Category Archives: academic

New Wiki

Nice to see a wiki started up for academic medical librarians who serve as liaisons to department.

Call for Papers

Two of my colleagues have started up a new journal, Communications in Information Literacy. Here’s the Call for Papers.

No, we don’t have your textbooks

Money is tight and textbooks, particularly medical textbooks are not cheap. So it makes perfect sense that students try and borrow them from us. I get that; really, I do. What I don’t get are their reactions when you tell them we either don’t have the book or that it’s checked out.

It never seems to occur to the student that if he/she got the bright idea to borrow the class text from the library that it also occurred to the other 49 students in the class.

Sometimes they try and get the name of the person who’s borrowed the book. We never give that out of course, but I’d love to know exactly what the patron is thinking. Is there some sort of a stickup after class? “Let me tell you what’s going to happen. We’re going to walk down to the library right now and you’re going to return that book and I’m going to check it out. Play it my way and nobody gets hurt.” Or do they try appealing to the borrower’s better nature? “Look, I’m eating catfood. You have money. Please, buy your copy and let me borrow yours.” Perhaps they go for a mass violation of copyright and xerox the whole darn thing? Or is there no plan at all?

You have to wonder…

Citation chasing

Lots and lots of questions lately involving incomplete citations, supplements, and my personal bĂȘte noir, conference proceedings.

Add these to the list of things I wish they had taught me in library school.

Citations aren’t so bad. PubMed’s Single Citation Matcher is a thing of beauty. Unless of course we’re talking about non-medical citations. Although Web of Science and Google Scholar are pretty helpful with those.

Supplements, I’ve come to accept as an inevitable part of my working life.

And then there are conference proceedings. There’s really no gold standard search for finding the little darlings–good luck if they’re incomplete or incorrect. They won’t show up in MEDLINE or PubMed. Papers First and Proceedings First are not comprehensive. I’ve had some luck with the aforementioned Google Scholar, but I always feel like I’m looking for a needle in the haystack.

I do have to say though that there is nothing quite like the rush you get when you track down the darn thing for the patron. It’s even better when they’re impressed.

It’s a green book

I got a call from a faculty member trying to track down the full citation to an article the person wrote. Turns out the professor wrote this back in the fifties, or sixties. I started asking the questions I would have asked anyone.

Do you have the title?
–Well, I know Something-something was in the title.
Was the professor the sole author?
–Oh, no.
Who were the other authors?
–Well, possibly Dr. So-and-So or Dr. Other-So-and-So.
Can you spell those names for me?
–Well, I don’t really know. It was a long time ago.
Any idea what journal this was in?
–Hmmm, I think it was Proceedings of Such-and-Such. In 1952 or maybe it was 1954. Wait, it was in 1962.
What was the article about?
–It was about Topic X. [Very definitively] Yes, it was about Topic X.

This is what I like to call an offshoot of “The Green Book Phenomena.” Quite possibly I heard that somewhere else or this has a real name. If so, let me know. Anyone who has ever worked in a bookstore or library has experienced this. The person cannot provide you with any real solid info. They don’t know the name of the book; have no clue as to author; can’t even tell you what it’s about–but they do know the book had a green cover (or red or pink or whatever).

Not usually a searchable field in a catalog or database.

And then somehow, miracle of miracles, you find it.

Since working in academia, I’ve encountered this little offshoot a bit more often. It astonishes me how frequently faculty have forgotten what they’ve published.

Several dusty print indexes, a couple of database searches for the heck of it, Google, Google Scholar, more print indexes (print is not dead), a call to another librarian, and a database I almost never use, we came up with one remote and doubtful possibility.

Journal name was different, title did not have the words the faculty had said were there. Authors were partly right. He mixed up first names and initials. His date possibilities were way off and the subject of the piece was not what he’d told us it was.

So it was with trepidation that I presented this to the professor, who subsequently was overjoyed. It was, in fact, exactly what the professor was looking for.

Go figure.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

They don’t teach you about the hours and hours of preparation you’ll need for instruction when you’re in library school. No, that’s wrong, I think I did hear about it, but I don’t think it really sunk in. Not until I found myself poking around in InfoTrac OneFile for hours on end trying to find relevant examples that would demonstrate the strengths and the flaws of the database. It might also have been when I was practicing to myself and the cats I was pet sitting so I could get the timing right. I was off the clock (in an hourly wage position) and it was a beautiful day. The cats were perturbed and so was I. I don’t do that quite as much anymore and when I do, at least I’m salaried so I am getting paid for the preparation.

I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m not over-prepared. No longer do I walk in a class with two inches of papers. I haven’t quite reached the stage where I walk in with nothing at all, but it’s down to two or three pieces of paper. I’m getting the timing down too.

One of the graduate students was telling me how much they hate public speaking. I used to go into shakes before presentations. Cold sweats, anxiety dreams, tension headaches–all were a part of my world. I admit to still having bouts of nervousness when speaking in front of colleagues, but students don’t induce the absolute panic in me that they used to. Maybe it’s because I’ve come to realize that I know more than they do.

They’re baaaacckkkk!

The summer makes you soft. You get to a point when you expect to be able to plow through some work at the desk punctuated only by the occasional request for directions to the loo or the stapler. It’s only Tuesday, and clearly, those days are gone for the next two semesters.

I have to say though having actual questions feels pretty good. They’re also more receptive to the information right now. Everyone’s eager. Everyone has good intentions. They’re all going to do the course reserve reading. They’re all going to get their assignments done ahead of time. Heck, they’re all going to get As. The jaded attitude doesn’t come till later.

One thing I’m not looking forward to are the “Why doesn’t the library carry my textbooks?” questions.

Nobody got the memo

I realize that I’m still something of a new librarian, but I’ve worked the desk long enough to know that in the summer, the questions are few and far between. Every other summer, they’ve been no-brainers. “The bathroom is down that way, turn right after the bookshelves.” “Sure, you can have a pencil.” “I’ll fill the paper right away.”

While I know in reality that they can hit you with the tough ones any old time, I tend to get into the easy mindset once classes are out. For some reason, this summer, every single time I take the desk, I have been getting hit with the hard questions. I’ve been at the library three years if you count my stint as a student assistant, and in all of that time, I have never, not once, been asked about medical coding or billing. Past three weeks, I’ve had at least four mind-numbingly difficult questions on those topics.

I think I need to throw the “it’s dead in the summer” theory in with the other myths like “I’ll have time to write X or to complete Project Y during the break/intercession/summer.”