deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Here is what I am currently doing for my job: an accessibility review of one of my favorite reference books, so my employers can know what needs to happen to make it more accessible.

I am making one of the best reference books more accessible. And in order to do that, I am having to spend a lot of time going to lots of pages on the reference book's website.

I don't know what I did to deserve this, but I want to find out so I can do it again and again.

#Yes, I have favorite reference works. That's how we librarians roll.
#Once a librarian, always a librarian.
#I've been spending enough time reading tumblr that completing a post with a series of rambling postscripts just seems normal now.
#But I actually use my tags for classification and discovery.
#Cf. above re: "librarian"
#So apparently I am fake hashtagging because I am a hipster.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Fred Clark is a journalist who for years worked in newspapers. With his post "Screenwriters: No, back issues of The Small Town Gazette from the 1930s are not archived online", he addresses TV writers who are convinced that their amazing hacker can find everything online. (I believe that Alec Hardison can do anything with computers, but even Hardison and Chaos working together can't find information on computers if it's still lying un-digitized in a banker's box in the archives.)

I admit I am making allowances for Fred when he talks about "the musty, subterranean archives of the old library, lit only by the dim glow of the microfilm machine and a flickering fluorescent bulb down the hallway," but he is talking about photogenic TV-ready information gathering, so I suppose I will let it pass.

The larger point is what matters. Most information has not been digitized. Many newspapers haven't been indexed, so it's not just that you can't find the newspaper, you can't find any reference to the fact that such a newspaper exists somewhere and has an article about the person in question. You should push your local newspapers to manage their digital platforms and keep track of their old issues!

And while you should remember that the open web is great for Good Enough information gathering -- and don't get me wrong, I'm as much of a fan of web search and Wikipedia as the next person with a pulse -- if you are looking for something and you can't find it on the Internet, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Not only your local public librarian, but quite possibly your local university librarian, local university archivist, or local historical society archivist, will happily help you look for the information. Heck, if you think the information is somewhere that's not local at all, send an e-mail. Reference, in most archives and libraries, is free and open to the public.

... Good. Now I can close that tab which has been open since December.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
In "Descartes Letter Found, Therefore It Is", I learned that a long-lost stolen letter of Descartes' has turned up in my alma mater's archives:

If old-fashioned larceny was responsible for the document’s loss, advanced digital technology can be credited for its rediscovery. Erik-Jan Bos, a philosophy scholar at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who is helping to edit a new edition of Descartes’s correspondence, said that during a late-night session browsing the Internet he noticed a reference to Descartes in a description of the manuscript collection at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He contacted John Anderies, the head of special collections at Haverford, who sent him a scan of the letter.
...
Scholars have known of the letter’s existence for more than 300 years, but not its contents. Apparently the only person who had really studied it was a Haverford undergraduate who spent a semester writing a paper about the letter in 1979. (Mr. Bos called the paper “a truly fine piece of work.”)


Guys, this is awesome. This is why I do what I do! Putting collection guides online is a royal pain (ASK ME HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE EAD STANDARD), but this is the kind of story that makes it all worthwhile. Archival collections are full of hidden treasures the archivists themselves don't know about. It takes a dedicated scholar to find these lost and hidden (and rarely digitized) gems, and digital collection guides, followed up by e-reference, followed up by spot digitization, solved the puzzle.

Viva la Ford!

On a more somber note, from "Why diversity matters (the meritocracy business)":

Now, whenever I screen resumes, I ask the recruiter to black out any demographic information from the resume itself: name, age, gender, country of origin. The first time I did this experiment, I felt a strange feeling of vertigo while reading the resume. “Who is this guy?” I had a hard time forming a visual image, which made it harder to try and compare each candidate to the successful people I’d worked with in the past. It was an uncomfortable feeling, which instantly revealed just how much I’d been relying on surface qualities when screening resumes before – even when I thought I was being 100% meritocratic. And, much to my surprise (and embarrassment), the kinds of people I started phone-screening changed immediately.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Over at the DCA blog (RSS/[syndicated profile] tufts_dca_feed on DW/[livejournal.com profile] tufts_dca on LJ), I've posted asking people for their favorite reference books. Come and tell us!

I was a little bit disingenuous over there when I said that the OED was my second favorite reference book. Really, the OED is my favorite reference book, because it is best for party tricks. I do love my Debrett's Peerage, and probably the only reason that DARE doesn't come first is that it is not complete. But where else but the OED can you easily find the connection between "cool" and "aftermath"?
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've been seeing occasional resumes from librarians who've paid more attention to whuffie than to skills. Conference presentations, published papers, and frequent contribution to mailing lists and bulletin boards -- but an inability to answer direct questions in an interview. Candidates who are excited by the potential offered by new technologies and Library 2.0, but who can't talk about the practicalities of library work, even after several years work in a library. The whuffie might get a foot in the door, but it doesn't get anything after that. If it's clear there's no substance to a candidate, we don't continue with that individual.

I find this fairly reassuring, as I've been thinking lately about my own career and what I'd like to do with it. I've been given the opportunity to have a shift at the university's reference and information desk -- a fairly low-profile opportunity, as such shifts generally are. And I love it. Today I helped two students find the resources for semester-long projects, while showing them how to recognize from a citation whether something was a journal or monograph, how to read our catalog system to see whether or not we have the resources electronically or in print, how to find government documents... It was fantastic.

I know many people who are loaded up on social capital are *also* people of substance. But it's good to remind myself that the relationship between social capital and substance isn't 1:1, and that it's fairly easy to see when there is nothing behind a good dose of social capital.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
There's this interesting argument about roses going on at the GardenWeb forum. The original poster, via Google, was given in inaccurate name for a rose variety she liked, and when she ordered the rose, she received a different rose with the name she found commonly on Google. When the other posters pointed out that the vendor was not responsible for her not correctly researching the name, she continually used the presence of the inaccurate name on Google as an argument for the vendor giving her the benefit of the doubt: "It's just funny to me that the vast majority of people 100% list the Coral Carpet Rose that I wanted on the Google search That doesn't persuade some of you know it alls that maybe I had a right to expect that rose to come?"

Various posters disagree with her, many of them pointing her to a rose specific reference. But the poster I found most fascinating told her "Google is too vast and non specific to catalog all roses with the same name by their hybridizer or year of introduction."

Google as cataloger. I don't know why that surprises me, to see that phrasing, because at some level plenty of people think of Google as a catalog of information. But once the verb "to catalog" is invoked, somehow the difference between cataloging and fulltext indexing is made far more apparent to me. Helpmefind, the flower specific reference other posters are mentioning, actually does have a catalog. But Google?

Now I'm thoughtful.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've got some thoughts I've been pondering about some problems which are probably specific to academic reference librarianship, although I may be incorrect about that. I've been formulating these ideas for a while (with much help from [livejournal.com profile] cnoocy and [livejournal.com profile] tahnan), and I'm just going to brainstorm some ideas onto the page. Because there's a lot here, and going to break this up into multiple posts. I'm partly during this just organize my thoughts, but I would love to hear input and feedback from y'all. Am I oversimplifying, missing things, over complicating? Are these solved problems?

The question is one of relevance. What purpose does a reference librarian serve in an era of:

1. Openly available materials (reference materials on the open Web)
2. Ease of self-service
3. A perception of an absolute necessity for instantaneous gratification

Continued at openly available materials.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
"Norfolk Prison Colony's library was one of its outstanding features. A millionaire named Parkhurst had willed his library there; he had probably been interested in the rehabilitation program. History and religions were his special interests. Thousands of his books were on the shelves, and in the back were boxes and crates full, for which there wasn't space on the shelves. At Norfolk, we could actually go into the library, with permission -- walk up and down the shelves, pick books. There were hundreds of old volumes, some of them probably quite rare. I read aimlessly, until I learned to read selectively, with a purpose." -- The Autobiography of Malcolm X, chapter 10, "Satan"

"As you can imagine, especially in a prison where there was a heavy emphasis on rehabilitation, an inmate was smiled upon if he demonstrated an unusually intense interest in books.... No university would ask any student to devour literature as I did when this new world opened to me, of being able to read and understand." -- The Autobiography of Malcolm X, chapter 11, "Saved "

I could say wonderful things about Malcolm X, and they would be true. I could say terrible things about Malcolm X, and they would be true, too. Malcolm X could probably say some pretty terrible things about me (I'm white, Jewish, and female, to begin with). But it would be difficult to deny that he had powerful and positive effects on the course of American history.

It was a heady feeling this afternoon to stand in the unexpectedly lovely prison library where Malcolm X began the process of educating himself from thug to political leader. At their best, this is the promise of prison libraries. I don't agree with everything he taught and advocated (see above, Re: white, Jewish, female). But at the Norfolk prison library, a man who preyed on others and was the victim of a system he didn't understand learned to think of others and manipulate the system for empowerment. Because of what he learned in the library and classrooms of Norfolk (and because of what he did with Elijah Muhammad's faith), Malcolm X not only replaced a life of crime with a life of political action, but encouraged thousands of others to do the same.

This isn't a post about Malcolm X. This is a post about prison libraries.

MCI Norfolk )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
When I started this blog, I thought I would be doing a lot more explorations of the advances and changes so prevalent in library technology. The fact is, though, that right now I'm somewhat focused on being hired as a professional librarian in the job I currently have, which means that my library-like concerns are focused on the needs of this job. That's not a bad thing; this position calls for a broad set of skills, including management, collection development, reference, managing online resources and designing print and digital pathfinders, and the public services and facilities management aspects of a small library. It's also not all a bad thing that I'm being forced by circumstance to hone traditional librarianship skills instead of following my inclination and leaping off to spend time with the digital shiny before I have a handle on the basics. While I'm no expert, after combining my experience at this job with the cataloguing I've done elsewhere, I believe I've at least touched lightly on all aspects of traditional librarianship except budgeting and construction, and I did both of those extensively in my technology life. Which isn't to say that I believe that after a year of paraprofessional student library jobs I'm a library expert. I'm just glad that I'm getting some breadth and depth in traditional library experience. Heck, I have to keep reminding myself that I don't want to spend all day in front of the computer, anyway. If I didn't want to be in a traditional library, I never would have left IT. Just because I want to spend some time focusing on the digital doesn't mean it will serve me well to shortchange the traditional.

reference collection development isn't as simple as they taught us in class, if Balay can't help me )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Interesting little side-effect of becoming a librarian: I go off on Internet rants far less often (less often?, you ask, if you know me. Well, yes. You should see how I used to be). Partly this is because I'm busier with new and fascinating things to learn -- I hadn't realised how bored I'd become with tech until I was in a field that inspired me again. But primarily it's because I know feel the need not to spout random bs, at least in print, unless I support it with cited facts. A desire not to let the side down, as it were.
lengthy ramblings )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
As I approach the end of library school, I am overwhelmed with the projects I don't have time to even investigate.

  • Boatloads of open-source cataloguing projects
  • Metadata initiatives out the wazoo
  • Open Access initiatives

All important, exciting, an extremely interesting to me. Not to mention that I don't have time to look into all the personal projects that led to work on: bar-code scanning and cataloging my own book collection; writing the database to catalog our music collection so we can easily write tools to generate playlists and archive mixes we've made (even if we still only own analog copies of the songs); creating a comprehensive database of reference sources with annotations which can be used to generate bookmark files or pathfinders.

With luck, having this space to talk about these issues will help me find focus.
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