Thursday, 29 December 2011

'Tis the see libraries in everything

This holiday I am doing a bit of travelling and thought that I would add a brief summary of things that I have noted of interest along my way.  I have liberally sprinkled the concoction with photos so feel free to dip in to whatever tickled your tastebuds (I'll start with an artsy one).

Outside MIT, 'other' Cambridge

Boston Public Library - One of the two BPLs I have visited, this was a wonderful find on our first day of exploring.  I was not prepared for the beauty of the courtyard and the painted murals on the staircases.  This is advertised as the ideal wedding location and I would have to agree.  The library even boasts a shiny corporate events catalogue...something that is a far cry from my local library back home.  But it is not all quaint, the modern section of the library has more computers, customers and classes than you can shake a stick at.  A nice touch was the library exhibition which had its base in the main McKim building with related cases throughout the Johnson building.

Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge - Paige M. Gutenborg is the Harvard printing press and he is responsible for the in store book printing.  It was fascinating to watch the workings of this big machine and chat to the member of staff in charge of running the printing.  I would also like to add that the website for the bookstore is great with an opportunity to 'shop our windows from home' with an interactive image of their shop front and the chance to read more about featured items - a great example of a book shop embracing the digital age (they also had QR codes on all of their 'recommended reading' labels).

Paige M. Gutenborg
JFK Library and Museum - We managed to wangle our way into the archives here since we are a) library students and b) foreign.  We had a most insightful discussion with one of the reference archivists about presidential libraries and how the JFK archives collaborate with the museum.  The collection development discussion was very interesting in that they don't really have a plan, which would explain some of the more random parts of their collection (such as the papers of Ernest Hemingway).  The museum was fascinating for people who both know little and much about JFK and Jackie O.

It's nice to know that JFK liked books - good to know

(above are photographs of the museum (left) and the massive forum with archives on the first floor of the concave section (right))

New England Aquarium - I really liked the central tank which runs from the ground floor all the way up to the 3rd with windows onto the central ramp.  As a centre piece it was an excellent way of drawing attention and pulling all the other parts of the space together.  I am not suggesting that libraries install a massive fish tank featuring sharks and giant turtles but a central focal point does draw people together and give the space some cohesion.

Museum of Fine Arts, Huntington Avenue - My favourite piece was 'The Clock' by Christian Marclay, which is a 24 hour film made up of clips from TV and film from all over the world, which feature time, whether that be clocks, watches, rushing, waiting etc.  It was incredibly addictive viewing and I would have happily sat there all day.  On a more relevant note, something that struck me from the excellent captions (I am quite picky about these but the ones at the MFA were just right) was the importance of provenance in cataloguing the pieces of art - something shared with rare books!

Gifted, Tremont Street - while in a cute wee shop on our street I saw and stealthily photographed this phrase and thought that it perfectly encapsulated what it will be like when we leave library school:

New York

Barnes and Noble, 5th Avenue - I am not sure if this is normal in Barnes and Noble (I have, in fact, only been in this one) but there were coloured lines on the ground leading to various parts of the store.  My Dad drew my attention to it since he had asked where the toilet was and had been directed to follow the blue line by a member of staff.  It was reminiscent of the subway system and I thought that it was a great, simple idea for libraries to segment their space and provide direction to users without complicated signage.  Sometimes people are embarrassed to ask for directions and this is a great visual method which can be mirrored in the colours of each section.  Also, if we want to be cheesy about it, the lines facilitate the 'journey' through the library to the ultimate goal of knowledge (apologies, I cringe as I write).

These are all of my interesting insights thus brain is slowing down over the festive season!  I'll be back in the New Year with a post all about our day in Harvard!

Monday, 12 December 2011

A foreigner reflects

If I learned anything from the Cam23 2.0 and CPD23 programs, it is the importance of reflection!  Today I have my last class of my first semester as a grad student and I thought that this would be the perfect time to reflect on the whole thing thus far: class, studying, America, being 'foreign' etc.

On my trip to NYC
The Return to Studying

Having spent the last year in full time employment with free evenings and weekends not to mention a wage has resulted in some adjustment being required this term!  It hasn't been as bad as I thought.  What has been tricky is having a job on top of studies and I am in complete awe of those with full time work schedules who are also full-time students.  I doff my cap.  My work at the archives has been a great complement to my studies with group projects overlapping and archival exhibitions being discussed in class etc.

The return to studying has not meant the end of networking with those in the profession - far from it.  I began this when I was in Cambridge and was wondering how students would be treated at conferences or when they visited libraries - there is a very positive attitude towards students in library school (by those in the know...they are still ignorami about).  NYLA was a very interesting first major conference and I will definitely go to my next one with more of a game plan in order to get the most out of it!

Hard at work...

The whole style of class is different to what I am used to but I actually enjoy the challenge of talking and holding discussion with a full class.  It is, of course, pretty daunting, but the ideas and opinions that are voiced allow for interesting conversations in a non-judgemental environment - how many more times will we be able to do that once we leave?

One of the sore points for, I think it is fair to say, me and the majority of my classmates, has been group work - I am keeping in mind the fact that we are going to have to take part in group work at all points of our careers and this is good practice for mediating and honing those management skills.

Something that has been a very pleasant surprise has been the positivity of staff and students despite the tough times ahead for libraries.  This course focuses on creating information professionals for the future, not necessarily for now so we do not focus the whole time on the day-to-day running of a library but on where the profession is going and where it will be 20 years down the line.  The day-to-day running can be learned on the job if you are a dedicated worker...what employers want are people who have looked beyond the here and now and are enthusiastic to help their institution go forward.

I have no 'Class' relevant photos so here is one of the marching band.


I am actually a tad shocked by my reaction to America - I rather like it.  In particular, the food is superb...I am not sure how much of my positive food experience has had to do with Ben but I am sure that I will miss diners when/if I leave here.

I have been welcomed with open arms here and am so thankful.  I settled in pretty much straightaway and, although I miss home (and Cambridge), I wouldn't rather be anywhere else.  This year is a fantastic opportunity and I am grabbing it with both hands (anyone who likes slightly cheesy mottos please click here).

This is a tad odd coming from a librarian, but I love my local library here.  Petit has a lovely staff and a monthly book club, which has been a great chance to meet different members of the community and read books that I would never have touched before.  Also, free DVDs - amazing.

America...where pets get ice-cream
Where next?

Tricky question
I am already thinking about my next move and it is a tough one.  With this qualification I will be able to go anywhere in the UK, USA, Australia and NZ.  That is a rather large range and my RSS feed of jobs is starting to scare me.  You can never start thinking about these things too soon and I am up for seeing more of the world.  The challenge of being a foreigner hasn't been too bad here though the red tape has been pretty annoying.  I am not sure I am up for moving lock stock and barrel takes a fair bit of courage.  While it is nice being different, it would also be nice not to have to consider whether what you are saying will need explained or isn't funny because no-one has heard of Stephen Fry etc.  I keep saying that I will wait and see where I get a job...but I have to apply for them first.  This morning I created a Google mail label for 'Jobs'...and so the search begins.

No matter what happens, I have made 'awesome' friends here and this term would have been a tad on the dull side without these guys:

And yes, those are our usual clothes
And with that, I end the Fall Semester, 4 months down, 8 to go.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Library 'Meals on Wheels'

This week in class we were presenting our posters on the subject of what a library will look like in 2025.  This project was pretty interesting more in terms of trying to get 8 people with very different schedules to create and be able to discuss a finished product in a relatively short period of time at the end of term.  The key: divide and conquer.

The posters at the session had a strong central message - community.   This is probably because this is the main concept that has come out of 515.  There was a lot of interaction with posters, free food etc. etc.  For our key idea, please see Amy's post.

One interesting thing that was brought up in discussion afterwards was the idea of librarians going to people's homes to get the collection literally out and into the community.  Someone commented that this was asking for librarians to be attacked.  True, there is an issue when staff members go out into the community but this rang a bell with me.

When I was looking for volunteer opportunities at my local libraries (I did eventually volunteer in a branch and they didn't know what to do with me since they had never had a volunteer before...) I came across the homebound library services which councils in Scotland frequently run and are the library equivalent of 'Meals on Wheels'.  There are several such as in Moray, Clackmannanshire and Aberdeenshire (and yes, I picked specifically Scottish sounding ones).  I couldn't volunteer since I could't drive at the time but it sounded like a great opportunity to get out into the community, visit members who couldn't get to the library, find out what sort of books they wanted, help them with the library catalogue if they wished and deliver the services they required.  A small amount of time spent with someone in such a condition to bring them relevant and interesting material could make all the difference.

Now, I don't know if this is offered that often in America.  I have found a private company offering library facilities to the housebound but that is not the same as the council providing for those less capable of getting to their local library.  This builds on the concept of a Mobile Library or Book Mobile - again, I am not sure how popular they are here.  This article shows the Oswego Book Mobile (out of commission for 30 years) in action over summer for children to encourage them to read over their summer holidays.

Mobile libraries are pretty popular in Scotland along with mobile banks, which service people in rural communities, like my own.  It parks up at the local garden centre at its allotted time and allows those with no means of transport to carry out their financial transactions.  Perhaps this business model would not work in America where a larger proportion of people have cars.  I have just spent ages trying to find statistics (from authoritative sources, Jill) concerning the number of registered cars in Scotland and the US - not an easy task for the USA, I can tell you.  So, Scotland had 2.7 million registered vehicles last year, which is about 50% of the population while America had 254.4 million, which is almost 80% of the population.  Quite a difference.  I have also found that there is a very different mentality here towards driving.  In the UK, I am fortunate enough to have a car but barely used it day-to-day since I cycled everywhere - our cities are much easier to get round on foot or bike and the public transport between cities is excellent (don't start me on our 10 hour journey from New York to Syracuse a few weeks ago) so the need to drive is not as great.

So, I thought that I would bring your attention to these few library outreach activities that I know to be popular in Scotland and if there are similar ones in America then please let me know!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Ou est la bibliothèque?

I was waiting to write my blog post until after I had visited the Montreal Central Library...but alas, Montrealers apparently do not like libraries since 1 map, 1 tourist book, 1 Tomtom, 1 helpful security guard, 1 massive plan of area, 1 passer by, 2 Tim Hortons employees, and 4 library students could not locate it.  This is sad but in itself portrays a less than positive vibe concerning the approach to libraries.  There were not even any signs for the library in the streets surrounding it (I have since discovered its location and we were only a few blocks away being pointed in vastly different directions by our sources).  My conclusion, the bibliotheque ain't that popular in Montreal*...

...but QR codes are... are dancing poodles.

A slight saving grace was this poster (below), which we saw while in Chinatown with the tag line 'le livre, machine a voyager dans le temps' - what a great way to put it.  The Salon du Livre de Montreal is an annual book festival including round table discussions, debates and public readings.

I also wanted to write a bit about a talk we had last week in 'Management and Preservation of Special Collections' from Lucy Mulroney, one of the SU Special Collections Research Centre's curators.  With a background in art history, Lucy has a different approach to the collection and her description of her job as getting to know the historical characters associated with the collections at SU made me think of special collections in a different way.

Another point that I found interesting was the relationship she drew between collection development policy and scholarly argument.  She rightly pointed out that the decisions surrounding collection development such as what to buy, what to deaccession etc. all come after extensive research and deliberation.  The librarians have to consider the collection as a whole, where items have their place, who else has bought/dealt with items in a similar manner, who are the main players in the market, who is the audience and then use all of these answers to develop a persuasive and scholarly researched case for action.  Librarians need to keep abreast of their field and new scholarly insights as well as keeping an eye on faculty and where their fields of research might lead the university.  Collection development is not just an administrative job.

Lucy sighted Julia Van Haaften of the New York Public Library and the changes she made to the classification of photographical history books, which increased the focus on these books for their artistic content rather than historical narrative (good article here).  Classification has a greater strength than mere organisation on a shelf.

This all ties in with the increasingly important role that SCRC plays in teaching students.  They can tailor their presentations and lectures to suit specific subject areas, drawing on all areas of the collections.  There have already been over 30 such lectures this term and the concept is proving a great success.  This gets students into the Research Centre and shows them how relevant these collections are to what they are studying...something that they would be unlikely to discover on their own.  This also directs collection development policy and gives the curators a good idea of what would be beneficial purchases.

So, I was pleasantly surprised by this insight and am glad that I now know a bit more about what happens on the other side of the 'divide' on the 6th floor between SCRC and Archives!

*apologies if this is vastly wrong

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Wee Bookworm nibbles the Big Apple

I have been spending this week in New York City and have made a few observations that I would like to share.  I have met up with a couple of friends whom I met in England and are now in NYC - it has been great to spend time with people who are new to the States as well and get their perspective on certain issues I have been having since arriving here such as the day and the month being the 'wrong' way round, teabags coming single wrapped, turn right on red etc.

I paid a visit to the New York Public Library (not just because of its use in Sex and the City) and it struck me as a very peaceful place to work despite the rows and rows of users.  It was amazing to find such a haven of learning in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the city.

A tad of an illegal photo

There was an exhibition on the 100th anniversary of the library, which was an opportunity to see some of the treasures of the library, many of which were clothing or non-book items.  This surprised my companion and I am not entirely sure why so many of the exhibits were non-book related, perhaps the curators felt that these would be more immediately appealing to the masses visiting.  Among the many leaflets available to visitors, such as guides to free programs for children, teens and adults there was a 'Professional Examination for Promotion to Grade 3 1953 Assistant Branch Librarian' - basically an entrance exam for the 1953 assistant librarian.  This has made for interesting reading.  Not only did the candidates need to be able to match 20 names to their positions in the NYPL system but also be able to comment on given titles and discuss the author's point of view and the general locale.  There are also questions concerning changes that the candidates may wish to see in the service, advice they would provide recent library school graduates and evaluation of certain of the library services.

Now, when I picked this up I was expecting to read an outdated mode of selecting staff and was fully ready to scoff at it.  I stand corrected.  Much has changed in the profession but the fundamentals of what makes a good librarian remains the same and this came as a reassuring fact for me (especially as I consider where I am going after Syracuse and am concerned that I am only really qualified to work in American libraries).  Recently I have been pretty annoyed at the library stereotypes still being pushed in society such as on the Literary Gifts website which is normally brilliant but does sell items such as these:

Hmm (and, if you know me or Charlotte, then you'll know that this is false)

Another one was in one of the Macy's windows on 34th street - I initially got very excited (as I am sure some of you do when you see librarians in popular culture) but then realised how wrong it was:

It is a bit hard to see but basically there is a librarian with a pencil in her hair, blouse buttoned to the neck, tweed skirt, surrounded by only books on a ladder, which actually rotates round the shelves (I grant you, I do wish I got to do that).  This does make for a nice window and is part of a Christmas story acted out in several windows but it goes to show that there is a lot of work still to be done if librarians are going to break their mould.  We are not being lent much help from those outwith our profession and this week has only served to show me that the stereotype is far from going away.

I also visited Brooklyn public library, which again was jammed packed with users and has a very busy community calendar with all kinds of events.  One that caught my eye was the graphic novel adult book club, which I had never heard of but is a great way to get a different set of adults involved in library book groups.  The library itself was looking a but worse for wear but had plenty of positives going for it. 

Also, you can buy items such as these:

I would buy these if they had one for my library!
One thing that has really stood out to me in NYC has been the music that is playing everywhere. Wherever possible there is music, live or recorded.  Walking along the street there is music blaring out of the fronts of shops, in the subway, accompanying the windows at Macy's, on the stalls etc.  It is actually very pleasant.  This reminded me of a comment made at NYLA where one of the talks mentioned music playing in the foyer of a library in Europe.  This was a surprise hit and didn't interfere with quiet study space elsewhere since it was only played at the issue desk.  I have found a musical society pretty spirit-lifting (and I am a very unmusical person).

So, these are a few of the thoughts that have occurred to me as I wandered around New York.  Apologies that they are not more profound but, frankly, how could they be when there are sights such as these to behold:

The Blue One

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Management Consultant and Historical Association?

Today I went on a visit with my Management and Preservation of Special Collections Class to the Onondaga Historical Association downtown.  I didn't quite know what to expect since I had had a quick look at their website and saw that they had a museum, gift shop and research centre (the website is not the nicest of things to navigate around and I will deal with this point later).  So, to be honest, I didn't have high hopes of my afternoon.  How wrong I was.

321 Montgomery Street
Karen Cooney, the support services administrator, gave us an overview of the Association and what it does, its principles, organisation etc.  Most of the users of the research centre are members of the public and if they are members then they pay an annual fee and have the use of the centre for free but there is a charge for non-members.  OHA is a non-profit organisation and is privately owned, which means that it is not funded in the same way as council associations.

An interesting point raised was whether the OHA intended to digitise their collection so that their paper documents were available online.  I had only ever considered the expense of doing such a project but Karen pointed out a major issue with this process.  Not only would a lot of money go into the digitising project but also the resulting online database would drain the OHA of a major source revenue.  The OHA depends on users and reference questions to provide them with an income and putting all of their collections online would mean a drastic decrease in paying customers and so paralyse the association.  Tom Hunter, the Assistant Director and Curator of Collections, backed this up by giving examples of occasions where the paper copies come in useful and online resources are not enough.  This all really gave me food for thought and the issue of freedom of information and intellectual property rights were raised.  The OHA are not withholding information from patrons since it is accessible if you physically come to 321 Montgomery Street, the matter is more one of convenience for the user.

One of the many photos in the collection

Tom Hunter discussed some of the '3D' stuff and one thing in particular caught my attention.  The CNY: The Good Life and CNY: Business Exchange both allocate their back pages to the OHA and provide them with an opportunity to showcase some of their items.  Photographs and around 250 words are used to showboat interesting points of local history to snare the readers.  This is not something I have seen before and struck me as a great opportunity to get the work out about a sometimes overlooked association.

BUT the most interesting point came with the Executive Director, Gregg Tripoli.  He has a business background and had a career in management consultancy before retiring and subsequent un-retiring to take up the post at the OHA.  Now, my brother is a management consultant and, if I am honest, I am not entirely sure what he does.  This talk, however, elucidated some of the functions of such a profession and what it can do for museums and archives and I was enthralled.

New shop front of OHA - previously these windows were bricked up
(didn't quite scream 'come in, we're exciting and modern'!!)
His business approach has included rejuvenating Montgomery Street to provide better parking facilities and a history themed restaurant as a response to surveys carried out of public opinion concerning the 'downtown experience'.  This history restaurant is decorated with artefacts from the museum collection and has place mats with trivia about Onondaga County.  The museum now has a shop (with fantastic gifts such as typewriter key jewellery, themed stationery, original Syracuse china pieces and much much more) and no longer has a sole permanent exhibit.  Now there are temporary exhibits that are changed frequently and the OHA also organises exhibits elsewhere in the community.

These other exhibits are sponsored by local corporate bodies and either feature these businesses or local history related to events in the area such as plays that are shown at Syracuse Stage.  The OHA organises exhibits for the public libraries and these travel round the branches in order to cover the maximum area.  For the price of sponsoring these exhibits, businesses reach a wider audience than if they advertised on a billboard on 81.  Quite a sobering thought.  OHA also organise exhibits for companies and organisations and can make use of their archives in tandem with the OHA collections and these portray the longevity and adjustability of the companies and the integral part they play in the community.

Gregg summed up the purpose of these exhibits as "to instil pride in who we are and what we have accomplished."  I do believe that this more than ticks the 'community' box that we librarians are so often banging on about, it ticks it and surrounds it in arrows and exciting luminous stickers.  It is only by engaging the community in their past that we can effectively invest people in their shared future and ensure the survival of such collections.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Free stationery and candy a.k.a. NYLA 2011

Last week I attended the NYLA (New York Library Association) Conference in Saratoga Springs.  I was there primarily as a volunteer on our iSchool booth but also took advantage of the conference for a couple of days.  This was my first major conference and it was quite an eye-opener.

I want to take this post to discuss a couple of the talks I heard as well as reflect on the whole conference situation and, as I am sure those who know me will know, make some loosely related comments on things that excite me (I was going to say no M&M's this week but I have just had my first trip to Walmart...keep reading).

Sunrise on the way to Saratoga

21 More Ideas for 21st Century Libraries (Kim and Rob Cullin)

This talk started very promisingly with mention of the presenters' recent tour of public libraries in Scotland and Europe.  As I suspected, they weren't fans of Scottish libraries since they can be a tad behind the times eg. you cannot browse the National Library of Scotland without a reader's card.  It was interesting, however, to hear their comments on what they thought worked and what didn't.  What they did like about the Edinburgh Public Library was the service desk which was round, at the entrance, and open on all sides.  This meant that the librarians can get out there and 'touch the people'.  This seems like a pretty basic point but can make all the difference for enquirers who are concerned with the approachability of library staff.

Rob talked about the librarian as a 'concierge' and I thought that this was a great analogy.  Knowledge and information is a hotel and we are the ones providing access and direction to what people need.  Again, a very simple change to the way we think can make a big difference to our relation to patrons/members/users/randomers.

'The popular shoppable library' is something I have heard discussed before and we saw it in practice at the Saratoga Springs Public Library where they use front facing displays and topic titles to display their items more accessibly though still how Melvil would appreciate.

Teen reads as you might see them in a book shop

Two of the main things that the presenters focused on were semi-private spaces and quiet study space.  This lead to a discussion of whether a library should support those who work in the library to earn money - libraries are non profit but this does not mean that they have to be non revenue.  Libraries can charge to provide meeting spaces etc. - this is something that is contended but libraries are moving more and more towards needing to accommodate the community and their needs, whether that be space for business meetings or space to play video games with friends.
One of the many priceless items on sale at the NYLA store
Futureproofing Your Libraries (George Needham)

The double winner of Jeopardy talked us through some of the small ways through which we can improve our libraries in an attempt to embrace the future.  As he aptly pointed out, you wouldn't go to a dentist who hadn't updated his techniques since the 1970s so why should people come to a library that hasn't been keeping up with changes.

One basic point he made was that the term 'The Information Place' is completely inaccurate on counts of every word:

THE - the library is not the only place you can get information
INFORMATION - the library is about a lot more than just information - recreation, business etc.
PLACE - the library can be virtual or even mobile

Libraries are now far more than they used to be - they are areas of enlightenment, that should serve to entice people with quality and convenience.

Another simple point made was concerning the language that library staff use.  'Circulation' is a bit of jargon and refers to the job of the staff, not the customer.  'Circulation' means something different in every profession - blood circulates round the body for doctors, it is the movement of people through space for architects etc. so why should we expect our customers to know what that means in the library context?  Why don't we just say 'Pay here' for somewhere to pay fines?

In a similar vein, George discussed the need for libraries to keep up with the socialisation of the rest of the world.  In every other aspect of our lives, we can select our pin code.  At most libraries, however, we have to use the last four digits of out phone numbers.  Why don't libraries just adjust to what everyone else is doing?  We need to assess how users want to use us and then adapt to them - there are a lot more of them than us after all!


What I found most inspiring about the conference was the enthusiasm of the attendees.  Working on the stall helped me to meet many many Syracuse alumni who all had such interest in how the program was continuing and how we were all getting on.  There was great joviality among stall holders and those passing by that I really felt part of the community.  Even when we gate crashed a cocktail party we were made welcome and encouraged to mingle with the congregated librarians.  This will not be my last conference, I have a taste for them now...I feel that I need to build up immunity to tiredness though!

Some of the SU contingent and a stray Albany student


And here is what you have been waiting for!  I have to say that I was somewhat surprised to see these Cherry Cordial ones in Walmart today (though, it is Walmart, I shouldn't be surprised).  Unfortunately I am not a fan.  

Indeed, that is a Christmas M&M (well, Hallowe'en is over!)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

School Librarians cause a Flashback to my Childhood Fear of the Demon Headmaster

This week two school librarians came to share their experiences with the class and, although I know that this is not the path I wish to pursue (school children make me envision things like this),
I thoroughly enjoyed their talks and wanted to post about a couple of interesting points that smacked of relevance throughout the profession.

Sue Kowalski was first up and straightaway her enthusiasm swept through the class.  Her tips included being individual - in this day and age we have to show how we are different and what we can offer over our competitors.  This may sound a bit too business-y for a library comment but she was right - in the school setting librarians have to show how they can offer services that cannot be provided by the teachers or computing staff.  From public to law to academic libraries we have to show how we stand out from the internet, book shops, netflix etc. in order to preserve the unique services that we provide.

Sue's mantra is "advocacy through action" - you have got to walk the talk and show your ideas being implemented.  Bosses are so busy these days that they don't want to hear about your problems, they only want to hear about your solution.  This picks up on what the second speaker, Steve Nabinger mentioned concerning tactics for dealing with headmasters.
Demon Headmaster...mine was actually like this, he had swirly eyes too
(apologies to Americans who probably won't get this reference and
will just say 'Aw, 'headmaster', it's just like Harry Potter'
(I don't tire of this, honestly, it is perpetually amusing))
A point that Sue made that is not necessarily related to libraries but to life in general was about letting go.  She assigns a lot of the exhibitions and projects in the library over to her iStaff (too funny) and allows them to produce work on the library's behalf.  Now this will not be as perfect as she would like it but it is the kids' own work and they are proud of it.  They also act as walking advertisements for such exhibitions and will drag people to see it thus making it far more effective than if she had done it herself.  Sue also focuses on getting the service the customer needs to them as quickly as she can and leaves the office work, reports etc. for another time.  I am somewhat of a perfectionist and know that I have to let go especially in group projects.  I have become far more laid-back since coming here because so much has changed for me that there is no chance I can keep in control of everything but I still have a long way to go.  Sue's advice was good, go with the flow and accept that not everything is going to be perfect...some day I hope it will sink in.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Shrink Wrapping and Coffee Drinking in the name of Libraries

511 Class

This week's class was held at Bird Library and focused on the special collections and conservation departments.  I am pretty familiar with the special collections due to my Management and Preservation of Special Collections class but the conservation lab was a new adventure.  One thing that really stood out for me was the shrink wrapping of the more old, delicate and rarely used books.  The shrink wrap has to be removed by a librarian before a reader can get their hands on the book and it is then sent back to conservation for re-wrapping when the user is finished with it.  This is not something I have ever heard of (UK librarians - do we do this?!) and it just generally seemed very odd.  I suppose it is a good way of conserving the books and there is no real loss of use apart from browsing becoming a bit of an issue.  As long as the catalogue record is detailed with contents etc. then there is no harm done.  A tally is kept of the number of times that a book comes back to be re-wrapped and if it seems to be a popular book then different conservation will be considered which would allow users more ready access.  Interesting.

Little Free Libraries

Now, I promised to keep you updated on the progress of the Little Free Libraries front.  This morning I and a couple of other interested parties took a trip to the Near West Side:

Red bordered area is the Near West Side
We went to 601 Tully, which is a "community based collaborative design/build project by an interdisciplinary design group of artists & architects who create sculptural spaces to address social needs" according to their flyer.  It has a coffee shop, community space, art gallery and classroom for use my the local school and other teaching groups.  The coffee, I will add, was superb and the best I have had since coming to the States.

The Blodgett High School is part of the Say Yes to Education scheme and this scheme has also sponsored the garden of 601 Tully, which has a herb garden and nods to the Latino culture of the district with planters (about a third of the population).  

601 Tully
601 Tully is next to the high school and on the central park making it an excellent location for a community building.  This is the sort of place that it would be great to locate our Little Free Libraries but, as Topher mentioned as we were wandering about, we don't want to saturate an area with development - perhaps there are other areas that would benefit more from one of these libraries.  It is up to the community contingent of the group to come up with suitable locations.  Really, our job as the library part is dependent on the location of the libraries and indeed their design so that the content is suitable.  It will be really interesting to see how this develops.

Something that caught out attention this morning was a leaflet for the MLAB: The Mobile Literacy Arts Bus, which was a collaborative effort of the 2007-2008 Social Sculpture class at SU (this is not related to the iSchool).  I had never heard of this and it looks like a great resource for the community - basically a 1984 recreational vehicle was gutted and kitted out to serve as a mobile classroom, digital photo lab, recording studio, gallery space and community centre.  It can be hired by individuals and institutions who require a physical and mobile space for creative purposes.  

It was great to see so much redevelopment happening in this area and that the Little Free Libraries are just one small part of the bigger picture.  Over the next few weeks we will be focusing on a collection development policy and thinking about what sort of books we want to start the libraries with and whether we want to run with a theme or let them evolve organically.


They have been found and duly sampled:

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Niggling notions

I decided to write a post on some things that keep cropping up and don't really belong anywhere on their own.  So I have given them a home in this rather mismatched post.

An OCD Nightmare by Diamond Geyser, on Flickr
Mismatched socks - I so want some

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Diamond Geyser 

In this week's 605 reading (Reference and Information Literacy Services) there is discussion on when and how to use the internet as a reference tool.  An interesting point raised is that, at the start of the twenty-first century, reference librarians viewed the internet as a tool that patrons can use themselves rather than as a bona fide reference tool (Ross and Nilsen, 2000).  As librarians we need to aid the use of the internet and facilitate understanding of it as thewikiman eloquently puts it and I have discussed previously.

In 616 (Information Resources: Organisation and Access) this week, apart from making me very nostalgic for Cambridge with LC cataloguing, we touched on the use of classification numbers in the digital world.  This is something I have already written about and about which I am genuinely in quite a quandary.  Our professor, an avid cataloguer, stated that classification numbers may become extinct.

dodo by kevinzim, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  kevinzim 

But do not fret, she also mentioned a solution.  Online items allow for several classifications and so several possible 'virtual shelves'.  There have been many times when I have come across a physical book that could fit in several locations and I have had to think long and hard about where I should put it to best suit the uses of the students.  In the virtual world, however, several classifications can be attributed to fully represent the subjects covered by the item.  However, I don't know why we can't just use subject headings for the purpose of searching?  Are classification numbers themselves still necessary?  Many in my class would say not based primarily on the rather arcane and illogical nature of the classification systems but I'm loathe to give on them so easily.

And I thought that I would add here in this rather bitty post the video that I and three of my classmates made for one of our classes to answer the question "You need a graduate degree to do that?" - it should give you a laugh.  It was fun to make and gets out point across in a concise and lighthearted manner.