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


Library Closed Due to October Snow Storm

   October 31st, 2011 Brian Herzog

The storm that hit New England and the East Coast this weekend knocked out power to my library (like many, many other places). As a result, we're closed until further notice.

Chelmsford Public Library Closed

The "CLOSED" sign by the front door is big enough to be seen from the street. I happened to be there Monday when the mailman came, and he said he was told that anyone who is without power now shouldn't expect it back until Wednesday.

Luckily, the Somerville, MA, library is open and active, and I'm hanging out here until things get back to normal. I hope everyone else affected by the storm is finding a warm haven somewhere.



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Details Create the Big Picture

   October 13th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Walking in someone else's shoesThanks to everyone who took part in Work Like A Patron Day yesterday, and I hope you got something out of it.

I wasn't able to spend as much time with it as I had hoped, between meetings and projects and helping patrons (it was a busy day yesterday). In the time that I was WLAP'ing, I didn't notice anything major, but just a lot of little things - hence the title of this post, which is a quote from Sanford I. Weill.

  • At the public workstations, I'm always straightening our scrap paper and pencils holders, but when you sit down to check your email, it's easy to get tunnel vision and not even notice that stuff - maybe I'm just more of a neat-freak than necessary
  • The tunnel vision also filters out most of the noise and bustle of the library - which, in my library, there can be a lot of. At the reference desk the noise makes me tense because I worry it might be bothering other patrons, but when WLAP'ing, it didn't really seem that bad. Actually, it just seemed like I was sitting in a very busy and active library, which was great
  • We have an overhead public address system in my library, and you can clearly tell which staff are comfortable using it and which are a little intimidated, by the tone of their voice during announcements
  • The woman who used the study room before me smelled strongly of mint
  • Another staff person pointed out that we need to clean the front of the building - it looks okay in this picture, but the "Chelmsford Public Library" engraved in the stonework is getting obscured by rust from the roof

I was a little disappointed I didn't get to spend more time with this today, but it's certainly not just a one-day event. I try to do this any time I can all year round.

Thanks again to everyone who participated, and please share any highlights of your day.



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Working Like a Patron, and, Rethinking Reference

   October 11th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Shift the traditionsJust two sort-of unrelated announcements today, although they actually compliment each other quite well:

Wed., Oct. 12, is Work Like A Patron Day
I know it's not feasible for everyone, but if you get the chance tomorrow, try approaching the library as if you're a patron - use the front door, use the public bathroom, see if the posted signs help you at all, whatever. Check out the Work Like A Patron Day 2011 post for more ideas and how to share your experiences.

Rethinking Reference, Non-Fiction, and Local History
This past Friday I gave a talk for NHLA-READS on a few projects my library has done to keep our collections (and access to them) in step with the needs of our patrons. They are a great group and I had a wonderful time, both giving my talk and listening to the other speakers. If you're interested, my slides and other links are available.



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Work Like A Patron Day 2011

   September 27th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Working like a patronIn 2008, I announced the first "Work Like A Patron" day - I've been mostly quiet about it since, but David and Jessamyn have both talked about the idea lately, so I thought I'd offer it up again.

The point of Work Like A Patron day is to remind librarians that libraries are for patrons, and it's important to gauge the result of our efforts from their point of view. I know lots of people do this on a daily basis anyway, but for my own benefit it helps to make a special effort to view the library through a patron's eyes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Work Like A Patron day takes place on the Wednesday of the week six months after National Library Week. That was April 10-16, so this year's Work Like A Patron day will be Wednesday, October 12 - that's just two weeks away!

Ideas for Working Like A Patron
I know every library is different, and lots of people routinely do these things, but here are a few things I do to get out from behind the desk and experience the library like a patron:

  • enter and leave the library through the public entrance (not the staff doors)
  • use the public restrooms
  • try doing some work on the public computers
  • call the library's main number and negotiate the phone system
  • reserve public meeting rooms for meetings
  • return your items in the book drop
  • navigate the library's website as if you're not already familiar with it
  • follow all library policies
  • read posted signs to see how helpful they are

Obviously, not everything will be applicable to every library, and not all library staff can do their work away from their desks. The real point of Work Like A Patron day is to just spend some time experiencing the library like a patron, not like a librarian.

Share your Experience
I'm always curious to hear about it, so if you'd like to share what you did on Work Like a Patron day, tweet with the hashtag #wlap or add a link to the Library Success wiki Work Like A Patron page. Or, of course, share in the comments below.



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A Couple WordPress Resources

   July 19th, 2011 Brian Herzog

WordPress logoFor anyone who uses WordPress, here are a couple resources you might want to check out:

Using WordPress as a Library Content Management System
A recent Library Technology Reports covers using WordPress to run your entire library's website. My library uses WordPress just for our two blogs right now, but are looking to migrate the entire site to a CMS. Thanks to Michael Stephens for highlighting this, and linking to the full-text of the first chapter.

2011 WordCamp Boston
For those in the Boston area, WordCamp 2011 is happening this weekend at BU. I'm looking forward to it because I've never actually attended an official WordPress-devoted event - I'm going to attend sessions everywhere from basic introduction to advanced fanciness. It's $40 for the weekend, which is less good than free, but I think it's still well worth the price. And for people who can't make it to Boston, look for a WordCamp in your area.



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2011 Salem Press Library Blog Award Winner!

   June 14th, 2011 Brian Herzog

2011 Winner - Salem Press Library Blog Award - Public LibraryHey, check it out - my website won the 2011 Salem Press Library Blog Award for the Public Library category!

What a nice way to come back from vacation.

Thank you to everyone who voted, and to everyone who reads my website. It's great to get feedback that lets me know people find what I have to say useful and helpful.

And congratulations to all the 2011 winners and nominees:

General Interest: Blogs providing broad discussions of library topics and trends, including reviews of books and products.

Academic: Blogs targeting academic librarians and academic institutions

Public: Blogs addressing the challenges and triumphs of public librarianship

School: Blogs covering topics relevant to school libraries and K-12 education

Local: Institution-specific blogs promoting the interests of a public, academic, or school library

Commercial: Professional blogs written for profit, generally tied to a trade publication

Newcomer: Blogs by next-gen librarians who have only recently started blogging

Quirky: Character-driven blogs covering an array of library topics that defy categorization

I read quite a few of these blogs (and quite a few others as well). One thing I like most about the field of librarianship is our spirit of collaboration and cooperation - there is no way I could do what I do without all the people I swipe ideas from.

Thank you again everyone - I'll try to keep earning this.



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