Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Know Thy Database

When I started library school it was all a bit confusing: What is a database, who puts them together, what’s in them, why are there so many different ones, which is the best one, etc. I was so na├»ve and didn’t think of the money involved in such things.

I like to think of an aggregated database as a big box. It is a place for storing information. Or you can imagine it as a filing cabinet. This cabinet could be Ebsco, Infotrac or Thomson Gale, ProQuest or any of the aggregators available out there.

Inside filing cabinet are folders. Imagine folders as individual databases bought by the aggregators. They could be a database of magazines, academic journals, newspaper articles, collection of online books, etc. These folders contain papers in them. These papers contain the information within the databases - the actual article. Does that make sense?

As a librarian, your job is to know what your filing cabinet contains so you can serve your patrons better. Every drawer in the filing cabinet could be a different aggregator. To makes things more interesting your organization might have various ways in which you can access these cabinets. Choose the best one for the question thrown at you and you will have a good day!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Gum Chewers at the Frontline

I am not a gum chewer. Even as a teen I don’t remember chewing gum under peer pressure – mostly because it caused me headaches. All that chewing!

I look around me and see that many here like to chew gum, including adults. I am not against that. Who am I tell you not to chew gum? But I do not like it when I have to deal with someone who is talking to me while chewing gum. Should people at the front line be chewing gum? Chew it during your break, lunch time, on your way home, at home….anywhere you like but at work – especially when you are dealing with customers.

I was so intrigued by people chewing gum non-stop that I decided to look for information about it. Just Googling found me a few results.

Here is one that claims gum chewing increases memory. Hmmm…!! Had I known I would have chewed some gum before every exam!

Here is another one: this is my favourite. This is a gum that enhances breasts! Vow ladies! Forget surgery! Just buy some gum!

It is funny, but this is a big industry. Companies are not only coming up with different kinds and flavors of gum, but are also working on gum cleaners – products that use enzymes to break down the chemical structure of chewing gum so they can be removed easily from hair, clothes or anywhere you stick them. Environmental Health Perspectives (Oct 2005): p.A663(1)

There was another article (I forget where), that talked about new moms chewing gums for the first couple of years, so they don’t pass on dental caries to their newborns.

With all this encouraging news (!) and more to come (from the gum industry) I guess no one will stop chewing gum for a while!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Five Reasons Why I Went to Library School

  1. I have had many other jobs. One of them was at a bank. Believe me, people and money simply don’t go together. It is as if a monster gets a hold of them when they come into the bank. Why? They have been charged a fee. They lost a draft and the bank tells them to try and find it. The bank tells them to use online services if they want free transactions. The list goes on and on.
  2. I was also teaching at a college. I had 120 students in each of my classes. My voice doesn’t carry well in a large room with that many students and there was no microphone. And can you imagine the paper corrections!
  3. I accidentally found a paging position and happened to like not only being in a library but also my co-workers. They were so polite and seemed to know, understand and be curious about people from other cultures, unlike my bank co-workers who thought I was from another planet and had to be dealt with very sensitively or not.
  4. The above accidental job, lead me to other jobs, also in libraries. I realized I liked all the libraries I worked at: public, college and University. This is where I belong.
  5. By now I have had 7-8 years experience of working at libraries. I had been trying to go to library school but we seemed to always move to a state or city that didn’t have library school. Finally it happened. I got into a well-known university after a bit of a fight with them. And here I am - a virtual reference librarian. And to think this happened within two years of my graduation! I will call it luck!

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I have joined Sylvia Coates's indexing course. I have wanted to do this for the last 3 years -since I took an indexing class at library school in 2005. I felt that I was a natural at this (not that anyone has confirmed it) and decided then that I should pursue it further. Since our Canadian rates are now higher than U.S. rates I took this opportunity.

I am about halfway through the course and maybe it is too early to say I am doing alright. I am learning along with my other virtual classmates that there is much to it than just being a natural. The business side of it is a bit apprehensive, but hey! everything comes with practice. I just need to remember that when it is business, there are legal issues involved and follow instructions carefully with publishers. If I get stuck there is always the listeserves to go to and find an answer. Let me tell you, indexers are pretty good at helping each other. They help you with software issues, finding proper wording, and finding some work. Hmmmm! I guess I should make some indexing friends.

I think librarians will find it interesting to index a book. We read many books anyway why not make some money out of it. I think I will give it a try!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I am ready for the future library. Are you?

Thode library at McMaster is renovating. All that is old is being gutted or moved to make room for new.

Personally, I am ready for a library with diner-style booths and oversized ottomans. I am ready to face print vs. electronic challenge. We know that the younger generation is looking for more and more electronic ways of finding information and communicating them. If we don't meet their needs, there will be no point in having a library.

I work at a wonderful library and yet completely understand when patrons get frustrated that we do not fulfill their needs: no downloading previleges, adobe doesn't really work on our old computers and modern saving technology such as USB sticks and even CD's are not an option yet. But we are heading into the future slowy and surely.

What use would we be of, as libraries, if we didn't cope with changes and go into the future with our patrons? What was it S.R. Ranganathan said - Books are for use! Yes. There weren't online resources in his days or he would have said online resources are also for use.

Let's change! Library is indeed a growing organism. Let's grow with it and embrace all that is changing.

Click here for more on H.G. Thode's Library of Science and Engineering at McMasters.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What about my genealogy?

CBC’s Who Do You Think You Are has brought a lot of attention to genealogy. People in my library and I am sure all over Canada are logging into and turning to their local libraries for help to trace their ancestry. VPL has a pamphlet called Explore Your Chinese-Canadian Roots available at and an information sheet on Indo-Canadian History. Being an Indo-Canadian myself I have always wondered about researching in this area. I know that none of my folks came to Canada but they did go to other places. I am sure it would be thrilling to find out about ones’ forefathers and point ones' place in the family tree.

Are you looking for more information? Your local library should have the databases and print sources necessary. Look for these databases:

1. Ancestry Library Edition

2. Biography and Genealogy Master Index

Other Sources:

• Marriage records
• birth records
• death records (obituary index)
• Census
• Immigration and Citizenship records

A good blog to refer to on genealogy:

Friday, October 05, 2007 has revamped its appearance

Tweaking, tweaking and more tweaking!, a site produced by Amazon has revamped its appearnce. There are two choices in its search box - the OpenSearch and Product Search. OpenSearch has results from According to their website "OpenSearch is a set of simple formats for the sharing of search results" which means OpenSearch is an aggregator that searches many sites at once. I would like to know (I am not a techie) how that is different from other search engines that search many sites at once - such as Google.

Their Product Search searches amazon sites worldwide. Convenient!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Library Science Degree Online

Recently Dr. Ken Haycock came to Regina to give a presentation on San Jose's fully accredited online MLIS program. Unfortunately I couldn't attend this presentation. Here is the website if you would like to pursue this further:

I also did a google search and found this information

Just make sure you find an MLIS program that is fully accredited by ALA if you are going to work in North America.

When I was looking for such help there weren't any schools offering a fully online MLIS. Hybrid classes were available. This will be useful to many living in States and provinces that do not have an MLIS program in their region. Hope we have more librarians in the future! Hurray!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Oh Behave!

There are certain things to remember when you are in public or are dealing largely with public. Not everyone who comes in is clean.

Kids sneeze on their hands and pick up their library card with the same hand and pass it to you. Understandable! They are just kids! But it is gross when adults do it. They lick their finger so they can manage paper easily and then you get to touch it. They sneeze on their clothes and the books they want to borrow and then you get to handle it. Some don’t even pretend to wipe their hands.

It is really awful when a parent decides he/she cannot possibly take the time to take her child in diapers that absolutely needs a change to the washroom. They are too busy browsing – their life must depend on it. I love working with the public but I do not want to smell dirty diapers – No thank you!

On the other hand you have some with heavy perfumes or body lotions you just want to faint.

Hey public! you wouldn’t like it if a staff looked dirty or smelt strongly of anything. Please be kind to us too. We handle a lot of you in any given day.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Patrons who make your day

Depending on whether you work in a public library, school library, college or University library your day could be made or ruined by patrons. In an educational setting usually students are well behaved. They don't get annoyed that you don't carry an item they need right now. They just wallow in disappointment and walk away unhappy. But in a public library setting, quite often if not always, patrons demand help. It is their tax money that keeps us running and pays our bills. There is a sense of "You owe me."

Once in a while you are lucky to have a wonderful patron come by just to make your day. I served a patron who was in her late 70s. I wish I could be half as active as her when I am her age. She was in to find about books on water color. She was taking courses on this subject. She also mentioned she has come to the library in her scooter. She just bought one and has learnt how to drive. Is she amazing or what?

I have a lot of ideas as to what I would do when I retire. Will I really be as practical as this lady whom I just met? Or is it just going to be ideas in the back of my mind.

Hats off to you lady and people like you who thrive on being active and learning new things.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fragrant Flowers

Of all the flowers I have known, smelt and adorned my hair with I am very partial to Jasmine. I love all kinds of Jasmine. Oh! If you are wondering what a librarian has to do with Jasmine, I am just testing my site to see how I can upload pictures.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ask’s Unified Search Engine: A Three Pane Approach’s AskX has a three pane approach. I searched for something simple like “Zebra” and had a three pane result. Unlike Google, which has one search box and multiple results displayed in the result page, AskX which also has a box search displays its results in three different panes.

The right hand pane has the search box along with options to narrow or expand your search term.

The centre pane has your results. The sponsored had a place as well. In fact they are displayed on the top and bottom, just in case you miss it.

The left hand pane has something other than just websites. These include, images, information from Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, etc.

For images, one can also click the left hand pane option, just above the search box. This displays your images in the centre pane.

This is efficient vertical search approach. Users are educated by showing them how else they could search with the narrow and expand options.

Google has been around for a while but I still find myself showing users to use the images option if they want just pictures. Google also has vertical search options available through Google Co-op. Unlike with Google, the user doesn’t have to create an engine with a list of websites to do a vertical search. AskX automatically narrows or expands the search for the user with its three panes.

The three pane approach is simpler and efficient as the user can see all the options at once. The interface looks good and uncluttered despite so much information on the screen.

I haven’t played with My Stuff yet. Registration is required. Maybe that’ll be my next blog.

Try a search at

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Flying Librarian

In December I traveled back to Canada from India. It was a long trip and we had five hops. Somewhere along the way we lost two of our baggage and didn’t know about it until we reached Toronto. And we had one more hop to make. We were flying Air Canada from Frankfurt.

We got home and got one of the baggage sent back to us after almost a week. The second one – no body knew of its whereabouts. All I had was the 1-800 number given to me by Air Canada. Much to my astonishment that number took me back to India. If you didn’t already know, India is now famous for its call centres. Young men and women who can speak English are hired and trained to speak in American accents. These poor souls don’t have a clue where any luggage is. They look at almost the same computer screen that I look at from my computer in Canada and tell me they don’t know where my luggage is. Well, I can tell that myself.

I get in touch with people, people who are important in the airline industry to find my luggage. Lucky for me I knew people who knew people. One of these people from India tells me they found a baggage matching my description and details of contents and that it is at Frankfurt Airport. I had some peculiar things and I knew right away that it was my bag. How many would people carry a gold/black saree and a rice grinder in a black bag? Now I was all excited that something was known of my luggage. But do you think I could get Air Canada to get it over for me?

I called the number in India and explained it to them. I was very patient although it had now been over a month since I last saw my bag. They kept asking me to call them next week. Why? I don’t think even they knew the answer. I tried all the numbers listed on the Air Canada website and couldn’t get through to anyone. When I finally did, he transferred me back to the 1-800 number. He did so even after I asked him not to put me through to that number. I specifically asked to speak to a person to whom I could explain that I have found my bag and all they need to do is just bring it to me.

It was February and I still hadn’t been able to find my luggage that I imagined was sitting in a room crowded with all the other lost bags. It was frustrating that Air Canada didn’t do anything about finding my bag. It was even more frustrating that even after I found it, they wouldn’t do anything to reunite me with my bag. Trust me, those call centre gals and boys were wasting my time. Or they just loved hearing my angry voice week after week.

Remember I said I knew people. I called one of those people who worked for Air Canada itself in Canada and pleaded with him to do something. All he had to do was make one phone call. My bag found its way home in two days. We were happy to find each other. I can grind all the rice I want to make my Dosas and wear my gold/black saree.

Once emotionally stable, I couldn’t stop thinking how chaotic this whole experience was. Being a librarian I am fairly organized. I don’t think anyone in Air Canada or at least in the call centre knew how to handle my request. They were not trained to expect unusual situations - such as what to do when a customer says they have found their own luggage. If Air Canada has a library, I really hope it is not as chaotic as their luggage handling department.

All is fine when your luggage leaves and arrives with you. But if you loose it then I wish you Good Luck. You’ll certainly need it. For, as my friend in Air Canada tells me, luggage gets auctioned off after a while and you will see no trace of it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Welcome to my Search Box

I have just come back from a short but wonderful holiday in India. Unfortunately I couldn’t get much done other than visiting family and friends. I would have loved to visit some libraries in Chennai, which is where I was staying most of the time.

I did visit Higginbothams, a well-known Chennai book store. It is one of the oldest bookstores in the city (1844). For information on this please check out this site:

Being a public librarian, I shopped here for books on Mehndi, embroidery, etc. so I can have some young adult programs at my branch.

On getting back to Canada, I have been trying to survive a snowstorm, get over the fact that my airline has lost a bag and has no knowledge of its whereabouts and find time to write. One of my achievements in January has been trying to find a way to add a search box in my blog. After hours of work (I don’t have html knowledge), I managed to do what I wanted.

Before adding a search box, I created a search roll using Rollyo. I wanted to create a search for librarians who are on the look out for jobs in the library field from all around the world. I added as many Web sites as I could find that have information on library jobs. Remember this is only a trial. Please feel free to use this search box and send me your comments. If you know of any important Web sites that will be useful for this search, do let me know about them.

I am also working on adding another search box using Google co-op in the future. So keep checking this blog.