Two more weeks, LIBR 203!

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Even considering that about half of the students in our course have completed all of the modules, the holiday weekend saw very little activity!!  Somehow, I’m not surprised.  😉  The ball started rolling again yesterday with a few submissions and one more student finishing up.  For the rest of you, keep up the steady progress and you’ll have 203 off your plate soon in order to focus on your other Fall course(s).

In other news, today is International Literacy Day (ILD).  Today’s news results for ILD paint an interesting picture of literacy movements around the globe.  As far as celebrating ILD, I feel a little sheepish in admitting that I am currently reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (I finally caved to the constant recommendations, and I see they’re also making a movie out of it now), but then again I am grateful to be able to read most anything I want to (as long as it’s printed in English and isn’t a tech manual or Cortázar’s Hopscotch, which I will manage some other day in the far distant future when I can give it my full attention).

I was pleased, while packing my house up to move, to find that my daughter (3.5 yrs old) has quite a collection of books!  Somehow it seems there are a lot more when they are packed in a pile of boxes than standing neatly in their bookshelf (to be fair, when she plays “bookstore” and dumps them all onto the floor, there is certainly a lot to pick up).  All the same, I’d like to be more mindful of developing a library for her that presents many different perspectives, and so I am grateful to a peer of mine who shared this page today of World Folktales for children.  As an undergraduate, I enjoyed a course on the representation of women in mythology and fairytales which proved to analyze gender through a historical, cultural, and theological lens.  I would love to foster my own child’s literacy with such a wide scope. 

So, Happy Literacy Day!  May you have the pleasure of reading something other than a textbook today. 🙂


Why? Why? Why? Why?

In dedication, PJ on August 25, 2010 at 5:48 am

During my undergraduate studies I took a course in Ethics/Philosophy which required us students to complete a series of activities designed to determine our ultimate motivation for doing different things.  “Why did you do it?”  The aim of the assignment was to determine if our interests were altruistic, self-centered, or somewhere in between.  The expectation was that almost every one of these exercises, even ones that explored what appeared to be completely altruistic actions, would end with something along the lines of “because it makes me happy” or “because it avoids unhappiness.”

There are some fuzzy lines at the reference desk where I work.  We are not supposed to have any money at the desk, despite the fact that we do sell pencils and pens and can often make small change.  Inevitably, a student needs to print something and doesn’t have their student ID (which also serves as their print card).  We’re testing a system right now where they can borrow a print card, load their own money on it, and print what they need to with the caveat that we will not give change (if they load a dollar then they’ve donated that dollar) and they have to return it on the honor system.  This benefited a student yesterday who only had 25cents on her but found that the previous user had left 90cents on the card.  Occasionally a student has neither their ID nor any money, and I have seen them leave without the needed pages.  It’s a defeating moment that leaves me feeling both helpless and also indignant.  You wonder – why weren’t you better prepared?! 

I worked with another adjunct yesterday who has actually been in the field for a long time.  She informed me that the IT staff at her former job (which is in charge of printers and print cards anyway) would give the ref desk print cards with credit pre-loaded onto them for students who needed it. 

Now, on one hand – you want the students to be self-reliant and prepared, you don’t want to establish a pattern of “come to the ref desk for free printing/copying!”, and somebody walking away with a card that had a $40 credit on it would be a more impacting loss than a 90cent credit.  However, the adjunct just shrugged and said, “Why should the cost of a printout be a barrier to a student’s education?” 

Simple, powerful, important logic, especially in a diverse environment with economically disadvantaged students. 

Giving students “free” copies would feel good, it would seem altruistic, but it would also relieve that nagging voice in the back my mind on the rare occasion that I see a student leave the library without their materials.  Further, when you get down to it, in providing services to students we strive to meet their educational needs – and that just feels good!  It is a service, have no doubt that we are a service oriented bunch, and sometimes you have to find your own rewards when appreciation from your patrons is not forthcoming, but I love my job. 

Marilyn Johnson, in This Book Is Overdue, relates the saga of a LMS (Library Management System) migration: the movement of records from one housing system to another.  An imperfect analogy would be like trying to move all of your documents from a PC to a Mac, except multiplied by many thousand records and fields for information.  In the case Ms. Johnson discusses, there is a repeated failure of the new system to retain hold records – the list of patrons who have reserved a book and the order in which they will get to check it out.  Long after the migration completed, the issue causing this loss was finally uncovered – some of the librarians themselves were inadvertently deleting the holds by accessing the records to, get this, move themselves or friends to the top of the lists.  Johnson writes:

“The sweethearts of free culture, the helpmates of the mind, this selfless profession turned out to harbor individuals who couldn’t wait their turn to consume” titles “that drove them mad with longing, mad enough to forget their ethical principles and vows to serve the public…”

The gentleman in charge of this migration, head of IT Wayne Hay, is quoted as saying, “[Librarians] should have to work retail for a year! I don’t want to do things through technology for the benefit of the librarian.  I want to benefit the patron…it’s not about what makes the librarian’s life better.”  More simple, powerful, important logic. 

Part of our journey in SLIS is to formulate a personal philosophy.  I think mine has its foundations in the above.  And yes – that does make me happy.

A degree in “Shhhh”

In dedication, evolution on August 18, 2010 at 6:14 am

Oh boy, do librarians ever have a PR problem.  We are the generation, ladies and gentlemen, with our mentors and our mentorees, who will need to redefine our own genre.  The inherent job description of a banker or lawyer or teacher hasn’t changed much over time, and neither has librarian (as many forms that all of those things take).  The way the job gets done has certainly evolved, but something unique is happening as the public perception of a librarian becomes almost archaic in comparison.  We’re just changing with the times like everybody else.

Hot topic on my mind lately: ebooks.  As a student in the core 200, 202, 204 classes, I encountered many discussions on the future of books, generally, and libraries, specifically.  There was a general unease partnered with stubborn advocacy when pondering the prospect of the library as one big automated vending machine, or the outright extinction of printed books altogether.  If Google is going to organize all of humanity’s knowledge, then who will bother to use the library? 

Well, first of all, Google is not likely to be successful there, despite valiant efforts.  A vast majority of information, even online, is behind firewalls and passwords and prompts to enter your credit card information.  Libraries strive to get patrons past these barriers – for free.  Secondly, people still prefer human interaction over artificial intelligence.  Thirdly, what about people who don’t even use the internet?

It’s an interesting time to be entering the field, and I don’t know of one SLIS student who hasn’t been peppered by well-meaning friends with questions about the stability (sanity) of studying a field which is often perceived as stuffy and out-dated.  The possible replies are endless, and you will come to build your own arsenal towards changing those misperceptions one by one, but returning to the realm of ebooks I offer this blog post (despite the wealth of typos) as more food for thought.