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



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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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