Friday, February 29, 2008

Battle of the Harry Potter Encyclopedias

Who could have ever thought encyclopedias could be so controversial? I keep following this story, though nothing new is happening yet. The man behind the Harry Potter Lexicon is trying to turn his Web site (which had the blessing of J.K. Rowing and was used by Warner Brothers) into a print encyclopedia that will be in paperback and cost about $25 from what I have read. WB and J.K. Rowling are suing the publisher for copyright infringement, and because she would feel "exploited." Furthermore, she plans to write the definitive HP encyclopedia I have used this Web site a number of times to prepare our Harry Potter Night. It contains nothing but references to the books. I personally do not understand how so many other books about Harry Potter, such as the Gospel According to Harry Potter, and The Magical World of Harry Potter can be alright if this encyclopedia is not? He had her blessing when it was a free Web site, but not for a print book that he would profit on... I believe he has already quit his job and lives on donations from the Web site. Again, what is the difference?

I suspect J.K. Rowling will lose this battle, and I think she should. I have read two or three editorials and each one is against her for different reasons. If he was trying to create a new story based on her characters, I could understand. I hear this is a rampant problem in China, so why doesn't she focus on them? As a big Harry Potter fan, I would probably buy the HP Lexicon encyclopedia, or get our library to buy it. But I am also holding my breath for J.K. Rowling's "definitive" encyclopedia... which I'm even more likely to buy for myself. They're not the same thing.


I sometimes wish I worked at a public library just so that my obsessive reading habit could be put to some professional use. It is not very useful for academic librarianship.

Last night I finished a book that is going on my list of favorite books ever. It is called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. It is about friendship and being a woman in a remote part of China during the 19th century. I do not want to say much more because I want people to find about it for themselves. I have liked the cover for a while and had planned to read it eventually. But when I heard my mother rave about it so much the last time I saw her, I had to push it to the top of my list. It is an incredibly beautiful story, and she clearly put a lot of effort into the research that was required. It feels incredibly genuine and true, and I can't wait to read the other books she has written.

After finishing this book last night, I wandered around my house wondering what to do with myself until bed time. I felt like starting a new book right away was being unfaithful to this incredible one I just finished. But I had bought a book called Inkheart (at a wonderful Indie bookstore in Ithaca) this past weekened, and I read the first 30 pages. I believe it is going to be really good as well. The two main characters are a bibliophile father and his bibliophile 12-year-old daughter. The lessons the father teaches his daughter to encourage her bibliophilia are beautiful, like "Books have to be heavy because the whole world's inside of them." At another point, he tells his daughter, "If you take a book with you on a journey... an odd thing happens: The book begins collecting your memories. And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it."

Of course this last passage made me set the book down for a moment and think about this. And I believe it is true. Whenever I see the cover of The Time Traveler's Wife, I think of reading it when I went camping by myself in Maine a few years ago. Daughter of Fortune makes me think of reading it in my empty apartment in Bloomington, Indiana, waiting for my stuff and boyfriend to arrive. The sunlight through the blinds is the strongest part of that memory. The last book I read in that apartment was Smilla's Sense of Snow, though I think I finished it just before the movers came to take the furniture away. The Little Prince was read sitting on the floor next to my bed in my third host family's house while living in France. The floor was really hard, but I was so delightfully surprised by how good this book was and how quickly I was reading it in French that I was too lazy to get up and sit on the comfortable bed. I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia over the telephone to an ex-boyfriend, and I remember after each chapter asking "one more?" Some nights we read until 11 or 12 o'clock, and I was delightfully exhausted during the next day, just to do the same thing all over again once 9 o'clock p.m. rolled around. I remember scrambling to finish Les Miserables for an 8th-grade book report while sitting under the tallest arch of the tallest roller-coaster in the world (at the time). We were staying at the campground at Cedar Point which was right next the fence of the park, and the Magnum was right under the fence. I believe I might have forgotten that memory if I hadn't been reading Les Miz at the picnic table, looking up as each new set of cars went over the top of the arch. I vividly remember picking up Indiana and Lucky at the Evanston library near my Chicago apartment. I haven't fallen in love with any of my libraries the way I fell in love with that one. And I took My Sister's Keeper with me to Seattle for spring break my last year of grad school. I remember how hungerly I was reading it in the airport as my flight kept getting delayed again and again due to bad weather.
Would I have remembered these tiny details if it hadn't been for these books? Certainly not all of them. They would have lost their significance. Perhaps that would have made room in my memory for more important things that I can't seem to remember, but I can't help feeling that books are as almost as important as anything else. They allow you to experience things you can't or don't have time to experience in life, or things you wouldn't really want to experience in life but are worth experiencing in a book. I believe they make you relate and empathize with others better, expand your horizons beyond the constraints of life.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

MySpace Song

I have done a bit of work in the past two years on social networking. The first program I did was the dangers of social networking in regards to the law and getting a job. Two weeks ago I did a program on using social networking technologies in a positive way to help you get a job (though only one person showed up voluntarily, but that's another issue). Today in the ALA Direct weekly newsletter, there was a link to this YouTube video for a song about MySpace that is really great... reminding people of the dangers of leaving it up for your children to find! Expand the "About this video" part to read the lyrics.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Free E-Books

The development of online books is an interesting trend to watch. A week or two ago, Oprah had Suze Orman on her show, who annouced that her book Women & Money would be free online for a period of about 30 hours. Now Random House is announcing it will offer the free full-text access to a novel called Beautiful Children for three days, ending on Leap Day. I personally don't know how anyone could read an entire novel in PDF form. You don't want to print out 300 pages, and you don't want to read it on your computer screen. I'm not sure how Kindl and those other e-book readers work, or how popular they will end up being. But the readers are probably the only way e-book novels (as opposed to electronic reference books) will really take off.

Random House Audio has also recently announced that it will no longer be using digital right management (DRM) software for downloaded audio books. I know from using NetLibrary's audio books this software is a real pain-in-the-neck to transfer from your computer to your mp3 player, and then if anything happens to the file, you are often SOL. I haven't been able to download a book onto my mp3 player for a while, and I have assumed that this is due to the extra security from the DRM as I have no trouble with music. What this means for piracy and sharing an audio book after it has been purchased, I have no idea. But it will be interesting to find out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Becoming Personal

In an effort to be more personal, I just got done creating a personalized On Call poster for the three reference and instruction librarians. We take turns being on call in the mornings when there hasn't been much traffic at the reference desk. I guess before I got here they sat at the desk, but it was very difficult for librarians to get their other work done and the reference traffic remained very low. Since I have been here, we have had a generic sign with Word clip art with directions on how to get a librarian to appear. But we have been trying to increase our reference traffic and hope that pictures and individual names will help us be more approachable.

Talking to People in a Bookstore

I read a great article called "How to Talk to the People in the Bookstore" by Melissa Lion. I was hooked at the beginning when she swooned because Khaled Hosseini "smelled so damn good." He's one of my favorite authors, and of course I've swooned from good-smelling men a number of times myself. I also like her reaction to someone who is offended by the presence of a particular book.

I'm not sure many of these recommendations could be adapted to a library other than looking patrons in the eye and saying hello. We've stressed that this year, along with name tags and other ways of being more personal, more approachable. I think students are still scared of us no matter what we do, but we can keep trying.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Less complex work"

I am facinated by this article from the Wausau Daily Herald (Wisconsin) and the question it raises. In order to save money, a library director is saying that today's librarians do "less complex work." They are reorganizing and cutting the librarians' salary by $10,000 (I am assuming this means each, but looking at the article it is not clear). I want to know more about a library director who would willingly make such a claim publicly (does she even have an MLS?), and I will ask my older collegues what they think about this question. As I am at an academic library, so it is a different environment. I will admit I am very grateful to have computer databases instead of print indexes and I could see collection development having been much more difficult without the computer tools todays vendors provide. However, modern libraries are evolving so quickly. Keeping up with technology and its surrounding trends seems to be half of what I do.

I see patrons of the past valuing the library more than current users do (public and academic), but perhaps this is just an assumption. I can't help feeling like American society was much smarter 40 years ago than it is now. But as I am only in my 20s, my personal experience on any of this is very limited!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Active Learning

I keep saying I am going to put together this list and post it on my office wall to help in class preparation. This is a list of all of the active learning activities I have found so far, and I think having this list handy makes for much better library instruction sessions. So here goes:

1. Handouts and Worksheets
For those who have little experience with active learning and feel uncomfortable with jumping into active learning head first, handouts and worksheets can be a great step to expand one’s comfort zone. They can be made more active by having open-ended questions that students can fill out as brief essays.

2. Themed Worksheets or Self-Guided Tours
There have been some interesting posts on listservs and articles on academic libraries that are creating themed self-guided tours for their freshman orientation. These themes most often involve the analogy of being stranded or looking for treasure on a tropical island.
Lynn University bases their freshman orientation programming on the popular TV show Lost with group, subgroup, and individual activities. At the University of Puget Sound, the tour guides students through the library through clues, like a mystery. While most apply to orientation activities, this can also be applied to bibliographic instruction sessions.

3. Comprehension Checks
After each important topic is explained, a student should be called on to briefly restate or summarize what had just been explained. If this is explained at the beginning of the class, students will be more likely to pay attention or risk embarrassment if called on later.

4. Library Jeopardy
I have found this to be fairly popular among students. There is a template we use, which I cannot currently find on the Internet. The board looks exactly like the Jeopardy board and the numbers disappear once a student has answered it. I give out slips of paper with the number of points each student has earned. You can have students play in teams or individually (I prefer individually, my coworker prefers teams). I offer small coupons for $1 or $2 to the campus cafe for the student with the most points.

5. Scavenger Hunts
This involves giving students a list of things they need to find in the library. This remains controversial and should be done carefully. They are best used for acquainting students with the resources in the field. It should be kept relatively short, no more than 15 to 20 minutes. A brief discussion of what types of information can be found in which types of resources should precede the scavenger hunt and a handout included with the same information.

6. Web Evaluation
Provide students with a table and have them compare two Web sites on a similar topic. Have them comment on aspects such as authorship, date, credibility, etc. I often use and Nobel's page on Martin Luther King, Jr. I have a post from last week on other sites that can be used. Web evaluation is a great activity to have the students do themselves rather than just you teaching about it.

7. Database Comparison
This can be a fun and simple way to get students thinking about the resources. When there are multiple databases available for their general assignment requirements, divide the class into groups and assign each group one database. Or have each group compare two databases. They will learn what kinds of resources each database contains, whether it has full text in the database, or if it has any special search features. After each group discusses the databases internally, they then share their findings with the class. The students can create outlines on large sheets of paper, which can then be posted in the front of the room for discussion. The librarian should compile all outlines and distribute them by e-mail to all class members after the instruction session.

8. Five Minute Essays
Often writing is mentioned as an active-learning activity. At our library, we have found that a brief, informal reflection can be quite effective. We call them One Minute Essays because they should only take the student one or two minutes to write. In this essay, they are requested to mention one thing they learned and any questions they still have. This serves several purposes. The first is to have the students reflect on the session while it is still fresh in their mind. It also can provide the librarian with a general assessment of how the session went, depending on how seriously the students took it. Finally, it can identify questions that can be either individually answered or compiled and sent to the entire class by e-mail or a handout given to the professor to be distributed at the next class.

9. Library Perception Ice Breakers
An instruction session, particularly with freshmen, can be started with an ice breaker activity in which students discuss perceptions and stereotypes of libraries and librarians. This can be humorous as well as get the students to bring their subconscious perceptions out in the open. This can alleviate some of their initial library anxiety and they will see that we are not all cardigan-sporting, stuffy old women with buns and glasses. Hopefully they will see that even those of us who fit many of the librarian stereotypes (such as sensible shoes and dangly cat earrings) are not scary. This does not take much time and can loosen the atmosphere before getting down to business.

10. Simulations and Role Playing
I have seen one skit done effectively that involved a library fairy, but I'm still working on details for what this could mean.

11. Case Studies
I have heard of case studies done in library instruction, but again this is something I need to do more research on.

12. Jigsaw
Each small group look at a part of the problem, then to share with the class. Putting all these pieces together is like completing a jigsaw puzzle. Students can look at different types of resources, figure out what type of information can be found in each resource, how they are used, currency of the information, and what the limitations of each are.

13. Paraphrasing Exercise
This can be very effective when teaching citation and using resources effectively. Give students a paragraph and have them create a cited paraphrase as if they were writing a paper on that topic.

14. Pre- and Post-Assignment Analysis
Give students an essay or quiz before and after the instruction session to monitor what they have learned. The questions can be the exact same, but don't necessarily have to be.

15. List of What Can/Can’t Be Done in a Database
This is very similar to comparing databases, but you do not need multiple databases. Give students a list of things they could possibly want to do and let them discover how the database works as they check of what can and cannot be done within that particular database.

16. Fish Diagram
Okay, I have to look this one up again. I remember reading an article that involved the librarian drawing a fish skeleton with labels on the bones. It seemed like an excellent idea, but I can't remember what it was now...

17. Search Strategy
After briefly explaining Boolean operators and the basics of creating a search strategy, have the class break into small groups. Give each group a complex topic in prose format. Give the class a few minutes to create their own search strategies. Then have the groups write their strategies on the board. Have the other groups evaluate and discuss each strategy.

18. Critical Evaluation of an Article
Give each small group of students one or two small articles. Have them critically evaluate the article(s) on quality and relevance. This could be combined with a comparison of different types of materials. They could compare a scholarly article to a magazine article on the same topic.

19. “Improve Your Search Results” Exercise
Set up a scenario where a search has been started in a relevant database, but it’s not a very efficient search. After having offered tips on improving results, set the students loose in small groups with the databases, and have them explain in writing a set number of ways you can improve the results of the search. After five to ten minutes, have the class discuss the search as a group.

20. Diagram the Research Process
After having gone over the research process with students, have them gather in small groups to quickly diagram the research process in a drawing. There is no one correct way to do this, it is the discussion involved that is of value. Again, after a short period of time, have the class discuss the diagram as a whole, and come up with a single drawing that the majority of the class agrees with.

21. Have the Class Answer Each Other’s Questions
This is difficult to plan, but try to take the opportunity to do this when it is offered. When a student asks a question during class, try to turn it around and see if anyone else in the class can answer the question.

22. Information Log
Have students keep track of all the times they need information for a certain period of time, and what resources they use to find that information. Students tend to think of “research” as just for classes, but this gets them thinking of information searching as part of their world every day. Examples include looking up the weather forecast, sports scores, movie times, phone numbers, etc.

23. Concept Maps
Give students a number of concepts and have them arrange it in a concept map in small groups. Students will see relationships differently, so the negotiations will be of great value.

24. Searching Behavior
Before instruction, have each student briefly write down what steps they take when doing research for a paper. Then have them compare to their neighbor or in small groups. This will get them starting to think about the many options that are involved.

Don Quixote

I just won an e-bay auction for this Don Quixote statue. I can't wait for it to arrive. I believe I have previously mentioned a need for this mascot to stand in my office along with an attractive printout of the lyrics to "The Impossible Dream." Now it is on its way. I suppose others could see this in various lights. In one way, he embodies optimism, seeing a down-trodden prostitute as a beautiful noblewoman, believing he can make the world a better place, and so forth. Yet one cannot deny that he is delusional, that he has "laid down the melancoly burden of sanity," as the musical puts it. He represents admitting that what we do and the battles we undertake are futile no matter how good one performs...

In reality, while I do feel like I have been fighting some windmills lately, I am collecting this out of humor. If you haven't seen my office yet, I have two book shelves covered in dolls from around the world, a plate from the town I lived in France, several Little Prince dolls, a Jareth action figure, and lots of Harry Potter stuff (house flags, McGonagall's hat, the seven books, a standing Harry cutout, a paper Dobby, potions, and books with spine labels taken from the Hogwarts library, and much more).


I have two things to write about today. The first is MSN Money just published an article on 10 ways to save money on books. She doesn't get to using the Public Library until #6, though admittedly she says it is the cornerstone of her plan. I buy very few books and either get mine from friends and family who pass things on, or from our wonderful public library. What is not available at the local library, you can get through Interlibrary Loan. I would like to reproach the article of this author on one thing: Why can't you check out just a few books at a time and return them in a timely manner? If you keep a book out for 6 months, that keeps other people from using it.

My other thing I wanted to mention today is this woman who has started a blog on the challenge she set for herself of reading 200 books in 2008... and she doesn't mean just those quick Young Adult books, she's reading thousand-page classics. All of this while raising a toddler, a newborn, and running a business. This is in response to a report on the dismal state of what Americans read. I thought my book-per-week goal was ambitious, and already drives my fiance to accuse me of finding books more important than he is.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Google Taking Over the World

In my Blogging for Jobs program last week, I showed several tools by Google that are free, easy ways to make professional-looking Web sites and blogs. I obviously use Blogger, which is owned by Google, and can't imagine what life would be like without my easy Google search box in my Internet Explorer toolbar. I use Google to search the Internet, look for pictures, and check spelling. When I need government information, I go straight to Google U.S. Government. I am also a big evalgelist for iGoogle, which I use as my home page, and Google Maps lets you tweak your travel route when you ask for driving directions. I love Google.

I can't begin to discuss all of the Google applications I don't use, and they're supposedly getting into the mobile communications business. It is supposedly dominating online advertising and becoming one of the biggest companies on the global market. They supposedly scan your G-mail account and track your cookies to gather personal information, supposedly to offer you relevant advertisements. There are reports that Google is supporting genetic research... I haven't confirmed this in any other source. One person has launched a Web site called Google Watch to try and curb Google's world influence. This prompted another Web site called Google Watch Watch, which didn't think the claims were fair.

As I'm digging into what is possible online and what technologies are available to small libraries like ours, Google's name keeps coming back up and I have to wonder if Google is taking over the world. They have a huge campus out West filled with electric cars and very progressive employement practices. I did a Google search for "Google taking over the world" (no quotation marks used in the actual search) and I get nearly 32 million results... all of the top ones are relevant results.

Does this remind anyone of movies where robots take over the earth (iRobot, Terminator, Matrix, etc.)? These stories always begin by letting technology do more and more for us until one day they realize they're more powerful and its too late to fight back. Is this what Google is doing? Many people seem to think so. Should this be prevented? I don't know. I guess since they keep coming up with such innovative, FREE tools, I'll just keep taking advantage of them. And I know I am not alone. Call me an unoriginal sucker if you must.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ambition in a Small Library

The Annoyed Librarian wrote a wonderful post (I think they're all wonderful) on ambitious librarian careers and what "ambition means" in our field. I have been thinking about this a lot as I hear about classmates who get jobs at research libraries and universities I have actually heard of, and others who are quickly moving up the ranks or have impressive job titles. My job is not impressive by those standards, and my career is becoming tied to another person who has a more lucrative career. The only place to move up without changing institutions would be to one day become the director. Our director is thankfully not going anywhere soon, and I currently have no ambition to become a director anywhere soon.

I am still young in my career, I have been a professional librarian for two years. The more I talk to more experienced librarians, the more I realize I still need to learn. I love what I do and where I am. I never want to go to a big research university. I don't want the stress of tenure, I want to publish when I feel comfortable, I want my employer to respect me and my personal life (esp. considering librarians' salaries anywhere), I want to have close contact with students, do creative things, be encouraged to try something different. I have all of that right now. The AL mentions happiness as a possible measurement of success in librarianship, and I have that.

She also mentions relative "fame" as a mark of success. I am thinking this is perhaps what I should strive for. I don't expect to be such a recognizable name as Nancy Pearl or Steven Bell. I will probably always be at a small library, so those at a big library are likely to not listen to anything I have to say. But to come up with good ideas, get them to work here, publish practical articles and blog posts that other librarians can use in their libraries. I can't think of anything better than that. So I feel very green at the moment, but these are admirable goals and I don't think I will completely disappoint my favorite LIS professor who wants to see me as a director of a big library one day. The thought of all of those meetings and politics would drive me to hate librarianship and I love it so much now.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Interesting Web Sites

When I mentioned not knowing other sites to use as examples in information literacy classes when discussing Web site evaluation, a friend of mine gave me the following example. It's called the Institute for Historical Review. It looks like a legitimate site, but if you look up what other sites say about it, it is a group dedicating to convincing the world that the Holocaust never happened.

Here is a site that collects good examples from a librarian at Iowa State University. My friend has found this very useful. She found this one good, but not as good.

The following has nothing to do with libraries at all, but came from the same friend. It's an organization called Active Minds on Campus that is dedicated to promoting mental health awareness. They just started a chapter on her campus, and this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. If there was a social issue I would like to handle, it would be mental health awareness. So many people need professional help and society has attached so much stigma to needing that kind of help. This group is dedicated to solving this.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


There is such great information on blogs, as I continue to find out. I feel so far behind when I fish around at what is out there on blogs and library news sites that I haven't been keeping up with.

There is a blog called Library Marketing: Thinking Outside the Book with a post on a museum that had set up a "blog bar" ... it is setting up a number of computer terminals where visitors can give immediate feedback on their thoughts. This is a trend in stores and other venues as well. I'm not sure how we could impliment this in the library that students would think it was worth doing, or for what event we would do this, but it is an interesting idea to keep in mind. Here is some more information on blog bars from TrendCentral.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Article Sources for the Blogging for Jobs Program

Here are links to the examples we showed in this presentation, and some of the article sources we used to assemble the Blogging for Jobs program at the Snowden Library. I have decided to put them here instead of the handout so that direct links may be provided.


Article Sources:
  1. Adler, C. (2006, July 1). Rise: Diary of a somebody. The Guardian [Final Edition], p. 3.
  2. Brandel, M. (2007). Web anonymity can sink your job search: Your Web presence can make or break a job application. Computer World. Retrieved February 5, 2008, from
  3. Gooderham, M. (2007, May 16). Musings that matter: Blog to a job: On-line journals have become hot tool for those looking to land a position or ferret out new opportunities. The Globe and Mail, p. C1.
  4. Melendez, M. M. (2007). Job-hunting college grads need to tidy up their Web presence.
  5. Snyder, M. (2007). Social Networking Software.
  6. Sundar, M. (2007, April 9). 5 steps to let your dream job find you.
  7. Trunk, P. (2006, April 16). Blogs ‘essential’ to a good career; Having a philosophy and focus to your topics will help you stand out in your field. The Boston Globe .
  8. Whitaker, B. (2007, June 12). Blogging jobs are getting hard to find. The International Herald Tribune, p. 14.
  9. Williams, A. G. and Hall, K. J. (2005). Creating your career portfolio: At-a-glance guide for students (third ed.). Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  10. Zelenka, A. (2007). Why you may need an online persona. Web Worker Daily.

More information can be found by going to LexisNexis and searching for:
blogs and employment

Librarians' Weekend

I fought through the wintery conditions with determination this weekend to spend some time with two dear librarian friends from grad school. We spent lots of time talking about guys, movies, books, and librarianship.

One topic that came up was having multiple graduate degrees. In the case of the three of us, scholarships have allowed one to get a second degree, the other two could not afford to right now. I have been on two search committees since I came here. One in particular had many applicants who were severely over-qualified. Half of them had Ph.D.s when the position required a master's degree. I saw how members of the administration (who fortunately weren't actively involved in the selection) got stary-eyed about these applicants even if we had others who had more practical backgrounds with more relevant experience.

I sometimes worry about when it is time for our director to be replaced (which she assures me is no time soon), they will want someone with multiple masters degrees, or even a Ph.D. If the best person has an extra degree, I don't hold that against them. But a good librarian is a practitioner first, and scholar second. Experience and what is in a person's heart should be the first factor in any selection process in our field.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Creative Reference Promotion

I caught up on my American Libraries Direct and there was a great post on a library who takes famous movie posters (Mary Poppins, Jaws, Wizard of Oz, Sopranos, etc.) and puts the librarians' faces on it, turns it into a postcard to send to students before each semester. They are so funny, but they have noticed a big improvement in reference appointments. You can see the gallery here.

I had a great class last night. It was the business practicum students. They are currently doing an internship, but also meet weekly for various topics. I covered career and interview resources, and briefly touched upon Linkedin and blogs. They were very excited about the blogs, or at least they were clearly paying attention at that point. The professor was thrilled with this idea, and may have future practicum groups post their internship journals as blogs. Then the business Web site could link to them, and the students could use them to prepare for jobs and interviews. So they serve many purposes. Several students said they planned to come to our presentation next week. A communications professor requested 70 handouts to give to her students, and I plan to pass them out to my upper-level class this morning. So maybe we'll get a small turnout after all!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bad day got better

Today started off very badly. I got a cavity filled and the anastesia took four or five hours to wear off. So by the time I got back from the dentist, I grabbed a bowl of chili from the cafe and tried to walk quickly to a lunch meeting... only to trip on the four steps up to the business department, sending chili flying EVERYWHERE. It was all over the steps, all over my coat (including splatters down the back!), and went straight up my sleeve staining the nice shirt I wore today since I was teaching a business class. I went back to the cafe to get napkins to clean up and three people asked me what happened and if I needed them to call help... they thought the chili everywhere was blood!

This afternoon I had a phone interview with someone from Paratext. We were invited to be the first case study of a baccalaureate institution for the Reference Universe database. I spent a lot of time telling her about iGoogle and the Reference Universe gadget I made for it. She was having a hard time understanding what I meant. So I just sent her my login (after changing my password to something generic) and I think she had fun with it. I really need to start promoting this to faculty, it is such a great tool. I also discovered tonight that I can feed my cyber tiger little cyber steaks. It's so cute.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Blogs of Others

I love catching up on other people's library blogs while sitting at the reference desk (I was just shyly approached by a sociology student who asked if I was busy). Unlike me, some other librarians are excellent writers. I am currently enjoying a blog called Attempting Elegance. Here is a good post on the hopeless, crazy questions librarians deal with.

International Political Science Abstracts

Upon closer inspection of EBSCO's International Political Science Abstracts database, which we now have on a trail, I believe there is something seriously wrong with this database. I have run a small number of searches on "negative voting," "elections," "France," "Asia," and whatever else came to mind. The first results are always very sloppy, missing subject fields, old articles from the 70's and 80's appearing at the top in random order even though it says articles are sorted by date, sometimes the date is missing, or the year has additional numbers tacked on (like 19832). These do not have LinkSource links appearing. Once you scroll down a little, the results seem to stabilize, LinkSource is appearing consistantly, dates and subjects are consistantly entered. I have not yet discussed these problems with EBSCO.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Today is one of those overwhelming days when I'd love to just say "I quit" and go home and put my jammies on. Instead, it's 7 pm and I'm still at work. I taught through lunch today, too. Weird tech stuff keeps happening. Sue and I have been unable to post Office 2007 documents on our server, but IT had me download some compatibility thing, and that seems to have resoloved the problem. But I haven't tested a public computer yet to see if students will be able to open an Office 2007 document without this download. It's on my list of things to do tomorrow. We also have two new trial databases and International Political Science Abstracts wasn't showing LinkSource links (these help you find the full text if this database doesn't provide it), nor was it showing subjects if you did a keyword search. It did show them if you typed a keyword and then asked it to only search the subject field. Fortunatley, that seems to have been resolved. EBSCO didn't send the URLs for these two new databases, so I didn't know how to link them to our home page. Fortunately I called before wandering around, lost in cyberspace, for too long. I have had recieved excellent customer service every time I have called them.

I did a program last semester on identity theft for the FYRST program (freshmen) and told people they really needed to check their credit report histories frequently. Finally, my fiance said it was time I looked at mine since we're planning to buy a house soon. I discovered that when I consolidated my student loans, most of the old accounts did not get closed. So my report says I am in twice as much debt as I really am. I really need to start practicing what I preach. Until then, I'll just hope that this isn't too difficult to clean up.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Blogging for Jobs

I just talked to Janet (the director) who approved a new program idea. The program, which will be in less than 2 weeks will be on using blog technology to create a positive Web image and promote yourself in order to get a job. I'm presenting job finding resources to the Business Practicum next week, and will touch upon this in that class, but hope they'll come back and bring friends the following week.

I will post the handouts and links here once they're done.

Google Gadgets for the Snowden Library

I was finally able to get my catalog gadget to work yesterday. It will not go to Aquabrowser, our catalog interface, but it goes to our "classic" catalog. Which is fine. If I had thought of that earlier, I could have done this a while ago. To create a gadget, you just go to the Google Gadgets editor and cut and paste HTML code inside the "" tag. The trick is that you can't have code that needs scripts in the header. It's very easy to do, and the editor allows you to preview before you go into publishing and stuff.

Links to my gadgets can be found here:

You do have to add some "attributes" in the ModulePrefs tag such as author and e-mail before you can publish. You can just e-mail me at and I will send you my code so you can see what it should look like.

Now it is time to convince faculty they really need iGoogle. I hope that will get people to look at the library's blog through an RSS feed, so I see this as accomplishing multiple goals.