Sunday, June 05, 2011

New Reading Room at University of Chicago Library

  Last week I visited the University of Chicago Regenstein Library to see their new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library that opened May 16. It is actually a reading room, preservation work space and storage facility.

I like the fun bubble next to the main library. I heard some students have already tried to scale it. I remember a friend getting in trouble for scaling the clock tower at Cornell, but he was just compelled to try to climb things.

You get to the Mansueto Library Grand Reading Room through a glass tunnel that connects it from the Regenstein Library. Half of the bubble is devoted to the reading room with four long tables in the middle and tables for four all around the edges. This is a quiet study space. It was packed (I think it was the week before finals) and everybody was focused on their own work. Each seat had a light and power plug - most had brought their laptops.  My first thought was, doesn't it get hot in here, but they have tinted the glass to mitigate the sun's rays, and there is plenty of air conditioning coming from the silver columns, so it was quite cool; the fans were a bit loud and distracting. I spent over an hour working there and enjoyed it. The view was great! I often wish for a sliver of a view to the outside from my office, and here you can raise your eyes and look out over the campus or rest them on infinity.

The other half of the bubble is the preservation work area for conservation and digitization. Quite a high profile area for a department that is usually relegated to the basement. They must have been high on the priority list to get space, I wish them well. Maybe preservation and digitization activities will get a higher profile this way. The same question about all that sunlight came to mind - doesn't sunlight damage materials? But I am sure they have thought it out.

University of Chicago had not wanted to have an off site storage for less used library materials, so they built an underground storage facility right under the reading room.It has an automated retrieval system that gets people materials out of storage in 5 minutes to the circulation desk in the reading room. I briefly talked to a colleague at the library and she predicted that students and faculty are going to want that kind of service for the materials in the rest of the library.

Renderings and floor plan and more images of the library can be seen online. I am just fascinated at how people solve library space issues.

Monday, April 11, 2011

ACRL 2011 in Philadelphia

Another great Association of College and Research Libraries conference!  It was a bit overwhelming, but I got lots of information, ideas and opportunities for networking. ACRL created a parallel virtual conference, which included some presentations that were done only virtually and will soon include all the presentation PowerPoints and I believe posters. The ACRL Conference Papers are already up. Plus I have more detailed notes on many of the presentations I attended.


I have to say my biggest "aha" moment was at the Dinner with colleagues, when two librarians from University of California San Diego talked about budget cuts forcing the closing of five of their nine libraries, one having been given a two month notice. Wow! That is intense. They are an ARL library with the same number of students as us, but 50 librarians and 250 staff, down about 10 of the former, 40 of the latter, still painful. I do like our mostly centralized library and have wondered if we ever have had the conversation about the necessity for a separate education library, but cutting over half the branches seems draconian.

Keynote speakers
The first keynote speaker was Tiffany Shlain, an interesting combination of high tech and philosopher. She established the Webby awards and is a producer of documentary films. One was The Tribe on the American Jews. We found out that the creator of Barbie was Jewish and the doll can be an interesting way to look at cultural identity. Shlain developed educational materials to go with the movie with Harvard. She has done a movie on women’s reproductive rights and her latest movie is called Connected – also with educational materials – about our interconnectedness through technology. I did not get to see the full movie, but we saw clips during her presentation, and I think she brought up lots of ideas worthy of discussion. She has instigated an unplugging day once a week in her family and in the end has hope for the human race.


Raj Patel is an economist, activist, writer, who is concerned about the world and especially food sources. He talked charmingly (as I heard later was tweeted from the audience) about the myth of liberty and freedom and our broken economy. He told of Greenspan admitting that his thinking about the economy has been wrong for the last 40 years, but that the media did not really latch on to that admission. He explained how our dollar burger is really worth about $200 in environmental costs. He talked about the huge proportion of unpaid work, especially done by women. I purchased his book, the Value of Nothing and hope to get a better handle on our complex economic issues. 

Jaron Lanier was a trip, I am glad I was well rested for his interesting take on the world. He is a Silicon Valley insider, innovator, teacher, composer, artist, and author of You are Not a Gadget. His talk was appropriately named – “The Bipolar Library: How Humanizing and Digitizing Can Both be Advanced.” I won’t even begin to try to recount his talk to us, but it made me think differently about library work. The analogy he used that most set in my mind, is that he was giving us the view from Silicon valley – like Godzilla looking down on ants and worms fighting each other. Libraries and publishers are the ants and worms. One of his main points to us was to value books, authors, intellectual property and to celebrate them, collect them, encourage decent pay for them. He asked us to look closely at the consequences of open access, so the publishing and library business does not go the way of the music industry.

The closing keynote was from Clinton Kelly, the co-host of the TV reality show What Not to Wear. This was definitely a fun ending to an intense conference, but even he had his lessons to give us librarians – and not only about our sometimes not so sharp fashion sense. Lisa Hinchliffe, one of my idols in the library world and current ACRL president, admitted that she does watch TV and finds that What Not to Wear teaches about living your life, embracing change, struggling to find your true self, and if you want to move into the future, you have to leave the past behind.  Isn’t that the point of education – growth, development and change? Kelly gave us seven steps, starting with “Admit it – how you dress sends a message to people.” His fashion tips were very general and could fit any librarian and any budget and included things like – distance yourself from the people around you that bring you down. In the question and answer period people asked mostly fashion questions including about beards and shopping at second hand stores (he was OK with that, as long as you tailor things to fit you.)

                                                        ACRL Metrics
Dianna and Carrie in front of sculpture
This is fairly new, otherwise I would be concerned that I hadn't heard of it before. ACRL Metrics is an online service that takes the data that libraries have been reporting to ACRL and NCES since 2000, and creates reports, compares statistics over time, compares you to peer and other institutions. The data set includes over 300 performance indicators and lets you combine them in various set ways as well as make custom combinations. I have wanted to see these numbers for WMU and wished we had the ability to compare ourselves to others for years
.
Library as Space
I found the session by the University of Wisconsin – Madison the most useful, as they had made incremental changes to their undergraduate library entrance space including information desk, reference desk, circulation, reserves, reference collection and computers. They started the process in 2008, and made most of the changes without funding. Funding did come through in 2010 and they were able to purchase new furniture, but the functional changes were the most important.

University of Michigan has also made major changes in the lobby of their undergraduate library. I heard the story of Bert’s Café a year or more ago, but this year they were able to tap the same donor – Bert, and improve the whole entrance area with comfy chairs, a less intimidating check-out & reference area, group work spaces with projection screens, news area (4 news channels on at all times) and more.

Numerous posters addressed library as space issues. One place found that when they combined reference with circulation, their reference questions dropped dramatically, because the huge circulation desk was intimidating and there was no easy way for librarians to get around to actually help a student on the floor. They ended adding a smaller desk in front of the big desk for easy access and friendlier service.

Institutional Repository
The pre-conference sponsored by Digital Commons and SPARC was valuable for my work with our ScholarWorks. I got to meet the guru of institutional repositories – Paul Royster of Univ. of Nebraska Lincoln, as well as Marisa Ramirez from Cal Poly, Marilyn Billings from U Mass Amherst, and Isaac Gillman from Pacific University in Portland. I got some insight on staffing repository work, working with electronic theses and dissertations, getting “off the beaten track” materials, publishing books, thinking of the repository as a service rather than a collection, promoting the IR, and plenty of practical tips.

Web issues
I went to a session called “No more design by committee: Strategies for building lean mean web project teams.” Turns out this was a presentation by my Journal of Web Librarianship editor Jody Fagan from James Madison, who has now published a book Web Project Management for Academic Libraries, and has cited the Web article I wrote with Maria and Pat. I think we are doing what they are suggesting – by creating small teams to work on specific Web projects. We also have a person with authority to sign off and make final decisions on projects.

Philadelphia and Longwood Gardens
Some events were outside of the convention center, plus I was staying with friends, and I did some exploring after the conference, so my travel blog contains something about Philadelphia and   Longwood Gardens. The gardens were suggested by a friend and though it was still too early to thoroughly enjoy them outside, the conservatory was incredible. I have put more pictures up on Facebook for those of you who are connected with me there.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Michigan Academy 2011

I enjoyed another informative, low-key Michigan Academy conference, this year at Saginaw Valley State University. I like meeting my colleagues from Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, MSU, Uof M, Wayne and other colleges around the state.

Michael Unsworth from MSU and Merle Rozenzweig from UofM collaborated on a session about IRBs or institutional review boards and just reminded us, that though most library research gets exemptions, if we want to publish the results of any surveys, interviews or other human contact research we do, we have to go through the laborious process of getting IRB approval. I have to check if our process is all online now, and if the turnaround time has improved at all, since Uof M can get an expedited review in a couple of days.

There were quite a lot of health sciences librarians present, and I feel these could be good contacts for us when we start planning library resources for our new medical school. MHSLA http://mhsla.org/, a small, inexpensive, but valuable conference for Michigan health sciences librarians was recommended.

Stephanie Swangerg, a student at UofM’s library school presented research on the point-of-care medical databases used by faculty and practitioners. They contacted 29 people, 11 responded, and ended up doing phone interviews with 8, asking about 6 databases – UpToDate, DynaMed, MDConsult, STAT!Ref, Access Medicine and Pediatric Care Online. Though UpToDate was used by all, they found that it did not necessarily have the most current and best information, and it was not accessible off campus, plus it was very expensive. The result was that UofM has decided to drop UpToDate, and make DynaMed their main resource, plus they hope to do more marketing of some of the other databases. A valuable tip was that when they sent out e-mails to the original 29, they asked for “input” on the subject line of the email, addressed them by name and named their liaison librarian, so they might be more likely to respond.

Abby Bedford from Grand Valley State, a first year librarian, talked about embedding herself in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program, which is mostly online, except for five intense Thursday-Friday sessions on campus. Originally her sessions were optional – three two hour sessions on Saturdays, but she got such good feedback from the students on how necessary it was for everyone to learn to access medical data, that this semester she has four one hour sessions during their official on campus time. Since these were mostly non-traditional students ages 30-60, working in their professional fields, it was hard to determine their information literacy level, so Abby started with basics, showed searching techniques, databases and ended with RefWorks. She was concerned about retention of this information, so created tutorials on Slide Share and YouTube for things like how to get PubMed articles into RefWorks, a complex process on which she did not want to waste class time.

Elizabeth Bucciarelli talked about how she has partnered with faculty by identifying needs in a department and finding the faculty with which she shares similar interests, goals, and a passion for teaching. She had a list of characteristics she looks for, and does some research on the faculty to determine their interests and focus. Elizabeth then showed how a one shot instruction session in the introductory nursing skills class blossomed into a three tier instruction in nursing and occupational therapy. Evidenced based research is  important to nursing, but complex, so she pulled that out of the introductory classes.

A couple of sessions were focused on First Year Experience. The librarians at University of Detroit Mercy wanted to take on teaching the common read for Arts & Sciences, and though originally encouraged, ran into various roadblocks. Then the School of Architecture invited them to work with their freshmen. The book was The Other Side of the River by Kotlowitz about the 1991 racial incident in Benton Harbor. They brought in guest speakers to tie issues brought up in the book to the university and issues in the community. Unfortunately the speakers seemed to have their own agendas, and did not relate their talks to the book, plus the architecture students felt they were wasting time when they could be learning architecture. One librarian added that the older architecture students were much more broad minded.

Another interesting FYE project was presented by Jennifer Meacham at Marygrove College. Their FYS tries to introduce not only the collegiate experience, but the community, Detroit history and service learning. Their recent common read was To Kill a Mockingbird. They have a digitized collection of over 20 interviews of local people talking about immigration, migration and civil rights. The students were asked to listen and write down unfamiliar names, places and things and summarize the interview to the class. This had led to very interesting class discussions.

Ann Franz, a circulation clerk at Wayne State talked about their Subject of the Month display that has been successful and fostered collaboration between reference and access services departments. Subjects are related to special national months, but also cover the various liaison areas. Liaisons are the ones to make the choices, circulation pulls the books. This has increased circulation of those books and provided a point of interest in the library.

Ruth Helwig from Central Michigan University talked about an instructional collection of children’s books, textbooks and teaching aids that was housed in the education college, but moved to the library after the new education building no longer had space for the collection. These materials were now cataloged and allowed to circulate for one week. The response has been positive, though it is hard to tell if the circulation has actually increased. This led to a discussion about departments and individuals continuing to create their own private collections in their offices, often for student use.

It always amazes me how Michael Barnes of Eastern Michigan can make cataloging interesting to the rest of us. This time he tackled authority work and presented it as a fable with kings and knights and dragons, so we did not fall asleep in this after lunch presentation. Basically, Michael pointed out various challenges with keeping up with authority files, including the fact that they had lost a staff position. He estimated the cost of staff time spent on authority work, compared pricing and services of four vendors, and chose Marcive. EMU sent them all their records, they cleaned up all the authority records, and now there is a monthly update for new records and updates on existing authority records. There is still some staff time involved, but much less, so the process costs less than it did and it frees up staff time for other projects.

Ryan Christman is a PhD student at Eastern Michigan, who has worked through an expressive writing program for veterans, now teaches it himself and wants to offer it to veterans across Michigan. He explained his situation through a YouTube interview - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQO2AR-q2Ts and was thankful for this program. Librarians have been a great help to him in this process and he sees our role as expanding beyond what we do now.

Lisa Rabey, a library student at Wayne State as well as an employee at Ann Arbor Public Library did a study with a librarian about the online presence of public libraries and their involvement with social networking. Since a high percentage of adults have access to the Internet, the time has long passed when libraries can opt out of an online presence. Lisa and her colleague looked at about 20% of Michigan public libraries and often found missing contact or address information, and abandoned Web projects. They suggest creating a social media policy to ensure regular use and updating, treating your Web presence like your virtual front door, using free online tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Library Thing and more, but sticking to technologies patrons are most likely to use. Content should be relevant, but personable.

I felt like I was giving an annual report on what I was up to at work. My session was based on previous sessions when I have talked about the READ scale for categorizing the difficulty of reference questions and the training of our student employees. This time I talked about where we are in the process of creating an assessment plan, and how we are trying to organize our various assessment methods under a few general outcomes. I showed some of the results we are getting out of Library Stats, our online way of recording reference interactions.

Saginaw Valley State University Library


The youngest of  Michigan’s state universities (founded 1964), the university is in the middle of corn fields between three small cities – Saginaw, Midland, and Bay City. They have over 10,000 students, mostly undergrad, and though they used to be a commuter school, about 25% now live on campus. The library opened in 1987 and is in a four story building attached to the Dow Doan Science buildings. The fourth story was added on top of the building in 2003. They used to have a food service café, but since they now sit right between the Albert E’s (Einstein’s) Food Court and a Starbucks, the library itself just has an eating area supplied with vending machines. They have great places to study – huge windows around the reference area – two stories high, like KVCC, and a gorgeous reading, reception area on the top floor overlooking the campus. They have 10 group study rooms, lots of comfy seating throughout the library, tables with lamps and electrical outlets, and baseboards with electrical outlets around the perimeter. The Writing Center is on the third floor and the Student Technology Center (IT help) is on the second. They have two classrooms plus other training areas and conference rooms. The main classroom is open for student use when not used for instruction.

They are in the process of weeding their reference collection to make more space for tables and study space. They had a nice India Collection corner, meant for the visiting faculty they get from India. They had specially made wooden shelves with an Indian motif and had gotten funding to purchase books on India. I also liked the popular reading corner. We often get questions about the “fiction” section, when students are just looking for a fun read. The library is full of student art, especially sculptures. In one corner on the first floor there is a sculpture dedicated to Theodore Roethke, a Pulitzer Prize winning author born in Saginaw. They have Ken Follett’s papers, just because a professor who studied mysteries asked the writer for them. You will notice that I have mostly concentrated on how they use their space, as library as space is currently one of my interests in the library world.

I was graciously shown around the library by John Mauch, an alumnus of WMU Library school. He is waiting for the redbuds to bloom, so he can take an inspiring photo of the library and send it in to Choice magazine. I had left my camera at home and have yet to figure out how to get the photos out of the camera on my new phone. I also tried to find the Saginaw Public Library and ended up wandering into a branch as they were closing and ran into another WMU alumnus. Small world.

Friday, January 07, 2011

New York Public Library

Nothing like being unexpectedly blown away. I stop by the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd and 5th, because I need the Internet and I want to ask about the affects of the closing of the Slavic and Baltic Reading Room.

I walk up between the famous lions, a bit cracked, but the building looks gloriously white, like it has been recently cleaned. (buildings in NYC get really sooty.) I head up to the 3rd floor reading room - use the Internet to find the offices I need to find in Westchester county and to get the address and phone number of an old bibliophile I may have time to visit while I am here in New York. Guests are allowed 50 minutes access to the Internet, I don't know about NYC residents. On the my way out, I ask the reference desk how the closure of the Slavic and Baltic Reading Room has affected their work. Of course they still have the incredible collection, but only one employee from the reading room remains, who's time is divided between collection development and other duties. So service to this collection is much reduced and the pages have a difficult time retrieving the books as some of the call numbers have not been transliterated, and the pages can't find the books with the cyrillic letters in the call numbers. I am given the name of the one remaining specialist, who I will have to contact for an update on the collection and to see if it continues to be developed for the Baltic region.

I head downstairs from the epitome of all library reading rooms and remember there is usually an exhibit, so I will just poke my head into it. First I come accross the Scriptorium - the interactive portion of the exhibit. I think of my colleague Sue Steuer and find myself fascinated by all the tools, pigments used for manuscript illustrations, parchment, paper, brushes, quills, gold leaf and more. The center of the room contains a huge light table and people are encouraged to sit down and trace their names in Greek, Arabic, Hebrew or an old English script. I still have business to take care of, so I just grab the script examples and head to the main exhibit.

The Three Faiths - amazing. Even libraries can do their share to further world peace. NYPL takes the three major religions and explains how they are similar with plenty of artifacts from all three. Sue will kill me that I just glance at all of them and just read the major panels on Revelation, Scriptures, Commentaries, Prophets, Spreading the Word, Private Prayer, Public Worship, and Sacred Places. The exhibit is an amazing overview of sacred texts from various ages. Illustrations glitter with gold. Many languages are represented. I think the oldest piece I see is pre-900. I now want to read up on the history of the English translation of the Bible as I get a glimpse of a 14th century Wycliffe edition and an explanation of the evolution of the King James Bible. Of course there is a Gutenberg Bible on display.

My bibliophile treat for the holidays.