The California State University – Northridge campus has at its center, both physically and psychologically the University Library. And it serves an undergraduate student population of approximately 30,000 students and additional few thousand graduate students, not to mention the many faculty and staff who frequently utilize its services. Its Strategic Plan (Area 5) specifically mentions three discrete goals which include:
However, to achieve these goals, I have formulated a recommendation that will capitalize upon its strengths while minimizing its current weaknesses. Hopefully these suggestions will be easily implemented and affordable but yield valuable results.
I recently read Katie Clausen’s blog post entitled “The Importance of Professionalism” and the ensuing comments that it produced, and I have to admit my first reaction was incredulity at such a hegemonic, assimilationist argument. She goes on to list 5 distinct elements that she defines as being necessary elements of the ALA’s Core Values, which are: professionalism in our speech, professionalism in our attitude, professionalism in our dress, professionalism in our character and professionalism online. On the same day in which her post was published, one commenter named Brianna Marshall expressed reservations about the essentialist framework of her argument in which she compellingly argues that “that this sounds so cut and dry… like you either are or are not a professional and there’s this whole checklist of behaviors that you have to constantly appraise yourself by. Librarians aren’t automatons, we’re humans–and I know I couldn’t conform to this description (I don’t think I would want to, either)”. I tend to agree. She concludes by noting that “we need to be cognizant of how we are presenting ourselves and content to live with the consequences. Own it and be smart and find your own comfort level. This is important to me because I want to love my profession and I can’t love it if I’m constantly worried about being “un-librarianlike.” And I think this too is a poignant observation because there is only so much one can do to manage how others perceive us, and there is a question whether and to what extent we should be required to manage other people’s expectations and accommodating their beliefs about what should or should not define “professionalism” as a Librarian. There’s a plethora of evidence in the news today that speaks about how SOME people of color are racialized as a threat by the police, even when doing the most innocuous of tasks of daily life, and yet these unarmed people are significantly killed at higher rates than their fellow Caucasian citizens. Being racialized as inherently dangerous, uncooperative, antagonistic or haughty, even when in uniform – as this most recent example below illustrates, is something over which few people can control.
And dare I say that other identity categories like gender and sexuality bring with them varying levels of stereotyping that also implicate how patrons can perceive (accurately or not) one’s professionalism at work, despite one’s best efforts at aspiring to the lofty goals our profession espouses in its Core Values. Another commenter names Lesley Firth importantly stated that “I’m also uncomfortable with anyone thinking that their worth as a human is directly linked to their employer’s opinion of them” and invokes an important principle about the relationship between librarians and their institutional value. It almost goes without saying that stereotypes about “women’s work” (Radford & Radford, 1997) is persistently related to the profession and have distinct implications in terms of how female versus male librarians are valued across a panoply of work-related issues like pay, ageism, leadership & advancement potential, complexity of work responsibilities as simplistic, etc. The same can also be said about men and assumptions about their sexuality whenever they appear as librarians in the popular consciousness (Carmichal, 1992).
Ultimately I think we’re best served as actively fighting against this believe that relies upon others perceptions of our qualifications, character, worth or “professionalism”. Indeed, we certainly can speak with authority and respect simultaneously but policing our language or censoring our speech isn’t a winning strategy to defeat stereotypes about our profession. And, I really dislike Clausen’s assertion about what one’s attitude is supposed to be in order to be assessed as a “professional:. Indeed, there’s been scholarship that recently calls into question the legitimacy of civility as a type of social construct that’s inextricably linked to racial inequality. If anything, the assertion that we must censor our attitudes, is an anathema to our belief in the freedom of expression for our patrons, but are denied to ourselves? While Clausen argues that how one’s clothing communicates much about our social status (and its implication for our perceptions as information professionals,) I’m wary of the conformity that might ensue were we to take her argument to its logical conclusion. Surely we’re not going to make decisions about one’s professional competency on such superficial factors as their clothing choice, her caveat for individual self expression notwithstanding. And finally, while I wholeheartedly believe in the need for Librarians and other information professionals to possess good character (as defined as one’s collegiality, general disposition towards patrons, etc.), far too often “character” in the workplace has had a paternalistic moralizing history that has excluded many qualified people from the profession (Carmichael, 1998). It’s my hope that future discussions about “professionalism” are held with more robust, thoughtful self-reflexivity than the superficial one dimensional checklist Clausen’s produced.
Carmichael Jr., J. (1992). The Male Librarian and the Feminine Image: A Survey of stereotype, status and gender perceptions. Library and Information Science Research, 14, 411-446.
Carmichael Jr., J. (1998). Homosexuality and the United States libraries: Land of the free, but not home to the gay. 64th IFLA General Conference. Amsterdam: International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions http://archive.ifla.org/IV/ifla64/002-138e.htm
Radford, M., & Radford, G. (1997). Power, Knowledge, and Fear: Feminism, Foucault, and the stereotype of the female librarian. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 67(3), 250-266. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40039722
Having read Kelsey Simon’s article, I find myself thinking about the consequences of “emotional labor” by information professionals like Librarians and what Simon’s conclusions mean for archivists in particular. Because archival work rarely requires the kinds of public service typically encountered by their public library peers, one is left wondering if they are exempt from the kinds of “emotional labor” and professional “stressors” that Simon refers to in their research. Quoting Hochschild (1983) and (Mroz & Kaleta, 2016), Simon describes “two types of emotional labor: surface acting and deep acting. Surface acting involves expressing inauthentic emotions, either through hiding felt emotions such as anger or fear when interacting with an irate patron, or through faking emotions, such as expressing happiness when one is feeling sad” and there’s ample evidence that even within the confines of an archival environment, employees who must work with coworkers also experience similar needs to negotiate their emotional states if only to maintain one’s professional relationships. Indeed, Laurent and Hart argue that the archivists must contend with an array of issues that require “emotional labor” pointing readers to the need to confront sometimes traumatizing materials in their preservationist and archival work (2018). Most importantly, anecdotal evidence suggests that the field of archival and preservationist work is populated with introverted personality types, and while this may well be a stereotype, there’s no question that such personalities tend to be far more represented in this area than in say Public Library settings. Thus it is with little surprise that Judge, Woolf, and Hurst’s research reminds us that “…emotional labor was more difficult for introverts, who reported using surface acting more often” (2009). But like their Public and Academic library peers who work with the public, archivists unquestionably face similar stressors from sources like “Management, the culture of the workplace, and drama between coworkers” while also coping with challenges like “with instances of a colleague not doing the work required of them, or a colleague behaving poorly” which were also stressors identified by Petek (2018), Farler & Broady-Preston (2014), and Matteson, Chittock, and Mease’s (2015) research. And while there’s no question that working with the public can be uniquely challenging in any number of countless ways, we must not forget other information professionals and the unique challenges that they face under similar circumstances (Taylor, 1987) in our shared mission to serve our institutions, peers and communities.
Farler, L. & Broady-Preston, J. (2012). Workplace stress in libraries: A case study. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 64(3), 225-240.
Judge, T., Woolf, E., & Hurst, C. (2009). Is emotional labor more difficult for some than for others? A multilevel, experience-sampling study. Personnel Psychology, 62, 57-88.
Laurent, N., & Hart, M. (2018). Emotional Labor and Archival Practice – Reflection. Journal for the Society of North Carolina Archivists, 15, 13-22
Matteson, M., Chittock, S., & Mease, D. (2015). In their own words: Stories of emotional labor from the library workforce. Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 85(1), 85-105.
Petek, M. (2018). Stress among reference library staff in academic and public libraries. Reference Services Review, 46(1), 128-145.Simon, K. (2020). Emotional Labor, Stressors, and Librarians Who Work with the Public. School of Information Student Research Journal, 10(1).
Taylor, H. (1987). From Dust to Ashes: Burnout in the Archives. The Midwestern Archivist,12(2), 73-82.
Having recently read Kathy Dempsey’s article, I was reminded of the scene in Minority Report where the titular character played by Tom Cruise is walking through a store where he’s visually accosted by a plethora of advertisement by virtue of their retina and facial recognition software – everywhere he looks he’s reminded of his last purchase and asked if he liked it or would might be interested in something similar. And according to the NBC News report below, we currently possess many of the technologies that film anticipated wouldn’t exist until 2054.
Although Dempsey’s article describes an array of valuable marketing tools that utilize Bluetooth beaming to advertise important Library programming, services and information like in the case of Orange County Library System, DVD film availability, ultimately producing “a total of 12,913 viewed messages. This is an average of about 1,076 hits per month”. And while the OCLS Director describes this messaging as a “…’virtual shoulder tap'” by which they “…can send messages in an unobtrusive but effective manner” I worry that the proliferation of this technology’s utility can easily get out of hand. Whereas I found the adoption of this technology by the Mount Pleasant Public Library far more useful and abjectly less aggressive in its deployment. The Mount Pleasant Public Library integrated its Bluetooth beacons to allow “…patrons to use the app to access their accounts, get event notifications, search the catalog, see open hours, and contact a librarian, etc. It even shows a digital version of the person’s library card” and this kind of functionality is often of more utility to patrons because it allowed patrons “to do the same browsing and account interactions as they would on the full website on a computer” (2016).
Although it appears that the Bluetooth Beacon technology lends itself to a wide variety of applications, some of more direct value to the Patron than the Library, I find myself preoccupied with the worrying possibilities that it presents. Americans are already exposed to an inordinate amount of advertising and marketing already absent this technology. And according to Radesky et al, this advertising, marketed just to children and adolescents comprise “$3.2 billion for non-digital and $900 million for digital advertising in the United States in 2018” and they’re exposed to this through a variety of mechanisms that include
television, radio, print media, the Internet, and their mobile phones. Advertising can take many forms, including images, videos, and games that advertise specific brands. However, since the introduction of mobile media and Internet-connected devices (eg, virtual assistants, Internet-connected toys), advertising now comprises a wider range of marketing approaches for which influences on child behavior have not been well described.Radesky, J., Reid Chassiakos, Y., Ameenuddin, N., & Navsaria, D. (2020, July 1). Digital Advertising to Children. Pediatrics, 46(1).
What’s more worrying about this is not the steady erosion of our digital privacy that can accompany this kind of technology but rather the susceptibility to such advertising, with “children 7 years and younger have limited ability to understand the persuasive intent (ie, that someone else is trying to change their thoughts and behavior) of the advertiser” and children up to 12 only able to recognize intent with adult assistance” (Radesky et al. 2020). Even more disturbing Radesky et al conclude that even recognizing intent is sometimes insufficient and “does not necessarily lead to the ability to resist marketing, especially with highly appealing products. Marketers use emotional or subconscious approaches to engage children, such as using trusted characters or celebrities” thereby undermining their critical thinking skills (which goes to explain the many issues youth have with childhood obesity, tobacco\alcohol\marijuana use and body image all of which the authors contend are related to such exposure). But even adults are not free from the influences of advertising, as elderly patrons might find themselves at as much risk as their younger counter parts (Guido et al, 2020).
I think any technology has the potential to advance our society just as much as it has the potential to corrupt it, and while I’m cautiously optimistic that Bluetooth Beacons may well be innocuous the unanticipated consequences much be carefully weighed by information professionals before their wholesale adoption, for once the milk is spilled there’s no going back.
Dempsey, K. (2016, May). Bluetooth beacons are starting to shine in libraries: when a beacon recognizes an equipped smartphone, it pings out its message. Computers in Libraries, 36(4), 28+.
Guido, G., Pichierri, M., Rizzo, C., Chieffi, V. and Moschis, G. (2020), “Information processing by elderly consumers: a five-decade review“, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 14-28.
Radesky, J., Reid Chassiakos, Y., Ameenuddin, N., & Navsaria, D. (2020, July 1). Digital Advertising to Children. Pediatrics, 46(1).
Project Description & Target Communities
This request is in support our Script Library’s digitization project. The CTVA department has been recognized as one of the nation’s top 25 film schools and as such our department holds a collection of approximately 3,500 scripts, of which 2,812 are kept in physical paper copies, divided between Film (1,618) and Television (918) with the remaining documents retained in electronic (.pdf) format not found anywhere else in the CSU system’s library collection. This proposal will fund the transition of deteriorating and fragile paper copies to electronic (.pdf) format as well as secure the preservation and access of these works beyond our current capacity limitations of 15Gigbytes via Google Drive where they’re currently kept. The department’s Script Library is located in Manzanita 190 where the shelving and storage of these documents would need to be removed, along with replacing the outdated 2011 iMac desktop on which some of these electronic copies reside, and due to the previously described space limitations, these electronic copies currently in our possession reside exclusively on this computer making their susceptibility to loss on this obsolete equipment highly vulnerable to degradation or loss. To increase the accessibility of the digitized scripts proposed here, we intend to house these files in a secured “group” MyCSUNBox account under the department’s management, made available electronically via one of 2 new computer workstations in this location, thereby facilitating accessibility and record keeping over the use of scripts in the collection (via Box auditing tools) without the labor (and associated costs) involved in loaning physical copies. This solution would also utilize the other workstation for the purposes of future digitizing projects where paper copies of scripts are discovered, and are found unavailable electronically anywhere else, as is frequently the case with Hollywood materials of this type. To accomplish this, we’re requesting funds for computer equipment, one-time funding for graduate student workers to scan and process the paper documents into digital format and minor physical renovations to the walls, etc. where shelving was previously located.
Metrics and Objectives:
Documentation kept from 2016-2020 indicate that student use of the Script Library is consistently high with a mean of 183 checkout of scripts annually, or 5.7 weekly per academic year, demonstrates a high volume of undergraduate student use. Records from 2016 -2020 further demonstrate that students consistently use the script library for more than just searches related to scripts and that when combined with a mean of 52.5 tutoring sessions per academic year (under current graduate student staffing) for CTVA 210, 425, and 452, undergraduate student use is even more evident. Thus, the demand for these resources is consistent and widely distributed across many of the 5 options in the major, thereby illustrating the vital importance of these resources are for our student’s successful matriculation, retention and graduation. We anticipate that student use will significantly increase by an estimated 10% given our contemporary student population’s desire for electronically accessible content and their familiarity with MyCSUNBox and its many cloud storage equivalents. Moreover, our student’s universal experience using the Single Sign On security associated with accessing myCSUNPortal, carries over to this storage solution, making its use both familiar and effortless. Finally, students outside of the department and across the entire university might also benefit from the digitization of these resources. Obvious candidates include students in communication studies, theater and English, as well as those who often utilize film and television screenplays and scripts but lack the access to these materials in a digital format.
Proposed Plan of Action
1. CTVA will purchase archival storage boxes and relocate the paper documents into temporary department storage for scanning. 2. Department will request a MyCSUNBox group account from IT Services. 3. CTVA will purchase 2 computer workstations; and assign, coordinate, and pay the graduate student labor to begin the scanning and cataloging of documents. 4. CTVA will contract for a web enabled database of the materials to include document tagging and the inclusion of metadata with the assistance of Oviatt library staff. 5. Upon completion of Step 4, CTVA will announce and publicize these resources to the undergraduate student population and track usage annually.
Staffing and Collaboration:
We have consulted with Mrs. Lindsay Hansen Brown, Mr. Stephen Kutay and Mrs. Nicole Shibata of the Oviatt Library for their document collection, preservation, and digitization expertise. We have also utilized our own CTVA Engineer Joseph Schwartz for his IT expertise regarding equipment needs and file conversion metrics.
We will utilize Box auditing tools to determine the volume, frequency, and distribution of access to these materials. Therefore, we will continue our practice of documenting Script Library student use per semester and cumulatively per academic year. As MyCSUNBox requires a CSUN user ID/Password combination we can be assured that these materials are being accessed by individuals possessing an institutional affiliation. We will conclude the project a success if the volume, frequency, and distribution of access increases beyond the historical patterns seen with physical copies and/or reaches the 10% increase we anticipate. We fully anticipate an annual use at a conservative 50% of the CTVA undergraduate population approximately 800 and an additional 400 from MCC students for a total of 1200 students per academic year. The popularity of these resources will dictate the use by the undergraduate population outside of the Mike Curb College and are difficult to anticipate, though we believe our collection will parallel use trends found with the Oviatt Library’s historical database usage at 2% is a reasonable initial estimate, escalating thereafter.
|Salaries and Benefits|
|Faculty/Staff Salaries||$ 0|
|Cost of Faculty Release Time||$ 0|
|Faculty/Staff Benefits||$ 0 (automatically calculated at the rate of 49%)|
|1) 2 students working 80 hours at $19/hr||$ 3040|
|Provide details on how the above amounts were derived. For faculty, staff and student salaries, specify the number of each position requested and corresponding rate(s) of pay:||Due to the fragile nature of paper copies, we anticipate needing 2 graduate students to carefully separate, organize, scan, name and upload each document, for all 3500 multi-page documents. We anticipate this will require approximately two weeks at 40hrs./week for both to complete. Given their familiarity with these materials our graduate students command a higher hourly wage as indicated above.|
|Provide details on how the above amounts were derived:||In consultation with our CTVA Engineer, we received a CSUN Campus Store equipment quote #1209202 for the above listed computer workstations.|
|Other (Excluding Food, Travel, Advertisement)||$ 0|
|Provide details on how the above amounts were derived:||In consultation with Oviatt library staff, we have a quote from Brodart.com for Acid and lignin-free, double walled archival boxes, folders and envelopes for the storage of fragile and deteriorating paper copies. Adobe Acrobat software is free through CSUN licensing, as is the TinyCat database proposed for this collection’s access.|
|TOTAL $ 9528|
I recently read this 2017 article that discusses at length what academic libraries (types I’m most familiar with) must do, or feel compelled to do, in order to adapt to the changing demands and expectations of their patrons (and their patron’s intimate familiarity with the digital world). In it, the author Carl Straumsheim argues that Arizona State University intends to spend over $100M to update that university’s library’s infrastructure. This is to include a renovation of the facilities on its main campus, as well as “expanding the library resources and services available to its roughly 26,000 degree-seeking online students and the hundreds of thousands more taking at least one class online from the university”. And while this seems absolutely an investment worth having, not simply because of the volume of patrons involved, but also because of the increasing online composition of its undergraduate population, I wonder what potential negative results might accompany such an investment for sums of such amounts are rarely ‘free’ of unanticipated and unforeseen consequences. Although Straumsheim accurately points out that “Many other universities are reorganizing their libraries as they see an increase in the use of electronic resources and demand for cafes, multimedia classrooms, maker spaces, writing centers” a major pitfalls that often accompanies these “reorganizations” is the inevitable dilution of the library’s primary mission. An academic library cannot (nor should it become) a “one stop shop” for students where their every need is catered too, nor should it serve a similar function where faculty can outsource their pedagogical responsibilities. Since when were libraries responsible for having “cafes” or “Writing centers” or even classrooms? How did such changes become associated with the library? And doesn’t this ultimately create an intellectual impoverishment of the academic library’s mission? In earlier years (and I say this without a hint of nostalgia) one would have found cafes in a student union, a writing center located in the English department, and classrooms in academic buildings. The leadership at the ASU library is now in the unenviable position of having “to figure out what to do with the 4.5 million physical items in the library’s collections”. In Straumsheim’s interview, the Library Dean states that “It’s time to realize that all of our users are primarily online users of our collections,” and according to him, this realization necessarily “means changing your service model, your staffing structure and organization, and bringing in a bunch of new people…”. Really??
I’m somewhat aghast at the idea that 100% of ASU library patrons are “primarily online users” even in 2021. Not only does this percentage seem incredibly high, when accounting for graduate and faculty users, but it also has at its core a deeper and more ominous presumption about patron accessibility and consumption practices. There’s no question that library patron’s today expect more of the library collection to be online, e.g. in an electronic format that can be consumed either through a download or via a browser. However, the proliferation of .pdf documents and e-books is, and probably should only be part of a larger equation for academic libraries (especially ones designated as federal depositories) who has a preservationist mission that is as important as its other obligations to the intellectual communities it serves. The trend of moving to offsite storage is one that is compelled by this trend, but it comes with costs both financial and practical in terms of the accessibility to materials. But even more distressing is the vulnerability that this change presages – for without electricity or internet connectivity, such renovated libraries “of the future” become nothing more then hollow structures devoid of content that can only serve cold coffee and not much else.
We’ve read that we now live in the Age of the Algorithm where many (maybe most) of our online activities (especially those consumptive practices) are influenced and dare I say dictated by an algorithm. Case in point – “On Spotify you can listen to 30m songs, 20% of which have never been streamed once” thus necessitating Spotify to spend $100 million to hire another business to auto-classify songs so that the Spotify subscriber base might listen to related music outside of their own narrow preferences (or at least that was the thinking). And while algorithms may well influence our online and digital practices, human beings remain intransigently social. And as Seth Godin argues, that social homophily often manifests itself through the formation of “tribes” which are comprised of people who self organize around an idea with a “leader”. Although I’m skeptical of the necessity of a “leader” however ephemeral Godin defines them, it certainly is persuasive that our species tends to organize itself in these formations.
The question, however, about such organizational habits and the social fulfillment we might derive them their practice, is how might libraries capitalize upon these instinctual practices? In the previous article Michael Bhaskar argues that “We relish the messy reality of another’s taste and a trusted personal connection. We don’t just want correlations – we want a why, a narrative, which machines can’t provide” and that certainly seems to ring true. But increasingly I find that many libraries (not just academic ones) have capitulated to the prevailing trend of making space for their patron’s use of electronic devices over human interaction which seems to fly in the face of both Bhaskar and Gondin’s arguments.
I think that patrons should definitely have a say in what they want their informational environments to look like and for them to work for their needs. But libraries cannot abandon their public mission as a source of leadership for their communities by providing spaces for their patrons to come together and give them a sense of ownership while also engaging each other away from the ubiquity of our collective digital dependency on electronic devices and bandwidth.
As libraries of today are increasingly using online search tools for patrons to access their catalogue, the technical mechanisms by which those searches are performed become even more important to the egalitarian mission of these institutions (and the ethical responsibility information professionals have to their patrons to serve up information that’s both factually accurate and morally objective). In her book, “Algorithms of Oppression: How search engines reinforce racism” Safiya Noble argues that “the power of algorithms in the age of neoliberalism” lie in their ability to render “digital decisions [that] reinforce oppressive social relationships and enact new modes of racial profiling, which I [she] termed technological redlining” (2018, p. 1) thereby invoking the historical record of the real estate practice of redlining. Her research critically investigates how algorithms function to create the profiling which she argues is a direct result of their use by information seekers. Indeed, the cover of her book gives us a glimpse of precisely how these algorithms work in the fulfillment of her theory.
She also argues that one of the major obstacles to our contemporary understanding of this process is the belief that computational decisions are devoid of human influence. We must learn to recognize that “mathematical formulations to drive automated decision are made by human beings” and that “some of the very people who are developing search algorithms and architecture are willing to promote sexist and racist attitudes openly at work and beyond, while we are supposed to believe that these same employees are developing ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’ decision making tools” (2018, p. 2). She concentrates her analysis on the theme of corporate control over public information – a concept that is a grave threat to the very principles upon which the library and information science community is founded upon, and as such especially important to students in that community. Although her work is concentrated on Google, having read her book I’m left with more questions about how library catalogue searches might be equally susceptible to the kinds of algorithm flaws that her research uncovered – and if so what, if anything can information professionals do about it.
Mattern argues in his essay that the library of the future should be construed as public “infrastructures” that should be accorded their own “architectural, technological, social, epistemological and ethical infrastructures — can help us better identify what roles we want our libraries to serve, and what we can reasonably expect of them” and to this I do not disagree. The largest dilemma with Mattern’s utopic assessment of this kind of infrastructure is that most libraries of today are publicly funded institutions. While information professionals will no doubt agree with his argument that libraries are constantly reinventing themselves to conform to the prevailing demands and social expectations of the society in which they exist, the largest limitation has always been one of financial support. More and more libraries are turning to monetize their spatial location and facilities by incorporating coffee shops and other lucrative retail operations to supplement their own meager fiscal appropriations. And that is not to suggest that our libraries should not be pursuing, as a component of their mission, to “promote a vibrant social infrastructure” through collaboration with other entities or groups. I firmly believe that libraries can and should “become our de facto community centers” as architecture critic Michael Kimmelman suggests. But I worry that the expectations that libraries are increasingly absorbing in terms of their social status in a community will inevitably result in the diminution of its core function, which should always be the education and pursuit of information literacy of its patrons. There’s no question that the library of the future must stand as a civic landmark that publicly declares a community’s investment in and valuation of its intellectual development as much as its social, pragmatic value. But if librarians of the future are to be successful in soliciting public dollars for their institutions, it should never come at the expense of its primary mission.