Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reading and Reviewing

Ask a librarian what they like to do and most often you will hear the word “read.” I cannot imagine a librarian who doesn’t like reading. What they like to read may and will differ. Some like to read fiction and others like non-fiction. Then there are genres or subjects to choose from. Many like me will read from all genres just to keep up-to-date.

I like reading non-fiction and just finished LONDONISTAN by Melanie Phillips. Being a first generation immigrant myself this was a scary book to read. But I am not writing about politics so I won’t go into any details about this book. It is probably this love of reading that helps librarians in their day–to-day job. They know of books, read some of them (of course the perception is that they have read every book in the building), order them for their library and will easily put together a book list for readers. There will be help from Novelist too.

Reviewing a book is a different area altogether. I have, so far, reviewed two good books. The first was a young adult fiction and the second was young adult non-fiction – a biography at that. I am reading the third one right now. In my experience, reviewing a fiction is not as hard as reviewing a non-fiction. One likes the style of fiction or doesn’t, one finds it believable or doesn’t. Characters are real or aren’t. The research that has gone into the book is also something to consider while reviewing books. If the book is set in Victorian Era and the kids are talking about Jimmy Neutron, then something is wrong here.

While reviewing the biography I read the book and then read biographies written by other authors. I will admit I don’t read every book (that I read for reference) cover to cover. I would highlight important dates and events, just to ensure that all stated facts in a biography are correct. But since it is a young adult book the author might have decided to keep it short and sweet. How many young adults want to read a 500 page biography? Besides, if they are doing any homework on this person they would have to read more than one book anyway.

So my point is? Obviously I enjoy reading and reviewing books. If you like reading, why not review a book too? It makes you read the book more thoroughly – concentrating on the plot, character development and in case of a biography historically important events, dates and real-life personalities. And your review helps others decide whether or not they want to read this book. And you have one more thing to add to your resume.

Make reading enjoyable.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Trust

It is amazing how much trust is entrusted in one who is a “librarian.” And all this trust, without ever actually testing the person to confirm his/her abilities in performing the given task. For me, all this is working well.

In my library, I have been trusted to teach “advanced level computer classes” on a one-on-one basis. What do I know about programming and hardware technology? Not much. I powerpoint presented to death in library school. I have taken other computer classes before and after library school. Some were self-taught.

But I am not teaching programming. People call us at the branch and ask for help with powerpoint, Excel, using their laptop or anything in Microsoft Office. I can do that. I am the only one at my branch willing to teach at such “high” level. Many of the students are seniors and they are glad that some one will sit with them patiently for an hour and answer their questions. Some are already comfortable using a computer and just want to know how to use a certain program – for their church or community organization. Others want to know how they can communicate with their children in other provinces or countries through email. I find it a delight to teach as I have done this before, long ago in my life. And it is mighty encouraging to receive good evaluation/reviews from your students.

I don’t have a designed lesson plan as the lessons and the knowledge base of students differ from week to week. I go in knowing what I know and adjust my style based on the individual. That is what the students find helpful. I follow the pace of my students.

I would like to know from my blog readers, if there are any other libraries teaching such lessons. What works for you and what doesn’t?

Monday, June 12, 2006

My Latest Job

To those of you following this blog, I apologize for not updating it. I have an excuse and a good one. I have found a full-time job.

I didn’t think it would happen so soon but I have found a job that is permanent, offers vacation time and pay and other benefits. It also offers me challenges :

 I collect Adult and Young Adult Hardcovers – Fiction and Non-Fiction. Now that is major challenge for one has to follow the collection development guidelines of the institution and watch the huge budget. As I work at one of the seven branches, the collection management is also a team effort.
 I manage 14 pages:
o I do their time sheets every 15 days so they can get paid on time
o I make up their monthly work schedules
o Answer day-to-day question
o Solve everyday issues such as absences, shift-trades, shelving procedures, etc.
 I do displays at the branch. In April I did a gardening display and increased the gardening books circulation. As June has Aboriginal and Multicultural Day in Canada, I have arranged for display of materials in those two areas.
 I plan, organize and conduct programs for young adults
 I go to schools and talk to them about our programs
 I work with the childrens’ librarian and the branch manager in solving staff problems, branch issues and arrange programming schedules
 I am on desk 15 hours a week, helping patrons and keeping in touch with the clientele that comes to this branch

Since there are so many different responsibilities in this position I haven’t fallen into a rut yet. I like being a manager and enjoy working with people. I am creative and love coming up with program ideas for young adults. I have to wait and see if they love them too.

What this job lacks for me is being able to find answers to challenging reference questions raised by patrons. I have not been able to get much of that. Most questions are about fiction authors and books. It is also interesting to note that not many public library patrons are into databases. At least, not in my branch anyway. I know our Main Library is very busy answering reference questions.

Well, I guess I can’t have it all. Or perhaps, not all at once. Patience!!!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Library Corps

Now there is an idea. Let’s forget about the younger generation that has finally figured out what they want to do with their lives and decided to go to library school. Let’s forget that they need to find their niche in the field – whether they want to be in public, school, academic or any other kind of library. Let’s forget their talent and bring in people who want to retire. That will certainly boost the economy and boost confidence in those currently in school.

Leslie Burger, the ALA President-elect is worried that the retiring librarians will take away a wealth of knowledge and experience with them. I do understand her concern but that is the way things work in any field. Also, somehow this doesn’t sound like trying to keep the wealth of knowledge, but more like trying to get free workers for libraries. Those librarians who want to continue to work will volunteer themselves. So instead of working on a proposal for trying to get them back, how about recruiting fresh graduates and getting them trained on the job while the older librarians are still working. Wouldn’t that be a better idea? New and old knowledge combined with experience will only enhance librarians’ capabilities and the libraries’ performance levels.

This problem only makes me want to go to the root of the problem. I feel library schools should recruit more carefully and stop churning so many librarians every year. They should screen the students who enter – for their interest and their knowledge in this field. Library schools need to encourage more practicum experience – how about a requirement of working in at least 3 different libraries (for practicum) that the student might be interested in. I am only speaking from my experience here and I would have liked to explore more possibilities and gotten more training from my library school. I know school cannot teach us everything, but it certainly do more than it did for me.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Continuation of the Art of Preparing for an Interview

Is this your first interview at a library? Are you at a loss? Do you have no idea what to prepare for? Here are some questions that you might find helpful to keep in mind while you prepare for your interview. Dress appropariately, be confident and good luck!

1. What motivates you?

2. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?

3. Think about creativity as a continuum. Do you consider yourself an adaptor or an innovator? Why? Can you give me an example?

4. Are you more comfortable dealing with concrete, tangible or abstract, conceptual issues?

5. How much of a risk-taker are you? Describe a situation where taking a risk paid off, for you or for your employer?

6. How assertive are you?

7. What makes you stand out among your peers?

8. How would your friends describe you?

9. What sorts of organizational changes have you found hardest to accept?

10. How would you balance the expectations that our organization has of you participating in out-of-system committees and organizations and your private life?

11. How do you deal with needy people?

12. Describe the most difficult person you’ve had to work with.

13. Think of a particular instance with that person and tell me how the outcome could have been different.

14. How would you describe your learning ability?

15. How would you describe your teaching or training style? How easily can you adapt to the learner’s style?

16. What experience have you had with facilitating?

17. Describe your experience with strategic planning.

18. Would you use the same approach today?

19. How would you describe your negotiation skills?

20. How do you prefer to organize your time?

21. How do you set priorities? How flexible is your priority list?

22. If, at the end of the day, you had not accomplished all you intended to, what would you say or do?

23. How well do you multi-track?

24. How do you handle interruptions? How easy is it for you to get back into what you were doing?

25. Do long-term projects get boring?

26. Can you thrive in stressful situations? Against tight deadlines? When you have competing priorities or too many balls in the air?

27. How independently can you work?

28. What makes a good team?

29. How easily can you become part of a team? What role do you tend to take on a team?

30. What makes a meeting successful?

31. How would you describe your management philosophy and style?

32. Would previous employers or staff agree with this assessment?

33. How would you describe your decision-making approach? Are you decisive? Quick? Thorough? Intuitive or purely fact-based? Solo?

34. Tell me about a difficult or challenging decision you made recently.

35. How do you approach supervision and coaching of staff? Do you tend to delegate or direct?

36. How would you describe your problem-analysis skills and style?

37. How would you describe the amount of structure, direction and feedback that you need to excel?

38. What is your philosophy about collection management?

39. Summarize your computer/automation skills.

40. Where do you see libraries in 2015?

41. What made you choose librarianship as a career?

42. What do you view as the advantages for you of joining our team? Disadvantages?

43. Where do you see yourself in 2015?

44. What one reason would you give if I said “Tell me why we should hire you”?

45. When could you start, if we offer you the position?

46. Any questions?

These are some sample interview questions most of which came from a friend who was interviewed by a library system in Alberta, Canada. I would like to thank Linda and Karen Labuik for letting me post these questions here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Learning through vodcasting and podcasting – the good, the bad and the ugly

This is indeed a great idea. It would stay great if this is also open access – for students I mean. Suppose I live in some far away country and go to a University where the professor is about to retire and does not care much about the subject he is teaching, I can always go online to the big North American universities and quench my thirst for knowledge. It would be ideal if the papers they mention in class are also available via Open Access.

But, what about the professors who teach? Are they okay with their lectures being heard in unknown parts of the world? Will they be comfortable teaching or speaking their mind to students when they know someone is watching? Will the government come down on them for expressing their views on religion, politics and what not, every time there is a national disaster? For we all know how 9/11 affected freedom of personal opinions and thoughts and librarians are still trying to work on a perfect Patriot Act.

If Web masters at Universities have a final say in what is broadcast (outside of the University) and what isn’t, doesn’t that make them too powerful. I realize there will be others who have a say in what is allowed for broadcasting openly. Maybe a committee! How will the committee decide? What should the University be afraid of? And for whom? Will they be worried for the professor, the students who learn things from him or for the reputation of the university? Will they be worried about the funds they get, the grants they might not get and the future enrollment of students? Will something discussed in class affect global relationships and international marketing? If for the above fears, professors are told what to or not to talk about in class, doesn’t that affect freedom of expression?

As wonderful as vodcasting and podcasting l sound, I am also apprehensive about it for the above mentioned reasons.

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Got a job! Is it The Job?

I am happy to say I have got a job. Is it The job? Well, what would make a job “the job?”

• Permanency – this is good for you don’t have to start the applying process all over again at the end of your contract
• Vacation pay – oh fantastic! Who wouldn’t want that!
• Vacation time – and lots of it with pay
• Competitive salaries and benefits – no need to say more

I have to say my job doesn’t have any of the above. But there are other things that constitute to the greatness of a job. Those would be:
A good challenge – I am the kind of person who loves this. I don’t like to get into a rut and do the same thing over and over again. I love to learn new things everyday. My job has provided me with good challenges and here are a few
o I am the first librarian hired by this institution – that cannot be easy for a new graduate who has never worked as a librarian
o I drafted a collection development policy
o I wrote goals, visions and missions for the library based on the organizations goals and visions.
o My first month was spent on weeding
o The rest of the collection is being divided into broad subject categories (some categories already existed) and is being given call numbers
o These subject categories are also being color coded or given some kind of spine labels to visually differentiate them from the rest
o I am researching automation and circulation software possibilities for such a small collection as ours
o With the automation/circulation software, I am hoping to get barcodes for our collection
o I am trying to get us library cards – make it all official
o I am in the process of redesigning the website in collaboration with a Web designer who works from Ontario
o My users complained that the way items are “annotated” on the Web site doesn’t make much sense to them as to what is in the book. So I have decided to type up the Table of Contents and display them for each item. Some of our collection, as it is produced by provincial or federal agencies, is available on line. The URL for that is being included on the website, so users can access the information with a click from their homes. This will be an informal digital or electronic library in a way. Or call it Open Access.
Great co-workers – this is really important as it can make or mar your job. I have got them.
Parent organizations’ support – having support from who ever is above you that has the control buttons to have your library running or not is critical. My organizations’ director is willing to hear me out and learn from me what the library should be like. That doesn’t happen very often. She likes my vision for the library and is willing to do things that she possibly can.
Future possibilities – As this is a very young library the possibilities are endless. With some funding help this will be a great library – have ILL, form consortia, digitize our information – oh! the possibilities are exciting.

Don’t go away for too long. I will have more to ramble next time.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Electronic Paper

Here it is….

Here is the book of the future or at least an initial version of it. The one many kids have been waiting for. It is small, portable and easy to read.

I guess this means no more print! Or does it? For years there has been speculation whether print is permanent and many have cautiously suggested that a “paperless dream” might still turn into reality at some point. But it was all a matter of conjecture until now. As S.D. Neill predicted, if “in 2010 the full-scale colonization of space between the earth and the moon will begin” we cannot be hauling around huge print books and reference material. E-Pubs from Sony and similar devices that are yet to come into the market at a more affordable price are the answer?!

I get headaches if I constantly sit at the computer and read. But it could be the age. Maybe I need glasses. But if we can watch TV on our cell phone and read books and do so any time whether you are on a plane, at home or other places I don’t dare to think of right now, with devices such as E-Pubs, I wonder what optometrists might have to say when we go for the annual check-up! After all E-Pub allows for “immersive reading.”

Until I have something more to ramble about,