September 21st, 2014 Brian Herzog
This ended up being one of those very rare reference questions where initially it seems like a million-to-one shot, and ends up very casually being that one in a million. This email request came to the reference desk:
Submitted via Chelmsford Library Reference Question.
Allan Daniel Clark, from (born\in North Clemsford, MA Born june 19, 1924, Father Shirley John - Mother Lela M. Lord Clark Enlisted in the US Navy on jan 27, 1953 at Boston, MA Lost on the submarine USS Swordfish (SS-193) --- This man's photo is needed for use with his published Memorial record in the set of six volumes of all the known men lost while attached to a US Submarine Command during World War II. Photos may be in local newspapers of school yearbooks, etc.
That sounds like a great project. My library does have a collection of Chelmsford High School yearbooks, but unfortunately it's not complete. And of course, the further back you go, the more gaps there are in the collection.
But by doing some estimation - someone born in 1924 would be 18 in 1942 - I guessed the yearbooks we'd need would be in the 1940-1943 range. According to the catalog that should be no problem, but when I got to the shelf the only one from that period that was actually there was 1942 - not great odds.
Also, it turns out that Chelmsford High only included photos of the seniors in the yearbooks, with other classes only having their names listed.
But, despite the odds, this was indeed the correct yearbook, and Allan Daniel Clark was right there at the bottom of the page:
I was rather surprised, but very happy. I emailed the patron some scanned versions of the page, as well as contact information for the High School to see about copyright permission. I felt really good about being able to answer this question, but even still I was expecting the inevitable reply:
Thank you for your efforts on locating photos. For your reference, i am attaching a description of the six volume series.
Although I wish him well with this project, the library will not be purchasing this six volume series.
Tags: chelmsford high school, chs, libraries, Library, photo, project, public, Reference Question, submarines, WWII, yearbook
September 18th, 2014 Brian Herzog
You may have seen this, but it bears cross-posting:
Librarians in Massachusetts are working to give their patrons a chance to opt-out of pervasive surveillance. Partnering with the ACLU of Massachusetts, area librarians have been teaching and taking workshops on how freedom of speech and the right to privacy are compromised by the surveillance of online and digital communications -- and what new privacy-protecting services they can offer patrons to shield them from unwanted spying of their library activity.
Read the full article on Boing Boing - please, read it. Good stuff.
It's important also to know this isn't a one time have-a-workshop-and-everything-is-fixed situation. Online privacy and security evolves constantly - a good example is Overdrive's recent announcement of changes to their app.
On the one hand they said they can do away with Adobe IDs, but on the other they want to start forcing patrons to register with Overdrive. It's increasingly common for patron information to be controlled by third-parties, but it's still not a good thing - and definitely something patrons should know about. And if it's not their librarians telling them, who will?
Thanks for pushing this, Alessandro!
September 13th, 2014 Brian Herzog
This whole interaction made me laugh, but I have to call Spoiler Alert for anyone who hasn't read Be careful what you wish for by Jeffrey Archer - because this question does reveal the ending (I think).
A patron called in on a cell phone (with driving noises in the background) asking if there's a book after Archer's Be careful what you wish for. While I'm checking our catalog (which has Novelist Select built into the pages to list books in series order) the patron says [and this is the spoiler],
Everybody just blew up and the book ended so there's got to be a sequel.
When I get to the record I tell him it was just released in 2014 and is the fourth book in the series, but the fifth book isn't out yet. The patron's reaction could have caused an accident:
What? You mean they're going to make me wait? I just finished the last CD and I want to find out what happens next!
I couldn't help but laugh. It's honestly a joy to hear someone so into a story.
At least I could tell him book five, Mightier than the Sword, is due out in February 2015. I haven't read any of these, but if this patron is so excited about them I think maybe I should. Any audiobook that caused someone to call the library immediately after the last disc ends has got to be good.
September 10th, 2014 Brian Herzog
At the risk of this blog becoming a list of things only interesting to me, here's another cool new-to-me app I just recently learned about.
It's called Mr. Silent, and it lets you auto-mute your phone based on time, location, or contact. It seems like a fairly obvious idea, but apparently this one works better than most - it integrates with your phone's calendar, contacts list, and GPS, and has a nice interface.
So now see, if I were designing the perfect library app, this feature would definitely be in there. As an opt-in thing, of course, but how nice would it be if people could set their phones to automatically go to vibrate when they were at the library? You could even gamify it by rewarding people by moving them up higher on wait lists for every time their phone ringer gets turned off by this app. Or something. I would trade all the hot dogs in the world for this to be a universal thing.
Plus, combine it with the location-based notes feature from a couple weeks ago, and you'd really have something.
Existing library apps are pretty good at covering the basics of catalog search, events calendar, and static information like hours and stuff. And Boopsie's self-check feature is also pretty awesome.
One other feature I'd like to integrate into a library app is an updatable resource map - one that library staff (or anyone I suppose) could add information to. For instance, local points of interest for a walking tour, where public bathrooms are, pay phones, free wifi, etc. Although I guess if you're already using your phone, looking for a pay phone or wifi might be irrelevant. Hmm, one of these days I'll get the hang of cell phones.
September 6th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Earlier this week, a coworker at our circulation desk sent me this message:
A patron came to the desk last night and asked where the last 6 months of Skeptical Inquirer were. He said they're never there except the new one. Did we have a blip in circulation?
It turns out that this is a bi-monthly magazine, and the issue the patron wanted was checked out. All of our copies were accounted for, but since there are fewer issues than a monthly magazine, it just seemed like more were missing than actually were.
But: this patron had doubts and that led him to ask a question - do you know what makes him? A Skeptical Inquirer!
It's things like this that make being a librarian worthwhile.
September 4th, 2014 Brian Herzog
I just got back from an extra-long Labor Day weekend, which of course means my desk had accumulated a variety of items in my absence. Most are fairly routine to deal with, but a few - namely, donations from patrons - sometimes require special tactics.
For regular donations (like books and DVDs), we either add them to the collection or give them to our Friends group for the book sale. But other things, local history items, photographs, old newspapers, and other assorted ephemera, don't fit into an existing slot somewhere in the library, which means a Decision must be made.
In my case, all that stuff (a.k.a. Deferred Decision items) goes under my desk. It occurred to me that it's possible that the best stuff in libraries lives in places like this - and only because we don't know what else to do with it.
So, as an exercise in public shame, I thought I'd share what it looks like under my desk, and explain what's there and why. Here's what is under my desk:
Now, going from left to right:
- The tall thin boxes are unassembled acid-free archival boxes, waiting to be used
- Next is an assembled archival box, which is my catch-all for any local history item that isn't a book. This currently includes (but is not limited to) a route map for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail bike path (the white roll on top), old and newish newspapers, unmarked photographs, random notebooks and records, loose yellowing pages from who knows what, and some duplicates of things we have in our Local History Room. Most of these things I found while cleaning out different cabinets in the library and just consolidated here - beyond that, I don't have any idea where most of it came from
- The white box is where I keep the current year of our local newspaper - we have a "reference" subscription to the paper, which I send out to be microfilmed after the year is complete. The publisher doesn't provide microfilm copies, so this is the only way we can continue to build a clean filmed copy for our archive
- The "tax products" box is something I keep just because it makes me laugh, although I haven't found an actual use for is yet
- And finally on the right, this entire box was donated by a patron and is full of magazines, newspapers, and scrapbooks of clippings, all from the 1960s and relating either to the Kennedys or the moon landing
Since we're a public library and not at archive, we really don't have a way to make most of this stuff publicly-available. But I also can't bring myself to just throw it all into the recycling bin.
I've tried to find homes for some of it - I called the JFK Library to see if they'd be interested in the old Kennedy stuff, but they said they have loads of it. Everything else, I just keep telling myself that some day when it's really slow at the desk, I'll go through it all and do something with it. Some day.
Anyway, I'd be curious to hear if anyone else has a treasure trove like this under their desk (or elsewhere). I hope I'm not alone, and I suspect that I'm not.