Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

My colleague, Angie in the Film Archives, shared with department staff this lovely and articulate thank you letter that she received from a homesick patron, Aurora Lang, formerly of Alaska, but now living in Washington state. The letter is reprinted here with Aurora’s kind permission. Over the past four years, our library has lost half its staff and half its funding with more potentially to come as the state is buffeted by budgetary winds. Aurora’s letter lifted our hearts. Library work can be tedious, grinding, and, more often than not, underfunded. Knowing that what we do is appreciated by the public makes it all worthwhile.

Here is the clip that Aurora refers to:

The clip was put together by Dirk Tordoff, the former head of the Film Archives, now retired, and was designed as a spot for our local public TV station. The music playing is the “Bravura Variation on Alaska’s Flag Song” by Paul Rosenthal.

Dear Angie and the entire Alaska Film Archive Department,

This is a letter of gratitude for the work you do.

In the time since the election I have found enormous comfort in the 80
Years of Alaskan History film clips you compiled. I have watched it often
in the last few months, and at least a dozen times over the past few days.
It makes me tear up with pride and love each time.

Those five minutes remind me that our state is resilient and resourceful,
our friends and neighbors are our greater family, the boroughs our extended
community, that we value our wild places, and even though our state has
seen its fair share of ugliness and inhumanity, as a state we have worked
towards justice and, I believe, will continue to right our wrongs and work
toward a better Alaska.

Those five minutes remind me to be proud of the place I came from, and in
these past few months I had forgotten to be proud. It reminds me that our
state, like our country, has overcome seemingly impossible hurdles before
and will again.

Alaska is home, where I was born and raised, where my family and best
memories live. It’s the place I identify with and is what makes sense,
even during these past couple years when I’ve been down in Washington.
Those five minutes are invaluable when I’m homesick and overwhelmed with
freeways and people. I’ll move back, probably sooner than later, because
it’s home.

But in the meantime, as I’m trying to maintain hope for the future, belief
in humanity and justice, and draw upon wells of courage that feel dry right
now, I lean on those five minutes. Inevitably I feel better, more
courageous, and more hopeful.

Thank you for the work you do to preserve our history, to celebrate our
state, to inspire the future. Your work is necessary and invaluable.

With gratitude,


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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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“But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.”–Neil Gaiman

The quote above comes from a speech Neil Gaiman gave in London on October 14, 2013 to the Reading Agency, a charity that promotes literacy. In it, he had many wonderful (and smart) things to say about the importance of libraries, of fiction, and of reading in general. Here’s a link to the edited text of his speech that appeared in The Guardian newspaper.

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I ran across some fun links that I just had to share with y’all.
First, Linda Holmes , who writes for NPR’s pop culture blog, Monkey See, posted this about her recent visit to her local library. Full disclosure: I had zero idea it was National Library Week and I’m a librarian. But that’s another story. For the record, depending on your library system and the depth of its budget cuts, your library may deliver requested library materials to a location near you, either by courier service or by one of its outreach services. Also, many libraries do a lot of business by phone and over the web so call or e-mail them if you don’t like visiting in person. However, if you haven’t made a visit recently, think about dropping by. You may be surprised by what the library is carrying in the way of loanable materials. At Hobbiton Public library, for example, you can find video games for checkout as well as downloadable audio books and books on CD, a HUGE selection of DVDs and graphic novels as well as lots of other cool stuff.

Did you know that the triceratops, that three-horned plant-eating dinosaur and frequent T. Rex sparring partner, is now considered to be the juvenile  version of the torosaurus? No, me neither. In fact, my reaction was pretty much as author Robert Krulwich describes here:

“Triceratops lovers were not happy. We all know cute teenagers who become less cute adults. But, hey, this was an iconic dinosaur. It’s like discovering that Elizabeth Taylor was a youngish phase of a creature on her way to becoming Bette Davis. No, no, no and NOOOOO!, people cried. We want the thing we know as Triceratops to stay a Triceratops!

And hear, hear say I. Hey, this isn’t Science Friday, it’s Unwillingness to Look Facts in the Face Thursday and I’m a-sticking to it.

Finally, another post by Linda Holmes, entitled “Poem in Your Pocket” (yeah, I know) in which she asks readers to post their favorite poems. Here’s the YouTube video of¬† a performance poem by Lauren Zuniga called “Girl: Exploded” which speaks to me about the constant pressure placed on women to rein in our frustrations even as we are loaded up with expectations:

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“What”, asks Sara Brumfield of the blog Steampunk Home, “could be more steampunk than a library?”

Well, yeah, I thought, maybe Sherlock Holmes’s library–a fireplace, a lot of leatherbound books, and some comfortable armchairs–but the modern library? No way. If pressed to describe the decor of my office deep in the bowels of the University of Arnor library, I would use words like “Early Budget Cut” or maybe “Seriously Institutional”.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that Sara is right. After all, what is steampunk really but the fusion of two disparate things–the organic and the industrial, the ancient and the modern? Most libraries can be described using those four terms to some degree. Our work as librarians, after all, has remained largely the same since the 19th century, it’s only the tools we use (and the kinds of information we now manage) that have changed.

Looking around my office, I realize that it could be described as “steampunky”–provided you interpreted that term rather broadly. In the back workroom, for example, salvaged wooden card catalogs (scrounged and transported by me and a rag-tag ensemble of put-upon students) hold row upon row of oral history interviews on audiocassette. The reclaimed card catalogs sit beside a table with a 21st century digitization station (our audio transfer/preservation station) which in turn shares tabletop space with a reel to reel tape player (certainly retro). Industrial shelving (another salvaged item) holds dark grey archival boxes made from acid-free paper (for audio storage) while the off-white walls show off an assortment of framed posters. (Historical Arnorian subjects, of course. My contribution to the office after the library’s renovation several years back).

So we’re not a cluttered, boring office, we’re a nascent Steampunk workshop. Yeah! Feel that steamy goodness! Now if I can only find my raygun, maybe I can eliminate some of these paperwork piles ….

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When the topic of saving money comes up, libraries are always mentioned, but the implication is often that the only reason to use libraries is to save money on your leisure reading and viewing. No mention is made of the many other services that the library offers. With that in mind, here’s the inside scoop on how you can improve your finances at the library:

  • Personal finance: Your first steps on the road to thrifty living should take you to your library. Check out, don’t purchase, those tomes on financial planning, wills and trusts, retirement planning, frugal living, stretching your food dollar, etc.
  • Career information and resumes: The public library is the unofficial job center of a community. Get information on occupations, changing jobs, find college catalogs, scholarships and grants, graduate schools, and resume writing.
  • Starting a small business: Do your market research, learn how to write business plans and apply for grants, etc. using the publications and databases available at your local library. Ask your reference librarian for assistance. They may be able to point you to other local, regional, and national resources.
  • Equipment checkout: Depending on your library, you may be able to check out media equipment free of charge. At the University of Arnor, for example, university-affliated personnel (students, staff, faculty) can check out laptops, digital tape recorders, and digital cameras among other cool things from the Media Services desk at our library.
  • Interlibrary loan: If your library doesn’t have what you need, they can BORROW it for you from another library that does. No matter how much librarians publicize this service, patrons are still surprised to learn that it’s possible. Books, videos, microfilm, etc. are usually sent through the mail. Depending on the sophistication of your library’s ILL service, periodical articles can be scanned and send via electronic form to your in-box.
  • More than just books: Have you toured your local library recently? If not, you may be surprised to discover that you can check out popular TV shows on DVD, computer games, recent music CDs, books on tape, and maps among other things. Before you buy ANYTHING, query the library first. They may already have the item.
  • Recommend for purchase: If your library isn’t carrying an item that you want and you think it might be of interest to other patrons, ask your library to purchase it. When it comes time to acquire new items, librarians give priority to patron requests.
  • Other services: Libraries, particularly public ones, often function as community centers. They offer literacy tutoring, summer reading programs, teen programs, gaming nights, book discussion groups, tax preparation assistance, meeting space, etc. Ask for a calendar of events.

Remember, friends, libraries are like icebergs: there’s more to them than meets the eye.

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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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