By Annice Sevett
Many libraries subscribe to excellent paid databases, however unfortunately some libraries cannot afford these databases or help patrons who may not have access to these resources. Thankfully, there are a number of free reference resources that work just as well, and sometimes better, than the paid databases for many questions you may face while answering reference questions. This article will mention a number of those resources you may want to bookmark so you are prepared the next time someone asks you a question.
Before we get into topic specific resources, there are some great general websites that will help with a variety of questions. The government of the United States puts out arguably the most information of any organization in this country and they have a number of websites that are helpful when looking for reliable information. The main site is known as USA.gov and has a search engine that locates information from all government agencies and related organizations. They maintain topic pages on a number of hot issues with links to places to go for further information. While most government agencies have their own websites, usa.gov is a wonderful place to start a search. The U.S. Census Bureau is one agency that has an excellent website that provides government statistical data. This is useful when looking for statistics on people and households or business and industry facts. The last government agency website I’ll mention specifically is the Central Intelligence Agency. The most useful part of their website is a link to the World Factbook, helpful for ready reference and more in-depth questions you might face.
Many librarians admit to using Wikipedia for basic information. We all know the information may not be accurate and should proceed with caution when using this site, however for ready reference questions it is a great place to start. When questions about the weather arise, either current or historical, turn to Weather Underground. The data for this site comes from personal weather stations and uses innovation models to provide highly localized weather. Oftentimes, questions about translation come up in reference work. A favorite resource is Google Translate, allowing for the quick translation of words in many languages. The final resource mentioned in the general category is ResearchBuzz, a website that provides news and resources on social media, search engines, databases, archives and more. Although not as useful for reference work, it is a wonderful site to read every day to get information relating to libraries and, because the topics are newsworthy, patrons may come in with questions about the stories featured.
The most common questions may come in the form of what we will call entertainment questions, including those relating to books. For basic questions about books, authors, what to read next, and for user posted book reviews, GoodReads is an excellent place to look. Another resource for information on books and authors is Fantastic Fiction. Questions about what book is next in a series are common, and we’re in luck because the Kent District Library has a great database called What’s Next that allows you to search by author, series title and even an individual book title. Movies, another form of entertainment that most libraries lend out, have their own set of unique properties and reference questions that come with it. IMBD is a resource you may be familiar with and is great to use when answering questions about movies and tv shows. Another useful site is RerunCentury, which has free public domain videos of 20th century TV shows along with historical information of network channel lineups.
Medical questions can be tricky due to legal implications, however the National Library of Medicine has a number of resources that you can get basic information from and point patrons to for reliable, accurate information. MedlinePlus is the general consumer health resource of the National Library of Medicine, providing trusted health information on diseases, drugs, procedures and more in terms that consumers will understand. For drug related questions, turn to DailyMed or PillBox. DailyMed contains drug listing information while PillBox is a drug search engine that helps identify medication by properties. Lastly, LactMed is a resource to point expecting and breastfeeding mothers to when questions arise about drugs and chemicals that may be harmful.
Academic libraries and large library systems subscribe to databases for scholarly journal articles and other documents to help with research. These databases are wonderful but sometimes students from smaller colleges or those in high school from rural areas need access to scholarly articles that may be unavailable to them. A good place to start is Google Scholar, the Google search engine from scholarly articles that links to full-text versions when available. A second website for scholarly articles is the Digital Commons Network, a database that brings together free, full-text scholarly articles from colleges and universities around the world. In addition to a regular search engine, they have a unique interface that allows individuals to narrow their search by topic until they find the section they are interested in. You can point patrons to Community Commons when they are in the beginning stages of research about topic. This site compiles information about specific community issues together and includes data, tools and stories. For law related questions, Cornell University Law School hosts the Legal Information Institute, a resource for finding laws, materials that help people understand the law and law related facts and information. Patrons needing information on American history can turn to the American Memory Project, a project from the Library of Congress that offers free and open access to text, sound recordings, images, prints, maps and music that document the American experience.
Finally, if you are looking for a one stop shop for free reference resources, the Florida Atlantic University Libraries has an excellent LibGuide that contains links to free resources in a variety of categories. This LibGuide is, as of the writing of this article, updated and reviewed on a regular basis.
Keep these free reference resources in mind when you are on the reference desk. They are sure to help your patrons and yourself find the information they need.
Online Discussion Forum Recap
By Aisha Conner-Gaten
Is there truly anything more stressful than working a full time job while trying to apply to another full time job? It all starts with an endless parade of cover letters, resumes, and curricula vitae only to be followed by high anxiety phone, Skype, and in person interviews. These processes can take a long time. During that period, it can be difficult to stay positive about our future and feel accomplished while we wait to hear back. All of this, the mental, emotional, and physical states while you wait, can be folded into what we call self-care. According to the University of Kentucky site, self-care is any intentional action that you take to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Very often this includes things that you would never consider part of healing. In our March live chat, we divided many of these actions into two categories: things that you can do to sustain or improve your mind and those actions that can improve or sustain your body. Of course, many actions, like yoga, technically affect both. Also, an important thing to note is that self-care is completely unique to an individual. Do not think that you must do anything based on what others find helpful. You can mix and match any of these actions and build your own plan. These are just ideas to consider as you wait to finally exhale, get that job, and get paid!
Exercise, sleep, and eating are key parts of self-care. Very often, being unemployed can depress you or reset your eating habits (more time to munch or more stress to avoid meals). It is important to eat regularly and not substitute snacks for meals. If you find yourself unable to eat due to depression or just feeling overwhelmed, set a schedule. Use Google calendar or a tasker app to remind you to eat. You need the energy!
The CDC suggests exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, which can affect mood and overall health long term. Exercising can include any number of activities: a simple walk, running on a treadmill, or even dancing to some YouTube videos. Once you have done a bit of working out, sleep might be a good idea. A full night’s rest helps you de-stress, decouple, and think about something other than spell check. Even if you aren’t working, you should go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Once you get that job, your body (and mind!) will thank you for keeping a regular sleep schedule.
Now that you’ve got your body in check, it’s time to consider the thing that controls it all: your mind. Engage in activities that take your mind off of the waiting and disappointment. Visit an animal shelter or cat café to snuggle someone furry to make you feel better. Try meditation or yoga to relax your mind and soothe your body. For those strapped for cash, meetups (meetup.com, your local library or community center) are usually free and offer low anxiety situations for fun. These opportunities are also a great way to get out of the house for a while and stretch your legs. You might even expand your network or make a new friend!
Other Helpful Hints
- Use Evernote, a spreadsheet, or Google Cal to keep track of documents and application timelines
- Stay up to date on library topics and emerging trends via MOOCS (Coursera, Edx, and OpenCourseWeb) and webinars (Siera Learn, Web Junction)
- Make sure your references can be counted on. Don’t list anyone you don’t trust to share stories of the best you
- Tell your current boss you are seeking new employment. Unless you already have a poor relationship, they will appreciate the heads up. When you speak to them, emphasize the benefits of the new job but don’t say how you hate your current job
- Perk up your search by checking out http://opencoverletters.com/
- Don’t take rejection personally. Some positions desire certain skills, personalities, or end the search completely based on budgets. Most of the time, you aren’t told the reasons why
- Check out year round NMRT’s Resume Service if you need help: http://www.ala.org/nmrt/oversightgroups/comm/resreview/resumereview
On behalf of the New Members Round Table (NMRT) President’s Program Committee, we are pleased to announce this year’s preconference at the American Library Association’s 2016 conference in Orlando, FL: “What’s a Millennial to Do? Learning to Thrive in a Multi-Generational Workplace,” which will be held on Friday, June 24 from 9am to 12pm. The three-hour pre-conference includes breakfast, a panel presentation, and an interactive workshop session with the panelists. The cost for registration is $75. NMRT members are eligible for a discounted rate at $65.
Our dynamic panel of presenters includes Henrietta Verma (Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at the National Information Standards Organization [NISO] and a former reviews editor at Library Journal and School Library Journal), Cynthia Mari Orozco (Student Services Librarian at California Sate Library, creator of LIS Microaggressions), and Sarah Houghton (Director of the San Rafael Public Library [California], Librarian In Black). These knowledgeable librarians will share their expertise as well as practical advice on how you can navigate your position while ensuring that your voice is heard. Each panelist will present her information, host a brief Q&A session, and then work with participants in smaller breakout groups, focusing on developing skills and solving workplace challenges.
To register, visit the ALA Conference page at: http://2016.alaannual.org/ticketed-events#NMRT
Contact: Rachel Gammons, Chair of NMRT Presidential Program Committee, Rachel.email@example.com
When: Wednesday May 25th 2016
Time: 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm, US/Eastern
A growing number of librarians are coming out of library school and can’t find professional work, or full-time work. The promise of “there will be a lot of retirements soon so jobs will open up” has been heard for a long time, and often, when that time comes, full-time jobs become multiple part-time jobs or are eliminated completely. Likewise, many mid-career part-time librarians, as well as people entering the profession from other fields, struggle to find work in an uncertain economy. As the unemployment and underemployment issue worsens, what can organizations like ALA, as well as library graduate programs, do to tackle this issue?
This chat will be happening on Twitter. To join and follow the chat, follow Peter Brunette at @peterwbrunette and/or follow the hashtag #nmrtchat. You can follow the tweets by typing #nmrtchat into the search box or use something like TweetDeck or HootSuite to filter the tweets. Make sure to include #nmrtchat in all of your tweets to make them visible for all participants.
Everyone is welcome to join this conversation, from students, new librarians, or librarians with many years of experience. We look to seeing you all there!
By Sharona Ginsberg and Tina Chan
Do you wonder how you will manage completing projects, pursuing professional development, participating in committees, and other professional obligations? Do you still have tasks to complete at the end of the work day? If you answered yes to either of these questions, good time management is the answer. Time management involves organizing, planning, and managing the time to spend on specific tasks. Good time management is about working smarter, not harder, to achieve more in less time. The following are some tips to manage your time, which can lead to less stress, increased efficiency and productivity, and opportunities for career advancement. The recommended technology tools are useful for project management, focus and productivity, and organizing notes.
Make a To-Do List
Making a to-do list helps you remember what needs to be completed. Prioritize the list to be more efficient by using a numbering or coding system. Number the tasks 1 – 3, with 1 as the highest priority while tasks marked 3 are the lowest priority. Similarly, using a coding system involves assigning a letter to tasks. For example, with an A – F coding system, tasks coded “A” are the highest priority while tasks coded “F” are the lowest priority. When a task is completed, you can check it off, ready to complete the next task.
Additionally, break down large projects into small pieces to help make the project more manageable. Separate tasks as specific and actionable steps. For example, if you write “train Mary, the new employee,” include that you need to introduce Mary to staff, describe how to get an employee identification card, explain vacation and sick policies, etc. Listing the specific and actionable steps needed to complete a project will ensure that key steps are not overlooked.
Tech Tools: Trello and Remember the Milk
Task management apps and websites are plentiful and easy to find with a simple search, but it can be difficult to know which to choose. Two particularly effective apps are Trello and Remember the Milk.
Trello functions by giving you “boards” on which you can create “lists.” A good setup is for each list to be a specific project, stage of a project, or area of your work. You can then add “cards” to each list, which are essentially individual items. Each card opens up to display additional information.
A single board displaying two lists. The first list has one card, while the second list has two.
A card displaying additional information about this stage of the project.
Cards allow you to add information such as a due date, color-coded labels, checklists, attachments (including items from Google Docs, Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive), comments, and more. If you are using a “team” board, you can also assign tasks to members of your team, making Trello a helpful tool for collaborative projects. In addition to helping you organize a wealth of information, Trello has a simple drag-and-drop interface, making it easy to move cards from one list to another. A use case example might be setting up a board to track your work on a particular project, then creating lists for each stage of the project. As tasks are completed, it is easy to drag cards from one list (i.e. “In Progress”) to another (i.e. “Completed”) to show progression of the work. Trello is web-based, but also offers mobile apps, as well.
Remember the Milk is another web-based service also available in mobile format. Some of the information you can track with Remember the Milk is the same as in Trello, but the service itself is more geared toward acting as an aggregated to-do list rather than being a project manager. Tasks can be added to separate lists (i.e. Personal, Work), and can be assigned tags, due dates, estimates (for amount of time needed to complete), locations, and more. The initial screen displays all tasks from all lists, which can then be narrowed down using the filters.
As with Trello, tasks can be assigned to others, and users can leave notes on tasks to help with collaboration. It is also fairly easy to drag and drop items; moving a task from one list to another feels very similar to moving around email in Gmail’s web interface.
Some of Remember the Milk’s unique strengths lie in its search and smart list capabilities. Smart lists allow you to create custom lists based on criteria. For example, I could create a list of all tasks that include the word “instruction” and have the tag “English.” Going even further, I could require that tasks shown on this list are due in March and have the location “Library Classroom 1.” This would give me a custom list of all English classes I need to teach during March in Classroom 1.
Procrastinating delays projects that could be worked on now. When you finally work on a project, you may feel stressed if you waited until the last minute to start, and you may feel guilty for not starting sooner. A strategy to avoid procrastination is to spend ten minutes per day working on a project. Starting small leads to feeling less overwhelmed and less guilt. Schedule meetings with yourself to work on projects. Do not answer emails, chats, or the phone, thus avoiding distractions. You could also reward yourself. Knowing that you will treat yourself to something nice after accomplishing a project will give you motivation to finish.
Tech Tools: Staying Organized (Google Drive & Evernote)
Staying on top of your tasks can help you prevent procrastination by making it easy to break projects down into steps and reducing the anxiety and wasted time of searching for your important notes. Two effective tools for keeping your work organized are Google Drive and Evernote. Both are accessible through a number of different methods, including in a browser, mobile apps, and stand-alone programs to download to your computer. Both are cloud-based, meaning your files are accessible from any computer or device once you log into your account.
Google Drive has the advantage of already being available to many people without additional setup, as many already have Google accounts, and some institutions make use of Google Apps, including Google Drive. Google Drive also offers the option of creating different types of documents, such as word processing documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoint-style slides, and more. Google Drive is also good for working collaboratively on documents, both synchronously and asynchronously, as collaborators can leave each other comments or even work simultaneously, seeing each other’s changes in real time.
You can create many types of documents in Google Drive, and can organize them into folders.
While Evernote is limited in terms of document type, and is not ideal for synchronous work, its advantage is in capturing information. It is possible to clip information from the web while browsing to store in Evernote, and Evernote even works fairly well at decoding handwriting, meaning you can take photos of your handwritten notes to save to your account, which will then become searchable. You can also attach photos and files to your Evernote documents; for example, if I am working on research, I can write my notes in Evernote and attach PDFs of relevant articles directly to my notes.
A note in Evernote with an attached PDF. Along the left side, you will find options and can navigate to other notes or collections called notebooks.
It is important to take breaks to focus and maintain the energy of producing quality work. Taking breaks helps your mind and body recharge so you can continue to complete tasks. Take a short walk, get a beverage, or eat a snack to get away from your desk for a few minutes. This down time will help you regain your momentum to producing quality work.
Focus on One Task
Multitasking may sound like a good idea. After all, working on different things at the same time accomplishes more in less time. For example, talking on the phone while writing emails. However, contrary to what many people may believe, multitasking has adverse effects. It takes more time to complete multiple tasks at the same time than it does completing a list of tasks in sequence. Focus on one task at a time to be efficient and productive.
Tech Tools: LeechBlock, StayFocusd, SelfControl
Fortunately, there are tools for staying on task, too. The best we have found are LeechBlock, StayFocusd, and SelfControl. All are fairly similar but are for different platforms: LeechBlock and StayFocusd are browser extensions for Firefox and Google Chrome, respectively, while SelfControl is a stand-alone app for Mac OS. These tools work by blocking you from accessing certain websites while they are activated, and making it extremely difficult for you to deactivate them until the set time has passed. You can set up your list of websites to block beforehand (in some cases, you can even have multiple lists for different purposes), and then either schedule an activation time or activate it manually and set a deactivation time. As an example, if I plan to focus on writing an article for an hour and want to minimize my distractions, I can turn on one of these tools and it will start blocking a list of websites I have designated, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and anything else I might find tempting.
As we said, time management is about working smarter, and hopefully these tips and tools can help you do just that. It can be difficult to balance the competing responsibilities of librarianship, but putting in a little work upfront to develop good routines and workflows can be the difference between success and being completely overwhelmed.
“10 Common Time Management Mistakes.” Mind Tools. Mind Tools, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Mathews, Joe, Don Debolt, and Deb Percival. “How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work.” Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Mitchell, Deborah. “Stop Multitasking. You’ll Get More Work Done.” Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
“What is Time Management? Working Smarter to Enhance Productivity.” Mind Tools. Mind Tools, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
About the Authors
Sharona Ginsberg is the Learning Technologies Librarian at SUNY Oswego, and can be found online at http://sharonaginsberg.com or on Twitter @linguomancer.
Tina Chan is the Assistant Coordinator Reference at SUNY Oswego.
By Elizabeth Walker
This year’s NMRT Annual Conference Local Information Committee has done something a little different this year. We have a great event planned for ALA Annual 2016—the first ever NMRT field trip! The purpose of the field trip is to provide NMRT members with a fun networking and social event set in a unique, relaxed environment. The committee has selected Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium. This event will be held Friday, June 24th at 7PM. Tickets are $14.99 plus tax at the door. If you are interested in attending this event, please sign up with this Google form: http://goo.gl/forms/QNKZ9Iq0YE.
Space is limited to 40 attendees. You will need to identify yourself as part of the American Library Association in order to receive the discount (tickets are normally $19.99).
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium is a 10,000 square-foot facility that looks as if it is falling into a sinkhole. Enjoy a self-guided tour through 16 unique galleries of the bizarre while you are meeting colleagues. The Ripley’s website boasts that the Odditorium houses authentic shrunken heads, a vampire hunter’s kit, decorated Tibetan skulls, a vortex tunnel, and more. Check out the Odditorium website: http://www.ripleys.com/orlando/odditorium/.
If you want a more interactive experience, there is the Ripley’s Mobile Challenge where you can find scavenger hunts, phot ops, polls, and more.
Founded in 1918 by cartoonist and adventurer Robert Ripley, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is a collection of incredible artifacts, art, photographs, and stories of the many countries he visited. Will you believe it…or not?
The Catholic University of America
What drew you to library and information sciences?
I was initially motivated to obtain a master’s degree in LIS to enhance and legitimize my research abilities. While I will always be a researcher at heart, engaging with the broader professional LIS community has inspired me to pursue a career in academic librarianship.
What’s your dream job after graduation?
My academic, scholarly, and professional experience and interests include higher education planning and assessment, student leadership development, academic librarianship, and critical and sociocultural theories. I envision librarians playing an integral role in redesigning higher education institutions to be more equitable, inclusive, and open learning systems. I aspire to bring my experience and passion to an academic library that is committed to advancing this vision.
What do you like most about NMRT?
NMRT provides excellent opportunities to become more engaged in ALA. Thanks to NMRT’s inclusive committee appointment process, I’ve served on the Shirley Olofson Memorial Award Committee and am currently a member of the Endnotes: The Journal of the New Members Round Table Committee. This leadership experience has enhanced my project management, communication, remote collaboration, and marketing abilities.
Elizabeth is set to graduate this May. To learn more about her check out her online portfolio: https://elizabethlieutenant.com/
Friday June 24th
What:NMRT Pre-conference: “What’s a Millennial to Do? Learning to Thrive in a Multi-Generational Workplace”
When: 9:00 AM -12:00 PM
What: Annual Conference Orientation,
When: 1:00 – 2:30 PM
Where: HYATT/Regency BR T
What: Field Trip to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
When: 7:00 – 9:00 PM
What: Mentoring Social
When: 7:30 – 9:00 PM
Where: HILTON/Clear Lake
Saturday June 25th
What: NMRT 101
When: 8:30 – 10:00 AM
Where: ROS CENTRE/Salon 05-06)
What: Membership & Executive Board Meeting
When: 9:30AM – 12:30PM
Where: (ROS CENTRE/Signature 2)
Sunday June 26th
What: Annual Reception
When: 7:00 – 8:30PM
Where: Location TBD
OCCC-Orange County Convention Center
HYATT-Hyatt Regency Orlando
ROS CENTRE– Rosen Centre Hotel
NMRT is looking for volunteers to appoint to NMRT Committees for 2016-2017! Committee members will begin serving as of 1 July 2016 and will continue through the 2017 Annual meeting in Chicago. You must be a dues-paying member of NMRT to serve on a committee.
Most NMRT committees do not require conference attendance, but please note that for some committees, attendance at the Midwinter and/or Annual Conferences is expected.
As some committees fill up quickly, we recommend selecting all committees you are interested in being appointed to. If you are interested in multiple committees, please rank the committees in order of your preference. Committee information can be found here: http://www.ala.org/nmrt/oversightgroups/comm and detailed descriptions of committee work and responsibilities can be found here: http://wikis.ala.org/nmrt/index.php/Section_4:_Committees
If you are interested in serving, please complete the NMRT volunteer form at http://www.ala.org/CFApps/volunteer/form1.cfm?group=NMRT.
Offers to serve as member or chair of committees will not go out until May at the earliest. Many thanks in advance for your patience.
Please contact Kate Kosturski, Vice President/President-Elect directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Thank you for your interest in and support of NMRT!
The 2016 NMRT Professional Development Grant Award Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of the Mango Languages/NMRT Professional Development Grant Award and NMRT-sponsored Professional Development Grant Award. These $1,000 awards were graciously sponsored by Mango Languages and the New Members Round Table. This award provides funding to assist with airfare, lodging, and conference registration fees for attendance at the American Library Association Annual Conference and fosters in-person participation in ALA and NMRT professional activities.
Erin Prentiss is the recipient of the 2016 NMRT-sponsored Professional Development Grant. Erin works as a Reference and Instruction Librarian at the Reese Library at Augusta University (Georgia). Erin received a B.A. in Sociology / Anthropology from Agnes Scott College in 2003, a Secondary English Education Certification from the University of West Georgia in 2008, and an MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. Erin has received numerous honors since joining the profession including being a Spectrum Scholar (2010-2012) and a Joint Conference of Librarian Of Color Scholar (2012). She currently serves on the Georgia Library Association’s Public Relations Committee and is an Assistant Book Review Editor for the Georgia Library Quarterly. Her professional interests include diversity in publishing and collections and local history.
Denise Tabscott is the recipient of the 2016 MANGO Languages / NMRT Professional Development Grant. Denise is a Middle School Librarian for the Metro Nashville Public Schools. She earned her MLS in 2014 from Middle Tennessee State University. Denise was selected as the recipient of the 2016 National Library Legislative Day Award / Stipend for YALSA and the 2015 MNPS / Limitless Libraries Librarian of the Year (student choice). She currently is a member of the YALSA Summer Reading and Learning Taskforce committee and the Tennessee Library Association’s state conference committee. She has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to professional development already through state and local conference attendance, leading school system wide breakout sessions, and presenting at local and state conferences, Denise has attended numerous classes and webinars through the American Library Association and its divisions working to hone her skills as a librarian and teacher. Her professional interests include advocacy, unconferences, Ed Camps, and book award selection. She is currently working on her doctorate in Literacy Studies .
Congratulations to both Erin and Denise!
More information about the NMRT Professional Development Grant, including a list of past recipients, is available on the NMRT Awards, Grants, and Scholarships webpage http://www.ala.org/awardsgrants/awards/264/apply
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