Tag Archives: reference work

In which life gets away from me

I last wrote a post here in February which is longer than I wanted it to be, but my job search has been full of ups and downs. At the moment I have many ideas for a post about e-books and the language used to talk about them by publishers, authors and librarians.

In the meantime, my job world has opened up in a wonderful new way as I have always been considering work in the world of independent schools but its now in motion. Currently I’m in the process of writing a statement about myself as an educator and I keep coming back to how comfortable it feels. To me a good librarian is always a teacher/educator but sometimes its not always as obvious. In my work at the moment as a reference librarian, it feels just as a part of who I am as I help my patrons navigate Michigan’s complex resources and I learn how best to help them. Though I am eager to educate and get involved with a younger generation, because while technology and the tools available are changing, education shifts with them. Though I think the heart of education is never really going to move that much, because a love of learning can be sparked by many things and as long as it can be harnessed, the world can change.

One of my favorite courses during my masters was a professional practice course that was focused on how to be an instructor as a librarian. In this blog, many entries are about that course as it connected to multiple issues that I have always been fascinated by such as how do we learn, what are effective ways to teach and how do we as people learn and educate throughout our lives. These are lessons I know I will keep learning and I look forward to what the next step will be for me.

I will also try to put together a post about e-books as that is an issue on which there’s quite a lot to say.

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The Power of a Link

One reason I haven’t fully blacked out my blog today is that I want to use it to write about the power of connecting, which is what SOPA and PIPA are threatening. The strength of the internet is that it is a web of links and it’s possible to trace a link back to its original source. Sometimes this is harder than others but if links in these chains began to disappear then conversations and sources would be lost. It is important to protect the property of creators, but creativity also requires connections to shift and grow. None of these are new ideas, but they’re important to recall when the discussion becomes one of right and wrong.

My professional life and my personal life are enhanced and grown by links to people, organizations, authors and patrons. I want to look into how some of these links have added to my profession as a librarian and my growth as a person, because mine is just one of many stories of linkages across the internet.

As a reference librarian who works primarily for students along with researchers at the University of Michigan, my job is to help along the path of searching out sources. In this moment in time that is mainly done by tracing a citation to a full text article or learning to navigate a database or catalog to find what’s needed. Each step of the process is made up of links beginning with the researcher explaining what they’re looking for, I need to understand them and we create a human connection. From that point, we have to translate questions into language that will be understood by our search tools such as Proquest and there the links become incredibly powerful. Once the right phrase is found, it’s possible to go ever deeper and seen multiple pathways to explore a question and follow the chains of thoughts. The reverse of this is using a citation to trace back to a source and here the power of links is staggering. I’ve had people grading papers ask for my help to track back a citation and when the right one is found, there’s a moment of oh, I see how they got there.

The other side of this story for me is the links of the world of fandom where thanks to the internet creators and fans find new ways to connect and fans are constantly connecting with each other. It’s possible for me to let an author know that I loved their newest book through a tweet and know they received the compliment. I can also find new shows and books thanks to the web of connections of my friends who all have different networks and we touch at many points. We encourage each other to keep looking and searching and make the world smaller. As I’ve learned, you never know what image or music will inspire you or change your day, but I know that on the internet if I find something that touches me, I can find where it began. From that source I can found out how to follow the creator or purchase from them just as a citation shows a teacher how you began. We can’t lose any links in these chains.

A difficult part of this is figuring out which links to present for extra information as there are some incredibly good ones out there. I’m going to link a lot of them.

From Wikipedia, definitions: SOPA, PIPA

From Pajiba.com, one of the best write ups I’ve read: The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act explained with profanity

From Google: Take Action

From WordPress.com: SOPA Strike

Please think on how you connect and trace links and take action.

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Filed under goals and career, links

Patron, Friend or Acquiantance-The complications of intimacy through instant messages

This post is going to be rather more serious than my other ones as I want to talk about the challenges presented by instant messenger formats. Two recent experiences in my professional and personal life have prompted it as my solution for understanding a complex issue is to write about it.

This semester, I am working as an online reference librarian more than an in-person one and the interactions with patrons occur through an instant messaging program. They see me as Ask a Librarian and I see them as a randomly generated number or a screen name if they choose to enter one. A major part of my interaction is to create an conversation and show that there’s a human behind the name, who wants to help them succeed in their research. Recently I had someone try to take advantage of the fact that I am a human by pressing me to give them personal information in the hopes that I would create a non-professional relationship with me. It was done in a creeping manner that made me uncomfortable as mixed in with the boundary pushing questions were valid ones that I tried to answer. It also took advantage of the fact that in a normal exchange, I will discuss what I have researched and my own knowledge if it will help the patron. The instant message system created a false sense of knowing that I diverted by pointing out that I was online in a professional capacity, but the interaction shook me. The main reason it did was it felt like once the other person realized I was a woman, they moved on that more than librarian and even insulted librarians in a bid to get my sympathy. In the end I had to close the conversation in a firm and professional manner, but it reminded me of how the combination of false intimacy and lack of a personal connection makes it easy to hurt someone you can’t see. Comment sections and the harassment of women bloggers shows how this has become a daily part of the internet as pointed out by Mencallmethings on Twitter, warning for harassment and threats.

The second experience was one that occurs from time to time in my roleplaying circle where the majority of out of character conversation happens in instant messages. There’s a main chat room that is open throughout the day and night as players come from a variety of timezones and this allows for a constant conversation. I consider this chat room somewhere between a table in a college dining hall or the break room in an office, people are always moving through, different threads of conversations happen at once and the feel changes a lot depending on who is inside. This chat room is where I’ve created many strong friendships but there are many people who I only speak to in the chat room and consider acquaintances. Outside of the main chatroom, there will be one-on-one sessions and email chains, which deepen friendships. One of the tricky parts of all of this is due to the lack of tone on instant messages, there can be the sense of intimacy on one side but not the other. An example that happens often and happened to me again this week is someone messaging with a link or a quick observation, but without a clear sense of thought to who they’re contacting. In a face-to-face conversation, it’s possible to pick up clues and have a quick laugh over something small and move on. Yet in the world of instant messaging, it’s rude to simply not respond but it can be uncomfortable when it seems as if there’s a presumption of intimacy that doesn’t exist. I find these exchanges confusing as usually they come from someone who I’ve interacted with in chat but not deeply. I try to be a friendly person but at times, another window appearing and saying pay attention to me is tiring. The difficulty is to find ways to set boundaries without destroying acquaintances in the mainly toneless environment of instant messaging.

In both these situations, the main issue is how do you create boundaries in spaces where interaction is fluid and the social cues are different. Online it tends to be a case of choosing who you extend intimacy to and finding the ways to be polite and not rude as you draw a line. Due to my experience of understanding what doesn’t come across well through instant messaging in fandom, I’ve been able to keep the professional line stronger as a reference librarian. For the work interaction, I stated that I was online as a librarian and not in a social capacity and would not continue the dialogue and in time, the person left. I think when talking on an instant messaging platform, Twitter or Facebook is to remember that your intentions don’t come through so you have to be go out of your way to explain what’s behind your words. It makes the internet challenging but also rewarding when true intimacy can be created.


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