Monday, December 06, 2010


For a committee I'm on, I'm testing out using Zoomerang to make surveys. I'd appreciate people taking this survey so I can see how it works for them.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Collection Development

 (image from Flickr user library mistress)

One of the things I feel I really got shafted on in library school was collection development. Now, I liked my professor quite a bit, and I believe he knows a lot about collection development, but I also feel like I left the class without any sense of how to DO collection development.

Most of the time, I've lucked out, and I've been asked to do collection development in an area where I have personal interest/knowledge. In these cases it's easy to know what's coming out, what the hot topics/authors are, etc. But when faced with areas I have less expertise about?

Then I'm left mumbling, um reviews, amazon, uh, magic?

I can do things like environmental scanning, i.e., seeing what's missing in a community. And yes, that's a great skill to have. But once I've determined that there's a large group of bird watches in my area, how do I figure what books to add to the collection for them?

Just as important, I've never developed a system I like for tracking my collection development. My first attempt was a raggedy notebook with every title I was interested in written in it. You can imagine the nightmare after a few months (much less years) of trying to find anything in it.

I'm currently using a folder filled with notepad files. But I'm only tracking what's to come, and what I've ordered. I'm not tracking what's come in the library. How do you track stuff? What do you chose to track?

I wish library school had provided me with a better sense of how to answer these concerns. I'd love to hear from people what they do, and if they've had similar experiences to me.*

Because of SPAM, comments are moderated. Be patient, I'll get them posted as I can.

* To be honest (and forthright) I've thought about proposing a collection development book around these themes, so if you're interested, let me know. And if you don't want to be a part, but still want to address my questions, just say so.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Huffington Post on Library Woes

Art Brodsky's article is titled "Our Public Library Lifeline Is Fraying. We'll Be Sorry When it Snaps" and I couldn't agree more. And yes, I'm very biased towards this as I have an eminent stake in the future of libraries.

Five years ago I was at a crossroads. I had left publishing, a career I loved, to work as a computer programmer. This decision was purely financial. In 2000, my wife as a high school teacher made almost double what I made as an editor. We would never have a home, or a family, or savings, or all sorts of things if I continued working in publishing. Needless to say, but I made good money as a programmer.

But I hated it.

Many people like programming. There are many who even have a passion for it. I'm not one of them. I needed to get out. This put me at my crossroad.

Moving to a different programming job wouldn't be sufficient. It wasn't the work, it was the career. It and I did not match. Going back to publishing was an option, but there was the financial concern. So, I needed to find a career where I could have passion AND make a decent wage. I chose librarianship.

I love books. I love reading. Yes, a library is more than that, but I don't know if you can dislike books and make it as a librarian. More than liking books, I had worked on books. I knew that side of the business which is something many (if not most) librarians don't have. I also had a background in programming, which in these days, is a great benefit to have as a librarian as more and more things become electronic/digital/online/etc. these days. Plus, the pay was pretty good.

Don't laugh. My first job as a full-time librarian earned almost double what my last job as an editor did. Whether that says more for the dire state of publishing salaries or the implied lucrativeness of being a librarian, I don't know. Regardless, once the decision was made, it was time to go back to school, earn my Master's in Library Science (no matter what my alma mater thinks about the word 'library'), and move onto a new career.

I didn't come to libraries by accident. I didn't come to libraries because I had previous experience working in one (in fact, that lack of experience may be a benefit for me in the long run). I didn't come to libraries because I went to library school straight out of college. I chose to be a librarian. It's who I am. No matter what accolades I may earn (that's not me in the photo), I will always think of myself as a librarian first, everything else second.

That's why I think this article is great. Of course, being on the Huffington Post means that only a certain group of people will see it. And it's also written because this is National Library Week. On any other week I doubt that Mr. Brodsky--no matter his love and devotion to libraries--would write this. Even if he did, would Huffington Post run it on a different week? Probably not.

One of the big reasons is the prevailing mentality that everything is online. Even pro-library people (and librarians) have this opinion that everything is online. Brodsky writes (emphasis mine):
But it would be a mistake to say that the Internet replaces libraries. It doesn't. It's an adjunct. More than one budget officer has said that people don't need libraries because they can go online. First, many people can't go online due to their economic circumstances. Second, librarians help to guide research. A simple online search will not always achieve desired results, as anyone who does this well knows. And libraries still have those quaint old things called books, many of which aren't online. The printed medium still has a lot of attraction for many, from the youngest readers whose parents check out armloads of picture books, to the serious readers and researchers who realize there is more to find than what's online.
Just as important, just because you can go online and use Google, doesn't mean you can actually write a good search query, or interpret your search results with any alacrity. That's where we come in. Sure, I still get people calling for phone numbers and hours of businesses, but more often the reference questions are more complicated and require someone with some searching skill and tenacity to find the answer.

I'll close the same way the article does (again, emphasis mine):
No less an authority than Keith Richards put it best in his forthcoming autobiography: "When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equaliser."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Salem Press Blog Awards

Salem Press is sponsoring an award for library blogs. I heard about this through receiving a nomination e-mail over the weekend. Now, while I am flattered, doubly so since the nomination has to come from a reader, I've withdrawn myself from consideration as I don't feel my work lives up to the standard set by other library blogs.

There are some who feel there are too many awards, and others who feel this is a disingenuous attempt from Salem Press to gather marketing data. Regardless, it's not something for which I feel I qualify. For one, my blog which updates regularly is about science fiction and my magazine Electric Velocipede. This blog, has upated (including this post you're reading) seven times in the past THREE YEARS. Not exactly setting the library blog world on fire, eh?

Still, I'm flattered that someone felt what I've written worth nominating, and for that, I thank you.


Recently I wrote an article on steampunk for Library Journal's Booksmack online column/e-mail newsletter (yes, that's my ugly mug on the LJ site). My editor told me that it was their most accessed page on the entire Library Journal website the weekend it went up. It was also mentioned by and listed in the American Libraries newsletter from ALA.

Go me!

PS - I'm hoping that I can update this site a bit more as I'm trying to take control of my passion for librarianship and remember why I got into the field in the first place.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

What Will You Do?

What happens if you find yourself in a field you love, but working in places that don't let you do the things you love about the field? It might not be the institution's fault; what you love to do might not be relevant for its constituency. The things you love to do just might not be needed where you work.

What do you do about this?

In a related note, Seth Godin posted recently about the future of libraries. He says:
They can't survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don't want to own (or for reference books we can't afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That's not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.

Here's my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.

Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.
This is why I got into the field. Perhaps some day I'll work somewhere they'll let me do it.