Cataloguing Flash Mob: Update

It’s been one month since I hosted the Cataloguing “flash mob” party at my library, and I wanted to write a post about how it all went down. If you didn’t hear about this event, you can check out my initial post, and read about it on the TBG’s website.

The idea came about one Saturday at work (April 20), when a volunteer and I remarked at the massive amounts of cataloguing that had to be done. The idea of hosting a cataloguing event was proposed that day, and I’d imagined that we might be able to attract 15-30 people to help out over the two days we had in mind, which were Saturday May 4th and Sunday the 5th. It was the beginning of spring and the weather was exceptional, so we maintained a realistic sense of optimism that perhaps at least 15 people would be interested in participating over the course of that weekend. Because really, who would want to stay inside all weekend and catalogue books… right?

The following Monday (April 22), I sent an email to my boss to ask if she thought it would be a good idea, and her response was that I should go for it. The event was to take place less than two weeks from the date the idea was imagined, so there was a lot of work to do.

On April 23 I sent messages to the SLA-TOR listserv (Special Libraries Association, Toronto), the TSLIS Network listserv (Toronto Special Libraries and Information Services Network), and the Seneca College LIT program coordinator inviting Toronto-area information professionals to help out. I also put out the word on Twitter and Facebook.

Almost immediately, I received emails from individuals who were interested in participating. I was (and continue to feel) incredibly blown away by the overwhelming response this event received. In just a matter of days, there were nearly 50 enthusiastic people signed up for the cataloguing event. By the 4th, I’d heard from about 65 professionals in the Toronto-area who RSVP’d that they were coming. Some came from as far as Kingston!

Now, while I did receive a tremendous amount of positive feedback for the event’s innovativeness, ingenuity, and uniqueness… It was not without its detractors. Much of the criticism that I received for the event surrounded the idea that cataloguing is a skill and practice that shouldn’t be devalued through volunteer work. Also, that by calling for volunteer help, it was taking away from possible paid opportunities or a student internship. I did (and do) appreciate this feedback and criticism, because it gave me an opportunity to reflect on what I was really doing, and how it was being received by the library and information community. However, after careful reflection, I didn’t (and don’t) feel that the event in any way was taking away opportunities, devaluing cataloguing, or taking advantage of anyone. The spirit of the event was to contribute one’s cataloguing skills and bibliographic interests through volunteerism to improve access to information and the betterment of a small library at a non-profit and charitable organization. Also, it was meant to be a fun networking opportunity, and a chance to participate in a unique project.

My favourite of all criticisms was a post written about my cataloguing event on the ALA’s “Annoyed Librarian” blog, titled “A Cataloging Sweatshop?”. Please have a look, and be sure to read the comments section.

So, less than 14 days from its inception, the Cataloguing Flash Mob Event began on the 4th. Eager cataloguers trickled into the library at 9:30 in the morning, and the room was soon full of laptops, extension cords, library books, and cups of coffee. By 7:30 p.m., the last cataloguer packed it in, and we left for the day. On the 5th, it was the same sort of scene. However, my greatest fear was realized when we crashed the internet, and were without access to z39.50 clients for about an hour and a half. We regained access to the web, and continued cataloguing, again until about 7:30 p.m. when we were kicked out of the building by the TBG’s caretakers.

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In summary, the “mob” catalogued over 900 titles in two short days. It was a really fun event, and I am more than happy about how it all went down. People seemed to really enjoy themselves, and had positive feedback about our library’s new ILS (Koha). I’m also looking forward to presenting a session on this event at the 2014 OLA Super Conference which will explore the project in more detail.

Photos of the event can be found on the TBG’s Facebook page. Click here to see the photos!

Thanks for all of your support and feedback!

Adventures in Library Promotion: Buttons

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since my last post, but for a good reason. In January I took a new position as the Head Librarian at the Toronto Botanical Garden‘s Weston Family Library, and since starting in this new role I have been busy, busy, busy. The TBG is home to the largest private horticultural library in Canada, and includes materials in the broad area of domestic horticulture. “What’s that, though?”, you ask? For the most part it’s floral arrangement and design, gardening, herbs, plant biology, ornithology, garden and plant history, literature, biography, landscape design and architecture, green roof information, sustainability initiatives, urban agriculture, balcony gardening, food security, wildlife, plant identification, etc. It’s an amazing specialized collection, and I’m thrilled to be working there.

One of my responsibilities as Head Librarian is to actively promote the library’s collections, services, and programs. I tackle this through a number of traditional means, such as brochures, bookmarks, on the web and using social media, but most recently I had a new and exciting idea: buttons! Now I know what you may be thinking… it’s not new (and some may not think it’s very exciting), but I’m ready to change your mind. Buttons are cute, inexpensive to create, trendy, and if done properly with creativity, they are a lot of fun. I should also state that I’m referring to 1″ buttons, not their 2.25″  “uncool” distant relative that we’ve seen throughout our lives. Also, some people call them “pins”, but I don’t.

A preface and some context to my newfound interest in buttons: Every year, the Word on the Street Festival takes place in participating cities across Canada. If you haven’t been before, it’s a celebration of books and magazines, authors, publishing, literacy and everything in-between. This year in Toronto it will take place on September 23rd at Queen’s Park Circle, from College Street all the way to Bloor. It’s a terrific and free event that draws hundreds of thousands of people annually. This year I was very keen to have a booth for the Toronto Botanical Garden at the festival to highlight the library, host author signing, promote the TBG’s adult and children’s education, and overall to get the word out about the organization. It has been a blast to plan and co-ordinate the activities for our booth, and I’m getting pumped for the 23rd to be here. In preparation for the event, I wanted to have something to give away at the booth that would grab the interest and attention of passersby, and work as a tool to promote our presence at the festival and as a destination in the Toronto area. Clearly, I chose buttons. Luckily for me, another department at the TBG conveniently had a button-maker on the premises.

I got the idea from the University of Waterloo Libraries, who have been doing this for the past year or so. Check them out here. In the beginning I was just making buttons with the TBG logo, ones that say “Weston Family Library”, etc. Standard branding. However, things got really fun when I had another idea, to create unique, one-of-a-kind buttons from our discarded books. My library receives a lot (thousands) of donated books on a yearly basis, and depending on the relevance, need, and shape they’re in, we either include the donation into the collection, or we sell them for a few bucks. Unfortunately for the used books that are not sold (usually ones from the ’70s or ’80s about gardening), we recycle them or re-donate them to a Value Village. Since we have boxes and boxes of books in the last category, I thought, “Why not make buttons from the images and text in these old books? They’re being discarded anyway!” There is some really colourful, comical, and interesting (albeit, often not useful and sometimes harmfully outdated) literature that we discard, so I’m glad we can reuse these materials somehow.

It’s become a real hobby, and I’m even considering buying my own personal button making machine just for fun. Check out some of the buttons I made below:

Citation Analysis: Measuring impact and delivering value to your organization

At many non-profit and for-profit companies, it is important to measure the reach, influence, and success of the organization’s efforts. This is not always easy and sometimes not even feasible, but when quantification is possible, it should be carried out to gauge the impact of a task on an audience. This is often done through media monitoring, but what about measuring your organizations other outputs?

An organization’s publications (e.g. reports, conference proceedings, authored works, etc.) are a good starting place where impact can be measured, and in organizations where an information professional is employed, the work is cut out for them. Tracking and measuring the impact of your organization’s output is a clear-cut way to demonstrate your value, contribute to department goals, and generate useful statistics that will benefit your employer.

Many information professionals will be familiar with the concept of citation analysis, and its application in the activities of scholarly research. Citation analysis is a method of bibliometrics that attempts to gauge the impact of an author’s work through the frequency of being cited in other works. The process of citing acknowledges previous works, and debatably, implies that a work is significant. The practice of measuring the number of cites is predominantly of interest to authors and stakeholders in the sciences, and some in economics, but is helpful in other fields as well. Citation analysis is also prevalent (and of greater interest) in academic environments where an author’s published research enhances their clout, and professional profile.

Because of its wide acceptance in academic settings, many of the tools available to analyze citations do not incorporate “non-scholarly” literature (often termed “grey literature” e.g. working papers), since they do not undergo the same scholarly publishing process. The majority of grey literature is not indexed in proprietary or free citation databases, because it is not controlled by commercial publishing. Consequently, the trickiest aspect of measuring the impact of your organization’s output is that citation indexes will often not include the publications you seek to evaluate.

With these obstacles is mind, I compiled a list of tools for conducting citation analysis, some are fee-based and others are free:

  • Thomson Reuter’s Web of Science/Knowledge: (http://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/science_products/a-z/web_of_science/) (subscription required)
    Web of Science (WoS) is the premier citation index and includes an extensive range of very impressive analysis tools. With a lofty price tag, not every organization will be able to afford this product (and unfortunately, they do not offer a non-profit rate). The indexed content is drawn almost exclusively from scholarly journals and conference proceedings, and its historical coverage is unmatched. Free 30-day trials are available, and you can select from seven subject database packages based on subject area. Thomson Reuters also provides access to “Highly Cited Research” (http://www.highlycited.com), a free resource to identify highly cited authors and works. WoS is tremendously useful for tracking cites in academic journals, but quite disappointing for measuring citations from grey literature.
  • Elsevier’s Scopus: http://www.scopus.com/home.url (subscription required)
    Scopus is a slightly less expensive alternative to Web of Science, and boasts having “the largest abstract and citation database of research literature and quality web sources.” Scopus has a free author/organization lookup tool, which I highly recommend testing. This will give you an idea of your organization’s cited works in the Scopus indexed content. Similar to WoS, grey literature is relatively absent from this database.
  • Google Scholar: (http://scholar.google.ca/) (free)
    Using the advanced Google Scholar search option, you can perform searches by author name, or by affiliated organization to retrieve articles where either are mentioned or cited. This can be tricky however, as it is not possible to narrow search results to the bibliography or footnotes. Your search results might include many unwanted items. That said, Google does a much better job than WoS or Scopus of retrieving obscure and grey literature citation mentions.
  • Publish or Perish: (http://www.harzing.com/pop.htm) (free)
    Public or Perish (PoP) uses Google Scholar citations, and runs as standalone software that links to the web. You must first download PoP, then perform your citation queries to retrieve the analysis of an author or publisher’s works. It is less accurate than the fee-based products like Scopus or WoS, but PoP is also quite straightforward about its shortcomings. PoP performs much better than Google on the web, and as a free software, is worthwhile and effective.
  • CiteSeerX: (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/) (free)
    CiteSeerX focuses on (but is not limited to) literature in the areas of computer and information-science. As an index database, CiteSeerX is unique for adding complex metadata to its contents, which enable a greater capacity for linking documents, and locating related materials. Documents are automatically harvested from the web, so indexed content is continuously up-to-date. Try this tool in combination with others, as depending on the field of your organization and its outputs, CiteSeerX’s subject specificity might not track your publications.
  • Scirus: (http://www.scirus.com/) (free)
    Scirus is a science-specific index database encompassing a very wide range of web pages, government resources, academic articles, and special information sources (e.g. patent data from LexisNexis, technical reports from NASA, institutional digital repositories, etc.).  Scirus’ capabilities rival some fee-based indexes, and it also includes an impressive range of non-scholarly grey literature content.
  • RePEc: (http://repec.org/) (free)
    Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) is a database of over one million items, largely in the social sciences, economics, finance, and computer sciences. The items in RePEc are unpublished papers, non-commercially published materials, and also pre-published versions of academic articles. RePEc is useful for many types of organizations that produce literature because it encourages free and open dissemination of these materials throughout a variety of outlets. It works by users (e.g. authors of works, or information professionals on behalf on their organization) uploading publications and providing the metadata and bibliographic information. To perform citation analyses, RePEc has an embedded system for tracking these uploaded items. With this, you can quantify how often your publications are downloaded, cited, and shared. RePEc is also a collaborative effort with many other repositories, such as EconLit, EDIRC, and IDEAS.

Although these options may not provide the complete picture of your organization’s impact, I found that using a combination of these tools can produce a rough, but useful solution. Optimistically, there are ongoing developments in this field, such as Google Scholar Citations (http://scholar.google.ca/intl/en/scholar/citations.html), and Open Grey (www.opengrey.eu), and the maturation of these products will benefit the efforts of citation analysis for grey literature.

If your organization produces publications for stakeholders or a general audience, consider tracking cites through the abovementioned means. It will strengthen your value to the organization, and provide them with a quantifiable source of evidence-based measurement for organizational outputs.

Listed below are additional sources that review and compare citation analysis tools:

  1. Badia, Giovanna. “Google Scholar out-performs many subscription databases when keyword searching.” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2010: 39-41. Available from https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/8543
  2. Bosman, J., et al. “Scopus reviewed and compared.” Utrecht University Library, 2006. Available from http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/DARLIN/2006-1220-200432/Scopus%20doorgelicht%20&%20vergeleken%20-%20translated.pdf
  3. Connor, E. “Searching for science: a descriptive comparison of CiteSeer, FirstGov for Science, and Scirus.” Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2005: 35-47.
  4. Pauly, D. And Stergiou K. I. “Equivalence of results from two citation analyses: Thomson ISI’s Citation Index and Google’s Scholar service.” Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, December 22, 2005: 33-35.  Available from http://www.int-res.com/articles/esep/2005/E65.pdf
  5. Science Intelligence and InfoPros. “Google Scholar Vs Web of Science: McDonalds Vs a Gourmet restaurant?!” December 7, 2010. Available from http://scienceintelligence.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/google-scholar-vs-web-of-science-macdonalds-vs-a-gourmet-restaurant/

Learning from relatives: academic, school, and public libraries

Librarians and information professionals who work in special libraries often stick together. This makes sense, of course, as they tend to serve like-minded users, provide similar information services, and face challenges unique to special libraries. Librarians in corporate, non-profit, law and “non-traditional” information centres must rarely (if ever) consider some of the fundamental and everyday decisions of their distant relatives, the public and academic librarians. While public librarians debate the impediments of children’s literacy, or academic librarians struggle to teach undergrads how to find a peer-reviewed journal article, the special library community faces entirely different user-needs and information management concerns. Despite these inherent professional differences, I believe there is much that can be learned from one another.

The Ontario Library Association’s annual Super Conference takes place each Winter at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This past January I attended the Super Conference with the hopes of reconnecting and networking with colleagues, liaising with vendors, and most importantly, learning from the experiences of other librarians.

Traditionally and informally, the OLA Super Conference is more or less a platform for library technicians, academic, school, and public librarians. There seem to be few special librarians in attendance at OLA. This year I pondered if librarians from special libraries could benefit from what the Super Conference has to offer. Coincidentally, the theme of this year’s conference was “The Power of C – Collaboration!” OLA President Mary Ann Mavrinac writes, “Collaboration makes us smarter. The power of collaboration is a catalyst for community engagement, communication, cooperation, connectivity, conversations, crowdsourcing, collectivism and collegiality” and further, “helps us make better choices for communal and collateral benefit” (source). I felt energized by this message of teamwork and camaraderie, and think that despite differences in the users we serve, that both groups can take away valuable and transferable lessons from each other’s major conferences.

When the Super Conference session schedule was released, I read some abstracts out of curiosity for what might be available. To my surprise, more than a handful stood out as innovative, interesting, and helpful in the context of my library’s current projects and workflow. Fully aware that I’m not the ideal audience for this conference, I registered reluctantly but excitedly.

Below are some sessions from the 2011 Super Conference that I enjoyed:

“Library Mashups: Exploring new ways to deliver library data” presented by Nicole Engard (Bywater Solutions): Highlighted various examples of how your library can incorporate the API (Application Programming Interface) from your current subscriptions (e.g. The New York Times) and embed that code within your library’s OPAC or website. Hypothetically then, you can present your users with seamless and immediate access to the latest content related to your organization’s focus. Additionally, introduce things like Google maps and other applications to your Library’s web page.

“Using Open Source Software in a shared integrated library system” presented by A. Rivers-Moore (Hanover PL), S. Leighton, (Grand Valley PL), W. Allen (Grey Highlands PL), and R. Dotten (Shelburne PL): Explored the challenges and successes of implementing the open source ILS, Koha. My library uses a number of open source platforms, Koha in particular. As the only librarian (and one with amateur open source abilities) it was a terrific opportunity to speak to others in the same situation about some of the obstacles and rewards involved in introducing free and open source software.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the diversity and depth of most sessions, though disappointed by the elementary coverage of some others. I heartedly recommend browsing the list of sessions for the 2012 Super Conference. You may be surprised at what you find! As the leaders of access and information management within our organizations, we should actively keep abreast developments, technologies and projects throughout the wider profession of librarianship in order to anticipate and meet the needs of our users. There is much to be learned from our librarian relatives in the academic, school and public environments, and there is much that we can teach them as well.

Professional Profiles Series

Recently I was interviewed by the President of the SLA-Toronto Student Group, Zoe Cliff.  Zoe asked if we could meet to chat about my career in special libraries for for their blog’s professional profiles series. I thought it would be neat to share some insight into job hunting, my experiences in libraries, and landing a job.

Below is a transcript of the interview. To read other professional profiles, visit the SLA-Toronto Student Group Blog here: http://slatsg.blogspot.com/

1. Describe your current position
I’m a Research Librarian in a special library at CIGI, a non-profit research organization (“think tank”) that focuses on international governance concerns: energy and environment, economics, development and security. I provide a wide range of library and research services to the organization’s researchers and experts. These users have strong academic credentials, extensive international research experience, and a wide range of policy expertise. As a solo-librarian, I’m responsible for nearly all aspects of maintaining the library: acquisitions, cataloguing, collection development, subscriptions and serials management, research requests and support, special projects, outreach and communicating with the wider organization. It’s a lot of fun!

2. Describe your educational background
I have an honours Bachelor of Arts from Acadia University in history and sociology, and a Master of Information Studies (MISt) from the University of Toronto, with a focus on Library & Information Science.

3. Describe your first job as a librarian or information professional etc. and subsequent career path
This is my very first job as a librarian. After graduating from my MISt, I worked briefly at the Information Centre of De Beers Canada (the mining company), and then landed my current position. I also held a handful of library positions while at the iSchool: I worked part-time at the Robarts Reference & Research Services desk, and did some cataloguing and reference for the Data, Map & Government Information department. In addition to this, I worked at the Royal Ontario Museum Library & Archives.Regarding my current job, I was initially hired on a contract basis as the Collections Librarian, but after some restructuring, I was promoted and hired as a permanent full-time Research Librarian.

4. How did your information training and background prepare you for the job you now have?
I think that a combination of my experiences prepared me for the job I have now. Specifically, I owe a great deal to my work experiences while studying at U of T. I worked hard to get as much library experience as I could, because I felt that I would get more out of hands-on experience in libraries than I would in the classroom. I was very lucky, and landed some really terrific student jobs. In those roles I had the opportunity to assist with in-depth reference for a range of academic disciplines (humanities, social sciences, business, government documents, data and statistics), I performed original and copy-cataloguing, got involved with knowledge management and Web 2.0, and worked with archives. I was exposed to a diversity of information settings, user groups, and subject areas, and I think that a mixture of these experienced helped me to thrive in my current position where I handle most aspects of the Library. When I saw the job posting at CIGI, I thought to myself, “…this job description was written for your background and experience: apply.”

5. What advice would you give someone who is currently doing his or her Master in Information?
As a relatively new grad myself, I don’t think that I have a ton of wisdom to share, but here are some bits of advice that you might find helpful:
  • I know it’s easy to get into doing this, but don’t just take soft skill “bird” courses. Especially if you’re looking for a job in special libraries, it’s crucial to have those practical, “hard skills”. For example: aspects of cataloguing; abilities with open source; knowing something about HTML, MySQL, or web design, data, etc. I think that employers are looking for people who can walk into a job with as little training as possible and who can make a real impact. Impress them with your knowledge, skills and innovative ideas!
  • Speak to a few people in the field who have jobs that you want: inquire about how they got to where they are, ask them to critique your resume and/or CV, and in general, get your name and face out there. A similar suggestion is to request to speak to someone in Human Resources at a large library where you’d like to work. While I was job hunting, I met with the Head of Human Resources at UTL to have a mock interview and resume critique, and it was an invaluable experience. They see a lot of resumes, after all.
  • Create an online presence! You should want to be found in a Google search on sites like LinkedIn, through your personal website, and on Twitter. It will show that you’re web-savvy, relevant, and have something to say. (N.B. At the same time, be vigilant about Facebook privacy settings… you don’t need potential employers to know too much about you.)
  • Get experience. Realistically, everyone at the iSchool will graduate with the same degree. So what really counts (and what will make you stand out), is your experience. I think any experience is good for your resume and getting a job. If you can volunteer, great. If you can get part-time jobs, even better.
  • In the end, I think that getting a job relies on the following: who you know, your experience, luck, and timing.

6. Any general advice for new information professionals?
Network with colleagues, collaborate and be nice. Sometimes I feel like there’s an aura of competition that exists within special libraries (but maybe it’s other places too), and I think it can make people uptight and insular. Participate in socials, activities, listservs, and collaborate. It would make our community even more pleasant than it already is.

7. What helpful lessons did you learn early in your career? Do any of them still apply today?
Don’t be overwhelmed, stay organized, and take it one day at a time. When I was at De Beers, I worked with the Manager of Information Services (it was just the two of us), and I was always impressed with her ability to stay calm under duress. The library was never in shambles, but there were some problem areas that I would have lost sleep over. I asked how she dealt with that kind of stress or pressure, and she said, “No library is perfect. You just have to deal with things in stride, and prioritize your time.” I sometimes feel overwhelmed when I think of all of the things that need to be done at my library, e.g. backlog of cataloguing, responding to requests, maintaining print collections, broken links on the digital library, etc.; but I try to stay organized and prioritize competing long-term tasks, one day at a time.

Solo Librarians & Twitter

Many libraries nowadays have Twitter to promote themselves to the public and their users, but what about how librarians are using Twitter for themselves. If you’re a librarian, I want to know: do you have a personal/professional Twitter account? If your answer is ‘yes’, then I also want to ask: do you ever use Tweets to connect with other librarians for assistance with job-related tasks?

Whether or not you Tweet, undoubtedly you are aware that Twitter is a powerful and increasingly ubiquitous online social tool to communicate and share information with others… in 140 characters. However, have you considered Twitter’s potential as a resource for helping you solve problems and frustrations while you’re at work? I’ve given this some thought lately, and have wanted to generate some discussion about Twitter-use amongst the solo librarian community. For many public and academic librarians, it’s typically listervs, their manager(s), and arm’s-length colleagues who serve as sources of assistance for job-related queries, but have you ever wondered how solo librarians fare with solving their unique workplace challenges?

Solos are usually the only staff member at their organization’s information centre. When faced with any kind of obstacle (e.g. tricky reference question, Director’s request for you to justify the library’s existence, or to evaluate new open source library software), solo librarians will very often reach out to other librarians and information professionals. More so than librarians in traditional library settings, solos rely heavily on listservs and close colleagues via email.
When I started my current job in a library at a think tank, I wanted to subscribe to some SLA listserv communities in case I ever needed support (plus, I felt a bit isolated from other librarians). From the start, I recognized that the librarians participating in the SLA’s Solo Librarians Division listserv (SLA-DSOL) are some of the most generous, kind, and helpful of librarians. SLA-DSOL includes a very wide range of issues (on shelving options, library policies, reference questions, article requests, best practices, etc!), and it seems that most requests for assistance are addressed and solved. A reoccurring criticism of SLA-DSOL is that messages aren’t always acknowledged or responded to quickly. The listserv is a great resource, but I wondered if any of the solo librarians on the list are using Twitter for the same kinds of issues.

One way for solos to do this is with the use of the hashtag (#). Twitter hashtags work to link tweets to one another when used consistently by others. Most Twitter-users apply hashtags sporadically and sometimes ironically, but when applied properly, they can have a very useful purpose. Here’s a scenario of how they can be successful: Recently I was having trouble with the open source ILS platform at my library (it’s called Koha), and was feeling frustrated with the lack of systems support. Overall Koha is an awesome system, but I couldn’t solve a weird bug related to the serials module. After sufficient frustration, I composed the following pathetic plea for help:
To my surprise I received a reply within minutes by a friendly Koha-savvy librarian. Via Tweets, she helped me to locate the appropriate documentation and set me up with a community wiki where I can go for future Koha support.

A second use for solos (and all users) on Twitter is the lists function. Create lists for Twitter users that you follow, such as Friends, News sources, Librarians, etc. When you follow someone on Twitter, you’re able to add them to these lists. My recommendation is to create a group of contacts in a list of solo librarians. When you check your Tweets, rather than scrolling through your entire feed, you can limit your new Tweets to those written by the solos who you follow.

Twitter is just one more way that soloists (can I call them that?) should reach out to each other. If there is a combined effort to use a consistent hashtag for the challenges of being a solo (e.g. #sololibrarians), then I think it would be a fantastic compliment to the existing listserv. Take a look at Catherine Trinkle’s article about the use of Twitter for creating a personal networks of professionals: “Twitter as a Professional Learning Community” (School Library Media Activities Monthly, December 2009).

Overall, I’m interested to know if and how solos are using Twitter. Yesterday I sent a message to SLA-DSOL to inquire about individual Twitter-use. Hopefully I’ll receive some encouraging responses, and maybe then pull solo librarianship into web 2.0 😉

Virtual browsing at the Judd Library

Yesterday I had lunch with my friend Marian and we got to chatting about cool, innovative, library stuff. She sent me an email when she got back to work and included links to some of the things we’d talked about. One of them was the Judd Foundation Library. I have never heard of the Judd Foundation, or Donald Judd, but I read this New York Times article and he seemed quite neat. Anyway, his personal print collection of 13,000 items has been preserved and a unique catalogue of its holdings has been made available online. I have never seen anything like it. Here are some details:

The Collection: The books that Judd collected are an intriguing mix of arts, culture, language, food, etc., from many Nationalities and geographic regions from around the world and throughout history. The organization of the collection was created by and for Judd himself. The items are shelved by geographic location, then by temporal characteristic, and then again by the subject of the item (e.g. France – Middle Ages – Pottery). A photo was taken of each shelf in the library, the photos were scanned, and every item from the individual shelves in each photo was tagged then catalogued with MARC records in AACR2.

The Online Catalogue: As a virtual library user, you can choose which shelf you’d like to see. You can browse the shelves in any direction, or move across the room to see what’s over there. Once you’re looking at a shelf, you can drag your mouse over the spine of the books to read a brief description (basic bibliographic information) of what’s there. To view the catalogue record, click on the description for more detail. There’s even a link to the WorldCat record for the item, so you’re able to find a lending copy nearby!

My initial thoughts when I started browsing were, “This is awesome, I want to do this at my library! But it’s such a bad idea…So time consuming… I wonder how often they have to update photos of the shelves, re-tag the books…” I suddenly had an “AHA!” and “Duh!” moment at the same time. The personal library of Donald Judd will never change, because he’s dead, so there’s no upkeep required to maintain the online catalogue.

A virtual shelf-browsing tool is an advanced but perhaps far-fetched reality for small libraries and special collections. Either way, it’s fun, original, and more than anything, it’s an inspiring tool and access point for hidden collections. Play around with the Browser here.

Neat, eh?