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



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Instruction… @ THEIR Library

   January 11th, 2007 Brian Herzog

I don't know if this is true for other communities, but at the Chelmsford Schools, every 6th grader takes part in the I-Search research project. Their general topic is Ancient Civilizations, and each student picks something specific (gladiators, daily life in ancient China, etc.) to research and write about (along the Big6 guidelines).

In past years, every 6th grade class would take a field trip to the public library. They would sign up for a library card, get a tour, meet the librarians, and start researching their topic. This year, though, the school had remodeled and expanded its own library, and wanted to highlight how it and its collection could help with I-Search.

So, the Children's Librarian, the Teen Librarian and myself (as Reference/databases) went to the school library to deliver a little presentation on what the public library offers. The morning we went, we spoke to four classes of 6th graders, which was about was about 100 kids. We're going back in February to speak to a second group of 100 kids.

We had three handouts prepared for them. One was a general brochure [pdf] on library services, with a section devoted to the call numbers of the different civilizations. Second was a bookmark [pdf] on how to access and search EBSCOhost's History Reference Center database, along with a few search tips. We also gave them a map of the public library, so they could find where the J books were, where the DVDs were, etc. In addition, we created a web page with this information and more.

I've never presented anything to kids that age, and wasn't sure what to expect. Overall, they were very good for having to sit and listen about how to search a database. And the school librarian and teachers liked our presentation, too. Best of all, though, in the two days since the talk, I've already helped four kids with I-Search - and all of them were interested in using the databases from home. The assignment isn't due until March, and these kids are already on top of it. Amazing.

, ancient civilizations, i-search, instruction, libraries, library, outreach, school libraries, students



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The Year of Vonnegut

   January 9th, 2007 Brian Herzog

The Year of Vonnegut in Indianapolis I was born in 1974, the Year of the Tiger. Kids lucky enough to be born in 2007 get to be born in The Year of Vonnegut - at least, if they're from Indianapolis, IN.

A friend of mine there told me a while ago that Indianapolis was honoring one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, in this way (and, knowing me well, she also reminded me again last week - thanks, Lisa).

Indianapolis' local free paper, NUVO, is covering the year's events, sponsored in part by them, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, and many other community groups.

Not only do I think this is a heck of way for a city to celebrate a native son, but it's great that the local library and cultural newspaper are so involved. Talk about encouraging reading through positive publicity. However, I can't help note the similarity to the plot of Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions.

Here are some more Vonnegut resources on the internet:

*
Indiana, Indianapolis, Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, Kurt Vonnegut, NUVO, the year of vonnegut, Vonnegut, year of vonnegut



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Reference Question of the Week – 12/31

   January 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

This one isn't exactly a reference question, but kind of:

At my library, the reference desk offers One-on-One Computer Workshops two evenings a week. The point of them is to supplement the more structured classes we offer, so a patron can come in and work with a librarian on whatever computer issue they need help with. Wednesdays are my nights, and this past Wednesday, a patron came in for his session:

Patron: Hello. I have never even turned on a computer before, so you're going to be starting from scratch with me. I'm recently retired, and since I have time on my hands, I thought I should learn this internet thing.
Me: Okay. You can use the internet for a lot of different things - what are you interested in doing?
Patron: I want to learn how to do day-trading with my stock portfolio.

At this point, I didn't exactly laugh, but it took me a minute or so before I could say anything. My response was something like:

Me: Huh. Well, day-trading is actually kind of an advanced thing, so how about we start with the basics. Do you know what a mouse is?
Patron: No.
Me: Okay then - this is a mouse...

...and we kind of went on from there. He picked up things very quickly, and should be ready for stock trading in maybe the second session. After that, I'm going to start him on mashups.

But really, I was shocked when he said that. I mean, it's great that, despite having never used a computer before, he sees it just as a tool to do something he wanted to do, rather than this great and mysterious thing to be feared.

Heck, I don't even know how to day-trade stocks, so where does it leave librarians when our "beginners" are more advanced then we are? Then again, this certainly isn't the first time I've helped someone find information on a topic I knew nothing about. Librarians don't need to know everything, they just know where to find it.

computer training, day trading, libraries, library, reference question



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Web 1.9999999…

   November 30th, 2006 Brian Herzog

In an effort to cater to the Long Tail patrons who are still unfamiliar with internety things, my library is holding a program tonight called Joys & pitfalls of social networking software.

It is really geared towards parents who are concerned for their childrens' safety on the internet. Our thinking is that if we can educate parents about Web 2.0 tools and how they are used, they will, 1) be more comfortable with their kids using them, and, 2) be able to use them themselves to interact with friends, peers - and their own children - through them.

Our program will be presented in three acts. First, our Director will talk very generally about internet trends, citing statistics, as well as library policy regarding internet use. Next, our YA Librarian will mention what teens do on the internet (myspace, IM, etc), and provide tips on how they can do it safely. Finally, I'll bring up the rear by going more in-depth with popular Web 2.0 websites. So far, only the list of websites I'm going to address is online, but I hope to have the entire thing available soon.

internet safety, library, parents, programs, social networking, social software, technology, teens, web 2.0



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Getting out the (Patron) Vote

   November 7th, 2006 Brian Herzog

In 2007, my library is conducting a "One Book One Town" program. It's the first time this community has done it, and the library received a grant [pdf] from the State to run it.

The biggest question, then, is which book to read. Instead of the library just picking one, we decided to let the patrons choose their book. To do this, the library designed a two-step process.

Step One was "nominations." During the months of September and October 2006, we had nomination forms and boxes in the library and on the website, for patrons to nominate a book (or books - they could nominate as many titles as they wanted) that they thought would be a good read for the entire town.

When nominations closed, a committee of library staff and townspeople tallied up all the nominations. The idea was to take the top five or so most popular, but the committee found that the nominations were all over the spectrum. So, they had to apply some criteria to help narrow the list:

  • had to be fiction
  • had to be under about 400 pages
  • had to be readable by and interesting to ages about fourteen to adult
  • shouldn't be a book everyone read in high school

Once those criteria had weeded out many books, the committee then chose the three most popular nominations, and created a voting ballot for general elections.

Step Two came on Election Day (today, Nov. 7th), with ballots and boxes set up in the library, on the website - and also at the election polling locations around town. The idea was to get people interested in the One Book One Town program by really letting them vote on which title they read.

Voting is going on right now, and I'll post how the results come out.



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