I am a digital librarian. I did not begin my tenure in the library professiong thinking of myself as such, but through my work, my research, and my reading, I have adjusted my thinking about the nature of librarianship to include the expansive possibilities that “digital” offers. Somewhat to my surprise, I find that this adjustment, this addition of the “digital,” does not so much as shift the nature of librarianship – or move it away from its core, traditional values of access and preservation – as expand the responsibilities and responses of the vocation to accommodate the increased access and preservation needs that our transitional period of history, the so-called “Digital Era,” demands.
Like most digital library positions, my position exists in the interstices of the library: My domain is metadata but not the catalog, reference questions but not the desk. This “in-between-ness,” the interstitial nature of digital librarianship, is proper to my position given that the backbone of my work, digitization, is a process that occurs in that transitional (and transformative) space in-between the complex and the simple, traditionally, and, more recently, in-between the physical and the virtual.
For digitization, as I see it, is not new. Rather, I define digitization as a process that makes the complex object simpler by breaking it into bits in order that it might be re-aggregated into new, more malleable media. Consequently, I believe digitization “is not merely a phenomenon of the current age, but an active force throughout technological history,” one whose technological progeny include telegraphs, typewriters, radios, televisions, and even letterpress printing, and whose current best expression is that most powerful of digitizers, the computer (Kirschenbaum 134).
This definition of digitization is important to my conception of digital librarianship because if digitization, as I claim, is not new, then neither does the position of digital librarian represent the sea-change many want to claim it does, as the products ‘digitization’ produces – anything from books to databases – include materials that librarians have dealt with for centuries.
This is not to say that the computational model of digitization has not drastically changed librarianship in the past few decades. It has. The change, however, is not so much a paradigm shift as it is an expansion. As Stephen Ramsey explains, “The computer revolutionizes, not because it proposes an alternative to the basic hermeneutical procedure, but because it reimagines that procedure at new scales, with new speeds, and among new sets of conditions” (31). That is, the new scales and speeds computation has wrought on society do not change what digitization is or does, but computation does so increase the scale and speed at which digitization can be done that new ways and means of working with digitization and its products must be imagined.
So, to my mind, digital librarianship is a re-imagination of librarianship, one that does not propose alternatives to the traditional values of librarianship – Access and Preservation – so much as re-envision new ways of honoring those values by providing expanded modes of access online and by assisting both libraries and individual patrons with the daunting task of preserving their virtual records, research, and writings. But while I conduct my own work as a digital librarian believing that what I do is strongly connected with the traditions of librarianship, I also feel an increased urgency and dedication to the expansion of that tradition because I believe we live in a transitional era, one whose participants need and desire more and better access to primary, historical resources and whose digital materials need more care and thought given to their preservation.
Accordingly, I develop digital collections and their online portals with a user’s access foremost in mind and strive to make these portals as inviting and browseable for the general user as they are detailed and searchable for the researcher. My websites’ designs are expressions of my belief that access should be unfettered and intuitive as I design them so that their contents are available through several different expressions – be that via a map, a timeline, or a subject-based tag cloud – and so that the items, their metadata, and the collection’s contextual information are available to users in much the same way the physical folders of documents or photographs that hold the original items are available in our Special Collections & Archives department.
In terms of preservation, I believe librarians have a duty to educate their patrons about the ways and means by which they can best obtain, save, organize, and archive their own digital files and data. I did not enter my job holding believing this as firmly as I do now. Through my research, I gained a better understanding of how (and how poorly) people interact with their digital files and have, due to the insights I gained doing so, designed presentations and tutorials on how to collect, clean, and visualize both one’s own data – i.e. that data collected about one via their smart phone – and other publicly available data of importance such as that released by Wikileaks. Similarly, because I witnessed, when I first began my position, how essentially useless a poorly maintained digital archive is, I now spend a great deal of time establishing standards and procedures for preserving the library’s digital content so that it might be accessed and used by future generations. So through both my research and my work, I have witnessed firsthand the need and urgency for increased digital preservation work and education in the library, which has in turn even more firmly centralized the principles of digital preservation in my own work.
The double bind and opportunity of digital librarianship is that it must deal simultaneously with both the macro and the micro, uncovering both the emergent patterns of the everyday and the exceptional objects that accumulate into these patterns. As such, the digital librarian’s mode must be that of re-discovery, of uncovering that which has been here all along but which has been missed, forgotten, or at a scale too large or small for us to see. I count myself lucky in that I am called upon, as a digital librarian, to create new ways for users to see and find this re-discovered material. I find this work extremely satisfying because I believe it to be important not only for the Library and University but also for the State of Idaho and the Northwest generally. I believe this because I feel the digitization that these exceptional objects undergo and the online access we provide to them allows all those interested in Idaho and our University, be they in Moscow or Pocatello, Seattle or Helena, the ability to uncover for themselves those objects and patterns that make our institution, our library, and our collections unique and important to the larger histories and ideas that scholarship, both digital and otherwise, produces.
Devin Becker is the Digital Initiatives Librarian at the University of Idaho
Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2008.
Ramsay, Stephen. Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.
 My definition is not my own, but is itself based on a definition digital humanist Matthew Kirschenbaum adopts from Humanities researcher Morris Eaves.
When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2006, I swore I would never do another day of school. I love learning, but I hate homework with the fire of a thousand suns. However, in 2009, an opportunity presented itself that would allow me to earn my master’s degree from the comfort of my own home, and I would have been foolish not to take it. The Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) worked out an agreement with the state libraries of Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming that created a learning cohort, nicknamed SWIM. This was for the University of North Texas to provide a way for interested librarians to get their master’s degrees online. I was highly encouraged by several people to apply for this program, and so I did. I was fortunate enough to earn a scholarship that eventually paid for all of my tuition. This was an opportunity that you just don’t turn down, and so, with trepidation, I found myself back in the world of academia. I’m not going to lie, the first semester was pure hell. There were many times I felt I had made a huge mistake in going back to school, and not only was I not going to excel, but that I was going to fail miserably. I know I’m not the only one who felt this way. For me, it had been a scant four years since I last hit the books. For others, I know it had been many more years. Many of us had fulltime jobs, families, and religious and community commitments. How were we going to get through this?
On August 18, 2012, I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I am proud to report that I earned an “A” in each class, and I aced the final week of tests. When my year anniversary came a few months ago, I started to reflect on grad school and some of the things that helped me get by. I hope that this advice will help those who are nervous about going back, or to those who have just started and are feeling as inadequate as I did.
1. Find your support group.
One of the only reasons I got through grad school is because my husband helped me in any way he could. He cooked, he cleaned, and when we had our daughter, he spent endless hours taking care of her so I could focus on getting homework done. He was my rock. I was also fortunate enough to have three of my coworkers and a close friend of my mother-in-law also in the same program, so I was able to rely on them when questions arose about specific assignments. It doesn’t matter who your support group is (family, friends, drinking buddies, etc.), just know who to turn to when the need arises. Grad school is stressful, and it’s nice to have someone who will listen when you need to vent, or help you keep your sanity as you try to juggle school with life.
2. Find the classmates and the mentors who can help you.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There are some really bad students out there, ones who don’t check in that often on group work, or who will write the most inane comments on your work that you’ll want to pull your hair out. Fortunately, I only met a few of them throughout my time at school, and I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing more frustrating than someone who won’t pull his or her own weight. On the flip side, there are really good students out there, too – ones who take charge, have insightful comments, and are really good spellers. My hope is that all your classes will be filled with the latter type. I know this won’t always be the case, though. Strive to find those good students, or – better yet – become that student. Your fellow classmates will thank you.
As part of our SWIM agreement, all those who received scholarships agreed to become mentors to other students who are pursuing MLS degrees. In addition, there are other librarians throughout the state who have agreed to become mentors. For that information, contact Shirley Biladeau at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 639-4149. She will put you in contact with one of us, and we are more than happy to help you, even if it’s just a shoulder to lean on. Also, if you’re attending the same school we did, we can tell you which classes are really worth taking.
3. Find the time to get your work done.
I think it’s very natural to procrastinate (or maybe I just think this because it seems like I’m the queen of procrastination). However, in grad school, procrastination will quickly become your enemy, especially if you’re completing an online degree. For me, because I was doing an online degree and I wasn’t going to a regular class, it was easier for me to think that I could play now and do my homework later. I found out that “later” needs to be today. It is so easy to put things off until the very last minute, but it’s not always the wisest course of action. I remember one time when my in-laws called me concerning a medical emergency, and they needed me to watch their daughters while they were in the hospital. I had a five page paper due the next day, which of course added to my already high stress of the medical emergency. I was up late that night, and had to be up early the next day to get the girls to school. Fortunately, I got the paper in on time, and I think it was somewhat coherent. Of course, we can never plan when emergencies are going to come up (hence the reason they’re called emergencies), but that is why it is even more important in grad school to not put things off. Also, you should carve time out of every day to get schooling done. I would start mine about an hour after I got home from work and went until I needed to go to bed. After I had my daughter and because she had a crazy sleep schedule, I found myself studying at random times during the day (and night). Find the time that is best for you and your life, and stay on top of things.
4. Find your stress release.
This is my favorite thing to tell people. As stated before, grad school is very stressful, and I firmly believe that all students need to find the thing that calms them down the most. Maybe it’s a quick run, knitting, or cleaning. It doesn’t matter what it is, just be sure you have something you can do when school gets to be too much. My stress release was a punching bag, and this is how I found out that I needed one: In my first semester, which also happened to be my most stressful semester (mainly because I didn’t know what I was doing), I had to do a group project with some other classmates. Funny enough, I don’t remember what the project entailed, but I do remember that I was in charge of taking notes from our discussion and getting the whole project started. The next day, when I went to start the project, I couldn’t find those notes anywhere. My husband and I scoured the house, but we both came up empty. The pressure and the stress got a little much for me, and in frustration, I kicked the wall (I had wanted to punch it, but luckily I remembered my walls are pretty thick and I probably would have injured my hand). Then I burst into tears and sobbed for about five minutes straight. My poor husband was stunned and unsure what to do, as he had never seen me act this way. Eventually I was able to calm down and recreate the project from memory. We found a punching bag for me not too long after that. Anytime I became frustrated with schoolwork, I would go throw a few punches, and then get back to work. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s what worked for me. Sometimes, you just need to take a few steps back and do something that gets your mind off of whatever is stressing you out.
5. Find time to relax.
I can hear your questions now: “What? Find time to relax? Didn’t you just say not to procrastinate?” Yes I did, but I also think it’s very important to take some time away from studying. Catch a movie, read a book, or do game night with friends. If I didn’t take a break every now and then, I’m pretty sure I would have gone crazy. Take a night off and remember what life was like before grad school started. Trust me on this: you’ll be glad you did.
Grad school is not fun. Anybody that goes through it knows that. However, there is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you get that piece of paper that proclaims, “I did it. I finished grad school. Now I can have a life again.” But until then, to use a phrase I heard constantly during my own schooling, just keep swimming. You can do it. You can make it through. It will be hard and miserable, and at times you will wish a pox on your professors for assigning all of the reading and papers. All of us who have our degrees are rooting for you and we understand what you’re going through. Good luck.
Beth Swenson is the Outreach Librarian at Twin Falls Public Library.
Culture and language fascinate me. Libraries seem to me to be the perfect places to slake one’s thirst for things cultural and linguistic: in the library we have access to the thought and languages of the ages, as well as to current discussions of the world and the implications of modern political decisions. I am passionate about the ways libraries can bring people of all cultures and backgrounds together. So when I was asked to be the chair of the Idaho Library Association’s annual 2012 conference in October, I hoped there would be a way to combine my interest in worldwide libraries with my dedication to the freedom of information and vitality found in our Idaho libraries. Thankfully, others shared my ideas as well, and it is with excitement and anticipation that we find ourselves now in the final planning stages of the conference, which is built around the theme: “Everywhere You Want to Be.” Let’s step beyond our borders and explore the world!
Now I don’t have vast experience with international libraries, simply interest in all things cultural and linguistic. However, two years ago I was invited to go to Germany to attend the christening of the daughter of a dear friend. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to visit Sylvia, a long-time pen pal who lives in the small town of Verl in northern middle Germany. Sylvia, who knows me well, arranged for me to meet and speak with the director of her town’s library. How exciting! Like many other librarians, I feel a vacation isn’t really complete unless I can visit a library sometime during the trip. Although my German is only barely passable, I was anxious to talk to the director and see what a library was like in another country.
As we walked in the doors, I was surprised to see how new the library building was. I suppose I thought all European libraries would be scores, if not hundreds of years old, but the Verl library was just celebrating its tenth year of operation. The familiar smell of books and bindings and waiting words greeted me and I felt immediately at home. A librarian led us on a brief tour, and although I couldn’t immediately grasp the cataloging or shelving system, I still felt comfortable surrounded by shelves of books and busy children happily playing on computers and with puppets in the youth area. Then the librarian led us up the stairs into the administrative offices where my German would really be put to the test.
A bright and obviously very professional woman was waiting in her office. She stood to shake my hand, and was patient as I greeted her in my stilted German. For a minute I thought I had probably made a terrible mistake in thinking I could carry on a conversation with this obviously busy and impressive director. Then I asked a question about her integrated library system and all of a sudden the walls between us came down. We discussed our shared concerns, successes, and disappointments regarding library systems in general. Words came quickly, and we had a wonderful, warm discussion. By the time we ended our meeting, I felt the confidence that comes from mutual sharing and understanding. Sure, German libraries are a bit different than what I am familiar with in the United States, but at the core we share similar outlooks and goals. I realized that as librarians we are part of a very large force of thinking people around the world who recognize and are committed to the power of words and literacy and information.
Verl Library in Germany
But not all libraries in all countries are similarly dedicated to the free access of information. My father, Ken Luker, was also a librarian during his working career, but in an academic instead of a public library. I remember that in the early 1990s, as the former Soviet bloc began to allow a bit more openness, Dad was invited to go to Eastern Europe to visit libraries in Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. When he came home again after a month or so of intense work and travel, he described poorly lit libraries where scholars had little or no access to resources, and where the idea of lending materials was unheard of, even shocking. When Dad proofread this article, he added these recollections, “The shocking thing, I think, was not just the failure to lend books, but the failure even to allow anyone into the book stacks: It was retrieval by a library clerk, always, and often only by appointment. Browsing at the shelves was forbidden, and the only index to the collection was a card or book catalog, if it existed, which was often in sequence only by author. My take-away impression after all these years is remembering, when the single fluorescent light in the ceiling was turned on just for us visitors, the sight of a hopeful library user squatting near the floor in a dark alley between catalog cabinets, straining to read the bedraggled catalog cards with the feeble light from a window high in the wall.”
After listening to Dad’s experiences, I was very interested and excited when Amy Campbell, one of the librarians in my own library, had the opportunity to go to Ukraine to build international library connections and see firsthand the changes that have occurred in the past years. She wrote about her experience in the Fall edition of the Idaho Librarian. (https://theidaholibrarian.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/ukranian-libraries-past-and-present/) Amy wrote, “Under the Soviets, libraries did not flourish as areas of free intellectual activity. Instead, censorship, purging of records, and the retroactive changing of history were normal occurrences in Soviet libraries in the 20th century. . . . After so many decades of secrets and restricted information, Ukrainian librarians take a tremendous amount of pride in their freedom of information policy. Most libraries are open to all Ukrainian citizens; they simply must apply for a reader card and occasionally pay a small fee to belong to the library. At that point, the reader may access any information housed in the library. For example, the parliamentary library keeps careful records of all governmental and legal decisions made by Ukrainian politicians, and these records are available for any of their readers to peruse. For a region of the world that spent so many recent years under oppressive and violent regimes, this freedom of information is miraculous.”
I was fascinated by the changing ideas of openness and freedom represented by these visits and observations from librarians on the outside. Because we write and live and work in an atmosphere where there is much more access to information, it is sometimes difficult to comprehend the huge paradigm shift that has taken place to allow such freedoms as do exist in Eastern Europe.
This vast difference in the expectations and practices of libraries around the world brings me to some questions posed by Fiona May, the publicity chair of our upcoming conference. Fiona asked, “In what ways are libraries around the world similar to one another? What common goals and interests bind libraries together? Are there ways librarians can and should support one another beyond the state and national associations we usually think of?” Answers to these questions lie at the heart of our conference theme: Everywhere You Want to Be.
I believe libraries around the world do share some common purposes and goals. I believe there is a golden thread that weaves through libraries everywhere that consists of the desire for, even if not always the practice of, openness and access to learning. Libraries are the repositories of the wisdom of the ages, they can also be places where people of today gather and learn and talk and find some appreciation for whatever hankering they may have toward learning or thinking or developing.
As New York writer Sheila O’Malley, recently wrote in a movie review, “Looking for like-minded people and kindred spirits is something we all do during our time on this planet, and finding kindred spirits in the giants of the past, the artists and writers who came before, is one of the ways that [people] feel less alone, or find the strength to keep going.” (http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/culture/2012/02/5342531/oscar-scouting-report-best-picture-some-deserving-nominees-plus-help) Libraries are places where the search is possible, and where the anticipation of discovery permeates the atmosphere. It’s not always like this, of course, but it is an ideal, and when reality and expectation meet, there is where learning and appreciation and recognition of our common humanity can take place. That, for me, is the shared experience of libraries everywhere, and the type of connection our Idaho Library Association conference wants to acknowledge and promote. Join us in the celebration! 2012 ILA Conference
Kathryn Poulter is a Librarian at the Marshall Public Library in Pocatello, Idaho. She is also the Chair of the 2012 ILA annual conference.
Are you passionate about libraries and interested in leadership development? You could be Idaho’s next Emerging Leader! This summer both the Idaho Library Association (ILA) and the American Library Association (ALA) will accept applications for the 2013 ALA Emerging Leaders Program. If chosen as ILA’s representative to the program, you could receive a $1,000 scholarship to participate!
The Emerging Leaders (EL) program is a unique opportunity for people who work in libraries to attend two ALA conferences and participate in problem-solving work groups. EL is a leadership development program that enables library staff to work with their peers from across the country on ALA projects. The program is designed for librarians of any age with less than five years of experience or who are under 35 years of age. Upon the completion of the program, participants are encouraged to serve on an ALA division, chapter, or round table committee or workgroup.
In 2013, EL’s fifty participants will be awarded grants to attend the Midwinter Meeting (January 25-29) in Seattle, Washington, and the Annual Conference (June 27-July 2) in Chicago, Illinois. The Windy City also happens to be the location of the ALA headquarters. The application for ILA sponsorship will be posted on the ILA website in May with a deadline of June 30. If you are not selected by ILA, you can still apply for sponsorship through ALA groups by August 1. Participants must be an ALA member, and if sponsored by ILA, an ILA member.
Emerging Leaders Program Adventures: A Personal Experience
I have fond memories of my time spent as a 2011 Emerging Leader (EL) in San Diego, California, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The program begins with the opportunity to select a special project to work on with other EL members. Project topics ranged from developing a Money Smart Week website to writing a scholarship marketing plan to designing a webinar learning series to developing a videogame collection. I selected Librarians Build Communities, a volunteer service day for librarians. My team sought ways to expand the ALA program by designing a national project to match skilled librarian-volunteers to volunteer projects in their local community year round.
The first EL session began on Friday at the Midwinter Meeting. Facilitators Maureen Sullivan (now 2012-2013 ALA President) and Peter Bromberg (Princeton Public Library Assistant Director) shared their knowledge about ALA governance, principles and practices of effective leadership, and guidelines for successful projects. We then split into teams of five and formulated ideas on how to develop and implement our project. An ALA staff liaison and project mentor also assisted each team with designing the project.
After a group photo, we adjourned for a series of networking receptions set in hotels and restaurants. The following three days were spent circulating in a whirlwind of what can only be described as librarian utopia: book hoarding, vendor swag snatching, and tech gadget exploring. I trekked across the massive convention center in search of author book talks, raffles (and won an iPad!), and informative sessions on eBook technology, library trends, grant writing, and Wikipedia. The educational lectures, panels, and discussions with seasoned librarians, professionals, and celebrity authors like Neil Gaiman were beyond inspirational.
Thereafter, the EL program continued in an online learning and networking environment. My team met up for online chat sessions every 2-4 weeks and shared information using Google docs. We conducted research, interviewed ALA staff and volunteer coordinators and discussed volunteer programs across the country. Then we formulated a plan for the expansion of Librarians Build Communities in our own communities.
Six months after the Midwinter Meeting, the Emerging Leaders meet again at the ALA Annual Conference. More than 25,000 registrants, staff, and exhibitors attend the annual conference and there are hundreds of sessions and events to attend. The conference kicked off with a full day of Emerging Leaders sessions: we spent time reviewing and assessing the project experience, while the facilitators discussed lessons learned about effective leadership in associations. To commemorate the successful completion of the program, the facilitators presented certificates and pins to the participants. The program culminated with a poster session and reception extravaganza in which we displayed the results of our projects to conference attendees.
What did I take away from my experience as an Emerging Leader?
I learned how ALA functions as a large, dynamic organization and how to get involved with programs, projects, and committees;
I received leadership advice from some of the top innovators in the library field;
I shared experiences with hundreds of committed and enthusiastic librarians;
I came to understand the author and publishing world better than ever before;
I experimented with cutting-edge technology and academic databases;
I learned about interpersonal relationships, efficiency, and time management through virtual collaboration;
I experienced new ideas and philosophies, and offered my own perspective of how libraries differ around the world; and,
I came away feeling energized and empowered to do more in my own libraries!
Now, it is your turn. Are you ready to take the challenge and become an Emerging Leader? If so, I’ll see you in Seattle!
In 1999 the Boise City Library conducted a survey of area residents to determine use of and attitudes toward library services offered in the greater Boise area. Since then, vast changes have occurred in Boise and nationwide in the demographic, social, and technological environments in which libraries operate. Boise’s library service profile and usage have also changed significantly in the last few years. The current study is being used to update the1999 study and has four key objectives:
* Determine the characteristics of library users and non-users and which segments of the community are well served, under served, or not served by the library,
* Understand which current library services are most desired and relevant to the population,
* Identify barriers to the use of library services, and
* Identify new services and opportunities that would benefit the community.
In 2010, ORC launched a new address-based sampling (ABS) and data collection methodology, CDP SamplingTM. In the 1999 study, a random-digit dialing (RDD) telephone survey was used to contact all survey respondents. Recent research has identified coverage problems with the RDD telephone approach as more and more households move to cell phone-only or cell phone-primary households. This is particularly true of the harder-to-reach, younger segments of the population, as well as those living in multi-unit dwelling types or who are renters. Mail surveys often generated low and non-representative response rates. Telephone contacts are often made to increase response rates, but these calls are only made to households with listed landline telephone numbers.
Address-based sampling is based on a random sample of households in Boise City and the Boise City Area of Impact from the U.S. Postal Service Delivery Sequence File (DSF). This file encompasses nearly all U.S. households and is updated regularly. Addresses from that list were matched against key databases to provide telephone numbers where possible. If a phone number was appended, that household was then contacted by phone to complete the interview. If no telephone number was available, a letter was mailed to the address asking the respondent to complete the survey online or by calling into a toll-free number.
The end result was a total of 1,156 surveys being completed: 778 by phone and 378 online. The majority (n = 893) surveys were completed by library users; the balance (n = 263) were completed with library non-users. More information is provided in the Sampling and Data Collection and Demographic Profiles and Weighting sections.
Overall, residents of Boise feel that the public library is very important to the community. They feel that the most important services are traditional library services—such as the lending of books, providing research materials, and educational classes for youth.
* On average, past-12-month users of a public library in Boise rate these services as more important than non-users. Residents between 18 and 34 years of age generally give the highest importance ratings for most library services.
However, ratings of importance to the community are not necessarily a reflection of how services are used. For example:
* The lending of books, movies and music are considered important (89% of respondents) and also are top in usage (89% of users)
* Research information and resources are rated as very important (92%), but are comparatively low in usage (49% had gotten information for personal use, 26% for schoolwork)
Use of Library Services
Just over three out of four (77%) adult residents claim to have used a Boise City public library in the past year—a significant increase from 1999 when fewer than two out of three (64%) adult residents had visited the library. Half (50%) of all library users expect their use of the library to increase over the next five years.
Use of library services can be divided into three broad categories:
1) The Basics
Basic services include borrowing books, DVDs, CD’s or eBooks, renewing or viewing information online, linking to the library remotely, and having materials mailed or delivered.
* Nearly all (93%) library users have used the library for one of these services in the past year.
* Nine out of ten (89%) borrow books, DVDs or CD’s.
2) To Get Work Done
This category includes accessing a library computer, using the library for computer or technology tutoring, gathering information for personal use or school work, and using the library as a resource for finding jobs.
* Three out of four (74%) library users have used the library for at least one of these services in the past year.
* Nearly half have used the library to get information for personal use (49%) and/or to use library computers (48%). (Note that the survey did not distinguish between Internet computers and catalog computers.)
* Nearly three out of ten (28%) library users received one-on-one tutoring on computer skills or technology. One in five (19%) have used the library to help find a job or for work-related purposes.
3) Meet & Attend Activities
This includes going to the library for enjoyment or attending activities, meeting for non-library functions, and participating in activities for children, teens, and adults.
* Two out of three (67%) library users have used the library for at least one of these services in the past year.
* Almost one in four (23%) have attended a children’s program or activity. Attendance of children’s programs is particularly high for multi-lingual families (39%) and stay-at-home moms (66%).
Satisfaction & Areas for Improvement
Those who have used the library in the past year are quite satisfied—top-two box satisfaction of 91 percent— with Boise’s libraries, up significantly from 1999 when the top-two box satisfaction rating was 85 percent. Three out of four users (76%) are extremely likely to recommend the library to others and additional 17 percent are somewhat likely to recommend—top-two box of 93 percent. Again this compares favorably to 1999 when 89 percent of library users said they would recommend the library to others.
The highest rated services among all users of a given service are:
* Responsiveness of staff. Nearly all (97%) users rate this as good (25%) or excellent (72%).
* Staff Assistance with Research Questions. Ninety-five percent (95%) of users rate this as good (25%) or excellent (71%).
* Activities for Kids. Over nine out of ten (94%) rate activities for children as good (33%) or excellent (61%).
However, there are areas for improvement.
* Increase the number of publicly available computers. At 73 percent top-two box satisfaction, this received the lowest overall satisfaction score of all services. Access to computers is particulary important to younger users (18-34 years).
* Increase the hours of service. This received the second lowest satisfaction score (77%), and the highest level of interest among “possible” library services.
* Identify opportunities at Main Library and Hillcrest: The Main Library and the Library! at Hillcrest received significantly lower ratings than the other libraries on overall quality (83% and 85%, respectively) and on quality of facilities ( 73% and 79%).
* Better address the needs of multi-lingual households. Only two out of five multi-lingual households (41%) are extremely satisfied with their primary library, and 12 percent are neutral compared to 60 percent of English-only households being extremely satisfied and only 5 percent neutral.
Potential New Services
Both users and non-users were most interested in existing library services and in online payment of fines and fees.
For users, the highest interest “possible” services are:
* Longer hours/more days (55%)
* Online payment of fines and fees (51%)
For non-users, the highest interest “current or potential” services are:
* Online payment of fines and fees (42%)
* Checkout DVDs and CDs (39%)
* Downloadable ebooks (38%)
* Public computers (36%)
Both groups are also interested in classes and continuing education, and in educational/art exhibits.
Except for education, demographic differences between library users and non-users are not dramatic, although significant differences do exist. Compared to library users, those who had not used a public library in Boise in the past 12 months are:
* Less likely to have a college degree (44% vs. 65% for users)
* Less likely to have children in the household (28% vs. 40%)
* More likely to be male (56% vs. 46%),
* More likely to be over 44 years old (56% vs. 46%).
Three out of four (75%) non-users have used a public library in Boise at some point in the past. The primary reasons that non-users give for not visiting a public library in the past year are that they had no real need or interest (37%), they use another library (15%), or they use the Internet (14%). Nearly three-quarters (73%) use online sources (free or retail) for finding books, music, movies, or information.
When asked to indicate their interest toward library services, non-users are fairly neutral. However, five of the top seven services are already offered by Boise Public Libraries.
Non-users were also asked what can be done to encourage them to become users. The top actions are to get more / better / newer materials (20%) and to advertise or promote library services (18%). This, combined with the finding that the library already offers services that would are of interest to non-users suggests that most non-users simply may not be aware of all of the services that the library has to offer and that the most effective way to convert them into users is to build awareness of these services.
Submitted by Joanne Hinkel, Community Relations, Boise Public Library – Main Library
Alan Virta, the Head of Special Collections and Archives at Boise State University’s Albertsons Library, retired on Friday, October 28, following a career of nearly 24 years at the university. I had the honor of sitting down with him recently and asking about his journey to Boise State University and some of the key events in his position as Head of Special Collections.
1987, when I applied. Well, I’d been working at the Library of Congress for 12-13 years and I was ready for a change. I had spent really what would have been my twelfth year at the Library of Congress on a fellowship. The Mellon and the NHPRC had a fellowship for mid-career archivists, people who’d been working for a while to go to another institution and do their work. There were three fellows a year, and my supervisor who may have suspected I was getting bored said, “Here’s the flyer, maybe you should apply for this.” So I went through the application process and the institution I went to, one of three, was the University of Southern Mississippi, Special Collections. There was an archivist and an assistant, and a clerk and it was mainly local history, and I really enjoyed working there for an academic year.
Then I went back to my old job at the Library of Congress, which I loved, but any particular job can get old. And I got back there and just got to thinking, “You know, I really want to work in a situation like the University of Southern Mississippi.” So I started looking at the job ads, and I think I applied for 1 or 2 jobs, including one at SUNY Stony Brook and one at Boise State University. BSU called me first and brought me out for an interview. So I was looking, I really figured I’d probably need to be an assistant archivist someplace first. And I think that was mainly the type of position I was applying for at that time. And I know it was, but Boise State’s job was the Head of Special Collections and I figured I’d apply for it anyway and got the job.
So that was your first job title, Head of Special Collections?
I’ve always had the same job title.
I was wondering if you could tell the story of traveling out here from Maryland in the middle of winter.
Oh yes. Well, my first trip here was about this time in October for my interview. It was just a beautiful, clear pristine day, and just beautiful, that was October 1987. When Tim Brown who was then head librarian called me, it was October and offered me the job and said, “How soon can you get here?” And I said, “Well, it should be after Christmas.” In January, I headed out by car from Maryland to here and my brother came along with me. And it was clear sailing all the way to the Nebraska state line and then we hit Wyoming. It took 3 days to get across Wyoming because it wasn’t snowing but there was so much wind and they closed the interstate.
And I think it was Rawlins where we got off the interstate in the middle of the day and from the truck-stop where we parked our car and were hanging out in the lobby or the entrance to the truck-stop and a jeep pulled up and the guy said, “Anyone want a ride to the Holiday Inn?” And we jumped in that jeep and we were in our hotel room by 2. That night on the news, six o’clock, they talked about the National Guard bringing people in who were trapped on the interstate, sleeping in the basements of churches, American Legion Hall, and I thought about how lucky we were.
And at the same Holiday Inn, a Harlem Globetrotter bus was there. I think it was an advance bus or crew bus, didn’t see Meadowlark Lemon or anybody like that there. But it was something to see, to drive across Wyoming. Those tall posts along the side of the road that you sometimes wonder why they are so tall, well you know, you found out why they needed to be that tall. Driving across Wyoming was scary, seeing those trucks across the interstate; it kind of felt like a scene from Mad Max. But we got here.
When you got here and started in January, what was the Special Collections staff comprised of, and could you talk about where it actually was?
It was located on the second floor of the library where the books with call numbers A-E are now. There was a big counter for CRC (Curriculum Resource Center) which was about where it is now, it was an old-fashioned counter. We were in what I guess would be the south side of the floor. There was a huge space defined by a counter with file cabinets and shelves that was not accessible to the public. And behind the counter was the Government Documents collection. In the lobby type area where the computer labs are now, there were map cases and then there was a table that was at the very south end across from the Administration building. The archives and rare books were in that room. The third floor where all the study rooms are now, there was a room where basically all the manuscript collections, including the Frank Church Collection, were housed, so if someone wanted one of those collections we had to go upstairs.
But the staff was just me and Leslie Pass, who was a Library Assistant III, and Leslie had been there many years. And she is the one who got me oriented to what we have and the procedures, and took me around and introduced me to people like at the Athletic Department, to Communications and Marketing, and Photo Services. And so it was just Leslie and I with some student assistants. And we had responsibility for Special Collections and Archives plus the Map Department, so we spent a percentage of our time doing maps. And then out at that counter there were four of us, myself and Leslie and then the Government Documents librarian Daryl Huskey and the Library Assistant III Karin Eyler who were the Government Documents people. And the four of us had specific shifts to man that counter, including evenings, one evening a week. And so we also did a lot of Government Documents work, so it wasn’t exactly 100% full-time Special Collections because we had maps and then Government Documents reference.
But Leslie then was here for maybe four or five months, then she got a job elsewhere on campus, over in the Administration building, that probably would have been the spring of 1988, late spring. Mary Carter, who had done some work in Acquisitions, she was one of the applicants to take Leslie’s place. And I hired her and she stayed for 21 years. So it was Mary and I for quite a few years, then we got a half-time Technical Records Specialist, and the first person to hold that position was Sue Masoner and she did it for a couple of years, and slowly but surely has been upgraded and now it‘s a Library Assistant II, and that‘s the position Jim has.
Do you remember what your first project or the first collection that you processed when you got here?
Really Tom Trusky in English was waiting for me to arrive because he and Ralph Hanson, Ralph was the assistant librarian, we didn’t call them associate deans, we didn’t have those titles, but he was essentially an associate dean. They had been talking with the Shipman family about getting the Shipman collection, Nell Shipman’s papers, from the family. So once I got here the negotiations were turned over to me. I talked with Barry Shipman and that was pretty much the first collection that came in after I was here.
As far as what I was processing first I can’t exactly remember. But I know Leslie and I were finishing up the processing of the Robert Limbert Collection. The Limbert collection had come in before I got here, and even before I got here, there was one person who was even finishing up the processing of the Frank Church Collection.
One of the first jobs I had to deal with was Leslie came into my office on the very first day and sat down and said, “You know, there’s a student assistant who’s not working out and we’ve got to let them go.” So I thought she meant she was asking me to fire them. Gosh, my first day here, I’m being asked to fire someone already? What do I say? Do I say, well let me investigate his work? You know, it’s kind of something to be asked to fire someone on your very first day. So I said, “Do you want to send him into my office?” And Leslie said, “Oh no, they work for me. I just wanted to let you know, I hire and fire, I just wanted to get your approval before I do it.” I said, “Well, you’ve been working with them for however long. You hired them, you fire them if you think it‘s necessary.” So she did, but I thought I was glad I wasn’t being asked to fire somebody on my first day. That would really be a bang-up start!
I was wondering if you could talk about some of the acquisitions to Special Collections through the years that you were really happy about, or that really stick out in your mind as being really significant.
The Shipman collection being about the first that came in through the installment plan. Barry Shipman, already in his late 70s, 80s, sent his late mother’s papers to us, there have been 20 or 30 shipments coming, he’ll bundle them up and send a package. We really had to wait until all arrived before we processed it, so when it comes down to it, that was probably not the first collection I ever processed.
There’s just so many of them, getting huge collections like Cecil Andrus really was a big deal. I remember the day we went out to the storage facility on Federal Way ’cause Pete Cenarrusa had gotten in contact with us and his storage unit was flooding.
Flooding with water?
Water, yes. And so it was a rescue attempt to get that out, get all his papers out of that storage facility before, they wouldn’t all have been inundated with water, but leaking roof and water running through it, that would have been bad. We’ve been able to buy a few things, like the two diaries from the nineteenth century that we have, the Metta Ellis diary from 1890 and the William H. Chapman diary from 1866, those are highlights. You know, they are all interesting in their own way, so it’s hard to single out any single collection.
If you had to pick an aspect of your job that you like the most, what would that be?
Well, it’s looking at an unprocessed collection and figuring out, looking at it, going through it, picking out through out, in your mind deciding what series it will be divided into, and then doing the processing work and doing the finding aid and then seeing that finding aid finished and the collection looking in good order, that’s the best part of the job. Unfortunately what I don’t get to do much of anymore, when it was just Mary and I we would spend 85% of our time doing that and enjoying it. But the department’s grown and the patronage has grown and outside administrative work has grown. That’s right up there, I guess I should say equal to working with people, the patrons and the staff. Patrons come in and 99% of them are just wonderful people and just thrilled to find materials on their topic and a lot of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever been to an archives and they can be excited about that. And then others have done work in archives a lot and it’s nice to hear them say nice things about our operation, the way we have collections organized. But if there was one single project that was probably the most stimulating, it was designing the new Special Collections quarters.
I was going to ask you about that.
In the early 1990s, because groundbreaking was 1993, I remember it was at a rally or a meeting or something in the amphitheater right outside the library and all the library staff was there. It was announced, I think it was the Fourth of July or something like that, it was announced that the money had been appositional or decided to fund the addition to the library. And Tim Brown said that Special Collections would be moving into the new part of the library and start designing your space. Mary and I being able to plan out what we wanted the Special Collections to look like, that was a lot of fun, and we got pretty much what we asked for.
What were some of the main components that you wanted?
AV: Well, we wanted, we knew we were a small staff and couldn’t have someone sitting at the door in the reference room and a staff person sitting in the reading room, so we designed a space so that as we did our work, me in my office and she and the students in the work area, together we could observe the reading room at the same time. And so that was the core of what we were designing. And then we also knew that we had to have an entry sort of situation so we wouldn’t worry if we turned our backs someone would be out the door, we wanted to be between the patrons and the door. And so that’s why we designed it the way we did, was so we wouldn’t have to have someone sitting in the reference room at a table watching patrons all the time. So that’s worked out pretty well. We do our work, and we observe the reading room, but designing it so that function was the main goal. And the architect said, “It’s kind of convoluted to get into your department.” They wanted to put the front door in the middle of the reading room out at the hall and we said, “No, we want people to have to pass a staff member, which is Jim’s desk before they go into the reading room. We don’t want them going out a front door.”
How long from start to finish did that take?
I think it was announced in 1990 that it was going forward. And really we did most of our design planning, it was probably by 1991, 1992, and the groundbreaking, and by that time, by the groundbreaking the plans had been drawn. Groundbreaking was in May of 1993 because it was the Monday or Tuesday right after the Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists. CIMA met in Boise in 1993, that was the year I was president of it, and we had the conference, and that very next week was when we had the groundbreaking. I think people were out in front of the fountain with shovels and Governor Andrus was there and quite a few others, we have pictures of it. That’s how I always remember it.
We also wanted display windows in Special Collections, and it was late in the process, after the groundbreaking, when I was looking more closely at the design and it didn’t, it looks like they gave us windows, but I didn’t see any space for shelves. And so we had to consult with the architects and they said, “Oh no, we gave you display windows.” But what good would display windows be without shelves to put things in? The space for the shelves and then the cabinets underneath, thankfully we caught that before the building was done.
As far as other things we wanted, I didn’t want carpet in the back because you’ve got to vacuum it and in theory it could off-gas. We were told, oh no, every room has to have carpet, but a concrete floor would have been fine for me. And I also wanted, the old front wall of the library is in the storage area, and I wanted that just to stay brick and they said no, the regulations say every interior wall has to be plaster so they wouldn’t leave it brick. But then I said no windows, and they said okay, so you know, I got no windows. That was good, so there are no windows in the back storage room, even though there is carpet and plaster on the front wall.
When you all moved into the new space, about how many manuscript collections were there, just like a ballpark number?
Oh gee, when I came here we had like 80 manuscript collections and that was in 1988, it had increased somewhat by the time we moved we had 120, something like that. I guess we could really tell by the accession books. And also some of the moving labels are still on some of the boxes, those labels with the green frog indicates it was moving. So we probably could tell by those, but we moved it all ourselves, with the help of a lot of student workers, not only our own, but some special hire student workers. And we had determined where everything would go on a shelf, so we weren’t just trying to move it in order, we knew where things were going to go.
You knew the Frank Church collection…
Was going to go on a certain shelf , yes. So we didn’t have to do a lot of rearranging. In fact, we pretty much mapped it out that we knew Box 131 was going to go on Range, whatever shelf, so that was pretty simple. You know it took a lot of planning, but once the plan was developed, it was easy to execute. So that wasn’t too bad.
The hardest part was when, because of course there was no compact shelving, both sides were equal shelving. But when we went to compact shelving, we had to decide what we were going to do with everything on the right side of the aisle. And one option was to send it out to storage, but we didn’t want to do that, so basically it filled up the reading room, that boxes were stacked four high, I think we felt four was as high as we’d stack them without being tipsy, and we basically filled the reading room and the Frank Church Seminar Room. And we had to announce that for a couple of weeks, the certain collections in those stacks would be unavailable because there’s no way you could get to them. Some were on the bottom box in the middle of the reading room, these rooms were just packed.
It was in the summertime, and that was the summer we had the fire in the, not in the library itself, but in the annex that’s over on the east end of the building. And the building had absolutely no electricity for 2 weeks, not even exit signs. The building was deemed not fit to be in, without exit signs or emergency lights going, you can’t occupy a building. So in the midst of building the compact mobile shelving, that crisis happened, and so basically the library was totally closed for two weeks. That was the summer of 2000.
So everyone had a two week vacation?
Everyone had a two week vacation. They asked that if you were doing any work from home, to write that down and somehow that could come out of the regular accounts, whereas the forced vacation, people weren’t charged leave or anything, but that sort of emergency they could draw less. That was long before things were as well developed in terms of the internet, working at home capability was nowhere near what it is today, so it was basically a two week free vacation for everybody. And I had probably the worst summer cold that I’ve ever had in my life.
So you were sick.
I never get summer colds, but that one I did. Well, it was two weeks off.
I was wondering if you could share the story about why you decided to become an archivist.
At first I was a history major and what’s a history major to do?
And you were at the University of Maryland.
I was attending the University of Maryland and taking history courses, and in the back of your mind, you wonder what you’re going to do because I knew I really didn’t want to be a teacher. At that point, I was a Junior or something, already getting burnt out and not necessarily wanting to go the Ph.D. route and all that. But I took a Maryland history course, history of Maryland, and the professor made us or told us to do a paper and you had to consult primary sources. And so I picked a topic and I had to go to the Maryland Historical Society and read through a man’s diary from the year 1739.
And what was the topic on?
The topic was on a slave uprising in my home county, Prince George’s County, in 1739. It had been reported briefly in the Maryland Gazette, the man had written in his diary and made references to it, and then of course there were court records about the trials of these slaves, once the insurrection was quashed. But never in detail was anything written in a secondary sense about it. People knew it had happened and there were brief references to it but no detail, so I decided to put all these sources together, use the Maryland Gazette which was the only newspaper in Maryland at the time, read this man’s diary, go through all the court records and testimony and like, and do my paper on that slave revolt.
But I found working with the original materials was just so wonderful, I thought, “How do you get to work in a place that has things like that?” I found out a library degree and luckily the University of Maryland had a library school and that was really easy. You just graduated and you stuck around for another year plus the summer afterward and got the M.L.S. So then I applied for jobs all over the country, and the one that hired me was the Library of Congress right at home. I didn’t have to move, and so I went to work there and that was just a wonderful place, wonderful place to work, 21 million books at your command! I worked on the staff of the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, and I really liked it. After 12 years of doing that, I wanted to get out and kind of run my own shop, and that’s what I did.
Julia Stringfellow is an Archivist in Special Collections at Boise State University.
by Lynn N. Baird, Stephanie Bailey-White, Ben Hunter, and Ann Joslin
Idaho’s children are not competitive in today’s world of a knowledge-driven economy. The statistics tell a story of chronic unpreparedness for life beyond high school.
Nearly one in four Idaho students fails to graduate from high school with a regular diploma in four years.1
Idaho ranks 46th of all states in college completion at 22.3 percent.2
Nearly 5,800 students did not graduate from Idaho’s high schools in 2010; the lost lifetime earnings in Idaho for that class of dropouts alone totals over $1.5 billion.3
The Go-to-College rate for first time freshman is less than 50%.4
Librarians, working together, have the ability to change this narrative. Librarians see children move through the informal and formal education systems. Starting with pre-kindergarten early literacy efforts in the public libraries (or in some communities, greeted with their first books in the hospital delivery room), public librarians become the first wave of child educators. When these children enter the schools, their school teacher-librarians offer opportunities for children to have library experiences in an independent setting. The public librarians continue to support informal learning and children’s access to these opportunities is dependent upon parental support (transportation and time and parental values). Throughout the school career, the classroom teacher (credentialed through institutions of higher education) may have the greatest impact on student research development. Finally, upon graduation, less than three in eight of these children will continue their learning in community colleges or four-year institutions.
In a perfect world, every child would be brought into a home that was filled with love. Part of this love would involve a commitment to create a nourishing environment for the child to successfully develop into a fully functioning member of society. However, parents come in many shapes and sizes, with no small share of distractions and demands for their time. Parents raise children as they, the parents, had been raised. We know:
Idaho has a high percentage of families living in poverty. In 2010, 55 percent of infants born in Idaho received Women Infant Children (WIC) services.5
Over 50% of public school children were eligible for free and reduced school lunches in 2010.6
Research has shown a number of things about literacy and its impact on learning. Research has also shown that skills needed in the workplace are honed in very young children.7
Children who start school behind tend to stay behind. Idaho Reading Indicator scores from 2010 show 18.5% of children entering kindergarten did not recognize three or more letters of the alphabet. Another 25% recognized fewer than 11.8
A student within the age range of 16 to 24 years of age who comes from the lowest quartile of family income is about seven times more likely to have dropped out of high school than his/her counterpart who comes from the highest quartile.9
James Heckman, Nobel Prize laureate, notes that workers develop “soft skills” in pre-school that affect their abilities to perform on the job. In his longitudinal study of students over a ten year period the girls at age 27 who had preschool experience were 50% more likely to have a savings account. The boys at age 27 earned 50% more in salary if they had been in preschool.10
Faced with these larger truths, what can a librarian do?
Collaboration is a term being used in all sectors of the economy as a means of achieving greater good with existing resources. According to Kezar and Lester,11 businesses and other organizations recognized in the 1980s that “’siloed’ work with duplicative activities and a lack of communication and synergy across function was not working anymore.” This realization gave rise to an understanding that organizations needed to be reformed, following new ways of operating. This reflection led to the adoption of flatter organizational styles, more team emphasis, and more awareness of building partnerships and collaborations. Collaboration has many side benefits: it makes us work up because we want to deliver our best efforts to achieve the team goals; it makes us work differently because we are considering our problems from more diverse perspectives that make our solutions stronger and more adaptable; and it creates learning opportunities as we want to continue to contribute our skills to make a difference in our work.
Librarians are siloed based upon the types of institutions we work in. Public librarians have little contact with academic librarians who in turn have little contact with school librarians. We hold inter-agency meetings but we retain our identities by attending the meetings that we feel will best contribute to our specific library type. There are few opportunities for us to discuss universal issues.
The faces of our children, however, should provide a unifying theme for us. Or the fate of Idaho’s future economy may be the trigger. There are probably many different ways to project our concern based on the facts we see before us.
Librarians need to reach out to one another and address such questions as: how does my library make a difference to a child’s graduation from high school? What changes could I make in my behaviors that would make a child feel welcomed and safe? What do I know about the libraries and librarians in my community? Am I aware of challenges in the schools to provide library services? Do I know about public library services being curtailed due to funding? How can I help another library be successful in its mission?
If we take the time to explore our own communities, we may be able to develop strong networks. We may be able to provide information for our local leaders to help them understand the importance of librarians to our children. We may be better informed about how we collectively might help one another as well as ourselves.
The need is there. Are we willing to step forward to try to find ways to meet the need of our children and our future?
Lynn N. Baird is Dean of Library Services at the University of Idaho; Stephanie Bailey-White is Projects Coordinator at the Idaho Commission for Libraries; Ben Hunter is Head of Cataloging and Collections at the University of Idaho Library; and Ann Joslin is the Idaho State Librarian.