In recent weeks, the State Historical Society of Iowa has been faced with reorganization and funding cuts, which threaten to reduce access to its irreplaceable collections and to displace staff who have dedicated their careers to helping Iowans learn about their past. Plenty of folks have written about the specifics of the situation (the petition link includes links to many helpful sources to educate yourself), but what I want to focus on is my experience with SHSI, and why that experience makes me believe absolutely in the importance of keeping this organization funded and its records accessible .
I was lucky enough to work at SHSI at the start of my Master’s program, and it was one of the most valuable and enjoyable jobs I’ve had. I started volunteering there when I decided I would apply to the Library and Information Studies program, and later came on as a work-study employee after I was accepted. I bounced around to do a few different things at the Iowa City branch, including some cataloging, preservation/conservation, and special collections (one of my first assignments was working with Civil War and World War I diaries from Iowa veterans, which was challenging and lots of fun). I got to learn about some awesome Iowans through the records they left behind, and their stories are the ones I turn to again and again when I talk with others about the value of preserving history.
I have been spending this semester writing research methods papers on how we can study the information seeking behavior/needs of sexual assault survivors and/or the experience of survivors in the library. I am excited that I get to turn one of these (and hopefully more than one) into an actual study this summer, but it’s made me very aware of how little there is out there dealing with this issue. There aren’t any studies that look at survivors’ needs or experiences, and only one that discusses the issue at all. Since I won’t be doing my research until this summer, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few thoughts I’ve been having about some simple ways we could improve library services now. I’ve taken these from my own experiences of looking for information and interacting with people during the earlier stages of my healing process, and from my understanding of research in social sciences as a whole. I would really love to hear from practitioners too–what are you doing at your library? What do you want to do? What barriers do you see to implementing changes (if any)? So here are my ideas, add your thoughts in the comments!
Maria Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier. Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, 2009, Library Juice Press: Duluth, MN.
Visit the publisher’s website here: http://libraryjuicepress.com/
I got a review copy of this book a while back (thank you, Rory Litwin!) and have been reading this book in spurts for the last month. It doesn’t normally take me that long to read a book, but I found myself spending so much time highlighting and making notes in the book that it took me several hours to read each chapter (also, graduation and such has made life busy.) I requested a copy hoping to review it from the perspective of someone who is about to begin instructing students, and during the time I read the book I was impressed by how much I could translate the findings from the book into the classroom, and how much positive feedback I heard about the book when I mentioned that I was reviewing it.
This morning, my partner and I were chatting when he mentioned a new patent Apple applied for to disable recording functions on their devices at concerts and theaters. This article gives you a brief overview. I had been waffling between upgrading to a Droid or an iPhone, but after reading this I may have my decision made for me! The patent is still being processed, from what I understand, and no announcement has yet been made as to whether it will be included on future iterations of the iPhone, but the fact that it was applied for raises some important issues for me. I posted a link to the article in a tweet, and in minutes had a number of retweets and responses that sparked a vibrant discussion about DRM (digital rights management) in a number of devices and what our role is in encouraging producers (like Apple) to reduce restrictions.
I ran across this rather lengthy quote while adding to my chapter on libraries from 1914-1916, and was so pleased by it I couldn’t wait to share it with you! It’s from the 1914 annual report, written by Iowa City Public Library’s librarian, Helen McRaith. Unfortunately my Internet was down yesterday (and most of today), so I had to contain my excitement until now:
“The modern idea of the function of a library is this—to study the literary needs of its own community and then to endeavor to meet these needs to the fullest extent, even if tradition must be violated in so doing.
The old-fashioned library was a cloistral place appealing only to the scholar, who moved silently among dust-covered tomes. The modern library possesses a different atmosphere and one more akin to that of a business office; most of the readers have the appearance of seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.
There is a similar change in the appearance and attitude of the librarians. Formerly they seemed to look on the library as an end in itself and as a collection of interesting curiosities, they were willing to let it remain a stagnant literary pool. Now they must be alert specialists, keen to keep a stream of vital, useful knowledge flowing from the library to all parts of the community.” (Iowa City Public Library 1914 annual report, pg 1).
This reminds me so much of some of the current discussion circulating around the changing field of librarianship, even though it was written almost 100 years ago. Her writing has the same tone of excitement that I feel in my own blog and in reading the posts of other LIS bloggers, about the library as a place of expanding opportunities and of librarians as being people who are redefining the field rather than just participating in it.
There are a couple places in particular where her writing sounds like it could have been lifted out of a modern blog (and then had the language antiquated a bit, of course): there is so much concern right now about justifying the value of libraries, and a lot of that justification comes through pointing out that the library is used for practical purposes, as McRaith says, “…seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.”
>Today was orientation for the new cohort in our department, and it was absolutely a blast. The students are passionate and ready to work, and I felt fortunate to spend the day getting to know some of them. One of the presentations by LISSO (Library and Information Student Organization) included mention of The Library Routes Project. I’m glad I was there to learn about the project and to then go home and look at some of the posts, especially after spending a day with new students and with professionals who were discussing how they came to the field. I had read about it previously on Lauren in Libraryland, and was excited about the project. However, as happens so often, I got bogged down under other tasks and eventually slipped to the back of my mind.