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


Librarian Q&A Forum At StackExchange Now Live!

   May 30th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Unshelved comic stripGreat News - the Libraries and Information Science question and answer forum, by librarians for librarian, is now open for business! Check it out:

http://libraries.stackexchange.com

This is the long-awaited replacement for Unshelved Answers - at least, I've been waiting for it, because I used it all the time. I love that librarians have a place to ask each other questions, share tips, ideas, and best practices, and just easily communicate - all with a searchable archive.

Thanks to all the early committers and beta testers. If this is completely new to you, please check it out - it's worth it, and is definitely useful professional development.



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Support the Stack Exchange Library Forum

   January 10th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Unshelved by Gene Ambaum and Bill BarnesThe beginning of the year is apparently my favorite time for good causes - although this is one I've mentioned before.

Last year, Unshelved Answers, a Q&A site for librarians, went offline. A replacement was proposed on Stack Exchange, but to move forward it needs 894 people to support the idea.

I used Unshelved Answers a lot, to both ask questions and share knowledge (sometimes that I had to find out the hard way). If you're interested in a professional open forum (essentially, a reference desk for librarians) to communicate with each other and share tips and tricks and best practices, take a look at the proposal and consider clicking the Commit! button. Thanks.



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Reference Question of the Week – 6/26/11

   July 2nd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Unshelved comic stripInstead of a reference question I've answered this week, I wanted to bring attention to a resource for librarians to ask questions.

In April, the very useful Unshelved Answers went off-line - it was a forum that let librarians ask professional questions of other librarians. I used it frequently, both asking and answering, and was sad when this resource went away.

But recent tweets from @codinghorror and @jessamyn reminded me of an effort to start up a replacement Libraries forum - I say "effort," because it'll take your help to make it happen.

The new home will be at stackexchange.com, which requires a critical mass of people to "commit" to a new forum before it is activated. As I write this, we've got 316 of the 894 needed committers, so we still need more librarians to get involved. But don't let the word "commit" scare you - you're not dedicating your life to anything, just showing that you support the idea of the forum and will use it (at your own level of involvement).

The idea behind this Libraries forum, and Unshelved Answers before it, is to create a "reference desk for librarians" - but the official proposal description reads:

Proposed Q&A site for librarians and library professionals where they can share their expertise about libraries and everything in them.

In other words, this will be a place where we can ask questions about working in a library, seek help on reference questions, find out how other libraries are handling a particular issue, and, yes, whether or not we need more signs in the library (no).

And who better to ask than other librarians?

So please, take a minute, visit the new Librarians forum proposal page and click the green Commit! button - together we can make this happen, and together we can help each other make libraries better. Thanks.



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What would you do if you weren’t a librarian?

   February 25th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Occupational Outlook HandbookAn interesting question posed at Unshelved Answers:

Given the changes in the economy and the re-organization/downsizing of many public library systems these days, public librarian jobs are few and far between. So, if you could no longer work as a librarian, what work would you do?

Read the rest of the question (including the parameters), and other peoples' answers, and give it some thought.

I posted my answer (too wordy as usual), but who knows what I'd end up doing in this situation - paperboy? volunteer fireman? park ranger? fry cook on Venus? I'm really not sure.



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RYO OSS ILS, or, Ideal Catalog Features

   December 3rd, 2009 Brian Herzog

Unsheved comic stripSince I first heard about it, I've been yapping on about the Mass Libraries Open Source Project, trying to publicize and chronicle its progress. It became official a couple weeks ago, when the membership of the three consortia involved (MVLC, NOBLE and C/WMARS) each voted to go with the Evergreen ILS.

Now that the software has been chosen, the next step is to define the features we want. See, with open source, you can shape the software like clay to mold to your situation, rather than being handed someone else's idea of what you need.

In order to figure out what we need, the December issue of the MVLC Connections newsletter [pdf] asks staff to create an list of ideal features (questions below). Obviously, one source of ideas is likes and dislikes of our current ILS (SirsiDynix's Horizon), but they're also encouraging staff to pull great ideas from other industries and websites - at this point, the sky is the limit.

I think we should also ask the larger library world - what do you think are important ILS features? If the questions below were handed to you, how would you answer? A quick internet search found some information on what an ILS/OPAC should really do. But if you have any ideas, please leave a comment below.

  1. List the three most annoying “features” of Horizon in regards to Your Specialty and describe how they could be made less annoying.
  2. What process or activity in Your Specialty is the most time consuming or frustrating and describe what it is that causes the problem. Is there something that the system could do to help?
  3. Are there any procedures or policies in Your Specialty which seem cumbersome or awkward because they are based on what the system can do and not what is logical or needed?
  4. As you are using the Internet copy the url or print out those sites which are exceptionally user-friendly or really cool. Also, are there any times when tie-ins with communication tools such as Twitter, email, or a blog could be useful to Your Specialty activities?
  5. You are the librarian on the Starship Enterprise. Everyone knows that Your Specialty can not be fully taken over by the ship’s computer...it is much too complex for that. However, as long as you walk the computer through the process, the computer can do a lot of the nit-picky stuff for you. Outline some of the most tedious or complex procedures that you currently do and show where you need to "ask" the computer to do something and what it is that it should do.

Unshelved Answers logoI'm also giving this a try on the new Unshelved Answers website. It's similar to other question-and-answer websites, but is a forum specifically for librarians. I didn't find any related questions, so I asked one, but was informed it might get deleted because "we prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed."

This will be a long process, but at some point I'll try to make sure all the various features and pulled together in a single list. Yay for having input.



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