Friday, October 30, 2009

Internship: Weeks 9 and 10

This has been an exciting two weeks because I finished the Nursing LibGuide! I was very excited to complete it and launch it. I'm still toying with the idea of conducting a usability test for it and will be bringing that up at the next status meeting next week.

I'm still enjoying my work at the reference desk, especially with my extended hours. I've had several really good question and spent a good deal of time last week on the phone with a biology professor about the availability of a certain journal. I found it difficult to articulate just how contracts work with databases and the journals (and their availability) to a non-librarian; and now that I've had some time to think about it, I think that I could more satisfactorily explain the situation to the patron. I was able to suggest he ILL the particular article, but he didn't care for that idea since he needed the article "yesterday". Why he waited so long to try to access it is beyond me. This is just another example of how people need to realize that the internet, as wonderful and advanced as it is, doesn't always have all the answers.

In other news, UA Libraries have brought in Kindles and they will be available for check-out starting next week. I'm really excited about this; it's a pilot program and we aren't really sure what to expect, but I'm hoping that it will bring more interest to the library and students will take advantage of something new and different. The Rodgers staff met this week to discuss the policies and procedures relating to the use of of the Kindle. We have six regular Kindles and six Kindle DXs available. I'm curious to see which one is going to be more popular or if it even matters. I really like the idea of using e-readers in libraries, but I haven't given much thought as far as academic libraries are concerned. Coming at it from a student prospective, I'm not sure if this is going to be well suited for research purposes; it may be better used as pleasure reading and simply as something cool to do some book browsing through. Look for more information about our success with the Kindle as it happens!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm Joining the Debate

This month's issue of American Libraries features an article about the fabulousness that is an online MLIS. Distance Education (DE) is a touchy subject with me; I have mixed feelings about the program and its ability to truly educate students, but that's another discussion for another time. DE is incredibly popular in the library world because the majority of the library schools are located in the eastern portion of the U.S. For many, there isn't a library school nearby, so the options are either to move to where there is a program, or get an online degree. For many, moving isn't an option for a variety of reasons, so getting a degree online isn't just practical, it's financially smart. For the most part, DE programs offer the exact same degree online as they do in person. At UA, we have a large DE program. Students going through the program get exactly the same education, taught by the same teachers. The only difference is that it takes a little more time. Students enrolled in the DE program usually take between 2-3 classes at a time versus the on-campus students who often take 3 or four courses at a time.

So if these DE students are getting the exact same education, what's the problem? According to our favorite library argument starter, The Annoyed Librarian, a lot. She seems to the think the online MLS is useless. Check out her posts on the topic here, here, and here. Her problems with the online program are plentiful, but it mostly boils down to the quality of students being accepted to online programs are sub par. I can sort of see that. These online programs are fairly new, and in order to meet admissions numbers, programs are having to accept students that might not be up to the same academic level as they would like. But the point still remains that in order to be accepted to a library school, students must meet some minimal requirements. I know for a fact that very few students are accepted who do not meet these minimum requirements. Therefore, I don't think that we should be arguing that the students are the problem, perhaps the problem is the standards for admission are to low. That makes it the problem of the schools not the students.

Another problem the Annoyed Librarian sees is that library school is boring. When students take the classes online, they have full access to the world around them and no one to tell them to pay attention. Yes, library school is boring. I hate sitting in class for 3 hours learning about research methods, out-of-date technologies, or something obscure that I'm never going to use. But that's a fact of life in graduate school. I have friends in a lot of different programs around the country and they are all bored most of the time. It's just the way school works.

The Annoyed Librarian touches on other topics, but those two stand out the most to me. While I wouldn't personally choose a DE program for myself (I've learned by taking an online class that it's not for me), I can understand why people would choose (or be forced) to obtain their degree that way. Does that mean that their degree has less value than mine? Absolutely not. Does it mean that the MLS is without value? Again, that's another discussion for another day, but in this library school student's opinion, the degree does have value. If not for other things, at least for the sole purpose of qualifying me for a number of library jobs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How Useful Is Library Instruction?

I'm a huge of fan of library instruction. No, take that back. I'm not a huge fan of library instruction; I actually think library instruction is kind of pointless. Case in point: I was in the elevator at Gorgas the other day and two students got in holding worksheets. They were joking around about being on a scavenger hunt and I happened to notice that one of the instruction librarian's name was on the sheet. They were doing something for a library instruction session. Those library students in the elevator with me started to giggle and when asked we told the students that we were librarians. As the doors opened, we wished the students good luck and one of them said, "I don't need it. This is pointless because I'm a senior".

That took me by surprise because what is a senior doing in a library instruction class? I could see if it was an advanced course that involved some research, but it was clear that this was a very easy instruction session aimed at new users to the library. So what was a senior doing in that session? And more importantly, what was he going to learn?

A lot of librarians think that instruction is pointless. The students don't listen; they're too busy playing on the computers. But I think that, when do well and correctly, instruction can be very beneficial. I'm a huge fan of teaching information literacy. What that means is teaching students how to search so no matter which database or catalog they end up in, they can find what they need. Information literacy also teaches how to evaluate sources to determine how credible they are. This is especially important when looking at web resources. But plain old library instruction? Teaching students about call numbers and where books are in the library? That's what is pointless. In this day of fast access to peer-reviewed journal articles at any time, students need to know about databases and searching in all types of formats. There are very few students who are going hunting through the library for a book when they can find something else just as good online.

So in this library student's opinion, classic library instruction is outdated. But teaching students the mechanisms for search is a skill they can use throughout their education and throughout life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Internship: Weeks 7 and 8

It's been pretty quiet around here despite midterms. I'm loving working at the reference desk and am going to be increasing my time on Mondays from 1 hour to 2. I think working 3 hours a week on the reference desk is really good. I like working out there with the students and patrons. It gives me a chance to interact. I was going crazy; feeling like I was trapped in my office.

Other than working at the desk and trying to be as helpful as possible, I've been working on the LibGuides project. It's very time-consuming and I'm having some problems, but I'm going to a meeting about it next week, so hopefully I can get some of the kinks ironed out.

While I don't particularly enjoy working on this project, I do think it's a useful skill. It's given me something to put on my resume and it will be an interesting point to bring up during interviews. LibGuides is a nice product, and I love that I have been entrusted with such a large responsibility.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fighting Budget Problems

It seems like ever day we are bombarded by more news about libraries struggling in these tough economic times. Libraries have slashed their budgets, are ordering less books, cutting hours, are laying off people, enforcing unpaid furloughs, even closing completely. What we haven't heard much about, though, is the patrons' reactions to these changes. At the University of California, Berkeley, where they are facing one of the worst budget crisis yet, students are voicing their concerns about the library's troubled budget. Berkeley has over 20 small subject libraries on their campus, and in order to save money, all but two of the libraries are closing on Saturdays. This past weekend, nearly 300 students, faculty, and library staff staged a library "sit-in" on Saturday night to protest the libraries being closed. Students camped out, bring pillows, blankets, and food, as well as study materials and spent the night in the library. So far there hasn't be a response from the Berkeley administration, other than to say that they understand the students' frustrations.

More details about the sit-in can be found here.

What do you think about this? Are the students right to protest something like this? Or should they wait until the libraries are closed more than one day out of the week? Was this a good way for students to demonstrate their frustration? I want to hear what you think!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Motivation (Or Lack Thereof)

So I realized last night that I haven't blogged in over a week. There are a few things to blame for that. Thursday and Friday I went home for fall break; Saturday I spent all day watching football with my dad (Roll Tide!); I've been working on a paper; I don't have anything to say; the excuses go on and on. The truth is I'm not blogging that frequently because I seem to being living a life that lacks motivation.

I get up in the morning full of energy and plans for the day, but by the time I've driven around campus for 15 minutes looking for a parking space, most of that energy has been wasted on frustration and that inability of UA to provide students with adequate parking. And my plans for the day? Suddenly my to-do list that seemed so exciting looks like the longest, most terrible list in the world. I'm filled with dread just thinking about it.

Work is piling up as my procrastination stretches on. I'm way behind on the LibGuides project for Rodgers, the things I need to be doing for my GTA keep getting bumped aside for other, probably not as important, things, and school work just seems like such a chore. Maybe I've got "senioritis" or maybe I'm just stuck in a bad place right now, but either way, I need some encouragement in all aspects of my life.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blogging About Banned Books Week

I'm obviously not the only person blogging about Banned Books Week this week. In case you don't read some of these other blogs, I've listed a few posts that are related to BBW.

This interesting post from Booklist's reference blog is about banned reference books. I'm really interested in book challenges in academic libraries, so if you know of any please share!

Heart to Heart is Barnes and Noble's romance blog. I love romance, so of course I love this blog, but I found this post particularly interesting due to BBW. Romance novels are pretty well known for their sexual content, so I was intrigued by those who actually challenged them!

Librarians are a pretty liberal group, even here in the south. We sort of have to be, when we believe that banning books or removing controversial titles is wrong and that everyone, no matter age, gender, religion, sexuality, etc, has the right to read whatever they want. However, I like to keep up with what the other side is saying. During a quick Google search, I came across this article from that seems to be in protest, or at least annoyed by BBW.

Of course the Annoyed Librarian had to put her two cents in. Check out her humorous post on "band" books and one on "banned books"

This blog is totally devoted to writing about and celebrating banned books.

This post and this one are a few others of a vast number of blog posts and news articles out there about Banned Books Week.

Have you found anything awesome? Leave a comment!!

Internship: Weeks 5 and 6

I've been working at this internship for 6 weeks now and I've learned a ton about the way academic libraries function. Everything works pretty much the way I always thought it did and it matches up with my experience in the reading room for the most part, just on a larger scale. Something I never really realized, though, is how very little library-related work librarians actually do. Or at least what I consider library-related work.

These past two weeks my time at Rodgers has been dedicated to working on the LibGuides project. I've began my work on it, and it's incredibly time consuming; much more than I ever would have imagined. While it is something I'm doing for the library, to me, it doesn't feel like it. I never thought that a librarian's job would be filled with meetings and planning more than collection development, working with students, teach instruction sessions, etc. I think some of has to do with the fact that Rodgers only has 3 full time librarians, but I also think this is an important lesson for me to learn before I get out in the real world. Librarianship is not always about working in the library. Sometimes external issues have to be dealt with so the library can function the way we need it to.

In other news, I've started working on the reference desk! I will be working 2 hours a week, on Mondays and Tuesdays. I'm very excited about this opportunity and looking forward to improving my skills.