Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On trolling....

As the digital exchange of ideas becomes more common, information professionals need to be cognizant of trolling.

Here is an awesome article on the phenomenon: Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt. It is written by a Julie Zhuo, a product design manager for Facebook, and offers some really good ideas for redesigning comment moderation for blogs and websites.

The article is worth the read, but for those who don't have time at least consider the following snippet:

Trolling, define as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory of provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself, although its roots go much farther back. Even in the fourth century, B.C., Plato touched upon the subject of anonymity and morality in his parable of the ring of Gyges.

That mythical ring gave its owner the power of invisibility, and Plato observed that even a habitually just man who possessed such a ring would become a thief, knowing that he couldn't be caught. Morality, Plato argues, comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions we would all behave unjustly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tattooed Librarians of the Pacific Northwest

One of the great things about attending a distance learning program is that our cohort has the autonomy of planning our own graduation ceremony. However, with great privilege comes great responsibility: we have to pay for it ourselves.

To try and circumvent this (if we're already in debt for the degree, we don't want to have to pay for anything else), the graduation committee has come up with a nifty little fund-raising campaign:

The Tattooed Librarians of the Pacific Northwest 2010-2011 Calender!!

This has been quite the endeavor putting it together, but we are really proud of the end product. We are selling them through a print-on-demand website, you can check out our online shop here: zazzle.com.nyssaj

We know at $25 dollars it's a little spendy: we had to add on a royalty so we could actually raise funds through the calender. But, if you band together with friends, the more calenders you buy, the cheaper it is - and we still get our royalties!!

So please check it out, and if you like what you see: help us out and buy one!! They make great gifts and are the perfect calender to spice up any drab office wall!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Librarians finally learn web design

I know that it has been forever and a day since I last posted. This semester I made a decision to really focus on school, and it's paid off in spades. I feel like I've done the best academic work that I've ever done. I know, you must be thinking, shouldn't every semester be like that? Yes, it should, and it usually is. But I think this term I realized that my MLIS program is about to come to an end, and I really want to make the most of the time I have left.

But of course, focusing more on school has had it's downsides, too. Mostly, I neglected my blog, and probably lost most of the amazing readership I had built up over the summer.

But now that the semester is winding down, and my big projects are behind me, I'm ready to start back up again. So, for you dear readers, a short post, as I dust off my blogging skills:

San Jose Public Library just launched their new sight, and it is glorious:

It's simple. It's clean. It's colorful. It gives me hope.

It's sad to say, but there are more bad websites out there than good ones. Especially for libraries. More often than not, it's because a library is part of a larger organization or institution (such as a university or city/county government) and has to abide by their bureaucratic rules for web design.

But San Jose has really hit the mark here. A good website should be simple, and easy to navigate. It should have clearly marked paths and landmarks. it should not overwhelm the user, but inspire them to explore and return.

You can read a bit about the web site's redesign, and some of the new features, on The Librarian in Black's blog. Some of the new highlights that I really like are the fact that the words database or OPAC or other library jargon aren't on the site, and that users can comment on almost any aspect of the site (which aren't moderated) and that all staff members can blog (and again, their posts aren't moderated either).

Why does all of this give me hope? Because smart, well designed websites are our future. More and more information searches are going to be conducted not in the library, but on the library's website. In this new model of librarianship, we need to provide excellent user experience, and web design is the way to start.

Bravo and Congratulations to the staff at San Jose public Library!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Short But Sweet

In one of my first posts, Poor Man's Netflix, I describe my love for checking out DVD's from my local library.

Today, I found an article describing how the OCLC just published a study stating that Americans get more DVDs from Public Libraries compared to Netflix, Redbox or Blockbuster. Reading the study makes me feel all warm inside.

Today, I checked out 2 DVDs - David Lynch's Dune (I feel that today's librarians are the equivalent of Frank Herbert's Mentats) and United States of Tara (Diablo Cody, Stephen Spielberg and Toni Collette? I have high expectations).

Why spend money when you can get it for free? Seriously, why?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cupcakes and E-books (How NPR is rocking my world)

Some great content from NPR has not only caught my attention today, but has gotten my mind thinking about information and librarianship (which shouldn't be too surprising, it doesn't take a whole lot to get me thinking about either topic).

First there is this article: At Amazon, E-Book Sales Outpace Hardcover. As I read it, I imagined bibliophiles around the globe FLIPPING OUT. I think there are a lot of implications to the fact that e-books are selling more than hardbacks on Amazons website, and I think there is some reading-between-the-lines that also needs to be taken into consideration.

There are multiple reasons why E-books appear so popular. First are the apparent reasons:

Aside from the cost of the reading devise, they're cheaper than most real books ($10 for an e-book versus $12 for a quality paperback, or $25 for a hardback).

We're a society who loves toys. With the proliferation of Kindles, iPads, iPhones, Nooks and what ever sad attempt Borders has at breaking into the market, there are more and more opportunities to read E-Books.

But on the other hand:

Reading the article, we have to realize that this information is specific for Amazon's website. People who buy things online are going to be way more tech savvy (and have more money) than people who don't. As a perpetually broke grad student, I refuse to give up the pleasure of reading just because I don't have the dough (or time). I do utilize the library more often than not - but when I want a "new" book to put on my shelf I head to Goodwill, where paperbacks are $.99 and I have yet to find a hardcover for more that $4. So while it may seem that more people are utilizing e-books, it's just that more of Amazon's customer's are.

While e-books are more and more common, no one is taking away actually books. Well, yet.

And, while amused at this story, I'm not too freaked out about it. Living in a digital age, digital content is becoming more and more familiar to people. People who constantly look at a screen for information are going to find comfort and convenience at looking at a screen for entertainment as well. When I ride public transportation to work, instead or reading the New York Times over someone's shoulder, I'm reading the New York Times over someone's shoulder on their iPhone. This is just the way things are going and I think folks are starting to get used to it...

And the other bit that caught my eye was a post on the the Monkey See blog: Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries.

There's not a whole lot of analysis that needs to happen here. Blogger Linda Holmes just does a phenomenal job at describing the awesomeness of libraries and librarians. Between Gaga dance videos and The Old Spice Dude (and his Mormon knockoff, which I think is better than the real thing), the cultural presence of libraries is building some serious momentum, and there will be a culmination of society remembering how important they are as a democratic institution. And I'm looking forward to riding that wave.

Special thanks to Flickr user weir thru a lens for use of the cupcake photo.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A perfect example of community centeredness...

I should be working on my research proposal that is due in a week, but had to share this quick post with all of you:

My local public library, Multnomah County Library, just announced via Facebook their new ecoroof.

I'm kind of geeking out over it.

I think this is a perfect example of what a library is: a center of community.

Let me break this down a bit.

Yes, a library is a center of information sharing, and for the most part this means checking out books and accessing the internet. But in 21st century, sharing information means so much more. In an age where ecological consciousness is so important, a library has the potential of being a leader and an example of sustainability, and the ecoroof is an amazing example of sustainable living.

The benefits of the new roof include:

- Reducing rainwater runoff into an already stressed sewer system
- Reducing energy costs
- Increasing vegetation and wildlife habitat
- Reducing air pollution
- Filtering the air
- Improving fish habitat, again by absorbing the water before it enters the sewer system.

Because community members (individuals, families, school groups, etc.) can tour and learn about the roof, the ecoroof is an example of information as a thing. You could log on to websites or check out books about ecoroofs, and you can actually experience it.

This is also an example of community colaboration. The roof was designed and monitored by employees of the City of Portland and a Portland State University Professor. The roof was funded by community organizations including various environmental offices from the City of Portland and the Energy Trust of Oregon, Inc. By involving members of the community from outside the library to support, create and maintain the project, more stakeholders are involved, thus creating opportunities to disseminate the information even further into the community!

I give Multnomah County Library two big thumbs up for their new ecoroof, and I can't wait for my summer term to be over so I can get up there and check it out for myself!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I think I have a problem

Dear Concerned readers,

Please call an interventionist - I think I am addicted to my Google reader.

For most folks out there who utilize their reader, this post may not be new, but I just can't contain myself any more. I love it, and I cannot remember what my life was like before I added my first subscription.

As someone who is entering an industry where information is a key commodity, it is such an ingenious tool, to have pertinent/relevant/entertaining information collected in one convenient location.

However, with any addiction, their seems to be dark side associated with the reader. First, the anxiety. I have so many subscriptions, that if I don't check them at least once every day they pile up fast. And I have this weird neurosis about leaving items unread in my reader. I feel like I have to at least scroll through all of them, so when I'm done with my reader, there are no unread items. Maybe I'm afraid of missing something, or maybe it's a way to leave things neat and tidy (which I have trouble enough with in real life).

Trying to stay on top of the reader leads to the second aspect of the dark side - time suckage. I'll sit down at my computer with the intention of being productive, and the next thing I know two hours have gone by and I haven't even stared on my homework. It's a procrastinator's dream: You feel like you are being productive, without having to really do anything.

Dark side aside, I still love my reader. I get my local, national and international news there, I know what is happening in and around Portland, I subscribe to some great library blogs and I have a few comic strips come my way.

I think it's a great tool to share with library patrons, too. I know some major databases out there have RSS options, so if you are involved in major research on a particular subject, instead of searching out the information, you can have the information come to you. Or, if a patron is interested in general information on a subject, you can help set up subscriptions with relevant blogs and websites for them.

Here is a list of some of my favorite subscriptions:


So, dear readers, for those of you who indulge in a "Reader," what are some of your favorite subscriptions? And if you don't use Google Reader, what service do you use?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A few tidbits that piqued my interest...

School's getting intense, so I don't have time for a long post. But here are some interesting tidbits that I've stumbled across and would like to share with you:

One. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I believe that there are some amazing opportunities for activism within the occupation of librarian. Here is a perfect example:

The library at University of Southern Florida have created a Gulf Oil Spill Information Center.

After spending just a few minutes navigating the site, I'm pretty impressed with the resources they have gathered into one space. Having gotten my undergrad degree in Environmental Sociology, I find this website not only vital, but inspiring as well. It gets to the route of what librarians do - putting essential information into the hands of individuals.

Two. Apparently, Prince seems to thinks "The Internet is completely over." Oh, Prince...

While I could agree with his sentiment that forms of mass communication ebb and flow in popularity, I would disagree with his comparison of MTV to the internet. True, MTV no longer shows music videos (at least last I checked), but MTV is a smaller element of the larger concept of television. MTV is to television broadcasting as iTunes is to Internet Broadcasting. I could see iTunes losing popularity (not any time soon) but I have the feeling that the internet is here to stay.

Three. And in an interesting twist in the current library-funding saga, the city council of Wheaton, Ill. has come up with an interesting tactic to ensure libraries remain open: by passing a city ordinance. The ordinance would require that libraries remain open for at least four hours a day, six days a week during summer and seven days a week during the school year.

I imagine, if the city council is able to pass the ordinance, that if more cities followed this example, citizens across the country would be able to send a loud message to people in power just how important libraries are. Something to think about, anyways...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Only YOU can prevent library closures

A good friend just shared a link on my Facebook wall: Libraries and Librarians are Endangered Species: What You Can Do To Help.

It's an article published on The Huffington Post, written by Carol Fitzgerald, an individual with quite a bit of experience in the publishing world.

At first I was really put off by the title, I don't think (or like to think of) libraries and librarians as endangered species. But I read the article, and it certainly brightened my day. Fitzgerald offered up a story of a community who rallied together to save their public library. Here's my favorite quote from her story:

As petitions were signed, one opinion dominated --- not one person supported closing the library. People were united, a rarity in local politics; the library needed to stay open. The politicians couldn't miss that message, and so, on the subsequent council vote, only one councilman opposed keeping the library open.

Reading this story made me think of another close call, that is still not in the clear. The City of Boston delayed the closing of branches by nine months to try and figure out a plan of reorganization. You can read the Boston Globe story here: Library Closings Temporarily Averted.

These stories are classic examples of what I was talking about in my post last week: The Sky Is Falling. Yes, we are living in scary scary times. Yes, there are real threats to our library systems, especially public and school libraries. But there are real people out there who work real hard to keep the libraries open and the materials circulating.

And they are average citizens, just like you.

I've been seeing this quote floating around the internet (and I'm paraphrasing here): Closing libraries during a recession is like closing hospitals during an epidemic. Now more than ever, free and uncensored access to information is essential to ensure a strong, healthy and democratic society. We need to establish libraries and librarians remain permanent fixtures of our communities.

Here are two things you can do right now to help:

1. Visit the American Library Association's Legislative Action Center by clicking here. This site not only offers an opportunity for direct action (by writing you Congressional Representatives, urging them to support the Library Services and Technology Act which makes $300 million dollars accessible to libraries through grants), but it's also a great resources to look up who your elected representatives are.

2. On a more local level, if you haven't already, join you local library's "Friends of the Library" association. Usually for a small annual fee of $15-20 (the price of a new book), you can help guarantee that your community will always have a library.

And on a personal note, Dewey's Not Dead has seen a big swell in readership the past few weeks, so I wanted to thank all of you who check back in and read what I have to say. Have any of you out there heard of other examples or opportunities of how we can be library advocates?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Facebook is a learning tool. No really, it is.

Haters love to hate Facebook.

I think it is one of those phenomenons where a cultural artifact (or a meme) circulates through certain thresholds of popularity: starting underground, moving onto edgy, then widespread, loathing, and finally ironic. Kind of like Dave Mathews Band.

I think Facebook is teetering between widespread and loathing. In one moment people will cry foul about privacy issues and parents creating face book pages, threatening to cancel their account, yet in another moment they will turn around and chronicle myopic details about their lives on their Facebook wall.

While I think there are serious concerns about Facebook's privacy policy (I would love to write a blog post about it someday, but that would take too much research and I have enough on my plate as it is), people have to realize that Facebook is the internet, and unless you want something to say completely private, DON"T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET. Now that she's has a Facebook profile, I fully realize that my Mom could find anything I post online.

While I think people are always going to rip on Facebook (as they should - it is a corporate entity whose only mission is to profit off of it's users), it is forever going to be a part of our lives. And now that I'm undertaking internet-based scholastic endeavors, Facebook is fast becoming part of my classroom.

Case-in-point: this semester an instructor assigned our class a take home exam. Having some foresight, the instructor explained that she believes that adult learners work best through collaboration, and highly encouraged us to work together on the exam. Being young adult learners, most of took to Facebook as our collaboration facilitation.

One member of the cohort sent our a message to the rest of us, initially to try and set up a time when we could all get together, but we all started posting questions we had about the exam, and soon our discussion grew. At this point there are almost 50 posts in the thread, occurring over the span of a week between fourteen students. It's been the most intense Facebook experience I have had in the half decade I have had an account.

Yet, it's not very surprising that it's been natural for us to discuss our exam through Facebook. Posting an electronic message, regardless of the venue (Facebook, a Blog comment, Black Board, etc.) is like school for us. Online posts and comments are fast becoming a ubiquitous form of communication. My friends and I joke that with the proliferation of social networking, email feels really formal now...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The sky is falling

Alright, after last week's post about keeping things brief, I'm going to eat my words and go off on a bit of a rant.

Sometimes I wonder if librarians are their own worst enemy. There, I said it.

The above image - from PostSecret, a collaborative art project where total strangers mail in post cards with their secrets on them - illustrates beautifully where I am coming from.

We get it - the economy sucks and the sucky economy is screwing over libraries left and right. We've talked about this for ages now. Can we please move on?

It's really frustrating as a library student to be hearing the same thing over and over again: libraries aren't hiring, librarians aren't retiring, budgets are getting cut, folks are getting laid off, branches are closing, rah rah rah rah rah....

It seems like most librarians, library workers and fellow students I come across - both in person and (mostly) online - are broken records, stuck in the "woe is us" mentality.

I - the naive library student - say enough is enough! We've gone through the cathartic bellyaching phase and now is the roll-up-our-sleeves and work harder phase. It doesn't sound like fun, but I think it's what we've got to do.

Personally, I am a little nervous about what my job prospects will be like when I graduate in a year, but I've been hustling, and I'm willing to hustle a little more when school is over. I'll do what it takes to get a personally satisfying job. I'm well aware that I am going to leave Portland - an amazing city that has been my home for four years now. There is a strong reality that I'll have to live in a much less glamorous part of the county. Maybe even Kansas.

Except for who we vote for and what we choose to do with our money, we have very little control over the state of the economy. So let's try and focus on what we do have control over: ourselves. What can we do to stop library closings? Advocate, advocate, advocate. One of the things that most attracted me to the idea of becoming a librarian/information professional was the activism that seemed to go hand in hand with the position. Librarians fight for the right of the patron, for the privacy of the patron, for the access of the patron. Well - now is the time to fight for ourselves!

Here is a great link to librarian.net, with a list of single-link library advocacy sites.

And here is link to contact your elected representatives to ensure that libraries get in on the Jobs for Main Street Act.

What else can we do? Accept change. I feel like a lot of the hand wringing that librarians are doing is not only over the state of the economy, but also the fact that libraries are quickly changing. Well - if we want to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our communities, we are going to have to change. The mission of a library - from my prospective - is to connect an individual with information. If the format of the information is changing, than the format of the library will change too.

I don't intend to sound insensitive to the very real fears people are experiencing out there - although I am sure that I am coming off that way. For those who have been laid off or lost jobs - I'm sorry. Bad things happen to really really good people. I wish you the best and hope you are quickly on your feet.

I know I am in a very lucky position - I'm a young student without a family, mortgage, car, pets. I'm highly mobile and I have grown up using the technology that libraries now employ. But these are my skills and attributes that I have to take advantage of. This is something that we all should do, especially in this day and age of volatility, look at what we bring to the table and how to use those skills to our advantage.

I write all of this after attending a quarterly staff meeting at the library where I work - and while it was pretty mundane, it was also pretty exciting as well. The library where I work - before I started working here nine months ago - has gone through a lot of the same troubles that most libraries have gonethrough. Between lay offs, retirements and hiring freezes the staff here is half to a third of what it was before this great recession.

Yet here we are today still working - albeit a bit harder. Not only are we surviving, but we are thriving. The amazing library staff is working on building the resources for a mobile library, we are opening up a 24 hour study space for the students, we are outreaching to the different academic departments and schools within the university and applying for competitive grants to secure our funding into the future. And with the wage/hire freeze lifted - there is hope for more job opportunities.

What I guess it all boils down to - for me (this is my blog so I'm allowed a bit of selfishness) - is that I am the future and this is my reality. In a way, I am glad to have entered library school in 2009 - it means that I am a blank slate. I don't know what it was like when budgets were flush and things were easier. I am cutting my teeth when the industry is facing some of it's worst challenges than ever before. And I'm going to be a better librarian for it.

Let me know what you think. Am I too harsh? Too idealistic? Too Unrealistic? I would love to read your thoughts...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

back in school. sigh.

The rain is starting to let up. The farmer's markets are in full swing. It's warm late into the night. You know what that means? Yep - I'm up to my neck in homework!!

This is my first time ever taking classes during the summer (sometimes I'm amazed I never had to go to summer school in my younger years), and I think it's a going to be a love/hate relationship:

A. It does mean that I will graduate early. Attending summer term allows me to graduate in two years rather than three.

B. The small voice of reason and logic (which I try to ignore at all costs) tells me that summer vacation is for undergraduates, k-12 students and the poor fools who sold their souls and are working in public education. Most likely, from this point out I will always be working through the summer. Unless I get a pimp job as an tenured academic librarian and can take summer sabbaticals.

But.....It also means I'm forced to study and concentrate when the Pacific Northwest is in it's most glorious...

I guess I should just put my nose to the grindstone, whining about it certainly isn't going to make it any easier.

In terms of my blog, I'm still going to try and maintain weekly posts, but they're probably going to much briefer than usual, more along the lines of posting interesting tidbits I find through my internet dalliances. Don't worry - I'll still try to add my unsolicited opinions....

In that vein, here are two great morsels that I recently stumbled upon:

When I started this blog I had a post (Things are changing...) about Cushing Academy's library renovation - and the fact they discarded all of their books. I followed up with another post about how I thought that this was a dangerous move in Portrait of a book as a library item. Here is an update in the Cushing Academy saga: Headmaster says eliminating books in library is working fine. Of course he's going to say that. What else would he say? "Oops, my bad. Looks like we need to buy back all those books we just tossed." I hope Cushing Academy's Library still has an Inter Library Loan at the very least...

In a similar, yet radically different, vein here's another story about book-less libraries: InfoLadies of Bangladesh revolutionize rural life. It highlights the amazing power information holds and how access to information can be such a fundamental, yet essential, tool to increasing quality of life.

I hope you hang in there keep reading Dewey's Not Dead, and enjoy some summer for me!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Libraries go "Wii"

Happy memorial day, few but loyal readers!! Here's a quick, fun post for your reading pleasure:

I've found a new favorite blog: Will Unwound. It consists of the musings of long time writer and retired library director, Will Manly. I really like that by reading his posts, you can tell that he is having a lot of fun with his blog. What I like even more is that he is not afraid to confront controversial issues that libraries are dealing with. He creates a lot of internet chatter, and it's fascinating to see what side various people fall on.

One recent posting that I took issue with was Martinis at an A.A. Meeting. In the post, he asserts the idea that having video games in a library is like serving martinis at a A.A. meeting.

I couldn't disagree more.

If you are patient, and scroll through the comments, not only would you be amazed at the number of librarians who agree with Will, you would come across my (not so eloquent) rant. I'm guessing, cause you're reading a blog, you're not patient, so I re-posted my comment here:

I think that stick-in the mud librarians who refuse change are the most dangerous things that libraries face today.

As a library student, I love Ranganathan’s five laws of librarianship, especially the fifth: “The library is a growing organism.” For the librarians who don’t embrace that: shame on you.

I don’t want to be a children’s librarian, but if I was I would embrace video games...we need to meet children where they are. If I were to become a children’s librarian, I would try and create programs that combined video games and graphic novels. If that were to be successful (getting non-readers to start with graphic novels), I would try and continue the trend, combining graphic novels with compatible chapter books. From video games, to graphic novels, to chapter books: It might not work, but who knows, it just might.

One thing that we have to realize is that libraries are going to be constantly changing, and I feel that libraries are going to be more about promoting the exchange of information rather than a store house of knowledge. In short, libraries are going to be more about providing community space and connections rather than simply loaning books. In one article I just read about the organization of information in the 21st century, the author used a beautiful metaphor: “The successful library in this world is less a lake (self-contained) and more of a harbor (sheltering , but still wide-open to the fluid changes of the sea).” That was written by J. Shuler in the Journal of Academic Librarianship (Vol. 32, No. 5, pp 540-542).

I might have gone off in a bit of a tangent, but we need to realize that the libraries we knew as a kid are going to be different than the libraries we work in today, even if that means providing video games.

Libraries provide computer access, right? What is going to stop kids from hoping on a computer and playing online games for an hour. If kids are going to do it anyway, you might as well have a librarian around to try, in some way, to connect them to some form of reading.

Today, sipping coffee at my neighborhood cafe, I came across a great article: Rowdy seniors enjoy video games at Clymer Library. Take the time to read the article, don't worry, I'll still be here when you finished.

Clymer Library is a perfect example of a library that is willing to change to not only stay relevant in the 21st century, but to meet a community need. A library board member saw that there was need for space for his community's growing elderly community and a need to help keep seniors active. By applying for a grant and buying a Nintendo Wii, he was able to hit two birds with one stone. Genius. And I'm sure the Seniors who take advantage of this opportunity would be thankful for an opportunity to relate to some of the things there grandkids are interested in.

Excuse me a second, there is a solitary tear running down my cheek that I need to wipe away....

If you think about the current Baby Boomer generation, and the generations to follow, video games are a major element of the culture that they are part of. The current generation of retirees may not have grown up with Super Mario Brothers of Sonic the Hedge Hog, but they certainly bought the gaming systems for the generations who did.

So what's the moral of the story? Libraries need to embrace change. Not willy-nilly, but to fit the needs of their communities. And if that means video-games, so be it. Anybody up for a game of Wii Bowling???

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Library Superhero

My fellow classmate, Serenity Ibsen, is a library rock star. As well as being a library student, Serenity is the Manager of Access of Services for the Pacific Northwest College of Art's Library.

She recently went up to bat for those who work in the library/information industry, placing the smack down on those who try to perpetuate the image of a stereotypical librarian.

Let me break down what happened:

"Miss Manners" is a online advice column, and a recent edition focused on an individual who was upset with her local librarian's lack of respect and confidentiality. You can read the letter here: Nosy librarian prods for personal info.

If you read Miss Manners' response, you might get a chuckle out of it, but you see the danger in saying all librarians are awkward ladies who get off on sushing.

What follows is Serenity's AMAZING response:

Dear Miss Manners,

Your recent advice on May 19, 2010 to a reader who was upset by the nosy librarian was inappropriate. The problem that the library user writes about represents a serious breach of the American Library Association's Code of Ethics. Section III states, "We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted." Not only do most libraries not keep records of patrons' transaction histories, most library staff are trained to keep their comments to themselves when helping patrons. A breach of patron confidentiality could lead to all sorts of unfortunate consequences, not least among them embarrassment to the user and the loss of much-needed patronage. Your response devalues the seriousness of the library worker's conduct and suggests retaliation of the petty sort.

Keeping in mind that your advice was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, I am still offended by the perpetuation of the librarian stereotype. Library workers are constantly fighting to prove the legitimacy of their professions and most work diligently to provide equal and confidential access to information for patrons. My advice to the library user would be to take her concerns to library management and arm herself with the ALA Code of Ethics. At the very least, you could have let her know that the library worker should have known better. We work extremely hard to make up for the "few bad apples" and revolutionize the stereotype of the information professional from the disapproving spinster to the socially and environmentally-engaged advocate and educator. In a time when libraries are experiencing extreme budget cuts, we need all the support we can get. Next time, please use your voice to laud our victories and virtues.

Serenity Ibsen

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Protrait of a book as a library item

I just checked out a book today.

I know, when you work in the library field, that may not be the most exciting piece of news. But I started thinking about the journey this book took the information within this book took before and after it reached my hands.

The book in question is Sarah Silverman's Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee. I think it's going to be an instant classic.

The story of how I ended up checking this book out has a very logical beginning: Facebook. One day, not too long ago, I was chatting, via Facebook wall, with my friend Liz. Liz, an amazing individual, has been living in New Hampshire the past few years. Which is kind of unfortunate.

(sorry Liz, it's true)

Don't get me wrong - I love New Hampshire. It's my home state, and I'm proud enough to be from there to have the outline tattooed on my ankle:

(It says "The Shire" underneath. And yes, it's there forever)

BUT, for a hip, intelligent individual in your mid twenties, the granite state is kind of a boring place to live (Right, Liz?) However, we were talking about New Hampshire's more positive attributes - such as it's export of comedians - mainly Adam Sandler and Sarah Silverman (New Hampshire is a great breeding ground for fart jokes). As we were discussing our mutual appreciation for Sarah Silverman, Liz mentioned her new book. In my excitement I went ahead a placed a reserve for it at my local library.

Luckily, I was one of the first to place a reserve. Even though the library didn't own a copy at the time I placed my hold, within a few days the reserve list swelled to over 150 holds. As I picked up my book today I thought about that fact. Granted, the library owns almost a dozen copies of this book, but this title is going to spend the first few months as an item in this library circulating. It's not going to sit on shelf (other than the hold shelf) for a patron to come in and browse. That idea simply struck me funny.

In fact, browsing the shelves at Multnomah County Library kind of sucks. It's because all the good books aren't in the library but are in circulation. It's rare, when I request a book, to see its status as being on the shelf. In order to get a book in your hands, it seems like you need to do a little Internet research first - read a review of it online, or have a friend recommend it to you through a social networking site. Then, after a few clicks, you place it on reserve from your libraries Online Public Access Catalog and (depending on the popularity of the item) after a few days or weeks... BOOM! It's yours.

Thinking about the life cycle of a library book makes me think about those libraries who are doing away with their books. The most recent case I've heard about is Stanford University's Physics and Engineering libraries. Another case, reported back in September 2009, involves an elite New England prep school removing all of their books from their library and turning it digital.

I think one of these libraries is appropriately removing their books and the other is not.

In the case of Stanford, both of these libraries are primarily research based, and the information these patrons are gathering will mostly be available online, anyways. Not to mention that Stanford is already having space issues (as reported in the article), so if you have to choose one library to free up shelve space, science libraries would be at the top of my list.

In the case of the private high school, I think their efforts of revolutionizing their library could end up being counter productive. These students are still developing their academic and research skills, and the interaction with physical print is a great benefit to their development. Here is an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that proves this belief. Print is more conducive to a variety of learning styles, whereas reading from a screen is not.

I know this post is getting a little bit too big picture (welcome to my brain), what started as a post about a silly comedienne's memoir is now spinning out of control into the ethos of educational theory, so I'll try and draw this tangent to a close. I just think it's interesting to look at a book, which is fast becoming a controversial cultural artifact, as a library item. In one case you have a library that is responsible in its removal of books, another library that is irresponsible in theirs and a third, highly regarded public library, that requires you to log onto a computer to gain access to the books that can't be found on their shelves (which is the majority of them).

For those of you who wonder what types of things we deal with in library school, I hope I gave you a little something to chew on.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

lol librarians

The Virtual Reference Summit was awesome.

The location was gorgeous and it was a stunningly beautiful day. It was great to see all the flowers in bloom, but my sinus' were not as excited as I was. Since I'm a trusting person, I dry swallowed the first little white pill one of the conference organizers handed me. Thankfully it wasn't one of those conferences, otherwise this would be a completely different blog post.....

The keynote speaker blew my mind. Vanessa Fox seems to know anything and everything there is to know about search engines. Her presentation completely illuminated how people search for information today, how it differs from information searches conducted yesterday, and how searching will be completely different tomorrow. My fellow students and I always joke about how our program director asked us in our interview if we are comfortable with ambiguity and change. Ms. Fox confirmed that we certainly have rocky waters ahead of us....

The highlight, by far, was meeting so many *relatively* local librarians and support staff and having a chance to interact with a few. PLA was great in it's magnitude, but a lot of the librarians I met were from all over (including a few from New Zealand). This time around, it was really nice to speak with people who were familiar with the program I'm enrolled in, familiar with people I work with in the medical library and even familiar with a few of my fellow students.

As you might have picked up from previous posts, I'm pretty excited about virtual reference. I think it's an excellent way to help patrons - especially younger patrons. Beyond helping them, it's a way for libraries to remain relevant, proving our usefulness and necessity (and the fact that it's not all about books....).

It was really interesting to sit in on sessions where librarians who have been working in the industry for almost as long as I have been alive engage in serious conversations about emoticons:



and my new favorite


Not to overgeneralize - but it seemed that there was a serious generation gap present at the conference, with librarians who had gotten there degree twenty years ago overwhelmed by the informality of chat reference. Although, to be fair, there were some folks who have just started experimenting with online forms of communication who are entirely comfortable with the medium. I think the secret is the ability to meet there patron on their level. Once the see a lol, brb or even a :-), then they know to leave their Hackers on the shelf and drop a ttyl or two.

Over all, I think as younger generations of librarians enter the profession, we will see a huge increase in the utilization of chat reference. Srsly.

Oh....and the Lightening Talk? Totally rocked it!

Here are a few shots from the Edgefield campus, for those who have never been there:

Quick not on the pictures - I know they are just some pretty shots of Edgefield. You might be asking why they're aren't any of the actual conference. I arrived with the intention of snapping some of the actual conference. But, believe or not, I can be a bit shy. I felt awkward taking people's pictures and then posting them online. I'm sure it would have been cool if I asked them first, but have you honestly walked up to a complete stranger and asked "Can I take your picture and put it on the internet?" No matter what you intentions are, it's weird.....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Video killed the reference desk (a preview....)

Tomorrow I'm not only attending my second professional conference, I'm actually going to be presenting! Well, kind of....

Tomorrow is the 2010 Oregon Virtual Reference Summit hosted by L-Net (Oregon's premier online reference service). I think it's going to be pretty awesome. I'm looking forward to a smaller, more intimate conference. And virtual reference, I think, is going to make up a huge portion of the future of libraries. Whenever someone needs information, where do they go? The internet. To ensure that quality information in being accessed, librarians need to meet patrons where they hang out most: online.

Anyways, on to the goods...

Nyssa, a fellow library student (who I would love to have pen a guest post for Dewey's Not Dead) and I have put together a sweet little lightening talk to present before the library participants.

What's that, you ask? What's a lightening talk? The conference organizers have put together a two different "lightening talk" sessions, where 9-10 presenters have five minutes to talk about anything they want. That way, in one hour, you are presented with 9-10 different topics, ideas, rants and raves. By doing a lightening talk, it's a great way for a library student (like us) to gain some experience presenting, building our resumes, and getting our names out there. It's like killing three birds with one stone.

If you were in the room with me, now would be the perfect time for a high five.

Nyssa and I have decided to talk about online video tutorials. We argue that online video content is fast becoming a corner stone of western culture - especially for the generation coming to age now, in the 21st century.

Want proof of this? Click here. and here. and then click here. What do these clips all have in common? They are silly homemade videos that have had over 50 million views. 50 MILLION VIEWS!!! That's like America's Funniest Home Videos on 50 million steroid injections.

Not that librarians need to be making viral videos that reach 50 million viewers (although imagine a world where they did). But, if libraries are are able to successfully create original and creative online tutorials (which in the age of you tube and cell phone cameras isn't that hard) than they are going to remain relevant to future generations. As I said earlier in the post, they are going to be meeting their patrons where they hang out the most - online. They will give their patron's a glimpse of what real librarians look like, and show them some of what they can do. And in this day and age of limited resources, online video tutorials help librarians reach a much larger population of users.

And we'll argue this all in five minutes.

For those of you who can't make it to the conference to witness our phenomenal performance, don't despair. The lightening talks will be digitally recorded. As soon as they are put online, they'll posted on this blog for your viewing delight.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It feels good to breath again.....

For those of you who still follow me, hello again. I know it's been a while, a long while. The same thing happened last semester, too, where I took a bit of a hiatus from writing and updating. I had a choice: do well in school or have a regularly updated blog.

I choose the former.

Please don't hate me. I kind of want a good job when I graduate, which seems a bit tricky these days.....

On the positive side, I have certainly learned quite a bit over the semester (which is a good thing - I don't want my hard earned student loans going to waste). I have examined issues surrounding reference, seen what good (and bad) reference looks like, both online and in person. And I have investigated the different ways libraries organize information, culminating in a project where I examined how academic libraries have organized their materials, both historically and currently, focusing on multicultural and international issues. Dorky - but a lot of fun.

Much like last semester, I feel like I am ending the term with an overall lesson. In the fall it was putting the user at the center of what we do in the library. Read about my thoughts in the previous post: Think of the user.

This semester, my lesson lies in that there is no one right answer. Every issue we examined in my classes (from the best way to offer reference service to the best way to organize collections) never had one answer - it always depended on who the library was serving and what the library's mission was. A school library is going to different that a research library which is going to be different than a public library which is going to be different from a corporate library. And even within these categories of libraries - there is no one-size-fits-all model of doing things...

...which is a huge reason why I love library science. Growing up I've always hated math - where an answer was either right or wrong, yes or no, pass or fail. I loved thinking about a problem, deciding the best course of action and defending my ideas.

The Library "industry" in America is bigger that most people think, I think. It took me starting a master's program to realize just how big it is - thousands of libraries and hundreds of thousands of librarians and library workers. Even though we have some over arching guidelines we follow, such as the ALA Code of Ethics, it is nice to know there still is a high degree of autonomy in which individuals can choose how to best serve their patrons.

So...now that the semester is over...I promise some good posts. Now that I am knee deep in school, I have an effluence of ideas spilling out of my head, and I hope to get some well thought out ones up here. If you're still reading, and have stuck with me thus far, thank you. I promise you won't be disappointed....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What a busy boy I've been...

Well, it's officially spring time in Portland. The cherry, plum and magnolia trees have all bloomed, tulips are poking their heads up, the weather has been BEAUTIFUL, and where have I been? Inside, in the library, ferociously researching, writing and studying...

I know it's been a while since I've last posted, but I have been getting a lot of work done. For example, I just got an article published in the Oregon Library Association Quarterly. It's based on a conversation I had with fellow students on our impressions, as digital natives, of the migration from print to digital content. If you have a second to check it out, there are embedded links where you can listen to what we had to say.

This past weekend I gave a presentation on reference services in community colleges, and how libraries with limited resources can best meet the needs of large student populations. My group came up with the conclusion that librarians need to meet the students at the source of the research: on the internet.

In other news from the realm of library school, it's officially spring break. Where am I off to, you ask? Cancun? Miami? Prague? Nope - the Portland convention center! This week is the Public Library Association's annual conference, and it's right here in Portland. Thousands upon thousands of Public Librarians are invading the city, and I hope to find myself right in the middle of it all. Along with attending the conference, I'll also be volunteering at the info desk and I'll be guest blogging of the PLA blog. Check it out, I already have my first post up!

That's not all - last month I worked with other library students on a project for the PLA - a little video highlighting fun things to do around Portland. We took the project very *ahem* seriously, really wanting to show the "Portland" side of Portland. It came out great - check it out: The Visiting Librarians Guide To Portland. I'm amazed at how many people have seen it - at the time of this writing, almost 2,000 (I was expecting 500)! It's been popping up on all sorts of web sites and blogs. It just goes to show you, careful what you post on the internet - you never know where it will end up or who might see it!

Alright, I'm off to the convention center for my first shift at the info desk, I'll let y'all know how it goes!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

When information is not appreciated

At the start of the term, I read a fascinating article: Information as Thing by Michael K. Buckland (from the Journal of the American Society for Information Science, June 1991).

In the article, Buckland refutes the notion that information can only be present in traditional formats - print, video, etc. He helps us see that any object can be a piece of information. For example, how would we know about Dinosaurs if we never found their fossils? This doesn't seem like a radical idea - why else do we have museums but to study objects? Although, there are some folks who disagree. They say two agents need to exchange information in order for it to be information. Which makes sense. But I think one of those agents can be an "inanimate" object.

I was thinking about this concept recently when I was hiking through the Hoyt Arboretum in the West Hills of Portland. The arboretum, a garden of trees, seemed full of agents. Through simple observation, a plethora of information could be gathered from the trees. Such as how they effect the micro-climate (cooling temperature below the branches with warmer air above the branches), which effects the ecosystem (bugs swarming the warm air above the canopy create an excellent opportunity for various birds to feed, whose droppings help fertilize the soil creating a beneficial relationship between trees, bugs and birds).

Just by sitting and looking you can learn about the symbiotic relationships that exist in nature, which are important lessons to be learned if you want to be a constructive community member - both for your local community, and the various wider communities we are all participants in.

The arboretum, in essence, is a living library, a community space full of information. And like any public space, you can't keep the idiots out.

As I was walking along, I came across a beautiful old beech tree - it looked like a tree out of Middle Earth (it reminded me of a Mallorn Tree, to be exact, for fellow Tolkien ubër-geeks like myself). The trail wrapped around the tree, and as I approached to other side some jerk gouged, in huge letters, the word "GOD" into the side of the tree.

There's quite a lot going on with this specific word carved into this specific tree, so bear with me as I stand up on my soap box...

The nature lover inside of me knows how much danger this causes for the tree. By opening up the bark like that, the tree is now susceptible to a myriad of diseases and parasites. It is especially harmful in the arboretum, where this tree was planted specifically, like an artifact placed in a museum display, for the public to visit and observe.

As a humanist I'm even more annoyed with the person who did this. What was the point he was trying to make (in my mind, it's a him) by carving the word "GOD" into the tree? Was he saying nature is God? God created the tree? Is he an evangelical graffiti artist trying to spread "His" message? I'm guessing that he was just another portland-meth-tweeker who found his way into the woods and felt divinely inspired (through the crack pipe).

As a library student I'm super annoyed with whoever did this. It feels like someone walking into a library and drawing all over the pages of books, ruining the experience for future patrons.

However, the word "GOD" carved into the tree is a piece of information in and of itself - regardless of the message - just like any scrap of graffiti or vandalism is a piece of information. There is meaning behind it, whether we want to admit to it or not. At the very least, it tells us that people can selfish, moronic and destructive.

Unfortunately, unlike Wikipedia, we can't simple edit out this act of stupidity - it will be with us forever...

(FYI - The above picture was taken from the aforementioned hike through the arboretum. However it is not the vandalized tree, rather a specimen from the Creek Trail.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm a crafty bitch, baby

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm traveling back east right now (writing this post in the Boston area), mostly to visit my nephew (who is a whopping three weeks old and the most amazing baby ever), but also to spend time with friends and family.

It was really great to catch up with my sister-in-law who, with one of her close friends, just started the blog Yankee Crafty Bitch. Go ahead, click the link, take a few minutes to check it out, and then hurry back.

Amazing, right?

Although I have never really finished a project myself, I'm kind of obsessed with the crafty, do-it-yourself (DIY) culture, which goes hand-in-hand with librarianship pretty seamlessly (pun intended).

Among the crafters and DIYers there is a pretty defiant attitude towards the general social acceptance (and apathy) of relying on an expert to: change your oil, clean your gutters, landscape your yard, decorate your house, etc. etc. etc. Why buy it in a store when you can make it/grow it/build it/fix it yourself?

Crafters and DIYers really embrace independence and are legit creative problem solvers. They celebrate thinking outside the box and are fearless in the face of a challenge. To them, there is nothing a little elbow grease can't fix.

I think these are all very important traits when it comes to being a librarian. There are quite a few challenges facing the library industry, and we will tackle them with the same perseverance and tenacity that a crafter will approach putting together a pair hand stitched reconstructed organic yoga pants.

Back to the blog....

I was impressed when a few weeks back it quietly appeared on Facebook. I knew my sister in law and her friends were a creative group of folks, but I was impressed as their projects (and their fans) started to pile up.

As we were hanging out in my Mom's house, cooing over the baby and enjoying some home cooked curry, we started talking about our respective blogs. We found ourselves sitting at a computer, bouncing between various websites, sharing tips and strategies. We discussed at great length the anxiety that the process of blogging creates; mostly due to the overwhelming information that is floating around out there and the self induced pressure to keep current with the myriad of social networking opportunities offered by the world wide web.

As I'm learning in library school, some of the most trusted sources of information will be the people that you already know, and it was great to discuss with someone else the process of creating a blog and the online community that goes with it.

I know that there are a ton of craft blogs out there and Yankee Crafty Bitch is still pretty new, but I guarantee that it is going to be one of the best, because I know that it has some amazing energy and talent backing it up. This is a blog that you are certainly going to want to keep an eye on.....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This blog post is overdue!

It's amazing how life doesn't ever seem to slow down. My to-do list over the next few weeks is starting to get a little daunting. Between now and the first week of March, I'm moving into a new house, traveling back east to visit family and friends (and meet my very first nephew!), finishing up special projects for work at the library and for various volunteer gigs, and staying on top of school work.

Praise the lord for the internet.

I did want to take a moment for a post here at Dewey's Not Dead - I just read the most amazing book and I can't stop talking about it.

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Maryiln Johnson

For those of you embedded in library industry, you've probably seen blog posts and tweets about this book everywhere (I would put some links up here, but there are way to many and god created Google for a reason). For those of you not as involved in libraries, don't fret, the book is so good that you'll enjoy it, too.

Finally, in an age where so many people think libraries are no longer necessary in a functioning society, Johnson comes riding in like a knight (what's a female knight? knightess?) in shining armor, proving again and again that libraries (and librarians) will not only be necessary in society, but will also be among the technological vanguard leading the revolution.

Here are my favorite parts of the book:

The first being the detailed account in which a few mild mannered New England librarian fought the U.S. Government's flagrant disregard of the constitution. The days following September 11th, 2001 and the passage of the patriot act were pretty scary times, but it was relieving to know that librarians had (and still have) our backs.

The second? Second Life. Who knew that librarians would be some of the largest embracers of this virtual world? There are huge communities of librarians there, running impressive virtual libraries. It was pretty fun to read about them - especially the passage that describes an actual (virtual) re-creation of the Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice In Wonderland. Librarians are so cool. Weird, but cool.

Of course, the book brought up some pretty serious issues as well. One passage described the effort of New York Public Library to transition a research branch into a circulation branch. The library's board of trustees mean well - this will allow for more of the general public to access the library's resources, but Johnson describes how there are serious concerns that irreplaceable materials (and staff) of that branch's research collection could be lost.

Because of this book I am pretty excited about checking out both radical reference and the NYPL website (it sounds like they are doing some pretty exciting things with digital content).

I don't want to go into too much more detail, otherwise there would be no reason for you to read the book (and I have way too much other stuff to do). As my childhood hero LeVar Burton always said "You don't have to take my word for it!"