Metaphors of Privilege

Latest discourse analysis of makerspace rhetoric–this one examining the metaphors and metanyms that librarians who offer makerspace services use, versus those used in the professional literature and blogs. The image of the poster looks VERY pink on my screen, apologies if this is true for you as well. You can download the pdf here.

EDIT: I’m proud (and surprised!) to say this poster won the Best Poster Award at iConference.

metaphors of privilege

ABSTRACT and references–at least the prepublication version. Please see iConference proceedings for 2015 for the citable abstract.




Evidence-based public libraries

How many public librarians are, right this very moment, struggling with the fact that they need more money, but can’t seem to find the evidence they need to make a stronger case to funding agencies about how critical library services are? I bet nearly every director or financial officer is. I know I am. Most of the other directors I know are in the same boat.

We need evidence. We need to demonstrate empirically what we do and why and what the outcomes are. We need it for funders. We need it for patrons/uses/customers/members. We need it most of all for ourselves. Evidence that the bookmobile is a great idea and serves people we’d never get in our doors. Evidence that our adult workshops are meeting needs that cost-based programs aren’t. Evidence about people getting jobs, buying houses, learning guitar, making bike accessories*,  having healthier families, writing books, being happy because they read and play with library stuff…so much evidence could be gathered to help us do our jobs better.

We need evidence for why all this stuff is a good idea, or why it doesn’t work the way we wish it would. If public library makerspaces don’t actually build more knowledge, skill, excitement, social interaction, participatory learning, or other socioeconomic benefits (and I can’t see how they couldn’t) it would be a bad idea for every library in the land to invest in them, right?

So where is the evidence on makerspaces? (I’m working on it–someone could throw me a bone, however.)

Where is the evidence for coffee in libraries? Should it be free or is it no big deal if it costs money? (I need to know, people. We’re talking about offering free specialty coffee in my library.)

Where is the evidence about using volunteers on digitization projects or even on just how patrons interact at the service desk?

Well, for the last two questions, the answer is:  Here.

The wonderful Evidence Based Library and Information Practice journal’s 1st 2012 issue focused on public libraries and evidence that they might want or need. This issue contains articles that synthesize research on summer library programs. They look at teens’ library needs, or at social impacts of libraries. It includes empirical research articles on library redesign and on customer experiences at service desks. There is even an article addressing researchers who want to use focus groups.

Every single article in this issue was of use to me in some way, as a director of a tiny rural library, and as a researcher.

The best part of the whole issue, for me, was the Pam Ryan‘s call for more public library research:

Now, more than ever, with fiscal pressures and societal changes challenging the value of our public libraries, we need a strong base of evidence upon which to draw support and inform evidence based practice and advocacy efforts. The evidence base needs increased contributions about public library practice and value from both LIS faculty and practitioner-researchers to ensure balance and relevance.

Ryan then asked for support for public librarian-researchers, from positions on editorial boards and conference-organizing committees, to collaboration with academics, to actively seeking out and supporting public librarians who do research.

Yes! Please!

That’s what we hope to do here, in the limited time we have to offer as working librarians, researchers, and as a (in my case) student. We could really use some help, especially from those more “in the know” about research and those more “in power” on those editorial boards, etc.

If you are willing to chip in and blog about what it takes to be a public librarian-researcher, please contact me. And if you’re a public librarian who wants to try a research project, what barriers do you face? Let us know, and we’ll do our best to find ways to overcome them.

*I wish I could link the bike accessories thing, because I read that a couple are 3d printing these things at a library makerspace and selling them, but cannot find the reference again. So much for my vaunted librarian skillz

[edit] By the way, of the 29 authors for the public library issue of EBLIP, only 12 were public librarians, and ten of these were all from the Edmonton Public Library in Canada. While Edmonton Public Library obviously rocks, it’s depressing to note that 79%  of the research and review articles had no public librarian authors. Of the four with public librarian authors, 3 were written by Edmonton librarians.

doctoral stress, or, “goodbye to my wonderful friends and family”

So I’m starting my graduate program now, and my goal at this point is to not die of stress. The degree is at this point incidental. I read a couple of books on having a sane and smooth PhD program, and found the most disturbing, and patently impossible, statistic:

On a standard stress rating scale, where the death of a spouse is 100, the average first-year doctoral student rates their stress at 313. (Valdez, Ramiro. “First-Year Doctoral Students and Stress.” College Student Journal, 1982, 16: 30-37.)

At first I joked about this obviously ridiculous statistic. Then, because I am a geek, I looked up the study. Yeah, ok it’s pretty small-scale and it was from 30 years ago. Still…

I am already feeling worried.

  • I worry that I won’t be able to juggle work and school, much less my family.
  • I worry that I’ll be stupid compared to the other students (damned impostor syndrome).
  • I worry that I’ll be poor(er).
  • And fat(ter).
  • And my eyes will actually explode from all the reading (even though I read journal articles for fun.)
  • I worry that I’ll be a terrible PA.
  • Or that I’ll be one of the students spoken about in hushed tones by faculty as “not doing a good program,” whatever that means.
  • I worry that I won’t have suitably doctoral clothes and look too casual, to dressy, or (even worse) like the other students’ mom.
  • I worry that two months before I finish my dissertation someone else will publish the exact same thing, or that the topic (so obscure now) will become commonplace and mundane and I’ll look like a trailing-after-the-bandwagon loser.
  • I worry that I won’t actually understand advanced research methods and people will notice.
  • I worry that I won’t find cheap parking.
  • I worry that I will have opportunities that I can’t afford to take.
  • I worry that I will bring shame to my adviser, that my adviser won’t be helpful, that I won’t have an adviser, that my adviser won’t hold off the sharks in the rest of my committee, that my adviser will be the shark in my committee.
  • I worry that my laptop will die.
  • I worry that my capacity for “faking it til making it” will desert me.
  • I worry that my lack of worry about asking stupid questions in seminars will make the others feel I’m not taking things seriously, or that I am actually stupid, or that I should be returned to high school (because I never did graduate from high school. Oops.) and this reveals that the non-worry is actually worry AND me lying to myself.
  • I worry that I will be a lousy librarian and lousy student because I can’t give 100% of my energy to either task.
  • I worry that my husband will forget what I look like and my children will speak of me as if I am dead.

I’m not saying all this so anyone reassures me (please don’t). And I certainly don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me (like you would–I chose this idiotic path after all). I just want anyone who ever joins such a program and somehow stumbles upon this blog to know–YOU are not alone. Because evidently everyone feels most of this most of the time (N=the 3 people I’ve talked to). These worries are all ego garbage, but I think you must be egomaniacal to want to get a PhD in Information. Or any PhD. So I have revealed my shallow non-depths. I’m sure you’re not surprised.

(BTW, if you feel pity or something and you’re aching to help me out, here are a few gift ideas. I especially love the coffee bucks and journal subscription ideas. I would like Libraries Quarterly, please. AND.)

On the plus side, I found that my first research article has been accepted. It’s actually a two-part article and the first part was accepted as written (which is bizarre, I can’t imagine there was nothing improvable in it) and the second part with revisions, which I turned around in under 24 hours (even though it involved 5 hours of painstaking table creation). Yet seeing the email from the editor in my inbox caused stress. That sort of “oh dear deity-of-your-choice I am terrified to open this email, I shall proceed to do other things for five minutes until I can’t stand it anymore” stress. And my stomach had actual butterflies (anise swallowtails, I believe). Even good things now cause unforeseen quantities of stress.

So, to sum up, right now I am worried about my “first day” which is technically on Wed., but I have meetings and orientations on Monday (i.e. tomorrow) and Tuesday but I still feel like this:

By this time next year I expect to look like this:

(cartoons thanks to a funny blog at

Most of all of this talk of worry is to make apparent to the people who tolerate me, that I’m sorry in advance. I love you, I am stressed about missing you already, I am concerned I will be a terrible mother/relative/friend. I feel I can do nothing about this. And I hope you understand.

See you in a few years.

Makerspace, the BD edition

I’m about to go to Rhode Island to talk about content creation in libraries at a conference, so I’ve been whipping up a powerpoint. A couple of days ago I simply googled “makerspace” so I could loot images from unsuspecting websites* and right there, halfway through the second page of hits was this:

This is exactly why I’ve been harping on this subject to anyone I could corner for years now: If libraries don’t get off their collective asses, some enterprising person will create a for-profit version of what we SHOULD be.

This makerspace will be cool for those with the money to join, but probably once again widen the have/have-not divide in tech & information. I mean, it will be wonderful for middle-class white geeks like my family, who can throw down some cash for a few hours at the Arduino workbench (yeah, I don’t actually know what that is, either.)

See, I’m thrilled about this potential makerspace right in my hometown of 16,000. But HOW STUPID are we (librarians) not to already be all over this bandwagon? So I guess I’m more thrillgusted than entirely thrilled, or entirely disgusted with my own colleagues (who seem to worry more about how many “shades of grey” they should or should not buy).

We (the city) have a perfectly good library building ideally situated for makerspace activities in downtown BD, with a fairly empty basement (I think) but I can’t see this library forming a makerspace partnership anytime soon. They’re pretty anti-crazyfunstuff at the BD library.

So. Free shared resource potential, probably down the tubes. I hope I’m wrong! I hope I’m all cranky for no good reason, and a brilliant and amazing makerspace partnership happens with the BD library.  Note to all my librarian friends: If a (I’m sorry, I even live here) fairly lame-o, conservative, small town like BD is looking at building a makerspace, than this production revolution is REAL, not a fad or another chance for librarians to do our ostrich thing, then pout when we’re left out of the loop, a la ebooks.

By the way,  I just ordered a Canopus VHS converter and a Canon slide/photo scanner, so my library’s digital media lab will hopefully be luring the older members of my library community to the Lomira >EnterCorporateSponsorNameHere< Community Library. Hopefully. And at least I’m trying to LOCATE the bandwagon, right?

And by the “by the way” (or post-post-script) was finding the BeaverDamMakerspace website this evidence of creepy Google knowing from whence I was searching? I don’t think so–I have all sorts of ‘track-me-not’ stuff running on my browser, and there were results from all over the country before this one. I just honestly think Beaver Dam, WI is THAT happening and cool (or, OK, some of the inhabitants are, like Mr. Jason Gullikson, who is the ringleader on this excellent project).

*I do add photo credits and aim for cc licensed works, but this ppt is for educational use and I am totally claiming fair use.

[edited] Welcome to the Center for Public Library Research (CPLR)

This center currently consists of two librarian/students with a dream of creating a clearinghouse or center that facilitates praxis-based research for and by practicing public librarians.

Why wait for someone to fund this dream? we asked ourselves. Why wait for “permission?”

So we will, as time and resources allow, post research information here: On research opportunities suitable for public librarians, research skills needed by public librarians, and research by & for public librarians.


edit 08/23/2015: this was the opening post for a now-defunct blog. Amazingly, this dream is being realized elsewhere through the Public Library Collaboratory, of which I am a happy part.


A colleague of mine, Sarah Jones Cournoyer, and I have had a dream for the last few years: to head a center that facilitates research by and  for public librarians. We thought we’d have to wait until we got our respective PhDs and somebody funded this. But why wait? Someone’s going to steal this idea if we don’t get busy, right?

So welcome to The Center for Public Library Research (CPLR). Hope you find it useful and will chime in as you think of research ideas, opportunities, or research you’ve found useful for public librarians.