Archive for October, 2006

Pimp My Bookcart Contest

Just as quickly as the authors of Unshelved had finished their comic sequence, Pimp my bookcart, fans started sending them emails telling them how they were going to actually do the program at their library. They thought it was such a great idea, there is now an official “Pimp My Bookcart Contest” on the Overdue Media website.

The contest lends itself to the perfect programming opportunity for Young Adult Librarians. It’s a chance for their teens to take a piece of library equipment and really have some fun with it. In the end, not only does the YA have their very own bookcart, but they also have a chance at winning $250 worth of merchandise from the Overdue Media Store as well. All entries will be posted on their site.

Exactly how many shirts of this Pimp My Bookcart logo t-shirt (left) could I wear in a week!?


October 26, 2006 at 2:47 pm 2 comments

Tom Asacker on Branding

Tom Asacker, who blogs about marketing and branding over at A Clear Eye, gave a short interview after his recent presentation at Brand Manager Camp. I want to highlight one of Tom’s statements, but check out the whole interview (which is short) and his blog (which is intelligent and stimulating.)

A brand is a customer’s perception and an expectation of receiving something.

This got me thinking: What are my perceptions and expectations of the various businesses that I interact with?

So what do your customers expect and perceive when they visit your library or website? What experiences are you offering them?

Tom Asacker suggests that if we offer our customers an appealing experience — that is, an experience that’s going to 1) satisfy their problems, and/or 2) help them feel good about themselves, and/or 3) allow them to make social connections — they will choose to spend their time with us. I think that’s good news for libraries. We DO help people solve problems and we (at our best) offer physical spaces that are ripe with opportunity for social connection. (Here come the “I caught them doing it in the stacks” stories…)

My questions: How can we do this better? How can we offer a consistently positive customer experience across time? Across platforms? (i.e. in-person, on the phone, on the web.) If the experience isn’t consistent, how can customers ever come to expect it? In looking at my own behavior, I notice that I’ll tolerate a low level of consistently poor or mediocre service more than I’ll tolerate inconsistent service. Receiving consistently bad service is actually less stressful for me—as long as I know what to expect. It’s the uncertainty that stresses me out…

October 19, 2006 at 9:19 pm 2 comments

Ms. Dewey Search Engine

Okay, I am struggling to find words to describe the experience that is the new Ms. Dewey search engine. A colleague forwarded the link to me just a few minutes ago and I have been sitting here a little stunned by it ever since. Make sure your sound is on and make sure you give it time to load as it is worth the wait.

I thought this would be a nice addition to the discussion lately on stereotypes that came about from the Naughty Librarian costume. Honestly, what were the people who made this search enginge thinking?

{sarcasm mode on}
What I like “best” about this search engine is that if you wait long enough she yells at you to ask her more information so she can rule the world — the goofy faces and other actions are pretty special too. Oh, and the fact that you have to wait several seconds for a small list of search results makes it very worthwhile to put up with her over-the-top antics.
{sarcasm mode off}

I hope someone can make better sense of this site than I can.

Edited to Add: It seems Ms. Dewey is getting a lot of attention today and is being desribed as Saucy and a Goddess and as Google’s Soulmate.

October 18, 2006 at 11:30 am 3 comments

Clean Books

The library community where I work is primarily a devout religious one. In turn I’m frequently asked for “clean” or “safe” books by the parents and children. Working in the children’s department one would think finding a clean and/or safe book is easy. Let me tell you it is not, there are levels of clean. The first level of cleanliness is the purest, straight and wholesome goodness of Dick and Jane and the Bobbsey Twins. Then there are just the plain dirty books, but dirty books are not usually in the children’s department. What constitutes if a book is on a certain level of purity are the elements the book contains. There are two major elements that makes a book clean and safe or dirty and dangerous. These elements are boy-girl interaction and magic.

To make a book clean and safe there should be little to no boy-girl interaction. This is the basic element for all clean and safe books. According to the community boys and girls can be friends or siblings, but if there is any love interest what so ever it is no longer a clean book. One might think children’s books usually do not have girl-boy romances in them, but they do. Early chapter books and easy readers always have a valentine story. I know it is seemingly innocent, but the community asking for these books do not feel that way. Once I started looking in the collection, recollecting the books I have read and asking around, there seemed to be lots of first crushes, kisses and boyfriend/girlfriend subplots in juvenile books. Back in April I booktalked There’s a Girl in my Hammerlock by Jerry Spinelli. I thought it was a great book about girls fighting against stereotypes and sibling rivalry. What I had forgotten about one of the subplots with main character having a huge crush on a boy, they go on a date and he kisses her. I felt wretched. The girl I had booktalked is part of the community that should only read clean and safe books. The girl in fact loved the book and wants to read all of Spinelli’s other books. I have learned that if there are any hugs or kisses in the book to tell them right off. It goes against the my librarian belief to give away the ending, but sometimes it’s the only way.

The other major element that causes a book to be unsafe is magic. Fantasy books are wonderful! I love fantasy and a little sci-fi as well. Ask me about my Harry Potter collection. Fantasy books, especially the ones on the juvenile and easy reader levels, rarely have boy-girl interaction, but they have magic of one kind or another that can harbor satanic and wican beliefs that are definitely unsafe to a young person. These are the books I read most often following closely by chickette lit, which sometimes mixes the boy-girl interaction and fantasy.

Drugs, alcohol and death are the typical elements that cause books to challenged and/or banned. They also contribute immensely to the sanctity of a book. If the book makes the reader question their own belief system or introduces an idea into their head that is against the communities ideals it is unsafe.

I try to recommend the safest and cleanest books I can without asking the customer in front of me to describe their level of cleanliness or devoutness. And yes, as a librarian, we should only booktalk the books we have read and loved, but really there are lots of books out there and I cannot read them all. I read lots of J and YA books, but most of them do not qualify as clean or safe. To end my first blog I wanted to mention that even though there is a tremendous stress on clean and safe books in this community, but no one complained about my Banned Book display and have had any challenges of the collection since I have been working here.

October 18, 2006 at 9:49 am 7 comments

Libraries Get Second Life

Second Life, an online virtual world created by Linden Labs in California, has gotten the attention of librarians from all types of libraries. The Second Life Library 2.0 Grand Opening this past weekend was a rousing success, despite a few technical glitches on the “main grid” or 3-D world, which appeared to be system-wide.

The Info Island Second Life Library 2.0 has a central blog at, where you can also check archives for development of the world and discussion of all of the library events held there, including book talks, instruction, reference, and more. Lori Bell and the Alliance Library System in Illinois are spearheading this venture. Her folks submitted their Second Life Library Project to Talis’ Mashing Up the Library competition and won 2nd place!! Serious Games has discussed library services in SL as well.

Other Second Life Library “branches” are cropping up, including a 19th Century Library, Caledon, and a medical library. Great photos of these places and more appear in the library’s Flickr photo pool. A teen “grid” is in the works at for those under age 18. Metaverse Messenger, the “newspaper” of Second Life, is a real newsprint publication (for ironic purposes, perhaps, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes!) which is also available online (teen and adult versions).

Check out Wikipedia’s background and technical info, and more importantly the critical analysis of SL issues and services links at Better yet, teleport there now!

October 17, 2006 at 12:06 pm 1 comment

Bringing Teens on Board – literally!

In 2005 Princeton Public Library expanded the roster of its Board of Trustees by appointing two Teen Liaisons to serve a 2 year term. Although they are not voting members of the board, they attend meetings and are given a voice. Their input is sought and their opinions valued.

I recently spoke with Susan Conlon, our Teen Services Librarian at Princeton Public Library, about the impetus to add Teen Liaisons to the Board of Trustees. As Susan recounts:

We’ve had a very active Teen Advisory Board (TAB) at PPL for about 9 years. When we were still in the construction phase of our new building, I organized several tours of the not-yet-opened library for members of TAB to get a preview of the new building. These tours were just like the ones that were being offered to the trustees, staff and other interested adults.

Alex White was one of the teens on a tour and he became the first of two teens appointed to the board a few years later. Our assistant director at that time was leading the “hard-hat tour” and answering questions from the teens, and I remember it was Alex who asked about who made all of the decisions about building the new library and how to get the money to pay for it. We told him it was the Board of Trustees, and he then asked how someone got to be on it as he was interested.

The connection was definitely made that day between teen’s current participation on the TAB and maybe, one day, their being a representative on the library board of trustees. As it turned out, this initial conversation evolved into why not make a space on the board for teens now. Thanks to Alex’s suggestion ( and his reminders over the next year or so about his interest in serving as a teen representative) and to Leslie’s and the board’s desire to take it forward, we now have two teens (both named Alex!) on the Board of Trustees.

New Orleans ALA 2006 I recently conducted an email interview with Alex White about his experience as Teen Liaison to the board. Both our teen liaisons accompanied the PPL delegation to New Orleans for Leslie’s Inauguration as ALA President where they presented a gift to Leslie on behalf of the board. They helped with the “Libraries Build Communities” volunteer day too — they are the young faces in the front row of the group photo of the PPL staff, friends, and board members who traveled to New Orleans in June and spent a day at the Children’s Resource Center moving books (as evidenced in the other photo, where one Alex is passing books to the other).ALA 2006 in NOLA -- Volunteer Day at the Children's Resource Center

JanieH: Where do you attend school and what grade are you in?

AlexW: I attend Princeton High School and am a senior this year.

JanieH: How long have you been involved at the Princeton Public Library?

AlexW: I have been coming to the library since I moved to Princeton in first grade. I first joined the Teen Advisory Board in fifth grade.

JanieH: What made you decide to accept the position of being Teen Liaison to the Board of Trustees?

AlexW: I accepted the position because I felt that it was a unique opportunity to influence the library and how it is run. I was interested in offering a teen’s perspective on what goes on in the library. Being able to represent the youth age group is important; it gives us a voice in the operation of the library that might not otherwise be heard.

JanieH: What did you hope to accomplish during your term on the Board?

AlexW: I basically hoped that I would be able to ensure that the library continues its success in the teen department, as well as making any suggestions that I or other teens feel could help to make the library even better.

JanieH: What did you learn as a result of this unique experience?

AlexW: This experience showed me how a professional board is run, and gave me the opportunity to see what goes into the operation of a major organization.

JanieH: What is the one thing that surprised you most while attending the meetings of the library board?

AlexW: I was just a little surprised by some of the things the board discussed, which I would not have expected to factor into how the library is operated.

JanieH: What is your most memorable moment from your time as teen liaison?

AlexW: I really enjoyed the New Orleans trip, getting to see the city, and being able to volunteer and be part of a team that accomplished something so significant.

JanieH: Do you think you will continue to serve on other boards or continue with volunteer work? If so, what do you have planned or hope to do?

AlexW: Although I’m not sure where, I do expect that at some point in my future, I will serve on another board. As for volunteer work, I definitely plan to pursue it, but am unsure in what ways.

JanieH: What are your plans for the future?

AlexW: Well, I’m not sure exactly what my plans are, but I definitely plan on going to college, and after that, hopefully getting a job in the sports industry or being a businessman.

JanieH: Who is your favorite author or what is your favorite book?

AlexW: I have many books that I enjoy so it’s difficult to pick a favorite, but for now I would have to say The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

JanieH: Would you share with us a favorite quotation?

AlexW: “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.” –The Great Gatsby

JanieH:Is there anything else you would like to share about you?

AlexW: I am a huge sports fan and also I hope someday to come back and see the library even better than it currently is.

I would like to thank Alex White for taking the time to answer my questions. Both Alex’s have been terrific assets to the Board and very dedicated to attending meetings and other functions. I am sure they will have much success in all their future endeavours.

The library is currently formalizing the method by which two new teen liaisons will be selected once the Alex’s are finished their term. We have also recently appointed two teen representatives to serve on the Friends Council and be active with our Friends of the Library. Getting teens “on board” makes sense in so many ways and is a great way to train future leaders who will have experience serving on volunteer boards and contributing their time to the community. I hope that other libraries will consider getting their teens “on board” too.

October 16, 2006 at 10:43 am 3 comments

Using Library Thing for Reader’s Advisory!

John Klima, the Teen/Systems Librarian at the Franklin Township Public Library in Somerset NJ, recently blogged about his podcast on that details how he is using Library Thing as an RA tool for teens. What a great idea — simple to set up, relatively easy to maintain, and (best of all) free. Thanks for sharing John. I am going to file this under great ideas to steal.

On a side note, last year at this time John was working for me as a library intern during his last semester at SCILS, Rutgers University . I could tell from his short stint with us at PPL that he was going to make things happen when he graduated. He taught several successful sesssions in our Tech Center on RSS while he was still a student and his tech skills were valued by both staff and library customers alike. In less than a year John has started to make his mark in the library world and I look forward to seeing where John will go next. Keep your eyes on Library Angst for future developments.

October 13, 2006 at 2:20 pm 1 comment

Naughty Librarian for Halloween?

If anyone doubted that the stereotype of the librarian is alive and well, check out this costume being offered this Halloween for $56 (ouch!) from This item was brought to my attention by a student posting to a listserv at Rutgers SCILS. I don’t know if you can make it out, but the costume features a button that says “Naughty Librarian.” That is, I guess, what you pay the 56 bucks for since the rest is just a short skirt and phony glasses, low-cut top and push-up bra which most women could scrounge up cheap (or indeed may already have in their closets).

When we get done laughing at the ridiculousness of the get-up, marveling at the idea that numerous women will pay 56 dollars for the outfit, or grinding our teeth at yet another portrayal of the (harmless) librarian stereotype, I invite all of us to think again.

As one who has deeply studied the librarian stereotype I have come to view these media representations as far from harmless, with serious, anti-intellectual, and anti-feminist messages. Gary Radford and I wrote an article in The Library Quarterly that used Foucauldian and feminist thought to analyze the stereotype. Our analysis led us to ask a number of fundamental questions such as:

“Who is speaking through the stereotype of the female librarian, and to what ends? What interests does the stereotype serve (certainly not those of women)? How can the image of subservience and powerlessness that it affords to women be challenged and changed? It is not enough to cry out that the stereotype is ‘wrong,’ ‘inaccurate,’ or ‘unfair.’ Such responses are expected, common and futile. It is time to dig deeper, to describe the conditions from which the stereotype is made possible, and to analyze the systems of power/knowledge that go to the very heart of what it means to be male and female, powerful and marginalized, valued and devalued” ( p. 263).

The stereotype of the male librarian, 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 is accorded the low status of the female librarian.

So, the “Naughty Librarian” costume we may see at Halloween parties this year. Harmless? Humorous? What do you think?

Cited reference: Radford, M. L. & Radford, G. P. (July, 1997). Power, knowledge, and fear: Feminism, Foucault and the stereotype of the female librarian. The Library Quarterly, 67(3), 250-266.

October 13, 2006 at 11:20 am 25 comments

Merchandising: Attractiveness as a form of access

At the Mount Laurel Library, we’ve been working in a “merchandised environment” for over 2 years now.

As the Trading Spaces: Reinventing the Library Environment project demonstration site we had the opportunity to get retail fixtures such as book gondolas, CD browsers and slat wall. We’ve also had training on how to keep our library collections both accessible and attractive to customers.

It’s worked! Our circulation leapt by 39% the first year and it’s been rising ever since.

Well, learning how to merchandise is one thing.

Our staff training uses handouts, slide shows, tip sheets plus hands-on experience to show how to better merchandise our collection.

Our merchandising goal for all staff is to spend on average 5 minutes each hour keeping the displays looking full (that’s about 30+ minutes a day for our full-time staff).

Keeping it all looking good, all the time, is another matter!

Have you ever been in a store that looks “picked over”? Well, it’s the same in a library if you don’t keep up on merchandising the collection.

Success means more circulation and that means we’re constantly filling in gondolas, flipping books cover out, and adding onto slat wall displays. In practice though, it’s hard to keep everyone focused on why it’s important and incorporate it into our daily routine.

To keep our eyes looking at the library from a customer point-of-view, we’ve just started is a twice weekly Walk-About. It’s a way for staff, individually or in a small groupers, to walk through the library and note:

  • what looks good (to celebrate success)
  • what area needs immediate attention (today, let’s do it now–together)
  • what area needs work next

All of our staff share this task through a weekly rotation among our departments. We’ve also created Walk-About sheets to help staff keep track and make it easier to report back at our morning briefings (a quick heads-up meeting before the library opens).

One of the side benefits (besides improving the look of the library displays) is that it encourages everyone to get out and really see the entire library — even those areas they don’t usually work in.

The result — a better looking library and and better informed staff.

October 6, 2006 at 1:12 pm 3 comments

Improving library services

Jennifer Macaulay, an MLS student at Southern Connecticut, has a wonderful post on her blog, Life as I know It on the topic Improving Library Services: A Review of Techniques.

I’m listing her main points below, but I highly recommend the entire post. Her selection of topics is inspired (and inspiring); her annotations on each topic are concise and insightful.

If you want to make a positive change in your library, tack up Jennifer’s post on your door, throw a dart, and start doing whatever you hit (unless your aim is bad and you hit that old Calvin and Hobbes comic that you taped up in 1992– don’t, I repeat, don’t do what Calvin is doing…)

Here are the techniques Jennifer highlighted, but really, read the post.

  • Use of integrated service points
  • Cross training of staff
  • Flexible management technique
  • Redefine the library’s physical space
  • Allow users to participate in decisions about which services to offer
  • Focus on new models of professional development for the entire staff
  • Adding content to library catalogs (OPACs)
  • Develop a comprehensive marketing strategy to advertise library services
  • Re-evaluate the current library user and their information needs
  • Re-evaluate library signage
  • Beware of technology for technology’s sake

If Jennifer is at all representative of the future of our profession I think we’re in good hands.

October 5, 2006 at 8:46 pm

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