All posts by Katharine

Displaced at ALA Annual

Hello from ALA 2009, Chicago.  I’ve just come from the Placement Center, located in the far-off land of McCormick Place South.  Although this was the first time I’d ever ventured there, I have to admit that I walked away a bit disappointed.  Twelve booths lined the ballroom—only two of which were academic libraries…only one of which was in the United States.

I spotted a former colleague who was waiting for an interview with one of the public libraries.  He has been in the field for a number of years and explained to me, a newbie, that only a few years ago this room would be filled.  “This is where most recruiters found their prospects,” he said.  “The Internet has changed all that, making the hiring process entirely different.”  Not that the Internet had made things bad by any means, but it certainly has changed the way we seek jobs—and has made the Placement Center incredibly unexciting.  Everything happens behind the scenes now.  I went there to meet possible employers and gain enthusiasm by talking about what they do face to face—something that the Internet doesn’t allow when I blindly submit an application through HR.  Although I am incredibly aware that fewer and fewer jobs are available, it was so disheartening to see that THE national library conference only twelve organizations had come—and some of these were only there to show presence and had no openings.

Perhaps this only further proves that networking is key out there, and being at ALA Annual 2009 is a great place to meet new people in a less formal way than the Placement Center.  For anyone else that is out there looking, I wish you all the best.

+TTW Contributor Katharine Johnson

Dear Library Schools: Please Do Better


If librarians are ultimately responsible for marketing librarians and library services, then the schools that prepare future librarians must offer the necessary training. Right? Well, not really. Carol Tenopir of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, School of Information Sciences, stated that library schools tend to emphasize the skills and knowledge that a librarian needs to do the job. “Schools do not focus on how to market to a constituency.”(1)

So not only do we not know how to tactfully advertise our services to our patrons, but our career is in further jeopardy when you add in the stereotypical view of a librarian–or as Margaret Slater (2) found, the way our patrons traditionally view us: with “passivity, incompetence, bureaucratic tendencies, unworldliness, and insufficient education or subject knowledge for the job.”


Perhaps we don’t like to think of “selling ourselves” out there in the marketplace, but it sure would be nice to have a library school course that would help to compete with all the other marketers out there.  (And for those of you that are already teaching such courses, thanks!)


(1)Shamel, C. L. (2002). Building a Brand: Got Librarian? Searcher, 10(7). Retrieved February 25, 2009, from

(2)  Slater, M. (1987). Careers and the occupational image. Journal of Information Science, 13(6), 335-342.



Twitter Library Community

After reading Amber Naslund’s blog post, “I am a Material Girl and want to live in a Twitter World” in which she discusses how helpful it is to have twitter followers who can relate to and aid in a problem we might have.  It got me thinking about the connectivity of librarians via twitter; I know it is often used as a tool for announcements and advertising to the general public, but are librarians using it to formally (and informally) aid in reference questions that stump us or discussing other issues in a public space?

Any examples for me? @msmaven


Fun with SMS!

Brandweek is saying that advertisements sent via SMS text are becoming a normal sighting among cell-phone users (38% of users recalled seeing them in the past few months).  What really aggravated surprised me was the response to what could be viewed as an intrusive form of advertising:

Perhaps most encouraging for advertisers, says the report, “is the fact that one in seven people also reported that they had bought a product or visited a store as a result of seeing a mobile advertisement.”

My point here is not that libraries should also consider following this model and touting the latest services through text.  Yet, I’m shocked that people would actually respond positively to this method of advertising.  What else we should be doing with cellphones, which have become an essential method of communication, storage, entertainment, and direction?  It makes me realize how important services like I-Share’s “text me this call number” or Elmhurst College’s use of Reference via SMS Text.  From my understanding, these are not yet catching on like wildfire; but libraries should keep up with such great innovation because as Brandweek has shown us, people are indeed responding to such types of services.  It is only a matter of time before they become the norm.

+TTW Contributor Katharine Johnson

Right Here, Right Now: Ready for the Unexpected/Future

We’ve said it time and time again as we continue to forefront Library 2.0: Meet the user where they are.

A friend passed this video off to me and I thought it was an excellent argument as to why 2.0 is essential–and most especially in the library field.  We’re technology leaders, and if people are using the technologies (SMS, social networking) we’ve have got to be sure we can keep up and engage users in a way that is seamless within within their lives.

It certainly is a challenge–but not one that is too lofty.  I’ve already seen great examples of SMS reference, Twitter, YouTube and other technology integrations within the library.  Keep moving forward.  Librarians must be prepared for the unprepared future.

This video also might be a helpful *nudge* for reluctant L2.0 staff or administration.


Space for the paranormal

While thumbing through my local newspaper I came across an article about the public library hosting a lecture and discussion concerning UFO sightings, particularly more recent events in observed in Tinley Park, IL.

Let’s be honest—you couldn’t have bribed me with enough cappuccinos to show up at this event.  Not my groove—for sure.  But it got me thinking about the library’s continued value as a community space.  There really isn’t any other place in town that would welcome such a controversial topic.  It could be held it in someone’s home, yes, but then it wouldn’t be a public event.  Perhaps the local café?  But then you’re obligating patrons to purchase something when the main focus is knowledge.  Where else could people openly gather for a common interest—where avid followers and curious folks could learn without being intimated by each other or their surroundings?

The library has historically been that place, and I’d like to applaud the Forest Park Public Library for continuing to provide a comfortable space for knowledge and discussion, even if the topics are quite alien.

~TTW Contributor Katharine Johnson