Tag: special libraries
On Friday we had our third and final ALISS Luncheon Lecture of the semester. Patsy Allen, an IU SLIS grad and the research librarian at Roche Diagnostics, talked to us about her career as a corporate librarian.
She actually began as a part-time contractor before her position was developed into a full-time one four years later. When Roche was creating the position, there was a lot of debate about what to call the position before they finally settled on “Research Librarian.” Many people in the company handle information of some sort, so they wanted what she is available for to be very clear. She said that some of the older employees didn’t like the name because they still regard librarians as the shushing guardians of the stacks, but that the younger employees who were being hired straight out of school were excited to know that Roche had a librarian for them to come to with their information needs.
Patsy described her position as being “a solo librarian in a global environment” since she’s the only librarian in a company that employs thousands of people. Employees of Roche ask her to find articles and papers, patent data, and lots of other highly specialized information to assist them with their research in biology, chemistry, and engineering, mostly via email (which can be tricky when she’s trying to tease out exactly what a client needs!).
Her manager isn’t a librarian (he works with patent information), so she has a lot of autonomy in her work, which she said she really enjoys. Like Ellen Summers of the NCAA Library, Patsy emphasized the importance of the Special Libraries Association in feeling connected to the profession and having other librarians to help her, although she did point out that corporate librarian positions can be radically different from one company to another. She also talked about how important continuing education is for her, whether it’s through courses at a university or seminars through SLA.
She talked a little bit about how she can’t talk about a lot of her work. Since she works for a corporation that does scientific research, she’s privy to a lot of information that she can’t disclose. The work Roche does is also highly regulated, which introduces further restrictions on what she can talk about. Patsy also talked about the importance of professional integrity: while she may know that two people are working on the same sort of project based on the questions they’re asking her, she can’t tell them about each other.
Patsy spends a lot of energy monitoring copyright issues and explaining them to her clients. Many of them come from an academic environment and are used to being able to pass information to other colleagues fairly freely under the Fair Use guidelines, but copyright rules in a corporate environment are much more restrictive. The general guideline she gives clients is “assume the answer is ‘no’ unless I tell you otherwise.” She also showed us some of the different levels of permission different publishers grant for copying and distributing articles–some allow only paper copies to be made while others allow for electronic copies to be distributed. Roche can be sued by a publisher if an article is posted to the company intranet without permission, so complying with copyright restrictions is really important, and she’s the primary person to educate employees on what they may and may not do. The library also won’t order reports for employees since it requires the recipient to sign off on how they’ll be using the document. She’ll get a client a complete citation, but their department must be the one to order it. She also has to be careful about exactly what she advises people to do, since in Indiana offering legal advice counts as practicing law, which you can’t do unless you’re a lawyer.
Patsy also talked about some of the tools she uses in her work including Medline, Embase, Biosis, SciSearch, Current Contents, ScienceDirect, Wiley InterScience, Google and Google Scholar, PubMed, OCLC FirstSearch, FDA, EBSCOhost Databases, and other STM, business, and legal resources. She said that she works to be really proactive in constantly scanning the media and news alerts and blogs for items of interest and then forwarding them on to clients who might find the information useful before they even ask for it or need it. She said that this not only reminds them of the library’s usefulness but also gives her a chance to show potential new clients what the library can do for them.
Despite Roche being on the cutting edge in their industry, they are by necessity technologically cautious in some ways. Since Roche is a gigantic company, they need to be reserved in how quickly they adopt new technology and new versions of software, so she’s trying to make do with Internet Explorer 6 and old versions of other software packages. She’s also lost her physical library: she used to work in a room full of books but was moved to a cubicle with a computer and a book cart. While lots of information–especially the most recent of research–is available online and she does conduct most of her correspondence via email, she said that she missed being in a proper library.
Although the slow adoption of new technology and constant assessment of copyright compliance seemed at times exasperating, Patsy said that she loves her job. Since she’s helping clients with their scientific research, she learns new things every day just by seeing that information go by. She did emphasize knowing one’s limits in a special library and being able to tell clients that what they wanted was too advanced for her to do, but that she could put them in touch with another person or resource that could help them. Her job is fast-paced and she never knows on a given day what she’ll see thrown at her and she loves being kept on her toes. She also mentioned the social aspect of her job, pointing out that her life isn’t just research and information all day long, but that there’s a human element, an opportunity to help people and to teach them. The analogy she provided was that of being an information bartender–I think that’d be a great thing to put on a business card!
Patsy closed with a quotation from Neil de Grasse Tyson that’s appropriately scientific but also blends with the librarian’s life:
In life and in the universe,
may your signal be high
and your noise be low.
April 26, 2010
Part of why I liked the zine collection at the Multnomah County Library (see my recent post, too) is that it reflects part of the culture of Portland. Especially with budgets being cut across the country, libraries might feel stretched just trying to maintain a core collection, so seeing these unique (or unusual or at the very least interesting) collections continue to exist is cool. I’ve run across three such collections recently that I’d like to share with you.
Archives, since they usually have a specific focus and can collect deeply in that area, often have some of the neatest collections. For example, the William Stafford Archives at Lewis and Clark College include private papers, recordings, teaching materials, and photographs belonging to the late poet. What makes this collection really noteworthy is that Stafford wrote every single day for the last 43 years of his life, producing 20,000 pages. He also saved letters that he received and sometimes even included a copy of his replies–another 100,000 sheets. The website doesn’t provide access to every item in the collection, but you can browse books, poems, audio and video recordings, and images. In “Evidence of me…”, Sue McKemmish discusses different levels of personal recordkeeping and explores how “memories of me” become “memories of us.” While not everyone wants to (or should!) keep a record of everything he or she writes, having such a huge body of work from a well-known figure is incredible.
The National Library of Medicine has a new web exhibition, “An Iconography of Contagion,” that includes many examples of 20th century public health posters from around the world. And again, a specialized organization can offer an extensive, specialized collection. But what I love is that they’re making these items available for viewing online. There are the war-era warnings against catching STIs that you’d expect, but there are also more recent posters that attempt to educate people about, for example, the way HIV/AIDS is and isn’t spread, and even more interesting things like one poster from China in 1935 that discourages spitting in public, which facilitated the spread of TB.
And lest this post be entirely about collections in highly specialized libraries, I’ll also direct you to a recent article in Fine Books Magazine about the Jewish cookbook collection at the Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library. When a patron asked where the Jewish cookbooks were and the reference librarian, Roberta Saltzman, discovered the library only had a few, she began buying Jewish cookbooks at online auctions and donating them to the library. The collection includes over than 700 cookbooks (more than double the number the Library of Congress holds, according to an article from last year in Forward), many of them collections printed by synagogue sisterhoods. The collection also includes one cookbook printed as a fundraiser for the Jüdischer Frauenbund, “an early German feminist organization” in 1935 during the early part of Hitler’s reign. The collection is nearly entirely Saltzman’s doing; NYPL just accepts her donations and preserves the cookbooks.
What are your favorite distinctive library collections?
April 23, 2010
I work part-time at a synagogue library in town and in the six and a half months I’ve been there, it’s been a really interesting experience. I’m not Jewish, so I’ve learned a lot about Judaism through my work and through long conversations with my boss, George, the education director. And since I’m the only person who works at the library, I’ve learned a lot about library work by doing everything: I select, catalog, and process all of the new books; I create book lists and book displays; I answer reference questions and help people find books; I do storytimes with the preschoolers; and I’ve been working on some other projects of my own, like cleaning up catalog records (there hasn’t been a lot of continuity in library work and not everyone who’s worked at the library has been a librarian so there are all sorts of discrepancies and irregularities in the catalog) and introducing a new shelf labeling system and doing a complete inventory (we still use a card system for checkout and there are no security measures, so books just walk away) and creating a library mission and a proto-collection development policy.
But the project that finally came to fruition today was my first fundraising program. Unlike in a public library, the programs that the synagogue library puts on often have a small admission fee to supplement the library budget. The library’s been nearly dormant for a while, so it’d been a while since we’d done any programming (fundraising or not). I came up with a list for George this winter of potential events we could do. He especially liked my suggestion of bringing Eileen Goltz, a professional chef and caterer and food writer (she does newspaper columns and wrote the excellent PERFECTLY PAREVE), to come do a cooking demonstration and talk about new ideas for Pesach/Passover, so I started planning that.
I have to admit I was nervous leading up to her visit. Since I only work there on Sunday mornings and on Thursdays, Eileen and I had been playing phone tag a lot and the idea for the event had evolved over time. We had to push the event back a week after booking her because of a conflict with other synagogue events. We didn’t have access to the kitchen since the synagogue’s had already been prepared for Passover and were going to have to make do with hot plates. We hadn’t had as many registrations by the end of last week as I’d been hoping to see and since Daylight Saving Time began today I was worried that everyone would show up an hour late. But Eileen was early and we had plenty of time to make handouts and get everything ready and catch up (I was friends in high school with one of her sons). And we had a great turnout!
Eileen speaks to the attendees
After I did a little library promotion and then sung a few of Eileen’s many praises, she started off by talking about how intensive cooking and cleaning for Passover can be (but don’t necessarily have to be!), and then gave a great history of the availability of kosher foods in the US. Before the 1960s or so, you had to go to specialty stores to get kosher food and there wasn’t a lot beyond matzah, gefilte fish, and kosher wine that wasn’t very good. But in the 1960s and 1970s, kosher food because more varied, more widely available, and more delicious and now there are all sorts of options. She also talked just a little bit about all of the different organizations that issue hechsherim, those symbols on food that tell you whether or not (and to what extent) it’s kosher (check out this illustrated list of hechsherim). Then she walked us through some recipes that she liked for Passover, suggesting substitutions on the fly for one woman whose child was allergic to dairy products. She showed us some of the dishes that she’d prepared beforehand and we all got tastes of the crustless quiche and the macaroon-and-almond pie crust–and oh man was it delicious.
Everyone at the event seemed to have a great time and they all were comfortable enough to ask questions along the way and Eileen did a great job of handling those questions and organizing the presentation in general. She was a very engaging speaker and she really knows her stuff. George and I both had a number of people come up to us afterward to say what a great time they’d had and how much they’d learned, and the executive director of the synagogue said she wanted to have Eileen back again. By the time we’d cleaned up and met back at the library, George was waiting with a request that Eileen come back for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which happen in the fall).
So despite some bumps along the way in planning, the program didn’t just go well, it went spectacularly. I was so proud of how well everything turned out and what a great time everyone had and how much fun Eileen had and how everyone wanted her to come back. And I learned so much from planning this whole thing myself about event planning in general and about working with other people in the same organization and the importance of good communication and all sorts of wonderful things that I’m sure will serve me well once I graduate. It was such a confidence builder to have it go so splendidly!
We made some money for the library, but more importantly we got the library back in people’s minds as a resource available to them and as a place that does cool things–I even had one man stop by that morning to say that he’d been a member of the congregation for years but had never stopped by the library and that now he wanted to check out a book he’d seen in the window display. I’m so proud of all the progress the library’s made in the last few months and I’m really excited to tackle my next project there.
March 14, 2010
Erin–whom you may know as the champion of metadata from her earlier blog post–has a new post over on her own blog about our trip to Eckhart Public Library if you’re interested in another perspective on the project.
She tackles in more detail than I did the difficulty of digitizing certain things and the way best practices can’t always be implemented within the context of real-world constraints.
How many of you have a digital camera? How many of you make sure your photos are TIFF files instead of JPG? TIFF is the current standand for archival quality photos. Which is great and fine and dandy if you’re scanning old documents into your computer, but a bit more problematic when you have digital camera pics that are already saved in jpg format.
Erin also touches on why this project is so cool. Not only are we getting a chance to advance a public library’s project, but we’re also finally getting to apply what we’ve learned in class in the real world and see why things work the way they do and how, as librarians, we can use the tools we’ve learned about to do cool things.
This project is great — not only is it fantastic experience, but its a lot of fun, and I feel like we’re contributing to a pretty cool project. After completing my digital libraries class last fall, I kind of hated metadata — its a lot like cataloging, with lots of rules and details and UGH. But the cool thing, that I’m realizing now, is that with metadata, the rules are always changing. So while it is a bit like cataloging, its much more fun, since we get to create the schema and the fields, and while there are standards to adhere to, the rules we get to make ourselves.
I must confess that I’m not as excited about metadata as Erin, so my current piece of the project, figuring out what metadata we need for items we’re expecting teens in particular to want to include, isn’t firing my jets quite as much as the project in general. But it does hint at the notion that teens understand digital content–and as a result the world–differently than people of other ages might, which I do find interesting.
So go read Erin’s post. She does a good job of discussing something I probably won’t talk about in much detail.
March 10, 2010
I’ve written a little bit about my directed readings course this semester that I’m doing with Andrea Japzon and four other students in the program. On Saturday we took a trip up to the Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, Indiana to see their collections, work out some details of the project, and share our best practices research.
The William H. Willennar Genealogy Center
We started at the William H. Willennar Genealogy Center where we met Gregg Williamson, the Manager of Genealogical Services (and a SLIS-Indy grad!), who gave us a tour of their building. We started off with the print collection, which has the largest collection of genealogy materials dealing with DeKalb County, and includes yearbooks for local schools dating back to 1905, family histories for local families, phone books, and individual files of research people have done on their own families. They also have a large microfilm collection of local newspapers, microfilm readers and scanners, and computer stations where patrons can use online resources to do genealogy research.
The seating space in the main room of the Genealogy Center. Photo by Erin Milanese.
Part of the print collection. Photo by Erin Milanese.
Gregg then took us through the staff workspace and talked about the people who work at the Genealogy Center (they’re mostly part-time employees and volunteers) and showed us the basement archive and the permanent archive upstairs. The basement archive is mostly local newspapers; some date back to the 1800s, but the collection also includes recent issues as well. As Gregg explained it, we’re very fortunate to have those two hundred-year-old papers, and people two hundred years from now are only going to have resources like that if we save current newspapers now.
Archival boxes in the basement archive. Photo by Erin Milanese.
The Genealogy Center has a lot of really cool technology and tools; one of the ones I found the most interesting was the microfilm camera. EPL still sends some of its things out to be microfilmed since it’s such a labor-intensive process and they do depend so heavily on volunteer work, but there are some items that they scan themselves. I can’t remember what the exact claim to fame was, but this may be one of the only microfilm scanners in a public library in Indiana. It was something really impressive like that.
EPL's microfilm camera. Photo by Erin Milanese.
The upstairs archive is the permanent archive and contains records that are available upon request but aren’t immediately available to the public (e.g., old gradebooks from local schools). We had a short but interesting conversation about balancing privacy and access; Gregg said that rather than siding with archivists who’d be more interested in privacy and protection of the physical materials, he tends to err on the side of making things open to people, reasoning that it’s a public library, so their holdings should be open to the public. He did say that there are some things that aren’t available to the public at all because of privacy concerns, like old library card registrations from earlier decades that include people’s names and addresses.
We also got to check out the digitization lab. Alaina Ring is in charge of the metadata for the library’s photo archive and database and she walked us through the creation of a database record. The digitalization lab has some neat technology, too, including a 35mm slide scanner, and what’s really cool about it is that it’s open to the public. They’ve done a lot of grant writing to build their collection and the tools they have available to them. It’s really impressive.
Two of the computer workstations (and the slide scanner) in the digitization lab. Photo by Erin Milanese.
This trip also gave us all a chance to better understand the specifics of and our own roles in this project. The Genealogy Center already has an extensive collection of photographs and documents, but most of it is of historical materials–which makes sense, since the people who use the Genealogy Center are doing research into their family’s history or into local history in general. But in the same way that Gregg is saving local newspapers now for the researchers of the future, Andrea wants to start saving the digital content of today for the researchers of tomorrow.
What we’re hoping to do with this project is to target some people whose stories reflect what’s going on in the community now: the woman who owns a local cafe, a teenager growing up in Auburn, a prominent politician, the factory worker who recently got laid off because of the economic downturn. We’ll solicit from them real and digital objects that represent their lives in the community and then figure out how to ingest that content into the library’s digital collection (or find a home for it at the DeKalb History Center or return it to its owner after scanning or photographing it). We’d also like to collect oral histories (maybe even on video) and find a way to include those in the library’s database. After an initial pilot program this year, we’re hoping to expand the project to include more community members in future years, and to promote the collection during Auburn Pride Week.
Andrea’s big on co-created community resources and on knowledge exchanges, so since we (both we students and the public library) are learning from community members with this project, we’ll also be doing workshops this summer to give some knowledge back to the community. The library’s done programs before on creating scrapbooks and preserving photographs and they’ve brought in outside speakers to talk about preserving digital information, but we’re hoping to build on what they’ve done before to help teach people about collecting, organizing, and preserving their digital content. We’ll also do workshops on privacy and copyright issues when dealing with digital content.
During our discussions, I was thinking about the different people we’re going to recruit for the pilot program and it really struck me how people of different ages understand digital content in completely different ways. Most teenagers are very at home in a digital world and are very nearly swimming in digital content. But maybe there’s also an older person in the community who doesn’t have his own computer and comes to the library to check his email where his granddaughter has sent photos from her latest birthday party. He understands those digital photographs that just live in his inbox in a totally different way than the teen understands the photos he texts to his friends. I think I’d like to learn more about that.
Now that I’ve got a more detailed idea of how the People of Auburn project is going to go and I’ve actually seen the physical facilities and gotten to know the library a little bit, I’m even more excited about this project. I have to admit that normally I find genealogy and archives only mildly interesting, but the more Gregg showed us on Saturday, the more interested I got. They’ve got so many unusual and unique resources and technology. I’m also very excited about the team we have assembled for this project!
Back row: Andrea Japzon, Erin Miller Milanese, Gretchen Kolderup, Alaina Ring, Gregg Williamson. Front row: Katie Nakanishi, Eve Grant. Not pictured: Angela Slocum. Photo by EPL's Gretel.
Eckhart Public Library is unusual in that it actually comprises three separate buildings all on the same street. We conducted most of our business on Saturday at the Genealogy Center, but we also visited the main library building and the teen library. Oh yes, EPL has a completely separate building for its teens–and it’s totally awesome. It’s open after school and on the weekends and it’s got comfortable furnishings, really striking light fixtures, computers, and a space for programming and games. Adults are only allowed in for fifteen minutes at a time if they’re not accompanied by a teen. When we walked into the building, the teens sitting at the computers turned around to stare at us; Darcy, the librarian I talked to, said that’s one of the things the teens like best about having their own space, feeling like they belonged and anyone else was an outsider. She did acknowledge that sometimes the people in adult services were too quick to send teens away from the main library building but said that overall, having their own space was great. I was impressed with how current their fiction collection was and how large their non-fiction collection (homework resources and teen-interest stuff like gaming guides and yoga books and things like that) was. I think it’s really important for teens to have their own space in the library–and it’s even better when they can have a space where they aren’t constantly being told to keep their voices down.
The outside of the Third Place, EPL's teen library. Photo by Erin Milanese.
We also visited the main library building, which was built in 1911 and is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a lot of interesting touches. It was originally going to be a Carnegie building, but Charles Eckhart, a local businessman, said he’d build the library on the condition that the contract with Carnegie be severed. The library has a fountain in the yard outside, stained glass windows, and a fireplace. It’s very comfortable and it really feels like a homey place the community can gather.
The fountain outside the main library. Photo by Erin Milanese.
Stained glass and bookshelves in the main library building. Photo by Erin Milanese.
I also took a trip downstairs to check out the children’s area. They have puppets and toys available for checkout and their storytime room is decorated with a Secret Garden theme and has an adjacent room with kid-sized tables for craft time. I was so impressed with the creative touches throughout the whole library. It seems like a really fun place to be able to go!
A tree in the storytime room in the children's department. Photo by Erin Milanese.
EPL has internship opportunities available for SLIS-Indy students. If you’re interested in working in the Genealogy Center processing materials for the digital collection, in the teen library, for information services, or in technical services, email Gregg Williamson. Don’t forget that internship applications are due to Marilyn Irwin in the SLIS office by 15 March for the summer semester and 15 July for the fall semester.
March 2, 2010
Today was our second ALISS luncheon of the semester and once again we had a great turnout. This time, Ellen Summers talked to us about her job as the librarian for the NCAA.
Ellen first talked about the NCAA and the library in which she works. The NCAA was originally founded in 1906 in response to the violence in college football. In 1951 the national office was formed, and in the 1970s and 1980s there was talk about forming a library, but nothing came of it. Then in 1990 they moved into a new building, which had space for a library, and they received donations of papers from Walter Byers and Dick Schultz, the first two executive directors of the NCAA. They were also given a complete run of Sports Illustrated and, on microfilm, the papers of Avery Brundage and Walter Camp.
But it wasn’t until 1994 that a young, enterprising SLIS student asked for permission to do a class project on the NCAA’s library. She did a writeup of what they had and what she thought they should do with it, and then was hired as a temporary part-time librarian to organize and catalog their holdings. That position became a permanent part-time position and then a full-time position, and then a few years later a second full-time librarian, Lisa Greer Douglass (another local SLIS grad), was hired.
The library now has 14,000 items in its catalog with more waiting to be added. This includes NCAA publications, periodicals, a small reference collection, and a small general collection with materials on collegiate athletics and higher education and some professional development items for the NCAA staff and researchers. They field about 500 reference requests a year from NCAA staff members and researchers, the general public, students, and other researchers. They also have an off-site archive that mostly house personal papers and manuscripts; championship results, committee documents, and the women’s collection (AIAW documents, materials from the Gender Equality Task Force, and things on Title IX) are located in the main library facility.
The library also provides an online research repository archive where the research staff’s work is centralized and preserved, a library webpage on the NCAA intranet, and a book exchange where staff members can pick up and leave paperbacks without needing to check them out. Ellen and Lisa help the staff and outside researchers, provide a library orientation for new employees, and support a collaborative film archive project with a sports film collector and Eastern Michigan University. The library also has a virtual library with championship records and an infractions database that contains the final reports from the infractions committee for each disciplinary action. The infractions database was originally used internally, but there was enough interest from the general public that it’s now available online; in a question, Andrea likened it to “a Westlaw for college sports” and Ellen enthusiastically agreed.
Ellen introduced us to what the NCAA library has to offer NCAA staff and the general public, but she also talked about what her job is like as a special librarian. She emphasized the importance of relationships and collaboration both internally (always making a case for the library’s continued existence) and with other special librarians. Since her library has such limited resources, she and other special librarians often rely on each other to procure materials or figure out where to find information. Ellen also said that being a member (and an officer) of the Special Libraries Association helped her fight isolation; until Lisa joined her, she was the only librarian at the NCAA.
Audience members had a lot of questions about her job. She told us about some of the challenges of being a special librarian: they work with a limited budget and limited resources which means forming lots of partnerships with other libraries. Since there are only two librarians, they have to do everything from processing and cataloging to answering reference questions and helping with research–whether they like those things or not. They also struggle with more visibility (a good thing) meaning more work (not necessarily a good thing!), especially as the library grows in reputation. Ellen lamented how much internal public relations work and administrative tasks took away from research time, and mentioned that since she’s a staff member, she’s expected to serve on various NCAA committees in addition to doing library work.
She also touched briefly on how her library is just a small part of a much larger organization, but she did say that she’s been lucky in that her non-librarian boss is pretty hands-off and trusts her decisions and her advice on library matters. One of the biggest differences she noted in special librarianship was the prioritization of internal customers over the general public and the singular focus on the needs of the organization which she serves.
Special library work is another topic that doesn’t get covered as much in our program as public, school, and even academic librarianship, so I’m really glad we (well, Erin, really!) were able to bring in someone from a special library. It was really interesting to hear about all of the unique documents she works with, from manuscripts to statistics to internal documents, and to think about how specific special libraries are in their missions and their services and programs and what distinctive challenges and joys special librarians have.
And for all you current SLIS-Indy students, Ellen raved about how great it was to have an intern last summer and was enthusiastic about having more interns to help digitize and catalog documents. Paperwork for summer internships are due at the SLIS office by 15 March!
February 26, 2010