Friday, January 31, 2014

Tales of the Roaming Librarian

It only took two weeks of roaming around the library with an tablet computer before I got to address a research need for a student sitting in the library.

It just so happened that as I was passing through one of the casual seating areas, that I spotted a student reading a book I knew well - The Revenge of Geography. Two students were passing the book back and forth, so I concluded they were discussing something about it. Then I spotted a bookstore sticker on the spine, and I knew it was being used as a textbook. So I approached the students who were sitting with friends in a circle of chairs, and announced that I was inserting myself into their conversation.
    They were surprised, but I moved quickly to explaining that I knew the book that they were puzzling over, and asked if I could help answer the question they were working on. 
We talked for a little while about geography, about the professor, about history, and about the library & what it can do for the students. They thanked me before I departed, and I Roamed on. 
Here's a picture one of them took while we were talking:
OK, I"m kidding again. This is Thomas Barlow, also of the Bodlian Library. 

     This interaction helped me put into words what I had been thinking about how to actually make this program work. The book, I realized, was my "in" - that point of intersection that gave me a reason to stop and talk. We the librarians have to be assertive and actively seek conversations. This is not an easy thing, as most librarians are not comfortable with intruding on people like that. Even with my "in" I was still a little embarrassed at my boldness. I am glad that the group was both guys & girls; as a man in his 40's, I can't help but think someone might suspect me of other motives for stopping to chat with a group of, or worse, a single college-age girl. You know what I mean.
     All the same, the students are either not going to know that they are able to stop me and ask a question, or they will hesitate from shyness or embarrassment.  It is an accepted truth among librarians that we don't get all the questions people have, because they are self-conscious about asking and appearing uninformed or incapable. It is part of the craft of the librarian to help people overcome that hesitation, and assure them that asking the question is the right thing to do, because it leads to knowledge. We're trying to figure what would be a good way to tastefully advertise the fact that the librarian strolling casually through the area is available to help; that it's OK to stop them and ask a question. As the semester progresses, I expect the program will see more activity as the idea seeps into the student's collective consciousness. And when it does, I'll be there to help.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Frederica: The Life and Work of Frederica Mathewes-Green

Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green
I have known this lady for several years; she and her husband are friends with our priest & his wife, and she has spoken at our parish several times. She writes for Beliefnet, Christianity Today, NPR's All Things Considered, National Review, Books & Culture, Touchstone as well as many newspapers. She has written 9 books, and has been interviewed on all the major news networks. Recently, she sent out this message via email, and I'm sharing it here:

OK, this is going to sound weird, but back around Thanksgiving a young filmmaker in Los Angeles wrote and asked if I would be interested in being the subject of a documentary. He thought my conversion to Christ, and change of heart on the abortion issue, might be inspiring to others. His name is John Gleason, and he's with the film production company Movie to Movement, which produced "Bella" a few years ago--I liked it a lot.So we did some filming in NY and he made a trailer--you can see it here:
Kickstarter:Frederica documentary

and also shot some footage last week at the March for Life and St. Vladimir's Seminary. He plans to film me this weekend at Biola Univ in LA, and at other speaking events over the coming months.
Click on through to see the trailer, and maybe you'll think about making a donation too? 

Frederica Mathewes-Green

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

St. Emmelia Homeschooling Conference

Announcing the 2014 St. Emmelia Homeschooling Conference

Also speaking at the Conference is Andrew Kern, teacher and author of The Lost Tools of Writing, from the Circe Institute, which supports classical Christian Education. 
More information is available at the Antiochian Village website.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New library activity - the Roaming Librarian

     Today I began participating in a service program at my library – the Roaming Librarian program. [I want to make a joke about being by inclination more Byzantine than Roman (Roamin’) but can’t figure out quite where to shove it in. I suppose here is as good a place as any.] The idea of this project is to get the librarians out away from the service points, and mingling with the students in the study areas where they are actually working. Like most libraries, we have a number of ways for the students to get in touch with us, to ask for assistance. This is a new project here, but it has been talked about for some time and as I understand it, many public libraries, as well as academic libraries are doing this. 

Here's a picture someone snapped of me today, as I was walking around. 
(No, I'm kidding. This is Thomas James, the first Librarian of the Bodlian Library in England, 1602.)

      Twice a week, I will pick up a mobile phone and a tablet computer, and casually stroll through the building, looking for student in need of help with their research. This is a new thing for me, both in the moving around, and in the use of the tablet. I’ve used keyboards & mice since the late 1980’s, but this I admit, is a new beast. It is too early to say whether I like interacting with a computer this way or not. It wants to switch on the video/camera function, which I neither need nor want.

      I volunteered to do this mostly as a way to get in some exercise during my day. Too much sitting is not doing me any good, as I am not as young as I once was. With the Roaming program, I’ll cover all of the floors of the library at least once in an hour, even at a pace slower than I typically walk.

      I’m not only interested in my health; I do expect and look forward to stopping and helping students. I feel the discomfort of some of my colleagues about approaching students ‘cold’ and interjecting ourselves into their conversations and projects. It will feel awkward; especially the first few times I do so. My intention is to look around as I walk and see who makes eye contact. It might help if I had something bigger than my little name tag to identify me as a librarian and not some nosy weirdo. Over time, I expect that I will become a familiar face, but with the thousands of students on our campus, that may take a long time. So, this will be a ground (or if you prefer, ice-) breaking endeavor for me and for the librarians.

      From time to time, I will check in here at the blog with stories of what went right, what went wrong and what went weird as I amble about Deep in the Stacks and out into the study areas. The first tricky part will be getting anyone in the “We Mean QUIET!” areas to even look up and indicate that they would like some help. We’ll probably have to step out into the hallway to have a conversation about what they need. Ah well, all that will be ironed out in time.