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Archive for April, 2008

I went to a session on Virtual Worlds at the 2008 OLA Conference that looked at Second Life as a venue for all kinds of business operations, including library reference work.  Apparently there are a series of islands within Second Life called the Information Archipeligo, in which staff from 50 libraries around the world offer reference support to any person (avatar) who wanders in with a question. 

Some of the librarians in the audience seemed dubious as to the value of this sort of library interface.  But it might be a useful resource for bridging the informational divide between some populations.  Virtual Reference may be one more avenue to making the library more accessible and user friendly to populations that think the library is outdated, or has nothing of value to offer their particular interest group.  It seems plausible…

UPDATE: If not Second Life, perhaps MySpace, FaceBook or World of Warcraft could be a venue for virtual reference?  If not now, perhaps in ten or twenty years?  See the comments for my discussion of the pros and cons of virtual reference with another session attendee.

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Wednesday morning I volunteered selling merchendise at the Oklahoma Library Association (OLA) booth and chatted with the folks at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries Booth at the other end of the table.  Really nice people.  I saw some of the reference staff I used to work with at the Hardesty Library about five years ago, Amy, Karl and Darla, and passed Linda Summers in the hall.  I even ran into Rita Howell, who used to run the Edison Middle School library, where I did my first spat of library volunteer work as a student!  In high school, I was on the swim team with her daughter.  Rita’s working at McFarlin Library at TU now.  What a small world.

I wanted to hear what Anne Masters had to say about the future of Oklahoma libraries in the FOLIO luncheon, but I didn’t know if they’d let me in without a ticket.  I would have passed on lunch—I just wanted to hear the presentation.  Imagine my surprise when they ushered me in and installed me at a table!  I think maybe they thought I was an awardee, but I told them I wasn’t, that I wasn’t really there for lunch, just the speech.  But I guess some guests didn’t show, and there were extra seats, so they gave me lunch anyway!  I felt kind of like a bum, but they were so welcoming and hospitable—what could I say?

Bum or not, I’m glad I caught the presentation.  Masters discussed how libraries uphold key democratic values such as supporting efforts to inform voters and assist customers with accessing government documents; providing free sources of knowledge; promoting and assisting with self-education; preserving the humanities; and fostering civic pride.  She quoted a number of recent studies about the persistance and value of libraries.  One study entitled, Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public and Leadership Attitudes about Libraries in the 21st Century, indicated that approximately 80% of Americans think public libraries will continue.  Other studies indicated that young people ages 18 to 29 are currently the heaviest library users, and that technology is bringing more, not less, library usage.  Library services are still very improtant to job seekers in need of resume assistance and guidance in submitting online applications.  As long as there are people without computers or Internet access at home, the library’s public computer access will be needed.  Masters mentioned that no other agency has stepped forward to help the public cope with an learn to use the flurry of new technological applications cropping up everyday, and so the library has worked to fill that gap.

Masters had several suggestions to promote the community’s continuing value of public libraries.  She advised librarians to evaluate “the library experience” at their locations to ensure customers have positive and productive experiences there.  She encouraged librarians to embrace information technology, and to organize and host discussion about new technology and its value to the community.  Masters encouraged us to use our libraries to preserve the memory of our community, and to create creative spaces within the library, where customers can conduct business, blog, and engage in artistic pursuits.  Libraries should be flexible with building space, and try to maintain the identity of a town square, open for the free exchange of ideas.  It is most important that librarians work to communicate the need for libraries to the community, be your own PR agent, remind the public why libraries are worth keeping.  We all take things for granted until suddenly we don’t have them.  Then we realize how valuable those things were. 

Don’t let libraries be taken for granted!

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Although no one ever responded to my email offer to volunteer at the Oklahoma Library Association Conference, Teresa helped me get in touch with someone who needs a booth manned tomorrow morning.  Which means I get to attend what’s left of the conference for free!  Yay!

I think I’ll check out the FOLIO lunch discussion on Oklahoma Library Futures and the session on Virtual Worlds after that.  I’d like to hear about the Sequoyah Research Center after that, but I also need to get more paper-writing done.  I have to beware my inner procrastinator…

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My boss has a bit of a knowledge management problem.  A knowledge management problem in the form of four large U.S. Mail tote boxes full of mostly unlabeled stacks of papers and files.  It’s really not his fault–the man is grieviously overworked.  On a quiet day he works until about 7:00 pm; on busy days he works till 10:00 pm.  I’ve seen him pull all-nighters where he finally goes home at 6:00 am to shower and shave, and then come back to work.  He desperately needs a secretary, but the problem with nonprofits is there is always more work to be done than people to do it, and funders prefer to support organizations with low overhead expenses.  Something like 85 cents of every dollar donated to my agency goes straight to client services, which is phenomenal–over and above most nonprofits.  But some staff really struggle to meet the demands of the job with so little help.  And it really seems unfair when the long hours take them away from their kids, as in the case of my boss.

Anyway, I’ve offered to put in some extra hours between semesters to try to help him get his files in order.  God forbid anything should happen to him, because the agency would be up a creek without a paddle if they needed to locate a document in his office!  One bonus is the agency is finally crawling into the 21st century by adopting some technological advancements (that were adopted everywhere else at least eight years ago).  We finally got the scanner function enabled on our copy machine, so we can scan multi-page documents and save them on the server in under two minutes, rather than taking 30 minutes or more to scan one page at a time on a desktop scanner.  Huzzah!  It’s completely ridiculous how exciting this is to me!  But scanning at a snail’s pace has taught me appreciation.  I’m betting my boss’s file situation would benefit from scanning and saving some of the most important documents on the server.  Because, thanks to recent IT developments at my agency, I can now open a 50-page document on the server and send it to print on the copy machine (which is at least four times as fast as my desktop printer), rather than having to wait for it to print on my desktop, then go make copies!  Will wonders never cease…

When you’re scrambling to meet a deadline, the minutes count!

And now for something completely different, I thought this was a lot of fun!  If you think of a good Tom Swifty, leave a comment!  I thought of:

“Which surgeon did your rhinoplasty?” Tom asked nosily.

My favorite one from Wikipedia is:

“They had to amputate them both at the ankles,” Tom said defeatedly.

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Whew, it’s been a busy couple of weeks.  My boss is kindly working with me to develop a plan to decrease my hours to 30 per week, so I can devote more time to school.  Currently, the plan is that I will take over the donor database management work of an employee who is leaving, teach grant writing to another employee who will move into my office with me, and eventually, once she is comfortable with the grant writing and contract processing duties, I’ll be more of a subsidiary grant writer, at least until I get a job in the library field.  This should allow me more flexible hours, but I suspect it’s going to take me about a year to train the new grant writer.  I don’t know when my shorter hours will kick in, but hopefully by the end of May.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to learn the database management job and assist with some special events work on top of all my usual grant writing and contract processing.  The database work isn’t hard, but doing the work of two people is tiring.  The good news is I’m taking a week of vacation from work to write final papers and catch up on reading assignments.  The not-so-good news is that when I get back to work on April 28th, I will have only two weeks to write our annual Emergency Shelter Grant and Community Development Block Grant applications if I’m going to be able to submit them to divisional and territorial headquarters for approval before submission to the City of Tulsa.  …which is kind of required. 

Plus the training for the new online application process for submission of U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development Supportive Housing grants should be starting soon.  HUD promised training sessions in April, but we’re rapidly running out of April.  I just hope the government isn’t still writing code for the submission portal.  When Tulsa has 1.5 million housing dollars on the line, you want the submission process to be smooth.  You want the submission portal to not crash on you at the last minute.  Well, one day at a time.

As the grant writer for a local nonprofit which provides homeless services, I participate in Continuum of Care (CoC) meetings, in which the majority of area homeless service providers meet monthly and collaborate to improve homeless services.  Plus, seven or eight of us submit the HUD Supportive Housing grant to the City of Tulsa each year, which is then organized and submitted by The City of Tulsa to HUD. 

We’ve been struggling with a bit of a knowledge management problem recently, as the City of Tulsa employee who has traditionally prepared Tulsa’s submission to HUD resigned last fall.  Typically, HUD submissions are made in April or May, but luckily, the new online submission process has delayed the submission schedule this year, because the City of Tulsa has only found us a replacement CoC liason in the last couple weeks.  I don’t envy the new CoC liason as she struggles to pick up the responsibilities of her predecessor.  She has a lot to learn in a short amount of time, definitions of chronic homelessness, the hold harmless clause, the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), and the manadatory exclusion of domestic violence victims’ data from HMIS… 

I can’t believe the City of Tulsa left us hanging for so long.  If HUD had been on schedule–which, granted, it never is–Tulsa could have lost a lot of money, and a lot people would have been out on the streets instead of working towards self-sufficiency in supportive housing programs.

I guess that’s enough ranting for now.

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Books Never Published

I was thinking about censorship at the publisher level, wondering what works we have missed out on so that other mediocre media with greater demand (cringe – romance novels) could be published.

The works of Henry Darger are an interesting case in point, although as far as I know, he never approached any publisher with his writings, and his several-thousand-page, illustrated work of fiction was only discovered and published posthumously.

I wonder if The Pop-up Book of Phobias faced any obstacles at the outset?

Dave Barry also notes that publishers rejected the little-known sequels to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, their titles being: The Pinto Beans of Lust and The Giant Blood-Sucking Death Cabbages From Hell.

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Melharmony

For anyone interested, here’s the information about the concert I’m attending on Friday:

 

Friday, Apr-11-2008  7:00PM

MASTER OF MELHARMONY

Chitravina N. Ravikiran

Venue: John H. Williams Theatre, Tulsa Performing Arts Center

Chitravina N. Ravikiran is featured in the National Geographic’s “Brilliant Minds in the World” as the innovator of the concept Melharmony.

I’ll tell you more about it after the show.

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