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!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Assignment

The assignment from my professor for the paper due on Monday reads: “How do you make the catalog more user friendly? How would you get the patron to use the catalog? How would you provide training for the patron?” This is one of 15 project topices that the professor provided us, along with the instructions that “You are to choose one topic from the suggested topic below for your project. Papers need to be 10-15 pages in length and are due on July 17th. Now this seems a bit vague - especially to a student like myself who likes specific directions and details in an assignment. I suspect this means there is some leeway in how we write the paper - and I am a bit excited about the topic. Not only will I be able to learn a great deal about OPACs/library catalogs, but will able to use that knowledge at work in order to help improve our patron experience. Now it is time to get back to work!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Some Unrelated Thoughts & Responses

OPAChy reminds us in a post entitled Why we’ll never be as good at search as Google that the major problem in using Google’s page-ranking algorithms to compare with OPAC search ranking is that their page-ranking system is not necessarily applicable to our data. OPAChy writes that “PageRank presupposes that (a) there are lots of people “voting” by making links to given resources, and (b) the best resources are the most popular/linked-to.” The fact that the majority of our collection is not heavily used makes the use of relevancy ranking much more complicated. Just because an item hasn’t ever been used doesn’t mean that it isn’t highly relevant to a specific research topic. How does one convey this in terms of relevance? Obviously, academic, public and special libraries may have extremely different needs in terms of relevancy ranking. Since much of the recent criticism of OPACs relates to lack of relevancy ranking, I think we need to look closer at this issue in order to determine what we need for relevancy ranking. Our collections are very different from Google and even from Amazon and sometimes I think we forget this fact. Ultimately, I think this relates to the fact that Google provides users with many sources for a given topic, but that libraries are trying not to provide just sources, but the best sources available for a given topic. This is a critical distinction.

There was an interesting response to Steve’s 20 points on excellent library service (from Blog about Libraries) over at The Itinerant Librarian yesterday. Angel takes issue with two of Steve’s points. First, she points out that is difficult not to take extremely bad behavior from patrons personally - and that some behavior is inexcusable. I think that Angel has a point, but sometimes we need to remember that patrons who cause problems are generally in the minority - and the small minority - thank goodness. Despite this fact, we do have policies in place to deal with this type of behavior in order to protect ourselves and have had to bar patrons from using our facilities. Second, Angel disagrees about being flexible with policies. I can see both sides of this issue. Ultimately, I think the best way to handle this is to reevaluate policies often. If you find that you are often being lenient about certain policies, maybe they aren’t really necessary. Maybe fewer policies will help. Of course, I work in a library and I know that we often have to put policies in place so that we can point patrons to them when we have to speak to them about an issue. I would like to point out that this usually happens because students complain (loudly) about other’s behaviors. I admit that we have signs forbidding the use of cell phones - but this is because of the pervasive nature of their use. Students started a campaign to ban the use in the library because they found cell phone use distracting while studying. Ultimately, the library belongs to the students and they have the right to have input into our policies and procedures. Angel sums up her post nicely - “Now, someone will say, “oh, but you are just worried about covering your behind.” You bet I am. Another thing I learned in my years as a educator. Always cover your ass. In the litigious land we live in, not doing it is just foolish. Making some exceptions just opens you to all sorts of vulnerabilities that are better avoided. Why would you do that to yourself, or to your colleagues? So, very nice rules, very true, but take them with a grain of salt, as one should probably take a lot of things in life. And just use some common sense.” I think this is great advice - especially since I try to take everything with a grain of salt.

How to Deal with Schoolwork

When I read this post over at the Eventual Librarian, I was very jealous. Imagine being about to complete an assignment without hysteria - I certainly can’t. Fortunately, Kate posted two followups: How to write a paper for library school without hysterics, part 1 and part 2 to explain a bit more about how she accomplished this miraculous feat. I like many of Kate’s suggestions - most of which have to do with using automated tools in favor of highlighters and post-it notes. This saves one time since anything written by hand will probably have to be entered into a computer at some point anyway. I agree with Kate on this. However, I need to confess that although I do use some social applications/web-based applications like, Google Notebook and Refworks, I still do most of my work by hand. I have started writing some of my papers on my computer, but still hand write papers more often than not. For some reason, I find it easier to to get the paper written by hand - when I am curled up on the couch in front of the tv with my big, 5 subject notebook. When I type a paper from scratch, I feel like I have to edit it/revise it/fix it as I go. I often find it very difficult to get beyond the opening paragraph. I use highlighters and paper notes on a daily basis - especially since I can’t stand to read articles and/or anything of length on the computer screen.

Although I haven’t gotten the knack of taking notes on the computer, I have to second Kate’s advice about using introductory and concluding paragraphs, using book reviews to narrow down sources and using RSS feeds and blogs as a source of information. When doing papers or projects, one has to learn how not to read everything. If you can’t scan the introduction to a work and immediately decide if the item is relevant or not, you will waste a great deal of time.

Anyway, it is time for me to get back to work on my paper. I can say that one important part of being able to write a paper without having an attack of hysteria is to actually work on the paper - and not allowing other things to get in the way (like blogging). Thanks for sharing your methods Kate. I appreciate it - and am looking forward to your next installment.

OPAC Resources

These are more resources that I am using for my paper that is due next week. This list is by no means comprehensive - at this point, it is just a starting point.

Examples of Enhanced Library Catalogs

Enhanced Services for the Library Catalog

ILS Vendors

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Some Reflections and a Surprise

For the past couple of years, I have felt my professional development has been pretty stagnant. I took over as Head of Library Systems at my library in January 2000. Honestly, I was relatively new to library systems (I was a library systems technician from 1998 to 2000) and was pretty aware of the fact that I needed to learn a great deal to do my new job well. I read voraciously, took as many classes as I could and poured over material relating to library systems. I was excited and filled with ideas. The new job was challenging and rewarding in so many ways. However, over the years, I got much more comfortable and confident in my job - and a great deal of my day-to-day tasks became fairly routine. I have been aware of a feeling of disquiet and restlessness over the past two years - this slowly evolved into a sense that I wasn’t as engaged in the overall mission and purpose of the library as I could be. I certainly had lost my feelings of excitement. It seemed to me that there needed to be more - in what capacity I wasn’t sure. These vague feelings eventually led me to graduate school. I felt that school would engage my mind, expand my horizons and really get me thinking about my job in a new way. Additionally, I had found my calling in library systems - and it became important to me to formalize that realization with a masters in library science.

I have only been taking classes for about 10 months - and am currently taking my 4th class (out of 12). The learning process has been wonderful - and it has certainly stimulated my mind. Even though, I am often studying subjects that I am very familiar with, I have been able to think about these subjects in new and different ways. I’m much more engaged while I am at work - and thinking about the library from the patron perspective. So, school has done what I had hoped it would do for me. However, one thing that has been so unexpected has been the effect of blogging on this entire process. As I have mentioned before, I started this blog as a way to document my process through school. Because I am taking classes online, I think it is important to have a online way to document the experience. I also thought that actually creating a blog would be the best way to learn about them, understand them and discover how they could be useful in a library setting. I honestly did not expect to get much out of the process. Surprisingly, I have to admit that blogging has been a wonderful experience that I am enjoying for more than I would have thought. Additionally, it gets me thinking much more creatively about my work than I would have thought possible. Who would’ve thought?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Scholarly Value of Blogs

Ever since I started this blog back in September of 2005, I have been fascinated with the world of blogs - especially library blogs. They are a very unique means of communication that are just now entering a more mature phase. Jane, over at A Wandering Eyre, just posted a piece on The Worth of Information, Considering Its Sourcein which she discusses the value of blog information (notably in relation to my intention to use blog posts in a paper for a graduate class). I have to say that Jane’s concerns do echo my own, but I think it is appropriate to use blog posts supported by traditional research (I might even suggest any research would be missing huge chunks of relevant information if blog posts were not included).

My comments on Jane’s post:

“Over the past several months, I have been amazed (and often overwhelmed) by the sheer amount of information available about libraries via blogs. I see the library blog world as such a rich community filled with passionate people who care deeply about their profession - and who are interested in affecting revolutionary change in the library sphere. I am extremely interested in the impact of blogs on communication - formal and informal - and am mulling over ideas about examining the world of library blogs for my special project/master’s thesis (which is still a while in the future). I also still value the information garnered by traditional research methodologies, but I think it is time to look at the world of blogs in a more scholarly manner. I find the discussions that are currently taking place about the OPAC (as one example - at this point it happens to relate to a specific class that I am taking) to be extremely significant, thought provoking and worthy of review in a scholarly manner. How it will all pan out is a different story, but I think it is worth the investigation (supported by traditional literature reviews and research).

By the way, the majority of my current reading in terms of professional development and awareness is also done through blogs, web sites, etc. Generally, any new developments that are worth noting have been mentioned in someone’s blog - with a link to more in depth information. I think it would be extremely interesting to look at the ways in which blogs have influenced professional development.”

PS. Is anyone else annoyed by the fact the spell check in blog software always identifies the word blog as misspelled????

Excellence in Customer Service

There is a great post entitled 20 points on excellent library customer service over at Blog about Libraries that I think everyone who works in libraries ought to read - maybe even daily. Work often gets complicated and frustrating - insufficient resources, insufficient human capital, broken equipment, not enough equipment, etc. - and these are only the problems that I’ve had to deal with in this short work week that started yesterday. When one is frustrated, the often patron becomes the enemy. This makes it difficult to keep a smile on one’s face - and to be helpful. Every once in a while, we all need these reminders. This reminder certainly helped me put my work frustrations into their proper place today!

And by the way, I don’t think that these lessons are just important to libraries - especially points #4 Follow the Golden Rule, always and #9 Be professional; take customer service seriously (I think they are just as important in our day-to-day lives). Customer service is almost non-existent in today’s society. Our society has an alarming tendency to blame the customer for problems. Everyone could use a bit of help to remember the value of good customer service. I’d like to show this post to people at my bank, my mortgage company and I would especially like to show this to people who work in retail stores. It doesn’t have to be difficult - something as simple as saying “Please” and “Thank You” can make people happier.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

OPAC Blog Posts - A List

July 11, 2206 - I am no longer updating this list of OPAC Blog posts on this site. For the most recent version of this post, please visit the OPAC Blog Posts - A List via WordPress. It has become too difficult to update the list in both places.

The latest assignment for my summer class is a 10-15 page paper about one cataloging related subject that we choose from a list of 15 suggested topics (due on July 17th). Although I haven’t made my final choice about the theme of the paper, many of the suggestions on the professor’s list deal with the automated library catalog and the user’s experience of searching. I’m interested in using some of the recent blog discussions about the OPAC/library catalog/ILS as part of my paper. As such, I’ve started putting together a list of relevant blog posts. This list is a work in progress. I intend to update the list - and start annotating it as part of my research.


Family Man Librarian

  • Library online catalogs and relevancy ranking[updated] - A post in which the Family Man Librarian disagrees with Karen Schneiders’ post How OPACs Suck, Part 1: Relevance Rank (Or the Lack of It). The FML takes issue with Karen’s points that most online catalogs don’t have relevance ranking and that ILS vendors are wholly to blame for this lack of relevance ranking. FML contends that we need to “look at both sides of the issue and especially do not be so quick to lay blame without truly understanding the reality of what vendors provide and what they do.”

  • 2006: the year of the phoenix OPAC? - In this post, John Blyberg points to several significant developments in OPACs: NCSU’s new online catalog, Casey Bisson’s WordPress OPAC project, Ed Vielmetti’s third-party library apps with RSS feeds and Dave Pattern’s work with a new patron-oriented presentation layer to the OPAC. Blyberg’s own experiences also lead him to conclude that the public is “hungry” for social additives to the catalog. Blyberg writes that 2006 “is shaping up to be the year a new OPAC vision is created.”
  • ILS Customer Bill of Rights - John Blyberg details “four simple, but fundamental” needs from ILS vendors: 1) Open, read-only, direct access to the database, 2)A full-blown, W3C standards-based API to all read-write functions, 3)The option to run the ILS on hardware of our choice, on servers that we administer and 4) High security standards.
  • Library 2.0 websites: Where to begin? - John suggests five directives to help redesign library web sites: social software, open-source software, single sign-on, open standards and an integrated OPAC.
  • Why bother: the impact of social OPACs - Blyberg makes is clear that he does not “think we are doomed if we choose not to implement social software in our OPAC.” He contends that by adding social software and/or applications we can create a feeling of community within our OPACs. One key point is that “findability is not the goal, but the activity and the experience which is why I say that OPACs have the potential to be fascinating places to visit and browse.”
  • OPACs in the frying pan, Vendors in the fires - A round up of blog posts about OPACs, ILS and vendors for early June 2006.

A Wandering Eyre

ALA TechSource

Maison Bisson

Library Garden

Disruptive Library Technology Jester


What I Learned Today

Science Library Pad

Confessions of a Science Librarian

ex libris

Swem Review of Technology

Librarian 1.5


Library Laws are meant to be broken

Participation Literacy


Crossed Wires

Library clips

Librarian in the Middle

The Goblin in the Library



Free Range Librarian

Information Wants to Be Free

Affording the Rock-N-Roll Lifestyle




Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog


Walt at random


Pegasus Librarian

One Big Library

My posts

Updates:7/6/2006 - I added some additional blog posts to the list and started to annotate the entries.7/7/2006 - I continued annotating some entries. I changed the formatting of the post to (I hope) make the post easier to read (using bold for blog names and bullets for posts).