Sunday, July 3, 2011

Great News

So, I haven't posted in a little while.  I'm sorry.  I want to post at least twice a week, but with everything going on that hasn't been happening lately.  It may not happen in the near future either.  I have a job.  At Murray State University.  As a reference librarian.  With Business liaison (I really like that word for some reason) duties.  I'm an emergency hire (which means if they just hate me or I suck at my job, they can get rid of me next year), but I'm not worrying about that right now.  I'm gonna bust my ass.  Hopefully, that'll work in my favor come Spring.

The paperwork is mostly done.  I actually started work on July 1st.  I'm not allowed to mess with the tech stuff yet (have to go through all the HR stuff next week), but I did get to settle in a little.  One of the reference librarians showed me around and walked me through a few things.  The librarians and staff are just great.  They don't mind answering my silly questions and seem pretty relaxed as a group.  They all seem to get along and play off each others' strengths and weaknesses.  It's nice to see a group of people mesh that way.  I've worked several jobs where the people did not get along as a group and couldn't get work done.  MSU is way different.  I already feel included and like my work will be valued.  It's a damn nice feeling. 

I've got lots to do this Summer and during the Fall semester.  I've got an entire set of LibGuides to play with, accreditation work, instruction duties, reference duties, collection development duties, etc.  I'm also going to be working with a couple (few, dozen, ?) committees.  I find I don't mind the prospect as much as I thought.  Throughout all of this, I'm going to be working on some of my own research and attempting publication at some point. 

I'm overwhelmed, overjoyed, and looking forward to this coming week.  I'm excited and nervous all at the same time, and it's got my stomach all in knots.  But it's wonderful.  I love library work.  Especially academic library work.  It just never feels like "work" to me.  I get to help people find info, help people learn how to find their own info, research, write, contribute, and feel productive.  And I don't have to stay in one spot at a little cubicle all day.  I have various duties that keep me moving (mentally and physically).  It's just...wonderful.  So damn wonderful. 

Ok.  I'm done with the sparkly-eyed wonder of finally being an academic librarian.  I'm sure I'll find something to bitch about this semester.  Life's no fun without a few complaints.  :)

I'll try to keep up with posting.  Maybe a few things from my work.  But I'm focusing on the reference position, so the blog comes second.  I'm hoping I can blog on the weekends, but I make no promises.

Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Personal Happy Post

So, I was all freaking out about my 29th birthday.  It’s one year from 30, boo hoo.  Woe is me. 

But apparently 29 is going to be an awesome year.  I got asked out while walking the corgi pup, I’m tan, I have a job, I got asked out again at an auto parts store, I figured out how to recharge the AC in my car all by myself, I helped start a community garden, I got a job, I got a Kindle (thanks Hubby), I found some wonderful art by a local artist, I got a job, a new accessory store opened in the mall, I have wonderful shoes, I got a job, and I got a job.  And all that’s been in the last ten days.  Seriously, I’m employed!  At an academic library!  I actually had to turn down another potential job in order to take this one.  How awesome is that? 

I met with the reference team and the Dean last Thursday.  They are such a cool bunch of people.  The Dean was helping move shelves for frack’s sake.  I’ve only met a few people in higher up positions willing to do grunt work.  It’s nice to see.  They’ve got so many things going on right now.  The library is getting some renovations, including some new tech.  I’m really excited about working at this place.  And I’m nervous.  I always do this.  I get nervous.  Then, the first day I’m all badass and sassy.  I’ll be fine.  I’ll post more about this once all the paper work goes through.

Oh, I also received a copy of The Digital Cuttlefish Omnibus for my birthday (thanks Mom).  In celebration of such fantabulousness, I am posting a pic of a truly geeked out collection of cephalopod paraphernalia. 

Yes, I will be wearing that necklace.
I'll be back soon with more library topics.  I'm in the middle of a few at home projects I need to get out of the way. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Webinar Participation: The Fine Art of Weeding

I’ve developed a love of weeding in libraries.  Libraries need healthy collections.  Weeding, much like in gardening, helps them accomplish this.  And I’ll admit it’s taken me years to gain an appreciation for this task.  I think working on a mock collection development policy for a hospital library helped raise my awareness.

Keri Cascio presented “Culling Your Collection: The Fine Art of Weeding” through ALCTS.  Cascio is a branch manager for the St. Charles City-County Library District.

She started off with several reasons why librarians should weed collections:

Space – Libraries need shelf space, and even utilizing compact shelving may not solve all the space problems a library has.  Books sitting on shelves also cost money-just sitting there.

Time – Getting rid of unnecessary materials can help streamline shelving processes.  It can also help patrons find the items they need quicker.

Appeal – As much as I like antique books and jewelry, I don’t like “old” or “dirty” books and jewelry.  You know the difference.  One has value and enriches a collection.  It has history.  The other is a piece of junk, sometimes an unsanitary piece of junk.  If you have a bunch of junk in your collection, patrons are going to lose interest.

Reputation – Are you up to date?  Can your patrons find relevant and reliable information?  Or do you still have books listing Pluto as a planet on your shelves?  Textbooks outdated?  Medical and technical texts more than a few years old?  I’ve walked into libraries with out of date testing manuals, out of date technical certification manuals, and out of date medical books.  And I’ve walked right back out.  There is no excuse for that.

Collection Needs – Weeding can help you see what’s missing in your collection, what you have too much of, and what you need to repair/replace.

Collection Strengths and Weaknesses – Weeding places librarians into the thick of the collection.  They gain a familiarity with items they may have never seen.  Librarians also come away from the weeding process knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the collection and possibly how to work with those variables.

Cascio also discussed the Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission CREW method.  CREW stands for Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding.  Check out the link for more info.

Weeding seems, at least to me, to be based on common sense.  Don’t keep irrelevant and outdated titles.  Keep your collection up to date and appropriate for your patron base.  I know it’s difficult to let go, but it’s necessary to maintain a relevant collection.  And, keep in mind that if you can get a title elsewhere (ILL anyone?) why bother keeping it on your shelves, especially if it hasn’t been checked out for years?

Cascio did mention some very important points concerning weeding.  It takes time.  Sometimes, it takes lots and lots of time.  You have to plan.  And starting small is better than not starting at all, especially if your librarians are new to weeding.  Also, make sure your library has policies regarding weeding (on purchases, gifts, etc.).  It saves libraries trouble in the long run.

The webinar closed with some sample policies from various libraries and some options for disposal (sales, recycling, donations, etc.).  All in all it was a good presentation and reinforced my admiration for weeding and the librarians capable of getting this important job done.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Early B-day Present

I got a Kindle!!! My hubby just gave me my b-day present early. Bloody hell! I got a Kindle!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's the End of the World as We Know It! Or Not.

I had a wonderful day yesterday.  My neighbors, their kids, and I dug up a garden bed for a small community garden.  I've got blisters and bug bites.  :)

We decided pizza and beer would be a great idea last night.  We all wanted to celebrate the world not ending in addition to the garden.  I didn't come inside until about four this morning, so I'm tired and sore.  But I feel accomplished about the garden.  And snarky about the world not ending.  I guess all those rapture morons will have to wait for the sun to go flooy just like everyone else.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I Can Haz Job?

I have an interview in about an hour.  Nervous but wearing a fabulous dress.  :) 

I've actually snagged the possibility of a couple more interviews in the coming weeks at more libraries.  I'm excited!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Summary: Video Games and Stealth Assessment-Sneaky Teachers

I just read the neatest little article.  Anyone reading bits of my blog knows I’m a critical thinking geek.  I also happen to love adventure video games.  They’re really great at developing critical thinking skills.  I’m even thinking of ways to incorporate some of my favorites from BigFish Games into information literacy courses as a way to encourage critical thinking skills in fun ways.  However, I never thought of the sneaky uses detailed in this article.

Article: Kaya, Travis. (2010). “A ‘Stealth Assessment’ Turns to Video Games to Measure Thinking Skills.” Chronicle of Higher Education, 57(12).  A13. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Kaya gets Valerie Shute (here’s her webpage), an associate professor of educational psychology at Florida State University, to discuss stealth assessment.  In order to test students’ thinking skills, among other things, without inducing test anxiety, Shute has utilized video games.  Students already grow up playing games.  They’re enjoyable and can reduce anxiety rather than causing it.  It also helps that video games can be used in the classroom without the students realizing they’re being tested.  It conveys more realistic results to professors. 

Shute sees stealth assessment as a way of modernizing teaching for groups of all ages.  Video games can draw students by increasing the desire of a student to participate.  It increases the relevance of some course projects by modernizing the instruction and gaining the students interest.

A couple of games in the article interested me right away. 

Shute designed a computer game (Smithtown) for undergraduates several years back.  It helped them learn microeconomics.  Think about that.  A game for learning microeconomics.  How cool is that?  Students had to alter economic factors and look at the results.  It ended up teaching important lessons about scientific inquiry.  If the students altered too many variables, they wouldn’t be able to determine the cause and effect relationship of their experiments.  Students learned to be patient, work with smaller numbers of variables, and dig out the actual cause/effect relationships. 

The second game is another game promoted for in-class use by Shute.  It was created by the University of Indiana’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology.  Taiga Park deals with ecology.  Students have to investigate the cause of a large scale fish die-off.  They get to interview witnesses and business owners and learn about basic scientific principles involved in ecological research.  It just sounds neat!

I think I may have to give Shute a hug if I ever meet her.  This is awesome stuff.  I love the twenty-first century.  I swear when I finally get hold of a librarian position, I’m going to be pushing video games for the info lit courses.  I cannot think a better way to engage college age students and still get them learning.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My thoughts on Wikipedia

I’ve been asked what I think about Wikipedia.  So, I thought I’d post a few comments.

Many moons ago I told my composition students to avoid wikis at all costs.  Wikipedia was the devil and to be shunned like a red-headed step-child.  I hated it.  It was always the first thing students looked at, and many of them never wanted to move beyond it.  So, I banned Wikipedia. 

Then, as I started doing more and more online research for fun (geek, remember), I found that Wikipedia wasn’t so bad as a preliminary resource.  Sometimes I’ll need a quick explanation about a time period, character, book, band, etc.  Wikipedia is pretty reliable as far as that goes.  I even post links to Wikipedia articles on this blog.  I like to use other sources, but it is quick and easy to read.  So, it gets utilized regularly. 

HOWEVER, and this is important so pay attention, Wikipedia should never be used as a resource for a bibliography or citation in a research paper.  I repeat, do not quote this as a scholarly source.  Wiki’s, by their very nature, tend to have the occasional inaccuracy.  They can often be edited by non-experts.  When conducting important research, especially for educational purposes and citations, look for scholarly and reputable sources.  Don’t use Wikipedia in those cases.

I suppose that’s all I can really say on the subject.  I don’t have any kind of bone to pick with Wikipedia.  I now think wikis are important aspects of the online world, and they can be useful for preliminary research, study sessions, or just fun facts.  But I don’t depend on them.  And I try to find other sources from more scholarly authors when I can.

Database Reviews!!!

I think I’m gonna start reviewing bibliographic databases on this blog.  It gives me a way to review over the many databases I’ve used in the past and discover new databases for future use.  Any librarian worth her salt needs to be familiar with a variety of databases.  This little task should keep me up to date while I wait for gainful employment.  J

I’m not setting a day every week.  I’m just going to post as I dig through some databases.  My goal is to post once a week on this, but I make no promises.  I’m going to try to vary the subject focus, so I won’t just be posting general or humanities or biology databases. 

This may also be useful for some of my readers not in the realm of library science.  Students at all levels should be familiar with at least a few databases.  Knowing where to look online is important for research efficiency, especially given that a great deal of research is done online nowadays.  You may also learn something you don’t know about the library world.  It could be fun.

This week I’m just going to give some general information regarding bibliographic databases.

Most of the time bibliographic databases are just called databases.  The basic format is just what it sounds like:  A bibliography of articles or other resources located online.  I associate databases with universities and colleges, but your public library is bound to have access to a few (here’s an example from the New York Public Library).  A database is searchable and gives researchers a chance to find citations and interesting information resources.  These databases can also list where the item is located (for instance, if your university owns the item).  Many databases have access to full-text articles.  This wasn’t the case several years back, but given how popular they are, full-text databases are becoming the norm. 

This is awesome for patrons.  As long as you have your institution’s codes, you can access research anywhere you have internet access.  This also makes it easier to access information 24/7.  Having gone through two graduate schools, I can say this kind of access becomes vital to a student’s life.  My last graduate degree was online.  Accessing my university’s libraries would have required a five hour drive.  The ability to access articles and citations (useful for local ILL) made the degree possible.  It’s also nice having the ability to research while in your pajamas.

Databases can be general in that they’ll cover a little bit of everything.  Or they can be subject specific.  Subject specific databases can be broad and cover all the hard sciences or the humanities.  They can also be very specific and just cover fields like nursing or psychology.  There are literally hundreds of databases.  No person is expected to know them all.  At least that’s not the impression I got working on my library science degree (oh, there are databases just for library science). 

Databases are often found as aggregators.  This means multiple databases can be searched simultaneously, using a common search interface.  The search screen (with all the fun search boxes) you’re looking at may just cover one database or it may contain several databases (an aggregator).  Aggregators make it easier for a user to search without having to dig through all the database descriptions to find the “right” one.  This can, however, cause problems.  An aggregator is only as good as the least efficient database.  It’s just like in team sports.  The team is just as good as the weakest player.  Searching in some aggregators can be less fruitful than just searching in a lone database if the aggregator contains a database with inefficient search capabilities.  As far as I know, this is getting worked out.  I’ve not encountered too many problems myself. 

That said, whether using lone databases or aggregators, conducting multiple searches is in a researcher’s best interest.  Too many times I’ve seen students walk away from research with the first handful or articles they find, usually complaining later when they have trouble.  I cannot stress this enough:  Utilize multiple databases if you can, conduct multiple searches using a variety of search terms, and don’t be so lazy as to take the first article you find!  Research is hard work.  You cannot expect good results with a five minute database session.

Ok.  I think I’ve covered enough tonight.  I would also like to point out to my readers that having trouble with databases is normal, especially to new researchers.  Searching these badboys can be overwhelming to new users.  You know what’s the best way through this initial awkwardness and fear?  A librarian!  If you have trouble, a librarian can help you figure out what database to use and how to efficiently search said database.  And many academic libraries offer bibliographic instruction sessions focusing on the use of online databases.  Research is a skill that takes education and practice to master.  Take advantage of what libraries and librarians offer you in this regard.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fallacy: Argumentum ad ignorantiam

So, it’s been a little while since I posted a Friday Fallacy.  I’ve been focusing on the job search.  Then, we had the wonderful week of storms and flooding.  The Kroger down the road flooded. Luckily, the liquor store next to it is on a hill and they sandbagged.  J  Kroger was nice enough to donate the food from the store, so it should have helped some of the displaced. 

So, this week’s fallacy is a fun one.  The argument from ignorance is pretty much what it says.  People will try to argue the validity of something because it hasn’t been disproven.  So, let’s say that I tell you the reason vacuums get that icky odor when they break is because of a microscopic vacuum skunk living inside the vacuum engine.  You argue that’s not the case, but don’t really understand the exact mechanical cause creating the icky odor.  Since you can’t tell me the mechanical details and since you can’t disprove the existence of the microscopic vacuum skunk, I declare victory in the debate.  The microscopic vacuum skunk causes the icky odor and, since you couldn’t give me an immediate alternative or disprove the mvs, I’m convinced you’re wrong.  It’s aggravating, and it’s also an argument from ignorance. 

It’s like when people argue for the existence of an afterlife.  There’s absolutely zero proof of life after death.  There’s also nothing conclusively disproving life after death either.  The appropriate state of mind is to not accept something until there is at least some evidence, but many people believe in a life after death (Heaven, Hell, Summerland, Valhalla, reincarnation, etc.).  These people will sometimes argue that they could be right by using the argument from ignorance.  Because no one has yet to disprove life after death, they argue that they must be correct in assuming reincarnation or heaven, or hell, or whatever. 

Just because we don’t know something for sure, doesn’t mean you can just pull something out of your nether regions and claim it’s factual.  You need verifiable proof.

There is one important note I should mention.  I think the “Logical Fallacies and Art of Debate” website says it best:

Whether or not an argumentum ad ignorantiam is really fallacious depends crucially upon the burden of proof. In an American courtroom, where the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, it would be fallacious for the prosecution to argue, "The defendant has no alibi, therefore he must have committed the crime." But it would be perfectly valid for the defense to argue, "The prosecution has not proven the defendant committed the crime, therefore you should declare him not guilty." Both statements have the form of an argumentum ad ignorantiam; the difference is the burden of proof.

In debate, the proposing team in a debate round is usually (but not always) assumed to have the burden of proof, which means that if the team fails to prove the proposition to the satisfaction of the judge, the opposition wins. In a sense, the opposition team's case is assumed true until proven false.

There are a zillion other example of this fallacy and several varieties of it.  Feel free to post some examples in the comments if you feel so inclined.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

LIS 623 Course Summary: Information in the Humanities

As usual with graduate school, this course had an uber ton of readings.  I’ll be honest.  When I had a sense of déjà vu out of an article, I’d usually skim it.  The course textbook was neat.  The Humanities:  A Selective Guide to Information Sources, by Ron Blazek and Elizabeth Aversal, was primarily one big annotated bibliography.  The fifth edition was published in 2000, so it is a little outdated.

One of our main projects consisted of updating the textbook.  My group worked on the sections covering Philosophy and Religion, Mythology, & Folklore.  It was fun (yes, I’m a geek).  I updated some of the resources already included and added a few more relevant sources.  Since 9-11-2001, the atheist community has grown and gained more visibility.  Since the textbook had absolutely zero resources pertaining to freethinkers, non-religious folks, and/or atheists, I added a handful of sources on those topics.  The professor informed us she wanted to update the text and had been in contact with the publishers.  However, I’ve yet to hear anything back from her regarding the update.

I suppose the most important knowledge, in addition to the tons of humanities resources, I took away from the course involved the information needs of humanities scholars and students.  Since I have a MA in Literature and I’ve worked in a small academic library, I can attest to the general accuracy of the claims.

As a general rule, Humanities scholars:
·       Work independently, as opposed to more team efforts by scientists (look at article by-lines to see this in action)
·       Like to browse
·       Use a variety of subjects and sources as opposed to other fields (personal experience: I’ve written conference papers requiring the use of sources from literature, history, religion, philosophy and the sciences-all in the same paper)
·       Utilize “chaining” (citation tracking, following works cited of relevant articles in order to find more resources)
·       Utilize technology to a lesser degree than other fields (this is changing with the newer generations of humanities students and scholars)

We also worked through numerous sets of reference questions.  Each set contained ten ready reference and five more complicated reference questions.  The professor forbid the use of Google “on pain of death.”  Each set covered a different subject in the Humanities and gave me lots of reference practice in addition to my library assistant duties at WKCTC.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

LIS 608 (Research Course) and LIS 603 (Management Course)

LIS 608 focused on researching in the field of library science.  I think the Annoyed Librarian had a wonderful summary of the research and publication experience in our field.  It can seem oddly simple.  However, this course did cover the details of interviews, observations, surveys, etc.  I actually conducted an observation of a circulation desk at a local academic library.  I discovered I have better observation skills than I realized.  Anyone who’s worked on a graduate degree has taken a research methods course (I even had one for my Lit MA), so I’m not going to bore you with the details. 

The textbook for LIS 608 was The Practice of Social Research, by Babbie.  It’s an awesome book.  Considering it’s a book on research in the social sciences, that is a major compliment.

LIS 603 focused on Management techniques in libraries.  I’ll be honest.  I hated this course.  I only scored a B in this course, mainly because I’d wait until the last possible minute to complete assignments (bad Melissa).  I’m not fond of management theories.  I’m specifically referring to the management theories found in the twentieth century, which is what 603 covered.  I think they paint employees as mindless drones requiring constant manipulation and training (kind of like the training you might attempt on a really stupid dog).  However, I did like the strategic planning segment of the course.  It appealed to my control freak nature.  You should see me plan vacations or moves.  I’m always planning. 

It’s important for libraries to plan, especially in hard economic times.  It provides a framework and keeps everyone focused on the library’s mission.  Yes, planning can get grating, but it’s less annoying than everyone running around like headless chickens later.

LIS 603 also had an interesting textbook.  Library and Information Center Management, by Stueart and Moran, conveyed management theories in a practical and organized way.  It wasn’t my favorite textbook ever (mainly because of the subject material), but it was well organized. 


It's raining AGAIN.  But we're not flooded at my location.  And the crazies have remained indoors the last few nights, which means no more shootings as mentioned in my previous post. 

I know I shouldn't bitch about these things given what happened with the storms and tornadoes in recent days. 

I'm lucky compared to many people, and I am very happy about that.  I hope all those in the way of harm are able to pick their lives back up after all this is over.

Now that my internet is acting almost normal (the storms play havoc with my connection) I'll be posting some library related postings.  I even have one to post tonight!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On top of storms and flooding, we get this

The Ohio River is flooding.  Paducah has put all the flood gates in place along the flood wall.  The river might get to near record levels.  I'm safe enough from the river, although our street flooded a few mornings back.  And some of the streets closer to the river were evacuated.

We've had nasty storms and strong winds.  The Hubby's folks are trapped in their tiny town.  All the roads to their town have been closed and the back roads are flooded.  Murray State University actually closed down yesterday due to the high winds, storms, and power outages.  And my Mother lost her favorite (and her puppy's favorite) tree.  It was a gigantic oak tree, and the wind just tore it up by the roots.  All's left is a big gaping hole in the ground. 

And on top of all this we just had another shooting on my street. 

And I come from a region of gun owners.  My husband is a gun owner.  So, I know the difference between gunfire and fire crackers (in case anybody wondered).  The neighbors also heard the shots.  Luckily, the cops are down the block on what looks like a drug bust in one of the apartment buildings.  I'm so sick of apartment living.

This wasn't that bad of a neighborhood.  We live near a main road, near the park for frack's sake.  The city of Paducah can't have more than 25,000 people.  And yet we have a rather constant crime spree down the side streets.  The people who aren't dealing illegal stuff are dealing in the legal drugs (mostly pain meds in this area).

People are crazy.  Why does anyone feel the need to fire off a gun in a residential area?  Oh, right, drugs.  I don't care what people do in the privacy of their own homes.  Really, I don't.  Just don't bring your crack/meth/pot dealing selves out in the street.  Stay inside and put the guns away. 

I was going to post some class summaries I had finally typed up, but you know what?  Screw it.  I'm going to bed (which is well below window level). 

If I manage to wake up in a less than uber-anxious state, I may post some actual library related write-ups before I head out with a friend to a chocolate tasting in Murray.  If I wake up scared out of my mind and freaking out, I'll be huddled in a corner all day with the corgi-pup (and the Hubby when he gets home from work).  I don't worry about the cats.  The cats can fend for themselves.

Oh, and before the gunfire, I linked to some more blogs (look to your right) related to library and information science topics.  Go read in your safe cozy homes and feel sorry for me.  I could use some sympathy right about now.  :(

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Thunderstorms, tornadoes and power outages, oh my! 

It's pretty nasty here.  I just got my power back about half an hour ago.  I did get a couple posts written out-on paper.  Now, I just have to type them up and post them.  Look at me.  I'm actually getting stuff done (kind of).  Yeah!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Webinar Participation: Prerecorded January 19, 2011, Finding Savings in Your Collections Budget During Tough Times, Presented by Jane Schmidt

Jane Schmidt is the Head of Collection Services at Ryerson University Library in Canada.  Her talk was engaging and full of valuable information.  She presented many common sense budget resolutions and also put forth ideas from her institution’s budget cuttings that I’d never thought up. 

The webinar from ALA ALCTS was offered free to student members of ALA.  I still technically count as a student member, so I jumped at the opportunity.  The format was simple.  I simply listened to the audio of the seminar while viewing the presentation slides in Windows Media Player.  The presentation lasted roughly an hour, and, wow, did Schmidt fit in a whole lot of info.

She briefly touched on the pros and cons of protected collections budget options.  After this, she urged her listeners to not panic when it comes to budget cuts.  I can imagine initially feeling like the end of the world happened if I was asked to lower my collection  budget by eight percent.  Schmidt pointed out what the focus should be in this situation.  First, you should ensure leadership, offer transparency, gather the facts, “stick to it”, beware of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, and anticipate backlash. 

Ensuring leadership just means setting up and making people aware of the chain of command, lines of communication, and putting the appropriate people in the correct positions.  If you want an expert on how to deduct from the print serials budget, don’t put the rare manuscript person on the job.  Make sure, if you’ve got them, to put subject librarians on the job.

Transparency is pretty simple in theory, but can get mucked up in the real world.  Don’t assume everyone involved has all the information just because you do.  Make sure communication is a constant and all people who need to be are involved.  Also, make sure people are aware of the numbers.  Different departments need to be aware of how much all of other departments are being cut.  Everyone should be aware of the amounts involved and the reasons behind those amounts.  This encourages fairness and opens more communication.

Fact gathering is a major component of budget cuts.  I know that sounds so obvious, but people tend to believe gossip and word through the grapevine if those avenues of communication aren’t kept in check with facts.  Don’t assume the reference department is spending too much money on irrelevant resources because another department said so.  Check out the numbers.  Schmidt said a line-by-line budget review is key here.  Get everyone on board at this point.  What are the expenses for print serials, e-serials, databases, monographs, e-books, audio-visual, office supplies and usage, etc?  Why are those expenses on the books?  Can you explain why those expenses are necessary?  Do you have the evidence to support keeping those expenses?  Looking at the largest expenses (e-resources in Schmidt’s case) realizes the highest potential savings most of the time.  It also gets the ball rolling and encourages those involved because those areas usually can handle the most cuts. 

Schmidt covered several areas where fact gathering can be done.  The first places she suggested looking were databases.  Reviewing databases can determine if those resources are in use, if there’s redundancy (maybe an aggregator contains a database you have on its own elsewhere), if the number of access points/seats can be reduced, etc.  Reviewing and ranking all of your electronic resources provide you with the statistics and reasoning you will need to back up your choices when it comes to cutting resources or retaining resources.  Schmidt had her librarians rank e-resources as essential (first choice), important (second choice), and marginal (rare usage).  They also looked at the usage data and if resources could be replaced with other, less costly sources.  All of this was explained to the librarians and other staff as exploratory and preliminary information gathering.  Nothing was set in stone at this point.  Decisions were made after the data was reviewed and reviewed again.  Departments and subject liaisons were consulted before anything was finalized as far as cuts or reductions. 

Some mid-impact areas to look at include serials, standing orders and approval plans, and memberships.  Many print serials are becoming obsolete.  The cost of housing such resources can outweigh their usage, especially given the popularity of online databases, which house many journals in electronic format.  Staff time spent on print serials can shift to areas of greater need.  Looking at consortia deals may reveal a redundancy in your serial access.  Standing orders should also be reviewed.  This can be time consuming but can create savings, including savings from potential weeding.  Memberships are another area where unexpected savings exist.  If you and your library aren’t getting anything out of a pricey membership, it doesn’t make much sense to keep it. 

Other areas of savings included binding, book jackets, vendors, and one-time purchases.  Binding serials may not be worth it at this point.  Book jackets take time, money, and resources and may not be worth it in the long run.  Streamlining vendors may also be a good idea.  I can understand the savings in this approach, but I worry about closing out smaller vendors.  I don’t want to give the larger vendors a monopoly.  That just leads to locks in pricing and services at some point.  One-time purchases should be, if at all possible, should be approached with on-time funds (again, if you can acquire those funds). 

When it comes time to break the news about budget cuts, consider various approaches and use caution.  Newsletters, websites, blogs, and in-person communication work in different ways.  Multiple lines of communication are always a good thing.  Schmidt found that communications through the liaison librarians to the departments didn’t work as well as communications from the head librarian to the department chairs.  It may be the perceived power plays in this case.  Make sure to provide facts and be firm in your approach.  Honesty is always the best policy.  Faculty may be the last group made aware of the cuts.  This is not an underhand move.  This is simply an efficient way of dealing with possible repercussions.  If you have all your ducks in a row, it’ll be easier to break the news to the faculty and explain the process. 

Above all, keep in mind that this is a cyclic process.  You’re more than likely gonna have to do it all over again next year.  Joy!  Schmidt made it clear that you have to be determined if you’re going to find more savings every year.  And don’t scale back in times of plenty.  Keep the budget in mind even when you have a surplus.  It makes it easier to deal with the stretches of economic problems that crop up in every country from time to time.  And make sure to keep records.  Those records can help you in future budget cuts and can also help you see what you might want to add back if your budget goes up in the future. 

I told you she packed a hell of a lot of info in that webinar. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Whoa! Where'd the Time Go?

So, I haven't posted in a while.  Sorry.  I've had some allergy/sickly problems.  I haven't even been running in almost a week.  I've also taken some time out for job applications.  Those can get crazy. 

I'll be watching those recorded ALA Webinars today.  I'll post my summaries tonight or tomorrow.  Then, I'll get back on the ball with all my other blog plans, including those LIS course summaries I've promised. 

While you wait, go read something from the hilarious Hyperbole and a Half.  Careful, though.  She'll make your ribs hurt.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I Can Has Reference Question? Antiques

I promised a few posts back to post some of the reference questions I get in my daily life.  I get people asking me for resources or other bits of information on a regular basis.  I’m kind of like a reference librarian, except I’m not employed and I don’t get paid, and I don’t have an office, and…yah…I’m having a wonderful fantasy, aren’t I?  That’s ok.  One day soon the dream will be a reality.  I will be a fully employed librarian.  Until that day, I will have to settle for blogging and dealing with reference questions in a non-job like capacity.

My dear and wonderful Mother has a friend, we’ll call him J, with a really neat antique fish tank.  It’s cast iron, has eagles carved on top of the four corners, and he thinks was made in the eighteenth century.  It’s a pretty piece.  He wants to sell it but has been having difficulty with the local “antique” dealers.  He asked if I could find out more information about how he could identify, value, and sell the piece.  Here's the response I gave him:

            22 March 2011


I’m not qualified to appraise the antique aquarium.  It would be inappropriate attempting to try.  It is a lovely piece, and I do think you were right to not sell it off just yet.  I did some research and think your best bet is to find an actual appraiser qualified in antiques.  Most people can just advertise as appraisers without any training, so you have to be careful. 

With that in mind, I found the American Society of Appraisers.  They require their members pass a test in appraisal, so these are legitimate professionals.  I found the three closest appraisers with this group.  They may be able to help you with the value of the aquarium.  At the very least, they should be able to point you in the right direction. 

A word of advice:  Do not sell your item to the person appraising it.  They will usually undervalue it so they can later sell it at a higher price.  Let me know if you need any other information.  I’m a research junkie.  J


American Society of Appraisers-Local Members

Marshall L Fallwell Jr.
Nashville, TN

Jerry L Sampson
Harrodsburg, KY

Patricia H Atwood
Rockford, IL

This is the letter I sent J minus the list of appraisers.  He was happy with what I found out and will soon start the process of appraisal and selling.  And he’s offered me 33% of the sale price.  That’s not bad for one reference question.  Does this count as a job?  Should I put this on my resume?  Probably not.  I should make note that I did not ask for payment. 

With the resources available to me, I conducted a simple internet search about cast iron antiques and relevant appraisers.  It wasn’t a complicated task but did take a few minutes to track down the appropriate people for the job.  I refused to use the internet to conduct an appraisal.  Even with a bunch of antique resources, I’m not a qualified appraiser.  It would kind of be like a librarian giving out medical advice, a big no-no.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bibliotherapy? Woo or Valid Practice?

I picked up my copy of American Libraries from the ALA today.  I came across a topic I’d never seen before: bibliotherapy. 

Bibliotherapy is defined simply enough as therapy with books.  It has some links to poetry therapy and is touted by some children’s librarians.  Apparently, it has a long history in the United States.  But something about it had my skeptic senses tingling near overload. 

I decided to conduct a simple search using Academic Search Premier-a general database I have access to through the University of Kentucky.  I typed in “bibliotherapy” into the search box and managed to get 374 hits dated from 1949 to 2011.  I narrowed the search by requesting only scholarly (peer-reviewed) resources.  This dropped the number of records down to 299 in that same date range.  To narrow the search again, I utilized the subject term “bibliotherapy” from the sidebar.  At this point, I had 184 results.  I decided to browse through the abstracts.

The abstracts discussed the use of bibliotherapy for childhood depression, adult depression, alcoholism, anxiety, gambling addiction, geriatric care, etc.  Several of the articles focused on the use of “self-help” books.  The other thing I noticed, and this is the biggie, is that most of the study abstracts indicated bibliotherapy only works, or works better, when it is combined with other means of therapy-like counseling or medication.  And some of the studies that indicated it did work were very small.  Before I’d buy this, I’d need large study groups and definite controls.  Compare bibliotherapy for depression against medication, and then show me the results. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I know reading and books open worlds and provide a wonderful means of engaging the mind and imagination.  They are great escapes.  They can be inspirational and pull readers out of the issues plaguing their minds.  However, I don’t think reading is necessarily the best way to fix mental problems.  And I really think “self-help” books are mostly a load of bull.  Reading fiction, true-life stories, biographies, textbooks, etc. all open up a reader’s world.  Books expand minds and introduce us to new ideas.  They show us worlds we might not otherwise be able to access.  But, self-help books? Really?  That’s what’s going to solve depression and anxiety?  Most of those books are wishy-washy and over-priced, telling readers to “look on the bright side” or “imagine your perfect life, and it’ll happen” or “mind over matter” and on and on.  Some of them talk about souls and angels and all manner of woo that won’t do your brain any good at all. 

Think about this for a minute.  Who decides what the main problem is?  Who selects the books?  Are we talking trained psychologists?  Or children’s librarians?  I think these issues are important.  I don’t want the local librarian psychoanalyzing and treating me or my kid.  I want a therapist or someone with credentials.  In some ways I can see bibliotherapy as harmless.  It’s like homeopathy that way.  It might not hurt even if it doesn’t help.  But then I think about the possibility that people with detrimental problems, not just teen angst or temporary depression, might be talked into bibliotherapy when what they need is counseling and medication.  That bothers me.  It bothers me a great deal.

My Hubby and I watched his brother go through depression and multiple attempts on his own life before he finally committed suicide.  A self-help book wasn’t going to help him.  Medication and therapy were helping, but there were other circumstances causing problems (we found out later).  This guy wasn’t illiterate.  He read, he painted, he was a pharmacist, he had a sense of humor and a love of fantasy and science fiction. 

And on another personal note, I suffer from minor depression and anxiety.  I’m a reader.  I’ve read the self-help books.  I’ve connected with characters going through similar problems.  But that didn’t get me over my problems.  You know what did?  Medication.  It gives me the mental space I need to be strong.  It stabilizes those wonky chemicals that get out of balance due to genetics and/or life circumstances.  We’ve all had days with the bad brain chemicals.  Some of us end up with more bad days than others.  It doesn’t even take an overly strong medicine or a high dose to balance me out.  But without that tiny chemical push in the right direction, I don’t balance.  And books become an escape at that point, not a way through my depression.

Now, those are my personal experiences.  I’m not an expert on this subject.  I haven’t dug through the studies.  My gut reaction to this and my reaction to the brief perusal of the article abstracts could be way off.  Maybe, bibliotherapy works.  But I need more convincing.  If any of my readers have any thoughts or info on this topic, let me know.  I’m in need of some educating.   

And to be fair, I have found one self-help item that actually helps.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Life Update

I thought I’d post an update on how life is going. 

My to-do list for the blog keeps getting longer.  I’m gonna have to stop myself at some point.  I do have the items on my list planned out (even when I’m not employed I live my life by day planner), but it may take a few weeks to get everything I want posted.  At least I won’t run out of blog material in the near future. 

The weather in Kentucky is still crazy.  Three days ago it was lovely.  Two days ago it was uber hot.  And yesterday we had thunderstorms with tornadoes and hail.  The temperature dropped, and I woke up freezing this morning.  Then, today decided to be sunny and in the fifty-degree range.  All of this crazy weather makes my joints ache and causes sinus problems, which makes me dizzy.  Then, I get slightly annoyed and frustrated, which leads to anxiety, then apathy.  So, I sit around boring myself or trying to cheer myself up with lolcats (I know, I know).  Then, I feel unproductive and make extra long to-do lists and trudge my way through all the library job lists I can find.  And, then, I still feel unproductive. 

Luckily, I have a fix for the next day or two.

I’m getting ready to sit through two pre-recorded American Library Association webinars.  One of them focuses on budget issues.  The second focuses on weeding collections.  I’ll take notes and post about the experience here in the next day or two.

I did get the corgi-pup brushed and cleaned today.  Anyone who owns a Corgi will understand what a massive accomplishment (and pain in the ass) that is without the help of a professional groomer.  The corgi-pup’s regular (and totally favorite) groomer got her hand caught in a leash attached to an uber-crazy dog that decided to drag her across a room.  She’s still not sure when she’ll be back to grooming.  Corgi-pup had a sad face after learning of her groomer’s unfortunate injury and demanded peanut butter biscuits to improve her mood.

She means business

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Summary: Narratives, Games, and Learning Environments, oh my!

Here it is, after a two week break.  This week we’ll look at the following article:

Dickey, Michele D. “Game Design Narrative for Learning: Appropriating Adventure Game Design Narrative Devices and Techniques for the Design of Interactive Learning Environments.” ETR&D. 54.3 (2006): 245-263.

Michele Dickey is a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  She focuses on instructional design and technology and has several publications on games and gamers.  So, she knows a thing or two about instruction and video games.

Dickey’s main purpose is to look at the possible place of narrative structures and games in the problem solving process and learning environment.  This article focuses on adventure games, after briefly covering other genres and mentioning the overlap of genres.  Adventure games tend to have the most developed narrative structures.  After a literature review (with some wonderful resources I’ll be digging up later), Dickey moves into the theoretical framework section of the article.  In this section she touches on the idea of learning environment.  Basically, this is a more modern idea among educators that students learn best when engaged and have an interactive environment in which to learn.  Knowledge (unlike information) cannot be transmitted from the instructor to the student.  The student has to construct her knowledge within the framework of the learning environment.  The old notion of lecturing and mindlessly copying notes doesn’t cut it here.  Students can be approached individually in a learning environment unlike the old school approach of having “each student do the same thing at the same time” (249).

Again, Dickey focuses on the adventure genre of games because of the more developed narrative structures found in them.  They can overlap with other genres, such as puzzle, first-person shooters, etc.  The adventure genre of games can, according to Dickey, “be characterized as a problem-solving environment” (250).  Problem-solving environments require players to interact and synthesize the information.  They have to use the narrative structure and environment of the game to solve problems, puzzles, go on quests, etc.  This can mean interacting with and interpreting characters in the game, utilizing objects, solving riddles, etc. 

Dickey also discusses how narrative factors into motivation.  She does this by looking to the field of literature (my old stomping ground).  Narrative based games use plot hooks (what keeps you guessing, wanting to find out more) and emotional proximity (identification with the character the gamer is playing, investment in the narrative) to engage gamers.  Using literature again, Dickey looks at the idea of the quest as a draw to keep gamers engaged and interacting.

While motivation is important in gaming and to the narrative design, Dickey sees narrative better served in the instructional setting as a “cognitive framework for problem solving” (252).  What’s that, you may wonder?  Humans have a habit of using narrative to define boundaries when they’re solving problems.  If you’re playing a game where the character can use magic spells, you’ll put that into your cognitive framework.  Likewise if your character has the ability pick locks, sword fight, utilize modern technology, etc.  The cognitive framework aids you in developing categories and relationships to work with.  You become aware of the characters you can interact with and how you can interact, what objects are beneficial and not, what skills are likely to be relevant, etc.  The narrative allows you to “identify and construct causal patterns that integrate what is known (backstory, environment, rules, etc.)” (252).  You figure out what you can and cannot do in the game setting through the narrative and through some trial and error in that narrative setting. 

Dickey points out that the narrative structure provides a “scaffolding for problem solving” (256).  Players develop skills for problem solving and “multimodal literacy” as they encounter problems, puzzles, and obstacles.  They have to use critical thinking skills in order to navigate the game and reach their goals. 

Dickey closes the article with a section on integrating adventure game narrative into the learning environment.  She points out that this is a framework not a “formula” for designing a course or learning environment.  She also points out the obvious notion that games are designed primarily for entertainment.  So, not all games will work for learning environments or as educational tools. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Plug and Game

Girl of the Gaps just posted a link to a fun online game.  The game is called Tower of Heaven.  The music is great, and I get all nostalgic over the big pixel graphics. 

It reminds me of my original Sega system.  No, not the Genesis-the actual Sega master system.  I remember when mine was all shiny and new and the graphics looked top of the line. 

Tower of Heaven sets your little character against a deity with an attitude problem (sounds familiar).  The deity attempts to make it ever more difficult for you to get to the top of his tower.  He makes new rules and acts like a jerk every chance he gets. 

It actually takes some dexterity to navigate the levels.  Since I’ve been playing those point and click puzzle/adventure games from BigFish on my computer and playing other games on my Wii, I’m afraid my old-school “w+d”= “jump left” skills are rusty.  I’m sure my skills will improve as I get more alcohol in my system (Don’t look at me like that.  It’s Saturday). 

And, no, this isn’t exactly the kind of critical thinking game I usually promote, but it is fun.  Sometimes, that counts for something.  And I like plugging good blogs when I get the chance (look to the right for blogs I read).

I didn’t need another game to play.  So, thanks Nicole.  I’ll plug her blog anyway.

Girl of the Gaps is an excellent blog.  I check her and the Digital Cuttlefish more than I check Pharyngula, which is saying something.  She’s an excellent writer and has lots of wonderful thought-provoking posts.  I wish I had half her smarts when I was her age.

Ha Ha

Yesterday’s PZ Cuttlefish was an April Fool’s Prank.  And as much as I’d like to say I didn’t fall for it that would be lying.  I had doubts and was skeptical, but they had a really well-executed trick going. 

I will admit to feeling conflicted about it.  I would have missed the Cuttlefish (I’ve grown attached).  I comment on his blog far more than I do Pharyngula and would have missed the link in the online community.  However, I was excited to possibly be on the blogroll of Dr. Myers. 

I feel kind of dumb for falling for it, although I’m clinging to that 10% of me that didn’t quite buy it. 

I’m still rereading lots of Cuttlefish poetry this weekend.  And I’m glad that there are two people out there instead of one super being capable of everything from biology to poetry.  I was starting to feel lazy.