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Book Fairs and Bookmobiles inspire the reading spirit

by April Bunn

The tables are cleared, the mini-cash registers are closed and balanced, and the wheelable bookcases are packed and closed. The library looks  a bit empty after our PTO’s Scholastic Book Fair closed last week.

Book Fair picture

Don’t get me wrong, I am always relieved to get my circulation desk (also my personal desk) back and unpack when they leave. It is a challenge to move out of the place and teach my lessons on a cart, but overall Scholastic makes it pretty easy to “wow” the kids. They market with a theme, which this year was Destination Book Fair- reading around the world.

You should see it- the students arrive with books circled in the  flyer, chomping at the bit to get in the library and spend every cent of the money they’ve brought in envelopes and Ziploc baggies. It’s priceless to see the excitement in their eyes when they walk into the wonderland that the PTO members create with these book fairs twice a year.

Library transformed

Despite the economic conditions, the sales were good.  Of course, we quickly sold out of Jeff Kinney’s latest hit, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Also, it was great to have a parent purchase and donate the picture book, Dewey: There’s a cat in the Library! which I had on my wish list.

I didn’t have the experience of my library transforming into a Book Fair growing up- the bookmobile came to our school and impressed us. Can you remember visiting the bookmobile? Do you remember the buzz in the school when it arrived?

At my school, in suburban central New Jersey, we’d line up, a few students at a time, old-style bookmobileand head into the bookmobile to spend our money on a brand new book (I don’t remember buying the erasers,  silly pens and pointers, posters, and all the tchotchkes they widely sell now).

Bookmobiles are back in, apparantly, because in 2010, ALA is celebrating bookmobiles and their 100 years of service on National Bookmobile Day, Wednesday, April 14th,  during National Library Week.

Bookmobiles are more commonly used by libraries now, to reach out into the community, but the idea is the same. Drive up, open the doors, and let the excited patrons, young and old, enter the magical kingdom of books.

As librarians, we are lucky to have daily experiences with the joy of connecting people to new books.  I feel extra lucky working with children, because they give us such uninhibited delight when they find the “perfect” book.  Walking into a special place focused on books, whether it be a library, book store, book fair or bookmobile can be all we need to inspire our reading spirit.

Happy Holidays to all of you for keeping that spirit alive.

by April Bunn


December 4, 2009 at 6:19 pm 7 comments

Holiday Work…

Happy Thanksgiving

I am working tonight–until 9:00pm.

When I mentioned the time we are closing to many friends, almost all were negative about us staying open so late.  Fellow librarians were appalled.  I will admit, it could be easy to look at this as a hardship.  However, I don’t.  I am happy I am working tonight.

The reality is this–there are many people in the library tonight.  I know it will get slow as the night progresses, but even then, we will have people here. So far it has been a mix of regulars, visitors wanting to check e-mail, lots of phone calls for directions, phone numbers, and one caller asking for help finding a no-cook pie recipe ( has plenty of choices).  .

People have been making copies of documents for safekeeping while they travel.  Likewise, plenty of folks are grabbing that last-minute book for their trips.  As always, the DVDs are flying off the shelves.   My favorite person so far: the woman who is just trying to minimize the time she must spend with her in-laws.  I feel her pain–we swapped stories and both laughed.  I think I made a difference in her life, if only for a few minutes.

No one has been cranky (even when the copier was evil as it often is…).  No one has been mean.  In fact, the regulars are not even complaining about the ‘young kids who make noise’ as they normally do.  Almost every person says have a nice holiday or something similar.

Right now, most people seem to be busy and rushed–they have places to go.  As it gets later, I suspect it will be more people without places to go.  This, more than any other reason, is why I am happy we are open and I am working tonight.   I have the chance to make someone smile, laugh, or provide them with information they need.

I am thankful that I can be here if they need me.  I am thankful that in these economically turbulent times, I have a job.  So yes, I would much prefer to be home gearing up for tomorrow and getting ready to watch ‘Glee’, but I can not help but feel very happy tonight.  Happy to help.  Happy to serve.  Happy to listen.

Lately I have questioned the wisdom of my decision to become a librarian.  Tonight, I was given a very pleasant reminder that despite the difficulties, it was the right choice.  I know many of you will work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week.  It is hard to do, especially when the rest of the family is home doing something more interesting.  To each of you–and all the people who work the holidays, thank-you very much.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cynthia Lambert

November 25, 2009 at 6:42 pm 11 comments

The Wonderful World of Interlibrary Loan

One of the most exhilarating things about writing and publishing a book is putting your name into Amazon and seeing the page with your book on it come up on the screen. When I started working as a librarian in 2003, I would have laughed if someone had told me that I would write a book on interlibrary loan. But in 2007 I wrote a short article on running one-person interlibrary loan service for the Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Deliver & Electronic Reserve.  Later that year, the publisher at Neal-Schuman contacted me. He was sure that I had more to say on the topic of small ILL departments.

I was less sure, but after a few months delay, I sent in a proposal and finally started on the manuscript in the fall of 2008.  Right when I was starting my doctoral program. Writing the manuscript and completing my coursework took quite a bit a bit of juggling.  I had to save the most laborious chapters (policy!) for the winter break.

Throughout the writing process I learned more than I ever thought I would know about copyright law, interlibrary loan management systems, user-initiated services, and the correct name of the giant library service in Dublin, OH (OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.). I discovered that interlibrary loan has a long history and that ILL librarians were very excited about MIME, the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension which allows attachments to be added to email.  When I finally finished the manuscript, the book ended up covering a wide range of topics including how to establish a paperless ILL office, how to interpret the ILL code for a small department, and tips for writing a policy when you don’t have a committee to help you.

Even though the chapters on ILL policies were the most difficult to write, they also contain some of the most interesting material.  I would argue that the suggestions for policy writing might have some utility in other service areas of the library. If you happen to work at a small library, just remember that other staff members might be more willing to pitch in if you volunteer to actually write the policy and they just have to read it and offer suggestions.  As Sandra Nelson and June Garcia note in their book on writing policy in public libraries: “Committees do not write, individuals write.”  This is excellent advice for all administrators to keep in mind.

In the end, it turned out that the publisher was right about me–I do have a lot to say about running a small interlibrary loan and document delivery service.

Emily Knox

November 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Growin’ a Mo to raise awareness

The Movember Foundation is a charitable organization that began in Australia in 2004 and has since gone worldwide.  The primary focus is to create funds for cancer research with a focus on prostate and testicular cancer.
Participants do this by shaving their face clean on the last day of November and then grow a Mo’ (i.e. mustache) over the month of November.  I did this last year and it was pretty fun, if not slightly itchy.  Once again, I am asking for your help.
In the short time of its existence the Movember Foundation has raised over $29 million dollars in order to help find treatments for victims of cancer.
As an added incentive, whoever is the most charitable (i.e. sponsors the most amount of money), I will let him/her/them pick the style of mustache I grow over the month!  Last year, my former house mate, Mary Ellen, graciously donated a crazy amount of money to make sure I grew a handlebar mo’ … the result was truly frightening.
I also set up a day-by-day photo diary so that we can all share a little laugh as I grow my Mo from a strange straggle of stubble into the marvelous glory that is a mustache.
Many of us already know what it is like to have lost a loved one to cancer.  Some of us may be experiencing this now.  I, myself, had a pretty good scare earlier in the year.
I ask you to think of those who battle this illness, lost or survived their fights and please help me in fighting by donating whatever you can give.
Tyler Rousseau (registration #11554)

November 1, 2009 at 1:48 pm 1 comment

I Love a Good List!

I love reading and exploring a good list almost as much as I enjoy making a list and one of my favorite annual lists has just been released: Best Free Reference Web Sites 2009

I have just spent a very fun hour or so perusing the picks for this year and am pleased to see some of my standard favorites listed and also to discover a few new good finds for future use.

Some new discoveries I am sure to find use for are Business & Human Rights Resource Centre as well as Local Harvest and LocalHikes.

Some of my favorites that I am happy to see included this year are ePodunk and Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

This annual list has been published for 11 years by the Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association — say that five times fast!  Visit this link to access the combined index of the selections from the last five years of this valuable project.

submitted by: Janie L. Hermann

September 30, 2009 at 10:59 am 1 comment

Summer Reading for Grown-Ups

Are you like me and have a pile of books you’ve gathered this year and haven’t had time to read? Will you get to them all this summer? Maybe you participated in the summer reading program at your Public Library as a child and loved all the incentives, prizes and competition. I was a fixture in Mary Jacobs Library in Rocky Hill each summer. That’s where the pattern of a summer reading plan started. I’m hoping that even just writing about this is the incentive I need to start finishing more books each summer. I’m excited to see that Adult summer reading programs are popping up all over. Library websites and Facebook pages allow the programs a great online presence and wider audience. I may have found the answer to my summer reading dilemma.

For me, summer seems to be the perfect time to catch up on reading- At least in theory. As a school librarian, I have my summers free (well, I’m using that word loosely- Those that don’t have summer jobs like most of us are free, that is) from my full-time work. So, every year, when school gets out in June, I set out with a noble plan to read hundreds of books before Labor Day.

My initial strategy for summer reading-
• Gather reading lists, YA, Adult, and non-fiction.
• Read recommendations on Shelfari, and pages for “grown-up” suggestions, like Katherine Day’s suggestions, found at
• Gather the piles of books I’ve gathered at ALA and BookExpo that I plan to read and then give away as prizes or promotion at school.

Then what happens?
I start my first summer book with high hopes and optimism and often finish it right away, then I get 2 or 3 going, eventually getting distracted by a fourth and next thing I know, I’m sitting on the beach in mid-July with unfinished books in my beach bag, and enough frustration to last until Thanksgiving. Would a summer reading program designed for busy adults help? I think so. Don’t you get more done on a day when you have several things scheduled? Time and project management are essential to my productivity. It sounds rigid, but I end the day much more satisfied when I accomplish more. That’s why I think summer reading program for adults are worth promoting.

When I make my reading plan in June, I never factor in that I’ll be doing outdoor activities every sunny day, traveling as much as my job allows, repairing my house, cleaning my garage, taking care of family, and generally just trying to get enough energy back to start another school year in September. Sometimes I need the freedom from so much “input/output” that goes on during the year that reading another “heavy” book in the summer might not be what the doctor ordered. When did my reading excuses become so “adult”? Gerie Madak posted this quote in reference to Bridgewater’s Adult Summer Reading Program, “Too often adults deny themselves the pleasures of reading for fun. They’re so busy taking care of everyone else that they begin to regard reading as a self-indulgent pastime they don’t have time for because of chores, appointments, and deadlines.” I’d like to find the happy medium between the guilt of not reading and the gluttonous satisfaction of reading more books than someone else. These programs aren’t designed to be competitive, they’re more like open book clubs for the summer months.

So, in creating this post for LG in early July, I’ve decided to stop being so hard on myself and celebrate each book I do finish OR start! I’ll do more walking, yoga, and reading for pleasure. Unlike my students, I don’t HAVE to read a certain number of books to complete a summer reading project. Unlike the summer reading program I promote in school, I won’t win a prize for reading 100 hours at my public library (that’s changed in many places and I honestly did not know that until I started researching for this post). Since I began writing this, I’ve learned about some great adult summer reading programs. Like a book club, I think it’s great to have deadlines and discussion when you’re reading. The prizes are cool, too, don’t get me wrong- like restaurant and movie gift certificates, and of course, books!

My Summer Reading Tips

  • Make a “wish list” of books you’d really like to read, or mark up Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust with all your must-reads, like a book bucket list
  • Read a book about a hobby, new or otherwise
  • Hang out at the library with your kids or friends — you’ll be inspired
  • Join a successful Summer Reading program for adults, like the one in Seattle (Their summer reading Facebook page: or Burlington County (

Happy summer- Happy Reading!

I’d love to know more about dynamic summer reading programs for adults, and if you have your own plan that you’d like to share.

July 7, 2009 at 10:40 pm 2 comments

Freemium (or should libraries charge for services?)

Who doesn’t like to get something for free? Whether we are talking about giveaways at a restaurant opening or free information on the Internet, everyone loves the idea of getting something for free. A marketing strategy and business model that relates to this idea is the concept of “freemium.”

Freemium is a way businesses get users or consumers in the door with free products or services, as a way to market their enhanced, premium-priced services. Free + Premium = Freemium. Just recently in Publishers Weekly (May 18, 2009), Chris Anderson, author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price was interviewed about newspapers (specifically News Corp) charging for online content. In July, his book will be offered for free online from Hyperion. In the book, Anderson looks at how so much of what is already online is available for free. In the interview, he discusses how companies use free content to market their paid content. Other supporters of this business model view it as a way to attract customers and generate buzz. An example from the business world is Adobe launching a free, web-based version of its popular Photoshop software. Adobe then hopes that the free version will entice consumers to purchase the full software package.

How does the freemium model apply to libraries? I’m not entirely certain of the long-term implications but it does seem to me that libraries that are implementing additional fees for services that go beyond the normal scope are taking advantage of this freemium business model (free for some services, pay for value-added services). Libraries are facing tightening budgets and I understand the need to generate revenue other than fines and regular fees. People talk about the public library as being “free” and in a way, it is free because library users pay for those services through their tax dollars.But as Nancy Dowd of The ‘M’ Word – Marketing for Libraries blog stated back in February, why not create a line of premium services for which to charge? The basic services that people have come to expect from the library would remain “free.” But individual libraries could choose to offer services above and beyond, like research services and books by mail, and charge a fee for those premium services.

Lately I’ve been hearing about libraries who are already starting to charge for some of their services, due to budget shortfalls and other funding constraints. But it makes me wonder about what criteria libraries are using to decide which services are the ones that should be paid for by the patrons.
For instance, look at the Dallas Public Library’s Street Smart Express service. Dallas PL is charging for high-demand items, like best-sellers, hot DVDs and audiobooks. The Assistant Director cited 2 main reasons for the fees: To limit wait times and to limit the number of holds on an item. Not all items are part of this special collection and a patron could choose to wait to borrow the item once it is out of the collection. Read more about it here.
Another library charging for services is the East Brunswick Public Library. My sister, who is a frequent library user and avid reader, was dismayed to read in her local paper that the library planned to start charging for every reserve placed. She did the math and realized that the average cost for the reserves she places per year would total over $100.
These are just 2 examples of providing fee services above the regular “free” services or starting to charge for once free services, but I am sure there are more.

So where and how do libraries decide which services warrant a fee? In the examples listed above, Dallas selected a new service that has the potential to speed up the usual library experience. Give the patron what they want NOW. On the other hand, East Brunswick started charging for a service that in most libraries is free. What message are we sending to our patrons if we start charging them for something that they never had to pay for before? And how much damage are we doing to our user base to start charging for these services that have traditionally been free? If my sister is any indication, the potential damage is significant. She even considered getting a card in another library, farther away from her house, less because of the money and more because of how upset it made her. Other patrons may just choose to not use a library at all.

Charging for services that have long been free, especially now as the general public is feeling the economic crunch, could ruin a library’s good will and support base. If your library must start charging, find a way to add some value to that service to make it “premium.” Or follow Dallas Public Library’s example and offer the paid service as an option, not a mandatory fee. It is never easy for librarians to decide to start charging for services. However, I think that its not a bad idea to charge for services that are “premium” to YOUR library users. Which services those are will depend on what services your patrons use and which ones your patrons would like to have that you aren’t already offering. But make sure they are value-added services.

June 2, 2009 at 6:20 pm 17 comments

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