I start working tomorrow at a Public Library (details and writing will come in the future); I am making a transition from technical services to patron services. This will involve fewer interactions with varied software (just used in a different way) and increased interactions with people.
I am curious what people really think about their respective public library jobs? This question is not meant to cover ALL the experiences nor thoughts people have, nor every task that is part of daily needs at each person’s respective branch.
One dire facet of contemporary life in public libraries has been the way budget cuts and the economy in the late 2000s has affected services, hours of operation and libraries’ ability to acquire new materials across formats. My job in part has come about, I believe, because of the library system’s ability to expand hours and thus increase the number of staff possible – an event for which I am rather grateful. So, I am interested in answers to my query that reflect the changing state of your respective public libraries and what you think about your jobs relative to the affects of the economic struggles of late. These changes I know alter who is in charge, what can be offered and other factors. And sometimes these changes can be positive.
Anyway, please do say what you think. You can reply here or @ Twitter.
Fairfax County Public Library system has built a useful, award-winning Eco-friendly library in the Arlington Blvd. Thomas Jefferson neighborhood branch. It features red bricks on three sides and a wall of open glass on the Rt. 50 side – facing the main road and service street.
I have three pictures snapped and collected @ Twitter – collocated under the hashtag: #jltaglichtjfcpl – of the external. Future potential for internal images. I simply want to quickly describe the building’s design features – attributes which are new in ideology and yet traditional in design thinking in library buildings. The first of these is the ease of access to the reference desk. It sits in the very middle of the floor where it acts simultaneously as point-of-service and Panopticon over the stacks and nearby computer terminals.
The green-friendly wall of glass on the northern wall allows so much natural light in. I have written in the letting in of natural light to libraries before. This simple solution saves money on lighting (energy use itself is also theoretically reduced). But it also changes the texture of the light from fluorescent to something altogether different. Of course, it’s not as if light has not always played in a part in library design. Traditionally, light has been a part of libraries as representative of the light of knowledge and truth. But in this building’s case, much of the used and useful light comes from outside the library. I might suggest the “truth” here is that one form of truth (s) is dependent on other types of truth (s).
This branch is not the biggest in the Fairfax County Public Library system, but it certainly is nearly the newest. It’s emphasis on open space, light and green-compatibility marks it as representative of current thinking in architecture and use-design. These features are not, however, the building’s only interesting elements. It also features rent-able rooms and shelves for free community-oriented reading outside of the view of the stacks and the reference desk. I find this quite interesting because even though many libraries have rooms for community events set aside in his square footage, this building seems to turn locate the community stuff connected via the entrance of the building (all connected through the foyer) and yet NOT the stacks themselves. There could surely be more written more on this topic of design and the peoples’ use.
Hmmm, as a library user of some regularity, I heartily recommend getting or renewing your Fairfax County Library Card and becoming a regular patron of this branch if it’s convenient. If not, at least take a visit (maybe via bicycle since it has access by a service road and has racks for many bikes by the front door) and see what you think.
As always, dialogue is welcome.
Currently, The Neighborhood Writing Alliance is working on a project in which interns are adding sets of non-hierarchical keywords (sort of like a tag cloud in social media) to an internally accessible bibliographic database of the journal it has published for more than 20 years, The Journal of Ordinary Thought – Or JOT as it is called. The database is being created in a log-in controlled environ called CiteuLike. This application works like other reference-maintenance software available. Users, who are given controlled log-in web-based profiles, build collections and can add multiple levels of information to each bibliographic record. One of the types of information users can apply to records is tags.
I am working as Metadata Specialist on this project, overseeing the work of the interns, editing tag-sets for better search potential and presenting examples through assorted instructional techniques best practices/policy for adding tags to the collection. One of the questions anyone who considers subject access in library catalogs is this notion of “aboutness” – that of determining what a piece of writing or other cultural artifact is about. In other words, if we could attach a subject to some cultural artifact, what would it be, how many subjects can one artifact have and how do we decide? To make matters more abstract, “subjects” themselves are also cultural products based on factors such as who might be in charge at the time, who is most likely to be the common users or viewers of said artifacts and whether there are requisite resources (money and other factors) at the time of creation of the bibliographic record to add or attach all possible permutations. For example, here is a link to a search for manuscript papers connected with Abraham Lincoln in Library of Congress’ holdings. If one clicks on Andrew Johnson Papers, 1783-1947, it is apparent the record contains a summary of that collection’s contents. This summary works to tell what the collection is about. On one level, this bibliographic record contains pure data referring to the collection. But on another level, the writing of the summary is a human-decided process that involves processing (thinking) and writing (also a human experience). It is not obvious what a piece of writing is “about” – even if the writer or bibliographic record creator states so – nor how it will affect the reader or viewer.
These are the fun challenges in front of us on this project. It is underway and progress is being made. The document which holds the tagging Best Practices [which Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines as performances or forms which excel all others]* is being written along with some other helpful guidelines by way of examples with specific explanations. I think we will each learn a little something along the way.
PS: As always, dialogue is welcome.
* Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Ed. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2001. 108, 912