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


#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We should hold digital collections to the same standards as print collections - this means weeding out the unused and out-of-date to avoid eclutter.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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Digital Picture Frames as Informational Signs

   July 21st, 2011 Brian Herzog

Digital picture frame at the Childrens DeskUsually I'm pretty good at math, but in this case it took me awhile to put two and two together.

Awhile ago, our Childrens Department put a digital picture frame on their desk, using it to display photos of their various programs*. I'd seen and heard of other libraries using digital picture frame like this, and for in-building informational signs (like upcoming events), but I never thought of an application for it at the Reference Desk.

Until a couple weeks ago, when I was in the Apple Store in Boston. I'm not at all an Apple fanboy, but I admit that once in awhile, they come up with a good idea.

A friend of mine was having trouble with her Mac laptop, so we took it to the genius bar to having someone help us with it. I still really like the idea of the genius bar in and of itself, but what got my attention was that, behind the genius bar were great big screens scrolling through tips and information. The messages were all about using or fixing Apple products, which were perfectly targeted at the captive audience of people waiting for the genius bar.

I didn't get any photos myself (Apple is funny about taking pictures in their store), but here are some from the interweb:

Apple Store Genius Bar
Apple Store Genius Bar
Apple Store Genius Bar

You get the idea.

When I saw that, it finally dawned on me - this would be an easy thing for libraries to do at service desks, using a simple digital picture frame. As soon as I can get approval (and funding) to purchase one, I'd like to try one with rotating tips on topics like:

  • how to renew books
  • how to book museum passes
  • using online resources and databases
  • where the bathrooms are
  • online events calendar
  • how to find summer reading books

Really, good topics are anything that might be interesting to someone waiting in line at the Reference Desk.

The "photos" will just be slides created in PowerPoint, and hopefully, having something interesting to look will give patrons waiting in line something to do (in addition to teaching them something they may not have known).

I bet other libraries have already thought of this, so if you're doing it, please comment with how it's working. When I get ours up and running, I'll post an update with how it went.

 


*They decided to use a digital picture frame rather than flickr or other online service, because they were reluctant to post photos of kids on the internet. Keeping the photos offline and in the Childrens Room was a good compromise (between online or not at all), and it might be more likely for the kids to see themselves, too.



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Historical Photo Collection Survey Results

   September 30th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Historical postcard of the Chelmsford LibraryThanks to everyone who completed the historical photo collection survey. The Nashua Library got answers about 13 different collections, which will help them create their own collection policy.

Kersten Matera from the Nashua Library was kind of enough to compile and summarize the results (below) - a PDF of the full results and individual answers [156KB] is also available.

I was particularly interested in seeing what kind of fees libraries are charging for digital copies of their images collections. To this I asked the question: If the public wants a high-resolution digital copy of an image, will you provide that to them?

  • 42% of libraries do not offer high-resolution copies
  • 33% offer copies for free
  • 25% charge a fee (e.g. $10, $20, $24)

Interesting to note that a call in to Kinko's furnished me with their scanning prices: $6.99 if they scan it and put it onto your storage device, or, an additional $9.99 to burn it onto a CD for you.

Other questions that were asked on the Historical Photos survey included whether or not the library would provide a physical copy of an item in the collection

  • 5 libraries said they charge between $.10 and $.25 for what I took to mean a copy on regular paper which is printed using the library's printer
  • 4 libraries charge a rate more in line with what a photo shop would charge (i.e. $5.00-24.00)
  • 2 libraries do not provide copies
  • 1 library will provide them for free

When asked about possible tools to help with a Historical Photos collection, responses included: Flickr, Content DM, Facebook, a library's OPAC (in this case, Polaris), Illinois State Digital Archive, Local History Digital Archive, websites created specifically for such things, and library websites.

How much of your historical photos collection is digitized?

  • All of the collection:16.7%
  • Some:66.7%
  • None:16.7%

Is the collection available/viewable online?

  • All are viewable online:25%
  • Some:58.3%
  • None:16.7%

If the public wants a physical copy of an image in your collection, will you provide that to them?

  • No:16.7%
  • Yes, for free:8.3%
  • Yes, for a charge:75%

Do you have any mark (e.g. a watermark) on the image that marks it as being part of your collection?

  • Yes:66.7%
  • No:33.3%

No library had a limit to the number of digital copies they would provide.

Thanks again to all who participated!



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Historical Photo Collections Survey

   September 14th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Historical postcard of the Chelmsford LibraryHi everyone - I'm hoping you can help out with a quick survey. Kersten Matera from the Nashua (NH) Public Library is compiling data on how libraries handle digitized collections of historical photos.

Please, take a couple minutes to fill out the survey below. It's always interesting to compare how libraries handle similar tasks, and I'm particularly curious to learn what software libraries use to share their digital collections.

When the survey is complete, Kersten and I will post the results for everyone to check out - thanks for helping:

And for what it's worth, my library has put our historical photograph collection (such as it is - it's not something we actively collect) on our flickr account, which patrons and others can use free of charge, provided they comply with our CC license.



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