Internet Services Librarian

Back in April, April 15th to be exact, I started a new position within the same company. I’ve moved from Information Services (Reference) to Computer Services.

I am now my system’s Internet Services Librarian, it was kind of a quick turn around. It was a surprise to me when the previous Internet Services Librarian left and at first I was hesitant to apply. In the end I posited that it would be a positive thing for me even if I did not get the job. But I got it!

It’s somewhat hard to explain what I actually do but it’s along the lines of:

  • Overseeing, maintaining and providing content for Library’s web pages and social networking sites – I work closely with our county’s webteam, as well as play the-go-between between them and our staff.
  • Serving as chair of the library’s web committee
  • Serving as a member of the Public Relations committee
  • Serving as online reader’s advisory newsletters administrator
  • Serving as public and staff support regarding downloading materials
  • Serving as lead for staff internal communications

And of course projects and duties that come up out of necessity.  I’m really enjoying myself, it’s a different world as compared to the reference desk. I still work with the public through providing customer support with our downloadable media, but mostly I’m behind the scene sort of speak. With this position come new challenges and successes, some I’ll have to catch you up on. Hopefully I’ll be more inspired to catalogue it, you know the whole reason I started this blog.

One Year Later…

Nissan Building

The Nissan Building in Downtown Winston-Salem, NC. Taken while on my daily walk during lunch.

This week marks my one year anniversary as an Information Services Librarian. My how time flies. I’ve had my annual review and it was all positive and I just can’t wait to see what this next year brings.

I wish I could type more but I’m working on limited sleep and coming from working the full 40 hour week and the both Saturday and Sunday so I’m a little brain-dead.

Currently I’m preparing to move into my new place and working on programing ideas for the autumn season. But I couldn’t let this week go by without acknowledging that I’ve been a professional librarian for a whole year now. Yay!

Book Review 013

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I usually write my book reviews for Sundays but since I already have another post planned for that day I thought I’ll do this review today. Plus I’m off for the day as comp time for working this past weekend.

Back in June of last year I wrote about not being about to finish a book, Faerie Wars Chronicles by James Herbert Brennan. Today I’m going to be doing the same thing except for a whole series. Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson was on my to read list for about a year. I remember seeing the first book while working as a Page before going to grad school. I checked it out and never got around to reading it. Then I found a copy for next to nothing at a Border’s. It took me another year before I would actually read it.

I remember tweeting about the weirdness of reading a book about evil librarians while in school to become a librarian. It messed with my mind. The first book was lacking to say it nicely. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it. The story sets up with Alcatraz inheriting special sand that a cult of evil librarians are willing to kill to get. The characters are great and the plot is interesting. What ruined the book for me was the gimmick the author employed over and over. He goes off on supposedly fun tangents and at first I thought these tangents were suppose to be weird forms of foreshadowing. And some are, but mostly they are distracting.

It is a juvenile series so I thought I’m over thinking it. It was a fun story and even though the book ends terribly in the regards of a cliff hanger, I kinda wanted to know what happened next. So I waited some months to find the second book and again I was let down. I was hoping for more of the characters and plot development and instead I got even more gimmicky writing. The second book picks up right where the first book ended and ends no better. It’s a decent size book for a youth series but the plot didn’t really advance much. I remember feeling this way when I read books 5 and 6 of the Harry Potter series, they really could have been one book in regards to plot advancement.

So another few months went by and I was on the fence on reading book three, but here’s the thing I really wanted to like this series. So last weekend I read book three…and again a book full of gimmicky writing. But worst, because the main characters went all angsty on me and I felt lost their charm. The plot dragged along and in the end once again there was no real rhyme or reason for it. Honestly the book could have been much shorter and gotten the same bang for my buck.

Will I read book four? I highly doubt it, at this point it would be just to finish out a series and plus they are short reads. I think a lot of people who like this series and would like this series. I’m not one of them, maybe it’s my librarian teaching that has clouded my mind so that I can’t appreciate the genius of this series, but I just kind of like stories that actually have a plot to them. But if you have the time check out book one from your library and give it a go. Let me know how you feel about it.

You should write a book

Every time I talk to other people about my job it’s usually very predictable. They ask me what I do; I tell them I’m a reference librarian at the main library downtown. Their eyes glaze over some and they say “Oh that’s nice.” Half of them change the subject and the other half continue on with, “So what exactly do you do? You aren’t one of those shushing librarians are you?” It is at this point I kind of list my head off to the side and go, “Well I—“ I find it hard to tell someone what I do when what I do day-to-day changes. But usually I sum it up with “I help people find information.” This is truly the bulk of my job. Often times I get the “You must like to read…” line or the “I haven’t been in a library in a long time…” line.

The last one is often followed with, “Do people even read books anymore? I didn’t think people still used the library like that.” I always try to not roll my eyes at these statements; it’s really hard to restrain myself sometimes. Instead I tell them about some crazy thing that happened at work either that day or week. I’m rarely at a lost for a crazy library story. In fact no matter what library I happened to be working at I’m rarely at a lost for a crazy library story. It just seems to me that anyone who says libraries are quiet and serious has never really worked in one. We see and hear some of the weirdest stuff.

Lately when talking to new people about my job the conversation usually ends with “Wow you should write a book!”

But I guess the purpose of this blog is supposed to take the place of writing a book. I think there are some really great books out there written from the librarian point of view and some great ones to come. Maybe one day I’ll actually write a book about being a librarian. I feel there’s so much I have yet to experience in my career. I never really felt like I’ve found my voice with these posts. I try to be professional and give the facts with little spurts of fun things. I don’t think it would hurt to relay some of the crazy library stories on here.

*The random photo at the beginning of this post was taken by me looking out the window in my office on a foggy morning.

PLA 2012: Program Palooza

This week my library paid for those who wanted to attend the PLA (Public Library Association) Virtual Conference that was going on simultaneous as the physical PLA. We had it set up in our boardroom so we could come and go as our schedule allowed. I wasn’t able to catch any of the first day’s broadcasts but I was able to catch two on the last day. The first and last one, which were the ones I was most excited about.

Program Palooza

I have to say the main reason why I wanted to go to this session was because it had the word “Palooza” in it…it’s just a fun word. And this session was indeed a palooza of programs. They covered 60 different kinds of programs in 60 minutes. I’m just now dipping my toes in the programming world, with Money Smart and the Ask-A-Lawyer day I help organize in February, but I’m finding that I’m actually enjoying making contacts and having people come in and share their expertise. My supervisor has expressed that she feels we do better jobs as Reference Librarians at the service desk and truthfully I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think the service desk is valuable don’t get me wrong. But I’m starting to see that programs and events are becoming the public libraries little niche, and it’s something sorely needed in a lot of communities.

Some of the key points that I took away from this session was opening the way so that everyone could be involved in program planning; not just the librarians or directors, but the paraprofessionals and the volunteers. The library that presented the program believed that anyone can have a passion for a topic and they should be allowed to suggest a program and help bring it about. They then broke down into categories;

Signature Events

Events that happen on a regular basis, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. Something that your costumer base could always depend on. For example their customers could expect a big event around the Dia de los ninos, Dia de los Libros celebration. I think this is a great idea, because every time you go to organize it, it will become easier and easier to pull it all together. However, I can see a downside to it, especially with public libraries who either have people moving on a constant rate and sometimes the positions aren’t filled OR people who stick around forever and get stuck in tradition. Both of these things can have a big impact on programming. Signature events have to be flexible because interest are always changing but you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel every year.

Family/Intergenerational

These programs surround the idea of bringing different age groups together. Some examples where Stroller Shimmy and Sweat for New Moms. Dog Day Fashion Show and Parade, who wouldn’t want to dress up their dogs and parade them around? Family Game Day and Mother or Grandparent Day Tea. The point is not always thinking of programs in age brackets, meaning only the youth librarians can give a program dealing with children. Sometimes programs would be enjoyed by more than one age group, for example video gaming events . More and more games are being targeted to families, so a video game tournament could be enjoyed by someone who is 8 and someone who is 28.

Out of School Time

Programs specifically aiming at topics to help kids bridge that gap of time after school and before they go home or weekend activities. They don’t all have to have an immediate lesson behind them, like Cursive Club to help kids learn how to write in cursive, they can be just pure entertainment, like Lego Club.

Passive Programs

I really enjoyed this section as I never thought about how some of these activities are programs that need little effort on the librarian part. The passive programs were programs that worked in getting the costumers involved on a project that didn’t require them to come to the library at a specific time or date. Holiday Mail for Military Heroes, having the community write letters and greeting cards for military families and dropping them off at the library, who then dropped them off at organizations who delivered them. You can set up signs and notices during the month of November and December and just allow people to drop off letters at their leisure. No commitment and it cost you the amount of signage. Spot the library mascot…get a library mascot, take pictures of it in different parts of the library, and post them. Makes the kids want to come in a find the mascot and get a sticker or something. Nothing big but it’s a fun way to let the kids explore the library, help them bridge the gap between the children section and their parents browsing time.

I really enjoyed this session and it gave me some ideas of things I would like to do or even help collaborate with others. I have no intention becoming the programming queen but I do think with the idea of a new main library being built we need to up our gambit on why people should come to the library over and over. I’m okay with the idea of programs getting them into the building, because the programs gives us a chance to show off all the great resources we have…for FREE.

Six Months Later

Sunday marked the end of the six months since I earned my MLIS degree, and you know what I feel just like I thought it would. I’m exhausted…and jubilant.

Two years ago I honestly had no idea what I was getting into, and truthfully I’m still learning what it means to be a librarian. And here’s a clue; it doesn’t involve shushing people. Not that I thought it did but I hear that often when someone asks about my profession.  If ever there was a misunderstood profession I would nominate the world of Librarianship. It’s almost like we are a mysterious cult but if you ever just take the time to ask a librarian about their library or their job I guarantee you they could talk for hours on one-tenth of what they do and what their library has to offer.

I guess I could sum of the last six months in a timeline sort of fashion but that would be boring. And librarians aren’t boring despite what literature would have you believe. The last six months really can be boiled down to one thing: Job Searching.

I started early (right before winter break I sent out my first resume), but not nearly as early as some people. I suggest you do the same, start looking for possible leads early on. Get on a variety of list-serves, a good friend and colleague of mines, Amanda Goodman, did an awesome write-up of some of the places she looked at and subscribed to for job leads. I cleaned up and invested some time into my social media outlets. I’ve had a LinkedIn profile since 2007 that I never got around to actually filling out. While I had the time I flushed it out and kept up with it.

These last six months were emotionally tough, as anyone who’s done any job searching since 2007 can surely tell you. But in the end I would say it was worth it. I can’t wait to see what the next six months hold for me.

The First Month

While sitting on the reference desk yesterday with my supervisor a regular customer came up and asked if I was the new staff member. My supervisor eagerly said yes and introduced me, saying I had been there for about a-…it was at this time we both looked at each other and realized that I had been there for one whole month to the day. The time has flown by…or at least it feels like it has. I can’t believe that it’s been a whole month. I think I’m adjusting great well.

My supervisor congratulated me on my first month and she’s really pleased with how I’m fitting in. Which is a big thing as she was not in on the hiring process, they were doing multiple positions and wanted to save time and energy. So only the big wigs were in on the hiring process. The department heads could only hope they got someone who would fit in. I’m sure that was a scary time for them. For her to say I’m so glad we got you, means a lot.

Looking back on my first week (part 1 and 2)I’ve started taking on more irresponsibility. I’ve worked my first night alone in the department and I’ll be doing my first weekend shift the beginning of next month. I’m serving on my first committee and starting to meet with librarians outside of my branch.

Yesterday I spent the morning down at our Government Center having a New Employee Orientation, which was surprisingly really fun. People who work for the local government are hilarious!

It still feels weird to know that I’m finally working in the field that I’ve worked so hard to get to. And I can only hope (I’m going to work real hard to make it so) that I keep this happiness that I get from it.

I hardly knew thee…

It’s 12:05…I turn and flick the last switch off, effectively ending my stint as an academic reference librarian. With a deep and heartfelt sigh I look over the now dark and silent room. A nod and a smirk and I’m on my way. 

This past Saturday was my last night at HPU. I had been going back and forth about staying on. As I said before I wanted to stay on in the position because I’ve enjoyed myself in both the academic world and the public and I thought I would be able to have the best of both worlds. But despite what that teen-bopper sings you can’t have the best of both worlds without having the worst. I realized that I wasn’t able to give both jobs 100% and the people who would suffer the most would be my patrons.

From what I’ve been able to see and from my own personal convictions a mark of a good librarian is that you care more about getting that information out to those who needed it. In the end I was just plain exhausted all the time, and I had no time for myself.

I’m so grateful for the brief opportunity I had there and it’s just one more thing I can tag on my life story.

NCLA 2011

2011 NCLA Hickory, NC

As promised a run down of how this year’s NCLA conference was. But before that I wanted to do a little comparison from all the way back in 2009. When I went to NCLA for the first time. I was just starting out in the program and it was the first professional conference I had attended. This year I’m a recent graduate, newly started librarian. In 2009 it was held at the coast and this year it was held in the mountains. I love the mountains so much, especially during the autumn. It’s just breath-taking! When I attended NCLA back in 2009 I had no idea what to expect, in truth I had never been to a conference, let alone a professional conference. I didn’t have any set plans on sessions to attend or any expectation of people I would see. When I attended it this year…I still had no set plans on sessions and I had hoped I would see people I knew.

Once again I only attended a day at NCLA, this time by choice as I didn’t want to miss more than I needed to at work. So I went down for the day I was to present. As I mentioned before I was slated to co-present a session on Public Library Design and Technology. It was a session to talk about the results of the study I did from this past spring. I wasn’t really forthcoming with details about that study because I was of mixed feelings with it. Now don’t get me wrong I loved every minute of researching, collecting data, writing up the paper and collaborating with my professor, it’s what I do. What I didn’t like was that I was left holding the bag when my partner basically flaked on me. I wasn’t going to mention it, and just leave it up to karma to deal with. But I’m a firm believer in telling it like it is and darn the consequences (well in my head I like to pretend I’m like that…). And truth be told this kind of thing happens all the time in the world, is it fair or right? No, but it’s life. There are more people who respect those who work hard than those who slack off. In the end I worked and created something that I’ve very proud of and I hope will have lasting benefits. I was very happy when our proposal was accepted for a presentation, and very shocked when it was an actual session. I was thinking poster session, honestly. But hey, yay me!  In preparation for the presentation I worked with my professor combining his work with the work I had done to create a very interesting presentation if I do say so myself.

We spoke on the use of technology in public libraries, how was it being used, who was using it, and was it being offered in the most effective way. It was an hour and 15 minute long session and we had close to 30 people show up. It makes me feel a little giddy to know  that there is interest in something I created. Afterwards we had a lot of people come up and tell us that their libraries were in the process of building a new building and were interested in seeing more from the study. Some expressed interested in getting my professor and I to come out and do some consulting work with them. We had one lady whose library had just finished building a new branch and she thought that my results were right on point about what they had experience with the new space usage (it sounded as if they had a lot of space that was going unused for lack of good planning) and was so glad she came to hear us as they were in the process of planning for a new branch. I gave out my new business cards like a pro. The director of my work was in the audience and she said she was impressed and assured me I would be on the committee now that we’ve been approved with our own bond to build a new main library.

The whole experience just renewed my drive to do more with this study. There’s so much more that I want to do and need to do, and the next step is publication to a journal. That’s after we’ve collected more data and wouldn’t it be nice to collect data from public libraries across the state? We will be putting the presentation and a source list up on the web, and as soon as that is done I’ll put up a link. And one of these days I’ll actually write a proper post about it…

Getting into the Groove of things

The past two weeks has seen me growing more accustomed to my new position. I can hardly believe that in another week in a half I will have been here for a whole month. I’m still vastly learning new things everyday, which I don’t think that will change any time soon.My supervisor thinks that I’m catching on quite beautifully and has high hopes for me. So I thought I’d take the time to actually speak about my duties as an Reference Librarian in a Public Library.

In my system we have one main library and nine branches. Here at the main library is one of the few places you can solid reference help (if you don’t have access to an academic library) as in the branches the librarians do circulation and some (some do more than others) reference. As far as my duties go, I haven’t been trained on everything I’m slated to do, but I have gotten trained a good number of things that have kept me busy. I’m only going to talk about three in this post, so it won’t get to long.

Desk Hours

Throughout the week I have assigned desk hours at the reference desk. During that time I’m usually the only one at the desk. I answer all incoming reference questions, in person and on the telephone. We aren’t set up with chat services which is something I’ve thought about investigating. But all tech stuff like that has to go through our IT department and the county. I’ve started some basic research into the subject; Public libraries and chat services but nothing solid. During my desk hours I do a lot of computer sign up and help. Whenever I get a free moment on desk I take the time to look at some of our physical reference materials as well as the databases. I’m very use to the large quantities academic libraries have and we are lucky to be in a consortium that has access to a very large network of databases, but some of the more subject specific ones we lack.

Collection Development and Maintenance

An ongoing duty of mines is the development and maintenance of my Dewey call numbers. As I mentioned before they did kind of get switched around so that similar subject groups could be worked on together and it could become more symbiotic. With this I’m in charge of making sure that subject collection is cohesive, reflects our usage as best I can, comprehensive, and up to date. There was a back log of gift books when I came in so I’ve gone through those and grabbing the books in my section. With donated books, since it’s not something we asked for we have to bring a critical eye to it. If it’s in bad condition I usually just toss. If it’s in good condition, I check and see if we have a copy already. In my branch or the system. If we do I check to see the usage of the other copies. Then depending on if we have a copy with a lot of use than I decide to keep it. If we have a lot of copies I send it to the book sale. If other branches have it with some usage than I put it on the maybe pile. For the maybes and the ones we don’t have a copy. I have to look up the subject, mostly to see if the book is dated, and if it’s a subject matter you don’t really want to have dated material about around. I look up reviews for certain topics, just to see if there is interest for it. After all that I decide on rather or not we should keep it. I haven’t gotten around to recommended new books for my sections because I haven’t gone through and really taken in to account what we have and what we need. I plan on doing that in the coming weeks.

Job Notebook

As I’m sure the same goes for many public libraries across the nation, a good number of our patrons are looking for employment. Hey up until almost a month ago I was one of them. So it’s no surprise that we put a lot of focus on materials and resources for these patrons. Which is where I come in. We have a notebook that I am now charged to keep up with local job information. It’s set up with information for positions available at the state level, county, and city. We  got information for some of our major employees and well has some information for federal jobs. For this duty I have to update the notebook every two weeks and anything job opportunity comes to me so I can find new avenues of getting my community hired.

Next time I’ll talk about some more duties and I’ve got a NCLA post to write-up. One day I’ll get back on track!