Category Archives: Critiques

Ontario Government giveth and taketh away.

The Ontario government has obviously learned nothing from what happened in Saskatchewan the past few weeks. In a bid to win votes the Ontario government in 2016 opened voting to ideas on where to put funding for various projects. One such proposal was Infrastructure for Rural and Northern Libraries. This sounds great, but is it?

It has been reported by the Toronto star that to fund a 1 million dollar investment in Rural and Northern Libraries they are taking money from a big city library: the Toronto Public Library. (Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2017/05/02/ontario-cuts-funding-for-toronto-public-library.html)

As a rural librarian why should I care? This is not an investment in libraries; this is a re-allocation of money. One time $1 million for rural libraries, Toronto public libraries lose $1.4 million. That is a $400,000 deficit to Ontario libraries (barring any new announcements we don’t know about).

This is good news for rural libraries, but bad news for overall Ontario libraries. The Toronto Library system represents approximately 2.7 million people(Census: 2016). That accounts for about 20% of the population of Ontario. Rural libraries may be cheering for this, and some people may even say “well Toronto has got too much for too long.” Cuts will be coming, and I bet they are going to hit rural library programs as much as they hit metro Toronto.

The Toronto Libraries offer so much digital information and programing tools that are shared with other libraries, such as the Toronto Reference Library, Digital Archives, Genealogy and the sharing of maker tools. These programs are likely the first to be cut as they appeal to non-tax payers such as us rural folk.

The Ontario government has pulled a fast one on us. one hand giveth, the other taketh away. We as a community of libraries have lost almost half a million dollars in funding. This is nothing compared to what was happening in Saskatchewan and New Foundland, but people need to speak up and mobilize. In a year or two that $1 million dollar investment will be gone, and I bet the government will not return the 1.4 million to Toronto or any other library without action from its people.

Update:
After some outcry from the public and some literary muscle leading the way (Margaret Atwood) the Ontario government has recinded the removal of funding for the Toronto Library.

Doom and gloom in the field of Library and Information Sciences: A rebuttal

I read a post on linked in about the bleak future of librarianship, and as the thread continues a post about the bleak future of the world. A MLIS student was asking  whether society really needed librarians and even posed the question in such a way as to ask if librarians would be useful or existent in 50 years. This thought pattern seems to come up quite often, and even I am guilty of second guessing myself. I would like to take a more positive approach to the topic. What follows is pretty much my response that I posted in the thread on Linked in, with some minor tweaks.

First of all, since libraries were a thing (Ancient times) most people have viewed them as not essential to their life. In many societies the average person has no real need for the library, so spouting the doom that people don’t think they need us is just hogwash. The masses have generally speaking not really seen a need for us and yet we are still here. Most people in history either didn’t care for libraries or had no access in the past as they were closed to the public and only for academics up until the late 19th and early 20th century.

Another point that was raised was that most people think they can find everything online, the truth is you can’t find everything online. I can’t tell you what the source is but in one of my classes it was explained that only 2% of everything ever written down is actually online. and of that 2% very little of the useful stuff is available without a pay wall or knowledgeable person to guide you there (enter libraries and librarians) this makes librarians extremely valuable (especially to civil rights of the people and businesses). Knowledge is power, and whats online that will bring power to businesses in particular is knowing more about you and how to use that to sell their product. This makes MLIS grads valuable assets to have.

There is also a concern that has been raised since the advent of the modern publicly accessible libraries:”Technology is going to end the printed book or libraries. People have been fretting about this since the mid 20th century and we have adapted. When “automation” came along it was the end of librarians(50’s-70’s?), when computer’s (70’s-80’s) and the Internet (1990’s) became big things people said it was the end of librarians and libraries, yet here we stand.

a person responded to the thread mentioning a prediction made by scientists of a 30 to 50% job loss within 50 years. When the world became mechanical, outsourced, and technological, similar presuppositions were made, yet here we are as a society without a 60% jobless rate and riding out a long recession to boot. Change happens, progress happens, and society adapts.

Someone proposed that if you don’t believe in librarianship use the degree elsewhere. I totally agreed; If you don’t believe what I say use your degree from the other side of the coin: Information. There is more to Library and Information sciences that just the library part (see the proceeding 3 words after library) use your degree to your advantage. Don’t box yourself into that library category if you don’t think it will fit. You have the knowledge and power to use the information side of it if you so choose. It is up to you how you use your degree. You can be all doom and gloom or you can go out there and make the best of what you got, because frankly with the information age just dawning…we as information professionals will likely see a boom in our need…we just have to keep an open mind (and not listen to all the downers out there who are stuck in a rut currently)

What my MLIS taught me and what it didn’t: A look back one year after

Well, it has been just over 14 months since I graduated (attended the convocation ceremony) from the MLIS program at Western University in London, Ontario. I originally started this blog as a way to inform others of my progress and thoughts on the MLIS program at Western. I have decided that now is as good a time as any to reflect on what I learned in school and how prepared it made me for the library work that I have done over the past year. I am going to divide my experiences into categories devoted to parts of my current and previous jobs.

Management – Management class in school was a dreadful thing. It was 8 weeks of people skills, which at the time was boring as could be, but I have found it somewhat useful, and 4 weeks of practical management/job development information. In my experience as the current CEO of a small public library I have found that the dreadful team building exercises were not a complete waste of time. I have used some of what I learned from the class to deal with the volunteers and employee, as well as interacting with the township.I still believe that the manangement class was too much team building (a week or two would have sufficed) and not enough management skill building. What about managing a budget, or finances, or dealing with other people whom hold the reigns (boards, head librarians, or department bosses)?

The other course on management at the school (Special Libraries) prepared me more than anything for my current job. It showed me how to build a budget, a proposal, and other paper work type stuff that the school neglected in its management class.

Cataloging – Cataloging at the MLIS level was a joke. I basically learned what each type was and how to find it in a book, though these are valuable skills, I have yet to understand how learning so little about each type really helped me in any way become a better librarian other than to be able to watch someone else catalog as their manager.

Reference Services – Reference class was probably the most useful class I took. It helped hone my ability to ask the right questions to get the answers out of a patron. Also because I love being at the reference desk, this has been my most positive experience with the school where I can form quality reference interviews in a matter of seconds; while getting the patron on the right track. This has been immensely useful at all my positions as both a Library Technician at a public school and Librarian at a Public Library.

Technology – Technology I have not really used much of what was taught in school. I am responsible for the website at my local library and use a front ended editing program. Alot of the entry is basic text and not a lot of HTML. I took a class on CSS and HTML that was nearly useless to everyone involved and have yet to use the small bit of information that I did learn.

Conclusion

Library school (at least Western) seems to be run as a librarian mill. Pump out graduates while feeding them some lectures about what librarians are today: Managers. This is what they try to tell you, and in general it may be true. Library school does not prepare you to be a librarian….you do. Library school shows you a little bit of everything and allows you to make up your mind what kind of librarian you want to be. While going through school I wanted to work at a University Library or special interest library, I ended up working in School Libraries and a Public Library after I  graduated; I took many elective classes devoted to what I was interested in (Archives, University Libraries, Special Libraries, Storytelling, etc.) because that was what my narrow mind at the time wanted to do. To be honest this is how most library students (MLIS or Library Tech) probably choose their classes. It is also the only way you will survive library school. Taking a class you have no interest in is going to flop horribly (maybe not to the point of failure, but to the point of hating library school). Library school will not teach you what you need to know on the job, the MLIS program at Western will guide you though and show you what you may or may not be interested in. In the end you are responsible for teaching yourself how to be a library professional, that is what I took away from library school.

A response to: Where are the books?

So while perusing linked in I found a link to an article that is very alarmist, claiming in the opening sentence that “The hallmark of public libraries — the printed book, bound by covers and centuries of page-turning — is being shoved aside by digital doppelgangers.”

To read the entire article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/where-are-the-books-libraries-under-fire-as-they-shift-from-print-to-digital/2015/07/07/eb265752-1525-11e5-9518-f9e0a8959f32_story.html

This is absurd, The article is very one sided and has little merit in of itself. It makes grandiose claims and is a headline grabber as most news articles have become. Print is not dead, digital is still too new and too unreliable to be considered a replacement for print.

With digital resources being available to the public for less than 30 years, there is little chance of it replacing traditional print. It took years, if not centuries for the written scroll made of vellum or papayrus to be phased out by paper and books. Modern print has taken  a long time to be made affordable, reliable and available to the public. Digital formatting only meets one of the three criteria for replacement: availablity.

Affordability: Are ebooks really that affordable? The first argument I hear from people is “I can get all kinds of books for free.” Which is true, but if your looking for an established authors latest pick (Stephen King, Terry Goodkind, George RR Martin, etc.) your looking at anywhere from 11.99 and up for an electronic copy.  Also there is the cost of the ereader, which will be outdated within a few years after costing anywhere from $30-80, plus any maintenance or electronic issues it may have. So sure, some stuff is free, but the start up fee and best selling authors are going to cost just as much, if not more than the paperback edition of the book.

Reliability: Is an e-book or ereader really more reliable than the physical book? Not really. If my e-reader gets wet it is likely the end of that reader and any “books” contained within it. For a paperback it may be beat up, but is likely still very readable. Also with the way technology evolves in this “age of information” it is likely the technology will be outdated and replaced by something else (a newer technology, an updated version of the current technology). So the e-reader and possibly everything you paid for on the e-reader will become obsolete or unusable in the future, where as many books maintain their usability for years. Paper has a lifespan of about 100 years according to historians who have studied books and paper. The e-reader along with many other electronic storage devices are untested, and we can only speculate how long it will take before the ereaders battery and files becomes corrupt and unusable. ISome books in my library were purchased and first checked-out in the 1980’s. These books are over 25 years old and still read by people here. Does anyone really think they will still be using, or even have that ereader and those downloaded books 25 years after the date or purchase?

Where are the books? right here! Which is where they will stay. There is no danger of the printed book being replaced by digital books. A new technology has come along and become popular. Libraries are responding to popular demand, we are adapting to the audience. A jump into the high single digit percentages of a budget is not a valid argument for the downfall of print. The changes in media format and its adaptation is nothing new. The book survived the radio, cinema, television, and it will survive as a media form of entertainment well after the ebook has faded from the pages history.

Librarianship: Then and Now.

For a Management class assignment I am required to watch a video on youtube entitled “The Librarian 1947 Vocational Guidance Films” found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TK4bjQPwdkc We need to look at the film and write a blog post about the video.

The video is a general purpose informational video, that reminded me of those Donald Duck cartoons with the narrator talking in the background. This video begins by asking if the viewer has a love of books and people, “if so Librarianship may be for you.” I understand that Libraries have changed in the last 74 years, but it goes on to say that there are many Library types, but librarians are generally all the same. This seems like an over generalization of the field.

The description of Librarian types, which seems like a contradiction of the generalization made earlier describes librarians in a variety of roles, some which are now handled by Library technicians such as cataloguer and circulation librarians and puts elementary school librarians in the same category as academic librarians. Alot has changed since then, and many of the jobs mentioned are either outsourced or more narrowly defined. It also briefly mentions the library administrator as a business type, and there is no mention of the average librarian taking any managerial role at all.

The film goes on to describe certain types of librarians such as subject specialists and rural libraians being part of an expanding field. The reality of it today is these types of librarians are fading, and the notion of expanding those fields is rediculous in todays economy.

It goes into the education required for Librarians at the time. The video makes mention of Librarians generally needing a bachelors in librarianship, but some librarian jobs can be done by those with other semi-relevant degrees. If I walked into an interview today with those qualifications I would be laughed out of the interview.

The video also describes librarianship as a lucrative career path, it is considered a secure job with similar salary to other professionals. Once again this is laughable. The reality is it is a descent paying job that is usually contract work, 3-5 years seems to be the feel I get from many of my professors.

The video ends by claiming there is a need for thousands of librarians. The job market is nothing like it was in the 1940’s. Overall, the video is entertaining and an interesting look at the history of librarianship. As an educational video on libraianship for librarians it is an extremley outdated source, and I find it sad that this course would use it.