October 24th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Have you ever heard about something, liked the idea, and just accepted as fact that because you've heard about it, everyone else must have too, and then a couple years later happened to mention it in a room full of people like it's common knowledge only to have everyone look at you with blank stares? I get this a lot.
Most recently, it happened with the Human Library Project - you know, the idea in the news a couple years ago where libraries had collections of people you could check out - police officer, politician, Buddhist, lesbian, etc - and sit and talk with them to learn about their life experience.
I personally loved this idea, because it's a way to meet types of people you may never meet in your life's normal routine. Of course, I don't think the project every took itself to be grander than it was - I mean, you're only talking to one person, so of course you can't automatically generalize to everyone of that person's "type." The human books aren't stereotypes, so it's not like you're learning what life is like for all black men, but you do find out what life is like for this black man - which might be more than you knew before, and that's a good thing.
Anyway, like I said, I loved this idea when I first heard about it, and tucked it away. I happened to mention it during a meeting a couple weeks ago, and everyone in the room thought I was making it up. So I started asking around over the course of that week, and no one I talked to had heard of it. So, here you go, world - consider yourself officially informed. You are welcome.
I thought I'd also take this opportunity to mention a few other non-traditional things you can check out of libraries. Earlier this year, there was a PLA session on non-traditional collections, such as circulating ereaders, guitars, and running a seed library.
The iLibrarian blog is also a great resource for these types of ideas. Recent posts there include:
Seeing things like this makes me happy I work in libraries, but sad that I can't work in all the libraries. I mean, I've always thought it was cool that some libraries circulate cooking pans and artwork, and just last week we referred a patron to the Library of Congress' Talking Books program. But how much fun would it be to check out farmland or to offer a Maker Station?
Pretty fun, is my answer. I get excited by potential, which is why I never despair over the future of libraries - we've got potential coming out of our buns.
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.
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 22nd, 2012 Brian Herzog
One of the creators of the infographic below sent it to me saying,
I worked closely with the ALA and IMLS to create this infographic about "Why support your local library?" We are using this to drum up support for volunteers, donations and legislative actions.
I like that it addresses the counter-intuitive notion that during a bad economy, library budgets need to be expanded because we get so much busier. It's a hard sell, even with the statistics to back it up.
Update 9/12/12: a data error was found in the original infographic, and this version has been updated.
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.
June 9th, 2012 Brian Herzog
One afternoon, an older female patron called the reference desk and asked:
Do you have a shredder there that I can use?
This has always been kind of a gray area for us. Yes, we do have a shredder in the office for library staff. We have no official policy on the public using it, other than our general yes-based policy. And in the past, if a patron had just a few sheets that needed to be shredded, I would take the pages and do the shredding for the patron. So, I asked:
Me: How many pages do you have to shred?
Patron: Oh, I'd say hundreds.
Arrgh - "hundreds" sounded like more than we could accommodate* (besides, we have just a standard office shredder, not a heavy-duty one). So, reluctantly, all I could suggest to this patron is to contact her bank, as I know a few local banks will shred their customers' documents for free.
I get asked this a few times a year, but the more I thought about it this time, the more I thought this is a perfect service for libraries to offer. A heavy-duty shredder is something not everyone can afford, but something the community could purchase and share (just like other library materials). Plus, with libraries' strong commitment to protecting patron privacy, this seems like a nice way to promote "privacy literacy."
There are questions though - in fact, to find out if there are already best-practices for public shredding, I posted this question on the library stack exchange:
- how heavy-duty of a shredder is necessary?
- should it be a free-access shredder in a public area, or staff-mediated behind a desk or in an office?
- would noise or safety a factor?
- should patrons need to sign a waiver since they're probably leaving personal/private data behind? (shredded, but still, there's always potential)
- should there be a limit on how much patrons can shred? (since it all becomes waste the library needs to pay to remove)
If you've got any suggestions, please feel free to answer on stack exchange or in the comments below - thanks.
*There are a few off-the-books things in the library people can do, if they don't it too much. Shredding is one, using a desk phone to make a call is another.
The most common is probably bringing in magazines - we have a basket into which we put our weeded magazines for people to take (and keep), and patrons always ask if they can bring in their own magazines to leave there for others. Officially the basket is just for library magazines (because we don't want to deal with someone dumping a load of junk there for us to deal with), but we routinely tell patrons that if they just have a few magazines, it's okay.
So far, everyone has been totally fine with this, and no one abuses it. I like these sort of open-ended practices, where you trust people not to be idiots, and it works.