Posts tagged ‘special libraries’

My first synagogue library program!

I work part-time at a synagogue library in town and in the six and a half months I’ve been there, it’s been a really interesting experience. I’m not Jewish, so I’ve learned a lot about Judaism through my work and through long conversations with my boss, George, the education director. And since I’m the only person who works at the library, I’ve learned a lot about library work by doing everything: I select, catalog, and process all of the new books; I create book lists and book displays; I answer reference questions and help people find books; I do storytimes with the preschoolers; and I’ve been working on some other projects of my own, like cleaning up catalog records (there hasn’t been a lot of continuity in library work and not everyone who’s worked at the library has been a librarian so there are all sorts of discrepancies and irregularities in the catalog) and introducing a new shelf labeling system and doing a complete inventory (we still use a card system for checkout and there are no security measures, so books just walk away) and creating a library mission and a proto-collection development policy.

But the project that finally came to fruition today was my first fundraising program. Unlike in a public library, the programs that the synagogue library puts on often have a small admission fee to supplement the library budget. The library’s been nearly dormant for a while, so it’d been a while since we’d done any programming (fundraising or not). I came up with a list for George this winter of potential events we could do. He especially liked my suggestion of bringing Eileen Goltz, a professional chef and caterer and food writer (she does newspaper columns and wrote the excellent PERFECTLY PAREVE), to come do a cooking demonstration and talk about new ideas for Pesach/Passover, so I started planning that.

I have to admit I was nervous leading up to her visit. Since I only work there on Sunday mornings and on Thursdays, Eileen and I had been playing phone tag a lot and the idea for the event had evolved over time. We had to push the event back a week after booking her because of a conflict with other synagogue events. We didn’t have access to the kitchen since the synagogue’s had already been prepared for Passover and were going to have to make do with hot plates. We hadn’t had as many registrations by the end of last week as I’d been hoping to see and since Daylight Saving Time began today I was worried that everyone would show up an hour late. But Eileen was early and we had plenty of time to make handouts and get everything ready and catch up (I was friends in high school with one of her sons). And we had a great turnout!

Professional chef, caterer, and food writer Eileen Goltz speaks before an group at an event for the library at Beth-El Zedeck, a synagogue in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Eileen speaks to the attendees

After I did a little library promotion and then sung a few of Eileen’s many praises, she started off by talking about how intensive cooking and cleaning for Passover can be (but don’t necessarily have to be!), and then gave a great history of the availability of kosher foods in the US. Before the 1960s or so, you had to go to specialty stores to get kosher food and there wasn’t a lot beyond matzah, gefilte fish, and kosher wine that wasn’t very good. But in the 1960s and 1970s, kosher food because more varied, more widely available, and more delicious and now there are all sorts of options. She also talked just a little bit about all of the different organizations that issue hechsherim, those symbols on food that tell you whether or not (and to what extent) it’s kosher (check out this illustrated list of hechsherim). Then she walked us through some recipes that she liked for Passover, suggesting substitutions on the fly for one woman whose child was allergic to dairy products. She showed us some of the dishes that she’d prepared beforehand and we all got tastes of the crustless quiche and the macaroon-and-almond pie crust–and oh man was it delicious.

Everyone at the event seemed to have a great time and they all were comfortable enough to ask questions along the way and Eileen did a great job of handling those questions and organizing the presentation in general. She was a very engaging speaker and she really knows her stuff. George and I both had a number of people come up to us afterward to say what a great time they’d had and how much they’d learned, and the executive director of the synagogue said she wanted to have Eileen back again. By the time we’d cleaned up and met back at the library, George was waiting with a request that Eileen come back for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which happen in the fall).

So despite some bumps along the way in planning, the program didn’t just go well, it went spectacularly. I was so proud of how well everything turned out and what a great time everyone had and how much fun Eileen had and how everyone wanted her to come back. And I learned so much from planning this whole thing myself about event planning in general and about working with other people in the same organization and the importance of good communication and all sorts of wonderful things that I’m sure will serve me well once I graduate. It was such a confidence builder to have it go so splendidly!

We made some money for the library, but more importantly we got the library back in people’s minds as a resource available to them and as a place that does cool things–I even had one man stop by that morning to say that he’d been a member of the congregation for years but had never stopped by the library and that now he wanted to check out a book he’d seen in the window display. I’m so proud of all the progress the library’s made in the last few months and I’m really excited to tackle my next project there.

March 14, 2010 at 10:28 PM Leave a comment

A visit to Eckhart Public Library

I’ve written a little bit about my directed readings course this semester that I’m doing with Andrea Japzon and four other students in the program. On Saturday we took a trip up to the Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, Indiana to see their collections, work out some details of the project, and share our best practices research.

The William H. Willennar Genealogy Center
We started at the William H. Willennar Genealogy Center where we met Gregg Williamson, the Manager of Genealogical Services (and a SLIS-Indy grad!), who gave us a tour of their building. We started off with the print collection, which has the largest collection of genealogy materials dealing with DeKalb County, and includes yearbooks for local schools dating back to 1905, family histories for local families, phone books, and individual files of research people have done on their own families. They also have a large microfilm collection of local newspapers, microfilm readers and scanners, and computer stations where patrons can use online resources to do genealogy research.

The seating space in the main room of the Genealogy Center. Photo by Erin Milanese.

Part of the print collection. Photo by Erin Milanese.

Gregg then took us through the staff workspace and talked about the people who work at the Genealogy Center (they’re mostly part-time employees and volunteers) and showed us the basement archive and the permanent archive upstairs. The basement archive is mostly local newspapers; some date back to the 1800s, but the collection also includes recent issues as well. As Gregg explained it, we’re very fortunate to have those two hundred-year-old papers, and people two hundred years from now are only going to have resources like that if we save current newspapers now.

Archival boxes in the basement archive. Photo by Erin Milanese.

The Genealogy Center has a lot of really cool technology and tools; one of the ones I found the most interesting was the microfilm camera. EPL still sends some of its things out to be microfilmed since it’s such a labor-intensive process and they do depend so heavily on volunteer work, but there are some items that they scan themselves. I can’t remember what the exact claim to fame was, but this may be one of the only microfilm scanners in a public library in Indiana. It was something really impressive like that.

EPL's microfilm camera. Photo by Erin Milanese.

The upstairs archive is the permanent archive and contains records that are available upon request but aren’t immediately available to the public (e.g., old gradebooks from local schools). We had a short but interesting conversation about balancing privacy and access; Gregg said that rather than siding with archivists who’d be more interested in privacy and protection of the physical materials, he tends to err on the side of making things open to people, reasoning that it’s a public library, so their holdings should be open to the public. He did say that there are some things that aren’t available to the public at all because of privacy concerns, like old library card registrations from earlier decades that include people’s names and addresses.

We also got to check out the digitization lab. Alaina Ring is in charge of the metadata for the library’s photo archive and database and she walked us through the creation of a database record. The digitalization lab has some neat technology, too, including a 35mm slide scanner, and what’s really cool about it is that it’s open to the public. They’ve done a lot of grant writing to build their collection and the tools they have available to them. It’s really impressive.

Two of the computer workstations (and the slide scanner) in the digitization lab. Photo by Erin Milanese.

Our Project, People of Auburn
This trip also gave us all a chance to better understand the specifics of and our own roles in this project. The Genealogy Center already has an extensive collection of photographs and documents, but most of it is of historical materials–which makes sense, since the people who use the Genealogy Center are doing research into their family’s history or into local history in general. But in the same way that Gregg is saving local newspapers now for the researchers of the future, Andrea wants to start saving the digital content of today for the researchers of tomorrow.

What we’re hoping to do with this project is to target some people whose stories reflect what’s going on in the community now: the woman who owns a local cafe, a teenager growing up in Auburn, a prominent politician, the factory worker who recently got laid off because of the economic downturn. We’ll solicit from them real and digital objects that represent their lives in the community and then figure out how to ingest that content into the library’s digital collection (or find a home for it at the DeKalb History Center or return it to its owner after scanning or photographing it). We’d also like to collect oral histories (maybe even on video) and find a way to include those in the library’s database. After an initial pilot program this year, we’re hoping to expand the project to include more community members in future years, and to promote the collection during Auburn Pride Week.

Andrea’s big on co-created community resources and on knowledge exchanges, so since we (both we students and the public library) are learning from community members with this project, we’ll also be doing workshops this summer to give some knowledge back to the community. The library’s done programs before on creating scrapbooks and preserving photographs and they’ve brought in outside speakers to talk about preserving digital information, but we’re hoping to build on what they’ve done before to help teach people about collecting, organizing, and preserving their digital content. We’ll also do workshops on privacy and copyright issues when dealing with digital content.

During our discussions, I was thinking about the different people we’re going to recruit for the pilot program and it really struck me how people of different ages understand digital content in completely different ways. Most teenagers are very at home in a digital world and are very nearly swimming in digital content. But maybe there’s also an older person in the community who doesn’t have his own computer and comes to the library to check his email where his granddaughter has sent photos from her latest birthday party. He understands those digital photographs that just live in his inbox in a totally different way than the teen understands the photos he texts to his friends. I think I’d like to learn more about that.

Now that I’ve got a more detailed idea of how the People of Auburn project is going to go and I’ve actually seen the physical facilities and gotten to know the library a little bit, I’m even more excited about this project. I have to admit that normally I find genealogy and archives only mildly interesting, but the more Gregg showed us on Saturday, the more interested I got. They’ve got so many unusual and unique resources and technology. I’m also very excited about the team we have assembled for this project!

Back row: Andrea Japzon, Erin Milanese, Gretchen Kolderup, Alaina Ring, Gregg Williamson. Front row: Katie Nakanishi, Eve Grant. Not pictured: Angela Slocum. Photo by EPL's Gretel.

The Rest of the Library Campus
Eckhart Public Library is unusual in that it actually comprises three separate buildings all on the same street. We conducted most of our business on Saturday at the Genealogy Center, but we also visited the main library building and the teen library. Oh yes, EPL has a completely separate building for its teens–and it’s totally awesome. It’s open after school and on the weekends and it’s got comfortable furnishings, really striking light fixtures, computers, and a space for programming and games. Adults are only allowed in for fifteen minutes at a time if they’re not accompanied by a teen. When we walked into the building, the teens sitting at the computers turned around to stare at us; Darcy, the librarian I talked to, said that’s one of the things the teens like best about having their own space, feeling like they belonged and anyone else was an outsider. She did acknowledge that sometimes the people in adult services were too quick to send teens away from the main library building but said that overall, having their own space was great. I was impressed with how current their fiction collection was and how large their non-fiction collection (homework resources and teen-interest stuff like gaming guides and yoga books and things like that) was. I think it’s really important for teens to have their own space in the library–and it’s even better when they can have a space where they aren’t constantly being told to keep their voices down.

The outside of the Third Place, EPL's teen library. Photo by Erin Milanese.

We also visited the main library building, which was built in 1911 and is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a lot of interesting touches. It was originally going to be a Carnegie building, but Charles Eckhart, a local businessman, said he’d build the library on the condition that the contract with Carnegie be severed. The library has a fountain in the yard outside, stained glass windows, and a fireplace. It’s very comfortable and it really feels like a homey place the community can gather.

The fountain outside the main library. Photo by Erin Milanese.

Stained glass and bookshelves in the main library building. Photo by Erin Milanese.

I also took a trip downstairs to check out the children’s area. They have puppets and toys available for checkout and their storytime room is decorated with a Secret Garden theme and has an adjacent room with kid-sized tables for craft time. I was so impressed with the creative touches throughout the whole library. It seems like a really fun place to be able to go!

A tree in the storytime room in the children's department. Photo by Erin Milanese.

A Note to Current SLIS Students
EPL has internship opportunities available for SLIS-Indy students. If you’re interested in working in the Genealogy Center processing materials for the digital collection, in the teen library, for information services, or in technical services, email Gregg Williamson. Don’t forget that internship applications are due to Marilyn Irwin in the SLIS office by 15 March for the summer semester and 15 July for the fall semester.

March 2, 2010 at 8:36 PM 8 comments

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!

February 26, 2010 at 9:59 PM 2 comments