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After the sessions, I went to the Expo area, where the Book Cart Drill Team competition was beginning. I couldn’t really get a good view. I took this picture holding my camera over my head.
The local team, from Daniel Boone Regional Library, won with their pirate-themed routine. The team shown here was the second-place winner.
After the drill team competition, we wandered around the Expo center and visited vendors… mostly the professors from our school, since almost everyone I was hanging around with graduated last year and wanted to make contact. Then, some of us went to the Missouri Library Network Corporation 25th anniversary reception (poolside… the pool was covered and it was a bit chilly out there, but still nice), others went to the MACRL dinner, and still others went to the Performer Showcase. I wish I had gone to the Performer Showcase as well. It was a lot of fun last year, and my friends who went this year said it was even better. And Bobby Norfolk was there.
Libraries, Democracy, and the Public Interest
Presented by Denice Adkins, John Budd, and Doug Raber, University of Missouri
3:15-4 pm, October 4, 2006
This session was far too short. The presenters began with the Assumptions of Democracy (U.S. version): Public participation, informed citizenry, fundamental freedoms, individual rights, and majority rule. We spent a little time discussing what those meant, and then went on to try to figure out what was a library’s responsibility. The presenters asked whether libraries were obligated just to provide information or whether libraries were obligated to inform citizens. They asked for a show of hands. It appeared most of the people in the room believed libraries were simply obligated to provide information, but a few of the younger librarians in the room believed there was an obligation to inform. (I interpreted that to mean that libraries should offer not just materials, but sessions and displays.) It comes down to whether a library should be proactive or responsive. I believe there are good arguments for both.
The topic of library boards came up, as it does. Without a good library board, there’s little a library can do, it seems.
The session ended just as the discussion was really heating up.
“Using Your Body to Reach Their Mind”
Presented by Jennifer Martin, PhD, UMKC
2:15-3:45, Wednesday, October 4, 2006
We did not stay for the whole presentation because it conflicted with another presentation we wanted to go to. Dr. Martin talked about using three in-take modes (hearing/verbal, facial/emotional, and kinesthetic/action) to communicate with library users. She is a drama professor, though, and did not have a great deal of library-specific examples. This session was a great idea, but was not exactly what I was expecting.
The Missouri Library Association conference began Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at the Holiday Inn in Columbia, Missouri. I did not attend any pre-conferences or post-conferences. Met up with some friends who had graduated and scattered away. That was probably the best part of this conference this year.
This week’s LISRadio showcase is an interview with Jimmy Gownley and John Gallagher of Kids Love Comics, an organization that promotes G-rated comics for kids. The interview was conducted at the 2006 ALA Annual conference in New Orleans.
This week’s LISRadio showcase is an interview with Muslim Canadian author Rukhsana Khan. After recording this interview, I bought two of the books she mentioned for my personal library of children’s books. Roses in My Carpets is a wonderful story about a refugee child in Afghanistan in about the mid-1990s. The Beduin’s Gazelle by Frances Temple is cited by Khan as an example of a novel written by a non-Muslim that gets the culture right. It would be a wonderful book for a fifth- or sixth-grade student who loves reading fiction about other cultures and times.
This week’s LISRadio showcase show is library historian Professor Wayne Wiegand of Florida State University’s College of Information. Professors Seavey and Wiegand talk about reading, an element of libraries and librarianship that is sometimes ignored. (After this week, it will be available in the archive.)
I’m putting these solutions here in case someone else is searching for the same problem.
1. I couldn’t send IMAP email using Outlook 2003. Uninstalled McAfee Spamkiller, and now it works just fine.
2. I couldn’t see .pdf files in Firefox after I bought the Adobe suite. Turns out, I had an old Acrobat Reader lurking around. Once I uninstalled that, I was able to view .pdfs again.
One of the things I want to study more is the interaction between kids and the libraries at their schools. I have some suspicions that this relationship can be flawed, but I need to observe more places. I don’t have enough data yet. But I have suspicions that in some places, teens are inadvertently made to feel unwelcome at their libraries.
Here is the comment of a library user: “Hmmm… I have a stupid geography assignment on Bali dued soon… T_T really - why Bali? I really hate going online - most, if not all, of the information online is bogus! And libraries - i don’t do libraries! I hate how its all quiet.. the atmosphere in most libraries feel weird =/ (maybe i’m just weird haha) I HATE THE LIBRARIANS! rude and obnoxious bitches! Gosh i swear they sit there on their fat asses talking on the DAMN phone!! When you need their bloody service they give you the biggest dirty! Man i’d love punch them in the face x_X they all deserve black eyes!” (Found via The Annoyed Librarian) (I agree with Linnypooh– why Bali, except that it’s a big vacation spot for Australians.) It’s not clear if Linnypooh is including her school library in the dismissal, but it is clear that her information need is not being met. (I’m very glad she’s skeptical of online content, though.)
I’m going to start looking for more comments about libraries and librarians from kids and teens. It seems like Linnypooh’s observations fit in with some of the things I have already observed. One of the things that bothers me is that here is a person with an information need, and she feels excluded in the library.
At the beginning of my library school adventure, I read a great article in VOYA about what kind of library service makes teens comfortable with a library. It’s different than what adults want. (For the life of me, I can’t find it, but I will post the citation as soon as I find it.) The most important thing was that teens want to be ACKNOWLEDGED as humans and treated as if their information needs are important. A slight that an adult might brush off can really hurt a teen. I remember being a teen. I was probably more thin-skinned than most, but even the toughest kids were vulnerable sometimes.
John at Library Clips posted a link to CoComment, a way to track your comments on other sites. So, I signed up. There is a box on my sidebar that might eventually get filled with comments. I’ve been using Furl to track my comments, but that’s not the intent of Furl. I hope this works better. It might be a good start as far as bringing conversation back to blogging.
Are blogs really good for two-way communication? I’m starting to suspect no.
I belong to a forum of people who have only one thing in common. We represent a wide range of political beliefs, religious beliefs, ethnicities, and gender identities. Somehow, on this forum, we are able to have real discussions, including disagreements. People still generally respect each other while engaging in dialogue.
I used to blog a long time ago, when Blogger was still brand new. It seems that people were willing to disagree with each other, while respecting each other’s rights to have an opinion. Two things changed the whole environment. The 2000 election and September 11 and its aftermath. (Some might argue the Iraq invasion, but the shift started long before that, I believe.) I quit blogging a few months after September 11 because of the hostile atmosphere.
I don’t see discourse any more in blogs. With a few exceptions, the blogs I have come across tend to have commenters who always agree with the main post. Commenters who do not agree are ignored, dismissed, or treated as if they’re attacking the original poster. (Ignored is more common.) That’s if a person who disagrees even bothers to post a comment. There seems to be an intolerance for people with different opinions and priorities.
Is it the medium that leads to this kind of environment? Much like how Power Point is often blamed for poor presentations? Or is it people who like to pontificate and be agreed with are drawn to blogging? Or am I altogether wrong?
How does this seeming lack of tolerance for differing opinions and priorities translate to real-life librarian work? Again, how does it represent our profession? If a non-librarian were to come across some of our posts, what would he or she think of librarians? Librarians are, of course, people, entitled to their own opinions. But we also represent a profession, one that people are increasingly finding to be irrelevant (whether true or not, the perception matters.) If we are presenting an image that makes some people uncomfortable with “asking a librarian,” what does that do to us?
Can blogs be used for true two-way communication?
By the way, I just realized that comments are for logged in users only and registration is disabled and I can’t figure out how to get them right again. I don’t mean to shut down conversation! I’m trying to figure out exactly where it is that I can allow user self-registration. (Unfortunately, because of spammers, I can’t totally open comments– since I loathe captchas, they are not an option for me.)
Edited: I found it. It was under general, rather than discussion, in options. For now, I have enabled people to comment without registering, but commenters must have at least one approved comment before comments will appear automatically. At least, that’s how I hope it will work!
This week’s LISRadio showcase audio file is an interview with history author James Nelson, who happens to be a friend of the interviewer, Professor Seavey. The Professor interviewed Mr. Nelson during the ALA Annual conference in New Orleans. He had an interesting take on the difference between history writing and fiction writing. It sounds like they had a lot of fun together!
Meredith Farkas of Information Wants to be Free posts an interesting follow-up to her previous post Skills for the 21st Century Librarian.
Librarian education is in such a state of flux right now that it’s hard to identify which problems in education are endemic and which are caused by the rapid changes that we’ve seen recently. Library schools can certainly do more to integrate technology into classes, though. I’m not really in favor of stand-alone html (or insert your favorite technological hobby-horse here) classes, but I am in favor of having students develop a website throughout their library school education that can act as a portfolio and depository. I’m in favor of reference classes having students work a semester for the Internet Public Library or similar digital reference source. I’m in favor of integrating something like a wiki into a library history class. I do not want to see more stand-alone classes built around specific technologies, because technologies change. Technology should be built in in a fluid manner. And some schools are trying. In the two and a half years I have been attending my school, we’ve experimented with four different class management systems and we’ve used blogs and wikis. We’ve also launched a series of podcasts discussing both integration of technology in education and just plain reading. We’ve used podcasts in distance classes. This is all new, and in some ways, we’re still fumbling along. But there are library educators who are trying to get it right.
I would argue that there are places where a low-tech approach is appropriate. Several people have complained about learning how to catalog using a paper copy of a MARC record. I believe this is a good thing for several reasons. First, all libraries don’t use the same cataloging software. That’s not as important as the second reason, which is that it gives a big picture view of the MARC record and has the tactile hand-brain connection going for it as well. The corrected records can be useful to look over because you will start to see patterns in your mistakes. (Note, I am pro-cataloging and pro-MARC, so this comes from that viewpoint.) When I started cataloging at my work, I had my corrected records by me so I could make sure I didn’t keep making the same mistake. Doing cataloging on a computer from the beginning doesn’t give you that record of corrected mistakes.
I supposed I’ve been fortunate in library school because I’ve been in the school librarian program. There has been a technological component in almost every class I’ve taken. My classmates will not enter a school completely unprepared. In fact, I think the biggest shocks are going to be a step-back in technology and the strict filtering most school districts use.
I’m also lucky because, really, our faculty is interested in such a variety of topics. Some students are not happy about the theory-heavy courses, but really, there is a justification for so much theory. Every library is different. If a new librarian has a good grounding in theory (and goes to work at a library where such theory is considered), the details that are unique to the new library will come quickly.
Like Meredith and Simon Chamberlain point out, though, some of the most important skills a 21st librarian needs cannot be taught. Especially, embracing change and a willingness to engage in lifelong learning are personal qualities that one either possesses or does not. While it may be possible to educate librarians out of ingrained tendencies to resist change, it may perhaps be better for library schools to attempt to recruit students who already have positive attitudes towards change, and towards continued professional growth and learning. (Valis).
At the same time, library schools are actively recruiting future faculty who have the same qualities. I’m very excited to see how my current classmates turn out as professors.
I’m running out of time here, so this part will be even hastier than the rest of the post. One thing I don’t want to see is the books part of LIS shoved aside. People still read books. There are still things that need to be examined when it comes to good old fashioned off-line reading material. Are we providing the best way for people to find what they want? Old-fashioned, face-to-face reader’s advisory, including familiarity with the collection, is still important. Old-fashioned subject headings (even on fiction!) are still important.
Is librarianship becoming ageist? Has it always been ageist? I’ve always been a library customer, but I’ve been pretty ignorant of what goes in behind the scene. However, I read about a competition in the UK to find bright young librarians under 30 and the ALA’s Emerging Leaders “initiative”, I begin to wonder what is going on. Maybe if I were in the desired age group, I might not be bothered by the messages these things send. Are there other careers that openly reward people for waiting to be born? I know age discrimination is rampant in Hollywood, but I really haven’t heard of other careers where being young is openly rewarded or sought after. (I’m excluding the military here.)
I’m 34. I’m beginning a second career. I would like to think I have a good 31 years left in me. (I hope I make good enough retirement investments that I can move out gracefully at 65.) Yet librarianship is already trying to make me feel old and dried up and useless. The 16 years of experience I have in another career and in life is not the least bit valuable. I’m not unique in my class, though. Quite a few of us are in our 30s or older.
I detest ageism. I especially detest our society’s obsessive focus on youth. The poisonous 60s ideology of “never trust anyone over 30″ still pervades how we view people. I’m not sure how being born after the magic cut-off year of 1976 makes people brighter and more motivated (unless it’s more of the same Dear Abby nonsense about how Gen X-ers are lazy, unmotivated slackers.) Being old doesn’t keep me from being interested in the same things the “youngsters” are interested in, either. Maybe I don’t have enough tattoos and piercings to be alternative, but I care about the same things they do, when it comes to librarianship.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’m also not the only one who is in such a small demographic that we don’t really have any say in this kind of thing. It’s so strange to go from being too young, because everyone important is older than us, to being too old, because everyone important is younger than us.
My school just received a new grant to fund the education of future library school faculty. The responses I’ve seen so far are… not exactly a wakeup call… but further signs of a rift between practitioners and academics. I noticed the same rift at the ALA session on teaching cataloging to school librarians.
Librarianship has more going on than what appears on the surface. There are a lot of fascinating questions that can be answered and are being answered by current LIS researchers. It’s true that some research can be found lacking, but the solution to that is to recruit better potential researchers, not to denigrate our profession. Not to decide that library school is just vo-tech and there’s nothing more to learn about the field. It will be inevitable that some people will graduate library school feeling that they haven’t learned anything. There will be others who feel like they just bought a piece of paper that expands their career horizons. That’s inevitable in any field. But we don’t all have to have that attitude.
I know that I need to shore myself up to face contempt from both practicing librarians and from other academics who look down at librarianship much the same way some of our own practitioners do. It’s important to look at these questions, though. If we don’t see ourselves as a profession, with value, worth studying, how on earth can we expect others to value us?
Finally, my first ALA write-up! This session was a lot more frustrating to describe than I expected it to be.
Session: Teaching Cataloging to School Library Media Specialists
Education of Library Media Specialists Section
25 June 2006
Room 243, Morial Convention Center, New Orleans
The session was broken into two parts. Alison Kaplan, a doctoral candidate at the University of Delaware discussed changes in cataloging, and Dr. Elizabeth Haynes of the University of Southern Mississippi discussed cataloging of multimedia.
I'm very committed to cataloging and believe it is the foundation of librarianship. It is just as important in the school library as it is in any other kind of library, because without good cataloging, the students don't have the access they want and need. Students deserve our best.
The handouts for the session will be available at http://www.ala.org/ala/aasl/conferencesandevents/confarchive/aaslconference.htm soon. (I checked today, and they're not up yet.) This write-up will be a paraphrase of the session, with my own comments in brackets.
Alison Kaplan's part of the session was not specifically geared at SLMSs, yet was full of information that is important for practicing SMLSs and SLMSs in training. It is important for school librarians to keep up with technology developments and stay involved, because otherwise the developments will be made without school libraries in mind.
Kaplan discussed quite a few things we use acronyms for, including FRBR, RDA, ISBD, and JSC.
Some places where school librarians and others can keep up with standard developments are:
Kaplan advises teachers of future librarians to "keep on top of the JSC" by letting the developer know the concerns of school librarians. Will the standards be affordable for schools, with their tiny budgets? This means the teachers of future school librarians also must keep up with the needs of the practitioners. Teachers of future school librarians need to keep in mind that school librarians don't necessarily need to be catalogers, but they do need to be intelligent consumers of cataloging. Most school librarians will use pre-processed records from their bookjobbers, but they need to know enough about cataloging to be able to customize records for their location and to find and fix errors.
One way to be involved in the process is to take the survey at rdaonline: http://rdaonline.org/
The second part of the session dealt with the specifics of cataloging multimedia items.
One of the biggest things I noticed was a slight antagonism from the practitioners toward the presenters. I wasn't sure if it was from the fact that it was three days into the conference and people were getting tired or whether it is some ongoing discord between academics and practitioners.
I’m heading out camping with the family tonight, but if we get home early enough tomorrow, I hope to finish my write-up of the ALA session “Teaching Cataloging to School Library Media Specialists.”
My professor brought up an interesting point in class yesterday. He was talking about librarians who blog (as librarians, rather than as bloggers who happen to be librarians) and mentioned that they are representing the profession to others. It’s an interesting thing to think about. When a non-librarian reads a librarian blog, what are they learning about the profession? The point came up when we were talking about bloggers who discuss their patrons in ways that could be considered unethical.
Then he mentioned that if we have a blog, future employers will find it.
The biggest thing I do wrong on this blog is that I don’t update it enough. And I would not work in a place where just having a blog would keep one from being employed. But it is a point that cannot be repeated enough. Everything we put online is available to anyone, so we need to make sure it represents us honestly.
A recurring theme I have been noticing lately is people complaining that library school is not intellectually rigorous enough. (I’ve also seen assumptions that distance education does not require teachers, but I’m going to dismiss that one without comment.)
In a sense, library school is what you make it. It is entirely possible to sail through library school without really engaging your brain, especially if you’re bright (which I think aspiring librarians tend to be.) At the same time, though, there are meatier things to think about. You can get meta and think about library education itself. You can look at libraries through the lenses of various philosophers and thinkers (Foucault and Gramsci being two that are popular at my school.) You can look at the intellectual foundations and assumptions of librarianship. You can examine how humans seek information and how they react when they find it. There are a lot of very interesting things to look at.
Is it as rigorous as physics? No. Anthropology? No. (But libraries can be examined through an anthropological lens.)
I’ve seen library school blamed for a student’s own lack of motivation. You don’t have to stop learning as soon as you leave a classroom. There is no law that says you are not allowed to learn more about, say, MARC Bibliographic Standards, if your cataloging teacher doesn’t explore them in depth (if you were lucky enough to take cataloging.) I’m hardly a model student (I have a lot of bad habits), but one thing I do is seek out more challenges. I look for the books my professors have written. When we get a chapter in a course pack, I’ll seek out the book itself (if I find it interesting.) I try to write papers and reviews that will be useful to me or other librarians later, rather than just trying to get through the assignment. One of my professors suggests that we strive to make our papers of high enough quality that they could be published. It’s a good standard.
Library school students get what they put in. If you’re currently in library school and you don’t feel like it’s intellectually rigorous enough, why not seek out the harder instructors? I’m sure every library school has at least one. (Mine has several, and it is worth it to take classes from them.) Start a journal discussion group and look at current research in the field. You might find it wanting– so start thinking about what you can do to remedy that. Start reading philosophy, ethnography, historiography and see what you can apply to librarianship. Find an intellectual mentor or intellectual peers and band together in your geekery.
The people who feel unchallenged by library school can be the key for intellectual growth in the profession.
June is going to be an amazing month! This weekend, comprehensive exams for my master’s start. Tomorrow is the first session for the research integrity class I’m taking. Summer sessions always seem a little harder than regular semesters. Next Thursday, I’m going to the ALA conference, where I will be the student to staff representative for my school.
I’m also gearing up for a shift in my education. This fall, I’m taking introduction to educational statistics, human information behavior, and reading communities. I’m excited, but a lot of things in my life are going to change in the next few months. I hope that with those changes, I will be able to carve out a few minutes a day to reflect here about what’s going on in library education, especially the education of school librarians.
Most of my friends graduated this past weekend. I’m feeling at loose ends, because I’m finishing in August. I will be several months done with my MLS when I walk in December.
I’m excited about the summer class I’m taking, which is on research ethics and the problems thereof. It’s with a professor I’ve never taken a class with before. I’m also taking comps this summer and going to ALA. I also need to catch up on my YA reading for a class I’m TA-ing in the fall. My ALA backpack will be full of YA novels.
The summer will go by so fast it will be a blur!
Tonight on LISRadio, my co-advisors and a doc student are interviewing romance writer Eloisa James (who is also a professor at Fordham University!) The show starts at 8pm CST and call-in numbers are posted at the site if anyone wants to participate. As always, the archived show will be available tomorrow. (We now have RSS feeds for our shows, too!) I’m stupidly excited. I’m reading Kiss Me, Annabel (not a link) right now, whenever I can grab a free moment. I think the main topic of conversation will be how librarians view romances and romance readers.
The Central Library in Des Moines borrows some ideas for displays from Barnes & Noble.
The article mentions the coffee-book link. Which is interesting to me, because back in the 80s, when I was designing my ideal bookstore, it included a cafe. Books and coffee go together in my mind.
I’m still mulling over the idea of libraries taking ideas from retail. A lot of the question boils down to what is a library? What is the library’s goal? It seems obvious at first, but then when you start talking to people, you start to realize that everyone who’s interested in libraries has a deeply personal, individual idea of what a library actually is.
The article includes this quote: “Libraries are no different than bookstores,” said Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley. “It’ll have the coffee shop, meeting rooms, study rooms.” Libraries are very different from bookstores. Bookstores don’t have meeting rooms and study rooms. Browsing in bookstores is for paying customers only– or, at least, customers who look like they have the ability to pay. The information is for paying customers only.
Another major difference is the availability of old, out of print, obscure works. Tax laws and the realities of business force bookstores to keep only the newest, best-selling works. There’s little there for the “long tail,” the niche readers.
Sometimes I worry that we will lose sight of the idea that the library is for all. I think libraries can use a few marketing tips, but we need to carefully consider the impact of what we do. (And frankly, I would rather see us making design and marketing decisions from a solid knowledge of marketing, public relations, and the social effects of architectural/ interior design, rather than from the knowledge of “It works for Barnes & Noble.” I hope we understand WHY we are doing things.)
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I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep track of posts where I comment, but that don’t quite fit in here (not that I have figured out what fits in here yet.) A few minutes ago, I realized this is a great use for my Furl archive! I have a new category called “Commenting.” Of course, now I find myself wondering how I can integrate my Furl archive with this blog, without trying the sidebar thing, which messed up my blog last time I tried to use it.
You can probably tell it’s spring break.
Edited to add: I have not started rating anything, so everything is currently rated at 3.