The Huntsville Literary Association archives to be transferred to the Salmon Library on Sunday, October 18

On Sunday, October 18th at 2pm, 49 years of archives of the Huntsville Literary Association will be transferred to Salmon Library. These archives include brochures, photographs, letters, and copies of the literary journal, Poem. These materials document the long history of HLA in this community. The ceremony will take place in the first floor auditorium and the public is invited.

For more information about the Huntsville Literary Association, see: For more information about the UAH Special Collections and Archives, see:

The UAH Salmon Library Special Collections Welcomes the Addition of the Windell Strickland Science Fiction Collection

Last Thursday (May 7), the UAH Salmon Library’s Archives and Special Collections launched a new collection: The Windell Strickland Science Fiction Collection. The Windell SF Collection contains over 2500 paperback books from all throughout the 20th century science fiction genre and represents not only a significant boost to the amount of science fiction that we have at the Salmon Library, but looks at effectively an entire medium of books – the mass-market paperback – that the Salmon Library has not tended to carry.

In something of a plot twist, you *will* be able to check out these books, though through a different method than our standard system. There are books down in the Special Collection display in a special reading nook. You can take a couple of them and sign them out for up to a month. Right now we are trying out the honor system. The entire collection is over 2500 titles, so the few on immediate display are only a small portion. There is a finding guide you can use to request other titles while the archives is open (just ask an archivist). Even if you don’t want to borrow any books, it can be informative to see the genre as represented through several of its key decades.

There are a few titles that are marked as “in reserve” that, due to their age or other reasons, are not being added to the section that can be requested.

The Windell Strickland Collection was donated by his niece, Lisa Strickland, the Assistant to the Vice President, Finance and Administration, at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Windell Strickland was born in Dayton, TN in 1939, and went on to spend 25 years working as an engineer for the TVA. He started collection science fiction in the 1940s. He died on April 22, 2014, in Tuscumbia, AL.

UAH Alumni are invited to attend one of our Workshops designed to show off what the Salmon Library can do for them

I have already written about UAH Alumni having free guest access to the Salmon Library, but I would like to go ahead and do you one better. We will be having a pair of workshops this Summer designed to show our alumni what the Salmon Library can do for them. We will have a short overview of our services, a tour, a discussion of future plans, a chance to meet some of the librarians, time for a Q&A, a couple of door-prizes, and we will even help you to set up your account.*

The time for these events will be about 1 hour, or less, depending on the questions asked and so forth. Things discussed will include library departments, our physical and digital resources, using our catalog to find what you need, using OneSearch, printing/copying/scanning, checking out books, combining our resources with those of the Alabama Virtual Library, and whatever else you are curious about.

We have two workshops currently planned:

  • On June 26, a Thursday, an evening workshop from 5:30pm to 6:30pm.
  • On July 7, a Monday, a lunchtime workshop from 11:30am to 12:30pm.**

You can attend whichever works for you. If neither work for you, but you are interested, then let me know at, and we may be able to hold additional workshops in the future. You can also email me if you have any questions. We will need a rough headcount to let Campus police know about parking on those days, so letting us know ahead of time will be helpful. You can confirm attendance with

Of course, you do not have to attend to take advantage of the free guest access, this is simply a way for us to show off a few of our services and resources to you, and will help you to get a bigger picture of what you can accomplish with the access.

Afterwards, there will be a short video made of the presentation for those who would like a copy. Keep an eye on this blog for that.

For those who need directions, you can see them at

* Note: Those setting up the account during the Workshop need to bring their Alumni Association Card and a Photo ID.
** The original date for the midday event has been changed, the new date is July 7. Just in case you saw an earlier version of this post.

A brief tour of our “new” website layout

I was going to start this with the phrase “We have updated our website…” but I suppose I should be honest and say that I have tweaked the layout, so if you have any comments/suggestions/complaints, keep this email address in mind: Now, with introductions out of the way, let’s take a look at the way the website looks now:

The May Layout of the UAH Salmon Library Website

The current appearance of

The big changes are pretty not-big, mind you, and are more about bringing certain types of information into easier, more-apparent, grasp.

OneSearch, which enables you to jump right into searching for the books and articles and ebooks and primary source documents and all the similar that you need, is now located in the middle of the page. That box might change appearance a bit in the upcoming weeks, but it should stay there. Over on the right, where OneSearch was, the daily hours now shows up. If you want to see more of the hours (for the week or upcoming month or the current semester), click the “see full library calendar>>” link.

There is also a new Library Events feed on the right. This will help keep you informed of planned events, class sessions, important news, and such for the library.

The social media links, and the direction/contact links, that were on the right, are now centered on the page. Social media sites are now sorted by actual interactive use (in which Twitter and then the Blog tend to outperform Facebook, at least for now). This is, of course, subject to change since social media is mercurial.

The buttons directly below the slide show will be tweaked to include a couple of more functions. They are a popular way to access our resources, so care will be taken to not disrupt too much.

Now, this is all in anticipation of the big change (see, it’s in bold, it must be big) coming to the campus-wide website this Fall. I am trying to get a few things prepared so that change will be a delight rather than a “Where’s the links I know and love?!” hindrance [NB: The interrobang is fascinating]. This is partially why we are getting some of the sections more thematically organized with an emphasis on persistent content into the center section and feeds/active-content on the right. The menu will likely stay 99% the same, though after the change it might be a tad different (hopefully in a reasonable way).

If you haven’t visited the website in awhile, I invite you to give it a shot.

Sneak preview at the library!

Would you like to potentially meet your next Reference Librarian?

The UAH Library is currently interviewing candidates for a new Reference Librarian.  We have two applicants scheduled to visit the UAH library on March 20 & 21, and they will each teach a short library presentation.

We would welcome the input from any faculty, staff, or students who are available 9-10 AM on either March 20 and/or March 21.

If you are interested, please join us in the library in the FRC room in North-2 (the Faculty Resource Center, at the far end of the 2nd floor), at 9 AM this Thursday/Friday.

Why We Weed: A quickish look at librarians’ seemingly most un-librarian task

If you were to stack up the things librarians do, most of them would seem very library-like in what you might call the stereotypical manner: checking out patrons, ordering books, cataloging, helping with research, organizing shelves, maintaining subscriptions, designing library instruction, hosting programs, and so forth. Depending on the size of the library, the type, and so forth, a handful of librarians might do all of those things or each task may have its own team who specializes in it.

One task that often strikes people as weird, those who even know about it, is weeding. This is when a librarian chooses which books to remove from the collection. To some, it seems counter-intuitive: librarians are meant to stockpile knowledge, to archive information, to protect the old documents. And we do those things. Or, more accuratley, those things reflect a portion of what we do. Weeding actually helps to enhance these tasks. That’s why I am going to show you a quick glance into why we do it and how.

Take a look at this Venn Diagram (more for terminology, and not to scale of any of its parts):

Considerations that go into books being kept vs weeded

As you look at those broad qualities – Useful Books, Well-Used Books, Books Otherwise Considered – I want you to take note of something the eye might have missed. There are well-used books that may not be useful, there are useful books that may not be well-used, and there are books worthy various considerations that might not be useful or well-used, but, for now, pay attention to the diagram above and notice that there are books that are not useful, not well-used, and not otherwise unique; and sometimes these books take up room on the shelves next to books that are much more fitting as resources.

And that is, very quickly, why we weed. By weeding down the books we have, we make room to order new books, we guarantee the quality of our materials, we help to provide more precise searches – you do not get 100 results where 40 of them are out of date – and it also helps with focusing the mission of the library and to address the many ways the many fields of research on our campus are constantly changing and growing and adapting to more factors than could be easily listed in a blog post of this size. It also helps to find the damaged books [covers torn or pages missing] or otherwise soiled books [it happens]. This helps to cut down on the time we might waste moving these books around, or cleaning/repairing them, or how much time is taken to organize them or to make room around them.

It, of course, is not quite that simple. Rarely is a book completely unique to our collection, completely unused, completely without merit, and so forth [though you might be surprised at how poorly some books weather a decade or two of changes in a field]. So, with the caveat that every librarian has his or her own way of handling the issue [and every type of library has its own general methodologies], something that I use kind of looks like this [with apologies to the Drake Equation]

k = 2(U*Q*R)/O*P

Where K = a book’s keepability, U = how often the book is used, Q = the quality/importance of the book, R= rarity/special considerations, O = other books on the same topic [especially those of higher quality like later editions], and P = physical defects of the book.

The more used, the higher quality, and the more unique the book, the more likely I will keep  it while the more “better” books there are out there and the more physical defects, the less likely I am to keep it. However, due to issues like budgets and with actual use by people trained in the field [professors and students actually using the book] being a better indicator than a review or two posted online, I tend to weigh the top half more than the bottom. I say “twice as weighted” in the equation, but really it is not so easy to sum up. It is always a process of consideration, and multiple factors play into it.

Before I finish, let’s take a quick look at two things that weeding is not.

First off, weeding is not censorship. It could definitely be used for such, but around here the process is used to clean out old books with out of date information that is not being used by our patrons [or is being used by our patrons when we could be identifying and providing more up-to-date information]. As an academic library, we are primarily concerned with staying in line with the needs of the campus, and some of our collection does not fit that. It might have ten or twenty years ago, but two decades is five or so wholly new classes of students, and we have to respect that. We have no interest in keeping certain viewpoints from students’ or professor’s or researcher’s eyes, we are more concerned with the statistics being forty years out of date than espousing a particular worldview. The second part of ALA’s Code of Ethics reads

We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources,

and we respect and uphold that.

Secondly, weeding is never a faultless panacea. With collections of any size, you have to rely on certain bits of data to generate a list for focus, from which a librarian goes through a number of books [generally related to the librarian’s field of focus] and uses various judgments and considerations, but in every case books tend to be seen in a collective. One stack of books on a topic might have a higher density than books in another stack, and having a dozen choices to weed versus two or three can sometimes lead to books that would not have survived one stack being kept in another. And sometimes there are overlooked elements that might have kept a book if the librarian had time to go page by page or do a complete review of all the literature about the book. That sort of thing. There is also the very real possibility that books may be being used by a number of people, but then placed on the shelf with no record of the use. Believe it or not, this is one of the reasons why we request people not reshelve their own books, it allows us to at least glance what they are taking down from the shelves [the obvious other reason being that if people shelve them wrong, it becomes a disaster fairly quickly]. In the end, the weeding process is only as good as time and data allows, but here at the Salmon Library, we try to use as much of both as possible.

For those curious about the topic and would like to read more, here are some links:

Awful Library Books, whose post, there, has the same rough title as mine [by coincidence of alliteration, I presume], is a great resource to see sort of the semi-humorous side of the weeding process. They show a number of books that have survived being weeded for years, and then discuss why those books should have been long gone. Their discussion brings up many good points. In general, think of their tagline: “hoarding isn’t collection development”. It’s good advice.

Any topics about libraries or this library in particular you would like to see? I’ll do best to show some more information from behind the scenes and why we do some of thing we do.

Behind the Scenes with Chat Reference (aka, LibChat)

If you pay attention to our front page, then you probably have noticed our chat reference button. If not, here is a subtle hint:

UAH Salmon Library, Front Page
A subtle hint about where to find our chat reference

It is also located in a number of other places, such as our LibAnswers page and some of our databases/online resources. It either looks like above, or something more like the live chat picture, here.

The reason for this blog post, though, isn’t just to point out that we have chat [that’s a bonus!] but to show you some of the behind the scenes with our chat service. Digital reference can feel a bit cold and detached because you miss a lot of the nuances with human interaction. This is a little bit of a way for us to show what we see, and for you to “meet” us, so you can feel more relaxed the next time you chat with us. I promise, we don’t bite, and will work with your reference/information requests to help you out and even if we cannot give you an immediate answer, we strive to get you started down the right path.

Here are five behind the scene facts for our chat reference. As a bit of a bonus fact, we use LibChat, which is provided by SpringShare. This enables us to attach it to our LibGuides account in some useful ways.

1. LibChat wasn’t our first attempt at Chat Reference.

Before LibChat, we tried out a few other resources. We had a Google Talk widget to begin with, unfortunately this was just a few weeks before Google’s Talk widgets were put to pasture. Then we tried a few resources that forwarded chats to XMPP clients (like Pidgin). One of these resources was, which seems defunct now. Again, about the time we started using it was about the time it went away.

We were successful with Meebo for awhile, and that represented the time that our chat service were starting to expand. However, in what is starting to sound like a broken record, Meebo was bought out by Google and subsequently shutdown.

Ah, Google.

2. The current chat team is Doug and Michael.

Behind the Chat, Doug BoldenBehind the Chat, Michael Manasco


By the way, you know who you are chatting with because it will show our name.

3. What our screen looks like.

This is what our side of the chat looks like. Be careful if you a heart condition, these are very exciting images. By the way, eagle eyed readers might notice that one of these is staged. *wink* [the other one is an actual screenshot, though]

Chat, Behind the Scenes

In case it is not immediately obvious from those pictures, but we can see the people we are chatting with, chats in queue to be launched, and the other librarians who are currently online, as well as get notifications for a a number of LibAnswers events.

4. We have an anonymous mode available for chatting.

A number of students, faculty, and visitors like to use their first name while chatting, but there are several who like to chat anonymously. That is perfectly fine with us. We see you as guest.

Even if you chat with us anonymously, though, we get some basic metrics: IP Address, operating system, browser. These help us to respond to certain issues [by seeing if someone is on campus, by seeing if it might be a browser-related issue, etc]. Here’s what information we can see:

If you chat with us and want us to delete the transcript, you can send us an email at and specify the chat. We keep metrics for it, but we can definitely remove the text. We also do not share your chat with anyone, for any reason, without your express permission.

5. We have a series of metrics that helps but tailor your chat experience.

When we close a chat down, we have a number of metrics that we keep. This information helps to tailor the reference experience over time.

Metrics we store after chat

If you are curious, you can read more about the READ scale. It gives a value, from 1 to 6, to represent the intensity of the chat reference. A 1 is for things that are basic information. A 3 might mean a walk through the catalog. A 5 means helping a graduate student with developing a research strategy, and so on.

Bonus: Here are some statistics about how people use our chat reference.

All of these facts are compiled from last semester and are here to give you an idea about how people are using the service.

A. The busiest day of the week is Monday, and the least busy is Friday. The other days are all about equal. (click for larger version)

Chat Frequency by Day of the Week

B. Most chats are fairly short, though they can get quite long. About 75% of our chats are between 1 and 10 minutes long. The next most popular (about 16%) are between 10-20. Very few are more than 20 minutes. (click for larger version)

Chat Length

C. Most of our chats are reference/research chats. Our most common type of chat is for reference/research purposes [chats in which people ask about looking up resources or how to find information/research]. These make up a large enough swath that we get as many of them as the other two types combined. The second most popular type is “informational”, which are often questions about hours, or for a phone number, or to find out which department to contact. The third type, “instructional”, are for chats that we help people work through [non-research] steps. Helping people to login to resources or to use some tool. (click for larger)

Chats by Type

Well, maybe this wasn’t super glamorous, but hopefully that helped to get an idea of some of what we see and how we handle it.

Have any other library features you would like to see more information about? Just let me know at and I can open up the doors a little bit.