Wednesday, May 23, 2007

IFLA - ALA's Swanky Cousin

by Scott Dalessandro

At the risk of stating the obvious, Seattle is less formal that the East Coast where I grew up. I still feel new to the area, so I had trouble deciding what to wear to the soirĂ©e that kicked off the recent IFLA Metropolitan Libraries Section conference hosted by Seattle Public Library. I had a good idea that my old blue L.L. Bean fleece probably too informal (I still don’t own anything from REI), so instead I threw on some clean jeans, a black shirt, and a sport jacket and hopped on the bus.

IFLA is the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. For those who speak information, think of it like a ‘meta-ALA.’ This particular event ‘collocated’ metropolitan library leaders from all over the U.S. and world. Titled “The Changing Face of Metropolitan Libraries: Inventing the future, but anchored in the past,” the conference had three major themes. Those themes were: ‘Libraries and Architecture,’ ‘Staying Relevant,’ and ‘Serving Special Populations.’ Two of the keynote addresses during the week were delivered by the iSchool’s own Joe Janes and Mike Eisenberg.

I can’t state how relieved I was to have worn that jacket when I got to the Narver Reading Room on the tenth floor of the shiny downtown SPL branch. There, a number of finely dressed folks were recovering from jet lag and enjoying drinks and the city skyline. The jacket also came in handy later when I found myself sitting with these same folks, eating a tasty dinner of stuffed skirt steak, spanakopita, and Israeli couscous near the 4th Avenue entrance. I guess even librarians break the rules sometimes.

That first evening welcomed conference delegates from around the world with style and hospitality that continued throughout the week. After mingling with conference attendees and a number of familiar faculty and student faces from the iSchool, a venerable cadre of Seattle and IFLA leaders greeted the crowd. Drinks in hand, we made our way to the ground floor auditorium where library rock star Stephen Abram delivered a thought-provoking keynote address. In self-acknowledged Late Show style, he gave a Top Ten presentation about the coming changes libraries will be (and are now) facing. Topics included MySpace, XML, and how libraries need to keep up with the rest of the world (and Google) to stay relevant. I hope that his presentation will eventually be posted on his blog, Stephen's Lighthouse.

Much of the six-day conference was taken up by a variety of presentations, each of which touched on one of the three themes. Several iSchool students had the gracious opportunity to participate by introducing a presenter and facilitating the question and answer session that followed. For my part, I introduced Antonia Arahova’s presentation titled ‘E-Reference and E-Learning.’ Ms. Arahova works in the National Library of Greece and is also the Head of Libraries and Archives of The President of The Greek Delegation in the European Union. Ms. Arahova’s presentation discussed the development of library programs and services for countries in the European Union, specifically about electronic collaboration between countries and their libraries. He argues that as borders shrink and more information is shared, librarians need cross-cultural and language knowledge in order to provide information services to patrons. To get an idea of the other presentations, check out the conference schedule.

The conference wasn’t all work, though. A full week of sunshine was perfect for the visitors, who took tours of King County and SPL branch libraries, ate Chinese food in the International District, toured WebJunction, and got a guided tour of the newly opened Seattle Art Museum downtown. And of course, it wouldn’t have been a library conference without the swanky black and green nylon tote bags everybody received.

Reflections on WLA, 2007

by Sonja Sutherland

This year’s WLA Conference was held April 18-21 in Kennewick, Washington. Early Wednesday evening, we signed in, grabbed our nametags and goodie bags, and were set loose upon a line-up of tables manned by representative from various WLA interest groups.

Here, we learned a little bit about these groups and what they were trying to accomplish. The interest groups in attendance included: Collection Development & Technical Services (CATS), Intellectual Freedom (IFIG), Interest Group for Libraries and Unions (IGLU), NEXTGENWA, Outreach & Literacy for Everyone (OLE), Social Responsibilities (SRRT), Technology Resources for Information Professionals (TRIP), Washington Library Employees (WALE), Washington Association of Library Trainers (WALT), Washington Library Friends, Foundations & Trustees Association (WLFFTA), Children & Young Adults (CAYAS) and Reference Interest Group (RIG).

The evening was capped off with a reception featuring a spread of gourmet cheeses, chocolate-covered strawberries and wine, over which we had the opportunity to mingle and chat. I was amazed at how many different types of librarians were represented at the conference – from workplaces as diverse as prison libraries, laboratory libraries, the Washington State Library, and many different public libraries.

The next day, we got to pick from a series of workshops presented by WLA interest groups. I started with one called, “Beyond Information: Reading for pleasure, discovery and personal growth.” Although I can’t say I learned anything new, I did walk away with a warm and fuzzy feeling from this sentimental foray into the world of “why we love to read.”

Next, I went to Dr. Lynne McKechnie’s “Spiderman is not for babies,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. She discussed her study about “the secret life of boys as readers,” in which she interviewed boys aged four to fifteen and inventoried their book collections in order to put this knowledge to use in libraries.

My favorite presentation of the day was called “Graphic Novels: Junk or Literature?” Gaye Hinchliff and Angela Nolet did a fabulous job of explaining why these works are so popular, and also how we, as librarians, can respond to parents who feel that reading graphic novels isn’t “real” reading.

That evening, I got to enjoy what was, for me, one of the highlights of the conference - the Keynote Banquet with Diane Rehm of National Public Radio. She was a fascinating speaker, and she talked about everything from libraries, to current world events, to her own life story.

The next day began with the President’s Breakfast. ALA President Leslie Burger spoke about issues affecting the ALA over the past year. This was followed by more presentations and workshops, with the WLA Awards Lunch squeezed in between.

Angelina Benedetti, manager of the Selection & Order department of KCLS spoke about building effective paperback collections for browsing in a presentation called, “Read 2 Go.” This is a new program in KCLS that involves displaying “hot” titles near the front of the library to make it more convenient for patrons to browse quickly for something interesting to read.

Fellow MLIS students Katie Grimm, Jill Kobayahsi, Becky Lavalleur, Stella Shafer, Naomi Smith and Reed Strege were on hand to deliver the “Booktalking the Best” presentation, in which they reviewed a number of books geared toward children and young adults.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the iSchool’s very own beloved Joe Janes gave a presentation about current issues in reference. (In true celebrity form, he was flown into the Tri-Cities that morning and then quickly whisked back to Seattle afterward.)

By this point, my brain was completely stuffed full of information and was incapable of absorbing anything new. Who knew that a conference could be so exhausting? It was quite a whirlwind of events, but definitely worthwhile. In my opinion, the best thing about it was the opportunity to learn, in bits and pieces, from a wide variety of people, what it is to be a librarian. The experience was as valuable to me as some of the classes I’ve taken at the iSchool, and I’m glad I went.

Tales From the Stacks

by Scott Rawlings, iSchool class of 2003

One of the special aspects of working in a library is the sense of community place. You even get this in an academic library, once you get to know the student body, but I first noticed it in the years before graduate school when I worked as a Library Page in the Olympia Timberland Library. When you work down in the stacks all day you really get to know people, even if tangentially.

For instance, there was this teenager, maybe sixteen, who would come in sometimes with her friends. I was fond of her, though we never spoke to each other. She was doing the old-school punk thing, which I found charming in the same way an older brother just has to grin when his younger brother claims the combat boots out of his sibling’s closet and starts spinning the Ramones and Dead Kennedys albums. You know, glad the ‘kids’ are keeping the sound alive. I liked it that she had a pair of the old red plaid pants worn with suspenders hanging down, rather than those awful tacky oversized raver pants that the kids were wearing at the time. I never talked to her, no one wants some strange guy in their twenties talking to them about ‘ye olden days’ - how lame and creepy. I just would notice when she came in.

And I noticed when she became homeless.

Suddenly she was coming in more often, and not with her friends. She was always with this guy, the kind I new well from my high-school days. He was always doodling and writing stuff in notebooks secretively, probably just parroting some occult malarkey he found in the 130’s-150’s. I had the feeling they wanted an out-of-the-way spot to hide out. She had kind of a worried haunted look.

Soon they were coming in every day, and she was wearing the same clothes, jeans and a navy hooded sweatshirt. They must have lost their crash space, because they came in lugging backpacks and sleeping bags and staying from opening to closing. It was obvious she had run away from home with this kid. So, I kept an eye on her. I didn’t know who she was, nor if she even had a library card with us. It was none of my business what she did, if she was in trouble or on drugs or anything, but I kept checking up to see if she had a black eye or if her arm was in a sling or what have you.

On days I would close up I’d sometimes see the two lugging their stuff further downtown, towards the bus station. I’ve never been homeless, but I had listened to the experiences of my friends and had read about it. It’s good to find 24-hour places to hang out in, for security. Suddenly, they both stopped coming in. I could only pray for them at this point.

Happily, I began to see her come in again with her friends, some time later. She was well-groomed again and sporting an updated look. I just smiled to myself out of relief. I saw her maybe two more times after that but never really met her. She’ll never know I cared.

That is just part of the joy and drama of librarianship.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cherish the Law We Have...

For the longest time, I thought Kool and the Gang were singing "Cherish the law we have...we should cherish the law we have..." I thought they were very rule-adoring musicians. Turns out, they were talking about LOVE not law. Oh well.

Anyway, speaking of law, check out first-year MLIS student Kate Stockert's report on the law librarianship panel that she planned....


Law Librarianship Panel

Kate Stockert

On April 13th five representatives from the Law Librarians of Puget Sound (LLOPS) visited the UW for a panel that drew students from the iSchool and the law school . These law librarians elicited such enthusiasm that iSchool distance students requested a recording of the session (check for details on accessing this recording on the iSchool listservs).

The panel participants provided a breadth of experience and a wealth of knowledge, describing the skills and expertise necessary for work in a law library. They told stories about judges sending electronic information requests from the bench and the librarian rushing documents into the court house in a furtive manner. They emphasized the complex needs of legal professionals and generally offered great insight into the law library.

The LLOPS panel members mentioned the variety of roles in law librarianship and the myriad of organizational environments in which the librarian can apply his or her information skills. It was interesting to hear about the sophistication of reference service requests and how the complexity of questions has increased with the advent of the Internet. Participants explained how the law library has worked to adapt to this change by offering a high-end level of service.

The law librarians’ demonstrated their resourcefulness by sharing new services offered by the law library such as keeping track of the law firm’s clients and litigation cases and informing the managing attorneys, to providing US Courts judges with a valuable daily newsletter to keep them apprised of developments in the courts throughout the US and World. Law firm librarians spoke about the firm library’s patrons, which includes attorneys and a plethora of practice areas of law, and the departments of public relations, business development, and human relations, providing a window into the law library’s dynamic environment and variety of information requests.

Students left the panel satisfied in knowing about a new and exciting career path, empowered with ideas as to what the profession entails and how they can pursue work in the law library.

A big thank you to Nancy Noble, Rita Kaiser, Tim Sheehy, Robyn Hagle, and Mary Hotchkiss for sharing your knowledge, experiences, and enthusiasm for the field of law librarianship.