A Political Note: Why I believe Brian Topp should not be the leader of the NDP

Why I believe Brian Topp should not be the leader of the NDP.

(Cross-posted to Google+ and to Facebook.)

1. I’m wary of anyone with no legislative experience running for the leadership of a political party. The House requires a very demanding, public lifestyle that isn’t suitable for everyone. I’m not saying that Topp doesn’t fit the type. I am saying that an Official Opposition, just like a Government, should not take on an untested legislator as their leader. It’s foolhardy to do so.

2.  I’m a little offended by the way that Brian Topp talks about wanting to continue Jack Layton’s legacy. All the candidates will want to carry on Layton’s legacy. But what makes things so troublesome regarding Topp is the way that he makes it sound like he is Jack Layton Redux. If Brian wasn’t in the room when Jack Layton thought of any great idea being considered, then it seems like he’s trying to own a policy or platform as his very own when it was either Layton’s or the NDP’s as whole. Topp shouldn’t try to win the leadership by running on our collective memories of Jack Layton – he should try to win the leadership by presenting his own unique case for the leadership.

The first point is a political matter that shows why it makes sense for me, and other concerned NDPers, to vote for some one other than Topp. The second point is a matter of character that resonates with me negatively, which pretty much confirms that my vote will move in a different direction.


One more thing regarding Point no 2.: So long as Topp presents himself as Layton 2.0, there will be nothing unique or individual about his campaign, his motivations for the leadership, or his actual abilities to lead. It’s hard to differentiate his platform right now from the current NDP brand, i.e., I can’t look at Topp and figure out his vision for the future of the party since his vision for the future *is* the party line. You may think this is a good thing since it suggests that his principles are aligned with the party, but I see it as a weakness since it means that his principles are also all of his competitors’ principles. There is little there that actually sets him apart from the rest of the pack. I want love and hope and optimism, but I also want to see fresh ideas that will move forward our party and the values for which it stands.

Nova Scotia NDP Spelling FAIL

When I’m not working in the library, I’m following local politics and cringing at bad copy.   Here’s something that landed in my inbox late Friday night (click to enlarge):

NOVA SCOTIA NDP : "Anti-idoling bill will ensure the province leads by example in reducing emissions"

Note the subject line for this e-mail:

Anti-idoling bill will ensure the province leads by example in reducing emissions


This is a complete and utter homonym-FAIL on the part of my current government (who I otherwise appreciate).   It’s also a great example of why you shouldn’t send out PR at the end of a long week.

n.b.  I’m not so much of a grammar nerd that I care to distinguish between homonyms and homophones.  The gov’t still screwed up on this one.


Update:  Out of fairness, I present to you the Official Opposition’s refusal to use apostrophes in their headlines:

Headline: Nova Scotia Liberals demand to eliminate the apostrophe from official House Business

Note the headline for this news release:



Three gold stars to the reader who can submit recent bad copy from the Nova Scotia Tories…

CLA 2009

So here I am blogging from a hotel just across the road from Montreal’s Palais des Congres, where the 2009 CLA convention is being held.  Go me.  If I can find the time, i’ll post about all the sessions i’m attending, but for the most part, they’re focused on either information policy or information literacy.  yeah, that’s me, a policy and civic rights wonk with a love for the tech..

If you’re not doing anything else on Friday, then head down to the Emerging Technologies Interest Group unConference at McGill, which is sure to be a hit.  Movers and Shakers and Shovers and Movers will be there, so it will surely be a a treat.  and say hello if we bump into one another – twitter.com/steeleworthy may be a halfway decent way to know what’s on the up-and-up in my interlife, but nothing beats a real conversation in person.

End of Year Reflections

It’s the middle of April and classes have ended at the School of Information Management at Dalhousie University. Those of you who know me personally will be aware that this Spring marks the end of my first year of the 2-year MLIS programme. Is it too sappy to think about end of year reflections? Likely not – it’s good to recap the good things that have gone on in one’s days.

If there’s one thing I learned this year – aside from the hardship of maintaining a blog when time is never, ever on our side – is that librarians like people. And technology. Face it, blogosphere: a large contingent of up-and-coming professional librarians are incredibly tech-savvy. We blog, text, and tweet. We’re all stuck on our feed readers and our Delicious bookmarks and our mobile devices. And we catalogue everything we can – not because we were born to be cataloguers, but because we’re absolutely head-over-heels in love with our LibraryThing, GoodReads, and Delicious Monster accounts. Librarians, in short, want to share all the great things that these gadgets can do with others.

But let’s not forget the People Factor. The latest breed of librarians love the tech, yes, but we also love people. Sharing is coded into our DNA, and we like to share information and information sources with people who are looking for the goods as well as the people who look like they need a hand but don’t know how to ask what a Fail Whale might be. People – not the tech, and not the info – remains at the core of our work. We’re masters of our trade so we can work in the service of others. The best tech and the best social media is only as good as the people behind it. I’m reminded of the end of the Wizard of Oz: we must make sure that the person behind the curtain is the genuine article. The best blogs and the best Delicious feeds are maintained by an individual on behalf of an institution. The person and the personality is vital because sharing information is all about building relationships. If the reader or the user or the patron can’t see us as another individual who is happy to procure information, than we’re not using the tech efficiently.

Whether we call them clients or patrons or customers, the work we do for the people we serve demands that we create and maintain a relationship with them. So let us take all the tech and all the social media and let us run with it as far as we can. But let us all remember the importance of building bridges within our communities. That’s what sets us apart from the Googles and Facebooks and Ask.coms. We’re people, just like our clientele. And we’re happy to help them, because of the relationships we’ve built and the communities that we’ve nurtured..

Anyway.. now that this little manifesto (read: circular argument) is complete, I’ll end by promising to write an entry more than once per term.

CLA Montreal 2009

n.b. this is item is cross-posted from its original site, the CLA’s Re:Generations blog, which I am a sometimes-contributor. Comments are disabled here only to get you to reply in kind over there. 🙂

Spring is in the air, which means it’s conference season! At both the library I work in and the library school I attend, people are looking over their copy of Feliciter and making travel plans for CLA Montreal 2009. I’m thoroughly enjoying my time watching colleagues hem and haw over what concurrent sessions they’ll be forced to choose between, or which pre-Conference session they can’t live without. (For me, it’s Jessamyn West and Co. in the Emerging Technologies Camp. I hope to see you there.)

This excitement has made me wonder if there is a “conference etiquette” for new or young professionals in librarianship and information science. Not too long ago, I read an interesting book about by a professor of literature about his first year on the job in an American college. The author’s advice to the new professor, based on his own experience, was to attend many meetings and conferences and to look busy by taking many notes, but never to say a peep. It was better to show one’s face and be quiet than be remembered as the one who constantly stuck his foot in his mouth, he surmised.

With nearly a year into the librarianship gig, however, I’m willing to make sweeping generalizations about our kind and say that librarians don’t necessarily want to keep quiet as their academic cousins might want to do. This is especially so when there is an opportunity to meet new people, engage in new ideas and concepts, or to make change, even if only on a small scale. Librarians, in short, are an energetic and intelligent bunch. We like action, and we like to be a part of it. I intend to go to many sessions, spark many conversations, and maybe even put my foot in my mouth once or twice. The CLA is a learning experience, not for only new professionals, but for all attendees, and I’ll make the most of it.

So, aside from the breakfasts for new librarians and the CACUL meetings, how do you spend your time at professional conferences? Will you take the bull by the horns and network and engage with as many free spirits as possible, or will you lie low and let the conference run its course, confident in your knowledge that all things will pass? Is there a conference etiquette for young librarians? And if so, are you willing to go into the breach?

Whither Twitter?

How many people have found the twitter hype for librarians to be overbearing as of late?  Many blogs in my feed reader, including ACRLog, The Shifted Librarian, and Tame the Web have recently featured posts and comments about the social media app, which is admittedly a great tool to use.  (I suppose I’m only adding fuel to the fire by talking it up the hype in this post, too.)

I like Twitter, but I’m not yet convinced of its ability to properly promote libraries, organizations, entities, or whathaveyou.  I’ve found that the twitter accounts I follow which don’t specifically identify themselves as a person tend to overload my stream with endless data, or have the look and feel of (possibly disingenuous) PR.  They often don’t stay long in my stream, as I stop following the accounts in favour of people who talk about their work in and with libraries instead.

So I briefly tweeted my local LIS Social-Media/Tech expert for his thoughts on the matter.  Ryan Deschamps said it best when he replied that it’s “better to have a rep selling the library on Twitter — not a library trying to sell its reps.”  Twitter works best when real people are giving their own, individual opinions on a topic.  Let the librarians speak for themselves on Twitter, which will in turn promote the library’s programmes, tools, and assets.  This is a far better way to build community than to invoke a PR campaign with the tool.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

I’ve been mulling over some words that Stanley Wilder guest-wrote on the ACRL blog in early January. The Associate Dean of Information Management Services at the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries notes that the recession (it seems that it is finally safe to call a spade and spade) is going to affect the looming demographic shift that the profession has been expecting through the retirement of baby-boomers. Wilder is spot-on when he suggests that now is not the time anyone would want to retire from any position, given the shaky state of the global and local economy.

At the heart of Wilder’s post, I think, is the expectation that many positions were projected to open up in the coming years, but that those projections must now be drastically revised. Now, it may be a little foolish on my part to say this, but I’m not worried too much about demographics and a forestalled massive baby-boomer retirement. Having worked and weaved my way through academics for over ten years (including one mid-1990s recession and one 2000s dot-com bubble-burst), I’ve heard the “baby-boomer retirement” line a couple times now. I’ve also become accustomed to seeing revised retirement projections due to swings in the economy. I’ve also learned how to adapt to a labour market that was long ago primed to live on short-term contracts for recent hires and recent grads, and I’m still willing to duke it out with the best of my colleagues (who are the best of my friends) for the coveted permanent positions out in the field.

This is not to say that I’m unconcerned about Stanley’s projections, nor am I unconcerned about the economy, the recession, and the labour market. On the contrary, I’m as curious as anyone else how this will all play out. But while I did shift into LIS to increase my chances of finding permanent work, I’m not going to allow myself to worry about the other end of our industry, the end full of people who likely are going to hold off on retirement (and no one can blame them for that). LIS professionals, be they recent grads or not, will find work because they’ve developed the right skill-sets and personal character to find a place in an organization, not because an organization has seen positions open through retirement.

Our employment will be secured because of our ability to excel in our field, not because a former generation of librarians have decided to call it day. Of course, economic conditions will affect the number of open positions we can apply for, but we can’t spend our days worrying about macro-level issues we can’t change. Whether the economy is on an up-swing or a down-swing, I’m still going to litter the field with resumes, c.v.’s, applications and letters of reference. Persistence, as opposed to demographics or a recession, will always be the key to securing work. The recession will affect the day we finally find work, yes, but it should not affect our resolve to continue looking for it.

cataloguing = existence

Another term of LIS school has set in, and so has my first experiences with cataloguing and the general organization of information. Up to now, most of my work and academic experience has dealt with public management and information literacy – two areas important to librarianship. Missing from the equation has been the vital component of creating and organizing the systems that help us organize the information we seek, store and use.

This isn’t by coincidence. In spite of my curiosity in the systems (both technical and organizational) that underlie cataloguing and metadata, it is not a field that can sustain my interest day in and day out. If I were to be offered a dream job in LIS in the next ten minutes, it probably would not consist of many duties in this cataloguing. Nonetheless, I remain fascinated by the manner in which cataloguing identifies things. Without a catalogue, one would have an incredibly difficult time finding the information one seeks. Cataloguing identifies items and then describes them, which helps a person locate the item, and ultimately to experience it or its contents. From a simple (i.e. not well-thought) phenomenological perspective, cataloguing is crucial to an item’s existence. if the object can not ever be located and experienced – if it can never be found by the patron – then the object may as well simply not exist in the catalogue itself. No wonder cataloguers never step stressing the importance of their field and work.

The People Factor in LIS

Some big names within the LIS blogosphere have lately been talking up LIS schooling, which is a matter close to my heart. When Karin Dalziel posited the question that every LIS student should gain a comprehensive knowledge (or at least an understanding) of programming and Meredith Farkas countered that only a baseline is required since the MLIS/MLS leads to so many different fields and career paths, I asked myself why management and leadership hasn’t been cited more often as an essential part of the LIS curriculum.

I know that any post on LIS education will reflect the writer’s own schooling: my own LIS programme has informed my belief that organizational theory and leadership is essential to the information professional and his or her degree. Accordingly, I believe that the fact that an LIS graduate can enter so many different fields validates Meredith’s argument that LIS graduates must be professional jacks-of-all-trades in an info-rich society. Although Karin’s argument that programming is a vital skill in our tech-savvy culture is valid and should not be overlooked, I believe that we can’t underestimate the need to teach professional librarians how to manage people and spaces and how to formulate budgets, policy frameworks, and mission statements. You can add my voice to the chorus of individuals who demand that management and leadership theory must take a larger share of the LIS curriculum. In a workplaces where non-professional librarians are able, if not expected to complete tasks once assigned to the professional librarian, LIS professionals should distinguish themselves by their ability to not merely work with information, but to lead the information environment.

I don’t mean to situate these thoughts into a typical professional/non-professional dichotomy so much as I mean to highlight what our capabilities could be if organizational behaviour and change management were rooted in the LIS curriculum. We work in environments today where non-professionals can do many of our tasks. These tasks include cataloguing, reference work, and yes, programming. However, as LIS professionals, we have an obligation to ourselves and to our colleagues to not only understand these tasks but to also to efficiently bring together the people who perform them in order to meet and exceed our information organizations’ goals. Even though library and information science may focus on the management of information resources, at its core is the management of the people who use and maintain these resources. All of our information – our books, our manuscripts, our databases, our records – become nothing more than zeroes and ones or scribbled lines on paper if we eliminate the individual from the equation. If anything, LIS professionals must be specialists in the management of people and their interaction with information itself.

One might suggest that I’m splitting hairs by focusing on information and people as opposed to just information, but I see it as a different perspective that affects how we perceive our profession and ourselves. The LIS professional should not necessarily be adept at building a website or database since the organization can hire or contract the services of some one who has a complete undergraduate training in such a field. Rather, LIS professionals much be adept at organizing, managing, and leading people to make the entire LIS environment a better place. We must not only be able to converse with the individuals who are specialists in their tasks, but also the end-users of our physical and virtual spaces, our fundraisers, governors and directors. LIS professionals require first-rate people skills to rally an information organization’s stakeholders and yield effective change.

I don’t think that library and information science is centered on the website, database, or catalogue. Rather, ours is a field focused on the network of individuals who interact with information. Some of us work on the back-end of a system to ensure it is well-maintained while others help users navigate these systems to find the information they are looking for. Still others are in constant communication with governors and directors to ensure that funds are used appropriately to ensure that the information organization’s goals are efficiently met, if not exceeded. Should not an MLIS education demand its students to be able to interact on all points of this network? Obviously, my view is that it should, and that this ability to lead should be the emphasis of the MLIS degree.

So let the MLIS student learn how to program. And give the MLIS student an opportunity to take advanced study in this area, or any other area such as records management, information literacy, or business intelligence. But let the core knowledge of an LIS education be management and leadership methods tailored the information organization. LIS professionals do not merely manage information; they also lead teams of people who work with information. Whether we are sitting on a biweekly acquisitions committee, a quarterly space committee, or an annual budget committee or review to a Board of Governors, we require the people skills necessary to advance the aims of the our organization. Our profession’s value to society is limited if we can only communicate to ourselves.

Rethinking old thoughts on ethics and the ALA

Throughout the fall I gave serious consideration to the idea that the ALA Code of Ethics might be too strict for its membership, and also that its members routinely ignored it . I wondered if some of the political rhetoric we see in the Code is ignored by a membership that might hold different, if not more reasonable values, mostly a typical librarian’s values encompass far more than the ALA’s mission statement could ever work with.

I read quite a bit on the subject, dwelled a little more, and then wrote a couple papers to wrap it all up.  Although I’m still waiting for a grade on the paper (bless the prof’s heart – he’s overworked this term but can’t bring himself to admit it), I’m confident that some of my arguments were solid.  These solid arguments, however, disagree with several of my claims from the fall.   I’m now at a point where I see the ALA Code of Ethics as a document based on reasonable limits (I’m betraying my Canadian roots with that term).   We can read in its preamble not only political rhetoric about intellectual freedom and access to information, but also the vital statement that the Code’s principles should be construed only as a framework for members to follow.  By writing, “The principles of this Code are expressed in broad statements to guide ethical decision making. These statements provide a framework; they cannot and do not dictate conduct to cover particular situations“, the ALA acknowledges that no professional code of conduct can ever completely guide a professional through an ethical dilemma.

Also implicit in this statement, I’d like to believe, is the understanding that any person’s code of ethics will be informed not only by her profession but also by her lived experiences.  A professional code of ethics is only one part of larger system that also includes schooling, previous work experience, familial upbringing, etc.  To suggest that one’s professional code is superior to all other ethical frameworks is a little presumptuous, which, thankfully, the ALA code is not.  Although the code asks its membership to always work to uphold the principles of the ALA, but it does not force them to always act in the name of the ALA. The difference is subtle: at its core is an acknowledgment that a group can adhere to similar values, but also that no one member of a group can be forced to accept them.