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Thursday, 29 July 2010

And I thought we did a literature review

When we were preparing the case for our "Library on Location" trial, and again when we were writing up our results for the conference paper, we did a literature review - both journals and blogs. I thought we'd been pretty much as thorough as the variable terminology people assign to the concept allowed.

But I just saw a tweet linking to Theoretical Job Description for the Librarian with a Laptop, which links back to where the blogger first had the idea, which in turn links to someone else with the same idea.

(This last one is a really really great idea for implementing it at an academic library with maximum success.)

It's not uncommon for me to see the occasional new one, but for some reason this hit me with a "Argh, we librarians really like reinventing the wheel, don't we?" At one point I was vaguely thinking of doing a survey of libraries who'd done this kind of thing in order to write up a journal article about success factors, but stuff happened. Suddenly I'm all fired up again and just have to work out how to pull myself back from impending overcommitment...

In the meantime, my collection of links about libraries that have done outreach by taking books and/or laptops outside the library to meet users in popular locations is at my "onlocation" tag on Diigo.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Library Day in the Life

On Wednesdays I work the afternoon/evening shift, so I spent the morning sleeping in, doing the laundry, and watching my sister ice a cake she volunteered for the "Chocolate Day" my colleagues and I had planned for today. My bus brought me to work at 12:45 and I sat and watched Top Gear with two colleagues on their lunch break while everyone else drifted in and "OMG"d at my sister's truly awesome cake.

At 1pm I was on the desk shift as the normal person rostered for that hour was on sick leave. (A propos of which, today's A Softer World strip provides a brilliant rebuttal to a certain proposed employment law change in New Zealand. I like sick leave, it means that my colleagues are less likely to come and infect me.) It was semi-steady circulation and basic enquiries, and a query about finding sources for a small literature review on pneumatic conveyers, but I also had time to do some background searches on the PhD topic of a new student in my subject area, and to quickly check my email.

Said student came at 2pm - I spent the next 50 minutes talking with her about where she's at so far (I didn't spend as much time on this part as I'd like - I'm still learning how to have this sort of conversation without sounding like the Spanish Inquisition) and what resources we have available (interlibrary loans are always high on the interest list but of course we also talked databases etc) and then I gave her a tour of the building. Before we parted I had the wit to ask if I can check in with her in a month or two - so now I can do so without feeling like I'm nagging.

Though what feels like nagging is frequently good - among my emails was one from a lecturer about setting up a time for a session with one of his classes that I'd been asking him about. I scheduled that in.

At 3:30 (we have scheduled breaks and lunch hours; I'm always a bit shocked to see overseas folk talking about not finding time for lunch) I went to enjoy a slice of my sister's awesome cake.

Back at my desk I scanned Twitter and Friendfeed and Google Reader for awesome news stuff. I compiled a bunch of that for the draft of the library section of a department's weekly newsletter; a bunch more will go in my next "Links of interest" post on the internal library blog. My colleague in the same office talked about an article she'd just been reading about the emotional dissonance between how information literacy instructors have to act in the classroom and the reactions we get from students. I'm describing it badly, I need to read it myself.

From colleagues I answered a phone query re opinions on our multisearch, and an email query about duplicate copies of something in storage. There were two wrong numbers at some point, and two misdirected emails. I tidied some stuff up, and also replied to another lecturer about some other classes in a couple of weeks (there'll 6-8 sessions) and about the associated library assignment.

From 5-9 it was just two of us staffing the branch. So at 6pm I had another desk shift and it wasn't much quieter than 1pm - lots of people borrowing 3-hour loans, someone wanting instruction on using the mopier's scan-to-email function, someone asking about an ebook that's mysteriously disappeared from the content provider's database (I sent an email to our e-resources expert).

I stayed on a bit longer while my colleague shelved books and collected the books requested by users in our branch and others. 7:20 I had my dinner break; 8pm my final shift and still no quieter though I caught a bit of time to update our electronic noticeboard (tomorrow's weather forecast, partly in Māori in honour of Te Wiki o Te Reo) and to start writing this post.

8:45 we dinged the bell to warn students it's nearly time to leave, and I walked around closing windows and picking up discarded student magazines and soft drink cans as subtle reinforcement that the day's over. There was only one group I had to tell verbally that we were about to close. Doors locked at 9pm; but I hung around inside for about 15 minutes waiting for the interwebs to inform me that my bus was about to arrive; finished this post on the bus and hit 'publish' from home.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Crowdsourcing library research

Reading Snapshots of Laptop Use in an Academic Library crystallised some thinky thoughts I've vaguely had for a while about the possibility of libraries working together on library research.

The very short version of the article is that in their library "28% of students used laptops in existing spaces in 2005, while 62% of students used laptops in the same spaces in 2008". But of course they're not sure exactly what's causing the change. Is it just the changing times? Changing university policy? Changing library spaces? Something in the water? When you've only got one datapoint - your own library - it's hard to see what the real trend is.

But if you had the same data from a whole bunch of libraries then you'd be able to get a better idea of the nationwide/global trends. And if your data was different from that trend, you'd be able to get a better idea of how your local circumstances are affecting what's going on.

I've had thinky thoughts in the past about libraries sharing their statistics and research and stuff and part of the problem I recognised then was that everyone counts different statistics, so results aren't always comparable.

But. What if, when we want to do this kind of research, instead of doing it in-house, we open it up:
  1. stick up a wiki where we can collaborate with a pile of other libraries on deciding the methodology,
  2. stick up a Google spreadsheet where participating libraries can enter their stats,
  3. ???
  4. profit Publish!

Potential for awesomesauce, yes/yes? Does anyone have any burning research questions they'd like to try this with? Because my burning research question is currently "Let's do it!" which, um, technically isn't a question. <looks around hopefully>