Friday, April 28, 2006

Just Because it's Not New to You

I went to a panel at the NJLA conference that was hosted by Nancy Pearl. Yes, the Book Lust Nancy Pearl. Yes, action figure model Nancy Pearl. The panel was called Book Crush, which is the title of Nancy's next book. Written in the style of the Book Lust books, this book will focus on books for teens and younger. She said something during the panel that I've often thought over the years. It was:
"Any book that someone hasn't read is new to them."
This is very true. It's why books for children and young adults stay in print for a long time. If it's well written or if the kids just like them (I can think of a few books I loved while in grade school that I think are absolute dreck these days), the publishers will keep them in print.

I thought of Nancy's comment again when going through some older posts over at Pop Goes the Library. The post in question was wondering aloud about the latest King Kong movie and its subsequent DVD release, and that many libraries would be carrying this new DVD since that's what the patrons were looking for. Did that mean that the 1933 and 1976 versions of the movie should be weeded from the collection? PGTL says:
[I]magine how the various versions of King Kong, from 1933, 1976, and 2005 reflect the time when they were made. I mean, wouldn't it be interesting to have a women's study class watch these three versions, and see if our perspectives on women have changed with time? And you could only come to the library to get all three versions of the films, more likely than not.
While some libraries question whether DVDs belong in the library, I have no question in my mind whether they should. They are something the patrons are looking for. We are here to serve the needs of the patrons. I know that often a library carries titles (whether in print or in video) that you cannot buy/rent from a new chain store. As PGTL pointed out in the quote above, the library would be the place to get everything in one stop.

Remember Ranganathan, rules 2, 3, and 5:
2. Every reader his or her book (you could rephrase it: Every person his or her information need.

3. Every book its reader (rephrased: Every information need its person)

5. The library is a growing organism
That last one I'm going to shove down people's throats. It's my repsonse to "We've always done it this way." What if when you wanted microfilm someone said no? Or when you wanted to subscribe to EBSCO, or to HeritageQuest?

We should not be in the business of maintaining the status quo. We need to be ahead of the curve and anticipate the needs of the patrons. If they want DVDs, look we have them already. They want downloadable PSP files? We have them already. They want video games? We have them. They want coffee? We can have that, too.

No it's not what libraries have traditionally done, but when did the profession become to be all about traditionalism and staying the course.

I thought we were radicals.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blog Moved

You can now find this blog at Word Press. There's some added functionality (specifically categories, but other things as well) that Blogger does not offer.

The Electric Velocipede blog will remain on Blogger as I have no interest in moving a five-year-old blog somewhere else and having to resort/organize the whole thing. Maybe in the future. When I get all that free time everyone talks about.

John Klima

UPDATED: For now, this blog is staying here. Wordpress has a lot of limitations on its free accounts (and I don't have the means to have a host where I can load my blog and open up all the cool Wordpress stuff) so I'm stiking with Blogger where I can at least customize the look of my blog and add stuff like my Bloglines blogroll, etc.


1. Why did you start this blog?

I've been blogging since 2001 for my science fiction zine Electric Velocipede. I started library school in the Fall of 2003. I'd posted occasionally on the zine's blog about library stuff, but I felt it was confusing to the science fiction people who came. It was time to take my library thoughts and put them together somewhere.

And, since I have a lot of thoughts about librarianship, and I want to grow professionally, and possibly be published professionally, where better to hone my chops and get my thoughts out than on a blog?

Plus, all the cool kids were doing it.

2. Who are you?

My name is John Klima. I was born and raised in WI and moved to NJ about nine years ago to work in publishing. Deciding I wasn't going to strike it rich in publishing, I switched to computer programming and did that for a couple years. Then I had the revelation to follow the idea I had when I finished my undergrad and applied to MLS programs to become a librarian. I still keep my finger on the pulse of the publishing world (science fiction to be specific) by working freelance for some small presses and publishing my own small science fiction zine: Electric Velocipede. I am married and have a seven-week old daughter.

3. Where did you get your MLS?

I earned my Master's in Library and Information Science (an MLIS) at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. It was hard coming back to school some ten years after I finished my Bachelor's degree, but it was worth it. I worked really hard, and was invited to join Beta Phi Mu, the international honor society for library science.

Many of my classmates who already were working at a library (I was changing fields) asked me why I cared so much about my classwork. I always said to them, 1, it was a way to show that I was serious about making the career switch, and 2, that I think librarianship is just as important as working in a library. I want to give back to the field. I want to write papers, present at conferences, etc. To me, the best way to prepare for that was to work hard in school. I think if you're unhappy with a MLS program or MLS course offerings you should do something to make them better. (N.B. I'm not going to get my PhD any time soon)

I will add, that if you are thinking of getting into the world of librarianship, I recommend that you earn a degree from an ALA accredited Master's program. This is often required for full-time library jobs, so it's not worth going another route.

4. Where do you work?

While I've waffled back and forth in my head on how to answer this--i.e. wondering how much information about me to present here--I think the best policy is to be completely truthful since I want to use this blog to further my library career. I work the Franklin Township Public Library. Recently (as of April 2006) I was promoted from part-time reference librarian to Teen Librarian and Systems Administrator. I started at FTPL working part-time in December, and completely enjoy working there ever since.

5. What are some of your favorite books?

I usually dislike questions like this since my tastes depend on what I'm reading at the moment. And, since I still sort of work in publishing, I'm always seeking out new writers and trying new things. That said, I think I can provide a top 5 list of books that I continue to like to this day, but it could be a different list at any given moment:
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Night Shift by Stephen King
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green

6. Well, how about some favorite authors?

OK, this is easier for me to answer. There are a lot of authors that I like and always seek out their work. So, here goes:
  • Jeff VanderMeer
  • Jeffrey Ford
  • Alex Irvine
  • Lucius Shepard
  • Kelly Link
  • Frederik Pohl
  • China Mieville
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Liz Williams
  • Ken MacLeod
  • Robert Charles Wilson
  • Robert Sawyer
  • Charles Stross
  • John Barnes
  • Glen Cook
  • Joe R. Lansdale
  • Norman Partridge
  • Hal Duncan
There are most likely more, but that's a good starting point for people looking to find some different, original fiction. I'd like to point out a couple names on the list of people who I feel are over-looked by a lot of readers. John Barnes and Glen Cook write some of the most exciting, inventive science fiction and fantasy out there. There's usually a new book from them every year, and it's always a good bet.

7. What authors have you worked with?

Too many to list. Almost everyone in the list above and many, many more.

8. OK, so what books have you worked on?

Well, we're moving away my library career with these questions, but since books are integral to libraries, I'll indulge you. The list of books that I've worked on (worked on always means editorial work, but in some cases includes acquiring the title for the publisher, too) is short, but good. I'm not listing the books I worked on as an editorial assistant since I did about 100 books a year for a few years as an assistant, and that involves ferrying manuscripts through production, writing flap copy, etc. Here they are in order:
  • A SCATTERING OF JADES by Alex Irvine
  • THE FOURTH CIRCLE by Zoran Zivkovic
See, short and sweet. I did some work on a few story collections that ended up going to different publishers than the ones the collections started at. I am editing an anthology of original short fiction that should be published in 2007.

9. Recommended by Andrea: Can you explain how you got your job?

July: interviewed with Franklin Township Public Library for part-time job
August: did not get job at Franklin, but head of adult services called me and said that I should keep them in mind (and that I should stop in and get my library card since they are my local library)
September: Starting my internship at Princeton Public Library; this was one of my classes, but I must strongly recommend doing an internship at a local library, even if you already have library experience (and especially if you don't) since it never hurts to see how other libraries do things)
October: received call from head of adult of library services at Franklin Township Public Library asking if I was still looking for part-time work
November: interviewed with reference staff and director of Franklin Township Public Library; got job offer from Franklin Township Public Library
December: started working part-time at Franklin Township Public Library
December: Completed internship at Princeton Public Library
January:Started working part-time at Rutgers Scholarly Communication Center on the New Jersey Digital Highway Project
February 15: interviewed at Palmer College in Davenport, IA
March 3: Not relevant to the job search, but our apartment was broken into (my laptop got stolen)
March 5: not exactly relevant to the job search, but our daughter was born (huzzah!)
March 24: offered full-time job at Franklin Township Public Library
March 29: telephone interview with Michigan State (won't know any more until end of April)
March 29: spoke with director of Palmer College library, no answer, no inclination as to how/where job search is; informed him of other job offer; he tells me that I should do what's right for my family
March 29: asked to give answer to Franklin Township by Friday the 31st
March 29: not relevant to the job search, but it's my birthday
March 30: told I was the second candidate for Palmer job and first candidate had accepted job (they were waiting until that happened to give me a final answer)
March 31: not relevant to job search new laptop arrived via Fedex before I went to work
March 31: accepted job at Franklin Township
April: Stopped working part-time at Rutgers & Franklin Township Public Library and started full-time at only the Franklin Township Public Library

Note that between the trip to IA and the final decision by Palmer College, six or seven weeks passed. Keep this in mind for your job search. Things may not go as quickly as you'd like. And there you are, or more precisely, there I am.

More questions will be posted as people ask them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

NJLA Conference

I went to the NJLA conference today. Very cool to be in a place surrounded by fellow professionals. I am very passionate about librarianship, and it's nice to know that I'm not some crazy freak sitting all along thinking about ways to better market library services to the world. There's quite a few of us freaks out there.

Tried to go to as much programming about YA that I could, but of course there was conflict among items and there were non-YA specific things I wanted to see, too. All in all I'm very glad I went. I'm looking forward to next year and hope to get the chance to go to the big dance one of these years.

This conference was very different from all the science fiction conventions I normally go to. The biggest thing was that there was no one in costume. The whole thing was different. Instead of people arguing about books and characters on TV shows there were...librarians arguing about books and characters on TV shows. No seriously, it was great to be there and hear fellow professionals talk about things that they've encountered in their libraries and what they did to fix the problem or to enhance services to their patrons. A lot different from hearing four or five authors talk about world building or making the vampire story new and inventive. Both types of conventions have their merits and I enjoy both, but for very different reasons.

It was great to see a bunch of former classmates and catch up on what everyone's been doing since we finished school. Also nice to meet some people who I've only seen virtually (like Sophie Brookover). And of course, it was great to make some new contacts and hopefully start to network and get my name out there.

You see, I'd like to do something to give back to librarianship. Whether it's presenting at conferences, or judging books for an award, or writing papers, I want to take my new career and make a splash. I want to be noticed. I guess that's part of what this is.

I'm new to the library world, but I've been working for a long time and there's a lot I know that could be applied to libraries. One of my former classmates and I were talking about some of the resistance to change that exists in librarianship (and any field that people have worked in for a long time) and how coming into it from another field opens your mind to change and the willingness to try something new, even if it fails in the end.

There's a lot out there to try at a library (from blogging to wikis to RSS to podcasting to marketing and so on) that I think I'll never grow tired of my new career. Libraries are in transition and I find that very exciting. I like the challenge of taking a venerable (and important) institution and making it fit into modern lives.

OK, it's late, I'm tired, and I've rambled all over the place. No good specific information about NJLA here, just me typing like mad off the top of my head. Thanks for sticking with me if you made it this far. :)

And back to yesterday's post, I started my Five Laws list today at the conference during some down time. I have almost 50 items on my list. I'll work on getting that up here in a few days.

More from me tomorrow.

John Klima

Monday, April 24, 2006

Five Laws Rule My World

It may not be clear now--particularly since I've posted only about a half dozen times on this blog--but it will become clear that I think Mr. Ranganathan was a pretty smart fellow. Best known for his Five Laws of Library Science (posted below) and his colon classification to organize a library's collection, Ranganathan essentially revolutionized the field of library science in India.

I think it's a shame that his work is out of print here in the US (I've ordered a copy of COLON CLASSIFICATION from India) and that more MLS/MLIS holders don't get the chance to read him. Of course, you can check the book out of your library; nearly every university that has an ALA accredited program has copies of his book in their collection.

I read THE FIVE LAWS OF LIBRARY SCIENCE this last fall, and found it completely amazing. To think that this book had been written in the 1930s when the concept of a computer only existed on the pages of science fiction novels. The five laws are so clear and concise and adaptable that they are as usable today as they were seventy years ago.

The laws are:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader has his or her book.
  3. Every book has its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.
The laws almost seem over-obvious today. Who would want to make a library of books that the patrons couldn't use? Who would want to make a library of books that no one wanted? Of course, I'm sure you can think of one or two people who would rather the patrons stayed home and books stayed on the shelf.

In honor of how I feel about Ranganathan and his five laws, I am going to use them to shape how I get myself oriented into my new jobs as teen librarian and systems administrator. I'll use the laws to learn about the positions and to make plans for the future.

For example, law 1, Books are for use. The YA section of the library was set up...let's say poorly and needs to be reorganized. The most-used books (the graphic novels) are buried in the section and my YA patrons are faced with the end of the alphabet as they walk from the front door to the YA section. So, one of the ways I will apply law 1 to my new job(s) is to reorganize the YA section. Also, we are undergoing renovation, so I will need to set up the new YA section in its own room once the library is finished. Therefore, I will be applying law 1 twice the organization of the YA section.

Continuing on law 1, I can think about other ways I can (and the library at large) organize its collections (and my specific collection development areas, i.e. should all the travel books be placed together in their own section?) and make them more conducive for patron use?

Right now I am brainstorming all the things I need to do and want to do and then categorizing them into the Five Laws. I'll be putting up an official post when the list is complete (at least complete enough to get started) and I'll post regular updates as I cross stuff off my list. If I get motivated I'll create a web page where you'll be able to click on each law and expand my personal to-do list from it.

Title Change Again

Despite wanting to use the name given to me by Andrea Mercado, I've find several other people who have attributed the phrase "Rock Star Librarian" to them before me (including Sophie Brookover (who, in the recent Movers and Shakers LJ special issue, was wearing a hoodie emblazoned with the words 'rock star librarian' and she looks better in that than I would by a long shot!) and a blog called Rockstar Librarian.

So I have a new title for this blog. Starting today, I will make a post a day until I clear out the saved blog posts from Bloglines. (currently sitting at 23 among library oriented posts) Tomorrow will most likely be about the NJLA conference, where I hope to meet Ms. Brookover and other NJ based librarians. Very excited to go to an actual library convention (as opposed to all the science fiction conventions I normally go to) and rub elbows with fellow professionals.

If you're going, I'll be easy to spot.

I'll be the guy.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Changes all around

I find myself gainfully employed--in a full-time manner--as the teen librarian/systems administrator for the Franklin Township Public Library. I have been working at FTPL since December, but only part-time. One of the full-time staff members is leaving, and I will be replacing her.

What does this mean? Well, a lot and not a lot. I'm really excited to work here full time. This also means we can start looking for a home and get settled a little bit. It's some great experience in two important (but very different) areas of a library. There's a lot in my background to help with me both jobs, but little actual experience in a library doing either at this point.

Now, instead of spending most of my time at the reference desk I will be spending time learning about the YA collection (and science fiction, travel, health, parenting, and computers) and figuring out what people like, what we should have, what I need to order.... I'm also in charge of creating all the programming for the teens in our library. I have a lot of exciting ideas, but I won't mention them here...yet. This means things like Summer Reading (for teens) fall under my umbrella. I have a lot to learn.

I'll also spend time maintaining patron and staff accounts, running reports, making sure the system gets updated if we create a new collection (i.e. we decide to have all the home and garden books in their own section), etc. When the library's renovation is finished, there will be a TON of work to get our books in storage back into the system.

So that's what's changed. What hasn't changed is I'm still living in NJ. The address for the zine is not changing. The zine isn't going anywhere (except to bigger and better heights that is!). Shai will return to teaching in the Fall. I'm continuing to work at a place I've been at since December so there's no new drive to learn, no new faces to learn.

While many things have changed, there's a lot that's the same. For example, with the help of Andrea I have a new title for this blog. (scroll down for the reference about me, it's the sixth from the bottom)

Just like always.

John Klima

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Some tips

Check this list out. Does your library website meet its criteria?

If so, how did you go about meeting them? Any obstacles along the way?

If not, why not? Do you want to? What obstacles do you see in your way that you'll need to overcome?

A Great Idea

Again from Stephan Spencer, a great idea of a good use for metadata (instead of increasing your SEO):
Wouldn’t it be cool if business websites were all tagged with meta data like:

  • business hours
  • geolocation (latitude & longitude)
  • NAICS code (the successor to SIC code)
  • physical & mailing addresses
[I'd add a phone number and contact e-mail since I've had serious trouble looking for this info for many businesses lately]
Remember rule 4? Save the time of the reader? People shouldn't have to call the reference desk to get the library's hours. I'm glad to help out, but the information should be accessible elsewhere. N.B. I know that there are people who do not have Internet access and most likely they are the ones calling....

What if this information showed up in a search engine when they were looking for the library? It could be incorporated into your RSS feeds. You are doing RSS feeds at your library, right? This information should be front and center on every businesses website. And it's not.

Job of the Future

Or, what a librarian can do for you today. Stephan Spencer writers on his blog about potential jobs he sees in the future for his daughter. Of particular interest to me is this job:
Information Integrator/Abstractor
who will collect, compile, and index text, data and images so this content can be searched in a variety of ways
When I read that, it sounded like a job description for a librarian. To quote myself (I'm the only comment on each piece)
Caveat Lector: this wanders a bit here and there.

Your Information Integrator/Abstractor sounds a lot like what a librarian does. At least, what I think a librarian does. I just finished my MLS and am looking for a full-time job. I previously worked for about five years as a computer programmer/analyst and before that about ten years in publishing (with some current freelance/small press work). I work part-time as a reference librarian and part-time as a digital library assistant.

I and a lot of other librarians--like Jenny Levine, Jessamyn West, Michael Stephens, and Steven M. Cohen to name a few--are pushing librarians to embrace technology and become experts in information using new technology. It's not enough anymore to know which books you need to find a particular piece of information, you need to know anywhere and any means to find that particular piece of information. You need to know all the technology that your patrons are using and be able to use it as well as they do.

I'm new to the field so I'm not very well established yet. But I'll get there. It's interesting to note that the ALA is predicting that in 10 - 15 years (by your 2020 date) some 80% or higher of the current librarian field will be retired. In addition to people retiring from the field, I think the field will be changing to be something more like the job you describe in your post.

Lots of interesting material on your site. I think many librarians/libraries would serve themselves well to learn more about marketing and even SEO. If people don't know what services are being offered by their local library, what good does it do how great they are?

There's a lot for me to still learn. Even though I worked for about five years in computer programming, there is so much I don't know about technology. I don't know how to automatically generate an RSS feed (not counting the one blogger makes for me), I barely make use of technorati, don't know how to make a wiki, have only bare minimum use of ASP.NET, have never made a podcast, have done only the smallest bit of creating metadata for digital objects, etc. etc. etc. But I do know what those things are. And I do know that my patrons are using them.

Some days I feel overwhelmed trying to learn it all. Other days I'm completely energized and soak it up like the proverbial sponge. There is a community out there for me to learn from, to see what they think can be used in/for the library. That will help guide me towards what I need to learn.

See, I wander all over the place. Great site. It's in my reader so I don't miss any more.
Any thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Katrina Project

Powell's bookstore (Portland, OR's amazing bookstore) and some enterprising students at Princeton University are working together to help rebuild the New Orleans Public Library.

This was brought to my attention by Leslie Burger, director of the Princeton Public Library (where I interned before receiving my MLIS) and president-elect of the ALA. Leslie has a definite passion for libraries and their future. She wouldn't have worked so hard to become the president of the ALA if she didn't. You only have to read her tips for transforming libraries to see the passion and committment she has for the field.

A few days ago, Leslie posted about the Katrina Project. She explains in her post:
The Katrina Project is building a Levee made out of books in front of Firestone Library on the University Campus. If you are interested in donating to the Katrina Project New Orleans Public Library system rebuilding project you can purchase "book bricks" for $8.95 each at
You can suggest a book for the collection at check-out time (home improvement books are very popular among patrons right now), or you can let the organization chose one on their own.

I think it's important for people to see what they're supporting in order to gain their support. Here are some images from the Katrina Project website:

Before Hurricane Katrina

Before Hurricane Katrina

After Hurricane Katrina

Before Hurricane Katrina

It's pretty stunning to see the dire shape the library was in after the hurricane. It's been cleaned up, but many of the books in the collection were lost. Many of the branch libraries are not open yet, and those that are open are not operating at their previous capacity.

Also from the Katrina Project site, some information on what exactly happened to the libraries after the hurricane hit:
  • 80% of New Orleans was inundated—an area equal to 7 Manhattan Islands.

  • 8 of 12 library branches are ruined—water and carpets of mold have damaged collections, furniture, and computers beyond repair.

  • Loss of tax revenues forced initial layoff of 90% of library staff.

  • Total damage is estimated at $26 million - $30 million.
These are some pretty staggering numbers to consider, so I think it helps to break it down a little. I know many of you already gave money for Katrina victims. But I think $8.95 is a small price to pay to help provide the people of New Orleans with materials for their public libraries.

In my experience, people with lower incomes or people who are new to an area (either as immigrants to a country or just people who have moved from somewhere else in the country) use/need the library as their main source of information. For many people, the library is the only place where they can use a computer (and I can't tell you how many businesses have taken the: 'all our information is online' approach, effectively cutting out a lot of their customers). It's where they can take their kids and know they're safe.

I don't want to make assumptions about the patrons of New Orleans and call them low income, but I do know that many of them have no home (or a destroyed home) and/or no job. Depending on where they live in New Orleans, there are a lot of people (particularly in the 9th Ward) how are low income. Getting to a library with a good collection can help them look up information on finding a new home/apartment or finding a job; allow them to take practice tests for jobs; find books on how to repair things in their home; give them access to the Internet.

These people still need help getting on their feet, and by assisting in the rebuilding of their library, you will help them.

I am a librarian, so of course I think this is a good cause. It's not something I can divorce myself from and look at objectively. I have a vested interest in it, I have a prejudice towards making libraries better.

But I also know the good that libraries do for their communities. I know how people look to the library to give them answers to questions. The library needs materials to perform its services. Go here to help.

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