Category: LIS 5020

Library Visits: Reflections

Prior to these library visits, I felt like I was leaning towards either an academic or a special (especially law) library. After conducting these visits, that hasn’t changed. Actually, I may be leaning towards law librarianship a little more now than I was before. The major reason I was wary of working in a law library was that I knew it would require a JD as well as an MLIS. Even though I’ve thought about law school off and on for years, I was always a little bit afraid of law school (Elle Woods I am not). Visiting the Stetson Law campus seems to have eased some of my fear.

The fun thing about this exercise is that I am still in the first semester of my library studies education. I have time to explore my options. Right now, getting out of Florida and back to the Delaware Valley as soon as possible (I’m looking at you, January 2013) is my most important goal. Who’s to say that won’t change over the next four semesters? The potentially great thing about moving back to Philly with my current interests, though, is that the city is full of law firms and universities (and universities with law schools).

One thing I learned while doing these visits is that I am pursuing the right field. I feel that, regardless of what kind of library I work in, I will enjoy the fulfillment of helping people. That feeling was sorely lacking during my accounting career and I look forward to it.

I really enjoyed my conversations with the three librarians and I appreciate each of them taking time to talk to me.

Public Library: Free Library of Philadelphia

About a month ago I was visiting my brother in Philly and decided to take a trip to the Parkway Central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. While there I spoke with Marion Parkinson, a reference librarian in the Education, Philosophy and Religion room. I chose to visit the Free Library because I had never been there. I chose the Parkway Central Library because it’s only about a mile from my brother’s place (at least until he moves to Jersey at the end of the month). Unfortunately I didn’t have Instagram on my phone at the time, so I don’t have a pretty picture of the facade.

Marion told me that it was a “complete accident” that she became a librarian. In fact, for most of her life she didn’t want to be a librarian, but she believes that was largely due to her first name. She said that when she was growing up The Music Man was a very popular movie. One of the stars of the movie, Shirley Jones, plays the town librarian, Marian Paroo. There’s even a song in the soundtrack called “Marian the Librarian.” I told her I could understand how that could turn someone off the idea of becoming a librarian. Despite her childhood associations, she started working
at the Free Library as a computer tech. In early 2000 she was given an opportunity to join the library trainee program, which would pay for her library science studies. She really enjoyed working at the Free Library, so she joined the trainee program in June 2000.

The Free Library of Philadelphia has 54 branches. Its social media presence includes a blog, a YouTube page (the featured video currently features the Phillie Phanatic), and a podcast. There are many different services offered by the various branches. The Parkway Central branch offers adult education classes and the LEAP  after-school program for grades 1-12. Additionally, all the author events hosted by the Free Library are held at the Parkway Central branch (the author events are recorded for the podcast). The Parkway Central branch also holds some of the Free Library’s special collections, such as rare books collections and the automobile reference collection.

Would I like to work here? Well, it’s in Philadelphia, which is currently the only requirement I have for my dream job. I also think that working in a public library, especially in a large metropolitan area, would be very fulfilling. I’d imagine working reference in a library like this one would rarely get boring. On the other hand, the reference librarians at the Parkway Central branch are specialized to the areas that correspond to the rooms they’re in (in Marion’s case, Education, Philosophy and Religion). She also told me that they get a lot of regulars in her room that don’t need reference help and she spends more of her time assigning computers than answering face-to-face reference questions.

Contact Information
Parkway Central Library
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia PA  19103
Phone: 215-686-5322

Hours of Operation
Monday – Thursday: 9 AM – 9 PM
Friday: 9 AM – 6 PM
Saturday: 9 AM – 5 PM
Sunday: 1 PM – 5 PM

Special Library: Dolly & Homer Hand Law Library

Yesterday I was able to visit the Dolly & Homer Hand Law Library at Stetson University College of Law and speak to Pamela Burdett, the Associate Director & Head of Public Services. I chose a law library for my special library because I feel really drawn to them. When I quit my (soul-crushing) corporate gig last October to go back to school, my plan was to go to law school. Then one day my mom told me that USF had a library science program and that was more appealing to me than law school (no entrance test requirement, cheaper, shorter time commitment, and no mythical test to take to become licensed). Once I started my MLIS courses, I learned about the field of law librarianship and find it quite intriguing (I plan to take the Law Librarianship course in the fall). I specifically chose the Stetson Law Library because Stetson was the only law school I really considered last year (for purely geographical reasons), but I had never actually visited the campus.

Pamela told me that she had always worked in libraries (“since junior high”). Her first job was shelving books at her local public library. While in college she worked as a cataloger at different libraries. When she and her husband moved to Tampa in the late 70’s she planned to pursue a Master’s in women’s studies, but USF didn’t offer women’s studies at a postgraduate level. After looking at USF’s catalog, she decided that she may as well pursue a library science degree. She received her MLS from USF in 1982. She had been at school with someone who worked at the Stetson Law Library and this friend informed her that they had a cataloging backlog. Pamela was hired as a part-time cataloger and has been there ever since. Eventually the library director asked what her future plans were and she said she’d like to try her hand at reference. The director decided to give her a shot at the reference desk even though she didn’t have a JD (Juris Doctor). At this point, she is the only librarian at the Stetson Law Library without a JD. Both a JD and an MLS are pretty much required for all law librarians now, but Pamela has been “grandmothered” in. Pamela is a member of AALL (the American Association of Law Libraries) and is heading to Philly this weekend to attend the annual conference.

When you first enter the Dolly & Homer Hand Law Library, you walk into a lobby that, although big and airy, feels kind of dark. It reminded me a lot of the public spaces in Whitmyre Hall, the residential hall/classroom building for the honors college I was a member of as an undergrad. It almost feels like they’re trying too hard to give off an academic vibe. I suppose that would be off-putting for some people, but I found it very familiar and almost comforting. The rest of the library feels light, airy, and modern. There are study carrels and reservable rooms for individual study in addition to conference rooms and lounges for group study. These study spaces were quite popular when I was visiting because many students were studying for finals or the bar exam.

The Dolly & Homer Hand Law Library serves a rather diverse population. Most of the users are Stetson Law students, faculty, and alumni, but it is also open to members of the Florida bar and judiciary and the general public. Stetson’s Tampa Law Library, however, is not open to the public. The library’s staff of approximately 22 includes 10 professional librarians. While touring the library I was introduced to two USF alumni who were working the reference desk. An interesting aspect of working for the Stetson Law Library is that you are required to split your time between two locations. Most of the time is spent at the main library in Gulfport, but everyone has a weekly turn in the Tampa location as well. The library provides a company van for commuting between the two. Some of the services available through the library are inter-library loan and document delivery for law firms and alumni. Law libraries are mostly used as reference, so there isn’t a heavy circulation per se. They do offer a collection of law-related movies on DVD that are checked out fairly often.

One of the major trends at the library in recent years is embedding librarians in courses/programs. For instance, Stetson offers a digital-only elder law program and a librarian is embedded in each course. Though the elder law program is only open to practicing lawyers, they have generally been out of school for years and are used to passing research (if not typing or other “school” skills) off onto their associates. The school has found that embedding a librarian in the courses makes things much smoother. The technology used at the library is mostly PCs, but they recently bought iPads using a gift from an alumnus. The gift was designated for “something to make [the librarians’] job easier.” They use Blackboard, Lexis/Nexis, Westlaw, and RefWorks. They also offer an online search feature called Encore that is similar to the USF Web Catalog search. Instead of a student needing to run the same search in multiple databases, they can perform an Encore search and have the system do all the work. Stetson Law has a big social media presence, with a Facebook page and accounts on Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr, but the Dolly & Homer Hand Law Library’s social media presence is limited to a blog.

Would I like to work here? As I said before the law appeals to me. By extension, so do law libraries. Although the law is a specific academic discipline, it is so broad that I think there would be a variety of reference questions. I also think it would be fulfilling to help law students and lawyers. On the other hand, law librarianship pretty much requires a JD. And a JD means taking the LSAT and three years of (expensive) law school. Plus, you have to help all lawyers; you can’t choose not to help a sleazy ambulance-chaser or someone representing an evil corporation.

Contact Information
Dolly and Homer Hand Law Library
1401 61st Street South
Gulfport FL  33707
Phone: 727-562-7820
Fax: 727-345-8973
Reference Desk: 727-562-7821

Hours of Operation for Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Florida Bar and Judiciary
Monday – Thursday: 7 AM – 10 PM (Reference:  9 AM – 10 PM)
Friday: 7 AM – 6 PM (Reference: 9 AM – 6 PM)
Saturday: 9 AM – 6 PM (Reference: 10 AM – 6 PM)
Sunday: 9 AM – 10 PM (Reference: Noon – 6 PM)
Students, Staff and Faculty can use their ID cards for 24/7 access
The most up to date information on hours can be found here.

Academic Library: Macdonald-Kelce Library

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the Macdonald-Kelce Library at the University of Tampa and speaking with Art Bagley, a librarian specializing in reference, collection management, and special collections (archives). I chose to visit UT for several reasons. First, I’ve driven by the campus many times (especially when I was living in South Tampa and, more recently, when I was temping in Clearwater) but I’d never actually seen the campus. (The campus is lovely. I can see why ~6,400 students chose UT.) Second, UT is pretty much halfway between my house and St. Pete (my second stop of the day), so it was super convenient.

After Art graduated from FSU in 1974, he wound up staying in Tallahassee and becoming a state employee. State employees at the time were offered six free semester hours (I don’t remember if that was per year or per term) at state schools. At around the same time his first wife started pushing him to think about the future and where he wanted to be in five years. He decided to go to grad school at FSU and settled on library science because a) it wasn’t a thesis program and b) the more he thought about libraries, the more he realized how vital they are (plus, they “have cool stuff”). He graduated from FSU with his MLS in 1986. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Tampa for his second wife. After interviewing for two different positions at the public library, he was hired by UT in 1987 for a part-time cataloging position and has been there ever since. He immediately felt that UT was the perfect fit.

In addition to serving UT’s 6,400 or so students, the Macdonald-Kelce Library is also open to the public because it is part of the Federal Depository Library Program. The collection is, as Art put it, “as broad as the curriculum is” and, according to the Web site, contains more than 275,000 books and 1,600 periodicals. In addition to his library duties, Art serves on the faculty curriculum committee , which means he knows well in advance when the collection will need to be expanded (for instance, to cover the recently-added Asian Studies minor). Art estimated that half of the students use the library every semester, including practically all of the freshmen. He said that the English department requires first-year students to spend time in the library and, at the very least, get some bibliographic instruction. He also said that many of the first-years have no library skills when they get to UT.

The library itself feels big and airy. It reminded me of other academic libraries I’ve visited, but with more windows. You can take a virtual tour of the library here. It is staffed by 20-22 people (9 professional staff positions), including part-time staff, and 12-15 student assistants. The staff I spoke to seemed friendly and professional. The technology in use was almost exclusively PCs. There are also several public scanners located throughout the library. Additionally, UT students are able to check out laptops, Kindles, and even a digital camera. In addition to participating in the OCLC ILL (inter-library loan) program (for both the UT and general populations) and the statewide Ask a Librarian virtual reference program, the Macdonald-Kelce Library is also part of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium. Additionally, there is a Friends of the Library group that sponsors author talks, both by published faculty and popular fiction authors. The library’s number one priority, however, is to serve the students. The library doesn’t have any social media presence that Art is aware of, except for a blog.

Would I like to work here? Academic libraries do appeal to me, but only at the college level. I think you’d get a much wider variety of reference questions working at a general purpose college library than a specialized one, and that is also appealing. I think it would be impossible to get bored if you never knew what a student was going to ask. On the other hand, college students in large groups tend to annoy me (although that effect may be localized to bars). I also worry that seeing college student after college student who doesn’t understand that Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable information source would really depress me.

I was glad to discover that I am not the only person interested in the library field who didn’t spend a lot of time in the library as an undergraduate. Sometimes I worry that I almost have no right to become a librarian because I haven’t been the biggest library user since I graduated from high school (obviously, that’s just my silly head messing with me), so it was nice to learn that Art hadn’t been a big library user prior to entering his MLS program either. Most of the services provided by the Macdonald-Kelce Library are what I would expect from an academic library, but I had never heard of the Federal Depository Library Program.

Contact Information
Macdonald-Kelce Library
205 University Drive
Tampa FL  33606
Phone: 813- 253-6231
Fax: 813-258-7624
Reference Desk: 813-257-3057

Hours of Operation in the Fall & Spring Semesters
Monday – Thursday: 8 AM – Midnight (Reference: 8 AM – 9 PM)
Friday: 8 AM – 6 PM (Reference: 8 AM – 5 PM)
Saturday: 10 AM – 6 PM (Reference: 10 AM – 6 PM)
Sunday: Noon – Midnight (Reference: 2 PM – 9 PM)
A monthly calendar can also be found here.


Blogging about Library Blogs

For the past six weeks I have been reading Closed Stacks and In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Both of them are collaborative blogs written by a variety of different types of librarians. I chose these two blogs because the collaborative nature appealed to me (I figured I would get many more perspectives on librarianship), as did the synopsis I read about each blog. I also hoped these blogs would be updated fairly regularly (which didn’t exactly happen, but it’s all good).

One thing that has struck me while reading these blogs is that each has discussed similar themes (particularly technology, advocating for libraries, and the financial constraints libraries are under), but in vastly different ways. The entries on Closed Stacks tend to read like personal journal entries, while the entries on In the Library with the Lead Pipe are much more like academic journal entries. (In fact, every post on ITLWTLP is peer-reviewed). Of the two, I find that I prefer the passionate tone of Closed Stacks. Now, all the writers on Closed Stacks use pseudonyms, allowing them to rant or vent as needed, while the contributors on ITLWTLP are writing under their real names, which can make a difference. For instance, it is clear that Brett Bonfield feels passionately about the issue he is discussing in this post, but he has to remain somewhat neutral; whereas Librarian_101 is able to vent her frustration at Meghan Gurdon’s recent Wall Street Journal article about YA literature in this post.

The major underlying theme I see in posts on both blogs is library advocacy. Most of the posts don’t specifically mention advocacy (except for this extremely enlightening post on In the Library with the Lead Pipe about library legislative advocacy), but the idea is always floating just below the surface. There was also this post on ITLWTLP about finding ways to quantify library impacts on student learning, something that will become more and more necessary as academic libraries have to prove their worth (or at least fight for their budget). Closed Stacks featured this post about the recent closing of the Central Falls (RI) Public Library and this post that declares a need for librarians to prove that libraries “are not just useful, but necessary.”

The post on the closing of the Central Falls Public Library contained a really great quote that I think all librarians (and librarians-in-training) should keep in mind:

We cannot save our libraries if people don’t understand the value.  We need to get louder as a profession, or we won’t have a profession anymore.  And we need to realize that it’s not about us, but the people who need us.

Not that these blogs are all doom and gloom. My favorite post at In the Library with the Lead Pipe was this one. Although the author is concerned about a future where libraries are the domain of the privileged (and not a way to cut through the digital divide), she is also hopeful that her dystopian vision will not come to pass. And she tells her story in such a charming way that it is almost impossible not to smile while reading it. This post at Closed Stacks was similar in that the author cautioned against making drastic changes to library services (in this case, declaring reference to be dead as opposed to declaring ebooks to be the end all, be all of the future) in a desperate attempt to seem “hip.” The author acknowledges that the world is changing, and thus the concept of reference librarianship, but is hopeful that embracing technology won’t mean getting rid of reference.

I have really enjoyed this activity. It was fascinating to read so many varied perspectives on various issues affecting librarianship. I will definitely continue to read Closed Stacks and I will also keep an eye on In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

23 Things Conclusion

It’s been almost a week since I posted about my fifth “thing.” There are several other things in the School Library Journal’s list that I’d still like to try, but for this assignment I only had to do five. I feel that I’m getting closer to actually tweeting instead of just using Twitter to follow bands (“wait, Brand New is playing a handful of shows in PA after Easter, must go!”) and that would not have been possible without the nudges towards Web 2.0 that were part of this project.

The thing I found most useful personally was RSS. Having my favorite blogs gathered in one place and waiting for me is ridiculously convenient. I may occasionally need to click on a link to see an embedded video, but it’s one click and, besides, I know it’s something I want to see.

The things that I think could be most useful professionally are the ones that lend themselves to promotion: Facebook, YouTube, and even Twitter. I mean that both in terms of self-promotion (job searches, etc.) and promoting your library and its services. Setting up a Facebook page and a Twitter account for your library is an easy way to get the word out about upcoming events, new services, and even changes in operating hours (such as longer summer hours). Additionally, you could film story time or an author event and post a condensed version on YouTube. It’s extremely important that libraries remind the public and the powers that be of all the good they do for their communities.

Thing #5: Flickr

Today’s (final) thing is Flickr. Not being a big photography buff, I had never used Flickr before. I was impressed with how easy it was to set up an account and start uploading photos. I also appreciated that Flickr didn’t require me to create a brand new user name and password, I could simply log in using my Google account information.

I had taken pictures of my two birthday cakes with my iPhone and decided to upload those pictures to Flickr, mostly so I could write a blog post about the crazy Neapolitan cake I made myself and include a picture. I ran into trouble when I tried to embed the picture from Flickr. I couldn’t seem to find a URL that the WordPress image uploader was happy with. This may have had something to do with the fact that it was almost 1:00 in the morning. I had no trouble uploading the image directly to WordPress from my hard drive, though, so I did that so I could finish the post and go to bed. About 30 minutes ago I tried the blogging feature in Flickr, and that was fairly easy as well. I was able to blog a picture of the ice cream cake I had with my parents and aunt on Sunday. Neither one of these experiences is exactly what I am looking for, however. I’m sure that, as I gain more blogging experience, I’ll become a pro at including pictures.