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I have a continuing interest in the Library as Place. It’s a theme that I touched upon repeatedly during library school and one of the main reasons that I pursued this career. I believe strongly that creating an inviting intellectual and creative space has much to do with what people get out of libraries.
There’s been a lot of talk over the past decade or so about libraries taking successful retail models such as Barnes & Noble for inspiration in this regard, sometimes to unnecessary extremes. Just a few months ago the Maricopa Library System in Arizona even proposed dismantling the DDC in favor of a bookstore-type classification system.
Ironically, at the same time it seems that the bookstores themselves are feeling the economic repercussions of being too comfortable and considering returning to more traditional digs, sans the cushy couches where customers can use the merchandise without paying. This is traditionally where the library steps in – more powerfully than ever now that we have learned important lessons about creating spaces where people choose to go, even if that means buying new furniture and allowing food and drinks.
Effective online library “places” are working to become more comfortable as well. Most OPACs are hindered by cumbersome text-only displays. While many of our patrons inhabit only our online places, this is something like the equivalent of a library consisting entirely of a card catalog. Maybe this is slowly changing. For example, Book Shelf View is an idea developed by Sandra Rotenberg of the Solano Community College Library in California. Basically, it is a visual keyword search where the results display as highlighted books on actual shelves in the stacks that can be browsed. Like browsing physical library shelves, the idea plays upon the benefits of collocation and serendipity. You could “pick up” the books and skim the contents by clicking on the spine. What a great idea!
Other musings on the subject of the improved ILS have saturated the literature of late, with some notable ideas such as Marshall Breedings’ Next Generation Library Catalogs which discusses, among other things, web overlay functionality in detail.
While I may prefer to browse physical libraries and read physical books, I understand the desire of patrons to do both online, with (nearly) equal functionality. E-books have long been a reality, why not a true E-library? Why should online users be denied Library as Place (even if they have to provide their own cushy couches)?
I am finally able to take a breath after a crazy few weeks of getting over the learning curve of a new job, finishing school and moving. I have moved now 3 different times this summer. I am ready to be settled – at least for more than a few weeks at a time.
It hasn’t quite sunk in that I am now officially a LIBRARIAN. I am tempted to make business cards just to have an excuse to stick the MLIS after my name. I haven’t had much chance to celebrate, but it is a relief to realize that all my efforts have finally come to fruition. I’m excited to be part of the club. I even broke down and joined ALA.
As my path to this point has been a meandering one, this blog will probably continue to branch out in unexpected directions. Hopefully I will have a bit of a chance in the next few months to catch up on some reading and professional development. I particularly want to explore some issues relating to the convergence between libraries, museums, and my new area of expertise – galleries. I have been pleasantly surprised by the ArtSystems GalleryPro database that we use at the gallery – it’s a relational database that rivals some of the ILS systems I have worked with. It’s really quite robust and displays images as well (similar to FileMaker Pro). I’m looking forward to working with it some more and pondering the applications of some of its functionality for future ILS incarnations.
Well, I missed out on ALA yet again…anyone who went feel free to contribute some commentary. For the most part, personally I find more localized or focused conferences such as MPLA, VRA, or ARLIS to be more useful. Or maybe I’m just bitter about ALA’s virulent recruitment efforts.
After spending so much time last week setting up the ledgers and funds for the Georgia O’Keeffe serials collection, today I did indeed have to reinvent the wheel. Because we were booted out of the system abruptly last week, all the changes were lost. I had to recreate the whole thing, which was pretty frustrating. The good news is that I have a really good grasp on how the system works now and how to work with the subscription maintenance. After today, many of the titles are ready to be checked in.
Eumie also mentioned trying to get grant funding or some other source of money to add a position at the library…and that she would like to hire me, even if it was just for a temporary project. That would be an incredible opportunity. It feels good to know that I am making a real contribution there and that she admires my work. A job would feel even better, but I’ll take the admiration for now. And it’s good to have daydreams to sustain me while I’m waiting for the job offers to come.
Keeping up my zen outlook to this whole adventure, something will come along…
I definitely have a better grasp on Voyager after realizing that is a very strictly hierarchical database built upon the Access relational model. Unfortunately, rather than setting up the acquisitions/checkin workflow in a systematic step-by-step manner, the Voyager manual leaves the user to his or her own devices in figuring out the order in which the steps must be completed. If you miss one step, you can’t set up a record. It’s kind of like parsing an XML document – as long as the tags are perfect and nested in a precise hierarchy, your document will appear. If not, you must keep going backwards through the steps until the missing link is identified. This is somewhat different than how the Innovative Millennium system is set up, and takes some getting used to.
We ended up having to create a ledger and allocate periodicals funds before any titles could be maintained as serial records. If I had known this from the beginning, the process would have been much simpler. Now it should be fairly straightforward process to add the individual titles as line items. Why couldn’t they just explain that in the manual (another gripe from my inner indexer – the Voyager help manual is very poorly indexed and hard to search). I ended up creating a workflow document for the library to make the process much easier in the future.
As Eumie pointed out today, teaching myself a new ILS and creating a module from scratch will look pretty good on my resume. So…I guess frustration is a fair price to pay.
I also cataloged several records and created holdings and item records. It’s amazing how much I can get done if I only have to work 2 days a week and recuperate with long days hiking. I’m all for abolishing the 5-day work week, at least here in New Mexico.
I rode my bike out to Lamy yesterday, about 8 miles south. It’s a tiny little town with a railroad depot, dining car restaurant, and railroad/history museum. I started a conversation with the director of the museum, and he immediately mentioned that they are looking for volunteers. When he found out I’m getting my MLIS degree, he exclaimed “That’s exactly what we need! Someone to catalog our library!” So I got a tour of the collection, mostly historical books about trains. They mostly have books and a few videos, and no kind of organizational system whatsoever. Of course, against my better judgment my inner cataloger was reflexively inching towards the books, murmuring “must catalog and apply subject headings…” It wouldn’t even take all that much time to organize it in a very basic way, but for now my better judgment prevailed and I politely declined. If I have some free time later in the summer I may head back to Lamy.
In the meantime, I have started my internship at the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center/Library. I really enjoy working with Eumie, and she is grateful for my “expertise” with automated ILS systems (I realize that’s redundant, but it just sounds silly to say “ILSs”). Eumie started out working at MOMA and is quite active in the ARLIS community. She is a great contact to have here, and even mentioned wanting to add a librarian position in the research center (fingers crossed, and drooling a bit). Though I haven’t worked with the Ex Libris Voyager system in the past, I figure it’s similar enough to Millennium that I should be able to figure things out. Of course, I’ve never automated a serials and acquisitions system from scratch, either. That’s the learning curve – a daunting but interesting challenge.