February 6th, 2013 Brian Herzog
My library's One Book Chelmsford selection this year is Townie, by Andre Dubus, and the kick-off event was last weekend.
To promote the book with patrons, we decided to hang up a punching bag right next to the circulation desk, so it's the first thing people see when coming into the library. Pretty neat, huh? Plus, since we didn't want to permanently attach it to the wall or ceiling, they let me build a stand for it:
It's nothing fancy, but I like woodworking and carpentry, and any excuse to use power tools is a good one. The wood and hardware cost about $30, and we bought the bag itself on Craigslist for $15, so it's not too much money for a pretty eye-catching display. And in how many other jobs would I get to do something like this?
Patrons seem to really like it too - especially kids. We encourage people to try it, and I'm pretty sure it won't fall over (we tested it). We still haven't decided what to do with it afterwards, but we've got a few months. Who knows - maybe we'll just catalog it and add it to the circulating collection for people to check out.
February 2nd, 2013 Brian Herzog
A patron came up to me at the desk and asked,
I'm looking for information on writing and books about getting published. - you know, like Writer's Market, but modern.
That puzzled me for a second, since Writer's Market is updated every year. I walked with her down to the 808 section and showed her our 2013 edition of Writer's Market*, and some other books on the shelve. She said thank you, and then followed it up with,
I want to publish crossword puzzles - do you have any books on that?
Huh. I didn't remember ever seeing any books specifically about publishing crosswords. We skimmed the shelves and nothing obviously stood out, so I left her there to look through what we did have and I went back to the desk to search the catalog. Nothing came up, so I tried searched online.
One of the first results I came across was an Ask MetaFiler post titled Crossword Publishing help. It had only two responses to the original post, but both seemed (to me) to be very helpful. I didn't really find much else online, so I quickly reviewed the website cruciverb.com which one of the responses recommended. It seemed to be exactly what the patron wanted - it listed publications that publish crosswords, contact information and other details for submitting puzzles, and lots of other resources (including a listserv, forum, and social networking) for creating and publishing crossword puzzles. How perfect is that?
However, when I went back to the 800's to find the patron, she had left. I looked around, and even ran up to the Circulation Desk to see if I could catch her on her way out. I hadn't been searching at the reference desk very long, but she was nowhere to be found. I hate it when patrons slip away like that.
I was curious though, so I went back to the 808's to looked at the shelf. From the empty spaces between books (that weren't there before), I could tell that she had taken the 2013 Writer's Market and also a couple other books. That's good, and hopefully she found what she's looking for.
This question really intrigued me for some reason. I had seen (and really enjoyed) Wordplay, but never thought much about that actual process of publishing crosswords. Oh well - I think I'll stick to word finds.
Link to library word finds.
As with most of our most recent editions of traditional reference titles, our 2013edition of Writer's Market
is a 7 Day Loan item
, instead of in-library reference only. Even though it's been almost two years since we eliminated our "reference" collection, it still makes me happy every time a patron is able to take home and really use something they previously wouldn't have been able to check out.
January 30th, 2013 Brian Herzog
My library recently updated our policy for patrons replacing lost or damaged items.
The problem that arose is that patrons would check out a book (say, a non-fiction book that was five years old, with a price in the record of $30) - then they'd lose it, and eventually they'd get a bill for $30. Our previous policy said patrons could replace lost/damaged items either by paying for it or by supplying another copy of the book.
This meant that, instead of paying the $30, patrons would often find used copies of the item online, for just a few dollars, and give that to us as a replacement copy.
The problem was that often these books were in terrible condition (sometimes even discarded from another library, with their stamps and stickers still on it). Not to mention that there would often be newer versions of this item available, which we would want to get instead of the old outdated one.
So, we updated our policy to be:
Lost/Damaged item fees
- NO REPLACEMENTS ACCEPTED FOR BOOKS
- Book or magazine - patron is charged 100% of the full price
- DVD, music CD, or videogame - replacement allowed only if it is new and still sealed in the original package, otherwise the charge is the same as books, 100% of full price.
- Book on CD - $10 per CD (if the entire item is lost, then 100% of full price.)
- Playaway, CD-ROM, kit - 100% of full price
- Lost CD or DVD insert - $2
- Lost CD or DVD case - $2 (so lost case & insert is $4)
- Still not sure what to charge? Call tech svcs
What to say when patrons ask...
Why can’t the library accept replacements for lost or damaged books anymore?
There are several reasons:
- Many of the replacements we’ve been getting are used items in poor condition.
- Replacing the exact same isbn can mean getting an old edition of a book when a newer edition is available.
- In some cases, we don’t wish to replace the lost item, and would rather use the fee to buy something new that we need for our collection now.
Why does a replacement DVD, music CD or videogame have to be new & still sealed in the package?
- For similar reasons – we’ve received old and/or used items to replace things we wouldn’t have bothered to replace at all.
Why is the replacement cost 100% of the full price? I can get it for less than that on Amazon!
- True, but sometimes the items you get from Amazon are old and used, and you might not even realize it till it arrives.
- Also keep in mind that when we replace a book or other item, it involves staff time to get the new item, catalog it, and process it to go into circulation.
This all happened a couple months ago. Then just a couple weeks ago, we received the following note from a patron:
My favorite part is that she drew a picture of an open book on her note. Since the replacement copy she supplied was a brand new copy, and this title is still on the school's summer reading list, we just kept it.
Tags: book, Books, damage, damaged, item, items, libraries, Library, lost, policy, public, replacement
January 26th, 2013 Brian Herzog
It'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.
Tags: battery, cable, cables, car, dead, jump, jumper, libraries, Library, public, Reference Question, start
January 23rd, 2013 Brian Herzog
This has been in my "to blog" folder for awhile, but better late than never, I suppose.
In the fall, my library was able to reopen for Sundays for the first time in like five years. This is great news for patrons, but since our seasonal Sunday hours are voluntary (with paid overtime), we sometimes have a shortage of staff willing to work them.
In my library, there needs to be a Department Head in the building at all times. Generally this isn't a problem, but if no Department Head volunteered to work a particular Sunday, other staff (with library degrees) can be acting Department Head.
Since these acting Department Heads would be in charge of the building, we created some "Sunday Department Head Guidelines" for them to refer to if something unusual happened - and also to make sure the library delivered the same level of service on Sundays as we do the rest of the week. The goal was to have all necessary information - procedure, contact information, passwords, etc. - in one place.
I really like lists like this*, so I thought I'd share. Obviously it is primarily applicable to my library, and even then primarily only on Sundays (as other times follow slightly different procedures in certain situations), but perhaps it might inspire other libraries to also document procedures like this. Feel free to download and use these however you like (names, phone numbers, and other vital information removed):
I know the staff here appreciated it, as it can be daunting to be in charge when something goes wrong.
*Some people say I have a love of rules, but that's not true - orderliness and answers are what I like. Take that, entropy.
Tags: department head, guidelines, libraries, Library, management, Policies, procedures, public, rules, staff, sunday, weekend
January 19th, 2013 Brian Herzog
Here's my own reference question this week - why are so many of our magazines arriving in the mail torn and mangled?
The damage is worse than the photograph shows - most of those rips are 20+ pages deep, and these were just three damaged issues we got in the mail delivery in one day. We've been getting them like this (or other variations, from minor tears to just a cover with no pages inside at all) almost daily now for a couple weeks, whereas before it seemed like maybe once a month, if that, a magazine would get damaged in the mail.
The first few I claimed through EBSCO, our magazine subscription aggregator. But finally it seemed like the problem must lie with the Post Office, so I decided to register a complaint there.
I went to USPS.com, and spent probably too much time looking for a "make a complaint" or "ask a question" email form. Eventually I found their Customer Service page, and submitted an email explaining that more and more of my library's magazines were getting damaged during delivery.
Not five minutes after I clicked send - and I'm not kidding, it was like five minutes - the phone rings and it's the local Postmaster for Chelmsford. Holy smokes, now that is impressive.
He said this is happening all through the USPS right now. The problem is that they've been using sorting machine with letters and envelopes for years, and it worked so well (as in, saved money and sped up the mail) that the USPS decided to use it for magazines, too.
However, the machines have not yet been calibrated for magazines, and routinely rip the crap out of them. He apologized, of course, and said they're working on it, but that it will continue until they figure the machines out. I hate answers like that, but I'm sure in this case they're highly motivated - he said they get daily calls from residential customers who are also getting badly damaged magazines delivered.
Anyway, I wanted to share this experience, in case other libraries have also seen their number of damaged magazines jump. And also to commend the USPS for such amazingly prompt customer service. Now just stop ripping up the magazines.
Postscript: something else the USPS could stop is their ridiculous (I felt) "How are we doing?" post-contact survey. It came into my email a couple days after I submitted the form on their website - which, in and of itself, was fine. But I think surveys like that should be five questions long, tops, and take less than a couple minutes. This one just kept going on and on - it even repeated questions, but varied them slightly, as if they wanted to see if I answered consistently. Seriously, this survey was probably 20+ questions and took more than seven minutes to complete. I could have quit at any time, of course, but I went through to the end because I was so fascinated by its complexity. Also, they seemed to know exactly the point at which I got annoyed, because after that point they no longer provided an open text comment box, so I couldn't tell them how much I disliked the survey itself. Oh well.