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


Why Support Your Local Library Infographic

   August 22nd, 2012 Brian Herzog

One of the creators of the infographic below sent it to me saying,

I worked closely with the ALA and IMLS to create this infographic about "Why support your local library?" We are using this to drum up support for volunteers, donations and legislative actions.

I like that it addresses the counter-intuitive notion that during a bad economy, library budgets need to be expanded because we get so much busier. It's a hard sell, even with the statistics to back it up.

Update 9/12/12: a data error was found in the original infographic, and this version has been updated.

Support Your Local Library infographic

Thanks Dan.



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Highlighting the Value of Library Use

   May 8th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Here's a more in-your-face twist on the Library Value Calculator. Another library in my consortium figured out how to display the total cost of a patron's items on their checkout receipt, and since we never let a good idea go to waste, we adopted it in my library, too.

Basically, it's a little macro that pulls the cost figure from each item's record, adds them all up, and provides a total. We present it in kind of a cutesy context, but the intent is to show people how much they save by using the library. Check it out:

receipt with cost

Our phrasing is deliberate - if people bought the items themselves, they'd get to keep them (which obviously isn't the case with libraries). Also, we only print out receipts if people ask for them (to save on paper), so I'm not sure what impact this will have - we'll see.

Also: speaking of valuable things, I'm off for the next week to see my family over Mother's Day weekend (hence all the audiobooks I'm checking out above). So no Reference Question of the Week this week, and I'll be back next week.

Update 5/17/12:
This is how I was able to add this to our receipts - as far as I know, this only works with Evergreen version 2.1 and later. If you have a different ILS, contact your vendor and demand they offer it:

  1. In Evergreen, open the Receipt Template Editor
  2. Choose the checkout template
  3. At the bottom of whatever you have in the Line Item, add this:
    <span style="display: none;" sum="sum1">%price%</span>
  4. Somewhere in the footer, add this:
    You saved: $<span sumout="sum1" fixed="2"></span>
    (or whatever you'd like it to read. Also, the fixed="2" rounds to two places.)
  5. Click the Save Locally button

Keep in mind that if the items checked out somehow don't have price values assigned to them, the receipt will read "You saved: $0.00" at the bottom.



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Calculating the Value of a Community’s Library Use

   November 8th, 2011 Brian Herzog

817 on a calculator spells LIB upside-downThis year while we were compiling all of my library's FY11 statistics to report to the state, it occurred to me to try something new with them.

Since everything we tally up for the state report is how much each library service get used, I thought I'd put all those totals into the Library Use Value Calculator - this then, in theory, will show how much value the entire community gets from using the library (instead of just using the calculator on an individual level).

Here's how things broke down*:

Total
Community
Use
Library Materials & Services Value of
Total Use

$


$

So at retail prices, the entirety of our activity last fiscal year should have cost our patrons a staggering $12,371,068.30 - over twelve million dollars. The library's total budget is about $1.5 million. So, by funding and using the library, our community saves about $10.5 million dollars a year.

I think that pretty clearly spells out the value of public libraries. Hopefully we'll be able to work this into some marketing materials to make the case of why our (meager) budget is important to the community.

 


*A couple notes on the figures:

  • Interlibrary Loan Requests I think includes all of our network transfers within our consortium
  • I was surprised ebooks was so low, but our Overdrive stats show that downloadable audio is still far more popular than ebooks (of course, ebooks are still new to us, so we're still building that collection)
  • The state report has a single line for "Periodicals" - so I put that into the Magazines box in the calculator, and left Newspapers empty
  • The state report groups all "CD" usage, so our audiobooks and music CDs are combined under Audiobooks, and I left CDs empty
  • I left Meeting Room Use (per hour) empty, and am just replying on the attendance numbers - the per hour use is more individual and doesn't really scale out well to the community level
  • I didn't have a total for Database Searches, so the number there is the number of times our databases were accessed (as opposed to searched) - which, again, makes more sense for the community level rather than individual level


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Public Library For Personal Use

   June 26th, 2008 Brian Herzog

lockersThis isn't a new issue, but it's happen three times this week, so I thought I'd mention it: people using the library for storage.

I don't mean the library collection. I mean patrons using the friendly and easy-going atmosphere of the library as a safe place to either leave things, store things, or transfer things to someone else.

So far this week, I have been involved in the following situations:

  • A patron who routinely leaves her notebook and text books at the library. She knows we clean up each night and hold things like this at the lost-and-found at the desk, in case someone comes to claim them. She said she knows they are safe, and it's easier than her lugging it all home each night
  • A patron who emailed me important files from his home computer, because he was sending it out for service and didn't want to lose them (I won't even try to explain that he could have emailed them to himself instead of me, not to mention backing up to disk)
  • A patron who uses the library as a drop-off point: for instance, if she needs to get some documents to someone else, and they can't meet personally, she'll leave them at the desk with that person's name on them and tell the other person to pick them up at the library

It says a lot that people not only trust the library like this, but also think of us in these situations. That's being an important part of the community.

But it's also annoying, you know? The library cannot take responsibility for these items, so it worries me that people rely on good natures and good fortunes. I could understand if we had public lockers for these purposes, but we don't (then there are the stories of library lockers being used for drug deals and who knows what all).

All of these exchanges involve staff time, which is another concern. A few times a month is no big deal, but if more people routinely use the library to store their personal property, or to pass along items to other people - or worse, as daycare until their child can be picked up by someone else - this kind of thing could easily get overwhelming.

Or am I wrong? Should libraries do whatever patrons ask of us, and make it part of our mission to offer this kind of service? I fully support the idea of library as community center, so perhaps. It just seems something like this needs to be decided deliberately, and not just be some patrons getting special treatment on the sly.



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More Policy Updating

   April 29th, 2008 Brian Herzog

cellphonebooth.jpgIn addition to updating our Circulation policy, we also recently revised a few different areas of our Library Use policy.

For the last ten months or so, we've had a trial period of not enforcing our "No Cell Phones" policy, to see how much of a problem it was. During that time, we learned two things:

  1. Cell phones aren't the problem: loud ringers and loud talking are
  2. People who do get a call are usually pretty good about removing themselves to a quieter area to speak, without us asking them to

Since two people sitting at a table having an overly-loud conversation is just as disruptive as someone having an overly-loud cell phone conversation, we wanted to reword our policy to permit non-disruptive use. Our goals were:

  • Promote behavior that is courteous to other patrons
  • Provide areas and circumstances where cell phone use is allowed
  • Use wording that does not target a specific technology, so it doesn't get outdated as technology evolves

So in the end, we went from this:

Cellular phones may not be used inside library buildings.

to this:

Mobile devices such as cellular phones and hand-held computers should be set to "silent" mode. Use of a mobile device in the library should be brief and quiet. Out of respect to other library patrons, prolonged conversations should be moved to a less public area, such as the foyer, the courtyard or the parking lot.

Wordier, I know, but hopefully clear and more in line with modern patron needs (though still a bit short of a cell phone lounge).

For our Food and Drink policy, we wanted to change it to permit drinks in covered containers, so we went from this:

Food and/or drink are not permitted.

to this:

Food is permitted only in the meeting room during special events and in the outdoor seating areas. Food is not permitted in any other public area of the library. Drinks are allowed throughout the building, but only in covered containers. Care must be taken to avoid spills, and patrons should notify staff if any spills occur. Beverages and waste should be disposed of properly and containers should be recycled whenever possible.

And we expanded our Smoking Policy from this:

Smoking is not allowed.

to this:

The use of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are not allowed.

Funny how specific you have to be when writing policies. "The use of" was added at the last minute, because without it, we realized the policy forbid people from even having cigarettes in their purse, and Library staff is certainly not going to be checking bags.

We had input from our Board of Trustees on these changes, so although they won't be officially approved until their May meeting, we've already got them posted on our website.

A patron may never notice something like this, but hopefully it'll go a long way towards making everyone's (patrons and staff) library experience better.



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