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An interesting discussion started today on the newlib list about collection development of entertainment materials.  In a CD twist I’ve never heard of before, a misguided library director has decided to acquire only videos and DVDs rated 4 stars by Leonard Maltin.  There are various major and minor problems with this logic: 

 1) Leonard Maltin??!!!! I would sooner listen to a review by Dwight Schrute.

2) Effective CD policies take into account popular opinion.  Even though a movie such as American Pie may be a critical crapheap, there’s no denying that’s what the majority of the viewing public wants to watch.  And we do still live in a democracy, even in libraryland.

3) Don’t the local librarians have some say? Isn’t informed, critical selection of materials one of the reasons we’re required to have a master’s degree? Was that collection development class just a COMPLETE waste of time?

4) No reviewer has the chance to watch the majority of important/interesting/entertaining films that come out every year.  That’s a whole heck of a lot of material that’s being ignored entirely.

5) Seriously, do we want to move towards a society where Leonard Maltin shapes our cultural standards?

Eep.

I was unduly honored and proud to be asked to advise and work on the gallery’s upcoming library reorganization project.  Finally I get to be a “real” librarian! Sort of.

 As I mentioned before, the collection of art-related books and catalogues is one of the main reasons that I was drawn to this job.  I spend time every day doing research in the library.  It is expected that all staff make the effort to become more conversant about topics related to the collection, so reading on the job is not only accepted but encouraged.  I know that’s the stereotype of what a librarian does, but it’s actually a reality in this job.  How great is that?

Anyway, when I first heard that we would be revamping the library and organizing a card catalogue that has not seen the light of day in several years, I had many ambitious visions of the subject analysis I would do and the classification system I would undertake.  The truth of the matter is not quite that exciting.  Though a great collection for localized research in art history and the art of the southwest, the library really is not large enough to warrant a huge amount of effort.  In the past, the card catalogue was created with cards for each title, author, and subject.  I don’t know who did the subject analysis or what standards they used (likely the Art & Architecture Thesaurus), but there’s probably little need to add to it.  The consensus is pretty much to take the path of least resistance for the shelf organization.  Classifying each title would be too time-consuming.  It’s easy enough to find books on the shelf based on a blanket category such as the art of New Mexico or artists by last name. 

 While I’m a little disappointed not to be able to, say, put the whole collection in an OPAC, it is a good lesson in scale and practicality.  There is a balance that needs to be found in all libraries between findability and effort.  How much effort will it take to make the collection as accessible as necessary? Though it would probably also be fun to classify my own bookshelves, I realize that life is short and some things just aren’t worth the effort. 

I was excited to hear another story on NPR about the pending introduction of the so-called $100 laptop to the U.S. The computer is not yet really in the range of $100 – really it will be closer to $400 – but regardless, from the reviews I have heard it is a pretty robust computer for a pretty low price. It will definitely put other laptop manufacturers on their toes as it enters the competitive market. Additionally, the use of open source software on these machines and the technology to allow them to network with each other should put Microsoft and the internet providers on alert. So, as per all the hype, hopefully Nicholas Negroponte’s “One Laptop per Child” program truly does represent a victory in the battle against the Digital Divide. Maybe we can get these laptops into poor rural libraries as well as classrooms.

Of course, as critics of the program in third world countries have pointed out, many classrooms are still in dire need of pencils and books and are not quite at the point of being able to receive much benefit from laptops. Many of the educators in these countries have probably never worked on a computer. Which made me think about the basic information needs that sometimes get lost in the great technology shuffle. Cheap online publications and open publishing models will not replace the need for print journals (The Free Range Librarian recently had a good post about the need for small literary journals to continue to publish in print – reading them online is JUST NOT THE SAME EXPERIENCE). Poor libraries still need new books in addition to an influx of technology, and not just donations of outdated materials from wealthier communities. The bottom line is that while technology (particularly cheap technology) is a wonderful tool, it will never replace traditional information tools.

I have always considered myself pretty proactive in the things I do for professional development.  However, I have discovered that this momentum is much easier to maintain in the context of current enrollment in an LIS program and working in a library.  By necessity, over the past few years I was constantly immersed in dialogue with co-workers and fellow students about issues in the field.  Now that dialogue is limited to my solo efforts at keeping up with writing/reading/continuing education.  It’s a bit lonely.

Part of my frustration is my desire to stay involved via conferences and committees tempered by the lack of opportunity here in New Mexico.  In Nebraska, I was able to be involved in the New Member’s Round Table of the state library association and an employer extremely supportive of conference attendance and other professional development.  The mini conference of the New Mexico Library Association is coming up next week, but I probably won’t be going for several reasons.  For one thing, I don’t have the vacation time, and, unlike at an academic library, can’t take administrative leave.  Also, I’m finding that conference attendance is much more expensive as a graduate than as a student.  As are most other things, including association memberships (*note to all LIS students: join all the associations you can at the student rate!).  There aren’t more than a couple of sessions that sound interesting to me, and I can’t justify the attendance fee.

So that leaves me looking at other upcoming conferences.  I was excited to see that ARLIS (Art Libraries Society of North America) is having their annual conference in Denver this year – a mere 6 hour drive.  But…attendance is $200.  Maybe I’ll go to MPLA again.  It would be a good chance to see my old colleagues and friends from Nebraska, though I was less than blown away by the sessions offered last year.

I guess this is all to highlight the difficulty of being active in the profession while working in a non-traditional setting.  Though our skills are becoming more and more applicable to other areas, it will be all too easy for the profession to become increasingly fragmented as those of us who are not currently working in libraries face the onus of staying involved while also staying busy and committed to full-time jobs.  Professionals are usually supported by institutions within the profession – as our profession becomes geared more towards “information management” than “librarianship” and we take jobs in areas as varied as publishing, medical records, museums, and instructional design, garnering institutional support becomes more of a challenge.