In which I have Blogger’s Block.

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve blogged and that’s mostly because I have used up all of my writing ability (and creativity) on class assignments. I’ve had several librarian-ish thoughts, but none that seem to flow easily onto the page… or computer screen, as the case may be.

11785915 - group of blog related 3d words. part of a series.

So, instead I’m popping by with a list of random information that relates to my library school adventures thus far in September. It may not be the scintillating stuff (ha!) my faithful readers are accustomed to, but if the paragraphs won’t come when called, then bullet points will just have to be good enough:

  • I’m taking two classes this semester. They are:
  • The aforementioned Jill Hurst-Wahl is my new faculty mentor, which is a good thing because:
    • she is one of my favorite professors (and I’m not just saying that to kiss up)
    • we get along (when I’m not complaining about the word length restrictions of her assignments)
    • her professional interests are library innovation and copyright, in which I am also interested
    • my previous faculty mentor (with whom I also got along) is now in South Carolina (and it’s not because I was a bad mentee and scared him off). I will share more about the Mystery of the Disappearing Faculty Mentor in a future post.
  • I have renewed my membership in the New York Library Association (NYLA) and will be attending the annual conference in Saratoga in November, which I’m really looking forward to.
  • I’ve also renewed my membership in the American Library Association (ALA) and will be attending the Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta in January.
    • I’m terribly excited about this, too…
    • … especially since I’ll be sharing a room and getting to spend some time with one of my librarian friends.
  • Dr. Carla Hayden’s swearing in as the 14th Librarian of Congress made me extraordinarily happy and excited about the future of librarianship in this country:

That’s all the news I have for now, but I’ll be back once my clever blogging abilities become unblocked.

In which I am aghast at the very idea!

Whilst looking at various library-related stories on Twitter, I happened upon this article which I thought, at first, must be a joke. You see, the piece details the decision, by a public library in Alabama, to begin enforcing an ordinance that could result in jail time for certain patrons with overdue library books.

Jail time?
For overdue library books?
What is this world coming to?
What kind of library director would countenance such a thing?
Is she insane?

To be fair, the full story is a bit more nuanced than its somewhat sensational title of:

Borrowed time: US library to enforce jail sentences for overdue books

After reading the article by The Guardian (my favorite news source from the UK), this story from the News Courier in Athens, Alabama, and this report from WAAY TV in Huntsville, Alabama, it seems that the facts are these:

  • Roughly $200,000 worth of books have not been returned to the Athens-Limestone Public Library.
  • Tossing patrons in jail is not the library’s initial response to overdue books. An email or text, followed by a certified letter giving the patron 10 days to settle the matter, are the library’s first attempts at a resolution.
  • Should those steps prove ineffective, a court summons comes next. An additional fine, and up to 30 days in jail, could be the result of ignoring the court summons.
  • The ordinance that allows for all this has been on the books for some time, but is only now being strictly enforced.
  • The measures above will not apply to children.

Woman's Hands Fettered With Handcuffs

On one hand, I sympathize with the library. $200,000 worth of non-returned books is serious business, and public libraries are not so well funded to be able to ignore the matter.

The library director herself is perhaps not such the hard-ass I first thought her. (And no, that’s not a very charitable thing for me to think about a fellow member of my profession. But I’m being honest… that was my initial assumption. This blog post is, in part, an attempt to see things from her point of view.) She’s quoted in the WAAY TV story as saying, “Our first step is to have a good relationship with our patrons and remind them to bring everything back.” And in the News Courier story, she makes it clear that she’s thinking of the taxpayers and about all of the patrons to whom library resources belong and the library’s responsibility to them.

However, after my first week of classes, in which my classmates and I discussed the Core Values of Librarianship, the idea of jail time for overdue books doesn’t sit comfortably in my mind with the American Library Association’s core value of Social Responsibility and the “contribution that librarianship can make in ameliorating or solving the critical problems of society.”

I know that I’m not a proper, credentialed librarian yet. I’m just a student and willing to admit that I’m inexperienced, and maybe even naive, not yet having worked in the library trenches in a full-time, professional capacity. But surely the threat of jail time (even for a tiny segment of public library patrons) is going to cause more problems in the community than it solves. Will patrons still feel as free to borrow from the library knowing what could happen if they cannot pay their overdue fines?

I confess I have more questions than answers, so I’d like to know… what do you think? I’m interested to hear from everyone: library directors, my librarian friends, fellow students, library staff, or anyone who’s ever forgotten to return an overdue library book. Do you believe that jail time should be the final sanction for extreme cases of non-returned library items? If not, how would you address the problem of $200,000 in missing materials?

In which I am determined to continue blogging.

Yes, I did disappear from blogging for… oh, the past 7 months or so. Not an eternity, but much longer than I would’ve liked. Those months were marked by myriad non-librarian adventures, the details of which I will spare you (which is the first rule of Library Blog, after all.)

Tomorrow, however, begins a new semester at the iSchool and I am ready not just for my classes and my work, but for blogging again. I hope I haven’t lost too many readers in the interim.

Stay tuned for fascinating future posts which may include the following adventures:

  • In which I disclose what classes I am taking this semester
  • In which I reveal the Mystery of the Disappearing Faculty Mentor
  • In which I share what you think of “librarian” (the results of a reader survey from last November!)
  • In which I have some thoughts about intellectual freedom and censorship

Empty tablet pc with books, technology and education


In which I receive the gift of an entire library.

My youngest brother Jared has many talents, which include rocking his graduate coursework in applied linguistics, coaching runners, making tasty curry dishes from scratch, and living life as a hard-working, motivated, responsible member of the Millennial generation.* But perhaps my favorite of his qualities is his skill at, and penchant for, drawing imaginary cityscapes in his limited spare time.

He began a new creative project over the holidays and asked me if I’d like my own house in his latest utopia. “Yes, please,” I replied, “And may I have some trees in my yard? And could it be not too close to other houses, but still within easy walking distance of the library and other community spaces?” He promised me it would be, and when he finished, this was the result:

cityscape with arrows
Artwork by my brother Jared. (Arrows added by me.) Shared without asking permission first, because I’m the eldest sibling so I can do things like that. Bossy Big Sister Privilege is a little-known provision of copyright law, as long as you’re sure no one will mind.

The downward arrow points to my cozy house among a delightful copse of deciduous trees.
The rightward arrow points to the library of which I am now mistress. I adore it’s resemblance to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre while being thankful that it’s better protected from the elements. I’m delighted to see a free, public library in the midst of a city that looks so Renaissance-era European (where libraries were generally found at universities or abbeys, but not widely accessible to the general public… and almost never to women who weren’t among the clergy or nobility.)

I firmly believe that a library should be more than just an edifice full of books, and that a librarian’s mission reaches far beyond mere caretaking of printed artifacts. That being said, I’m inordinately charmed by the library building my brother drew for me. I confess that I do imagine it full of rare volumes and new publications, as well as spaces for learning, collaboration, and creativity.

As mistress of this city library, I don’t see myself remaining always within it’s physical confines, but happily venturing out into the community and becoming a person who improves society by facilitating knowledge creation with individuals, groups, and organizations. In the interest of accessibility, I may also advocate for more localized library services and spaces – perhaps a new branch? – for the citizens who live and work across the river. Mobilizing a corps of roving librarians to serve the homebound and residents of outlying areas is also part of my daydream.

What does this flight of fancy have to do with modern-day librarianship in the real world? Only that it’s important (as librarians, librarians-in-training, library staff, and/or library members) as often as we can, and by whatever means necessary, to widen our view beyond a specific library building, to see our larger community with fresh eyes, and to consider how we can serve it better. An imaginary library in an imaginary city can also be a visual reminder to share our mission with others and to discover the interests and talents that community members may wish to share enthusiastically with us.

* I often read and hear criticism of Millennials for being lazy and entitled. While I don’t doubt that this has been some people’s experience with the younger generation, I’m very fortunate that the Millennials I know are focused, productive, thoughtful, and generally society-improving people.

In which I start a new semester and am already swamped.

I faithfully promised myself that I’d post at least once a se’nnight* during the semester, even though this blog is no longer part of a class assignment. Since my first class was last Wednesday morning, I’m hitting “Publish” just in time.

One week into the new semester and I already feel like I’m a week behind. OK, technically, I’m not behind, but am only on-time by a hair’s breadth, and certainly not ahead of schedule. This, in spite of my best organizational and time management efforts. (I even skipped Downton Abbey in favor of studying on Sunday night. Skipped Downton Abbey! Do you see how seriously I take this grad school adventure? Anna and Mr. Bates will have to wait patiently on my DVR until Spring Break.)

3d man with a stack of papers
Surrounded by coursework.

I only have enough time left to report that I’m taking the following interesting classes:
IST 600 – Library Advocacy (my very first online class)
IST 613 – Library Planning, Marketing, and Assessment
IST 614 – Management Principles for Information Professionals

I’ll provide more details on them later, but for now I must get back to work!

*se’nnight = a somewhat archaic English term for seven nights & seven days, or a week. I faithfully promised myself that I would use it in a sentence as often as I thought I could get away with it.

In which I return after a brief hiatus.

My library school adventure, and my blogging, were interrupted by illness in 2015. (If you’d like to read some of my non-TMI whining about this, you may do so here and here.) The good news is that I’ve been cleared to return to grad school after last semester’s medical leave and am already impatient for the Spring 2016 semester and its new adventures to begin.
hand-1036494_640As I’m able to re-focus on librarianish thoughts, some of the scintillating posts you may look forward to over the next few weeks will include:

In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all a brilliant New Year; may 2016 bring us all good health, happiness, and meaningful connection with others.

In which I am a library leader (sort-of).

I came across this quiz called How Much of a Library Leader Are You? over at Library Lost & Found. (I can’t resist a quiz.) Although I don’t currently work at a library, I answered the questions as if I did.  And guess what? I scored 100%. Huzzah!

Image shared with the kind permission of Megan Hartline.

The quiz is perhaps more inspirational and humorous than a rigorous assessment of my leadership skills. I confess my perfect score was rather easily obtained, though I did answer honestly. I promise.

Still, it gave me a smile, and I needed the pick-me-up since I’ve been sick for about two months now. (See this post and this post for non-TMI details.) In fact, I’ve had to apply for a medical leave for the semester, which is completely wretched because that was not part of the plan! I’m rarely more cheerful than when I’m in school, learning interesting things. I’m rarely more grumpy than when I’m stuck at home recuperating.

The good news is that I finally seem to be on the mend, albeit at a snail’s pace, and am looking forward to next semester’s classes with much enthusiasm. January 19 cannot come soon enough.Cloud 1

In the meantime, I’m thankful for Library Lost & Found’s post for boosting my morale; perfect scores on quizzes always do. The quiz also reminded me that my mission  – to become a Superhero Librarian of the Future – is not disrupted altogether, just delayed. I’ll soon be back at the iSchool, honing my leadership skills, with energy and passion!

In which I ask what you think about “librarian”.

Recently, I started following a blog called Ditch the Bun, which is written by a public Reference & Information Services librarian from Sydney, Australia. I appreciate Ditch the Bun’s strong, humorous voice and creative ideas. One idea I liked so much that I asked permission to borrow it for my own blog. libraries

Back in October, Ditch the Bun wrote a post called What do Libraries mean to you? in which she asked her readers to share a word or words about “what libraries mean to you or words that remind you of libraries and what you can do there.” She used the submitted terms to create a beautiful word cloud. Check it out here.

My idea is similar, but I’d like to explore a different facet of the question. I think most people conjure up positive words when they ponder “libraries”. However, associations around the word “librarian” are often mixed. These associations include many favorable adjectives but some negative, old-school stereotypes as well. I’m interested in how the thoughts we connect to libraries will compare to those we attach to librarians.

So, reader, please tell me what comes to mind when you think “librarian”? What words remind you of librarians, the ways you interact with them, and the role they play in your life? Like Ditch the Bun, I’ll use your input to make a word cloud and share it in a future post… although I can’t promise mine will be as good-looking as hers.


To get us started, I’ll list the three words that pop into my mind when I think “librarian”, though it’s OK if yours are different:

  • helpful
  • enthusiastic
  • superhero

You may submit as many words as you like, within reason. Please be honest, there’s no judgement here, only curiosity. I can’t wait to find out what your words are!

In which I license this blog under Creative Commons.

In my IST 601 class (Information & Information Environments) we learned a little about copyright. Basically, “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression” – like my writing and any original images, audio, or video I might create for this blog – are protected under U.S. copyright law. This means that I have “the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, license, and to prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work.” (For some reason that last sentence makes me want to childishly chant “Nyah, nyah, nyah!” just for fun. I don’t know why.)copyright-30343_640

Basically, I know that I have rights to my original work. And, though I can’t imagine anyone beating down my door and demanding permission to reproduce my work, I’m actually perfectly willing to share the creative content of this blog for public use, with a few restrictions. That’s where a Creative Commons license comes in.

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides free, legal copyright licenses indicating under what terms I (and others) are willing to share our work. In my case, I’ve chosen a Attribution-NonCommercial license, which means you don’t have to ask permission, just go ahead and share, copy, redistribute, or adapt what I’ve created, as long as you give me appropriate credit and don’t use it for commercial purposes.

Creative Commons License
The Adventures of Library Heather is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Although I’ve only scratched the surface in learning about copyright, fair use, public domain, and Creative Commons, I find the whole subject area completely fascinating. I’m planning to take a copyright class before I finish grad school.

If you’re interested in learning more about copyright and Creative Commons, check out this short video:

Wanna Work Together? from Creative Commons on Vimeo.

Project LISten: In which we meet Sandy D.

Click here for an explanation of Project LISten.

Sandy D at the iSchool. Photograph by Lauren Stevens.
  1. I always wanted to be an elementary teacher for as long as I could remember.
  2. The possibility of being a librarian came after working as a clerk in the local library.
  3. My children went to sleep with books as I have tried to instill a love of books in them.
  4. I never would have imagined that I would be attending Syracuse University as it is such a highly esteemed and expensive school.  I am very thankful for my husband’s GI Bill that he shared with me.
  5. My favorite book series is Anne of Green Gables.
  6. I want to help others grow in all areas of their lives.
  7. I have moved 14 times in 15 years of marriage.
  8. God is everything to me.  He has blessed me with everything and everyone I have in this life.
  9. My mom does not see the need for libraries so it is my job to win her over.
  10. Growing up I was labeled a perfectionist…as an adult I am one of those people who couldn’t care less about perfection.

[Heather’s note: Sandy is the first fellow LIS student I met on the morning of orientation. After talking with her for about 10 minutes, I decided she was interesting and that I wanted to be her friend. I’m not sure I gave her much choice in the matter.]