Research Library: A Day in the Life

I’m Emily Hamstra, Learning Librarian and Kinesiology Librarian at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, University of Michigan Library. I support undergraduate students and the School of Kinesiology by building great collections and teaching how to use the collections for research. No day in any library is ever typical, but this is what I did at the library on Friday, April 19th.

9-10am: I’m at the Library Public Services Meeting. This meeting is a giant meetup of U-M librarians who work the reference desks, circulation desks, and our technology centers. Staff often present projects they are working on or we discuss issues related to library public services. This month we had presentations from another unit on campus discussing how they support faculty technology needs related to research. The second presentation was from librarians from the Ann Arbor District Library about collections and services available for students at the public library. Of course, we all had lots of questions. Librarians love questions.

10-10:15: I’m on the RUSA Reading List Committee this year. My first shipment of books arrived today! I’m reading like a mad woman this year for the committee. It’s been great to read outside of my usual genres. I’m reading some really great books.

Continue reading

Chasing Reference: One Year Later

This week, Chasing Reference is celebrating our first anniversary. After meeting in person and beginning to plan this blog in January 2012, we quietly launched in April 2012 by posting about what the typical day is like for each of us. (Want to reminisce? Check out what Carrie, Heather, Amy, Sarah, and Emily were up to this time last year.)

In celebration of this anniversary, we’re taking the entire month of April to celebrate. Today we’re highlighting some of our personal favorite posts from the past year. It’s no surprise these also proved to be some of our most popular posts too. On Friday we’ll share our monthly What We’re Reading post. Starting Monday, we’ll be writing brand new Day in the Life posts each Monday and Wednesday. How much has changed in a year? Here are a few teasers:

  • one of us changed jobs (you can read all about her new job on April 17!)
  • there’s now a brand new Chasing Reference contributor (look for his introductory post on April 24!)
  • you’ll also be treated to a special guest post from our fearless adviser on May 1!

April will be full month of posting here, and May will mark a return to regularly scheduled programming with posts each Wednesday, as well as the first Friday of the month.

We’re also always looking for guests posts. If you’d like to contribute, send us an email with your idea(s).

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite Chasing Reference posts from the first year:

Last but not least, do you remember how we came to call ourselves Chasing Reference? It all began with C-H-A-S-E.

Thanks for reading. We hope you’ll continue on this journey with us for many more years to come.

Talking about Race

Every year the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti join together for their community read programs. This year I am on the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads Outreach Committee. The committee is made up of librarians from the public libraries and local academic libraries, booksellers, individuals from area nonprofits, and community organizers. Our job is to market the community read, and to promote events related to the read. It takes a lot of people to create the list of potential books for the community read, the final list, and then market the read. Every year a non-fiction book is chosen for the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Read based on the theme of the University of Michigan’s winter theme semester. Piggybacking on the theme semester allows the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads program to share events with the University of Michigan. The theme semesters are broad themes that can be incorporated across the disciplines. Past themes have included language, astronomy, and water. This winter’s theme semester is race.

A selection committee narrowed down a long list of titles to three finalists; Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Paul Kivel’s Uprooting Racism: How White People can Work for Social Justice. The New Jim Crow was chosen as the 2013 Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Read.

Continue reading

What our Patrons Value

by Emily Hamstra

Every time a new Pew Internet report comes out, I’m likely to stop everything I’m doing to read it. Yesterday, Pew Internet & American Life released the fascinating report Library Services in the Digital Age. The report is based on surveys and focus groups asking public library patrons what they value in library services, and how they use the library. The findings in this report greatly affect our daily work as we think about services that meet the needs of our patrons.

What captured my attention the most about this report is “main reasons patrons cite why their use [of library services] decreased.” 40% of patrons stated they “can get books, do research online and the internet is more convenient.” How many times have we all been asked about the role of our profession, collections, and spaces now that we can just “Google it”? We spend a lot of time as librarians building awesome electronic collections and services, enhancing our community’s access to quality resources from databases and downloadable ebooks to librarians through chat reference services. We often don’t have time to market these services to our patrons, teaching them how the library can enhance their digital lives. Many of our patrons might think finding information online is “more convenient” than using the library because they might not know what we have to offer. One participant in a focus group for the report says about the library, “they do so many fabulous things, [but] they have horrible marketing” (full report, pg. 38).

Continue reading

Cramming

Final exam season is here. This year, the knowledge that I neither have to take exams nor grade them fills me with giddy delight. Time that I once spent with towering piles of blue books is now dedicated to perfecting my glögg recipe and sleeping. I do, however, empathize with stressed-out students. I don’t like to see students so frustrated that they literally hit their books, as I witnessed last week. There must be a better way.

Continue reading

What We’re Reading: December 2012

On the first Friday of each month, we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

As 2012 comes to a close, I’ve been frantically trying to read all of the books I’ve been meaning to read all year, particularly those I’ve purchased and those I’ve been on the library’s waiting list for months. I ended November with what turned out to be my favorite read of 2012 (so far): These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff. It’s set in the spring of 2002 and follows Hailey, a recent college graduate trying to figure out what ‘normal’ is. It helps that Haimoff’s characters are the age I was in 2002, but this novel is smart, affecting, and an intimate portrait of both adulthood and post-9/11 New York City. Next up for me: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, which has been languishing on my Kindle for over a year and Colm Toibin’s newest, The Testament of Mary. –Carrie

This past month, I immersed myself into two very different books. The first was Gillian Flynn’s very dark and twisted Gone Girl. It was an unsettling account of a woman’s disappearance on her five-year wedding anniversary. Her husband is the main suspect and as well as the novel’s narrator and his story is interspersed with her diary entries.  Nothing and no one in this book is what it seems, and it is an exploration of the dark side of humanity. It was truly chilling. Following Gone Girl, I delved into the strange and complex world of Crewel by Gennifer Albin. Crewel is a world of Spinsters, women who have the power to weave the very fabric of reality around them. With their power, they control every aspect of life in Arras. It is considered a great honor to be chosen as a Spinster, yet Adelice Lewys wants nothing to do with that life- she spends her days in dread of being chosen. When the inevitable happens, and she is chosen as a Spinster, she discovers that her vague misgivings and suspicions barely scratch the surface of the twisted reality of life as a Spinster of Arras. Albin’s creates a world that is fascinating, engaging, and compelling, weaving together a truly engaging story.  –Heather

After a month spent with agricultural fiction (“Neighbour Rosicky,” O Pioneers!, A Thousand Acres, etc.) , I forced myself leave the farm so that I could read Andrew Solomon’s brilliant book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. I go into raptures thinking about the originality, scope, and importance of the arguments posited by Solomon. This book is about so much, including reproduction, diversity, identity, and tolerance. It’s kind of a big deal. Best of all, there’s a book trailer on vimeo. –Amy

This month, I enjoyed Rachel Maddow’s Drift. While I expected the book to be well-written and entertaining, as well as thoroughly researched (after all, Maddow has PhD in Politics from Oxford), I didn’t expect to end up thinking so much about the role of privatization in military decision-making and how the balance of power among the three branches of the U.S. government has shifted over the past 30 years.  I’ve also gone back and reread some classics in International Relations, as well as Jack Snyder’s “One World, Rival Theories,” which offers a broad perspective on the major strands of IR theory, and more interestingly, makes some excellent arguments for the ways in which theory can illuminate real-world events.  On the fiction side, I gave into my weakness for books about record stores and music fans, and have Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue next on my list. –Sarah

I’m reading Tobias Wolff’s Vietnam War memoir In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War. It’s a welcomed addition to the well-trodden genre of the Vietnam War memoir. Wolff is unflinching and brutally honest as he recounts his time in Vietnam—a time when he’ll take desperate measures to watch the Thanksgiving Bonanza special on a color television. Wolff’s gallows humor pushes me through the most sobering moments of the book. I often find myself thinking about this book when I’m not reading it. I’ve also been reading lots of email this week from the fascinating RUSA-CODES discussion about genre fiction. –Emily  

Now tell us: what books are you squeezing in before the end of 2012?

‘Tis the Season for Lists, Awards, and Nominations

by Emily Hamstra

I always look forward to this time of year for many reasons–spending time with family and friends over the holidays, the end of a busy semester is approaching, and of course, lists and awards galore. I was delighted by this year’s National Book Award winners. Yesterday, The New York Times released the 100 Notable Books of 2012.

As you scour your favorite lists and anticipate your favorite award winners this year, I want to remind you to add RUSA’s lists and awards to your list of lists and award to watch. The RUSA awards are given out yearly to honor outstanding librarians, stellar books, and forward thinking publishers and editors. The RUSA awards are something that I look forward to. I always find the winners inspiring and encouraging, and I learn about exciting resources through the awardees.

The nominations for the RUSA awards are due December 15th. There certainly isn’t better way to honor your colleagues, someone who inspires you, or your favorite resource than by putting forward an award nomination! Do you know of a library or librarian who has developed a resource or guide to literature to meet the unique needs of patrons? If so, consider recommending them for the Gale Cengage Learning Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services Award. The winner of this award will receive $3,000. Where do you go to find a good book review? Do you have a favorite book reviewer or book blog you follow? If so, consider nominating an outstanding book reviewer, book review medium, or an organization for the Louis Shores Award. The winner will be recognized at the RUSA Awards Ceremony at the ALA Midwinter Conference. There are too many awards to mention them all, so read about all the awards on the RUSA Awards website.  

Still Just a Bill: US Congressional documents and why you might use them

by Sarah Elichko

today i am still just a bill

In the spirit of the election, I’d like to talk about a topic some librarians fear: government documents.

Between the labyrinthine structure of agencies and committees to the prospect of navigating a different call number system (Superintendent of Documents or SuDoc), this huge category of resources can be intimidating to approach. Yet if you’re ever looking for statistics, maps, arguments for or against a policy (e.g. welfare reform), high-quality research, or information about a proposed law, government documents are a great place to start. And don’t forget: most US, EU, UN, and other government documents are available for free.

Now, I’m a bit of a government documents geek and I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm for the EPA’s environmental justice mapping tools and compiling legislative histories. But I think that almost any librarian will find some basic knowledge of government information useful in their daily work. Previously on Chasing Reference, Amy highlighted the amazing resource of the recently released 1940 US Census. Today, I’m going to focus on US Congressional Hearings, which which can give you and your patrons a window into the workings of Congress and the process by which laws are made.

We’ll look at three questions: what do Congressional hearings tell you? How can you find them? What about finding older and unpublished hearings?

Continue reading

New Resource! American Influenza Epidemic of 1918: A Digital Encyclopedia

by Julie Judkins

The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918: A Digital Encyclopedia (AIE) is an undertaking by the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine (CHM) in partnership with the University of Michigan Library’s MPublishing division, to create an open source, digital collection of archival, primary, and interpretive materials related to the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic in the United States. The materials in the AIE collection originated as research for two commissioned reports for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (2005) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). This virtual collection documents the experiences of diverse communities in the United States in fall 1918 and winter 1919 when influenza took the lives of approximately 675,000 Americans. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded the project a prestigious “We the People” designation for its contribution to the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture.

The AIE collocates an estimated 50,000 pages of digitized reproductions of archival materials gathered by CHM staff at over 140 national institutions. It is intended for a wide-ranging audience that encompasses high school and college students, historians and social scientists, epidemiologists and public health practitioners, journalists and writers, as well as casual internet users interested in the period.

Continue reading

What They Didn’t Tell Me in Library School

by Emily Hamstra

My favorite article in the latest RUSQ is “What they Didn’t Tell Me (or what I didn’t hear) in Library School: Perspectives from New Library Instruction Professionals.” In the article, three new librarians reflect on what they have learned in the field of library instruction outside of library school. Julie VanHoose writes, “What they didn’t tell me in library school is that students don’t care about learning to use the library.”  Bridget Farrell writes, “What they didn’t tell me in library school is that sitting down with the faculty and administration is a vital step in the process of preparing for information literacy sessions.” And, Emily Rae Aldridge writes, “What they didn’t tell me in library school is that my colleagues would be my biggest asset.” I couldn’t agree with these personal reflections more. This article made me think about what they didn’t tell me in library school about library instruction.

They didn’t tell me in library school that working on the reference desk is library instruction. In library school, they teach you about library instruction and information literacy, and they teach you about reference resources and services. I was reminded of this last week during a particularly busy chat reference session. A patron asked me for our book request form. I sent the patron a direct link to the form. The patron chimed back with a “thank you,” and asked me how to get back to the link in the future. In my rush, I had forgotten to teach the patron how find the form on her own. Good thing this patron kept me in line!

At the reference desk, we encounter a lot of patrons who have never looked up a book in our catalog before, never read a call number before, or are baffled by which database to start looking for the information they need. This is library instruction at the point of need. Moments like this are when the patrons we help are going to learn and retain the best, because they need the information we’re giving them. Library instruction in the classroom, as I encounter it, is not often at the point of need. The paper or project we’re talking about in the class might not be due for another week or two, sometimes longer. At the reference desk, a student comes searching for books and articles she needs right away. She needs to do research for paper, and the paper is no longer something far off on her calendar. I have her attention, and she wants to know how to find information on her topic.

They didn’t tell me in library school that learning starts with a question, and so does every reference desk interaction. They didn’t tell me that reference is more than a fabulous service, it’s an opportunity to teach.