Monday, August 14, 2006

Last Post Here

For the past several months, I have been maintaining this blog in two places: here and at Wordpress. Keeping both sites up to date has become a rather difficult task - one which I haven't been doing successfully. In light of this, I have decided not to continue the blog on both sites. As such, this will be my last post here. I do not plan to delete this site, but new posts will only be available at my Life as I Know It blog via Wordpress.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It is the Small Things That Drive Me Crazy

  • WordPress's new navigation bar doesn't display correctly in Internet Explorer 7 and that makes me crazy.

  • The bullets in my posts don't display correctly (or really at all) in Internet Explorer 7 and that makes me crazy. It took me a while to figure out that it was an IE thing - and not me.

  • Smelly garbage filled with eaten corn cobs that I meant to take out of the kitchen before I went to bed (and forgot) drove me crazy this morning (the corn was still worth it though).

  • The fact that August is already here and school starts at the college where I work before Labor Day is currently driving me insane.

  • The fact that the Red Sox blew a 6-2 lead in yesterday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (and that I watched them do so) drives my crazy.

It is the Small Things That Make Me Happy

  • I haven't received any SPAM comments on this blog in over two weeks.

  • I'm done with my summer class - and I don't even care about my grade (okay maybe this isn't a small thing, but it makes me happy).

  • I bought Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD this weekend. Watching this movie makes me happy.

  • We (my husband and I) finally had corn on the cob with dinner last night and it was delicious.

  • I'm happiest about the lack of SPAM!!!

Are There Rules to Blogging?

Iris from Pegasus Librarian writes "Funny to admit this nearly 150 posts into my blog, but I really don't know what I'm doing" in her blog post Blogging Confusion. I have to hope that most bloggers have asked this at some point - after all there are several places in the blogosphere where people offer rules or tips about blogging. They have made me question whether my desire to post on an subject would be outside the boundaries of my blog. However, I have decided not to pay much attention to them. Unlike Iris, I started this blog to detail my journey through graduate school - so there is a specific stated theme. However, what I have come to love about blogs is the mix about which people post - whether personal, library related or work related. So, I have lightened up on myself. What is appropriate??? I have no idea. I think it is probably easier to sometimes identify that something is not appropriate. However, I can honestly say that I don't think I have ever read something that I deemed inappropriate on any of the blogs that I read. I don't have any rules about my blog and I'm perfectly happy with that.

The Gender Issue

There have been some extremely thought provoking posts (see bottom of post for references to them) recently about the gender imbalance in technology related areas - whether those areas are jobs, conferences, workshops, etc. While the points that many of the women bloggers have made are quite valid (and certainly worth a read - as are all of the comments), these debates have made me think about the issue from an entirely different perspective - namely how sometimes we women (not all of us by any means) allow ourselves to be under-represented. I am a woman who works in a technical field - yet prefers to keep a very low profile. I would no more volunteer to speak about a technical topic (regardless of my expertise or lack thereof) than I would ask for a raise. Without a doubt, I am extremely quiet, intensely introverted and shy in groups of people that I do not know - even more so if the majority of the people are male. I like to think that I am not quite as quiet as I was in my younger years - that I have become a much stronger and more confident person. However, I still prefer to be in the background - away from the public debate - away from confrontation.

In college, a professor of mine (who was getting a masters in psychology at the time) once told me that I was a repressed female who subverted my intelligence because of my upbringing in both a family that was headed by a dominant male who did not prize intelligent females and a male-dominated society. He told me this because I could not tell the him that I deserved a good grade in his class and because I would deliberately not speak out in class. While this is a very formulaic assessment that has many flaws, there is some truth to it. I have to say that my father is incredibly supportive of me and encourages me to be more assertive. He would be heartbroken and angry that someone thought this to be true of him. In no way was it his intention to make me subvert myself for anyone. However, he is the person that our family life revolved around - to whom we all deferred. He was the breadwinner and my mother was the stay at home Mom (why this role is undervalued in our society is WAY beyond my comprehension). With this upbringing (and my own personality), I learned to do anything to avoid confrontation. I learned not to speak out too often because people don't like know-it-alls and they treat you different if they think you are smarter than they are. And I learned that I don't want to compete with people (especially men) because they often take losing very badly (this is a broad generalization - there are certainly plenty of women who don't like to lose too).

The point of all of this introspection is that I would no more offer to be a part of technology group or speak about a topic or do anything that would put myself out there. I'm pretty confident about myself in terms of my work in library systems. I am very good at my job. However, the recent discussions in the library world of blogs has really made me take a hard look at myself and the ways in which I allow or even encourage myself (and all women) to remain in the background. I need to speak out more often about things that are important, participate more in conversations about which I have something to offer and become a stronger voice. I have been content to defer to others, to make excuses for behavior that demeans women and to allow things to happen, without dissent, that I didn't totally agree with. I have to say a big thank you to all of the women who have been telling their stories, discussing this issue and opening up this debate - and making me think about where I stand on this issue - and where I should stand.

The Liminal Librarian

Library Web Chic

Free Range Librarian

Caveat Lector

The Days & Nights of the Lipstick Librarian

Solvitur Ambulando

Ramblings on Librarianship, Technology and Academia

Tales from the Shark Tank

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Searching North Carolina State University's Library Catalog

Notes on my experiences searching North Carolina State University's Library Catalog:

  • I did a search in the "search for words:" box leaving the default limiter to Anywhere for computer juvenile. There 106 results matching my search criteria.

  • On results display page, my first reaction is "where do I look?" "where do I go?" There is SO much (too much) information on this page. It took me a bit to be able to process this page and figure out what everything was.

  • From results page, I can limit my search to available items. This option is in small wording at the top of the results - very hard to see, but a nice feature.

  • Results are sorted by relevance. The user can change the sort order to Pub Date, Title A-Z, Author A-Z, Call Number and Most Popular. The most popular is a neat feature that I like.

  • The ability to do new searches is available on all pages - at the top of the screen in the top navigation area. Patrons can send their search to a variety of places - UNC-CH Libraries, Duke Libraries, NCCU Libraries, OpenWorldCat, Google Scholar or a Quick Article Search.

  • In results display, results default to full view - can be changed to brief view. In the full view, the Title, Author, Published, Format and Availability information is displayed. Local information is displayed - the library, location and call number. There is no availability information for online resources, but there is a link to the resource.

  • Above the results display, there is an area where patrons can browse their results by subject category (by call number).

  • Under the subject category on the left-hand portion of the screen, there is a box where patrons can narrow their results by several categories including, Subject: Topic, Subject: Genre, Format, Library, Subject: Region, Language or Author.

  • In the item display, there is additional bibliographic information and item information. On the right-hand portion of the screen, there is a link to browse the shelf (at NCSU or several other libraries). This is a cool feature which allows one to browse items shelved close by.

  • There is an option to use subjects to find similar titles - and 3 similar titles are displayed. There are also links to "more titles like this," "more by the same author," "save record," and "marc record."

  • I did a "search as words:" search limited to author index for "mark twain." There were 307 results. A search for "Twain, Mark" retrieved the same number of hits.

  • Using the "Search begins with:" search box in the author (last name, first name) index is akin to traditional catalog author searches - where the search needs to be inputed as "Twain, Mark." This brings the user to an "Index Hitlist Display" of authority-type records. This is just as confusing as in most library catalogs. Technically, it returns the same number of hits as using the "Search as words:" search. NCSU has two authority records for Mark Twain: Twain, Mark and Twain, Mark 1835-1910.

  • The advanced search allows for searches in words anywhere, words in title, words in author, words in subject headings or ISBN, ISSN. There are limiting options: Library, Language, Format, Published from and limit by format (government documents, reference materials, or all others). These searches restrict a search to the indexes indicated. They are fairly straightforward search options (if one is familar with OPACs). There is also an area to do boolean searches.

  • The browse tab allows users to browse the collection by subject. There is an option to browse new titles within the last week.

  • From the home page, there is a drop down box with the Most Used library resources: Catalog, Reserves, Find Articles, Journal List, Citation Builder, Tripsave and then the Top 10 Databases. This is a nice feature.

  • Overall, the keyword searching capability of NCSU is superior to most library catalogs. I would use this search above any of the others (except when looking for something specific in one of the other indexes). The other great part of this catalog is that it seems to be a seemless part of the NCSU library's web site. You do not feel as if you have left the library web site and ventured into a different system. I think this is the number one strength of the design and something other libraries should try to emulate. The biggest problem with this catalog is the overabundance of information and text that is displayed in the primary search results screen. There is way too much information for most people to be able to digest quickly by scanning the page. It takes definite thought and careful reading in order to familiarize oneself with everything that is offered.

Searching Arkansas State University - Beebe's Library Catalog

Originally written on August 4, 2006.

Notes on my experiences searching for information in Arkasnas State University - Beebe's library catalog:

Traditional catalog - Library.Solution 2.0 from The Library Corporation:

  • Using Search button from home page: I did a search using any fields containing the words computer and juvenile. There were 124 results. Many of the results were juvenile books in [computer file] format - which were not relevant to my search.

  • From the browse results screen, results can be sorted by Title, Author, Publication Date, Availability and Material Type.

  • The browse display has title, location and call number included and all are links.

  • Items are sorted by title.

  • Results can be saved. Can save checked items to a list or save all items to a list and can uncheck all selections.

  • There is a button to place a hold prominently to the right of every record listed in the browse results list. This is a nice feature. It is easy to see and fairly self explanatory.

  • On the left-hand portion of the screen, there seems to be the status highlighted in bright green: non-checkout, available, etc. Computer files have a status of non checkout. This is an odd wording. Computer files can't really be checked out. This makes it seem as if one cannot use the item.

  • There is a nice feature in this catalog. Above the status, there is information that reads "Found as . .." - can be "subject, title," "author,title," etc. This information tells the user where the keywords were found (in what indexes). I found this to be very helpful. I wish other catalogs had this feature.

  • Search box to allow user to perform another search (or the same search) are on every page - at the bottom.

  • In item display, user can return to the results list via a button. There are next and previous links to broswse through the items in the results set.

  • In the item record display, the Title, Author, Annotations Link, Excerpt Links, Imprint, Physical Descript., Subject, Index, and Electronic Resources link are displayed. Author, Subject and Index items are hyperlinked to allow for browsing these indexes.

  • The Annotations, Excerpts, and Character Information links (buttons) are to enhanced content provided by Syndetic Solutions. This information displays in a pop up window. The Annotations link brings up a pop up window with a short description of the work. How is this an annotation? This wording is confusing. These buttons are also displayed in the initial browse results screen.

  • Of note: There is information about item availability "This item has been checked out 0 times and currently has 0 hold requests." This print is very small and note terribly noticeable under the bibliographic information. I have never seen checked out information in the record, but could be useful to users.

  • There is a button on the top of the screen which allows users to see the history of their searches. Users can click on these searches to perform them again.

  • There are also buttons in the top navigation bar to see MARC display, to download MARC record and to save item citation to list.

  • I did an author search for "Mark Twain" using the contains option. There were 61 results - there were 61 results when I did the same search as "Twain, Mark." I think this is a very important feature. There are no confusing see also references when the author search is performed first name last name.

  • Browse option from the home page - links to more traditional library catalog search options - here author searches must be performed last name, first name. A search for "Mark Twain" will bring up see also references pointing the user to "Twain, Mark."

  • User can browse through several indexes including Title, Author, Subject, Notes, Publisher, Series, Local Call Number, Dewey, GPO, ISBN, ISSN, LC Call, LCCN, or LCCN2004.

  • The Combination option from the home page allows users to use Boolean operators in their searches. This is a complicated search option with three different terms and different options for putting the terms together.

Searching via Medialab Solutions' Aquabrowser:

  • Main page has one search box - labeled "Enter your query." Search can be restricted to all locations, ASU - Beebe or ASU - Searcy.

  • There is very little on this home page. The letters ASU do appear in the discover area on the left-hand portion of the screen. Otherwise, there is little branding for the school or library. Also, there is no link back to the library web site.

  • I did a search for computer juvenile and retrieved 14 results that were ranked by relevance.

  • There is a tag or word cloud on the left-hand portion of the screen in the "discovery" area. Users can click on the words in order to broaden their search for related items.

  • The browse display lists the Title, Series Title, Author, a short description, and the subject information. No local information about the item (call number, location or availability) is given on this page. This is disappointing. Users are forced to click on the item to see the item display to get availability information.

  • Clicking on the item, brings up more of the bibliographic information along with call number, location and availability. There is a link to return quickly to the hit list (original browse display of results).

  • On the right-hand portion of the screen, are several options to refine the search. The results are broken down into format, author, subject or series. Users can choose to see the results in book or movie format, see results by a particular author, subject or series. This feature is wonderful. It allows the user to see how many items are in the collection by author, subject, series or in book, movie, serial, or computer file format.

  • In the discovery pane (word cloud), words offered are offered from associations, translations, discovery trail, spelling variants and thesaurus terms.

  • Aquabrowser is very easy to user. I was very happy with my search experience. I do wish that there was better branding on the page - and wish that local item information appeared in the original browse display. The items retrieved in my search were much more helpful than in the search I performed in the traditional catalog.

I Think I'm Done

Originally written on August 4, 2006.

The final exam for my summer class consisted of a fake title page and verso from which we had to write a full bibliographic, MARC record. In addition to the descriptive cataloging fields, we were instructed to use the SCSU library catalog in order to assign a LC classification number and LC subject headings. I was able to finish most of the descriptive cataloging last night, but had to wait until this morning to work on the classification number and subject headings. Violent thunderstorms ono Wednesday evening caused tremendous damage in the surrounding towns taking down telephone polls and trees. As a result, our power was shut off yesterday around 2PM - and did not come on until 9PM. I admit to being a bit worried about the possibility of not being able to complete the final. As a result, I was up bright and early this morning to make sure that I would be able to finish. So, I think I will go eat some lunch, then review my bibliographic record and email it to the professor. Can it be true??? Am I really almost done for this semester??? Can I start to celebrate???

The Final Exam has been Posted

Originally written on August 3, 2006.

I have the final exam in hand - and approximately 30 hours to complete it. I am taking a half of vacation day today and all of tomorrow off to work on it (This is assuming that I can get out of work today. We had major thunderstorms last night which led to power outages on campus - and power outages lead to all sorts of problems for computers and networks). Fortunately, I feel a bit better about it having seen the exam. It makes sense - and although, I think it will be difficult, I feel prepared.

Happy Places During Study Breaks

Originally written on August 2, 2006.

Orient Beach, St. Marten

Originally uploaded by ScruffyNerf.

I've been having fun playing with vacation pictures while on study breaks. They make me happy - which helps me get back to studying (ok, maybe they don't help me get back to studying, but they do make me happy). I actually have been studying for a while tonight, but I don't feel as if I'm prepared for the exam. I have no idea what to expect - other than we will be asked to catalog a fake book. This class has been frustrating in so many ways because I just feel disconnected from the material. I need another vacation!!

More Things to Do to Avoid Studying

Originally written on August 2, 2006.

Sunset at Maho Beach, St. Maarten

Originally uploaded by ScruffyNerf.

Bigger is better!!

Things to Do to Avoid Studying

Originally written on August 1, 2006.

Maho Beach Sunset

Originally uploaded by ScruffyNerf.

This picture makes me happy - and studying does not make me very happy. I have a feeling that this class will never end - and that even if it does, I'm not going to do that well. ARGH! It is amazing what things I'm getting done while avoiding studying.

Working on My Paper in St. Marten

Originally written on August 1, 2006.

Working on Paper in St Marten

Originally uploaded by ScruffyNerf.

In honor of finishing my last paper for my summer class, I thought I would post this picture of me writing my Robert Taylor biography while on the beach in St. Martin in March of 2006. I had much more fun writing the biography on the beach than papers about the catalog at home!

No Homework or Computer Tonight

Originally written on July 31, 2006.

I finally turned my paper in about 20 minutes ago. I'm done with school for the day, and I'm on way home from work. I need to start cramming heavily for my final later this week. But for I'm done with everything computer and school related for the night. I definitely think a break is in order.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Third Assignment is Done

Yeah! I finished the third assignment for my cataloging class with 24 hours to spare. I am SO ready to be done with school right now. I definitely have to spend this week studying for the final. We will be able to acess the final on Thursday morning - and then have until Friday at 6:00PM to finish it. I will admit to being very nervous especially given that I didn't do too well on the first assignment. I did feel better when some of my classmates admitted to having difficulty with it also. Meanwhile, I have added the paper on making the library catalog more user friendly to my eportfolio site for those who expressed interest in reading it. Enjoy!

Searching UMass Dartmouth's Library Catalog

Notes on my experiences searching for information in UMass Dartmouth's Library Catalog:

  • Most irritating feature is the 10 minute time out. Several times I had to restart my search because the system had timed out.
  • Basic Keyword search: Did a search for computer AND juvenile in Keyword Anywhere. There were only 7 results. Results can be sorted by Title, Author, Publish Date, and Publish Date Descending.
  • Post Limit Button on page with search results. Can set limits: Language, Location (Archives, Special Collections, Electronic Archives Finding Aids, General Collection, Periodicals, and Reference Collection), Date (several options =, <,>, range), Medium (Map, Computer File, Globe, Projected Globe, Microform, Nonprojected Graphic, Motion Picture, Sound Recording, Text (Eye readable), and Videorecording), Item Type (Book, Serial, Archival Manuscript, Music Score, Map, Nonmusical Recording, Computer File, Software, Kit, Mixed Material/Collection, Mixed Material, and Visual Material), Place of Publication and Publication Status (Currently published, Ceased Publication, and unknown). What is the difference between Medium and Item Type? I think this is confusion. There is definitely some overlap in the two categories which makes it unclear which limit to use. I also thought the Publication Status confusing. I assume that this is intended to limit Publication Status of serials, but am not sure. And why unknown?? There is nothing to indicate on the page whether or not this limit refers to serials.
  • Back to results of Basic Search (7 items). Results are sorted by Title. One initial browse results screen, the Title is listed (hyperlinked) along with the call number and item availability.
  • Records can be saved and exported in various formats, can be emailed.
  • Individual record display: Lists database, Title, Primary Material, Publisher, Database, Location, Call Number(hyperlinked to Call number index), Number of Items and Status. One odd thing - in the browse display the status reads available, but here it reads not charged. I assume they are the same thing. This is confusing.
  • Each item page has a navigation bar with Holdings, Bibliographic, Table of Contents, Linked Resources, and Marc Format. The holdings tab is the initial/default display. The bibliographic display shows more of the bibliographic record. The table of contents links to the items table of contents - if it has one. The page is blank if not. The Linked Records icon takes the patron to any linked resources. From a brief examination, I did not find any items with linked resources. The Marc Format link displays the bibliographic record in MARC format.
  • Each display page has the options to save records in select formats (full record, brief record, EndNote Citation, Latin 1 MARC, Raw MARC, and UTF-8).
  • Previous and Next buttons in order to navigate between results.
  • Once perform a search, the History link in the top navigation bar becomes active. This link will allow a user to see a page will all of their searches (from one session which remember times out after 10 minutes of inactivity) and click to re-execute them.
  • Title/Author/Subject/Call No. Search tab: Many different search options are available here.
  • I did an author search for Mark Twain. Presented with results page - browse of author index in the Ma's. No see also references to remind user to search last name, first name. No search box offered on this page, must return to library catalog home in order to redo search.
  • Author search for Twain, Mark returns browse results for all authors matching Twain, Mark. Twain, Mark, 1835-1910 is first. Were 140 results. Not readily apparent where to click. On left, is an icon reading Note/Ref. Click on this icon reveals see also reference for Twain, Mark including Clemens, Samuel, 1835-1910, Snodgrass, Quintus Curtius, 1835-1910, and Louis de Conte, 1835-1910. I had to use back button to get back to author results for Twain, Mark.
  • Back on author result page, next to Note/Ref icon was a hyperlink appearing as such [1]. I clicked on this to finally be presented with the results of items written by Mark Twain.
  • At this point, the Headings link on the top navigation bar became active. Clicking on this returns one to the author browse screen for Twain, Mark.
  • From browse screen, records can be marked to be saved and exported. The column with the check box is not labeled, however.
  • From Title/Author/Subject/Call No. Tab - did a search for computer juvenile in Keyword Anywhere AND with Relevance index. This search returns the same results as the Basic Search function, but items are ranked with relevance. There is an additional column for relevancy. There is no easy way to return to browse display. Back button does work.
    From Title/Author/Subject/Call No. Tab - did search for computer juvenile in Keyword Anywhere OR with Relevance index. Had 8889 results.
  • Did a search for computer juvenile search in Keyword Relevance Search index. Results are the same as in Keyword Anywhere OR with Relevance index.
  • Search for Ivanhoe in the Left Anchored Title index. 4 results were returned with Title (short title) starting with Ivanhoe. Interesting to note that the Author index was highlighted in these results. The 4th item was a videorecording without an author - there was no link to the item display in this case. Doing the same search in the Title Keyword AND index returns the same 4 results - in this case the title is highlighted rather than the author (so one can click on all 4 results).
  • I did a search for journal chemistry in the Journal Title Keyword AND index. This brings up all journal/serial titles with journal and chemistry in the title.
  • Command search with relevance - I never found a search strategy to work here. Every search I tried returned a system error "system couldn't interpret search." I have no idea what this search strategy is for.
  • Name Title Browse searches author index. If you search for Shakespeare, William, a listing of all records with Shakespeare as author are displayed with the titles of the item records. Putting a title keyword in the search strategy brings the same results as without the keyword. I thought this would have been an author/title search - but not really.
    New Titles tab - a cool feature that patrons can use to list new titles by certain criteria. Can display recent titles in a variety of ways.
  • There is no way to limit ones search to available items.
  • Overall impressions, I think that Basic Search functions well. There are too many options on the Title/Author/Subject/Call No tab - and too many of them are labeled with confusing terms. Keyword Anywhere AND with Relevance, Keyword Anywhere OR with Relevance, Keyword Relevance, etc. You need to do a couple of searches before their function becomes clear. Some search options still don't seem very clear to me. The ability to limit search to available items would be useful. The author indexes are also confusing. When searching by author, it takes longer to get results.

Some Grades are in

I finally got an email from the professor of my cataloging class with grades on both assignments. Unfortuntely, I didn't do so well on the cataloging assignment (not flunking bad) - but am not terribly surprised. I really had no idea what the professor expected in terms of access points (added entries for 4XX and 7XX). I used added entries in some examples, but not all in order to hedge my bets. So really, I guess I did as well as could be expected given the circumstances. Fortunately, now I know exactly what he was looking for - and it makes sense. He also was clear about what type of cataloging examples will be all the final. I will be able to better prepare for that. The good news is that I did well on my paper about creating user friendly library catalogs. This makes me feel much more secure about the paper that I am working on right now.

Information on Endeca's ProFind and Medialab Solution's Aquabrowser

Aquabrowser Library- Medialab Solutions:

  • Ability for patron to Search, Discover & Refine
  • Results are ranked by relevance
  • Search interface locates results using associations, context and spelling alternatives generated from a library's OPAC based on search query
  • Compares search terms to metadata in catalog
  • Creates a visual "word cloud" which creates "suggestions for patrons to discover new information and help them formulate a query." Includes most relevant associations, foreign language translations, spelling variants and synonyms. Taken from (July 29, 2006).
  • Refine options: Patrons can refine their search results by limiting the results based on format, subject, author, category or genre.

Endeca's ProFind Platform - Endeca

  • From Andrew K. Pace's My Kingdom for a OPAC article in the February 2005 issue of American Libraries. Available via American Libraries Online. Endeca creates "muti-relational" index where results are refined on the fly to match patron limits. Has fast searching with guided navigation.
  • From NCSU's press release - Endeca platform uses information retreival scheme whic integrated searching and browsing. This combinationis meant to allow people to continually define and adapt their search strategies based on their own determination of relevancy. Contains a dynamic navigation scheme.

Friday, July 28, 2006

DOPA & Libraries

Like many others, I generally try to stay away from political issues. However, the passage of DOPA in the House of Representatives has the potential to have such a major impact on the way that libraries do business. Jessamyn West has a post over at that summarizes many of today's blog posts regarding the passage of DOPA. I think all are worth a read. I would add a post by post by Don Wood at Library 2.0 - Tell Your Senators Why DOPA is Bad for Libraries. Don Wood offers some great ways to help and get involved. (Found via Tame the Web).

What Makes a Librarian

In a post aptly titled Librarian - Just a Title over at Library Stuff, Steven M. Cohen discussed how he learned a lesson that one doesn't have to have an MLS to be a librarian. In many ways, it doesn't seem as if this should have been such a revelation. However, it isn't a sentiment with which everyone who holds an MLS agrees. It is difficult to hold a professional librarian position without an MLS. This I can speak to from experience. Often times, people who hold an MLS find it very difficult to accept ones without an MLS in professional librarian positions. I can certainly understand - and even sympathize - with their point of view. They worked hard to get their degree, many have spent a good deal of money for ite and worked hard to get their job. I'm sure there are many other reasons as well. Regardless of being able to understand their point of view, it is an attitude with which it is often very difficult to deal. Often when you meet librarians at conferences, workshops, etc., they ask right away where you work, what you do and inevitably where did you get your MLS. When you mention that you don't have an MLS, they often ask why, are you thinking of getting it, you should consider going to such and such. There are even some that really do not want to deal with you once they discover that you do not possess the degree. Fortunately, I have only encountered this attitude a couple of times (and really look forward to not ever having to deal with it again when I complete my degree).

Sadly, people with this attitude are missing the fact that the best person for the job is the best person for the job regardless of educational attainment or experience. In my case, somebody (who has an MLS) thought I was the right person for my current job despite my lack of MLS. I can't or shouldn't allow others to undermine my belief that I am good at my job or that I deserve it. I try and remind myself of this when I do encounter people that question my abilities or right to my job. I think it is important to note that such questioning can come from both sides of the MLS divide. Library staff members who have paraprofessional jobs (and do not have MLS degrees) can also be critical - sometimes even more so than those with degrees. This can make me fell as if I don't always fit in on either side of the divide. It is a tremendously difficult position to be in. Do I call myself a librarian or not? My current title is Head of Library Systems rather than Systems Librarian in order to subtlety convey that I do not possess an MLS. When I meet people casually, I tell them that I am a librarian. People outside of libraries don't care about such idiosyncratic distinctions. However when dealing with people who work in or around libraries, I am careful to note that "No, I am not technically a librarian." Admittedly, I will be happy when I complete my degree and won't have to worry about such technicalities anymore.

Having said all that, this is not specifically the reason that I am going to graduate school to get my MLS. I don't personally believe that the degree itself will make me a better librarian, but I do believe that the process of learning and being engaged about learning will. Something I intend to continue beyond my current stint in graduate school. Ultimately, I am too young to not get my degree. I have found my calling in life and want to continue working in library systems. One never knows what life will bring. I don't think it would be wise to assume that I will work in my current job for the next 30 odd years until I retire. If I didn't get my degree, I think I would be doing myself a great disservice. And that is the bottom line, I'm going to graduate school for myself because the degree itself won't be what makes me a librarian.

North Carolina State University's Library Catalog

Information from my preliminary examination of North Carolina State University's Library Catalog (web catalog is powered by Endeca's ProFind Content Management System):

  • Initial Search page: Keyword search options to "search for words" or "search begins with . . ." The "search for words" search can be limited via a drop-down box to Anywhere, in Title, in Author, in Subject Headings, or ISBN/ISSN. The "search begins with . . ." search can be limited to Title begins with, Journal Title begins with, Author (last name first), Subject begins with, Series begins with, Call number, or Gov Doc number.
  • On the home page, there is a Hint box with links to Search other Catalogs and Search Help.
    There is a link to Search the Collection link which takes the user to a different search page where one can search the catalog, find articles, find Journal titles, find Reserves, find Databases, Browse Subjects, links to Special Collections, links to other collections, and links to Reference tools. While most of these services are outside of the library catalog, they all appear to the user as one system.
  • The catalog has tabbed options for searching: Search, Advanced Search and Browse.
  • The Advanced Search page has several more search options. Users can search by "Words Anywhere," "Words in Title," "Words in Author," "Words in Subject Headings," and ISBN/ISSN. There are optional search limits available: Library (Online Resources, D.H. Hill LIbrary, Design Library, Natural Resources LIbrary, Textiles Library, Veterinary Medical LIbrary, Satellite Shelving Facility, Special Collections (D.H. Hill), Learning Resources Library, and African American Cultural Center Reading Room), Language, Format (audio recordings, books, CD-ROMs, e-books, electronic resources, filmstrips, journals and serials, electronic journals, kits, manuscripts, maps, microforms, newspapers, scopes, software, theses & dissertations (NCSU), videos and DVDs, and slides), date range of publication and include document type (gov docs, reference materials, all others). The document types are all checked, so I assume that by unchecking they would be removed from the results pool?? Are there only three types of documents? I find this a bit confusing. There is also the ability to do Boolean searching on this page. Hints are available telling patrons to use quotes for exact phrases and that boolean operators are ignored in keyword searches.
  • Browse tab: Patron can browse titles by subject - broken down by call number area. There is also the ability to browse all new titles received within the last week.
    There is a "get answers now" link which takes one to a page about getting help from reference librarians on every page.
  • In the top navigation image, there is a link to log into one's library account. This image appears on every page.
  • Note, I found it very difficult to figure out how to return to the library catalog's home page. There is no obvious way. The "Search the Collection" link is on every page - however, this does not return on the catalog home page. I eventually discovered the link the catalog home page in a drop down menu with the "Most Used" resouces.

Arkansas State University - Beebe's Library Catalog

Information from preliminary examination of Arkansas State University - Beebe's Library Catalog (ILS is Library.Solution 2.0 from The Library Corporation (TLC) - additional use of Aquabrowser):
  • Library catalog home page has several options: Search (refine searching to obtain more precise results), Browse (expands searching by viewing results alphabetically/numerically), Combination (search titles, authors, subjects and/or notes simultaneously), Patron Review, Online Help and Aquabrowser library search.
  • Main search page: There is a search box with several options. One can find information from certain fields (Any fields (default option), Titles, Authors, Subjects, Notes, Publisher, and Series) that begin with, contain (default option), closely match the words, stem from or sound like the item being searched for. Results default to 20 per page. The user can change from preset numbers in a drop down menu. Searches can be limited to locations: All branches, Abington Library (ASU - Beebe's library), and ASU Searcy library. Users have the option to limit search to available items only.
  • Browse search page: Users can search for a keyword and browse the results by Title (default option), Authors, Subjects, Notes, Publisher, Series, Local Call, Dewey, GPO, ISBN, ISSN, LC Call, LCCN or LCCN 2000+. The ability to return a specific number of results, limit to select locations and limit the search to available items only is also available (available on every page).
  • Combination Search: (name itself is quite confusing). This appears to be the place for boolean searching. There are three search boxes which can be combined with AND, OR or NOT in one of three indexes: Title, Author or Subject Note. Each of the three search boxes is labeled term 1, term 2 or term 3. Under the search boxes are the options to group terms like (term 1 * term 2) * term 3 or term 1 * (term 2 * term 3). Again, there is the ability to return a specific number of results, limit to select locations and limit the search to available items only.
  • Patron Review page contains a place for the user to log into the system. It appears that this is only in order to request items (not to check circulation record, etc.).
    Online Help - There are fairly extensive help pages.
  • There is top navigation menu with several options: Home, Help, Search, Browse, Combination, Reading Programs, Set Limits, Logon and Patron Review. Search, Browse, and Combination link to the same search pages that are offered from the home page. The Logon and Patron Review icons technically go to two separate links, but appear to be the same page. The Home icon takes the users to a different page than the initial catalog home page (This is a bit confusing since the page has some different options).
  • The Set Limits icon links to a limit page where a user can choose several additional limits: date range, language, format (book, serial, kit, projected, printed music, manuscript music, sound (music), sound (non-music), printed map, manuscript map, computer file, 2-D graphic, mixed material, artifact, manuscript, archive, and any non-print), and collection (Arkansas Reference, Audio Books, Audio Visual, Circulating, Computer Media, Electronic Equipment, Electronic Collection, Instructor Reserves, Inter-lib Loan 3 wks, Inter-lib Loan 4 wks, on order, Reference, Reserve Collection, Serials, Special Collection, Special Status and Technical Services).
  • From the second catalog home page, there is an option to do a Visual search. This option presents the user with 15 images (a baseball, a basketball, a sailboat, a car, a god, an elephant, a football, hockey players, a plane, a train, a farm, a cow, the Grand Canyon and a pig. Clicking on one of these images will present the user with a list of items about that item.
  • Aquabrowser link - On this page, there is one simple, search box. Searches can be limited by location: All, ASU Beebe and/or ASU Searcy. There is a link to help using Aquabrowser.
  • Note that there is no link back to the library home page or the regular catalog.

UMass Dartmouth Library Catalog

Information from preliminary examination of UMass Dartmouth's library Catalog:

  • Tabbed search options: Basic Keyword (default option), Title/Author/Subject/Call No., Course Reserves, UMD Journal Locator (not ILS product), New Titles.
    Navigation under logo at top of screen with several options: Search, Headings, Titles, Patrons, Login, History, eResources, UMD Library, and Help. Headings, Titles and History links are not active. eResources link leads outside of the library catalog.
  • Basic Keyword search: Three basic search boxes with and, or and not options. These searches can be completed in Keyword Anywhere, Title, Subject or Author indexes. Results default to 50 per page - this can be changed to other present numbers: 10, 20, etc. There is a link to a movie to help patrons locate books in the library. There are alos links to a Virtual Catalog site and to the library's interlibrary loan department.
  • Title/Author/Subject/Call No. search tab: There is a search box labeled Find This. Results can be limited to several indexes: Keyword Anywhere AND with Relevance, Keyword Anywhere OR with Relevance, Title Keyword AND, Subject Keyword AND, Journal Title Keyword AND, Keyword Relevance Search, Author Browse, Left Anchored Title, Call Number Browse, Subject Browse, Date Seach (left anchored), and Name Title Browse. (Upon first glance, these options seem very confusing. I'm not exactly sure what they mean. Hopefully, what these searches do will become clear when I actually start to do searches). There is also a quick limit option to limit material to after 1990, after 2000, videorecording, serials in English, and Main Library.
  • Course Reserve tab allows users to search for reserve material by instructor, department, course number or section number. On this page, there is a link to the library's ereserve system and a link to the UMass journal locator (both are non ILS systems).
  • New Titles tab: Patron can select location, but UMass Dartmouth library is the only location offered. There is the ability to choose the period for new books: last week, last 2 weeks, last 3 weeks, and last 4 weeks. The results can be sorted by call number, author or title. There is also a search box for patrons to search for something in the new titles (this is optional).
  • Patron/Login links on navigation menu: There are two links which allow patrons to log into the library catalog. Each link (patron and login) seem to take patrons to the same place. This seems a bit confusing.

The Final Three Catalogs

For my next cataloging assignment, I have narrowed down the catalogs that I will examine. As noted previously, I think that analyzing three catalogs from different vendors will be the most productive route. So the three systems that I will compare are:

  1. North Carolina State University's library catalog - Powered by Endeca's ProFind
  2. Arkansas State University's library catalog - Library.Solution ILS by The Library Corporation - Uses Aquabrowser
  3. UMASS Dartmouth's library catalog - Endeavor's Voyager system

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Apathy & Annoyance Sets In

I am incredibly uninterested in school at the moment and trying very hard to motivate myself to finish my work. My class ends next week with a final exam for which there is no information. What do we need to study? What format will the exam be in? Do we need to memorize AACR2? Of course, this is after the last assignment is due (Monday, the 31st). At this point, there are way more answers than questions. There has been so little direction from the professor that is extremely hard to keep interested in the topic and even harder to care. Without any graded material, it is impossible to know where I stand and impossible to feel as if I can adequately prepare for the last assignment or for the final.

The good news is that I generally find myself in this type of mood every semester - right before the end. Final exams, papers, etc. are pretty stressful - and I constantly have to remind myself that the big picture will be worth it in the end. Ultimately, I will be a happy camper after August 4th with a few weeks to relax before the start of the next semester. I will have to take some time off from work to truly enjoy it - but wait, taking days off from work in August which is right before school starts is not an easy task. And, since the person who works for me recently resigned, I may actually be working many, many hours. ARGH!!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Initial Ten Catalogs

The Ten Catalogs for Assignment #3

  1. Ann Arbor District Library Catalog
  2. Arkansas State University - Beebe - Abington Library Catalog- Aquabrowser.
  3. Detroit Area Library Network Library Catalog- SirsiDynix
  4. Georgia Library PINES - Beta version of an open source integrated library system named Evergreen developed by the Georgia Public Library System.
  5. HELIN Library Catalog- Library consortium in Rhode Island. An Innovative Interfaces OPAC.
  6. North Carolina State University Libraries- Powered by Endeca. The system leverages the advanced search and navigation features of Endeca ProFind platform.
  7. Plymouth State University - Lamson Library’s Catalog - WordPress OPAC - under development.
  8. UMASS Dartmouth Library Catalog- Endeavor’s Voyager platform.
  9. University College Dublin Library Catalogue- A system on the Talis platform.
  10. University of Notre Dame Library Catalog- Ex libris’s Aleph .

I tried to choose a variety of different library catalogs as part of my initial 10 choices. Although not required as part of the instructions, it seems to me that in order to analyze different features and search methodologies, the catalogs needs to be from different vendors. Personally, I think this is more important than the size of the collection. Now, I have to start work on the assignment. I am without a doubt reading to have a couple of weeks off from school. More will follow . . .

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Third Assignment

The professor released the third (and final) assignment for my summer class today. The purpose of the assignment “is for students to develop a greater understanding of catalog construction as well as an appreciation of the consequences of catalog design decisions on catalog usability” (from syllabus). We are to identify 10 OPACs via the web - catalogs should represent holdings of relatively large collections (I’m not sure what exactly is meant by a relatively large collection). The 10 should vary in terms of presentation and feature set. After we review the 10, we need to narrow our selection to 3. We need to become familiar with the 3 catalogs and their features. We need to develop a comparative analysis of the chosen catalogs - addressing both general and specific features (testing catalogs with simple searches). Examinations should include search features, hitlist displays and presentation of individual records. The resulting written report should be no more than 10 pages which outline the strengths and weaknesses of the catalogs - commenting specifically on how successful the catalogs were in responding to users’ needs. Include comments on features that enhance or impact (positively or negatively) the user experience. We should also comment on potential improvements that would improve our experience.

Much like the other three assignments, this one is worth 25% of the final overall grade. The worst part is that we haven’t yet received our grades from the first or second assignment. It is so difficult to have any sense of how the class is going. I’m not sure where I stand. I am especially nervous about the paper that was due last week. There was so little direction - no firm guidelines. And at this point, the final exam is less than 2 weeks away. I think I might be panicking!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It is All in One’s Perspective on Things

In my last post about becoming a librarian, I was trying to point out that we all need to take responsibility for our choices in life - for what we choose to become - for what we learn - and for what type of librarian we become. I admittedly am the type of person who chooses to dwell on the positive and prefers to view the world through a rose-colored hue. As such, I really enjoyed Iris’s post, Happily Sheltered, over at Pegasus Librarian. She wrote:

Maybe I’m living a sheltered life. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I haven’t worked long enough to have the rose tint fade from my contact lenses. But as it turns out, I like it like that. I’d prefer not to get bitter. I’d prefer not to reach a state when everybody’s never-ending, half-hearted job search becomes perfectly acceptable workplace conversation.

Sure, there are days when nothing goes right, when you bend over backwards for someone and receive nothing but complaints, or when you’ve exceeded the legal limit of meeting hours per 15-hour work day. But this profession is WAY too exciting, challenging, rewarding, and generally cool for those days to warrant a place in our primary focus. What’s more, the disgruntled attitude is far too contagious to be handled safely, even in small doses. So I’m going to stop reading those blogs. I’m having way too much fun living in my happy-librarian bubble, and I want that bubble to last for at least the next half century or so.

I’m with Iris in that I want that bubble to last for the next 50 years or so. I do think it is important to be aware of what those who are disgruntled are saying - because there certainly are problems, issues, etc. And we need to be aware of the problems in order to try and resolve them. It isn’t just work in libraries that can cause frustration and anger. Life throws its own curve-balls. However, negativity gets very weary after a while, and I often have to distance myself from it in order to be able to maintain my own sense of optimism. I have made a conscious choice not to let bitterness and disillusionment overwhelm me. And it is nice to know that others feel the same way.

Learning to be a Librarian

All of these recents posts about skills needed to be a librarian and how to learn them have really got me thinking. Really, I think graduate school is important - I wouldn’t be spending money that I could certainly use elsewhere, if I didn’t think it was important. Grad school is where you learn about the nuts and bolts, the background, the history and the theories. These are important (although not always the most interesting material), but don’t always translate into the actual skills that you need to perform a librarian job day to day. How best to learn the daily life of a librarian??? Talk to one. One of the most wonderful things about online world is the ability to connect with people in a variety of ways. You can learn about the good, the bad and the ugly - and get realistic, real world visions into the world of librarians and libraries. I mean just reading all of the recent posts about skills needed to be a librarian (along with the fascinating comments) will tell you an awful lot.

So, you want to be a librarian? Read up on it. Send an email to a librarian. Comment on the blog of a librarian. Ask questions. Get involved in the discussions going on in cyberspace. Join the newlib listserv or one of the many others. Many of the librarians who get involved in blogs and discussion lists love to talk about this stuff. Investigate graduate programs. Understand that the job market can be tough - people’s experiences trying to find work varies wildly. Try and get a sense of how many libraries are in your area and how often they hire. This may give you a sense of whether or not you will have to move to find a job. And, ultimately, take a hard look at why you want to be a librarian and then make a decision about what kind of librarian you want to be.

I don’t mean a public services, a cataloging, or an electronic resources librarian. I’m talking about becoming an engaged librarian who cares and understands that the patron is center of our universe. You will be responsible for what you learn and what type of librarian you become. Although I often get frustrated with apathetic and distant professors, I try to work around that to make the learning process far more valuable. You will have great professors, so-so professors and awful ones. There are classes and professors that require little or no work, and you can choose to fall into that rut or rise above it. I don’t always succeed at this myself - my job, my life, etc. sometimes interferes. Sometimes, I whine and complain about a class or a professor. But, I try - and I try very hard to get the most out my graduate school experience that I possibly can.

Blog posts about skills needed to become a librarian:
  • 20 points on excellent library customer service - A post by Steve at Blog about Libraries about excellent customer service in libraries. (July 6, 2006).
  • 21st Century Librarian: Further Thoughts and Your Comments - A follow-up post by Meredith Farkas at Information Wants to Be Free to her Skills for the 21st Century Librarian post. (July 20, 2006).
  • Are Librarians Customer Service Oriented? - A response by Steve from Blog about Libraries to Meredith Farkas’ “The 21st Century Librarian: Further Thoughts and Your Comments.” Steve argues that the role of the librarian is changing: “We just can’t afford to be “wait until they ask us for help” librarians anymore and we can’t assume that our worth is self evident. We know that we have a lot to offer and now it’s time to stop the handwringing and start strengthening the value that people place on us.” (July 21, 2006).
  • Internal Customer Service Skills - A post by Steve at Blog about Libraries which is a follow-up to his post entitled 20 points on excellent library customer service. Steve expounds upon his third point “Treat each other well and you will find that treating patrons nicely becomes easier.” (July 19, 2006).
  • LibraryLand Skills for Any Century - A post by Karen Schneider at Free Range Librarian containing a list of skills needed for those who work in libraries. These skills include cunning, impatience, pessimism, fiscal-horse sense, cajones [sic] and feistiness. (July 20, 2006).
  • LibraryLand Skills, Part Deux - A post by Karen Schneider at Free Range Librarian with skills needed to succeed in libraryland, including stubbornness, high grubbyness tolerance, be lucky, and know how to be in the moment. (July 20, 2006).
  • Shamelessly glomming onto meredith’s awesome post - A post by Sarah over at the Scattered Librarian in response to Meredith’s Skills for the 21st Century Librarian. Sarah writes “However, with those caveats, i stand by my initial post. We can have all the tech savvy in the world, but if we are not adding value by what we do and how we do it, and (at least) as importantly, putting forth a compelling message about the value we add to the communities we serve, it’s time to fold our tents and go home, because we don’t deserve to win the battle for eyeballs against wikigoogazon, et al.” (July 20, 2006).
  • Skills for the 21st Century Librarian - A post by Meredith Farkas from Information Wants to Be Free detailing skills needed by librarian, focusing on “big topic” items. Be sure to read all of the comments on this post.
  • Skills for Success - from Info*Nation - includes cloud tags of personal and professional competencies for librarians. Found via Infoblog.
  • Teaching New Tricks - A post from Joshua M. Neff at the goblin in the library. Joshua focuses more practically on the things he did and did not learn in graduate school. (July 18, 2006).
  • Technical Skills and the Librarian - A post about the technical skills that everyone who works in a library should possess. (July 19, 2006).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

LibraryThing to Add Media

Given the tremendous popularity of LibraryThing, I really thought that I ought to check it out. It really is right up my alley - given that I have handwritten lists of books that I own. I hesitated about creating an account because I really didn’t need to get hooked on something else, but felt as if I needed to check it out while I was doing research for my paper on library catalogs. I, of course, created an account right before they started having some issues - and the system was a bit slow. When I finally got back to it (by which time it was working great), I definitely enjoyed the process of adding my books. I was incredibly disappointed when I tried to add my DVD collections and found out that I couldn’t. As such, I was THRILLED to read via that LibraryThing would be adding the ability to add movies and music later this summer. So, I guess I will just work on adding my books until then. Cool!!

TV Planner Online!!

Comcast has released a new web-based product called TVplanner (beta version) which allows you to search for upcoming tv shows (2 weeks). I am so excited by this!!! Admittedly, I am a wicked tv junkie who scrolls through the tv guide listing rather than surfs - and likes to plan what I am going to watch. This online version is so much easier to scroll through than the tv version. The search capabilities are much better - and the results are much, much easier to read. On Demand content is available - and again, is so much easier to read through than doing so on the tv with the remote control. The first time you visit the site, it ask for your zip code so that you can set your cable area. Very easy to use!!!!

Robert S. Taylor Web Resources

I’m going back over my work from the past two semesters to compile all of the resources that I used for my projects. This list the list of web resources that I used in my biography on Robert S. Taylor.
  • Barbie Report -’s copy of the report of the U.S. Department of Justice entitled Klaus Barbie and the United States Government: A Report to the Attorney General of the United Stated Government, August 1983. The original pdf version is available from the U.S. DOJ. Taylor recruited Barbie to work for U.S. military intelligence while he was stationed in Germany after WWII.
  • A Documentary History of Hampshire, 1965-1975 - Vol. 1, Chapter 14- Library and Computer Use - This chapter contains two documents written by Taylor when he was library director of the Hampshire College Library: The Hampshire College Library (1969) and Computers and Computer Use (1969).
  • For Whom We Design Systems - Robert S. Taylor - Information given by Robert Taylor when he was included in the Pioneers of Information Science Scrapbook by the planning committee for the 1998 Conference on the History and Heritage of Science Information. Some biographical information is included.
  • History of Information science Technology 1960s - There is a reference to Taylor in relation to the “Science Information Specialists” conferences held at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1961. “Robert S. Taylor (1976) said that this was the first time that a distinction had been made between specialist and scientist and between information technology and information science. He also said that these conferences had a significant impact on the establishment of the School of Information and Computer Science at Georgia Tech, the Center for the Information Sciences at Lehigh University, and the program in Information Science at Drexel University.”
  • Information needs- From a web site entitled “Core Concepts in Library and Information Science (LIS) by Birger Hjorland. Hjorland discusses concepts from the following article: Taylor, R. S. (1968), Question-negotiation and information seeking in libraries. College and Research Libraries, 29, 178-194. “Robert S. Taylor’s theories (1968) about the mental development of information needs have been rather influential in LIS He describes the development of information needs as a relatively independent development “in the head” of the users. It has a continuous development and go through some phases termed Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4, going from an “unconscious need” over a “conscious need” to a “compromised need”. Taylor’s theory have been discussed by Hjørland (1993, 1997). It is argued that information needs probably do not develop continuously because a given piece of information may disturb the under standing of the problem underlying the need. It is also claimed that what develops “in the head” is not the primarily the need but knowledge about the problem-area, which causes the need. The implication for Hjørland (1993/1997) is also that the concept of knowledge interests(known from Habermas, 1968) is a better framework for the understanding of information needs and their development compared to the cognitive framework.“
  • Information resource management: manager of data, information, and knowledge- by Dr. Zenona Atkociuniene, Faculty of Communication, University of Vilnius. In the paper, Taylor’s value-added spectrum for information processed is discussed.
  • International reader in the management of library, information and archive services compiled by Anthony Vaughan [for the]General Information Programme and UNISIST. - Paris: Unesco, 1987. - x, 672 p. - 30 cm. - (PGI-87/WS/22). Taylor is quoted in chapter 7 - Evaluation and Change- in a section on the Definition of a Library. “The two philosophies currently in fashion assert as a basic principle that the library is the centre of a school, college or university. This principle seems to us unacceptable. It is not the library (one of a number of functional services) that is the centre of a teaching institution but rather the main agents of education, i.e. the teachers and students. We agree entirely with the great American librarian Robert S. Taylor, who says that such a principle is simply a metaphoric platitude. Together with the student-learner, the most important agent in a teaching establishment is the teacher. Taylor’s comments on the library-college approach are also worth quoting:
    One recent and growing idea, the library college, though bold and challenging, is not the answer at this time(…). It represents a basically naive and early - too early - attempt to solve a very large and complicated problem. It is a rhetorical rather than empirical approach.
  • Judas Among Us: Who Betrayed Jean Moulin?- From a website dedicated to Jean Moulin and the French Resistance. A summary of a report by Klaus Barbie to Taylor detailing Barbie’s capture of Jean Moulin is given.
  • The Making of Library (1972) by Robert S. Taylor - The work written by Taylor to detail the making of the Hampshire College Library.
  • Nazis, Operation Condor, and Bush’s Privatization Plan - An article by William F. Wertz, Jr. in a March 25, 2005 issue of Executive Intelligence Review. Taylor is mentioned as Klaus Barbie’s recruiter.
  • Robert S. Taylor Biography - My biography of Taylor written for ILS503 - Foundations of Librarianship in March 2006.
  • A Tour of Information Science Through the Pages of JASIS- by Marcia J. Bates, Guest Editor - Published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science, vol. 50, no. 11, 1999, pp.975-993. This article contains selected article titles from JASIS and its predecessor American Documentation. Two of Taylor’s articles are mentioned: “1982 Value-Added Processes in the Information Life Cycle Robert S. Taylor 33 (5): 341-346. Energy, time, and money must be invested to change useless data to productive knowledge, a value-added process” and “1962 The Process of Asking Questions Robert S. Taylor 13 (4): 391- 396. Four levels of question formation may be isolated and analyzed…”
  • University students information seeking behavior in a changing learning environment - How are students’ information needs, seeking and use affected by new teaching methods?- by Eeva-Liisa Eskola, Department of Information Studies, Abo Akademi University. In this paper, Eeva-Liisa Eskola discussed Taylor’s concept of information use environments.
  • What is Information Science and How is it Related to Library Science? - A lecture on information science. Robert Taylor’s definition of information science from a Library Journal article (v.88, pp. 4161-4162) is summarized:
    The study of the properties, structure and transmission of specialized knowledge;
    The development of methods for its useful organization and dissemination.
    He suggested that a focus on the information sciences could represent a change in the library from a “sophisticated but passive warehouse to a more dynamic institution.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pet Peeves

Bill Drew posted a rant yesterday about Out of Office messages, which made me laugh (in sympathy). While I understand why people use out of office auto-replies, I do admit to finding them annoying when sent to listservs. Of course, I try and get over my annoyance because I doubt the problem will ever go away and I make lots of mistakes too. I even find myself chuckling at certain times. On one of the listservs to which I subscribe, there is one person who always sets an out of office auto reply and (as far as I can tell) never sets the listserv option to nomail. I keep a mental calendar of when this person is “out of the office.” I often wonder if the person has gone away somewhere fascinating. For me, I never use the out of office auto-reply option - mostly because I can’t even remember how many listservs I subscribe to so there isn’t any way that I can set them to nomail.

In honor of pet peeves, I thought I add some of mine:
  • Unsubscribe messages sent to a listserv and the subsequent heated debate about it. What I find comical in this situation is when there is a heated debate about someone’s unsubscribe message that is immediately followed by at least one other unsubscribe command. Part of me thinks that people do this on purpose to keep the love alive. I keep a mental tally of how long it takes for the subsequent unsubscribe email.
  • Patrons taking data cables from computers. This tends to be the biggest reason why computers are out of order. Since patrons obviously need them, we try to supply them at the circulation desk - but they generally don’t ask. I now need to tie wrap everything to discourage this habit of removing the cables. I try and think of this as a game that we play. Since I don’t necessarily like to win, this is a good strategy for me. On the positive side, this must mean laptop use is up.
  • The fact that my husband doesn’t mind wearing two different socks. This can throw off my whole day and I can’t find anything funny about it (other than the fact that it is amusing and odd that it bothers me).

1/3 of the Way Through the Program - Some Reflections

Okay, I really won’t be 1/3 of the way through my masters program until August 4th, but it makes me happy to think of myself as being that far along. And, I like to be happy!! But given some recent posts about skills needed to be a librarian, it seemed like an appropriate time for some reflective introspection. So far, my experience in graduate school has been positive. I’m in my fourth class and in this short time, I have thought that the material covered in all of my classes has ranged from useful to extremely important. Nothing so far has struck me as downright useless. Overall, I am learning valuable information that I think will make me a better librarian - and that is the point, right? Are there problems, things that could be done differently or classes that could have been so much more??? You bet!! In a couple of classes, the majority of what I have learned happened outside of the virtual classroom and of the professor’s perview. Something in particular sparked my interest, confused me or challenged me. I felt the need to learn more, dig deeper and to think about something in a new and different way. This process probably would have been better served inside of the class, but that wasn’t to be. I’m way to early in the program to have a good handle on how many of Meredith’s “big topics” will be covered, but I’m hopeful.

Technical Skills & the Librarian

What type of technical skills do you need to be a librarian? A tough question to answer. Specific skills will vary depending on type of library one works in, will vary by departments within a library, will also vary from library to library - and will most definitely change rapidly. Most libraries do not have a tech support person in the building during all hours they are open - many do not have one in the building at all. This often requires that everyone have a good sense of basic computer troubleshooting skills. Some technical skills that I think everyone who works in a library should have are as follows:
  • Basic knowledge of a personal computer - knowledge of file folder structure - how to save and retrieve documents (including how to organize) - how to navigate between folders - knowledge of network folders vs. local folders - how to add a network drive - how to add printers - difference between local printers vs. network printers - knowledge of how to delete items and empty trash - knowledge of different file formats & ability to recognize virus files
  • Internet knowledge- how to search the web - what the internet is vs. what the world wide web is - good searching habits - knowledge of spyware and how it can disable a computer - how to use various browsers including IE, Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, Netscape and others - what a URL is - what the format of a URL is - knowledge of domain name structure - knowledge about pop-up blockers & how to disable them - idea of what can and cannot be found on the internet - what the notion of precision vs. recall is
  • Software knowledge - Microsoft Office products and other alternatives, anti-virus software, personal firewall software - ftp - telnet - HTML editors - basic ability to understand your operating system (os) - knowledge of what (os) you have on your computer - knowledge of how to figure out what (os) others have - ability to test & learn new software (librarians are often asked to troubleshoot any program installed on library computers), in depth knowledge of email software - understanding of POP3 vs. imap
  • Networking knowledge - what is the network? - what do you need to put a computer on a network? (network interface card & data cable) - wireless networks - how to connect to wireless on PCs with various operating systems & on a mac - how to determine if internet connectivity problems are network problems, computer problems or web site failures - what is an IP address? - some knowledge of the following concepts: DNS (internal & external), NAT (network address translation), VPN (virtual private network) - what is a proxy server & the basics of how it works
  • Hardware knowledge- familiarity with your cpu - understanding where your USB/Firewire port is - understanding of into where your mouse, keyboard & monitor & possibly barcode scanner plug- familiarity with laptops, tablets & PDAs - knowledge of mp3 players & iPods - familiarity with printers & how to troubleshoot printing problems - knowledge of thumb drives/flash drives - knowledge of projectors
  • Other Computer Concepts - Ability to troubleshoot basic computer problems - primary computer user is the first line of defense for their own computer - knowledge of how to reboot, soft and hard boots, and when to use them - ability to clearly articulate and define computer problems
    Ultimately, it is extremely important for everyone to have enough technical knowledge to know when to escalate a problem and to whom to escalate the problem.

Other blog post on technology requirements for librarians:

How About Training in Customer Service?

In re-reading and pondering Meredith Farkas’s Skills for the 21st Century Librarian, it dawned on me that in addition to her well-thought out (and well written) competencies, there really should be some sort of expected competency in customer service. I believe that there is some small level of this in my current program. I have been pleasantly surprised at that in most classes the patron is experience is stressed heavily (as it should be). However, this could be more explicitly stated and studied more in depthly. I think a class that teaches about customer service and/or people skills would be a wonderful addition to any MLS program. Everyone has difficult experiences with patrons, co-workers, etc. and many of us could use help dealing with such problems. Ultimately, it is important for librarians to be able to deal effectively and professionally with patrons, to listen to them, to help them find the information they seek and to ultimately remember that without them we would not have a job.

In the same vein, Steve over at Blog About Libraries has written another great post about customer service (since this is a thinly veiled attempt to promote his original list, I thought I would help. Don’t forget his first followup post either). Steve talks a bit more about one of his original 20 Points on Excellent Customer Service: #3 Treat each other well and you will find that treating patrons nicely becomes easier. I think this harkens back to the old adage that smile and the world smiles back at you. I like the point that if we create a friendlier and more supportive work atmosphere, we will be creating a friendlier and more supportive atmosphere for our communities. These points seems so simple and yet, so often we find ourselves at the mercy of life’s demands and forget how important they really are.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I Can’t Wait for Nelinet’s 2006 IT Conference

I was pretty excited when Nelinet released the topic of the 2006 IT Conference - Social Networking - Plugging New England Libraries into Web 2.0 several weeks ago. This is a topic in which I am extremely interested - and think that hearing people discuss how they have integrated social applications into their libraries will be inspirational (I hope so). I was even more excited when Casey Bisson announced that he has submitted a proposal on a new library deployment of WPopac to Nelinet for the conference. I have read all of his postings about WPopac and think it a great OPAC option, but haven’t been able to attend any conferences or workshops where he has presented. And of course, I’m hooked on the saga. Just who is the mystery library?

Meredith Farkas on 21st Century Librarian Skills

I just finished reading Meredith Farkas’ post on Skills for the 21st Century Librarian over at Information Wants to Be Free. Wow!! This is a great post that is really worth several readings - especially by library students (and those who teach library students). Meredith breaks her list of skills down into two categories: Basic Tech Competencies and Higher Level Competencies. I’m glad that she moved away from specific tech skills and focused on more “big picture” topics that really suggest that students need to understand that technology is an integral part of librarianship and also suggest that critical thinking is a necessity. Certainly, it is important that someone in the library has knowledge of more technically oriented subjects like PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS and network administration, but those are skills that depend highly upon the technological infrastructure of any given institution. And, there are many specialized classes that offer this type of training.

Meredith wrote:
Technologies will come and go. Change is inevitable. But if librarians can adapt to and embrace change, can easily learn technologies, can keep up with changes in the profession, can plan for new services and evaluate old services, can develop services that meet the needs of all stakeholders, can evaluate technologies, and can sell their ideas and market services they will be better able to meet the challenges of changing user populations and changing technologies.

Again, Wow!! This is exactly the type of librarian that I hope I to be and exactly what I am trying to accomplish both in my daily work and in graduate school. I would like to think that I am making significant progress towards this end, but I also believe that one’s development should always be fluid and changing (just like technology).

This post has also got me thinking a bit more about my experiences so far in school and what I hope to actually get out of the experience. I have worked in libraries full time for 12 years and part time for an additional 3 years. It is indeed possible and even desirable to learn most skills on the job. Meredith even points out that some topics are better learned on the job. So, really what does an MLS offer you that on-the-job training cannot (and even more theoretically, what should an MLS offer you)? That is the $50,000 question (Feel free to substitute whatever amount you will spend for your degree. I personally don’t like to tally it up because I find it thoroughly depressing. So no, I don’t think $50,000 is what I will pay). Anyway, I think I will take some time to think about it and save my thoughts for a future post.

Monday, July 17, 2006

An Overview of the Paper

I have submitted my paper. YEAH!!! If I weren’t dying of heat, I would probably be much more excited. As it is, I’m having trouble keeping the sweat that is dripping off my forehead from landing on my keyboard (I bet some ice cream might help). Anyway, I thought I would summarize the paper that I just submitted. I will probably be adding it to the site with the rest of my work from my MLS program, but maybe not until it is graded. I’m a bit of a scaredy cat in that respect.

The Library Catalog Transformed [I’ve never been good at titles. I have very little creative ability and even less patience for the fine art of titling my papers.]

The catalog or OPAC as it stands today is inefficient as an information discovery tool - so inefficient that people have turned to other discovery tools to fulfill their information needs. In order to compete in the race to provide people with information, libraries need to rethink the way they do business and the ways in which they provide information. It isn’t enough to simply transform the catalog without looking at the entirety of information that a library makes available. The catalog is but a small and underutilized pointer to library materials. It is in effect, the library’s shelflist and useful to library staff.

We really need to abandon the current library catalog concept in favor of one interface or portal that the library presents to the world (with single sign on). This one system should index everything available including the physical items owned by the library, the virtual items owned by the library, the sum total of all physical materials available to users at other libraries (via OpenWorldCat??) and internet resources. This one portal should also include access to interlibrary loan request forms, requests for library cards, online renewals, the ability to place holds, access to journal articles along with all other services that the library provides. Search engines and the like are global in scope and this is a trait that libraries need to copy. Z39.50 (too slow and clunky) may not be the answer, but it illustrates that this can be done.

In addition to adding a global perspective, library portals need to add a great deal of functionality in order to be able to transform into online communities in which patrons want to participate. People expect highly configurable systems with a great degree of interactivity. This would allow the public to be able to log into the library portal, see and interact with their circulation records, save their search strategies, save favorite publications (citations or actual links to full-text documents), create research bibliographies directly from the portal (rather than have to export citations to EndNotes or Refworks), track ILL requests, add their own tags to records, see book jackets, see book reviews, create their own books reviews and to interact with others from the library community. With RSS feeds, patrons could sign up for alerts to remind them about the material they have checked out, sign up for alerts when new issues of journals they are interested in are published or sign up for alerts when new books matching certain criteria (author, subject, etc.) they specify arrive at the library.

MARC structure needs to change. FRBR and RDA are in the works, but most catalogs are still formatted with this outdated standards. Simple things need to be improved for better search outcomes. Last name, first name conventions for searching for authors need to be more flexible. There is no reason why people shouldn’t be able to input author names in natural language format and receive results rather than see also references. LCSH need to be completely scrapped. If patrons need to consult a multi-volume set in order to figure out which subject heading to use, the system is way too complicated. Additionally, searching needs to be improved to handle natural language queries. Relevancy ranking is also important. Ranking algorithms need work - possibly a combination of how often an item is checked out, viewed (online resources), and saved to patron records along with analysis of patron ranking and reviews. This needs some serious thought in order to best serve the patron base.

A well built system that provides real services that library patrons need will attract users by itself. Marketing new and better services is key, but people who like a system will encourage its use among their peers. As for training, if new users cannot successfully use the new interface to execute a search and retrieve relevant information then there is a problem with the design. In addition to a well-built system, help pages and FAQs are a necessity - especially for more advanced search options and features. Libraries can’t forget that significant portions of their populations access library services remotely.

This is a pretty brief overview of the paper which ended up begin 13 1/2 pages. I decided to make the paper pretty basic given that it was an assignment for an beginning graduate course. I cut several points that I would have liked to have made, condensed several sections that could have used more explanation and included a great deal of basic description in the first several pages. This fact has me INCREDIBLY nervous and anxious. I can’t say I’m overly happy with the paper, but can also admit that generally when I complete an assignment I need some serious downtime to even be able to think about it with any objectivity

I’m Done, I’m Done, I’m Done

Well, I just finished my paper on the library catalog for my catalog class. I still need to go back, reread the paper and do some final editing, but the bulk of the work is done. I have to admit that I am feeling pretty fried - whether from the fact that I have done nothing but work on the paper for the past three days, sat in the same chair for the past three days or from the incredibly hot weather that we are currently experience in the New England area, I can’t really say. Right now, I need to take a break and do something unrelated to school work for about an hour. I have until 6PM (is currently 3PM) to turn in the paper - and why would I turn it in early?? I will post a summary of the paper, since someone specifically asked - but may not get to that until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I’m Not Feeling the Love

Okay, my paper is due tomorrow at 6PM. I am currently on page 4 with much, much more to write (10-15 pages total) and I’m finding this one very difficult to write. Writing a paper for an entry level graduate course on how to make the catalog more user friendly is not an easy task. The major problem, you ask? The library catalog can’t really be fixed in 10-15 pages. I have way too many ideas and thoughts - way too many for a 30 page paper even. Scaling down my thoughts has never been my strong suit. Additionally, since this is a paper for an entry level cataloging class, I think it needs to be fairly basic in nature. So, I’m definitely struggling with what to include, what not to include - and how to organize it all. ARGH!!! Anyway, time to get back to work. I needed to take a break in order to rant a bit. But the good news is that now I feel better!!!