Sunday, November 25, 2012

Callison Library

This week brings part II of the UW-SLA library crawl. Last week's post detailed the group's tour of the EPA Region 10 Library. The text is again provided by Ann Pool, SLA-UW Distance Representative, and photos by Violet Fox, co-Vice Chair.
From the EPA we walked to Callison, a nearby architecture firm. Cindy Davis served us Halloween cookies and showed us the library. Cindy started in marketing at Callison in 1995 after working in a combination marketing/librarian position in Dallas. She pitched the idea of a library and got the green light to start one.
Callison Design Resource Center
Cindy and her assistant Erin Williamson support a staff of about 400. They get a wide variety of research questions. One day they might find examples of architectural projects using faux and live interior landscapes for comparison, and the next day look up the water systems and climate in a foreign city.

Architects tend to be very visual and often don’t want a lot of text. They like to see what their peers around the world are doing and keep up with current trends. Print materials are still the norm in the library due to the focus on visual information. This keeps the library back from the cutting edge technologically, but focused on the particular needs of those it serves. However, they do have an Intranet site for accessing collections and checking out materials.

The library supports code compliance by making sure the company has complete and up-to-date codes and product standards, often via online access. International projects often are designed to a US-based international code, generally more stringent than local codes. They can also be handed off to overseas firms who handle code compliance. The firm is less involved in the construction phase, but does focus on sustainability. The collection includes resources on sustainable products, and both Cindy and Erin are LEED accredited and understand standards and product requirements.

Cindy developed a cataloging system for the library modeled after the company and its own products and services, putting herself in the architects’ shoes and making materials easy for them to find. Categories include monographs about particular architects, materials, and specific types of buildings.

We also got to see the Design Resource Center, a gallery of resources for interior components and finishes. Anything you can imagine covering a wall or floor or topping a counter can be found there. Lindsay, the center’s manager, works with sales reps on projects and stays abreast of current trends. She puts on product showcases, bringing in vendors to display new products and meet staff members.
Callison Design Resource Center
Cindy suggests that special librarians understand the library and company’s purposes, and ask lots of questions. Working with different kinds of people, from designers to project managers to IT staff is another key to success. People are often willing to shed their egos with librarians and get our help because they know that we can make them look good. We’ll be challenged to show the value of what we do, but it’s also where we can shine.
Callison Design Resource Center
Callison Design Resource Center

Sunday, November 18, 2012

EPA Region 10 Library

This week's post is provided by the University of Washington chapter of the Special Libraries Association. Ann Pool, SLA-UW Distance Representative, wrote the text, and co-Vice Chair Violet Fox provided pictures.
The second SLA library crawl of the quarter took us to downtown Seattle. Our first stop was the EPA Region 10 Library on the 10th floor of the Park Place Building, overlooking Freeway Park. We first checked in at the Public Environmental Resource Center (PERC) where a wide variety of non-technical environmental publications are available free to the public. Liz Doyle, the librarian, met us there and gave us a tour of the library.
EPA Region 10 Library
The library has been open since the EPA was established in the early 1970s. Liz works with two assistants: Adam specializes in interlibrary loans, and Kara deals with serials and reference. The main patron base consists of about 600 EPA staff members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska, including those in remote locations. It’s also open to the public. Liz tries to encourage people to come in to the library. Although electronic access has become the most frequent mode of library use, some people do like to come to the library for a quiet work environment.

The library’s technical systems may not be state of the art, but they serve their purposes well. Items are bar coded and checked out with cards issued to each patron. The library uses Inmagic’s DB/TextWorks catalog as well as an agency-wide union catalog. They also have a regional intranet with a library portal listing free and fee-based information. Patrons appreciate the simple interface.
EPA Region 10 Library
They’ll be moving down to the first floor soon, which will locate them next to the PERC and make them more visible to the public. As often happens with moves, many print documents will be weeded. Liz looks at demand patterns and the possibility of printing on demand when making weeding decisions.

While ready reference questions have declined substantially as people can look up simple questions on line, the library does get a good number of reference requests through their Ask a Librarian online form. Liz told us about a recent question where a staffer needed a new handbook on output-based emissions and was unable to find it. She located it quickly for the patron. Liz also enjoys training people on research locally and through webinars. She often answers small questions but is better able to convey the big picture of the research process through training sessions.

Liz’s prior work experience helped her get hired for her current position. She had worked at law firms after graduating from library school at the University of Michigan, so when the EPA was looking for someone with experience in legal research and cataloging she had the right combination of skills. It pays to learn new things!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Today we're talking about talking book and braille libraries; specifically the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) administered by the Library of Congress. This service was established in 1931 with an act of congress, commonly known as the Pratt-Smoot act. The text is found in Title 2, Chapter 5, section 135a of the US Code and establishes an annual appropriation in the budget to Library of Congress for the dissemination of books in accessible format.

Unfortunately at the time of writing this, the NLS website is down for maintenance during the entire veterans day weekend. The NLS itself is an office located just north of Columbia Heights in Washington, DC. Visionaware has a great brief description of the service, which I'm copying here because, admittedly, it's easier than paraphrasing.

"The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, administers the Braille and Talking Book Library Service, a free program that loans recorded and braille books and magazines, music scores in braille and large print, and specially designed playback equipment to residents of the United States who are unable to read or use standard print materials because of visual or physical impairment.

Local cooperating libraries throughout the United States mail NLS audiobooks, magazines, audio equipment, braille books, and braille magazines directly to enrollees at no cost. Talking books and magazines and braille publications are delivered to eligible borrowers by postage-free mail and through a network of cooperative libraries. Religious publications include: Bibles, Other Scriptures, Liturgies, and Hymnals in Special Media.

From a beginning of 19 cooperating libraries, the network has expanded to 57 regional and 74 subregional libraries throughout the U.S."

Most state libraries administer braille and talking book libraries through State Libraries. You can find a list of libraries on the NLS website, or use this list from VisionAware. Check out the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library for an example of the services available at the state level.
The service provided by the NLS and the network of libraries is invaluable for connecting the visually impaired with accessible information, literature, and technology tools. I highly recommend visiting a library in your area to learn more about the amazing technology available, and the programs operating locally across the nation. If you're interested in this area of librarianship as a career path and in working in DC, NLS has a job opening for a Digital Reference Librarian. The post is open until December 6th. The application process is fairly rigorous and Library of Congress still requires full KSA essays. Good luck if you apply. And as my closing, here's an interesting example of the material transcribed into braille by the NLS.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Hirshhorn Library

The Hirshhorn Museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and houses an impressive collection of art. The Hirshhorn is located on the National Mall next to the Air & Space Museum and also maintains the sculpture garden which has some interesting pieces by Rodin among others. The museum is developed around the core collection bequeathed to the Smithsonian by the Founder Joseph Hirshhorn in the 1960s. The collection spans impressionism to modern pieces and is a beautiful representation of 19th and 20th century art.

The Library was founded with the museum in 1969 and is a research collection developed to complement the art found in the museum. It contains exhibition catalogs, serials, and ephemera. The library also participates in publication exchange. I had the opportunity to spend some time in the library photographing some of the Artists Books for the internal digital asset management system as part of a project to review the collection materials for an exhibition. It was wonderful to learn about the collection and get a glimpse into the workings of an art library and Smithsonian Institution Collections.

Navigating the Hirshhorn Museum and Library website is a lesson in patience. The site is difficult to maneuver and incredibly over designed. It is a solid representation of how to make something visually stimulating but practically unusable. I do not have any pictures of the library itself. The library is not open to walk-ins because it is located on the fourth floor of the Hirshhorn Museum building. It is accessible through the elevator, however the floor is closed to the public because it contains staff offices. Anyone is welcome to use the Hirshhorn’s library by appointment. Arrange a visit by emailing or calling(202) 633-2836. The elevator is quite cozy, fitting no more than five people reasonably, with a guard stationed inside to check access for the fourth floor. Security in the Hirshhorn elevator is not a position for someone with claustrophobia, that's for sure.

I did take two pictures of some of the art in the collection, because I found the first a little disturbing (he greets you in the basement floor as you come around the corner, is massive, and quite lifelike. The other is a collection of painting that reminded me of a friend's tattoo of Kazimir Malevich's 'Black Square on White Canvas'. I snapped it to text to her. It's actually a very well done tattoo. I don't remember either artist. If any reader does, please post in the comments. My lack of foresight into the usefulness of more pictures when I had the chance means that given the opportunity, you'll have to visit for yourself. You can browse the catalog to see what's of interest. This catalog links to all the Smithsonian libraries. The Hirshhorn Library is an impressive research collection and dose contain over 60,000 items, many unique and some quite rare. Each Smithsonian library maintains a unique collection and I hope to visit them all someday.