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National Poetry Month @ your library

This gallery contains 5 photos.

    Inside my library are architectural codes, IT certification books, criminal justice resources, and electronics manuals. My students are craftsmen, network builders, architects, detectives–hands on learners diving head first into life’s obstacles and opportunities. They are inherently unique and fearless … Continue reading

Library Vignette

The wind howled and whistled past, batting nature’s rumblings against the glass. On this reckless, dismal day, Ellie had hoped to restlessly meander through the garden or tuck herself away beneath the careless Oak–mangled and tense, perfectly fitted for dreamers. 

A soft sigh slid off her lips, enveloping the room in melancholy thoughts. Ellie pirouetted, clumsily, from the countertop making sure to land with snow-tipped footfalls. Mother didn’t like rambunctious little girls, unnecessary rumblings to intrude upon fanciful longings of brooding English gentlemen, devilishly dressed in stories. Mentally, Ms. Meadows strolled, arm-in-arm, through endless rose-lined fields with her Beaux. Truthfully, she never left the living room. 

Ellie’s right ear tipped up slightly, as she carefully counted to 10. She wouldn’t dare move until the Lady of the Living Room proved undisturbed, safely intoxicated by romantic pursuits. When not a peep had emanated from next door, Ellie made haste for the perfect space–her refuge of lost thoughts, mental movie reels, pieces of Heaven stowed secretly for days like this.

Her library is not merely a place of repose, a spot to stave off real life pursuits. Ellie’s books were passports to other Worlds. She clung to each one and carefully contemplated their meanings. Books were meant to be explored, not devoured. They must be revisited periodically, so one does not lose what bound them to another place and time. Memories are fleeting moments, but words are solid purveyors of knowledge. If you allow them, words can guide you through treacherous journeys and unexplored terrain.

A Library Assistant’s Survival Guide to Start Week

Once every quarter you become the most popular person on campus. From student ID pick-up and log-in issues to marathon library instruction sessions and existential classroom dilemmas (Who are my teachers? Why am I here? Where am I going? …). And, don’t forget the new books you ordered which must be cataloged and shelved. Even the library’s frog is wordlessly beseeching your aid as a surprisingly aggressive snail launches an attack (Seriously.). During this time, you live on sub-par office coffee or tea and candies your colleagues leave out. Inevitably, this produces bad breath and heightened anxiety. But, don’t despair! It’ll be over soon and, if you follow the below tips, you could preserve some of your sanity.

1. Don’t overextend yourself. You are not Barbara Gordon with super hero strength. Some things can be addressed next week (i.e.; instruction sessions or cataloging) or by colleagues.

2. Create a to-do list. At the beginning of your shift make a list of what you hope to accomplish today. Time sensitive items should be listed before on-going projects or wish lists. Before leaving, mark off your achievements and consider what tomorrow might bring. This should keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

3. Try to maintain a sense of order. A messy workspace adds to the chaos around you. Try to tidy up throughout the day to prevent drowning in paper work, books, office supplies, and other miscellaneous items.

4. Take your breaks off campus. Sometimes we skip breaks or eat at our desks, but it’s beneficial to relax with a good book and to tune out the hubbub on campus.

5. Most importantly, have a sense of humor. It’s a library, not Dante’s Inferno.

Research and Instant Gratification

To the dedicated researcher, the weary college thesis writer and the sagacious knowledge seeker, this juxtaposition of words seems an oxymoron. From card catalogs to search engines, one thing has remained constant: not all information is free and readily accessible. Sometimes you must hunt for what you seek. The obscure and seemingly unsolvable puzzle cannot be solved by the click of a mouse. If it could, would it enkindle any interest? Researchers do not search for what they know; oftentimes they do not know what it is they seek. An endless array of sources deviates into branches of knowledge, brittle and winding pathways leading to euphoria and heartache.  

Libraries, a researcher’s ever-constant friend, are evolving just like information access. When the New York Public Library (NYPL) proposed the use of off-site storage, authors and academics took up arms. Andrew Abbot, a sociologist at the University of Chicago lamented, ““You can’t do really cutting-edge research when, a dozen times a day, you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to get something. It’s like apes swinging through trees. When you’re swinging from vine to vine, and you reach out for the next branch and there’s no vine there, you just fall. That’s what off-site storage is like.
You can’t do research that way” (Lamster).

The question must be raised: was the vine always readily available or did you sometimes fall until hitting upon the source at a later date? My vote is on the latter. It’s preposterous to presume that all primary sources, every obscure title, and the complete written word were ever at your fingertips, or that it ever will be. Research is synonymous with exploration and investigation, terms which signify a journey. Instant gratification implies an immediate reward. As a measly History undergraduate, my thesis took 1 year, 30 plus sources, (at least) 5 libraries, and countless mind numbing, bleary-eyed, coffee-charged nights to complete.

There are doomsayers who cry the sky is falling and the end (of exactly what, I am unsure) is near. I, for one, welcome these weary Pilgrims to the House of Patience. For most libraries at my fingertips have remote stacks or Interlibrary Loan and I have lived to bear witness to this.

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Reference

Lamster, M. (2012, July 20). Still here: A funny thing happened on the way to its predicted obsolescence. In METROPOLISMAG.COM. Retrieved July 21, 2012, from http://www.metropolismag.com/story/20120720/still-here

Skill Sets for Librarians

While carelessly perusing my libraryblog roll over some lukewarm coffee, I stumbled upon an unexpected question: Do Librarians need to know anything? Naturally, I was puzzled. If taken philosophically, I could assume that online library land was trying to uncover some deeper meaning to the profession; an existential point of reflection in these changing times (eBooks, web reference, e-learning—oh my!). Upon further reflection, I deduced that the coffee wasn’t working yet and that I was reading too much into a rather simple question. Once my Nancy Drew skills were activated, my gut reaction was, “Why, yes, of course!” My psychoanalysis (sans facetiousness) is below. Please leave your rebuttals and/or elated agreements in the comments section.

Although I am enrolled in a LIS program, my response will reflect my experiences at both public and career college libraries. The effectiveness of LIS programs is a topic for another day. I’ll leave you with this, dear Reader: if I don’t know what I need to know, then how can I evaluate the effectiveness of my LIS program?

1. Librarians need good marketing and customer service skills. People cannot use the resources that they do not know are there. This seems obvious, but it’s not always as simple as it looks. Also, if you cannot connect with your patrons or adapt to their information needs you are not providing quality services. Oftentimes, we fall for the latest trends (i.e.; every library needs Facebook and Twitter accounts), but fail to ask our patrons if these outreach methods are connecting them with information they are seeking. Social media and emerging technologies are great, but if you are serving a population with limited access to high-speed internet, do you need a large online presence?

2. Teaching and tutoring skills are highly recommended. In my current position, my colleague and I are required to instruct students in information literacy. On top of teaching in the classroom, we help students use MS Office programs, search the Virtual Library, use correct citation, develop and compose research papers, create resumes and cover letters, learn basic computer skills (i.e.; sending e-mail attachments, saving documents, etc), and use program specific software (i.e.; AutoCAD).

3. Cataloging skills are beneficial for special librarians and those working at smaller libraries. I never thought I would be creating catalog records. I wasn’t interested in solely focusing on this particular aspect of libraries, but here I am creating original records and copy cataloging in ResourceMate (An aside: I’m not fond of this program). Luckily, my Librarian was a very patient fellow and walked me through the process. Dear Reader, seeing a pile of books that require me to create an original record still produces quiet grumblings.

The above is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of skill sets. It is merely a starting point.

Marketing Special Collections

From my cubicle, dressed as a reference desk, I can see the entire library. Five shelving units, an end table, and a halved table house our collection. Given our stature, you’d think visibility and browsing would not be a problem. Our Criminal Justice (CJ) Department Chair in tandem with past and present library staff members started a wonderful community policing reserve collection. However, unearthly dust balls blanketed these resources, obscuring them from potential users.

Quietly tucked away between the course reserves and Engineering and Design were rich resources from the Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, and the Department Chair’s personal library. After surviving the Dust Bowl, I carefully combed through each document attempting to uncover why these materials were not being used. The government documents and tool kits were not only current, but also highly specialized, informative, and accessible.

After becoming engrossed with a gang threat assessment toolkit, I reached out to our CJ chair, whereupon we implemented the following initiatives (Well, not all at once, but I have to keep the story going):

1. Increase collection’s visibility

Students cannot use what they do not know is there. The collection was placed on our halved table in front of the Librarian’s desk. I created attractive signage and printed a catalog of collection items for patrons to peruse. (Note: Our library does not have an online catalog for our physical collection.)

2. Invest in the collection

Roughly 90% of the collection was current and relevant, but the rest needed to be weeded. Working alongside the CJ chair, I eliminated those items and created space for new resources. I distributed copies of the inventory to all CJ instructors, which led to one instructor donating 5 true crime books. My interest in their special collection led to improved partnerships with the entire program. Plus, our departments revived interest in a great resource which had long been abandoned.

3. Integrate into the curriculum

Instead of my standard bibliographic instruction lecture on plagiarism, research, and APA citation, I experimented with a hands-on APA activity. With the CJ chair, I created a research assignment for his students. The students had to find sources in our periodicals collection, the Virtual Library, and within the special collection. As this went well in our CJ chair’s class, he encouraged other instructors to request the same session for their classes. A couple of quarters later, the CJ thesis students have all consulted the collection for their papers. Success!

Horrid Weather, Fantastic Libraries

It was another wet and windy day in Boston. Tomorrow the AASL conference officially begins, so today I visited some sites of interest while attempting to stay as warm as possible. Below are some pictures of the Boston Public Library main branch.

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In the morning I made my way to the JFK Presidential Librrary & Museum. This was my first trip to a presidential library, so it was interesting to see what aspects of his life and presidency the museum focused on. For instance, the exhbits were vague about his specific polices outside of the Cold War, like Civil Rights and Vietnam. Instead, exhibits focused on his upbrining, Jackie O, his relationship with Bobby Kennedy and Bobby’s time as Attorney General, his love of sailing and reading, and his legacy. Ultimately, the museum seemed to be a celebration of his life. My favorite parts were the political campaign memorabilia and audio/video and the set-up. The museum was divided into different rooms, some of which were intended to resemble rooms in the White House or particular offices. For example, Bobby Kennedy’s room was made to look like his office, complete with drawings his children gave him to what his desk would have looked like.

Later in the day, I found my new love: the main branch of the Boston Public Library. One building houses their rare books and art collections, where most of my pictures were taken. The second building houses their 3-storey public library. It was truly love at first sight. Their reference collection had a fairly impressive legal section and thousands of materials on microfilm. They also have an extensive English and foreign language DVD collection. I was thoroughly impressed. In relation to architecture, their collection had several folios and over-sized books on prominent architects and historical accounts of architectural changes in cities such as Beijing, Paris, Moscow, and much more. Last, but not least, I found several nonfiction materials I’d like to add to my library’s Criminal Justice and Drafting and Design collections.

Tomorrow I have a long day ahead of me filled with focus groups, index updates, and demonstrations. Hopefully, I’ll see some improvements in the weather, but I suppose I can’t really complain.