Thursday, March 31, 2011

Effects, seeing

One of the great aspects of my job as a student worker in a medical academic library are the opportunities to gain some pretty amazing experiences- experiences I wouldn't necessarily get in the MLIS classroom.

One project that I have started working on is for our Digital Resources Library, specifically the Campus Collection. The library has been gifted a large collection of digital photographs of the University's campus - which feels like a citadel overlooking Portland. The Cataloging and Metadata Librarian has been working with a number of individuals on sorting through the images, coming up with naming conventions, and cataloging them for the collection.

I am one of those lucky individuals.

There has been a lot of conversation in some of the library blogs about the future of MLIS programs. Hack Library School just had a great post about the importance of practical experience in the library school curriculum. While my program does have an optional practicum component, it is projects like these where I don't feel like I need one. For example, I haven't taken a cataloging class, and now that I am working on this project, I feel like I don't even need one. The librarian who is supervising this project has been an excellent teacher. She doesn't just explain the bare minimum to complete this project, but includes conversations with me on the bigger picture issues. She is providing an excellent, be it quick, hands-on cataloging education.

Working the circulation desk is rewarding in its own way - you can help people face to face- but seeing an image you cataloged added to a live collection offers such a wonderful sense of self accomplishment (click here to see an example of one).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vote for Dash!

For those of you who are friends with me on facebook or follow my twitter account, you know I have been aggressively promoting the National Geographic Expedition Granted competition, specifically one contestant, Dash Masland.

Granted, she is my sister in law, so of course I am going to support her. But there are other reasons why I want to see her win:

The first is her objective. She is competing to win the opportunity to travel to Hawaii to research the Monk Seal, a species that is tragically disappearing. The important thing about these seals is that they are living fossil, meaning that they have evolved so little from their ancestors that lived 15 million years ago they are considered to be the same species. So it is extra important to learn the best methods to protect them, because they still offer so many potential biologic and evolutionary lessons.

I'm also fascinated by the way Dash studies these animals, using non-invasive methods. She collects their scat and examines the DNA information the samples provide. Gross, but cool.

Finally, I think it is awesome that she is a woman in science. Our society has made a lot of strides closing the gender gap in the past few decades, but we still have further to go, especially in the STEM fields - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. I know that Dash, by participating in this competition, is already an excellent example to young students everywhere, showing them that you can accomplish great things by using your mind. I can only imagine how many more students she is going to reach when she wins.

So please help me help Dash help the monk seals by clicking this link and voting for her:

You can help her out even more by voting for her each day between now and the end of the competition on April 6th. By voting you are automatically entered to win a trip to the Galapagos Islands, but even more important is the fact that you are supporting an awesome young scientist contribute to the wider body of knowledge.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Due to a cold that is making its way around the library and coworkers on spring break, I had the privilege of six uninterrupted hours at the circulation desk..

...It actually wasn't that bad. I was able to get a lot of school work done, and I had an hour and a half dedicated to the second weekly libchat on twitter, which helped the time fly by.

Started by Natalie Binder (@nataliebinder), wh0 offers an excellent explanation on her blog, Libchat is like a live mini-discussion with people who are interested in libraries and information management. But it is a discussion where location and geography doesn't matter.

It works like this like this: Folks tweet their questions to Natalie ahead of time. During the chat, every 20 minutes or so she shares a question. The rest is a pretty organic experience - like any other normal conversation -with people from all over sharing their answers, ideas and insights. And it's pretty fascinating to watch what happens.

However, it certainly isn't a perfect medium for having a conversation. What is most frustrating is the fact that it is twitter, and you only have 140 characters. So it is a little awkward and it can be hard to offer an answer when there are some pretty big questions raised. For Example:

Really? Where to begin...

Thankfully there were some great answers, such as @ValentineLuLu's:

Which leads us to the benefits of libchat. It was great to see all of the different topics raised in such a short amount of time. The quickness of the format got your mind churning about all of the different issues that libraries are having to deal with. It was also awesome having so many library students in attendance: we're already thinking about a multitude of issues from our different classes, libchat was an additional exercise to keep those ideas freshly flowing.

Along with the different ideas, it was great to see some themes emerge as well. Natalie asked:

Participants answer's revolved around user centered missions such as customer service and information access. Questions like this helped support my belief that no matter how much the industry evolves, our missions and core values will prevail. After all, Ranganathan developed the five laws of library science in the middle of the 20th century, and they are still relevant today.

I'm pretty excited about the potential libchat holds. It is an amazing way for the library community to connect, no matter where members are located. And it is going be to a great way for us to discuss the current issues and support each other as we weather the changes that keep us on our toes (was it a coincidence that the Harper Collins debate popped up in both this week and last week's chat? Of course not).

I really hope that these chats continue, they certainly seem to be picking up steam. Right now they are scheduled for Wednesday evenings at 8pm eastern time (5pm here on the west coast), and I hope to see you at the next one...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Librarians Invade the Coast!

Finally, It's here. Spring Break!! And although I have to work all next week, celebrations are in order. Kirsten, Serenity and I are heading to the Oregon coast for the weekend, renting a beach-side bungalow in the sleepy town of Yachats. It has been a bit of a stir crazy winter in Portland, and we're pretty psyched to get out of town.

Thank you, Serenity, for the amazing poster to memorialize the weekend!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feel the burn

While we may know well what personal fitness means, the concept of a fit library is ambiguous. Is it simply a matter of paying attention to the numbers, not unlike observing metrics such as the Body Mass Index? Does an increase in circulation or the delivery of more instruction sessions point to a fit library? Achieving library fitness is a combination of strategies that, like personal fitness, involve consistent behaviors, discipline, commitment to change, and having fun while shaping up.

-Steven Bell, Fit Libraries are Future-Proof, American Libraries Magazine October 2010

Photo credit: Nationaal Archief / Het Leven / Spaarnestad Photo (from The Commons)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Historical Medical Zine?

Look what I found! Could this be a medical zine from the 1950's...

...probably not. It's from a legit publisher, so it is more of a chapbook. But it has the look and feel of a well put together zine. It's a subject index and it's pretty neat nonetheless. It list such amazing titles as:

Hare, R. Pop and pestilence. Infectious disease, its origins and conquest. London: Gollancz. 1954.


Waksman, S. A. My life with the micobes. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1954.


Erlam, H. H. The history of medical librarianship in New Zealand. Librai, 1954, 3, 296-203, bibliog.

It also lists international publications, which meant I could have fun trying to figure out what some of the titles meant. Thankfully the good lord invented Google Translate, turning "Zur Geschichte der Milchzuckergewinnung, besonders in der Schweiz" into "On the history of milk sugar, especially in Switzerland."

Being a student worker is a medical library could be one of the most interesting jobs out there. Now if I can only figure out how to make it to librarian status...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

If all training materials were this amazing...

...every single library shelve in America would be PERFECT.

Well, maybe not perfect...

I love the PNCA library. I volunteered there at the start of library school, a few of my classmates work there and I even shared a house with one of their staff members. Not to mention that it's simply an amazing library. It has a great collection and, as evident in these videos, a dedicated staff.

I think these videos are also great examples of how small libraries can utilize technology to create great in-house material cheaply.

While I don't know the full details on how they were produced, I do know that a volunteer (fellow ESU SLIM classmate Helen Harris) put them together using her flip camera. And there are plenty of cheap and even free video editing programs out there, such as You Tube Video Editor. Some schools and institutions might have expensive software and equipment, but when you employee old fashioned creativity, you don't need the fancy stuff. A little spit and elbow grease and you're good to go!

UPDATE (3/9/11)

Just heard from Helen, who offered the following insights into the creation of these videos:

First, she got familiar with shelving and using LC Call numbers

Next, she write the script for the movie based on her experience and input of the staff

Third, she filmed it with the staff and edit it and then recorded the voice over/narration with one of the student workers
Finally, she posted it on the library's private YouTube account!

This was also one of her first volunteer projects in a library, and if she is producing fun and creative work like this, than I think Helen is going to make on fantastic librarian! Thanks for the additional insights, Helen!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Public Librarians, take a bow!

The past few days have been pretty exciting for libraries. There has been some amazing, and loud, debate surrounding Harper Collins' new policies surrounding library's purchasing their ebooks. In simplest terms, Harper Collins - working with Over Drive - will sell their ebook to a library, but that ebook can only circulate 26 times before the library has to repurchase said book.

Librarians are not pleased, and between Facebook, Blogs, and Twitter they are letting the world know how disgruntled they are. To see the crazy amount of noise that librarians are making for yourself, just go to and search for #hcod. You don't even have to log in or create an account, the results will pop up. Just be sure to come back here when you're done.

And it makes sense why librarians are up in arms. This would take collection development in a whole new direction. When library funds are limited it can be challenging enough to try and make your collection grow appropriately. But, as this youtube video highlights, Harper Collins' new policy would add even more constraints to collection development.

It would be like trying to buy gas, but for every five gallons, you would have to buy back the keys to your car.

I am finding this debate absolutely fascinating. Working in a medical academic library, we certainly emphasize electronic journals, but not so much electronic books. This issue is going to affect public libraries the most...

...While ebooks have been around for about a decade, best practices for delivering content to the masses still need to be figured out. Even for-profit organizations are scrambling. Traditional booksellers like Borders are going belly up while independent writers who avoid traditional publishing houses are making millions. And it's just as confusing for libraries. There has been a lot of discussion among my classmates on what the best answer is, and the debate seems to follow most debates in librarianship: services versus systems.

So, what's the best answer? I have no idea. I'm not sure anyone does. But that's not important. What is important is that librarians are contributing to the discussions. While many people argue that libraries are irrelevant in the 21st century, this debate is proving that librarians help shape the way individuals will receive digital content. Need evidence? Both authors and publishers are taking notice:

Marilyn Johnson, author of The Dead Beat and This Book is Overdue, posted on her blog that while publisher and authors need to be compensated, it should not be off the backs of libraries.While it may be lukewarm, Harper Collins themselves commented on the debate that librarians are stirring up. They call for collaboration, but it doesn't sound like they will change their policy.

I'm real excited to see where this debate goes. But I am mostly excited, and proud, of the way that librarians are refusing to give in without a fight.While I may only be on the sidelines, battles like this are the reason I went into library school.