In which I tell a different story.

In my IST 646 (Storytelling for Information Professionals) class I have been tasked with telling a one-minute story using the sound mixing software Audacity so that I could add music and sound effects to a story to make it more compelling. You can hear the finished product below:


[Some necessary information to give credit where it’s due: the story is “The Smuggler” which is a tale from the Middle East taken from Wisdom Tales from Around the World by Heather Forest. I am the narrator above and made a few small changes to the original story in the process of telling it. The background music is Desert City by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3639-desert-city/
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The donkey noises are classified as CC0 and no attribution is necessary.]

The story of this audio tale’s creation is much different than the struggles I faced the last time I told an audio story. The story of creating my version of “The Smuggler” is hardly a proper story at all in comparison. To be sure, the same parts of the story are there (i.e. exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution) but this time the ordeals were not as severe. No intense crisis overwhelmed me. Therefore, the relief at finishing the project was perhaps not as momentous.

That’s not to say the process was without its challenges. My first task was mastering the Audacity software to the extent that I could record and edit the basic narrative of “The Smuggler” in a way that sounded professional and pleasing to me. Remembering my former advice to myself, I didn’t over-rehearse or stress out too much, but just did my best to tell the story using vocal techniques that I had been taught.

When that was accomplished, I set out to complete my next task: to select music (under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain) that would enhance the story. I searched Incompetech to find just the right piece of music with a Middle Eastern flavor, since I was telling a story from that region of the world. And I found donkey noises on Freesound, since you simply cannot craft a story featuring donkeys without that “hee-haw” sound effect.
Donkey Hee Haw
My final task was to use the multi-track audio editing features of the Audacity software to combine music, sound effects, and narration to create a balanced whole. I confess to being a trifle nervous at this prospect, since I’ve never manipulated multiple tracks of audio before. I thought of all that could go wrong, like background music that might drown out the narration or not being able to find just the right spot for strategically placed donkey noises. Fortunately, I was able to use my professor’s Audacity tutorials and tips to come up with a final product that sounded just right to me.

The result is not only the audio you can hear above in my version of “The Smuggler,” but a growing sense of pride that I am meeting challenges head-on and mastering new skills along my storytelling journey.

Please tell me what you think of my latest story. I am always happy to receive kindly-worded constructive criticism as well as praise.

 

In which I wonder if I’m having fun yet.

“Take IST 646,” they told me, “It’ll be fun!”

Last fall, I was trying to choose electives for my second-to-last semester of grad school. A rough couple of semesters stood behind me. I looked forward to taking a course that would make my brain happy… something enjoyable, engaging, challenging enough to make my mental synapses crackle with anticipation, but not so difficult as to cause angst. IST 646: Storytelling for Information Professionals was recommended to me by several people whose opinions I trust, who said it would be that good sort of challenging, and fun, too. I closed my eyes, took a leap of faith, and registered for the class.

Last month I began my storytelling journey. My goals: to improve both my verbal and digital storytelling skills, to have fun, and hopefully to get an A. Why? Mostly, because I am aware of the power of storytelling in library advocacy efforts and I want to be the Best Public Library Advocate Ever. But also because I want to enjoy my semester. Plus, mastering new skills, much like getting As, is very beneficial for one’s self-esteem and an antidote to Impostor Syndrome. I imagined this journey would be like an invigorating hike up a tree-covered hill, a warm breeze ruffling my hair, a walking-stick in one hand, for fashion rather than necessity.

Sun Shining Down the Golden Forest Path

The journey started well. The first (ungraded) task was to create a video introduction using words and images. No problem.

The second (ungraded) task was to practice telling a one-minute cultural folktale. No problem, right? Wrong! I tripped over my words. I forgot details. I would start out fine, “In a lush, green forest a tall fir tree stood next to a…” and then the whole sentence would devolve into a mess, “…thwisted, torny bramble. No, a twisted, thorny bramble.” By about the thirteenth practice attempt, I felt like I had walked off the well-marked hiking trail of my journey and wandered into a twisted, thorny bramble of my own. As hard as I tried, as much as I practiced, I couldn’t tell one simple story and have it turn out okay.

Dry thorn

My third task (and first graded assignment) was to create a podcast with my telling of a two-to-three-minute story from my own life. Writing the narrative was simple enough, but rehearsing the tale was another matter. Again, I forgot important details or what happened next in the story. My tongue tied itself into knots. My voice either lacked emotion or was filled with the frustration of imminent failure. The storytelling journey that I had imagined as a pleasant woodland hike along a well-trodden path was morphing into a brutal slog through an overgrown jungle full of untamed branches, stinging insects, and the fetid stench of rotting vegetation. I practiced until my voice was raspy from overuse, until I was so frazzled that I never wanted to tell another story in my life. How was I going to become the Best Public Library Advocate Ever, have fun, and get an A when I couldn’t manage to tell one simple story properly? I would forever be a bad storyteller, fail the class, and be an ineffective advocate for the rest of my life. I was a frayed rope ready to snap.

Under stress

So I gave up and went to bed.

The next morning, I reassessed my priorities. Maybe I didn’t need to be the ultimate storyteller/advocate, maybe it was enough to just do my best. Maybe I should remember my goal of enjoying the semester, and have fun with the assignment, instead of letting it stress me out. Maybe, instead of rehearsing 12,000 times expecting perfection, I should just hit the “Record” button and see how things went from there.

I unfurrowed my brow, unclenched my jaw, and unhunched my shoulders. It took me 3 tries, but with my new relaxed attitude I managed to record my story without making any noticeable mistakes or forgetting anything important. Success!

Now I am ready to continue on my storytelling journey with a more realistic mindset. I don’t mean to imply that I’m not taking the class seriously. No, I still don’t do anything by halves: I read the articles, participate in the discussions, give each assignment my best effort. But now I’m getting over my insistence on flawlessness… I am a student, after all, and learning can be messy and imperfect. I still want to be a good storyteller and skilled library advocate, although it’s entirely possible that I may not achieve “Best Ever” status. I am embracing the challenges that IST 646 has to offer and am starting to discover the fun that was promised to me by former students of the class.

I’m enjoying the journey and trusting that the destination will be worth the effort.
Find joy in the journey. Hand drawn motivation lettering quote. Design element for poster, banner, greeting card.

 

 

 

 

 

In which I tell a story.

This semester in library school I’m taking the class IST 646: Storytelling for Information Professionals. For my first assignment – Exercise #1 – I’ve been tasked to tell an audio story… either a folktale, a family story, or a personal story. I chose a personal story which I’m calling “Missouri Loves Company” about a trip that my husband and I took in 2007, because it contains a bit of humor and a bit of suspense and – now that it’s in the past – is one of my favorites travel adventures to share with a willing audience. 

For some reason, WordPress won’t allow me to embed the audio file in this post, so if you want to listen to it, you’ll have to CLICK THIS LINK HERE.

This is my first time recording a verbal tale to share with others. Please feel free to give me any comments or feedback about what I did well while telling this story. I’m also very open to suggestions for how I can improve my storytelling in the future. (Go ahead, you won’t hurt my feelings. I want to learn.)

Thanks for listening to my story and stay tuned for more examples of different kinds of storytelling as I progress through this class.

Missouri

In which I share the results of my library card survey.

September was Library Card Sign-Up Month so I decided to do a survey on social media about library cards. I queried my acquaintances on Facebook, set up a Twitter poll, and asked people who read my previous blog post to simply let me know if they had an active public library card. The results were very interesting and I will share them.

But first, I want to make it clear that this experiment was just for fun and my own curiosity. I’m aware that my method of surveying people was completely unscientific and can in no way be considered a random or unbiased sample of the actual population. (Several people on Twitter were very keen to tell me this, as if I didn’t already know.) So, if you want, you can take the results with a grain of salt. I still think it’s cool to see how people responded.

buzz

On my blog
Five people responded and 100% of them have active public library cards. 

On Facebook
103 people responded.
93% have active public library cards.
6% do not.
1% did not know.

I wonder if these results are skewed by the fact that Facebook responses are from people that I know, and I tend to know a lot of book-lovers who tend to also be library users. Also, I wonder if the non-anonymous nature of responding to my question means that people without library cards were less likely to respond for fear of being shamed somehow. (Let me be clear: there should be no shaming of people without library cards! Encouragement, maybe, but no shaming.)

On Twitter
55,132 people responded.
66% have active public library cards.
31% do not.
3% did not know.

This poll was anonymous and not limited to just people I’m friends with, so I suspect the results are a bit more representative of the American public as a whole (although the poll was certainly not limited to Americans.)

In fact, according to a 2017 American Libraries article, approximately 2/3 of Americans have a public library card. (Although I don’t know where the magazine got its data from, I assume it’s from a reputable source.)

What Else Did I Learn?
One of the things that pleased me most in looking at the survey responses was how dang proud public library card holders seem to be. Clearly, their library card is a valuable item. As a future librarian, it warms my heart to know that public libraries’ services are being used by so many people.

I also got a kick out of the fact that so many people do not just have one public library card, but multiples from different library systems. (I myself have 2 library cards – one from the MidYork Library System where I live and one from the Onondaga County Public Library System where I used to live and currently go to school.)

On Twitter, I learned that in Germany you have to pay 15-20€ per year to use the library, depending on the library’s size. And in some European countries, there’s no such thing as a separate library card, one just uses one’s national ID card to check out books instead.

So what do you think about these results? Is it what you expected? If you had to poll your own group of friends, what do you suspect the answer would be?

In which I ask you to answer one easy question.

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month and it’s got me wondering how many people I know actually have library cards. So, I’ve decided to do a fun (and very unscientific) survey to find out.

If you’re reading this, please comment on whether or not you have an active public library card.

I will reveal the (completely anonymised) results in a future blog post at the end of the month.

library card sign up month

In which I must (sigh!) revise.

Last time you heard from me, I was happy that an article I wrote about library documentation was accepted for publication. What I didn’t mention at the time was that I had also written a paper about public libraries supporting health and wellness and sent it to a different online journal, hoping to be published there as well.

I was pretty proud of my paper and submitted it with no doubt of its being chosen for publication. However, over the summer I received word that although the paper “shows considerable promise” it would “require major revisions for acceptance.”

What do you mean, major revisions?!?!

Grunge Textured REVISE Stamp Seal with Ribbon
I’m the sort of person that likes to do everything perfectly the first time. When writing a paper, I’m used to the fact that minor revisions are always necessary. But when I submit a finished product, I secretly expect its excellence to be confirmed by all who view it. (What? That’s unreasonable, you say? Phooey!) “Major revisions” are not part of the plan.

Yes, I know I need to get over myself.

So instead of viewing the journal’s response as a sign of unacceptable failure (as I might have before I became a research assistant at the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative) and letting it affect my self esteem, I’m instead learning to embrace the research publication process and become more realistic. I’m taking the editors’ suggestions seriously and working on the difficult, sometimes painful, process of hard-core revision. It may not be fun, but it is necessary for my personal and professional growth.

Please wish me luck and fortitude. And please share any experience or advice you have on the topic of not getting what you want the first time around.

In which I am accepted for publication.

There’s an article I’ve been working on for a while about how libraries do (or sometimes don’t) document their programs and services. A few weeks ago, after lots of good suggestions from my colleagues, I finally whipped the article into shape and submitted it to an online journal, hoping that they might want to publish it.

Last week, I got an email informing me that my article has, in fact, been accepted for publication. Hurrah!

accepted
I don’t know all of the details yet, like exactly when it will be published, though I will be sure to share that information once I do know. Part of me still feels I will jinx myself if I talk about it too much, that the editors will change their mind and decide that the article is no good, and that they don’t want it after all. (That is my Impostor Syndrome talking. Shut up, Impostor Syndrome!)

But I do want to share my good news in this short post. It’s a nice feeling, knowing that one’s writing has been deemed acceptable by total strangers (as opposed to friends and family who are likely to be overly complimentary in their feedback.)

I will share more about the article once it has been published. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ve submitted a different article to a different journal and am still waiting to hear whether or not that one is accepted, too.

In which I get some good news.

So, I want to do a thing. But I needed to get permission to do the thing. And yesterday I got permission to do the thing!

The thing I want to do is interview some public librarians about innovative public library programs that happen outside the library building and don’t have to do with books.

“Haven’t you already done this, Heather?” I hear you ask, “I remember you writing about this last semester.”

Yes, I have done some exploring on the topic of innovative non-book-related public library programs outside the library building. But when I researched it last time, I didn’t have permission to do proper interviews with the librarians overseeing the particular programs and services. All I could do was ask them for documentation and basic details.

interview-1018333_640

Now what I want to do is find out about even more of these kinds of programs and services. I’d like to have longer conversations with these librarians to learn more about how they run their programs and what makes them successful. (I have a list of 13 questions.) I plan to combine the interviews into an article that I will submit to a library professional journal or share through the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI).

Before I could do any of this, however, I needed to run this by my school’s Office of Research and Integrity Protections, which oversees research compliance. I filled out a not-too-long and not-too-scary form called the “Application for Research Designated as Exempt” – for projects that don’t fall under the oversight of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) – and described my proposed plan.

And yesterday they sent me an email saying that my proposal “does not meet the definition of human subjects research… and does not require IRB oversight.” So many negatives in a sentence may sound bad, but it’s actually very good. It basically means that even though I’m doing research and talking to human beings, it doesn’t really count as “official” research on human beings, so the IRB doesn’t need to be involved.

Long story short: I can go ahead with my project.

My next step is to revisit the library programs and services I’ve already investigated to see if the librarians involved are interested in being interviewed. I’m also on the hunt to locate new innovative programs and services.

I can’t wait to see what I find!

In which the answer cannot be “everything”

I’m a lucky girl. In addition to going to library school, I get to work with the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI), which was launched last fall at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. IPLI is described very well in this article as “a discovery zone for public library innovation, a hub for student inquiry on librarianship topics, and a means to circulate new ideas and research findings to public library professionals.”

So what does this mean for me? Well, it means that I get to participate in research surrounding public libraries. What’s even better is that I get to choose the sorts of projects I work on. Pretty sweet, right?

But therein lies the problem.

When asked by my faculty mentor what I’m interested in working on, the answer is very often, “I don’t know.” Not because I don’t have any ideas but because I have too many.

ideas

“What are you interested in?” she asks me, “What do you want to learn?”

“Everything!” is my frequent response during these conversations, and then my faculty mentor exhibits great restraint by not rolling her eyes at me.

Unfortunately, “everything” is not really a reasonable topic when doing public library research. Of course, librarians of all types are doing research about all sorts of things, so almost anything you can think of is probably being researched by one person or another. But for the individual graduate student hoping to make a contribution in the field of public librarianship, “everything” is not an achievable goal.

So I have to narrow things down, and I’ve gotten better at it. Instead of focusing on “everything,” I have instead:

  • worked with IPLI colleagues to learn more about public library funding models across the U.S.
  • investigated innovative public library programs that happen outside the library building and don’t have to do with books (see previous blog posts here and here)
  • explored how public libraries are promoting health and wellness in their communities (see here, here, and here)
  • written an article about the aforementioned topic and submitted it to an academic journal (fingers crossed that it will be accepted)
  • begun the process of getting permission from my university’s Office of Research Integrity and Protections to conduct interviews about one of my topics of interest
  • started learning more about emotional labor, burnout, and self-care in the library profession

There are still other things I am interested in when it comes to public librarianship — I have a whole nerdy spreadsheet full of possibilities to delve into when the time is right — but it seems wiser to concentrate on just a few at a time instead of fruitlessly trying to tackle all of them at once.

I’m really grateful to be working as part of the IPLI team. Having the opportunity to research public libraries is fascinating and incredibly rewarding. Now, if only I can remember that important life lesson “You can do anything but not everything.”

You can do anything but not everything.

In which I confess an apprehension about the future.

(Content warning: image of drug paraphernalia and mention of opioid overdose.)

In my research on how libraries promote health and wellness in their communities, I’ve encountered numerous stories about how libraries have become involved in combating the opioid crisis by offering training opportunities to staff in administering Narcan (a.k.a. naloxone), a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

Yes, I’ve read a lot of stories on this topic. A lot.
Like this one from American Libraries.
And this one from the New York Times.
And this one from the Times Union in Albany.
And this one from Public Libraries Online.
And this one.
And this one.

In fact, the intersection of the opioid crisis and libraries has become so urgent that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has recently awarded a nearly $250,000 grant to OCLC, a global library cooperative based in Ohio, to help libraries and their partners respond to the opioid epidemic.

When I picture myself as a future librarian, I see myself answering reference questions, organizing community events, collaborating with other local organizations, and even doing more mundane tasks like preparing budgets or writing grants. I’m getting into the library profession because of my desire to serve the needs of the community, and I don’t think that everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows. I don’t imagine a sedate 9-5 job in hallowed hall of books. I am mentally prepared — ready and willing, in fact — to encounter issues relating to homelessness, poverty, and other difficult life circumstances that patrons may encounter.

16574438 - hypodermic syringe on a black background

But there’s something about the thought of dealing with opioid overdoses that kind-of terrifies me, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe because it’s a life-or-death situation and “librarian” does not strike me as the sort of profession that deals in life-or-death situations. Maybe it’s because I’m inexperienced in dealing with drug-related issues. (I once helped someone locate a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and contact a rehab facility, but that’s the extend of my experience.) I’m usually pretty calm in a crisis, but I’ve never encountered a crisis involving an overdose before.

For whatever reason, the thought of future me having to administer naloxone (especially via injection) to an overdosing patron is nerve-wracking. This is not something you’re prepared for in library school. What if I do it wrong? What if I make a mistake and the person isn’t really overdosing, but something else is the matter? What if…?

After taking a deep breath, I managed to locate some reasons why I should be less worried:

  • According to this article, “If Narcan is given to someone who is not experiencing overdose, nothing will happen; there is no potential for harm.” That’s reassuring, because I would never want to hurt someone while trying to help them.
  • Naloxone is available as a nasal spray, not just as an injection. Nasal sprays seem safer and more manageable to me.
  • Training is available to learn how to assess the signs of opioid overdose and to administer naloxone. No one would expect me to do it without training.
  • In fact, the Central New York Library Resources Council (CLRC) offered a Narcan training workshop for librarians in December, and I expect they will do so again.

narcan

In spite of my apprehension, and perhaps as a way to combat it, I do intend to pursue training in this area since, according to all the articles and news stories I’ve read, it’s something I may very well encounter as a library professional. In fact, a pharmaceutical company recently announced it would supply two free doses of Narcan to every public library in the U.S. so the chances are good that I will someday work at a library where Narcan training will be essential. (It would probably also be a good idea for me to get certified in First Aid, CPR, and the use of an AED, too. Patron emergencies are by no means limited to opioid overdoses.)

I truly believe that libraries and librarians can change lives, and I hope, by the time I become a librarian, I will feel more confident and capable of dealing with this particular kind of challenge. I’d like to think I will be ready to help save a life if need be.