Saturday, April 9, 2011

Letter from the Editors: Notes on Community

At the heart of every library institution is a unique community and culture. The differences in philosophy, policy and practice between archival, public, academic and special libraries can seem insurmountable as a result of a feeling of separation from the world outside of one’s own library. Rather than seeing a greater community as a challenge, communication, memberships in larger organizations, and education, can begin to make librarians part of something greater than their immediate environment. What may first seem like a roadblock can be an opportunity for networking, understanding and growth. A question that comes to mind then is how can we best support and sustain a network of relationships that leads us into the future? In this issue, Editor Jane Gilvin examines how professional organizations and conferences can help young professionals and students establish a sustainable network, while co-editor Kim Galloway explores the networking possibilities available within our own SLIS.

Community can be preserved by archives, as the larger Hollywood film community is preserved at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills. Contributor Alison Leonard shares her experience visiting the archives with one of SJSU’s own community groups, the Society of American Archivists SJSU Student Chapter.

Community can also be built around a library, bringing together people with similar interests, or those with disparate experiences. Heather Hoffman’s contribution to this semester’s newsletter examines how community is built and defined at a library serving two different populations: a university and the wider public.

What meaning does the word community have to you? Do you hope your work in the library and information management world will serve a particular community? Have you experienced a particularly welcoming or unwelcoming community as a patron or employee of a library? We hope this edition of the Call Number will encourage you to start a dialogue about how networking and a professional community can enhance your education and your career in library science.

Kim Galloway & Jane Gilvin

SAA tour of the Margaret Herrick Library

By Alison Leonard

In June the Society of American Archivists SJSU Student Chapter organized a tour for students at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills. The Library is part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that is most famous for its academy awards, aka “the Oscars."

Altogether the Academy is housed in three buildings in Los Angeles. The first is the Fairbanks Center, where the Library is located. Douglas Fairbanks was a leading cinematic actor in the 1920s. He was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as the first president of the Academy.

The Academy was founded in 1927 and the library was established a year later in 1928. The second building is the Pickford Center in Hollywood, and is named for Fairbanks’ one-time spouse, Mary Pickford. Pickford was also a leading actor in early cinema as well as a crusader of film preservation. This building is where the Academy’s Film Archive is housed.

Finally, the Academy Headquarters, in Beverly Hills, is where the executive offices and Samuel Goldwyn Theater are located.

The Academy’s website describes its institution as, “the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema.” Regarding the library it states, “By 1941, the Academy library had gained acclaim for having one of the most complete motion picture-relate collections in the world.”

The library goes on to describe itself as “the World’s Preeminent Cinema Research Facility” and as we learned on the tour, it may just well be. Margaret Herrick, whom the library is named after, was the Academy’s first librarian and long-time executive director. Her long and important history with the Academy lasted from 1940 until 1971.

Cinema researchers from all over the world use the private, non-circulating library, which is available by appointment only. There are two reading rooms contained within the library, the first is the Cecil B. DeMille Reading Room named for American film director and producer, and the second is the Katharine Hepburn Special Collections Reading Room for manuscript and other archival material.

Our hosts were library staff members Barbara Hall, Research Archivist, and Ann Coco, the Graphic Arts Librarian. They did a super job preparing for our visit by having so many wonderful special collections on display for us to see.

The Academy subscribes to about 60-70 film publications, some of which are now only available online. This includes publications for people in the industry, theater owners and trade publications, as well as publications for the movie going audience, i.e. fan magazines. Barbara and Ann said that most researchers request materials from writers, directors and actors. Many researchers ask to see a specific film script or materials on a specific person. Film scripts are one of the many items the library collects. Interestingly enough, when the Academy requests scripts from writers, they often submit their favorite version, not the final version that appears on the screen. The typical library users are students, film scholars, historians, and film industry personnel. We learned that many researchers like to start their research by looking at scrapbooks, which can provide background on an individual’s family and other important people in their lives.

The Graphic Arts Collection within the library has an extensive poster collection and has ample information about the collections available online, including a collection that traces the history of African-Americans in cinema from 1921 to 1995. The digitization of the poster collection is a first priority of the library.

The library holds more than 1,000 special collections containing the ephemera of such luminaries as Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, George Stevens, John Huston, and Gregory Peck. The collections are so varied that I could not begin to list everything that they contain, but some examples of the library’s offerings include reviews, articles, press releases, lobby cards and personal correspondence. Special collections are further broken down into several categories including: the personal papers of directors and performers, studio records such as MGM or Paramount, association records, and collector’s records. The collector’s records are an assortment of ephemera from fans or writers who have a large collection that the Academy has acquired. The library also holds costume design sketches, and production design drawings.

One of the most requested collections is the Hays Production Code collection from the 1930s. According to NPR’s website, The Hays Office, a self-imposed arm of the industry, was created to enforce the code in response to growing concern in the government and among United States citizens regarding the moral content of films. This code was the precursor to the current rating systems and some say that the movie industry has not been the same since the institution of the so-called “Hays Code.” As a result scripts were reviewed for violence and morality and changes were suggested in order to quash public criticism of Hollywood. This was a code that was created in 1930 and affected all movies in production after 1934 until 1967 when it was abandoned. For more information on the Hays Code, see this full article.

For me, one of the most interesting parts of the tour was seeing the documents contained within the archives. It was exciting to see a telegram from Billy Wilder to Arthur Miller complaining about Marilyn Monroe’s bad behavior on the set of “Some Like it Hot.” One passage stated, “The fact is that the company pampered her, coddled her and acceded to all her whims. The only one who showed any lack of consideration was Marilyn, in her treatment of her co-stars and co-workers…Her chronic tardiness and unpreparedness cost us eighteen shooting days, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and countless heartaches.” This is but one example of the many important documents that chronicle the film industry’s contribution to American History in the 1900’s to today.

Alison Leonard has a background in fund raising with international organizations including Meridian International Center-a contractor for the U.S. Department of State and WNVC International Public Television. Alison holds an undergraduate degree in history from Virginia Tech, and a Masters in International Transactions from George Mason, which included study abroad at Oxford in England. She enjoys swimming laps, biking and hiking. She has visited over 90 national parks in the U.S. She has run into bears on the trail but thankfully no mountain lions.

Snapshots From the Reference Desk: Building Community Daily

By Heather Hoffman

Anyone who has worked the reference desk, even for a day or two, would agree that you see it all, and it is certainly not boring. My experience interning at a merged public and academic library has given me an interesting perspective on how a library community can be defined, and how it evolves over even short periods of time,creating a fluid but cohesive collective experience.

Answering questions in equal measure between students or faculty and public patrons can be a little disorienting, yet at the same time, it reminds me that the person on the other side of the desk or phone is essentially looking for the same thing. What patrons want is the human input into that answer. It is this factor that turns these shared experiences into something resembling a community, even if it doesn’t fit a traditional definition. This sense of community is one that changes daily, because no two human interactions are ever the same. I have noticed that the regular fluctuations create a sense of comfort and familiarity for the patrons and, I would argue, the staff as well. We may all be creatures of habit, but even those routines are never done in exactly the same way every time – a little mutability makes sense to us.

Old-fashioned etiquette manuals frequently referred to the concept of “the roof is the introduction” (Sherwood, 1884); that is, if you find yourself in the company of a stranger, but under a trusted roof, you can feel some certainty of affiliation. The more time I spend at the reference desk, or walking around the library, the more I see this kind of interaction in play. It might not be expected, what with the “town versus gown” concept (the public library patrons interacting with the university students and staff), and it certainly is not occurring everywhere and constantly. However, when you see a spirit of cooperation between two patrons at the desk, willing to offer help or advice to each other in a trusted and comfortable space, it is heartening, not least if one is a student and one a public patron.

Every time I hear that libraries are disappearing, I remember the crowd waiting to be let in, patrons trying to find an empty seat (in an eight floor library, to give you an idea), or eating their lunches while hunching over a research paper or job application. I might concede that the physical concept of a library is mutating, but I would also argue that the sense of community that evolves with every patron walking through the door means the “library” isn’t going anywhere quickly.

To illustrate, last Wednesday was a particularly frantic day on the desk and I had a raft of people needing something. One (public) patron was clearly agitated about the inability of his laptop to access the wireless network, and this was a question that was not going to be answered with “have you tried rebooting?” There were three of us working at the time, and everyone was occupied. We did our best to reassure the patron that we would get to him as soon as we could, and do what we could. At that point, another patron standing nearby piped up and said he could probably take a look at the issue. This one example clearly supports the notion of a library community being due, in part, to its humanness, particularly as two hours later, I looked up to see them still working together, having created their own small community within the larger one.

Sherwood, M. E. W. (1884). Manners and social usages. Harper & Brothers: New York Retrieved from

Heather Hoffman is finishing her penultimate semester at SLIS, and having a hard time believing graduation is around the corner. Her two daughters and husband will also be glad when that occurs, and are okay with either an academic or public library gig, as long as it means book recommendations.

Using Conferences to Build Community

By Jane Gilvin

One of the ways that librarians build communities is through professional association conferences. The Music Library Association (MLA) conferences happen once a year and are planned several years in advance. I had the opportunity to attend the conference when it was held in San Diego in March 2010 and Philadelphia in February. From this experience, I wanted to write an article to share some ways for students to make the most out of the opportunities a conference offers, as well as ways to save money.

First, many conferences offer student rates. Although students often feel financial pressures, attending conferences should be seen as an investment in their future. A student looking for ways to fund their travel can look to professional associations, schools and other sources, many of whom offer full and partial scholarships to students or new professionals. The time spent on writing applications can provide students with money to use for travel, fees and lodging for conferences Registering early and volunteering are two other ways to make conferences more affordable. For example, the MLA has a limited number of volunteer spots for members. In exchange for a certain amount of time spent volunteering, members pay reduced fees.

Two other expenses incurred are lodging and food. Attendees may be encouraged to stay and eat at the location of the conference. This can often be a reasonable fee, however, consider that you may be able to find a better deal elsewhere. A little bit of advanced research can give you a range of affordable options. As recently pointed out on the MLA list-serv, organizations enter into agreements with hotels or conference centers that may include guaranteeing a certain number of paying guests in exchange for lower fees on other services. When making the decision about where to stay, you will want to consider the benefits of staying at the designated conference hotel or an off-site venue. If you are staying at a hotel further away, it might be more difficult to participate in some of the unofficial activities or late evening activities. It also means that serendipitous meetings are less likely to happen. Using list-servs to find roommates is another way to save on housing costs.

The MLA offers two opportunities for new or student attendees to make connections. The first is a mentoring program. On the first day of the conference, you meet with your mentor at an official MLA event. From there, it is left to the participants to arrange meetings. I participated in the program last year, and my mentor was incredibly generous with her time. She introduced me to people in the organization that she knew matched my interests. A second program is the new attendee and student dinner. This is where you can meet your mentor, but even if you do not participate in the program, new attendees and students can meet other individuals who share the same professional and educational interests. Several students formed a new group, the Music Library Student Group (MLSG) last year, and this group is planning activities specifically for students throughout the conference. Student groups are a great way to meet your peers in an atmosphere that might be less intimidating than the social activities geared toward the entire association. It also offers a forum to discuss problems and experiences that are specific to students. Other associations may or may not have student groups, but they often have mentoring programs or orientation meetings with similar opportunities.

Conferences can be exhilarating, invigorating, tiring, expensive, informative and fun. Students can take advantage of the many resources, using conferences and associations as a way to establish their own library and archive community. Whether it is finding like minded people, or people in similar academic or professional settings, or meeting someone in a different position to provide a new perspective, conference attendance is beneficial to students’ personal and professional lives. More information about the MLA conference can be found at, including present and past conference programs.

Jane Gilvin has co-edited The Call Number for two semesters. She is in her final semester at SJSU. Her experience while in school has included working at SJSU's Special Collections and Archives, a U.S. EPA records center, interning at the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies and the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound. This summer she will intern with the NPR music library in Washington, D.C.

Going the Distance: Finding Community across a Digital Divide

By Kim Galloway

As students in a distance education program, we may find the idea of community to be an unfamiliar concept fraught with pitfalls and missteps. Many of us, coming from more traditional school models of face-to-face interactions in classroom settings, get by without the familiarity of friends and social networks. We may not question why this is the order of things. Yet we long to belong to a group, a wider community, a sense that we are not alone even as we sit in front of our computer screens alone. So how do we build that sense of community? How do we reach across the digital chasm?

The answer is quite literally at our fingertips. The SJSU MLIS program has provided its students with many opportunities to connect. There is no need to build a community from scratch, there is already one waiting for those wanting to join. From live Elluminate sessions where you can meet with classmates and instructors, to student organizations and gatherings, colloquia and workshops available both virtually and physically, there is something for everyone interested.

While many of the courses in the MLIS program do not require Elluminate sessions, professors still plan and execute non-mandatory sessions where students can log on and meet with the instructor and fellow students in a real-time interaction. These sessions can be as simple as a white board presentation and chat session, or include web cams and video streaming. It is here that you can find group mates for presentations, a buddy to bounce ideas off of, and future colleagues in your chosen field. Another great way to plug in to the greater community is to join one of the student groups on campus. Among the organizations representing on and off campus are: the American Library Association Student Chapter (ALASC), the Society of American Archivists Student Chapter (SAASC) and the Library and Information Science Students to Encourage Networking (LISSTEN). These organizations offer a way to get more actively involved in networking, publication, governance and leadership while fostering a sense of commitment and belonging. The benefits are tangible; participants discover that they stand out from a crowd of other qualified applicants when it comes time to find jobs and scholarships.

Any exploration of community building endeavors would not be complete without the mention of the many workshops and colloquia podcasts that are held regularly throughout the semester. Offered in both physical and virtual formats, these programs are designed to foster networking while building skills and presenting information and ideas that are leading the way in today’s libraries. Interested students can learn how to build a resume and rehearse interview skills, listen to professionals in the field talk about the past, present and future of their profession, and attend a host of other useful and informative presentations and team-building gatherings. For those looking to socialize and befriend like-minded individuals, there are social gatherings on campus, in caf├ęs and restaurants and in outlying communities or via internet on Second Life, a virtual game world where a user builds an avatar and “travels” to different locations like San Jose State’s own virtual library and meet with other people in a synchronous environment. These venues are a fantastic way to network and build long-lasting professional and inter-personal relationships.

So if you are looking to get out there and mix it up, become part of a community and build strong personal, educational, and professional relationships that will sustain you throughout your school experience and beyond, reach beyond your computer screen, stop simply putting in the school hours and start experiencing them first hand. You will not be disappointed in what you find.

Kim Galloway is in her first semester as co-editor of The Call Number