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Archive for December, 2011

As of yesterday, I was officially finished with my classes for Fall 2011.  For some reason it seemed like a good idea to take both Reference Services and Cataloging in the same semester.  I went into both of these classes expecting to be challenged by the material and to have to put in quite a bit of hard work.  I worked hard at each of my classes but I thrived in Reference and fell short of where I wanted to be in Cataloging and while unfortunately my GPA may suffer from it I know I will at least have an answer for the “tell about a time you’ve failed and learned from it” question that seems to crop up on interviews.

I spent most of the past weekend collaborating with my classmates on the difficult and tricky cataloging final.  Several of us mentioned more than once during the chat sessions that we wished we had done this earlier, it would have made the class easier to navigate.  I do not always reach out to classmates as much as I should, perhaps because we are working online.  This seems like a major mistake since each of them knew how to do something or had an idea on how to solve a problem that the others were missing, by working together we still got stuck but we were ultimately able to get much further than any of us would alone.  All it took was one brave classmate to admit that she was having a hard time on the final and was anyone else still working on it and wanted to collaborate.  In future classes and work endeavors I will be sure to look for help among my classmates and coworkers, to pool our skills and knowledge and make the whole experience easier.

I also learned what I do and do not like in terms of class structure and organization.  One professor had everything neatly laid out in a grid on the syllabus: the textbook information, due dates, when to post initially, when to have our follow up posts written, when she planned to be online, when we could start the next week’s session of information and checked in with us constantly if a change was made.  I always felt prepared and like I knew what to expect in her class – the organization freed up my concentration to focus on the materials rather than trying to find out what was going on.  The other class was packed full of information but disorganized, there was no way to easily find information without wading through several weeks worth of material, due dates were given at the beginning of the semester but arbitrary additional assignments were slipped in unannounced with some weekly material.  I realize that my duties as a student include reading all of the material given to me and in the future I’m going to take the time to try and organize any material given to me in a haphazard fashion so I can focus on my work rather than trying to find my work.  I cannot control the work style of my instructors but I can affect the information they give me.

Lastly, I learned that I need to keep a balance on my home and work life.  I had to stay late at the library or up late at home in order to complete assignments because my apartment was too disorganized for me to think in.  I now know that in the long run taking some time out for myself, even when I am very busy, is beneficial in the long run because it makes the time I do spend on my work more efficient since I am not distracted by other things that need to get done.

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Part of the great thing of working in ILL is you get to see all of the books that come through for patrons.  However, something that patrons should be aware of is when not to use an interlibrary loan request.  Yes, most university libraries can borrow from most libraries in their network but not all material is equally ILL-able.  Some simple steps taken by you as a patron may actually help you get the book faster than by using the ILL system.  I may have missed some topics and I’m sure I’ll return to this in later posts but here are some tips to bear in mind when submitting an interlibrary loan request.

1.  You can request whatever you want, that does not mean we can get it.

I know when you went through your new student orientation to become a freshly minted grad/faculty/adjunct they told you – and you can request whatever you want from interlibrary loan.  Yes, you can request everything but you cannot have everything, or some things may have restrictions.  When you’re in WorldCat take a look at who owns an item.  For example, look up the title “Attitudinal change towards women’s values as experienced by Peace Corps volunteer women” a thesis by Bruce Hoffman.  As you will see there is one library who owns this work.  Chances are, they will not lend their only copy of this thesis.  In this case it would be better to either suggest a purchase to the library or contact your department to see if it can be uncovered another way.

2. Do not request popular literature.

So you’ve heard about Game of Thrones on HBO and now you just have to read the book, right?  Well, you’re not alone lots of people want this book and not just at your university. If your university owns a copy of this place a hold, don’t place an ILL.  Here’s why.  Any library that participates in interlibrary loan reserves the right to recall any book that has been borrowed if their patron asks for it.  That means if you are a patron of Anytown Library and Anytown has just sent out their only copy of Game of Thrones to University X they will place a recall notice and the book will be returned to Anytown for you.  But what if you are the student at University X, now your request has been canceled!  It’s always better to be the primary patron if possible in this scenario.  Libraries will bend over backwards for their patrons sooner than they will for other libraries patrons.  If you are a university student, go to the nearest public library and put yourself on the hold list – don’t worry it’s not as long as it seems, usually they don’t let the person who is using it renew it if others are waiting.

3. Pay attention to due dates.

The ILL department does not set the due dates for any of the items we send out to you.  You’re our patron and our priority, we would give you as much time as you want if we could.  But we can’t.  Whenever you keep a book for too long you run the risk of ruining our relationship with the lending library, which means when you do return the book they might never lend it to us again.  Or they may block our account and not let us borrow anything from them until the book is brought back.  This can be a huge problem if the library doing this to us is the Smithsonian or Library of Congress.  Please don’t put us in this situation, keep an eye on the due date, request your renewal about a week in advance, if the school says no renewals be gracious and bring the book back in a timely manner.  You can always request another copy.

4. If you don’t get your request right away, call or email us – don’t resubmit!

I understand your frustration, you placed a request two weeks ago, you’ve been waiting for your book and it still HAS NOT COME IN!!!  Run to the computer and re-request it? NO!  There are many reasons your request may seem to not be moving.  First, here’s the broad strokes of how an ILL request works.  Your request goes into the system and bounces out to schools who have lent things to us before.  Each school gets three business days (read as: no Saturdays and Sundays) to try to fill the request.  Then, if they cannot fill it, the request will go to the next school in the list.  When a certain number of libraries have been tried, it bounces back the ILL department where we can either continue with another set of libraries or we contact you for questions.  So what happens if you send in a new request while the first request is in the middle of going through this process?  The system pulls out BOTH requests, puts them into the idle queue until a staff member has time to look at it and cancel the duplicate.   So you’ve pulled your first request away from the school that might be filling it for you.  Call or email the ILL department if it’s been longer than two weeks, it’s very unlikely that they’ve forgotten about your request, it may already be shipped and on its way in the mail but you won’t know unless you ask.

5. Only fill the notes field with information that will help us fill your request.

Please use the notes field, that’s how we know that you only want the 2nd edition, the 3rd volume, a copy of chapter 12 or would prefer only the illustrated edition.  There are some notes that are nice but not necessary (ie. Thanks!).   And there are some notes that make you seem obnoxious (ASAP, hurry, as soon as possible).  We fill every request on a first come first served basis and do our best to fulfill every request, you are not our only patron and this is not the way to make yourself a favorite.  Other things not to put in the notes field – your phone number, email or address.  The notes in an ILL request form very often go out to any library who will be trying to fill your request, you may have just given your phone number to a stranger across the country, protect your personal information and we usually email you updates on your request, we won’t call if you put your phone number in the notes field.  (Side note – this is not what the call number field means either; call numbers are for the book)  Additionally, if your library (like ours) has a no textbook policy it’s not the best idea to try to game the system by putting in a note like “Home Library’s copy is on course reserves” or “I need this for class.”  It is not fair to our students to request textbooks for some patrons and not others; there are not enough textbooks to go around so policy is that no textbooks may be requested.  When you request a textbook, even if it slips through the system and we do not find it until it has arrived at the university, we will still send it back.  Sending it back takes staff time on both ends of the request, it costs shipping and generally causes a lot of angry grumbling.  Play by the rules, they’re in place for a reason.

That’s it for this week – let me know if these are helpful and I’ll continue to add more as the blog continues.

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Good news!

Last Friday I sent in a resume to ipl2 to offer myself as an intern for Digital Reference Service and I received word this morning that I have been accepted!  I’m doing some last minute checking in my schedule for next semester to make sure this will not overwhelm me but I’m sure I can put this into my schedule.  ipl2 is an organization that I had not heard about prior to starting library school but now that I’ve used it both for class and participated in answering questions using the library side of it, I can see that ipl2 is a valuable and vital resource on the internet.  The accumulation of freely accessible and trustworthy information available on the internet is wonderful and the support provided to users through the Ask an ipl2 librarian feature is on par with help available in physical libraries.  I am proud and grateful to have the opportunity to work with a service that makes information available to patrons who perhaps cannot or do not have access to a library.

The other (more selfish) reason that this internship is wonderful is, since it is digital, I can spend more time working and less time commuting to the internship location.  I will be able to exert more energy working for ipl2, doing homework, just working and a hundred other things and less time in the car!  I still hope to look at volunteering at MCLM this summer when I won’t have homework to contend with but this coming semester the drive makes me a little reluctant to offer myself up just yet.

 

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I’m getting very excited for tomorrow!  Even though it is the end of the semester and I’ll be working on my cataloging memo tonight I’m taking some time out to look over the grade level expectations for Reading to Kids.  It’s going to be the first time I’m reading to the 5th grade!  I’ve been a volunteer for about three years and a grade level coordinator (GLC) for nearly two but I usually do 2nd grade.  We’ll be reading Judy Moody & Stink : A holly joliday and making snowflakes and other ornaments.  I may have to find some online tutorials on how to make Hawaiian flowers (I guess Judy and Stink decide to decorate the tree luau style?  I guess we’ll find out tomorrow).

With luck I’ll be able to make time next year to go to the curriculum meetings again.  I just read an excellent article in the Scientific American Blog about books to give to little scientists in training.  Although some of the questions would have to be leading for scientific analysis some of the books look amazing.  I didn’t know that Mo Willems had written a dinosaur book and I’ve seen the Peter Sis book before but forgot to recommend it the last time Reading to Kids did from the earth to the moon.

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