someone else’s blog: In the Library With the Lead Pipe

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An interesting article about the role of “celebrity gossip” in a library setup.

I find this particularly relevant because I am a bit of a pop culture nerd.  Not necessarily the “Brangelina” culture discussed in the article, but “pop culture criticisms” of a slightly more (I hate to say obscure because it makes me sound like a hipster, but) obscure nature.

I think this might be one of the greatest things I’ve read all week: “Instead of thinking of the library as a place where culture is accessed, we might also think of it was a place where culture is created: where the individual and information collide and meaning is made.”  That’s an easy way to understand the library’s relevance if ever I heard one.

And the author of the post is making gossip and celebrity awareness legitimate.  It’s building culture, and that’s not just something to be brushed off.

This article is talking about standards of human behavior being upheld and threatened; it talks about when “a major star challenges the status quo.”  It’s creating conversations.  It’s discussing “our own perspectives on marriage, divorce, and the formation of family,” discussing our ideals for human behavior.

And it’s pointing out that yes, magazines and celebrity media are looked down on in library settings.  “They’re junk food.  They’re a waste of time,” the author says.  The author also points out that “celebrity materials are ‘bad’ because they’re popular, directed at women, and ‘low class’… because they’re gendered as ‘feminine pleasures,’ they’re less valid than masculine pleasures like watching sports or, for that matter, reading Sports Illustrated” and that “these are sexist, classist, and outdated assumptions.”  The magazine shelves at a library, anything popular-culture related, can spark different discussions but very valid ones.

The author mentions the library as a cultural center and says that celebrity culture is possibly an opportunity.  The list of ideas to make this happen is fascinating: pairing documentaries and writings especially.  And hey, taking this more seriously would draw more patrons to the library, I imagine.

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regarding the JSTOR Production Workflow chart

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You know, this one.

So I’m just going to go number by number on this one, I think.

  1. Valid and useful.
  2. Okay, that makes sense.  That sounds very detailed and kind of fun in a weird way.
  3. Somewhere in here is the acquisition process, which I know from my interviews is more difficult with less funding, as is the case nowadays, but this looks more like an article about what to do with what you have, not how to get it, so that’s not necessarily the focus.  I’m enjoying all of the military and athletics metaphors for the little basically-stick-people working in the library.
  4. Quality assessment.  Do they fix what they can or just make note of it?
  5. I… really would enjoy doing this step, I think.  For all of the previously mentioned reasons.
  6. Useful, yes.  This is not necessarily the job of the librarian.
  7. This involves the librarians, though.
  8. And now I see where JSTOR comes in.  There are a lot of steps leading up to them.
  9. Production technicians.  That sounds sort of fun too.
  10. I just want to catalog all the library books.  These stick figures are confirming my feelings.
  11. I also love how many rounds of testing are involved in this.  Double triple checking things makes me happy.

someone else’s blog: The Note on my Door

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Namely, a post about “counterintuitive digital media assignments.”  Here’s a different take on the digital divide: the divide between this generation and their willingness to “just Google it” and the wealth of information available in more old-fashioned ways if you only just look.

The information in the article didn’t surprise me. Young people don’t like to have to use hard copies they can’t look up online.  Surprise surprise.

Reading the commentary by students subjected to this made me a little sad (“this process made me feel like I was a cave man,” “I thought this seemed crazy”) but in a way I could have predicted.

Apparently even one of the librarians who was asked for help “laughed out loud” at the assignment, but the students came away from it “amazed with what our libraries offer.”  People were using the library to its fullest extent.  People were realizing that they themselves didn’t know everything and could stand to ask for help.

See, libraries are useful!!  We need them!!  This is just further proof.

yet more tech ranting

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Any article that includes the phrase “restore our relevance” in reference to libraries is going to be depressing.  I don’t even know if I have words for that feature, not really.

But then that little side of me that starts to feel like a Luddite after reading things like that has to be calmed down by the reading of other things.  Integration of the tech, that’s the way!  The technologies described in the Horizon Report are nothing new to me, and their integration is nothing new to me, but it’s still nice to see someone discussing all of the ways in which these can be utilized.

It’s still weird to me that Twitter can be considered a “learning tool.”  The only things I’ve learned from Twitter are which of my favorite celebrities hang out with each other in their spare time or which of my favorite celebrities approve of which television programs that I also happen to love.  YouTube makes sense, Google Docs makes sense, WordPress obviously makes sense, Blogspot makes sense, really Google anythings make sense.  Facebook?  Less so.  Again, all I really learn from Facebook is which of my high school acquaintances has gotten pregnant recently.  But I can understand how things like Twitter and Facebook would be potentially utilizable.

I would think that iTunes and things such as that would actually be more useful; podcasts, for example, are pretty straightforwardly utilizable.  Certainly more utilizable in my mind than Twitter, but hey.

The article on the modern learning commons is interesting too.  It’s showing people working together to pool knowledge; “the learning commons brings together the functions of libraries, labs, lounges, and seminar areas in a single community gathering place,” it says.  “An ideal venue to blend face-to-face with virtual meetings,” it says.  That sounds like integration at its finest right there.

rural libraries and things

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Obviously, Salem is not a rural area, and the Salem Public Library is not a rural library, but I still recognized some of the outreach tactics discussed in the article from my discussion with Ann.  Reaching out to “special populations such as ethnic minorities, disabled persons, the elderly, and children,” as the article on rural libraries stated, was something  we talked about in detail; special programs, involving children in literacy, and bookmobiles all came up.

The discussions of language maintenance were interesting.  I hadn’t really done a lot of looking into the subject one way or the other in the past, but I see how such things are important, definitely.

The mentions of “cybermobiles” or “mobile electronic libraries” were also very welcome.  I really do like the idea of those.  I think that programs like that, while sometimes difficult because of funding and resources and things, are very vital in maintaining the library’s place in society.  Libraries exist so that programs like this can exist, giving knowledge to anyone who needs it.

yes, digital media unnerves me somewhat.

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I will admit that reading a lot of these articles about the digitization of books and other media, and therefore the change of libraries, fills me with a complete sense of terror.  Not from a professional standpoint; I am fully willing and able to learn how to use these technologies in a professional context.  That doesn’t frighten me and I think it’s completely possible for libraries not to go extinct as some fear by adapting.  I like to adapt, I’m good at adapting.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my office space at home, able to see two of my personal bookcases.  They’re full of many good memories (a few bad ones, too) and the tangibility of paper knowledge.  Perhaps for reasons discussed in Margaux DelGuidice’s article that I discussed previously, the digitization of information so completely makes me a little nervous because it seems somehow more questionable.  If a thing has been written in a book, a nonfiction book, I trust it.  I trust that it will have been properly edited for facts and content.  If a thing is written digitally, anyone could have put it there, right?  There might be improperly placed commas or misspellings, factual fallacies.

But it’s just something new to learn.

Kim Leeder’s post advocates “Knowledge, with a capital ‘K.'”  That’s the right way to go about it.  A lot of these librarians are seeming to be not afraid of the future, but preparing for it as best they can.  They want to make sure that we don’t get lost in the convenience and instead strive for truth.

I do disagree slightly with Mike Shatzkin when he posits the questions “If we get to the day when the store is still called Barnes & Noble and it has one shelf of books and is otherwise full of stationery, plush toys, and reading gadgets, is it still a bookstore? If the Atwater converts itself over time into a community center with one room that has some books in it, will it still be a library?”  He says no, I say yes.  I say if Barnes & Noble or the Atwater want to call themselves bookstores and libraries, then they are.  The definition of a bookstore and a library just may change, as terrifying as that may seem.

on information literacy

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As I have may before mentioned, I am my friends’ go-to Research Girl.  When anyone has a question about something, be it who was in a movie (which I often don’t even need to look up, being prone to storing entire imdb entries in my head recreationally) or how you get from one place to another or if there are certain types of restaurants in a certain area, I am the one they call to look it up.  Some of them have smart phones.  Some of them have done this when they are actually at their own houses with access to their own computers.  But still, I’m the one who looks things up.

This used to make me sort of cranky (mostly because I didn’t like the implication that, oh sure, it’s just me, I’m at home/school/wherever with my laptop, I’m not doing anything important and can drop anything to do your research) but I’m beginning to think now that it is actually a compliment of sorts.  Maybe they don’t really think of it that way.  Maybe they do just think it’s easier.  But in this “just Google it world” that is discussed in the article on In the Library With the Lead Pipe, I have never been comfortable taking advice from just anywhere.

Sure, I’ll take my movie trivia from imdb, because it is well-maintained and reputable.  I’ll take directions from Google, because it is a service intended to give you appropriate directions.  (Sometimes even those don’t work, but that’s trial and error and has led to some adventures anyway.)  Sure, I use Wikipedia for things, usually not particularly serious ones (looking up the genres that music I have on my iPod falls into for example; I can’t stand to just leave on the “Alternative” or “Rock” or “Singer/Songwriter” labels that iTunes assigns) but still.  But I know that just because the internet says it, that doesn’t mean it’s true.  If I’m looking up proper facts, I cross-reference.  I verify.

The article says that librarians and library information searches are designed to do just that.  As a fiction writer of sorts, I have more than once looked up something that is very specifically factual: the side effects of a concussion, for example.  I didn’t just trust the first link that Google gave me, I kept on searching, trying to make sure I was using “high quality sources,” as the article describes them, for the information.  I was looking up spinal cord injuries yesterday and had to weed through five or six pages before I found one that wasn’t just speculation or patient discussion but was actual medical fact.

“Librarians, using the tool of an in-depth reference interview, can guide their patrons towards this and other useful resources,” the article says.  Interviews I have done this week with a public librarian and a medical librarian have verified that this is in fact one of their roles: the role of helping people sort through information to figure out what is and is not relevant and true.  Hearing that, hearing how useful these librarians have been to people in their quest for information literacy, reading articles like this: it all makes me feel sure that yes, this is what I want to do with myself.  This is good and useful work and needs to continue to be available to people.