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


Non-Traditional Circulating Collections in Libraries

   October 24th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Human Library ProjectHave you ever heard about something, liked the idea, and just accepted as fact that because you've heard about it, everyone else must have too, and then a couple years later happened to mention it in a room full of people like it's common knowledge only to have everyone look at you with blank stares? I get this a lot.

Most recently, it happened with the Human Library Project - you know, the idea in the news a couple years ago where libraries had collections of people you could check out - police officer, politician, Buddhist, lesbian, etc - and sit and talk with them to learn about their life experience.

I personally loved this idea, because it's a way to meet types of people you may never meet in your life's normal routine. Of course, I don't think the project every took itself to be grander than it was - I mean, you're only talking to one person, so of course you can't automatically generalize to everyone of that person's "type." The human books aren't stereotypes, so it's not like you're learning what life is like for all black men, but you do find out what life is like for this black man - which might be more than you knew before, and that's a good thing.

Anyway, like I said, I loved this idea when I first heard about it, and tucked it away. I happened to mention it during a meeting a couple weeks ago, and everyone in the room thought I was making it up. So I started asking around over the course of that week, and no one I talked to had heard of it. So, here you go, world - consider yourself officially informed. You are welcome.

I thought I'd also take this opportunity to mention a few other non-traditional things you can check out of libraries. Earlier this year, there was a PLA session on non-traditional collections, such as circulating ereaders, guitars, and running a seed library.

The iLibrarian blog is also a great resource for these types of ideas. Recent posts there include:

Seeing things like this makes me happy I work in libraries, but sad that I can't work in all the libraries. I mean, I've always thought it was cool that some libraries circulate cooking pans and artwork, and just last week we referred a patron to the Library of Congress' Talking Books program. But how much fun would it be to check out farmland or to offer a Maker Station?

Pretty fun, is my answer. I get excited by potential, which is why I never despair over the future of libraries - we've got potential coming out of our buns.

Librarian, her bun, and her book


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#PLA12 Weeding in the Digital Age

   March 28th, 2012 Brian Herzog

I'm still unpacking from PLA12 two weeks ago, and just came across notes I took during a great session on Weeding in the Digital Age. I know it's two weeks late, but it's still relevant. The discussion was led by Alene Moroni (Manager, Selection and Order, King County Library System), Stephanie Chase (Reference, Adult Services, and Programming Coordinator, Multnomah County Library), and Kaite Stover (Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Public Library).

Program Description:

The explosion in formats for leisure materials is a challenge for all aspects of collection management, especially weeding and evaluation. Join a discussion that asks librarians to consider format, space, use, and building design when evaluating materials in all formats for withdrawal from the collection.

We should hold digital collections to the same standards as print collections - this means weeding out the unused and out-of-date to avoid eclutter.

Tips for Weeding Digital Collections

  • Do you weed your Overdrive catalog? It's not easy (you need to do the legwork yourself, and email Overdrive directly), but their interface is difficult enough to search so that if something isn't getting used, then it's getting in the way
  • Look for overlap in research databases, and then cut the unnecessary ones
  • Your access and finding tools can go a long way to cutting through the clutter - look for better catalog/database search interfaces, or create web-based pathfinders with direct links into databases

Thoughts on Formats

  • Watch for genre+format preferences that emerge (and listen to what patrons tell you). For instance, perhaps your mystery print books don't circulate much, because mystery reader prefer digital - but perhaps just the opposite is true for westerns. If that's the case, then get rid of your westerns ebooks and focus on mysteries
  • Large print physical books are not dying, even though ereaders can do large print
  • Younger patrons are often format-agnostic: if they can get their book in print, ebook, book on CD, downloadable audiobook, etc, they're happy

But remember: just about anything you're getting in digital format now can be taken away with a mere licensing change - what then?

I liked this session a lot because it hadn't occurred to me to weed ebooks. I have done some of that with databases, but certainly not Overdrive. It's also good to hear how other libraries balance print and online purchasing - for instance, we subscribe to the Safari Computer Ebooks database, and so have cut back on our print computer books.



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#PLA12 Redefining the Library through the Collection

   March 16th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Do print collections actually meet the needs of your patrons?

Non-traditional collections actually give patrons the tools to use the information they find in the library - guitars, seeds, video games, ereader, etc.


Why ereaders?

We don't circulate DVD players. Because market penetration of DVD players means most people have them, but only a low percentage of people have ereaders (this will change over time).

Look for partners - contact Barnes & Noble (or other ereader providers) to donate them, give classes, and provide support.

How to circulate ereaders

  • circulate in a padded bag to protect the ereader, along with instruction sheet, circ rules, and a patron survey
  • content: load different ereaders with different genres (best sellers, childrens, teen, etc) and people check out whichever one they want - all titles were listed in the catalog
  • needed to have a separate database to manage devices (and record all information, in case patron deregistered it somehow)
  • losses and damages: out of 300 circing devices, only two have been damaged (one by staff, during transit)
  • training: classes for staff (try to train everyone, and give lots of hands-on time), and classes for the public, along with YouTube videos (provided by B&N - and handouts and FAQs for both staff and public
  • devices do need to be upgraded and maintained, because B&N doesn't support old versions

Seed library

San Mateo is a "food desert" so this encourages people to eat healthier. Partnered with a group called Collected Roots - they help people created a raised bed in their backyard, and teach them how to plant (all for free).

How it works

  • all seeds are donated
  • people write down what seeds they're taking (comes with info on when and how to plant
  • people don't need to return seeds (also don't want seeds that have been cross-pollinated

http://pcsweeney.com/2011/04/12/im-starting-a-seed-library-at-my-library/

Total cost to set up: $30 - seed boxes from IKEA ($3/3 boxes), a binder (library already had). Shelf to hold boxes was donated by local artist who built it from recycled wood.


Guitar library

http://pcsweeney.com/2011/05/31/guitars-at-the-library-its-gonna-be-freaking-rad/

Partnered with a local band who gives lessons, and purchased 15 acoustic guitars (about $200/each), which circ for 8 weeks (grant funded). They also purchased a lot more guitar books, to go along with the lessons. Look for a local store to supply the guitars - hopefully they will work with you select which guitars are best for this project, and help with advice down the road.

Guitars are not requestable, so that they don't have to travel through transit to other libraries.

This project motivated staff to learn guitar, and childrens librarians are trying to do musical storytime.


Programming in a box

Boxes make it easy for staff to present programs - requested through staff intranet (contents are fully catalog, but not visible to patrons). Program guides are provided, but staff are free to change things up any time and add to boxes. Some things can't be kept/shipped in boxes (liquids, etc), so sometimes the libraries have to go shopping after the box arrives. They currently have 64 boxes (for 28 branches), but it's growing all the time (will only stop when they run out of room).

Staff needs to book them to use, but need to spread them out because each box needs to come back to main library to be restocked.

These boxes are a huge timesaver for the staff, while still provided good programs to patrons.


Video game collections

Gaming is mainstream (everyone knows Pac-Man, Pokemon, Angry Birds), and almost a traditional library collection at this point.

Video games have plots, character development - same things as books (read Sex, Brains, and Video Games. Plus they lend themselves well to programs, tournaments, and community engagement - and tie-ins with books and movies.

This is probably the last generation of games that can be physically loaned - pretty soon games won't be played on consoles from cartridges.

ALA Gaming Roundtable is now providing reviews of video games and boardgames, so libraries should pay attention. Also look for National Gaming Day - http://ngd.ala.org



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Watching Movies on Netflix and Copyright Issues

   August 11th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Pull quote from WBUR storyOn my drive to work this morning, I heard a story on the radio on how people are upset about the holes in Netflix's collection.

I've been hearing this same thing from friends, that more and more often lately the movies they want are just not available through Netflix - either as a DVD or streaming. The story attributes this to the changing contracts concerning entertainment producers and online delivery, and a related story also covered broadband issues.

The main thrust of the story seemed to be just informational - sort of, "this is happening, get used to it."

Sadly, they didn't mention public libraries as a resource for DVDs - we have lots of movies and shows not legally available to borrow elsewhere. I left a quick comment on their story:

As a public librarian, I always encourage people to check out their local library's DVD collection. If they don't have what you want, ask your librarian to order it!

I tried not to be glib, but happily, the holes in a library's collection are usually* due just to selection oversights (of which I am guilty) - which is easily remedied by being responsive patron requests.

At least, for now. Copyright battles are raging, as media companies try every tact they can to protect their revenue streams - including changing existing laws, which could affect first sale doctrine and fair use rights.

I don't have any direct links to these issues, but I would encourage everyone to pay attention to the issues the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is tracking, especially those dealing with Intellectual Property. When a copyright-related bill is making its way through Congress, the EFF details what effects it will have, and what action can be taken to protect access to information.

Another great copyright resource to follow is the Copyfight blog - it's not strictly library issues, but it is all about copyright.

Funny how a short story on the radio can have an impact on your entire day.


 

*In addition to the movies we missed purchasing, another source of holes in the collection is always theft.



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