Wednesday, July 21, 2010

University of Minnesota Wilson Library

Since the University of Minnesota library system is one I admire – they have a powerful online presence and some amazing librarians presenting at conferences, I wanted to visit at least one of their libraries while in Minneapolis. I was told the Wilson Library was one of the main undergraduate libraries – I found out that it was the humanities and social sciences library. Since we are discussing our library space, I was mostly interested in service points and study space. The building has six floors. When you first walk in through the security gates, there is a circulation desk on the left, a reference desk on the right and a security desk with campus police straight ahead. 
When I took pictures of this, the security folks asked if I had taken their picture without permission, so I retook the picture without them in it and deleted the one where they were barely visible. That first floor has the reference area- a collection slightly smaller than ours, alternating high and low shelving units – and the Smart Learning Commons. Since this is one of the new buzz words, I asked the reference librarian about it. It is basically a computer lab with a few more intense pieces of equipment for scanning and media work. You can see it behind the security desk and comfy chairs in the picture on the right. This Smart commons is staffed by students – helping with what seemed mostly IT issues. I have to read up on it more closely.
The reference librarian said that the Walker Library, that is the science and engineering library has a more extensive Smart Commons, but that was already closed and I was leaving town.

Group study space.
They have quite a bit of group study space on the three main floors above the first floor. Though they have plenty of 4 people tables in rows on each of these floors (see right), all the space designated as group study space is behind doors and usually glass enclosures. There was at least one if not two long group study rooms along the windows of each of these floors. There were various types of tables, chairs on wheels, some of those comfy chars with attached tablets, which looked like they were used by pairs working together. On one floor one of these long rooms was designated a deep study space – no cell phones or computers allowed. Then there were a few regular small rooms designated as group study rooms on each floor. No keys, first come first serve. I didn’t see any presentation equipment, and I don’t think they had computers in there either. In general there were a few computers on each floor, but I would guess the total was less than we have in Waldo, even at our reduced numbers.
One other thing I liked about the space for students. Their comfy chairs are in these homey spaces with mellow colors, home like wooden furniture and incandescent lamps. Wonder if this could be an answer to those who say our library is sterile.

The level below the first floor contained periodicals – current, bound, and microfilms. Looks like thye have not cancelled print subscriptions. On the other side were government documents, which included UN and Canadian documents. Half the shelves were empty, and it looked like they were doing a major move.I didn’t look for anyone to ask. On the very bottom floor they have an East Asia Collection, South Asia collection, James Ford Bell Library (history of international trade before 1800), and an Annex, which I did not understand. They keep older materials here that are fragile, art books that tend to be vandalized, and some oversized books. A substantial part of the collection was still in Dewey, and that was located on the upper floors of Wilson Library. Since they have such a decentralized library system, they must have rare books in each. I know they have various archives and rare books in undergraound vaults, but I will have to go online and see what I can figure out – or Ask their Librarian.

The instruction classroom was down on this second lower level. Seemed out of the way, but maybe they do instruction elsewhere. Or I seem to recall at conferences the librarians saying that they can't possibly get to all the students in actual classrooms, so they have perfected more of their online help.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Baltic and Slavic Studies Conference, Seattle 2010

This was a unique conference in a variety of ways. I had not attended one of the biennial conferences of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS) since 1994, when I last attended and presented as the Latvian Studies Center Librarian. It has taken me this long to get back to my academic roots. Unfortunately, many of the scholars I once knew have already passed away, retired or have moved to live in Latvia.

I believe this is the first time that AABS has held a joint conference with another association, this time with the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study (SASS). Since both organizations are interested in Northern Europe, the histories and concerns of their countries often intertwining, this seems to be a good match. Plus, the University of Washington has programs in both. It was a bit disconcerting to not know almost any of the people at the opening reception, but then I talked to one energetic young man, who was a Dane studying at Tartu University (in Estonia). He helped me see how it all fit together. Of course I did find a group of Latvians at the bar. My panel was attended by Scandinavians as well as Balts, and I attended at least one Scandinavian presentation. At the final banquet, I sat at a table with a Finnish historian, Danish novelist, Lithuanian-American that works for Microsoft, and another Latvian-American. In the end I thought this was a very successful combination.

The other unique factor was the volcanic eruption in Iceland. I just thought of it as an interesting natural phenomenon, not realizing that it had stopped all air travel in Europe. Thus this conference, which was supposed to be full of presenters and participants from Europe was suddenly substantially reduced. Instead of 400 attendees, they only had 300, instead of 41 panels with 134 presenters there were only 26 with 79 presenters. My panel was to have 4 speakers and a discussant – I was the only presenter and luckily the discussant was from the Embassy of Estonia in DC, so she was there, as was the chair of the panel from the University of Washington.

Though I enjoyed presenting on the topic of Baltic National bibliographies at the Slavic studies conference in 2008, here the discussion was very alive and productive. Did I know they were passing a law in Estonia about requiring electronic versions of deposit copies of publications? No - very interesting. The conversations I had in this conference encourage me to continue my research in this field.

I ended up running around between panels and venues, as I wanted to see certain people present, and was interested in a variety of topics. Andris Straumanis presented on Latvian anarchist publications in the early 20th century. Guntis Smidchens was concerned about the bloody language of a popular song from the peaceful singing revolution in the Baltics, Aldis Purs looked at different versions of an incident from Latvia in 1929, where four youths were detained for public drunkenness. This led to his contention that the history of the period has to be researched from more than the political viewpoint. Laura Dean is researching the sex tourism in the Baltics. Brent McKenzie looked at “dark” tourism – tourism based on death – cemeteries, occupation museums, and strange tours that enact being arrested, etc. Marie-Alice L’Heureux looked at Soviet modernism architecture in the 1960’s by comparing two developments in Finland and Estonia, both originally planned organically, the Finnish one creating a successful community, while the one in Estonia moved away from the original plans into huge, awful, monotonous block housing without landscaping that reminds me of Cabrini-Green. Anne Jenner looked at Heritage collections in universities, especially the Swedish American Historical Society collection at North Park University in Chicago. I had numerous interesting conversations, including one with a librarian from University of Wisconsin – Madison.

I went up to the University of Washington Suzzallo Library to view an exhibit put together by Michael Biggins, who is the head of International Studies, Slavic and East European Studies and Baltic Studies. (He is the one that took on my Latvian Studies collection, gave it a good home and continues to develop it.) In honor of the joint conference, he created an exhibit called "Echoes of Three Woodlands: Scandinavia and the Baltics in the Northwest and at UW." The exhibit showed how much these three regions have in common. There were exhibits of books and artifacts, mostly on folklore, music, and culture, but the thing I found most fascinating was the photographs. There were blown up photos of the Scandinavians in Washington going back to the late 1800's. My favorite photo was of three young men and a young woman with their chaperone, sitting on the beach with a case of wax cylinders of recorded music and a phonograph to play them on. The predecessor to iPods and boom boxes. There was also a section on Baltic Americans in Washington State, a photographic exhibit of about 30 people, accompanied by a paragraph with their story of being a Baltic-Americans. This exhibit has traveled to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

I don't know how many places do this, but in the Minneapolis airport I saw a vending machine for Rosetta Stone language packages. No prices listed. It was next to a vending machine from Best Buy.

I have decided to keep my comments on the places I am visiting during conerences separate, so you can read about my thoughts on Seattle and my wonderful trip to Mt. Rainier in Maira's Travels.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Michigan Academy 2010

This was the last of the many out of routine things I had to do this month, so it was a joy and relief to present to a small group of interested colleagues from Michigan. I enjoy connecting with other librarians from Eastern Michigan, Michigan State, U of M, and usually Wayne State and Central too. The smaller college librarians are also doing some very interesting things.

Homeless Perspectives on Libraries
The most unusual presentation was on the use of libraries by the homeless. Angie Kelleher from Alma College is a former social worker, so had interest in how homeless view libraries, how they use them, and to get insights on how to better serve this population. She surveyed 120 homeless in the Lansing area and found that most of them frequently use libraries. The reasons they gave most often for using the library was to read for pleasure, use the Internet for information, or communication, some even study for classes. She rarely got responses such as getting in from the cold, sleeping, washing. Many are pleased with library services and the main request was for more time on computers.

Collaborating with High Schools
Kathleen DeMey explained how Calvin College (Grand Rapids) works with its “feeder” high schools, mostly Christian high schools in the area. They have organized three conferences, where high school teachers and media specialists get to meet introductory English class professors to hear what will be expected of their students, and librarians teach them about tools to use for research. Calvin librarians work with all their ENGL 101 classes, creating individualized LibGuides, giving 3 hours of instruction, and providing often mandatory one-on-one sessions with the students.

Ann Arbor schools have a district wide volunteer program, where organizations from the community are asked to partner. High schools teaching the health and wellness classes asked the University of Michigan Health Sciences Libraries to help provide supplemental material for these classes on alcohol, drugs, smoking, domestic violence, stress management and other topics. Merle Rosenzweig and Anbna Schnitzer talked about how the librarians worked with the teachers to create appropriate guides and attended a health and wellness teacher orientation to show them how to get this type of information. They also worked with a new public health class, involving university professors and a university library visit.

Videos in the Catalog
Elizabeth Bucciarelli and Michael Barnes from Eastern Michigan presented on getting videos into their catalog – both internally created videos like the library tour, but also commercial videos (mostly free ones) on various health topics.

Use of Health Sciences Databases
Andrew Hickner and Abby Bedford, two students from University of Michigan presented on a survey they did on the use of health sciences databases. They found MEDLINE/PubMed, Ovid SP and CINAHL most commonly used, but other databases less so, and most users, including faculty, did not know about ISI features of impact factor and H-index (I had to look up H-index myself). Implications were for teaching, collection development (maybe stop getting lesser used databases), and reference work.

Library Environmental Committee
Michigan State University’s Library Environmental Committee seems to have been at the forefront of recycling and other greening of the campus initiatives at Michigan State. Michael Unsworth is contributing to an upcoming book: Greening Libraries. The MSU libraries have moved to using recycled paper, two-sided copying, recycling toner cartridges, reducing library handouts by using more e-mail and more. They sponsor Earth Day activities and a speaker series. MSU has a surplus store and recycling center.

Developing a Scholarly Research Topic
An unexpected twist in these presentations came from Rhonda Fowler, an Eastern Michigan University librarian, who described her own struggle with developing a research topic. She is concerned with the amount of time and energy some librarians expend on supervising others, but had a hard time moving from this concern to a viable research question. She explained her process and showed a few good research process models. Seven Steps of the Research Process (Cornell Libraries) and Kuhlthau's Model of the Stages of the Information Process.

Workshops on APA and MLA Styles
Christine Malmsten and Jennifer Meacham from Marygrove College Library, a small academic library in Detroit, explained how they do 16 workshops a semester on APA and MLA styles. They have created 12 page guides on formatting a paper in both styles, but in the workshops they focus on the citations. From evaluations they learned that the session needs to be longer – 90 minutes - for enough hands on experience. They do work with their writing center.

Finding Rare and Unusual Content in Collections
Eastern Michigan University, which does not have as its mission to collect rare materials, has over the years acquired items that may be of historical, cultural, or monetary value. Robert Kelly explained how EMU generated a report of all items with pre-1940 imprints (got 40,000), sorted them by date and found the first 200 had major issues in the catalog records. They took about a 1000 of the oldest items and looked at them to decide if they belonged in the circulating collection, storage (ARC), or in their archives. They found ACRL standards that addressed what value to look for, but in the end the criteria they used were: market value, number of copies in Michigan, and the bibliographic value to EMU. They ended up moving only 39 titles (94% of these titles were already in storage), but also cleaned up many of the catalog records, e.g. 10% had been cataloged as original publications, but were reprints, and one 1711 was cataloged as a reprint, but was original.

Feminism in Librarianship
Sharon Ladenson from Michigan State and Gloriane Peck from the Library of Michigan collaborated on a survey of librarians on their attitudes towards feminism and how that manifests in library work. They got 560 responses, 88% female, 79% identified themselves as feminists. Feminism is defined in libraries as individual choice, equality, diversity of gender identities, and awareness of gender bias. This affects work at the libraries in treating patrons and colleagues equally, balancing viewpoints in collection development, and seeing the library as a place for all people. Though there is an increasing number of women in management, men are still promoted more quickly. There was some discussion on the gender differences in workplace communication. The younger respondents felt less valued and heard by older colleagues, but it was not clear if this was gender or age bias.

Ladies’ Library Associations in Michigan
Our own Sharon Carlson presented a great historical view of ladies’ library associations in Michigan, especially in Southwest Michigan, and their contributions to the development of public libraries. I learned about how libraries moved from subscription and social libraries to public institutions. Some of the ladies’ library associations are still in existence today.

Training Students for Reference Desk Work
My own presentation was on how we train our students to do the work on the reference desk, as librarians asked me about this at the last Michigan Academy meeting. I was again surprised at the questions and lively discussion that followed.

Calvin College
I always like to see other schools – large and small, and liked the buildings and setting of Calvin College. I asked where I could take a walk during the lunch break and was guided to their ecosystem preserve and interpretive center. I got to try out my first composting toilet in a public building. And the walk through the preserve was just what I needed to clear my head between sessions.

Ideas for Our Library
  1. I think we need to look at a more systematic way of working with area high schools. We do have lighter loads during Apr, May, Nov, & Dec. Maybe we can help provide links to resources as they did in Ann Arbor or start a conversation about college level research expectations. Does anyone know if Kalamazoo or Portage has a program similar to Partners in Excellence – Ann Arbor Public Schools? I believe this can be a great recruiting tool for Western.
  2. Have we thought of putting videos right into the catalog?
  3. I know we have successful RefWorks workshops, but have we considered ones on MLA and APA? Or is our experience with drop-in workshops too dismal?
  4. Have we systematically looked at our older publications and seen if they need to be moved off the circulating shelves? I know Sue and Tom before her have worked on this.