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

Cloud of Survey Comments from Library Patrons

   September 26th, 2012 Brian Herzog

A few months ago, my library conducted a survey of our patrons. We wanted it to be short+useful, so we called it the "60 Second Survey" and limited it to five questions, on things like which services people liked/used, best way to contact them about programs and events, etc.

Of course, the last question was the open-ended "Tell us what you think" question. 255 people provided comments, which made for very interesting reading.

Last week while a coworker was talking about the Wordle cover letter cloud, we got the idea to do a cloud based on the survey comments. Here it is (larger version to see smaller words):

Library Patron Survey Comments cloud

We had read the comments so we knew it was generally positive, but the visual impact of seeing things like this made us feel pretty good. A cloud is so much more concise than 255 individual comments, and we were very happy to see things like "friendly" and "helpful" rise to the top since those are areas we strive to emphasize.

Anyway, I don't mean this as a "We're #1" gloaty post - I just wanted to share because it was so positive. And, it's also a great visual, so we're going to include it in the Town Annual Report, as well as create a poster to display in the library, post on Facebook, etc. A t-shirt might be going too far, but we'll see. I like t-shirts.

I know I'm late to the Wordle game, but now I can't help trying to come up with other things to convert to clouds.

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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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Reference Question of the Week – 10/23/11

   October 29th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Shadow of a witch on a treeI don't know if this question was Halloween-related or a coincidence. A patron came up to the desk, slid me a piece of paper with "manningtree" written on it, and said,

Can you tell me where this tree is? It's the tree in Chelmsford where they used to hang witches.

I've never heard of this, and it's definitely the kind of thing would have stuck with me. But, we're not too far from Salem, MA, and Chelmsford was founded forty years before the witch trial era, so I suppose it's possible.

I searched online for manning tree chelmsford, and one of the results is a downloadable book titled Trial Of Manningtree Witches In Chelmsford 1645.

At first I'm shocked that this is something I've missed, but from the description I learn that this book is about some accused witches from Manningtree, England, and their trial that took place in Chelmsford, England. Ah, now it makes sense (someone confuses us with the Chelmsford in England about once a month). I explained this to the patron, and although he was disappointed, he wanted to read about this book online, so I pulled it up on one of the public computers for him.

Interestingly, one of the other search results was for Manning Tree & Landscape in Boxborough, MA, a few towns over from Chelmsford. This is probably be Google trying to be location-aware, but I did think it was a funny coincidence. Happy Halloween, everyone.

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Amazing Library Book Inscription to Former Librarian

   October 27th, 2011 Brian Herzog

The Portable Jack KerouacI think this is incredible, and apparently some of my coworkers knew about it and never told me.

I work in the library in Chelmsford, MA, which is next door to the city of Lowell, the birthplace of Jack Kerouac. As a result, we try to maintain a good Jack Kerouac collection, but one specific book in our collection is particularly special.

The book is The Portable Jack Kerouac, which was donated to the library in 1995 by the grandson of long-time Chelmsford Librarian, Edith Pickles. Just this week a coworker showed me this book - the story Edith's grandson recounts in the inscription is just stunning:

Kerouac Inscription
Kerouac Inscription

This is now my favorite story of censorship - and why it is very much the role of libraries to protect the public's right to unrestricted and unmonitored access to information. I am proud to follow in Edith Pickles' footsteps.

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Bat in the Library!

   September 8th, 2011 Brian Herzog

We had a little excitement Wednesday afternoon, when staff noticed a brown bat hanging on the wall inside the library. This is actually the second library bat since I've worked here - this time I got some photos and a video of the rescue.

Sadly, this photo is a little blurry - I was trying to sneak around the library and take pictures without alerting patrons to what I was doing. We had no idea how people would react.

Bat in the Library

Eventually I was able to get pretty close - the bat was either asleep or indifferent, because at one point a man sat on the bench right below him with no response.

Bat near Large Print Room

We called animal control, but they had already closed for the day, so one of our maintenance guys volunteered. He got a butterfly net from the Children's Room display closet, a piece of cardboard from the recycle bin, and got the bat out of the building - with no injuries.

Make sure you turn the sound on when watching the video - you can hear the bat screeching/chirping about being in the net.

[video link]

Someone checked the net about ten minutes later, and the bat was gone. I'm sure this a common occurrence in libraries, but it was a nice little diversion for us (but probably not for the bat).

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Two Openings for Library Assistant at My Library

   June 24th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Chelmsford Library logoThe Chelmsford Library was lucky enough to have some of our funding restored for the fiscal year starting July 1st, and we we have two openings for part-time Library Assistants at the Circulation Desk. Here's the listing from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Job Board:

The Chelmsford Library has TWO openings for Library Assistants at our Circulation Desk, one for 16 hours/week and one for 18 hours/week.

Position Overview:
Part time position available to assist the public with the use of the library including Inter-Library loan, circulation and reader's advisory services.

WORK SCHEDULE "A": (16 hrs/wk avg)

Mon., Wed., & Thurs., from 5-9 pm at Main Library
Every Sat. 10-2 pm at MacKay Branch, N. Chelmsford


WORK SCHEDULE "B": (18 hrs/wk avg)

Tues., Wed., and Thurs., from 5-9 pm at Main Library
Every Sat. w/alternating locations -
10 - 2 pm at MacKay Branch, N. Chelmsford and
9-5:30 pm Sat. at Main Library

The positions require flexibility to fill-in nights and weekends. Candidates must be able to adapt smoothly to patron demands and should enjoy interacting with public of all ages. Four-year college degree and/or experience working in a public library preferred.

Salary: Union rate $15.97 per hr.

Closing Date: Positions open until filled

If you are interested in a position, please submit your resume to Alison Barry at abarry@mvlc.org or 25 Boston Rd., Chelmsford, MA 01824. The Town of Chelmsford is an EEO/AA Employer.

Chelmsford is a fun library to work in, and our Circulation Desk is a very busy place. We need to fill these positions ASAP, so if you're interested, please send your resume to our Head of Circulation, Alison Barry, at abarry@mvlc.org.

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