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

More On-The-Item Patron Reviews

   April 4th, 2012 Brian Herzog

A few months ago, someone donated DVDs to the library that had their personal reviews stuck to the covers. In that same theme, we recently found one of the library's Twilight books had been "reviewed" (rather harshly) in the same manner:

Twilight with stickers on cover

Twilight stickers closeup

Although I still like the idea of patron interaction and reviewing books in context, this doesn't exactly qualify. The Avery label scraps made me laugh though.

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Sign Up For Library Day in the Life Round 8! #libday8

   January 17th, 2012 Brian Herzog

SHH!zam! shirt from the Boston Public LibraryThe next Library Day in the Life is coming up - it runs the week of January 30th through February 5th. If you haven't participated, think about trying it this time - it's interesting, and a lot of fun.

I've done the last few, and plan on live-blogging one of my days for #libday8 also. If you're interested, read Bobbi Newman's explanatory post, then check out the LibDay wiki, and follow these directions:

  • Chose your medium – blog posts, tweets, pictures, videos, interpretive dance, whatever.
  • Go to the wiki
  • Create an account (it’s free), carefully read the instructions for adding your content.
  • On the 30th start recording your day or week.
  • Bloggers, Flickr & YouTube users tag your posts with librarydayinthelife and #libday8. Twitters use the #libday8
  • Bloggers be sure to include an introductory paragraph explaining the project and information about your position for readers.
  • Add your Flickr photos or videos to the Group on Flickr and/or join the Facebook Page

Unrelated to #libday8, I wanted to let people know the Swiss Army Librarian site will join other websites in going dark on Jan 18th to protest SOPA. If you're interested in doing it to0, here's a few tips.

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Library Word Find Puzzle vol. 2

   December 8th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Library Word Find Puzzle #2A couple years ago, I posted a Library Word Find Puzzle on flickr. It continues to be popular, so I thought I'd do a second Library Word Find Puzzle.

Sames rules as before: log into flickr and use the Add Note tool to circle a word; words are only horizontal or vertical, and are both forwards and backwards; please only circle one or two words to let as many people as possible play.

The words to look for are below the puzzle on flickr - and this time, there are a few words-within-words (eg, "mobile" and "bookmobile") so be careful.

I made this puzzle using the same spreadsheet as last time, so anyone feel free to use it to make other puzzles.

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“Awful Library Books” Author on Weeding

   December 6th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Weeding List at the Manchester (NH) LibraryRuth from Artifact Collectors emailed me a link to her interview with the author of Awful Library Books, Holly Hibner.

The interview is about the weeding process, the weeded books and what happens to them after they have been weeded. If you like it, please feel free to share it with your readers!

I did like it, so here you go. Most librarians will know the details, but I always like hearing ideas for what to do with weeded books - and of course, the books that show up on Awful Library Books are always entertaining.

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Linking from the Catalog to Google Books

   May 24th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Today I'd like to gather peoples' opinions about something.

This coming weekend my consortium is migrating to the Evergreen ILS - so we're down to the wire to decide which features to launch with and which to turn on later, or not at all. One feature libraries are divided over is including a link to Google Books.

The link shows up in two places (below are some screenshots, but you can also test it live on our demo server). First and foremost, it displays for almost every book on the search results page:

Link to Browse Google Books in Evergreen catalog

Secondly, for some records (although not all), there are additional links to Google on the item details page - sometimes the "Google Preview" icon appears under the book cover, and sometimes the "Preview" tab occurs at the bottom. When patrons click that tab, the book's preview is embedded right in the catalog. I haven't figured out the rhyme or reason behind the Preview tab appearing - not all books have it, even books that are available free online.

Google Books preview embedded in Evergreen catalog

I'd really like to know what other people think about including these links in the catalog. For me, I knew instantly how I felt, but have been struggling to put my reasoning into words. Here goes:

  1. Google Books "Preview" tab on item details page
    • should stay
    • it is clearly adding value to the catalog and providing a service for patrons, to see into the book online
    • should be improved to include all books that have preview or full text online
  2. "Browse in Google Books Search" link on the search results page
    • should be removed
    • I don't like how prominent it is - more noticeable than our "Place Hold" link
    • from my testing, about 90% of the books with this link do not have any kind of "view online" option - which means this is nothing but a "buy it online somewhere" link
    • as far as I can tell, even though we're essentially linking to a bookstore, we're not getting any kind of kickback from driving sales to them (and away from our collection)
    • should we be linking to a bookseller at all? If so, why not the local bookstore instead?
    • when there is no online preview, all the Google Books page offers is reviews, similar books, and some other information - all of which we already have in the catalog
    • doesn't the link imply endorsement and approval of Google Books?
    • isn't the Google Books project still tied up in courts to determine how legal it is?

So this is basically where I am - what do you think?

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Reference Question of the Week – 1/7

   January 13th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Arabic Phrase Book CoverThe "reference" part of this question would have been fairly straightforward, had the patron been able to speak English...

I was sitting at the reference desk with one of my library's assistant directors (Chris, who often works with me at the desk). A circulation desk staffer came to the desk, disconcerted, and with a patron in tow.

She said that this patron had walked in the front door and come to the circ desk, and began speaking to them in Spanish. No matter what they said, he would not speak English. She said they didn't know what he wanted or what to do with him, and that frankly, he was making them nervous. However, knowing that Chris spoke some Spanish (and some French, and some Portuguese - it's nice having someone on staff with a Masters in Linguistics from Harvard), she hoped he could figure out what he wanted.

Chris addressed the patron in Spanish, and the patron spoke back - but not in Spanish. It didn't even sound close. Neither Chris nor I could identify the language, but our best guess (based on its sound and the patron's appearance) was that he was speaking Arabic.

Chris immediately went into the 400s to find an Arabic-English dictionary. Having studied languages, Chris thought he'd be able to find out how he could help him.

But, after a few attempts, Chris realized that the differences between English and Arabic were just to great to overcome in a couple minutes. So, he thought of something else - he called Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, thinking that someone there might be able to translate for him.

As luck would have it, the Center's secretary answered the phone, and she herself was able (and willing) to serve as a translator. Chris gave the patron the phone, and after his initial puzzled look, he proceeded to speak with her for a good ten minutes. When Chris got back on the phone, the secretary told him that the patron recently moved here from Egypt, worked in our town 9-5pm M-F, and was interested in learning English.

Well, now at least Chris knew how to help him. Chris managed to explain that we offer an English Conversation Circle for people learning English - but those meetings conflicted with his work schedule.

Then, Chris started looking for other Arabic-language resources in our area. After a bit of searching our Community Information Database and the internet in general, he found the Islamic Society of Greater Lowell. Chris contacted them and explained the situation, and thought it was a place the patron could at least start with to find what he was looking for.

Now, this is a great story, but also one of those perfect-timing reference questions. If we didn't have someone with Chris' linguistics background on staff, this patron may have left empty-handed and lost. I am always happy when I'm able to find the information someone needs, but it feels so much better (for whatever reason) when the help you provide comes from your own personal interests or history, rather than just your searching skills. It gives you a chance to really connect with the patron as a person, rather than just answering a question.

It also shows that, regardless of what kind of pre-library background someone has, the specialized interests of the staff (be it Irish history, scrapbooking, geocaching, dogs, etc.) can be just as valuable as any coursework or on-the-job training.

arabic, english, languages, libaries, library, reference question

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