One door opens, another shuts behind

About a year ago I created a Facebook application just for the sake of trying to create one. Thanks to the Dapper service, the process was fairly easy to create a one-stop shop for library technician job postings in Canada.

Lately I’ve noticed that the listings were no longer being updated in Facebook even though the RSS feed still worked.

It turns out Dapper is shutting down their support of their Facebook App Maker so I’ve decided to close down my Facebook App. I was able to get 22 Fans of my application so hopefully some people found it of use.

I’ve decided to migrate the service to a new page using free web page provider synthasite.com.

Canadian Library Technician Jobs is a basic site that uses a Spring Widget to showcase the latest job postings.

Quick, apply for this job!

I know Alberta companies need to increase their incentives to compete with other employers in the tight labour market out there but I think this salary may be a little over the top:

http://bit.ly/reFI

elutajob


Bang for your buck

There is an interesting In Press article from the Journal of Academic Librarianship:

Reference Transactions Analysis: The Cost-Effectiveness of Staffing a Traditional Academic Reference Desk

From the abstract:
“This study categorizes 6959 reference desk transactions to determine how many of the queries require the attention of a librarian. Results indicate that 89% could likely be answered by non-librarians. From the results of this and other studies, the author explores the cost-effectiveness of staffing a traditional reference desk with librarians.”

The article presents a study and discusses previous research which details how search and information discovery technology has radically changed the traditional role of the reference librarian. The authours then provide data which call into question the cost-effectiveness of staffing academic reference desks with librarians given the types of questions that now predominate:

“Results of the current question analysis study also confirm that many questions can be considered simple directional or machine-related. As seen in Table 3, the 2528 non-informational direction and machine transactions accounted for 36.3% of all of the transactions during the eight-month study period. Few would argue that these “restroom” and “paper jam” transactions require the attention of a librarian.”

One of the highlights of the research presented:

“Dividing the amount by the 6959 transactions shows that the library spent an average of $7.09 per transaction. While that does not seem particularly expensive to answer the 784 “research” questions ($5559), consider that during the same time frame the library spent $7.09 on each of the 2528 times that a printer cartridge was changed, or a paper jam fixed, or directions were given to a building across campus.”

These cost estimates are below what they would likely be in a Canadian academic library. This study used an average librarian salary of $23.77, which is quite a bit lower than the librarians where I work (heck, even I make more than that).

The financial difficulties spiraling through the US economy are expected to hit Canada hard fairly soon. When increased pressure on library budgets start to set in,  I think it is inevitable that the trend of library technicians working extended shifts at the public reference desk will become more and more common.

While groups like this one, express concern over the de-professionalization of library work, the authours of the article don’t dwell on what some may see as the negative aspects of the changing trends at the reference desk, they point out where the role of the librarian should be moving:

“This may bolster the argument that librarians can leave answering most questions to others and can now concentrate on working on tasks that better utilize their training and experience, as well as learning new skills that benefit the library, the users, and the institution.”

Another library technician blog

While going through my WordPress stats I saw that someone had used the search term, “library technician lack of job toronto” to arrive at my blog.

I’m glad to see people are finding links to my library technician job postings mash-up, but I noticed that this search term also brought up a link to this blog posting.

Library Tech Confidential is a very attractive looking blog (he’s not a cheapskate using a free hosted WordPress blog like I do) written by a Canadian library technician. It’s always interesting to see what other Seneca library technician grads are up to, let alone another male technician.

The comments made by “Esther” and the response from the site’s authour in the comments section of this posting bring back some memories of my job search after graduation.

So check it out for another view of libraries from the “para-professional” point of view.

My dream library technician job

My little Library Technician job mash-up pulled out what sounds like my dream library technician job:

Library Technicians – $46,640+
Canadian Security Intelligence Service / CSIS (Ottawa ON)

Not only could I live in Ottawa, city of wonderful bike trails, but I could get as close to being (the male version of) Chloe O’Brian as I likely ever will.

But my “barely passing grade 8” French dooms me from ever getting a sniff at a job in Ottawa.

You say library technician, I say librarian…

It is an ongoing issue in the world of librarians about how touchy MLIS holders should get when non-MLIS holders get called “Librarian”.

When it comes to the public, the people that come in and use libraries, I believe the vast majority don’t care about the particular educational achievements of the person they are getting help from, they just want them to provide the service they need.

In this article from the North Country Times in California:

ESCONDIDO: Bernardo parents, students fight to keep librarian

the writer and the people quoted in the article use the terms library technician and librarian interchangebly. All the parents care about is that they may have to share with other schools the library technician they admire and beleive helps their children. To them, a person who provides all these services at such a high level is a “librarian” in their eyes.

While I certainly beleive in the general concepts behind the occupational divisons between library technicians and librarians, I think anyone who gets hung-up on how the public uses the title “librarian” needs to find other things to worry about.

DIY Facebook Applications

Ever since Facebook opened up their platform to outside applications I have noticed that a number of services have developed tools for us non-programmers to create Facebook applications.

The one I read the most about was Dapper. ReadWriteWeb has a good post and short video about the service.

So I thought I’d give Dapper a try (also, I didn’t have time to commute to Stanford). I decided to create an application using a basic RSS feed from Google News. I tried to think about what ongoing news story I would want updated stories about in my Facebook profile. Of course I thought about the upcoming Rambo movie. So using the Google News feed I followed the simple steps laid out in Dapper’s AppMaker. A few minutes later I had created and published my first Facebook Application. At this point two strangers have added this application so I consider that a success. However you can’t officially add your creations to Facebook’s application directory until you have at least 5 users.

rambo1.jpg

After I got this basic one out of the way I thought about how to create a library-themed one. Since I can’t create a technical wonder like the University of Alberta’s search application, I thought about a tool I would have appreciated during my periods of unemployment, a one-stop RSS feed that brought together the library technician job postings from various job boards.

The problem in creating such a tool is that few job boards provide an RSS feed. Again Dapper came to the rescue. All you have to do is enter in a URL and it can distill which content you want to track and create an RSS feed for.

Then I took the 6 different RSS feeds I had for library technician job postings and entered them into a new Yahoo Pipe. While creating a basic Pipe from multiple feeds is simple, the problem was that without filtering the results in some way, I was getting a final feed that included jobs for librarians, unrelated technical jobs and other off-topic postings.

The solution to this was to use the Filter tools provided. After much trial and error I ended up with the following Pipe:

libtechpipe.jpg

Considering the fact that I was pulling out content from very different types of web pages I am quite happy with the final result. In order to track and continually refine this tool I have created a new page on my blog which will detail my progress and provide links to the Canadian Library Technician Jobs Facebook application and a separate RSS feed.

Library associations and 2.0

Marge: Homer, it’s very easy to criticize…
Homer:
and fun, too!

The idea of writing this post has been percolating for some time but a recent post by Meredith from Information Wants To Be Free has given me a push to put my thoughts to virtual pen. In her post she comments about how one of the tenets of the Library 2.0 movement is the effort to end the “but we’ve always done it this way” attitude. She goes on to describe that while this idea is beginning to take root in the libraries we work in (though that’s a post for another day), it’s not always the same story with the associations we belong to and represent us.

I can only speak about the organizations I am or have been a member of, but each of them vary in how much of a push they have made to use emerging technologies to communicate with and involve their members.

As a caveat I will say I didn’t bother looking for any presence of these organizations on MySpace. For one thing, I despise any web site that starts playing music when I visit it (let me decide if I need to be blasted with the new Avril Lavigne single), but the garish designs, clunky photo slide shows and endless posts of, “thanks for the add” remind me of the millions of wack looking Geocities sites created in the mid-to-late nineties. As the creator of a garish Toronto Raptors tribute page back then I’m as guilty as anyone. I find that services like Ning (see the Library 2.0 network) to be more promising.

CLA
Since they offered a cheap membership rate to students I became a member a few years ago. When it comes to print publications, I find that most editions of Feliciter have several articles of interest to me.

In terms of electronic communication, they do send out an e-mail newsletter every week or so, but from a design point of view it is in a font that is not easy to read on a computer screen and the spacing and layout scream, “I was designed for print and simply cut and pasted in to an electronic format.” (UPDATE April 20: Wow, a week later I get my first edition of a redesigned, graphic-rich version of the newsletter. I won’t assume my critique had anything to do with this…)

There is a CLA presence on Facebook. There are over 100 members there now with some ongoing discussions and Wall posts. Counter this with the state of the discussion boards found in the members only section of the CLA web site. There are a couple un-responded to posts but it is mostly a ghost town. This leads me to be even more convinced that well designed social networking tools like Facebook provide a forum for casual and serious interaction and the top-down control, silo-like structures that have been the method of choice for organizations like the CLA need some loosening up.

The only blog I have seen associated with the CLA is Re:Generations, which is dedicated to new academic librarians and those who want to “re-energize” academic librarianship. I guess I should not be surprised that it is the new and forward-looking members of the CLA who pushed to get this blog up, though the fact that it is the only one proves that some organisations embrace change at a more glacial pace.

One thing I notice on the CLA Facebook page and other library focused ones is that the pictures of the members seem to indicate that the participants seem to run counter to the overall demographic makeup of the profession. The 8Rs Canadian Library Human Resource Study found that nearly half are currently 50 years of age and older. It’s not surprising that the younger members of the profession would be quicker adopters of new technology but I hope it is also a sign that the voices of this portion of the library community is having its voice heard in their workplaces.

I’m not sure I will continue as a member of the CLA in the future. As a Library Technician a lot of their focus is not on issues that effect my day-in day-out work but I do like supporting a national voice for the profession.

OLA
I also joined the OLA when I was a student. Their magazine is heavily weighted towards public and school libraries so there are not many articles I find of interest in it. On the other hand there are several blogs (from OLA and their divisions) that make it easier for me to feel in the loop: OLA Headline Stories, InsideOCULA and InsideOLITA.

While their various discussion groups are not exactly hives of activity, I think the OLA and its various divisions are providing quality access points for those not on any official committees to sense they are still part of a vibrant organization. The activity on the OLA Facebook page is also very similar in level of activity to the CLA one.

OALT
The OALT is the organization that brings together my hard-working Library Technician brothers and sisters (well, since the 8Rs study found that 9 out of 10 paraprofessionals are women I’ll say mostly sisters).

I was a member for a short time while in school but I did not feel a strong incentive to renew. Unlike the CLA or OLA, the OALT does not have a prominent role as advocates for library issues in the broader society. Given the organisations smaller size and lack of prominence when it comes to much of the public’s discourse on library issues (want to confuse someone on the street, ask them what a library technician is) I don’t think it would be a good use of the organisations resources anyway.

I think that at its best the OALT functions as a central hub and meeting place (physically and virtually) for library technicians to discuss the issues they face in the workplace, share knowledge about various technologies and create a greater sense of camaraderie and community.

Even without being an official member I am able to be part of the OALT discussion group. This is a fairly active group with over 200 members. There have been questions from new graduates about how to land jobs, and a variety of other discussion topics. There is also a Library Technicians in Canada Facebook group created by OALT members. Again this looks like an ideal method for creating a broader community for those of us in the profession.

I find it unfortunate that there has not yet been a blog created by the OALT. Their current official method of disseminating information is a standard print newsletter with various news about the OALT and the profession. Like any volunteer organization finding staff to write, compile, publish, etc. is a tall order. Maybe asking one or two people to take all of this work on is not the best approach. Perhaps a blog where the ability to write postings is open to the broader membership is a better approach in terms of getting out information in a timely way. In 2007 I question the overall value of a publication arriving 3 times a year with some of the information fairly stale by the time it arrives on the doorstep.

Conclusion
In the day-to-day grind of our jobs, the machinations of our various library associations may not see to be a big deal but it’s important to recognize the work done by those in our profession who put in the time and effort to better support libraries, their users and their workers. But as technology transforms our libraries and shift our user’s expectations we should ensure that the organisations we join and speak for us also evaluate their structures and methods so they can take advantage of the amazing tools becoming available.