From: Philip Adams [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, June 03, 1998 10:47 PM
Subject: re: interview request
>I am a MLS (library science) student in the United States. I am very interested in the work you have done with your Brautigan Virtual Library. For a class assignment, I have been asked to interview an "exemplary" librarian. I wonder if you would consider answering some questions via e-mail. It would be a great help to me, and I am happy to share a copy of my paper when completed. Thank you for your time and consideration. Peter Espenshade, email@example.com.
The Collins English
Dictinary offers three definitions of "exemplary":
1. fit for imitation, a model: an exemplary performance
2. serving as a warning, admonitory: an exemplary jail sentence
3. representative, typical: an action exemplary of his conduct.
Thanks anyway for selecting me. I would be interested in seeing a copy of your paper. I would also like to post my reply into the BVL as a kind of introduction, if that's okay with you.
>How did you get interested in a career in librarianship? What is your background?
If I think back now I can see that it is the moment when books get used that interests me. There is an ever-present possibility of transformation, like when some sought after part of a jig-saw fits into place. I already wanted to be a librarian when I went to university as I did a Joint Honours course in Librarianship and American Studies. Since then I have worked in public, college and university environments, mostly at the forefront of online library services, developing library catalogues. In the last few years my interests have broadened to include trying to make Internet resources more accessible, at least for students at De Montfort University and developing an awareness of teaching and learning through the EduLib project. This has been one of the influential eLib projects that have helped to shape the response of universities in the UK to the challenges of electronic information. These two come together when thinking of online learning environments, the kind of places where people can experience that connection between other people's ideas and their own search for knowledge. I am also developing the WWW pages of the Leicester local group of Amnesty International.
What inspired you to establish the Brautigan Library?
This came from a suggestion by American poet Jane Reichold and has become part of her AHA!Books www site. The site was looking for interactive features and ways of inviting people to join in as well as just read what was put up. There was already a print journal called Lynx which had established a good dialogue with its readers. I already knew about Richard Brautigan from the American Literature course. His novel The Abortion was interesting for me as it featured a librarian as a central character. It was an interesting idea for a library.
>Who are the clients of the Brautigan Library?
There are readers and contributors. One or two readers send messages, but its the contributors I have most contact with. Some of them are established poets, others the type of people who have put a lot of time and effort into some writing something that might not normally find any readers. They come from all over the world, too.
>Could you please briefly describe the activities involved in establishing and maintaining the Brautigan Library?
The process of setting up the section involved designing the pages which would explain what it was all about and making space for the files that would be sent in. I ask each contributor to describe their own work, this is the nearest I can get to the ability of characters in the Brautigan book to select which shelf they wanted to put their book. At the moment the register is a single file, like an old dictionary catalogue, when it gets larger we may need to design a catalogue interface. Some of the files have had Meta data tags added, as these might be used by a local search engine to provide cataloguing data. Files are often sent in stored in different formats, some of them unfortunately unreadable. HTML files are best. Text files or word processed documents need to be translated into HTML and often automatic HTML generators make poetry look poor by treating all line endings as paragraph breaks, leaving an oddly spaced document. With some files I have used stylesheets to add sympathetic colours and fonts to the documents.
>What do you enjoy most and least about the Brautigan Library?
I enjoy re-reading some of the poems and the prospect of something really brilliant being contributed. I like least the idea of keeping people waiting while I find enough time to prepare their contributions for "publication".
>What skills do you think are most useful for a librarian to have today to hold a position such as yours at De Montfort University and the Brautigan?
A lot of what I am doing takes place in an online environment, and the relationship with online users can be more distant than the face-to-face contact typical of the face to face role. On the other hand I might be making contact with a greater quantity of people and helping to make them self-sufficient as library users. My work is informed by the values of traditional library work; of saving the reader's time, finding the "right book for the right person at the right time". These are key issues when designing electronic resources: how to present material effectively. If there are two kinds of knowledge: Things That You Know, and Things That You Know How To Find Out, then library skills will be sought after in a knowledge-based society.
>What advice would you have for a beginning professional librarian?
Think hard about why you want to be a librarian and look for opportunities that make the most of your motivation.
>Are you aware of the Brautigan Library in Burlington, Vermont, USA?
Yes. I would like to visit it sometime.
>Thanks again for your assistance. It is kind of you to share your knowledge and background.
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