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Friday, September 28, 2012

The Firemen's Song*

The Pennsylvania State Firemen's Parade is lining up in front of our house.  300+ firefighting units from across the Commonwealth and they're all passing our house.  The noise will be astounding.  I'll be at work 15 miles away and I'll probably STILL hear it.  I could be dead in the ground and I'd still hear it.  I could be in another solar system and I'd still hear it.

God forbid there's a fire and the local companies have to get there.


*--I have no idea where "The Fireman's Song" came from.  I just remember my first WMU home football game where the band sang it during the 3rd quarter.  Since I'm a family man and this is a family-oriented column (OK, it's all about me, but I digress), you'll have to look up the lyrics on your own.



I'm happy that my Russian readers are back--although I'd love to be able to get a more accurate picture of exactly where in the world my readers are.

I'm reminded by the current US presidential campaign that many movie characters implore their listeners to be (or become) politically aware.  Two characters that spring to mind are both in musically based movies and both Austrian.  I'm talking about Captain Von Trapp (The Sound of Music) and Emperor Joseph II (Amadeus).  The former takes place in the years leading up to World War II; the latter takes place in the years leading up to the French Revolution. In both cases, the character in question warns a younger, more emotional man that to ignore what's happening in the world around him is to invite disaster.  Good advice for our times.

Back to my Management project.  Cheers...

*--Alec R. Constandinos, Thank God It's Friday, Love and Kisses, 1978

Thursday, September 27, 2012

9 to 5*, second shift

It's going to be brief today--there's a lot to do for management class, and of course I'll check my cataloging classwork, but first I'd like to welcome my readers from across the pond!   I was THRILLED to see two page-views from RUSSIA today. Wow!  Please leave comments on what you read, good, bad, or indifferent.  I'd love to hear what you have to say. That goes for my readers in Germany and the UK, and of course here in North America.

I spent much of yesterday organizing raw data from the library director job ads I chose to include in the study.  Here are some ideas on creating job advertisements for academic librarians:

1)  In the interest of brevity and clarity, it would be a GREAT idea for schools to put a hyperlink to their job description in the advertisement rather than cherry-picking items from that job description to add to the advertisement.  Even librarians recognize padded writing when they see it.

2) Proofread, proofread, proofread!  One ad asked for--no kidding--57 years experience as an academic librarian.** And it had NOTHING to do with Heinz (but that's a hint as to what college it was).

3) Same ad--this phrase--"strategic planning strategies".  Can we please be redundant again and again and again?  It's like ordering french fries and a baked potato when you've already had vichysoisse (another hint)**. Hey, HR folks--get someone from the English department (or maybe even the library) to proofread ads for you.

Tomorrow, with any luck, I'll share my conclusions.  Cheers.

*--Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 and odd jobs, 1980.
**--No, I won't tell, but the hints may help you find it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

9 to 5*, 1st shift

11:04 a.m. and I'm tying up some loose ends before I start on my management homework--a survey of advertisements for library director positions.  The example given us used 90 examples (!!!) but for the purposes of my project, I think 20 will suffice.  I'm still sorting through the raw data, but some trends are already becoming apparent, and I'd like to share those with you.

1)  If you're considering library and information sciences as a career, make SURE the program you enter is ALA-accredited.  I don't just say this as a member, the data bears this out.

2) A second advanced degree is helpful, especially if you want to break into the upper echelon.

3) If you want to work at the library of a college that specializes in a particular discipline, it will be helpful to have a degree in that discipline. For instance, the law school in my list wants an MLS and a JD; the school for the arts on my list wants an MLS and an advanced degree in an arts discipline.

4) There are exceptions, of course; the prominent culinary school mentions nothing about culinary arts, and even more curious, the prominent medical school lists nothing about medical training (but you can BET they won't overlook it).

5) Experience (but not too much) matters:  most colleges were looking for between 3 and 7 years experience in a dizzying array of combinations, mostly having to do with their particular situation (community college, law library etc.).

6) There were three colleges of the 20 that did not mention a specific number of years experience.  Two of them were, well, let's just say I'd have reservations about applying there anyway.

7) The third was UCLA, which is searching for a University Librarian.  I'm going to provide the link for you and let you read it for yourself, especially the fifth paragraph that begins "Ideal candidates".  It's clear that the people responsible for that ad know what's at stake, and more importantly, deeply care who their leader is. We should all be so lucky.

I can't believe it's 11:35 and I'm still sitting here.  Back to the grind.

*"9 to 5", Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs, 1980.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More Than Words* and Sheldon Cooper

We're about to start SCRABBLE Night at the library again.  It'll be on the last Thursday of the month, and it is, as the name implies, an opportunity for members of the community to come together to play the game.  As a future professional librarian, I know my duty is to serve the whole populace, in all its breathtaking diversity. I enjoy the game (even when I lose) and I want others to enjoy it as well. If someone comes in and is an absolute newbie to the game, I make certain (when possible) that their experience at club is positive; that they learn the rules; that they come to realize that with word knowledge comes word power in the game; that they have as much fun as humanly possible. 

Later on, when they're ready, they're encouraged to try a tournament or two.  If they survive the "baptism of fire", SCRABBLE may just get a friend for life.  That being said, nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced today.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I didn't play particularly well in games 3-6 today.  I ended up with a record of 2 wins, 5 losses, and a point spread of -406 (total of point spread in all games).  That is NOT the reason I'm writing this blog entry.  I don't like the way I performed, but that's secondary.

I competed in a tournament held at the University of Pennsylvania today.  Some names are being withheld because I don't want their grief.   The following happened:

1) I was told by the tournament director that I had the "wrong tiles", because people could "Braille" (feel the indentation to see what letter it is) them.
2) I was told by my first opponent that "she didn't like my chess clock (we use chess timers for club and tournament play)"
3) I was told by the same woman that "(she) set aside (your) board" because it wasn't like hers. As far as I could tell, I was the only player who didn't have an expensive custom board (ranging in price from $150-250).
4) I was told by my second opponent, "don't announce your score on my time".
5) After game five, I decided I'd put my stuff away, since I hadn't used it since round one.  I keep it in a Bottom Dollar fabric grocery bag, which is rather "crackly" sounding.  I started to put it away, and was roundly redressed by the tournament director for making noise.  Stunned, I asked if she was going to tell the dozen or so people who were talking to be quiet. Her answer? "No."

I was really ready to walk out and not return, but sensing that doing so might endanger future participation in other tournaments NOT run by this woman**, I sought out the advice of Joe Neff, the director of the Warrington (PA) club.  He advised to stay for the last game (which I did, and won on the last play) but not to return to tournaments run by this woman.

Why is this important?  Why should it matter?

As librarians, our integrity is at stake every time we answer a question, solve a problem, or gently lead someone through the intricacies of the SATIRE list***.  We can't afford to put up insurmountable roadblocks or to be pharasaic about every point in a given policy. The SCRABBLE tournament rule book is over 50 pages in length and reads like it was drafted by Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory). As library professionals we need to present a welcoming atmosphere in all of our contacts with the public, whether it's the reference desk, circulation, or any programming we do. 

Onward and upward.

*--Song from Extreme's 1991 album Pornograffiti.
**--NASPA (North American Scrabble Players Association) does suspend player privileges and occasionally bans players.  The most recent example was a 14-year-old who was caught cheating (stealing blanks) and who had to vacate all his wins at this year's National tournament. My guess is that he'll be banned until he turns 18.
***--There are roughly 100 six-letter combinations which have been shown to have a higher frequency of leading to bingoes (seven-letter words), of which SATIRE is one.  For instance, SATIRE + T = TASTIER or ATTIRES (among others).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day in the life*

Cause for celebration last night--got an 80 on my Cataloging/Classification quiz!  Probably should have had a 100 but I'll take it at this point.  Going to do revisions on my last cataloging exercise tomorrow when it opens up.  Not as much as last time, but it only gets more exacting from here on out. Yikes!

830 am: I have a Scrabble tournament on Sunday down at U-Penn, so I have to finish my management homework by Saturday night.  Two postings on communication based on two webinars and two chapters in our textbook, so I have a little more reading and viewing to do. My co-worker will be here in a few minutes, so off to work I go, so back later.

1140 am:  Answered phones, solved circulation problems.  Book van was here about an hour ago, dropped off two bags this time, mostly titles to re-shelve.  It's been a little slow since school started again. Four men at the computers, one reading a paper.  Quiet times here at SCFL. Processed a library card application and discovered that they had applied on line over the summer.  Talked Eagles football with an elderly gent.  Time for lunch.

325 pm:  Finally getting to my management homework after a trip to Wawa for soda, collecting a book replacement fee from a young lady's grandmom, and taking care of a shut-in patron who calls once or twice a week.  She generally orders mysteries, but will sometimes take popular fiction titles.  I'm all too happy to help her--it's part and parcel of why we're here.

I have to confess something.  Everyone thinks their local librarian knows every book EVER written, plus keeps up on every author, every minute of the day.  We do (Just kidding!).  I could stand to  do more leisure reading in fiction genres.  I daresay that 95% of the reading I do has an academic purposes, except for cookbooks and reading the news.  Maybe after I finish my MLS...Traffic's kind of light today.

Back to Management homework.  Posit:  "What are the underlying issues in effective interpersonal communication addressed by suggestions in Table 16.1 in Stueart?"  It's REALLY open to interpretation.  Time to start interpreting.  Cheers...

*--The title of today's post refers not only to a late Beatles song but to an ongoing project by a librarian that collects blog pages from various sites worldwide and publishes them twice yearly (I think the next one is in March). They posts run the gamut from art librarians who are doing presentations on their collection of "coffee table books" (not the right term but I'll find it) to public librarians talking about dealings with patrons, as well as a lot of things in between. I was required to read them as part of one of my classes in my first term, and doing so enlightened me as to the wide variety of activities we engage in. One of my short-term goals is to be included in the next edition.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So Much 2 Say*

I've decided to use song titles as the titles for my posts.  Hokey? Maybe--but if you believe that "life is a song lyric", it makes writing to you a little easier.  Today's title comes courtesy of one of my favorite groups, Take 6, who recorded this early on in their career and put it at the beginning of the album, also named So Much 2 Say.  There's a running gag on Take 6 albums where you hear them chase the instrumentalists out of the recording studio (they're an a capella group, for the uninitiated) and this immediately follows. Enjoy!

As the dizzying pace of this semester continues, I get occasional speedbumps.  I was informed last night that the concert for which I painstakingly sorted music last Sunday has been cancelled, and now it goes back to Montana. Oy! As if I didn't have enough to do.

Still pressing on; feelling a little better about the state of things academic, but keeping my game face is getting harder. Time to start the day at Spring City.

*--Take 6, So Much 2 Say, 1990

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain..*.

Today has been as gray and gloomy as a day can be.  It started raining in earnest about 45 minutes ago after threatening to do so all day. It kept more than a few people from picking up their music for SPSO, except for Eric Wilson, our principal bassoon, who came for his during his lunch break. Eric played a concerto--Michael Daugherty's Dead Elvis--for us a couple seasons ago.  Based on the melody Dies Irae,  it's scored for the same instrumentation as Stravinsky's l'histoire du soldat and is, to put it mildly, a strange piece.  It calls for the soloist to assume the persona of The King, right down to the muttonchop sideburns, dark glasses, and yes, white jumpsuit. The aforementioned Stravinsky piece was on the program as was Milhaud's la creation de monde (big trombone lick in the last movement!)

I still have piles of papers to go through from last night, review of Dewey Decimal Classification, a video to watch, and a chapter to read in Stueart (Management textbook).  It won't take long, and I expect I'll get to bed at a decent hour.

Fish and sauteed vegetables for dinner.  Simple and kinda healthy.  Time for a break.

*--"Rhythm of the Rain", The Cascades, 1963

A Library Haiku

Revisions are done

Housework and readings are next

Will it ever end?


Monday, September 17, 2012

'round midnight...*

Another day into the books (and sheet music) (and housework). Let's go to the highlight film:

Completed revisions for LCSH the right way this time; waiting for response from professor on format question before I click "submit".
Found some temporarily mislaid sheet music (Yea!)
Read a chapter for Management class on "communication".
Double-checked wiki for same class to make certain that I'd reserved my selection for the book review assignment (I did).
Sorted SPSO folders for mailing, dropping off, and "porch sitting" (some folks are coming when I won't be here).
Listening to a webinar on communication (Management class).
Earned an 80% on my first Management assignment.  It's early; I'll do better next time.
Second load of laundry in.
Still can't shake the bronchitis cough.  Going to bed.

*--Thelonius Monk, 1944

In the wee small hours of the morning...*

I'm about to go to bed after a long, active day. 
Roasted a chicken for lunch;
Cantored Noon Mass;
Took Sarah to her Mandolin lesson;
Worked on SPSO library with Kathleen for about an hour;
Worked on it again (stuffing envelopes, creating a listserv to communicate with my fellow orchestra members, sent an initial email, recorded responses) for another hour at home.  Discovered that I'd left MY part for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto at Kathleen's house (oops).
Made a mental list of mini-tasks and when I will be able to do them.

THEN I spent time on my homework. 502 (Cataloging)--arranged my work so I could complete revisions on Exercise E (LCSH) more efficiently; read discussions board posts. 534 (Management)--skimmed notes for the coming week.  Need to read two chapters in textbook, and answer a series of questions on a discussion board. 

Between home, school, work, and music, it's no wonder the day sails by.

I need some serious face time with the trombone.  October 1 will come sooner than I'd like.


*==David Mann and Bob Hillard, 1955

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Easy, like Sunday morning*--NOT!

Hey all!

If you're involved in online education, as a teacher or a student, you're no doubt familiar with the anxiety one feels when materials that are supposed to be available, aren't.  That's my situation this morning.  My cataloguing professor was supposed to have our first assignment available for revisions yesterday after he completed grading.  Well, 24 hours later (except for about 15 minutes last night) they're still not there. 

Meanwhile, my classmates and I are waiting to see what will happen. Some of us (including me) have moved on to the next unit (Dewey Decimal Classification), a system with which most of us have much greater familiarity.  We even have an OCLC resource called WebDewey, which, as the name implies, has the 4-volume Dewey instruction manual online, complete with subdivision tables.  It's a wonderfully handy resource, and when it was available in print, it came in an abridged version.

Well, in the words of Dorothy Parker, "no good deed goes unpunished".  According to Dr. Maccaferri, it turns out that the OCLC no longer provides  the on-line abridged edition--SO--our professor changed the assignment to reflect (I hope) the new paradigm (the long version of WebDewey).  The mind reels.

Cantoring at Noon Mass, taking daughter to mandolin lesson at 230, meeting with SPSO librarian at 4 to go over music, and THEN more progress on homework.No rest for the weary.

It's not all bad.  My Library Management class is providing some "Harry Shearer's 'le show'"-worthy guffaws courtesy of our current class assignment--to read a number of job ads seeking library managers or directors, compile the data and report back (APA format, of course).  I don't want to give anything away, but Dilbert is just around the corner (cubicle).  Cheers.

*--Easy, Lionel Richie, 1977.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Online Course of Study

1:30 pm, Saturday

Just came chugging back up the hill from the Turkey Hill C-store and am going to try once again to start my revisions for Cataloging class.  Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) got the better of me this week, and I've had to rethink how I study, not just for this class but for all my classes.  The textbook for this class is, to put it mildly, densely written, but I'm reserving final judgement until I get a little further along.

I'm taking a 100% online Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS, sometimes called a MLIS, or Master of Information and Library Science) degree from Clarion University, a PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) college in north central Pennsylvania.  In December, provided I survive Cataloging, I'll be halfway through the program.

My coursework has been mostly required classes up to this point (Information Sources and Services[working the reference desk], intro to research, collection development, Library management, Intro to information professions, and the aforementioned Cataloging and Classification class.  Soon to come are bibliography classes for various fields of study (I'm taking Humanities and Sciences), three classes in the digital/electronic realm, and a class in teaching strategies for librarians.  The last one is particularly important because information literacy skills are being taught at all levels, even college, and are becoming a significant part of the first-year experience (what they used to call freshman orientation).  The thinking is (and I believe it is sound) that time, money, and energy are better spent on helping students build a solid foundation of study skills during the first year than spending three days during the summer after high school graduation babysitting them, hoping they don't get drunk or sick or arrested or worse.

What do I hope to get out of all this education?  My goal is  to work as a librarian at the college level, preferably as a Music Specialist in a conservatory setting.  It has been pointed out that there ARE other options, and I'm certainly learning that, but even if I don't get a Music School job, I can STILL work in other areas of librarianship and be fulfilled.

Dewey Decimal System next week.  More later.

Introduction part I: My library weekend work

September 15, 2012

I'm at one of my part-time jobs today.  I'm a paraprofessional at Spring City (PA) Free Library, a tiny branch of the Chester County (PA) Library System outside of Philadelphia (  We're almost in the shadow of the Limerick nuclear power plant, whose cooling towers I see each time I drive up here.  Our building is a converted one-room schoolhouse, a situation I'm finding with increasing frequency as I work longer in the library field.  Plans are underway for a new building for us to start excavation/construction sometime next year. We're excited at the thought of increased space and the possibilities a meeting room  will bring.

Today I'm working with Lois, a recent U-Pitt library grad who is able to run circles around me in terms of speed and efficiency.  I have to be careful not to sit back and let her do everything.  She's covering some hardcover books, getting them ready for circulation. 

During the summer we were only open 9am-1pm on Saturdays, which means we had moms with young children, and the "computer crew" (more about them later). Now that fall is here we're open 10am-5pm, and while we get more of the same people I just described, we'll also have some of our regulars in (more about them later, too). 

Unhappily, since I'm kind of the regular Saturday person, it means not watching Michigan Football on TV.  Today they're playing U-Mass at the Big House.  Last year's game was played on the heels of a great tragedy.  Long-time U-Mass Marching Band Director George Parks died of a heart attack just minutes after his band had performed at an Ohio HS football game (it was their intermediate stop before Ann Arbor).  It showed great, magnificent character and the band's love of Dr. Parks that they voted to perform at U-M anyway.  My hat was and is off to them all.  Go Blue! 

Tomorrow, I meet with the orchestra librarian to get music ready for the first concert of the season of the Southeast Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra, a regional orchestra of which I am "acting" principal trombone.  I agreed to act as librarian (minus the music-ordering duties) for the season, as the regular librarian is taking time off to focus on her job. 

Tomorrow, too, I'll shed more light on the prism and hope to let you know a little bit more about who I am.

Introductory post

September 15, 2012

It's late, so I'll be brief.

I'll get into detail tomorrow.

Welcome to my blog!