Monthly Archives: December 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. May our holidays be joyful, our nights be peaceful, and our futures be bright.

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My state is currently in the throes of budget discussions; I assume these discussions are going on around the country. Money is tight everywhere, and difficult decisions are being made about what services to cut, and which to keep.

I recently got a message from ALA encouraging me to contact my representative:

The Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA) has moved to the U.S. House of Representatives where it must receive a vote before the end of the calendar year. ALA is asking you to call your representative and urge him or her to press House leadership for a vote on the Senate-passed version of MLSA (S. 3984) and to support the bill.

I’m all for museums and libraries, obviously. But my initial reaction was, “Why us?”

Before you get out the pitchforks, hear me out. When budgets are this lean, something’s got to give. Cutting libraries seems like an easy thing to do; they are, to the minds of many, a “nice to have” rather than a “got to have.”  After all, we need the fire department, the police department. The street department is pretty necessary in my neck of the woods, when we have snowfalls that impede movement on a fairly regular basis.

When legislators are facing the need to cut, why not cut the libraries?

Well, there are a number of reasons. When times are hard, the libraries are used more than ever. People look for jobs using library computers. People learn English. People educate themselves and their children.

I believe libraries are essential to a literate and educated society, and that literacy and education are necessary for a society to be healthy, to grow and to thrive. Without access to libraries, the information currently available via the library would be limited to those with the financial wherewithal to purchase access to the information.

Notice I’m talking about access. Libraries aren’t limited to books anymore. Libraries are – and always have been – about access to information. That information is increasingly available online, but much of it is available through subscription. Whether researching using books or online journals, a library is essential.

So what’s my point?

You need to be pounding this information into your representatives on a regular basis. Everyone from the city manager to the mayor to your congressional representatives needs to be hearing from you often, not just when there’s a vote upcoming. They need to be told about all the wonderful services you offer, all the terrific programs that are going on, and all the people that are served. When they hear about cutting library services, their knee-jerk reaction needs to be, “No!”

If you haven’t done this, start now. Go. Talk. Pester. Invite them to coffee. Invite them to visit the library. Encourage them to get involved; read a story for the kids at storytime, give a presentation to adults on whatever. Make the library their friend.

Seriously, go.


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Filed under Libraries and Librarianship


I’m back at my former POW, playing with blogs as web pages. I used to be one of the people that taught blogging, back in the day.  It’s amazing how much more robust these things have gotten, how many options are now available.

Since I tend to blog personally and not professionally, I haven’t playing with this stuff for a while.  It’s good to review and learn.

I may even change the theme of this blog, so stay tuned.

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Houston, we have a problem.

DH is in the final stretch of his MBA from a fellow institution here in Minnesota. He’s doing research and watching the game, and is getting increasingly frustrated with the library interface to the various databases.  He finally got so frustrated that I stepped in and asked if I could help, and was able to get things working for him.

It’s a good thing he happens to have a librarian at his disposal, and one that’s familiar with academic databases and their quirks.

DH, as many of you may remember, is an IT guy. Dealing with computers and programs is hardly novel to him, and he’s not afraid to go mucking about to make things work. He finds library database and journal access incredibly irritating and has the experience that, more often than not, that it doesn’t work. Or it’s a tedious process. Or it’s both.

I can’t really fault this institution’s interface, because it’s not much different than ours at MPOW – or that of any other academic library, for that matter.  The problem is that ALL of these interfaces are incredibly unfriendly to the average user.

We think we’re making things easier. We probably are – I would imagine this stuff was even less friendly without the tweaks we’ve made to the systems. But is this the best we can do?

When an information technology professional has trouble getting through our library interfaces, we have a problem.  When we spend huge money subscribing to these databases and their interface is almost impossible to beat into submission, we have a problem.

Academic libraries are increasingly moving towards virtual collections, especially of scholarly journals.  If our only access to these materials is in digital format, then the format should lend itself to easy searching and retrieval. If this isn’t as simple as browsing through the stacks and reading an article, then we have a problem.

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Filed under Academia, Libraries and Librarianship, Me and mine