Monday, November 7, 2011

Dream Library or Avoiding Library Obsolesence Part II

This is the second post in a three part series that imagines what public libraries would be if they were created fresh today and the focus was on the user.  The idea for this came from an article in American Libraries titled Avoiding the Path to Obsolescence by Steven Smith and Carmelita Pickett.  The article examines the failures of Blockbuster and the success of Netflix (before the glaring snag of trying to split the disc and streaming business) and what libraries can learn from them.  Smith and Pickett attributed a part of Netflix's success to being able to start fresh without legacy issues. 

What if we could do that with public libraries?  What would they look like if we did not have legacy issues and if we focused on the user?    The user's wants/needs can be divided into three broad categories: physical needs, access to resources, access to people/staff.  The first post focused on physical needs.  This post will explore access to resources.

When I first started thinking about this post, I started thinking about all the shining new gadget coming out, and how we could use them in a library.  We are suppose to receive iPads at our library to use for collection management, and I feel like a kid who has to wait until Christmas to open a coveted present.  I will admit that I lust after shiney new toys.  I am repeating a quote from Smith and Pickett.  I need the reminder even if no one else does.

"But guessing correctly [what next device people will be using to access information], while important, is not really the key.  What matters is responding to customer wants and needs in a timely and efficient manner, even at the expense of letting go of past practices and tools no matter how cherished or successful.  A baggage-free focus on customer is what gave Netflix its original competitive advantage."
So if we stop looking at devices for a bit, what do users want?  In a very broad generalization, they want access to information.  In this case information is also very broadly defined.  It can be a price guide for baseball cards, a journal article for homework, a book/article on how to fix their car, a mystery novel, the latest James Patterson, access to Facebook, and on and on. 

Part of the hot debate today in the library world (other than to be or not to be) is print or electronic?  At this point in time, users want both.  There are users who show a marked preference for one or the other, and there are users that do not care.  They just want the information.  Despite the format, it must be findable.

If we learn from Netflix's latest gaffe, people want one-stop shopping. Two separate services for two different formats does not work for most people.  For the library's resources (including the print catalog), I visualize this as a marriage of Amazon and Google.  The search function would be worded in everyday language and it would feature prominently on the webpage or app.  It would allow for one-stop shopping for print items, ebooks, audio books, journal articles, etc.  Again, think Amazon.  Amazon's search box defaults to searching everything, but the user has the option (easily found) to limit by format.  And gosh, wouldn't it be nice if some webpages, Youtube videos, and blogs were shown in the search?

This is not all that we can learn from Amazon and Google. The library search algorithm would need to be very generous.  One would not have to know the exact name or spelling to find the item.  (Did you mean...?)  One advantage our super library search engine would have is the option to use controlled vocabulary.  Controlled vocabulary can be a very powerful tool in the right hands.  In addition, we can learn that users like personalization.  The library site could also make recommendations based upon current searches or even checkouts.  It could also give the ability to tie it to social networking such as tweeting or Facebooking what you are reading.  Now, this does bring in privacy issues, but it is something to think about.  All of this, of course, would be friendly for mobile devices.  Granted some of this is available already in some library websites, and there are federated search engines, but we are just not quite where we need to be yet.

Let's move from the virtual to the arrangement of print items.  Since we are creating the concept of libraries from scratch, Dewey Decimal System does not exist.  We can now put all computer books together without having to worry about whether it is software or hardware.  We can create an organizational system that makes sense to not just the librarians but to our users also.  I cannot claim credit for this radical idea.  There are libraries already employing it.  Despite saying this, I still believe in a book being located in a very exact place, so that it can easily be found.  I find it very frustrating to go to a book store to look for a specific non-fiction title and  not even the staff member know exactly where it is on the shelf.  I envision the system to be very intuitive and for browsing customers to not need the catalog. 

The last category ties together access to information and access to people.  That is programming. 
What I am saying here is nothing new, and it is nothing radical.  Let's use strategic planning with our programs.  Pick three areas to focus on throughout a year.  In these current economic times it could be finance, education, and employment.  For the finance track, programs on couponing, retirement, veterans' benefits, etc could be offered.  For education programs on basic computer skills, literacy, and how to find scholarships.  Our children's librarian is currently doing a Mad Scientist program for kids in our area.  It is so popular that she is having to offer the same class three times a month.  Her goal was to increase interest in science for kids that may not have other opportunities.  Lastly, for employment we could offer programs on resume writing, job searching, and again, computer classes so that people can build marketable skills.  Other program ideas to support this track would be seminars on small businesses.  The Pioneer Library System in Oklahoma actually has a dedicated position to work with small businesses.  How cool is that?
Most of the ideas listed above are not that radical or that new.  It is just being able to implement together without having to work with legacy systems.  Since we are not starting from scratch, we must decide what is important to the future of the libraries, and then figure out how we can get there.  Do not be afraid to think big.  "Don't be afraid to shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you will land among the stars." ~ Les Brown.    It is an exciting time to be a librarian.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dream Library or Advoiding Library Obsolesence Part I

I recently read an article in American Libraries titled Avoiding the Path to Obsolescence by Steven Smith and Carmelita Pickett.  It was a thought provoking article that seeks to learn lessons from the failure of Blockbuster and the success of Netflix. (The article was apparently written before the major faux pas committed by Netflix when they tried to separate their DVD and streaming business and then raised their prices.)  Several of the comments listed after the article refute the usefulness of such a comparison stating that libraries are not business.  It is true that a library is not a business, but that does not negate the fact that we need to monitor the industry, and that we can learn from their successes and failures.  After all, an industry does not succeed unless it has something that a customer wants.

What struck me most about the article was that a key component they attributed to Netflix's success was that they were starting fresh without legacy issues.

"Netflix was not burdened by the need to support and retain a lot of practices, services, and structures that had once worked well.  It had the freedom to focus exclusively on the needs and wants of the consumers."
The next quote however had me hopping up and yelling "Yes, yes, yes!"

"But guessing correctly [what next device people will be using to access information], while important, is not really the key.  What matters is responding to customer wants and needs in a timely and efficient manner, even at the expense of letting go of past practices and tools no matter how cherished or successful.  A baggage-free focus on customer is what gave Netflix its original competitive advantage."
I got very excited.  If we were to invent the concept of the public library today and focus on the user's wants/needs without all of our legacy issues, what would we create?

[Caveat: The following is based on my observations and experiences and is highly idealized.  It is designed to start the thought process and not to be an end product. It does not reflect scientific research (though I may have to start a project). Since this is a dream library, cost is not considered. I am also not addressing issues such as preservation.]

I believe that we can categorize what users wants/needs are in three categories: physical needs, access to resources, access to people/staff.  I am posting this in three parts.  This post will address physical needs.

Physical Needs

Much like the trend in homes, people want the libraries to have zones based on function.  I have identified several possible zones.

Child's Zone:  The children (and their parents) want a play area.  They need a child friendly area with child-sized furniture and a nearby bathroom.  Don't forget the bathroom.  Cozy spots which can be easily cleaned are also a must for children's area.  For safety of the children this can be achieved with clever arrangement of low furniture rather than isolated areas.  Areas to explore their imaginations and create are also important.  The section should have a warm and welcoming feeling. It should also come equipped with children's computers with appropriate games, and as an added bonus, laptops for parents to check out and use in the area.  No more unattended children while the parent is on the computer!  Joyous day!

Teen Zone: Teens want a place to hangout and socialize.  We are constantly at odds with a lot of teens that come in because they are being...well teens.  We are exploring options to address the issue by better utlizing our space rather than constantly argue with teens.  They also want access to computers for homework - ok, only sometimes - they want to access computers for social networking including Youtube and Facebook.  When they do work on homework, they want group spaces as many project being assigned are group projects that often require computer access.

Adult Zone:  I was of mixed mind whether to include a separate adult zone.  Many of adult needs are met with zones listed below, but it seems to beg mentioning.  Adults want what is commonly called the book store experience.  Items should be merchandised, browsable, and attractive.  Grouping of chairs and end tables will facilitate browsing and quiet reading.

Computer Zone:  The computer zone should offer a somewhat quiet area for individuals to work. (Group computer space will be addressed below.)  Users want their computers to perform a variety of functions, and they want flexibility.  They want to be able to download that program to print out a coupon or edit a video. They want a variety of browsers available (not all sites/programs are optimized for all browsers).  Disabling functions for security frustrates the user and give them a sour experience. Access to equipment such as scanners and faxes (or combo devices such as digital senders) is expected.

Quiet Zone: Traditionalist don't despair!  People still want quiet areas in the library.  It should be stocked with small tables (nobody wants to share tables with someone they do not know) and comfortable table chairs and armchairs.  There should be plenty of plug-ins for laptops and good lighting - preferably table lamps.  (Oh to have an unlimited budget!)

Group Zone: People want places to meet as small groups.  This is distinctive from meeting rooms.  They may meet to work on a group project for homework (adults and teens), a small committee meetings, an interview for job or for a service, tutoring (unpaid of course), and a variety of other reasons.  They may/may not need access to computers.  Whether computers are in the all group space or just a few, they should have a larger sized monitor for easier viewing with a large desk or table to spread work.

Meetings/Programs Zone:  The meetings/program zone needs to have flexible set-up that can easily be rearranged to accommodate different programs and needs of large groups. The space also needs to be able to work with their technology such as providing a projector that will work with laptops, screen, and a decent sound system.  It should also be neat, clean, and inviting.  Too many meeting spaces are stained and institutional.

Customer Service Points:  This will mostly be addressed in the post addressing access to people.  Let me state here that customers want to be able to find someone easily and not have to worry about different desks having different functions.  They do not like to be redirected.  No one wants to stand in line twice or feel embarrased because they went to wrong place.

In reality, libraries have a limited budget.  While we cannot afford to scrap everything and start over, we do benefit from imagining if we could.  What we can do is prioritize what we need to move towards our dream library.  Some of the above can be achieved by rearranging our currents spaces, changing how we view customer service, and adopting some of the new technology as we normally replace our outdated systems.  Also, paint is the cheapest way to freshen a space, deligate areas, and decorate.  Walls in public spaces to do NOT have to a shade of white or some other neutral color.  In the grand scheme of things, paint is cheap.

What are your thoughts/wishes regarding space utilization for your dream library?  Do you have different ideas?

Friday, July 8, 2011

cpd23 Week 3 -Personal Brand

I am participating in the "23 Things for Professional Development" and we are on week three.  The assignment for week 3 is to google yourself and then reflect upon your personal brand.  I dutifully googled myself, and imagine my shock when I did not show up in the first page results!  I actually use to show up in the first page.  Really! My name was on the second page, but it was from a libguide that I composed when I worked at the university.  When I googled my name with the addition of librarian, well then, I was on the first page a few times.  Much better.  My LinkedIn account and twitter account were listed among the results. 

I even did the optional part of the assignment which was to ask other people what my blog said about my personal brand.  One colleague declined to comment (he suddenly became busy with other things) and the other said she thought it was very professional.

What does our personal brand say about us?  I try to maintain a professional mien as I have been given negative feedback for diving into what one colleague called bleeding edge technology (Second Life?  Who needs a Second Life?  I have a first life!), and I am leery of additional bleeding.  Do I come across as too dry?  I certainly have no desire to add to the stereotype of a boring librarian.  What I do know is that I am tired of sitting in meetings talking about technology with librarians who are disdainful of said technology.  You should not be proud to admit that you do not know how to send a text.

But back to the topic on hand, am I too reserved with my comments because I am afraid of professional repurcussions?  I would like to say no as I have always been a rebel at heart, but as I reflect back I do refrain from much that I would like to say.  It has given me something to think about.  To indulge in a few cliches, "There is no reward with no risk" but there is no sense in "cutting off my nose to spite my face."

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Player on the Ebook Field

Library Journal writes that Library Ideas announced at ALA Annual 2011 that it is in entering the e-book field with Freading which is inspired by their product Freegal.  It will be based on a pay-per-use service.  This is, of course, nothing new.  It has been used by journal publishers for many years now, and yes, even by e-book vendors.  The difference is that these vendors and publishers tend to be used more in the academic libraries. 

I see the same pros and cons for the pay-per-use e-book model as the pay-per-view e-journal model.

1. It is patron driven acquisitions, and the library does not have to 'guess' what the patron wants.
2. The library is able to offer a larger catalog of titles including more esoteric titles that might not normally be available to users due to cost limitations.
3. It is a seamless transaction to the user.
4. In case of the e-books (this is a moot point with e-journals) the user does not have to wait for a title to be 'checked-in.'

1. If it is a popular title, the pay-per-use cost can exceed the actual purchase price of the title.  This would not be a cost effective method for libraries to obtain material from major fiction publishers.
2. This is a leasing model - a very short term lease.  Because of that there is no option of perpetual access.  After reading through an Overdrive contract, it does not appear that they offer perpetual access either though the titles are purchased.  There are e-books vendors such as ebrary that do offer it.  Perpetual access is continued access to a purchased title even after the subscription has expired.  This is a frequent sticking point on negotiations for e-journal subscriptions.

What would be a good model is pay-per-use with the option to purchase is the pay-per-use cost exceeds the purchase price with an option for perpetual access and ILL.  That would be ideal for libraries.  For publishers...maybe?  I am sure that I am missing both pros and cons.  Do you have any additions?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thing 1 cpd23

23 Things for Professional Development or cdp23 is a free program for the professional development of librarians.  Each week will feature one or two new 'Things' to explore.  The first week includes creating a blog post and exploring why you are participating in the program.

I am participating in the program as I am always searching for professional development opportunities.  As many librarians I am a life-long learner, and I am excited by this opportunity.  More important however is the chance to recharge myself.  The library world is changing.  I find that very exciting to be part of that.  Not all librarians feel that way.  It can be frustrating to constantly run into brick walls.  Not all change is good, nor should we change for the sake of changing, but we must keep moving forward.  We need to get past the point where people ask if there are still librarians.  Networking with others and learning new 'Things' is how I remember that these are not brick walls, but challenges which can be exciting to overcome.

There are still librarians?

I was at the doctor's office yesterday, and the doctor asked me the expected question of what do you do at work.  In the best tradition of Evie from the movie Mummy, I replied "I am a librarian."  (I did this normally without the drunken theatrics though I was sorely tempted.)  She looked at me quite surprised and (I hope) spoke before she thought, "They still have librarians?"

I do believe that my mouth fell open.  I could hear a voice in my head shrieking, "They still have librarians?  They still have LIBRARIANS?  They still HAVE LIBRARIANS?"  with each iteration becoming louder and louder.  She then twisted the knife a bit deeper and asked, "Doesn't everyone get everything from the internet?"  (Hordes of flies could have flown into my mouth at this point.)  And this is suppose to be an educated individual!  Then with a sheepish look she said, "Of course I know there are librarians.  I have friends that go to the library."  I believe that it was time to close my mouth.

She cannot be entirely to blame.  I had forgotten the Boy Scout Motto 'Be Prepared.'  The fact that I was a Girl Scout was no excuse.  I was not prepared for someone that I saw as a highly educated individual to be so woefully, well, uneducated.  Why this surprised me I do not know.  When I worked in academia, we were always have to justify the need for librarians to other faculty.  After all, why should we cut the Journal of I-must-have-to-do-my-research-and-cost-more-than-my-car when we could get rid of a librarian?  Perhaps I should have quoted the Librarian Avengers and explain why they should fall on their knees and worship us. 

Oh well, the next time I will be prepared.  For now, I am going to find a new doctor.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What do libraries do? Transforming our Image.

Recently I attended a PLA webinar featuring Valerie J. Gross titled Transforming Our Image.  She discussed that image is key in the perceived value of an object.  Her example was bottled water.  Generic bottled water cost approximately $2.00 for a six pack.  However, Evain bottled water which has a nice graphic and is natural spring water from the French Alps sells for about $6.00.  In addition, their current add implies that drinking it will keep you forever young.  Ohhh...ahhh....

This implies to me that libraries are currently generic bottled water, and that we need to find a way to transform ourselves into Evian.

Valerie does this by stating what is it that libraries do.  "We deliver equal opportunity education to everyone in our county."  Ohhh...ahhhh...  I am impressed.  I want to go there.  In addition, all this wonderful education is at no cost. 

She bases the redefinition of public libraries on three pillars. 
1. Self-directed education.  This is where books and electronic resources come in.
2. Research Assistance and Instruction or the artist formally known as reference desk and librarians.
3. Instructive & enlightening experiences or in common library parlance - programs.

This philosophy transforms librarians into research specialists, programmers into instructors or teachers, and programs into classes.  I am starting to feel a bit like a bottle of Evian water.  Oh la la.  Maybe I should get a French beret.  All this without doing anything different than what we are currently doing except using different verbage to describe it. 

Her main point during the webinar was to use this language to educate the public, politicians in particular, as to what it is the library actually does.  This education is achieved by using this language everytime we write or speak about the library.  For example, when sending a thank you to your local politician for attending the xyz event you can use the following: "Thank you for tremendous support of public education for all" instead of "Thank you for your tremendous support of our library."  Which will get that "Ohh" response?

I realize that this essentially all boils down to marketing, but there is a reason that marketing is a big business.  Good marketing can change people's perceptions.  Case in point is the aforementioned bottled water.  Why do we even need to buy bottled water when several studies have shown that it is not much, if any, better than tap?  Despite the studies, bottled water is big business.  News stories show that libraries are not faring quite as well.  If you doubt me, ask the L.A. school librarians.

What Valerie barely touched on was the effect that this language would have on the library staff.  I have heard from many librarians who are frustrated.  They don't know why they bothered to obtain a masters degree, they don't know what they are going to do when ebooks replace print, and I have even heard a librarian tell a possible recruit not to bother going to library school because there wouldn't be libraries much longer.  Say it isn't so!  It is hard for these librarians to justify their positions to the public when they can hardly justify it to themself.  It is the 'warehouse mentality' that libraries are simply warehouses for books.  When/if print books disappear (this is a debate for another post), what will librarians do?

By stating that libraries provide an education for all, this redefines the purpose of libraries.  It gives staff a sense of purpose and helps boost morale.  Which would you rather be called?  Circulation clerk or customer service specialists?  How many library users understand circulation clerk and circulation desk?

I am torn about renaming librarians to research specialists.  When Valerie first mentioned the term, I thought "Ohhhh..I am special."  However, there is some nostalgia for being called a librarian, and we shouldn't change just for the sake of change.  Still, she has a point when she states no one will ask a research specialist if she sits around and reads books all day.  I also bet that no one has a mental image of said research specialist with a bun, horned-rimmed glasses, and a tweed skirt shushing everyone.

Let's go back to the thought of reinvergerating the staff.  As Valerie was discussing changing the term programs to classes and programmers to instructors or teachers, I was mentalling running through how we could support this image with our 'classes'.  What classes can we offer to educate the public?  I was getting excited.  I had just had a customer in a few days before looking for a reading class for her soon to be pre-k granddaughter.  She had a flyer from a local university for one that cost almost $300 that would teach her child and attending adult the basics of reading.  My response was all we have is the summer reading program.  Thinking back I just cringe.  No, we don't just have the summer reading program, we have a series of summer reading classes for children through teens designed to introduce them to literature, music, and culture.  All for no charge!  How great is that!

If I look at the first pillar of providing the opportunity of self-education, ebooks are just another tool that I, the research specialist, can help our customer navigate.  If all print books disappear (excuse while I pause a moment to learn to breath again) that is ok because libraries are more than just warehouses.  They are places, and we provide equal opportunity education for all.  Don't have a computer?  No problem, we do, and we will even teach you to use it.  Why?  Because we provide equal opportunity education for all.  See how it becomes a mantra? 

This creates an effective mission statement that staff, customers, and yes, even politians will quote.  An effective mission statement will drive the organization, give the staff purpose, and lend itself to design of 'classes'.

eBooks Are Winning the Race!

Amazon announced today that Kindle book sales have surpassed all combined print book sales.  That's right people!  eBook sales are outpacing print book sales.  Good or bad, ebook are here to stay!  This is in addition to the recent announcement that Kindle has worked a deal with Overdrive to make Kindle books available for libraries to lend to their customers.  Please note that this is not Amazon adapting the Kindles to read the DRM ePub format, but that Overdrive will offer the Kindle format, AZW, in addition to DRM ePub.  The good news is that libraries will not have to purchase additional copies. Overdrive will automatically make the Kindle version available for all previously and future titles purchased by the library. The bad news is that the library users now have one more choice to make when they download a book.  For our tech savvy users this will not mean much except, perhaps, a minor annoyance.  However for our less than tech savvy users this will add to the already confusing process of downloading an ebook ~ one that has to include a computer rather than downloading directly to the device.  How much easier it would be just to buy the book from Amazon and have it downloaded directly to your Kindle and be done with it?

Libraries are not just sitting back and waiting for the dust to settle.  They are taking an active and needed role in designing the landscape. NISO, National Information Standards Organization, is launching an E-Book Special Interest Group.  According to the NISO site, the SIG will address the following issues:

  • How can NISO actively facilitate cross-community dialogue in this area, building bridges between what are now separate, sometimes disparate groups? 

  • How can NISO work collaboratively to provide education and information to assist with this dialogue? 

  • How can NISO actively foster "incubation teams" to identify specific pain points in the e-books realm that could be remedied through formal standards, recommended practices, dissemination of information (e.g., via white papers, educational workshops, professional forums, Thought Leader meetings, etc.) either through NISO or within another agency or in partnership with one or more organizations?

  • In addition to the core SIG, NISO will be implementing a monitoring group to provide feedback.  They are accepting nominations at via email (  It is but one step of many for libraries to learn adapt to the shifting realm of digital reality.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Seth Godin on "The future of the library"

    Seth Godin on “The future of the library”

    Yep, gotta love Seth:
    The future of the library
    “The next library is a house for the librarian with the guts to invite kids in to teach them how to get better grades while doing less grunt work. And to teach them how to use a soldering iron or take apart something with no user servicable parts inside. And even to challenge them to teach classes on their passions, merely because it’s fun. This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark.
    The next library is filled with so many web terminals there’s always at least one empty. And the people who run this library don’t view the combination of access to data and connections to peers as a sidelight–it’s the entire point.
    Wouldn’t you want to live and work and pay taxes in a town that had a library like that? The vibe of the best Brooklyn coffee shop combined with a passionate raconteur of information? There are one thousands things that could be done in a place like this, all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value.
    We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.”
    Read it. Re-post it.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Honoring Veterans at the Library

    Our library is located in a military community, and we wanted to reach out to our local veterans.  In search of ideas on programs for veterans, I sent an email to the Publib listserv for public librarians.  As always, the Publibbers came through with some fantastic suggestions.  They are compiled below.

    1. The Library of Congress currently is conducting a Veteran's History Project in which they hope to collect, preserve and make accessible American war veterans' first hand accounts.  A local library could participate by acting as a collection area to record interviews and gather letters and diaries written by veterans.  This would also be a good project to collaborate with a local high school or college.

    2. Libraries are well suited to provide for one of veterans' greatest needs: information. This may include books on filing for benefits, pathfinders, miliary families, deployment, wounded warriors, PTSD, etc. Information programs could also be offered.  Michigan has mobile law units from a law school that visit the libraries to provide advice and information.  Space is another need.  In a recent conversation, the commander of our local American Legion stated that they have a need for space in which the counselors from the state VA administration office can meet with the veterans.  Libraries can provide conference or meetings rooms for no charge.

    3. One of my favorite library software products is  Libguides.  Libguides are an interactive web page much like a pathfinder.  You can embed Youtube videos, widgets, chat windows, and many other items into the guide.  You can also link it to your catalog.  When I worked at New Mexico State University I began, but did not complete before I left, a guide for veterans.

    4. There are also programs with encourage the community to give back to the veterans.  One Publibber organizes Valentines for Veterans.  The library provides materials for children to make cards for the veterans, and then the library distributes the cards to the local VA hospitals and/or VA retirement homes.  Another publibber's library organized a drive to collect books and magazine to be sent to deployed military members.  These could also be donated to local VA hosptials and retirement homes.  Another option is to create military penpals.  Websites ares and

    5. I was reminded by yet another Publibber that women veterans often do not feel comfortable attending events for all veterans, and that they might like programs geared to just women veterans.  Promotional materials should also include women veterans.

    Finally, at my library, we have decided to have a Veterans' Information Fair on November 12 - the Saturday after Veterans' Day.  We are inviting veteran organizations from around the state in addition to representatives from local colleges and universities.  We hope to collect pictures of veterans from different eras to organize into a collage for the library.  We would also like to invite area VIP for the opening ceremony, and one of the local high school bands to play the national anthem.  This is the first of what we hope will be many programs and services offered by the library for our veterans.

    Please feel free to add suggestions in the comment box below.

    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Harper Collins harpooning the libraries

    News has flooded twitter and the blog-o-sphere regarding Overdrive being forced by the publisher Harper Collins to put an expiration on ebooks.  An expiration?  How does an item made essentially from binary code all 1's and 0's expire?  Harper Collins books will have a cap on the number of times the book can be check-out from the library.  After the maximum of checkouts (in this case 26), it will be locked or some such, and the library will have to purchase another copy.  This is in reaction (or maybe dawning realization) that the public libraries will not have to purchase replacement copies that they normally would due to lost books or wear and tear.

    Several of the blogs that I have read such as Agnostic, Maybe (love the blog btw), suggest that the libraries have power to object by not purchasing the books.  In an ideal world, I would agree, and as long as Harper Collins is the only publisher with these restrictions it remains a valid option.  However, this type of strong arming by publishers is not new - just ask those in academia.  Case in point are the "Big Deal" publishers such as Elsevier.  They have a strangle hold on the science journal publications or so they like to brag.  They are also extremely pricey as in I could buy a nice new car for one journal title, and I am not talking Ford Fiesta.  They also have cancellation clauses in their contracts to where you cannot cancel more than say 1% of the current year subscription cost.  Their competitors do the same thing.  Not buying is an option, but is it the best service for our users?  Perhaps, if we can find alternatives.  Did I mention that contributors to scientific journals do not get paid?  Talk about a double whammy.

    It terms of the glass is half-full, it could always be worse.  According to Library Journal, there are still two major publishers that don't allow their ebooks to circulate in libraries - Macmillan and Simon & Schuster.  The publishers have a legitimate concern, their bottom line.  The library concerns are being a good steward of public monies and making content/information available to our users.  It seems like their should be a middle ground, and we need to start a dialogue with the publishers.

    Simon and Schuster:

    I think what publishers are missing is that while we may not be replacing titles due to wear, we will still be spending the same amount of money on materials.  We will simply purchase additional titles that we may not have been able to purchase before.  I would be curious to know how much of library spending is for replacements.  At my last library it was a miniscule amount.  I do not have access to those budget figures here.  Just as libraries need to adapt to changing technologies and investigate how they need to change their services to fit the users' new needs, so does the publisher need to adapt.  This may mean a completely new business model.  Marketers Test Ads in Ebooks  It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    I'm a Nerd, Are you a Nerd?

    Yesterday when I checked-in on Foursquare for our library I was awarded a Bookworm Badge and called a nerd.  According to Joe Murphy on his blog this is a new feature of Foursquare.  I had just thought that they were trying to tell me something in a not so subtle way.  One might forgive me for making that assumption as I have been accused of nerdom a time or two before.  Ok, maybe three.  I had also thought myself as nothing short of brilliant as I had left a tip promoting the Overdrive app to check out and use library ebooks and audio books on iPhone and Android phones.  Turns out I am not the only clever one.  Joe suggested using Foursquare to promote library programs and to award users for becoming mayor.  I like the way he thinks!  My only question is how to coordinate this in a large library system of which we are but a humble part.  Since Foursquare is a location based app, it would seem to make sense for each library in the system to go about this individually with occasional coordination for the central office.  Something to ponder.  How do you use Foursquare in your library?

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Agnostic, Maybe - Dream Big

    I was reading Andy Woodworth's post on Dream Big and his tweet which asked what are our dreams for libraries?  My dream is for libraries and librarians who are not afraid to try new technologies.  I would like to see libraries who are not afraid to be trendsetters instead of waiting to see what technologies will last long term.  With the technological landscape changing so rapidly in the last twenty, heck, even ten years, can we afford to wait a decade for applications to 'work out the kinks' before we adopt it?  If we are willing to try new things, we are better able to meet our customer needs.  Many of our users are tech savvy, and they expect the library to be on par with them.  If we are not, they will stop coming to us.  They will find the information and fulfill their needs somewhere else.  Instead of trying to force our users to adapt to what we feel are the proper protocols perhaps, and this is just a thought, we should adapt to our users' needs.  Revolutionary I know.

    Looking at the other side of our customer base, if the librarians are tech savvy they are better able to help the customers who are being left behind by the digital divide.  Those who write or teach about reference often propose that use the reference interview as an opportunity to teach the patrons how to find the information rather than just hand them a book.  I propose that we also teach them how to use technology.  Many libraries have created a start by offering basic computer classes or computer tutoring, but let's embed it into our reference interview process.  As librarians, we should not be on the bottom or even in the middle of the digital divide.  After all, information is our business.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Reference Librarians and library staff, never the twain shall meet?

    Public libraries are seeing a gain in the number of non-MLS reference librarians. In addition more and more library staff members such circulation clerks, pages, and public computer specialist are answering reference questions or ready reference questions.  This has caused some resentment amongst various staff members as librarians feel that reference questions aren't adequately being addressed, and non-librarians feel as if they are being unfairly criticized.  The librarians are also feeling that their degree is not being utilized.  We are also looking at moving to a combined circulation and reference desk which will only excaperbate the problem.

    To address these issues we have decided to develop a training program with written guidelines for all library staff.  For example, the program will address what type of ready reference questions can be answered by any staff member and when a the question needs to be referred to a reference librarian. A further extension of this will be reference training for the librarians - both those with MLS and without a MLS.  

    There are four main areas in which I want to focus on for the reference librarian training.  One area I want to exam is how we are using information resources at the desk.  Are we just finding books for consumers, or are we also utilizing our databases, websites, and other forms of media.  Also, how do we provide utilize all of the sources without overloading the user with information?   The second area is how we are presenting the information to our customers.  Are we expecting them to learn to adjust to library lingo and methods, or are we adjusting to our changing customer needs?  If we are, how can we continue to improve in that area?  The third area is emphasizing good customer service.  This begins with a proper reference interviews and includes getting up and walking the customer to their resource.   The last area I want to investigate is what technological tools we can use to help us and to help the customers.  As I love to play with new gadgets and apps, this will be a fun one.

    How do you handle reference in your library?  Is your circulation desk allowed to put a book on reserve?  At what point do they refer questions to the reference librarians?  In what areas do you recommend training?