July 2012 Archives

Adult Programming at the Library

When asked to come up with some ideas for the Adult Summer Reading Program, to add to what was already planned, I struggled with how to appeal to a different library population.  In our small town library, the same people generally come to book clubs, foreign films and speaker events.  This population is devoted to the library, and many of them belong to the Friends of the Library organization.  We are grateful for their support, but I really wanted to bring in some new patrons.

My first thought was that I wanted to appeal to working parents and families, who can’t come in to storytimes and children’s daytime events due to work schedules.  Unfortunately, that territory appears to involve some toe-stepping and political wrangling so that idea is being tabled for now…. but not forgotten.

My second thought was to appeal to an audience interested in pure entertainment, as a way to introduce a new population to all the library has to offer. We all love to be intellectual and talk about the latest bestseller and watch some award-winning new film, but most of us also love a good romance, a trashy novel, and some mindless entertainment that just appeals to our emotions and helps us to relax – hence my library’s “Chick Flicks” program was born.

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For Me, a Library Job is Better than the Mall

The other day I set foot in a good old-fashioned mall for the first time in several years. It was almost lunchtime on yet another 90-degree day, and the mall was relatively empty save for a handful of folks meandering in and out of the stores. I basked in the air conditioning while strolling past old teenage haunts like American Eagle, Finish Line, and Abercrombie & Fitch (ugh). While standing in the Verizon store waiting for a phone repair, a sign near one of the mall entrances caught my eye: “We are committed to making our malls a greater part of each community they serve.”

The first thing my librarian-in-training brain did was to replace the word “malls” with “libraries.” Which then made me think, how similar is a mall to a library?

Well, both are free for people to enter and look around, both are spots for congregating or hanging out, both revolve around customer service, and both are mainstays of their communities. People frequent libraries and malls to find a specific book or item, to browse or window shop, or to do personal or market research. When I sat back and thought about it, the number of similarities surprised me.

So why don’t I save some tuition money and just apply for a job at the mall? I suppose I could. Frankly, I’m sure that a lot of cynics would urge me to abandon my library studies to pursue a job in retail. But for my skills and interests, I think I am much better cut out for librarianship than retail. Personally, I prefer to help people who are looking for books and information rather than clothes and appliances. Despite what libraries and malls may have in common, their differences make all the difference. For me, a library job is better than the mall, and the best job of all.

Jobs | Libraries | People | 3 comments

Oh, can’t anybody see? We’ve got a war to fight.

The past two weeks since my last update have been ridiculously busy. First of all, I’m at the point where I have been forced to sit down and start committing all of my findings to paper. I feel like the progress has been abysmally slow, and 20 (single spaced!) pages in, I feel like I’m only half-way to my conclusion. Luckily, it’s broken down into a number of smaller sections, so I’ve been hopping around to smaller topics that interest me to try and keep up my motivation. I’ve also found that if I listen to the same song on repeat for eight hours, I don’t get nearly as distracted as I would if I let Pandora do its thing. Thanks, Portishead. I can literally listen to your song “Roads” all day long. So far today, I’ve written two pages on the disposition of culturally modified human remains!  Oh, jeeze.

This past weekend I also had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Wikimania conference in Washington, D.C. Fortunately for me, the conference was held at George Washington University, where I just so happened to be staying! I mostly attended GLAM-Wiki sessions (GLAM stands for galleries, libraries, archives, and museums), and I really feel like all library and information professionals should explore how Wikimedia projects—not just Wikipedia, but Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource—can facilitate greater access to our (very broad “our”) collections. David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, gave the closing plenary, and I actually got to shake his hand!

Well, I jotted down this blog post during my lunch break, and now it’s back to writing about the secularization of sacred objects. I only have three and a half weeks left of my internship, and I’m amazed and kind of sad about how quickly it’s all gone by. Tomorrow, I'm planning on attending a mini career fair held at the Smithsonian Institution; I wonder if they'll give me a job if I just ask? I wish!

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Pay We Must

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

-Mark Twain

Tuition is a small expense on the path to greatness.

The tuition bill arrived yesterday, which is always a “Gulp!” moment around here.  Having just finished paying for my daughter’s undergrad education, I never really allowed myself any breathing time before it was time to pay for my own education.  My daughter and I are both attending grad school this year – different places and degrees – and we have both been blessed with some scholarship help, for which we are enormously thankful, but that falls short of what we both actually need.

I am not here so much to share my money woes, the high cost of gasoline, food, and education…We all have these concerns.  What I would like to do is share some of my solutions and hopefully ease the stress of that tuition bill sticker shock.  Don’t let money stand in the way of your dreams!

What to do…

Continue reading Pay We Must

Libraries | 5 comments

Metadata and Street Art

Metadata and street art.  These are very distinct "things," if you will, each with their own importance and meaning to those who are familiar with them, yet they exist in worlds that do not often crossover with each other, unless of course, you are an art librarian with a penchant for cataloguing.  Metadata, for the uninitiated (or those who have not yet had the pleasure of taking Information Organization) is data about data.  It doesn't usually intrude upon our daily lives, but it's vital in the work of librarians and those dedicated to making information accessible.

When you're looking for that thing that you want to know about on Google and you just can't come up with what you're looking for, it's because you likely haven't hit upon the right kind of keywords (which are part of metadata) to describe what you're looking for, and thus make it appear.
A friend from college, the wonderfully eloquent Laurenellen McCann, recently discussed this at a TEDxWDC talk entitled "Making Cyberspace for Public Art."  in the context of trying to find out about a piece of street art she passed daily on her way to work.  She describes how she wanted to set about finding out what the piece of work she was seeing was called, but quickly realized that if she typed in the words that immediately came to mind, she would likely come up with all sorts of "unsavory" search results.  But her enthusiasm for observing the world around her and her penchant for public art has led directly to a project dedicated to crowdsourcing information about public artwork and collecting metadata about it in the hopes that it makes it easier for people to learn about the art that surrounds them (the project is appropriately enough entitled "theartaround.us").
This project is limited to DC, but it got me thinking about a blog post for all you librarians-to-be out there.  Go out and walk around your city. If you're already in Boston, there's tons of public art all over the place.  Vibrant murals spring unexpectedly from the sides of buildings and peek out from alleyways, sculptures and public monuments and statues abound, from the easily identifiable (Abigail Adams at the Boston Women's Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue) to the more obscure (the statues of people around Davis Square).  Make an effort to pay attention to the art, take pictures of that which particularly catches your eye or strikes your fancy, and then go online and see what you can learn about it.  Make it an exercise in not only getting to know your city better, but to investigate how metadata and information retrieval works before you're confronted with these topics in an academic context.  Most of all, have fun.  There's a wide world out there, and if we take the time to meander through it on foot, we may be unexpectedly delighted by what we find.

Libraries | People | leave a comment

A Conversation Starter…or Stopper?

Last week I was discussing my library school escapades in two different situations with two very different results. The first interaction was with a seventy-year-old uncle who said “I don’t understand library school, can you explain it to me in one paragraph?” This query presented several challenges, especially since the guy is not a library user. The conversation lasted less than a minute and I could tell that he wasn’t super interested in what I was saying. It was frustrating not only because I did not really know what to say, but also because whatever I said didn’t quite seem to resonate with him. It’s almost like he was trying to pick a fight, but neither of us was willing to throw the first punch.

The next interaction was much more engaging and pleasant. It was between myself and three teachers from a prestigious private school in Connecticut. One of the teachers is currently being encouraged by the school library director to pursue a library degree, so he had all kinds of questions. Another worked part-time in a library after having kids, and said that if she hadn’t just completed her master’s degree in math she would have pursued library school. All three teachers were excited about what I am doing, and had all kinds of questions and library anecdotes.

Lesson learned: While I think that my studies and career possibilities are awesome, not everyone feels the same way. Each time I tell someone that I am in library school, I cringe a little while waiting for the reaction. Sometimes the conversation is abruptly over, sometimes the person exhibits genuine interest, and sometimes the response is “really?” or “why?” or the dreaded “oh.” I can’t imagine that someone in business or medical school has to absorb those disheartening utterances of consternation. So, while my second interaction was better than the first, each is valuable in its own way, and I will have to be prepared for both as I progress in the library world.

Libraries | People | Students | leave a comment

Why Forbes is Wrong

So, if you haven't heard about the article Forbes.com released at the beginning of June, you're about to read all about it. The article is titled "The Best and Worst Master's Degrees for Jobs" - and guess what is the No. 1 worst Master's degree according to their "experts?" Library and Information Science.

This comes as a shock to me - I'm pretty happy with my education. And after reading the article, I think there are some important things to point out.  Obviously, I have a counterargument, but I'm not the only one. ALA President and Simmons GSLIS graduate, Maureen Sullivan, responded to Forbes.com's claim on July 10th.

I'll pull out a quote from her press release, as it is a great starting point for my personal response -

"The profit-centered, corporation-based measures valued by Forbes suggest that pay rates and growth are the only valid reasons for selecting a career or seeking an advanced degree.  While it is true that for some individuals these factors are the principal focus, for librarians the primary motivation is job satisfaction derived from the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of others" (2nd para).

Well said, Maureen Sullivan. I absolutely agree. While our culture is quite materialistic, we're not all in it for the money. Not only do I feel as though my education will enable me to make a difference as I interact with those around me - my field allows me to preserve and maintain the very essence of our society.  Put a price tag on that.

Continue reading Why Forbes is Wrong

Jobs | Libraries | People | 1 comment

Adventures in the Social Law Library Archives

My unplanned foray into the world of law librarianship has taken yet another unexpected turn: I’m working in an archives at a law library!

A few weeks ago, my supervisor at the Social Law Library told me that, if I wanted to, I could spend a couple of hours each workweek in the Archives. Of course, I said “yes” with no hesitation. As I’ve articulated in a previous post, I’ve found a great deal of professional value in my circulation job at Social Law, even as an archivist-to-be. But I would be a fool if I didn’t jump at this opportunity to squeeze some more relevance out of my pre-professional job.

I have quite a task ahead of me when it comes to the Social Law Archives. Due to budget/staff shortages, there is no professional librarian or archivist tasked with managing the Archives. To make matters even more interesting, the Library moved in the early 2000s, and whatever order that had been established in the previous Archives got jumbled up when it moved to the new building. Concepts like “provenance” and “original order” certainly become a lot more difficult to work with in a situation like this!

My job is, more or less, to figure out what’s down there and get a large-scale sense of intellectual control over the place. Something I’m noticing right away is there are really two high-level groups at work: the Social Law Archives proper and a Special Collections component. The “Archives” themselves are composed of the materials Social Law has created over the course of its history as an institution, and the Special Collections are a compilation of various groups of materials that have been donated to the Library over the years, such as judges’ and legal institutions’ papers. It may seem like a minor distinction to people outside of the archives world, but to us archivists it’s a big one!

My ultimate goal is for this currently unorganized place to become a resource for researchers--there’s a lot of cool stuff in the Social Law Archives (& Special Collections), and no one knows about it! We have a long way to go before we can get to that point, but if I can do something during my time here to push Social Law closer toward this goal, I will consider it time well spent.

I’m finding myself coming up with project ideas for a “future intern,” and I’m starting to think that I’m going to be that intern. There’s a 130-140hr internship component to the GSLIS Archives Concentration, and if I can get the formalities figured out then I believe I will spend that time working in the Social Law Archives. It’s official--Social Law has sucked me in!

Archives | Internships | 1 comment

Missing June

One month down and 5 weeks to go at my internship with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and I’m really starting to feel the time constraints. I am in the process of compiling a report for the Repatriation Committee Chair of the Board of Trustees that creates a history of Board discussions and actions regarding repatriation since the enabling legislation of 1989 through the present day. I’ve been given access to a lot of confidential information, and I’ve also been given the opportunity to browse through some collections at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives on the mall!

In the middle of all this, I’ve also been assisting the repatriation staff in digitizing and organizing documents in their information management system, Client Profiles. It’s interesting because it’s intended for legal use, but it works really well for their purposes. It’s also capable of syncing Word and Outlook email, so you can link information from multiple points of origin. (You can even upload audio files.) I haven’t really been on the information creation side of things before, so it’s a really enlightening perspective. Frustrated, at times, with the lack of organization of the information I’ve been trying to find, I’ve spent some time reviewing the Smithsonian’s information management and archival policies and schedules, which are not always put into practice. Luckily, the people I work with are really receptive to ideas about how better to organize their personal files and information, and we’ve really been able to learn a lot from each other.

Looking forward, I’ve conducted a lot of the research I need to begin drafting the actual report, which leaves me pretty intimidated. I’ve unearthed a pretty large and dense amount of information, so trying to turn that into a coherent document is going to take some time.

Aside from work, though, I’ve been having a great time in D.C. I went to a live action parody of Jurassic Park by Old Murder House Theatre (which was hilarious), and on the Fourth of July, I went to a Nationals baseball game!  It’s hard to get much more patriotic than that. Next week, I’m looking forward to attending the huge Wikimania conference, and I’ll probably blog all about that once it’s done! Now if only the weather would stop being so abysmal.

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One of those librarians...

I had the recent misfortune to encounter one of “those” librarians in a public library.  You know who they are. You have seen them and they are everything we don’t want to be.

We are (or want to be) the kind of librarians who are friendly,  want to help people, and are happy when the library is busy with swarms of people, and children are making joyful noise.  I, for one, am delighted when the book drop is full, the carts need shelving, and a patron with three small children wants to check out a stack of 23 picture books.  It means we are alive!  We are thriving.

But not “those” librarians.  They complain when people use the outside book drop during open hours; Apparently they never had small children in the car asleep while doing errands after work.  They complain when the library is busy because they really hoped to sneak personal computer time.  They delight in informing patrons that they have overdue fines, while they delete fines for themselves.  They ignore all opportunities to teach patrons about remote access to their accounts and online services, and worst of all, they give patrons wrong reference information because getting it right doesn’t seem to be all that important to them.

I came across an Australian TV series, The Librarians, which seems to have one of “those” librarians! Based on the preview, it looks like something I would love to show in a staff development session.  I have ordered myself the first series as I am addicted to my region-free DVD player, so after I receive it, I can fill you in.  Enjoy the preview:


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