Riding the Long Tail

October 31, 2011 - 10:29 pm


I’ll be a participant in a panel during the Library 2.011 Worldwide Virtual Conference. Our program, Riding the “Long Tail”: Leveraging a Niche to Build a Network, focuses on the niche professional networks and interests enabled and encouraged by the use of social media tools. It will be moderated by USC’s John Jackson & the University of La Verne’s Young Lee and feature panelists Nicole Pagowsky of the entertaining Librarian Wardrobe and Micah Vandegrift of the HackLibSchool Blog. I am quite honored to be included in their company to discuss the Information Amateurs Social Club, the informal networking organization my friend Greg Borman and I created after graduating from library school in 2009.

Participation in the virtual conference is free — and highly encouraged! Our panel will speak at 10am Pacific Time on Thursday, November 3.

Jumping on board a presentation like this required me — for the first time — to write a professional bio, a decidedly odd thing to compose (particularly since custom dictates writing it in the third person). Here it is:

Daniel Ransom is the Librarian for Research and Electronic Resources at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. Daniel provides reference and research services and co-coordinates the university’s information literacy program. Daniel also serves on the committee for the California Academic and Research Libraries’ Ilene F. Rockman Scholarship, an annual award for library school students. He co-founded the Information Amateurs Social Club with Greg Borman after graduating from San José State University’s School of Library and Information Science in December of 2009. The goal was to create an informal online and in-person venue for early-career information professionals to stay in contact with their peers and share job-seeking skills and ideas.

I also had to submit a profile photo; I took this shot the morning of my very first day as a professional librarian 15 months ago and have used it as my professional profile ever since (that’s right, I like to rock the argyle sweater vest).


At some point soon I’m going to have to admit that I’m a grown-up.

Tapping into information

August 23, 2011 - 10:06 pm

Saturday night, the Information Amateurs Social Club gathered at the special pour-your-own-beer keg table at San Francisco’s Mad Dog in the Fog, a Lower Haight pub. I never got an exact count of attendees as it ebbed and flowed all night (much like the tap!) but it was well over a dozen and possibly as many as twenty. As usual, the crowd contained a mix of backgrounds — academic librarians, archivists, a children’s librarian, public librarians, MLIS students, and the usual but unfortunate smattering of unemployed librarians hoping for a change in the wind.


Engrossed in conversation. Photo courtesy @TheLiB.

The beer table was an entertaining gimmick — it was by the window, near the door, and allowed us to pour beers for new arrivals without them having to walk to the bar and wait for service. Conversation was by turns serious and silly (like all good conversations), and any lull could be filled by filling our own glasses. And, by the end, we knew exactly how much beer we had drunk!

BeerTotal631 ounces! The hefeweizen proved more popular than the IPA.

I’m very proud of our little association. While we have a core group of regulars (some of whom will sadly be leaving the Bay Area shortly), each and every outing has featured at least several new faces. Our group’s name — the Information Amateurs — was born out of our circumstances in April, 2010. Greg Borman and I had both recently graduated with our MLIS degrees (December, ‘09) and were both struggling to find jobs. We couldn’t quite call ourselves professionals without a professional paycheck! So I had the inspiration to call us the Information Amateurs, and stuck with it even though both Greg and I were gainfully employed by that summer. I’ve always kept the tone of messages to the group cheerful and little irreverent in the hopes that it will draw out newcomers, and that seems to work.

The next event is one worth getting excited about: on October 20, USC’s Norris Medical Library’s Megan Curran will be presenting her lecture “Ill-gotten Brains: The Grisly History of Sourcing Bodies for Anatomical Learning” (an appropriately macabre subject for late October) at the Bone Room in Berkeley as part of their ongoing salon series of talks on subjects in natural history. Ms. Curran has already presented this talk in Los Angeles and Brooklyn but this will be her first Bay Area appearance. The recently engaged Ms. Curran has also agreed to join the Information Amateurs for a post-lecture drink at a to-be-determined gathering spot. You can follow her on twitter at @LibraryatNight.

Dewey + His Decimals: ALA in NOLA

July 1, 2011 - 11:15 am

This past week I got to attend my very first American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference, a dizzying gathering of over 20,000 librarians (a far cry from the 1876 inaugural event, with its paltry 103 attendees). I got to attend various professional presentations, meet online contacts and make friends in real life, explore New Orleans by foot, trolley, and ferry, and, much to my surprise, perform in the improvisational slideshow competition Battledecks.

I have organized sessions I attended and events I participated around a couple of the most recurring themes.


Cushing Library is currently implementing a new tool for our end users to use for search and retrieval of our items in our collection. This system, called WorldCat Local (WCL), finds and retrieves items be they print or online, and whether they are book, article, journal or other media. WCL and similar products are referred to as “Discovery” systems within the librarian profession.

I attended several programs relating to the implementation of Discovery systems. Two directly related to the implementation of OCLC’s WCL technology, tasks I am involved in right now, and another on the rate of return various libraries have seen since their implementation of Summon, a competing but similar product to WCL offered by ProQuest. There is strong evidence, from both libraries operating WCL and from libraries utilizing Summon, that full-text article retrievals are up, most notably from smaller, more specialized sources. At WCL libraries, print circulation tends to rise post-WCL implementation as well.

For example, the University of Idaho, which has implemented WorldCat Local, has seen usage over print materials rise 20%, interlibrary loan requests rise 34%, and a 78% increase in full text article downloads. Summon libraries, such as the University of Houston, saw a 50% rise in full text article retrieval. They have also found that the Summon search service is pushing users to finding underutilized resources, such as special collections and multimedia items, and that it favors direct journal services (such as Sage) over aggregators such as EBSCO.

Information Literacy

Part of my continuing duties at Holy Names University is my role as an instruction librarian. I provide information literacy education to students via workshops and research help sessions.

One of the best instruction-related programs I attended was Making Information Literacy Instruction Meaningful through Creativity. The three speakers were current or former faculty for ACRL’s highly-regarded Immersion Program, a “boot camp” for instructional librarians, and the session reinforced many themes that are part of Immersion training — creative lesson planning; interactive, motivational presentation styles; and pedagogy grounded in research and assessment.

In addition to these presentations, I also had chances to sit and talk shop with a good mix of other instructional librarians, such as Michelle Millet, Tiffini Travis, Lea Engle, and Nicholas Schiller. In Schiller’s case, I’ve been reading his articles and stealing his classroom ideas for a year so it was great to get a chance to admit that to him. He didn’t seem to mind.

Out and About

New Orleans: what a city. While I admit I’m not such a fan of colorful drinks in plastic cups — I’d rather have one well-crafted cocktail than a half dozen cups of syrup-flavored alcohol — I have to admit that New Orleans knows how to have a good time, and a good time I had, passing from place to place with a gang of roving librarians I befriended. It’s hot in New Orleans in June (that’s not a newsflash, I realize), but the heat and humidity didn’t keep me from walking continuously from the Garden District, to the Warehouse District, along the river and into the French Quarter, and back again throughout the conference. Café Du Monde was naturally a regular destination, both late at night and after lunch, and I was shocked that a plate of three beignets was only two dollars and change — here in San Francisco, our tourist traps won’t sell anything for less than five dollars.


While I expected to meet hip, smart librarians from Brooklyn (and did) (stereotypes for the win!), there were smart, interesting people coming from all corners of the country — Indiana, Texas, Florida, and even Southern California. In between the beignets, coffee and occasional cocktails there was plenty of sharp chatter about information services, instructional technique, and emerging tech. All of it pointed to my original thesis in founding the Information Amateurs Social Club — that the best, most enlightening professional conversation happens in the informal air of casual conversation. Preferably with a drink in hand. Between the ALA Dance Party, the ALA Tweet-up, the ALA Facebook Afterparty, the Radical Reference Social, the HackLibSchool Social, and all of the more informal connecting in between (including a trip to the Voodoo Museum), I met many of my internet heroes and formed some genuine bonds of friendship I’m going to hang onto. And hopefully, someday, all of them will move to San Francisco. It’d be killer.

IMG_3983That’s Lauren and Lea in the middle at the Radical Reference Social


No report on the goings-on in New Orleans would be complete without mention of Battledecks, the competitive, improvisational battle of slideshow presentations that concluded the conference Monday night. My participation was not strictly speaking voluntary, but it was thrilling to speak right between Lisa Hinchliffe, President of ACRL, and widely known executive and public speaker Stephen Abram. However, I’m going to save my extended thoughts on that experience for a future post — once the videos have weaseled their way online and I can embed my performance right here on The Pinakes.


The Information Amateurs Strike Back

July 5, 2010 - 9:04 am

Sequels, as a concept, are much maligned. But then again, The Empire Strikes Back is as good or better than Star Wars. Godfather II? Better than the first. And thus it’s time for the second go-round for the Information Amateurs Social Club! Early career librarians and archivists, recent MLIS grads or current MLIS students, or any one else connected to the profession is invited to join us Saturday, July 10 at 6:30 at the Lone Palm, a comfy neighborhood bar on 22nd Street near Guerrero in San Francisco’s Mission District. We’ll talk shop, trade stories, and meet other professionals.

If 6:30 sounds early to you, fear not — I’m sure at least a fair few of us will be out well into the evening, so if you can’t make it until 8, 9 or 10 — that’ll be fine. You can RSVP via facebook or let me know you’re coming via twitter or email — that way we know who to look out for over the course of the evening.

It’ll be a great time out. Let’s just not turn this into one of the Matrix sequels.

Information Amateurs are born!

May 14, 2010 - 12:19 pm

A couple weeks ago (April 30, to be exact), a mix of early career librarians and MLIS students got together at the Latin American Club for a couple drinks, story-swapping and the type of informal networking that is an awful lot of fun (as first advertised here). Some were friends of mine, some were friends of rockstar cataloger Greg Borman, some were people we’d met on facebook or twitter but not yet met face-to-face. Somewhere between a dozen and a dozen and a half made it out.

It was fun.

This is the part of the blog post were I should be putting up a series of photos of our night out (since a handful of pictures are worth thousands of words). But I didn’t bring a camera. Imagine instead a photo of our three tables cobbled together in a gerrymandered conquest of half the bar’s floorspace; a late-night rendezvous at a taquería where we indulged in tacos, burritos and tortas; margaritas the size of a pint; frenzied debates on the worthiness of Oakland versus San Francisco. Oh, and we talked about libraries too.

It was so much fun that we’ll do it again. Join the Information Amateurs Social Club on Facebook if you want to hear about it when we do.

Information Amateurs Social Club

April 12, 2010 - 7:25 am

Back before graduation, my student colleagues and I were invited to occasional student organization sanctioned happy hours or other social events. When I met up with new Stanford metadata specialist (and former SLIS classmate) Greg Borman for a pint last month we realized we were no longer part of that network of current students, and if we wanted to approximate something similar (ie, keep in touch with our peers socially), we’d have to organize it ourselves.

Thus the idea of the Information Amateurs was born. Early career (ish) professionals getting together to swap stories and job seeking hints, all over a libation or perhaps two. This is a non-discriminatory concept;  I like breaking down silos, so public, academic or special librarians are all welcome, as are archivists, current students or various other denominations.

The first Information Amateurs Happy Hour is going to be Friday, April 30th at the Latin American Club in San Francisco’s Mission District (22nd Street at Valencia). It’s entirely possible it might be just Greg and I. Or 30 people could show up in a crowded bar. So far the invite list includes people I just met this weekend at CARL, people I haven’t run into since a class a couple years ago, some of my closest friends in the profession, and people I’ve never even met that are connected through Greg.

If you’re reading this and haven’t been invited, you’re invited. If you’re interested, contact me via the options on my “about” tab or just respond to this Facebook invitation.

If we get a big response, the Information Amateurs Social Club will officially be born.