Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rethinking the Reference Collection...On a Budget

Budgets are tight. Nothing can be done about it. Funding sources are being cut off; grant committees are being stingy with their money; trustees want each and every thing itemized; money from the state/university/federal government/city/whatever is decreasing; donors are limited; endowments cut completely. Less money is coming into the library no matter your funding source(s). Yet the price of books and e-resources continues to increase. How is a librarian supposed to create a fabulous reference collection on such a limited budget?

Points of Reference, Booklist's reference blog, posted this same question yesterday. But how are we supposed to handle the problem? I'm not a librarian yet, but I do have some idea of how to keep up collection development in such poor economic times. Something we are doing at Rogers is looking through our print reference sources (big encyclopedias, directories, indexes, etc) and comparing them to what is available in the databases. Sometimes there is overlap without us really noticing it. So now we are going through it way more carefully.

A lot of libraries are concerned with whether or not they are going to be able to afford new databases or ebook packages. A good solution might be to participate in a consortium with other libraries so you can share the cost and the use of the resources. Contact colleagues and try to work out a solution and budget that works for everyone. This is also an excellent time to reevaluate what is really being used. Cancel subscriptions to databases that aren't getting used enough to justify the costs. Stop ordering that print source that no one really uses. Work with your staff/students/volunteers to improve usage of available resources. Maybe no one uses a certain database because they don't know how to use it. Educate your staff and your patrons on the available resources (especially the ones you pay for!!) of your library.

Lastly, utilize the free resources. Advertise via Twitter, Facebook, and blogs; all free advertising. This could cut down on paper advertising, thus increasing your budget in other areas. Discover what free databases are out there (I find new ones everyday!) with excellent information. Teach staff and patrons how to use Google and all its free services (books, images, scholar, etc) to improve the quality of your reference service without spending any money.

What are you doing to rethink the reference collection on a budget? Did I miss anything? What else could librarians be doing to save money?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Internship: Week 1

Monday I started my internship at Rogers Science and Engineering Library. It looks like it's going to be a great opportunity for me to learn a ton about life as an academic librarian. My internship host is fabulous and I know she is going to be an incredible mentor. This week was rather calm since it was my first week, but there are few things I wanted to share.

First, the most exciting thing for me is that I get my own office! I know that seems silly and immature, but I've never had a job that requires me to have an office and I never (in my wildest dreams) imagined that the staff at Rogers would be so incredible as to give me my own office. I've brought in a few things to make it homey and I feel so much more professional! I don't really feel like a student sitting in there, but a librarian with lots of important work to do. :)

Second, Rogers offers a digital tour via a Sony Walkman. The tour can also be accessed online here if you are curious about where I work. I took the tour on Monday and learned a lot about the library, but what it really made me do was think. Mostly about how I wished the main library on campus had something like this and that students would take advantage of it. Look for a feature blog post on my ideas about tours, both digital and in-person.

Third, I spent some quality time learning the various databases used by science, engineering, nursing, and math students. I knew very little about them, so I made myself a cheat sheet so I can quickly learn how to access and search them when I'm sitting on the reference desk. I explored the databases through the subject guides available near the reference desk. I've seen subject guides around libraries before, but never used them. I found it to be extremely helpful, and started thinking about makings some for the reading room and the communication databases/books/websites.

Fourth, today I went to a meeting about the new collection development software UA Libraries is using. Blackwell is the company and Collection Manager is the software; they have been using the system for a while, but it has been recently upgraded and someone was there to explain how to use the new features. It was amazing to get to sit in on something like this, and I'm really looking forward to being able to do it again. I learned a lot of collection development in a class I took and it was interesting to see how it gets applied outside the classroom.

So far, I'm enjoying my internship, and I'm looking forward to participating in some projects and learning more about what goes on in a branch library.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Changes Coming...

Now that school has started my life is suddenly a million times busier. I'm still working in the reading room, but only 10 hours a week. I'm a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) for an online DE class and I help out a few professors a few times a week. I'm taking two SLIS classes, Public Libraries and History of Libraries, as well as a French class to help me prepare just in case I decide to go after my Ph.D. I'm also auditing a history class just for fun. Wow, I sound busy, don't I? While being this busy is definitely a change, the biggest change is that I've also started an internship. I work 10 hours a week at Rogers Science and Engineering Library. It's mainly a reference internship, but I'm hoping to learn a lot about working in a branch library on a major university campus. At UA, Rogers houses all the science and engineering texts, as well as books on nursing, mathematics, and computer science. Its a good size space and has lots of nifty features.

With life changes, come changes to the blog. I've been posting pretty frequently, and I hope to try and blog at least twice a week. However, due to my ridiculous schedule, I might blog less (or I might even blog more! We'll see...). My internship requires me to keep a log of my daily activities at my internship site, so I've decided to do that here. I will have a weekly feature, probably posted on Fridays, about what I've done during the past week. If you would like to only read posts about my internship, click the "internship" tag at the bottom of this post and that will bring up everything I've written about working at Rogers.

Other changes...I've noticed that all the good blogs (or at least the blogs I read) have pictures, so I'm thinking of adding pictures (like I did today!) to try and spice things up. Let me know if you like the pictures and/or there is anything you would like to see more/less of.

If you've started back to school, I hope things are going well for you. If you're not in school, I hope life is treating you well!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Little Things Here and There

School starts back today and I'm feeling the same thing I always do; a little sad that summer is ending and real work has to begin, but excited about all the things the fall brings, new classes, meeting new people, and of course football season. This semester I'm also feeling a little nostalgic because it's my last semester of school. (That is if I don't get my Ph.D. or a second masters.) I've been in school for 18 years straight and I'm not entirely certain what to do without it. It's one of the most constant things in my life. But maybe it's time to move on and grow up.

I haven't been blogging regularly because there hasn't been all that much going on, but I did come across two interesting postings on other blogs that I wanted to share.

I follow Library Journal on Twitter to stay up-to-date on library news and I came across this interesting article on the importance of academic libraries. Several quotes really stood out to me.

Talking about students' use of the library, "They may not want to be there, they may not have any real curiosity about the topic they are researching, but the library is a gateway to the kinds of sources they need, and for at least some students the librarians are "saviors" who help them take an assignment and locate sources that will match."

"...libraries embody principles that go beyond collections and beyond local needs. We stand for the importance of knowledge: not just information, but what we do with information. We stand for access: not just getting stuff conveniently, but making sure that information isn't censored or suppressed or distributed selectively so that only the elite have it."

"We stand for the individual's right to ask their own questions, no matter how dangerous or disruptive they may seem. And we stand for the idea that pursuing questions is a valuable human endeavor...Fortunately for academic libraries, they tend to be entirely consistent with the academic enterprise and its core beliefs."

These quotes really stuck out to me and helped remind me that academic libraries do matter. It's not just the books that are important, or our digital collections, or even the new coffee shop and "meeting area" that matter; it's the students and their ability to find and access the information they need. We are not here to judge or to question, but to provide information to enhance the learning opportunities of students enrolled in higher education. I'm glad to see that there are librarians out there who remember their students and just how important they are to the library and how important the library is to the students.

I've talked a good deal about Twitter, but I've never really discussed it as a type of mini-blog. It seems that plenty of librarians are using Twitter not just to give news bites but to share valuable information to other librarians. This article lists the 100 Best Twitter Feeds for Librarians of the Future. If you use Twitter, check out some of these librarians. Also listed are job listings, library news, and librarian resources, all good sources for the library student or the librarian looking to stay connected in today's rapidly changing digital world.

Do you have any library news you would like to see featured? Leave me a comment or send me an email!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

E-Readers and Libraries

E-Readers are rapidly becoming the hottest new way to read a book (you know without actually holding a book). I've actually used Amazon's Kindle and really liked it (I was shocked too). It's light, but not too light, and can be held with one hand, but seems to be more comfortable if you hold it with two, just like a book. The regular font is a good size and "turning the page" by clicking a button didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. If I had $299 I might consider buying one, mostly because books are a good deal cheaper (especially new hardcover releases) and are delivered immediately to your device. So no waiting around for books to come in the mail (and no pesky shipping charges). Sounds pretty fantastic, right?

Maybe not. The more I started thinking about starting to save up for one, I realized that I had really cut back on the number of books I buy new. I'm a big fan of used bookstores, especially the ones that offer credit for books I turn in,, and of course, my local public library. The only time I've bought new books recently has been for a new release that I knew I was going to want to keep. So in the past 3 months or so, I've bought 2 brand new books. Everything else has been from the used bookstore, found used online (through Amazon Marketplace or Ebay's, traded in on PBS, or checked out from the library. So why should I buy a Kindle? Seems like it would be a waste of money.

But wouldn't it be great if I could check out e-books at the library? I can have my e-reader, buy books for it when I want to, but still check out others. I didn't think this had happened yet until I discovered Sony's E-Reader and their partnership with Overdrive, which is a global distributor of digital media (audiobooks, ebooks, music, videos, etc) to libraries and schools. According to this press release, its a quiet deal, but a fabulous one. Patrons can download ebooks onto their Sony device from the library's webpage and then the books are "returned" (they disappear) after a set amount of time. Hopefully with some good marketing, this will expand beyond major city libraries (NYPL has already jumped on board) and be available to everyone who has an e-reader no matter the library. While this seems to just apply to those in possession of a Sony device, hopefully all e-readers will participate so everyone can have equal access.

Do you have an e-reader? If you knew you could "check out" ebooks from the library and download them onto your device, would you do it? Does that make you more likely to want to purchase an e-reader? Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More About Social Networking

I know I talk about social networking all the time, but it's literally everywhere I turn. More and more people are turning to Twitter for news, Facebook for weekend plans, and blogs for commentary that used to only be available in the newspaper. I spend a huge chunk of my first hour at work checking all of my social networking sites and catching up on my blogs that I subscribe to in my Google Reader. The more I use these new types of media, the more comfortable I am with the idea of sharing personal details and I find that I am actually more aware of what is going on around me. For example, I follow CNN on Twitter. CNN is always on in the reading room for those who like to stay abreast of current events; however, the past few days the only thing that has been reported in any kind of substantial form is healthcare reform. I'm just as interested in healthcare reform as the next person, but if I hadn't checked my Twitter this morning, I wouldn't have known that a plane is missing, that Michael Schumacher isn't going to return to Formula 1 racing (yes I care, don't judge me), or that Eunice Kenndey Shriver died. I enjoying being able to find out all of these things very quickly without turning on the t.v. or going to their webpage. Without blogs I would have missed an entire trend of frugality that is going on around me. If I didn't read The Frugal Girl or The Non-Consumer Advocate every day, I would probably be wasting money on using the dryer and would not have started making my own bread. By browsing blogs that I find interesting I'm learning how many people out there have similar interests and I'm able to connect with them on a whole other level.

It's really fun, keeping up with all this new stuff. I've found that it's become a huge part of my life and when I can't check facebook or read my blogs, I feel deprived! Do you think social networking and this new media outlet is good for society?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Blogs and Listserves and Wikis, Oh My!

Thanks to my subscriptions to various library-related blogs and listserves, I am never at a loss for something to blog about. Today I wanted to point you in the direction of two sites that were pointed out to me. The first is 100 Best Blogs for Librarians of the Future on Learn-gasm, the blog for Bachelor's Degree Online. Yours truly isn't featured (sigh), but some of the blogs I've mention before are. Others are ones that have appeared on other lists and some aren't updated very frequently. It's a good list with some blogs I was unfamiliar with, especially those concerning green libraries and more blogs dedicated to the future of libraries. Take a minute to poke around and see if you can't find something that interests you. I was especially glad to see some book-related blogs as well. Even though we are such a web-based culture, it's important to remember that libraries have books too!

Blogging about your day is rapidly becoming a huge trend. I do it, the Annoyed Librarian does it, apparently way more people do it than I thought. I got an email about Library Day in the Life, a wiki that lists people who blog about their days at least once a week. It's free to join if you want to add your name to the list of bloggers, but it would be a great place to look for some new blogs and find out what other people are doing in their libraries. This was another instance of me being shocked to find out just how many librarian/bloggers there are!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Yummy!!

I subscribe to a lot of food blogs and this morning I came across this wonderful blog post about library-themed ice cream from Ben&Jerry's. I would love to see one of these flavors in the freezer section next time I buy ice cream. I think this is another great way for libraries to remind people of their availability and gain new patrons. Especially with the economy not being so great at the moment, libraries are an excellent resource for those job hunting or just looking to save a little money by checking out books, movies, and video games rather than buying. Hopefully by reminding people about the library through ice cream we can continue to preserve the existence of the public library.

I know this seems a little silly, but it's fun! What are your thoughts on library-themed food?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Update on Summer Reading

My summer reading is going very slowly. I keep finding new books (i.e. new romance novels!) to read which is distracting me from reading what's on my list. I have managed to read three books. Well, really I read one, and skimmed the others because I really couldn't get into them. One of the things I'm really bad about is starting books, but if they don't hold my attention, I give up. With 1000 Splendid Suns and The Space Between Us, I just skimmed through them, reading bits and pieces. I liked the stories, but both of them are heavy books that make you think. And where I am at the moment, thinking isn't something I really want to do. I also found them to be sad and slightly depressing, not what I wanted either. I also read My Sister's Keeper and even though it was incredibly sad (I cried buckets) I was addicted to the story and read it in two days; I couldn't put it down. I've heard the movie is quite different, but still excellent so I think I'm going to go see it with my mother sometime soon.

The Time Traveler's Wife came in at the library the other day and I'm trying to finish an old Jennifer Cruise romance before I start that one. It also looks heavy, so it may not go well. Obviously, with school starting in two weeks I'm not going to be finishing my list. I do think I've made a big dent in it and I will continue to pick books off the list in conjunction with all the new romances I got at the used bookstore the other day. Hopefully, I will be able to finish the list, plus the ones I've added since I wrote it by the New Year. If not, I know what my New Year's Resolution is going to be!