by Cynthia Lambert
A funny thing happened on the way to the weekend: I found myself on Twitter looking for stuff to do!
Now don’t get me wrong–I have been on Twitter. I signed up about two years ago and have used it sporadically ever since. I like the short bursts, but they often are just links to typical stuff found elsewhere. Plus, my choices of who to follow were often disappointing. Not the real people I actually know! It was the content providers and entertainment choices I made that fell short.
From the input side, I posted some. That was fun, especially the phase where I tried to make every post use as close to the total 140 characters as possible. Still, after posting to Facebook, I didn’t find I had anything new to say. Mostly, I glanced and moved on. That began to change when I was planning my vacation.
I was heading to Northern California and some pretty tiny towns. I certainly used Google to plan and prep for the trip. However, I couldn’t get any real sense of the towns or what there was to do after hiking all day. At some point, I thought maybe I could follow a local library twitter feed and find out a few things happening while we were going to be in town. I dug about further and found a local paper, the local college, and a few government feeds for my destination. Boom, I finally found my Twitter sweet spot!!
Mentioned in a Tweet about a garden walk in Mendocino!
I found information about food, gardens, and shopping. I even found a yarn shop via a garden walk. Now folks, these are a few of my favorite things! I gleefully watched the feeds for a few weeks before we arrived. It was a great trip.
After vacation, I returned home and reverted back to my Facebook and Google habits. For a few weeks that was just fine. However, one day I glanced at my Twitter feed just as @PrincetonScoop posted about an event for that weekend. The scales fell from my eyes and behold, I became a Twitter convert!
Once again, I dug around for the local newspaper, the local university and colleges, the college radio station, and a few commercial PR providers. I added a few local places I frequent. I was on my way. A treasure trove of information began to flow in: Farm Market Updates; what’s blooming in the local gardens; summer theater options at Princeton University, and of course all the great events hosted @mylibrary.
The moral of this story–always look at your resources and tools with fresh eyes.
I thought I knew what Twitter had to offer, but I was wrong. What it is, and what I want from it, have evolved over time. I now visit Twitter before I hit Facebook. I still don’t post much, but that is because I am too busy planning what to do this weekend!
August 23, 2011 at 4:41 pm
A post by Cynthia Lambert
In the past I have blogged about what surprised me when I first came to libraries. Many people commented on the drunken patron—an unexpected customer service challenge if ever there was one. One thing I expected, but three years later still have no idea how to deal with, are the mentally ill or chemically altered patrons. I am not alone.
When I get together socially with librarians both new and seasoned, often the talk of customer service turns into laments about the homeless, the mentally ill, drug addicts, and the unwashed. No one it seems has any idea how to properly help and/or deal with these people. Why is that?
A March, 2009 article in Public Libraries gives a list of 10 tips for dealing with the mentally ill, all of which suggest training. In library school—only one class, a class on communication, even touched on the issue of mentally ill people at the library. Of the four libraries I have worked in, not one gave me training, despite mentally ill, homeless, and drug addicted patrons causing problems—some small, some very significant. In fact, at one, most of the staff simply will not deal with the issue. Rules in place against sleeping or pornography are ignored and management explicitly stated that maybe it is best to just let them sleep unless another patron complains.
The San Francisco Public Library is trying something new to deal with the problem. They have hired a full-time social worker. While I think that is fantastic, the reality is that very few libraries have the money to hire adequate library staff these days, let alone getting into the business of health care. So what is there for the rest of us?
Other than a handful of articles, I have found no indication of a training program in place to help library staff identify and deal with the mentally ill or drug addicted. I am sure there are many programs out there, I simply cannot find them. I found programs for educators, for families, for children, for teens, and for law enforcement, but nothing for libraries and library professionals.
The literature I did find is limited, suggests speaking to experts, and provides a list of ‘tips’. Much of what I do know, I have learned informally on the job or from other librarians. (For example, never yell, speak harshly, or seem upset–simply speak in a calm voice, speak clearly and in short sentences, show respect, enforce the rules).
Librarians love training. We love meetings. How many offers of training on Twitter or Facebook have you seen in the past year? Now think about how many you have received for dealing with drug addicts or the mentally ill? How many hours have you spent in endless meetings discussing the best way to support e-books? Now consider how many hours have been spent on dealing with difficult patrons in a safe and effective manner (and get management does not cut it given there lack of availability at night and on weekends).
So I ask you dear readers—please send me your training programs, your tips, your tricks, and your coping strategies for dealing with the mentally ill or drug addicted. It is my goal to create an online professional directory of services, training, tips, and discussion to assist library professionals in dealing with the most needy and most challenging of patrons.
February 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm
I am working tonight–until 9:00pm.
When I mentioned the time we are closing to many friends, almost all were negative about us staying open so late. Fellow librarians were appalled. I will admit, it could be easy to look at this as a hardship. However, I don’t. I am happy I am working tonight.
The reality is this–there are many people in the library tonight. I know it will get slow as the night progresses, but even then, we will have people here. So far it has been a mix of regulars, visitors wanting to check e-mail, lots of phone calls for directions, phone numbers, and one caller asking for help finding a no-cook pie recipe (www.cooks.com has plenty of choices). .
People have been making copies of documents for safekeeping while they travel. Likewise, plenty of folks are grabbing that last-minute book for their trips. As always, the DVDs are flying off the shelves. My favorite person so far: the woman who is just trying to minimize the time she must spend with her in-laws. I feel her pain–we swapped stories and both laughed. I think I made a difference in her life, if only for a few minutes.
No one has been cranky (even when the copier was evil as it often is…). No one has been mean. In fact, the regulars are not even complaining about the ‘young kids who make noise’ as they normally do. Almost every person says have a nice holiday or something similar.
Right now, most people seem to be busy and rushed–they have places to go. As it gets later, I suspect it will be more people without places to go. This, more than any other reason, is why I am happy we are open and I am working tonight. I have the chance to make someone smile, laugh, or provide them with information they need.
I am thankful that I can be here if they need me. I am thankful that in these economically turbulent times, I have a job. So yes, I would much prefer to be home gearing up for tomorrow and getting ready to watch ‘Glee’, but I can not help but feel very happy tonight. Happy to help. Happy to serve. Happy to listen.
Lately I have questioned the wisdom of my decision to become a librarian. Tonight, I was given a very pleasant reminder that despite the difficulties, it was the right choice. I know many of you will work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. It is hard to do, especially when the rest of the family is home doing something more interesting. To each of you–and all the people who work the holidays, thank-you very much.
November 25, 2009 at 6:42 pm
Ok, I will admit it—when I heard the term ‘unconference
’ I groaned. When I read the definition
, I groaned even louder. I mean really, how could you not groan when the words “jam-session” are used to describe a conference. I assumed it was just another Boomer driven conceit—an excuse to navel gaze instead of doing real work. I wasn’t much more interested in attending camp. Yet, when I heard about the Pres4Lib
unconference, I wanted to go.
Why? Because the topic—a camp for library speakers or trainers is of great interest to me. Plus it was being organized by fellow LibraryGarden bloggers—Pete Bromberg, Janie Hermann and Amy Kerns (along with John LeMasney) and would take place at Princeton Public Library
, MPOW. Still despite my faith in my friends and fellow-bloggers, I was a bit dubious—could something without structure really hold my interest for an entire day?
My concerns were unfounded—Pres4Lib was easily one of the best training days I have participated in since becoming a librarian. The topic was relevant to my job—I teach and give presentations. The speakers were experienced, informative, and entertaining. Best of all, the lightening talk
format insured that no speech would run so long that it could become dull or even mildly painful. The break-out sessions, in the birds-of-a-feather
format, were a bit more hit-or-miss, but still quite good. All in all, I met a number of interesting people, learned a great deal, and had a good time in the process.
What made Pres4Lib work in a format that I am still not convinced would work most of the time? For starters, this was not a completely unstructured conference. By using a wiki and the free on-line survey tool Zoomerang
(one of the best take-aways from the conference), when the camp began an agenda was already set. While it could change—that’s a primary rule of an unconference—the basic outline for the day was set. This was a good move—participants told of the first hour at other such events being spent hashing out the day. Wow, dull, dull, dull—for me, my ego doesn’t need to drive things and my patience wears thin watching others vie for dominance.
The other critical factor—the participants. This was a diverse group with only one thing in common—the train and they speak-in-public. That diversity meant the message was not the generic this is how to present. Participants are the conference, so if you have a group that lacks skills and experience, or without much personality, I could see an unconference being a really tedious event. Finally, the day ended with a Battle Decks
session that was funny and goofy and the perfect way to end a long day at a conference focused on presentation skills.
For me the highlights of the day were Pete Bromberg’s lightening talk and John LeMasney’s birds-of-a-feather session on Creative Commons. Both really made the best use of the ‘unconference’ format.
Pete was funny, informative, and engaging. His tips and advice were really spot-on—both quantity and quality were higher than I anticipated. It was an amazing ten-minute show–Pete really raised the bar for PowerPoint presentations. He is in his own league. Check out the video
John did not have a scripted presentation for his session. In fact, it was not ‘his’ session. His job was simply to get things started and generally keep an eye on things if they needed a nudge. He was perfect—his knowledge of the topic allowed for immediate Q&A. More importantly, he kept things rolling as the topic strayed from where to find CC items to how to use them, how to attribute them, and how to share your own work. The one hour session flew by and I found several tools I will start using immediately—FireFox
, and PhotoExpress
. All my breakout sessions were good, but none had as much information that was immediately beneficial to me.
While I remain skeptical that all unconferences would be as worthwhile, I will consider attending another one. I know what to look for—how well organized is the unorganized event and who is attending. Thank-you to the organizers and the participants. It was a day I will not soon forget. But be warned—next time I encounter Battle Decks, I will be a participant!
June 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm
One year ago next week, I received my MLIS from Rutgers University. Over the past year, I have learned a great deal, found I need to learn much more, and am truly thankful to those who have helped bring me to where I am today. As many of you may know, I am a career changer who had not worked in libraries until library school, so many of the things I learned have been quite unexpected.
On the eve of this anniversary, I thought I would share the top five most surprising things I have learned and comment on each. Keep in mind, all of these pertain to Public Libraries because that is where I work and public librarians are who I tend to socialize with. Also, these observations are not all about MPOW—they come from discussion with many different librarians from many different libraries…
Top Five Library Surprises.
Corporations have long since abandoned the long meeting with many people—they are generally expensive and non-productive. Librarians love long meetings with
many people in attendance. Each week there is at least one meeting to attend—usually far more than one. They tend to run long and much of what is covered could be communicated via e-mail or memos.
My reaction: Wow, this is insane, please stop!
Next time you are at a meeting and are bored (and you know you will be), look around the room. Calculate an average hourly salary (oh come on, we all know you look at the Asbury Park Press database: http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees/search.php
). It doesn’t have to be exact, in fact low-ball it at $20/hour and plug it into this formula:
(hourly rate)*(# of people at meeting)*(number of hours for meeting) = real $ cost of meeting.
Pretty staggering isn’t it (now consider how many times these meetings happen in one year!).
Do you really think this is the best use of our resources? And this does not even count the opportunity cost—think of all the stuff you could get done if not at the meeting, now think of all the stuff everyone could! Meetings—which generally produce nothing but to-do lists—are really just a practical alternative to actual work.
Now before you all write in to say we have to have meetings – yes I know that. Short, focused meetings are critical to working efficiently. Likewise, employees should have a chance to speak to management in an open forum. I am not advocating for no meetings. I simply would like to see some business-like principals applied to library meetings and fewer meetings in general:
- Have an agenda with approximate times for each topic.
- Stick to the agenda: if time runs over too far, perhaps a sub-set should meet for further discussion instead of the entire staff being held hostage to one topic; when topic drift begins, return the discussion to the topic at hand and consider the drift items as topics for another time; if one person is dominating and dragging things out—offer to speak to them later one-on-one.
- Be sure the agenda items need face to face discussion—if it can be done via e-mail, do it. Again, I totally agree with having meetings—simply not as often and never as long as the typical staff or department meetings in libraries.
#2) Customer Service: Every meeting, every conference, many training sessions, and loads of articles, blog posts, tweets, and chats focus on Customer Service. We love to talk about customer service.
My Reaction: I agree! Customer service is incredibly important. Now let’s put that into practice.
- More weekend hours! Weekends are when the most patrons use the libraries, but it is the first place people cut when trying to slash budgets. Many libraries are not open at all on Sundays. Why?
- More staff during the busiest hours—yes, this means working more weekends and nights and more than one librarian on a desk a peak times. Every library I have worked in or been to has a skeleton crew on weekends! Long lines & cranky burned out employees do not equal good customer service. I know this is unpopular, but it is true.
- Sundays are a day just like any other day—why do we open so late?! We are public institutions that should NOT schedule based when church is over (the only possible reason I see for the late start). Our patrons should not have to wait half a day to get to the library.
Every time I brought up marketing while in library school, fellow students bit my head off—some wanted to boil me in oil for using the dreaded ‘M’ word. To be fair, many libraries and librarians now use and promote marketing
. They deserve credit because they do still get tons of flack for being too ‘business-like’.
My Reaction: Marketing is important–Deal with It!
Don’t believe me? A recent ‘help for job seekers’ program in my library had no promotion, two people showed up (come on, in this economy!). Attendance at the same program when it was promoted? SRO. You can have the best library, best staff, best resources, and best programs–if people don’t know it, they won’t use it.
#4) Adult Service Librarians Hate Teens/Teens Hate Adult Services Librarians: I hear this everywhere—from Youth Services Librarians, from Adult Service Librarians, from teens at the library, teens in my personal life, and adults in their 20s who were treated poorly while in high school. It is astounding to me how true to the angry mean librarian stereotype this is.
My Reaction: STOP THIS NOW—JUST STOP IT! Every patron should be treated with respect and not judged because of age, gender, ethnic background, etc.
Teens are future adults. At MPOW, they ask the meatiest reference questions because they are doing research papers without the benefit of an academic library. They are generally polite, helpful, and respond well when told to keep their voices down. Adults on the other hand, yell into their cell phones (teens understand you don’t have to yell to be heard). They yell at staff when asked to stop behavior that is not allowed (there is always a reason for rules not to apply to them). Yes, there are problem teens, but there are also problem adults (see #5!).
Ever notice that after high school, people tend stop going to the Public Library and don’t return until they have kids of their own? Gee, I wonder why?
#5) Drunk People At the Library: While I openly admit much about this job is like being a bar tender–people bring you their problems and want to talk, this was simply a shock when I first became a librarian. It happens so often, now it is just a regular thing.
My Reaction: Really, drunk at the library?! Now, I will admit it—I’ve had my share of drunken times in my life. Not once—not even in college—did I ever say ‘hmmm, now that I am wasted, I should go to the library!’
- No amount of customer service, communication training, or any other ‘technique’ works with these people. They are rude, clumsy, and smell bad.
- Ask management for help–well, sure if they were in the library at the time. Since most drunks who are a problem show up at night, on weekends, and near Christmas, I have yet to encounter a drunk while management is on duty.
If you regularly deal with drunks (or other substance abusers) at your library, let me know what you do! At the very least, know you are not alone. I feel your pain.
I could go on and on–so many surprises, so little space. What have been your biggest surprises @yourlibrary
To those of you who graduate from Library School this month–congratulations and good luck! It is a terrific profession, but also a really strange one. It is never dull. At the very least, working with the public means you will always have an entertaining story to tell at the bar! Just please do not go to the library after you are done drinking!
May 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm
I was saddened to learn that after eight years, Críticas has ceased publication. The full Title–Críticas: An English Speaker’s Guide to the Latest Spanish-Language Titles– is the best description of the magazine I could produce. It was a published monthly on-line and covered everything—adult titles, children’s titles, books, movies, and audio, fiction and nonfiction. In addition there are articles and editorials covering everything from collection development to outreach and fundraising. Twice a year, print copies were distributed to subscribers of Library Journal. This was my go to resource for keeping up with the Spanish language publishing industry.
The Latino population in my area—actually in all of the U.S. is growing at a significant rate. According to the 2005-2007 American Community Survey
three-year estimates, the number of ‘Hispanic or Latino (of any race)’ people increased 24% over the 2000 Census figures, to approximately 14% of the population of the United States. In New Jersey, the increase was approximately 20% over the same time period. More than ever, librarians need tools to assist them in serving Spanish speakers. Reed Business Information, the publisher of Críticas
, said there are plans to have this type of coverage in their other publications Library Journal
, Publishers Weekly
, and School Library Journal
. So far, I have not seen any thing in these publications to reflect that statement. The loss of Críticas
will negatively impact my ability to serve my patrons.
This loss is significant, but not surprising. The publishing industry in general has been hurt by the global economic downturn. Rarely a day passes without some news of shut-downs or layoffs at newspapers, publishers, and magazines. At the same time, people are reading more (see the New York Times
article for the complete story). Librarians increasingly must rely on vendors for information and reviews. Is this the best model for gathering information? I don’t think so. I prefer my information to come from a more impartial source. That’s not to say that the information publishers provide is bad, it simply means that it must be looked at with a more critical eye.
With niche markets, the loss of even one source is a serious blow to our ability to make informed decisions for our patrons. With English speaking titles, independent reviews are available all over the web. However, similar information is not available to me for foreign language titles because they are generally written in the foreign language! Yes, I want to learn to speak Spanish, but it is a very slow process for me. This is why Críticas
was so important.
I don’t have Spanish language collection development responsibilities. I used Críticas
to keep up with what is available and what might be popular. To tell a patron who struggles with English that the hot new Stephanie Meyer book is indeed available to them is a big help. By knowing about trends in the industry, I can learn more about the population to whom these books are being marketed. I have learned about authors I didn’t previously know, found interesting non-fiction books on culture and history that were not covered in LJ
, and found countless movies I never would have seen had it not been for a review in the magazine. Each of these things helps to bridge the divide that the language barrier creates.
Spanish speakers are not the only non-English speakers in my library. Over 20% of the population of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township—the areas served by my public library—speak a language other than English at home. Of those, approximately 5.2% speak Spanish (10.7 Nationwide), and nearly 6% speak ‘Asian and Pacific Island languages’ (2.7% Nationwide)
. Yet there are very few resources for English speaking librarians to learn about titles available in these languages.
When I did collection development of DVDs at Mary Jacobs Library
, my foreign population came primarily from India and China. Oh how I wished for a similar publication for these languages! Alas, I could find nothing available in English that would help me to build not only a collection of today’s titles, but one that would help me to build a collection with depth and history. Luckily I had several patrons and coworkers from other branches who helped me with both. Still, I remain woefully ignorant of Indian movies—a topic so large and complex that I could never get completely comfortable with it.
For now I will begin to mine the Críticas
web site for all the lists and information that are still available. I have begun to source alternatives (thank you Anna Paola Ferate-Soto for the wonderful wiki
and Web Junction
for your tips and tools). Likewise, I will continue to look for similar information on movies and literature in Chinese and Hindi. If anyone knows of such resources, please let me know. I would prefer resources that are free or have a very low cost (this is my personal professional development budget). Still, do let me know of strong subscription-based tools as well.
, you will be missed. To all the people who worked there, I wish you the best and look forward to seeing your bylines elsewhere. I truly hope that Reed Business Information does not abandon this important market. When they have to hire you back, may you all receive huge pay increases and corner offices! You deserve it—for eight years you have provided insight into a world that would have otherwise been unavailable to me. Thank you very much.
February 25, 2009 at 9:26 am
As you know, the Federal Government is spending. Yesterday President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $787 billion stimulus package. According to the President, “It’s an investment that will create jobs building 21st century classrooms, libraries, and labs for millions of children across America.”
Of interest to me is $53.5 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (down from the $79 billion originally proposed). This money is being given to state governments to make-up shortfalls in spending on education and government services. I for one will be sending e-mails to my state representatives asking that they continue to fully fund the NJ Knowledge Initiative and provide some of this money for public libraries in New Jersey. (To find your NJ representatives, this is a really handy site: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp).
For complete breakdown of the package and how it impacts libraries, the ALA has set up a very helpful webpage. I look forward to learning more about the specifics of the package and how it can help my library and my community, as well as all libraries.
February 18, 2009 at 6:10 pm