Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Books in Women's Studies

Happy almost-New Year! Here are links to the most recent new books list for Women's Studies at the WSU Libraries.

From the Women's Studies LibGuide:
*Tip* You will also find older new book lists on this LibGuide page.

The list is also available from WSU WorldCat:

If you have Women's Studies titles to recommend, please let me know. I'm always glad to receive suggestions.

New Books in Anthropology and Archaeology

Here are links to the last new books list of the calendar year for Anthropology and Archaeology at the WSU Libraries. Look for more new books lists in 2011!

From the Anthropology LibGuide:
*Tip* You will also find older new book lists on this LibGuides page.

The list is also available from WSU WorldCat:

If you have Anthropology or Archaeology titles to recommend, please let me know. I'm always happy to hear from you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Books in Communication

Here are links to new books list for Communication. There are some very interesting new titles now available at WSU Libraries!

From the Communication Studies LibGuide:
*Tip* You will also find older new book lists on this LibGuides page.

The list is also available from WSU WorldCat:

If you have Communication titles to recommend, please let me know. I'm always happy to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

End of the semester tips for using the libraries

It's that time of year again, the time when you may be realizing that you have four papers due (and three exams to study for) and only a few more days in which to write them and get in your studying time.

As I sit at the reference desk in the Holland and Terrell Library, I can feel the tension mounting as the days go by. I remember my own experiences with end-of-the-semester stress (it was ugly - there was blatant abuse of caffeine, hysterical laughter, crying, and at one point a really unfortunate experiment with cigarettes that I don't want to get into), and I sympathize. But my sympathizing and witnessing your pain won't help you much, so here are six tips to make your library work, be it researching, writing, or studying, less stressful.

  1. Recognize that stress makes research harder. When people are under stress, they are more likely to forget things, and also more likely to have a hard time following directions, reading signs, or doing normally easy things like typing passwords. If you find yourself panicking, remember to breathe and (I'll be saying this again) ask for help.
  2. Back up your work. Please, please, please for the love of all that is good in the universe save any paper you're writing on a library computer and save it frequently. Then back it up by emailing it to yourself of putting a copy on Google Docs. The library computers don't automatically save your work, and the TempStore drives on our computers are wiped clean every night. If you lose your work, we will want to get it back for you, but we won't be able to.
  3. Please remember to make sure you have everything you need when you leave the libraries. The last thing you want to do after sweating out a search for peer-reviewed journal articles is to have to hunt down the flash drive you've saved them to. Or to hunt for your cell phone. Or iPod. Or wallet. And while we do have a lost and found at the Circulation Desk, it's a sad truth that sometimes things are stolen in the libraries.
  4. Ask for help. I know I've said this before, but it's really important. We have people at the Circulation Desk and Reference Desk whose job is to help you, who are glad to help you. If you get confused, stuck, or frustrated, let us know and we'll do our best to help you find what you need. Plus, most of us are friendly types, even if we look a little scary at first.
  5. When you're under stress it's easy to take it out on those around you. Try not to. Your fellow students (who are all working with their own loads of stress) will appreciate this and it will get you better help. I try to do my best for every person who comes for help at the reference desk, but I'm much more likely to go the extra mile for those who are respectful and polite.
  6. Okay, admittedly this one is partly to decrease my stress load, but please return things like staplers, scissors, or the three-hole punch to roughly the same places you found them. We like them to be available to anyone who needs them, and sometimes people get quite upset when they can't staple their papers. Also, the old and cranky staplers we sometimes have to resort to have wounded people who attempted to refill them. Seriously. There was blood. There were bandages.
Good luck, and hang in there. May your computer never crash, especially while you're writing. May your research be as painless as possible, and may your study sessions never be so exhausting as to make you sleep through your exams. May your holiday travel be smooth and uneventful. And may you learn enough that is useful and true and important to make all of this work worthwhile.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oscar in the Library

Some vintage Sesame Street.

Oscar finds his books in the end, but in many ways this seems to be an object lesson on how not to conduct a reference interaction.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On piecing together new clothes from old, or, purchasing databases in this economy

There's a part of Louisa May Alcott's An Old Fashioned Girl, where the heroine, Polly, helps her friend Fanny, who has recently fallen on hard times, to remake a dress by turning it inside out so the unfaded fabric on the inside can be reused. Sometimes I feel like this is a good metaphor of what we try to do with library resources - find the undersides of things we already have and try to make them useful in new ways. Sometimes this works well and sometimes it doesn't; sometimes we don't have much choice.

A researcher doing very interesting and valuable work recently asked me about purchasing a very specialized (and very useful) database to help with this work. I'm looking into it, but with our current budget, it's not easy to make substantial purchases like database subscriptions, especially if they may only be used by a few people. This isn't surprising; it's the case in academic libraries across the country right now as we compete for funding in our still struggling economy.

"You are there to help the researchers," my researcher tells me. "Otherwise we can't go on." He is right of course, but part of me resents being told this, because I know he is right. The Libraries know he is right. We are trying to stretch our limited budget to help as many of our researchers as we can, as well as we can. I understand that he feels as though we aren't serving him as well as we could, but I get frustrated because I haven't been able to convey to him how hard we are trying. I am looking to see if I can drum up more interest in this database, if I can make a good case for getting it in the face of our current budget.

If not, I end up trying to help him track down the information he wants the hard way, through databases not designed to give us information or access to the particular type of information he wants. He's already good at this, but it's labor-intensive, takes time away from what he really wants to be doing, and it would be nice if we could give him better tools.

It seems like it may become harder and harder for institutions like mine to provide these tools, even as more and better become available. This is depressing. How much time can we really spend piecing together new dresses out of our old silks? Am I looking at a future in which we have to cut something every time we get something new? It can be tiring, having to explain that our budget can't keep up with inflation, that we're trapped in a failing model of scholarly communication which means that we keep cutting resources and vendors keep raising prices to make up for money they lose (or just for new money they aren't getting) when libraries cut resources.

To drum up an old sentiment I've heard often since I started work as an academic librarian, it would be very nice if universities seriously considered library funding when proposing new programs, colleges, departments, or centers. New areas of research and teaching focus almost always mean that there will be new needs and desires for information resources. If this were recognized and funded at the university level, it would make for happier researchers and librarians.

I don't have much influence at the university level just now, however, so I'm thinking of ways that we could get more funding for the kinds of tools that may be much more useful to select groups of researchers than to our larger student body, or the bulk of our teaching faculty and staff.

Aside from continuing pushing for support of Open Access so that some day we may have a sustainable and viable system for database subscriptions, I wonder if libraries could partner with researchers as they apply for grants, building access to tools and databases into the grant funding so that the researchers, the larger institution, and the libraries all benefit. Has anyone done this before? I'd love to see examples.

In the meantime, we work with what we have, hoping we can turn it to new uses.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Poor Blog

Dear Blog, I've been neglecting you of late and I apologize. I haven't posted here for some time for a number of reasons.

Reason 1: I've been posting new book lists on my library subject guides pages. Here are the links: New books in Communication, New Books in Anthropology and Archaeology, and New books in Women's Studies.

Reason 2: I am sometimes disorganized. Please don't tell anyone. This is a terrible sin if you're a librarian.

Reason 3: The WSU Libraries have implemented LibGuides for subject pages, have changed the way we take our reference statistics (we used to fill out a spreadsheet & now we use a SurveyMonkey form), and the Research Services parts of the Libraries here at Pullman are undergoing reorganization. We've been having a busy year!

Reason 4: In spite of the activities listed in Reason 3, my life is often boring. Truly. It's part and par of the whole uncool vibe.

Reason 5: After a month of bed rest in January (ugh) and an early, but not scary-early delivery on the first of February, I'm now spending a lot of time worrying over how to protect the world's ducks from my cute baby monster.

Being responsible for the fate of all ducks weighs heavy on a person.

But I'll try to write more faithfully here. The WSU Libraries are going to be doing some great things this year, and I'm looking forward to being a part of them and to posting about them.