January 30, 2012

How Librarians Can Help in Real Life, at #scio13, and more

Librarians are so helpful!
(Creative Commons image courtesy of
Christchurch City Libraries on Flickr)
How do librarians help scientists? If you haven't worked with a good librarian, it's hard to know what we can offer and how we can be useful. I'd love to see a session at a scholarly conference (ScienceOnline, AEJMC, I'm looking at you!) where librarians model how we work our magic with patrons.

I envision a real-time demonstration of the "reference interaction"* between a librarian and a grad student or other patron type. *The term "reference interaction" is used to indicate the session where one of us meets with a researcher ("you") and asks questions about what kind of information you need. We then suggest resources tailored to your need and make sure you know how to use them. 

In my current position, as librarian for journalism & mass communication, recent questions have included:
  • How to download the entire issue of magazine from HathiTrust 
  • Information about online advertising rates for newspapers. Patron needs both the rates themselves as well as scholarly articles about online advertising for newspapers. 
  • Looking for NBC News archives for possible use on Carolina Week
  • Need scholarly articles on the history of social media for an independent study. 
  • Fact-checking resources for a class of advanced editing students (list of resources
As a super librarian / information coach, I was able to help all of these patrons. But if you didn't know someone could help you find resources as diverse as these, you'd just go to Mr. Google (or Dr. Google Scholar; read my thoughts on this) and see if you could find something useful. 

Maybe you'd go to your favorite database -- many students would go to JStor to get scholarly articles because they'd learned about that terrific search engine in a class. BUT that would be unproductive, because JStor doesn't contain current articles in it (why? "moving wall") ... so if you wanted articles about the success of advertising for online newspapers, you'd get frustrated and go back to Mr. Google.  Or maybe you'd go to LexisNexis, because you've used it before. But you wouldn't find scholarly articles there ... so back you'd go to Mr. Google.

Another reason to talk to a librarian is that we work with folks from many disciplines and can often refer you to someone doing related work. For instance, Student A recently asked me how she'd find a list, (ideally with contact information) of African American newspapers. I pointed her to an excellent resource (the Gale Directory of Publications & Broadcast Media) AND mentioned that one of her colleagues, Student B, had used the resource to identify Latino media outlets. I suggested that Student A contact Student B for tips on how best to use the resource for this project.
These reference sessions generally take 10-30 minutes, depending on how detailed the question is and how knowledgeable the patron is about the resources available. Good librarians will make sure that you know the best resources to use AND that you know a few tips on how to make the resource(s) do what you want.
It's one thing to write about this in a blog post, or for librarians to study and discuss this amongst themselves.  There's got to be a way to show you what we do and how we can help ... so I propose a librarian demo at conferences to demystify our services and share resources with a broader audience.

January 22, 2012

Field trip to Durham's @LifeandScience museum! #scio12

I was thrilled to go on a behind the scenes tour of Durham's fabulous Museum of Life and Science at last week's ScienceOnline conference. Here is an annotated visual tour of the trip, with photos taken by several of us on the tour. I used Storify to curate the images, which were posted on Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube (the bear video is awesome; especially the last 10-20 seconds).

Thanks especially to Keeper Mikey for the tour!

January 16, 2012

A Librarian's View of ScienceOnline

I've submitted a photograph to #scio12 science-art show.  I wanted to convey something about science, which is tough since what I most like to photograph is flowers and cats. Ok, I could have argued that they were science photos, but I thought it was a stretch.

I thought more about it and decided to take photos of some of the books I've acquired (for myself or for my library) as a result of ScienceOnline past & current.  Here, therefore, is my view of ScienceOnline:

The books are, from top to bottom:

You can check out (literally and figuratively) these books on my WorldCat list of ScienceOnline Books.

January 15, 2012

Non-Librarian Conferences, #Scio12, and #AEJMC

It's time for my favorite #funconference, ScienceOnline2012, which starts on Thursday in RTP.  #scio12 is a conference for science communicators, including scientists, students, educators, physicians, journalists, librarians, bloggers, programmers and others, who are interested in the way the World Wide Web is changing the way science is communicated, taught and done. 

Fellow librarian and conference-goer John Dupuis asked last week in his post Science Online 2012: Library and librarian sessions) about other non-librarian conferences we librarians attend.  As the librarian for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina, I like to go to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual conference. This is where the and reporting, advertising, public relations faculty go to talk about the craft of teaching and share their research. I've been twice in the past 3 years, and sadly, have been the only journalism / strategic communication librarian in attendance.  I hope to work with colleagues to change that in the future.  

Here's why I like going:

I had the luxury at this conference to attend sessions that interest me intellectually.  I heard presentations on public relations efforts at the first  NAACP conference in the South in 1920; possibly deceptive practices used in food marketing campaigns; and Advertising educators’ definitions of “diversity.” As a librarian, I rarely get to immerse myself in the literature of journalism and mass communication, so this was a wonderful opportunity.  The conference was therefore a win for reasons of pure self-interest.

I was able to see my students and faculty at work. All of the papers cited above were presented by UNC Journalism and Mass Communication graduate students and all were terrific.  I also saw a colleague lead the Breakfast of Editing Champions – and found that copy editors are a lot of fun at 8 am!

I was able to offer some reference services at the conference as well.  The public relations discussant suggested the presenters turn to polling data to help assess the results of the PR campaigns they are studying. After the session, I gave my student the name of the UNC poll data librarian who will be able to locate and interpret relevant poll data. Later, over coffee, a friend and I discussed author copyright, accessibility, reputation, and other issues related to journal editing and publishing. I offered reference to the broader community as well, by tweeting links to articles & resources mentioned in sessions to all following the #aejmc11 hashtag.

At ScienceOnline, I get to geek out on science, which now is more of a hobby for me than a profession, and I also get to hear about science journalism, social media -- and I hang out with fun scientists, librarians, reporters, and so much more.  "More" happily includes some of my peeps from UNC Chapel Hill, so I'm sure some reference and referral will happen in Raleigh too.

If you're a librarian reading this, do you go to subject-oriented conferences (as contrasted with library-focused events)?  If you're a scholar, scientist, journalist reading this, do you see librarians at conferences?  Do you see librarians at your primary place of work? I hope our presence at conferences helps persuade you that we can be helpful!