Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Internet is full. Go away." ~Anon

Well, that quote (from the lovely Quote Garden) sums up quite nicely how I'm feeling lately. With the approaching disappearance of graduating students, my month of August is usually a time to catch up on the worthwhile projects on which I've fallen behind. One of these projects is the creation of our departmental website.

At the moment, we don't even have a web page for our department so it's important that we at least have contact information and a general description of what we do. You'd be surprised how many people think we don't exist. OK, maybe you wouldn't be. I've been brainstorming ideas for who our audience will be, what information we want to share, how important educating this audience will be, all following in-line with our institution's current layout and specifications (no easy task). I also wonder how much overhead will be included with the "updating" process and this could affect what type of information I include and how that content is conveyed. For example, I would consider a departmental blog but I have yet to find out how that would be carried out. (There is a great deal of detail I could add here but cannot share because of how it relates to my job. So, apologies if this seems general in nature)

My other frustration is that there are already many great preservation websites, in particular departmental ones. They have blogs and photos and project ideas; what can we contribute that someone else hasn't done? I ask this question, not because I'm feeling low on how special we are as a department, but because I wonder how to justify the time I will spend on the website to my institution. As of yet, I have no estimate for how much time per week I will update it. That depends entirely on the content. It could range from an hour or two per month to that same amount per week. But I have to justify what we will get out of it. I'm a big supporter of the outreach and education mandates so a website would personally satisfy those because I'm educating our institutional members and the public at large. But is that good enough? I don't know.

On thoughts of a possible blog, it would be interesting to see how my voice there would differ from here (we're a teeny department so it would be me posting). Here, I mix professional and personal but I hesitate to get too far into either. I like my personal privacy still and of course, my job. Similarly, when I browse my handwritten journal, it's a different voice. Even when I write about the same topics, there is a world of difference. It reminds of this article, shared on Twitter yesterday by @librarianbyday.

Those are my musings for the day. Any thoughts on the website woes, please share!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Library Day in the Life, Round 5

I've been following the Library Day in the Life tweets on Twitter, contributing a few here and there myself. And since I then progressed to the blog posts, I will contribute my own sample Library Day in the Life.

My job title is Conservation Technician. Basically, I'm in charge of the Preservation Lab and it's day-to-day activities in an academic library. This includes managing students, training, budgets and supplies, dealing with other departmental projects that relate to our own, and of course, performing the treatments/repairs myself while keeping track of 1500+ items.

  • Upon arriving at work, I usually eat my breakfast (0f oatmeal or cereal bar with fruit) and some hot tea. Minimum of two cups. I check my email, listserv digests, and any calendar appts. for the day.
  • Greet students as they arrive and assign any special projects that need to be completed this week. Right now, we are trying to get the treated/repaired materials sent back to the libraries before fall semester starts. This requires a good bit of sorting and organizing by book trucks on my part, which I can then assign to students. Some will need to photocopy barcodes and call numbers for boxes and others will need to create spine labels with title info.
  • I sort through more book trucks of treated/repaired materials to check quality assurance, taking note of which students need more training (they label them so I know who has done what). Those books that look good are routed to a separate book truck to be discharged from the system, statistics noted, and packaged up. They might also be transferred to a different storage site, which of course is a different book truck! Those items that don't pass muster are sent back to students to fix.
  • Students still seem to be chugging along OK so I use this opportunity to handle any other special projects myself. Often this includes fragile books to be disbound for digitization, repairing leather-bound volumes, creating cloth clamshells or portfolios, or just whatever fits the mood I'm in. Maybe I just want to glue things today. This week I'm completing a set of corrugated box bases that are taller and wider than I for Archives. They need a nice container for rolled maps that will fit on a long shelf.
  • Lunchtime arrives and as long as I eat roughly at the same time as the students, I won't be interrupted every ten minutes with questions about repairs.
  • Post-lunch sleepiness is hitting me, so I deliver completed projects to other departments in the building, check in with questions about projects they'd like completed, and pick up new preservation problems.
  • Returning to my desk, I check my current supply order statuses and check the lab for our current needs. Students interrupt to ask when they can learn new treatments, maybe I'll have an hour in a little bit? Back to my desk, I update our supply needs, browse online for what I need, submit an email order, and update our budget expenses after. While I have the spreadsheets open, I update the statistics gathered this morning for our completed projects.
  • Mail should now have arrived so I head downstairs to fetch the daily arrival of stuffed boxes and envelopes of books to be repaired. I need to open each immediately to make sure there are no Rush requests to be handled immediately.
  • Back upstairs, I plan to spend 45-60 minutes instructing students in lab on a new enclosure or repair, depending on what they have yet to learn. Invariably, this takes 2 hours instead and we have yet to complete it. I'll have to remember to finish training once the student is back in again, by which point they will have forgotten how to start the repair.
  • I return to my email, responding to requests for meetings and to see if a missing book is in our lab, despite the lack of documentation of it being here. Hoping we'll find it (because it's missing) but hoping it won't be in lab (because that means I failed to document it's arrival), available students and I search the lab for an hour with no luck. The day is just about over and I take the last 20 minutes to work on the website I need to create for our department. Or maybe update our treatment manual. Or the backlog of special projects. Either way, it's clearly something that always gets pushed to the back burner! Calling it a day, I check the lab for tools plugged in, lights and music left on, before locking the doors. I didn't get as much done as I wanted (I always say this) but at least there were no leaks or other collection-related disasters to respond to. That means it was a good day.

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Librarians always look like librarians who are trying not to look like librarians..."

"...Even librarians who try not to look like librarians look like librarians trying not to look like librarians." (Unknown)

As usual, I'm a little behind. :) I have returned from the sweltering D.C. area, full of great ideas and new contacts, with sore shoulders from carrying tote bags full of books, and a SmarTrip card still loaded with money. And in reference to the quote above, I enjoyed my game of "Let's spot the librarians (with and without ID badges in public) while roaming the streets of D.C." I can, in all honesty, say it was fairly easy. Frankly, either you were in your forties and up and dressed like a "traditional" librarian or you were young and looking very hipster (myself included although I REFUSED to wear tennis shoes and look like a tourist). I did have people actually stop and ask me for directions. I despise looking like a tourist. In this pic, I do have my comfortable Teva's on, but note the giant bag? I lived out of it during the conference since I was staying about an hour and a half away from DC. This was at the Da Vinci exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, right across from one of the conference hotels. Pretty neat exhibit. I'll post something here or on Flickr later (I'm OBVIOUSLY behind).

In summary, ALA was great! I enjoyed myself immensely, went to meetings that were chock full of information, and even managed to scope out an exhibit or two. Surrounded by my peers at the PAIG and Book and Paper Interest Group meetings, it was an exhilarating feeling to be a part of discussions that concern my own job responsibilities. I haven't felt this way since, well I would say grad school but that's not exactly true. Ha! Anyway, there was still a good bit of discussion concerning the demise of UT's MLIS Conservator program and talks of which institutions are going to pick up the reins; also, is the MLIS degree necessary for conservators wishing to do just benchwork? And are some conservators not considering circulating collections to be desirable? I certainly agree with many of the attendees that the degree is necessary. Consider how easy it is now to take classes online and how often it is hiring policy to require certain degrees. I think if the MLIS comes bundled, why not? You never know what you are going to desire to do later and it can't hurt having the degree. Then again, I could also say if it's that easy to get, just go back if you need it. It's up to the individual I suppose but I prefer to get the hard work out of the way early on and relax later. Finally, James Reilly from the Image Permanence Institute gave a presentation on new points of view concerning environmental control and monitoring, which I won't summarize. I'm sure someone else has already done a better job of that.

At the Book and Paper group, I found the Co-Chair Beth Doyle (from Duke University's Preservation Department) exceedingly helpful. She led a great session (again, talk of the conservator program) but had a lot of information that she shared concerning her own department's activities. The creation of their blog (which I had already come across) was a great talking point because (as I will be in charge of our departmental website, which has yet to exist) I've been prowling for ideas. A blog is one I've considered (considering that I already like to write one?) but I just wasn't sure that it would be worth it. Beth provided a number of points to consider, one of which being what they get out of it (hard to measure). Additionally, she shared some of the ways their department has tried to cut costs and since professional education is usually quick to go....Needless to say, ways to educate themselves was high on the list. Her idea (which I would LOVE to implement in Pittsburgh) was to gather local bookbinders together, use the lab as a free space (they buy their own supplies) and utilize each others' knowledge to learn historic book structures. I was practically drooling in my cushy seat.

Another session/tour that I ADORED was Preservation Forensics & Document Optical Archaeology at the Library of Congress. Honestly, so much information was conveyed that in my rush to explain it all, it would sound like mumbo jumbo. I'll have to find a good summary and share it. But there are just some amazing this they can do with technology and the women of the Preservation Research and Testing Division are AMAZING. Their enthusiasm for their job was obvious and infectious. A colleague and I wanted to kidnap them for dinner they were so lovely. AND (drumroll please).....guess what I stood next to?! And even accidentally brushed?! Yes, folks, that is a steel encased Declaration of Independence draft. If my colleague hadn't pointed it out, I would have been none the wiser. I could have died on the spot. AND if you saw the news article post-ALA '10 that showed the hidden word on the Declaration of Independence draft...we got to see it first! Lastly, I loved their chairs (designed to be sat on frontwards and backwards) and their scanner which scans up to 6000 dpi. Crazy.

(To be continued)