Friday, January 11, 2008

In Soviet Russia, we sometimes own your city. Sometimes not.

This week seems to be the culmination of my formal department training, though I know other mini-trainings are to come concerning my work assignments when I'm not on a public desk. Although I had backup on all of my shifts this week, most folks seemed content to just let me handle everything, only stepping in if we got a sudden rush of questions. This makes me feel pretty good about how quickly I've gotten the hang of the system.

(And now I've probably cursed myself to numerous stumpers next week, when I'm flying solo. Ah well.)

Adjusting to a more sedate work pace has been a major adjustment for me -- so much so that I went home one night this week and said to my husband, "I must be the only fully employed person in America who wants more work!" I've had a lot of down time on the job -- mostly because our department is in a bit of upheaval while the Bigger Powers That Be shift around some of our responsibilities to other departments. I understand the reasons behind the delay, but I'm not good at sitting still. Somewhere between where I am now and how crazed I was on the day-to-day in my former career, the truth lies -- probably closer to now. I hope I find it soon.

Now on to what you've been waiting for. And it's a doozy this time around!


* "How was the ocean created?" I can't even begin to summarize the answer, so I'll let the good folks at Encyclopedia Britannica take this one.

* The Hollywood Erotic Museum closed its doors in May 2006.

* The price of gold on Monday was US$862.00 per Troy ounce.

* Barack Obama attends the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

* Vilinus is the capital and largest city of Lithuania. According to World Book, it was founded around 1323 by Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas. The city has a crazy 20th century history: It was controlled by Russia from 1795 to 1918; independent for two years; then controlled by Poland from 1920 to 1939. The city returned to Lithuania in 1939, but Lithuania was seized by the Soviet Union in 1940 until 1991 when Lithuania again declared its independence. Whoa.

* The Slavic Languages family includes: Sorbian (Lusatian), Pomeranian, Kashubian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Serbo-Croatian (Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian), Belarusian, Ukranian, Russian, Macedonian and Bulgarian.

* Oregon reported the nation's second-lowest foreclosure and delinquency rates in the country in the second quarter of 2007.

In other news, my Leo horoscope (courtesy of Holiday Mathis) for Tuesday told me: "Establish a trend of exchanging information with those around you."

How appropriate!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Friday, Friday

Another good week of training, though it seems that these Tuesday holidays are throwing folks off a bit ("It's Friday? Really? I thought it was Wednesday..."). No complaints about the paid holidays, of course!

After reading so many public library horror stories of scary, rude, weird, what-have-you customers, I feel I must report that most everyone I have dealt with -- by phone or in-person -- has been at least polite, if not downright nice and very appreciative of our help. As with any customer service job, I know there will be difficulties down the road, but sometimes it seems that all the library patron stories out there are about the dregs of society. I'd like to reassure any new public librarians to take the hype with a massive grain of salt and to reserve judgment until they're sitting at the desk.

And now, for our Friday Feature!


* 2007 Federal tax forms are currently available online, but hard copies are still being printed and distributed due to the last minute changes in Federal tax code and the Alternative Minimum Tax. If you're looking for them, you'll have better luck in a few weeks.

* The U.S. Attorney General is (currently!) Michael B. Mukasey.

* The American Dental Association (ADA) hasn't published a hard copy version of the American Dental Directory since 1998.

* Literary translator Eliot Weinberger, best known for translating the works of Octavio Paz into English (as well as other Hispanic works) also translates Chinese poetry.

* Remember those poems you wrote in elementary school where the first letter of each line spelled out a word that was the theme of the poem? Those are called acrostics.

* If you mistype the word "thinking," it conveniently spells out to "think gin."

And with that, it's cocktail time. Happy weekend!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I said hey...what's going on?

When last we met, I was anxiously awaiting my assignment at my new job. I'm pleased to report that I've been placed in Information Services (a.k.a. reference and/or "Ask-A-Librarian"). This was a bit of a shock at first as I had interviewed for an adult services position within a branch; however, after a day or two in the department, I realized that (as ever) everything happens for a reason. I could not ask for a better place for total librarian immersion as we truly do a bit of just about everything, including filling in on various desks throughout the Central Library. My research skills -- already at a fairly decent level, I believe -- should be off the charts within a year. It's very exciting.

To boot, my department colleagues could not be better. Every single one has been friendly, warm, welcoming, and simply wonderful. They clearly love what they do and can't wait to share it with someone else. I know there will be difficult -- perhaps even frustrating -- days, but I know these folks already have my back and for that I'm grateful to the Fates for delivering me to yet another safe harbor.

Right now, I'm in training/shadowing mode, which isn't terribly exciting even though I'm learning a lot very quickly. Until I have something more riveting to post, I've decided to start a regular weekly post, reflecting the vast myriad of questions we're asked on a daily basis.


* If you wish to study Actuarial Science, you can get a bachelor's degree at five universities in New York City. If you want a master's degree, however, you have to look outside New York State.

* The nursing home up the street from my apartment has a five-star rating.

* There aren't any forensic psychologists in Westbury, NY.

* Working papers are required in New York State for anyone under 18 years old who wants to work or volunteer, even part-time. Most kids can get them from their school, though there is an alternative for those who have dropped out (age 16-17).

* According to USA Hockey rules, a hockey team is made up of six players. Up to 20 separate players can play in each game. If the number of players on the ice are less than four, the team forfeits the game.

My pal Jennie (also a librarian) predicts I will be incredible at Trivial Pursuit in a few months. I hope she's right.

To work tomorrow, then New Year's Day off. Which is probably a good thing as my husband and I have plans involving fancy nibblies and at least two bottles of champagne.

I should also note that my 2008 is already happy as I became an honorary Auntie this week. At long last, my sweet Alice has joined the world and I can't think of a better resolution than to try and be the best aunt (and librarian) I can possibly be.

Here's to the New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Learning 2.0: Assignment #23

Woo hoo! The last assignment to complete 23 1/2 Things! We are supposed to "reflect on our learning journey" and I will do just that once I post somewhat of a disclaimer.

Anyone reading my assignments, especially the good folks running the program, will note that most of them were completed over the course of very few days. To my credit, I will note that I had a lot of free time on my hands those days and really took the time to think about each assignment thoroughly. For example, I completed Assignments #6 through #14 over the course of approximately nine hours. Aside from a short dinner break, I worked on this program straight through that entire time, which works out to just shy of an hour per assignment. Obviously, most people don't have that sort of luxury -- I certainly won't once I'm back at work tomorrow -- however, I chose to do the program this way for three important reasons:

* Getting back into the game. To be frank, I've been on a voluntary work hiatus for ten months. I've been very lucky to do so, but concentrating on other areas of my life for the better part of 2007 meant the work portion of my brain was a bit rusty. I wanted to do something proactive to make sure I was fully ready to embark on this exciting new career that I've been working toward for the last four years.

* Setting a baseline. At this point, I know I'm looking at the library world from a dangerous position -- with enough knowledge to know the players, the concerns and the theory, but not enough practical experience to really know how it all comes together. To boot, I'm coming from a corporate career background focused on communications, creative thinking, and exceptional customer service. I worked hard to become a vice president in a top PR firm and earn my clients' trust when I gave counsel. I supervised various teams and trained a lot of junior staff, many of whom I'm thrilled to see flourish in their own management careers. Now, I'm back at the beginning, but with that training and thought pattern under my belt. I know what I know and I'd like to think my opinions are informed, but I also know they will probably change as I actually sit behind the librarian desk. Six months from now, I'd like to come back and see if any of my thoughts on Library 2.0 have changed. I'm sure they will.

* Momentum. Once I get going, I get going. I also wanted to think about how each tool works (or doesn't) within the context of the other tools.

Would I recommend completing the program this way? Perhaps not, as it requires a lot of undivided attention and doesn't allow for extra exploration. I also didn't really have the time to post in many of my fellow program participants' journals, nor was I allowed to join QL Chat since I don't have a QL employee ID; therefore, I couldn't really enjoy the collaborative intent of the program. In the end, however, I'm glad I did it this way for the very unique reasons I just mentioned.

With that out of the way, what have I learned?

What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?

Selfishly, probably the ones that appealed to my personal interests. I loved LibraryThing, exploring podcasts, and discovering the digital media center.

How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals?

I think the program has shown me that keeping up with Internet technology is important for any information professional. I'll probably never be one to really dive in deep, get super involved, or use a lot of web tools; however, I do feel it's important that I know what's out there and the pros/cons. As is my work style, it's also good to know people who really groove on tech so I can collaborate with them and get informed opinions/real-life field trial information.

Were there any take-aways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?

In short, the fact that I came out of this program somewhat jazzed about some of the tools. I'm not a pessimistic person, but I thought this program would be more a slog than interesting and involving. Quite the opposite happened -- in fact, I often found myself (*gasp!*) having fun.

What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?

Not much, except to maybe test the links and/or which sites can be accessed from the library itself. I didn't encounter any problems, but it seemed that some folks who were following the program from work couldn't get to some of the suggested resources. I don't know the ins and outs of the system (yet!), but perhaps more collaboration with the IT department would help alleviate those problems.

And last but not least…if we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you again chose to participate?

Most likely, yes. I think it's a wonderful way to gently expose yourself to new concepts. Getting to know your colleagues, especially in a system as widespread as Queens Library, can also only be a good thing.

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this program happen, especially Hood and Hat who so eagerly and kindly shared her new baby with me -- a perfect stranger from a librarian listserv! -- way back when I was only in the interviewing stage. What a way to start my new career!

Stay tuned for more from The Leisurely Librarian. I hope to chronicle my first work year on this journal and hope that you'll keep reading. Cheers!

Learning 2.0: Assignment #22

In our second-to-last assignment (hooray!), we've been asked to look at Queens Library's Digital Media Center. In doing so, I must admit I'm generally very impressed with the depth of the audiobook, music and video collection available to patrons -- and the fact that they can be accessed from anywhere, so long as the patron has a library card, brief Internet access, and the correct computer.

Here is one of two major drawbacks: the correct computer. I suppose decisions have to be made to protect digital copyright, but Overdrive is only of use to folks with a Windows-based computer. Some of this is Apple vs. Microsoft (what can you do), but it doesn't seem right to me that a sizable amount of patrons are excluded from this service, nor that a vendor would be selected that allows such (for lack of a better term) discrimination.

Yes, I'm a Mac/iPod user and I am miffed!

The other concern I have is that Overdrive can only be accessed by computers outside of the libraries. Again, we're dealing with access issues and digital divide problems. In theory, if a patron doesn't have a computer at home but, perhaps, has a much less expensive MP3 player, what does it hurt to allow them to download titles to the player while at the library? Obviously there are other issues such as other folks waiting for computers, etc., but on the surface I don't understand this rule.

These issues aside, I think offering this service is wonderful and another concrete, tangible way to show that libraries are growing with patrons' needs.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Learning 2.0: Assignment #21

I've always loved radio. Some of my best memories have a radio accompaniment -- music or otherwise. I remember listening to old-time radio shows on an AM station during late night roadtrips with my family; singing along with friends' parents to 70s and 80s hits during car pools; and, to this day, my dad's made-up lyrics and singing on any given night's travels are an experience to behold. I love radio so much that one of my proudest accomplishments was spending 3.5 years as a DJ/producer on one of the largest college radio stations in the U.S. That was years ago, but I still wish I could be on the air, a mixing board under my hands, FCC license firmly tucked into my wallet.

All of this is to say that I think podcasts are a wonderful thing. The idea that anyone, in theory, could create their own show and share it with listeners is fantastic. In the library world, podcasts such as LibVibe are useful for professional news updates, or perhaps sharing continuing education/conference programs with a broader audience. Similarly, podcasting can allow public libraries to record book talks or special programs, then share them with patrons (near and far) who couldn't make it to the live session.

I think I get giddy about podcasting because it's somehow tangible. I can relate to the advancement and broadening of a known concept. Add to this that podcasts are non-intrusive -- you listen (or not) at your leisure, about topics that specifically interest you. How civilized!

I admit I haven't learned how to create my own podcast yet, but that is something I plan to remedy shortly. I can't wait.

Learning 2.0: Assignment #20

YouTube! I love YouTube! Besides funny videos and sports highlights, I also adore YouTube because it allows my British husband and me to better explain elements of our childhood. After all, I would never have fully appreciated Parsley the Lion, nor would he have understood my loyalty to The Electric Company if it weren't for YouTube.

As far as libraries, my immediate thought was to use YouTube for booktalks or short monthly "what's up at the library" highlight reels. The trick being, of course, to keep each "episode" brief and lively. Would people subscribe or watch such videos? It depends on the patrons (as ever), but might be worth a trial run if the participants are creative and the necessary equipment is to hand.

As far as a YouTube video to post, I can't resist sharing a video made of my wedding parade this past May. We walked from the synagogue to the reception -- about half a mile -- accompanied by a jug band. Consider it our love letter to both New Orleans and NYC. Enjoy!