Creativity at Work

Everyone Was An Artist in Kindergarten” is a nice, short reminder that “[c]reativity is as much about the ability to come up with ideas as it is about the courage to act on those ideas.”

I kind of lied about not knowing what I enjoy in librarianship, but it’s kind of hard to explain because, honestly, it’s not specific to LIS. My sister, who is majoring in child development, said what I like is “creating environments,” which is early childhood educator speak for setting up learning spaces.

Last summer, I took a class on user experience, one that I didn’t get a chance to take in graduate school, after I completed half of the Hyperlinked Library MOOC in Fall 2013. I started a brand new job, and it was too hard to complete all the modules, but they left a deep impression on me.

I hands down really believe in “thinking like a startup.” I have tried a lot of different things in the library at my campus without concern for whether they actually will work (these things don’t cost money). And trust me, I have failed a lot, but it’s through failure that you realize what will or won’t work. You just have to try, work through your ideas with others who might not really get what you’re trying to do, and have the tenacity to keep trying.

I remember one of the student assistants asking me what the goal was when I started our first campus game night in Fall 2014. “We’re just going to hangout, and get to know people.” I didn’t think lots of people would come, but, hey, we have no campus life besides one student club. What have we got to lose? As it turns out, the students I approached to plan a game night were thrilled. The first time we put one on, we had faculty and the dean attend and play games! The dean played Cards Against Humanity with students, and she had fun. Although we didn’t get any faculty the second time, people asked how it went the next day. We only have about 15 students each time, but for a campus with no campus life and one that’s located off a highway, it’s great.

Another thing I started that I worried might not work were interactive posters outside the library doors across from the open computer lab. Every two weeks, I make a banner out of butcher paper, ask a question, and then I supply Post-It notes and washable markers for students to write responses. It’s so low-tech, but, much to my delight, students participate. I did learn that the plainer the Post-Its the better, though; cool colors get stolen. I did have some people who liked to report the inappropriate responses and gather them up with a note at my desk or have a word with me, but that’s the part where you just smile and say thank you. (Inside, you get a little crazy and imagine yourself ripping the pieces into teeny tiny little pieces and flinging them like confetti…)

I also got a little bit of backlash against providing Starbursts and Crunch Bars during finals week because there were a few candy wrappers on the ground, but it was one of those moments where I just had to say it was just for the week, and it was pretty easy to just throw them away. (I can only handle so much, guys.)

For me, being able to be creative in my work is really important. I didn’t really realize how important this was, but when I look back on school assignments and projects I liked the most, it involved making something, mostly visuals or something related to art (this was before STEM and STEaM times). I also realize that why I really loved one of my first library jobs as a bilingual story time teller was the thematic planning. During Halloween one year, I put together a black and white story time that included a shadow puppet show and a chalk and construction paper craft. I only worked 14 hours a week in that position, and I prepped my little heart out for that program.

Even though I sometimes wonder about the value of the extra details I place on interactivity and participation when things don’t go right, I have to remind myself that some people do notice. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the history/political science professor approached me about setting up a Constitution Day quiz in the Library. It’s a 15-question Scantron that students put into a large glass jar at the check-out desk; those who score the highest are placed into a drawing for a Starbucks gift card. You can also bet that I put together a Constitution Day book display.

As someone who was naturally good at the school thing and who is an academic librarian, I do get nervous that my dream doesn’t necessarily include publishing scholarly literature (part of it is that I don’t have a specific research area of interest). I just don’t really see myself doing that kind of scholarly life, and I think I have been struggling with how the reconcile that in the midst of all this great work former classmates are doing in their lives.

While my spring semester was a little rough, the highlight of my fall semester was the dean indicating that my greatest asset is creativity during my second-year review. I suppose I am doing something right.

Queen of Links and Thinks

Part of my summer goal is to reduce my digital clutter. I’m an expert saver of links, and I always intend to follow up, but you know how that goes. Right now I’m going through my Evernote account. Apparently, I have a notebook specifically called Life. I came across a Lifehacker article I had saved called “If You Want to Follow Your Dreams, You’ll have to Choose a Focus.” In the past, I have been very good at staying focused–sometimes too good–but for the last year or two, I have been restless because I have been lacking focus.

I do have to say that I think people can go too far with the advice in the article–you don’t want to alienate others in your life while you work on your dream; it’s a lonely way to live. I do, however, agree with the advice about saying no to extra things. I have been saying no to extra things, including a flooded inbox, to give me time to research and think about my next step.

Some others related links I came across in my Evernote Life notebook include “How to Get Back on Track After Disappointing Yourself,” which also talks about the power of saying no. Here is my favorite passage:

It’s remarkable how much time people spend chasing things that they don’t really care about. Then, when they don’t achieve them, they beat themselves up and feel like a failure for not achieving something that wasn’t important to them all along.

Start a Seven-Step Depth Ritual to Focus on Your Task at Hand” is a good reminder about being mindful about what you’re doing, which I really struggle with when I have time off. I thrive off of a schedule, so not having one during the summer freaks me out a little bit.

Left My Librarian Heart in San Francisco

I went to my first American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in 2010, just a mere semester and a couple of weeks into library school. I was doing a fellowship in DC at the time, and the conference happened to take place there that summer. It was incredibly overwhelming because it’s a giant conference, and I didn’t know anyone or much of anything back then. After that, I didn’t go for a few years. I had promised myself that I wouldn’t go until I was working somewhere full-time. At one point, I was working four library positions, so it was hard to take time off as a part-time employee. I was also really concerned with saving money because my husband was working so hard while I was in school and hunting for a full-time job; it made me feel bad not to be contributing as much as he was putting in.

Fast track, so I went to the conference in Las Vegas last year. I meant to start this blog after I got back to talk about all the things I went to and saw, but now I’ve come back from the conference in San Francisco.

This year, I took my sister with me. Kory, my husband, was going to go with me, but it ended up not working out with his job. My sister and I played Eloise at The Plaza for a few days since I booked at the Westin St. Francis. It’s so fancy it took a minute to figure out the elevator. In between my conference sessions, meetings, and meet-ups, we had a fabulous time shopping, eating Thai, crashing in on the Philippine Independence Day outdoor concert featuring Jessica Sanchez, and catching bits of the SF Pride Parade.

What I love about the craziness of ALA is that it’s mashup of everything library–you can be talking to a public library director, teacher librarian, vendor, dean of library services, reference librarians, librarians who don’t work in libraries. It’s everyone from the rock stars to the in-the-trenches librarians. This happened to me last year. I didn’t realize who I was talking to was a more well-known person until half an hour had passed because Twitter pics are not the same. I almost died. lol

The meeting I most anticipated this year was the Association of College and Research Libraries Library Marketing and Outreach interest group (ACRL LMO IG). Last year, I found myself at a really small meeting for a new interest group. This group has really given me something to focus on in the midst of all the things I can’t necessarily do at work. The IG is just a place to share ideas and inspire others. The idea is that states will have their own meet-ups. I signed up to be Central CA’s rep for ACRL LMO IG last year, and I recruited a librarian at the local UC to help me begin tapping into the Sacramento-Fresno area, but for one reason or another, we didn’t get started. As luck would have it, I happened upon a librarian from a private university about 30 minutes north of me who was on sabbatical when I had contacted her about getting together to form a regional group. I’m excited to see if we can wake up our sleepy area. Those So Cal and Nor Cal librarians are a little more social than the Central CA bunch.

Here’s what else I went to:

Lucha Corpi, Javier Huerta, and Viola Canales: Mexican-American Poetry Panel reminded me of my childhood–making trips to the discount supermarket, visiting Don Juan Foods where my mom worked as a cashier in between cannery seasons at Del Monte, and eating raspas and playing Lotería with my cousins. My upbringing in a tight-knit Mexican-American family in an even tighter-knit Protestant domination has had such a significant impact on my life, I can’t even explain but in poetry. And I haven’t written poetry in many years, partly because I’m not very good at it.

Framing and Enhancing Visual Literacy: Using the New ACRL Framework to Develop Effective Art Instruction was a really great panel that featured librarians at different institutions who incorporate visual literacy into their instruction based on the new framework and Standards for Information Literacy. There were some great lessons and ideas for how to do this, but the one that sticks out to me most was a lesson on how an image of a snake charmer became the image associated with Mami Watta, an African water goddess.

Current Topics Discussion (ACRL IS), which focused on how to establish and strength our partnerships with faculty members, which was led by Amy Wainwright, a fantastic librarian I have gotten to know a little bit through ACRL LMO IG. We discussed problems we have, as well as possible solutions for improving our relations with faculty members. Because I’m at such a small campus, I kind of have an edge when it comes to this, but there is always room to improve, and I know that my slight shyness does get in the way.

Multimodal Literacy and Comics, which focused on how comics can help people see different viewpoints, particularly those from the position of a person of color. These provide another narrative that students might not encounter in school which focuses on the traditional canon. I’m a person who wasn’t exposed to comics until I was 20, and by exposure I mean not exactly reading them but getting to know someone who reads them. I also grew up not having books with characters with my family dynamic in a bilingual/bi-racial household. Let me say, when Marisol MacDonald Doesn’t Match arrived at the public library I was working in at the time, I cried made me cried in the children’s department workroom.

PR Xchange is basically displays and examples of libraries’ marketing materials that you can take home. If you know me, you know that I absolutely love this stuff. That’s a nice display sign,” is something I say on a regular basis. Not that my own designs are gorgeous; my job is way too Jill of all trades to be perfection in one area.

And a million posters…

But I found it on Google: Teaching college students Critical Digital Literacy

College student engagement in information literacy activities across the disciplines

Dogs, Donuts and other Distractions: Assessing Finals Week Activities at Academic Libraries

One-Shot Assessment on the Fly: Using Free Mobile Technology and Polling Software

Plotting a new “maptastic” course: building community and unearthing collections through pop-up exhibits Click here for a copy of the poster.

Sustainable Assessment: Using Google Forms for Library Instruction

All in a Day’s Work: Workplace Information Literacy from a Student Perspective

Can You Kern? Librarians as Graphic Designers

The Undergraduate Experience: Is it Enhanced Through Employment as a Library Student Worker? Click here for a copy of the poster.

Wikipedia: Metaliteracy in the digital landscape

I had a great time. I learned a lot. This sort of makes up for having to miss the ACRL conference in March. Next year, the ALA Annual Conference is in Orlando. ACRL won’t happen again until 2017, but CARL, the CA chapter of ACRL has a conference in 2016. I signed up to help out with the planning recently, so I will go to that. I think I might go to Internet Librarian in October. I’ve always wanted to go, and a colleague mentioned to another colleague that it’s one I would probably really enjoy.