Finding the Unfindable

I have a new obsession. Yes, it is library-related. It happened a few weeks ago when I was reading a book at work. I noticed a citation for a conference poster and it got me thinking about the materials that aren’t readily available. I traced the poster back and then read up on searching for conference proceedings. It was then that my new love appeared.

Grey literature.

What is grey literature? According to the ICGL Luxembourg definition and Wiki:

Information produced on all levels of government, academia, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing i.e., where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body. –ICGL

Gray literature…refers to informally published written material (such as reports) that may be difficult to trace via conventional channels such as published journals and monographs because it is not published commercially or is not widely accessible –Wiki

This includes materials such as reports, clinical trials, conference proceedings, posters/slide presentations, reviews, social network data and preprints. The list really does go on though…



So why is grey/gray literature important? As an academic health science librarian, my patron base tends to be on the up-and-up when it comes to information literacy. Years of medical school, nursing school, and the hard sciences have honed their search abilities and the questions they come to me with are the questions they have already tried to answer. Simply searching Google or Pubmed doesn’t help, since they have already tried both (plus a few others) before coming to the library. Most of the researchers who visit the reference desk need to find a single piece of elusive data or a conference paper about a rare disease that was presented at a conference in India, in 1984.

This is where knowledge of the “grey areas” really helps. Knowing what databases are available to you can reduce the number of searches you perform, which will ultimately save you time.

The more I read about grey literature, the greater my obsession with it grew. Soon it was boiling over and I needed to create something that would allow me to organize all of the knowledge I had recently acquired. I decided to create a LibGuide about Grey Literature in the Health Sciences. It hasn’t been as popular as my other LibGuides, but it is in its infancy. I’m going to be adding more pages about searching for visual material (posters, images, videos, etc..), but I am learning about this as I go. I have even convinced my library school team to do a “review of methods” and literature review based on the question, “How has the Internet and open access publishing affect grey literature?”

So exciting!


The “spectrum” of research.


50+ Articles Every Librarian Should Read

A few days ago I was putzing around on r/Librarians and I came upon the following:

“Just wondering if anyone knows of any books / articles / websites that are essential, or at least very useful, for anyone who wants to know the field?”

I went about my day helping patrons, attending meetings and working on promotional materials and yet all the while I was thinking about what I had read regarding librarianship. Throughout the day I spoke with my coworkers, asking them what they had read while pursuing their MLS/MLIS and even what they would recommend to me as an aspiring librarian. After collecting a fairly extensive list from coworkers, other blog posts and my own experiences I decided to post the collection I put together*.

  • Anderson, Rick. (2011). The Crisis in Research Librarianship. The Journal of Academic Librarianship. doi:10.1016/jacalib.2011.04.001Are Librarians Still Important? | (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2013, from
  • Willen-Brown, Stephanie. (2008). The Reference Interview: Theories and Practice, Stephanie Willen Brown. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. University Website. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from

*Pardon the APA formatting, I will come back and clean these up as I have time. Also, please let me know is any of the links don’t work so I can fix them.

A link to the Zotero Collection: 50+ Articles Every Librarian Should Read
Join the “Librarian Must-Reads Zotero Group!

Libraries change lives for the better.

Patrons consistently ask me if I think libraries are doomed. The most common question is, “With the economy the way it is, will the library close?”

The first time this question was posed to me, I went home and did a little digging. I found that a lot of libraries are in trouble and many more are facing closure each day. Budget cuts are the main reason many of the libraries have been closed, which means that it is less about the future of libraries and more about the future of the cities they provide services to. When a city closes its libraries due to budget cuts, librarians can do little to save their jobs. Without community action to save their precious stacks, libraries are often forced to close their doors forever. After reading several studies regarding the reasons that public libraries close, I found myself wondering what we might actually be able to do to save libraries.

In tough economic times, libraries have always done well.  Outside of free books, the library offers services that many people would otherwise not have access to, due to financial constraints. The majority of public libraries have public access computers, which are hooked up to printers (which you can use for a nominal fee). Many offer audio and visual media that would be too expensive for individuals to purchase for themselves. In the summer, the library provides a welcome respite from the scorching temperatures, especially for those who do not have access to air-conditioning in their homes. With many school libraries closed for summer break, students more often than not turn to their local public library for reading material. The library also provides free programming for families and children. One of the arguments I have heard against library programming is that it isn’t necessary. I would like to tell those pushing that agenda that library programming is extremely important. Libraries offer programs that serve the needs of their community and their patrons. Financial planning workshops, forums for individuals to showcase creativity, life skills seminars and multicultural events are often held at libraries because they can use the space for free. I can not count how many times I have helped individuals perform a job search, type a resume or create a poster to advertise their services. The assistance I provided them was invaluable to them and all it cost them was the paper.

Another argument I have heard thrown around is that librarians are becoming obsolete. When I was working at a university library (specifically a journalism library), I had students (and professors) contact me to ask about resources, publishing information and general library services on a daily basis. Many of the students, even the most intelligent ones, were unable to look-up information on their own because they had never been taught. With the advent of the Internet, many swore it was the end of the librarian. Who needs someone to look up information for them when they have the all-powerful Internet?! The answer, the vast majority. Professors were too busy to do searches themselves and students did not understand how to tell the difference between a scholarly resource and a Wikipedia article. The technology that the university was able to afford, was often difficult to navigate and required the assistance of a librarian/library staff member. Even the stacks were often overwhelming for the students who ventured down to them. Most had not even heard of LCC or learned how it was organized until they came to the library. When they finally found the materials they were looking for, they couldn’t figure out which books would actually be useful for their projects. This was often when we would step in, offering advice and helping them choose the proper materials.

Even though municipalities often deem libraries unimportant, they are doing more than just a disservice to the people that are entrusted to them. By taking away access to educational tools and making it more difficult for individuals to discover a passion for literature, they are severely stunting future generations.  When parents are no longer able to instill a love of reading in their children because of factors imposed on them by their government, (i.e., distance to a public library, lack of funding for libraries, hours that are at odds with patrons work, etc..) their children suffer. When local governments make the act of acquiring knowledge impossible or even more difficult, it becomes less of a priority for their citizens altogether. Not only does this cause a problem for these people as individuals, but the country as a whole suffers.

I would love to end this post by telling everyone that it will be alright. That everything will be just fine. However, with the recent news of Toronto’s library closures and the continuing lack of support for library funding, I can not find it in me to say that everything is going to be O.K. Without the support of their patrons and without new generations developing a passion for reading, libraries will be doomed to a slow death. I can only hope that people will continue to fight for access to libraries, the way libraries have fought to keep knowledge accessible to the public. My one wish is for libraries to remain as important to future generations as it has been to past ones. I think author Sidney Sheldon really summed up what libraries mean for our society when he said, “Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.”

I hope that, in some small way, I make life better for my patrons.

>Interesting Studies I Have Stumbled Upon

>When I have some downtime, I like to read library/literacy related studies/articles (because I am a massive nerd). Some of the latest studies that I have come across I figured I would share!

1. College students’ use of Kindle DX points to e-reader’s role in academia

A study of how University of Washington graduate students integrated an Amazon Kindle DX into their course reading provides the first long-term investigation of e-readers in higher education. While some of the study’s findings were expected – students want improved support for taking notes, checking references and viewing figures – the authors also found that allowing people to switch between reading styles, and providing the reader with physical cues, are two challenges that e-readers will need to address in cracking the college market.

2. How Reading Improves Your Social Life

…a study[*] suggesting that fiction readers tend to be more empathic than non-fiction readers. This could of course be correlation rather than causation — maybe the kind of person who likes fiction is more empathic to start with — but the researchers think not.

*I can not seem to find this study, so if anyone actually finds an active link, let me know!

3. 21 Things that Will Disappear from Education in the Next 10 Years

While libraries as a whole are not schools, they are directly related to the education field and academic libraries are of course impacted even more. As a librarian at a two-year college, we are being asked right now to create our vision for the next ten years and then to extend that to what we believe the college classroom will look like in ten years.

4. Red letter day for Darwin Correspondence Project

The project mapping Charles Darwin’s life and work in the 15,000 letters he wrote or received during his extraordinary lifetime will be completed after a £5 million funding package was announced. The awards, announced by Cambridge University Library and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), will ensure the full completion of the definitive, award-winning edition of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.

5. Petition against HarperCollins ebook/library policy garners 53,786 signatures

Ok, so 5 isn’t really an article, but more of a HUGE PAT ON THE BACK TO LIBRARIANS EVERYWHERE!! Libraries totally made their voices heard by boycotting HarperCollins over the eBook scandal of 2011. Go libraries!