Monthly Archives: September 2014

On Finding Your Inspiration

By: Jessica Breiman, University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library

logo_808707_printIf you are like me, sometimes your job is not always the most fulfilling. You might feel stunted, bored, or outright frustrated by work obligations. Maybe the job isn’t fulfilling enough, maybe navigating the bureaucracy gets you down, maybe you get frustrated by the clash of personalities and competing demands of other librarians. Maybe it isn’t the job really at all; sometimes adult working life is not very exciting in itself, amirite?

Whatever your frustration, it’s important to find sources of inspiration for yourself. Sources of inspiration can be books, people, projects, professional education, conferences, or any combination of the above.

Working in libraries, there are sources of inspiration on the shelves all around us. One that I recently read is Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie. MacKenzie is a retired Hallmark Greeting Card executive. Having served in a variety of positions, including as a greeting card designer, in a corporation that should reward and prize creativity, yet still gets bogged down in the minutiae of policies, meetings, and general bureaucracy, MacKenzie has years of insight into orbiting the corporate monster (or hairball) yet not getting sucked into its inner, entangled core.

MacKenzie (1998) writes, “Every new policy is another hair for the Hairball. Hairs are never taken away, only added. Even frequent reorganizations have failed to remove hairs (people, sometimes; hairs, never). Quite the contrary, each reorganization seems to add a whole new layer of hairs. ..With the increase in the Hairball’s mass comes a corresponding increase in the Hairball’s gravity. There is such a thing as Corporate Gravity. As in the world of physics, so too in the corporate world: The gravitational pull a body exerts increases as the mass of that body increases. And, like physical gravity, it is the nature of Corporate Gravity to suck everything into the mass – in this case, into the mass of Corporate Normalcy. The trouble with this is that Corporate Normalcy derives from and is dedicated to past realities and past successes. There is no room in the Hairball of Corporate Normalcy for original thinking or primary creativity” (p. 31). [emphasis mine]

The challenge for the reader is this: MacKenzie doesn’t offer the reader a roadmap to happiness and creativity at work. That’s our part of the journey!

One option to get you motivated could be asking what projects your colleagues are working on and offer to help; perhaps you can get involved with something outside your work zone and develop a new skill. Another option is simply to ask for help. I know that I forget that people, especially my colleagues, WANT to help me! All I have to do is ask! If you can be honest with your supervisor, maybe you can discuss your problem with them and ask for input or permission to start a new project. Maybe other colleagues can provide suggestions of what keeps them inspired and effective at work.

While admittedly, libraries have much less funding than Hallmark, what can we make happen on our wee little budgets? Maybe there is a free conference you can attend, a low-cost local training, or some other professional education opportunity that could help jumpstart your imagination. Is there a scholarship available? And how can your middle management help you?

MacKenzie (1998) writes “Any time a bureaucrat (i.e. a custodian of a system) stands between you and something you need or want, your challenge is to help that bureaucrat discover a means, harmonious with the system, to meet your need” (p. 139). What programs, projects, or collaborations could we start? Maybe it’s not a big thing. Maybe yours is a small project. But the point is to make it big enough so that you are launched away from the hairball and into orbit!

MacKenzie, G. (1998). Orbiting the giant hairball: A corporate fool’s guide to surviving with grace. New York: Viking Penguin.

Banned Books Week and Intellectual Freedom for ALL!

Well, Banned Books Week will soon be over and we haven’t discussed it at all on Creative Libraries Utah.  Luckily, something ruffled my feathers today.  Books are being challenged and banned at an alarming rate, check out these graphics to see how your state is doing, but just as important, intellectual freedom is under constant attack. Today, Bill Simmons, a journalist for ESPN and editor-in-chief of, was suspended for calling NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, a liar for his on-going response to the now infamous Ray Rice domestic violence attack. Simmons used a few choice words to do so on a popular football podcast with a friend, and challenged his supervisors to censor him (Clairvoyant Bill).  Bill Simmons has been suspended for three weeks, a week longer than Rice’s original suspension for punching his fiancee in the face.

What Simmons said could not have been taken as anything but an opinion. He stated it strongly, but did not pretend to build a case against Goodell, other than how he felt when he listened to him speak. Simmons is a sports commentator that has been outwardly critical of Roger Goodell and the NFL, a major partner of ESPN, for their handling of Ray Rice’s domestic (felony) assault.  Just yesterday, ESPN’s Ombudsman was celebrating ESPN’s no-holds-barred coverage of the Ray Rice case, and today, ESPN suspended Bill Simmons for speaking out against a culture that condones violence against women and the man that is supposedly in charge of it all. Stephen A. Smith, another commentator for ESPN, was only suspended for one week for implying that victims can be complicit in their own assaults. Mixed messages anyone?

Now, what does this have to do with libraries? Well, just a simple reminder that we need to be worried about much more than just books. Yes, books are banned everyday, but what other intellectual freedoms are under attack. Right now there is a big fight over Net Neutrality. Are we going to allow companies to create internet fast lanes or are we going to stand up for a democratic internet.  In Salt Lake City, two newspapers are fighting over revenue and the need to guarantee at least two independent voices.  Shouldn’t librarians be visibly supporting multiple voices for a community? Journalists are under attack all over the world, possibly less in the United States, but let’s not pretend that it doesn’t happen.

Banned Books are important, but being an Intellectual Freedom Fighter takes fifty-two weeks a year!

Bill Simmons Suspension

By: Dustin Fife, San Juan County Library Director and ULA President-Elect

Episode #058–Dan Cohen, Executive Director of the Digital Public Library of America and Bon Vivant

evillibrarianslogoToday we have Dan Cohen, the Supreme Chancellor, I mean Executive Director, of the Digital Public Library of America on the podcast. Dr. Cohen is a visionary librarian that has helped create a resource that can benefit any librarian at any institution. The podcast highlights the rewards of high-level collaboration and the need for greater commitment, at all levels, for organizations like the Digital Public Library of America.

Evil Librarians Podcast 058

Resources we discuss:

Digital Public Library of America

Get Involved

Digital Campus Podcast


By: Pamela Martin, Utah Library Association President and Reference and Instruction Librarian at Utah State University

As a society, I think we focus on success far too much. It certainly seems like success is all we are ever able to talk about at professional conferences. It’s all “I did X and it went great!” or “Look how well my study on Z went! LOOOK!” Very often these tales of success, rather than being inspiring, can be depressing.  Success can seem unattainable to your audience, especially when we never see the failures that precede all stories of success. And ignoring our failures just encourages fear of failing and discourages risk taking and innovation.

So in order to encourage a culture of sharing failures (and after being publically goaded by Dustin Fife), here are some of my favorite failures.

In the Classroom

As a Reference Librarian at USU, I teach, and I have made a few mistakes in front of classes. If you know me, you’ll know that people do NOT describe me as “laid-back” or “calm.” I’m the same in front of a class. I can be warm and engaging when leading classes, but I’ve also overreacted to students’ behavior in the past. Once, a student was not following directions after being gently reminded 3 times. Another time a student started talking loudly about how women aren’t funny. Both times, I reacted emotionally and loudly, and I am not proud of this.

However, these situations taught me to be a better teacher. Both situations caused me not only to seek out better classroom management skills, but also to focus on not taking it personally. It might sound like an easy thing to do – not take it personally – but I am used to taking EVERYTHING personally. Gaining some distance from students and realizing their behaviors are not always about me has helped me both inside and outside the classroom. (Also, the student in the latter situation was just dead wrong. I’m hilarious.)

IRB: Bane of My Existence

When you work on a research project that studies people (as we do in library science), you must get IRB approval at your University. As a young librarian (never really trained in the art of research – thanks, Grad School!), I, along with some of my colleagues, made the mistake of soliciting survey responses without first gaining IRB approval. In order to proceed we had to destroy all the data, gain IRB approval, and send out the survey again.

This failure was a necessary one on the road to becoming a competent researcher. I am now much more detail-oriented when embarking on a research project, and I have several IRB-approved research projects in the pipeline.

I share these stories because, like Dustin, I think it is important not to hide our stories of failure while highlighting our stories of success. Odd as it sounds, sharing your failures can be far more comforting and perhaps even more inspiring than success stories. Oftentimes you and your audience can learn just as much (perhaps more?) from failure than from success. And without failure (or at least a willingness to fail), there is no success. Failure is a necessary and helpful part of life, and any successful librarian has had more than a few epic failures.  We should not let failure keep us from taking risks.

Come and get to know US!

Creative Libraries Utah is excited to host a networking social with our friends from EveryLibrary! We will be meeting at Squatter’s Pub in Salt Lake City on October 7, 2014 from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. This event is being scheduled to correspond with Library Journal’s Lead the Change event at the Salt Lake City Public Library. Even if you cannot attend Lead the Change, please come and get to know your library friends and colleagues better!

EveryLibrary is a PAC that raises money to help with political campaigns that affect libraries across the country.

Library Journal hosts Lead the Change events to help with professional development.

Please checkout this event and our amazing friends over at EveryLibrary!


Episode #057–3-D Printing, Digital Media Labs, and Tegan Davis says goodbye to Utah

evillibrarianslogoToday Tegan Davis is talking about her experience establishing a Digital Media Lab that now has a 3-D printer at the Park City Library. We talk process, policy, and procedure. Tegan also talks about her next adventure as she leaves Utah and the Park City Library for a new system, state, and type of librarianship! Tegan will continue her work on the Evil Librarians Podcast and Creative Libraries Utah, but she is off to greener pastures.

Evil Librarians Podcast 057

Resources we discuss:

Park Record Article

Reach Out and Figuratively Touch Someone


Whenever I hear the word “innovation”–and it gets thrown around pretty frequently in libraries these days–it’s often used in a way that makes it seem interchangeable with “technology.” And that’s really missing the point. So, for this edition of Innovation Action News, I think it would be useful to revisit the denotative meaning, to go a little old-school in order to discover new ways to accomplish those things we want to do, and to do them better (more efficiently, more cost-effectively, on a larger scale, you name it). I know that sounds contradictory, but stay with me, folks.

I’m a big believer in outreach as a form of innovation, regardless of the medium or the type of library. And, for the record, we librarians have a STRONG outreach game. One great example at my university is the work that the Eccles and Marriott librarians do in the Bench to Bedside program, in which librarians are embedded into the infrastructure of the program in order to support students with their research needs. Such a good fit, right? It just makes sense.

Another successful example of outreach is Personal Librarian programs that are cropping up in academic libraries all over the country–Yale, Chapel Hill, Barnard, and Drexel are particularly notable. This year at the University of Utah, I’m coordinating with The MUSE Scholars Program to provide each student involved in the program with a personal librarian. Since many haven’t selected a major, I don’t assign librarians according to their areas of expertise; it’s more like luck of the draw. And so far, we’ve been fairly lucky. This year, twenty librarians are participating in the program and connecting with approximately 200 undergraduates, reaching out to them at anticipated points of need, such as mid-terms and finals (actually a couple weeks beforehand). This is the first time  we’re working with this particular group, but it sure seems to be a good fit for those who are seeking a signature experience.

One last example, and this one is very old-school-meets-new-school: At my library, we serve on College and Interdisciplinary Teams to carry out our collection development duties. So, rather than each subject selector approaching his/her department independently with a small pot of money that’s designated to that specific department, teams of librarians collectively address the research needs of the colleges and with bigger, shared pots of money. (I like to visualize actual pots of money when I talk about this concept. Yes, as if we’re leprechauns.) And that goes for outreach, too. While each librarian is assigned to one (or two) departments and meets and communicates with those faculty members and students, we also come together to offer interdisciplinary support (e.g. offering workshops like “Advanced Research in the Humanities”).

What I’m getting at is that innovation doesn’t have to be driven by technology, just by a perceived need and an appropriate response. And that response can include technology if it fulfills the need better. But we can be creative, and thoughtful, and try new things without relying on gadgetry to make it sexy. That’s not to suggest that technology doesn’t have a place in libraries because it very clearly does. I just don’t think we have to force it.

The grand takeaway: If anybody would like to gift me an iPhone 6, that would be awfully nice. Because outreach.

By: Adriana Parker, Instruction Librarian, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah

Episode #056–Shawn Bliss, Cache/Rich Bookmobile Librarian for the Utah State Librarian

evillibrarianslogoToday we have Shawn Bliss on the podcast. Shawn operates a bookmobile in north-east Utah and shares with us some of the perils of having to be both a librarian and truck driver. We also discuss outreach, being among the people, and not ascribing needs to patrons. Shawn loves his work and has great perspectives about librarianship.

Evil Librarians Podcast 056