I Found A Round Table, And So Can You!

LearningRTBy: Dustin Fife

I have heard numerous people talk about how hard it was for them to get involved in ALA. They lurked at conferences, attended board meetings, and often waited for several years to be integrated into a round table or section. It can be difficult to get involved in any organization and the disconnect between interest and action can feel insurmountable. This disconnect is not the fault of the individuals wanting to get involved or the leaders of organizations who are often desperately in need of help. Pathways are not always visible to individuals and telling people to “speak up” or “volunteer” is not particularly useful advice.

I went to ALA in Orlando with the goal of getting involved in a round table. I’m not particularly shy, so I probably could have volunteered, but I found it was much less about what I did in particular and more about the people I was lucky enough to meet. I happened to meet people involved with the LearningRT. This is a round table that focuses on professional development and continuing education. They state their purpose as such: the LearningRT

“….promotes quality continuing education and staff development for all library personnel. We help you NETWORK with other staff development and continuing education providers for the exchange of ideas, concerns and solutions.

….serves as your SOURCE for staff development continuing education assistance, publications, materials, training and activities.

….is your ADVOCATE for quality library staff development and continuing education at both the local and national levels.”

This is a smaller round table that felt more approachable and they are chiefly interested in the development of individuals. Both of these facts made it a group that was easier for me to approach. I was lucky enough to meet individuals that wanted to help me get involved, but this still doesn’t mean that it is easy. We aren’t always going to happen to befriend the leadership of a round table or section, but we can all target some of the smaller organizations, especially if we don’t know where to start. They need you and you need them.

I would particularly recommend to anyone that is interested in getting involved in ALA that they get involved in the LearningRT. Continuing education and professional development is essential to every library employee regardless of their institution. This seems to be an organization that will be willing to invest in you, if you are willing to invest in them and in yourself.

To learn more about LearningRT visit their website: http://www.ala.org/learnrt/node/19

Find them on Facebook: Learning Round Table of the American Library Association


Follow them on Twitter: @ALALearning


Impostor Syndrome

am i good enough

By: Rebekah Cummings

I’m writing this blog post specifically for young librarians, but with a question in mind for more seasoned librarians: When will I feel like an expert?

I graduated from library school in 2013 with some decent “real life” experience under my belt. Prior to library school I worked at a public library for two years, and during library school I worked in various grunt jobs, like digitizing hundreds of maps over the course of a summer. I even did a one-year internship in an environment similar to the one I work in now.

Yet three years into my professional career, I still find myself gripped fairly frequently by impostor syndrome or “a term referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!) In other words, I’m still waiting for that calm feeling of expertise to settle in and replace the nagging feeling that I still don’t know enough. I have several theories for why this may be the case:

  1. Our patrons can ask us literally anything. On any given day I might be asked about how to query data from an open API, how to find census data from 1960 and convert it from ASCII to a human readable format, or what the best database system is and why.
  2. Librarians are always being presented with new challenges and being given tasks where other smart people have already failed (e.g. finding things that are tough to find/ invisible to the open Web).
  3. Information resources are seemingly endless and I can only be familiar with a small percentage of them.
  4. I work with many librarians who have been at this for 15, 20, 30, or even 40 years and compare myself to these masters of information.
  5. The information landscape is constantly evolving, and therefore I won’t ever feel like an “expert.”
I'm trying, I'm trying!

I’m trying, I’m trying!

Looking at this list it’s apparent that many of the reasons we love our jobs are the same reasons our jobs can feel challenging. The reference desk for me is a microcosm of this experience. Some days are exhilarating when I can really help people with their questions, but other days I feel like I run into one wall after another. Luckily, I have lots of information veterans who can usually help me find the right answers for my patrons.

Which brings me back to my earlier question: When will I feel like an expert? When did you feel like an expert?

Rebekah Cummings is the Research Data Management Librarian for the Marriott Library at the University of Utah

Upcoming Legislation to Watch

legislationBy: Dustin Fife

There will be some upcoming legislation in Utah that is dealing with pornography and libraries (also cellphone companies and internet providers). It has been written about by several news agencies and you can read their stories here and here.

Though most libraries in Utah already filter their internet in order to be eligible for E-Rate, CLEF, and LSTA funding, it is clear that filters can also create unnecessary obstacles for accessing information. The Supreme Court has already ruled that this obstacle is not too great of a barrier and that Congress has the broad power to connect this obligation to funding. However, that is different than saying that filtering is the law. Filtering is not currently the law, it is part of being eligible for certain types of funding. The balance would change if filtering became the law because it would become harder to navigate some of the obstacles. Some of the blurry lines would become solid.

Now, let’s be clear, obscenity (which is not the same as pornography) and child pornography are already against the law and in the state of Utah, especially with child pornography, basically everyone is a mandatory reporter. Libraries are not safe havens for child pornographers. I just want everyone to be aware of and study how such a law might impact your library.

I was able to write the following statement about internet filtering for Fox News 13:

Mr. Winslow,

I’m happy to respond. I will give you information here in the email and if you feel that you need more, just let me know. Please read the statement in its entirety. I also reserve the right to release the email if I feel like it is misquoted. First and foremost, the Utah Library Association is a chapter of the American Library Association. We support their statement on internet filtering. The entirety of the statement can be found here:


Filtering tends to create as many problems as it supposedly helps. The statement lists these main issues on filtering:

• “Publicly supported libraries are governmental institutions subject to the First Amendment, which forbids them from restricting information based on viewpoint or content discrimination.
• Libraries are places of inclusion rather than exclusion. Current blocking/filtering software not only prevents access to what some may consider “objectionable” material, but also blocks information protected by the First Amendment. The result is that legal and useful material will inevitably be blocked.
• Filters can impose the producer’s viewpoint on the community.
• Producers do not generally reveal what is being blocked, or provide methods for users to reach sites that were inadvertently blocked.
• Criteria used to block content are vaguely defined and subjectively applied.
• The vast majority of Internet sites are informative and useful. Blocking/filtering software often blocks access to materials it is not designed to block.
• Most blocking/filtering software was designed for the home market and was intended to respond to the preferences of parents making decisions for their children. As these products have moved into the library market, they have created a dissonance with the basic mission of libraries. Libraries are responsible for serving a broad and diverse community with different preferences and views. Blocking Internet sites is antithetical to library missions because it requires the library to limit information access.
• Filtering all Internet access is a one-size-fits-all “solution,” which cannot adapt to the varying ages and maturity levels of individual users.
• A role of librarians is to advise and assist users in selecting information resources. Parents and only parents have the right and responsibility to restrict their own children’s access—and only their own children’s access—to library resources, including the Internet. Librarians do not serve in loco parentis.
• Library use of blocking/filtering software creates an implied contract with parents that their children will not be able to access material on the Internet that they do not wish their children to read or view. Libraries will be unable to fulfill this implied contract, due to the technological limitations of the software.
• Laws prohibiting the production or distribution of child pornography and obscenity apply to the Internet. These laws provide protection for libraries and their users.”

At the same time, while objecting to the principles of filtering, most libraries have some form of filtering in place already in order to be eligible for both state and federal funding. Senator Weiler’s bill would be redundant, as public libraries usually filter in order to be eligible for state CLEF funding and federal LSTA funding.

Also, simple web searches will pull up news stories about how filters have been used to inappropriately block materials from students and minors based upon the political beliefs of administrators or IT professionals. Some of these stories are more reputable than others. When it comes to turning on filters, it is easy to check boxes or list keywords that you personally find objectionable, but that ultimately limit the First Amendment rights of even minors.



Parents ultimately need to control their children. It is inappropriate for the state or the library to interfere on this matter. What is appropriate for my child might not be appropriate for Senator Weiler’s child, and vice versa. We endanger the importance of parenting and the First Amendment if we continually build laws that intrude, because laws rarely provide for nuance. Laws create hammers instead of paint brushes.

Libraries have a great duty to support their communities and to promote a diversity of thought, information, and dialogue. Be wary of any law that limits that traditional role. When it comes to the rights of parents and the First Amendment, only incredibly finite and thoughtful laws should be passed in order to avoid chilling intellectual freedom and promoting censorship.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Dustin Fife

Keep Up The Learning: ULA Annual Conference


By: Dustin Fife

ULA Past-President

Cross-posting here from ula.org. This post talks about all the ways you can learn about what happened at ULA annual conference, whether you were there or not.

Annual conference has come and gone. I had an incredible experience because of all of you. I want to express gratitude to everyone who helped plan and execute the conference, and to everyone who presented. The annual conference is one of the best ways to share information and make all our libraries better. Conferences also always help me rejuvenate and prepare for the future. Once again, thank you to all who participated.

We now have several ways to help the learning continue, for those who attended and those who could not. First of all, using the conference hashtag (#ula2016) we have pulled all of the conference tweets and Instagram posts together into one feed using Storify. See what everyone was saying throughout the conference here:

ULA Conference Storify

We are also posting presentations through the online scheduling tool Sched.org. You can find the program here:

Conference Program

If you click on individual presentations such as thisone, you can then find links to the individual presentations, just like this.

One of the most important things that you can do to continue the learning though, is to help us collect feedback so that we can make future conferences better. Please fill out the conference survey here:

Conference Survey

Once more, thank you to all who participated. I am excited to see the incredible things that will come from our new ULA President Jami Carter and President-Elect Dan Compton.


E.L.F. Materials – Chocolates Poem

Here’s a fun DIY idea for a great poem to add to your storytime. This poem is great for Mother’s day, Valentine’s day, chocolate, desserts or just for fun! The materials are really easy, and even cheaper if you wait until right after Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day to purchase.


Chocolates 1inside chocolates

I bought a chocolate box and brought it to work for everyone to eat, keeping the chocolate’s “wrappers”. I typed up the poem and taped it to the inside of the top lid so that when I am in storytime I can just lift the lid up so the kids can see the front of it, I can read from the inside, and have access to the wrappers.

 My Mother’s Chocolate Valentine by Jack Prelutsky
I bought a box of chocolate hearts,
a present for my mother,
they looked so good I tasted one,
and then I tried another.

They both were so delicious
that I ate another four,
and then another couple.
and then half a dozen more.

I couldn’t seem to stop myself,
I nibbled on and on,
before I knew what happened
all the chocolate hearts were gone.

I felt a little guilty,
I was stuffed down to my socks,
I ate my mother’s valentine…
I hope she likes the box.

As I tell the poem I usually have a puppet with me and throughout the poem they “eat” the chocolates and end up making a mess of the wrappers all around me. If you are not comfortable with a puppet you could do it yourself. Super fun, super easy and the kids will get a laugh out of it (and then probably ask you if there are any chocolates for them).

Do you have any fun poems you tell during storytime? Let us know, we’d love to share them.


Politicians are People First and Elected Officials Second

ThePoliticalLibrarianOriginally published in The Political LibrarianCheckout the rest of the issue and even better articles in Issue 2.


The Political Librarian is an open access journal. All content of The Political Librarian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

By: Dustin Fife

The most supportive politician I have ever worked with is going to jail. He is currently a county commissioner for San Juan County, Utah. I met him six years ago when I was the director of San Juan County Libraries. He was elected by a population that was frustrated with federal and state government, and he promised to fight for local control of land and resources. He was arrested for planning and executing an illegal public protest over the closure of disputed county roads on federally protected lands. He was tried and convicted by a jury of his peers and he will have to pay a hefty fine and legal fees for his actions, along with a ten-day stay in jail (Romboy, 2015).

I am not writing about this commissioner in order to argue the merits of his case. He made his decisions, some that I agree with and some that I do not, and it has impacted his life immensely. I am writing about him because he was an enthusiastic library supporter. Most people might assume that this particular region and commissioner would not be strong supporters of libraries. They would look at local voting history and demographic information and assume the worst. However, both San Juan County and this commissioner consistently supported libraries during my time in southern Utah.

What is the point of this story? First, be incredibly careful about your political assumptions. People and communities will surprise you and they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Second, during this current season of political discontent, we all need to remind ourselves that politicians are complex human beings. While reflecting on the resignation of Sarah Palin as the governor of Alaska for NPR, Scott Simon wrote, “Politicians are human. If you prick them, they will bleed. If you pet them, they’ll lick your hand. They’re filled with anxieties, contradictions and duplicities, but I wonder what groups, including journalists, salespeople, hammer dulcimer makers or Franciscan priests, are not” (Simon, 2009).

Things You Can Do

Elected officials are people first and politicians second. With that in mind, take an interest in your politicians as people, and hopefully they will take an interest in your libraries as politicians. You do not have to agree on everything, indeed you do not have to agree on anything, to be civil and engaged. Some politicians are more accessible than others, but almost all funding for libraries is decided at the local level. It is decided in cities, counties, and districts and those politicians are often the most approachable. I worked with elected officials in a small county, but learned many lessons from those interactions. I have turned them into seven suggestions that can easily be incorporated into any library’s political plan. Some of these suggestions are most appropriate for directors and managers, but local officials are often eager to meet with any constituent.

1. When new officials are elected or you move to a new job, make appointments and meet your elected leaders individually as appropriate.

2. Take interest in their initiatives. Do not only talk about your vision for the library. To them the library is only one part of a community that they have been elected to serve. Ask them about initiatives that are important to them. Ask them how the library can help. When possible, openly align library goals with broader community goals.

3. Create services that serve their needs. Ask them if the library can do any research for the council or commission. Ask them what information resources the governing body needs. Break down the walls of the library by being visible in the community.

4. Take their votes and decisions at face value and give them the benefit of the doubt. If you want to know more, respectfully ask them why they have chosen to make certain decisions that impact the library. Always be respectful and use proper channels of communication.

5. Don’t allow yourself to casually slip into disrespectful conversations about decision makers with library staff or community members.

6. Take responsibility for creating an ongoing relationship and never assume you do or do not have their support.

7. Always see them as people first. Just like anyone else, they have good and bad days.

These practices allowed me to create strong relationships with politicians and helped me to better understand how difficult it is to be an elected official.


I have enjoyed each of the county commissioners with which I have worked, but I started this article by talking about one in particular. I had an especially strong connection with him. When I first got to know him, I asked him to help me better understand my service area. I was new to the area, and he was a lifelong resident. We began to have occasional breakfasts together, and he took an interest in my personal and professional life. I learned about his family and he learned about mine. I watched as he struggled through an incredibly difficult situation. His struggle emphasized his humanity for me. So often politicians are seen as an unsavory other, but they are people that are worthy of our kindness and empathy. Individuals run for public office for a multitude of reasons and they do not stop being humans on Election Day.


Romboy, D. (2015, 18 December). Judge sentences San Juan Commissioner Phil Lyman to 10 days in jail, 3 years of probation: ‘We’re all people,’ says judge of tension between feds, southern Utahns. Deseret News. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865643995/ Judge-sentences-San-Juan-Commissioner-Phil-Lymanto-10-days-jail-3-years-of-probation.html?pg=all

Simon, S. (2009, July 4). Politicians are people, too. Weekend Edition Saturday. National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268787

About the Author

Dustin Fife is the Outreach and Patron Services Librarian at Utah Valley University Library. Prior to coming to UVU Library, Dustin spent six years as a public library director for San Juan County, Utah. Dustin is currently the President of the Utah Library Association. He can be reached at dustin.fife@uvu.edu.

The Political Librarian_People First / ARTICLE PDF

Fife, Dustin T. (2016) “Politicians are People First and Elected Officials Second,” The Political Librarian: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 5.
Available at: http://openscholarship.wustl.edu/pollib/vol2/iss1/5

Episode #116–Lindsay Sarin, MLS Program Manager for the University of Maryland and Candidate for ALA Councilor

evillibrarianslogoLindsay Sarin joins the podcast today. She is the MLS program manager for the University of Maryland and is running for ALA Councilor. She is an incredibly intelligent librarian and she also works with EveryLibrary!

Listen to Lindsay Sarin and vote for her, Erica Findley, Megan Drake, Turner Masland, and Mel Gooch!

Evil Librarians Podcast 116

Resources we discuss:

ALA Election Information

The Political Librarian

Episode #115–Megan Drake, Systems Librarian Extraordinaire and Candidate for ALA Councilor


Megan Drake joins the podcast today. She is a systems librarian that has worked with public and academic libraries, consortia, and vendors. She has done amazing work for diversity with ALA and is now running for ALA Councilor.

Listen to Megan Drake and vote for her, Erica Findley, Lindsay Sarin, Turner Masland, and Mel Gooch!

Evil Librarians Podcast 115 

Resources we discuss:

ALA Election Information

Episode #114–J. Turner Masland, Portland State University Librarian and ALA Councilor Candidate

evillibrarianslogoJ. Turner Masland joins the podcast today to talk about keeping Portland State University weird, running for ALA Councilor, and why hustling to find a job prepares you to be a flexible and innovative librarian.

Listen to J. Turner Masland and vote for him, Erica Findley, Lindsay Sarin, Megan Drake, and Mel Gooch!

Evil Librarians Podcast 114

Resources we discuss:

ALA Election Information

Episode #113–Erica Findley, ALA Councilor, Multonomah County Librarian, and EveryLibrary Co-Founder


Erica Findley joins the podcast today. She is running for re-election for ALA Councilor. She did not know she was going to be a librarian when she grew up, but she is doing an amazing job for ALA, Multonomah County Library, and EveryLibrary.

Listen to Erica Findley and vote for her, Lindsay Sarin, Megan Drake, Turner Masland, and Mel Gooch!

Evil Librarians Podcast 113

Resources we discuss:


ALA Election Information