Librarian’s Spotlight – Brian Herzog

This installment of Librarian’s Spotlight includes a librarian whose blog I’ve been following for quite some time—Brian Herzog! Enjoy!

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Roaring Out: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background
with libraries. Also, what made you want to become a librarian?
Brian Herzog: For an introduction, my name is Brian Herzog, and besides writing the Swiss Army Librarian blog, I am the Head of Reference at the Chelmsford (MA) Public Library. Chelmsford is a medium-size library in a very supportive and progressive community, which means we get to experiment with a lot of the latest trends in the library world, and our community lets us know pretty quickly what they think.

(Blogger’s Note: This is the short version. If you’d like to read the long version of Brian’s story, click here).

RO: What is your least favorite aspect of being a librarian? What is
your favorite aspect of being a librarian?
BH: My favorite thing about being a reference librarian is that no two days at work are the same – patrons always have interesting questions, which cause me to learn about a new resource or just some aspect of the world I’d never even considered before. The variety is fun, and helping someone find what they need is rewarding. The least favorite thing about my job is having to play policeman. We have pretty lenient policies at my library, but some patrons always still push the rules as far as they can – while others ignore them outright and interfere with other patrons, staff, or library resources. I don’t enjoy confrontation, but as a department head, it’s part of the job.

4478052780_38da08febf_nRO: Librarians have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any
that you find particularly amusing?
BH: I suppose the classics are that we sit around and read all day, and that we know everything. I’m always quick to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out,” to combat the latter (and to engage people in the search process). Besides, the reference librarian’s motto covers this: we don’t need to know everything, just where to find everything. As for the former, I rarely even get a chance to read during my lunch break, let alone all day. I am sensitive to the stereotype though, so if I do find myself reading reviews in a journal while sitting at the reference desk, I always have a pen in my hand – if you’re holding a pen, it looks like you’re working, not just sitting there reading a magazine. How the community sees library staff is very important to their image of their library, so even when I am working, I want to look like I’m working (while still looking approachable). Also, I do not wear my hair in a bun.

RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
BH: This really depends on the question, but the tool I use the most is the library catalog. My library is part of a consortium, and it’s a powerful tool for finding and getting items to patrons. We also have extras, like Novelist Select, and records for our ebooks and databases, which make our catalog that much more powerful. The more useful we can make library resources, and educate patrons on how to use it well, the better.

RO: What book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that
you would recommend? Conversely, what book are you currently reading,
or have recently read, that you NOT would recommend?
BH: I just finished Matt Ruff’s “Bad Monkeys,” which I enjoyed far more than I expected. By the end of the second paragraph I knew it was my kind of book, and I was right. Before that was “Swell,” by Corwin Ericson, which I also liked a lot. Both of these are off-beat novels, with plenty of absurd humor and social reflection. The only thing I’ve read recently about which I have anything negative to say is “The Last Kind Words Saloon,” by Larry McMurtry, but I don’t think my comments are fair. I’ve never read anything by him (although “Lonesome Dove” is coming up soon on my to-read list), and what I read was an advanced reader’s copy I picked up at PLA this Spring. I think it was a very early ARC, because some parts of it read more like a story outline than a novel – so much so that I’m curious to read the final published version, just to compare the two. The story itself was interesting, but the ARC just didn’t seem developed enough.

RO: What is the best (most challenging or however else you may define
“best”) reference question you have ever been asked? What is the
wackiest reference question you have ever been asked?
BH: One of favorite types of questions are when the library is able to surprise people by having exactly what they need – be it a recipe the really want, town records from the 1800s, or obscure contact information that they’d been trying to find on their own for weeks and finally gave up and called us for help. It surprises me that people are surprised we’re good at our jobs, but there you go. Another favorite type of questions are the ones I barely notice, but end up having a huge impact on someone’s life. Sometimes a patron has come in the library specifically to say thanks for helping them format their resume, or send an email, or find an HR person’s contact information, because that little act on my part – which probably took just a few minutes – led to a huge and positive change in their life. Library staff do seemingly inconsequential tasks like this every day, and it’s not very often they make a point of coming back and letting us know that it made that much difference, but it feels pretty good when they do.

As for the wackiest, usually those are based on misunderstandings. One of my favorites was when a man who moved here from India called and asked if “wifey” was at the library. I thought he was looking for his wife, but it turns out he was asking if we had wi-fi, and just pronounced it differently than I do.

2943850303_8f8262742c_nRO: In your blog, Swiss Army Librarian, you explore all things bookish,
including conferences and reference questions. Where did you get the
inspiration for your unique blog name? What prompted you to start your
blog and take your love of books beyond the library’s walls?
BH: Here’s how I explain the name on my About page – I wrote it in 2008, but it’s still accurate:

Why “Swiss Army” Librarian?
There’s actually two reasons for this:
1. During my freshman year of college (1992-3), the guys on my floor got together and placed a huge order from the Smokey Mountain Knife Works catalog. I ordered a Swiss Army Knife, and I’ve carried it with me ever since. I use it all the time, too, to open boxes of tax forms, tightening loose screws (wherever I encounter them), cut away tree limbs from paths when I’m hiking, or let friends trim their split ends during long car rides. Most people who know me have become accustomed to me always having it, and claim it is a major defining feature of my personality.

2. If I had to summarize the job responsibilities of a librarian, “swiss army knife” comes pretty close. We’ve got to be ready to handle any request that comes along, from directing someone to the restroom to researching the propulsion physics behind the space shuttle. Not to mention check books in and out, shovel the walks, design websites, change light bulbs, give presentations, tactfully interact with unruly kids (and adults), balance million dollar budgets, and ensure that everyone has unmonitored access to whatever information or resources they need. Like a Swiss Army knife, librarians need to be ready with whatever tool is needed for the job at hand.

As for what got me started, all the credit goes to my friend and fellow librarian Lichen Rancourt. She and I had been friends and colleagues for awhile before this blogging fad came along, and she was an early adopter and could see my potential for the platform. She was right, and I probably would not have gotten started without her encouragement and motivation. Since then, it’s been sort of a self-fulfilling kind of thing – we do something fun or interesting at my library that I want to share, and people read and respond to it. And then, to make sure I have new and interesting things to talk about, I stay engaged in the field to learn what’s upcoming and what’s shareable, and comment on my experience with or thoughts on it. It’s hard to believe I’ve been posting almost weekly since 2006, but there you go – maybe it’s my slightly compulsive nature that keeps me going, or a fear that if I stopped blogging, I’d likewise fall behind with new developments in the field and start slipping at my job. So in a way, the blog is my own personal professional development exercise – but I am extremely happy that other people enjoy and benefit from it too.

RO: What is something librarians do that, in your opinion, should be
considered a superpower?
BH: Huh – since I work mostly in adult reference, I think entertaining a room full of kids during storytime is a superpower. With me, I think the only thing that comes close would be the reference interview. We all learned about this in library school, but it’s really true: our job is to address the patron’s need, despite the question they’re actually asking. In a lot of situations, I know the answer, or at least the right resources, before the patron finishes their question – and in certain situations, before they even ask it – and that often mystifies patrons. Or those library staff people who can find the right book with only “it has a red cover and is about a woman” to go on. Being able to give people exactly what they want is pretty awesome. It’s often taken for granted, but it’s still an amazing ability.

RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
BH: One of the worst feelings is when a patron – especially a kid – asks for a book, but it’s checked out. I always feel like we let them down, even though resource sharing is just part of the nature of libraries. Still, the ability to always have the item on the shelf would be nice. Or, to be a more traditional superpower, the ability to fly – that way, when a child came in looking for a summer reading book, I could just fly to whichever library had it and fly back, providing instant ILL service (or even home delivery). The patron benefits, and plus, I get to fly.

RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering
going into the library science field?
BH: I think might depend largely on the person, but in general I’d suggest volunteering in a library first, because our profession does have stereotypes and not all of them are accurate. Don’t become a librarian because you like to read, although that does help. And you certainly won’t get rich being a librarian, nor is it as easy as it might look (no job working with the public is as easy as it looks). You have to enjoy people, not be afraid of technology, want to be engaged with the community, and not be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. The best library staff are those that are truly motivated to help people – everything else comes with experience.

Thanks, Brian! I love that reference librarian’s motto!

If you’d like to check out Brian’s awesomely named blog, click here.

Artist’s Spotlight – Eric Valosin

This installment of Artist’s Spotlight features an artist I’ve known since he was a wee undergraduate. It has been a joy to see his work grow over the years, and I am so happy to share his work with you all! Please enjoy this interview with a great artist and friend—Eric Valosin.

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Eric Valosin: I’d give the stock answer of “ever since I was a little kid” and tell you anecdotes about drawing for hours as a toddler at my mom’s office, but I’m starting to believe that I hadn’t really ever made art until a few years ago. I went through school as a painter, developed a lot of conventionally artistic skills, and made a lot of things that masqueraded as art. Conceptually I began searching for the intersection of art and spirituality, but went about it all in a very naive way. In grad school it was like the scales fell from my eyes and I truly saw art for the first time.

I started to see beyond the cults of personality, beyond the push to find your “voice” in some stylized gimmick, beyond the pretenses of rigid, over-aestheticized formalism. I felt duped. I started to discover the real power of art to encapsulate and grow out of a complete worldview. I started to learn not just how a medium is used but why it’s used indeed, how and why a medium is invented in the first place. I learned how to learn from my own work and let it propel me to deeper questions about the world around me. Most of all, I learned to be more genuine, giving up on making what I thought art was supposed to be, and instead simply trying to work through those deeper questions and respond to what materializes. Dynamically immersing oneself into what philosopher/theologian Paul Tillich calls “matters of ultimate concern” – and manifesting that into something others can experience – that’s art. It took me a long time to really grasp that. It also happens that that’s Tillich’s definition of religion as well.

Cosmos on Gray 1-0In terms of media, in grad school I also came to terms with the fact that I painted mostly by default. In order to get closer to the more interesting parts of life, I had to move beyond paint to whatever medium helped me best get at those big questions, which I also began refining. That led me to my current work with light and projection installations, drawing, and interactive new media, exploring the possibilities of mystical experience in a world that has begun transcending traditional transcendence, and whose space in more often cyber than sacred.


RO
: What first inspired you to art?
EV: In the sense above, I was entranced to realized that art had the breadth to contain the wild diversity of my interests. It was more than aesthetic. It gave me an excuse to live a very curious life (both in the sense of being driven by curiosity and in the sense of sheer oddity!). In the name of art I could on one day find myself making shadow puppets, the next reading Heidegger. One day teach myself Greek, the next day JavaScript. One day talk to a monk, the next day to a fire juggler. As a child I was drawn to the idea of creating and exploring a world in which anything was possible. As an adult I realized that art lets you explore the impossible in the world that already exists.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
EV: I have a complicated relationship with light. It’s the perfect mystical medium, paradoxically both particle and wave, present only by way of absence/contrast, a rigid, constraining universal constant that somehow also seems to be flexible and constrained by other forces. It inherently tends toward the sublime when used right, and with all the religious metaphors and scriptural allusions, you end up with a medium preloaded with more spiritual content that you can shake a censer at.

ValosinHyalo2Arch1However, it’s also by far the most difficult and finicky medium I work with. I often use it in ways that require a high degree of optical precision, like blending painted color with digitally projected color, or projecting onto glow-in-the-dark paint. In many of my installations I spend hours fighting with ambient lighting, calibrating colors, and negotiating with gallery staff as I try to get the balances just right. In a recent show I spent an entire day fine tuning a projection, only for the gallerist to change the lighting on a photo at the far opposite corner of the gallery, instantly sending me back to the drawing board as I watched my piece suddenly optically fall apart. I try to go out of my way to be pleasant to work with because I know how much patience, trust, and flexibility some of my work can demand of a curator or institution, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to try to prove it’s worth it!

Lately I’ve also gotten more and more into interactive new media. Interactivity and user-definability is increasingly at the forefront of contemporary life. As I pushed my questions about technology’s role in spiritual experience, I found myself getting into creative coding, hacking Xbox Kinect sensors, programming Arduino’s, and crashing Maker Faires to pick people’s brains about LEDs and transistors.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the tech spectrum, I’ve began experimenting with gouache in my drawings. Someday I’d love to get into holography too; talk about a perfect contemporary expression of Plotinus’ mystical notion of “formless form!” Most of all I enjoy tampering with convention and inventing entirely new ways of working when known mediums and techniques seem to fall short.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
EV: A lot of my work begins as a response to a site. The 14th-Century mystic Meister Eckhart said that if you love a painting on a wall, you love the wall as well. I’ve found you cannot make paintings if you don’t at least consider walls; In fact, many great artists have made entire careers of exclusively building walls, so to speak. Once I know what space I’m dealing with and set out some goals or a challenge to tackle, there are four criteria I keep in the back of my mind for all of my work.

Firstly I want to engage with what’s known as apophasis, or “negative theology,” which is the branch of mysticism that says that in order to get at the unknowable God, we must negate all that we can know. This leads me to create visual negation or paradox like in UnKnowledge and Triptych, or make marks by way of erasure like in my Cosmos on Gray series. Sometimes the apophasis is more subtle, like how the anamorphic, pixelated imagery in As Above, So Below falls apart when you try to approach it.

Secondly I want to merge the old and new in terms of media, pushing traditional mystical strategies through high levels of contemporary mediation. That might mean hand drawing a scannable QR code like in my Meditations series, digitally projecting onto a painting, or even merging the physical and virtual self, considering the body itself as a medium like in Somatechne or Venae Cavae.

Meditation 1.1 (Thusness Elseness Omnipresent) AdjustedThirdly, I try to blend the old and new conceptually as well. Each work reflects the tension (or synergy) between the medieval metaphysics (and far earlier) which underpin most of our religious paradigms, and contemporary philosophy which has largely been regarded as secular and humanistic. It gets hairy once you play out the practical, ethical implications of religion after globalism, the death of Nietzsche’s God, and the mess postmodernism made of Platonic idealism. I don’t want to be naive about the sticking points of declaring God in today’s world. I think its entirely possible and exciting though to find inroads into a complex, new, relational metaphysics.

Fourthly, I want my work to be interactive, to cause the viewer to move, to make them more aware of their own body and the space around them. The body is paramount to our experience of God.

I try to imagine anything is possible and then google later to find out otherwise! When all this comes into alignment and is working well, it amounts to a highly mediated, sublime experience that’s both confounding and enlightening.

I think the last part of my creative process involves looking at what I’ve made and really critically evaluating it. I want to see what worked, what didn’t work, and find all the really good happy accidents that might lead me to a new experiment. There’s a constant back and forth between ideas pushing my work and my work pushing my ideas. Some of my best work has come out of co-opting prior failures.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
EV: I have a few pieces that I’ve been working on for a couple years, many still in the idea/prototype phase, but I tend to work relatively quickly. A lot of time goes into research, experimentation, and preparation, but with installations most of the elbow grease has to be applied in a limited time frame. In a perfect world I’d plow through one project at a time, mostly because the longer I stew on any one project the more likely I am to intimidate myself out of it. For practical purposes though I always end up with several in progress at any moment and some get shelved for a while. But then there are those projects that really just take a long time.

I very much enjoy process. I’ve done several pieces in which the process becomes the end product like my earlier projection piece It Is, and a few that don’t technically have an completion point at all, like my performance/installation piece Circle. I like the idea that the meditative energy of creating a work can somehow translate into a meditative process of viewing.

RO: What subjects do you like to work with? Any subjects you’d like to see more of in your future work?
EV: As we’ve already been teasing out, each project of mine explores some corner of the unfolding terrain of a sort of postmodern (even posthuman) mysticism. I do tend to come back to a few themes and references: stained glass, circles, mandalas, sacred geometry, shadows, the body. As I move forward I’m always looking for unturned rocks in the conceptual terrain. For example, I’ve been starting to mull over what religion looks like from a non-anthropocentric viewpoint. I’m also very deliberate in letting accidents and experimentation lead me to entirely new places.

Valosin_AsAboveSoBelow1RO: I notice that you work a lot with the subject of faith. How has your faith shaped your work? On that note, do you feel you have a different experience in the art community because of your faith (access/limits to certain venues or connections? Different responses to your work than, say, a more secular artist)?
EV: I grew up Christian and was very active with various faith communities through college. I’m the son of a church secretary, and now the husband of a United Methodist minister. Proud of those roots as I am, I began to be very disillusioned by the politics and dogma of religion, and I’m appalled by the atrocities of hate and exclusivity so often committed in the name of God. I started to poke holes and find logical inconsistencies in the faith of my upbringing, and that’s where this artistic practice began. I want my faith to be alive, relevant, and socially responsible. I want to connect to God as God is, not as I have concocted God to be. I still consider myself a Christian, but I’m probably not quite your typical United Methodist anymore. I also saw a severe lack of quality artistry in the church. I crave a collaboration between art and religion that doesn’t water down either. A lot of my efforts outside the studio go to mending the gap between the church world and the art world.

My dual citizenship in these two worlds (as if they were truly separable) have certainly afforded me some interesting opportunities that would otherwise not be available. This past July I completed a commissioned interactive new media installation for a church and held a special contemplative service revolving around my work, as well as a discussion forum on art and faith. In November I’ll be installing a solo show at Andover Newton Theological School outside Boston, and teaching a continuing education class on art and worship at Drew Theological School in NJ. I actually anticipated more dead ends and glass ceilings because of how stigmatized religion can be, but I think if you’re doing something well enough and being genuine, people respect that. I do have to be very intentional about where I place my work and walk a fine line between being provocative and polemical. But then again all artists do to some extent.

RO: You have taught several workshops revolving around art, worship, and even artist statements. Is there any subject you particularly love speaking about? Is there a past class that was a favorite or the most amusing?
EV: When it comes to teaching I’m most passionate about conceptual development. I find there’s tons of fantastic formalist instruction on how to make art (which shouldn’t be undervalued), but it’s rarer to learn how to think about the art you make. Only the luckiest of BFA students learn anything about parlaying their technique into a meaningful, robust studio practice that’s truly impactful to the world. Most students don’t get that until grad school, even though it’s in some ways primary to even deciding to learn to paint or draw in the first place. It’s about helping people flesh out their world-views and the implicit meanings and relationships their work gathers, and then respond to that in the studio.

VenaeCavae_videoInstallation3

This particular storefront project was a collaboration between Eric and Marc D’Agusto.

One time I taught a 4-session workshop using experimental drawing to discover how the medium itself carries meaning even before subject matter. I agonized over how to accommodate a potentially large audience without sacrificing individual attention. I ended up teaching to one lonely student, who misunderstood the course description in the first place! She was preparing for an upcoming artist talk at the time, so we ended up adapting the class material to help uncover what her work was saying and help her talk about it. I attended her presentation and she did very well, and I started to see how important it was to be able to interpret and speak about one’s own work. That’s what led me to offer an artist statement workshop. That one ended up being a packed house!

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
EV: I am particularly attached to a painting I have that my grandfather made. To be honest I don’t even like it all that much as a painting, but it’s a reminder to me of why I looked up to him. He was a carpenter who built the house my dad grew up in, as well as a veteran who earned a purple heart. He was always getting into something that piqued his curiosity and painting was one of his many, many hobbies, among bee keeping and coin collecting. I also inherited an old Gibson guitar and electric mandolin of his. When he passed away we found tubes for glass blowing stuffed in the rafters of the basement that he had been meaning to experiment with someday!

I can remember him sitting with me looking at a new drawing of mine when I was young and saying, “Well, that’s really good there. You’ve got your lights and your darks… don’t be afraid to go darker.” The painting I saved of his has particularly good contrast. We used to joke that if you asked him what time it was he’d teach you how to build a watch. But I hung on every word. He was a real renaissance man and in that regard very much a role model for me.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?Valosin_UnKnowledge2
EV: Hands down, the power to stop time. 24 hours would be more than enough if every now and then one of those hours could last a couple days. Of course I’d have to be exempt from my own stoppage of time. What a waste that would be, being able to stop time but never knowing it because you’re stopped right along with it! …Come to think of it, maybe I already have that power.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
EV: I’ve found there’s no wrong way to make art, but there is a way to make the wrong art. Context is hugely overlooked, but it’s what makes a Miró a masterpiece instead of a scribble, or an Allison Knowles more than just a meal. As an artist you have to push deeply into your own “matters of ultimate concern,” but you also have to consider how all those matters fit into relationship with history and the world around you, including the matters of other people’s ultimate concerns.

Life is full of complexity and relational interdependence, and every single person’s worldview is in some way valid, perhaps especially those with which you disagree. After all, we live in a world made of meta-histories and socio-cultural paradigms that have allowed all those worldviews to exist, and for that reason they all represent some real truth about that world. Where they clash and intersect is where life gets intriguing. Art is not just drawing or painting; it’s learning to play at those intersections.

Thank you so much, Eric, for your insight and for giving us a window into you journey!

If you’d like to check out more of Eric’s work, visit his Web site here.

Librarian’s Spotlight – Brittany Murphy

This month’s Librarian’s Spotlight features someone with a unique perspective—Brittany Murphy. She’s an archivist who loves to chat! Enjoy her enthusiasm!


2RO
: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background with libraries.
BM: To put it briefly: I’m a dog-lover, avid reader, coffee addict, city-dweller and make a mean mac ‘n cheese! I finished my MLIS in Archives Management in 2012, so I’m still pretty new to the profession. I’ve spent my last four years in Boston working the ever-popular temporary librarian job circuit. I am currently working as a contract records analyst with the City, which means that I am responsible for the management of the City’s digital records.

Brittany's Color Sorted Shelf

Brittany’s Color Sorted Shelf

RO: You are currently working as an archivist. Please talk a bit about the difference between an archivist and a librarian.
BM: Absolutely. At the heart of it, both librarians and archivists are on the same team. Archival work is just a specialty that librarians can learn about. (Kinda like that saying: Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.)

My favorite way to look at the distinction between a traditional librarian versus an archivist is this: Libraries collect and make accessible a variety of publications while archives collect and make accessible unpublished, rare or unique materials. Because of this, items found in a traditional library circulate (can be taken out of the library) while items in an archives can only be studied onsite.

It’s also good to keep in mind that there are wide variety of different kinds of librarians and they often will do lots of other jobs in addition to reference or circulation. Some are Early Childhood or Youth Librarians, there are Catalogers, some are focused on Library Instruction or IT, etc.

The same goes for archivists; some work in corporate settings such as law librarians or as part of the IT staff, or in special collections or at museums. The general duties and experience for an archivist depends on the type of institution at which he/she is working. Right now, my position is very tech-heavy; lots of digitization projects and data management databases, and meetings, meetings, meetings. But I have also worked at a museum archives where most of my time was split between organizing and preserving collections and responding to researchers.

RO: What made you want to work in this field?
BM: I sort of fell into library work. When I was in college, I took an internship in the college archives. Mostly I was doing very basic housekeeping: organizing a collection of yearbooks. But the college archivist, my internship advisor, dedicated time each week to educate me all about how archives work and why they are important. I began to realize how all of the stuff in an archives is historically significant and informed culture, society and even the institution that holds it. I loved learning about all the sorts of incredible information that was being cared for in different archives around the world, and that I could look at it myself!

Brittany's doggies

Brittany’s doggies

RO: Those that work in libraries have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any that you find particularly amusing?
BM: I know a lot of people in the library community get really aggravated by the different librarian stereotypes. In their minds, the stereotypes are detrimental to the profession and can really put us in a box.

But, I kinda love all of them! I guess that I think along the lines of “any publicity is good publicity.” But, I also love that I can put my hair in a bun, pull on my wool tights, a skirt and a white blouse and I’ve got an instant Halloween costume!

If I had to pick one, I think my favorite would be Tammy’s character from Parks and Rec. I mean, c’mon, obviously.

6RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
BM: Gosh, there are so many.

I find that they change for me from position to position. Right now, I am all about Wikipedia. Whenever I come across a tech-related problem, I do a quick Wikipedia search and BAM! I’ve got loads of information and (most importantly!) links to credible sources for more help.

I also frequent library organization web pages. The New England Archivists site (http://www.newenglandarchivists.org/) and the American Libraries site (http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/) are my favorite for catching up on the latest trends and happenings in the field. Sites from organizations also usually have sign-ups for various listservs, which are incredibly helpful when trying to tackle a common (but new-to-you) work issue. Plus, library people are crazy-nice and always happy to help.

RO: Is there any request you have gotten that you found particularly interesting/unconventional? If so, why?
BM: Most of the requests that I get now are from the legal department, so no, not really. Occasionally, I’ll receive a request from a news reporting agency for email correspondence. Typically, these are pretty neat. Sometimes I’ll Google them afterwards and see what’s happening. It’s mostly regarding any legal issues or salary information that is open to the public.

I did work as a processing assistant for a collection of German film stills once. There were all kinds of materials to research, organize and catalog; film stills, film strips, photographs and documentation from movies from the early 1900s to present day. However, the bulk of them were 1980s German pornography. I’ll bet those research requests are pretty interesting!

5RO: What book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you would recommend? Conversely, what book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you not would recommend?
BM: This could be a long one, but here we go!

Recommendations to read:

Most recently I’ve been re-reading my favorites. Namely, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb and before that Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies. I usually make time to re-read these three once a year (nerd alert!). I would recommend anything by these authors – all good stuff!

But I have also gotten into a true-crime kick as of late. I recently read “I: The Creation of a Serial Killer” by Jack Olsen which is a memoir of sorts from the perspective of the Happy Face Killer. And when I finished that one, I came across “Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter” by Melissa G. Moore, which is a memoir written from his daughter about her life, experiences and feelings about being known as the daughter of the Happy Face Killer. I can totally geek out about how fun it was to read these back-to-back, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Recommendations not to read:

I am rarely disappointed in a book, or disappointed in it enough to not recommend it. Plus, what might not totally float my boat, could be the absolute best for someone else! I think I’ll play it safe and pass on this one.

One of Brittany's Superpowers--Pasta!

One of Brittany’s Superpowers–Pasta!

RO: What is something archivists do that, in your opinion, should be considered a superpower?
BM: This is probably something that comes with time, experience, and answering a ton of researcher requests, but I have always been impressed with how an archivist can know so many intricacies about his or her collection. Obviously, archivists (and assistant or student interns) typically have a finding guide to locate things in most collections. But it is not unusual for an archivist to know a collection so thoroughly that he or she can, immediately without thinking, find the tiniest piece of information or ephemera on the spot. Like they have a photographic memory.

RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
BM: It would be pretty neat to be able to move things with my mind. I’d love to be answering an e-mail in my living room, and SWOOSH! here is the box of Thin Mints that I hid in the back of my fridge so that they would stay cool and delicious. Or BOOP! here is the crock pot that I can only fit on the very top of my kitchen cabinet and would have to climb on the counter to get down.

RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering going into the library science field?
BM: High five! Good choice, my friend!

  • If you plan to go to library school, make the most of it! Don’t focus too much on a specific field, try to take courses that sound interesting and have fun with them.
  • Be friends with your professors, because I swear, they are all awesome.
  • Intern or volunteer as much as possible. This is where you’re gonna learn the real stuff. Plus, you’ll meet loads of great people along the way.
  • Join some professional organizations, because library conferences are crazy-fun! And you’ll always be in-the-know with new trends and technology.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I e-mail former classmates and colleagues on the reg to ask about all sorts of things. It saves me time, and I get an honest, experienced answer. Plus, I get a chance to catch up with them!
  • Librarianship is not for people who want to avoid talking to other people.  I went into graduate school thinking “Cool, now I can be a totally bookish introvert and no one will care. I’m allowed to be afraid to talk to people!” This is not true. It took some work and some practice, but I have pulled the extrovert out of me, and use her every single day. From answering phone calls, holding meetings, responding to user requests—I talk a lot.

 Thanks, Brittany, for sharing your unique perspective!

Artist’s Spotlight – Robert Garcia

When I first met Roberto Garcia a few years ago, what stuck out to me was his incredibly easy-going and fun personality. As I got to know him, I realized he had much insight as well. These qualities make their way into his artwork. Enjoy the interview with my good friend, Roberto Garcia!

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Roberto Garcia: I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. As a kid I’d take my toys apart and combine them. GI Joe’s with Transformer body parts, and stuff like that. Then I tried my hand at comic books and portraits. Recently, I’ve been working with acrylic paints, markers, and newspaper. Let’s see where that goes.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
RG: Hmm. I suppose it’s just something I had to do. Writing, drawing, and music just called to me. It didn’t hurt that my mother had all kinds of books on hand at home. I was just moved to do it all the time.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?photo1
RG
: Writing is my favorite medium, but I love painting with acrylics. Something about what you can imply with the colors. I’m no expert, I just enjoy it.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
RG: I like to explore my world and see what it gives me. It could be an article, a scene, a photograph, or a moment. I try to complicate whatever it is that inspires me, and present it in a thought provoking way.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
RG: I spent a year on a really terrible piece of art! It was pastel chalks, acrylics, an actual poem glued to the canvas, and it was horrible. I finally let it go, but after that I painted four to five pieces that I really like. So, I guess I had to get that ugly out. Haha.

RO: Your chapbook, “Amores Gitano,” was recently published, which is very exciting! Could you speak a bit about putting together the chapbook as well as the publishing process? How would you describe the feeling of holding the chapbook in your hands for the first time?photo2
RG
: Most of those poems came from an erotica themed reading a friend of mine put together. I worked them and worked them, and sent them to the editor of Cervena Barva Press, and the rest is history. It’s a fun book because it morphed so much as I revised it. They could be read as poems of desire and longing, or the artist’s struggle with art, and the muse. I was fortunate to deal with a professional press, and they made everything smooth and painless. When I finally held the chapbook in my hand I was like, Wow!! The publish date was right before AWP, and the Cervena Barva press had issues for sale at their table, so it was surreal. I was at AWP Boston and copies of my chapbook were on sale. Wild!

RO: Your chapbook has a Spanish title, which means “Gypsy Loves.” Please speak a bit as to why you chose to have a title in a foreign language for an English market. What does that title mean to you?photo4
RG
: Might seem cliché, but everything sounds better in Spanish, and French. The title is a nod to Garcia Lorca. These are passionate poems full of longing, searching, and the mysterious. I had an English title for the book, just in case. Thankfully Gloria Mindock, the Editor/Publisher at Cervena Barva Press, insisted I stay with the Spanish title. I think it captures the feel and passion of the poems. I should also add that the title is in no way a slight to the Romani people.

RO: How does your background as a writer inform your visual art? Conversely, how does your background in visual art inform your writing?
RG: Sometimes a line of poetry will spark an image, and I find myself kicking a painting around in my head until I put it on canvas. However, art greatly inspires my writing! I write a lot of ekphrastic poetry, and flash fiction pieces based on art work I see.

RO: Every artist has subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
RG: Race always pops up in my work. As I study race relations in America I’ve begun to realize why. Everything in America is hypersexualized, and hyperracialized. So in a way it is inevitable for an artist to either write/draw about it, or avoids it. Relationships are also a subject that comes up in my work. I find interpersonal experiences fascinating, and that comes up a lot.

photo3RO: If you could spend an evening with any writer, living or deceased, who would you choose and why? On a similar note, if you could spend an evening with any visual artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
RG: Wow. Can it only be one? That’s impossible. However, I’ll cheat a little. I’d really like to go back, and hang out with the Harlem Renaissance artists, the whole crowd, at one of those big band jazz swing clubs!  I believe that the artists of the Harlem Renaissance are the American version of all those European writers that wrote under communist, and dictatorial regimes. The conditions they endured, (racism, brutality, being marginalized, economically) and they still produced amazing work. Yes, definitely the Harlem Renaissance.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
RG: I like to collect old stuff, but nothing handmade that I can think of. I have an old Olympia typewriter from the 60’s.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
RG: Easy, a healing factor. Wolverine is one of my favorite characters for that reason. Yep, indestructability, if I could have a second, The Force! I want to be a Jedi slash Mutant!!

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
RG: I’d like artists to know that working at your craft every day strengthens the muse. It’s nice and whatever to think about the muse. However, hard work is the best muse. Or maybe it is the best thing we can do for the muse. Thanks Michelle!!

 

And thank you, Roberto, for sharing your insights! If you’d like to follow Robert’s happenings, visit him on Tumblr and Twitter.