Why the Library Should Be a Major Part of Your College Choice

This is, of course, a shameless plug for a friend and form coworker, Kelly. :) 

You can find her all up in Boston College's grill.  ;)

But, it brings up a very important point.  While a few students can get away with never setting foot in a library, the vast majority of the student body will need the library on campus for a large variety of things: books, research materials, course reserves, video viewing, journals, group study and solitary study space, newspapers, and magazines.

The service the staff provides is key to a student's success.  We think of information as something that's super accessible thanks to Google.  The problem is that your average person, let alone student, cannot tell the difference between good and bad information.  Library staff members are trained to weed through the vast amount of data behind the walls of the library and the internet to provide students with accurate and up-to-date information. 

And while for many students, good enough is close enough in the world of Google, for faculty, having the right information is key to their success as academics.  The right information is the difference between tenure and finding a job elsewhere.  The library and the faculty should have close ties and students should be wary of any instructor (especially one in the liberal arts department) who has never even checked out a book from the library.  (I once had a tenured prof who had never set foot in the library and he taught creative writing!)

The building itself should make you feel... well, I can't say at home.  It should make you feel like you have options.  Want to just bum around?  There should be mini living rooms for you to crash in with some good reading or magazines nearby.  Hungry?  Vending or a cafe should be there as well.  Need a quiet space?  How about a loud one?  The library should have those things as well.  There should also be a 'wow' factor.  Something that makes your eyes pop out of your head when you see it.  It's easy to go back to the library when it's not only a resource, but is a cool place to be in period.

Then you have the library's website.  Once upon a time, my boss's boss's boss asked me if I would have a look into fine structures at other Big Ten libraries.  No big deal, right?  OMG.  The only reason I managed to get the information together was because I understood how those sites worked.  And I knew how they worked because I am a Library Drone.  Libraries are my bread and butter. 

Your average person?  Totally boned. 

Libraries work constantly on their web presence, trying to find that one perfect combination that will make the site pop and get the user to the info they need fast.  But if the library doesn't have it, the student isn't going to get it either.  Worse, Google will see the traffic.

Which is really bad when you consider how much money libraries put out for digital resources.  The William and Joan Scheyer Business Library at Penn State puts out 4 million a year for digital resources.  4 Million!!!  And that's just one of fourteen different libraries on the University Park campus.  Digital resources are wasted without a good search function and checking out a library's website should be a big part of deciding if the college is worth your time and potential crushing debt.

4 Reasons Why the Library Should Affect Your College Choice


Ann Arbor... You B****h!

So we let them take Larry from us and they have this?!?!

We are so totally losing The Game.


Foster Redux

In order for the new Foster Auditorium to be as super delicious as promised, an important support beam for the roof needs to be removed and new support needs to be installed. 

Much panic and disarray was caused by this as two thirds of the building had to be shut down to accommodate the construction crew.  We moved into "Extended Hours" mode: everything but the first and ground floors of West Pattee were closed.

Here's the crane to lift the new support beam.

Is is not nifty?

Here's the beam with the crane getting ready to lift it on high.



Marian the Cybrarian

The Chronicle!  Coming through for us again.  :)

Whenever I read an article like this, I am reminded of the front cover of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' which says "DON'T PANIC." 

Because, seriously, we don't need too.

If all a library was, was a warehouse of books that, in a digital age, needed to be tossed out, we would have gone the way of the dodo hundreds of years ago. 


We're still here.  Because we are important. 

Libraries are information centers and librarians are information brokers.

And Knowledge is Power.


Take on Me

Personally,  I think it needs more cowbell.


New Foster Update

Here's a picture from Wilson Hutton of the new Foster Auditorium construction!

What's yellow and sticky?

A sticker!

As books come back from the Google book project, they are getting this little sticker affixed to the spine.  This will alert the patron that some or all of the content maybe available electronically.

While it's a nice touch for people who are doing their browsing in the serendipitous style (i.e. they wander the stacks until they miraculously find what they need and I do mean miraculously), it's not really all that necessary since these books will be marked in the electronic catalog as having electronic content.  The patron will be able to view the e-content right that very minute.  And really, once someone is in the stacks and pulls the book from the shelf, they aren't going to go back into the system to re-look up a book.

That sounds suspiciously like work.

Well, at least for those going the serendipitous route, their will be something to amuse them.

More likely it will cause complaints:

"Why is this book digitized and this one isn't?  They're both in the public domain."

"What was the point of pointing the sticker on it if I have to look it back up in the CAT?"

"I didn't get the book off the shelf because the sticker said 'e-copy' but all you have online is a table of contents and someone else checked out the book!"

I can go on, but I won't.  Suffice it to say that when you make something idiot proof, the Universe will make a better idiot.  If it says 'e-copy' on the sticker, it doesn't matter what else the sticker says.  Patrons will only see the words 'e-copy' and assume the book is available full text. 

The worst part of the stickers is that they aren't even for the patrons.  They are to remind staff NOT to withdraw the book because the barcode is the e-copy's persistent link.  How backwards is that?  But I see what the admins who came up with the sticker are getting at.

Our system is filled with notes on what NOT to do with a book or record.  Yet we run into important books being withdrawn, records altered poorly or erased all together, and important information lost.  The sticker, we hope, will tell people to keep their hands off the record.  Of course, it won't work that way, but live and don't learn, right?

The Penn State Landscape

Here's a student video about the campus and what it looks like.  It concentrates on west campus centering on the IST Building (Lovingly known as the 'aircraft carrier.'  You'll see why.) and the Alumni Center.



Publishers Committing Suicide... As Usual

Ken Auletta has written a very interesting piece on the future of publishing in the e-book era for the New Yorker.  Check it after the jump:

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books

What I find distinctly interesting is how the publishers are killing themselves. They talk about how they need to prove their worth to authors. These are the same authors with hundreds of rejections who go on to self-publish and then make a ton of money from Amazon with an e-book deal.

The publishers are not only less willing to take a chance, they don't understand their real customers: the readers. They publish from one author with a track record and toss aside an up and comer because they don't understand that the readers would want that book. 

I've read several amazing books that were published completely online, for free, from amazing authors. They make money a significant chunk of change from paypal donations. Why would they need a publisher when the publisher is going to either reject them or doctor the original content until the brilliance is lost?

Let's be clear, nothing is going to replace the experience of an actual book in your hands and people prefer it.  But in leiu of a book, they'll take the digital copy so they can at least read it and if digital is the only format, the reader will take it.

Publishers, sit up and listen.  We readers are your CUSTOMERS.  For the love of God, stop publishing drivel and give us something to read.  The reason you are losing money is that you aren't publishing anything worth reading and pretending that we aren't your end game isn't going to help.  Stop looking for the next 'Twilight.'  In know for a fact that in the hundreds of submissions you get everyday, there are at least 50 amazing books that we want to read and will pay you lots of money for the privilege.  Come and talk to us.  Ask us what we want.  We will tell you and you won't see you businesses die.


Combining Services

At current, Pattee/Paterno Libraries has two separate service points for general circulation and course reserves.  I'm on the three different committees involved in combining it into one service point.

But first: why do we need three committees to do one thing?

Well, it isn't really just one thing.

The first committee needs to figure out how the service is going to work and how we are going to staff it.
The second committee uses the recommendations of the first to design the actual desk.
The third committee makes sure that everything remains ergonomic, because our repetitive injury claims sky rocketed several years ago.  (Long story short, two bad decisions were made and we lost a few million in workers comp claims.  I had three injuries in three years, myself.  Ugh.)

Since the first committee is the one that's currently in session, we are trying to work out how to combine the service.  One of the reasons we kept both services separated was space:

We have 3700 course reserves.  We have a constantly turning 1700 personal holds and interlibrary loan materials.  That's 5400 books and we expect the amount of course reserves we have to go up as textbook costs rise.  The issue here is, where do we put all these books?  We would need more shelving in the combined service space and we would need more than one access point.  At current, the circ desk, which is where the combined desk will go, has only one access point to the holds and interlibrary loans.

Here's the desk as it is now.  See the entryway behind the desk.  You can fit 2-3 people through it at one time, but there's a problem with that: there is an island (not visible in the picture) between the desk and the entry, effectively cutting flow from the desk.  The office it leads into is a large space, but it's shared by two units already: Lending and Collection Maintenance (CM).  CM uses a third of the room to stage returned books and get them back to the shelves.  Lending uses the rest, but the space design is poor and the work flow bogs down.  We would need a place to put the 3700 course reserves and that means tearing the area apart.

Another problem is traffic flow in the lobby.  You can see the open doors (look behind the kid in the green shirt) that lead right up to the desk.  Check out the kid who's cut off on the left side of the picture.  Doesn't he seem weird walking at such a strange angle?  That's because he's heading for the doors on the other side of the room.  You have to walk around the desk to get through.  The desk effectively cuts off normal traffic flow.  It doesn't help that we have a bank of puters opposite the desk.  See the line of kids on the right?  Picture those kids, with a ton of traffic coming through and people blocking traffic because they are waiting to use one of those computers to check their email.  It doesn't work so well.

It doesn't work.

While combining the staff won't be a big deal (it will involve some training for both sides), the space consideration is the biggest issue. 

What I would like to see is a longer desk, moved back out of traffic.  Opening up another part of the wall into the back office will give the staff more space to move.  We will still have space issues in the office behind the desk, but at least the desk will be stepping in the right direction.


Spring Time for Pattee/Paterno

On my walk, I took some photos of the building from angles not usually seen:

This is the Paterno Library from the side facing Burrowes Building.  I was trying to give you a sense of how massive the building is.  The lamp in the picture kind of ruins the perspective.  The first set of three lights you see from the top is the lounge in the Life Sciences Library.  On a rainy spring day, snag a chair in front of the lounge windows to eat lunch and you have one of the coolest views of campus.  You get to see the sculpture on Burrowes and watch the student traffic without getting the sun in your eyes.  Very pretty and peaceful.

The bit of building sticking out on the left is Paterno.  To get this picture, I couldn't include Paterno which falls back, as it were, from Curtain Road.  What you see here is the 'back' of Pattee Library.  That block of windows is the Stacks.  Want to see a million of something?  How about 3 million of something?  Have a look in those windows and you can see over 3 million books!
The sign says Pattee, but technically, this is West Pattee.  From the last picture, you would be all the way at the other end of the building looking toward Paterno, which is the windows you see straight back.


The Google Book Settlement and You

Io9 has an interesting article commenting on what the GBS will mean for businesses, libraries, and the common man.  Definitely worth a read!

5 Ways The Google Book Settlement Will Change The Future of Reading


Knowledge Commons

With the grand gift of money comes the rush to get recommendations for service specifics in place.

The Circ-Reserves-ILL Team has until the first week of May to get some ideas together on how the service point will work and finalize them for the steering committee.

Our issue is the space we have to work with.  The circulation desk, at current, sits in the middle of natural traffic flow.  This leads to bottlenecks when Forum classes let out and hundreds of students use the library as a through way at the same time that hundreds of other students are trying to check out. 

So the desk presence needs to change dramatically to allow for the natural traffic flow. 

The architects proposed moving the desk out of Grand Central Station (our nickname for the main lobby) and into the exhibit area with Stonehenge.  Stonehenge would have to bite the dust for this change, but the biggest problem is space.  The exhibit area isn't very big and a LOT of traffic files through here.  We may end up with the same traffic jams we had before, but in a different location.

If we move the desk and come up with a configuration that works, there is still the issue of where to put all the personal holds, course reserves, and any loanable media piled on the service point.  The staff area would have to be shifted entirely.  Not a fun prospect but do able.

We were asked to revisit the idea of moving the video and audio reserves to the main desk.  To do this would require the moving of a lot of viewing equipment (DVD and VHS players, CD players, and TVs) to an immediately accessible area and there aren't any.  :P  Unless space opens up (maybe in the Knowledge Commons itself?) that one's a no go. 

The actual desk configuration will be up to another committee entirely.  The boss man and I am on that one too, so we'll have a really good idea on how to tailor the desk to the space.  But will we have enough space?

The idea of less desk in the current location (either closer to the wall, or more of the wall opened up) has been floated.  It's an interesting thought.

Thing on the Mall

We have an awesome sculpture on the mall in front of Pattee!  However, the signs indicating title and artist mission have disappeared.  :(

Neat, huh?  You can't tell in the pictures, but all of the 'legs' can be put up or down.


Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians: a Musical Legacy

The newest exhibit in the Diversity Studies Room is one that's near and dear to me, so it will get its own post!

Fred Waring is one of those forgotten pieces of U.S. history.  Ask you grandmother or grandfather who Fred is and they'll get this warm look in their eyes from the music running in their heads.  And since many of you have never heard of Fred, I feel an incredible need to educate you just enough to go check him out yourselves!

Fred was the big name in the Bid Band Era.  He even had cartoons about him and in tribute to him!

Before Tiger Woods, we had Fred leading the Golfing world.

He published heavily and championed music education.

He gave us... the blender?  Indeed!  A friend showed him a crude emulsifying machine and Fred, being a tinkerer, played with it, sunk money into it, and advertised it.  You have Fred to thank for your smoothies!

Fred was involved in radio, film, and television.

Frank Davis was the first African American to appear on Fred's show.  Penn State released a DVD called God's Trombones featuring Frank Davis and his spirituals. 

Here's some of Fred's Music:

Here's some of Fred on TV with his Pennsylvanians:

That's Fred directing in the back.

While Fred has passed, the remaining Pennsylvanians get together once a year at Penn State to play and relive the glory days. This was, for a long time, a mostly private affair with some Penn State locals getting advance notice and showing up. Two years ago, they started advertising. Imagine their surprise when the room was filled to standing room only!

You can check out the exhibit in the Diversity Studies Room March 22nd to August 1st. But you can stop by anytime to see Fred Waring's America on the 3rd floor of West Pattee Library.

Of course, if you want something a little more unusual, you can stay at Fred's summer home in the Poconos. It's now a B&B.

New Dean!

It's official!  We have a new Dean of the Libraries and Scholarly Communications at Penn State!

Our new Dean is Barbara Dewey, Dean of Libraries and professor at the University of Tennessee!

She has an impressive amount of digital experience and papers to back her up and we can use an extra dose of Library 2.0 with the new Knowledge Commons.  Here's her vita, which, I might add, is fantastic.

Welcome and Good Luck!


Libraries and Carpeting

The latest big thing for libraries (and by latest, I mean within the last five years - library time move slowly) is tiled carpeting.  The up side of such carpeting is that when it wears out, you only need to replace the 'tiles' that are worn and not the whole carpet.  It saves a lot of time and money.

The down side is that it tends to be ugly.  Note that these pictures are taken in areas where the carpet is NOT showing a lot of wear and tear (just so you get the full effect).  It actually looks nicer after foot traffic has killed some of the color.

Here's the carpeting in Course Reserves.

Here's the carpeting in Maps.  Eek!

Here's the carpeting in the lab.

Meh.  At least the carpet will keep you awake when you're studying!

Let's end this one on something that isn't an eyesore.  Here's the linoleum tiling in the student lounge:

Pretty nifty!  It makes the room...  well, sunny!



Yeah.  It's time for some warm weather in State College.

This little guy agrees!

The first sign of Spring!

Foster Redux

An image of Phase Three:

I apologize for the blurriness.  Camera phones and all.

That brown box against the wall is the original control panel for the lights in the room.  You could control every light individually from that panel.  Of course, to get to the panel, you needed a flashlight because you had to walk across the room in the dark.  The key you sign out to use the room even included a bag with a flashlight.  *face palm*

The old fashioned look of the room will stay.  But new carpeting, seating, and shelving will go in for the Leisure Reading Collection.


Excuse of the Day: Alarming!

In Course Reserves, we have a strict, two hour turnover on our books.  So here's the excuse I get from a student who returned a book 14 hours late after leaving the building with the book (which was a closed reserve, meaning it could not leave the building in the first place).

"I would have returned the book but the alarm didn't go off when I left the building, so I didn't know it was in my bag."


First, when you check out a book, it is your responsibility to return it on time.  An alarm at a gate should never equal 'oh I have to return this!'

Second, let's be honest.  The student checked out the book fully intending to take it home over night to study.  His game plan for getting out of the fine was to say that the alarm on the gate didn't go off when he left, so he shouldn't be responsible for the fine. 

Guess what?  Leaving the building with library materials that are not allowed to leave the building is called theft regardless of whether or not an alarm sounds.  And since we are a Land Grant University, it amounts to the theft of Federal property.  You're lucky that all you're getting is an overdue fine.

Why did you put the book in your bag if you never intended to leave with it?  And how did you not notice the massive book that didn't belong to you in your bag?  It was a textbook that weighed 8lbs. Yeah.  I believe you.

This isn't my first time to the rodeo, son.


The Phases

I don't remember describing the phases for everyone, so here's what the University Libraries is working on:

Phase 1 (Complete): Relocate the Maps Library into the basement of Pattee Library.
Old Maps in Ground Paterno:

New Maps in Basement Pattee:

Much improved!

Phase 2: (Complete) Move I-Tech into the the old Maps Library space.

Sorry, I don't have any pictures of this.  I have toured the new space and it's premo!  Instead of your typical cubicles, the partitions slide to create moving walls.  Upshot of this is that Dilbert-ville can be easily altered to accommodate staff.  They also put in a new tech classroom for the Libraries staff!  (I may need to avail myself of it next in-service.)

Phase 3: Foster Auditorium move and the new Reading Room (E.T.A. Fall 2010).

Sally (my direct associate dean) has schematics of this, but not online.  (Curse the sudden but inevitable betrayal!)  Foster, which currently sits in Pattee, will be moved wholesale into Paterno Library right across from the Curtain Road entrance.  Unlike the current configuration which forces you to walk in front of a speaker if you come in late, the new Foster will funnel the audience to the back of the auditorium so they can come in and sit down with out distracting the speaker.  This configuration also lets us leave back and middle row openings for wheelchair bound audience members (because if you don't want to sit up front, you shouldn't have too.)  The new Foster will also include a Goo Paint wall.  Goo paint makes a flat surface wall projection ready and we will have three state of the art projectors for each part of the wall.

But the best part in the reconfiguration is that it leaves a new, bigger space right next to the auditorium for Disability Services!  This means our handicapable students can walk in the door and not have to walk across a city block (that's how big the entire building is) to get to the basement in West for technology dedicated to their use. 

Where Foster is now, will be the new Reading Room.  It have several pieces of low, permanent shelving for our rotating Leisure Reading Collection.  The rest of the furniture will be light and easy to move.  The idea behind this is to let our students create the room they want by letting them move the furniture.  It will include two new group study rooms, a media bar, more self checkouts, and... the windows will be open!!!  That means the light outside comes in during the day and the front of Pattee facing the Mall will light up the area at night like a beacon!

Phase 4: New Lending/Reserves Desk and Staff area/Stonehenge/Diversity Room (ETA unknown)
Lending and Reserves will be combined in one area.  Desk configuration yet to come.  I'm on the team behind that one, so I'll post our ideas as we get moving on it.

Stonehenge...  This is Stonehenge:
It is a massive, slightly curved slab of faced plywood.  And it blocks the entrance to the Stacks.  You know, they place we keep the books.  Students walk passed this looking for a way into the Stacks and never see it!

This was the 'bright' idea of the last architect who had to leave his 'mark' on the building. 

Currently, we use it to display exhibits, which pisses said architect off.  We don't care.

We want this horrible thing gone.  It will need to go to put the new Lending/Reserves desk in the same room and still leave space for traffic flow.  Sally suggested that we make some money off of getting rid of it: a dollar a swing with a sledge hammer!

The Diversity Studies Room (in the picture above, it's the open room in the left corner) is a named space.  The new plans call for that space to be a new set of bathrooms, which we are sorely lacking in the central building.  (The last mens' room in Central is now my boss' office.  That's how desperate we are for space!)  However, before we can do anything with it, we need to negotiate with the donor who gave us the money for the room.  There is a plan for it, but the donor must okay it first.

Phase 5: The Reserve Reading Room becomes the Knowledge Commons (ETA: Fall 2011)

This will be the biggest part of the construction (assuming that Phase 7 never happens).  It involves glass study rooms, multimedia centers, podcasting studios, video making rooms, and mini living rooms all over for comfort!  Again, there is a schematic for it, but it's not online. 

Phase 6: Gateway becomes... Gateway? (ETA Fall 2011)

Gateway Commons is so popular that the admins are loath to turn it into much needed office space.  It may be that Gateway gets an upgrade and expansion.  Details are still forthcoming.

Phase 7:  Atrium  (ETA if we get the money, Fall 2011)

This is the phase that we all pray for but aren't holding our collective breaths. 

Take a moment and have a look at this site: Librophiliac Love Letter

Aren't those beautiful libraries?  Yeah.  Phase 7 would make us one of those beautiful libraries.  The problem is the 4 million dollar price tag.

The plan would be to enclose our little garden area and make it a huge winter garden.  The walls of the building would be stripped back and glass walls would be installed, turning the entire area into a naturally lighted shining wonder and opening up the entire junction between Central and West Pattee! 


Maybe Joe and Sue Paterno will come up with something for us.


Phase 8: Mezzanine (ETA maybe never?)

This was a cool idea we had way back that would make the Lending lobby (which looks and sounds like Grand Central Station) a bit more livable by adding a mezzanine that would wrap around the top of the lobby.  It's low on the priority list, but would make an awesome touch to a wide open space.


The BIG News

Last week we got an email (and an Oracle meeting to reserve the time!) about a major gift to the Libraries.  Today, the day of days, came the announcement:

2.5 Million from a joint donation by Mr. and Mrs. Peter G. Tombros and Dr. and Mrs. John R. McWhirter for the Knowledge Commons.  This money will take us through phases 5 and 6!

1.4 Million from Ann and Peter Tombros for an endowment to enhance the Classics and Mediterranean Studies (CAMS) collections to boost us into the top five university libraries in the nation!  The new gift creates the Tombros Librarian for Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, the Tombros Libraries Collections Fund to Support Ancient Greek Studies, and the Tombros Visiting Scholars Endowment.   Of which our very own Dan Mack will be the first chair librarin!  W00t!

Now, all we need is to find someone to give us the 4 million for the Atrium.  (oh please, oh please, oh please!)


A Required Test

I have come to realize that all colleges, universities, technical institutes, vocational schools, and higher education outlets should have a very specific entrance test for all applicants who are on the verge of acceptance.

Take all of the students and put them in a building. Tell them to bum around for a few minutes and then leave the building.

Every single one who walks out an emergency exit fails. They don't get their acceptance.

If you don't work in higher education, this may seem like a stupid test.

It isn't.

If I had a dime for every student who walked out an emergency exit in my building during the last year, I could retire NOW. And the worst part is the excuses they give you:

"I saw the sign but I didn't think it applied to me."

"I saw someone else go out that door."

"I was talking on my cell phone."

"I couldn't find the exit."

But the worst, by far, is this excuse:

"Well, you should have put a sign on the door!"

Every single emergency exit in my building has no less than FOUR very large signs that say, "DO NOT ENTER. EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY."

As a very important part of higher education is the ability to pay attention, I find this test an easy solution to weeding out the student body.