Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Library Links 2: the QuickRef Library Page

I love QuickRef, and I probably don't say it often enough to our Reference staff.

Time was everybody maintained link lists, often annotated. Shortly after our library set up our web site, we added a list of useful links. Managed for years by Reference Librarian (& poet) Harriet Tippet, the page was known as "Harriet's Hot Links." Harriet is gone, alas, but our link list transmogrified into a great tool to help our librarians answer questions. It soon proved popular with other libraries and patrons.

That tool is QuickRef, and it contains separate pages on a variety of topics, each page with a categorized list of links. Part of what I like is the clean and easy-to-use design, but mostly I just like that it's useful and handy. Pages include: Books & Lit. Business , Education , Ready Reference, and many others -- but for this discussion I'll focus on the Library Page.

Categories, each of which includes from four to fifteen links, are:
  • Indexes
  • Libraries
  • Full Text Indexes *
  • Wisconsin Libraries (statewide resources)
  • WI Public Libraries & catalogs
  • WI Academic Libraries & catalogs
  • Other Wis. Libraries & Associations
  • Prof. Resources
  • Listservs
Needless to say, having the most useful links gathered beats the heck out of imperfect Googling. We'll have to see what the future brings -- will del.icio.us replace separately maintained link lists altogether? Some thoughts and examples of library links in the 2.0 environment in forthcoming part 3.

Ask for What You Want

Michael Stephens & Michael Casey, writing in Library Journal, challenge us to move beyond our perceived stereotypes. They note:
Unfortunately, librarians are often portrayed as technologically backward, fearful of teens and loud noises, and overly protective of books to the point of not wanting anyone to “touch our stuff.”
Their suggestion is that we as a profession need to be more assertive. If we confront our problem patrons rather than creating new rules so we don't have to confront them, we'll be moving in the right direction. We should not hesitate to enforce our rules.

Their other example is our failure to get any library vendors to provide iPod-compatible audiobooks via libraries (surely a frequent patron complaint). I'm unsure that a lack of librarian assertiveness has been key in that issue. I suspect we don't swing enough weight in the market to make a difference in this particular battle of the Apple-Microsoft wars.

It occurs to me that budgets might be another example. We have to articulate our needs, but we're hesitant to alienate decision-makers. We may not get what we ask for, but if we don't ask, we'll surely not get it. The LJ article, and the reader responses, are worthwhile.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Policies - doubleplusgood practices

The Duncan Banner in Duncan, OK, has a story about their public library's efforts to set a privacy policy. In these time of rapidly changing technology and federal law, privacy can be uncertain. Last week I got an email solicitation from a security firm selling a special report on the serious security and privacy threat known as "Web 2.0." Not only the USA PATRIOT Act but Library 2.0 reinforce the need to have our houses in order and our library boards standing behind us.

Thus it was interesting to read in the Duncan Banner:
Privacy is an important concept, and for Duncan Public Library, this concept could become a necessity.

At their regular meeting Tuesday, members of Duncan Public Library Board discussed the possibility of instituting a patron privacy policy. While no action was taken on the item, members talked about the importance of privacy to the library patrons.

Library Director Ann Brown said, “I noticed we didn’t have a policy in place. I don’t think we’ll ever have problems with it.”

Brown said she had been reading about privacy in libraries and thought the board might want to create a policy for the library.

“I’ve just been reading a lot of about this,” she said.

During the meeting, members looked at several library privacy policies from around the country. The policies came from places including the New Jersey Library Association, the Boston Public Library in Massachusetts, and the Appleton Public Library in Wisconsin.
Of course, all our policies are published on our website; we've several times heard from other libraries asking permission to copy or adapt our policies. While our policies are imperfect and keeping them up-to-date is an ongoing challenge, this speaks well for our staff and board, and the good effort that goes into policy maintenance.

Library Links 1: L4L

How do we find what we need to know? Librarians know that just typing something into a Google search has some severe limitations. There are advantages to finding the good stuff, consulting experts and beginning with some of the research that's already been done to identify useful sources.

There are a lot of places that put together useful links of websites to help librarians do their jobs. One of the most useful for me is the L4L site (Links for Libraries) maintained by the folks at the Outagamie Waupaca Library System (OWLS).

L4L is handy because its designed to help the system member libraries with their professional concerns. Some of these concerns might be specific for libraries in Wisconsin, but much of it would be useful anywhere. Topics are kept up-to-date and represent a broad range of library services and concerns -- political, professional and technical:
  • Acronym Lists
  • Associations & Organizations
  • Blog Use in Libraries
  • Book-Related Info (awards, bestsellers, etc.)
  • Buildings
  • Caring for Materials
  • Certification
  • Children's Services
  • Collection Development
  • Continuing Education
  • Copyright
  • County Planning & Funding
  • Discussion Lists
  • DPI/DLTCL Info
  • Employment
  • Endowment Funds
  • Filtering [ALA Filters & Filtering]
  • Foundations
  • Fundraising
  • Health & Safety
  • IM use in libraries
  • Latino Links
  • Legislation and Advocacy
  • Library Law
  • Marketing & Promotion
  • Meetings
  • Online Publications
  • Personnel
  • Planning
  • Podcasting
  • Policies
  • Privacy and the USA Patriot Act
  • Readers' Advisory
  • Reference
  • Special Needs
  • Technical Services
  • Technology & Trends
  • Trustees
  • Volunteers and Friends
  • Webmeisters
  • WI Library System Web Sites
  • WI Public Library Standards
  • Young Adult Services

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

St. Paul / City will keep all its libraries open

St. Paul / City will keep all its libraries open
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 08/22/2007 12:30:22 AM CDT

The lights will stay on at all 13 of St. Paul's public libraries, but expect some cutbacks.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman laid out his 2008 library budget Tuesday at the Rondo Community Outreach branch of the public library system. He expects the city to spend about $18.6 million on library services next year, down from $19 million this year.

"There was a lot of speculation that branches might close," Coleman conceded. "We have to restructure. We have to live within our means. But libraries are so critical to our community that we can't close them."

There were no surprises in his library budget - he'd averted feared closings in last week's overall city budget address - but there were some newly grim realities in the 2008 financial plan he and his staff are putting to the City Council, acting as the city's library board.

The Hayden Heights and Hamline Midway branches will close on Mondays, leaving them open just five days a week. Capitol improvements will be cut by $488,009, and seven full-time positions will be trimmed.

Some resources will be shifted - to new Sunday hours for Rice Street and Merriam Park, for example - and the Hayden Heights and Midway branches will get some new furniture and sprucing up, but Coleman didn't really offer any consolations.

"This is tough," he said. "We're in a really difficult budget time. ... We do have to choose."

The city is facing a $17 million budget shortfall and Coleman floated a 14.6 percent property tax hike last week...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Is this a datum I see before me?

In the scheme of things, we may have more important work to do than debating what we call things. Nevertheless, we ignore naming our services at our peril: naming is an essential part of defining and marketing what we do. The famous warning that ""A map is not the territory" notwithstanding, you don't have to study sympathetic magic or semantics to know that names have power and often frame and define what we do. Jeff Scott, over at Gather No Dust, notes in passing:
"We are trying to promote all of our new databases at my library. (Let me add that I am aware that we should have a better name for databases, right now, that is the handle we are using. Patrons can figure it out for now. )"
He links to the discussion on the Library Garden blog, which states rather unequivocally:
we need to stop calling databases, databases and do it now! More like do it yesterday!
I am not altogether convinced and posted the following comment:
"Research tools" is what our consortial online catalog calls them, which is an improvement over what we use on our website: "Magazines, Newspapers, Indexes and Full-test Resources".

You know, "Databases" is not such an awful word. Webster says database means "a usually large collection of data organized especially for rapid search and retrieval (as by a computer)."

I think it's descriptive, succinct and not jargon. I think it's a struggle to find an alternative because there is no good obvious one, or we'd all be using it. But "research tools" is a good second.
So what do y'all think?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wild about Harry

The big publishing event of the millennium was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Staff at lots of libraries worked overtime to have the books in patrons' hand on the day of publication. And the following Wednesday, we held a big Potter party, attended by 231 children, teens and parents. Staff & volunteers worked long hours to make it go, but hundreds of kids had a great time, playing games, doing crafts and competing for best costume. Some people even discussed the books!

Staff and volunteers were there to bravely greet TV cameras at 5:30 AM on party day.

Jeremiah readies 64 copies for check-out.

Costume contest judges: Gilderoy Lockheart poses with a Gryffindor student and a Death Eating Director.


When Nicole, the intercultural liaison from our Mayor's office asked me -- on two days notice -- if the public library could host the mobile Mexican consulate for four days this month, issuing passports and ID to Mexican citizens, I had to think about it. But not for long.

The meeting room was available. My only real concern was that they needed the building during hours when we would normally be closed, and we would need to make sure the library was secure, and that we would be able to maintain restrooms, etc. It turned out that with two exempt employees volunteering to work extra time, it would be feasible to pull it off, so it only took me a couple of hours to say "yes."

Making the Library available was my decision and I'm glad to take responsibility for it. I had only a flicker of reality checking and asking myself if this is the right thing to do. Our mission statement says in part that the "...library is a center of community life, offering opportunities for people ... to gather...". Our long range plan says we're a community gathering place and we:
  • Provide programs and services relating to local history and cultural diversity.
  • Work cooperatively with other local organizations to strengthen the community.
This quite obviously fit the bill for me. We have a lot of precedent for stretching our meeting room availability for other governmental entities. And we were very pleased to have the Mexican consulate choosing Appleton, not only as a service to Mexican residents of Appleton, but because our city is a regional resource.

Some people in the community have been unhappy that some of those who used the services of the consulate were illegally in this country. I understand the concern: in a government of laws, to sanction systematic flouting of those laws will create problems. At the same time, these problems are bigger one our library or city. The President and Congress can't quite figure it out, so I didn't expect that we would.

But if some of those who came to use the services of the consulate were illegal, many were not. Some were actually referred by the US Immigration Service as part of their citizenship process. Others were legal residents who simply needed to renew passports. In any event, whether legal or illegal, our police, banks and hospitals -- as well as libraries -- like it when people can present valid identification. The consulate staff expressed concern about validating and documenting anything they issued -- people who did not qualify were turned away. I don't know if any given person who came to our doors was legal or illegal. I do know they were all people.

In the end it was a great experience. Dozens of community volunteers from churches, schools and support groups were there, doing a great job to facilitate communications and help the staff. While there were hundreds of people who went through the system in each of the four days, queuing in the middle of the night to get a passport, everyone was extremely well behaved and courteous. The library staff received many thanks, from volunteers and local supporters as well as visitors. We ran through our supply of Spanish language brochures on "how to get a library card."

There was no time to take this decision to the Library Board, but I will recommend that if the Consulate wants to come back next year, we welcome them. We've learned a few things about bilingual signage; with more advance notice, it will be easier.

Circulation record

Appleton Public Library has a new all-time record for monthly circulation. In July, we circulated 134,448 items, an increase of 12.4% over July 2006, and an increase of 9.1% over the previous all-time high. Only a few dozen of this record-setting number can be attributed to the new Harry Potter book.

In July 2002, we broke the "100,000 circulations in a month" mark for the first time. This happened once in 2002, three times in 2003 and 2004, four times in 2005, eight times in 2006, and every month so far in 2007. In fifteen of the last nineteen months, our circ has been more than 100,000 items.

Many thanks to the community who uses the library, and to our hard-working staff and volunteers -- especially the Circulation staff and all those public service staff who work hard to promote summer reading!

But this sort of use reflects a true team effort, including those who select and process the materials and those who fill the restroom soap dispensers. It's the team working for community needs that makes this a great place to be!