Thursday, May 25, 2006

Facebook and Updating the Stereotypical Librarian Image

I hope everyone enjoyed our hosting of the Carnival of Infosciences and the post a few days ago--special thanks to Janie Hermann for running the show on this for Library Garden. Submitting to the Carnival was fun, although I probably should have limited myself to just one or two of the best posts, but there was so much good "stuff" out there to talk about.

One topic I just loved reading about deals with networking with our students online. I promised in an earlier post that I would come back to this, and today is specifically about Facebook (the summer session is starting at Rider University and some of the students are already communicating with me, even only in quick questions or just in "pokes.") One of my colleagues at Rider, our fairly new business librarian Diane Campbell, was talking to me about connecting better with our freshmen and graduate business students. We were brainstorming on bringing the library to them, promoting our resources and services. So, I mentioned Facebook, which seems to be pretty hot at Rider. OK, if you don't know what I am talking about, you must read Brian Mathews' "Do You Facebook?" article from the just-picked-it-up-from-my-mailbox May 2006 issue of C&RL News (page 306-7). I really appreciated Brian's take on using Facebook at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Here are some highlights from the beginning of the article for those interested in proactively promoting the library and/or your subject specialty area:

During my time on the reference desk, I discovered many gaps in students' familiarity with the library. Could the popularity of Facebook be used as a marketing tool? I started by searching within the Georgia Institute of Technology directory on Facebook for the keyword "library" and discovered Sleeping in the Library, a community group whose members share their favorite locations to take a nap. Next I searched globally and found that a handful of other libraries had created profiles.
We all need to see if we have sleeping communities where we work!

Reading further into this "Reaching out" section, Brian mentions that he wanted to be "proactive" but to appear as himself, "rather than a faceless organization." I totally agree with him on this point. I understand the desire to create a Facebook library community to "push" out information to our students, and I will probably do that, but for now, interacting with our students in this natural environment as a professor-librarian seems to work well.

Anyway, Brian briefly talks about his "plan," the "payoff" of immediate responses after setting up his account and delivering some messages and photos, and the future of his use of Facebook to reach out to their students at Georgia Institute of Technology.
By using online social networks, librarians can increase campus visibility and update the stereotypical image, but, most importantly, we can let students know what the library is really all about.
Nice job on that, Brian!

Save the Date -- if you are in NJ (that is)

Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine are coming to New Jersey!

They will be presenting Conversation, Community, Connections, and Collaboration: Practical, New Technologies for User-centered Services (aka the 4C s roadshow) on July 18th at Princeton Public Library. The workshop will run from 9:30 am to 2 pm and include lunch.

Final cost and registration details to be forthcoming very soon... just wanted to start spreading the word so that calendars can be marked! If you are a NJ blogger, please cross-post and promote... tell your colleagues that this will be an event not to be missed.

I am off to Canada for a 10 day holiday and will update when I return.

Monday, May 22, 2006

L2 Friendly

L2 Friendly
Originally uploaded by freerangelibrarian.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Carnival of the Infosciences -- On with the Show!

It has been a busy week at the Carnival grounds. Make sure you have plenty of pocorn and candy floss (aka cotton candy) and a large cup of soda before the show begins as you will need it. Prepare to be amazed and dazzled by the participants in edition #38 of the Carnival of the Infosciences. Without futher ado... on with the show.

We started with a very early submission from David Bigwood of Catalogablog who stated "this is one of the best ideas I've seen in quite some time: Noting donations and donors in the OPAC". We here at the Library Garden agree that this is a fantastic idea.

Next in to the ring was was Ellysa from Infotangle who not only complimented us on the concept of the Library Garden (in her words: "I think it's a wonderful idea to form a blog which embraces a multitude of perspectives written by librarians of different backgrounds") but also pointed us to her post on Community 2.0 in which she defines several types of communities and gives some great examples of community in practice. Well done Ellysa and thanks for the compliment.

Ellysa was quickly followed by Bill Drew (Baby Boomer Librarian) linking us to his post Verizon giving information to NSA - My response. Bill remarks: "This started up my interest in the NSA and records of phone numbers I call."

After a brief intermission, we had Rick Roche asking for us to please consider his look back at the 1979 ALA Annual Conference meeting on government documants for the carnival. He comments in the post on how some concerns are the same though the technology has changed. A very interesting trip back in time and well worth the look!

Next in to the fray came Filipino Librarian who clearly feels that it is not enough to complain about the existence of librarian stereotypes and believes that "alternative images must be presented" and thus he submits his post, "I am a Librarian" for our reading and viewing pleasure. He also had an addendum to his entry in which he states "I just found out that there was a bit of a discussion last month about self-promotion. I guess this post falls under that category... but in a different direction :-) "

Anali from Grumpator gave us a thought-provoking summary of two talks she heard this week given by Joan Frye Williams.

And then we finish off the show the same way we started -- with an entry from David Bigwood who says: "I have never sent in a second submission for a week, but here I go. A couple of library students have created a tool, ClaimID, that has been getting good press in the Web 2.0 community but none in the L20 arena, that I've seen. "

We also got a P.S. from David Bigwood that contains a cool idea. David says: "Bootcamp sounds fun. What we need is a L20 and Web 2.0 conference. Get the folks from Digg, 37 signals, Amber McArthur, Leo Laporte together with Dan, Jenny, Steven et al. Now that would be one I'd not miss. " We here at LG wouldn't want to miss it either. Who wants to be on the organizing committee and get this conference off the ground?

Now for our picks of the week from the bloggers on Library Garden (we have a lot of editors, so we have a lot of picks):

We liked "It's all 'me'" from Library Marketing where Jill Stover talked about an WSJ article author who "predicts that consumer power will shift increasingly toward individuals who will declare what it is they want and marketers will be tasked with listening to and addressing those needs." We think Jill is right on the money when she suggests that "we [in the libraries] design and deliver our services [while being] proactive in listening for and addressing needs, and that we'll have to work very closely with patrons to provide customized services at their times and places of need." Very thought-provoking, both her blog response and the article itself.

Ricklibrarian caught our attention when he wrote about using Google Notebookfor Nonfiction readers' advisory. He created a sample notebook with links and text which he links to. Being able to bring all that information together easily and then having it available from any computer anywhere is just brilliant.

Best Sellers, Best Borrowed, Most Collected posted at Stephen's Lighthouse was also selected as a pick as it offers up another puzzle for the ages: Why do libraries insist on promoting bestsellers when it inevitably leads to frustration for users who then find themselves number 579 on the hold list forthe book?

Another fave was Ten Months In by Laura S. at Library Crunch talking about the Library 2.0 discussion, and where you can listen to her article. Here is the quote that really got our attention: "We now have a clear, yet fluid definition [of Library 2.0]: user collaboration, constant and purposeful change, and reaching the long tail. Librarians from around the world are discussing this concept. It is a topic at conferences, courses are being taught on it, there are a growing number of librarians blogging it, and books are being written on it, including one by Michael and me." We at the LG are looking forward to their upcoming book on this topic!

We also liked Michael Stephens pointing out that Hennepin County Library is now allowing customer comments in the catalog and Meredith Farkas sharing some deeply personal and inspirational thoughts on her evolution as a librarian, and as a person. Also worth a look is LizB's "good news, bad news"post on attending a Career Fair posted over at Pop Goes the Library.

And this week would not be complete without a nod towards the debate surrounding ALA's Library 2.0 Bootcamp. Lots of good posts on this topic, but as the Carnival ringmasters we are going to point you to Library Garden's own Peter Bromberg who weighs in with his take on the conversation and also offers us a chance to contribute and discuss the topic at the eltuo wiki .

Well, that's a wrap for this week carnival. It has been fun hosting and we hope to hoist the carnival tent in our garden again at some future date. The carnival is moving grounds and setting up over at What I Learned Today, so remember to submit early and submit often!

Thoughts on ALA Bootcamp: An L20 Manifesto

Some of you may be following the conversation going on concerning ALA’s Library 2.0 Boot Camp. (If you want to catch up, read here, here, here, here (audio here), here, here, here, here and here).

I am a participant in the workshop, and I see the conversation that's playing out as one big, (public) demonstration of the power and value of L20. There are both positive and negative examples for us to learn from here. My working group in L20 Bootcamp has been charged with answering the question: "How can Library 2.0 be used to enhance [ALA] membership?" What follows is my response.

First, a few thoughts:

I understand the Otter Group’s motivation to defend themselves against perceived attacks. I believe they set out to do good with this workshop. I'll grant that their motivations are pure. I imagine they must be feeling a bit like “no good deed goes unpunished." Having said that, I think their evolving response to the criticisms being levied at them could have been plucked whole-cloth from the ClueTrain Manifesto, under the heading, “What not to do” or "Example of corporation 1.0 in its’ death throes." That is to say, while running a course that is, at its heart, about having conversations, they are investing time and energy and (allegedly) using the language of intimidation and threats of legal action to stamp out conversation because they don’t like what’s being said.

This is great!!! It’s great because it offers us a real-time, unfolding case-study, ripe with lessons we can sink our teeth into. I do not see this as a simple case of the big bad corporation versus the noble defenders of good. It’s a little more nuanced than that (most things are, right?). To the extent that we can resist our impulses to cast this as a drama of good v. evil, we can extract some useful lessons.

That I am getting value from my Bootcamp experience and the conversations that have sprung up around it is unquestionable. As far as I'm concerned, the fact that ALA is doing anything is a huge overriding value. I'm aware that much of the value I’m extracting as a participant is because of Otter’s (and Jenny Levine's and Michael Stephens') contributions. And some of it is in spite of their contributions. Right now people are talking about the “in spite” part. That’s ok. That’s natural. That's healthy. But it's not the whole story. What follows is my attempt to frame what I'm seeing, hearing, reading, and experiencing in a way that will help me learn and extract value from this experience. Nothing more, nothing less.

El Tuo's L20 Manifesto: (Thoughts on using L20 to enhance membership in ALA

  1. L20 is a conversation.
  2. Don’t try to put the conversation in a box.
  3. Conversations do not occur in boxes.
  4. Conversations are organic. They go where they go. They grow where they grow.
  5. The further a conversation goes the better. The wider it grows the better.
  6. Go where the conversation goes or you will cease to be a part of it.
  7. No one controls the conversation.
  8. If you try to control the conversation, it will affect how others perceive you in spite of anything or everything else you are doing.
  9. If you try to control the conversation, you will lose credibility (at best).
  10. Credibility is the coin of the web 2.0 realm.
  11. If you try to control the conversation, you will ignite and draw peoples’ anger or ridicule or both (if you’re lucky).
  12. Your response to anger and ridicule can be a part of the conversation or separate from it, in which case it is simply prologue to your epitaph.
  13. If you try to control the conversation you will be ignored as irrelevant (at worst).
  14. Irrelevance is worse than death. People say nice things about the dead, but the irrelevant are seldom mentioned.
  15. Anyone can participate in the conversation.
  16. We add value by participating in the conversation.
  17. It is the quality of our participation, not the quantity, that determines how much value we bring to the conversation.
  18. We extract value by listening to the conversation.
  19. The best listeners extract the most value.
  20. The organization that listens best extracts the most value.
  21. Organizations can’t just listen... They must participate.
  22. ALL feedback is good.
  23. Conversations flourish when ALL feedback is seen as good.
  24. All feedback is useful.
  25. Conversations flourish when ALL feedback is seen as useful.
  26. The appropriate response to feedback is to say thank you.
  27. Find another way to say thank you.
  28. Repeat.
  29. Now offer a thoughtful response to feedback.
  30. Congratulations, we are now having a conversation.

(This manifesto has been cross-posted to: I encourage fellow boot camp participants and anyone else interested in growing the manifesto to jump in and edit. The pwd is eltuo.)


EDIT: This was written and posted before reading Michael Stephen's latest post at Tame the Web--really! A little bit of sychronicity...


Friday, May 19, 2006

New flickr Photo Pool

Library Garden
Originally uploaded by janielianne.

I am trying to learn all I can about using flickr for a class I plan to teach at this summer for our patrons. I have set up my first group and am trying to create a photo pool. Hope some of you wil help me out so that I can use this as an example for when I teach the class.

Below is the description of the Group. Please join in!

About Library Blog Signs
A photo pool for bibliobloggers to post a sign made using a sign generator. The sign should represent their blog or something about themselves. Be creative ...

Go to a site such as and create sign and then post it here to promote your blog.

Here is the direct link:

[Edited 5/22 ] I changed the description of the group this morning to include the following:

Or if your blog already has a logo or unique graphic of some sort, post that here so we can collect them all in one place. Be sure to include a link back to you blog in the description.

Your additions to the photo pool can be serious or funny... just hope to see that I am not the only, lonely member for much longer.

Thanks for helping me out!

Still Seeking Submissions

We have received a few excellent entries for the Carnival, but are still looking for more submissions of what was great and/or really caught your attention this week. It is too late to submit early, but not too late to submit often. You have until this Sunday (May 22nd) at 6 pm to get your entries to us here at the Library Garden. Please send your submissions to janieh [at] gmail dot com for edition #38 of the Carnival of the Infosciences .

On an slightly related note, whenever I think of Carnivals I think of consuming sugar that has been spun into a sticky mess of melt-on-your-tongue goodness on stick. My husband and I have an ongoing debate about what this item is called. I have placed a photo to the left as a visual cue. Please help us settle this one and for all! What do you call it? I say it is Candy Floss and he claims it is Cotton Candy.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I've been George Needham'd (literally)

But I wasn't the only one... Yesterday was MPOW's annual Spring Membership meeting (20th anniversary to boot), and we were delighted and honored to have OCLC VP for Member Services George Needham on hand to discuss OCLC's must-read "Perceptions" report. I know it's been out for awhile but if you haven't read it yet, go read it. Or re-read it. Or read the 8 page conclusion. Or the respondent's advice to libraries.

George's talk was wonderful. Warm, reassuring and hopeful, while still being provocative and challenging. Here are some highlights:
  • "It is not the customer's job to understand us, it is our job to understand the customer." (paraphrased from a comment made to OCLC Prez Jay Jordan, "It is not our job to understand OCLC, it is OCLC's job to understand us."

  • "Convenience will always trump quality (so it is our job to make quality convenient.)"

  • George summarized the points of Jennifer Rice, Omar Wasow, Antony Brewerton and Patricia Martin who spoke at OCLC's mid-winter "Extreme Makever" symposium in San Antonio. The webcast and mp3s are available at: Of particular relevance to our audience was George quoting Jennifer Rice (Mantra Brand Consulting--great blog!) on the importance of libraries letting customers get a library card online. You can hear just that snippet of Jennifer's talk here:(direct link or press the blue arrow.) This was particularly significant because we're piloting a Get a Library Card Online project - aka GALCO- in New Jersey!

  • What do customers tell us they want? More books, more copies, no fines, longer hours, more computers, friendlier staff, cleaner, better-lit, uncluttered facilities.

  • George quoted Joan Frye Williams' point that self-service isn't synonymous with "no service" and would better be thought of as "self-directed" service. YES!!
Thanks Mr. Needham. Indeed, it was all good.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Scan this post

Kevin Kelly's NY Times Magazine article, Scan This Book, blew my mind. I read it straight through on Sunday and have re-read selected snippets a few times trying to wrap my mind around the implications. Here are a few selections that really jumped out at me (with my comments if I rally the brain cells to assist me.)

Kelly writes,

The link and the tag may be two of the most important inventions of the last 50 years. They get their initial wave of power when we first code them into bits of text, but their real transformative energies fire up as ordinary users click on them in the course of everyday Web surfing, unaware that each humdrum click "votes" on a link, elevating its rank of relevance. You may think you are just browsing, casually inspecting this paragraph or that page, but in fact you are anonymously marking up the Web with bread crumbs of attention. These bits of interest are gathered and analyzed by search engines in order to strengthen the relationship between the end points of every link and the connections suggested by each tag. This is a type of intelligence common on the Web, but previously foreign to the world of books.

Mind blow the first: Simply by clicking on a link we are affecting the order the of the web. What seems to be a "read" action, turns out to be more of a "read/write" action. The more we click on something, the more likely it becomes that someone else will find it and click on it.

Kelly writes,
Once digitized, books can be unraveled into single pages or be reduced further, into snippets of a page. These snippets will be remixed into reordered books and virtual bookshelves. Just as the music audience now juggles and reorders songs into new albums (or "playlists," as they are called in iTunes), the universal library will encourage the creation of virtual "bookshelves" — a collection of texts, some as short as a paragraph, others as long as entire books, that form a library shelf's worth of specialized information. And as with music playlists, once created, these "bookshelves" will be published and swapped in the public commons. Once snippets, articles and pages of books become ubiquitous, shuffle-able and transferable, users will earn prestige and perhaps income for curating an excellent collection.
Mind blow the second: Individual enthusiasts writing, selecting, "curating", mashing, may soon be on an equal footing with the "experts." I can already see this happening with wikis and blogs. The truth is, I now get almost zero useful information from our professional literature (It takes me about 10 minutes to read American Libraries and/or LJ.) But I get an immense amount of useful and stimulating information --information that is helping me do my job better-- from a number of library and marketing blogs that I read regularly with the the help of RSS. (So how long before we hear, "Dude, have you heard my mashup of Federalist #51 and the new Neil Young album? Publius rocks!!)

And there's more. A lot more.
  • The sorry state of our copyright law, and the black hole of out-of-print information it has created (sucking, sucking, sucking information away from the public domain.)
  • The fact that a large % of out-of-print info can't be put back into print because, well, because no one even knows who owns the copyrights.
  • The possibility that Google can bring much of this "lost" information back into play by scanning and indexing it, thereby shifting the onus to copyright holders to exert claims (if they have them.)
  • The filtering power of hyperlinks and tags to bring items that exist out on the long tail to peoples' attention. (think: If you like Ryan Adams, you may like the Jayhawks, and if you like the Jayhawks you may like, Uncle Tupelo, and if like Uncle Tupelo, you may like Calexico, and if you like Calexico you may like Giant Sand, and if you like Giant Sand, you may like their album Glum (and that's about as long tail as it gets.)

I'll be re-reading this piece, and reading other blogger's thoughts on it, trying to flesh out and extrapolate what it all means for libraries. It occurs to me that the Overdrive audiobooks platform already allows us to add our own pdf and audio content to the collection. Will librarians soon be performing more local collection development of digital formats?

The possibilities (and challenges) of adding exponentially more community created content (like Atlantic City's teen poetry slam, or flickr photo sets, or autobiographies) as permanent additions to the collection is intriguing!


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Carnival of the Infosciences is in Da Garden!

The carnival tent has been hoisted and is firmly staked in our lovely Library Garden awaiting for an amazing week. We have set up a ferris wheel for your those of you who feel the need to escape for just a little while and watch the world go by from up on high. Let us know what is going on in the biblioblogophere and join in the fun.

Please send your submissions to janieh [at] gmail dot com for edition #38 of the Carnival of the Infosciences .

Friday, May 12, 2006

Props to Pete!

I have just heard a cult classic in the making -- Pete Bromberg's Library Bootcamp Blues. Clever, catchy and certainly good for a few smiles. My favorite verse almost goes without saying ;-)

Gettin' Blogger cred for my service creed
I got
Library Garden and plenty of seed

My post's been hosted, my feeds been fed,
Got something to say that ain’t been said

DOPA is just Dopey

Web 2.0 is being targeted by Congress with legislation that is known as DOPA -- the Deleting Online Predators Act. If DOPA gets passed it would ban students from accessing online communities from school or library computers because they receive federal funding. To me it seemed liked CIPA 2.o at first glance, then I did some more reading and realized it could be far more damaging than CIPA and that DOPA is far more insidious.

Andy Carvin posted about DOPA at yesterday and the ensuing discussion is fantastic and thought-provoking. Andy followed up with a brief blog entry today in which he states:

... what about all the educators and students who've used commercial tools like Flickr or Blogger? Have the nascent days of Web 2.0 been nipped in the bud as far as schools and libraries are concerned? Will the promise of online constructivist learning be wiped out with the swish of a presidential pen?

I certainly hope not Andy, but I fear that too many of our lawmakers may not yet have their ticket for the cluetrain. I see a long battle looming in our future.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Congrats to Robert Lackie

Just a quick congrats to Library Garden blogger Robert Lackie on receiving the 2006 Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship. The award is given annually to honor an individual for contributing significantly to the public recognition and appreciation of librarianship through professional performance, teaching, and/or writing.

Robert Lackie is being recognized for his contributions in promoting the library profession in the academic, public, and school library sectors through his extensive teachings, writings, and professional service. Described by Vibiana Bowman, Rutgers University, as an "an indefatigable ambassador for librarianship," Lackie is quite well-known among library and educational professionals in the mid-Atlantic region as a dynamic and enthusiastic teacher, educator, and speaker; he has taught a legendary number of courses ranging from basic library instruction sessions and professional development training programs to graduate library science courses at Rutgers University.

If you're lucky enough to know Robert, or to have worked with him in any capacity, this award certainly comes as no surprise. His generosity, energy, caring, and commitment know no bounds. So congratulations Robert! For my money, this recognition couldn't have gone to a more worthy librarian. I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to work with you, hopeful that we will work together again in the future, and proud to be your friend.

Interesting New Library Marketing Blog--for the Garden State and Beyond!

I am always on the lookout for new, interesting articles and blogs that might be of interest to librarians in NJ, particularly, and of course, to all of us in the library field, in general. Well, the new blog by Nancy Dowd of the New Jersey State Library is one of them! As the Outreach and Marketing Specialist there, she has recently introduced a new blog called "The M Word", which in the spirit of the NJ State Library's "ongoing commitment to help NJ libraries better tell their story to the public, policy makers, and the press," has provided another avenue for us to easily connect to interesting materials, articles, and ideas related to the marketing of libraries. So, if you are thinking about how you can better market your library's services and resources, in addition to reading our "Library Garden" posts, such as Peter Bromberg's current "Tips" blogs, I would recommend taking a look at "The M Word" when you get a moment--she is especially interested in librarians sharing "ideas, thoughts, and support to marketing problems." The URL for her blog is . I especially liked her blogs about GE’s use of MySpace (I am so into social networking sites now and promise to post more on these soon!) recently because of its great "word of mouth advertising platform." Companies, and now libraries, are beginning to use different media to communicate with everyone, beyond the print and regular media outlets, and think that we, as librarians, can jump onto that bandwagon, too, as Nancy suggests, to get the word out about our libraries. Nice job, Nancy!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tip #4: Keep a "No" log. (aka Steal this post)

Practical Tip #4: Keep a "No" log. (Steal this post)

OK, I've been meaning to post this idea for over a week, so it serves me right that I got beaten to the proverbial punch by Stephen Abram, who appropriately titled his post, "an idea worth stealing."

The idea? Keep a log at every service desk and note every time a customer is told "no", or "we can't do X", or any other variation on the theme of denying the customer what they want or need.

Look at the logs on a regular basis and evaluate whether those 'nos' can be turned to 'yesses'. I recommend reviewing the nos while keeping in mind Michael Stephens' "Five Factors for User Centered Services"
  1. Does it place a barrier between the user and the service?
  2. Is it librarian-centered or user-centered in conception, i.e. is it born from complaints from librarians about users?
  3. Does it add more rules to your bulging book of library rules, procedures and guidelines? The more rules you make the more quickly library users will turn you off.
  4. Does it make more work for the user or the librarian?
  5. Does it involve having to damage control before you even begin the service?
I'm not suggesting that every no be turned to a yes. But I am suggesting that your customer service will improve if you every 'no' is critically evaluated.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Leslie Burger is "Oh So 2.0"

Early Morning Beignets
Originally uploaded by lburger1951.
I spent some time with Leslie this morning getting her flickr account personalized and organized. This photo is from her recent tour of New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast. She will be uploading many more pictures in the near future and plans to share her travels and adventures as President-elect/President of ALA not only only on her blog but also on her flickr account. How cool is that?

Pssst: Insider Info on Blogger Bash @ ALA Annual

Breaking News: Library Garden has "the scoop" from a reliable source!

ALA President-Elect Leslie Burger will host a gathering for bloggers in her suite at the Hilton on Saturday June 24th after the Scholarship Bash (starting around 10:30 pm and going until midnight). It will be an informal event, great for networking, unwinding and catching up with bibliobloggers both old and new. So why not plan to take in Mary Chapin Carpenter at the official Bash and then head over to the Hilton for the after-bash blogger bash.

More details to be forthcoming, just be sure to mark your calendars. Please rsvp by leaving a comment here on Library Garden if you plan on attending so everyone can see who will be there -- and to make sure you get final details (aka precise location) when they are available drop me an email: jhermann at princetonlibrary dot org. Spread the word!

Oh, and if you are wondering how Library Garden got this breaking news... check my blogger profile and you might notice that I have "connections" to LB... and she is my reliable source. I just finished meeting with her and she has asked me to promote and coordinate.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Customer Service Tip #3: Be a great place for teens

Practical Tip #3: Be a great place for teens.

Granted, many libraries already excel in this area, but it's worth mentioning. In my first "test" post I joked that, "If we can get [baby ducks] to come in for quacky time when they're still fuzzy, cute, and let's face it a little impressionable, I think we'll have them for life." But seriously folks, if we give teens a positive, engaging, welcoming library experience, there's a much greater chance that we will keep them for life (or at least through their first molting season.)

And I don't think that a positive, engaging, and welcoming experience is at odds with the necessary boundary setting that has to happen with teens. I never felt more loved and welcomed than when Carol Kuhlthau was throwing me out of my high school library! (I had an inkling that defacing magazine covers by cutting out the noses and mouths and wearing them as masks was not appropriate behavior.) I appreciated that I had done something wrong and Carol always welcomed me and my friends back. I guess she realized that when we weren't goofing around we were actually doing some reading.

So how do we make libraries welcoming and engaging for teens? There's the basics: Smile at them. Treat them as you would other customers. Anticipate and meet their needs. What needs? Stephen Abram suggests letting teens bring their skateboards into the library:
"Why don't we have a skateboard rack inside the library? Why would we have our patrons risk their independence if their skateboard is lost or stolen? How would they get to the library? We should support them. A skateboard box, Rubbermaid storage container or simply a towel bar by the service desk is a simple solution that provides a service instead of a negative interaction. It's welcoming. Buy or get a second hand old skateboard and a few sticky letters that say WELCOME. Why wouldn't we do this? It's a cheap visible proof of welcoming attitudes."
Aaron Schmidt suggests (gasp) letting them use the stapler (that generated a LOT of discussion across many blogs--worth following.) Back in a previous incarnation when I served as a YA librarian I set up a modest homework center with paper, scissors (double-gasp), hole punch, white out, pens, pencils, highlighters, paperback dictionaries and thesauri all located in a little 3 shelf bookcase--just for teens! If they're asking us for it, why not provide it? (Please don't say "money": paper, pens and a few staplers a year--yes they walk occasionally--aren't going to break the bank.)

Beyond the basics (smiling, scold-free service) there are so many good ideas out there for serving teens it's hard to know where to start. So why not start here at the BIG IDEAS, NOW: teens @ your library conference that took place April 30-May 1, 2004, at Trinity College University of Toronto. There are a lot of goodies here so I'll highlight a few:

  1. Keynote address by past YALSA President Michael Cart
  2. Notes from breakout session, Attracting Teens/Selling Teen Services to Staff and Administration
  3. Notes from breakout session, Adolescent Development and Libraries (good ideas on why teens come to the library and what we can do to meet their needs)
  4. Notes from breakout session, Librarians New to Working with Teens

Thanks Ontario Library Association for continuing to host such a valuable resource!


Having a bad day? Trait vs. State

I recently presented a workshop on "Conflict Resolution" at the NJ Library Association conference and I have been thinking more about the idea of "state vs. trait" and the importance of being aware of how we interpret the behavior of others in library service encounters. Our judgments often depend on how well we know the other person.

If someone we know (and like or love) is rude or cold to us on any given day, we are likely to think "He's just having a bad day," or "Something must be wrong with her today." In other words, we think that our friend is temporarily upset, in a bad mood, or in a bad state. We are able to give that person the benefit of the doubt and may even excuse their somewhat nasty behavior because we know that this is not their usual personality. Our first reaction is to become concerned and to ask "what's wrong?" or "what's going on with you today?"

If, however, we don't know someone at all (as is the case for most library service encounters) and this person is rude or cold to us, we are much more likely to think "What an awful person" or "What's their problem?" or even "What an expletive deleted!" We think that the person has a bad trait. We are unable to excuse their bad behavior since we assume that they are always like that. Our first reaction is to be offended. We may not be able to resist the urge to snap back with a tart retort and then conflict ensues.

For service excellence in libraries, if we are able to think of the grumpy, stressed, or otherwise annoying people we encounter as nice people possibly having a bad day or being temporarily stressed out, this would enable us to be more sympathetic. We could then perhaps respond by asking "What's wrong?" or "Can I help you, you seem upset today?" We could openly acknowledge that they seem stressed or upset, that we understand that they are a bit fragile today, and they may be in need of a little bit of TLC. If we can see argumentative or grouchy people as being in a bad state rather than having a nasty trait, and if we react to them in a more caring way, many potential conflicts can be averted or defused.

On the days when I am stressed or rushed or hungry and tired while running a bunch of errands, I would just love it if those I encounter at service desks could understand that I am usually quite lovable and kind. Yes, I am a bit grumpy and fragile today, but I am having a really bad day.

Just one.