Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Felling Groovy (but not like Simon & Garfunkel)

So I've been away from the reference desk for a few weeks. We're finalizing our move, and I've been needed elsewhere. However, with the end of the year crushing down on us quickly, there are a lot of us trying to use up floating holidays. Story short, I was on the reference desk yesterday afternoon.

And I saw a gentleman who I'd helped in the past who was trying to get custody of his step-children. Not to get too specific (and not that I know a lot of specifics), but he's trying to get these kids away from a bad situation.

I and the head of reference helped find all the forms he needed to fill out so that the courts could do what they needed to do. Since he's not a blood relative, he needs to make sure that he cross all his 't's and dots all his 'i's.

So yesterday I found out that he's been able to get weekend custody of the young man involved (he already has the twin teenage girls [who are just awesome kids]) and if that goes well he may be able to get more.

It felt so good to hear from him and know that the information I gave him was helping him and his situation.

It's always nice to know that what you're doing matters, isn't it?


do libraries make you hungry?

I have to get something that's been troubling me off my chest.

Am I the only one who is shocked by the library staff's complete preoccupation with food. It's probably just me, but it seems like food creeps into conversations among co-workers a lot around here. I never knew it was possible to have a conversation about what you plan to have for dinner--or, even worse, what you had for dinner the night before--until I began working at a public library. Staff get so worked up over these discussions that you'd think they were discussing a solution to the war in Iraq. And judging from their conversations, it seems that I'm the only who considers half a can of Pringles and some grape soda as a proper dinner. My nutrients come from multi vitamins.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Filter the Fear

The Internet filtering policy at the North Central Regional Library (WA) is being challenged by the ACLU. Read the story at "American Libraries" online.

In the article, the Director of NCRL, Dean Marney, is quoted as saying: "The internet is so huge, and we carefully choose the books for our libraries. Shouldn't we try to be as careful with the internet?"

Wait a second...! Did I read that right? Employing filtering software does not make your library as careful as it is with regard to its collection development because individual libraries aren't writing their own filtering software. Their making their own decisions regarding which books to buy, but not the website to which they deny access.

Look, I have no problem with filters as long as they work. The problem is that they don't work. The bigger problem is that legislators and parents think that they do. Until filters become as smart as human beings, they'll always be problematic. Sorry, parents; I think your job is only going to get harder.

What really worries me, however, is the danger in associating collection development practices with internet filtering. Apart from the fact that they both fall under the heading of "access," the two have very little in common beyond that.

Perhaps we should also let software do all of our collection development for us. All we'd have to do is write an algorithm and fire all the librarians. (Google can handle all of the reference questions.) While we're at it, we could fire the circulation staff and install a dozen self checkout kiosks.

The solution to all this? There isn't an easy one. All we can do is challenge programmers to write better software. Of course, we could also push for legislation that would abolish the Internet.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pat Wagner of Pattern Research

Last week, my library brought in Pat Wagner of Pattern Research to talk to the staff about customer service. I saw Pat just about a year ago when I was an intern at the Princeton Public Library finishing up my Master's degree.

Pat is just great. She really re-energizes you about working with the public. I'd been feeling kind of down in the past month. We're getting ready to complete our construction and I've been busy with the anthology and the zine, and really just taking too much work on. I was driving myself nuts trying to stay on top of everything.

While I haven't learned to take on less work, something that Pat said stuck with me: "I can only do what I have time to do." What Pat meant by this wasn't that you should not do work, nor that you should try to do as little as possible, but rather to realize your limitations as far as time constraints, and do the best job you can in the time you have. It doesn't matter if you could do an awesome job on a reference question if you had four hours when you really have fifteen minutes (or two!). Take the time you have and give the person the most complete answer you can in that time. Don't give them fifteen minutes of a four-hour answer, give them a fifteen minute answer.

This is not an easy thing to do, but it is important to keep in mind. And, if the patron needs more from you, let them know that it will take more time and you will get back to them later. If they aren't willing to wait, then they will have to take your fifteen-minute answer.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Library Catalogs

I've been spending a lot of time looking at and thinking about our library catalog recently. We're nearing the end of a large (dare I say huge?) construction/renovation project. Right now, most of the adult books (that aren't in storage) are crammed together in one main area (young adult and biography share a space that is not their final resting spot). The children's books are crammed into one square of space.

Eventually, the space where all the fiction/nonfiction adult books currently reside will be only fiction, while nonfiction, biography, and a few other areas will be moved into the new nonfiction/reference area. The children's book will spread from one square of space to three. And the young adult collection will be moved into its own room.

In addition to physically getting the books in place, we need to make changes to the catalog so that patrons can find the books (they'll be lost for weeks with just the physical move, but we'd like to give some sort of chance to find their books...more thoughts on this in a future post). Some of that is simple. We just need to change the description of the location in the catalog so that it'll refer to the new location. Some are more difficult.

We have a few collections that are currently in their location that will be incorporated into other collections (i.e., our non-reference LAW books are being integrated into nonfiction). So, we're taking part of this separate LAW collection and moving it into nonfiction, but some of it is staying separate. So, we need to move the books in the catalog from one location to another. Right now, we have LAW, BUSINESS, CAREER, FDC, and a few miscellaneous collections that are being split like this.

We also have a few collections that will need to be split because we are physically moving them to different parts of the library (the library used to be a children's section and then everything else; now we'll have three main sections: children's, fiction, and nonfiction). For example, we have educational videos, (as opposed to entertainment videos like Star Wars and The Sopranos) that include things like the BBC version of "Pride and Prejudice," but also things like "8-minute Abs." Right now, they are in the same room. BY the end of the year, they will be in separate rooms. Right now, they are in the same location in the catalog. By the end of the year, they will need to be in separate locations in the catalog.

As I investigated this issue earlier this fall, I learned that this was no way for me to do this on my own without scanning each book manually. I find it hard to believe that moving collections from one place to another is not standard in an ILS. We have a workaround that we're building right now, but I can't believe I had to get a workaround made. In a multi-library system, you would have the ability to 'move' the books in the catalog from one library to another and then back again, but changing locations along the way. I don't know why I can't do this for a standalone library; they're creating a fake library for me to use for this exact purpose.

How many libraries out there shift books from one location in the library to another? What if you wanted a separate travel section? Or you wanted to combine two existing collections?

Don't even get me started on close dates for loan periods while we're closed. :)


Saturday, November 11, 2006


So I was ordering books for the library when I decided to see if Logorrhea was listed in Baker & Taylor. You can tell I'm not really an author since it hadn't occured to me before to look. Well, lo and behold, there is was. With an ISBN and everything. (it's 978-0-553-38433-8 [or 0-553-38433-3 for you pre-ISBN-13 phillistines]) And, it's obviously available at Amazon, so that's cool. If you don't know, Logorrhea is an anthology of original fiction that I'm editing for Bantam. The stories are all based on spelling-bee winning words. It's due to come out next May in time for the National Spelling Bee.

I've been on the other side of things hundreds of times. But this is the first time that I've been responsible for the content of a book that's being published. I'm somewhere between excited and a nervous wreck.

I'm honestly overwhelmed. I have to thank my editor, Juliet Ulman, for making this all possible. And of course, you should all go out and pre-order your copies today. :)

Here is the final line-up, in order:

Hal Duncan - "The Chiaroscurist"
Liz Williams - "Lyceum"
David Prill - "Vivisepulture"
Clare Dudman - "Eczema"
Alex Irvine - "Semaphore"
Marly Youmans - "The Smaragdine Knot"
Michael Moorcock - "A Portrait in Ivory"
Daniel Abraham - "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics"
Michelle Richmond - "Logorrhea"
Anna Tambour - "Pococurante"
Tim Pratt - "From Around Here"
Elizabeth Hand - "Vignette"
Alan DeNiro - "Plight of the Sycophant"
Matthew Cheney - "The Last Elegy"
Jay Caselberg - "Eudaemonic"
Paolo Bacigalupi - "Softer"
Jay Lake - "Crossing the Seven"
Leslie What - "Tsuris"
Neil Williamson - "The Euonymist"
Theodora Goss - "Singing of Mount Abora"
Jeff VanderMeer - "Appoggiatura"


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Feeling Green (but not like Kermit)

American Libraries magazine is reporting that the newly constructed public library in Bozeman Montana will reserve its prime parking spots for hybrids, car pools, "low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles." This is one of the requirements that the library must deliver in order to comply with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Why comply? Well, apart from the obvious reasons, a private donor has promised to contribute $500,000 to the library if they do.

All of this talk of low-emitting vehicles is really starting to make me wonder. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for hybrid vehicles and car pooling, but those of us who ride motorcycles are starting to feel a little unappreciated. Our machines have been low-emitting before the practice was formally sanctioned by actor Leonardo DiCaprio when he granted it his "official blessing of cool" by driving around Hollywood (and, more importunately, being seen) in his precious Prius. "What about cycling or walking," you ask? Well, that's just down-right uncivilized; I might break a sweat.

Anyway, I just hope the local parking authority in Bozeman doesn't ticket any innocent motorcyclists who park in the good spots. Incidentally, just in case you're wondering, motorcyclists do use libraries. But I'm not sure about DiCaprio.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Je vous presente...

Operating under the sound advice of The Editor, I'd like to take a moment to briefly introduce myself. The Editor and I met in graduate school where we soon discovered the uncanny similarities that exist among our respective professional backgrounds and future aspirations as librarians. Like the Editor, I am a career-changing 30-something who is new to the LIS field. My previous career was in the corporate world where I worked in corporate communications, advertising, entertainment marketing (a.k.a., "product placement") and media relations. Despite my brief tenure as a practicing librarian, I can report with complete certainty that I have never been happier. Some of us are just made to be librarians. It's in our DNA. I suppose this makes me one of the lucky ones; many people spend their lives in search of the same level of professional satisfaction that I have been fortunate enough to find in the LIS field. Lastly, I think you'll find that my take on things is fairly non-traditional. Of course, that stands to reason; I'm new to the profession and have yet to become captivated by the status quo. With any luck, I never will. I sincerely hope that my contributions to this blog will provide both entertainment and educational value--all the while maintaining your interest.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

2007 NJLA Salary Guidelines

The New Jersey Library Association (NJLA) Executive Board has adopted new recommended salary guidelines for 2007.

The new recommended minimum salary for a librarian starts at $45,787.


Sadly, these are only recommended salary guidelines.

Tags: need a degree to do this?

True story:
As I was wrapping up a reference interaction with a patron a couple of months ago, she asked, "By the way, how did you get a job working here? I love this library and I'm here all the time. Maybe I should start working here too." I said, "Well, I started off by first going to graduate school...." She interrupted me there and said, "Oh, you need a degree to do this?"