Life pursuit found: Radical militant librarian

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Alright.  So I guess it’s high time I stop neglecting this pitiful, fledgling blog and test out these writing wings once again.  Many updates to be reported on the disaffected, alienated information professional front: your Shy Girl is now gainfully employed in a library. Haaaaaaaaaaaalllelujah!  Mind you, I still don’t have the official ‘librarian title,’ but for now I am more than happy as a mere ‘Library Assistant III.’

Being back on campus in the academic environment has been a very edifying experience, and I expect it will continue to be so.  I find I am enjoying campus life as a staff member far more than I ever did as a student, and this time I am not wasting any opportunities to further my career.  I must and will turn this six month contract into a career — I have found my place at long last, my niche, and will do everything in my power to hold on to it.

A big part of my enthusiasm about campus life comes from my recent discovery of the newly formed London chapter (only the second in Canada) of the Progressive Librarians Guild.  I first heard about the PLG only a few weeks ago, perhaps a week or two into my new position at the main campus library.  Professor Sam Trosow from the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (see his blog here), whom I was familiar with from my time as a student at FIMs but had never heard speak, was giving a lunchtime talk on the history of the PLG.  I, accompanied by two of my coworkers also new to the library, decided to attend.  I really did not know what to expect, perhaps I had no expectations at all, but the more I listened the more I felt at home.  I’d found my librarian equivalent to the Island of Misfit Toys.  A heavily left-leaning group who just want to work in their field but struggle for any public recognition of their skill set, stuck with a professional organization who refuses, largely, to advocate for its professionals.  This leaves a large and ever increasing group of new graduates finding themselves in exactly the same position I found myself after graduating: underemployed,  underrepresented, and feeling ostracized — could we even call ourselves librarians without the institutional backup provided by gainful employment in the field?

Suddenly, I felt compelled to share my experiences with the group, and, overcoming my inherent shyness, I spoke up.  I talked about my feelings of alienation after leaving library school, unable to find employment even remotely related to my field.  About my agreement with a poster on CLA’s listserv about the intrinsic worth of a CLA membership (check out what he wrote here) — is it worth the $100 for a non-library-employed membership, double that for those who are employed in the field?  I paid these dues once, and got so little out of it that I have never found it worthwhile to squeeze that not-insignificant sum out of my meagre budget again.

I found myself surprised by the discussion this generated, at general understanding of this predicament in which I thought I had been alone.  I was even more surprised by those who stopped to thank me for sharing my experiences after the meeting concluded, stating that they themselves or friends of theirs were in the same situation after graduation.  A call centre is a bad, bad place for an information professional, and I’m not the only one who had to endure it, there are others out there still enduring it, in that or other completely unrelated, non-respected, and completely underpaid jobs.  There is such a need for outreach and networking for new grads, and until now there has really been nowhere for them to express their disaffection.  I see the need for this relatively small academic group to move beyond campus, to include a broader range of information professionals, and to reach out to those cut off from campus life after graduation.  From the draw generated by Sam Trosow’s lunchtime talk alone, and from what I’ve seen and experienced myself, I can see the PLG appealing to a lot of people.  I can see it easily turning into a large, mobilized, and influential group of information professionals — not just librarians employed in the field, but students, unemployed graduates, and support staff — we are all on the same team, after all.

This might be a little crass, but I’m just going to come right out and say it anyway:

Suck it, CLA.

Love,

Shy quiet girl.

How consumerism killed Christmas

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Well I suppose that might strike some as being a bit cynical, still others might say “yeah, no shit.  So what’s your point?”

Perhaps my perspective as the jaded retail employee isn’t exactly fresh, but I believe it is still relevant, as more and more every year I notice more and more among the disillusioned, harried, and quite frankly, broke-ass ranks.  Those of us who remember the childhood excitement of the countdown to Christmas can’t help but feel a little disappointed that the adult replacement of this joyous feeling is stress: “Christmas is in how many days?! Ooh shit, son.”

Finding the perfect gift for everyone.  Braving the teeming, claustrophobic malls, and worse yet, mall parking lots.  Have I spent enough?  Too much?  How many trees died to paper all of the shiny useless things that will be gathering dust in 6 weeks or less?

It’s become all about the yield: how much crap can I accumulate?  More stuff!  And more still!  And then we’ll top that off with cookies and candy until we’re all in a diabetic coma!  Then we’ll get liquored up because we can’t stand our relatives!

Perhaps the holiday would be better served if gifts were given (as I always at least attempt to do) with love and thoughtfulness, with no expectations for oneself.  I always find myself in an uncomfortable position when asked what it is I “want” for Christmas.  To have expectations ultimately breeds disappointment.  And really, I’d rather see what people might choose for me on their own, it holds so much more excitement that way.  The Christmas list takes away the surprise, and taking out the element of surprise really just kinda ruins it for me.

I’m not entirely jaded, of course.  I still harbour a few ideas of how to keep the spirit of giving alive and afloat.  Generosity does not equate to money spent.  Bake, knit, crochet, donate… give with love and expect nothing in return.  Do something selfless, even if you’re just donating a can of alphaghetti to your local food drive.

And don’t forget to receive graciously, you spoiled rat bastards.

Merry freakin’ Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Festivus, from the Shy Girl to you, internet void.

Show your bones.

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Continuing my musical series, I have henceforth (or at least for the moment) decided to abandon chronology, in the name of keeping inspiration alive.  And frankly, I’m sick of teenage angst.  Flash forward from 1999 to 2006 and the release of Show Your Bones by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  This album takes me back to my 3rd year exams at Western when I was 22, a time when my academic anxiety was at its peak, but also recalls a happy time in my life when I finally felt that I fit in with the select group of us record store nerds/snobs.  Record store chick afforded me some sort of nerd elite status which I thoroughly enjoyed after years of just plain regular nerddom.

This was the time when I discovered Karen O. & co.  Ms. O. presented a uniquely dynamic, creative, and unapologetically strange frontwoman who wasn’t afraid to scream to make herself heard.

I found myself lost in and transfixed by her enigmatic, possibly nonsensical lyrics (what did I know?)

“Gold lion’s gonna show me where the light is”

“The shit is runnin’ and it runs deep”

All I knew was, it was fucking cool and like nothing I had ever heard before.  There was something utterly cathartic and freeing driving around town shouting along with her.  Definitely one of my top 5 driving albums (more on these later – Deftones’ White Pony definitely to come).  I found this album, strange as it may sound, to be my saving grace during my exams.  It still has the effect of clearing my mind, helping me to focus.  In fact, I’ve been listening to it as I write.

By the way, I rocked well, 4 out of 5 exams.  And well, that other one, not that I didn’t pass, was certainly not what I considered to be my forte at the time: Politics of Education.  That’s some warped shit right there though.  And you could definitely say that I’m no matttbastard when it comes to analyzing politics – I’m perfectly happy to leave the politics for him to make sense of and then explain to me.  (Too bad I didn’t know him back then).

teen angst & rebellion pt. 2: high school hell

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Grade nine, entrance to high school: suddenly I had a crowd I could disappear into, and I took full advantage.  I became so invisible that I would end up thrown into lockers by jocks who didn’t happen to notice I was in their charging path.  I had few friends, even fewer true confidantes.  Full blown introvert by now, though it wasn’t always so (and hopefully I’ve gotten past it somewhat by now), I threw myself into two things: a borderline ridiculous dedication to school work, and further delving into the wide world of music.

My secret teenage shame (not so secret now, internet void): this was the year of Silverchair.  It wasn’t just the pouty lips either.  Neon Ballroom, released on my 15th birthday, was a musical divergence to the band, a somewhat self-indulgent venture by the neurotic and beautiful creative force behind the band, Daniel Johns.  A musical tribute to his own intensely poignant sadness.  I, of course, was a goner for this:  he strummed my pain with his fingers, sang my life with his words.

I fell asleep to this album for a year straight.  I still dust this album off from time to time when I’m feeling nostalgic and it mostly holds up to my critical adult ear, aside from some melodramatic lyrics.  But hell, artists have been guilty of far worse, and I still harbour a soft spot for this one.

Also, since it didn’t occur to me to post some Portishead yesterday, I feel it would be negligent of me not to remedy the situation.

teen angst & rebellion.

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I’ve been thinking lately about how I’ve developed my personal taste in music, which is, to say the least, quite eclectic.  This has me experiencing a bit of nostalgia for my angsty adolescence (not that I would EVAR want to go back there).  I guess that’s just where it all began, when I started perceiving and experiencing my own individuality as distinct and separate from the crowd.  It was an emotionally tumultuous time, as I was experiencing rejection from my peers.  To put it mildly, I was as insecure as fuck when it came to my burgeoning self identity.  What self esteem?

Which leads me to my first album that I can remember identifying with on a deep and personal level.  I remember the very first time I heard “Sour Times” by Portishead, from their album Dummy.  I was in Sunrise Records in White Oaks Mall (how’s that for foreshadowing), and I was utterly captivated.  Beth Gibbon’s haunting voice wailing “nobody loves me, it’s true” struck such a chord in my tortured thirteen year old heart.  Dummy was the soundtrack to my adolescent melancholy.  It provided a voice to my sadness and inspired my own voice.   I began writing my own cheesy, melodramatic poetry.  But hey, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

Future posts in consideration include the soundtrack to my grade 9 lonely wallflower, and the soundtrack to my first breakup.   Stay tuned, internet void.

The Lost Generation

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And no, I’m not referring to the television show-cum-cultural phenomena.  I’m referring to it as Hemingway saw it, post-Great War: a generation of individuals so disillusioned by their wartime experiences as to be psychologically ruined.  Hemingway’s Sun Also Rises depicts this phenomenon with a group of young, American ex-pats who, physically mutilated and emotionally scarred by war, set loose upon Europe and basically drink themselves to death in a very hedonistic and stylish fashion.

But I’m not about to give a literature or history lesson.  I am relating this concept to the twenty-to-thirty-something set of today.  Our lives have not been shaped by anything quite as horrific as the First World War, but today’s youth are suddenly finding that they are being handed a broken world.  A broken society, a broken system.  We’ve been chewed up and spit out by this very system, expected to take our places as worker drones unquestioningly, with that vague promise of  “success” if we keep our heads down and do a good job.

The only problem with this promise of success is that is no longer valid.  That perfect job is not waiting for you when you graduate from college.  There will be no job security.  These things no longer exist.  At 26 I never dreamed I would be working for minimum wage after finishing 5+ years of post-secondary education.  This is the new reality for the young wannabe professional.   It’s up to us to create our own opportunities, to create a grass-roots movement that collectively strains against the restraints placed on us by the powers that be.

The only option is not to conform to what we continue to be told we should be.  Do not unquestioningly take your place in a system which has proven itself to be inadequate.  Something needs to happen, is going to happen, I can feel it.  So can the conservative fat cats who have gotten rich in so many unscrupulous ways — the middle aged white male who has for centuries perverted societal and economic norms in order to suit his own interests.

Take the Tea Party, for example.  I believe this archaic, homophobic, misogynistic collective of fear mongers have risen to the spotlight in response to and out of resistance to the tides of change.  I believe it’s too late for them.  They may have a foothold in the southern evangelical states, but to the rest of the world it makes this part of the world seem even more backwoods and behind the times.

This voice of discontent is rising from a whisper to a scream.

We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.

Wallflower no more.

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Tonight I lose my blogging virginity.  Yes folks, this is my very first blog to ever be unleashed by this shy girl.  I hope that this wonderful self-sustaining blogger’s collective I’ve been hearing about will be gentle with me.  So here I go then, and I’ve decided I might as well jump in the deep end and allow myself, for once, to write stream-of-consciousness, to not edit myself, or censor my thoughts, bizarre or seemingly random they may be.  I’ve decided that this will be my forum to rant, to release this anger and frustration that’s been bubbling to the surface of late.  And well, let’s face it.  I have been really fucking angry lately.

I’ve always succumbed to my tendency to suppress anger, but what I’ve recently discovered is that it doesn’t simply go away.  It may retreat awhile, but trust me, it’s there, lurking just below the surface and waiting for a chink in the internal armour so it can spring forth once more and bite you in the proverbial ass.  Or at least this has been my experience.  So if you get in my way these days, I might just tell you exactly what I’m thinking, minus the spoonful of sugar.  Clearly my previous anger management coping mechanisms, i.e., not coping, were not serving me so well.   This tactic applies to myself as well.   When I find myself beating myself up over some perceived flaw I have learned to hold up this flaw to the mirror, and stare it down until I’m no longer afraid of it.  “Hey, you little fucker, you’re not the boss of me.”

This method, I find, has worked to great effect.  Once you take ownership of your mistakes, they no longer own you.  They cease to be shadowy demons and begin to be understood as human, in all its glory and fallibility.  Usually when one reaches this point and asks oneself the question, “would I forgive another person of these faults?,” the answer is inevitably yes.  At least this is so for me.  I keep qualifying here, because I don’t presume to speak for everyone, but it’s easier to speak in broad generalities than to constantly refer back to myself.  Or at least less self conscious.  In any case, there is no sense in continuing to punish yourself for flaws that you would easily forgive in another person as simply an acceptable quirk.  Some quirks might be a little, well, quirkier, than others, but I like to think of myself as an accepting person.  So why not accept my own quirks and finally let my freak flag fly after 26 years of repression and acceptance of the shy, quiet, good girl persona that others seemed to want to ascribe to me from an early age.

I was okay with this.  It was pretty safe for me to separate from the horde, do my own thing, read my books and stay away from the evil gangs of children whose loyalties to you as a friend could be swayed by a failure to share your afternoon snack.  Those jerks, all so very untrustworthy and self-serving at a base level, like tiny little sociopaths.  And so I retreated into myself, further and further with each negative social encounter as time went on and childhood fickleness turned into adolescent jealousy and pettiness.  Skip forward 14 or so years and with the end of yet another fairly lengthy relationship (it always seems to hit around 1.5 years on the nose), this childhood impotence, frustration and betrayal once again rears its ugly head and forces me to truly look at my life and try to find out who I am, outside of the shy girl persona, outside of the academic persona, outside of the disillusioned underachieving retail worker’s persona.

Separating these facets of myself has not been an easy task.  I won’t claim to be through with it, I’m sure I will never stop trying to get to know myself better.  To somehow get back to that raw creativity and enthusiasm that I used to possess.  That used to flow freely from my fingertips and which I would unabashedly share with others without fear of rejection, criticism, or judgement.  This is my attempt to recreate that boldness in myself, to put myself out there, bare my naked, flawed, extraordinarily human soul.  And if you are still hanging in there, dear reader, and have reached this conclusion, I thank you for lending an ear to one of the quiet ones who has something to say.