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SLA Day 3: Foodies, Zoobrarians, Open House, and Librarian Skills

June 10, 2013

My day began bright and early, at the Food, Agriculture and Nutrition SLA committee breakfast. Although last night was a bit of a later night, jet lag works to my advantage to get me up and out the door on time. I fell in with this crowd as a result of a chance conversation about craft beer in San Diego, and they invited me to their breakfast especially. Most of the others I’ve met there so far are part of university agriculture dept… so not exactly a perfect fit for a city girl whose agriculture tops out at basil plants. But my curiosity was piqued, about foodie and food culture possibilities, especially when one of the FAN folks mentioned Heinz having a corporate library.

Also, as I said, a lovely bunch! With only a handful of members in attendance at the conference, and a special invite to attend from the division president himself, Kevin Adams from New Zealand (remind me to stop complaining about jet lag), I made sure to attend. I’d had vague notions of going to the Corporate Division breakfast scheduled for the same time, possibly more useful to my future plans for working in urban places, but I’m quite glad I did this instead. Very nice bunch! They read minutes from the previous meeting, and were very nice to me, making me stand up to be introduced and welcomed. I also got to meet their publications chair and the Webmaster, who uses WordPress. They appear not to have a Twitter feed. Hmm. Wondering about recycling some of my past writing and reading about foodie blogs, foodie lit, and food cultural anthro, looping that in to see if anyone’s interested.

After that, yet more coffee, and then I found my way to a panel on dream jobs, where local librarians presented on librarianship in:

  • The San Diego Zoo
  • Disney/Pixar
  • A Wine Library

I took notes on my laptop, and discovered something. I was typing as they talked, and because I typed swiftly, I took really detailed notes… I’m not sure they’re useful to share. I looked at them, and then asked Helen, a fellow NYer, to share her notes, which were more along the lines of bullet points and key summaries.

Here is an adapted version:

Amy Jankowski, Associate Director – San Diego Zoo Global Library

  • three branches – zoo + safari park (former breeding facility) + institute for conservation research
  • library is located in Escondido with safari park & institute; less foot traffic since move from downtown zoo, but better space
  • targeted toward internal staff, both onsite and offsite field staff – distributed locations mean that outreach is very important
  • challenge – institutional repository; much information has not been retained, but working on maintaining, e.g., daily animal records (red books)
  • reach out to employee lounges to showcase library & its services as well as gauging interest to build collections
  • two professional librarians + 1 part-time research assistant who maintains animal fact sheets to support new exhibits (e.g., communicating & training volunteer tour guides and creating exhibit materials)
Mary Ann Williams, Digital Asset Manager – Guthy-Renker
  • Studied both user experience and trad library skills, got into some programming, though not her favorite.
  • began at Disney Online w/ non-traditional job geared toward engineers rather than librarians, then shifted to digital archivist at
    Disney Animation Research Library; lesson learned: people make more difference than brand
  • Now at Guthy-Renker: direct marketing company in Santa Monica (infomercials, e.g., Proactiv); digital asset manager, part of IT department
  • Has never worked for a boss who has a MLIS, feels that has made her a stronger librarian, and a self-advocate for what she needs in her career
  • careers often evolve past titles like “librarian” or “archivist”, especially in private sector; important to keep growing & to be more than one thing
  • launching consultancy – School of Moxie
  • Career: evolving beyond Librarian, Archivist. Autonomy, getting to publish papers.The essence: facilitating communication effectively, information therapist.What’s next: consulting/workshop

    Lesson: think like an entrepreneur, take ownership of career/innovate its direction

John Haupt – Sonoma County Wine Library
  • started in music – fine & performing arts librarian @ Iowa State University & Southern Methodist University
  • Studied home ec and computer programming
  • culinary background led to application to Sonoma Wine Library in Jul 2012 (replacing a 25-year vet)
  • founded in 1989 by Millie Howie & local wineries, and supported by donors & local library system
  • covers chemistry, agriculture, marketing, etc. – all elements of wine industry – also archive materials, ephemera, wine labels
  • public index to wine periodical literature developed by the library
  • developing better collection policy to complement other collections, make strategic plan focusing on user needs
  • Has several pithy answers to “Does that mean you can check out wine?”

Went to a lunch-and-learn presentation by Mary Ellen Bates, about research skills. She’s a delightfully fun presenter, engaging as well as informative. I have a fangirl attack. And want to read everything she has ever written and go to all her presentations. I understand she has that effect on most people. Shared really, really smart tips on pre-research, and at the end of an hour, I feel both tremendously cheered by her demeanor, and feel like I have been given the secret ninja tips about being an ace researcher and reference librarian, where I’d been uncertain and in awe of those skills before.

The key is Pre-Research at the beginning of researching a project. In addition to the research and reference things I’m learning about databases in school

Things like: using LinkedIn Skills as a way to learn the vocabulary of an unfamiliar search, like “fracking and engineering” as a way to learn the vernacular, if you’re researching in a subject area you know nothing about. Related skills, to explore synonym search terms. or rearranging terms in Google or Bing to yield different search results.

Even Wikipedia, which got a few laughs, as a way to follow the links cited, knowing that experts who care about updating information will keep those updated. Peer reviewed, in a way, as is Twitter, to a certain extent… the people who care enough about a topic to post links are going to make sure those links are up-to-date, at least that you’re not going to hit a 404 dead end. Using other languages in Wikipedia, translating them to English, to push into other words that might apply to the information you need.

After these, then deploying more traditional librarian skills with databases, and making sure to use connectors like AND, NEAR, OR, after using technological tools to get a quick grounding in the subject.

I think I need to read more Mary Ellen Bates, and if I do, I will come away with a much better understanding of handling reference and research like the librarians I admire.

Update from the next morning: Mary Ellen Bates emailed ME to say hello and give me the links she’d mentioned.  Saw the email and might have squealed like a fangirl. Smart, gives great lectures, and reaches out to student librarians? Someday, I want to be a good enough librarian to pay Mary Ellen Bates forward.

Afterwards, I adjourned to my room around 4 to do…. pretty much exactly nothing for a little over an hour. Needed to recharge batteries. I went and found dinner, hoping for a visit to Tin Fish, which turned out too crowded, and landed with a librarian buddy at a place called the Baja Lobster for a disappointing taco (the place was like Friday’s with gills, not on approved list from those who had given me San Diego advice) before stopping by a Division open house or two, in efforts to mingle and keep learning what all these special libraries and special librarians are up to. Turns out the open houses have a sumptuous spread of food that would have been a much tastier dinner. OK, duly noted. Open Houses have excellent food as well as nice librarians.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m recognizing a lot of people, having chatted a bit with them, and so I can walk into an open house, and there will be someone there I know. It’s really rather nice. Feels like Librarian Summer Camp in the best ways. I checked out the Business and Finance open house (poster session and fresh fruit and cheese) and the Leadership and Knowledge Management one (antipasti of various sorts, and several librarians I’d already been thinking would be good mentors.) I did not make it to the International Open House, but I hear there had been good desserts, and did chat with a few librarians in transit from there to here. Chatted with more taxonomists, still have no idea whether that’s something I’d like/be good at, but the people who do it are really nice.

I did, in fact go to the IT dance party, in the same room where karaoke had been the evening before. It is very dark in there and super duper loud music. The hotel ballroom setting and mix of people standing around the dance floor and people dancing made me think “Librarian Prom?” In all the best possible ways. Nice people, no pressure to bring or dance with a date… the music was far, far too loud, so I mostly stuck to the periphery. It made me smile to see people I’d been networking with frantically by the light of day, dancing enthusiastically and sweatily in the flashing lights and shadows. Reinforced that I want to work for them: if you can go for it on a dance floor, welcome others into your circle and have a great time, chances are, you will be a great boss/mentor.

Had fun and stayed up too late, didn’t set an alarm,and wound up sleeping til the princely hour of 8 AM. Off to find coffee and possibly devote myself to breakfast at the Broken Yolk before catching the 10 AM panels. Will see if anyone on Twitter can hook me up with slides for the Hard Tech For Librarians panel I slept through.

The more I learn, the more I feel like I need to learn. Which is probably what’s supposed to happen.

One Comment leave one →
  1. DonaldPeebles permalink
    June 12, 2013 6:13 pm

    I am still jealous and envious of you Miss Willse!

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