January 27, 2011

Texas Libraries

Dear Library Supporter,

Take action now and click on SAVE LIBRARY PROGRAMS to send an email to your legislators. You can customize your message to describe the negative impact of budget cuts. The time for action is now!

Ask your friends, neighbors, support groups, and everyone you can think of to send messages as well. Distribute this call to action through social media and any other tools at your disposal. We need tens of thousands of messages to go forward, and we need your help getting this message to our stakeholders across the state.

As you may already know, the proposed state budget:

  • Eliminates Loan Star Libraries (direct aid grants to public libraries)
  • Eliminates all state funding for TexShare databases
  • Eliminates the K-12 Database Program
  • Eliminates the Library System Negotiated Grants Program
  • Eliminates state funding for statewide library development
  • Eliminates state funding for the state depository program and TRAIL program
  • Assumes an overall loss of over $8 million in IMLS funds (Note: federal funding is the source of funding for the regional library systems, the TANG program, and interlibrary loan.)
  • Eliminates the Technology Allotment at TEA
  • Eliminates funding for the State Law Library

Without a restoration of library funding, Texas will have no state infrastructure for library services. Compounded with massive cuts proposed at the local level throughout the state, Texas libraries are in danger. We need you and every single library supporter in Texas to write elected officials to oppose cuts to libraries and urge the restoration of funding for library services.

Gloria Meraz

Texas Library Association


January 21, 2011

Okay, Maybe Not So Much

After signing off yesterday, I never got to that Word outline tutorial because when I went back into Blackboard to see if my professor had responded to my email, I learned two things. The first was that, as she reminded me, our assignment could deal with a special library, and what I'd proposed was the Fine Books Collection within the Main Dallas Library, which means I'll need to pick again. The second was that when I'd worked through that lesson yesterday, it must have been too early in the day because now it was longer...and there were two associated assignments and one self-assessment test connected to it. Oy.

I spent the next few hours going through the entire thing, reworking my outline from start to finish, adding to it, moving things around, etc., based on the "new" lesson, then performed my first self-assessment (I scored a perfect 100% even though I guessed on one of the questions because as far as I could see, it was not covered in the online lesson, which means I'll be going back into the material again today to discover if I somehow missed it the first time around...not a strong testament to my note-taking/outline-making abilities). Next up was answering one of five questions in an online discussion board based on the material, followed by answering another question via email to the professor.

It was nearly ten in the evening before I turned off my laptop and got ready for bed. As I brushed my teeth I realized I'd spent far too long working on this first day's work and will need to work smarter and more quickly. After signing off here, I'll be checking out the websites of three other libraries and possibly contacting them, then I'll return to yesterday's material about the data I somehow missed.


January 20, 2011

First Assignment

While I won't attend my first all-day Saturday class until the weekend for the core course Introduction to Information Access and Retrieval (and no coursework has yet to appear on Blackboard), yesterday I read the first chapter in my textbook for Information Resources Development, my online-only class. Today the first learning module and assignment opened. On February 8th I'll need to turn in a 15-page Library Profile on one of four library types. The library we use for this project will remain "our" library for the entire semester, and a multitude of projects.

I quickly discounted my local branch library within the Dallas system because so many decisions are centralized; I didn't see tackling such a large system as a neophyte as a smart choice, so next I contacted the Richardson Public Library. Richardson is a city of 100,000 just north of Dallas, and while there is but one library, the sole person I was directed to contact will be unavailable until mid-week next week. Because my deadline is not all that far off, I'm new to the program, and new to academia in the 21st century, I nixed that option as well. Both SMU and Richland Community College aren't far away, and while Garland is a little farther, my husband is on the Chamber of Commerce and it's a distinct possibility.

But none of these options appeal to me as much as focusing on a special collection. After having visited the Dallas Museum of Art this weekend, I initially thought of contacting their art library, but then I remembered the main Dallas Public Library has a Fine Books collection. Yes, it's part of the same large DPL system, but it's more or less an enclave. I called them, and if my professor indicates it's not too limiting a choice for an entire semester's projects, I'd like to use it. It somehow appeals to me more.

Now I'm off to do a Microsoft tutorial on creating a document outline. My attempts to use a template I found earlier today didn't go as expected and it took far longer for me to take my notes on the learning module than expected. Hopefully I'll have a response from my professor by the time I finish the tutorial.


January 18, 2011

In Over My Head?

Today is the first day of the spring semester for my UNT graduate program, and I feel in over my head. First things first...I will likely continue with this blog, based on a comment to one of my previous blog entries (or tweets, I can't be sure), on what it's like to return to academia after a quarter century, for the foreseeable future, but on a much more succint basis after today.

So...the week before last I trained on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, discovering that the things I didn't know how to do on Word were a whole lot easier to do because I know DreamWeaver, that Excel reminds me of Lotus 1-2-3, and that PowerPoint has a lot in common with CoffeeCup Flash Firestarter, a software program I used for the last couple of years at AAR to create animations like the one you see below.

Via google and a dummies for Office book, I learned how to create tables in Word - and how to justify text around an image - and discovered that using a "+" rather than an "@" in Excel creates formulas. I set up tests for myself by re-creating a portion of AAR's reviewer scorecard table in Excel - and while I got the gist of it quickly, I think setting up constants in Lotus is simpler than doing so in Excel.

Using a previous blog entry on old movies, I learned the basics of PowerPoint. I know how to use a template and background, how to import images, use text, change font type and color, insert slides, and create transitions between slides. I did not use the import from Word file function yet, but if I need to, I imagine I can figure it out. My completed presentation doesn't quite work perfectly, but it's a damn good start.

Next up - late last week - was learning UNT's online system, Blackboard Vista, which works as an intranet for students and teachers, including mail, chat, lessons, discussions, note-taking, assignments, and exams. Unfortunately, I could not get the tutorial to work on either desktop, even using the suggested browsers (IE and Firefox...but no Chrome, which is what I tend to use), so instead I installed all the software and updated other programs (including Flash, Shockwave, RealPlayer, Windows Media, Quicktime, and Adobe Reader) on my laptop, then went through the multi-hour tutorial until I felt comfortable. This morning, for some reason, Blackboard worked on my desktop, which will help as my PC is quicker and more powerful than my laptop. On the other hand, I have less space to spread out surrounding my desktop, so may use my laptop for Wimba sessions (Wimba provides a live, virtual classroom environment), in which case the headset I currently have will likely need to be replaced by a newer, USB version rather than the old peripheral headset I found while organizing my study.

On Saturday I attended graduate school orientation up at the main, Denton campus. I had no idea UNT was the third largest university in Texas, or that 7,500 of its 36,000 students were graduate students, or that they offer nearly 50 graduate degrees. In addition to signing up for @UNTGradSchool, getting my student ID, and buying a newer version of Office (with the full suite, as opposed to the 2003 mini-suite I already have), I watched a terrific documentary, Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist, met another beginning MLIS student (who has worked in the university library system for some time), then came home to a very excited daughter who asked me about absolutely everything the moment I walked in the door.

As today kicked off the semester, I had on tap looking at the class introductions and syllabi , then driving down to the Dallas campus for UNT, which is where I'll be attending one of the two classes, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. most Saturdays, this spring. It was looking at the class material that freaked me out. Both classes are set up differently, and one set of dates matches the fall semester rather than the spring semester. I have a major project due for my Saturday class on January 30th and a major project due for my online-only class due February 8th that will entail scoping out the collection at a local library, then looking at the catalog and budget throughout the semester. At this point I'm not sure what kind of reading I may need to do before Saturday's class, so I'm going to sit down with all my required books and start them tonight. Tomorrow I'll call the library (I think I'll use my local branch rather than trying to do one of SMU's libraries) and set up appointments and so forth, assuming that I can get most of what I need at the branch rather than the main library downtown, where I imagine the system administrator's work. We'll see...again, I'm totally in the dark at this point.

So far this experience is much less "toe in the water" than it is "jump in feet first" - hell, it might even be "dive into the deep end," because of the importance put on style; we are to use, at the very least, style guidelines from the APA, which include citations that are done differently than those I remember. UNT offers several workshops, including an Introduction to Graduate Research that I plan to take next Wednesday night, and one for a software program called RefWorks, an online bibliographic management program, that I'll take on Monday. Methinks me will be very, very busy just keeping my head above water. Here's hoping I don't end up simply treading water but instead actually swim forward, to finish the swimming analogy!


January 2, 2011

OMG...I'm Done!

I apologize for being so lax as far as blogging is concerned, but my guess is that after tonight's entry, I may be going on an indefinite hiatus. After all, I'll be starting graduate school in two and a half weeks, and my prep for that - which includes learning PowerPoint and Excel, as well as buying school supplies - won't appeal to even stalwart readers. But I reserve the right to change my mind, and regardless, before signing off tonight, I'm going to share what I've been up to for the past week and a half.

Nearly three years ago a film crew came to my house to create a short film about my book obsession that kicked off Barnes and Noble's Book Obsessed online series. I wrote about the experience for AAR and included in my piece were photos of my study, which show every available bit of wall space taken up by bookcases, including the walk-in closet, similarly outfitted with floor to ceiling shelves (see photo second from bottom on right). As of today, the closet has been emptied of all books, all three bookcases (see the photo second from the top on the left) underneath the window have been removed, and an additional five shelves of two bookcases are now empty. It's the end of a major part of my life and the start of a new one, and in order to take my first steps on this new path I needed to reclaim the room.

My Study: Before (although there's no "after" for comparison)

After I left AAR, I rarely went into my study, using my laptop rather than my desktop in the den, kitchen, bedroom, living room, or at Starbucks. My study had become oppressive and a reminder of all the negativity of the final year at the site's helm. I vowed that before starting grad school on January 18th, I would be brutal in pruning my library, which included finishing my Kindle 3/Calibre project (in which I transferred my entire digital library, built up painstakingly over the past few years, after first organizing it via the Calibre program. Because I didn't want to get rid of any book I wanted a copy of - in digital or print format - I needed to take stock of everything.

On December 22nd, my daughter and I took seven brown grocery store bags to Half Price Books. By the day after Christmas, I'd already readied another 16 plastic grocery store bags, and on December 31st another 16 followed. At that point I thought I was done, but after actually taking stock of the remaining print books in preparation for organizing them in my library on far fewer shelves, I realized I was not finished. Right now another ten or so bags are ready to go, and I've reached my goal in organizing my print and digital libraries so that all of my DIK reads are accounted for either in print or on my Kindle. Ditto for all but one B+ read that got lost in the process. After locating a new copy on Amazon of Julie Moffett's The Thorn and the Thistle for a penny, plus shipping, I bought it.

I can't tell you what a tremendous slog this has been. I worked so hard yesterday and today in particular, only breaking to finish reading and reviewing a book for Publishers Weekly...and to almost finish a second book for the magazine as well (both reviews are due tomorrow). My back may be sore, but the sadness I started to experience after trading the first thirty or so bags has now morphed into a feeling of calm now that the work is done, and everything is so well organized. I feel as though my load is lighter, and can return to that room in the house without any remaining baggage.

I met my goal of finishing this weekend so that I'll have plenty of time to learn those two software programs I'll need for my two classes. A friend I met for a two-and-a-half hour cup of coffee (strangely enough, we had soup but no coffee) mid-week last week even offered some hands-on tutoring if I get stuck. I plan to give myself a full week, which will leave me with another week or so before classes start. With two more books to review by the day before the semester starts, I should have scheduled for all contingencies.

My guess is that I won't be doing much non-required reading for the foreseeable future, which also means a temporary end to my reviews for Amazon Vine. I plan to continue my PW reviews, but may have to cut back on books from two editors to one. I'll have a better idea after the semester starts and I get an idea of my workload, but it's doubtful that you all will find my course study terribly intriguing. I think it's going to be pretty dry stuff for the most part, but who knows? Either way, I'm ready, and waiting to start.