“Do you have a book I remember reading once? It had a red cover and it turned out they were twins.” Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Oh my.  It wasn’t just a library joke.  People really did say this and mean it.  And then expect you to find the book for them.  As in, possibly right then.  At that moment.  Pronto~! 

Their faces fall if you can’t.  It’s a little bit heart-breaking, and one is left with a keen sense of failure in having been the Depository of all Literary Knowledge, and let an enthusiastic reader down.

The first time someone said this line to me, I thought they were taking the mickey and laughed.

Oops, no: serious.  Quickly back paddle.

You know, we should forget about classifying the books by the Dewey or Library of Congress systems.  Because this is how patrons really want us to shelve them:

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

I thought I would share some of the resources I use when searching for Forgotten Books

Because without doubt, they are a thing.  They are usually children’s or young adult books, as this comes about when people begin to suffer from Nostalgia Sickness. 

It is usually only a quick dose of this illness, but like a nagging bacterial infection, needs a specialised antibiotic to make it go away.

And that antibiotic is a particular book.  And it is up to you to make a diagnosis and find that book.

So, here are a few of the resources I use:

·         Goodreads Group – What’s The Name Of That Book???

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/185-what-s-the-name-of-that-book

·         Stump the Bookseller (N.B. Small fee applies but archives free to browse)

http://www.loganberrybooks.com/stumpthebookseller/

·         Search (e.g. Google) keywords (any details of plot, names, etc. also ‘book’, ‘story’, ‘young adult’, ‘historical’, ‘thriller’, etc.)

·         Literature Reference Guides, e.g.

          Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, edited by Jenny Stringer

–          Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature, edited by Claire Buck

–          Cambridge Companion to Scottish Literature, edited by Gerard Curruthers, Liam McIlvanney

·         AbeBooks.com BookSleuth®

http://forums.abebooks.com/discussions/AbeBookscom_BookSleuthreg/abeSleuthCom

·         Also the image searching option for search engines can be helpful.  For example, typing in “purple book cover” yields:

Purple Cover

On a related matter: people, after finding out I work in a library, will either…

a) say I don’t look like a librarian

b) ask me to recommend them a book

“Uh, ok.  What kind of stories or characters interest you?  Fiction or non-fiction?  What have you enjoyed watching or readi-“

“No, no,” my dentist says cheerfully.  “just off the top of your head.”

Gravity’s Rainbow,” I shoot back as he reaches for the drill.

These are some of the resources or strategies I use to help recommend a book (or suggest to people that they use):

·         The Ultimate Teen Book Guide, by Daniel Hahn (Editor), Susan Reuben, Leonie Flynn

·         The internet.  Just search the internet.  Blogs, forums, LibraryThing, Goodreads (especially good for reading quotes from books and getting a ‘feel’ for them)

·         Suggest they read the book of the film they loved.  Yes, there is often a book it was based on – and the book is seldom less amazing!

·         What Should I Read Next? http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/

Does anyone else have some ideas or resources they would like to share for making book recommendations or of use in finding Forgotten Books?

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Thus far, and no further…

Kia ora koutou,

Today is the day I have decided to give up on my library degree.

It is a decision I have come to slowly, but is one now made.  There were two stand-out factors that finally swayed me off the path I was on.

These were personal perceptions and should not influence anyone else; nor are they to be taken as gospel.  I hope that by sharing them here, they might open up some useful discussions.

1. The people being promoted in my library don’t have library-related degrees.

Well, the bottom line and message here is that they actually count for little.

2.  Library school does not have enough papers that focus strongly enough on Information technology or teaching skills.

These are two things that are likely to become increasingly important in the library sector.

I have completed my studies to just beyond diploma/certificate level, and I feel this serves me well enough.  If I decide to pursue further study, I feel it would be more useful for me to put my money towards teaching, business, IT – or any other qualification.

There is repetitive discussion in the library world about the push to have librarianship recognised as a Profession.

Like many of my classmates, I quickly tired of what seemed like attempts to enlist me to this cause.  Moreover, there will always be a difference between *being* professional and being *a* professional.  The former has always been more important to me than the latter, and I daresay for employers too.

After visiting some special libraries and archives, I can see that the nature of the work in parts of the field certainly do require a person to have specialised skills particular to their job.

However, the apparent dismissiveness towards the qualifications an applicant holds when appointments are made for senior library roles does negate the value of a library degree.

I feel that any time myself or my colleagues have been elevated, it has been based on personality and natural skill rather than qualifications.  Perhaps this is as it should be – but now, now I intend to use my savings to travel rather than continue study.

Best wishes to all of you with a more ambitious and positive outlook than myself!

Peace. X

Future of Libraries Summit

About 9 days ago LIANZA held a Future of Libraries Summit in Wellington. Even thought I would have loved to attend I was unable to but I’ve been reading a selection of blog posts about the event. I’m glad to say most of the feedback has been positive. This has been really great to see as I believe it’s important for the profession to have discussions about it’s future direction so at the very least we are on the same page. I would really like to engage with this and be part of this discussion so I thought I could answer some of the questions presented.

What are the key drivers of the profession?

While I agree that as a whole we are a diverse industry I believe the key drivers are pretty much the same. Every library wants to engage with and provide for its user group. This is because if we don’t, what is our purpose? Therefore academic libraries have to cater for students and academics. If they don’t provide text books, access to databases and research help what’s the point of having a library at the university and I can imagine an outcry from their key user groups.

I also believe that quality training, mentor ship and development opportunities for the younger sector of the industry are crucial for the continued existence of this field. If this is not done once our current leaders retire who is going to take up the mantel and keep libraries alive?

What would a flourishing library sector look like in 2025 if we address these key drivers?

I believe it will create terrific leaders who recognise the importance of training and open communication. It will be librarians who believe in sharing their skills instead of hoarding their knowledge. These people will understand the importance of constructive criticism and listening to those down below who are actually working with our patrons and clients. This will mean that we can better serve our communities and users and therefore we won’t feel the need to continually talk about our relevance because people will see this in their everyday lives.

What are we currently doing to address these drivers – at the library level, at the sector level, at the whole of profession level?

I believe the Kotuku leadership course that LIANZA is currently running is a great start. However, as stated previously I believe that mentor ship for those who haven’t created their library qualifications would be beneficial too. At present I think we have a culture that dismisses open communication and criticism about the industry; the Issues Desk is a perfect example as we write this anonymously so we can get jobs in the future! Maybe it would be good to change the culture around this. Again, I believe the summit was a great way to do this. However, I would be interested to see how many people young in the industry were involved and what the restrictions to this were.

Where are the gaps?

I think I possibly addressed this above. But I believe its really important we create an environment of open communication. I know all opinions aren’t valid but it would be great if people could express them without fear of recrimination and lack of job opportunity. Again, I’m going to use The Issues Desk as an example, we only created this blog as we are passionate about the industry but felt we had no forum to discuss it. Shouldn’t we want to hear from people that are passionate instead of punishing them?

Who should take responsibility for these gaps?

Everyone! But in particular I believe people in management positions and the professional organisation. Come on guys, lets foster a culture of openness! Let’s listen to our front line staff! Let’s offer more leadership training!

Where to from here?

I don’t know but I worry that nothing will come from the Summit and that would be a huge mistake as I believe we should capitalise on this open discussion.

I hope that all made sense I’m a bit sick and fevery. Please feel free to comment or email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz We would really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and opinions!

The Power of Books

Today I read a story that made me stop and think about the power of a book. Not their potential to garner a love for reading, or give companionship to the lonely (I’m not denying these either), though. It made me think about how a book can spark a conversation, about a number of things besides the context, and bring groups of people together in strange ways.

The article, Mission impossible: German libraries try to return Nazi-looted books (by Polina Garaev, 1/8/2015), talks about German libraries that are exploring the sketchy past of books once ‘donated’, or otherwise, during that notorious era of Adolf Hitler. It describes donations made by the Gestapo, where books (and other items) were forcibly removed from the Jewish people of Germany.

Funding to find the original owners of these books, through surviving ledgers and handwritten notes within the texts themselves, is minimal. Garaev quotes librarian Sebastian Finsterwalder who laments that of the people working on the project “99% of them are volunteers, temp workers, or library workers doing this part time, and that affects the work they can do”.

It is a powerful thought, though. A group of people coming together, out of a sense of social responsibility I suppose.* It is acknowledged in the article that most of the books aren’t worth anything in isolation, but it’s what they represent to the person or relatives from whom the book, belongings, and lives were taken, that is tremendously important. It’s a way of not forgetting the past, not letting the bitter memories and the guilt fade, a way of showing survivors that what happened is recognised.

These unassuming books have had the power of bringing people back to their pasts, of connecting people with the truth about their families, have enabled these conversations to occur, where otherwise they may never have surfaced.

It also demonstrates an interesting intersection between three professions that, in New Zealand at least, currently fall under the ‘Information Studies’ umbrella: the librarian, the archivist, and the records manager. When working in one of these positions it is easy to believe that they exist apart, but this demonstrates the connections that exist. The libraries in Germany housed these books for many years, before exploring and recognising what they were, undertaking this monumental project. They could not have discovered so much without those who created meticulous records of the events, and the people who have archived similar information since, often linking books with people now living overseas.

Much like you can’t fully experience happiness without sadness, you can’t understand the world you live in without having memory and understanding of the past. Whatever conflicting information ideologies exist between the librarian, the archivist, and the records manager, they all work together and need each other. And hopefully value their unique connections.

*Reading this story made me think of a book I recently read, Stasiland: stories from behind the Berlin Wall, by Anna Funder, that covers similar subject matter in relation to volunteers trying to piece together the past (literally). I’ll say no more, other than to encourage everyone to check it out.

The Magic of Libraries #2

“When in doubt, go to the library.”

One of the more important pearls of wisdom Hermione imparts on Ron and Harry by Book 2. Hermione proceeds to rip a page out of a very old book and scribble on it. Cue gasps. (Basically, knowledge found in the library helps saves the day, hoorah!)

Actually, I don’t care too much about not taking perfect care of books. If there’s anything I’ve learnt from working at an academic library, it is that the collection will be used and abused, because there will always be another edition coming with updated information, or the course will be dropped and the relevant texts weeded out or…you get the idea.

book_spilling

Does this make me a bad librarian? I don’t think so. It just means I don’t fit that particular stereotype.

And you know what? I don’t think Madam Pince is what she’s made out to be either, and actually she is a pretty realistic representation of today’s library struggles. That’s what I’ll be talking about in this Library Pop-Culture post. (Once again: “No other research has gone into this, it is simply the mild musings of a fan, trying to understand the way we [library folk] are perceived by others.”)

You see, I feel sorry for Pince. For a start, this is her description in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – “Madam Pince, the librarian, was a thin, irritable woman who looked like an underfed vulture”. If this is to be believed, it is probably the result of being the ONLY person working in the Hogwarts library. In my first post about this, I pointed out that it is home to “tens of thousands of books”. Really? Really?! How unfair is that?! Hogwarts is also home to approximately 280 students, and a horde of staff. No wonder she’s shrivelled into a tiny ball of rage.

This stinks of limited funding. Lucius Malfoy is one of the school governors, and I can’t see him agreeing to allocate a reasonable amount of funding to the library. He’d be the kind of dad who would bully everyone else into funding whatever his kid’s latest niche interest is (*cough* new-racing-brooms-for-Slytherin *cough*).

More proof is the number of times that books within the library are described as being really old, or mouldy, etc.

1) Where is the funding for new books? Did witches and wizards learn everything there was to know a few hundred years ago, mitigating the need for revised editions?

2) Not only is Pince the sole librarian, she is also, apparently, acting as an archivist. Classic upper-management decision making. Librarians and archivists are not the same. They both do very important, and very different jobs which require specialised study and training. All these old texts require specialised care, which I doubt she has the time for. I have faith in her abilities, because she’s clearly managing to keep this giant of a library together despite the limited resources, but I think to some extent she’s just given up. She can’t be expected to do everything. Her joy and enthusiasm for the job has been beaten out of her (#reallifeproblems).

3) If so many of these books are old, in terrible condition, and probably out of date, I guess she’s not allowed to weed anything out, either. It sounds like she’s being dictated to by some very old-fashioned thinking, and her days are probably spent trying to cast spells that create more room for books in a fixed space, and trying to keep nosey teens out of the Restricted Section.

unshelved-weeding

The worst thing I realised while looking through Book 2, is that in the magical world librarians have the same muggle-struggle (heh) when it comes to being professionals. At Hogwarts, Madam Pince is less than the teaching staff, who receive the title ‘Professor’. The school nurse, Madam Pomfrey, also somehow misses out on having her ‘professional’ status acknowledged, despite being able to grow back bones. This is a reality that I have personally encountered, and it sadly creates tension within our profession and its strange (and damaging) hierarchies.

I’ll try to remember this the next time I see a librarian’s negative attitude in pop-culture being exploited. I’ll read between the lines and consider the lack of respect, funding or staffing that might be going on behind the scenes.

And remember, vultures ain’t so bad either.

jungle-book-vultures-o

 

*If you’ve enjoyed our post please like or comment. We would love to hear your ideas! You can send your musings and feedback to theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

Breaking down local government with Tammy 2

So we are talking about references to librarians in popular culture and I’ve chosen to talk about Parks and Recreation.

I personally feel like Parks and Recreation is one of the best shows ever created and as it deals with working for local government of course it has mentions and episodes dedicated to the library in the fictional town of Pawnee.

The most memorable of these for me is one from the second season called, “Ron and Tammy”. This is the episode that introduces Ron’s ex-wife Tammy 2. who works at the Pawnee library as the deputy director of library services. Due to this we are also introduced to the parks departments thoughts on the library:

Tammy and the Pawnee library team dress like typical librarians in your traditional cardigan/glasses combo but I don’t think they are like any I have ever met.

Tammy is highly sexual to an unprofessional degree. She cares little about public nudity or having sexual relations in public. I fear this behavior would be highly detrimental to her professional standing and I am surprised she still has a job. However, her co-workers seem to be equally unprofessional.

This can be witnessed here:

However, despite the above’s evidence to the contrary I do see some hints of truth buried in Parks and Recreations portrayal of local government happenings. As you can see from the first clip this episode comes to be because the library would like a piece of council land that the Parks and Recreation department feel they have claim to.

While, I can’t relate to the idea of a new library rebuild, I can understand the frustration of having to fight for council resources as unfortunately these are not unlimited and need to be spread amongst many departments. When you are part of a big organisation at times your voice can be lost especially when to some your value isn’t readily apparent.

It seems to be quite apt that the Parks and Recreation department and the libraries department would be fighting as these are the two with the most in common. They are the most isolated from the rest of the council as libraries work in the library building while parks and recreation are kept near the bottom of the building. These two teams also spend the most time directly dealing with the public and also spend the most time justifying there existence. I mean, everyone can understand why you need a rates department but are libraries and parks really needed?!?

I may be reading too much into this shows portrayal of librarians and the local governments response to them. However, I really like the non traditional route it has taken. I love that librarians are too be feared as they are smart from being so well read, I like that I don’t see any shhhing and a lack of tweed.

So what do you think? Please post your comments below or email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

NZ Sign Language & Libraries

I find when I am enjoying the gentle warm rain of the shower at night, the steaminess enveloping me in a foggy cloud from the world, my mind drifts back to random episodes out of the past.

For whatever reason, my train of thought wandered back to the day I was on desk and helping a woman who was Deaf.  She was able to communicate what she needed me to do, but I remember feeling my own failure in not being able to make the exchange easier for her; expressly, my lack of knowledge in NZ Sign Language.

Once I was nicely warm in my pyjamas, I set to researching courses in NZ Sign Language on the internet.  In particular, I wanted to ascertain if there were courses tailored for libraries and the kinds of conversations one is likely to have with patrons.

It takes time to become proficient in any new language – but what if there was a course that would teach library staff the signs to say such things as:

·         Kia ora, how are you?

·         Would you like help finding something?

·         Would you like me to renew this book?

·         We need to update your address details

…And so forth.

I remember at the public library we did have a lady come in and teach us how to sign a few simple phrases, but what I had in mind was a slightly more intensive course – perhaps six sessions – which would be of specific and practical use.

 Are there such courses available?  Is this a feasible idea?  I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts and comments on this.

 At the moment I am trying to self-learn a little from this website: http://nzsl.vuw.ac.nz/