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Posts Tagged ‘information seeking’

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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One of my goals for my internship at Hardesty Library is to develop a project that demonstrates many of the principles and skills I’ve learned through my LIS classes and my internship.  I want a showcase piece that I can include as the keystone of my portfolio.

Mr. Escobar asked me to develop plans for three possible projects: a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C.  The object lesson of this exercise is to understand that your first plan doesn’t always work out the way you expected: sometimes you get partway through a project or study and realize it’s not actually feasible.  Sometimes you can’t get administrative support or funding for your Plan A.  This is why you should always have a backup plan or two up your sleeve.

I asked Buddy, the head of the Hardesty Children’s Department, what the children’s department needed—what would he like to investigate if he had time, or what projects he had on the backburner.  He said the children’s department really needs more pathfinders for books on holidays and frequently-asked-for subjects like pirates, princesses and hamsters.  (Apparently the book The World According to Humphrey has made hamsters all the rage!)  I thought developing pathfinders sounded like fun, so I started brainstorming.

Here are the project plans I developed:

Plan A: Children’s Pathfinders

Goal:  Assist children and parents to locate books of interest on popular and frequently requested subjects, including educational, informational and recreational resources.

Objectives:

  1. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking popular genres of library materials, including scary stories, mysteries, adventure stories, animal stories, funny stories, fantasy stories, historical fiction and sports stories.
  2. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking books similar to popular series, such as the Junie B. Jones and American Girls series.
  3. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking award-winning children’s books beyond the well-known Newberry and Sequoyah award-winners.
  4. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking popular subjects, including pirates, princesses, hamsters, holidays, and tree and animal track identification resources.
  5. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking specific formats of library materials, such as manga and books with movie tie-ins.
  6. Make pathfinder information available in both print and online format to expand access to librarians and customers.

Activities:

  1. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for the 14 categories listed on the children’s website under Books and Reading/ Find a Good Book/ If You Like… (http://kids.tulsalibrary.org/books/like.htm).
  2. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for award-winning children’s books, including those awarded the Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ Literature and the Pura Belpré Award.
  3. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for subjects frequently assigned for school research, including tree identification and animal tracks identification resources.
  4. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for popular subjects and formats frequently requested by children, including pirates, princesses, hamsters, juvenile manga, and books with movie tie-ins
  5. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for holiday books and media, including Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Ramadan.
  6. Include URLs to quality websites for additional resources where applicable.
  7. Create template for website layout of these pathfinders, with links to printable pathfinders.
  8. Distribute sample pathfinders and collect customer feedback via brief interviews.

Budget:

Design of Pathfinders
            2 Staff Hours @ $15/hour X 29 Pathfinders = $870
Paper
            3 Reams @ $4 per ream = $12
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 1,500 Sheets = $45
TOTAL: $972

 

Plan B: Survey of Children 

Goal:  Increase awareness and usage of Books and Reading resources on children’s TCCL website (http://kids.tulsalibrary.org/books/).

Objectives:

  1. Survey children to assess knowledge of Books and Reading resources on the children’s TCCL website and assess children’s comfort using these resources.
  2. Use survey findings to inform possible redesign of this portion on the website.
  3. Use survey findings to inform marketing tactics for Books and Reading resources.

Activities:

  1. Design anonymous, child-friendly surveys with simple words and no more than five questions.  Include at least one open-ended question, where children can suggest ways to make the Books and Reading resources easier to use.
  2. Create parental consent forms.
  3. Request approval of surveys through IRB.
  4. After receiving parental consent, administer surveys to children between ages 7 and 11.  Read questions aloud if requested.  Assure participants that there are no wrong answers.
  5. Analyze results.

Budget:

Creation of Surveys and Consent Forms
            4 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $60
Paper
            6 Reams @ $4 per ream = $24
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 3,000 Sheets = $90
Analysis of Survey Results
            10 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $150
TOTAL: $324

  

Plan C : Children’s Book Talk

Goal:  Increase children’s and parents’ awareness of various genres of children’s literature and tools for locating items of interest.

Objectives:

  1. Cultivate children’s and parents’ interest in various genres of children’s literature
  2. Teach children and parents where to find and how to use tools for locating library materials in these and other categories.

Activities:

  1. Provide snacks, themed to tie in with books where possible.
  2. Create displays of three books for several genres, such as horror, adventure, mystery and humor.
  3. Introduce each genre, noting appeal factors.
  4. Introduce each displayed book briefly (approx. 2 minutes) with descriptions designed to hook the audience.
  5. Introduce paper pathfinders for each genre.
  6. Show location of these and other pathfinders on children’s TCCL website by projecting website on a screen or wall and demonstrating navigation to Books and Reading resources.
  7. Invite questions from children and parents.
  8. Try to limit program to 30 minutes or less, not including Q&A.

Budget:

Planning for Book Talk
            9 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $135
Paper
            50 Sheets @ $0.01 per sheet = $0.50
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 50 Sheets = $1.50
Snacks = $15
TOTAL: $152

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For those of us who support freedom of expression and the right to read, this is rather disturbing…

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In response to the question, “Can we assume all students are competent at seeking and using information?”

 

In the provision of information services, we cannot assume all students are “competent at seeking and using information.”  The age and education level of the students in question have a significant effect on their info seeking abilities.  That said, I have seen students make it all the way through high school without developing proper research skills.  It seems to me that individuals who are students by choice, such as college students, are more likely to be skilled info seekers, and are certainly more likely to improve their info seeking skills the longer they pursue their education.  K-12 students, who must attend school by law whether they want to learn or not, may be less inclined to develop their info seeking skills than individuals who have chosen to attend school and have paid a lot of money to do so.  Avoiding assumptions about customer skill level, among other characteristics, will enable information professionals to provide information services more efficiently and effectively.

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In a discussion about Robert S. Taylor’s article “Question-Negotiation and Information Seeking in Libraries,” there was some uncertainty as to whether Taylor is describing information behavior or information seeking.  I think at the beginning of the article, when Taylor talks about the various actions a user may engage in before ever coming to the library (talking to colleagues, consulting personal files), I think that may embody information behavior.  But when the user comes to the library and engages in the reference interview, I think that’s information seeking.  Perhaps visceral and conscious information need are vague and undirected enough to consider actions related to them information behavior, but I think compromised information need is definitely information seeking.   

 

The key concepts of Taylor’s model include the four levels of information need and the five filters, but I found it interesting that when customers come to librarians with a compromised need, the librarians must work backwards toward the customer’s conscious need in order to get to the heart of the need and formulate the best search strategy. 

 

This model is unique in that it is modeled on information service interactions in the specific context of Special Libraries, in which the time frame is limited, but not as limited as it would be in a public library, or other venue.  This model emphasizes the importance of feedback, whereas some models, such as the Johnson Model, does not.  Taylor mentions that users may consult their personal files when seeking information, instead of or in addition to seeking information at the library.  James Krikelas’s model also notes that users may consult internal resources (such as memory and personal files) or external resources (such as people and recorded literature).

 

Now, applying Taylor’s model to an information service:

 

Information service designers must realize that users are likely to ask friends and acquaintances and consult their personal files before asking the info service staff for assistance directly.  To disseminate information about services, the info service staff may want to send out Public Service Announcements via the mass media (i.e.: TV, radio, newspapers).  Thus, even if a user doesn’t see or hear the advertisements, if they ask a friend who has seen them, that friend may be able to direct them to a useful information service.

 

Also, users are likely to go to the information service website and try searching for the information they want themselves before asking for help.  Thus the information service designers should make every effort to make their website as user friendly as possible: provide clear links to the most popular resources, anticipate user questions and provide an FAQ page.  And list contact information somewhere on every page, a hotline or email address, so that users don’t have to look too hard to find help.

 

If the information service staff can get the users to contact them with questions, then they can engage in the question-negotiation process to get to the root of what the user wants.  In actual practice, however, I fear that many information service providers must try to answer so many questions from so many people, they probably simply answer compromised (4th level) questions, rather than trying to get to the root of the need.  They probably just want to get people off the phone as quickly as possible, which is not likely to ensure the user’s satisfaction with the information source.

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