The Bulleted Library Technician

July 17, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Library Technician: Thursday

This morning I sent an email to all our Library Computer Help Desk (LCHD) student workers (and a few selected Media Desk student workers who help out at the LCHD sometimes.) Office 2007 is coming soon on the patron computers, so I’ve worked up a 6 page “hints” document with lots of screenshots, and 3 pages of brief practice exercises for them to do. Now I wait and see if they actually do them, or if I have to hound them all week to get it done. 🙂 We already have Office 2007 on one section of 7 computers, so they could be getting questions on it anytime, and our Library Technologies department (a.k.a. “Systems“) will be expanding the number any time now. Which reminds me, I need to create a new floormap of all our computers, since they recently added 16 more to second floor. We must have about 275 general-use computers now (another thing I need to work on: counting them!)

I served 1 hour on the Library Computer Help Desk. A little busier today than yesterday, but still a typical slow day, as all summer days are when compared to Fall Semester or Spring Semester.

  • 1 student didn’t have enough money on his card, needed 2 pages free
  • 1 student needed help printing PowerPoint handouts
  • 1 student needed help with APA Style citations
  • 1 student wanted to know the location of the nearest machine to add money to his campus cash card (RebelCard)
  • 1 student needed help adding money to his RebelCard online
  • 1 student wanted the heavy-duty stapler
  • 1 student wanted to know the location of the nearest fax machine

On July 1 we started using an online product called DeskTracker to keep track of all our patron contacts. After 12+ years of making marks on a clipboard, it’s tough for me to reach for the mouse instead of a pen.

using bubbl website to visualize my ideas

On my lunchbreak, instead of homework I did some web surfing. I need a catchy name for this blog, I can’t keep calling it “Michelle Hawkins Thiel’s Weblog.” That’s just too long and too dull. So I did a little brainstorming, and tried a free online service called Bubbl. It allows you to easily create “brainstorming charts” where you have ideas in colored bubbles, linked to each other in various ways. Kind of a neat tool. It really did help me to organize my thoughts. Normally I organize with hierarchical bulleted lists, or tables, so this was a new, rounder technique for me.

Then I used Google’s Blog Search to find what other librarians, library workers, and library students have named their blogs. And so many good names have been taken already! I will post a list with links later.

We have a small coffee shop in the corner of our library, called The Book N Bean. During the summer they close at 2 pm. And occasionally they have some leftover food that they give away to library staff. Today they had a TON of food, so I had a nice tuna bagel to supplement the meager lunch I packed, and I got a chicken sandwich for dinner this evening. No cooking and no fast food, yaaayyy!

I spent the afternoon working on a “hints” document for Excel 2007. I fear it will be much much longer than the 6 page one for Word 2007. So I will probably break it up into parts. I have found that Excel is a weak point for many of our LCHD student workers, so I really want to be sure to cover it thoroughly. Long ago, we used to gather them for face-to-face instruction sessions on all the software, but in recent years they have been coming to us with a lot of basic knowledge already, so it’s generally not necessary. But I may reconsider for Excel…. There’s just so much to know, and I’m getting bored with making screenshots and writing instructions.

This evening the LCHD student came to me with an Excel question he tried to help a patron with. It was a scatter chart, which sadly I know nothing about. So I went out to the InfoCommons and gave it a shot, then came back to ask our resident mathematician, Heng-Wei, if he could take a look at it. And yes, he knows all about numbers and data and charts, so he helped the patron out very nicely.

Heng-Wei is one of the many classified staff in our library who were student workers here for many years, then got hired on full-time after they graduated. This city has a fair amount of migration out as well as the incredible migration in, so we often have positions open around the time our best students are ready for “a real job.” Unfortunately, with the state requiring budget cuts of all the campuses, we aren’t likely to fill any of our vacancies soon (we currently have several classified & faculty positions that have been vacant for months….) One of the things we are planning to discuss in a Hot Topics session this year is “mentoring, job sharing, and succession planning.”


July 16, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Library Technician: Wednesday

I arrived 10 am today, later than I intended, but still early compared to my usual 11 am schedule (I’m trying to come in early to beat the heat on the long walk from the parking lot.) I’m a “Library Technician II” at UNLV‘s Lied Library. I work in Media & Computer Services (formerly the two departments of “Media Resources” and “Information Commons” — I was hired into the latter when it was brand-new.)

Almost every day the first thing I do is chat with Alexis, my cubicle-mate, for a few minutes. Today we exchanged a few stories about funny or annoying patrons we encountered earlier this week, comparing them to some from the past. We both started here over 8 years ago (she in Media, me in InfoCommons — but the merger has been great for us.)

Then I prepped for my 11 am meeting with our department head, Tom Ipri (Tombrarian.) This actually included more talking with Alexis (she’s a great sounding-board for ideas, and some of the topics actually concern her job as well.) Tom (and I) wrote a proposal to move our Multimedia Design Studio (MMDS) to a larger space nearby which was recently vacated when another department consolidated its operations. I pulled up an Excel spreadsheet I made several months ago, to compare the features, hours, staffing, names, etc of similar facilities at other university libraries.

I met with Tom, and we decided to take a peek at the proposed new space. It’s HUGE! It would improve our services so much, enabling us to serve more users at once, and to teach classes. We already have a couple of professors who are sending their entire class over here in onesies and twosies — it would be great to get them all at once and teach them the basics they need to know for their project.

current Studio has space for 6 people at 3 computers

current Studio has space for 6 people at 3 computers

Our current space is far too small and too hot for groups of people –we tried it in April, and it was miserable! (Okay, not truly miserable, but very crowded & sweaty, and certainly not the shining success we hoped our first official instruction session would be.)

While we were in the proposed new space, our Director of User Services, Wendy Starkweather, dropped in. She commented on the excitement in my face. Yes, I guess I am really happy about this possibility. The Multimedia Design Studio is my primary job responsibility, and I really want to see it grow and develop. Eventually I will finish my MLS and move on, so it would be nice to leave that as a legacy, so to speak… It was started by Diane VanderPol, now Director of the Library at Westminster College, and continued by Jennifer Church-Duran, now Assistant Dean for User Services for the Libraries at the University of Kansas. They both provided great vision and leadership. But for sheer number of hours spent helping patrons — well, I guess I win on that count. 🙂

After finishing up the meeting with Tom & Wendy, I took Alexis into the space. She’s our point person on the Disability Resource Room (DRR) [a.k.a. the Assistive Technologies Room], as well as a great person with multimedia issues. We measured the doorways to see if we could combine the MMDS and DRR into the new space, but alas, it would require expensive rennovations to accomodate the automatic door opener and be wide enough for wheelchairs. So the DRR will stay where it is.

A break for lunch at my desk, and homework. I’m attending the University of North Texas School of Library & Information Sciences (SLIS). One of the assignments in my current class is about “user-centered spaces” which is a topic I’ve been researching off and on for quite some time. I’ll be blogging about it later. Today I just did some searching for info, while munching a couple of sticky granola bars I found in my desk. I forgot to pack a lunch again, and it’s far too hot to venture outdoors! Although I saw out my tiny window, we were actually having some “weather” today — it was not the blazing hot blue sky of a typical day around here, we had clouds, complete with lighting & thunder & some wetness!

Then off to a “Hot Topics” meeting. This is a highlight of nearly every month for me. Any library staff member (faculty, pro staff, or classified staff) can participate as a speaker, listener, or committee chair. Today was the annual brainstorming session for the upcoming year. We looked briefly at what topics were suggested in the past 2 years, which ones were covered already, then we compiled a list of topics for next year. Lots of great ideas, as always. Our Hot Topics leaders have presented (or brought in guest speakers to present) a lot of great info in the past, and it looks like 2007-2008 will be great also.

Two friends from the Architecture Studies Library on the other side of campus were here for the Hot Topics meeting. They are also students in the UNT SLIS Nevada Cohort (there are actually 6 of us students working in the UNLV Libraries!) They heard about our proposal for the Multimedia Design Studio and wondered what it’s all about, so I gave them a tour of our current MMDS space and some adjacent media preview rooms.  See my flick set “Media Lab” for pics of our current MMDS space.

I ran into our Director of User Services again, she was asking about a leak. Apparently that rain we had earlier found a way inside the building! We don’t get that kind of excitement around here often, since this building is still fairly new and pretty sturdy.

Then I served 1 hour on the Computer Help Desk (part of our first floor Information Commons area.) Moved several print jobs for a student who’s payment card didn’t want to work on 2nd floor, but it works okay on 1st floor. Moved several more print jobs for a student who lost his card (actually did an over-ride and gave it all to him free.) Fielded a couple phone calls from a mother who bought her daughter (due to enter UNLV next semester) a new laptop and wanted to know about Internet connections. Chatted with the librarian on the “Research & Information” (reference) side of our shared service counter. One of our frequent MMDS patrons walked by the desk, smiled, and promised “no help today” (meaning he didn’t need me to assist with his video editing project.)  See my flickr set “InfoCommons & Computer Help Desk” for lots of pics of what life is like around here.  🙂

Back to my cubicle to slog through some email. And in the “American Libraries Direct” email I found the link to the “A Day in the Life of a Library” project. And I decided to join. So now you know it all.

Tomorrow I promise to explain less backstory and write more about the day. 🙂

“A Day in the Life of a Library”

Filed under: Librarianship (general) — Tags: , , — Michelle Hawkins-Thiel @ 6:11 pm

Something interesting from today’s “American Libraries Direct” email:

Librarians and other library staff are encouraged to participate in this project:  “A Day in the Life of a Library.”  Simply blog about what you do every day, then post the URL of your blog to the project’s wiki (so everyone can find your blog.)  As the organizers say, “it’s a great way for students who are interested in the library profession to see what we really do.”

I think it would be great if a bunch of “library technicians” and “library assistants”  participated.  Let the world see what “paraprofessionals” or “nonprofessional” library staff do all day!  After all, we vastly outnumber the “real librarians.”    🙂


At the time I checked the wiki, there were 28 people signed up — and only 2 with job titles that don’t sound like MLS-holders.  So we should all throw in our 2 cents worth!

June 17, 2008

this AND that

I finally got a chance to sit down and read the June/July issue of American Libraries today. And I ran into a very interesting article: “This and That: Holding down two dream careers at once” by Mary Pergander.

She says

..we sometimes mistakenly believe that life is asking us “or” questions, when life is really offering us “and” opportunities. That is, we can do this and that, not merely choose between two options.

She gives examples

  • a woman who works as both a high school librarian and an academic librarian
  • a man who works as both a children’s librarian and a volunteer firefighter / EMT

I have been struggling for several months on the question of whether to become a children’s librarian or a science librarian or a consumer health librarian.

Why these particular choices? I studied biology & biochemistry for 6 years (4 undergrad, 2 grad), and it seems such a waste to not use all that knowledge… after all, I paid quite a lot of money for it, and I was good at it! (Well, good with the thinking, not the doing — I wish I had realized sooner that my talents in the library did not translate well to the laboratory…)

But on the other hand, I really want to work with children. I love their wide-eyed capacity to imagine anything, their excitement at learning new things, their infectious joy. And I especially love the idea of being able to make a difference in their lives.

So what to do, what to do? Do I have to choose one or the other, or can I combine them? Soon I will be approaching the time in my MLS studies that I have to make a choice, go in one direction or another with my selection of courses (either Health Informatics or Youth Services) — or should I just stay in the “General Studies” category and pick & choose what looks good? Somehow I think it would be better to focus on something, so that when I apply for jobs I can clearly be qualified for a particular thing — rather than “jack of all trades, master of none” I could at least be proficient in something.

I’m currently attending “library school” at UNT, which is well-known for it’s Health Informatics program (ranked #3 in USA!) — it would seem silly for me to not take advantage of the opportunity that is falling into my lap (to study with some of the best profs in the field.)

These are the career paths I can envision myself enjoying (roughly in order of my current enthusiasm)

  1. public library: a children’s librarian who specializes in developing programs that explore nature & science
  2. small public library: part-time in children’s dept, part-time in reference dept as a science & consumer health specialist
  3. large public library: full-time consumer health librarian
  4. academic library: science librarian (non-tenure-track)

I know I would do well in any of those positions. They would all be challenging, interesting, and fulfilling. Each would come with its own particular stresses and its own particular joys. I have worked in an academic library for the past 8 years (serving students, faculty, and the general public.) And I worked in a rural public library for 4 years prior to that, so I think I have some idea what to expect from either environment.

I wonder what would make me more “marketable?” Are more libraries looking for children’s librarians? Or are more libraries looking for science/medical librarians? Would any libraries be interested in someone who can do both?

What is a “medical librarian?”

Check these out:

What is a “medical librarian?”

Check these out:

History of the World Wide Web

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Michelle Hawkins-Thiel @ 2:02 pm
I just stumbled across this intriguing bit of history.   I remember studying Vannevar Bush and his fabulous Memex, but I don’t recall this guy:  Paul Otlet, who originated the concept for the Web, in Belgium in 1934.




May 13, 2008

How to be a Medical Librarian / Consumer Health Librarian

How to be a medical librarian / consumer health librarian:

Medical Librarian / Consumer Health Librarian organizations to join

Filed under: STM (Science / Technical / Medical) Librarian — Tags: , , , , , , — Michelle Hawkins-Thiel @ 5:58 pm

Each of these has many resources available to non-members (and even more for members):

  • Biomedical and Life Sciences Division — part of the Special Libraries Association (SLA)
  • CAPHIS — Consumer and Patient Health Information Section — part of the Medical Library Association (MLA)
  • Medical Informatics Special Interest Group — part of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)
  • Medical Library Association (MLA)
  • National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM)
  • Pharmaceutical and Health Technology Division — part of the Special Libraries Association (SLA)
  • May 12, 2008

    Professional Development / Continuing Education web sites

    Filed under: continuing education, professional development — Tags: , , — Michelle Hawkins-Thiel @ 10:06 pm

    A list of resources for librarians of any persuasion (school, public, academic, special, etc.) In no particular order.

    Newbies, start your journey here:

    More resources:


    EDIT 6/17/2008:

    Here’s one more resource, from my alma mater!

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