Blogathon on behalf of the Louisville Public Library

A week or so ago, I was sent a link to Steve Lawson’s blog post about the flood in the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library in Louisville, Kentucky. They had four to six feet of water in their basement, destroying and damaging an estimated five million dollars worth of materials and equipment. Steve has been collecting money on behalf of the Library Society of the World and plans on writing them one big check of the collected funds on September 1st. Steve’s noble gesture got me to thinking of a way to increase visibility of this fundraising effort. Thus, the idea of a blogathon on behalf of the Louisville FPL was born.

I have set up a wiki for this undertaking. Those who are interested can get the full details at the wiki, but here’s the short short version: make a donation to the Louisville Free Public Library Foundation, register at the wiki, advertise the blogathon with your social media and real life peers, write a post based on the selected common theme, and place that post on your blog on Monday August 31st.

Pretty easy!

Sign up at the wiki and start spreading the word! Let’s give the Louisville staff something to cheer about in September! It’s the best kind of karma: good karma!

Donate today!

I can’t wait to read the entries on the 31st!

Right Here, Right Now

This little gem of a YouTube clip came across my Google Reader as a gift from a fellow librarian blog, The MLX Experience. A video on social media set to a Fatboy Slim song? Yes please!

I wouldn’t say that the content surprised me but it did affirm some of my personal hunches. (I would be interested to know where some of the statistics cited originated.) I was surprised that it was a teaser for a book; a four minute ad entertained me when most thirty second ads bore me. Perhaps it because I am the target audience for the ad, but that is is a whole different issue.

The big takeaway for myself from this video is the word “mobile”. Not simply that libraries need to be on cell phones, but that we should be converting our content delivery to be completely mobile. We can create a deeper partnership with the USPS to expand delivery of books, music, and movies to their homes. We can create social network presences to field reference questions on the web and text. We should utilize all of the communication, all of the delivery methods, and all of the social networks to makes library content as widely available as possible.

This is not a call for the physical dismantling of the library, but a revision of how we do business. The flip side of this equation is making the library a true destination, a place where patrons are rewarded with events, classes, and those things that do not translate through the mail or the web. And it has to be personal, from how they are treated to the sitting areas to the computer lounges. While this last part might be a sacrifice to utility, there must be emphasis on the patron experience. This new world of social connection demands it, for to ignore the potential reputation damage would be folly.

Like this website, like the program I used to compose this post, like the computer I am using to write these words, all of the tools are available to make this happen. We just need to put it together.

If Libraries Operated like Health Insurance…

As the title of the post implies, I got to thinking the other night about that. With all the talk about health insurance reform, I think libraries are poised to consider long term changes to how we approach the patron interaction. Some of these are silly, some are relevant, others are perhaps thoughtful, but I think one or two are real questions for libraries looking ahead. (I’ll let you guess which ones I think are the real deal.)

Would people have to pick borrowing plans? Would these borrowing plans be based on tax/levy contribution? Or the ability of neighbors to band together and negotiate services? Would libraries provide service to only those who pay taxes?

Would dyslexics be denied a library card because they had a pre-existing condition? Or people who are illiterate? Or any learning disability? Or people who don’t know how to use the computer?

Would patrons need a referral to read different types of non-fiction? Or would a patron have to choose from a pre-approved list of subjects based on their library plan? Or would we refer them to a subject specialist?

Would there be a limit on the number of items a patron could take out over a year? Would they have to pay for the ability to borrow beyond their limit?

Image by a.diran/FlickrWould use of a computer be restricted by the library to a certain number of times per week/month? Would databases be restricted in the same way?

If a patron wanted to read a banned/challenged book, would they need to get a second opinion of another librarian? Would they need to sign a “informed consent” waiver before we let them take the book?

Would librarians need to get malpractice insurance in case a reading recommendation ends up offending the patron? Would there be a cap on the amount of awards for people who suffered emotional distress, eye strain, or the dreaded “reader’s thumb”?

Would patrons be restricted to only the materials that are deemed ‘necessary’ by the library?

Perhaps this is more waxing philosophic than hard questions about current practices, but I cannot help but think that some of these types of questions start us down the path to more meaningful policy changes.

Wednesday Night Deep Thought, Ctd

On the drive to the beach today, I heard an interview on Here and Now on NPR that caught my attention. It was with Ric O’Barry, the trainer of Flipper, who started the interview talking about animals in captivity (specifically dolphins) and how they are adversely affected by the contained environment. Basically, the dolphins do not thrive in a relative sensory free environment. It got me thinking to some of the general barriers of access that sometimes impede our patrons.

I felt inspired and started writing out the shell of a blog post. But as I sat on the deck with the summer breeze drifting over the dunes, something felt off. Then I eyed the crayons of my five year old cousin sitting on the table. There are some times when illustration trumps prose; this was one of those times.

Crayons are the original Powerpoint. Thanks, Emma!

So what are the barriers? What can be helped? What can’t be helped but possibly made easier? Those are the questions I’ll be taking back with me to work next week. Ease of access is not simply a convenience, but a necessary aspect for our patrons.

Idea Vault: “The Keys of Knowledge”

Image by Bohman/Flickr

Image by Bohman/Flickr

On the drive up to work, I had an idea for an advocacy effort for libraries. Here’s the skinny:

Libraries around the state issue the Governor a library card. The card is issued to the Office of the Governor, not the individual, so as to avoid any political hangups. This card can be activated or symbolic at the discretion of the library. The library or library system sends the governor the card along with a letter thanking the Governor for their membership in the community and why the library/library system is important to the community it serves.

To combine efforts, a state library association/council could solicit these types of letters and cards from libraries around the state, collect them, and present them as a whole. The cards could be mounted in a frame, or laminated into a giant cartoon-like unfolding wallet accordion, or (as the title of the post suggest) take a hole punch and put all the cards on a giant keyring and present it as “The Keys of Knowledge”. In any event, it can be ceremonially presented to the Governor as a complete package.

The followup would be to send the Governor a letter each year thanking them for renewing their cards and providing them with stories, statistics, and other current happenings of the library. With a new Governor, a new card can be “issued” and the advocacy begins anew.

Note: This can be used for any government position that libraries would like to make a connection. Mayors, Freeholders, City Councils, State Legislators, Congressmen, and (yes, we want to eat our Wheaties) Presidents.

The Ben & Jerry Blog Bounce

ben and jerry

Earlier this week, I had sent out a group message noting the passing of the 4,000 member mark of the Facebook group “People for a Library Themed Ben & Jerry’s Flavor”. The flow of new members into the group was starting to trickle and I was preparing for the final promotional lunge. I sent out a message to all 4,000+ group members, set up a post for people to vote on a flavor, and hunkered down to wait for the answer from the Flavor Gurus. Knocking out a couple of tweets, I was ready to give one last go, once more unto the breach.

And so it began.

Birdie, a regular LISNews poster, took my final message and put it up on the site. Stephen J. Gertz took that copy and placed it on the Book Patrol blog of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (which got a subsequent link on Steven Cohen’s Library Stuff blog). From here, it was posted by Menachem Kasier in the New Yorker’s The Book Bench blog (I got notice of this through this very succinct tweet.) My friend Margaret sent me a link where website Jezebel had picked it up from the New Yorker.

At this point, I’m just non-stop grinning. But there’s more!

The Times Online, a British publication, posted about in their Comment Central section; it was even on the front page of their Comment section, right next to a opinion piece on legalizing drugs and the Prime Minister appearing on TV. (Hmm. Perhaps not the best spot…) The British news site Guardian had also posted about it in the Books area of their Culture section (with prominent links off their Culture and Book pages). More importantly, they were able to get a comment from Arnold Carbone, Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Guru in Chief. Here’s a quote of his passage:

Arnold Carbone, Ben & Jerry’s flavour guru, said the company had honoured musicians with its flavours in the past – last year it launched Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road (chocolate ice-cream with peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks) for Elton John – so a library-themed flavour was a definite possibility.

“From Cherry Garcia to Bohemian Raspberry, some of our best-loved flavours have been fan suggestions. We’ve honoured rock’n’roll icons, so why not librarians?” said Carbone.

He suggested a Malt Whitman: “a malt ice-cream, with chocolate alphabet letters and two decadent rivulets – one caramel and one fudge – as an ode to writer Walt Whitman”.

I was floored. I couldn’t stop grinning or giggling to myself for at least a half hour. But that’s still not the end of it.

From what I’ve heard from some of my Twitter buddies, some of the food blogs have picked up on it. Serious Eats has their take on it as well as Slashfood. I’m also seeing all sorts of other librarian and library oriented blogs picking up on it. (Here, here, here, here, and here on Digg.) Just unbelievable. It’s been fascinating to watch this bounce around the net. Part of me wonders if it’s done bouncing, the other half can’t wait to see where it will go next.

Fingers crossed!

Update: LA Times Book Blog Jacket Copy. The Atlantic’s Food Section Today’s Specials. LISNews again (Thanks, Birdie!). Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish.

Update part 2: Nicholas Basbanes’ blog on Fine Books Magazine. Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life. Baltimore Sun’s Read Street Blog. Epicurious. The National (United Arab Emirates). Journal Star The Book Report (Lincoln, NE). True/Slant.

Here’s a link to a Google Blog Search for the subject.

Library Day in the Life

Since it sounded like a lot of fun, I took up the Library Day in the Life Project started by Librarian by Day. Here is what my Day in the Life looked like; I took notes throughout the day.

8:33AM
The alarm goes off. And the cold war via snooze button proxy begins.
8:50ishAM
I finally arose after a good long wakeup time period. My morning routine is rather simple: shower, dress, grab breakfast and my bag, and head out to work. Except, of course, that I’m out of my breakfast bars so I have to grab one of my wife’s. And, based on how I am feeling, I grab a yogurt as well for snacking at the office. This day has the hallmarks of being “exceptional”; when I turned on the radio, I heard a lovely British voice on the BBC World Service slowly say the phrase, "actual rapes in prison". I quickly swap to the Preston & Steve Morning Show where they are discussing Penn State being named the #1 party school in the United States.
9:35-10AM
For the record, I am cursed never to arrive on work on time. Whether it is five seconds or five minutes, The Fates conspire to put time wasting obstacles in my path. Unless I leave at the crack of dawn, I will never be on time. Ever. This started long ago when I was flew past my birth due date by almost a month. My mother has not allowed me to forget this since then.

At any rate, I enter and bid everyone a good morning (including Socrates, pictured right). I check in with my boss Suzi and help pull patron holds. One of the books on hold eludes me till I call over others to double check me and realize I’ve read the number completely wrong. Exceptional day, indeed.
10AM-1PM
I’m on the reference desk this morning, so I log into my email and Twitter there. Mercifully, the inbox has not full of dire emergencies that need my attention RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Quickly I catch a few easy reference requests and questions and then things settle down. I put a reserve on the Job computer and the one next to it for my Job 1 on 1 later today.
No lie, it takes ten minutes to catch up on Twitter. Apparently, there are people who start working before 10AM and have access to the internet. I have to keep clicking till I reach my own last post. I click on links in order to open them in other tabs so as to read through them as the morning goes on.

As the morning turns into afternoon, I get a call from my coworker Joan about the text message pilot program. We are working on putting the final touches on publicity so we can start advertising as soon as possible. This is the final week of preparation before we start churning out publicity for the text message pilot program. A quick call up to Nancy Dowd at the State Library and we’re back on track. Also, I remembered to share all my Google Documents with the rest of the team for this program while I was thinking of it. And finally, I got to polish off the wording on the staff instruction; now, it awaits some graphics (more on the later.)

During this time, I was have a steady stream of patron interruptions in the form of fielding questions, calls, program registrations, and meeting room signups. I did have a nice conversation with one of my previous Job 1 on 1 participants who has found a job. It’s not in his field, but he’s happy to be employed and the hours give him time to find something better. I felt pretty relieved since, out of all the participants I’ve had so far, he’s been the most desperate to find work.

I was able to chat on IM with The Strange Librarian. We were able to arrange for our library based double date (my wife is a librarian, her boyfriend is an archivist), chat about customer service (summary: fines bad, but people gaming the fine system worse), and the lively chat on Twitter regarding librarians and the Martyr complex. And, oh yes, the lusty libido that the library lodges.

But the real question is figuring out what to get for lunch…

1-2PM
…which ended up being a tuna salad on sesame bagel from one of the local  places. (They make a pretty stellar bagel.) “You Got Another Thing Coming” by Judas Priest was on the radio; it certainly felt like the theme for the morning.

I ate lunch with Suzi and Jackie (our circulation staff pit boss) and talked about library technology and swapping library system gossip (an always educational time). After lunch, I got to my desk and organized myself for my Job 1 on 1 and everything else that needed to happen later that day.

2-3PM

This was my Job 1 on 1 appointment. These can vary from people who need help with their resume and cover letters to people who are looking for search term help. At the very least, I introduce them to our Jobs & Career LibGuide, talk about social networks and its value in the job hunt, and try to coach where needed. For the patron this afternoon, it was some resume updating and helping with places to look online. We ran a couple of searches and got her some leads, so it was fruitful for her. Hopefully, I’ll be seeing her at the library on a regular basis so I can check up.

3-4PM
Finally, I get a chance to sit at my own desk and sort through the heaving living mass that is my workspace. I’m a note person so there are scraps of paper all over my desk full of reminders, ideas, plans, messages, and stuff I don’t remember writing. I get to check my emails, Twitter, and Google Reader as I relax into some serious desk time. (I can’t help but smile as a couple of items relating to the Ben & Jerry’s group come through the Reader and Twitter.)

I spent a good deal of time trying to take a photograph of my own phone for the staff instruction sheets for the text message program. Between the auto focus, the phone lights turning off, and trying to get the right angle, it was good lesson in micro-irritation. I got a couple of shots to come out which I will use on staff sheet.

 

I hope this little visual aid will help my colleagues with the rest of the instructions.

4PM

Most days, when the time chimes to 4pm, I am overwhelmed with the desire to nap. It doesn’t matter whether I’m on a desk, a program, a meeting, wherever; I want to just curl up in a corner and take a rest. Today was no exception.

4:01-5PM

One of the Rivershark people I know sent me a request to post a flyer for Epilepsy Awareness night at Campbell’s Park on the Camden Waterfront on August 21st. So I printed out enough copies for all our branches, wrote a note on each envelope, and sent it off to all of our branch managers and the coworker who handles publicity at our headquarters location. Hopefully, this will make it more likely for them to post it and get more people interested in the event.

From there, it was play time on Twitter and Google Reader as I checked out all of the links, posts, and whatnot that I had saved up through the day. The one that leaps to mind is TwitPaint which seems like a fun tool. From there, it was a matter of catching up with everything else and putting things into place for tomorrow’s work day. But, soon enough, the clock hit five and I hit the bricks. It was a day that got better as it went along and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

As always.

I thought this would be more of a rigid timeline of my day, but adding context felt like the right move to do. It’s been fun to write, fun to dig up all the links, and fun to do overall. I’ve been enjoying the Library Day in the Life posts I’ve seen so far and look forward to seeing more!