Thursday, April 1, 2010

Week 10 - Invaluable

In reflecting back over the practicum experience at Dean B. Ellis Library at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, I see at least two decisions that support the experience description as “invaluable.”
1) Choosing the largest and most technically modern library available (advice of my LIS 689 advisor, Dr. Teresa Welsh); and
2) Broadening the practicum study to view the entire library organization rather than limiting to technology only.

Large and Modern. The Dean B. Ellis Library houses 536,900 books and periodical bound volumes, 531,307 federal and state documents, and 482,122 units in microform Electronic print journals and databases number over 175 A staff of 13 professional librarians and 24 support personnel acquires, organizes, and services the collection These numbers plus numerous other services constitute a large library. Technology resources include over 150 computers and software. The library’s catalog is powered by ExLibris Voyager and maintains two browsers for customer preference, the Classic Catalog and the Ellis Library Catalog. Additionally the catalog can be accessed via handhelds such as mobile phones. Acquisitions (and invoice payments) and cataloging are mostly completed using the latest electronic resources. OCLC resources are valuable networks for these departments. The Maps and Floorplans page of the library’s Web site indicates the size of the facility and collection .

One benefit of experiencing a large library is in its collection. The collection includes most subject fields, but emphasizes education, history, fine arts, general reference, law and American and English literature While working in acquisitions and cataloging, I noticed a very balanced selection of controversial items. Because this is an academic library, topics are open for discussion and research. This upholds the American Library Association polices on free expression and the right to provide information

My previous library experience and current LIS coursework is greatly supplemented and improved upon by experiencing library technology in its newer phase. In a short few years, libraries have evolved from print manual processes to faster, more efficient electronic tools. The tools benefit both the library staff and the patrons. Being able to physically work with and use these newer tools is a great and invaluable benefit to LIS theory education.

A very educational experience for me is in the departmentalization of a large library. Coming from library employment in a smaller community college library where two to three persons ran the entire library, I was surprised at the singularity of tasks within each department. Indeed, on the first and last days of the practicum, Technology Supervisor Myron Flagstad, noted that he rarely sees any patrons. I do wonder how little personal contact can be advantageous. Please note that the departments are efficiently managed, but are confined to certain spaces and duties. These opening and closing comments of the Assistant Library Director add to the mystery of such departmentalization – a mystery I am not ready to confront at this time. However, this experience taught me that I prefer working with the patrons and faculty in a more direct manner. Also, my leadership philosophy now includes a more webbed approach rather than hierarchal approach to the library organization. A broader practical library experience includes public services and special collections as well the important technical services.

Library Departments. The library is organizationally divided into four departments: Administration, Public Services, Technology, and Special Collections. Technology includes acquisitions, cataloging and processing, systems, and Web services. Public services includes circulation, reserves, interlibrary loan, reference, serials, media services, government documents, and microforms. Visiting special collections and archives was by far the most educational of my visits because I had no previous experience with this type of collection.

Differences in archives and special collections at first seem to conflict with the open minded attitude of free information. However, it is the mission of special collections to preserve the information by limited access to a closed shelf policy. Housed on a floor designed especially for security and protection of the collection, items are available for viewing under special permission. Patrons do not browse shelves, but request items to be placed in a special viewing area. All personal items are cleared and stored in patrons lockers. Pencils only are allowed at the viewing table. The environment is controlled to preserve the items with humidity, temperature, and sunlight monitored frequently. Patrons of special collections and archives are definitely welcome and invited to research the material with the understanding and agreement to help preserve the items. This attitude is especially different from the open shelf policy of the general library.

Public services is where the library rubber meets the patron road. Serving patrons and university faculty is the ultimate goal of all library services. Public service is the manifestation and culmination of all departments. From the liberal free printing of academic information to the fast turn-around for interlibrary loans to the information literacy classes to the numerous computers and software labs, the Dean B. Ellis Library earnestly strives to fulfill the mission of the university.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. The mission of the 689 Practicum was accomplished with much thanksgiving to the Dean B. Ellis Library administration and staff. Each department welcomed me and dedicated at least one full work day (or more) to further my LIS 689 Practicum education. Repeatedly I found each person and department friendly and extremely accommodating. Invaluable friendships and professional acquaintances indeed add to the value of the practical experience. Again, I say, the practical experience at ASU’s Dean B. Ellis Library is INVALUABLE.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Week 9

Week 9

Under the supervision of Access Services Librarian, Sherri Eskridge, Week 9 was served in public service areas of serials and the busy circulation desk. Another day was also spent with Web Services Librarian, Wendy Crist.

I requested another day with Web services because of the many different duties that Crist has as Web services librarian. During my previous day with Wendy, we spent much time updating ebook databases. All databases are not necessarily delivered in a nice neat package and bow, therefore much maintenance is needed for different databases. This week, however, Crist showed me more of the Web maintenance that can be quite time consuming as well.

The library’s Web site as well as all of the campus Web sites are part of a master template, all with a similar look and architecture. Converting the past library Web site to the current campus template was/is quite a project and leaves the library with very little control over the design of its site. Even as we worked this week, Crist found areas of the site that had not been converted (for unknown reason – probably because of the magnitude of one person completing the project). Additionally, faculty and other campus departments have no control of their site publication and Crist has been assigned to preview, approve, and publish several other campus sites as well as the library’s site. Needless to say, most campus Web participants are still out-to-vote on the new template and publication procedures, especially faculty who wish immediate publication of their course assignments and resources.

Some OPAC maintenance also falls under the jurisdiction of Web Services. This day Crist’s project was to add “reviews and more” or page excerpts (similar to’s “Look Inside” feature.) Many items in the catalog already feature the paid (purchased or leased?) thumbnail of the book jacket, therefore Crist set out to add the Look Inside feature. However, instructions for the company that provides the thumbnails did not appear to work as directed. Crist searched several Wikis, blogs, and email communications to solve this problem. Here again, research is time consuming before the actual project could be implemented.

Serials is another area of high maintenance. Periodicals require at least monthly updates of current issues. The more “pleasure reading” type magazines and newspapers are kept current in the “sun porch” reading area. Current editions of journals are filed in the stacks with past issues of that title. Daily processing of print holdings takes a good part of each morning from the mail room, to sorting, stamping, receiving into Voyager, and filing in the stacks. Copies of some titles are kept in the stack back to 1980. Pre-1980 journals are kept in storage, but that storage area has been reallocated to another campus department. Therefore, pre-1980 journals are in the processes of being weeded and/or moved to other locations in the library. This is a “sore” subject among the librarians – having to give up valuable library space.

New titles are ordered by the Acquisitions Department, but the Serials Department actually catalogs and adds the item to the Voyager catalog. Keeping up with issues not received then reporting same to the serials vendor is a full time job as is collecting journals for binding. Record keeping requires notation on a card filing system of issues sent to and returned from the boundary. Voyager is also updated for unavailable issues. As with all the public services departments, statistics notated throughout the day, especially for journal usage and public inquiries.

Circulation is a very busy department. Because library policy allows for free printing of one copy of academic items, circulation workers spend much time retrieving from the printer and handing items to the patrons. Circulation activity requires several student workers, full time employees, two supervisors and a professional librarian. The “circ” area is responsible for the library’s telephone switchboard, photocopiers, printers, charge/discharge of items, reserves, as well as greeting the patrons. A sub-department is Stack Maintenance which is headed by a long time employee whom everyone favors because of his knowledge of the stacks. Eugene has a reputation for locating mis-shelved items in the stacks. He supervises several students who shelve and reshelve items throughout the day. The stacks are located over three floors, so a book cart system is arranged for reshelving items by the floor. I found it interesting that items on the floors needed reshelving are brought back to circulation, counted, placed on a cart, and then re-shelved. It seems simpler to count those items at each floor, but Eugene assures me that years of experience have decided this is the best method for keeping those usage statistics. I believe him.

Administration of overdue fines and notation to patron records for payments, forgiveness, or lost item is among the duties of the supervisor. However, fine collection will soon no longer be a part of the circulation department, but that of student services. Fines will be charged to student accounts. Patrons may not approve of this transition, but Circ is looking forward to be relieved of this cash-handling responsibility. With the new system, patrons must communicate with two different campus departments to clear their accounts. Hopefully, this will simplify rather than complicate this aspect of patron services.

Statistics are a big part of circulation duties. Standard circulation reports are printed each morning. It is important to note, that library policy does not allow for the history of patron charges so that user privacy is not breached. Statistics (by tally) are kept of all in-person, telephone, or email contacts and queries, and printouts throughout the day.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Week 8 - ILL and Media Services

During Week 8 of the library practicum, my time was split between Interlibrary Loan and Media Services, sub-departments to the Public Services Department. Again, I am amazed at the number of transactions taking place in the different departments. As stated from the beginning of this blog, my experience had been limited to a very small community college library.

At that time, media services were booming, especially VHS tapes. The difference in a short ten years sees the jump to DVDs with anticipation of BluRay DVDs as the newer format. The music department at ASU requires students to listen to great amounts of music, therefore, media services has numerous music CDs. Thanks to the music department who donated their vast LP (long playing vinyl album collection), media services now has thousands of LP albums in the collection as well. Even though most students would prefer music on CD or even a downloadable file, the LPs fall under copyright protection because records players are still available and the library does have record players available for checkout. Supervisor Christie unlocked a storage room of antiquated format and equipment such as reel-to-reels, and film strips. One of projects for day was to move the books-on-cassette-tape collection to the back room, because cassettes are rarely used, but not quite outdated. The most currently used types of equipment are digital cameras, records, and players. All items are cataloged for storage and checkout through the system. DVDs , VHS tapes, and books-on-CD are stored for easy browsing by Library of Congress. Other fee services are color printing, signage and posters, laminating, book binding, and punch and bind, and recording of educational television programs. I noted an inventory of equipment is completed daily and found this efficient. A physical inventory of items is completed annually.

Comparing my past experience with this library’s ILL program is quite different. Where my experience was limited to only a couple if ILLs per month, the Dean B. Ellis Library sends requests and fills requests for more than 100 items per day. Here again, within a few short years technology aids the speed and delivery of documents. Through OCLCs FirstSearch, the requesting process is simplified and responses can be filled within hours. The library uses software programs such as Prospero and Aerial for transmissions. Documents located are databases are extremely quick and easy to fill, with the print items falling back to manual location, photocopy, and either post mail, fax, or email transmission. Book items are transported by courier or mail. The department has two full time employees as well as student employees who work to expedite all interlibrary requests.

The practical experience of librarianship in a large academic library is quite an educational and pleasurable experience for me. Even though I have library experience and have completed all my LIS coursework, being able to see and work with the software programs is helps the theory come into perspective. Seeing theory in action and hearing why departments have chosen policies and procedures reinforces everything I have learned in the LIS coursework. I am pleased with the practicum at the Dean B. Ellis Library.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week Six - Systems and Web Services

Week Six in the Systems Department started off at a fast pace. Systems Manager, Tracy Farmer and his assistant Justin hit the floor running to trouble shoot networking problems of the library’s approximately 250 computers. Learning about the uses of the many different servers and the backup systems was enlightening, however, I did not have enough previous knowledge to ask very many questions. The second day in Systems, I spent with Wendy Crist, the Web Services Librarian. Here, I learned that web services is much more than web page design. Quite a bit of our time was spent updating the e-books and databases, which I found were not as complete a package as first thought.

Week Seven - Special Collections and Archives

Week Seven was by far the most educational day I have spent in practicum at the Dean B. Ellis Library. Special Collections and Archives is area of LIS that I have no experience and the indepth tour provided by Melissa Davis was extremely informative. Special Collections at the library is in its “baby stages” according to Davis because it is a fairly new department only added to the library in 1998. Librarian, Dr. Brady Banta is half time head of Special Collections and half time head of the Heritage Graduate Program. The programs share the floor that is especially designed with security and climate control for the archives.

Graduate students and researchers from the public sector are among those who research the collections. The collections are closed to browsing, but items are retrieved by library personnel for use within the reference area. Users must lock away personal items, only allowed pencil (no ink) on the desk for any notations. And may use their laptop. Afterwards, personnel return the items to the stacks. Special lighting is also installed to prevent or lessen further item deterioration.

The department is basically divided in two areas of content format. The book room and the archive room. The book room houses the:
• Arkansas Collection (state, events, people)
• Hough Collection (founder is Daisy Rifles manufactured in Arkansas . Extensive aeronautics book collection with autograph copies by Lindburg and Amelia Earheart)
• Wilson Collection (18th and 19th century books)
• Rare books (various donors 17th-20th century)
• Lois Lensky Collection (children’s author and illustrator)
• Charlie Mae Simon Collection (children’s author)
• Lois Snelling Collection
• Maya Angelo Collection
• Faith Yinling Knoop – author of one of the first comprehensive Arkansas history books used for uniform teaching
• Mary Gay Shipley Collection – owner of That Book Store in Blytheville, AR – numerous autographed books and posters

The archive room houses several collections of Arkansas politicians and document collections of significant agricultural estates in the Arkansas Delta Region.
• Senator Gathings collection
• Senator Bill Alexander collection
• Governor Cherry collection
• Representative Blanch Lincoln collection
• Senator Mike Beebe collection
• Senator Shane Broadway collection
• Judd Hill Estate collection
• Twist Estate collection
• Mabel Gieseck Estate collection
• Pitzel Gins estate collection
• V.H. Kay Estate collection
• H.M. Cooley Estate collection
• Drainage District and Levee District Tax Records
• Steve Clark, Attorney General, Creation Science Case
• Some ASU history

Week Five - Acquistions

Week Five was spent in the Acquisitions Department with Linda Criebaum and the technical assistants. As the Acquisitions Librarian, Linda heads the selection, ordering, and purchasing of all collection materials including the general collection, serials, microforms, and databases. The selection process is aided by the professional librarians’ liaison with the faculty departments. Donated items are also previewed for accession to the collection

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Week Four - A Tower of Knowledge and Information

The photo of the Dean B. Ellis Library Tower is a good indicator of the size of the library and its collection and provides a visual explanation of why I was a bit overwhelmed at its largeness the first week of the practicum. Somewhere along the way, I have read that tall tower-like library structures are archectecturally designed as the epidomy and center of knowledge for higher education settings and campuses. This library tower is a perfect example of that theory. With eight floors, the 8th floor reserved for the Board of Regents, it is natural that the library is widely departmentalized.

The first three weeks of the practicum was spent in the cataloging department in what is referred to as the basement. It is actually the first floor, however, there is no public access on the first floor, but through the library's main lobby on the 2nd floor - ergo the basement reference. After becoming more acclamated to the towering surroundings, I felt the need to learn more about the entire library operations other than technology - a more overall view - well, seven floors' worth anyway. With the permission of my USM advisor and the library's management team, my practicum is extended to include time with reference, circulation, government documents, special collections, and periodicals. This is in addition to the scheduled time with Systems, Web Services, Acqusitions, and of course Cataloging & processing.

Week Four provided a variety of duties from the reference department. Located near the library entrance, the reference or information desk receives a bustle of questions and often requires two librarians to service the students. I am pleasantly amazed at the amount of traffic in the library with most heads directed to the computer terminals and most for research purposes. Campus-wide are several computer labs and hundreds of computers available, so the library is not necessarily targeted for personal Internet use. The campus is also WiFi connected so that eliminates many recreational computer users in the library. My point being - the twenty or more reference area computers are in constant use for research, card catalog, and/or databases.

One of the first things I noticed at the reference desk was tally sheet for types of references questions categorized by "directional," "information," and "research." I recognized this immediately from suggestions made in the textbook Introduction to Library Public Services by G. E. Evans and T. L. Carter . Another feature of the reference desk is its own email address for online questions, etc., generated from the library's homepage
. Reference duty librarians check this throughout their shift and respond. Another text related feature is that reference librarians work the desk in one to two hours shifts, of course with night and weekend shifts scheduled a bit longer.

I enjoyed sitting in on a B.I. (Bibliographic Instuction) that a psychology instructor had requested for her class. The students listened and made notes while the reference librarian overviewed Voyager (card catalog) and some pscychology-related databases.

ASU offers a one credit hour (half a semester) information literacy class. The classes are generally small, allowing for an open learning environment. References librarians conduct the courses, some using the library's LibGuides for the instruction sections and BlackBoard. The instructor asked her four students if they thought this class was beneficial. All readily agreed and suggested it be required of all incoming students......

The Reference Librarians are liaisons with faculty/departments for collection development. The Head Reference Librarian feels the liasonships could grow to the mutual benefit of all. Additionally, the Reference Librarians have access to the library website for the creation and maintenance of LibGuides for subject resources in and outside the library. The subject area responsibility for the LibGuides coincides with the department liaisons. The Government Documents LibGuide is extensive because the reference library is slowly being replaced with federal government online documents. This department, however, does house Arkansas Gov Docs as well as U.S. Gov Docs which are used mainly for statistics.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, my past BRTC Library employment as one of two library staff, allowed me to experience to the full range of library services. I knew that I had missed working with students and faculty in reference service and that desire to be at the reference desk was confirmed, yet I love the technology department as well. Leading someone to needed information and helping them gain confidence in their own research skills, is rewarding indeed. The biggest difference in this library's reference department from that of my previous experience, is that the general collection is housed on floors 3, 4, and 5 of the tower. Many of the questions are answered with directions to the elevator. This library's truly contains a tower full of knowledge and information.