Service

MLIS Portfolio

Deborah Bancroft

Indexing

In the fall of 2005, I was beginning my second year as a distance student at the Information School. I had been working intermittently as a technical services substitute at Timberland Regional Library in Tumwater, Washington, where I filled in for temporary vacancies in the Interlibrary Loan, Collection Maintenance, Acquisitions, Mail Room, and Processing Departments. Although most of the jobs were entry level, I was gaining a broad perspective of the support services required by a public library collection of nearly 1.5 million items.

The 530 decade of cataloging and classification had seemed to me to be the most intriguing area of study as I had approached my graduate school career. Since the first year mysteries of LIS 530 Organization of Information and Resources had not befuddled me completely, I decided to take LIS 531 Catalogs, Cataloging, and Classification in the fall of 2005. I really appreciated Instructor Lisa Fusco's hands on approach as well as her thorough knowledge of the cataloger's perspective. Still, I was impatient to learn even more and eagerly volunteered at the Washington State Library (WSL) to work on the Historical Newspapers Project as an indexer.

It was exciting to work with primary sources although many times the opinions and attitudes expressed by the writers were thoroughly offensive. I found the work slow but satisfying, and thanks to my extreme attention to detail, I believe my effort was worthwhile. Along with other WSL volunteer indexers, I was honored at a luncheon and presented
with a certificate by State Librarian Jan Walsh. As it relates to my journey through the Information School, the most significant element of this experience was that by learning a new way of organizing information, I was preparing myself for the work I would do the following quarter cataloging a special library's collection for LIS 600 Independent Study. See the Leadership section for description and details of the Espy Library project.

As much as cataloging and classification interest me, I have seen that reference and children's services are the primary areas open to new librarians in the Timberland district. Fortunately, that dovetails nicely with my background. Providing services to both adults and children in the women's shelter environment gave me a foundation I knew I wanted to build on in preparation for my librarian career.


Storytelling

My passion is literature and theatre and the iSchool elective I was most eager to take was LIS 561 Storytelling: Art and Techniques. I chose to fulfill my assignments for this course in front of audiences that varied from preschoolers to primary grade students to teens to adults; in locations varying from open mic to story time to lunch time to bed time; in performances rehearsed to spontaneous, terrified to confident.

Listen here to a story I told at the Matrix Coffee House in Chehalis for a mixed audience of adults and teens. Grandfather Bear is another Native American tale I learned and told to my grandson's preschool class in Portland.

The content of LIS 561 directs students outside the academic environment and into different communities. I thoroughly enjoyed telling stories to all ages and I welcomed the opportunity to develop a bit of the children's services programming I want to foster as a librarian. As important to my growth as this planning was, I think the most significant aspect of my experience was taking stories to other people. In an early journal entry I wrote:

The best part was seeing how some of the adults appeared almost transfixed by the telling. That's not because of me, of course, but because (I think) of their own connection to past experiences listening to stories. I remember being extremely moved by a telling I heard a few years ago as an adult and how I felt transported, magically, back to a child's time and space.

Stories can exert tremendous influence on people's lives and oral storytelling is an ancient and especially powerful method of transmission. Learning how to actively engage your listener creates space for the storytelling and is not so different from giving a successful book talk.


Reviewing children's books

Although, like most iSchoolers, I have had very little time for pleasure reading, I did have time for children's books and volunteered to review short books on any subject for the Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children's Media (PSC). This gave me the opportunity to put into practice advice received from Instructor Phillip Edwards in LIS 520 Information Resources, Services, and Collections. He encouraged us to write reviews because it would increase our lists of published works. In my case, it starts the list. Here is a sampling: December 2006 January 2007 May 2007

In the last year and a half, I have had 29 reviews published in the PSC monthly reviews. PSC Chair Venta Silins kindly prepared this letter of acknowledgement. Although I don't yet have the privilege of providing reader's adisory service to library patrons, this volunteer activity gives me significant practice thinking about what specific books will appeal to which specific users.


Reference

In fall 2005, along with LIS 531, I took LIS 521 Principles of Information Services during which I volunteered at the Internet Public Library (IPL) answering reference questions. This was an excellent practical experience presumably without the pressure of having to find an answer on the spot as is more likely in face to face interactions. However, as a relative novice in providing reference in a library setting, I still felt the pressure of wanting to come up with quick answers.

My Digital Reference Experience paper for LIS 521 reflects on this environment and compares it to the ideal mediation I had been trained to give by Timberland. The reference interview is the most essential component of an effective reference transaction according to the Reference Effectiveness course I previously took, but at the IPL it was not emphasized. What was significant in my education in this environment was the realization that it will be a judgment call on the part of the reference professional when to seek more information from the questioner. In the online environment, where there is no possibility of communicating information by innuendo or body language, the connection between patron and librarian is more tenuous than in person or on the phone. Consequently, there is a greater risk of losing the online patron by asking additional, potentially annoying questions. Luckily for me, I would have another opportunity to consider these judgment calls, in winter 2007, when I would do a Directed Field Work (DFW) in Central Reference (CR) at Timberland.

By winter 2007, I had been working at Timberland full time for almost a year doing much of the same roaming from department to department, with the addition of circulation duties and light cataloging. Thanks to my classmate Dale Carroll's successful DFW in Central Reference the previous year, I was able to secure a similar contract to "intern" in CR and work 10 hours a week on Friday afternoons and Sundays throughout the quarter. It was a far more intense experience than answering calls for IPL, but the support I received from other staff was plentiful and much appreciated. Interestingly, the question of whether to seek more information from the caller or emailer was not the paramount one. At times it seemed as if some of the regular callers knew more about the available resources than I did and my pressing need was for a search strategy to get to this information they knew we had. I tend to undertake new adventures thinking I know more than I do, or enough to get by, and this DFW in LIS 590 drove home once again that learning never ends.

For more tales of CR, see my final narrative for LIS 590.

Commonalities

Within these six experiences, the common theme that I find is story. We all need stories; we all tell stories; stories are how we make meaning. What thrills me about being a librarian is how I am an agent in the storytelling and story seeking process. Indexing helps locate random information and stories. Cataloging a special library like Espy brings order to the vagaries of one person's collection over many years and showcases his eclectic (or conventional) taste for stories. Reviewing children's books combines my storytelling with the author's. Oral telling has the capacity to evoke memories and stories from the past. And reference work is thoroughly shaded by the caller's stories, spoken or not. These six experiences cover my three areas of iterest equally: cataloging, children's services and reference and they each represent different arenas of learning. Whether connected to the iSchool or not, each experience has helped me learn more about serving others with story.