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Archive for August, 2009


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I have been thinking about blogs recently. I have been thinking about them rather a lot. In fact you could probably say I have been thinking about them too much. My editor in chief will probably be grateful when I’m not thinking so much about blogs!

Currently I write for two blogs, this one and the Tararua District blog, which will normally be enough, but also I’m thinking and writing and editing my Conference presentation which will be on, you guessed it, blogs. I also have a large number of blogs I like to read.

Part of my presentation will dwell on planning and objectives, which leads me to today’s post. Event blogs.  

Now to me one of the important parts of a blog is to build an online community, and event blogs tend to be one shot wonders. They build a community up until a point, then the event finishes and the blog shuts down. Either the blog stays up but isn’t updated and thus becomes a “cyber ghost town”, or worse still the organisers delete it and all that writing is lost.

Take for example the blogs for our LIANZA conferences.  For the last four years we have had four different blogs, with four different addresses and with two different blogging programmes. In 2006 and 2007 the conference blog was hosted on the LIANZA server using WordPress as their engine, which I think was in the right direction. Then last year the blog was set up as a Blogspot blog, and hosted there. This year we are back to using WordPress, but hosted on the WordPress servers.

What I would have liked to have seen, which I think would have made a wonderful resource and maintained the virtual conference community, would have been one blog with one address that was handed over each year to the next organising committee.  That would mean that instead of four blogs that build up to a point and end, we would have one continuing blog. After conference the blog would have responses to conference and start to post new items building to the next conference.

My suggestion for the current organisers and next years is that maybe we could import and merge all the previous blogs into one that could be then handed on to the next committee, and then we can have that continuous LIANZA conference blog and that continuing virtual community.

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The greying of the profession


I was at a meeting the other day when I heard a phrase I hadn’t heard in a long time. 

The greying of the profession.” 

It used to be bandied around a lot when I was attending some of my first LIANZA meetings 15 years ago. The phrase was used to refer to librarians getting older then retiring and leaving a leadership gap in the library profession.  I don’t know if the people using it were worried about the lack of librarians to take on the leadership/managerial roles or that they were worried the next generation were the wrong kind of librarians.  I wonder how the library bigwigs of today feel when they reflect back fifteen years.  After all, they would have been the ‘leadership gap’ referred to.

Is it a conceit of every generation to worry that the next generation won’t get it?  That everything will go to hell in a hand basket once the new generation are in charge?  I look around at the leaders in the profession today – people I’ve been privileged to work with, and for – and I feel proud of what they are achieving and working towards.  I look at my peers and am confident we can step up if needed.

I don’t actually think that the person who used the phrase was using it as shorthand for the collapse of library leadership in New Zealand.  I think they were using in conjunction with ‘new librarians’.  That’s the updated version of what used to be called ‘young librarians’.  (Apparently you can’t say ‘young’ anymore because of the numbers of people transferring to their second or third career.)  I wonder if library leaders look at them and worry about the future because the ‘new librarians’ haven’t spent years working in libraries.

Personally, I don’t think it matters whether you have worked in libraries for 3 months or 30 years to be a leader in the profession.   Whether it’s in the digital space or at storytimes or helping a customer with a query – you just have to be in the right place at the right time with the right attitude.

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Digital institutional repositories are close to my heart and open access repositories more so. Good old Wikipedia tells us that a repository is “an online locus for collecting, preserving, and disseminating — in digital form — the intellectual output of an institution, particularly a research institution.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institutional_repository)

Many people use the Web these days to search for information, at least that’s what the research says (for example, see the  World Internet Project Report ) so it is important that the information is online. Having a digital institutional repository is a highly effective way of getting your research ‘out there’ particularly if is spidered by either Google or Google Scholar.

Recently there has been an initiative in New Zealand to provide an open access repository hosting service for Crown Research Institutes, and other content providers such as government departments who may not have the resources to do so themselves. It is called the Shared Research Repository Project and the initiative is funded by the Ministry of Research Science and Technology (MoRST) and developed by Digital NZ, with the National Library of NZ being the pilot participant.

Why do we care? Because publicly funded research often faces barriers in disseminating the results of its research.

An online repository will allow these institutions to sustainably manage, store and disseminate the research findings it accumulates. It allows the full text of that research to be easily discoverable and freely accessible to the public. It is yet to go live, but watch out for it when it does. I’m sure we will all want to link to it from our professional web pages.

This is a great initiative! Well done to MoRST, DigitalNZ and the National Library.

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So how many times have you had that comment when you announce your professional affiliation?  We all know that librarianship is so. much. more.

But having said that, I will boldly state that yes, I do actually like to read.  I read a lot.  I do like books in all kinds of formats.  I just like to read.  So there.  Call me a stereotype – I even have a bun on occasion.

There was a brief flurry on my Twitter stream the other day when @Maglib mentioned a discussion about whether or not librarians should read.

I think they should.

Librarians who work on front line public library desks should read fiction and selected non-fiction.  I’m not sure a children’s librarian or a school librarian could be very effective if they do not read in that genre.

Academic subject librarians should read the TOC page of any journals that come across their desk in their subject area, and should at least be aware of trends within their subject.  Setting up a monthly alerts in relevant databases to skim through can be helpful too.

All librarians should read a selection of library literature.  It might be in the form of library journals.  It could be in the form of the bibiloblogosphere.  Or both.  Again, monthly alerts in relevant databases (where available) can be helpful in this.

And “reading” may not just be in the form of words on a page.  Podcasts and visual media can all be grist to the mill.

Why?

Because a reading/listening/watching librarian is an informed librarian.  It’s about keeping it real and genuine.

Knowing how to recommend a book to a patron who has given a vague idea of what they like stems from more than knowing what the best sellers or award winners are.

The librarians were mysterious. It was said they could tell what book you needed just by looking at you, and they could take your voice away with a word. ~ Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett London : Doubleday, 2006.

Reaching out to faculty is much more effective when you can understand their vocabulary and even point them to particularly good article sources.  You can help students seek information better when you know how their chosen field uses the literature.

Keeping up to date with what is happening in your profession opens up all kinds of opportunities to progress your career because you are the one who knows.  Stuff happens because of you, not to you.

So read.  Discover. Explore. *

Now, if I could just persuade the publishers in my subject area to get on to RSS and Twitter I’d be a happy woman.  Because then I could read and find new books to order much more efficiently!

*why does that sound familiar?

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I recently read a blog entry about libraries’ use of social networking sites and the mention of Facebook.  I then realised that I had only recently become a “fan” of one library’s Facebook page.  This made me want to search out more to see what was out there and to see how libraries were using Facebook.  The library I’m a fan of is our very own Michael’s Tararua District Library’s page.  Michael has the library’s blog posts displaying there so it’s an active page.  A search of library on Facebook brought up the very active Dunedin Public Libraries Facebook page.  The only other New Zealand library in the search results page was a public library whose page I couldn’t access without first becoming a friend.

Firstly I thought that this wasn’t great advertising for the library concerned.  The idea, surely, is to be available and accessible to potential customers online.  Having to apply for “friendship” seemed counterproductive.

The second thing I thought was that the search facility is not user friendly.  When searching for people you can limit your search to your own country, but this did not seem possible with “fan pages”.  I wasn’t inclined to search through piles of results to find local libraries.  Even searching “library zealand” didn’t come up with anything particularly useful.

Once the local libraries are found though they appear to have useful information. The Facebook page seems a good way of communicating with customers, informing of events, happenings and book reviews, etc.

For those of you who work in libraries with a Facebook page, how do you publicise the fact that you have one, considering that searching within Facebook isn’t the greatest?  Do you have many followers?  Do you receive feedback?

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NatLib 

When reading Saturdays Dominion Post I came across a two page spread about the National Library. I am always happy to see large pieces on the National Library, or libraries full stop, in the media, especially when it is positive coverage!  After reading I wondered if someone in the top floor had been reading the libraries copies of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

It seems that the makeover mark II is about to be released to the world and that the doyens have learnt from the disastrous media fracas last time, and have gone on a pre-emptive strike. They have even gone so far as to finally come out in public, with what has been privately known for a long time. The building leaks.

When the previous redevelopment was launched earlier this year I was critical of the execution, but not of the philosophy. I was more disappointed in some of the criticism, especially at that delivered by former Alexander Turnbull Chief Librarian Jim Traue. I note sadly that his latest comment is to suggest that the current senior management are overemphasising the leaks to gain more credence to a redevelopment that will make the library more like Te Papa.

For myself, I hope when the new plans are revealed, they will still encompass philosophies that will create a more open library: A library that is tailored for sharing the collections with more of New Zealand. I also hope that the facade is an improvement of what is currently there and what was proposed.

It will certainly be interesting to see the responses to this article and to the revised redevelopment, though I expect some will believe that they are cursed with that ancient curse, ”May you live in interesting Times”. Or was that a blessing?

 

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Interspersed with my normal posting, I am going to bring to you a series of reviews of library related websites, and library blogs that I read, with this being the first.

Library Matters is a blog by Joann Ransom from the Horowhenua Library Trust. Her posts are entertaining and very informative I only wish she had more time to post more often. 🙂  The post which first put me onto Joann’s writings was this one: Who will fight for Gerald? In it Joann calls for help in fighting her council who had decided to do this:

“Horowhenua District Council have decided that from July the Library will have to start charging for the internet, and thats just the start. We currently have to raise 15% of our operating expenditure from user charges, $150,000, but last month Council decided that we need to raise between 20% and 25%, $200,000 – $250,000”

I was impressed with her brave and public stance, but also a bit envious. For while I am willing to criticise some elements of public policy, I feel a level of constraint in directly criticising my council. I guess that being employed by a trust may allow a greater level of freedom. But I do wonder if the cost of that freedom is a restriction in the ability to influence the council internally?  

I recommend reading Joann’s blog, and I will leave you with a Youtube seen there. That too is well worth a look.

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