Revisiting Assumptions

During the first week of the semester, I wrote about some of my assumptions about library science coming into WSU’s MLIS program. (You can read that whole post here.) Now that the end of my first semester is in sight, I am revisiting those assumptions in light of what I’ve learned so far. While none of my were completely wrong, some of them have been adjusted or nuanced a bit.

Assumption 1: The modes and methods of librarians have recently been changing drastically and will likely continue to do so, but the underlying function of the librarian has remained fairly constant, and will likely continue to do so.

The invention of the Internet has clearly changed how librarians operate every day. Print indexes of journal articles have been mostly superseded by electronic journals indexed in databases and searchable in many more ways that was possible with print indexes. Google’s ready availability and ease of use has resulted in fewer ready reference questions being asked at the reference desk, and a higher percentage of “stumper questions.” Social networking using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Pinterest has become an expectation for librarians. (For a full discussion on how libraries are using social networking, check out the excellent blog written by a group of my classmates for one of our projects.) And job titles have changed to reflect all this, highlighted in the title of this year’s Placements and Salaries Survey: “The Emerging Databrarian.” Emerging technologies and digital content management are growing fields of expertise. As technology continues to develop, librarians will continue to adjust their methods to make use of new capabilities to improve the way they do their jobs.

However, that job will remain relatively unchanged at its core. Indexing and other forms of bibliographic control have moved online, but are still crucial to providing access to information. The success of Google Books, although not done by libraries, indicates just how important indexes are in the chaotic information universe that is the Internet. There is an unbelievable amount of information out there online, but without any kind of organization it is unfindable and not helpful to anyone. Librarians’ knowledge of cataloging, information organization, and metadata has only become more important. In addition, the basic values of librarianship, such as intellectual freedom, information literacy, and free and open access to information, remain highly relevant.

Assumption 2: A good librarian doesn’t only do research for a patron, but also tries to guide the patron through the research process in a way that will teach the patron how to more effectively use library resources on his or her own another time.

This is basically teaching information literacy, which is indeed a priority for librarians. The Association of College and Research Libraries branch of the American Library Association has an entire committee devoted to information literacy, and has collected a wide variety of resources for promoting, teaching, and advocating for information literacy. However, the extent to which it is true actually varies by type of institution. Teaching patrons how to use the library is the dominant focus in academic libraries and academic librarians avoid giving students the answers to their questions, focusing on helping them find those answers themselves. Public librarians, on the other hand, focus on providing answers while also trying to help patrons learn something about the library along the way. This was a common theme in the class discussion we had regarding the library visits we made, as well as during class discussions regarding an assignment to pose questions via virtual reference services to multiple libraries in another class I’m taking this semester. As important as information literacy is, sometimes the frazzled mom with 3 minutes left on the parking meter really just needs an answer, not a lesson in how to use the catalog or formulate a better internet search. Recognizing teachable moments is important, as well as recognizing when it’s just not the time.

Assumption 3: The library will always have print books.

While I still believe this, I have to mention that when I said in my initial post I said that “I think that completely digital libraries are about as likely to occur as museums with only digital images of the artifacts that used to be physically on display,” I was rather mistaken. Actually, completely digital libraries already exist in small numbers. The Digital Public Library of America is one example. However, I agree with Neil Gaiman’s assessment that despite the growing popularity of e-books, print books will not go extinct because they offer things e-books can’t. As he says:

Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.

More content will be “born-digital” continuing into the future, and more material will be digitized over the years, and this offers significant benefits of access, especially for archival material, but there are still bridges to cross before digital content truly comes into its own (particularly digital rights management concerns and developing coherent policies to govern e-books use that can make both libraries and publishers/authors happy), and print will remain alongside the electronic.

Assumption 4: The library profession is a satisfying one.

After doing multiple library visits and talking to various librarians for each of my three classes this semester, this is looking pretty good (whew!). So I’ll just repeat what I said before: as someone who likes reading, learning new things, and helping people, helping people learn new things and find good books (without having to write lesson plans or grade papers) sounds like a pretty fabulous job.

References

Adkins, M., Clare, A., Jackson, A., Khoury, M., and McElhatton, G. (2013). Social networking: Adoption and impact on libraries and information centers [Web log]. Retrieved from http://6010team1.blogspot.com/

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2013). Information literacy coordinating committee. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/issues/infolit/ilcc

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2013). Information literacy resources. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/issues/infolit

Digital Public Library of America. (n.d.). DPLA. Retrieved from dp.la 

Gaiman, N. (2013, October 15). Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming

Maatta, S. L. (2013, October 17). Placements & salaries 2013: The emerging databrarian. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/10/placements-and-salaries/2013-survey/the-emerging-databrarian/#_

Stout, R. (2013, August 30). Welcome! [Web log post] Retrieved from https://musingsofalibrarianintraining.wordpress.com/2013/08/

Blogging about Blogs: What are Other Librarians Saying?

For the past several weeks, I’ve been attempting to follow two blogs written by librarians, although this has been difficult to fit in during the busy-ness of end of semester projects and has deteriorated into irregular binge-reads where I catch up on several of the more recent posts and maybe a couple older ones of interest. It didn’t help that my email provider now apparently limits RSS to a widget on the home page that I never go to and has discontinued actual email notifications of new posts, as they informed me with this nice error message: “Yahoo! RSS Feed/Blog Alerts has been discontinued.” Thanks, Yahoo. With my work schedule and class work constantly in flux, leaving me without a stable, predictable schedule, I haven’t been able to consistently work these blogs into my daily routine. Which is too bad, because there’s a lot of great stuff on both of them. Here’s a brief rundown.

Information Wants to be Freea blog by psychologist-turned librarian-turned SLIS professor Meredith Farkas.

It probably won’t come as a surprise after reading her title, but Meredith’s blog focuses on issues relating to open access of information from a librarian’s perspective. She also covers a wide range of other pertinent topics, from information literacy, to technology, to management, to assessment, among other things.

Two posts in particular exemplify the open access focus of the blog. In her most recent post, last week, Meredith criticizes EBSCO for requiring libraries to pay twice for Harvard Business Reviews material–once for regular access, and once for rights to use within a class setting. This post is also a warning to libraries to pay attention to all the pesky details in vendor contracts and not expect to get away with breaking the usage agreements just because they’re “crazy,” as she unhesitatingly called them. Her library refused to agree to the “deal” of paying again for the added privilege of professors included the materials on their syllabi, which ultimately is the only way to put libraries in a position to negotiate fair terms with vendors.

In an October post, Meredith writes about her experience with publishing all her work in her institutional repository as well as in regular journals, and how important it is that authors do so whenever possible. She said she didn’t even have to put up too much of a fight with her publishers in most cases to get the permissions, which was encouraging, but also made it that much more frustrating that more researchers weren’t making their work available that way.

Because Meredith was an academic librarian and is now “General Education Instruction Coordinator at Portland State University in Oregon and an adjunct faculty member at San Jose State University’s SLIS program,” she also writes a lot about information literacy and how to teach college students about effective research. I’ll limit my discussion here to her post about one of her recent projects at Portland State called Library DIY. This project is basically a portal into the PSU library site that is designed to help students learn how to use the library, with entry points like “I need help citing or using sources,” “I need to start my research or pick a topic,” and “I am looking for a specific item.”

Library DIY

Here’s the screenshot of the page, which can be found here.

 

The Ubiquitous Librarianby Brian Matthews, Associate Dean for Learning & Outreach at Virginia Tech.

Brian describes his blog this way: “This blog is about designing better user experiences and the pursuit of use-sensitive libraries.” His most common topic, at least in the last few months, is technology–what is available and how libraries might be able to put it to good use. He writes about how Twitter can be a great tool for librarians to teach information literacy and interact with students, about his experience testing the new Google GLASS wearable computer device and all its possibilities in the library, and about whether libraries now need to provide monitors at group study tables and/or loan them to students. These posts often offer thoughtful insight and creative implementation ideas for how to use technology effectively rather than simply using it because it’s the new cool thing.

There is the occasional post on a different topic, but technology is the dominant focus. Oh, and if you missed the ALA conference gorilla, he’s got you covered.

Surveying the Field of LIS Publications

This week, I am comparing and analyzing journals in the LIS field to gain an understanding of the scope of the published literature and the field in general. I specifically chose to look at two journals, the Reference and User Services Quarterly, and Literacies, Learning, and Libraries. The following is a brief synopsis of these two journals and a direct comparison.

Reference & User Services Quarterly

This is the journal of the Reference and User Services Association, which is under ALA.

Audience: This journal’s self-described audience is “reference librarians, information specialists, and other professionals involved in user-oriented library services” (RUSA, 2013).

Material Included: The journal covers a range of topics related to providing reference service. A few examples include reference sources reviews and annotated bibliographies, advice for dealing with reference questions, technology and its relation to reference, collection development, and reader’s advisory. Topics are mostly adult-focused but there are occasional articles regarding reference for children, particularly in a school library setting. Topics cover a range of academic, public, and special libraries.

Some issues have loose theme such “E-books” or “The best reference sources of the past year,” but most issues contain a mix of information on patron interaction, copyright issues, training, available resources, and so on. Every issue has columns or articles on reader’s advisory and reviews of reference sources. Most of the recent issues contain articles on information literacy, technology, and social media.

Peer Review: This journal is peer-reviewed. Each submitted article is given to two referees who review the article and make a recommendation as to whether it should be published or not (RUSA, 2013). This means the information contained in the journal is very reputable, since it has been approved by multiple experts.

Other Interesting Features: Each issue has a debate-like article, in which two authors present opposing sides of a tough topic. Examples include use of spine stickers for reading level on children’s books, comparing its benefits for helping kids find what they need and its dangers of promoting self-censorship, whether or not to personally friend patrons on facebook, and the value or problems with using Google for scholarly research.

The editor also often asks conference presenters to write an article on their topic in order to make those presentations available to a wider audience than those who were able to attend the conference.

The reader’s advisory articles could be of particular interest to me career-wise, since I have heard from children’s librarians during observations I have done that general reference questions are declining, but the most common questions are advisory ones.

Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory offered a brief review of RUSQ, written by Amy Jackson (2013), that concisely summarizes what this journal is all about:

As the official publication of the Reference and User Services Association of the American Library Association, this journal communicates information regarding user-oriented library services to librarians in special, public, and academic libraries. In addition to reference trends and e-resources, articles also address professional development, literature reviews, and news of the association. Annotated bibliographies are also included. Recent articles examine participatory web design, campus book clubs, and instruction. A basic title for all library collections.

 

Literacies, Learning, & Libraries

This is a yearly journal published by the Alberta School Library Council.

Audience: The primary audience is teacher librarians, although anyone interested in education or school libraries will also benefit. The ASLC’s website describes the journal this way: “The Alberta School Library Council published Teacher-Librarian Today, an annual publication the mandate of which is to enhance the competencies of school library  professionals and to increase knowledge, understanding and awareness of the role of school library programs in education” (2010).

Material Included: Topics range from information literacy, serving kids in particular areas like the inner-city, advice on improving a school’s library program, advocacy for school libraries, recognition of awards received by teacher librarians, regional events, and technology and virtual service in school libraries. Articles cover a mix of the theoretical and the practical: “Submissions are requested that will stimulate personal refection, theoretical consideration and practical application ” (Solowan).

Each issue is based around a loose theme, such as innovation, the reality of school library programs (applying theories to real schools), and school librarians as change agents.

Peer Review: This journal is not refereed. Submissions are reviewed by the editor for approval and inclusion. All educators are encouraged to submit articles, but the majority of entries are written by teacher-librarians. These articles are still likely to be of good quality, but they have been evaluated by fewer individual people than articles submitted to peer-reviewed journals, which is something to be aware of.

Other Interesting Features: One issue (2012) included a research article written by two 6th graders, evaluating how 6th graders perform internet research. The article was well done, with all the components of a regular research paper, from hypotheses to research methods to graphs, charts, and tables. I was impressed that a journal editor would be willing to even consider a paper written by 6th graders as worthy of review, let alone publication. This is an unusual method for encouraging students to take education seriously and to produce excellent work, but I like it. It wouldn’t work for every journal, obviously, but this journal specifically focused on grade-school education is a great place for it.

While I do not plan on working in a school library, I do plan to work with school-aged children, so some of the information in this journal may be of interest to me in that capacity.

A Comparison

These journals are quite different in many ways. RUSQ has a broad focus, LL&L has a narrow one. RUSQ is peer-reviewed, LL&L is not. RUSQ is American, LL&L is Canadian. RUSQ is published 4 times a year, LL&L only once. RUSQ is subscription-based, LL&L is available online for free.

But even with all those differences, many of the topics covered are remarkably similar, including e-services, technology, information literacy, and how to best serve the patrons frequenting the readers’ libraries. I think this is indicative of the field of LIS as a whole. There are so many applications of the LIS skills and theory, and the implementation of that will look quite different in academic libraries vs. school libraries vs. special libraries. However, there are common threads tying these otherwise disparate groups together, including concerns with information literacy, access to information, technology and how it impacts library service, and so much more. By applying those broad topics to a designated audience, both of these journals perform an important service to the field as a whole.

— — —

References

ALSC. (2010). ASLC Journal: Literacies, Learning, and Libraries. Retrieved from http://aslc.teachers.ab.ca/ASLC%20Journal/Pages/About-the-Council-Journal.aspx

Jackson, A. (2013). Untitled [Review of the Journal Reference and User Services Quarterly]. Available from Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory.

RUSA. (2013). Instructions to Authors. Retrieved from http://rusa.metapress.com/support/for-authors.mpx

Solowan, D. G. (n.d.). Guidelines for Contributors. Downloaded from http://aslc.ca/about-us/publications/