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My Empty Reference Desk

This post is inspired by Sarah Ludwig’s guest lecture on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC which is a non-credit course primarily for librarians that I’m taking at San Jose State University SLIS in addition to my for credit courses this semester.

Sarah Ludwig pointed out that failing to maintain your social media that you’ve established for professional purposes is like allowing your reference desk to be empty. This is my professional blog. I haven’t posted here since last semester when I was expected to blog as a peer mentor for LIBR 203. This blog was linked to the LIBR 203 class blog feed. This semester I have a Hyperlinked Library MOOC blog that I’m maintaining instead, but what about my empty reference desk here? I decided that this would be an appropriate post to write on Information Metamorphosis and re-blog to Linda’s Liminal Log, my Hyperlinked Library MOOC blog.

Why do I blog less here than I do on my review blog on Blogger?  Well, part of the answer is that The Unmasked Persona’s Reviews is on Blogger.  I prefer Blogger over WordPress.  WordPress has usability problems. The biggest problem is having to fiddle with code way too much on WordPress.  I can do it, but I’d much rather not take the time.   Images don’t display properly when I copy them from my hard drive.  I never have problems with displaying images on Blogger.  I could go on about WordPress’s usability problems at great length, but I’m blogging before work today and my time is limited.

I also blog more on my review blog because I’m a natural blogger about books.  Books are my passion.  Blogging about books is like breathing for me.  I don’t naturally think of topics for this LIS blog.  I’ve also been really engaged by blogging on Net Galley books, and books sent to me by an authors’ publicist who discovered The Unmasked Persona’s Reviews, and likes what I write.  My book blog is really taking off.  I want to feel as motivated about writing for Information Metamorphosis. Last semester, I re-blogged a review dealing with a book about a librarian which was the last post to appear here.  The problem is that I don’t read LIS oriented books recreationally very often. 

I am now resolved not to allow this blog to be the equivalent of an empty reference desk.  I’m trying to work on solutions to this problem.  Re-blogging from Linda’s Liminal Log this semester is a sub-optimal solution.  I don’t like to merely copy posts without added value, but maintaining two LIS blogs  with original content in both simultaneously may be too much of a challenge.

Clara Breed: An Exemplary Librarian During World War II

I recently created an instructional video using Jing as a Peer Mentor project.  The subject of my instructional video was re-blogging.  I chose a post on the only book I had reviewed on my personal blog that deals with a LIS subject.  Then I decided to make this more than an exercise for my video.  I have revised this post for Information Metamorphosis.

My personal blog contains book reviews dealing with a variety of subjects and genres.  For those who are interested in viewing it, here is the hyperlink: The Unmasked Persona’s Reviews

The theme of this blog is the evolution of the information professions.  Evolution has a past as well as a future.  So I consider the history of libraries a legitimate subject for this blog.  The first review to appear on Information Metamorphosis  focuses on a figure in library history who should be better known.

The book reviewed  is Dear Miss Breed by Joanne Oppenheim which celebrates a remarkable librarian who is unknown to the American public at large, but is considered a hero by many Japanese-American survivors of internment.

 Clara Breed was a children’s librarian in San Diego during WWII.  When her young Japanese-American patrons were interned at Santa Anita Racetrack in 1942, she did not turn her back on them. She wrote all her Japanese American patrons, and sent them books along with other items that they and their families needed.  A number of Japanese American artists sent Miss Breed art objects in thanks for the art supplies she sent them.  Author Joanne Oppenheim discovered Miss Breed when she was attempting to locate a Japanese- American schoolmate.  She read the story of this courageous librarian on the website of The National Japanese-American Museum at The Clara Breed Collection . This page is a finding aid for the digitized versions of letters that Clara Breed received from the interned children and young adults that she had served as a librarian.  Oppenheim hoped that a book about a librarian who assisted Japanese Americans during WWII would help to prevent the United States from ever interning American citizens again.

According to historian Roger Daniels, the author of Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans During World War II, the camps where Japanese Americans were relocated should not be called internment camps.  He argued that in a legal sense, internment only applies to enemy aliens.  Japanese Americans were born in the United States.  Internees were also supposed to get hearings.  Japanese Americans were never given trials.  Their rights as American citizens were completely ignored. Daniels believes that the proper term for the camps in which Japanese Americans were imprisoned is concentration camps.  As a person of Jewish ancestry, I associate “concentration camp” with the Jewish Holocaust.  Daniels said that this is also inaccurate.  The Nazis slaughtered Jews in death camps.   I consider this an important distinction.

A letter to Miss Breed from Fusa Tsumagari dated August 2, 1942 described the riot at Santa Anita. I was interested to learn that it was precipitated by a search led by an abusive guard who was Korean.  It occurs to me that this guard was probably taking out a resentment against Japan on Japanese-Americans.  I mentioned WWII Japanese atrocities against Koreans in my June post “Japanese Minorities: Not Enough Respect”, but there is a much longer history of antagonism between Japan and Korea.  See the Wikipedia article about Japan’s colonization of Korea, Korea Under Japanese Rule .  I consider this an explanation for this guard’s behavior, not a justification.  Money was stolen from internees during the search.  They had a right to be angry about this theft.

After the riot, the San Diego Japanese Americans were transferred to Poston III, one of the camps in Poston, Arizona.  Tetsuzo Hirasaki  wrote to Miss Breed that the older internees were on a sort of vacation because they got to go fishing at Poston.  I saw a recent documentary called “The Manzanar Fishing Club” in which Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar described how they risked their lives to go fishing.  Find out more about this film at  The Manzanar Fishing Club Official Website . Apparently, conditions were different when the San Diegans first arrived at Poston.  The camp wasn’t surrounded by barbed wire from August to November 1942 which facilitated fishing until a barbed wire fence was erected.   After they were fenced in, fishing would no longer have been a simple leisure activity.

Poston was scarcely idyllic.  It was a very dry climate, and the San Diegans were unaccustomed to the heat of Arizona.  There was also a polio epidemic.  Richard Watanabe, one of Miss Breed’s correspondents, caught polio.  Oppenheim reports that he had a limp for the rest of his life.   He may also have suffered from post-polio syndrome.  See Post Polio Syndrome Fact Sheet for more information.

When the military age male Japanese Americans at Poston III were asked to swear loyalty to the United States and fight in WWII, not one of  Miss Breed’s male correspondents who were of age to serve declined to do so.  I feel that Clara Breed’s supportiveness  encouraged their belief in America, and that there would be a place for them in the U.S. after the war.  Even though they had been wronged by their country, Miss Breed gave them hope.  She wrote an article in support of Japanese Americans that was published in The Horn Book in July of 1943 called “Americans With The Wrong Ancestors” and sent copies to Poston III.  The Horn Book is a publication for librarians dealing with children’s literature.  Clara Breed got many favorable reactions from librarians in response to that article.

This book deals with what happened to a number of Miss Breed’s correspondents after the war.  I thought it noteworthy that Katherine Tasaki wanted to be a librarian.  Unfortunately, there were no scholarships available for her. So with Miss Breed’s help she got a non-professional job at Chula Vista Library.  Later she and her husband Ben Sagawa formed the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.

In an afterword Snowden Becker, who scanned the letters of Miss Breed’s correspondents for the National Japanese  American Museum while she was still in library school, wrote feelingly about Clara Breed as a role model.  I too was inspired by Miss Breed.  When I returned this book to the library, I went to the reference desk and told the librarian that Dear Miss Breed was one of the best books I’d ever read.

Librarything Versus Goodreads

Peer Mentors at SJSU SLIS do group presentations online through web conferencing.  These group presentations are called meet-ups.  When I did my Peer Mentor meetup presentation, I discussed WordPress, Blogger and Librarything.  I was hoping that someone would ask me how Librarything compares with Goodreads because I was completely prepared for that question.  Since no one had any questions for me, I thought I would compare Librarything and Goodreads on my blog.

My recent experience cataloging on Librarything  for a special library with a small collection has persuaded me that  Goodreads is in no way the equal of Librarything when it comes to cataloging a collection of books.  I have been so impressed with my ability to obtain complete bibliographic records from libraries for use on Librarything.  Anyone who has cataloged on Librarything will be disappointed that Goodreads doesn’t have this relationship with libraries.  If a member wants to shelve a book on Goodreads that isn’t part of the database, he or she can’t simply pull up a record from the Library of Congress.  If a book hasn’t been previously shelved by a Goodreads member, or imported from Ingram, its current bibliographic partner, members must fill out every field in the record manually.  Unfortunately, some members have no idea of how to record information from a book in hand.  This means that the Goodreads database is riddled with errors.   The volunteers who maintain the database at Goodreads  have a task similar to the legendary Sisyphus.  For every record successfully corrected, there will probably be ten more that require revision that have recently been entered manually.

So why do I still love Goodreads?  The primary purpose of Goodreads is social networking  for book readers, and that is the area where it excels.  When someone requests to be your friend on Goodreads, you can do a book comparison.  It will tell you what books you have in common and the percentage of similarity between you.   There is an amazing array of  affinity groups.  Many select a book of the month to discuss or have reading challenges.   Goodreads has also added a tool that allows group members to keep track of their challenge reads.  Goodreads  does everything it can to facilitate  the formation of communities of readers.

Another thing that I love about Goodreads is that some of my Goodreads reviews appear on Worldcat.   Although Goodreads can’t import metadata from Worldcat, Worldcat can harvest reviews from Goodreads.  I have established a shelf on Goodreads to identify which of my reviews appear on Worldcat.  I am proud  of my contribution to my favorite bibliographic utility through Goodreads.

The Value of the SJSU SLIS Peer Mentor Program

Peer Mentors are students at SJSU SLIS .  Debbie Faires, who runs the program, requests applications  every semester.  Peer Mentors assist students in LIBR 203, the required introduction to the tools and technology used at SLIS.

There are a number of good motivations for becoming a peer mentor.  My motivations were an interest in helping students and a need for recent instruction experience.  I taught a training class for U.S. Census enumerators, but that was back in 1990.  I have had no previous experience in online instruction, and I thought that such experience would be useful for my future career.

The Peer Mentor program was established because LIBR 203 instructors teach multiple sections of the course, and cannot be everywhere at once.  Vicki Steiner, the wonderful instructor that I’m assisting, teaches four sections of LIBR 203.  Students are attempting to finish the course quickly, and will often need immediate assistance.

Peer mentors have more to offer students than their availability.  We can offer our experience as students in the program.  We can offer practical suggestions about study habits and organization.  We can make recommendations for courses in the areas that interest individual students, and tell you about their workloads.  We can tell you who to contact at SJSU SLIS  if you have a particular problem.  If we don’t know, we can find out.  That is the value of having a mentor.

Those who are training for the information professions are in the business of helping people.  This means that successful candidates for an MLIS degree want to help others.  I have found  librarians and archivists outside of SLIS who were willing to assist me.   This is an advantage of  being part of a helping profession.  Students at SLIS should look for mentors along their career path. The best way to find mentors is by joining professional organizations, but students can also find mentors through volunteering and through internships.

I hope that my students in LIBR 203 will take full advantage of the opportunity of having a mentor, so that can be more successful students.

The Tools Needed For Success at SJSU SLIS

In an online program it’s very important to learn prioritization.  Students must learn to balance the demands of the program with other aspects of their lives which may include jobs, family and a social life.  You must learn to schedule daily time for your classes.  If you don’t work on your classes every day, it’s likely that you won’t do as well in your studies as other students who are more dedicated.  I have always given first priority to my schoolwork  when I wasn’t required to work at my paying  job.

Due to the critical importance of  technology in the online program and in the information professions, LIS students must master an increasing array of technological tools. When I entered the program in 2009, I was already proficient in Word and Excel due to my previous use of these applications during my employment history.  I had to learn how to take a screenshot during LIBR 203.   There are different methods for taking a screenshot depending on the system you are utilizing. I used this skill in my Web Usability class, so I’m glad that I mastered it.  I have also used it in reporting website bugs on Goodreads. Technical support teams for  information organizations would probably all need screenshots for bug reports.

Since information organizations increasingly maintain internal and public blogs, I had to learn how to maintain a blog in LIBR 203.  I absolutely loved the experience.  If I hadn’t been so involved in classes, I would have established this blog earlier.  Maintaining a blog on a weekly basis with the type of substantial posts that I would prefer to write isn’t something that I could manage to do during the course of  my 2010 and 2011 semesters.   When I was forced to drop out of the program for two semesters,  I was able to start this blog on WordPress. I also started a personal blog for book reviews on Blogger.

Another important area  for success at SLIS is the need to learn APA format for papers.  When I took LIBR 203, APA wasn’t a part of the syllabus.  My undergraduate major had used MLA.  I had no previous experience with APA.  I struggled a bit with APA format in my first semester at SLIS.  It would have been useful to have had an orientation to APA in LIBR 203.  So I’m glad that APA has been incorporated in this course.  Students who intend to become academic librarians will be utilizing APA in their academic careers beyond SLIS.  This is an extremely useful tool.

I remember Dr. Haycock’s webcast about teamwork from when I took LIBR 203. Since staff at an information organization needs to function as a team, we have numerous team projects in our classes at SLIS.   I remember that he emphasized the importance  of discussing team process before beginning the project.  I’m glad that I took this to heart because the complex team project for LIBR 204 definitely needed such a discussion.  It also turned out to be my favorite team experience because we followed Dr. Haycock’s advice.

Motivation To Learn Javascript

There are classes in coding in the MLIS program at SJSU, but I decided that this is the sort of skill obtainable elsewhere.

I recently started an online course in javascript for catalogers offered through Code Academy.  As I worked through the exercises I wondered how I would be using this skill as a cataloger.

Today on Goodreads, I noticed a post from a member who said he had attempted to create a tool for importing records from Worldcat using  javascript.  I now feel much more motivated in pursuing proficiency with javascript.  Although my semester begins today, I will make time for the Code Academy javascript class.

Second Life and Missed Opportunities

Last week I read on SJSU MLIS, the Yahoogroup for San Jose State University MLIS students, that Second Life was no longer covered in the introductory class, LIBR 203, and therefore isn’t considered an essential aspect of the SLIS program.  Even though I had never taken advantage of opportunities to participate in Second Life, I feel a certain ambivalence about this.

I might have been more inclined to become involved in  Second Life activities in a SLIS context,  if I felt that they made good use of this platform’s potential.  Imagine a reference class where students role played reference scenarios in Second Life.  Imagine an archive class where students had to demonstrate how they would organize virtual archival materials in a Second Life archive.

Why wasn’t  Second Life integrated into my LIS education more fully?  It’s likely that most faculty members felt that acquiring the basic skills for maneuvering an avatar involved too steep a learning curve. That was my opinion when I was first introduced to Second Life in LIBR 203.  Later I wondered why I should invest my time  for the sake of virtual parties.  It seemed to me that online synchronous  interaction between students is more easily accomplished through Elluminate/Collaborate, the web conferencing platform that we use for real time lectures, presentations and meetings.

My perspective on Second Life changed when I saw how  Jeremy Kemp had developed virtual diagnostic scenarios for nursing education while he was my Web Usability instructor.  I realized then that Second Life could be a powerful educational tool. It’s a shame that  the opportunity to utilize this tool is slipping away from LIS students at SJSU.

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