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To TikTok or Not to TikTok?  

November 17, 2022
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One of the librarians that I work with shared this recent article from American Libraries about librarians who use TikTok, https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2022/11/01/60-seconds-of-library-fame/.

As librarians in an Academic library, we’re always trying to figure out which social media platform we should use to reach our students. We currently have Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram. We know that we aren’t reaching students on our Facebook page, but we do reach a lot of college employees and alumni there. We aren’t reaching many of our students on Twitter and so we rely on Instagram to reach our students. Lately, we have been talking about TikTok and trying to figure out if it would be worth starting a TikTok account for our library. We know that some students are using the platform – likely more than are using Facebook or Twitter. In the article from American Libraries, it does seem that some librarians have been able to find a great deal of success using TikTok. However, there are concerns about the TikTok platform.

Their privacy policy shows that they are collecting A LOT of data, including information that you start composing but never save or post. You can review the entire privacy policy here: https://www.tiktok.com/legal/page/us/privacy-policy/en. Many social media companies collect a lot of information about their users, but what makes TikTok worrisome is that even though they are run by a US-based company, their parent company is a Chinese company called Bytedance. In the TikTok privacy policy, they state “We may share all of the information we collect with a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of our corporate group.” If employees of the parent company can access user data, could they be compelled to share that data with the Chinese government? This question is sticky enough that the US Military has blocked members from putting TikTok on government devices and members of legislature have been encouraged not to use it either. This article from Wired reviews how complicated this situation is, https://www.wired.com/story/tiktok-nationa-security-threat-why.

At this point we’ve agreed that we don’t want to have a TikTok account for our library because of the privacy questions. Are we missing out on a great tool to reach patrons? Maybe we are. However, we think we’re getting enough student engagement on Instagram that we can push the TikTok decision down the road a bit.

Is anyone else using TikTok in their library and what are your thoughts on the privacy implications?

Connect & Communicate Seeks New Proposals

November 16, 2022

The Pennsylvania Library Association’s College and Research Division Connect and Communicate Series provides programming that is relevant to and useful for academic librarians and paraprofessionals.

We are currently seeking session proposals for December. If you have a session you would like to share with our academic library community, we invite you to submit a proposal. If there is a speaker you would like to hear from, you are also welcome to include that information in our proposal form.

Please submit your ideas using our online form: https://forms.gle/LAjB7DBqudTgHfKF7

There’s more information at the Connect & Communicate webpage: https://crdpala.org/connect-communicate/

Recordings of the most recent recent sessions are available on the C&CS YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIdr724MhuZV7bh_iOOlc-Q

Thank you!

CRD Connect and Communicate Team

LOEX 2023: Call for Breakout Session Proposals

November 8, 2022
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TREAT Yourself! Revitalizing Your Teaching, Research, Engagement, Advocacy, and Teamwork

51st Annual LOEX Conference
May 11-13, 2023
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

You’ve worked hard and overcome countless challenges during the past few years. You deserve to TREAT yourself by joining your fellow educators, learners, and leaders at LOEX 2023 in Harrisburg, PA. Known for its growing community of innovators and entrepreneurs, and only a short distance from Hershey, PA, famous for its sweet treats, Harrisburg is the perfect place to rejuvenate your spirit and renew your approaches to information literacy, teaching, and learning. Break the mold! Be part of the mix! We invite you to immerse yourself in a collaborative learning experience like no other and savor the opportunity to reflect and recharge with friends and colleagues.

This year’s LOEX proposal tracks are:
– Teaching: Spicing Up Our Strategies and Spaces
– Research: Infusing Our Practice With Scholarship
– Engagement: Recipes For Student Success
– Advocacy: Savoring The Opportunity to Influence
– Teamwork: Finding The Perfect Flavor Combination
– Revitalization: Nourishing Our Teaching, Our Organizations, And Ourselves

Proposals for 50-minute long presentations and interactive workshops can be submitted only through the online submission form and must be received by Monday, November 28, 2022.

For more details, please visit https://www.loexconference.org/breakout-proposals/

Government Documents Librarianship and Professional Self-Conception

October 31, 2022

I recently read a thought-provoking article by Richard M. Mikulski entitled “Language, Professional Culture, and Self-Depiction in Government Documents Librarianship” (portal: Libraries and the Academy, v.22, no.4, Oct.22, pp.1035-1061). In this article, Mikulski analyzes 61 scholarly publications written by government documents librarians to determine how they describe their profession and working with government information. In Mikulski’s telling, documents librarians most succinctly describe their field as “austere, intimidating, and arcane” (1036). Following this, the article notes that documents librarians: are optimistic and encouraging; have their own unique professional community marked by shared expertise, sense of purpose, and culture; feel underappreciated and misunderstood by library administration, members of the general public, and library patrons; and feel they must actively promote use of government information to ensure it gets fully utilized.

Much of what Mikulski writes meshes with my own experience as a government documents librarian, which is the primary professional role I’ve had throughout the years. Government documents can certainly be arcane: Mikulski states that “As with the use of the term arcane, this language of heresy, orthodoxy and mythology contributes to a sense that the documents community is a mysterious, almost religious order as much as a profession” (1044). I initially balked at that sentence, viewing it as an overstatement, but as I thought further I came around. For one thing, the unique cataloging systems require specialized knowledge to use. A particularly confounding example in SuDoc (the cataloging system for U.S. government documents) is that a monographic or periodical series can all of a sudden change call numbers because the publishing department gets reorganized. To further reinforce Mikulski’s point, Andriot’s Guide to U.S. Government Publications is the Bible of cataloging and finding government documents. Finally, I often encourage my Pitt library associates to send any government information-related reference inquiries to me, lest they get lost in the gov docs maze!

The descriptor intimidating resonates a bit less with me. Dealing with print government documents is certainly intimidating on first exposure. Rows and rows of documents of various sizes and shapes are certainly overwhelming. However, finding government information in PittCat is relatively easy and therefore somewhat less intimidating. When I do searches, I’ll often come across a link to at least one government document. (Admittedly, that may be selection bias given what I search for!) That said, I often worry undergrads will get confused when they see a document item type in a PittCat search and therefore not click on it.

Austere is likewise not the first thing I’d use to describe government documents. Print documents can be austere in appearance-very often they have no eye-popping covers and items of the same type look numbingly similar after a while. However, their subject matter is often anything but austere. An example is the title of Congressional hearings, which in my (unscientific) experience increasingly telegraph their content. I’m surprised when the titles of modern House hearings aren’t of the format “This Bill is the Greatest Thing Ever”/”This Bill is a Disaster.” Biased, yes, but not austere!

The article theme I most resonate with is that of an optimistic and welcoming community. I benefitted earlier in my career from the generosity of government documents librarians and I’m happy to talk about the discipline to any new librarians or library school enrollees. Additionally, a reference question asked to the GOVDOC-L listserv will often recieve 4 or 5 knowledgeable answers within a few hours. We understand that we might not be able to get a document or find the right answer, but we’ll certainly exhaust all possibilities before giving up!

While reading the article I reflected on how helping people find government information is something I very rarely do. At Pitt, both our international and U.S. government documents are held at Thomas Library (our high-density storage facility), so I very rarely interact with print documents. We have access to many thousands of electronic government documents through the Government Publishing Office, ProQuest Congressional and HathiTrust, all of which are indexed in our PittCat discovery layer. When I do help with government information, it’s most often helping patrons find Census information or assisting political science professors acquire Congressional text (bills, hearings, etc.) as data to do quantitative analysis. Neither of those tasks require the type of arcane knowledge I use when, for example, I help a patron find a particular item in print or electronic format. Despite this, I don’t foresee a time when government documents librarian is not a core part of my professional identity!

I encourage everyone to read Language, Professional Culture, and Self-Depiction in Government Documents Librarianship” and let me know what you think!

Highlights of PaLA 2022 Poster Sessions

October 24, 2022
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Posted on behalf of Delia Tash – delia.tash@temple.edu

The Pennsylvania Library Association just held the 2022 conference in Harrisburg. While attending the conference I had the pleasure of viewing a number of posters. In “Moving Out!: Preparing the Community for a Total Library Renovation” librarians Sara Kern of Juniata College and Jacob Gordon of Penn State Altoona said the biggest takeaway from the experience was that hiring professional movers is worth it! Meg Massey of Penn State presented “The Benefits of Penn State’s New Interlibrary Loan Copyright Policy” and shared the success that can be derived from reviewing the copyright policy at your institution.

Dr. Stephanie Thompson of Millersville University and Dr. Jessica Jordan of Slippery Rock University shed light on the importance of informing collection development with DEI Award winners. With diversity audits being so popular these days, this is a concrete way to get started right away. Presenters emphasized the fact that these awards are decided by people representing their groups and are therefore more credible than a lot of other alternatives for finding diverse books. It is one small step to take to tackle a large problem of collections lacking materials that reflect our many patrons.

The theme of collaboration with campus partners stood out in Marleen Cloutier and Jennifer Galas of University of Scranton’s poster. The buy-in of campus collaborators helped make their orientation sessions a success. They concluded that unexpected roadblocks can come up when planning library programming and stressed the importance of flexibility and that the overall goal is to “provide a sustainable positive engagement experience that improves student confidence and make it more likely that students will visit the library, reach out to libraries, and use the libraries resources.” The possibility of students making connections with each other while learning about the library was also explored, highlighting that these types of events can have multiple positive outcomes.