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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Library catalogs

Since we read about the cataloging, classification, and library catalogues this week, I thought you’d enjoy these three articles. My Alma Mater, The University of Wisconsin at Madison, is finally mothballing their card catalog. “Farewell Cards” On Wisconsin (Summer2012):31-35, 62

I have very fond memories of the time I spent there looking up books and exploring topics for research papers. When you read the article, you’ll discover that their catalogue took up the entire floor of the building. It was huge and contains so much information. Can you imagine such a large catalogue? New York Public Library had a huge card catalogue as well. It also filled the entrance to the reading room. Oh, the hours I spent lost in subject headings.

Today, librarians, researchers, and our other patrons use the catalogue from home, or terminals scattered around the building. Finding great titles accidentally is more difficult. It’s a different type of learning and exploring because you have to follow subject headings or browse the shelf. American Libraries e-extra for June contains an article that examines how cataloging itself has changed. “Cataloging Then, Now, & Tomorrow” American Libraries (May/June 2012): 52-54 .

It may surprise you to discover that not all libraries and librarians love classification systems. Some think it’s time to get rid of them. Here’s an article supplied by one of your fellow students Oder, Norman. “Rangeview Library District, CO, First System To Fully Drop Dewey.” Library Journal (June 5, 2009): . A group of libraries decided to drop DDC and create use a simplified subject heading system.

I find this fascinating, especially since I teach about genealogy & local history collections, which often arrange their materials geographically and then by topic. After all, what good is a library where all the call numbers are the same? I’m a strong advocate for classification schema, subject headings, and fixed or controlled vocabulary. They make our jobs easier and allow us to group like topics and things together. Natural language, tags, and key word searching is great. Natural language is how search engines like Google use. For me, personally, there’s a little too much fuzziness to searching when you don’t know someone else’s terminology.

What do you think about the usability of catalogues? Do you think it is time to
stop using the Dewey Decimal Classification System or Library of Congress Classification schema? 

(For earlier comments about catalogs, see late Feb, early March 2012.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The influence of books

Books, stories, poems, myths, plays, lectures, TV, and the other forms of entertainment and edification influence our careers, our decisions, and even our perspectives on life. Some amuse us; others teach us about life, morals, and ethics; and still others help us understand how to do our jobs well. Neil Postman writes in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” about the influence of television and its dominance over reading. Written in 1985, he did not and could not include the influence the internet and digital technology has had upon our lives. Nevertheless, books in their many formats and manifestations continue to influence individuals and are essential for the survival of libraries

At the 12th annual National Book Festival on Thursday June 21st, the Librarian of Congress James Billington just announced a new celebration of the book entitled “Books That Shaped America”
The Library of Congress, the world’s largest repository of knowledge and information, began a multiyear “Celebration of the Book” with an exhibition on “Books That Shaped America.” The initial books in the exhibition are displayed below.
“This list is a starting point,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books – although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.”

A Washington Post editorial discusses the various books and even asks why academic ‘classics’ don’t make the list  In addition, the Washington Post created a slide show of the title pages from 23 of the books in the Library of Congress exhibition displaying unusual title pages, frontispieces, and binding

Watch the short video, read the list of books, and add your own influential books to their list.
What’s the book that shaped your life?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Promoting Reading and Libraries

As I read through Parade Magazine this weekend, I came across Nathan Fillion’s interview about books, print and digital He says he hooked and has been since he was a kid, reading everywhere and constantly.  What’s better than an actor who plays a writer who promotes books in both his persona.

When Nathan Fillion said he reads books everywhere, it reminded me of life after college when I lived in NYC, well, Brooklyn then Queens, and read all the time. The subway was the perfect place to read, to zone out with all the white noise, and catch up on the classics or a trashy novel. Mostly I remember studying for classes in library science and in history. These days I read in the car, with my ears of course, and savor every minute of my road time. Each new audio book is an adventure.

Librarians, archivists, and information scientists promote reading and listening by example. If we read, so will others. That’s what the READ posters from ALA are all about. Get caught reading, get caught listening, or fiddling with your MP3 player. Start a reading group, chat about your favorite author, and learn something new.

How does this blog entry tie into the readings this week? Let me ask you “How many people ask you for a reading suggestion?” They could go to the book reviews, AMAZON, Barnes & Noble, or the library website. Most people ask their friends first, just as Weigand’s mother asked her friends for car suggestions. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether your book and movie suggestions come from friends or the library, but that people immerse themselves in reading and expand their knowledge.

What are you reading today?

Monday, June 18, 2012

libraries and their websites

Ah library websites. OCLC brings to the fore the notion that library websites are not being used by their patrons as often as search engines are used. [Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community: A Report to the OCLC Membership (2010) this really an issue?

Libraries create  websites and expect their users to stop there first. In reality, library websites are portals to resources and databases, they are not search engines and aren't even conceived as such. It's no wonder that our users come to us last, if ever.Library websites provide access to the catalog, to reading lists, to e-books and downloadable audiobooks. Our websites provided access to fee-based databases and resources like Academic Search Complete or Early English Books Online (EEBO), dictionaries, and reference books. They even provide links to resources we think are important, useful, or helpful to our patrons such as IRS tax forms, E-government sites, genealogy sites.

Should we change how we perceive of our sites? I don't think so, because they serve our mission, which is to help people find what they seek. People seek articles, books, and data through libraries and our websites provide access to just what our users seek. 

It's not our mission to organize the web, but to make it accessible.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Learning every day

That’s my new mantra. What did I learn today? How will I learn today? Did I take the time to do something new? To learn something?

In our lives so full of information overload, sometimes information flows back out, or bounces out of our brains faster than it can be absorbed. Only when we disconnect from everything that is competing for our attention can we begin to absorb what we are learning. While you are reading the articles or listening to the podcasts, try not to check your e-mail, talk on the phone, watch TV, or even walk out of the room. Take some notes. Think about what the author is doing or trying to teach you. Take frequent breaks so what you are learning starts to stick. 

Here's some other tricks. Try to explain the concept to your spouse, child, pet, or even stuffed animal. Think three topics, subject headings, or 'tags' for each article and podcast. Draw a diagram connecting the articles or concepts to one another and then to the concepts you learned about in earlier sessions or classes. How does the new information fit into what I already know about the field?

If you don't know what a word means, what a concept encompasses, or who a person is, look it up. Dictionaries and encyclopaedia are the basic tools of librarians. What other reference tools do you like to use? How about something with pictures in it?

When in doubt, look it up? Get in the habit of doing just that, so when a patron asks about something you don't know, you look it up, paraphrase the idea, and confirm that you understand before proceeding with the question.

The drive to learn something new every day will keep librarianship fresh for you. Consider the types of things you can learn and expand your horizons.

What will you learn today?

Friday, June 15, 2012

When the book is controversial

Every once in a while a controversial book comes along. Sometimes it’s the subject matter; other times the writing that’s controversial. The controversial book for libraries right now is “Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy." I’m certain you’ve heard of it. You may have read it. But does it belong in the library?
Great question. Librarians make the decision to purchase or not based on reviews, collection development policies, community interests, and other factors. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is controversial because of its erotic subject matter and use of erotic language. “Wait” you say, “there are plenty of Romance books that are pretty erotic and use pretty steamy language. There must be something else going on in the book to make it controversial.” According to the article in @ Your Library, there’s more to this story. Take time to read the article, what the short news report, and some book reviews and you decide.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is not the only controversial book. “The Dirty Cowboy" by Amy Timberlake  is also in the news. This is a children’s story about a cowboy in need of a bath. The cowboy’s dog steals his clothes while he is bathing by a stream. There are lots of cute pictures in this children’s book, and a little nudity. Would you ban this book? PA School District Bans 'The Dirty Cowboy' for Partial Nudity School Library Journal May 24, 2012

There’s no right or wrong answer. Your decision as librarian or library director depends upon many factors. Remember, the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom is there to help you respond to requests to remove books from the library.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Information – Trying to explain Buckland’s theory

For session 4

As I mentioned in my video podcast, many types of objects can be considered texts. Let’s take photographs because they are the easiest to explain.
A photograph as document or text is a practical example of what Buckland is discussing. While I’ve included some links in the syllabus to photographs, here’s a new example. F&P Daguerreotype Panorama of Cincinnati Shoreline in 1848 contains lots of information.

We can use this photograph to understand the development of the city as a port, as a trade. Historians use the photograph to study the development of streets, the layout of the city, the types of businesses, even clothing and transportation. Transportation historians can study the boats, wagons, and buggies. If you have enough magnification, you can read the names of businesses on buildings and signs.

In the background you see the city and the rural areas or farms. Even the streets are visible. The longer you study the photograph, the more information it will reveal. What do you think the photograph tells you? What would a cultural historian find? What about an anthropologist or urban historian?

What about the photograph itself? It is a daguerreotype, one of the oldest and most durable types of photograph of the nineteenth century. Most daguerreotypes are of people; this one is of a city. Imagine how far away the photographer had to stand to capture the entire cityscape. He must have stood in Kentucky!

The same principles of object as text apply to sculpture, buildings, ceramic pots, and textiles. How will you apply Buckland’s theory to these objects?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Readings – too much information

Because this is an intensive course taught over five weeks, there’s almost too much to read. Here's some advice for handling the readings and podcasts. Listen to my video podcasts first. They are all short and will outline the major points of the readings. They should bring the subject for the session together. Then attack the readings and other podcasts. And yes, some are deadly long. You need to read actively, which means Read the first and last paragraphs carefully. Take a few notes. Then read or skim the rest and make note of interesting facts or ideas. Then review the intro and conclusion. If the author wrote well, everything is in those two or three paragraphs. Try not to read too slowly, where the words echo in your head. That’s called passive reading and doesn’t work as well when you are trying to actively learn.

All your notes for each reading should fit on two sides of an index card. One side for ideas, the other for topics. no more. The cards will serve as prompts for the discussion threads. Of course, you can take notes on paper, one reading to a page.

Taking notes on the article, highlighting the text, or taking notes into a computer is not the same as actually writing up notes by hand. You’ll find you retain more if you write it out.

The older you are, the harder it is to cram and memorize. You just do not retain information the same way as when you were 20. Take the time to learn the information. You’d be surprise how refreshing it is to take a break every hour, even if all you do is stretch and walk around the room.

As time goes on, you'll see themes in your notes and in your reflective journal.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Books - or the words between the covers

There are many cute videos and books that promote the book itself. Thanks to one of my students for sharing this cute video. YouTube Video “It’s a Book” both the preview

Take the time to listen to the author who talks about his book and the idea of engaging young reading in the printed page.

Friday, June 8, 2012

So you want to be a librarian

It is so rewarding to be a librarian, archivist, and information scientist. Don’t misunderstand. The profession takes a lot of hard work, a drive to learn and understand, and most of all, the ability to communicate with others. You have to learn how to teach at a moment’s notice, to show others how to do something on the computer, to find a book, an article, or a government form. While being a librarian or information professional is very rewarding, most days I would leave the reference desk, and go home numb from so much thinking and so much interaction with others, with strangers. My brain needed to shut down and then restart. The mile walk home always helped to re-energize me. (That was before iPods.)

The hardest part of working as a librarian was all the interaction. I'm actually pretty shy myself and can never figure out what to say in social situations. The reference desk requires that you talk to people. You have to find a way to get over the shyness, to connect for a few moments and help that person. It takes courage and practice. Practice with your pets, with your mirror, with your friends. Help them find things. Explain things to others. After a while, it becomes natural to put on that 'pseudo extrovert' persona in public.

Organizations like Toastmasters  help you speak to others and give presentations. Otherwise, you have to find the courage inside to do it yourself. Underneath the surface, many librarians and archivists want to commune with books, information, and computers. Find a way to break out of the mold at the library. Remember there’s always a book waiting for you at home. Take time to relax, refresh, and re-energize every day, at lunch, at break time. That’s the time to turn inward and savor the ‘me’ time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What's your librarian personality type?

What's your personality? Are you quick to make judgements and decisions, or do you take your time? Are you an introvert or an extravert? Check out the books below and let me know who you think you are?

There are two fairly new books that might interest you. The first is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  
The two basic themes of his book are how people think intuitively and how they think deeply on specific subjects, or any subject for that matter. He is particularly interested in how people make decisions and derive conclusions for visual and written evidence. Take a look at the book, or even at excerpts and reviews, to see what you think. Does his argument make sense? In a world where students and individuals tend to skim articles and books, does deep thinking exist?

The second title that I found fascinating is Quiet by Susan Cain who examines the role of introverts in today’s mostly extroverted society. When I read the introduction, I realized that I’m a pseudo-extravert. I pretend to be an extravert when I’d rather disappear into a book than socialize with strangers. Yet, I force myself to do the latter and, after a fashion, do just fine talking to people. Cain looks at defense mechanisms and learned behaviors of introverts and how they cope with the need to be extroverted and gregarious. Where do you place yourself on the scale of introvert / extravert? As a librarian and information scientist, and archivist, you must learn to interact with others, particularly with strangers. How will you do this if you natural inclination is to be shy and retiring?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Initial thoughts on teaching Foundations

As I begin teaching Foundations of Library and Information Science this semester, I want to step back and think about why I’m teaching this course. After all, I teach many electives that require specialized knowledge. Why teach the introductory course? This foundational course makes me consider the various aspects of the field, what has changed over time, and what stays the same. At the same time, I must consider the field into its cultural perspective, in a social, economic, and political context, and most of all, how the practice of librarianship and information science is evolving. While this is not an easy task, it is enjoyable and forces me to think about libraries and other cultural institutions as a whole, as an integral part of society and our civilization.

You will read in this first week that Dr. Rubin believes the core roles of libraries as Education, Recreation & Information. What do you think? Are there other roles for libraries and information centers, for archives, historical societies, and museums? How will cultural institutions evolve over the next 10 or 20 years? Can you see that far into the future? How will this profession be affected by the internet, social networking, and computers in general? What role with e-books and the digital revolution play in and with cultural institutions? There is much food for thought in the past, present, and future of this profession. Which aspects of the profession will keep you up at night?

Another question to consider is your place within the world of librarianship, information science, and the fields of knowledge workers as a whole. I see my role as one of disseminating information and knowledge, whether I locate information for a client, compile historical data for a project, identify individuals or materials to answer a legal question, or try to explain a concept to a library science student. It is a basic tenet of librarianship that we disseminate information to those who seek or ask. Does this role hold true today?

Here’s a new video that is making the rounds. New Amazon Kindle Commercial Parody (A Normal Book) Discusses the virtues of the physical book using the same vocabulary as advertisements for the Kindle or other e-book reading devices. Do you think that this video helps or defeats the notion that “books are disappearing”?