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Library Retreat … To Another Library

On June 3 we had our annual library retreat.  Normally, we use part of this day to engage in some kind of exercise that will improve library operations and then we do something fun.  This year, however, we decided to devote the whole day to a service project at the Springfield Public Library.  Like a lot of public libraries, Springfield has struggled in the last year with budget cuts and layoffs.  As a result, the staff has not been able to complete several projects.  There’s nothing we love more than a challenge, though, so we arrived bright and early at 8:30 to tackle whatever they could throw at us.

I, along with two other Reference Librarians, spent the day shifting the entire fiction collection in order to remove a row of shelving.  We didn’t quite make it all the way through the alphabet, but got close enough so that the SPL staff can finish the job.  Who knew there were so many different fiction authors!  Some of the other projects included sorting and packing summer reading kits, completing some original cataloging, mending damaged items, and staffing the circ desk in the children’s section.  In total, we donated 80 hours of work to SPL!

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Computers In Libraries Conference

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

As you can see from the pictures, I attended this years Computers in Libraries conference, which was held in Arlington, VA.  I’ve never been to CiL before, but I’ve always asked to go at the beginning of the year when we submit our “wish list” of conferences that we’d like to attend.  Still, I was quite surprised when I got the word that my request had gone through.  Not only that, but one of my colleagues, Sam Anderson, got the green light to go as well.  So we packed our bags and headed off to Virginia for three days of presentations, networking, and all of the other stuff one does at a conference.

One of my main goals was to take in as much as I could from the “Literacies and Fluencies” and “Teaching” tracks.  More specifically, I was hoping to gather as many ideas, programs, etc. as I could and use them to enhance our own information literacy initiative at Springfield College.  I certainly saw some great presentations.  Chad Mairn from St. Petersburg College gave an excellent talk about information fluency, which he argues is at the intersection of information literacy, computer literacy, and critical thinking.  I also learned more about transliteracy.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole transliteracy idea before the conference and I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about it now.  Some of my co-workers argue that it’s just the old wine of information literacy in a new bottle.  I’m not so sure, though.  To me, it seems like a marriage of information literacy and educational technology, which I see as a positive thing.  It’s definitely something that I’m following.

Of course, I did sneak out to see some presentations from other tracks.  Roy Tennant gave a great talk built around his Top Ten Things Library Administrators Should Know About Technology.  I also saw a really great talk by Joe Murphy on mobile literacy and the connection between libraries and mobile devices.  I wasn’t the only one.  This presentation was packed, which I thought was funny for 2 reasons.  One, all we heard about in the previous 2 days was about how mobile was the next big thing for libraries.  If that’s the case, why did they stick the mobile presentation into one of the smaller conference rooms?  There were so many people that they had to stream it into an adjoining room.  Two, it was very difficult to get cell reception in that room or at least it was for my friend who had 0 bars on his iPhone.

No conference is perfect, however, and this one was no exception.  I was specifically disappointed by the presentations that essentially were nothing more than link sharing fests.  It’s not because the sites being suggested were terrible or that the presenters were boring.  In fact, they were all pretty good.  I guess I just didn’t expect to see that kind of presentation at a national conference.  In almost every case, all the links were up on a wiki anyway.  I could have just looked at that on my own.

I was also a little put off by the Apple bashing.  Not because I think Apple is a perfect company.  Far from it.  However, when someone stands there and rails against Apple’s closed systems and secret app approval process, but then proudly proclaims that they bought their iPad, it kind of rubs me the wrong way.  At least Sarah Houghton-Jan had the guts to back up her words with action.  I still don’t agree with her or the rest of them.  Apple is a for profit business.  They have a fiduciary responsibility to  make money for their shareholders.  If you don’t like the way they do it, don’t buy their products.

As I said, however, no conference is perfect and I didn’t expect this one to be.  I enjoyed the overwhelming majority of presentations that I went to and the Hyatt did a great job of putting on the conference in spite of the iffy wi-fi.  Congratulations to everyone who put CiL 2010 on this year.

Faculty Newsletter 2.0

August 25, 2009 Leave a comment


Like many liaison Librarians, I prepare a welcome back newsletter for my faculty.  In it, I tell them what has changed over the summer and remind them about the resources and services that we provide.

Well, it might be a stretch to claim that my faculty newsletter falls under the heading of “web 2.0,” but it’s certainly different from anything I’ve ever done before.  In past years, I’ve written and done the layout for my newsletter using Microsoft Publisher and, thanks to the templates available, they’ve come out OK.  This year, however, I wanted to do something different; something that might catch their attention a little more.  It didn’t take me long to decide – this year, instead of writing a print document, I’d create a video newsletter.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.  At first I was all set to use a piece of software called Jing Pro, which would allow me to record video of myself talking as well as screen shots from my computer.  It was very simple to record all the material I needed.  The only problem was that the sound of my voice and the video of my lips moving were not in sync – disconcerting to say the least and very distracting.  Plan B was to use Jing to record the screen casts of the online resources that I wanted to demo and QuickTime Pro to record the video of me talking.  After many, many, takes, I got all the material I needed and threw it, along with a few photos, into iMovie.  Several edits later, I had my video newsletter.  You can see it for yourself by clicking here (Here’s an alternative version that runs using QuickTime).  It runs about 13 minutes.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not perfect.  There are production problems, such as the volume changing from one clip to another.  I’m also not the most lively narrator there is and I could have been much more precise in terms of my message.  Still, I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  I’ve shot video before, but I’ve never really put something together from so many different sources, which was a great learning experience.  I also learned a great deal about the amount of time it takes to make even a halfway decent video.  Of course, I also hope that my faculty learn a thing or two about all the changes that have taken place in the library this summer.  After all, that was the whole reason for doing this in the first place.

PVAAL Fall 2009 Meeting

November 18, 2008 Leave a comment

A copy of Kembrew McLeod’s official certification from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office for the phrase “freedom of expression”.  Kembrew patented the phrase to illustrate the lack of safeguards in the existing process.

It rained November 13th, but that did not dampen our spirits as the members of PVAAL gathered together once again for our fall meeting at Springfield College.  This was my first meeting as President so I was a little more anxious then I normally would have been, but everyone’s hard work paid off and the night was a complete success.  Many thanks to the PVAAL board, ARAMARK our catering service, and Babson Library for their efforts and support.

Instead of having a speaker as we usually do, we decided to watch Freedom of Expression: Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property – an amazing documentary based on Kembrew’s McLeod’s book of the same name.  Although the documentary brought up many important points, I think the one that struck me the most was the idea that we, as a society, are sacrificing our the future richness of our culture for short term financial gain.  I’m oversimplifying the argument, but the basic idea is that culture is built upon the songs, movies, books, ideas, etc. that come before it.  Many of Disney’s fairly tales, for example, are adaptations of stories that have been around for centuries.  We use the old to build the new, but now with companies (such as Disney) locking up their creative content for increasingly longer and longer periods of time, future artists will not be able to borrow and adapt to create new works.  Does this mean that our culture will be poorer?  Some intellectual property experts fear it will.

As academic librarians, we sometimes take a narrow view of copyright.  It usually centers around teaching students both why it’s important to cite material and how to do it.  This documentary, however, made many of us realize that we need to take a more long range view as well.  We did not come up with any brilliant ideas to save ourselves from the mess that we find ourselves in, but many of us left that evening with a sense that we must do something.  Freedom of expression (with all apologies to Prof. McLeod – I didn’t get copyright permission to use his phrase) is too important a freedom to lose.

PVAAL Spring Meeting 2008

April 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Rebecca Henning presents the treasurer’s report at the PVAAL Spring meeting on March 27, 2008.

On March 27, 2008 the members of PVAAL (Pioneer Valley Association of Academic Librarians) gathered for their spring business meeting at Mount Holyoke College.  PVAAL provides academic librarians in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts with a vehicle to discuss work related issues and, more importantly, an opportunity to connect with one another.  Although we discuss “serious” subjects such as information literacy and collection development, we also enjoy laughing and joking with one another over the unique situations we all experience from time to time as well.

The highlight of our meeting was a presentation by Stephanie Brown, who is currently an Electronic Resource Librarian at UConn.  The title of Stephanie’s talk was “The Adjunct Life and Other LISExtra-curricular Activities” and in it she talked about her role as an adjunct faculty member at the Simmons Graduate School of Library Science.  Specifically, she talked about what motivated her to step into the classroom and the tremendous satisfaction she gets from watching her students graduate and become active members of the profession.  She also talked about her role as an author, both in print publications, such as Library Journal, and on the web, such as her recent contributions to the ACRLog.  This generated quite a bit of discussion among the members about technology in general and the different ways that librarians keep up to date on technology.  One important point was that no one can keep up with everything and that we should be selective in what we spend our time following.  Oh, we need to be flexible too!

The next meeting for PVAAL is sometime in the Fall of 2008.  As president, I will be responsible for planning the event and heard plenty of suggestions for possible programs.  One strong possibility is a round table of library directors from the area.  We have several new, or fairly new, directors and many members felt that it would be useful to hear what their plans are for their institutions and to talk about how we can work together to enhance services.  Whatever the final program turns out to be, I will be looking forward to our fall gathering and for the next chance to catch up with my colleagues.