Let’s do a role reversal!

15 Sep

As it turns to the start of the new school year, MLS/MLIS students are deluged with advice.  Some is aimed at the school experience, some at what you can do as a student to beef up your resume, and some is geared toward soon-to-be or recent graduates.  You can find all that elsewhere.

So, new students of library science, or students still in their programs: what advice do you have for seasoned professionals?  What’s your take on library issues?  Tell me what’s on your mind.  Leave a comment, tweet me @GenY_Librarian, find me on Facebook and Google+.  Share your insights with those of us who are out in the trenches!


Where is the outcry?

15 May

How is it that librarians have been silent about this?  Is it because there’s a lot of technology involved?  Or because we don’t think it’s a copyright issue that pertains to us?

I found it by happenstance, and let me tell you, my mind immediately went in 10 different directions thinking about implications for ILS, LMS, outreach, and life in general as open source is everywhere.  Imagine a day without your Android phone, or without Google to call on for search.  If it’s still there, it would likely run much slower because the code has become cumbersome as programmers avoid using names for functions and have no common libraries with which to work.

Let me give you a run-down from a friend of mine who programs for a living:

Here’s sort of the gist of it, Oracle wants to own the API header, something that is publicly made available for people to be able to use their stuff.
If I have a function named add() and it returns the results of 2+2 they want to be able to own the name of the function (add()) even if the code that does it differs greatly, like instead of 2+2, its 1+1+1+1.
APIs are made public for a reason, and that’s so people can use those libraries to work with it.
Google took the names and expected results of the functions for java, and then rewrote everything underneath to be optimized for their platform, but left the names and expected results the same so people can work with it just as they have in the past.

Maybe the issue has been over-complicated in the press, but that seems a decent layperson’s explanation.  So I challenge you to think about the implications of copyrighting an API, and wonder why librarians were silent about this issue.

A library is like a kitchen

8 May

It’s where the magic happens!

  • There are tools involved, some very specialized, in the form of databases, services like ILL and circulation, and the librarians themselves.
  • The reference section could be like cookbooks, in that there’s a lot of good stuff in there, but it’s pretty standard and safe, with not a lot of wiggle room.
  • The process of searching for information is a lot like a tile backsplash…functional yet pretty, and even if you make a mess it’s easy to clean up.
  • Some really neat, esoteric things can be found in the corners (anyone else have a chinoise?)

And lest we forget, the patron is the cook/chef!  Ultimately in charge of what’s produced there, able to adhere to the tried and true, or free to strike out on his or her own and create something new and exciting.

Quick hit list of tools for social media

1 May

To conclude my social media series, and to get the ball rolling, I’ve got a list of social media tools that might make it easier on the 10-things-at-once librarian.

  • HootSuite, a web-based dashboard for multiple networks
  • TweetDeck, same thing as HootSuite, only it’s for a desktop (web is forthcoming)
  • Google Analytics, to help track visitors
  • Klout, to measure your impact
  • Twitterfall, a tweet keyword tracking tool
  • G++, an extension that allows you to update Facebook, Twitter and Google+ at once

Social media for the anti-social

24 Apr

If you’re like me, social media is a gigantic challenge.  If you’re not, come back later; this post isn’t for you.

I don’t think the technology is a challenge, or the concept is a challenge.  But the practice of social media?  That’s difficult for me.  Probably because at heart, I am what I think of as “selectively social”…others might say anti-social, but there are distinctions.  I, like most, have a core group of friends and family that I keep updated on most of my life.  Everyone else gets much-diluted information, if they get any at all.  It’s not because I like those people less, it’s because I have a mutual trust relationship with the core people and they’ve become the ones I’m excited to share things with.  I also don’t believe that everything I have to say are pearls of wisdom that should be shared with all and sundry – rather, the opposite: I don’t think very much of what anyone has to say is wonderful.  Seth Godin’s blog is a great example.  If you think those words come even close to a significant percentage of what he thinks/says in a day, you don’t do math well.

So, when I joined the social media team at work, it was a huge adjustment.  I wanted to create meaningful content, but now I have a schedule.  I must be routinely meaningful.  It’s frustrating when you go about your day, and you can’t think of anything you want to share your thoughts on.  I get burned out easily by having to check Facebook, and blog, and tweet, and then take care of my personal social media that I use to keep in touch with people I’ve got deeper and more connection.  Tools, that I’ll discuss later, help, but the problem is really me.  I don’t view my activities as share-worthy, and that’s what social media is all about.

How do you deal with social media?  Is it easy for you, or do you have to sit and construct outlines for topics that you can then pull from?  Do you get burned out by it, or does it invigorate you?  I want to know!

The trouble with social media

17 Apr

By now everyone should be familiar with Google+, and how amazingly not-popular it is, compared to the juggernauts its other products are (except for other attempts at social media).  Google+ illustrates the core problem inherent in social media: people don’t use it, so it becomes less popular, and people use it less.

If you move to a social media platform, you had best make certain that your target audience is already on that platform.  They won’t move for you.  People are only willing to adjust their social media in small ways, to accommodate a new interaction.  The only time you see people moving en masse is when a service becomes unusable, either because the audience’s friends aren’t there or because the service has upset its constituents to the point that they combine clout and move as part of a concerted, punitive effort.

The other problem, at least for some, is distilling the information overload.  That’s a personal problem, easily addressable, if not addressed.  Having so much data coming at you and trying to discern some meaningful information from it can be a challenge to many, but with practice it does get easier.

How can a library avoid this problem?  I think the best answer to many library questions is simple: know your patrons.  Know where they hang out and focus your efforts there.  If you love and adore Twitter, but all your patrons use Facebook, not even multiple status updates about your new Twitter will move those patrons to Twitter.  Find the confluence and work in the happy equilibrium.  What are your thoughts about the trouble with social media, and how do you address those??

Draconian policies save my supplies!

9 Apr

There is a little-known problem that happens (I would imagine) in many school libraries: office supply theft.  You know how it goes…

Innocent-looking student: May I borrow a pencil/textbook/calculator/stapler/tape?
Librarian: Of course!  Please return it when you’re finished.

3 days later…no returned supplies.  I don’t think it’s intentional, I think our students get caught up in their work, realize they’re late for class, and dash out.  With my stuff.

So, after scratching my head about how to stem the flow of equipment money wandering out, I decided the only way to resolve the problem was to make sure the student had motive to return to me.  You want a pair of headphones?  Or a calculator?  I want your ID.  I don’t care if it’s your student ID or a driver’s license, but something that tells me your name is staying with me.  This is because I can now bill you, if I must.

Pens?  Have one.  They’re 50 in a $2.00 box from OfficeMax, good luck getting one to write.  Oh, my nice pen?  It came from personal funds and I don’t lend it out.

I realize demanding ID is draconian, and that we could just check them out as circulating items.  We tried that, in fact, and all that happened was the students would drop out and we had an old address.  Goodbye, stapler or headphones.  It may be harsh, but if I take something you’ll miss, then the student is likely to view it more as a temporary trade than as “borrowing” from a place that can’t enforce its ownership after you leave.