Monday, March 31, 2008

Okay, just one more

I said I was done, but then I read Meredith Farkas's post on the MLS vs. non-MLS issue and I think she's hit the jackpot, exactly what I've been trying to say, but much more positively (and she was able to do so in one post). I particularly think it boils down to the second-to-last paragraph.

Reference Resource of the Week

I started another blog called Reference Resource of the Week this afternoon to highlight things in our reference collection to the other librarians here. We recently reviewed our reference standing orders and there were many items on that list that I was very unfamiliar with but sound like they could do some great things.

The blog format seems like it will be perfect for this. I can easily update and change this, it allows for comments from my fellow librarians. If anyone else wants to contribute, I can set up access for them, posts will show up by title (a.k.a. resource title) in the archives and will be searchable, plus it comes with an RSS feed which I turned into an e-mail alert since the other librarians here don't do much with RSS.

I started today with Gale Directory Library since we just got access to it today. When I look at print resources, I can leave it at the reference desk for the week. I hope this will make us utilize a broader portion of the reference collection when we help people at the desk, and select a broader range of resources to highlight during instruction sessions.

Google Calendars

Google Calendars wasn't working well on Friday, so I had to wait until today to play with it. The result is so neat, I just hope the other librarians will buy into it. It is so easy to set up, then you can simply embed it somewhere on your Web site. You can even choose if you want a week or month display as the default.

I want to use this as part of an advertising "campaign" to let more students know about the 8 extra computers we have in the library classroom. They are available for use whenever there isn't a class scheduled in there, but students don't know that. This way they can check to see if the room is available before they bother to come to the library.

I didn't think anyone would want to know where individual librarians were, but apparently some librarians have been using this for a while to make their schedules available to students. I suppose that Iris is at a school with more office visits and less sitting at the reference desk. Here, we don't have very many office visits and we spend lots of time out at the reference desk.

It's so great to find blogs that talk about things you would like to do, but also embarrassing when you get so excited in a post about something you want to try, and find out people were doing that years ago. I am trying to become more technologically aware. This is a big adjustment for me, but also for my library. We are often ahead of the curve when it comes to new technologies, but I haven't been able to get anyone else here excited about widgets, iGoogle, RSS, blogs, and other easy technologies with so much potential.

I'm also regretting having been a bit hot-headed in my judgement of WebFeat and federated searching in general. I still think it would confuse the heck out of a student who is good at database research, but it will be great for those who want databases to work like google. Plus I love what Villanova did for their quick-search box on their library Web site. I want to do that on our Web site... but must wait until this summer to find out if our budget (for federated searching) got approved.

Just once more

I think this will be my last post on this issue, unless I see someone else's comments who get me all fired up again (which isn't hard). I e-mailed my favorite library school professor who did work as a non-MLS reference librarian in a country that didn't have an MLS program before coming to the U.S. to get his MLS, and kept going through a Ph.D. I know better than to write a long e-mail to him if I have any hopes of him responding any time in the next six months, so all I said was I seem to be the only librarian that even partially disagrees with the Liminal Librarian. His response was:

There is no doubt that experience gained on the job cannot be compared with what you learn through an MLS degree, but vice versa is true as well. I think the easiest way to make an argument against these people is to compare yourself and your skills and knowledge with those people "who do librarians' work" but do not have an MLS degree. Do they know more than you do about reference, cataloging, web design, and so on? An MLS degree is not just about courses; it is an entire two years of work: courses, interacting with faculty and students, working in groups, working in libraries and gaining a variety of experiences, management, frustration, fun, politics, networking, and so on. I can go on and on talking about the benefits of an MLS degree.

I will whole-heartedly agree with this. Okay, if all I did was go to classes, I could agree with the Annoyed Librarian that library school is a complete joke. But I worked as a virtual reference assistsant nearly 30 hours per week, more in the summer, did an internship, went for long walks with one of my professors, did some work for the same professor, co-authored an article (which I still don't like), and spent a lot of time with friends who were doing similar things. It's the whole package. I had amazing mentors in my professor, my work supervisor, and my internship supervisor. These are people who love the profession dearly, in very different ways. They did their best to make sure I had the experience needed to be a successful librarian when I got out of school, and it paid off in the interview process.

So getting your MLS coupled with great experience, or landing in the profession and getting great experience are two different ways... but I'm not sure if they lead to the same thing. Not all MLS programs are equal, not all people are equal.

I guess it doesn't matter. I got my degree, will be paying for it for years to come, but I've also two excellent years of "paraprofessional" experience and two excellent years of professional experience. And most importantly, I'm happy where I'm at, which I wouldn't have gotten to any other way.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Presidential Visit

Look for Lycoming College in the news tomorrow. Bill Clinton just came to give a talk in our gym! Our tiny little school in our tiny little town! It just got announced yesterday and it's already over. I had to go, I mean, how can you pass up seeing the former President of the United States when he comes to speak only a few hundred feet from your desk??? I don't feel comfortable putting any of my political opinions up here since I can never hold my own when I get into a political debate. But I will say he is very charismatic and an excellent speaker.

Oh, and he was wearing cowboy boots with his expensive suit. I think my French host families will enjoy that next time I write.

I thought of embedding "Hail to the Chief" for this post, but decided to respect my few readers, esp. if anyone happens to be reading this at the reference desk!

I went to the photoarchives of the local newspaper and found a picture of the visit that I appear in. I highlighted myself in a red rectangle so you can actually see me. If you click on the picture, you'll get a bigger view. This is so cool!

Friday, March 28, 2008


I am having computer difficulties this morning, but wanted to point out some widgets that have a lot of potential. Two were mentioned in an article called Widgets and Widgetry for Librarians, which mentions a number of neat widgets, but either I already use them or don't see much use for them yet.

The first is the Google Calendar, where you can create a calendar and I believe post it on your Web site as a "widget". I see this as being a good tool for us in letting students know when the extra comptuters in the classroom are available, and when the room has been reserved. Of course you could have the librarians post their calendars, but anyone who wants to know that bad is really creepy.

Google Maps also has a widget where you can not only post a map of where your library is, but also it allows you to annotate your maps with pinpoints, lines, and shapes. You could create maps of recommended restaurants and interesting things to do as the library's contribution to parents during summer orientation.

del.ici.ous is a bookmarking social network application. I'm exploring ways of using it as a type of home-made library portal, but haven't done much with it yet. Others are singing its praises, but I don't yet get it. But it also has a widget where you can cutomize a "linkroll" and post that on your Web site. The author of the article suggests a list of "What I've Seen Today." I think this could have potential for our Subject Links Web site pages that are very difficult to maintain without a database behind it.

The author suggests visiting Widgipedia or Widgetbox for more widgets. I love Widgetbox, though haven't necessarily connected what I have found to useful applications. But widgets are making really need functions available to us non-programers that have a little creativity. I have been thinking continuously of other widgets/gadgets to suggest on a Library Resources tab of iGoogle. I think a dictionary, citation creator (perhaps with an its-not-perfect warning), and a countdown clock to when projects are due. Please leave me a note if you can think of other recommendations beyond what I have here.

What's in a name?

What about the term "Library Professionals"? Is this better and more respectful? You get the "para" thing out so that it doesn't then center around the MLS-librarians. What we're arguing about here is a word, and perhaps we wouldn't argue about it if we could find the right word that adequately describes it.

I found this casually mentioned in the Hedgehog Librarian, who has some good points not mentioned in other posts. I am impressed by the intelligence of the posts about Rachel Singer Gordon's post, though surprised that my opinion seems to be the only one who is even remotely against her. I'm not entirely, really, just concerned at the implications.

One thing in nearly all of the posts that seems mis-represented is how easy it is to get an MLS. The Hedgehog Librarian suggests to non-MLS library professionals that they may want to go ahead and pick one up to provide mobility for the future... just in case. There are very few library schools in the country as all of us with an MLS know. If you happen to live close to one and can pay in-state tuition or have your employer cover some of the cost, and happen not to have young children, then go for it. But most people have to move, most people have family obligations which are more important than a just-in-case degree. Education, even in a state school, is incredibly expensive, and many people are not able to go in-state for library school since there are so few of them. There are online programs, but most still require you to travel at some point, so you're still geographically limited. Or you need to have a job that will give you time off for residencies. While the courses tend to be easier than other graduate programs, they are still incredibly time-consuming.

I put my heart into library school and got myself into a tight financial situation for my MLS. I have a hard time believing that other peoples' programs were so much easier that they see getting an MLS similar to picking up a value meal at a Wendy's drive-through on the way home from work one day.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I got linked to from the Liminal Librarian, who must have a Google Alert on her blog (as I do, which is how I found out) as I just wrote that post earlier today. I have also received one comment supporting her. I believe looking at some other peoples' posts that while we are all conflicted on the issue, most people side with Rachel Singer Gordon.

I was a reference assistant to online graduate students for 30 hours per week for the two years I was in grad school. The skills I picked up in that job were much more important than anything I learned in the classroom, but I still considered myself a paraprofessional. I was fortunate in that while most of my professors had Ph.D.'s, most of them had also served as librarians or other types of information professionals before returning to grad school (my favorite professor had worked as a non-MLS librarian for 7 years).

I am defensive in that I spent 2 years of my life working on this degree, graduated with a 3.97 GPA while working at least 30 hours per week in a demanding paraprofessional job, went through my once-significant savings, and am now oppressed by student loans to get that piece of paper. My monthly loan payment is 20% of my take-home salary and will be for another 8 years without my parents' help.

I would not have gotten my current job without the degree and I believe the trend to call non-MLS workers "librarians" is not as much of an issue in academic libraries as it is in public ones. I am sympathetic to people who are doing professional librarian work in public libraries. In academic libraries, I don't want the paraprofessionals looked down upon, but I don't want them called "librarians" either unless they really do librarians' work. As I said in the original post, that involves reference interviews, instruction, database analysis and selection/deselection, collection development and weeding, keeping up with global library trends, applying new technologies to the library, planning budgets and strategic plans. I think working more than an 8-hour day when you don't feel caught-up is an important thing, too. And is the person in a "job" or working it as a "career?"

If they are doing any combination of these things, fine, I will happily call them a "librarian." I don't see reading to children or processing Interlibrary Loan requests as professional librarians' work. I'm not saying these are easy tasks (I don't want anything to do with other peoples' children) but they're not professional-librarian work.

I will admit that almost all of this was learned on the job for me, either as a paraprofessional in school or in my first professional job. But I'm scared of the trends I mentioned previously and the implication that the effort I went through and am proud of to get my degree is worthless....

And I still don't get how no one would let me teach French in high school or college without the proper degree, even if I was perfectly cabable of doing so and had relevant experience, yet people wouldn't mind replacing me with someone who doesn't have the "proper" degree.

Could we at least all agree that those without significant library experience (and preferably an MLS) should not be named as library directors?

To MLS or not? That is the question

The Liminal Librarian recently wrote a post called "If it quacks like a librarian..." that disagrees with the common opinion of MLS librarians that those without an MLS should not be called librarians and should not be included in the Library Journal's list of movers and shakers. I have no problem with them being called "movers and shakers," I strongly believe talented paraprofessionals and those who work for vendors can drive changes in the field of libraries.

However, I'm not sure if they should be called "librarians." Do they do reference with thought to reference interviews? Do they teach bibliographic instruction? Do they keep up with technology and library trends? Do they coordinate major assessments? Do they set budgets, decide which books to buy, review databases to buy or get rid of? Do they take their work home when it's too much to fit into an 8-hour work day?

I don't think being defensive of the word "librarian" means we don't value the paraprofessionals' work. We have excellent people at our library and I would hate for them to think I look down on them. I am often running to them for help and explanations. I believe they should get a 25% raise in pay (and I should get a 10% one) and would get very defensive if a student spoke lowly of them.

But a community person called ahead to ask if we had Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, which she wanted to use for an online class assignment. The person said "oh yes, of course we have that database." So the woman drove about 30 minutes to get here, only to find out we only have Reader's Guide Retrospective. I could only tell her none of the librarians would have told her that. In this particular case, it was most likely a student worker who answered the phone and didn't know to pass it on, so it may be a weak illustration. But I think most of our technicians would have looked it up and said we did, not realizing there are multiple parts to the Reader's Guide suite of databases.

Just as I can't be trained and expected to keep up with what they do, they can't be expected to keep up with what I do. We all have our specialties, and most paraprofessionals do not have the training to do what professional librarians do. I don't know if "paraprofessional" adequately describes the respect I have for the people I work with, but it's probably better than "technician" or "assistant" which seems inadequate to me.

The bigger picture is the world does not value those with an MLS and think anyone can be a librarian (like the note I got on my Shelfari account). That is what we should be defending against. You've got these stories such as the shakeup of Memphis's public libraries and the mayor appointing a business man and a former body-guard to run the public libraries, kicking out a long-time director who had turned the libraries around and won national awards.

Sure, there are people with MLS degrees that are not librarians at heart. They drove me crazy in grad school, bringing down group projects and giving very half-hearted presentations. I don't ever want to work with that type of person. An MLS doesn't automatically make you a true librarian, but...

Okay, I'm bringing in too many points here. An MLS is not the same as an M.D. or a J.D., and I grant it is one of the easier master's degrees... but not any easier than most masters degrees in education from my humble observation. No one would hire you to teach college French without a related master's degree at the least, and a Ph.D. for upper-level students. Could I teach French if I wanted to? I'm pretty sure I could. But no one would ask me to. So why isn't it the same with librarians?

I'm done ranting and raving. For the moment anyway.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Censorship in the Hoosier State - Story #2

My fiance forwarded a story (here's the older but more complete story) about an experienced teacher in Indiana who was teaching at-risk high school students English. After reading some other books, she found a sponsor to buy over 100 copies of the Freedom Writers Diary (no famous for the movie by a similar name). She got suspended for passing them out after getting tired of waiting for permission from the school board. She sent home permission slips to the parents and all but one student returned a signed slip.

If I understand this correctly, the more recent story is that she gets to keep her job, but can't go back into the classroom until next year (fall 2009), but will get paid.

There may be more to this story, but I can't find anything that comes to the defense of the school board.

All I can say is, "What is up with you Indiana???"

First Lesson of Librarianship

For one of my library school applications, I had to interview a librarian. The head of information services at the Evanston Public Library graciously spent over an hour answering my questions. I have long since lost the write-up I did on that interview, but two things continue to stick out in my mind about that interview I did over four years ago. The first is that despite the stereotype, librarians don't know everything, they just know how to look it up. The second thing was that librarians don't have to be organized, they just have to appreciate organization.

I'm reminding myself of this over and over as I just spent over 2 hours cleaning my office. I still have a 3-inch pile of stuff I haven't put away yet. I am NOT an organized librarian, though I envy those with organization skills. I just found my campus directory which I have been looking for all semester, several CHOICE cards from 9 months ago, and a newsletter I was supposed to read and return to the library director.

At least I have only one injury to report - banging my shin on the over-stuffed trashcan.

Censorship in the Hooser State

I got my MLS at Indiana University and have a soft spot in my heart for the Hoosier State. It is a red state, as is PA where I live now. I saw a link to a Indystar article this morning that the Indiana governor just signed a bill making bookstores register before they can sell sexually explicit material. The law is clearly aimed at sex shops along freeways, but "sexually explicit" is so broadly defined that many bookstore owners are very worried it could apply to the great classics such as The Three Musketeers, Beloved, or even The Bible. I mean, the Old Testament has some really racy stuff in it, but come on! I think this fear is legitimate, this gives censorship advocates all they need to start launching campaigns against bookstores. I doubt Barnes & Nobel and Borders will have many problems they can't handle, but defending oneself could be the end of an indie bookstore. The governor claimed to have received no complaints. This sounds like a typical politician to me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Agressive Promotion

We have a Web site we call our E-Reference Shelf that I don't think anyone uses except the librarians (this month has seen 38 views, most were probably a mistake or a librarian). Under the Web Design category, we have links to places where you can get pictures, including the big stock photography databases that sell pictures for tons of money (as in $100 or more per photo). In a previous lifetime, I worked in a graphics design department that purchased such photos (or just took them, they weren't too picky about copyright). However, at our college the students are not required to use this as far as I know, and I'm sure couldn't afford the prices.

Anyway, there is a really agressive promoter who has e-mailed me a number of times to try to get me to link to her stock photography's Web site (which I won't name yet). I believe I just received her fifth e-mail asking me why I haven't made the change yet. I ignored the first one, then told her I would eventually add it when I got around to it the second time, but now it's just annoying and I will not add it. I tried to explain it doesn't matter; no one goes digging that far into our Web site looking for stock photography!

Gale recently hosted a Webinar that I didn't find useful as it was just a plug for their products. I hung up about halfway through (don't you love that about Webinars?), only to find myself bombarded with follow-ups and advertisements for their electronic reference databases we couldn't possibly afford. When our sales rep heard about it, she took care of it! I wasn't the only one who complained. It was wonderful and a refreshing change. At least someone realizes that getting overly agressive will just hurt your cause!

Promoting RSS

I put together a Web site and handout for cool, free tools that faculty might find interesting. I had my first meeting with a faculty member in his office yesterday. I think the most useful thing is the RSS feeds. I was skeptical until I realized how easy IE7 makes them, and now they simplify my life so much. When I have a free 10 or 15 minutes in the day, I can hop over to my chosen feeds and see what's new. Of course I still don't have time to read them in depth since I don't have Internet at home and I have to get some work done here, but one day...

Anyway, I'm either explaining the advantages of RSS poorly, or it cannot be explained. I think I need to bring my laptop with me and actually show them how cool it is. It really is easy to make it a part of your life, something I don't find natural with many of the trendy technology thingies out there... hence why I am the librarian techie imposter.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wikipedia Quote

"The term is primarily used in the geek community"

This is from the Wikipedia entry on "Unconferences." I suspect many entries on library terminology do or should have this statement.

Best Book Quote Ever

This is from a new wedding etiquette book:

If it's against state law, it's generally considered a breach of etiquette

Thinking it doesn't matter

I'm a pessimist by nature. I can't help it. So this morning I was starting to think about what to write about today, and wondering if it really matters because I don't have many readers. Not even my librarian friends read this regularly (okay, I admit I write too much to be read every day).

A new professor thought my blog was so neat that he set up two of his own, one for personal news and the other for professional stuff. He write to me last week asking why Google wasn't finding his blog. I admit I took several days to respond because I got really into some library survey results and ignored everything else during that time. So I wrote back and told him that Blogger has settings that give search engines permission to scan the blog.

I knew I had set up mine to be found by search engines, and went to look up "Reflections from a Small College Library" in Google. Strangely, I had to go to the "Include omitted results" to even find my profile, I never did find a link directly into my blog. However, I set up a Google Alert for the same search and it daily sends me a link to my own blog... I don't get the technology difference.

However, in my regular Google search I found that others have found my blog. There was a link to it on a site that listed blogs that included info on library marketing, and one person copied an entire post I wrote on the J.K. Rowling suing the HP Lexicon guy among other blogger's opinions (BTW we all seem to be against her). This was all, but I assume that more people read bits and pieces when they do a keyword search for something that interests them, and that only a tiny fraction are going to leave evidence of having been there. This is exciting. And since I am still a novice blogger, I can only assume this will grow.

I don't consider myself a particularly good writer, so I was very happy when I got quoted that it was a (surprisingly) intelligent post... thank goodness.

Now if I can build a ring of librarian bloggers from similar libraries so we can share ideas...

Friday, March 21, 2008

1st Edition Harry Potter Book

There is a story on about a first-edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that sold at Christies International (a very high-end auction house) for 4,000 pounds (almost $8,000), only to realize there was a library sticker and bar code inside the book and no one ever checked to make sure the book wasn't stolen from that library. After the sale, someone checked and it turned out it had been discarded.

If that's not an argument against weeding, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Faking Library Portals

As I mentioned on Monday night, I have started to play with pre-existing sites (currently iGoogle) whose technology I would so love to mimic if I weren't a techie imposter. A student at a focus group last week mentioned that she would like a portal (though she didn't use that word) where she could assemble links to the databases she uses the most and would not have all of those other 60+ databases she doesn't use. Hey, I would love to create that for you, and will be looking into what it would take to create something very simple like that. However, I'm pretty sure already that it's way over my head... I mean, you need to set up a database where each user's preferences are stored, come up with some way for them to login, a way for them to move things around, all of that is pretty complicated.

But there are sites that already do this. I am still completely in love with iGoogle, which has bookmarking tools as well as the two gagets I created to provide quick search boxes to our catalog and one of our databases. I suddenly thought I could use frames... or more specifically an "iframe" which would allow me to create a page on our library's Web site that would have a window that shows iGoogle. The iGoogle would be completely functional, but our Window would allow the user to navigate around the library's Web site and have instructions and suggestions for the user. The iGoogle page would be completely functional on its own if the student decided not to use it through our Web site.

So here is my first attempt:

Of course if I change this between now and when you read this, it will be different. It currently uses iGoogle. Which is wonderful, great, stupendous... but a little crowded to squeeze into this space. And I don't know why students would necessarily want the quick search boxes if they could have gotten to them a few clicks before they got here. So I'm going to play around with simpler pages where the bookmarks could show up nicely in the iframe of my page. I'm currently working with, but there are other "social bookmarking" sites that I will also need to look at.

I've sent this out to my boss, a friend, and a co-worker, but haven't gotten any feedback yet. So please send me feedback and suggestions if you have any.

Strange Comment

The only social networking I actively keep up with are this blog and my Shelfari shelf where I can share what I read with my friends... mostly just my mom and a grad school friend, as well as keep a neat (but out-of-control) wish list of books I want to eventually read.

Anyway, anyone can write notes to me, though few do, and I just received this one...

"Hello, I just wanted to say hi, because I really hope that I be a librarian as a side job for college. Take care, and I hope you have a beautiful life.. The Mysterious Z"

First of all, the grammar is a bit strange, but I cannot hold that against someone without being a hypocrite (I probably know how to write better than I usually do here). Then there is an issue of being a librarian "as a side job for college." This emphasizes the ignorance of the general population of what a librarian is. A librarian is someone with a master's degree in library science and most have a professional career as a librarian (a career being very different from a job). Anyone who works in a library who does not have this is a "library assistant" or "library technician." I am not belittling these people, I am running to our library technicians on a regular basis for them to explain things to me. Many of them have bachelor's degrees, and at other libraries some of them have graduate degrees.

I'm not much into leaving notes on other people's pages unless they have said something particularly insightful or relevant to me personally. I'm not a true social networker, to put it briefly. It was probably very nice of him to leave me this note, and not very nice of me to tear him apart.


So the first step of information literacy is to recognize when you need to seek information. So outside of school, this would mean doing your research before buying a house, a car, getting married (licenses, finances and name changes, etc.), investments, taxes, and opening your own business. But who would have ever thought you needed to do your research before closing your own business? Here's a story of a local woman who got a letter when she advertised her going-out-of-business sale, that she needed to pay a $5o fee for a going-out-of-business license. This isn't a city law, it is the state of Pennsylvania! As an information professional (though not a business-minded person in the least), I never would have thought I needed to research what permits one needs to close down.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

de St.-Exupery's Killer Found?

There is a former Luftwaffe pilot that is publishing a book this week saying he's probably the one who shot down Antoine de St.-Exupery down, the author of The Little Prince and other books. Of course it is being met with a lot of skepticism. I didn't realize that his plane wreckage had been found, apparently it was located in 1999 and then identified as de St.-Exupery's in 2001. This is the second article I have read about it, and it doesn't really say why he believes this to be true. I guess he wants to sell copies of his book.

Monday, March 17, 2008

High Tech, High Touch... for little libraries

I'm working my way through High Tech, High Touch: Library Customer Service Through Technology. The examples given make me drool with envy, but it is definitely geared towards public libraries and it is not a how-to book.

So here goes another one of my imposter-techie-librarian, half-baked-idea rants.

I want to look into the concept of "push" technologies more. These are all of the technologies like automatic software updates and notifications where information goes to the user rather than the other way around. This is a big thing in the information age, and it would be great to figure out how to push content the user selects to them more... though figuring out what content students would see as useful and then how to do it are a mystery. I know we could push RSS, but don't know if the students would use it.

The other big thing is customization/personalization. A student recently wanted to know if we could add a place where she could just gather the links to her favorite databases and other electronic library resources. I'm going to send her information on iGoogle.

Another cool idea would be a dynamic calendar that could tell students the availability of the Instruction Classroom (which doubles as a computer lab), and a dynamic system of letting a student know who is on reference. I could see this as being a graphic button on all of our Web sites near the Ask-a-Librarian button. When you clicked on it, it would have a picture of the librarian pop up and tell you if they are at the desk or on call, and give you the number to reach them either way.

One thing I had an epiphany on tonight in regards to a customizable portal for students to store links to their favorite library resources. I'll need to work out the details, but perhaps I can use frames with our Web site's header, links to suggested resources and tools, and the parent frame will simply display iGoogle. This seems like something very simple and do-able until our IT perfects real portals (which will probably take a few years, I heard it's not a priority right now).

Typical Day

I was asked last week in the HR class what a typical day looked like for me. So I recorded a day, though obviously not all of the interruptions and little things that need to be taken care of. So here was what I did last Thursday, March 13:

  • 8-8:30 Catch up on misc. e-mails and e-newsletters from overnight

  • 8:30-9:45 In-depth reference question that was initiated in an IM yesterday and elaborated on over e-mail during the night. This one obviously required a bit of work, then organizing the answer to be sent in an e-mail back to the student
    9:45-10 Catch up on misc. e-mail that built up while I was working on reference question

  • 10-10:30 Preparing focus group questions for lunch later today (plus short misc. communications)

  • 10:30-11 Reading High Tech, High Touch book I got through Interlibrary Loan to look at ways to improve customer service to virtual library visitors

  • 11-11:45 Talking to Janet (library director) about programming classes, then looking at options for learning programming myself

  • 11:45-1:15 Meeting with the SOS students to ask questions about how we can improve next August's library orientation program, be more responsive to freshmen, and general library focus group questions

  • 1:15-1:45 Looking at programming education options again

  • 1:45-2:05 Creating a down page on the Web site because E-Z Borrow was scheduled to be down over the weekend and I wasn't planning to be in the library on Friday

  • 2:30-4 Reading High Tech, High Touch book
  • 4-5:30 Fondue Night with the Club Franco. Yeah, life's hard :)

I have to admit my productivity around 2 took a dip if you noticed the time gap. I do plenty at home and after work on other days to make up for this. And it may not look like much is getting done while I read books or look at programming education options, but a big part of what a librarian does is read on how to improve the library. Again, this is stuff I take home and do over the weekends as well, but often get started during work hours.

I was also on call for reference during the morning, but did not get any reference questions other than the one initiated the night before.

Getting Asked

We are a very small academic library, serving 1,450 FTE students, 85 faculty, and the occasional staff member. We have only have five librarians. It is a very good library, but we're very small with a budget to go along with the size.

But we also tend to be ahead of the curve on many items. While we do have a small budget, we also have a good relationship with our vendors, are happy to play the guinea pig for the vendors, and don't have the complex bureaucracy of a bigger library.

So it is wonderful when a library we look up to like Gettysburg comes up to one of us at a conference and asks us about something we're doing because they were thinking of doing it to. In this case, it was Aquabrowser, which we have been using for nearly two school years now, and other schools are just starting to jump on board. One of our librarians was also approached in the grocery store last week by a librarian from the local community college which has infinitely more resources than we do, and she was so impressed with our IM service and some other new things we were doing. Other libraries have started doing something similar to our Snowden 'til 2 program that we have the Friday night before finals with review sessions, music, games, pizza, pictures with Santa... all of which attracts 1/4 of our student body. It's just so great to be ahead of the curve by other people, especially the ones we look up to for ideas!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Article Ideas

As I'm trying to read about customer service in the Internet age (or whatever you want to call it), I keep coming up with more questions I write in the notes that could possibly be articles in the future, perhaps for other people, assuming they haven't been done yet (I'm not taking the time to find that out).

Students turn to the Internet before coming to the library or even using our digital resources. We keep talking about the convenience factor and our technology developments focus on making research more convenient. I'm also wondering how much literacy is a factor. The information posted on Web sites are often not written by scholars, and are thus much easier for the student to understand. Does a students preference for the readability of Web sites factor into their preference for Internet research vs. the scholarly articles we keep encouraging them to go out and find... many of which we don't understand either?

Okay, maybe this question is not something that interests anyone else, or perhaps there are a thousand articles on this that I just haven't come across.

Books into Movies

As I was following the links to the story on Lovely Bones last night, I saw that they're turning it into a movie next year with big-name actors like Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I am so excited about Inkheart and The Golden Compass, but there are some movies you wish they would keep their hands off of. Particularly those magical ones that really sweep you off your feet. I suppose it will depend on how good of a movie they make. Fried Green Tomatoes, The Green Mile, and To Kill a Mockingbird were excellent. I have loved all of the Jane Austen movies made, and PBS did an incredible job with Jane Eyre last year, even if every Hollywood version of that story was awful. But they slaughtered Snow Falling on Cedars, no good movie of Les Miserables has ever been made, and I heard Prince of Tides didn't do the book justice. I watched part of Like Water for Chocolate and couldn't finish it. I don't think it was necessarily a bad movie, it was just a book that was so magical, you lost the magic when you took the imaginative part out of the experience. I would be happy to see some of my favorite books as movies such as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Daughter of Fortune, as long as they were done well. So why the news of Lovely Bones upsets me... I guess I don't believe they can do the book justice. I hope I am pleasantly surprised. Perhaps at least it will make more people read the book, and that would be wonderful.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I get as riled up as the next librarian when I see attempts at censorship, especially since the best books are usually the targets. Today's ALA Direct newsletter has a link to an article of a parent wanting to ban Lovely Bones from a middle school library. This is one of my favorite books ever, even though it is about the brutal rape and murder of a young girl and how her family falls apart after her death.

First of all, I do admire that this woman actually read the book cover to cover. I cannot say how much it frustrates me that censorship promotors rarely read the books and take quotations and events out of context. Anti-Harry-Potter people bring up the quote "There is no good or evil: only power and those too weak to seak it." Yeah, that's the bad guy who says it, it shows how bad he is, and his lack of understanding is his down-fall. Read the darn things if you are going to embarrass your children by turning their censorship into a crusade.

I also have to question the appropriateness of Lovely Bones in a middle school library, but their middle school ranges from 5th to 8th grade. I think many 8th graders can handle this book. A librarian discusses the challenge of developing a collection for this age group, and that it is important not to dumb down the collection for 8th graders.

During my junior year of high school, our entire English curriculum was based on banned books. Most of them were dear classics such as 1984, Farenheit 451, and A Separate Peace (I'm assuming that last one has been challenged... too lazy to look it up tonight). One of the books was The Chocolate War, which after about 15 pages I decided I did not want to read. I told my parents, my dad read the book in one night, went to the teacher and said he didn't think I should have to read it, and I was given another book. I think it was handled well. I still had to learn about the book since everyone else was reading it... I think one of the highlights of my life was that one group did a video as their project on this book. In the video, they went into the bathroom for the famous scene where they blackmail one of the characters with pictures of him pleasuring himself in the bathroom... they zoomed in on the stall, and our teacher is in the back of the room having a heart attack in anticipation. It turned out when they pushed the door open, they showed the character beating the heck out of a rubber chicken. Oh, the joys of working with an honors class! I digress. The point is there is a difference between a teacher assigning a questionable book, and the same book being available in the library. If a student or their parents can make a reasonable argument, give the kid another book. Heck, give them a longer book if you want.

So the gods of librarianship will eventually strike me dead for being somewhat sympathetic to censorship. That is an example of a die-hard ethic that we stand for. But it breaks my heart when some of my favorite books are the most challenged, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, Shel Silverstein, and Snow Falling on Cedars. This woman has completly misunderstood Lovely Bones if she thinks it is about rape and murder rather than healing and hope. She judges the mother who has an affair and leaves the family, but not the father who becomes an alcoholic. This woman has no idea what would happen to her family if such a horrible thing happened. And I certainly hope it never does.
Lovely Bones was written by Alice Sebold who also wrote a memoir of her own experience with brutal rape. That book is called Lucky. Talk about graphic. She goes into every detail and makes you feel like it is happening to you (until you put the book down, of course). It talks about the stupid things that she did afterwards, the friendships that fell apart, the good men she couldn't treat right, the stress on her family. So it is a weird title, right? The point was that she was lucky she didn't die, and anyone who says they would rather die than live after such an experience is an idiot. But you can't know that until you have been there. Lucky doesn't really end. Lovely Bones has an incredibly uplifting ending. This woman complains that the bad guy never gets punished... the ghosts of his victims push him off a cliff! The girl comes back for a few hours that she can spend with her would-have-been boyfriend or chase the killer. She felt she'd rather spend her one or two hours back on earth with him than on revenge. The family comes together at the end, the sister is able to have a very healthy relationship that turns into marriage, the wayward wife comes back, the husband forgives her and stops drinking... They fell apart but came back together... The last line is something like, "Have a nice life."
If anyone gets to the end of this raving mess then you must really like these books that I talk about. I'm sorry this is so long. Be glad that some of you don't live near me so you don't have to listen to this every time I see a new story of challenged books.
And please don't turn me in to the gods of librarianship.

There are better ways of relieving stress

Such as taking up a hobby, getting a pet, exercise, counseling... but setting fires in a library restroom? Here's a story about the community college here in town...

Teaching what I do

This morning I went to a human resources class and answered questions about what I do. They have to write a job description of what I really do. I hope I did a good job. They had to turn in their questions beforehand, but I didn't know the questions until I got there. And the ones the professor picked were good ones. The ones I can remember were, "If you were your own boss, what would you change about the job?" "What do you spend the most time on?" "Why does a person need to get an MLS to do what you do?" "What would happen if you didn't come to work for a few days?" "What is the urgency factor in what you do?" "Do you focus your attention and energies more on students or faculty?" and "Summarize what you do in a few words." For that last one, I chose "helper" first and "educator" second. Towards the end, he asked me besides money, why do librarians choose to do what they do. I told him money actually was not a factor, that we are nutoriously underpaid as a profession. I know what teaching faculty here make since I'm engaged to one, and we make significantly less. I told them that if you take inflation into account, I made more with a bachelor's degree. The professor was surprised. Afterwards, I explained that those who go into librarianship are usually librarians at heart. We love working with students, we love books and knowledge, we love promoting information literacy and other ideals that librarians stand for. I told them I do it because when I get out of bed in the morning, after the initial shock of the alarm, that I look forward to going to work. I think that is why any librarian at heart goes into our field. I say "librarian at heart" to distinguish between the types of librarians I work with and the types that go and get an MLS because they don't know what else to do for a paycheck. I did not make that distinction in class, I didn't think it was necessary. I also stressed that I use and love Google and Wikipedia, but it is important for people to understand how they work.

He gave me a job description for another library that happend to correspond almost exactly with what I do, which is pretty incredible. I was impressed that it talked about working with faculty, staff, and students to improve reference and instructional services. I was also impressed that it didn't ask for an additional master's degree. It did ask for more technology skills than reference librarians are likely to have, Meredith Farkas has recently written an interesting post on this issue. It was not a bad job ad, but he wants the students to really give a good idea of what I will actually be doing.

One or two of the students had already read part of my blog, which I was really impressed with. I wrote the URL on the board for the rest of the class, I wonder how many will look at this. I think it gives a better idea of the issues involved in our field. I think being professionally aware beyond your own library's walls is particularly important in our field. There are other professions like lawyers, doctors, and professors as well, but I don't think this is that important in most business jobs, at least not in the broad perspective that is required of us. Professors are the same way, they need to know what is going on in their field, but that is a very narrow focus.

Okay, I'm getting abit long-winded here. I'm trying to remember it all and summarize for myself what kind of image I presented and if I covered everything. There's so much to cover, and he described the breath of work we do from what I talked about. I don't think it is an easy profession to explain, particularly with how fast things are changing.

Now, wearing my jeans and my National Eating Disorders Awareness Week t-shirt (that says "Embrace your genes," thus the genes/jeans play on words) that I agreed to wear, I'm off to the career fair to be a part of campus activities. It's part of what I do!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I was so excited about my Web site on a professional server yesterday, and for some reason there are some computers that cannot view it. They simply show a "Page cannot be found" screen. Which makes NO sense.

A student approached me yesterday afternoon saying he was using RefWorks from home and ScienceDirect was not exporting references to it. Each site was working fine through the proxy server, but it would not let him export to RefWorks. A librarian reproduced the error when she was home. EBSCO is working fine, we assume the others are as well. So I had the pleasure of contacting Elsevier's help desk first thing in the morning. Besides LexisNexis, they have the worst customer service of any library vendor I have dealt with so far. No one ever seems to know anything and they don't see problems in the same way we do (what, I'm supposed to tell a user to redo their whole search in the Advanced Search page so they can set up an RSS feed???). We'll see how many days it takes them to call me back, it certainly wasn't today. I wasn't expecting that.

I was asked by a communications professor how much I knew about Microsoft Publisher. I had never used it, but having used PowerPoint, Illustrator, and some similar Adobe product that probably doesn't exist anymore, I felt pretty comfortable with it. So I'm teaching it next week. I'm a bit tired of teaching for the semester, but I'm very excited about this. I guess it's because it is something creative.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lindsay Lohan Naked and New Web Knowledge

I walked through the back office just before lunch and the technicians were passing around what first appeared to be a nudie magazine. It was a recent edition of The New Yorker that had nude pictures of Lindsay Lohan with a Marilyn Monroe wig. The library's original copy disappeared. I wonder what happened to that... One of the technicians put a "Received by the Snowden Library" stamp on each photo... not on the nude parts, she felt that would be censorship. But she was hoping that would make it less desirable to steal. We'll see. I would like to write some short stories about the things that disappear around here, particularly the five-foot-plus cardboard standup of Abe Lincoln... I passed around other copies of New Yorker without looking at them for an instruction class earlier today. They were examples of popular magazines. I guess I'm glad that one wasn't one of my examples, I never would have gotten them to pay attention to me.

And I would like everyone to take a minute to view my new Web site. It's actually not new, as you will see on the dates. I created this for a class in grad school and I have been promising my mom for two years now that I would get it up on a professional server. My mother was my "client" and this site is for a charity my parents are very active in. I finally figured out between yesterday evening (despite my Daylight Savings Time hiccup -- got to work on time and accidentally stayed an hour late at the reference desk, I bet that's a new one) and lunch today. It needs updated, but now that it is up on a server with its own pretty URL - is so much better than

Fake Memoirs (Continued)

And now I see Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is now being hostilely questioned... this one I have read. There are many unanswered questions on the timeline. I feel jipped, though it is pre-mature since no one has confessed to faking or fudging anything.


A reader sent me the link to the NPR interview of Margaret B. Jones, the one who was recently exposed to be a fraud. She is right, it is very convincing. I'm finding myself very skeptical of other writers who are supposed to be true stories, or the author's life is part of the promotional hype, such as the Suite Francaise. The author, Irene Nemirovsky, died in a concentration camp and her daughter found the manuscript many years after WWII. I can't help doubting this, or how authentic the supposedly new book by Tolkien is. I suppose I should get over my skepticism and read the Suite Francaise, I've heard from several people that it is really good.

I think this reader makes some good points that I will have to ponder on a bit more over the question of "Why get an MLS?" I do agree that the practical experience in libraries after the degree is much more useful. I am going to dig around blogs and Web sites more to find a broader range of opinions and will summarize them soon.

She also asked me what I meant by first- and second-rate MLS programs. I probably sound elitist, since I went to what I consider one of the first-rate programs. By this, I don't been unaccredited. As far as I'm concerned, a degree from an unaccredited school is near useless. You must have a very hard time finding a job (and isn't that hard enough in our field, at least the first time around?). I suppose "ranked" programs might be a better phrase. My reference professor often had a grass-is-always-greener attitude, but said there were only a few library schools worth working at and he was at one of them already. He felt there were only about ten schools worth going to at all. That may be going a bit far.

Where I am at now, I work with two people who did a distance program though an un-ranked school. The difference between what they learned in school and what I learned is incredible. For instance, Indiana would not let you into your second semester without knowledge of HTML, it was necessary for the work we did later. That just scratches the surface of technology stuff. We also had to take an assessment class. It was expected that eventually we will all publish in our field. At least two-thirds of my professors had Ph.D.'s, whereas most of their professors were adjuncts. There is no way you could finish a degree in two years while working full time and commuting. Unless you totally ignored your family and didn't ever sleep or eat.

All three of us took Dialog and learned about reference interviews and resources. We all learned the basic professional theory. But they're telling me stories of meeting up on Saturdays to color bookmarks, other mindless assignments and useless teachers (their description, not mine). I am saying this honestly because both of them are incredibly intelligent. They chose this program because they had family obligations that tied them up geographically and financially. They are both librarians at heart, and have many talents. I was in a ranked program with plenty of people who were not librarians at heart and I have little respect for them, whereas I have very high respect for my two colleagues. So what am I trying to say in all of this rambling? There is definitely a difference between ranked programs and un-ranked (though I'm sure there are many mid-range ones that are quite good), though judging on the individual rather than the institution is still the most important thing.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Small Library Blogs

A few weels ago, I posted a question to the COLLIB electronic listserv looking for other small-library bloggers. Most of the responses pointed me towards the library's blog rather than a librarian's blog. I had been looking for librarians' blogs because I want to know the thought processes and behind-the-scenes stuff, but there are some great program ideas from other schools. I think my favorite so far is the primary party, complete with red and blue food. I'm nont sure if that would be as successful at our school as it appears to be at Rollins College, and I think the PA primaries are during our finals week when the students probably have better things to worry about. Anyway, I digress. Here are the responses I got:

Librarian Blogs:

Now that I have all of these assembled in one place, I'll start digging through them... though I've been spending way too much time browsing blogs and not enough time getting real work done lately!

Friday, March 7, 2008


Okay, I have lots to say today after a silence of several days, though it's nearly time to close my laptop for the week and join some other faculty members at the local brewery.

I just received a comment from a person whom I don't know well at all, but whose opinion I respect. I'm not sure if I agree with what she says about second-rate schools, I know there is definitely a difference between first rate and second rate schools. I hope as she says that the issue of why an MLS will become a discussion. I am sure it is on blogs somewhere, but I have not been following blogs long enough to find them yet. I believe the American Library Association should have a good answer to this question, but I cannot find one on their Web site. I don't believe ALA is advocating for librarians, and have seen this complaint on other blogs (you'll have to wait until next week for any links). It is important to have a good answer to that question and be able to explain it eloquently (which my examples definitely were not) since it is non-librarians who make the overall budget decisions. Marathon County Public Libraries are a prime example of the dangers of NOT having a good explanation.

Why an MLS?

It's been a few days since I posted. Nothing has inspired me in the past two days, and I was insanely busy with meetings, workshop classes, advising, etc... I do enjoy the advising, esp. since this time around I did my homework before the student arrived so I was more prepared on what their requirements are. It is difficult to be an advisor for many different areas, none of which are my own.

I was approached earlier this morning by the human resources professor. He invited me to his class next week and I'm going to answer students' questions about what I do. Their assignment then will be to write a job description for me. He wants it to go beyond what a job description normally looks like and give an accurate view of what I really do. At the end, we talked about the degree requirements. He is often trying to talk his students out of an MBA because it usually doesn't really pay off. I wanted to have a good answer ready for why a professional librarian needs a MLS. I had answers to what a person learns, but needed help from a more experienced librarian for the heart of the answer.

The first reason a person would need an MLS is the obvious: every real librarian job requires it. You may find some people with the librarian job title who don't have one, esp. in public libraries, but they're not real librarians (that's a topic for another post). So what does a person learn in an MLS program? How to use databases and how they work (including the grueling DIALOG- a database without a graphical user interface (GUI)), collection development, assessment techniques, organizational theory or cataloging, and many hours of reference techniques. All of these are the practical things a person learns, the "professional" side of a "professional" degree. However, most of this could be learned on the job or as an undergraduate degree.

The most important reason is a formal way for librarians to gather knowledge of the professional theory behind librarianship. Well-trained paraprofessionals can do a good job at the reference desk and teaching courses. But a solid knowledge of the theory behind librarianship drives a hundred decisions each day. A paraprofessional would be told we cannot tell someone who has a book checked out, or what books a particular person has ever checked out, but only a professional librarian could possibly understand why this is an important, universal policy. And a huge part of librarianship is working towards the future, making constant changes, keeping up with trends, trying to set your own trends, using new technologies in new ways, taking innovations in other areas and applying them to libraries... these are all things a person absolutely could not do competently if they did not understand the theory that drives the direction libraries are going in.

I went to lunch with this same mentor librarian last week and we discussed the differences between a top-rate library schools and second-rate schools. She felt that those she has worked with coming from the second-rate schools have the same skills with databases and have been competent instructors, but lack the global vision of librarianship unless they have developed this on their own. I got that from my education... whether it was worth all of the extra money I paid, I guess that will take time to tell.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Researching the Impossible

I've been reading a bit over the past week, looking for things I can write an article on. I have some ideas I think are very good, but none yet I'm willing to focus on. I don't have to publish where I am at, so I don't want to unless I have something useful to add. I've been playing around with customer service and reference, and perhaps combining this with some psychological surveys. But I found the question I really want to answer:

If more and more of our users never come to the library or only rarely do, and mostly rely on our virtual services if they come to us at all, how can we build "customer loyalty" and help them expand their information literacy?

I don't know the first place to begin. I think I have seen seminars on listservs about "Hi tech, hi touch." I probably need to start there. I have been very frustrated with the lack of traffic at our reference desk (though I seem to get all of the dead shifts according to the other librarians). I know this is a trend, and if their skills were getting better, I wouldn't worry about it. But I know we can make these students' lives easier by showing them how to find information more efficiently. It seems there have to be tips out there on building information literacy and helping students who only use our virtual services.

I'm not sure how much I will post as this continues if it is something I eventually plan to publish. Especially since I know it will take me a long time to focus and put something original together... and especially if I have to teach myself statistics... if anyone knows a good book on learning statistics, please let me know!

Fake Memoirs

What is with all of these memoirs that are turning out to be fake? How do people think they can get away with this in the Information Age? We all know about A Million Little Pieces, I think Oprah made sure of that. Then several of my book news sources wrote about a famous Holocaust memoir called Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, another best-selling book that took over a decade to get outed. Now this morning people are talking about Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones. She claimed in her memoir to grow up in a foster family, be half native-American, run drugs for a gang, and graduate from the University of Oregon. Yet in reality, she grew up in a very privileged, all-white family, graduated from an elite private high school, never went to the University of Oregon, and most importantly, never lived with foster parents or ran drugs. The most interesting part of this story was the book was only published a week ago and it was the author's older sister who outed her when she saw her picture in the New York Times. The publisher pulled all of the books and canceled all tours. I assume since these three books were best-sellers and critically-acclaimed that they are well-written. Why don't the authors just market them as fiction?

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Librarian Song

There have been a few clever YouTube videos lately. This one was floating around a few listservs recently. Overall this doesn't strike a cord with me nearly as much as the MySpace one does, but one particular line did...

...but the one thing [librarians] all know how to say is,
"You know boys, there is an easier way."

I wish we could get that into people's heads... all we want to do is to help, and we know how to help people use their time more efficiently. We can help people avoid some frustration... that's all we're trying to do at the reference desk and instruction desk, and if people would just take advantage of the help and pay attention, we can make their lives so much easier!