Thursday, December 29, 2005

Technology - boon or bane?

Technology! Technology! Technology!

Many librarians have groaned about the encroachment of technology into their lives and I even had classmates asking why on earth we should learn about Access and Power Point in library school. We were told that if we didn’t want to miss the bus we better learn technology – at least some of it.

It is not just the ubiquitous computers that constitute technology in libraries. There are intricate databases, electronic libraries and quite recently RFID tags. Not many patrons know of RFID tags. But in the library community there were questions of privacy. It is not just libraries that use RFID, so does Walmart and the Defense Department of U.S.

RFID is popular in the medical community as well. The medical community claims that RFID chips will help them monitor their patients. Every technology, of course, is introduced to the larger community with a promise that it is going to better their lives. Only time can tell if these claims are true.

While it looks like RFID is being embraced by giants like Walmart, a Japanese library has come up with a plan to make users’ lives easier too. You don’t need to carry a library card, just use your palm. This is of course not a very new idea. It has been suggested before in the name of “Smart Card” by Kenneth Dowlin in his “Libraries and the future.”

Click here for details on Japanese palm-vein security system:

This system offers a higher level security system, claims Fujitsu Ltd. the system vendor. So I guess the choice now for users is whether they want a chip inserted into their fatty tissues below the triceps or to have their palm veins recorded with an infrared light. I understand safety precautions are important especially in the wake of 9/11 and that once you have one kind of technology it is only natural that it will lead to another. Yet all this sounds too high tech. Really! is all this technology boon or bane?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Does Internet make us Illiterates?

This is an interesting article written by Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington. I agree that all this internet, digital, online, electronic – whatever one might choose to call the new media –information has made (or at least it seems so) the younger generation lazy. While librarians and to some extent publishers are thinking of making users’ lives easier in their search for information by providing electronic access, the same electronic community is also forgetting that evaluating the information they find is a crucial step. Librarian and teachers have tried to reiterate this in their instruction modules. But it doesn’t seem to spread to all levels of students.

Also with internet users, including myself, browse. Browsing is not the same as reading. Quite often I only read the headlines and don’t go any further. This along with the fact that users are not evaluating their information will no doubt lead to an illiterate society. But, I do not agree with Naomi when she asks “will effortless random access erode our collective respect for writing as a logical, linear process?” There are many cases where the process of writing is being abused through wikis, blogs and personal websites. But this has also given students and the public in general a chance to explore the art of writing. Writing comes with practice and it helps when someone passes along a positive or constructive criticism. I understand that unfortunately not much of that goes around either. Teachers in school can help with this problem. If children learn at a young age about the etiquettes of writing, our future blogs, wikis and many other nameless softwares that are yet to come will be of better quality. As she mentioned Cliff Notes and Reader’s Digest have been around for a while and yet there was a user community that took the time to read the primary texts. Some one encouraged this – a teacher, a parent or a librarian. We have to continue doing this. This is asking too much, but it would be nice if we can forget the economy for a while and concentrate on issues that will really better our lives in future – helping form a truly literate society.

New media always come with new set of problems. It will take some time and effort from all of us to fix these problems.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Art of Preparing For an Interview

Having attended a few interviews since I finished library school I thought I would share my experiences by tell you a thing or two to look for when you go to an interview.

First important thing is being called for an interview. If you get a call asking you to come for an interview you have done something right. Keep up the good work on those cover letters.

As part of the preparation for the interview read the job description carefully. Prepare for everything expected in that. Some of it might be in fine print. If the job description needs you to update their religious section, then learn of some important sources you might use to update such a section.

•Think of a few indispensable reference sources in the area.
•Think of a couple of names – famous authors who have published or written about this area.
•Think of publishers whose books you would buy for this area.
•Think of how you would go about collection development and management for this area – look at other libraries that are similar in size.
•Of course if you are preparing for Government Documents librarian position, know what is happening in the local, provincial and federal governments at the given time.

Sources such as IPL, LII, will prove useful. Know something about collection development. If you are expected to catalog some documents, go back to your notes and see what important concepts you need to remember while cataloging – principles, standards.

Keep up on library news from associations such as ALA, YALSA, CLA, MLA --depending on the position you are applying for.

All these are apart from the regular preparation about your strengths, weaknesses, and why you are interested in working for this library. Don’t forget to prepare for situational questions. Also come up with examples of what you did and what you would like to do different in a given situation.

More to come,

What to do after library school?

I finished library school in July 2005 and since then have moved to a different province. I took my time settling in and it was an adjustment for the family even though we were familiar with this province. (We lived here before). Once we settled I started to look around and apply for jobs. I am, of course, looking for the perfect job and haven’t found one yet.

The perfect job would only require me to work 9 – 5, no evenings and no weekends. Such a job, I have not found yet. It has been four months. I have had three interviews and was encouraged by people high in the hierarchy to apply to their institution again. Good comments were circulated among librarians about me but we are all waiting – me and the librarians – for the best position that would suit me: A position that would require an MLIS degree and no previous librarian experience. Good luck.

I do not like to get bored. So I decided to do other things that would entertain me as well as augment my resume for the next application I send in. I thought I should share this with my readers so you can get some ideas as to what to do while waiting for a job.

Here is what I did:

I wrote two papers – one of which has been accepted for publication and another being read. This was indeed my first attempt at writing for publication. Not only is it good to have published a paper or two to show that you are really interested in this field, it is also enlightening and it helped me catch up on many things I couldn’t possibly read while still at school.

I was fortunate enough to have been offered indexing work by a National Museum in Vancouver. I volunteered to index their newsletters. That occupies most of my time. Find something that is related to the library field, even if it means volunteering.

I also found an interesting online course being offered by ALA/ACRL and decided to join. This is something employers look for. Continuing Education shows them you are committed.

The World Digital Library

It was clear from the start of the internet era that such a thing as World Digital Library was going to be a possibility. While the idea of a digital library intrigues me, it also pains me to see that this is yet another digitization project. I agree we need information which human minds can process and convert to knowledge and then gain wisdom. But are digitized materials alone enough of information?

In a fast world where everything is electronic, it does make sense for libraries to take this route. After all, the users’ convenience is very important to take into consideration while providing library services: as S.R. Ranganathan said, “Save the time of the Reader.” It would be wonderful to have information at the tip of the fingers, regardless of where one lives assuming one has access to all that is necessary.

Obviously bombarding the entire population of the globe with information alone will not be enough. They need to be educated on what is reliable information – evaluate information for its authority, currency and all those things we learnt in library school. Mary Parker Follet called community a creative process. I tend to think of a library as a community as well as an information house. It is here that people come together. And I am sure, that by ‘creating’ Mary Follet meant more than just digitizing books. She was probably talking about creating an individual, creating a society that will create ideas and creating a generation that can think for itself. In this era of globalization it is important to be aware of such a thing as democracy. I can only hope that the idea of a World Digital Library will accomplish this and not just present us with a load of digitized material.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Google Print changed its name to Google Book

The reason for this, as stated in search engine is “Well, one factor was all the comments we got about how excited people were that Google Print would help them print out their documents, or web pages they visit -- which of course it won't.” Sure we have patrons at the library who use the wrong terms and confuse library staff and librarians alike – ‘reserve,’ and ‘hold’ are constantly used interchangeably, they say computer instead of catalog or (OPAC), etc. But, really! Is there a generation growing out there that doesn’t understand what else ‘print’ could mean? I suppose I should not be too surprised. This is probably the same generation that is being fed Hamlet in a mobile phone “to make great literature more accessible.” ( I understand and I think even most die hard book fans are trying to understand that the younger generation loves its gadgets – the move to digital environment, electronic libraries – e-books and e-journals, computer games, etc. And then there is pod casting, vodcasting, blogging, emailing and many more to come which means, hey! these kids don’t have to meet or talk to each other in person at all. They can just live in a room full of gadgets and learn their literature, do their shopping, meet their future partners and do just about everything on line. Who needs a community anymore? Is it really Woe un2mnkind? This simplification of literature does not only make great literature more accessible but also dilutes it. But I am just a librarian. What do I know about literature?