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Leah GiarritanoOctober 1, 2011LIS506LECElectronic Listserv Monitoring AssignmentAudienceFor this assignment I chose to monitor the ISLMANET-L listserv, an electronicdiscussion list co-owned by the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA)and the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative (ECAP) at the University ofIllinois. ISLMANET-L provides a forum for school library media specialists andothers interested in Illinois school library media programs to share ideas, resources,problems and solutions. Based on my observations, this listserv achieves its goal ofuniting those interested in issues relating to the function of school library mediaspecialists in Illinois. This is a heavily utilized listserv that successfully provides itsusers an outlet to bounce ideas off one another, collaborate and brainstorm onimportant issues impacting school libraries and to discuss methods to solveimportant problems faced by libraries across Illinois.LogisticsI subscribed to ISLMANET-L in September 2010. However, due to time constraintsand the overwhelming volume of emails from the listserv, I had not been activelymonitoring communications for the past nine months. This project gave me arenewed sense of focus and interest in the listserv. For the past four weeks I havebeen enthusiastically involved in reading the communications from the ISLMANET-L listserv.
ISLMANET-L is quite intuitive to utilize. Subscribing to the listserv is a simpleprocess that requires registering your email address by sending an email toLISTSERV@LISTSERV.ILLINOIS.EDU with a blank subject line and “SubscribeISLMANET-L” with your first and last name in the body of the email. The rules andprotocols outlined in the introductory email were straightforward and easy tofollow.To my knowledge, there is no digest feature for this particular listserv.Therefore, Ireceive a minimum of 20-30 emails per day from ISLMANET-L, some of which areresponses to previous topics and others ofwhich relate to new andvaried topics. Forthis limited period of four weeks I was able to manage the volume of the emails.However, in general this is an excessive amount of email for me to keep up witheach day from just one listserv. I am able to manage this a bit by focusing on thecommunications that are the most interesting and relevant to me, as identified inthe subject line of the email. While receiving communications in a digest form wouldease the overwhelming volume of emails, it might prove cumbersome when tryingto focus on particular areas of interest, as it would require scrolling through theentire email to glean the most pertinent dialogue.AmbienceThe feel of ISLMANET-L is very down-to-earth, productive and casual. Members arecomfortable turning to one another for help with the simplest to the most complexissues. It is clear that everyone is friendly and eager to help by providing advice,
suggestions and ideas. There is no pretense to the communications; most of themare straightforward. This listserv feels like a group of co-workers all looking out forthe best interests of one another, willing to offer a helping hand whenever needed.From requesting book titles based on descriptions that a student has provided tolooking for technical guidance regarding the use of Seamonkey, no question is toobig or small, and it is rare for one to go unanswered.This is truly a collaborativegroup of professionals guiding and supporting one another based on their sharedpassion for school libraries.ArchivesISLMANET-L has a powerful tool to search archives. Because I haven’t accessed thearchives in the past, I was required to register myself and submit a special passwordspecifically for viewing the archives. Once I received a confirmation email andclicked on the link I was allowed access to search the archives. There are manyoptions when performing an archive search that allow you to really focus in on thetopic of interest, including the following functions (all of which provide ahyperlinked explanation to help perform the most effective search): narrowselection, lists per page, search for string, search for substring, subject contains,author’s address, date parameters, sort by preference and hits per page. Thisdynamic functionality allows for a very specific, tailored search that, in my case,successfully pulled up helpful and accurate results each time I performed a query.For my first search, I was looking for information on banned book week. I typed“banned book week” into the “search for string” option and came up with four
communications on this topic. Curious about school libraries for the youngest ofstudents, I typed “K-2 libraries” into the “subject contains” option and narrowed mysearch further to focus on correspondence over the past month using the dateparameter options. This yielded seven emails from the month of September on K-2libraries. Overall, I found the archive search function very intuitive to use and theresults extremely helpful. I will definitely keep this resource in mind the next time Ihave a specific inquiry into which I need insight.Topic of interest to subscribersThere has been much recent discussion about eReaders on the ISLMANET-L listserv.A librarian posed an initial question about eReaders on Tuesday, September 27. Thislibrarian received a technology grant for her library media center and wanted topurchase eReaders for her K-5 library. She was looking for guidance regardingusage, storage and successful/not so successful experiences. The first response,which came within ten minutes, suggested that licensing could be the most difficultissue with eReaders because the rules keep changing. Each Kindle owned by aschool should be attached to a separate account, which is extremely challenging forschools. However, there can be multiple Nooks attached to a single account, andBarnes & Noble has hinted at an upcoming school management system for Nooks.Other responses echoed thosesame concerns regarding licensing issues and theresultant challenges provided for librarians. Yet another media specialist offeredcongratulations on the grant and directed the original inquirer to a post by BuffyHamilton on The Unquiet Librarian website about the issues she had with Amazon
Kindle Education. There was some additional banter by multiple subscribers aboutthe features of Nooks versus Kindles and what makes one more attractive than theother (larger screens, ease of use, pricing, no visible web browser preventingcontent from getting “accidentally” added). Overall, it was a very fruitful discussionon the topic that,surely, provided the original librarian with helpful insight as sheprepared to purchase her first eReaders.Other aspects of the listserv monitoring experienceIn my opinion, it seems that all users, new and returning, are treated equally andwith respect. Because there are so many subscribers who are only active when theyhave a topic to discuss or want to respond to a thread, I don’t think anyone wouldnotice whether or not there was a new member on this listserv. At this point, Ihaven’t witnessed any flames or issues of miscommunication; everyone seems verycordial and respectful of one another. I volunteered to run the parent-led libraryvolunteer group at my daughters’ small, private Montessori school (Infant-6thgrade). It is undergoing an expansion, and the school directors would like toautomate the library. I was asked to investigate different types of software we coulduse to make the library more user-friendly and accessible. I received six responseswith extremely helpful suggestions and recommendations for specific softwarepackages that I should evaluate. It was an extremely rewarding and fruitful inquiry.
Listserv subscription evaluationAs a GSLIS student, I would definitely continue subscribing to ISLMANET-L. It is afantastic way to make connections with other librarians in Illinois and to staycurrent on important and practical issues surrounding the profession. The onlychallenge is the volume of emails produced from this listserv. However, simplyexamining the subject line of the emails makes it easy to weed out the topics that aremost relevant to me and to get rid of the others that are not. As an LIS professional Iwould continue my subscription to this listserv because it provides an excellentresource for tapping into the thoughts and opinions of colleagues (especially whenone might be the only librarian at a school who needsanother opinion) and learningbest practices around the state. I would recommend ISLMANET-L to anyoneinvolved in the field of school librarianship in the state of Illinois.A great idea discussed on ISLMANET-L was the creation of an after-school librarianclass called “Future Librarians of America” for 5th-8th graders. Similar to a studentadvisory group, students would provide input on book selection, offer book reviews,assist in organizing and repairing books and help to coordinate the school’s bookfair. This idea could spark a lot of interest in the community and foster additionalexcitement about the library for students.