Interview up on Hack Library School!

I’m so excited to have the chance to go back to Hack Library School for a minute to talk with Stefanie about my experiences bringing rare books to the prison classroom, advocating for work with underserved communities, and what I’m hoping for the future.

You can read the article here!


Bringing rare books to a prison classroom

Just like I did for my recent rare book and beer pairing event, I wanted to share a few quick thoughts about the work I’ve been doing with incarcerated scholars in the hopes that it’s helpful for other rare books/museums folks who want to include prisons in their outreach iniatives. I have a million other thoughts about how amazing and challenging it is, but this post is just for quick outreach take-aways.

Why do this?

By now it’s no secret that my goal in life is to bring rare books (and museum artifacts in general) to people who want to learn from them but have never been given the opportunity (serving underserved populations, if you want to use field lingo). When I think about a population that is underserved in pretty much every possible way, I think of people who are incarcerated. Many current and former prisoners can’t vote, have limited access to educational resources in prison, and have trouble finding work or funding for an education once they are released. This is in addition to the fact that few prisons offer meaningful programming that discourages recidivism, even though such programs (like Common Good, or like this rehabilitation work) are effective and badly wanted by prisoners.

One of the books I used in my presentation. Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems, 1641.


Continue reading “Bringing rare books to a prison classroom”

Not so rare any more: Reaching new special collections audiences through unlikely collaborations

I just finished giving a presentation for NFAIS on building expanding audiences and empowering community members through unlikely collaborations. The audience, as well as Marcie who was the moderator/cat wrangler/problem solver, were all fantastic and I had a great time chatting with them. I wanted to offer a few highlights from the talk for folks who weren’t able to attend but who are thinking about their own outreach programs.

NB: I focused on rare books since that’s the area I work in, BUT these guidelines could be used for outreach with all sorts of artifacts across many cultural heritage institutions.

Why talk about this? Because outreach is critical for increased access and community empowerment

  • Special collections historically very exclusive
    • Often limited to those doing research or in academic/special library settings
    • Historically excludes those without access to education and other resources
    • Often we do not reach beyond these walls, meaning most potential visitors are not aware of what we have to offer.
  • Physical access is also an issue (e.g. can someone get to campus? Do they need a certain ID or enrollment/employment status to use your services?)
  • Even for those who have access, perceived access may be a totally different matter. Special collections often feel intimidating for the uninitiated, and concerns about whether one has access or what expectations are in a special collections environment can overshadow the desire to engage with collections and programs.  

Continue reading “Not so rare any more: Reaching new special collections audiences through unlikely collaborations”

Historical Resources at Risk: The Case of the State Historical Society of Iowa

In recent weeks, the State Historical Society of Iowa has been faced with reorganization and funding cuts, which threaten to reduce access to its irreplaceable collections and to displace staff who have dedicated their careers to helping Iowans learn about their past. Plenty of folks have written about the specifics of the situation (the petition link includes links to many helpful sources to educate yourself), but what I want to focus on is my experience with SHSI, and why that experience makes me believe absolutely in the importance of keeping this organization funded and its records accessible [1].

I was lucky enough to work at SHSI at the start of my Master’s program, and it was one of the most valuable and enjoyable jobs I’ve had. I started volunteering there when I decided I would apply to the Library and Information Studies program, and later came on as a work-study employee after I was accepted. I bounced around to do a few different things at the Iowa City branch, including some cataloging, preservation/conservation, and special collections (one of my first assignments was working with Civil War and World War I diaries from Iowa veterans, which was challenging and lots of fun). I got to learn about some awesome Iowans through the records they left behind, and their stories are the ones I turn to again and again when I talk with others about the value of preserving history.

Continue reading “Historical Resources at Risk: The Case of the State Historical Society of Iowa”

Continuing Education Courses at Library Juice Academy

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be teaching two courses for Library Juice Academy this August (August 1st-28th). If you’re not familiar with LJA, they provide continuing education courses for information professionals. There are a lot of great courses on there taught by some great folks, and I’m excited to work alongside them. The two classes I’ll be teaching are Social Media for Libraries and The Librarian as Scholar: Taking Part in Scholarly Communication.

If either of these are of interest to you, I would love to have you in my class, and I’d love to hear from you about what kinds of things you would like to learn. For those of you who have expertise in these areas, are there any must-read resources you always refer your students to? I have some already, but the more the merrier! I’m looking forward to teaching the class, and hope to see some of you there!

#RainieFSU Highlights






Recently, Lee Rainie came to visit the good people of SLIS, and gave a great talk on the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s findings, particularly as they relate to libraries. As many of you know, I am an avid conference/colloquium tweeter, and I tend to tweet as a way of taking conference notes. Typically, I can compile those notes in something like Topsy or Storify, but this time around only three of the tweets showed up in either platform, so I’ve gone to my Twitter account, taken some screenshots, and lined them up here so I have an archive of them (and of course so you can read them as well). What do you think of what Rainie had to say? Does it match with your experiences as a librarian and/or researcher?

I’m hoping for better luck with my next round of live tweeting as I attend our Colloquia series (the first one was yesterday). If you’re on Twitter, follow along at #fsuslis13 to see my tweets and join the conversation. Technically, it’s the College of Communication and Information Dean’s colloquium series, but hopefully they’ll forgive me for just including my department in the hashtag! Some incredibly awesome and influential folks from the field will be visiting here and sharing their visions for iSchools in the 21st Century, and I’m very excited to attend the talks and engage with people beyond the walls of SLIS as I learn from the speakers. I plan to compile those tweets too, and we can continue the discussion here when I do!
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Rebuilding Libraries After Hurricane Sandy

Update 11/8: So far, we’re up to $80 between all three libraries. I’ll keep updating totals as more people donate!

It has been a little while since I’ve gotten the chance to update here, but there are good reasons (I promise!) that I’ll be announcing to you all soon. The recent hurricane, though, was enough to knock me out of hibernation. It has been so devastating to watch the impact of the storm on communities around the East Coast, and particularly hard to see the devastation in my future home. I am absolutely in love with that area of the country and with all the people I know there, and have been trying to think of ways to really make an impact from afar. I’ve donated to the Red Cross and a few other groups, but the thing that keeps coming to mind is the success we had as a community of professionals in raising funds after the Joplin tornado.

So, this message is a plea to everyone in libraryland (and everyone who loves libraries) to show that kind of support to libraries in need. The staff are working like crazy to keep libraries open and serving as the most effective community spaces possible by providing resources, bringing in trained experts, and giving people a place to charge their phones and get out of the cold.  When the library isn’t open, library staff are going mobile to bring resources to their communities.
This is a time when our colleagues are really shining, and showing why their libraries matter to communities. I know this is something we would all do in the same position, because we love our patrons and we love our libraries, and I’m hoping we can all come together from afar and help those communities out. There is an excellent article in American Libraries Direct  that helped guide me to some resources, and I’m listing them here, along with opportunities to donate to individual libraries that have listed immediate needs on their websites. If anyone knows of other  libraries in impacted communities that are taking donations, please share them in the comments. It would be great to have our library love reach as many people as possible!

Libraries in need of assistance

Queens Library: Several libraries were damaged during the storm, and many materials were lost. These libraries are in some of the hardest-hit areas, which means their patrons need everything from FEMA assistance to outlets to charge their phones. Staff have taken bookmobiles out to bring resources to patrons and are doing some really incredible work, but they need help to rebuild their collections. Their library foundation has a donation page where you can donate using a credit card.

Brooklyn Public Library: BPL has not set up a disaster-specific donations page, but some of the branches sustained damage during Sandy, according to the BPL website. The library has a page for making donations which allows you to specify where you want to gift to go (I would recommend selecting ‘where it is most needed.’) If anyone knows of additional funding needs for BPL (or a recovery-specific funding site), please let me know.

New Jersey Libraries: The New Jersey Library Association has set up a donation page to raise funds for libraries around the state that were damaged during the storm. Like the other libraries, these folks are working hard to help communities recover, and need assistance as they begin to rebuild.

I’ve donated to each of these sites, and I hope you’ll join me today in helping out our colleagues in need. Our field is filled with passionate and awesome professionals, and I’m looking forward to seeing that in action! Once you donate, you can tweet your amount using the hashtag #sandylibraries, leave it in the comments on this post, or send me an e-mail with the amount (JuliaCSkinner at gmail dot com). I’ll update the totals as I get them in! Remember, any amount (even $5) helps–and enough small donations really add up. Thanks everyone!

Update 11/8: Reader-Suggested Sites

American Library Association site for how to help U.S. libraries after a disaster.

Cat Librarian Calendar is Happening!

As some of you already know, I’m teaming up with the talented Emily Drabinski to produce a calendar to raise money for Project Gutenberg. We were inspired by the success of Men of the Stacks last year, and thought it might be a cool thing for the library community to get involved with more widely. To that end, we’re asking for photos from folks who are a part of our little niche: people in libraryland who love cats! So, if you’re a library professional and have a photo of you and a cat, send it along to us! We are hoping to make this calendar the best it can be. And spread the word–the more people who know about the calendar, the more money we can raise and the more wonderful pictures we will see!

Learn more about the calendar project on the Cat Librarian 2013 website and Facebook page.

Submit your photos to by August 1st!

11 things–(un)related to libraries

Yesterday, Heidi Schutt (@hfkittle, for all you librarians on Twitter) wrote a post telling her readers a bit more about herself, and so I am doing the same. Here goes!

11 random things about me

 1. The only hard thing about moving to Tallahassee was the realization that I could no longer walk everywhere.
2. My favorite non-LIS job was bus driving.
3. I like to spend my days off  cooking, gardening, and canning food.
4. I don’t know how to ride a bicycle.
5. I have three cats: Queequeg, Gir, and Mouse (a.k.a. Professor Butterscotch)
6.  I am working on three different research projects right now.
7.  At one point, I planned to move to England and open a bookstore/coffeehouse.
8. I prefer vintage clothes to new clothes.
9. I still miss living near the mountains (I grew up in Boulder, CO).
10. I like a really wide range of music: everything from Afghan folk music to early Metallica.
11. I am hoping to have the rest of my back tattooed by the end of the summer.

11 answers to 11 questions

1. What vegetable could you NOT live without? I don’t think I can narrow it down to even a handful of veggies. The only one I don’t really like is green bell pepper, and even that is OK if it’s cooked in something.
2. What’s your earliest memory of a library? I loved my elementary school library! I remember trying to raise money for the library by selling cookies or lemonade or something. I only raised $2 and some change, but I was super proud of myself. Especially when they published a little blurb in the school newsletter about it.
3. If you could revisit somewhere you’ve already visited, where would you go and why? This is another difficult one, but probably the Scottish highlands. It’s such a beautiful place and I feel really peaceful when I’m there (it’s also where a good chunk of my ancestors are from).
4. What 2 people would you take with you to revisit that place? These are all such hard questions! I can think of a handful of friends and family right off the bat that would be excellent travel partners. To go to Scotland, I bet it would be fun to take my mom and grandma.
5. Do you prefer to swim in lakes, a pool or the ocean? Why? Lakes and/or ocean, because it usually coincides with a fun outdoor activity (like camping) that I’m engaging in with people I love to be around.
6. Are you an early bird or a night owl? I can be either: my sleep schedule switches around quite a bit.
7. When and where did you learn to ride a bike? Some time in the future…
8. You and only you are being sent to an island furnished with food, water and shelter for a lifetime – what 3 comfort items do you bring with you? My computer, some setup to access the internet, my pets (unless they don’t count as comfort items, at which point I would say my favorite books).
9. What’s your all-time favorite television show? Probably Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Or Red Dwarf.
10. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate. The really dark and yummy stuff.
11. What’s your favorite board game? I haven’t played board games in quite a while, although I feel like I enjoyed Chutes and Ladders and Monopoly when I was a kid.

11 questions for my fellow bloggers

1. Have you ever felt a strong pull to travel to a certain place? Where? Did you end up visiting?
2.  What was your favorite job outside of a library? Why?
3. What author would you want to sit and have a conversation with? Why?
4. What are the three things in LIS (or whatever field you consider yourself a part of) that you are most passionate/excited about?
5. Have you ever published any of your writing?
6. Do you like penguins?
7. Do you have tattoos?
8. Which of your gadgets (phone, tablet, etc) do you use the most?
9. What was your favorite subject in school?
10. What US town or city do you most want to visit?
11. How much time do you spend outdoors in a given week?

Now it’s your turn to write a post: write 11 things, answer my questions, then write new questions to share. I’d love it if you shared the link to your post with me when you’re done: I feel like I know a lot about the professional lives of my fellow libraryland writers, but less so about your lives outside of the library!

LIS Professionals and Big-Time Publishers: Do We Speak Out?

This morning I read a great post by Inger Mewburn called The academic writers’ strike. I loved the sentiments she expressed about academics being compensated in some way for their content and expertise, which keeps these journals going. I wanted to start a conversation here because I think LIS students, professionals, and faculty are in a unique position because of our chosen field. A couple points I want to raise (and these questions aren’t just directed to the groups I mention, anyone is welcome to add constructive thoughts to the discussion):


-Academic librarians (and other info pros impacted by these journal prices): One of the big things I see missing in many non-LIS discussions about the high cost of  journal articles is the libraries. Would you be satisfied if the university (but not necessarily the library) received payment for every download of an article created at that institution? What are ways these publishers can improve interactions with libraries? Lowering prices and giving libraries the option to buy individual journals (rather than bundles) seems an obvious start, but what else can be going on there? Also, does demanding change threaten a library’s ability to get needed materials?

-LIS students, faculty, and other research producers: One thing the post stressed was the potential danger to students and early career faculty that could come from speaking out and signing petitions like the Cost of Knowledge, in that it would limit options and make it harder for students to build up their CVs. Some of the comments brought up excellent points about rethinking how we produce knowledge (why does sharing academic knowledge via blogs count for nothing?), but what I found most striking was the number of PhD students who agreed with her point (as one said ‘beggars can’t be choosers.’) I feel like the view of students as being at the bottom of the pecking order and scrambling to publish in whatever journal that will take them is less pronounced in our field (or at least the departments I’ve been involved in). Maybe it’s because our field consists of practitioners and researchers, nearly all of whom have graduate degrees and some exposure to research.
By the time I commented, I was the only PhD student to say that I signed the pledge to not publish with Elsevier. Granted, there aren’t a ton of LIS journals published through them, but I feel like it was important to add my name to a growing list of people who have their whole careers ahead of them and want to see a real change in one of the major industries we will be interacting with. Other students, have you signed? Would you? Does anyone (students, faculty, etc.) see benefits and drawbacks to signing? More importantly, what impact does speaking out have on our publishing options (if any, which in LIS I feel like it may be minimal) and what else can we be doing to shape the future of publishing in a way that better addresses our concerns? I argue for Open Access, but the way the journals I work with do it, where it’s truly free for the reader to access that content and for the researcher to share it. We’re already volunteering our time and effort to review and research, it would be nice to put it toward a journal that will share those ideas with the world!

-People from other fields: Researchers, students, faculty, whomever. What do you think? What barriers do you face in your field? In your position? What would you like to see changed in academic publishing?