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

Conference Blogging

   October 21st, 2008 Brian Herzog

NELA2008 registration tableRight now I'm in Manchester, NH, for the 2008 NELA conference. In addition to being an attendee and a speaker, I'm also blogging the sessions I attend for the NELA conference blog (read my posts).

This year there are ten volunteer bloggers, and I think it's great -

  • great that NELA is supporting a blog
  • great that people volunteer to contribute
  • great that the notes we take during sessions are available for all attendees, people who couldn't come, trustees who need to see these things, and anyone else who is interested

There are lots of worthwhile conferences and workshops every year, and I go to very few of them. I think it's important for these conferences to extend beyond the conference dates and facility to reach the people who can't come. Considerations for "virtual attendance" seems to be getting more common, in fits and starts, but I think it'll happen.

Along these lines, RUSA has recently asked a small group of librarians to look at this very issue. The goal of this task force is to recommend

a suite of technology-based approaches to virtual membership, virtual attendance at conference, podcasting or videocasting conference programs, the creation of webinars to be hosted by RUSA, and a range of other approaches that would provide resources to our members – both those that attend conference and those for whom conference attendance is a barrier to participation.

Now this is an organization moving in the direction of its members. Thank you, RUSA. I'm not sure what the end result of the task force will be, but just the fact that a large, member-based organization like this is paying attention to the needs of its members is a step in the right direction.

And hopefully, once RUSA develops and implements a good model, it will spread to the rest of the ALA.

But for the time being, don't be afraid to let your consortia, library associations, or other conference groups know what works and doesn't work for you, and where your needs are and aren't being met. That's the best way to get the resources tailored to our needs.

Update: I forgot to mention that the Internet Librarian conference is also going on right now - check out blog posts tagged with il2008 on google blog search.

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Library Website 404 Pages

   September 18th, 2007 Brian Herzog

404 screenshotSparked by a discussion in the ning Library 2.0 forum, I recently revamped my Library's 404 error webpage (what displays when the webpage someone is looking for is not found).

Until earlier this year, we just had the standard "404 error: file not found" page, which is common and boring. I had made it a little more interesting just by adding our logo and some helpful information. But Darlene's call for injecting humor and casualness in this situation got me to rethink it, and I came up with our current page.

Libraries are always fighting the traditional stuffy stereotype, and little things like this can make the patron experience more interesting and memorable. Also, it really was fairly easy to do, and I think in this case, a little effort goes a long way (of course, ideally, this page would never be seen).

But let your 404 page be seen - Darlene also started a flickr Library 404 Page group, so please add your screenshots. Also, some live, non-library examples are available at sendcoffe.com.

And before anyone asks: I didn't put too much thought into the books in the photo. This is just the shelf closest to the Reference Desk. But really, I think these titles lend themselves pretty well to the process of discovery of something missing - plus, this is the "self-help" section.

404, 404 error, chelmsford, chelmsford library, error page, librarian, librarians, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, web page, website

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Free Citizenship Resource

   September 13th, 2007 Brian Herzog

U.S. Customs and Immigration logo
I recently received this announcement in email. Free to public libraries, this is a Federally-produced citizen toolkit, geared to immigrants working towards American citizenship.

September 12, 2007
To: Public Libraries serving New Immigrants/Newcomer Populations

The Task Force on New Americans, a federal interagency effort to help immigrants learn English has developed The Civics and Citizenship Toolkit. This free toolkit is designed to serve as a self-study resource for immigrants but can also be useful for librarians and adult educators in a classroom or community literacy setting. Included in the kit are guides in English and Spanish, Welcome to the United States, that contain a wide range of practical information as well as basic civics information introducing newcomers to the U.S. system of government. Also included are Civics Flash cards for individual study or instructional use and Learn about the United States: Quick Civics lessons. In addition, the kit includes a Citizen's Almanac and Pocket size Declaration of Independence, copy of the U.S. Constitution and a DVD covering an introduction to U.S. History and Civics.

Interested? Please go to http://www.citizenshiptoolkit.gov/ and register for a FREE copy of the Civics and Citizenship Toolkit.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Registration limited to PUBLIC LIBRARIES ONLY.
  • Please DO NOT REGISTER IF YOUR LIBRARY IS PART OF THE FEDERAL DEPOSITORY LIBRARY PROGRAM (FDLP)*. Registration is subject to review to ensure eligibility.
  • If eligible, registrants will receive a copy of the Toolkit on a first come, first served basis.
  • Resources are limited. Registrants will receive one Toolkit at no charge.
  • Registration for the toolkit is now open and will be available while supplies last.

The Toolkit is a joint effort of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the U.S. Government Printing Office.

All questions about the toolkit should be directed to the federal office at the above website.

citizenship, government, immigrant, immigrants, immigration, librarian, librarians, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, resource

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Librarian Blog Rankings

   September 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Earlier this week, the Online Educational Database released its rankings for the top 25 librarian bloggers. Although I am tops with some people, I am not tops with them. Sigh.

But don't despair; I have a theory. As I was looking down the list, I noticed something: they all have a cool, easy-to-use name. librarian.net. LibrarianInBlack. The Travelin' Librarian. See? Compared to them, "herzogbr.net blog : A Hitchhiker's Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk" is a bit cumbersome.

PageRank? Subscribers? Pshaw. I'm convinced that if I just had a catchier name for this blog, I would be much more popular.

I had actually thought about the whole name thing a few months ago, and came up with a couple options. But a friend of mine recommended against adopting one. The logic was this: it might be counter-productive to rename an already established entity, because that would be confusing and erode whatever name recognition already existed. Which makes sense.

But now, not making the top 25-tier, well, that's just the clincher. I've decided I am going to start using a new name - and redesign the entire website, as well (which I've been meaning to do for awhile, anyway). My goal is to design solely with style sheets, and use WordPress as a CMS, to finally move away from my oh-so-'90s static html pages with table-based layout. It'll take a little while, but I'll keep posting my progress.

That being said, I would like to get back to the list of top 25 librarian bloggers. First of all, congratulations to everyone on the list. Thank you for contributing to the overall library world - even Annoyed. Well... maybe.

I was also curious how my blog fared based on the metrics the OEDb used. As near as I can tell, here's where I stand in each category:

Metric My Score*
Google Google PageRank 4
Alexa Alexa Rank 5
Technorati Technorati Authority 5
Bloglines Bloglines Subscribers 1
Total Score: 15

*These numbers are estimations; I just found my rankings, found one of the top 25 that was close, and adjusted from there

So, with an overall score of 15, I'm really not that far out of the running - #24 and #25 both scored 17. Of course, as Jessamyn (a.k.a. #1) points out, the methodology of this study is somewhat questionable, so who knows.

Besides, there's always next year.

blog, blogs, librarian, librarians, libraries, library, online education database, rankings, top 25 librarian bloggers

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…and His Band of Merry Librarians

   December 8th, 2006 Brian Herzog

screenshot of visitor log - click to view larger image on flickr So, I was checking my visitor log on StatCounter [click image], and saw that someone from Nottingham, England, visited my blog. Of course, this had to be Robin Hood, checking out what's happening in the library world of Chelmsford, USA (maybe he thought I was in the other Chelmsford). Perhaps he was gathering ideas to try out in his local library.

But you know, the more I think about it, Robin Hood would have made an excellent librarian. Just like him, today's libraries take from the rich (and middle class, in the form of taxes) and give to the poor (and middle class, in the form of resources and services to which they might not otherwise have access), despite the best efforts of the oppressive and overreaching Sheriff and Prince (in the form of the USA PATRIOT Act).

The bow and arrow might come in handy at the reference desk, but I don't think I could pull off the tights.

chelmesford, librarians, nottingham, robin hood, statcounter, visitor log

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Thinking Like a Librarian

   November 18th, 2006 Brian Herzog

Fruit: A Novel, by Brian FrancisInstead of a reference question this weekend, here's another quote from a book I'm reading - Fruit, by Brian Francis. It's a novel about an eighth grade boy, Peter, who, uncomfortable with his body (and his talking nipples), takes a job in his school's library so he doesn't have to go out and play with the other kids at recess. His rational for this is:

The truth is, I'd rather be in the boring old library putting books away and making ditto copies for the teachers than outside with everyone else. It's safer.

So, I wonder how many people working in libraries today are there for this exact same reason.

And speaking of how librarians think, here's another quote from the book. This one comes after an argument Peter has with his nipples, over whose fault it is that they are abnormally large:

I got out the masking tape and shut them up. I was so angry at my evil nipples. Who did they think they were, anyway?

Who among us at the reference desk hasn't thought that before?

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