print holdings & javascript

Topeka Public Library Periodicals area, ca. 1953

What does print holdings mean to you? If you said “the books/journals in paper on a shelf in the library,” then you’re probably a librarian. Our students don’t know what it means — most of them think it has something to do with printing something from a computer. And yet, that’s what we have had our print holdings labeled as in our “journal locator” (aka A-Z list and link resolver) for years. Until two weeks ago, when I changed it.

It never occurred to me that “print holdings” would be confusing to someone, since it’s pretty clear to me what it means. But I don’t think like an undergraduate student anymore, much less an undergraduate student in 2011. It wasn’t until I had spent so much time looking at our print journal holdings that it dawned on me that this language may not be very clear to our modern students.

My main project this summer involved taking information from an inventory of our print journal collection and adding the coverage dates to the entries in our A-Z/linking list. In addition, I added notes about the location (we have journals in four main locations, with a few in the book stacks and the archives) and any anomalies. Now when someone looks up a title, it will say “University of Richmond Libraries” followed by the location (i.e. “Boatwright Periodicals – Second Floor”).

I’d love to change the name “periodicals” to something else, but I’m not sure what. Also, it’s the location name in our catalog, and I’m trying to be consistent. At least it’s not “print holdings” anymore.

The next phase in my efforts to make our A-Z/linking list more useful to the novice was to add icons for peer-reviewed titles (example). I’m using the code that Karen Coombs developed a couple of years ago. Took me until now to realize that it’s not that complicated to implement, particularly once I realized that we’re using JQuery on our website already, so getting it set up and maintained is not my responsibility.

Next, I’m hoping to add links to RSS feeds where available, but I can only find references to the code for that. I’ll keep digging, but it’s dropping lower on the priority list.

camping & Hamlet

Hamlet's BlackBerry

This weekend I went camping for the first time in about eight years. I’ve always liked the idea of camping much more than the reality of camping, as in my mind, weather conditions and insect populations don’t exist. It went better than I expected, and I even had fun. Not sure I’m up for more than one night, though. By the next morning I was ready for the indoors.

One of the things I brought along with me is the book Hamlet’s BlackBerry by William Powers. I’ve been reading it off-and-on since February, and I hoped that during the down times I could finish it up. There were a few of those moments, but not many. I ended up finishing it at home.

The book is one of the most fair arguments for dialing back online activity, or at least creating a space away from the distractions of the internet and focusing on being physically and mentally present, either alone or with other people. I haven’t gotten to the point where I feel pressure to be connected all the time, but I do miss it when I’m not. On the other hand, a part of me was looking forward to disconnecting this weekend, at least for the 24 hrs away from civilization, but I wasn’t quite sure if I was disappointed or relieved to discover I had cell service at the campground.

The Hamlet connection comes from a reference to “tables” in Shakespeare’s play. These were hot tech at the time, and reminded me of something like portable dry-erase boards. Hamlet makes some notes about the things that are bothering him, and feels relieved to get them out of his head and into a device that can store them for him until he his ready to do something with them. I feel the same way about my smart phone and the Remember the Milk app — no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I can usually take that thought that would quickly disappear and make a note about the thing I need to do.

I liked the idea of stepping away from the screens for a period of time. I thought that a 12 book challenge would be easy to complete in a year, but I’m not reading as much anymore, in part because I spend so much time on the computer when I’m at home. I need to start setting aside dedicated time at home that is not on the computer, and not just when I’m cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry.