April 1st, 2016 Brian Herzog
This blog has been without a new post for longer that I intended, and hopefully no one minded too much. Switching from Head of Reference to Assistant Director has been both more different and more busy than I expected, but things are starting to calm down finally.
So hopefully, that will mean more regular updates from the back office. Especially since I'll be at PLA next week, I'm sure there will be lots to talk about.
But something I always liked doing (probably more than you liked me doing it) was a traditional April 1st post. I wasn't able to get something together for this year, so hopefully you don't mind settling for this:
That's a photo of my library's lobby. And it's hard to make out, so here's the slide showing on the digital display:
So far, no one has noticed - or at least, no one has said anything. We'll see.
By the way, the featured title is The Berenstain Bears and the blame game, but there were other options too.
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!
April 1st, 2013 Brian Herzog
My parents downsized from a house to a condo last year, so we went through the process of getting the house ready to sell. Which means, each room had to be "staged" to show prospective buyers the house's potential.
But you know, I thought, why stop at just arranging pillows on a couch to suggest how comfortable it would be to take a nap in a sun-lit nook, or strategically placing chairs to show how enjoyable it would be to relax in a certain room? I mean, instead of just staging furniture and decorations, why not just use actual people to flat-out perform these nice homey tableaux? I call it "live-staging."
My suggestion was met with eye rolls all around, but I'm finally getting to implement this idea - at my library.
See, one thing that always astounds me in the library are the patrons who say things like, "wow, I've never been on this floor before," or happen to notice our very prominently-displayed public fax machine and say, "I had no idea the library had a fax machine!"
I'm always trying to think of better ways to publicize everything the library offers, and it occured to me that live-staging is the perfect method.
So, my library hired a group of actors to live-stage library resources.
For instance, one will very conspicuously (and enthusiastically) use the fax machine. Another will "discover" that the library offers ebooks and ask staff for more information in a very noticeable way. Two will play chess to promote our gaming table, while another will excitedly find out about home-access for our databases, and someone else will talk up an upcoming evening program.
Really, the possibilities are endless. And the actors are excited too - we've given them the resources we want to highlight, and general guidelines about how to get the attention of other patrons without actually being annoying about it. Otherwise though, they're free to ad-lib and interact with patrons and staff however they feel will best draw attention to these services (and we're not telling staff who the actors are).
So as not to be too obvious, we'll be rotating different actors and services, so our cast of actors is currently up in the hundreds. After all, we didn't want our patrons seeing "reruns" of the same "patron" learning over and over that we have a typewriter.
I can hardly wait to see how this works. It launches today and will run for the entire month of April. We did a benchmark survey last year, to find out which services people know about and use. We'll do the same survey again after this live-staging, and I am 100% positive patrons' awareness will be through the roof.
After all, we're paying for these actors with our entire year's materials budget, so it better work.
April 1st, 2012 Brian Herzog
This isn't exactly a reference question, but it is something reference staff deal with all the time. A patron came up to the desk and said,
That man on the last computer over there is looking at porn.
This seems to go in waves for us, but we probably average three or four porn complaints a month. The way we handle this in my library is to print out our Appropriate Library Behavior policy, and highlight the line that says,
The library is a public building and objectionable or pornographic images that can be seen by others (either intentionally or accidentally, and either on screen on in print) are not permissible.
I then give it to the patron in question, while at the same time saying something like, "another patron complained about something they saw on your screen. Since this is a public building, you must make sure that anything on your screen is appropriate for all ages."
At least, this is how we handle first-time offenders - we don't accuse them of anything, we don't kick them out, we just make it clear that anything they do must be clean enough for kids and the general public. We approach it this way because porn isn't illegal, but very subjective, and just not something we can allow at the library.
But it got me thinking: there are other things the library can't accommodate, for one reason or another: color photocopying, notary service, etc. In these cases, we have little handouts at the reference desk that list other locations in town that can accommodate those needs.
So, I thought, why don't we also make a handout for the porn people, listing other places in the area that cater to Adult Services? Here's what I came up with:
From now on, whenever a patron complains about someone looking at porn, in addition to giving them a copy of the official library policy, I'm also going to give them one of these handouts - that way, we're maintaining our yes-based policy and fulfilling a core library function by referring them to the most appropriate resource.
It's formatted to print three per page - feel free to download and edit one for your library [ppt], or check out the PDF version.
April 2nd, 2011 Brian Herzog
Instead of a reference question, here's something in honor of April 1st:
Yesterday, Lifehacker posted an April Fools QR Code Internet Scavenger Hunt - the point is to find and decode a series of QR codes hidden on various websites. But the trick is that you not only need to decipher the clues, but use reference skills to search and find the right websites.
It was fun, and the information provided in the clues is remarkably similar to library reference transactions - cryptic and obscure, but usually enough to go on.
So test out your reference skills - it's fun. It's also a very good example of how a library can use QR codes for an enjoyable and engaging project.
It would have also been interesting to sort of track peoples' search techniques and strategies, to see if librarians are any better at something like this than anyone else.
The article also linked to a handy online QR code decoder - neat.
Tags: 1 april, Adam Dachis, april 1st, april fools, lifehacker, qr, qr code, qrcode, reference, Reference Question, scavenger hunt, search, slooflirpa, strategies
April 1st, 2010 Brian Herzog
Facing another round a budget cuts for this coming fiscal year, my library had to lay off all of our reference staff, except for me.
However, in an effort to continue to meet patron need at the Reference Desk, the library is capitalizing on Massachusetts' strength in the biomedical technology industry by partnering with biotech firms to create librarian clones. The advantages are numerous:
- multiplying the effect of a library degree
- staff training is streamlined
- communication within the department is excellent
- we all share a single social security number so we also share a single salary
- all of us are covered by a single benefits package
- our wardrobe is interchangeable
This week was the first reference shift for the clones - here's a snapshot of the day:
If this cloning experiment works for the Reference Department, it may be expanded to additional departments during future budget cuts. We also might begin to selectively clone patrons, based on quality of questions, reading tastes, adherence to library policies, and how many pet peeves they commit.