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LL Chat: Cassandra Stokes November 13, 2008

Posted by cynhudson in Fun Stuff, Library Stuff, Local Librarians.
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Recently, I sat down to talk with Cassandra Stokes, the Digital Projects Librarian at Washington University in St. Louis, to learn what digital projects the office is currently working on and what she does in a days’ time.

What is a typical day like for you?

Urban Books website created by Digital Library Services at Washington University

Urban Books website created by Digital Library Services at Washington University

My days are really varied and my focus shifts every couple of months from one area to another. There are always emails to answer, library related events to attend, and committee and collection work. Other than developing digital projects I serve on a number of library committees, mostly related to usability and increased access to electronic resources. One I’m currently working on is the Next Generation Catalog Overlay Committee in which we have been reviewing products such as Aquabrowser, Primo, and Endeca. We will be implementing one of these products shortly.

In my position I also have the opportunity to attend many non-library related conferences, such as Digital Humanities, TEI Members’ Meeting, and the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science. I found the Digital Humanities conference to be especially good because it brings together librarians, faculty, and students involved in Humanities Computing projects.

What digital projects are you working on?

We have many projects under development, but one that I’ve been spending a lot of time on lately is the Urban Books project. We partnered with a faculty member at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts who teaches a course on Urban Books. They had previously received a grant to develop an artists’ books collection and we’ve been helping them create a digital version of the original books along with artist supplied tags or keywords. The digital collection includes graphic novels for the students to use in their study as well as student created books that are a final project of the course. The collection currently includes 187 items and growing.

What do you find to be the most interesting part of your job?

I like that the digital library field and consequently, my job is fluid. There’s so much to learn which can be daunting at times but very exciting. Though no digital collection is ever complete, because there are always improvements that can be made, we regularly work with the university and library community to develop new projects and promote standards.

What types of skills do you find necessary to work in your field?

It’s helpful if you are technically inclined, and since you are working with technology you must also be open to making mistakes. Instead of getting frustrated when things don’t work out the first time, be sure to learn from the experience and use it to your advantage by applying those lessons learned to future projects. The digital library field is still in its infancy, so there’s always some new and exciting technology that is being developed by the larger community that you in turn must be aware of to stay current.

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LL Chat: Barb Knotts October 16, 2008

Posted by cynhudson in Fun Stuff, Library Stuff, Local Librarians.
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MyTracs Program (Image courtesy of Barbara Knotts & SLPL)

Barb recently worked with the MyTracs Program - click the picture to learn more!

Since taking over the administration of this blog, one of the things I hoped to do was talk to local librarians about what their work entails, what skills they thought were necessary for their position, and basically anything else they would like to share with us.  (If you are a librarian in the area and would like to be featured, please send me an email.)

Anyone who is currently enrolled or recently graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia – SISLT and attended classes in the St. Louis area is probably pretty familiar with Barb Knotts, instructor for the Introduction to Information Technology course.  Barb was kind enough to recently sit down and talk about her job with SLPL and the Mizzou program.

Barb Knotts (Manager, Electronic Content & Collections St. Louis Public Library; Adjunct Faculty for MU) MLS from California State University—San Jose with undergraduate degree in History from University of Wisconsin.

1. What is your typical day like?

One of the best things about my job is that I don’t have a typical day. One day I could be evaluating and purchasing reference databases, reviewing license agreements, or training staff. The next day I might be writing for the website, helping patrons with online job applications, and hiring new staff. Another day I might be off to Jefferson City to participate in State Library committee activities. And, some of my favorite days are those that don’t end when I walk out of St. Louis Public Library. These are the days I get in my car and drive to UMSL. Now I get the privilege of being part of the instruction team for MU’s Introduction to Information Technology class. Each day is so different; it is one reason I rely so heavily on my Outlook calendar.

2. What do you find the most interesting aspect of your job?

I love when I can show patrons or staff how technology can help them accomplish their goals…that technology is a tool we can all understand and use. I call it the ‘epiphany’ moment. You show the patron how to set up an email account and open an attachment. Then watch their eyes light up when they see a picture of the grandbaby for the first time—and know they can come back to the computer tomorrow and do it by themselves. Or show a staff member shortcuts available on a favorite database and hear them say ‘I never knew it did that—wait unit I show the other staff.’

Website created by Barb Knotts. (Image courtesy of Barb Knotts and SLPL)

Louisiana Purchase website recently worked on by Barb - click on the picture to learn more!

3. What type of skills do you find necessary to work in your field?

I believe the most successful librarians (and those who find the profession most rewarding) are those with inquisitiveness and patience. One of my ‘Barbisms’ is: ‘if you stand still, you will fall behind.’ Librarians who are always digging deeper and thinking broader have so much to offer to their organizations. At the same time, sometimes we have to be patient. That can mean taking a deep breath when patrons ‘don’t get it’ or organizations have priorities that differ from ours. With a bit of patience the patron will get it and your project will become your organization’s ‘Emerging Idea.’

4. What is the best part of being a librarian?

I hope I can answer this question with two thoughts. First, at the end of the day We Have Made a Difference. Public, academic, school, special library—it makes no difference. The services we offer, the customer service we provide, and collections we make available to all change lives (yes I do believe that). Second, whether we are just starting out in the profession or are still active almost 40 years later, there are always new challenges and opportunities for us. This year in addition to my teaching, I have been involved with MyTRACS, a program where I worked with St. Louis teens. So different from anything I had done in years; so rewarding and such a wonderful example of why I love being a librarian.