A Hard Weed

In Gardening there is a concept known as hard pruning. This is when a plant has gotten so completely overgrown that it cannot be saved by simply a standard prune. Instead you cut it all the way back to only a six inch stub and let a new plant grow out of the root system of the old plant.

Currently my collection is in need of a hard prune or what we will call a hard weed. The collection has been allowed to grow and live by its own devices for decades now. We are a small academic library serving a population of about 2000 students. We have around a 80K volumes in our collection. We have had very little active purchasing in the last ten years, only buying material specifically requested by professors. We also have done no weeding which has left us with a collection that would feel  right at home in 1968. Our circulation counts are miniscule and who could blame our patrons. When you are searching for books on school management and all you find are materials that tell you how to best integrate your school you are going to get frustrated and not return. We are beginning to take a more active role in intentional purchasing and collection building, however that will not be enough on its own. Those new materials will simply get lost in the sea of dusty covers and broken spines.

So we have begun an ambitious weeding effort. We go through book by book and analyze each item. Weeding based on condition, age of material, and the amount of items already on that same subject. After material has been pulled we then have a student worker check to see if any of the items show any usage in the last five years (which is when we switched to our new ILS system). They also search WorldCat to see if the item is held by more than 50 libraries worldwide. Any books that have usage or are held by less than 50 world libraries go back to a librarian for second consideration. Everything else is placed in a viewing area, where subject professors are invited to come through and offer their discipline specific expertise on the materials. Reconsideration slips are provided that they can fill out and place in any books they think should remain in the collection.

So far we have weeded 800 volumes in just a few short weeks. Professors only asked us to retain a few titles and offered no negative feedback about getting rid of the rest of the material once they had seen it. On average each section that we weed is losing about 25 -30 percent of its volumes. While this weed may seem extreme to some it is desperately needed. The shelves in the weeded section are so much more approachable. They have no items on the bottom most shelf, and we are using book stands to display the newest books on some of the shelves. I cannot wait until the entire collection has gone through the process.

Things are slow going at the moment, since we only have four free carts in the whole library due to the rest being used for storage while we are undergoing renovation this semester. However we are trudging along and are excited to hit the ground running next semester when all of our renovations should be complete.

Has anyone else undergone an entire collection weed before? Or weeded based on shelf decisions instead of from a computer generated list? I would love to hear idea and suggestion on how to tweak the process before we could too much further into it.

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The Librarian as Magician

I was always terrible at magic tricks. Occasionally my mother would play along and ignore my completely obvious tells, but she was the only one. The rest of my family made sure to quickly kill my dreams of becoming a magician. And when Hagrid didn’t come bust down my door at the age of 13 I had to come to terms that magic was not going to be a part of my future. Until I became a librarian…

People look at you like you just turned water into wine, when you are able to help them at the reference desk quickly pull up articles that relate perfectly to their topic. Patrons know that obviously you have been trained in an ancient secret language when you are able to take a random compilation of letters and numbers and take them exactly to the book they are wanting. The largest part of my job is handling our Inter-library loan requests. Before I forward any patron article request out to potential lending libraries I make sure a run a simple Google search for the article title in “quotes.” So far this year I have been able to fill 18% of my article requests instantly.

From a customer service stand-point I love it. I am able to send a patron within minutes an article that they had almost given up hope of gaining access to. Patrons are incredibly happy and they view me as the magical librarian who is able to destroy Elsevier’s pay-wall dementors. Customer satisfaction is high and they are likely to return again and again for their next information incantation need.

However from an information literacy standpoint, I hate it. I feel like our library and the systems they have interacted with before us have completely failed these students. An LC call number is not a magical code. Patrons should be able to use those numbers to easily locate a specific items, and even beyond that they should have a grasp on the letters and numbers that correspond to their areas of interest. Student’s should understand the research process and be able to stick with their topic and dig up resources even when they don’t appear instantly after one keyword search. They should be able to approach from a different angle, and narrow down their topics using our database filtering tools. And they should know about the amazing open source movement. In the middle of the night when they stumble on that perfect article citation and find that the library doesn’t have immediate full-text access, they should know that hope is not lost. That a quick Google search might rescue their paper due at 8am; and that chances are one out of five times it will!

It is critically important that we remember our goal is not simply to solve a patron’s immediate need, but instead to empower by forming them into information literate individuals. Keep the magic alive; make sure your patrons needs are met and that they have a phenomenal experience. While doing that remember, “A librarian always reveals their secrets”

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Get out of your library (and into another)

In the beginning of August I took a week long module called “Oklahoma Information Environment.” It was absolutely phenomenal. For 12 hours a day for 4 days I got to do nothing but explore the amazing libraries in Oklahoma and talk to even more amazing people. We went to the expected: OU and OSU including their branch libraries, the downtown OKC library, and the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. But where I learned the most was at the not so expected locations: the Chickasaw Cultural Center, Chickasaw Regional (Public) Library, Stillwater Public Library, and the Oklahoma Library for the blind. As I spoke with people at each of these places, what seemed to be true for so many of them is that they had never imagined themselves holding the position they currently do. Many of them had switched from public to Academic, and back again. No matter where their journey had taken them however they always recognized the educational value of their past experiences. We often spend so much time dealing with our exact niche group of practitioners (You know only those who belong to “HFUS KIO committee for the promotion of inter-library loaning of material for schools with an FTE between 3000-3050.”) There are amazing people out there doing fantastic things. Get out of you building and look around. Work out of you public library for the day. Put your claim on a study room at the college down the road and allow the magic of collaboration to begin.

A few thoughts from my adventure into the wild world of Oklahoma libraries:

1. A public librarian talked about helping a student at the local college who told her they prefer to study at the public library because it offers them a place for their children. We have a huge Children’s curriculum section to resource our education majors, but if it was designed to include comfortable seating for children as well then parents could study close by while their kids entertained themselves. Over half of our students are non-traditional and many of them are parents.

2. The Tulsa County public library no longer assigns books specific branch locations. The book is shelved wherever it is returned. We have been really trying to figure out how we can better serve our students who meet at alternate campuses. I would love to experiment with the idea of starting mini collections at those campuses where students could pick up and drop off books. Material would be dropped off and collected from the campuses once a week. 

3. “You don’t need a field background, just a willingness to learn” That quote came from a librarian who worked reference at a health science library. It really encouraged me because as I have been thinking about our own library’s need for departmental liaisons I have been worried about serving those departments that none of our staff have subject specialties in. Hearing her say that just made me feel relief, and encouraged me that through hard work and a bit of curiosity I will be able to provide great service to even those departments way beyond my comfort zone.

 

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Filed under Library Design, Ponderings from the Trenches, Thoughts from Library School

The New Year – Mayhem of Construction and Lack of Communication

I ended up taking the summer off from blogging. Originally I just got busy, covering for people on vacation, going to conferences, and a week long graduate module. Then I just had so much I wanted to talk about I couldn’t choose! It’s going to be busy as the school year starts up, but I will do my best to keep posting regularly. If for no other reason, than I want to make sure and take the time to really sit down and process all of the great information I received this summer. Before we jump into that however, a story of stress, miscommunication, and eventually expectation.

The library was approached back in February and asked if we would be interested in opening a conversation with our food vendor and possibly getting a full service coffee shop installed in the library. As part of this deal we would be getting a decent renovation for half of our building.

We were excited about the renovation opportunity (our building has been mostly untouched besides the occasional paint/carpet since it was built in the 60s). Also there is a homey, comfortable vibe to coffee shops that helps bring out creativity and collaboration. People have romanticized visions of libraries and all they represent in academia. Combining that academic ambiance with the coffee shop vibe may burst forth in a building that perfectly epitomizes our hope for academic library space in the 21st century. I digress.

After that original conversation in February were we as a staff decided we were open to beginning conversations, we heard nothing. All of a sudden it was May and there had not been a single conversation about it. We decided at this point summer construction would be out of the question and any renovation possibilities would be pushed back to next summer.

Fast forward to July. We begin to notice people surveying our building. We investigate and find out that coffee shop construction is a go and we are also bringing an entire academic department down and placing them in what had been our space. A few days later the President send out an email to the entire student body telling them that a coffee shop will be open in the library by mid October. (AKA – in three months)

Panic ensues. We begin frantically moving library material out of the space because in order to meet an October deadline, construction should have began weeks ago. An entire quarter of our building is cleared out. Bound periodicals moved, furniture re-organized all over the  building to make room.

And there the room sat empty for three weeks. No sledge hammers, no supplies, no construction. We receive an update: exterior construction may begin by the end of August, project might be finished by the end of December. So we have re-colonized most of the space (though sparsely and with only the lightest furniture). We have seen a few drawings at this point and are incredibly excited for what this space will add to our facility and to the campus in general (Whispers of 24hr study space are in the air! We make sure to keep those rumors alive.). It should be a fun adventure and I will make sure to keep you updated with failures, laughs, and hopefully some triumphant successes.

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Filed under Library Design, Ponderings from the Trenches

ACL Poster LibGuide

I have been loving the Association of Christian Librarians Conference in Huntington, IN! We still have more workshop sessions tomorrow, but I have already gotten so many great ideas from workshops, lightening talks, the keynote speaker, and wonderful conversations. I cannot wait to get home and flesh out some of the ideas and what they might look like for the SNU library. There have been some great presentations so look forward to future posts on them! 

For those of you who I got the pleasure to talk to at the poster sessions, thank you so much for allowing me to bounce ideas off of you and for indulging my passion for a bit as I shared. I promised I would provide a link to the libguide from my blog and so here it is: http://snu.libguides.com/ACLposter

As always feel free to use and edit any of the content you find on the guide however it might be useful to you and your institutions instructional goals. 

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Filed under Emotional Side of Research, Instructional Design