Libraries in the Time of COVID

Hi Friends!

Well, this year has certainly taken an interesting turn. COVID-19 has been changing the face of shopping, entertainment, social interaction, school, and of course libraries…Or at least it should be changing how schooling is done.

Murder hornets! Lightning storms! Hurricane Laura! Hurricane…that other guy! I feel like we’re running out of hurricane names. Oh, joy.

With schools and libraries working the front lines in terms of help and access to information, we’re trying to help people as much as possible without putting ourselves at risk. And I’ll admit, it’s been exhausting but rewarding.

This one’s for all the teachers trying to educate during this difficult time.

I haven’t written as much for Brash Librarian as we’ve gotten further into the pandemic for that simple reason – I’m just tired, and busy. We’re all tired, and busy with something. The constant mask wearing, hand washing, socially distancing, sanitizing everything…it feels like a post-apocalyptic movie that never stops. If you’ve been laid off, you’ve probably been busy filing for unemployment, rent assistance, and applying for any and every job just to keep a stable cash flow. To those people: I see you and care for you, and we’ll do everything we can to help you at the library.

Prior to all this, I used to check social media several times a day: in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, after dinner, before bed…the usual for most people. Now, I check once or twice a day. The newest COVID fatality numbers, the latest shooting, breaking news about another peaceful protest gone violent, it’s enough to drain the life out of anyone. I’ve mourned for family and friends who lost their lives the past few months, but I know plenty of people who have lost much more than me. For them, we must keep pushing.

What are libraries doing to help?

Right now, we’re seeing unemployment skyrocket into the tens of millions of people – people who need to pay their rent, feed their kids, go to school, and are now unable to. If they can’t pay for their internet anymore, guess where they’re going to fill out job applications, unemployment benefits, and print out their resumes or other paperwork? The library. After a disaster like a giant wildfire, super double hurricane, earthquake, etc, people will often need to fill out, email, or print stuff. Guess where that’s also done?

What’s made this pandemic more difficult is how the responses vary from state to state. Some states stuck with “better safe than sorry”, and some states are aggressively still pushing for “grandma can die for the economy”, unfortunately.  What does this mean for libraries? Well, it means a whole dang lot. While I can’t go into detail for every single library and state, we’ll use my library as a baseline.

Based in Houston, we were fairly lucky to have some local officials really push to keep people safe.

In our library, all non-essential employees got sent home twice:
-Once from March 24th – May 11th
-Again from June 29 – August 10th
Doing the math, that’s 13 weeks. That’s literally a quarter of the year. Aside from a few Zoom meetings and a few hours a week for essential duties (payroll, emptying the book drops, etc), we were completely shut down.  Only electronic checkouts were possible during the stay at home orders. Some people think “free vacation!”, and that’s true for about three days…before it becomes “I’ve gained 15 lbs, watched everything Netflix has to offer, and forgot what sunlight feels like.”

It starts to take a toll.

During the closure, our library director developed a plan to safely re-open the library, based on state guidelines, consulting fellow library directors, and visiting four libraries that opened before us. The plan had five phases, reviewed and approved by our City Health Department, the Office of Emergency Management, and the Mayor’s office, went as follows:

Phase One
We return to work (still closed to the public) and offer phone reference and virtual programming.

Phase Two
We added curbside pickup. (May 26th)

Phase Three
We received PPE (face shields, plexiglass windows in children, teen and adult areas) and  opened back up to the public with reduced hours and restrictions. (June 14th)
All branches opened back up to the public. (August 17th)

Phase Four
We add hours and days to the schedule. (This is where we’re currently at.)

Phase Five
We return to pre-COVID-19 procedures, which probably won’t happen until a vaccine is available.

Of course, these phases aren’t in stone and can change at any time, adapting to new circumstances and rules as needed. Other things that have changed:
-Masks were encouraged at first, but are now mandatory.
-Every other public computer is shut down for social distancing. Computers in use are allowed limited time (1 hour sessions). Liners are put over the mouse and keyboard, and changed between each patron.
-No money handling.
-No book sales or large events.
-No study rooms or meeting rooms.
-No book donations accepted.
-Returned items are quarantined for four days.
-No food or drinks except water.
-No book sales.
-No furniture besides the chairs for computers.
-No interactive programming, per the state of Texas.
-All expired library cards were renewed from October 1, 2019, to December 31, 2020.
-All fines and fees have been waived until December 31st.

Is it all bad?

While this might all sound bad and scary, there were a few silver linings to these clouds. During the second stay at home order, our Central Library began renovations on July 27th while staff were still at home. Our mission: to get new carpet, and to re-arrange most of our collection in the adult area. Our carpet was old, worn, stained, and our shelf layout was inefficient. The library director and select managers (including myself) worked short split shifts to open for the contractors and then close at night. The carpet is fresh and modern, the shelves run parallel to our ceiling lights for brighter aisles, and genres are now grouped into “neighborhoods” with space for tables and chairs (but no tables and chairs during COVID).

Additionally, this “new normal” has given us time and effort to explore new opportunities we’ve never tried. All of our programming has moved online – puppet shows and story times to teach and educate, crafting videos for kids and adults using every household items – everything we did before, just now on camera. Since I love being out in the public and there’s currently no public to be out in, I’ve really enjoyed working with our team to make fun, creative videos that entertain the community and keep their spirits up. For example, we shot a Blair Witch-style parody during October to promote our horror collection.

Imagine my surprise to roll over the next morning and learn that our video was 80% more popular than all of our recent posts. It tells me there’s a need for short, funny videos. And we plan to MEET that need! Another popular segment on our programming is “Celebrity Story Time”, where I do story time doing impressions of different celebrities and characters. Every 60 seconds, I switch to a new character until the whole book is finished. They’ve been highly popular, and it also gives me a chance to stretch my voice acting legs.

Another great idea that’s been working well are drive-in movie events – more on that in my next post.

One more silver lining, I am pleased to announce that I have officially graduated from my MBA program! WOOT WOOT!

It’s been a long, arduous journey. I laughed. I cried. I gained 10 lbs trying to survive Finance 101 and 102. But here I am, alive and well. Mostly well. And I hope you are, too!

Let me hear from you guys – how are you handling the pandemic? What has your library done that you’ve liked or disliked? What else would you like to share? Let me know in comments below!

 

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

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Brash Jobs: The Cover Letter

Hey Friends!

Following up my most recent post on resume writing, I figured the next logical step would be the cover letter. Many people underestimate a really good cover letter; if your resume isn’t enough to keep you in the “Maybe” pile, your cover letter might save you from the “No” pile. If you’ve been looking to work on your resume, check out my guide and template here.

Before we continue: These are my own professional findings I have gleaned from my personal experiences, you are free to use as little or as much as you’d like. I am not responsible for your final cover letter. If you’d like advice or have questions, send me an email. Now let’s get to it!

The Greeting

There’s many greetings one can go with. I’ll share my favorites and not-so-favorites.

To Whom It May Concern
Too impersonal for me. It ranges somewhere between a legal document and a kidnapper’s note.

Feels like that.

Dear Sir or Madam
I feel like this is very dated. Most of the women I’ve known in hiring capacities get offended or confused at “Madam” and prefer “Ma’am” or “Miss”. This also has the problem of only addressing one Sir or Madam, whereas you might be addressing a whole team of Sirs or Madams.

Dear [Hiring Manager, Hiring Team, etc]
I’ve always felt this to be a little too personal. For some people, this might feel natural. For me, it feels a little “too much, too fast”. It’s your call, you do you.

Salutations
Unless you’re applying for Lord Wellington’s library of monocle research or have a mustache you can twirl, I can’t recommend this one in good faith.

Greetings
This one’s not half bad. It feels a little wooden to me, like in a robot or Mr. Spock kind of way. I would only use this if there were some kind of common ground. For example, If I were applying to the University of Florida, I might say “Greetings, Fellow Gators”.

Ladies and Gentlemen
This is my favorite. It’s timeless, speaks to multiple people, and I think it’s a little more personal/inviting. I’ve had a few colleagues (usually millennial or Gen-Z)  tell me they prefer gender-neutral or non-binary greetings. That’s fine, I understand and respect their views. However, the majority of people I’ve interviewed with (usually Gen-X, Baby Boomer or Silent Generation) didn’t grow up with non-binary culture and aren’t familiar with it. Your experience might be different, that’s totally okay. You use what you’re most comfortable with.

The Main Event

So little things, so little space. Here are the rules I try to stick to.

Know Your Goal

No matter what the job is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You have limited space, so you’ll have to make it count. The cover letter I would create for a Circulation Manager and the one I would create for a Technical Services Manager wouldn’t be the same. Why would I use precious space talking about my customer service skills for a position that never works with the public? Choose what applies to each job you’re applying for. I know it’s tough to do so, it’s downright sucky having to customize each one. If you want that job, however, a cookie-cutter cover letter may not cut it.

Hook Them In

Every loves a good story. Perhaps you’re originally from XYZ and you’ve come back home. Maybe you’ve been long-distance with your partner and this job will finally bring you both together. Whatever the reason, getting somebody emotionally connected to you makes it harder for them to put you in the “No” pile. Are they going to be the one that keeps you from your beloved? Nobody wants to be that person. It doesn’t need to be anything dramatic, but take a sentence or two to acquaint them with your story.

However, I need to stress: DO NOT LIE. DO NOT LIE. Don’t make up something, because that will come back to bite you. On a scale of “I don’t trust that guy” to “please empty your office by 5:00”, it’s not worth the risk of lying. If you don’t have any special reason compelling you to that job, then take a moment to mention something you have in common. If you love fishing and they’re their slogan is “The fishing capital of Iowa”, then mention that.

Numbers are important

Do you want to say, “I work for the Smallville Public Library as a Reference Librarian”, or do you want to say, “I currently serve as a Reference Librarian for the Smallville Public Library system, located in Central Iowa with a population of 160,000 and a budget of $4,166,557”? Those kind of specifics tell whoever is reading your cover letter several things:
-The population size you’re serving
-The budget you’re used to working with
-That you see the bigger picture in regards to scale
-That you took the time to look this up and include it
-You’ve most likely already looking up their numbers as well

If you’re moving to a smaller system, you’ve just implied you can handle them. If you’re moving to a larger system, you’ve just implied you’re aware that they are larger and that you’re prepared to handle them.

Managerial/Supervisory Experience

Have you managed people before? Be sure to mention how many, and how long you’ve been leading them.

Special Successes

Are you on any local committees? Participate in any neighborhood groups? Do you represent the library in any capacity anywhere? Did you get a grant? Let them know!

Special Projects

Were you part of re-writing the circulation policies? Did you assist with transitioning to RFID? Have you performed an inventory before? Did you assist in the creation of the library social media? Any milestone or achievement you can fit in is good.

Other Skills or Education

Do you have any special skills that might come in handy? If you’re applying for a front desk kind of job and you have 4 years of retail/customer service experience, now’s the time to tell them. If you have multiple degrees, be sure to bring that up. If I were to apply to a job tomorrow, would I mention my Bachelors in Theater and that I’m months away from my MBA if I were? You bet!

Website/Other

If you have a professional Facebook page or website and you’d like to share it, feel free. More than likely, they’ll never look at it. However, if they’re only interviewing 10 candidates and you’re number 11, it might be the one thing that tips the scales and gets you on number 10. You simply don’t know, but you have to take every opportunity possible. With as much work as I’ve put into Brash Librarian the past decade, it would be a crime not to mention it.

The Farewell

Ah, the finish line. How to complete your masterpiece?

Good Day
Going back to Dear Sir or Madam, this feels a little dated. Yes, I’ve seen people use this phrase.

My mental space when I read “Dear Sir or Madam” and “Good Day”.

Sincerely
I like it. It’s neat, to the point, and generally accepted.

Regards
My dad used to use this on letters when he was an attorney. There’s a certain elegance in its brevity, I hover between this and Sincerely.

Respectfully
Why do I have to be respectful? Did I disrespect them somehow? This sounds like I should be apologizing for something.

Thank you
I like it for an email, I don’t like it for a cover letter.

 

That’s all for this episode! Be safe out there and May the Fourth be with you!

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

 

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Brash Jobs: The Resume

Hi, Friends!

Today, my post comes out of necessity. I was taking my time to roll out my Brash Jobs series, but that was before COVID-19 became a world-wide crisis. With friends and fellow library peeps in the field being off without pay or worse, I realized these people will need the tools of the trade much faster than anticipated. Without further ado, let’s start started. Today, I go over the much-debated art of the resume.

When you’re needed, you’re needed.

My general disclaimer before we begin: These are tools and techniques that have worked for me and others. They are a push-off point to get you started, and you are welcome to alter them as needed.

The Format

This is often the hardest part of putting the actual resume together. Microsoft Word and Google have thousands of resume templates and designs with cute photos, swoopy letters and things you probably don’t want. Today, for the first time ever, I am releasing my personal template. I’ve shared this with friends, family and colleagues before, but never to the public. Click here to get the template, download it and start polishing.

This is a customized version of a template I acquired from a business school that might rhyme with Shmarvard. Now let’s explain the tips/rationale behind it and how to make it work for you.

Keep it to one page.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked 2 jobs or 200, it needs to stick to one page. Having been on both sides of the hiring table, I promise it matters. Those looking to hire will be going through dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants. During this stage, management will look for anything to make that list smaller; the easiest way is removing anyone with more than one page. Don’t give them the chance to toss you into the trash bin!  I recently discussed resumes with one of my friends who is hiring for her company, a rather large and famous one in Orlando. To paraphrase her, “if you’re not organized enough to stay on one page, you’re not organized enough to work here”.

Skype ID

Skype says “I’m moderately tech-savvy and can do video chat interviews” but also implies that you’re comfortable with relocating for a position if selected.

LinkedIn

I have mixed thoughts about LinkedIn. Some people swear by it and use the paid version  to get business contacts and grow their global influence. Some people use it simply because it’s a shiny object and feel like they “should” have one. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle as a good networking tool that help you research organizations and connect with people in your field. Either way, you should have one. You don’t have to be Richard Branson posting throughout the day, but you should at least have an account. If I look up a candidate and see they’re not on LinkedIn, I see that as a red flag. Put it on your resume tells them “you don’t have to check if I have one, it’s right here!”

USE YOUR ACTIVE VERBS

By this, I mean make your sentences active. Make yourself the subject of the sentence, not something else. For example

Active: The boy kicked the ball.
Passive: The ball was kicked by the boy.

See how much weaker that passive sentence was? Passive verbs waste space and lack action – two things you can’t afford to do on a resume. Passive verbs include:

  • is
  • am
  • are
  • was
  • were
  • be
  • been
  • being

You want managers to read about your actions, not actions you were a part of. Do you want to tell them “I was part of the committee that helped revise our circulation policy”, or do you want to tell them “I assisted in re-writing our circulation policies and procedures”? The active verbs give more information with less words and make you an active A-squad instead of a sideline B-squad in your resume.

Don’t be afraid to highlight one or two really impressive achievements

If you’ve done something impressive, put it in bold to catch their eye. When I was the Technical Services Manager at my previous library, all of our packaging (spine label, barcode, security tag, mylar book jackets) was done in-house. Depending on how many books were coming in, we might have a backlog ranging from hours or even a day before it was shelf-ready. When I signed us up for pre-packaging through our vendors, books came in ready to go and could be on the shelf within minutes. When I crunched the numbers, this turned out to be 28 times faster. Did I highlight that I streamlined our process to be 2800% faster? Yup, I sure did.

Special Skills

I cannot overstate how important this can be. In the grand scheme of resumes and job hunting, it gets boring. HR people and library managers alike tend to zone out when looking at hundreds of applicants. If you’re evenly matched with another candidate, a special skill just may be the feather that tips the scales. You’d be amazed how many interviews I’ve gotten simply because “you’re a SCUBA diver and magician?”

“Additional Information Upon Request”

This one is up to you. I’ve met some people who pretentiously say, “I can’t believe some people still put ‘additional information’ at the bottom of their resume”; I’ve also met some people who enjoy the principal of it. In short, put it if you want and have room, leave it if you don’t want it or don’t have room.

Other Thoughts

  • No crazy fonts: It makes you look crazy, nobody wants to hire the Comic Sans/Joker person.
  • No crazy format: If it jumps everywhere and looks like a kidnapper letter from the movies, it’ll go in the trash before they have a stroke trying to read it.
  • No photo or swoopy letters: You’ll think “it looks nice”, they’ll think “that’s a waste of space”.
  • Sizing and proportion: If you don’t have enough to fit the page, increase the font. If it doesn’t all fit, decrease the font. Make it fit and fill the page!
  • Don’t overlap job duties: If you had two jobs that included XYZ, put it XYZ in only one of them so you have enough room to talk about ABC.

Comments? Questions? Send me a message and I’ll be happy to help.

Next week

I plan to post about cover letters, I plan to post once a week during this quarantine to help those who might need it now. Stay safe and don’t give up out there. We’re all rooting for you!

 

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

 

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The Brash Librarian Returns

Hi Friends.

It’s been awhile. It’s felt like only a week or two ago since I last posted, though it’s been much longer than that. It makes me wonder if time travel if possible (or if it may have just happened).

It could be.

Many things have happened, some that were under wraps and I couldn’t really talk about until recently. Roll a few other events of this scrambled sushi, and you’ve got a party. So, let’s get started.

I got a new job.

I’m still at the same place, I just have a new position! I’m no longer the Circulation Manager, but the Programming Manager for the Library. In a nutshell, I’m responsible for planning out (and assisting or running) adult programming for the whole library system. This also includes our annual events like our comic book convention and carnival, along with outreach and going to events like school career days, Chamber of Commerce events, official City committees, and taking a much more visible role in the community. Basically, I am now Tony Stark for the library.

Please please, it’s not about me. I’m here for the people.

This has been coming for a long time, but I wasn’t able to share it with anyone until it was officially announced. Thankfully, the person replacing me was the person I was replacing. Just a good ‘ole switcharoo! This made the transition SO much easier, because we both had a thousand questions for each other.

I feel like this role really caters to the entertainer/networker in me. In years past, I’ve volunteered (or volun-told, as they say) for all manner of Library representation: going on the radio to promote events, doing TV interviews to showcase new services or programs, attending functions on the Library’s behalf, assisting in the writing/creation of material for our social media, career days – you name it, I’ve done it. With this new position, however, I’m no longer there by accident or because I was available…I now do it because IT’S MY LEGIT JOB.

Need somebody to represent us

We had our Book Sale and Comic-Con.

About 5 years ago when I first came to this library, we decided to try hosting our own Comic-Con where people could dress up, share their fandoms, and join in on all sorts of programs while winning fabulous prizes. It was a smashing success, and we’ve been doing it ever since. This time however, I was the man with the clipboard running the show. It’s been awhile since I’ve run anything of this magnitude, but I feel I got back into the saddle without too many struggles. And of course, I still got to dress up as Park and Recreation’s favorite FBI agent, Burt Macklin.

 

School is back in session.

School WAS back in session, and is over again. I’ve been working on this article little by little. So much so, I started it back in summer and have finally slowed down enough to post. I feel like I had to post something before people started sending out search parties.

I did really well in this class – all that’s left is accounting and my capstone. By the time summer finishes, I should be 100% done with my MBA.

We lost a friend.

It is with great sorrow that during all the craziness, we lost a fellow coworker. I’ve had coworkers and direct reports who have lost friends and family, but I’ve never lost a coworker specifically. This one holds a special place in my heart, as she was the one who trained me to take over the Circulation department I’ve been running the last 3 years. We had our disagreements like any other coworker, but we still respected each other. May you rest in peace, Danuta.

Holidays in general. Because.

While I’ve officially been in the new job since about August/September, we snowball into this finals/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years cycle that just never finishes. Work/life balance hasn’t been kind, but I can finally take a breath.

Resolutions?

I ain’t picky this year. I would say “write more posts”, but that seems to translate into “write long posts that never get finished”. I wouldn’t say I’m going to shift from quality to quantity, but I’m working to accept that not every post needs to be a 12-page masterpiece. I think I’m going to work more on my Brash Jobs series and create short posts that are more meaningful and answer more fan mail. Other than that…

  • Finish my MBA program.
  • Lose a few pounds.
  • Get through my book/movie/video game backlog? Nah, too lofty. I feel like The Witcher is on the verge making that even worse.
  • Do more consulting. I’ve been consulted on a few topics by various libraries including bridging the divide between millennial and baby boomer staff, developing community libraries, marketing, networking, and in-house performing.
  • Once I’m done with my school, I’m considering taking acting up more seriously. Still thinking about it, but we’ll see.

Time to get back into it, then! Happy New Years, y’all.

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

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Prime Day Madness Has Returned In Doubles

Hi Friends!

Once again, it’s that time of year. The wind is just right, something echoes in the air from afar and you know it’s coming…Prime Day. And because the Amazon app only reminds you 10 gazillion times that it’s coming.

What’s Prime Day?

In case you’ve lived under a digital rock the past few years, Prime Day is the anniversary of Amazon’s founding. Back in 2015, I was super excited about its deals and specials – and then let down because it kinda sucked. That’s okay though, they learned many lessons the first time through and started getting better. As they introduced the 36 hours or Prime day and the sweepstakes prizes got better, 2018 was the best day yet. Will 2019 be the best one yet?

Good news is this one is 48 hours long. It’s how I can write about Prime Day at 7pm and still be on time to the party. Some tips I’ve learned in general and about this year:

  • Electronics are SUPER in, primarily video game stuff and computer parts.
  • LIGHTNING DEALS! They wrack you with anxiety, but that’s okay. If you’re not sure about one, just add it to your cart so you have 15 minutes to think it over. Even if you’re leaning 80/20 towards not buying it, just add it anyway. I’ve already had a $60 printer that was $19 snubbed right from under me while I was thinking about it.
  • Hopefully, there will be deals for you if you missed something the first time around. It might be exactly what you’re looking for, but a printer is a printer. And we all know printers are evil hellspawn, no matter what the brand. No joke, I honestly believe there is a business lab in hell where all the printers are missing installation discs, the wrong or outdated printer drivers, out of ink, bad toner, in need of a new fuser kit, jamming, streaking the pages…good gravy, just listing these out raised the thermostat 15 degrees.

More or less.

Before you go totally Prime Day crazy, remember there are many companies trying to compete with their own special days. Target, Wal-Mart, Wayfair, lots of people are trying to ride the wave and earn some of your hard-earned cash with their sometimes-better-than-Amazon offers.

What am I looking for this year? Well, the gamer in me is always looking for a good deal on electronics, though I’m looking at home goods, clothes, and storage solutions. My special someone is looking for deals on furniture, bedding, and general kitchen/bathroom/adulting kinda stuff. We should be able to find plenty of that!

…Still gonna find some gadgets for myself, though.

You know that’s right.

What items are you YOU looking to score? Tell us about it on on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for a chance to be featured! Stay cool out there this summer!

 

Justin Brasher, Brash Shopper

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brash Jobs: Interview Do’s and Don’ts

Hi Friends!

It’s that time of year when summer reading is in full swing. Kids are everywhere, programs are non-stop, and everyone wishes it wasn’t 104 degrees outside.

Bring winter with you, I’m melting.

 

It’s also that time of year when people are applying for those summer jobs. In our case, we’ve seen many library jobs open up around these parts. I’ve had many people ask for basic tips about jobs and interviews lately. While I refer them to our job section and to online resources at work, I can use my own little box here to talk about my experiences hiring people and some of the things I’ve encountered over the years.

DO: Ask what times you’d be scheduled for.

DON’T: Immediately tell us all the times you’re not available.

Sure, everyone wants to know when they’ll be expected to work. However, if you come in with a list of demands – I can’t work Wednesday or Thursday nights, Monday or Tuesday mornings, Saturday afternoons or every other Friday – it’ll leave us thinking A) you’re not flexible and B) wonder what else you’ll demand later. To quote a friend, “you’re here for the job – the job ain’t here for you.”

This shouldn’t be me trying to figure out your work schedule.

DO: Dress professionally, no matter what the position.

DON’T: Wear a cartoon or band t-shirt with cargo pants.

You might want to wear that if you’re auditioning for a rock band, but not for any kind of position in the library. A suit and tie isn’t necessary, but you can’t come from your band audition, either. While we’re on this topic…

DO: Try to dress for the position you’re interested in.

DON’T: Wear something that you’d never wear on the job.

I remember hiring for a children’s librarian position many years ago, and one candidate came in with a plaid shirt, jean miniskirt and 6-inch spike heels. Again, please change after your rock band audition, because miniskirts and heels don’t scream “toddler story time” or “lots of walking/shelving”.

If you show up for a Teen Librarian job as a Transformer, you’re totally hired.

DO: Bring a copy of your resume.

DON’T: Assume we know everything about you.

I’ve interviewed people in the past who have brought their own resumes to the interview to pass around, and I really like that for several reasons:

  • It refreshes my memory of who you are
  • It’s a quick reference guide and allows me to ask questions
  • It also gives me an idea of your skill with Microsoft word. Even if it’s a total formatting disaster, you still brought something in and it shows me you’re trying.

On the flip side of this, I’ve interviewed people who walk in believing we know their life story. When we ask you to tell us about yourself, answering with “well, you have my application, you know all about me. Do you have any questions for me?”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there were 400 other applicants and you’re one of the lucky 5 or so that we picked. We’re flattered you think we’ve been watching you for months and building a CIA dossier on you, but you’re a person who filled out a job application on the internet and we really just want to hire somebody.

DO: Tell us your strengths.

DON’T: Contradict your strengths.

If you tell us that you’re a people person who really believes in listening to others but then interrupt us every chance you get, it kind of makes us wonder if we’re all operating on the same scales. I once had a person years ago tell me they were “very into eye contact” and making the patron feel comfortable, yet they never looked me in the eyes.

“I’m a people person!” – Person who isn’t

DO: Tell us how you think libraries make a difference or how they’ve impacted your life.

DON’T: Tell us how much you love to read books and would love to have a job where you get to read. You’re not here to read, you’re here to work.

Why do you want to work here? If the answer is “I’ve always wanted to read more and be in a library”, then we pretty much tune out and wait for the interview to be done. If anything, I feel like library work has made me read less. Back in the olden days when I was a bartender, I drank less because drinking reminded me of work. I still read, but it sometimes feels like I’m taking work home with me.

 

What experiences have YOU had with interviews? Tell us about it on on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for a chance to be featured! Stay cool out there this summer!

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

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TLA Madness!

Hi Friends!

This past week/month has been very busy but very productive! If you’ve been following BL lately, you’ll have heard that my library has a new director. It’s been about a month in, and spoilers: he’s pretty awesome. Not to be confused with spoilers for the new Avengers movie. I’ve been avoiding spoilers like the PLAGUE. I’m watching it on Sunday, don’t nobody ruin it for me!

Surely, you don’t take it that seriously, Justin!

I have been off Facebook for NINE days. I’m in social media withdrawal, but it’s worth not knowing.

Game of Thrones, ruin away. Avengers, leave me be.

 

I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Texas Library Association (TLA) conference. It usually jumps around the state each year; this year, it was in Austin! WHOO, fun times!

I attended several sessions, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Embrace your Inner Superhero: Self Compassion and Self Care
  • Managing Harassment in the Library Environment
  • Podcasting for N00bs
  • Blind Spots and Brain Tricks
  • Library Support Staff
  • Fight the Good Fight Against Fake News in a Post-Truth Society
  • Succeeding in Crucial Conversations
  • Get to Yes: Branding Public Library Customer Service

I could keep going, but I’ll stop there. The self care session was probably one of my favorites. So often, we and our staff don’t take time to appreciate ourselves or one another. Whether it’s a kind word, or even something tangible like a Thank You card, we all need to stop and take a moment. So, yes – I will take an hour long shower! Yes, I will drink my ice-cold boujee raspberry water in the shower!

Just kidding, it was water with some Mio in it. (But it felt boujee in the shower, what can I say?)

This year, TLA hosted what they called “After Hours”. Normally, most conferences end around 5 or 6 pm. Not in Austin, baby! After Hours started at 7 and ran to 11, featuring “Book Buzzed” with free drinks and free books, “Author Lip Sync Battle” where authors lip synced like their life depended on it, and much more.

I got to see some old friends, both librarians and vendors. My friend Yaika over at Glasses Attached was in attendance, as were some of my favorite peeps from Envisionware and make some new ones, both librarians and vendors alike. I’m looking at you, Danna!

As always, I’m happy to answer any questions non-library people have about TLA. There’s so much to talk about, it’s sometimes hard to figure out where to start and what people want to know. Feel free to ask below or reach me on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for the newest stuff. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

 

 

 

 

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“The Public”: An Evening with Emilio Estevez

Hi Friends!

Last week while looking at Oscar nominees, I learned that the Houston Public Library had extended us five tickets to an exclusive premiere of The Public. The film doesn’t actually hit theaters until April, so why did we get invited? We took a look at the trailer for the film:

It’s suddenly more clear why we were invited to the premiere.

Written, directed, starring and produced by Emilio Estevez? “That’s a modern day Madea”, as my coworker said. The theater was packed with librarians from all over the area – city libraries, county libraries, everywhere.

Synopsis

Starring Emilio Estevez, Christian Slater, Taylor Schilling, Alec Baldwin, Gabrielle Union, Jena Malone and Jeffrey Wright, the film follows Cincinnati Public Library’s librarians and the patrons they care for. During the coldest part of the year, several homeless people freeze to death because the local shelters are at capacity or an hour walk in zero degree weather. Middle manager Stuart Goodson (Estevez) is just trying to get by and survive his workplace: an overzealous staff member, an apathetic director, homeless patrons fighting in the bathroom, people trying to sue the Library, and of course…silly questions like “Do you have a life-sized globe?”. Regardless of what comes his way, Stuart always tries to do the right thing to help people in need.

On a particularly cold night, the local homeless community comes over and asks to stay the night. When the library director (Wright) denies this request, the homeless patrons respond by barricading themselves in part of the library which snowballs into a stand-off with the police. At the helm of the police are negotiator Bill Ramstead (Baldwin) and the “just trying to do my job but totally the bad guy” district attorney, Josh Davis (Slater), who just wants to tear gas the room and arrest everyone. In the mix are Stuart’s neighbor (Schilling), a sleazy reporter who keeps trying to make things look like a hostage situation for ratings (Union), and Stuart’s underling (Malone) who keeps complaining about how she has to get home to her mom, but never leaves when she gets the chance.

While I won’t give away the ending, I can say that does a great job of addressing homelessness, mental health, and where librarians stand in the battle to help everyone. To read more about the film itself, have a look here on IMBD.

To make the night even better, we had a Q&A session with the man himself, Emilio Estevez to discuss his film. While we were all the way in the back, I was still able to film some of his discussion!

(If you have trouble seeing it here, trying watching it directly from my Facebook Page)

Also in attendance was Ryan Dowd, author of The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness. Previous to this screening, I had made his interactive website required reading for my staff because of how important understanding homelessness and mental health is in a library setting (and in general).

Thoughts

I really liked how accurately Estevez portrayed not only the public, but the librarians as well. The film opens Estevez’s character (Stuart) being put in the hot seat because a patron sued the library; the patron was kicked out for smelling bad enough to cause others to complain, and he felt he was being discriminated against. Despite doing everything correctly, documenting the complaints and handling it professionally, Stuart was still in trouble. Many librarians face these kinds of challenges every day where someone is put in trouble for enacting library policies and following the rules. Every day, we walk a fine line and have to make judgment calls; Estevez makes a great reference to the Connecticut Four as an example of protecting patrons. It was easy to see myself in his shoes: middle management, trying to help people, making the most of outlandish situations. Every time somebody tells me “it must be so nice to just read all day”, I think back to the patron who pulled a knife on me over $8 in fines. Stuart and I even wear lanyards!

Justin Public

Don’t pretend, it took you a second to figure out who’s who.

However, Stuart’s judgment calls seem to become exceedingly erratic as the film moves forward. I won’t go into details or spoilers, but I can’t say for certain that I would have made the same choices as Stuart. At some moments, I feel like the movie doesn’t go far enough and kind of painted itself into a corner at the end with no solid resolution. However, Estevez states in his Q&A that the film was only meant to start a conversation about homelessness and mental health, not present the answer. To that end, I will say the ending was fantastic.

Will it start a discussion and really get Americans to review public libraries, mental illness, veterans, joblessness and homelessness? I certainly hope so. We’ll find out April 5th when it hits theaters.

Also, I hereby ask that The Joker On The Sofa review this movie. If you don’t read his stuff, you should be!

Got any thoughts or feelings on the film? Seen the film already? Let’s talk about it! Hit me up on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and we’ll talk. Have a great week, everyone!

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

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Happy New Year!

Hey Friends!

It’s a Happy New Year kinda week! I hope everyone is enjoying this past limbo of a week or two. You know what I mean – that pocket universe/alternate reality/purgatory of a week where most of us lived off candy waited until January 1st to start our New Years resolutions. I know I’m not alone in this thinking, right?

The internet knows what’s up.

Why did I wait until 10 days into the new year? Let’s just say my limbo week lasted a little longer than I expected. I’ve had several staff off due to various reasons, I worked most of the Saturdays in December, classes haven’t started back up for me…and I basically forgot what the sun looked like for a moment. But it’s all good!

Did I plan on having some resolutions this year? Well, I think I’m still doing well from last year’s resolutions. Fitness is still on the agenda, though my injuries from my car accident have made it more difficult. Still working on the eating right and exercising parts when I can.  Gonna keep trying to get that superhero body!

thor workout

Thor looks how I feel after a workout.

Last year, I worked to improve my entire self. People have told me that I’m too humble, that I don’t take enough credit, that I push myself too hard, that I shouldn’t settle – you get the idea. There was a time in undergrad when I was way more arrogant, cocky, etc and people suggested that I might have over-corrected and swung too far back in the opposite direction. I’m inclined to agree with them on certain things, but I worked to put a little more “Brash” back into Brash Librarian this 2018.

If turning your desk into a New Years disco space ship isn’t brash, then I’m not sure what is.

I’d also like to finish my MBA, do more in the library community, maybe even join a round table or present at TLA this year! Basically, I’d like to be Captain Picard. If you’ve never seen Star Trek, Patrick Stewart’s iconic character was unflappable but emotional, strong but gentle, accepting of all lifeforms but ready to call some aliens out on their nonsense, and ready to defend freedom at the cost of his own life. Basically, the most rad boss of all time with many great pearls of wisdom.

No lie, I’ve told this to my staff before when they’ve made a mistake.

As my mom always says to me when I talk about all the people I’m helping and the stress work and school can take on me: “That’s great, but have you been good to Justin?”

Yeah, Mom. I’ve been okay to me! I tried to be a little better to myself this year and will make this a year to be comfortable with myself. Even if I don’t get to 6 pack abs status, I’ll eat another spoonful of peanut butter and laugh about it. Many friends and family members have adopted the mantra “Do no harm, but take no crap” – I can’t say I’ll adopt it exactly, but it’s hard to not think of it as Picard-ish.

I’ll continue to be good to me in 2019. Eat the thing you’ve never eaten before! Go to the place you’ve never been! Read the book you’ve been meaning to read! Use that moisturizer! Eat that cookie dough without self judgment! Use that mint face wash you rarely use! Launch nuclear missiles over the planet and exterminate humanity!

Wait, wait…that last one was The Terminator. Sorry, got carried away!

That’s all for this week, I hope everyone is having an okay start to the New Year. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram if you want to live your best 2019!

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

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Happy Holidays From Brash Librarian

Hey Friends!

I hope everyone had a good Turkey Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, post-Cyber Monday, post-post-Cyber Monday, and all the other things related to the holidays. Sorry retailers, but you can’t expect us to take you seriously if you’re telling me “the Cyber Mondays are still here!” on Thursday or Friday. (I’m looking at you, Groupon.)

It’s been awhile since my last post, but the sands have been shifting. This past month, our director announced his retirement, and there has been a fair amount of uncertainty: what will happen next? Who will be the next director? What will happen on next week’s episode???

ALL THE SUSPENSE.

This week, I thought it would be nice to slow down, smell the gravy & leftovers, and take a moment to appreciate the great things in life. So, what am I thankful for this holiday?

A Great Job

As much as my job might be filled with angry patrons who want to rip my face off or a DVD machine that requires the job skills of Tony Stark, I still work with talented people who make it enjoyable to work there. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my evening shift people had a small Thanksgiving dinner together. While I was not slated for the evening shift that night, they were kind enough to invite me to join them.

 

Shopping Deals

This year, I didn’t do much shopping but I enjoyed what I got. A stylish polo shirt, a nice blue fleece sweater, a three-pack of kitchen knives, a new electric razor…By the end of the evening, I had to ask myself the hard questions: Am I really 90 years old, or am I just that frugal a shopper?

“You’re a frugal shopper, Justin! You don’t get out of bed anything less than 40% off!”

You’re right, talking wallet! I’m not boring, I just have highly effective spending habits and know when/where the best deals are.

Public service announcement: Don’t buy TVs during Black Friday, wait until the first 20 days of January! It’s when stores start clearing out their stuff to make room for the newest TVs right in time for Superbowl Sunday.

School

Another semester, another step closer to getting my MBA. I’m not thrilled to be in school, but I’m thrilled about the doors it can open up and thankful for that. I’ll be honest, I was rather surprised by how laser-focused I was this semester. To give you an idea, I could have skipped the final exam and still get a B. Obviously, I didn’t and got a 95! Well, 95.549% but who’s counting?

supersonic punch

Loved Ones

Family, friends, and those we hold dear are the most important part of the year. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am – or more importantly, who I am – for better or worse. My family, Dylan, Ashley, Nigel, Caitlin, Suzie, Yaika, and about 800 other people who make my life better.

I loves you all.

Readers Like YOU!

Yes, you! The fact that you’re here reading my stuff means I didn’t write it in vain! I’ll admit, it’s gotten tough there a few times. I’ve even considered once or twice closing my doors because I feel like I don’t provide enough content. I look at someone like my best friend over at Joker on The Sofa who’s cranking out stuff constantly and feel like I can’t keep up. Sure, he’s got a little more free time than me, but STILL – even if we had the same amount of free time, he’d still out-write me any day of the week. Nevertheless, he still tells me how much he enjoys my work and I continue on! BTW, go check out his site – he binges on shows movies so you don’t have to!

Coming up in the future: Either thinking of leaning more into the Brash Jobs or reviews for library products/services. Let me your thoughts about which one I should do in the future!

 

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

 

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