April 4th, 2015 Brian Herzog
This was an extremely timely question - and one I even personally benefited from.
A patron came to the desk and asked if he could find out if the IRS had mailed him his tax refund check yet. This year has been notorious for longer-than-usual waits for everything from the IRS, but he said he'd mailed in his paper tax returns over a month ago and in past years the IRS has had pretty quick turnaround on refunds.
Coincidentally, I also do my taxes with paper forms, and mailed them in just about a month ago, and likewise have not received my refund check yet. So this patron made me realize I had the same question he did - although I didn't know it until he came in.
Anyway, a rather tongue-in-cheek search for has my tax return been processed led us to the IRS' 2015 Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions, which in turn lead us to the appropriately-named Where's My Refund website.
On this site you have to enter your social security number, your filing status, and your exact refund amount, and it then tells you where your return stands. The patron didn't know his refund amount, but this was clearly the right tool for the job, so he wrote down the URL, thanked me, and left.
When I got home that night, I entered my own information (and although the URL is https://sa.www4.irs.gov, I still felt uncomfortable entering it online - I'm paranoid!), and was happy to see this:
I said this was a very timely post, because I learned that my check was mailed on the very day I looked it up. So yay for that to look forward to - and also yay for discovering a tool I think might become somewhat popular in the next few weeks. And while I'm handing out the yays, yay to the IRS for making this tool available, easy to use, and very clear. I know they're being roundly maligned this tax season, but not all of it is deserved, and here's proof.
April 1st, 2015 Brian Herzog
My library has implemented a few alternatives to Dewey shelving in the past, but we're rolling out something this week that I'm really excited about - we're calling it Intergenerational Shelving.
The idea originated when we noticed the difficulties some families had in using the library. Parents would bring their kids in, often of various ages, and picking up books for everyone required stopping in multiple departments. Wouldn't it be nice, we reasoned, if we didn't cordon people off by age, but instead opened up the entire library for everyone?
Yes! So our solution was to intermix all of the books in the entire library, along these guidelines: books for adults on the top shelves, and books for kids on the bottom shelves. Here's how our approach looks:
As you can see, adult books are on the high shelves - which eliminates adults having to bend way down to the lower shelves to find things. And kids books are on the bottom shelves, so all kids books are within kid reach. The colorful border indicates the age levels.
This system has lots of other benefits too:
- We're trying to line up adult, teen, and childrens non-fiction books, so all the books we have on a subject - say, the solar system - are right next to each other, regardless of the target age
- It removes age-related stigmas association with books - adults who want a kids book, either for an easy-to-understand introduction to a topic, or just like reading kid stories, don't have to be embarrassed about going into the Childrens Room (or worse, get accusatory glances for not having a child chaperon)
- Kids who are advanced readers are more likely to serendipitously encounter higher reading level books
- Parents are less tempted to dump their kids in the unlicensed daycare that is the Childrens Room while they go off looking to the adult section - now the entire family can browse together
- This really reenforces the Library As Community Center idea, because patrons who may not have ever mixed before now find themselves in the same aisle all the time: kids series books are shelved under large print, and our senior patrons enjoy hearing from kids what the Rainbow Fairies are up to
- Reshelving books has been tremendously simplified - all our Pages have now been trained to shelve everything. And, the Circ staff doesn't have to pre-sort carts as items are checked in - everything is just mixed together and the Pages take care of it
This has been such a huge success so far that we've gotten inquiries from retail stores who'd like to copy the model for their own shelves. The local grocery store is considering putting boring foodstuffs on their adult-eye-level shelves, with toys and candy on the low shelves underneath. The possibilities are endless!
March 28th, 2015 Brian Herzog
There really was nothing to this question, other than I thought it was neat and a creative idea. This came into the general reference email inbox this week:
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Subject: Card Catalog
My name is [...] and I am a high school teacher in town. My fiancé, [...], is a life long resident of Chelmsford and currently teaches at the high school as well. We are getting married this fall and are hoping to include a theme of vintage school, as it was education that brought us together. We want to incorporate as much school and hometown as we can into our centerpieces and we're hoping Chelmsford Library may be able to help us. We were wondering if you had any wooden card catalog container you were willing to part with. We could clearly make a donation or pay for them. If you could let us know we would be extremely grateful.
Unfortunately, all I could really do was write her back saying that no, we don't have those anymore.
And honestly I think that if we did, we certainly wouldn't sell it and I'm not even sure we'd loan it out for a use like this. Maybe, depending on the size, but those are such a hot commodity now that they are a lot more valuable than people think.
But it did get me wondering about other sources for wedding "props" that would be either educational or of local interest. I presume they've already checked around the local schools, for desks or tables and such things. Any other group that I work with regularly - the historical society, local museums, even Town Hall - probably wouldn't lend their pieces to be used at a wedding. Beyond that, it's either local consignment shops or getting lucky knowing someone who has something.
Which is kind of too bad - a card catalog would make any wedding more interesting.
March 21st, 2015 Brian Herzog
I had to wait to post this one until the event had passed, because I didn't want to skew the results. And also as a caveat emptor right up front, this might be one of those "you had to be there" moments, because the set up is long so the punch line may be anti-climatic. But it's the second day of Spring and it's snowing again, so here we go anyway.
Every year since 1993, Chelmsford has had a town-wide Winterfest celebration during February. That's fun. A couple years ago, the organizers also started an ArtWalk - artists created work around the same theme, and these were displayed in business' front windows in the town center. This gave people another reason to be outside and walk around Town, and also drew people to the shops.
This year, an element of competition was added - people could cast votes for their favorite display.
I was asked to help figure out a way to allow online voting for the ArtWalk displays. SurveyMonkey seemed easiest, so the organizers took photos of the displays, I added them to a poll, and we promoted the URL around town so people could vote (this, by the way, is why I waited on this post - I wanted the voting closed so that spambots wouldn't link from here and ruin the poll).
Okay, so there's the set up. The displays were going up on Saturday, February 7th, and the voting would open on Sunday the 8th. And of course, we were promoting the ArtWalk beforehand, and I think some of the artists had been talking it up too.
So now the punchline (I wanted to warn you it was coming so you didn't miss it): on the Wednesday before, an older gentleman came up to me at the desk and said,
I'd like to cast my vote for the Winterfest artwork. I saw the one I liked. Do I do that here?
I was a little puzzled, and told him that no, voting doesn't start until Sunday, and the displays themselves don't go up until Saturday. To which he replied,
Oh, I don't know anything about it. My wife just told me to come down here and vote for hers.
Ha. See, that was totally worth it. As a reward, take a look at the 2015 Chelmsford Winterfest ArtWalk displays. The photos don't really do them justice, but it's a fun program anyway.
March 20th, 2015 Brian Herzog
From the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners comes this infographic. I'm not sure that the number of people who use Massachusetts libraries are strictly tourists, but still it's a nice-looking way to illustrate that libraries have not been killed off by the internet.
Take that, Niagara Falls! Incidentally, here's Travel+Leisure's full list of visit statistics.
Tags: activity, attractions, infographic, libraries, Library, massachusetts, public, statistics, tourist, visit, visits
March 14th, 2015 Brian Herzog
One afternoon, an older Asian women came up to the desk. In this case, I'm only pointing out the age and ethnicity to illustrate that she and I did not share a common native language.
Usually I'm pretty good at hearing what people are saying, even with heavy accents on their English. However, with this women, I was struggling. And she knew it. Eventually I got that she was asking me to look up three books for her, and after having her repeat the first one four times, I finally got it.
We owned it and it was on the shelf, so things were looking up. But when we moved on to the next titles, the two of us just couldn't connect - I think she had repeated them four or five times when I finally asked her to write them down for me. She did, and slid me the note:
When I looked down at it, I had to laugh (to myself) - I couldn't read her writing any better than I could understand her speech.
But after studying it for a minute, and listing to her say the titles again, I was able to pick up most of them. The second one suddenly became evident - Fresh off the Boat - and I could get "Man on" in the first one, but then she had to spell that third word: m-a-o.
I still couldn't get the last word, but searching for "man on mao's" was enough - the book she was looking for was Man on Mao's Right.
These two were also in the system, and I was able to request them for her. She thanked me and left, and I kept the note to hang by my desk on my wall of "things that amuse me and probably no one else."