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Posts Tagged ‘library’

Field testing and the site visit went well yesterday, I think.  First I met with Louix Escobar and Doc Martens, and I showed Doc Martens my pathfinders and explained my process for resource selection and field testing.  Despite my getting a little nervous and tongue tied, I think this was fairly well received.

Next I went to the children’s department to distribute my pathfinders while Doc Martens observed.  I had given a data collection sheet to Buddy, head of the Children’s Dept., earlier that morning to show and explain to the children’s staff.  I made sure each person working the children’s desk had a data collection sheet and understood how to record the data.  A few days earlier I had explained my field testing and data collection process to all the children’s staff, although I didn’t have the data collection sheet with me at that time.  Louix was looking out for me and made sure to “check for understanding,” ensuring the staff understood the process.

I had planned to simply sit back with Teen Teamer near the Storytime Room, expecting a steady stream of children and parents to be flowing that direction as they so often do.  However, I ended up starting my field testing in the lull between storytimes, so while there were a number of parents and children browsing in the children’s dept., they weren’t exactly flowing my direction.  Therefore, I decided I should modify my plan and try walking around and offering my pathfinders to customers, rather than being stationary.  Doc Martens observed as I roamed around and asked customers if they would be interested in my bookmarks with lists of good books about, pirates, princesses, hamsters, etc.

The vast majority of children present were under age 8, perhaps partly because the storytimes offered Wednesday morning were tailored for younger children.  As I distributed my pathfinders, I addressed parents and children, but I primarily addressed the parent when the children were clearly too young to understand what I was offering.  Had more than one or two children older than 6 been present, I would have addressed these children more directly.  It’s important to direct attention to the children, to make children feel that their input is valued.  When addressing parents, librarians should endeavor to make children feel included in the conversation as much as possible.

Only one parent said she wasn’t interested in my pathfinders.  All the others took between one and four of my pathfinders.  Most of the adults present were women, mothers or grandmothers, although there were two fathers present.  Two women who were either Hispanic or Latina did not speak much English, and while I gave them several pathfinders, I’m not sure they understood what they were.

Because of the number of pathfinders I created (15), it was difficult to market all of them equally as I engaged with customers.  I assumed customers would get impatient if I listed all 15 of my available pathfinders.  I assumed that customers would not be particularly interested in pathfinders for winter holidays in the middle of July, although I did try to offer the Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah pathfinders to a few people.  I took some cues from the gender of the children with the parent.  I carried a handful of the pathfinders around and asked parents and children if they would be interested in a book mark with lists of good books about pirates, princesses, hamsters, summer, back to school, books to read after Harry Potter, etc.  I mentioned princess and pirate pathfinders when addressing girls and parents with little girls, but I mostly did not mention princesses when addressing boys and parents with little boys.  I held out an array of pathfinders to parents and children regardless of gender, including pirates and princesses, so they could pick out any they wanted, but I did not want to potentially offend little boys by offering them a list a books about princesses.  This might have been the wrong thing to do.  Ideally, all pathfinders should be made equally available to all customers without any kind of judgement or expectations about their selections with regards to the customer’s gender or other characteristics.  In any case, I’m afraid all my pathfinders did not get equal emphasis during distribution.

In addition to approaching customers, I also spread out my pathfinders on a small table next to the Teen Teamer’s station, so that customers passing by could pick them up if they wished.  As I walked around offering my pathfinders to customers, the ones most requested were for pirates and princesses, followed by hamsters and American Girls, then Harry Potter, and lastly one or two requests for books about summer.  I do not believe any of the holiday, back to school or tree/animal track identification pathfinders were taken, unless customers picked them up from the table while I was elsewhere.

One child requested a pathfinder featuring books about dogs.  Although I did not have a pathfinder on this topic, I directed her to a pathfinder with books about animals, including dogs, on a stand near the door.  I did not see her go pick one up however.  Because she was quite young (probably younger than 8), I think now that I should have picked up the animal books pathfinder and physically handed it to her.  That would have been a more effective way of meeting her information need.  In any case, the fact that children want books about dogs is valuable information.  This would be another valuable topic for a pathfinder.

In the 45 minutes or so dedicated to field testing, we did not collect much feedback from customers.  Only three adults responded to the question “did you find the booklist bookmark helpful?”  Two adults said no and one said yes.  There was no feedback from children (most likely because they were too young to understand and respond).  I believe that the period of time between receiving the pathfinder and checking out was insufficient for customers to assess the usefulness of my pathfinders.  Ideally, these pathfinders should be tested over a period of several weeks or months, to give customers ample time to use these tools.  I told Louix this, and he said this was exactly the conclusion that he hoped I would reach.  Nonetheless, he said this field testing was valuable as a learning exercise for future field research later in my education and career.

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On our tour through the library collections and facilities, Mr. Escobar drew my attention to features such as designated safe areas for wheelchair-bound customers in the event of a fire, and the location of safe areas in the event of a tornado.  On the second floor, stepstools are provided to help customers to reach books on top shelves, and we took time to move these stools to locations where customers were less likely to trip over them.  As students learn in LIS 5023, attention to these aspects of the physical library facility facilitates customer comfort and accessibility.

One particularly ingenious resource location feature involved the use of inflatables in the children’s nonfiction collection.  By suspending an inflatable dinosaur from the ceiling above the dinosaur books, a rocketship over the space books, etc., children’s reference staff can help children locate books on popular subjects even when they are swamped and cannot leave the desk.  The librarian can simply point to the appropriate inflatable and tell the child that the books they want are located under it.  Of course, when few customers are present, the librarian can walk the child to the appropriate shelf, but as the Hardesty Library is one of the busiest libraries, and the children’s department is especially swamped in the summer, this feature is very helpful for staff and customers.

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Mr. Escobar also illustrated the challenge of catering to the needs and desires of various interested parties, including customers, donors, staff, volunteers, administrators and board members.  The literary criticism collection had been located directly behind the reference desk on the second floor, but has since been relocated.  A Tulsa City-County Library executive said that the placement of these bookshelves spoiled the view of the large arched window which faces northwest.  Moving these shelves was not particularly detrimental to customer access, thus in the interest of aesthetics and accomodating the powers that be, this collection was relocated.

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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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Reading the article “Digital Collection Management through the Library Catalog,” by Michaela Brenner for my Digital Collections class, I got to wondering if applications like NoveList could be integrated into a public library’s OPAC.  Say a customer pulled up a record for a certain novel in the OPAC, and wanted to search for similar novels.  Instead of having to go looking for NoveList under the “Books and Reading” tab on the TCCL website (assuming the customer knew it was there), and then having to search for the first novel, and then search for similar novels, what if there was a hyperlink on the book’s OPAC record that said something like, “Find similar books with NoveList”? 

Clicking on the hyperlink should probably first notify the customer that they are navigating away from the library OPAC, then ask for the customer’s library card number if not already provided.  Then NoveList should open not on its home page, but on the page listing characteristics of the first book, where the customer can select which characteristics they are looking for in another book.  The hyperlink would provide a shortcut for customers, as well as promote an often overlooked resource by listing it at the bottom of every record for every work of fiction.  I wonder how complicated that would be to set up? 

What would be the drawbacks of such an arrangement?  Would providing a link to NoveList be similar to providing a link to Amazon?  I think it’s different because NoveList is not a vendor like Amazon.  NoveList may suggest books that are not in the local library system, but customers could still request them through interlibrary loan.  Plus it seems many public libraries have already aligned chosen to promote NoveList over other applications by offering NoveList on their websites.  Perhaps because NoveList was developed by librarians.

Subject Switch:  While thinking about my digital collection project, I’ve been looking at the Walter Stanley Campbell collection of Native American photographs in OU’s Western History Collections.  I wish the photogrphs could be viewed larger, and I wish there was more detail about each picture, such as where the photo was taken, who took the photo, and some details about the subject of the photo.  I mean, who was Arapaho sub-chief Yellow Bear?  Maybe this information is available elsewhere, but more detail or a link to additional information might improve accessability.  My goal is to collect as much information as I can about my grandparents’ photographs, but of course, there is much they may not remember.  Guess we’ll see what happens.

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In chapter 5 of Lesk’s Understanding Digital Libraries, Lesk mentions that in cataloging systems such as the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress, each book can be placed in only one catagory “since the shelf location is determined by the class number” (p. 121).  Even if a library has multiple copies of a book, collocation is important because users will be annoyed if they have to look in multiple places for a certain book.

We were talking about collection organization in my Readers Advisory class, as far as the pros and cons of separating or integrating genre fiction from/with the general fiction.  Customers who never browse in certain sections, like the sci-fi/fantasy section, are more likely to expand their reading horizons and check out a previously untried genre when the books are intershelved.  However, other readers who want to browse in a specific genre are frustrated when they have to search for their desired genre among other genres.  Several Tulsa Public Libraries are intershelving westerns with general fiction.  It seems that I read about users being frustrated with this arrangement in another library system–I wonder what Tulsa’s customers think about this intershelving?

It strikes me that a benefit of digital libraries is that one resource can be accessed under a number of subject headings, and the location of the information package online is less likely to hinder access.  A link to a western mystery story can be placed under westerns and under mysteries.  The story is never checked out (unless perhaps it’s an ebook with limited access), so users do not have to look in multiple places; it’s always in both places.  This may seem exceedingly obvious, but it hadn’t occured to me until the Lesk chapter, our Readers Advisory discussion, and the difficulty of my latest library search triangulated in my brain.

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Here’s something from an online discussion I’d like to preserve here.  I’m not posting it for class credit–just for my own interest (or vanity).  These thoughts stem from reading Anthony Grafton’s article, “Digitization and its Discontents,” The New Yorker, November 5, 2007.

I agree with Grafton that humankind has struggled with information glut and access difficulties since the stone tablet libraries of Nineveh and the scrolls of Alexandria were in circulation.  True, there is more information floating around today than ever before, but that was true in every age (except maybe the dark ages, but that’s another discussion). 

I think digitalization is our newest method of coping with our informational growing pains.  It’s not perfect, but I’m not sure any of our previous methods can be characterized as perfect either.  There were access issues in ancient times in the form of illiterate populations, access issues throughout history in terms of specific populations being denied access to information (slaves in ancient Greece, Christians denied access to biblical texts in the vulgate, women and African Americans denied access throughout history).  There were access issues with microfilm and microfiche in that very few people had personal microfilm and microfiche readers.  I think this demonstrates that in the interest of the democratization of information, libraries must extend outreach efforts and strive to provide access to everyone through literacy programs, tech assistance programs, and efforts to connect the unconnected countries of the world to libraries both physical and digital.

I also think Grafton is right that all human information is not going to be captured and digitized any time soon.  Information has been “left out” throughout history, from books left out of the Christian Bible to texts overlooked for conversion to microfilm.  It is troubling to think about who is making the decisions today as to what will be digitally preserved and what won’t be.  But do we preserve everything, down to the last child’s coloring book?  One man’s trash is an archeologist’s treasure in 500 years.  But I guess that passes into archival territory.

Still, as long as people prefer reading print on paper to text on screens, as long as parents want to take their children to story-time, as long as digital information is vulnerable to a powerful electromagnetic pulse, as long as people seek that Third Place for democracy and community, libraries must persist in bricks as well as bytes.

Anyone interested in the history of libraries in greater depth should check out Library: An Unquiet History, by Matthew Battles.  It’s a facinating account.  Thanks to Doc Martens for introducing me to it!

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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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