Posted by: cyndera | September 13, 2010

Today at the Reference Desk

Man: Can I use my laptop here (“here” being the law library)
Me: Yes, or you can use the quiet reading room if you’d like.
Man: That’s okay, I make weird noises all the time, so I better stay out here.

Man: I have heard that you automatically become a resident of Fredericksburg if you stay at a hotel for longer than 90 days. Can you check the City Code for me?
Me: Sure, just a second … nope, there is nothing that specifies this.
Man: Are you sure that there is no such law? I have heard there is!
(This goes on for like 10 minutes).
Me: Let me call the city and find out … (call) … I spoke to the Clerk of Court, and she also does not know anything about it.
Man: Oh well, I’ll come back tomorrow then. (Maybe the code has changed by then).

Posted by: cyndera | September 13, 2010

Libraries Will Survive!

Starring our very own people from the Central Rappahannock Regiona Library. An awesome video you’ve GOT to see:

Posted by: cyndera | August 20, 2010

My last day at LoC

Yep, today is my last day at the Library of Congress. I can’t believe time went by so quickly.

I completed my projects, learned a lot, and maybe made some new friends. I am sad it is over though. I love the people here, they are awesomely knowledgeable and friendly, and the workplace is just awesome. Everything I could wish for and more at my fingertips. And I am sure I have not even touched 10% percent of all the resources.

I wanted to share some funny questions that I have come across in the past few days:

– What is the probability of becoming a billionaire?

– Who is the architect and when was the building built? (She did not bother mentioning which building she means …)

– Security Guard comes to the reference desk: “Ma’am, do you know where I can find the key to the roof? There is a shooter in the streets, and we need to get up there.”  HMMMMM … what reference category does that fall under? Business, Science, Technology … oh, wait, management stupidity, that’s it.

– What is my name? (Seriously, this came through the Ask-a-Librarian service … we did not have the answer.)

Posted by: cyndera | August 14, 2010

Second Life Convention in Boston

Most of the people I know looked at me funny when I told them I would attend the Second Life Convention in Boston. Most people just don’t know enough about Second Life (SL) and compare it either to the SIMS or think that it is something that is only interesting to a certain kind of people (antisocial, shy, introverted would be the more flattering descriptions … weird, nerd, and creepy are not so flattering anymore).

Fact is though that it is neither a game nor is it just for people who can’t cope with the real world and have to hide behind an avatar. Well, I guess there are those people, but many of us are part of this virtual community because they believe that it can add value to our society and to the way we do things.

I am part of a community that is interested in how Second Life can be used for educational purposes. Some of you have read about the projects that I am part of  (if not, check out and visit my Zeitgeist blog), so I am interested in what other educators have to say about  offering education in SL. I joined a session facilitated by the Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable (VWER), which also sponsored two registrations for people interested in SL education. Me and another lady won the essay contest, and so we are here.

The session was very interesting and brought up a wealth up questions, concerns, and new ideas for educators. Some of the topics that were covered included:

  • How can we make SL safe for children?
  • How can we develop a grid dedicated to education?
  • How can schools implement SL as teaching method?
  • Will SL contribute to a deeper divide between rich and poor school districts as poor districts might not be able to afford the hardware required to run SL?
  • How far should virtual education reach out? Should we limit it to face-to-face teaching, or should we incorporate people and entities that support teachers (such as librarians etc, which, of course, I support).
  • How can we achieve credibility for education that happens in SL?
  • Can SL help to engage students inside the classroom and excite them about learning?
  • How can we combine social media and virtual worlds?

You see, there is much more about SL than just running around with an avatar, doing weird things.

For the last 30 minutes Philip Rosedale (SL Philip Linden) joined the session (unplanned) and answered questions, which was much appreciated.

I also attended a session on how to use SL for business purposes, broadening the audience and amplifying the marketing success. This session was interesting as well, even when the in-world discussion got a bit out of proportion.

Tonight there will be an Avatar-Ball: Come as your avatar or yourself. For me it will be myself as I did not have enough time (or money) to get a costume.

Last but not least some pictures from Boston and the convention. Don’t be surprised if I don’t come back, I already love the city.

Posted by: cyndera | August 9, 2010

How to write a winning scholarship essay

Today I was notified that I was selected for the 2010 Catherine A. Jones Memorial Scholarship, sponsored by IOP Publishing, and awarded by the DC Chapter of the Special Library Association (SLA). Although I do not consider myself an extraordinary writer, I am posting my essay so it may help others who are applying for a scholarship and need an idea on what an essay should look like.

Statement of Interest

Aileen Marshall

Submitted for the 2010 DC/SLA Scholarship

June 2010

Three months after moving to the United States in February 2007 from Germany, I started volunteering at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Fredericksburg, VA. Shortly after, I completed their training to become a reference assistant. I became increasingly interesting in being a librarian, and although I already hold a Master’s degree from the Westfaelische Wilhelms-University in Muenster, Germany, I decided to go back to school once again. In May 2009 I enrolled as a distance education student at the University of South Carolina (USC) to pursue my master’s degree in Library and Information Science. With only four classes left, I am maintaining my GPA of 4.0, and I strive to finish the program as one of the top students and become a leading within the library community.

After graduating in May 2011, it is my goal to work in the field of information analysis and business intelligence. I have been taking classes on business and government information resources as well as special libraries. They provide me with the theoretical knowledge I need, and the practice that helps to sharpen my research skills and improve my knowledge of the best sources available for a particular task, both in print and electronic format. I have also learned how to manage a special library, how to prepare budgets, how to develop marketing strategies, how to develop, implement and eventually evaluate library services. In addition to my coursework I constantly look for opportunities to extend my knowledge and experience.

In December 2008 I was hired by the Peumansend Creek Regional Jail in Bowling Green, VA to serve as their correctional librarian. I had the opportunity to assist inmates with their research, which was oftentimes focused on business-related issues such as how to open a small business and obtain licenses. Unfortunately the economic situation force the jail to reduce their forces, and I was one of seven people who had to leave in April this year. However, I learned a lot during my time at this special library, and I consider it to be a valuable experience in many ways: I learned how to work with diverse population groups, how to perfect my reference interviews and how communicate difficult information in a way laymen can understand. I believe that this knowledge will serve me well when working in other special libraries.

Currently I am one of two interns at the Business Research Division, Library of Congress. Under the supervision of Carolyn Larson, Head of the Business Reference Section, and Ellen Terrell, Business Reference Specialist, I work on questions from the public and different government departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency, and conduct research for people that contact the library via mail or QuestionPoint. Each day I spend time at the reference desk and help patrons in the reading room to find appropriate business resources, navigate the library’s catalog and databases, and to learn about business research strategies. As my long-term project I am revising an online guide for entrepreneurs to small business information by updating, replacing, and annotating the sources that have been selected by business reference specialists about ten years ago. This guide will then again be available on the division’s website. In addition to this I attend meetings to learn how the division operate, and I meet with staff to hear about their various areas of expertise. This is of tremendous value to me as I learn about many new web and print resources.

I share what I experience and learn on by blog, and I post regular updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. I was contacted by the co-editor of SLISten Up!, the newsletter of the Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) at USC, who asked me if I was interested to write an article for the newsletter once my internship is complete. The summer edition will contain my blog URL so students can follow my updates, and my final article will appear in the fall edition.

About a year ago I met Dr. Kendra Albright, and we have been in contact since. I enjoy her classes, and I find it extremely interesting to discuss issues of business librarianship with her. After my internship we plan to do some research together and eventually publish a paper on our findings. I find it rewarding to contribute to our profession by discussing and researching topics of interest as well as by serving as  member on  committees. I have been a member of the VLA Continuing Education Committee since 2009, and I have recently been appointed to the BRASS Membership Committee and the MARS Virtual Reference Discussion Group. I attend conferences, read professional literature and keep up with current events to ensure that I am always up-to-date. I recently submitted an article on library services in correctional settings to the Library Journal, describing my experience as a jail librarian. I love being engaged in discussions about my profession and never tire to advocate for our mission. In June 2010 I was selected as recipient for the 2010/2011 Chesterfield Manufacturing Corporation Scholarship. It makes me proud that my work was recognized as meaningful contribution to our profession.

A particular interest of mine in the field of business information services is the question of how librarians can deliver virtual reference and research services to users with business information needs. I am currently part of two projects that explore the possibilities of virtual services in Second Life. The University of South Carolina, under the direction of Dr. Feili Tu, has created the Davis 2.0 Virtual Campus to deliver reference services, research assistance, and to help students connect with each other and explore immersive, interactive learning.  I also work with Dr. Bryan Carter, Associate Professor at the University of Central Missouri, Dept. of English and Philosophy. He has created Virtual Harlem, one of the first virtual reality environments for use in the humanities. I have the opportunity to add to this internationally recognized project by developing a bookstore that will support Dr. Carter’s classes on the Harlem Renaissance period. Through one of the librarians at the university library, Carol Smith, I received the offer to speak about my project at the next gathering of the SLA Virtual World Advisory Council in August. I believe that virtual reference services are becoming increasingly important for librarians and users alike. I plan to return to Dr. Albright as a PhD student in the next five years, and we have already discussed the program and my research interests.

After I finish my internship with LoC in late August, I am assuming the position of part-time law librarian at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. I have been chosen from a large pool of qualified candidates. Under the supervision of Michele Brown, Head of Reference, I will be responsible for delivering legal reference service to attorneys and the public, maintaining and developing the law collection as well as the collection of business-related items. I will also provide training on demand and introductions to legal research strategies. Ms. Brown, as well as Ann Haley, Adult Services Coordinator, feel that I will be a great asset to the library and their patrons, especially because I take a great interest in new technologies, social media, and a customer service oriented approach. Working part-time will give me the opportunity to still gather experience while focusing mainly on my studies. The DC/SLA 2010 Student Scholarship would be a tremendous help to cover some of my tuition. More importantly though it would be proof that I am on the right path to becoming a valuable member of the library community, and an outstanding information analyst.

Posted by: cyndera | August 5, 2010

Picture of Star Wars Cast

I thought this was pretty cool:

Posted by: cyndera | July 28, 2010

A Day at LoC

Some people have asked me what it is that I actually do at LoC. I can proudly report that this internship is indeed more than getting coffee for staff, filing papers and running errands 😀

I am at the library for 7 hours a day. It starts at 11am, but my commute takes about two hours. In order to save gas (and my nerves), I ride with my husband to Springfield and then take the metro from there to Capitol Hill. This takes about 2 hours. It is indeed a long commute, but I think it is worth it. If I had the option to work here permanently though, I would probably try to move closer.

Two of the seven hours are reserved for desk duty in the reading room. No, not the famous one in the Jefferson building. That’s across the street. The Business Section is located in the Adams building, which has a smaller but still impressive reading room.

Traffic is less than when I work at the public library reference desk. (Note to CRRL readers: I have not been asked about the restroom location yet!). Having few patrons come to the desk frees up time to work on assignments or questions that arrived via the Ask A Librarian Service. Today, for example, I was briefly working on a question regarding grain elevators operated by Peavey Co., Minneapolis, around 1960.

In the remaining five hours I usually work on my pathfinder (Guide to Small Business Information for Entrepreneurs) or other questions that came in. I also enjoy talking to the other librarians, who are incredibly knowledgeable not only about their subjects but also about all kinds of other things. Their wealth of knowledge makes me want to read an encyclopedia, but I hope that over time I will acquire as much wisdom as they have. I think I am in the right profession for that 😉

The website and the reading room offer an extensive number of guides, pathfinders, info-pamphlets etc. I have to admit that it is quite intimidating at times. How would I ever be able to know all of this? It would probably take years to learn all about the collection. One of the librarians who has been here for seven years recently told me that she still can’t remember where everything is located. That was a comforting confession, and I also remembered that being a librarian is not about knowing it all. It is about the skills to find everything, or at least everything that exists, even if it means reaching out to other librarians for help. Which is another wonderful aspect of our profession: We strive to share information and knowledge, not hold it back. The business reference librarians here all have fields of specialties. There is simply no way that one person can be familiar with all the resources that are in the reading room, the stacks, and online. So we share, and create a huge pool of knowledge everybody can tap into.

I have started to seriously think about what I would like to specialize in. Right now I love working with government information and researching company information (competitive intelligence). Being a business librarian in an academic library sounds interesting as well.

What are your thoughts on information sharing, business reference, academic libraries and business librarians within this setting?

Posted by: cyndera | July 22, 2010

Post published on LoC Blog!

Available at

Aileen M. J. Marshall, our summer intern here in Business Reference is our guest author today.

There are a lot of questions that come to us through our Ask a Librarian service and last week I had the opportunity to work on a question where the patron needed information on whether men were performing more household tasks in the 1950s than in previous times. I know what some of you might be thinking right now … but let’s not jump to conclusions.

Man cooking, as woman reads. Phila., U.S.A. : C.H. Graves, publisher, c1903.

A subject search in the catalog revealed some promising subject headings for finding information such as: Sexual division of labor, Masculinity–United States, Housekeeping–Social Aspects, Sex role–United States–History and Househusbands. The majority of these publications, however, explored the time after 1975, which is roughly the time when the feminist movement penetrated most layers of society, and statistics about the division of housework seemed to be of interest to researchers.

One title found in the Househusbands results, Househusbands: Men and Housework in American Families, had some information for the time period in question. It stated that “in 1950 the number of men listed by the census as outside the labor force because they were “keeping house” was 81,000 whereas in 1971 it was 296,000, an increase of 265 percent.” I felt I was getting closer.

Next stop … U.S government websites and publications. Information and statistics published by various agencies are usually one of the first things I consult for questions looking for numbers over time periods.  Especially if it is a subject that the government might cover … which is essentially everything you can think of and more.  Still, people manage to come up with questions for which no statistics have ever been gathered!  Be that as it may, I owe a big thank you to the professor who taught my Government Information Class a few semesters ago.

How do or did Americans spend their time? The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a wonderful survey called the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, and socializing. Unfortunately this survey began in 2003 so it was not a lot of help for this particular question.

Luckily the U.S. Census Bureau provides the Catalog of the United States Census

Man washing dishes, as woman reads. Phila., U.S.A. : C.H. Graves, publisher, c1903.

Publications, 1790 – 1972 online, so I checked the index to see if there was an entry related to work, the work- or labor force and people who were not in the labor force.  Bingo!  It referred me to the Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940, more specifically the table titled Population. Characteristics of Persons Not in The Labor Force, 14 Years and Over (this table is also available online).  This table lists the overall numbers of male persons, 14 and over, “engaged in own home housework”, March 1940 reflected a total number of 273,760, with the biggest percentage being in the 45-54 bracket.

As you can see, the Census is your friend in many cases, and unless you (like me) are allergic to dust (and spend the rest of the day sneezing), working with it is relatively painless and actually quite fun. I have to admit though that I prefer databases … they are a lot less dusty!

Posted by: cyndera | July 19, 2010

Oh, so THIS is where the Stimulus Money went …

Today, while reading The Data Mine, a blog run by the Center for Public Integrity , I came across a link to The website was designed to “help the administration keep its pledge to invest stimulus money smartly, and to hold public officials to account for the taxpayer money they spend.”

I browsed a little (zip code, state, city … very interesting stuff) and came across the category of “least satisfied stimulus projects”. My personal favorite is a project by a contractor for the Department of Army, saying nothing more than “door mats”. And for this the contractor in Allen, TX, was awarded $14,675.

If you will excuse me now, I need to find out how I can apply for some stimulus money. I am sure I will find a project that will satisfy the standards that are applied when choosing recipients …

Posted by: cyndera | July 15, 2010

Ranking: Best Hospitals

I think this ranking is of interest to most people in one way or another.

I had to go to the ER a few weeks ago, and the closest hospital is Mary Washington. I have heard bad things about it, but I have to say that I was happy with the way I was treated. Of course there are always things that can be improved: Why do I have to tell four different nurses what brings me in tonight (it was 4am in the morning …).
But they did Xrays, a CT and gave me good pain killers, which is what I cared most about at that particular time.

Without further ado, here is the link to the ranking:

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