24 August, 2011

Library Secret Society

I am starting to feel like getting a job in a library is like getting into a secret society. I have no idea how many entry-level jobs I have applied for. I have to get experience in the field, and I have to get paid for it because graduate school is obscenely expensive. A month or so ago, I went to the Madeira Beach library to apply for a minimum-wage part-time job that they had listed in the local newspaper. Unsurprising enough, there were several other people applying when I got there. What was surprising, though, was that they were all women about my mother's age or older. What happened to cause all these middle-aged women, who surely have way more experience than I do, to flock to apply for the lowest level job at the library? To think that I am competing with people who are highly experienced in the field for a job is absolutely terrifying.

The library at my school has done away with all of the graduate assistantships and replaced them with federal work-study positions for undergraduates due to budget cuts. I can't find work because it seems that for every opening there are 20 people with more experience than me. I have noticed quite a few people in my classes that already work in libraries and are just getting the degree due to technicalities. It seems like the only way to get a job in a library is to have already worked in a library. Where does that leave me? Will there be an entire generation of library newbs left out in the cold because of budget cuts? Isn't anyone thinking about the future?

If I don't find a job soon, I am going to have to drop out of the program. I can't afford to spend all this time and money getting a degree that will be worthless to potential employers without the experience to back it up. Someone needs to just give me a chance!

19 July, 2011

New College Jane Bancroft Cook Library

I stopped in for a visit at the Jane Bancroft Cook Library on the New College campus in Sarasota (5800 Bay Shore Rd). Here are some facts from the library website:

* Current building dedicated November 1, 1986
* Named in honor of New College leading philanthropist
* 274,059 volumes; 539,997microforms; 5,064 audio-visual materials
* 850 print subscriptions to scholarly journals
* Circulates 60,000 items; borrows 5,500 inter-library-loan items each year
* Librarians answer 5,000 reference questions annually
* Accesses more than 498 electronic databases, 22,000 electronic journals, and 170,000 e-   books.
* Provides hundreds of print and electronic-reserve materials to students annually
* Offers extensive bibliographic instruction to small groups, individual classes and         individual students throughout the year

The Cook library consists of two floors. Upon first entering the building, it may seem on the small side, but it is actually has quite a lot of space. The main lobby is welcoming and kind of looks like an outdoor plaza. There are large street lights surrounded by plants and several Romanesque statues along with comfortable seating. The large windows in the front of the building allow for a good amount of natural lighting.

Next to the entrance is the circulation desk, and behind that are some offices. Also near the front of the building are a few shelves of new and popular books and a meager DVD section. One of the coolest things at the front of the library was the section of publications by students and alumni, as well as paintings by Jodie Yeakel, a New College alumna. The first floor is where the computers for public and student use can be found. There is a language/writing/math/computer learning center right next to the computers for those who need assistance with any of the mentioned subjects.

The Cook library has a huge reference section. Almost all of the stacks on the first floor are dedicated to reference materials. Along with reference, the first floor also houses the New College theses, microfilm, and the Dr. Helen N. Fagin Special Collection which deals with the Holocaust, genocide and humanitarian studies. There are also lots of small classrooms and plenty of study space (with cushioned chairs!) at either single desks or tables for up to 6 people. There were some very small collections of maps, CDs, and periodicals that were unimpressive.

The second floor houses the rest of the library collection which is organized with the Library of Congress classification. There is a handy guide at the top of the stairway for finding subjects using LOC classification. The second floor has many skylights, and this creates a lovely mix of natural and artificial lighting that I think may aid in studying.  There is also tons more study space, including assigned carrels for both faculty and students.

I found the fact that the library assigns study carrels very intriguing. I wondered if they had problems in the past with availability, or if they simply preferred a more organized method. The second floor also has a small juvenile fiction section and a media/conference classroom.

After I spent plenty of time wandering through the stacks, I went back downstairs to meet with Alison Piper, the Access Services Librarian. Alison has been with the New College library for only a month. Her duties include working with circulation, interlibrary loans, an document delivery. She started out with a BA and MA in psychology. However, she soon realized that she wanted a more hands-on career that would allow her to do research (which is what she loved most). She went back to school and got her MLS from Simmons College in Massachusetts. While in school, she worked in public, academic, and school libraries. Her first job as a librarian was in a prep school for 6-12th graders, but she always knew she really wanted to work in an academic library. She decided to move somewhere warm and get a job with a college or university. Alison belongs to ALA and the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T). She participates in continuing education through webinars, which she does 3 or 4 times a week!

The advice that Alison gave me was similar to what I have heard before: get as much experience as possible and in a variety of libraries. This will help with networking and learning new systems. She said that keeping up with technology is also very important- not just through hands-on, but also abstractly so that we can identify with future trends.

Working in an academic library seems like a much more stable position, but I don't know if that is necessarily a good thing for me personally. I really enjoy a variety of situations. I would love working in an academic library if I was able to perform a multitude of duties and not just be stuck in one area doing the same kinds of things every single day. I enjoyed visiting the Mote library and the Germany library slightly more that the Cook library. My favorite was Mote- I think it would be awesome to specialize in a certain field and just learn tons and tons about it. I also think it would be fun to work with researchers and watch the effects of their studies.

What I know for sure after meeting with many librarians is that I absolutely must start getting experience ASAP so that I can make the most out of my time in graduate school and have a better chance of employment when I am ready to start my career.

18 July, 2011

Mote Marine Lab Library

If you live in the Sarasota/Tampa area and you haven't been to Mote Marine Lab and Aquarium, you need to go! It is an extremely active research facility just bursting with scientific fun for the whole family. The facility is located at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL, 34236. Hours are 10am-5pm every day, including holidays!

For those who have visited Mote, you may be surprised to learn that the laboratory has a library. The Arthur Vining Davis Library is located on the second floor of the lab building and is run entirely by Director Sue Stover and a handful of volunteers and interns. The hours are usually 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. The library is open to the public, but it is mostly utilized by researchers and scientists in marine studies. While the library is small (but very cozy), the amount of research and information housed within it is massive. The main collection is made up of 26,000 volumes, 400 print journal titles, 138 current journal subscriptions, 3,550 cataloged reprints, and more than 1,500 Mote technical reports.

Just a few of the services that the library offers include reference, interlibrary loans, technology and computer access, full text e-journals and publications, and database abstracts. The library also has its own digital repository, DSpace, that is accessible to anyone via the internet. E-reference is very popular, with a lot of questions dealing with wildlife identification and shark teeth. Most of the time, volunteers (who are retired librarians) or interns do the research for reference questions of this nature.

My favorite part of this library was its special collections, which, when combined, contain nearly a century of research and publications.

Dr. Charles M. Breder, Jr. Collection: Published books and field journals from the early 1900s. Dr. Breder was a renowned ichthyologist (a fish zoologist).

Bass Biological Laboratory: Founded in 1932 by John F. Bass, Jr., the laboratory was the first co-ed research field station in Florida. It operated in Lemon Bay during the 1930s and 1940s but was abandoned after that. In 1989, Dr. Ernest D. Estevez began the process of preserving the documents found in the lab. The records offer unique information on the ecology of pre-developed Florida and help illustrate what changes have occurred in the last 70 years. The collection consists of maps, permits, invoices, field notes, telegrams, personal papers, ecological data, photographs, correspondence, species lists, meteorological data, and more. Sue told me that in order to recover the documents, workers had to remove the volatile chemicals that had been left inside the lab for decades! This is the only remaining building from the 10 acre station:

 the "Cookie House"

Dr. Eugenie Clark: Published papers and books by the founder of Cape Haze Marine Lab, now the Mote Lab.

Collected Papers from Mote Marine Laboratory and Technical Reports: Mote research since 1955. More than 2,500 papers.

Dr. Perry Gilbert Collection: Published papers, correspondence, and photos from the former Mote director (1967-1978) and shark researcher.

Mina Walther Collection: Articles from the newspaper column "Tide Lines" in the Sarasota Herald Tribune from 1977-2003.

Pauline S. Becker Collection: Books on Florida history, ecology, and folklore from a 25-year Mote volunteer.

Herman Gross Slide Collection: A donation of more that 30,000 underwater slides from all over the world. 

Library Director Sue Stover was a delight to talk with. She gave me a tour of the library and provided me with a folder stuffed with informative print-outs and pamphlets before we sat down. Sue originally began her career as a nurse. She got a degree in nursing, and then another in public health, and worked at a doctor's office for five years. Then, she decided she wanted to be a medical librarian and went back to school to get her MLIS (at USF). While attending graduate school, she worked at the Tampa Bay Library Consortium (TBLC). She was at a public library for a while before she learned of an opening at Mote. Just like a lot of other people, she thought, "Mote has a library?" Because of connections she made while at TBLC she was able to apply for the job without it ever being publicized.

In 1999, Sue took the place of the long-time library director at Mote, and she found that there needed to be some serious changes to the way the library was run. She began the repository in her first year and digitized the interlibrary loan process. Sue told me that marine librarians do not necessarily have to have a background in science; she learned about it "through osmosis," or just jumping in and learning through experience.

Sue has been very active within the professional organizations she belongs to. For four years she was the treasurer of the International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers. She also hosted a conference for the same group in Tampa in 2007. She tries to attend conferences, as well. Sue is also active in continuing education. She mostly utilizes state library and ALA webinars. She has also attended classes and workshops through TBLC.

Sue is in a unique position in that she is essentially her own boss. She has little if any supervision. She runs the entire library herself. Some of her duties include cataloging, interlibrary loans, supervising volunteers, and virtual reference. She also does a lot of grant writing. Her current endeavor is to get a grant to hire an archivist to help catalog and organize more of the special collections. She really wants to get all of the special collections cataloged so that people will have wider access to the nine decades of information.

Sue had some advice for those who are interested in becoming a marine librarian (or any type of librarian):
1. Be willing to learn new things and take the initiative.
2. Take a government documents class. Many of the documents she deals with are from government agencies like NOAA and the EPA.
3. Take a library administration class.
4. Get a variety of experience. Every librarian I talk to tells me that this is very important.

I think I might like being a marine librarian. At first, I thought it might be lonely or boring, but Sue convinced me that it is neither, and she has really gotten a lot out of her career. I never thought I could go into a science librarianship without the background, but I think it is good that it is possible. Sue gave me a print out of this ad from Elsevier:

30 June, 2011

Germany Library (part 2): Interview with Lauren Levy

While visiting the John F. Germany library I had the pleasure of sitting down with librarian Lauren Levy. Lauren is the Digital Services Coordinator, although she actually performs many other roles within the library. She got her B.S. in biology from the University of Tampa and her MLS from the University of South Florida. How did she go from a degree in biology to working in libraries? Well, her original career plans fell through, and she needed a job. Her father was a librarian, so she was familiar and comfortable with the field. She started in Broward County as a library clerk. It was an entry level position that dealt mainly with periodicals and microfilm. Then, she became a children's librarian. She says that she was hired because of her degree in biology; the library needed help with science project questions! Lauren worked her way up to Principal Librarian all before she got her MLS. She spent 8 years working in Broward County, and 16 in Hillsborough. She has been at the Germany library since December. I found Lauren's experience interesting and enlightening. As much as a MLS is desired, it seems that the experience in the field is what matters the most. It also appears that once you get in the field, there are many opportunities for promotions and area changes.

Lauren is a member of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Public Library Association (PLA). She says that she is not very active within the organizations, but she does participate in some of the continuing education opportunities. Her most recent training was through a PLA virtual conference and webinar on training staff. She also has taught computer and technology classes for the public through the library.

According to Lauren, the Germany library has at least 20 reference librarians and at least 12 circulation staff. Between the two buildings, each section needs at minimum one person on duty. The library is also responsible for managing the call center for the entire THPL area. They always have at least 2 staff answering phones, 3 librarians for virtual reference, and 1 staff member for circulation issues. It thought that the staff was large, but Lauren informed me that it is hardly enough. She says she wishes they could hire more people.

As the main branch of the whole county, and a hub for the downtown community, the Germany library is a major research center. There is an abundance of internet use at the location whether at personal laptop stations or the internet center at 3 West. In fact, during my visit I only saw a few available computers in the internet center of about 40 total. Lauren says that as the economy worsens, library use in the community goes up.

I was curious if the Germany library had the same issues as the Safety Harbor library with getting teens interested. Lauren says they have no issues at all. She says that the most important thing to remember with teens is to let them take charge of their own activities. The Teen Advisory Board decides what kinds of events to host, plans them, and executes them with the backing of the Friends of the Library. Lauren says the Friends are very supportive and giving when it comes to teen programs. She says it is also important to make sure the staff of the library are all supportive as well. Teens need a welcoming environment, and they like to go places in groups (which makes some people nervous). Recent teen activities hosted by the library were a poetry jam, a Twilight/Glee party, and video game tournament- all with plenty of junk food.

So what kinds of things does Lauren do as a librarian at the Germany library? She does tons of different things including, but certainly not limited to ordering e-books, assisting patrons with questions, evaluating databases, dealing with plumbing issues, writing performance reports, removing ducks that have wandered in, troubleshooting everything from the a/c to the telephone lines, and plenty of other fun things that Lauren refers to as "putting out random fires." I asked her what kind of weird reference questions she has been asked. Earlier that day, a man came in wanting Al Sharpton's contact information. She says that a lot of times people come in looking for a book, but all they know about it is the color of the cover. But usually she really enjoys reference questions, especially when she learns through them along with the patron. The strangest things that she has experienced have been related to the book drop. People put some crazy things in book drops, apparently. She said the grossest was when someone dumped a bunch of eggs in the drop, and she had to clean it all up. Another time someone left a kitten in the drop. They rescued him and named him Dewey. A patron ended up adopting him.

As far as advice goes, Lauren told me not to be a librarian for the money. She said it is all about helping people, and giving people the information that they need is very satisfying. She left me with a story about a teenage girl. A mother comes in to the library literally dragging her daughter behind her. She asks Lauren to help her find something for her daughter to read. The teenage girl is throwing a huge fit, but eventually agrees to look at some teen magazines. The next time, the mother comes in dragging her daughter behind her again. The daughter says that her friend is reading Sweet Valley High, and wants to know if the library has it. Of course they do. Eventually, the teenage girl comes to the library by herself and asks, "You got anything else to read?" The point is that to get people to read, it MUST be associated with fun. Let them read what they want, as long as they read something. They will begin to explore on their own eventually. I thought that was great advice.

After visiting a small public library and then a large one, I think I would definitely like to work at either one. The Germany library is full of bustle, and it is an extremely important center for the community. When I first started library school (which I realize was a whole month ago!) I was thinking about going into academic librarianship, but I really like the community focus of public libraries. Lauren says that there are way more job opportunities in academic libraries, and working in a public library seems like it could be kind of unstable, especially after hearing about how many different areas Lauren has worked in. But I am still drawn to the mission of public libraries, to serve the community. It is something that I need to think about. After visiting this library, I have also realized that I need to start getting experience in libraries as soon as possible. Without the experience, I will not have as many opportunities for employment after I graduate.

29 June, 2011

John F. Germany Public Library (part 1)

Yesterday, I visited the John F. Germany library in downtown Tampa. It is the main branch of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System (THPL). According to the website, the library is 134,405 square feet and holds 469,217 volumes. It is located at 900 North Ashley Dr, Tampa, FL, 33602. Hours are:
Monday-Wednesday 10am-9pm
Thursday                   10am-8pm
Friday-Saturday        10am-6pm
Sunday                      12:30pm-5pm

The building is actually 2 buildings. Patrons can access 2 floors in the east building and 3 floors in the west building. The librarians use the direction and floor number to identify areas within the library. The main area is 1 East, which is where the front entrance (shown in the picture) is located. Also in 1 East is the ready reference collection, half of the non-fiction collection, adult fiction, large print and audio books, CDs and DVDs, young adult fiction, teen computer lab, teen game room, Grover's Corners bookstore, and a vending area. On the second floor, in 2 East, is the other half of non-fiction, reference, periodicals, small business center, and the Moffitt resource corner. There is a tunnel-like walkway leading to the other building, and the auditorium can be seen between the two. In 1 West is the children's area. To get to the other floors you need to take the elevator. The Florida History collection and the genealogy collection is in 2 West, and the internet center is in 3 West. I will go a little more in depth about the individual collections later on.

The library as a whole has a welcoming feel. It is well lit, and there is plenty of seating. There is plenty of activity going on, but it is still quiet enough to feel peaceful. I saw all kinds of people at the library doing a variety of activities. There were business people working from laptops and conducting research. There were teenagers playing video games in the teen area. There were children with their families. There were homeless people reading and socializing. There were college students checking out books. As I said, it is a welcoming environment. The only restriction for entering is that they have a personal belongings size limitation, which is about the size of a medium suitcase. Other than that, anyone can come in. One of my favorite things about the Germany library is the art. There are paintings, photos, sculptures, and artifacts spread out over the different areas. The permanent art collection is approved and funded by the Friends of the Library. Because of its location, the Germany library also boasts great views of downtown Tampa, and it is also close to the Hillsborough River.

The staff is fairly diverse. I expected to see mostly women, and though that was the case, I did see several men. There are several ethnicities and age groups among the staff, as well, which is very refreshing to see. I think that as the main library of the area, it is great that the staff is diverse and it helps make the library more accessible to all patrons.

I saw many indications of active participation in the community. There were flyers and pamphlets, many in English or Spanish, for all kinds of programs. A few that I saw were for adult computer classes, game night for teens, Spanish night, and early literacy programs for children. When I first entered the library through the children's wing in 1 West, the library was hosting Reading with the Rays. It is a summer reading program that rewards kids for reading by giving them prizes that can lead up to a free ticket to a Rays game. The library also hosts a regular summer reading program.

Each area of the library was unique and interesting. I am going to elaborate on each area by floor.

1 East

Grover's Corners: This book store is operated by the Friends of the Library. You can purchase books, movies, and other materials, and each item is around $1.25 (some less, some more). There is a variety of books here, from fiction to travel guides to cookbooks. The most surprising thing about the book store, in my opinion, is that there is no cashier. Every purchase is done via an honors system. You are supposed to add your total and then place the proper amount in a dropbox.

Ready Reference: The ready reference is meager, but it is a good selection of different materials like dictionaries, guides, and encyclopedias.

Audiobooks and Media: This library has a good amount of audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs. The audiobooks range from newer fiction to how-tos. The DVD selection is less new releases and more documentary and foreign films. The CD selection contains many genres of music and a lot of world music.

Teen Central: This area is made up of the YA fiction, a station of four computers with the biggest screens in the library, a small video game room, and an open-space area with floor cushions and low tables. It is also as far away as physically possible from the children's area and nestled in a corner within the adult fiction. The Friends of the Library fund the teen area and activities, and are very supportive. There is a teen advisory board that decides what kinds of activities to host and what they want in their area of the library. The board plans, advertises, sets up, and executes all of their own functions, which makes for a good turnout.

Non-Fiction: Half of the non-fiction collection is in 1 East. This includes the subjects computers (000s) , philosophy and psychology (100s), religion (200s), social sciences (300s), language (400s), and science and math (500s).

Fiction: Adult fiction includes a section of new releases that are placed strategically near the circulation desk and a table with popular titles.

Circulation Desk: The circulation desk is round and straight ahead as you enter the building through the main entrance. There are at least two staff members there, sometimes as many as four. Here you can find information on the library, check out books, ask questions, and sign up for a library card. Right next to the circulation desk is a shelf of books on hold organized by patron name.

Cafe: It is not really a cafe, just two vending machines and a few high top tables.

2 East

Reference: The reference section is substantial. I was very impressed, especially after the smallish ready reference.

Non-Fiction: The other half of this section includes business, medical, food (600s), arts and sports (700s), literature (800s), and travel and modern geography (900-923).

Moffitt Resource Corner: Sponsored by the Moffitt Cancer Center, this area includes health books and pamphlets on types of cancers and resources (in English and Spanish).

Business Resource Center: Here you can find how-tos on small business, business tax forms, flyers for workshops, and various books on business ownership.

Meeting Rooms: I thought the meeting rooms in 2 East were very nice. The Martin Luther King Jr. room is decorated like an old fashioned personal library. The Helen Virginia Stelle room has a card catalog as decoration!

Periodicals: There were plenty of magazines and newspapers, especially local periodicals. I thought the collection could be fuller, but I guess it depends on the needs of the patrons.

1 West

Children's Area: This was by far my favorite area of the Germany library. The section is separated from the other parts of the library, but people still use it as an entrance from the Poe parking garage, and in order to get to the other parts of the west wing, the elevator in the children's area must be used. On one side is the children's picture books and juvenile fiction. The walls are painted with colorful scenes that invoke old Tampa life. There is a separate room for the kid's computer lab with little rainbow colored keyboards. There is also a computer area for the bigger kids that can be used for homework and fun. The Toddler Terrace contains books for toddlers and a few toys. Outside that room is a Lego station. The juvenile nonfiction section contains kid's encyclopedias and science related models of things like the human body and the solar system. There is also a large story-telling area complete with two big rocking chairs.

2 West

Florida and Local History: This collection includes the last of the non-fiction, history and historical geography (929-999). There is also the Burgert Brothers photograph collection which is nearly 15,000 images of the Tampa area from the late 1800s to the 1960s. The photographs can be accessed in person, or online.

Genealogy Collection: I was told that this is the third largest collection in the southeastern U.S. It is comprised of around 40,000 books and 35,000 rolls of microfilm, mostly from the national archives. Computers in this area are used for scanning and making digital copies of microfilm. The Germany library has been acquiring genealogical records from other libraries that have either closed or can no longer house the records. By doing this, the collection is expanding to cover a larger area that includes other states in the Southeast, not just Florida.

Vertical Files: The vertical file collection is so cool and old school. It is just a row of file cabinets that contain envelopes of newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and other items. The envelopes are organized by subject. The library had begun to scan these items to make the collection digital, but it is in reality a decades long project, and they might decide to just keep the files in their current form. I think that is awesome.

3 West

Internet Center: Here you can find about 40 computers for public access. There are also two big screen TVs that feature news channels.

25 June, 2011

Talking to Librarians

Recently I have had the pleasure of meeting a few librarians who took the time to discuss the profession with me. My first meeting was actually a job interview with Lisa Kothe and Mary Ann De Meo at the Safety Harbor Public Library. Lisa is the Interim Library Director and also an adult services librarian. Mary Ann is a technical services librarian. The library building is fairly new (2009). What I love most about this library is its dedication to the community. There are programs to get every kind of person into the library from traditional book discussions and author visits to Wii bowling tournaments to crafts to young adult drama clubs and more. The library is also used by various local organizations and groups for its meeting spaces, which Lisa said have even been set up for a bridal shower. Safety Harbor has a higher population of deaf residents, so naturally there is a deaf services center in the library as well. The selection of media and periodicals (which can actually be checked out) is impressive for a small library. I was quite impressed by the self-service ready-reference section. This area of reference must be a priceless asset to the community. There were all kinds of encyclopedias, guides, manuals, maps, dictionaries (even one entirely of swear words!), tax forms, and books for just about anything you would need to know. The children's area was quite nice, too, with computers just for kids, tiny chairs and all!

During my interview, I was asked various questions about my experience and library services. Lisa and Mary Ann also told me a lot about the library and welcomed my questions. Here is some of the most interesting/useful information that I gathered:

  • One of, if not the most challenging groups to get into the library is teens. While this may not be surprising, it got me thinking about how a library could cater to teens without losing sight of its main goals and purpose. At the Safety Harbor library, there is a teen section, and there are also lots of programs aimed at teens. These programs include things like Socrates Cafe (where teens can get together and talk over snacks), the Teen Library Advisory Board, creative writing workshops, and visits from college representatives.
  • In a public library setting, it is not very common to get complex reference questions, but sometimes they come up. For example, Lisa said that earlier in the week she was approached by a YA writer who was asked by her editor to do a fact check. She needed to know how much Christmas trees cost in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1960s. Lisa was able to find the information in an old newspaper advertisement through Google Archives, after a lengthy search.
  • Working in a library is dynamic. There will be things that you plan on doing that may not get done because you were sidetracked by a patron. And that's ok. Going with the flow is part of the job. Another part of the job is being proactive. Making the library run better for everyone can be accomplished by being perceptive and creative. Maybe while working the front desk you notice a high volume of patrons asking about a certain program. You could make a flyer with general information about the program to distribute as needed or place in a certain area.
My next meeting was with Kelly Evans, a reference librarian and business information specialist at the University of South Florida main campus library. The purpose of this meeting was to get Kelly's views on reference services. USF's library is easily the biggest I have ever seen in person. With six floors and a basement, it is no wonder the library boasts access to over one million books! Sections include the Learning Commons with 140 computers, Writing Center, Florida Studies Center, Special Collections, Tutoring Center, and don't forget the Starbucks. Ironically, I had never been to the reference desk even though it is on the most frequented first floor. I had to ask for directions at the circulation desk.

Kelly was at the reference desk amid low shelves of materials and accompanied by a graduate student who had taped a handwritten sign to the back of his computer monitor reading: Yes, this is the reference desk. They were very helpful and eager to talk about their jobs. I started by asking what kind of skills librarians need to provide quality service. Kelly said that librarians should be people-oriented and have patience to thoroughly help patrons with their individual needs. She said that everyone is different, and it is important to keep an open mind. She also said that librarians are sometimes like a jack-of-all-trades because they tend to take on multiple jobs and roles within the library. Then, I asked how they felt about virtual reference. Kelly told me that virtual reference (chat, email, text, etc) is being used quite frequently. She said that while she prefers face-to-face reference interaction, she would rather have more consultation-style reference in person and the less demanding research done virtually. She also said that the library website is becoming an important marketing tool, and the library will continue to try to improve it and make it more user-friendly. I asked how to make the physical reference desk more approachable. Both Kelly and her graduate assistant said that a good location and signage are very important, and they felt like they had neither. Kelly had some great advice for me and other MLIS students. Here is what she said

  • Find a mentor. A librarian or other information professional can help a student by giving career advice, experience in the field, and they can be a future job reference.
  • Get experience while in school. Get a job, volunteer, intern, or shadow. Getting experience is the best way to learn what being an information professional entails. It also shows potential employers that you have an active interest in the field and that you have initiative.
  • Join professional organizations. Joining groups like ALA and others will demonstrate a commitment to library science, and you will stay up-to-date on the latest issues in the profession. Going to a conference can be great for networking, and getting a paper published through the organization can really jump start a career.
  • Tailor your cover letter and resume. It is so important to research the potential employer and what the job requires. Show how you have matching skills, and say why you are a good fit for the job. Mention experience you have that pertains to the specific job.
After talking to Lisa, Mary Ann, and Kelly, I feel great about going into this profession. Something that was said to me at both libraries was, "I was just like you once." What they meant was that they understand what it is like to be new in the field, and they are here to help. I actually feel like part of a network of professionals who really collaborate and will gladly give me guidance and support.

13 June, 2011

23 Things Reflections

After completing several of the 23 things to become more acquainted with web 2.0, I have had some time to reflect on the experience. Just to recap, I tried the following things (and blogged about a few):

3. Set up a blog
7. Post a blog about anything technology related
8. Learn about RSS feeds
9. Locate useful library related blogs (see my links)
10. Play around with online image generators
11. Check out LibraryThing
13. Learn about tagging and Delicious
19. Explore sites from the Web 2.0 Awards list
21. Locate podcasts

I think that libraries need blogs to keep the community up to date with general information and upcoming events. Libraries should find ways to publicize their blogs, like in local newspaper articles or local websites. Also, blogs make libraries more accessible and approachable to the public. Blogs have helped me learn about the library and information science profession, and I will continue reading them.

As for online image generators, they can also make library blogs or websites more approachable and visually pleasing. I think that some programs are much better than others. I don't think image generators are all that important, though. They seem to be mostly for fun.

LibraryThing is extremely useful in many ways. For example, I was able to connect with local libraries and book stores to keep track of events for the summer. I think LibraryThing could also be useful for finding books to recommend to patrons based on what they have read and liked.

Social bookmarking sites, especially Delicious, are absolutely fabulous. I think that Delicious is one of the most useful tools I have used in a long time. The uses are endless. Delicious could be used for ready reference bookmarking, pathfinders, continuing education, job searching, and so many more! It was definitely my favorite thing on the list.

Lastly, podcasts are very interesting. It was slightly challenging to find current feeds. I understand the convenience of automatic updates, but I kind of preferred listening to podcasts straight off of a web page versus through a podcatcher. I think it is just a personal preference. I am more of a visual learner, and having the podcast on the page where I could read a synopsis or view an accompanying photo while I listened was helpful. I like the idea of podcasts, but I think I prefer blogs.

I learned so much from this activity, and I am not going to stop. I have a new passion for familiarizing myself with web 2.0 and other technology that will help me be a better professional. Understanding and using these things is essential for the future of library and information science. With digitization continuing at full throttle, in order to stay relevant and accommodating we must accept all forms of information and access. This activity gave me confidence to try new things and helped me prove to myself that I can grasp new concepts and technologies and use them effectively.

10 June, 2011

The Library of Congress is Archiving Your Tweets (Thing #7)

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, iLibrarian, and couldn't help but notice a post about the LOC Twitter archive. The original article by Audrey Watters at O'Reilly Radar is called "How the Library of Congress is building the Twitter archive."

Twitter has been around since 2006, and in April last year, they announced they would be donating the whole archive of public tweets to the Library of Congress. For those who are not familiar with the LOC, you should really check out the website. The LOC gives access to so much history and culture. Go explore it! You can even set up a collection of your favorites.

Back to the Twitter archive. As of this year, there are around 140 million tweets a day! How is the LOC handling all of this data, how are they organizing it, and what will it be used for? To answer the first question, the LOC has partnered with Gnip, a company out of Colorado that provides social media API (application programming interface). The website says:

Gnip provides social media data to businesses that build realtime social media integrations into their business and consumer applications. Receiving your social data from Gnip enables easy integration of massive quantities of realtime social data into your product, legally and reliably. Many of the largest social media monitoring companies in the world rely on Gnip to provide them with data from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and dozens more sources.
And on the partnership with the LOC:
Through this initiative, Gnip will deliver a data archive of all public historical and future Tweets. To date, this is the largest public social media data delivery undertaking in terms of both historical significance and technical magnitude, as Tweets are already generated at a rate of more than one billion every week and increasing. The data will include public Tweets from the time Twitter was founded and into the future, with a window of six months between the original date of a Tweet and its date of public availability for research use. Private data, deleted Tweets, and data linked from Tweets (such as websites) will not be part of the archive.     
Each tweet is a JSON file and is made up of a huge amount of metadata. Just take a look at this

Because of the sheer immensity of data, the LOC is not planning on creating an actual catalog of tweets. The archive will be available for search, though, and how to accommodate that is still being tested. According to the O'Reilly Radar article:
The project is still very much under construction, and the team is weighing a number of different open source technologies in order to build out the storage, management and querying of the Twitter archive. While the decision hasn't been made yet on which tools to use, the library is testing the following in various combinations: Hive, ElasticSearch, Pig, Elephant-bird, HBase, and Hadoop.
Also, not just anyone will be able to access the archive. It will be restricted to known and LOC approved researchers.

This is a cultural milestone for social media. The influence and importance of Twitter to our national history is being acknowledged by this project. As someone who has never used Twitter, I can still understand the significance of using social media as a medium for the human record. Because of its massive growth and impact, worldwide as well as domestically, social media needs to be included as a legitimate source of history and culture from this time period.

07 June, 2011

Thing #21

Today I learned about and found some podcasts. The first thing I did was go to good old Wikipedia for a quick definition:

A podcast (or non-streamed webcast) is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication. The word replaced webcast in common use with the success of the iPod and its role in the rising popularity and innovation of web feeds.
The mode of delivery differentiates podcasting from other means of accessing media files over the Internet, such as direct download, or streamed webcasting. A list of all the audio or video files currently associated with a given series is maintained centrally on the distributor's server as a web feed, and the listener or viewer employs special client application software known as a podcatcher that can access this web feed, check it for updates, and download any new files in the series.
I set up Winamp as my podcatcher, because I already had it installed on my computer. Of the podcast directory links on the original 23 Things blog, only one is still good: Podcast Alley. I typed "Library" into the search box and got 163 hits. I added the Library Survival Guide, LibVibe, Open Stacks, and Library Geeks to start. There were plenty of podcasts for specific libraries, so I wanted to check for local or USF library podcasts to add as well. Unfortunately, there are none. There are podcasts from Florida Atlantic University and also from Orange county libraries. I found these by doing a Google search.

After setting up some podcasts in Winamp, I needed to actually listen to them. I started with the Library Survival Guide, but then decided it wasn't for me. The episodes were all from 2008, and I wanted something more current. Next, I tried LibVibe. The newest episode was also in 2008. I began to wonder if there were any new podcasts! Open Stacks turned out to be updated often, in fact, there were 15 posts (between blogs and podcasts) from today alone! The host, Greg Schwartz, had just returned from a conference and spent the first few minutes complaining about how the hotel did not offer wireless internet. Then he spoke about a library at the conference that was using a wiki for collaboration on the various committees, and how well it worked for that purpose. He also mentioned Biz Wiki, a business wiki set up at Ohio University for students in the program and faculty. I checked it out, and it is awesome.  It includes listing of databases, topics, and research how-tos for the business program. I wish that all schools and departments had something similar; it seems extremely useful. He brought up OPAL (online programming for all libraries):

OPAL is an international collaborative effort by libraries and other organizations of all types to provide web-based programs and training for library users and library staff members.

These live events are held in online rooms where participants can interact via voice-over-IP, text chatting, synchronized browsing, and more.

Everyone is welcome to participate in OPAL programs. Usually there is no need to register. Nearly all OPAL programs are offered free of charge.

Examples of OPAL public online programs include book discussion programs, interviews, special events, library training, memoir writing workshops, and virtual tours of special digital library collections. 

His podcast had tons of information because he was summing up what he did at a conference for several days. It was too much for me to handle all at once! Information overload! Does not compute!

I ended my podcast adventure by visiting the Library of Congress podcasts page. Here I found podcasts on a variety of subjects, but I was most interested in the Conversations about Digital Preservation:

A production of the Library of Congress Office of Strategic Initiatives and the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.

The mission of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program is to develop a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available digital content for current and future generations. Collaboration and shared ideas are essential to the success of NDIIPP and all digital preservation institutions. These podcasts are conversations with digital preservation leaders with whom the Library is collaborating. 
Read more about the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.
 The best thing about the LOC podcasts is that you can listen to them right on the page; you do not need a podcatcher, but you still have the option to subscribe and use one if you want to.

I think that podcasts are very useful and interesting. I hope that I can find some more that I will listen to on a regular basis.