03 October 2007

Issue Intro: A New Day for BiblioTech

Welcome to the first Fall 2007 installment of BiblioTech. You'll notice a few things have changed around here. We moved BiblioTech to a blog format, because it provides more content versatility and will hopefully make it easier for us to publish more quality content more frequently. Plus, with the new format you can:

  • interact with the authors and each other via comments.
  • conduct keyword searches using the tool at the top of the page.
  • browse the archives using the menu to the right.
  • subscribe to BiblioTech using your favorite RSS aggregator.

We've transferred all of the features we could track down from the past issues of BiblioTech as well, and you should definitely look through some of the older issues. There are some real gems that were tucked away in the BiblioTech vault that are worth a look.

We hope you enjoy the facelift and added functionality. Now let's get down to business. This issue spotlights a number of features loosely centered around the theme of this year's Graduate Student Symposium— Change and Opportunities: Libraries in the New Millennium. Make sure you register now for the conference! You won't want to miss it.

Before we turn you loose on the new issue, we'd like to encourage you to consider contributing to the next issue of BiblioTech. We aim to have one or two more issues before the semester is over, but we can only do it with your contributions. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Jason Kucsma, your BiblioTech editor
Fall 2007

Please Note: The default setting for comments was set to only allow registered users to post. We have opened this up to allow any reader to comment. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Pedantry Versus Persuasion -or- How to Keep Em’ Coming in the New Millennium

by Kirstin Thomas

Last spring, during an internship at a local community college, I had occasion to put my theoretical acquaintance with library marketing to the test. With no prior experience in marketing, I froze in terror during the initial meeting with my internship supervisor (a recent SIRLS grad) when she asked if I might be interested in drawing up a rough marketing plan for the library as my main project, as this was an area that was sorely neglected by library faculty due to more pressing obligations. I gulped and said “Yes, of course. I happen to have an inherent interest in marketing” (lie). Following our appointment, I raced home, dropped my information literacy instruction class, and enrolled in the divinely up for grabs special topics course entitled “Advanced Issues in Information Resources: Marketing Library and Information Services to Communities.” Taking this path, as the saying goes, has made all the difference as I prepare to jump headlong to the real world of 21st century professional librarianship.

My internship proved to be an eye-opener in many respects. Not only was I unversed in the fine art of library marketing, but I also had not, for all practical purposes, ever worked in a library (at least beyond the solo post of subbing in an elementary school media center). My subsequent experience engaging with half-a-dozen faculty librarians on a day-to-day-basis confirmed my suspicion that there must be a curious combination of genetics and life experience that inspires one to become a librarian. Though we like to fancy ourselves a unique breed of maverick forward-thinkers, and would certainly recoil in shock at any allegation of rigidity or charge of being resistant to change, we are, as a whole, a self-absorbed (introverted), order-loving, territorial, censorious, pedantic, and stubborn bunch (remember…if it stings a little, it’s probably true). This is why our libraries often feel more like penal institutions than the kind of responsive, flexible and innovative environments they need to be in order to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive information environment. Jeannette Woodward, author of Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model, eloquently sums up what I feel will be the biggest hurdle librarians must overcome in order to be successful in the new millennium: “To be affective, we must bring people to the library, and to do that, we must mold the library to their preferences, not the other way around.”

Once upon a time, the library was not the port of last resort, but rather the only stop for information beyond what was available in the family’s Life Nature Library or three-volume set of Tell Me Why (that is, if you were lucky enough to own such an extensive personal collection of resource materials). In the great tradition of supply-and-demand, the library was like Park Place in the world of information real estate. This put librarians in the unique position to concede to their innermost selves with impunity, because the public really didn’t have an alternate choice, let alone multitudes of choices, regarding where to get their information. The “Come hither, peons, and quietly wait your turn, for I am the venerable gatekeeper of information” attitude of yore continues to linger in many of today’s libraries, as evident in the ever-prevalent Thou Shalt Not signage (DO NOT use cell phone, drink, eat, visit social networking sites, talk, sleep, sneeze, etc.), the prejudice among library workers against subjecting their activities to scientific scrutiny (Brooks 373), the failure of most libraries to actively collect and respond to user feedback, and finally, the general irritation with young people, in particular young adults, who have the audacity to periodically submit to fits of exuberance in our hallowed and esteemed institutions.

Please don’t misunderstand. In the very first days of the SIRLS program, when I was still as green as the day is long, groups of students were asked to share why we wanted to become librarians. Since I did not have the advantage of being able to formulate a more intelligent response based on the revelations of my fellow students (I was picked right off the bat), I nervously blurted the first thing that came to mind, which was incidentally the truth: “I want to become a librarian because I revere books and think that libraries smell like God.” Of course, this wasn’t the whole truth. If I had been entirely honest, I would have said this: “I want to become a librarian because I like the idea of getting paid big bucks to sit behind a desk and read, with only the periodic distraction of demonstrating how to use the copy machine or having to point to the bathroom or pencil sharpener (in a quiet place that smells like God).”

In the final analysis, I think that many contemporary students and recent graduates of library schools, particularly the large numbers of us who came to the profession as a second career (with very little or no experience working in libraries), were drawn to it based on certain notions of what librarians and libraries are supposed to be. For example, librarians are supposed to work from behind a desk, not from behind a PDA; libraries are supposed to be a place for quiet study, not a venue for Dance Dance Revolution; librarians are supposed to edify the public (because we know what is best for our fellow man- the best books to read, the most conducive atmosphere to improve the intellect, the most appropriate Internet sites to visit, etc.), not indulge our community’s every foolhardy wish and whim. As such, we are equally appalled at the concessions that will have to be made, the acts of persuasion we shall be forced to concede to, and the oppressive uncertainty of the road ahead. In the end, the main difference between “millennial” and old guard librarians is not ideological, but rather the keen understanding that if we are unwilling to adjust our thinking about what a library is supposed to be, and what our jobs are supposed to entail, we run the risk of endangering our very livelihoods. I read somewhere once that the film industry nearly collapsed, escaping decline only when it decided it was in the entertainment business rather than the movie business. Likewise, railroads stopped growing because they decided they were in the railroad business rather than the transportation business. It is my hope that libraries don’t succumb to a similar fate by deciding that they are in the library business rather than the dynamic, fiercely competitive and constantly evolving information business.

At the end of my internship at the local community college, I had the opportunity to present to the library chair and faculty a comprehensive marketing plan that was the fruit of an entire semester of shared labor distributed among myself an four other library marketing students (we decided to use this library as the basis for our final group project). I prefaced the web-based presentation with the following apologetic communiqué:

Our ideas and choices for this project were almost always informed by current best practices and contemporary thought coming out of library schools today, which can be distilled down to one simple truth: Libraries no longer have a monopoly on information, and as such, can no longer afford to be apathetic about change, particularly in regards to improving customer service and developing a marketing mindset.

My presentation contained suggestions that included actively garnering user feedback, identifying areas for regular assessment, expanding the current list of goals and objectives for the library, creating a library presence within the college’s online courseware, loosening restrictions on computer use, identifying and humanizing library staff via a photo wall that indicated each librarian’s academic background as well as a surprising fact (raced dog-sleds in Alaska, volunteer firefighter, Irish clog dancer…you get the picture), and creating a more casual environment on the first floor. When all was said and done, I got a big round of applause and a swift scoot out the door, as it was my last day, and I am pretty sure that my presence had become more of a disruption than an obliging diversion (except for my internship supervisor, who bid me a tearful farewell). In retrospect, I can imagine that I was rather annoying in my exuberance, and remain grateful for the experience and enlightened because of it.

One of my favorite sayings is “Change the way you think about things, and the things you think about will change.” This idea is especially salient in regard to the upcoming SIRLS Graduate Student Symposium, aptly entitled “Change and Opportunities: Libraries in the New Millennium.” I was happy to see that the original title, “Change and Challenges: Libraries in the New Millennium, was amended. In the end, the way you look at a situation can make all the difference. We can look at change as an unwelcome burden or an opportunity to make a real difference in our communities by giving our users what they really want. I hope we will swiftly acknowledge and align our service philosophy to the simple truth that Google and others have known all along: In the 21st century information landscape, the customer is king.

Works Cited:

  • Brooks, Terrence A. “The Model of Science and Scientific Models in Librarianship.”Library Trends 38.2 (1989): 237-49.
  • Woodward, Dianne. Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the BookstoreModel. Chicago: American Library Association; 2005.
Kirstin Thomas is a recent graduate of the School of Information Resources and Library Science at the University of Arizona.

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How To Impress Your Future Employers

by Rebecca Blakiston

It can be tough applying for jobs after graduation, especially when you are in there with a large and competitive pool of experienced candidates. How can you compete when you are just getting out of library school? Well there are some simple things you can do now as a student to gain valuable experience while at the same time boosting your resume. Here are some suggestions:

  • Work in a library. This is a simple one, but I know people who have failed to do this and it has really hurt them when looking for a job. Even student employment (the UA Library hires a ton of student workers) can give you valuable skills in customer service, collection maintenance, circulation and reference. It will also expose you to the library work environment. Internships and graduate assistantships are often even better, so be sure to take advantage of these.
  • Attend conferences. This can be extremely valuable. Attending conferences is a great way to network with professionals around the country. It’s also one of the best ways to keep on top of current hot topics in the field. Many conferences will be too expensive on a student budget, but local conferences such as AzLA in Mesa and Living the Future in Tucson are possibilities. Plus there are always student rates for these conferences you should take advantage of while you can. And of course there’s the Symposium, which is not only local but also completely free.
  • Publish. Even a small student publication, such as BiblioTech, can be put on your resume under “Publications & Presentations.” If you’re planning to work in an academic setting, especially if there’s a possibility of tenure-track position, this shows you’re taking an interest in publishing. It also shows you know how to write. There are a lot of other opportunities to publish – the library world has a lot of publications – so why not try submitting something and see what happens?
  • Present. Almost all professional librarians have to present on a somewhat regular basis, whether it be at conferences, in front of their colleagues, or to the community. A lot of positions even require a presentation as a part of the interview process. So get practice now. The Symposium offers a great opportunity to do just this in a low-key setting. Another great way to add content to the “Publications & Presentations” portion of your resume.
  • Associate, Professionally. Professional associations are another thing that will inevitably be a part of your library/and information science career. Get started now by joining the Library Student Organization and attending meetings, perhaps even becoming an officer. This shows leadership skills and interest in the profession, which will go a long way with potential employers. In addition, it’s a great way to get to know your colleagues in school and start expanding your network.
  • Get your name out there. In the online world of self-publication there are a lot of chances to be heard. Try making an insightful comment on a famous library blog, such as librarian.net or tametheweb. Contribute to one of the ALA wikis. E-mail an inspiring professional and ask them a question. Blog, and tell others about your blog. Think how much easier it would be to land that job if the employer had actually heard of you and was impressed by your work.

The library job market can be competitive, and it’s important to have experiences that will make you stand out from other applicants. Taking the initiative now will place you ahead of other new librarians, and your chances of landing that interview just got a little bit better.

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Connecting People and Information: Lessons from the 2007 SLA World Conference

by Nancy Bronte Matheny

With the wide eyes of Dorothy Gale from Kansas upon landing in Munchkinland, I entered the Denver Convention Center armed with a pre-registration packet and an unbridled hope and anticipation for good things to come at the 2007 Special Libraries Association (SLA) Conference. I was not to be disappointed. No Lollipop Guild or Enchanted Forest, but the experience was just as sweet and just as enchanting.

As a student of the School of Information Resources and Library Science(SIRLS) Master’s program, I came to Denver June 3rd, due to the generosity of the Information Technology (IT) Division of the SLA, and partly out of curiosity about life in the Major League. I was in Denver to accept the 2007 Jo Ann Clifton Student Award from the IT Division for my paper “Forging cultural heritage collections online: The story of An American Tale,” developed in Dr. Peter Botticelli’s amazing course Digital Libraries. Through the four-day roller-coaster ride, I picked up a few lessons I wish to share with you as future conference attendees, fellow library students extraordinaire, and future colleagues.

Lesson 1: Network, network, network
As any business coach worth his lapel pins will tell you at a professional function, network, network, network. Trite to some, and overwhelming to others, the act of cultivating people who can be helpful to one professionally is the crux of any conference. And somewhat accidentally, it was the highlight of the gathering for me. I didn’t go intending on networking, but it just happened.

Entitled “From wallflower to active networker,” Dr. Renee Gilbert’s workshop, amusing and informative, accentuated the interest among information professionals in how to do it right. The modest conference room bulged with over 200 people. Attendees were practically up on their chairs begging for more. Networking, or socializing in general appeared to be a raw nerve for many in attendance. Not surprising considering many may typically find themselves lost behind book stacks or behind a flat screen, as I am quite often found in doing my schoolwork. My friends would decidedly not consider me the wallflower variety, but the tips from a self-described “reforming shy person” were invaluable. For example, her suggestion to always be the ‘host’ instead of a ‘guest’ of any three-way conversation at a cocktail party or other mixer was helpful.

As a distance student from cyberia, it was also quite a shock meeting real human beings, and American ones at that. They’re so friendly. I am able to get over to the U.S. from time-to-time but am not really used to socializing with them. An American myself, living in the Middle East country of Oman, it was a strange but wonderful feeling. To reconnect with fellow SIRLS student and UA-SLA student president Cindy Elliott was, indeed, magical.

But what awed me the most, was the fact that, people at the top of their profession were so easily accessible and easy to talk to. It was, indeed, humbling and inspiring to chat with SLA President-elect Stephen Abram. And a privilege to speak with Jane Kenney Meyers founder of the Lubuto Library Project, to learn how she started a modest school library for HIV/AIDS orphans in a shipping container in Zambia, made me really reflect about what I might do here in Oman to help facilitate literacy in the country.

And to meet Mohammed Rashid, Arabian Gulf University Librarian and SLA Board Member for the Arabian Gulf, and Dr. Saif Al Jabri, Director of Information, Sultan Qaboos University from right here in Muscat, but right there in Denver. My intent is not to impress you, but to impress upon you how networking was made simpler by showing up at an annual conference. Network, network, network.

Lesson 2: Be prepared to be surprised
The image of a bun-sporting spinster in a polyester leisure suit was something I did not witness at the conference (okay, maybe once or twice), but rather some very hip, and very savvy well-dressed professional men and women. That was just one of several surprises I experienced at the convention.

The convention center floor itself was like a huge organism gushing with light, sound, and energy you could cut with a knife. The world’s information – where it was going, what was new, what would change lives, was right there on the convention center floor, a true adrenalin rush. “Quiz shows,” demonstrations, handouts, samplers from state-of-the-art print and multimedia sources from the Big 5 and other top global vendors was electrifying.

I was surprised to learn that Pakistan, right next door, has launched a national Digital Library (Pakistan higher Education Commission), which further promotes research in the country. Sheesh, seems we only hear about civil discontent in the news from Pakistan, not the use of cutting-edge technology to advance research in the sciences. Mr. Muhammad Shahid Soroya, librarian at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Government College University in Lahore, delivered a thoroughly informative lecture with slides about the achievements of his team, in the “Global Librarianship” workshop. Be prepared to be surprised.

Lesson 3: Keep an open mind
Going into the conference with an open mind can make for a more enriching conference experience. I learned at “Leading meetings: Getting things done and having fun” that I really can learn to work with “free-spirits.” I learned that you don’t actually have to be wearing an evening gown to attend the SLA IT Division Gold Diggers’ Ball. I learned that you can think outside the scheduled program, and crash a mixer/reception with which you have no business to meet some fascinating people. I learned that former Vice President Al Gore has real insights into the pivotal role information professionals will play in the future of our global knowledge society. Keep an open mind.

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) Conference was not the first library powwow that I had ever attended, but the first international one, and it was a doozy. Overall, the conference helped me bring into better focus future plans in the biz, while of course confusing the process further by opening up so many more possibilities. The conference made me glad that I had chosen this profession. So remember, when you head next year to Seattle for SLA 2008, be prepared to network, network, network, be surprised, and keep an open mind.

Nancy is a graduate student in the School of Information Resources and Library Science program. She lives in Muscat, Oman.

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Games, Gaming, and Gamers: Why You Want Them in Your Libraries

by Elizabeth T. Danforth

Words you know:
Candyland. Monopoly. Trivial Pursuit. Pokemon.

Words you might know:
Wii. World of Warcraft. Second Life. Dance Dance Revolution.

Words you may not know you need to know:
Halo. Guitar Hero. Club Penguin. Runescape.

What do these things have in common? Games: they are all games and about gaming. And you need to get them on your radar as you move into the library profession.

Why? Reasons are legion. One of the main reasons is that this is where the users are, whether you call them users, patrons, customers, or civilians. Last year games finally outstripped movies as the worldwide choice of entertainment in terms of financial investment in buying and playing them. There are nine million people playing World of Warcraft – that makes the population of Azeroth larger than most countries in the real world.

Do you need more reasons? Start with some things you need to realize:

  1. Gamers come in all ages, flavors, and sizes. Do you assume the typical gamer is a teenaged male, overweight and unfit, living in his mother’s basement? Your beliefs of gamer stereotypes are demonstrably untrue according to the ample research. Forty-two percent of the online gamers out there are female. Only 20% are children. The demographic of those who have ever played video games is 100% of MIT freshmen. The video game generation has more in common in the way they approach life, business, teamwork, advancement, and success than the media’s separation of them into Gen X, Gen Y, or Millenials, partly because of the way they – we? – have grown up with games as the model for how to approach life.
  2. Games and game-playing are good for you, and for the children and teens around you. Over half of all teens engage in “participatory culture,” much of it associated with games, marked by peer-to-peer learning and the development of leadership and other workplace skills. This “hidden curriculum” affects future school and workplace success – or failure. Have you ever read a Pokemon card? Three nested conditional sentences rife with jargon, yet absorbed by kids facing little more than Dick and Jane in school. Small wonder they’re bored; games reward immersion with success. To get the most from the game they check out the Pokemon books too, in order to learn the associated lore and background information. And Grandma doesn’t want to join the family at the Thanksgiving dinner table because she and Grandpa are getting to bowl together – on the Wii – for the first time since she broke her hip. Her arm will be sore in the morning, but not because she couldn’t cut through the potato skin.
  3. Games will be an integral part of tomorrow's libraries, and tomorrow's worlds (yes, plural). Whether you call them MUVEs or MMORGs (multiuser virtual environment, or massively multiplayer online roleplaying games), cyberspace has worlds to discover and libraries will be there. An avatar in Second Life has no use for a can of Coke® except as window dressing; Big Business is having trouble figuring that out. An avatar in Second Life does need information, and a virtual library is one place to come looking for how to make money or buy hair, how to build a prim, or listen to Diana Gabaldon read from her newest novel. And in a recent study out of Syracuse University, 77% of sampled libraries reported that they support games in one fashion or another.

But gamers? In the library? We are heavily about education and entertainment, and games are both. Public libraries especially are increasingly about being a community commons. Some games work best face to face, but where do you go to play? Even online games can be enjoyed shoulder to shoulder with friends, each on their own laptops even as their avatars move together in cyberspace.

"But," you say, "I'm going to work in a business library, a medical library, a special collection. I don't want or need this trivial fluff."

Actually, you might. Maybe you can't see a place for World of Warcraft... but games in general? Yes. The military has invested heavily in online gaming as a recruitment tool. Businesses are regularly using games to recruit and train personnel; it's far more motivating than a powerpoint and the information is internalized faster. Research from IBM shows that leadership skills practiced in online games teaches and rewards success and innovation. Games are being used to help young and old understand the medical procedures they're facing, and to teach them visualization techniques and attitudes that help them battle cancers. Retirement homes are using the Wii for the chair-bound, for socialization and for exercise appropriate to their constrained activity levels. So familiarizing yourself with the world of games, gaming, and gamers should be on even your more rarified agendas.

And World of Warcraft, like Second Life, has been called "the new golf." So you might want to log in and take part in your boss's raiding guild after all. Show 'em the stuff you're made of, your ability to function as part of a team, and how you can be relied on as your mage kicks out the DPS to save your boss from certain death in Zangarmarsh.

Liz Danforth is a professional illustrator, writer, game developer and designer inducted into the Academy of Gaming Arts and Design Hall of Fame in 1996. She has 17 years experience as a public library paraprofessional and is two classes from graduating from the SIRLS program.

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by Mira Domsky

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