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.
June 6th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Aaron highlighted a great tool on Walking Paper - a single serving script that shows whether the library is open or not:
Great job Durham County Library for coming up with it, and thank you very much for making the code freely available.
This is definitely going on my library's website (when I get a chance) - but of course, with 24/7 Library Anytime, the answer is always YES!
May 8th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Here's a more in-your-face twist on the Library Value Calculator. Another library in my consortium figured out how to display the total cost of a patron's items on their checkout receipt, and since we never let a good idea go to waste, we adopted it in my library, too.
Basically, it's a little macro that pulls the cost figure from each item's record, adds them all up, and provides a total. We present it in kind of a cutesy context, but the intent is to show people how much they save by using the library. Check it out:
Our phrasing is deliberate - if people bought the items themselves, they'd get to keep them (which obviously isn't the case with libraries). Also, we only print out receipts if people ask for them (to save on paper), so I'm not sure what impact this will have - we'll see.
Also: speaking of valuable things, I'm off for the next week to see my family over Mother's Day weekend (hence all the audiobooks I'm checking out above). So no Reference Question of the Week this week, and I'll be back next week.
This is how I was able to add this to our receipts - as far as I know, this only works with Evergreen version 2.1 and later. If you have a different ILS, contact your vendor and demand they offer it:
- In Evergreen, open the Receipt Template Editor
- Choose the checkout template
- At the bottom of whatever you have in the Line Item, add this:
<span style="display: none;" sum="sum1">%price%</span>
- Somewhere in the footer, add this:
You saved: $<span sumout="sum1" fixed="2"></span>
(or whatever you'd like it to read. Also, the fixed="2" rounds to two places.)
- Click the Save Locally button
Keep in mind that if the items checked out somehow don't have price values assigned to them, the receipt will read "You saved: $0.00" at the bottom.
May 2nd, 2012 Brian Herzog
I know I've given the Dewey Decimal System a hard time for its quirks, and have experimented with other shelving systems when Dewey wasn't getting the job done. But recently, I stumbled on another great example of how Dewey totally misses the point - to wit:
Now, keep in mind this photo was staged - I pulled these books off the shelf to photograph them. In real life, they're about three shelves away from each other.
And that's the problem: Istanbul is a city in Turkey, but Istanbul travel books are shelved in the "Europe" Dewey section, while general Turkey travel books are shelved in the "Asia" section. Ridiculous!
Yes, I know Turkey spans two continents, and the majority of Istanbul is in Europe while the majority of Turkey is in Asia. That's all very clever and precise, but totally fails patrons browsing the shelves. Chances are, someone looking for travel books to Turkey are going to find them and stop, and not think they've got to look for more books in a different section.
I talked to the cataloger at my library and (happily) we decided to apply Ranganathan's fourth law and move the Istanbul books to the Turkey section. But come on - a system is only good as the number of compensations you need to make for it.
Then again, perhaps this is nobody's business but the Turks.
April 1st, 2012 Brian Herzog
This isn't exactly a reference question, but it is something reference staff deal with all the time. A patron came up to the desk and said,
That man on the last computer over there is looking at porn.
This seems to go in waves for us, but we probably average three or four porn complaints a month. The way we handle this in my library is to print out our Appropriate Library Behavior policy, and highlight the line that says,
The library is a public building and objectionable or pornographic images that can be seen by others (either intentionally or accidentally, and either on screen on in print) are not permissible.
I then give it to the patron in question, while at the same time saying something like, "another patron complained about something they saw on your screen. Since this is a public building, you must make sure that anything on your screen is appropriate for all ages."
At least, this is how we handle first-time offenders - we don't accuse them of anything, we don't kick them out, we just make it clear that anything they do must be clean enough for kids and the general public. We approach it this way because porn isn't illegal, but very subjective, and just not something we can allow at the library.
But it got me thinking: there are other things the library can't accommodate, for one reason or another: color photocopying, notary service, etc. In these cases, we have little handouts at the reference desk that list other locations in town that can accommodate those needs.
So, I thought, why don't we also make a handout for the porn people, listing other places in the area that cater to Adult Services? Here's what I came up with:
From now on, whenever a patron complains about someone looking at porn, in addition to giving them a copy of the official library policy, I'm also going to give them one of these handouts - that way, we're maintaining our yes-based policy and fulfilling a core library function by referring them to the most appropriate resource.
It's formatted to print three per page - feel free to download and edit one for your library [ppt], or check out the PDF version.