or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



Archives for March, 2012:


#PLA12 Weeding in the Digital Age

   March 28th, 2012 Brian Herzog

I'm still unpacking from PLA12 two weeks ago, and just came across notes I took during a great session on Weeding in the Digital Age. I know it's two weeks late, but it's still relevant. The discussion was led by Alene Moroni (Manager, Selection and Order, King County Library System), Stephanie Chase (Reference, Adult Services, and Programming Coordinator, Multnomah County Library), and Kaite Stover (Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Public Library).

Program Description:

The explosion in formats for leisure materials is a challenge for all aspects of collection management, especially weeding and evaluation. Join a discussion that asks librarians to consider format, space, use, and building design when evaluating materials in all formats for withdrawal from the collection.

We should hold digital collections to the same standards as print collections - this means weeding out the unused and out-of-date to avoid eclutter.

Tips for Weeding Digital Collections

  • Do you weed your Overdrive catalog? It's not easy (you need to do the legwork yourself, and email Overdrive directly), but their interface is difficult enough to search so that if something isn't getting used, then it's getting in the way
  • Look for overlap in research databases, and then cut the unnecessary ones
  • Your access and finding tools can go a long way to cutting through the clutter - look for better catalog/database search interfaces, or create web-based pathfinders with direct links into databases

Thoughts on Formats

  • Watch for genre+format preferences that emerge (and listen to what patrons tell you). For instance, perhaps your mystery print books don't circulate much, because mystery reader prefer digital - but perhaps just the opposite is true for westerns. If that's the case, then get rid of your westerns ebooks and focus on mysteries
  • Large print physical books are not dying, even though ereaders can do large print
  • Younger patrons are often format-agnostic: if they can get their book in print, ebook, book on CD, downloadable audiobook, etc, they're happy

But remember: just about anything you're getting in digital format now can be taken away with a mere licensing change - what then?

I liked this session a lot because it hadn't occurred to me to weed ebooks. I have done some of that with databases, but certainly not Overdrive. It's also good to hear how other libraries balance print and online purchasing - for instance, we subscribe to the Safari Computer Ebooks database, and so have cut back on our print computer books.



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Great Video to Help Raise Money for a Library

   March 26th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Just a quick post to share this great video, in case you haven't seen it already: the M. N. Spear Library in the Western Massachusetts town of Shutesbury put it together to help raise money for a new building.

[video link]

Whether or not you donate is up to you, but I thought this was an excellent example of a library being creative with new media: the video is great, they're encouraging sharing it, they involved their patrons, and it's fun.

Update 3/27/12:
Speaking of great library videos, I hope you've seen this one too:

[video link]



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Reference Question of the Week – 3/18/12

   March 24th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Milk bottleA patron called the desk this past Thursday:

Patron: What's today's date?
Me: March 22nd.
Patron: Okay good, the milk doesn't expire until the 24th. Thanks.
<click>

End of Reference Transaction.

 

 

 

 



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Pinterest is the New Black

   March 21st, 2012 Brian Herzog

Pinterest logoIt's funny how rapidly new web tools are developed and adopted - I've only been hearing about Pinterest for the last couple months, but already it seems to have spread far and wide in libraries.

For those who don't know (like me until yesterday), Pinterest is visual social bookmarking. It's similar to Delicious*, in that you create a set of bookmarks to interesting things online to basically create a curated web directory - but it has images, so it's extremely visual and engaging. Libraries love curated directories (or pathfinders, or bibliographies, or whatever), and I think people respond better to pictures than text (witness the Online Newsstand) - so of course this is something to look into.

I just created an test account and started playing yesterday. I think I get the jist, but I'm also sure there's more to it. For libraries, the obvious use is creating virtual bookshelves - staff picks, best sellers, series books, If You Liked... lists, etc. - with the nice book covers linking back into the catalog.

However, this proved to be more of a pain to accomplish than I would have expected. Because Pinterest focuses on images and videos, if there isn't a big image on the webpage, it can't easily be pinned. This is the case for our catalog - the cover images shown are often smaller than 100 x 100 pixels, which is too small for Pinterest to pick up (using their bookmarklet button).

So, the manual workaround is to pin the image you want (our catalog does link to a bigger version of the cover, so at least that's easy to get to), view the pin, click the Edit button, then paste in the URL for that book in your catalog - and then you've got it. Not prohibitive, but it does take a little extra effort.

And that's just one way to use Pinterest - there are plenty of other examples of things to do:

  • Brookline (MA) Library on Pinterest
  • Walker Memorial (Westbrook, ME) Library on Pinterest
  • David Lee King on how the Topeka (KS) Library is using Pinterest
  • A Tame The Web post giving a nice overview of Pinterest
  • Onlinecolleges.net with a great list of library examples and ideas for Pinterest
  • Something we're going to use it for is to pin videos of library programs: our local cable station records many of our programs, then posts them on their website. The tool they use doesn't have a nice "embed" feature (like YouTube or other sites), so getting them into our website has always been slightly difficult - I think Pinterest will make this much easier
  • And don't forget the social nature of Pinterest - it also let you create little "Pin It" buttons to put on your website, to make it easy for other Pinterest users to pin your library's content (go to About > Pin It Button, and scroll to the Pin It Button for Web Sites section). Doing this for every item in the catalog isn't realistic, but it's worth considering for featured content

Also great is the Pin It bookmarklet I mentioned above - using this lets multiple computers (meaning, any staff or desk computer) pin website on the fly, so staff can easily add pins to your account whenever they stumble across something they'd like to share with patrons. To find it, click About > Pin It Button.

Something to always keep in mind is that Pinterest lets you use other peoples' images and videos in ways that might not be entirely consistent with copyright laws. So before you start pinning away, check out Pinterest, Copyright and the Library and How to Use Pinterest Without Breaking the Law.

And like with most tools, the more you play with it, the ways you'll come up with to use it - so have fun and be creative. However, standard social media rules apply: there's no guarantee this tool will be there tomorrow, so be sure the library can degrade gracefully if the service changes or goes away.

 


*More on Delicious, and also: it looks like Delicious is getting visual, too.



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Reference Question of the Week – 3/11/12

   March 17th, 2012 Brian Herzog

This isn't so much a reference question as it is just me venting about two different reference interactions that ended up having the same answer.

Consumer Reports OnlineSituation 1:

A patron comes up to the desk and asks to see Consumer Reports. In my library, we get two copies of the magazine - one to circulate, and one to keep behind the reference desk (otherwise, it would only circulate in one direction*). Generally this works well. Our circulating versions are usually checked out, so often people using the reference copies just photocopy the article or ratings or whatever they want.

Such was the case with this patron - except, when I suggested photocopying, I also offered the fact that we have online access to Consumer Reports (through EBSCO). The patron got excited about that, so I showed him how to find it and log in from home. By this time we had found the article he was looking for in the reference copy of the issue, but he said instead of photocopy it he would look it up tonight online, as well as spend more time researching the ratings.

But the next day, he called and said he couldn't find in the database the article that he saw in the magazine. I thought it just must have been his searching skills, so I grabbed the issue to get the title, and then searched the database myself - and I couldn't find it either. And then I noticed that none of the articles seemed to be in the database - the ratings and reviews were, but not the magazine articles.

I apologized to the patron, and told him I'd contact the database vendor to see why those were missing from our account. He said he got enough information from the ratings, so that was good, at least. But I emailed EBSCO anyway, and then got a call later in the day from our sales person (new sales person actually, so he was calling to answer my question and to introduce himself).

He said that our experience was correct - the Consumer Reports database we purchased through them was limited (by the publisher Consumer Union, as EBSCO is just the distributor) to the ratings and reviews only. The full magazine is only available for customers of MasterFILE, which has the full text of each issue.

So, that sucked, and was not something I realized when I originally subscribed to the database (which was probably an oversight on my part, even though it might be a natural assumption to think buying the magazine database would give you full access to the magazine).

Meanwhile...

Ancestry.comSituation 2:

The day after I first spoke with the Consumer Reports patron, another patron asked for help with our Ancestry database. She said she was in the library the week prior doing genealogy work, had printed a page of search results, and now she couldn't figure out how to get back to it.

That seemed simple enough - she was in the family tree section, so I helped her drill back into the family tree search for the name she was researching - and nothing. Not only was there no matches for that name, but the family tree screens didn't look like what she had printed out.

When I realized the menus were all different from our library interface, it occurred to me that perhaps she had gone directly to the ancestry.com website, instead of through our subscription database. So I switched to their website, drilled into that family tree search (called Public Member Trees) - and sure enough, we found the page she had seen before.

But when we clicked the name to see more information (which of course is what she wanted), we were prompted to purchase Ancestry. We were both puzzled as to why something behind the website's paywall wasn't available in the subscription the library was already paying for, so I told her I'd contact the vendor to find out.

I emailed ProQuest, who we buy Ancestry Library Edition from, but they wrote back in a few hours saying that since my question was about the Ancestry.com website, I'd have to contact them directly (and provided the contact information). I did, and a few days later I got this reply from them:

Thank you for contacting Ancestry Library Edition support.

Unfortunately, the Ancestry Library Edition does not have access to the Member Trees that a personal account does. While there is a "Family Trees" section of the library edition, it is limited to the databases listed on the following URL:

http://search.ancestrylibrary.com/search/CardCatalog.aspx#ccat=hc%3D25%26dbSort%3D1%26filter%3D0*42%26

The answer to your question is that the databases available to the library edition do not contain a match for the person being searched for when limiting to the "Family Trees" category.

If there is anything else with which we might assist you, please let us know.

Also in looking around the Ancestry.com website, I found this:

About Public Member Trees

This database contains family trees submitted to Ancestry by users who have indicated that their tree can be viewed by all Ancestry members. These trees can change over time as users edit, remove, or otherwise modify the data in their trees. You can contact the owner of the tree to get more information.

Perhaps I can understand that, since the family tree information is uploaded by users, there is some licensing reason it cannot be resold to libraries. At any rate, I informed the patron, and she was disappointed, but okay - in fact, she thought she knew which Ancestry.com member posted that family tree, so she was going to try to contact her directly.

The Resolution

But the bottom line was, in both situations, the library version of the subscription database didn't have the information in it that the patron was looking for - even though it was available through other (not free) sources. And probably in both cases, it was me being a bad librarian for not having known this beforehand, or evaluated the library editions more thoroughly when I signed us up for them.

I'm sorry for concluding such a long post without some great insight or happy ending. It was just a odd coincidence that these two situations happened at the same time, and with the same (unsatisfying) resolution.

 


*By which I mean, get stolen.



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#PLA12 Redefining the Library through the Collection

   March 16th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Do print collections actually meet the needs of your patrons?

Non-traditional collections actually give patrons the tools to use the information they find in the library - guitars, seeds, video games, ereader, etc.


Why ereaders?

We don't circulate DVD players. Because market penetration of DVD players means most people have them, but only a low percentage of people have ereaders (this will change over time).

Look for partners - contact Barnes & Noble (or other ereader providers) to donate them, give classes, and provide support.

How to circulate ereaders

  • circulate in a padded bag to protect the ereader, along with instruction sheet, circ rules, and a patron survey
  • content: load different ereaders with different genres (best sellers, childrens, teen, etc) and people check out whichever one they want - all titles were listed in the catalog
  • needed to have a separate database to manage devices (and record all information, in case patron deregistered it somehow)
  • losses and damages: out of 300 circing devices, only two have been damaged (one by staff, during transit)
  • training: classes for staff (try to train everyone, and give lots of hands-on time), and classes for the public, along with YouTube videos (provided by B&N - and handouts and FAQs for both staff and public
  • devices do need to be upgraded and maintained, because B&N doesn't support old versions

Seed library

San Mateo is a "food desert" so this encourages people to eat healthier. Partnered with a group called Collected Roots - they help people created a raised bed in their backyard, and teach them how to plant (all for free).

How it works

  • all seeds are donated
  • people write down what seeds they're taking (comes with info on when and how to plant
  • people don't need to return seeds (also don't want seeds that have been cross-pollinated

http://pcsweeney.com/2011/04/12/im-starting-a-seed-library-at-my-library/

Total cost to set up: $30 - seed boxes from IKEA ($3/3 boxes), a binder (library already had). Shelf to hold boxes was donated by local artist who built it from recycled wood.


Guitar library

http://pcsweeney.com/2011/05/31/guitars-at-the-library-its-gonna-be-freaking-rad/

Partnered with a local band who gives lessons, and purchased 15 acoustic guitars (about $200/each), which circ for 8 weeks (grant funded). They also purchased a lot more guitar books, to go along with the lessons. Look for a local store to supply the guitars - hopefully they will work with you select which guitars are best for this project, and help with advice down the road.

Guitars are not requestable, so that they don't have to travel through transit to other libraries.

This project motivated staff to learn guitar, and childrens librarians are trying to do musical storytime.


Programming in a box

Boxes make it easy for staff to present programs - requested through staff intranet (contents are fully catalog, but not visible to patrons). Program guides are provided, but staff are free to change things up any time and add to boxes. Some things can't be kept/shipped in boxes (liquids, etc), so sometimes the libraries have to go shopping after the box arrives. They currently have 64 boxes (for 28 branches), but it's growing all the time (will only stop when they run out of room).

Staff needs to book them to use, but need to spread them out because each box needs to come back to main library to be restocked.

These boxes are a huge timesaver for the staff, while still provided good programs to patrons.


Video game collections

Gaming is mainstream (everyone knows Pac-Man, Pokemon, Angry Birds), and almost a traditional library collection at this point.

Video games have plots, character development - same things as books (read Sex, Brains, and Video Games. Plus they lend themselves well to programs, tournaments, and community engagement - and tie-ins with books and movies.

This is probably the last generation of games that can be physically loaned - pretty soon games won't be played on consoles from cartridges.

ALA Gaming Roundtable is now providing reviews of video games and boardgames, so libraries should pay attention. Also look for National Gaming Day - http://ngd.ala.org



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