Sunday, November 23, 2008

NJLA Emerging Leaders Conference - 1st session

(Loved this sign in the NJ State Library, when entering the moveable shelving) 

This past Friday, approximately 30 librarians new to the profession or to New Jersey met at the New Jersey State Library for the first session of NJLA's 2008-2009 Emerging Leader's Program. I was fortunate enough to be one of them, and I wanted to record some of the benefits of doing this. I'm really thankful to have the support of the library where I work. Although I work in an academic library and the majority of the participants were coming from public libraries, I found the experience valuable for a number of reasons:

1) The opportunity outside of a home organization to do new things & try new roles. Like it or not, we all get comfortable in our little cocoons and easily become pigeonholed by our daily responsibilities. The Emerging Leaders experience requires librarians to step away from their everyday jobs and think about leadership and the big picture, or at least other libraries besides the one where they work.

2) Networking, networking, networking. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet other librarians in the state. We're all struggling with similar issues, all motivated by similar ideals, and putting us all in a room together invariably results in solutions or at least fresh thinking. 

3) Someone pointed out that it's important for every librarian in the state to see the New Jersey State Library. Before Friday, I would not have been able to say what the state library did. I really didn't know a thing about its mission or collection, never mind its location. I mean, there's a research library about 20 minutes down the road from me, and I had no idea I had access to it. I also got to see the famous Norma Blake in person, whom I recognized from being Library Journal's 2008 Librarian of the Year. 

So, two thumbs up to everyone involved. Next time I'm looking forward to talking with the people I didn't get the chance to!

(Another great sign in the NJ State Library. Couldn't figure out what it means exactly, though.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008


My office, in the morning sun

I've noticed that since I became a librarian I have less and less patience with google. I don't think I can say I've outgrown it, because I still use it every day, but in terms of connecting to the information I'm looking for, I'm now more likely to take the time to work with a native interface rather than hoping google has indexed it and can interpret my search. 

I think this is a result of being a more educated searcher, and understanding where information comes from and how it's generated. Understanding the circumstances around information can allow someone to skip google entirely, or only use it once instead of returning to it again and again. In fact, I hate having to use google more than once for a search. If I don't find what I'm looking for instantly on google I strenuously avoid scrolling through those horrible results lists, dodging commercial links -- instead I'll look for an authority to direct me to the information. 

I'm pretty sure google inc. understands people like me & continues to create useful and relevant tools. But how many times have you heard 'I didn't believe it at first, but then I researched it on the computer and it was true'? And how often does this mean that the person googled keywords related to their question and got results containing whatever bias or opinion they brought to the search? 

And so this brings us back to my pet subject, the importance of information literacy...  

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Turning Passive to Active

Leaves: no longer on the trees

Continuing what I started a few weeks ago (different types of computer users), I've been worrying that librarians end up investing most of their energy into group #1 -- the group least comfortable with computers. What I originally wrote was oversimplified, though, because I failed to include motivation as a variable, so I'm going to take that on now.  

The thing is, students seem to find the motivation to approach and solve all kinds of other problems, but I sense that when it comes to using the library for school work, they are less inspired. Obviously I'm not accusing students of laziness, but I do wonder why librarians have to baby students by teaching information literacy when they should be equipped to learn its lessons independently. I wonder if this has to do with passive (those who want to be told what to do) versus active (those who will try and discover solutions independently) students, and I wonder why the library must spend so much attention on the passive ones rather than making advanced tools and assistance for the active ones. (In truth we do both things, but it seems like more time is spent on the passives.) It probably has to do with the fact that we interact more with the passives -- we interact most frequently with students who approach us needing basic assistance. 

There may be no solution to this -- there may be no way to convert passives into actives -- but I hate to think so. The question becomes, how do we continue to serve the actives while also serving the passives by pushing them toward becoming more active? Luckily this is not a job for librarians alone. I hope to develop an extensive bag of tricks in the coming years. I'll report back here! 

Also, I posted to ACRLog this past week, so please read & comment!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Shortcut to Machine is Us/ing...

Maybe this is cheating in terms of my weekly post, but it always takes me WAY too long to find this video on YouTube, so I'm going to put it here so that I don't have to go looking for it high and low again. It was created by Michael Wesch, an anthropologist at Kansas State University. (As a side note, I really hope he's writing a book.)

I was probably one of the *last* people in the world to see it -- at an unconference in Syracuse earlier this year -- but I still think it's an entertaining look at web 2.0, which is something that librarians such as myself are spending a lot of time thinking about.

I'll return to producing original content next week!