Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interview with Ruth Kneale

Hey guys we've got another new interview for you (I know you have all been patiently waiting!). This weeks interviewee is Ruth Kneale the author of the widely popular book You Don't Look Like a Librarian. For those of you who have yet to read it its pretty awesome especially for a librarian like me with tats and piercings! Needless to say, shes anything but the stereotypical librarian. But, enough jabbering from me lets get to the interview!

What is your educational/professional background?

I have a Bachelor's of Science in astronomy, and a Master's in Information Resources and Library Science. My professional background is all astronomical - I've been working in one way or another for observatories since I was an undergrad. My first real job was with the Steward Observatory's Mirror Laboratory; I changed jobs to the Gemini 8m Telescopes Project in late 1991 and worked for them for over ten years. My first post-grad job was for the new Gemini Observatory (which is what Projects become when they grow up, in astronomy), setting up a research library in Hawaii. After a couple of years I jumped ship for the daytime side of astronomy and came to work as a systems librarian for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope project of the National Solar Observatory, where I still work.

When you graduated college/graduate school what were your career goals/have they changed since?

One of the benefits for me of going to grad school while working full time is that I had a very definite idea in mind - I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It was great to be able to immediately apply something I learned at school to my work situation. My goals haven't changed much since then - I still want to make sure that information is sorted, organized, findable and available to folks.

When/how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?

During my time with the Gemini Project, I was put in charge of organizing and managing all the technical documentation for the project; that task really brought home to me how much I enjoyed organizing information and making it available and easily findable by the staff. That, in conjunction with my home experiences, led me down the street to the library school. (My mother was a librarian as well and I learned about librarianship from behind the desk at an early age.)

What does a typical work day look like for you?

That's a tough one - every day is different! Typically, I'll wake up the computer (while making coffee) and then check and answer email on several accounts. I deal with any requests that have come in, then touch base with my boss to see if he's had anything come up that needs attention. I then turn to my never-ending to-do list; some of the items on it right now include combining three separate documents on a similar topic into one, and annotate; finish migrating some software to a new server; process some released technical documents; add new items to our staff publication web page; cross-check two mailing lists for commonalities; update some instrumentation work areas with new information; and write a newsletter article. So I work on any one of those items, keep up with my email, and deal with any issues that pop up over the day (ranging from helping someone fix a template issue with Word to configuring a new computer). Near the end of the day I skim my list of library blogs and/or my library magazine pile; I may not work in a typical library but what happens in public and academic libraries does have an impact on my job, so I keep up as best I can.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?

The favorite thing is easy: the people I work with. I've got a great staff who not only understands the skill-set I bring to the party, but actually uses it. That rocks! The least favorite thing is probably the never-ending software issues I have to handle, across the board - users, servers, visitors, anyone who's having problems with their software brings their computers to me to fix.

What is your salary range/What can students interested in working in your type of LIS profession look to make as far as salary (both starting out and over time)?

This is a tough question to answer. I do make a very decent living, eleven years after graduation. Starting salaries for systems librarians can vary widely based on location and the skill set you bring to the table; in general, though, systems librarians rank slightly higher on pay scales.

How do you think your education prepared you/didn't prepare you for your current career?

The school I attended focused primarily on the theory of things; I took all my practical classes as electives outside the core class requirements. I also had the benefit, as I mentioned earlier, of working full time at the same time, so I was also able to get on-the-job training, so to speak. So, for the philosophical take on things, I was pretty well covered; for the hands-on, day-to-day "get it done" part, there was a lot less coverage.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?

Be persistent. Be open to the possibilities. Most importantly, think (and look) outside the box! Librarians can and do work anywhere - if there's a particular type of work you want to do, you will lose absolutely nothing by approaching organizations and companies and asking them about it. You might be surprised at the responses. Never stop learning, either - and be open to all kinds of learning, including learning by playing. In my opinion, it's the best way to learn how to use a new tool, whether it's a smartboard or a social network.

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?

I can't predict any specific changes - so much has changed in the last ten years! - but I do believe that libraries and librarians will continue to be critical for communities, knowledge distribution and sharing, and information management. I also believe that more organizations and institutions will begin to use the embedded librarian model (that of a librarian working within and as a part of a particular project team, not as a central shared resource). I firmly believe that it is and will be a good career to be in!

Special thanks to Ruth for participating in our blog. For those of you interesting in learning more about Ruth please check out her website or email her at

Monday, July 26, 2010

Interview with Debbie Cox

I recently spoke with UNT graduate Debbie Cox, a full time reference librarian at Lone Star College - Montgomery. In a personal interview, we sat down together in her office and had a very interesting and informative conversation.

Debbie Cox has been a Reference Librarian with LSC-Montgomery for the past 14 years. Debbie’s previous career was as a college English teacher. She has two master’s degrees - one in Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas, and one in British and American Literature from Southwest Missouri State University. Debbie is passionate about her profession, and she serves as the library liaison for English, Art, Speech, Communication, Drama, Education, Human Development, Human Services, Psychology, Sociology, and Religion. You’ll see her running around the library and hear her cheerful laughter in every corner!

What is your educational/professional background?
Before I became a reference librarian, I taught English at a private college for several years. After that, I taught English at Austin Community College. In 1994, I earned my MLIS from University of North Texas, and became a full time librarian at Lone Star College – Montgomery, where I have also served as an Adjunct Instructor of English. In 2009, I won the Faculty Excellence Award at our college - the first time a librarian at our campus had won it! I was very excited! It was quite an honor.

When you graduated college/graduate school, what were your career goals? Have they changed?
I wanted to be a full time community college teacher by the time I was 30. I had earned my first MA, been a full-time faculty member, published a novel, and owned/operated my own small bookstore. With all of that behind me, I needed a new goal. I decided I wanted to be a reference librarian.

When and how did you decide the LIS career path was for you?
In 1989, while I was running a small bookstore, I decided to shift gears toward an LIS career. I truly enjoyed my small bookstore, and I loved providing books and information to my customers. My reluctance to charge customers for the information they sought, however, inspired me to begin a career where I could give people information instead of charging them for it!

What does a typical work day look like for you?
My days are varied, and I would like to lay to rest the rumor that librarians do the same thing every day. I spend the first hour or so of my day answering emails and voicemails from students and faculty. A two-hour shift on the Reference Desk has me answering questions from students and faculty in person, on the phone, or through the college’s instant online messaging system (PhP). The next hour includes lunch and office time, which I often spend catching up with emails/voicemails and serving as faculty liaison. Another hour and a half at the Reference Desk has me focusing on patron questions, with the down time between questions spent on continuing library projects. The last few hours of my day are split between communication updates, more faculty liaison, collection development, and cooperative projects with my fellow librarians. I also teach an average of three Bibliographic Instruction classes per week in any subject discipline that comes my way.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your job?
While my favorite aspect of the job is collection development (I could happily do this all day!), my least favorite activity is trouble-shooting copier/printer problems.

What can students interested in working in your type of LIS profession look to make as far as salary (starting out or over time)?
A low starting salary could begin around 29K (it shouldn't be any lower!), and established academic librarians who pursue all available venues may reach into the area of 80K.

How did you think your education prepared you/didn’t prepare you for your current career?
I definitely wished that technology had been more of a focus when I went through the program. It also concerned me that no courses during my educational career taught the Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal system; librarians were “expected” to learn those on their own.

Additionally, my graduate degree in literature has been as helpful in serving students as my MLIS.

What advice do you have for current/graduating library and information science students?
Don't settle in a job that you don't want. While your first job may not be your ideal, continue to work toward your dream. Don’t give up!

What changes do you foresee for the field of Library and Information Science in the next five to ten years?
A heavy emphasis on technology will continue to dominate our field, with an increased dependence on library databases rather than physical books. New MLIS graduates will have an edge in the field as they bring energy and advanced technology skills to the profession. The future is bright for all of us in this career field! I actually envy new graduates. The future of our field is going to be exciting!

Interviewed by Angela Colmenares

Friday, July 16, 2010

AALL Update

Hello everyone!

Sorry I did not update yesterday as I was busy running around. So let's get to the update!

Sunday (Day 2) was the first official full day of the conference. While many of the special interests groups had board meetings on Saturday, this was the big opening event. The morning started off with the general session, welcoming all the attendees to the conference. Following the welcome, key note speaker Dr. David Lankes, Director of the iSchool at Syracuse gave a tremendous speech on the state of libraries and librarians; stating that the best days of librarianship is still ahead of us. He directed our attention towards the future, and to an almost radical idea that the function and purpose of the libraries is not specifically to exist as an entity standing alone. Libraries have to be molded to fit their communities, and strive to fit what their communities stand for. With this being said, he also pushed the audience to push for their own self value, rather than the value of collections. Collections are great, but they exist only to be used because over centuries we have learned how to utilize collections. Needless to say, it was truly an uplifting presentation.

I had the liberty of attending many great panel discussions as well as presentations on a wide variety of topics. Some of the big more popular topics revolved around digital preservation of digital born objects (such as blogs, websites, etc) as well as how the digital age has provided a new set of obstacles for legal research. These are very real concerns, as more and more people turn to the internet to find and use evidence (social media has been used in court cases as well as competitive intelligence). How do we preserve digital epherma and WHAT do we preserve?

Now, I think one of the coolest things that I encountered at AALL was the exhibit hall, where all the legal vendors showed off their wares, both print and electronic. This was very cool and a unique experience that librarians can use and test drive new technology, as well as talk to executives of the vendor companies about problems and give them suggestions.

All in all, This was a fabulous experience that I suggest anyone attend. It not only helps people keep up with the current trends and topics in librarianship, but also brings together the field; where life long connections and friendships can be made.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

AALL 2010 Updates

Hello All!

This is your LISSA Vice President, Jaeger Wells, reporting in from Denver where the annual American Association of Law Librarians (affectionately known from here on out as AALL) is taking place. This is my first time at a professional conference and so far it has been a blast. I just came back from the opening reception (where they feed you) and have already done some great networking! It is definitely worth going to professional conferences like this, ALA, SLA, and others because you never know who you could meet (and who potentially could help you get a job).

I will be doing daily updates of the conference just to give you all a sneak peek of what goes on at these conferences, so stay tuned!


Jaeger Wells