Saturday, December 22, 2007

This is Fun

An LIS grad student created a site where you can explore "your inner librarian." It's wonderful.

And through it, I found a test that can tell you whether you really should fill out that library school application - or find the "I hate libraries" meeting just down the hall - from the always entertaining Librarian Avengers.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

touching the past

There's an amazing digital collection of letters from Japanese-American children detained in an internment camp during World War II to Miss Breed, a children's librarian in San Diego. It's an amazing and touching story, and the letters convey a lot about an ugly time in US history.
Miss Breed was the children's librarian at San Diego Public Library from 1929 to 1945. When her young Japanese American patrons were forced into concentration camps with their families in 1942, Breed became their reliable correspondent, sending them books, assisting with requests for supplies, and through her actions, serving as a reminder of the possibility for decency and justice in a troubled world.
Found via the always-surprising Metafilter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Generational Pull

Scott Carlson of The Chronicle of Higher Education speaks to some of the younger crowd to ask where the profession is going - though, unfortunately, the Chron is still stuck in the paywall era. If you don't have your own subscription, your library probably does. Here's the opening...

Most people are familiar with the stereotype of librarians. They are twenty- or thirtysomethings, with tattoos, cat's-eye glasses, and vintage clothes, schmoozing with famous authors, and playing DJ at parties in Brooklyn.

Wait, that's just the stereotype in The New York Times. Last summer the newspaper declared young librarians hip — and, in the minds of some librarians, actually reinforced the other stereotype: that older members of their profession are reclusive bookworms and cranky old ladies.

Whether young librarians are hip or dowdy doesn't matter. What matters is what they think about the future of the library, particularly at academic institutions.

Libraries are facing a series of immense challenges: the explosion of information, a rapidly changing technological environment, shrinking budgets, pitched battles over copyright, a new world of information literacy, and continuing deficiencies in old-fashioned literacy.

On top of it all, academic libraries face a crisis of graying leadership. Young librarians, hip or not, will eventually be the people dealing with these issues.

"Young Librarians, Talkin' 'Bout Their Generation," October 19, 2007 issue.

You can watch an interview with one of the interviewed librarians, Jessamyn West, for free! what a concept.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Almost as Good as a Librarian

A technology columnist for the Chicago Tribune casts a vote for Yahoo's search over Google. Why? Because it's the next best thing to having the skills of a librarian.
The Yahoo effort ( . . . is so impressive I'm going to make it my default searcher. Best is "Search Assist," an expandable box right below where you type your query that offers a bevy of clickable terms to help you refine it. A good reference librarian will write a specific, targeted search. Yahoo's search assist gets you close to librarian status, without the bother of getting an MLS degree.
Not that I want to suggest that an MLS is a bother, mind you . . .

Via beSpacific.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Future Librarians Group

I just found out, thanks to this article, that there's a fairly active Facebook group for future librarians. Looks as if there's some good stuff here!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The September Project

I recently interviewed David Silver for ACRLog. He's one of the co-directors of The September Project, a grassroots effort to make libraries a site for civic engagement and discussion of issues. Our library has been involved for a couple of years. It's a nice opportunity to do some programming and build partnerships with people across campus. Quite a few of the projects are organized with other community or campus entities. And what better place to do it than a library?

Over 900 libraries are participting - in 30 countries! Very cool indeed.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

In the News

The Boston Globe often does a good job of covering library issues, and they've done it again with a cheering story about how busy local libraries are and how the Internet has made it easier for people to use libraries (increasing use of media and interlibrary loan in particular). A snippet:

"Everyone thought we were going to go the way of the dinosaur," said Woburn Library director Kathleen O'Doherty, whose library hums with technology-driven activity: Laptop users picking up WiFi near the limestone fireplace, patrons at the front desk collecting materials they reserved online, tourists poring over genealogical materials they learned about on the Web. Technology, O'Doherty said, has made libraries "much more vibrant and alive."

Statewide, total circulation rose 25 percent from fiscal 1996 through 2006, and interlibrary loans grew nearly 400 percent, according to the state Board of Library Commissioners. Although book circulation dipped slightly across the state, it grew considerably at many area libraries. Meanwhile, nearly every library in the region has seen substantial audiovisual growth, and interlibrary lending everywhere has soared.

The author points out this growth comes at a cost, but overall it's a tribute to how well libraries work and how enthusiastically their public is responding.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

NYPL Serves Espresso

BoingBoing has an astonishing story today - the New York Public Library has just installed the first Espresso book machine and will offer free printed copies of any of over 200,000 public domain book in the Open Content Alliance. Wow!

There are also a few in-copyright books available - Jason Epstein's Book Business (which predicted this gadgetry) and Chris Anderson's The Long Tail (which is wagging this puppy). If you want to check it out, go to the Science, Industry and Business library on Madison Avenue, not the one with the lions. According to the press release, this project is partially funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and is a collaboration between the On Demand Books, the Alliance, and NYPL. Even better, they're doing this elsewhere. In the fall, it will be available at the New Orleans Public Library. Amazing.

But I can't help wondering . . . what if someone came in and asked for one of each?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

It's Official: We're Cool

The New York Times says it's so - in the Fashion & Style section, no less. I always get whiplash from these kinds of articles from the abrupt switches from patronizing stereotypes to "hey, they're kind of cool, isn't that bizarre?" For example:

Librarians? Aren’t they supposed to be bespectacled women with a love of classic books and a perpetual annoyance with talkative patrons — the ultimate humorless shushers?

Not any more. With so much of the job involving technology and with a focus now on finding and sharing information beyond just what is available in books, a new type of librarian is emerging — the kind that, according to the Web site Librarian Avengers, is “looking to put the ‘hep cat’ in cataloguing.”

When the cult film “Party Girl” appeared in 1995, with Parker Posey as a night life impresario who finds happiness in the stacks, the idea that a librarian could be cool was a joke.

Now, there is a public librarian who writes dispatches for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a favored magazine of the young literati. “Unshelved,” a comic about librarians — yes, there is a comic about librarians — features a hipster librarian character. And, in real life, there are an increasing number of librarians who are notable not just for their pink-streaked hair but also for their passion for pop culture, activism and technology.

Then again, it is the Fashion & Style section.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Google Book Search Adds Libraries

I just realized that Google Book Search now incorporates Worldcat records. Making Worldcat free was a great idea; putting a link next to every book in Google Book Search that says "find in a library" - even better. And books that weren't in Book Search before now are, albeit perhaps only as an OCLC record.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sign of the Times

This is very sad. I'm hoping the ballot that would reopen the libraries for three years will pass in a few days.

It's too bad this closure, the largest in US history, hasn't gained the attention that Salinas did. I don't think I could live for any length of time in a community without a library.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

This Will Make You Feel Good

A friend just sent me copies of a few pages out of Annie Lamott's book Grace (Eventually). She said one page in particular was "for me." But it's for everyone who thinks about being a librarian.

She described being involved in a protest on behalf of the Salinas Public Library, threatened with closure for lack of funds. Supporters held an emergency "read-in."
We were there to celebrate some of the rare intelligence capabilities that our country can actually be proud of - those of librarians. I see them as healers and magicians. Librarians can tease out of inarticulate individuals enough information about what they are after to lead them on the path of connection. They are trail guides through the forest of shelves and aisles - you turn a person loose who has limited skills and he'll be walloped by the branches. But librarians match up readers with the right books: "Hey is this one too complicated? Then why don't you give this one a try?"
As an academic librarian, I don't get to recommend books too often. But I did identify with the idea of listening to inarticulate needs and making paths of connection. And anyway - it just made me feel good inside.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Thinking about Academic Librarianship

There's a new post at ACRLog about a presentation given at a recent national conference on why students choose academic librarianship as a career path - and why they hesitate.

If you're interested in academic libraries, though, you might also want to browse through the blogs from this conference. I found them fascinating, and they point out a lot of the cutting-edge things happening in college and university libraries. Or, if you only have six minutes to spare, check out the video version.

Monday, April 09, 2007

If Someone Asks "Why Library School?"...

You may be embarking on one of the seven great careers of 2007. According to Kiplinger's:

Librarian. Forget about the image of librarian as mousy bookworm. Today's librarian is a high-tech information sleuth, a master of mining cool databases (well beyond Google) to unearth the desired nuggets. Plus you'll probably have regular hours and good job security. See the American Library Association's Web site or The Librarian's Career Guidebook, by Priscilla Shontz, and Straight from the Stacks: A First-Hand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science, Laura Townsend Kane.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Libraries and the Homeless

This article by Chip Ward is painful to read. He talks about the homeless people he dealt with at the Salt Lake City public library - and about the issue generally. But it's the stories of individuals and the complexity of dealing with them that really gets you.

I wasn't sure I should post this here. I don't want to discourage anyone from a career in libraries. But this is one of the realities at a lot of libraries, and an issue none of us should ignore.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Finding is Better than Searching

It's become something of an aphorism - librarians like to search, everyone else likes to find. This jaunty little YouTube clip shows the flight of a harried student trying to find Time Magazine in a library - turn the sound on to get the full effect.

It certainly shows how frustrating it can be to accomplish a task that may seem straightforward to librarians but involves too many steps. If we want to be better than Google we'd better find ways to make simple things simple.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Five Blogs

There's a meme going around - what are five blogs that you read that are not library-related?

Here's my five faves:

BoingBoing - a directory of wonderful things. Or so they say. Mostly they're rather odd.

CJR Daily
- news about the news business.

Sivacracy - from Siva Vaidhyanathan and friends.

if:book - interesting ways to look at emerging networks and the effect they could have on books

beSpacific - okay, maybe there's a touch of library in this one, but I read it mainly so I know what will be on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow. Lots of good government reports and legal information.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

ALA Responds to the IG's Report

Leslie Burger of the ALA has responded to the recent and damning report from the Inspector General on the mishandling of National Security Letters by the FBI. Jennifer Granick of Wired News (who reminds us that, though this report only looks at the FBI, the Pentagon and the CIA are also issuing NSLs, with dubious legal authority) argues it's time to amend the PATRIOT Act.

A Book to Watch For

Library Boy points out a new book that may be of interest ... things you can do with an MLS.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Weeding, part 2

I wrote last year about my library's development of a comprehensive weeding plan. Ultimately, it was decided that a different approach would be taken. Specifically, instead of removing a certain percentage of books with little recent use, a complete title-by-title evaluation of our collection will occur. [Each plan has its advantages and disadvantages. I will leave that as an exercise to the reader.] As such, the librarians at my institution will commence an 8-year collection evaluation plan on May 1st. My colleagues like working together, so we will be working in teams of two librarians, with each team evaluating 5230 books a year (approximately 201 shelves averaging 26 books each). For my particular assignment my partner and I will evaluate the books on Asian history next year (books with call numbers DS63.1 .D5313 1984 to DS8818 .W55).

This semester we are piloting this plan using our oversize collection. So far, the pilot is going well. Of course, we are running into all sorts of issues that are generating a lot of discussion among the librarians. For example, are we completely abandoning cassette tapes and slides? What do we do with books containing beautiful full color plates of birds, but were last checked out 30 years ago? What do we do with resources held by no other libraries in the WorldCat catalog, even though no one has ever borrowed them?

My partner and I are finding that we can comfortably do about 7 shelves a week. We'll see what happens when we begin the official project in May. Obviously, evaluating a total of 26,150 books and other resources per year is a huge time commitment for my colleagues. We're all wondering if it is a reasonable target, and hope that it is. We also hope we won't overwhelm our technical services staff, who has to remove withdrawals from our catalog and black out the books' barcodes and ownership information. I'll keep you all informed as our collection evaluation project proceeds.

Research support

For academic librarians, some form of scholarly activity, such as participation in professional associations and research, is usually expected. I engage in both activities. I am active in ALA, serving, for example, on the Reference and User Services Association's president's conference program committee, and as the listserv administrator for the Instruction Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. I am also collaborating with a colleague at John Brown University in Arkansas on a research project. We finally sent our survey out today to some 600 library directors around the country. This mailing cost a lot of money. (We chose a mailing over e-mail and a Web-based survey for various reasons.) Luckily, he and I have institutional support to cover the cost of this research

My point is, if you looking for academic library jobs out of library school, be sure to inquire about institutional support for scholarly activities, such as research and travel, during your interviews. I know that without my professional development fund at my school, I would not be able to attend ALA conferences to network with other librarians and learn about the new resources and current issues in the profession, nor would I be able to conduct research projects without a significant cost to my pocketbook.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

. . . Unless You Live in the Twilight Zone

This Twilight Zone episode is an interesting cold war-era meditation on obsolescence.

"I am a human being!"
"You are a librarian."

Scribbling index numbers on little cards never sounded so noble. I'm not quite sure how atheism got mixed up with it, though. Found via Library Link of the Day.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You Will Have a Profession . . .

. . . if Will Sherman is correct. He give 33 reasons why libraries and librarians are irreplaceable.

I wish someone would explain this to the Powers that Be in Jackson County, Oregon.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

After School in the Library

There have been several stories in the news lately about teens using libraries after school. First there was the Maplewood, NJ controversy reported in The New York Times. . Trustees decided to close the library in after school hours because students from a nearby middle school were being disruptive. (Whether that story prompted articles on the problems of middle schools or not is unclear, but the Times has had a couple of in-depth articles about schooling this age-group lately.)

Now the ACLU is challenging a long-standing policy in a suburban New Orleans community of requiring parental permission slips for students visiting the library after school. And even liberal Madison, Wisconsin is considering how to deal with the large numbers of sometimes rambunctious after-schoolers.

It seems that public libraries in communities are seen by working parents as safe places for their children after school - but it means libraries have to rise to the challenge. We'll need librarians interested in working with this age group. If you're considering it, check out the YALSA blog to see what's on the minds of librarians in the Young Adult Library Services Association. They have some good ideas!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

That Was the Year...

Around new year's, people seem to like to look back at the year to see what was notable. Librarians are no exception.

Here, for example, is a list of "Ten Stories that Shaped 2006" from LISNews. They include many items that aren't strictly-speaking library issues: net neutrality, privacy, censorship, the James Fry affair. Also included: Library 2.0, new library blogs of note, the closing of EPA libraries, and the infamous Taser incident at UCLA.

ACRLog's Steven Bell weighs in with academic library's Year in Review - also noting Libary 2.0 among other top stories.

Technology Trends got wrapped up at Read/Write Web.

And if that's not enough, Fimoculous lists all kinds of lists, including best books of the year, best book covers, best Websites, and even the New York Times's librarians of the year.

It's hard to imagine what will be on the list for 2007. Meanwhile - happy new year!