Technology and our New Central Library

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but my library system is slated to be getting a new main central library. Right now everything is in the planning stages, we don’t even know where it will be. But everyone is very interested in what will go into the new library. A couple of years back one of our branch libraries got a new building. The community input for that was great but minimal. We’ve held several public meetings and they were well attended. In the last couple of months the question of what kind technology should be included in the new library. Word has filtered back, via the commissioners, to the library that some people are wondering why we need to build a new building. After all do people really use the library anymore? If we build a new one we should just stuff it full of computers, that’s why people use the library if they do use the library, right?

For some weird reason I am always surprised when I hear people actually think like this. I mean really? For all libraries, academic to public to special, they all seem to have at least one thing in common. Letting people know what they do and how valuable they are to their community. I find it that every time our new building comes up in conversation, what the library does comes up as well.

About a month ago my director asked one of my old professors from library school, Dr. Anthony Chow, to come to our library and do a presentation about libraries and future technology. It was a great presentation, it was well received among those who were in attendance. Our deputy county manager asked some great questions and was really engaged.

This presentation led to a committee being created of local members of our city chambers. The point of the committee I am told is to give us and the commissioners recommendation on what technology should be included in the new central. This past Monday we met with them to do a presentation on where the library was now. I presented on our virtual library, which isn’t exactly part of the technology but is just as important.

We kind of went into the meeting trying to prove that as a library unit we are actively aware of current technology and all. Not that we don’t welcome community opinion, because we do. But at the end of the day like every other library it comes down to funding. Sure we would love to provided both pc and mac computers but those trusty dells are so much cheaper to obtain and maintain.

I think we got our point across but I will be interested to see what the committee comes up with. We will not meet with them again while they come up with recommendations. Truthfully after our presentation the conversation became more about partnering with these community companies as suppose to what technology was in the library or needed.

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Cross Training

Yesterday I attended an orientation for our Popular Library, this orientation brings about the end of a number of orientation sessions I’ve attended this past month. A while back our associate director felt the need for all the staff that service a public desk should be cross trained at each service desk in the main library. Afterwards each staff member would be charged with serving an hour twice a month to a different department, to be carried out throughout the year. The goal of this cross training is to encourage teamwork and camaraderie among all the different departments in the main library, for which there is five public desks total. At first I will not lie I was apprehensive of this plan and how it would all work out. Not because I didn’t care for the other departments, I’m all for getting experience in different places to break up the monotonous that comes with an office job. But I was already stressed out about Money Smart Week I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I have truly enjoyed each orientation for each department. Even though I work here and lived in the town all my life, it’s amazing what sort of information is stored in this building. If you live in a place that has a multiple library system, I so urge you to check out the main library often. We are really the heart of the system and we have resources that our branches don’t.

I’m still quite nervous about serving on these desks, because I’m still getting to know my department. Thankfully I’m not exhibiting “the deer caught in headlights” look anymore when someone asks about non-profit help or investments. Although I suspect that look might come back when I’m down in the NC Room and someone wants help reconstructing a local event from 1874.

Sorry for the Inconvenience

Today while on the service desk I had a phone call transferred from circulation. It was a guy who had returned a book but had received a letter stating that he still had the book checked out. He was adamant that he had returned the book and had searched both his home and car to avail. I placed him on hold and then search the whole section and our recently returned shelves. I couldn’t find the book and our page had no recollection of seeing the book recently. Going back to the guy I asked him when he would have returned the book and if it was at this location. He said sometime earlier this month and yes to this location. I told him I would do a claims return and that would take it off his record as being delinquent. He seemed okay with this and understood that it was a onetime deal. But then he went on to ask how he could assure this would never happen again, because it had never happen at his other library.

At this point I was kind of taken back because he also said he took full advantage of the library and supported it. I felt that these two statements didn’t match, usually when this kind of thing happens and the person is a big supporter of the library they usually understand that these things happened and are grateful to be given the benefit of the doubt as well as giving us the benefit of the doubt. Throughout the whole conversation he was very dismissive towards me even though I was trying to help him. Just as easy as I gave him the benefit of the doubt I could have told him he would have to look for the book some more and there was nothing I could do about it. But in the end I knew it was more important to continue an open relationship with this costumer than have him be an delinquent for one book and stop using the library all together.

I assured him that it wasn’t anything personal; it was not as if he was singled out and chosen to be bullied, and that human and computer error happens in all businesses. I couldn’t tell him what went wrong as the book could show up mysteriously under his bed in a day or two. Or it could miraculously show up on a book truck in a month. These things happen, not just at this library but at them all. It might not have happen to him but I’m positive that it happened to another person. We get a lot of books checked in and out every day all day, so we might miss a few. He didn’t really seem to care so I said he could always come in and return his books and watch as they discharge before he left. He thanked me for taking care of it and I said sorry for the inconvenience.

I hope the book shows up and I hope he doesn’t get caught in this situation. I also hope that if you happened to be reading this entry and aren’t in the library system please know that we would rather have the book than have an upset customer. That’s not how we prefer to make money; we would just like to have the books for others, nothing personal.

You should write a book

Every time I talk to other people about my job it’s usually very predictable. They ask me what I do; I tell them I’m a reference librarian at the main library downtown. Their eyes glaze over some and they say “Oh that’s nice.” Half of them change the subject and the other half continue on with, “So what exactly do you do? You aren’t one of those shushing librarians are you?” It is at this point I kind of list my head off to the side and go, “Well I—“ I find it hard to tell someone what I do when what I do day-to-day changes. But usually I sum it up with “I help people find information.” This is truly the bulk of my job. Often times I get the “You must like to read…” line or the “I haven’t been in a library in a long time…” line.

The last one is often followed with, “Do people even read books anymore? I didn’t think people still used the library like that.” I always try to not roll my eyes at these statements; it’s really hard to restrain myself sometimes. Instead I tell them about some crazy thing that happened at work either that day or week. I’m rarely at a lost for a crazy library story. In fact no matter what library I happened to be working at I’m rarely at a lost for a crazy library story. It just seems to me that anyone who says libraries are quiet and serious has never really worked in one. We see and hear some of the weirdest stuff.

Lately when talking to new people about my job the conversation usually ends with “Wow you should write a book!”

But I guess the purpose of this blog is supposed to take the place of writing a book. I think there are some really great books out there written from the librarian point of view and some great ones to come. Maybe one day I’ll actually write a book about being a librarian. I feel there’s so much I have yet to experience in my career. I never really felt like I’ve found my voice with these posts. I try to be professional and give the facts with little spurts of fun things. I don’t think it would hurt to relay some of the crazy library stories on here.

*The random photo at the beginning of this post was taken by me looking out the window in my office on a foggy morning.

Dealing with Theft

This morning I came into work as usual expecting it to be a rather uneventful day. Said good morning to fellow coworkers as I struggled with my purse, a bag of library books I was returning, and a bag of cookies and water that were for the Open Mike Poetry Night event slated for today. Nothing was out of the ordinary for a normal Tuesday. That is until my supervisor came in and I asked her how last night went. Her response, “It was weird…but I don’t remember why it was weird.” We laughed and I went on opening up the department. I was in the middle of logging on to one of the staff computers when she exclaimed from behind the partition, “Now I remember!”  I quickly, well semi-quickly, rounded the partition to see my cubbie box filled with book covers. Our page had found four books in my area of maintenance that did not fit the covers they were encased in. Someone had removed the covers and placed them on different books and put them back in their place, then stole the original books. My supervisor went to see if more could be found and she was able to find one more before she got sick with sadness and anger at the solid evidence of theft. They were beautiful art books from some of the great artists. In fact my heart broke has I held the empty covers in my hand.

 Why? Why would someone be so selfish? We both had an inkling of who the perpetrator could be. One of our security guards had caught a person about a week or two ago attempting to steal an art book. They had stripped it off all the library markings and taken off the cover but had in fact left the target. When they tried to pass through the security gate it went off alerting the person on the desk. They were able to stash the book behind a planter and exit the building but unbeknown to them our security guard was watching the whole time. When they came back in they were escorted off the premise and banned for two weeks. That weekend our page found the cover wrapped around a different book.

 There’s no way to prove that they are responsible for the books last night or the books that were found this morning, for a total of nine books. We believe they were taken to be sold, as a local book seller did get a copy of one of the books we are missing last week. But they did not see any of our markings in the book so they believe it’s not the same book. However they didn’t look for evidence of targets taken out or stickers removed. So that lead might be investigated farther. My supervisor believes we should go to these shops and check for ourselves. We could possible replace some of them as they aren’t that expensive but with a tight public library budget that might take some time. Theft is a major problem in public libraries, in libraries in general. A colleague who works at an academic library in a neighboring city told me that they too had experienced a series of thefts in the last months. From the Friends of the Library, these books retail for nearly $100, so a $25 FOL membership is nothing.

 I’ve never understood how someone could think it would be okay to still from a library, a public library at that. It’s part of your community it’s not your personal picking grounds to supplement your own private library. And it’s most definitely not the place to supplement your income by selling off the things you stole from it. Libraries are at a lost for dealing with theft. When theft happens in the commercial world they can pass the lost on to the consumer in the form of higher prices. But who can we pass the buck to? Although it’s not as if our customers aren’t hurt by theft of items, not just those who would have checked out the stolen items but the people who would have checked out the items that we would have bought if we didn’t have to spend it on the replacement of stolen items. What about the money we spend on security to protect the collection…that money could be spent on beefing up the collection.

 It’s just so upsetting to see this selfish act and know that there’s nothing I can really do. It isn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with the discovery of theft in the library and it won’t be the last, but I’m still left with the question…why?

PLA 2012: The Future of Libraries

This post was suppose to go out last week…oops!

 The last session I was able to catch was on the Future of Libraries. I’ve been actively interested in this topic since I started and completed my independent study with Dr. Chow on Library Space Design. The idea being looking at how the libraries role is changing and how is that affecting the design in library spaces. In theory you would think that library design wouldn’t be exempt from other design trends. That as the architectural trends drift to one way so would library space design. But interestingly enough some people believe that libraries should be exempt. That libraries are made to be stuck in one design mold;  classical, ornate, and well…stuffy. Although I should hasten to say this is just one camp, for there is another camp that is whole heartedly thinking libraries should be forward thinking in design, ultra sleek and ultra modern. There’s also people who have a love for both types of design trends, I’m one of those people.

I think what’s important is that how people react to library designs speaks volume to how people see the library. If you are part of my community then you may or may not know that we recently passed a bond to have our main library rebuilt (or renovate) as well as two branches. In the last few months we have held three community meetings to have public give their thoughts on what it should look like and what should be included.  It’s been interesting to see what people are saying they want in a new library. Now as a staff member I have my own ideas about what the new library should be like.

This session was fun, because it allowed me to see a number of libraries that had recently been built on the west coast. What I noticed was a lean towards ultra modern and ultra sleek designs. They were straight lines, heavy on the glass and large open areas with focus on open design plans and small intimate spaces on the sides and corners. If there was a curve in the space it was usually a focus design feature usually relegated to the atrium of the library. And almost every single design had an atrium. It was interesting at the end they concluded with a slide that said libraries were moving away from the classical design, with a picture I’m more than positive was a shot of an interior in an academic library and moving towards the future, an image of an all glass and steel public library.

I think the architects would have a hard time convincing people in my community to go for an ultra modern main library. I think we could get away with a branch that was all glass and steel. but the main library not so much. I’ve worked in a newly built open space library before, and I don’t mind saying I have mixed feelings about it. Yes it was new and shiny and it felt good to come into a building that was nice and clean. It lifted your spirit, made you feel happy. The stacks were low so you could see almost everywhere in the building, and a lot of books had weeded and sent to other locations so the shelves were easy to keep up.

But on the flip side those large windows let in the sun and the heat. It was very hard to control the temperature in the building. And if it was an overcast day, it was very hard to see in the building. Noise was a problem as it carried easily. Like I said earlier a lot of weeding was done and books were sent to other places, and there was a point to only keep new or good-looking books on the shelves as this conveyed better. I felt that the customers where being cheated. Were they impressed when they walked in the door and saw how open and bright it was? Yes. Did that feeling diminished when they couldn’t read their computer screens or were told that they would have to wait a day or two before they could get their hands on that one book they came out to get? Yes.

My first major in undergrad was Interior Architecture and one of the first things we learned is that form follows function. The space should function. Did they really speak to that in this session? No. What they did speak to was thinking of terms of how do we bring the customer back over and over. Epic spaces and something for everyone. Encouraging discovery and enabling staff to cope with growth. There was a lot of talk on the form aspect of library design. Which is always fun. Pretty libraries are always a joy to look at. But the talk on function I felt was a little light. But I’m finding that’s might be easier said then done because no one can say what function the library of the future will have and these buildings have to last for some time.

PLA 2012: Program Palooza

This week my library paid for those who wanted to attend the PLA (Public Library Association) Virtual Conference that was going on simultaneous as the physical PLA. We had it set up in our boardroom so we could come and go as our schedule allowed. I wasn’t able to catch any of the first day’s broadcasts but I was able to catch two on the last day. The first and last one, which were the ones I was most excited about.

Program Palooza

I have to say the main reason why I wanted to go to this session was because it had the word “Palooza” in it…it’s just a fun word. And this session was indeed a palooza of programs. They covered 60 different kinds of programs in 60 minutes. I’m just now dipping my toes in the programming world, with Money Smart and the Ask-A-Lawyer day I help organize in February, but I’m finding that I’m actually enjoying making contacts and having people come in and share their expertise. My supervisor has expressed that she feels we do better jobs as Reference Librarians at the service desk and truthfully I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think the service desk is valuable don’t get me wrong. But I’m starting to see that programs and events are becoming the public libraries little niche, and it’s something sorely needed in a lot of communities.

Some of the key points that I took away from this session was opening the way so that everyone could be involved in program planning; not just the librarians or directors, but the paraprofessionals and the volunteers. The library that presented the program believed that anyone can have a passion for a topic and they should be allowed to suggest a program and help bring it about. They then broke down into categories;

Signature Events

Events that happen on a regular basis, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. Something that your costumer base could always depend on. For example their customers could expect a big event around the Dia de los ninos, Dia de los Libros celebration. I think this is a great idea, because every time you go to organize it, it will become easier and easier to pull it all together. However, I can see a downside to it, especially with public libraries who either have people moving on a constant rate and sometimes the positions aren’t filled OR people who stick around forever and get stuck in tradition. Both of these things can have a big impact on programming. Signature events have to be flexible because interest are always changing but you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel every year.

Family/Intergenerational

These programs surround the idea of bringing different age groups together. Some examples where Stroller Shimmy and Sweat for New Moms. Dog Day Fashion Show and Parade, who wouldn’t want to dress up their dogs and parade them around? Family Game Day and Mother or Grandparent Day Tea. The point is not always thinking of programs in age brackets, meaning only the youth librarians can give a program dealing with children. Sometimes programs would be enjoyed by more than one age group, for example video gaming events . More and more games are being targeted to families, so a video game tournament could be enjoyed by someone who is 8 and someone who is 28.

Out of School Time

Programs specifically aiming at topics to help kids bridge that gap of time after school and before they go home or weekend activities. They don’t all have to have an immediate lesson behind them, like Cursive Club to help kids learn how to write in cursive, they can be just pure entertainment, like Lego Club.

Passive Programs

I really enjoyed this section as I never thought about how some of these activities are programs that need little effort on the librarian part. The passive programs were programs that worked in getting the costumers involved on a project that didn’t require them to come to the library at a specific time or date. Holiday Mail for Military Heroes, having the community write letters and greeting cards for military families and dropping them off at the library, who then dropped them off at organizations who delivered them. You can set up signs and notices during the month of November and December and just allow people to drop off letters at their leisure. No commitment and it cost you the amount of signage. Spot the library mascot…get a library mascot, take pictures of it in different parts of the library, and post them. Makes the kids want to come in a find the mascot and get a sticker or something. Nothing big but it’s a fun way to let the kids explore the library, help them bridge the gap between the children section and their parents browsing time.

I really enjoyed this session and it gave me some ideas of things I would like to do or even help collaborate with others. I have no intention becoming the programming queen but I do think with the idea of a new main library being built we need to up our gambit on why people should come to the library over and over. I’m okay with the idea of programs getting them into the building, because the programs gives us a chance to show off all the great resources we have…for FREE.

March 2012

Money Smart Month

Back in January I mentioned that I was working on a program called Money Smart Week. Since November I’ve been steadily working towards coming up with programs and presenters for the week of 21-28th in April. In January I presented the concept to the Adult Services Committee and got a good response on people interested in hosting something at the library. It’s been nonstop work on scheduling and creating programs and being the middle person between contacts to get to this point. But I’m glad to say we have 22 programs schedule throughout the month of April dealing with financial literacy.

I don’t mind saying that I’m mentally and physically tired. Last week I finished up the system wide program schedule as well as the poster and postcards for my library specific programs and had them approved and sent to the county’s print shop. I’m excited to see how they all turn out and start handing them out. The first seminar program is April 4th, on financial security. There have been some bumps in the road but I guess that’s to be expected on such a large endeavor and I’m the main one spear headed it. I think my learning curve has been very sharp.

NextReads Newsletters

Money Smart Programming has really been the chunk of my to do lists these last few months. But I’ve still squeezed in new duties like take on the NextReads Newsletters for the Cultural Diversity Committee as well as the Home, Garden, and DIY newsletter. You can sign up for those two as well as some others at this link. It’s been fun to work with the committee on the cultural diversity newsletter, we work together to create a very informing newsletter on different cultures and hopefully it will grow in popularity.

Reference Desk

Even though it’s been months since I’ve first started, I’m still getting use to being on the reference desk because you truly never know what sort of question you will be faced with, especially in the public. Yesterday I college student came in wanting information on the lunar calendar and cycle. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to help them in a efficient way as there was a line forming. But I didn’t want to send them away empty handed. I was able to find a couple of articles but I told them to leave their email address and I would see what I could find in books after I got off the desk. I spent an hour this morning collecting a good stack of books that I think will help them and we have a schedule meeting tomorrow morning. In the public library world you don’t necessary think of making reference one on one meeting but my supervisor does it all the time for business owners and non-profit people to help them use the sources we have. Somewhere in my mind I thought why can’t I do the same thing with general research help. I mean our desk is a great point of reference provider but sometimes you need to be able to give a person your full attention and the best time to do that I think is off the desk. It’s a model I’ve seen used all the time in the academic library world. So I might start incorporating that into the mix to see how people respond to it. It’s nothing new but it’s a new way for me to approach my job.

LSTA Grant: Approval to Apply

Apparently when one goes after big money it’s more complicated than one thinks. If you can cast your minds back to a few posts ago when I mentioned I was on a grant writing committee with my library. We are seeking funds to start offering new services to our transient population, as well as our general community. One of the major things about the library I work at is that it’s the main central branch. This means we serve a variety of people, unlike the branches who have become more of a neighborhood branch we are like the city’s neighborhood branch. More and more public libraries are expected to offer programs, both fun and informational. Well that costs money and that’s not something public libraries have in abundance. And with talk of a new central library being built I can only imagine the feeling that we would have more programming is steadily growing.

So a grant is in order and since we last left off I was working on some preliminary research and programming planning to go into the Letter of Intent. Well went sent that off and waited anxiously for word on whether or not we should actually submit a full grant proposal request. This past week we met and discussed the questions and concerns the state library brought. The first being the suggestion we ask for more money. At the end of the meeting we came away with more things to do, my number task is to pull up every single article that mentions public libraries and homelessness. Which is a lot, some with the homeless population painted in a negative view and some with them in a positive view? Since it’s more than I actually thought would be out there I’m narrowing it down to articles about programming and homelessness. I’ve found a great from a book club model in Australia that sounds similar to what we are trying to achieve through the programs.

Six Months Later

Sunday marked the end of the six months since I earned my MLIS degree, and you know what I feel just like I thought it would. I’m exhausted…and jubilant.

Two years ago I honestly had no idea what I was getting into, and truthfully I’m still learning what it means to be a librarian. And here’s a clue; it doesn’t involve shushing people. Not that I thought it did but I hear that often when someone asks about my profession.  If ever there was a misunderstood profession I would nominate the world of Librarianship. It’s almost like we are a mysterious cult but if you ever just take the time to ask a librarian about their library or their job I guarantee you they could talk for hours on one-tenth of what they do and what their library has to offer.

I guess I could sum of the last six months in a timeline sort of fashion but that would be boring. And librarians aren’t boring despite what literature would have you believe. The last six months really can be boiled down to one thing: Job Searching.

I started early (right before winter break I sent out my first resume), but not nearly as early as some people. I suggest you do the same, start looking for possible leads early on. Get on a variety of list-serves, a good friend and colleague of mines, Amanda Goodman, did an awesome write-up of some of the places she looked at and subscribed to for job leads. I cleaned up and invested some time into my social media outlets. I’ve had a LinkedIn profile since 2007 that I never got around to actually filling out. While I had the time I flushed it out and kept up with it.

These last six months were emotionally tough, as anyone who’s done any job searching since 2007 can surely tell you. But in the end I would say it was worth it. I can’t wait to see what the next six months hold for me.