It’s All Becoming Clearer

These past few weeks have gone by fairly quickly! As I go forward in my internship at Katie Wheeler Library, I’m finding myself getting really immersed in the activities. I’m feeling more like a librarian, although I still have a ways to go.  I’ve been working the reference desk quite a bit, both with my supervisor and on my own (of course, with a librarian within call range!). One morning, I was asked to take the door count and put out the daily newspapers the library receives—the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and  a Korean daily. At another public library where I work part time, this task isn’t completed by the reference librarian. We also receive other newspapers, but not everything arrives every day. I’ve discovered that the phones generally start ringing right on the dot at 10:00 am and will continue for the first 15 minutes at a steady pace. So you need to be ready to go! Many of the questions still deal with specific title requests, where you have have to do an item search to see if the library owns the title, or check to see what other branch has it and have it transferred in if the location is too far. I’ve also had opportunities to do more subject searches, though. These, of course, tend to be more complex. One gentleman asked me how he could research materials on businesses that have failed. At first, I was stumped! I had no idea how to begin searching the topic. Something to do with businesses! So I just typed in “business failures” because I couldn’t think of anything else, and to my surprise, that was an actual subject heading! I was able to locate appropriate materials for this patron to get him started. Another patron called on the phone to see if we had books on helping children cope with divorce. A search under the subject “divorce” brought up way too many headings and in the interest of speed, I transferred the request to a librarian. I did manage to conduct a reference interview and found out she wanted books children can read rather than books for parents so they can help their kids deal with divorce. A subtle change in semantics but one that makes a huge difference in what the patron was asking for.

I  played  with the Kindle and iPad a few more times to make myself more comfortable around them. I even walked a frustrated patron through downloading a Kindle book, for which he was extremely grateful. Being familiar with the procedures for downloading e-books to the Kindle and iPad made it much easier to do the same for the Nook, which was a new device for me this time around. I’m going to have to play around with that one a bit more, as it entails using Adobe Digital Edition and a USB cable (as opposed to being a wireless transaction). Also, my supervisor invited me to participate in an e-book open house the library is holding next month. I’m super-excited about it! I love that the library is recognizing a need for instruction in the community and is acting to provide that information on a personal level.

I also continued with collection development activities. I continued to log information about the holds coming into library to the Excel spreadsheet. There are patterns emerging, which I will analyze at a later date. I continue to weed full shelves to make room for new arrivals and rid the library of books that have not circulated in a while. This process is becoming much easier for me. Some decisions to discard are quite easy to make while others are iffy. With those, you really need to factor other criteria into your decision. These, I talk over with my supervisor and explain why I think something should be discarded, and I’m happy to report that she has agreed with my decisions 99% of the time! Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about discarding last copies. Those decisions are made by headquarters, and they will either tell us to get rid of it or reassign it to another branch. I find that I have to struggle a little to put aside my personal preferences when it comes to weeding. I need to remind myself sometimes that it is not my library but my community’s, and if they’re no longer interested in the book, it needs to go.

Overall, I’ve been really happy with the direction of my internship. I’m learning and doing professional activities that will help me achieve my learning outcomes and getting great advice on just about everything library-related!

Carrying On

The past couple of weeks, I have been working on both reference services and collection development. I’ve started covering lunch breaks at the desk both in adults and children’s all by my lonesome and this has really made me grow in the role. I guess I’m not as tentative and insecure when I don’t have someone looking over my shoulders. I’ve also come up with an Excel spreadsheet with the help of my supervisor to track holds coming into the library. The objective is to log different kinds of requests in order to analyze what patrons are asking for and to see if there are weaknesses in the collection that need to be addressed. The spreadsheet tracks the number of fiction, nonfiction, audiobook, CD, and DVD requests. Then I go into our catalog and check the titles against our holdings to see how many titles our branch already owns and how many we don’t. I also log call numbers for the nonfiction so we can later see what subjects are most frequently requested.

books at the Katie Wheeler libraryThe library had just finished weeding according to a last-circulated list, but many of the shelves were still full. So the librarian asked me to pull the books from the full shelves onto a cart and go through them in the ILS to see what can be weeded further. At least one book must be weeded from each of these shelves. Although it pains me to discard books that have circulated within the year, necessity dictates this course of action. The library’s fiction collection is a small one, and room must be made for new additions. This is a library where users are always requesting newly published books, and this particular demand must be met. I looked at several statistics- last date checked out, number of times checked out during the period the library owned the title, number of books within OCPL, and whether the title is still circulating at the other branches. The year of publication was also taken into account.

Thoughts about weeding (collection development): I had one book that I was really on the fence about. It was Comanche Moon, the last in the Lonesome Dove saga by Larry McMurtry. It was a gorgeous new copy, but the last checkout was in March 2010. We didn’t have any other books in the series except Lonesome Dove in paperback. The county system listed 23 copies of Comanche Moon, with only one copy currently checked out. I thought, big name author, beautiful condition book. I don’t want to discard it! But…it was written in 1997 and was not circulating at our branch. So out it went.

Thoughts about reference: I think what I’m finding the hardest thing to figure out are the subject term(s) to use when searching for books on a particular topic. I had one young lady ask me for books about careers in psychology. I tried several combinations of “psychology” and “career” and “guide”in a subject search but came up empty. Often, the terms you think you should use are not the right ones! Practice practice practice, I suppose. After a while, I’m hoping the right terms will come to me automatically.


I’ve started my internship for LIBR 294!

To begin: my internship site is at the beautiful Katie Wheeler Library, one of 34 branches belonging to the Orange County Public Libraries system in Southern California. The library is situated in the Irvine Ranch Historic Park and the exterior is a faithful replica of the 1900s Irvine family ranch home. While the interior retains many of the architectural aspects of the original home, such as mahogany accents, fireplaces, and a “grand staircase,” it has been adapted to meet the needs of a library. Opened in February 2008, the Katie Wheeler branch is 11,250 square feet on three floors and offers over 50,000 books, periodicals, DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks. The atmosphere inside is very warm and cozy, and yet it is a fully functional, modern library with wi-fi access, computer workstations, and self-checkout. It feels like no other library I’ve ever visited, and I’ve visited plenty!

Check out the video below for a virtual tour of the library:

My primary goals are to gain hands-on experience in reference services and collection development in a public library setting. To this end, I developed the following learning outcomes:

  • To analyze data and apply various criteria in the selection of library resources
  • To demonstrate ability to provide reference assistance and conduct effective reference interviews
  • To enhance knowledge of popular electronic devices used by library patrons and provide instruction
  • To assess collection for weeding using statistical data and assessment strategies

Although I’ve volunteered at this site, an internship is a much more official capacity. So the adult services librarian, who is my internship supervisor, started off by having me read the policy and procedures manual, which I hadn’t done before. She also went over the procedures that the librarians and library assistants follow upon opening and closing the library. I spent a lot of time observing reference interactions the first week. I am also extremely fortunate that my supervisor is on the training team for e-book devices because one of my learning outcomes is “to Enhance knowledge of popular electronic devices used by library patrons and provide instruction.” She went over the steps that patrons need to take in order to check out e-books on the iPad. We had a brand new iPad2 to play with! We also went over the Kindle.

What I’ve discovered while observing the reference desk at a public library is that there a lot of directional questions. I mean, A LOT. Where’s the bathroom, where’s the elevator, where are the children’s books (children’s materials are on the second floor, which is not immediately apparent for newcomers)….There are also a lot of ready reference questions. By that, I mean patrons asking whether we have a specific book – they will either ask by title or say something like “the latest book by Stephen King” or the biography about Steve Jobs.” Current best sellers are popular here and almost always all checked out throughout the county system. So we are often putting titles on requests for patrons. No meaty reference interviews yet! I’m beginning to wonder if that’s the province of academic libraries. Because of the uniqueness of the library, I have to learn the history of the building and the location so I can answer the inevitable questions about our library. People are genuinely interested and you have to know this stuff!

Navigating my way through the iPad was a fun learning experience. My supervisor first had me try to follow the iPad directions listed on a bookmark that OCPL gives out. Basically, I was testing it out as a patron to see if the instructions were easy to follow. It’s easy enough to follow  basic directions to get started and to download the ebook, but it’s the in-between searching for the ebook part that’s difficult.The searching part tends to get glossed over in any ebook downloading direction I find. Same with the Kindle. If the patrons are in the library asking about how to dowload ebooks, going over how to search for ebooks by demonstrating it on the iPad or on the computer really helps them with the whole process.