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Thrilling Librarians Doing Thriller January 29, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Just for Fun.
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Wow! I just had to share this list of librarians doing the Thriller dance from Michael Jackson’s famous Thriller video! Thanks to Mental Floss! (Told ya we live double lives!)

Here’s one from the National Library of Australia, but click on the link above to see all of them! (Why are there so many??)

The Double Life of the (Academic) Librarian January 29, 2010

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Libraries everywhere continue to adopt Web 2.0 technologies, embracing sites like Facebook and Twitter to assist in outreach. Often, librarians are asked to become an active part of this community, creating their own user pages. This is true in any kind of collaborative, wiki-type environment. Participants are prompted to create a profile in order to create a sense of community. In a single day, I am unable to avoid the proliferation of social media into my job as an academic librarian. And while this is a positive improvement for the library I find myself facing the same dilemmas that teachers face when they set up a Facebook account: what are my parameters for accepting friend requests; what should I/should I not post; what kind of privacy settings should I adopt?

From Jazz Modeus's Flickr Stream, Creative Commons licensed

Public libraries have certainly embraced the image of the hipster librarian, bespattered with tattoos, perhaps even a piercing, and carrying an organic tote bag displaying though-provoking literary quotes (excuse the stereotype). Not so for the academic librarian. Academia prefers a little more conformity. While our employers may want us to show our individualism and personalities in reference and information literacy sessions, it is not hard to forget that we are professionals working in a professional environment. Working so closely with college students is a sticky situation in itself, especially for those of us who are younger. What role do we adopt? While you may say – librarian and librarian alone, it is not always that easy. We work closely, on a daily basis, with student workers who are far closer in age to us than our co-workers. We share more in common with them as well. Facebook is not a foreign place for us – it has been our mode of communication for some time now. So when our colleagues decide that we should attach our Facebook page to the library’s Facebook page, what do we do? Create two pages – one for the public and one private? This is the exact scenario that my colleague faces.   And while we may not have pictures of us guzzling beers or setting fire to couches, don’t we have a right to keep pictures of our latest camping trip between friends? How do we keep our individuality and our privacy in a world that demands we share?

Death to the Listserv! January 25, 2010

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Every day, all day, I am bombarded with listserv emails – 90% of which I am completely uninterested in. Many of these listservs are ones that my supervisors have suggested I join as a source of information and guidance. Once in a while I see a topic that looks interesting and read a few of the emails, but these discussions often devolve into barely veiled insults and vitriolic comments, or pleasant but unhelpful reiterations of the same idea. The only listserv I have enjoyed with relative consistency is the one from my graduate school which often has job listings. This too is most often irrelevant to me, as students use it to sell textbooks and even list apartments, but the repetition of deleting mass emails is worth the occasional local job listing.

So why use listservs at all? While it is helpful to post a question on a subject you are unfamiliar with, the same information can usually be gleaned from blogs or library web sites. Perhaps the listserv is, as Greg Lambert calls them in his June 2009 article in the AALL Spectrum, “lazy research.” Since joining Twitter, I have found the social media sites a wonderful source of information for libraries and librarians. But, like many other Twitter users, it took me months of forced engagement and exploration to truly understand the nuances (and language) of Twitter. I am nearly a “born digital”, and if it was difficult and time consuming for me to grasp the multitude of ways to harness Twitter’s plethora of information, than I can only guess how difficult and frustrating it would be for librarians who have been in the profession for a much longer time.

Lambert’s article provides a good list of the of pros and cons of listservs and in the end agrees with me, that a new model needs to be embraced. While we both mention Twitter, its defining characteristic is that posts can be no longer than 140 characters. Most librarians, news sites, blogs, etc. bypass this stipulation by posting a shortened URL to their Twitter post. But most librarians do not have their own site, so I don’t know if using Twitter can exactly replicate the quantity of information shared in a listserv. Twitter could possibly link to a wiki, a web site that any librarian could alter and share information on; but would the confluence of two Web 2.0 technologies make the process of sharing information unnecessarily difficult? Probably. Lambert’s most enthusiastic suggestion is Nings – social networks that allow user created communities to be as wide or as narrow as they choose and to share media in a number of different formats. Nings, like any technology, have a learning curve, which may be a detriment to some. I believe it is just for this reason that listservs have persisted for so long.

Listservs are simple, requiring only the use of email, a skill even the most seasoned librarian has mastered. So why is it that librarians haven’t adopted social media for professional development and collaboration even though most libraries boast their own Facebook page, and many have blogs and Twitter feeds? I think the answer is that librarians are often [1] too busy and [2] overwhelmed at the idea of learning another new technology. (And let’s be honest: a class on a new technology is always unhelpful to those digitally struggling and superfluous to those already embracing Web 2.0 technologies.) What is the solution? How do we smoothly transition as a profession from the outdated model of the listserv to the collaborative, nourishing environment of Web 2.0 community sites? I haven’t a clue! What’s your thoughts?

Please read the entirety of Greg Lambert’s article from June 2009’s AALL Spectrum here.

First Time at ALA January 13, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in ALA Mid-winter Meeting.
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This weekend a colleague (more like a friend) and I will be attending the American Library Association’s Mid-winter Meeting in Boston. Though it is not as extensive as the annual conference (which I hope too, to attend in D.C.), it is a fairly large venue and a good opportunity to network. I will try to blog each day to give my impressions of the meeting and what it is like to be a new librarian in such a setting. I will also be meeting my mentor, whom I was assigned to through ALA and look forward to meeting. Please share with me any tips or suggestions for attending this meeting. I will keep you updated!

From Christopher Chan's Flickr stream, Creative Commons licensed

A Lego Library January 4, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Amazing.
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I had to share this awesome rendition of the Stockholm Public Library done in Legos! Legos have certainly changed since I was little. (From Minkowsky’s Flickr Stream, posted by MSauers on Twitter)

Check out all the pics here!

6 Lessons We NEED to Be Teaching December 10, 2009

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I’ve been avoiding this personal diatribe for some time now so as to avoid being the whiny, criticizing librarian who sees fault everywhere but does nothing. As librarians, we are all too aware of the habit to tend toward myopia, often forgetting that most people do not understand research as we do, hence our livelihood. And though we may acknowledge that we often breeze past the simplest (but often crucial) building blocks of research, we do little to address it. With this list I am attempting to argue that bibliographic instruction needs to be rethought and needs to address the sources of research so that students understand why, for example, articles need to be peer-reviewed, other than the fact that their professor requires it.

Here is the only disclaimer I give: as a new employee and only half a year out of library school, I don’t find it in my best interest to criticize well-established methods. In time I do hope to share my ideas, but for now I’ll vent here and present the 6 lessons we NEED to be teaching to undergrads in the library.

1. What is a journal/journal article?

More often than not, bibliographic instruction (aka information literacy instruction) includes a section on how to search databases, including which databases should be used for certain subjects and how to locate them on the library’s web page. The students type in a few words and presto–there’s a full-text article directly in front of them. To a student who is embarking on her first research paper in college there is not much difference between this and Google, which leads to a plethora of misunderstandings down the road. My suggestion is this: we bring paper (yes PAPER) journals into the session; maybe even walk the students down into the stacks where the periodicals are kept so that they understand that these digital articles are things that have actually been vetted and published, thus distinguishing them from much else on the web.This brings me to my second point–

2.The nature of databases.

Now that the student understands why journal articles are superior to Google’s search results, they need to understand that certain databases cover only certain journals. This will avoid a typical problem I have encountered, that of a student asserting that they only use EBSCO…yes, but which EBSCO product? (If only these databases changed their interface for different products, how it would help us!)

3. Databases are not the same as the Internet.

Students tell me that they need research sources, but are forbidden to use the web. When I pull up a database to find peer-viewed articles they insist that these are not allowed. After I explain that the library pays for these published sources, they usually acquiesce, though lingering suspicions tend to remain.

4. The relationship between articles and URLs.

Students are savvy, resourceful, and green. Many of them will find an article and create a list of URLs for easy access to the articles from home so that they are not weighed down with stacks of paper. This practice most often occurs after bibliographic instruction and it is only when the student tries to retrieve the articles that he is left embarrassingly and frustratingly bereft of all his hard work. Embarrassed at his apparent lack of tech-savvy, and assuming the librarian knows less than himself, what are the chances that he will ask for help? That is why it is imperative we explain the proxy-server, and that journal articles can only be accessed from campus or with a password, explaining that databases create unique URLs to avoid unlawful sharing of resources. Students must realize that (once again) these are not free articles on the web and that there is a process to access them.

5. The Web is not Evil!

This statement might seem at odds with my earlier declarations, but it is important for students (and perhaps arcane professors) to know that the web is increasingly a place for good information, with the caveat that students learn the skills to identify what constitutes “good” information. With more and more respectable periodicals putting their articles online (New York Times, Time, Business Week, etc.), the Directory of Open Access Journals,and Google Books, just to name a few, the web has become a source for serious research, a place that professors should not spurn.

6. Cite! Cite! Cite!

Nothing makes me cringe more than watching students use Google’s image search to mindlessly copy and paste into a power point presentation. Students need to understand that images are intellectual property just as much as an article from JSTOR. The source of these images needs to be cited in a bibliography, yet even professors seem mute on the subject. Perhaps it’s time we all took a refresher course on copyright. Just because it’s for educational purposes doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be cited.

Though I realize that librarians are acutely aware of these oversights, especially in one-on-one reference sessions, they remain to be addressed. Let’s start the revolution now!

Shhhhhh! November 24, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Just for Fun.
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This is what kept happening today to me at work. Thought you should know….

Umberto Eco: Closet Librarian? November 16, 2009

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In this interesting interview by Spiegel,  Umberto Eco, renowned author and scholar, perhaps best known for his mystery work The Name of the Rose, explains his upcoming exhibit at the Louvre–a showcase on the importance of lists in society and the arts. While this seems like an abstract (or odd) choice at first, Eco explains that lists have a way of combating mortality, saying “We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.”  Eco goes on to explain why the lists generated by Google do not fulfill these spiritual needs, and how education should address the transient and unreliable nature of information on the web. Though he may not realize it, he is fighting for information literacy as an educational standard; something we American librarians have been fighting for for a long time. Eco, we are behind you!

Judge a book by its smell! November 12, 2009

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Who doesn’t love the spectrum of book odors? From the smell of dusty, archaic library books to the smell of freshly printed Barnes & Noble books, you can often find me with my nose in a book, literally. Matija Strlic, a chemist at University College London, has developed a process called “material degradomics” to determine how degraded the paper within books are. This will greatly help rare book specialists and archivists in determining what artifacts need to be preserved and in what order. Check out the full article by Wired Science.

Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold (aka toss) ’em October 20, 2009

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Working on an astronomy bibliography today reminded me of one of my favorite blogs: Awful library books where one can peruse the annals of books that should have been tossed long ago.  That is not to say that some of the books wouldn’t be great contributions to archives cataloging the evolution of human thought, culture, and technology . This site takes contributions from all over and is, besides an important reminder to librarians who refuse to throw anything away, extremely humorous.