian are you?
See also:
Back into the Stacks)

I’m still having difficulty mentioning this topic. Believe me, I am. I don’t abide any discrimination of any sort. I will and do speak against it if and when I see it. I'm not militant, but I do attempt to live by positive example. Come on people, really: Don’t we all benefit from a diversity of influences? There are even laws about in-breeding, for gosh-darned sakes, forgive my Flanders-ism. The concept of discrimination is a complete and utter wonk to me.

I recognize the privilege of my state: White male. I recognize the benefit of my age: Experience and Professionalism. I cannot … do not … want to, or need to acknowledge that my privilege is my disadvantage.

But I don't know. I'm not sure. Could I be so naïve? Could I be so wrong? Should I say I'm sorry? Should I change? Should I have to?

No! I am a professional. I carry myself in a professional manner, one which is appropriate to my background, experience and age. I expect others in my field to act in a manner appropriate to our profession. I'm not a stiff ... and I'm not going to act like a victim. Granted, how authentic is it to act like a professional when you can't even find a position within your field of expertise?

For damn's sake....

The Job Search Continued....

During the past seven days, I've submitted ten application packages to professional librarian postings within Canada. An additional five packages will be submitted by month's end, based upon current postings. Also, I am preparing packages for international positions located in the US, UK and France. The tally of packages submitted over the past three-month period is 60-odd.

I'm keeping on top of this job search monster despite the surprises and disappointments experienced recently. Indeed, recent feedback from one interview stated ... yes, stated ... that I am not employable because I am not currently employed. Apparently, it's about "Hiring on the fly" and it's all the new HR rage. You see, a company wants what another company already has. If one is not with a company, then another company doesn't want you.

Other feedback indicated that, due to my 3-month lack of full-time employment, (yes, I maintain a PT position as a Reference Librarian), my skills are now too rusty and I require additional academic time to bring my skills up to date. I believe this plays into the "Hiring on the fly" trend in HR. (Yes, I agree that maintaining currency is vital to our work. Indeed, as a professional in my field, I actively strive to remain current within and beyond my profession. After all, this is my profession. I am a professional librarian.)

This is a frustrating experience.

What are your experiences, insights, suggestions, observations?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy (Chinese) New Year!!!

So, here we are already: The Year of The Rat!

Specifically, 2008 is the Chinese Female Brown Earth (Soil) Rat year. This day is a new moon day, the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system. The exact new moon time is at 11:44 on 07-Feb-08 in China.

Now, to further quote from Chinese Astrology Online:

"If we apply Chinese lunar calendar system on the USA time zones, we find something interesting here. In the US Pacific Standard Time (PST), the new moon time is at 19:44 of 2-06-08. In the US Eastern Standard Time (EST), the new moon time is at 21:44 of 2-06-08. Therefore, the Chinese New Year day for USA time zones is on February 6th, 2008."

Well, in my books it's always time for good, healthy, happy & peaceful celebration.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Priorities ... or Life in Flux

I was email conversing with my fave 'bro today ... one of my brothers. He was telling me that one of my nephews was going to a broom ball competition this coming week, while the other had opted for skiing. I mentioned that I'd take the skiing, too.

Honestly, there's nothing like a ski bunny to warm ... one. However, there's a lot to be said about ... broom ball girls. Hmmm....

Ya, I don't know what's going to happen on the job front. Amongst many others, I'm applying for another position in Ottawa. The Ottawa job is lower pay, bruises my ego a bit, but who knows, right? It would be an economic shift, but TO's a bit too much city for us (me). The restaurants in TO are great, but I can't dig a garden. Quality of life ... priorities.

There's this funny thing going on in my head these days: What's more important? Money or being happy & comfortable? Sure, we're happy and relatively confortable each day in our rented TO digs, but TO smells of sewage & too many peole get shot. I'm sure that if one of us finds a regular gig in Ottawa, we'll be there ASAP. Until then, we continue to watch the house/condo market in TO, watching for a decent investment & return on our lucre. We're in flux ... and the roots really need to go down.

I'm saving up for new computer components: MoBo, CPU, etc. Funny, though: It all comes down to cash flow. Imagine that! Until things sort out, I'm plonking on an antiquated HP 7936 relic that drives me up the wall & back down again. (No love for HP here.) How's your computer working? Have you done any upgrades? Any needed?

I'm looking at a MoBo/CPU combo via Probably, I'll go with an ASUS or Abit (most positive comments, when I've asked), AM2 socket, 5400-6400, 2G+ RAM, etc.... Helping time pass while in the job market.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

US Election '08

Now, I'm not one to often discuss US politics. The eight-year rule of GWB put an end to my belief of fair and representative government ... more rose-coloured glasses to the way-side.... However, here's my one & only input on the subject.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What's going on?

Well, I haven't written any for a bit. I've thought it best that I don't. You see, I'm giving up smoking. I'm a very crabby, nicotine deprived, unemployed librarian who's just spent the holidays with too many in-laws.

However, there are lots of stories to share ... and share them I will ... just as soon as I stop jonsing (joansing?) for nasty nico at such an acute level. Wish me luck.

Cheers ... & belated Happy New Year!