Thursday, December 15, 2005

I made it through my first quarter! I'm done now and on break till January 3rd. I don't know if I can drag myself back to the computer to blog you may not hear from me till January.

Until then, happy holidays!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

These professors know how to pile everything up at the end of the quarter! I got my paper done on the comparison of IB models. I think it's a decent paper, we'll see what the professor says.

I also recently finished a huge group project and presentation. I'm so glad that is over! We looked at the information behavior of baristas, which ended up being quite interesting. Perhaps we were stretching it a bit at times, but that's only because there wasn't much literature to go on. Not any on baristas and not much on the service industry.

I've got one little assignment in that class and then it's done! Yay!

But the other class is a different story. I have a search assignment due at the end of the week. I've got a number of questions and I have to find the answers for. We've had two search assignments so far and I've done well on them.
I also have to do a research consultation with someone. I've picked my person, but she went out of town and I still don't know what she wants research on! Hopefully it won't take too long to do the research though. I'm interested to see if my new knowledge of searching techniques and resources will be helpful.

I also have another group assignment. For this one we have to pick some particular place and pick 10 reference resources they would need, and our reasoning for that.
This could be interesting. We're looking at a tour boat that goes around the world on educational trips, with lectures, etc. Right now we're trying to see if the trip could be about going to Quaker areas in Latin America. This should be an interesting one.

As you can see, I'm up to my eyes in papers and projects!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I found a new blog today on international libraries. There are only three posts as of today, but I'm intrigued at what this person will find. Here is the link

Check out the second post and related links. It's about a bookmobile service in northeastern Kenya - traveling by way of camel!!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Okay, here are the instructions for a paper I've been working on for several days:

"Compare two models or theories of information behavior. Your paper should demonstrate how well you understand the key concepts, assumptions, contexts, and practice implications of the frameworks that you choose to compare. It should also demonstrate your ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and critically reflect on the range of ideas presented by the frameworks chosen."

The instructions go on from there. So how does that sound? Though it was killing me at first, I am having so much fun writing this paper!! Obviously getting a decent grade is a hope of mine, but even more so, I really want to understand the two theories I'm comparing.

I chose to compare Granovetter's Strength of Weak Ties and Elfreda Chatman's Information Poverty. In a nutshell, SWT says that people are "tied" to each other by strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are people you know and trust (close friends, family). Weak ties are people you don't know as well, but have contact with and get information from (possibly co-workers, other acquaintances). Granovetter believes that people who have strong ties are similar to one another and generally have the same information sources. Acquaintances are less likely to be similar and more likely to have a wider variety of beliefs, thoughts, experiences, and perspectives. A community that has no links to "outsiders" is a very insular group and doesn't learn a lot information outside of their own experiences. Granovetter believes ideas and information travel through these weak ties. A lack of weak ties leads to a fragmented society. Very interesting.

Chatman's theory says that some groups of people, because of social norms, lack of ability, etc, choose not to seek information. You see this very often with poor people. It can also happen with people who don't have good technology skills or easy access to information. The idea of information poverty is very interesting.

While researching these theories I came across an excellent article by an 'information professional' in South Africa, Johannes Britz. His article, To know or not to know: a moral reflection on information poverty, was published in 2004 in the Journal of Information Science. Go find it and read it!

A few tidbits from the article:
“Information poverty is not restricted or limited to a technology/digital divide only. The information divide is not limited to the ‘technology insiders’ and ‘technology outsiders’ of cyberspace. It is a much more complex phenomenon including issues such as cultural and language diversity, levels of education and the ability/inability to access and benefit from information. Furthermore, the divide between the information rich and the information poor is not only a divide between societies and countries. It occurs also between individuals who might share the same cultural and physical space."
"It can be concluded that information poverty affects the quality of life of the vast majority of people on this earth. It has considerable social, political, cultural and economic implications, and therefore solutions must be found."
"In Egypt the minimum information standard for its citizens is affordable access to the Internet and a computer for every household. As an outcome of a National Information Project, which was initiated by the Egyption government, it was decided in 2000 that Internet services would be provided free to all Egyptian citizens. The only cost would be the telephone call. This was followed by a so-called 'computer for every home' project according to which the government subsidizes computers for poor households by means of easy instalments. Two other examples are the Netherlands and South Africa. In the Netherlands it was decided to provide the homeless with a permanent e-mail address. As early as 1994 the South African government drew up a policy that it should be possible for each South African to be within walking distance of a telephone."

And we whine when we get lousy cell-phone service while we're on our air-conditioned buses driving through town.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Bonus thought for the day, a quote I saw today:
"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." --James Nicoll
We spent time last week talking about the reference interview. What a fascinating subject! Here are a couple of the quotes I've pulled out of the reading:
"The famous dictum, 'Speech was given to man to conceal thought,' is often forcibly brought into mind by the ingenuity with which visitors of the reference-room succeed in hiding their desires behind their questions" (Woodruff, 1897).

The most salient features of the reference interview are "mind-reading and cross examination" (Wyer, 1930).

"You see they will choke to death and die with the secret in them rather than tell you what they want" (Wyer).
Surely this can't be so! When a person goes to a library, don't they want help? Don't they want information? Why are people so difficult?

The problem comes down to 'how one person tries to find out what another person wants to know, when the latter cannot describe his need precisely" (Taylor, 1968). I guess you can think about it like a word. You know when you are trying to think of a word? You practically end up playing charades with people, trying to describe the thought or idea behind this word, trying to define it, but you don't really know or can't remember. And it's hard to describe a vague thought or feeling, and sometimes the descriptions you come up with have nothing to do with what the word really is.

So that's point one: people want information about something they can't even begin to describe.

But there is more than that.

Often, people will have looked everywhere themselves before they come to the librarian. When they come to the librarian to ask for help, they are admitting they failed, they couldn't find the information, they aren't good enough. (A bit exaggerated it would seem, but some people feel this way.) A lot of people hate to ask for help!

People often don't realize that finding information is a librarian's job. So they feel like they can't ask because they'd be bothering the librarian, or asking a dumb question, or it's not worthwhile, etc. (Unfortunately there are some librarians who make you feel this way - they're bad!)

Some people are shy. They are embarrassed about whatever they need to know and they'd rather muddle through on their own than ask someone.

Sometimes people direct their question to the librarian based on what sources of information they think are available. Say a person really wants to find out where Lincoln was born. They figure the answer will be in a book (undoubtedly) so they'll just ask for a book on presidents, or maybe even a book on Lincoln. Then they'll have to skim through the book till they find the answer. There are MUCH BETTER ways to find information that librarians know all about.

So just get over it and tell the librarian what you really want!! Geesh! =)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I found an amazing article today, and an amazing quote. I was flipping through the November issue of American Libraries and came upon their international section. The title of the article was Have MLS, Will Travel. It was an interview of several people working in school libraries around the world: Vietnam, Bolivia, Saudia Arabia, Hong Kong, the Phillippines, etc.

It started off:
Here are four questions that could change your life: Do you like to travel and have a spirit of adventure? Are you interested in learning firsthand about other cultures? Do you enjoy being a librarian but want a change from your current position? Have you considered becoming a librarian in an international school?
Hmm, very interesting... In an interview with one woman, her reason for going abroad was:
“A friend reminded me that I had been interested in mission work years before and maybe this was the time to trust God and make the move,” she says. That “move” eventually guided her to library positions in Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Philippines.

The last paragraph of the article was so touching to me:
Van Brocklin shared this anecdote: “I always think of my first year of working in the Bolivian school and a parent who showed up in tears after the first week of school. They were convinced their kindergarten son had ‘stolen’ a book from the school because the idea of a lending library was just totally new to them. . . . It was that kind of experience that I knew I was in the right place.”
Wow, I can't imagine not knowing what a library is, or not having experience with a library that lends books! This is what it's all about for me. In classes it sometimes seems like it's all going to end. No more books, no more journals, everything online or in some weird form, and everything is crazy. Well it hasn't happened yet. And I think of poorer countries that just don't have the infrastructure for people to have internet in every home. For some people books are the only option; and many are too poor to even afford these.

This is from the Probigua website:
In Guatemala, where 50% of the population cannot read, educational opportunities are severely limited by a lack of access to books and other written material.
Most towns and villages do not have libraries; neither do the public schools, which also do not supply any textbooks. Parents, many of whom earn the minimum wage of only $18 per week, simply cannot afford to buy books for their children.
Instructional methods in the public schools are limited to listening to the teacher and copying what is written on the blackboard. Many children simply do not learn to read and drop out of school after a few years. Many of those who do achieve some literacy begin losing it as they grow older. Only 10% attend school past sixth grade. As adults, most of these children are limited to doing manual labor - when they can find it.
Probigua is a non-profit Spanish language school. They donate all their profits to building libraries in the country.
As of 2004 our project has started, and is maintaining, 23 libraries as well as the first mobile library of Guatemala. For use by the early education reading programs we have established 350 reading corners in school and libraries under the motivation: "Book by book Guatemala will change." Furthermore, we have opened 16 computer centers and installed additional computers in 14 libraries. Our goal is to improve the services in our existing libraries and to provide access to technology to many children and teachers in rural areas. Tuition fees for Academia de Español support the libraries and provide scholarships for youngsters to attend school beyond sixth grade.
This sounds like an excellent program to me and I'm hoping to visit there in March.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

One thing public libraries have to deal with is homeless people (wow, I don't like how that was phrased). I found this blog post talking about the library as shelter.

There was an interesting quote in the blog:
Fear in all its forms stands out. It seems to take the shape of a giant circle of mutuality: the shelter staff and other providers are afraid of the homeless and the homeless are afraid of the staff; the citizen on the street, the merchant the householder, and whole communities fear the homeless, and the homeless fear the non-homeless citizens. And to complete the circle, the homeless are afraid of the homeless. Thus, everyone is afraid of the homeless, including the homeless themselves, and what is so terrible and intractable about this situation is that everyone is right to be afraid.

Right to be afraid?!? Why!? Why is it right to be afraid of the homeless? In any interaction with a homeless person are you likely to be mugged? I don't know. I'm not sure what the fear is. Although, I've had it myself wandering through downtown Seattle on my own. What am I afraid of?

I then read an excellent post on a friend's blog. Actually, the part I enjoyed was in the comment. Here is the whole exchange.

But how does this translate to libraries? Sure there can be a Christian (or 'good person') response to homeless or poor people in the library. But can you expect that from librarians or other patrons in the library? I wish. The comment to the first blog entry is quite interesting.

I have no answers. I don't know if I'll be working in public libraries...but I'm interested in this 'problem' of a population that needs information as well and are feared so much in our society (and apparently other parts of the world as well).

Sunday, October 30, 2005

It's true, I daydream a lot. In class, on the bus, at work, whenever. I daydream often about different ideas for libraries. And of course now different ideas for projects for my portfolio! So here is one strand of daydream I had in class this last Thursday.

We've been talking about information behavior so I'm not sure exactly where this came from. I was thinking about large public libraries (and most other libraries I suppose) and their collection development policies. They do their best to figure out what the population wants, not just what they want today, but what people will want years down the road. Not an easy job. But you can narrow things down based on the type of library you're in.

So I was thinking about small community libraries. Like a library on an Indian reservation. Or a library in some other sort of under-served population area. It would be cool to get together a representative group of people from the community to pour over all the lists of books available and help select what titles the library should get. I would hope then that the community would be that much more aware of what is in the library and they would also be excited about the resources, because they helped pick them out.
Of course, what is the likelihood of getting people to care? But I like wishful thinking.

So, more wishful thinking... I was daydreaming about putting together some sort of library club where people get together once a month to share "what did you learn this month." People could share as much or little about some particular thing they learned about. There could be a list somewhere of ideas of things to learn about. Sure this wouldn't appeal to everyone, but there are definitely some who are always eager to learn more things. I think it's important to share these things with others (helps give you more of a purpose) and you learn more that way from what other people are sharing.

All right, more on this later...perhaps.
More thoughts on the future of the book. We've been discussing the future of just about everything and I'm still thinking about the book. I don't know if transfering print books to online formats is the best idea, but some people seem to like it. My thought is that it's a whole different creature so why work so hard to make it look like a real book! Why do they have page numbers and margins and paragraphs? For that matter, why do they put one page of text per screen so you have to keep clicking to the next page? That's a bit annoying. This is all structural change though, as I said before. It's not content change. Perhaps this structure change is so huge that content change will be necessary.

I think of my sister and others who play computer games. No simple Tetris, mind you. These seem to be pretty involved and well thought out worlds with players who are joining you from around the world. They're creating a story as they play the game. It's a living, evolving story. Is this the future of books? A story that's interactive and visual and created by more than one person? How can you share a story like this with others? How can you pass it down through the generations?

Perhaps this will just be one recognized genre. It still seems unlikely that a paper-based book you hold in your hands will ever go away.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wow! Where does the time go!? This has been a busy week. One of my classes has a lot of reading. A LOT! I think there were something like 12 articles/chapters to read, discussion questions, another 16 or so "supplemental" readings, looking things up online, etc, etc. Most of us thought it was for one day, but then it turned out to be for two days worth of class discussion.

And absolutely fascinating discussion, let me tell you! Last week we talked about parts of the book and this week we talked about the history of the book, back to the beginning of time it seems. It was really amazing, I thought. We started with Sumerians making clay balls thousands of years ago to record business transactions. Then they started stamping them with pictures. Then you get pictographys, hieroglyphs, and hieratics from the Egyptians. People were 'writing' things in stone or in wax tablets, but then someone got the bright idea to write things in sheets of papyrus and scrolls were born. It was done that way for a long time and then some time in the second century the book as we know it today was invented.

There were a number of factors in this. First, searching through a scroll for some piece of text you wanted was not easy. Second, Alexandria was the sole producer of papyrus and they decided to put an embargo on it because they were scared Rome was trying to take over the world and their scroll business (which they were). So Rome starts using parchment (which doesn't roll well) and papyrus basically dies after that. Somebody got the idea to cut scrolls up into sheets, sew them together, and bind them between two codicies (those wood and wax slabs people used to write on). Thus the book was born, and it has stayed in basically the same format for almost 2000 years.

Everything that has happened to books since then has had to do with the structure of the book and with making it easier to use. Paragraphs and punctuation and capitals didn't really come into use until the 1400s. Indentations in paragraphs showed up in the 1700s. Copyright started in 1709 and the first dust jacket appeared in 1833. Margins were a medieval invention and the table of contents showed up in the 1400s as well.

Of course up till the mid-1400s all books are made by hand by monks sitting in cold, dark, cramped shacks. Then in 1453 Guttenburg pulls together moveable, reusable type, ink, and a press and the world changes! We can now mass produce books!

The most interesting part of the conversation (which I think I mentioned before) is that all the changes that have happened over 2000 years have been to the structure of the book and not the content. The way we write stories has not changed. Books have always contained words, sentences, paragraphs. Now they also have pictures, graphs, etc.

But with the advent of electronic books, we may see the content of books change. Already ebooks have links to dictionaries, thesaurus, and other resources. Let's say we also throw in animation, sound, video, instant messaging, chat, blog, wiki, podcast, and commentary. The nature of books is totally different. Who is the author? What's authority now and who decides? Editions are pretty much out the door. And can you really call something like this a book?

I don't know but it is absolutenly fascinating.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Side note: This isn't really about grad school, but it was such a great experience!

Last Saturday night I went to the Seattle Symphony. They played three things: Dvorak's Slavonic Dances; Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, "Emperor."

The guy who set up this trip to the symphony gets student prices or something so we got some cheap tickets. As we were arriving he said that our seats were in the front, so we'd be able to see well. Really well.

I couldn't believe how close we were! We walked down the aisle to the very front row where the seats were about one foot from the stage!

I sat down right in front of the conductor's podium. The stage was over my head so I had to look way up the whole time to see the orchestra. The music was beautiful and I enjoyed sitting so close so I could see all the detail.

But as I sat there, I looked at the conductor's pants. They were wrinkled! I mean, not just from sitting. I started wondering if he'd just picked them up off the floor from the day before - or perhaps he just hadn't ironed them from the day before. I was quite amazed that they were wrinkled.
And then I kept hearing this loud breathing. It was the first violinist, off to my left. He breathed so loud I could hear him each time he breathed in - even while the music was going on.
Every time the conductor really got into it and was bouncing on the podium to get some energy into his baton-waving, the podium would make this thunking noise, like it wasn't quite flat on the floor.
One woman a few seats in kept slipping out of her shoes.
When pieces would end and the audience clapped, a couple of the people looked really grumpy, which surprised me. I would hope playing in an orchestra wouldn't be a boring, ho-hum "job," but I guess a person could feel that way.
Part way through one of the crazier pieces, one of the violinists bows broke a bit. There was a big hunk of it (horse hair?) flying about since it was still attached at the top and bottom of the bow. He kept playing away, which would have driven me crazy. He finally got a few seconds rest and he grabbed hold of the offending broken bits and ripped them out of his bow, then jumped right back into the music.

Anyway, it was quite amazing to be that close. True, the violins were a bit overwhelming and it was hard to hear much else. But I really enjoyed the Dvorak and Beethoven pieces. For the record, Bartok is not one of my favorite composers.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

What is a book? (I think we're eventually going to question everything there is in a library, or anything related to information - whatever that is!) So in class yesterday we came up with a huge list of all the parts and components of a book.

Just some are: cover, pages, index, margins, page numbers, illustrations, captions, blurbs, notes, parts, chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words, characters, punctuation, spaces, white space, spine glue, footnotes, endnotes, price, colophon, fonts, signature, pulisher, indentation, block quotes, title, foreward, preface, dedication, table of contents, title page, verso, epilogue, and on and on and on!

We came up with a list of almost 70 items that make up a book. Then we separated them all into categories: things that are part of the structure of the book, things that are the content, and things that are metadata. When we were done, the amazing thing is the majority of that stuff was structure! Content had the smallest share. Obviously when you look at a book it's all content - or all you really see is content.

How many of us are aware of spaces and indents and page numbers and capitalization in a book? What all this means is that structure in a book is really important. We need all that structure to help us use the book, to help us navigate and find things. It is difficult to use a book without these structural pieces. Can you imagine readingsomethingwithoutanyspacesorpunctuationorcapitalization? Or reading a book without page numbers or chapters?

Now, as we looked at all these parts, we realized that only about three or four things had been created in the past few years (barcodes, ISBN, etc). Everything else has been around for a long time. And those things that are new have to do with metadata and structure - not content. Content has not been evolving, structure has!

One way it has been evolving of course is into ebooks. I just looked at my first ebook yesterday. It is an interesting idea, but it doesn't seem to have caught on quite yet. (Although many large universities have subscriptions with ebook vendors.) What I'm wondering is, why are ebooks trying to look so much like physical books? True they don't seem to have page numbers - but I think the book I looked at had the title page, running headers, white space, indents, most of the same stuff. They even had that blank page you have on the opposite side of the title page. You know why it's blank in a book, but online? They had to have a phrase on the page "this page left intentionally blank." Why have the page at all!?
People are in love with the idea of the book and many are struggling with the idea of an electronic book. Ebook people are trying to make ebooks look just like 'real' books, or as close as possible.

My feelings? You can't compare them. All the structure you have with a physical book is needed to help you read it. A website or online book is a different creature. It's just never going to look or act like a "real" book. Ebook publishers need to create their own structure for what a book looks like and how you read it online. I don't have any ideas on this... yet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I don't think anyone is reading this, so I'm feeling safer about posting. Then again, people could be reading this - so this could be a bit embarrassing. True confession time. I'm really struggling with the reading. First of all I haven't been in school for several years. But even then, I don't think I had much experience with analytical/critical reading. I'm pretty good at just reading articles. I can usually understand what I'm reading and could repeat some concepts.

But these classes expect way more than that. The professors want us to really understand the concepts. To think about whether the author's viewpoint is right or wrong. To know the background of the time when the article was written. To think about things the author didn't think about. To ask questions about the article and answer them. And on and on.

My brain is maxed out just trying to stay focused on all the readings and get them done for the next class! Let alone analyze them all and figure out how they apply to me and information science and the main themes of the class. Plenty of other people don't seem to be struggling at all. I'm sure plenty are struggling to get into this - I just haven't found them.

Well, I've got some reading to do now...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

2 credits down, 61 to go! LIS 500 ended today with evaluations and a brief overview of upcoming attractions. These had to be four of the longest days of my life!

I was amazed to hear a fellow student today share that she had also thought libraries would be a stable place to work and was a bit surprised to find out that was not the case. I'm glad I wasn't the only one to think that.

Hey, I met more people interested in international libraries today. I sat next to Amy who has done a bit of work with Russian libraries. At the ALISS Mixer (to celebrate the end of LIS 500) I met Emily who is also interested in international work and is part of SIG-III.
So I was talking to Emily and she mentioned she'd done some work in Guatemala this summer with some libraries there. Wow! I've been really, really thinking about going to Guatemala in March for a Quaker conference. I've been thinking about it for months, but when school started the idea cooled off a bit. I should be a serious student and not think about traveling, and besides, it's going to cost a fair amount.
Anyway, as I talked to Emily she said I should go and if I wanted any contacts, she could try to set me up. Hmm, I'm starting to think I could do this after all and perhaps work in a library down there for a week. See what it's like, if I really do like it after all.
Also, when I told Emily about the Quaker conference, she mentioned that she'd gone to her first Quaker church in Philadelphia recently. She said she'd always been interested in the Quakers and wanted to try a meeting. Cool.

I'm seeing another aspect of this interest develop, and that's with native Americans or other populations that are different cultures within the US. What sort of library/information services are they getting? Is it useful? What do they need?

One of our guest speakers this morning works with Native Americans and is developing a new thesaurus of terms that is more culturally sensitive and understanding. She talked about how different cultures have different worldviews, different ways of knowing. I realize this, to some extent, but haven't done a lot of study into different worldviews.

Cheryl shared a somewhat generalized, but probably quite accurate, list of cultural differences.

traditional white european values---------Navajo values
mastery of nature ------------------------------ harmony with nature
scheduled living ---------------------------------non-scheduled
future-oriented -------------------------------- present-oriented
very competitive ------------------------------- non-competitive / deference
acceptance on basis of role/status------------- acceptance based on integrity
punishment related to guilt----------------------punishment related to shame
individuality/fame ------------------------------aninymity and humility
save for the future ----------------------------- share resources now

I thought this was very interesting.

Well, I really need to go. I have reading for tomorrow. A new class! Information Resources, Services and Collections. Then on Thursday I have Information Behavior. Sounds exciting, I know. =)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Is the internet a library? That's the question that's been rolling around in a class forum for the last few days. Most people say no, it's not a library, based on the criteria of a certain author we've all read. What makes a library, or a collection, even?

It is finite for one. The internet is infinite, changing every second. When I click "Publish Post" in a few minutes, there will be yet another piece of information out there in cyberspace. The internet has no bounds, no walls, no stopping.

A library, or collection, is gathered by a person (or more than one person) for a certain audience or community. There is no defined community for the internet as a whole - other than everyone who has access. And, in general, there is not one person or group or entity gathering or collecting information. Anyone with access can add information to this thing.

And there is no one checking this information to say what is valuable and correct and helpful. There is a lot of crap out there, a lot of incorrect information, a lot of things that are totally un-helpful. There are a lot of out-of-date things that no one is getting rid of. But it's all out there and no one can really say no.

So if I do a search in Google on some subject and pull up a list of 10,000 results, is that a collection, a library? That's a bit iffy. I mean it is a bit more finite and it does have an audience (me), but it's still a bit random.

One thing fellow class-mates brought up is whether a blog can be considered a library. I'm pretty close to saying yes on this. Blogs contain various types of information: images, videos, sounds, text, links to other resources. These are all selected by the "collection developer," or blog author. A community often forms around blogs, even if its just friends and family. They come because of what they can find there - meaning there is definitely a purpose behind the collection.

Part of the reality we live with is that there are many people saying "I can find everything I need through Google, so why do I need the library?" This is a very valid question. Yes, this causes some of us to roll our eyes because of the quality of information (or lack thereof) from Google, and because libraries are about so much more! But as we also found out, people don't care! Librarians, information professionals, have a lot of work to do on this...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Okay, I'm collecting all these links and I have to share them!!

Librarians Against Bush - hee hee, just thought it was funny there was an actual group and website! Hmm, this is actually an interesting issue I've learned I'll have to talk about another time.

Here was an interesting blog posting about the usefulness of libraries. In the third paragraph the writer says, "Dare I say it? We don't need the library." She brings up an intersting point, and this is being discussed a lot amongst librarians and other people.

Here's a great article about librarian's challenging stereotypes. NO - not all librarians are older white women of indeterminate age, wearing sensible shoes and a bun and glasses and shushing people! This joke comes up quite a bit in our classes so far, the 'stereotypical' librarian. There aren't really any people in my class of 72 that look the part.

Here is the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, or IFLA. IFLA is "the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users." I'll definitely be checking them out.
IFLA and ALA have started a public education campaign called The Campaign for the World's Libraries.

And here is the International Library Informationa and Analytical Center, or ILIAC. Looks possibly interesting...

Here's something I really want to look into, the international library initiatives sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Now, I can't give you links to this one, but there is a chapter of ASIS&T on campus, or, The American Society for Information Science and Technology. One of their special information groups is called International Information Issues, so of course their acronym is SIG-III. They have a meeting next week so I'll report back!

Well, that's it for now!
Day three of school. I feel like there is so much bursting in my brain, I either start talking/typing and never stop, or I step outside myself and just observe (which means I'm quiet and stare off into space a lot).

Today I realized I was misinformed... or naive... or just not experienced enough to know. The library world, the "information world" is changing at an amazing pace. I think part of that is because it's so closely related to technology, which changes so quickly.

I learned in undergrad, as a computer science major, that technology changes a lot. We used to joke about the fact that when you buy a computer it's already outdated when you take it out of the box. Of course it's not a joke - it's true.

For some reason, I thought the library world would be more stable than this. I'd learn the bits of library info I needed to know, cataloging, the ins and outs of the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress, etc. Yeah, we will learn those things, but it's much more than that. Libraries are changing - or should be changing or they won't be around much more. They're changing and growing and adapting.

Not that this is a bad thing. I just have to readjust some expectations I had....

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I have questions. Questions that need answers...

Day 2 of library school. Several of us are feeling a certain information overload - that feeling that your brain is going to explode. One of the professors suggested that we use duct tape to keep our heads together, because masking tape just won't do the job.

What is information? What is a document? What is a collection? Who are the users? What is a library? What about boundaries? Is Yahoo's new digitization project going to create a library? Is a digital library really a library?

And who freakin' cares??!?

No one, that's who. Well, only us library-types. Yep, that's one thing I learned today. See, 'information professionals' love this stuff. We love the process involved in how to find a book or article or some random piece of information. We love the search. But 99% of people - they could care less how you find something, they just want it and they want it now. This explains everything! Like that story of the book I found for someone in the library... I love to tell all the places I looked and how I found it, etc. When I tell people this story, their eyes glaze over. Who cares!! Boring! But it's still fun for me.

So did I mention on the orientation day I found a woman who is also interested in international work? I chatted with her today and she had some more information to give me.

First, one of the chapters of a campus group is focused on International library work. I'm going to check them out.
My friend said that basically I wouldn't get the international library work flavor I'm looking for here at this school. There is a track for that at UCLA, if I want to transfer. I will really have to design my own program to look the way I want to get the most out of it.

Hmm, I thought. Is this what I want to do? I don't want to transfer to UCLA! Maybe this is too hard. It's going to take too much work. And will I even come out knowing what I ned to know? Yep, I'm afraid I really did think this. I'm kind of a wimp.

But then I was thinking of alternatives. I guess I could be a reference librarian. That's the thing that's interested me the most. Could I be a reference librarian for the rest of my life? Work in a public or university setting... I know the atmosphere would be fine, I'd probably enjoy the people. But then I knew I just wouldn't be happy. I wouldn't be fulfilled that way. I would be missing out.

So onward I go, still trying to define what it is I want to do and how I want to serve in the world...

Monday, October 03, 2005

One day I'll get my degree and rule the world! Er, uh, the library. Well, I won't rule it, per se.

I'm talking about being a library director, the head of the library. This is something several family members can see in my future, but I'm not leaning that way.

Where in the library world will I work?

This has increasingly been my focus. I've already ruled out school librarian - I'd have to get a teaching certificate too, be a "teacher-librarian." Children's librarian? Not for me. Reference librarian? I've thought about it. There are various positions in a library I could go for, but the last several years have shown me that I don't want to be 'trapped' in a library position like that. Not that circulation or ILL or technical services or whatever is bad. Let me explain....

Part one: For the last several years while I've been waiting to get into school I've been working for a little Christian ministry called Mustard Seed Associates. They work to network the church around many different ideas: whole life faith, stewardship, community, cohousing, etc, etc. Check out the website. I've also been really involved in my church, North Seattle Friends Church. For several years we had an "alternative" Sunday night worship service. I was part of the planning for that and we did a lot of interesting, creative things. I've also been helping plan a big international gathering of Quaker young adults, the World Gathering of Young Friends. All of this "church work" has been exciting and compelling. So part one is that I want to continue in church ministry somehow. I should point out that for some time I believed that it would be the library world or the church world, and never the 'twain shall meet...

Part two: I really like libraries! One thing I really like is the potential for communities. Libraries can be a "third place" and they aren't necessarily your stereotypical hushed, darkened buildings. They can be lively and noisy as well! I love the idea of the library being a meeting place, a social place, a place to connect, a community center. Seattle Public Library is currently constructing a new branch in Northgate, complete with community center and park. Yes!

So how do these two come together? Along with all my other interests/skills, of course...

Last February I took a very brief trip to England for the WGYF. After landing at the airport we all climbed off the plane and had to take a shuttle over to the terminal. Standing there on the shuttle, swaying back and forth and holding onto our luggage, I began to speak with the woman next to me. she explained that she had only completed half of her journey. She was headed to southern Africa to work in a theological university... to teach computer... and to be the librarian!

I just about fell over. This was my job! This is what I wanted to do! I didn't know it until I heard it, but there it was.

A few months later I was part of a meeting for clearness for a friend who was trying to decide an issue. I didn't know the issue until a little beforehand. She was trying to decide if she should go to an orphanage in Mexico to teach and set up a library!

A little while later I was checking out a cool organization I found once, called Room to Read. RTR sets up libraries and schools in less developed areas, mostly in Southeast Asia. I checked out their site and they were advertising that they needed a librarian to join their staff and help develop collections and give advice to people on the ground in these countries. My dream job!

Well, maybe not quite, but you get the picture.

I don't know if this will lead me to other countries eventually, or even just to less priveleged places here in the US. I hope at some point to work with Christian colleges/universities/schools/organizations in setting up useful libraries. Libraries that are accessible and welcoming; real community centers. Undoubtedly this won't make me the millions of dollars some are thinking I could make - but for me it's not about the money. It's about service. It's helping people find information. To some extent, it is teaching people. It's empowering people. It's meeting the needs of a community.

Perhaps I'm a bit naive. But hey, maybe grad school will beat it out of me. =)
I'm a librarian! Not just a statement, but a song as well:

While you're listening, check out these stories on "You Don't Look Like a Librarian!"

Saturday, October 01, 2005

So why libraries?

I took part in summer reading programs and library programs since I was little. In sixth grade I was too old to be in those programs but my mom found out the children's librarian had a program for older kids. We would meet after school at the library and do a number of projects. Sometimes we'd clean books, or pull book collections, or write puppet shows for the children's program. Kathy also taught us about the reference section and what information we could find there. After an hour or so, we all went up to the staff room and had snacks while Kathy read a book from the young adult section.

When I got to be a freshman or so in high school I realized I was a bit too old for this now - now that there were fifth and sixth graders in the group. But I didn't want to leave the library. I asked if I could be a volunteer for the library. So for the next few years I worked for Kathy. Kathy ordered all the books for the children's collection. She circled the ones she wanted in the catalogs and I filled out all the forms by hand. I did a lot of filing and copying and put together welcome packs about the library for new moms. Once they even let me go into the library database and delete records of patrons who hadn't used the library in a long time. That was one of my first experiences with a computer.

I was a teacher assistant for the high school librarian when I was a junior and senior. There I checked in all the new magazines and helped process new books. While I worked there we converted from a card catalog system to barcode system. I cleaned almost every book in the library, stuck on barcodes, and read them into the new system. This of course generated some rumors about me in the library with alcohol. =)

I was accepted to George Fox University and I had been told that a library job was hard to come by, but one of the best. (Who knows if that's true - but I really didn't want to be scrubbing toilets or raking leaves!) I got a library job working in the Interlibrary Loan department. I spent the next four years learning the ins and outs of ILL. It was a lot of standing at a copy machine making copies of articles. That is one thing I certainly don't miss! One thing I do remember was some of the weird requests we'd get. A form would come in and some library somewhere was looking for some obscure article. They weren't sure of the author, title, date, and/or volume, etc. I lived for these! I would sometimes hide them so no one else could get to them before me. I didn't know as much then about searching databases for information so often it was flipping through indexes to find the article. Ah, the thrill of the hunt.

I also got to encourage friends to use the library. Some of them had weird ideas about the library, or were scared to use them. I was always trying to 'demystify' the library for them and take them on tours. I didn't see any reason to be afraid of the library or the staff (okay, so there were one or two people to be afraid of... =)

One summer break I volunteered at the Salem Public Library. I worked in technical services I believe. I ordered books again, but this time it was on the computer! So much easier! I checked all the books when they came in against what I'd ordered and sent them on their way to be processed. And again, lots of filing. That's all I remember from that job.

When I came up to Seattle several years ago I got a job in a local business library, what they call a 'special library' in the library world. There is just my boss and I. She does the research and I do everything else. I pay bills, order books, process books, check items in and out, do interlibrary loan, send overdues, check in and route journals, shelve items, send TOCs and maintain the look of the library. I've also been handed responsibility for our organization's facilities directory, fax directory, and committees pages, as well as keeping our own library intranet site up to date. My boss calls me the glue that holds the library together, and I guess that's true. =)

Some days are hard and I wonder what I'm doing. But more often I love my work, it's ever changing and sometimes challenging. One story I remember in particular.

A woman from another department contacted me and said they were looking for a certain book they needed right away. It was one of those medical resources that puts out a new edition every year. Many libraries don't update these often, or they buy the new one and toss out the old one. I got to work with my contacts and found there was a library here in Seattle that had the right edition. I called them up and they were willing to lend the book. I took a bus over and picked up the book. The woman was amazed! She had called everywhere, including the publisher, tried everything she could think of to no avail. I had the book in hand within a few hours. Not to toot my own horn, but it was a good feeling to track that down for her. She requests a lot of stuff now and I have to say I don't always find what she needs, and not always so quickly. That was definitely a rare situation. But she has been very grateful. After that incident I got a box of chocolates! Each year she sends me a nice basket of flowers.

Hey, if you use the library often - show some appreciation to your librarian!!! I do what I do no matter what, but that appreciation sure is a bonus.

So there you have it. I've worked in a small county library, high school library, university library, state public library, and business library.

Why do I continue? I enjoy helping people find information. I also really like the atmosphere and the people I've worked with over the years. Librarians are some of the most fascinating people. I see a lot of potential with libraries as community places.

What sort of library am I interested in? That will have to wait for next time...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Well I suppose I'd better explain the title.

Short story: .... no, I really like long stories better.

Long story: I've just begun the new school year. I'm in a master's program to get my master's in Library and Information Science. This is something I've been working toward for years. Perhaps I'll share that background another time.
The first day of class was yesterday - an eight-hour class, if you can believe that. Actually, with a few breaks thrown in, it was more like 5 1/2 hours. I thought it would be unbelievably intense and overwhelming but the professors kept it moving along and it felt, at times, fun and relaxing.

Anyway, back to the story. We had a couple readings for class, "Information as Thing," and "What are Documents?" Both articles tried to define information and documents. A simple thing you would think, but not so. One part really stood out to me:

A French documentalist defined "document" as "any concrete or symbolic indication, preserved or recorded, for reconstructing or for proving a phenomenon, whether physical or mental." ("Tout indice concret ou symbolique, conserve ou enregistre, aux fins de representer ou de prouver un phenomene ou physique ou intellectual" (Briet, 1951, p.7)). On this view objects are not ordinarily documents but become so if they are processed for informational purposes. A wild antelope woulod not be a document, but a captured specimen of a newly discovered species that was being studied, described, and exhibited in a zoo would not only have become a document, but "the catalogued antelope is a primary document and other documents are secondary and derived. ("L'antilope cataloguee est un document initial et les autres documents sont seconds ou derives." (Briet, 1951, p.8)).
An antelope a document!? You have to be kidding me! This is about as crazy as it gets. Are these people sitting around in their offices too much, not getting out into the real world? Who knows. But it was definitely eye-catching.

During class we were split up into groups and asked to draw on a large piece of paper a representation of The Lifecycle of Information. This, by the way, is the title of our class. Thank goodness, my group started talking about the antelope right away. But we also got bogged down a bit, as did other groups, in 'just what is information?"

I'll describe what we drew, but hopefully I'll be able to put a picture in here eventually so it will make more sense.

To represent the process we drew three intersecting circles. "Things" moved around on these lines, infinitely. For instance, an antelope. So we drew an antelope in the middle of our circles. Around the outside we drew these weird squiggly blobs that represented brains with eyes. These represented perceivers/receivers. At each intersecting line we drew a large dot. These were information points. We were trying to show that 'things' traveled along and at certain points they became information.
Something can be informational for a time and then not be. Perhaps I can say the mug sitting on my desk is information. It says the words "Saint Alban's Episcopal Church," so I know where it came from. But if breaks tomorrow and I throw it in the trash, it isn't information anymore. But if someone excavates a dumb 100 years from now and pieces together the mug, it will be information to them.

I think. I've only had one class so far and it was a bit overwhelming. Perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about.

Anway, as the professor was going around getting groups to explain their posters, she came to ours and said, 'And here we have an atomic antelope." And then I had a name for my new blog!

This blog will probably just be musings for the next two years on this whole grad school thing. I'm sure you'll all be bored to tears to read it, but if it helps me process a bit - then it's worth it.

Until next time...