Monday, December 17, 2007

Lost in the Archives: Funding

Thanks to Ed for pointing out this CBC News article to his readers. The story is about the case of several hundred missing items from the Ontario Archives.

The CBC story focuses mainly on a final report written by Audior General Jim McCarter concerning the missing items and on the painter, A.J. Casson, whose prints have gone missing - or, as the auditor general concludes, were stolen while the works were being moved.

But Ed brings up a good point, one that is far too often overlooked. While the auditor general finds fault with the archives operations, I wonder if the auditor general examined the staffing situation or the funding in the Ontario Archives?

Not being familiar with the Ontario Archives, I cannot make any direct comments. However, I can state that most archives I have known are usually struggling with inadequate funding and staffing. Materials pile up, overwhelming the staff. It is so typical a story that whenever I hear it told, I cringe and laugh a disturbed-ready-for-the-loonie-bin laugh.

It is not uncommon to have an archives staffed by maybe 2-3 professional archivists assisted by support staff or students. Nor is it uncommon to have the archives department low on the budget list. But these realities contribute to the problem of missing, uncatalogued items. And let's be honest, they are not just missing items - they are lost history, pieces of the past taken away from the public's right to see and explore and experience.

These realities are rarely discussed. Rarely. Policitians are more than happy to talk about preserving the past and digitization projects, but rarely talk about the people behind the scenes. It is as though the work gets done magically, overnight, like those Elves in that Grimm Brothers' fairy tale.

What will it take to change the discourse? Shall we lose more stuff, shall we let more go uncatalogued until things reach epedemic levels. Sadly, it is usually at that stage when the powers that be take serious notice.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's Friday, It's Funny Friday

So the Annoyed Librarian is up to her/their freaky Friday blog posts. This time around, it is a humorous look at the five things she/they like most about being a librarian. You can read all five here.

For now, my personal favorite:

"Third, it's not busy, busy, busy all the time. If librarians were busy all the time, there wouldn't be so many librarian blogs, now would there? Busy librarians don't have time to blog so much. You can tell those librarians without much to do by the frequency of their blog posts. Show me a librarian who posts every day to two or three blogs, and I'll show you a librarian who's mastered the art of looking busy without working very hard. I'm not making fun; these librarians are to be imitated. Master that art, and your work life will be much improved." [Emphasis mine]

If you have been reading my most recent blog posts regarding the Social Web and Real Work (here and here), I think you would have to agree that this is one heck of a statement. And as the AL writes, imitate these librarians, "and your work life will be much improved."

Merry Christmas, Annoyed Librarian. I hope all three, four or five of you have a nice time off. Cheers!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hills and Valleys and Your Career

Once again Steve Oberg, blogging over at Family Man Librarian, has posted a very candid and personal piece about librarianship, choices, decisions, and the hills and valleys that a professional naturally encounters on his or her career path. In his post, he cites--and is inspired by--a blog post written by Steven Bell, who discusses his ascent from librarian to director...while balancing family life and its hefty demands.

The theme shared by both authors is a general but poignant question: Am I where I should be professionally? In other words, have I made the right decisions, based on various environmental circumstances of the past, and am I happy with where I am professionally? Have I accomplished and achieved all that I could have? Their responses are surprising...and reassuring!

Regardless of the profession you find yourself in, whether librarian, archivist, or some other information professional, or whether you find yourself at the crossroads of life, the fact is we all start to ask such questions after a certain amount of years in the profession. Am I where I should be professionally? Did I envision something different?

We ought to expect peaks and valleys in our professional life, and incorporate them (as best we can, being mere mortals, of course) into our planning. There will be good times--moments of exhilaration, recognition--and bad times when the surrounding fluid sounds of success diminiss into a din of noise and static, where nothing seems to make sense.

Steven Bell, however, provides some insightful advice: Treat a career path as a runner treats a marathon. Plenty of pacing, planning, bursts of energy, moments to recharge.

I have been in this field since 2001, almost 7 years, and one thing I have gleaned, which I hope can be of value to anyone reading, is to keep one's short-term and long-term goals and objectives in mind, especially long-term goals and objectives. Never lose sight of those long term visions. There will be times when a short-term situation may seem to take precedence, like that lingering never-ending project, that contract extension, but never lose sight of the long-term. Keep running toward the longer-term goal. This is not a sprint, the fastest one past the finish line wins. No. This is a long run. Do not sprint toward the short-term, wasting precious time and energy. Focus your time and save your energies for the long-term.

To use another anology. This is a story, a book with many chapters. Some chapters last a long time, full of twists and turns. Other chapters, well, those we simply cannot wait to finish, to close, and move on.

Where ever you are in your career, if graduation day occurred a few months ago or several years ago, this is your professional career. This is a long run; it is a story with many chapters. Be ready to run the distance; be prepared to finish one chapter and start another.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Circular Entertainment

The consumer co-creates with the creator in creating a more perfect entertainment experience.

This story on CNET Blogs sure warms me up.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Social Web, Real Work: Feedback

I was very pleased to read the many thoughtful and balanced comments on my last blog post regarding the Social Web and Who is doing the real work.

To everyone who commented, thank you. I have not received so much feedback since, well, since I don't when, quite frankly.

Personally, I like the Social Web. I use a number of online tools and resources, including but not limited to Blogger, Twitter, Flickr, and I have a Facebook account, but sadly have not had much time to update it or really use it in a meaningful way.

I opened a Second Life account (created a simple Avatar) to see what the fuss was all about, and I opened several other accounts to services whose names have either vanished from my brain or vanished from the Web landscape altogether.

Truth is, the Social Web is valuable: I have learned from and shared knowledge with many out there, many of whom will never know just how much their blogging, flickring, or twittering has helped me.

However, working in an archives for many years and having faced the usual troubles of archives around the globe (i.e. limited resources, limited staff, low priority), attempting to adopt the Social Web as even a part of Real Work becomes a very, very difficult task.

By Real Work, take, for example, processing archivists. Their bread and butter--their Real Work, in other words--does not and will not entail dealing with the Social Web. Sure, on a personal level, they may check this account or that account. But their daily output (in meters/linear feet), their accessioning of boxes and files, their management of backlog, that is their Real Work, that is the stuff that for better or for worse keeps the department afloat. No records processed, no archives. And then nevermind opening up a shop on Second Life for reference services or for showcasing digitized material. Before material gets digitized it needs to be accessioned. And when there are deadlines to be met, reports to be written and submitted, a manager or supervisor does not want to hear about the Social Web.

The Social Web is awesome, as I explained beforehand. Make no mistake about it. I use it when I have the time, and then mainly for personal and professional development. But I feel it is important to speak for those whose work, the behind the scenes work, never gets noticed...and never benefits from the Social Web.

I read a blog post by David Lee King in which he said he had actually done library work on Facebook. He sounded a little surprised that he had done actual work using Facebook.

For those whose positions--or their bosses--allow for the use of the Social Web to conduct business, I tip my hat to you. Consider yourselves fortunate to be working in such an environment. There are some places where the Social Web is not a priority, for it cannot solve immediate and pressing needs.

about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.