Hello and welcome to Stacking Up, a blog for the "modern" librarian! The great thing about today's librarians is that we are so diverse: different ages, backgrounds, personalities, looks... this blog is here to share this diversity with ideas, insights, stories, experiences and opinions for anything and everything having to do with being a librarian!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Library Crush Week!

So this week I am honored to be a guest blogger at the lovely Trish's blog Just A YA Girl!! I am super-excited to be over there during Library Crush Week, talking about what it was like to be a library school student and what I love about my local libraries. Be sure to click on the image above to stop on over and check out my post, along with Trish's beautiful bookish blog! Or, if you want to stay put, here is the post I wrote up:
OK, so I have a story about being a library school student... When I was still going to library school to get my Master's degree in Library and Information Science, I sort of got a lot of weird looks from people. I would be at like a family reunion or party, and someone would ask, "So Lea, what are you doing these days?" And I would answer, "Well, I'm going to school to be a librarian." This would then be followed by some polite nodding, an awkward silence, and occasionally by statements/questions such as these:

1.) "You have to go to school to be a librarian?"
2.) "Do people still go to libraries?"
3.) "Don't you think that with the internet/ebooks that libraries are going to go extinct soon?"
4.) "What a cool job! I wish I could get paid to read all day!"
5.) "Huh. You look way too young to be a librarian."

I think it's interesting that there are so many people out there nowadays who really don't understand the value of the library, or what goes into becoming-- and being-- a librarian. So let me clear up some of these misconceptions:

1.) Yes you have to go to school to become a librarian. Actually, you need to have a Masters degree from an accredited school that takes 2 years of study and an internship to get! It's a lot of work, but it's definitely an accomplishment that I'm proud of :)

2.) Yes yes yes, people still go to libraries! Lots of people go to libraries! They're called students, children, teens, families, young professionals, the disadvantaged, the elderly, teachers, volunteers, and pretty much every other part of society you can think of! All of them love and support their libraries, and make them thriving centers of their community.

3.) The internet has been around for (not even?) 30 years... The written word and books have been around since as early as 5000BC. I'm pretty sure they're not going anywhere anytime soon! And personally, I would much rather read print on paper than a computer screen any day... but that's just me! Plus, libraries now offer not only e-books for pretty much any e-reader out there; they also have DVDs, MP3s, and even video games available! Just like any other area of society, libraries and librarians are aware that they need to stay current and up-to-date if they want to remain relevant in today's world.

4.) So do I! Working in a library has about 5% to do with reading books, and 95% to do with people skills, social networking, marketing, technology, information management, teaching, and other skills that need higher education and a LOT of experience!

5.) Um. I have no idea how to respond to this lol. People crack me up!

Today I'm a Librarian (capital "L" heehee) and in the short time that I've had this title (about a year now) I've seen first-hand just how awesome libraries are and the kind of impact they have on local communities. Working part-time at the city branches isn't always a piece of cake, but I've seen first-hand how libraries are places where kids go to get off the streets and learn to read, where teens study for their GEDs, where adults learn how to use computers for the first time to find jobs and type up resumes, and where all kinds of people come together to make a difference in their communities. Honestly, I can't really think of a greater way to make a living than to be a part of this!

So why do I love my library? Well, besides being such a fantastic place for so many different people, I love my local libraries because I get almost all the books that I read and review on my blog from them! If it wasn't for the library, I probably wouldn't be able to keep up with my blog, or get to read nearly as many amazing books as I do. What can I say-- libraries are the best! And I'm sure that they will be around for a long time to come, as long as we continue to give them the support that they need :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Library Reclassification = A Pain in the You-Know-What

Doesn't this look like fun???

So you know what is seriously not enjoyable? Having to reclassify your entire library collection from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress. Yep. Not much fun at all.

I found this out over the past week, as all the books in my college's library have now been changed to Library of Congress (I didn't even realize that some smaller academic and research libraries still use Dewey... interesting...) Anyways, talk about tedious and time-consuming. Now, the collection at the library that I oversee only has around 1,200 books-- which is enough for our campus since we are a satellite branch of a larger college--and that was definitely plenty for me!

Last Wednesday the Library Director visited with a couple other librarians and we re-labeled every single book with new LC classifying stickers. However, I had to leave early for another job that day and the project couldn't be finished by the time campus closed at 5pm, so guess what I got to do for 5 hours yesterday and 3 hours today? Re-shelve 1,000+ books that were stacked-up (out-of-order) on all the library tables! I am proud to say that I finished, but am now slightly cross-eyed from looking at all those freaking LC decimals (ex. HG 2551.S38.2009-- ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?)

The only slight problem is that I misjudged the amount of shelf space I would need and now I'll have to go back and shift everything to fill the 4 empty shelves I have left...

But you know what? That can wait for another day :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reference 101: What to do when...

So this is a new little feature I'm going to start throwing in every once in awhile, for new librarians on the reference desk. As a new reference librarian, I have come across a variety of different situations, some more extreme than others, that I have had to learn first-hand how to deal with. Here are a few more recent ones:

What to do when...

A patron calls and says they've been mugged and all their library books were in their bag.

Answer: Tell them to bring in the police report with a description of what was stolen. At that point the branch manager will most likely discharge the fines.


A patron calls in on Friday and says they returned 2 DVDs on Wednesday, but when they looked at their account today, it says one of the DVDs is still charged out to them and is now overdue.

Answer: First, look up their patron record to see which DVD title is still overdue. If it is from your own branch, look for said DVD first to see if it's on the shelf or if it got put somewhere else. Clerks come in handy here. If you can't find it or it is from another branch, place a claims return on the DVD. This will basically freeze that overdue item so that no more fines are added on, while also flagging the item to be looked for. Let the patron know you placed a claims return, meaning we know they called to report they had returned the book but it's still on their account, and tell them the system will have the library look up to 5 times (or whatever the policy is in your system) for the item. Once found, the fines will be removed. Also, try to "gently" ask the patron to keep their eyes out for the DVD, in case it accidentally was not returned...

If the DVD was from another branch, also let the patron know that the DVD probably was never discharged after he returned it, but it is most likely still in transit back to the original branch. Explain what the claims hold does, and in the meantime, tell him to wait patiently for a week, keep an eye on his account, and call back at the end of next week if the overdue item in question has not been removed yet.


A patron calls in and says they checked out a book and they want to renew it because they misplaced it, and they want more time to look for it. You go into the patron's account to renew it, but realize they've run out of renewals and the due date can't be pushed back any further. The patron demands you do something about it.

Answer: Tricky one. Explain to the patron that once the book is checked out to them, it is their responsibility to return it on time, and there is nothing else we can do from our end because they have exceeded the number of renewals for that book. Unfortunately, this is not going to make them happy, so if they're still giving you a hard time, refer them to the branch manager, or let them know when the branch manager will be in next. Try to stay polite-- but don't abjectly apologize, because it's not your fault they can't keep tract of their books!


You're sitting at the reference desk and out of the corner of your eye, you see some guy in the stacks masturbating.

Answer: Call the police immediately! If the branch manager is there, let them know what's going on. If you're on your own, alert the clerks or whoever you're there with, but don't approach the culprit unless you're OK doing so. Yeah, this is always a fun situation to deal with...


These are all situations that I've had to deal with in my year as a substitute reference librarian for the public libraries. Of course, the way you do things for your branch libraries may be somewhat different, but I think that in general, these are valid solutions to scenarios you may run into.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 Technologies that Revolutionized Libraries

Here is another link that I wanted to share with you guys, which I found through a fellow librarian's blog...

The article is called 10 Technologies that Revolutionized Libraries, and it takes an interesting look back in time, and toward the future, of the different technologies, old and new, that have had a revolutionary impact on how libraries function and serve their communities...

I will give you a snippet from the beginning of the article, because I thought it was really good in how it supports the purpose of our libraries-- and anywhere I can find support in defense of the library is worthy of note to me!

"Libraries form an essential component of human society — they educate, they enlighten, they entertain. But, most importantly, they bring together members of the community in order to keep intellectualism and innovation flowing. And in order to stay relevant, libraries have to open themselves up to emergent technologies, discovering creative ways to apply them in the service of the people." 

Here there is mention of such forward-thinking innovations as the written language, scrolls and paper-- it provides a brief but interesting history to some of the things that we take for granted (what would we do without barcode scanners??), but that have really changed the way we live and think... It ends with the Internet and eBook Readers, which are definitely changing how we librarians define our jobs and the places we work-- in a good way! Hope you enjoy this short walk through library technologies that have revolutionized our jobs.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Librarian in Charge


OK, I know it has been awhile since I have posted anything here, so I thought I would FINALLY take a few moments to update everyone on what has been going on! As you may know, I also have another blog where I review YA fiction books, so that has also been taking up my time.

It has been a little over a year since I graduated from library school at Syracuse University, and I have been so blessed in the opportunities that I have had between then and now. Currently, I am still working as a part-time Reference & Instruction Librarian at a small satellite campus that provides undergrad and grad programs for more "non-traditional" students-- AKA, students who have been out of school for awhile and mostly work full-time and have families now. This is a challenge, but it also provides a great opportunity to work within a unique area of librarianship. At this college, I can hone my skills at library instruction and reference within a smaller and more intimate environment, which has been really nice.

I am also still working as a substitute librarian for the city public libraries-- there are around 11 branches and I have worked at all of them but one! This has also given me some really diverse experience with working with all kinds of different people and communities, while also seeing how individual library branches are customized to their specific areas and the patrons they serve. For example, one branch has a really large Filipino community, with many children, and the branch manager at that library has worked tirelessly to provide after school programs and meals and tutoring in English for those kids. Another branch in a very run-down area of the city has a toy resource center for the children there. So it has been really great to see those adaptations, based on the communities that each individual library serves.

I would have to say that I have already reached a rather... interesting point in my young career. I just received news last week that the other librarian who I work with at the college was just offered a full-time job at a university-- this means that I will be going from second-in-charge to "Captain of the Ship" here at our campus. Needless to say, I am excited, but I am also majorly freaking out-- I really want to thrive in this new position, even though I have never held such a managerial position before (I was a weekend manager at a local sub shop when I was an undergrad, but I don't really think that compares!).

So, in a month and a half I will essentially become a branch manager myself, at an academic library. I will be in charge of organizing and running all of the library instruction classes (that probably has me most freaked out), scheduling and running the Writing Lab, scheduling and organizing any "boot camp" classes for students who need extra help, and then of course doing all of the day to day tasks to keep the library running. Eventually, I will also be developing, organizing and running various workshops on certain library-related topics as well-- but first thing is first, I need to get used to running the place!

I think that this is an awesome opportunity for me as a new librarian, and even though I'm a nervous wreck and question my own capabilities after being here only 9 months, I fully intend to put everything I have into this new challenge and making my library (haha, yes my library) a great one for students to go to and get extra help. I won't be totally alone- we'll be hiring a new part-time Ref & Instruction Librarian as well. So there will be some training to do, too. Not gonna lie, sometimes I'm just like, wow this a lot for one 26-year old to handle, but it is an opportunity that has been given to me to advance my career and learn a lot of new things as a librarian, so I guess I need to just embrace it and do the best that I can!

I will probably be posting more frequently now, as I want to not only keep a record and share the experiences that I go through in my new job (and my old one at the public library too!), but I also want to be encouraged and provide encouragement to any other newly-graduated library school students, who may be facing similar challenges, or are still trying to get their feet on the ground in their new careers. I have a month and a half to learn as much as I can about running the library, and then I'm on my own...

But then hey, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and wing it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Future of Book Collecting

Probably one of the most fascinating and memorable experiences I took away from my two years as a library student involved a trip to the Special Collections and Research Center of Syracuse University, where the Curator of Rare Books and one of our professors gave us a tour of some of the treasures included in the Rare Book Collection of E.S. Bird Library. I can remember sitting there, craning my neck to get a better view of some of the physical remnants of literary history, wishing I could actually hold those relics in my own hands.

There were 12th-century illuminated manuscripts, hand-written and hand-painted with illustrations so bright and vivid that they could have been completed only yesterday. There were stone cuneiform tablets over 4,000 years old, first editions of Alice and Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, and-- my absolute favorite that made me positively green with envy-- a small prayer book that once belonged to Queen Elizabeth I. It even had notes in her own hand in the margins.

With the advent of ebooks and the increasing trend towards digital formats, I have been wondering lately: exactly what is the future of book collecting? In an age of digital book formats where copies are absolutely limitless and one edition can be created, multiplied and destroyed in a matter of seconds, what will become of our dusty first editions that make us feel privileged to own, or even see in person? Will there still exist editions in the book world that are both unique and difficult to obtain? And finally, should we even care, as long as the written word is universally accessible to as many people as possible? Should there even exist certain editions of books that only a few privileged people/institutions are lucky enough to own? Or is the democratization of books a trend that supersedes the singularity and particular qualities that make certain books unique and irreplaceable?

I actually had some difficulty finding anything on the WWW about this issue of the proliferation of ebooks and its impact on physical book collecting. I did find one interesting blog post, titled 100 Years Ago; Or, The Future of Book Collecting-- I am not sure of the author, but his blog can be found at A New Look at Old Books. The post gives some interesting opinions about where book collecting is headed, given the trends toward book-digitizing:
  • "Now, for the first time ever, the book itself is under threat. Over the next ten years the public will be asked to choose which we want, carbon or silicon, paper or screens."
  • "Book collecting will only survive if new collectors take it up and they will only do that if they have some sort of relationship with books."
  • "When there’s nobody left to appreciate a binding or care about condition or pay extra for a first edition then our books will become worthless clutter like shellac 78s and worn out clothes."
I feel like this perspective is a little bit too doom-and-gloom, and that the popularity of ebook readers does not necessarily mean the demise of book collecting altogether. But I do wonder about the future of first editions and rare editions- will they even exist any more in the sense that they have for hundreds of years? Will there even be such a thing as a "rare edition" in the future when it is so easy now to digitally recreate millions of copies of a book? And should books still be considered as "treasures," or should they all be commonplace and equally available to everyone?

I really only have one "treasure" in my own personal library at home-- and I cherish it as one of my most prized possessions. It is a 1929 edition of Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, illustrated by Harry Clarke. The book is in almost perfect condition and still has all of its color plates intact. (Note: the picture to the right is not my own copy, but it is an image of the same edition.) My grandma picked it up years ago at a used book sale for $0.25. Today this book is worth over $400 in good condition. I coincidentally caught an episode of the Antiques Roadshow that had my book showcased one evening, and to my utter surprise and delight, I found out just how valuable my edition was!

I don't think that any ebook could take away the inherent value of the physical book. Isn't there just something inexplicable about having a rare edition that is hard to find and expensive to acquire? And isn't there something to cherish and love in that old dog-eared, beat-up copy of your favorite book that you've taken with you everywhere and read over and over again countless times?

Ebooks are great and they have a definite place in today's market and today's society, but for me personally, nothing will ever replace The Book in its physical form. It is completely irreplaceable and has an inherent value that can not be supplanted by digitization. For this reason, I really don't know what the future of book collecting will look like, but I think it will be a very long time before physical books are completely replaced by ebooks, or digital copies take the place of physical ones in the heart of the book lover. Maybe that's a sentimental viewpoint that holds little weight in the face of huge publishing companies out to make a profit, but I think it's fair to say that plenty of people still can and do appreciate the unique qualities of a rare book. I can only hope that somehow, some way, future generations will still be able to see their worth as well.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Public, Academic, or Special Libraries? I Can't Choose!

OK, so I must be the most indecisive person ever when it comes to picking a career direction. Back in library school I had this issue as well- which kind of library do I want to get into? At the time, I was all about the Special Library and Special Collections. I took classes on preservation and archives, and even considered adding on a second degree in Museum Studies. However, once I graduated, my first library job turned out to be in exactly the kind of library I had no interest in as a grad student: public libraries. Last September I started working as a substitute librarian for the city library branches and realized just how much fun it can be to work in the public library world!

About a month later I was lucky enough to get a steady, part-time job as an academic Reference and Instruction Librarian at a small satellite campus for a business-centered college. For the past 7 months now I have been gaining invaluable experience in library instruction, one-on-one reference, programming, marketing, and many other things.

So then yesterday I found a job opening for a librarian needed at the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is a part of the United States Department of Defense, and I was just thinking, oh my gosh! How cool would that be to say I worked for the DIA? (Plus, it pays REALLY good.) Unfortunately, I'm under-qualified for that specific position at the moment, but who knows, maybe someday...?

So here I am, almost a year after graduating from library school-- working as both a public and academic librarian and looking into becoming a special collections librarian. Still haven't made up my mind! I love aspects of each type. Public libraries are great because I feel like both the people you work for and the people you work with are more laid-back, and the job gives you more flexibility to do things that you want. Like murder-mysteries? Throw a murder-mystery party. Like story-telling and playing Wii bowling? Become a children's or YA librarian. Like wine? Have a wine-tasting session at your next staff day (no, I am not making this up, we really did have one of these!) I like academic libraries because I really love working one-on-one with students and helping them do their research and citations-- I just get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when I know I have just helped someone to understand where to look for something or how to cite something. Plus I feel like I am getting experience in library instruction that I couldn't get anywhere else-- I'm still incredibly nervous when I have to teach, but I figure that goes away with time and practice. Finally, I love special collections too, because, well, they're just cool. I mean c'mon, who wouldn't want to work some place that has illuminated texts from the 12th century or first editions of Alice in Wonderland? Being that close to the physical remnants of history just sounds amazing to me. (And as I said, who wouldn't want to be like, "yes, I work in Washington D.C. for the Defense Intelligence Agency" at their next school reunion?) So special libraries are still on my potential list of places to work too.

Have you figured out where you ultimately want to be in LibraryLand? Have you realized where your niche is and have no doubt that you'll remain there for the rest of your career? Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you had chosen another direction? And is there anyone else out there who is still as indecisive as I am?

Just some thoughts I've been having lately! I really am happy that I have the opportunity to work in more than one type of library and to gain experience in each. Who knows where I will end up? As long as my job still involves books and helping people, I suppose I will be happy  :)