Scratching post

I’ve decided to use this blog, at least for today, as a scratching post/brainstorming white board. So if you have no interest at all in academic libraries and user needs, feel free to skip this one.

I have been given the challenge of designing a walk-in clinic that highlights my abilities, but also would be useful to Bowie State students. I don’t want to make a program specifically designed for one major (I’ll have the opportunity to do that when my role as Library Liaison begins next week, for the History/Gov’t and Social Sciences majors.

So what do students at BSU want to know about?? How to search for materials on our databases? (I don’t see that getting a wave of enthusiastic students.) How to search the catalog? (While useful, I, again, don’t see much in the way of student interest.) How about ‘How to Google’. No seriously…everyone thinks they know how to perform searches on free search engines, but they don’t necessarily. They don’t know about Boolean operators (not always useful, but sometimes!); or quotation marks that should go around phrases or quotes; or going beyond the first and second pages of results; or looking at not only the title of the result, but the source; or figuring out if the free online source is a credible one.

On to the next one…



So you know how things go…you get busy (end of semester/graduation) and you forget about your responsibilities (blogging) and then depressed (because you can’t land a library job), and then don’t read anything about libraries except for job openings and descriptions.

But I’m back on track now. That’s because today I started at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland. I am the newest adjunct reference librarian, on contract until June 30th (with hopes, of course, to extend that each semester, indefinitely). I am so happy to be where I am. After one day of training I already feel like a part of the camaraderie of the library staff, and cannot wait to get to work on my various responsibilities.

Being a librarian at a university means that I should add the ALA division ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) to my list of ALA division memberships. I totally buy into the importance of joining your professional association and all of its appropriate divisions and associations. Why?? Because where else will you find a large number (approx. 62,000) of equally enthusiastic folks that do your same job? Who else will support your mission, answer your questions, give you feedback, and help you be the best professional you can be? I love ALA and am so proud to be a member.

I am especially excited right now because I will be spending the last week of June in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am stoked!! I lived in Slidell, LA for 2 years, and fondly remember the Audubon Zoo (I met Captain Planet!), the French Quarter, Mardi Gras parades, visiting my dad on the military base, and even the not so good things like a successful operation at Tulane Medical Center, fights with my sister, and unsuccessfully trying out the nickname “Al”, (thankfully that never caught on). Therefore, I could not be more happy about going back. And even better, I’ll be spending an entire week there, the first three days of which will be with my sister’s family and my boyfriend. Amanda and I are so excited to show our men-folk the beautiful place we used to live.

Back to the blog…okay, I’m back! This time with a slightly new slant: university libraries. But no worries, I am still a YALSA member, and still love posting more about my personal self than my professional one. 🙂

Back in June I blogged about a library drop-box defiler who shoved mayonnaise into the drop-box, ruining a number of items. My sister likened the situation to kicking a kitten. Sadly, today those two horrible situations combined in a news story that reported the death of a grey tabby kitten who, on July 22nd, was put into a library’s drop-box and not found until the next morning. Today the little guy succumbed to him injuries of “severe dehydration, diarrhea, and a respiratory infection”. Here is the kitty, with his “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” look:

So sad. :(… Poor defenseless kitty. I mean, even if he was put into the drop box because the owner wanted him to go somewhere warm and safe, uhh, did they not consider the fact that BOOKS would be DROPPED on him? In a BOOK DROP? Just saying.

So my cousin Jeremy is a sales manager in the Marketing Department for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and is in town for a training conference. So my parents, sister’s family and my boyfriend met him for lunch in Old Town Alexandria at Chadwick’s. Their onion rings were fabulous and my nephew devoured his mac and cheese. The boyfriend said he would have preferred the “Heart Attack” burger to his sensible Monterrey chicken wrap. But I told him that if I had witness him eating the 10 oz burger topped with a friend egg, fried onions, bacon, and mayo, then we would have gone on a four mile walk around the lake near his house upon returning home for the evening. Come on ,really, gross!!

And here is a list of the Top 10 Most Bizarre Travel Guides. If you are in the market for a cemetery plot in California, you may find one of the books on this list useful.

That’s like kicking a kitten!!

Sometimes people do or say things that leave you scratching your head. Not because you aren’t as clever as they are and therefore don’t know how to respond, but because it just doesn’t quite sound…right. Something is amiss. It’s unbelievable. It’s…dammit it’s just wrong.

And that is the reaction I got from my sister today when I told her that I was reading an article about a woman who dumped an open jar of mayonnaise into an overnight book drop. (Did I mention that she is 74 years old? The mayo miscreant, not my sister.) So Amanda, my sister, was quiet for a second (very, very rare thing for her) and she said, “I don’t believe you.” To which I responded with the first paragraph of the article and a list of destructive food items the woman had previously “returned” in the book drop, including corn syrup and ketchup. (In case you were wondering, those are not good for books. Stickiness aside, it ruins the glue that binds the book.) Amanda said, “WhY?! Why would someone do that?? It’s like walking up to an innocent kitten and kicking it!” *sniff* *sniff* I couldn’t agree more…

Which got me thinking…what could possibly have made this woman SO mad that she wanted to ruin books. She could have a vendetta against the library for not hiring her, for charging her for books she “SWEAR!” she returned (yeah, sure…), or for shelving books she deems inappropriate.
Or the branch manager is sleeping with her husband.
Or the young page always flirts with her husband.
Or something else to do with her husband, thanks to the insecurities her mother inflicted upon her growing up.
Basically, it’s all bull-honky. Aside from being insane (which isn’t so much a reason as it is an excuse that I will look past, as long as you get the help you need) there is no reason to destroy things that don’t belong to you. I have never vandalized, have never dog-eared or highlighted in a library book, have never even stuck gum on the wooden posts while waiting in a long line at an amusement park. Heck, I even pick up other people’s trash off the sidewalk. I’m like the anti-vandalizer! So why do people trash, take, or tease that which is not theirs?

Lets move this into something a little heavier. Life. I just finished reading Chris Crutcher’s Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. A story in which the protagonist’s best friend is vandalized by her own father. She is destroyed, burned beyond recognition, and tortured on a daily basis. She grows into a strong, clever teenager, but is reminded daily, by her father and schoolmates, that she will never amount to anything because of the way she looks. The book moved me, as Crutcher is so skilled at doing. But, as he is also very apt to do, he gives his readers hope. Sarah Byrnes is psychologically and physically beaten down, but she fights back because of the strength she gets from her only friend, and that friend’s mentor, coach, and teacher. In her darkest hours she is supported by people who could lose a lot by helping her. Their lives, their livelihoods.

But they do it because it is critical that we, the global “we”, take care of those that need it. We cannot just fight for unborn babies, we cannot just support those who give their all every day, who (seem to) have it all, who are (seemingly) without faults or problems, or those who look like they need our help. No. We need to support every single person, whether living, hurting, happy, dying, alive. We need to encourage, feed, love. Just like a nice plant we bought for our coffee table, we need to nurture those around us, especially the weak and frail. Extra attention, physical and emotional support. Many times they won’t ask for our help. But we need to open our blind eyes and notice the calls for help and the signs of abuse and weakness that we can turn in to signs of hope and happiness and success.

Why I’ll always have a job

I currently work as a graduate assistant at a state university answering reference questions online via email, IM and over the phone. It’s a good gig for an academically-overloaded grad student, because the work is giving me practical experience. What I don’t like is the lack of physical interaction. While I get a “thank you” and a smiley face emot-icon, I don’t get the reassurance I need from the customer to know that I have successfully answered their question. And the online setting tends to make me want to be quick and efficient, whereas if I were with the person F2F, I could read them to see if they wanted a quick answer, or had time for more extensive digging. And this is the problem with online reference.

But I digress. The point of this post is to highlight a wonderful little WaPo article (4/9/2010) from the Campus Overload section titled Got a research paper to write? Friend a librarian. And THIS, my doubting Thomas, is why I will always have a job. Why librarians will always be in need.
…because there will always be students with extensive requests. Eleventh-hour freak outs. “Facts” from Wikipedia that need to be double-checked.

Welcome to the world of academic librarians.

Lebanon Valley College librarian Donna Miller compares online information searching to cooking. Just because you know the kitchen doesn’t mean you can whip up a flawless crème brulée. Miller states, “It’s very easy to conduct awful information searches, yet be quite proficient with technology.” While Millenials (Gen Y, those born mid-70s to today) know a computer better than those of other generations, they don’t necessarily know how to find correct, usable information. As Susan McClintock of Meredith College said, “We want them to understand that research is like being a detective. Just looking is not enough. To solve the case you need to look in the best places for the clues. Then you need to analyze the results to make sure you have solved the case.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is just one of the many reasons why I will always have a job. Why my degree will never expire. And why I love my field of work.