For as long as I've been a librarian, I've heard librarians talking about how to attracted more 20-40 year olds to the library. One method I've heard repeatedly (often from 20-40 year old librarians) was that we need to do outreach to where those patrons are: bars and other fun places.
I know libraries have set up help desk tables on college campuses, public parks, and even in bars, and also use pubs and coffee shops as a meeting spot for book groups. Recently, I heard about a new book group from the library in Haverhill, MA, that is taking this same tack - here's the groups logo:
Get Lit is a social book club designed for twenty and thirty something readers in the greater Haverhill area. We will be meeting monthly to talk books, socialize, eat, drink, and whatever else might come up. Second Thursday of the month, The Barking Dog Ale House in Haverhill.
I don't drink and I find bars almost unbearable, but I think this is fantastic and I hope it's successful.
Apart from people looking for free wifi, it seems to me that library patrons tends to skew to the extremes, with libraries looking either like day care centers or senior centers. Which is fine, but I also like the idea of reaching out to the patrons in the middle.
My library occasionally brainstorms to come up with program ideas that would attract the "mid-life" patrons, and some work and some don't. The "Get Lit" book group seems to walk a fine line between being clever and devolving into a frat party. However, I still think it's funny, and it's a book group I'd go to. Good job, Haverhill Public Library.
My library's One Book Chelmsford selection this year is Townie, by Andre Dubus, and the kick-off event was last weekend.
To promote the book with patrons, we decided to hang up a punching bag right next to the circulation desk, so it's the first thing people see when coming into the library. Pretty neat, huh? Plus, since we didn't want to permanently attach it to the wall or ceiling, they let me build a stand for it:
It's nothing fancy, but I like woodworking and carpentry, and any excuse to use power tools is a good one. The wood and hardware cost about $30, and we bought the bag itself on Craigslist for $15, so it's not too much money for a pretty eye-catching display. And in how many other jobs would I get to do something like this?
Patrons seem to really like it too - especially kids. We encourage people to try it, and I'm pretty sure it won't fall over (we tested it). We still haven't decided what to do with it afterwards, but we've got a few months. Who knows - maybe we'll just catalog it and add it to the circulating collection for people to check out.
As we have come to expect over the last couple years, the first few weeks after the Christmas holidays means a rather dramatic spike in the number of questions about ebooks. The effect this year seemed more profound that usual, which led me to this conclusion:
This year, my library planned a program on using ebooks with library resources for the first Saturday in January. The plan was for me to talk about Overdrive, and give live downloading demos for a Kindle, iPad, and Nook. Also, we invited a sales associate from the local Radio Shack to come talk about the non-library aspects of ereaders - buying ebooks, the differences between the devices themselves, and hopefully answer a few hardware tech support questions.
Our meeting room is big enough, and ereaders are small enough, that I didn't think just holding one up would really help people in the back see which buttons to press. I got the idea of using a camera, pointed at a Kindle or Nook, to project what I was doing to it up on a screen, to make it more visible. I have a little external webcam that I plugged into a computer, and clamped it so it's pointing straight down at a table (where the ereader will sit). Then I found this software called FSCamView which does nothing but take the feed from the webcam and display it full-screen on the laptop. Then, plugging the laptop into a digital projector shows whatever I put in front of the webcam up on the big screen. How could that go wrong?
And since my library is lucky enough to have two digital projectors, I also plan to have a second computer to project the Overdrive catalog. This way, hopefully, people (even in the back) will be able to watch me search the Overdrive, checkout an ebook, download and transfer it to the ereader, and simultaneously see it actually show up on the device.
Here's what the setup looked like 20 minutes before we started:
We presented from the podium in the right corner. Slides (and websites) on the computer were projected onto the wall in the center by our in-the-ceiling projector, and the webcam/projector/ereader setup was on a little table next to the podium, projecting onto the screen on the left side of the photo - you can see an iPad up there now.
It worked well enough for our purposes, and I think people were happy to (sort of) see what we were doing. The problems we had were that the camera wasn't very high resolution, and the lighting was tricky - not to mention glare off the devices.
Even still, the program was a huge success. We had over 100 people in the room (which seats 80), and had to turn people away. On the spot we decided to hold a repeat program in a couple weeks for all the people who couldn't attend this one. I think everyone learned something, and many said that after seeing the steps it takes to download ebooks from Overdrive, they now understand and can do it themselves. Yay for that.
I'm going to keep fiddling with the webcam/projector setup, because there's got to be an easy way to improve that. Then it'll be fun to think of other programs that might benefit from projecting physical objects up on the wall. Hmm.
A librarian in Maine recently posted to MELIBS-L that one of their local patrons was a finalist for the 2008 StoryTubes contest. I had never heard of this contest, but I like projects where patrons get involved, so I checked it out. I loved it.
Kids make a video of themselves reviewing a book on a particular theme (that week's was "Facts, Fads and Phenoms") and submit it to StoryTubes. Finalists get posted on the website (via YouTube), website visitors vote, and four winner win $500 in books (and their sponsoring school or library receives $1,000 in books).
This year's contest is winding down, and I'm sorry I missed it. It's sponsored by publishers and libraries, and the finalist videos are great (my two favorite are below, and more here).
But even outside this contest, I think this would be a fun thing to do in the library. All it would take is a basic digital camera and a YouTube account, and I can see parents, kids and librarians getting really into it. It gives kids an opportunity to create, and in a public way. You always hear the phrase, "it'll be something to tell your grandkids about." This gives kids something to be proud of and tell their grandparents about.
Your Chickens: A Kids Guide to Raising and Showing
Last night I gave a workshop at my library on how to use flickr for online photo sharing (thanks to everyone who contributed). It went well, and I thought I'd post the handouts here (no slides, since it was a live demo in flickr). Feel free to use or repackage this material for your own purposes. The online version is below, and here are pdf and Word versions:
Set privacy setting, edit photo title, add description and tags (first step in organizing)
Make Notes and read Comments on your photos. Click the "Add Note" icon in the toolbar above each photo to highlight a specific area of your photo. Other flickr users will leave comments below your photos, and some will mark your photos are "favorites."
Organizing and Sharing Photographs
Create Sets to group related photos.
Click Organize > Your Sets
Add name, description and photos (drag and drop)
Photos can be added to more than one set
Add to Map to show where you've been or where something is.
Click Organize > Your Map
Find location on map (be as specific as possible)
Drag and drop photo onto map
Use Groups to share photos with other people who have similar photos.
Click Groups > Search for Groups
When you fin one you like, click Join this Group
Add photos to a Group's photo pool by clicking Groups > Your Groups
View Your Contacts photos to see what has been recently uploaded by people you know or like - you can also Invite people to view your photos even if they don't have a Flickr account.
Use a Badge to automatically show your photos on your website.
Print Your Photos right from flickr - choose the size and finish, and they will mail them to you.
Edit Your Photographs Online
Flickr uses Picnik to allow flickr users to edit photos right online. To do this, click the "Edit Photo" icon in the toolbar above the photo to edit, and this will import the photo into the Picnik editor.
Picnik allows for color adjustment, red-eye reduction, cropping, resizing and more
Some features are "Premium" - you have to pay to use them
"Pro" flickr users can replace photos; free account can only create new photos
Lots of other online photo editors are available, but this is the only one integrated with flickr
Glossary of Flickr Terms
Badge: A way to add photos from your flickr account right to your own website
Collection: A group of sets (can also include photos not in sets)
Contacts: Other flickr users you have chosen to add to Your Contacts page; can be Contacts, Friends or Family
Description: Text describing a photograph (shows below the photo)
Discussion board: Online discussion forum available for group members to talk to each other
Favorite: Marking a photo a "favorite" adds it to Your Favorites page, to make it easy to find later
Geotagging: Adding location-related metadata to your photos to make them findable by where they were taken (this happens automatically when you add photos to your map)
Groups: A group of flickr users with a similar interest, and share information via a photo pool and a discussion board
Metadata: Information about your photos used to organize and find them. Tags, titles and descriptions are examples of metadata, but your camera will also automatically add shutter speed, exposure, white balance, etc. to your photo's metadata
Note: Text describing a highlighted section of a photograph (shows right on the photo)
Photostream: The photos uploaded to a flickr account
Picnik: The tool flickr uses for online photo editing
Pool: The photos of individual group members that they have added to the group
Set: A group of related photographs
Tags (or tagging): Keywords added to a photograph to make it easy to find
Title: Short "headline" of a photo (shows above the photo)
I am giving a workshop in early April on using flickr. It's the last in a digital photography workshop series at my library, because, after people learn how to use and take nice pictures with their digital camera, the flickr workshop will show them one option for doing something with those digital pictures.
I thought I'd get a jump on preparing for it, by compiling a list of websites I'd like to mention in addition to flickr - not just online photo sharing websites, but websites that let you edit photos, sites that have free archives of photos, etc.
In the process of working on it, it occurred to me that it'd be worthwhile to post it here, too. It's a long list, but certainly not all-inclusive, so if your favorite isn't listed here, please share.