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  :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Are academic librarians becoming extinct?

If you are a librarian and/or library school student, I really encourage you to take a moment and read this article that was posted by Karen over at the Free Range Librarian-- it really speaks to our profession and where it is headed.

Karen Schneider is the director of the Cushing Library at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. She has over 20 years of library experience and has published over 100 articles, along with 2 books. In this blog post, she responds to Jeff Trzeciak, the University Librarian at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Trzeciak (no clue how that's pronounced) gave a talk earlier this month having to do with the direction that academic libraries should be headed in. The new trend, according to him and many other college library directors, is to do away with traditional library services and replace them with large-scale digital projects carried out by PhD-level academics and  IT professionals. Why? Because digital projects put college libraries on the map and make library directors look good. Problem? Not every college library has the funding, resources or even the need for huge digital collections-- but they are being pursued nonetheless. The result has been many librarians quitting or being laid off because they simply weren't trained to be IT professionals.

So basically (If Jeff's vision goes through), all of us bumbling, old-fashioned librarians will no longer have a place in the academic library world. Oh, and all of us newly-graduated library school students? Yeah, those MSLIS's and MLIS's aren't going to land us an academic librarian job any time soon-- we may as well have paid $50,000+ to have a piece of paper to hang on the wall, because from now on directors will only be hiring candidates with extensive IT backgrounds and even higher-level (and multiple) degrees.

I can speak from personal experience that I have seen this trend occurring in university libraries-- even small ones, and that for me is what is so disturbing. Yes, large schools like Syracuse University and UNC have both the funding to carry out large-scale digital projects AND the kind of collections that draw researchers to their campuses from all over the world. Umm... smaller schools don't have either of those, and yet their directors are still forcing them to compete with the big fish in order-- I am assuming-- to make themselves look good. It's almost as if, and maybe I'm wrong, but it's almost as if the new plan is to have college libraries go in whatever direction is most gratifying to the director's ego. And you know what? I think that any director who values these kinds of projects over traditional library services will ultimately ruin the library they are supposed to be leading.

Our place as librarians in the academic world is to provide research assistance and information literacy instruction to students and faculty-- that is our number one purpose, whatever any director has to say about it. I can only hope that there are more directors out there like Karen who are still realistic enough to understand the value of librarians in the academic world. Otherwise, I truly weep for our profession.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Librarian Lessons: Electronic Resource Management

So every now and then, I take it upon myself to read an article about something I know next to nothing about, in the hopes that I will learn something new. Now, I am far from being a technology-guru (I may have mentioned this before but me and phrases like "structural metadata" and "syntactic interoperability" don't mix). I remember taking a class in digital libraries when I was in library school, and anything that went beyond the bare basics left me with a headache. So with that being said, I stumbled upon a fun-looking article (and I mean that in the broadest sense) in last month's Library Journal called "Building A Better ERMS," written by Maria Collins and Jill E. Grogg.

Electronic Resource Management. Huh. Now here was something that would take me some time to mentally digest. It did turn out to be somewhat thought-provoking for me and I felt even a little smart just sitting there reading it, so that was a plus. Here is a summary of this article and what I managed to carry away from it:

Topic: ERMS, also known as "Electronic Resource Management Systems"

Intro: Librarians have been struggling over the past decade or so, trying to figure out what the best way is to handle the influx of new electronic resources. Learning to manage these resources is no simple matter. According to Collins & Grogg, "the problem is that managing e-resources is a distinctly nonlinear and nonstandardized process." And while the ERM systems that have developed recently address some issues (like license management and storing administrative info) they are still far from being the answer to other librarian needs, such as being interoperable with other systems. In a nutshell, ERM systems are mighty complicated, and the purpose of this article was to take a look at what we currently have, and see how it can be made better based on the needs/wants of today's librarians.

So what are librarians asking for from their typical ERM systems? What are the most important aspects of these tools that make them so valuable to what we do on a daily basis? Here are the 6 top priorities that librarians see for building a good ERMS:

PRIORITY #1: They have to be able to manage workflow and help make it more (not less) efficient

A large chunk of the librarians surveyed for this study said that one of the biggest problems they have with current ERMS is that they aren't efficient and they have poor functionality. ERMS right now make it pretty difficult to move from Task A to Task B because there are so many different systems being used to get library work done, and they're all owned/run by different vendors- none of them work together very well so getting things done takes forever. Besides this, nothing is standardized or centralized in one overall system, so trying to manage e-resources can be a real nightmare. Instead of having a bunch of clunky systems that can't "bend" to the needs of individual branches, digital collections librarians have said that a good ERMS will be flexible enough to adapt to local needs, which are unique to each library. I know all too well how the details of processing collections can differ between various branches! A good ERMS needs to be specific enough that it can support the details of local workflows (AKA how things are done at one branch) but general enough that it's adaptable/customizable across many branches.

PRIORITY #2: They have to be capable of license management

Now, I'm only a part-time librarian at the moment, but I do know that librarians have to deal with licenses and licensing terms A LOT. So far, it seems that ERMS have done a pretty good job in this area. Managing licenses and contracts, being able to categorize them, link them, and make them easily searchable has been one achievement in the development of ERMS. Being able to find specific terms of use, rules and policies, etc. makes it easier for librarians in every department of the library to make informed decisions. The only major issue right now is that a lot of library license terms need to be input manually into the system, which can be a drag and take a lot of time. Things get even trickier when you're using services from a bunch of different vendors, since now you have multiple licensing terms to keep tract of.

PRIORITY #3: They have to be able to manage statistics

Ahh yes, statistics. A part of every librarian job-- love 'em or hate 'em, you need to use them and appreciate how they help increase the value of library resources and services. In general, usage reports are needed to:

                                         *Build monthly and annual overviews of usage at your library
                                         *Measure usage of new publications
                                         *Make informed purchasing decisions
                                         *Understand and predict user patterns

Now, when dealing with statistics it's always helpful to have some sort of standardization so that you can relate the stats to each other, make sense of them and how they connect, and get an overall picture of how your library is doing. With this being said, did you know that librarian-lingo includes an acronym called "SUSHI?" OK, I didn't either, but it does. It stands for "Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative," and it's a standard with open source codes (ie. it's free to access and can be re-programmed to suite your needs) to measure how e-resources are being used. Using this code, libraries can retrieve and enter usage statistics (in the form of "COUNTER reports") in a standardized/consistent way, and librarians are saved the laborious process of generating spreadsheet reports themselves (which doesn't sound like much fun).
Basically, as it stands right now, statistics management is difficult with ERMS because they don't support the SUSHI standard, so librarians are still entering stats and generating reports manually. This is another thing they would like fixed with current ERMS.

PRIORITY #4: They'll be able to efficiently store administrative information

ERMS need to be able to store and make accessible info like staff usernames and passwords, vendor contacts, orders, and notes on past problems. So far, they have done a pretty good job of sticking all this metadata into one centralized place, but it still has to be entered manually, which is a pain.

PRIORITY #5: They'll support acquisitions functionality

Librarians really want a centralized, stream-lined system that can support all acquisition functions- managing funds, projecting budgets, generating expenditure reports (by category)- and be able to track all of this data over time. Right now ERMS aren't very good at this, and librarians are still entering things like cost data manually.

PRIORITY #6: They should be interoperable

Interoperability is a big one. Pretty much all librarians have identified the need for systems that can work together, but it's still something that's largely absent in current ERMS. For the most part they work just swell by themselves, but try to get them to work together and talk to one another, and they freak out. This makes data transfer nearly impossible. There needs to be a greater level of integration between library systems: the ILS (Integrated Library System) should work with various knowledgebases and vendor systems. Right now, the lack of interoperability is due to a lack of standards between vendors, libraries, and publishers. Luckily, all of these entities are working together with standards organizations (like NISO) to develop said standards and make systems more integrated. This, in theory, will make them able to function between each other and not just as a stand-alone system.

Up until now, the implementation of data standards and best practices has been minimal, so interoperability between ERMS is still a big issue. A lack of system interoperability has led to a bunch of other frustrating problems for librarians-- poor reporting of statistics, no data maintenance (so it just sits there, static and not updated), and inconsistent info being given to the public are just a few.

[NOTE: NISO stands for the National Information Standards Organization- I know we all learned about this in library school, but I always need reminders for all these acronyms. NISO sets technical standards for publishing, bibliographic and library applications.]


So... what exactly does all this add up to and why the heck is it so important to me? Well, the whole reason I wanted to look at ERM systems and what they're meant to accomplish is because we are heading into an ever-evolving digital world, and it's essential for today's librarian to at least be aware of new resource types, access methods and purchasing models if they want to stay on top of their game. There are many challenges that go along with electronic resource management: how do we buy/acquire these resources? How do we keep and maintain them? How do we provide access to them? Right now, there is no one, single system that can do all of this.

A final note

The article ends with this: "Building a better and more responsive ERMS is an iterative process, and no emerging system is a silver bullet. Nonetheless, it is possible to work together toward a more integrated e-resource solution." I think that what they're getting at is taking a more holistic approach to managing e-resources, instead of concentrating on the smaller aspects of management that have gotten to be so disconnected.

[Article: Collins, M. & J. E. Grogg. (2011, March 1). Building a better ERMS. Library Journal.]

I know that, for me anyways, a lot of this stuff can seem pretty dry, but hey, it's definitely good to be aware of! Have you had any experience with electronic resource management in your libraries, or have you had the chance to wrap your head around the kinds of issues presented in this article? Just wondering-- I don't think that we necessarily have to be computer geniuses, but getting a handle on what's up will help make us that much more valuable in our own jobs :)

And on that note, it is almost Friday and time to enjoy one (or two!) of these...


To all my librarians out there, have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Naughty Librarian

OK, so I had to post about this after I saw it on one of my fave librarian blogs-- the lovely ladies (Mary and Holly) over at Awful Library Books posted a real gem today! Check out What the Librarian Did, a steamy Harlequin Romance with an equally juicy synopsis :) I was laughing pretty hard when I saw this-- especially the sub-title: "She's got a secret that's long overdue." C'mon now. If that's not the most awesome hook ever, I don't know what is. I just might have to go find this in one of my local libraries...

Have a lovely Tuesday and happy reading to all of my fellow librarians :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Measuring Success in Academic Libraries

How do you measure the success of academic libraries and librarians?

This is the question brought up by Jennifer Howard in an article recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The important issue of effectively demonstrating in a meaningful way the library's value to the academic institution as a whole was one of the main points of discussion at ACRL's conference last week. As an academic librarian, this article really got me thinking about how success can be measured to show how the library is having a positive impact on students, faculty and the overall institution.

Howard states that, "Like most of academe, libraries have been feeling increased pressure to justify themselves quantitatively." Now, when I think of quantitative research, I think statistics, statistics and more statistics. Graphs, charts, tables, numbers, blah, blah, blah-- don't get me wrong, they are definitely important, but they hardly paint the complete picture of how successful the library is at creating a presence and fulfilling the needs of students and faculty. Empirical observation and basic measurement are absolutely necessary to understanding the impact an academic library is having. I think this numerical basis gives weight to the librarian's claim that, hey, we are doing a good job. See? Look at what we've done and here are the numbers reflecting our success.

However, and this is a BIG however, I do not think that libraries should be forced to justify themselves or their success based on quantitative standards alone. Numbers after all, can only reveal so much.

Enter return on investment. The disturbing fact is that many academic libraries are now being forced to show in quantitative terms just what they are contributing financially to the institution. I don't want to go off on a tangent about how so many colleges and especially universities have become nothing more than cash cows, but this new trend seems pretty ludicrous to me. James G. Neal, the Vice President for Information Services
and University Librarian at Columbia University, seems to think so, too:

Return on investment "has become the new mantra of academic libraries, a relentless and in many ways foolish effort to quantify impact in the face of budget challenges and the questioning of our continuing relevance to the academy in an all-digital information world... ROI instruments and calculations fundamentally do not work for academic libraries, and present naive and misinterpreted assessments of our roles and impacts at our institutions and across higher education. New and rigorous qualitative measures of success are needed."

Neal believes that libraries need to be focusing much more on going back to the basics: WHO are our users, WHAT is it that they need and WHAT is it they want. HOW are they interacting with librarians, the library space and the resources/services being offered? HOW can librarians interact with library patrons and find out what is needed to make them happy and satisfied with their library? HOW do we draw in new patrons who have never even been inside the library and keep them coming back? The focus should be on the how's, not the how many's

I am only too aware of how undervalued the academic library is at many of today's educational institutions; both large and small, rural and urban, public and private. After reading this article, it has become even more apparent how librarians really need to spend more time assessing their own assessments and making qualitative measurements just as much of a priority as quantitative ones. This is the only way to reveal the hidden value that libraries otherwise have no way of showing through numbers alone.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Patrons, Computers, and the Red Tape In-Between

I was working at one of the city branches the other day and I had a patron come up to the circulation desk and say that she needed to use one of the computers but she had left her library card at home. My initial reaction was to simply ask her for some form of I.D. so I could look up her card number so she could get on. Simple, quick solution to make the patron happy, right?

Um, well, the branch manager wasn’t too happy. Right after, he took me aside to say that’s not how things are done (at that specific branch—as I’ve mentioned before, all the city branches are supposed to follow the same rules and policies, but they almost never do. I highly doubt this is an issue only in my local library system!). The rule was: no library card, many hoops to jump through to get onto a computer. Ask for I.D. Has the patron already been given a guest pass to use the computers without a card before? Then we can’t give them one again. Is the patron’s account delinquent? Has it gone to collections? Can’t issue a new card. If they want to pay a dollar, they can get a temporary paper card with their library card number on it to use the computers (which is, essentially, what I did—only I didn’t ask for a dollar and I didn’t bother looking at anything besides the patron’s I.D.)

So… I don’t know about you, but I have some serious problems with this whole convoluted procedure of giving patrons access to the computers. Now, obviously, I don’t think it should be a free-for-all where anyone can come in and sit on a computer surfing facebook all day while other patrons need to get on and look for jobs or work on their online classes—but at the same time, I really believe that if a patron comes in and asks to use a computer for the given 60 minutes—we should let them, library card or not. I think we should encourage patrons to get library cards, and I think there should be certain consequences for overdue accounts that have over a hundred dollars worth of fines on them—but I don’t like the idea of taking away the Internet as a way of doing that. I believe having equal access to computers in libraries should not be considered a “privilege” with lots of red tape barring the way to getting on one—it should be a basic service that we offer to anyone and everyone, regardless of the status of their library card.

What do you think? Should we restrict computer and Internet use to only those patrons that 1.) have library cards, 2.) bring their cards, or 3.) have no fines on their account? When is it O.K. to give a patron their library card number in the case where they forget it? Is it a big deal to hand out their numbers if they bring proper I.D. or does this lead to security issues? Should there be a limit as to how many times a patron is allowed a “guest pass” to get onto the Internet without their own card?

These are all questions that I have been asking myself lately, because I think it is important that libraries offer certain things to their patrons that have little to no strings attached—we are here to serve our communities and grant access to information, especially to those that have no other way of getting it. While I can see both sides of this issue, I lean more towards making it easy for patrons to use the computers without lots of red tape. This not only helps them; it also puts libraries in a more positive light, supporting the ideals that we uphold- namely, free and equal access to knowledge and information. As librarians, I think we should be doing all that we can to support this.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Who Needs Libraries?"

I just finished reading a short yet passionate article on the increased need for library services in the midst of budget cuts during difficult economic times. The article (don't let the length of the title scare you, it's only like a page)-- Let-Them-Eat-Cake Attitude Threatens to Destroy a Network of Public Assets-- was written by Scott Turow, who is an author as well as president of The Authors Guild. I believe that every librarian should know and understand the points that Turow brings up here, since we are living in a world where so many people have come to believe that libraries are completely out-dated and out of place in a society as "developed" as our own.

If you are a librarian or library-student, I am sure that you have experienced the same reactions from people as I have when you get asked the question, "What are you majoring in?" or, "What do you do for a living?" I have found that about 80% of the time, when I say "Oh, I'm a librarian," they give me an awkward look and say something equally awkward like, "Oh... that's-- nice." (This is usually followed by the sound of crickets in the background.) I may as well have said that I'm a telephone switchboard-operator. Sometimes, a person will stop and say something along the lines of: "Huh. But don't you think libraries will eventually fade out? Along with books? I mean, we have the Internet..."

Honestly, I never really know how to respond to this because, first of all, where do I begin trying to point out that libraries are not exclusively synonymous with BOOKS? Secondly, how do you make someone understand the incredible importance of libraries in communities that are not entirely made up of nice, middle-class families with 2+ computers at home and unlimited access to the Internet all the time? Thirdly, how do I explain that the Web is hardly the greatest source for many kinds of information without making it sound condescending?

Well, studying this article might be a good start.

Turow points out the many great things that libraries provide for the communities they serve-- and how those services are now being threatened by so many disproportionate budget cuts from local and state governments. Here are a few things that Turow highlights:
  • Libraries are one of the greatest ways to "guarantee that we can maintain a well-informed citizenry."
  • Having the "mistaken belief that [libraries] are somehow anachronistic in an age when so many Americans have instant computer access to information through the Internet... is, frankly, a let-them-eat-cake attitude that threatens to destroy a network of public assets that remains critical to our society."
  • Two-thirds of libraries have reported that they are the only source for free access to computers, computer training, and the Internet in their communities.
  • For thousands of American kids, "libraries are the only safe place they can find to study, a haven from the dangers of the street..." (I know this all too well from working at over ten city branch libraries!)
  • "For the elderly, libraries are often important community centers that help them escape the loneliness of old age."
  • "Most important of all, perhaps, a library within a community stand as a testimonial to its values, and its belief in universal access to literature and knowledge."
Hopefully, we can work to peacefully tear down the elitist attitude that says libraries are no longer relevant in America-- because it is clearer than ever that they are not only relevant; they are integral to the very fabric of our society, and they are continuing to bring aide to millions of people in our troubled economy. As a public librarian, I fully support the message Turow presents here in this article, and  hope I will be able to share that message with others.

You might also want to check out SaveLibraries.org and ALA's ILoveLibraries.org to learn more about advocacy for your local libraries :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"You Know What Really Grinds My Gears...?" A Much-Needed Rant from a Substitute Librarian

**Long, heavy sigh**

OK, I don't want to include too many "rants" here, but there's something I have to get off my chest. Let me preface this by saying- I am a substitute librarian for a city. As such, I am sent to sub at approximately ten different branches. Now, these are all under central administration, so technically they're all supposed to follow the same rules and policies, but in reality this usually isn't the case. Each branch has a slightly different way of doing things, different places where they keep things, completely different layouts, and about 50 different names I have to remember to match to faces. I really don't mind working in such varied circumstances- in fact, I enjoy the experience of getting to see the unique character of each library and the community it serves, while also getting really good on-the-job training as a newer librarian. I consider myself pretty lucky to have this job.

But here is what I cannot stand: I am sent to a new branch I've never been to before and the staff treat me 1.) like I'm a complete imbecile who has no clue how to work in a library or 2.) like it's incomprehensible that I don't know something specific to that branch. Usually, though not always, this is an issue I have with the clerks. And today I got to work with some real gems.  The two clerks there had clearly been working together at this branch for a long time and were not too thrilled to have to work with someone new (ie. me). The entire day I was there they either ignored my presence completely or acted like I was a nuisance/in their way. And forget about asking simple questions like, where do you put the holds, or what is your policy on computer use? Each time I received the most condescending answer ever- like how could I not know how they do things? And get this: they actually said I needed to be initiated! Now, I don't mind some good-natured joking around or poking fun but really? C'mon, this isn't a sorority, although I kind of felt like I was in one with these two...

I took it all in stride but by the end of the day I was super frustrated. Even worse than their incredibly unprofessional behavior towards me, they were very unpleasant and abrasive towards patrons-- and even justified being rude and grumpy because "they had been there so long." Apparently I was supposed to be impressed that they had such a long record of working there. Ugh.

Honestly, I very rarely run into library staff that act this way, and in most cases I receive the greatest help and understanding from librarians and clerks who get the fact that, hey, how they do things at one branch can be completely different from how they do things at another, and it can be very difficult to keep tract of all those things. To all of those wonderful library staff, I am very grateful, because they have taught me a lot and have been very supportive as I learn the ropes at all the different city branches.

I guess what really irritates me is that I try at all times to be as professional as possible. I am only 26 years old, but I still expect the people I work with to be equally professional and to treat me as their colleague, not as their inferior. I don't know if any other younger librarians, or substitute librarians, or other professionals for that matter, have experienced less-than-desirable treatment from certain people who assume that age is an indicator of competence and ability to perform well on the job. 

I will end this on a positive note: besides the two "sorority sisters" I worked with, I really had a great day working with patrons. There were a lot of reference questions dealing with all sorts of different things, which kept me on my toes and made the time go by really fast. Thanks to my patrons, I left in a good mood, knowing that I had been of some useful service to them :)

And that, after all, is what really matters.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Are You An Approachable Librarian?

                                                       "Don't bother me, I'm working."

I was reading this short article in American Libraries the other night, and it made me react in two ways: 1.) It made me kind of ticked off and 2.) It made me look more closely at how I act and behave as a librarian. The article was called Approachable You and it was written by a guy, Will Manley, who has been in the library profession for a long time (the way he talks, since the 1800's-- since back in his day he had to walk 3 miles through snowstorms, up-hill both ways to work...). His rant is that librarians today pay zero attention to their patrons because their eyes are glued to a computer screen while they waste time surfing the Web. Thus, the major problem we are having in today's libraries is that patrons no longer want to come in and see us because the librarians give horrible customer service and act like they can't be bothered...

OK, well first of all I have to disagree with Mr. Manley. I can't speak for all librarians, but the ones that I work with-- while yes, they do use their computers at their reference desks-- are very friendly and approachable. I personally use a computer at my desk pretty much the whole time I work, unless I am teaching classes at the college library or helping a patron at the public library, but I don't think this means I am not paying attention to patrons. I do look up and scan the library on a regular basis and whenever someone comes in my direction I try to look up and smile-- I think Manley would find this kind of "customer service" laughable. But OK-- what are we supposed to be doing exactly? Breathing down the necks of our patrons? Waiting with baited breath on the edge of our chairs for that next reference question? I mean, c'mon, it's not realistic that our entire day is going to be spent waiting on patrons. Yes, they should always be our number one concern but when they aren't asking for our service, well, we patiently wait for them to come to us at our computer desks.

I really don't like how pompous and condescending Manley's article is. But I understand it is meant to be a wake-up call to all librarians, and so it did make me assess my own ability to seem "approachable" to patrons. It makes Manley "really flippin' mad" to see librarians staring at their computer screens. OK... well, I think patrons would be kind of creeped out if we were staring at them instead? Maybe getting away from the desk and taking a walk around the library to just see where patrons are and asking them if they need any help would be better? Still, I am one of those people who hates it when I am at a store and a sales associate asks if I need help- if I need help, I'll find someone and ask when I need it. Until then, leave me alone! Maybe this is just how I am, and so I assume that no one likes being approached in that way. Maybe that's a mistake on my part.

What do you think? Do you think Manley is being unfair to us librarians? Or does he have a point?? Furthermore, has technology made us better at our jobs- or has it become a barrier to quality customer service for our patrons?

Photo courtesy of Yeepet.com

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Information Literacy: APA Citation and Format

I know, this sounds like such an exciting topic right? Well, here's the thing: I graduated from SU's library school last May and then this last October I was hired at a small satellite campus for an adult-education college for the position of "Reference & Instruction Librarian." So, I knew that "instruction" was going to be a major part of my new job, and I can remember at the interview I was asked how I felt about teaching classes. Of course, I said that I didn't mind (which I didn't, I was just kind of nervous about it). I figured that once I got the hang of it, it would be fun.

Last night I helped teach a half-hour instruction session on APA citation and formatting for student papers-- we try to make it as "riveting" as possible. APA, after all, isn't really all that fascinating, but it is something that all our students need to know for citing sources in their papers, and oftentimes to be honest, they are really horrible at it. That's not to be mean, they just don't know where to go to find the right way to cite-- I didn't know it all that well when I started using APA either. So our session went well, but I still do get pretty nerve-racked right before any instruction session, no matter how short it is, or how many times I do it. Not sure if that is something you just "get over" eventually. (As a side note, I have put together an Online Library Guide for APA that our faculty and students have found to be pretty useful-- if there are any academic librarians who need to know the same stuff.)

It has been my personal experience that library school did not prepare me at all for information literacy instruction. I don't even remember professors or others from the school recommending an elective in it- like teaching just wasn't something we needed to worry about. And I am not trying to bad-mouth my school-- Syracuse was an amazing library school and I got an awesome education there-- but I am not sure that there are many library school students who have been sufficiently trained in teaching, considering just how big a part it is of many kinds of librarian jobs.

What has been your experience? Were you offered any electives in instruction (like putting lesson plans together, learning best-practices of library instruction, doing assessments, etc)? I know we did a lot of presentations, but to be perfectly honest, there is a BIG difference between presenting something to get a good grade and actually being expected to teach a bunch of people something they need to know. I really think that library schools need to focus more on preparing their grad students for this kind of work, since it's not just school media librarians involved in teaching! I know I would've greatly benefited from a class in information literacy instruction.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Library Decisions: The Slow Death of the VHS Tape

I was just reading some discussion on LISNews about how many public libraries are now weeding out their VHS tapes completely, even though there are still VHS titles that circulate. I have actually personally tossed VHS tapes out the door (well, I didn't physically toss them out the door, although that does sound like fun...) at one of the city branch libraries I work at. This was not my decision-- I only sub there so I take care of whatever tasks need to be done for that day. I then spent some time trying to see whether those VHS titles were available on DVD-- many of them were not, but on the other hand, those titles were very often completely out-dated and had not circulated in a really long time-- like, since 2000 or before.

I think that some libraries donate their old VHS tapes to places like Goodwill or put them out for sale at their book sales-- our branch decided to just throw them in the dumpster-- the reasoning behind that being that, if someone got  an old VHS tape stuck in their VCR and it got ruined, they could hold us responsible for the damage. Again, none of this was based on my decision-making.

VHS tapes are no longer being made. Therefore, if a VHS title is not available on DVD that means the library will lose that title. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, if it never circulated that much to begin with. I personally haven't used a VCR since I was living at home as a teen. The thought of waiting a painful 1-2 minutes waiting for a VHS tape to rewind makes me cringe to think about. (Side note: remember the good ol' days when you wanted to watch something only to find out the last person didn't rewind it?? soooo annoying!) I have seen VHS tapes circulate in some of the library branches that I work at, but it isn't all that often and I can't help but think that they are just taking up much-needed space. DVDs on the other hand are hard to keep on the shelves.

What do you think: is it a good idea for libraries to pitch their VHS tapes? Is this an effective way to move forward in the digital age and project the message that we are staying current by only offering patrons the most up-to-date media formats? Or is it a waste to throw away VHS tapes that still work perfectly well and might even be circulated a few more times?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Guerrilla Weeding and Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today has been pretty stressful but there were some good things that happened (having my exhaust pipe fall out of the bottom of my car while on a main city road was not one of them). I subbed at one of the city public libraries today from 9:30-2pm. It was a quiet day starting out so one of the librarians, Jean, gave me a weeding project. Even better, she gave me a little weeding lesson. Pushing over a cart of rather decrepit-looking juvenile fictions, she taught me all about "Guerrilla Weeding," a term that she coined herself and a method that she uses to get rid of a bunch of books in one swipe-- it's for some of the more serious-case books in the library's collection. I mean, you could tell that the titles on this cart had not circulated in YEARS. Basically, Guerrilla Weeding is when you take a birds-eye view of your books and based on how they look, you stealthily wipe out a whole group of titles in one attack. Sounds brutal, huh? But very effective, and it's a real time-saver-- after all, who wants to spend lots of time with books that haven't circulated since 1995? Guerrilla Weeding gets the job done, making way for new editions of titles that are still in demand and getting rid of titles that never circulated. A new librarian trick of the trade! 

Take an overhead look at these old J-Fiction titles: Water-damage, warped pages, dirty stains, yellowed pages, dried and yellowing tape... time to strike! They never even saw it coming...

And on a different and completely unrelated note, I came home after a very stressful ride home in which my car sounded like a motor boat, to make Organic Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies. I figure most of us librarians like to bake, and I'm pretty into eating Organic, so here is an awesome recipe that is healthy (AKA: REAL food- no chemicals, preservatives, hormone-additives, or other junk). Delicious!

Yields: approx. 48 cookies

2 sticks organic, unsalted butter
3/4 cup organic brown sugar (I use Woodstock Farms)
3/4 cup organic sugar (again, Woodstock Farms pure cane sugar)
2 organic eggs 
1 tsp organic vanilla extract (I use Simply Organic Madagascar pure vanilla)
2-1/4 cups organic white all-purpose flour (I LOVE Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 9 oz. package organic semi-sweet chocolate chips (I thank SunSpire Fair Trade organic 42% Cocoa Chips for this recipe)
1 cup organic chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cream together sugars and butter until smooth, beat in eggs one at a time, add the vanilla. Blend in flour mixture slowly, fold in chocolate chips and nuts. 

Drop rounded spoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes or until edges are nicely browned. Cool on baking sheets  for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Mmmmmm.... organic goodness...

Voila! Very easy, and soooo good. My husband got home from work and promptly ate 8 of them, at which point I reminded him that Organic doesn't mean low-fat... but hey, whatev haha.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Publishers vs. Libraries: Facing the E-Book Debacle

This is an article that  I just read.  I think it was very well-written and speaks to some of the major issues libraries are facing right now as they struggle to stay current and relevant in their respective communities-- while also looking to and planning for the future. The title of this article is a question I think we all ask ourselves, and there are so many different opinions that attempt to answer it...

One thing that stuck out to me was this whole HarperCollins policy of restricting the use of library e-books to 26 check-outs before the library has to pay more money to renew their license. This is clearly going against our values and even our raison d'etre of providing open, public access to information as freely and readily as possible. Josh Marshall, the president of sales for HarperCollins, says that the "26-use" model is supposed to make the cost-per-circulation of titles less than the cost for physical books. Well, that's great, but I'm pretty sure there is quite a BIG difference between renting and owning a book... Just like when you rent an apartment, you shovel lots of money into living someplace, and then when you move out, you're left with nothing. On the other hand, when you invest in buying a house to own, you can choose to do what you like with that house and in the future, you can sell your property. With this 26-use model proposed by HarperCollins, libraries will be left with exactly what the person renting an apartment is left with: NOTHING. There is an actual investment when a library buys a physical book-- and I'm not saying all books are worthy of long shelf-lives, but what do you do when a patron comes in looking for a book that long ago ran out of it's 26-use license? Do you shell out more moolah so that the patron can access the book he/she wants? Or are they out of luck?

I also dislike those saying that, once E-Books become the norm for all readers, libraries will go the way of the dinosaurs. First of all, not everyone likes reading from a screen, even a Kindle. Many readers like their old-fashioned ink on paper, and I don't think I'm being idealistic or sentimental when I say that  physical books will not soon be replaced by E-Books in any case. Second- as this article points out- these people are grossly misunderstanding the purpose of libraries- they are not simply peddlers of books. As Nora Daly, digital curator of the British Library so succinctly puts it, "[Libraries] exist to collect, sometimes create, but always preserve... knowledge, regardless of what format it is in and to help make it grow through advocating and assuring free and fruitful access to it." The increase in use of digital and digitally-born material is not threatening that purpose, it is simply redefining how that purpose is carried out.

The last point I want to highlight from this article is that made by author Cory Doctorow: How are publisher's bettering their relations with libraries and their users when they are pushing for policies that basically offend by insinuating suspicion and distrust? As Doctorow states:

"In an increasingly digital world, there is no way to coerce someone into paying for something if they want to take it for free... The only mechanism we have for convincing people to do the right thing, the legitimate thing or even the profitable thing is to appeal to their sense of ethics. I don't think you start doing that by saying that 'by the way, we don't trust you, we've developed this book that explodes after 26 uses and you can no longer own books anyway'." 

From a business standpoint, maybe HarperCollins thinks that this model of temporary access to digital content will be profitable. However, I don't know how profitable it will be when they have driven away the majority of their customers- namely, libraries- with such restrictive policies. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Joys of Being a Substitute Librarian

OK, it's definitely not nearly as bad as being a substitute teacher. In fact, I like being a substitute librarian and it's probably one of the best starting-out jobs a newly-graduated library student can get (besides, you know, a full-time job) because it really gives you the chance to see all the different aspects of many different libraries serving unique communities- their programs, their layout, their policies... but the job still requires a good deal of patience and a high level of adaptability in order to make it and not get too stressed out- rolling with the punches is kind of par for the course in any kind of substituting-role...

I have been subbing at the city libraries for 7 months now, and have been to at least 7 out of the 11 branches in my area. This has really broadened my scope of how libraries function in a very short period of time. However, the job is not without it's share of difficulties. Case in point: yesterday.

I was asked to fill in at a branch I had never been to yesterday at noon- it was an easy 3 hour shift and I always like working in a new environment, switching things up a little. I was asked to sit at the Reference Desk (with a nice big friendly "Ask me!" sign on it, which kind of made me feel stupid). It was a pretty easy day except for this one phone call. A lady called in and said she was with a task force that was supposed to meet the next day. Apparently one of the librarians-- named "Jen"-- was supposed to be sitting in to moderate the meeting. Now, based on my limited knowledge of this particular branch, having worked there a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes, I assumed that the woman was talking about "Jen" the branch manager. Jen was on vacation and would not be back until next Monday...

This information did not please my patron. "I don't understand, I need to get Jen a message, this is urgent, I need to postpone the meeting." At this point I put the woman on hold to figure out what the heck I should do, since telling her I'd leave a message for when Jen got back was not at all what she wanted to hear. So, the clerk said there was no way Jen could get any message- she was in Texas forcryingoutloud- and the lady from the task force was just out of luck. Crap. Back to the phone. This repeated message did not make task force lady any happier and she hung up.

At this point I tracked down the only other librarian there, who, nicely informed me that there were TWO "Jens" that worked there-- yes, two Jennifers who both  happen to go by the name "Jen." Turns out, Branch Manager Jen is not who was sitting in on the meeting it was--aha!-- Young Adult Librarian Jen.

About 20 minutes later, task force lady calls back. I apologize profusely for the confusion and explain that "I'm new." Like she didn't gather that already, I'm sure. I probably gave her a near heart-attack when I told her her meeting-moderator was somewhere in Texas all week! Oops...

So anyways, it all worked out: the right "Jen" got in touch with the woman later in the day... but it just goes to show some of the frustration and confusion that can go into being a substitute librarian. It's a great experience but I suppose there's a "paying your dues" aspect to it, I mean it's not like I want to be a sub for the rest of my career. Moving about from place to place not only makes it so a librarian can never get comfortable with the rules and policies and norms of one place; it also means that I can't have a consistent presence at any one place long enough for me to start a project or program or really get to know many of the patrons at that location. Which is kind of sucky. I want to get involved and be connected with a community of people, and have some permanent impact, which is nearly impossible to do as a sub. But for the time being, I will try to enjoy these experiences-- even the confusing, awkward ones that make me feel like a bumbling idiot-- and chalk it up to being in "new-librarian boot camp!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Librarian Outside the Box (I am not a "bun lady")

So I have decided to start writing about my own personal experiences as a young, newly-graduated librarian who is now out in the world, trying to meander my way through the many different pathways, opportunities and pitfalls of my field. Do you know that feeling of having about a gazillion things to learn/discover/experience and yet not knowing where the heck to begin? Yeah, that's me to some extent. Well, I will begin with establishing who I am and what I have under my professional belt so far...

OK, so my educational experience goes something like this: I graduated from high-school in 2002 with typical pie-in-the-sky dreams of going to some prestigious school, getting a degree in who-knows-what and then living happily-ever-after, making lots of money and having some grand purpose in life. After graduation, however, I took a detour and lived in France as an exchange student for a year, partying hard and acting French (whatever that means). When I got back to the States, I continued along the same lines of not applying myself to anything that serious for another 4 years, studying as an undergrad at SUNY Geneseo (Majors in History and Art History). Around my (second) senior year I finally did start to get serious and reached that "oh crap" moment that probably many undergrads have (especially those majoring in the humanities) when they realize they now need to figure out what to do with their degree.

This is the point where I decided to go to library school and become a librarian. I had spent the last 5 years doing research and studying in a library, and I had met librarians who were really nice and seemed to like their jobs, and plus I loved reading and I had an interest in things like preservation, information literacy, etc. so library school seemed the most logical next step. This, I know, is very cliche: I went to library school because I love books. Not terribly profound, but hey, that's what got me there. (As a side note, though, I also am very passionate about public service and helping people, so that also added to my career decision).

So off to Syracuse University I went (my acceptance being what I considered a miracle considering my sub-par performance at Geneseo up until my last year there) and I spent the next two years learning the basic principles of the Library and Information Science profession. I enjoyed grad school, and yet I did struggle during those two years, trying to figure out 1.) How I wanted to use this degree and 2.) How serious I was about the field. Don't get me wrong- I was working hard but I was also worried that I wasn't applying myself enough, that I wasn't pursuing my career-- all-out, full-steam ahead-- the way I thought I probably should. I wasn't terribly involved while a library student: I had my free memberships to ALA and NYLA, but I never did anything with them. I got A's in all of my classes (except that darned management class) but I never really did anything extra to stand out above the rest, and I think I struggled with feeling somewhat inadequate among my fellow classmates, many of whom were older, returning students who were already veterans of the working world, or others who were my age, but seemed a lot more... excited and driven than I was-- they just seemed to have more direction. I worked hard to do well at SU and graduated with a 3.8 GPA when I received my MSLIS in May 2010. Now the hard part began.

What do you do when you are armed with not much more than a Master's degree from a really good library school (that cost you vast sums of money btw), and now you have to go out and impress employers? Does this MSLIS really make someone "qualified?" Is it even enough to be merely "qualified" in today's job market? Eh, not really...

It's now March 2011 and I am in a good place. I have been working as a part-time Reference & Instruction Librarian at a smaller adult-education college since October (so 6 months now) and also as a substitute Public Librarian for the city I live in since September (7 months). So I'm getting that experience that is essential to not only building my own identity in my profession but also increasing my value as an asset in the job market.

Now I am working on discovering exactly what my "niche" is (if I even have one), and finding out what my strengths, passions, and my purpose are in this field that I've chosen to work in. These things seem like they should be obvious, but they really aren't. I want to be insightful, innovative, creative, committed, and all of those other qualities that I see in people who are truly successful and happy with what they do for a living. And so this is what I want to record: my journey as a librarian, trying to stay relevant in today's mad world, where the majority of people think that libraries are as outdated as VHS tapes or the clickety-clack of typewriters...

I would call myself a Librarian Outside the Box because I don't fit any kind of "librarian mold." As much as I love the humorous stereotype of the "bun lady" who "shushes" everyone, I'd like it if more people saw us as being individuals and professionals with ideas, opinions and personalities. I think there are many librarians outside the box. We're kind of an odd breed-- there really is no stereotype for today's librarian: we like to read Jane Austen and learn about emerging technologies as much as we like hitting up the local pub and going to Lady Gaga concerts. We like the idea of permanency over long periods of time as much as we like exploring the newest trends and being "cutting edge." I think that's what I like most about this field: there are no two librarians alike!! This profession is constantly evolving and we're all together in trying to reshape how we see our jobs and ourselves and looking to new ways that we can be important in today's busy, dynamic world.

I want to explore as many different areas of library development as I can, and hopefully get ideas and insights from other librarians as well about "stacking up" as a modern-day librarian...

So that's my introduction! Nice meeting you :)