Thursday, April 28, 2011

Demystifying ILL

As an undergrad, I LOVED interlibrary loan. I was doing one of those crazy esoteric senior projects - examining the historical development of agriculture technology and the bifurcation of nature and society (say that 10 times fast). While we had an awesome library, it didn't have most of what I needed to write this paper. Interlibrary loan saved the day. Putting in a request one day and having it show up in either my email inbox or campus mailbox was amazing. If I knew then that I would be working in an interlibrary loan office a few years later, I would have been much more appreciative.

I now realize that interlibrary loan is a lot of work. And I don't think that library users are aware of this. I know I didn't before I worked in a library. So I posted this thought on twitter:

I hope patrons realize how much work goes into getting their articles through ILL...

..and I got this response:

@JenniferMReads I'm a librarian & don't know exactly what goes into getting an article via ILL! Blog post idea??!!

Well, JenniferMReads, here it is. I lift the veil of Inter-Library Loan:

First, a note. My responsibility right now is just to process incoming lending requests, providing patrons from other libraries with materials from our collection. Also, we're a relatively large medical academic library, so we get a lot of lending requests. That said, here is a *brief* description of how this process goes down:

- Request comes in through one of three avenues: illiad, docline or document delivery

- I process the request, locating where it might be in the library (physical location or electronic database) and what format the requesting library would like it in (physical book/journal or tiff or pdf)

- Locate the item, pulling it from the stacks or navigating databases and publishers websites

- Scan the item and save it in the preferred format or download the article

- Send the item: package and address the book or journal or make sure that the proper electronic format gets sent through the appropriate electronic pathways (through Ariel or Odyssey software or save the pdf on a server and email the link to the library).

- Repeat again, and again. and again. and again.

The craziest part about ILL is that requests never. stop. coming. in. It's like running up a giant sand dune. Each step takes you closer to the top, but you are constantly sliding backwards. If you ever stop, you'll find yourself back at the bottom.

And these are just requests from other libraries, let alone placing a request for material from another library for our patrons.

While this post might sound "woe is me," I love working in inter-library loan. It provides many hands on learning opportunities. I am constantly thinking of the user, remembering what it was like to receive requested articles. I also remember what it was like to receive an article that was blurry, cut off, hard to read or had lots of black areas from poor scanning/copying that wasted toner when printed off. So I take care to ensure that my scans are readable and printable. I know patrons don't stop to think about the quality of their article - unless the quality is poor. So my goal is to make sure that patrons don't don't how awesome there scans and copies are.

I'm also getting some great experience navigating through databases and publisher websites. In the few weeks that I have worked in the ILL office, I have probably looked up more journal articles than in the entirety of my post-secondary academic career.

And of course I spend the time with some great individuals who create a pretty awesome work environment.

ILL is an essential part to the library system, creating additional avenues for patrons to access information they need. I hope this description helps clear up some of how those materials are brought in. And if you ever receive a journal article from a medical library in the Pacific Northwest, know that it was sent with a little bit of love!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Librarianship, visually represented

The Wikiman created an amazing visual representation of some of the transitions that librarians are experiencing. Best in full screen (or on the Prezi website - Prezi and blogger don't always get along). You can also check out his original post.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another eBook Option

In case you missed it, yesterday Amazon announced that they were partnering with OverDrive to start a kindle library lending program.

This is kind of a big deal.

First, because there are millions of kindle (or kindle app) owners who would like to borrow ebooks from the library. As of yet, libraries haven't been able to officially provide this service (emphasis on officially) because Amazon won't let them.

Second, librarians are still feeling the sting from the Harper Collins debacle- in that Harper Collins will only allow an ebook to circulate 26 times, after which the library has to repurchase the book. Which is stupid.

With this being a big deal, it is all over the internet. You can read the Amazon press release and the OverDrive press release. You can read the story, with excellent commentary, in the New York Times or in the LA Times. And then there are the librarian blogs. Thankfully, they seem to be asking very pertinent questions, trying to make sense of what is to come and ensuring that they can provide the best service to their patrons as possible. Because librarians are awesome like that. The top three blogs that have featured this story, in my humble opinion, are the Librarian in Black, the Librarian by Day and I Found Myself in the Library (written by a recent MLIS grad).

Since I don't have much responsibility (or experience) with collection management, I am following this story from the side lines. I find this story particularly fascinating in comparison with Harper Collins' recent policy announcement about the lending of their ebooks. I keep finding my self comparing the two companies. Harper Collins is one of the world's larget publishers. The are directly producing and disseminating content. It makes sense that they want to protect their assets and keep their authors happy. But, they need to be more realistic in their relations with libraries. Amazon is a retailer - and one of the world's largest. While they also want to have good relationships with authors, and publishers for that matter, they are not directly involved with the production of content as Harper Collins. However, they are both companies and therefore need to turn a profit. So now we wait and see what Amazon is going to do....

[Update: After going through my reader, I saw that Andy over at Agnostic, Maybe also has a great post on this issue, also looking at the retailer/publisher comparison]

...I would like to point out that this is not Amazon's first dealings with other learning organizations. As I blogged about back in January 2010, Amazon was working with Reed College and other universities in testing the practicality of students using kindles in the classroom. That study was stopped by the U.S. Justice Department, after complaints from blind students. In a way, I feel that this supports my theory that eReaders are going to be a much larger issue for public libraries than academic libraries. Academic libraries really jumped on the eContent bandwagon with electronic journals, which has been working out okay (there still is a whole bevy of issues of dealing with vendors and subscriptions), but I am not sure if academic patrons are going to be as interested in eReaders and consumers of popular fiction -with seems to be the kindle's largest audience. I guess we will just have to wait and see...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Librarian Badge

This is the fifth post in a series celebrating National Library Week

The final post of Dewey's Not Dead's series celebrating National Library Week is a guest post. Written by Serenity Ibsen, Access Services Manager at Pacific Northwest College of Art and my MLIS cohort member. I am honored to have her writing appear here - she has been a major influence while I have been working on my degree.

I met a woman a few weeks ago who was considering moving back to Portland after attending Simmons. She had interviewed our Archives and Technical Services Librarian about the library job market. I asked whether she was a librarian and she said, "no, I work at a bike repair shop. But I have my MLS." I was shocked by her humility. I don’t think that working in a bike shop is a humble profession; it’s a highly-skilled job. But she achieved that shining medal many of us in the library world aspire to and because she wasn't practicing, she wouldn't call herself a librarian.

For those of us who work in libraries, but do not have our Master's of Library Science, it has been beaten into us by some that we are a lesser race, not "real," and certainly NOT "Librarians." One should NEVER call oneself a Librarian if one does not hold the prized degree. In my penultimate semester of library school, I yearn for the day when I can proudly wear the badge of Librarian, having worked diligently at school and learned the guts of the profession.

However, I have always been one to scoff at the notion that a piece of paper confers magical powers to a person. Well, except in the cases of medical doctors, architects, wizards, and engineers. (But those are also semi-mythological professions with their own cultural taboos and mores).

But what makes a librarian a Librarian? Is there an intrinsic spark or quality that true librarians have whether MLSed or not that makes up the meat of "real" librarianship? There has been a lot of heated debate about the value of the MLS. Many people who have been working in libraries for decades are not considered Librarians because they don't hold the degree, but they have been doing librarian-type work and uphold the values of our profession. Some people believe that the MLS is BS and just a hoop to jump through.

Don't get me wrong. I believe that working for my MLS is the best thing I have ever done. I am learning so much that I don't think I would learn in practical situations. I am earning a degree that will tell others that I have completed a series of courses proscribed by the American Library Association. I have met so many different people and have created strong personal and professional relationships with them.

In her blog post The Value of the MLS/MLIS, Jennifer Macaulay says that she doesn't "think [the MLS] is a rite that magically makes one a librarian." I wholeheartedly agree. I think that being a librarian is a way of living, thinking, and above all an action. It's not a badge (though I desperately want one), it's not a title, it's not even who you are. I think what I'm learning the most in library school is that the secret fire of being a librarian is the constant "doing" of librarianship. We must find ways to explain what we do and why, and prove how libraries are valuable. We must constantly reassess what our users need and try to see things from their perspective. We must adapt, advocate, fight, share, and serve. Historically libraries were for archiving and preserving the creative endeavors of humanity. But humanity is our reason for existing and if we can't figure out a way to remain relevant and give people what they need, then our spark goes out.

So I've begun calling myself a librarian. Already. I'm not done with school yet; I don't have my badge. But I do have the fire.

Original art work by Serenity Ibsen. Photo credit: NYPL via the commons.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scrappers and hustlers: just what the library needs

This is the fourth post in a series celebrating National Library Week

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of librarianship is looking towards the future. Certainly no small feat, but librarians accomplish it in a manner of ways.

The most concrete example is youth and young adult librarianship. Supporting literacy at an early age is an essential aspect of making sure that we have healthy and successful communities in the future. I tip my hats to young adult librarians - I think the work they do is phenomenal and I don't think they often receive the credit they deserve. There are certainly some great future children librarians in my MLIS cohort, you can check out their blogs here and here and here.

I think librarians also look to the future by being on the pulse of tomorrow's evolution of information technology, understanding the importance of knowing how future patrons are going to consume and disseminate knowledge. It is a messy task, and not always well implemented. In many ways librarians were at first slow to embrace technological changes - but the newest generation of librarians will be sure not to repeat the same mistake.

I think the biggest task librarians have in front of us is making sure there even are libraries in the future. The infographic over at sums up the situation nicely.

I could go off on how we need effective advocacy, marketing, campaigning, blah blah blah blah. But we talk about that enough. While we are in a dire situation in terms of funding and support, I think the industry is going to be just fine: we have a new generation of library student who are already starting things off on the right foot.

Those of us who are a bit younger have been raised with technology that laid the ground work for the changes we are seeing today (The first time I went online was the third grade). We are used to change to the point that we embrace it. I've been using my google reader for a few years now, and it is starting to feel outdated. I'm ready for whatever is next.

And we are enrolled in Library and Information Science programs now, when things seem pretty bleak. We are graduating as scrappers. Knowing that we have to fight for the services, resources and money we want in our libraries. We're even fighting pretty hard just for jobs. We know how to hustle and we'll put these skills to use as we take over the industry.

To give it a really bad and cheesy science fiction analogy - we are the Fremen of Library Science. Raised in the harsh conditions of the desert planet Arakkis, we will be the ultimate fighters. Instead of fighting for control of the spice and thus control of the universe, we'll be figthing for universal access to information. Which is kind of the same thing, now that I think about it....

...bringing this blog back to reality, here are some of the library student's blogs that have raised my hope for the future:

...I know there are many more out there - what are the blogs/librarians you follow that are giving you hope for the future??

photo credit: New York Public Library, 1938, via The Commons

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Outreach never ends...

This is the third post in a series celebrating National Library Week.

Today is National Bookmobile Day! While I have never had personal experience with bookmobiles - I grew up in a pretty compact town, with little need for one - I have always been in awe of them. I think they're amazing services, especially for rural libraries, with excellent outreach and marketing capabilities. And they don't even have to be motorized.

In the 21st century, there are two ways for users to interact with their libraries: physically and virtually. Bookmobiles are just one amazing example of physical outreach to our communities - but how do we outreach to our virtual communities? By utilizing the same technology that has made so many of our users deem libraries irrelevant: social media.

Murray Library (UT) has incorporated an amazing blog feature right on their homepage, creating virtual reader's advisory. Initiated by a senior librarian who wanted to really encourage all library workers to become involved with readers advisory, the feature is simple but well implemented. Each post includes a well written review, clicking on the image takes the user straight to the catalog record and if the user enjoys the staff member's review, they can click on the reviewer's name and see what else they recommend. And it's not just books that are reviewed - the blog offers music reviews with YouTube videos of the featured artist. Even if their users are never interacting with librarians in the library, this is a great way for them to interact with the organization when they log on to check out books.

And then there are the "traditional" social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, etc. While libraries are still figuring out the bast way to put them to use (with some having better results than others), individual librarians are certainly all over social media. I was having a conversation with a classmate this weekend (@overgeeked for those of you on twitter) about how twitter seemed pretty irrelevant before we were in library school. But now it seems necessary. We have these tools whose primary purpose is to share information - how can we, as information professionals, not be a part of that?

Bookmobiles have always seemed to be a part of libraries - reaching patrons outside of libraries certainly has. Now that librarianship and information services are becoming much more nebulous, its time to start adapting and start realizing that adaptations are going to be a regular part of the game.

photo credit: New York Public Library, 1938, via The Commons

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Call for Creativity

This is the second post in a series celebrating National Library Week.

This term I am enrolled in the class "Information Services for Academic Libraries," which has provided some of the best readings to date in my MLIS program. One of the latest articles we read was Lingo and Tepper's "The Creative Campus" from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

While this article called for the need of more creativity in the academic institution as a whole, I feel that this argument is especially true for academic libraries. In a day and age where shouting out your relevancy to your users, communities and power holders may not even be enough, incorporating and promoting creativity within your organizational culture can certainly go a long way. Here are some recent examples of creative efforts by academic librarians:

Using free social networking tools to embed yourself in classes. Again in the Chronicle, there was an article highlighting a librarian who is embedded in a classroom, where she and the students are logged into twitter together. Throughout the class discussion, she will tweet relevant information sources and material. What is amazing about this is how in happens in real time, and the sources she recommends are in response to the topics and ideas brought up in discussion, not based off of a course reading list or research topic list - creating organic librarianship rather than static librarianship.

Re-imagining physical library space. I found this one by browsing Library Journal's list of 2011 movers and shakers. Joesph Sanchez, Library Director at Red Rocks Community College, converted an old storage room into a recording studio. Not only is that an amazing service to offer to students, but this would also be a great resource to include in marketing campaigns.

Providing amazing User Experience and Web Design. Everyone laments the ineffectual design found on academic websites (xkcd captured the sentiment perfectly). Creativity is an essential element of good design, and a lack of creativity equals bad design. Library websites are not immune from this phenomenon. I find that the typical causes for poor design on library websites are the stiffing policies set in stone by bureaucratic institutions. However, there are some libraries out there who are getting it right: While not perfect, I think PNCA's Fine Art Library is one of the better academic library websites I have seen. Simple? check... Navigable? check... Visually appealing? ...check and check!

Not only is this week National Library Week, but today is National Library Workers Day. Library workers (especially student workers) can be some of your biggest sources of creative potential, often bringing specialized skills and resources to the table. And keeping with the theme of Big Tent Librarianship, while this post focused on Academic Libraries any and all forms of libraries could always incorporate creativity. In fact, one of my favorite library websites comes from a public library! When it comes to creativity, I am a firm believer that we all have a thing or two to teach each other!

photo credit: New York Public Library, 1923, via The Commons

Monday, April 11, 2011

National Library Week!

This is the first post in a series celebrating National Library Week

"New frontiers of the mind are before us, and if they are pioneered with the same vision, boldness, and drive with which we have waged this war we can create a fuller and more fruitful employment and a fuller and more fruitful life."

-Vannevar Bush, (Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development under President Franklin Roosevelt) 1945,
Science—The endless frontier: A report to the President

Happy National Library Week! To celebrate I am going to try and post once a day for the next week - I have a bunch of ideas for posts sitting in my files, and I figure now is a good time to get them up here, especially while I have a lull in school work.

I wanted to open the week up with the above Vannevar Bush quote, because of its amazing relevancy. It was pulled from one of my course readings, and I was struck how appropriate it is for today's economic climate as it was in 1945. And today, as always, libraries and librarians can affect the evolution of tomorrow's knowledge and information.

More to come in the following days, including a guest post at the end of the week that has me pretty excited!

Stay tuned!

photo credit: New York Public Library, 1923, via The Commons

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Day with the OLA

Yesterday was the first day of the annual OLA conference, and like a good library student, I not only went but also presented a poster. My classmate, Nyssa Walsh, was organizing the poster presentations - and who can say no to a *library* science fair??

I presented the work I have been doing on some project support at my job. For the past year I have been collecting matadata for a 2,000+ historic article collection we have, as we prepare to digital the collection for additional preservation and improved access.

I was pretty nervous preparing for the conference. I was worried that no one would want to hear about a metadata collection progress report. And my poster was looking like something a 6th grader came up with. But it was such a great experience. I learned the importance of developing a pitch, having to explain the project in a few short sentences. And it was amazing all of the feedback conference goers were offering. The most common question asked was about the platform for the digital collection. Since we haven't gotten that far in the project, I had no idea. But everyone who asked had great recommendations and ideas. It was like a mini-workshop, getting fresh perspectives of the work we are doing. The experience left me pretty exhilerated and full on new enthusiasm for the project.

After the poster presentation, I attended a session given by the Oregon State Library's Library Development Staff on LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) funded projects. I learned about all of the programming that LSTA grants fund, and was able to participate in a discussion with members of the LSTA Board about their upcoming efforts of creating their five-year plan. This was their first discussion with librarians from across the state about some of the different programming, initiatives, resources and services that we would want to implement, allowing the board to form their guiding principles and purposes for their plan. I felt lucky and honored to be there.

After lunch - which included an inspirational speech from retiring state librarian Jim Scheppke - I attended Nikki Williams and Eliane Gass Hirsch's session, which focused on their library's impressive marketing skills. The Watzek Library (at Lewis & Clark College) has an impressive marketing team that incorporates good design with strategic planning to create impressive marketing campaigns. From their facebook page to impressive events, this session offered a lot of great ideas. I particularly enjoyed the ways Watzek library outreaches to the college's staff, and I think that this is something my own library could improve upon.

Other than presenting and attending the sessions, it was great to connect with so many of my classmates, and meet with so many Emporia SLIM alumni. We seemed to have taken over yesterday's #ola11 twitter feed, it was fun to see what my classmate's posters, and it was motivating to see the various jobs the alumni found after graduation.

My favorite part about attending the conference yesterday was that I was seeing iterations of library school lessons in every session and every conversation. Digital initiatives, collaborative efforts, user-centerdness, strategic planning, community analysis, assessment: it was all there and it reinforced the fact that I am on still on the right path.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Library prom is around the corner...

For those of you who live in the Portland, OR area:

The third annual Library Prom will be here before we know it!
What: Library After Dark
When: May 13th
Where: Portland's Q Center 4115 N. Mississippi
Who: librarians, library students and lovers of libraries
Why: Because librarians know how to get down...

Thank you, SCALA, for all your hard work putting this together!!