The weird week one can have in a library…

Okay, I know its been a while and a lot has happened.  I’ve spent time as my alter ego – the pirate librarian – but I’m back (at least for now) with a weird week in a library.

I’m sure all of us have had the “where’s the bathroom”  or “can I get this” question while working the reference desk – regardless of the type of library that we work in.  This week, no non-reference interesting questions, but I did have two “what is going on” moments in the library…

Flashback to Tuesday morning, I am out at the reference desk working on some reference questions and keeping an eye on the few patrons that we have in the area when I hear “you need to keep your legs straight.” Say what?! So I look over and two of our patrons are on the floor doing sit-ups and taking coaching from another patron who is on one of our computers… I kid you not! A colleague walks out and all she can do is give me a look… I mean what do you say to these patrons, I’m sorry this is a fitness free zone?

And then today, in the middle of a conference call (and I was the one talking no less), a tech comes in and just unplugs the phone from the wall! Fortunately the folks I  was conferencing with called back once we plugged back in, but it just makes you shake your head… what must they have thought?  His explanation, he didn’t think about the fact that we were on the call – he set up the room for us!

All I can do is shake my head at what goes on in a library… That being said, I did have quite a few interesting queries from patrons, so all is not lost.

To all of you out there in library land who have had one of those experiences… I’m with you!

The satisfaction of librarianship

On two straight days, I have had the ability to make my patrons smile and leave happy – and I remember exactly why I went to library school.  To help people and make them smile, by getting them what they need and going above and beyond what they expect.

Today I was able to help one of our international students locate training information to help him succeed in his classes.  He came in looking for two specific things and when he saw that we had even more items (I took him directly to the video case), he was thrilled and spent extra time carefully choosing items to his limit!

Yesterday, really made my day though.  I had a student come in to the library with a topic in mind for his assignment – to give a speech.   It was pretty specific – helicopter use in the Vietnam War.  Now I know that we have an extensive collection that might be able to help, but he was clearly thinking that he would be lucky to leave with one or two books.  By working with him, I was able to run three quick searches and locate two DVDs and seven books that would help him.  He could not say thank you enough as he checked out six of the books and both DVDs.  He also seemed to be astonished that we would be able to come up with that much information that quickly. 

To top off the day, we had a higher up from another building stop by because he need to use a computer to print some documents and couldn’t get access within his own building, so he came to the library! I was able to ask him who had referred him to us – he said that he had done it, he knew that libraries were a good place to find computers and help!

Power to the library staff! 

ALA 2012 Wrap Up

I realize that I have been remiss when it comes to posting; however, there are a number of good reasons for that.  I finally got a full-time library job after working three jobs for five months.  Secondly, with the commute, I often find myself rolling into bed after dinner and not spending as much time online.  Finally, well I haven’t had a whole lot to say, which is kind of bizarre because I always feel like I have an opinion.

Apologies out of the way, here’s my take on ALA 2012 in Anaheim.  As always, I feel as though I walked a thousand miles over the course of the conference.  The exhibit floor always seems to get bigger and longer.  Of course this means that there is more swag and good information out there – and more and more vendors are buying into the librarians rule mantra!  It was also an eye-opener for me as I had to actually look for specific vendors and not just those with the best giveaways – not that I didn’t keep an eye out for those too.  Having to go represent my library and check-in with the vendors means that the carefully planned schedule every librarian/library professional tries to go to ALA with can be ruined in a heartbeat.

I managed to get to two gaming sessions, one by Scott Nicholson and Pauline Lynch-Shostack (my supervisor from my grad school internship), but then I struggled to make many of the FAFLRT and RDA sessions that I wanted to get to.  I ultimately did make a session and a half on RDA, but not several other sessions that I was really hoping to get to.  Then again, there’s always the session that you’re dying to go to that falls flat – maybe I avoided that one this time….

Back to the vendors, I was able to learn a few things from our vendors, but mostly it was listening to sales pitches for items and services that my library already has.  I did learn that my library has access to a smoother designed Internet-based circ system if we want; however, it will not affect the rest of the ILS and I don’t know if we will all want to have to relearn this “simpler” system.  Another eye-opener, one of our vendors has a new database that we didn’t know about that might fit our mission, but of course it is not my call…  I only have minimal input.

As always, the librarians had a good time.  The ALAPlay event put on by GAMERT and the Graphic Novels folks was a blast.   It was great to see so many people interacting with people that they didn’t know – and even the jousting going on at the front of the ballroom.  A number of people played the very successful first-time interactive game “I’m not the droid you’re looking for”.  I had fun, but I kept confusing YALSA and Mango badges for the game badges from a distance and I know a few people who were looking at me strangely.  I don’t think that they understood what was going on…  On the other hand, I know I sound stupid going around saying “Krxxxt…. Datacard” on the exhibit floor – I definitely got some strange looks there!  I also went to the Proquest scholarship bash – the final conference of the Rock Bottom Remainders.  This is (was) a band made up of literary folk like Steven King, Mitch Albom, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson and others along with a handful of musicians and some other luminaries like Matt Groening and Roy Blount Jr.  This group was rocking pretty well – and then… they brought out Roger McGuinn (of the Byrds and Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer) to play and sing with them.  First song – Mr. Tamborine Man….  That really got the librarians rocking (and wild)!

While I did not get tickets to any of the awards dinners – I heard that all were great, especially the new Carnegie awards.  I do know that there is too much to do at ALA and it is very easy to fall apart because you do not get enough rest – lesson learned in the past, so I had no desire to repeat it this year.  I can’t say that I got a lot of rest though, since kids and drunks abound near Disneyland, but that’s another story for another day…

All in all, it was a great conference and I got a lot of books (even without too many of the ubiquitous YA books) that I had to ship home.  As I draft this, I can only hope that my packages are safely traveling home; however, given my success with on-time transportation thus far… well, I’ll leave it up to other beings.

I hope that I will be updating my blog more frequently as I adapt to my new job and hours…

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Librarians… when the Internet is down…

I had a unique experience yesterday – the Internet went down at the library, in the whole building to be more precise.  This presented a variety of issues, not the least of which was circulation.  We rely on a server connection to access the catalog, circulate materials, and perform a wide variety of other tasks in the library (ordering, inventory, etc…).  What’s a library to do?

For circulation, we ended up putting up a calendar and writing barcodes and titles by hand.  Not really a big deal, just time consuming.  While this led to lines deepening at the circulation desk, that was just the beginning.  The military personnel at DINFOS often come in just to check e-mail and browse the Internet during chow (lunch).  Hmm… quite a few u-turns when they heard the Internet was down.  Also quite a few students lined up to let us know that the Internet was not working – making even longer lines.  To be fair, there were a handful of students/soldiers who decided that reading a book and hanging out in the library would work almost as well…

What about the lowly intern who was supposedly publishing lists of materials from the military branches’ professional reading lists (requires the Internet to research books we do not already have in the collection) and performing inventory? Inventory by hand is a slow process – I took one of our “circulation clerks” (read Army private waiting for his class to start) into the stacks where we manually checked barcode numbers against a previously printed list.  That was fine, since it is normal to do this part by hand, but I was struck by the sheer absurdity of the process when I went to mark two books as missing and check on the status of three others – I couldn’t get into the circulation or cataloging records, we didn’t have an Internet connection!

Eventually we did regain Internet, but not until chow was almost over and the rest of us had gotten to the point where we were sitting around hoping that someone would come ask a question…  I think a paper airplane or two may have been made, but not flown too…

If you believe… you can achieve

For some, last Wednesday’s Internet blackout was an annoyance or a surprise.  For those who were aware of the meaning, it was something much more.  And now, Congress has withdrawn or postponed voting on both SOPA and PIPA as MSNBC was reporting the other day.  Whether we will see either of these bills in reincarnations remains to be seen.  The parties behind the initial legislation are very powerful and have deep pockets, but obviously the masses have spoken too.

This would be the time to step up and point out all of the other resources and good learning points that have come out of this movement.  We saw the success of social networking with the Arab Spring movement and the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria.  Now we’ve seen the success that the masses can have in America.  Wikipedia put it to a vote of its users and contributors before deciding to blackout its English language page last week.  Twitter did not participate in the blackout, but #SOPA was the largest trend of the day – and that was user generated too.  Google, the powerful search engine, provide a link to tell your Congressman you don’t support SOPA and PIPA – and millions clicked!

We need to truly embrace the power of the people – whether it is sharing with the next generation the real power of the words they use or showing older generations how they can access the same tools and information.    Can you imagine a more powerful tool than an understanding of just what information can do?  Now it is up to each and every one of us to use our powers for good – share your knowledge because together we have even more power.  We’ve lost two fine examples of this in the past year: Steve Jobs and Joe Paterno.  Jobs believed that the little man could create and it led to the Apple revolution.  Now we see iAuthor for the Mac.  Giving students, teachers and other educators the power to create their own digital textbooks, just as GarageBand gave musicians the same opportunities – this is one master stroke from the folks at Apple.  And Joe Paterno, who believed that college football should be about college.  Yes, I know that most of us remember the scandal, but let’s also remember everything that he did not just for Penn State, but also for college football in general.  Speak to his thousands of players and they all say that they knew they were going to get a college degree – a refreshing idea in this day and age.  He exemplified the search for knowledge, always trying to improve and stay current – not only that, the library at Penn State Main Campus bears the Paterno name.

It’s Internet Black Out Day

While I support the blackout, I can see how both sides believe that they are in the right – and both sides have their good and bad points.  One other thing I know is that this mass media (and massive media) passive protest would honor the great Dr. King’s legacy.  As I said yesterday, it is a significant week for it.  I’ve read a number of articles online about how others are feeling about SOPA and PIPA and have found some of the lack of knowledge appalling.  On the other hand, the reporters for the most part seem to have gotten some research completed.

I believe that what we have here mimics in some ways the past.  When Dr. King was advocating peaceful change, both sides of the issue were vociferous and they both had a point.  Now it’s up to us – the populace – to get educated and get involved just as millions did more than 50 years ago.

Teachers, this is a great tie-in to your lessons!  Not just the information literacy part of the curriculum, (Some of the responses on Twitter and available on the web are just humiliating – and I think it’s worse since I feel like, as an educator and a trained librarian, I should be doing a better job helping these folks track down information.) but also the history part. Why not teach this lesson and tie it into the peaceful protests of Ghandi and King?

Not only that, this is a great opportunity for all educators, librarians, and any one who shares a love of knowledge to show what a united community can do…

SOPA, PIPA, the Internet Blackout and libraries–oh, my!

As I’ve been reading about the various responses to the SOPA and PIPA acts currently being debated in Congress, I’ve been struck with several different thoughts.  First, I understand why some people might feel a need to follow through with this sort of legislation.  I’m a librarian and I understand why we need to protect copyright – and in a way, isn’t that one of the jobs that we do as librarians?  We make sure that the information that we have is protected, we understand that there are rights due the creators of materials, and school librarians even teach about plagiarism.  So in that respect, I can see where this perceived need for protection from online piracy might arise.

However, also as a librarian, aren’t we supposed to provide access to materials and information for all individuals?  If the current bills pass – although Obama has said that he would not sign them into law – then what we are doing is supporting the restriction of free-flowing information.  I’m sure that many of us, whether we realize it, have at some point viewed a video or other material that was not being used appropriately.  The line has blurred for many people as to appropriate use, and as a librarian I do want people to have free and low cost access to information, but at what cost?

And now the masses have spoken…

While many companies and industries support SOPA including NBCUniversal and pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Merck, other major companies such as Wikimedia (Wikipedia) are blacking out parts of the Internet in protest.  I understand protest (and it is certainly a fitting week for it to occur), but at the same time I’m not sure what purpose this will serve.  Twitter has decided that it will not black out its services, but who’s next?

It seems to me that the Wikipedia blackout could have implications for libraries.  All day tomorrow, one of the major sites that many people use to get information is going to be offline – why can’t we jump into that and show how we can provide access to information as well.  Could SOPA and PIPA end up having benefits for libraries or will we sit to the side and wait to see what happens?

It’s really up to us in the end…