Tag Archives: reference

Follow-up to my last post

26 Aug

I forgot to call it out specifically during my last post discussing the article, but this quote…

“Librarians are believed to do work unrelated to helping students,” wrote Miller and Murillo, “or work that, while possibly related to research, does not entitle students to relationships with them.”

…damn near broke my heart.

This is what we’ve gotta change, folks.

(Emphasis is technically mine, by the by, but it jumped out at me so much that it might as well have been in <b>-tags and 36-point font.)

Bridging the gap

26 Aug

Right off the bat, if you haven’t read the Inside Higher Ed article, “What Students Don’t Know,” go do so. It’s heavy stuff. It’s also a call to action.

I talked about this a bit today on the SLA Academic blog, and I’m going to expand on it here and tie it into last week’s post about the orientation materials we put together at Cornell, specifically our welcome video. Because I think we did a solid job with addressing some of these issues, but we also left a gap that we need to bridge.

First off, here’s the video we made, in case y’all haven’t watched it yet:

We hit some major points in there: college is going to be tough, tougher than you might expect; there are many, many resources in the library that you can use; you should ASK A LIBRARIAN for help, because we know the library; we’ll help you get better grades in less time.

Again, I think that video turned out great. But looking at it again in the context of ERIEL, it strikes me that we could have been more explicit about how asking a librarian, in conjunction with those millions of resources, will lead to better grades in less time. And we’re not explicit about it, I think, because we take it for granted.

It’s an issue of assumptions, those unstated pieces of information that bind arguments together. The problem is, our assumption about how librarians, resources, and good grades fit together doesn’t seem to match up with students’ assumptions. We know that we can point them towards better resources than they currently use, and help them use all the resources at their disposal better than they currently do. But we’re lucky if the former even occurs to them, let alone the latter. Most students seem clueless about what we can do, except maybe point them to a book or a database. Their professors don’t necessarily seem to know any more than that, either.

Like I said, this is a call to action.  Studies like this need to inform our reference, instruction and outreach efforts. We need to make sure that faculty know exactly what we can bring to their research, not to mention what their students may lack in terms of research skills and how we can remedy that. We need to inform our students exactly why they should come talk to us; not just to point them at better resources, but also to instruct them in the best use of all resources.

Yeah, even Google.

It can be frustrating to read studies like this. But it should also inspire us, by not just pointing us toward the gaps in our efforts to help our patrons, but also by getting us thinking and talking about how to bridge those gaps.

Friday in the Libe

5 Aug

Finishing up The Price of Spring, by Daniel Abraham. It’s the fourth part of his Long Price Quartet, and both book and series have been amazing. Smart fantasy for adults with strong characterization and no fear of raising the stakes and facing the consequences of choices made.  I love it when authors establish a strong and evocative status quo and then let their characters batter it, and I love when a plot development makes me close the book and curse in amazement. There’s a lot to love in these books.

The next few weeks are pretty heavy for the Reference & Outreach Committee, of which I’m the co-chair. We’ve got our first monthly forum on Tuesday (which we managed to program with only minimal insanity, though I am probably going to end up as one of the presenters), and our first real orientation event on Thursday. Two weeks from today is the massive orientation fair for new undergrads, with the grad fair following soon after. So that’s dominating most of the “planning” portions of my brain.

In addition to the short presentation alluded to above, I’m trying to contribute to the outline of the book chapter I’m co-authoring with UNLV’s Cory Lampert. Thank the gods for Google Docs, and the patience of colleagues.


Judd’s been doing this Friday thing for a good long while, and I’ve always thought it was keen. I used the structure a few times last year in my gaming blog, but since I never post there and most of the content this week is library related, it seemed better done here.

3 things I like about digital reference

19 Nov

So much has been going on in my own Librarian Causal Domain that I haven’t been sure what to post about; keeping things simple seems the way to go. So does keeping things positive, and I’ve been having some extremely positive experiences with digital reference lately. So, here are things I enjoy about chatting with patrons and answering their questions online:

  1. It gives me a lot of practice. Between my weekly shift on Cornell chat reference, and my biweekly shift monitoring 40+ queues for the nation and state co-ops in which we participate, I end up answering more true questions within an hour or two than I might otherwise see all week, depending on the time of year. I almost feel like one of the folks who use online poker to train for Vegas; there’s nothing like handling multiple reference interviews — sometimes simultaneously — to hone your skills.
  2. I dig the pace of the interactions. Not only does the chat format allow me to handle multiple questions at once, it also brings with it the assumption that there will be pauses in the interaction. I confess that if I need to track down three leads before I find whatever it is the patron needs, it feels more comfortable to tell them I’ll be a couple of minutes and come back to them with the right answer than to have them sitting and watching me investigate. (Might be more comfortable for them, too: they get to keep working on their own things, and don’t have to listen to me talk to myself.)
  3. It forces me to learn new systems. For the external chat stuff, I’ll usually need to dig through new library web sites, catalogs, policy pages, and so forth in order to answer questions. Even within Cornell, I’m dealing with collections and services that are unfamiliar to me almost as often as I get to use the ones that have become second nature to me through my reference work here at Catherwood. This kind of perspective change tends to help me improve at something for which my skill has plateaued, and combined with point #1 I feel like this is the best thing I can be doing right now for my reference chops.

So that’s my simple, positive, and slightly long-winded take on why I like digital reference. If y’all spend your time chatting with patrons through the marvelous interwebs, what do you think of it?

Is this what being a librarian feels like?

13 Aug

I enjoy reading the “day in the life” posts that many blogger librarians write. After spending the last couple of days trying to hash out my week-to-week schedule for the coming semester, I think I’m close to being able to do that myself. At the very least, I’m beginning to see why such posts tend to be so long.

This fall, each of my weeks will include:

  • Three reference desk shifts here at Catherwood.
  • One shift of Cornell’s online chat reference service.
  • One shift of chat reference service for the co-op to which Cornell belongs.
  • Two classes in eskrima. (Which will not, I hope, prove directly applicable to the aforementioned reference shifts. But they will probably facilitate the maintenance of sanity.)

Every month, I’ll also have:

  • At least one meeting of the CUL Reference and Outreach Committee.
  • At least one forum, run by said committee.
  • At least one meeting of the CUL Digital Reference Committee.
  • At least a few meetings regarding the ongoing library consolidation plan.

And then there’s the other stuff on this semester’s to-do list:

It’s a more than slightly overwhelming list, especially since I know it won’t prove exhaustive. It almost certainly necessitates the delegation to others of a bunch of mundane tasks  that I still do because my previous position has remained unfilled. But truth be told, the folks above me in the chain of command have been recommending that I do that for a while now; this semester may prove the necessary impetus.

I feel like this semester is giving me a better picture of what my career’s gonna look like for at least the next several years. And the funny thing is, I’m not only OK with that, I’m pretty damned psyched about it. Overwhelming as it is, it also sounds like fun.

And not just the stick-fighting.

CiL 2010: Day 2

14 Apr

Day 2 continued my trend of attending awesome presentations while other awesome presentations were going on.

First up, Michael Edson detailed how the Smithsonian is prototyping my dreams of an interactive digital commons. IT made me want to weep, and I;m not sure if it was with envy or joy. The ideas they’re pursuing are wonderful, and their definition of a commons as an interactive space that catalyzes collaboration and innovations speaks to me powerfully. Sadly, my attendance there meant I missed what I’ve heard was a very fun and informative presentation from Craig Anderson and JP Porcaro on crafting online personas.

After that, I caught Piotr Adamczyk, Oleg Kreymer, and Dan Lipcan talking about facilitating engagement through open data at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While I might quibble with their definition of open data, I was taken by the variety of visualization tools they were using, such as IBM Many Eyes and Google Chart Tools. Meanwhile, Jill Hurst-Wahl and company were dispensing wisdom on reaching reluctant learners, which I’d have liked to see despite my tenuous connection with instruction in my current position. (How do I know so much about what was happening in other sessions? Twitter. Believe.)

After a long lunch break that included Italian food with folks from my librarian boot camp back in 2007, I got back into it at a session on digital reference by Joe Murphy, Virginia Roy, and Jan Dawson. My big takeaway there was that folks are using VoIP for reference, a concept I find intriguing. They started to stake out a territory for that service between chat reference and phone reference, and while it’s something I hadn’t considered before this I’m really curios to see where they take it.

Then I hit the Speakers Reception and met more excellent individuals as well as reconnecting with extent excellencies. (The balance between fun and hoity-toity was superb.) Jaleo was the next destination for magnificent tapas, followed by Freddie’s for a karaoke night which can only be described as life-changing. There was much talent in effect, but I think I managed to hold my own with renditions of “I’m Just A Girl” and “Hard to Handle”.

The fact that we didn’t get back to the hotel until 2:30AM had some repercussions better covered on Day 3.

Personal Librarian

7 Aug

Or, in my case, Personal Library Paraprofessional.

Last Spring, the Catherwood Library started a program through which all new faculty and all graduate students would be assigned a librarian or reference staff member as their contact point for all library-related questions, comments, and concerns. As a non-librarian, I was assigned only grad students, whom I dutifully emailed at the start of the semester.

I got responses from only two of them, but had solid reference interactions with both. One contacted me a few times throughout the semester with questions, indicating that she found the program helpful (at least when it came to dealing with document delivery questions).

The interesting aspect of a program like this is that it only took me a few minutes to send those initial emails, and the resulting questions took no more time than any other reference question would have. But we managed to communicate our presence and our value to two of our most important constituencies. I’m looking forward to getting a couple more grad students to contact this term.

Anyone else running similar programs in their libraries?