Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What does a librarian do?

Tonight, a teen came in and went to the catalog, looked around for a bit, and then went up to the circ desk. As I was on my way by, one of the circ people said, "Well, ask her - she's the reference librarian, and if we have something, she'll be able to help you." The boy immediately balked and said, "I already looked in the catalog - I couldn't find anything." (I'm not clear on why, then, he was asking anyone for help since he seemed convinced that we didn't have what he needed, and he really didn't seem to want MY help (?), but whatever.) I asked what he was looking for, and he told me he needed info on Zapata for a five page paper. I told him to come to my desk, and I would take a look.

I tried the obvious searches first, while he stood there and hemmed and hawed about how he had already done that. He didn't have time to get anything sent over from another library (naturally), and, *sigh* we didn't have anything - he was sure of it. I asked if he could use internet/online sources, and he said, "Yeah, but not Wikipedia because that's not a real source." Then he said he'd rather have books, to be on the safe side. I broke out my mad catalog skillz (HA!), wrote down some numbers, and he reluctantly followed me to the stacks. Sure enough, I found four books with pertinent info for him (in a couple different places). This surprised him, but made him happy nonetheless.

Yesterday, a favorite patron of mine came in to see if we had the latest Hoover's - we no longer have it in print. He then told me that what he was really looking for was a used set no older than 2003 that he could purchase, and that he was having trouble finding it on ABE. He said there were too many kinds, and that he couldn't find anything as current as he would like. After asking him some questions (ah, the reference interview), I determined what, exactly, he was looking for, and suggested that we use Amazon and look at the used book sellers on there (because I knew from experience that that would likely yield more than ABE for that title) and, yay, we found several 2006 copies at very reasonable prices (and I should him exactly how do it so that he could order from home). He was thrilled, and said that I am his favorite librarian and that he'll be sad to see me go.

Another patron asked me to help her with some code so that she could fix her (old style) Blogger blog sidebar, and she asked me about free photo hosting - done and done. And an adult college student in education asked me to help her find sources for a paper. I asked her if she knew about ERIC (she didn't), so I told her what it was (she had never heard the term "database" before - what on Earth are the teachers doing?), and showed her how to access it and use it. She left with 4 journal articles, and said, "I've been looking for info like this for days."

Tonight I also found critical analysis books for someone on King Lear, directed a kid to the MAD magazines, and showed a patron the free YA Book Box because he wanted Stephen King books in paperback (and I knew I had just weeded some old ones).

So, what's my point?

Well, my point is that I would guess many reference people do the exact same thing day after day. Which is why it drives me crazy when I hear stories about some librarians wanting to decide what is best for their patrons, and other stories about librarians who are downright hostile about us "hipster" librarians and our damn library 2.0 nonsense.

In two days, I've used what I have learned over the past three years about reference print sources, our somewhat crappy OPAC, the internet, online databases, silly magazines, HTML, blogging, email, USB drives, literary fiction, and genre fiction. My patrons ranged in age from 11 (MAD magazine) to 70s (email help). And everyone left happy.

This is what it takes to be a good, general reference librarian TODAY. And the sooner we all get on board with the "old" AND the "new," (and that goes for MLS programs as well), the better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Feevy Fever

Sarah over at The Sheck Spot, while asking me about joining Library Links, alerted me to this neat app called Feevy. Basically, it creates a nice dynamic collection of blogs - or any web content that has an RSS feed (flickr, delicious, etc). So, rather than blogroll of static links, you can have a nifty display with the blogs' latest posts.

Since this is relatively new, and not overly customizable (yet), I thought that for a blogger with a large links list, the display might become unwieldy. However, in terms of library use, I figured this might be a cool app for my library blogs. This way, readers of one blog can get a quick taste of what's going on on the other two blogs (and this would work with any feeds you might happen to have on your library's homepage - and some of you cool libraries have a few!). I used the unobtrusive "liquid" style on our main blog, and the funkier "classic dark" style on the Teen Spot blog. I like this. Now I won't have to do as much cross-posting as I currently do, and the adults can see what's up over at the Teen blog without subscribing to it or leaving the main blog to take a look (and vice-versa). Cool.

Library Links

I seem to have a few new readers, so I thought this might be a good time to remind people about Library Links, which has slowed a bit. For those of you new to this blog, Library Links is a community blogroll for library/librarian/information/book blogs. Basically, if you post the blogroll on your site, you'll be added to the list. And, according to my technorati profile, the blogroll is actually doing its job and increasing traffic and "authority." All the info and instructions are on the Library Links page.

As an aside: I think Library Links is a great way for people who don't have a links list on their blog to connect with people interested in building community. Many bloggers worry that they will be seen as playing "favorites" if they have a blogroll, some don't like the look of a lengthy list in their sidebar, and some simply do not want to get into the "reciprocal links" game. I think Library Links addresses those issues - it's customizable in terms of appearance, no playing of favorites is involved, and it's automatically reciprocal.

Take a look and join us!

The Random Eight

Josh has tagged me for the Eight Random Things meme. I love memes - because, as you know, it's all about me.

1. I have a paper fixation. I love paper. I even - I can barely type the words - scrapbook. Oh man, that makes me sound like a middle-aged soccer mom (not that there's anything wrong with that). See, this is why I have many tattoos - to offset the spinster, scrapbooking, cat-owning librarian thing I have going on.

2. To the best of my knowledge, I still hold the girl's bench-press record at my former high school - 185 pounds.

3. I have 20/20 vision - though the amount of time I spend on the computer has given me eye strain.

4. I am giving my first conference talk in two weeks. I fluctuate between being relaxed about it and scared to death.

5. I almost attended culinary school after high school. Sometimes I think maybe I should have.

6. I attended more that 20 Barenaked Ladies concerts in 18 months with my best friend, Kris. We became such a fixture after the shows that on one occasion when we almost missed them before they boarded the bus, the head security guy said, "Ladies, we've been waiting for you."

7. Just about every guy I dated in high school was a major gear-head; I have helped rebuild an engine more than once.

8. I don't drink, and I've never (not even once) been drunk - and most people think that's very, very weird (especially because I'm not a Mormon or anything).

9. Bonus (with a wink to Michael Casey): I like to go to IKEA mostly so that I can have those meatballs for lunch in their cafeteria.

Jason, Michael, Jessamyn, Kaijsa, Erica, Ms. Feel-good, Megan, and Lisa - you're it! (With apologies to anyone already tagged....)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oh, Well

It's official - I didn't get the Director's job. Which is really no surprise, but I was a bit surprised that I didn't even make the cut for a second interview. Now that all is (pretty much) said and done, I am glad that I interviewed, and I'm proud of the interview that I gave. And while I am sure that my lack of "library" administrative experience (but certainly not administrative experience in general) was a legitimate factor, there's probably more going on than that.

In the meantime, I have also interviewed for another position at a local library; I have no idea what to expect there. I am quickly learning that I cannot trust my instincts on how well I thought I did in an interview - to date, I have not gotten jobs when I thought I had done well in the interview, and I got my current job when I don't think I have ever had such a lackluster (not to mention SHORT) interview performance. So, your guess is as good as mine.

To be honest, I am still bumming over the fact that I didn't get the university job I interviewed for back in February. That job was the job of my dreams. While I have enjoyed my public library job, being in an academic setting, and getting the opportunity to do instruction as well as reference, is what I really would like to be doing. This university offered the best combination for me - a university in a small-ish seaside community (as I have little interest in city-living) that is still large enough to have been able to offer me a challenging position (as well as the opportunity to get my PhD in my "spare time").

In the past three years, there have been only a handful of full-time reference positions advertised in my state - and breaking into the academic world is nearly impossible. Most of those positions are filled from within - I have heard of several jobs that have been available after the fact, when someone else has been moved into the position from another department. And in the public library realm, reference positions are also few and far between.

I'm starting to freak out; if I don't get this other job, I will join Walt Crawford in the ranks of the unemployed come September, as it is time for me to move on from my current position (and that may mean moving on to a job at Target, where I could at least get full-time hours).

Um, who was it that told me I'd have "no problem" getting a job after library school?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Huh? Wha...?

Ann Althouse is suggesting that schools stop teaching reading as a separate subject - and that "pleasure reading" should be done only at home (or in the library) because you don't really learn anything from reading fiction.

A snipet, for your enjoyment:

And why does reading even need to be a separate subject from history in school? Give them history texts and teach reading from them. Science books too. Leave the storybooks for pleasure reading outside of school. They will be easier reading, and with well-developed reading skills, kids should feel pleasure curling up with a novel at home. But even if they don't, why should any kind of a premium be placed on an interest in reading novels? It's not tied to economic success in life and needn't be inculcated any more than an interest in watching movies or listening to popular music.
...Teach them about history, science, law, logic -- something academic and substantive -- and leave the fictional material for after hours.

Now, I realize that this is in response to the history question posed at the beginning of her post, and that that history question has something to do with No Child Left Behind (though I am not at all clear on what), but, um, still.

I have to say, and this is just my opinion, that if I had been forced to learn how to be a critical reader via history and science texts, I would have been an utter failure in school, and I would have hated reading in general.

Althouse's logic leads me to believe that she hasn't seen a history textbook since she was in school - and, that she'd be shocked to learn that they haven't changed much in 30 years. I remember my history texts vividly - because they were horrible. They were male-centric and sometimes downright misogynistic, they focused on and glorified war, had little of interest in them for anyone who wanted to know what life was actually like "back in the day," and glossed over many important points. In fact, I will freely admit that what I have learned about history (and it isn't nearly enough since my history education was abysmal) I have learned as an adult by watching the History Channel, watching (gasp!) popular movies (and then researching the finer points on my own), and, yep, you guessed it READING NOVELS - both classic and contemporary. I distinctly remember learning this in HIGH SCHOOL about the Dust Bowl: it was dusty, people were poor and lived in shacks. That's it. Reading of the Grapes of Wrath, and then looking up some facts, gave me an understanding of what that experience was like and how it happened.

I have always been a reader (thank God). When I was a child, I read everything I could get my hands on. And I can say with absolute certainty that I became an adult critical reader when I took my first Shakespeare class at 14.

I am certainly not knocking the reading of non-fiction - far from it. If you'd like to know more about women's issues and women's lives in the late 50s and early 60s, read Rebels in White Gloves. If you'd like to know more about race, class, and higher education as it stands today, read A Hope in the Unseen. I will bet that the issues presented in those books get little more than a passing mention in a standard American History text.

The idea that ideas that are "academic and substantive" come only via textbooks is absurd.

Librarians Everywhere!

Well, if you haven't already checked out the new Library Society of the World created by Josh, then you must get yourself over there. Like the Library 2.0 community, it's a social network where we can share, communicate, and generally misbehave, and it's also a wiki - which I think (hope) will foster lots of collaboration and such like.

However, if you "need" more real-time socializing, or simply another thing to distract you from work, then you're going to love the new Library Society of the World Meebo Room! With Meebo, you can now create your very own chat rooms - just what my productivity needed! Actually, I missed this development, as I was having trouble connecting to Meebo because of my very lame internet connection - so when I saw this pop up on the LSW wiki, I was surprised. It's very very cool, and I have already spent way too much time in there.

Check it out - you can connect via the link, or you can chat RIGHT FROM HERE - take a look at the sidebar.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Short Attention Span

You'd think that this under-employed thing would allow me to accomplish all sorts of stuff. But, um, no - in fact, I find that the more "free" time I have on my hands, the less I get done. I get too distracted by endless blog reading and other shiny objects - and by the time I get my act together to do something that actually needs doing, I'm not in the mood to do it (I am most productive early in the day). When I am working more, I get much more done, because it's necessary for me to be focused.

Anyway, I have finally updated the libraryland pages - I think all of the recently blogged content is accounted for, and I have updated the style to be a bit more readable (black text, more white space, better line height).

Also, I think I am going to try a new approach with the Info Share page. For some reason (and I am starting to take it personally) it's been really tough to get going. Actually, I have info from one person that I haven't added because I have been mulling over ways to make this page work, and get more people involved. Right now I am leaning towards a wiki; it would give people more control over the stuff they submit, the form they would like it presented in, etc, and I haven't done much with wikis yet, so it would be good experience for me as well.

I really hope that people occasionally check out the libraryland pages. Sometimes I don't know what to think - when I was in grad school, my libraryland site was pretty popular with the students, but now I "market" it from time-to-time on the school's listserve, and I don't ever get any feedback/participation. Weird.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm Evil

So, I was reading this little history nugget about Melville Dewey - very interesting for a short piece, I might add (thanks, LIS News) - and I came to this:

While Dewey never returned to live in Massachusetts, he maintained a lifelong affection for Amherst. In 1881, he wrote, "Sum day, dear Amherst, may it be my happy lot tu pruv how great iz the love I bear yu. Proud, always, everwher to be counted among yur sonz, I am Very truly, Melvil Dui."

And, heaven help me, the first thing that came to mind was, "Did he text this?"

Obviously, I need to get out more.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I Wanna Play

I've been reading about everyone's conference experiences, and all I can say is: "I wanna play, too!" And let me tell you, I NEVER thought I'd be saying that.

When I was in grad school, I used to listen to people talk about conferences and I thought, "Well that sound like the biggest yawn in the world; I am so not going to go to conferences." I admit that part of this was my immense issues with traveling (I'll spare you the details - suffice it to say that I am crazy and public transportation is out of the question for me most of the time), but the other part was that I couldn't imagine spending that amount of time with oodles of people I didn't think I had much in common with (other than a profession).

But, crap, the biblioblogosphere, and a couple of small conferences, have changed my mind.

And of course, now that I want to attend some of these conferences, I can't - library budget is frozen, and there's no money for ANYTHING until the next fiscal year. Sigh.

Luckily, all the great bloggers out there are filling me (us) in on workshops, posting their presentations on the web, discussing and debating the subjects being talked about, etc. And, I'm glad for that, as I get to "take part" right from this uncomfortable chair in my office, and I get to learn and discuss.... It's fabulous, great, and thank you all very much!

But - I want to meet so many of you! I want to eat food with you and have drinks with you, and hash over the presentations with you. I want to compare notes with you in person. I want to laugh and have a good time. Grumble....

ALA is out of the question for me this year, and I'm just completely bummed. I can't even really afford the gas it would take to drive down there, and since I don't have anyone who will pick up the registration fee, I don't know that I can justify the expense of the trip for the exhibit hall alone.

Oh, well.

So, in the meantime, if you are going to be at a conference in MA (I am annoyed that I didn't pay attention to the coming MLA conference sooner - I would have made the drive over just to hang out with folks) or RI or even CT, let me know. Even if I can't go to the conference, maybe I could stop by to say "hey."

That would be fun.

Friday, May 04, 2007

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! - OR - I'm sure this is offensive to someone.

Told you I am COOL:

So, have y'all seen Gizoogle, yet? No? Then please, do check it out, do "translate" your blog/website/what-have-you, and do come back and post the link in the comments.

I laughed my assizzle off when I read my new and improved page. Laughed it. Right. Off.

I'm sure that somewhere, someone is morally outraged by this. Fortunately, that place is not here, and that person is not me. And my mom, who has a "thing" for Snoop Dogg (please don't ask), thinks this is a riot.

Fo' shizzle.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I give up

Well, after DAYS of messing with the laptop, trying to get all hip and install Linux, it appears that I have killed the damn thing.

First I tried to install Ubuntu - that didn't work. I trolled the forums, asked questions, followed instructions - nada. I sent up a signal flare to my good internet buddy, Josh, and he (and his wife) went above and beyond to help. I punted Windows, installed new drivers, updated the BIOS (twice!) - still nada.

I read that my sucky laptop did better with Freespire, so I downloaded that and tried. Um, nope. More forums, more check sums, more partitioning - zip. Tested Freespire on the desktop - worked like a charm! Grumble....

Now the laptop won't even run Windows properly.

Oh, well. I don't have the money to go to a professional, so this may be the end for the 'puter. Luckily it's not my main machine - and the darn thing never ran well anyway.