GSLIS After Dark Poster Session

Tonight, I had the opportunity to present a poster about my experience working in the library of America’s Test Kitchen at the annual GSLIS alumni event, “GSLIS After Dark.” My fellow library intern and I had put the poster together over the past few weeks; we made it as a PowerPoint slide, converted it to PDF, and had it printed by PhD Posters. It turned out really well, and we enjoyed sharing our experience with other students and alumni.

We called our poster “Books for Cooks: The America’s Test Kitchen Library,” and it had information (too small to see here) about our mission, outreach to staff, and projects we’ve tackled, like creating a library map and moving the catalog online with LibraryThing. Most people who stopped by seemed interested…of course, we also had snacks: homemade blondies from a recipe in Baking Illustrated.

Preserving Your Personal Digital Memories

We used to keep photographs in shoeboxes or albums, and documents in file cabinets; what now that many of our photographs and important documents are digital?

As part of ALA’s Preservation Week, Bill LeFurgy at the Library of Congress gave a webinar entitled “Preserving Your Personal Digital Memories,” which M.I.T. Preservation Librarian Ann Marie Willer was kind enough to stream and make available to GSLIS students.

LeFurgy outlined the risks to digital files: obsolete storage equipment (e.g. floppy disks), scattered files (on different devices or services), and user mistakes, forgetfulness, and procrastination (how often do you back up your files?).

He introduced the concept of active management and broke it down into four steps:

  1. IDENTIFY where you have digital files
  2. DECIDE which files are most important
  3. ORGANIZE selected files
  4. MAKE COPIES and STORE them in different places

Simple enough, and the time and effort you put in is up to you (though the more time and effort, the better your results).

LeFurgy recommended storing files on CD-R, but said that no storage technology could be trusted for more than five years; it’s a good idea to test it annually, whether it’s a CD, an external hard drive, or a USB drive.

Speaking Volumes: Rare Books at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Earlier this week I went to an interesting talk at Simmons: Dr. Anne-Marie Eze, the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, spoke about Isabella Stewart Gardner as a rare book collector and about the upcoming exhibit “Illuminating the Serenissima: Books of the Republic of Venice” (May 3-June 19, 2011).

Though Isabella Stewart Gardner is most well known for collecting art, she began collecting books first; however, no one has looked at the rare book collection as a whole or considered Gardner as a collector/bibliophile till now. Dr. Eze is doing this, and cataloging the 5,000 books, which date from the 14th century through the 20th and include illuminated manuscripts, children’s books, incunabula, and inscribed “association” copies from authors with whom Gardner was friends – Henry James, for example.

In her talk, Eze noted – and seemed disappointed – that Gardner did not write in her books. Here seems to be the difference between a librarian/historian type and a rare book collector: the latter would want the book to be free of underlining and marginalia (unless it was the author’s or another famous person’s own notes, which could increase its value), but Eze would have been pleased to discover some, as a clue to Gardner’s life. I was reminded of a line of Rainer Maria Rilke’s from “Improvisations of the Caprisian Winter,” translated by Franz Wright:

So many things lie torn open
by rash hands that arrived too late,
in search of you: they wanted to know.

And sometimes in an old book
an incomprehensible passage is underlined.
You were there, once. What has become of you?

ALA Annual Conference – Update

I recently received word from the Student-to-Staff program that I will be working with ALA’s Public Information Office (PIO) at the ALA Annual Conference. Someone from the office has already contacted me, and I’m really looking forward to working with them at the conference.

The PIO page on the ALA website offers a PDF download of “quotable library facts,” some of which I thought I’d share here. Spread the word!

  • 62% of adults in the U.S. have public library cards (2010 survey)
  • There are more public libraries than McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. – a total of 16,604, including branches.
  • Americans check out an average of more than seven books a year. They spend $34.95 a year for the public library – about the average cost of one hardcover book.
  • More than 65% of public libraries provide services for job seekers.

Simmons GSLIS in the News

Faculty and students from Simmons’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) were featured in this Boston Globe article, “Checking out the future,” by Sam Allis. Here’s an excerpt:

“Tomorrow’s librarians face a two-year graduate school curriculum freighted with technology courses that didn’t exist 10 years ago, courses that will likely be replaced by others within a year or two. The future of libraries is a constantly evolving digital landscape, and technical literacy, as it is in so many other fields, is absolutely essential to find a job in a brutal job market…

…While the core mission of librarians hasn’t changed — they are still committed to provide information to patrons who need it, wherever they are — most everything else has.”

This is more or less what I say when confronted with the “libraries are dying” sentiment. They aren’t dying; the core mission, to provide equal access to information, still remains and is just as relevant as ever. Not all of that information is contained solely in books anymore, however; we have to keep pace with technology and use it to our advantage. Libraries are not dying – they are  evolving.

National Library Week

It is officially National Library Week! This year it’s April 10-16, so please find some way to support and/or advocate for your public library this week. I wrote to three government officials via the Massachusetts Library Association site, and have already received two replies: one a formality from one of the Governor’s aides, but another really nice e-mail (personal enough to tell my own letter had been read) from State Senator Patricia Jehlen, agreeing about the importance of libraries in our communities.

It’s easy to think of government as impersonal, removed, and impossibly bureaucratic (and, at present, rather gridlocked). That makes it all the more gratifying to be reminded that the government is made up of people, and those people are there for our benefit. So write to your legislators today, and remember to say thank you!

Welcome New Students!

Today is Advising Day at GSLIS, and about 25 of the 70 or so students who will be starting here in the summer semester (like I did last year) were on campus today for orientation activities and registration. I went to the lunch for the new students to talk to them about ALASC (American Library Association Student Chapter) and answer any other questions they had about classes, the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area, and other library- (or not) related topics.

It has been almost a year since I started this program, and I have learned so much about the library world in general, as well as acquiring specific skill sets: cataloging, web development and design, best practices in public libraries and collection development. To paraphrase Julia Child’s sentiments about cooking, the more you learn, the more there is to know!