the user is often right

Aaron Schmidt, Dominican graduate, author of walking paper and librarian at the Thomas Ford Library in Western Springs (they’ve got wi-fi and green lamps and a job opening for a magazine reference person (so head over there and apply!) has an excellent post about being user-centered instead of library-centered. If you’ve taken Reference, you’ve probably noticed that when people talk about doing reference work, they spend a little time on the importance of serving patrons and following RUSA guidelines, but then they spend a lot of time talking about annoying patrons.

If you are excited about the idea of doing reference work, if you believe that everyone has the same right to your assistance, regardless of how strange or kooky or misguided they* seem, if you think that we ought to be looking for ways to make the library more useful to patrons instead of making patrons more accomodating to us, Aaron’s post is encouraging. And if you want to see someone providing that kind of reference service on a daily basis, with compassion, intelligence, and humility, I urge you to become a disciple of the Feel-good Librarian.

*I have decided, at long last, to favor gender neutrality over grammatical accuracy.

news roundup

Two reasons to be glad you don’t live in Oklahoma–although in all fairness, I have a friend who lives there, and the second link shows there at least a few signs of hope. Anyway, I mention this not only to keep you up-to-date on the Dustbowl but also to point out that American Libraries, the in-house organ of the ALA, now has an RSS feed.

Elsewhere in the world of book-burning, a conservative rag has polled a group of “scholars and public policy leaders” on the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries, which I present without further comment. [via Information Wants To Be Free]

Closer to the home front, Dominican is having an event at ALA, although apparently its only for alums. All of us, however, are welcome at the GSLIS Book Group discussion on Tuesday. I have never actually managed to make it to one of these, and I can’t go to this one either, but if anyone does go or has been in the past, drop me a line or post a comment here (to do that, click on the link below that says “0 Comments,” which will take you to a form that will allow you to up that sad number) if you think it’s at all good.

And out in digital library land, Siva Vaidhaynathan (of The Anarchist in the Library fame) is collecting opinions on Google’s various book and library enterprises. Head on over if you want to comment. (I’ve linked to Alane’s note on this at It’s all good; she’ll send you over to, where you can also read a long excerpt of Michael Gorman’s latest tirade [reported on here by the Free Range Librarian].

free beer!

Well, not really, but I do have an opportunity for one lucky winner to get lots of other free stuff. (Interesting sidenote: the world can’t seem to make up its mind about swag and schwag, except that the latter seems to be the prefered stoner term and the former actually shows up in a real dictionary.)

Anyway, if you’re interested in getting some, I have in my possession one free pass to the Exhibits at the ALA conference. It’s sponsored by the National Library of Medicine, so if you want some swag in the sense of trinkets, you could even stop by their booth (#3202) to talk about the potential health effects of schwag in the sense of low-grade pot.

First person to write me at lauracrossett [at] hailmail [dot] net gets the pass.

stuff to do

Now that you’ve learned all about RSS, here’s a list of 15 things RSS can do for you [via LiB]. Also, I just discovered that you can get the Dominican calendar as an RSS feed. They offer two versions of the feed: one for events by week, and the other for “recently added” events, which at the moment seems to mean mostly the sports schedules for next year. I don’t know how useful either of these will be for us GSLISistas, but at least it’s a step in the right direction for the web site.

Speaking of web sites getting a clue, it seems that ALA is planning to get a new content management system, which, it is hoped, will make the web site a lot better. You can read more about what they want in the new CMS in the RFP [.pdf file] [via many folks on the blogroll]


Yes, I have entered the land of meta — blogging about blogging. Or, at least, about some blogging.

If you’re reading this, you have at least some idea of what a blog is. But I’ve noticed in a lot of my classes that when blogs come up there are a fair number of blank faces in the room. Fear not! You too can enter the land of blog-awareness. I was going to compile a nice big post about blogs and RSS and aggregators and so forth — but then I discovered that the indefatigable Jessamyn west, of fame, had beat me to it with her talk Staying Current Using Blogs and RSS. The notes from her talk include numerous links to definitions, tutorials, examples, the works. If you feel a little lost out here in the blogosphere, check it out. And take a look even if you feel like an expert, just so you can see what a fabulous job Jessamyn does of breaking stuff down into understandable units. Okay, I admit, I’m a fan.

But much as I love, it is but one of the blogs I read. As you can see, I’ve added an LIS blogroll over on the right. It contains all of the library-related blogs and feeds that I currently read (or at least skim). It is by no means comprehensive — there are a lot of library-related blogs out there — but it’s a start. I use Bloglines to read all of these and like it pretty well, but I haven’t tried the other aggregators out there, so I can’t really give any educated recommendations.

Why, you may be asking, do I plow through all this stuff? Mostly I do it because these blogs are, of all the things I’ve consumed during library school, the place where I have learned the most about actual libraries and the actual issues they face and how actual people are dealing with them. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that when I’m doing research for a paper, my first thought is usually, “Hey, mp3s in libraries — I wonder who’s written about that.” Still don’t believe me on the value of blogs for research? Here, for your reading pleasure, is a paragraph from my section of the final paper for a group project on digital rights management for 770, with its footnote:

When a library buys — or, more often, leases — a digital resource, however, its rights over that resource are determined not by the library but by the seller. The copyright statement at the beginnning of a traditional book will explain that the book many not be reproduced in whole or part, by any means, except in certain instances, such as a reviewer or student quoting a brief passage in the course of her work. The digital rights management statement at the beginning of an e-book, though, reads more like this example:
DRM Rights:
Copy 25 selections every 1 day(s)
Print 25 pages every 1 day(s)
Reading aloud allowed
Book expires 150 day(s) after download
Note that Adobe eBooks cannot be shared.5

5. Jason Griffey, “Reading aloud allowed,” post on Pattern Recognition blog (March 30, 2005):

Happy reading!

multiple guess

A lis•dom reader writes:
So you are a librarian and someone gives you $40,646 dollars. After much celebration you decide to:
a) update your adult reference collection,
b) spend the money on developing your extremely popular movie and motion picture collection or,
c) contract with a security company to install finger print scanners on your libraries computers in order to be able to monitor Internet usage more closely.
What do you decide to do with the money?

As you know if you saw Friday’s Tribune (or, for that matter, picked up on pretty much any other Chicago media outlet–it was a slow news day, apparently), Naperville Public Library chose option c.

For further reading, check out what has to say about it all.

Really, one just has to wonder what their PR people were thinking. (Then again, this seems to be a common problem in libraries these days–have you seen Mao the Librarian at the Minneapolis Public Library? [also from the invaluable]

in search of. . .

Everybody who is anybody in the library blogosphere has posted this tidbit sometime in the past week. Those of you who know me to differ at any cost may be stunned by this, but I’m going to go ahead and post it, too. [I got it from The Shifted Librarian, who got it from Caveat Lector who got it from Dilettante’s Ball . . . .] This is someone talking about how they got a usability expert in to review their library Web site and OPAC:

“I’ll skip over the part about our website (we’re able to fix that pretty easily) and write about what they recommended for the catalog. The first screen they gave us was a redesigned search form. An interesting dialogue came out of that:

Usability Expert: Ok, so this is the search form…
Librarian(s): So… is this the simple search form or the advanced search?
Usability Expert: This is the search form.”

Imagine that–a single, simple search form. Just like Google. Or, for that matter, the very cool RedLightGreen, which is a single-search box that will find books, tell you what libraries have them, and then (this is the best part) generate citations for you in your prefered format. No more need to consult me, your walking talking MLA Handbook/Chicago Manual of Style.

Sadly, we don’t immediately have the ability to make all library OPACs this easy or this cool. But it’s something to think about. It would certainly be an improvement over the Dominican/ILLINET catalog, although it, in turn, is not so bad as some. Got a favorite bad OPAC? Leave a comment and let us know.

back from vacation

I’ve been in lovely Iowa City, Iowa for the past few days, more or less disconnected from the online world, although my hometown is now happily full of wifi hotspots, including a coffee shop and the Iowa City Public Library. (The latter was featured in the last issue of American Libraries for its architecture. I just like it because it has Time, Newsweek, and Life in bound editions back to about 1930 and lots of CDs. Oh, and books.)

I’ve got all kinds of goodies stored up to tell you about in the near future, but to tide you over, here’s an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education about why a PhD is not an MLIS.

wanna come work with me?

The library where I work in Franklin Park, just a hop, skip, and a jump west of River Forest, is hiring another youth services assistant. It’s 19.5 hours a week, $10 an hour — pretty much the same job that I have, except I’m focused more on doing YA programming and you’d be focused more on younger kids. As you can see, our kids’ web site needs some serious help (love that clip art!), although at least now all the links work (when I arrived, no one had updated them in about five years).

If you’re at all interested in working with kids, I encourage you to apply. It’s kind of a nutty place, but I’ve learned a lot since I started here in February, and I’ve gotten a good taste of what real life library work is like. If you want to know more about the job, drop me a note: lauracrossett {at} hailmail {dot} net, or you can sometimes catch me on AIM as theblackmolly.

Oh, and here’s a link for the job ad again, in case you missed my attempt at clever linking above.