Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Practicum 1: Introduction

December 9, 2011

To get a government license as a librarian in Israel, one must do 160 hours of practicum. Of that, 40 hours are field trips to see different kinds of libraries, with groups discussions afterwards. (We’ve visited large public library systems, the National Library, a prison library, etc.) The other 120 hours are done in a host library, getting a taste and overview of an entire system.

After looking at my resume, my GPA, and my talents, the lecturers in charge of placements decided that my best chance of employment would be in a academic library. They were probably right — I’ve interviewed at public libraries and was told that it would be a waste for me to work in reader services because I could “do so much more”.  (They don’t offer me a job doing what they think I can do, or even bother telling me what they see me as, but…) A library that would like to hire me if they could get a budget for additional staff tells me they know it’s only temporary, until I move onto something “better.”

I’ll be doing my 120 in two different libraries, a 70/50 split, because there are things the primary library will not allow student librarians to do, such acquisitions and cataloging. The first 70 hours will be at the library at the college where I am studying LIS, Beit Berl. The other 50 hours will be done at the Ariel University Center of Samaria.

In Beit Berl I will be doing my practicum hours following the progress of a book through the library — acquisitions, cataloging/classification, reader services and reference, and then the special offices like inter-library loans.

#cpd23 Thing 16: Us and our big mouths

September 18, 2011

Israel doesn’t have a strong history of advocacy for libraries.

In the first place, modern Israel’s history is too short for a long history of anything. And second, given our two library traditions: library as study hall (as in Bergmann’s National Library) and library as social educator (communist/labor party “workers’ libraries”) there hasn’t been a visible need for advocacy during most of Israel’s history.

Lately that has been changing. Whereas once library budgets were not only sacred in terms of funding, they were sacred in terms of use — no local authority would dare dream of diverting library funds for use in other agencies. Now that’s become such an issue that library budgets have been separated from local council budgets in many places, and yet the plunder continues: I’ve heard of libraries being told to buy computers which were then “donated” by the library to other local agencies and of libraries funding and planning activities which were to take place in the spaces of other agencies, with the host agency getting all the credit.

But it’s hard to get the Israeli public — so passionate about so much else — worked up about their libraries. It’s just the place they get free books, you know? When your rent is half your monthly salary, experts are predicting the world will end on Thursday, etc. how important is your local free book warehouse?

The Center for Libraries is trying to change the perception of libraries, but IMO too little, too late. This year they seem to be all about Facebook. Really? Isn’t that a little 2009? Frankly, the most passionate teens and 20 somethings I know are leaving Facebook in droves out of boredom. It’s a problem I’ve noticed a lot in Israel, and in my LIS program, too — they teach the program/site and not the skill. GoogleSites instead of HTML, Facebook instead of finding and engaging the readers.

I think the first step, particularly for small town libraries, is for the librarian to be more visible, not just inside the library, but outside. I spend a lot of time talking to people in the town whose library I volunteer in, and they, intelligent, well-read, Facebook-friendly people all, have no clue about half of the libraries services. If I were in the library during public hours more often I would tell people to come meet me at the library, as long as they didn’t mind chatting while I worked. The main advocacy problem that I’ve seen locally is getting people in the library’s doors.

To take an example which illustrates the problem Israeli libraries face: I’m an LIS student. A voracious reader. I work in information and volunteer in a library. And yet I have not borrowed a book from a library in about 10 years. If I want to read something I either buy it for myself or borrow it from a friend. I advocate for the library in which I volunteer, but wouldn’t bother myself, except for in principle, to do anything to save the library in my own town.. Why? As far as I know, it has nothing for me. It’s never done anything to draw me inside its doors. The only programs I ever see advertised are for pre-readers, of which I have none in my family. The library books I’ve seen at other people’s houses are not the genres which interest me. Why would I swerve from the path between the grocer and my house to check out the opening hours?

There’s no outreach, no variety of programs, no variety in collections, no requests for feedback from the community, no availability of information resources (I think I heard a rumor they might be getting a computer for patrons), and the librarian is a 21 year old girl with a high school diploma and previous experience in babysitting. My home library is infinitely more suited to me needs. Until the local library has something for me, expresses some interest in having me in its community, why should I take the time to advocate?

There, I think, is the difference between what Israeli libraries once were and what they’ve become (and consequently the source of their problems). The library used to be a community and now it is not.

#cpd23 Thing 15: Conferences

September 14, 2011

A meetin’ of the minds to elevate hardcore, take it to a level where few have been
You brag but your brain’s like mush, hush learn somethin’ my friend
Seminar dope, smoke you cope, nope, ha I got ’em in the scope
Scramble, run and hit ’em like Op, chope, goin’ for the throat

Sir Mix-A-Lot, Seminar

This Thing makes me feel a great deal of envy. The Americans have so many conferences. The British, it seems, have even more.

Israelis? Not so much. There’s Teldan, which is ridiculously expensive if work isn’t paying your way. There are conferences from Mercaz HaSefer that are only open to member libraries. There are, once in a while, open day conferences sponsored by the different LIS programs, and there are a few meetings a year of I-FISH. None are open to student presentations, though.

I do go to the two conferences a year sponsored by my program and I’ve joined I-FISH.

I won’t always be a student. Some day I may even be able to present, and I know that public speaking is not my strong point. So I’m working on my self-presentation skills, both grammatical and physical, and reading up on presentation tools: Prezi, Power Point, video making. I may never be accepted to present at a conference, but if I am, I plan to be ready.

#cpd23 Thing 14: Mendeley & politics

September 7, 2011

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a long time. It should be a slam dunk for me, since I use all three citation resources in this Thing, but there’s more involved here than academics, and I have some instinctive horror of mixing academia and politics, so I kept worrying at this post. Best to just type it up, put it out there, get on with my life, and nip that incipient ulcer in the bud.

The site that’s keeping me from sleep is the citation resource site I would like to use most, Mendeley. And the reason is purely politics.

Let’s start at the beginning of my quest for citation management. At first I stored references in Diigo, but once I decided I wanted to see what other people were citing, I knew it wasn’t enough, so I moved over to CiteULike.  And that was fine for the social bookmarking aspects, but I had to add a heavy reliance on Dropbox and Son of Citation Machine to share articles and organize citations for papers.

Then I found Zotero, which at least solved the problem of organizing citations. I like their Word addon, didn’t like that it was browser dependent (which is less of an issue since they published their standalone application). At school we only have Internet Explorer, so I kept looking, and stumbled across Mendeley.

It wasn’t love at first sight, but I did find the site more useful than the alternatives, so I put the references for my end-of-term paper on literacy in a Mendeley library. Then I got an e-mail from Mendeley, inviting me to become a Mendeley Advisor — a sort of goodwill ambassador for the site. I’m not sure why they sent someone who’d just signed up such an invitation (because there are few Israelis who use it?), but I did like what I’d seen of it so far and they offered me a T-shirt (which I still haven’t received) so I joined the Advisor  group.

And that’s where the trouble started. I started to fill out my profile and was happy to see that books and articles I’d worked on over the past 20 years were all there. Then I went to put in the school were I study — no such city is listed in Israel. I shot off an email to Mendeley support and they quickly added the school’s city. Now what about the town where I live?

Ah, that’s more complicated, they said. You see, I live in a Jewish town on the West Bank, and adding any towns on the West Bank is politically sensitive. At first I was inclined to accept that, but then I did some digging, and found that there were several West Bank Arab towns listed — but no Jewish/Israeli towns. I wrote support again, pointing out that fair’s fair — if they’re worried about being politically sensitive, they should either list several Israeli West Bank towns as they do several Arab ones, or no Arab West Bank towns as they do no Israeli ones.

A nice tech support person named Charlotte, who’d been helping me all along, said she’d have to take it up with her manager. Two weeks later I reminded her I was waiting and she said the manager said it had to be kicked up to the board of directors. Two weeks later I sent another e-mail, asking what had happened, and two weeks after that another — neither of which was answered.

I’m inclined to write this off to the known British academic bias in favor of Arab claims to the area and against the Israeli, but they could have been honest enough to say so from the start. I’m in the process of writing a small blurb for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, in the hopes that some of their 40,000 members will also write Mendeley for explanations. They might ignore one user, but there’s power in numbers. I don’t want to change the site’s policy — I’d just like them to admit to it in writing.

In the meanwhile, I’ve cancelled the program I had scheduled at school to extoll the virtues of Mendeley; a silent bias does not strike me as a worthwhile academic stand to support.

 

 

 

#CPD23 Thing 11: If wishes were horses

August 8, 2011

Photo Creative Commons by skedonk

Oh, yes, I know what you’re thinking: There she goes again, whining about the state of Israeli librarianship. So why doesn’t she do something about it?

I would if I could, but I’m not even sure where to start. My program doesn’t seem to offer any guidance on mentorships. We will need to do an apprenticeship in Year 3, but they haven’t told us (approaching Year 2) anything about the process–do they match us up? Do we need to find our own opportunities? At the open house before I joined the program I did get a hint that the coordinator tries to place students in jobs near their homes, so perhaps she does take charge of the whole task. Do I get a say in what kind of library I apprentice at? If so, how do I know what I want? At this point, the only kind of librarianship I know of is solo corporate librarianship, and I wouldn’t want to apprentice at that (if it were possible; apprenticing as a solo librarian is sort of a contradiction in terms, isn’t it?). I have been putting time in at a public library, but only as a volunteer, and never in work with patrons. How would I know if I might like that? And I’ve never done anything in an academic library, a realm which I think might suit me. Would committing myself to 120 hours of work there be my dream job or a nightmare?

If we had an efficient local network I could try that as a way of finding official or informal mentors, but we don’t. I do try, when we take a tour of a library or when I go to a conference I chat up anyone who seem willing. I often do make friendship, but whenever I think I might be finding a mentor I’m brought up short by reality. Fact is, no matter what I’ve called what I do, I’ve been an information professional for well over a decade. Most of the people I talk to either do not have as much experience as I do or are more interested in what I do (as I am more interested in what they do).

When I have my Year 2 planning meeting in October I’ll approach my department head for advice or a name she can recommend to me. I would love to have someone more experienced and more knowledgeable to help guide me, and I think I have enough experience and variety in my professional life to give something back, as well.

If wishes were horses, all librarians would ride. I think it might be time I try to locate my local stable.

#CPD23 Thing 10: To know where you’re going…

August 2, 2011

I think some people are born to their professions.

Take my aunt (please!)

(Thank you, I’m here all week. Try the lasagna, and don’t forget to tip your waitress.)

She’s a born social worker. Family legend has it she was giving the delivery room nurses advice, and at 4 she sat the postman down for a long, deep conversation about what was wrong in his life.

I’ve always been the information finder and sharer. You know, the annoying kid in class who was always correcting the teacher. Who always waved her hand frantically, wanting nothing more in life than to answer the question.

That’s right. I was the kid you all hated. But really, you should have pitied me. It wasn’t that I was a show-off, it’s that I was addicted to information. Walking into school was like pushing the plunger on the syringe, getting that sweet, sweet fix.

In high school I decided journalism was the way to get my daily information high, and that lasted me up until I moved to Israel at age 25. There were few English language outlets back then, and I knew that I’d never be as good as I wanted to be in Hebrew journalism, so I skidded off into editing and translating. From there it was a short hop into researching and organizing information as a corporate Information Officer.

When I was widowed I realized that I needed a reason to get out of my home office and get out into a crowd, so I decided to go learn something. Since I never had any formal training in librarianship or information science, I decided to check out programs and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the average age of post-graduate LIS students in Israel is mid-40s.

I enrolled in the Beit Berl post-grad program, about which I wrote on Hack Library School. Because of the program I’ve started to volunteer in a public library, but that’s a story for Thing 11.

#cpd23 Things 6 & 7: When a global village is all the village you’ve got

July 27, 2011

Little known, but trufax: Israel is a resource-poor country. We don’t have oil. We don’t have much water. We even have to import our reality TV shows.

What we do have in abundance is protekzia. No, not the recombinant version of human butyrylcholinesterase. Not the cuspated drainage systems. I mean Vitamin P, networking to the extreme, Jewish Geography, cronyism, nepotism, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It’s the national sport.

P Mosaic CC photo by Leo Reynolds

A few real life examples:

1. My daughter-in-law’s sister got married last month. My son was in an Officer’s Training Course, the kind where they might give you a day off for a funeral — if you ask nicely and bring a death certificate. And if the death certificate is your own and you swear to be back in uniform at 0 dark 30 the next morning. But my son’s mother-in-law wanted Sonny Boy to attend the wedding. She called around, found a relative who had been Sonny’s commanding officer’s commanding officer (back in the day) and got Sonny a night off.

2. Before Sonny Boy and DIL were married, DIL’s mother wanted a certain woman to give DIL her mandatory pre-marital religion classes, but the woman was fully booked. Turns out the woman’s husband is my kissing cousin, and though we had never met before or knew of each other’s existence. I called in Family Chips and DIL got her lessons.

So you’d think Israel would be all up in real life networks, wouldn’t you?

Ha. There are only a few Israeli LIS organizations.

The big one should be ASMI, the Israeli Association of Libraries and Information Centers. If you visited that site, I apologize. It’s a hot mess (posts from 2008 sandich posts from 2009 and from this year). You’d think LIS professionals would know better. They do offer one year free membership to LIS students, but the only value the organization adds, aside from publicizing other organizations’ events, is their job board.  Since I’m not currently looking for a job and most of the posts are public anyway, I’ll hold off on joining until I am or the last year of library school, whichever comes first.

There’s also ICL, the Israeli Center for Libraries. Most of its training is most relevant to working public, academic, and school librarians. They host a relatively expensive yearly conference, with no student discounts.

The one real-life network I am involved with is IFISH, the Israeli Forum for Information Specialists in Hitech. Like the  Israeli network websites, the website is hopelessly out of date. Membership is free, the email list is very active and very helpful, and there are a few free meetings each year featuring new technologies and services for information professionals. It was due to protexia that I joined IFISH: I went to network with one librarian who happened to be heading to an IFISH meeting that afternoon. She offered to take me with her. I hung around her library all day. (Yay for telecommuting to my day job. On the internet no one knows you’re not in your office.) I tried to register for IFISH online before the meeting, but the webform wasn’t working. No problem — the 2 founders were my lecturers in Business Information and I had their email addresses. Zipped an email over to one of them, got a confirmation, and I was in. Next year I hope to be more active, if there are any volunteer opportunities in the network.

So where does that leave an Israeli LIS professional who wants to network? On line, of course.

On line, and alone.

Image CC stonepix_de

There aren’t very many Israeli librarians in the online networks. As far as I can tell, I’m the only Israeli on LISNPN. There are a few other Israeli librarians in my Twitter stream, but they don’t network with each other, much less the outside world. I’m friends with a few on Facebook, but those are ones who are friends in real life, not just online, so I’m not sure they count; most of the time I didn’t know they were librarians when I friended them. I am making an effort to keep my Google+ more professional than personal, but it’s still a very quiet place.

Another place I’m beginning to network is over at Mendeley, where I’m a member of several groups which match my LIS interests. I may have to pull out of the site soon, though, once they decide on their policy about the Middle East peace talks. (Yes, I know. A research management tool shouldn’t really be defining political views, but if they allow one side in a territorial dispute the right to claim certain cities in the disputed area and don’t allow the other side to claim other cities as a policy decision, well…. It’s been nearly two weeks since I asked for the right to list either my hometown or the town in which I’m a library volunteer and I’ve been told they need to have a board meeting about it. If I want to claim the nearest Arab city as my hometown, though, it’s ready and waiting for me.)

LinkedIn lives almost entirely separate from my LIS persona. I don’t find the connections or the CV capacities very helpful, but the groups are amazing, particularly in the area in which the corporation I’m currently doing information work for is involved. Where else would I be, within a week, on a chatting basis with the CEOs of potential partner firms?

And now a note for Israeli LIS professionals.

תשתתפו איתי בעולם הווב 2. אני מבטיחה שזה לא עולם גדול ומפחיד. שיטת חבר מביא חבר עובד נהדר ברשתות החברתיות. תשאלו מי שניסה!