Friday, July 6, 2012

Back from ALA

Well, I’m back from California. Have been for over a week, actually! Just jumped right into work and haven’t stopped since.

The good news is that I finally finished one of my major projects for the summer, which was basically cleaning out and evaluating most of the 700s in the General Stacks downstairs. That’s mostly performing and fine arts and design, including everything from the philosophy of art to city planning, with quick stops at Oprah and sculpture along the way.

One of the biggest advantages of doing this is that you get to know the collection much better -- what’s there, what needs to be, and what isn’t. So the rest of my purchases for this year and for next year as well are going to fill in some of the gaps that were either always there or opened up by my weeding older materials.

It’s really an ongoing job; this coming academic year will include weeding our literature areas, both English-language (which I did two years ago) and foreign (I did that last year); then next summer is linguistics, which I did three years ago. The schedule is wonky because I often buy more for one area than another in a given year on a rotating basis.

The deeper knowledge of your collection gained by pruning it down to size dovetails pretty well with one program I went to at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim last week, in fact. It was called, appropriately enough, “Transforming Collections,” and focused largely on how e-books are playing merry hob with tradition.

One speaker on this panel talked about a weeding project she’d started at her library, requiring librarians to clean out the collections for more space and to prepare for more e-book use, and the results. Funnily enough, it has been traditionally held that weeding is healthy for collections, both to keep them up to date and to keep librarians intimately acquainted with the information under their charge. And the librarians who worked on this project reported exactly that: a more traditional relationship with their collection while preparing it for the future!

The truth is -- and this probably won't surprise you -- "the future" is a topic of some interest for librarians in general. It was also the focus of two other panels I attended in Anaheim. The more interesting of the two invited librarians from "innovative" libraries to talk about what they'd done that was so neat.

I started taking notes while watching the interpreter (I'm one of those lucky few who can write without looking at the tablet), but after a while, I stopped following the discussion so closely. It turns out that a lot of those innovative institutions are actually doing things that we've been doing here at Gallaudet for a while! We've done "bookmobiles," cell-phone-based scavenger hunts, reference over text messaging and IM, you name it.

So we're at about the right place on the curve when it comes to trying new things. We’re throwing quite a bit of support behind e-books and other electronic resources, like video streaming and open-access journals (which are open to the public), and adjusting the collection to account for the change. Our Web site is undergoing a major adjustment to reflect all of this, which is coming up soon. We’re snapping up interesting ideas that are coming our way, and figuring out how to put them into practice. We’ve been taking on teaching roles and getting out there. Not too bad!

I also went to a bunch of programs about information literacy and library building design. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, information literacy is pretty important to librarians. So is space planning, especially when it requires some creative thinking. I’ll write more about both in future posts, but it’s too hot outside to write much more right now!

Next week, I’ll get one of my colleagues to contribute their own thoughts about ALA, and a vlog may be coming your way!

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