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Thursday, October 28, 2010

October 27 - Day Seven - Te Puna (the pool)

Practicum Day 7

site: City Centre branch, information services
hours worked: 8
hours to date: 43

If you need help fixing your chainsaw, I know exactly where you need to look. Carol is a senior reference library and keeper of the car, boat and small engine manuals (among many other topics of course). Since these books are among the most used and are relatively expensive to buy, there is an extensive reference only (non circulating) collection. There are two interesting aspects to a collection like this. One is that since the call numbers are almost all the same, they are not helpful for quickly finding a particular book. So Carol invented a new cataloging system just for these books based on subject first (car, truck, motorcycle...) then make, then year. This system was begun a long time ago and now the challenge is to make these books findable to librarians who are using the online catalog or the Millenium catalog software (since they don't have call numbers). Dealing with this takes staff time, which is always valuable. I toured this collection with Fran, the new leader of Information Services. She has a keen eye for making sure that the collections and services are offered in a way that really makes sense, and she has a keen ear for understanding how staff feels about the work they are doing. Fran pointed out that as cars become more technical and fewer people can easily do work on them a collection manuals, so popular now, may face some changes in the future. If I am learning any lesson in all this library work, it's to not hold on too tightly to anything except a few core ideas about free access and customer service. Everything will change sooner or later, and better to understand and anticipate than react and miss out.

The rest of the morning was spent with Teresa and C.J. who detailed interloans - wow there is a lot to know about here. Basically Auckland City Library is part of a national network (known as Te Puna, meaning pool of knowledge or resources) that sends and receives material, including books, audio visual and magazine and journal articles. What's interesting is that not only does the library support other library's customers, it also has a relationship with the local government to do research, and it also generates revenue by providing research to corporations! They call this Information Supply Service, and it costs $40/hr. Corporations pay an annual fee plus the charge for each request. There is an additional charge for an urgent request. Corporations pay for this service for three reasons: 1 - Access to many many resources that are only needed infrequently, and therefore not worth purchasing themselves (such as building standards). 2 - The expertise of librarians in using and navigating those resources. 3 - The privacy ensured by the library. Companies who want to bid on a project need to know, for instance, specifications of building a office tower in Australia. But they might not want their competitors to know they are thinking about making a bid. The library's dedication to privacy is important to them.

The interloans team processes requests made by Auckland residents and fulfils requests made by patrons of other libraries. It's interesting to me whether libraries consider interloan to be a core part of access or not. Some libraries have truncated or eliminated their service because it is too expensive while others have decided that it is an important part of free access to information. I think the decision comes down to funding, but the collection development policy of the library is clearly a factor. Here is Auckland Library's CD policy. For individuals, the library does not pass on the cost of interloan to the customers. It does charge $15 NZ (~$11 US) per request. Since they use a courier service, and the last pickup is at the end of the day, materials arrive at their destination the next morning! Auckland City Libraries send out about three times as many materials as they do requests, so perhaps the service is paying for itself (I don't have an idea about what other libraries charge). It also seems like the interloan team operates in a similar way to other librarians with a specialized focus in that their experience allows them to be familiar with the collections of many public and academic libraries, and often making the right request to the right location increases efficiency.

Another important service is keeping the public informed about governmental issues. Laws, standards, and notices are kept and organized by Jo with whom I met this afternoon. She arranges displays for items of public interest such as standards for things like building a deck on your house. She also organizes updating local and national statutes, the text of bills and acts from national government and helps look after the law resources. I could really get a sense from her about the importance of organizing truly vast quantities of information. Librarians are so necessary as this process is in no way automatic and takes a careful and trained professional to make finding relevant information in a timely way at all possible.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 2
hot chocolates to date: 9

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