Month: July 2011

How I do it

Normally, this blog focuses on issues related to information literacy and instruction at academic libraries, but since this week is Library Day in the Life week, I’m digressing for a few posts to discuss what I do as a cataloger and library supervisor. Today was a fairly normal day: cataloging, meetings, lunch with colleagues. So instead of boring you with details of what I did, I thought I would show you the tools I use to get things done:


  • Dell Optiplex 755 with Windows 7
  • dual monitors
  • barcode scanner
  • mouse and keyboard (nothing special)


  • Microsoft Outlook (for email and tasks)
  • Oracle Calendar (for scheduling)
  • SirsiDynix Symphony (for working on local records)
  • OCLC Connexion (for importing records)
  • Notepad++ (for notes, scribbles, quick document production)
  • Firefox
    • Meebo (for chat and virtual reference)
    • Hootsuite (for monitoring social network chatter)
    • USC Libraries OPAC (for cataloging)
    • some music or radio page (varies depending on my mood)


I don’t spend a lot of time organizing my email. What’s the point? Outlook’s search functionality is strong enough that I can always find what I’m looking for. I have four folders for all my email: Inbox, Sent, Processed, and Saved. Nothing stays in my Inbox for more that 24 hours. Everything is either dealt with and moved to the Saved folder, deleted, or put in the Processed folder if it has additional contingencies. I have a 1-touch policy when it comes to email: once I touch the file, I have to deal with it. Emails that come from listservs are automatically grouped into subfolders so I can quickly browse the threads and are auto-deleted after 1 month.


Most of my job requires responding to issues as they arise, but I do have some ongoing projects that need constant assessment and management. So I use Outlook for task management. All my tasks are grouped into two categories: Next Actions or Waiting. The idea is that I either do the task as soon as the context is right or I wait until a contingency is removed. I also have a list of Projects that I use to remind myself of all my areas of responsibility.


I wish I could also use Outlook for my Calendar, but the university uses Oracle. And since everyone else uses it, it makes sense for me to use it so that I can coordinate schedules with other staff.


Sirsi and OCLC are my two constant companions in this regard. I use Sirsi for local catalog work and OCLC for searching other catalogs, name authorities, and importing records. I also constantly refer to Cataloger’s Desktop and ClassWeb for reference.


The god of all notepad programs. I use it for everything from taking quick notes to writing memos and drafting project reports. I only throw my text into Microsoft Word if I need special formatting.


All the programs above are docked in my left-side monitor. Firefox occupies its own monitor on the right. I keep it open to the USC Libraries OPAC so that I can do quality control on my cataloging work, but I also keep open tabs for Meebo and Hootsuite to keep track of what the internets are buzzing about. I also like to have some music playing (since I don’t work near other people) so I usually have KCRW, KUSC, Twit, 5by5, or some other streaming radio service open. This keeps me sane. =)


And there you have it. Those are the tools that help me maintain a constant level of productivity. I don’t know that having dual monitors and a handful of programs all open at the same time is right for everyone, but it works for me. =)

Current research: July 2011

One way I stay up-to-date with the general discourse  of academic librarianship (and, specifically, information literacy) is by regularly reviewing scholarly publications. While blogs, Twitter, and other online networks let me know what librarians are thinking at this very moment and offer a more organic approach to peer learning, refereed publications clue me in to issues that are significant enough that someone was willing to spend months, possibly years, or their professional life investigating them.

Unfortunately, my life is an out-of-control batting machine right now, I’m the poor schmuck locked in the cage. The four articles below have been sitting on my desk for few weeks now. Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to read them more closely, but in the meantime, I wanted to call your attention to them.

Carlson, J., Fosmire, M., Miller, C.C., & Nelson, M.S. (2011). Determining data information literacy needs: A study of students and research faculty. Portal: Librarias and the Academy, 11(2), 629-657.

From Abstract: “This paper articulates the need for a data information literacy program (DIL) to prepare students to engage in such an “e-research” environment. Assessments of faculty interviews and student performance in a geoinformatics course provide complementary sources of information, which are then filtered through the perspective of ACRL’s information literacy competency standards to produce a draft set of outcomes for a data information literacy program.”

Daugherty, A.L. & Russo, M.F. (2011). An assessment of the lasting effects of a stand-alone information literacy course: The students’ perspective. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(4), 319-326.

From Abstract: “The authors wished to measure the degree to which a library information literacy course establishes a foundation for life-long learning.”

Mestre, L.S., Baures L., Niedbala, M., Bishop, C., Cantrell, S., Perez, A., & Silfen, K. (2011). Learning objects as tools for teaching information literacy online: A survey of librarian usage. College & Research Libraries, 72(3), 236-252.

From Abstract: “Based on information gathered from two discussion sessions moderated by members of the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section’s Online Learning Research Committee a survey was conducted to identify how librarians use course/learning management systems and learning objects to deliver instruction. […] A description of a ‘Toolkit for Online Learning’ created by the Online Learning Research Committee is provided.”

Snavely, L. & Dewald, N. (2011). Developing and implementing peer review of academic librarians’ teaching: An overview and case report. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(4), 343-351.

From Introduction: “This article is intended to explore peer evaluation of teaching in higher education in general and of library instruction in particular, then propose a methodology for the development of a set of practices of peer review of course-related library instruction for an individual institution […].”


Summer eats

Tiff and I made red peppers stuffed with quinoa, mozzarella, basil and garlic for the Fourth. I think we’ll try goat cheese next time, but these were delish.

Out in front, but out of the way

“We must look with cold and hard-headed rationality at our current practices and ask ourselves not what value they offer, but rather what value our patrons believe they offer. If what we offer our patrons is not perceived as valuable by them, then we have two choices: change their minds, or redirect our resources. The former is virtually impossible; the latter is enormously painful. But the latter is possible, and if we do not undertake such a redirection ourselves, it will almost certainly be undertaken for us.”

The above quotation comes from an editorial in the July 2011 issue of The Journal of Academic Librarianship. In it, Rick Anderson, Associate Director for Scholarly Resources and Collections at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library, discusses the current plight of academic research libraries: that patrons’ perceptions of libraries, particularly their value and use, have moved beyond our organizational design and there is little we can do about it.

If you enjoy reading “future of libraries” talk with overtones of the apocalypse (see also Taiga), then Anderson’s article offers tasty hors d’oeuvres. He answers the question “Can the research library go out of business?” with a definitive “Yes” and goes on to describe what that might look like.

I recommend reading the article in full, but I want to touch upon one aspect. We’ve suspected for some time that reference transactions were declining (over 60% per FTE since 1995 according to one study Anderson cites), partly because more information is easily found online but also because students’ perceptions of their information searching skills are strengthening. They may indeed still need librarians in certain situations, but they don’t think they do.

Anderson doesn’t believe we can change this perception. I tend to agree. Rather, I think we should be working even harder to integrate our resources seamlessly into our students’ daily lives in ways that encourage [self-initiated] discovery: embedding resources in course pages, using search discovery layers, making ourselves available at the students’ point of need in both physical and virtual spaces (but mostly virtual), and building programs and projects that encourage complex human-information interactions. We can be leaders, but the kind of leaders that stay out of the way.

It isn’t important that students know librarians are behind it. Most probably don’t care if it’s us or our IT department or Google. They only care that it works and that it helps them get things done. Thoughts?



Anderson, R. (2011). The crisis in research librarianship. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(4), 289-290.