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


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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Your Library is a Part of This Nutritious Breakfast

   November 3rd, 2009 Brian Herzog

Library Calculator Cereal BoxI've mentioned the Library Use Value Calculator a few times, including that the ALA liked it so much they added it to their Tough Times Toolkit (under Making the Case).

Now they've gone one better - the ALA partnered with Safeway to take the Library Calculator out of the virtual world and bring it to the breakfast table.

The artwork [pdf] on the back of their cereal box looks great*, and it certainly gets the point across (I think the "get rich" angle is odd, but I guess that's marketing). It seems fairly intuitive, lists useful facts, and also includes a nice library-related quote from Barack Obama.

Check out the ALA's webpage, the box itself [pdf], and if there's a store near you that carries Safeway cereal, look for it. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any in New England.

 


*Also good is that it satisfies my cereal box rule: whatever is on the back of the box should be interesting enough to keep you occupied for as long as the cereal inside the box lasts. I mean, those little mazes they put on the back of some boxes might keep me occupied for the first bowl, but what about all the subsequent mornings I eat that cereal? See, if I were president philosopher-king, the world would be a whole lot different.



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Reference Question of the Week – 6/21/09

   June 27th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Twitter @bloglinesThis week's reference question is one of my own. I use Bloglines to read rss feeds, and a couple weeks ago they changed their interface.

I didn't like the changes, so I used their Contact Form to express this and ask if there was an option to change it back. This was two weeks ago, and I still haven't gotten a reply.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps Bloglines used Twitter, and maybe I could ask them that way. I found an @bloglines user, but even though he's using the Bloglines logo, he indicates it's not an official Bloglines account.

I asked him my question anyway (noticing he was fielding the exact same question a lot lately), and got a reply in 5 hours. And best of all, his suggestion worked perfectly, and now I'm back to using Bloglines happily, the way that suits me best.

But this experience got me thinking. It's easy for organizations to let email messages slide, because only that one person knows they sent it in. But Twitter is public, and if someone is questioning or complaining, ignoring it won't make it go away.

Unofficial or not, @bloglines did exactly what I would have expected an organization to do - respond quickly and helpfully.

This is what librarians do, and it reminded me of Kate's post about their library suggestion box. I like that she's publicly displaying suggestions and answers, because in this case, one-to-many communication seems better than one-to-one.

So I thought, why not encourage patrons to use Twitter as a suggestion box? Being public, the library has to address patrons' concerns, but it also means all patrons can benefit from the answer, rather than just one.

I know a public forum isn't appropriate for every issue, and anonymity can be necessary, so I think traditional suggestion boxes (whether physical or online form) are still useful. But I bet there are some libraries already doing this very thing. I know I came late to Twitter, but it really is turning out to be a very useful tool after all.



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