What You Should Know Before You Come to the Library

Know why you are here. I mean in here, in this college. Why did you choose to pursue a degree as opposed to any other course of action? I would hope that the outstanding level of academic service you expected to contribute here was a factor.

Know what you are studying. Program, purpose, and plan of study. They should be second nature to you by the time you’ve attended few classes.

Know your professor’s name. Yes, I am serious. Some reserve materials are cataloged by class and professor, but not all. Knowing her name helps us find the stuff you need.

Know what’s expected of you in class. Your professor explained this to you on Day One of the semester. I hope you paid attention. If you didn’t, re-read my first question.

Know the titles and authors of the books you are expected to read. Usually, these are found on the syllabus. Coming to the Circ Desk and telling me that it’s the blue book that Prof. You Know Who uses for class doesn’t help much. If we shelved books according to color and class, it would work. We don’t.

Know whether we have those books in the library. If you don’t know offhand, give the library a call and I will look in the online catalog and tell you. If we don’t have it, I’ll find a local library that does and tell you where they are.

Know when your project is due. Your professor told you this. He probably gave at least one reminder. Don’t come in with three days to deadline and tell me you’re in a rush. Look behind you: see those students at the reading tables? They started early and they’re going to finish on time. Take the hint.

Know how to find more books. If you don’t know how to search the online catalog or subscription databases, ask, and I’ll take time to show you how. I do it for others, I’ll do it for you. But you need to take notes and remember what I show you.

Know that we believe in you.

Know that we want to help.

But please, meet us half-way.

The Educational Power of Libraries

Here’s a testimony on the self-educational power of libraries from the now late Ray Bradbury, forwarded to me by the ERIL-L listserv care of Walter Miale, who nicked the link from Andrew Sullivan, and excerpted here:

…I’m completely library educated. I’ve never been to college. I went down to the library when I was in grade school in Waukegan, and in high school in Los Angeles, and spent long days every summer in the library. I used to steal magazines from a store on Genesee Street, in Waukegan, and read them and then steal them back on the racks again. That way I took the print off with my eyeballs and stayed honest. I didn’t want to be a permanent thief, and I was very careful to wash my hands before I read them. But with the library, it’s like catnip, I suppose: you begin to run in circles because there’s so much to look at and read. And it’s far more fun than going to school, simply because you make up your own list and you don’t have to listen to anyone. When I would see some of the books my kids were forced to bring home and read by some of their teachers, and were graded on—well, what if you don’t like those books?

I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.

Read the whole thing here.

And when you’re done with that, drop me a comment to let me know what the best way of tracking a trail of resource breadcrumbs like the above situation might be. We have four online and disparate sources that just happen to be connected through my clicking habits.  There has to be an OpenURL gadget that does that, doesn’t there? Yes? No? Anyone?



University of Minnesota Pays Professors to Use Open-Source Textbooks

The University of Minnesota wants to save money for their students by making open-source textbooks available to the student body by way of its Open Access textbook catalog. As textbooks are obscenely overpriced already, this is a good thing.

The university however, is also willing to pay its faculty to "review and adopt" the new open access books:

“High textbook costs are one of the many factors that are contributing to the increasing financial burden that students are facing,” said Lizzy Shay, U of M undergraduate student body president. “Affordable open textbooks would go a long way in relieving that burden.”

The catalog currently lists 84 open textbooks that are in use in classrooms across the country. Over the next year, CEHD will work with U of M faculty to review the texts in this collection, making it easier for users to judge textbook quality. CEHD will support faculty who choose to review and adopt open textbooks with $500-$1,000 stipends.

I share a problem with all academic librarians, namely, the promise of new technology if only the faculty would embrace it. Not all faculty do for a number of reasons. The younger ones tend to be adjuncts and even if they like the new tech, don't have the pull with the Deans or full-time faculty to advocate for it. The faculty are frequently nervous about any change to the status quo, and many don't even understand how the library works or why we develop technology policies. And the Deans are administrators more often than not. A given technology's promise to them is how much money it can bring into the corporate coffers and how quickly. Obviously, free on-line textbooks don't measure up to that ideal, at least, not yet.

So, in that context, I can see why providing a stipend for the review and use of such things would be warranted. Nothing opens the eyes and loosens the tongue like silver in one's palm. At the same time, I would expect that once the University of Minnesota completes its catalog, it will stop paying out to promote its electronic wares. What happens then?

We shall see.


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