Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hey, We're Still Alive Over Here!

It's been a while since I've posted here. I've been busy with two library jobs, trying to get the next issue of the zine ready, and preparing for the World Fantasy Convention that this hasn't been my top priority. There's been a lot of stuff going on that I have thoughts on. Of course, at this point the time has passed for me to make relevant posts about it (the whole librarian as a calling thing is dead in the water now...), but today I read something from one of my favorite blogs, The Annoyed Librarian, that has prompted me to write.

Now, the AL (as she calls herself) tends to annoy/anger me as I read her posts, but I think I need that. Just like how Library Revolution makes me mad some times, the AL writes some things that get my hackles up. She calls things as they are. And I think librarians need someone to stand up and call their bullshit "bullshit" now and again. (I don't believe she'd curse, that's my own failing)

From today (she's discussing outsourcing library services):
This debate is similar to all the guff about how we have to bend over and grab our ankles to make libraries "relevant" to people. Libraries are relevant or they're not. The people care, or they don't. If people don't want what libraries provide, then libraries will go away, but that's more of a problem for the librarians than it is for the people. What if all "information" was available for free online, search engines had perfected search, "information literacy" was universal, and computers and Internet access were available to all? If that happens, public libraries will probably be unnecessary for the most part. Is that a problem for the people, or for the librarians? Even now it's true for many people. Access to information is cheap. We talk about the "digital divide," but I wonder how many people on the other side of the digital divide can afford televisions and cable.
If librarians were interested only in user satisfaction, they wouldn't complain about library outsourcing in such a knee-jerk manner. Librarians are interested in librarians, except, of course, when they're not.
I mean, how great is that? But I want you to go back and think about this statement again:
Libraries are relevant or they're not.
Yes, there are things you can do to make the library more prominent in the community, there are things you can do to enhance the user experience (my library now has downloadable movies, sweet!), but there's little you can do to make the library more relevant.

There's only so much control you have over what someone else thinks is relevant. At one point in my life guitars and music shops were the only relevant thing. At another point it was skateboarding. I think most people who know me now would laugh a little to hear those two statements. More pertinent to this discussion, even though I work in a library now, and would feel comfortable to say that librarianship is a calling for me, from when I left high school to when I started my MLIS coursework (a span of 1989 - 2004) I entered a library fewer than ten times. The library was not relevant to me.

These days, I could not live without the library. If for nothing more than the fact that I no longer buy hundreds of books a year. And again, for that alone I love being part of a big consortium. There are few books that I am looking for that I cannot get through the consortium. I am not able to use much of the library's programming. This is equal parts my lack of time and the lack of convenience of getting to the library. But is the library relevant to me? As an employee, of course. As a patron...I don't know. If I wasn't in the library a few times a month (I'm part-time at the public gig) I don't know how much I'd use it. Certainly not the branch I work at; there are two closer to me.

I do think that libraries should do a better job of marketing their services to their community. And perhaps they need to hire someone to do that for them. I'm not convinced that librarians know what their community wants, or where their community goes/is, to be able to market properly. Will better marketing make libraries relevant? That's up to the patron. Not to us.

Friday, October 05, 2007

ALA Website Broken?

UPDATE: Working now, at 10:50 AM CST. Weird.

As of 10:30 AM CST, I get this message when I click on the Events & Conferences link in the main navigation bar at ALA:

The requested URL could not be retrieved
While trying to retrieve the URL:
The following error was encountered:
Read Error
The system returned: (104) Connection reset by peer
An error condition occurred while reading data from the network. Please retry your request.
Your cache administrator is
When I try to click on the Midwinter icon that's on the right-hand side of the site I get this:

The page you requested is not on our new Web site at this Web address: /errordocs/300.cfm. The American Library Association has redesigned and reorganized its Web site. Try these steps to find this resource:
Search our site.The resource you are looking for may have a new URL (Web address).

If you are unable to find a specific piece of content, please contact for assistance. We will get back to you within one week. Alternately, you can browse the site archive at, which includes the entirety of the site as it existed prior to April of 2003. Please note that content in our archive may be outdated or functioning incorrectly.
Thank you for visiting ALA's new Web site!
So, anyone else having this problem? I've e-mailed ALA, but since I've never done that before, I don't have any idea how responsive they are.

Am I the only one having trouble? I'm using IE7 to view the page. I've deleted the cache on this machine (I'm on a chared computer at the reference desk; I've never gone to ALA from this machine before today) to try and see if there was something stored in memory, burt that hasn't fixed anything.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Work With the Web, Not On It

my daughter drawing on my with chalk

This is me. (And my daughter [she's using me as a chalkboard]) Unlike so many others, I don't work on the Web.

I work with the Web.

I live and work in Davenport, IA. Both libraries I work at are behind the times in adding technology to their libraries. I work at a college without a proxy server so we have to hand out user name/password sheets to students and hope they don't lose them. I work at a public library that doesn't see the need to learn social software. In both cases I believe we are doing a disservice to our patrons/users. I also run a small publishing company that would not exist without the Web.

I use the Web everyday in my work: in addition to the ubiquitous e-mail and IM for communication, I use the Web through databases to assist students in finding articles for class; I've posted photos on Flickr of library events; I've used LibraryThing to create online reader's advisories; I attend webinars to learn more about database features and ILS features; I have a website for my magazine; I also have FaceBook, MySpace, Blogspot (since 2001), Twitter, and etc. accounts which I use to promote my publishing/librarianship and reach a wider audience; I sell magazines, etc. online so that people can read what I publish; I belong to Google Groups so I can have discussions with people who don't live anywhere near me; I read LOTS of library and publishing oriented blogs so I can keep abreast of what's happening in those respective fields; and I generally am online all the time at work, doing something.

I use the Web everyday in my life: I post photos on Flickr and Videos on YouTube of my daughter for family in Denver and Arizona and elsewhere; from looking up who's that actor to finding recipes to getting driving directions to weather forecasts to sports scores to buying foodstuffs I can't find where I live, there's a lot of information I get online that, while available through other means, is not as convenient through other means.

I use not-the-Web everyday in my work: I talk to my staff every day, face to face; I answer questions from students at the reference desk; I walk patrons to the stacks and help them find their books (I never point); I attend conferences to learn more about specific aspects of librarianship and to network with other library professionals; I attend conventions (science fiction) to meet authors, editors, fans, etc. and to promote what I publish; I meet with colleagues and staff to talk about concerns and plans for the library; I mail out lots and lots of magazines, etc. to people who purchase what I publish; and I do mundane things like check out and check in books, send faxes, make photocopies, accept fine payments, place books on hold for patrons, sign time sheets, and so many other things I don't keep track of.

I use not-the-Web everyday in my life: as evidenced by the photo above, the most important thing I do everyday is spend time with my family; I love to cook; I sit on a couch and read a book; I take care of my house; I watch tv with my wife; and so many other things that don't involve the Web.

I don't know that I could work without the web (i.e., this morning I sent a story collection to a writer in Serbia so he can write the introduction and also sent it to an artist in MA so he can create interior artwork; pre-Web days this would have been impossible), but there is work I do that does not and cannot involve the web. They are not exclusive of each other, but I do not do only one or the other. I feel that the Web enhances the most important thing I do: provide service to my patrons.

(inspired by Michael and the Annoyed Librarian)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hi Seth, They're Called Librarians

From Seth Godin (this is actually the entire post, but the blog is SO informative you must go there):
It's easy to be wowed by what a magical job the search engines do in finding you just the right needle in the haystack.

The fact is that search engines are very good at fairly simple searches, and very good at finding information about single products, services, people and ideas.

But they're terrible at connections, at rankings, at horizontal results. They can't help me find the 25 most important up and coming artists in the United States. They can't help me find six products that are viable alternatives to something that was just discontinued. They can't help me rank the service of four accounting firms.

There's a giant opportunity. (Many opportunities, actually). It's to collate and slice and dice and rank domain-specific knowledge and surface it. There are some areas where this is done extremely well (restaurants, for example), but in most cases, it's not done at all.

Organizing the world's information is a laudable goal. But we're only an inch down the road.
Um, isn't that what we do every day with reader's advisories, displays, handouts, and other whatnot?

So, what are you doing to let your community (aw heck, the world) know that you've organized some information in a particular way? Are you optimizing your website so that people will find it in their searches?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Twitter Revisited

After Sarah's (aka, The Librarian in Black) recent post about Twitter, it got me thinking again. Since I last railed against Twitter, I've become a casual user. I know, I know. I was SO against it. And a lot of me is still against it.

I'm against Twitter as another THING for librarians to jump on, sign up for, start using, end up only 'talking' and following other librarians, and then proclaim "I Twitter!" The problem with all these new technologies is that you actually need to use them, not just sign up for them, explore them, force them to fit into the library. You need to see how they're being used and then see if there's a way the library can use it that works within the confines of the technological construct.

Take Twitter for example. I follow a weird, small selection of people. (the link takes you to my profile) Very few are library people. OK, four out of eleven is approaching half, but I know there are a LOT more librarians 'using' Twitter out there. I chose to not follow them. Instead I chose to follow people like Henry Rollins, Wil Wheaton, Warren Ellis, Merlin Mann, Xeni Jardin, Gina Trapini, and Cory Doctorow (not many updates Cory!).

These people don't care about libraries like librarians do. Their passions lie elsewhere. When I approach new technologies like this, I try to explore as wide a variety of things as possible. How are people using it?

Henry Rollins posts about upcoming gigs. Great use for this service. Get your fans locked onto your account and let them know when unannounced events show up. Libraries could use the concept to announce hours change (for events or for the library), send reminders for upcoming events, changes to upcoming events, etc. Most likely, this would be in addition to every other way you announce such changes. It's doubtful that all your patrons will embrace Twitter as the only source for updates.

Everyone else? They just post random things they are doing. It's very voyeuristic, which is creepy and interesting at the same time. My latest post (as I write this): finishing my morning travel mug of coffee...wishing it would magically refill itself, wishing I lived near somewhere that sold good beans..." says something about me and my current mental state. You only have 140 characters, so it's tough to say anything substantial (unlike here where I go on and on and on).

I had another thought recently on how libraries could implement Twitter. This was an internal use. If you work at a big library, where librarians are constantly working in different places, you could use Twitter to help keep track of each other. For example, you might think Carol is at her desk, but when you check Twitter, she's updated to say that she's working on the historical map display. You could update to say that you're working at the reference desk (in case someone forgets the schedule). This would be particularly useful for people AT the reference desk who would have a one-stop check when receiving phone calls. "No I'm sorry, Pam isn't at her desk right now, can I take a message?" And Pam's Twitter could say 'working on displays' or 'no phone-calls.'

Of course, like anything, you need to get people participating, and participating regularly. It doesn't help if four weeks from Carol is still working on the historical map display (in Twitter) but in reality that display now showcases the library's Hello Kitty collection and Carol is working at a different library. And this problem isn't unique to technology. Leaving a clipboard with memos that need to be initialed fails the first time someone doesn't look at it.

The 'trick' is to make it something that people want to use. One of my bosses when I worked for Barnes & Noble used to hide $1 and $2 gift certificates on the book carts. Then, as you shelved the books, you might find a little surprise. Sure, it's not much, but it's more than you had when you started. You could do something similar with Twitter: "The first person to mention this notice to me can leave fifteen minutes early" or "I'll buy a cup of coffee to the first person who mentions avocados to me" or something else.

And while people should want to work hard and do well of their own accord, I find giving little rewards never hurts anyone.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Library Book Card Pockets

I have a little crafty project I was thinking of doing where I needed library book cards (the ones you used to find in the back of every library book). OK, so now I have about 10,000 library book cards, but I don't have any pockets. Coming to the library world only a few years ago, I didn't think about the fact that these are separate things and that I really needed both to complete my project.

So, is there anyone out there at a library who has leftover book card pockets that they'd be willing to donate to me? I'll pay for shipping.


LibraryThing on My Mind

This weekend at my parents' house, I had several people ask me if there was some sort of service (I think they asked for software) available that would allow them to catalog their books. I'm paraphrasing, obviously, since I don't think my father or my aunt or any of others who were there would actually call this process cataloging. They wanted something that was easier than typing everything in a file.

I pointed them to LibraryThing as a way to create a catalog of their books. If they didn't have a lot of books (e.g., my father has about 100 - 150 golfing books) they would type them in the search box and add them to their online catalog easily.

If they had a lot of books (my aunt is friends with Michael Joncas--yes, "On Eagle's Wings", etc.--and he has hundreds or more of academic religious books) I recommended a life time membership to LibraryThing (on average $25) and a CueCat (available for $15 from LibraryThing) to scan barcodes off books and upload the file to LibraryThing, who then does all the work of creating the catalog. In fact, I'm thinking that now I'm going to do just that myself.

It was a lot of fun, showing this technology to my family. I went a little overboard in showing them what LibraryThing could do. But it really is an amazing service. I've used it in the past to create reader's advisories (like the left-hand-side of this blog if you're not reading this as a feed) on websites. I think it's great to see another service come along that starts with current technology and a help-people-first mentality. I'm curious to see how the LibraryThing for Libraries works out. If I knew more about programming I'd try to work for them!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Can we stop using 'blogosphere' and GOD FORBID 'biblioblogosphere'? When I'm reading something (it could be a blog post, an article, whatever) and I hit one of these terms, I just stop reading. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who feels compelled to use these terms doesn't have anything to say to me that could matter.

These terms are not inclusive. They do not work to make people feel comfortable. They do not help people understand. They exclude. They discriminate. They make people feel stupid. They make people be dismissive of what you have to say.

'Oh, what should we call it then?'

How about 'online community'? How about 'librarians online' or 'people online'? How about none of these? How about nothing? It's not a term that intuitively describes anything.

Why not blgoworld, or blogplanet, or bippityboppityblogplace?

It's just stupid. Stop.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Off My Soap Box

I read a fair amount of library blogs. Of the 270 or so blogs I read, about a third of them are library-oriented (if you're curious, about half are publishing/writing focusing on science fiction, and then a good chunk of marketing blogs, and a nice smattering of art blogs) and I came across this just a moment ago. The main thrust of the post is summed up here:
We can’t rely on our experiences as patrons (or even as a customer) when deciding on policy, collection development, program development, or marketing, simply because we’re not the average consumer of library services.
I see a lot of that. Part of it, IMO, is that there are a lot of people who have worked in the field for more than 15 years. That much time in one profession makes it hard to see how it looks like from the outside. I have less than two years in the profession and I continually see the profession (and the people and the buildings) from the outside.

Another thing that helps me is that at my last non-library job one of my responsibilities was business analysis. I worked primarily as a programmer, but it was also my job to assess the software and see how it could be enhanced, fixed, changed, etc. There was a constant need to wear two hats and try to use the software as a non-programmer would. There were things I knew about the software that people who had been using the software for years longer than I had been working on it didn't know. Often, the business analysis became a training exercise where I could teach someone something about the software that would enhance their job and then there was no need to go into the code and change anything.

Same thing in the library. My current library has a confusing website. There are things I'd like to change about it. (There's time before this needs to/can happen) But I know that what I would change about the website doesn't necessarily reflect what my patrons want or need. Before I can begin making changes, I need to understand how my patrons hope the use the website. What sort of things are important to them. It does not matter what I think is important. It's important that my patrons can find what they want.

Talking to the public is scary, but vital. You need to understand your customer before you can begin to think about serving them.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I May be the Only Librarian Who Doesn't Like Stephen Colbert

Because of things like this:
Actually, I'd buy it first. And then I'd read it. No libraries, okay? Libraries are for cowards. No free rides. The book is for heroes, and the heroes are the people who buy the book. Don't lend the book.
To me, and maybe I'm over-reacting, this reads like the words of an irresponsible ass. Perhaps he's being sarcastic, or being ironic, or being something. I don't buy it. I don't find it funny. I have a hard time enjoying the commentary of someone who says things that directly attack my chosen way of life.

I came to the library field the long way around. I hadn't worked in libraries until I was almost done with my MLIS. For the first time in my life, I found a career I could be passionate about. A career that I actually cared about. And then someone with a big forum (Comedy Central, Entertainment Weekly) comes along and says bad things about my passion. Even if he's joking, his words can be used by others as justification for getting rid of library services. It's very irresponsible.

I've not blogged about him before because I didn't want to link to anything he's done, or give him any additional traffic (whether through positive or negative commentary).

And before people fill up the comments with "he's just kidding, calm down," would it be as funny if he said "black people can't be trusted"?

Monday, June 18, 2007


At my new job I'm slowly becoming a master of scheduling. Well, not a master. And not really anything I set out to do. It's more of a dragged kicking and screaming type thing.

You see, we're essentially open 7am to 11pm most days. I have people who work Mon-Fri, Tues-Sat, and Sun-Thur. If everyone's here, then everything is great. However, since we like people to be able to take vacation (and come back refreshed and rejuvenated etc.) or feel like when they're sick they can stay home and get better, there are times when we need to find coverage.

I'm extra on the coverage front. If we're one person short, I can fill in (it's actually part of my job description, so while technically I have to fill in, it's better when it feels like a choice) and again, no problem.

However, sometimes we have more than one person out.

Take today for example. There are six employees plus me to run the circulation desks. (yes desks, one on the third floor--where my office is--and one on the second floor) Today, four of those employees are out.

Yes. Four.

The good thing is that this is the first day of summer break. There are no classes. There are no faculty in the building. As I type, it's 9:15am. I've been here for more than two hours and I've seen one patron. He came in, checked his e-mail, and left.

So, we're not exactly bustling with activity. Still, there are breaks and lunches to cover, so with three of us here (one only in until 3:30pm, and one not in until 9:30am; and I'm working a split shift...oh it's too complicated to explain quickly) it will be quite the juggling act.

Which means most likely we'll be pulling someone out of collection development to cover breaks and lunches.

Not ideal, but not the end of the world. It's not something that I like to do a lot of, since the collection development people have their own job duties (and breaks and lunches) and interrupting them is not the best.

Normally we don't have this many people out at once. But having two out (particularly when it's night shift people) can be a major pain. If it wasn't summer break we would have never approved so many people being off. We can run a little thin since we won't have as many people needing our services.

The next two weeks are a little sketchy. This is the end of the fiscal year, so everyone's trying to use up their vacation before they lose it. They can carry over some to next fiscal year, but then they have to use it in July or lose it.

I don't feel that I'm very good at managing schedules and time. It's a constant battle to keep myself on top of what's going on. All the departments have to coordinate together so that we know who's covering what and that we have enough coverage for the desks. We only cover internally, i.e., we don't have substitute librarians or temp workers. We have student workers, but they're quite limited in what they can do (e.g., they can't watch a desk).

What does your library do?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Technology

Today we'll talk about Google Reader. I was very reluctant to use Google Reader as I don't like putting all my eggs in one basket. I feel very uncomfortable whenever a company wants to be my everything. IMO, it's impossible for one company to provide every service I could want to the same level of quality.

Sure, Google is a great search engine. Yes, I use Google Maps over other map services. Yes, I'm using Google's website analytics (but I'm also using two other company's web statistics tools, and from the three of them I feel I get a nice view of what's happening with my website). But, I do not like Google's calendar feature. I have a gmail account, but I don't use it since I have something like six or seven other e-mail accounts (some of which I've had for more than 8 years and I'm reluctant to give them up since there are some people who only use that account to contact me).

So, whenever I read about how Google has word processing, or spreadsheets, or an RSS reader, or what have you, I just don't buy that their product is as good as a company who's spent their life making a word processor. Sure, this may be short-sightedness on my part. I try lots of things that Google puts out there, and I use the ones that I feel are well made, and I discard (like Google calendar) the ones that are awkward to use and implement.

I do not like Google Reader. There are a few things about it that I really dislike. There are some functions that Bloglines provides that Google Reader does not that I wish it had. And yet...

About a month ago, none of my LiveJournal feeds were updating in Bloglines. This is a huge problem as I read scores of author feeds, and a lot of them are on LJ. There is some problem with how Bloglines retrieves information that violates LJ's terms of use. So, I decided to try Google Reader since many people recommended it and Google was updating LJ feeds.

First, what I like about Google Reader.

One of the big things is that I use folders to organize my feeds. In Bloglines, when I click on a folder, everything in it is marked as read. If I get interrupted or I accidently click another folder/feed, I cannot retrieve those messages. Google doesn't do this. I have to actually get to the feed's post before it's marked as read.

Also, I like the keyboard navigation functionality. I like being able to use the space bar to scroll slowly through a long post, and I like using the 'j' and 'k' keys to move back and forth through posts (although this sometimes doesn't work; anyone know why?).

I like the starring function of saving posts better than Bloglines version of saving posts as Bloglines keeps them in the feed list (which can be problematic when you 'save' as many posts as I do for later reading or later posting). Google moves them to their own area that I can access easily.

Hey, look at that. Google keeps track of trends in my feed reading. Cool! And kind of invasive at the same time. Hmmm. It does give me a sense of who's posting the most and what I'm reading a lot of. But it seems to only confirm what I already knew.

Second, things I dislike.

I hate...HATE HATE HATE...that Google caps the feed count at 100+. This is asinine. You know how many posts I have to read. And 101 versus 500 is a huge difference. If I have ten minutes, I might be able to look at 101 posts; but I doubt I can look at 500. This is just bad programming. Lazy. Bad. Awful. Stupid. Fix it.

I also hate that the posts aren't dated. They get timestamps like '10 minutes ago' and crap like that. Again, you know when you accessed the feed and retrieved the post, give me the date. Sometimes, people update an old post, and it shows up as '10 minutes ago.' If I had a date, too, I could see that: yes it was posted 10 minutes ago, but it was originally posted four weeks ago. Sheesh.

Um, blogroll options? Yeah, not there. I use the blogroll function from Bloglines, since I like to have a list of other read-worthy blogs out there, and I'm too lazy to input several hundred feeds by hand. And I don't feel it's worth the effort to select just a few and ignore the rest that I read. I want my blogroll to represent what I'm reading. I can share individual items, which doesn't seem as helpful.

Built-in weather function? Also not there. This is one of the great features of Bloglines. Put in your zip code, and get a nice, constantly updating5-day weather forecast. Simple. Effective. Handy.

Package tracking? Not there either. I cannot tell you how often I've used this. I'll keep my Bloglines account for this alone, even if I drop all my other feeds.

If not for the LJ problem, I would drop Google Reader and never look back. Its strengths don't outweigh its problems. Since I started using Google Reader about three weeks ago, I've read almost 6,000 posts. I've starred only a few dozen items for further reading.

Contrast this to my Bloglines account. In the same amount of time, it says that I have just 3,300 unread posts. That's about only 55% of the posts that I saw through Google Reader. Where did those other 2,500 or so posts go? That's a lot of stuff I would have missed.

Of course, the reality may be that I'm reading too much, right?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

An Introduction and some navel-gazing

Hello Library Angsters - I'm the newest contributor on LA, and I've been somewhat remiss in doing my first post. I'm here to rectify that situation post haste! (sorry for the terrible pun)

I come from a (fairly typical) undergrad in English literature and History. But the majority of my time has been spent as a secretary in one form or another. I've been a file clerk, a receptionist, marketing assistant, customer service manager... in each, there was a strong emphasis on customer service - but only as far as it could be provided while still keeping the company profitable. One of the greatest draws to librarianship for me has been serving the public instead of working them over for a buck.

I understand that libraries need to be "profitable" in their own way, but there's a distinct difference between a library's successful operation and a business. For a business to be considered successful, it must make more money than it spends. The more money it pulls in, the more successful it is. For a library, success is measured in customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is measured in participation in library programs and use of library resources. We receive funding based on the perceived success of our programs and resources, but that funding is a simply a tool we use to achieve our goal.

Being able to focus on service instead of profit has changed the way I look at business. I now read RSS feeds from over 20 marketing blogs every day, and instead of recoiling in horror at the marketing tactics described there, I can evaluate them openly and see if they could be turned on their head to suit the library's purpose. That's a wonderful thing.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Where I Work

Since many people have asked, here is a quick photo of the library where I work. If you click on the photo, it will take you to a Flickr set where you can see more photos of my current place of work.

Palmer Health Sciences Library

My follow Angsters need not feel that they make a similar post, but no one is stopping you if you so wish.

Friday, June 01, 2007


serrefine - n. - A small spring forceps used for approximating the edges of a wound, or for temporarily closing an artery during surgery.

Another word that I don't think I'll be able to use in every day conversation. Other than today, when I can say things like, "Did you see Even O'Dorney win the Scripps National Spelling Bee last night with the word 'serrefine'?" Ah, the spelling bee. The inspiration for my anthology Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories. It's now become a standard at the end of May for my household to watch the bee.

My wife and I shout at the kids who keep asking for definitions and alternate pronounciations. Sometimes I feel bad for the kids, though. You can tell they're trying to suss out the spelling, and they're just asking questions without thinking about them so they don't feel the pressure of silence. Like the one boy, Prateek Kohli, who got a word (oberek) for which the definition was "a Polish folk dance" and then he asked the country of origin. Not surprisingly it was Polish. Without the pressure of the spelling bee, I suspect that Mr. Kohli doesn't ask that question.

Nice things said about Logorrhea:

"Delightful.... A treat for dictionary hounds and vocabulary-challenged word lovers everywhere."—Booklist

"This book is a logophile's dream—a left-field collection of stories inspired by winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Anyone who has ever spent an hour or two happily browsing the pages of a dictionary will find something to love here."—Kevin Brockmeier, author of A Brief History of the Dead

"Your book pays a beautiful tribute to the beauty, potential, versatility and history that lie within so many words and the English language as a whole. In other words, it encapsulates what it was that drove my competition in spelling bees and what drives my passion for language today."-Nupur Lala, winner of the 1999 National Spelling Bee (winning word: logorrhea)

"Buy it immediately."-The Agony Column

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Technology: Twitter

I'm a pretty fast adopter. And I like to try new things. I learn quickly. (these are fairly standard traits of the modern librarian I think) These traits are what lead to a podcast for School Library Journal last year.

There's been a lot of talk recently about Twitter. I've tried it. I don't like it.

I particularly don't like Twitter, but that's only because I can't see a use for it in my life. Maybe if I did more texting on my phone. I don't know. I don't see the point of using Twitter if you're tied to a machine. Sure, some people have used it for a 'what I'm reading type thing' like I used LibraryThing. That's pretty cool. But I like what I'm using for that same concept. Some people use it to coordinate themselves at a conference. That's really cool. But I'd have to be using some sort of web-enabled handheld device that I don't own to do that. And go to a conference. And have everyone I was trying to meet also doing the same thing I was doing.

Hey, I like being in touch with people. I just 1200 miles away from all the people I've known for the past ten years. Twitter isn't going to help them connect to me. And I can't imagine why anyone would care what I'm doing from minute to minute. If Twitter could watch me and post its own updates every five minutes or so, that would be way cool. I think I hate how much extra work something like Twitter makes for me. It's tough enough getting everything I need to get done without also telling people what I'm doing while I do it. That's what this (and the other blogs I write for) is for. For big events.

I also like my privacy. I have a 14-month old baby girl. There are a lot of things that I talk about online. I'm a fairly open person. At the same time, there are parts of my life that are private. That I don't share. If I'm not travelling (physically moving) my cel phone is off. There are very few people who need to get in touch with me at ANY moment. The list consists of my wife. Everyone else can wait until I get their message.

So basically, Twitter is too intrusive for what I like about technology.

So You Want to Start a Revolution?

Emily Clasper is, among other things, the creator of Library Revolution, a well-needed shot in the arm to the library field. Emily pulls no punches, writing about everything from librarian's fashion sense (or lack thereof) and how you can't complain about the public's image of a librarian if you don't promote a positive image to how she doesn't feel (in general) that the library is very convenient and that she'll use other services that are convenient even if she has to pay. It's great stuff. She makes me angry almost every day.

And that's a good thing. She presents an attitude, an opinion of the library that's very honest and probably directly in line with how many patrons and potential patrons think. Her basic premise is: this is my life (points to space around her), what is the library going to do to make a presence for itself in my life?

Yes, what can the library do to make a presence in the patron's life? Be open 24 hours? Extend checkout times? Get rid of due dates (a la Netflix)? Provide easier and multiple ways to sign up for events? (why do we insist people come INTO the library to sign up for an event? What if the patron has the time during the event free, but really doesn't have any time leading up to it free?)

The library is about the patron. The librarian is not better than the patron. The patron is not some evil thing out to destroy the library.

The patron may cause the destruction of the current library model, and that's ok. Libraries mostly exist in a 19th century frame of thought. Times have changed.

Today, Emily makes an important point that I've tried to make in the past. It's not enough to keep up with library blogs and journals. You need to read outside the field. And you need to make time to do this. This is true of any profession you're in. You cannot be successful, you cannot be revolutionary (and maybe many of you are content to put in your time and retire some point in the future...I'm not) if you subsist only on your field.

Think about it. Do you listen to only one type of music? Do you watch only one type of movie? Do you read only one type of book? And by one, I mean one. By one I mean you watch sports television and NOTHING else. No news, no sitcoms, no dramas, no DIY, no cooking, nothing. Just sports. Who does this? No one. There is no librarian who is so singular in focus that they do nothing but one thing in their time outside of work. If you're like that outside work, why not during work?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Branding Librarians

No, I'm not talking about a scene out of City Slickers 3: Cataloging on the Range, I'm talking about the image of the librarian. Andrea Mercado posted on the PLA blog about this very issue. She poins us toward a survey from the Emerging Leaders Initiative member Brendan Gallagher. The survey lead me to this LONG comment on the PLA Blog:
As strange as it may sound, I really enjoyed taking the survey. It reminded of the reasons why I changed careers from computer programming to librarianship back in 2004. It gave my batteries a nice recharge to think about the questions--and my answers--in the survey.

I never worked in a library until 2005 (at the young age of 34), so of course my ideas of what should happen in a library are very different from many of the people that I work with. I'm always thinking of things in a more business-oriented way, and I think that's beneficial to the current state of affairs in libraries.

I think that at one point libraries were at the forefront of people's consciousness when it came to information, but we've fallen WAY behind the rest of the world in the past decade or two.

I know a lot of people don't like to think about marketing (or don't think we need marketing) but there are so many things going on at the library that public don't know about. They have other things consuming their attention.

It's even gotten to the point when I would tell people that we could get them a book we didn't have in the catalog that they were amazed. Isn't this the most basic thing we do as librarians? Provide books for people? And they were amazed that I would do this 'just for them.'

It's not good that people are unaware of our most basic functionality. It only drives home the idea that the public will even less of a clue that we offer MP3 audio books, online databases, book club in a bag, movies, live music, cafes, etc.

I think there are three areas every librarian can improve on no matter how good they already are:

Customer Service
Passion for the field

At the same time, there is a lot I'm learning from people who have been in the field as long as I've been alive. These people know so much about the community they're in, the field they're in, the specific area they work in, it's something for me to aspire to. I look forward to the day when I can be an expert, a role model, for a new librarian.

We need to get the public to see us the way we see us.

What about the rest of you? Are you tired of librarians ranting about this issue? Or are you tired of librarians claiming that things are just fine?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Logorrhea in stores now!

Tomorrow (May 1) will see the publication of the anthology that I edited for Bantam Books. The book is called Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories. Every story in the anthology is based on a spelling-bee winning word. Here is the full table of contents:

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”

I'm very excited about this book. It's been a lot of work in a short amount of time. I sold the book in January of 2006. There were only two out of 21 stories written at that time. To get more than 100,000 words written, edited, and pushed through the publishing process in just over a year took a great amount of effort. I've gotten the chance to work with a lot of authors that I admire.

Those of you that know me better also know that during that course of time I completed my MLIS, my wife gave birth to our first child, I took a full-time job at a great public library in NJ, changed to a full-time job in IA, and moved halfway across the country from NJ to IA. I'm not sure what I'll do with my free time now that the work on the book is essentially done.

The link above takes you to the Amazon page for the book. It's currently $11.05 on Amazon. Not bad for so much great fiction! Go out and buy! Get some for your friends!

If you're in the Quad City area of Iowa, I have events set up on May 19 in the Borders in Davenport and on May 20 at the Barnes & Noble in North Park Mall. Hope to see you there!

John Klima

Friday, April 20, 2007

Note to self....

It would be a good idea when one of your employees goes home sick to make a backup plan for desk coverage for the next day. That way, when you get into work and realize you forgot one of your other employees had the day off you aren't totally screwed and forced to cover the desk yourself all day.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Take This Idea and Run With It

Book Club in a Bag

I had never seen this before (probably many of you have), but it was first brought to my attention by science fiction writer and all-around great guy, Robert Sawyer. The Kitchener Public Library has started offering book clubs in a bag, where you get a set of ten copies of the same book, plus a book-club discussion guide and everything checks out as one item.

When I read Robert's post, I thought that's a great idea! Then, when I finally got a library card at my local library, guess what they have? Yep! DIBs or Discussions In Boxes. From their website:
A selection of challenging and entertaining discussion books plus a binder full of reviews and information about the authors is available for a checkout period of 6 weeks.
And here's a PDF explaining the service at Bettendorf.

How cool is that? Is this something your library could do?

(cross-posted at Pop Goes the Library)

So, it's been about a month-and-a-half...

since I moved to IA to take the job as Access Services Librarian at Palmer College of Chiropractic. So what's happening with me, you might ask?

I have to say the transition from public to academic library has been (and will be) a little rough. Things are very different from one type of library to the other.

In the public library, there were people coming in the library all the time. True, there were fewer people who used the library than paid for it with their taxes, but all the same, when you were on the reference desk, you had questions. Here, I can sit an entire shift on the reference desk (which entails three hours at the desk and the remainder of the day on call...yes, your reference shift technically lasts for the ENTIRE work day) and not get any questions. Even sitting at the circulation desk I go an entire work day without interacting with a patron.

It goes without saying, but there's a different focus on collection development. I bring it up since here at Palmer, we're concerned with health care and specifically (predominantly) with chiropractic. I do not have a health care background, nor do I know much about chiropractic. It's a steep curve I have to take to learn enough to be able to help someone should they decide to ask me a question. Here, if it's not healthcare...and I should really just say if it's not chiropractic...interest, we don't order it. Instead of getting dozens of books each week, we might get a dozen a month. We do order McNaughton books (remember those from collection development classes? The bestselling books that you keep for a limited time?) so that we have some popular reading; but those books don't circulate very much. I'm not involved in collection development at Palmer, whereas all the librarians at the public library were involved. I do see the McNaughton list and can recommend up to two titles, but that's a lot different from the vast amount of ordering I used to do. At the public library, I did collection development for: fiction, the 000s, healthcare (ah, you lied! you do have a background in healthcare! not really, not when I order books based on reviews and Amazon rankings), parenting, science fiction & fantasy, and young adult books.

I did a lot of marketing and creative planning at the public library. There were easy places to make signs, and create website stuff, have interesting programming items, etc. that just don't exist here. At least, they aren't as obvious here. It's not even like we're a more comprehensive college/university with lots of majors and departments. We're very focused here, and it's something I don't have a background in. The website is set. There's no need/way for me to create cute links, or reader's advisories, or Web 2.0 stuff. I can update content, but I can't change the way things look or feel. There's no programming. I could certainly make signs, but I believe signs should be a minimum and once I have the few done I think we need...then what? It's not like the YA stuff at the last library where I could create a new wacky sign every week.

Like I said, it's been rough. Everything is different. Everyone has been here longer than I have so I feel a lot of pressure (all personal, it's not pressure from my bosses) to do better at my job. So I've been trying to think of ways to take what I do well at a library and apply it here. I could create new signs (i.e., for the new books, for our hours, etc.). I could work on getting some sort of programming going here...have chiropractors come into the library to talk to students about being a professional, or about a book they've written. Maybe even see if anyone would be interested in having in 'fun' authors in to talk about books (sort of a diversion from studies). Maybe I could create some internal wikis or blogs to help set a home for policies/procedures.

It took me until last week to start thinking this way again. I've been so overwhelmed by what I don't know, that I was forgetting what I do know.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Non Library Blogs

From The Liminal Librarian (Rachel Singer Gordon): a list of five non-library blogs that I read regularly. This idea came up when people mentioned that they felt library blogs were suffering from nepotism (they should check out the science fiction world!).

While I'm no Steven Cohen, I have somewhere around 230 feeds in my reader. There are some 60 library feeds, around 80 feeds from science fiction & fantasy writers, some 30 or so publishing blogs (editors, publishers, etc.), about 10 feeds that are searches on different formats for my zine and feeds from my zine, and the rest are a bunch of misc things...five of which will be highlighted below:

BoingBoing - I met Cory Doctorow many years ago when he was an aspiring (and already talented) science fiction author. I worked for his publisher, Tor Books, for a number of years. When I found BoingBoing online through Cory, I knew I had found a place that would collect all sorts of things of interest to me: from science fiction to copyright to movies & television to weird weird weird stuff, BoingBoing has it all. Plus it updates all the time, so there's always something new to read.

Lifehacker - One of the most useful website I have ever encountered. This gives me tips on software and organization and shopping and everything else. There are a ton of great things I've learned from here. This website is indispensable to me. Plus, I'm an approved commenter!

Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch - My daily (who am I kidding, multiple times a daily) fix of Entertainment Weekly Magazine. Updates on movies, music, television, and all things pop culture (not so mcuh books...sniff). I love getting their instant reviews on last night's television. It's like they're inside my head watching what I watch.

Best Week Ever - Covering much of the same types of material as Popwatch, but with attitude. They don't pretend to be nice to the stars and what the stars are doing. If you've seen the TV show, you know what I mean. Often rude, often caustic, but again, often what I'm thinking anyway. They have a great feature called 'Listen Up' where they post links to mp3s of new music, both from established bands and up-and-coming artists. A great way to hear some stuff before it comes out. This makes you sound like you're in the know. :)

I read a dozen or so marketing blogs (what's good for small business is good for the library) but Creating Passionate Users is my favorite. Librarians are already passionate users of the library, and Kathy Sierra (even though she's talking about software) gives great insight to make your users (patrons) passionate users, too. She's creates these great (kind of ugly) charts and graphs to illustrate her points. They show that you don't need to have the perfect design and art to get your point across. Definitely worth checking out. Don't tell Kathy, but I print out her posts so I can refer to them later!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Reaching out to my fellow library workers

Being the Access Services Librarian gives me job duties that I have no experience with in the library. They include such things as: ILL, document delivery, copyright & royalty fees [as they pertain to document delivery], circulation, staff management, access services in general.

Does anyone have any suggestions of some good sources for information on any of these topics? I am getting a lot of great information from my co-workers and staff, but I like to see what other people use/know.

We use OCLC for ILL and Docline for document delivery. We run on a Horizon system. We are an academic institution, but we are also a chiropractic college, so our collection is fairly specialized.

I've subscribed to a number of list servs, and I'm looking into journal articles as well. Anyone have something that would help focus my energy?

Where have you've gone, Johnny Klima?

I've been in IA for a few weeks now. I keep forgetting to bring in a camera to take pictures of my new library digs, but I'll have some soon. Our college runs in trimesters and today's graduation. That means that next week is an interim week with no students and I'll have some freedom to come in and snap away.

There have been two questions I've been getting from everyone: what do you think of IA? and How's the new job? These are both fair questions. Honestly, what else are people going to ask me about? My feelings are those of general happiness and contentment. It's very interesting to go from a large public library, to a small college. I know that I've come in right at finals so I'm not seeing how the students use the library normally, AND I haven't worked on the second floor where the students can check out bones (yes, containers of skulls and spines in pieces that students have to assemble) which is busier than the third floor where my office [wait until you see pictures] is. The new trimester starts in two weeks and I'm excited to see how things work.

However, it's only been a few weeks and I don't know that I can give a fair assessment of what I think. There is a lot of unknown in my life right now (i.e., this is the first time I've worked in circulation and then I'm the manager on top of that, this is the first time I've worked in an academic environment [my time at Rutgers digital libraries does not count as we had no patrons], and this is my first experience with chiropractic medicine). This unknown makes things difficult since I'm spending most of my time reading and learning. I feel little behind the eight ball to get caught up, but that's all self-imposed behind the eight-ballness.

On top of that, at this job I have faculty status, which means I am required to do professional development and service to the college/chiropractic community. Well, I'm required only in the way since it's tied directly to promotion and advancement. So I'll have to do scholarship. Which is fine; I kind of like the idea of writing papers, or editing a journal, or overseeing a committee, or who knows what I'll get into. At my last job, while outside work like that was not discouraged, it wasn't actively encouraged. And it did little to help me as far as performance reviews came. No one would be upset if I published something in School Library Journal, but no one would necessarily laud it either. [that's probably unfair and it sounds a little bitter towards my last job; I guess I'm just trying to say that the public library had no requirements like this, and therefore doing stuff like this was more for personal edification than anything else]

Then there's the whole IA thing. I'd never been to IA before I came out here in Feb 2006 to interview for this job the first time. There's a lot to learn. We're trying to find: grocery stores, fish markets, meat markets, restaurants, doctors, dentists, bookstores, libraries, craft places, printers, etc. that we like. We've moved far enough that most of the stores (particularly when it comes to food shopping; and this is important because we REALLY like to cook) are not the same as the East Coast.

My point is, we're happy, but we're not settled yet. There's a lot to learn.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Moving to Iowa

Yes, I'm moving to Iowa. Here's the story in a nutshell:

At the end of this month, my family and I will be moving to Iowa. I'll be working at the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport as their Access Services Librarian. I start on Feb 5. We'll be driving out on Jan 26.

I had interviewed with Palmer in February of last year, before I was full-time at Franklin Township. They picked a candidate who was more local to them. He lived in Iowa City, which is about an hour drive from Davenport. However, the University of Iowa restructured their libraries and he was able to get a job at the University in Iowa City so he no longer needed to commute.

Palmer re-contacted me to see if I was still interested in the job. I was. They flew me back out in December. I was the only candidate.

The money is about the same as I was making at Franklin. But, that money will go a lot further in Iowa than it does in NJ. Also, we'll be only a few hours drive from family. It'll be tough moving away from the library family that I've grown up in (even though I haven't been a member for very long), but hopefully we'll be able to stay in touch!

I'll still post here and on Pop Goes the Library. You will continue to see me doing things in the library field.

John Klima