September 29th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Wednesday is my night to close the library, so I work until 9pm. Usually the 8-9pm hour can be slow, allowing me to get off-desk-type work done. However, one particular patron made the last hour of this past Wednesday more interesting than usual.
The phone rings, and when I answer it, she opens with this question:
Do you have that very famous book about Lincoln and World War Two?
I had no idea how to take that. She had a very gravelly voice, and at first I wasn't even sure if was a real call or a prank of some kind.
But to be on the safe side, I said I didn't know the book, and asked if she knew the author. She replied that he was a famous poet, and after a minute or so, came up with Carl Sandburg.
Searching for keyword:Abraham Lincoln author:Carl Sandburg brought up Abraham Lincoln: the prairie years and the war years, and when I read the title to the patron, she said it was the right book. I put it on hold for her and we hung up.
I didn't immediately see the WWII connection, so I did a web search for "Abraham Lincoln" "carl sandburg" +wwii and found an article from the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association stating:
Maybe enough time has passed for us to see The Prairie Years and The War Years in historical perspective, to historicize it against the background of American history between the world wars. Sand-burg began writing The Prairie Years in 1922, less than five years after the World War I Armistice, and he completed The War Years in 1939 as the world was sliding inexorably into the holocaust of World War II; the ambiguity of his title did not escape him. Read as a timeless masterpiece, Sandburg's Lincoln does not hold up; read as a timely response to a series of national crises that recalled the Civil War, the book still carries much of its original power.
Okay, I can see why the patron conflated Lincoln and WWII. About two minutes after I found this, the same patron called back and asked:
Can you tell me who designed the Greek army uniforms?
Are you kidding me?
She went on to say she didn't mean the regular uniforms - what she was interested in where the clown uniforms, the ones with balloon pants that they blow air into. Oh, well, then in that case, no problem.
I told her I'd have to research this and I would call her back.
A quickie search for Greek army uniforms actually lead to a Wikipedia article devoted to them, which was handy. It didn't talk about balloon pants, but one of the images was of some Evzones, whose uniforms, while not including balloon pants, were nonetheless remarkable.
But while I was searching for that, it occurred to me that she might actually mean the Swiss Guard at the Vatican. I looked up their uniform too (and the designer), and their pants are more balloonish than the Greek's leggings.
I called the patron back with what I found, and she was very interested. She agreed that she must have been thinking of the Swiss Guard, but that only slowed her down for a second. She immediately followed-up with,
So then who designed the Beafeaters' uniforms?
A quick web search found two websites talking about uniform origin, which basically date, unchanged, to Tudor times in 1552.
These were all quick and superficial answers. I then searched our catalog to see if we had a book about military uniforms, but none of ours included these types of historical dress uniforms. Other libraries in our consortium appeared to have more historical books, but then the patron changed her mind - she was just curious, so the websites were good enough and she didn't need to read more about it.
So we hung up, and for the rest of the night I kept waiting for her to call back asking for the number of fry cooks on Venus or something - but she never did.
September 26th, 2012 Brian Herzog
A few months ago, my library conducted a survey of our patrons. We wanted it to be short+useful, so we called it the "60 Second Survey" and limited it to five questions, on things like which services people liked/used, best way to contact them about programs and events, etc.
Of course, the last question was the open-ended "Tell us what you think" question. 255 people provided comments, which made for very interesting reading.
Last week while a coworker was talking about the Wordle cover letter cloud, we got the idea to do a cloud based on the survey comments. Here it is (larger version to see smaller words):
We had read the comments so we knew it was generally positive, but the visual impact of seeing things like this made us feel pretty good. A cloud is so much more concise than 255 individual comments, and we were very happy to see things like "friendly" and "helpful" rise to the top since those are areas we strive to emphasize.
Anyway, I don't mean this as a "We're #1" gloaty post - I just wanted to share because it was so positive. And, it's also a great visual, so we're going to include it in the Town Annual Report, as well as create a poster to display in the library, post on Facebook, etc. A t-shirt might be going too far, but we'll see. I like t-shirts.
I know I'm late to the Wordle game, but now I can't help trying to come up with other things to convert to clouds.
September 8th, 2012 Brian Herzog
I only heard about this third-hand, but I still found it funny.
A patron walked up to one of our male circulation desk assistants with a copy of the library's event calendar in hand. She pointed to an event on one of the days and asked,
How does this gynecology program work? Does a doctor come in and give people free exams?
Confused (because we have never offered free gynecological exams [and I can't imagine a public library ever doing that]), he looked at the calendar and replied,
Oh, no, that's our Genealogy Group.
Not quite the same thing. A very simple misunderstanding, but I am easily amused.
August 29th, 2012 Brian Herzog
A couple of totally unrelated really good ideas (I think), before I head to Ohio for a long Labor Day weekend:
Good Idea #1
First, for all you DVD collection development librarians out there, here is a must-add for the library's collection:
A 50-DVD set of The Red Green Show! 300 episodes = ~124 hours of wisdom from Possum Lodge, plus bonus material. Of course, the $299.99 price tag made my colleague who does our DVD selection just say "no."
Good Idea #2
Second, an Apple Store training manual for their Genius Bar employees was reviewed at Gizmodo. From the tl;dr write up on BoingBoing, some great training gems caught my eye:
What does a Genius do? Educates. How? "Gracefully." He also "Takes Ownership" "Empathetically," "Recommends" "Persuasively," and "Gets to 'Yes'" "Respectfully."
From the comments, it appears the existence of this manual met with a large degree of cynicism. However, swap out "Genius" for "Librarian" and this exactly sums up what our desk staff should aspire to.
Taking ownership of a problem can be difficult in a public library, because not everything is something library staff can help with. But when it is within our power - especially concerning a library resource or service - taking ownership is the best way solve a patron's problem. Because if one of our patrons can't use a library resource, then it's a library problem.
And initially I was uncomfortable with the word "persuasively," because it sounds very retail. But after I thought about it, I often actively try to persuade patrons all the time, in the sense of recommending - and leading them to - what I think is the best resource. "Yes, maybe this recently-published book on skin cancer is a better choice, even though that one from 1995 is thinner and has more pictures. Of course, you can always take both." Or, "Instead of trying to figure out how to cite Yahoo Answers in your term paper, how about I show you how to use our journal databases?" Of course librarians persuade - empathetically and respectfully - but don't force or withhold information. We certainly try to recommend the best resources possible, but it's always up to the patron to make their own decisions.
Not that I should be surprised Apple has good customer service ideas - I've certainly drawn inspiration from them before.
I hope everyone has a good long weekend - see you next week.
Tags: apple, apple store, collection development, customer service, dvd, genius bar, good ideas, libraries, Library, public, red green, the red green show, training
August 8th, 2012 Brian Herzog
My brother sent me this photo, from the August 3, 2012, Police Blotter in the Sandusky Register:
I know this isn't an earth-shattering achievement, and that most libraries routinely do this with lost cards, but yay for it being in the paper and yay for it working out in the end.
August 1st, 2012 Brian Herzog
As seen on BoingBoing, the website http://matchbook.nu matches up bathing suits with book covers - pretty convincingly, I might add. A few of my favorites:
The book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The first sentence:"All this happened, more or less."
The cover designer: Carin Goldberg
The bikini: Kudeta Bikini. $45.
The book: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The first sentence: "My suffering left me sad and gloomy."
The bathing suit: Men's Swimming Trunks by EUROPANN. $49.
However, one it missed was for ebooks - generic, nondescript, uniform:
The book: The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
The first sentence: “I do not wish to remember these things.”
The cover designer: Amazon
The bathing suit: Submarine One-Piece Swimsuit from Anthropologie. $278.