The Organization of Information

My husband (a philosophy professor) and I (a librarian and former bookstore manager) just finished cataloging our entire book collection into LibraryThing.  You can only imagine the number of bookshelves in our house, right?  For Valentine’s Day I gave him an LT lifetime subscription and he gave me one of their CueCat scanners, and we spent several days scanning, adding, and tagging with reckless abandon.  (This really does relate, I promise!)  I’ve mentioned before that I work at a “one person library”, so even in the time between semesters I have to keep the library open, cooling my heels in a mostly empty building.  Sure, a few students come in to check email or Facebook, but in general the month of May is Very Slow, especially for someone who likes to stay busy.

By now I’ve caught up with all my work, and I’m starting to invent projects.  I’ve read several books that faculty have recommended to students, the better to talk about them when students have questions.  (I just finished 1776 by David McCullough, and am currently plodding my way through A History of the American Revolution by John Richard Alden.  McCullough is a much more entertaining read, if you’re curious.)  I’ve done some book shifting to make the shelves more balanced, in the hope that my miniscule book budget for next year will actually get passed.  I finished the dreaded Professional Development Plan.  I’m pondering articles I’d like to write but wonder if I can ever get them published.  Unfortunately though, since I work a ten-hour day, I run out of library-related projects fast.  So I’ve started to get creative.

The one thing my position doesn’t have me doing is the cataloging, which of course is what I *would* be doing in a perfect world.  So I came up with another great idea – not precisely work related but close enough for my purposes.  I decided to add Library of Congress call numbers to all of our books in LibraryThing.  I don’t have access here to OCLC’s Connexion or Cataloger’s Desktop, but what the heck.  There are plenty of free resources at my disposal.  And I do want to stay reasonably current with the cataloging trends, because someday, somewhere, I’d really like to get back into tech services full time.  My husband, who actually organizes his philosophy books by *author’s birthday*, thinks I’m nuts.  But I’ve actually been enjoying myself immensely.  It hones my research skills when I run across a title I’m not familiar with.  It encourages me to familiarize myself with the Library of Congress online catalog. It makes me want to take some of the cataloging seminars offered by Lyrasis!

So, two questions I’d like to offer up:
1) When you hit a down-time (if you ever hit a down-time), how do you keep yourself busy?
2) More importantly, how do you keep current in an area where you don’t spend your day-to-day time, but would if you had your choice?

6 thoughts on “The Organization of Information”

  1. Once finals are over, we become a dead zone. I use that time in December and May to catch up on book orders, professional reading, and office tidying. Summers are slow compared to spring and fall and that time is spent writing guides, creating tutorials, learning new software programs, and participating in library-wide cleanup/improvement projects.

  2. I completely sympathize. Public service positions in particular are like a roller coaster. In the past that’s been a great opportunity to do collection development or research.

    I’d love to open a new conversation about increasing skills and qualifications during a period of unemployment. I was released during a round of funding cuts in January. The first 5 months were easy because I needed to finish my history degree, including a thesis. (Graduation was yesterday!) Now it gets a lot harder to stay on task. I’m working on a couple of articles, and I’ve offered to do some volunteer research and grant writing for the State Historical Commission. I’ve also got a stack of books that I need to catch up on.

  3. I’m a cataloger and we have a huge backlog of uncataloged maps that I work on when things are slow.

  4. Robin, congratulations on your history degree, and best of luck with the employment prospects. I love the positive way you’re approaching it, and if you’d care to write a guest post for this blog on the topic, do let us know – it’s a very good and (sadly) timely discussion to have.

  5. First, we hardly ever have down time any more—even when the semester is “over”, there seems to be a special session or distance ed group going. Plus there are all those projects that you have to put on hold during the Fall and Spring semesters—guides to update, tutorials to develop, etc… And there are always meetings.

    Still, I love the idea of receiving a bar code scanner for Valentine’s day! I made the transition to public services quite a while ago—and love teaching and working with students. Still, there is a technical services librarian inside—I indulge that urge through stamp collecting. Stamp collecting requires an attention to detail and an understanding of cultural differences, printing techniques, preservation strategies, and history. And, of course, I catalog each stamp in an Excel spreadsheet I designed myself—it lets me track the year, Scott catalog number, condition, book value, placement in a set, and even key themes. My friends think I’m nuts but it’s very relaxing. But I really like the idea of my own scanner….hmmm….

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