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Mr. Mustache, another librarian blog

I am a reference librarian with experience in both the public and state government fields. I am doing this on a whim, sort of like the mustache I grew when I was 19 and still have in my 50's.

Location: New Jersey, United States

I am a state worker and a librarian.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The patron who comes in to use the Internet

With the advent of computers, public libraries have seen the exponential growth of the patron who comes in to use the Internet. In the past, this person would not have been a library user, since the library would have had nothing to offer him. In American society, although the world of reading and learning is extolled by every politician, most people only read books during that brief period of youth when the schoolteacher has a gun to their heads. Afterwards, their careers as library users came to a happy and fruitful conclusion.

In the past, young juvenile offenders were not library users. If you watch West Side Story you see no reference to libraries. Neither the Jets nor the Sharks would have any interest in coming to a library. That was before the Internet.

With prodding from the Federal government, libraries geared up in the 90’s to become computer centers. The Internet was going to fill libraries with a world of information and communication only dreamed of before. During those heady times it was never envisioned that the Internet would become a form of mass media, sort of a mixture of a telephone, cable television, a pinball machine and a peep show.

Today you walk through the modern public library and you see people of all ages and dress staring at computer terminals. What are they all doing? Let’s take a closer look. One woman is sending e-mail to her girl friend. A man is searching for a wife in Indonesia. A young student is playing what looks like a video game. The girl next to him is using Instant Messenger. A man in a t-shirt is looking at wrestling scores. A woman is shopping on E Bay for tights. Those giggling young things are looking at myspace.com.

Suddenly a popular destination, the Internet rooms stretch library budgets, and take up increasing per cent ages of staff member’s time. Extra chairs must be provided to allow for seating for the waiting to use the Internet area.

Recently libraries have been putting in wireless Internet connections. Sort of like a restaurant with a byob policy, the theory is that the patrons will bring in their own notebooks and simply use the library’s broadband connection. The electronic equivalent of corkage. However most people who own notebooks (they are still expensive) also have their own Internet connection at home.

Perhaps its good that libraries are no longer the cloistered repositories they once were. First came movies, then the Internet. Many librarians now find themselves in the real world. Even when they are at work.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

the Zeitgeist of the Gilmore Girls

I was telling someone on the phone that I was looking forward to seeing that night's installment of the Gilmore Girls and she said "I can't believe you watch that thing."

Truth to be told I can think of no other vehicle in popular culture that better defines the zeitgeist of the modern American experience better than the Gilmore Girls. All of the conflicts in modern American society, young vs. old, working class vs. upper class, authority vs. Bohemianism, male vs. female, and certainly that of mothers vs. daughters can be examined within the borders of Stars Hollow.

In some sense the show can be described as a bildungsroman on both Rory and Lorelei's emotional and intellectual development. At the same time is serves as a gestalt for phenomenological experience as seen through the prism of small town in New England.

The show this season is moving in parallel evolution of two of its' main characters. As Lorelei is now about to have an affair with Rory's father it is inevitable that Luke will have a relationship with Anna by season's end.

So now here is the solution to the college Freshman's need to write a college essay that will be
guaranteed to bring in a high grade. College TA's are inevitably impressed by fancy German literary terms.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Halloween Parade

One of the fun things about working in a public library is being on duty during the Halloween season. This is one of the few times in the year when spillover from the Children’s library is allowed to encroach upon the dignity of the Reference room. You are trying to explain to a patron why he needs a book on Windows XP not a book on Dell computers. “It’s the software that matters not the brand of the computer”. Suddenly the door springs open and there are tambourines and bells and a hundred kids in costumes with a few adoring parents and amateur photographers.

The patron who has taken an hour to find the price of General Electric on March 4, 1973 finally has found the stock price. He gets out his pen and suddenly loses his train of thought. The Halloween parade! They are marching through and the atmosphere of the entire library changes for ten minutes. You can’t hear yourself on the phone. You can’t get at the photocopy machine. There are witches and goblins and Harry Potter imitations blocking the aisle.

Some of the costumes I can’t recognize. All the years I have wasted listening to public radio on Saturday morning. Had I been watching television instead I would know who these kids are trying to be.

A woman I know gave me a loaf of pumkin bread that she baked after reading the blog on the interns. Thanks and don't be shy about writing comments!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Nooks and crannies and special collections

The Nicholas Baker book had a point. In the desire to put a library's entire collection on the OPAC, some libraries resorted to dumping books and manuscripts in the trash. This is because many libraries didn't have the mechanism to do original cataloguing and having materials in a library that are not catalogued is messy and against the current trends in the profession.

In the good old days, a book came in. The Librarian looked at the book and then wrote a catalog record for it, using library script, and the record and it's corresponding added entry cards were interfiled into the card catalog. It didn't matter if the book was Gone with the Wind or Grandma Nettles cake recipes, they were treated the same.

One of the first stage towards standard cataloguing began when libraries started purchasing Library of Congress cards. A box of cards came in once a week and somebody (this was my first job as a CETA employee) weeded through the cards and extrapolated the cards for the books the library was buying or might be likely to purchase. These cards were copied and eventually edited and found their way to the card file. Other standardized services came along, but for books that existed in the Library of Congress, the cataloguing became more or less standard. When a local resident donated her manuscript of cake recipes, the old system was used, this time with a clerk's typewriting replacing the library script on the cards.

As services like OCLC and regional cataloguing services took hold, the Librarian was faced with a dilemma. How do you handle all of the materials that have no standard cataloguing records? The correct answer is that you do original cataloguing. The Librarian said, "But when Jenny retired she wasn't replaced. I don't have a tenth of the time it would take to do original computerized cataloguing."

And it is a dilemma libraries have been facing ever since. How do you handle the materials that are not catalogued? Hence the growth of nooks and crannies and special collections. The high school yearbooks, the locally produced cookbooks, the manuscripts, the postcard collection, the historic house collection. Stored in nooks and crannies and special collections. My advice is to index (I did not say catalog) as best you can. A database program like Microsoft Access will do the trick. Even Microsoft Word has a feature called "table". A list produced with "table" can even be searched by keyword and sorted alphabetically. And don"t throw out the cardexes either.

One library I worked at developed a collection of the paperbacks that are always on the reading lists but were too flimsy to catalog. The paraprofessional who developed the collection was severely reprimanded for keeping this "underground" assortment of books. Truth to be told, during summer reading season, it is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes I"ve resorted to hiding discards in my office, but this practice is not recommended.

The man walks through the library with a carton of momentoes from his attic. They include fishing scores from the 20's of a club that existed at one time. The momentoes are probably one of a kind. They'll never be catalogued but at least you can sort of index them in the special collections area. The old fisherman will probably never know that the scorecards don't have mark records attached to them.

I actually do original cataloguing now. I definitely should have taken that course in Library school.