A Day in the Life of an Academic Librarian

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well. It has been another busy week here on campus, but I’m excited because we are finally getting some rain and I also get to read my students’ rough drafts today so hopefully that will be fun. Today I just thought I’d write a bit about life as an academic librarian as it may be useful for LIS graduates considering academic librarianship. So here we go!

In July of this year I will have been working as an academic librarian for six years. I can hardly believe that it has been that long already and am excited for the next six years. Along the way I have learned a thing or two about being an academic librarian and as I love sharing information I thought I’d share a bit in the form of “a day in the life” that seems popular in library land. While there is no typical day in the life of an academic librarian, I’m going to share a few different types of days that I have working as an academic librarian.

But first, a bit of context. I work on a campus where librarians are faculty members and we have instructional, research/professional development, university service, and community service requirements for retention, tenure, and promotion. Many academic librarian environments are like this and many are not. So all of talk about what I do during the day is within the context of spending most of my time, thus far, as an untenured library faculty member, and spending the last year as a tenured library faculty member. Just fair warning.

So I think, if I were to divide up the main categories or types of days I have as a librarian, there would be three main types of days. First: days when I have a lot of teaching and reference duties. Second: days when I have a lot of meetings. Third: days when I have time for research and writing, along with other project work.

The first two categories, teaching/reference and meetings, take up most of my days as a library faculty member or rather meetings take up a lot of time if I’m not careful about it. I love teaching and public service, so I don’t mind days when I have a lot of classes and reference or research appointments. These days usually fly by and I might teach a course-integrated instruction session, have some hours on the reference desk or be teaching a credit-level course for information literacy. Of course, prep time for instruction takes up some more of my time as a librarian, but happily in the summer there is always time to completely revamp my classes to make them more effective for the coming year.

Days where I have six to eight hours of meetings can be killer. Meetings are important for dissemination of information and for checking in, but back-to-back meetings are something I do not like and always try to avoid. Also, for those contemplating academic librarianship, meetings mean that work gets piled up, especially emails, especially at the end of the term, which still have to be dealt with after meetings are over. My suggestion: become an email guru and figure out a system to get through your inbox quickly and efficiently so you aren’t drowning in emails. I personally like logging out of my email and only checking it a few times a day so I can get through a bunch of email at once.

Also, with meetings, don’t be afraid to delegate work, you are a team or committee after all. Also, if at all possible, never go to a meeting without an agenda and never end a meeting without some action items. Make your meetings efficient, too.

One of my favorite types of days are days when I’m not scheduled in any meetings and can take the morning to work on my research and writing. I love research and I love sharing my research. Having a large block of time makes it much easier to write, for me, and make good progress on manuscripts. That being said, I’ve gotten much better (as I should after six years) of fitting in quick bursts of writing and research whenever I can, but having a block of time is the best. Also, days without meetings allow time for other projects, whether that be in the archives, figuring out analytics, completing collection development projects, or writing assessment reports.

Also, remember, although days as an academic librarian can be really, really busy (especially during the main academic terms), it is really important to take time to relax, breath, and step away in order to come back to things with clear eyes. Plus, being a calm colleague will make you a valuable colleague. Also, some of the most important activities you can do, especially as a new academic librarian, is to talk with your colleagues, hear what they are working on, and figure out how you can collaborate. One of the great joys is being able to collaborate with colleagues on projects and research.

I hope that gives you a helpful overview of a few days in the life of an academic librarian. It really is a great job.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with more news, notes, and thoughts. Allons-y!

PDA 2012: Cases and Examples

First morning session: case studies and examples. Let’s get into it.

How My Family Archives Affected Othersby Stan James (on Twitter @wanderingstan)
Talking about his grandmother and grandfather and how his grandmother burned all her letters after she had let her children read the letters. [Note: Stan spoke at PDA 2011 about his family archiving project] His father is still scanning his materials.

Three points: personal archiving is a hot space; much room for creativity; archiving and relationships

Still working on the family archives and checking out other social media sites to share the images and documents. Used Drupal platform to create own family website (lots more work than he thought it would be). Lots of great features on the website because have tagging metadata. Lots and lots of photos. Began using maps, especially Google Street View, to see how geographical locations have changed since the photos were taken years ago. Also has had many text documents scanned and transcribed via Mechanical Turk. Lots of mashups on the website, like covers from TIME on the website based on the date of the letters written.

Using simple questions and randomly selected photos to get the rest of the metadata entered by the family members (using the website). This project has helped the family members become closer and need to make the interfaces easier to use, especially for those who are not familiar with technology or have mobility issues.

You need to think about privacy concerns of others who are in the photos (but not part of the family) and also geo-location codes for those who don’t want their homes marked online.

The Personal Archive of Sven G. by Sven Goyvaerts
Unfortunately not here

What I’ve learned from gardening my Brain Jerry Michalski, The REXpedition
[Talking now instead of after lunch]

Talking about The Brain and using it for 15 years in one brain space. It’s mind-mapping software. Each link is called “a thought” and links together various thoughts and maps out the connections. Very good if you are a visual thinker and can make your own links to various thoughts. You can drag and drop new links into “the brain” on your desktop. Good way to create context and to make sense out of the world, but you have to rely on organizations like the Internet Archive to be able to find old websites. You can use The Brain instead of bookmarks. Does have a notes field. Doesn’t take a lot of time according to Jerry and helps him improve his memory. Can see his brain at JerrysBrain.com. He isn’t sure what to do with this now because, while it is great for him, he wants to figure out how it could be helpful for others. He wants to do collaborative sense-making.

Unstable Archives: Performing the Franko B Archive by Jo An Morfin-Guerrero (fine art conservator and student at Bristol University)
Part of PhD research on preservation of media and different artistic practices. Franko B is an artist who currently lives in London and does many different types of art including performance art. He started collecting documentation of his artistic work and donated to Live Art Archives at Bristol University. Very controversial to document performance art because you are preserving something that has been created to be ephemeral. [I think this is a very interesting philosophical and theoretical debate] Because the artist himself has collected the documentation and donated to the university in 2009, it is a bit less controversial to archive this collection.

First she just dealt with materiality of the collection because the materials were in very poor containers and not indexed. Then she began worked with the materials and the database records to do media archaeology to see what the materials together mean. Lots of interesting dilemmas for archiving. How do you show moving behaviors through time with static archives? How do you convey the ephemeral nature of the performance art?

Take Home Message
Family archiving is a great way to bring multiple generations of the family together. It is a great way to share memories, but does take a lot of time to create. Check out TheBrain for mind-mapping and contextual bookmarks if you like visual linkages. Performance art in the archives means that we must find new ways of showing context and using the archives to create meaning (and being okay with not always having the answers). Very interesting trio of talks showing the diversity of personal archiving methods and tools.

Mobile Reference in a Changing Library

The use of texting is increasing. How do libraries leverage this technology successfully? Librarians need to seriously think about starting to offer text reference service for their users.

My Info Quest
by Ann Ownes, Sacramento Public Library

My Info Quest was started by a grant and is run by librarians–it is collaborative. Texting is increasing in use, while talking on cell phones is decreasing. Goal is to be 24/7 but right now open for text reference about 65 hours a week.

How does it work?
Users send a text, Altarama translates into an email and send it to Gmail, and then send an email that is translated into a text for the user. Do not answer legal or medical questions. Gmail account for the texting service looks exactly like a regular Gmail account.

Sacramento Public Library used a QR Code on the website that users could scan and it would add the phone number for the texting service to their phone’s contacts list. (This is a fantastic use of QR Codes.)

Have created a Google Group that is active to share information among the librarians and an iGoogle Reference Workspace. Great feature of the workspace is the character counter that librarians can use to make sure that their messages are not longer than 160 characters. Also they make use of link shorteners. Use Google Calendar to see who is assigned to which shifts.

Is it being used?
Yes. Answered over 8,400 questions since launch in July 2009. Largest user group is from Oklahoma City (Sacramento is second).

What we learned

  • Text reference has the same problems as a physical library
  • we can’t assume users’ phones are web-enabled
  • it takes talent to craft a good answer in 160 characters
  • text reference fills a need and many participants will remain on a paying basis in 2011: going with a different vendor (Text a Librarian) in 2011

SMS Landscape
by Ann Schoenenberger, Kenton County Public Library

Text messaging is second most popular thing to do on a cell phone (taking a photo is the most popular), from Pew Internet study.

Businesses are creating services around texting: ChaCha, kgb (charges $1/question), Google SMS, etc.

Library options: Text a Librarian, QuestionPoint, twilio, AltaRama, Agent511, Microsoft Outlook SMS.

People want answers, not instructions or keyword searching, in mobile reference (especially with text reference).

Lots of research is coming out now on text reference. Dr. Lili Luo from SJSU is doing research into text reference so be on the look out for her articles.

People ask questions via IM and text reference that they wouldn’t ask in person. Sometimes you get goofy questions (just like at the reference desk) or rude questions. Favorite goofy question: “If a taco and a hot dog got in a fight, who would win?”

Action steps:

  • Try it for yourself (309-222-7740 for My Info Quest)
  • Help put libraries in people’s pockets
  • Encourage people to use text reference services
  • Tell your story

You can go to @smsbib to get articles referenced in the talk.


Why changing from AltaRama to Text a Librarian?
Had a vendor fair in July and listened to presentations, libraries discussed it and had a vote. They liked the interface a lot and there was the cost issue–got a great discount.

Who staffs the texting service?
Has to be someone who is not on the physical reference desk. Having a collaborative allows even smaller libraries to have a text referencing service.

Having texting reference service allows librarians to tap into an existing workflow for many young people. The use of texting is increasing so much that it would be foolish for librarians to not at least consider implementing text reference.

Fun for Summer

Hi, all. Sorry for the long gap between posts. Between actually taking a vacation (outside, away from technology) and then getting sick, I haven’t really been up to blogging. But never fear, here is a post full of interesting tidbits and summer tips to help you through your day.

Okay, so the serious stuff first and then we’ll have the fun. Okay, I can’t believe that: 1. Chris Anderson plagiarized from Wikipedia and 2. that the “apology/reasoning” for plagiarizing Wikipedia was so weak. And I wonder, with stuff like this happening, why it is so difficult to get my students to understand the huge intellectual and academic offense of plagiarism.

Here is something semi-serious and kind of fun: CNN’s cost of living in another city calculator. Type in your current salary and select where you live and the city you want to compare it to and you’ll get a handy chart of differences in cost and equivalent salaries. It is quite depressing if you live in the Bay Area.

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I always want to tackle new projects in the summer. So here is a really cool project for those of you who want to do something crafty: create an inverted bookshelf. This looks awesome and as long as you aren’t doing this to house your first edition copies, I think you should be safe. I would love to do that in my office simply for the puzzled double-takes.

Now we are getting into the heart of summer. Everyone, but everyone takes vacation photographs. So, do you want to take better photos? Of course you do! So check out these tips on how to take better vacation photographs. Then, go take a vacation (even if it is just to the park down the street or the library in the next town over) and start snapping those pics!

If you anything like me, you probably get stains on your clothes occassionally. Or a lot if it is summer. Luckily for those of us that are slightly more clumsy (or unlucky) than others now have this handy guide to getting out stains. So summer should be less of a disaster on our clothes.

So get out there and enjoy the summer–just don’t forget your sunscreen! Next week The Waki Librarian will be at a conference so check back here for conference session summaries. Fingers crossed for working wireless access at the conference. Until next time, be waki, read a lot and have some fun. Have a great weekend.

Musings on a Monday

I hope everyone had a very nice weekend. Now it is Monday and we’re back at work. So I thought we might at least have an uplifting post for a Monday. So without any further ado, get ready to feel some love for the archives and libraries of the world: 

This is an article for all the archivists out there and historians who toil away in the archives. This is Eric Jager’s article, “Lost in the Archives”. This article to me is the one to point people to who think that everything is on the Internet. People often speak of the deep web, but few spend time thinking about the equivalent of the deep web in the physical realm of paper and books, manuscripts and letters. There is an entire world of archives, unprocessed collections and overlooked papers being processed, collected and cared for by the archivists of the world. And, for most collections, if you want to experience them, you must still go to an archives, sit down at a table with only pencils and sometimes a laptop to take your notes. It can be slow going, but the thrill of the find, as Jager notes, is what makes archival research so wonderful. So raise your glass to your neighborly archivist. And be nice to him or her, because only the archivist really knows what’s back in the archives!

Speaking of appreciating librarians and archivists, check out this article on“Using your Librarians”. So reference librarians rejoice! There is at least one human out there who appreciates what you do and how much you know. I love the last line: “reference desk librarians are the etymologists, the orthoepists, and the collectors of citations of the library.”

And finally, a wonderful xkcd comic to brighten your day. This is for the math people out there. If you don’t get it, go over and ask your friendly math librarian.

Correlation from xkcd.com

Correlation from xkcd.com

Packing, Goal Setting and YouTube

Okay, so it is Friday and we all need a little something fun and some tips to help us through the day as the weekend is fast approaching.

First the really awesome YouTube video from CSU Long Beach. CSULB had students give a tour of the reference services at the library–it is a great video. Again, marketing is so much better if students get in on it. I think my library should start a YouTube station. It definitely solves the problem with hosting streaming videos and with Overstream, we can even close caption the videos. Just a thought. Enjoy this video, I did!

Now from one of my favorite technology blogs, Lifehacker, here is an article on “Goal Setting for Skeptics”. I think goal setting is important, whether you write down your goals or not. I fine setting goals helps me from becoming bogged down in the day-to-day chores that have to get done and allow me to focus on longer-term projects, both at work and at home. But then, I’m the kind of person who also keeps journals to track project progress, keeps books of inspiring quotations and am always looking to learn. I know people that hate writing down goals and they get things accomplished just fine. I’m just saying, give the article a chance and see if it works for you. Who knows, maybe you could make one of your goals to adapt a Web 2.0 application to use in your library!

And last tip for the day, check out Wired’s article, Pack Light for Geek Travel. Great article to read for those of us who travel with a lot of tech gear and are getting ready to head out to conferences.

Speaking of conferences, I’ll be at the Internet Librarian Conference this coming week. So if you are going to be there, say hi.

Reality Bites & How You can Change it

First off today, I have to give props out to Tom H. who has been awesome in commenting on this blog. Thank you! I am so glad someone is reading and enjoying the posts.

Now to the main topic today: reality bites. That sounds a little pessimistic, doesn’t it? Well, some parts of reality really do bite–like povery, global warming, students cheating, librarians thinking that they can be outsourced and the fact that I haven’t been able to find veggie gyoza at Trader Joe’s for the last 3 weeks.

But parts of reality rock–like Jim Butcher having two new books coming out, people helping out because it is the right thing to do, librarians helping to Rock the Vote, and autumn weather that is warm during the day but perfect for a quilt at night.

So what specifically made me write this type of post today? Two things, actually.

First this YouTube video on cheating that has been going around the Internet. I found out through Tame the Web blog and you can see it here. Did she even think about the consequences of posting this video on YouTube? I mean, it is scary that students are posting videos about how to cheat and the comments to these videos are even scarier. I really dislike the “but everyone else is doing it” defense. No, they are not and cheating is just plain wrong. I am going to show this to my Information Literacy class so we can discuss the implications of the video. But I’m not completely disheartened by this because I still believe that most students are honest and hard-working when they are doing their school work.

Anyone read the latest Backtalk column in Library Journal (October 1, 2008 edition)? Another person who is pessimistic about the future of librarianship–believing that we have caused ourselves to become obsolete through our increased reliance on technology. While I agree that the human touch is very important in what we do as librarians, I don’t believe that technology can be considered the downfall of the profession or libraries in general. Though, I may be a little biased in this as I am an Online Literacy librarian. I think technology, if anything, has made our role as librarians even more important for the efficient finding, analyzing and evaluating of information. I don’t feel obsolete and I am proud of my work as a librarian. What do you think?

I think that our perceptions truly become our reality. If we think we are obsolete, we will fulfill that thought. But if we truly believe that librarians are important, than our thoughts and subsequent actions will make it so. Yes, it is annoying to answer the tenth question in an hour about the location of the bathroom. But we also help people with so many important questions and concerns. We also design websites that are accessible, have events that gather together communities and help students find information that is personally relevant to them. And through these actions, we change reality into something better.

And to end on a somewhat positive note, the Wednesday post of this blog will be in support of Blog Action Day 2008 where bloggers around the world are going to be posting only about poverty for one day in order to raise awareness and hopefully get people to help end world-wide poverty. We can all do something to better ourselves, our communities, our libraries and our world, if we only work together.

Reference Desk and Basic Tech

I just got my Fall issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly and there is an article that I think everyone should check out. Written by LIS student, Marcella Knibbe-Haanstra, the article is titled “Reference Desk Dilemmas: The Impact of New Demands on Librarianship.” The article reiterates literature on stereotypes of librarians and stress caused by technology and it is a very nice synthesis of the literature on stress management, user expectations, changing technology and shifting roles of the reference librarian. I think it is a great starting point for a conversation on how we can handle our increased workloads and technical competencies that we need in our jobs today. Way to go to publish while in library school too, Marcella!

Now, something practical to help with the technology stress. Here is a great post from Pogue’s Posts hosted by The New York Times. Listed are tech tips and tricks for basic computer use. The comments expand on this post and there are some great tips. I even discovered some shortcuts I didn’t know about, which is super cool. Share the tips with your friends and patrons so we all can use the computer a little more efficiently.

Enjoy the rest of the day and remember–computers are stupid, it is the person who uses the computer that makes them perform great feats!

Resources for Back to School Time of Year

At CSUEB, we start the fall quarter today and in honor of that I have three helpful resources: cheap textbooks, reference sites and the list universe. Today is all about useful reference sources that just happen to be found on the web.

Everyone knows how expensive textbooks are and how annoying it is to wait for the one copy to be returned to reserves so you can check it out for two hours. Been there, done that. So here is a cool article from Lifehacker about the best places to save money on textbooks. Really, do your friends, family and students a favor by sharing this article and the sites from the article. I have to add the site isbn.nu that my friend, Ruth, told me about in grad school. Also a great comparison shopping site for textbooks.

100 Unbelievably Useful Reference Sites
The title is from the actual post at Teaching Tips.com and not one I made up. A great list of reference sites on the web, some of which I’m sure you’ve heard of and others that might be new. A handy resource for all of us who work at a reference desk or in any other capacity where we are answering questions. The sites are divided into categories and I think it is cute that five sites are listed as “Librarian References”–obviously someone still has a limited idea about what is useful for librarians.

The List Universe
And, in my attempt to always have something fun in a post, I give you The List Universe. I happen to love lists and this site has a ton of them. But other than just being a place to spend time finding out random bits of information, it also is good for reference work and those annoying trivia games that some people find fun. So check it out; I’m not saying that all of it is great, but enough is to warrant a bookmark in del.icio.us.

Happy start of the Fall Quarter for CSUEB and happy Wednesday to everyone!