Archive | March, 2010

Thoughts on This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

29 Mar

Many librarians have already heard of Marilyn Johnson’s This Book is Overdue: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all and despite my end of semester crunch I decided that this title was well worth reading amidst working on my final assignments. This book particularly interested me because of the non-librarian identity of the author. Since starting library school at McGill, all of the reading I have done on librarians and about libraries has been written by librarians or academics in the field of information studies. Marilyn Johnson’s journalistic observations allow a unique perspective on what an “outsider” considers the most interesting aspects of the world of librarianship. Recently I read that librarians should be more concerned about how libraries fit into the lives of their users rather than how users fit into the make-up of the library and I felt that reading Marilyn Johnson’s book would help me to adopt this approach. I read through This Book is Overdue very quickly and my interest and enjoyment varied greatly depending on the content of the chapter. Marilyn Johnson is without a doubt a great storyteller. In her book, she paints a picture of modern librarianship by sharing the individual stories of “modern librarians”. This personal touch is endearing and the reader feels compelled to care about the concerns of the librarians and their attempts to help users to the best of their ability. Probably the coolest part of reading this book was realizing that I already knew a lot of what she was sharing. Although, there were some very interesting stories about librarians who I had never heard of and who are working hard to provide great service to their patrons, I was extremely excited to realize that I knew many of the people that Marilyn was referring to as example librarians. Seeing people who are close to me like Graham Lavender (The Blog People, pp.52-53) and Amy Buckland (Wizards of Odd, p.149) appear in this book on “Librarians who can save us all” totally blew me away! I was enthused at the prospect that not even out of library school and I am obviously already running in circles with the right people (I already knew how cool they were but now their coolness is out there for the world to read about)! Hopefully their awesomeness is rubbing off on me so that I will also be able to “save the world”! Regardless, of whether you are associated with anyone in this book, the fact that it presents librarians in such an optimistic and positive light is such a breath of fresh air. Knowing that library users can see past stereotypes and appreciate the work of librarians is extremely encouraging and I hope that this book will demonstrate to the general public how cool librarians are and, to the librarians who read this book, I hope it will provide motivation that people are paying attention to our dedication and that with the right attitude we can really save people!

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New ABQLA Bulletin featuring Web 2.You report

29 Mar

The new ABQLA Bulletin is now available to download for free from the ABQLA website’s Bulletin page. As Lora Baiocco, one of the editors of the Bulletin, a librarian at Westmount Public Library, and the blogger behind Infinite Digressions affectionately teased me, this edition of the ABQLA Bulletin could be dubbed the “Graham and Amanda” edition. It is true that not only did I write up a summary of the Web 2.You conference (p.12-13)but between the two of us, Graham (Inspired Library School Student) and I appear in five pictures! These pictures are mostly from Web 2.You and the CODE Holiday fundraiser but I think is a testimony to our commitment to being involved in the library community that the editors would grant us so much face space in the Bulletin. The ABQLA offers a great mix of traditional library values and fun innovative events, they are also extremely supportive and encouraging of new librarians and library school students. I am grateful to have been able to get involved in this great association and I can’t wait to attend the 78th Annual ABQLA conference in May on “Libraries as Learning Places”!

Quotable quote on library services for visually-impaired or blind users

23 Mar

I am in the final crunch of my last semester of my MLIS and I am finding really cool information for my research project on library services to users who are visually-impaired or blind. I wanted to share with you this extremely quotable quote from a public librarian in Hamilton.

“Libraries must fully accept that service to disabled persons is a right not a frill. They must become more flexible and willing to redirect resources from existing services to new services for all clients, not just those who can read print.” Beth Hovius, Librarian at the Hamilton Public Library, Ontario, Canada.

Hovius, B. (1996). Serving People with all kinds of disabilities : what has been achieved and what is still necessary. In Massis, B.E. (ed.), Serving Print Disabled Library Patrons. (pp. 48-59). Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland.

Free Internet Access at Public Libraries

17 Mar

People on computers in library

Two things today have provoked my reflection on the importance of the service of free computer and internet access through public libraries. Today in my Information Services and Users class, a group of students presented the topic of serving special populations in libraries. Their presentation highlighted the specialized informational needs of aboriginal persons, prison inmates and the urban poor and how libraries can best serve these user groups. During the presentation, one girl brought to our attention the case of Kevin Barbieux, a homeless man who has been using his public library’s computer to blog at The Homeless Guy since 2007. I knew that the service of library internet access met the various needs of a diverse population, but the thought that this service provides Kevin Barbieux with a forum by which to voice his opinion on issues from public housing to best way to deal with pan handlers completely blows my mind. Public libraries are SO awesome. What better a way to address societal misconceptions and stereotypes than by facilitating a forum for people in the margins of society to communicate issues that matter to them?  Isn’t one of the noblest goals of public librarianship to provide equal opportunities to all? What a fantastic example of this goal in action in the heart of a Nashville library. Hearing about this case and then reading the Homeless Guy’s blog cause my passion and enthusiasm for public libraries to swell.

This enthusiasm that stayed with me all day until I read the article “Industry Minister announces reprieve of library Internet access program” from the Globe and Mail on the recent confusion in Canadian Parliament on whether the Conservative party government would revoke the Internet Service funding provided to public libraries and community centers. In the article, the government seemed ambivalent on the importance of continuing to fund such as program despite its obvious benefits to Canadians nation-wide. I’m not sure how much I believe Industry Minister Tony Clement’s comment that the cessation of the program was all just a misunderstanding. The most irksome quote from the article is “Mr. Clement said the money for libraries and community centres will be ramped down when more Canadians have the opportunity to pay for high-speed Internet at home.” Please tell me Mr. Clement when do you anticipate this miraculous day will come? Although the defenders of Net Neutrality are fighting for equal internet access across the board, it is pretentious to assume that one day high-speed internet at home will be a reality for all citizens. I wonder if Mr Clement is aware of the case of Kevin Barbieux’s Homeless Guy blog. I sincerely doubt that he is aware of this blog or the reality of the many citizens who depend on the free internet service of public libraries and community centers.  How can the Mr. Clement think he can justify the abolition of a program that provides an essential service to people below poverty line who might not even have a home let alone high speed internet access? I am glad to see in the article so much opposition by defenders of community rights. I admit that I only heard of this situation today, but librarians need to be proactive fighting irrational government decisions in order to protect the rights of our users! If we don’t, who will?

Lots of things to think about. I would love to hear your opinions on the matter.</p

MLIS specializations, are they worth it?

13 Mar

Recently a reader of my blog who wants to apply to do an MLIS emailed me with a question regarding the differences between MLIS programs at the different Canadian universities. I am assuming that she is not alone in having these questions so I thought that it might be useful if I posted my response to the Biblioblond blog. This reader was particularly interested in school librarianship and questioned me on the lack of specialization at McGill University for this field of librarianship. She asked whether I thought she should consider MLIS programs like at the University of British Columbia or at the University of Alberta that offer this specialization. Her thoughts and questions sound extremely similar to my own when I began library school two years ago. My ambition when entering library school was to find a job afterwards working for a school board. My previous job experience had allowed me to gain knowledge in children’s literature and I often travelled around Quebec presenting workshops to teachers and pedagogical counselors on the topic of how to integrate literature into their classrooms. Initially I was disappointed at the lack of focus on school librarianship in our MLIS classes at McGill. However, someone explained to me that an explanation of this lack of specialized courses on concepts unique to school librarianship was because the present situation for school librarians in Quebec and other Canadian provinces is currently very difficult. Most librarian positions in schools and at the school board level are for library technicians, this is combined with significant cut backs to school libraries budgets in the past few years. For further infomation, here is a slightly dated yet still discouraging article from the Quill and Quire. Although one wishes that this situation will improve with time, McGill’s program wants to focus on providing instruction that will be preparing students to find professional careers upon graduation.

For these reasons, I strongly encourage potential MLIS students to avoid limiting themselves by doing a specialization in school librarianship. In the case of any type of library, I think that it is better to have a more generalized education and then you can develop your specific interests through work experience and extra readings. The MLIS degree at McGill provides a theoretical foundation to become an information professional in any environment and it is up to the individual to decide where they want this education to take them.

Having said this, I took the class “Children and Youth Services” that is offered at McGill and I absolutely loved this class. It could be applied to both school libraries and children’s sections in public libraries. We discussed the developmental stages of children and youth as well as hot topics like including and defending controversial literature in a children’s collection. This class is usually taught by Leanne Bowler, a wonderful professor who worked as a Children’s librarian for over 15 years and is now a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Furthermore, I have been able to strengthen my knowledge regarding issues pertaining to school librarianship by tailoring various class assignments to meet the needs of high school students. For example, in my Information Literacy class, I developed a 6-week series of workshops on Information Literacy for secondary 4 students. I also designed the proposal for a high school library website in my Web Design class. There are always ways to further develop your interests during these types of assignments. I also have a subscription to School Library Journal

I have enjoyed my education at McGill. The first semester everyone becomes a bit disenchanted with the general required courses but like I said, it provides us with an important foundation on which we can develop our more specific interests. Also, it is important to emphasize that professors are accommodating and for almost all of our assignments we are encouraged to tailor them to the specialized environments in which we hope to find jobs. Sarah Severson, a librarian/archivist at CBC Radio recently told us that while she was at McGill she lamented that the program was too theoretical and that she wished there was more instruction of practical skills. I believe that this opinion is widely shared amongst MLIS students across North America. However, once Sarah began her career, she realized that practical skills were easy to pick on the job, and that she truly appreciated the theoretical background provided by her Masters that gave her a professional edge. I will start my job as a public library director in June, but in the future, I might still work in an academic library, a school library or a special library. I am extremely happy that I have not pigeon-holed myself into one specialization and that my general education will help me adapt to any field of librarianship.

I hope that this helps future MLIS students. Please feel free to add any comments including disagreements with what I’ve said.

Meet Biblioblond, soon-to-be Library Director!

5 Mar

As many of my friends and fellow students already know, last week I accepted the position of interim Library Director at Tracadie-Sheila Public Library in New Brunswick. This excites me for so many reasons. For certain, having a job already secured before graduation is a huge relief. I am someone who likes to have a plan and when faced with uncertainty I can get a bit stressed. So even if the plan is to move to a far-away small town in a province that I have only driven through once on my way to P.E.I., where I will know no one and will have huge responsibilities that I may or may not be prepared for, well at least it’s a plan. I am especially excited because of the position itself. In the end, I called and canceled the two other interviews that I had scheduled for last week. The opportunity to become a library director straight out of library school is thrilling. The interview panel was impressed by my previous experience and I responded to their interview questions to the best of my ability, but it is still overwhelming that they saw potential in me for this position! Since the library is small, I will get to touch on all aspects of librarianship like programming services, collection development, reference, circulation, and library systems as well as being responsible for promoting the library in the community and reporting to the library board. I must admit that the prospect of being a library director excites me so much that I lay awake at night thinking about ideas for cool programming and what my future patrons’ interests will be. I have started to look more seriously through McGill Library ‘s collection for books that will hopefully help me better prepare myself for the challenges ahead such as A Short-cut to Marketing the Library by Zuzana Helinsky. I acknowledge that I cannot learn everything there is to know about being a library director from a book and that is why I cannot wait to get started! Please stay posted for more details!