May 27, 2009

Library staff get greener

Alloway Library's staffroom is now a little greener.

As of today, library staff can put compostable 'stuff' from their lunches - like apple cores, orange peels, and coffee grounds- into a tidy composting pail. The organic wastes end up in composting bins on TWU's property across Glover Road. Eventually, it all makes its way into the community garden which is beginning on the site.

Cataloguing Librarian, Rick Wiebe has graciously agreed to empty the pail when needed, with the thanks of all his co-workers!

See Trinity Western Magazine for more information on composting at TWU.

Thanks to Ted Goshulak

May 20, 2009

Shocking myths that affect library users!

According to Primary Research Group's Survey of American College Students: Student Use of Academic Library Reference Department Services a significant portion of full-time college students have some serious misconceptions about the role of information librarians.

For example, over 10% of the students in a 400-person sample said that the reference librarians seem busy and they felt they would be pestering them by asking them for assistance.

Such a belief can have a serious impact on the quality of a student's research if they fail to get the help they need. It's a myth to think that library users are a "bother" or an interruption to the work of library staff. Alloway Library's public service staff are always glad to help answer questions. We work out in the open where we can serve the public.

The survey also showed that just under 10% of students thought asking the reference librarian a question was a little embarrassing and that consequently they tried to figure it out for themselves. "Pride goeth before a fall" my grandmother would say. Don't let pride cause you to get a lower mark on your assignment.

The librarians at Alloway Library are professionals; just like doctors and lawyers they observe a code of confidentiality and all library staff work to protect borrowers' confidentiality. And really, no question is dumb, except the one unasked.

As for "figuring it out for themselves, " that may lead to innovation, or a lot of needless frustration. Library users should know that the fourth law of Library Science is Save the time of the Reader.

So, don't believe the myths. Seek professional help. Help us obey the law.

May 14, 2009

Thirty one years overdue

These stories about long-lost library books are a perennial favourite, but they do have a good moral: it's never too late to return an overdue item.

From The Washington Post

On March 16, 1978, Sarah McKee walked into the Arlington Central Library and borrowed a book. It was due back April 5.

This month -- three decades, one career, three relocations, seven grandchildren and thousands of books later -- McKee happened to open "The Patriot Chiefs," spotted the library card in the pocket and thought: "Drat."

And so May 5 -- 31 years and one month overdue -- it arrived back at Arlington Library with a note of apology and a cheque for $25.

"To my great embarrassment," the note said, "I recently opened this book and discovered it is yours -- not mine. My apologies for my tardiness."

A library spokesman, Peter Golkin, said it might be the longest overdue return in library memory. As for a fine, he said, "It's always great to get the books back, as opposed to any kind of income from fines or replacement fees."

McKee, now 70 and retired in Amherst, Mass., said the problem was that after the passage of so much time, she thought the book was hers. "I never would have schlepped it around all these years had I not thought it was mine," she said.

McKee, a lifelong bibliophile was once the owner of about 4,000 books. When she retired in 1999, she and her books moved to Amherst, where she is a trustee of a local library.

She was in the process of bringing the books up from the basement, dusting and reshelving them, when she made the discovery. She opened the book, looked in the back, "and oh, my Lord, it wasn't mine," she recalled.

"Drat," she thought. "I have to send it back."

She did so, mailing it first class.

Asked about the book, she said she could not recall whether she read it, adding with a laugh:

"You know where you can borrow it."

May 13, 2009

More Government Publications Online

The University of Prince Edward Island has made 932 Government of Canada publications available online to Alloway Library and other academic partners.

The publications are open access serials, which may appear in the catalogue as "electronic resources"

Some sample titles in the collection include:

May 11, 2009

Fines fine

In a recent survey by University of Victoria's David Brown, Alloway Library had the lowest overdue book fines out of twenty western Canadian university libraries.

Just two dimes a day is all it takes to pay for overdue book fines at Alloway Library.

The highest rate was $1 per day charged at ten institutions, including SFU, UBC and King's UC. Eight libraries dinged users $.50/day, and a couple more were just a nickel more than Alloway Library's fine rate of only $.20/day.

The survey also showed that when an item is deemed lost, eight institutions charged a processing fee that was higher than the $10 levied by Alloway Library and only one charged less than that amount. Most libraries charge for the actual cost of the book plus a processing fee that represents associated cost of ordering and preparing an item to go into the collection. At the University of Alberta library, the cost of losing any book starts at $150 and at the University of Northern BC a flat fee of $100 per lost item is assessed.

Fine rates are set by libraries to ensure the timely return of material for other users. The survey didn't include other aspects of fine policies, but you should know that Alloway Library automatically waives fines under a dollar. Fair fine policies are another way that we work with researchers using our resources.

May 07, 2009

A Better World for everyone

At the start of this year Alloway Library agreed to partner with Better World Books. Better World is an online book seller with a difference. They accept library discards, sell them online and then share the proceeds with Alloway Library and literacy organizations. Since 2002 Better World Books has:
  • Collected over 17 Million books from some 3000 colleges, universities and libraries.
  • Raised over $6 Million for Global Literacy.
  • Directly sent more than 1.07 million books to Books for Africa, the National Center for family Literacy, and Feed the Children.
  • Saved over 24 million lbs. of books from landfills.
  • Over 6,000 tons of carbon offset on website sales.
Last week BusinessWeek named them as America's number one Most Promising Social Entrepreneur.

Some of America's most promising social entrepreneurs at Better World Books

Alloway Library's partnership means that many of the books from our sale shelf that do not find a buyer here have another chance when they are listed on Better World's site. Our first shipment was sent to them today and we look forward to our first online sale. We will be glad when part of the proceeds from the sale of one of our consigned books goes to Books for Africa, a Better World Books literacy partner selected by Alloway Library.

The Better World Books website is a great place to shop and learn more about this company and literacy programs around the globe.

And there are plenty of books on the sale shelf here at Alloway Library too-- your purchase will benefit the library today!

May 06, 2009

Could be important as Google?

BBC news reported last week on a web tool that "could be as important as Google", according to some experts. Wolfram Alpha is the brainchild of British-born physicist Stephen Wolfram. The free program which will be launched this month aims to answer questions directly, rather than display web pages in response to a query like a search engine.
The new tool uses a technique known as natural language processing to return answers. Dr Wolfram said that Alpha has solved many of the problems of interpreting people's questions. "We thought there would be a huge amount of ambiguity in search terms, but it turns out not to be the case," he said. In addition, he said, the system had got "pretty good at removing linguistic fluff", the kinds of words that are not necessary for the system to find and compute the relevant data.

But Dr Boris Katz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a natural language expert, said he was "disappointed" by Dr Wolfram's "dismissal of English syntax as 'fluff'''. "I believe he is misguided in treating language as a nuisance instead of trying to understand the way it organises concepts into structures that require understanding and harnessing."Dr Katz is the head of the Start project, a natural language processing tool that claims to be "the world's first web-based question answering system". It has been on the web since December 1993. Like Alpha, the system searches a series of organised databases to return relevant answers to search queries. However, it only uses public databases and runs on a much smaller scale than Alpha.

Web companies have also harnessed natural language processing. For example, Powerset uses technology developed at the Palo Alto Research Center, the former research laboratories of Xerox. The company is attempting to build a similar search engine "that reads and understands every sentence on the Web". In May 2008, the company released a tool that allowed people to search parts of Wikipedia. Two months later, it was acquired by Microsoft.

May 04, 2009

AskAway again

AskAway is back again after a short, end-of-term break. The virtual reference service that lets you chat live with a British Columbia academic librarian is online Sundays to Thursdays from 10am to 9pm and Fridays and Saturdays 11am - 5pm until the end of July.

H1N1 Flu info online through EBSCO

Due to the recent global outbreak of H1N1 flu, EBSCO Publishing and the DynaMed Editors have made the main elements of the DynaMed clinical summary for H1N1 flu free to health care providers and institutions throughout the world. The DynaMed topic on H1N1 flu consolidates information from multiple sources for health care providers to stay current with recommendations for monitoring, diagnosing, and treating patients with flu-like illnesses during this outbreak. The site is updated often to keep DynaMed users informed on the current situation. The editors have also added a clinical management highlights summary. DynaMed Editors will continue to monitor information and update this topic as needed throughout this global crisis.

DynaMed is a point-of-care reference resource designed to provide clinicians with the best available evidence to support clinical decision-making. DynaMed is part of the suite of medical products owned and provided by EBSCO Publishing and is updated daily by monitoring medical literature sources.

May 01, 2009

Here to help

I got an promotional email from the Primary Research Group about their latest work: The Survey of American College Students: Who Goes to the College Library and Why. Two factoids from their research correlate library use and student success:
  1. The higher a student's grades, the more likely that student visited the library within the past month.
  2. Close to 55% of the students in the sample used a public computer workstation at their college library within the past month.
Alloway Library is here to help students get better grades through our resources, which include not just books and media but quiet places to study, professional librarians, online resources and computer workstations.