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.

Spanish-Language Collection Development: What to Keep in Mind When Selecting


Hablas 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 “Lumberjanes (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 Blaker 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.

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 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.

shutterstock_168812345

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.

Everyday Library Advocacy

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

shutterstock_1038850933They say there is no such thing as strangers, only friends who haven’t met—and the same goes for library users and library advocates. There are potential new ones all around you, every day. Several mentors in my career have talked about the importance of using everyday opportunities to make a case for your library or the concept of libraries in general. The simplest interaction could have a profound impact on someone’s life and expand the library fan base. With funding an ongoing challenge, we need a strong base of community advocacy and support to help keep libraries viable.

The good news is that, conceptually, libraries are an easy sell. Society tends to value equitable access to resources. But let’s face it: competition for funding is fierce among federal, state, and local infrastructure and services. And competition is also fierce in how the public chooses to spend its time and money.

Librarians need to be prepared to articulate value in any way they can to a variety of audiences, particularly non-library users. But conveying the library’s day-to-day value, particularly to the uninitiated, can be challenging. Elevators, public transportation, waiting rooms, cashier lines, filling out a loan or rental application… each and every time you are asked where you work or what you do is an opportunity.

When strangers I meet learn of my occupation, their reactions generally fall into a few broad categories. Some are immediately on board with platitudes: “I just love that I can download e-books for free!” Some are indifferent or irregular library visitors: “I used to take my kids there when they were young.” Others are struck dumb that libraries/librarians still exist or they have antiquated or bad memories: “Who needs books anymore?” or “You mean you get paid to do that?” We have our work cut out for us.

shutterstock_526073965There are lots of resources available to help you generate your own elevator speech and talking points. To the layperson, however, these can sometimes come off as too formal, rehearsed, and/or preachy. I prefer to think about library advocacy in terms of teachable moments.

We all know that the key to being a good conversationalist is discovering and engaging in whatever it is that people like to talk about. I often think about what kind of people I may encounter and what I could tell them that might be new or interesting about libraries.

Interactions involving any of these topics offer fertile ground to plant a library seed. Here’s how I choose to position the value of libraries with respect to particular topics, although there is no definitive right answer for any of them.

  • Caregiving—Free entertainment for all ages, through items to borrow and programs to attend
  • Sense of Community—Gathering with like-minded individuals through book clubs, knitting groups, author appearances, writing workshops, poetry readings, musical performances
  • Do-it-Yourself—Those great how-to books you see at the home improvement store are free
  • Education—Professional materials and books for the classroom
  • Health—Resources for diet, nutrition, cooking, exercise
  • Home Decorating—Paint colors and techniques, upholstery and textiles, accessory ideas
  • Hobbies—Perfect your skills, study up to decide on new pursuits
  • Literature—Informational, recreational, scholarly reading
  • Local History—Genealogy, rare books, census records, historic photos, yearbooks
  • Newcomers—Opportunities to engage in interesting activities or meet new people
  • Makers—Digital media labs and studio spaces
  • Minimalism—Access over ownership
  • Places to go—Libraries are one of the few free, open places where people can go without being confronted with expectation to buy
  • Saving money—Why buy when you can borrow or share?
  • Taxes—Anyone paying taxes should want to get their money’s worth
  • Technology—Those either permanently or temporarily on the other side of the digital-divide need to fill out on an online applications, apply for unemployment, print, fax, scan
  • Traveling—Country and state guidebooks, road trip guides, passports

This is just the tip of the iceberg. What can you add to this list?

Then there are always the tough sells. It pays to be prepared with some “pro” arguments to combat the “cons” associated with libraries.

How would/do you respond to the following?

“I don’t really read…”  Response: That’s okay, do you like to learn?

“I find what I need on Google/YouTube…” Response: But sometimes, don’t you need more?

“I can afford to buy my own books…” Response: But you could afford other things if you took advantage of free resources.

“I don’t want to wait for the newest book/movie…” Response: (Again, the money aspect…)

“I just go to RedBox…” Response: RedBox can’t match the library’s collection depth.

 “I don’t want to pay to park.” Response: It’s a small price, plus you’re supporting your local community.

Questions along the lines of “I don’t know what the library has…” or “I can’t find anything and don’t like asking for help…” are tough ones to respond to, and they reaffirm the universal need for library marketing and merchandising strategies.

Remember, not all battles can be won. Just try to give your audience something to think about. An impression of you as a person is also an impression of the profession you represent. Somewhere down the line, someone may simply remember that they met an interesting librarian, and who knows where that may lead?

 

For more information:

http://www.infotoday.com/mls/may14/Dempsey–Not-Good-With-Elevator-Speeches-Try-Taxi-Chats.shtml

http://www.ala.org/alsc/elevator-content

http://interlibnet.org/2015/04/21/proving-our-worth-the-elevator-pitch/

http://www.ala.org/advocacy/declaration-toolkit-talking-points

 

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.

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.