Archive for the ‘Librarians’ Category

Desk Attendant Song of the Library Staff 1906


Head Librarian Song of the Library Staff 1906

The two delightful poems above are from Sam Walter Foss’s 1906 book, Song of the Library Staff. These particular pages (click on the image for a better view) are courtesy of the Seattle Public Library. However, you can get the whole book as a free download from the Internet Archive or Google Books.

One of the truisms about librarianship is that while the tools we work with have changed, the essential nature of the work has remained largely the same over the centuries. Anyone who has worked in the Circulation department will recognize themselves in “The Desk Attendant”. My favorite line from that poem: “the un-inspected canned beef intellect of man”. And “The Head Librarian” focuses on budget problems (“trying to fit his thousand dollars to his million dollar needs”)–tres contemporary, no?

Sam Foss was himself a librarian as well as a poet. His best known poem today is probably “The Coming American” which contains the opening line “Bring me men to match my mountains/Bring me men to match my plains”.


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In the midst of the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri, one rock of calm remains: the Ferguson Public Library. Librarian Scott Bonner and his staff have remained open, providing classes, regular library services, and sometimes emotional support for community members. Read the whole story here.

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Whenever a fellow citizen of our happy hobbit burg hails me at traffic light, I know that the conversation that follows will be memorable. Once an Alaska Native gentleman in a van offered to sell me some ivory while we were parked at the same overpass. I declined. A tip for consumers: while only Alaska Natives are allowed to sell raw ivory, reputable sellers and artisans do not flog their product from the windows of a moving vehicle.

Last night, I had barely nosed to a stop at the crosswalk when a lady got out of her truck and came up to my window. She told me (nicely) that I needed to move closer to the white line so that the light would change. I have no idea where she was going, but clearly the thought of any delay of any kind was too much for her.

So there I was on my way home a couple of days ago when a woman in a mini-van on my driver’s hand side asked me for directions to the nearest Fred Meyers. I deduced from the mud-splattered condition of the mini-van and the Hobbiton street map clutched in her hand that she wasn’t from around here, visitors not being uncommon in the summer months. I pointed her towards the nearest turnoff, she thanked me, and drove off.

Library reference service@your intersection.

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One of the tattoos profiled on Contrariwise. Shakespeare, Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, Tolkien, and Kurt Vonnegut all seem to be very popular.

The following exchanged amused me to no end. One of the librarians to the Arnorian Library Association listserv posted a link and a short description of Contrariwise, a website devoted to literary tattoos–tattoos that are from or reference works of literature.

Greg, a genial, teddy bear of a man who works over at Hobbiton Public Library, posted this response:

“I’ve long been interested in buying temporary text tattoos with individual letters that can be individually placed on knuckles spelling out “R-E-A-D” on one hand and “S-H-H-H” on the other. Please let me know if anyone comes across a likely source.”

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Spurred on by a rush of spring cleaning, I did something that no librarian should ever do: I took a look in the boxes that surround the perimeter of my office. You librarians know the ones I mean. The ones that have been kicking around ever since you came to work there. The ones no one knows enough about to process, but are afraid to throw out in case they contain something valuable. Yeah, those boxes.

Of course, I knew better. I’ve worked as an A/V archivist long enough to know that if something has been hanging about without anyone doing anything to it, there’s something wrong with the item. Usually it means that some part of the all-important documentation process has been skipped–there’s no release, no information about the contents of the recording, no deed of gift, no idea of what it came from, etc. You get the picture.

Periodically, various members of the staff, past and present, have gone mano-a-mano with the items in question, but they have failed to bring the recordings to heel. A/V archivists only have so many hours in the day and if there is something gumming up the works of processing apparatus, then the process doesn’t apparate and the items are set aside.

So by opening up these boxes I knew that I was just making more work for myself. But knowing that didn’t really prepare me for the more work I got/am getting/will have to do.

Cases in point:

  • I found a release form that had no tape attached to it. After contacting the interviewer (a staff member since retired), I was able to get a copy of the tape, transfer it to CD, summarize the interview, catalog it, and then link its associated items to its MARC record.
  • I found a packet of releases that were related to, but didn’t match up with a collection that we already have. I contacted the interviewer and the end result was a pile of new audiocassettes for me to accession.
  • I discovered that the Gondor Archives had transcripts associated with a collection that we have so I arranged to get copies of same. The end result is a new batch of transcripts and associated papers that I have to go through and match up with the interviews.
  • I questioned my boss, Bill, about a box of VHS videotapes of a conference in Barrow and the end result is a letter of transmittal to the donating organization and potentially a lot of new processing and release form seeking.

All of these new tasks are on top of the on-going ones I already do. Take it from me, friends: don’t feed your gremlins after midnight, don’t push the big red button, and, whatever you do, don’t open the boxes!

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Here are a bunch of links that I discovered courtesy of the Arnor Library Association conference last month, but didn’t get around to posting ’til now:

What to Do With Wikipedia
Rather than refuse to allow students to use Wikipedia, the author recommends that teachers incorporate Wikipedia editing into their courses, turning students into Wikipedia contributors and incidentally teaching them vital research skills at the same time. Simple, but brilliant.

Wikipedia Help for Teachers and Students
Wikipedia concurs. There is an impressive list of universities that have already done something similar. Some courses are specifically about Wikipedia, others have the students contribute as part of a class on a different subject.

Primary Sources
Wikipedia has a very nice primary source page with examples.

Secondary Sources
Ditto for secondary sources. I will be giving out these links as references in my class orientation talks.

Wikipedia also has a nice citations page.

Doe vs. Gonzales
A brief summary of the Doe vs. Gonzales case where a librarian fought a federal gag order successfully. Librarians: standing up for your right to know.

Library Architecture (Slideshow)
Slideshow of modern library buildings. Slideshow author considers these buildings examples of how libraries are being changed by technology. I think it’s more accurate to say that libraries are responding to the needs of their user communities.

Man Who Wanted to Classify the World
Paul Otlet, a cool guy ahead of his time. It was great watching this with a bunch of fellow librarians: we oohed and gasped in all the right places. Only librarians can fully understand what it means to write out over a million catalog cards–by hand. A great documentary if exorbitantly expensive. Rent and show it at your library if you can’t afford to buy it.

Library Careers
One of the neat things about librarianship is how diversified our jobs are. This book has a number of sample chapters that will give you a look into what librarians today are doing.

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Old Town Hall Clock in Prague. Taken by Simpologist (Flickr).


The fall time change has played havoc with the clocks at the University of Arnor.

Our clocks are set and run by a central timekeeping piece at Facilities Services that is supposed to keep all the clocks on campus showing the same time. Or, at least, that’s the theory. In practice, no two clocks ever show the same time and large jumps like the one engendered over the weekend by Daylight Savings Time sends them off into another dimension entirely. Possibly the Fourth Dimension, but we can’t be sure.

Today, we received the following notice on the library listserv:

The Facilities Services guys are experiencing problems with changing the clocks. They said we may experience several scenarios before they get back on actual time.

Prompted by this message, my colleague, Paul, listed some “scenarios” that we might experience. With his permission, I have reprinted his list below:

  • The preserved, jarred head of Leonard Nimoy answers your questions at the Media counter.
  • A souped-up DeLorean accelerates towards 88 miles per hour, then disappears in a flash of fire just before colliding with the Reference desk.
  • You find yourself repeatedly attending a press conference for Punxsutawney Phil.
  • A sunglasses-wearing cyborg asks you for directory information on a “Sarah Connor”. (If this is public information, you are required to give it to him).
  • The figure of a long-dead librarian appears before you in a space-suit, floating and partially transparent, but you are unable to warn her, before she returns to her own time, that reference services are doomed.
  • Daleks assume control of the library administration, exterminating non-exempt staff and stifling innovation.
  • You realize that you’re working on the same damned thing you were working on an hour ago.

If you encounter any of these scenarios, please report them immediately to Facilities Services.

It’s gonna be a looong week.


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