The Long(ish) Read: Walter Benjamin Unpacking his Library

Walter Benjamin in Paris. Image © Gisèle Freund

Welcome to The Long(ish) Read: a new AD feature which uncovers texts written by notable essayists which resonate with contemporary architecture, interior architecture, urbanism or landscape design. In this essay, written in 1931, Walter Benjamin narrates the process of unpacking his library. All in boxes, he takes the reader through elements of his book collection: the memories attached to them, the importance he placed on the act of ‘collecting’ and the process of accumulation, and how objects like books inhabit a space.

Walter Benjamin in brief

Born in Germany in 1892, Benjamin was known as a ‘man of letters’. Having been educated in Switzerland he had a short career in the lead up to the Second World War, which saw him carve a niche as a literary critic. In the 1930s he turned to Marxism, partly due to the influence of Bertolt Brecht and partly due to the rise of extreme right-wing politics in Europe. He spent much of his professional life in Paris, where he wrote this essay. Benjamin died in 1940 having committed suicide at the French–Spanish border while attempting to escape the Nazis. Read more...

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Careers for Info Utopia: The optimism of a new semester | Blatant Berry

BerryWebB Careers for Info Utopia: The optimism of a new semester | Blatant BerryThe beginning of each semester always rejuvenates me. There is nothing more stimulating than those first few sessions with a class of expectant students, arriving with their high energy, curiosity, and desire to participate and impress. My new class at Pratt Institute’s SILS came to New York from all over America and the world. The students range in age from their 20s to their 60s, which has so often been typical of my LIS classes. It is a great privilege and honor to work with them to try to answer the accursed questions that continue to plague our profession.

In prior years I have worried for these new librarians about the shortage of jobs in our field, the low salaries, and the uncertainty in the outlook for libraries of all types.

This year, however, I feel much more positive about the opportunities available to these new information professionals and more optimistic about the potential for the future and the careers that they will find. I have no doubt now that they will move us nearer to the resolution of the many challenges we face. Read more…

 

Why do people who love libraries love libraries? by The Ubiquitous Librarian

September 19, 2014, 2:15 pm

Why do people who love libraries love libraries? This has been on my mind a lot lately. Whenever I find a patron who is passionate about their library I try to decode those tangible and intangible qualities that made the experience so powerful for them.

Our library’s feedback form a great source of insight. Each semester we have a handful of students point out customer service problems, confusing policies, or facilities issues. They are telling us these things because they care and want us to improve. We address matters when we can. For example, one student suggested a new software configuration in our scale-up classroom that we enacted and it greatly improved usability.

This week I had a student share an opinion about our bathrooms. She was frustrated because while we are renovating some parts of our library we are not upgrading the restrooms. Our original building is from the 1950’s so it is definitely long overdue for some infrastructure enhancements. I checked the maintenance logs and from January 2014 to July 2014 we had 224 items reported: 104 of those were related to leaks or clogs. There is only so much you can do about plumbing; it’s an issue that I think about daily.

Yet despite the facilities the building is as busy as ever. Like many academic libraries we often cannot accommodate the demand. This brings me back to the student and the bathrooms. During our correspondence I wondered why is she here? There are so many other places on campus: why the library? So I asked. This part of her response was very powerful:

 The other thing about the library:  There’s a group of regular library people who are always here. I’ve made some really wonderful friendships in the library. There’s just kind of a library community of library people doing library things… you get used to seeing specific people every day, and it’s really nice. Then sometimes there are little library surprises–like the dog-petting thing or the grilled cheeses, or even some of the programs and lectures. Those things happen and it’s like the library is telling you it loves you back.

I don’t want to ruin this by trying to analyze her thoughts, but it dovetails nicely with a theme I have been expressing: shifting our thinking from library commons to library communities.

When librarians talk about a commons it is almost always about “the stuff in the space” – whereas communities are about “people doing stuff together.” I’m trying to move away from a focus on serving “the user” and instead trying to appreciate that we engage and support a multitude of different people with diverse and different needs. Our libraries are different things to different people. We cannot be everything to everyone, but we can be very good at being some things to many people. Read more…

YOUR INTRODUCTION, ELEVATOR SPEECH, AND ORIGIN STORY: FACE TO FACE NETWORKING TIPS

YOUR INTRODUCTION, ELEVATOR SPEECH, AND ORIGIN STORY: FACE TO FACE NETWORKING TIPS

by Ellen Mehling, Career Development Consultant, METRO

It is well-known that networking is vital to a successful job search and a thriving career. LinkedIn has made it easy to connect with a large number of people, but in-person interactions should not be neglected and should be conducted with thought and care. Those who have met you in person and who really know you and have worked with you in some way are going to be the most beneficial to you. These are the people who will refer, recommend, or even hire you. These first words and conversations with other professionals can make or break your opportunity for further contact.

Your Introduction

You will be remembered by the manner in which you introduce yourself, so choose those first words deliberately. Sometimes just your name, title, and workplace will suffice. And sometimes just your name and a general descriptive title (even just “librarian”) is appropriate, depending on the person or audience you are introducing yourself to.

In some cases, a few words describing what you do will be needed. If, for example, your title doesn’t make your job responsibilities clear or if there is a certain skill you want to be sure the person you are talking to knows about you, be sure to mention that too. If you are a student, give the name of the school and your degree-in-progress, with the possible addition of the kind of information work you hope to do following graduation.

It is best not to introduce yourself by saying you are unemployed or job hunting. I have heard many info pros begin their introduction with something like, “I was laid off two years ago…” We all have setbacks in our careers. By introducing yourself with a past setback you are telling other people that this one-time event, which may have occurred some time ago, has defined you in a permanent way. This encourages others to think of you as unemployed and that is not likely to lead to new opportunities. I would also avoid the phrase “in transition” as it has come to mean “long-term unemployed”.

Lead with your strengths; introduce yourself in the present tense, (“I am…” rather than “I was…”) and have some project or part-time job or volunteering or internship or blog or research or service in a professional organization that you can talk about later in the conversation. Keep your introduction to one or two sentences. After that, *listen* to the other person’s self-introduction and ask a follow-up question or two, to get things started. Read more…

 

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The Myth and the Reality of the Evolving Patron | American Libraries Magazine

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project

By Brita Zitin

The Scoop

Lee Rainie

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, knows how to win over a roomful of librarians, as he proved at the RUSA President’s Program, where he was the keynote speaker. He’s generous with both his flattery (“Every day spent with librarians is a good day”) and his cat photos (the feline census of his slideshow reached well into the double digits). But he also delivers—in abundance—what information professionals really want: reliable data that makes library work more meaningful.

The research pursued by Rainie and his colleagues at the Pew Internet and American Life Project covers library use on the national level and cannot substitute for insight into a particular community gathered through the kind of deep listening advocated by the Harwood Institute [http://www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/libraries-transforming-communities]. Still, Rainie has a talent for translating these broad strokes into practical tips. Drawing on Pew’s recent report “Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading,” he said, “If you want to figure out who loves you most, it’s parents of minor children, and within that, the moms. Romance the moms.” Read more…

via The Myth and the Reality of the Evolving Patron | American Libraries Magazine.

25 Vintage Photos of Librarians Being Awesome – Flavorwire

Librarians, in case you hadn’t heard, are essential members of society — likely to expand minds wherever they go — and, as such, are fully worthy of hero worship (whether they’re among the coolest librarians alive or just pretty cool). That’s at least part of the impetus behind My Daguerreotype Librarian, ”[a] tumblr dedicated to literally or figuratively hunky and babely librarians from the past.” Inspired by the website, here’s a little extra literary goodness: 25 awesome vintage photos of librarians from ages past.

minnie

Minnie Oakley and Florence Baker Hayes, two Wisconsin State Historical Society librarians, 1896. [Photo via]

 

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The changing world of librarians

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