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


This One Weird Trick Will Increase Library Program Attendance!

   March 17th, 2017 Brian Herzog

One of the things I truly hate, hate, is clickbait. I find myself specifically not clicking on things that sound clickbaity, just because I feel insulted by something thinking I can be manipulated. (That'll teach 'em.)

Especially though when it is totally unnecessary. A recent Lifehacker article entitled "This Secret Trick Will Save You From Getting Lost In Central Park Forever" could have just as easily, and less annoyingly, been titled, "How To Use Central Park Lampposts To Avoid Getting Lost." I still would have clicked and read, and would have felt less dirty about it.

Of course these show up as links all over the internet, but I've also seen a trend on YouTube to name videos with clickbait titles too. One of the channels I used to watch, Wranglestar, has become terrible for this, and I've all but stopped watching him because of it. Recently though, he published a video explaining why he uses clickbait video titles. It was interesting, and the tl;dw version is that he found it to be the only way to make money on YouTube anymore: regular titles don't get clicked, which means videos don't get watched, which means no monetized ad revenues for him.

If it is that effective, maybe library ought to pay attention. So, just as a "funny thing to think about but I would never do for real" project, here are a few of our library programs re-titled as clickbait:

Now those would totally boost our attendance numbers.



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Creative Names for Book Groups, and Who They Might Attract

   August 28th, 2013 Brian Herzog

For as long as I've been a librarian, I've heard librarians talking about how to attracted more 20-40 year olds to the library. One method I've heard repeatedly (often from 20-40 year old librarians) was that we need to do outreach to where those patrons are: bars and other fun places.

I know libraries have set up help desk tables on college campuses, public parks, and even in bars, and also use pubs and coffee shops as a meeting spot for book groups. Recently, I heard about a new book group from the library in Haverhill, MA, that is taking this same tack - here's the groups logo:

get lit logo

Get Lit is a social book club designed for twenty and thirty something readers in the greater Haverhill area. We will be meeting monthly to talk books, socialize, eat, drink, and whatever else might come up. Second Thursday of the month, The Barking Dog Ale House in Haverhill.

I don't drink and I find bars almost unbearable, but I think this is fantastic and I hope it's successful.

Apart from people looking for free wifi, it seems to me that library patrons tends to skew to the extremes, with libraries looking either like day care centers or senior centers. Which is fine, but I also like the idea of reaching out to the patrons in the middle.

My library occasionally brainstorms to come up with program ideas that would attract the "mid-life" patrons, and some work and some don't. The "Get Lit" book group seems to walk a fine line between being clever and devolving into a frat party. However, I still think it's funny, and it's a book group I'd go to. Good job, Haverhill Public Library.



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Reference Question of the Week – 9/2/12

   September 8th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Library events calendarI only heard about this third-hand, but I still found it funny.

A patron walked up to one of our male circulation desk assistants with a copy of the library's event calendar in hand. She pointed to an event on one of the days and asked,

How does this gynecology program work? Does a doctor come in and give people free exams?

Confused (because we have never offered free gynecological exams [and I can't imagine a public library ever doing that]), he looked at the calendar and replied,

Oh, no, that's our Genealogy Group.

Not quite the same thing. A very simple misunderstanding, but I am easily amused.



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Reference Question of the Week – 11/27/11

   December 3rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Cultural Road Show logoThis week's question made me laugh, and then made me think - and I wasn't the only one.

One of the programs going on at my library right now is something call the "Cultural Road Show." The idea behind it is to increase awareness of the museums and other cultural organizations in the community, by having one of them come to the library each month and give a program on their group/collection.

Essentially, get the museums to get a small exhibit "on the road" and bring it to the library (one nice side effect is that it also promotes our museum passes). We're using the bus image to reenforce the "road trip" theme, and also are scanning people's library cards as they enter (sort of like an EZPass going through a toll booth) which enters people into drawing for prizes from the museums.

Our Community/Programming Librarian has been doing a good job of organizing and promoting it, and the first few road shows have been pretty well-attended.

But this week, a patron walked up to the circulation desk and said:

I saw signs for this Cultural Road Show - what time does the bus get here, and do you have a schedule of all the places where we'll be stopping?

Of course, obvious and honest misunderstandings like this are humorous, mainly because this approach never even occurred to anyone on the staff - and we all had a good laugh.

But then we all thought, why not plan a road trip for patrons to actually visit museums? Just because the idea didn't originate with a staff person doesn't mean we can't do it. We need to look into the feasibility of that kind of program, but we all liked the sound of it.

It reminded me of Jessamyn's recent post about the trend in library programs to do new things - sometimes, the best way to come up with new ideas is to ask patrons.



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We’re Starting Up A Jelly

   July 12th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Chelmsford Jelly logoThere's a new program starting this week at my library - a Jelly.

What's a Jelly?!
A Jelly is a casual yet organized assembly of people who choose to work in a social atmosphere - with other interesting and creative people to talk to, collaborate with, and bounce ideas off.

The idea for the Chelmsford Jelly actually originated with a patron. He approached our programming librarian and asked if the library could host a Jelly. After researching online to find out what the heck a Jelly was, we agreed - we're providing a room and some publicity, and he's doing everything else. He's also set up a meetup page for the Jelly to manage it.

I think the idea of "coworking" is a good one. There are lots of people now who, for whatever reason, do work at home, in coffee shops, in parks, whatever, instead of going into an office. There is a lot of freedom in that, but sometimes it helps to be around people who are also doing work. The coworking approach is just that - working around other people who are also working. They're not necessarily working together, just near each other - near enough to enjoy each other's company, use as a sounding board, share lunch, and share the experience of working. Basically, social networking in person.

For us, the Jelly will meet every third Friday from 11:30-4:30. We're not sure how successful it will be, but since the library's core mission is providing community space for patrons (and this program requires extremely little effort on our part), we want to support this program as much as possible.

Update: At our first Jelly, I think there were about 4-5 people who came to work, and stay for part or all of the day. But I was told there was a steady stream of other people who just popped their heads in to see what it was, or, as one man said, "to see what kind of people come to these things." I think this will become more popular as word spreads over time, so I'll post an addition update after a few sessions.



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Upcoming Workshop: CMS Day!

   May 19th, 2009 Brian Herzog

website designer comicI'm a member of the IT section of the New England Library Association, and we're holding a workshop on popular CMS software. If you're thinking about redesigning or updating your website, or would are just curious about what CMS' are and what they can do, then this workshop is for you.

CMS Day! Build a better website with Content Management Systems: Drupal, Joomla, Plone, & WordPress
Keynote by Jessamyn West

Date: Friday, June 12, 2009
Location: Portsmouth Public Library, Portsmouth, NH (directions)
Cost: NELA members - $50; Non-members - $60
Registration Fee includes lunch & a NELA USB hub!

To Register
Secure online registration & downloadable mail-in registration [pdf] are both available at http://www.nelib.org/its/conference. Registration Closes Monday June 8.

Program Schedule
10:00 a.m. - Registration & Coffee & Library Tours
10:30 a.m. - Keynote: CMS options - Jessamyn West
12 noon - Lunch (provided!) and Library Tours
12:45 p.m. - Librarians share their real-life CMS experiences:
--Drupal - Darien (CT) PL (darienlibrary.org) & Paige Eaton Davis, Minuteman Network
--Joomla - Randy Robertshaw, Tyngsborough PL (tynglib.org)
--Plone - Rick Levine & CMRLS Librarians
--WordPress - Theresa Maturevich, Beverly (MA) PL (beverlypubliclibrary.org)
3:30 p.m. -Wrap-Up!

Keynote by Jessamyn West

Jessamyn West is a community technology librarian. She lives in rural Vermont where assists tiny libraries with their technology planning and implementation. Her favorite color is orange. Jessamyn maintains an online presence at: librarian.net and jessamyn.info

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NELA Program Refund Policy: A full refund shall be granted provided that the registered attendee has contacted the authorized representative of ITS responsible for taking registrations, at least ten (10) business days in advance of the program. In the event that notice is given less than ten days, a refund is not granted, however, they may send a substitute to the program.

For more information, please contact Scott Kehoe at 978-762-4433 x16 / [email protected]



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