or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Things You Don’t Learn in Library School

   February 27th, 2013 Brian Herzog

Outside Shoveling - Be Back SoonDuring a library meeting yesterday, someone used the phrase, "and that's not something I learned in library school," in reference to something they frequently do at the library - which reminded me that I had this in my to-blog folder.

I'm sure every librarian could easily make a list of similar tasks - something you have to deal with on a regular basis or a part of the job you take for granted now, but was never even hinted at during your LIS coursework.

The iLibrarian blog points to two such lists - one for Academic Librarians, and this list of things Public Librarians deal face, ready or not:

  1. Janitorial Work
  2. Mental Illness
  3. Public Health
  4. Activism
  5. Complaints
  6. Exorbitant Fines
  7. Sexual Situations
  8. Vandalism
  9. Parent/Child Discipline
  10. Violence

Be sure to click through and read the descriptions. It's definitely worth it for new librarians - experienced libraries will see some that are familiar, and should give thanks for those that aren't.



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Copyright on Campus Video

   March 3rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

I think this is reatively new - the Copyright Clearance Center has released a very good overview video about "Copyright on Campus"

This is a follow-up to their "Copyright Basics" video, and is among others in the series of educational tools and guidelines. Hopefully the next one will be "Copyright in Public Libraries," but it's all useful - thanks for sharing, Katie.

It also occurred to me that this format might be a good vehicle for an "ebooks basics" tutorial - except, regardless of how informative it might be, I think that would be an ultimately unpleasant video.



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Hack Library School

   February 24th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Hack Library SchoolHere's something to check out: Hack Library School.

It's mainly a tech sandbox for library school students, but since today's students are tomorrow's librarians, keeping up with what they're doing is well worth the time. Librarianship is increasingly technology-based, and libhackers are well-positioned to be the innovators and leaders.

From the website:

The Web is our Campus.

This is an invitation to participate in the redefinitions of library school using the web as a collaborative space outside of any specific university or organization. Imagine standards and foundations of the profession that we will create, decided upon by us, outside of the institutional framework. Ideas like the democratization of the semantic web, crowdsourcing, and folksonomies allow projects like this to exist and we should be taking advantage of it. What will the information professions be next year if we define it for ourselves today? If we had a voice in the development of curriculum, what would that degree entail? This is our challenge to you; participate or come up with a better idea. How would you hack library school?

Besides, they rank Swiss Army Librarian at #5 of library blog to follow, so you know they've got good taste.



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Library School: Xtranormal Edition

   December 2nd, 2010 Brian Herzog

Whenever I'm gone for more than a couple days, it always takes me awhile to get caught up. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a colleague had sent me a link to these videos, which are great and worth sharing:

Library School: Hurts So Good

Library School: Get Swingin'

Xtranormal is fun and easy - if you have an idea for a video, give it a try.



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Reference Question of the Week – 3/1/09

   March 7th, 2009 Brian Herzog

harrington elementary t-shirtThis week's reference question isn't actually very good, but I'm using it to illustrate a point.

Last week I got a call. The patron says,

There's an elementary school in town named after Charles D. Harrington - what information do you have on who he was and why the school was named after him?

This wasn't something I couldn't answer right off, so I took his name and number and told him I'd call when I found something. The problem is, the more I looked, the less I found.

What I Could Find
With local history questions like this, I didn't think I'd find much in the library's catalog, but I checked there first anyway. It turns out, Charles D. Harrington was listed as an author of the official program from Chelmsford's tercentenary celebration in 1955. That was more than I expected, but it was all I was able to find in the library - nothing in our vertical file under "schools," nothing in the other local history books.

I thought the school itself must have a history on their website, but I couldn't find one. So I called their main office (albeit about a half an hour before school let out), but was told that no one in the office had been there for more than a few years, and they had no idea.

The local historical society and historical commission both have online archives, but all I came up with there was a history of the fire department [pdf, 6.53MB] which mentioned Charles D. Harrington serving on a committee in 1947.

To find out when the school itself was built, I searched the town's online assessor's database, and learned it was built in 1968 [pdf, 26KB].

All of these dates provided a rough idea of when he was alive, but still not enough to search for an obituary (and our obituary database only goes back to the mid-80's).

So I gathered these bits of information and contacted the patron. In addition to the above, I also gave him the contact information for the historical society, Town Clerk, and the local paper's obituary office. He thanked me for all the work, and assured me that what I found was very helpful to him.

Why This Should Have Been Better
Despite what he said, I didn't feel like I helped very much. This should have been a very easy question. Any one of the students in this elementary school should be able to answer it, and yet I couldn't.

Which is why the Town-Wide History Project we started last year is so important. The need to be able to answer local history questions like this isn't just something for reference librarians, but for anyone who lives - or will live - in town. Sadly, due to recent budget and staff cuts, the project has stalled. But it hasn't died - we're still slowly moving forward, as are other groups in town.

That's the good thing about historical projects - delays don't really hurt, they just give history more time to unfold and create more information and materials for the project.



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