Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting a head start on 2011 resolutions!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I want to read more C.S. Lewis in 2011. I've gotten a head start by beginning with Mere Christianity, which I already had at home. I also said I wanted to read more books that I find when browsing the shelves at work, and I selected the first one today. I decided to start with the "A" call numbers, of which there aren't very many. I chose Enigmas: Another Book of Unexplained Facts by Rupert T. Gould (1966 printing).

We'll see how this goes!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Year in P/Review

(in which our intrepid archivist attempts to kill two metaphorical birds with one blog post)

'Tis the season for posting lists of what we've learned/done/survived in 2010 and what we hope to improve upon in 2011. There are a number of wonderful bloggers out there doing this, including my friends Colleen Harris and Aden Penn, and they have inspired me. However, y'all know I'm lazy -- errrr, efficient -- so I'm going to do mine all in one post.

2010 in a Candy-Coated Shell (tastier than a "nutshell")

Let's see...
  1. I did a good bit of traveling, and I had a blast! I added two new states to my list of places I've been: Arizona and Arkansas. I also went to Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Alabama, Mississippi, and Washington, DC. I visited Memphis, TN, as a tourist with my friend Pam. If you ever find yourself there, go to the Stax Museum and the National Civil Rights Museum. GO DIRECTLY TO THESE MUSEUMS. Do not pass go; do not collect $200. Just go. You won't regret it. (And you can get a combo ticket for the two and save a little money.) I also saw Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon in concert in Minnesota. :)
  2. I met new old friends! I have terrific online friends, and nothing pleases me more than meeting them in person. This year I was fortunate to add to my IRL* list (in alphabetical order) Abigail, Aimee, Amber, Becky, Carmen, Cecily, Colleen, Dan, Greg, Jason, Jim, Julian, Ken, Laura N., Luis, Marge, Mathew, Michelle, Rochelle, Scott, Tony, and Will. And I got to see Harvey and Iris again! Yay!
  3. There was professional development fun! I submitted an article to a journal (still waiting for publication, but it should be out soon), gave the devotional at one meeting, attended a conference on undergraduate research, and was selected as the webmaster for the Academy of Certified Archivists. I also supervised an MLIS capstone intern who digitized some of our Civil War materials, served on the committee for the library's new student research award, and gave short talks at meetings of our public services department and the campus Faculty/Staff Christian Fellowship group. Busy times!
  4. I spent a good bit of time working on my promotion application for work. Even though librarians are not tenure track faculty at MPOW**, we have academic rank. Although I was eligible to apply for promotion last year, it was just entirely too busy to even consider it. This year things were a bit more manageable, so I went for it. I'll keep you posted (I won't hear anything for a while yet).
  5. I experienced the yucky part of management: dealing with layoffs. Although there was nothing pleasant about it, I did learn some things. And I'm glad that that was the first time I've ever had to deal with it. I hope it was the last.
And where does this leave us as 2010 winds down? Has your friendly Superstarchivist learned anything this year? Hrm. Well, I've learned:
  1. that even though I didn't know anything about Joomla or being a webmaster, with some training and patience, I can make it work. (In the words of Mr. B, I can "smack it until it cries.")
  2. that although I may not know a ton about social networking, I can put together an informative and reasonably entertaining presentation for others about it.
  3. that posting something about QR codes was smart because...

Looking Ahead: 2011 from This Vantage Point

  1. ...because another archivist saw my QR code post and asked if I would like to be part of a session she was proposing for the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists in 2011. We got accepted! Yay! So 2011 will mark my first presentation at a national meeting. Gulp!
  2. That meeting will be in Chicago in August. Additional travel is planned for Houston in March and, I hope, Dallas/Ft. Worth in May. I'm already chatting up online friends about possible get-togethers!
  3. What else do I want to do next year? I'd like to read more C.S. Lewis, so that's definitely a goal. I also hope to read more books from my library that I discover while browsing the shelves. They may not be current best-sellers, but they'll be things that catch my eye in the stacks.
  4. Also, I still have a number of unfinished goals from 2010, and we'll see how those progress in the coming year.
As Aerosmith says, "Life's a journey, not a destination," so I shouldn't feel bad about not doing everything I wanted to do this year. I'm a work in progress!

Thank you for reading, and happiest holiday wishes to you and yours. I look forward to seeing you in the rest of 2010 and all next year!



*in real life
** my place of work

Monday, September 20, 2010

Social Networking and You

(This post was developed in conjunction with a presentation to our campus Faculty/Staff Christian Fellowship group. It is meant to serve as an introduction to social networking and is slanted toward its use as a ministry/outreach tool.)

What is a social network, and why should I care?

"Twitter is what you're doing, Foursquare is where you are, Facebook is who you're with, and Yelp is where you've been." - Dan Messer

Wikipedia, itself an example of the power of crowd-sourced information, defines a social network service as "
an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities." It goes on to describe similar features of most of these sites: "Most often, individual users are encouraged to create profiles containing various information about themselves.... upload pictures of themselves, ... post blog entries, ... search for other users with similar interests, and compile and share lists of contacts. In addition, user profiles often have a section dedicated to comments from friends and other users."

Ok, I'm intrigued. Where do I start?

Although social sites are numerous and constantly changing, there are some big names you should know. These are among the most commonly used social platforms in academic life and the places where you are most likely to find your students, colleagues, and peers.

is a microblogging platform, a space to share with your followers (subscribers) "what's happening" in 140 characters or less. In your profile, you can include a picture, your name, your location, a link to your website or blog, and a short (160 characters or less) biographical sketch. There are numerous Christian Twitter accounts where you can follow musicians, pastors, and churches to see what's going on. Some accounts you might enjoy include "Rev Run Wisdom," "Rick Warren," and my friend the "Undercover Nun." Even long-dead pastor Charles Spurgeon has a Twitter account where his thoughts and quotes are shared!

Most academics have heard of
Facebook, and many of them have profiles there. It is probably the most used avenue for social networking, having long since surpassed MySpace in popularity. Your students hang out there a lot, making it a good place to interact with them outside of the classroom. Some profs set up course pages to encourage communication, and you can find out what is happening around campus. Keep up with popular culture references and find the people YOU went to high school and college with, too!

Blogs, or "web logs," are best described as online journals. You're reading one right now. Blogs are easy to set up and can be useful for promoting both your personal and professional interests. Share your Christian walk through your posts, then link the address in your Twitter and Facebook profiles. Link to blogs you find inspiring, and comment on them. Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, and other free platforms are easy to set up and maintain. You can use them for free or pay for advanced features and personal hosting.

There are also sites with more specific focuses. For instance,
Flickr is designed for sharing photos, LinkedIn highlights professional networking, Ravelry is home to knitters and crocheters, and Goodreads encourages you to recommend and discuss books.

What on earth does this have to do with my faith?

I asked some of my friends this question, and I want to share their insights. Some minister buddies responded with how they use Facebook to promote church goings-on with their members and others in their communities. They use Twitter to share inspirational thoughts and keep in touch with friends, and they use blogs for more in-depth posts. Sometimes they share sermon texts, and other times they ask for input on ideas they're trying to work out.

The inimitable
Undercover Nun blew me away with her reply, which I have edited for sharing while trying to leave her excellent points intact.

  • Christianity is about relationship, more than anything else. Same with online social media. Social media is about conversation, connection, relationship. If you start out on Twitter/Facebook/whatever, then you need to spend at least as much time reading, commenting, and conversing as you do on writing your own content.
  • Personally, I get extremely turned off when all someone does is quote scripture in their feed, especially if they don't interact. [In my opinion,] preaching does far less to win souls than conversation does. There's a reason St. Dominic is more known for his meet-ups and conversations in pubs and marketplaces than for his preaching in great cathedrals.
  • When you're keeping relationship or conversation central to your frame of mind, you're closer to the right path.
  • Your content needs to not just echo what can be found elsewhere. Add value somehow. That value may be your personal interpretation on churchified stuff, or it might be taking a news story and saying "The Christian POV on this should be..." or "What a Lutheran might say would be..." or it might be progressive or conservative or via-media or something entirely other. But if all you do is parrot other stuff without any part of you, then why should I follow you? I can just go to the sources!
  • Developing your own voice is important. It can help to take on a persona, like Real Live Preacher or (God help me) Undercover Nun. Being able to use common caricatures or stereotypes can be helpful. ... This will come with time, and it can change over time, too.
  • This is not a once-a-day, low-commitment ministry. It takes time to build relationships, to enter into conversations, to find (and/or create!) sacred space among all the secular stuff online. I believe It's totally worth it, but you have to be regular in posting and reading and conversing.
She sums up with "most of this is what I'd say to anyone using social media online, for an individual, for a business building an online presence, for a church, whatever. Identity. Voice. Content with value. Conversation. Relationship. Commitment. In some order."

That's it in a nutshell. Be yourself, be open, be honest, and communicate. Don't just speak, but listen, and respond. Converse. Reach out to your students, your colleagues, and people you've neve
r met. Let them reply to you, and continue the conversation. Provide feedback to others on their blogs and Facebook pages, too. Provoke thought. Share.

"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." - Philemon 1:6

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

QR Codes @ Your Library/Archives

Recently, I've been reading about QR codes and how they can be used in libraries. A basic web search will yield a number of results, so I won't bother listing them all here. However, I will highlight a few things that prompted my interest in the topic.

The fabulous Meredith Farkas wrote "Guided by Barcodes" for American Libraries. She mentions the use of QR codes for library instruction (links to websites or tutorials, surveys, contact information, and text or chat reference), equipment usage (tutorial video on using a microfilm reader), and fun (library scavenger hunt). Other library applications she describes are "read-alikes," links to electronic journals, and uses by archives and museums. This is a great short overview if you're new to the idea of QR codes.

My buddy Dan Messer tags his staff picks for reading material at his library with QR codes linking to the books' catalog records.

Laurie Bridges created a short video on how QR codes are being used in libraries and museums.

The JFK Library and Museum is using QR codes to link back to Twitter.

Of course, you can also see QR codes in the wild. Google is providing QR stickers to 100,000 "Favorite Places" in the US. Recent Twitter posts on QR codes revealed more uses for them ("there are #QRcodes in my Southern Living mag offering travel discounts") as well as hyped their newness. They "have a draw, a mystique, what's it going to be? They offer a chance for good PR, brand awareness and interaction." "Being 1 of the 1st co.'s to use #QRCodes could make a a brand look cool/drive PR in trade pubs. If it works or not may not matter."
"It's not coming. It's here."

I hear what you're saying out there. Yeah, yeah, Superstarchivist. That's all well and good if you have time and money and space for those sorts of things. But I'm a "lone arranger" in a university archives. What good is this going to do me? How does it help my patrons?

Well, let me tell you how we've used QR codes so far:
  • I recently created a display within my library depicting life on campus 50 years ago. Our campus marketing team is already using a website to advertise this year's homecoming events, so I included a QR code to that page as part of the display.
  • Our outreach librarian included one on a flyer about inter-library loan services; the code links to our ILL webpage.
  • I included one to our Special Collections page as part of a student handout on the archives.
So, yeah, that's only three examples, but the academic year has just begun! I'm thinking that next time I go to a conference, I'm going to take a QR sticker with me to put on my badge. I can create a contact link that is easy for someone to add to their smartphone. Maybe I'll even link back to this blog posting. I think they certainly have a place in displays, book recommendations, and instruction.

What about you? Are you using them in your institution yet?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shoutout to Derangement and Description

Rebecca Goldman (@DerangeDescribe on Twitter) did an amazing job with her latest blog posting, Post-SAA Howl.

I encourage you to read her thoughts about new archivists and why this profession may run them off, which include such insight as:

"I worry about these kids. And I worry about you, archivists, and your profession, because I worry that these archivists will take their skills and ideas and find jobs outside the field instead of putting up with all this bullshit. And how can you truly preserve your collections in the long term if there is no one to replace you if you change jobs or retire or get crushed in your own compact shelving?"

The comments are also thought-provoking. I know other fields have this same dilemma of "how do I get a job without experience, and how do I get experience without a job," but this is MY field, and it bothers me.

In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, "Preserve your memories; they're all that's left you."

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Day in the Life!

It's time again for a Library Day in the Life post. Whoo-hoo!

See,-July-26th,-2010 for more info. And watch this space!

EDIT: Now if I can just remember what I did today... I'll start with my Twitter posts containing the #libday5 hashtag and then fill in the gaps:

  • "I'd like to be writing my Library Day in the Life post or installing the new scanner. But I'm just moving things around on my desk."
  • "Paid my contribution for fried chicken for recent library potluck."
  • "Found the correct campus address for a check that ended up on my desk. Sadly, not for me."
  • "Met with summer intern for debriefing on her project. Worked on material for Friday's unconference."
  • "Agreed to let the nominating committee put my name on the ballot for a state organization's election this fall."
  • "Scheduled meeting with history prof to look at old books/maps he found while cleaning his department."
  • "Helping @ashuping test the mobile version of the library's website."
  • "Fun with MS Access 2007! :P"

Ok, those were my tweets today. Let's see what else I can remember:
  • Confirmed time for meeting with Digital Library of Georgia staff on Thursday.
  • Started outline for unconference preso.
  • Set up demo meeting with digitization vendor for next week.
  • Delegated returning a reference phone call to my assistant (excellent move on my part).
  • Rounded up a few boxes to be reshelved; delegated said reshelving.
  • Lunched with intern to celebrate completion of her project.
  • Chatted with intern about networking at professional conferences and getting involved with professional organizations.
  • Paid annual dues for ACA membership.
  • Answered (I think) a question about a name change of a campus department.
That's all I can think of for now!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Plagiarism Song (for Martha)

Who’s Cheatin’ You
(parody of "Who’s Cheatin’ Who" by Jerry Hayes)

Anywhere you look, you can find a book
On the topic that your professor gave.
It’s easy as can be, and it’s all online for free:
Highlight, copy, paste, and save.

But still I wonder
Who's cheatin' you, when you’re untrue?
Does anybody care anymore?
It makes me wonder
Who's hitting heights with research tonight?
Who’s out stealing some more?

He thought he wrote so well that I really couldn’t tell
That he’d copied all the pages and the notes.
But the grammar wasn’t his; does he think that I’m a ditz?
I can tell which parts he wrote.

But still I wonder
Who's cheatin' you, when you’re untrue?
Does anybody care anymore?
It makes me wonder
Who's hitting heights with research tonight?
Who’s out stealing some more?

Yes, your grade is on the line each and every time
Words are stolen in the shadows of the night.
Though it's wrong all along you keep it going on,
And when I catch you, you put up a fight.

But still I wonder
Who's cheatin' you, when you’re untrue?
Does anybody care anymore?
It makes me wonder
Who's hitting heights with research tonight?
Who’s out stealing some more?

Friday, June 4, 2010

And the Rest Is History

(I was asked to provide the devotional thoughts for this year's meeting of the Association of Librarians and Archivists at Baptist Institutions. Some of the participants asked if I would publish my remarks, so here they are.)

The book of Ezra recounts the story of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem after the return of the Hebrews from the Babylonian captivity. Tattenai, the governor of Trans-Euphrates (where Judah and Jerusalem were located), became aware of the temple construction and feared political unrest. He began investigating the project and learned that there was supposedly a decree issued years before, during the reign of Cyrus, authorizing the rebuilding.

Reading from Ezra 5:17 through 6:4 - 17 Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter. 1 King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. 2 A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it: Memorandum: 3 In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide, 4 with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury.

In order to find out if there had indeed been a previous edict about the rebuilding of the temple, King Darius ordered a search of the royal records. The search was made not with computerized catalogs and keywords, but by careful unrolling and reading of the scrolls housed in Persia’s libraries and archives.

Although the search began in the libraries at Babylon, the decree was found in the archives at Ecbatana, almost three hundred miles away. I can tell you, the hand of God must have been on that search – I doubt any of us would have kept looking for so long!

Ecbatana’s cooler climate, relatively speaking, made it a pleasant place for the royals to spend their summers and an ideal climate for the storage of papyrus and leather scrolls. During the summer of 538BC, King Cyrus delivered his decree from the city, and the archival record was kept there. The citadel served as one of the repositories of the unchangeable laws of the Medes and Persians. In addition to the vital documents, gold, silver, jewels, precious stones, and other items of value were housed in the treasury.

Even today we, as archivists and librarians, are called to be keepers of historical and cultural treasures. Like our Middle Eastern forebears we are relied upon to provide three primary services:

  • First, we collect important documents and items of value. Our collections may not include royal decrees or temple treasures, but the books and items we hold are significant to our patrons.
  • Also, like the keepers of the royal treasury, we preserve these cherished items in secure, climate-controlled storage, ensuring their availability when the time comes for their use.

  • Our third role, and in my mind our most important, is the duty we have to provide access to our treasures. No longer locked away in fortresses and citadels, the information we retain is not ours to hoard but ours to share. As stewards of Baptist history, we minister to our patrons – churches, associations, genealogists, and scholars – by helping connect them to the collections we hold.

In putting my thoughts together for this devotional, I conducted an informal survey online, asking other librarians and archivists if they viewed our profession as a calling. Here is what some of them had to say:

“I think I see ‘helping people’ as a calling, and ‘preserving and making available the meaningful things people have created’ as a calling, and even ‘matching people to stories they will enjoy and information they find useful’ as a calling….”

“Yes, because I went into it with a whole different motivation. Before, I was aiming to use my skills for myself. Then there was a shifting, a letting go of thinking I was doing the providing. What I was already doing was being used for a different purpose.”

“While occasionally I have bad days, I am always happy I chose librarianship as my career. I can't see myself being happier or feeling more fulfilled in any other career but writing, and I do that on the side anyway. Learning is a passion of mine, and my work is a great fit.”

I challenge you today to remember your role as a steward of treasures. We are not called to be guards at the fortress but caretakers of the property we’ve been entrusted with. Although we ensure the safety of the items we hold, we do not clutch them to our chests. Instead we offer them with outstretched arms. We invite genealogists to connect with their pasts, churches with their stories, and students and scholars with the resources they need to continue making history.

I would like to close by reading the last stanza of Ferdinand Q. Blanchard’s hymn, “Word of God, Across the Ages.” To me, this song speaks to our calling as both Christians and keepers of history.

“In the tongues of all the peoples / May the message bless and heal,
As devout and patient scholars / More and more its depths reveal;
Bless, O God, to wise and simple,
All Thy truth of ageless worth,
Till all lands receive the witness / And Thy knowledge fills the earth.”

Thanks to each of you for your ministry.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Response to My Response

I received a reply to my previous post from Todd Gilman, author of the Chronicle piece on special collections curators, and I thought it was only fair to post it.

"Dear Laura,

Thanks for your comments.

FYI here is a transcription of the ad:


The Gerald Coke Handel Collection at

THE foundling MUSEUM

40 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1AZ

Near Russell Square Underground Station.

Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm

Sunday 11am-5pm

The largest private collection of Handel memorabilia, housed alongside the Foundling Hospital collections.

020 7841 3600


And FYI I went there on a Friday morning.

The collection is fully processed and arrayed on open shelves visible behind glass panels, not in a restricted area.

There is no computer workstation set up for researchers to use as far as I could tell, or I would have asked to search on my own.

I did not see any indication that I was expected to do anything other than turn up—nor would (or should) anyone else who saw that ad.

My position is best characterized by commentator #25:

‘Someone took out an ad to publicize the collection and invite the public (or at least those who bought the concert program) to view the collection. If that was done without the collection's knowledge, then shame on whoever approved the ad. Like Mr. Gilman, I take that as an extraordinary invitation and if that was my area of interest I too would make a special, impromptu visit. Had the curator said "I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that this opportunity was offered," Mr. Gilman might have been more sympathetic.’

Hope this helps clarify my position.


Todd Gilman"

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Not-So-Gentle Reminder to Special Collections Researchers

Prompted by "A Gentle Reminder to Special Collections Curators" by Todd Gilman, printed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 29, 2010. This piece rubbed me the wrong way, and it was even worse when I re-read it. I think I'll just go through the article and comment on what I see as the pros and cons of Dr. Gilman's experience. His text is italicized, and my thoughts are in bold. (I am not the only person to respond to this article, by the way; you can find other thoughts online and in the comments to the original article.)

"Over the years, I have had occasion to visit many special-collections libraries in the United States, Canada, and Britain, conducting research on 17th- and 18th-century literature and music. Many of those visits have been some of the most positive and memorable experiences I have had as a researcher since I entered a Ph.D. program in English in the late 1980s. The library I remember the most fondly is Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., where I spent three glorious months on a postdoctoral fellowship in 1995. Everyone there was so kind and helpful that it was truly a joy to enter the building each morning."

So not all libraries are guarded by dragons. Good to know.

"Unfortunately, at other institutions I have had not-so-pleasant encounters. On top of that, students in a graduate book-history course I teach from time to time report a cold or condescending reception from curators when they have needed to read materials in preparing their final papers.

As an instructor, I cringe when I hear such reports from students, some of whom surely felt intimidated before even setting foot in a rare-book library. But far worse, as an academic librarian myself, I feel professionally affronted by such uncollegial behavior."

I agree, Dr. Gilman, that your graduate students should not receive a "cold or condescending reception from curators." As an archivist in an academic library, however, I would like to ask if you worked with the curators ahead of time? Did they know your students needed to use rare materials? If a visit to the archives was not possible during class time, did you invite the curator to speak to the students in your classroom or participate online? As an academic librarian, surely you have been visited by students who were not fully prepared by their professors for their assignments. Working together as teacher and librarian is much more useful than sending students to the archives "cold." I would expect significant advance preparation when working with a librarian who is also a professor, especially one who has taught the class before.

"If you have never visited a special-collections library, you might be wondering how such encounters play out. Let me describe my own recent run-in with an overprotective curator."

"Overprotective." Interesting. Let's find out more...

"In March I found myself in London attending a lovely evening concert that formed part of the 33rd London Handel Festival. As I flipped through my thick festival program, itself priced like a rare book at 10 pounds ($15—in addition to the cost of the concert ticket), my eye fell upon a half-page advertisement inviting readers to visit "the largest private collection of Handel memorabilia."

A $15 souvenir concert program? Hardly the cost of a rare book. But ok, go on with your story.

"As a long-term student of Handel's life and works, I have known about the collection for many years. I also knew that, back in the day, one had to contact the collector himself and ask to use the collection at his house—a prospect that seemed unimaginably daunting to me.

Yet now here it was, offered to the public! The advertisement went so far as to list the collection's hours, which even conveniently included weekend days, and noted the location, near the Russell Square Underground Station. My lingering sticker shock over the price of the program instantly yielded to feelings of euphoria akin to having discovered an old parchment map leading to the proverbial pirate's booty."

("Sticker shock"? Enough already.) Even though you don't name the collection, Dr. Gilman, it's easy enough to figure it out. The Foundling Museum's website lists its hours as "Tues. - Sat. 10am - 5pm, Sun. 11am - 5pm; closed on Mondays." The page specifically for the Gerald Coke Handel Collection tells us that "In addition to the public exhibition room, open during normal Museum hours, The Gerald Coke Handel Research Library is open Wednesday-Friday for research purposes by appointment."

"The next morning, my last in London, I laid aside my other plans and eagerly caught the Tube to the museum where the Handel collection was housed, bursting to take a look. When I entered the building and asked about the collection, the woman behind the ticket window looked at me a bit apprehensively but said nothing. Instead she made a phone call, whispered discreetly, then hung up and told me that the curator would be down in a moment."

I don't know which of the many Handel concerts you attended, so I have no way to know what day of the week you visited the museum (although later we will discover that it's one of the Tues. - Sat. days). However, you certainly didn't make a research appointment, Dr. Gilman.

"Immediately an alarm went off in my mind. "Oh no," I thought. "Why is the librarian coming down instead of inviting me up?" Before I knew it, a young English woman, perhaps 35 years old, was standing before me, unsmiling. She introduced herself, and I introduced myself, explaining that I was a researcher of 18th-century English music and theater and, as it happens, myself a librarian at Yale University. The institution's name, she said, "sounded familiar." Ignoring her warning shots, I asked to see the storied Handel collection.

Let's look at these words, shall we? "Alarm." "Unsmiling." "Warning shots." You appeared at this "storied collection" with no advance notice, no letter of introduction, possibly not even a business card. I don't blame her for not inviting you up.

"Predictably, my temerity triggered those dreaded words that steal over a researcher's heart like an icy hand; the words we librarians know as code for 'not on your life.'"

Smart woman.

"'Have you checked our online catalog?' she asked, already certain of the answer. 'No,' I replied calmly, trying not to reveal my desperation at knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt what was coming next. 'I only just learned of the availability of the collection last night when I saw an ad in my concert program.'

'Well, what are you looking for, exactly?' she rejoined, poised to deliver the final blow. 'We're not open to the public,' she sneered, reserving special emphasis for 'the public,' that vilest category of being. 'You can't just show up! You need to inquire, then make an appointment, you see.'"

Again with the word choices: "final blow," "sneered," vilest category of being." Yes, she could have offered to help you look through the catalog or to show you the public exhibition room. However, it's entirely possible that she was trying to catalog the collection when you appeared out of the blue.

"Lucky for me, having been through this before with many other librarians just like her, I was prepared."

Well, aren't we lucky that you knew how to "Handel" her?

"'Oh, really?' I replied mock-innocently. 'Then why does this half-page ad in the program state that you're open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today?' As I reached into my bag to produce the evidence, she realized the troops were advancing and she would be forced to bring out the heavy artillery.

Scowling, she sighed, 'Oh, all right. Come with me.'"

She's nicer than I would have been at this point. Disclaimer: I have not seen the program or the advertisement you saw. However, having worked with marketing staff, my guess is that the ad was for the museum as a whole, not specifically for the Handel collection. A savvy PR person, though, interested in increasing attendance, highlighted that collection in order to draw people to the museum. By placing the ad in a Handel concert program, it certainly reached its intended audience. I'm guessing the librarian had not seen the ad before you showed her the program. She almost certainly had not been given the chance to provide input on it before it went to press.

"As we got in to the elevator, she lobbed a new grenade. 'We're short staffed, you see. And I'm training someone today. Can you tell me exactly what it is you're after? You can't browse the collection because it's shelved by size, you see.'"

She was trying to be polite. Seriously, I wouldn't have taken you upstairs.

"Of course, as a librarian myself I realized that made no sense as an objection: It would be easy to browse the collection since all the books were neatly arrayed on open shelves. I didn't care what order they were in. I wanted to see what was there and could easily have done so if she had let me at them."

No offense, Dr. Gilman, but to an archivist, it makes perfect sense. Archival items are stored by size in a variety of manuscript, record, and oversize boxes, map cases, book shelves, artifact boxes, etc. An unprocessed collection like this one is probably scattered all over the workroom and shelves. Been there, done that, live with it daily.

"But clearly she had successfully used those same words in the past to discourage other hopeful researchers, which is doubtless why she tried them on me. She was even savvy enough not to wait for my comeback. She entered her office with me following, sat at her computer, and prompted me to feed her keywords she could use to search the catalog for me."

Yep. That's what we do in libraries, particularly in special collections and archives. We discourage hopeful researchers. Dadgum it, you're onto us. (Oh, and there's no way you would be in my office at this point.)

"Since she hadn't offered to let me search myself, I knew she was determined to make quick work of me. After perhaps three of her very narrow searches yielded nothing unique—only secondary sources I had seen before—I realized I wouldn't find anything useful unless I had the opportunity to search on my own, trying different approaches as I discovered the scope of the collection."

Wait. Didn't you just say you "fed" her the keywords? And earlier you said, "As a long-term student of Handel's life and works, I have known about the collection for many years." Perhaps you should have known better what terms to have her search for. In her office. When you didn't have an appointment.

"That was so obviously not going to happen that I finally just thanked her politely and turned to leave. I had been in her office perhaps five minutes. Realizing she had won her battle even more quickly than expected, she mumbled an apology about how it was just a bad day, what with her being short staffed and having to train a new person and all."

Chances are, she didn't see it as "winning her battle."

"And so the dragon succeeded in guarding the hoard."

Again with the words. Really, sir? (And may I remind you that the patron saint of England slew the dragon?)

"The worst part is that I honestly think she believed she was doing her job—that her behavior was justified because I was foolish enough to just 'turn up' expecting to use 'her' collection."

She did more than her job, Dr. Gilman. She invited you up to her office with no appointment and helped you search the catalog. You did "turn up" expecting to use an unprocessed collection.

"Let this, then, serve as a gentle reminder to rare-book curators that your job is not to keep readers from your books but just the opposite: to facilitate readers' use of the collections. If altruism or professional integrity aren't sufficient motivators to get you to play nice, you might consider the fact that you have a job only because people want to read what's in those collections, and you will keep your job for only as long as readers feel welcome to approach you to make use of the materials."

This scathing diatribe is hardly a "gentle reminder," kind sir. I would venture to guess that with prior notification and an appointment, the librarian would have gone even more out of her way to help you.

As archivists and special collections librarians, we walk a tightrope between allowing you access to the collection today and preserving it for the Gilmans of tomorrow. I am acquainted with the hoarding dragons as well as with their diametrical opposites, those who would allow unfettered access to all original materials.

To those who want every document in every archives digitized and available online, I say, "had we but world enough, and time," and server space, and IT professionals, and unlimited staff, and appropriate equipment, etc., many archivists would gladly oblige. But we would still preserve the original documents for the use of your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who might not have access to computers, much less digital files. (If I offered you images on 5.25" floppy disks, could you open them at home tonight?)

I think most of us in libraries and archives care about both the resources AND the researcher. We try to bring them together safely and efficiently. Articles like Dr. Gilman's serve only to make my job harder and to reinforce negative stereotypes of librarians who don't want you touching the books. Yes, special collections have different rules and regulations because the items are SPECIAL for a reason.

Huh. Guess I didn't really find too many "pros" to point out, did I?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Random Day in the Life

No, it's not time for an official round of "day in the life" postings, but I'm doing this one for myself. It's Monday, and I've been at work for about 45 minutes. So far I've:
  • chatted with a colleague about some boxes in the mail room
  • gone through email
  • perused a campus newspaper before filing it
  • cranked up iTunes for some motivational music
  • jotted down the call number of a book I want from the stacks
I'll update this throughout the day, I hope.
  • checked out the book
  • rescheduled afternoon meetings (maybe)
  • approved vacation days for my assistant; put them on calendar
  • researched info on copyright and unpublished 19th century documents
  • looked up an obituary for a researcher; photocopied page for biographical file
  • helped ILL student find a periodical
  • asked assistant to create bio file on man whose obit I looked up
  • made to-do list
  • emailed legal counsel about copyright and letters
  • answered email about church history booklets
  • printed materials for university files
  • printed items to review for afternoon meeting
  • looked over spreadsheet pertaining to a collections shift
  • proofed document on library closings (for inclement weather and such); delivered to author
  • returned paper clips and binder clips to supply closet
  • put a flyer on an upcoming exhibit in the staff lounge
  • looked up a possible speaker for a campus group
  • found project for student assistant to work on
  • responded to an email about an upcoming research conference on campus
  • worked on newsletter that needs to be mailed ASAP
Lunch break.
  • back to newsletter
  • meeting prep
  • two meetings
  • chatted with assistant about instruction session he handled today
  • emailed faculty member about upcoming instruction session
That's about it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Customer Service 2.0

Last week as part of my Library Day in the Life posts I mentioned on Twitter that I had ordered some boxes for the archives. According to the sales rep, they weren't going to be available until March 16. A library colleague in another state saw my tweet and replied that she must have ordered the same boxes. I responded to her (in my public Twitter feed) yesterday with "Acid-free storage boxes from Gaylord? I can't believe they're going to take that long!"

Today I received an email from a Group Product and Merchandising Manager with Gaylord Bros. who had seen my tweet. My boxes are shipping today. Way to go, Gaylord! I'm glad they took the time to search for mentions of their name and to track me down. If you buy library and archives supplies, let me recommend them. And if you want to follow them on Twitter, as I now do, they can be found at @GaylordBros.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Library Day in the Life, round 4

It's time again to see what those crazy librarians are up to! Hooray!

Library Day in the Life wiki

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"C is for Challenge" at "T is for Training"

Maurice at "T is for Training" has issued a challenge to the TifT Google Group to answer each of the following questions in a sentence or less.

Here goes nothing!

1) Your One Sentence Bio
I'm a zany archivist in the middle of Georgia.

2) Do you blog? If yes, how did you come up with your blog name?
Yes, I found "superstar" when looking for "words ending in -ar" that I could add to "archivist."

3) What is your professional background?
Music librarian/archivist at a music museum, archivist of popular music collection at a state university, now a university archivist.

4) What training do you do? staff? patrons? types of classes?
I'm not really a trainer, but I do work with student assistants in the archives and teach the occasional instruction session for undergraduates.

5) What training do you think is most important to libraries right now?
I'm a big fan of anything that takes trainees (in my case, students) to the next level of independence and helps them find things on their own.

6) Where do you get your training?
Workshops and listening to the "T is for Training" podcast.

7) How do you keep up?
I don't; I do use RSS feeds and other people's FriendFeed links, though, to see what's happening.

8) What do you think are the biggest challenges libraries are facing right now?
Lack of financial resources and a fear of change among some of our leadership.

9) What are biggest challenges for trainers?
See number 8.

10) What exciting things are you doing training wise?
Nothing I can think of, but I'm looking forward to going to a workshop next month on undergraduate research.

11) What do you wish were you doing?
Right this minute, I'd rather be sitting on a beach.

12) What would you do with a badger?
I would feed it very carefully.

13) What's your favorite food?
Anything chocolate.

14) If you were stranded on an island, what one thing would you want to have with you?
A potable water treatment system.

15) Do you know what happens when a grasshopper kicks all the seeds out of a pickle?
Seven redheaded unicorns, because a ladder goes two ways.

16) Post it notes or the back of your hand?
Post-its; I have a thing for office supplies.

17) Windows or Mac?

18) Talk about one training moment you'd like to forget?
Can't think of anything right now.

19) What's your take on handshakes?
I prefer hugs.

20) Global warming: yes or no?
On a cold day like today, I say, "Bring it on!"

21) How did you get into this line of work?
I've posted about it before.

22) Why is the best part of your job?
I'm guessing Maurice really means "what" instead of "why," and I'll say it's the wide variety of things I get to do.

23) Why should someone else follow in your shoes?
If you have a passion for connecting researchers with sources, archives are a great place to work.

24) Sushi or hamburger?
Hamburger, please, with cheese.

25) LSW or ALA?
LSW, of course!

26) What one person in the world do you want to have lunch with and why?
My friend Angie in Colorado; I haven't seen her in almost 20 years, and we need to catch up.

27) What cell phone do you have and why?
A Samsung Juke; I wanted one I could use as an mp3 player, and I really like it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year from A to Z

Inspired by recent postings from the Hedgehog Librarian and the Guardienne of the Tomes, this is my first inspirational blog post for 2010. I liked what both of them had to say, and while I don't claim to possess their ways with words, here is my own feeble attempt. I'm stealing the Hedgehog's idea of "A Year of 'Up.'" Thank you, Ms. Hedgehog!

My 2010 "Up" Alphabet

Ante up: commit, follow through, and finish tasks.

Back up: provide support.

Call up: stay in touch with friends.

Dig up: scan and scrapbook photos from the past.

Eat up: try to have more fruits and veggies.

Fire up: get enthused about projects, and encourage others to see things in a positive light.

Give up: donate stuff I don't need.

Help (someone) up: be aware of others' needs, and meet them when possible.

Irish up, don't get my: stay calm.

Jump up: volunteer.

Kick it up: try something new - learn a new crochet stitch, listen to new (to me) music, etc.

Look up: spend time in prayer and meditation.

Move up: set and meet professional development goals.

Neaten up: keep the house and office under better control with a little effort each day.

Open up: share what I know. Be available. Listen.

Push up: try to get more exercise.

Queue up: arrange, organize, and prioritize tasks.

Rest up: get enough sleep.

Saddle up: travel somewhere new.

Talk it up: promote ideas and events at work and church.

Use up: don't buy new things until the old ones are gone.

Vacuum up: tackle the dog hair more often.

Wake up: get moving a little faster in the morning.

eXpect "up": forgive me; I just couldn't find one for X, so I'll just go for anticipating positive things!

Yuk it up: laugh more!

Zip it up: shut up and listen.