Author Topic: Librarians, educate me please!  (Read 1800 times)

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Hillia

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Librarians, educate me please!
« on: August 01, 2014, 10:44:24 AM »
There have been a few discussions where librarians comment on the frequent perception that all they do is check out books and read.  I know there's a lot more to it, but I'm not sure what all of that is.  Can some librarians comment on what your education covers and what your daily work life is like?

Here's what I think librarians do:
- check out books!
- maintain the library's inventory of materials: know what's gone lost, what hasn't been used in a long time, what new materials are available, what new materials the library's patrons are looking for (maybe materials in a new language as new populations move into an area)
- work with local schools to have materials available to support curricula
- have a knowledge of materials in order to be able to make recommendations - includes age appropriateness, accuracy of reference materials, etc
- be able to accurately categorize materials so that patrons can locate them (do the publishers now send some set of standard cataloging data elements with new books?)
- plan and present educational or other programs to meet the needs of the local community
- assist patrons with using computers and internet
- answer a million questions a day

These are pretty simplified; I'm sure it's a full time task just keeping up with materials inventory, for example.  What have I missed?  What sort of classes do you take to support all of these tasks?  I'm getting very intrigued!

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Firecat

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2014, 10:52:04 AM »
Not a librarian myself, but one thing librarians do is know how to find information. Which sounds simple, but it's not when you think about the sheer amount of information out there and the various ways of getting at it.

camlan

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2014, 10:59:32 AM »
They also need vast stores of patience for dealing with people who don't understand why the librarian can't just call the person who has the book they want checked out and make them bring it back Right Now! so they can have the book they want Right Now!

And for dealing with the same patron when they refuse to put the book they want Right Now! on hold so they could get it when it comes back in.

Also, some librarians are trained in the repair of books and other materials. They check things as they come back for signs of wear and tear, as fixing these early can prolong the life of a book.

And there's Interlibrary Loan. Most libraries can get you any book you want, even if they don't own the book. They can find other libraries that have the book you want and that are willing to let you borrow the book for a few weeks.
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Hillia

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2014, 11:10:33 AM »
Not a librarian myself, but one thing librarians do is know how to find information. Which sounds simple, but it's not when you think about the sheer amount of information out there and the various ways of getting at it.

I totally forgot that...you're right, research methodology would be a huge amount of work.  There's so many systems to know and understand (and that's just the fairly generic ones I've heard of, not any specialty law/science/medicine/linguistics/you name it).

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scotcat60

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2014, 11:32:15 AM »
I worked in an academic library. I did a two year course at library school, part of a London polytechnical college.

There was shelving, cataloguing, interlibrary loans, dealing with fines for overdue books, putting books aside reserved by students and staff,  or books on reading lists, lending out laptops, selling stationery, restocking same, filling up photocopier, displaying new books added to stock., cataloguing new books and theses., ( books now have a catalogue record from the Library of Congress included.) I was the archivist, and had a project to list old documents, and add photographs of the college  to a database. I also arranged small exhibitions of archival material.

When  I first started,  (1973) we made up lots of journals for binging, packed them up, wrote out orders by hand, did it all in reverse when they came back from the binders, labelled them. By the time I retired nearly everything was online. (2010). In the 70s and 80s we did a weekly run, dleivering and collecting books and journals on interlibrary loan from other libraries in London. H.K.Lewis's medical bookshop and library in Gower Steet was like stepping back in time and had it's own special smell of books and central heating, especailly on a winter afternoon. My day started with a 10 minute walk to unlock all the bookcases in the library, and finished with me locking them up again. When  I retired, almost everything was computerised, and the old bookcases had given way to computers and open metal shelving., and Lewis's has closed and the building is part of University College London.

whiterose

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2014, 11:46:00 AM »
I work at a public library. Here is my list of duties:

- staff reference desks- in person, via telephone, and through Virtual Reference.
- answer reference questions
- obtain materials for customers. And that involves in-house, from other libraries in the system, and through interlibrary loan. Also add referring customers to nearby institutions that may have the material they need, such as an academic or military library.
- present programs for customers of all ages. Preschool, elementary, middle, secondary school, and adults.
- teach technology classes
- teach ESL classes
- assist customers with computer use, printing, and use of their tablets/ebook readers
- translate and interpret for customers who speak other languages
- shelve materials
- check out items, and collect fines when necessary, as well as issue new library cards (this is technically the Circulation department's job, but sometimes reference staff does it)
- supervise and rate two library aides
- weed materials and maintain collections
- fax items for customers
- order books
- post to social media
- create flyers about upcoming programs and services
- work with community contacts to do outreach and in-house programs
- take care of other logistical issues
- be in charge of the building when necessary
- deal with problem patrons
- call police/firefighter/ambulance when necessary

Oddest requests I have come across:

- finding a yearbook from a Department of Defense school in Japan.
- determine whether an ancient coin was written in Hebrew or Greek, then translate it
- old boss was asked the weight of an eyeball
- librarian I interviewed during library school was asked for the map of a planet that had yet to be mapped
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Thipu1

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2014, 11:55:49 AM »
It varies with the library but Acquisition is a big part of it.  The library where I worked was very specialized.  We didn't get regular shipments of books from distributors as public libraries often do.  Each book had to individually ordered.  That meant going through publishers' catalogs almost every day and the catalogs would be in French, German and Italian as well as English so what we called a 'title-page knowledge' of these languages was necessary.

Libraries have different classification systems.  In library school we learned Sear's, LOC and Dewey.  Our library also had its own classification system.  Knowing which system is being used is important in cataloging.  Most books in public and school libraries have already been cataloged by someone else and copy cataloging can be used.  This means the cataloger finds a record in an existing data base  and alters it to suit the needs of the particular library with added entries to provide as many access points as possible.

Sometimes, an original record is needed.  I'd say that my library required at least 50 percent original cataloging.  That takes time. 

Shelf reading and preservation can also be time consuming. Libraries have a catalog we call a shelf list.  This lists the material in call-number order.  Shelf reading involves comparing the shelf list to the books on the shelves.  Some books will have to be moved, others will need to be pulled because of damage or wear.  If possible, repair will be made or a new copy ordered. 

In library school we had a fun class that involved learning how to field weird questions.  A vital part of this is the 'reference interview'.  Patrons often think librarians are being nosy but we just want to get the patron the information s/he wants and needs. 

Here's an example.  Three patrons come in and want to see information about food in Ancient Egypt. 

Patron one is a high school student involved in a group project. All this patron wants and needs is a list of crops that were grown and animals which were eaten at that time and place.

Patron two wants to throw a themed dinner party.  What he needs are recipes.  Wilth a few modifications, a modern Middle Eastern cookbook would probably serve this patron well. He can serve duck or goose but chicken will be out in Pharaonic Egypt.

Patron three is a student of dietetics who is writing a paper about the nutrition of the workers who built the pyramids. This patron needs specific information and that information exists in the form of what are known as the 'ration texts'.  For the record, the builders of the pyramids ate pretty well.

That's why the reference interview exists.  It's also why librarians are trained to be 'nosy'. We want
our patrons to go away satisfied.  Librarians really do want to please. Sometimes, pleasing patrons means doing a mind-reading act worthy of Kreskin.  That's part of the joy of the profession.               

Slartibartfast

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2014, 01:42:44 PM »
I kind of bucked the trend - I *did* read a lot  :P  That's an incredible anomaly among librarians, though: my library was tiny, out in the middle of nowhere, in a community where most of the adults weren't literate and couldn't care less that the library was there.  Half my day was sitting in an empty library, the other half was after the school bus dropped the kids off in the parking lot (I shared a building with a Boys & Girls Club) and that half was a lot busier  :P

During my quiet times:
  • shelve the few books people bothered to read (and the much larger number the kids pulled off the shelves for no reason)
  • acquisitions - I had a tiny budget, so I didn't get to do this often, but I was also very possessive of how to spend it  :P
  • IT and repair - we had the cast-offs from other library branches, so the computers/printer/copy machine were always going on the fritz and IT would only come out if it was a real emergency because it was a good half-day for them to get to me, fix the problem, and get back.  I'm decently good with computers, so I did a lot of fixing things myself (and you wouldn't believe what teens can do to a computer, even one that's supposed to be thoroughly locked down . . .)
  • weeding - once a year or so, I'd go through and pull things that were ratty, ugly, out-of-date information, nobody checked out anymore, etc.  Also tried to reconcile what was *supposed* to be on the shelves with what was *actually* on the shelves, i.e. figure out what had been stolen.  It took several weeks even for my tiny library (one room = ~10,000 titles).
  • preparing summer reading programs - I didn't have programming the rest of the year, but I did have a LOT going on over the summer because I had several kids who literally had nowhere else to go for two months.

During my busier times, i.e. after the school bus got there:
  • homework help - this was probably 75% of my time.  It's not something most librarians have time to do, but I was the only resource a lot of these kids had, so I tried my best.  (Not just "how to find books on what you're looking for," but things like math help and how to write a research paper.)
  • discipline - this was 99.999% of the rest  ::)  Things like "no licking the magazines" should go unsaid . . .
  • mediating disputes over who was hogging the computers (and therefore Facebook) when someone else had homework to do
  • help with computer skills, working the copier, working the printer, cutting out shapes for kindergarten assignments, etc.

When I did have adults come in during the day, they usually needed a lot of help on the computer - most of the time they were trying to type up a resume and didn't have the first clue how.  Often I had to walk them through how to sign up for a free email, etc.

Oh - also meetings.  Can't forget meetings  :-\

That said, I also read my way through a pretty fair chunk of the children's section - I'd claim it was for work, but really I just liked opening the back door and letting the breeze in and watching the birds in the field behind my building and just not having to think for a while  :)

Frog24

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2014, 02:38:30 PM »
Don't forget that librarians also have to endure the "Conan the Librarian" jokes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZHoHaAYHq8

Of course, it's also pretty bad when someone asks you what you do and your response is that you're a page at the library.  *sigh* we never saw the end of that joke.


Katana_Geldar

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2014, 04:13:31 PM »
I'm a library technician, we are the ones who do the cataloging and putting together the Dewey numbers. There's a science to putting a correct Dewey number together as the content of the book can be broken down into what it's about and where it about. The more specific a book is, the longer a Dewey number can be.

A book about the habits of cane toads in Cairns is going to have a longer Dewey number than a book about amphibians as it's more specific. You don't have to construct the whole number sometimes as it can be done for you by another library tech and you just need to find it, I used to use a website to make my Dewey numbers when I did my diploma and I swear I found a constructed Dewey number for a book on the international export of onions.  :o

What I've found tricky is to balance wanting to help someone with something versus them wanting you to do it for them. One example is when I was helping a student with an assignment he had which was about how to reference and make a bibliography using the Harvard style. I told him that me telling him how to do it was not the point of the assignment, as he needed to learn how to do this himself. But the student was not only not a native English speaker he had used libraries very little in his home country. So what I did was find him a style sheet and then gave him a quick year 7 library lesson on the parts of a book (this is where you find the publisher and the publishing date and place of a book, use the authors names as they are in the cover and don't change them etc.). I wasn't busy at the time and I was glad to help.

AmethystAnne

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2014, 06:14:28 PM »
My DD is a school librarian. In May 2013, DD asked if I could help her get ready for the move to the new school building(grades PK-2nd) from the old school building (grades PK-5).

My first job was to change the school reference number on each book from the old number to the new number: putting the new pre-printed peel-and-stick number label over the old sticker, changing the number in the computer, and putting the book in a box.

Lots(!) and lots(!) of books got new labels, and there were 4-5 other people working on it.

After all the books got relabeled and got boxed up, the maintenance department moved the boxes to the new library.

My second job for DD was to remove the books from the boxes, organize them by Dewey Decimal Number, and then put them on the shelves. There were several of us doing this.

 Did you know that some books only have Library of Congress numbers, and not Dewey#'s?  >:(


 









AmethystAnne

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2014, 06:23:54 PM »
I'm a library technician, we are the ones who do the cataloging and putting together the Dewey numbers. There's a science to putting a correct Dewey number together as the content of the book can be broken down into what it's about and where it about. The more specific a book is, the longer a Dewey number can be.

A book about the habits of cane toads in Cairns is going to have a longer Dewey number than a book about amphibians as it's more specific. You don't have to construct the whole number sometimes as it can be done for you by another library tech and you just need to find it, I used to use a website to make my Dewey numbers when I did my diploma and I swear I found a constructed Dewey number for a book on the international export of onions.  :o
<snip>

That is really interesting! Thank you for telling us.

Would you happen to remember what the name of the website was?

It was shocking to me to find out that some U.S. books only have Library Of Congress numbers, and not Dewey Decimal numbers. It makes it hard to shelve books in a DD# based library.  >:(

whiterose

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2014, 06:26:39 PM »
Homework help. Definitely homework help. In all subjects. At all levels.

- Spelling words
- Math help at all levels
- Science all the way from elementary school physical science to wave equations.

Not to mention college admissions advice- playing guidance counselor.

You have to be a Jack or Jill of all trades in order to succeed as a public librarian. Especially if you work in Youth Services.
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Katana_Geldar

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2014, 07:24:46 PM »
I'm a library technician, we are the ones who do the cataloging and putting together the Dewey numbers. There's a science to putting a correct Dewey number together as the content of the book can be broken down into what it's about and where it about. The more specific a book is, the longer a Dewey number can be.

A book about the habits of cane toads in Cairns is going to have a longer Dewey number than a book about amphibians as it's more specific. You don't have to construct the whole number sometimes as it can be done for you by another library tech and you just need to find it, I used to use a website to make my Dewey numbers when I did my diploma and I swear I found a constructed Dewey number for a book on the international export of onions.  :o
<snip>

That is really interesting! Thank you for telling us.

Would you happen to remember what the name of the website was?

It was shocking to me to find out that some U.S. books only have Library Of Congress numbers, and not Dewey Decimal numbers. It makes it hard to shelve books in a DD# based library.  >:(
Web Dewey is the site, but you need to be a member to use it.
http://dewey.org/webdewey/login/login.html;jsessionid=B4F2B5B81675261D6EDE966738F3828F

And I wasn't trained in Library of Congress Classification, none of the cataloging teachers knew how to do it. I had to use a library with it at my first year at uni and I hated the system, gave up trying to work it out so I just remembered where the books I wanted were.

bonyk

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Re: Librarians, educate me please!
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2014, 07:42:33 PM »
So funny! This morning my normally very sweet librarian seemed a bit annoyed that she had to stop what she was doing to check me out.  I've been wondering what I could have been interrupting.