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




Book-Related Interestingness

   April 21st, 2011 Brian Herzog

Apropos of nothing, here are some interesting things to look at:

Optical Illusion Bookshelf
As if Dewey isn't mystifying enough. Spotted at There I Fixed It, and more photos at Neatorama:

Optical Illusion Bookshelf

 

"Become Someone Else" Bookstore Ad Campaign
This series of posters were developed to promote a used bookstore in Lithuania:

Become Someone Else poster

 

Bibliochaise Book Shelf Chair
I think this bookshelf chair looks great, but I'm not sure how comfortable it would be:

Book Shelf Chair

Thanks Chris - keep them coming.



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Who Empties Your Bookbox?

   January 25th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Library Return BoxesThere's a situation at my library that doesn't seem to have a good solution, and a recent conversation with a friend prompted me to just ask other librarians how you handle it: who empties your book drop box on long weekends?

I work in a busy library, and on regular days, we empty the book return box (the one in our parking lot) about twice three times a day. We aren't open on Sundays* but the book box we have is generally big enough to accommodate any materials that get dropped off. Monday morning there's a lot of stuff to check in, but the box isn't overflowing.

However, on long weekends when we're closed on Monday, someone needs to come in to empty the book box - otherwise, it would overflow and patrons would just have to leave items sitting in the parking lot.

And by someone, I mean me. I inherited this duty when a former Assistant Director left the library, because:

  • Historically, it's always been a guy that wheeled the box in. It's always full and heavy, and although we got a new book box that is much easier to roll, it still can be a lot of work. I know this sounds sexist, and I know some of my female coworkers do occasionally bring it in during their shifts, and I absolutely welcome them to do it
  • Of all the guys on our staff, I'm the only one that isn't one of the maintenance guys - which means I'm the only guy who can also check in all of the items in the box. If the items aren't checked in, then the Tuesday morning desk staff has a two-day mound of items to check in, plus the crush of patrons who haven't been able to get into the library for two days - plus, or course, all their normal work
  • As a department head, I have keys to the building to let myself in on the weekends
  • I live relatively close to the library, so it's not that big a deal for me to come in - except that I can never go anywhere on three-day weekends

I don't mean to sound like a martyr, and certainly don't want to be one - which is why I'm posting this. What do other libraries do on long weekends? Do you not make any special arrangements? Do you just let everything build up and deal with it on Tuesday?

This seems like a common problem for libraries, so I'm hoping the wisdom of the crowd can help free up my weekends. Thanks for any suggestions - please put them in the comments below.

 


*Not being open on Sundays is a whole separate issue for me, so don't even get me started.



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Bookshelf FAIL

   January 20th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This just makes me laugh...
Bookshelf FAIL



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Fictional Books, And Where To Put Them IRL

   January 18th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Sterling's Good book coverLast month, the Huffington Post linked to a story on Flavorwire about books that originally started as an element of a fictional story, but then were later published as a real book.

I know that sounds a little confusing, but I did recognize most of them*. For the most part, books like this are fiction, and libraries shelve them as such. As the article mentioned though, television shows have also spawned real-life books - Richard Castle's books, from Castle.

However, one of these books recently(ish) caused a bit of a debate in my library - Roger Sterling's character from Mad Men wrote a book titled Sterling's Gold: Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man. The points of the debate were these:

  • Since this book is "by" a fictional character, should it be shelved as fiction?
  • Since it is about the character that wrote it, should it be in autobiography/biography?
  • Since the topic is business advice written by a successful businessman, should this be shelved with the business books?
  • Since this is derived from a television show, should it be shelved in the television section?
  • Since it is humorous, should it be shelved in the humor section?

We ultimately chose the last option, and shelved it at 818.6 (which was also the C-I-P suggestion). According to WorldCat, that seemed to be the most common Dewey number, but not the only one:

  • Hamilton/Wenham (MA) Public Library: 659.10207
  • Greenwich (CT) Library: 659.1
  • Syosset (NY) Public Library: 817.54
  • New York Public Library: 818.5402
  • Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library: 818.602
  • Greene County (OH) Public Library: 791.457
  • Anderson (IN) Public Library: 817

And those were just the libraries on the first few WorldCat results pages that were using Dewey.

But you know, within this genre, I'd actually like for Dewey to write his own book.

 


*My favorite book-within-a-book is the Books of Bokonon, from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. It never fully made it to real book status, but it has come close.



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Seeding Book Displays

   December 14th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Book display missing one bookOne question I get asked all the time, by patrons who were attracted by one of our book displays and then spent a few minutes looking at all the books, is, "can these books be checked out?"

The answer is of course yes (that's why we put them on display). I don't actually mind answering the question, but any time I'm repeatedly asked the same question, I think there has got to be a better way to communicate the answer.

Signs are always the first option, but signs can go wrong quickly.

Then it struck me to use the same trick that restaurateurs and buskers use - you know when you see a tip jar with money already in it, you're more likely to put some in yourself versus a jar with nothing in it?

To translate this theory to book displays, we could start using dollar bills as bookmarks in display books, but I thought a better idea would be to always leave one of the display stands empty. It's subtle and non-verbal, but if someone sees that someone else has already checked out one of the books from the display, it might communicate to them that it's okay for them to check one out, too. Which is what we want them to know, especially if no staff person is around for them to ask.

I did this on all the displays around the Reference desk last week, and I'm waiting to see if anyone asks about checking out a display book. Usually it happens a couple times a week - so far so good.

What do other people do to let patrons know it's okay to check out display books?



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Librarian Holiday Gift Guide

   December 9th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Festivus PoleDo you know what I enjoy more than telling people where the bathroom is? Shopping.

In case anyone is pestering you for gift ideas, they could read How To Get Good Gifts for Librarians, or use the links below to find something for the librarian in their life.

And finally, the Washington Post's fiction critic picks special gifts for the book lover (via LISNews):



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