Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Work Stuff’ Category

Janus-faced

Posted by lpearle on 14 October 2014

One part of my job description is to take care of the school’s archives.  Now, I should start by confessing that while I’m good at organization and have a decent idea about how to preserve things, I am not, nor have I ever been, trained as an archivist.  Beyond working at my last school to start making sense of their history and one course in graduate school, I’m totally dependent on the advice and guidance of archivally-trained peers.

So, confession over.  Moving on.

The school I’m at now is heading rapidly towards their 175th year (hemisesquicentennial?  anyone know if there is a word for that?) and the archives are in a mess.  They used to be organized, albeit not necessarily in the best fashion, but a couple of years ago they were moved from an old building (dating from the 1700s) to a new building (est. 2001) and then moved three times within the new space(s).  There used to be an archivist, but no longer and for the past several years it’s been either completely ignored or part of someone’s non-academic duties.  So I’m starting not from scratch but from a position of trying to make sense of what’s there (the box labels don’t always reflect the insides), keeping things ticking, weeding the dross and trying to plan for the future.

Wait! Weeding? Dross?

Yes.  If you are a school archive, there’s a good chance that you will be considered the dumping ground for all the stuff that someone doesn’t want.  It takes discipline on the part of the archivist to not accept things like art and other gifts that were given to the Head/a teacher/coach/school nurse by grateful students and parents, and while appreciated, not quite appreciated enough to go along with the person when they moved offices or left the school.  Knowing that the athletics department should give you a team roster, team schedule/results and photos for every team but perhaps not the play sheets for every game, or that the airline tickets from the admissions departments travel aren’t really necessary seems “duh”-ish, but you’d be surprised!  I’ve seen all that and more in the archives in two schools that I’ve worked with.

Anyway, back to the situation at hand.  One of the things that needs to happen is a reorganization of the boxes, decisions about how to preserve some of the artifacts (some clothing, a lot of scrapbooks and notebooks, ledgers and other written works, etc.) need to be made and maybe we can reopen the archives to researchers.  More important, maybe we can consider updating the book that was written in time for the 150th.  In the intervening 20 years there have been a lot of changes in the school, some unique to the institution and some familiar to anyone working in independent schools, or all-girls schools, but our archives haven’t kept up.

It’s interesting to be thinking about looking forward, to updating this book and protecting the future history while at the same time I’m looking backwards at what was in the archives, what should be there and how we can best preserve that past.

More thoughts to follow.

 

Posted in School Libraries, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 1 September 2014

(more from the vault – next month, fresher stuff!)

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Stuff

Etc.

  • I don’t use Pocket (yet?) but am a fan of Readability.  Which do you prefer?
  • Great playlist of TED talks on Our Digital Lives.
  • Over the years I’ve scooped, livebindered, diigo’d and been delicious… should I now flip?

Posted in Books, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Fitting in

Posted by lpearle on 25 August 2014

One year ago this week I’d completed my first inventory of the collection and attended two days of New Faculty Orientation. Next stop, Opening Faculty Meetings.  I remember staring around, looking at my new colleagues and wondering who was who and how I’d fit in.  My boss introduced me, mentioning my 140-mile round-trip commute and a gasp went up from the others.  I’ve never been gasped at before.  It’s a little unsettling.

This year I (well, the library) hosted the New Faculty Orientation, and I did a little presentation on our Resource Guides.  Almost all the summer books have been processed, the magazines are all checked in, the new furniture is on its way… Monday my partner in crime and I will drive 43 boxes of books to ThriftBooks and run some other errands while planning our upcoming year. And Tuesday all those new faculty will be introduced to the rest of us – my guess is that there will be no gasps involved!

During the NFO I had the opportunity to say hello to several colleagues and catch up a little.  Two of them said the same thing, that it felt (to them) as though I’d been at Porter’s far longer, that this couldn’t be only my second year.  It reminded me of my start at Hackley nine years ago, and how similar things were said about me there.  One colleague told me that there were some faculty who wouldn’t be too friendly, on the theory that it was a waste of time to get to know the newbies before their third year (at least) because of turnover.  Those unfriendly faculty? Some of my closest friends by the end of my first year.

Don’t ask me what I did, or didn’t do, to fit in.  There are checklists and suggestions all over the web about what to do your first week/month/year at a new job (go search ‘em out yourself) but there’s nothing out there on how to fit in, how to make your new coworkers feel comfortable enough to call you colleague, or friend. At this time of year I wonder about the incoming “class” and hope their integration into the school makes them, and others, feel like they’ve been a part of the community for far longer.

Here’s to Academic 2015!

Posted in Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

A love/hate relationship

Posted by lpearle on 18 August 2014

Over the past 30 years I’ve had several “careers” (in the theatre, in finance, as an office manager or a project manager, and finally as an executive recruiter before starting the librarian gig) and worked in many different environments, from small 2-person offices to multi-branch companies.  Every job I’ve had has been filled with things I’ve loved – beyond the paycheck and other benefits – and things I’ve hated.  I’ve never had a job that’s been pure love, and sadly, I don’t expect to ever have one.

It’s one of the things I think we need to teach our students: that yes, absolutely, follow your passion.  Do what makes you go to bed at night feeling fulfilled and at peace.  But – and this is important – no job is going to be 100% of that.  There will always be “lesser” days, and lesser tasks.

What I do now, for example, is a pretty good 80-20 mix.  Sadly, the past few days have been more of that 20 because I hate filing.  I hate shelving.  I hate processing books.  I hate them hate them hate them.  There.  I said it. But they’re all so very necessary if we’re to be ready for the opening of school (and by that I’m including tomorrow’s New Faculty Orientation meetings, taking place right in my library!).  Even when I’ve had an assistant, shelving and filing have been things I’ve had to do.  Oh: keeping track of statistics, like the number of questions we get asked daily or how used the databases are.  Not as bad as filing, and miles better than shelving, but not a favorite.  Yet, like a good doobie I’ve spent time this summer updating our spreadsheets in preparation for the new year.  The stuff I love – working with students and colleagues, doing Reader’s Advisory, collaborating on projects and research – has been paused as everyone scatters for the summer.

Our academic dean is a big proponent of “flow” and working with faculty help them achieve it in their practice.  In theory, that’s great.  But in reality? I’m sure that grading papers/tests is an “unflow” moment for most of my colleagues.  Necessary, but not why they got into teaching.  Dealing with parents is probably another “unflow” moment.  I could go on, but you get the point.  And then there’s the question of the outside world interfering with the work world, for whatever reasons.  That can turn any day that should be filled with “flow” into a day you’d rather not have.

A personal goal for me for this year is to create more concentrated time for the “unflow” work, getting it done promptly rather than putting it off and getting angsty about it.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can get that 80-20 to 85-15.  What about you?

Posted in Musings, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

I read…

Posted by lpearle on 11 August 2014

Ok, to be honest, I almost titled this post “iRead” but I don’t want to jump on any bandwagons!

So, yes, I read.  A lot.  It’s one of my few real talents – reading, reading, reading.  Since January I’ve read 180 books (well… started 180 books.  some were so bad I couldn’t finish) in a variety of genres and for a variety of audiences.  Format, on the other hand, was limited to print and ebook.  Frankly, I prefer print but for ARC/ARE books, I’ll accept (grudgingly) the e version.  When I left my last school, several friends banded together and bought me a Kindle, making it easier to get e books.  At my current school I have an iPad (there’s a 1:1 program) but I never read on that.

Here’s the thing: there’s something wonderfully immersive about a print book.  I open the book up… dive into the world the author has created (that’s true even for non-fiction books)… and woe betide any animal, human or feline, who disturbs me.  When I’m reading on my Kindle, I don’t feel as immersed.

Last year I was given a copy of the recent Brown/Haverford/Trinity/a few other schools e-book survey.  The results didn’t surprise me, but I suspect they surprised the administrators: students don’t want to go e: they prefer print for both research and pleasure reading (sorry, no link).  The Chronicle reported something similar  in 2013, and Publisher’s Weekly  and the Financial Times did the same in 2014.

And in a completely unscientific survey of 100 students at Porter’s (nearly 1/3 of the student body), the girls said the same: give us print, please.

As mentioned earlier, we have a 1:1 program, with a mandate from the administration that if a textbook is available in e format, that’s what the students should buy.  I’ve heard from some parents, and not a few students, that it works for them with math and science texts, but for their English books?  Please, can we have print?  Some are buying two versions, the e and the print, so that they can read in their preferred format and still comply with school requirements.

How has this affected our collection?  We subscribe to Credo Reference and EBSCO’s Academic E-books, giving the students a wide range of books for research.  They’re pretty heavily used, which is great because we certainly couldn’t keep that many books on hand! It’s also allowed us to remove older books from the collection, knowing that the information is covered in the online collection (and eliminating the “wow – this book might just fall apart in my hands” factor).  But in terms of the fiction collection, we’re still going strong with print.

Last [academic] year I was a panelist for a conference discussion on ebooks.  One of the other panelists uses Axis 360 at her school and has great success; part of that is because she has a co-ed population and it’s a great way to get sensitive books into the hands of readers (by “sensitive” I mean GLBTQCA* books, or books about health/emotional issues… and quite possibly “girl” books being read by boys).  If I had that population, it might work better at Porter’s.  The previous librarian subscribed to some Follett shelf books, and there are six Kindles with books loaded (we even borrowed the themed Kindle idea espoused by Courtney Lewis at Wyoming Seminary.  They’re a hard sell here!

Still, as we move forward into AY15, we’ll be thinking more about this question and trying to see what combination works best with our students.  Note: our students.  As the previous paragraph illustrates, YMMV when introducing ebooks into your collection.  Some schools just force them down students throats (Cushing Academy, I’m looking at you!) but to me, that feels wrong.  Far better is to keep taking the pulse of the students, seeing what they want and what’s out there (devices, programs, availability, etc.).

How are you dealing with this issue/conundrum?  And how do uRead?

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 2 Comments »

Dream Teams

Posted by lpearle on 7 August 2014

The other day I was having lunch with a librarian friend when she mentioned the name of her new Lower School Librarian (my friend is the Director of Libraries for a K-12 school) and how she now has a dream team.  Knowing the people she’s working with, I have to agree.  Another school I know also has amazing librarians in all three divisions, and consistently “grooms” interns who then go out and Do Great Things in other libraries.

Having worked in four libraries now, three as part of a team, I know how difficult it is to craft and sustain a Dream Team.  Sometimes you get one member who, for whatever reason, doesn’t buy in to the vision you (and, with luck, the school) have for the library.  Sometimes everyone is on board with the vision, but there are external issues, like transfers or parental leaves, or something similar, that break up the team.  And for some, as Wendy says, there are external reasons why people won’t apply for  jobs that could lead to a Dream Team situation.

At the moment, I’d say I’m in a Dream Partnership – since there’s only one other librarian, and no assistant, “team” seems an overreach.  What does that look like?  It’s when everyone has a similar vision, but there’s the ability to disagree, to tweak and to continually rethink that vision.  Working as a solo librarian for eight years, I know the danger of not having that other person’s feedback and input!  It’s also an excitement, an eagerness to get things going – a reluctance to just do the job, with minimal effort.  Reading or hearing about what’s going on elsewhere and having the ability to reflect on how that could work (or wouldn’t work) at “home” is critical (I’ve never understood people who go to other schools or conferences and can’t imagine changing anything they’re doing).

It’s also important – critical, really – to have administrative support.  Some schools don’t know what they really need, or want, in a library and if you have the support to make changes that will lead to a better student experience, great.  Some schools prefer to have that traditional library program, not embracing the idea of librarians as teachers and educational partners – if that’s your school, maybe that works for you and that’s great.  But if you’re interested in innovating and changing, you may need to look elsewhere (granted, that’s not always the easy route or the most available, due to economics or family).

In my case, I have both a partner who not only supports but suggests changes and an administration that is willing to let us make those changes.  Could things be better? Sure.  We could have an assistant.  We could already be where we think we should have been a few years ago and plotting moves far beyond that.  We could have an even larger budget (we are very well-funded, but it’s never enough, is it?).  But truly, it is a Dream Partnership and I’m eager to get started on Academic Year 2015 and see where we end up in June!

Posted in Musings, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Looking backward… looking forward…

Posted by lpearle on 1 August 2014

One year ago today was my first day at Miss Porter’s School.  As with any new job, there were fears and trepidations, not to mention excitement and that “here’s to a new adventure” feeling.  So what has this past year brought, and what am I looking forward to next year?

This past year has been one of transformation at the library, starting early when the other librarian and I moved out of the workroom and out into the main spaces, sitting where we could easily be seen (and, as my favorite sign says, be interrupted):

helpdesk_11x17_fin600

We moved furniture around, creating better comfortable seating spaces for students as well as moving an information desk to the 1st floor – what better way to reach students “at point of need”, as they do research, than to be right there, in the stacks with them?  I know that I wouldn’t want to go upstairs to ask a question then return back downstairs: why would a student? or a teacher?  Books were moved upstairs  as we updated the fiction collection, and some really creative displays were made (not by me but by Lulu; I don’t have a creative bone in my body).

Based on our analysis of a few systems, we decided to migrate from one OPAC to another and at the same time migrate from Dewey to Library of Congress.  Talk about a lot of work!  Not only did we have to add call numbers to about 3,000 items that couldn’t easily translate, we had to physically move every book and relabel them.  Oh, and continue to do all our other work, including help with a few research projects and papers.  Speaking of research, our model is that of the embedded librarian, not the Shh’er-in-Chief:

 

As I said to my boss (and several others) during my interview, the library won’t be there immediately, but if we’re not at least 50% there after two years, fire me.  Clearly I’m not doing my job.  Analysis at the end of a year?  We have one department’s buy-in and a few other teachers are interested.    So progress is being made!  The Research Guides have been hugely helpful, and now that Springshare has updated the LibGuides platform, they’ll help us help students and teachers even more.
There was so much “good stuff” to share this past year that our Annual Report is kind of stunning, and I was there!
Outside the shelves, this is a 1:1 iPad school and that’s been a real transition.  No one here believes that simply because there’s this powerful tool in students hands there’s no need for a librarian or a library (whew!) but learning how to use one in the most efficient way possible is still a struggle.  Which stylus should I use?  What’s the best way to collect stuff: Evernote or Pocket Informant (or both, or something else)? What about NotesPlus?  How can I use iBooks to “sell” the library?
So, on to Year Two.  To be honest, I’m a little afraid of Sophomore Slump… but we’re already starting strong.  Upgrading the Guides from v.1 to v.2, working with EZProxy to eliminate off/on-campus database access issues (and multiple logins/passwords issues), even more furniture moving around (new projection devices in the Periodicals Room and the stacks, plus more tables in the stacks for students to use with classes)!  Getting the Archives Club and the Varsity Reading Club running effectively, not to mention creating even more opportunities for “non-traditional library programming” are other challenges/opportunities.
Luckily, I’m not alone.  After one year I’ve made some good connections with my colleagues (some of whom are now friends), the other librarian and I make a great team, and the students seem to be enjoying our innovations and changes.  Stay tuned for more library goodness in the months ahead – I know I’m looking forward!

Posted in School Libraries, Student stuff, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 28 July 2014

I promise: this blog will be better attended in the coming weeks and months.  In the meantime, enjoy these links and ideas that I’ve tucked away since, oh, January…

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Stuff

  • We bought Twitterature for work, and I’m hoping that some of our English teachers take on the challenge (perhaps not Beowulf, but other books?).
  • Joyce highlighted Buncee a few months ago; maybe for tutorials or resource guides?
  • We’re going to create a writing table in the library, encouraging students to write notes and letters.  I picked up some great paper in Montreal, and these formal sets are piquing my interest (so do the ideas in the post).
  • Trying to figure out ways to introduce these Super Searcher Tips to students, since we have no real class time with them.
  • I’m sharing this article, What do College Professors Want from Incoming High School Graduates, with my faculty. And, with luck, we can do a Professional Development session using this quiz so they understand the students take on research.
  • I used an Office template for our annual report, then published to Issuu.  These look like some great alternatives.
  • Is anyone using Postach.io with Evernote? Wondering if that would be a good way to push content to the school.

Etc.

Posted in Books, Links, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

The end is nigh…

Posted by lpearle on 17 May 2014

Every so often I think, “you are seriously neglecting your blog!” and immediately feel guilty – all those posts I meant to do that simply don’t get posted because “they” haven’t perfected thought-to-text blogging yet.  I do have an excuse, an oldie but goodie: I’ve been incredibly busy.

Working in a boarding school brings about a special time commitment.  There are the obvious ones, like long open hours (8-5:30 M-F) and sit-down dinners.  Add in weekend duty, evening study hall supervision, plus required attendance at various events… Some weeks, it’s a 7-day workweek with days that stretch from 8am to 9:30pm.  So you can see where “busy” comes from.  Lucky for me, I don’t coach a sport! Towards the end of the year there are even more traditions taking place (all schools have them, to one degree or another), all leading to the passing of the school’s leadership to another group of students, ensuring continuity of programs and activities and Tradition and school ethos.   This is my fourth school, so I’m used to much of this, but each school requires a certain learning curve.

My goal for this first year was to take things somewhat easily, starting to create an embedded program and assessing the collection.  Well…. that didn’t exactly happen.  In addition to that, and creating opportunities for students to use the library that aren’t study related or class related, we embarked on a very ambitious project: changing from Dewey to Library of Congress.  The reality is that as a college-preparatory school, we needed to do this.  It’s also given us the opportunity to weed nearly 8,000 volumes already, with more to follow next year.

Graduation is in three weeks (well, a little less than that) and between now and then we have to finish the changeover and find the missing items (“missing” meaning “we printed a new spine label but the book’s not on the shelf… yet”), prepare the suggested summer reading Resource Guide, prepare summer book and supply orders, attend the final Convocation, year-end performances and Traditions, tidy the workroom and get things ready for the summer break.  Oh, and did I mention that the library is now handling the online book ordering site for textbooks?

I’d blog more, but I have three classes worth of bibliographies to assess and an ereader textbook to create for an English teacher.  Before Monday.

The end is truly nigh… and getting nigher.

Posted in Books, Life Related, Student stuff, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Maker/Create/Collaborativespace pre-conference – #RUSA #ALAMW14

Posted by lpearle on 31 January 2014

I was fortunate to get off the waiting list for the RUSA MARS/RSS pre-conference and see what public and academic librarians think about the maker/create/collaborate space trend.

The overwhelming message was the “maker/createspace” was not just about 3D and Audino, it was anything that isn’t reference or readers advisory.  You don’t need to be a coder to be a creator, you can be a knitter, calligrapher or a rubber stamper (or another type of creator).  This is a message that we need to remember as we create our spaces: it’s about the creation, not the tools.  At bottom, doesn’t “maker” meet our mission as librarians, helping people explore their passions?  In schools especially we’re supposed to help students create new things with the knowledge they acquire – and a maker/create/collaborative space does just that.  Thinking about the space is a great way to start the strategic planning process, too, as it will involve people from different constituencies.

One important thing is to not be a closed shop: be open to all platforms (iOS, WinTel, Chrome, Lynix) and allow people to use all those during the programs.  A diversity of experience and resources can spark really interesting ideas.  It’s also critical to remember that not everyone can afford the tools necessary (it’s also important not to go broke providing for people using the space – finding that happy medium can be difficult).

How should you start? Ask the community what they want, and what they can bring to the space.  Consider an Idea Studio (a la Warwick PL). NCSU’s Hunt Library has a 270o Visualization and Teaching Lab (home of the Virtual Paul’s Cross Website).

Final words: balance what the users really do want and need with what they’re told they want and need (by the media, the library administration, etc.).  It’s a difficult process, and an on-going one, but very worth it.

Other pearls of wisdom:

  • outside funding, but BYOP[roject] is also good
  • Facebook and Twitter are great sources of ideas for what other libraries are doing – see how you can re-purpose their ideas
  • helping people with digital curation is as much “maker” as it is “archivist”
  • consider putting large windows in the space, so people outside can see what’s inside and get inspired
  • students like whiteboards, flexible seating and furnishings

Resources:

Posted in Conferences, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

 
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