The peculiarities of cataloging

At a recent FLIP meeting, this (somewhat) hypothetical question was proposed:

How would you explain the process and purpose of cataloging to someone
who knows nothing about how libraries are organized?

Susan Mitchell, head of the Consortium Library Technical Services Department, gave a really good answer at the meeting (here’s hoping that she’ll share it again in the comments to this post – hint, hint). At about the same time, an email was circulated throughout the library offering kudos for a recently published paper coauthored by three folks here in the building. Coincidentally, the paper details the process and issues of cataloging some very unique library holdings –  specifically, a collection that documents the historical management of Alaska’s commercial fishing industry. The paper is a very interesting and enlightening read, and provides a rare glimpse into the precise process of original cataloging. The paper has been electronically published in the International Association of Aquatic & Marine Science Libraries & Information Centers (IAMSLIC) Conference Proceedings 2008. Here is a direct link to the PDF version:

COMMFISH: all about Alaska’s commercial fisheries collections
Carle, Daria O.; Kazzimir, Edward; Rozen, Celia M.

Recent editorial from the Anchorage Daily News

Our view: Don’t close that book
Anchorage libraries look past the current budget squeeze

Published: September 9th, 2009
Anchorage Daily News

These are hard times for Anchorage libraries. More to the point, these are hard times for Anchorage library users.

Hours were cut to account for unpaid furloughs this summer. Loussac Library and its branches from Girdwood to Eagle River have only been open four days a week.

And those are cuts in a staff that already runs bare bones, according to a preliminary study by the library consulting firm Himmel and Wilson, with help from local firm Agnew::Beck.

Some of their findings, comparing Anchorage with 35 library systems serving similar populations across the United States, are disheartening.

Anchorage has less staff (86 versus an average of 143), spends less of its budgets on materials and services (8.6 percent versus 12.8 percent), more of its budget on overhead and intergovernmental charges (36.5 percent versus 20.9 percent). Those overhead charges cover everything from IT support and payroll to groundskeeping and horticulture.

Our libraries don’t have enough Internet computers, lack bandwidth and get fewer visits per registered borrower (5.1 versus 8.9 in comparable systems). That’s in part because in our spread-out city we have fewer branches (4) than the comparable average (8 to 9). We have to go farther to check out a book.

But before anyone’s tempted to close the book and turn out the lights, there’s good news too.

Sixty percent of Anchorage residents hold current library cards. That’s more than the comparable average of 55 percent. Our libraries recorded 871,036 visits in 2008 — more than the total attendance for every event at the Sullivan Arena in 2008. Our main library — Loussac — at East 36th Avenue and Denali Street has a central location and both good bus service and ample parking. It’s accessible.

City library director Karen Keller points out that since 2006, Anchorage Public Library has raised $14 million in funds from private, state and bond sources. Still, with a hiring freeze, she’s struggling to maintain a post-furlough schedule that will have Loussac open every day and the branches open five days a week.

“We have been surviving,” she said Tuesday. “I would really like to thrive.”

Bill Wilson of Himmel and Wilson said our libraries have been about as innovative and productive as they can be with a budget that keeps getting tighter.

He pointed out two ways to strengthen our libraries and help them better serve residents.

One is to examine the burgeoning intergovernmental costs that are eating such a huge share of the library’s budget. Keller notes she has no control over those costs. When she gets an increased bill from Parks and Rec to cover flower plantings and groundskeeping, she doesn’t get a corresponding budget boost. The library eats it, and its collection suffers. If there’s a cheaper way to tend the grounds, we should try it.

A second is to find ways to make the libraries more a center of community life in Anchorage.

That’s an encouraging challenge, because Anchorage already does a great deal on that score. Loussac Library is home to the Anchorage Assembly, and the Wilda Marston Theater serves as both stage and political forum. Loussac borders the increasingly popular Cuddy Midtown Park, which is becoming a community gathering place as well.

Libraries open a wealth of knowledge to everyone in the community. Let’s plan for thriving libraries.

BOTTOM LINE: The value of our city libraries will long outlast our current budget woes. Everyone is invited to participate in the Anchorage 21st Century Libraries project at


Ever try to find where your schedule overlaps with others for a meeting or group project? It can be a pain unless you use a handy dandy tool like Doodle (! Doodle allows anyone to create two types of polls for free without so much as signing up for an account. You can either “schedule an event” or “make a choice.” I am most familiar with the former, although the latter looks and works pretty much the same.

After assigning the poll a name, description, and administrator name, you are able to select dates from a calendar. The next screen allows you to select potential times. Click finish and voila! You have a poll. Send the link to your participants and they can select their available times quickly and easily. You can opt to receive email notices when participants respond or check back to see the results on your own.

There are additional handy features — such as comment support — and settings — limiting number of entries per person, for example. So play around with it a little. The coolest feature to note is on step 3 when creating a poll. There you will find a link to enable time zone support. You select the time zone you are in before submitting the survey. When participants come to the survey, the time zone of their IP address will be automatically filled in and the times presented will be in their local time! (Note: Participants can also manual select a time zone). No more adding or subtracting hours, figuring out what zone the poll creator is in, etc!

Neat, huh?

September meeting topic(s)?

For the Fall 2009 semester, FLIP will be meeting every three weeks.  Which makes our next scheduled date only one week away!  Please do come if you can.

What should we talk about?  Some general topics that people have previously expressed interest in include:

  • E-Books
  • Library marketing
  • Job preparation and application
  • Educational opportunities and career enhancement
  • Academic librarianship and faculty status
  • Scholarships and funding information
  • Application to and participation in library programs/committees
  • Projects and publications by local librarians

There are also a lot of discussion ideas that are mentioned in the news everyday (Google Books, copyright issues, social networking in libraries, etc.).    For instance, here is an article that was published on just today: The future of libraries, with or without books

So please add your comments to this post and weigh in on what you’re dying to opine about!

A bit on blogs

At the August 21 FLIP meeting, the discussion was primarily about blogs: the good, the bad, the way too wordy.  The topic was prompted by the recent release of this 100 Best Blogs for Librarians list, which comes from another blog (of course).

In your opinion, what makes an interesting blog?  Do you find that blogs make great professional reference tools, or are they more of a social media outlet,  a little of both, or none of the above?  Further, do you have any suggestions for this new FLIP blog?

Please add comments, thoughts, links to your favorite blog(s).  Let’s get this conversation started.  Ready….go!

2009 FLIP meetings recap (so far)

Moving backward in time, here is a brief summary of the last few FLIP meetings.  It is the goal that from now on our meeting topics will carry over into this blog for further discussion, analysis, and/or general commentary.

July 21: A mid-summer meeting when attendance was low enough to promote discussion about how to increase attendance and participation in FLIP.  Possible future topics of discussion were brainstormed.  Hopefully, new ideas like this blog will help!

June 19: A discussion regarding travel to library conferences and the time/money/effort involved for both in-state and national events.

May 15: Andy Page, coordinator of the e-Learning graduate certificate program at UAA, was our “virtual” speaker.  Andy gave the group a thorough and enthusiastic overview of the program coursework – all the way from Indiana.  The relevance of integrating emerging technology tools into our education and careers was made perfectly clear with the seamless use of the online technology that made his participation possible.

April 17: Included discussions about developing project management skills and how they can be quite useful, if not actually required, for most professional library positions.

March 20: This  meeting took place the week after the Alaska Library Association’s annual meeting in Kodiak.  A few folks that got to go to Kodiak told the rest of us all about it.  In 2010, the AkLA annual meeting will be in Anchorage and we will all have the opportunity to participate AND volunteer to help make it a success.  Visit the 2010 AkLA Conference Planning Website for details.

February 20: About a dozen folks showed up for introductions and a brainstorm session on topics of interest to discuss for future meetings.