Monthly Archives: March 2011

News From An Academic Library in Japan

It is now just over two weeks since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We have all seen the images of massive destruction, heard and read the stories of death and suffering, and witnessed the fortitude of the Japanese citizens as they attempt to return to normalcy despite the ongoing severity of the crisis in their country. There’s nothing I could say or tell you about what is happening in Japan that would be more insightful or eloquent than what Garr Reynolds shared.

In 2009 my library was visited by three academic librarians from Tohoku University. Even though we spent just one day together, we learned a great deal from each other. They were eager to hear about our information literacy initiative because that is something still rare among academic libraries in Japan. We were curious about the Japanese system of higher education, and how academic libraries were operated (for example, the Dean of Libraries is often a non-librarian faculty member). Tomoe Hanzawa was the lead librarian of the visiting group; she was the best English speaker and did the translating. In the wake of the news coming out of Japan my thoughts turned to Tomoe and her colleagues. She is the librarian at the Science and Engineering Library at Tohoku, which I thought was in the region where the earthquake struck, but I needed to check on that. Sure enough, Tohoku is in the Northern region of Japan, but not among the cities that took a direct hit from the tsunami.

I e-mailed Tomoe to try to get some news. I was hoping to hear that she and her colleagues were safe, and that hopefully her institution had been spared much damage. I heard nothing for a week. Then finally, last Tuesday I received a response. The good news was that she and her colleagues had survived the earthquake and were safe. Tomoe did not have access to e-mail until the electricity was restored, but she said she was glad to hear from me – and she was thankful that American academic librarians were seeking news about their fellow librarians in Japan. While Tohoku University was spared the complete destruction that occurred in other cities owing to its more Northern location, there was still extensive damage to the campus. Yesterday, Tomoe shared a few photos with me so I could get a sense of the damage at her library:

This first photo is a scene from the Reading Room:

Scene from the Library Reading Room. The stacks are still standing.
Scene from the Library Reading Room. The stacks are still standing.

The journal collection was hit hard:

Hardly a volume is left on the shelves in the periodicals stacks - but again - the shelves are standing
Hardly a volume is left on the shelves in the periodicals stacks - but again - the shelves are standing

As you might expect, given the first two photos, a great deal of clean up work will be needed in the main book stacks:

Significant damage in the library book stacks
Significant damage in the library book stacks

The severity of the damage appears worst in the microforms area:

Heavy cabinets tossed around like toys by the quake
Heavy cabinets tossed around like toys by the quake

Tomoe sent me photos that showed other damage caused by the earthquake including cracks in the interior walls of the Library, and cracks and other problems on the building exteriors. But given the severity of the earthquake it’s amazing that the buildings are still standing – and we’ve all heard much about how the Japanese engineer their buildings to withstand quakes.

I was glad to learn, that despite the physical damage at Tohoku University, Tomoe and her colleagues are safe and starting to recover – and that is going to take a long time. But things are far worse in other parts of Japan. I hope to learn more about anything specific that we can do to help our academic library colleagues in Japan. Right now, they are just trying to figure out the extent of the damage, and how they can restore some degree of normalcy. I will stay in touch with Tomoe to see if there is any way we can provide assistance. For now, the best way to help is to make a generous contribution to any of the several charitable organizations accepting donations. If you have any news of other Japanese universities impacted by the earthquake or tsunami please share what you have learned.

Many of us are headed to ACRL in Philadelphia to learn, to share and to enjoy each other’s company. As we have these experiences, let’s not forget that our fellow academic librarians in Japan are having a completely different experience – and let’s think about how we can help them as they seek to recover from what will likely be one of the worst natural disasters of the 21st century.

UPDATE – 3/30/11: I received an update from Tomoe in which she let me know she and her colleagues are already hard at work putting the library back to normal. See here. AMAZING!

Countdown to the Conference

I’ve found myself with less time than usual for blogging lately as I’ve been busy working on the poster I’m presenting with colleagues at the upcoming ACRL National Conference. In the handful of years since I’ve been a librarian I’ve been to many smaller conferences and symposia in and around New York City (where I live), but this will be my first time attending the national conference, and as the date draws closer I find that I’m really looking forward to it.

In my past life as an archaeologist I went to lots of scholarly conferences, though I imagine that National will be somewhat different. While I enjoyed hearing about the latest research in my field back then, it always seemed odd to me that the convention was for presenters to stand at a podium and read straight through their scholarly papers. Of course some people are better at public speaking than others, and archaeologists tend to illustrate their talks with lots of site photos, charts, and graphs. But I find the very formal presentation style to be a bit monotonous, and I vastly prefer the more interactive and conversational style that most librarians seem to use at conferences.

Another big difference from my prior experiences is that the ACRL Conference has several keynote speakers, which is not the usual fare at other scholarly conferences I’ve been to. I find this a bit confusing: though I know that keynotes are a standard feature of both ALA conferences, it’s not what I expected to travel to an academic librarianship conference and hear speakers who are not involved in academic librarianship. I have to admit that I’m less interested in the keynote speakers than in other parts of the conference, though I’ll be curious to hear how they relate to academic libraries in their presentations.

I’m lucky to have many events at which I can connect with colleagues from my university and across NYC, but as a still-somewhat-new librarian I haven’t had many opportunities to mingle with librarians from across the country. I’m most looking forward to the two things I remember fondly from the anthropology conferences I used to frequent (and I suspect this is true for many of us attending National):

1) the opportunity to share and discuss my and my colleagues’ work with others in our field, and

2) the opportunity to learn about research and practice in academic libraries from the other conference presenters and attendees

Conferences are a concentrated experience with no distractions — all academic librarianship all the time! — which I always find refreshing and invigorating (if sometimes exhausting). But I’ve got my reusable coffee cup, so I’m ready to go.

If you’re going to National, what are you most looking forward to?

Plan Ahead For Your First Time On The Exhibit Floor

Editor’s Note: In this first in a series of posts about the ALA Conference, John Meier, Science Librarian at Penn State University, shares his experiences as a new librarian attending the ALA conference exhibits – and hopes you can avoid some of the newbie errors he made. We’ll be hearing more about the ALA Conference from our new team of ALA Emerging Leaders over the next few months leading up to the Conference.

My first visit to the exhibit hall at an ALA National Conference was brief and confusing. In the incomprehensible swirl of activity, I only remember drinking way too much free coffee. There are hundreds of exhibitors (in New Orleans there will almost be a thousand!) and as a newly minted librarian I had no idea where to start. I think I also might have picked up some free books and pens–there are always those–but I didn’t take away any new knowledge.

Next time I prepared ahead of time using the materials available at registration on-site: The ALA Program and Exhibit Directory along with the Passport to Prizes, which has give-away ads from companies and a fold out map. The map is now available online ahead of time in the pre-show Cognotes ,
ALA’s conference newspaper. I considered each company that my library or I personally use, such as our ILS vendor Sirsi, and created a short list of exhibitors to visit. Then I added in some favorite publishers, my library school and ALA member units to make the list a manageable two dozen out of the hundreds. I used a highlighter to indicate them on the map for later reference.

Remembering that I felt intimidated and unimportant the last time, I came up with something basic to start conversations with exhibitors: “What’s new?” They were happy to tell me, and after that icebreaker I felt much more engaged with them. I go to know some of them personally and even got invited to lunch and an after hours social event.

Finally I found myself comfortable in the exhibit hall. I had left behind my reservations and felt comfortable talking to exhibitors as professional colleagues. I felt free to talk about the new things I was doing in addition to their products. At ALA Annual in Anaheim, I stopped at one exhibit to watch a presentation on Graphic Novels. Graphic novels are an interest of mine as a Science Librarian so afterwards I chatted with the presenter about the dearth of non-fiction science graphic novels. I saw him later in the day, and he waved me over. That publisher needed a librarian with my subject tbackground to regularly nominate the best science books published.

Now when I attend an ALA National Conference, not only do I get to see my friends and colleagues who work in libraries, I also meet my friends and partners among the exhibitors. I encourage all new conference attendees to skip the first two steps I took and go to the exhibit hall (there’s one at ACRL 2011 as well) with a plan to engage library vendors and publishers in a meaningful way. It will benefit you personally and professionally.

● Set aside a block of time to visit the exhibits, so you don’t feel
● Plan a short list of exhibitors to visit ahead of time
● Have a few questions ready, be prepared to talk about yourself,
and take business cards
● Relax, they want to talk to you, so walk up to them and say “Hi”
● Don’t take every handout, much is available online or vendors will
gladly mail to you

Q & A With The Librarians Who Made That Winning Video

While I can’t say enough about the importance of video as a communication and learning tool, I’m hardly enamored with most librarian videos – especially the ones that involve lip synching to pop tunes. That’s why I was particularly impressed by the creativity and craftsmanship demonstrated by the now well known video that won top prize in the ACRL 2011 Video Contest, the Strozier Rap Video.

The Florida State University Libraries Strozier Library team did a great job with their video, and I wanted to learn more from them. So I sent them a few questions and they were kind enough to answer them. Here’s the interview with:
Michelle Demeter, Academic Partnerships Librarian
Job Jaime, Technology Center Coordinator
Suzanne Byke, Undergraduate Outreach Librarian

Where did the idea for the video come from?

We are fans of Lazy Sunday from SNL! Based on the criteria for the video we felt that modifying the Lazy Sunday video would create a really cool, fun ACRL promotion.

What video equipment did you use?

The video was recorded using a Sony HDC-3 camcorder, Sony Vegas for video editing and a basic lighting kit. For audio, we used Audacity audio editing software. We used both Adobe Flash and Photoshop for animation. All of the equipment and software is available from Strozier Library to the Florida State University community. We also provide assistance using all of the software to any student, faculty or staff at FSU.

Was this your first library video or have you made others?

As a team, this was our first video. The library does have many videos that have been created by individual members of the team. Check out the Club Stroz video which was created by two undergraduates that now work on promotion for our Undergraduate Commons.

How long did it take to create the video?

Here are approximate times: writing the rap 3 hours, filming 7 hours, sound recording 1.5 hours, animation 3 hours, sound and video editing 9 hours, and endless laughter watching it! We took many takes. Between the perfectionist director and our inability to rap on cue, we took more takes than we can count…but we had FUN!

What suggestions do you have for other librarians who want to make cool videos?

A creative idea, or stealing from pop culture, and a team of awesomely talented audio/video geeks that are willing to give up their free time to help you!

What’s your take on lipsyncing to pop songs in videos?

Seriously, it’s harder than it looks! You need to have a sense of humor when singing or rapping if it’s not your thing and don’t give up your day job until you get a record contract. You also can’t let the comments on YouTube crush your dream, haha!

So, would you do it again?

You betcha! While it was a lot of work, it was definitely worth it! We were so happy with the final result!

Thanks Strozier Team. If we need some suggestions for our next library video we know who to call.

ACRLog Welcomes Its New Team Of Emerging Leaders

Editor’s Note: ACRLog is pleased to announce that once again a group of ALA Emerging Leaders was assigned to work with the ACRLog blog team (and ACRL Insider too), and use our little blog to share ideas that will enhance ALA conference attendance for both first-timers and veterans alike. Over the next few months we’ll feature occasional posts from members of the Emerging Leaders team – pictured below. This first guest post is a group effort. We look forward to reading what our Emerging Leaders have to share.

This year ACRL is again sponsoring a team of Emerging Leaders to support and expand the ACRL 101 program for first-time attendees of the ALA Annual Conference. The ALA Emerging Leaders Program began in 2007 as part of past ALA president Leslie Burger’s six initiatives to expand opportunities for involvement and leadership in ALA to newer librarians.

Our Emerging Leaders team for 2011 hails from across the U.S. Some of us have years of experience and others are new to the profession. Though our project is focused on ACRL 101 for ALA Annual 2011 in New Orleans, LA, our goal is to create content that will have lasting usefulness. We hope to offer both professional advice and showcase opportunities for new members in ACRL.

The new ACRL Emerging Leaders Team
The new ACRL Emerging Leaders Team

From left to right, our team of ACRL 101 Emerging Leaders include: Breanne Kirsch, an Evening Public Services Librarian at University of South Carolina Upstate; William Breitbach, a Librarian from California State University-Fullerton sponsored by ACRL/CLS; John Meier, a Science Librarian from Pennsylvania State University sponsored by ACRL/STS; Elizabeth Berman, a Science and Engineering Reference and Instruction Librarian from the University of Vermont sponsored by ACRL/ULS; Tabatha Farney, an Assistant Professor and Web Services Librarian from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs sponsored by ACRL; Megan Hodge, Circulation Supervisor at Randolph-Macon College sponsored by the NMRT.

[Not pictured, Mary Jane Petrowski, Associate Director of ACRL, serves as the ACRL Staff Liaison. Susanna Boyston, Head of Library Instruction and Collection Development at the Davidson College Library, is the project mentor]

After an initial meeting at ALA Midwinter in San Diego, our group is now working with representatives from ACRL to plan and implement a series of ACRLog and ACRL Insider blog posts. These posts will focus on areas of interest to new librarians such as conference tips, ACRL resources, highlights of selected ACRL sections, and advice on how to get involved. We will also be hosting OnPoint chats for first time conference attendees, to provide insight into conference structure and guidance to help you make the most of your time at ALA Annual in New Orleans, LA. Finally, we will make recommendations on the content covered in the ACRL 101 program.

Keep an eye out for future blog posts from members of our active group on ACRLog and ACRL Insider in the coming weeks, and please support the ACRL 101 Emerging Leaders – whatever your career stage – by giving us your feedback and comments.