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




New Biography Selection Criteria

   April 22nd, 2010 Brian Herzog

BiographiesMy library's ever-shrinking book budget has made me be more discerning when it comes to selection. However, one area that is always difficult for me is biographies.

It seems like every troubled athlete, aging celebrity, recovering musician, reality television personality, unfaithful politician (and their wives), have all signed book deals. I don't pay much attention to pop culture personalities, so it's hard for me to tell if the person is someone significant.

So I was joking with a coworker about a new selection criteria for all of these celebrity memoirs. Since the importance of many of these people is based on social zeitgeist, I thought I could use Google to help me decide. I figure that if a person is important, a Google search for that person's name should return at least one million webpages. If they're above that (arbitrary) threshold, I'll buy their biography - if not, then I'll check again when the paperback comes out.

Granted, not all my ideas are practical, but here's how some current biographies fare with this "hive mind" selection criteria:


Obviously, not flawless, but this Google criteria might help tell me who I should pay attention to. And in addition to traditional reviews and ratings, another one of my tactics is to wait until requests for a book reach a certain number before ordering it, but that method only addresses demand after the fact, and leaves out the patrons who didn't think to request it.

Selection is a fine art, but when it comes to biographies, most my crayons are dull.



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Book Due Date Calendar

   April 20th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Overdue Book CalendarI feel a little sheepish whenever I talk about a product on here, because I don't want to come off sounding like a commercial. But I thought this Book Due Date Calendar was a good idea.

It's available on Etsy from a seller called Aunt June, and it's a fun and creative way for patrons to keep track of when their library books are due.

Paper for our receipt printers is expensive, so we ask people if they need a receipt instead of printing one automatically - which means many people leave the library without any tangible reminder of when their books are due back. I've seen libraries use due date bookmarks, which are also a good idea, but this calendar was colorful and definitely eye-catching enough to be a great reminder (especially for kids) - kind of like a real-world Library Elf.

Here's what it looks like in action:

Overdue Book Calendar

It looks like you download a pdf, which is nice because you can print out extras if you're a heavy library user. I wonder if you could print it onto some kind of glossy paper that might work like a dry erase board. I also wonder if the seller would be willing to work out some deal with libraries to let them sell these as fundraisers.

Thanks for the tip Lauren.



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Book Term Poll: Hardback, Hardcover or Hardbound?

   March 30th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Hardback book stackWe got into a discussion at work about whether the proper term for a book with stiff covers is referred to as a hardback book, a hardcover book, or a hardbound book. I was out-voted, but I like to think that I wasn't wrong so much as our sample size was too small.

I grew up in Ohio, so I wonder if the term I use is different from my New England coworkers because it's a regional thing. I'm not a linguist, but regional variations in vocabulary have fascinated me ever since I went off to college and met people from different parts of the country. Bubbler? Slippy? Creamies? These words* are great.

Anyway, my coworkers and I all agreed that pretty much everyone uses paperback to refer to soft-cover books (except for spiral-bound books). So please, answer the poll below to help determine which term is more popular.

Thank you for helping satisfy my curiosity.

And speaking of surveys, here's another interesting question on Unshelved Answers: What is the best way to turn the pages of a book?.

 


*Here are what those words mean:
Bubbler: a "drinking fountain" in New England (like this, not this)
Slippy: how people in some parts of Pennsylvania say "slippery" (among others)
Creamies: "soft-serve ice cream cones" in Vermont (like this)



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Ebooks and Resources

   March 16th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Shelf Check ebook comicI've had ebooks on the brain lately for a few reasons, so I thought I'd pull together some resources I've been bookmarking.

But first, my reasons:

  1. My consortium will soon be offering ebooks via Overdrive. This is good, as Overdrive ebooks are compatible with Sony Reader and the Nook, but will still include existing Overdrive drawbacks
  2. The IT Section of the New England Library Association is devoting our spring workshop to ebooks. Speakers will range from libraries already circulating ebooks and ereaders to a certain library that made waves by going digital to a book store that takes digitized books and makes them print again. It will be a great day, and I'll post more details soon.

Ebooks are certainly in the cards for libraries, and hopefully not like these comic strips. In no particular order, here are a few ebook-related links worth reading:

Ebook Reader Reviews and Guides and Deconstruction
A nice introduction to ereaders and ebooks, "7 Things You Should Know About E-Readers," from EDUCAUSE, focusing on teaching and learning:

Reviews of ereaders from various sources:

The eBook Buyer's Guide to Privacy from the EFF talks about how each of the most popular ebook readers rate as far as privacy, tracking of purchases, sharing of information, etc.

I've seen a little discussion on the topic of "why digital," and this is a good evaluation of how and when and why technology matches content:

Ebook Price Wars
This is worth watching, because low prices means lots of people purchased the hardware, but rising prices means people will be coming to the library for ebooks instead of purchasing the content themselves.

Ebooks for Downloading
A few places where people can download ebooks for free - please list additional resources in the comments.

Of course, as soon as I finish typing this post, I'm going to pick up the old-fashion made-of-paper book I'm reading and enjoy flipping through the pages.



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Bookshelves of Librarians

   February 11th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Librarians are social creatures, right? Despite dowdy stereotypes, many of us are out there Web 2.0'ing it up - among other things, we like sharing our photos on flickr and our books on LibraryThing.

So, I thought a fun meme would be to combine the two - show photos of our personal books and bookshelves. I spied one of Jessamyn's, and uploaded photos of all my bookshelves.* I'm curious to see how other people organize books in their own space.

My Bookshelves (click for descriptions)
Non-fiction
My Book Shelves - Non-fiction
Reference
My Book Shelves - Reference
Fiction
My Book Shelves - Fiction

And since timing is everything, this is doubly fun considering LibraryThing's announcement this week about expanding LT's photo capabilities.

So upload photos of your own shelves (librarians and non-librarians) to flickr or LibraryThing or somewhere and share your personal organizational system.

 


*I didn't photograph all the books in places other than shelves: coffee table, bedside table, bathroom bench, car, piled on the floor, etc. I tell myself those are all "temporary shelving locations."

Also: I can't decide if "bookshelves" should be one word or two - so I use both.



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Great Book Cover and Bookmarks

   January 28th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Speaking of creative bookmarks, I love these combination custom book covers/bookmarks:

Custom book covers and bookmarks

Custom book coversSimilarly, last year our Children's Librarian started pulling books that she felt were good, but had misleading or unexciting covers, and had kids design their own covers. That's a great idea, and it's fun to take great ideas just a little bit further.

Yay for activities that involves patrons and lets them take more ownership of their library use.

via LISNews



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