Posts tagged ‘Libraries’

Access denied

by April Bunn

Most of us have no control over it.
It gets people really upset when they run up against it.

The Internet Filter

access deniedHopefully you aren’t trying to read this at a school computer because you’d probably have  your “access denied” with most of my links below.

As a School Library Media Specialist, I am all too familiar with a great teaching moment being ruined by a blocked website. Linda Underwood’s School Library Monthly article “21st-Century Learning Blocked: What is a School Librarian to Do?” (September’s issue-not available online yet) inspired me to think more about this topic. This past week one of my colleagues was blocked from using National Geographic and another was blocked from downloading her Promethean Board software, so I knew it was time to get this done.  The technology teacher and I just convinced many of these teachers to branch out and use new technology and this filter is discouraging them rapidly.  Just to give you an idea of what it’s like with these filters:

  • We can’t use any image or video sites at all (so long to those Google Images on our web pages and for student projects and no-can-do on that great video you found on Abraham Lincoln on YouTube).
  • Also, no access to sites that have a shopping cart feature, like Barnes and Noble, making it a serious challenge to place orders when we are registering for conferences, ordering books and supplies.
  • No technical or business forums (see below)

Ironically, as I try to finalize this post, sitting at my desk after school dismisses, I am blocked from previewing the post on WordPress with the response screen below:

_______________________________________________________

filter blockedblocked

You cannot access the following Web address:
http://librarygarden.net/?p=2399&preview=true
The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Technical/Business Forums
You can:
Temporarily override filtering on this computer if you have an override name and password. (Note that your administrator may be notified that you’ve bypassed filtering.)
Use your browser’s Back button or enter a different Web address to continue.

__________________________________________________________

Surveying other Libraries

After suffering from blocks preventing her from using pieces of Web 2.0 in her teaching, National Board Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Integrator  Sharon Elin used her blog at edutwist.com, to conduct a survey about which popular sites were blocked and find out what other schools were allowing. Her results, displayed in colorful graphs, represent the more controversial of sites, but even simple sites that include questionable images are blocked from most students.

As Media Specialists, we are responsible, along with our Technology colleagues, for teaching about safe internet searching and strategies for effective information retrieval. As one of Elin’s responders wrote, “Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.”

edutwist quote

So why do we have to have them?

In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). As a result of that Act, many schools and libraries got grants for technology or joined the E-Rate program, a discounted pricing system set up by the FCC for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections. One requirement of these programs was to certify that you are using computer filtering software programs to prevent the “on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or material that is harmful to minors”.  Nobody is really arguing that schools against schools being a safe place, away from highly offensive material. As librarians, our collection development is monitored by administration and the purchasing has to be supported with some curricular connection.  What we as educators are saying is that the filters that are in place in schools are blocking educational information that could be inspiring to a child. Parents must understand that their children are losing out on dynamic learning communities created by Web 2.0 developments.

We’re being forced to bypass the filter

In most cases, educators are waiting for technical administrators to release the block after explaining how they are going to be using it in they teaching. By the way, these tech administrators are NOT teachers or librarians; they are IT people and network security experts that are now responsible for evaluating things like 5th grade students’ research on endangered species. Are we even speaking the same language? I don’t think so. In my school, those requests are only read once a week.

As a result, we’ve (older students and teachers) resorted to bypassing and unblocking the filter on our own. My Google search returned over 1 million hits when using the search terms “how to bypass school internet filters” and the responses included videos and instructions galore. A large portion of these requests could be from students as well.

A few examples are:

eHoweHow (www.ehow.com)

is just one of the many sites giving step by step directions how to bypass the filter. They call it a “circumvention” of the block and don’t make any attempt to discuss the issue: “Whether or not these blocks are justified or a waste of time, whether they are a form of censorship or a method of managing resources, are topics that can be debated another time.”  They give 3 sets of directions depending on what you’d like to use: a translation service, URL redirection service, or web proxy.

Quick tips graphic Quick Online Tips (www.quickonlinetips.com) has a page called “Top 10 Ways to Unblock Websites”

We know about it but won’t widely risk it

Most of the school librarians that I spoke to knew that these methods existed, but many had only used it once or twice, or were scared to be caught. The law specifically states, “An administrator, supervisor, or person authorized by the responsible authority [i.e. school, school board, local educational agency, or other authority with responsibility for administration of such school] may disable the technology protection measure concerned to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.”

Can’t we just block the students’ computers?

No. The FCC’s E-Rate program is specific that every computer have the filter engaged, “The FCC is imposing the requirements on ALL Internet-accessible computers used by the schools and libraries, including public, student, staff and administrative workstations on the Internet because the law made no distinction between school and library computers that are used only by adult staff, and those used by children or the public.” If we’re hoping schools will allow us to have more access than our students, it looks like we’ll be waiting awhile. If you refer to Elin’s survey, the communication service Skype is almost the only site that was allowed on more teacher computers than student ones. That wasn’t true in my school this month when a teacher was blocked from Skype or Google Video Chat to demonstrate communication across the world with her son who is teaching English in Korea.

SKype Chart

Skype Chart

What can we hope for in the future?

I’m trying to be optimistic in how I think filters will be used in schools of the future. Otherwise I’d feel like my degree in Library and Information Science may not be best suited for a school library career. My dreams are for:

  • Trust from our Administration that we are professionals and will use the internet wisely in our teaching
  • Filtering programs that are created by educators and parents
  • Websites designing “school-safe” versions for filter approval
  • Open access to dynamic information online without lurking viruses and predators
  • Faith from the parents whose children we inspire on a daily basis that we are working to create better global citizens

by April Bunn, School Library Media Specialist in a PreK-6th Grade School

September 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm 15 comments

Pres4Lib2009: Registration now Open!

Looking to hone your presentation skills, become a better speaker, or develop your training/presenting toolkit? If so, you will not want to miss the inaugural Pres4Lib Camp on June 12, 2009 in Princeton, NJ. The camp, hosted by the bloggers of Library Garden and friends, is being sponsored by SJRLC, CJRLC and the Princeton Public Library. The camp is open to anyone who works in libraries or with libraries and librarians.

Pres4Lib2009 is a presentation camp and will be conducted as an unconference. This will be a great opportunity for presenters and trainers (and those interested in presenting and training) in the library community to network and share their tips, technologies, best practices, and experiences.Highlights of the day will include two rounds of lightning talks, three breakout sessions, and a chance to witness Battle Decks in action.

A Pres4Lib2009 wiki (http://pres4lib.pbwiki.com ) has been established to answer questions about the camp, allow for collaboration and suggestions prior to the day and to record the happenings on the actual day.

Registration is limited and the cost is free, except for a nominal $25 charge to cover the cost of food (breakfast, lunch and snacks). The day will culminate with an optional dinner outing to The Triumph Brewing Company, a local favorite in Princeton.

Don’t delay and register today at http://tinyurl.com/pres4lib2009
… and remember, you heard it here first at the Library Garden!

April 9, 2009 at 12:10 pm 2 comments

Addios Críticas, You will be missed…

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)[1]. 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.
Adios Críticas, 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.
[1] All figures are based on the 2000 Census data published via American Fact Finder.

February 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

Stimulating Libraries…

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

Email Habits of Library Workers

About a month ago I posted a simple poll using Doodle to get a quick snapshot of the email habits of librarians and those who work in libraries. I am finally finding a few moments to summarize the results. This is not a very scientific study at all, but it does give an indication that many of us in libraryland seem to feel compelled to check our work email even on weekends and holidays. I wonder if this is the same in other industries or are we just a hyper-connected profession of overachievers that must know at all times what is happening in our libraries even when we are not there?

As of August 15th 2008 there were 160 responses (many more than I expected) and the most popular option chosen was “Yes on weekends” with 119 people (74%) indicating that they needed to know what was going even when they were not at work.

Even though we seem to have a burning desire to check our work email on weekends, there is some indication that at least a small portion of the profession knows the meaning of the word vacation — 51 people (32%) indicated that they do not check work email while on vacation. Conversely, though, that means that more than two-thirds check work email when they should be sipping margaritas or relaxing on the beach.

Here is a quick summary of all the responses (results do not equal 100 as it was multiple choice):

Although the numbers in and of themselves are interesting, what I found most fascinating was the long list of comments. Here are a few sample comments:

Comment by Eileen. (Monday, July 14, 2008 3:11:27 PM CEST) Less so at night but definitely on weekends and vacation. I’d rather spend a few minutes a day keeping up with it than deal with it when I get back. When I’m on vacations I will hit the delete key more quickly — especially with list mail. Anytime I’m at home or on vacation I tend to respond to only what I need to. I almost never check work-related blogs though.

Comment by Anonymous. (Monday, July 14, 2008 9:55:35 PM CEST) Though I don’ t check e-mail from home. I have been known to come to work for a meeting while on vacation, do check my voicemail sometimes, and have taken home work that I knew would require too much time during my work day.

Comment by Patty. (Monday, July 14, 2008 3:48:31 PM CEST) I’ll check it occasionally at night through the week and usually every weekend at least once or twice, but I rarely act on anything unless it is dire. It can usually wait until I get to work but I am curious to see what is going on.

And, perhaps most wise of all:

Comment by Becky. (Tuesday, July 29, 2008 11:57:32 PM CEST) follow up – I have a friend who says no one ever died of a Library emergency, and I try to remember that, even as I’m checking.

I have been trying to check my email less frequently when I am not at the library with some measure of success and I think my life is better for it. Still, I mostly fall in the camp of wanting to know what is going on (even if I don’t respond to the message) and being able to delete anything unimportant over the weekend to make re-entry on Monday easier. It seems as if curiosity is a trait of many who are constant email checkers.

I used to check less frequently from home on weeknights, but since I took over as PPL’s program coordinator I find that it often puts my mind at ease to check email quickly after 9 pm to get the update on how the evening went at the library. We have programs almost nightly and when someone else is covering the program I want to know if things went smoothly. I know that I can do nothing about it from home if things went wrong, but still I seem to need to know.

Perhaps library workers need to follow the popular trend of having a Technology Sabbath – ditching email, all online communication and our cell phones for one day each weekend. It would be tough for many, myself included, but it is something worth considering.

Please take a few moments to scroll way down and read the rest of the comments left on the poll. Also feel free to leave comments on this post about your email habits — and if you plan to change them in the future based upon this unscientific research.

August 18, 2008 at 10:03 pm 6 comments

Suddenly Summer

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.

June 13, 2008 at 2:12 pm 2 comments

What Would You Ask Bill Gates? (and Why Doesn’t YOUR Library Website Look Like This?)

I just received an interesting email indicating that I could have the opportunity to ask a question to Bill Gates.

Well, there is a small catch (of course). I (and everyone else on the planet) can submit questions and the “best one” will be chosen and asked of Mr. Gates….

I have no idea what criteria will be used to determine “the best” question…. but I thought it might be an interesting chance to recommend a question.

Another interesting aspect of this that I didn’t realize until I followed the link, is seeing what others are suggesting…. Some are serious, some are funny.

I thought it might be interesting if it happens that A LOT of LIBRARIANS suggest questions. (Who knows, maybe one will even be the “chosen” one.) I think it would be interesting if there were so many suggestions by librarians, on this otherwise non-library-related site, that the general public (or readership of this site) noticed. I wonder what they would think. I wonder what, if anything, would happen.

We out here in library-land have had our own “dealings with” Mr. Gates and we may have some specific questions we want to ask him…..

This is all taking place over on FastCompany.com – a magazine and site I really like. In fact, I have been thinking about doing a post about their site ever since I joined it because I think it is an interesting approach and one that libraries should consider.

It is a very “social” site, but it is a specific social site and not just a general social site for the sake of being a social site, such as facebook and/or MySpace*. What I mean by this is that you can sign-in and personalize your whole experience and use of this site. There are specific categories and interests (for this site they include “leadership”, “management”, “technology”, etc. all related to business… but things that I am interested in nonetheless). When I log in this is what I see:


So I have my own area with any messages or other information I might want – and I have controls on the right to edit my profile, post, invite others, send a message, etc….

Some libraries ARE doing things like this on their website, or on another virtual presence, and I am certainly not the first or only to call for this. However, not enough are doing things like this. As I was signing up for my account on fastcompany.com I couldn’t help but think about library websites as I went through all of my options and interests…. What topics am I interested in? Which newsletters and updates would I want to receive. What do I want my “homepage” to look like when I come here and sign-in… these would all be great features on a library website.

Look at this particular part of my page on fastcompany.com:

I know it might be small here, but in that red box I’ve drawn I have all these MY things, and they literally say they are MY things: MY contacts, MY bookmarks, MY feeds, MY settings, MY network, MY recommendations, etc…. this really makes this MY page to me, for me, when I come to this site.

It also makes it much more specific, interesting and useful to me. I have already narrowed-down what aspects of this page/company I am interested in… and it is all ready for me right on the front page FOR ME when I sign-in here.

Additionally, right above that are the general topic areas for fastcompany.com – Innovation, Technology, Leadership, etc…. all interesting and attractive (to me) to click on and go right to what might be of interest. I can also easily find people, groups, and blogs, of interest to me. This provides me a chance to create an even more specific, smaller, community within this community for me. I joined the Leadership group and the Technology group here, and even started my own, called Librarians just because I am like that! ;-) I like to put libraries and librarians in wherever ‘technology’ is. So far, no one has noticed it, but I wonder what might happen if they did. (“Librarians!? Technology and business?! Huh!?”)

I also just happened to see my.barackobama.com . If you check out this site you can again see that this is the Barack Obama site for YOU. Here is what it can look like:

It can have everything for ME - My People, MY Network, My Blog, etc… I keep finding that sites like these provide people an opportunity to have a blog right within them – on this topic of interest to them. They don’t need to go to any specific blogging site (like blogger or wordpress or whatever – not that there’s anything wrong with them). These sites are providing them with blogging spots, on sites of their own interest, where others come who have the same interest, thus providing a built-in readership for their individual blog. I think a lot of people wonder who would read their blog and why. People hear about “blogs” all the time, but maybe they aren’t ready to actually GO to a blogging site, sign-up and start blogging. But maybe on a site they like and use, with an easy way to blog right there, they might just do it. This is something libraries could provide…

Maybe these are not earth-shattering things, but it seems to me that I am seeing more and more websites like these. Library websites are already, for the most part, behind the times, and as more of these sites go to more and more personalized interfaces, we don’t want to be another generation behind.

So, anyway, submit your potential question for Mr. Gates (by posting it in a comment on the post) and also take a little tour around FastCompany.com … and my.barakobama.com, if you’re so inclined.

———————————–

* Don’t get me wrong, I (of course) think you can create for yourself and have a very personalized and meaningful experience on facebook….. but again, that happens when you create a “community” within a “community,” which is what I feel happens within fastcompany.com

June 4, 2008 at 11:35 am 3 comments

Free Web Based Conferences—Perfect for poor library studies students everywhere…

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….

February 19, 2008 at 9:12 am 2 comments

Five Questions Every New Employee Should Ask….

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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….
  3. 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!
  4. 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…
  5. 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!

January 24, 2008 at 2:24 pm 2 comments

Do we encourage our employees to leave?

If someone leaves your system for the same job in another (i.e. lateral move), that should get you thinking.

If the average new-employee retention is less two years before they move on to another position, you definitely want to take notice.

If your system sees people leave and then watches them flourish in another position, you shouldn’t brag that “they started off in this system.” It should raise questions as to why your system couldn’t seem to hold on to him/her.

Employee retention has always been difficult in our profession but, sometimes, we unknownngly encourage people to leave.

The list below is a compilation of reasons I’ve heard Librarians give for leaving their positions. If any of these sounds like a familiar complaint of former employees, you may want to consider it, especially from the employee’s perspective.

Pay- Bosses, Directors and Board Members tend to roll their eyes when this issue is brought up. However, this is going to be a key factor for applicants. If two positions are posted and one offers more money than the other it is no surprise which will get more applications. Furthermore, I know several people over the last two years who have earned up to ten thousand dollars a year difference in pay simply by moving, laterally, into another system. How much of a difference can that be? How about the difference of affording your own rent or having to live with someone else.

Vacation and/or Holidays- Some New Jersey Library systems offer 10 days of vacation a year while others offer 24+ days. This does not include federal, personal, floating holidays or sick time. If everything else is equal (pay, benefits, etc.) which system would you rather work for?

Hours and/or Nights- How many nights a week do you require your librarians to work? How many Saturdays and/or Sundays a month?
Yes, we are in public services but we are also highly educated professionals with families, friends and social needs. On the nights that I work I don’t get to see my children or wife. One night is tough enough but two nights a week would be nearly impossible and a bigger strain on my family as it means my wife would have to feed, bathe and put both kids to bed by herself. The effects of working multiple nights are further reaching than just the employee’s schedule.

Professional Investment- Some systems have a budget for training and others do not. Some systems encourage employees to pursue professional interests and others look for a homogeneous staff. Employees who feel invested tend to support their systems and be happier as they know they may not get the same treatment elsewhere. This can also be a big draw for new employees as it shows the system’s interest in professional development. And consider this; the more an employee can pursue their interest, the more they are noticed in the professional realm as an expert in that subject which, in turn, is good for the system’s noticability.

Advancement- A professor once told me that Librarians tend to have to promote themselves and that means they leave the system they are working in. Obviously, we cannot promote everyone as there are fewer positions the higher up we go. But, other than steady employment, what are we doing to encourage these people to stay?

If employees leave because of these reasons it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in a bad system but it should rasie a warning flag. As systems, we are in competition with each other to employ the best possible professionals. Although we may hire that professional, what are we doing to keep him/her?

December 7, 2007 at 11:03 am 16 comments

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