21 July 2014

You are not alone

In recent months I've blogged about my depression and anxiety, my diagnosis as being on the Asperger's spectrum, and beginning new journeys.  And as I began packing and the sorting of my physical life, I've done the same with my mental life.  And I realized that I keep giving...this demon, this darkness, this despair, whatever you want to call it more power than it deserves because I haven't talked about it.  Not as much as I could have and not as much as I should have.  So I'm going to change that now.

I don't want to tell the whole story here, in part because some of it is still being written, and in part because this just isn't the right forum for all of it.  One day perhaps...I've lived with depression and anxiety all of my life.  I didn't know that's what it was called nor was I ever formally diagnosed with it until two years ago this August.  While it bothered me a few times a year, I could feel it coming and prepare myself and have it go on after a week or so.  Two years ago though it came and it stayed and it didn't go away.

I began seeing a counselor who has helped me more than they will ever know.  I've taken medication that has helped.  I've sought advice from friends, coworkers, and complete strangers some of which was helpful and some of which was not.  I hurt people that I care about and they hurt me in return.

I've been dealing with a bullying situation for quite some time now, where a person that I trusted threw everything that I had told them back at me.  That I hadn't progressed as much as they wanted with my depression.  That I needed fat clothes.  That I needed to rethink my career because I wasn't cut out to be a librarian anywhere.  That they wouldn't give me a reference.  And more.  Things that were more cutting and hurtful than anything else I've ever been told before.

And now I get to the part where I can count on one hand how many people know what I'm about to say.  Towards the end of April I came as close as I've ever come to breaking completely.  I was so distraught over some things that were going on that I composed an email that I was going to send out to a group of people.  Before I did so I shared it online, in a private place to ask what they thought.  And the people that responded thought it sounded like a suicide note.  It wasn't meant to be that, but...at the same time it was.  I wasn't looking to cause harm to myself or anything like that, but I didn't want to be around anymore.  I wanted to just vanish.  And be gone.  A handful of folks reached out to me and one in particular kept messaging me until I called my counselor, went to see them, and then got back.  And then kept touch with me over the next few weeks to see how I was and to help me out.  I took time off to get my head back in place as much as I could and made plans to how to improve my situation.

And we come to the present.  I'm feeling better, but still struggling.  Not what I was a few weeks ago, but there are still days that are rough and hard.  But there have been people that have continued to stand by me and help me when I need it.  To remind me that I am not alone.  So that in turn I can help remind others that they are not alone.

The world keeps spinning and I know that there are people that will sit with me and say nothing other than they are there.  And that I am not alone.

26 June 2014

The river flows and the journey moves on

via: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33488462@N04/3771091859/
When I think about life, I generally think about a stream and how it moves around the landscape.  Growing up there was a stream that ran behind our house and it had this one spot that was perfect for playing in.  It had gently sloping sides for easy access and the water was so still that you could see the minnows playing tag at the bottom and the water spiders could dance upon the surface.  But it was only this was for about five feet, before it changed, as a stream does.  It flowed down rocks and around trees, creating little eddies that trapped leaves, and it would flow down hills and create mini-falls and through culverts that man attempted to control it by. And sometimes...sometimes the stream would forge its on way to move past obstacles, before getting back into the path later on.  But it moved on.

And like the stream that forged its own path to get past obstacles, I'm doing the same.  After 8 years at Mercer University, I will be leaving my position on August 21, 2014 and begin a new phase of career/life/journey.  This fall I will begin the MFA in Applied Cartooning at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont.  This is the inaugural class for the MFA in applied cartooning and I'm excited to be a part of it.  I've been describing the program as using my skills, talents, abilities, etc. for helping connect comics/graphic novels to the larger community, whether it be schools or health organizations or libraries or other, but I'll be helping the larger community discover the power of the illustrated word.  Over the last few years a passion of mine has been helping my library, and others to a smaller extent, connect with how comics and graphic novels are an integral part of not just reading, but our learning experiences.  So I'm excited to have the chance to work towards expanding this on a much broader level.

So what does that mean for this blog and my connection with libraries?  Honestly?  Well...I won't be presenting at library conferences as much, at least for a while.  Otherwise...not much.  Y'all are stuck with me until the ends of time as the library is in me.  I still have ideas/things I want to write about the larger library world and I will.  As far as comics and graphic novels go, I'm still striving to help libraries with connecting with comics, graphic novels, artists, publishers, common core standards, challenges, etc....just on a bit of a broader level now.  I'll be sharing what's going on with me on in a variety of spots most likely, so look here or to my webpage, ashuping.net, to keep up.

So...if you're interested, stay tuned, and hold on cause the stream is about to curve.

22 May 2014

The problem is not with Google

So someone that I follow somewhere shared a link to this article from the Huffington Post about "What's really wrong with Google"and frankly...it's disappointing as all get out.  The writer identifies themselves as an ex-librarian and starts off with a solid point, that a lot of the time Google does not return the results that people are looking for.  But she then delves into the fallacy that it is Google's fault that this happens, that Google is trying to do away with libraries, and gosh darnit! get that technology out of my library! Or at least that's what it sounds like, given that she states that DIALOG is the pinnacle of searching interfaces.

I really wanted to respond on the post with my thoughts, but...well let's just say that I have issues with their account creation system and leave it at that.  So instead I share my thoughts below:

I'm a librarian and frankly I'm disappointed in your argument that there's something wrong with Google and how people use it.  Yes Google doesn't always return results on topic, but should you blame them? 
You mention DIALOG and I've only used it once..in library school.  DIALOG has faded into the background because it was overly complicated for people to try to use and only librarians could use it. As far as it being able to provide good results, those didn't happen by accident. It happened because someone went through and assigned them the correct terminology. The same could happen today, but it's up to the web programmers to do that 
As far as Google's interface goes, I don't blame them from running away from library interfaces. I mean seriously? I've got a Master's and I still struggle trying to figure out some of the interfaces of the databases that we use today.  Look at DIALOG's "classic" interface! I understand it better now that I've worked with the Linux command line, but no wonder most people couldn't figure it out.
Is Google the be all end all? No...but nor is it Google's fault that result are not what people want. It is because we don't know how to search well and what words to use. We never have to be honest. Even back in card catalog days we had to depend on the librarian to be able to follow the trail. The problem is not Google, but that we have failed to teach people how to search properly. And that is up to us to improve.

And I'm absolutely serious.  We've failed at teaching people how to search.  With card catalogs most of the population couldn't figure out the trail to connect A to Z without a librarian's help. I mean seriously, I remember looking for information on dinosaurs in middle/high school and we had to look at 100 different cards to find 10 sources that I could use.  And it wasn't because they were bad sources, it was because we had to trace through 3 to 5 different cards to find the item sometimes.  So it really should not be a shock to our systems that people leaped at the chance to have a single search box interface that they could actually understand and it would give them some things that were what they wanted?

If we, as librarians, want people to be able to find better results then we need to stop blaming the products like Google and teach our users on how those results are found, and what they can do to get better results.

21 May 2014

My Favorite Thing About Zita the Spacegirl


(cross posted from my Musing Librarian Reviews blog)

Today I’m here to honor Zita the Spacegirl as she embarks upon her greatest adventure and journey yet...the adventure of a reader’s imagination.  While Zita’s book journey is at an end, for now, she will accompany her loyal fans readers on new journeys.  Journeys that they have only just begun to imagine and dream of.  Zita will follow them as they explore the world around them, lending her courage and strength as they face challenges around them, and even lend her experience and skills as they journey into the great unknown.  Zita and her fellow companions will keep us all in good spirits no matter where we go.

We loyal fans and readers have been lucky to be able to follow Zita’s journey, as faithfully chronicled by Ben Hatke, in webcomics, in minicomics, and in three books.  We have watched as Zita has journeyed to parts unknown, to save friends, make new ones, to stop evil in it’s tract, and to find her way home...only to set off on further journeys to help us, to lend us her strength and courage as we continue our journey.  Zita and her friends are beloved, not because they are superheroes with fancy gadgets and powers that we can only dream of.  No...they are beloved because they give us strength and courage on our darkest days.  Because we know that no matter what trouble we may be facing that we can count on Zita to stand with us and give us strength.  We know that no matter what the world may look like outside, Zita will stand with us.

So let us stand and cheer for Zita and her friends!  May their journeys be full of friends wherever they may go, and may their courage and strength never fail.  To Zita!

In honor of the occasion I broke out my pastels to make a little fan art (once I have access to a working scanner I'll post a better image)