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Running head: Naturalist Center Library CAS
Naturalist Center Library,
California Academy of Sciences:
Internship Final Report
Professional Experience: Internships 294, Section 03
Dr. William Fisher
May 18, 2009
Table of Contents (TOC)
Learning Outcome I
Learning Outcome II
Learning Outcome III
Learning Outcome IV
Appendix A – Annotated Bibliography, (p. 19-34)
Appendix B – eBooks Subscription Evaluation (p.35-36)
Appendix C – Living Roof Inquiries Data Summary and
Mystery Box Development Outline (p. 37-40)
Appendix D – Library Stats Record for GC (p. 41-53)
Appendix E – Watersheds of the world, a bibliography (p. 54-57)
Appendix F – Copy Cataloging – How to and Wiki Page Sample (p. 58)
Appendix G – Machete props for Ms. Harrington “MiniTalk” on
sustainable farming (p. 59)
Appendix H – NCL estimate of the total items in the collection (p. 60)
The Naturalist Center Library Internship provided an opportunity to practice library reference, research and cataloging skills in a very particular setting. Although it had been anticipated that there would be the possibility of developing an educational material time, was a tyrant, as usual, and only the initial research was completed when the Internship ended.
I have worked in a museum before. During the period 1993 to 1994 I worked at The Chicago Athenaeum, a museum of architecture and design, as graphic designer and exhibition installer. With that experience I enjoyed the seemingly unpredictable and fast pace of an environment that processed culturally rich events in racing mode. Perhaps having grown up in Italy I learned, albeit unwillingly, to drive with the accelerator floored.
Of course there is nothing special in this since it is what is required in the private industry at all times, in all contexts I have known. But the “kicker” for me is being involved in environments from which I can continuously learn something new—and compellingly it seems that the best museums offer this to their customers and potentially their workers.
I also reasoned that a library within a museum would provide the benefits I sought in working in a museum, with the added opportunities that the provision of information in a library setting offers. Although the experience was rewarding, an acknowledgement must be made here of the tremendous usefulness of subject specific expertise. This reflection pointed to the necessity for me to consider carefully when and where I will seek further engagement at the professional level.
This internship takes place at the Naturalist Center Library (NCL,) which is one of the two libraries within the newly reopened California Academy of Science (CAS seen above, click the image to navigate to the site.)
The California Academy of Science includes a Natural History Museum, an Aquarium and a Planetarium: the (Morrison) Planetarium, located within an all-digital dome which currently is the largest (75-foot diameter) of its kind; the new Kimball Natural History Museum which focuses on evolution and sustainability; and the Steinhart Aquarium, a water space articulated on different floors and habitats that encompasses the coral reef of the Philippines, the African Penguin and the Flooded Amazon basin (which integrates with the Rain Forest “Bolla.”)
The two images aside and below show the NCL space, which includes a book lending collection and specimens of various natures that visitors can study on site. Users who are Museum members or teachers (from K-12) may loan items from the library, but everyone is welcome to consult them. The community served by this library currently includes 90,000+ members, the bay area teachers and the "Lifelong Learning" group (academy staff) that prepares teaching aids for the teachers. The Naturalist Center, which includes the library, also hosts lectures and teaching moments in a dedicated classroom space as well as other events which relate to the research mission of the organization--for example mapping the ant species in the Bay Area (Academy’s Bay Area Ant Survey.)
Interestingly enough the library in the Naturalist Center it is not part of the Library Department (Academy Library.) Instead it is an integral part of the Naturalist Center, which is part of the Life Long Learning Department under the leadership of Jean Farrington, MLIS (Assistant Director for Lifelong Learning & Senior Library Information Specialist,) consort of the California Academy of Sciences Executive Director, Dr. Greg Farrington. Aside from Ms. Farrington, my supervisor Eileen Harrington is the only librarian in the Naturalist Center.
Ms. Harrington, MLIS, MES is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Library and Information Studies and holds a previous master degree in Environmental Studies from York University, Toronto. Ms. Harrington is co-manager of the Naturalist Center and shares her responsibility with Roberta Ayers, a biologist—a very knowledgeable and supportive individual.
On the other hand, the Academy Library Director and two other individuals part of that group are librarians. The Academy Library also has three Library Assistants and two hourly catalogers who review everyone’s copy cataloging work once a month or so.
The participation of all librarians in the Academy Library meetings is required, which shows a glimpse of the participation of individuals within groups that cross reporting lines. Upon my inquiry, Ms. Harrington briefly reported that since joining CAS in 2008, her reporting line has been redrawn at two other times. One piece of information that can be helpful in putting the fluidity of this organization into context is the consideration of their operating budget, which more than doubled when CAS reopened in the new building (21M vs 50M.)
Learning Outcome I
Employ reference and information services techniques to provide library-users with an appropriate service.
I regularly staffed the information desk (seen in the above picture) assisted by other staff. The desk is generally attended by two people at any one time although during busy times there might also be one or two floaters. Aside from the onsite supervisor, I have worked mainly with three other individuals, all of them biologists—two of them with an extensive teaching experience and outreach program design.
The desk receives questions that can either be general or very specific within the field of Natural History and Biology, including Evolution and Environmental Issues. All the questions are logged into an open-source database called LibStats. An example of the questions I addressed is shown in Appendix D. Each week the questions are analyzed and a summary of the most interesting (rather subjective of course) is created and broadcasted to the interested internal groups (I was made responsible for that on alternate weeks as well as replying to email queries on Fridays.)
The audience’s age and reading level can vary greatly but there seems to be a predominance of queries addressing the needs of children within the K-8 range. Although the previous statement it is not corroborated by a reference question formal study, an indirect support might be lent by the Naturalist Center Library Collection emphasis. This collection1, the lending collection (five thousand items in all,) according to my estimate2 has about 1800 books in its juvenile section which is about half of all the circulating volumes. Of course if a questioner wishes to use a source that is part of the research library she/he can, but the item needs to be viewed in the library. This eventuality happened to me only twice during my tenure.
The NCL has computers available to the public but they are not used to look up the OPAC, although they could be. Typically users approach the desk to ask questions that either they have because of what they saw in the Museum (the likeliest occurrence,) or have an interest in or both.
Because NCL has specimens aside from books and such, questions may relate to these specimens also. Some users bring in specimens they have found and want help in determining what the specimen is. It might be very difficult and time consuming to find an answer in this cases, but within the extensive reference section (800 books) there is always a field guide (see 5309,) an encyclopedia or other source that can provide help. Selected online resources are also used3.
Since my background isn’t in the field of Life sciences I did not have the expert knowledge that other staff have. Once I won over my reluctance for declaring my ignorance on the topic and/or explaining that I could not source an answer in a snap, I found that people were amenable to providing their email so that that I could get them an answer after researching it. Providing eReference turned out to be a better suited experience for me than a face to face interaction in this environment (as opposed to a public library)—although I do like in person customer service when I can provide answers. My supervisor, recognizing the value of my researches kept me busy with questions that were emailed or mailed [sic] to her
(See Appendix E) or the February 26 blog4 entry) or were asked in my absence.
Learning Outcome II
Compile and maintain web-based bibliographies and other resources related to the organization's educational programs.
I developed an annotated bibliography from a bibliography created previously and transferred it to a new (in development) database backed utility (MySQL.) Which bibliography subject to enhance was left to my choice and since I have an interest in Astronomy, that is what I chose. Since this bibliography was last edited in 2002, an evaluation was required of all items before transfer was undertaken. Some of the volumes were published more than ten years ago and therefore it was challenging, at first, to find suitable reviews that were available online on which to base my annotation.
My understanding of the task was that I needed to annotate all the items in the original Bibliography and add more recent material when available. Because of this understanding I decided to rely on reviews to write my annotations instead of direct reading of the source. About five weeks into the effort, I discovered that I might have been mistaken in my understanding and that I could make a selection of items I thought would be better annotated. The decision was then made to transfer all items that were older than 2000 without annotation to the new database. At the same time my supervisor, Ms. Harrington, suggested an additional thirteen books which she had recently added to the Naturalist Center Library collection. The elapsed time since the beginning of the internship and the additional books added to my load made me keep my strategy firm—i.e. find reviews, not source reading. This change in goal is reflected by the three different formats in which the record of the work done is displayed in the book section of Appendix A.
Patiently and consistently I searched for reviews on all the appropriate channels, looking not for one review but for as many reviews that I could find for each book so that I could gain an overall understanding of the book content. In the process, I learned how different individuals write their reviews and how the style and format of these reviews is a characteristic of the publication the reviewer writes for—i.e. a review found in Choice will be different from the one found in Astronomy or Booklist.
I had never done an annotated bibliography of books before, but I had enough experience in this task as performed when annotating journal articles to be able to work through it. In hind sight, I would prefer to rely on my own reading of the books as the main source for the annotation and use critical reviews as an additional element of the work. It of course would take much longer to process the same amount of items—i.e. thirty books and thirty websites.
Reviewing and enhancing the web based sources presented was the easiest portion of this task. Therefore, I decided to develop that section (upon consultation with the on site supervisor) with other authoritative resources I found or I was familiar with.
Once all items of a certain kind (websites or books) were annotated, I transferred them to the MySQL database and kept a tally of the entry accession numbers. Because the database is still in development, it cannot be searched and therefore nothing can be retrieved after it is entered. I have reservation with a process that does not allow for scrupulous control and I therefore created my own index. Ms. Harrington declared herself pleases with the result of the effort and appreciated the fact that I provided her with a table of what I had done (and what I hadn’t done.)
The Library Director suggested that I might be interested in attending a webinar concerning the Springer Link e-Book business model offering and then report, briefly, at a following library meeting. Since my experience with e-books was limited to what SJSU uses, I had to prepare before the webinar. I therefore researched Springer's documentation and pointers to their initiatives. My research and personal experience gave me the tools needed to evaluate the product offered to the library (See Appendix B.)
Learning Outcome III
Apply cataloging and classification standards to library's materials.
The ILS used by the organization is ALEPH by ExLibris. The CAS's catalog is also mirrored by Melvyl, accessed by selecting which library to search.
The outline of CAS 's process (see Appendix F) consists of three general steps: 1. using Connexion (OCLC), MARC records are retrieved and adapted according to local use, which may include a change of the LC classification number (050 to 090, field) to better represent current holdings and maintain a consistent shelf list; 2. using the cataloging module of ALEPH, create a holding record and update the record's fixed field values (008 field); 3. generate a printed copy of the record for authority work, generate labels for the item and include the item in the new acquisition's list. The step by step process documented in Appendix F was made smother to follow repetitiously once I completed and updated the outline.
It seems that the final count of 32 copy cataloged items is a bit low as (partial)result of a fifteen weeks effort, but frankly I tried to work as fast as I could keeping accuracy in check and with the time at my disposal I could not manage more than that. The hands on experience was of tremendous value for me as it reinforced my understandings and clarified my uncertainties about what I had learned in the Beginning Cataloging course.
Learning Outcome IV
Design and produce programs/activities that promote the organization's library collection and its use.
Like any other library, NCL seeks to creates activities that keep their users (or visitors) excited about stopping by. NCL has no lack of subjects to chose from, perhaps the opposite, considering that on certain days of the week or special holidays or school vacations the library might reach anywhere from twelve hundred to fifteen hundred visitors. Some of them are just peering for a look of what’s on the shelves, others are fully determined to get the most from their entry fee and wanting to live their excitement to the fullest in every moment, eager to participate in shows, events and happenings taking place in every recess of the California Academy of Sciences—and who’s to blame them, i.e. a family of four might shell out more than $ 75 to enjoy the adventure.
The machetes in Appendix G were prepared for such an event—a talk by the staff about sustainability and farming in South America. Ms. Harrington held the fifteen minute talk and she had asked if I could help create props she could pass around while she was talking. She needed machetes and banana leaves. I built two machetes and brought in reference pictures of banana leaves. I thought I could keep one of the machetes for myself after the talk so I could scare the neighbors with it when they become too noisy, but they were very successful and since the event will be repeated in the summer I’ve never saw them again5.
The project that I thought I would complete for this outcome, a Mystery Box, was not
completed—on the contrary it was just started. Therefore this outcome was only partially achieved since the part completed is the preliminary research that was meant to provide an outline of what the Mystery Box elements would be. For "Mystery Box:" the NCL staff refers to a plastic containers about 2' x 1' x 6" which holds an assortment of specimens, instructional cards, question cards and sometimes tools to mimic an animal’s perception of the world. NCL staff refers to these containers as "Mystery Boxes" because they provide exploration opportunities for users of various age (see Appendix C for pictures of the existing ones.)
The "Mystery Box" I intended to work on would have focused on CAS’s roof. My first step to develop such a box was to study the list of all the questions asked about the roof since the museum opened its doors and recorded in the LibStats database which NCL uses to record questions asked at the information desk in any way they are asked ( see detailed categorization at http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=rLPC56MeXEpSNu78_3svhsg .)
The Appendix C is both a summary of the Living Roof Inquiries and their categorization by type and outline of the proposed box components.