Archive for the ‘Library Science’ Category

It’s been over a week since I attended my alma mater’s Graduate School Alumni Day.   The theme for the event was “Community and Collaboration” and brought in students from all the graduate programs–including library and information science, social work, and management.   The talks focused on how collaboration in the community can help to develop meaningful positive change.

While the idea of going beyond my familiar area of expertise can sometimes  be uncomfortable, I also recognize that reaching out also holds the great potential for something incredible to occur.  Trying something different can both demonstrate and help to foster change in a community.  I saw a presentation about the D.C Public Library’s hiring of a social worker to work with the homeless population and library staff.   Alums for multiple programs (library science and social work were both strongly represented) attended, and we were invited to discuss these complicated issues in mixed groups.

While it was challenging at first to reach out across experiences and disciplines, it was exciting to be involved in the discussion.  I think it can be hard to find situations like the one described, but I believe it’s important to develop those relationships because they help to highlight challenges and begin the process of finding ways to address them. While the D.C. library’s still seeing where this initiative will take them, I think the decision to try this helps place the library in the community.  By being involved in the community, the library both demonstrates its worth and helps to strengthen the community.

This talk made me wonder about community collaboration from an academic library perspective.   As a new librarian, I have always been impressed with the outreach academic librarians do; I have read and heard about librarians seeking partnerships with academic departments as well  as the writing centers or sports departments ( the example here was help sessions for athletes).  It made me ask what else we could try to integrate the library into the community fabric.   How do we create forums for interdepartmental and interdisciplinary conversations?  How could we utilize our spaces and knowledge to form new partnerships?

What I’m trying to say that I’m impressed with what has come out of community connections, and I would like to see further explorations.  Information is such an essential part of the world, and libraries have a great potential to be right in the center of so many questions.   I can’t wait to see how libraries will continue to connect in their communities!



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Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the New England ACRL conference.  As an individual with a (relatively) shiny new MLIS, it was an exciting experience.  I enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people–and see familiar faces– in the New England area.  I even participated in my first Twitter live chat!  Normally, I find Twitter overwhelming, but being able to focus on a specific topic and contribute to the conversation was a great experience.  It was especially interesting to see the messages different individuals took out of the same presentations I was in and see what new ideas people contributed to the original messages.   The theme of this conference was professional development, and I’d like to take some time to reflect.

One key point was how it essential it is to be focused in your professional development.  This may be common sense, but I think there is a lot of pressure to try to do everything and learn everything, and it’s not just possible.   As a new librarian, there are so many things to learn, I’m not sure where to focus my energies.  I think the advice  to develop goals that are relevant to you and, if applicable, your position or institution is sound.   If you are experiencing some difficulty in developing a plan, I recommend checking out Jaime Hammond’s handout from her session “Using Themes  to Design Your Professional Development Strategy”.  It is a great brainstorming tool and provides a scaffold for completing the development of a full plan.

Even within a focused plan, creativity and passion is also a big part of growing as an individual and professional.  I think it is important to care about your goals, and it was encouraging  to see that message promoted at the conference.   Engaging–in collaboration, writing, presentations, etc.–is essential, and I saw strong examples of this lesson in the conference.   Between the posters, presentations, and conversations, I saw a lot of energy and creativity as people responded and discussed ideas within their presentations, discussions, and posters.

Overall, I had a great time at the conference.   The panels–in particular Ms. Hammond’s–gave me the structure to start thinking about professional development as well as some ideas for seeking out those options.   It reaffirmed my love for the field, and I look forward to seeing the people I met again in the future.  I am still sorting out my ideas, but I’m looking forward to continuing my professional journey.

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I have left and returned to this post so many times, but now finally I’m getting it out. I have been thinking quite a bit about reference services lately.   In the days of the Internet, libraries are frequently weeding out their gigantic reference tomes and putting more computers in their place.   People are more likely to Google something than come into the library.  There is nothing wrong with Google: I Google a ton myself, but its existence puts into question libraries’ roles.   That being said, I think libraries are still an integral part of the community and can still be a valuable information source.  I can talk a fair bit about information sources, but that’s not the point of this post.

A couple of weeks ago,  I attended the Massachusetts Library Conference.   It  was a fantastic experience, and I heard a lot of interesting things that I’m still mulling over.   One particularly interesting thing was a presentation on reference in public libraries; technology workshops and related programs are the norm. Reference questions are also being redefined. It is no longer exclusively about answers; the definition of reference should expand to include both technology questions  and questions that fit into that traditional definition.  If the conference was any indication, we’re already moving in that direction.   I like to think of reference today as providing individuals with what they need to create something awesome.

In terms of academic libraries, I think we’re also finding people do not come exclusively for answers or our help in finding them.   However, when people do come to us,  it can be for any range of help.  In many cases, I get basic institutional questions, technology questions, or I can get serious reference questions.   I won’t lie that serious reference questions are among my favorites, but I also am happy to respond to  technology questions.  Mark Stover wrote an article called “The Reference Librarian as Non-Expert”.   If you have not read this article  and are in the profession (or simply curious), I seriously recommend doing so.  What I liked best was this concept of meeting of the minds in order to achieve a plan or direction for the individual with an information need;  I’m with Stover in that librarians can no longer assume “the sage” appearance (although I will freely admit to being pretty awesome at searching databases).    I’m okay with not being the sage of the library.  At work, I’m dealing with subject areas that I do not know much about or possess a degree.  I’d rather my customers tell me what they’re looking for, rather than having to rely on my personal comprehension of terms that I’ve looked up on Wikipedia.   I’d rather like to see reference interviews come to be viewed as a collaboration between two expert mad scientists in order to create a brilliant final product.

I’m eager to see libraries continue to continue to develop their new role, and I think this combination of basic and advanced questions both fit into the definition of this new reference.    One of my goals as I enter the professional workforce is to figure out effective channels of communication between myself and the community.   To wrap this all up,  I would like to know what would make patrons feel more comfortable approaching librarians.   Everyone should feel like competent  awesome mad scientists (or whatever icon you prefer) in the library.

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Where do books fit in these days?   With Google and ebooks as buzzwords, one might think that the days of the old-fashioned books are numbered.    Historian Robert Darnton makes the argument that this might not be the case.    Darnton covers ebooks, Google books, and e-resources in addition to a history of the book itself.

This book was not quite what I expected.   I thought Darnton would create an exclusive argument, but, in fact, this work is a collection of essays, topics of which include Google’s ebook project, the future of the libraries, and the history of reading and its meaning.    While the book was not what I was expecting, I enjoyed reading Darnton’s take on the print vs digital debate.    In his own way, he does present his own comprehensive argument, but you have to read through the entire book to figure it out.   However, Darnton writes a lively prose, and the information that he offers is so interesting that you won’t mind in the slightest.   If you have any interest in the history and/or the future of the book, I recommend that you check this one out.

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My summer internship project is re-classifying books in a public library.  At the library in question, the books come already catalogued and ready for the shelves. This particular publisher’s default category for non-fiction books seems to biography, so, as I’ve discovered, are plenty of books that shouldn’t be there. My job is to give them new call numbers that better reflect their topic and where they will hopefully be found by patrons. Trying to assign new Dewey numbers got me to thinking about patrons and their relationship to library systems, and I’d like to share my thoughts and hopefully receive some of yours in return.

One of my main worries is whether I’m putting the books in the correct Dewey classification.   More specifically, I am concerned about how my decisions affect users.  The Dewey Decimal System sorts books based on the subject of the book, and it can get pretty darn specific. The cool thing about these kinds of systems is that it puts related books in the same area and can connect materials in ways that a search engine such as Google is unable to.    However, with technological developments, the library’s role is being challenged, which, to me, means a reexamination of our services and structure.   I have heard complaints that systems like Dewey are not particularly sensitive to users and their way of thinking.   The problem lies in the type of vocabulary used, and the fact that people focus on different things than what is used to assign call numbers.  Although I think this issue is pretty nuanced,  I think these concerns need to be examined and addressed.

I am of the opinion that a library needs a foundation for their information architecture, such as Dewey, but that users should be able to contribute their own connections to the materials. Folksonomy–or tagging–is being explored as an option, with the idea being that users can help provide connections in ways that the classification systems may not allow for.    Tagging currently has achieved mixed success in libraries, mainly due to the level of interest and types of tags used.

So, my question to you all is: What do you think?   Do Dewey and other formal systems put you off?   What would you change if you could? You don’t have to have an MLIS to respond.   It’s actually more important that people without the degree speak up. So, please do so.

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One of the big issues facing libraries today is making people actually use them.  I recently watched this presentation by university librarians Char Booth and Brian Matthews: http://tametheweb.com/2012/06/01/understanding-the-learner-experience/.   It is worth the hour of your time.  However, here’s a quick summary:  Booth and Matthews were talking about how libraries could integrate themselves into the curriculum and help students at the university level.   Matthews focused on threshold concepts, which are key concepts that are integral to a student’s development in their chosen field.  Matthews commented on the realization that different learning styles affect the paths students take; it is important for libraries to integrate themselves into the community and curriculum at points that effectively reach students.  Booth presented a potential way for libraries to achieve just this.   She proposed curriculum mapping, which takes tools and builds a concept map around the materials.   The point of using such tools is to help libraries be liaisons and help to integrate into the university.

I found this presentation very inspiring.  As a student of library sciences, one of my interests is academic libraries.  One of my questions is always “how do academic libraries make themselves useful?  How can we understand the students and coursework?”  I think creating and using these curriculum maps is a good opportunity, for both libraries and universities.   Librarians need to prove the worth of libraries and, by using the tools at our disposal, we can create things that allow us to help those in our community.   Additionally, I think that this presentation made some important indirect points on learning and scholarship.   I am of the opinion that Americans need to evolve our education, to encourage different perspectives and approaches.  We have so many tools–we just need to use them more effectively.   I think libraries can help with those goals, and I saw suggestions to accomplish those goals in this presentation.


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Guys, I think I might be addicted to ILL.    What is ILL might you ask, and how on earth did this happen to you?  ILL stands for Inter-library loan.  Inter-library loan is a service offered by many libraries that allows patrons to get materials from another library.   Libraries frequently are in consortiums or have some kind of connection between each other that enable inter-library loan.  In some cases, a library system (for example the Boston Public Library) has multiple branches that patrons can use interlibrary loan.   What this means is that libraries are able to get their patrons materials that the library itself does not necessarily own.   Although the service apparently has been around for years, it has become infinitely better and more efficient thanks to online catalogs and databases.   You can think Henriette Avram for this awesome service.  (Everyone, read it out loud with me: Thank you, Henriette Avram!  You’re awesome!)

I was pretty enamored of ILL before I decided to enter library school.   My undergraduate degree is in history, which is another way of saying study of esoteric subject matters.  Anyways, my big paper for one of my seminars was on the factors that brought about the end of dueling in England. While my library did have some books on dueling, they did not have nearly enough.  Fortunately, there’s this cool database called WorldCat, and I could inter-library loan from there.   I got some lovely additional sources that helped me write an awesome paper.

Okay, so I already thought ILL was pretty cool.  How did I get addicted?

Because I live in a big city, I use public transportation.  Therefore I have a lot of free-reading time; it also means I go through books at a pretty good clip.   A lot of my reading material comes from the Boston Public Library, which is a large glorious building filled with interesting books.   The  Boston Public Library has a lovely, searchable catalog, and, when you get a library card, you are able to get an online catalog.   Curious to know what the library had, I typed in “Riget” (a Danish horror series that I have been interested in for a while).  Lo and behold–the library had it!  All I had to do was click “Put on Hold”, and soon it would be delivered into my clutches.  I could feel power rushing into me.  So I typed in “The Name of the Star” and got a result.  I clicked “put on hold”, knowing that it would soon come to me.  I could feel myself becoming more and more drunk on the power.   And so, a cycle began…and I haven’t really stopped.

So, now you know about Inter-library loan and its addictive powers.  So join the fun–after all, knowledge is power!


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