In The News: Long Overdue

Long Overdue: Changing student needs results in a new chapter for Milner.

When students were asked what they’d  like to see more of at Milner Library, the answer was surprising.

Outlets. No one said books, and a wander through the six floors tells you why…

This is an amazing article from the Illinois State University’s Milner Library about how they are changing the library’s physical space and services offered to adapt to changing student patron needs.  The Milner is among the front runners of libraries that I am familiar with in fundamentally changing the concept of what a library is and how it can best support the research needs of undergraduates.

On a personal note, at the PMA Library we’re currently putting together a report on what our physical space provides for students and what it lacks, and outlets is at the very top of the list of things we desperately want!

In the immortal words of Boromir:

I think that one of the most important things that libraries can do right now is begin to assess exactly what their patrons really need.  One of the best and most inspiring stories of libraries that exist with their community’s real needs in mind is that of the new Canada Water Library, which was built at the cost of £14 million by Southwark (London, UK) Council.  Faced with the closure altogether of several libraries across Southwark—a borough which covers much of London on the south side of the Thames—members of the community spoke out:

“Our libraries have been well managed over a long period of time and what we’ve managed to do is listen to people. Over 6,000 people said they would rather we did things like reduce hours or use volunteers than close libraries. That was enough people saying libraries were important.” (From: “Super Library in Southwark Opens Its Doors”)

The library will hold 40,000 books, but it also has a variety of community spaces such as a café, meeting rooms, and a small community theater.  The library even incorporates an entrance to the Canada Water London Underground tube station, so that patrons can easily access the library and its resources without having to go outside.  By listening to the needs of the Canada Water community, Southwark Council and its library staff are providing a building that provides not only books for education and pleasure, but meeting spaces, access to the Internet, and a community space that is by and for the local community.

What is the library of the future?  In my opinion, the librarians, archivists, and curators of the future must directly engage with their local community to provide institutions that respond to the actual needs of its patrons, not the perceived or idealized needs as dictated by archaic library science theory and philosophy.  The library, archive, and museum of the future should incorporate more than the traditional analogue collections generally associated with these institutions, but it should also be wary of rejecting these traditional collections for digital-only resources.  Above all, libraries, archives, and museums should embrace and respond to their communities’ needs and desires.

 

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Rebel Alliances and Evil Empires in the Academic Universe

Probably the hottest topic discussed in my Collection Management class so far this semester is the problem of publishing conglomerates and their “Big Deals,” which lock libraries or library consortia into multi-year contracts with sometimes diminishing levels of access to online journals and eBooks for increasingly larger portions of the library budget pie. In one article, we read that some libraries spend over 50% of their total budget for collection management on these Big Deals from companies such as Springer, Wiley, and (the Emperor Palpatine of the academic world at the moment) Elsevier.

A great many people have summarised the arguments against Elsevier and the issues faced by libraries far better than I can, so here’s a small run-down of articles that have caught my attention lately.

In an age where most cost-saving measures at libraries include cutting subscriptions to printed versions of journals in favor of increasing online access to articles*, maintaining online access to major titles is an increasingly important consideration for libraries. However, sometimes not all volumes of a journal are available to researchers online. This is due to a variety of reasons related to the copyright restrictions on newer or older issues; the availability of funds for digitisation of issues published before computers; or fluctuations in what the publisher thinks libraries should be paying for each article.

In January, a sensationalised articled in the Atlantic accused JSTOR (an online archive of digitised academic publications, JSTOR acts as a hub or nexus for a wide range of journals but is not, itself, a publisher) of taking articles written “for free” by university and publicly-funded researches and selling it back to them. According to the Atlantic,

The public — which has indirectly funded this research with federal and state taxes that support our higher education system — has virtually no access to this material, since neighborhood libraries cannot afford to pay those subscription costs. Newspapers and think tanks, which could help extend research into the public sphere, are denied free access to the material. Faculty members are rightly bitter that their years of work reaches an audience of a handful, while every year, 150 million attempts to read JSTOR content are denied every year.

The article has major flaws, and was duly masterfully critiqued by by Nancy Sims, the Copyright Program Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, who pointed out that academic publishing is full of problems. She writes,

But McKenna is really wrong about a bunch of specifics, and there are a lot of people out there (with a lot of money), who want to shape the narrative around the economics of academic publishing in a really different direction. This article is in a fairly high-profile and general interest publication, but it’s so factually incorrect in so many different ways that it invites ridicule to the whole position.

Sims’ article goes to the heart of the issues about journal subscription and individual article prices in academic publishing. As Sims’ points out, some for-profit publishers (such as Elsevier) make 32-42% profits from selling access to academic articles. That’s a bit ridiculous, if you ask me, and while I recognise that this is capitalism at work, my tree-hugging hippie socialist scumbag cries out for more open access to academic research, especially in important areas such as health research.

I fully support the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 which requires researchers who received funding from the National Institutes of Health to post their final, peer-reviewed papers on PubMed Central, an archival hub like JSTOR that is run by the National Library of Medicine, no later than a year after publication. The Consolidated Appropriations Act still allows publishers to get their share, in that in order to stay up to date with the most current research being published, scientists and doctors must subscribe to high-impact journals in their fields or pay for access to individual articles.

However, there is a great deal of opposition to initiatives like this from the major publishers, who view it as a threat to the profits they can make by selling access to research articles. For Elsevier in particular, their exorbitant journal and article prices were compounded by their support for the Research Works Act, which seeks to protect publishers’ profits by counteracting the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The RWA is often mentioned as related to the erstwhile SOPA and PIPA legislation that was shouted down by the combined voices of the Internet’s major players. Perhaps inspired by the Internet blackout movement and led by Timothy Gowers, a prominent mathematician at the University of Cambridge and winner of the Fields Medal, and his blog article from 21 January, over 7,700 researchers from around the world was signed an online pledge not to publish in, edit, or review journals published by Elsevier. Two great summaries of this action can be found in The Chronicle of Higher Education and on NPR’s On The Media.

In the wake of this mass outcry, Elsevier announced on Monday that it was withdrawing its support for the RWA. However, their carefully-worded announcement means that supporters of open access have only won the battle, not the way. As the humourous @FakeElsevier twitter warned:

Note that our relenting had nothing to do w/ ur puny rebellion. Now witness the firepower of this FULLY ARMED AND OPERATIONAL BATTLE STATION

Mike Taylor at Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, or SV-POW!, fully decodes Elsevier’s announcement and this article from the New York Times does a good job of presenting both sides of the debate and contextualising it in terms of current American politics. It’s a thorny subject, and the levity of @FakeElsevier only highlights the real drama that researchers, librarians, and politicians around the world are paying close attention to.

* At the PMA Library, for example, we’ve recently cancelled our print subscription to all five series of Physical Review, each single issue of which was published weekly and weighed in at about the same size as the Austin yellow pages, in favor of improving access to the online versions.

The Skills You Don’t Learn In School

Over at Hack Library School, one of the contributors recently posted about The Skills You Don’t Learn In School: interpersonal skills. As they say in the post, “librarianship is a profession that’s all about helping people.”

I posted a bit about this last fall when I was first (re)starting graduate school. I’m lucky enough to have worked in the “real” world for a couple of years before diving back into graduate school, so I have experience of working with people in a professional setting and not just from my undergraduate days working on the computer lab help desk and selling soap at Bath Junkie. When I was interviewing for my Graduate Assistant position at the Physics, Maths & Astronomy Library, one of the skills that I had that made the biggest impression was my time working as a Marketing Coordinator, where I spent most of my day every day communicating with clients and answering the same questions over and over (“what do you mean I have to put the FDIC disclaimers on everything? They’re so long!” “BECAUSE IT’S THE LAW!!”) as well as effectively running my firm’s small in-house marketing department with almost no supervision. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills? Check! Ability to manage complex workload, prioritize tasks and complete work on time with minimum supervision? Check!

However, I know of other students in my program at the UT-Austin iSchool who worry about their resumes and their chances of getting jobs because they only have retail or work study experience from their undergraduate days. To quote again from Hack Library School’s post, “Even if you don’t have prior library experience, there are transferable skills that you can use in a library setting. I spent many years slinging coffee beans, working in customer service. I had no clue that the experiences I had at the coffee shop would actually help me as a reference librarian.” They also link to a post from April 2011 that gives concrete advice on Ways to Improve Your Soft Skills.

Graduate Studies: Frivolous? Necessary? Somewhere in-between?

The eight types of graduate student

“I initially figured that we must all be there because of a pure thirst for knowledge. I’ve since realised, however, that the impulses that draw someone to academic study beyond graduation are a lot more varied than that.”

This link came across my Facebook dash a couple of days ago and of course I had to pass it on.  It generated quite a few humorous responses, as well as a few more thoughtful comments.  Most of my friends (and myself) easily identified with one of the listed choices (I definitely identify with #7), and I found it telling that I could go through the list and put names of friends and acquaintances next to each entry, but it wasn’t long before people were pointing out the areas the article missed — my friend Jane Mason of Virtuous Bread said, “There does not seem to be one for ‘I could not think of anything else to do at the time'” and my friend Virginia followed that up with “I think I’m with Jane on this one. Does crushing boredom count as sufficient motivation?”

While boredom is a valid reason for going to graduate school, it was my friend Matt of three4history who really got me thinking about what types of graduate student Patrick Tomlin neglected to mention (which has naturally snowballed somewhat as I have reflected on discussions I’ve had with other people recently).  Matt said, ” Initially, my reason was going to grad school to obtain a usable degree in my field (history)…” [emphasis mine].

Matt’s degree is, if I’m not mistaken (and feel free to correct me, Matt!), a Masters of Public History in Archives and Records Management, which is a very close relative of my own degree-in-progress in Archives and Preservation.  These degrees fall under the missing item in Patrick Tomlin’s list, 9. The Professional Degree.

What makes our degrees “professional”?  Why wasn’t “I had to have a graduate degree to get a job in my field” included in the list of types of graduate student?  It’s not like there aren’t a lot of degrees and a lot of people that fall under this heading — I’d argue that law school and medical school fall under this professional degree heading, as well as the many public service and heritage degrees.  For my part, I doubt I would have come back to graduate school to do another master’s if it hadn’t been for the fact that the MSIS/MLIS is required to get full time employment as a full librarian rather than a paraprofessional library assistant.  I’m sure there are many people out there who would sympathize with my view and who would skip graduate school if they could.

So why ignore this wide swath of graduate students?  It was suggested to me recently that I’m not a “real” graduate student because I’m not in a “traditional” academic, research-focused department.  And it is true that being in a practical, professional degree program feels very different from being in an English literature graduate program — maybe that also has something to do with the fact that I’m older and far more focused on getting the very specific, practical skills that fulfill concrete real-life job requirements than in taking any class that sounds interesting (“Ooooh, ‘Imagining the Polity in England, 1377-1422,’ that sounds neat!  I like Gower!!”).

All of this feeds into the question whether or not MSIS/MLIS degrees are practical, professional degrees and whether they should be required for librarian jobs.  In Texas, there’s been a lot of debate recently about whether or not librarians should have their masters degree, especially in cases like public school librarianship — is it really necessary for someone to have a masters degree in library science to serve as an elementary school librarian in Small Town, Texas?  There’s been a push to remove that requirement in some school districts lately, partly as a money-saving initiative — why pay someone twice as much for a masters when they can do the job just as well without it?  It also has to do with job creation and opening positions up to more people.

I can see both sides.  Of course, any MSIS/MLIS candidate is sure to say “But of course the MSIS/MLIS should be required!!” because I’m sure no one wants to admit that they’ve spent two years and thousands of dollars getting a special professional degree that is, ultimately, proved worthless — and I’m sure none of us want to be in competition with even more people for jobs.  But at the same time, I think there is a lot to be gained by opening up librarian jobs to more candidates, especially in school districts that might otherwise not be able to afford to staff their library.

This is also related to some discussions of subject librarianship that I have read recently which suggest that reference librarians for specific subjects (for example, business or medicine) should have a degree or a minor in that subject — with the implication that unless you’ve studied and somewhat specialized in that field, you can’t understand it well enough to adequately serve the needs of your patrons.  As someone who has worked in two specialist libraries and provided reference services for two subject areas very, very far outside her specialty, I have to admit the idea that I’m not good enough at providing reference services because I didn’t minor in mathematics or astronomy kind of gets my back up.  I think subject reference librarianship is composed of one part transferable research skills that can be gained in any field, and one part specialist knowledge that is learned on the job.  The suggestion that I should get another degree or minor in physics to properly serve the students at my PMA Library is a bit absurd.

Learning (With) New Technology

It is a bit of an understatement to say that technology has changed the way people study over the past decade. When I first started my university career, I had a Dell Inspiron 600M that I rarely took to class or used to take notes with. I can’t think of many people who did take notes on their computers — my classes were all filled with people toting pens and notepads around. I certainly did, and I still have all those notebooks. It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year, when I bought a MacBook that was easier to carry around than my Dell, that I made the conversion to electronic notes-taking, but even then I still used real books and printed out the journal articles I needed rather than using electronic resources on my computer, and for the most part I still took notes by hand (and typed them up later).  When I wrote my undergraduate honours dissertation, I typed notes out of my primary and secondary sources up in meticulous Word documents and then printed them out because I didn’t like having all the windows I needed open on my screen at the same time.

For my first master’s, I took my notes in class on paper (as did all of my coursemates), but tended to always take my MacBook to the Bodleian to take notes and write down quotes from the books I was studying.  I think I would have continued printing out my typed-up notes if it hadn’t been for Apple’s advent of the Spaces feature in OS X in early 2008.  For those who aren’t Mac users, Spaces allows you to create multiple desktop spaces and spread multiple windows across them.  For me, it allowed me to have each chapter of my dissertation and its attendant notes documents open in their own separate spaces.

Changing spaces: my desk in the Lower Radcliffe Camera reading room in June 2008...

With the advent of the Kindle and the iPad and tiny netbooks, things have changed noticeably and drastically since I left Oxford.  In my new courses, the majority of students seem to be taking their notes on MacBooks or netbooks or tablet PCs.  I’m sure there are a lot of advantages to using computers to take notes, and I’d love to hear some perspectives on this, but I find them distracting and I’m not alone.  Personally, I feel about it the same way I feel about people eating in cinemas: lots of unnecessary and distracting noise, but that’s probably because I am far too easily annoyed or distracted by noises.  Last week I went to lunch with a group of medievalists from around UT, and we were discussing the “wall” that a PC’s screen puts up in front of students that impede discussion.  One of the medievalists told me that she makes students who want to use their laptops sit at the back of the classroom and keeps her TA sitting behind them so that they can ask students playing games or being distracting to leave the class.  There have also been many recent articles we’ve all encountered who say that the use of computers in classrooms to take notes negatively affect a student’s ability to focus and retain knowledge.  I tend to agree — there is a lot more evidence that backs up the argument that handwriting notes makes it easier to retain classroom knowledge than typing, and for me that is certainly true.

But even I am treading a careful line between screen and paper: all my notes for my courses are meticulously handwritten in a notebook and colour-coded with pencils, but I have finally started to get real use out of my iPad for something other than Netflix and Fruit Ninja.

... and my workspace in the Perry-Castañeda Library at UT in September 2011.

I think there are a lot of advantages to using an iPad or similar tablet/eReader in class over using a laptop — aside from my tendency to Twitter in class, the iPad isn’t easy to surf idly or Facebook on like a laptop and so aside from scrolling through class readings or checking the syllabus, I tend not to use it very much and concentrate more on taking notes.  The iPad’s biggest advantage for me is that the reading materials for my classes are (blessedly) mostly articles that my professors are kindly providing through Blackboard, so I’ve started using my iPad to download them into iBooks so that I can easily access them in class or read them on the bus.  It’s a system that is really working out for me and allows me to “travel light” as I flit between campus libraries, work and class: instead of printing out reams of paper and carrying the physical articles or books around with me, I just need my iPad, notebooks, pen case and bus pass — the inside of my trusty Moop bag doesn’t change from day to day and I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.

This is a very different brave new world from when I started out at UTSA carrying my pens, binders, notebooks, textbooks and sundries around with me in a giant backpack, and even a very different brave new world from when I was at Oxford and hauling a laptop case AND a carrier bag everywhere.  But in this case I think different is better — it’s certainly meaning fewer backaches!

Happiness Is

Today I had orientation training at the Harry Ransom Center, where I will be volunteering this semester and inputting metadata into a new website database showcasing the Kraus collection of Renaissance maps. This entailed a trip into the bowels of the Ransom Center and the chance to see an early 17th century manuscript map of Virginia and a 16th century printed map of America.

I also walked past the shelves holding the manuscripts of T H White, and I’m sure those of you who know my almost fanatical devotion to The Once and Future King will not be surprised to ear about the squeak of joy I let out.

The day ended with an hour in the HRC Reading Room cozied up with HRC 143 and practicing my palaeography and transcription skills on “The Prologue to the Summoner’s Tale” — because yes, HRC 143 is one of the Ransom’s two copies of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from the mid-1400s. Oh, Anglicana script, how I have missed you.

So that, fair readers, is what, to me, happiness is. :)

Gone To Texas

This post is for and about my dad, my family and traditions, both those that are “mine” and what traditions mean to me in general.

Yesterday was the first day of classes here at the University of Texas at Austin. I worked in the morning at the PMA library and was… oddly disappointed. With a student body population of around 50,000, I expected there to be a lot more hustle and bustle, but the campus was quiet and peaceful in the early-morning heat.

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The Tower.

When I wrote recently about why I chose to come to UT, I rather half-heartedly mentioned the fact that I am now the third generation in my family to come to UT. To me, that’s more than just an idle statement and it’s something that becomes more meaningful to me as I listened to the speakers at the annual Gone To Texas (GTT) ceremony.

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Setting up for GTT.

I chose to go to Oxford because it was the best place to do what I wanted to do, and I still feel incredibly lucky that I got to live childhood!me’s dream of going to Oxford. When I went to Oxford, one of the things that constantly struck me was the thread of world history that now connected me to all the other Oxonians around the world and throughout that university’s history. I became part of a staggeringly amazing group of alumni — Wikipedia helpfully lists a number of the most famous. The traditions of the university became very dear to me and I relished wearing my sub fusc and reciting the Bodleian Library’s oath.

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The University of Oxford crest adorns the base of the Tower.

Many of the Oxford traditions (for better or for worse) stretch back centuries and it still makes me smile to think that for a little while they were part of my daily life. Even at UT, respect and admiration for the world’s oldest universities is prominently acknowledged on the sides of the UT Tower where the crests of the Universities of Bologna, Paris, Oxford, Salmanca, Cambridge and Heidelberg have been placed. We may not dress in sub fusc or swear oaths to our libraries, but clearly the dons of UT’s past wanted our university to be part of the list of elite institutions of the world.

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The Tower is lit up orange for sports victories and special occasions.

While the Oxford traditions connect me to the thread of the world’s history, the traditions at UT connect me to the thread of my own family. My father and grandfather were Longhorns, as were a number of my other relatives. My dad raised me to be a Longhorn, too, and I remember many walks along “The Drag” with him telling me about all the most interesting places on campus. One of my favourite memories is of going to see the UT college maces on display in the Student Union. Even though I may have taken some of his advice with a grain of salt (“you have to live within five blocks of campus!!”) and although I joke about his finally getting to use that “I’m a Longhorn Dad” bumper sticker, I am glad I’ve finally followed in his footsteps and given him an opportunity to give it. I’m not sure if my graduation from UT will mean as much to him as my graduation from Oxford, but it will mean as much to me.

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The Longhorn Band plays the Fight Song.

If my fellow new iSchoolers are anything to go by, it’s very uncool to be patriotic about your graduate school. Perhaps this is a valid way of looking at things, especially since you can’t go just anywhere to study libraries and archives. But at the Gone To Texas evening, I couldn’t help but feel very emotional about the fact that when I walk around campus and hear the 56 great carillon bells playing, they are being rung by the same man who rang them when my dad was a student in the 1970s. Maybe it’s because my undergraduate university was so young and had so few traditions, but I’m thrilled to bits to show my school spirit and have the eyes of Texas upon me. I feel very lucky that the program that is best for me (and best in the country) happened to be at a university I’ve wanted to go to since I was little. Again.

I am proud to be a Longhorn. I’m proud to throw up the horns and say ‘Hook ‘Em.’ I’m proud to continue a family tradition.

Do open windows keep the rain away?

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Empty shelves, like blank pages, always make me smile.

It’s been a week now since my big move to Austin.  For the most part I’m settled in: my kitchen is unpacked and ready for all those gourmet meals I’m planning to cook (we’ll see how long that urge lasts!) and my clothes are (mostly) all sorted into the closet or chest of drawers.  I haven’t quite worked up the energy to put together the IKEA chairs for my table, but my couch is set up and my TV and AppleTV are ready to stream all the Star Trek: the Original Series (my current TV obsession) in the world.

Even my cat is settling in.  At the moment she’s stretched out full length across the back of my couch, but her favourite place is the small Edwardian “lady chair” I brought home with me from England and which sits now right next to my gorgeous, huge bedroom window.  From her perch there she can look down at the street outside and watch all the people, dogs, birds and squirrels and talk trash about them.

The only things that haven’t emerged from their boxes are my books.  All the shelves are set up and waiting, but the books are still lurking in acid-free boxes.  I really wasn’t kidding when I asked about what classification system I should use. ;)  Not really, I am just kidding.  I may be a complete OCD bibliophile but I’m not THAT bad.

No.  Really.  I’m not.

I’m not sure what I’m waiting for, really.  When I came home from England I threw them all up onto my shelves with no thought and I want to avoid that as much as I can.  My medieval studies and primary texts need to be put back together and my Dumas books need to be carefully dusted and arranged.  But that all requires time and thought and for the moment I’m kind of enjoying the unbridled thrill of potential that an empty shelf gives me.  I can reorganize my books any way I want.  I can put all the Christies together with the Crichtons and then follow that with the Blaylocks or I can alphabatise them.  It’s all so exciting to think about. :)

What Makes A Medievalist?

I identify myself as a medievalist, but I don’t work as a professor of medieval literature or a medieval historian.  I’m not a student working on a degree in medieval studies.  I’m not employed in a library that allows me to work with medieval materials.  Am I really a medievalist?  What will I be in the future?  A medievalist AND a librarian?  A medievalist OR a librarian?  A medievalist THEN a librarian?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my yearly pilgrimages to the “Greete Feste” of Kalamazoo, it is that the definition of the term “medievalist” is fluid and inclusive and can range from serious to comical — as Rick Godden says, a medievalist is “n. one who medievals.” At the other end of the spectrum, the good people at Medievalists.net say that their site is for “people interested in the Middle Ages.  This includes scholars, writers, historians, readers and anyone who enjoys medieval history or culture.  For me, the broadest possible definition is the best: you’re a medievalist if you love anything about the Middle Ages.  Are you a well-known scholar and veteran of Valley III’s wine hours?  You’re a medievalist.  Are you a writer of historical fiction set in the Middle Ages?  You’re a medievalist.  Do you enjoy participating in living history/SCA/Renaissance Faires?  Congratulations!  You’re a medievalist!

But even when you start using terms like “I love medieval [history/literature/culture/food/books/whatever]” you start running into problems — as my friend Jess of Ask An Islamacist pointed out on Google+, “For me, the term always implies someone who works on Western European history from the end of the Late Roman period to the Reformation (so circa 600s to 1500s). I’m not sure why I think of Medievalists as Western-focused, maybe just because all the ones I know are… Certainly for the Late Antique and Islamic world, the further divisions into the early/high/late Middle Ages are really unhelpful, and we seem to spend a lot of time trying to stop people from using them.”

This idea that medievalists are primarily focused on European cultures is something that makes a lot of sense to me.  My focus is almost exclusively on England and France and I know only the barest bones of Swedish history after the Vikings, for example, and I know nothing of medieval Asian cultures.  I think The Tale of Genji is about 800 years old because I read part of it once, but outside of that book I can’t tell you anything about Japan in the twelfth century.  To return to Google+ and my shameless abuse of the discussion features there, I will agree with Brandon Hawk: “So, with a fairly flexible and wide-ranging definition, I view a medievalist as one who studies aspects of the temporal period between the Decline of Rome and the Reformation, with a special focus on the cultures of the West and its surrounding influences.”

In the end, I think being a “medievalist” has a lot to do with self-identification.  I self-identify as a medievalist because my passion is late fourteenth century and fifteenth century manuscripts and incunables.

In The News: Budget Cuts, Pessimism and My Broken Heart

Texas Governor Signs Budget Cutting State Funding for Library Services by 88 Percent

The new state biennial budget (FY 2012-13) in Texas, signed Tuesday by Governor Rick Perry, will reduce state funding for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by 64 percent and will cut state funding for the agency’s library programs by 88 percent.

Coming days after my first job application rejection, this article fills me with sadness and pessimism.  What am I getting myself into here?  The future looks bleak and dire for librarians and as more and more of us enter programs and graduate, what are the problems we will face in the years to come?

When reports about the cuts to library services first started, I told my friend Jess (of Ask An Islamicist) that if I thought there was any rational reasoning behind stripping away funding from libraries I might be persuaded to accept the inevitable with more grace.   My problem is that the Republicans in Texas seem to recognize that this is an easy “win” in cutting the budget. They’re devastating the education budget as a whole in Texas as well and there are far more people actively hurt and vocal about that.  There have been many protests over cuts to school day hours, parents being charged for bus services, etc.,  so libraries are easy to take from because only librarians will stick up for them and we are far outnumbered by the parents, teachers, administrators, etc. that are being affected by the broader education cuts.

At the end of the day, stories like this break my heart.  I grew up in libraries.  I read my way through the school and local libraries, tucked up in a chair with a stack of books close to hand.  I wrote my essays there.  I made friends there.  They are important to me, personally, just like it is important to me, personally, to make sure everyone has access to knowledge for personal edification and enjoyment.  What is this world we are creating for future generations where things like that aren’t valued?  Was I wrong in my recent post to believe that we’ll never see a day when books are things of the past?  Or am I just naive?