Avoiding the Pitfalls of Holiday Displays

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

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Which holidays to observe and/or celebrate at your library is a local decision, sometimes to the chagrin and confusion of staff and patrons alike. Libraries are, at their core, inclusive: accepting and sensitive to all community members and their respective races, ethnicities, cultures, and religions. But it’s hard to please everyone.

When to be open and when to be closed?

Federal holidays are generally a safe bet in that closing the library is acceptable—but that doesn’t mean that you or your patrons have to like it or understand it. Controversy surrounds what is/isn’t or should/shouldn’t be a “holiday,” and observance can differ across the country. No matter what you do, you will probably always hear someone say “I’m surprised you’re open” or “I couldn’t believe you were closed.”

shutterstock_543130312Keep in mind that your library holiday schedule is negotiable. State library standards may limit how many days you are closed per year, but do not specify which ones. Perhaps your board would consider letting you close for a different purpose or trade one holiday closure for another.

Scheduling professional and personal development opportunities can also be a struggle for libraries. Rather than honoring Presidents Day and Columbus Day as holidays, perhaps you could close for staff training or community service? In other words, if you’re going to close for Columbus Day, devote it to staff development and make that known. It’s not because you care more about Cristoforo Colombo than indigenous peoples (as some might infer).

Some argue that purely religious holidays shouldn’t be observed at all by public institutions. This article from The New York Times provides historical insight into what constitutes federal holidays and also helps those who struggle with explaining why libraries observe some, but not others.

Opening the day after Thanksgiving was the bane of my existence as a library manager, as many staff like to travel then. And because we were always open the weekend after Thanksgiving, I argued that staff deserved two days off for Thanksgiving.

Conversely, while many municipalities close for Good Friday, I considered it superfluous for my library to be closed that day. Our community had a significant Jewish population; therefore the library was closed both Saturday and Sunday for Easter and Passover. Being closed on Good Friday would have meant a three-day shut down—something many libraries are loath to do. After surveying my staff, I proposed to our library board that we trade Good Friday off for Black Friday off.

I stressed that this wasn’t sanctioning one holiday over another, rather providing the opportunity for staff to spend extra time with their families. Patrons and boards who love their libraries generally love their library staff and are happy to see them rewarded in this way. And it worked! The board approved this change when they voted on the upcoming year’s calendar.

What about holiday programming?shutterstock_339813524

Think about whether your decorations, displays, story times, and other programming should be holiday-focused. I’ve found that a lack of holiday-themed programming goes largely unnoticed, whereas you will definitely hear about it when patrons feel something is exclusionary or inappropriate. One person’s time-honored tradition is another person’s pagan ritual. Should libraries have Halloween parties and put up Christmas trees? Given that there are so many alternatives to choose from, is it worth the risk? “Reframing” seasonal themes is often all it takes to make your programs and décor more inclusive. See these opinion pieces from School Library Journal and American Libraries for more.

Ditch Holiday Programming – SLJ

Thinking critically about holiday programing – American Libraries

Holiday Theme Alternatives

What I’m suggesting is libraries need to “spin” things appropriately in order to be respectful of everyone.

shutterstock_396139090For children’s programs and story times, replace holidays with secular, seasonal themes. Instead of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, think autumn (falling leaves and harvest), winter (cold, snow, and hibernation), and spring (growth and renewal.) If you can, create a holiday book section and leave it up to children and their caregivers to choose what they want to read and learn about, whenever they want.

We can, and want to, cover many cultural and historic topics for both children and adults, but reframing is crucial. Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is not Mexican Halloween. Present it as a cultural program, part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

By adhering to heritage and history months, you have greater freedom to present informational and recreational programming that is of a religious/cultural nature. Just make sure you call in an expert to cover the material. See the Library of Congress guide to Commemorative Observances. For program planning in general, it’s also important to consult a comprehensive calendar to choose dates/times for events so that you don’t exclude members of your community based on their culture, religion, or ethnicity.

Ultimately, you need to do what’s in the best interest of your community.

We would love to hear your ideas and experiences!

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries in roles ranging from children’s and older adult services, outreach, administration, and technical services. Click here for more.

How to Get Rid of Unwanted Books (Quietly, So as Not to Incite a Riot)

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

Stacks of Old Books_437994868When talking about their chosen profession to a general audience, librarians inevitably hear “You must really love books!” And while this is probably true of many of us, I have found that it’s the non-librarians who seem more attached to books, often maniacally so, especially when doing their own weeding projects or witnessing ours. Book sale donations, while wonderful for fundraising, can be the bane of our existence when they contain such gems as midcentury “Encyclopedia Britannica” sets, not to mention whatever wildlife took up occupancy in the boxes while they were in the attic or garage. And if you try to deny such materials with your donation policy, you are met with indignation about how expensive the set was when new and that “there’s still a lot of good information in there!”

Similarly, it can be hard for librarians to make decisions about old, expensive, previously revered materials. The biggest thing standing in your way of having a great collection is that your shelves are clogged with obsolete items. They haven’t circulated or been used in eons and you know they should go, but what to do with the materials that have been weeded?

Whether the books are donations or discards, make sure you exhaust organizations such as the American Rescue Workers, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Military Order of the Purple Heart, etc. Contact your local churches to see if they have any missionary projects in impoverished areas around the world. Private primary and secondary schools are also an option for unwanted but viable titles. Perhaps you can try selling items through Better World Books, Amazon, eBay, etc.?

Do be aware that charitable and for-profit organizations can be selective about what they will accept. Add to that the guilt you may feel about donating/selling items that are horribly dated or otherwise blatantly undesirable.

If you dumpster them, dumpster divers and/or tattletales will invariably report about the perfectly good books the library is throwing away, which may have been funded by taxpayer dollars. Boxing up books and putting them at the curb can also prove too scintillating. In my experience, boxes were inevitably torn open after library hours and rummaged through. I tried duct-taping the boxes shut and then putting the boxes in garbage bags to disguise them as trash, but not even those measures could deter the rabid bibliophiles (perhaps bibliohoarders or bibliopolice would be a more apt term).

This kind of activity can spur the librarian stealth ops. Place the boxes out at the curb under cover of darkness, or arrive at work pre-dawn and put them out just before trash pickup. It’s amazing we have to go to such lengths. Believe it or not, I once had a colleague who took the library discards home and burned them in her outdoor furnace in an attempt to avoid opprobrium. And librarians are the ones who usually oppose book burning!

Large sets are especially onerous. I once gave away a vintage “Oxford English Dictionary” set to a local shabby chic home designer and she turned it into a side table for a client (I’m still kicking myself for not getting a photo of that!). Municipalities will often only accept paperback books for recycling. So I also enlisted the help of the library maintenance man to make a complete Contemporary Authors set “go away” by cutting the hardcovers off with his table saw and recycling the pages.

But enough is enough! We never agreed to warehouse items that no one wants. And it’s exhausting trying to hide the dirty little secret that libraries regularly deaccession and often throw away books. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I absolutely love weeding. However, I absolutely hate clogging landfills with stuff that is otherwise reusable or recyclable.

Family Donating_1332264656All laughter aside, we must strike a delicate balance. We want to welcome well-meaning individuals who wish to donate their personal collections for our fundraising efforts. And we also value the members of our community who pay the most attention to us (and what goes into our dumpsters). Our biggest champions can also be our harshest critics. In terms of selling library discards in book sales, you can also face push-back, especially when expensive items are selling for as little as 25 cents.

We take our role of information steward seriously. Transparency is key. Be forthcoming about what you are doing and why. Keeping up with your weeding projects will also prevent the massive deaccessioning jobs that arouse suspicion. I found it best to not “nickel and dime” the process and simply make discarded books free for the taking. And if anyone questioned it, I simply said, “Your tax dollars paid for these, now we’re giving them back to you.” In one of my last jobs, we would take cart after cart of materials that had been weeded, roll them into our book sale area with a “FREE” sign, and most of them would disappear within a few days.

We’d love to hear any funny (or not so funny) stories you’d like to share about navigating the world of unwanted books!

 

Further reading:

ALA’s LibGuide on Discards

“Weeding without Worry” from American Libraries

Check out Awful Library Books (Tagline: “Hoarding is not collection development”) for lots of laughs, plus a section on their website about how to “Discard Responsibly.”

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

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

Growing Gardens, Growing Minds

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS 

Building on the rise of STEAM education and farm to table initiatives, library gardens and gardening programs provide a wealth of learning (and partnership) opportunities. Our interior spaces are often stretched to the limit. Utilizing outdoor spaces for programming is a great way to illustrate how the library’s mission transcends its physical walls.

In my time as a branch manager, a library garden was the solution to an outdated, unattractive area of the library landscape. Through volunteer help, we cleared the overgrown shrubs and built raised beds. My children’s librarian and I had great success in creating a series of formal and informal programs specifically geared toward children and their caregivers.

For new construction and renovations, some libraries forgo formal landscaping to include a library garden. Is there an outdoor spot you can convert to this use — a courtyard, patch of lawn, even a parking stall?

Kick it off with seed planting for hardy vegetables in the early spring: carrots, radishes, onions, chard, and kale. Pushing seeds into the soil is a great sensory exercise for toddlers and preschoolers, as is seeing colorful plants and smelling aromatic herbs. Follow up with summer plantings for such things as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, or whatever your space and climate dictate.

Kids and Garden_607542530Involve children in as many steps as possible, preparing the soil, planting seeds and seedlings, watering, harvesting, and even clearing out and winterizing after the growing season. There can be teachable moments all along the way about plant diseases, insects, and animals.

Just make sure you and your attendees aren’t afraid to get dirty! And put all thoughts of tidiness out of your mind. Your garden will not have even rows or correct plant spacing. I actually recommend overcrowding since there will invariably be plant casualties as the children work on their fine motor skills in gently planting and plucking.

At a minimum, your young attendees are learning how to listen, follow instructions, and take turns. But they are also learning where food comes from and that vegetables don’t need to look perfect in order to be perfectly edible. Whether or not you actually encourage eating, allowing your participants to take home the harvest is something you would need to think about in advance.

In addition to formal, planned garden activities such as planting day and harvest day, my children’s librarian incorporated the garden into other programs, making it a key component of school and daycare visits and an ending activity following storytimes.

Container gardens are also a space-saving and user-friendly option, and there are all kinds of fun things to grow. Just Google “trash can potatoes.”

Not into vegetables? How about a butterfly garden? Don’t have your own space? See if there are any opportunities to piggyback on a school or community garden.

The USDA’s Cooperative Extension System can be a great resource to help get you started, with connections to master gardeners and even free supplies, such as composters.

Jovial two volunteers arranging garden

High schoolers and college students often need community service projects, and this could provide you with extra hands. In my case, building on the success of our initial two raised beds, we added two more, plus a hand-built compost bin via an Eagle Scout project. Through one of our local watershed organizations, we installed a rain barrel to use for watering.

Garden centers will often give away expired seeds. Germination rates may be slightly reduced, but the extra seeds are always helpful. Just mix some current-year seeds in with the expired ones as little hands tend to dump rather than scatter. Ask for a discount on plants and garden supplies in exchange for a naming opportunity or sponsorship publicity.

In my experience, a library garden was a fantastic addition, providing learning and exploration for all ages across many disciplines. Adults found inspiration for photography, art, and nature journaling. After our first year, we got many offers of free plants from local garden enthusiasts. Plus most people just can’t resist watching how your garden grows!

Tell us your stories of inventive outdoor programming!

 

Additional resources:

Web Junction: Library Garden Programs

USDA Cooperative Extension Services

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

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

Turn Your Book Club into a Blockbuster

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

book club_482961064There can be a lot of pressure on libraries to host book clubs. But many don’t want the hassle of putting one together or the attendant problems that can arise: drama over what books to read; who will facilitate; what to discuss; plus the stress attendees may feel over not liking the book or knowing how to contribute to the conversation.

Here’s my formula for keeping the anxiety-producing aspects of book clubs to a minimum.

In my book club days, I led a group of about 10-15 people through 11 selections per year. Considering how busy many people are over the holidays, I found it more realistic to have a combined November/December meeting. Book Club was held the same day every month — the third Tuesday, for example — so that the meeting could be easily remembered. Attendees were encouraged to drop in (or out) as their schedule and tastes dictated.

I found it best to choose all of the books a year in advance to help everyone be prepared, including myself. This allowed plenty of time to acquire a copy of the book and read it. Members were encouraged to email me their reading suggestions for the coming year. I distilled those into a list of the most accessible titles within my consortium. I only considered titles with 10 copies or more, as I never wanted anyone to feel they needed to buy the books, though many chose to.

At the last meeting of the year, the group chose the January book and voted on the books for the rest of that year. We aspired to include a nice mix of fiction, nonfiction, new, and classic titles, while covering as many genres as possible: historical fiction, dystopian novels, etc. Reviews, awards, and synopses guided our choices. But it certainly wasn’t easy, as we often had upwards of 40 suggestions.

Once we settled on the books, I arranged the sequence with many things in mind: overall demand for a particular title (to make sure we weren’t reading any hard-to-obtain titles at the height of their popularity), length of the book, and more. I found it best to keep things relatively light and frothy in the summer months, with meatier tomes slated for spring and fall.

We met for approximately two hours. Reading Group Guides and the author/publisher websites were favorite sources for questions, but I was blessed with a fantastic group who found plenty to talk about without being prompted. Our icebreaker involved introducing ourselves and stating whether or not we liked the month’s selection. I rarely liked what we read, so that was always a source of levity.

I found the running of a book club to be very rewarding, as it forced me to read outside of my comfort zone. I always got something out of the discussion that I never would have had I merely read the book on my own. And sometimes I even changed my mind about my initial thumbs-down!

Here are some other tips/alternate book club ideas.

Books into Movies

Members read the book, gather to watch the movie adaptation, and compare/contrast the two.

Cookbooks

Pick a cookbook, try recipes, and bring samples to share. If you’re super concerned about food safety, you may want to stick to baked goods.

Genres

Limiting the choices to only mysteries or science fiction can take the stress out of choosing what to read — and the odds of your attendees having a good time are better, since they are reading the types of books they already like. Another idea is to focus on travelogues or biographies, with each attendee choosing whatever title they want and telling the group about what they learned.

Reading Marathons

Not necessarily book clubs, but gatherings for book enthusiasts who love listening to spoken word. Individuals take turns reading from the same book.

Short Reading

Rather than a full-length book, focus on an article, essay, short story, or poem that can be read in less than an hour. Similarly, you could stretch a single book out over several sessions, covering just a chapter at a time. This works well with nonfiction self-help-type topics such as mindfulness.

reading coffee shop_1131016739Silent Book Club

Silent Book Club, also dubbed Introvert Happy Hour, is generally held in bars or restaurants. Individuals briefly share what they are reading, read independently, then perhaps socialize a bit more within a two-hour timeframe. There are opportunities to form new chapters.

This is akin to a book conversation group where attendees all read different books, but gather to talk about them. Many libraries do this either in-house or gather offsite.

Teen (or Children’s) Reads for Adults

An outlet for those who gravitate toward books geared toward younger audiences. This could easily double as an intergenerational program.

Walking Book Clubs

Perfect for people who love to walk and also love to read! Attendees find their own pace and the group naturally breaks into smaller chunks, thereby reducing any stress about group discourse.

Online Book Clubs

These are online groups, such as Goodreads, that follow a blog-like format.

What ideas have worked for you? We would love to hear them!

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

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

Natural Disasters—What’s Your Plan?

By Stephanie Campbell, MLISBe Prepared_323156054

Nobody likes thinking about it, but no matter what part of the country you live in, disasters can strike at any moment. While it’s impossible to avoid natural catastrophes completely—even manmade ones—we can be prepared for them with policies, procedures, and supplies.

Disasters take many forms. From fire (wildfires, volcanos, lightning strikes, HVAC and electrical system failures) to water (hurricanes, floods, sprinkler system glitches and roof leaks) to debris (earthquakes, mudslides, fallen trees, broken windows, building collapses), preparedness is the key to dealing with crises as they happen and in their aftermath. Here are some key strategies to help you face whatever fate throws at your library.

Do you have evacuation procedures in place? Do you practice them? Coordinate with your local fire department to schedule fire drills and fire extinguisher training. Schedule annual courses in certification for first responder, CPR, and AED. Check in with the central station of your security system to ensure they have up-to-date contacts and backups for both emergencies and disruptions such as outages.

Fallen Tree_710909917Make sure building systems are inspected and maintained: heating, cooling, and electrical equipment both inside and outside your building. Report overhanging and dead trees or power lines that threaten your building, check chimney flashing, gutters and downspouts. Identify roof areas prone to ice dams, particularly those adjacent to sidewalks and doorways.

Pennsylvania and much of the Mid-Atlantic had record rainfall this summer. Many public schools were forced to delay opening due to mold problems. Even though no flooding had occurred in some places, high humidity alone was enough to damage classroom furniture and materials and jeopardize the health of students and employees.

Staff should constantly monitor their work environment and report active and potential infrastructure problems. Be diligent in checking basements, stairwells, and little used corners and rooms. Make note of soot surrounding duct vents, cracks in walls, bubbling paint, and stained ceiling tiles.

Internet and/or short-term power outages can be overcome with backup circulation systems, emergency lights, and more, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to have policies that state under what conditions you will remain open, and for how long. Set minimum and maximum temperatures under which your building will remain open or close its doors. Rooms without natural light should be evacuated during power failures.

Traditionally, libraries aspire to be open at all costs. But I see this trend changing. I remember working in near darkness, with no heat, electricity, telephone, or running water. I also remember enduring major capital projects (lighting replacements and roofing installations) with deafening noise and dust showering down. These are at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, unsafe environments for staff and patrons alike.

Similarly, there is little reward in staying open too long during winter storms that make travel dangerous. Libraries in cities and walkable neighborhoods are sometimes tempted to remain open too long. While school district closings can be used as a guide, a better indicator of storm severity is retail and/or public transportation. It’s generally better to close completely than to work around blocked entrances, ladders and scaffolds, and snowy or icy conditions that make it difficult to keep up with salting sidewalks and plowing parking lots.

emergency kit_101441059For those times when the power goes out, or you find areas of your building damaged, make sure you have emergency kits set up in strategic places: flashlights, plastic sheeting to quickly protect shelving, disposable gloves, dust masks, goggles, garbage bags, and paper towels for preliminary cleanups. If possible, obtain fans and dehumidifiers, or know where to get them if needed. Familiarize yourself with local industrial cleanup services.

These may seem like onerous responsibilities, especially in light of all we’re asked to do as librarians. But we’re in a public service industry, and the safety of our patrons and staff is paramount!

Feel free to share your words to the wise regarding emergency preparedness. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!

 

Here are some additional resources to help your library prepare for a natural disaster:

Library Disaster Preparedness & Response

Library of Congress Emergency Management

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

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

What’s in a Name? Library Donation Strategies


Donation 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

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. 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

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

When Bad Things Happen to Good Books: Preserving Your Collection

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

Preservation is a core tenet in librarianship. But despite our best intentions, best practices often fall by the wayside in our day-to-day operations.

shutterstock_465231806-CropOn the patron side, there’s no avoiding boiling hot cars, freezing-cold book returns, unclean hands, smoke, mud puddles, food, beverages, and pets. What we find in and on library materials is the stuff of legend. I cringe at the very thought of toilet paper bookmarks.

It’s hard to believe that in my first job, in a very small public library, we wiped down each and every item that was returned before re-shelving: definitely a worthwhile aspiration, but hardly practical. Back then, one of the worst offenders to book cleanliness was hairspray. In the big hair era, there was nothing standing between people and their Aqua Net.

I also smile when I think back on dedicated co-workers and volunteers of times past who kept clamps and slabs of wood mounted on their kitchen tables at home, as they were in charge of the library “mending.” A practice that seems antiquated—a dying art—actually is not.

shutterstock_636035165One of my personal pet peeves to this day is sand in book jackets. There’s just no getting it out! The only recourse is replacing the jacket. But really, what are you going to do, tell patrons they can’t take that perfect beach read to the beach?

But we as library staff are not entirely blameless, either. We are charged with conservation, yet we expose our materials to many, if not all, of the things that are most detrimental to their longevity. In our own sacred libraries, we are guilty of the sins of improper lighting, lack of climate control, dust, and haphazard shelving, to say nothing of the wear and tear of multiple circs.

Furthermore: We know not to overcrowd shelves as it’s damaging to bindings. (But the process of weeding and shifting projects doesn’t happen overnight!) We also know that it’s best to shelve items spine-down whenever they can’t be shelved upright. (But doing so hides the spine label and makes it difficult for patrons to find books!)

Patrons and staff alike have accidents and just plain bad luck—such as the tragedy of unpacking that brand new bestseller only to drop it on the floor and watch in horror as its spine splits in two.

So, in light of the things we can’t control—the acts of God and the unfortunate mistakes that no one ever seems to own—here are some things we can do to ensure our collections stay in the best shape possible:

  • Have separate returns for books and AV materials to prevent heavy books from breaking AV cases.
  • Empty returns regularly to prevent items from getting crushed
  • Choose your temporary labeling methods wisely, as the wrong stickers and tape can easily damage books when removed.
  • Evaluate your shelving and display methods—are they helping or hurting the life of your collections?
  • Here are more tips on book care and repair.

Bottom line: Damage happens, and materials either need to be repaired or replaced.

It’s interesting that in today’s disposable society one of Brodart’s most popular give-away items at library conferences is a book repair kit.

When to fix and when to toss is largely determined on a case-by-case basis. Some library materials are more expendable than others. Similarly, Scotch® tape on a paperback probably isn’t a big deal. But it’s important to arm frontline staff with guidelines on what to do when materials fall apart. Sometimes it’s best to just flag and bag an item for immediate checkout rather than risk on-the-fly repairs with improper methods and materials. Expensive, rare, and out-of-print items are obvious candidates for doctoring, and those merit the time and attention of your resident “mender.” Archives and special collections are a whole different story.shutterstock_633572933

Sometimes, librarianship feels like an uphill battle. Sharing is hard, and can be downright messy, but it’s what we’re all about.

For further reading:

On general preservation and conservation decision-making: http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/guidelinespreservation

Care and tips of various collections:

http://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/

Simple book repair:

https://www.dartmouth.edu/~library/preservation/repair/

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

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

Know Your Sources: Breaking Down Journal Reviews

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

shutterstock_406713271Journal reviews have long been a staple of materials selection, helping librarians decide how to spend their precious resources. It’s extremely important to understand what types of materials journals cover, in what quantities and when, in order to capture the most timely, relevant, and vetted materials your patrons will want to borrow.

For adult selection, everyone knows the heavy hitters are Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Library Journal Prepub Alert, and Publishers Weekly. For teen selection, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and VOYA are the most dominant. For juvenile selection, the major journals to consult are Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal.

Though its coverage is considerably smaller, BookPage offers a good representation of key adult titles. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB) and Horn Book are also smaller, but vital for gaining insight into youth selection.

The chart below shows the approximate number of 2017 reviews, broken down by audience and classification.

Journal-1

Knowing what your favorite journals cover is only half the picture. You must also be aware of how far in advance materials are reviewed. Staying informed of prepublication titles is crucial to anticipating demand.

Journals-prepub

The chart above and table below underscore that the bulk of 2017 reviews appeared within a month or two of a title’s publication. With the exception of adult fiction and some nonfiction (LJ Prepub Alert), it is rare to get more than three months’ advance notice of an important title. It is also interesting to note the number of reviews that appear many months after publication.

Journal

Here’s a quick overview of the main journal sources.

  • Booklist covers titles for all ages from three months prepublication through six months post-publication.
  • BookPage contains primarily adult titles from the current month.
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books focuses on juvenile and teen from one month before, through one month after publication.
  • Horn Book offers juvenile and teen titles from the current month and one month after publication.
  • Kirkus leans more toward adult titles but also has a strong representation of teen and juvenile titles from three months prepublication through six months post-publication.
  • Library Journal is a resource for adult titles from three months prepublication through six months post-publication.
  • Library Journal Prepub Alert focuses on adult titles six months prepublication.
  • Publisher’s Weekly also leans more toward adult titles but also features teen and juvenile titles from three months prepublication through six months post-publication.
  • School Library Journal is for teen and juvenile, three months before through six months after publication.
  • VOYA is for teen, two months before through six months after publication.

shutterstock_437872339Clearly, not all journal sources are created equal. When choosing which journals to consult, it’s important to consider audience, coverage, and timeliness. In general, reviews for adult and juvenile materials outnumber those for teens. Fiction is covered more thoroughly—and sooner—than nonfiction. And some collections such as board books, large print, and Spanish rarely get reviewed. Some of these discrepancies are a simple reflection of the publishing industry (for example, there are far more adult books published every year than there are books for teens).

But journals are just one piece of the collection development puzzle. Bestseller lists, awards, and forthcoming title lists should all be utilized to ensure a well-rounded representation of material. Taking into account sales demand and print run is also a great way to keep up with what’s trending. Combine these with your own personal expertise and you will be well-equipped to make purchasing decisions that will instruct and delight your patrons.

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

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