Web 2.0 is like the Mafia…

…just when you think you’re done with it, it pulls you back in.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve recently switched up job duties and am now in charge of my library’s Interlibrary Loan department.  (And by “in charge” and “department”, I mean I do everything.)  So I thought I wouldn’t have time anymore to reallly think about Web 2.0 things.   Turns out, that’s not quite the case.

I was minding my own business this afternoon, submitting ILL requests via OCLC, and I noticed that there is now an option for electronic delivery of materials via Yahoo IM, Skype or Windows Live Messenger.  Check it out.

(Sorry for the external link, but I can’t get an image to upload to WordPress today to save my life.  The electronic delivery stuff is in the middle of the screen shot.)

For reasons beyond my understanding, my branch library is unable to get Ariel or any of the other ILL software operational, so perhaps this could be a way around that.  My patron-privacy-o-meter goes up when I think about transmitting materials via non-library vendors, so I’ll have to check into that and see how it all works before I fire it up.

On a related note, there has got to be a way for me to stream line the notification process when an ILL is recieved.  Or submitted, for that matter.  When this first law journal source and cite rush calms down, I hope to work on creating an electronic form so that I can keep my records better organized (ILL is causing me to go through a hellish amount of paper…my carbon footprint is growing at an exponential rate!) and do “push button” notifications.

Now for something completely different….

If you’ve followed the news this week, you’ll have seen that my neck of the country got slammed by a terrible ice storm.  I’m okay – surprisingly didn’t lose power or cable – so I can concentrate on the neat things about the storm.  Namely, this is my first natural disaster since I got all Web 2.0.   I spent Tuesday night on my laptop chatting with friends and watching the storm’s progress through Lexington via Twitter.  I have to admit, it was pretty scary, because I could hear the branches crack and transformers pop and it many ways it felt like a horror movie and that I was being stalked by a monster.

On the bright side, it was also nice to get the occassional reassuring message and helpful advice from those that had gone through something like this before.   And it was nice to know that if something had gone wrong, I could have always updated my Twitter via my cell phone (assuming, I guess, the cell towers were okay) and my friends and family would know I was alright.  Or that they should send help.   And, of course, sometimes the best news of all came through Twitter.


A Day in the Life of a Librarian

Hey, speaking of memes

Today starts round two of the Day in the Life of a Librarian blogging round robin.  If you’re reading this, you’re either a librarian/library student (in which case I encourage you to add your name to the blogging list and write a post of your own) or a family member/student/old friend (in which case you probably have no idea what I do all day…prepare to be enthralled.)

I think, like most librarians, I don’t do the same thing every day, all day.  So what follows will be a close approximation of what happens, without being an exact day.

Since there’s going to be some new eyes reading this, I guess I should start off with a basic introduction.  My name is Sarah and I’m a Reference and Access Services librarian at the University of Kentucky College of Law Library.  That means I works “up front”…I answer research questions and help patrons procure materials that they can’t get through the university library system.  I have a JD from the University of Cincinnati College of Law and a MLS from Indiana University School of Library Science.  Academic law librarians like myself are generally required to have both degrees, law firm and court librarians are not.

Okay, so I wake up, get out of bed, drag a comb across my head…Actually, before the comb part, I usually make my way to my home office, fire up my computer and check my personal e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, andFriendFeed.   I have friends and contacts all over the country (all over the world, actually) and a lot happens when I’m asleep.  Then, if there’s anything that needs to be responded to, I can think of witty responses while I’m making bed/showering/making breakfast/packing my lunch.

Then, much to my everlasting shame, I eat breakfast in front of my computer.  I have a perfectly good table, but I got into the habit in library school and can’t seem to break it.  So I eat my breakfast (shredded wheat.  always.) and enter my witty responses.  I also check my work e-mail to see if there’s anything that needs to be thought about on my commute to work.

I arrive at work somewhere between 9 and 9:30.   I arrive through our Tech Services department, wave hello to my co-workers “in the back” and try to avoid getting sucked into any conversations.  (It’s not that I don’t like my co-workers, it’s just that I don’t like to talk to anyone before 10am.)  I get to my office, fire up my computer, put away my lunch and start my work day.

The first part of my day is dedicated to the “Access Services” part of my job.  I login to our ILS and see if anyone from UK has requested a book from the Law Library to be delivered to another library on campus through UK’s Book Express service.   If there are, I pull them from the shelves, process them, and put them in courier bags to be picked up in the afternoon.  I then login to OCLC and see if anyone (and by this I mean “another library”) has requested materials from my library to be sent to them.  (A process called Interlibrary Loan or ILL.) There always are requests, so I see if they’re available (on the shelf and a type of material that we circulate), pull them, wrap them up and then either drop them in the mail or put in a state library courier bag for our weekly pickup.

Now comes the fun part of Access Services…submitting requests.  This has three main components: (1) Figuring out what exactly it is the patron wants (2) Making sure that it’s not available either in print or a print substitute (law journal source & cites require print or PDFs to check an author’s work against; other ILL requests are generally okay with electronic journal submissions) from a UK Libraries resource and then (3) Use OCLC to find a library that has it, preferably one that doesn’t charge for ILLs.  This process can take any where from a few minutes per request to hours per each.   I really enjoy the challenge of the hunt.

Now, throughout this process, I have my office door open.  Co-workers and students often wander in to either ask a research question, discuss a work issue or just chat.  (I sometimes think that offering a sympathetic ear to law students is more important than helping them do research.)  I also keep a widow open to Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook, check my e-mail a couple times and take phone calls.  I’m not intentionally a multi-tasker…I just have a short attention span sometimes and I like to break up my tasks with a communication break.

Around noon I eat lunch (again in front of my computer) and then head out to the Reference Desk.  Which basically means I sit at a desk and wait for someone to ask me a question.  While I’m waiting, I may be processing some ILL requests, working on a research request from a law student or faculty member, taking care of some committee work (library, law school, university or professional organization), catching up on my professional reading, communicating with other librarians on social networks, writing a blog post (here or on my library’s blog), planning a bibliographic instruction session or once again just chatting with co-workers and students.  No matter what library you are at, or what it looks like the person sitting at that reference desk is doing, you should never feel bad about asking them a question.  It’s what we’re there for!

As largest law library in the state, we get legal questions from all sorts of people – from federal judges’ chambers to uneducated people trying to file a small claims court claim and everything in between.  Students, faculty and members of the bench and bar usually just want suggestions on how to use resouces that they’re already aware of or to get some material that they know exists, but are unsure where it is.  With members of the public, they don’t know what they want or where to get it.  There’s a fine line between providing legal information and providing legal advice and I have to be aware of who I’m talking to and what they want so that I don’t cross it.  (Sometimes the best outcome is to help them realize that they should contact an attorney and show them the options for free and low cost legal assistance. ) A lot of times, people just want to have someone listen to their story and don’t want advice or information at all.   I won’t lie…I’ve had some interactions with members of the public that I scared me or plain creeped me out, but for the most part it’s not too bad.

My reference shift ends at 4, but if it’s busy, I’ll stick around and answer more questions.  Otherwise, I go back to my office and continue some of the same activities that I was doing on the reference desk.  I’m currently redesigning a website for a regional law library organization, so that’s something that’s taking up my time lately that I can’t do on the Reference Desk.  I head home around 6.

So that’s an average day in the life of this law librarian.   Or as average as it can get, not counting fire drills, burst water pipes, library construction projects, inventory or other rare occurrances.  Things I didn’t mention that fall in between “rare” and “average” were commitee meetings, faculty meetings and conference travel.  Those take me out of the library and can really throw a wrench into my daily schedule.

Culture Shift

A couple of months ago, in what one of my correspondants referred to as “an obnoxiously large quote”, I answered a AALL Spectrum Member to Member question about blogs by talking about Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.   Since then I’ve noticed another trend shifting from Blogs to these other services.  Namely, the Meme.

In case you don’t feel like reading through that link, basically, there are all sorts of memes.  The blog meme, which I am most familiar with from my personal blogging days, usually involves answering a set of questions or something similar and then “tagging” other people to answer them.   (A quick check shows that I’ve actually done some in this blog here and here.)   But it can also just be using an “inside joke”, that millions of people on the Internet are in on.

I know this because I am aware of all Internet traditions.  *cough*

First it started with everyone on Twitter changing their userpic to one generated by the FaceYourManga site.  Then there was one where you had to grab the nearest book to you, go to a certain page and change your Facebook status message to the 4th sentence.   And now, most recently, I’ve seen on both Facebook and FriendFeed a meme where you list 25 interesting facts about yourself.

(And apologies to people that tagged me…I’ve been busy and I am also scared to try that particular meme just in case it turns out that there actually aren’t 25 interesting things about myself.)

This doesn’t change the value of these services for information dissemination.  There are still plusses and minuses for people in the library community attempting to use them for this purpose.   And it’s not another death knell for blogs… I am pretty sure that blogging is here to stay, although it may change through time.  I just think it’s interesting that there’s another shift from blogs to these newer services.

I also think that this is further proof that due to the community aspects of Web 2.0, newbies should approach it much like you do when traveling to a foreign country for the first time.  (And I do so hope, Gentle Reader, that you are not an Ugly American when you travel.)   Learn the language.  See what the cultural traditions are.   Just like you wouldn’t want to set up a Steak House in India, you should check to see what your user base needs and wants out of a technological product and then deliver that.

The Web 2.0 President

Well, unless you have spent the last few months under a rock, you know that Barack Obama was inauguarated today as the 44th President of the United States.  (I’ll pause a moment so all of the Democrats reading this can give one final “WOOOOOoooo!”   Ready to go back to the blog now?  Okay.)   Obama the candidate utilized Web 2.0 in some interesting ways*, most notably I thought with the MyBarackObama social networking service on his website, and Obama the President (“WOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo!”) is going to continue the trend.

The new White House website premiered today and it prominently features a blog.  The other cool thing about the new White House website?  Without getting too technical, there’s something called a robots.txt file that prevents search engines from indexing and archiving a website.  The new White House website has many, many fewer limits on search engines.

So, as a Web 2.0 enthusiast, I am going to be very interested to see what other Web 2.0 (and 3.0) services the Executive Branch utilizes.   And it won’t be just official acts, either.  The last I heard, President Obama (“WOOOoooo!”) is refusing to give up his Blackberry.  And the adorable Obama girls will be going through their a significant chunk of their teen years in the White House….awkward, ill-advised self-taken pictures appearing on the Internet are almost a matter of “if” not “when.”   He may not be using the bully pulpit function of the office, but through the actions of Obama and his administration, non-techie Americans are going to be introduced to Web 2.0.

*Some other examples of Web 2.0 utilization by Candidate Obama: YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter .