Archive for September, 2007


I just logged in to check my Comcast account and the following headline was in the top five:

“Dead? You still have to pay library fine!”

What started as a story in the local paper has been now picked up by the AP and is out on the wires. The AP version is brief and it was not until I found the detailed local one that I got truly disheartened, especially when I read this:

When she returned the book last week, Schaper said, “I explained that my mother had died suddenly and that I was returning a book she had checked out.”

Schaper said she was stunned when the man behind the library counter informed her of the 50-cent late fee.

Schaper said the man, whose name she doesn’t know, “showed no compassion or understanding at all.”

“He didn’t say he was sorry and didn’t offer to waive the fine,” she said. “He did say he would cancel my mother’s library card. He seemed to have ce in his veins, and he had the demeanor of a robot.”

In the end, Schaper said, “I gave him two quarters and left in total isbelief.”

Honestly, is this kind of bad PR worth the 50 cents? And it is no longer just bad PR for that one library now that it has been picked up by AP and is flahsing as a headline for everyone in my region of NJ who is logging on to their Comcast account tonight.


September 26, 2007 at 10:22 pm 9 comments

Too busy… (Pick up a phone!)

As my friend and blogmate Janie Hermann recently pointed out, we’ve all been a little too busy lately to post to the blog. But that got me thinking (as many things do) to one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, The Boyfriend. Jerry gets upset because he gave his phone number to Keith Hernandez, but Keith hasn’t called yet. Elaine suggests that Maybe Keith hasn’t called because he’s been busy, to which Jerry responds, “Why do people say they’re too busy. Too busy. Pick up a phone!! It takes two minutes. How can you be too busy?”

We’re all busy right? No excuses. So I’m “picking up the phone”, as it were. While the past coupla months really have been maybe the busiest I’ve been in my career, they’ve also been extremely satisfying.

Last Thursday, I got home late after two days of traveling, standing, and talking (one day co-teaching a team building workshop, one day staffing a booth at a business expo) to find AL Direct in my email. I was thrilled and energized to see that two projects that I’ve been involved with received recognition.

I’ve already mentioned the launch of the CEBuzz blog in a previous post, but I don’t think I’ve written yet about the commercial we have running on MTV to advertise QandANJ. I gave a sneak preview of an early cut of the commercial to attendees at the Colorado Collaborative Virtual Reference Symposium this summer, but you can now view on YouTube the final version (that premiered during the MTV VMA’s and is now running on MTV in Jersey markets). Almost 2200 views and counting! The commercial has also gotten us some attention from our local press in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I suppose what I’ve enjoyed most about the past few months is that there has been an incredible amount of collaboration with smart, results-oriented, creative, fun people! The launch of the CLENE blog was a collaboration between (or is it among–grammar police, please comment) me, Gail McGovern, and Mary Ross. We worked together (remotely) to plan the blog (mission, goals, editorial guidelines), design the blog, and recruit a wonderful roster of authors.

Then there was the (again, remote) collaboration with my Library Garden blogmates to put together our traveling road show, “Magical Mystery Tour“. The first day we presented (On Aug 22, in Princeton) was actually the first time we were all in the same room together!

Earlier this summer I worked with QandANJ Project Coordinator Beth Cackowski on our joint presentation at the Colorado Virtual Reference Symposium. We also worked together, along with our leader Karen Hyman, our video designer Roy, and our Comcast agent, Debra, to develop the commercial, and put together a plan for airing it. (Not as expensive as you might think—I urge everyone to investigate doing quality TV ads in your area!)

Concurrently, I was collaborating with my friend and former co-worker Karen to put together and deliver a full day workshop on Team Building as part of New Jersey’s multi-part “Super Library Supervisor“series. Karen and I used to be on a county library management team together, but we had never trained together, so this was a real treat! Team training is always more fun than going it alone, especially when it’s with someone you just enjoy being around. We delivered the training last week, and while neither of us was used to being on our feet for 8 hours, the day was a great success.

The day after our training, I had the pleasure of staffing SJRLC’s booth at the South Jersey Business Expo. This was the third year we’ve had a booth at the Business Expo and it’s been a great success. SJRLC’s crack Advocacy Team plans for the Expo throughout the year and takes shifts staffing it on the day of the event. It’s amazing how many people want to stop and talk about library services. And let me tell you, telling them that they can get 24/7 research and homework help (through QandANJ) really stops them in their tracks. I just love blowing people’s expectations out of the water like that! Almost as much as I love having the opportunity to work with so many top notch people.

So that’s what I’ve been doing the past so many weeks. Not a lot of down time, but it was all good. No apologies for not posting more (I promised myself I would never do that), but I will try to give myself permission to write shorter posts. It doesn’t need to be War and Peace, right? 🙂

September 26, 2007 at 1:00 pm 1 comment

Back to the Future: Phone Reference “OnCall OnDemand OnSite”

Gerry McKiernan of Iowa State University recently put a post on the dig_ref listserv (DIG_REF@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU) that dealt with a topic I have been talking about and thinking about for quite a while now, namely that:


The ubiquitous nature of phones in everyone’s hands should make it a totally no brainer that we should definitely, absolutely, without question be actively marketing this underused service.

To quote Gerry: “Another Radical (but Conventional) Idea for OnCall, OnDemand, On Site Reference Service. Publicize the Library Hip Reference Help Phone Number… via Library Newsletter/Blog/Liaisons/Campus Groups/Table Tents/Billboards/TV Commercials/Facebook/etc. Why Chat When You Can Really Chat [:-)”

I agree with what most of Gerry is saying, although my research shows that people choose chat over phone reference for reasons of convenience (some love the transcript) and avoidance of awkward silences that occasionally happen on the phone (I’m not kidding about this, just ask any teenager).

His wake-up call to promote phone reference, however, is totally SPOT ON! All his ideas for marketing library phone reference are excellent. Table Tents are an especially good idea since many library users WILL NOT LEAVE or PACKUP their laptops (who can blame them?) in order to approach the reference desk if it is more than 12 feet away from where they are sitting! It would be nice if they saw the phone number on a table tent and could call for help instead of shrugging off their information need. Of course then we have to lift the ill-advised and impossible to enforce ban on cell phones in the library (and replace this policy with one that asks users to be respectful of others when using cell phones in public areas).

September is also the perfect time to do classroom marketing, what with students in Universities and schools undergoing bazillions (ok, thousands surely, maybe even tens of thousands?) library use instruction or orientation sessions!

Here’s my script for anyone doing one of these sessions:

“Greetings students! I am now about to ask you to do something that NONE of your other teachers/librarians have ever asked you to do…” (wait… for it….)

“TAKE OUT YOUR CELL PHONES AND TURN THEM ON” (amid gasps & nervous laughter from startled students, but they will do it eagerly!)

“Now, enter this library reference desk number into your phone BUDDY list…” (give ref desk number…)

“Next, here are the library hours when you can call this number for reference help” (now the students ACTUALLY have a reason to pay attention to the times when the library is open).

Here’s the clincher… “AND during the OTHER hours we are available by…” (chat, IM, e-mail, whatever you have!!)

Thus marketing chat, e-mail, etc. services along with the phone service. Wow, what an exciting old/new idea!

Wouldn’t it be great to see phone reference stats go through the roof? It’s high time to shake our fear of being overwhelmed at the ref desk.

Now is the time! Go for it!

September 25, 2007 at 6:30 pm 6 comments

Crickets in the Garden

I hear the sounds of crickets in the garden — the Library Garden, that is! My guess is that not only myself but all the other members of our blog team have been swallowed whole by September and all that it entails with the start of the academic year, new jobs, and new programs to plan. Not to mention that we have had a lot of good weather in NJ the last few weeks and I, for one, am taking time to enjoy it while I can. I do believe that this is officially the longest our blog has been quiet.

When Pete, Robert and I first talked about starting Library Garden we really felt that having 6-7 contributors was essential. The three of us all knew that our schedules would not allow for us to have individual blogs that we could maintain with any sort of consistency, but we felt we had a good shot if we had a team to blog with us. Our strategy has worked so far and I know that this silence on LG is just a matter of life trumping blogging for a few weeks.

September 24, 2007 at 11:13 am 3 comments

New Library Blog: CEBuzz!

There’s a new library blog that might be of interest to Library Garden readers: CEBuzz. CEBuzz is a group blog brought to you by ALA’s Continuing Library Education Network and Exchange Round Table, aka, CLENE. (I’ve been active in CLENE for years and am currently coordinating the new blog.)

The mission of CEBuzz is to provide a thought-provoking resource for those interested in and responsible for Continuing Education (CE) and staff development in libraries. To that end, the the blog will:

  • Provide coverage of trends in learning theory and practice
  • Provide links to online learning resources
  • Provide coverage of “hot topics” in CE and staff development
  • Announce learning events of interest

I think we’ve put together a great team of authors, who’ve already generated some wonderful posts. So if you’re interested in continuing education and/or staff development check us out. Or just pop our feed into your reader:

Oh, and if you’re an ALA member and interested in joining CLENE for a mere $20 (and getting a free preferred professional membership in the American Management Association thrown in) you can add us to your membership right online.

September 11, 2007 at 11:41 am 1 comment

Slam the Boards!

Today is Slam the Boards day – many librarians will spend some time today on “answer boards,” like Yahoo! Answers, Can’tFindOnGoogle, AnswerBag, and others, answering questions and making it known that the answer has been provided by a librarian!

This has even been picked up by Library Journal, where you can read more about the origination and background of Slam the Boards!

There is a wiki here where you can officially list yourself as a participant and get more information. You can, of course, participate without signing up anywhere. Just go to a public answer board and sign up there (some require that you create an account and log in, etc.) and start answering questions!

There are a lot of good tips on the wiki about how best to participate, remote library resources, and some comments/suggestions from Jessamyn West on this (and a caution with which I agree.)

There has also been discussion and some debate over on the Yahoo! Answers blog. There are some detractors from this idea but I think that if we think of it as just adding our voices and being where the information needs are we can contribute while doing a little self-promotion and marketing. We’re not out to beat or better the answer boards, but (in my opinion) to add ourselves as an option where people may not have thought of libraries before.

Be sure to let everyone know that the question was answered by a librarian at the end of your answer and remind them to think of their library as a resource. There are some suggested signatures and tag lines on the wiki such as The Library is a resource, not a building. Librarians are where you are – online! (I really like that one). You could put your library link, a link to find a local public library, or a link to a library’s virtual or IM reference service.

The point is not to put those answer sites out of business, or annoy them, or take them over, or to do anything negative, but to be where the people and questions are and to let people know that librarians are “answer boards” all day, everyday. I think putting the idea of libraries into peoples’ heads at times when they might not automatically think of them on their own is a very interesting idea.

Even if you only have time to answer just one question and mention that you are a library person that will be one more for today!

If you can’t do it today, do it another day. Many librarians already do spend time on these sites answering questions, like on AskMetaFilter. And, there are many library services/sites already doing it – here in the Garden State, we have the wonderful Q&A NJ (which, by the way, rocked the MTV Video Awards last night with their awesome commercial)!

There is also a space on the wiki to discuss this event after today. If this event is successful, it may be repeated. Hey, maybe you’ll form your own plan to do this as an “event,” for a day, a week, a month, or maybe you’ll just enjoy it and find you want to be a regular answer board person.

Get slammin’!

September 10, 2007 at 11:11 am

2007 Summer Reading Program… in Review

This time of year is always a happy and sad time for me. I’m sad because the summer is so close to ending, and I have an annual tradition of regretting not doing more outside. But then again, I am happy because the frantic pace of our Summer Reading Program is over… and that means I can actually take a moment to relax a little, perhaps breathe a bit as well.

All in all, it was a great summer for me. This was the first time that I had full reign of our teens’ Summer Reading Program. I packed it with programs, volunteers, last-second planning, fix-ups, movies and an occasional-running-with-scissors moment… if you know what I mean.

But how did it all go? What worked and what didn’t? Let’s review it in a hot/not fashion.

Hot– The average number of books read by teens who signed up for the Summer Reading Program was 18!

Not– Actual number of participants in the Reading Program was down.

Hot– The “You Never Know What You Can Do With Duct Tape” program. We made wallets, cell phone holders, a couple flowers and even attempted sandals. It was probably my most attended program on a week to week basis. By the way, if you try the sandals, make sure you don’t accidentally expose the duct tape adhesive to the hair on your toes… Yowwww!

Not– The whole “YNK” theme. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed silly. People may have used the theme but few actually used it as “YNK” (and not without having to clarify what YNK stood for).

Hot– The End of Summer lock-in. It was the first after hours party we had at our library. The teens ate about 8-feet worth of subs, partied heartily and every single one of them was actually picked up on time!

Not– The one single teen at the party who decided to push the boundaries and threw her piece of cake into the face of another person.

Hot– The Shoprite Deli. Originally, the store lost our sub order for the party. So, Dan, the Deli-guy, made good by not just making 10 subs but only charged us half-price because of the mix up.

Not– Shoprite in general. I’m sorry, it’s a Marrazzo’s thing.

Hot– My teen-volunteer coordinator’s ability to have all but 5 of our teens complete the required number of hours and set a record for most volunteers sign-up and completed.

Not– The teen volunteers constantly referring to me as “Hey Mister!”

Hot– The song “Hey Delilah” by the Plain White Ts being constantly played.

Not– Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” being constantly overplayed.

And finally….

Hot– Our brand new Teen furniture finally came in!

Not– Gaylord messed up the color of the furniture and has yet to fix it. But they did offer to let us keep the furniture they sent us in lieu of having to send the right ones.

So, how do I rank the summer on a whole? I’ll go with an 8/10. Better than average but let’s leave some room for improvement.

September 8, 2007 at 9:19 am 2 comments

Quechup spam/scam alert–pass it on

If you get any invites from Quechup, delete them immediately.

If you haven’t already heard ( see here, here, here, or just google quechup) Quechup is, well, rotten.

Although apparently a legit social networking site, if you join they prompt you with one of those, “hey, want to know which of your friends are already on Quechup?” pitches, and ask for your permission to search your online address book (if you have one.) That’s where it all goes south…

Quechup then searches your address book and…wait for it… SENDS AN INVITE IN YOUR NAME TO EVERY EMAIL IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK.

Hey marketing geniuses at Quechup, can I ask you a question? In what universe would this tactic be successful and not, oh, say, be the ruin of your company? I’m guessing it’s a universe where people say ‘goodbye’ when they enter the room, and ‘hello’ when they leave it. (Hello Quechup!!)

September 6, 2007 at 9:43 am 3 comments

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