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.

Internet Services Librarian

Back in April, April 15th to be exact, I started a new position within the same company. I’ve moved from Information Services (Reference) to Computer Services.

I am now my system’s Internet Services Librarian, it was kind of a quick turn around. It was a surprise to me when the previous Internet Services Librarian left and at first I was hesitant to apply. In the end I posited that it would be a positive thing for me even if I did not get the job. But I got it!

It’s somewhat hard to explain what I actually do but it’s along the lines of:

  • Overseeing, maintaining and providing content for Library’s web pages and social networking sites – I work closely with our county’s webteam, as well as play the-go-between between them and our staff.
  • Serving as chair of the library’s web committee
  • Serving as a member of the Public Relations committee
  • Serving as online reader’s advisory newsletters administrator
  • Serving as public and staff support regarding downloading materials
  • Serving as lead for staff internal communications

And of course projects and duties that come up out of necessity.  I’m really enjoying myself, it’s a different world as compared to the reference desk. I still work with the public through providing customer support with our downloadable media, but mostly I’m behind the scene sort of speak. With this position come new challenges and successes, some I’ll have to catch you up on. Hopefully I’ll be more inspired to catalogue it, you know the whole reason I started this blog.

Year One

This past Sunday marked the one year anniversary of me matriculated from library school. I can hardly believe how fast this year has gone. I decided to look back on my capstone and compare the five year professional development I wrote and what has happened this year.

For a recap here is what I wrote a year ago:

Year One: January 2011 to December 2011

Career

  • Take on a practicum at Wake Forest University’s library: Z. Smith Reynolds Library in the Research and Instruction department to gain experience in reference services, library instruction, and general academic library experience.
  • Graduate from UNCG’s Master’s in Library and Information Studies program – May 2011.
  • Find, apply, and gain full time employment in an academic library, in a position that focuses on research, reference services, instruction, and technology.

Professional Growth/ Maintaining and Updating skills

  • Continue my membership in professional associations (American Library Association and North Carolina Library Association).
  • Attend conferences, nationally and/or statewide, to network and learn of new trends in the LIS field.
  • Provide mentoring help with the new cohort of Academic Cultural Enrichment Scholars.

Publications

  • Apply for research grants to continue research previously started, (i.e. Modern Teens and Library Usage).
  • Submit end product of Public Library Design and Technology to scholarly journal for publication with Dr. Chow.

Here’s the breakdown:

Career

The spring of 2011 I did in fact complete a practicum at Wake Forest in their Research and Instruction department. I taught a total of 3 classes as part of a Library Instruction course and complete many hours on the reference desk. You can read about my practicum here. I graduated from UNCG with an MLIS in May of 2011, a very exciting time and nerve-wracking at the same time. In September of 2011 I found, applied and gained full-time professional work at the public library in my hometown.

Professional Growth/ Maintaining and Updating skills

This year I will not be attending ALA but I did attend NCLA and PLA online. It has been a bit more challenging than I realized to continue in the professional association as well as get more involved in these associations. I do hope to do better in year two. This past year one of the second cohort ACE Scholars did their internship at my library and in my department. I actively tried to talk to her not just about the library school program but also the field as I’ve experienced so far. I’ve also had conversations with other interns here and people who by happenstance are applying to the program this upcoming term. It’s always strikes me as odd when I find myself having these conversations and actually having an opinion and things to share with people who are in the same place I was just a short time ago.

Publications

I was able to present my research with my professor at the NCLA conference this past October. And that’s as far as publication has gone. I realized that there was a lot more research and observation that needed to happen. This is still an goal of mines but I’m not sure when that will get checked off.

Looks like I’m settling in nicely into the library field…yay!

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.

LSTA: Library Outreach and Innovative Services Grant

This past week I’ve been tied up at work with meetings and program researching. All to help my library write-up a letter of intent for a grant we are seeking. If you recall I’ve done one of other grant writing process before, with the Diversity Research Grant. Which I’m beginning to see is different from a grant that a library would go after.

The goal of the grant is to help us improve the services offered to our homeless population. The homeless issue is big for almost all libraries and especially for the public ones. It’s nothing new and it’s something that you are going to have deal with if you work in a public library. For us it’s becoming an increasing topic as we go forth with the new Library Bond we just got the commission office to okay. It came up more than once, the sentiment that the main library “is nothing more than a day shelter and why should we build a new library for a bunch of homeless people?” Harsh, I know but it’s reality that there are people are there that think this way. Part and parcel of this project would be to offer up sensitivity and information training to not only the staff by the public at large.

This past week we’ve met to discuss the grant and work on the letter of intent which is due next month. I’ve been tasked with coming up with a really basic outline of informational programs that can be offered as part of the project. I’m kind of going about it blind because I don’t have background in homeless outreach services but there are some general classes that I feel can be beneficial to those who are temporarily homeless. We’ve already been able to sign on a host of local community partners which I know will be more than helpful in defining what this group’s real needs are.

It’s been very interesting and beneficial for me to work on this committee as I’m learning more about the Assistant Directors and how they work. As well as I’m learning grant writing skills, which is important for anyone in the non-profit world to know.