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July, 2009:

Library Day in the Life – Day 2

8:30  I am ready to go to the university web group meeting for the three CMS vendor presentation today that begins at 9.  But boy oh boy, I just hear from the colleague that Aleph 19-the new version we are upgrading  today-needs to be downloaded anew from a completely different URL than what I was informed yesterday. So two hours of yesterday’s work is gone. And I am running around 5 different staff PCs to install the new version of Aleph. Two PCs are gives me real pain freezing up and refusing multiple times to get the new Aleph version installed.  Finally fixed all. Now the clock says 10:15 and I would not have known even if I drank my morning coffee through the nose.

10: 30 So now I am finally ready to go to the CMS vendor presentations. But where is it? It is in Campus Support Complex which is at a far far end of the campus. I run to my car in Red garage, drive to CSC building, and there is no spot in the parking lot in front of the building. And yes, there is. NO, it is only for DECAL. Yes there is one. I run for Rm 1134, which is not on the 11th fl. Actually it is on the first floor!

11:00 At least I made it to the meeting. There is a presentation about dotCMS going on. Well, almost any CMS looks good to me when all I have is SharePoint. While watching the presentation, I keep checking emails and continue emailing.  Multi-tasking is good I guess but I become afflicted with ADD sometimes. What did he just say?

12: 30 The third presentaiton about Cascade by Hannon Hill (?) is over. I really liked the option of repurposing the content in different formats–xml, pdf, html etc.  I leave hoping the 5-member evaluation committee will pick this one but wondering about the first CMS presentation I missed.

1:00 Back at the garage. Got a even better spot! Since the presentation actually ended an hour early, I head out to Student Center to pick up something to eat.  The hair salon in the student center is awfully empty today.  I decide to get a much-needed hair cut.  It takes less than 20 min.! I run back to office with my lunch-Oreo cookies and milk I bought from a small store in Student Center.

2:00 Staff meeting to check the progress of To-Do items before the library opens next week. We look good!

3:00 Work on Library page content on the Student Intranet being constantly interrupted by continuously urgent emails. Make some plans for the library orientation slides. Send out the last Public Access PC to the school IT.

5:15 How come I am the only person left again in the office? I am going home now.

Library Now vs. Library of the Future

Have you ever heard remarks like these?

* “Why do we need books? Everything is online.”
* “Why do we need computers at a library? All our students have computers.”
* “Why do we need a library? You can find everything on the Internet.”

Many times, I have seen these sort-of arguments functioning as an excuse for not tending to the needs of current library users.  Of course, these arguments are fragile, but that is not my point.  I am not going to argue that not all the information and knowledge of the past, present, and future will be available in a digital format online.  Why not? Maybe it will; who knows?  I am not going to argue that there is always going to be a social divide that will require a library to provide some types of IT equipments useful for accessing information no matter how far in the future a library is.  Maybe everyone will be equipped in a equal enough way to access information in the future; if so, that would be only great.  Neither am I going to argue that no matter what change happens to the way humans access information and acquire knowledge, they will always need some sort of space for study and research as an individual as well as a group.  Maybe everyone will stay at home in the future and will communicate and socialize only via telecommunication.  Why not all education be distance learning?  You never know.  (I am not cynical here and actually can even think of some advantages of 100% distance learning.)

But right now, not everything is online, and not every library user has or brings a computer to a library.  And whatever the reasons are, there are people sitting and walking around in a library browsing books, typing stuff on a computer, and asking questions.  So, when someone predicts a future library as a God-knows-what type of information network and uses that against investing in the space, furniture, equipment, and ‘some’ print materials of a library, I get confused.  Thinking about the future of a library is great.  But that library will be a library for users of the future.  The library that needs some plants, some white boards, some computers, and some photocopiers, some comfy chairs are a library for users of now.  Don’t run away to a future library when your present library needs help.

Is it inevitable that a library is going to exist mostly online in the future? Some say so and argue that that is the case because a lot of information and knowledge will no longer need to be housed in a physical space.  Hence a library won’t need to exist in a physical space either.  Maybe, but not inevitably.  Why do we want to say that it is even likely?  What a library will be in the future is something we can and should decide as a society, not something that will happen one day as a matter of laws of nature.

Library Day in the Life – Day 1

Below is my post for Library Day in the Life Project

I am writing down my everyday tasks here in the most mundane manner.  But that is what it is like to work as a librarian every day.  You do not get to do exciting projects everyday. 

Monday Morning

I get into my office around 8:30-ish.  Fixes a cup of tea.  There is already an email  waiting about British Journal of Radiology  not being set up correctly.  I investigate the problem, send away EZproxy configuration, double-check SerialsSolutions, email back.

ILL web-pages need to be redone. More changes need to be made. At least I got it in my email. Need to put them aside for now as more important things need to be done today. But I can fix the Google form for ILL. Google Form somehow does not handle apostrophe. Why is that?

Plan the outline of the library page in the students’ intranet.  Our library’s website is still not live due to reasons none of which are related to the library.  So this is important.  Retrieve some photos I took last week around our new library with my iPhone, which I downloaded and emailed back to me during the weekend.  Start doing some photo-editing in Photoshop.  Create an OK-looking banner for the page after some tinkering.  Trying to come up with some useful content for the rest of the page: links, short info about various library services, facilities, etc.  Add some announcements. The RSS reader in SharePoint still does not work… Sigh… Need to email the school Sys Admin about it…

The library’s Facebook page needs to be updated with new hours and some more detailed info. After working for a while on it, send out emails to the school folks to go to FB and become a fan of the library. Two people did, yay!  That is a good start.

One of our school deans is dropping by to check our office space.  So some meeting and lots of conversation, moving, etc for half an hour. I am making coffee in the kitchen. Too bad I can’t drink it because of acid reflux.

In the library site, the large screen LCD monitor is being mounted on the wall for a group study room.  Very exciting!


Time to eat.  A colleague in school IT suggests lunch at the student center.  At least today I get to eat at noon. Usually I end up eating at 2 or 3 and often in my office still working. This is good. We discuss Gates scandal, True Blood, NCIS over lunch.


The web-design company hired by the school is so slow getting pages ready, and there are still lots of bugs. I reported some cross-browser issues, and they say they cannot replicate. Who is a web designer here and who is supposed to do testing?  Anyway, I send them more screenshots.  Our reference librarian finds additional bugs. I email that one to them too.  No response. Yet. Hope they are working on them.

My boss calls me from the library site to come over and check the successfully mounted LCD screen. Looks magnificent. I ask about the cable that would connect a laptop to the monitor and get one cable for free. Will need to order another to be safe. Will need to worry about how to fix the remote control onto the wall so that it would not be lost.

Time for the conference meeting with Tom, a sales rep for VH dissector. VH Dissector is a really cool human anatomy software. I am learning how to use this program today with a couple of other librarians. The cross-section of human bodies, arteries, nerves, brains… fascinating and somewhat gross images appear.  The software is amazing, and we are going to promote it to faculty and students.  During the meeting, we find that our VH Dissector lacks some lessons.  The vendor will check back and let us know.  And we will have more training in upcoming weeks.  There are some nice printouts in the vendor website that we may be able to hand out to students. Good.

Library PCs need QuickTime player to play our tutorial video. So I install it as well as Firefox Flash plug-in. It takes additional time because I have to deactivate and activate Integrity Management Software everytime I do something to these computers.

Our ILL Assistant comes up and asks if I can do some configuration change for the HelpDesk PC as well. We set aside a meeting for half an hour tomorrow.

Add more database permanent links to the library page of students’ intranet.  A small project of checking the 176 medical e-journals links in the OPAC can be launched as our new part-time Library Assistant just started her work and there is not much work at the Circulation Desk until the library opens.  After handing out the project, I go back to adding more and more database links.

My boss comes up and wants to have a meeting tomorrow. I start writing up a short report listing all items that have been done or are in progress. They fill up two pages.  The font size is 10 to believe it or not.

Tomorrow Aleph (our ILS) is version upgraded from 18 to 19. I call up University Libraray and find out that I cannot delay installing the new version on all staff machines until Wednesday.  So I get up and start installing new Aleph Version to all machines around the office. It is close to 5. Where did my day go?

Our reference librarian requests I add a new link to DOCLINE in the browser toolbar I made for the quick access to our staff intranet. I go to Conduit but cannot recall the username and password. After trial and error, finally I retrieve the password, add the link button, the toolbar has been updated.

It is time to go home and I am the only one left at the office. I am really going home now. What a day! Ready to pass out.

Why a Library needs Comfy Chairs and Bright Colors

Have you ever thought about bringing in comfy chairs and painting library walls in bright upbeat colors?  Would that make a difference to a library in any substantial way?

Here is a library that said YES to this question.  It is DOK-Library Concept Center, a Delft Public Library in Holland. Here are two videos about this cool library.  The first video is a guided tour of the library by its director.  The second video shows a Microsoft Multitouch Surface table with a Cultural Heritage Browser that is programmed to work with DOK library cards, so that library users can simply place their library card and view and browse the 25,000 images of their town from the city archive.

Shanachie Tour: DOK

Multitouch Microsoft Surface: Cultural Heritage Browser

Despite dusty stacks, testy photocopiers, outdated computers, and boring-looking furniture, librarians love being at a library.  Probably that is the reason why they became librarians.  But maybe that is a problem.  If there is one thing that librarians and the public share, if there is one thing that the staff of an academic library and the upper administration of a college/university, that would be the image of a library that is way too familiar and somewhat depressing at the same time.

The image of a library familiar to the public is an outdated building filled with books in which you are supposed to quietly study in uncomfortable chairs and often have to fight for computers if you didn’t bring your own laptop.  If you are hungry, too bad.  You are not allowed to eat inside a library.  You better go out and eat something.  Would you come back?  Maybe or maybe not.  But that is OK because you are at a library because you are supposed to do serious activities in the first place.  Do study, research, explore ideas that will shake the world.  But do so in a hungry, caffeine-deprived, muscle aching mode.

Of course, I am a bit exaggerating here.  But I can confirm that even as a current librarian, I didn’t enjoy my time in libraries in my past as a college/graduate student frequenting libraries.  And I am saying that the preconception of a library as a serious place reserved for reading, study, and research is actually shunning library users away.

If you have a choice between staying at MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) and at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), where would you hang out?  (Just make believe that you don’t have to pay $20 to go into MOMA for now.)   If you have a choice between staying at a library and at a Starbucks, where would you hang out?

Potential answers are: “Whatever I need to get at a library, I will get them there and will go to Starbuck to do reading.”  Or, “if I can get those things I need online, I will just go to Starbucks.”  Or, “I won’t worry about going to a library at all, because it is not so much fun any way. Guess no reading for me.”

I loved and still love “the idea of being at a library.”  Loving “the idea of being at a library” is, however, totally different from actually loving being at a library.  It is the different between “library as a place I have to go for such and such” and “library as a place I love going to just to check out.”

I wonder why we aren’t paying more attention to making our libraries as a cool place to stay, to transforming them from a place to drop by for transaction to a preferred place to hang out for unique experience and environment that would encourage exploring knowledge and information.  Of course, the model would be not Starbucks but something like DOK.

It is sad to see that academic libraries are less interested in this aspect of a library than public libraries.  The fact that students hang out at libraries for exam and papers itself does not mean that a library is successful.  An academic library will be successful when students want to come in even when there are no exams and papers due in a week.  There lies the difference between a library being utilized and a library being cherished and valued.

Here is students’ plea for more comfy chairs, pillows and bean bags at the libraries of Western Washington University:

(No wonder why I have the fond memories of Robbins rather than of Widener; I had lots of coffee there in old comfy chairs with ottomans.)

ERM Systems: The Promise and Disappointment

Some conference sessions are just irresistible because of their titles.  For example, “Ultimate Debate: Has Library 2.0 fulfilled its promise?” Right?  I know that “Electronic Resource Management Systems: The Promise and Disappointment” would have been just as irresistible to some librarians.  If you deal with e-resources at work, whether you are cataloging them, acquiring them, setting up access for them, troubleshooting constant issues with them, you will know what I mean.  I can only imagine how many E-resources librarians have been dreaming about the one ultimate ERM system that would do the magic of cleaning up the messy Hydra-like workflow around e-resources and make ERM less of Sisiphus’ labor.

I didn’t have much information in advance about this session and guessed it would be more of a panel discussion.  But actually it consisted of four presentations by librarians who have implemented a ERM system recently.  The ERMS(E-Resources Management System)es covered in the presentations were SerialsSolutions’ 360 Resource Manager, Verde, and Gold Rush.

The presenters were (not by the order of presentation):

  • Apryl Price, Electronic Resources Librarian, Texas A&M University  (Gold Rush)
  • Jeanne Langendorfer, Coordinator of Serials, Bowling Green State University  (SerSol?)
  • Jeannie Downey, Electronic Resources Coordinator, University of Houston Libraries  (Verde?)
  • Betsy Friesen, Technical Services Analyst, University of Minnesota Libraries  (Verde?)

I missed the first presentation about SerialsSolutions’ ERM product.  This was a shame because that is the one I have access to where I work.  But I know even from my limited experience that this product is not only clunky as an ERMS  but also lacks many functionalities that any desirable ERMS should probably have.  I am not going to say I cannot search e-resources in this system by the system’s own identifier nor search any notes that I can attach to e-resources.  There, I said it… whoops.

The two presenters expressed much disappointments about Verde, an ExLibris product, particularly about its complexity and rigidity.  One pointed out that the Verde implementation forced them to fit their workflow around the system rather than fit the system around the workflow.  It was also mentioned that a lot of vocabularies in Verde which come from the ERMI data dictionary were not familiar to the librarians who worked for Verde implementation and that this delayed the implementation process.  One presenter said that her library started Verde implementation two years ago but it was still in testing and not in production.

So, it was a surprise to me that ExLibris is discontinuing Verde development and going for thier new product, URM (University Resource Management) system, instead. I would have liked some discussion about what librarians would like to see ERMS do, but that was not covered much.  My personal opinion is that ERM workflows are very fluid and iterative (also vary from organization to organization) and the tools offered have been failing to capture this aspect.  And probably that is why sometimes a homegrown ERM system works better than a complicated but rigid system offered by various vendors.

The last presentation about Gold Rush was of particular interest to me as it seemed to be the only product whose implementation was relatively easy and smooth.  The cost was also said to be on a less expensive side.  Texas A&M University library implemented it pretty quickly.  Overall, it seemed to be a neat small and simple product.  The presenter pointed out that it doesn’t handle e-books well.  Gold Rush also doesn’t have many features like Verde and is a stand-alone product/a hosted solution, which doesn’t talk to an ILS nor to an Open URL link resolver.  Still, it looked pretty good to me as my library is small and there is no tech-support staff available other than me who will be able to work on the implementation and maintenance of the system.  So, fast implementation and ease of use would be a big plus to me.

I would have liked to hear from libraries that do not currently have a commercial ERMS product about how they manage their e-resources and what kind of system they use.  Also, some discussion and experience about open-source ERMes would have been great such as  CUFTS and Univeristy of Wisconsin-La Crosse ERM.  But it was great to be in the room discussing ERMes with other e-resources librarians.

Academic Librarians and Getting Published

When I was in a MLIS program, I was only vaguely aware of the fact that some academic librarians are appointed as faculty while some are not.  Now that I work at a library where librarians are considered to be faculty (no tenure-track), publishing has become an issue of my interests lately.  So I attended a session designed for folks just like me at 2009 ALA annual. The name of the session was ACRL New Members Discussion Group: “The Publication Process: Getting Published in LIS Journals.”

The session was designed for those librarians who are new at research and publishing in LIS journals.  In order to promote participation in discussion, the presentations were given verbally with/without a handout in a small room.  Partially, this was because of the lack of funding for discussion groups.  But the informal setting and a small number of people around the table made the session much more informative and interesting to both presenters and attendees.  The session provided a wonderful opportunity to gather practical tips and to find encouragement. (In addition, I really loved the fact that in a discussion group there are no committees, no annual membership dues, no officers, and no formality.)

The session consisted of three 10-minute presentations and discussion.

  • Writing to Write: Kickstarting the Publication Process by Emily Drabinski
  • Best Practices for Beginners: Getting Published-From Inspiration to Publication by Lisa Carlucci Thomas & Karen Sobel
  • Targeting Teaching Faculty for Collaborative Publications by Linda Hofschire

Here are a few take-aways from the session I wrote down:

  • To get movitated, use deadlines, generate good ideas, write them down right away, set aside time to write–get up 30 min. early everyday.
  • To become good at writing, write everyday a certain amount in whatever form.
  • To overcome the fear of being published, begin with book reviews and conference proposals and look out for call for proposals.
  • To find topics to write, look at research papers and check out the topics for further study.
  • Network and collaborate with other colleagues.
  • Try to incorporate research into daily work duties sucah as instruction, digitizing, cataloging, etc.
  • You can use data sets used for other research.
  • Bear in mind the tension between topics of your interests and topics that are more easily published.
  • Work with teaching faculty and suggest writing a certain section of a paper such as research method if you gathered and analyzed data.
  • Have a particular journal in mind.
  • Don’t despair if rejected. Revise and send to a different journal.

ALA 2009 sessions attended

Here is the sessions that I have attended at 2009 ALA annual.  I am already forgetting to the order of the sessions and the discussions that took place in each session.  Hopefully, the presentations would be soon posted at ALA Connect so that I can take a look.

I also wish the detailed content and presentations/presenters of each session were available in advance.  That would make it much easier for  attendees to select sessions of their interests.

7/10 Friday

  • Creating Library Web Services: MashUps and APIs
  • E-Resources Management Interest Group

7/11 Saturday

  • ACRL 101
  • ACRL New Members Discussion Group: “The Publication Process: Getting Published in LIS Journals”
  • LITA BIGWIG (Blogs, Interactive Groupware Wikis Interest Group)
  • LITA Emerging Technologies Interest Group

7/12 Sunday

  • Top Technology Trends
  • ACRL Health Sciences Interest Group (HSIG)
  • LITA President’s Program: Make Stories, Tell Stories, Keep Stories

7/13 Monday

  • ERMS: the Promises and Disappointments
  • Social Software Showcase
  • Ultimate Debate: Has Library 2.0 fulfilled its promise?

Why Library Hat?

I am opening this blog right after attending 2009 ALA annual conference in Chicago.  It was my first ALA conference, and I was twittering for fun. From the twittering throughout the conference, I came to learn that an amazing number of awesome librarians are actively twittering and blogging in order to record their thoughts and ideas and share them with others outside of their busy-enough work schedules.  This blog is my attempt to join that community by contributing a little.

I got the name “Library Hat” for my blog from my Twitter post, which received the unexpected honor of Library Journal’s ALA 2009 Monday’s Top Tweets.  I was in the ERMS session when I was posting this tweet using my coolest gadget, iPhone, whose battery was certainly not manufactured to stand up for a conference such as ALA.