Met on the Amtrak Throughway Shuttle in Salinas

A gentleman who came down from Washington state to check on a property his wife owns. He spent time in Monterey at the Defense Language Institute 30 years ago, learning Mandarin Chinese while in the Special Forces.

A lovely woman who boarded the shuttle with a walker, a chili pepper plant, a duffel bag, and two violas da gamba. She is participating in a week-long music workshop near Carmel that culminates in a concert on Friday.

But no librarians.



Today I took my monthly furlough day. No work, and no pay. Do you know how hard it is to NOT check email? To stay off the library’s Facebook and Twitter feeds? I have no idea what happened in Sacramento libraries today. It’s eerie.

On a happier note, UPS delivered a neat little book I ordered for my SCC reference class: it’s a collection of reference questions in various topic areas LIS students can use to practice with. I first saw it in the City College library, but it’s in the reference collection. Checking around, I was able to find a recently-reprinted paperback copy for a reasonable price, so I ordered it. I’m expecting it will make it easier for me to create exercises and test questions during the semester.

So my school reference collection is beginning to look pretty respectable! My next project will be to take some kind of class in online instruction or course design in order to be able to teach more effectively.

2013 Training Day

Sacramento Public Library’s annual in-service day for all staff occurs in October. This year, the planning group took a break from strategic planning, and presented a day full of practical and fun sessions, similar to a conference. Each staff member selected three sessions to attend, and for each, received an entry in a drawing for a day of paid time off.

For me, the highlight of the day was the keynote speaker, the Stress Magician, Colin McKechnie, ( His talk about the chemical and physical elements of stress, illustrated by demos with volunteers and group exercises, was compelling. In particular, the demonstration of the changes in one volunteer’s heart rate projected on the big screen, was so astounding, that it had the audience murmuring in wonder.

Some of what he demonstrated seemed designed to illustrate the “magic” part. It used a technique Weight Watchers has in its arsenal, called “anchoring”. By touching something and associating thoughts and feelings with it, you can recall those thoughts and feelings whenever you touch that thing. The anchoring he demonstrated included coke cans, water bottles, and individual packets of a variety of sweeteners. And our hearts. By placing our hands over our hearts, we anchor feelings of well-being and happiness, our stress level decreases, and our heart rate slows.

In any case, the information about the brain and limbic system, and the manifested response of the volunteer’s heart rate to the anchoring exercises combined to make a memorable presentation, and gave us tools to monitor and reduce our stress at work and at home.

I remember someone saying that an instructor had her class do stress-reduction exercises before exams. Hmmm…

As I sit up late, grading assignments …

… I am impressed with the resourcefulness of my students. I unintentionally gave them a hard assignment, last week, and they all gave it a pretty good shot. They used several techniques to locate the answers to hypothetical reference questions, including collaboration, asking a practicing reference librarian for guidance, searching archival collections, and asking me for clarification of the results – or non-results – they were finding. 

So while I feel bad that the assignment was harder than it needed to be, I am actually elated that the students were able to meet the challenge and produce mostly credible sources and answers. 

Stump the Librarian

Last Thursday’s SacLib Facebook post invited readers to mention the last three books they enjoyed, and librarians would recommend titles for them to read next. The first time we did this was in Fall of 2011, and 24 people posted – we thought that was a fabulous response rate. On Thursday, there were well over 100 posts, and many comments that the librarians’ suggestions were “right on target.” It’s obvious that our readers love to talk about what they’re reading, and i’m happy that our staff was able to make relevant recommendations.

This success makes me think this might make a good assignment for my Reference students. If they could do something like that on the LIBT or City College Facebook page, this would give them a fun way to put into practice the lesson on Reader’s Advisory. If we can’t use the school’s Facebook page, we could do something like that on the discussion board for that week. The more I think about it, the more I like it!

Professor Owens

I discovered I really love teaching! So I’m happy to say that I’ve been invited back to teach the Reference Services class again this fall! I received the letter from SCC the other day, and I should be able to access my e-mail and D2L, the course management software, soon.

My school e-mail and D2L blackout this spring has made me think more seriously about an alternate place to put my lessons and exercises. The director of the program has created a Google Site for the class she teaches, and I’m more than half-inclined to try that, too.

I have the updated textbook, and now I have to revise my lessons to accommodate the new information. Fortunately, I saved all my work in Dropbox, so I can begin the revisions right away, and just upload them to D2L when my access is restored.

Some of the lessons I learned last year:

  • Check local libraries for copies of titles mentioned in the text and used in the assignments. Just because they’re basic and standard doesn’t mean libraries have purchased them.
  • Simply posting a response after the assignment, as is done in InfoPeople classes, is a waste of time at this level. It would be better for me to post a question requiring analysis based on the exercises of the week, and invite the other students to contribute to the discussion.
  • I need to hold a couple of quizzes during the semester to get a better handle on student progress.
  • I need to create a long-term project to make the class more challenging.
  • Last year, I made the final exam open-book, and it was still a challenge for about half of the students. I actually liked the open-book exam, because this was a reference class, and the questions gave the students more practice in deciding which books to use to find the answers.

So … until my D2L access is restored and I can log in and fight with the program updates … I’m enjoying the Independence Day holiday and weekend. After next week, it’s going to be insane!

eReaders: Practical Help via InfoPeople

One week into InfoPeople’s online course, “eReaders: Practical Help For Patrons,” I’m seeing a pattern: high patron interest in ebooks, high patron frustration with the processes and their devices, high awareness by library staff that we should be able to offer patrons more help, and high frustration on the part of staff with their unfamiliarity with the growing number of different e-reading devices.

In fact, that pattern mimics what’s going on at my library. We’ve coped by hiring Library Technical Assistants whose main job is helping patrons with the online public computers, and helping with other technical issues – like e-reader help.

I’ve already gained two very important pieces of information: a picture-chart of all the available e-readers, and a tip that the user manuals for most e-readers are findable online. If the next three weeks continue as the first has begun, this will be a very worthwhile course.