Brash Jobs: Better Library Leaders

Hey Friends!

WOW, I can’t remember the last time I was this busy. In the last week or two, I have:

  • Traveled to several libraries to look at RFID technology.
  • Rolled out new computer/print management software in the library, and all the bugs that includes.
  • Had 5 quizzes, one exam, a research paper, and preparing for another group project. (And that’s all just one class. Welcome to summer MBA classes.)
  • Performed a magic show for the Texas Children’s Hospital Back-to-School event at the local mall.

That little girl was SO happy! This was right before I blew her skeptical brother’s mind.

Despite being that busy, I still found time to sit down and speak with Dr. Sarah Clark over at Better Library Leaders, a podcast, blog, and Facebook community designed to explore the elements of great libraries and great library leaders. This week, Sarah and I discussed getting into libraries (particularly actors-turned-librarians), social media, our shared struggle of living as library celebrities, and more.

Listen to our conversation on her podcast here!


better library leaders

Awesome! This is totally going on my instagram and twitter, BTW.

Sarah has a PhD in Higher Education Leadership as well as an MLIS, and has worked in just about every job from front desk paraprofessional to associate library director. She provides helpful tips, insightful interviews, and other resources that will help you make your career (and your library) the best they can be. Public library? Academic? School? Some special offshoot? Not even in libraries yet? It’s cool, she’s still got stuff you could learn.

This all started when Sarah and I stumbled upon each other in the Facebook library community some time ago, and have tried to promote one another whenever possible. While being an actor is a cutthroat business, being library superstars like ourselves is (usually) not. Recently, Sarah asked me if I’d like to do a piece with her and I was honored. I’ve never been on a podcast before! I’ve done some stuff with my friends on film critic and comic book podcasts, but never anything library-related before.

Give it a listen here and tell me what you think. I want to hear from you: what’s most important to you? Let me know and I’ll follow up on what’s important to you! You can also let me know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram what you’d like to see!

Alright, back to this computer/MBA circus I’m running, I hope you all enjoy listening to the podcast as much as we enjoyed making it!

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

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ALA: Hold Tight, People.

Heeeey Friends!

Whew, this last week or so has been wicked-mad-cool-sick-nasty-awesome! So in my last few posts, I’ve mentioned that I would be attending the American Library Association (ALA) conference this year in Orlando. If you’ve been following my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the past week, then you know that the last week or three has been krazy – that’s right, krazy with a K.


“Wow, Justin, it’s taken you awhile to get posts out.”

Yes it has, astute person! However, lets cover what’s been going on the last 3 weeks or so:

  • I went to ALA (more on that later)
  • I’ve been touring libraries throughout Houston looking at RFID technology (more on that later)
  • My library is switching over to a new computer management software – most people know ANY change in software is usually a nightmare (especially for patrons)
  • My summer MBA classes started
  • Building renovations and inventory are imminent
  • I did a podcast interview with Sarah Clark over at Better Library Leaders (more on that next time)
  • It’s summer time in general, AKA the busiest time of the year
han solo falcon

You said it, Han.

Yeah, whew! So before I have to get back into the fray, let’s talk about ALA.

“I’m not familiar with ALA, Justin. Tell me more!”

Well, person who just stumbled onto my site, the ALA conference is pretty much the biggest library conference of the year and is held in different locations all over the US; other places include San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and other big places that hold such a huge and awesome conference (like Orlando). While I have been to Florida and Texas library conferences (FLA and TLA, respectively), I have never been to an ALA conference.

Let’s start with I knew going in:

  • Conferences are awesome.
  • You get to make new friends. Yay, meeting new people, making new connections, getting to see new perspectives.
  • Free travel and hotel. Getting paid to drive somewhere and live away from home for a few days is a fun little adventure. Driving to TLA or FLA is always exciting!
  • Lots of learning. Sessions, round tables, presentations, demonstrations, workshops, and all that jazz.
  • Conferences usually have free food. You usually have be quick on your feet before it runs out.
  • Conferences sometimes have free drinks. Sure, I’ll take a mimosa!
  • Conferences have good swag. Stress balls, bracelets, flash drives, pens, and everything else you can find in the Oriental Trading Company catalog. (No disrespect! I love you, OTC.)
  • People try to sell stuff to you left and right. Some are more laid back, others can be a little more pushy, and some care about you as a person.
  • You get paid to do it. Living the dream, people!

So I should expect about the same at ALA, right?

actually no

ALA pretty much takes all the things I like about a conference, and turned them up to 11. Things I learned about ALA:

  • ALA conferences are AMAZING. No wonder everyone is always fighting to go!
  • You make ALL the new friends. I was lucky enough to meet tons of new library peeps, vendors and the like.
  • Travel and housing is super serious. Driving to into Houston for TLA or a 2 hour drive from Gainesville to Orlando for FLA is one thing, but being flown from Texas to Florida and given a hotel room for a week? That’s something else.
  • These guys don’t kid around when it comes to setting up. The exhibit hall at ALA was hustling and bustling getting ready for the opening. I don’t mean vendors with teeny tiny booths, I mean frickin’ forklifts bringing stuff in.

A week ago, I was looking at #ALA booths getting set up! #ALA2016 #occc #orlando #behindthescenes

A video posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on

All the gadgets when finally set up are crazy cool! One example is PV Supa’s RFID tagging and book delivery systems.

I had a great time checking out PV SUPA's #RFID tagging and check in stations at #ALA2016 this year! #thefuture #ALA

A video posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on

  • ALA has tons of free food. Pinwheels, cupcakes, egg rolls, ribs, cake. Not just cake, I’m talking white cake that has a vein of cream cheese frosting running through it.

Unloading more #ALA pics. Did I mention all the #food? #nomnom #ALA2016

A photo posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on

And that was just the first vendor, literally 10 steps inside the hall.

  • ALA has all the drinks. Champagne? Sure, okay. Beer? Oh, cool. Mimosas? Yum. Margaritas? Wow, ya’ll don’t play. When the drinks are right and the music’s playing, you just want to sing and be happy!

I couldn't resist #Elsa and her #frozen self. #LetItGo #sing #ALA #ALA2016 #brashlibrarian

A video posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on

  • ALA has some twisted swag. Power banks, signed books, bags, holograms, flashlights, binoculars, headphones, ear buds, jewelry…

Bracelets and flash drives? More like bracelets that ARE flash drives!


Oni Press speaks to my childhood.

When it comes to best ensemble of swag, Ingram won without a doubt. Durable bags? Journals? Power banks? Bottled water? That’s a package deal that’s hard to beat.

#Ingram had the best #swag set. Power bank, bags and journals! #ALA #ALA2016

A photo posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on

“Bottled water? That’s not really swag I would want.”

Florida? In June? The water was a godsend, don’t even argue.

Library webcomic series Unshelved had a booth as well! You may recall my recent post regarding Copyright and Fair Use where I spoke to Angela and learned best practices for sharing their work. On Sunday morning, I got to meet Angela in person and buy one of their many awesome shirts. That star on my shirt? It’s actually Banned Book titles in you look closely!

freedom fighter

Want cool stuff like this? Click here to get it.

  • Top vendors don’t just care about selling you. Jamie Cutlip and the rest of the team over at Ingram make for the best example. Some of you have heard me talk about Jamie before – she’s brilliant, wily, professional, honest, and cares about you as a person. I’ve seen her visit smaller libraries and see how people are doing, even when she knew that their library had no money to buy anything. She appreciates the internal and external relationships between library systems, companies and people, which usually means she’s very connected on the grapevine. (Need juicy info? Want to know about libraries that are hiring? She’ll know who’s hiring before they advertise.) That kind of appreciation is why libraries buy from her when they finally have money.
  • Good vendors know how to make things happen. Jamie and her people invited me to dinner one of the nights, and they always make sure everyone mingles and has a great time. I can’t remember how many times I heard Jamie ask people, “Have you met Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian?” and convincing the restaurant that I’m a super star. (I don’t know about super star, but I’m getting there.) I met plenty of new friends/contacts/future associates. (I’m looking at you, Brian, Suvi…Jim… Rachel…Janice…) To quote Michael Gambon in the film Layer Cake, “The art of good business is being a good middleman.” Thanks for being the best in business, Jamie.
  • Non-library people are totally blown away. The great thing about coming to ALA this year is that it was hosted in Florida! For those who don’t know, I lived in Florida for nearly half my life and most of my family/friends live there. Among the people I got to show the beauty of ALA include one of my best friends Caitlin and my nephew, Trevor. Like most non-library people, they’ve never been to a library conference and expected a bunch of book nerds just standing around. BOO. 

To say the least, I think they were impressed!

1st day of #ALA #ALA2016, I think they liked it. #work #conference #library

A video posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on

Give Trevor a hand, everyone – he’s going into the Marines!

  • I’m still getting paid to be here, but also flown and housed. Driving to into Houston for TLA or a 2 hour drive from Gainesville to Orlando for FLA is one thing, but being flown from Texas to Florida and given a hotel room for a week? That’s something else.

My #Hilton Hotel room for #ALA #ALA2016 thanks, #work! #charmedlibrarylife #library

A photo posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on

My work put me up in a place with granite counter tops, balcony, and executive hotel services with discount tickets. Tickets to take my nephew to Universal? $140 per person after taxes. Tickets after some sweet talking to the Hilton desk people? $15 per person. As in FIFTEEN. 


$30 > $280 in this case!

“Wait, so you did other things besides library stuff?”

Absolutely! You have to remember, ALA caters to all libraries – academic, public, school, private, etc – which means not everything will be for you. OH, a workshop on cataloging trends and changes in academic libraries? That would be awesome…if I worked in cataloging, or academic libraries for that matter. Some days are more heavy on the academic stuff, and some are more geared towards public library things. Sunday wasn’t a super-heavy public library day, so I decided to take my nephew that day.

I also had the pleasure of seeing my friend Meredith Myers, though most of you know her as The Standup Librarian if you’ve followed my adventures! We were lucky enough to find a place that combined my love of video games and a good beer into one place: Player 1 Video Game Bar. From 80s arcade games to 90s shooter games to new stuff like Playstation 4 and Xbox One, it had all the games you could ever ask for (if that’s your kind of thing.)

@standuplibrarian getting her drank on. #workinghard #wedeservethis #ALA #ALA2016 #standuplibrarian #brashlibrarian

A video posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on


With all the fun said and done, I finally said goodbye to family and flew back home with all my extra prizes from ALA. Yes, ALL the prizes.

I got so much #swag from #ALA #ALA2016, I brought home an extra bag. #charmedlibrarylife #brashlibrarian

A photo posted by Justin Brasher, BrashLibrarian (@brashlibrarian) on


Feeling differently about library conventions now? Ready to fight your coworkers for a spot at next year’s ALA? I want to hear your opinions! Don’t forget to stop by Better Library Leaders, Ingram and Standup Librarian’s places on your way out!

Next time on BL: Could be RFID, could be MBA stuff, we’ll see.

Have a great week everyone,

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian



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Batten Down The Hatches. It’s Summer Time!

Hey Friends!

Whew! This last week has been a blur. If you’re in public libraries, then you know that we’ve just entered the roughest, toughest, busiest time of the year. That’s right, the annual Summer Reading Program (SRP). For the last few months, we’ve started our planning and decorating, knowing the huge influx of kids we were about to have.


To keep things easier and more coherent, most state libraries agree on a certain theme nationally. If you’ve been following me for a while, then you might have read my post about last year’s SRP.

Contrary to popular belief, the American Library Association (ALA) DOES NOT decide the themes, but often works with the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) or the Illinois Reading Enrichment and Development (iREAD) program.

(You can read about it all here if you really want.)

Previous themes have been “Dig into Reading” for those like dinosaurs and/or buried treasure, “Spark A Reaction” to get kids into science, and lots of other generic themes. Last year’s theme was “Escape The Ordinary”, which I think was the greatest one ever. From what I’ve seen in the library field so far, a superhero theme is really, really tough to beat. This year’s theme? “Exercise Your Mind“, a sports theme.

summer reading_n

I’m sorry, but I’m not loving this theme. Maybe it’s just my perspective, but I think this theme was poorly thought out. As a kid who wasn’t exactly athletic, I turned to things like chess, trivia, books and other intellectual pursuits because I stuck with what I excelled at. Come to think it, most book/library loving people that I know got into books because sports wasn’t their interest and/or forte as kids. Isn’t this how we got the “nerd vs jock” dichotomy? Isn’t there was a documentary about this?


Okay, maybe “documentary” was a stretch.

Sure, there are plenty of people out there who have a passion and talent for both sports and books, but I’ve seen that most kids fall to into one or the other. For some kids, this theme might be the opportunity to maybe try new sports and expand their horizons; for the more insecure kids who dive into books to escape sports, they may feel pressured like this theme is being thrust upon them in a “jocks invading the library” kind of way.

I was a bit of both – I turned to books because I wasn’t very good at sports, but books helped me learn about other sports that I’d come to like. I eventually found out that I’m really good at weightlifting (but mostly because I hated running at the time). Maybe I got into it because I started reading about it? Books + weights = informed weightlifter? I’d guess so, because that’s how I joined the high school weight lifting team.


NOW we’re talking!

Reading about mud and obstacle runs like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race inspired me to start running, more because of the challenge than anything else. As it turns out, I’m pretty good at it!

However, I think I’m good at it because I’m not competing against other people but against myself to be better than where I was before. Maybe the moral of the story is to read about sports until you find the right one for you. Yeah, I can roll with that!

“Justin, focus. Summer reading?”

Thanks, narrative voice in my head.

To kick off this year’s SRP, I was the main attraction with my super-rockin-awesome-wicked-mad-cool magic show. So cool, I had a patron try to pay me $20 because I have “dedication, attention, and great diction so those of us with hearing aids could understand ever word”…all that stage acting and practice projecting has yet again paid off. I told him I could not take any money, so he donated it to the library instead.

magic show_o

I’m building quite a following!

This isn’t the first time this has happened, but I still appreciate that they express how much they enjoy library programs. As one coworker told me, “you’ll never be fired because you make us too much money”. Sounds good to me, can we buy more magic tricks?

Ah, magic – now THERE’S a super power if I’ve ever heard of one. Speaking of superheroes…

batman summer


I miss you, superhero theme from last year! Come baaaaack!

How do you feel about this year’s SRP? Love it? Hate it? Ambiguously ambivalent?

What are you guys doing for your SRP? Got cool programs, displays or other stuff going on? Let me know on below or talk to me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share your opinions and ideas!

Til next time,

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian




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Brash Jobs: Copyright and Permission

Hey Friends!

Wow, I’ve been waiting for MONTHS to write this post. So many other posts and events were getting in the way,

This week, I wanted to talk about using copyrighted materials with your library and obtaining permission. Recently, my library got its own Facebook page and it’s been a smashing success; however, we wanted to put more entertaining posts from outside the library. Sure, promoting our programs and services is great, but the occasional comic strip or funny article can help engage people.

Many social media gurus out there will tell you that nobody wants to hear about your stuff all the time. If every post looks like HEY WE HAVE THIS PROGRAM GOING ON! IT’S GREAT! YOU SHOULD COME TO IT!then you’ll tune out at some point and all future posts fall on deaf ears. (or deaf eyes, I guess.) As a result, systems have been established by different social media firms. One example is the 3-3-1 method: for every three posts you have promoting stuff, you should have three outside your organization (an article, blog post, etc) and one humorous post just to engage people. There’s plenty of other systems and styles out there like the 5-3-2 method, it really depends on your organization and how often you plan on posting content.

Anyway, what we really wanted to post for our funny segments were comic strips from the very popular librarian comic series, Unshelved. If you’re a librarian, there’s a 99% chance you’ve heard of Unshelved at some point. If you haven’t, check them out right away!


These people understand us.

However, we were very hesitant to post any of the comics. In this sue-happy world of copyright infringement, using someone’s  material is a veritable minefield , and we weren’t ready to mess with that…so I started to do some digging.

As it turns out, many libraries, writers, authors, schools and nonprofit organizations have been the same boat before – we all want to post funny and interesting stuff, but not at the price of getting sued/fined/beaten with a wet rope. Thankfully, there are ways to keep this from happening known as Fair Use!

So what exactly is “Fair Use”?

Fair Use is defined as:

“a legal doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. It is one type of limitation and exception to the exclusive rights copyright law grants to the author of a creative work. Examples of fair use in United States copyright law include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.”

In other words, it allows legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work – within reason, of course.

Could posting of the material be considered a “fair use” under the Copyright Act?

Use is likely fair if:

  • Character of the use is nonprofit, educational, or personal
  • Nature of the material used is factual published material
  • Only a small amount of the material will be posted
  • Impact on the market for the material is very small

Another important factor many sources agree on is whether or not the publisher gives people the option to share it with others, the logic being, “if they give a Share button that lets me post it on social media, they’re implying that it’s okay for me to share it”. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Share option

Unshelved has a share option as well.

Use is likely not fair if:

  • Character of the use is commercial (promoting a product or service, charging to access the copyrighted material, advertisements)
  • Nature of the material used is imaginative and/or unpublished
  • The majority of the material will be posted (for example, an entire book or chapter instead of a quoted sentence)
  • Use detrimentally impacts the market for the original
  • Use was “fair” at one time, but has been repeatedly reused or more widely distributed, or the copyright owner has requested that the use be limited or discontinued. For example, use of a portion of a journal article or a photo may have been Fair Use one time, but used annually for the same event or purpose, loses its Fair Use character.

For more on Fair Use, I’d recommend you check out:


Now reading through all of this seems promising, but I wanted to take no chances. What if I missed some loophole and wound up on the wrong side of a lawsuit? No way that was happening to me, so I opted for the smartest thing I could think of: Why not just…ask them?

Thus started my email to the writers of Unshelved:

“My name is Justin, and I’m a public librarian. We just absolutely love Unshelved and share it via email all the time! We’ve recently started a Facebook page for our library and we’d like to post Unshelved comics for our patrons to also enjoy. However, we wanted to get your permission before we ever posted anything – we’ve heard too many copyright “author sues library” horror stories. Please let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to peruse our Facebook and library home pages in the meantime.”

…And now we wait.

Good morning, Justin!  I enjoyed visiting your Facebook page. It looks like you have a wonderful library with some amazing services. (And I adore the Minion tree.) I’m glad you love Unshelved and want to spread the word to your patrons. While we cannot grant you permission to directly post any of our content, we do have a Facebook page where our strips and blog entries are automatically posted. Please feel free to like, share, and/or send those with abandon! (Sharing will let them show up in your timeline, but still give us proper attribution.)

Thanks for thinking of us!

Homer channels my inner happy dance.

Once I knew it was safe to post, I forwarded the good news to those staff who post things on our Facebook page. After that, I told her a little more about who I am, what I do, invited Angela to peruse my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and asked if it was okay to include her in my article. I’m pretty sure they put some kind of happy juice in the water over there…

Hello again, Justin! Thanks for sucking all productivity out of my afternoon by sending links to your accounts. Your Twitter feed alone send me tumbling down the internet rabbit hole for an embarrassing amount of time…Um, where did my day go?

To get back to the point, yes, you are welcome to write about this experience for your article. I don’t know if it’s useful, but here is our full reuse policy so you can see how we approach encouraging people to share our work without giving up the recognition that the creative guys behind this deserve.
Let me know if you have other questions, and thanks for the entertaining content!

Like I said, I’ve been itching to do this article for months but have had a backlog of other topics along with stuff that was very time-sensitive…I can do a RIP David Bowie post a few days after his death, but I can’t do it 3 months after. (Same for you, Alan Rickman.)

That being said, let me start my 8-part apology to Angela.
so sorry

On a scale of “sorry I’m not sorry” to “I’m very sorry”, I’m a “David Tennant in the rain” kind of sorry.

I really hope this week’s post helps out other libraries who want to add more humor to their content but have been afraid to do so in the past. Don’t forget to support Unshelved on Patreon! Cartoon writers and Angela need to eat, too.

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend, and stay safe out there! The rain and flooding here in Texas has been ridiculous, I’m about ready to start taking a canoe to work.

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian


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Brash Librarian Turns 30!

Hey Friends!

I hope everyone is doing well, I know I sure am.

About 10 days ago, I was debating what to do for my birthday last Saturday on May 21st. Being the frugal person that I usually am, I thought a quiet dinner or night in was what I needed. A friend of mine asked me what I was doing for my 30th birthday, and she found it very underwhelming. In retrospect, I totally agree.

While discussing what I should really do, she asked a question I hadn’t really considered: Why not just fly back to Florida for the weekend? (For those unacquainted with me, I moved from Florida to Texas almost two years ago.) I’d get to see friends, family, and ring in my birthday with familiar faces. You only turn 30 once, and I didn’t want to look back at 60 and regret not going.


When I told my family about my plan, they decided to skip presents and just chip in for the airline tickets. My brother was really wanting to get me a Fitbit, but I won’t care about a Fitbit 30 years from now. Away I went on Thursday morning! I started off visiting my brash sidekick Katy and just getting some quality time with my family; since becoming a manager in February, I’ve needed a break like this. No worries, no problems, no patrons dying in my parking lot, just lots of laying around and food – primarily amaretto and chocolate peanut buttercup ice cream, because my family knows me SO well. I’ve been getting back into running and watching what I eat, but I ate with reckless abandon. Steak, chocolate brownies, ice cream, I put more food in me than physically possible.

Han amazed

Friday night was spent at my favorite little bar, The Midnight. I’ve been going there for years now, I used to help host trivia nights and have rung a few birthdays in there before…what better spot to celebrate?

After that was a series of great events. For the sake of time, I’ve condensed it all for you!

  • People started buying me drinks and wishing me happy birthday.
  • My best friend Dylan showed up, despite having a killer sinus infection.
  • Other good friends started showing up, including some I wasn’t expecting!
  • I made new friends and learned about spiders, Japanese art and other great topics.
  • I expounded upon Tom Kalinski, the man who saved Barbie dolls from extinction, created He-Man, and led Sega into battle against Nintendo during the 80’s and 90’s. If video game history is your jam, you will definitely enjoy the book Console Wars.
  • The clock struck 12 and I became 30! Terror, excitement, panic and joy all at once!


  • My old roomie Caitlin and friends called me from Tampa to wish me happy birthday!
  • People bought me more drinks.
  • I discussed the importance of fine forgiveness in a library environment. I don’t know which was stranger – discussing the ethics of waiving fines in a bar, or that somebody was actually listening.
  • My other friend Stephanie took me out to my first breakfast in my 30s. Hellooooo, double bacon cheese steak burger.
  • Group photos!

Epic mustache game, right there.

It was sad to leave! I got back to Houston safe and sound, but still missing my friends and family. Hopefully, 31 will be a bit more organized!

Next week on Brash Librarian: I think I’m going to talk a little bit about copyright and what it means in the library world. In the meantime you can wish me a belated birthday (or ask about copyright) here or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and wish me there!


Justin Brash, Brash Librarian

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Brash Jobs: Skills And Confidence (Part 3)

Hey Friends!

Last week, I delved into my ongoing series of confidence and skills to help you climb the ladder. Confidence comes from two different places: skills, and experience. Remember, each affects the other:

  • Building skills provides experience to help you practice (Preparation for Problem A)
  • Experiences help show you what other skills you need or should improve on (Learning from Problem A’s mistakes so you’re ready for Problem B)

Don’t forget confidence is a two-way street!

The goal in learning or improving skills is to help you gain confidence and succeed. Whether you’re starting out and looking for a job or you have a job and just want to keep climbing, skills will help pave the confidence road to success.

Every skill you have is worth something. No matter how strange or silly it might seem.

Even if it doesn’t seem useful now or doesn’t even feel like a skill yet, work on it and will be useful one day – I believe in your skill. Take me and acting, for example.

Before I was in libraries, most of you who have been reading Brash Librarian for a while know my background is in theater, attempting the starving actor thing. While it may seem like acting isn’t entirely useful on a day-to-day basis, it’s one of the greatest skills I’ve ever honed because it helps in nearly every situation I face. When a patron is screaming at you or a boss is telling you that you screwed up, keeping your emotions in check is vital. You can’t get upset, hurt, or angry when dealing with that patron or boss – as the saying goes, “don’t let them see you sweat”. You remain calm, level-headed, and courteous until the situation is dealt with and you can remove yourself.

internal screaming

You don’t get to scream or vent when you’re on stage if something bad happens; you say your lines, do your assigned actions, and get off the stage when the scene is over…THAT’S when you scream or vent, and the same goes for work. You play your part of the calm and reasonable staff member, go into the back office, staff lounge or parking lot and give yourself a few minutes to decompress. Lose your marbles in front of an audience? A boss? A patron? You can’t do that. If you value your career, IT’S NOT EVEN AN OPTION.

Remember, this is just one skill. Did you know I was also:

  • A magician?
  • Customer Service Rep?
  • Financial seminar assistant?
  • Poker tournament director?
  • A mascot?
  • A hair model?
hair model

That last one is really true.

It took a very long time to learn many of these skills, but it was worth it. I never thought I’d find a job that let me use all of my skills, but I was willing to be patient for the right job.

Patience is a skill.

When I first started as the new guy on campus in the theatre department, I met some resistance. I auditioned for every play and musical happening that semester, and got nothing. Of course I wouldn’t get a part! Why cast the potentially-unreliable new guy when you can cast the 2nd or 3rd year guy who’s already proven themselves talented and reliable?

I swallowed my pride and turned my attention towards stage building and prop making. As it turns out, I’m really good with power tools and building props. FYI, learning how to build/fix things with tools is life-changing. I fix things around my library ALL THE TIME. One day, the director announces that he needs people – turns out the show is a collection of 5 short plays, and a miscalculation meant that they needed some more people…one of which was a ghost. No lines, nothing special, just stand in the back and look spooky. But it was a foot in the door!

Looking for my way in, I said, “I’ll do it.”

I started showing up on time, taking my silent role more seriously than some of the main actors did with theirs, and it started to attract attention. It wasn’t long before the next role came along in another short play: Death. Only about 4 lines and 45 seconds of stage time…

“I’ll do it.”



This play was about a down-and-out poet needing inspiration and money. His inspiration? The library. The library was only open two hours a week, and it meant everything to him; to help break his spirit, Death comes and takes his library card. Then he comes back a second time to offer a bag of cash for his soul.

Looking back on it all, this is SO apropos. What a strange life we all have!

With two roles in my pocket, I started building a reputation (and while working on the stage and props, no less). As some kids dropped out and other roles popped up, it turns out another role was needed: a bartender in a play taking place in the wild west.

Once again, “I’ll do it.”



I was now playing a supporting character with lots of lines and plenty of stage time. More responsibility, more costumes, and a totally sweet mustache. Seriously, look at this dapper curl I’ve got going on in the back:


Still my all-time favorite facial prop.

So now I’m a ghost with no lines, Death with a few lines, and a bartender with plenty of lines; the only place I could really go from there would be to star in one of those plays with most of the lines. If you’ve known me or read about me for any period of time, you know I’m both tenacious and just downright lucky, so that’s pretty much what happened next. A short play about two lawyers, one deeply in love with a mermaid and the other a drunk who thinks his mermaid-loving friend is crazy. One drunken lawyer, coming right up.

Moon 1

Our promo photo shoot. My character was drunk and saying, “look at that duck”.

I wouldn’t call it my finest acting of all time, but it was my first real role in college and I was determined to make an impression. Apparently I did, since our show made front page of the entertainment section.


Full color and everything. BOOM, THE THIRD.

I did it all because I patiently waited for the opportunity and took it, which led to bigger and better things. I learned waaay more than I expected about schedules, teamwork, quick change costumes, facial appliances, lighting, acting, and other tiny nitpicky stuff.

Let go of the things that hold your skills back. 

At some point, we are all blocked or distracted by our own fears or experiences that haunt us. I know I’m definitely guilty of holding onto past things that mess with my head.

Like many other kids, I was a super nerd growing up. I’ve been wearing glasses since 3rd grade, along with the bad acne, braces and social awkwardness. You wanna talk socially awkward? I was home schooled for middle school and spent my first two years of high school at an all-boys Catholic high school. Four years of little to no social interactions with girls = the king of awkward. There were so many social situations where I felt like I should know what to do, but really had no idea.

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The social equivalent.

However, I learned in my early 20’s the best way to overcome problems like these are to face them head-on. The best way to handle the past is to gain confidence and learn from those mistakes, and that confidence comes from building those skills and helps you exorcise some of those past ghosts. When you charge into situations before others, you learn more. That’s why when possible, I like to…

Be the first.

I was always taught, “learn from other people’s mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself”, but I learned there’s also something special about being the first to make that mistake. When you’re the first to make a mistake, there’s a bit more discovery to it. I’d rather be the first guy to make a mistake than the 10th guy who makes the same mistake. There’s usually a bit more leniency given to the first person than the 10th person.

There’s also something that builds confidence by being the first. Be bold! Be daring! Be the first person on the dance floor. Be the first on stage for karaoke. Be the first to volunteer for a particular assignment. Be the first to learn a new skill.

Make new friends who have higher skill levels.

If you want to be better at something in particular, having more skilled people around you will upgrade your current skills. All of my best friends are incredibly skilled people. Whether it’s science, math, fencing, Chinese checkers, Poker, history, trivia, it doesn’t matter; you don’t get better at any sport or game by playing with newcomers – you get better by playing more skilled opponents. However, don’t let their  higher skill get to your head. Remember…

Your skills are yours alone. Don’t compare yourself to others!

I love the diversity of skills found in the world. My friend Cindy Leigh has aquarium cleaning skills, my friend Justin is the best fisherman I’ve ever seen, and my friend Brad can distinguish 80 different models of helicopters by hearing them fly.

Being the youngest in my family with my bigger and stronger football-star brother, I shied away physical things in favor of things like chess team instead. (At least chess kids didn’t have to be up at 5am to run.) I didn’t really give thought to sports until I heard that the varsity weight lifting team was holding tryouts. When I started pushing myself and getting stronger, I learned that I really didn’t care how much better my brother was at something, but how much better I was getting compared to old me.

There’s a Muppets movie that came out a few years ago featuring a new muppet named Walter, a young boy who feels like he has no talents at all and just can’t find anything that he’s skilled at. To save the Muppets during their live TV benefit show, Walter finally realizes that even his favorite silly things to do can be a skill.

Speaking of whistling and music, that brings me to my next point…

Get yourself some fighting and montage music.

Rocky has Survivor, Darth Vader has the Imperial March, Batman has his na-na-na-na…What is yours? Me, I’m a big fan of Treat Her Like a Lady by the Cornelius Brothers. Something about the beat just puts a pep in my step, what can I say?


Get a skill that’s easy to learn.

Some new skills are easy to learn. Some take a few seconds, some a few days. Some can take a lifetime to master, but only a few minutes to learn. Some that I like?

  • Learn how to change a tire
  • Whistling
  • An easy magic trick
  • Learn to make a drink you really like (and then perfect it)
  • Learn how to sew
  • How to tie a tie
  • How to solve a Rubik’s cube (it’s really just finding the right patterns)

I’ll bet you can learn something new by the time you finish this post.

Find a skill or hobby you can measure.

It’s very satisfying to have a hobby or skill you can improve and actually measure. There’s plenty of ways to measure improvement:

  • Weights? You lifted more!
  • Running? You got faster!
  • Cooking? It tastes better! (A palette can measure improvement)
  • Beer and wine? More hobby than skill, but trying new drinks widens your palette
  • Typing? You can type more accurately and/or faster!
  • Time management? You did those things you needed to do more quickly!
  • Working out? Yeah, you look better! (I personally measure this by how my pants fit.)
  • Some complicated thing? It’s easier to do now!
  • Drawing? Yay, my stick figure has a shadow now!
  • Holding your breath? You can hold it for longer! Hey, it might save your life one day.

There’s a great TED talk about a guy who practiced his memory skills 15 minutes a day for a year. He entered the world memory tournament and took 1st place. Yes, that’s a thing!


Pick a dangerous or mysterious skill.

At some point in our lives, we all want to have a super secret identity. You know, some super cool skills that make you look and feel dangerous and mysterious.

gus shawn untold

Psych has some pretty good lessons, too.

Best case scenario, these will make you feel and look like a secret agent. Worse case scenario, they might save your life (metaphorically and/or literally.) What kind of skills would I call dangerous?

  • Learning how to pick a lock
  • How to break into a car (just in case you lock your keys in your car, of course)
  • Learn the basics of knife throwing
  • How to rock climb and rappel
  • How to start an emergency fire
  • How to shoot a gun
  • How to pick pockets
  • How to fence
  • How to ballroom dance
  • How to disappear in a crowd
  • Learning a martial art. (Super Kung-Fu ninja skills!)
  • How to become a master of disguise
  • How to spot fake watches, purses, sunglasses, etc.

That last one is actually really handy – I can spot a fake Louis Vuitton bag or Rolex from 100 yards.

Youtube, eHow, Lifehacker and other resources are your friends.

Thanks to the internet, there’s a how-to guide or video for almost every single skill ever conceived. Magic tricks, drink making, knife throwing, sewing, it’s all out there somewhere!

What skills do you have? What skills do you hope to learn? What skills do you want to improve? I want to know! You can comment here or connect with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and share your skills. I want to learn ALL the skills, just like Batman. (Because Batman knows everything.)

Have a happy and safe rest of the weekend,

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian











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Brash Jobs, Skills, Experience, Confidence (Part 2)

Hey Friends!

Last week, I talked a little about the importance of skills and building confidence to get ahead. Today, I’m delving a little deeper into what really is confidence? Believe it or not, but the Brash Librarian was once scared, insecure, and not-so-brash. With some guidance, trial and error, and just dumb luck, I picked up a few good lessons that I hope to impart and make your journey a little easier.

Let’s jump into a few notes about confidence. Sure, you’ve probably heard a few similar things before, but isn’t nice to know you’re on the right track?

Learn to discern those who are cocky and those who are confident.


See that guy? Cocky.

The sooner you can learn to sniff this out of people, the better. When I was younger, I was often called cocky by some, and confident by others. Like a stubborn young adult, I often argued about them about which one I really was. One day, a friend (now an old mentor) taught me the easiest way to tell the difference in others – and ourselves.

“A cocky attitudes comes from outside factors. The clothes you wear, the kind of car you drive, your looks, how much money you have – all things that can affect you, but are NOT you…the things that make you cocky can be taken away.

Confidence comes from obtaining skills, experiences, and learning from life lessons. Life lessons and skills can never be taken from you, they dwell inside you always and give you strength, no matter what has been taken from you.

Cockiness comes from the outside – confidence comes from within.”


Competence builds confidence.

Once you find those confident and competent around you, stick with them. Learn from them and start obtaining their skills. Do you get better at chess by playing with novices, or by playing with experts?

“Eh, I don’t know. I don’t really want them knowing what I can’t do or don’t know”.

I too have felt this way before! Firstly, that’s a cocky response so pitch that out the window. Secondly, you’re not expected know everything when you first arrive. As I’ve said in a previous post, you don’t know even where the bathroom is on day one – they’re not expecting perfection. Since they’re not expecting perfection, it’s time to start learning from them!

Learn their style of Kung Fu.

I don’t actually mean real Kung Fu, but learning how they do things. Even if you know how to do something, make sure you know how they want it done. When I take a new job and they ask:

“Are you familiar with [program/equipment/procedure]?”

Regardless of whether I know it or not, I’ll always answer the same way:

“Let’s pretend I have no idea, I want to start with a clean slate and make sure I do it the way your library does it.” 

If I knew it, then I just have to worry about the details. If it’s something I don’t know, then it’s a slightly longer learning curve. In other words, you can learn from them without ever having to confirm what you do or don’t know. It’s good to have a little air of mystery, eh?


(If you find an actual Kung Fu library position, please let me know because that sounds amazing.)

There is great confidence in saying, “I don’t know”.

Yes, I know I just gave you great verbal sorcery to tap dance through most things, but there are some you get a free pass on…some skills you either really really really know, or the opposite. If you’ve never used their library software or some specialty gadget before, it’s okay to say “I don’t know, I’ve never used that before”. Think of the two options you have in this scenario:

  1. Say, “I don’t know”, and let them help you learn how to operate said software/gadget.
  2. Say yes, screw up the task at hand, admit you don’t know, start over with their help, and make them wonder what else you’ll claim to know.

Confidence isn’t just about self-confidence.

Confidence is a two-way street. You need to be able to inspire confidence others, along with putting confidence in those same people. Just like anything worthwhile, building confidence in yourself (or others) ain’t done over a cup of tea. This is why you learn from those competent mentors or coworkers early on!

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were you.

Building that confidence in others takes time. People need to see you in action so they can say, “man, that person’s good” and ask you for help with their next project. This is where having multiple skills comes in handy. If you come across something that you know you’re going to struggle with, it’s okay to call for back-up on a project.

The truly confident know when to ask for help.


I think we’ve all been on both sides of this conversation.

I’m fairly confident in most of my abilities. However, I know I have limits. Whether it’s a question of my skill set, how much time I have to do it, or who has access to more resources, I have a pretty good idea of who can do a better job than me. Why go reinvent the wheel if you have somebody on staff who can crank out 20 wheels in an hour?


Doing good? Feeling more confident?

“Nope, I didn’t learn anything.”

Well then, fine. I’ll buy you drinks when I get to the American Library Association this June in Orlando.

Oh, did I mention I’m going to ALA, the biggest library conference of the year?scream1

ALA is a big deal in the library world, but don’t worry! I’ll be covering that a few posts from now. In the meantime, start lining up those drinks, those of you learned nothing from this post.

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Next time in Part 3:

Hopefully, I’ve gotten the gloves on you – next comes the actual training. I’m going to dive into some of my more secret skills and techniques that can help you climb the ladder, nail that job, or increase your overall confidence! In the meantime, you can comment here or connect with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and share your stories. What makes you confident? How do you gain confidence?

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian











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