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Posts Tagged ‘grad school’

Sorry for the long hiatus.  I completed my Master’s Degree in Library & Information Studies in May 2010.  Between my last two classes and completing and defending my professional portfolio, the spring semester was extremely busy!  But I passed my portfolio defense and graduated with a 4.0 GPA–Huzzah!  Here’s a link to my professional portfolio.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying a little vacation and frantically applying for jobs.  The job market is tough, but I’m hopeful.  I’m primarily looking for work in a public or academic library in Northeastern Oklahoma or central Arkansas.  If anyone has any insider tips, I would greatly appreciate a heads-up!  🙂

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At long last, I am about to begin my last semester in the OU School of Library & Information Studies!  I’m heavily entrenched in putting my professional portfolio together, so my postings have become somewhat sparse.  In a few weeks I will post a link to my portfolio website so any interested parties can see what I’ve been doing with the last two-and-a-half years of my life.  If all goes as planned, I’ll defend my portfolio in late March and graduate in May. 

Ahh, I’m so close!  Just a little further to go…

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I have been assisting Dr. Lester with new KM/LIS student orientation this week.  Besides handing out advising packets and class exercises, I’ve tried to answer any questions the new students may have about the program, faculty expectations, the Desire2Learn platform, end of program assessment, and general questions about locating various things around campus.  While leading them from the classroom to the computer lab, I pointed out important locations like the library, the fitness center, the computer lab in hallway C, the KM/LIS computer lab in hallway E, and Tulsa KM/LIS faculty offices.  On the first day of orientation I provided pizza and soda, courtesy of OLISSA.  Hopefully I have been able to add a human touch to their orientation experience.  Sitting in a room for three days while watching professors and classmates on a TV screen can be rather numbing…

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My supervising faculty member, Dr. Martens, and the internship documents provided sufficient explanation of what was required by the OU School of Library and Information Studies in terms of documentation and hours of service.  My placement supervisor, Louix Escobar-Matute, provided ample orientation by giving me a tour of the library facilities and collections, explaining the organization and work flow of each department, and encouraging me to review the Tulsa City-County Library’s policies and procedures.  My placement supervisor also directed me to spend several hours shadowing and working in each department to learn standard operating procedures.  All in all, my orientation to the internship experience was more than adequate.

I worked in the circulation department, checking in and routing returned library materials to the proper locations.  I processed holds on requested items and cleared the hold shelf of expired requests that customers did not pick up.  I learned how to use the Millennium circulation software, including how to check library materials in and out, place hold requests for customers, process fines for late materials, and create new library card records for new customers.  In addition, I assisted circulation staff with tracking down missing pieces of library materials, such as DVD cases returned without the DVD.  I also observed the process of creating on-the-fly records for periodicals.  Although I worked as a shelver and circulation clerk for the Tulsa City-County Library from June 1998 to May 2003, a number of policies and procedures have changed since then, and it was very helpful to revisit circulation procedures and learn the reasons for changes implemented.  Experience working in the circulation department provided insight as to the need for careful planning and understanding the repercussions of work practices.  This was not reflected in my initially stated objectives but was nonetheless a valuable lesson.

I also served in the reference department, where I assisted customers with reference questions, helped customers with computer issues and did paging.  This assignment allowed me to practice skills such as the reference interview and customer service.  Also, this experience allowed me to see the other half of the holds process, in which requested items are collected, labeled and routed to the desired location.  Assisting with adult information services and assisting with holds were two of my initial objectives, both of which were fulfilled through this experience.  While I did not have the opportunity to assist with adult programming, I did have the opportunity to provide directions to rooms where programs and meetings were being held.

Serving in the children’s department allowed me to practice the reference interview with children and to learn the procedures related to summer reading program activities.  I observed three children’s events in Connor’s Cove, Hardesty Library’s new auditorium, and assisted by taking pictures during one of these events.  Assisting with children’s information services, children’s programming and the summer reading program represent three of my initial objectives.  Working in this department also allowed me to observe and learn from the information seeking behavior of children and parents, which can provide a wealth of information in itself.

My internship project involved researching and designing pathfinders on popular educational, informational and recreational subjects for children and parents.  Buddy Ingalls, head of the Hardesty Children’s Department, indicated that the department really needed pathfinders on a number of frequently requested subjects to assist customers and librarians quickly locate relevant materials.  This project allowed me to learn about collection development and marketing.

All of the activities outlined above were exceedingly valuable with regards to fulfilling my learning objectives. 

The class on Readers’ Advisory Services (LIS 5123) was helpful with regards to my pathfinders project, as this class taught me how to create useful pathfinders.  Management of Information and Knowledge Organizations (LIS 5023) was also helpful in understanding the various management challenges Louix discussed.  Information Users in the Knowledge Society (LIS 5053) was helpful as I considered accessibility issues with regards to collections and services.  All in all, I felt very well prepared by my courses thus far.

The most positive aspects of this internship included having the opportunity to work with and learn from professionals in the field and the opportunity to interact with customers.  Louix and his staff have so much experience and expertise to impart.  The training I received under their supervision was truly invaluable.  Moreover, the practical, real-world experience of working with customers, tackling real reference questions and negotiating real challenges provides excellent training in applying theory.  Because I have as yet had no training in how to properly conduct a reference interview, this task was challenging.  But observing experts in the field as they answered reference questions provided me with guidance, and personal trial and error allowed me to learn by doing.  This internship enabled me to begin to fill the gaps in my experience.

Louix Escobar-Matute provided numerous opportunities for my enrichment.  He permitted me to work in all three library departments, encouraged me to attend library-sponsored programs, and invited me to attend a Friends of the Library meeting and a staff development planning meeting.  He permitted me to fill in when there were staff shortages, allowing me to gain additional experience.  He took me to lunch multiple times with various staff members, allowing me to benefit from accounts of their career experiences.  Louix also made the necessary phone calls and arrangements so that I can work as a substitute for the Tulsa City-County Library, filling in when other staff members are sick or on vacation.  I could not ask for a better mentor than Louix in the public library field.

Communication between Louix Escobar-Matute, Dr. Martens and me was easy and effective.  I kept Dr. Martens abreast of my activities through my blog as well as periodic emails.  Louix spent several hours each day talking with me about policies, procedures, best practices, and expectations.  He provided a great deal of very helpful feedback after I completed each assignment and encouraged my questions.  At the end of my internship, Dr. Martens and Louix were in contact via email regarding my performance.  I believe our communication was very effective throughout this internship period.

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Whew!  This semester has been like being tied by the ankle to a runaway llama so far…  Which is why I’m so woefully behind on updating this blog.  So here’s an essay I wrote about my aspirations for the profession:

My long-term career goal is to serve as a public librarian, specifically in the areas of reference, readers’ services and children’s librarianship.  As the field of library and information services continues to expand at an exponential rate, it is clear that serving as a librarian means being a perpetual student.  Through my career, I aspire to be knowledgable of the unique and changing needs of child library users and to sythesize theories of child and adolescent learning as I develop library services for this population.  I will strive to stay informed about current practices, trends, and standards in the field by reading journals, attending professional meetings and conferences, and discussing current issues with colleagues.  Following listservs and the blogs of colleagues will also assist to expand my awareness of new developments in the field.  My duty as a public librarian is to be aware of new resources available in all formats so that I can quickly guide customers to the information and resources most likely to meet their needs.

Librarians are called to serve not only as stewards, but also as advocates.  I intend to advocate for customers’ right to read and access materials and to provide for diverse information needs through ethical collection development.  It is vitally important to foster a welcoming and comfortable library environment by ensuring that collection organization and arrangement facilitates access for all potential customers, including those with special needs.  I will make every effort to connect children with the resources they need by encouraging browsing and questions, and enabling them to use the library effectively.  Perhaps one of the best ways to engage children in the library is to consider the children’s opinions and requests in the development and evaluation of library services.  I will promote library resources by providing bibliographies, book talks, displays, electronic documents, and other tools.  I will promote children’s services through storytelling, book discussions, puppet shows and a variety of other programming.  By networking with other local agencies, I will provide outreach to underserved populations to promote literacy and reduce the digital divide.

I have some experience working in library settings as well as experience with research and records management through my work as grants coordinator for The Salvation Army.  My grant experience taught me how to locate funding opportunities for varied services and manage multiple deadlines.  Working as a shelver and circulation clerk for the Tulsa City-County Library between 1998 and 2003 allowed me to become familiar with the library OPAC and the Dewey Decimal System of organizing resources.  The majority of my time was spent ordering and shelving returned library resources, checking library resources in and out for customers, creating and updating customer records, issuing library cards, processing fines for late items, and placing hold requests for customers.  Yet these activities taught me the importance of customer service in every role in order to cultivate a welcoming and accessible library environment.

Libraries are forums for information and ideas provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people.  It is the mission of the library to challenge censorship and provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues.  Libraries should promote free expression and free access to ideas in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.  I feel strongly protective of our first amendment rights and the freedom to share information.  In my opinion, education and the stewardship of information are among the noblest of professions.  Through my career as a public librarian, I will endeavor to perpetuate knowledge and education by promoting the accessibility of information for all people and encouraging and assisting others in their information quests.

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Went to the OU Tulsa Student Association (OUTSA) meeting tonight.  Cynthia Patterson with the Knowledge Management Society was there–I think she said she was standing in for George.  I need to double check with George, but so far, no one seems to know if the OU School of Library & Information Studies has a student representative.  If there isn’t one, I may give it a shot.  I want to make sure SLIS and OLISSA are properly registered and represented in case we need to solicit funds from OUTSA for activities.

Items of interest (for LIS/KM students) at the meeting included the announcement that OUTSA officers and Student Affairs will be selling 2-gig flash drives for $14, which is supposed to be a pretty good deal.  As a representative from the IT Dept. was present, I asked if it was possible to capture the AV feed from meetings conducted between Norman and Tulsa, such as OLISSA meetings.  This would make it possible to post recordings of meeting proceedings or guest lectures online.  Apparently it is possible, and I got the name of the person I need to contact to set it up.  However, it was suggested that we consult the legal dept. regarding posting such recordings on the Internet for general access due to privacy concerns.  I will make contact regarding capturing the AV feed tomorrow, collect information, and then report my findings to OLISSA at the meeting Wednesday night.  The next OUTSA meeting will be Sept. 25th, 2008, at noon.

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This represents my first post for my Digital Collections class, discussing examples of interesting digital collections.  All posts for this class will be categorized under the term “digital collections.”

ibiblio is a “collection of collections,” including art, history, literature, music, science, software, and cultural studies.  Some collections within ibiblio are in non-English languages, such as Spanish and French.  The variety of resource subjects and media is admirable; the diversity of resources makes it feel like a full library, rather than just a special collection on a limited topic.  ibiblio allows individuals and nonprofit organizations to contribute relevant collections in order to expand ibiblio resources.  By welcoming collaboration from various agencies, ibiblio has the capacity to grow and diversify so much more than it could otherwise.  I was interested to find a collection called CyberSufis, categorized under religion and theology.  Unfortunately it’s currently under construction and inaccessible, but I’ll have to revisit it.  I’ve barely scratched the surface of Rumi’s writings, but I love what I’ve read so far.

Project Gutenberg is another of ibiblio’s collections.  Founded by Michael Hart, Project Gutenberg is the oldest and largest “single collection of free electronic books.”  Besides text in multiple languages, Project Gutenberg also offers audio books, CDs, DVDs, and digitized sheet music.  My brother, a digital aficionado, actually introduced me to Project Gutenberg in the late ’90s–since then it’s grown exponentially.  It’s amazing to me that this digital collection is a 501(c)3 run almost entirely by volunteers.  To have lasted almost 40 years on only the support of grants and donations is truly impressive.  I wonder if I will ever create a digital collection that could be active and relevant for even half that time?

Being fond of Latin and the classics, I can’t help but appreciate the Internet Classics Archive, which provides 441 works of classic literature by 59 authors, including Augustus, Julius Caesar, Livy, Ovid, Aesop and Aristotle.  Texts are offered in English translation, but this archive also partners with the Perseus Digital Library to offer texts in Latin, at least those originally written in Latin.  Moreover, each Latin word is hyperlinked to provide the translation and part of speech in English.  I found this resource a couple years ago while searching for the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam. 

The Internet Classics Archive notes that in the fall of 2000, its website suffered disk failure and backup errors, but the majority of texts were recovered with the assistance of Google and the MIT Media Lab.  Unfortunately some applications of the Archive still do not work after 8 years.  Some of the links to texts in Peseus also seem to be defunct.  I wonder if this collection has been abandoned?  In any case, it is listed in the OEDb article “250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives,” dated 2007.  Hopefully it will be restored to full operation someday. 

I guess the Internet Classics Archive illustrates what happens when a digital collection is neglected.  Digital collections require upkeep as much as physical libraries, to combat bit-rot and to grow the collection.  If a site displays outdated announcements, users may assume that its contents are irrelevant and look for another resource.  We need to make the place look hospitable if we want people to come in.

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Okay, so, more about the Knowledge & Project Management (KPM) Symposium.

The panel discussion on Digital Libraries featured Anne Prestamo, Associate Dean for Collection and Technology Services at Oklahoma State University, and Gina Minks, Imaging & Preservation Service Manager for Amigos Library Services.  Prestamo discussed the definition of “digital library,” and provided some examples of digital collections, including organizational intranets, Google Books and the Valley of the Shadow digital archives, for example.  Prestamo discussed how digital collection curators should consider the organization and presentation of a collection in terms of prospective users.  She offered the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System as an example of a collection that may be organized in a way that is intuitive to astrophysicists, but less so for non-astrophysicists.  Other collections mentioned included Purdue’s data curation projects and institutional repositories as a means of capturing university output such as white papers, conference presentations and theses.

I never thought of it this way before, but I guess one might say that in my last job I developed and maintained a digital collection of grant applications, including profiles of and correspondence with local foundations.  It was a collection only accessible to the administrative staff, but it fits the criteria as a collection of information objects, organized to support access and usage, and available via digital means.  I maintained folders on the server for each foundation, including gift history, Form 990s, giving guidelines, and grant proposals organized by year of submission.  My collection provided the historical data needed to inform future requests for funds, proposals more likely to be accepted because of similarity to past requests that were granted.

Gina Minks discussed digital collection details including standards, quality assurance, file formats and preservation.  Dennis asked a question about where to draw the line in terms of preservation through digitization—how do we determine whether a piece of information is worth digitizing and preserving.  I think that question is too situational for an easy answer.  As Ruth shrewdly pointed out, what is garbage to one person may be an informational jackpot to someone else—quite literally if the audience happens to be the FBI.  The topic of preservation and born-digital information (like this blog) got me thinking about how archives are changing.  I remember how awe-inspiring it was to see rough drafts of Emily Dickinson’s poems in the University of Tulsa’s special collections, and I wonder how many rough drafts will be preserved in the next fifty years?  I used to write everything on paper and transfer it to the computer later.  Now so much is born digital, drafts overwritten and lost as the newest version is saved.  Again, Ruth said it best: we are losing the process of writing.  Or at least evidence of that process.  Unless overwritten data is preserved beyond my knowledge, like some digital palimpsest.  They say nothing deleted is ever totally gone.  But if it is inaccessible to all but a few technical gurus, the data seems as good as lost.  I wonder what archives will look like in the next century?

Back to the KPM Symposium, Martha Gregory of the Tulsa Library Research Wizards provided some excellent resources in the panel discussion on Strategic Intelligence.  Dun & Bradstreet, economic census, PIERS, Plunkett and many more provide a variety of information about corporate undertakings.  On a side note, Dun & Bradstreet and the Central Contractor Registration have given me quite a headache in the last few months as I struggled to procure and register a DUNS number for The Salvation Army’s federal grant application process.  I think the numerous territories, headquarters, outposts and area commands of The Salvation Army really threw D&B for a loop in terms of DUNS number assignments and appropriate affiliations.  Miraculously, everything finally passed D&B, CCR and IRS approval on my last day of work.

While we manned the information/registration table, Dennis gave me his sales pitch on the value of podcasting, and how it could benefit OU and the School of Library & Information Studies.  I have to thank him for turning me on to iTunes U—I had no idea so many free lectures were floating around out there.  Yesterday I downloaded a lecture series on open source software from UC Berkeley.  The sound quality’s not perfect, but it’s interesting stuff.  I found a podcast audio tour of the Yale library, which is interesting, but I think an audiovisual version would be more effective.  In any case, I agree with Dennis that podcasting selected OU lectures and conferences would be an excellent educational and marketing tool for OU and the SLIS.  What if the OU library websites had a podcast library orientation new students could download?  Podcasts for how to use the catalog or how to conduct research in ESBSCO databases and online journals?  I’m going to try to find opportunities to promote and support podcasting efforts through OLISSA and the student association, if I can.

Well, that’s all the musings my muddled mind can muster for this evening.  To bed, to bed, to bed.

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I’ve been attending the Knowledge and Project Management Symposium this week.  Three hours of pre-conference prep work and a couple hours assisting with check-in each morning earned me free admission! 

Today I attended Ken Lackey’s keynote speech on the knowledge economy and the aerospace industry, and panel discussions on digital libraries, information literacy, and strategic intelligence.  OU-Tulsa’s Stewart Brower promises to post his lecture notes here, regarding information literacy, and here is the e-journal he founded, Communications in Information Literacy.  I have to say, Brower’s enthusiasm is infectious!

Also enjoyed hearing Dr. Tom Rink‘s take on strategic intelligence.  The Tulsa Police Dept.’s interactive mapping application is one way in which information has been made more accessible to the public.  I’ve used this feature to identify and document high-risk Tulsa neighborhoods when conducting research for grants to support The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs.

More thoughts to follow as they crystalize…

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Ah…  Summer school is almost over.  Turned in all my final assignments last night.  Just a couple more hours of lecture, then I’m scot-free!  Sure, I could cut out on the last couple hours, but I’ve forked over a considerable chunk of change for this class, so I guess I’ll stick around and get my money’s worth.

I was talking to Doc Martens about some topics to develop into research projects, and we got onto the subject of urban legends.  She asked me what my favorite urban legend was, and I’ve been pondering that thought ever since.  Does a piece of fiction have to fictionally occur in an urban setting to be an urban legend?  I’ve always been fond of the Bigfoot stories–to quote Mulder, “I want to believe”–but Bigfoot isn’t exactly a city-dweller. 

After some research on Snopes, I decided some of my favorite not-exactly-urban legends are that penguins will fall over backwards watching airplanes fly overhead, and that explorers discovered a previously unknown arctic creature that has a body temperature of around 110 degrees and burrows through the ice under crowds of penguins to catch one as a snack.  I chose these because I believed in them for an extended period of time during high school, and found them terribly entertaining.  My brother told me that pilots loved to fly over groups of penguins, engaging in “penguin bowling.”  What a great image!

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As we have been learning about the benefits of illustrations in procedure writing in my management class, this seemed apropos.

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I aam looking forward to starting my graduate assistantship with Doc Martens in August.  I had been planning on picking up an extra 10 hours of data entry work per week at a minimum pay rate with my current employer, just for some extra cash, but my boss made an interesting proposition yesterday.  Instead of hiring me as an hourly employee at a minimum rate, they are thinking of contracting with me as a consultant!  That way, they can commission me to review grants, do data entry, reorganize their filing system, whatever.  I can choose which jobs I want to do, and they can pay me more for the more difficult jobs, like reviewing grants. 

I didn’t get into nonprofit work for the money, but hey, this sounds like a pretty groovy arrangement.  “Consultant” might look fairly impressive on my resume…

I’ve got to figure out how this will affect my income taxes, though.

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Currently taking LIS 5023: Management of Information and Knowledge Organizations.  I thought all-day Saturday classes would be excruciating, but the first one wasn’t too bad.  I’m glad the professor breaks up lecture with group exercises, group discussion, videos and visual aids.

Thinking of doing my fianl paper on conflict management, but can’t decide if I want to focus on conflict within the organization or conflict between staff and customers.

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My paper on Open Source Software for KM/LIS 5043:

The Value of Open Source Software in Libraries

            Public libraries organize information for the purpose of making information resources free and accessible to the public.  Similarly, open source software provides resources in the form of free computer applications with publicly accessible source code that is open to revision and improvement.  Open source software allows individuals to organize information according to the methods that best meet their needs, while proprietary software is much slower to accept and manifest revisions.  However, if a contractor is required to develop an open source application from scratch and provide technical support, utilizing such tools can be costly.  Open source resources rarely come with warrantees, and availability of technical support for unique open source programs is uncertain.  Not all open source tools feature user-friendly interfaces, although improvements can be made.  While it has some drawbacks, open source software is a rapidly evolving tool of enormous potential for the field of information organization.

Many library and information professionals feel that open source software aligns with public library values and First Amendment rights.  Tammi Moe, a librarian working for the open source consulting firm Re:Evolve, explains, “The Open Source community shares common goals with the library community…  Both work to maintain free access to information” (2004, 291).  Freedom of expression and the right to seek information represent core values of the library profession (American Library Association).  According to Moe, “Open Source is driven by the desire to create superior computing technologies,” rather than for profit (2004, 291).  Libraries also strive to provide excellent resources to meet customers’ informational needs, not for profit but for the benefit of the community.  Moe states, “Open Source code is transparent for peer review and modification…[meaning] software functions can be customized to fit the user’s needs” (291).  By revising and refining open source code, libraries can “tailor technologies to meet the needs of the communities they serve, rather than having those technologies dictated to them” (292).  The ability to provide sophisticated, customizable applications facilitates efficient and effective customer service.  Customizing options also enable libraries to change and improve methods of organizing information within the system.

Linux is perhaps the most well-known open source program.  Capable of functioning within proprietary operating systems, “Linux is stable, secure, can be modified, is free for use, and is cross-platform compatible” (Moe 2004, 292).  Linux includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and email applications (292).  Several open source integrated library systems (ILS) have been developed recently.  Koha is an open source ILS currently utilized in New Zealand and British Columbia, including an OPAC, library system intranet, circulation tracking system, and acquisitions/budgeting system (Koha).  The open source structure allows libraries utilizing Koha to expand and improve the system’s organization of content.  Evergreen is another open source ILS with circulation, cataloging and statistical reporting modules, as well as acquisitions and serials modules currently in development (Evergreen).  Open source tools have the potential to reduce overhead expenses.  Bernard Chester notes that “sharing of improvements and applications within the [open source] community eliminates software maintenance and upgrade fees” (2006, 21).  Since acquiring it costs nothing, open source software is a valuable resource for libraries with limited budgets. 

Some advocates believe open source utilization is imperative to the library’s maintenance of currency and community value.  Because open source applications “represent both core functionality and cutting-edge innovations in the online world,” Lee David Jaffe and Greg Careaga argue that libraries lacking experience with these tools “risk becoming increasingly marginal as these new technologies shape the coming information world” (2007, 1).  Benefits of utilizing an open source ILS include local control, customizability, interoperability, vendor independence, and collaborative development (5).  In addition, continuous peer-review and program improvements make open source software less vulnerable to Internet viruses (Moe 2004, 292).  Jaffe and Careaga maintain that libraries should utilize open source software because it “returns local control of future systems, allows us to decide which features to change and when, gives us access to the inner workings of our systems and our data, and promotes interoperability with other tools” (2007, 13).  Open source empowers libraries to actively participate in all aspects of the organization of digital information.

According to Jaffe and Careaga, the Open Source Initiative “was established as an attempt to re-brand the free software movement in terms that were less hostile to business” (3).  Open source applications are more secure; “because code is in the public view it will be exposed to extreme scrutiny, with problems being found and fixed instead of being kept secret” (Nelson, Open Source Initiative).  Peer review and rapid evolution of source code makes open source software “more reliable than closed, proprietary software” (Nelson, Open Source Initiative).  Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, believes proprietary software is at least partly responsible for the digital divide because proprietary software licenses and restrictive copyright laws obstruct the free sharing of information (Stevenson 2006/2007, 64-65).  If this assessment is accurate, it represents another way in which open source aligns with the library’s mission, as a means of helping to bridge the digital divide.

Though widely used, proprietary software causes libraries many difficulties.  Moe argues, “Not only does commercial software lack the flexibility and scalability needed to meet a community’s broad range of use, but it is also cost-inhibitive for institutions with limited funding” (2004, 292).  In the case of a proprietary ILS, librarians must appeal to vendors if they want to make a change within the system, and if their request is granted, they must pay for the changes (Jaffe and Careaga 2007, 7).  Due to the inflexible way in which proprietary software is frequently packaged, libraries may have to wait a long time for critical updates, and then be forced to implement unwanted features (7).  Proprietary software vendors “choose which interfaces to support and which development paths to emphasize” (7).  Thus proprietary vendors may discontinue features they deem unprofitable, and choose not to develop potentially useful features in limited demand, no matter how much a specific library system may want or stand to benefit from those features.  If a vendor goes out of business, libraries using the vendor’s software lose access to system upgrades and technical services, and may suffer significant financial losses.  Studies show the number of ILS vendors is shrinking (Jaffe and Careaga 2007, 7; Breeding 2006, 45), and many vendors “offer highly overlapping products with marginal differentiation” (Breeding 2006, 45).  Where proprietary ILS software is concerned, libraries “are buyers in a market with limited competition…[and] diminishing product choices,…in which the existing firms have a disincentive to innovate” (Jaffe and Careaga 2007, 7).  Proprietary software limits the ability of librarians to customize, improve and control library applications.

Yet, for all its benefits, open source applications also offer certain challenges.  While existing open source applications cost nothing to acquire and may cost little to customize, developing a new open source tool to meet unique and specific needs can be expensive (Jaffe and Careaga 2007, 9-10).  Also, open source tools still require hardware, network access, system operators, and printing supplies to function, all of which costs money (10).  Training staff to use the software adds additional expenses.  Custom developments and staff training can potentially cost more than a proprietary product (Chester 2006, 23).  It may prove more cost effective to directly hire programmers to support system operation than to contract with a software designer for support services (23).  However, staff turnover among programming employees can cause gaps in support services and systems operation.  Differences in programming style between past and new employees can cause glitches in systems operation.  Chester cautions, “There are no warrantees provided with open source tools, although sometimes a third party will offer one for a fee” (21).  Consulting and support services may also be limited (21).  Open source applications without a large and active community of users and creators can be risky financial investments.

Although often difficult to customize, proprietary software has its benefits.  Buying library software “shifts the development burden outside of the library,” as well as the burden of support and maintenance, helping to preserve limited resources (Coombs 2007, 24).  When purchasing a proprietary system, the program is typically installed and operational in less time then it would take to develop an application internally (24).  While open source software may be a valuable option for libraries with a fixed budget, Coombs warns that software revisions and user adaptation takes time (24).  Marcia Jedd identifies another downside in that “open source solutions bring less appealing user interfaces than commercial products” (2007, 40).  Providing “less sophisticated graphical user interfaces,” open source tools may not prove user-friendly (40).  Choosing an open source platform with the expectation of full support from providers can result in vendor lock-in, just as with proprietary software companies (40).  Unless using a fee-based supported model, availability of support is limited and uncertain, and users bear the burden of locating upgrades (41).  Yet, choosing a well-supported model reduces such risks.

Open source software is not completely free in that it requires development, support services, staff training, hardware, and network access to operate.  Existing open source applications are not always user-friendly, but neither are many proprietary resources.  Support services may be limited for open source applications with small user and creator communities.  Libraries can install and begin operating commercial systems in less time than it takes to develop and customize an open source system, but commercial systems provide limited customization options.  Despite its challenges, open source software offers more control to the user.  Libraries can customize open source tools to refine the way in which cataloging and circulation information is organized within the system, improving system operation, usability and customer service.  Libraries stand to benefit greatly from the utilization of open source resources, especially resources with well-developed user and creator communities.

 References

American Library Association. Issues & Advocacy: Getting Started. http://www.ala.org/ala/ (accessed May 1, 2008).issues/gettingstarted.cfm

 

Breeding, Marshall. 2006. Reshuffling the deck [Automated system marketplace 2006]. Library Journal (1976) 131 (April 1): 40-6, 48, 50, 52, 54.

 

Chester, Bernard. 2006. Open source document management: Pros and cons of using open source software. AIIM E-Doc Magazine 20 (January-February): 21, 23.

 

Coombs, Karen. 2007. Buy, borrow, or build. Library Journal (1976) part Net Connect (Fall): 24. 

 

Jaffe, Lee David and Greg Careaga. 2007. Standing up for open source. Library Philosophy and Practice (June): 1-18. http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~mbolin/jaffe-careaga.pdf (accessed April 30, 2008).

 

Jedd, Marcia. 2007. The open source option. AIIM E-Doc Magazine 21 (January-February): 38-42. 

 

Koha. Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.koha.org/about-koha/faq.html (accessed May 1, 2008).

 

Moe, Tammi. 2004. Open source software and thin-client networking: Economical alternatives for public libraries. Public Libraries 43 (September/October): 291-295.

 

Nelson, Russell. Open Source Initiative. Open Source Case for Business. http://opensource.org/advocacy/case_for_business.php (accessed April 30, 2008).

 

Evergreen. Frequently Asked Questions. http://open-ils.org/faq.php (accessed April 30, 2008).

 

Stevenson, Siobhan. 2006/2007. Philanthropy’s Unintended Consequences: public libraries and the struggle over free versus proprietary software. Progressive Librarian 28 (Winter): 64-77.

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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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Some new developments at my job may result in a reduction of hours and stress in the near future, which will in turn result in an increase in available time and brain-power for school work.  Yay!  This will mean less moolah, but I’m willing to take the pay cut to preserve my sanity.  I just hope it happens before summer semester starts…

And now, Originality vs. Pop Culture Plasticity.

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Well, since my classmate Bracken boldly posted his Informational Career paper on his blog, I guess I will too.  Mine feels kind of dumb next to his–he’s got core competencies under his belt that I’ve never even heard of–but then, I’m in graduate school to learn.  If I already knew everything, I wouldn’t be here.  It’s always been hard for me to admit what I don’t know, so I think it must be good for me to stick a pin in my inflated ego and admit I don’t know squat.

My Informational Career: The View From Here 

Currently, my long-term career goal is to serve as a public librarian, specifically in the areas of reference, readers’ services and children’s librarianship.  As the field of library and information studies continues to expand at an exponential rate, it is clear that being a librarian means being a perpetual student.  Lucky for me, I have been gifted with an insatiable curiosity and a deep love of learning.  Yet, while these qualities prove useful for fueling professional enthusiasm, many other skill sets are required to support a successful library career.  I have some experience working in library settings as well as experience with research and records management through my employment as a grants coordinator for The Salvation Army.  More than a lifetime is required to become familiar with all the useful reference resources, but I am prepared to dedicate the rest of my years to the challenge.  Additional skills such as presentation, readers’ services, cataloging, collection development, and many others will require the same diligent attention.  Though the journey is long, I believe the rewards are great.

I have some library service experience from my work as a shelver and circulation clerk for the Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL).  This experience allowed me to become familiar with the TCCL online catalogue and the Dewey decimal system of organizing nonfiction resources.  Of course, the majority of my time was spent ordering and shelving returned library resources, checking library resources in and out for customers, creating new customer records, issuing new library cards, updating customer contact information, processing fines for late items, and placing hold requests for customers.

My experience with library reference resources is very limited.  I have used Academic Search Elite and the EBSCO Databases to locate resources for college papers.  In addition, I have utilized the Foundation Directory at the Central Library to research grant opportunities since I have been working in the grant writing field.  Yet there is a vast array of resources available online and through the public library of which I am not even aware.  As my professors and classmates recommend various online resources, I bookmark the websites and explore them as quickly as possible in a frantic attempt to absorb and retain knowledge of useful resources for library customers.  Of course, I realize that the task of collecting online resources is endless, as hundreds more become available everyday.  However, my duty as a public librarian is to stay abreast of the reference resources available as best I can, so that I can quickly guide customers to the information and resources most likely to meet their needs.  One of the core competencies of public librarianship is “keeping up-to-date with new practices, trends, and standards in the field by reading journals, attending professional meetings and conferences, and discussing current issues with experts” (www.librarysupportstaff.com).  I think attending to listservs and the blogs of colleagues will also be useful in expanding my awareness of new developments in the field.

As I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature, it cannot be a great shock to those who know me that I am hopelessly addicted to fiction.  From the classics to comic books, I rapidly absorb every piece of fiction that comes my way.  I love giving and receiving book recommendations, analyzing novels for allusion and symbolism, and I can think of no more enjoyable form of employment than providing readers’ services.  Thanks to the recommendations of classmates, friends and professors, I am currently exploring readers’ advisory websites such as LibraryThing, GoodReads and NoveList to learn the pros and cons of each resource.  I believe this field of library service is one at which I can truly excel.

Another set of skills I need to build involves developing and presenting educational programs and story time programs for library customers and their children.  Public speaking typically inspires me with fear rather than excitement, but reading stories and singing songs with children is less intimidating to me than speaking in front of adults.  Perhaps I am best suited to serve as a children’s librarian.  I need to continue to practice my public speaking skills as well as practice developing and presenting community education programs that might be needed in a public library, such as cultural events or computer applications classes. 

Core competencies for public librarians include the ability to present information efficiently in an understandable format and the ability to use “simple examples, illustrations and analogies to explain concepts” (www.librarysupportstaff.com).  I have sought to follow these guidelines through undergraduate presentations as well as speaking engagements involving my work for nonprofits.  Somehow I inherited the position of the United Way internal campaign coordinator for The Salvation Army, so every fall I exercise my public speaking skills by offering presentations about Salvation Army services provided in the Tulsa Area.  This task has been a valuable opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and stretch my information provision abilities.  As the child of an elementary school teacher, I have learned that different people have different learning styles.  When preparing community education programs, I must endeavor to cater to all learning styles with a variety of visual aids and audio resources, and well as hands-on learning activities, as appropriate.

Cataloging procedure and building library collections are two areas of which I am completely ignorant.  I am uncertain if reference and children’s librarians in public libraries do much cataloging, but I think it could only be beneficial to know how to catalog new library resources.  Certainly the size of the public library system dictates whether its reference and children’s librarians are involved in cataloging and collection building.  Nonetheless, knowledge of these activities can only enhance my employment opportunities.

An educational objective listed on the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies website is the ability to “demonstrate professional attitudes regarding scholarship, professional ethics, intellectual freedom, and access to information in a democratic society.”  Admittedly I know little about the underlying theory and current issues involving intellectual freedom, but standing on the threshold of comprehension, my gut reaction is to feel strongly protective of our first amendment rights and the freedom to share information.  Open source and open access applications have caught my interest, and I want to learn more about their current and potential uses.  I did not know the meaning of open source software a month ago, but I am drawn to the democratic values embodied in open source, and curiosity is leading me to further investigation.  If all my other information organization skills are merely nascent at this time, at least my natural curiosity will serve me well.

Another valuable skill set is the ability to “design and implement information products and services that respond effectively to changes in an increasingly multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual, and global society” (OU School of Library and Information Studies).  I am very much a product of the white, middle-class culture in which I was raised, and therefore I must constantly struggle to look beyond the world view of my upbringing to other cultural perspectives.  One means of making this effort is to continue my study of Spanish and other languages.  I have taken a couple basic Spanish courses, but lack of regular usage has made retention difficult.  Nevertheless, I have always enjoyed studying languages, and my Latin studies make Romance languages particularly accessible to me.  Perhaps by seeking opportunities to serve in public libraries centered in largely Hispanic communities, such as the Martin Regional Library in East Tulsa, I can expand my Spanish vocabulary and improve my conversation skills.  The Hispanic population needs to have equal opportunities to access library resources, as do all minorities, and public libraries need additional support in serving these populations.

Education and the stewardship of information are among the noblest of professions, in my opinion.  The gift of education has the power to benefit the recipient long after the giver is gone.  Yet I tend to agree with Michael Buckland that knowledge cannot be shared, only “information-as-thing” (1991).  I can only provide others with representations of my information-as-knowledge, and those representations are information-as-thing (1991).  My audience bears the responsibility of processing and internalizing the information I provide, for I have no influence over their assimilation of information into knowledge.  The message I transmit may or may not be the same as the message my audience receives.  The only way I can perpetuate knowledge and education is to promote the organization and accessibility of information and to encourage and assist others in their information quests.

My educational and employment experience has provided many skills useful to a career in library and information studies, but much more information and experience is required.  I have an affinity for readers’ advisory work, and some experience presenting educational information, but my knowledge of reference resources hardly scratches the surface of the materials in existence.  My knowledge of cataloging, collection development and creation of metadata is negligible.  I have many skills to develop and many concepts to learn, but I look forward to the opportunity.  I want to promote community education, information stewardship and intellectual freedom, and the most viable means of doing this seems to be contributing to the field of library and information studies. 

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Taking the Leap

Salutations!

I’m starting this blog as an assignment for my MLIS 5033 class, and to chart my journey through the looking glass of Library and Information Studies.  As I stand on the edge of this endeavor, I am reminded of my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon last summer.  The vastness of the infosphere defies my senses’ ability to perceive its boundaries.  Its enormity seems beyond comprehension.

But I also feel the same surge of excitement.  I am ready to explore.

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