Thank you for coming–we love to share our space and are happy to have you here. As in many libraries (and I suspect in yours), we have a policy here that states: No Food or Drink in the Library. We hate to tell our patrons no, but have no choice—this is a sensible policy as food and drink stain furniture and carpets and destroys library materials. In this age of the ubiquitous Starbucks cup, coffee cop is one of the worst parts of our jobs.
We try to enforce the rules fairly, but sometimes we do not see the offense. However, when you approach the public desk with a steaming cup of coffee in your hands, you should expect to be told about the policy. Please do not roll your eyes, sigh, or scowl—as you know, we are on the front-lines and just doing our job. When you follow-up with “I am here for the [Insert meeting name here]”, please understand that is the library equivalent of a celebrity exclaiming ‘Do you know who I am’. It does not change the rule which we are duty bound to enforce fairly.
Please keep this in mind when visiting another library—we understand your desire to have coffee while at your meeting. We understand you are careful and are unlikely to spill. We do not want to tell you no. However, we can not make an exception for you. It is unfair. It makes our job harder. Please do not ask. You see, the other patrons do not know who you are.
Time Magazine has written a feature article on John McCain’s Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Below is a paragraph from the article that discusses her relationship to the public library while Mayor of Wasilla Alaska:
“Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. “She asked the library how she could go about banning books,” he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. “The librarian was aghast.” The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn’t be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire her for not giving “full support” to the mayor. “
The full article can be found here.
What do you think? At what level should government be involved in library decisions and policy (i.e. we get our funding from them but does that mean they can tell us how to spend it)?
In today’s New York Times, Michelle Slatalla writes about turning to the Internet for advice for dealing with ‘life’s little insoluble conundrums’–in her case, a smoke detector going off in the night. In the article, she talks about services like Wiki.Answers, Amazon’s Askville, Funadvice.com, Askmehelpdesk.com, Help.com, and Yahoo Answers to ease the helplessness we all feel when life throws us a bizarre curveball.
I immediately thought of the new NJLA and New Jersey State Library new marketing campaign called Solving Life’s Little Problems. This is exactly what Ms. Slatalla was talking about–I have tried everything I know, now what? Hers was not a huge problem, but it was annoying and a big deal to her. Yet despite noting that at times the answers on these sites is often wrong and noting ‘the answers don’t go through fact checkers’, the article never mentions professional library services such as QandANJ.org.
I wanted to scream! Why are we being ignored? Why aren’t you writing about us? How can you know the information can be bad, but still extol the virtues of such services? People have questions. Libraries have answers–even 24 hour Internet Access to answers!
We need a new marketing campaign. These services are getting the word out better. The article states that Help.com has had a 73% year-over-year increase in traffic to 316,000 visitors per month! That is huge. Compare it to the very successful QandANJ.org service that gets around 4,500 users a month (keeping in mind it is live and it is branded in one state vs. Help.com being a worldwide post and wait service so it is not an apples to apples comparison, but still…). I am in the process of writing Ms. Slatalla (email@example.com) to let her know The Truth Is Out There! We are ready and able to ‘Solve Life’s Little Problems’, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Still, the article serves as a wake-up call for me–We Are Not Alone! I think we need to understand what these competing services offer users and learn from them. For example, lurking–you can sit and read volumes of previous posts on a topic without the need to ‘come out’ to a live librarian. I know of no similar service offered by Libraries. We provide pathfinders to resources, but what about answers FAQs?
Likewise, some of the questions asked are real stumpers that I am not sure how well they would be answered by librarians. For example, in the article, one question listed is ‘When you make out with a boy or girl, what do you do with your tongue?’ Honestly, I have no idea how I would answer that (but you can bet I will go out and look at what was posted and hope to learn something new in the process!). How would you answer this?
This isn’t the first time library services have been ignored by Ms. Slatalla. In January she wrote about Tutor.com (here is the article). Again, she never mentions that this service and many other homework help services are available, for free, from many public libraries. In fact, there are many times when her Cyberfamilias column talks up services we provide without mentioning us as a reliable on-line service provider. She is not alone. There are many other examples of the media reporting about on-line information sources that never mention libraries.
This needs to change. I call on Librarians and Information Professionals to write to Ms. Slatalla (firstname.lastname@example.org) as I am. Let her know about what your library can do for her and her readers. Then don’t stop there–tell everyone you know about on-line services that are available 24/7 and then tell everyone you do not know. Tell every in library patron what they can use when the library is closed. Let people know–The Truth Is Out There! It can be found at your library!
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….