Archive for February, 2009

ALA Council Passes Resolution Defining Core Competences for Librarianship


Core competences for librarianship were finally defined at the very recent Midwinter Meeting in Denver, where the ALA Council passed the resolution, and this Tuesday, ALA sent out a press release summarizing the resolution and providing links to the core competences site and a pdf. The document defines the basic knowledge to be possessed by all persons graduating from an ALA-accredited master’s program in library and information studies.

The core competences “stress the role of library and information professionals in promoting democratic principles and intellectual freedom, knowing and applying the legal framework guiding libraries and information agencies – including laws relating to copyright, privacy, freedom of expression, equal rights and intellectual property – and identifying and analyzing emerging technologies and innovations.”

I especially enjoyed reading from their press release the “identifying and analyzing emerging technologies and innovations” phrase above myself! ;)

Do take a look at the entire core competences doc for all of the details when you get a moment.

-Robert Lackie

Technorati Tags: ALA, core competences, emerging technologies, librarianship, Library Garden

February 26, 2009 at 8:03 am 4 comments

Addios Críticas, You will be missed…

I was saddened to learn that after eight years, Críticas has ceased publication. The full Title–Críticas: An English Speaker’s Guide to the Latest Spanish-Language Titles– is the best description of the magazine I could produce. It was a published monthly on-line and covered everything—adult titles, children’s titles, books, movies, and audio, fiction and nonfiction. In addition there are articles and editorials covering everything from collection development to outreach and fundraising. Twice a year, print copies were distributed to subscribers of Library Journal. This was my go to resource for keeping up with the Spanish language publishing industry.

The Latino population in my area—actually in all of the U.S. is growing at a significant rate. According to the 2005-2007 American Community Survey three-year estimates, the number of ‘Hispanic or Latino (of any race)’ people increased 24% over the 2000 Census figures, to approximately 14% of the population of the United States. In New Jersey, the increase was approximately 20% over the same time period. More than ever, librarians need tools to assist them in serving Spanish speakers. Reed Business Information, the publisher of Críticas, said there are plans to have this type of coverage in their other publications Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. So far, I have not seen any thing in these publications to reflect that statement. The loss of Críticas will negatively impact my ability to serve my patrons.
This loss is significant, but not surprising. The publishing industry in general has been hurt by the global economic downturn. Rarely a day passes without some news of shut-downs or layoffs at newspapers, publishers, and magazines. At the same time, people are reading more (see the New York Times article for the complete story). Librarians increasingly must rely on vendors for information and reviews. Is this the best model for gathering information? I don’t think so. I prefer my information to come from a more impartial source. That’s not to say that the information publishers provide is bad, it simply means that it must be looked at with a more critical eye.

With niche markets, the loss of even one source is a serious blow to our ability to make informed decisions for our patrons. With English speaking titles, independent reviews are available all over the web. However, similar information is not available to me for foreign language titles because they are generally written in the foreign language! Yes, I want to learn to speak Spanish, but it is a very slow process for me. This is why Críticas was so important.
I don’t have Spanish language collection development responsibilities. I used Críticas to keep up with what is available and what might be popular. To tell a patron who struggles with English that the hot new Stephanie Meyer book is indeed available to them is a big help. By knowing about trends in the industry, I can learn more about the population to whom these books are being marketed. I have learned about authors I didn’t previously know, found interesting non-fiction books on culture and history that were not covered in LJ, and found countless movies I never would have seen had it not been for a review in the magazine. Each of these things helps to bridge the divide that the language barrier creates.
Spanish speakers are not the only non-English speakers in my library. Over 20% of the population of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township—the areas served by my public library—speak a language other than English at home. Of those, approximately 5.2% speak Spanish (10.7 Nationwide), and nearly 6% speak ‘Asian and Pacific Island languages’ (2.7% Nationwide)[1]. Yet there are very few resources for English speaking librarians to learn about titles available in these languages.

When I did collection development of DVDs at Mary Jacobs Library, my foreign population came primarily from India and China. Oh how I wished for a similar publication for these languages! Alas, I could find nothing available in English that would help me to build not only a collection of today’s titles, but one that would help me to build a collection with depth and history. Luckily I had several patrons and coworkers from other branches who helped me with both. Still, I remain woefully ignorant of Indian movies—a topic so large and complex that I could never get completely comfortable with it.
For now I will begin to mine the Críticas web site for all the lists and information that are still available. I have begun to source alternatives (thank you Anna Paola Ferate-Soto for the wonderful wiki and Web Junction for your tips and tools). Likewise, I will continue to look for similar information on movies and literature in Chinese and Hindi. If anyone knows of such resources, please let me know. I would prefer resources that are free or have a very low cost (this is my personal professional development budget). Still, do let me know of strong subscription-based tools as well.
Adios Críticas, you will be missed. To all the people who worked there, I wish you the best and look forward to seeing your bylines elsewhere. I truly hope that Reed Business Information does not abandon this important market. When they have to hire you back, may you all receive huge pay increases and corner offices! You deserve it—for eight years you have provided insight into a world that would have otherwise been unavailable to me. Thank you very much.
[1] All figures are based on the 2000 Census data published via American Fact Finder.

February 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

What Libraries Can Learn from Facebook

A colleague and I were discussing the recent Facebook TOS kerfuffle and she said she was fascinated by how much privacy people are willing to give away in exchange for a desired experience. I agreed that I am equally fascinated, and that it is vitally important for librarians to be on the vanguard of monitoring these trends, and educating our customers as to the possible risks of sharing too much information.

But I also think that librarians, at times, can be too knee-jerk about privacy issues, and I wonder if while looking at one end of the Facebook dustup (big corporation trampling on privacy rights) we might be missing some important lessons on the other end (big corporation letting customers control their own information in exchange for a highly engaging experience. And Facebook DOES give customers a tremendous, leading edge, amount of control. See: “10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.)

We all know that people (myself, and probably you included) will share personal information in exchange for a quality experience. We share personal renting and buying habits in exchange for Netflix and Amazon recommendations. We share personal reading habits on GoodReads and LibraryThing to connect with others who share our interests and tastes. We share our credit card numbers with many online vendors in exchange for the convenience of “one-click” ordering.

We know all this, and we personally experience the benefits, but librarians still seem generally loathe to let our customers share their personal information in exchange for anything. We don’t just protect customer privacy, we paternalistically protect it from the customers themselves, rendering them childlike. Our privacy philosophy often reduces down to, “We know better”, or “You can’t be trusted with that–you’ll hurt yourself.”

Our choice to disallow customer control of their own information means that their needs for connection and social networking go unmet, which in turn creates opportunities for entrepreneurial companies like Library Elf, GoodReads, and LibraryThing (created by frustrated library lovers, I wonder?) to come in and fill those needs. Which is great, but why aren’t libraries creating and offering these experiences?

I worry every day about whether libraries will be relevant, three, five, or ten years from now. Unless we start allowing our customers to make decisions about their own personal data, AND start building systems that offer them a social networked experience based on their ability to selectively share their heretofore private info, I fear that libraries will grow increasingly irrelevant to our customers.

February 19, 2009 at 7:43 pm 13 comments

Stimulating Libraries…

As you know, the Federal Government is spending. Yesterday President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $787 billion stimulus package. According to the President, “It’s an investment that will create jobs building 21st century classrooms, libraries, and labs for millions of children across America.”

Of interest to me is $53.5 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (down from the $79 billion originally proposed). This money is being given to state governments to make-up shortfalls in spending on education and government services. I for one will be sending e-mails to my state representatives asking that they continue to fully fund the NJ Knowledge Initiative and provide some of this money for public libraries in New Jersey. (To find your NJ representatives, this is a really handy site: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp).

For complete breakdown of the package and how it impacts libraries, the ALA has set up a very helpful webpage. I look forward to learning more about the specifics of the package and how it can help my library and my community, as well as all libraries.

February 18, 2009 at 6:10 pm

An Open Letter to Visiting Professionals

Welcome!

Thank you for coming–we love to share our space and are happy to have you here. As in many libraries (and I suspect in yours), we have a policy here that states: No Food or Drink in the Library. We hate to tell our patrons no, but have no choice—this is a sensible policy as food and drink stain furniture and carpets and destroys library materials. In this age of the ubiquitous Starbucks cup, coffee cop is one of the worst parts of our jobs.

We try to enforce the rules fairly, but sometimes we do not see the offense. However, when you approach the public desk with a steaming cup of coffee in your hands, you should expect to be told about the policy. Please do not roll your eyes, sigh, or scowl—as you know, we are on the front-lines and just doing our job. When you follow-up with “I am here for the [Insert meeting name here]“, please understand that is the library equivalent of a celebrity exclaiming ‘Do you know who I am’. It does not change the rule which we are duty bound to enforce fairly.

Please keep this in mind when visiting another library—we understand your desire to have coffee while at your meeting. We understand you are careful and are unlikely to spill. We do not want to tell you no. However, we can not make an exception for you. It is unfair. It makes our job harder. Please do not ask. You see, the other patrons do not know who you are.

Thank you.

February 7, 2009 at 9:25 am 21 comments

Twitiquette: A Short but Helpful guide to Twittering Conference Meetings

Man oh man was there a lot of twittering going on at ALA midwinter. Ain’t it great that so many librarians are using Twitter to shed light on the decision making going on in Committees and let the rest of the organization know — in real time — what’s getting a thumbs up or a thumbs down, who’s arguing for what, and why.

Revolutionary.

As Karen Schneider brilliantly put it, (ALA) “Council may not be interested in transparency, but transparency is interested in Council.” All good. All good.

Since this radical real-time transparency thing is all still kind of new to some of us I thought a short guide on the etiquette of live twittering of committee business might be helpful:

  1. Twittering the real-time decisions of your committee: GOOD

  2. Twittering snide, insulting, remarks about your fellow committee members while they speak: NOT GOOD
  3. Twittering snide, insulting remarks about your fellow committee members while they speak and marking it with #ala09 hash tag to ensure that the widest possible audience sees your comment: REALLY VERY NOT GOOD

Yes, this really happened. No, I’m not naming names. I can tell you this though: My respect for the committee member that was twitter-slagged remains in tact intact. My respect for the slagger is in the toilet and I’m reaching for the handle.

I’m still deciding how (or if) to address what happened. Any suggestions are welcomed.

Photo courtesy of: http://flickr.com/photos/anndouglas/422445833/

February 3, 2009 at 7:36 am 8 comments


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