Posts Tagged ‘ librarianship ’

Whales, jumpers and spoons


Communication.  The key to the successful functioning of any organisation or social unit, yet something we seem to be terribly bad at.  Each day is filled with dozens of misunderstandings, ambiguities and missed opportunities to connect in any way.  Something which all trainee librarians learn is that the question being asked by a user is not necessarily the question they want answered, and even if it is, you may not understand it in quite the way it was intended.

The classic example is the librarian sat at an enquiry desk who is asked to help someone find information on ‘migration in whales’.  The immediate response is to send the user in the direction of biological information, specifically the behaviour of Cetaceans [599.51568 or thereabouts in Dewey].  However, it may be necessary to pause a while.  Did the librarian really hear an ‘h’, or did they just assume it?  Their enquirer might well have no interest in the movements of marine mammals, they may be researching economic migration in the United Kingdom, specifically in Wales.  Dewey would class a treatise on this subject with a hideously long number somewhere in the 300s, but journals and collections of statistics would be a more likely source for this information.

Continue reading

Library Mythconceptions


It strikes me that most people don’t have a clue what I actually do all day at work.  Hopefully my fellow inmates at the Library of Doom have at least a vague idea, but in the wider world my actual activities are about as well known as Chandler Bing’s job title in Friends.  In other words, everyone thinks they know, but nobody really does.  I think this is largely due to a variety of myths, rumours and misconceptions that surround the world of librarianship.  I won’t bore you with the details of exactly what I do, but here are some things which aren’t entirely true.

It must be lovely, being able to read all those wonderful books.  Well, yes, the Library of Doom is indeed full of books, both wonderful and otherwise, and I have handled a large proportion of our stock (getting on for half a million items), and probably seen almost everything, even if only the spine of the book out of the corner of my eye.  However, I don’t get to sit around during working hours perusing this storehouse of knowledge, as, strangely enough, I’m being paid to do more useful things.  The only time when some of us might get to sit down and read is if we’re stuck on a late shift on the issue desk over the summer, when you see approximately one and a half students per hour.  If you’re lucky.

Continue reading

Being an endangered species


Books Upon BooksPeople think I’m mad for all sorts of reasons, with a chief cause for doubting my sanity at the moment being my pursuit of a librarianship qualification.   “Isn’t librarianship obsolete?” they ask.  Others are quick to inform me that “computers are taking everything over!”  To an extent, they may be right, but they’re also talking utter rubbish.

Librarianship is a vastly changed profession, and has to evolve constantly as technology advances, new laws are introduced and society undergoes occasional metamorphoses.  No longer custodians of books, jealously guarding them from the outside world, librarians now exist to facilitate access to information in a whole host of forms, both physical and electronic.  Books are still a big part of our world, of course, but the Library of Doom, for instance, is also stuffed to the gills with videos, DVDs, CDs, maps, artefacts and CD-ROMs.  In addition to this, there is the vast electronic world, with a horizon that is ever expanding, showing no signs of slowing down.   Yes, computers hold all of this information, but librarians act as a guide, helping people to access, search, use and understand this information.

Continue reading

Weill, not vile


Last week, I had the joyous task of creating a subject bibliography, my first assignment for my distance-learning MSc in Library and Information Studies.  The bibliography could be on any subject we chose, but could only cover material from the last five years and had to be arranged with a particular audience in mind.  Of course, I absolutely had to do this on a musical theatre subject, but the options are rather limited in this regard, as the only musical theatre people who tend to receive more than cursory academic attention are Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim.  I chose to compile a bibliography on the American theatre works of Kurt Weill, most famous for his German piece Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), source of ‘Mack the Knife’.  Why the American works?  Well, I don’t speak German, so I’ve always found it harder to connect with the works in that language.  Must try harder, I suppose.

This exercise was simultaneously fascinating and boring.  Searching for information can be interesting, and the hunt becomes a sort of game, but it can also be very frustrating to spend an age wrestling with a particularly high-profile data source only to find absolutely nothing of value.  I also discovered things about Kurt Weill that I never knew before, largely through use of the Kurt Weill Foundation‘s website, but also through reading extracts from some of the books and articles which I discovered.  I hadn’t known, for instance, that he provided music for a number of political pageants while in America, generally connected to his Jewish roots.  And I had forgotten that he’d been working on a musical version of Huckleberry Finn when he died, a concept that truly makes the mind boggle.

Continue reading

Good librarian, bad librarian


One of last week’s strips over at Unshelved/Overdue Media, a wonderful web comic about a public library, struck a particular chord with me, as it features the staff battening down the hatches in response to someone asking ‘What day of the week is the second Thursday of the month?’, unsafe in the knowledge that this query heralds one of those days.

Here at the Library of Doom, we certainly have those days, when an outbreak of ‘thick’ hits the student population.  Of course, as librarians we are immune to the horrible disease of thick, but we can certainly be badly affected when the symptoms manifest themselves in the student body.  Dealing with stupid queries is one of the times when I have to keep the greatest amount of control over myself, as an immense urge to be sarcastic, demeaning or just plain rude comes over me.  Thankfully, the good librarian in me tends to win, and the bad librarian has to be contented with repeating the story about the latest thick outbreak at every opportunity.  But what would happen if the bad librarian won?  I beg to put before you a few real examples from the Library of Doom, with what the bad librarian wanted to say, and what the good librarian chose to say instead.

Student: How long can you borrow a 7-day loan for?
Bad librarian: How long do you think you can borrow a 7-day loan for?  If you need to ask that question, then you’re in the wrong place.  You, personally, can’t borrow any 7-day loans at all.  Everyone else can borrow them for 7 days.
Good librarian: A week.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: