Friday, May 30, 2008

Self Made Scholar

Self Made Scholar

Self Made Scholar is a great site I found to help me to improve my cultural awareness and my career.

From their site:

The goal of is to connect people to the resources they need to learn.

Anyone who is interested in learning (be it academic learning or technical learning) is welcome to join our community. Business professionals, students, seniors, stay-at-home-moms, homeschoolers, unschoolers, and autodidacts of all kinds are invited.

What is your philosophy?

At, we believe:

People are capable of learning outside of the rigid confines of traditional schooling.

Academic learning is neither more nor less valuable than technical learning. Being able to analyze Joyce isn’t inherently superior to being able to build a house.

Although diplomas and certificates can help you get a good job, they don’t prove much. People should be judged by their knowledge and abilities, not by a piece of paper.

Mandatory schooling is immoral because it strips human beings of free choice.

Facilitators are needed to help connect willing learners to the ever-increasing amount of learning material now available.

Visit Self Made Scholar

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New York Noir

New York Noir

As you may have noticed from my writing, I am a fan of both true crime and vintage photography. New York Noir: Crime Photos from the Daily News Archive, therefore, was a treat to read. The Daily News culled 125 images from its photography archive, taken from the 1920s to the 1950s, and it's easy to see how tabloid photography influenced noir cinema and popular culture. Known as "New York's Picture Newspaper," the Daily News published photographs that by today's standards would be too grotesque and sensational to print.

Luc Sante, author of Low Life and Evidence, wrote an introduction on the history of tabloid journalism, while editor William Hannigan write about the history of the Daily News in particular. The photographs are primary documents with original captions, and a section in the back provides context and additional information.

Arthur “Weegee” Felling, the master of tabloid photography, only has one photo listed. Many other photographers, with equally compelling work, are listed solely by their last name and are virtual unknowns. The infamous picture of Ruth Snyder, electrocuted at Sing Sing in 1928, taken by Tom Howard with a hidden camera, is also discussed.

Ruth Synder Dead! Daily News cover

The book made me want to discover where these beautiful photographs are housed and how they are being preserved. Brew me a pot of coffee and give me a pair of white gloves, and I'll pour through the collection all day!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple


Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple is a digital archive sponsored by San Diego State University’s Department of Religious Studies.

Jonestown was a site in Guyana settled by Peoples Temple. Jonestown, and its leader Jim Jones, became notorious in 1978 when over 900 people, many of whom were children, died in a mass murder-suicide. The event was triggered after cult members killed US Congressman Leo Ryan and others after they visited to investigate abuse allegations.

Unfortunately, many people are unfamiliar with the tragedy beyond the well-known image above or the phrase, “drinking the Kool-Aid,” meaning to become a firm believer in something blindly. (Some say Peoples Temple members actually drank cyanide-laced Flav-R-Aid, but either way, the expression trivializes the horror of the event.)

From Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple:

[The archive] is designed to give personal and scholarly perspectives on a major religious event in recent U.S. history. Its primary purpose is to present information about Peoples Temple as accurately and objectively as possible. Being objective means offering as many diverse views and opinions about the Temple and the events in Jonestown as possible…

What is unique about this website are three main features:

1. Memorialization of those who died and those who survived the tragedy of 18 November 1978 in order to remember their lives and humanize their deaths.
2. Documentation of the numerous government investigations into Peoples Temple and Jonestown through materials released under the Freedom of Information Act.
3. Presentation of Peoples Temple and its members in their own words: through articles, tapes, letters, photographs and other items. These materials let readers make their own judgments about the group and its end.

Visit the Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Information Professional Spotlight: Geoff Danisher

Charlie Brown

Geoff Danisher was one of the first information professionals I befriended when I started my career. He is the Access Services/Interlibrary Loan Librarian at Sarah Lawrence College, where he’s worked for ten years. At Concordia College, also in Bronxville, New York, he’s been a Reference Librarian for more than 4 years. He worked there as a student assistant when he was an undergraduate.

What I admire about Geoff is his professional well-roundedness. In a day, you will find him scheduling student workers, tracking down an obscure interlibrary loan title, rediscovering missing books in the stacks, and answering reference questions, all the while spouting 80s trivia. Geoff graciously accepted my offer to interview him. Instead of a picture of himself, he suggested a picture of Charlie Brown!

How did you decide to become a librarian?

I wish I could say that the whole thing was some big epiphany, like Parker Posey's in Party Girl, but honestly, it stemmed from the fact that I had been working for seven consecutive years in libraries, so it seemed the only logical thing to do.

What's the first or most interesting experience you had in a library?

I remember the very first time I ever set foot in a library. It was my elementary school library and I was in Kindergarten. We all sat on seat cushions on the floor while the librarian read us Where the Wild Things Are. I look back on it now and I realize that something very definitely clicked in my head that day; I guess that's called “eerie foreshadowing.”

Why did you choose to work in academic libraries? In Access, in particular?

Boring answer—it just happened that way.

What degrees do you have? Where did you get your MLIS?

B.A. in English from Concordia College, M.L.S. from Long Island University (though I took all my courses at NYU's Bobst library so I feel more like I went to NYU).

What was the most helpful/useful thing you learned during your MLIS?

I shall try to answer this question as diplomatically as I know how. When I started the program, I was adamant that I would not go into it with the mindset that they would not be able to teach me anything I did not already know. Upon completion of the program, I have to honestly say that I looked back and realized that, indeed, they did not really teach me anything I did not already know. The courses, I found, were rather generic and elementary for someone who had already worked in a library environment for several years. They were more about theory rather than practice. However...

In my Art Libraries course, I learned a great deal about acquisitions and collection development theory. In my Special Libraries course I learned a great deal about the politics that go into the management of libraries, as well as how to effectively negotiate budget proposals, advocate for additional staffing, etc. What I'm saying is that some of the more important things I learned about libraries during the school experience came from off-topic discussions that got into the areas that they don't have 3-credit courses for.

What's the biggest challenge of your jobs? The most rewarding aspect?

By far the biggest challenge that I face is having to run an entire interlibrary loan department and hire, train and supervise nearly 40 student workers entirely by myself. Doable, but when you factor in 10 1/2 hours per week at the reference desk, collection development duties, departmental meetings up the wazoo—you get the picture. Alas, it's all a money issue so there's little I can do about it—other than complain to anyone and everyone who will listen!

The most rewarding aspect? The satisfaction of knowing that someone came to me looking for help and I was able to help them. Simplistic, but absolutely true. The gratitude that people have expressed to me over the years has come in many forms—I’ve been acknowledged for my research assistance in no less than three books published in as many years (not to mention several graduate theses); I've been given candy, teddy bears, Haagen Dazs gift certificates, thank you cards (including a card from someone who borrowed one of our books through interlibrary loan from another library!) and enough thank you emails to crash a server. It always humbles me and always makes me feel wonderful! Requisite cliché: it makes the whole experience worthwhile.

What's the pros and cons of being an Interlibrary Loan Librarian?

Pros: wonderful opportunity for networking round the globe, excellent way to hone your research skills (verifying citations, etc.), discovering new and fascinating materials (and reconnecting with old ones—I really enjoy ILL-ing old textbooks I used to have and videos of old educational shows I used to watch growing up. I can't think of another way to do it save spending trillions on Ebay), and seeing people's eyes widen when I present them with a much-needed resource.

Cons: none that I can think of, or at the very least none worth mentioning. I truly enjoy my job and I hope to keep doing it for at least the foreseeable future.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the field?

Be a sponge—just because you work in the Access department does not mean that you should be ignorant of the inner workings of Reference or Technical Services. The more you know, ultimately the more valuable you'll become to your infrastructure (and, of course, the more multifaceted you are, the more job opportunities you will have as your career advances).

Oh, and if you're not a people person, stay away from Reference. If you're overly sensitive, DEFINITELY stay away from Access!