Librarians Are Magic!

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.Librarian can do it all_129009653 [Converted]

Every librarian I know has had this conversation. You meet someone, they ask you what you do, and then they say it: “I love books.” Yes, I love them too, but there is a lot more to being a librarian.

Many people do not realize that librarians are expected to go far beyond minding the library — and always have been. Back in the day, they even delivered books on horseback!

Thinking about the various duties librarians are asked to perform every day makes me ponder about how being a librarian has evolved over the years. Or has it? Maybe the central role of the librarian has remained the same, but the specific tasks have morphed over time to reflect outward changes in our world.

Here are some of my varied and treasured experiences as a librarian.

I have been lucky to have jobs where I have participated in creating new libraries. Imagine a blueprint for a new library building, and then figuring out what is needed to fill it up. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and librarians get the chance to determine what’s needed and wanted in their communities. Many librarians choose individual titles very meticulously, but it’s a whole different game to assemble an entire library at once.

One of my favorite “special skills” is the librarian’s ability to make sense out of bits and pieces of information. I’m a librarian who knows something about just about everything, and I know how to get up to speed on any topic in a hurry. In my initial interview for a job at a public library I found myself saying many things: “I love books,” “I know the difference between a stock and a bond,” “I speak four languages” (not fluently), “I can knit a boyfriend or a pet using scraps of yarn” (please refer to one my all-time favorite books: Knit Your Own Boyfriend: Easy-to-Follow Patterns for 13 Men, by Carol Meldrum), and most importantly, “I love stress!”

Often a library patron knows a little bit about a book, like the name of the dog in the story, and the color of the book jacket, and a good librarian (or a team) can figure out what it is. The patron remembers there was something about red hair, puffy sleeves, and the depths of despair. OK, maybe that one’s too easy. The New York Public library recently held an event called Title Quest 2018. A group of NYPL staff members gathered to try to identify books that patrons remembered. Using bits and pieces of information, they were able to solve nearly 50 mysteries and reunite hopeful readers with their long lost books.

Another magical thing librarians do is change with the times. When I was in library school, we learned about online searching using an acoustic coupler that made weird noises when you stuck your (landline) phone into it. Needless to say, everything has changed since then. But being exposed to those early database searches still comes in handy: I can do more with Google than the average citizen, and I can help you determine Computer Class_395916058what web sites are more reliable than others. Librarians across the country have played an indispensable role in teaching their users how to use computers and evaluate the information they find.

Many librarians coordinate magical programs such as storytelling for children, literacy skills, and book talks for adults. Many librarians have come up with unique programs for lending things other than books. They do all this while also unjamming copiers, keeping track of whose turn it is to use the computers, handing out bathroom keys, and so much more. They often also interact with patrons who have mental health issues and assist non-English-speaking patrons.

Every librarian has a story about what they can’t do. Here’s mine: I was working as a news librarian at an Atlanta TV network that shall remain nameless. One morning I got a call asking if we had any video or photographs of the “vast right wing conspiracy.” Despite my prodigious magical powers I had to say no that time. I was also obliged to explain to more than one library patron that while you can easily research federal, state, and local laws, there is no list of things that aren’t illegal.

Public libraries are a great asset to society, but today’s librarians are sometimes expected to take on responsibilities that they never expected. For example, the idea that anyone can come in and stay as long as they like is an ongoing challenge. Also, when I got my first job at a public library, I was shocked and dismayed to learn that I had to teach THOUSANDS of people how to use microfilm each and every day.

Today’s nationwide opioid epidemic has led to a program that supplies public libraries with Narcan to reverse overdoses. I find this to be kind of heroic and also terrifying at the same time. Librarians are responsible for providing books and information, presenting all kinds of programs and entertainment, promoting technological literacy… and literally saving lives?

Speaking of going beyond the call of duty, here’s a librarian’s take on the issue of boundaries.

In summary, most librarians will do their best to help patrons in any way they can. It’s what we do. More than that, it’s our calling and our passion. But don’t ask your librarian to braid your hair (unless you are under the age of five, in which case, maybe they will).

Further reading

For more on the magic we librarians create, here’s an interesting article on the role of librarians.

 

fern

Fern

Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.

What Ever Happened to…?

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

Xerox Machine

Chester Carlson invented the photocopier in 1938, but the now ubiquitous magic machine didn’t appear in commercial usage until 1959. The first one in the spotlight was the hefty Xerox 914, weighing in at a whopping 650 pounds. It wasn’t long before college students and librarians were “Xeroxing” magazine articles and catalog cards galore, in addition to using the trademarked name as an adjective and a verb.

If you’re old enough, you may recall the Xerox Corporation joining the ranks of Kleenex, Frigidaire, Clorox, and others in endless attempts to get people to stop misusing its name. Today, we “photocopy” everything under the sun using countless brands of equipment. The Xerox Corporation is still in business, and they still make Xerox machines. However, like so many longtime names in American business, they were absorbed into a new enterprise (now called Fuji Xerox).

Microfilm ReaderMicroFilm Reader_1048960790

Bulky and cavernous, these hulks — with names like Kodagraph — started taking up space in libraries during the 1930s. Early models demanded darkened rooms and considerable floor space, although new technology helped squeeze down their size in the 1960s. By the 90s, however, microfilm readers began their decline into obsolescence, a casualty of the mad rush towards digitization. Most medium to large libraries still have one or more devices tucked away for reading microfilm or microfiche on demand, but many staff are understandably unfamiliar with how to use them.

old librarian_2167390Hair in Buns, Shushing, Sensible Shoes: The Image of the Mean Spinster

How did we come to collectively use this image to represent a librarian? In the mid-to-late-19th century, single women started working outside the home in much greater numbers. With many professions still forbidden to women, that of librarian was one of several careers that became known as a “woman’s profession.”

Cornell University librarian Michael Engle, in his fascinating paper “Remythologizing Work: The Role of Archetypal Images in the Humanization of Librarianship,” discusses how the single female librarian was seen as a “good mother,” someone who would educate children and provide morally good literature for the poor and uneducated masses. As Engle relates, the shadow side of this “Good Mother” is “The Crone.” The negative image of the librarian came to gradually replace that of the saint who helps others. Armed with a scowl, shushing library patrons, hair in a bun, feet outfitted in sensible shoes, this mean character lurks even today in the imagination of some people, not to mention living on as a convenient cliché in advertisements. Some of us librarians might admit that, in our early days, we may have put our own fingers to lips to tone down excessive noise within our hallowed halls. I am not confessing.

Card Catalogs

Starting with the Library of Congress’ catalog card service in 1911, libraries began subscribing to this service and filing these cards in the multi-drawered furniture we all remember fondly. Later, OCLC offered its own card service to libraries. Surprisingly, this service continued being offered to customers well into the 21st century. Its termination on October 1, 2015, marked an official close to the card catalog, though they had vanished from most libraries long before that.

Where do old catalogs go to die? Many of them have found new purpose with these uses: sewing and craft supplies, wine storage, coffee tables, shoe holders, displays for postcards in antique shops, etc. Perhaps the most famous example of re-purposing appeared in the TV series The Big Bang Theory, where a card catalog starred as part of Sheldon’s living room decor. And what about those millions of rag content cards with summaries, height in centimeters, pagination, and tracings? At least one resourceful librarian took a heavy box of them home when his library’s card catalog was put to rest. He used them for note-taking and grocery lists. How do I know this? As with the aforementioned shushing, I am not confessing.

But wait, I have declared an end to the catalog too quickly! For libraries that continue to make use of the system today, Brodart makes handsome, well-constructed card catalogs.

24301650_120185669969Library Paste

This sticky paste, generally known in the industry as starch glue, was made of water and flour. Eons ago, many of us used it in our professional endeavors as an all-purpose glue. For the sake of professional accuracy, I must add that as children, a few of us might also have eaten it. You guessed it: I am not confessing to this, either. Production of starch glues was tied to supplies from extensive cassava plantations in Indonesia. When they fell under Japanese control during the Second World War, the industry turned to other types of glues. Here’s a paper on the history of wood adhesives that reveals even more (PDF).

I was not able to discover when use of library paste ceased but can confidently say that when sensible and progressive library staff learned about the virtues of the new PVA glues, they embraced the technological advancement and firmly stuck to it. Besides offering better adhesive qualities, this glue is apparently not palatable.

Library CatsCat on Books_609107240

What ever happened to those lovely felines that used to live in libraries? Many of their kind remain to prowl the stacks and fend off mice. Library cats are still in residence in libraries nationwide, although their numbers are decreasing, perhaps due to a combination of ADA, allergies, and the protests of ailurophobes. My cat still rules over my personal library, though he prefers watching television and sleeping in front of my computer keyboard.

16mm Film Projectors

Can anyone over the age of 40 ever forget the sound of the trusty workhorse Bell & Howell 16mm film projector? For a bit of auditory nostalgia, listen to this YouTube clip. At one time, it was important for AV staff in libraries to know how to use the three types of machines: Manual Threading, Self-Threading, and Slot-Loading.

The introduction of VHS tapes for commercial and educational use in the 1980s led to the demise of film projectors in most libraries. For a brief period, VHS struggled against a competing format, Beta, but soon won supremacy. We all know what eventually happened to VHS. Though gone from libraries, VHS today lives on in basements, attics, and garage sales. Here’s an article on old film projectors to take you farther down memory lane.

CDs_786220756CD-ROM Databases

In the early days of digital information use in libraries, the Internet did not exist for us. Vendors supplied libraries with CD-ROM discs, which looked like today’s music CDs and DVDs. Who of a certain age does not remember InfoTrac, which first infiltrated academic libraries in 1985, and soon followed across all types of libraries? Once Internet access became stable, CD-ROM use soon shriveled and shrank. EdTech has a nice online retrospective on CD-ROM databases.

Melvil Dewey

Born Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey in 1851 in rural Adams Center, New York, Dewey is known for his wide-ranging interests in education, winter sports, spelling reform, and — of course — libraries. His eponymous classification system still thrives, despite long-term competition from the Library of Congress classification system and recent library developments that use a bookstore style to group books by BISAC headings.

As an aside, Dewey would not have survived the current #MeToo movement, for another of his avid interests was female anatomy. Wayne Wiegand, whose biography Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey is considered the most historically complete and revealing, describes his behavior using the phrase “a persistent inability to control himself around women.” Dewey was an interesting, if somewhat controversial character, and it would be fun to write much more about the co-founder of the American Library Association and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. But to return to the focus of this article, Dewey died of a stroke in Florida, in 1931, at the age of 80.

This forward-thinking quote from Dewey still rings true today:

“A library’s function is to give the public in the quickest and cheapest way: information, inspiration, and recreation. If a better way than the book can be found, we should use it.”

Henriette Avram

If you are like most librarians, you’re asking, “Who was she?” Avram, without a doubt, was one of the most influential figures ever to shape libraries, although few recognize her name. Avram was born in New York in 1919. She was not a librarian by training. Rather, she was a computer programmer who worked for the National Security Agency and, later, the Library of Congress. It was there, at the institution she referred to as “the Great Library,” that she was asked to develop an automated cataloging format. Through her genius, in 1968, the MARC record was born. Avram died in Florida in 2006.

City Directories

Valuable for genealogists, and perhaps most repeatedly used by skip-tracers, investigators, and voyeurs, the contents of the local city directory were among the most requested items of the library-based telephone reference service. So much so that some libraries developed policies as to how much — or little — service they would provide to callers. Strict policies were also developed to safeguard the books from developing legs and walking out the door.

Fold3, Ancestry, and other genealogy databases offer rich historical collections of U.S. city directories, as does the Internet Archive. The obituary of the city directory hasn’t been located, but a plethora of contemporary electronic databases offer much information, usually for a fee. Nothing satisfies the curious more, though, than leafing through the fascinating historical information within the hardbound covers of city directories. The story of how that information was gathered is for another day!

Paul Duckworth New - 2.5 x 3
Paul

Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.

Spanish-Language Collection Development:

What to Keep in Mind When SelectingHablas Espanol_331952135

By Jessica L. Blaker, Spanish Services, Collection Development & Acquisitions

The demand for Spanish materials in public libraries has increased dramatically over the past few years, and librarians have accepted the challenge to find the right titles for their library’s demographic.

Often, libraries do not have in-house staff with enough experience or language skills to make the best decisions. When you don’t speak the language and reviews are nonexistent, how do you know what to buy? Simply filling your shelves with Spanish language titles does not guarantee success, and it doesn’t mean your materials will appeal to patrons or circulate.

Library Patrons_160679732Know Your Patron Base

One of the keys to selecting Spanish materials for your library is knowing your population’s country of origin. The Spanish dialect in which a book is written can have a big impact on how readable or useful it will be in your community. For instance, the Spanish spoken in Spain is much different than the Spanish spoken in Latin America. A picture book or board book that contains words and expressions colloquial to Spain, for example, may look odd to Mexican readers, and therefore be less appealing.

While it is important to be mindful of regionalism, it’s a mistake to take this too far and totally exclude authors and publishers from Spain (assuming your patrons hail from countries other than Spain). Doing so could cause you to miss out on a big chunk of what’s out there.

Thinking that Mexicans or Salvadorans would not want to read materials from Spanish authors is akin to me saying that, because I am an American, I won’t ready Harry Potter, since the author of that series is from the UK. Spanish authors such as Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who enjoys universal readership, could get lost in the shuffle. That would shortchange your community.

Brodart’s Spanish materials experts vet as many titles as possible — particularly children’s titles — reviewing them for dialect and quality. We also note author country of origin on adult titles to aid in selection. These are the factors that will be important to your Spanish-speaking patrons.

English Language Titles in Spanish

Many Spanish translations of popular English language titles are published in Spain. For example, “Miedo: Trump en La Casa Blanca (Fear: Trump in the White House),” by Bob Woodward, is being released in December by Roca Editorial. This is likely to be one of the biggest books of the year. But a library that excludes publishers from Spain would never see that title in its library collection. Other examples of popular and must-have titles coming out of Spain include El cuento de criada (The Handmaid’s Tale) by Margaret Atwood and La forma del agua (The Shape of Water) by Guillermo del Toro.

Appropriateness for American Libraries

We Americans tend to be more prudish than much of the rest of the world when it comes to sex and nudity. An example of this is a book from Spanish Publishers called El pañal de Bumba. This is a board book about a little boy who has lost his diaper. Right or wrong, the illustrations in this book, while perfectly acceptable in Europe, would be challenged in the US. The title does not meet American standards for board books, due to depictions of nudity (albeit childish nudity).

In this case, it would be understandable to exclude the title due to the illustrations. This is why book-in-hand reviews are imperative.

Here’s another point you may not have considered: juvenile titles from Spain are often printed in cursive font. This may not sound like a big deal, but many schools across the US are no longer teaching children cursive. Conversely, cursive writing (la caligrafia) is still widely taught in Central and South America. Thus, while a book’s subject matter may be deemed appropriate for American children, and while Spanish-speaking children who have learned to read in another country might have no trouble with it, it would be unintelligible to English-speaking American children learning Spanish. Titles printed in cursive are not of interest to many public libraries.

What Is Popular among Spanish Speakers?Hispanic Couple Reading_253450447

Like their English-speaking counterparts, Hispanic patrons read a balanced mix of both fiction and nonfiction.

In nonfiction, the most popular Dewey categories are the 100s, 200s, 300s, and 600s. The general trend in Hispanic nonfiction is toward self-improvement books. Leylha Ahuile, writing in Publishers Weekly, points out that there is a high demand for self-improvement literature in the Spanish-­language book market in the US, including books on “finance, health, marriage, parenting, acquiring or improving skills, entrepreneurship, leadership, and spirituality.” The same holds true for English speakers: these topics are universal and tend to be among the most in-demand and highest-circulating items in libraries today.

Graphic Novels

Most Spanish-language graphic novels tend to come from Mexico and Spain. Spanish Publishers has recently picked up the wildly popular Lumber Janes (Lenadoras) in Spanish for the YA market. Interestingly enough, there are a number of current widely popular graphic novels that poke fun at the US President and our current state of affairs. These titles are mostly from Mexico.

Hello Hola_1020911380Háblanos! (Talk to Us!)

Overcoming language barriers and reaching underserved populations is one of the most rewarding experiences for librarians. We would love to hear your stories and welcome your questions and concerns about Spanish-language collection development. Leave a comment to share!

For further reading:

Library Journal’s Collection Development feature on Selecting Spanish

RUSA’s Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users

 

Jessica Blaker

Jessica

Jessica has been a Spanish cataloger and a customer account manager at Brodart. She came back to Spanish as a collection development paraprofessional, which she loves due to the variety and the opportunity to work with customers. Click here for more.

Why Children’s Nonfiction?

By Ann Wilson, MLS, MAGirl wGlasses Reading_69332863

Though Common Core has largely been placed on the back burner, one of the standards that still resonates in the education and library worlds is children’s nonfiction. The CCSS developers noticed that far more fiction was used or encouraged in the classroom, at the expense of nonfiction. As educators scrambled to align curriculum to CCSS guidelines and “correct” this imbalance, publishers rushed to produce more “common core compliant” nonfiction. This prompted the question, “Why nonfiction?” Why indeed…

In an article titled “The Five Kinds of Nonfiction” in School Library Journal (May, 2018), Melissa Stewart notes that many people who become children’s librarians or literacy educators favor stories and storytelling, want to promote this literature, and assume that children naturally gravitate toward stories as well. This may not be true, however, as research shows that children love to learn about the world around them. Many prefer ideas and information over making an emotional connection to a text. These children would prefer books about dinosaurs, firefighters, arts and crafts, outer space, sports, pets—anything that interests them. Satisfying their needs with quality nonfiction books increases their love of reading, motivation, curiosity, and confidence to handle progressively complicated texts.

young girl success_338482142Another benefit to nonfiction reading is the acquisition of background information to build on later in life. As students read more and more content-specific texts through their educational years and into college, they are able to build upon this knowledge and apply more critical thinking skills. Ironically, a 2016 ACT study on college and career readiness found that less than half of the graduating class met the ACT Reading Benchmark. The increasing emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education to meet the demand for well-trained employees in these fields demonstrates the need for classroom teachers to teach students how to handle complex texts. Librarians assist by providing high-quality, inviting, motivating, and challenging nonfiction.

On a practical level, consider your own reading habits. To unwind after your workday, you might kick back and enjoy a light romance or mystery novel. But where do you turn when your dog comes home from an unfortunate tangle with a skunk, you want to plan a vacation to an exotic location, or you need financial advice on sound retirement investments? You turn to informational texts for the answers you need for your personal daily living. You probably even have a small collection of nonfiction materials: newspapers and magazines (Consumer Reports annual buying guides, perhaps?), even cookbooks or an owner’s manual for that new appliance. Consider how much informational reading many of us do at our jobs. How many emails, memos, or instruction manuals do we read daily? Sometimes we are required to stay current in our profession by studying new ideas, trends, or techniques. As citizens of a global community, how do we grapple with complex ideas like global warming, mass shootings, immigration, human trafficking, or tax reform?

Consider this: without the ability to comprehend complex informational texts, our children don’t stand a chance as adults. As librarians, let’s point them in the direction of the quality children’s nonfiction they need.

Resources:

ACT National Curriculum Survey 2016

ASCD: Research Says / Nonfiction Reading Promotes Student Success

ASCD: The Case for Informational Text

ASCD: Too Dumb for Complex Texts?

GreatSchools.org: The Nonfiction Revolution

Smart Tutor: Why Nonfiction Reading is Important

AnnWilson

Ann

Ann Wilson started working for Brodart, where she is affectionately known as The Sourceress, in 2000. Ann draws from her high school/public library career experience to feed sources and choose key titles for our selection lists. Click here for more.

Adulting 101 Programs at the Library

shutterstock_162108737By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

Has anyone ever told you that you can make a grilled cheese sandwich in your dorm room with an iron? Or that you can clean everything with plain, cheap white vinegar? Were you ever taught to balance a checkbook? “Adulting” is a verb that high school graduates—and some adults—use to mean they are doing something that makes them feel like responsible adults. Between new technologies and the demise of home economics and shop classes in high school, more adults these days are headed out into the world missing some handy life skills. Many public libraries are stepping up to fill the knowledge gap, hoping to capture the elusive 20-to-40-year-old demographic in the process.

Libraries of every size throughout the country are trying out this newest trend in adult programming. The Programming Librarian Interest Group on Facebook contains a wealth of ideas and feedback. Some libraries target teens getting ready to leave home. This approach might include more dorm-style ideas, like cooking with small appliances or basic laundry and ironing skills. Most open their programs up to anyone.

Sample Topics

Six Adults Cooking_1038709282Cooking is a perennially popular topic among patrons. What can you make with only a hot plate, waffle iron, or blender? How about a program called “Spicing Up Your Ramen?” Eating on a budget and food safety (get a black light wand to make it really exciting) are basic and useful skills. Other basic cooking program ideas have included “Cookbook Terminology,” “10 Ways to Use a Sweet Potato,” and “Getting to Know Your Instapot.” One library offered a program showing a variety of meals that could be prepared in a coffee mug. A little creativity can go a long way with cooking programs since there is a hungry audience waiting to devour them (pardon the pun).

What about incorporating self-care, meditation, and time management into National Mental Health Month (May)?

Do you have a staffer willing to pull their car up to the library and demonstrate some basic car maintenance techniques under the hood?

You might offer a crash-course in good citizenship and invite in local groups and legislators to participate.

You could offer a program on dressing for success on a budget and include simple courses like “How to Tie a Necktie.”

As winter nears, offer a program on winterizing your home or basic plumbing repairs.

Here’s a fun one: Several libraries have offered teen programs based on the idea of Survival Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse. Isn’t that a great spin? What better excuse to teach car repair skills, self-defense, quick pickling, and recognizing edibles in nature? If your community can get tongue-in-cheek with you, run with it! The premise may be silly, but the skills are worthwhile.

Library-Specific Programs

Denver Public Library offered a basic sewing skills class for sewing a button, fixing a tear, and hemming a skirt. They invited participants to bring in a project that had them stumped, and it seemed to boost attendance. You might create a cute project that incorporates basic stitches and buttons, such as a felt monster or bookmark. Offering patrons a hands-on project to practice and take home is always optimal. Think about ending your quarter or year of programs with a potluck or clothes exchange, something festive and practical.

Boise Public Library, in Idaho, has a really terrific program going this year. The librarians set the calendar for the whole year in advance. They offer badges to participants who complete at least one session per month, making each accomplishment feel like being in scouts group or mastering a video game level. Collect 12 badges and earn an “Adult-in-Action” medal. Not only have they put together a comprehensive program, they have also uploaded supporting materials to their website. This allows those who are late to join (or the rest of us) to catch up with what they have been teaching.

BoiseCombined

Source: Boise Public Library

I spoke with Boise librarian Eliza Ruby about their ambitious program, which at the time of this writing is more than halfway through the year. She said, “Our goal for this year has been to host two to four programs each month. While we have been successful with this goal, it has been a big endeavor. My advice for anyone wanting to create a similar series is to plan ahead, stay organized, and work with fellow staff members to share the workload. Our focus has been on creating events for adults; however, I think that this could easily be adapted to a series for teens to help prepare them for adulthood.”

Ruby also talked about turnout and patron response. “We have taken the opportunity with this series to try new things and experiment. This includes the types of programs we have hosted, the way we brand and market this series, and how the workshops are hosted. While we don’t always have high turnout, we have been learning what topics interest our community the most, how best to market to ‘new adults’ with the resources we have on hand, and how to get the best response from the people attending the workshops. We have also been collecting success stories of new connections, people learning the skills they need, and gaining follow-up resources.” Ruby shared that their end-of-summer clothing exchange party had 185 participants, which is an impressive number for any library program!

Bellingham Public Library, in Washington, offers a similar series with a twist. They call it SkillShare. Community members come in and teach a skill—from ukulele, to tai chi, to using basic tools. The basic tools session was so popular it became a recurring event all summer long. This program has been a multi-generational success.

If your library has a limited budget or little staff time to devote to programming, there may be community members happy to pitch in with their expertise. Scout leaders, nutritionists, county extension employees, a local mechanic, vocational colleges, and that blue-ribbon canner in the Friends group may be willing to lend a hand or have ideas about what has worked with groups in the past.

While these programs may get your brain humming and offer myriad ways to cross-promote book titles, there are a few planning considerations. You know what works best in your community. What would you name this program? Some librarians consider “Adulting 101” insulting. Instead, you could try “Cash in Your Pocket” or “Adult University”— or soften it to “Beyond Ramen: Adulting 101.” The way you structure your schedule and descriptions can make a huge difference. Some libraries report 2-5 attendees, while others have had 20-plus.

Now it’s your turn. Has your library offered a program similar to Adulting 101? How did it go? Tell us about it!

For further examples and ideas of how to promote this type of program:

The Programming Librarian

Teen Services Depot

Emporia University Libraries

 

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

 

What’s in a Name?

Library Donation StrategiesDonation Brainstorming_379542964

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

One of the biggest struggles libraries face is how to increase operating funds. Grants are available for special projects and new initiatives, but that leaves day-to-day expenses. Encouraging donations by giving patrons the opportunity to name something can help with both the new cool stuff and the everyday necessities, thereby freeing up more funds for staff salaries, the electric bill, snow removal, etc.

Not surprisingly, naming opportunities have a long history in library fundraising with “adopt-a-magazine” programs and memorial book plates. But how can you go bigger and move beyond these humble basics?

Think about what else might be adoptable or could be memorialized – shelving, display units, room renovations, supplies, equipment – the sky’s the limit. A new kiosk, circulation desk, self-checkout station, or makerspace could be within your reach if you’re willing to expand your naming opportunities to more areas.

From the beginning, you need to be very clear about what you want and the amount of money needed to obtain it. You must also make the process of giving convenient and rewarding for the donor. Timely, accurate acknowledgement from the library that recognizes the gift and makes the donor feel appreciated is vital. No one wants to hear a donor say they never received an acknowledgement letter, that there were inaccuracies in it, or that the library misspelled a name on a memorial recognition like a book plate.

With memorial books, you don’t want to be pressured into buying or accepting titles that your collection development policy doesn’t support. The same goes for tributes or in-kind gifts for areas beyond collections. With restricted gifts, make sure your library is in control. Avoid using vague statements such as “furniture for the reading room,” or you could find yourself stuck with a glider rocker, when what you really envision is a reading chair with built-in charging station.

If you don’t already have one, put a gift acceptance policy in place.

Donor Wall_519050002In some cases, signage acknowledging gifts is the way to go and makes perfect sense for special collections, rooms or programming areas, and outdoor seating such as benches. However, placing labels and plaques on every shelf, chair, and table is both cumbersome and unattractive. Perhaps you can create a tribute area in your library or invest in a donor wall.

Libraries and/or Friends groups often hold yearly fund drives. Though you may dread the thought of conducting multiple mailing campaigns, picking specific projects or services to sponsor throughout the year may be more effective than just a single annual appeal for unrestricted gifts. Make giving easy by setting up procedures for accepting in-person, by-mail, and online donations.

Beyond specific items and initiatives, naming opportunities can also give your operating funds a boost. Summer reading programs for children, craft materials, and lecture series are just a few of the things that might attract donors. Again, just make sure you (not the donor) are choosing the content and focus of the gifts.

Many libraries are creating “societies” or “circles of giving” for specific endeavors. Explain the important role libraries play in bridging the digital divide. See if you can raise funds to offset the costs of your computer hardware and software upgrades, consortia member fees, and database contracts. If you’re going to create tiered schemes, map out what the donor levels are, what they support, the perks of giving at various levels, and what type of recognition is due to each type.

Everyone likes seeing their name in print. It’s essential that you acknowledge gifts and list your donors in your library newsletters and annual reports. Make sure sponsorships are mentioned in all publicity materials and media coverage.

Ribbon Cutting_1103731883Capital campaigns and professional fundraising often address major gifts such as wings and entire buildings. However, it’s helpful to be armed with information; you’ll want to have potential projects in the back of your mind in the event an unexpected large bequest or endowment comes your way.

Here’s another idea you may not have considered.

Though it may seem morbid, families of the recently deceased often look for opportunities to memorialize their loved ones through gifts of books or other contributions—or request that funeralgoers make charitable donations in lieu of flowers. So make sure local funeral directors, lawyers, and estate planners have copies of your newsletters and fundraising brochures for them to keep in mind as they meet with clients who may be interested in library bequests. Knowing the library is an option may give comfort to those who are grieving and having to make difficult decisions about settling estates.

Essentially, fundraising is match-making: connecting your goals with people who love the library and want to give back. How you are helping this happen in your community?

Additional resources:

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Before joining Brodart in 2016, Stephanie Campbell worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

Does anyone still care about reference collections?

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

Open Books-9043447Imagine you are a customer service librarian being forced to choose just three reference tools out of your entire reference collection and discard the rest. What would they be? Librarians and grad students used to mull over questions like this while hobnobbing at conferences or gathering in coffee shops. But what was once a philosophical reflection about the most valuable reference books (with the assumption being that of course every library needs them), has become a much simpler and more realistic question: “Does anyone care about reference collections anymore?”

It’s 2018. What three tools would any good customer service librarian choose to keep?

  1. The Internet
  2. A good search engine
  3. A smartphone

No, you’re right, they aren’t books, but you have to admit that they are indispensable. Goodbye Encyclopedia Britannica, farewell World Almanac, adiós Famous First Facts. Full disclosure: I got my start in the reference department of a large public library, using standards such as The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, The United States Government Manual, and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I cut my eyeteeth on them. I fell in love with many, many reference titles and I could not stifle my affection. I loved those musty tomes passionately.

Today it’s a different world—one with different patrons, who have different needs and are asking different questions. About the only thing a reference collection gives me today is warm fuzzies. OK, I am exaggerating…somewhat. Yes, there are some valid exceptions. But let’s look at what’s happening across the country.

Kyle King, at the North Independence branch of Mid-Continent Public Library (Independence, Mo.), works in the district’s reference center. Since he started there 10 years ago, the collection has shrunk from 38,000 volumes to 18,000. He says the nature of the questions he receives has changed. Computer Search-456214333A lot of what used to be ready reference is now solved by patrons themselves who hop onto a search engine for answers. The library has become an educator in information literacy and is taking a major stance as a resource for mastering digital technologies. He notes, “Twenty-five years ago, questions were informational, but now they involve demonstrating skills. For a car repair question, we handed the customer a manual rather than joining them under the hood. Today, though, we do hands-on demos of using email, navigating websites, and filling out forms.” The print reference collection still receives some use, especially in areas where no equivalent online tool is available for free or a reasonable price, such as collectibles, legal materials, building codes, and style manuals. Many reference books have been moved to the circulating collection, and some reference books are occasionally sent to another branch for a patron to use.

Kathi Woodward, Reference Department manager at Springfield-Greene County Library (Mo.), is a relative newcomer to the profession, having started in 2012 after more than two decades in the world of bookstores. During her six years as manager, the reference collection has decreased to half its size. Women Man Computer-289539899She has retained some print materials because there is no comparable or affordable online equivalent, such as various medical reference titles, collectibles, and Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. Woodward agrees that the nature of the questions has changed and there is considerable focus on technology, job applications, IRS, and “How do I…?” queries.  However, the homework question—that old familiar friend of ours—still crops up often.

For Ben Lathrop, Information and Reference Department Manager for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, one challenge is the size of the reference collection. The library weeds based on condition only. Two floors of its main library—closed to the public—house large numbers of nonfiction and reference volumes. Lathrop has pulled together a collection of approximately 1,000 volumes located adjacent to reference staff for quick, daily use. In his 12 years with the library, some types of questions have largely disappeared, with library users now asking Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant instead of librarians or their friends. Some customers, though, still ask the library for phone numbers, addresses, and such. While encyclopedias and atlases sit unused, building codes, price guides for antiques and collectibles, and a few titles such as Corporate Affiliations Directory remain invaluable. In many cases, the library allows reference titles to be checked out. Lathrop noted that reference librarians used to practice the “teach a person to fish” approach by helping customers use reference books, but that today they’re doing the opposite: answering the question directly without going into teaching mode.

In early 2016, Jessica Parij, Manager of Adult Services at Rochester Hills Public Library (Mich.), posed this question to ALA’s Think Tank Facebook Group : “What’s your print reference section look like nowadays? Still big? Small? Interfiled? Gone completely?” With close to 40 comments, the most common responses were:

  • Heavily weeded
  • Getting smaller
  • Shrinking
  • Moving to circulating collection
  • Replaced by online resources
  • Sad but tossing the outdated and unused books

These individual comments are particularly noteworthy:

  • “I’m about to decimate mine.”
  • “I just discarded three quarters of mine.”
  • “Gone. A few ready ref at the desk but other than that, all gone!”

Andy Woodworth, manager of reference and adult services at Cherry Hill Public Library (N.J.), a 2010 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, is author of the blog Agnostic, Maybe: the Neverending Reference Interview of Life. Woodworth offered what is perhaps the best response to this post’s featured question in the article he wrote for INALJ (the website formerly known as I Need a Library Job). In the entry titled “Reference Isn’t Dead, Just Different,” Andy says, “I turn downright ornery towards the physical reference collection as a continuing concept that libraries should embrace…. (After weeding the reference collection) I am presently looking at a leaner, meaner physical collection that covers the topics better than their online counterparts.”

So it seems that after ruthless weeding and a focus on the immediate goal of meeting the needs of 2018 library users, those beloved reference books have been replaced by fast Internet, smart searching, and strong technology. The remaining titles have to earn their shelf space. So what should stay? The titles should be solid, dependable, reliable, easy to access, quicker than going online for an answer, and offer beautifully arranged, succinct answers to frequently asked questions. Simple, eh? To paraphrase a great Zen saying, “The way is easy, except for the picking and choosing.” I confess, it still pains me to discard a reference title I have long loved, but I can do it.

Paul Duckworth New - 2.5 x 3
Paul

Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.

No Dogs Allowed

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

shutterstock_97865519I’ll never forget the childhood trauma induced by the Peanuts animated feature “Snoopy Come Home.” Before the uncontrollable sobbing begins, the major theme/gag involves Snoopy learning of all the places he can’t go: the beach, bus, hospital, and yes, the library.

“No Dogs Allowed” policies are definitely needed in public places, as there are multiple liability issues. As an animal-lover, though, I like that hotels, restaurants, and other businesses seem to be embracing dog culture more and more. But every time I see it, I wonder how these establishments get away with it. Apparently corporate “service dogs only” policies are subject to local enforcement.

In my experience, you have to tread carefully when introducing animals into library environments.

While I’ve worked at libraries that participated in Take Your Dog to Work Day and even allowed staff to bring their dogs to work regularly, this may or may not fly in your community. Similarly, we all know the stories about resident library cats, many of which eventually get evicted.

Early in my career, a regular would bring his dog with him to the library almost daily to pick up books and chat with the staff. The dog was older, leashed, and mild-mannered. They generally visited first thing in the morning when the library was usually pretty empty. shutterstock_211047994But everything changed one day when another regular witnessed this act and became outraged, proclaiming that this revered institution was turning into a kennel. I’m sure you’ve encountered similar Jekyll and Hyde scenarios, where your best friend—a vocal library supporter—can become your worst enemy, threatening to report you to the director, library board, county commissioners, etc.

Not everyone is into animals, and some are downright afraid. Furthermore, allergies present mild to life-threatening problems for many people. Shared public spaces need to be sensitive to these issues. And public libraries are different from retail in that patrons often spend longer periods of time in relatively close quarters.

Behavior policies need to include wording for dogs in the library and unattended dogs outside the library. Unless it’s a service animal, patrons should not bring them inside. It’s also a bad idea to permit patrons to leave animals tied outside, even for a minute or two. We need to look out for the health and safety of pets and patrons, alike.

shutterstock_247398190With all of this being said, how can you jump on the bandwagon and invite furry friends into your library? The keys to success are: make the animal’s presence predictable (and therefore avoidable); limit the amount of time and the location to minimize allergens; and utilize certified therapy animals.

Many public libraries host therapy dog programs for reluctant readers. Practicing reading aloud to a dog can help alleviate the stress that accompanies reading aloud in school. And I recall at least one parent who brought their child not just to get over this fear of reading aloud, but also to alleviate a fear of dogs.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have long recognized the soothing effects of companion animals. And I know of many academic libraries that regularly incorporate therapy dog sessions during finals week.

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Therapy dog programs are a much easier sell because the predictability factor is coupled with shared liability with the certifying organization. Service animals—even those in training—know how to behave. Alas, Snoopy didn’t.

Oftentimes, “animal-friendly” translates to friendly all-around, which is something all libraries aspire to be. With lots of science and studies to back you up on the “why” and solid policies to enforce the “how,” perhaps you can develop your own program.

 

Further Reading:

Sit, Stay, Heal

Therapy Dogs Work Wonders for Struggling Readers

Dog Therapy 101

Studying for Exams Just Got More Relaxing (PDF)

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Before joining Brodart in 2016, Stephanie Campbell worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.