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. 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....