Archive for January, 2012

Practicum days 10, 11: Cataloging

January 15, 2012

Can you say “more fun than a barrel of monkeys”?

I admit it. I’m a competitive person. Very competitive. No, don’t tell me you’re competitive. I’m more competitive than you. And than you. I’m ALL the competitiveness.

So when I started my practicum and I was told that I would have to work in two libraries because my main host library did not let students work on the catalog, the thing I wanted most in this world (aside from world peace and a pony) was to work on my host library’s catalog.

After the debacle with my second host library, and given that my original host library is interested in employing me when they have a job opening, I reminded the library director that she had mentioned the possibility of my working on correcting MARC subfield errors. She checked with the cataloger, who said she’d rather I didn’t do that. The cataloger had thought about it, and preferred —

that I catalog the English language children’s books for the Yemima Center library!

Yes, that “earthquake” which rocked the universe was a student being allowed to mess about in the catalog. And yet we didn’t beat the Mayans — the earth has yet to end.

Day 1 I did the English language kids books. And fun was had. And catalogers and staff were impressed. And a lasting impression in the catalog was made!

The second day I was given even more of a challenge — catalogs of art exhibitions.

Look at that — my work is in the catalog. Available to the public. Searched for by millions (or at least by me).

Other progress was made. I’ve become friendly with the morning guard and he now lets me into the library before 8 am. I’ve been registered as having a Cockpit account and access to Aleph 500. (Now if only the computing department would work out my user name and password so I could catalog on my own dime and not have to keep stealing the library secretary’s account. Good thing she’s so nice about it!)

Dates: Jan. 10, 12 2012
Hours: 8.5 (Jan 10), 7.5 (Jan 12)
Total hours to date: 86 hours 10 minutes

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The practicum that wasn’t

January 3, 2012

So I was supposed to do my second practicum at the university library in Ariel. I’d been warned about the library by students who had worked there and even by casual hitchhikers. The reputation the library has is all the nightmare stereotypes about librarians put together, with an added dash of the icebox.

The director had asked me to come at 8 am. I’m not a morning person, but when I’m asked to show up, I do. Not only wasn’t the director in yet, she’d told no one I was expected. I waited around half an hour until I was told that she’d called and I was to work on straightening out bookshelves for four hours.

Now, we’ve been explicitly told that straightening out shelves is not what we are meant to do in our practicum. We’re there to help if we can, of course, but primarily we are there to learn.  But OK, it’s one morning, the woman has for some reason been delayed, yadda yadda.

I’m shown how to straighten the shelves (come on, teach me this? I do know that 610 comes before 610.1, which comes before 610.16. Teach your grandmother to suck eggs, mkay?) and then I learn that all the librarians are off to come conference and I’m to do the straightening myself. Anything I might have hoped to learn as incidental knowledge has just flown out the window. One of the librarians gives me the penny tour (not even the nickel tour, mind you) and decides that since we ended up on the lower level, I should start straightening there.

I’m no great housekeeper, but the dust levels in this library were ridiculous. I was wearing a jet black skirt. Without touching my skirt at any point, jut from what fell off the few books I had to rearrange, this is what my skirt looked like after 10 minutes. That white is not a photographic artifact; that’s all dust.

There were cobwebs that literally covered two shelves, top to bottom, side to side. I ended up borrowing the cleaning lady’s broom to sweep those away, because I wasn’t going to reach through with the spider still sitting there in the middle of her web!

At 10 am the director sent someone to call me up to her office. She spends most of the time telling me how much she hated learning in the program I’m in now and also tells me that HR hasn’t yet authorized my being in the library for a practicum. (Remember — she’s the one who told me to come in today!) But since I’m here already, I shouldn’t waste my [20 minute] drive; I should stay and do 9 hours of shelf organizing (out of 50 which are supposed to be devoted to cataloging, classification, and acquisitions).

I went back downstairs and sent my practicum adviser a frantic email. (Thank heavens for smartphones.) There was no way I was going to survive 9 hours of this! Within a half hour she emails me back that she’ll find me an alternate placement, and as I’m writing her a thank you she calls me to tell me to get out of Dodge.

Never have I been so happy to leave a library in my life!

When I compare it to Beit Berl, the contrast is amazing. There I had the sense that the librarians wanted to know what I knew and what I could do so they could challenge me while giving me tasks which would serve the library’s needs. Here no one asked me anything; I had no sense that communications of input from me was required or requested. I’m usually Bouncy Betty, eager to have work thrown at me, and here I was working slowly, ignoring mistakes I saw that weren’t what I’d been asked to do (like a Cutter being פלי when the rest of the volumes in the series, by the same author, were פיל).

Tomorrow I have a meeting with the director of the Beit Berl library to sum up my practicum there. I had been planning on bringing cookies with me for the librarians. After today I’m so appreciative of them I decided to add homemade pomegranate jam-filled dark chocolates just to show them how much I’ll miss them.

Practicum Days 7, 8, & 9: Periodicals

January 2, 2012

Back to Periodicals for the rest of my practicum at Beit Berl. Second verse same as the first, so I’ll just list the highlights:

  • Finding an article ILLed from Belgium that no one else could find because the librarian who sent the request gave all the details — only he gave the wrong details. Me, I know from nothing, so when I was told the article couldn’t be found in the journal “Leshoneynu Le’am” I did what a lot of students did over the course of my work in the reference room — I looked in the journal “Leshoneynu” — et viola.  There it was. ILL customer and library staff happy.
  • Lots of distance reference:
    • School drop-outs amongst Bedouin
    • influence of life experience on math teachers
    • Arab society: dating with chronic diseases
    • comparison of teacher attitudes to curricula and lesson plans: special ed and regular ed
    • List of works by/about Zalman Errane

I also learned how new volumes are incorporated into the collection, both in terms of processing and decisions about shelf space. I was supposed to continue my main reading room work of checking syllabi, but there was no time. I’ve been told use of library is steadily increasing, and based on what I’ve seen during my practicum, it’s increasing by leaps and bounds.

I also taught one of the main reading room librarians how to make the salted chocolates she loves but can’t find in Israel. Yes, I’m a full service librarian.

The main project I worked on was updating the database of MA, MED, and PHD dissertations the library holds and preparing a subject-based index for the holdings. The original index was very good, but very un-automated: heading were applied as character styles instead of heading styles, the TOC was created by hand and not automatically, the TOC was not linked to the relevant section of the document, etc. So I reformatted the whole thing and brought us almost up-to-date. One of the problems of a practicum is that you have such limited hours; you find yourself leaving projects in the middle.

But a really good thing happened: all the librarians with whom I worked liked me, both as a librarian and as part of the team. They asked if I wouldn’t like to work in the library and I answered that of course I would, but one of the rules f Fight Club is that you don’t ask the library director about Fight Club, so I couldn’t talk about employment. Three of them made an end run around me and talked to the director, who called me in for a talk, with the upshot being that there will be a job available when I finish my studies and if I’m still looking for work then, I’ll be at the top of the candidate list. So I’ll keep my fingers crossed. (Of course, it’ll be hard to write my term papers that way…)

And so I leave Beit Berl. Tomorrow I start the second half of my practicum, which is supposed to focus on cataloging, at the university in Ariel. It’s a very different atmosphere. I gave someone a lift home today and she told me she studies in Ariel. I told her I was going to the library in the morning and she told me, in a voice full of pity, “Good luck. You’ll need it.”

Not that I’m apprehensive or homesick for the Beit Berl Library already. No. [Runs off to sob into pillow]

Dates: December 26 & 29, 2011, Jan. 2, 2012
Hours: 7 (Dec. 26) 7.5 (Dec. 29) 7/5 (Jan 2)
Total hours to date: 70 hours 10 minutes