Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Long Hiatus

The name plate says it all: L.I.B.R.A.R.I.AN
I apologize for a very long hiatus. I want to think that I have gone through an "existential dilemma" or a mid-life crisis for the last  7 months. The truth is that I have been too lazy to write blog entries, despite completing two of my goals. I successfully applied to the Reading Education doctoral program at Oakland University. I started my own business and have one client so far. Now...to market my skills and expand my client base.

Life is good.

At work, I'm currently working on several projects.  Although I am no archivist and have not archives training, I am doing archival research to compile an Oakland University diversity timeline. A virtual archives exhibition, this project focuses on the key people and events that shaped diversity and inclusiveness at the University.

Although I tend to focus on African Americans, who were the target population of many University diversity efforts, I include other ethnic groups (Native Americans, Asian Americans, Whites, and International Students) and diversity categories (sexual orientation and gender).

The above also applies to archivists.
Having reviewed many photographs with no metadata (Date, Title, Location, etc), I give much respect to archivists. I have done some research to complete this timeline, but not the type of extensive research I imagine archivists do on a daily basis.

I have never curated an archives exhibition before. This challenging experience has inspired me to think about going back to school for a post-MLIS archives certificate. I definitely want to do more archives-related projects.

I have developed several skills being the main curator of this project. I have learned how to develop and organize metadata, create and implement artifact selection criteria, and manage various media formats. The most important skill I honed is probably collaboration with diverse colleagues. I have learned to actively engage the expertise and wisdom of my colleagues.

I constantly conduct research for my scholarly article. I hope to have a publishable manuscript by April 2015.

Until next time....which will not be another 7 months.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Holiday Greetings and 2014 Goals

Image 1.
Happy Holidays!

This holiday season and my 50th birthday have prompted me to examine my professional goals. Because I believe that being an African American male librarian is somewhat  "radical," I still have professional goals that the support my mission: to encourage patrons to establish critical relationships with information and the information economy.

In other words, I think being a librarian means more than providing access to information or finding the right answers for patrons. I think librarians are collaborators. Public library librarians collaborate with their community to provide spaces and expertise that enhance the social, political, and economic status of community members. Academic librarians collaborate with students, staff, and faculty to help create and disseminate new information (research) and to support other educational goals.

Within that context, I have several goals for 2014.  This list isn't complete.

1. EDUCATION
I will enter a doctoral program in Education. I think the tools I gain from earning a doctorate will enhance my information literacy sessions. My teaching methods will most likely improve because I will learn different theories about teaching and learning. I may even parlay this credential with the third goal below.

2. SCHOLARLY PUBLISHING
I will publish at least one article. Although this isn't an official requirement for my present position, I think publishing at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal will help establish my professional reputation and allow me to extend my ideas beyond this blog.

3. ENTREPRENEURSHIP
I will become a part-time independent contractor. I think I have the skills to make money during the thing I love: research and business consultations.  Of course, I have to research the market and discover ways to distinguish myself from potential competitors. But I think I can do just that.

Image 2.
I don't think these are overly ambitious professional goals. I think it is a matter of creating objectives that facilitate this goals.

2014 looks very promising.





Friday, December 20, 2013

The Half Century Mark or A Long Time to Discover One's Calling


Selfie taken 12/20/2013 at 5:45pm

Today is my birthday. My 50th birthday. I have officially been a member of Club Earth for 50 good years, and it has only been within the last 5 years that I discovered I was a librarian.

That's a very long time, isn't it?

Instead of calling myself "An African American Male Librarian," I should call myself  "The Grandma Moses Librarian". Grandma Moses was the nickname for Anna Mary Robertson Moses, a folk artist who started who art career in her late 70s. 1

Unlike that of Grandma Moses, I don't expect people to celebrate my late entry into a profession. I  hope that I may inspire other Black man (especially the younger ones) to enter librarianship. I also hope that my blog encourage my colleagues to "transgress" their professional and personal comfort zones to advance librarianship. If this blog influences one young Black man to enter the professor or encourages one colleague to change their perspective about being a librarian, I will consider it to have completed its mission. 
Selfie taken 12/20/2013 at 5:44pm

Today is my 50th birthday.  On this special day,  I do the very thing I love: being a librarian who serves the information needs of my patrons by helping them form more critically and socially aware relationships with information.

That is my calling.

Before you go, please enjoy this video. It features Andrew P. Jackson, whom I believe was a protégé of the E. J. Josey, speaking about a recent anthology on Black librarians, The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges. This excellent monograph features the ongoing triumphs and challenges of many Black Librarian in the United States.


Happy Holidays to all!  See you next week.

Links
1. Grandma Moses Wikipedia Entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandma_Moses  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Si Se Puede or Librarians Can Do That

On December 13, 2013 (yes, Friday the 13th), I  had a very wonderful interview with the President and Vice President of a local company. During the interview, I argued that a trained librarian was the perfect solution for their company information needs. They needed someone who could redesign their information systems, which include re-organizing their file systems, designing and implementing database solutions, and re-organizing their website. They also needed someone who could train employees to maintain this system. In other words, they need someone who could manage relatively large projects that would grow their company.

I argued that a trained librarian could do that and more. In school, I was trained to actually diagram and build databases. In Visio, I visually represented relationships among various data, using the business rules that informed those relationships. For instance, if I were to design a database about clients and workshops, I would sketch the relationship between the two entities. Can each client attend many workshops. Does each workshop have many clients? If so I would create diagrams that would reflect those relations.  After that, I would use Access or any other database software to build an electronic database (I say "electronic" because a database is technically a collection of related records. Access, and Oracle are software packages that manage databases. They are not databases per se.). I briefly explained that during the interview.

I also explained how we librarians are passionate about serving others by organizing and providing access to information. I really focused on our being passionate about our profession. We do not simply go to jobs. We engage our passion for excellent service within our community. I even explained my passion for changing people's relationship with information. They liked that response because they wanted someone with a passion for serving their clients' needs. They didn't want someone who simply wanted a job.

In short, the President and Vice President seemed highly impressed by what librarians can do, outside of libraries. I demonstrated that when CEOs need information solutions that will help grow their companies, they SHOULD immediately think of trained librarians.

We are INFORMATION professionals, right?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Death of Nelson Mandela and the Potential for African American Male Librarians

The Late Great Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela passed away recently, and the media buzzes with praises and celebrations of a man who lived a courageous, magnificent life dedicated to social justice and peace. I will not even try to compete with the more eloquent statements about this great man.

But I will say this.

Mr. Mandela is a great role model for many African American male librarians, especially the young ones just graduating from library school or thinking about joining the profession.  Mandela was not afraid, as an old Nigerian friend often advises to "live his truth,"especially if that truth caused him personal pain. He wasn't afraid to fight the social wrongs, even if that fight meant that he would spend almost 30 years of his life in prison.

How does Mr. Mandela's life connect with African American male librarians?  Every African American men  live a certain truth, regardless of economic, social, or political status.

WE

We are often hated and feared. Our bodies are often regulated through the penal code system.  And many of us live in a symbolic prison where the guards constantly use statistics and other evidence to remind us that we are intellectually  "less" than our white counterparts.

WE ARE AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN.

WE ARE LIBRARIANS.

 Unfortunately, librarianship seems to suffer from its own form of apartheid--even as diversity initiatives struggle to diversify the profession.  Remember that African American men make up less than one-half of one percent of all librarians, according to ALA statistics. While the ALA cautions against interpreting their numbers as absolute, they also note that these figures remind us of this population continues to be significantly less than the majority of credential librarians.

In this context, we cannot afford to simply make a comfortable career. We can do so much more than providing "good service" to our patrons. Like Nelson Mandela in the political world of South Africa, we can show that African and African American men can make great and positive impacts in the equally political world of librarianship.

Of course, we don't expect most African American male librarians to spend 27 years in prison because of their convictions. That's unrealistic for the vast majority of African American men, including librarians. But we should expect African American male librarians to do something so radically different, so surprising--as to cause a virtual sea-change in librarianship. Yes, we serve our patrons. But this service should be informed by the same passion for social justice that carried Mr. Mandela through his 27 years in a South African prison.

How can this passion manifest itself in our daily lives? Instead of providing simple access to information, we can facilitate a radically different relationship with information, one that starts with the innate intellectual capacities of our patrons. We can show that information is the process of being shaped and shaping the world around us. We can show that information is neither simply a commodity to bought and sold nor a thing to find for a research project. We can help patrons question the creation and dissemination of information against their own lived experiences.

We should do this in honor of Mr. Mandela, and equally important because

WE ARE AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN.

WE ARE LIBRARIANS.
  

CREDITS
American Library Association. (2012). Diversity counts: Update 2009-2010. http://www.ala.org/offices/diversity/diversitycounts/2009-2010update 

Picture of Nelson Mandela (nd). Fox News. http://a57.foxnews.com/global.fncstatic.com/static/managed/img/fn2/video/640/360/032813_mandela_obit_640.jpg


Friday, November 29, 2013

Mea Culpa from an African-American Male Librarian

MEA CULPA -- my bad.

Four months have passed since my last post. Please forgive the long "radio silence".  I will try to keep the content relatively fresh. I will try to post at least once a week.

Unlike my last post, this entry may seem very apolitical to some. I am on the last day of my Thanksgiving vacation/ early birthday celebration. Since last Tuesday, I've been vacationing in Chicago with a very old and close Nigerian friend and four other very friendly and easy-going Nigerians.

I often describe myself as "African American," but my time with my African brothers prompts me to question the hyphenated identity. How African is this African-American male librarian when he often feels alienated in the presence of  men from the homeland? Perhaps I should just strike through the "African" in the title of my blog: The Professional Life of an African-American Male Librarian.

But that move seems to deny my ethnic heritage. Like my Nigerian friends, I am connected to Africa, even if I cannot understand African languages and cultures.  Even if I am more culturally and linguistically connected to Western Europe/ America than to Africa.

What do James Bond, Doctor Who, and Martin Luther King, Jr's "I have a Dream" speech and I have in common? We all turn 50 this year.  I cannot believe that I will celebrate 50 years of living. I honestly didn't think I would make it. Then again, I never thought I would be a librarian at this age.

Librarian Stereotype*
L-I-B-R-A-R-I-A-N

And as you can see from my "selfie," I don't look anything like the stereotype on the left. That's because we librarians come in all shapes, sizes, genders, sexual orientations, etc. It's a wonderful thing.

L-I-B-R-A-R-I-A-N

I love all the benefits and challenges of being in this profession. Currently, I am applying to two doctoral programs in Michigan. I want to study what impact, if any, do collaborations between embedded librarians and first year writing instructors have on first year students' academic literacies. Within the next five years, I hope to have dual appointments at a mid-size to large research university. I would love to teach  upper-level writing and rhetoric classes and to coordinate library instruction.

*Image from http://www.thedebutanteball.com/2009/11/19/

Friday, July 26, 2013

George Zimmerman Verdict, Racial Profiling, and an Incident in the Life of an African American Male Librarian

Like many other African American males, I was not stunned by the George Zimmerman "not guilty" verdict. Physical evidence supported Mr. Zimmerman's claim of self-defense. Stereotypes about the criminality and extreme violence of young African American men strengthened the "truth" of Mr. Zimmerman's story.  Legally, it does not seem to matter that Trayvon Martin may have been "standing his ground" against a stranger who followed him on a dark, rainy night. Armed with a hoodie, a bag of Skittles and a soft drink, Trayvon Martin was deemed a physical threat that had to put down.

This is the image, the stereotype that every African American male librarian must contend with, whether or not they they admit it. In the aftermath of the verdict, millions of African American parents struggled to tell their sons that they could be murdered just for walking down a street and that the law may hold these young boys practically responsible for their own deaths. Unfortunately, this is part of older, broader conversations for many of these parents: if a police man stops you, do not talk back--even if the officer violates your civil rights, have both hands in plain view, do not give law enforcement officers any reason to shoot you and beat you down like a wild animal". And now this advice must be extended to neighborhood watch crews and other civilian "protectors".

So what does this have to do with me? I'm a librarian, the most non-threatening species on the planet, right? I'm old. I wear glasses. I don't look like a thug.

But that did not stop a White male law officer from rigorously questioning and ticketing me for littering in Westland, Michigan about 3 years ago. In that part of the world, littering is a misdemeanor. I paid a fine, but I still have a criminal record. This is the same officer who allowed many speeding non-African Americans off with warning. I assume he wanted to show me HE was the boss because I asked him if he were profiling me. He responded that he was tired of African Americans asking him that and those the ticket. Because it was a misdemeanor, I had to make a court appearance. I  pleaded "guilty" because it was my word against his. And I knew my words would mean almost nothing against his.

The littering incident occurred within yards of my workplace--a library. The site was so covered with litter, I wondered how many times people were actually fined for the offense. There I was. Looking  like Steve Urkel from Family Matters, while the officer checked my background for previous offenses. Not finding any, he decided a littering charge was in order.  To be honest, I was guilty of throwing a candy wrapper among the other trash near the library. If I had listened to the above advice, I may have gotten away with a warning.

But I doubt it.

The officer was most likely making his "quota" and my righteous indignation allowed him to do just that.

My point to this story is simple. Even a homely librarian like myself isn't exempted from the negative stereotypes that contributed to Trayvon Martin's death.  I wonder how many other African American male librarians how gone through racially informed situations but do not share their stories because they do not want to seem bitter and hostile.

I wonder.