Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Sadly, this is the first year in quite awhile that I haven't costumed up for my stint at the reference desk. Call it moving fatigue, call it paycheck fatigue, call it "leaving-for-a-week-and-a-half-on-Friday-and-tons-left-to-do" burnout. I know. I'm disappointed in myself. Way down deep, there's a pirate gypsy that's dying to make her entrance. Having only been here three months at this point, I think I'll wait until next Halloween to bust out my glaringly ridiculous Halloween self. Hopefully, by then they'll love me far too much to retract the employment offer. *grin*

But I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that not all librarians are as lame as I happened to be today. In fact, I harbor some serious nerd-love for the Maker of the MARC Pumpkin. not that I have general affection for makers of MARC records, as a rule - while I appreciate their work, catalogers are a breed I cannot claim to understand. The Librarian Avengers draw our attention to the Naughty Librarian Costume, which is about as realistic an outfit for conducting reference interviews as I've ever seen. (Though admittedly it would probably boost our reference statistics if we could get our better looking and smaller-girthed-than-I ladies to wear this at the desk...)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nerd Love and Librarians

Do YOU want to be a librarian? You should, after watching the music video.

The music video by HauntedLove, "I want to be a librarian," was posted quite awhile ago, but I'd like to re-post it here, because it's the most fabulous song about librarians ever. (Not to mention that they squish a problem patron in the movable stacks, which I have been tempted to do...muahahahaha.)

I want to be a librarian

I want to check out your books

Please give them to me

With the bar code facing up

Please don't bring them back too late

or I'll have to charge you fifty cents a day

(and you won't like that)

I want to be a librarian

Wearing glasses every single day

Don't you find me appealing

in a nerdy sort of way?

Please don't talk so loudly




Meet me in the closed reserve

I'll let you read all the new magazines

I'll let you touch the first editions

If you promise me

If you promise me

If you promise me your hands are clean

(To all the folks who will get up in arms that this reinforces librarian stereotypes, I say: Shhhhh. You have no sense of humor. And if you watch the video, you'll note that the patron was being a complete ass-hat. Yep, I'm that librarian who shushes people who get too rowdy - my academic library is a place for good, clean, QUIET fun. And by fun, I mean studying - not bodysurfing or air-guitaring while standing on a pile of my lovely bookses.)

So, there we go. Proof that we librarians do in fact wield considerable power, in addition to being dang sexy while putting up with dirty-fingered, gum-under-table-sticking, loud patrons. It's nice to have that reminder in a world where we have little control over our budgets being slashed, work short-staffed and under-resourced, and are generally told that Google makes us obsolete.

Note to potential paramours: you do have to take me to dinner before I offer you a shot at the closed stacks. And FYI: nobody gets to touch the first editions, clean hands or not.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Librarian After Hours

What does a librarian do after a long day of answering reference question, reading books and writing reviews, planning presentations, teaching classes, conducting some original research and pondering podcasting? I could give you the dull (but true) answer that I read. I read ravenously. (You would too, if what you read for reviewing were titled "The Beginning of Collegiate Education West of the Appalachians, 1795-1833: The Achievement of Dr. Charles Coffin of Greeneville College and East Tennessee College." No offense, Mr. Patrick.)

While that last title may prove fascinating, I approach what I deem my 'trashy reading' with far less apprehension, perhaps because the titles are shorter - or because no one's expecting a review, so they feel a bit less like homework. Pressfield's Gates of Fire, Byrne's new book of poetry Flammable Bird, and Catherine Coulter's Blindside (which I happen to be reading completely out of order, because I didn't realize it was a part of a series) are the current books du jour at le olde homestead this week. Coulter's is really the only easy read - the other two are actually pretty dense.

And of course, the very reason I go home in the first place, and cannot stay at the library all night long to get my book-groove on, Otto. Take a look at this face. Human kids I can take or leave, but furkids? I'm such a sucker for a furry headbutt to the knees upon arriving home.

Otto and I have an agreement - I will chase him whenever he grabs something he's not supposed to have (papertowels, tissues, dishtowels, water bottles, napkins) but will not kill him so long as he leaves my books slobber-and-tooth-mark free. He gets to drape all 55 lbs of himself across me when I decide to read, as a reminder that I am neglecting him shamefully. So far the agreement is working, and I have some excellent bruises to prove it.

Not as exciting as you all were probably hoping, but I am thinking about re-Netflixing myself to shake things up a bit. That, and next week I head off to Louisville for a bit, but shh...Otto doesn't know he's not going yet.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Digitization Debate

We hear a lot about how many librarians and IT folks figure that with all of the nifty technology we've got nowadays, they'd much rather run their libraries off in the ether, behind the scenes without having to deal with that nasty, germy face-to-face business we have in walk-in libraries now. Most of the rhetoric surrounding \that has to do with the fact that hey - doesn't it increase access if you put it online? Then you don't have to deal with building hours! Or staff time off! Or worrying about creepy porninators coming in and bothering everyone! Jolly good!

These are the same folks who believe that digitization is a panacea for all building-laden woes, that if can be made available online, the physical access to something is just a ridiculous redundancy. As it was stated in the Billings Gazette: "phasing out services associated with the library as public space" is part of the plan. *sigh* Those pesky patrons again, bothering us in person, when they could just do it via IM so we could work from home in our pjs, with coffee. Besides, everyone knows that the days of library as public space are dead and gone, right? I mean, the New York Public Library, the Louisville Free Public Library and the rest of them are really just making libraries look bad, catering to all these folks in person. How old-fashioned!

(Please note I am not against digitization - I think it's a fantastic development that will serve us - and our patrons - well, long into the future. I do have a problem with using digitization as an excuse to dehumanize the library, as though the personal satisfaction of coming to a place dedicated to knowledge for the chance to sit with a book and simply enjoy a day, or to get some actual work done away from home and office, are negligible factors that deserve no credit when making library plans.)

As it turns out, Montana's library folks forgot all about doing their demographic research before letting folks know that they were on a schedule to make the state library fully virtual by January. Now folks are up in arms, claiming that having access to only administrative offices and the Talking Book Library are simply not enough. Even better, the Library apparently never sought public comment on this radical change. Way to go, elitist Montana librarians. Getting rid of newspapers, nonfiction and print reference - hey, it's all online anyway, right guys? Gah. Even freshmen in college are taught to know better!

The Pew report states that 'internet penetration' (whatever that means) has reached 73% for American adults. That means that by digitizing and eradicating your physical library presence, you are disenfranchising 27% of adults. Most of those, given the demographics and the digital divide, will be minorities, elderly, or in rural or poor communities. While you could make the argument (I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure the more PC folks would never utter it aloud) that these folks would never be the ones using the state library anyway, that's not really your judgment to make. The whole point is that, as librarians, if we were to have a professional creed to live by, it would be "availability to all." Not "Availability to those who can afford a Dell or iMac," not "availability to those who are familiar with IE7 and Firefox."

What does this mean? This means that even as librarians are getting trained with nifty new digital skills, some of them still haven't had it beaten into their dopey heads that we're here not just for the NetGen patron, or the eldering yuppies with all their gadgetry. We're here for everyone, and NOT everyone is comfortable with knowing the only place they'll be able to find something is online. I wonder if the power ever goes out during tough Montana snows - that'd definitely put a kink in their 'access everywhere, every time' thinking. This is what happens when you forget that you serve people. Especially as a state institution, you don't really have the right to disenfranchise anyone without letting the governor know about it!

/end rant

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Library or Information Science?

Lately, one of the more interesting and lengthy discussions on the JESSE listserv (for L&IS education discussion forum) has been the tension between information science and library science, and whether the 'shift' to information science is happening in theory, but not for practitioners. There have been a number of thoughtful posts on the subject, and (chatty librarian with big, fat opinions that I am), I decided to put my two cents in. One of the more recent postings asked whether, indeed, librarianship is distinctive from information management, and if so, if librarians actually had knowledge and skills that were sufficiently up to date and advanced. As a practitioner of librarianship (and as someone who turned down a job in information management because of the severe - and to me, horrifying - differences), I stand firmly by the belief that there are sharp contrasts between the two, and that both are necessary...but this doesn't mean they are the same thing, nor should they be. My recent post in its entirety below, because I'd love to know what some other folks think about it:

Librarianship does indeed "embrace knowledge and skills that are sufficiently advanced, up to date, and distinctive from those of information managers", and I think this is important for librarians of all types to remember.

PERL and MySQL are completely unnecessary for what I do, but I am conversant in (by creating or using on a regular basis) podcasting, course management software manipulation for distance learning classes (as both a teacher and a student) videocasting, wikis, blogs, RSS and various other 2.0 technologies. Thank goodness I didn't 'waste' one of my very few available electives on learning something I'd not be able to use to my students' advantage!

As a reference and instruction librarian recently out of school (MLS - 2006), there is a great deal of information management architecture I decided to forego in order to fit in classes on instructional systems design, instructional services, and specialty reference classes (government documents, humanities info, social sciences info, medical informatics, science & technology reference), aside from all of the required core courses. Just because we could know it doesn't mean we should if it's completely unnecessary for the services I provide and the future of those services. So while I'm interested in learning XML and building nifty web pages, my IT librarians are the ones with MySQL and various other database experience - I know how to use STATA, SAS and Access, and that's more than what I need to know.

I would seriously lament a trend in MLS education that did away with specialty reference in order to teach us behind-the-scenes technologies that a lot of practicing librarians don't - and won't - use. (I've already seen a sorry number of MLS grads who know everything about the techie side and not how to use an index or know where to turn for a research question about fine arts.) While I will learn how our forthcoming metasearch works, I will NOT be the one to go digging through the servers and code if something goes wrong, ditto for when Virtua takes a dive and doesn't work. This is not because I'm uninterested in learning - it's because I have so much on my plate and am such a professional development junkie that what I do learn I want to be sure is useful.

No MLS program is going to be able to get it ALL in - this is why we as students end up tracking ourselves - some of us become catalogers, some of us go into reference and instruction, and some of us will be the IT behind-the-scenes info architects. Unless you're going to extend MLS programs by at least another year (which the salaries really don't justify, much as we all love our jobs), we'll just have to do a better job of advising our students which areas to go into.

Information science is a natural outgrowth of library science, and the two are most definitely related. What we may want to concede is that perhaps being an information scientist and being a librarian are *not* the same thing, or they are two separate areas in the same profession - enmeshed, but each having its own character. Perhaps too, we should consider that the MIS and the MLS mean two different things and imply two different kinds of training.

In any case, no librarian is going to be able to get away with not learning new technologies, as evidenced by more and more Library 2.0 learning communities springing up, and Learning 2.0 initiatives being put in place as internal training tools in more libraries."

So, that's my thoughts on the matter. The importance of this debate? It makes it even more crucial that MLS/MIS students know what they're getting into, and how important their elective coursework choices become.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Life of the Librarian

Life is good. I've acclimated to Chattanooga (by acclimated, I mean 'they barred my way home and I spent an entire late evening lost but made it back anyway'). The apartment is great, but for the small issue of a Korean family below me who likes to play their music loud and host MTV-esque parties into the wee hours. The creative writing juices are flowing, which is just as well, since the MFA program needs me primed and ready for the November residency in Louisville. But mostly, I'd like to take a gander at the two months I've now got under my belt of academic librarianship. The real kind, with the actual job title.

Work is good. No, work is fantabulous - I love it. I teach classes - so far, the Freshman Life library intro class and the introductory English class library sessions - and I love it. The freshmen have so much energy! Plus I find it fun to teach them databases in a semi-interesting way. (I mean, c'mon. You can only make Academic OneFile so exciting, right?) The students have all been great so far, and since I don't mind a smartass, they seem to like me pretty well. So, classes: good. Working the reference desk is going well, too - I love being on the front lines of the research battles, especially for the new kids. I've got one book review in for publication and three more due in the next few weeks, so some mini-publications are already in the works. (Heh, four book reviews within 4 months of new job - not bad, right?)

Actual research - I've actually got a piece in the works with the Dean (who is wonderfully supportive) that we're pitching to ALA's LIRRT for Anaheim, as well as to the state conference. It'll be time intensive (lawdamercy, I do hate me some surveys), but actually useful, which is key to keeping me interested and working.

Most of all, though, I have to admit to being completely floored at how I lucked out in colleagues. Coming from a humongous university where the backstabbing politics were something to behold, and where you couldn't FIND a librarian if you put on a spelunker's helmet and tried, my current spot is filled with fantastic folks. I don't know if it's because we're somewhat smaller, and so interact more often, or if it's because there's fewer (as in: zero) layers between administration and the librarians and staff. Everyone is kind and helpful, everyone is excited about their work, everyone puts the students (and other patrons) first when making decisions. Administration does its best to give us the tools and resources we need, and provides honest in-your-face feedback (much preferred, I should think, to the secret backroom discussions I've seen in other places). Teamwork and committees actually accomplish something around here (no! really!), and effort is appreciated and rewarded, for the most part.,/p>

Yes, I feel I've stepped into the rabbit hole, and that this can't possibly last. But it seems to just be the way things work around here. Could it be that I've found a *gasp* non-dysfunctional library? Oh, we have our personality bumps, and we're working with too little staff and too little funding. Everyone is, nowadays. But oh, how much nicer LibraryWorld is when people are genuinely nice and here to help. I mean, I don't even mind the fact that we allow food and drink in the library, that's how great this place is.

Kudos and big thanks to my new coworkers, who have confirmed my belief that if you do what you love, life is good. And you don't have to do what you love in a hateful environment, if you win the Awesome Environment jackpot. I sure lucked out. Thanks guys!