Just a quick reminder, the new Firefox 3.0 will be available to download tomorrow, June 17, 2008. The new version has been ‘improved’ to include one-click bookmarking (is it really too complicated now?), phishing and malware protection, new productivity tools, and the ability to customize.
It will be interesting to see how well the roll-out goes. Now that Mozilla and Firefox are so much better known than in the past, will the ‘improved’ product be as exciting? My own experience of products I love being ‘improved’ has been poor–generally a loved product becomes something so different I change brands. With technology, improvements and upgrades make more sense than say with deodorant, soI hope that is true with this!
They are trying to create a world record for the most software downloads in a day. If you download tomorrow as part of the world-record quest, let us know how it goes. Me, I will wait a few days….
I woke up last week—to steamy, sticky, humid NJ weather. After a month of rain, finals, several graduations and birthdays for my friends and family, I had completely missed the fact that Memorial Day had passed. Suddenly it was summer. I was not prepared—too hot, no knitting, and nothing to read. I knew what I had to do—get to the library.
First get my house cooled off: My house is old and does not have central air conditioning. The window units do ok, but they could not keep up with the temps last week in NJ. Plus, my bedroom unit was so loud that even when I was cool, I could not get a decent night’s sleep. The the “2008 Consumer Reports Buying Guide” gave me the information I needed to find a quiet, efficient, and inexpensive air conditioner that has me sleeping like a baby. And of course, all of my research took place in a delightfully air conditioned building!
Next, what to knit?: You may not know this, but if I am around, somewhere close by are two sticks and some string. Yup, I am a knitter. Not just a casual knitter, but a constant companion knitter. Summer is the perfect time to get a head start on those wonderful fall sweaters and afghans you want to make for Christmas presents. However, having a huge mound of thick wool draped over your legs is a serious summer don’t. I wanted something small, portable, and preferably not wool. I found the solution: “No sheep for you : knit happy with cotton, silk, linen, hemp, bamboo, and other delights” Amy R. Singer (746.432 Sin). This delightful book is filled with loads of projects that are perfect for summer—even a few sweaters I can wear come fall!
This was the first I have been to my public library as a patron since I began working in public libraries. I forgot how great it is (and how great the air conditioning is). Three of my neighbors were getting their new book club selections–we stopped and chatted about what the heat was doing to our gardens. I took out a chick-flic DVD that my husband would never put in the Netflix queue. It was a wonderful way to spend my afternoon.
When you are a librarian, it is easy to find that all your library experiences are now work experiences. I encourage library employees to go to your hometown public library as a patron. It is a great experience and one that is easy to forget.
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?
As a library science student, I hear about all kinds of great conferences, but I can not afford them. Some recent grads have told me that now that they can afford more conferences, they have far less time to attend them. I recently found out there are a number of online ‘conferences’ that are free of charge.
Yes free—really and truly free!
I thought I should take one for a test drive. The Library of Congress offers a free web conference orientation to their website each month. Despite this being a regular source of note in a variety of my reference classes, I have always found the site too big to search well and much better suited to browsing. Maybe this orientation would be the key to making http://www.loc.gov/ a regular go-to source for me. To be honest, I didn’t hold out much hope, it was after all FREE…
I am not sure where I heard about this conference—an email to be sure, but I don’t remember who sent it. I clicked a link, picked a date and waited. Within 24 hours, I had received an e-mail conformation from Judith Graves, Digital Project Coordinator—not an automated response, but an e-mail that actually included useful information, including contact information!
On my originally scheduled date, I had no cable, which meant I had no internet. I later sent a note to Judith who kindly and happily rescheduled me immediately—no need to re-register or do any additional work. How rare and handy is that!
Last week, I finally participated in the one-hour orientation. It was fun, information and interactive. Participants could ask questions in real-time using a chat function. I learned some interesting things: Did you know LOC was using Flickr? (find out more on the LOC Blog). Like the initial customer service, it was a positive and helpful experience. I would recommend anyone with an hour to spare look into the orientation—it is offered each month. I still feel the site is better suited to browsing, but with practice, I can see some good public library applications and uses.
But wait, there’s more!
One of the best outcomes from this event is that I found out about Online Programming for All Libraries—a listing of on-line library events taking place which are free. While I am sure many librarians already know about this, it is new to me. I asked around at Rutgers and most of the students did not know about it either, so I thought it worth noting.
Here is a sample of the LOC online series of programs:
Mar 12 – Early scrapbooks and the women who created them
April 9 – Poetry
May 14 – Jefferson’s Library
June 11 – All History Is Local in a Digital World
There is plenty more including book discussion groups, lectures and chat sessions with library professionals, and multi-part presentation series. A diverse group of libraries and librarians contribute content to OPAL. You can find it all on their schedule. Be sure to check out the archives as well—I am looking forward to finding the time to look at the ‘Six Weeks to a Social Library’ series.
Let me know what you think of these freebies….
Pete’s latest post on 10 questions to ask every new employee got me to thinking: Wow, I am really glad that none of my employers has ever asked me what I think is just bat-shit crazy because knowing myself, I would probably answer!
After that, I began to think about the questions I have found helpful as a new library employee. I only have five that I think are critical, but the list could just as easily been 20 questions. The main thing is that when you are a new employee, ask questions.
- How does the phone work? – Don’t laugh! This is often not shown to new employees (after all it’s ‘just’ the phone). The thing is, there are a lot of tiny things to learn: what is the customary greeting–organization name, department name, employee name, other?; how do you transfer calls?; Do you transfer a call you can answer, when it is about a different department?; Does the phone get answered if a patron is standing in front of you?; How do you retrieve messages? There is nothing worse than realizing you don’t know some these basics when you answer the phone and it is the Director looking for your boss.
- If there is an emergency, what do I do? Who do I contact? – Most training is not disaster related. Maybe there is a blurb in manual (which you should read, but I know you might not get to it right away). Find out if you have to dial 9 for an outside line before you dial 911 (see #1, I told you it was more important than it sounds).
You don’t want to realize you have no idea who to call after the pipe breaks in the bathroom….
- When the copier breaks, what do I do? Can I refund the patron’s money? – Look, the copier is going to break. The sooner you learn about taming the beast, the happier your work life will be. Remember, the copier will break—they are evil!
- What is the login information for everything you use? After working several afternoons and nights, my first morning shift made me realize I had no idea how to log-into the computers or what passwords to use. It simply was not needed in my normal work week so it was not reviewed. Learn your passwords—nothing slows you down like having to look them up or ask for them after they are needed…
- I’m sorry, what was your name again? At the beginning, everyone is really nice and very understanding that you don’t know them. Two months down the road, it just looks rude and unprofessional. If you are lucky, the library will have an updated facebook of employees (Princeton Public Library does and it is the single most innovative and useful thing I have encountered at any job). Most of the time, you will need to find a way to remember people you do not work with regularly. Take advantage of your ‘new’ status and ask now….
There are plenty of questions I did not include—things like where to eat, what is the normal attire, how do breaks work, etc. Lots will be covered as you are trained, and some will simply come from talking with co-workers. Again, now is the time that you are expected to ask questions, so take advantage and do it!
One final note: So far in my short library career, I have learned more from one question I ask my co-workers than any other: ‘Can I help you with that?’
Good luck to all new library employees!
When I first decided to return to school to become a librarian, I had a pretty narrow view of what a librarian was:
A librarian was the lady (yes, in my head and in my experience, they were all women) who helped me navigate the stacks and find books I would like to read. She answered every question I had and seemed to know everything, or be able to find out anything she did not know very fast.
I wanted to be that woman-a kind, helpful, friendly person who knows everything! While I knew intellectually that there was more to the profession, what appealed to me about the job was working with the public. Librarians had made a huge impact on my life and I wanted to do the same. In fact, I had always wanted to be a librarian, but graduate school wasn’t a possibility earlier in my life. Stuck in a corporate job that I didn’t find challenging, I craved human contact and returned to school to become a librarian.
Peter’s post about customer service brought this memory back to me. I, and many of my fellow MLIS students, want to be librarians because we want to help. We want to provide answers. We want to make a difference. Customer service is a regular topic of conversation which often sounds something like this:
“if ‘they’ dislike working with the public so much, why are they in this profession? Why are they here? If ‘they’ left, maybe then those of us who actually want to help people could get a job”.
I am the first person to admit, these goals and the desire to ‘help’ may be naïve and our conclusions about job availability could be disputed. However, the reality is, many library science majors feel this way. In fact, many college students feel this way. On several occasions while working reference, I have been explicitly thanked for providing help and instruction and told about how the ‘other librarian’ was so ‘mean’ (in the defense of the other librarian, no one who has complained has ever been able to attach a name to the complaint).
With my business background, I know that customer service is the only way for a business with limited resources to survive and compete against organizations with relatively unlimited resources. Google, Yahoo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.-compared to most libraries, are competition with virtually unlimited resources. Libraries and Librarians need to remember that no matter what kind of day we are having, no matter how difficult the patron, it is in our own self interest to treat the patrons well. If we library science students want to have jobs available when we graduate, there needs to be thriving libraries in our communities.
With this in mind, as I start my career of library work, I pledge the following:
- No matter what is happening in my personal life, while at work, I will smile at every person I come in contact with.
- When a patron apologizes for bothering me (as is often the case), I will assure them that it is no bother-I am here to help them and happy to do it.
- I will remember that the person asking me for assistance has chosen the library over many other resources. I will do everything I can to make them happy about making that choice.
- When I am not at work, I will promote libraries every chance I get. If anyone tells me of a bad experience, I will encourage them to try again-most librarians are in the business because they want to help, they want to make a difference, they like people.
I encourage all library staff-regardless of title or time in-to make a similar pledge. I encourage library science students to speak openly with professors, co-workers, and one another about customer service. Finally, I encourage everyone to follow the advice of ‘Bill & Ted’: Be Excellent to Everyone!