The brain cracks when the man tries to cram the whole universe inside it and bar the doors, not when man’s mind is like some vast and hospitable tree, nested in by birds out of strange countries and swayed by winds out of the ends of heaven. Consequently we may say truly that it is not the poets who go mad; it is the mathematicians, the logicians, the numberers of the stars, and the counters of the grass. ¹ -- G. K. Chesterton
Part three – Education and Professional Development
Molly Riley MLIS Professional Portfolio University of Washington, 2011
Created by Molly K. Riley for the MLIS Professional Portfolio in the Information School at the University of Washington, Seattle. All photos taken, all ephemera collected and scanned, and all graphic compilations contained herein created by Molly K. Riley, except for the book images found on page 8. Image for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie accessed from http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/256534817. Image for The Mission Song accessed from http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/70131194. And except for the screen shot from the site “Waisda” on page 12, accessed from http://www.waisda.nl in October 2010; this site, in this form, is no longer active, as the project has moved on to another phase, from what I can deduce. And except for the program cover for the Internet Librarian Conference on page 13, accessed from http://conferences.infotoday.com/documents/ 111/IL2010_FinalProgram.pdf. Please respect this intellectual property. Works cited: 1. Chesterton, G.K. “A Wild Reconstruction.” In Lunacy and Letters, edited by Dorothy Collins. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1958. 2. Bradley, Alan. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. New York: Bantam Books, 2010. 3. Cather, Willa. O, Pioneers! Boston: Houghton Mifflin,1937.
Table of Contents Coursework.............................3-8 Information in Social Context.........4 Cataloging Courses....................5 Information Retrieval Systems.........6 Management for Information Organizations......................7 Reader Services.......................8
Netherlands Exploration Seminar...............................9-12 The Libraries......................9-10 The Lectures......................11-12
Internet Librarian Conference...........................13-14 “A world that’s so big and interesting”.....................15-16
“Yes?” she said, peering over her spectacles. They teach them to do that at the Royal Academy of Library Science. ² --Flavia de Luce in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
More often than not, when I tell someone that I’m pursuing a masters degree in Library and Information Science, I’m the first person to introduce him to the notion that most every librarian he’s ever seen has a masters degree and that no, we don’t just sit around amongst piles of books all day. When questions follow about what exactly we learn in “library school,” I haven’t always answered as well or succinctly as I could. We cover a broad swath of topics at the Information School, and though many of the classes I’ve elected to take focus on reference and information services to users, I’m endlessly appreciative of the diversity of courses on offer at the University of Washington. The following five pages provide a glimpse into some of the work and writing I’ve done in various classes over the past two years. Each sample of work is preceded by a description of the course and assignment for which the work was completed. These snippets demonstrate the principles I’ve learned through my coursework. I’ve selected these particular portions of my work because they show my competencies in areas necessary in any professional practice of librarianship.
Information in Social Context – Information does not exist as a static entity, all alone in the world. Information is made complicated because it enters our society and we are forced to make right decisions about how to use it and interact with it. In this course we discussed, among many things, questions of intellectual freedom, copyright, privacy and intellectual property. The following are prompts given by my professor, and my responses: Explain the notion of "reasonable expectation" in the legal concept of privacy. Is it inevitable that as technologies make expectations of privacy less and less tenable that the zones of privacy become more and more circumscribed? There are some situations in which one can expect to be left alone and not be considered unrealistic or unreasonable in that expectation… This notion of "reasonable expectation" in privacy is important in the legal sphere as its determination aids in discerning what privacy, if any, the person who claims to be intruded upon was entitled to in the first place. The manner in which current and developing technologies are intruding upon our privacy, often in ways of which we may be totally ignorant, is a perplexing reality… There are fundamental questions that need answering. If we chose to visit websites that employ cookies, and to post pictures of last-night-at-the-bar on Facebook, and to comment in online forums, have we relinquished some, if not all, of the reasonable expectation that certain of our behavior or actions will be kept private and inviolate? Or, do we have a right to more strictly control who sees what and what personal information is kept about us even when dealing in the unruly beast that is the Internet? Or do we already have that ability but simply lack sufficient education or skill to take full advantage of exercising control over our privacy? If you needed to explain the concept of "fair use" to a library patron, what would you say? "Fair use is complicated; fair use can difficult to determine. And an ultimate determination of fair use can only be reached in a court of law. And I'm no expert. That being said, it's not necessary to let the reality that the law is large and complicated paralyze you, or get in the way of your right to use materials within reason and under certain general guidelines. It's useful to bear in mind the big-picture ideas expressed in 'fair use' and to let these inform your actions. These 'big-picture' ideas are embodied in four factors taken into consideration by fair use. Briefly, they are the purpose of the use of the material, the nature of the copyrighted material, the significance and amount of material viewed in proportion to the whole work, and the effect of the use of the material on the market for that material. Establishing an understanding for what sorts of actions cross the line of these factors is essential in determining whether your actions are within the realm of fair use. Do you have any clarifying questions?”
Organization of Information and Resources -- This course, a precursor to cataloging, introduced us to the ways and means of organizing information. The following is an excerpt from an assignment in which we explored “the application of the notions of information system purposes and conceptual modeling… by examining an archival finding aid from the Library of Congress.” The construction of a language of description is an effort in establishing guidelines for what sorts of things can be said, and in what way those things can be said, for a set of entities, an entity being anything that has existence and can be described with language. The purpose of deliberately setting out to construct such a thing as a "language of description" is to facilitate the organization and subsequent retrieval of those entities described. What can we say about a book? And how might what we say facilitate the finding of a book by a person with a vacancy in their information life, a vacancy that would be perfectly filled by some one item among many, if only that item could be identified? Both a library's catalog and a finding aid for an archival collection seek to assist users in physically finding and collocating items. Neither system intends to nefariously hide items or documents from those wishing to take hold of them. Catalogs, Cataloging and Classification – This course provided an excellent first-time foray into cataloging practices and methods and included the use and examination of AACR2 and the Cataloger’s Desktop. The following is an excerpt from an assignment in which we were instructed to assign no more than four Library of Congress Subject Headings to items based solely on the details provided on the title page and in the table of contents. This portion is taken from my writings on assigning LCSHs to a fictitious book about “entertainment in online communities”: This item is about both broad and specific subjects and entities. It is tempting to become bogged down by the details describing this book’s chapters: “blogs, games, entertaining lists, video clips” and the like. But rather than succumb to those details, thought ought to be given to what terms might suffice to describe these disparate yet related concepts together, taking these related parts into a whole… The Library of Congress Subject Headings which describe online communities, environments, and experiences have not always matched the words commonly used to describe such entities. Or perhaps it’s simply that we don’t ascribe proper names beyond the branded ones to things like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter in our everyday language, and as such find it difficult to express these resources generically. Furthermore, the language we use to describe such entities is persistently evolving and it proved difficult to match the concepts outlined in the subject analysis of this book with ones enumerated in the Classification Web.
Information Retrieval Systems – This course explored various user-centered and system-centered approaches to information retrieval. One of the more striking concepts we discussed was the recent development of “social search,” which some have considered as revolutionary as Google’s Page Rank, first introduced by Sergey Brin , Larry Page and others in 1998. Our assignment on this topic asked our thoughts about whether social search is just another phase, or is actually a significant new development in the world of search. The following is an excerpt from my response to this question:
There are few things more overwhelming about the confluence of information in our age than information overload, not to mention “information scatter.” While it remains mine boggling how little of the content out there on the web has actually been crawled or indexed, the sheer amount of what has been discovered is still unbelievable. What are we to do with all this information? How do we find things, find anything, of value or that addresses our ever-changing and complex information needs? … I see great potential for this new model of search to impact information retrieval. What I like most about this notion is that it does far more than build a base of textual knowledge (and really, “knowledge” is a rather strong word choice; if it can’t breathe or speak, is it really knowledgeable?); instead, it sculpts a base of scholars who themselves hold topical knowledge, or at least the keys to open the right doors to lead to that knowledge. In this way, social search is much more prepared to deal with unpredictable questions, as so very many queries are.
Management of Information Organizations â€“ Various management issues and strategies were discussed in this course. Our assignments included composing a vision statement, researching and reporting on a management problem faced by a real company, and outlining strategic directions for an organization in flux. The following is an excerpt from an assignment in which we were tasked with writing an email to our fictional staff regarding a difficult meeting held the previous day in which budget cuts and impending difficult times were discussed: I want to thank you for bearing with difficult news yesterday, and for frankly voicing your concerns for the future. I do not relish times like these any more than you doâ€Ś It is far from my desire to see more cuts to the system, whether that takes the form of even further curtailed hours, or a reduction in staff. But, as I said yesterday and will say again here, both of these options are within the realm of possibility. I do not put these realities in writing to scare you, nor to declare that these things will absolutely happen. But I believe candor is essential here so that you can prepare yourselves as you see fitâ€Ś This library system is not a stranger to difficult times. Though it is vividly clear to me and you how vital an organ the library is to this city, others take convincing. These difficult economic times, like all the difficult economic times preceding, have drawn a mass of new users to the library and have drawn our faithful denizens closer. The needs of our community are as great as ever and become greater with each passing day. Our mission to "enrich the quality of life" in this community will not change, regardless of the stresses put on the budget. It is therefore incumbent upon us to make the case for our continued existence and for the continued financial support from the city compelling to those who, potentially unconvinced, have the definitive say in the trimming and allotment of the budget.
Adult Reader Services in the Public Library and Young Adult Materials: Evaluation and Use – The following two items were written for these classes, respectively. In Adult Reader Services we were assigned a book outside the purview of our normal reading habits and tasked with writing a number of reviews of the novel. In Young Adult Materials we prepared a few booktalks and then delivered them live to a group of teens. My aunt’s seventh and eighth grade literature classes served as my audience for this assignment. Both these courses provided excellent foundations for future work I will do advising readers, adult and teen alike. The Mission Song, John leCarre 100-word review “John le Carré brings us another stellar spy story in which an African-English translator finds himself in the midst of a political power-play between Western powers, with visions of natural resources in their heads, and the African politicians and warlords standing in their way. "Top interpreter" Salvo, abandoning his sham of a marriage, comes alive in a passionate affair with a Congolese nurse, and with this love comes a renewed passion to see peace in Africa at long last. Suspense and finelycrafted prose maintain throughout and make for an excellent adventure into the world of international espionage.”
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley Booktalk for young adults “If I told you this book was about chemistry and stamp collecting and a few middleaged British men who once went to an boring English boarding school together and that it takes place in a sleepy English country town in the 1950s, I wouldn’t be lying, but I’d be making this book out to be rather uninteresting and dull, which it most certainly is not. The champion of this story isn’t one of those stamp-collecting old British men, but is the chemist herself, young Flavia de Luce. Flavia has wit, smartalec remarks always at the ready, and a brazen attitude far beyond her years, and as a result spends much of her time devising schemes in her laboratory to get back at her two older sisters for the wrongs they commit against her, not to mention dreaming of poisons, which are “her specialty.” But her life soon takes a turn towards even more exciting events than these when she stumbles upon a dead body in her cucumber patch. We learn that, aside from being a genius chemist, Flavia is also an intrepid detective, and we follow her around town, speeding down dirt roads on her bicycle Gladys, as she gets to the bottom of the truth about the mysterious man lying dead in her garden. This book is not only fun for puzzling over “whodunnit,” but also because this story will make you laugh out loud. Join Flavia, all the way to a damp, dark pit where she is gagged and bound, on this entertaining adventure.”
Netherlands Exploration Seminar I spent four weeks in the Netherlands between my first and second years at the University of Washington. This unique study abroad program is offered to iSchool students as an alternative fulfillment of the research methods course part of the MLIS degree requirements. So, during these four weeks, twenty classmates and I attended class with our University of Washington professor and program coordinator Trent Hill for the essentials of research methods, and also had the pleasure of hearing lectures from researchers in the information science field. We visited about a half dozen libraries and cultural heritage institutions as well, to add to these research-based lectures and class instruction sessions. This experience sounds too small when I lay it all out like that, cold and dry. During my time in the Netherlands, and even in all the time since I returned, I had and continue to have a difficult time processing what I learned and saw in this remarkable country and from these inventive researchers and librarians. In order to more adequately paint the picture of this experience, I’ve highlighted here five institutions we visited and two lectures we heard. An effort in describing to the fullest the inspiration and hope for the future of librarianship I derived through this experience may be futile. But I will carry into my professional life all that I can’t seem to describe here, that’s for sure.
DOK – Delft This is the most amazing library I have ever visited, and it would not be over the top to declare it one of the best in the world. This library is not only unafraid of innovation but has an innovation department. DOK is a “library concept center,” and for that reason takes risks, lends artwork, has a “genius bar” after Apple’s model, an imaginative children’s area, a pink room for romance novels and an in-house catalog and ILS system. There is an energy in this place that is unparalleled in any library I’ve visited.
Koninklijke Bibliotheek – Den Haag This is the National Library of the Netherlands, the primary body responsible for the collection and preservation of all materials published in, and even about, the Netherlands. As such, it is a rich resource for historical research and takes that responsibility quite seriously. What struck me most about this institution, comparable to our National Archives in many ways, was what our tour guide described as the importance of placing great value on “remembering the history our country.” Libraries have been and will continue to be good keepers of history and information, and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek sets an exemplary example. 9
Amsterdam Public Library Among the many visitors and users scattered and active throughout this unique public library, are a maze-like children’s area, the “Musick Plien” where a local radio station might be recording a live performance, a regal silent reading area on the top-most floor, and, most notably, a unique model for the reference desk. Librarians did not sit at a computer behind a desk at the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam. Rather, the reference librarian’s computer was situated alongside public computers arranged in a cluster or semi-circle, allowing librarians to stand shoulder to shoulder with library users, creating a much more collaborative environment.
Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision – Hilversum This institute, Beeld en Geluid Instituut if you’re Dutch, preserves the audiovisual content created in the Netherlands, which predominantly falls into the categories of television and radio. However, explorations are being made into how audiovisual content on the Internet can be or ought to be preserved. This remarkable building is also home to an interactive “experience,” which resembles a museum, only think hyped-up ten-fold. The lecture we heard on our visit to the NISV is featured on page 12.
Technical University Delft The best way to describe the library at the Technical University in Delft is to use the words writ large, literally, on the windows of the foreveroccupied, creatively-thematic study rooms: educate, innovate, create. This library was designed to invite students to an “all-day stay” and has succeeded in doing so. The Librarians here describe themselves as, yes, “cutting-edge,” but always asking “Why?” This conscientiousness about innovation, rather than a brazen “innovation simply for innovation’s sake,” was a current that ran throughout the places we visited and the lectures we heard in Holland.
Two Lectures The Virtual Knowledge Studio is comprised of researchers involved in developing new scholarly practices across the disciplines and especially investigates emerging practices in e-research. The researchers who are part of this group have an academic background in a vast array of disciplines, but come together under the common umbrellas of information organization, modes of communicating information, and modes of collecting and synthesizing the information that comes out of research in their various fields. From VKS, Paul Wouters was the first of almost a dozen lecturers to blow our minds, since there’s not better way to say that. He asked many questions, but the one that stood out to me most was: How is knowledge created? Paul spoke about the idea that some people are moving toward data mining, rather than the explicit collection of data from people per the research of “the past.” So, if there’s knowledge out there, how do we collect it an analyze it? And how was it created in the first place? And is it enough to sit idly by and glean information and data to turn into knowledge and throw our models and social science theory out? He commented that it’s an “old dream” that believes that when “we have all the data we’ll have all the knowledge,” so it won’t suffice to ever stop asking questions and challenging the way things are done.
Roeland Ordelman of the Research and Development department at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision introduced us to some of the projects in the works at the NISV. With the confluence of audiovisual content on the internet, it gets more and more difficult to rein in that information and preserve it in a meaningful, accessible way. Among other things, Dr. Ordelman highlighted a fascinating project called Waisda, which we English-speakers can probably work out to mean What is that? This site “exploits community tagging” by making a game of essentially assigning subject headings to segments of a video. So, if two people are playing this game, watching the popular show Boer zoekt Vrouw, which translates to “farmer wants a wife,” their aim is to enter the same words to describe the scene as another player. This serves as one example of the ways that Dr. Ordelman and his colleagues are finding creative and “new ways for the community to interact with data,” and to welcome and explore the “wisdom of the crowds.” At the end, he left us with this: “Metadata is king.”
Internet Librarian Conference, October 2010 – Monterey, CA My trip to the Netherlands introduced me to two wonderfully inspiring librarians and innovators at DOK, Erik Boekestijn and Jaap Van de Geer. This acquaintance led to an invitation to attend the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, CA in October 2010. The only catch was that we had to participate in the “entertainment” on Tuesday night of the three-day conference. A few of the Netherlands study abroad group went, along with our guitar-toting professor, and we shelved our shyness for some good fun participating in a skit centered around the “libraries in 2510.” This entertainment aside, this conference was the first I’d ever attended and proved instructive and engaging. The rooms were filled with librarians intent on making the most of mobile technology and the internet at large to promote their library and improve their service to users. Here were people challenging the status quo, sharing ideas and innovating. I hope to attend this, and conferences like it, again.
Jason Clark from Montana State University discussed some of the ways MSU is using iTunes to provide access to some types of its content to students. Some of his inspiration came from Lorcan Dempsey who, in 2008, said that “discovery happens elsewhere.” If students are not looking among library resources for material, and they’re already present in a service like iTunes in their everyday life, why not make library materials available there? He noted that “iTunes” is poorly branded in the end, because so much more than music can be made available on iTunes.
Jaap and Erik, among others, discussed the emergence of video as one of the most popular modes of communication and challenged librarians to make good use of those most popular forms of communication, because that’s how we will reach our users. Ask yourself why certain videos work so well, and flatter them by emulating them. These men are particularly interested in the role story plays in life and in libraries, and the various ways in which libraries can facilitate the telling of stories, in all emerging forms of media.
--Cloud computing: Trends to watch for libraries --Designing new information streams: Libraries in iTunes --Video killed the blog star --“Fail, learn and share!” --Cool tools for webmasters --Engaging customers with Twitter --Location-based social networks and library apps --Creating an online identity for your library --An Augmented Reality primer for libraries --Information discovery and search --“Super searcher tips spectacular” --Best free web stuff for broke libraries
Emily Carr of the Law Library of Congress spoke about best practices and practical uses for Twitter in library service. She called attention to some models of Twitter use in libraries. Notably, she shared the practice of the Townsville Library in Australia that keeps “an eye out for tweets about Townsville” and responds “with information when we think we can help.” This innovation moves reference services into a more active and less passive model, and hopefully creates library-users when they see the sorts of services the library is willing to provide by jumping out and answering the questions that already exist, even though they haven’t been formally posed to librarians.
...she says she’s contented to live and work in a world that’s so big and interesting.³
--Willa Cather 15
I’ve learned a lot at the Information School, and in these early professional development experiences. What I dreaded most about graduating from college as an undergraduate was the prospect of no, or few, opportunities to be challenged intellectually the way students always are. My impending graduation from this masters program does not leave me with that same dread. Librarianship is always fresh because every day presents opportunities to learn something new. I am lucky to be entering a profession that allows my mind to remain, as Chesterton described, “a vast and hospitable tree, nested in by birds out of strange countries.” ¹
The best part about librarianship is that it allows one the freedom to indulge and satisfy curiosity, and to do so in service to others. There is always something new to learn and discover, an idea to implement in the library or share with colleagues. There are new birds entering the rook of the mind even now.
Molly Riley MLIS Professional Portfolio University of Washington, 2011