Posts tagged ‘ALISS’

Ellen Summers on the NCAA library

Today was our second ALISS luncheon of the semester and once again we had a great turnout. This time, Ellen Summers talked to us about her job as the librarian for the NCAA.

Ellen first talked about the NCAA and the library in which she works. The NCAA was originally founded in 1906 in response to the violence in college football. In 1951 the national office was formed, and in the 1970s and 1980s there was talk about forming a library, but nothing came of it. Then in 1990 they moved into a new building, which had space for a library, and they received donations of papers from Walter Byers and Dick Schultz, the first two executive directors of the NCAA. They were also given a complete run of Sports Illustrated and, on microfilm, the papers of Avery Brundage and Walter Camp.

But it wasn’t until 1994 that a young, enterprising SLIS student asked for permission to do a class project on the NCAA’s library. She did a writeup of what they had and what she thought they should do with it, and then was hired as a temporary part-time librarian to organize and catalog their holdings. That position became a permanent part-time position and then a full-time position, and then a few years later a second full-time librarian, Lisa Greer Douglass (another local SLIS grad), was hired.

The library now has 14,000 items in its catalog with more waiting to be added. This includes NCAA publications, periodicals, a small reference collection, and a small general collection with materials on collegiate athletics and higher education and some professional development items for the NCAA staff and researchers. They field about 500 reference requests a year from NCAA staff members and researchers, the general public, students, and other researchers. They also have an off-site archive that mostly house personal papers and manuscripts; championship results, committee documents, and the women’s collection (AIAW documents, materials from the Gender Equality Task Force, and things on Title IX) are located in the main library facility.

The library also provides an online research repository archive where the research staff’s work is centralized and preserved, a library webpage on the NCAA intranet, and a book exchange where staff members can pick up and leave paperbacks without needing to check them out. Ellen and Lisa help the staff and outside researchers, provide a library orientation for new employees, and support a collaborative film archive project with a sports film collector and Eastern Michigan University. The library also has a virtual library with championship records and an infractions database that contains the final reports from the infractions committee for each disciplinary action. The infractions database was originally used internally, but there was enough interest from the general public that it’s now available online; in a question, Andrea likened it to “a Westlaw for college sports” and Ellen enthusiastically agreed.

Ellen introduced us to what the NCAA library has to offer NCAA staff and the general public, but she also talked about what her job is like as a special librarian. She emphasized the importance of relationships and collaboration both internally (always making a case for the library’s continued existence) and with other special librarians. Since her library has such limited resources, she and other special librarians often rely on each other to procure materials or figure out where to find information. Ellen also said that being a member (and an officer) of the Special Libraries Association helped her fight isolation; until Lisa joined her, she was the only librarian at the NCAA.

Audience members had a lot of questions about her job. She told us about some of the challenges of being a special librarian: they work with a limited budget and limited resources which means forming lots of partnerships with other libraries. Since there are only two librarians, they have to do everything from processing and cataloging to answering reference questions and helping with research–whether they like those things or not. They also struggle with more visibility (a good thing) meaning more work (not necessarily a good thing!), especially as the library grows in reputation. Ellen lamented how much internal public relations work and administrative tasks took away from research time, and mentioned that since she’s a staff member, she’s expected to serve on various NCAA committees in addition to doing library work.

She also touched briefly on how her library is just a small part of a much larger organization, but she did say that she’s been lucky in that her non-librarian boss is pretty hands-off and trusts her decisions and her advice on library matters. One of the biggest differences she noted in special librarianship was the prioritization of internal customers over the general public and the singular focus on the needs of the organization which she serves.

Special library work is another topic that doesn’t get covered as much in our program as public, school, and even academic librarianship, so I’m really glad we (well, Erin, really!) were able to bring in someone from a special library. It was really interesting to hear about all of the unique documents she works with, from manuscripts to statistics to internal documents, and to think about how specific special libraries are in their missions and their services and programs and what distinctive challenges and joys special librarians have.

And for all you current SLIS-Indy students, Ellen raved about how great it was to have an intern last summer and was enthusiastic about having more interns to help digitize and catalog documents. Paperwork for summer internships are due at the SLIS office by 15 March!

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February 26, 2010 at 9:59 PM 2 comments

John McDonald on youth prison librarianship

We had our first ALISS (Association of Library and Information Science Students) luncheon lecture today and it was really well-attended! John McDonald spoke to us about his job as the librarian at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. We invited him to speak since our program and classes focus mainly on public, school, and academic librarianship, but the survey we did last semester indicated that people were interested in non-traditional careers they could pursue with their MLS degree.

John was a really engaging speaker and told a lot of great stories. He walked us through a day at his job, beginning with having to leave his cell phone in his car and the intense security routine he has to go through to get into the building or even to go to the bathroom and continuing through his morning routine, the basic services his library provides, and some of the crazier things that have happened to him.

I guess I hadn’t really thought about it before, but there’s a huge difference in library service to incarcerated kids and incarcerated adults. Adult prison libraries are mostly about providing legal information and resources and might also have a paperback book collection for recreational reading, but the library at PJCF is more like a school library. The kids that John works with have indeterminate sentences, too (their release is contingent on their completion of a program, though you’re also released the day you turn 23), so there’s less of a focus on getting a degree and more on what John can do for them while they’re there. But they go to classes and John provides teachers with materials for those classes and he works on technology instruction and research instruction with the kids, too.

I was really impressed with how motivated, positive, and proactive he was about his job. He’s increased their collection by thousands of volumes by soliciting donations and they have access to computer animation software and video cameras. He’s also introduced a TA program where a few teens will be assigned to work with him in the library during their sentence, and this is where he feels like he’s making the most difference. The recidivism rate among his TAs is much lower than for the general population, and 15 of his 23 TAs have gone on to college–and a few of them are even working as librarians. He talked a lot about how a lot of the boys with whom he works are incredibly bright and motivated and that you just have to find something that will interest them and provide them with a little guidance and they come up with these awesome projects on their own. He also told us that when he started a few years ago, there were five other licensed librarians in the juvenile detention facilities around the state, but that now he’s the only one–and he thinks his continued employment is solely based on the programs he’s introduced and the high profile his library has at the state level. He also said that his facility is the only one in the state in which kids do actual research projects.

He did talk about some of the struggles that he has: he has absolutely no budget and relies entirely on donations; gang affiliations among inmates complicates his schedule and it breaks his heart when he goes out into the “real world” and sees gang signs among kids there; there are some kids he just can’t reach and then they go back out into the world; and some of the kids are incredibly destructive and ruin library materials and there’s not a lot he can do about it. But overall he seems really energetic and really positive about his job, and he talked about how the entire system in the facility is oriented toward rehabilitation and that he feels the library can be a huge part of that. He also serves on committees that determine whether or not kids have completed the requirements to leave the program, so he acts as a mentor to some of the offenders.

I don’t want to go straight into prison librarianship (and I feel like my gender could complicate things in ways I’m not prepared to handle right now), but after hearing John speak, it’s definitely something I’ll continue to consider in the years ahead after I get more experience in the field. It sounds like a job that is sometimes difficult–and maybe even lonely–but that it’s one in which you could make a real difference in the lives of your patrons in a very big way, and that’s exactly what I find so exciting about this profession.

February 5, 2010 at 5:11 PM 3 comments