URLs Aren’t Archives ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and Other Stories

I have not spent much time in recent months following the travails of media organizations such as Gawker and the Gothamist other than to casually peruse tweets on my timeline. A retweet caught my eye the other day, and here we are. Today’s post is mainly in response to “Digital Media and the Case of the Missing Archives,” written by Danielle Tcholakian who in turn seems to have been inspired by an article in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Tcholakian’s article provoked a strong reaction from me – sharp, keen frustration. I found the assumptions made by the author to be frustrating. The lack of input in the piece by any institutional archivist, records manager or content management administrator was frustrating. The absence of details, such as the ownership of material posted on sites such as Gawker, was frustrating. The expectation of action on the part of institutions such as the Library of Congress was frustrating. Frustration all around.

I do not in any way wish to devalue the anxiety that journalists or their readership must feel when the URLs to their articles are moved or deleted. Those of us in academic and legal environments have been dealing with link and citation rot for ages. Artists, too, are experiencing the fragility of their online portfolios.

Journalists are not alone.

A Question of Vocabulary

So let us start a mutual conversation with me first asking journalists, what do you mean by “archives”? What are your archives? How are you employing the term? To describe the platform on which your articles are published and disseminated? A collection of PDFs saved on a networked server? Printouts of the articles neatly bound in a Trapper Keeper? Are you including the records of the organization in your definition of archives? The records in which the history of hiring practices, revenue sources, internal policy and decision-making is documented?

Archives the word is a challenging concept. Within the context of archives and records management, archives can refer to:

  • verb, “to transfer records from the individual or office of creation to a repository authorized to appraise, preserve, and provide access to those records”.
  • noun, “an archives”.

Information technologists, data librarians, and information governance professionals may broaden those definitions to include data backups, but generally, archivists tend to shy away from “Big Data” and instead focus on that small bit of material that is deemed archival.

Institutional archives do not have indefinite financial resources. Archivists and librarians are often overworked, underpaid, underresourced, and frankly, undercited. The provision of access and long-term sustained preservation go hand-in-hand. Services such as Archive-It require institutions to make a financial commitment towards server space and the employment of technical archivists to manage institutional collections.

Importantly, modern archivists do not make it a practice of taking things, or blindly capturing online records, without first attempting to identify and secure the right to do so. Violating this principle is wrong, legally and ethically.

I think it would also behoove us to discuss “vital records” for a moment. The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations defines vital records as the essential agency records that are needed to meet operational responsibilities under national security emergencies or other emergency conditions (emergency operating records) or to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and those affected by Government activities (legal and financial rights records). While important, newspapers are not vital records. Janice Okubo of the Hawaii Health Department was most likely talking about records such as birth certificates and taken far out of context.

Media Archives

Since newspapers and media publication serve a variety of business functions, extant newspapers do not exist purely by chance. In the past, publishers recognized the business value of their print and retained copies for their own identified business needs. Perhaps they wanted to have a reference resource, as shown in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight. Maybe their intention was more mercantile.

Circulation and subscription models expanded to include the sale, or rental, of microfilmed versions of these publications. Publishers retained the original long-lasting microfilm masters to make even more copies from, or add to their business archives, rendering the retention and management of paper versions moot. Computers made it possible to digitize that microfilm, secure it in a database, distribute publications even more widely.

Unlike print newspapers, digital-only news has no physical form. A subscription to digital content usually provides an institution or reader with rented, limited access to files that are managed by the newspaper producer via a digital asset management system, and the legal terms associated with access. There is a critical difference between this short-term access model and long-term ownership. Under this model, archives and libraries usually do not take custody of the digital objects that comprise the “news”— including images, websites, social media, text, apps,  and other content forms.

This is not to say that there are no media archives. Many media outlets maintain internal corporate archives or employ records managers to manage the CMS. There is a degree of archiving required of these folx in their work, but much of their work is curation – making sure that assets are discoverable and maintained.

Examples of media archives who have made this transition include:

WNYC is a smashing exemplar of how institutional archives can partner with the community it serves. While Gawker is under siege by political and economic forces outside the scope of this post, the Gothamist will continue to exist. WNYC received funding from anonymous sources to purchase the intellectual property rights along with the published material. It is crucial to note that the WNYC archives did not take, or “capture,” the Gothamist website. WNYC worked with the Gothamist to obtain the legal right to retain and disseminate the archives for the future.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation is also doing impressive work. They have recently set out to capture Gawker.com with the understanding that the articles disseminated for public consumption are not intellectual assets of Gawker. In other words, Gawker.com is no more protected property than copies of old newspapers found in your grandparents’ attic.

What can journalists do?

Brush up on your information literacy, for one. If your work is changing the world, then you need to carve out some time. Look into services such as Perma.cc and the Wayback Machine. Practice good hygiene in the management of your records. Ask questions at work: does the organization have an archivist or records manager? Who maintains the content management system? What would happen to your work in the event of bankruptcy or a change in ownership? Is our website even technically archivable? Look for opportunities like Personal Digital Archiving for Journalists to expand your knowledge about managing your media for the long haul. Most importantly, please always feel free to reach out to archivists and librarians! Society of American Archivists is one resource. ARMA is another. Explore Open Scholarship with a renewed commitment to maintaining your body of work.


How do you preserve a Park in a Library or Archives?

How could we preserve a park for future generations?  Actually, this discussion pertains to a person who has taken photos on a park, documenting a history of a park during specific time periods.   The end result is a book that contains a pictorial documentary of an amateur naturalist’s ten-year travel throughout Lake Artemesia.    Due to an increasingly large number of buildings being built, with the result of less natural areas being saved, deer and other wildlife have started to move into human neighborhoods.  What happened to their natural areas?  Ten years ago, an amateur naturalist started to walk in different parks around the Maryland area.  He pointed out wildlife and plant life that I would never have noticed if I were walking around the park while listening to my mp3 player as I would exercise.  He had shown me how to stimulate my mind with the life all around me. This amateur naturalist wanted to find ways to document information about the park through pictures in case it were destroyed due to floods and other natural/unnatural events.  After ten years walking through Lake Artemesia in Berwyn Heights, Maryland, Ulysses Weldon developed a four-step process to capture different aspects of a park (https://sites.google.com/site/lakeartemesiapark).  This process could be expanded upon to fit many other parks that we never would want to forget.

Picture by Ulysses Weldon, Taken at Lake Artemesia, Berwyn Heights, MD

Continue reading “How do you preserve a Park in a Library or Archives?”

Enter the Personal Health Records Librarian (when Managing Patients’ Records, Part 3)

In Part 1 of this discussion of Managing Patients’ Records, a mobile healthcare digital assistant was identified.  It could help patients to be more engaged with managing their medical issues.  In Part 2 of this discussion, the patient, Anne, was described.  Her healthcare was not managed well due to miscommunication or no communication.  It was not because she did not want to follow-up.  She did not know when and for what to follow-up on in her healthcare until it was almost too late.  In order for the patient to understand what is going on, there has to be true patient engagement.

Continue reading “Enter the Personal Health Records Librarian (when Managing Patients’ Records, Part 3)”

Making the Connections (when Managing Patients’ Records in an information management system like SharePoint , Part 2)

As we discussed in Part 1 of Managing Patients’ Records in an information system like Sharepoint (https://saarmrt.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/managing-patients-records-part-1/), it was pointed out that in the lifetime of a patient, a patient could have one or more physicians that specialize in their different healthcare needs.   With so many healthcare professionals in the patient’s life, there should be a connection to all of them with the patient at the center.  Without the connection, the patient will have difficulty effectively managing their healthcare.  Through the following six steps, that one patient had to endure, other patients can be helped so that this patient and many others will know how healthy they are.

Continue reading “Making the Connections (when Managing Patients’ Records in an information management system like SharePoint , Part 2)”

Managing Patients’ Records in an information management system like SharePoint, Part 1

How can you manage patient healthcare when using information management systems’ portals?  Some Clinicians or Primary Care Physicians have attempted to keep their patients engaged with their healthcare by offering them patient portals, over the Internet, which would enable patients to manage their own personal health records.  In the lifetime of the patient, a patient could have one or more physicians that specialize in different healthcare needs of the patient.  The patient can end up having many personal health records that could have information that varies.  Should the patient’s health records connect to one main place?  Would this ensure uniformity in the records and metadata if all of their health information were connected? Physicians need a connection to the patient’s health record assistant so that information is not lost every time a patient has to complete different intake forms for various doctors in their lifetime.

Continue reading “Managing Patients’ Records in an information management system like SharePoint, Part 1”

Revisited Communication Problems through SharePoint


How many of you are still feeling the growing pains of Microsoft SharePoint?  Is it a knowledge management application or a document management solution?  Can it get you fired at a moment’s notice by management because they have an inconceivable notion that SharePoint has artificial intelligence?  Out of the box (OOTB) there is no Watson here.  There is, however, a lot of confusion about what to do with this software called SharePoint.

SharePoint is an organizer for your intranet.  Assume, for the sake of argument, that it helps your workplace’s IT Department manage the file server and the communication channels to all of the departments.  Management defines what it will do for the workplace.  Those under management would define what their department’s SharePoint site would do for their department.  Depending on the governance structure of the SharePoint site, a business could have a clutter-free SharePoint portal with related departmental sites.

Question:  Why would I want to build a SharePoint site?

Answer:  OOTB, SharePoint, has great web parts.

Using SharePoint without Coding

SharePoint uses a technology of programming without coding. This would allow Non-IT librarians, who would not be familiar with database management, to be able to create a web part from within MS SharePoint that would not require any programming knowledge.   The end-user does not have to code to put a fully functional SharePoint site together.

The knowledge of how to do those things would not be the biggest link to success in SharePoint usage in the library. The biggest link would be the connection that the librarian would make with co-workers and project team members.
The Key to Using SharePoint
The key is embedding your organization’s library services into the regular workflow of projects and assignments without anyone noticing this action. It has to be a natural merging of research that would slowly link to other research that would need to be performed for a project. Eventually, it would branch out to a department which would lead to other related departments due to their assigned projects.

Another great reason is that the web parts allow each department to share their “know-how” about how to complete that task more efficiently or how to work software that does not have a manual.  It can also help you manage various file formats for documents and other artifacts from a project.


Weldon, L.S.J. (2012).  Librarians Using SharePoint.  Create Space, SC.  [Distributed through Amazon.com].

Weldon, L.S.J. (2011).  SharePoint without Coding, Volume 2.  Create Space, SC.  [Distributed through Amazon.com].

Weldon, L.S.J. (2010).  SharePoint without Coding.  Create Space, SC.  [Distributed through Amazon.com].

Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.

SharePoint Information Literacy (A Sampling from the course, Microsoft SharePoint for Non-IT Users)

Your department has been given access to the new intranet based on the SharePoint platform.  Should you panic or relax?  Perhaps, do both but not enough to raise your blood pressure.  SharePoint is not the culprit for department clutter on the intranet.  Before you start making plans on moving your collection into your department’s SharePoint site, find out the following:  Point of contact for the SharePoint site; Metadata; Metadata structure; Type of permissions that  exist on the SharePoint site; Collection format.

Point of Contact  

Departments look to the Records Manager, Library Director, and Knowledge Manager, for example, to be the main person who will be instrumental in organizing the collection on their department’s SharePoint Site.  Unfortunately, many times it hardly goes to the next step and clutter begins to grow in the department’s site.


The next step would require you to find out who created the basic SharePoint site for your department.  Who would the Records Manager, Library Director, or Knowledge Manager talk to about their department’s site? Hopefully, your organization already has a contact list for the many different facets of the SharePoint intranet.  Then, your job would be easy because you can go straight to that person on your SharePoint maintenance or structure contact list.  Even if you do not have a “contact list”, your contact will usually be found in IT.

If the contact is not in the IT department, you will have to trace how the SharePoint Intranet was created for your department.  Find out who the technicians, architects, or developers were of the intranet.


Once you locate them, then you will need to get them to share how they have defined the metadata and if it meets with your department’s definition.  It is essential to understand how the records for your department will be organized.

Chances are that your metadata will not match with the enterprise metadata.  It depends how closely your collection has been identified with your organization.  Can you easily export your metadata in the record format from your integrated library system into the database (Oracle, SQL, MSDE,etc) used for SharePoint?  Will your records have to be changed to fit the new platform?  Can you just embed a web part to display your integrated library system to save you from a lot of grief?


The best way to compare your organization’s metadata against your department’s metadata is to create an Excel Spreadsheet. This will help you not to duplicate any folder structures and avoid “other” folders of information that may clash.  Through the Excel Spreadsheet system, you will avoid adding or changing terms. This would allow uniformity from within your organization.  This will really avoid clutter.  Here is an example of the Excel method.


The Excel method helped me match the organization’s subject areas with the library collection’s subject areas.  This could also work with records of the organization with matters related to HIPPA, HR; Legal; Management and Support; Projects.


Matching up the concepts into a code could help you further connect subject areas and data associated with it.


The type of permission you have can help or hinder your progress into getting your library collection available to the organization’s staff.  In order to be able to do anything to your department’s site, you will have to find that point of contact for the intranet.  Ask for the site owner.  The site owner can assign permission levels (or called site groups before Windows SharePoint Services 3.0).   Take this chart to the site owner  and then you will be able to know whether you can do anything with your department’s SharePoint site or will IT have to do whatever you need completed for your department‘s record or library collection.

Default permission levels in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

Permission Level Description
Full Control This permission level contains all permissions. Assigned to the Site name Owners SharePoint group, by default. This permission level cannot be customized or deleted.
Design Can create lists and document libraries, edit pages and apply themes, borders, and style sheets in the Web site. Not assigned to any SharePoint group, by default.
Contribute Can add, edit, and delete items in existing lists and document libraries. Assigned to the Site name Members SharePoint group, by default.
Read Read-only access to the Web site. Users and SharePoint groups with this permission level can view items and pages, open items, and documents. Assigned to the Site name Visitors SharePoint group, by default.
Limited Access The Limited Access permission level is designed to be combined with fine-grained permissions to give users access to a specific list, document library, item, or document, without giving them access to the entire site. However, to access a list or library, for example, a user must have permission to open the parent Web site and read shared data such as the theme and navigation bars of the Web site. The Limited Access permission level cannot be customized or deleted.

NOTE   You cannot assign this permission level to users or SharePoint groups. Instead, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 automatically assigns this permission level to users and SharePoint groups when you grant them access to an object on your site that requires that they have access to a higher level object on which they do not have permissions. For example, if you grant users access to an item in a list and they do not have access to the list itself, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 automatically grants them Limited Access on the list, and also the site, if needed.


Digital, Physical, Hybrid Collection

Once you know how much you can do with your department’s SharePoint site, then you will have to tackle how your collection will be represented in your organization.  Do they want your department to eliminate paper copies or can you have backups making your collection into a Hybrid collection of Physical paper and digital copies.

Each item will need to be identified by a unique identifier like a bar code.  That would help link the physical and the digital records.  SharePoint can help you track who has what record through workflows but if you will have to re-catalog your department’s collection, size and time will have to be considered for you helping your department to avoid the “clutter effect” in your department’s SharePoint site.


No matter how you look at it, in order to have a great information literate staff under your department’s subject of interest, you will need to plan and design policies, taxonomy, governance, imaging for your records. An audit will be required to make sure everything fits together.  You want to avoid the folder called “other”.  You want everyone to be able to know what is in the collection and how to access it.  Hopefully, to keep everyone SharePoint Information Literate, you can work with the “site owner” of the SharePoint site or the IT department to help you use the “Out of the Box” features that SharePoint provides before any customization is needed.

About the Author

Lorette Weldon is the teacher and creator of the online course, Microsoft SharePoint for Non-IT Users (Enroll today at  https://www.udemy.com/microsoft-sharepoint-for-non-it-users/?couponCode=XL04bc ).

Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.

Computer Savviness: Step 4 to Information Literacy

Do you consider yourself computer savvy?  A survey was conducted from April 19, 2011 to April 20, 2011 pertaining to librarians and their computer savvy skills. It was found that librarians were able to troubleshoot and problem solve technological errors. This did not necessarily mean that they could write code for their computers but this troubleshooting and problem solving translated into individuals who had a willingness for the Three T’s (Talking, Tinkering, and Traveling) about problems that they would encounter (Weldon, 2012).  The Three T’s approach helped them understand the impact of emerging technologies and their influence on the attitudes, behaviors, and needs of information users needed for their profession (Weldon, 2012).

The Problem Solver

Computer Savvy means that an individual is flexible enough to learn new concepts, methods, and technology as developed for private and/or professional uses. Many computer savvy individuals from the survey experienced the evolution of technology during their careers, moving from card catalogs or OCLC, to searching via acoustic coupler/telephone, CD-ROMs, and then moving into Internet technologies via Gopher, WWW, Web 2.0, and mobile devices. One of the criteria to being computer savvy is not being afraid of computers and to not assume that you could break it. Confidence contributes to a person’s knowledge of computers.

In the use of computers, applications, etc., a computer savvy person would need to feel pretty confident to be able to figure them out without much reference to a manual.   A computer savvy person would consider computer technology a second language with the ability to do minor problem solving without being an expert.

The person has to have an understanding of the history of certain aspects of computing, so that they could at least give the basic information about concerns regarding computer usage/Internet usage. A computer savvy person could have a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia, which would give them a leg up at least, again, in the use of computers (as opposed to computer science/engineers who understand the mechanics of computers).

Three T’s Learning Method

 Survey participants said that computer savvy meant the ability to adapt to changes in technology which is really using The Three T’s learning method (talking, tinkering, and traveling).  There is a certain knowledge of basic productivity software, coupled with relevant information management tools that exist for the computer savvy professional.  It means that you know how to use a computer and most standard software without looking awkward or asking for help every 10 minutes.  Computer savvy means that you are not afraid to try and figure it out.

First, librarians would discuss (Talk) needs with computing staff and being able to get their ideas across with an understanding of what they are saying in return. This would be conducted in the frame of mind of not being afraid of computers and recognizing that they are quite useful tools, but also have limitations.

Second, librarians would tinker with concepts to understand end-users’ needs in order to evaluate software. They would solve minor computer problems on their own by bridging the gap between systems/technology concepts and the end-user experience.

Third, librarians would allow the computer savvy person to know that if they were unable to “fix” or reprogram the system; they would have the understanding and vocabulary to travel to someone who would know how to fix it.   Traveling would occur through the talking and tinkering processes when assisting customers with the latest innovations by sharing more insights gained from discussing library needs with information technology specialists.

Emerging Technologies

A computer savvy person should be able to quickly learn new software and technologies and understand how they apply to their work. This individual should be familiar with newer technologies (though not necessarily cutting edge) enough to understand what they are and how they might affect their work in the future. Computer savvy people are able to use technology to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively without being scared to try new technologies.  This would include being familiar with tools, comfortable with exploring software capabilities, ability to manipulate data for meaningful reports.

The following 3 viewpoints summarizes how librarians viewed the learning process of becoming computer savvy in 2011:

  • Viewpoint 1: I can figure out what I need to do if materials are written in plain English and/or I’m working with/being trained by people who can simplify complicated IT concepts. Tech isn’t scary if you can get guidance from those rare birds who can speak tech and English too. 😉 Whoever wrote the directions in Google Analytics is/are my hero(es): simple, straightforward, visual examples, and “what if?” options.
  • Viewpoint 2: In my worldview, a computer savvy person is someone who can work with a computer in every stage of its life – from building the actual machine from raw parts, to facilitating network access, creating applications (to include the creation of mobile apps), the ability to intuitively navigate open source CMS options on the fly, the ability to troubleshoot any technical difficulties without outside assistance, and the understanding of how these pieces fit together and impact one another. I would say that the typical librarian needs about 8 screenshots in order to figure out how to map to a network printer, or in order to figure out how to turn a word doc into an adobe PDF. As a profession, we are PAINFULLY behind the rest of the global community. To call ourselves “information professionals” makes this an ever more striking phenomenon. I myself, as a more or less textbook example of a Millennial, navigate just fine on the web, am constantly in contact via my iPhone and all the other cliché avenues available, am never far from accessing my Facebook account, am adept at running 10 different computer programs at once and doing so just fine, and can handle the basics of what my computer throws at me. But I would DEFINITELY NOT say that I’m computer savvy. I’ve never programmed anything, trying to speak JavaScript makes my head hurt, I don’t know the latest free open source virus protection programs or games, I wouldn’t know what to do with a Drupal skeleton if you put it in front of me, I’ve never made a mobile app, I’ve never played with a physical server, and I rely on others to fix my computer when it acts up. Just this past week, I gave my “broken” laptop to a friend who used to work at a technology organization. I thought it was broken for good, as it had a nasty virus and hadn’t functioned for 2 years (the operating system would try to launch, but couldn’t, and would shut down and restart in a never-ending cycle). But within 2 hours, this person had the laptop running beautifully, installed open source virus protection, restored ALL of my data, and had me hooked into his wireless, all of which worked flawlessly. That’s a computer savvy person. I don’t think that you can fairly say that about 90% of the library community.
  • Viewpoint 3:  The fact that I hold a position as a deputy Chief Information officer, a job that did not exist when I first started working means that I have devoted time and effort to continuing to learn new skills and obtain knowledge so that I can keep my professional skills up to date.   Finding solutions to problems through creative uses of information technology. 

Are you computer savvy in the 21st century? 

Stay tuned for more adventures in information literacy.

References by the author

Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.

Archiving Transparency and Accountability: Step 3 to Information Literacy

After the first semester that a new course is taught, I have noticed teachers asking each other for a copy of their lesson plans for that course, if they survived a semester teaching it.   This echoes the cries of the United States educational system wanting a miracle teaching method that could be used in any subject for any course for any student’s educational level.  This is the same for information professionals.  They are teachers who are using the same steps to archive, manage records, and perform reference services to help customers gain access to the information housed in various institutions and organizations throughout the world.  Everyone wants the transparency on how to find that information.  Basically, this is the transparency of how we have done are jobs to provide access to this information.

Through my series of steps to information literacy, I have found that the memory is a great place to store how we do our duties but what if others could benefit from knowing “how” we did it?  This goes back to wondering if your clients remember how to use your search tools to access the information stored at their educational institution or other type of organization.  I created a virtual assistant to review with clients the search methods that were covered face to face.  ELA, my Electronic Library Assistant, travels to the clients’ offices, homes, and classrooms, to review those searching methods with them 24/7.  So, it is like me “traveling” with them to help them “tinker” with the methods we discussed before and then “talk” about Step3other ways that they could search on their own through the Three T’s method.

ELA has been found to be very compatible with the customers’ computer skills since they could manage to always keep communications with family, fellow classmates/employees, and friends through their smart phones, tablets, and laptops.  I created a virtual teaching assistant in a blended-animated flipped classroom environment that would incorporate the technology that the customers held dear and allowed them to keep a constant flow of customer engagement inside and outside of their workplaces.  Through this virtual environment, a video archive is created that customers could go back to anytime and anywhere with lessons based upon what I had experienced with them and/or other customers (no customer names are stored).  The teaching methods are stored for continual viewing.

Any archivist, records manager, or other type of information professional, can do this for accountability and transparency of their work to be shown to their customers and departments.  If you are interested in finding out more about it, I will be giving a webinar, for Innovative Educators, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, on how to create accountability and transparency in your job through a virtual teaching assistant.  Information professionals and administrators are shown how to make a virtual teaching assistant and how to incorporate it into their presentations through GoAnimate.com, Screencast.com, and Camtasia.

Stay tuned for more adventures in information literacy.

Read more about ELA:

Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.

Step 2 to Information Literacy

What is Information Literacy? The National Forum on Information Literacy states that it is “… the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and   effeSharingInfoctively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” In the infancy of my librarianship, I had a librarian who had actually taught me how to satisfy my hunger for information. Through the Three T’s method, my mentor “talked” with me about certain issues or problems that I questioned. This prompted my librarian to show me how to answer my questions by giving me lessons in reference tools. My librarian left me to “tinker” with the reference tools as I would find one answer only to make me come up with more questions to further understand that answer. I would “travel” back and forth to the library to gather more and more information to make me information literate. From my elementary school years up through when my librarian hired me to join his Reference Services Team, I learned from him that to become information literate, a person must be willing to continue reaching for more information, thus prompting the “talking”, “tinkering” and “traveling” during the information collection. But I was not the only library patron that my mentor was helping. He had kept a record on what I had been researching. Where was he holding this record on me and others that he could refer to immediately when the patron would come through the door?

I asked him this question. Without a thought, he pointed to his head. He told me that in order to promote information literacy you would have to practice what you preach. You must retain the information in order to know what more you had to add to it. In response to a comment made on my article, Step 1 to Information Literacy, the records in which I speak are records of my customers that were in my head. Through this record keeping approach to reference service work, the library patrons get a feeling of familiarity and warmth when they return to the library because the librarian remembers who they are and what they had been looking for in the past.

Let’s reflect on customer records and privacy. If the records were kept in the library database, in which statistics on customer usage could be tallied, libraries could follow the ALA Code of Ethics, Article III, “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received, and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” My observations on how to help library patrons to become more information literate are not based on written notes or digital records. My observations are based on mental records from within my mind on each customer I have served in the present and in the past.

If a librarian would see you all the time and run to the computer to pull up your file, you would not feel that warm and fuzzy feeling that you were remembered. Even if the customer does not reflect emotions of sentimentality, they do show it by coming back to you again and again. I was reminded of this concept through the Chevrolet Cruze’s commercial. The theme song to the 1980’s American sit-com, “Cheers”, comes on as we watch customers of a gas station being welcomed warmly by the cashier. All of the customers know each other too. The warmth can be felt coming out of the television screen until a cold breeze comes in and the music stops. A new customer comes in to pay for the gas for his Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. No one knows his name. The slogan for this car is “The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel gets the best gas mileage of a non-hybrid, so no one at the gas station will know your name”. This commercial tries to convey that the customers have to come to the gas station so often that the cashier and other customers know each other’s names. So when someone new comes in, they try to know the new guy by rushing to the window to see what type of car that person was driving so that they could identify him next time he would come to gas-up his car.

In order to be able to “talk”, “tinker”, and “travel” with the customer, you would need to be able to pull up the customer’s name up in the records in your mind. In those records, you would be able to remember what they had asked for before and where you had found that information. This would also help you to remember any other questions that the customer may have had before, in case they are here for a follow-up to a question they had already asked. Of course, you may have customers who come in with a new question. This continues the learning process and the hunger for more information by you and your customer. This also adds to their record in your mind—a mental record.

The librarian who knows the customer’s name can have a successful research-relationship with the customer. This would help the customer continue their quest in becoming information literate.

Stay Tuned for more of my adventures in becoming information literate.

Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.