Sunday, October 30, 2005

What does Kat do all day?

I hereby dedicate this post to those of you who are wondering, "What exactly does a librarian do all day?"

I get this question a lot. And in reality, I honestly don't blame you. I wondered the same thing, even while I was in the process of getting my Master's Degree. So no wonder you non-Librarians are bewildered.

Well, wonder no more, your question is about to be answered. Of course, I can only tell you what a Reference Librarian at a small liberal arts college does all day, since that is the only professional library job I've held thus far, but here goes:

What does Kat do all day?
1. Work the Reference Desk. If people have questions, I have answers! (Hopefully)
2. Give instruction sessions. These are usually intended for specific classes on campus where the professor wants his or her class to do research and suspects (correctly) that the students are pretty clueless. We also offer instruction sessions on particular databases that anyone can attend.
3. Manage the reference collection. This includes taking old books out, adding new ones, and helping ensure that statistics are being kept on reference book use.
4. Create subject guides. For each discipline on campus, we have a guide containing useful databases, reference books, ebooks, journals, and websites.
5. Preparation - for instruction sessions, for classes (yes, librarians even teach classes on the research process at some colleges! I am not teaching one this semester but I will be in the Spring.)
6. Check various sources for new websites to include in the subject guides.
7. Keep current with the literature - stay up to date with what is going on in the library world through emails, listservs, certain blogs, and so on.
8. Manage Interlibrary Loan - there is a student assistant who handles most of this, but I created a manual of procedures and other useful information. I also answer any questions the student has and check periodically to make sure everything is running smoothly. I am also looking at ways to improve the Interlibrary Loan service.
9. Manage Chat Reference - this basically boils down to making sure we have librarians staffing the shifts we are supposed to.

I'm sure I could add more to this list, but I think it is long enough for now. But I hope that sheds some light on what librarians actually do all day long. :)

Sit in your bookshelves

Ever wanted to just crawl into your bookshelves and read? Check out a design for a bookshelf where you can do just that here. The shelves are also designed to fit all sorts of differently-sized books. Pretty neat.

(found this at LISNews)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Law and gOFFICE.com

I've been intending to write this post for several days now, but of course I keep putting it off or forgetting.

I wanted to revisit my whole gOFFICE.com post of a few days ago, and the comment from Nye! in response to my legal jargon confusion (and to express my gratitude for the legal information!). As a librarian, it is probably not a good thing that I do not know as much about copyright as I should, since that's one of the big legal issues we encounter. I do have some understanding of it, especially where it impacts my particular library, but not as much as I would like.

I re-skimmed over the Terms and Conditions as a result of Nye!'s comments, and I will still not sign up for a gOFFICE account. But for different reasons now. And here they are:

1. I am quite happy with Writely.com. I just forced (hehe) one of my coworkers into setting up an account so I could share a document with him and he could edit it, too. It's a great collaborative tool instead of emailing Word docs back and forth. gOFFICE does not appear to have this feature.

2. gOFFICE relies on ads to keep it free, and Writely does not. Of course, Writely may go "for fee" once it comes out of beta.

3. They will spam you and telemarket you (ah ha! I found out why they want your phone number!). Quoted from their Privacy Policy:
We may enter into strategic marketing alliances or partnerships with third parties who may be given access to personal information including your name, address, telephone number and email for the purpose of providing you information regarding products and services that we think will be of interest to you. In connection with strategic marketing alliances or partnerships, we will retain all ownership rights to the information, and we will not share information regarding your social security number or other personal financial data.
Perhaps I am interpreting this wrong, but I doubt it. It seems pretty blatant to me.

4. gOFFICE seems to be encouraging and even promoting the idea of an affiliation with Google that is simply not true. It gets its ads and search feature from Google, but nothing more. See the information in the article from PRNewswire located at Findwealth.com for more details. Of course, you have to scroll down below the huge picture of Donald Trump to see the info. Anyway, how is gOFFICE promoting this untrue affiliation, you may wonder?
a. On its own site, under "Press" it provides you, oh-so-conveniently, with a list of blogs that mention the word "gOffice", many of which link gOFFICE to Google. However, these are all older blog entries in which the blog author was speculating that Google would create a product such as this one and call it GOffice (notice the different capitalization). A cursory glance of the titles of the blog entries on gOFFICE's site does not make this clear and misleads the reader.

b. There is also the seeming gOFFICE / Gmail affiliation. What's the G for, eh gOFFICE? Why not WebOffice or OfficeOnline or something?
So, to sum it all up, I do not like gOFFICE. But I LOVE Writely!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wednesday Night Fun

1. Kids in the library: I kind of like that the education majors tutor elementary school-age children in the library. That's one thing I miss about public libraries - the little kids. Today I had to call on all my librarian brainpower to supply kleenex and a pencil sharpener. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!

2. "'Old school' books": I found some books for students doing a group project - the books were published in the 1920s or so. Upon returning to the table at which the group was working, the particular student I helped exclaimed to his groupmates, "Check out these 'old school' books! Look how old they are!" (Of course, I must admit that when I first looked it up in the catalog I laughed and told the student that the books were from the 1920s).

3. Lazy students: Why discuss back and forth whether or not you can use the CD you want to play during your presentation as a source? You've now spent more time discussing this than it would take you to find more sources. Of course, the students later asked the librarian (me!) and ended up with everything their hearts could desire.. and more. They needed 3 sources, but they got 4 circulating books, 3 reference books, 2 CDs, and a partridge in a pear tree. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Internet TV?

Richard MacManus over at Read/Write Web has posted about a new company, Brightcove, that aims to provide TV on the Internet (for more information, check out MacManus' ZDNet post on this company). According to Brightcove's website:
We're creating an open Internet TV service that empowers video producers and programmers to build broadband businesses while giving viewers more choices and control over their use of video and television.
Not sure what I really think about Internet TV. I really don't watch TV as is (since I don't have cable TV and therefore would probably get one station if I were to bother to hook up the antenna I recently acquired). Plus the quality of video on a computer screen varies. I currently use my computer to watch DVDs. I would have to say I probably have a fairly decent video card, since a techie friend of mine built the computer for me, and the quality is still not the greatest. Plus, if you have to pay to watch this new Internet TV, that would be another drawback.

Of course, if this were to somehow give us access to the movies still in the theatre (even for a fee), I can see the benefit of that. I am fairly certain that, if that were the case, I would start using the service. However, I don't know if that is even something this company is interested in doing. That might also have to be a down-the-road-type goal, since it would probably be easiest to start with TV before moving up to the newest movie releases.

Side note: While hunting around the Brightcove site for more information, I clicked on "Company" and was highly amused to see that the pictures of the members of the management team are actually short videos. Of course, having recently reread all the Harry Potter books, this reminds me of the moving pictures hanging on the walls in Hogwarts.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Librarians are Heroes!

Great article from the Des Moines Register: Our Librarians, Our Heroes. I'm not sure I like being thought of as someone tough on spelling who wears a cardigan (although it is somewhat accurate), but otherwise this is a great tribute to reference librarians. :) And I particularly like the following quote:

"...the reference librarian cuts through all the information overload like a skilled surgeon."

Having just blogged about this recently, it is great to see that others (and non-Librarians at that!) are thinking these things, too.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

gOFFICE.com

After posting about my newfound love of Writely, I have discovered (via eHub) a new online word processing tool, gOFFICE.com. The appeal of gOFFICE.com, to me, is the spreadsheet capability that is scheduled to be available in November according to the FAQs.

In addition to the spreadsheet option, it is also supposed to be implementing a presentation capability as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Update: Well, after trying to sign up for a gOFFICE.com account, I am somewhat less enthusiastic. At first glance, it seems as though they require a lot of personal information in return for an account. In reality, you only need to enter a username, password, first and last name, email address, and phone number. Why on earth is phone number a required field?!

Plus, a very quick look at the terms and conditions (yes, I actually usually do check that stuff out before agreeing to it) leaves me a bit curious about a few things:

Who owns copyright for the information I store on the site? Their copyright sections just confuse me.

Writely is much more clear on this, saying that information from the site is under copyright. That differentiates nicely between content I save to the site and content the site puts out. Plus, Writely has a section detailing "Your Intellectual Property Rights" in its Terms of Use.

Second, from gOFFICE.com: "5. Editing, Deleting and Modification We reserve the right in our sole discretion to edit or delete any documents, information or other content appearing on the Site." So, they can just delete stuff I put on there if they don't like it? I suppose where I need clarification is in reference to what counts as "content appearing on the Site." I would assume that my documents would only be viewable by me, so does that appear "on" the Site?

I hate legal jargon. I have a feeling I'm just showing my incredible ignorance when it comes to that kind of thing here, and the site is probably fine. Who knows.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sudoku

Be warned, it's highly addicting.

Sudoku was mentioned in a LISNews post today. I had discovered this game a while ago after reading an article in a local paper, and found a great online version located at Web Sudoku. Check it out for a challenging, fun, and addicting game.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

T.M.I.

Fred over at WeBreakStuff had an interesting post about the main problem with the world wide web: T.M.I. Too Much Information. These days I feel as though I'm suffering from a more severe case of information overload than ever before (for more on information overload see Wikipedia's coverage of the term). Unlike Fred, I don't have 1500 new items a day in my feed reader, but I do have around 200. And I'm adding new feeds all the time.

But the point is, that with all this information attacking us from all angles, the role of the librarian is becoming even more important, although less and less recognized. So much of the information on the Internet is, well, crap. One of the great things about the Internet is that anyone can publish on it. At the same time, that's one of the biggest drawbacks. Information ranges from high quality to very very low quality, and your friendly and helpful librarian is one of the best resources to help you find the high quality info.

Consult your librarian! Why? Because:

1. Your librarian may know of a better way to find the information you need. Searching through pages of Google results for that elusive article on your topic that you know is out there might be better accomplished in a different search engine, at a certain web site, or in various library resources. Or perhaps even in print (*gasp*).

2. Your librarian may know of a quicker way. Afterall, who doesn't want to save time? Why search through a long list of results when your librarian may have good suggestions for narrowing or limiting your search?

We aren't sitting at the Reference/Information Desk for our health, you know. :)

But, I'm done ranting about the usefulness of librarians. For today anyway.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Librarian's Wishlist

I saw a post over at Library Technology NOW about the Librarian's Wishlist brought to us by the wonderful people at the North Texas Regional Library System. All librarians have to do is make a wish and then encourage patrons to visit the site and fill that wish. This, of course, got me thinking about what I would wish for if I were crazy enough to submit wishes to that website:

Kat's Wishlist
1. Mold-be-gone for our oh-so-lovely and olfactorily-pleasing moldchives.
2. New computers for the library computer lab (adios to the broken, the rundown, and the damaged!).
3. A brand spanking new collection! Throw out all the old stuff and give me some new books please!
4. Endless amounts of money to use to develop the collection.
5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out with it means to the library! (translation: every student on campus would be DYING to use the library extensively. Do I hear, "My prof wants me to find 3 articles, but I want 10!" or "Wow, you guys have the most amazing collection I've ever seen!" or "You librarians are AMAZING! You know what I need and where I can find it!")

No wish is too big, right? Right...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

SHOUTcast

An excellent site for streaming radio is SHOUTcast. It has music from all genres, and all free! (Since free is the most important factor afterall). Many of the stations also don't have ads, which is wonderful. I've found that some of them do that annoying buffering thing from time to time, but if you try picking ones that allow lots of listeners and have a higher bitrate, they work pretty well. Anyway, it's a great option for music at work, particularly if your CDROM drive does not work (like mine). Happy listening. :)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Libraries Have Been Bloggin'

Recently, I've seen several posts praising Ohio State's Zanesville Campus Library's use of a blog to post updates about the library. This is a great idea and all, but they are definitely not the first to do so. Some examples are: Otterbein College, Muskingum College, Tri-College Libraries, and Temple University. One of these even dates back to May 2003, so it's definitely not a new idea! So congrats to Zanesville Campus Library for joining the rest of us. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Useful Web 2.0 Gadgets

I have begun using a few Web 2.0 or related gadgets at work and they are really quite useful. Since my time at work is divided between the reference desk and my office, I spend a lot of time at two different computers. This results in a lot of emails to myself saying "Bookmark This!" or "Save this to your hard drive!". So....

For my bookmarks, I am now using del.icio.us. It's been out there for quite some time, and I'm just now jumping on board. But now I can use my bookmarks at any computer! Unfortunately, it isn't the prettiest site, but it will do - a sentiment I've seen expressed in other blogs, so I'm not the only one.

For Word documents that I work on at both the reference desk and in my office, I am using Writely. Writely is a word processor available on the web, so you can access it anywhere.

Can't wait to find out what other eGadgets I can put to use at work!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Video iPod

Well, they've done it. A video iPod. And not only that - you'll be able to watch TV episodes in addition to the more obvious music videos and video podcasts! See the story at Quote.com. Disney and ABC, eh? Alias on iPod!

And people tell me my TV is too small. Viewing a TV show on the video iPod will make my whopping 9-inch TV look huge!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

30Gigs.com

I just added 5 or so blogs to my Bloglines account related to the whole web 2.0 idea, and I'm finding the reading fascinating... and bewildering. Just more evidence that I'm really behind on all this technology stuff and that the jargon is often lost on me. I think I at least finally understand the Web 2.0 concept where everything you normally do on your desktop would be available on the web - word processing, storage, etc.

In A Venture Forth Dan Grossman posted about 30Gigs.com. This site offers email with, as you can probably guess, 30 gigs of storage. So, essentially you can store most of your hard drive (for those of us with hard drives of less than 30 gigs anyway) in your email. It boggles the mind that email with such vast storage can be offered, and for FREE, too! Server space is apparently pretty cheap.

In case you are interested, the other 4 web 2.0 blogs are:
The last three are all available at the Web 2.0 Workgroup, which will be a constantly expanding site for blogs dealing with Web 2.0.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Rent Your Textbooks!

Rent your textbooks instead of buying them at BookRenter.com. As long as you are able to keep your textbooks in reasonably good condition, you will only have to pay 20-30% of the book's actual cost. This is a good option instead of buying the book and then selling it back to the college bookstore at a fraction of the original cost.

Read an article about BookRenter at Central Florida Future.

(See the post on Library Stuff where I found out about BookRenter.com)

Ig Nobel Prize

I highly recommend you check out the winners of the Ig Nobel Prize. According to the site, "The winners have all done things that first make people LAUGH, then make them THINK." And, not surprisingly, these studies really do both of those things

Examples include:

  • "The first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck"

  • The "irresistible report 'An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces'"

  • The report "investigating the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule about whether it's safe to eat food that's been dropped on the floor"

  • The guy who patented the wheel in 2001

  • The "discovery that, biochemically, romantic love may be indistinguishable from having severe obsessive-compulsive disorder"

  • "The Kansas State Board of Education and the Colorado State Board of Education, for mandating that children should not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution any more than they believe in Newton's theory of gravitation, Faraday's and Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, or Pasteur's theory that germs cause disease."

  • "The British Royal Navy, for ordering its sailors to stop using live cannon shells, and to instead just shout 'Bang!'" (this one has got to be one of my favorites because it invokes one of the most amusing mental pictures!).

  • and the one that always plagues me:

  • the "partial solution to the question of why shower curtains billow inwards" (what, only a partial solution?!).

The article about this year's winners is here.

Friday, October 07, 2005

End of the World

Well, here's a very random blog entry.

Amusing flash video: The End of the World

Google News

Here's an interesting article about Google opening a lobbying office in D.C. from SF Gate (a San Fran news source).

It also mentions Google's interest in providing free wireless to San Francisco. Too bad Google probably won't be interested in providing free wireless to my area next....

When it comes to Google, I'm always torn between:
  • admiration over its amazing accomplishments (what doesn't Google do?); and

  • curiosity about whether it will eventually take over the world (see Epic 2014 perhaps more commonly referred to as Googlezon)... or perhaps a slightly more realistic curiosity: Google developing a monopoly on a lot of Internet-related services.
And of course, most of us in Library Land wonder about what Google's services will mean for libraries.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Favorite Patrons

Kat's Favorite Patrons (perhaps this will be a recurring list as I encounter more fun patrons):

1. The ladies who bring their dogs into the library. Yes, I am serious, and no, no one says anything about it. I guess we don't have a dog policy. The ladies stay in the circulation desk area near the library entrance so the dogs don't get to frolic through the stacks or anything, but still. Dogs? Come on, people! (Hmmm, perhaps the dogs could be trained to pee on parts of the collection that we'd like to throw out? Here doggie doggie doggie, this row of books all date before 1950, could you please cock your little leg on them? I'll give you a doggie treat! You know you want to! I can tell your little bladder is full!)

2. The students who expect the librarians not only point them in the right direction towards useful resources, but also to pick the articles the students should read, print them out free of charge, AND perhaps even read the articles for them and type the paper. Oh yes, and properly cite everything as well. Reality check: We are here to help, not to serve you your paper on a silver platter. It's supposed to be a learning experience.

Monday, October 03, 2005

WorldCat adding a Reviews Wiki

Seen on the LibrarianInBlack blog: WorldCat apparently has a pilot project going in which users can add reviews to WorldCat records:

"Beginning in September, Open WorldCat users will be able to add content to WorldCat records using wikis. The pilot will give users the ability to add comments, see comments by others and add or edit other information they know about the record."

See the Wiki WorldCat Pilot for more information.

Do many patrons really use WorldCat? In my limited experience, it seems that librarians are pretty much the primary users. Will the librarians be the ones writing all the reviews? I don't want to sound anti-progress or anti-new technology, but we can already go to Amazon and others to get reviews. Is it really a feature WorldCat should offer? I wil be really interested to see the future success, usage, and overall benefits of this feature.

Yahoo Digitizing University Library Collections

Looks like Yahoo has jumped on the Google bandwagon (although they say the idea was in the works before Google unveiled their digitization project). Check it out on The Chronicle. Contrary to Google (and perhaps in reaction against all the recent Google controversy), "Leaders of the project stressed that no books that are under copyright will be scanned unless the copyright holders give explicit permission."

Always makes me curious what this will mean for libraries....