#LISmentalHealth and the state of the me

do-all-the-things

This is me, all the time, i have no off switch.

Since I last seriously posted on this topic, things are different.  My job is still insane, I wear so many hats, I resemble a hat stand.  I’ve also picked up some professional association appointments along the way, because apparently I seem responsible and competent.  So, with more and more stuff on my plate (oh dear god, so much stuff), how do I keep all my balls in the air?

I have no idea.  I have a to-do list, a calendar, an overflowing email, fencing practice and a running schedule.

The issue with mental illness is that you’re just waiting for the next bout to strike.  It’s lurking there, like that cold your cubemate brought to work from home, and you try to disinfect your side of the desk, but it is no match for the germs.  Eventually it will come.

This seems fatalistic of me, but I’m never far away from a depressive episode.  My goals this year, brain wise are to continue the good habits I picked up last year, and to add a couple of good habits (the first one, “eat balanced meals” has been going well).  That being said, my mental health was not 100% for the entire year.

I am hoping that a raft of good habits can help me stave off depression and anxiety a bit longer between episodes.  It might not.  But every little bit can help, and with something like 24 years of experience with depression and anxiety, I can tell you that it’s a battle fought and won by inches.

There’s hope.  And when every victory is hard, it doesn’t hurt to celebrate a little.  So here’s to making through another year and meeting my goals, and here’s to a year where my goals are bigger and hairier, but achievable.

 

In which your blogger loses it about the library field

I got into an internet argument, and wrote multiple long comments about library technology, subscription services/collection development (because I’m doing that now apparently), and how the library field has screwed itself.

What brought this on?  Well, for those of you who are living under a rock, Elsevier has sued Library Genesis and SciHub for copyright infringement and millions in damages.  The editors of Lingua, currently published by Elsevier, resigned en mass over the cost of open access publishing with Elsevier.    In response, open access advocates have posted an open letter, which you can read here.

I have been spending the last few weeks working on a subscription model for our library that will save us many tons of money, get us more journals overall, and give us a lot more flexibility.

This brings me to the point where I got into internet discussions about scholarly publishing and libraries.  The main point is as follows:

ACADEMIC PUBLISHING IS A MONOPOLY, NOT ALL JOURNALS ARE CREATED EQUAL. YOU CAN’T DO A PERFECT 1:1 COMPARISON OF JOURNALS. MOST RESEARCH IS PUBLICALLY FUNDED VIA GRANTS/ACADEMIC TUITION AND WE DON’T GET ACCESS TO YOUR ARTICLE EVEN IF WE PAID YOU TO DO IT.

A certain publisher quoted us a price in the 100,000 range for journal ACCESS. not a subscription where we own the content… ACCESS.

Another lowered their rate to 27k after being 35k for years because we got a group discount. We pay for access on a system that only works nights and weekends on campus.

When people can’t get access to their articles, they yell at the librarians. We, being librarians, are not made of money and can’t pay 5k for ONE journal.

I have many incoherent feelings right now, but they generally form the shape of a middle finger

Part of the issue is that libraries don’t have much leverage, because we gave vendors that power. Here’s how:

  1. Don’t provide adequate training to library students, instead focusing on technology basics from the late 80s early 90s.
  2. Don’t pay librarians to code and innovate even if we can, because if you can code, you’ll go to one of the vending companies. Paying a librarian well to do something that would provide this substantial benefit is apparently too much money.
  3. Decide that paying for a company to do this is easier than paying a librarian or even working with open source solutions, which do exist.
  4. Cut your staff so even your skilled librarians do the job of 3 or 4 librarians. (Eg. I’m the college archivist (The reason I was hired). I am also the college record manager(other hiring reason, fine makes sense, whatever). I also am a reference librarian and outreach librarian, the digital publishing/copyright librarian, the nursing librarian, the biological sciences librarian as well as being in charge of English and History. I am also a system admin and do collection development. I report to two people, my actual boss, and her boss and they never agree on anything so I just do whatever needs doing 90% of the time and assume they’ll just argue and stay out of my way).
  5. Because the librarians are doing 50 bajillion jobs, no one bothers to read the contracts, they just look at money. For example, Ebsco just quoted us 5k to do something they already do for us (index ACS journals, not full text, just index) and we may have gone with it if I hadn’t caught it.

We should and often try to work collectively and collaboratively, but the massive brain drain from low wages along with a lack of time and training for those who are willing to learn means that these efforts are frequently stymied when the lead developer or a majority of the coders go to our vendors because they are paid and appreciated for those efforts.

The fact that I’m now looking at our subscriptions (even for part of our collection) SUPER critically for the first time in years is a huge step for my institution. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. Basically, libraries have somewhat fucked ourselves on this one with administration joining in who want everything but don’t want to pay for it to be done by their own staff because that would require us to be paid what we’re worth.

We’re making bricks without straw or mud.

(Edit: And regarding that nights and weekends system, it was in place long before I got here and my boss refuses to argue with the vendor about it because she’s not very confrontational. I, on the other hand, am very confrontational which is why I’m not allowed to negotiate that particular service, which is probably for the best.

Also, in hindsight, I should have made this whole thing look like an ASCII middle finger, but I’ve got misconceptions to remedy in my email and knowledge to drop.)

Authenticity, Archives, Storytelling, and Gaming

As an archivist, I spend a lot of time thinking about documentation, what makes one document indicative of one period or another, what makes the probable date of a photograph be the 1890s instead of the 1870s, what makes this computer file the authentic copy that the donor wanted to send me, versus some weird copy I got off a disk.   Basically, I think about the things that make something real.

Authenticity is important in a host of areas, from relationships (is this person being honest with me?), to websites (What do you mean the certificate isn’t good?), to what your aging relatives say (I’m pretty sure the internet isn’t a series of tubes…). It is especially important in academia, and storytelling.    Writers have this mostly down already.  There’s a whole host of ways to fact check your latest story. There are communities dedicated to checking to see if a story “feels” real. No one expects a 1:1 relationship to reality in fiction, so the feeling of authenticity is especially important.  I would argue that it is one of the things that drags you into the world.

Games however, sometimes seem to miss this, which drives me up the wall.  As someone who spent her early years steeping in history like the world’s strongest tea, watching games tackle various time periods (and/or fantasy worlds) nearly always ends badly, which baffles me, because it’s easy to find various pieces of evidence that will make your world more realistic.  Basically, if you’re making a game located in the last 200 years or so, you have documentation of what it was like back then, often with photographs, or plates, you have newspapers, diaries, invitations, pieces of clothing, artifacts… There’s no excuse to miss this stuff.

I’m going to pick on The Order 1886 (Located in a real time period, in a fantasy London), since it started this whole line of thought.

Ironically, the production designers for The Order did see old photographs from London:

Which is pretty nifty.  That looks like Big Ben.  Good job.

Let’s ignore the landmarks and look at some street views of London:

There are at least 7 questionable things in this image

Ok, there’s a lot going on here.

First, let’s talk about what they did right.

-The post box is pretty much correct.  It might not be 100% accurate, but it’s A.) close enough, and B.) an important recognizable marker of modern British life.

Except it doesn’t entirely feel authentic.

This place is way too tidy.  It feels sanitized.  There are no homeless children ( a HUGE issue during this period).  This looks like England a la Epcot.

The building on the far left is probably more at home in 1930 than 1880.  The overhanging thing looks more French than British.

Weirdly enough, the designers made the woman’s dress wider than it was, showing a lack of restraint in skirt width that fashionable member of 1886 society would have found old fashioned, but I’m tempted to give them a pass on this since I’ve never seen a video game render a skirt well.  Still, one would suspect it would be easier to design an authentic skirt and it’s movement than a wider skirt.  The gentleman on the right is wearing hunting clothing(?) which makes him look out of place on a city street.

There’s a few markers here, but the one that struck me immediately were the fonts.  They don’t look right.  They look very modern. for example, here’s an 1890s picture of Elephant and Castle.

While modern design prides itself on it’s cleanness and simplicity, the Victorians did not seem to care for ANY of that.  Look at all that text. All those fonts. The game image?  It shows restraint, something that Victorian sign makers clearly didn’t think applied to them.

Again with the fonts:

WHAT IS ALL THIS WHITE SPACE?

Look at that white space.  Look at those photographs (probably too expensive to print which is why there aren’t a lot of photographs on extant mass media).  Here’s a flyer for an event taking place 4 years later.

1st font, second font, 3rd font, 4th font, floor

I could go on and on with this stuff.

If your story or game play are good, then you can maybe be less accurate in your portrayal of a time period of location. Little details can make or break an environment, and when you ignore them in favor of something else (The Order 1886 did not receive glowing reviews), then you’re basically saying you don’t care if the world is believable. People want to enjoy themselves and will give you the benefit of the doubt.  If your story or game play are not great, focusing on the world building details can help people gloss over the problems (see: Bioshock Infinite).

Authenticity matters, especially if you want to tell a story.  This has always been the case.  Stories are great because part of us wants to believe that they are true, even if the story is as implausible as werewolves and magic in London.  Anything that pulls the audience out of the world will damage your ability to tell a story or create an experience.  People who tell stories must be aware of that and understand the important role it plays in hooking an audience.

Image sources are as follows

  1. Image from The Order 1886‘s website.
  2. In game still from The Order 1886.
  3. Elephant and Castle intersection, taken from playingintheworldgame.wordpress.com. If someone could provide a better citation or repository, that would be wonderful.
  4. In game still from The Order 1886.
  5. From the Jewish Museum, London. Image taken from http://www.theguardian.com/politics/gall/0,,1443388,00.html

Crazy Pants in the Archives

keep-calm-crazy-pants

Most of my professional circle does not know that I have major depression and anxiety.  I’ve had these lovely brain chemicals as pets since I was in elementary school, and they’ve continued to tag along to everything I do.  They’re like very creative and poorly trained dogs.

Unless you met me before 2006, you don’t know me without medication. I know many people see medication as something that dulls the mind and creativity.   I see medication as my way to actually live a normal life.  I don’t always freak out about going out with friends.  I don’t always spend my time convinced I am a failure.   I’m not always angry and frustrated with myself for this shit.   I still have those feelings but I don’t feel like dying about it 98% of the time.

I am more confident now.  I don’t apologize for what I like or think as much anymore.  I know I’m competent, despite occasional impostor syndrome.  Part of this isn’t meds, but rather a few years of therapy and self-help books.

To be honest, without some medication, I probably wouldn’t have made it through library school.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten a job.  I probably wouldn’t be here right now writing this.

That brings me to being crazy in the archives.  When I left my first archives job, I was convinced I didn’t want to do archives again, because I had felt so isolated from everyone both personally and professionally, despite the fact that archives are a good places for me to be.

Archives are filled with people.   Mostly dead ones, but I can’t hold that against them.  And as someone who goes in and sees archives as a world of stories to be shared, I think the best thing I can do professionally is share those stories, and occasionally help our students make them up.  The best thing I can do for my collections in the long run is to lower the ratio of dead people to live ones in the archives.

WE'RE A BUNCH OF GUYS DOIN' GUY STUFF

Analog Outreach!

 

For me, the quiet, sit in the basement archives experience isn’t for me.  Since that’s what I thought I wanted as a young whippersnapper, I am learning the skills to reach my community, in part because I’ve been the super crazy pants in the archives, and I know that’s no way for me to be.

Research, Training, and Time Management

librarian-1a

I severely underestimated the amount of work that goes into being a lone arranger.  I have been constantly on the move in the past couple of weeks.   With this comes with the certain acknowledgement that my previous methods of time management need to be adjusted and improved.

I am tired.  my weekend schedule involves sleeping about 8 hours a night, getting up on time, doing errands and going for a jog or two.  This weekend, I slept 14 hours straight on Saturday night after homecoming.  Previously, I worked on 1 major project at a time.  Now I work on 15 projects of varying size at a time, sometimes as the lead, sometimes as a worker.  That’s fine and interesting and keeps me out of trouble.

But this means that my time management skills need to improve so I don’t end up as tired as I was this weekend and I don’t end up working my life away.

I am using a combination of things right now:  A to-do list to keep track of miscellaneous things that need doing or writing down things quickly so I don’t forget to put them on the master list and a calendar.

do-all-the-things

The Master list AKA: Excel spreadsheet.  This sheet is saved to my computer with a month and year as the title.  Everything that gets done gets crossed off.  Things that aren’t finished by the end of the month because it got bumped down the list of priorities, I didn’t have the information/time/skills to complete.  These items also say who asked for them, documents that relate to those requests, next steps, steps taken and if/when I contacted the requestor.  At the end of the month, things get transferred to the next month’s to-do list, and everything else gets saved for annual review.

Stolen from the Week:  Things that are on my calendar :  Current projects, a day to day accounting of what needs to be done that day, hour by hour.  I don’t completely block my calendar, but it keeps me more on task than previously. I know what I need to do, day by day, hour by hour.  I keep these as available hours so someone can grab me, but I like the comfort of my calendar yelling at me.

2014-10-16_1222

This was yesterday (Names redacted to protect the innocent).  Did I do all this?  No, but I did a lot of it.  I got sidetracked by a few drop ins, quick meetings, and your general miscellaneous things.  The general gist is that I know what I doing when I am at work.  But in the last few days after homecoming, I completed three projects and started a few more that had been on my plate for later in the semester.  Granted, this makes things a bit difficult if anyone is struggling to keep up, but I’d rather be the special sparklepony and be able to help my institution and leaving everyone in the dust than feel frustrated and tired.

I’ll keep y’all updated with how well this works.

Nota bene:  Now, granted, my attitude of keep up or get out of my way is probably a weakness as well as a strength, but it’s a way that I am comfortable with.  It keeps me busy, productive and happy, which means I’m a better employee and co-worker.

On that note, if you need my time, please schedule me in somewhere.  I don’t want to forget because you had an email saying we should “talk sometime”.  Sometime means nothing to me.

Chilling effects: Sexism, Racism, and #thatdarnlist

If you haven’t been following the latest and greatest in Archivists ListServ drama, count yourself and your probably normal blood pressure measurements lucky.

To sum up:

  • FeministLibrarian wrote a post about Listserv changes to policy. You can see that here: http://thefeministlibrarian.com/2014/09/10/in-which-i-write-letters-open-letter-to-saa-re-thatdarnlist/  
  • A certain individual disagreed quite vehemently with FeministLibrarian’s blog posting.
  • A number of people disagreed quite vehemently to Certain individual.
  • Two weeks later, Certain individual returns to the list, proceeds to claim history as unbiased, western history as the bestest EVAR, while being racist and demands to know the credentials of a female member of the profession.
  • Throughout all this, Certain Individual called points raised by female posters as “irrational.”

Here’s Christopher Columbus saving the native population from their BBQing and no undergarment wearing ways by enslaving and killing them and raping them and basically committing genocide! YAY WESTERN HISTORY.

The post was eventually shut down, and there a number of people who can tell you all about western history and it’s inherent biases etc. etc.   However, I want to focus on something else because a lot of digital ink (including my own) has been spilled about western history.

The chilling effect this has on members of the profession.  Especially those who are not in places of power.  This means non-white archivists, non-western archivists, women archivists, LGBT archivists, and any individual who has felt themselves discounted by Western History.    As a white, cis-woman, I don’t feel like I’m entirely the person to be talking about this, but I will speak in general terms.

A Chilling effect is the effect of numerous minor discounting actions (called micro-aggressions) against certain populations who do not hold power that as a cumulative effect makes those groups not want to participate in or to leave the field in which they have worked.   This has been better documented in STEM, but I feel that it will hold true here as well.

This can include a lot of things:

  • Conflicting Roles between expectations due to gender, orientation or race and job expectations
  • perceived lack of authority
  • Small actions like being left out of committees and meetings that directly affect them.
  • Off hand comments regarding common stereotypes.
  • Discounting ideas that came up from someone from the minority group.
  • Ignoring or minimizing contributions

And I could go on.  And this has gone on, historically in the archivists listserv, specifically towards women in this case (although the blatant racism is also a chilling effect in the profession)

Now, I can already hear the cry of “BUT ARCHIVISTS ARE MOSTLY WOMEN.”  This is true.  We also tend not to be the ones in power in the listserv.  Or historically, we have not.

Notice, for instance, when male posters, who tend to be outspoken, get into disagreements on the list, they go after female posters, specifically, younger ones.  Those young women are silenced in the field, because it’s very hard to come back after getting throughly trounced, when other posters were ignored.

When the Certain Poster attacked the credentials of another archivist, he chose to attack the credentials of a woman who disagreed with him, despite the fact that people disagreeing with him were not only women. He also focused on how the contributions of commentary written by women was Irrational, while the men were merely factually incorrect.

This isn’t the first time this has happened.  This won’t be the last.  The first time I remember this happening I was in my first year as a professional.  Some posters went after a woman archivist and the terms used were not about how they disagreed with her interpretation of the facts, but rather that she was irrational and over emotional for disagreeing.  That was 7ish years ago.

As someone who is pretty outspoken when I’m not drowning under actual work (like I was this week), I find this frightening.  Many of us, myself included, get into archives to share information, to help tell those untold stories, and if we’re honest, because we don’t really want to get into fights with people (ok, most of the time I don’t want to fight).  Why do you think our policies tend to be so rigorous?

So many of us are silenced, just when our voices should most be heard.  The continual micro-agressions on the list prevent a future of our profession that looks different than it does now.  One where there is more diversity all throughout the field overall, as leaders on the list, in our literature, in our blogs, and our archives.

We do not want our future as a profession to look just like our past.  A vast majority of us will be women or persons of color or LGBT and the vast majority of loud voices will be white guys, telling us that we’re irrational.

Long time posting, finally digital preservation resources!

After my whirlwind tour across the middle of the United States via I-35,  I have landed at my parent’s house in Minneapolis where it is about 10-20 degrees cooler than Texas and a heckuvalot* wetter.   Never fear, Digital Projects cat is still present and enjoying his new territory that he’s wrested from the dog.  Cats rule, dogs and cats both drool in this house.

In more relevant news, Digital Preservation Resources!  I got some suggestions from the audience and went to a session about the preservation life cycle and tested some new and interesting things that I am excited to share with y’all!^

Resources!

  • Want to know about other people’s experiences with tools?  Check out the  Openplanetsfoundation blog.  Lots of good experiential reports about tools and critiques. 
  • In addition to the National Archives of Australia and New Zealand’s tools, have a look  at the National Archives in the UK.  They have DROID which is Xena and Manifest Maker combined.
  •  The Metaarchive initative has a library of technical documents for your perusal. I would specifically recommend their documentation on life cycle management tools.
  • The University of Minnesota seems to be working on a very interesting and large scale digital preservation effort.  Keep your eyes out for that in the near future. 

I have a few other posts in the works, and now that life has settled a bit more, I plan on posting on a more regular basis.  Let this be a lesson to you:  Never start a blog two weeks out from losing your job and moving across the country if you plan to have a good  initial posting schedule. 

*An Upper-Midwest term for an excessive amount of whatever you have a heckuvalot of. In this case, rain.  It has rained for a week out here.  Also, there are a heckuvalot of lakes in Minnesota.  

^You can take the Librarian/Archivist from Texas, but you can’t get the Texas out of the Librarian/Archivist.  At least not completely.