Library Buildings

12/03/2014 § 6 Comments

This semester I’m taking a class on library buildings. “Library buildings? Is that a class?” you ask? Indeed it is! Taught by Fred Schlipf, an LIS professor, library buildings consultant, and former public library director, the course is an introduction to the physical spaces that LIS institutions occupy. One of the most practical courses I’ve taken in library school, it is less focused on the history or culture of library buildings and more on the actual working parts of library buildings and their renovation/construction.

While slightly geared towards public library structures, the class offers information that would benefit any specialization/path. As Fred said on the first day of class, “you will almost certainly be part of or affected by a library building project at some point in your career.” This has been true for many of the practicing librarians and archivists I know. The further we get into the course, the more surprised I am at its uniqueness: according to Fred, very few other library schools offer a comparable course. I have found it immensely helpful to learn about everything from reading blueprints (not as scary as it seems) to arranging bookstacks (good sightlines mean less theft!) to heading off suggestions of “couldn’t we turn that building into a library?” (most buildings do not have the structural strength to hold books unless they are specifically designed to do so).

The Geisel Library at UC San Diego certainly *looks* cool... But future expansion is going to be tricky... (Image Source)

The Geisel Library at UC San Diego certainly *looks* cool… But future expansion is going to be tricky… (CC 2.0 liscensed image from Flickr user ewen and donabel)

While very few people *plan* on being part of a library building project, it seems almost inevitable, and the knowledge required is very niche. Being comfortable with renovation/construction topics and vocabulary can be a major asset, especially in a smaller/more remote environment (apparently one of Fred’s former students was able to shine in an interview by pointing to redesign blueprints taped to the director’s office walls and commenting on them with some fluency). Thus, in light of the revelation that Library Buildings classes do not exist at most schools, I’ve pulled together a few resources to share with the Hack Library School community. I know that “free time” is rather scarce as a grad student, but if you have some and feel so inclined, take a look at some of these; the resulting know-how will probably be useful sooner than you think!

State of America’s Libraries Reports – 2013 reportArchived reports
Published annually, this report contains a section on library construction and renovation, which can be a great way to dip your toes into the recent challenges and issues.

American Libraries Design/Buildings supplements – 2012 supplement 
Every so often publications like American Libraries will put out special issues on library facilities, construction, renovation, and/or design. These are also fun, low-stress ways to acquaint yourself with new developments.

Webinars – e.g. “Constructing the Future Library: Architectural & Digital Considerations” (free recording of a 2011 ALCTS webinar)
Webinars are your best friend when it comes to topics your school doesn’t have classes on. Do some searching and you’ll often find recordings of past presentations for free!

Books on library construction! 
When you’re ready to bite off a bit more, there are a number of fabulous, recent books on library construction and renovation projects. The two we’re using extensively in my class are: Managing Your Library Construction Project: A Step-by-Step Guide (2007) and Checklist of Library Building Design Considerations (2008). I’ve also come across many others that look equally informative.

Got any other great library building resources? Or have you been part of a building project at some point in your career? Share your advice and thoughts in the comments!

Language of Compassion: Multilingualism in the Library

17/02/2014 § 6 Comments

HeartbyhandPhoto credit: Wikimedia Commons

The month of February is most recognized as the time we celebrate our love. It’s a time when we speak the “language” of love as a means to show our devotion to that special someone. But what happens when the language we speak to express ourselves is not the same language expressed by others? How do we communicate to one another simple tasks that feel impossible when language becomes a barrier? What can we do as library professionals, to make expressing ourselves, not necessarily in the language of love, but of compassion for those whom English is their second language?

Quite simply, a lot. Let me share with you, my story…

English is my second language. When I was six-years-old my parents divorced and my mother decided to move our family – myself and my two younger sisters – to Florida from Puerto Rico. She believed that learning English would ensure our success as adults and decided that our new home would provide us with more linguistic opportunities than  in our home town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I had begun my elementary schooling there, but would continue the remainder of my schooling in Central Florida. When I was a first grade student, I had a hard time comprehending English. I pronounced words such as “chair” and “chicken” with a “sh” sound, rather than a “ch” sound. And I could not understand why it matter that the way I spoke was incorrect to others. I struggled a lot and did poorly in my school work. I would eventually be sent to a school for foreign language speakers, and after three days of horrific experiences (I didn’t know where my class was or how to get lunch, I was yelled at by a peer and a teacher when I couldn’t understand instruction, and I was physically pulled and tugged at when I failed to understand directions).

After many nights of crying and pleading with my mom, I was “dis-enrolled” from that school and the next best option was to return to my elementary school and take ESOL classes. It proved to be very successful and my teacher was extremely patient with me and my peers. By the latter half of elementary school, I struggled less and my grades significantly improved. It was a tough part of my early childhood, but I learned first-hand what it was like to speak a language not commonly expressed by others while trying to integrate into a new environment. I also learned what it was like to be bullied, talked down to, thought less of, and isolated from others.

So can you imagine, for a moment, when someone who does not speak or understand spoken English very well, be it due to primarily speaking a foreign language or an impairment such as being deaf, what they must feel when they need to communicate with you?

Now can you imagine what it must be like if you could understand them, their feelings, as well as, their language?

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Hack Your Study Space

18/11/2013 § 4 Comments

Although I’ve been working on an MLS for a little over two years, I’m still trying to improve my study space. While I plan to work IN a library when I graduate, my default study space is at home.  One thing I’ve learned in talking to my library school classmates is that there isn’t necessarily one best study space for every LIS student, or even for every assignment. How do you figure out your best study environment?

Where do you do your most productive studying?

During my first year of library school, I spent more time studying in the library, especially for the classes in cataloging and reference. Since then, I haven’t spent as much time in the library, studying instead in my home office, my cubicle at work, or at the home of one of my classmates.  I’ve tried other places too, from coffee shops to parks to different libraries, in an effort to balance the need to focus with a change of scenery.  The change of scenery is motivating sometimes, but distracting at other times. I never paid much attention to the music in coffee shops until I tried studying in one.  In my neck of the woods, the coffee shop music is too loud for my studying style.  I was surprised—and a little disappointed. So, I spend most of my study time at the desk in my home office.

The desk in my home office is a wide one (my sister says it’s perfect for writing The Great American Novel–maybe after I finish library school!), with a lamp near the right corner and lovely painting of colorful flower pots hanging above it.  My laptop is flanked by office supplies in a cup, my iPhone, and either a diet soft drink (one of the vices I’m having trouble giving up) or a cup of hot tea. My desktop is rarely as neat as it should be, but I try to start each new semester with a clear desk.

Does music help you find your study zone? (If so, what’s on your playlist?)  Do you study with the television or other background noise? Or do you insist on quiet when you’re studying? I usually prefer to have a quiet environment, unless it’s a breezy assignment. When I’m studying at home, sometime I find that a running washing machine and dishwasher help provide a comfortably domestic “white noise” while knocking out some chores at the same time.

Do you study better alone or with others?

Being an introvert (but just barely) on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m usually more productive studying alone.  Sometimes, having a study buddy has been motivating and helpful, but other times, we’ve ended up chatting about school and other things. One of the best decisions I’ve made in library school, though, was becoming part of a study group during my first semester.  The conversation started with one classmate, and the group grew and morphed as we took different classes over the past two years. Our group has small, ranging from 4-6 classmates, which helped keep study sessions manageable and often fun, meeting for dinner before our study sessions.  Although only three from our original study group (including me) are still in library school, we still meet for a “study group reunion” lunch when we can, a great way to network by staying in touch in person, encouraging each other, and celebrating graduations and new jobs.

What are your favorite tools of the (study) trade?

I do most of my word processing and spreadsheet work on a laptop at my desk, with my iPhone often nearby. Sometimes the iPhone can be a distraction (in which case I put it in another room), but often it helps. Right now, I have the Pomodoro Technique timer iPhone app running to help me stay on task, and it usually helps a lot. I also use Remember the Milk (the app and the website, which sync with each other) for task management, often creating tabs/lists for specific classes or projects.  I love checking things off a to-do list.

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve had a thing for school supplies, especially pens! I must’ve enjoyed back-to-school school supply shopping from the get-go (who doesn’t love a fresh box of Crayolas?!), and I remember it being a big deal when we were finally allowed to use ink pens in school. So, I always have a cup of colored pens and highlighters, as well as pencils, near my laptop. I do get the irony of having writing utensils next to my laptop, but I also keep Post-its nearby too, for that fleeting idea that needs writing out, rather than typing on a list. My favorite pens? The Sharpie Ultra Fine Point and the Pentel R.S.V.P. are my tops on my list right now.  Much like reading a print book instead of an e-book, I still enjoy holding a pen and writing things out by hand sometimes.

What tools do you use for studying? What supplies do you like to keep nearby?


While a fair number of “Study Space” resources online are geared toward children’s spaces, here are some of my favorites that other grad students may find useful too:

27 Inspirational Homework Stations and Study Areas

How to Make a Study Space

Pinterest “Study Space” Keyword Search Results

YouTube Results for “How to Create a Study Space”

Where’s your favorite place to study?

Web Apps 2.0

21/10/2013 § 11 Comments

It is Monday morning, and I’m polishing this piece from a coffeeshop, about 900 miles from my university after working on it periodically from 3 cities on 2 continents. The file is being automatically updated to the cloud ever time I save, just in case my battery or computer dies and I need to access it remotely from elsewhere. It is a mobile world in which we live and a fair number of us are working and earning our degrees mostly if not entirely online. I personally spend a great deal of time on the internets or using surrounding technologies for my Grad program, work and life.

"Evernote" by John Larsson under CC via flickr.

“Evernote” by John Larsson under CC via flickr

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When Do We Need a Translator?

18/09/2013 § 2 Comments

When evaluating which courses to take, students often start with the list of undeniably library-specific courses: reference, cataloging, archives, etc. But as the profession continues to evolve it has become more and more interdisciplinary. Library students today take end up taking everything from web programming to marketing, from database design to educational/instructional theory. 

The question I’ve been trying to tease out lately is: is it more effective to take library-ified versions of these courses within our library schools or to take them in their true departments? For instance: will you learn more from a marketing class that is taught by a library school faculty member and focuses specifically on library issues? Or would it be more broadening and beneficial to take a marketing class in the business college?

When is the original appropriate and when do we need a translation? (CC licensed image from Flickr user gcbb)

When is the original appropriate and when do we need a translation? (CC licensed image from Flickr user gcbb)

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