Archive for March, 2008

Return of the ‘Prodigal’ Blogger

I just wanted to write and thank my Library Garden fellow bloggers for taking me back! I always enjoyed and wanted to continue being a part of this great community but for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t the right time for me.
But I hope that this time will be different! And special thanks to Amy Kearns for twisting my arm to return!!
I’ll be posting again soon with some notes from Minneapolis!

Glad to be back and thanks again!

March 30, 2008 at 9:18 pm 1 comment

LG Turns Two!


It’s our “blogaversary” and we didn’t even know it until several of us were sitting in a hotel bar at PLA unwinding after a busy day of conferencing and presenting. I mentioned that I thought it was during the last week of March that we officially started Library Garden, so Pete grabbed his laptop to verify the date. Lo and behold, it was on March 28th that Pete posted the intro post and I quickly followed with my thoughts on Sharing:It’s the New Black.

It was not planned, but what a happy coincidence that several of us could share a celebratory drink and photo op on the occasion of Library Garden turning two [more photos on flickr]. We just wish that Ty, Cynthia and Robert could have been with us and the event would have been perfect (but we did raise our glasses to those who remained behind in Jersey).

We are also celebrating our anniversary by announcing that Karen Klapperstuck of Bradley Beach Public Library will be returning to the blog team. Karen blogged with us in our early days before taking a blogging sabbatical. We are so thrilled that she will be joining us to once again share her insights on running a small public library.

I also want to extend my gratitude to all the members of LG, both past and present, for so richly enhancing my life for the last two years with thought-provoking posts, professional support, timely advice and (most importantly) friendship and fun.

March 28, 2008 at 8:06 pm 3 comments

My Positive Customer Experience at the Radisson

Just a quick post to share my experience at the Radisson in downtown Minneapolis. I’m feeling very positive about this hotel right now, in spite of two problems in the last 24 hours. The way the Radisson staff (1) quickly dealt with the problems, and (2) otherwise exceeded my expectations in small but meaningful ways has contributed to my satisfaction as a guest.

First, the problems:

  • PROBLEM 1: CHECKED IN TO AN OCCUPIED ROOM: After checking in, I made may up to the room. It was rather dark inside, and very clean, so it took me a minute to notice that there was a suitcase in the corner and a laptop on the desk. Uh-oh.
  • HOW IT WAS HANDLED: I made my way back downstairs. The person who had just checked me in (and also spent a few minutes reviewing the skyway map, and giving me the best route to the convention center) was occupied with a customer. The other desk clerk quickly booked me into a new room, apologizing profusely and (to my ear) sincerely. She asked if I would accept a free breakfast from the Radisson for my trouble, and gave me a very nice looking gift certificate to the excellent “Firelake” restaurant in the lobby.
  • THE RESULT: I felt happy, and taken care of. The way the situation was handled exceeded my expectations, which have been lowered by previous experiences at hotels in which check-in problems were not only NOT apologized for, but I was left feeling like I WAS THE PROBLEM. (Marriott, I’m talking to you. Twice!) Note to hotels: don’t shoot the messenger. Buy him breakfast.

  • PROBLEM #2: The business center computer ate my credit card. Yup, I actually had to feed my credit card in to use the computer. Upon sucking in my card, the computer promptly logged in, and then froze.
  • HOW IT WAS HANDLED: There were a number of signs posted that said “In case of emergency, dial 55″. I wasn’t sure if this was an emergency, but decided that it was close enough (I wasn’t dialing 911 after all.) I dialed and the phone was picked up immediately. The customer service agent said, “we’ll have an engineer come up immediately.” In 30 seconds flat, the engineer was there. He had my card out in 10 seconds, apologizing all the while.
  • THE RESULT: I was amazed at how quickly the problem was solved, and felt relieved and thankful that my afternoon did not go down the drain while I tried to deal with the situation. I’ve had very bad experiences with almost every business center I’ve ever used in a hotel–and they usually charge through the nose for the privilege of wasting my time. My good feeling at the quick response was heightened, as I logged in to another PC and quickly printed out my pages to discover that…wait for it… there was no charge, save an .08 cents printing charge (penny a page?). No charge for time on the computer. Again, my expectations were far exceeded.

A few other nice perks that have exceeded my expectations and enhanced my experience at the hotel:

  • They have Sleep number beds. I’ve been thinking about buying one. Now I get to try it out for a few nights!

  • Bottled waters in the room–free! I’ve always hated the way you get into a hotel after a long flight, parched like you just spent 40 days in the desert, and they try to charge you for the big bottle of water sitting out on the table. Well done Radisson!
  • Free wireless and wired internet in the room. None of that $10/day crap!
  • Huge, lit shaving mirror in the bathroom. Love these, and rarely see them in hotels.

These “little” touches help create an overall customer experience that also generates a valuable “background hum of satisfaction”. That “hum” probably makes customers a little less upset when something does go wrong–especially when the staff is so adept and empowered to address problems immediately.

Well done Radisson!

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March 26, 2008 at 1:53 pm 8 comments

Library Jobs: Single People Need Not Apply?

As some of you already know, I am a career changer—after ten years as a financial analyst, I returned to school (Rutgers) to pursue my MLIS. It was time to follow my childhood dream to become a Librarian. I continued to work at Dow Jones at first, then left in the fall of 2007 for library work. I now juggle two part-time adult services positions at Princeton Public Library and Mary Jacobs Library (part of the Somerset County Library System). I love my jobs–love working with the public, love hunting down information, love teaching people to use library resources, and love providing reader’s advisory help. From the very first moment I began my public library internship, I knew that I had made the right choice!

Last week I did a quick review of the job posting lists on-line (NJLA, Rutgers SCILS, Somerset County, Mercer County, Ocean County, and Middlesex County). There was exactly one full-time Adult Services position in New Jersey public libraries posted. This has been the case for months now–a job here, a job there, but never more than three at a time, usually less. Many folks tell me you have to put your time in working part-time. No problem! As I noted above, I love my part-time jobs. However, there is one very difficult issue—health insurance.

To put this in perspective, the cost of my health insurance each month is:
$60 more than my car payment.
Over 25% of my take-home pay.
64% of my mortgage payment (not including property taxes, after all, I live in NJ!)

When I lament my lack of health insurance and the bleak outlook for any full-time employment in NJ public libraries, I get a very disturbing response: Can’t you get insurance from your husband’s job? This has been the response of both co-workers and classmates. This is generally the first response. Has the library profession become one available only to married people? Why does everyone expect some other employer to insure me? Why do so many people in the library field think this concept of not getting benefits from your employer is perfectly ok? Am I the only person who finds this attitude disturbing?

I am about to graduate in May. This means I have to start thinking more about full-time work. I am not actively looking at the moment–I hope to have my part-time work turn into full-time work. However, I do keep my eyes open for interesting posts just in case. What I have noticed is that I am now looking at postings for jobs in the corporate area again. I don’t want this, but I know it may be my only chance to have affordable health insurance. At some point, that will become critical. Now, each time I look at online postings, I hit the old finance lists after I finish the library ones.

I will leave you with one last thought–When all the semi-retired, part-time, adult services librarians retire, will there be anyone left to take their posts? Or will they have left for full-time positions outside the library field?

March 25, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Happy Birthday Maryland AskUsNow! Statewide Virtual Reference Service

On Wednesday March 19th I traveled south to the newly built and beautiful Anne Arundel Public Library for the gala 5th birthday celebration of Maryland AskUsNow! This festivity brought together an impressive turnout of librarians, state government representatives, and dignitaries such as the Maryland Assistant State Superintendent for Libraries, Irene M. Padilla, and Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools. Everyone came together to recognize the accomplishments of this highly successful and widely admired statewide live chat and e-mail reference consortium. I happily braved the traffic of the spring break holiday getaway mob heading south on highway 95 to give the keynote address, to facilitate a workshop on chat reference service excellence, and to share in this wonderful and historic event.

I first met Joe Thompson (click here and scroll down this page for a picture of the energetic and forward-looking Project Coordinator of Maryland AskUsNow!) at the Virtual Reference Desk conference in 2003 (btw, the forerunner of our highly anticipated Reference Renaissance conference) when I was just getting started in researching interpersonal communication in live chat reference. During my VRD presentation, I made a plea to the audience for some transcripts to analyze. Afterwards Joe approached me, introduced himself, and said “I have 10,000 transcripts, when do you want them?” A bit stunned, I replied, “Well, I don’t need all 10,000. How about pulling me a random sample of about 250-300 transcripts?” Thus began an incredibly cordial and productive collaboration which has resulted in shared conference presentations and panels, the publication of two journal articles on virtual reference (VR) in JASIST and Scan, with more to come, I’m sure.

Joe and his statewide VR team of librarians at Maryland AskUsNow! have worked incredibly hard to forge the service’s success with a total of over 200,000 reference questions answered and counting. They continually reach for the highest quality standards in VR, which I strongly admire and find inspirational. Joe’s willingness to allow an outsider (like me) to have access to transcripts (suitably made anonymous, of course, to protect user privacy) and to the AskUsNow! user population (assisting me in recruiting participants for focus groups, online surveys, and phone interviews) demonstrates his keen interest in research into user behaviors, and commitment to discovering how to make live chat a better experience for both users and librarians. He is ever open to new ideas and continual improvement. I was also very impressed by the number of AskUsNow! librarians who attended my afternoon workshop as well as by their positive attitude toward customer service.

I must also add that I am proud of the amazing Julie Strange, Maryland AskUsNow! Operations Supervisor, who was my student and research assistant at Rutgers, SCILS on our “Seeking Synchronicity” grant project. Tech savvy Julie also shares an incredibly strong and steadfast commitment to high quality service and a fearless Millennial approach to learning novel social software applications, embracing new ways of reaching library users, and especially to connecting with younger chat and IM aficionados.

So here’s to Maryland AskUsNow! 5 years on and looking forward to many many returns of the day!

March 24, 2008 at 9:59 pm 2 comments

Pete Bromberg: More Than Meets The Eye!

I am honored to be the one to announce on behalf of the entire Library Garden crew that our own Pete Bromberg has been chosen as one of Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers for 2008!

We are so proud and happy to congratulate Pete on his wonderful and well-deserved designation as “Transformer” for the library community!

In his role as a Transformer, Pete has spearheaded many projects for the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative while delivering “state-of-the-art” trainings and programs. He is also a fearless leader here at the Garden and never fails to inspire us, whether with his posts or in our conversations.

Pete is in excellent company as a Mover and Shaker, as you can see from the list compiled here. Personally, I want to congratulate Pete and thank him – in many ways I would not be where I am today if not for him. We are all so pleased for him to receive national recognition for all he has contributed to librarianship here in the Garden State and across the country. Never one to toot his own horn, Pete is truly a self-less person “hard-wired with a built-in desire to help,” and it’s lucky for all of us that he is!

Cheers, Pete! You truly RAWK!

Don’t reprimand me too harshly for doing this! ;-) You deserve to be celebrated by all! :-)


March 17, 2008 at 12:10 am 11 comments

Juicy Visions: Reconnecting with purpose

Reconnecting with purpose.
What juicy vision gave birth to your Library?
by Peter Bromberg

Want an easy yet powerful way to re-energize and re-focus your passion at work? Clear five minutes from your schedule (yeah, you’re busy, but you can do it.) Pick up a pencil or a keyboard or a crayon and answer this question: What juicy vision gave birth to your library?

Think about it: Libraries don’t just appear. Your library didn’t just pop fully-formed into existence one day, did it? I’ve never started a library, but I’m sure it’s not a quick or easy process. A short list of needed elements might include: Funding, employees, land, building, furniture, collections, utilities, finances, training, computers. The creation of your library may have also required an expression of the will of the people, perhaps in the form of a public vote or approval from a Board or Commission.

So how did your library get here? There must have been many people involved and they must have really wanted to create it. A lot of time and energy went into it. These people, these ‘founders’ could have been playing golf, or spending time with their children, or watching a movie. Why did they choose to invest some of their limited time on this planet into creating your library? There had to have been one heck of a compelling vision.

THE JUICY VISION
Before brick one was laid, or book one was laminated, your library begin its existence as a vision in someone’s mind. It must have been an exciting, juicy vision, so filled with energy that people felt compelled to share it, and talk about it, and invest their energy and time into making it a reality. That vision must have turned people on.

“Yeah, a library… I see it! Information. Books on anything and everything. A great collection of materials. It will be a living reflection of our community’s values. It will help ensure a healthy democracy. It will be a place where people can educate themselves—level the playing field. A place for focused study. A place for serendipitous discovery. A place to bring the kids. A place to relax. A place to be stimulated by new ideas. Yeah, I see it!!”

People got so jazzed by this vision that they wrote about it and talked about it, and got other people jazzed to a point where a community of people said, yeah, let’s do it! We want it! Let’s spend money. Let’s give our time. Let’s develop some land. Let’s build buildings! Lets create something that will reflect this juicy vision. Let’s bring it to life!

WHAT GOT ‘EM SO JAZZED?

My question is, what was this vision that got everyone so turned on that they got into action? What was their original intention in creating your library? What got them so motivated? If you want to re-energize and re-focus, try reconnecting with the founding purpose of your organization.

Start there, at the beginning, but also remember that organizations are like people; they are capable of changing and growing. The cells in our bodies today are not the same cells that were in our bodies when we were born. We are, physically speaking, a completely different set of atoms. Yet there is still some organizing energy that makes you, you and makes me, me. Ten years ago we were different people, but I was me and you were you. Our goals may have changed since then. We may have acquired new skills and abilities. The roles we play may have changed, evolved, grown. Maybe we’ve abandoned certain roles in exchange for others that make more sense for us. This is also true about your library. The people may have changed, the building may have changed, and the mission may have even shifted, but it’s still the same library. So start with the founding vision, but also think about what vision animates your library today. And what vision might animate it tomorrow?

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: A FEW JUICY QUESTIONS

To reconnect to your library’s purpose, it might be helpful to explore these questions:

  • What juicy vision gave birth to our library?
  • How does that vision inform, animate, shape, and energize what we do today?
  • What is the purpose of our library today? Is the vision the same? If not, how has it changed?
  • Why does the library continue to exist?
  • What energy flows through this library, connecting all aspects of it?
  • What purpose does the library serve?
  • What purpose can the library serve?
  • What purpose do we want the library to serve?
  • What purpose do I want the library to serve?
  • What can I do to bring the juicy vision to life every day?

I’m sure there are other questions that I’m not seeing. If you see others to add to the list, please leave a comment–and tell me about your library’s juicy vision!

March 14, 2008 at 11:48 am 1 comment

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