Saturday, June 13, 2015

While in Zanesville...

Make sure you check out the Zanesville Museum of Art.

I visited recently to see their 71st Annual Ohio Exhibition. As the title suggests, this show is a juried event that features work by artists who presently live in (or have previously lived in) the state of Ohio. Taken in tandem with the State Fair's Fine Arts Exhibition the Zanesville exhibit offers a great opportunity to see some of the best work by Ohio artists.

Like previous shows, this one was another winner. Thanks to either a liberal photography policy or the fact that no one noticed me, I snapped a few pics of some of things that caught my eye.

Here are my highlights:

Moon Rabbit
Anita Dawson

I'm not sure if I'm sold on the collage elements, but the rabbit and the sky and the palette and the whole almost creepy storybook vibe just knocked me out. I looked at this one for a while, never entirely sure if I should pet the rabbit or run away from it.

If this intrigues you the way it does me, know that Anita will have a solo show at Sharon Weiss Gallery in Columbus in August. To see more of Anita's work, make with the clicky here:

Barbara McGonagle 

I know, right? I review one show on fiber art, and now I think I'm some sort of expert. Seriously though, this bit of embroidery struck three of my nerves; the one that watched mom and grandma do needlework the entire time I was growing up, the one that appreciates graphic data visualization, and the one that lights up any time it sees something that even hints at the obsessive. Cherry. Cherry. Cherry.

Barb is from Oxford Ohio. If she has a web presence I couldn't find it. And really, good for her. The lack of an online footprint serves to reinforce the resolutely analog nature of her work. 

The Collection
Fred Fochtman

Fred Fochtman remains a favorite painter of mine. This still life/interior is a bit of a departure in that he's probably best known for his landscapes. Also, he's stretching the palette a bit with some colors you won't see in many of his other paintings. Not surprisingly, Fred won an award for this one. On the one hand, he deserves every award he gets, on the other, maybe he'd like to take a break and give some other painters a chance.

Fred is represented in Columbus by the Sharon Weiss Gallery: His personal web site remains comically incomplete:

Si-Yun Chang 

Re: Fiber Art (see above). This is just a fantastic piece and a good example of fiber art shining in a way that other mediums don't. Yes it's a (mostly) flat wall hanging that's more or less an exploration in two-dimensional design. The fact is though, you can't pull this off with anything else. Oil can't offer the subtle variances. Ink can't capture the texture. Watercolor can't define the flow. Hang this in my home and I'd probably take up meditation. Srsly.

Si-Yun has no discernible web presence. Artists!

Barn Under Blue Moon
Alice Carpenter 

GWTP (Great Work, Terrible Picture). You have to take my word on this one. It's lovely and rich and intimate. It's like a tiny Whistler nocturne, but instead of boats and bridges it has barns and weeds. real web site to direct folks to. Sorry. 

Sophie Knee

I love Sophie's monoprints. They're gestural, economical, and always capture the essence of the subject. A testament to their power is the fact that they can turn someone like me (who's not really an animal person), into an animal person!

Sophie's another Sharon Weiss artist:  

If the Ohio Exhibition weren't enough of an enticement the Zanesville Museum of Art also offers a lovely collection of American art pottery, American painting, and a current exhibiton of botanical prints. If you're looking for a day trip from Columbus, take 70 east and enjoy a visit.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How to Become a Rockstar Librarian in 10 Simple Steps

So, I guess for all my admonitions to "just be cool", it turns out I can be pretty caustic and pretty cynical myself. By way of proof, I offer up the list, "How to Become a Rockstar Librarian in 10 Simple Steps".

See, the term (and archetype) Rockstar Librarian has become a sort of short-hand in our profession for those thought leaders, innovators, and agents of change who manage to become well-known in the profession. These Rockstar Librarians typically pen columns, present at conferences, write influential blogs, end up on various "best and brightest" lists, and deliver keynote addresses. The truth is, many Rockstar Librarians are lovely people. They sincerely want the profession to grow, to flourish and to remain relevant. They want libraries to improve and they want the lives of library users to improve as well.

That said, there are a number of pretty unflattering behaviors associated with the Rockstar Librarian type. These include an inflated sense of self-importance, a conviction that they and they alone know what's right for the profession and a rigorously pedantic approach to addressing the issues facing libraries. It was with those Rockstar Librarians in mind that I wrote this list. (I should also mention that there's something a bit unnerving in the hierarchical aspect of the Rockstar Librarian. We are, after all, a profession that values both diversity of thought and the process of examining issues from all points of view. By elevating the beliefs of individuals who may have no more experiences than the rest of us to the level of experts seems to undermine those principles).

Keen observers will note that the "steps" I prescribe amount to a classic strawman fallacy laid out in the form of a listicle. I've created an impossibly awful Rockstar Librarian (a caricature if you will) and proffered it up for mockery and attack. Keen observers will also note that I'm actually engaging in some of the exact behaviors that I ridicule (i.e. picking fights, mocking stereotypes, arguing from personal experience, etc.). To that I say, "Guilty, guilty and guilty". Realistically though, if I waited around for some flawless and blameless version of myself to materialize and publish this, it would never get posted. In the end I suppose I'm willing to answer charges of hypocrisy and sour grapes for the sake of a few laughs and maybe a larger conversation.

At the end of the day, I really do want us to "just be cool". This is a big profession after all. We're a diverse group and we serve an even more diverse public. We have a lot to teach each other, and a lot to learn from one another. I'd like to think we can do that in a way that's respectful and considered. I'd also like to think that we can encourage one another to make a difference regardless of which path we choose and what work we do. In that sense, I'll join the thebossladywrites and hope that perhaps we'll soon see the end of the Rockstar Librarian.

Until then, and if you still insist on becoming one yourself, I present:

How to Become a Rockstar Librarian in 10 Simple Steps

1. Refute Conventional Wisdom. Always. No matter what. Even if conventional wisdom is actually right, refute it. You'll look all the more visionary!

2. Develop a Set of Perfectly True yet Somehow Vague and Unactionable Pronouncements. "We need to invent the future of libraries", "We are in a partnership with our users", "Our task is to align our outcomes with our community's needs".

3. Mock Library Stereotypes. Do this relentlessly. Remember, the more condescending and mean-spirited your mockery is, the more more knowing you'll appear.

4. Pick Fights on Twitter.

5. Engage in Relentless Self-Promotion. Remember, you can't create a library based on your personal preferences unless you put yourself, your opinions and your worldview at the center of it. Build a strong personal brand and promote it without shame. Others will follow.

6. Accessorize and Individualize. A fashion forward image is critical. No Rockstar Librarian ever showed up to work in a brown suit or off the rack career separates.

7. Pick more Fights on Twitter. This time with strangers. (Pro Tip: Make people feel bad for caring about things that don't matter to you).

8. Declare the Death of Things. Consider these, "Print is dead",  "Physical formats are dead", "Reference is dead", "The catalog is dead", and even "The library is dead".

9. Embrace Solipsism. Know that your Rockstar Librarian credentials come from personal experience, not empirical data. As such, make sure you relate to others in a way that focuses attention on you. The following are some great sentence starters, "At my library...", "When I was in charge...", "It is my belief...", "In my experience...", "What I did was...". Can you think of more?

10. Practice Effective Time Management: If you find yourself spending more time serving others than promoting your agenda, you're doing it wrong.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Buzzword Backlash

Perhaps the only thing more tired than business buzzwords is the backlash against business buzzwords.

Maybe it's the circles I run in, but it seems that barely a week goes by without at least someone I know sharing an article about buzzwords that are overused, buzzwords I should stop using or buzzwords I should avoid immediately. The teasers all sound very knowing and very ominous. Typical are headlines like, "Most Annoying Buzzwords", "Buzzwords Gone Bad, and "Office Jargon: Six Tired Buzzwords to Avoid". Inevitably I'll click the link and find - much to my dismay - a bunch of words, phrases, and sayings that I either use myself, or find pretty much innocuous.

Heck, I'll go one step further. Most of the buzzwords people spend their time decrying are actually useful; useful in that they do what good language is supposed to do; they convey the desired meaning in a manner that's both economical and easy to understand. Further, they almost always strike me (cliched or not) as more interesting than any "plain language" alternative that's offered.

Take "wheelhouse" for example. In this article offering 30 Business Buzzwords You Should Stop Using, the author suggests that the term has been "around a long time and has become a bit of a cliche". Sure. Fine. It's a cliche. Still, if I'm sitting in a meeting and I have the choice between hearing someone say, "That's right in her wheelhouse" or "That's an assignment that matches her strengths. I expect she can handle it easily", I'll choose the former over the latter every day.

The same thing applies to the much-maligned term "scalable". Would you rather hear someone ask "Is it scalable?" or ask instead "Is it the case that this process can handle a growing amount of work in a capable manner?" Given those alternatives, I'm pretty OK with scalable.

Even when the brevity and clarity of buzzwords can be equaled, the results are often inferior. One article suggested dropping "ducks in a row" (as in, "We need to get our ducks in a row.") for "make a plan" (as in "We need to make a plan."). Unless one favors the embarrassingly prosaic, I don't see how this is an improvement. Is the expectation that the language we adopt be wholly literal? Are we to abandon metaphors, analogies, and figures of speech altogether?  Who on earth would wish for that?

Maybe that's what rankles me the most about buzzword backlash. When it comes to language I'm very much in the "language is a living and growing thing" camp. As such, I resist the admonitions of those who would prescribe when, how and what we should say. It's a form of cultural elitism that I've never been comfortable with.

If you want to teach people how to use language effectively, have at it. If you've got ideas for how to improve communication or increase its effectiveness, I'm all ears. If, on the other hand, you just want to tell people what words you think they should or shouldn't use, well, good luck with that. You'll never convince me it's a good idea, and frankly, you'd have better luck trying to boil the ocean.