Where are all the diverse librarians? A data-driven reflection

1. on library demographics

Soon after my $20,000 library degree, I surveyed other grads about their experiences. Starting salaries in the Library Journal’s annual Salaries & Placements survey looked great… but they seemed to be missing half of all graduates. Perhaps, I thought, they were missing data on the ones who struggled, working part-time or juggling multiple jobs while trying to break into the field.

My own casual survey was unscientific, but the 380 respondents mirrored our profession: 90% white, 90% female, mostly affluent, mostly educated.

They mirrored (more…)

Are meal subscription boxes worth it?

When we lived with housemates last year, I watched astonished as Liz ordered a few meal subscription boxes. It seemed crazy, and expensive.

But it’s a growing trend in America: pay $40-80 for a week’s worth of dinners, and all the ingredients come in little packets in a refrigerated box on your doorstep. You chop and fix them yourself.

Cutting vegetables for oven-roasted vegetables

Liz enjoyed it, but ultimately decided portions were small and it wasn’t for her.

But once we got a place of our own, I was curious. If I tried a few boxes on sale, would they be worth it? (more…)

Use a Journal to Get Things Done

As a student, I used a weekly planner to track my assignments.

My life was on paper then: a diary, to-do lists, a planner, and handwritten letters and notes to friends.

Now, my mind is on my devices: checking social media, email, calendars, and goals in my Wunderlist app.

But all these apps feel fragmented. I’ve tried keeping a journal and planner… even a One Line a Day diary—and really, how can it get any simpler than that? But (more…)

How to ask librarians to buy your academic book

Because I’m a librarian at a research university, authors and publishers often email me to promote their books… and article collections… and digital archives… and films… and even chapbooks of poetry or local history (!).

I also get lists of new books from our vendors, and catalogs from academic publishers. I see what other librarians at top universities are buying through our shared purchasing platform. I look at the book stalls at academic conferences, and of course I see books mentioned around the web or in my other reading.

Study, study, study, by Eric Mueller, on Flickr

There’s a lot out there. By some estimates, Americans publish a million books each year; 2/3 are self-published. 81% of Americans would like to write a book. Large academic presses publish around 15,000 academic monographs each year, and that doesn’t count smaller, international, or trade presses. I only have a few hours a week to spend building a collection… and if I’m looking to catch a book I missed, well, over 134 million books have been published since printing began.

This means that even if your book is brilliant and a great fit for my library, there’s no guarantee (more…)

Perspective on Kazakhstan

I’ve been in Kazakhstan for the past two weeks on an exchange program, but just realized some friends don’t know much about it. Below, I’ve listed a few key facts you might store in your head and share with others:

It’s an enormous land.

Think of the world’s ten largest countries.

Is Kazakhstan on your list?

It should be. It’s the ninth largest country in the world. Its borders trace the heart of Asia, including Soviet gulags on the Siberian steppe, pine forests on the Chinese border, desert ruins and lush farmlands along the Silk Road, and Sufi mystics who once lived in caves along the almost dried-up Aral Sea.End of a glacier in Kazakhstan (more…)

How to Create Fake News and Deal in Private Data

Last week, a few friends gathered for games over pizza, and they ended up playing Puerto Rico, a board game in which each (in this case) white male player uses brown “colonist” pieces to amass wealth and take over an indigenous island.

I could watch one guy’s stomach turn in dismay. So many games have us mastering others (as in this great piece on New Zealand), but few make it so clear.

But other serious games have us enter into messy experiences to better empathize or change things for the better. Perhaps you’ve worked with friends to save the world from a Pandemic, or survived the Oregon Trail even after you’ve eaten all your buffalo and lost a wagon axle plus your smallest child. (more…)

The curious thing about bucket lists

Oddly enough, I started writing about bucket lists… and ended up exploring my thoughts on wills. So here we are. I suppose I felt I had to set bucket lists in the context of our wills, because I see both as a snapshot of our hopes and desires at a moment in time.

I’d like to see the world, we say, but also to give money to Jake and his donut shop. I want to make sure I have money in retirement, but I also want to go snorkeling in the Bahamas. Probably I’ll donate my house to the animal shelter, but what about petting a (very well-fed, very sleepy) crocodile in Africa first?

Dreams, by Rafael Olea on Flickr

A will may be a way of passing on what we love to those we love… but a bucket list is a way of (more…)

What I Love About Wills

Little Women is a Civil War-era novel of close friendship among four sisters, and in one of the more vivid scenes, Amy worries about her dying sister while trying to please her wealthy aunt… and resolves this tension around money, life, and death by writing her own will.

I could do that!, thought childhood me, when I first read the story.

So I pulled out my flowered stationery and wrote a list of everything I owned: several books, two American Girl dolls, $100 in the bank, and a small collection of music boxes. I willed each one to my friends, siblings, or parents… who I’m sure would have appreciated the return on investment in the form of a rotating ballerina.

1695 New London Special Court Elizabeth Olmsteds Certfied Daniel Coit Clerk

But unless you stand to directly inherit a fortune (more…)

What would a day without the ladies look like?

If the women in your life disappeared, what would happen?

Reading about this today, I realized I’d find it hard to get much done:

  • no bus driver to take me to work
  • no one to purchase the library’s journals
  • no one to manage the students who lend books
  • no manager to help with livid patrons
  • no sister to call, make me laugh, and make my day better
  • no mum to watch my disabled sibling, so that I can work
  • no aunts to check in on our aging relatives, so that I can live far away
  • no admin to book my tickets for business travel and file the paperwork
  • no one to arrange the actual logistics of my work trips
  • and few people on Facebook writing posts that keep us all supported and encouraged.

And when Amos gets home in half an hour, he’d find our laundry undone, our dishes undone, our bed unmade, our sink and counters dirty, the letters to his mum unwritten, his finances unplanned, his flights unbooked, and no one ready to listen as he unwinds from his day.

(And yes, this second shift of work still falls to women, as much as Amos and I try to share the load.)

On Bullshit Jobs

I’m thinking of this as I read a review copy of David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs, a book that expands his sensational essay on the meaningless of much office work to look at why folks push papers (more…)

Get Tools, Toys, and Seeds from Your Library

I’m a big pusher for libraries.

“Did you know they have free stuff?” I say.

You roll your eyes. Yes, you know.

“I mean, they have books, but did you know they have other free stuff?”


It’s easy to take the free thing for granted, but many early libraries were only open to rich people and researchers, or required a fee to use.

Library in St Florian, by Dorena WM on Flickr, CC-BY-ND license

It’s only in the past hundred years or so that libraries have been open to everyone in a neighborhood.

So it’s worth knowing what they have.

I’ve covered genealogy databases before; this post focuses on more unusual things that libraries lend, with examples in my area of the eastern San Francisco Bay.  (more…)