On Andy Woodworth and the Old Spice Guy discussing libraries

Let's eat peanut butter

Let's eat peanut butter

Andy Woodworth, popular NJ Librarian and friend, suggested that I illustrate the response to his tweet from the recently retired Old Spice Guy (OSG). The response, if you’ve not seen it, is a video in which OSG talked up some of the benefits of libraries, which in turn started some larger conversations and discussions about the interactions of commercial ventures and libraries and what that means. Andy details the exchange here.

The video stated, in typical genius, free-thought OSG style:

“I’m handsome. You’re pretty. Let’s eat peanut butter. Stop throwing pigeons. Jump onto that giraffe.”

Nice work, Andy, for keeping the discussion on libraries public and active, and we’ll miss you, OSG.

July 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm 4 comments

Congrats to Amy Kearns!!

Posted by Peter Bromberg

Congratulations to Amy Kearns on her appointment as Assistant Director at the Middletown Township Public Library!

————————————————————————–

MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP PUBLIC LIBRARY
55 NEW MONMOUTH ROAD 9 MIDDLETOWN, NJ 07748
PHONE: 732.671.3700 * SUSAN O’NEAL, DIRECTOR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JULY 14,2010

CONTACT: Susan O’Neal, Director
671-3703

SUBJECT: MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIPS LIBRARY NAMES NEW ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

The Middletown Township Public Library is pleased to announce that Amy J. Kearns will join the staff as Assistant Director / Manager of Adult Services on July 27, 2010. She will replace longtime library employee and Assistant Director JoAnn Strano, who is retiring.

Amy has her undergraduate and Master of Library and Information Science degree from Rutgers University, where she is a part-time instructor on the topic of information technologies. She previously worked in the Clifton and Paterson public libraries before her most recent position as the Program Coordinator for the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative.

Her experience in information technology includes the development of new programs and workshops for the CJRLC, a consortium of over five hundred member libraries, presentations at state and national library organizations, workshops in libraries and one-on-one training. “Amy is an unabashed change agent,” said Susan O’Neal, Director of the Middletown Library. “We have every expectation that Amy will help us use the same technology that our customers favor and channel it to meet library needs and improve services.”

Ms. Kearns has experience developing and using webinars for training purposes. According to O’Neal, use of web-based training has reduced continuing education and training costs for the library, and that Ms. Kearns will be putting her skills to work to create a series of information literacy webinars for the public to access from work, school or home. A sample class might be on how to do research on the library’s databases, replicating instruction that is provided in-house, but for participants, who, for whatever reason, cannot come to the library itself.

Duties will include management of the Adult Services Department, selection of reference department materials, personnel administration, staff continuing education and subscription database management. The Assistant Director is on the management team, participates or leads several internal committees, and is the person-in-charge in the absence of the library director.

When asked to comment on this appointment, Ms Kearns said, “The Middletown Township Public Library is a model of excellent and creative library service and I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Susan O’Neal and the talented staff. I am very excited about joining the library team and providing service to the Middletown Township community.”

The Middletown Township Public Library is located at 55 New Monmouth Road, just off Hwy 35. For information about the library and its services check out the website: www.mtul.org.

July 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm 7 comments

Hard Times

Posted by Emily Knox

It’s the beginning of July and another American Library Association conference is over. One of the most amazing things about conferences is how tiring they are–at the end of the day it’s all one can do to simply crawl into bed. ALA is huge and just getting to a particular meeting via bus from the conference center to a hotel can take up to 45 minutes depending on traffic.

This year I volunteered to recruit for the Rutgers School of Communication and Information’s Department of Library and Information Science. It was so exciting to meet people who are interested in research in our field. Throughout the recruitment session I was reminded of why I started the program in the first place–I have a question that I want to answer and getting a doctorate provides me with the background and resources I need to answer it.

It will come as no surprise that the conference was filled with budget talk and the precarious state of library funding. In the midst of an economic downturn people, people tend to focus on how much libraries cost to run. Recently the Fox affiliate in Chicago asked “Are Libraries Necessary?” And all of us are aware of the budget crisis in New Jersey library funding.

However, I noticed another undercurrent to many of the sessions that I attended. People also turn to the library as a symbol of their fears in a changing and somewhat frightening world. I heard about a library board member who used the library collection as a political football. Librarians not wanting to “make a big deal” out of controversial materials and quietly removing them. (This practice increases in hard financial times – librarians don’t want to put their budgets at risk for one item). Inevitably, all of these discussions turned to policy. It is incredibly important that library policies are up-to-date and easily retrievable.

Have you looked at the policies for your board of trustees and/or library committee? Do they include a code of ethics? (This was recommended by the librarian whose board member had played political football with the library’s collection). What about the library’s form for reconsideration? Does it include a final arbiter? Do all stakeholders have a copy of your all policies and forms including the Board of Education or whatever governing body you report to? I encourage you to take the time to look through all of your policies and update any that are not current. Unfortunately, in these hard times libraries will be attacked from all sides and good policies are one of our best lines of defense.

July 6, 2010 at 8:38 am 1 comment

ALA Unconference

Looking to spice up your ALA Conference with something a little different?  Something engaging?  Something fun?  Then get thee to the UNCONFERENCE, June 25, 2010 from 9am-4:30pm.

The incomparable duo of Michelle Boule and Sean Robinson, have joined together to bring you this year’s #unala10 unconference!   So mark your calendars for June 25, 2010 from 9am-4:30pm, and then go register.  Do it now, space is limited.  Shhh.. listen…  I think I just heard another seat fill.  Hurry, register for the unconference now! (http://annual.ala.org/2010/index.php?title=Unconference_Registration)

WAIT, I WANT TO KNOW MORE

You want to know more?  I already told you Michelle and Sean are involved, that’s not enough?  Ok… They are mixing it up this year with flash debates, Pecha Kecha presentations, and a fishbowl at the end of the day.  (A whatbowl?  A fishbowl— Read the wikipedia entry.)  The event is conveniently located in the conference center so there should be good free wifi too!  What more could you want?

Complete information is available at: http://annual.ala.org/2010/index.php?title=Unconference.

Posted by Peter Bromberg

June 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm 1 comment

Be an agent for the customer: Hospitality Revisited

Posted by Peter Bromberg

It’s been a while since I blogged about the difference between Agents and Gatekeepers, wherein I quoted one of my favorite passages from Danny Meyer’s book, Setting the Table (the book is also a favorite of the Darien Library, according to John Blyberg; Char Booth has also expressed her appreciation for Meyer’s ideas.)

An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. We’re looking for agents, and our staff members are responsible for monitoring their own performance: In that transaction, did I present myself as an agent or a gatekeeper? In the world of hospitality, there’s rarely anything in between.

I was recently reminded of the power of the “agent” concept while reading an article by Dan Pink on theories of motivation.  The following quote caught my attention (It is from Maury Weinstein, founder of System Source, explaining to his sales staff why he did away with sales commissions):

We want you to be an agent for the customer rather than a salesperson.

Agent for the customer… Yes, yes, yes!  I love this concept! Meyer says that hospitality exists when the customer believes the employee is on their side.  He suggests that hospitality is present when something happens for you and is absent when something happens to you.  I’m sure we can all quickly think of experiences where we felt that the person helping us was on our side, (was doing for us), and we can reflect on how that translated directly into a positive customer experience for us– even if the the interaction began because of a problem…

HOME DEPOT: CUSTOMER SERVICE TURNAROUND

I’m coming to the end of an 18 month renovation to my house, which means I’ve spent an awful lot of time (and money) at The Home Depot over the past year and a half.  During the last few months I’ve noticed a marked improvement in the customer service at the store.  There are more employees available to help, there are always one or two greeters at the door, and employees who are just walking by smile and greet me.

The most noticeable (and appreciated) phenomena though is how Home Depot has handled some recent problems with a damaged sink, and the return of a few (expensive) items that we did not need.  On three different occasions, three different customer service agents took care of me, ensuring that the returns were taken, restocking fees were waived, and the stockroom was manually checked for a replacement part even though the computer said it wasn’t in stock (and the correct item was found saving me a trip to another store.)

This is some turnaround in customer service ethic for The Depot and apparently I’m not the only person who’s noticed.  I can sum up my recent experiences by saying that in each interaction I felt that the Home Depot representative was on my side.  They were friendly, patient (at times exceedingly patient), and consistent in their desire to meet my needs.  I was not quoted policy, I was offered apologies.  I was not told to wait in another line, I was brought over to the service desk where I could be more comfortable and given quicker service.  I was not asked for receipts, I was asked for my address so they could look up my account and review my purchases. In other words, I was consistently served by agents rather than gatekeepers.

As I make my transition back to the world of public libraries, I will strive to keep this experience, and the ideas of hospitality and agency –of being on the side of my customers (both internal and external) – uppermost in my mind.  Being on the side of the customer is a simple idea, but one that offers powerful guidance.  And, I hope, powerful results.

June 1, 2010 at 8:41 pm 5 comments

When in doubt, visit a library (or ask a librarian)

When in doubt, visit a library

When in doubt, visit a library

The message here is a simple one — if you need a clear answer, a library is a great place to start. Made in Inkscape, the premier open source design tool.

Thanks to Marie Radford’s suggestion, I’ve created another version that has a larger worldview. Thanks, Marie!

Ask a librarian

Ask a librarian

Posted by John LeMasney

May 25, 2010 at 7:02 pm 10 comments

Librarian Stereotypes, Alive & Well, Alas

If any of us ever did doubt that the traditional stereotype of the librarian is alive and well, here in 2010, right here in New Jersey, doubt it no more. Convincing evidence to confirm this is easily found. I’ve been reflecting on this since I read an article by Brad Parks from the April 11, 2010 Newark Sunday Star-Ledger. His headline was compelling “Budget Imperils New Jersey’s Libraries.” I was eager to read this story, as I am everything written in the NJ press about the impact of and reactions to Governor Christie’s proposed 74% budget reduction to NJ library funding. Parks’ editorial supports the library communities’ struggle for funding restoration, but even though he touts the value of libraries in promoting literacy and democratic access to information, he chose to open his article by evoking traditional librarian stereotypical images.

Reading the first words of his story made my heart sink: “In both stereotype and practice, New Jersey’s librarians are a fairly unexcitable bunch, more prone to shushing than they are to hyperbole. So take this into consideration was you read this from Edison Public Library director Judith Mansbach. ‘If this goes through, it’s going to be devastating.’” The three column article decries the proposed cuts and mentions the May 6th librarian rally in Trenton that many of us, myself included, later attended. (Some of us even got quite excited – imagine that.) Parks returns to the library stereotype by ending on this note: “Needless to say they could use your help. So if you value your local library – or literacy in general- please make your view known to your legislators. It’ll be one time your librarian won’t shush you for raising your voice.” I sincerely appreciate Mr. Parks’ support and thank him for asking readers to complain to NJ legislators about the ghastly cuts, but ask why could he not resist the cutesy and clichéd reference to librarians’ shushing that devalues our profession?

Post rally, Karen Sudol picked up the theme in her article: “Librarians Demand Christie Not Close Book on Services” in the May 7th Star-Ledger (p. 22). She begins: “Librarians accustomed to saying “Shush” and “Quiet, please,” spoke up at a Trenton rally yesterday in protest of a proposed 74 percent cut in state funding. ‘I think we’re going to dispel all of the shushing rumors that librarians are just quiet little people,’ said Patricia Tumulty executive director of the New Jersey Library Association which organized the two-hour event. ‘We’re strong advocates for the people of New Jersey to have good library services.” Pat’s advocacy and leadership continue to be strong, although I’m sad to say the “shushing rumors” are firmly ensconced in the press and popular culture, much to the detriment of our professional image.

This example is one of countless newspaper articles, blogs, cartoons, television shows, commercials, novels, advertisements, motion pictures, etc. in a broad range of mediated discourse, that continue to evoke the librarian stereotype. Librarians, usually female, are consistently portrayed as bespectacled, mousy, unassuming, sexually repressed introverts who primarily engage in three behaviors – shushing (as we see above), stamping and shelving books. The male librarian stereotype, although less prominent, is also unflattering to the profession. Usually portrayed as prissy with the ubiquitous horn rimmed glasses and bow tie, he is distinctly feminine and also therefore accorded the low status of the female librarian, deserving little respect.

This stereotype has persisted as remarkably intact since the early 1900s, despite the information age that has transformed the profession as one now immersed in sophisticated digitized systems and online services, Some, even within our field, may dismiss stereotypical texts and images as harmless, cute, or funny, and chide others to get a sense of humor. As one who has studied the librarian stereotype in depth, and published several journal articles on the topic in Library Quarterly, I have come to view these media representations as far from harmless, with serious, anti-intellectual, and anti-feminist messages. In these hideous budget times in NJ, and across the nation,  it is appalling to me to see how frequently the stereotypical librarian image appears.  In another recent example, on May 11th,  Library Journal reported on “Jay Leno’s Bad Library Joke” . If you click on this link you can see a video of Leno saying:  “People here in Los Angeles are upset [at] their mayor’s proposed plan to cut the budget of libraries…this could affect as many as nine people.”  The LJ link includes the letter from city librarian Martin Gomez who points out that over 17 million people use the LA libraries every year and that the budget cuts are no laughing matter.

Perhaps I should not be so appalled at these stereotypical images and low blows to libraries. After all, thinking of libraries as dusty, unused places (instead of vital community centers) and librarians as unproductive, fussy old biddies who shuffle around the library shushing, stamping, and shelving is useful to the powerful elite who use this ill-informed view as justification to cut already low salaries and benefits for public librarians, fire librarians, reduce hours and close libraries (including the library for the blind and handicapped).  This 74% cut is sadly going to occur at a time when NJ citizens’ need is greatest for what libraries have to offer: equal access to information to all, free to all.

By Marie L. Radford

May 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm 34 comments

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