Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for April, 2010

The silence of the backchannel

Posted by lpearle on 24 April 2010

I spent yesterday at the annual NEISL conference – it was held at Hotchkiss, a beautiful school in relatively remote Lakeville CT.  As I drove in through the gates, I turned on my phone to retrieve the parking instructions – no signal.

Turns out, there was very little coverage anywhere on campus.  While wondering what kind of withdrawal the students went through when they returned to campus after various breaks, I also appreciated how calm it made things.  Students looking at each other, talking, rather than at their hands texting.

At Hackley, there are very few meetings that I attend where one (or more) participants aren’t checking their phones for incoming texts/e-mail/tweets.  It makes me wonder why we even need to meet face-to-face, since at least one face is also meeting virtually with others and isn’t fully invested in what’s going on at that moment in that room. (and we all remember what happened when Tom Golisano felt that he was a “victim of bad Blackberry etiquette“, don’t we?)

For some reason, there was also little access to wifi during the conference.  We were supplied with a username and password, but it was slow and most of us gave up on using our computers early on in the day (the few that didn’t used them to take notes, not surf the web, check e-mail or tweet).  Were there things that could have been tweeted?  Yes.  But by concentrating on the speaker and the topic, without thinking “oooh – I should tweet that!”, meant that I got more out of the sessions than I might otherwise have done.

Interestingly enough, there were no calls prior to the conference to use this or that hashtag, or to include our blogs or twitter names in our information.  It felt like a return to the conferences of not-so-long-ago, and it was a welcome respite: we were there to be with each other and to learn from one another, and any spreading of the Word would come later after we’d dispersed.

As I now start thinking about ALA10, I’m going to be rethinking my use of Twitter and the backchannel.


Posted in Conferences | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


Posted by lpearle on 18 April 2010


Chris Harris wrote the DDC is Killing our Libraries – and I have to say that I’m in partial agreement with him (did you look at my YALSA and ALLA presentations?)  I used to do a huge DDC unit, but over the years I’ve decided that all my students need to know is:

  • the information on the shelves is organized in a certain way; this is not the only way to organize information
  • if you know the basics (the hundreds) it can speed up your use of the catalog – if you are looking for information on Renaissance Europe politics, you can ignore the books in the 700s.

As the presentations indicate, we’re changing things at Hackley.  The goal is to make it easier for students to find information, not to adhere rigidly to some century-old guidelines being interpreted by humans at the Library of Congress.  But getting rid of DDC entirely?  Not going to happen.  At least, not in the near future.


Voting for the upcoming ALA elections is going slowly.  In some ways, this is similar to the census: one in three people did not return their census forms, and one in five members (or perhaps it’s one in six members) haven’t voted in the elections.  Shame!


LizB and I has a brief twitter session yesterday, when she tweeted that in some communities the thinking seems to be that

I’ve been thinking about this, particularly since I’m guilty of not really knowing what my local public school board is thinking in terms of budget, staffing and library resources. Why should I, when you think about it, as I don’t have children? Why shouldn’t I, when this is a critical issue of access to resources for our students? That’s the critical part – the part that I suspect many older, or childless, taxpayers ignore: we need to be aware of the fallacy of duplication of library services.  Particularly when both public and school libraries are under the budget ax.

Ok, this isn’t really an update, it’s more of a reality check.  This week I got to teach research to some of our English 11 students – I created a LibGuide, walked them through using Noodletools, and hoped for the best.  Yes, I get a little excited about getting out of the library and in to the classroom, and yes, spring fever is affecting the school.  I also happen to be friends with the former nanny of a current student… and that student posted on Facebook about the class (something about how cool I thought I was that I was teaching the class about research).  It’s good to remember that even the kids that seem to be enjoying our classes, that seem to be responding to our Words of Wisdom and Sage Advice may find us somewhat foolish.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Musings, School Libraries, Student stuff, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Vaguely insulted

Posted by lpearle on 14 April 2010

Yesterday, as I was presenting “at” the Alabama Library Association’s conference, someone called me at work.  The message was there when I got back, and it was clear that it was a wrong number… ish.

The call was from a salesperson, and was for a James Smith.  Yet this salesperson had clearly listened to my voice mail message, as he started with “Hello, Laura” before launching into his spiel.  ooookay.  I chose not to respond, because I’m not James Smith.

Later in the afternoon, the salesperson called back.  After we’d established that I was not James Smith, nor did one work at Hackley at my exact phone number, he said “well, as long as I’ve got you on the phone…” At that point, I cut in and said that I’d heard his message earlier, that I was quite happy working in a school as the librarian and thank you very much.  He then said “well, perhaps you’re only a school librarian because you’re not an entrepreneur.”

First of all, duh.  I’m also a school librarian because I’m not a veterinarian, a lawyer or any other profession.  Second of all, “only”. ONLY????  That’s the part that insulted me (I admit to snippily saying ‘I find that offensive.  Good bye.”).  I’m not ONLY anything.  This is a choice that I made, and one that I’m very happy and content to have made.

No, I’m not making tons of money.  I think even Donald Trump and Bill Gates and their billionaire peers would like to make more.  And no, my job isn’t perfect, but then, whose is?  There are good days and bad days, and parts that I love and parts that, well, not so much.  Bottom line?  I wouldn’t trade it to be something else, and I’ve never felt like I’m only a librarian.

Still, it’s rankling.  There’s a part of me that would like to call him back and ask if he’s only an idiot phone salesman.

Posted in Rants | Leave a Comment »

It’s been an interesting few weeks

Posted by lpearle on 13 April 2010

Spring Break was, for me, just that: a break.  I traveled, did some work, and mostly just got ready for the sprint to the end of the school year (only seven weeks left, but who’s counting?).

Today I presented at the Alabama Library Association’s conference (thanks to Wendy for inviting me!), which meant updating my presentation on shelving.  I had the opportunity to reflect on what we’re doing, and where we’re going with our collection (particularly as our move to the “new” space draws nearer).  In conversations with the Head of our History Department, we’ve talked about where students can best find certain information.  YMMV, but at Hackley our students aren’t studying civil rights as a separate thing, it’s interwoven into the history curriculum.  So, all those books on slavery and the civil rights movement need to move from the 300s to the 900s.  This was reaffirmed during our recent 20th Century World project, when students were doing projects on how American culture helped end apartheid (remember divestiture?  I do) and on SNCC: without that cultural context, those movements might not make sense to younger researchers.

I wrote a blog post for AASL about our budgeting issues; looking at Shonda Brisco’s map of schools without librarians has given me pause.  Hackley definitely supports the library, for which I am grateful.  But what about the students here who live in a community that doesn’t have a good public library (or has one that is facing staffing or opening hours reductions)?  I know they can’t come to my library as much as they may need for research because they have other commitments (like sports, play practice, jobs, etc, not to mention classes), so closing their local library or making it less accessible will hurt them.

I wish we could overlay the map of schools and communities: how many students nationwide will be left with no librarians, and no library access?  How many will lose access to quality databases because neither their school nor their public library can afford them?  Who will teach them to locate information, or help them with reference questions?

In the town in which my parents live, there was no public library until about 20 years ago; people would go to the bookmobile or to the Utica Public Library to borrow books and do research.  Of course, that depended on good driving conditions and your ability to get there when the library was open (or the bookmobile made its rounds).  What will happen if the town (and country) shut down the libraries?

I’d like to think that, thanks to the support Hackley has given the library, we have a good collection.  Making the print resources accessible to our students is critical, as is pointing them towards electronic resources.  That they can use the electronic resources when they cannot physically come to the library is wonderful, but I do worry about their ability to find quality print resources when this library is closed.  I also worry that as they see their local school libraries and public libraries closing, they will start to think that society doesn’t value libraries, so why should they?

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