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


Summer Reading Program Ideas

   June 26th, 2014 Brian Herzog

Summer Reading signSince I work mostly with adult reference and tech support, I've never done much with summer reading programs. But my library is doing two different things this year that seemed like fun, so I wanted to share.

For patrons, we're doing the Fizz Boom Read program for kids, and an interesting but somewhat complex Literary Elements subject bingo for adults. Which are fine, but it's two other programs we're running that I really think are neat.

First, our Childrens Room is making Fizz Boom Read more fun by adding a little raffle incentive. When kids bring in completed log books, they get a raffle ticket. They can then use their raffle tickets to win one of 24 "prize jars." The jars were put together by library staff, and range from a jar of Legos to beads to pennies to Starburst to race cars to stuffed animals - anything that kids might like and would fit in a jar:

Summer Reading jars  
Summer Reading jars  
Summer Reading jars

At the end of the summer, a winning ticket will be pulled for each jar. I know prizes for summer reading are questionable, but I liked this because it's not exactly cutthroat head-to-head competition. Lots of reading is still rewarded with better odds, but the winners are still luck of the draw.

Secondly, our Head of Readers Services put together a "Celebrity Frankenstein" program just for staff. Out of magazine photos, she cut eyes, ears, noses, and mouths of celebrities - and then, for each book a staff person reads, they can build a celebrity Frankenstein face out of the parts:

Adult summer reading face

Bizarre, but engaging - here are all the rules.

She hung a huge sheet up in the Circ office to track everyone's progress, because making it visual makes it much more fun:

Adult summer reading board

And, because this is a staff program, we're also supposed to include notes about what we thought of the book on the back of our face. I think these notes are going to be used later on a "staff picks" display.

I know there are tons of ideas out there for summer reading programs, but I hadn't heard of either of these before. Anything that makes reading more fun is okay in my book.



Tags: , , , , ,



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.



Tags: , , , , , , ,



LISEvents – Check It Out

   April 28th, 2011 Brian Herzog

LISEvents logoIn case you missed the announcement on other sites, a new great way to stay involved in libraryland is LISEvents.

The site is easy to use, both for finding events by date or location (including online-only), and for finding someone to come speak at your library or event.

The best part is that it is community-driven, and adding events is easy - I just added a posting for the NELA-ITS workshop on mobile devices and libraries (also here).

And for anyone wanting to get their name out, be sure to register yourself as a speaker. This portion of the site will be a great resource for event planners, and anyone who has something to share.

Thanks Blake for putting this together - the library world perpetually benefits from the tools you maintain.



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



What is the Point of Reading?

   July 9th, 2009 Brian Herzog

kids sharing a bookSome interesting comments on my last post got me thinking about reading, and why we encourage kids to read.

I know reading is vital for learning and personal development. But beyond that, is reading just for the benefit of the reader?

I wonder: is reading without sharing the experience akin to amassing a tremendous fortune and doing nothing with it? Society tends to paint as "greedy" people who accumulate wealth just for the sake of having more money than they know what to do with. At the same time, we reward philanthropists with awe and gratitude for "giving back" and sharing their excess wealth to benefit society.

So, should reading programs not just encourage kids to total up the number of pages and hours spent reading (which can lead to competition), but to also be "knowledge philanthropists" and share what they've learned and experienced from reading (which might lead to collaboration)? Or would that intimidate kids away from reading at all?

I'm not a children's librarian or parent, so perhaps I'm just late to the party on this.



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



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

------
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 / scott@nmrls.org



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Library Public Computer Profile

   June 10th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Library Public Computer DesktopThis is a follow-up post to "Using Firefox On Our Public Computers" - a few people have asked me what else we have on our public computers, so here is pretty much everything we're doing on our public workstations.

I'm really curious to hear what other libraries are doing on their public computers, so please share your library's public computer configurations in the comments section.

The Desktop

  • The Background Image - Instead of just having a solid color, we use the wallpaper image to tell patrons how to print (rather than taping the directions to the inside wall of each study carrel). And supposedly, black-on-white is easiest to read, and uses less energy
  • Directory Shortcuts - We have shortcuts to My Computer, My Documents and the Recycle Bin: My Computer so patrons can access their flash drive, CD or floppy disk, and My Documents to save their work to the hard drive temporarily (see Deep Freeze below). We decided against a link right to the A: Drive, to discourage use of floppy disks
  • Resolution Switcher - We were having trouble balancing the patrons who wanted 800x600 resolution against the growing number of websites designed for 1024x768, so I was very happy when the library's IT person found ResSwitch. This free program allows patrons control the screen resolution right from the desktop - huge utility (and customer service) in a small package
  • Firefox Internet Browser - Read more about using Firefox
  • Microsoft Office - We offer Word, Excel and Powerpoint 2003 (and installed the Office 2007 file converter). We've talked about switching to OpenOffice, but MS Office is cheap for libraries and our patrons are comfortable with it
  • Meebo Instant Messenger - We put a direct link to meebo.com because so many patrons use it socially or for group work. Also, providing this link is easier than installing and keeping up-to-date local copies of the popular IM services
  • Quick Launch Desktop Shortcut - Just to make the whole desktop cleaner, we decided against loading up the Quick Launch toolbar (by the Start button) with all the offered programs. Instead, we just put the link to the Desktop there, which, after they learn what it is, I've seen patrons using
  • CD Burning with Roxio - A few of our public computers have CD burners, and we use Roxio to handle this. I think it came free when we bought them from Dell, but is now an upcharge. Roxio works well (with a handout we made up), but instead of paying for additional copies, we'll use use XP's native CD burning

Time and Print Management

  • Time Limit Manager - Up until May 2008, we used Library Geek for our timer software. It worked very well for our needs, but it didn't provide statistics. We switched over to Time Limit Manager from Fortress Grand because it accomplished most of what we wanted and gave statistics. We don't require any kind of sign up or sign in, and set the session time for 60 minutes.
    • What I Like About TLM
    • One really nice feature of TLM is that it lets the patron automatically go into "extra" time if not all the computers are in use - we liked this because we thought it was unnecessary to kick patrons off if there were other computers available
    • The countdown clock always shows at the top of the screen (although sometimes I feel like it is pressuring me to be efficient)
    • When a session is up (and all other computers are in use), TLM automatically logs the computer out. This means that if someone was just sitting there chatting online, it closes everything to give them more incentive to give up their computer to someone else. Also, though, just logging out (rather than rebooting) means that any work saved in My Documents will still be there at the next log in
    • Supposedly there's a way to end all session when the library closes (or better yet, five minutes before), but we haven't figured this out yet
    • What I Don't Like About TLM (so far, at least - take all of these with a grain of salt, because I'm still learning the program)
    • The timer can't be turned off at the workstation - extra time is given via the console installed on the reference desk computers
    • This control console is a bit clunky, but it gets the job done
    • The statistics provided are somewhat cumbersome - there's no way to easily see which computer is used the most, or what day/time is the busiest (at least, none that I've found yet)
  • Printing - We use LPT:One from EnvisionWare, and it meets our needs. We just recently added a color printer for patrons to use ($0.15 for B&W, $0.25 for color), but are still looking for a way to allow wireless printing
  • Printing to PDF - To allow patrons to create their own PDF files from any program, we installed PDFcreator. It shows up in the printer selection dropdown box, and creates a pdf file patron can then save to disk

Extras and Other

  • Windows Media Player - We chose to go with WMP because it comes with XP, and works well enough for playing streaming content or music CDs patrons bring in. No desktop shortcut, though, so it only is launched when it is called for by filetype
  • Adobe Reader, Flash Player, et. al. - It's always a challenge keeping up with the latest versions of all the plugins patrons need, but that's life on the internet. Something we learned, after installing the latest versions, was to open them to get rid of all the annoying "I Agree" windows before turning on Deep Freeze
  • Screensaver - We decided to go with the standard XP picture slideshow screensaver, but we use it to promote library services and upcoming events. We pointed all the computers to the same network directory where we save jpg images for events (example), and then delete them after the event passes. It was a bit tricky to make the screensaver show up properly while the computer was logged out, but we eventually got it. When we upgrade to an RSS-compatible events calendar, we'll probably switch to a screensaver that can display that RSS feed
  • Locking Everything Down - For this, the library's IT person uses a three-pronged strategy:
    1. Microsoft Group Policies, for controlling patron access to the computer itself
    2. Symantec Enterprise Antivirus to keep out virus and malware
    3. Deep Freeze, from Faronics, to make sure that when we turn the computers on each morning, they are exactly the same as when we turned them on the previous morning. This also means that anything patrons save to My Documents will be erased when the computer is restarted - this is good for privacy reasons, but can also be disappointing for the patron who comes back three days later wondering where their resume went (but this is usually a mistake patrons only make once). There are similar programs out there, but we've never had a problem with Deep Freeze, so we stick with it
  • Cloning - Once a disk image is configured the way we want it, the library's IT person used Symantec Ghost Solution Suite to clone it to all of our public workstations. It took her some trial and error to figure out the right order for installing software, but any time this does manage to save is worth it

I should also point out that, as Head of Reference, I am, at best, just a supporting role for computer maintenance. It's the library's Head of Technology that does the hard work, turning what I think patrons might need into things patrons can actually use. I'm lucky to work with someone who puts as much emphasis on customer service as I do - thank you, Barbara.



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,