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.
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 email@example.com 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
By Michael Rodriguez
I am a freelance librarian, in addition to my full-time job managing a university library’s digital services and resources. By freelance librarian I mean that I perform independent, shorter-term, contract-based work that utilizes and develops skills comparable to those commonly exercised in the library context. Such work can blossom into a career, persist as a form of professional development, or simply provide supplementary income. Yet in my personal experience, early-career librarians like me are rarely aware of the countless opportunities for freelance work, and even if they are, they assume that they must rack up many years of industry experience and recognition before anyone will pay them to consult, train, or teach outside their usual 9-5 job. This is not the case. Despite earning my MLIS in August 2014, I have already taught ten paid webinars, edited dissertations and scholarly manuscripts, consulted with a local nonprofit, presented lifelong learning lectures to seniors, and taught technology boot camps as an adjunct college instructor. One year in, I am a successful freelancing librarian, with all the benefits that entails.
Freelance work offers a major credibility boost. In the normal course of events, library professionals earn participation points for attending webinars and workshops, pay to travel to present at distant conferences, and donate our time and expertise to service on committees. This is expected of librarians, and necessary even for most freelancers as they build their standings, connections, and skills. But how cool is it for organizations to value your knowledge and skills so highly that they pay you, sometimes hundreds of dollars per hour, to share your expertise with them. This looks wonderful on a résumé, and in contrast to conference-going, webinar presenters are paid for their hard work. Freelancing is in addition to your regular working hours, but the payoff is worth it.
Types of Work
Webinar presenters and other freelancing information professionals can consult, teach, research, edit, index, run workshops, adjunct at universities, write content, design for the web, optimize websites for search engines, analyze data, tell stories at children’s programs, staff reference desks on weekends and evenings, and so much more. In the library world, there is a particularly robust market—local, regional, and national—for professional trainers. Webinars for Florida-based organizations are one of my niches, but opportunities abound depending on your skills, style, location, and initiative.
To begin taking advantage of these opportunities, prospective freelancers should build a professional website and social media presence. Use a free platform like WordPress to develop high-caliber websites to host credentials, portfolios, and contact information. Github for developers and Slideshare for presenters are useful; LinkedIn is essential. But a website delivers a one-stop shopping experience for prospective clients. Once, a new client filled out a contact form on my website, leading to a lucrative training contract for me. Tweeting and guest blogging also adds value when used constructively to engage with colleagues and share expertise, which helps build your reputation. Bonus: a courteous, energetic, informed online presence prepares the ground for regular employment and professional impact, thanks to the people with whom you are able to network.
Networking leads to opportunities and recognition. However, connecting with people is not about manipulating them into hiring you—rather, networking should come from a genuine desire to share knowledge and fun with more new people. Talk at conferences, attend local workshops and meetups, start local meetups, and become involved in local nonprofit work. Explode the library bubble by tapping the innumerable businesses and nonprofits that host networking events and workshops and boast deep pockets. Once I cold-called a webinar company, another time I wrote to a call for webinar proposals, but most of my work resulted from my leveraging relationships and trust I had built across my network. One national organization invited me to teach a webinar as a direct result of my befriending the organization’s membership coordinator at a conference. Almost every freelance gig of mine arose from a personal connection—only a handful did not, and those were my most recent opportunities, once I was somewhat established. I have never felt tempted to sign up for any freelancers’ website such as Upwork or Elance.
Freelancers who also have steady employment (part-time or full-time) must ensure they review and comply with their organizations’ human resource policies governing external employment. Be particularly cautious of any conflicts of interest, real or apparent. Often organizations will force employees to disclose outside employment, ask permission from their supervisor, guarantee that their external work will not impact job performance or scheduling, and not use company resources like email or printing for side jobs. The other facet of due diligence is to submit complete tax returns and maintain a paper trail for at least three years. Some freelance work is “under the table,” cash in hand, without producing a paper trail. Regardless, best practice is to report all income.
To build their reputation, freelancers might find it advisable to perform discounted or pro bono work when starting out. My very first webinar I offered to teach for free, but it was so well received that the sponsors paid me anyway! After one year of freelancing in my niche, I command anywhere from $175 to $500 per one-hour webinar. Often you can negotiate higher fees simply by asking. Resist the temptation to undersell your services. Clients are not doing you a favor by hiring you—rather, your work adds value to theirs.
This temptation to undersell your effort and expertise arises from imposter syndrome—the sense that your abilities fall short of expectations and that other people will find out. Many early-career librarians might undersell themselves to avoid seeming arrogant, and others may recoil from near occasions of criticism. What has worked for me is to “fake it till I make it.” Once, having agreed to consult for a local agency about Google Hangouts on Air, I taught myself the software in the three hours prior to my consultation. One of my go-to mottos comes from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: “I’m making this up as I go.” The trick is to embrace the inevitability of your own imperfection. Once you have mentally recognized this, adapting to circumstances is much easier. Powering through imposter syndrome is essential to becoming a successful freelancing librarian.
Michael Rodriguez is the E-Learning Librarian at Hodges University in Florida, where he leads web design and electronic resource management. He is an energetic freelancing librarian, copyright specialist, and LITA blogger. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jennifer Bayer
Whether you are a tenure-track academic librarian at a university or a youth reference librarian at a small public branch library, your goal is to provide excellent services to your patrons, no matter what those services may be. Regardless of how librarians are labelled, we are all working towards a more information-literate population. However, despite the commonalities that are shared amongst every library and librarian, there can be hesitation when considering collaboration with another library, especially a different ‘type’ of library. This article attempts to convince all readers, especially those new to the profession, to reach out to a library outside of their comfort zone, and suggests how to best attempt collaboration.
It is not difficult to find examples of collaboration between public libraries and local government, public school systems, or small businesses. Similarly, collaboration between university and college-based librarians is a given; it is common for research-focused librarians to seek out others in their field for ALA posters, research articles, or programming. However, there are scarce real-life examples or research articles encouraging academic librarians to reach out to their public librarian counterparts, or vice versa. According to the library world, the silos of public and academic libraries appear divided, with collaboration being outside the norm.
One might say the lack of supporting literature and examples on this topic makes sense: why would a subject selector for Engineering have any reason to partner with a youth librarian? Alternatively, an adult reference librarian may not ever think of contacting an academic outreach librarian for partnership on programming, perhaps because they think their audiences too dissimilar. However, in both scenarios, a partnership could result in a community being served by the entire library population, not just one library silo at a time. We will revisit these scenarios later on.
For now, we will assume the audience has agreed with the proposal that increased collaboration between public and academic libraries is beneficial for their community. They want to put it into place, but how do they start? The following three steps can guide librarians when building a collaborative relationship:
1) Find a connection
If contacting a public library, starting with the branch manager is a good first step. They will be able to discuss their programming schedule, how their library is structured, and perhaps most importantly, what their budgetary and personnel restraints are. They may then direct you to the youth or adult reference librarian, who will likely be your most useful point of contact when it comes to the fine details, as well as actually executing the proposed event or program. They are out in the trenches every day and are well versed on their patrons and community needs.
When reaching out to an academic library, do some research first: Does your local university have an outreach or event team? If your local college is smaller, who is the face of the library? You may not need to go to the Dean of the Libraries in order to connect with the proper individual, but if you are unable to deduce who is the best match for your proposal, don’t be afraid to contact senior personnel to get your communications to the correct individual.
Additionally, be persistent! Whether you are contacting an academic or public library, do not be dissuaded by hesitation or uncertainty on their part. They may be hesitant because they are worried about their budget, or skeptical simply because this sort of thing hasn’t been done before. Keep reaching out – persistence and a friendly face can go a long way.
2) Have a need
Reaching out to a university or public library just for the sake of connecting or networking is great; however, having determined what ‘need’ you want them to fill is even better. Public libraries, much more than academic libraries, rely on programming and special events to attract and retain patrons. Although no two libraries’ event schedules are alike, in general, events are geared towards youth, teen, and adult. Academic libraries, in contrast, generally serve two populations: students and faculty members.
Recall the two potential partnerships mentioned earlier in the article. A youth librarian and subject selector for Engineering could develop a STEM program geared towards local youth. As for the academic outreach librarian, a Q&A session for incoming freshmen and their parents at the local public library could help boost the academic library’s visibility and reputation.
2) Be clear on expectations
If linking yourself with an academic or public library for an entire series of programs, with the potential expectation of making it an annual event, proves too difficult or has too many logistical barriers, participants may want to test the waters with a one-time program. Starting with a single programming event will allow both sides to feel out whether the partnership is a good fit, and if this collaboration is likely to be successful moving forward.
In addition, be sure not overextend your library in order to make a programming event happen. Making big promises that can’t be kept will damage your partnership, and make it less likely that the collaboration will last. If your budget or personnel can’t handle something, be up front and honest. All libraries, even the largest research universities, have budgetary restrictions, and honesty about your limitations is best in collaborative ventures. It can be easy to get excited about new opportunities and connections, but that excitement is better placed in creating programming.
In conclusion, go forth and network! Put aside the stereotype of the introverted, aloof librarian and make some new friends; you could be pleasantly surprised at what develops.
Jennifer Wilhelm Bayer is an adult reference librarian at Larry J. Ringer Public Library in College Station, Texas. She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in History from Texas A&M University, and her Masters in Library Science from the University of North Texas. In her spare time, she enjoys playing video games, reading to her daughter, and dragging her family on vacations.
Better Late than Never!
Thanks to the wonderful work of the Social Committee, the best ever NMRT Midwinter Social took place at the Seaport Hotel on Saturday, January 9. The annual event, which is open to anyone at Midwinter, featured a team trivia contest this year. The trivia was hosted by T.J. Szafranski who was described by the attendees as pretty good and could have been worse and a younger, but not as funny version of Pat Sajak.
Over 70 players were split up into twelve teams depending on the month they were born in. The teams then competed in 5 fun-filled rounds of trivia. In one round, teams were given 10 quotes and had to choose whether Mahatma Gandhi or Kanye West said them. It sounds easy, but it proved challenging. The competition was fierce all night long. Going into the final round, the March team held a 10 point lead over second place, but with 40 points up for grab, it was still anyone’s game. Thanks to a nearly perfect final round, the September team ended the night with 108 points, just one point ahead of 2nd place March, and five ahead of 3rd place February.
Overall, the social was a great opportunity to meet new friends, have some drinks, and show off some knowledge. While no scientific poll was taken, it appeared that every single attendee had an enjoyable time. If you make it to Midwinter next year, please mark the Social on your calendar. It’s always a fun time! (And if you’d like to see the trivia competition return again, please let us know).
Wondering how you would have done at the trivia? Here are just a few of the questions we asked:
1. New York Public Library is one of two public libraries to be a member of the Association of Research Libraries. What is the other one?
2. What’s the only U.S. state whose 3 most populous cities state with the same letter?
3. The first four British bands to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and who?
4. What Disney character wore this outfit?
5. What two celebrities are pictured?
6. What candy bar is this?
1. Boston Public Library
2. Ohio (Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati)
3. The Who
5. Lorde and Prince
6. 100 Grand
By Peter Brunette
In February, the NMRT online discussion focused on a question that we’ve all probably faced in-person or online in some manner: with the internet and its various resources, such as Google and Wikipedia, along with e-books, are libraries and librarians still relevant? I can recall talking to a non-library user recently who lamented about how books would disappear since “everything is online now”, therefore making libraries disappear.
Such conversations can be just as difficult to contest when so many articles are written in newspapers or popular magazines about the demise of the traditional library. We can scrutinize the credentials of the article’s writer, speculate upon why he or she might not see the inherent value in the services libraries supply, but it’s even more difficult when the article’s writer is a librarian. In January, Steve Barker, a librarian in the Washington D.C. area, wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal suggesting that today, the professional librarian isn’t necessary when online technology does what they used to do. You can find that article here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/in-age-of-google-librarians-get-shelved-1452461659 .
Mr. Barker’s opinion piece brought a great deal of discussion among librarians, most notably the current ALA President, Sari Feldman, and ALA’s President-Elect, Julie Todaro, who argued that libraries and their staff are more relevant than ever, “At a time of information overload and growing gaps between digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ the roles for dynamic and engaged librarians are growing. Though their skills and the technologies they use may be changing, they have never been more valuable to people of all ages, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds.” You can find their full response here: http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/librarians-digital-age-wsj-response/)
As librarians, we all know how relevant we, our services, and our institutions are to our communities and society in general. We know that libraries are more than just book repositories, and we use the Internet and new technologies to perform our jobs better than we ever have before. But, how do we convince non-library users that all of this is true?
Through February’s discussion, many people discussed topics for elevator speeches when coming across non-library users who believe libraries are obsolete. Here are some topics that were brought up during the discussion:
- Over centuries, people have speculated upon the death of physical books whenever a new technology has arrived, the most recent of which has been e-books and e-readers. However, all these new technologies haven’t deterred people from still reading (physical) books; in fact, recent reports have suggested that e-book sales declined in 2015 (such as this article from February in the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/03/ebook-sales-falling-for-the-first-time-finds-new-report). While people may prefer physical books for various reasons, it is clear that they are an ingrained part of our culture and won’t disappear as fast as technology changes.
- Pre-Internet information isn’t as readily available online as current information. While a great deal of historical artifacts and collections have been digitized, plenty of historical documents haven’t been digitized due to copyright restrictions, privacy concerns, or lack of digitization materials or funds. This is why archivists are just as vital today than they have been, whether through digitization efforts or preservation of historical documents. Similarly, we need librarians who will preserve digital content for the future, particularly with how easy it is for website links or content to disappear. Resources like the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (https://archive.org/web/) are important for saving our current information for later generations.
- Computers are only as smart or intuitive as the person who uses them. Therefore, they cannot think for themselves or do tasks beyond what they are programmed to do. Even with a completely virtual library, a librarian is still necessary to create the programs, organize the information, and collaborate with patrons to find the information they desire. Likewise, while anybody can access information online, finding correct or reputable information is more difficult. Google can offer thousands of results, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the first results are the best or correct results. Patrons need librarians to guide them through the resources available to them. The Internet has made website evaluation an excellent skill to possess, whether for students trying to do research or public patrons who are just looking for information on a particular subject.
- Despite that people are more connected because of the Internet, people still crave in-person interactions. By nature, we are social creatures, and regardless of the library, patrons may come to the library to meet with others or chat with librarians. Those experiences can’t be completely replicated online.
- Additionally, librarianship is remarkably complex, from quasi-social work to computer programming, all of which requires professional librarians. As technology has evolved, we have evolved with it to meet our patrons’ needs better. Card catalogs have changed into digital catalogs, which continuously improve. Databases have become easier to navigate and manipulate to accommodate a variety of research skills. Even most libraries have changed from being havens of complete silence to community centers where people can meet, collaborate, and partake in programs and events for people of all ages. So, as search engines become increasingly effective at understanding how people search for information, so will librarians and their resources.
- Libraries are neutral areas that have been proven to be places of refuge in times of strife and uncertainty. A prime example of this is the Ferguson Library in Missouri, who stayed open during unrest in the Ferguson streets to serve all their patrons in 2014, proving that libraries are integral parts to the communities they serve. In addition, libraries can help communities thrive and learn new skills amid chaos. As the world changes, patrons may rely on their libraries to learn about topics such as sewing, water purification, gardening, and raising livestock.
- Not everyone can afford or justify the expense for technology and internet access compared to more basic necessities, such as food, shelter, electricity, heating, or other family/children needs. Therefore, libraries offer patrons, regardless of economic status, with a place to use the Internet and technology for free. As people are forced to use computers to perform more tasks, such as filing taxes, apply for jobs, or fill out immigration papers, libraries offer patrons more opportunities to perform these tasks that they couldn’t at home, along with librarians who can guide them how to use computers and the Internet. Additionally, even some college students rely upon the library to complete assignments and courses that they may not be able to without such academic support.
Beyond the elevator speech, people offered other advice on advocating libraries and their resources to non-library users. First, librarians need to understand why people in their communities don’t use the library, which may mean actually talking with those constituencies. For those people who are ignorant of what libraries offer, librarians must be prepared to share facts and statistics, such as number of resources, library usage, and programs and services offered. Also, provide people who haven’t been into a library in years (or even decades) and opportunity to visit a modern library, which may challenge their outdated or traditional perspective of what a library is or should be.
Of course, there will always be dissenters who believe libraries are obsolete no matter what facts or information that you provide. Some individuals will always believe that everything they need to know can be found online or can be fixed by some technological advancement, and everything they don’t use must be obsolete. Other individuals will always believe their tax dollars should only be used for government branches that they see as more important, such as the military or the police, and everything else must be useless. While these two cases don’t cover all the types of dissenters out there, librarians must accept that there are some dissenters who will never change their minds and can only discover how vital libraries are with personal experience.
However, as librarians, we need to advocate ourselves, the importance of our work, and how we serve our communities. We are a constantly evolving profession, and if we want our constituencies’ perspectives on libraries to change for the better, we need to make them aware why we are more relevant now in the information age than ever before.
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