Day 2 of ALA

June 28, 2008

Yesterday afternoon I did quickly do the rounds of open houses for RUSA and LITA.  At the latter, spoke to the chair of the Next Generation Catalog section, who is a systems librarian at UCLA.  She was pretty enthusiastic about all kinds of different things she wanted to try out to improve the catalog.

This morning began with the ACRL general session and conference 101 stuff.  there I ran into a guy I met last year who had applied for the Instruction/Ref job at MM.  In the event, he’s ended up in Lake Charles, LA and what sounds like a nice position.  At the end of the session, i spoke briefly with someone from the Law and Political Science Section.  I’m interested in looking more into that section.  I mean, I’ve got the background, so i might as well capitalize on it.  Basically, I’ve got to finally decide which section/division I really want to get involved in and just jump in.  The problem is, there are so many areas I’m interested in that it is hard to decide.

Next I went to hear about Koha, and open source ILS.  Regrettably, this was off at a hotel some distance away from the convention center, and the walk over was rather uncomfortable (a little hot and even a bit humind; note to self: get more comfortable shoes!).  Anyway, I don’t know if Koha is really right for us, but I should would like to play with it some and see what I can learn.  the  presenter was from a company called Liblime, which provides support for libraries wanting to implement Koha.  Some links: (podcast of the session, I believe).

The key to migrating to Koha appears to be getting your data into a standards compliant format.

some libraries who have implemented Koha to check out:

Florida Southern Libraries (group of academic libraries)

Waldo Consortium (academic libraries in NY)

Not clear that Koha would actually save much money, if any, if you have to contract out all of the development support.  But, if the cost is equal to what we have, it looks like a nicer, more robust ILS all around.

took the shuttle back to the convention center for an EBSCO presentation/lunch featuring their new interface.  Looks nice.  Food was okay, but the veggie option was pretty weak.  Met any interesting pair of siblings who were originally from Malawi, but now live on the east coast.  They were shocked when to learn I knew where Malawi is.

From there I went to a session on Developing Cultural Competency.  I thought it was going to be about cultural competencies in terms of interactions with patrons, but as it turns out, while that was part of it, it seemed the bigger focus was internally, i.e. on developing a cultural competent workforce.  It was interesting and I would like to get more into.  Lots to think about in terms of understanding where everyone is coming from and what they have to contribute.  One presenter noted that the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has well developed cultural competency standards, and the suggestion was that ALA/ACRL should do the same.  Still, I did end up leaving before the end as it was a four hour session and conflicted with other sessions i wanted to attend.

Now I’m off to learn about RDA and FRBR.


Working for the Feds

June 27, 2008

So, after an extended hiatus, I’m ready to start contributing to this blog again. Having finished the 23 Things program, my focus now switches to general library issues and my own professional development. To kick things off, I’m attending the ALA conference in Anaheim this weekend. It’s a big conference with over 10,000 librarians coming in from all over the country and the world. Closest thing I’ve been to that approximates those kinds of numbers is the APSA (American Political Science Association) conference I went to back in 1996 (I think), but that was more like half that number.

Anyway, I’m starting the conference by attending an all day workshop on careers in federal libraries. My focus from the start has always been academic librarianship, but I do want to keep my options open, so I figured this session couldn’t hurt. The big take-away from the session so far (we’re in the lunch break) is to be patient with the whole application process. Very bureaucratic and very slow. It’s the federal government; did anyone expect anything else? What else? Was interested to learn that librarians working for the foreign service (aka Information Resource Officers) do not have to take the foreign service exam, as they enter the foreign service as so-called “specialists” rather than “generalists”. But, like other foreign service officers, they are expected to rotate from post to post around the world every few years. Exciting if you don’t have kids. Not so exciting if you do.

Couple of job-hunting pointers: (search librarians, technical information specialist, records management; series# 1410, 1411, 1412, 2210) (Foreign Service/State Dept. jobs)

Check agency specific websites

Check with local HR offices of federal agencies; some jobs posted locally, not in national websites. (list of internships at federal libraries)

Okay, that’s all for now. The rest of the day looks to be devoted to resume review and other job-hunting advice. Later, I’ll check out some the conference intro sessions, the general one (NMRT), the techies (LITA), and reference (RUSA).

And in the end… (Thing #23)

April 18, 2008

Has it been ten weeks already? It appears we have arrived at the end of our journey, which of course does not mean the learning stops. This has been a good experience, a fertile grazing area for the Knowledge Nomad — Kudos to Mary for all she did in setting up the program!

While many of the tools we encountered during the program were familiar to me, I enjoyed discovering and playing around with some new ones. And even when I was familiar with some tools, it was useful to reflect on how they might be useful at work or in the classroom. Interestingly, that act of reflection has served to temper some of my technolust. In several instances (e.g. IM and social networking), it was hard to imagine how these tools could serve an instructional purpose. And that’s fine. It is important to think critically about whether some tool is right for the job, not to just jump on the bandwagon of the latest hyped application. And, whereas I may not find a good use for a particular tool, it’s quite probable that someone else will. At which point, I can reevaluate my own stance.

It was always interesting to read other participants’ blogs, and I would have liked to have commented more on them, but, you know, there’s only so much time in a day. No doubt the time factor is what prevented greater participation. I’m not really sure how you can tackle that problem to get more buy-in. Maybe by offering more brief f2f sessions (like what was offered during Spring Break), esp. at the early stages when people may feel the least comfortable with learning new technologies. In any case, I do think the program is worthwhile and should be offered again.

The Knowledge Nomad is off to explore more feeding grounds for his mind…

When acquaintenances become “friends” (Thing #22)

April 18, 2008

LIke IMing, I don’t see a lot of value to social networking sites for academic purposes.  They can be fun and they can be useful for professional networking, but beyond the marketing possibilities for schools, I think colleges and universities should steer clear of them.  There are some serious boundary issues involved here. My only cavaet to that is if you set up a niche network (such as Ning allows you to do).  The SLIS program at SJSU has such a bounded community.  I’ve joined, but I’m too busy with other things that I never use it.

The problems regarding (lack of) privacy are something I worry about.  A recent posting in iLibrarian pointed to the difficulty of actually leaving Facebook once you have established an account.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  It certainly gives one reason to pause and reconsider whether this is something you want to participate in.

I’ve had an FB account since last November.  On the positive side of the ledger, I have been able to reconnect with a few people through the site.  On the other hand, I have received “friend requests” from people with whom I’m not really friends with, just acquaintenances, putting one in the awkward position of how to respond.  Say “yes” and they are suddenly a “friend,” which seems to water-down the meaning of the term.  Say “no” and you may alienate a person you don’t want to alienate, but with whom you just don’t want to share things with in this online space.  And I have been guilty too of sending friend requests to people I know and would be interested in hearing from, but with whom I have no real intention of staying in regular touch with.  It’s all a bit weird, to say the least.

On the whole, I’m more interested in using social networking for good-old-fashioned professional networking.  That’s why I also have a LinkedIn account.

Thoughts on IM in the class (Thing #21)

April 18, 2008

I’m not a big fan of IM for educational purposes. It may have some role to play (e.g. IM reference service a la Meebo Me), but it seems like it would only be disruptive in the class. Reading the article Instructional Uses of Instant Messaging (IM) During Classroom Lectures only served to confirm my suspicion. Several aspects about IM and the study occur to me:

1. Seemed silly to me that the study did not even mention the pre-IM method for what they were essentially trying to investigate, namely students passing written notes to each other. Apart from now being able to virtually pass a note to someone sitting clear across the lecture hall, I don’t see much new here.

2. IM encourages ping-pong discussions, in this case between two students rather than between student and instructor, which is more typical in trad. discussion sessions. What is missing is the value of a group dynamic which can lead to some very fruitful discussions, and good instructors have many creative ways to initiate and sustain discussions that move beyond ping-pong. It is possible to have group chat sessions, but my own experience with these is that they get very messy in terms of understanding who is responding to whom. Perhaps we still simply lack a protocol for this type of discussion, something which we may have internalized when it occurs f2f. In any case, my initial enthusiasm for the possibilities of group chat has all but evaporated.

3. The content of IM/chat is strikingly poor. The medium discourages lengthy explication of ones thoughts since typing is too tedious. The study results confirm this — less than half the comments were actually on-task and those that were rarely went into much depth. Imagine these dismal results for a trad. discussion section!

4. The authors offered 3 reasons why they think IM would be more beneficial than having a group discussion, all of which struck me as silly: a.) efficiency – no need to leave your seats to break up into small groups; b.) quiet, so conducive to a large lecture hall; c.) students have a written record to use for further study. To a.) I say it helps to have students move around to break up the monotony of the class. To b.) I ask, do you seriously think students will sit around quietly and collectively IM one another? Finally, while c.) initially seems like a strong argument, consider two points. First, given the poor quality of IM/chat content, how valuable is such a record? Secondly, having a written record may also inhibit “thinking aloud” to work out one’s thoughts or test an idea, as the fear of “sounding dumb” is amplified by realizing the fact that now there is a permanent record of your dumbness. Perhaps this potential for self-censorship could be combated by make chat aliases anonymous, but I still have my concerns.

All told, I’m content to leave IM to the private sphere. Maybe others will come up with more creative uses for it in the class, but if nobody does, I won’t be disappointed.

Video Nation (Thing #19)

April 14, 2008

Liked the Big Think link.  A similar one that captures videos of public discussions from around the world is called Fora.TV and there’s lots of educational value in both.  One of the big drawbacks of these sites and youtube, as well, is the poor resolution, so they don’t lend themselves well to broadcasting on a large screen for an entire class.  It’s also probably why it’s hard to watch anything that’s over 5 minutes long.  And, of course, are Big Think and ForaTV are talking head formats, which has a serious yawn factor for many.

Interesting to see some of the Marymount videos on YouTube.  Checking out the comments can be a lesson in itself.  In one video, one person commented s/he had been interested in MM until learning it is a Catholic institution.  Another commentator responded that it no longer is a Catholic institution.  Huh?

I can see using video to teach things (love the Plain English video series) or introduce departments and services to the campus community.  Not sure it needs to be on YouTube, though, unless it is intended as a marketing tool.

Freeze Tag (Things #17 and #18)

April 13, 2008

I’ve been using Delicious for a long time. In fact, I just checked and according to my list I started posting on November 25, 2004! But here’s the thing – I almost never actually go back to my account to find previously saved links. I don’t know why. I think I need to put a freeze on posting any more sites, take stock of what I have already saved, do a better job of organizing stuff (I started tagging before I understood the concept and usefulness of controlled vocabulary), and begin to evaluate how to make more of the site.

Get wiki with it (Thing #15)

April 13, 2008

I especially like the site on “When to Use a Wiki.”  It was interesting to note that wikis work best for internal groups.  The advice on providing a clear nucleus also seemed very sound, i.e., provide some initial content to the wiki to get the ball rolling.  Not too sure about the notion that you need to have a clear final product in mind.  That seems too limited.  What’s nice about wikis is there open-endedness (is that a word?).  Perhaps what he meant is the scope of the Wiki should be clear, which makes sense.

In addition to the subject guide Wikis the Library is preparing to roll-out, I’ve been thinking it would be useful to have a wiki for reference questions.  Read about this somewhere a ways back.  Basically, library staff could use the wiki to track what resources they were able to find to answer a reference question.  Since we often get repeat questions, this might serve as a nice KM system and could be used to feed into the subject guide Wikis.  Of course, it’s pretty time consuming to maintain such a wiki, so the question is ultimately whether it would save time down the line.  Another wiki application in an academic setting could be the sharing of learnings from conferences.  For instance, everyone who gets TDW money could post their findings to a wiki as a way of sharing what they learned with the campus community.  This could supplement oral presentations.

Hi, this is a Jott post…

April 13, 2008

Hi, this is a Jott post to WordPress, just testing. listen

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The ever elusive paperless society

March 27, 2008

Ok, last post for the day — promise.  We’ve been talking in the library about the tons of paper students go through and how we could cut down on a lot of wasteful printing that eats up our budget and harms the environment.  Well, in addition to the obvious idea of installing a printer management service, I came across this site today (again from Lifehacker).  I plan to try this at home (free version), and maybe if many of us have a good experience with it on a personal level, we could make a justification for licensing the enterprise version.  Just a thought…