A colleague speaks out from Wisconsin

It’s been a busy year, between graduating, job hunting (successfully!), and moving cross country. Each of those deserves many pages devoted to it, which would probably all be less interesting than what my talented colleague, cohort member, and collaborator Audrey Barbakoff has to say about the political situation in Wisconsin.

I won’t apologize for making a living wage, for being able to visit a doctor when I need one, or for choosing a job that will help me build adequate retirement savings. I deserve and expect those things, as educated, passionate workers in any field should. But that’s not why I became a librarian, and I bet it’s not why you did. If we were just after a cushy lifestyle, there are easier (and let’s face it, more surefire) ways of securing one. I didn’t become a librarian to take; I became one because I wanted to give.

Librarians add incredible value to society. We help children develop the early literacy skills that will allow them to excel in school, reduce their dropout rate in high school, and continue on to higher education (and incomes). We help unemployed patrons learn the tech skills they need to find work. We provide enriching books and company to isolated seniors. We are defenders of intellectual freedom—safeguarding free, nonjudgmental access for everybody.

Sing it, sister.

Librarians do Gaga (and then take over the world)

Hi, everybody! You’re probably here because of that “Librarians Do Gaga” video that’s been flying around Twitter and Facebook and pretty much everywhere else. Welcome!

I’ve seen a bunch of questions come up on the various sites, so I figured I’d do a bit of a FAQ for you guys.

Who are you, anyway?

My name is Sarah Wachter, and I’m a grad student at UW’s Information School (iSchool, in the vernacular) getting my masters in library and information science, to be awarded in, oh, about ten days. My goals as a librarian are to provide excellent customer and reference services to my patrons, to develop my patrons’ information literacy skills through one-to-one instruction and workshops, to develop outreach tools that create excitement for and interest in library services, and to have fun! I’m interested in both academic and public librarianship, and am especially interested in job sites in the greater Boston area. You can read more about me here or check out my résumé here (pdf).

And who are all those other people?

I had a great group of students, faculty, and staff collaborate with me on this project.

Audrey Barbakoff, Jenny Dolton, Andrea Gough, Eric Grob, Amelia Herring, Morgan McCullough, Laura Mielenhausen, Robin Chin Roemer, Cadi Sauve, Alex Walker, and Rachel Woodbrook are all MLIS students, most of whom are graduating with me this June.

Bob Boiko, Allyson Carlyle, Mike Eisenberg, Lisa Fusco, Nancy Gershenfeld, Trent Hill, Emily Keller, Nancy Pearl, and Joe Tennis are some of the wonderful faculty members that I’ve had the opportunity to study with over the last two years.

Cris Mesling and Grace Whiteaker are just two of the lovely MLIS-enabled staff members at UW. MLISes – they’re not just for libraries!

Why’d you make the video?

Two student organizations at the iSchool, iArts and iWrite, decided to pool their collective genius and put on a film festival, called (obviously enough) iSight. They announced this scheme mid-winter quarter, when Seattle is dark and bleak and I was listening to a lot of Lady Gaga because she makes me happy. I had also very recently watched the Neutraface parody, so that was bouncing around in my cranium too. I don’t remember if I first thought of “ca-ca-ca-catalog” or “can use my, can use my, yeah you can use my catalog”, but once the idea was planted the rest of the lyrics just slotted themselves around it over the next month or so. I listened to a lot of Poker Face that month. A lot a lot.

It wasn’t for a job?

Nope. Nor did I get class credit for it, more’s the pity.

Wait! I’m going to the iSchool next year! Do I have to make a video too?

Shhh, don’t stress. No, you have a variety of options for your culminating experience and none of them REQUIRE you to make a video. But you probably can if you want to. (I defer to your academic adviser on all matters related to curriculum, and so should you. This does not constitute academic advice. Etc.)

How’d you make it?

The iSchool technology department loans camcorders to students, so I took one out and then frantically recruited faculty and students to say a line on camera for me. I got a group of students together to do the larger scenes, and then just brought my camcorder up to various professor’s offices as they had a fifteen or twenty minute chunk of time free for me to film them. I’d play Poker Face for them so they could sync their lines to the music, and then as I edited in Premiere Pro I only used the video and chucked the audio.

I also did a lot of bumping into people in hallways and at their various places of work and asking them if they’d like to be in a music video. Most everyone said yes.

Yeah, but you got Nancy Pearl in there! How’d you do that?

I bumped into her in a hallway and said, “Nancy! Hi! Do you want to be in a music video?” She said yes.

But doesn’t she shush a lot?

No, you’re confusing her with her action figure.

Why did you use “catalog” instead of “database”? “Database” sounds more like “poker face”!

True, it does. But it also sounds really stupid if you try to go “Duh-duh-duh-database duh-duh-database.”

Is that you singing?

Nope. I’m lucky to come from an exceptionally musically talented cohort and my friend Laura Mielenhausen has a gorgeous, Gaga-esque voice. After I’d finished writing the lyrics, I sent them to her to sing and she did all the vocals and audio editing using Garage Band. (Her husband Rob is responsible for the “Don’t forget the databases.”) She did a fantastic job, I must say.

Can I download an audio track of the song?

I would love to be able to make it happen, but I’m in the process of determining whether offering the audio as a free mp3 download will generate any copyright issues for me. I’ll get back to you.

Can I share your video with a class, conference, etc?

Yes, you can use my video for non-commercial purposes. Please keep my name on it and link back to me. If you have any questions about whether something is okay, please email me.

Who were you making this for?

I made it first and foremost for the film festival, so I wanted to make something that captured the iSchool experience and that showcased our fantastic faculty, staff, and students. Librarian in-jokes were a must. Our professors really are that goofy and amazing. And Trent can wail on that banjo, man oh man.

What’s with the antelopes?

One of the first readings we get at the iSchool is Michael Buckland’s 1991 article, “Information as Thing,” in which he discusses Suzanne Briet’s concept of an antelope as a document. Question: Is an antelope a document? Answer: It depends. Buckland writes:

…Objects are not ordinarily documents but become so if they are processed for informational purposes. A wild antelope would not be a document, but a captured specimen of a newly discovered species that was being studied, described, and exhibited in a zoo would not only have become a document, but “the cataloged antelope is a primary document and other documents are secondary and derived.” (Briet, 1951, p.8)

Your ideas intrigue me! I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Maybe you should think about library school!

And what’s with Captain Kirk?

I dunno. I like Star Trek, what can I say? If I’d been able to make “Starbuck” scan I totally would have.

Is that a Who reference at the beginning?

It’s more of a big ball of wibbly-wobbly whoosey-woosey…stuff.

You’re a total geek, you know.


Are you totally sick of Lady Gaga’s music now?

Maybe a little bit, but I’ll never admit it in public.

Buckland, M.K. (1991) Information as Thing. Journal of the American Society for Information Science. 42(5), 351-60.

Briet, S. (1951) Qu’est que la documentation? Paris: Éditions documentaires, industrielles et techniques.

Librarians do Gaga.

Wow, this is kind of lighting up the intertubes.

I’ve had at least one request for the lyrics to my “Librarians do Gaga” version of Poker Face. Here they are!

You got a question that is causing you some pain
Typin’ keywords into the search engine again.
Look your naïve searching just ain’t gonna get it done
Cause when it comes to search if it’s not tough it isn’t fun (fun)

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll blow your mind, show you how to find.
Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll blow your mind, show you how to find.

Can use my
Can use my
Yeah you can use my catalog
(Don’t forget the databases)
Can use my
Can use my
Yeah you can use my catalog
(Don’t forget the databases)

Ca-ca-ca-catalog ca-ca-catalog
(Mum mum mum mah)
Ca-ca-ca-catalog ca-ca-catalog
(Mum mum mum mah)

This keyword search it gives you way too many hits
Boolean limits pare things down to just what fits
Use the thesaurus to find subject terms that work
Then in just one minute you’ll be through like Captain Kirk (Kirk)


We love the Big 6, baby!

Step one define your problem
Pick your sources.
Then go huntin’. We’re not puntin’
On the research. We’re engaging and extracting somethin’
Then you can put it back together
Tell your friends about your awesomeness
It’s synthesis synthesis
Evaluate cause we’re into this.

Feel free to host singalongs, but please don’t duplicate these without linking back to this site and crediting me.

Thanks for watching!