Update: Surgery *is* happening today at 2:20pm PST. Thankfully I can get it over with. Think happy thoughts of kittens & rainbows.

Hello all. I want to begin with a heartfelt expression of gratitude and amazement at your outpouring of support, shared cancer stories, and advice. I have been stunned by how “not alone” I have felt as a result of sharing my story. I figured I’d get a couple of messages from close friends or an “oh yes, I had that ten years ago” story or two, but the magnitude of your kindness has humbled me greatly. I’ve had a few hundred contacts and messages, which is astounding. Thank you!

To the few people who have contacted me saying that it’s horrible/shameful/shocking/icky that I’m telling people that I have cancer of the lady parts, you can go die in a ditch. I am genetically female. I have lady parts, including a cervix. Saying I have cervical cancer is no more horrible/shameful/shocking/icky than saying I have liver cancer or skin cancer. If you can’t deal with the fact that ladies have lady parts, perhaps you should reexamine your own prejudices and shame. And really–please do absorb all of that awful karma you just self-inflicted by criticizing and trying to shame someone with a disease. Just soooooooak it up.

My surgery was scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday the 13th in the afternoon (2:20pm PST). However, some complicating symptoms have arisen and the surgery may be delayed until Monday the 17th at 2:30pm PST.  I won’t know until tomorrow morning whether I’m on for surgery or not.  I will update here, on Twitter, and on Facebook when I do know.

More updates:

  • Whenever surgery happens, I am still planning on live-Tweeting it out (and feeding it into Facebook) as long as my hands can stay steady enough to type on my phone. You can follow along on Twitter with the #SarahVsCancer hashtag that I’ve been using.
  • My doctors have said that this cancer is “an aggressive little bastard.” I have also been called that, from time to time. I think I’m aggresive-r (yes, that’s a word) so I will win this little tête-à-tête.
  • I was offered the opportunity to watch the surgery live on a monitor. I declined.
  • I’ve had inquiries about exactly what I’m having done. Without going into too much detail, I’m having a LEEP procedure to remove the cancer. If body part or surgery stuff grosses you out, don’t click on that link.  I’m lucky that we caught the cancer early enough that we can use this procedure instead of a more invasive one.
  • And finally, check out LetsFCancer.com. The image below came from them. They’re using social media as a way to raise awareness about cancer among young people. I like their approach. Be aware, get all of your tests and screenings, and remind those you love.


I have bad news and I have good news. You should probably read both.

Bad News: I have been diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 36.

Good News: We caught it very early and the cancer is small enough that a surgical procedure will get rid of it. My doctors are optimistic about my prognosis and all of my insane middle-of-the-night librarian research tells me the same thing. This is highly survivable thanks to catching it early in a regular exam. My friends and family have been extremely supportive and I am thankful for all of their positive energy and snarky humor that’s helping me get through this difficult time.

fuck cancer

One of the things that helped me feel less scared between my biopsies and “finding out I had the BIG C” was remembering the experiences of Xeni Jardin a little over a year ago. Jardin decided to live-Tweet her first mammogram, after which she was told that she had breast cancer. She’s since Tweeted and blogged her experiences with cancer very openly. What she did was one of the first things that came into my head and she helped me to realize whatever happened, I could beat this. I obviously have a much smaller readership than Jardin, but I want to pay it forward and do the same thing.

I will be having surgery next Thursday afternoon. I will be Tweeting (and cross-posting to Facebook for friends there) about my experience.  I also plan to live-Tweet during the surgery, as I will be awake for it.

If by being an open book I can help make people less scared about cervical cancer, encourage other women to get screened and tested regularly, I want to do that. If I can turn this negative situation into a positive one for someone else, all the better.

Yes, I’m scared.  But don’t worry. I’m going to be okay.

Update: I’ve now deleted seven comments off of the blog (and three emails) that had no discursive value, no points to be made, no arguments or positions taken, but were just pointed name calling and insults. I’m all for open and free commenting, but what you write has to fit the two simple guidelines listed on the site: No spam, personal attacks, or rude or intolerant comments AND Comments need to actually relate to the blog post topic.


An interesting discussion happened today on Twitter about clothing and librarianship. It all started with Jaime Corris Hammond (@jaimebc) posting the following:

“Let’s talk about perceptions of leaders. How did you change your appearance when you became a manager/director?”

My response was a truthful:

“Bwa ha ha ha ha….ha ha ha ha ha….*gasp*sputter* I DIDN’T :D”

A smattering of conversation involving a dozen people then followed, with some themes coming out that I feel are worth commenting on.

Sarah Houghton

photo by Ticer Summer School

Style counts: Above all, stay true to who you are. Don’t dress a certain way because you think someone else expects it or you believe it will somehow make you seem more authoritative.  Dress in a way that’s appropriate for work but comfortable. For me that includes some combination of funky tights, high heels, spikes, velvet, lace, satin, vinyl, 50s style dresses, chokers, straps, ruffles, corsets, and cardigans (I know…yes, cardigans–they’re practical and comfortable so shut it).  For you it will be something else. But *be you*. A velvet suit jacket is just as dressy as a polyester one. I dressed this way when I got the job…so I figure why change? I think my look is part of what helps people remember me in the community – and being remembered isn’t a bad thing (usually).

Dress codes: If your workplace has a dress code, by all means adhere to it.  Several libraries I’ve worked at required closed-toe shoes. Others said no shorts and no bra straps could not be showing (e.g. under a tank top).  Adhere to the rules.

Dress and gender: Some commenters purported that there’s a double standard for men and women on dress.  Men can get away with dressing more casually and be thought of as “cutely sloppy” but a similarly dressed woman would be looked at as “frumpy.” True? Probably. Can we control how other people react to our appearances? Nope. Stop trying.

Who do you dress to match?: This is a great question. If you’re in a position of leadership, do you dress to fit in with other library staff or to fit in with on-par colleagues in other departments? My answer is “Don’t dress to match anyone; weren’t you listening before?” But if I had to vote for one, I’d say dress to match the “dressiness level” of your on-par colleagues.

Dressing seriously so people take you seriously: I expect people to take me seriously because of my ideas and professionalism. If they’re not going to listen (and some haven’t) because I’m wearing tights with stars on them or a skirt with unnecessary zippers then their opinion isn’t worth worrying about.  Some people are not going to like me and that’s just dandy. If you’re in a position of leadership realize there are going to be a fair number of people who don’t like you for all sorts of reasons. You’re not in this to be liked; you’re doing a job.

Combating looking young with dressing old: This one I understand. I was a manager in a library when I was 28. I looked 21. I understand the desire to look older, at least your age, so that people will stop with the “Are you old enough to blah blah blah…” comments.  As I joked on Twitter, what made those comments stop coming at me was the plethora of wrinkles I’ve developed after being a library director for a year and a half. So–get more stress in your life and continue to dress like a rock star.

Dressing up for certain events: Dress a little more seriously for City Council? Sure.  For a job interview? Yep. Wear skinny jeans, combat boots, and a sparkly tank top on a Friday when you’re going to be at your desk all day writing reports? Yep. Speaking of which, I’m gonna go finish up those reports.

We’re looking for a security system here at the San Rafael Public Library–some kind of remote way to indicate “Hey, something’s definitely wrong with staff member X who’s dealing with the public right now – go help!”

Staff at our various service desks at the Downtown Library (Circulation, Children’s, Adult, Administration) have no way to communicate to each other when something’s wrong at one of them (e.g. threatening individual, etc.).  The Library has two different floors and all of the desks are visually separated from each other – there is no line of sight from one to another – and in one case a door separates that desk from the rest of the building.  We were envisioning a flashing light system or something similar, easily, covertly, and quickly triggered with a button or a switch, and that would show the other desks which desk it was coming from. Our building does not have an intercom system, and staff are not always at their computers (often out on the floor), so something they can hold as a trigger, clip to a belt or a lanyard, would be more useful.  In short, we’re looking for something with multiple site-specific triggers and multiple output devices showing what’s been triggered.

Instead of spending hours researching this topic that I know nothing about, I put it out to the ALA Think Tank group on Facebook – knowing that the wisdom of the crowd would be faster and more extensive than anything I’d come up with on my own.  I thought I’d summarize the suggestions here for anyone else seeking out a similar solution. And hey – if you have another suggestion, bring it on!

Wireless call bell systems – These are like those little light-up vibrating things you get at some restaurants, such as these. Verdict: Might work; need to research more, especially re: how one triggers various models.

Centurion – I just like this for the Battlestar Galactica reference 😉 Seriously, though, this is another version of a wireless call system but this one can transmit out messages on multiple platforms simultaneously once triggered: two-way radios, pagers, phones, and email. Verdict: Might work; need to research how the triggering mechanism works more.

Instant Messaging – A number of people suggested having every staff member have IM up while at work and to use that to send out a quick “911” or some similarly short message. Verdict: Need a trigger that could stay with the staff member. Also, not very covert.

Computer Help Button – Several people said they have a one-click “call for help” button on their computers, usually used to call for back-up staff because it’s busy, but which could be repurposed for crazy town incidents.  A 2008 Code4Lib article was helpfully linked to (oh, you librarians!). Verdict: Once again, I don’t think the computer-based idea will work well for us as so many of the problems happen when staff are away from their computers.

Intercom – Some folks suggested saying your own name or the department’s name over the intercom as a signal for help. Verdict: If only we had an intercom system. Also, not very covert.

Vocera – A number of people are using or otherwise recommended Vocera.  These small portable transmitters and receivers could work really well for what we need. Verdict: Pricey. Need to research more on what kinds of money we’re talking about.

Phone System – A few different version of using the existing phone system were suggested. Setting up a mass-call option and using a code word to indicate a problem. Verdict: Our phone system is VOIP and we’ve been told before this isn’t possible (though I’m guessing it probably actually is). Also, unless it was a single-touch button I don’t think it would be covert enough.

Doorbell System – A system like this could work–basic doorbell. People suggested different ring-tones or a different number of rings depending on which desk it was (e.g. 1 for Adult, 2 for Circ, etc.). Verdict: Need to research more. This could be covert if the bells could be carried easily in one’s pocket and we could have multiple transmitters and multiple broadcast speakers too.

Walkie TalkiesLots of these out there and pretty cheap. Buy the small headsets to pair with the actual units, push the call button to beep everyone else.  Again, a coded number of beeps could work to indicate location of problem. One person suggested buying repeaters to help with the thick-walled-ness of our very old building. Verdict: Need to research more. Covert, yes. Would staff actually wear the headsets? Don’t know.

Pager.net – This was suggested (in lovely detail; thanks Brian!) as a kind of multi-pronged approach. Device, software, and desk-transmitters.  Verdict: This could totally work. Need to research pricing and implementation (e.g. our thick freaking walls).

Arduino Home Panic Button – This was suggested as an open source solution, which made my heart all warm and fuzzy.  Verdict: Need to research implementation more.

EDSMay is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month. What is that, you may ask?

If you’re a longtime reader of my blog, you’ll know that I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

You can read my posts from previous years (20092011, 2012) for details on what EDS is and how it has affected my life.  In short, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder. My body makes collagen that is messed up on a fundamental level. Collagen is everywhere–skin, internal organs, tendons, ligaments–so bad collagen = bad lots of other stuff.

What is EDS like for me? I live every day in pain. Every joint hurts. I just don’t notice it so much anymore, but if you stopped me on any given day and asked “Sarah, does your X joint hurt?” I would undoubtedly say yes after thinking for a moment. I can feel every joint at every moment of every day, some more than others. I get fewer dislocations than I used to but rib, wrist, and knee dislocations are still common for me. I have to be careful with how I sit, move, and interact with other objects and people. I bruise easily and my skin tears easily, and subsequently it takes me forever and a day to heal. My digestion is pretty jacked up. I have quite a few allergies and chemical sensitivities, one of those weird side effects of EDS.

There is no cure for EDS.  All I can do is manage the symptoms.

As I wrote last year, I am still off of all pain medications. YAY! Want to know which pain medications? Almost all of them. I tried dozens and was on several for a very long time and at very high doses. And the meds made me, well, not me. I’m so glad to be off of them.

Recently a doctor tried to give me oxycontin for a bunch of dislocated ribs and when I turned it down he got this look on his face like I’d just turned down a few million dollars. I explained why: that it had been so hard for me to get off of these medications and I never wanted to walk down that road again. He rolled his eyes. Such is the common reaction I get in the medical community. Exhibit EDS symptoms without an official diagnosis and they think you’re either mental or that you are a drug-seeking fiend. Have the same symptoms with an EDS diagnosis and turn drugs down and they think you’re an idiot.

I have to be very selective with doctors and other medical practitioners, finding people who either are familiar with treating EDS patients or are willing to learn. Case in point: I drive over 90 minutes to get to my dentist, the only person in the SF area I’ve found who knows what she’s doing (EDS also has lots of dental, jaw, and soft tissue symptoms). The good news is I have a great primary care doctor, dentist, gynecologist, and chiropractor. Still looking for a new massage therapist after my last one changed careers to rehabilitate abused horses (but how can I be mad at him for that?).

In the interest of keeping positive, here are some positive things about having EDS:

  1. Through posting on my blog and on local and international EDS support networks, I have communicated with hundreds of other people with this disorder.  Sometimes they support me and sometimes I support them. They’re a second family, of sorts–a family that inherently understands what my life is like without ever having met me.
  2. I can do fun/scary party tricks with my joints that freak the living hell out of people, especially people under the influence of something. It’s my ace in the hole for the “Wait, wait…watch this” game.
  3. My skin is simply amazing. Take that, skin creams and face lifts!

As with past posts I want to make clear I’m not asking for pity in any way. I’m asking for understanding and awareness. If you see people, especially children, in your life who dislocate joints, have chronic pain, digestion issues, heart problems, or who bruise or cut easily–ask the doctor about EDS. Since I went public with my diagnosis in 2009, I’ve had 9 librarians and 11 other readers come to me and say they or a family member have now been diagnosed with EDS after asking their doctors (and going through the usually months-long process of referrals, tests, geneticist consults, etc.).  And that’s why I talk about it–so fewer people have to wait until their mid-twenties or later to get a diagnosis.

To learn more about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, check out the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation , Ehlers-Danlos Network, and a resource list built by fellow librarian Rick Roche: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: A Reference Librarian Looks at Consumer Health Reference Sources. Or, you know, you could always just ask me 😀

So about a month ago I got really icky sick.  I was off from work for a week and a half, and then back only half time for a while…  It’s been a nasty series of flus and colds and sinus infections.  The upside was the fun hallucinations I had with the high fever.  I only had one scary one (spiders) but had a lot of interesting and one plain-old-useful ones.  Yay for fever-induced delirium!

Why does this matter?  Well, I manage our library’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and don’t have a back-up.  So when I got sick, particularly in those days when I was so ill I couldn’t even focus well enough to read a sentence, nothing was getting posted to our social media accounts.  The results?  See below for our library’s Facebook page stats.


You don’t post? You don’t get people liking, commenting, or visiting.  You post half-heartedly because the codeine was affecting your brain?  You don’t get interactions.  Your audience is sick? You don’t get interactions.

Surprising? No. Good as a reminder that posting is important, responding is important? Yes.

Follow-Up (4/22/13)

And here’s what happens when both you and your community aren’t sick anymore and posting and reading gets back to normal.


4th Amendment WearBack in February, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a Department of Homeland Security report on laptop searches at U.S. borders.  The DHS had posted the executive summary of the report on its website, but nothing else.  The ACLU is still waiting for the complete report.  The executive summary basically says that upholding the Fourth Amendment, protecting against unreasonable search and seizure, is a pain in the ass and that reasonable suspicion or warrants are too much to ask in the case of seizing people’s electronic devices at our borders.


As someone who has had (unfortunately) extensive experience with the TSA, the DHS, and customs officials while traveling for both work and pleasure, I will share those experiences here along with some advice to protect your information.

Sarah and the Brass Knuckles

And here begins our story.  I have flown a lot in my lifetime.  Between personal and professional trips, I average one or two dozen trips a year.  About three years ago, I was flying from the Rochester NY airport to Grand Rapids, Michigan – going from my step-son’s graduation to my grandmother’s funeral.  I was stopped by the TSA screeners for having “brass knuckles” in my purse — in reality a 1 1/2″ cat face cheap metal keychain that did not resemble brass knuckles in the slightest.  I was pulled aside, my wallet was taken, and my bags thoroughly searched within my view.  I got mouthy…probably not my best choice, but I was pissed.  This was some over-zealous, bored Rochester TSA flunkie messing with me for no legitimate reason.  I was live-Tweeting it as it was happening.  I was asked to stop.  I said no.  I was asked to hand over my phone.  I said no.  I was asked to hand over my laptop.  I said no.  Eventually they let me go, confiscating the keychain that had made it through security in a couple dozen other airports, and with a warning that I was now on “THE LIST.”  I let fly a few F-bombs and boarded my plane for my grandmother’s funeral shaking from adrenaline and anger.  I wrote complaint letters to the Rochester Airport administration and to the TSA and got no reply from either (surprise, surprise).

Know Your Rights

So what did I do?  I did my research like a good little librarian.  I figured out what the TSA could and could not do within the U.S., and since I travel internationally I looked into what was legal at border crossings, particularly at airports.  Here are documents I suggest everyone read if you travel within the U.S. or internationally.  Know your rights.

Cheat Sheet of TSA Screenings and Your Rights (PDF) – This document gives good advice of what to do, what not to do, what to ask, and what your rights are.

ACLU’s Know Your Rights When Traveling – This covers everything: interviews, body scanners, pat-downs, searches of bags and electronics, confiscation of items, medication, children, etc.

Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices – Written for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), this is a good guide whether you’re traveling internationally or just within the states…or if you just plain want to know how to secure the data on your devices.  This covers electronics searches at the border but also provides instructions on backing up your data, minimizing the data you carry, encrypting your data, and specific tips for different types of devices.  I do all of these things and more…as I’m more than a bit paranoid now.

What Can They Do to My Electronic Devices?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection say that they can not only search but also confiscate your electronic devices at the border–laptops, phones, cameras, you name it.  And they can do it all without any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing or warrants.  The ACLU, EFF, and other organizations are fighting this – but it’s a slow process.  What you can, and should do, if you are asked to hand over your electronics is outlined in this document–but at the bare minimum ask to see the supervisor, get a receipt for your device, and have the search conducted in front of the supervisor.  What tends to happen, especially to people on THE LIST, is that they take your electronics out of the room, dump a copy onto their own hard drives, and then give them back to you.  They just copied all your data–files, browsing history, contact lists, everything–and you had no ability to stop it.  I call bullshit, and thankfully so does the ACLU.  This is why many people who know they are on THE LIST no longer carry their own devices, instead handing them off to trusted travel companions or mailing them from place to place.

So Then What Happened Now That Sarah Was On THE LIST?

After the Rochester incident I was pulled out of line for “special screening” literally every time I flew, and seven times I was taken into back rooms for additional questioning and searches.  I never agree to go through the full body scanner–not enough science or privacy protection behind those to make me feel safe.  I always demand the manual pat-down, which thrills them to no end I’m sure.  I feel badly for them sometimes–what a crap job to have to stick your hands down people’s pants and feel up their legs and armpits. Almost as unpleasant for them as it is for me, but I always make them do it in a public area and I always loudly proclaim why I won’t go through the scanner–hoping to educate more people about the lack of privacy and safety testing on some of the devices.

No one ever tried a full body search on me – which is a good thing because if they’d tried to make me strip and do a cavity search at least two people would have emerged from that room bloodied and needing medical attention (and I probably would have been arrested).

So to reiterate–we’re talking me being pulled out of line every time I flew anywhere, about 30-40 times in a row.  I tried dressing differently (more conservatively, more casually, more dressy), being quiet, being loud, being polite, being indifferent,…it didn’t matter.  Don’t tell me there isn’t facial recognition software being used in TSA screening lines, because there is.  There’s no other way to explain my being pulled out every time.

Fortunately, I came prepared.  I won’t go over everything I did to protect my data (a girl’s gotta have some secrets), but here are some of the things I did.  I had partitioned and encrypted my laptop up the yin yang.  There was one partition that booted up to public stuff–my personal email account that I use for nothing serious or secret, no work-related stuff, boring web browser history, etc.  Then there was my “real” laptop–a partition that only booted up with a secondary password and which would shut down on a deadman switch unless I re-entered a password every 20 minutes.  I also installed Paranoid Android on my phone (one of many reasons to have an Android device instead of an iPhone).  I have since performed similar security measures with my Android tablet, which I now travel with instead of a laptop.  If anybody wants to know the extensive security measures I take with my data, let me know.  I’m sure I still have gaps, but am happy to share what I do know with others.  Email or DM me and I’ll help.

Taking a cue from Jacob Appelbaum (a personal hero of mine who I knew before he became all famous and hunted by the feds), I also started carrying around a single USB stick with the text of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on it and nothing else.  Whenever the TSA or customs officials would ask me for my electronic devices, I’d give them that.  The funny thing is they wouldn’t ask what was on it–just walk away with it and come back, hand it to me, and make some snarky comment about socialists, hippies, communists, or liberals.  And I would sweetly smile for an uncomfortably long time until they looked away.  That is always my favorite part.  Sarah’s “gotcha” smile.

Every time they demanded to see my laptop or my phone, I said no. I said they had no reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing and therefore would be violating the Fourth Amendment were they to seize my belongings.  I wrote down the names and ranks of everyone I dealt with in each encounter.   I live-Tweeted if I could get a connection where they had me stashed.  I always asked for a supervisor to be present, I asked why I had been pulled aside (never got an answer), and I told them they could not detain me and make me miss my flight or I would be entitled to restitution and they didn’t want to explain that to their bosses, now did they?  I was usually polite, though in a couple of cases I admit to getting so frustrated that some name-calling did occur.  When one agent tried to swipe my phone from my pocket while I was mid-sneeze, I grabbed his wrist in a death grip and said “Over my dead body, motherfucker.”  The look on that guy’s face was priceless–but also one of the scariest moments in my life when I thought “Oh, I’m gonna end up in Gitmo, aren’t I?”

On the lighter side of things, I also bought some Fourth Amendment Wear (I got the bra and panty combo) which displays the text of the 4th Amendment in metallic ink over your private bits so if you are going through the scanner it shows up in the scan (I never go through the scan, but it’s still funny).

What About International Travel?

Twice crossing the U.S. border — once coming in from Montreal and once coming in from Amsterdam — I was pulled aside, searched, and again they tried to seize my electronics.   I said they were perfectly entitled to rip them out of my hands, but that it was unreasonable search and seizure, I would take them to court, and they really didn’t want that.  The most fun time was in Montreal when I was asked what I’d been doing in Montreal I said I’d spoken at a librarian conference and was headed straight to another one in Michigan.  The guy looked me up and down (and granted I was dressed rather punky–combat boots, zipper-laden skinny jeans, fishnet shirt) and said “Yeah right–come with me.”  This was when I most lost my temper.  I produced my ALA membership card, my staff ID card for my library, and I still had my frigging conference badge on.  And yet that wasn’t enough.  That was the time I got the mouthiest and was likely most at risk for some serious blowback for not cooperating.  When I finally convinced them that I was a librarian (stereotype much?) they let me go.  But in both of these cases, I gave them the USB drive but refused to hand over anything else…and they didn’t force the issue.  Perhaps I was lucky.  Perhaps knowing my rights made me a less easy target for them.  I honestly don’t know.

Aaaaaand The White House

The most fascinating thing about all of this was in January 2012 I was asked to go to the White House to live-Tweet the State of the Union address.  This was *awesome* but I was convinced I wouldn’t pass the background check because I was on THE LIST.  But I passed.  And when I left to fly to DC a couple days later, miraculously I was not pulled out of line.  Not on the way back either.  Or any of the times I’ve flown since then (except the time in Montreal, which I am convinced was based on how I looked, not who I was).  So…apparently if you get cleared to go to the White House, you magically get to be off of THE LIST, or so I assume.  Only time will tell.

My Advice

You could say I’m paranoid. You could say the surveillance state is real and I should just accept it.  You could say nothing I do is that interesting or important to get me in trouble so why do all of this (but you don’t really know me or what I do, do you?).  But this is real, people.  Your data is being mined, and when you’re traveling with data you’re at serious risk.  There’s no reason to make it easier for law enforcement to screw you over and violate your rights.

Read the documents I linked to.  Know the risks, and know your rights.  The risk of search and seizure of your data is real.  You know Facebook already owns your ass, as does Amazon and Google and all the other mega-corps who we sadly willingly give our data to.  But you don’t have to hand that stuff over to the government just because you’re traveling.  Minimize the data you carry with you.  Get yourself a USB drive with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on it.  And, alas, try to be more calm and polite than I ended up being during a few of my altercations.  I do not respond well to arbitrary authority, and I’m sure that ended up prolonging my stay in a few airports.  Be smarter than I was.  Be firm, but polite.  But overall–be educated.  Know that the TSA and DHS can pwn you and your data if they so choose.  And do you damndest to prevent them from doing it.

Power to the people.

I haven’t been writing much lately on my blog (in case you hadn’t noticed the utter lack of updates).  I took over as Acting Director for the San Rafael Public Library 15 months ago and as Director 9  months ago.  Before that time, I was averaging 20-30 posts a month.  In the last four months I’ve posted twice.  That makes me sad.

I still am active daily on Twitter and Facebook, but I have been so burned out by work and personal life stress that thinking about libraries after I get home is (sorry to say) the absolute last thing I want to do.  I’ve also cut way back on my speaking engagements–down from 44 in 2011 to 25 in 2012, and looking forward it looks to be around 10 for 2013.  Sorry kids–I’m tired from my day job and real life.  The limitless power source that was my professional engagement has apparently found its limit.

What motivated me to post today was someone asking about a follow-up to the stalker post that I wrote on Halloween 2011.    I was asked–Are things better? Have things changed? Are people less creepy now and leaving you alone?

Sadly, no.  Since I wrote that post I have received:

  • several more unwanted advances and “touches” at conferences (including a drunk librarian in underwear only knocking on my hotel room door), which is part of why I dialed back my speaking engagements – I’m so sick of this shit
  • a marriage proposal from a fellow librarian (who I don’t know from Adam) who started it off with the very romantic “Now that you’re finally divorced and everything…”
  • two hand-written mailed death threats at work
  • numerous anonymous bouquets of flowers on my home doorstep, some with creepy stalker-ish poetry, which I traced back to…
  • a local stalker who eventually revealed himself while I was on a break outside the library, physically assaulted me, and got slapped with a restraining order after I kicked him where it counts and grabbed his wallet and ID when he was on the ground to get identification

And frankly, there has been a lot of stress in my work life in the last year.  The inevitable personnel and budget challenges at work, a huge uptick in illegal behavior in the library resulting in a lot of banning, a small claims lawsuit filed against the library, a patron who said he’d “bury me in paper” and then did so through numerous FOIA requests, pests and mold in the library, the facility literally falling down around us, and in general feeling that this “trial by fire new director” thing is not the best way of learning things.

So between work being insane, creepy people still making themselves seen, and an emotionally taxing personal life…yeah, I’m not writing as much, I’m not presenting as much, and I’m not as active on library issues as I used to be.  I am hoping that spark will come back and I will want to start writing again.  I guess this is the first step toward that.

Year in Review

December 17, 2012 | Comments (9)

It’s the year in review! Below are my favorites from 2012, just because.  I did this last year too (2011’s version):

Book – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Movie – Iron Sky

Band – The Album Leaf

Song – “This is How It Ends” by Devotchka

Serious Technology – Nexus 7 tablet

Less Serious Technology – stainless steel pet water fountain

Conference – Internet Librarian in Monterey

Fan Girl Squee Moment – dancing with David J (from Bauhaus and Love and Rockets) at a club and having him ask me for book recommendations

New Service for Libraries – Geek the Library

Personal Accomplishment – finishing my ginormous, very black back tattoo without crying

Professional Accomplishment – being hired as Director for the San Rafael Public Library

Library Innovation – sea dragons (I don’t think any libraries actually have these, but I want sea dragons in my library so there)

Indoor Event – Ghost Ship

Outdoor Event – Folsom Street Fair

Support for a DRM-free Future – Humble Bundle eBooks

Bar – The Pint Size (San Rafael)

Treat – vegan peanut butter cups from Sjaak’s

Photo of me that you will never see – shoveling powdered-sugar-covered funnel cake in my face at the Marin County Fair

Meme – Grumpy Cat

Sadly, I only got a half dozen or so videos for the Shit Librarians Say contest.  We had a *ton* of comments left on the post with suggestions for content for video clips, but not enough people have sent stuff in yet to make it substantial enough.  So keep the submissions coming – and if you’re not sure what to say, hey–a bunch of your colleagues have some really cute ideas.  The videos should be short – 5-15 seconds on average.  Doesn’t take long, just make sure the audio quality is good please 🙂  We’ll see if we can get enough people to spout of ridiculousness to make this video happen!