Friday, March 25, 2016

A feminist wonders..

This post is piggy-backing off of an earlier post I wrote, about feminism, librarianship, and emotional labor. My boyfriend and I have been having a lot of discussions about job satisfaction, career goals, etc. We are both happy with our chosen career paths of librarian and engineer. Our work/life balances are different right now because he works 50+ hour weeks, while I work 37.5 hours and am in class two nights a week. This can be challenging, because internally I sometimes feel like the fact that I work fewer hours means that I should pick up more slack with laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. I worry, while at work, about what we will have for dinner and when we can plan to clean the house before having friends over. I also wonder if I am totally failing as a feminist.

Maybe I should clarify: when I say that I feel that I should do more, that doesn't mean that this is my reality. My awesome feminist boyfriend is really great about balancing chores at home. I don't mean that in the way that some people say, I'm so lucky that he offers to help. Even in 2016, in many homes, men are praised for putting in the 50% that they should have done all along, as if we should all be grateful for their progress. No. Rob and I really do work as equals, even if we have different priorities sometimes. My biggest challenge is my own internal voice that says, everything needs to look Pinterest perfect and you need to do it. 

My tendency to self-reflect can be a blessing and a curse. I think that it causes me to consider decisions carefully, but also to doubt myself. I thought about library school for two years before I committed to Simmons; this time allowed me to get work experience, and to decide that I was only going to apply to Simmons. I knew what I wanted.

I know what I want. This is what I need to remind myself when I am swirling in a storm self-scolding, like the other night at dinner. What started as a conversation with Rob about our jobs and work/life balance really became me talking to my plate about why I chose librarianship and whether I was being influenced by subconscious, bad-feminist thoughts. I have always wanted kids, and I have imagined myself as a working-mom who also manages to be a substantive presence in my future-kids' lives. I have read enough articles to know how hard this will be. In the back of my mind, I have wondered, did I choose librarianship because it's often seen as a good fit for mothers? I have wanted to kick myself for even imagining that my career choice could be subconsciously influenced by these traditional gender roles.

I think what it all this comes down to, is that I need to remember to look up from my plate at the dinner table and remember who I am talking to. Self-reflection is a valuable skill, but it can be easy to get lost in these questions that may not even have concrete answers. The truth is that I chose librarianship for many reasons, and the most important one is that it's something I love. Won't it also be important for my kids to see me pursuing a career that makes me happy? To show them that they should be confident, trust their intuition - should find work that makes them proud?

I also need to remind myself that grad school, right now, is part of my job. My work is contributing to my professional development, and I shouldn't see my homework from class as less valuable than the work that Rob brings home with him. I am lucky. I am lucky to have a partner who values my work, who encourages me, who hears my doubts and brings me back to the center. Right now, the best thing that I can do for myself and my future geeky offspring is to see myself and my work as worthy. Oh, and to channel my inner Leslie Knope.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Very Special Libraries

Last week, while most of Simmons was on spring break, I was on campus every day from 9am until about 3pm. I took the week off of work in order to complete a 5-day, 3-credit course with SLIS legend, Jim Matarazzo. Jim has worked in corporate libraries for decades, and he is the original social networker. I’m pretty sure you could ask about any major company and he will tell you the history of their corporate library and name two contacts there. This class was heavily career focused, extremely practical… and wicked fun!

Our assignments for the week included two papers and two (group) presentations. We looked at a set of corporate libraries that had closed and another set that were “successful,” then evaluated how corporate libraries can survive and thrive. We also each summarized a chapter from the textbook (which Jim co-authored). 

My favorite day of the week was Tuesday, when we did our site visits. We started at the New England School of Law, whose library has an impressive reference staff and a very cozy study space. We were lucky enough to sit in on a vendor pitch for a new product, and I got to network with him afterward (thanks to Simmons for all those free business cards!). 

After NESL, we made our way to the Hancock Tower and went to Bain Capital. Our class basically walked into the lobby straight past the library director because we could not tear our eyes away from the incredible view. The research team gave us a very in-depth presentation of their work (I sat with my back to the window so that I would focus). Impressively, there were at least four Simmons SLIS graduates at Bain that we met. 

During the rest of the week, we spoke with other professionals - a librarian who had a career in government libraries, one who had done work in Dubai and Nigeria, another who took a circuitous route to culinary product market research. We heard about so many options for a career in special libraries; it was reassuring to know that there are many paths to choose from. I feel so fortunate to have a resource like Jim at Simmons as my professor and my advisor! 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Subversive Librarians and Magic Spells

Last night, my Legal Information Services class went to Northeastern University's law library, where both of my professors work. Northeastern's wifi is really restrictive, so we had no access to the catalog and were totally reliant on print sources. We took a tour of the library (and had to remember where the books were located), then were let loose with a list of questions to answer. Finding information in legal print resources is very time consuming - the index is your best friend - but also satisfying, like a scavenger hunt... a scavenger hunt that I would not enjoy in the context of actual research.

After that assignment, (are you ready for the Harry Potter reference?) I've realized how totally crazy it is that students at Hogwarts had to do this completely the old-fashioned way. No wonder it took Harry, Ron, and Hermione four months to find a reference to Nicholas Flamel in The Sorcerer's Stone. WHY didn't anyone in this magical world create a control-F spell? And my bigger issue - why didn't JK Rowling create a cooler librarian?? Madame Pince is seriously terrible and unhelpful, and just reinforces the stereotype of librarians as miserable, shush-happy spinsters.
A warning: If you rip, tear, shred, bend, fold, deface, disfigure, smear, smudge, throw, drop, or in any other manner damage, mistreat, or show lack of respect towards this book, the consequences will be as awful as it is within my power to make them.—Madame Pince's note in a library book
It would have been so amazing if we found out in Order of the Phoenix or something that Madame Pince is like the Mrs. Figg of the wizarding world - a secret guardian who is subversively fighting evil and mentoring students.

In honor of what Madame Pince could have been, here are a few of my favorite badass librarians in literature/pop-culture. JK Rowling, take note:

Rupert Giles
Librarian of Sunnydale High School
Watcher of the Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Barbara Gordon
Gotham City Librarian
DC Comics

Lucy Hull
Librarian - Hannibal, Missouri
Kidnapper, LGBTQ ally, ethical enigma
The Borrower

For more cool librarians, check out this Buzzfeed list, or this Wikipedia page!