Thursday, June 9, 2011

What is up with libraries these days? Part two

When I was working on part one of this thread, I realized that I had more to say than I could cram into one post. The passion I felt over this has faded some. I am a bit more removed at this point from the problems that stirred up so much ire in my spirit (the project isn't over, though, so I'm sure it will come up again). But even as I sit here to try to verbalize (or write) the jumbled mess of thoughts I have on this issue, the problem seems overwhelming. Or maybe it's just so simple and staring me in my face that I am just ignoring it.

I'll say this now. This post will probably be filled with sweeping, but not hasty, generalizations about the people with whom I share my field. I will also admit that I am not the most well-read librarian on library things. The number of blogs out there is overwhelming, and quite a few librarians are addressing the same issues as myself (most of them with a much broader audience than my own little blog world here). If you've read similar words somewhere else, share.

Here's how I ended part 1:
"We are Librarians, a part of a long history of subversion, controversy, rebellion, and knowledge. If knowledge is power, we have the power of entire civilizations at our finger tips. Let's use it!

Part Two will more than likely be on why most librarians won't actually step up to the plate and why I hope that I will be proven wrong."

I feel like I should clarify a little. Plenty of librarians are stepping up to the plate and fighting to show the value of our profession. Take for example the advocates in the Florida Library Association who successfully lobbied to maintain library funding for this extremely tight budget year (check out their thank you video here. Your mother was right: always say thank you). But here's the problem with some of our advocacy efforts: we often only talk to each other. We vent on listservs hidden away from the public eye. We post blogs that only other librarians are reading. We are tongue tied with our professional jargon. We only step up when there is trouble. Ok, so that's more than one problem, but I think they have a similar root: the kind of people attracted to the librarian field.

WARNING: generalization ahead

If you haven't noticed, many librarians are of a certain type. Public services librarians (front lines people, the public face of libraries) like to help people and diffuse situations, and technical services librarians (the people hiding behind closed doors or on the fifth floors of towers closed to the public) generally prefer technology to people and really don't like trouble. The appeal of the library is the illusion that each day will be filled with helping connect library users with the perfect resources. It's a blissful illusion since anyone who has worked in a library for more than an hour knows just how volatile the atmosphere in a library can be. So, we vent to each other about that. We deal with the day to day issues that invariably arise in our work place. We become so wrapped up with just getting through today that we avoid the big picture. Some one else can deal with that. I'm just too busy. We all stay in our own little words talking to the people we know agree with us and just treading water. I know I'm guilty.

According to the most recent (2008) O*NET numbers, there are 160,000 librarians in the US (the number is probably more since this is specifically people who identify themselves as "librarians" and the profession is much broader than that). Can you imagine if we all actually spoke with the same voice about our value to the rest of the country? But we divide ourselves. Are you aware of how many professional organizations exist for librarians? American Library Association, Special Libraries Association, Music librarians Association, Association of American Law Librarians, Medical Library Association. Check out this rather lengthy list. You would think we would all be working together, but no. We divide ourselves, claiming that no other "type" can possibly understand the problems I have in MY library or information center or whatever you call it.

I feel like this post is getting away from me. And maybe that's another problem with librarians.

If we, those of us who spent all that money getting our professional degrees, are not going to step forward and explain to the rest of the world that our value goes far beyond helping people find the next big bestseller (a valuable skill, but not our only skill), who in the world to we expect to do this for us? Are all those computer programmers out there expecting all of their users to tell the world how valuable they are? No. Do the lawyers rely on others to defend their value to the world? No. How about the doctors, plumbers, electricians, police officers... Get the picture? We are each responsible for making sure that others understand our value.

We should be adapting to the future. The world is changing and all that. But we shouldn't be allowing other people to tell us how we are supposed to change. It's like a doctor telling a plumber how to clear a drain because the doctor unclogged an artery or vice versa. They are both experts in their own field and perhaps they can learn from each other, but one can't tell the other what to do. Yes, evaluate what you're doing and why. Recognize that you may need to change. But don't just change for change's sake. And don't just stay the same because that's how we've always done it. Become active in other information professions, using the knowledge that you have already learned to help teach others. We cannot be passive any more. We cannot allow other to say that we have no value because computers are just so smart these days (computers aren't creating themselves... yet). Shock and amaze people by your mad searching, organizing, teaching, archiving, programming, writing, helping, creating, collaborating, managing, budgeting (anything else?) skills. And when they look at you weird or actually say, "Gee, how'd you know that?" just reply, "Because I am a (dudududaaaa) LIBRARIAN!" (insert image of cape bedecked person with a book on chest, wind blowing, music playing).

Don't sell yourself (and your profession) short: You are a librarian, and we all rock this world.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Feather weight

So this post isn't about libraries or crafting. And I do promise that What's up with libraries? Part 2 is coming soon (writing down what are usually just inaudible groans and sighs of frustration is harder than I thought). I was just reading this article and thought of an interesting connection.

So the article in question was just posted on Yahoo Shine (I'm not ashamed to say that most of my news comes from the Yahoo news feed): High fashion or bait? Fly ties now hair extensions. Go read it. I'll be here when you get back.

Done? I'm willing to do a brief summary. Basically, fly fishers are mad because the new hair trend for women is tying hard to find chicken feathers in their hair, diminishing the supply and driving up the prices. Bizarre, right? Honestly, chicken feathers? Ok, I admit, they are actually feathers from a specialized breed of roosters raised just for their feathers. From the article:

"The feathers are not easy to come by in the first place.

They come from roosters that are genetically bred and raised for their plumage. In most cases, the birds do not survive the plucking."

That's right. They at least euthanize the birds, but still. I'm really not a hard core animal rights activist, but it does seem bizarre to me that this is a trend coming out of an industry (Hollywood) that tends to really value their animals. When these feathers were only used by fly fishers, the demands really wasn't that great, but now the suppliers can't even keep up with the demand.

And they are really giving Steven Tyler the credit for this trend? Last time I checked the Native Americans have been using feathers as hair adornment for a number of years. Although, I don't think that they just tossed the carcass of the birds after they plucked the pretty feathers.

So the interesting connection that I saw in this is to a crusade that Edward Bok, long time former editor of Ladies Home Journal and benefactor of Bok Tower Gardens, took on during his explorations into ladies' fashion. Just as some background, as part of my new job, I read Bok's autobiography The Americanization of Edward Bok: The autobiography of a Dutch boy fifty years later. It's an interesting read, although the particular section I want you to read shows some of his chauvinistic tendencies (ironic, right, as the editor of a ladies' magazine?).

So, go read this section on his campaign against the use of aigrettes (the head plums of an egret) in fashion: pages 332 through 339. It's disturbing. In his research, he found that the birds were basically tortured and killed, leaving their babies to die, in order to get these feathers for the hats. Bok was outraged and picked up a personal campaign to try to get the collection of the feathers outlawed. He published articles, graphic pictures and descriptions, petitioned leaders and advocates. And you know what happened (at first at least)? Sales of the feathers increased. So after they were informed of the atrocities, women were even more eager to get this fashion accessory. Eventually, Bok was able to encourage legislation that curtailed the use of these feathers.

Has humanity really seen no progress that we still use these frivolous fobs for fashion? It's not like we're using animal skins for warmth because we have no other way to stay warm. And do we really need to use feathers from a rooster that had to die in order to decorate our hair? Where is the respect for the creatures of this earth? We are a society of so much waste, and this is just another example of how disconnected we have become from the land and creatures that live with us on this planet. What a shame.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Trying to save some money

So, I made a mistake. I friended Vera Bradley on Facebook, and I have found a new obsession with the products. The problem is that my part-time librarian salary hardly allows me to purchase any pieces. So I look at the pictures and drool. Well, the other day I was ogling over the wristlet. I thought this would be the perfect accessory for my upcoming travels to the SLA Annual Conference in June. And I think to myself, "Self, you can make this. It's just a quilted bag." Yup, just a quilted bag.

For about a week, I kept looking at the piece and thinking about how I could piece together my own version. I thought and thought and thought, and I finally developed a plan. Today Last Friday, I finally finished (this was my first sewing how-to. It took me much longer to explain than I thought).

Personally, I think it came out pretty good. The finished dimensions are about 6 x 4 x 1 1/2 inches. This was no easy task, though, so I'd like to offer some tips. If you have the money, just buy the Vera Bradley. I can appreciate the prices much more now, although I imagine their factories have a number of ways to make the process much smoother. If you don't have that much money, save some time by buying the pre-quilted fabrics at your local fabric store. I didn't like any of the prints, so not an option for me. And finally, don't try this craft if you are feeling rushed or impatient. You'll be ripping out a lot of sewing.

Here are the materials that I used:

You'll need:
-- Two coordinating fabrics. I started with a yard of each since I liked the fabrics. You would think that I would have gone to my stash (and I did consider it), but no. These fabrics caught my eye on the Red Tag clearance at JoAnn Fabric. The widest piece that you would need is about 15 in., so you can use up some scraps.
-- 1 Zipper (mine was 15 inches but I ended up trimming it a bit)
-- Light quilt batting. You'll only need about a 15 inch square
-- Some sort of clip. DH and I had a terrible time finding these. They ended up being in the jewelery section of the craft store and weren't exactly what we were looking for, but it works.
-- Coordinating thread
-- Disappearing ink/Mark-B-Gone pen or some other temporary marking tool.
-- Scissors
-- Straight pins
-- Seam ripper
-- Sewing machine (I want to give you a complete list :-) )

I started the process by making a 15 x 13 inch rectangle of quilted fabric, although if I were to do this again, I would probably make it a little bigger (15 x 15) because all the sewing shrunk the size a bit. Start with a fabric sandwich: liner fabric (right side down), batting, outside fabric (right side up). Mark lines at a 30 degree angle 3/4 inch apart in a criss-cross pattern on the right side of either fabric. I used a disappearing marker to do my lines. If you do this, make sure to work quickly. By the time I was done sewing, I could barely see the lines any more.
On the left is the marked fabric. On the right is the finished sewing. I was trying to show that I used a contrasting thread on the back. I figured since I was using such a bold liner, I might as well use a bold thread choice, too.

From this quilted fabric, cut two panels (7 1/4 x 5 inches with curved corners... I can post pattern pieces if anyone is interested) and one rectangle gusset (12 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches). I debated how to cut these out. Just be sure that the diamonds on your two panels go the same direction.

In addition to these piece, you'll also need the following:
2 pockets from outside fabric (7 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches with the same curved corners)
2 pockets from inside fabric (4 1/2 inches square)
1 piece for zipper from outside fabric (13 1/4 x 3 inches) cut in half lengthwise (2 pieces 1 1/2 inches wide)
1 piece for zipper from inside fabric (13 1/4 x 3 inches) cut in half lengthwise (2 pieces 1 1/2 inches wide)
1 strip for handle from inside fabric (12 x 1 1/4 inches)
1 piece for ring from inside fabric (1 1/2 inches square... I think... I didn't write that down) You may want two of these if you want to be able to clip the strap on the other side to make this into a purse.

Fold the two large pocket pieces in half, wrong sides together, to make a piece 7 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches and press. Set aside.
Fold the two small pocket pieces in half, right sides together, and sew 1/4 inch seam on two short sides, leaving the bottom open. Clip the corners, and turn the pieces right side out.
Center the two small pockets on each larger piece. Sew the smaller pockets onto the larger pockets as close to the edge as possible. Set aside.

I have to admit, just writing all this is making me tired.

 There may be a better way to do this, but I did it this way. Press 1/4 inch along one long edge of all four zipper pieces (2 outside, 2 inside). Using your zipper foot for your machine, sew as close to the edge and zipper as possible. As you can see, the zipper is longer than my pieces. Judge for yourself how you want to line the edges of the pieces. I also folded up the short edge of one edge to form a clean edge. I suppose I could have done this on both ends, but I had already started and was being lazy.

For this, I pressed 1/4 inch on the long sides to the wrong side of the fabric. After that I folded the piece in half long side, right side out, and pressed. Stitch along the long edge as close to the opening as possible. Attach the clip to one end. To make the fabric ring holder, sew the 1 1/2 inch square fabric, right sides together with a 1/4 inch seam. Turn right side out and press.

Quilted guesset
This was a tricky one. Since this piece is cut from the quilted piece of fabric, I had to remove some of the quilted stitches with the seam riper. I removed enough to have about 1/2 inch of fabric unsewn. I then cut the 1/2 inch of exposed quilt batting from the piece. Fold and press a 1/4 inch of both fabrics to the inside. Top stitch across so that the edge is finished. On one side, insert the strap and the piece inserting the fabric ring.

Bag construction
Sigh. I hate pinning, but there was just no way around this one. With curved edges and gussets, pinning was a necessity. I also chose to do French Seams again, so yeah. What was I thinking. This part of the project was what made me appreciate understand the VB price tags (they are still expensive).

Place the pocket piece you set aside on the inside of the first purse panel, matching the curved edges (the open bag picture back at the top could help you visualize this). Start by pinning the zipper gusset wrong sides together with the first purse panel. I marked the middle of the purse piece, found the middle of the gusset, and started pinning from there. I chose to open the zipper so the fabric wasn't quite so bulky. If you need to trim your zipper, now is the time. I trimmed mine and sewed over to create a new zipper stop.

Repeat the process with the quilted gusset, making sure to pin through the purse panel and the pocket. Try to make sure that the edges of the gussets are parallel to each other so your purse isn't crooked. The quilted gusset will overlap the zipper. Sew all the way around with a 1/4 inch seam. After sewing around, trim close to the seam without cutting the stitches.

Start the process again, matching right sides together now to make the pretty French Seam. Pin carefully and sew 1/4 inch seam.

Repeating this process to attach the other side of the purse can be a little complicated since the gussets won't be as flexible. In fact, I have another sewing project on my sewing cabinet that is stopped at this very point. Make sure you do zip the zipper, though, so that the zipper will match once sewn. Leave the zipper open just a little for turning. Start by matching wrong sides together (I got myself confused and had pinned the whole thing when I realized I did it wrong and had to unpin and repin the whole thing. Grr.), sew, trim, pin right sides together, sew, and TADA!

Tips on sewing. The corners will be tricky. Be careful not to have the material be too bunchy. I bunched a little too much on one side, and the gusset turned out a little crooked at the end. Did I rip it out and start over? No way. This is a homemade project. Perfection is not necessary.

I have a bit of the quilted fabric left over and have been thinking about things to do with it. I think maybe I'll make a coin purse, but I was also considering a key fob. Can't waste a good scrap of fabric, especially one that took me so long to create.

So, any brave souls out there that will try this?