Monday, November 5, 2007

All School Day - Final Session

Albi Assmann, SLIS student, provides us with the following commentary on the presentation of Beth Avery, Head of Research and Instructional Services at UNT:

Beth Avery talked about why assessment is essential to providing good service and gave examples of simple but effective questions when determining whether patrons' needs are being met. She recommended limiting the number of questions being asked and asking patrons contrasting questions about their visits such as, "What did you like best about being in the library today?" and "What did you like least?" Of the many good ideas she offered, I will probably use this series of questions again and again: what did I tell you that I didn't need to tell you; what did I tell you that surprised you; and what do you want to know more about. Beth also talked about the new design and traffic patterns for Willis Library.

Third All School Day Speaker

The third speaker at All School Day was Daniel Alemneh, Metadata Specialist for the Digital Projects Unit of the UNT Libraries. His topic for the day was "Emerging Trends and Innovative Uses of Digital Technologies. He spoke about how the Web is bringing together "contributions of millions of people and making them matter" and how the trend is not text documents in libraries anymore, digital libraries are now about multimedia content. Users want a "visualization of the information space instead of a ranked list of search results." They want to search systems with their own language and not worry about controlled vocabulary. They also like folksonomy and the ability to index their own content. Librarians should take advantage of users becoming information taggers and study their tags in order to design systems that meet the needs of these users' information behaviors.

Despite the changes that are taking place in the library field, Alemneh explained that Ranganathan's laws and other aspects of libraries remain timeless.

In answer to the changing library field, Almeneh sees the following trends:
1. Most conferences now address Web 2.0
2. Libraries must appeal to users in other ways than simply providing information because people can find so much information on the Web.
3. A new generation of OPAC is developing.
4. More repositories of various sizes and scope are being created.
5. There is a greater push for user-centered design and metadata access.

To finish up his presentation, Almeneh showed us a digital library for which he does work, Portal to Texas History. This UNT digital library provides both search and browsing functionality, with browsing areas in county, subject, collection, and contributor. Users may comment on content and even contribute their own images through this function.

Friday, November 2, 2007

All School Day - Session 2

Here we continue our report of last weekend's speakers.

Our second speaker was Edward Smith, Director of Member Services Development for Amigos Library Services and UNT alum, with his presentation: "Technology Is the Answer! What was the question again?" Smith attributes the creation of his lecture to the book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts and to his experience as a boy when a librarian handed him his first non-children's book, Treasure Island.

Smith supplied us with some statistics about librarians:

25% of library professionals decided they wanted to enter the career by age 20.

Most cited reason for people to choose the profession is a love of books and reading.

33% of librarians say it was a K-12 librarian in there schools that affected their decision to become a librarian.

Others chose librarianship because:

The career was a good fit.

The job opportunities available.

The intellectual aspects of the work.

The focus of his talk was about literacy by which he meant not only reading, but also analyzing what one reads. When someone asked a room full of librarians what they do to promote literacy, the surprise was that no one said "I read." Smith argues that technology can not cause nor prevent the death of literacy because literacy can die anytime that people stop reading.

Smith alluded to much literature during his presentation. He spoke of Goethe's Faust and his pact with the devil to exchange his soul for an infinite level of knowledge that could never possibly be obtained. He referenced Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and how you don't have to destroy books to get rid of their content, you just have to get people to stop reading them. He also spoke of Walker Percy's Lost In the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book which asks why does mankind always feel sad in the twentieth century when basic needs are met much better than in earlier times? We are cut off by technology, yet technology is meant only to be a tool to aid us in our endeavors, not the means to an end. Smith made allusions to Shakespeare's Hamlet, Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric," the plaque at Lincoln's monument, Tennyson's "Lotos-Eaters," and A Good Match: Library Career Opportunities for Graduates of Liberal Arts Colleges by Rebecca A. Watson-Boone.

Smith's presentation put our whole program on technology into perspective: Technology is only a tool. All technologies fade. Literacy is the key to keep libraries alive, so librarians should keep reading and share what they do with their patrons.

All School Day Review (Fall 2007)

All School Day was this past weekend, and we had a bunch of fun, learned some new things, and went home with too much stuff!
Some students were unable to attend because of distance or prior commitments, so we'll try to give you all an idea of what the speakers had to say.

First up we had Walter Betts, TCU systems librarian and TWU adjunct professor, speaking on the Future of Librarianship. He showed us part of an old video from 1947 called The Librarian that explains the librarian profession to potential new librarians. This film is available in the Prelinger Archives at, and may be viewed below.

Betts recommended we look at the Prelinger Collection, if we had not already, as a source of public domain, goofy educational videos created from (approximately) the 1940s to the 1970s. Betts also showed us the trailer to the recent film The Hollywood Librarian.

Betts went on to speak about an experiment/study he conducted on a class of his where he had his cataloging students participate in a reference interview as the patron. Although many students had rarely or never participated as the patron in a reference interview, they were reluctant to do so because they felt that as library students, they did not need professionals. Results showed that the students greatly benefited by using a librarian for help because doing so led them to useful sources they would not have otherwise know to use. Even librarians should use other librarians for help when they are researching a collection they are unfamiliar with, since the librarian that is familiar with the collection, will almost always be able to share ideas and resources that would otherwise be missed.

Betts believes that librarians remain relevant, but they must serve patron needs and make their resources and core services known. Librarians provide remote access to databases, Interlibrary Loan services, instruction in ESL and GED, supply computers and Internet connections, and provide quiet study areas. There is a great future for librarians.