Tuesday, June 24, 2008

American Library Association Conference

Safe travels to all of you heading for Anaheim in the next few days! Have fun!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

All Things Are For Human Beings

I've just finished reading this article
Araghi, G.F. (2005) Users satisfaction through better indexing. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 20(2), 5-17 for my cataloging class. I was impressed with this sentence:

One must not forget that although highly-automated technology dominate, all things are for human beings. (p. 14)

My primary professional interest is in providing reference service. Finding accurate information quickly is my passion. I agree that the classifier is the co-partner of the reference librarian. It doesn’t matter how good a reference interview I do if I can’t then find the answer to the user’s question because the information needed has been badly cataloged and remains hidden and cannot be retrieved.

I work as a part-time reference librarian at the Oregon State University library. I provide reference services face-to-face, by telephone, and through email. I also provide chat-based virtual reference services through L-Net and Meebo and I find that the most challenging of all. The questions from university faculty and students may be very detailed and complex, requiring a half-hour or more to answer. Many users are K-12 students asking basic homework related questions and there are always a few questions from members of the general public. Because it is a virtual environment and there are no visual cues, a good reference interview is essential. Some of the questions I receive are like this (real) example: “How much does a fully loaded tank weigh?” Where do I start?!

Araghi’s comment about “the ambiguity of index terms across cultures, languages, and time” has much truth in it. Language just isn’t always precise; there are countless opportunities for misinterpretation making access to accurate information complex. In the above example, what did the user mean by “tank”—gas, air, fuel, military, fish, something else?

Providing the information the user wants in a virtual environment also requires providing ongoing reassurances that I’m still there and looking for the information requested. Many expect an instant answer. I may ask the user to give me a minute, come back in less than that with the information they’ve requested only to discover the user has already logged off. I’ve found that recognizing there is another human being on the “other side” of the computer screen by using emoticons and addressing the user by his or her log-in name is very helpful in keeping the user engaged.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I had the great good fortune to be able to attend the Northwest Archivists and ARMA Spring Conference, New Frontiers in Archives and Records Management, which was held this year at the University of Alaska, Anchorage from May 28-31.

I was honored to be one of panel members for a session entitled Breaking the Ice: Protocols for Native American Archival Materials and Archivists in the Northwest. I learned a great deal, reconnected with people I'd met before, met more new, wonderful people and had a great time. I didn't have the opportunity to take many photographs. I did see a moose, but didn't have my camera at the ready.

However, as I always do when I go to a conference, I made certain to take photographs of the library where it was held.


I've used many of the web2.0 social networking tools, but twitter is the one that has my heart. I like it because it's so simple, you can follow others and they can follow you, and you can respond to one another. It also doesn't take much time and I've learned how to express more with fewer words because there's a 140 character limit to each tweet. I made a twitter cloud. (Click on it to make it larger.)