Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reference Interviews -- continued 2

When a student asks for reference help how do you determine what is too much information? Sometimes there is nothing wrong with the individual student responses, but taken in context the responses or interaction is almost amusing (
Amusing as in --"What is going on here?")

Recently a student came asking for help. The voice was quiet and the pencil sharpener was so noisy, that I had to ask the student to wait a moment before I could hear the question clearly. No problem here. The student wanted books on "human nature." Almost any book could be on "human nature" from the scholarly to the most entertaining or popular fiction. To prevent saying something curt or foolish, I paused. First mistake. The student began chatting with irrelevant and repetitious chatter. I did not need to know that the class meets on Mondays from 6:30-8:00, that the class was not meeting that night and that instead the student came to the library to get a head start on the paper due April 26. It is not my style to chat while I am thinking about solving a search or reference question.

I did a search for the words "human nature" in the title field. There were 18 hits. I looked through the list to determine the best ones for the student. I was surprised that the list of books covered a wide range of subject headings including social biology, social psychology, testosterone, philosophy of nature, and human ecology. I asked the student what the subject of the class was English or psychology. The student said, sociology and proceeded to chatter about the fact the paper was supposed to be only opinion and the book was only needed for ideas. The point was made multiple times. Finally I recommended two books, had the student copy the call numbers and pointed the student to the correct place in the stacks.

The student found the books and returned to the circulation desk. The student so very appreciative of my help and also glad to have found a third book even though only one was needed. I assured the student that reading three books on a topic is okay. The student then had to tell the circulation person (CP) the whole story of why only one book was needed, the fact the class usually meets on Mondays, but that night. CP was not amused to hear the whole story multiple times. The student fumbled when asked for the ID to check out the books. CP told the student that the books would be due in 2 weeks. The student asked for longer because the the paper is due on April 26. "No problem, just renew them on April 13. " The student asked is that after Easter. CP didn't know. I said not to worry since the library is closed on Easter. I don't think the student realized that the library is always closed on Sundays.

The student was very thankful and grateful that we were able to help. CP and I wondered if this student needed more help than available in a library.

At the reference desk the logic needed to answer quiries is much more fuzzy than computer help desk questions, however, I did need to filter the chatter from the student. It is helpful to know the subject area for the paper. The date due is sometimes helpful because it tells me the urgency of the information need. Sometimes knowing the teacher's name is helpful, but usually the time that the class meets is not needed to give a student the right directions to the library resources.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Electronic books and reading them

I once had a dream to be able to carry around a full library so that I could look up what I needed when I needed it. It would be great if I had instant full text access to the 30,000 or 50,000 books that I am most likely to need this month. The week of March 9 - 14 was Read an E-Book Week. The e-book vendors promoted e-books in PDF and other formats.

Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) practically invented the e-book in 1971. The first e-books were text typed by volunteers. The process was slow and tedious. They added not value to the text on the screen. Only public domain books were in the collection.

For more information about the project read:
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Project Gutenberg (1971-2008), by Marie Lebert. Toronto, Ont., NEF, University of Toronto & Project Gutenberg, 2008. Available online: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/27045/27045-8.txt

In August 1997 Gutenberg had 1,000 books online and by March 2009 there were 29,000. They add about 340 books each month. Now it is possible to purchase a 1 terabyte hard drive for less than $100. That is enough to store about 1 million books, which is larger than most research libraries.

Currently e-mail are sold in a variety of formats that imitate the printed page. They are sold by commercial publishers, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. I am planning a larger article on the use and place of e-books in the library and in the individual private library. If you have any comments about how you use e-books either for pleasure reading, learning, or scholarship, please let me know.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Purim Torah --> Extreme Kitchen Makeover -- Passover Edition

[Note: This is a work in progress.]

In honor of Purim this entry is an attempt at some humor. It takes a while for me to write humor, because I am limited to words without audio expression. I hope this quick version is funny.

Extreme Kitchen Makeover -- Passover Edition

Our show today is going to help a busy and anxious family. From now until Passover starts everyone is very busy and anxious about getting their home ready for Passover. One lucky and deserving family will have their kitchen totally readied for the holiday on today's show..

1. Send family away on vacation to visit grandparents. If the kitchen is getting repaired you wouldn't want the family to see the mess. After all shouldn't the grandparents share in the joy of a new kitchen? Grandparents will feel they are part of the process.

2. Remove all memories of the of the old kitchen. There is no reason the family should ever remember what the eating experience was in the old kitchen even though the changes are only on the preparation side of the kitchen.

3. Remove old counter tops. Those counter tops are havens for dirt, crumbs, bugs, and hametz. By removing them, we make sure that hametz will not be a problem.

4. Remove sink. Everyone knows the water does not always wash away problems. Give the family piece of mind and make sure no water will go where is it forbidden.

5. There is no reason to keep the old range, refrigerator or other appliances. This is a TV show; we can afford give them the very best that our sponsors want to get rid of. No sponsor leftovers or overstock is too good for this family.

6. Since hametz may be found on the floor, get rid of it. Remove the old floor down to the sub-floor. It is a lot of work to prepare the floor, but it is worth it. No one likes an uneven floor.

7. By now the job is looking even bigger than planned. The time the family will return is close. To make sure all that remains of the old kitchen is left -- implosion time. No need for any more demolition. Set the explosives and watch the walls fall. Remember dust and dirt are not food.

8. Opps the implosion turned into an explosion and the whole house is ruined. Time for a new house. We must work 24 hours a day to complete the home before the family returns.
Five days later here is the new kitchen in the new house. Just in time.

Here's the excited family returning to their house. The bearded man in the middle is the grandfather, who is exited that now the new house will be ready for Passover. This year he did not have to take apart the stove or pour hot water on the countertops. Note the little kids were so excited they would not sit still for the picture.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

March Librarian's Lobby

A philosophy class studying ethics prompted this month's Librarian's Lobby Column.
Here's the link: http://home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/crc103a.htm