Monday, April 4, 2011

A Final Note

The organization of learning resources is only part of a librarian's job but it seems that so much flows in and out of this activity that we are never far from it.  I have found the whole concept of cataloguing and organising my collection less daunting and less intimidating after having taken this course.  There are so many great resources available to teacher librarians.

Even though I did not totally master the art of creating MARC records during this course, I certainly have a firm grasp of how they are constructed and organized.  The experience of learning to create a MARC record was much like learning how to program my first webpage using HTML.  I was never going to seriously program pages myself when there were so many great webpage editors available.  Nevertheless my knowledge of HTML has helped me troubleshoot problems and occasionally debug a page when the tools didn't work.  My knowledge of MARC records allows me to enrich and evaluated the records I have.  I will copy catalog 99 percent of the time but now I feel confident to tweak and dig when necessary.

Another highlight of the course was the whole concept of folksonomy and how we tag items or resources.  The articles and the implications of folksonomy especially in the light of new technologies and the growth of the Internet was a real eye opener. With the growth of the web and information in general a thoughtful and informed approach to metadata is key.

I had thought we would spend a lot more time working with the Dewey Decimal System.  I was surprised when it was a comparatively minor topic.  I am not sure what I was expecting.  I did however experience some sense of rejuvenation in my teaching of the Dewey.  I have let such teaching slide quite a bit in the last few years in favour of literature promotion and inquiry based learning units.  I have been awakened to the fact that I have a lot of shelf browsers among my patrons.  I had been lulled into thinking that all my patrons were efficient OPAC users and were simply using Dewey numbers as addresses to what they wanted.  My younger users need to know more about the basic sections and I need to translate those sections into clearer signposts by adding graphics and simple keywords.  If anything I need to teach the Dewey to younger and younger patrons and help them work their way around the numbers and get at the organizational schema in other ways.  I hope to get further along in this effort by updating my Dewey signage and shelf markers.

I very much appreciated the fact that this course, as with all the other teacher-librarianship courses I have taken, grapples with the evolving mandate and roles of the librarian.  It is both exciting and alarming how fast this field is being transformed.  Library 2.0 like Web 2.0 not only allows but requires us to question how we do everything in our libraries. I really hope I can cope with the pace of change and deal with the stress of things always being in flux. 

I suppose the most difficult part of this course for me has been the discussion groups. I find the amount of information and discussion created to unmanageable.  I admire all the participants for their dedication in participating in such discussions.  There is a lot of good information there but for me it is just overload. There is not enough time in the day to thoughtfully consider all that has been posted. Every learning opportunity I attend these days there is a new wiki or blog to read or follow.  As a society we are drowning in text and as educators and students we may be swimming in more text than any other group.  Just look how much text I have generated in this blog. 

In addition to my own posts I did not make a lot of comments (one or two per week) on what my peers wrote because there was such a volume of text already.  I did my best to refrain from commenting just for the sake of participation.  When I did comment  I tried to make what I did write insightful as I believe everyone else did for the most part. It just seems that my colleagues may have a lot more insights than me because I still can't believe how much people found time to read and think about. I could only read half of what was posted.

Perhaps a better approach to written online discussion is to assign less students to any one discussion and have the rest of us read and weigh what they write.  Or create smaller discussion groups so those participating can more easily participate and follow the discussion.  Or perhaps we need less discussion topics overall.

All in all I am very happy to have taken this course and feel that I am better equipped as a teacher-librarian.

Organizing and Maintaining the Collection

In part, the last lesson of this course considered the physical layout of the library collection as an organizational mechanism. How do our libraries assist or impede access to the resources?

I wish in some ways I had taken this course three years ago when I was faced with re-designing our library during a modest renovation project.  I am also encourage by what I have learned in this course in that I think I got a lot of things right as well.

I was lucky enough to be involved with some remodelling of my library about three years ago. Our limited library footprint and budget didn't allow for a lot but we did lower the top of the shelving from a little over six feet to a little under five feet. I would love to have gone lower but we would have eliminated too much shelf space for our collection (even after culling it severely). Far from ideal for a K to 5 library but a little bit of progress. A further aid to my young patrons was putting all paperback easy fiction into alphabeticized plastic totes. This allows for easier browsing of the front covers simply flipping through the books. This also allowed moving the books from the top shelves and putting them on library tables during book exchanges to allow young patrons easy access.

I also was able to reconfigure the shelving layout to make fairly obvious physical divisions between the easy fiction, fiction and nonfiction sections of the library. This was very helpful for my K and 1 students who often wandered into the fiction section.

We have really no free wall space for bulletin boards or displays. To help with displays we had display racks built around the entire perimeter of the library circulation desk and had corner display units built in the corners wherever two library stacks met (this is usually wasted space).

What my library renovation did not include was money for signage. It is three years later and I have still to address the issue. Assignment 3 gave me the impetus to make a plan. The biggest part of it is for detailed shelf markers in the nonfiction section to help my younger non OPAC using patrons to productively browse the shelves. The shelf markers not only provide a dewey number but also a picture and a one or two word description of the section. They are also colour coded to match posters for each section. This allows me to create at least 48 labeled divisions in my nonficition section that can even assist pre readers in locating an interesting nonfiction book. Now all I need is the money to implement the plan.


Organizing Online Resources

The Internet is an incredible resource. It is growing at a dizzying pace and our patrons are fully immersed in it and use it as an alternative if not an outright replacement of the traditional library.  We cannot have our patrons abandon our book collections completely.  We need to demonstrate how to mine the Internet effectively and at the same time make connections to our tradional collections as well. When we facilitate better and more informed access to the Internet we create valuable links to our libraries.  The Internet comes inside the walls of the library and is considered part of it.  At the same time the Internet removes the physical walls of the library and helps create a learning commons that is 24/7 no matter where a patron is.

Libraries should not be in competition with the Internet.  We as librarians cannot say that we are just caretakers of books and periodicals and that students should consult these well considered and well written items before considering the Internet.  If we do so we become irrelevant. We cannot compete with a resource the size of the Internet. If we embrace our role as guides and advisors and organizers of  the Internet we can become the bridge between books and other media.  Information literacy and literature promotion is part of our mandate.  Thus teaching patron how to productively search the Internet is one part of our task but we should also be promoting and highlighting great Internet resources in the same way that we promote great books. This means all libraries need a web presence.

I have to admit that being a web librarian is a bit daunting.  I developed a library website about four or five years ago. I created it so it could assist me in teaching my inquiry learning units. The advantage of this functionality was that students saw the libray website in action many times during the school year.  It is a resource they could revisit and refer to anytime and any place they chose.  I felt pretty good about it.  But as time has marched by and other library responsibilites consumed my time, my site became quite static if not stale.  Part of the reason is that it is not particularly easy to update.  I now spend most of my time using Destiny Library Manager to create public resource lists and put use its home page to post hundreds of links to Internet Resources.  The reason why I have defaulted to this tool is that it is easy to do on the fly.  I can work with the Destiny Library Manager home page anytime and any place there is a computer available.  I can only edit my library website when I am at the one computer that my web editing software is on.  The software requires me to upload items and is fairly technical.

I am still searching for an efficient way of keeping track of all my links and making sure they are still current.  I need to approach my links page the same way as I do weeding of my library collection.  It needs to be done regularly.

I think the greatest challenge for librarians is to set aside time weekly to update their websites and blogs and to stay current on websites and new resources.  This is going to steal some time from other areas but it will be an investment in the survival of libraries. Librarians then need to take advantage of the most convenient Web 2.0 tools available to create sites that are windows/gateways/bridges between traditional library collections and their web-based counter parts.