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

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How About This For A Library Marketing Campaign?

   February 26th, 2014 Brian Herzog

I was a marketing major in college, so things like branding and public presentation are always important to me (although I certainly don't consider myself an expert). That said, I've never really been a huge fan of the ALA's "@ your library" campaign - you know the one:

ALA @ Your Library

I'm not entirely sure why - however much I like the sentiment, I've never been able to really embrace this slogan.

It's important to me to brand and promote libraries though - especially in a universal way - and I finally came up with an alternative to @ your library. I don't think anyone's done this approach before, and what I was going for was both a catchy way to promote the library in general, as well as a way to inform people of library services they might not know the library offers.

So, without further ado, here's my suggestion for an "I Library" campaign:

I Library Storytime
I Library Ebooks
I Library Homework
I Library Movies
I Library Lectures
I Library Chelmsford

And of course, no online campaign is complete without an animated gif:

I Library [animated]

I'm obviously not a graphic designer, but I like this idea. The services I used are just a small sampling of what libraries offer - the possibilities are endless. So too are the choices of fonts, colors, and improvements over my layout. But I thought it was nice and simple and clear. And customizable, because patrons could choose the services they use.

Hopefully it's interesting enough that patrons would want to put bumper stickers on their car, wear it on a t-shirt, carry a tote bag version, or whatever. And, maybe it's even informative enough to show non-patrons that the library does indeed have something for them.

Reference Question of the Week – 8/11/13

   August 17th, 2013 Brian Herzog

parrotSometimes, patrons just miss a chance at a really great Reference Question of the Week.

A patron called and asked for information on a product called the "Parrot Talking Bible." She described it as a physical device that lets you press different buttons to hear the Bible being read to you.

Sounds straight-forward, but I couldn't find a product called the "Parrot Talking Bible." I found lots of disc-based and digital audio Bibles, and even a physical device called Talking Bible, but that wasn't what the patron was looking for.

The problem was that any time I included "parrot" as a search term, I'd either get a Parrot Bible, or Bible jokes or stories involving parrots. There were a surprising number of them, but my favorite was:

Four brothers left home for college, and they became successful doctors and lawyers.

One evening, they chatted after having dinner together. They discussed the 95th birthday gifts they were able to give their elderly mother who moved to Florida.

The first said, "You know I had a big house built for Mama."

The second said, "And I had a large theater built in the house."

The third said, "And I had my Mercedes dealer deliver an SL600 to her."

The fourth said, "You know how Mama loved reading the Bible and you know she can't read anymore because she can't see very well. I met this preacher who told me about a parrot who could recite the entire Bible. It took ten preachers almost 8 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $50,000 a year for five years to the church, but it was worth it. Mama only has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it."

The other brothers were impressed. After the celebration Mama sent out her "Thank You" notes.

She wrote: "Milton, the house you built is so huge that I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway."

"Marvin, I am too old to travel. I stay home; I have my groceries delivered, so I never use the Mercedes. The thought was good. Thanks."

"Michael, you gave me an expensive theater with Dolby sound and it can hold 50 people, but all of my friends are dead, I've lost my hearing, and I'm nearly blind. I'll never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same."

"Dearest Melvin, you were the only son to have the good sense to give a little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious,thank you so much."



The patron was disappointed I couldn't find what she was looking for, but also remarked that maybe she had gotten some wrong information.

See, now what would have made this a great Reference Question of the Week would have been if she had said this after I read her that joke. Oh well. Ever since this call came in I periodically re-search looking for a "Parrot Talking Bible," but so far nothing.

Social Networking Cliff Notes, 18 June 2013 Edition

   June 19th, 2013 Brian Herzog

social networking puzzle

   Image courtesy of greyweed on flickr

In case you missed it, Monday's episode of NPR's All Things Considered had a segment interviewing teens on what social network tools they use, and why.

Since I don't use most of these tools myself, it's hard for me to keep them all straight. The kids definitely mixed-and-matched tools based on what they wanted to accomplish, and routinely reposted content from one to others. I found all of this very interesting, and perhaps useful for libraries reaching out to patrons.

Here is my take-away on current tools (which will be out of date by next week), but it's definitely worth the five minutes to listen to the full segment.

  • Facebook - reconnecting with friends you're not in regular contact with, but is too public for regular friend communication
  • Twitter - thinking out loud or sharing observations in a text-only way
  • Tumbler - sort of like Twitter, except expressing your views/thoughts using other peoples' images or video found on the internet
  • Instagram - sharing photos you have taken
  • Snapchat - sort of like Instagram, but the benefit here is that images auto-delete after 10 seconds or so and you have more control over who receives them in the first place [apparently people are getting smarter about the fact that internet is forever]
  • Vine - sharing short (7 second) videos
  • Texting - it sounds like this is still the primary friend-to-friend tool of choice, because it is the most direct and the most private

Maybe all of this was neat to me because I'm like the girl at the end of the interview, the one kind of left out because I don't have a phone. Oh well.

Reference Question of the Week – 1/20/13

   January 26th, 2013 Brian Herzog

Jumper cables on a car batteryIt's been really cold in this area this week, so this question is quite timely. However, it doesn't exactly have a happy ending.

When I came in to work on Wednesday, a coworker related this incident from the day before:

A patron's car wouldn't start in the parking lot, so she came back in the library to ask staff for help. She asked at the circulation desk, and they sent her down to reference. Apparently she didn't have AAA or anyone she could call to help, so she was kind of stuck*. However, only one staff person in the area had jumper cables, and he said he couldn't do it for liability reasons. The patron left reference, and by the end of the night her car was gone from the parking lot, but no one is quite sure how she got it started.

The coworker who relayed this story to me was basically asking if staff handled it correctly, and should the library help someone jump start their car. It's something we've done in the past (I personally have), and I think she felt bad this patron was turned away (especially with our "getting to yes" policy).

We don't have any kind of formal jump starting policy (I mean really, who does?), but because it happened once, I thought it was worth exploring. The Director and I discussed it, and ended up posting this on our staff blog:

Patrons and Jumper Cables

Last week a patron’s car wouldn’t start in the parking lot – she didn’t have AAA or any other way to deal with it on her own, so she came into the library and asked if staff could help her.

The Town cannot accept liability for Town workers to jump cars for people (so it’s okay to say no). However, any staff person that is willing to help on their own (with their own car and jumper cables) is free to assist the patron (but they need to know that you’re doing this on your own, not as a library employee).

Instructions on how to jump start a car using jumper cables [pdf] (from Car Talk)

If this happens at closing time, and there is no way to start the patron’s car and no one else they can call for help, please call the Chelmsford Police non-emergency number 978-256-#### to let them know there is a car stranded in the library parking lot.

This seemed to be a good compromise - the Town can't be responsible for untrained staff jumping someone's car, but if a Good Samaritan staff person knows what they're doing and is willing to help, they can. I always feel a little bad when a limit to what a public library can offer is hit, because I still want libraries to be able to do anything.

Also, a note on the instructions: I know different people have different ways of jump starting a car, so I searched around online to see if there was a safe consensus among experts. The guys at Car Talk are expert enough for me, and their method was backed up by other places too.


*I recently had major car problems too, so I can empathize.

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Swear Like A Librarian

   August 9th, 2011 Brian Herzog

No Swearing signI hope this post doesn't get blocked by your filtering software.

When not at work, some librarians I know have the filthiest mouths of anyone I've encountered. But at the desk they obviously can't use bad words, so I got curious about the public-safe language librarians use to replace swear words. That's the catch-22 of libraries: serving the public can be stressful, but working at a public service desk means being limited in how we can respond when something goes wrong.

I asked around a bit and here's a list of some choice "safe" words library staff use:

  • some old standards: Shoot, Fudge, Bologny
  • Jeepers Crow
  • Flip
  • Fly me (to the moon)
  • Mother of pearl
  • What the what?
  • For the love of Pete
  • For cripe's sake
  • Frick
  • Shut the front door
  • Sugar Honey Iced Tea

The last one is my favorite - read it again, but just the first letter of each word.

I'm sure everyone has their favorites - what are your patron-safe swear words? Please share them in the comments or make #swearlikealibrarian a trending topic.

When I was originally working on this post, I thought some gansta rap-style image would make an appropriate illustration. I couldn't find one exactly right, but I did think this was funny:

I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie sign

Good job Hillsdale Free Public Library - Sir Mix-A-Lot would be proud.

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