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Fall semester is just about over now. I realize I haven’t posted at all since the first day of classes in August, so I decided to make a pie chart illustrating what I did all semester.

I know what I did this fall, sort of. (by # of hours spent on each task)

I really thought that chart would be more impressive. I think the “unscheduled” part is misleading although I intentionally labeled it “unscheduled” not “free”. To create the chart I analyzed my Entourage calendar from the first day of the semester until the last day of classes (which actually hasn’t happened yet, but all my appointments are set for next week). I broke the stuff on my calendar down into the categories represented in the chart and calculated the number of hours spent on each one. I felt like I was busy non stop this semester so it’s interesting to think about what I did with those 1547 hours.

Here are some ideas (in no particular order):

  • Talking about football
  • Wandering the stacks
  • Ordering books and CDs for myself from the library catalog
  • Preparing for classes
  • Creating handouts (I spent hours and hours on this, but didn’t schedule it)
  • Reading and composing emails
  • Chatting online with coworkers (usually about work stuff like reference questions, occasionally about football)
  • Project planning – I know it’s up there, but I know I did way more than 9.5 hours.  I just have no way of quantifying it.
  • Compiling monthly productivity statistics – more charts and spreadsheets
  • Waiting in line at the coffee shop
  • Looking things up online (news, weather, football rankings, and other totally-work-related stuff)
  • Writing proposals and applications (scholarships, posters, presentations) – I only included article research and writing in the chart because that’s the only kind of writing I actually scheduled
  • Checking my mailbox and poking around the supply closet
  • Researching and pricing library giveaways – down with stress balls!
  • Visiting coworkers
  • Thinking about how lucky I am to have such a fantastic job

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Ok librarians, please, sit down. I have some news for you, and it is so shocking it will knock you right out of your sensible shoes.

People use the computers at public libraries.

I know! Can you believe it? I thought our banks and banks of computers were for decoration. Oh! Hey! Now I know why I’m an expert in queueing software and paper jams. 🙂

But seriously folks. All of us library types KNOW that when the economy takes a dive the library sees an increase in patrons. Add this to the list of things you didn’t learn in library school:

  1. How to find jobs for everyone that walks in the door
  2. How to assist a patron that speaks a language that you don’t with an application that is in a language they don’t speak
  3. How to deal with the heartbreaking and tragic stories of loss people share with you because they often don’t have anyone else that will listen

Yeah, where was that class?
Oh? Over in the Social Work department! Hmm . . .

All kidding aside, this is actually fantastic. Although I have a Gender Studies background and am all about The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research (seriously, it was my thesis bible), I do understand the need for numbers. We qualitative types aren’t against numbers, and any research worth his/her salt knows that mixed methods research is the bee’s knees and the only way to get a comprehensive picture of user behavior. I do have to admit that some of the math they used is stuff I never learned or forgot (sorry Mr. N – your calculus class was great though) – so I get lost a bit, but I love the fact that people found this worthy of time and money. Thanks Bill and Melinda, IMLS, UW, and all those folks that had to make the calls for the phone survey!

Check out the excerpt below, full article available through the Information School at the University of Washington.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and IMLS funded a study on computer usage in public libraries. (U.S. Impact Public Library Study)

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries

About the U.S. IMPACT Public Library Study

Public libraries have provided free access to the Internet and computers since the 1990s. Libraries have also provided access to digital resources, databases, networked and virtual services, training, technical assistance, and technology-trained staff. However, little research has examined the relationship between free access to computers and outcomes that benefit individuals, families, and communities.

To better understand how the provision of free access to the Internet and computers in public libraries is impacting the lives of individuals, families, and communities across the United States, the Institute of Museum and Library Services issued a request for proposals for research targeted at documenting, describing and analyzing the use and results of this use in libraries throughout the nation.

Works mentioned in this post

Becker, Samantha, Michael D. Crandall, Karen E. Fisher, Bo Kinney, Carol Landry, and Anita Rocha. (2010). Opportunity for All: How
the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. (IMLS-2010-RES-01). Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Washington, D.C.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

(oh, and if you noticed the mismatched citation styles 1) you’re a total nerd 😉 and 2) I used the suggested citation for the study and good ol’ APA for the other)

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