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



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Libraries as Fun Places

   April 20th, 2007 Brian Herzog

I read a post on LISNews today about a "book bar" trend that is starting in the UK. Lichen had brought up this idea before, and I still like it - make libraries more inviting in general, rather than just hoping people like what we have where we have it how we have it.

Crowd watching Coffeehouse @ the Library performerMy library is having a "Coffeehouse @ the Library" series as part of our larger One Book Chelmsford program, and the response has been great. The first one was well attended (see photos), and patrons are looking forward to the second (which is tonight, so come if you can!).

And I'm hoping that if we can demonstrate desire and attendance among patrons, then this can be a regular program.

book bar, coffee house, coffeehouse, entertainment, libraries, library, live performer, public libraries, public library



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“New Program” At My Library

   April 2nd, 2007 Brian Herzog

This email was sent to all the staff at my library yesterday, for an April Fools joke - it met with mixed results:

Announcing a New Reference Program

In order to reach out to teenagers who use the internet more than the library, the Reference Department is launching a new program designed to appeal to these kids.

Since kids are online so much, this new program is geared to reach kids where they spend time. Instead of the Reference Desk, we will use accounts on MySpace and Facebook, and launch a new blog with podcasts and YouTube videos. This will show the kids that the library is as hip and cool as they are, which will make them more comfortable in asking us questions.

We also came up with a hip and cool name and image for the program, based around the look and language of teens today. To show that we're funky-fresh, the program will be called "RephrenZ" (the teen's phonetical spelling of "reference).

A core service of this program will be a new 24/7 chat/IM reference service. The Friends of the Library have graciously given the library funds to purchase five new laptop computers, one for each member of the Reference Staff.

To be able to answer chat and IM reference questions day or night, all Reference Staff will be required to carry their laptops with them at all times, and answer chat questions during their regular desk shifts as well as while they are at home. The Friends are also buying two extra laptops, so other staff can volunteer to answer chat reference questions from home.

The blog and chat login and everything else will be centered in our new website. For more information, please visit Da Rephrenz webpage at http://www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/rephrenz

Are you ready to Git Yo Reph On?!?

Brian



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Star Wars Event Kit

   February 16th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Yoda's 'Read, you will' pinTo help libraries and booksellers create an event around the 30th anniversary of the original Star Wars movie release (5/25/77), Random House is offering free Star Wars event kits.

Kits include a few books, posters, pins, activity ideas, and other promotional materials. Requests must be submitted by March 1st, 2007.

event, events, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, random house, star wars, yoda



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Tax Forms – Come & Get ‘Em

   January 16th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Chelmsford Library's tax form displayEvery year, public libraries (and, I'm sure, post offices, town halls, senior centers, and other public places) have the pleasure of being a distribution point for Federal and State tax forms.

Which is a good thing, but it can also be somewhat trying. In my experience, here are some popular misconceptions concerning libraries and tax forms:

  • Libraries do not choose when or which forms to put out. The IRS and State Dept. of Revenue send us the forms over a period of about three months, and we put out whatever arrives
  • Libraries do not create these forms - we really do have to wait until they are sent to us. If the form you need is not out, we haven't received it yet (but keep reading)
  • Library staff cannot give tax advice - even if you're not sure of how to fill out your taxes, you can believe me when I say we are in no way qualified to help you file your taxes. I can help you find forms, or find someone who can help, but I cannot give you tax advice
  • There are no more forms in the back - we're not trying to hide anything from you, or save something for someone else. Everything we've received is available to the public

This year at my library, I'm trying something new with our tax form display. In years past, the tax forms were kept on empty bookshelves about as far away from the front door as you could get. This was messy and needlessly complicated.

This year, I bought a stand to hold the forms, set up a couple tables for the instruction booklets, and put everything right at the base of the stairs in the reference area (see photo). This is about 100 feet closer to the front door - and about as close as I can get while still being within range of the reference desk, so we can help people when they have questions. A small triumph.

Also, since we haven't received every tax form published by the Federal and State governments, and can't do patrons' taxes for them, below are some tax resources we frequently use:

libraries, library, tax, tax display, tax forms, taxes



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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:

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



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