Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You Can't Live in the Library

Yesterday one of our regular community users was arrested and charged with "criminal trespassing" and "failure to control/comply" (both misdemeanors). Our janitor had noticed hair clippings in one of the men's bathrooms for several months until yesterday when he caught this man shaving and bathing in one of the sinks. Campus Public Safety was called and I guess the guy was taken out in cuffs. Previously, one of my coworkers had found an iron and a bag of belongings back in Government Documents and thought it was probably his. As she and Gwen noted... No one goes back in GovDocs so when people wander back there you have to wonder.

Anyway, I think he trespassed to other places on campus so that is why they took it so seriously. As you can probably tell, the only details I have are from my coworker Tom who saw the arrest and information from the county jail's website. Even though it's winter intercession, the library is still open and those of us who didn't take vacation days are still here. It's been nice to get writing done (all I hear is my space heater!) but when something like this happens it's nice to have 2 other people present in your department. I hope this man gets assistance because he never bothered or even approached anyone so I don't think his intentions are bad - he probably just needed a warm place to sleep and a computer to watch YouTube videos on (these are basic needs, people).

Related story from Laura about an NYU student (of course his major is creative writing) living in Bobst Library:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good Customer Service: A Facebook Odyssey

I am sorely lacking beautiful screenshots like Laura's Twitter post, but we had kind of a nice library-related social media thing happen this week, so I stole her title.

Kool Kat Katy tweeted earlier this week about a site, oddly called Reasons to Hate (why?), that allows you to search Facebook status updates for strings of words. I searched our library's proper name and came up with a user who had said something like "come on, [Name of My Library], how can you not have [Name of a Fairly Standard Seeming Reference Book]."

I did a quick search and couldn't find it in our catalog either (or in all of WordCat), so I emailed half a dozen of our reference librarians to see if they could find it. I thought I wasn't doing a good search, or that the book was lost or something -- but it turned out that we really didn't have it, and the selector considered it a fairly major ordering oversight. I'm not exactly sure of this part of the story, but apparently the vendor hadn't notified us.... in any case, though, one of the awesome librarians ordered it immediately, found the FB commenter's name, and said he'd email him as soon as the book comes in.

I commented on the guy's FB page this morning, which is ever-so-slightly creepy, especially since I had to do it from my personal account because FB doesn't let me comment as the admin of the library's page. I also gave him the URLs of how to place a purchase request and how to chat with a librarian next time he can't find something that seems like it should be there. He said he was surprised and pleased, and a few of his friends who had commented on the initial status update liked the update. (After he asked, I told him how I'd found him, too... hopefully that takes some of the creepy fourth-wall feeling out of it.)

It would be vastly more helpful if the search could be refined to use boolean terms and -- even more helpful -- to search within particular networks. Most of our users wouldn't actually write our proper name out; they'd just say "the library" and their FB friends would know which library they meant. If it could be limited to networks, we'd really be able to do get a picture of what people are saying.

But anyway, this felt like a little victory -- to be able to help one patron with a reasonable request almost immediately, and surprise him and his friends and maybe make them see the library as a little more responsive. I don't do any direct service at my job at all, so this felt doubly nice. Woo!

Image from

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good Customer Service: A Twitter Odyssey

I'm still thinking about my institution's social media strategy and wanted to share a positive story about another organization that's Doing It Right. I recently signed up for a DC Public Library card. I tweeted about it, including an @ mention for the system's Twitter account @dcpl.

@dcpl quickly retweeted my message and replied:

I thought that was great, a quick acknowledgment of positive feedback and a reminder about what I needed to do next. Plus, an invitation to move from the internet world into the real world to interact more.

I placed a hold with my new temporary card number and went to my local DC branch a few days later to get my official library card. Side note--DCPL gives you a choice of different card designs, which I also loved. I got the one with the frog that says "Hop into Your Library."

All well and good, until today I noticed a problem. When I looked up that hold I placed earlier, the wrong branch was listed as the "Pickup Library." My book was apparently being shipped to a library across town that would take me over an hour to get to!

Normally in this situation I would search out the customer service number/email and contact the library that way. But, instead I thought, "hey, I know they check their Twitter account regularly, maybe that will be faster."

Within minutes, @dcpl added me as a follower and sent me a series of direct messages. The staff member on the other end looked up my library account and figured out that the problem was just a bug in their new online catalog software. S/he alerted their IT department and assured me that my book would be delivered to the correct branch. S/he also suggested that I change my pickup branch since my local library is going to be temporarily closed in a few weeks. (It's moving to a new building! Very exciting!)

All and all, a great service experience. Quick response, helped me solve my problem, and also helped me avoid another problem I didn't even know I had.

To follow up, I asked how DCPL manages their Twitter account, and got the answer "A few dcpl staff run the twitter collectively - from branch managers to library associates to marketing staff."

Lessons I'm Taking From This:
  1. Good customer service online is just like good customer service offline. It means being friendly, responding quickly, and solving problems.
  2. Responding to casual messages makes people much more likely to communicate with you in the future. If @dcpl hadn't responded to my first @ mention, I doubt I would have tried asking for help through Twitter. I would have assumed that they don't check their @ replies, as most institutions (like mine!) do not.
  3. If you make it apparent that you are available, people will send you questions, so you'd better be prepared to answer them. If you don't have time, you probably shouldn't be on Twitter in the first place.
  4. Empower staff to respond to questions and solve problems via Twitter.
  5. Have many people involved to lighten the burden and ensure good coverage. Alternately, one dedicated person with plenty of time or several people with set shifts could work.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Story time!

One of my colleagues cut her waist length hair to a cute little bob. The look really works on her - she no longer looks like a flower child from the sixties, and the bob complements her small features.

Recently, this same colleague asked our ILL person to mail a package, media mail, for her. The ILL person had no problem, as she frequently makes post office runs. Of course there was no postage, but our ILL person assumed that it was one of the many ILLs and didn't worry too much about it. It wasn't until a student worker was leaning on the ILL person's desk that we all realized what was in the package: "Oh. Locks for Love. Cool".

My newly shortened hair colleague wanted to mail her chopped off locks, media mail, with the university paying for it Locks of Love. Of course, there are a lot of things of wrong with this story: 1) hair is not media, 2)the university should not pay for your personal mail, 3) it is wrong to defraud the post office, 4) it is weird to mail your hair from work.

Luckily, our ILL person handled it pretty gracefully, pretending that my colleague had forgotten postage, and then reminding my colleague that it is a personal mail. But still. That's pretty weird.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not so sure about QR Codes

Have you sensed the new trend wave of QR codes? First they were on the November cover of ACRL News and now there's "QRapping paper" (yes, say that one out loud).It seems as though QR codes are catching on when it comes to marketing (especially in Japan where they originated) and now libraries are figuring out ways QR codes can work for them. What happened to ensuring access for everyone? It's my understanding that QR codes require a user to snap a picture with their camera phone to access a downloaded application to then view the intended website associated with the black and white square. So, what about the people that don't have Internet access on their phones? I would hate to design a program or instruction session activity involving QR codes without knowing everyone I am trying to reach has more than just a basic cell phone. The last thing I want is to exclude patrons by using QR codes just so I can participate in a new trend.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Improving Web Statistics

I've been looking into ways to increase search ranking and web stats for my digital archive. One really helpful presentation I found:

"Search Engine Optimization for Digital Collections" by Kenning Arlitsch, Patrick OBrien
and Sandra McIntyre.

The authors discuss the unique problems of digital libraries and ways to solve them. They explain how to use Google Webmaster Tools to check for webcrawler errors (definitely worth checking out if you run your own website!) and various technical ways to improve indexing.

We've also been brainstorming ways to get more use out of our institution's Twitter and Facebook accounts. They're both pretty active, which is great, but we're mainly just posting "This Day in Cold War History" links. I'd like to get us interacting more with our users, in hopes that that will increase our followers/visibility, and thereby the number of people being redirected to our actual website.

Related Links:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Talk: How Did You Get This Number

How Did You Get This Number is the sophomore effort of author Sloane Crosley. Her autobiographical essays about life and love (mostly set in New York City) are fresh and insightful, causing me to want her life and to be her friend. These essays talk about growing up, learning disabilities, dating, shopping and even Sarah Palin in a way that makes you think "that's hilarious" and "I've totally been there" at the same time. Her vignette about her ex-boyfriend Ben is especially moving.

Book Talk: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary is the latest book of short stories by David Sedaris. Like his other books, this one tells harsh truths with scathing and weird wit, but this time through talking animals in human-like relationships. I really enjoyed this book because of the dark humor and social viewpoints with commentary on everything from race relations to sex. I don't know if this book is for everyone, but it's certainly worth a try.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Cause Tonight is the Night

My digital archive uses Dublin Core and I’ve been looking into best practices. This led to the realization that we currently violate one of the central tenets of Dublin Core, the One-to-One Principle:

In general Dublin Core metadata describes one manifestation or version of a resource, rather than assuming that manifestations stand in for one another. For instance, a jpeg image of the Mona Lisa has much in common with the original painting, but it is not the same as the painting. As such the digital image should be described as itself, most likely with the creator of the digital image included as a Creator or Contributor, rather than just the painter of the original Mona Lisa.

Like many cultural heritage projects, my digital archive has cheerfully ignored the One-to-One Principle for years, combining metadata about both the digital file and physical original in a single record. I’m not planning to change this because--abstract principles aside--mixed records make more sense for both our users and our local situation.

In an article on current practice and the One-to-One Principle, Steven Miller of the University of Wisconsin gets to the heart of the problem for me:

…many practitioners, including those who are well aware of the One-to-One principle, come to their digital collection projects with the intent to create records only for their digital resources. They are creating metadata for an online collection of digital resources, not a database or catalog of both their analog holdings and their digitized files.

My archive doesn't even have real physical material (all of our documents are photocopies or scans from other archives), so why go to the trouble of creating two separate records for each item? Not to mention, double records would be a headache if we ever exposed our metadata for aggregators.

In the same article, Miller recommends a compromise solutions:

  1. Follow the One-to-One Principle as much as possible, with the bulk of a record focusing on either the digital or the original,
  2. use the source field to explain the relationship between the digital and original versions (i.e. “Digital reproduction of photographic print in the So-and-so Collection, located in the Such-and-such Archive.”)
He goes into more detail in the article, but that's the basic idea. This is similar to what we are doing now and I think I'll follow his suggestions, keeping in mind what our metadata records will look like when stripped down to simple Dublin Core.*

*One caveat: I’m not crazy about some of Miller’s DC mappings in his examples. For instance, in one he uses the "Contributor" field for the name of the institution holding the original physical document, which I don’t think is right. It makes much more sense in the Publisher or Relation field. See Arwen Hutt and Jenn Riley, “Semantics and Syntax of Dublin Core Usage in Open Archives Initiative Data Providers of Cultural Heritage Materials,” p. 6.

Monday, November 22, 2010

PDF/A Link Dump

I’m considering using PDF/A at my digital archive and thought I’d drop some useful links here for anyone else interested.

PDF/A is a new(ish) file format. It’s a long-term archival version of the classic PDF format we all know and love. Basically, it’s the same as regular old PDF, but it’s guaranteed to look exactly the same years from now when you open it on your holographic iPhone. It should be super easy to implement since the scanning software we currently use, Adobe Acrobat Pro, already has settings for scanning/converting to PDF/A.

White paper from the PDF/A Competence Center which explains the standard in easy-to-understand language.

Report from Ohio State University Library which discusses different options for converting documents using Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Great Adobe Acrobat Pro tutorial which explains exactly which features are and aren't PDF/A compliant. (Note: The narrator has a very soothing accent.)

Uses email to verify attached PDF/A documents.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"No soup [library service] for you!"

I really enjoy the "Soup Nazi" from Seinfeld. At times, I find I act a lot like the Soup Nazi, especially when patrons don't behave the way I want them to, like following basic rules. I work at a private academic university, and I feel we have a community patron problem. Why do we even have community patrons, you ask? Mainly because we are a partial federal depository library, and we are legally required to allow community users access to our materials. Also, academic libraries generally allow patrons outside the campus community to look at their books, periodicals, etc.

Our community patron, R., doesn't make use of our books. He monopolizes a computer - a computer from which he runs a business. He doesn't understand why he cannot use his cell phone right next to the library computer, in case, as he terms it, of conference calls. When he's on a computer, we have to kick him off so students can use it. He has figured out the student login (not as though that was difficult), so now he has unlimited printing. He never brings his own pens or pencils, so he is always using ours or a student's. One time, he asked to use the reference desk phone, then our personal cell phones because he was having trouble with his. When we all refused, he asked a student to use hers. He constantly has technology problems, which he then needs help solving. We have to constantly remind him that he cannot use the lab, to please take his cell phone calls outside, stop pestering the students, and so on. (As you can tell, he has been the fly in my ointment for a while).

There are all sorts of theories flying around about what he is actually doing. For a while, we were convinced he was running a spam operations because we had to help him with pdf problems. Then, we thought he was running a phone scam because he is constantly asking for and promising large sums of money to people. (He'd also like us to find the number for Goldman Sachs).

I have really worked on my attitude (although it doesn't seem like it). I don't want to be the only librarian who constantly complains about R. My colleagues try to remind me that it isn't my problem; my boss has made a decision to let him stay. For some reason, I find this unhelpful. I can't see a problem like this, where someone is disrupting library service, and not do anything about it. On the other hand, I did not decide to work in a public library, so all I really want to deal with is snotty college students. Upon further reflection, though, I realized that even a public library would not put up with his behavior. I think the problem I'm having comes down to valuation of library services. Apparently, my colleagues and I have a difference of opinion.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I caved and bought an iPad

As the headline says, I recently caved and bought an iPad. As the lovely Gwen suggested, I am blogging about its capacities as an e-reader, because "inquiring minds want to know!"

I was totally skeptical about the iPad when it came out. I'm not a huge Apple fan, I was worried about there being a lack of options for where I could buy stuff, and I thought the name was annoyingly reminiscent of sanitary napkins. I started to come around when I read more about e-readers and the relative environmental impacts of buying paper books or using an e-reader. I also discovered that while I don't like audiobooks, I can READ a book in nearly any format - although something I can take to bed with me is best. Then, my little sister got an iPad for free (I know!) and LOVED it. She convinced me, and might have inspired some serious jealousy.

So I bought one. I considered other e-readers, but the iPad appeared to do books reasonably well while also doing lots of other interesting stuff. I won't cover all the other stuff now, because this is about books!

To start with, my worries about where I could get books were pretty unfounded. I currently use the iBooks ap, which is intended for iPad use, and I also have the Kindle ap and I'm experimenting with a few others. From what I've seen, there are tons and tons of e-book aps and stores available to iPad users. Some of them seem more usable and aesthetically pleasing than others, but they are definitely available.

I actually really like the iBook ap, because I can change the font size and brightness and turn on a sepia effect, all of which help prevent headaches (one big difference from other e-readers is it doesn't have that "real paper" look, so it is like reading a computer screen). The touch screen is pretty awesome in the iBook ap, because it makes turning pages look amazing - although I still occasionally turn pages I didn't mean to turn. One thing I find totally awesome is the dictionary - I can tap a word and then have the option to, among other things, look it up in the dictionary. I have actually used this tool several times already, which is not to imply I have a poor vocabulary!

My biggest concern currently is getting access to books, regardless of which ap I use, without paying for them. Buying books is easy - I bought one from the iBook store and it worked just like buying something from iTunes. I don't have a Kindle account, but I assume it is equally easy to use that if you don't want to give Apple more money. Books are generally also a little cheaper than they would be if you bought the physical object. I've downloaded a number of free Project Gutenberg books from the iBook store, but it takes a little more searching because Apple really does not like presenting all the free stuff right up front. I've also downloaded a few from sites online that provide EPUB books for free. These are, of course, all older books, because of copyright issues.

Getting newer books for free has been harder, because dealing with the library has been the most challenging part so far. Unfortunately, part of that is because the library's selection is a little unimpressive. The other part is because I have yet to figure out the perfect way to get the books actually onto the iPad. My techy boyfriend got it to work on another ap, and he says the problem is a DRM issue. I've had multiple awesome librarians respond to my cries for help with more information, which I need to check out - I want the process to be as quick and easy as possible, and I want it to be on an ap that I like.

So, this is an epic post, but here's the bottom line: The iPad is really expensive if you're only using it as an e-reader, but as an e-reader I think it's pretty darn good. Since it also does other stuff, I think it justifies the price, but be prepared for a few struggles with library books especially, since it hasn't been around as long as other e-readers.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Ever since my friend Lauren made me a summer meal of salmon and quinoa I've always wanted to try making another quinoa dish. So, I adapted this recipe and used quinoa instead of bulgar. My, is it tasty and super easy!


  • 1 cup of quinoa (I found it in the rice/pasta section of my grocery)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups diced plum tomato
  • 3/4 cup shredded cooked chicken breast (I used the packaged kind)
  • 3/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced English cucumber
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: 1 garlic glove, minced (I love garlic)


1. Combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes (or whatever the box says).

2. While the quinoa cooks, combine all of the ingredients. Once the quinoa is done, put it in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and combine well. I didn't even wait for the quinoa to cool. Eat!

book talk: Caught Dead in Philadelphia

I've been trying to read more mysteries to improve my understanding of the genre (and therefore make the one I'm writing (?) better), but I'm not sure this one really helped...

Caught Dead in Philadelphia, by Gillian Roberts, introduces English-teacher heroine Amanda Pepper right before her flighty fellow teacher is killed in her Philadelphia home. She investigates the murder with a handsome detective. This is just one step up from a "cozy," without much on-screen violence, and would be good for tame readers who like female heroines and want something more modern than Agatha Christie.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paperless Libraries?

I am still in library school, and lack the depth of real-world experiences the other Katalogers have encountered on the job. So I am going to do what academics do best, theorize.

If you are as addicted to google reader as I am, I'm sure you come across several articles each week discussing the end of the Public Library. If not, here are a few examples

New Library Technologies Dispense With Librarians, Wall Street Journal
Digital Underclass: What Happens When the Libraries Die? ZDNet (Thanks for sharing, Gwen!!)

You can find lots of related articles/blog posts if you complete a simple internet search. (Don't know how to do that? call your local public library!) They all say the same thing. Digital books and technology are going to make public libraries and librarians irrelevant. The author of the ZDNet article thinks public libraries will suffer a slow death as the proliferation of digital materials makes printed materials outdated. The problem is these articles all seem to be written by people who have not been in a public library since they lost the 1982 summer reading program to a child that would one day become a librarian.

Yes, libraries have books. They also have e-books, DVDs, computers, programming, databases, periodicals, etc. To argue that printed books are the only thing keeping the library open is a gross misstatement. Even if the entire world went digital, we would still need libraries. There is a significant portion of the population that does not have internet access at home, cannot afford (or chooses not to purchase) an e-reader or computer, and wouldn't know what to do with one if they could. Government documents, job applications, customer service, and many other resources we need to live are solely available online. Where will citizens gain access to and learn to navigate these resources if the public library died? I'm pretty sure the post office or city hall would not step up to the plate.

Even if public libraries were just buildings full of books with stuffy librarians shushing more often than helping, they still would not die. E-books are simply not going to replace printed materials. Have you heard about the paperless office? Businessweek first mentioned it in 1975--35 years ago. I have yet to encounter an office that fits that description, because people LIKE to have a hard copy. The National Association of College Stores recently completed a survey and found that 75% of students would rather use a printed textbook over an e-book, and this is from a population that grew up with technology. In a Mashable poll, twice as many respondents indicated a preference for printed books over e-books (35% like both). Mashable provides content on social media, technology, and the internet. If surveys of digitally friendly populations are coming back with these numbers, imagine what a comprehensive survey of the nation would turn up.

Even though I am terrified to start the job search process, I am in no way afraid that my chosen profession will disappear or become irrelevant. In fact, I think librarians may be more essential today than they have ever been. While there are many threats to public libraries--inadequate funding, the prevalence of the belief that libraries are simply rooms full of books, lack of advocacy, etc.--technology is not one of them. Digital materials are as much of a danger to the public library as the paperless office is a reality.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I'm not sure to what extent we are truly wanting to delve into our jobs here, but I thought I'd share a truly humbling experience I had at work today.

There are three or so main areas I supervise. They all have great people on their teams and have obviously been doing just fine without me. However, there is always room for improvement, and I often play the role of conduit between upper administration and various departments.

In my eagerness to help "fix" things, I didn't realize I was actually muddying things up and inadvertently stepping on toes. One of my employees - Jane Doe - asked to speak with me today and point blank asked me who, exactly, is supervising her department. Is it her or is it me? I had spoken with one of Jane's team members yesterday about some changes I was thinking about making, and then she told Jane (innocently, I think) about them; Jane got upset that I was confusing her employees and not communicating clearly with her at all stages of the change making process.

It was one of those moments where I was utterly caught off guard because I had no idea I was causing problems. I saw an issue and wanted to fix it. But I could also see Jane's perspective because she has a system that has been working for literally decades and there is still a lot I don't know.

I apologized to Jane and there were no hard feelings. Yes, I feel a little awkward, but that will have to pass because I am an adult and she wasn't doing anything out of spite. I appreciated her coming to me before she got really upset and I am pleased with myself that my employees know they can approach me to work through challenges.

So, what are the lessons I learned today?
  1. Even if you have nothing but good intentions, something can (and probably will) throw you off guard when you least expect it.
  2. Honest communication is absolutely amazing.
  3. Your work will always find opportunities to humble you so that you can grow from it. These small instances hone your instincts (and will allow you to have your day in the sun someday, too).
  4. While we solved the current issue, this allowed me to pinpoint more of my weaknesses AND my workers'. I am often overly gung ho and trip over my feet like a puppy. My team members have been doing this a long time and can be territorial and slow to change. Neither of us is wrong, but rather we have rough edges to work on. 
  5. As a leader - and you're a leader no matter your position on the totem pole - you set the tone for how problems get solved. Empathy, patience, active listening and humility are the keys to survival. It's just as bad to fly off the handle as it is to cry as it is to shut down (and the list goes on).
  6. People talk, both innocently and maliciously. Plan how you unveil ideas carefully, even if it makes you feel crazy or paranoid.
  7. Be the bigger person. Choose your battles and get over the idea of being a martyr. You should do what is right simply because it is right and nice guys and gals often (always?) finish last. I'm getting pretty comfortable under the bus.
I hope this post isn't obnoxious and I'm sorry if it is. This situation is interesting because there are so many facets - chain of command, opinions on workflow, age differences and new versus old. I'm a fool if I expect everything to be as solved as calmly as this but my organization is a fool to think I'm not going to implement some changes. I hate the idea of people being unhappy, but my greater allegiance is to the ideals of librarianship and service and NOT my personal comfort.

What was I thinking when I went into administration?!

Introductory Post

Hello Klub Katalog Blog readers! This is my first post. Last week I started a new job at a digital archive and I'm currently feeling out my new role. It’s a brand new position and they’ve never had someone on staff with an information/library science background before. At this point, there’s no set job description, nor does anyone know exactly what I should be doing, including me. This is both exciting and terrifying.

I guess you could call me the Klub Katalog digital librarian, or the digital archivist, or, god-forbid, the cybrarian.

Right now I’m feeling like the Accidental Metadata Librarian. My archive is developing a whole new database and content management system. Part of the process (my part) is revamping all of the old legacy metadata. They’ve been using Dublin Core, albeit an idiosyncratic local interpretation of Dublin Core. There are no controlled vocabularies or authority lists. There are only minimal formatting and syntax guidelines. Student interns have been doing much of the cataloging for 10+ years. They want to expose their metadata through OAI-PMH.

It's both exciting and terrifying.

Book Talk: One Day

One Day by David Nicholls follows the intersecting lives of two characters, Emma and Dexter, from college graduation night into adulthood. Their friendship goes through periods of strength and weakness with the triumphs and trials that occur in their separate lives. I liked how I could relate to their relationship (witty banter, sexual tension, and comfort in knowing each other’s past). The author is involved in television and fiction that can easily be adapted to film (think Nick Hornby) and I totally read his words in my head with a British accent.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Today was a day for the history books.

I officially felt like a librarian. (Finally.)

It wasn't just my awesome new outfit. It wasn't just the cardigan I wore. It wasn't just that I had taken the time to brush my hair.

No, today I felt like a librarian because I weeded the shit out of our audiobook collection.

I have a lot of responsibilities at work, but since I am administration I miss out on some of the very basic elements of public librarianship. I often feel very inadequate about the work I've done so far and quite often confused by concepts I haven't learned yet and have probably bypassed. (And then I remember I haven't even been on the job two months.)

Today I utilized our (awful) library system, ran a report, manipulated it in Excel, printed it off, then weeded our entire adult audiobook collection! I started with the fiction, then the non-fiction, and in between I re-organized our cassettes (don't even get me started) and Great Courses section. I also added shelving units and dusted.

My criteria for weeding was fairly simple (which almost made me doubt myself). I looked at items older than 2008 and that hadn't circulated in a year OR hadn't gone out more than three times in the past two years. If there were double copies I kept the one in best shape and got rid of the beat up one. Now all our shelves have about 25% free space and everything has been shelf-read!

I was shvitzing all over the place, but had such a feeling of accomplishment after. The only thing left for me to do is run some numbers about the size of the collection before and after and put a report in our collection development manual.

I'm a grown-up! I'm a librarian! Hear me roar!

I am not a student, d***it!

I am a relatively young librarian, as I went straight from undergrad into grad school. I am not much older than my students; in fact, many of them are the same age as my younger sister (which makes it weird, because my sister is my best friend). Anyway, I was at a function the other day (ok, ok, church lunch), sitting at an adult table, and everyone who sat down wanted to know if I was a student, and how my studies were going. The same thing happened with my student workers: oh, are you a new student here? No, I'm not.

Whenever I talk to my co-workers about it, I receive the typical "adult" response: well, enjoy it while you can, that won't last long, let's talk when you're thirty. These responses irk me probably as much as when I am mistaken for a student. The reason is probably not what you think. I am not concerned about my peers taking my abilities seriously; there is one thing that I am really good at in life, and that is academia. I am not concerned about students taking me seriously, because they're students. What really worries me is that I won't take myself seriously.

I have been a student for the past umpteen years of my life. It is what I know. I am concerned that I will fall into old patterns. I don't really see myself as an adult at all - in fact, sometimes I worry I act like I'm still in high school. This job is important to me, and I don't want to mess it up because I cannot act like an adult. So every time someone asks if I'm a student, I wonder: am I student? Wait, no, I'm a librarian.

Friday, November 5, 2010

someone call Zuckerberg

Does anyone have any great ideas for a Facebook contest? My library's FB page just reached 800 fans or "like"-ers or whatever they're called, and in my overwhelming joy and sheer exhileration, I rashly promised that when we get near 1,000, we'll have a contest that includes prizes.

We've been talking about a FB contest at work for a while, but the ideas never get beyond vague things about library trivia and favorite books and virtual scavenger hunts mumble mumble. Even though I really do believe FB is a good (the best?) communication tool with a few of our audiences, especially undergrads, I am kind of sick of it personally and not coming up with much. Ideas?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Booktalk: Bonk

Everyone is doing booktalks, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Besides, I recently did something I rarely do now that I'm out of school: I read a non-fiction book, cover to cover, and really enjoyed it. It was also fun to carry around because it's just slightly shocking. Without further ado, Bonk!

Bonk, by Mary Roach, is subtitled The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and is a general history of the scientific study of sex. The book is highly informative and really funny, as if the best sex-education teacher ever got sloshed and started dishing on the really interesting stuff. I especially enjoyed the upfront way Roach presented her responses to her research, making a non-fiction book feel more personal. Mary Roach is known for her serious research but lighthearted writing on scientific topics, especially in controversial areas like death and sex.

Booktalk: Red Snow

I must apologize, but my first post is going to be a Japanese literature geek-out.  While obsessively reading all of the graphic novel section of my local library (yes, guys, I'm the one who took out thirty volumes from this section alone two days ago-sorry), I stumbled upon something new and significantly different than my usual diet of bad shoujo and even worse re-adaptations of Shakespeare's works.  So, I decided to share with the class.  Never having actually taken a formal reader’s advisory class, I decided to follow Gwen’s formula.   This turned out to be harder than I thought it would be and I failed marvelously.  I’m not exactly known for my brevity, having once talked for over three hours about the significance of the cat in early Little Red Riding Hood stories, and I have a feeling that I didn’t chose the easiest genre to start out with. Hm… here’s hoping I improve.  This is quite a bit different than telling a four-year-old why they will really like a particular book about princesses even if it doesn’t star Ariel or Belle.   
Here you go: 

Katsumata Susumu’s Red Snow is a compilation of the famed manga-ka’s (manga creator) short manga works.  The stories evoke traditional Japanese literature themes and folklore, with stories ranging from a beleaguered village getting revenge through a Kappa-lord’s own offspring to a young boy’s relationship with a girl and the origin of a blind musician’s apprentice.   I like his simple art style and love his portrayal of kappa and tanuki, while the stories themselves remind me collectively of Buson Yosa’s haikai (the formalized precursor to haiku), Basho, and  Akinari/Kijin’s Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain).  
As an ending note, beware: Katsumata’s work is not intended for kids; like most Japanese literature, it contains adult themes and images.

Before I go I would like to state that while I may kinda look like Sailor Moon, my hair is never worn in bun-pigtails and I fight evil in my day clothes, thank you very much. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On this day in history...

On November 2, 1815, George Boole was born, the English mathematician from whom we got Boolean operators. I teach Boolean operators by elaborating on this joke that I read somewhere in my first semester of library school:

If you send a librarian (or a database, as I tell students) to the store with a shopping list for sugar and flour and butter and chocolate chips, the librarian (or the database) will come back from the store with a cookie.

Sure, it's a nerdy joke, but it's a good jumping-off point and involves lots of pictures of delicious baked goods (flour AND chocolate = brownies, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate croissants). I find this particularly effective when the class is right before dinner.

So, thank you, George Boole, and happy birthday! Read more about him here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Library Writing Blog

One of my co-workers shared this blog with me today. I can totally see how just looking at it might inspire me to start a writing project one of these days! Well... I have to publish in order to keep my job but that's a whole 'nother post, folks!


Library Journal recently published an editorial about the false "graying" of the library profession and how hard it is for new graduates to find jobs.

We here at Klub Katalog are relatively lucky because most of us have jobs. However, we have many friends and classmates who are still struggling to find permanent placement in a library.

This issue is multi-faceted and we've all spent hours dissecting each and every factor of the current state of libraries. In brief moments of darkness I think we all feel lied to and I personally have tried to decide if I think it is actually unethical for library schools to keep bringing students in, especially when there are problems with the perceived time on campus and online for classes.

All this to say that I don't think anything is going to change soon. Yes, we all have those ancient staff members who appear to be at death's door, but they really don't show any signs of stopping in the near future. Jobs are going to continue to require at least three years of experience and they are possibly going to become more specialized AND expect a more robust skill set from applicants.

I hope I can keep a positive attitude to my fellow librarians, to library students and to my grad school (who undoubtedly expects us to contribute money and PR). I really do love this profession and I do think it will get better, it just takes time.

To all of you still looking, don't give up! Your day will come, though you will be exhausted at the end of your journey. Here are some things I found out during my job search:
  1. You have to decide which is more important: geography or having a job. According to the lists I subscribe to, there are actually jobs out there, they're just in seemingly random places. It may not be your dream to live in Utah, but if you're serious about being employed, you should apply. Having to choose between being near family/lovers/pets or taking a job is sort of a nice problem, because it means you have people in your life that you love and who love you back and want you to stay. Making the decision to stay in a specific area will not kill your job opportunities, but it probably will make your job search an even longer process.
  2. Get library experience any way you can. We are competing with out of work librarians with years of experience. Maximize your resume and your skill set by volunteering in a library on a regular basis during your job search. Though academic, public and special libraries differ in a lot of ways, they all share many of the same elements: circulation, tech services and programming. Shelving books and/or helping with storytime at your local library still looks good on a resume and will probably help you in the future, even if you don't stay with public libraries. Being familiar with circulation, program execution and patron relations is always a good idea. I've seen lots of great people wonder why they're not getting calls back when their only experience is an internship; you have to get experience any way and anywhere you can.
  3. Sell yourself. Sell yourself hard. Applying for jobs is just like cold calling; it can be awkward and horrible, but it can also yield big results. Have a few friends or colleagues look over your resume to look for content or style errors. Maybe your font is too small; maybe you have too much content. Your friends love you, so sometimes their gentle correction is easier to take than that of career services. Ask friends or family to help you with interviewing and/or approaching potential employers. You need to be able to tell people why you are best for the job and provide convincing answers and arguments for yourself when they ask questions. Practice in the mirror if you have to: "Hi, I'm Yogurt Moon and I'd love to talk to you about the position you have available. I think your library and I are a great fit and I'd like to discuss this opportunity with you!" It gets easier with time and practice. 
  4. Only use social media if it will truly help you. For a while I thought I'd only get a job if I had a Twitter, a LinkedIn, an uber-professional and sterile Facebook page and a professional blog. Then I realized that wasn't me, relaxed and realized that it's still your personality, personal skills and experience that make or break you. Sure if you're applying to work at Twitter, it would probably help to have an account, but the foundation of libraries are still the classical elements we learned about in school. Fluency in social media is most likely just going to be icing on the cake. Unless you are trying to work at a super-progressive organization or a place that is known for it's Web presence, relax and only use the Web tools that actually help you.
  5. Keep grinding it out. Is there anything more awful than the ups and downs of a job hunt? It's possibly worse than dating because you have to have a job but you don't have to date! Any nibble from an employer makes you want to stop your search immediately and throw any other current applications in the trash. But you have to keep grinding it out until you actually have a job. Things fall through, employers flake and positions get filled in-house and all you get on the other side is maybe an email or a phone call to let you know. 
  6. Decide if you are willing to take a job you don't love to make ends meet. Then decide if you are content with that for now and need to take a break from the hunt. If not, keep filling out applications in the meantime. Just remember not to do it on your work computer using their resources; that's bad form.
Keep your head up. Something will come through and it will be the perfect thing when it finally does. If you can afford it, use this time of unemployment to travel, indulge in hobbies like knitting or writing and savor sleeping in. We all believe in you and we all believe in each other. The profession isn't graying, but all hope isn't lost.

Picture from Library Journal