The Visible and the Invisible

By Lauren Lee, M.Ln.

10679235_mOne of the absolute pleasures of my job is the “requirement” that I visit libraries (and librarians) each and every month. This year so far, I have been to 29 libraries in nine states. Attending four conferences added two more states to my running total, while vacation added both a state and a library (yes, I even visit libraries when I’m on vacation). And if our only blizzard of the year hadn’t intervened, I could have added one more state and two more libraries! What a privilege it is to see so much of what our profession has to offer!

Highlights have included:

  • Collections that made me say “I’d love to be a patron of this library”
  • Nonfiction collections that looked vibrant and alive
  • Creative displays to encourage passersby to pick up books on impulse
  • Colorful children’s rooms with incredibly creative artwork (and children engaged in play and reading)
  • Maker spaces with recording studios and the now-requisite 3D printers
  • Music rooms with instruments and listening spaces
  • Incredible architectural details in buildings both new and old (and best of all, buildings that blend the two together)

Anyone who thinks public libraries are dying has not been to a public library lately. If they had, they would have seen people waiting for the doors to open, children crowded in for story-time, and ranges of shelving for books on hold for avid readers. They certainly haven’t heard the statistics for digital media downloads or the constant replacement of test preparation materials.

Many of my visits take me to “lower levels” or separate buildings, where technical services departments lie hidden away. The general public has no idea of the labor that goes on here behind the scenes. They don’t see the pallets of boxes or the “corrals” of book trucks (sometimes even cleverly named!). They don’t understand the intricacies of OCLC records or RFID encoding. They may even think that all those colored dots and labels are just for fun (while vendors ponder whether they are a unique form of torture).

44906029_mSo, let’s send up a cheer for invisible technical services workers everywhere! You order, you unpack, you catalog, you process, you de-process, you organize, you pay bills. You make it possible for materials to be found by their readers/viewers/listeners. You may be changing lives and you don’t even know it. Thank you for your hard, and sometimes tedious, work!

I will close with a reference question that arises from my constant perusal of spine labels: Why do some libraries use “X” as the call number prefix for juvenile (I’m talking about you, California)? The most common prefix is “J” for juvenile. I’ve seen some C’s for children’s titles. However, no one has been able to explain to me why “X” was chosen. If any of you can shed light on this technical services mystery, I will be forever grateful. And maybe I’ll come visit your library. After all, there are still a few states that I haven’t visited.

 

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Lauren

Lauren Lee is approaching her 40th year as a librarian, with more than half of that spent at Brodart. Although she rarely gets to select now, she loves life on the road, visiting as many public libraries as possible. Click here for more.

Weeding

By: Paul Duckworth, M.L.S.

pexels-photo-264635Every library’s collection needs to be weeded. Here at Brodart, our collection development experts have decades of combined direct experience working at public and school libraries. We weeded—and weeded again. We survived. The collections thrived. Don’t object, don’t complain, weeding books need not be a pain!

We’ve got a few tips to help you dive into those book stacks!

  • Make it a habit. Build weeding into your workweek in the same way you schedule meetings, projects, and lunch hours. Try it: 30 minutes, two times a week. Or, how about 15 minutes a day?
  • Get practical. Your shelves may be close to 90% full—or more. Shoot for no more than 75% capacity. Ignore all the objections you hear going through your mind. As Shia LaBeouf would say, “Just do it!”
  • Remember that you are a professional. You have training, experience, and good judgment. So arm yourself with courage and conviction. If there’s a good reason for every book, then there’s also a valid reason for culling some titles from your collection.
  • There’s only so much space. It’s time to accept it: It’s a real world with limits.

It is good practice to maintain written policies and procedures. Educate all staff and board members so they understand the reasons for weeding. To avoid misunderstandings and minimize objections, be sure to communicate with your public openly, clearly, and positively. Be prepared for negative feedback and bad PR–step in right away with cool heads and factual information to support your claims.

59256631 - classmate classroom sharing international friend conceptKnow your community and their needs. You are going to make mistakes—no one is perfect. Just remember that different feelings and perspectives exist among users and other staff. It’s important to listen, respect, and communicate. Consider sharing your intentions with patrons by posting signs that announce your weeding efforts and encourage input. “We’re making room for the new books that people want, Thanks for caring enough about the library to speak with me. Books are vital to our community. We focus on keeping them up-to-date, useful, and appealing. We sincerely welcome your suggestions for materials to add to our collection.”

Expecting proprietary collection analysis software to take care of the weeding process is magical thinking. Electronic data will save time and help you, but doesn’t take into account your decisions about usage thresholds, age cutoffs, and other parameters.

Keep your collection fresh, up-to-date, appealing to the eye, and rich in variety. Don’t allow new books to be hidden on shelves that are crammed tight with old, worn out, unappealing titles.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and many resources are available to help you:

  1. The CREW Manual, tried and true since the late 1970’s, has been revised more than once since 2000. It is available online at Click here for article
  1. The recent book by Rebecca Vnuk, The Weeding Handbook (2015), has been well-received. ISBN: 9780838913277
  1. Making a Collection Count (2013), by Holly Hibner and Mary Kelly is an intelligent resource for collection management, including weeding. ISBN:  9781843347606

2 books

 

Paul Maya party

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.

Hipster Trends 2

Mary Jane: What’s a Library To Do?

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.

44186145_m.jpgAn extremely popular topic right now, both in the news and in publishing, is marijuana. At least 26 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form, and several other states may soon follow.

How does your library handle a tricky subject like this?

Publishers are taking advantage of this movement. There are lots of titles coming out about growing cannabis, cooking with it, healing with it, and legalizing it. There are also several books about starting your own marijuana-related business.

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Click here for article on State Marijuana Laws in 2017

Some librarians take the approach that if their patrons are requesting titles on a particular topic, it’s their job to make them available. As a matter of fact, some library systems base their selections directly on patron demand. Others feel that it’s a waste of money and that books like these will “walk away” after one or two circulations. If your patrons are interested and your budget allows, here are some examples of the most recent books on marijuana.

book 1 mockupCannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana
By: Michael Backes
ISBN: 9780316464185   NYP 12/05/2017

Cannabis for Chronic Pain: A Proven Prescription for Using Marijuana to Relieve Your Pain and Heal Your Life
By:  Ray Ivker
ISBN: 9781501155888   NYP 09/12/2017

book 2 mockupThe Cannabis Grow Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing Marijuana for Recreational and Medicinal Use
By:  Greg Green
ISBN: 9781937866365   NYP 08/29/2017

Idiot’s Guides: Starting & Running a Marijuana Business
By: Debby Goldsberry
ISBN: 9781465462060

book 3 mockup

 

Marijuana Edibles: 40 Easy & Delicious Cannabis-Infused Desserts
By: Laurie Wolf
ISBN: 9781465449641

Big Book of Buds Greatest Hits: Marijuana Varieties from the World’s Best Breeders
By: Ed Rosenthal
ISBN: 9781936807321

 

More conservative libraries may want to stick with titles like these, which cover the basics in a fairly straightforward, uncontroversial way:

book 4 mockupLegalizing Marijuana: Promises and Pitfalls
By: Margaret Goldstein
ISBN: 9781467792431

Is Marijuana Harmful?
By: Bradley Steffans
ISBN: 9781682820971

 

Marijuana: A Reference Handbookbook 5 mockup
By:  David Newton
ISBN: 9781440850516

Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Uncharted World of Cannabis
By: Joe Dolce
ISBN: 9780062499912

 

Whether you choose to provide these books for your patrons or not, it’s certainly a question for you to consider. Some patrons may regard your library as being more current and relevant when your collection reflects emerging trends and changes in public opinion.

 

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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.