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.