Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dear Library Funding/Budget Gods

Dear Library Funding/Budget Gods,
We public librarians are busy. We are busy updating our technologies. We are busy helping patrons file for unemployment online, because the lines are too long or the phone lines are busy. We are busy creating story times and children's programs that encourage reading and literacy. We are busy helping students with their homework during the week. We are coordinating visits to schools to talk about great books to read for the summer. We are compiling lists of literature relevant to our community's interest and needs. We are busy scheduling our meeting rooms (free!) for local organizations and non-profits to meet in and enjoy. We are shelving the many, MANY materials that are flying in and off the shelves. We are busy heating and cooling the building. We are busy trying to find out if we can afford to install word processing on computers that are too old. We are trying to budget whether or not we can put new computers to help ease the pain of late afternoon computer backup. We are cataloging new books. We are reserving new books and movies for patrons who are waiting patiently to read and watch them. We are busy cleaning up messes left behind from patrons who utilize our buildings. We are busy asking the public what THEY want from their library. We are busy. We are concerned. We are providing the public with things they need and at times can't afford. Even more important that those incredibly awesome two things: we are becoming a destination for ALL types of people.

The Library Destination can be a place to unwind, to relax with a book. It can be a place to pick up tax forms, or a place to check your email. It can be a place where you let your kid blow off steam after being cooped up in your house for 8 hours due to nasty weather. We are a place where you can Shake your Sillies out, do the Hokey Pokey, spin yourself around and then go relax in a comfortable chair and read the newspaper. We are a place a person can walk to after they buy a cup of coffee across the street. We are one of the last places still standing that provides people with free information, and access to acquire even more information than we can physically house on our shelves. We do it with a smile. We do it for a modest living, and most of us do it because we love it. We love the building. We love the books. We love the sense of community. We love hearing children proudly announce they're learning how to read. We love to discuss books with patrons. We love to talk about how eBooks are changing the field of librarianship, publishing, all of it. We love to make things easier for people.

As I mentioned before, we do this for little money. Many of us went nearly broke paying for the advanced degrees to get us into a field and career we love. And we only complain (or we only SHOULD complain) when budget cuts continue to take away the rights of those who are already struggling. We are here, with a smile, to help people who need it. Sure, we're not curing cancer. We're not saving lives in the physical sense, but we are here because we want to be, and because the people who need libraries serve everyone.

So please Library budget Gods, please allow us to have the funds to AT LEAST continue the good work we're trying to accomplish. We would love the opportunity to improve upon the services we already offer, but understand that is not probable. So at the very least, look kindly upon us and let us continue to dutifully do the work that fills the gaps that so many other services leave behind. We love it here, and we want to continue to do good work. Adequate funding (ADEQUATE, I'm not even saying more or better) will allow us to keep brainstorming of more ways to improve the services we offer without spending more money we don't have.

In Dewey's Name I Pray,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not much time

I have roughly 10 minutes to sum up everything I've been doing since the last time I've posted. This is an unattainable goal. Though right now, a lot of what I'm doing SEEMS unattainable, so I'll just assume it's a theme and roll with it.

I'm still ordering Teen books, though I've slowed down on the quantity in that arena, as I've finished ordering all of the BBYA booklist books, and big name authors/series to create a basic core collection of teen books. And they're going out! Teens are reading them- heck, adults are reading them (they're good!) so that has been a satisfying portion of my job. Also, I've done some shifting around of the collection because for SOME reason, most of the books I ordered were written by authors who have last names that begin with letters A-S....and the S-Z portion was a little bleak. At any rate, the shelves look great, the books are shiny and new and being used.

We've successfully finished most of the renovations in the Teen area, Homework Help Center and Children's Department. I have to say, I love it. The color on the walls make it feel warm and inviting even though we're sequestered to the basement of the building. Patrons oooh and ahhhh when they walk in and see the new furniture and decorations, and it is incredibly satisfying to witness that as well.

I'm still working multiple service points, "wherever I'm needed" as I say. This is good because while I'm up in the Adult area, I've been giving the 800s to work on and WOW talk about overwhelming. The oldest book I've come across was copyright 1916. But many many old dusty books have sat on these shelves without circulating for 15 years or more. FIFTEEN YEARS! I've forced myself to go shelf by shelf, scan each book, and make decisions that way. Initially I was going all willy-nilly towards the old looking stuff and realized it just wasn't the way to go. I guess it seems more manageable this way?? I added question marks because...

At times I still wonder if I really know what I'm doing. I think I do- and I try to abide by the best practices of other forward thinking organizations I've worked for...but sometimes I still ask myself...."Who is trusting you with all of this!?" I'm sure it's just self doubt and a pathetic conscience but I can still hear it, sometimes.

I'm also helping to rebuild the nonfiction Juvenile books that we aggressively weeded and re-filed with oversized books.

And most recently, I suggested to someone that we apply for a grant and now I've found myself attempting to write one, in only a few days (of course the deadline is Dec. 1st). I've always wanted to learn how to write grants and now I'm pissed that I don't feel like I have the time to do it properly or thoroughly enough to meet my own expectations. I guess I'm giving it my best shot but MAN I wish I had more time.

Don't we all? Wish we had more time?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Patron behavior and staff expectations...

Once again I've waited too long to post something new, and my brain is bubbling with toomuchtosay and no real coherent way to let it all out so I'm going to do my best here, but hope (just a little bit) that no one really reads this (I'm pretty confident no one does) because I'm not sure any of it will make sense.

The first issue I'd like to address is Patron Conduct. It is a bit sad that a public place has to create rules or guidelines or policies that outline expected behavior these days, but we do. It is not uncommon to have folks in libraries who enjoy looking at porn, or speaking loudly/rudely to staff or other patrons. It is not uncommon to encounter the angry patron, or worse- the angry and mentally ill patron. It is not uncommon to have disputes over money, or books, or other people, or the way things are kept/run/handled, etc. In short, you can't make everyone happy- and it is inevitable that people will eventually be unhappy at some point, and how you handle that will reflect upon the reputation of the organization.

It starts to get dodgy when patrons take things into their own hands, and start making suggestions (or cussing out) other patrons or God forbid have altercations that escalate into violence or even moderate rough-housing but it happens it happens it happens and I can't lie, at times it is downright amusing when you find out WHY it happened. It puts librarians and public service staff in the role of referee.

I thought this was common knowledge. I thought everyone knew that, as a public institution, our JOB is to serve the public- all of them, equally, regardless of their situation, scent, appearance, abilities, income, or whatever- ALL PEOPLE EQUAL. This was the part of library science that intrigued me the most. Where else is everyone treated equally? You can't walk into starbucks and pilfer their WiFi without buying an iced tea. In the library you can come in, and just BE- and no one will bother you, so long as you're behaving and not disrupting anyone else. Isn't that beautiful? I think it's amazing.

It's been increasingly clear to me that not everyone has the same view regarding who we serve, or how we should serve them. A recent incident where I work has brought me to disagree with nearly everyone there...and I can hardly fault them for their opinions, as (once again) they're just doing what they've always done. However: I feel that someone needs to send out a memo that we do NOT just serve our "service district". We serve the public. The public includes the homeless. It includes the people who come in on the bus-line. It includes those with special needs, it includes the elderly. It includes everyone. EVERYone. Everyone gets the same treatment. And that treatment should be delivered with genuine kindness if possible.

Basically, I think part of this problem that we've had with some patron interactions could be somewhat resolved with guidelines or rules for expectations of behavior while using library materials and being on library property. Don't masturbate, start fires, scream, run, hit other people, etc. It's sad that it needs to be said, but I think it could help give the staff a leg to stand on should they have to intervene and ask someone politely to please STOP, or kindly leave the premises.

We're getting there. It's being worked on, and again it will require patience so we have the right set of rules and expectations, and everyone is on the same page.

I guess I've grown to expect crazy stuff to happen at the library. Just like crazy stuff happens at the BMV and at the public parks. They're public places. The public is crazy. But some people haven't had to experience the crazy because any behavior that was deemed as inappropriate by ONE INDIVIDUAL would lead to a patron being banned. Go away, patron- your mistake cannot be forgiven, you should just know better than to....blah blah blah.

And in some regards, I get that. People in general should be able to control themselves, be polite, or at the very least civil in public. But that never happens ALL the time.

ANYhow, none of this probably makes any sense. All I'm saying is, I really hope that the people I work with can begin to understand the nature of their jobs and what they're expected to do, who they're expected to work with and how they're expected to serve the public. Patrons are rude, unfriendly and can be downright mean and scary. I thought that was a given with the job description and that was why we all chose this field.

I think a good set of rules might be a good segue into what is OK and not OK to advise patrons to do. I think it could lead to a more clear cut understanding that- yea, you're going to have to put up with some shit. Be a duck, let it roll off your back. Grow a thick skin and move on. Treat everyone equally.

Baby steps...

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Well, it's been a long time since my last post (of course). There have been many many things I've THOUGHT about posting but didn't- mostly because I'm too tired or don't have access to a computer at the time I'm thinking about posting a library-related issue or thought that crosses my mind.

We're in the midst of big changes at our library (story of my life!). It's been going along pretty smoothly I'd say. Each day there's a new set of obstacles to get around, but it's either getting a) easier to expect the obstacles and therefore know how to overcome them or b) easier because I've become "used" to the types of problems that arise. I'm not sure which, maybe both.

Things I'm doing now:
Buying the Teen Collection. This is fun fun fun. I'm basing the collection on new and popular fiction that's coming out now. I'm also buying things that were on BBYA lists for the last 2 years and anything classic or required reading for area school districts. This doesn't include nonfiction. I'm buying graphic novels here and there, but am reluctant to buy into the big manga series because once you buy ONE, you need to buy all 40-some, and I don't know which ones will be popular. So I'm going to eventually start off with a few series and see how they do, and base further selections off of that. The graphic novels now are being inter-shelved along with Teen Fiction, because there aren't many and it just makes sense right now to have them in there. I believe some colleagues question my judgment on purchasing "older" books (books that have been published in 2007, 2008, and 2009). However, I believe the way I'm doing it is the right way to start off with a collection that still had (prior to my weed-frenzy) paperbacks from 1999 circulating within it. You gotta start somewhere.

Weeding Juvenile Nonfiction. This is insane, like bat-$hit craziness. I pulled a book from 1911 the other day. Many of them are falling apart, and others are just so well-put together that they could easily withstand being on the shelf for another 30 years without a problem. This is frustrating because so much of what we need to get rid of isn't being published anymore. Nothing even close is out there. The reading level in these books is much much higher than the stuff they put out now. And the sheer volume/size of the books we're getting rid of is leaving our shelves bare. I KNOW without a doubt, that I could purchase every book that's now being published on...say, the constitution, and our shelves would in no way be as filled up as they were with the old stuff. The old stuff is dusty and moldy and gross, and outdated....and THICK. The books themselves are huge and take up much more shelf space than any and everything put out now. As a result, our shelves were looking so bare that we "slowed down" the process. So the Nonfiction collection is quite hodge-podgy at the moment. And when I do dive in for another round of speed weeding, my eyes water, nose runs and throat burns. It's interesting and fun, and overwhelming.

Ordering Adult Fiction. This is fun, but time consuming and a little stressful. Since immersing myself in Juvenile and Teen collections, I feel a bit out of the loop on Adult Fiction. There are tools to help you know what's coming out by big authors, and I'm using review journals and NYT book review to help with all of that but still, I haven't been here very long to know exactly what circs well and what doesn't, so it's kind of a crapshoot. We have a weekly budget and I have a colleague who's helping. We're splitting it 50-50, and I can't imagine doing it on my own at this point. But it's good experience, and I feel it gives me the "right" to weed fiction when I'm up in adult, which really needs done.

Working multiple service points. This is part of any job, and I enjoy this part of the job. It mixes up your day and you get to see how other departments operate. It is also one of the most frustrating parts of my job because we are so short staffed that often I have to work another desk when I have work that needs to get done in my own department. Also, it's difficult when I know that other co-workers aren't willing to cover in other departments. Being flexible and willing to learn can put you in a position to cover for others, when they're not willing to do the same, which is irritating. Initially I was very gung-ho about working in other departments, but now I look at the schedule and see myself in Reference for 4 hours the next day and feel a little deflated. There are obstacles in these departments as well- mainly our patron computers that need updated badly. There's no way to "track" how long a person has been on a computer, so when they're filled up, we make a list so the next person in line gets the next available computer. There's no word processing, flash drives, and the browsers are so slow that many who are trying to access certain websites are unable to do so. This makes for irritated patrons. Once in a while you'll get a good reference question and that makes me feel good- but then when I'm back in that collection I REALLY want to weed, or I see a lot of work that's gone into things that isn't really's hard to reign in all of the energy and wishes to improve things, if that makes sense.

Planning for the Homework Help Center/Children's remodel. This is really fun right now, because things are being moved around and around and around, and patrons are asking questions. It's fun to tell them about the exciting changes, though it's hard to be patient. The space for the HHC is now opened up, and we're waiting on paint, computers, desks and chairs. The designer has been by with all of this - the swatches and the carpet samples, etc. It's so exciting. Now it's just difficult to plan and be patient. With school about to start, I want to be able to promote the HHC at area schools but I don't have a definitive timeline for when it'll be completed. Also, coordinating volunteers is a little tricky for the HHC when I'm not sure when we'll be opening it. All of this is stuff that's not a big deal, just in my head and bouncing around.

Cataloging. Dum dum dummmmmmm....Yes, I've been cataloging. And hopefully not completely screwing it up along the way. I'm copy-cataloging mostly and it is terrifying. It is also nice to be a part of the WHOLE process: selecting, ordering, processing and then placing the book on the shelf. I'm hoping it doesn't make me too attached to the books themselves (I have a feeling that's why we have so many books that haven't been withdrawn-- there's a personal connection between librarian and book when you've been with it the whole way through it's life at the library.)

All in all I'm still satisfied with my decision to switch systems. I was talking to the boyfriend the other night and remarked upon some colleagues of mine that are moving up and becoming big-time-stuff in their jobs. I told him, "It seems that they're on a fast track..." and he said, "Well you are too..." But my track doesn't seem quite fast enough for me. I know all of this is a lesson in patience (and probably time and project management).

But I've created a basic goal: in two years, I want to be in a Management position. I don't think that's an unreasonable goal. I've had almost 5 years of experience in libraries, and by then 5 of those years will be in post-MS work. I'll have built two collections from the ground up and worked in multiple branches and departments. I need to get with my boss and find out how else I can improve my "track" so I get where I want to be in the time-frame I've created in my mind. I feel that since I started the Library-ing game late in life (about 4 years after starting a career in a different field) I owe it to myself to reach these goals already!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Patience, Grasshopper

So. I'm well into what, my third week? Fourth? Heck I don't remember. I've been a weeding fiend in my department, and there are now empty shelves that will soon house the YA books I'm ordering. Though the specific portion of the collection I'm working on looks good- I'm happy with the progress, and with the way it's working out- it's still a lot to take for other people I think. I think the bare shelves scare people in some way. I assure them it's to make room for my stuff. Out with the old (unused) and in with the new (hopefully useful)! Still, there is so much collection maintenance that needs to be done in the building that if I stand back and take it all in, I can easily go into panic mode- and I've considered asking our Director for a key to do stealth weeding at midnight.

It's hard to change a process. One process, that has served a library well for years, can take a lot of cajoling and convincing to change. This includes even the initial "Why do you do it this way?" and onto the "Have you ever thought about doing it this way?" It's NOT that I have a better way, but I just wonder sometimes why people hang onto things and processes that are no longer useful, or really just include extra steps that are just adding steps that don't need to be there. It can get really overwhelming, being the new person and seeing the big picture, and wanting to help with the change, but not really feeling like anyone truly understands why change is it could better serve the public AND make staff lives' easier.

So I try to focus on one thing at a time. And when I do that, I can still get overwhelmed with all there is to do- but it's a big lesson in Patience. I can do this, once this, this and this get done. I am convinced that I could work there 24 hours a day for at least 6 months and still have plenty to do. My sense of urgency is not contagious to most though- and I don't think that's really uncommon. Library folk have historically been stereotyped to be quiet, slow to make a decision, researchers, thinkers, organizers, etc. I'm not quiet. I like to make decisions and have a contingency plan or another option and wiggle room for mistakes. I'm a researcher and a thinker, and mostly organized. Sometimes I just don't know where I fit. I know this is also the plight of the YA librarian in general- being in between age groups. I love that facet of my job- I love getting called up to work another desk or cover someone's breaks. It provides a lot of variety to my job. But it also opens your eyes up to other opportunities for improvement....

And then I just try to sit back and wait- let other people figure it out on their own, or carefully approach a topic in a way that lets them know that "hey- I was just wondering, no pressure, just curious...have you ever thought of this?"

On the up side:

My teen books are starting to arrive! They are so pretty and shiny and new and good looking. I love them already.

And I'm trying to patiently wait before hoarding them all into my to-be area. Patience. Yeaaaaaahhhhhhh

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Digital Divide

So. Last night I sat down with my laptop to blog and my boyfriend came up from the basement (AKA Man Cave) and asked what I was about to do. I told him blog. He asked, "About what?" and I said, "The Digital Divide," and he said, "That sounds dumb." I responded telling him that HE was dumb (like a mature 31 year old woman would) and then he said, "That sounds like a nerd term."

Sigh. I suppose it is.

I guess I just feel that I've encountered the Digital Divide in a whole new way of late. Before, whenever I thought about the Digital Divide, I always stereotyped. I thought of older people who haven't been in the workforce in a long time, therefore haven't had the necessity of updating themselves with technology and technological tools. I also thought about senior citizens who may have thought the advances in technology were a passing phase or something. And until now, mostly I've only encountered those people who have little to no technological skills, and realized this only once they were out of a job. Since many MANY employers are now asking for emailed or electronically submitted resumes and applications, much of the public service work I've done up until this point has included assistance in filling out these forms and creating resumes for people on computers, since they don't know how.

So we're talking Digital Divide, we're talking patrons. We're talking about my previous experience with a pretty specific portion of the patron population, meaning those trying to get back into the workforce and need to have basic computing skills to even submit a resume for a CHANCE at an interview.

Now I'm experiencing something different. For the first time, I'm working at a place that hasn't updated their computers in years. As a result, many of the things don't work, or don't offer patrons the tools they need. None of the computers where I work (right now) have Microsoft Office on them. That means no word processing, no presentation making, no excel chart creating....nothing. This includes the STAFF PC's! (OMG that's a whole other blog post about creative ways around not having the software you need for formatting things.) At any rate, since the patrons haven't had the computers, and the staff hasn't had the computers, or the software to keep up to date on certain things...I'm experiencing more of the digital divide with staff and colleagues within my new job. It's at times frustrating, but more than anything disheartening. It makes me really frustrated for the people who work at this library, who don't have the skills or information they've needed in order to "keep up" in the library world. As a result, I feel a little disconnected from them and find myself wanting to help- but feeling that it's not my place to instruct someone on how to copy and paste, or use Google Docs, or organize their internet browser bookmarks.

There are just SO MANY SHORTCUTS in the digital realm. Technology allows people to do things faster, more efficiently, MULTI-TASK! And so a lot of the time I feel really weird in my new job, wanting to have several browser windows open (including my email and calendar), consulting web resources for patron interactions, etc. I'm kind of an anomaly it seems.

And it's not their fault! I mean, had I not been given the tools in my job, and the trust to "Go forth and Learn" wherever you were, on desk, off desk, etc.-- would I know what I know now? That's what I wonder. I mean, I have a computer at home. I love my iPhone and I love gadgets in my personal life, so it just all kind of melts together now. There is not so much a line between what I use Professionally (for my job) and what I use personally (at home). Facebook has colleagues and it's often where I learn about interesting articles about libraries. It's not just where I post pictures of my adorable baby. It's where I connect with people.

So basically what I'm wondering: do a lot of my new colleagues just avoid technology in their personal lives too? Or is there that big of a divide between their personal and professional lives that they may have a super cool fancy phone, and still not know how to cut and paste into a Word document? I find that hard to believe. I don't know. It's just puzzling to me how Information folks, us nerdy librarians who would like to know as much as they could avoid wanting to learn more? To become more helpful to patrons?

I'm not speaking about anyone specific, just making an overall observation due to a couple of interactions I've had. It just seems that there are two camps where I work: those who know and use computers, software and technology on a regular basis, for pretty much everything- and those that don't.

I just wonder how long "those that don't" will stay that way. Will they change? Will they want to learn? I think they'll have to once we get the tools to offer patrons....we'll see!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hump Day

Well, I've made it through half of the week at the new library. I am spent. Monday I was all pumped up on adrenaline and couldn't even fall asleep until 1am after work. Tuesday I started to get overwhelmed with all the directions in which a person could START working in my job, then I created a plan. Wednesday (today) I began working on the plan, and upon walking through the door of our house- wanted to just lay down and stare at the walls.

This is not an option for someone with a baby, so first I fed the baby, played with said baby, bathed baby, fed baby a bottle, and then put him in bed against his will, and THEN I laid down on my couch, stared at the wall where my London photos hang, and listened to him whine for about 30 minutes before passing out. Not quite what a person would call relaxing, since I was staring at the pictures thinking of them, of that time, and not the present- where you can't walk in my house without stepping on something, the laundry needs done, the dishes need done, the groceries need bought, the old food thrown out, and the work week is only halfway over and I'm thinking, "Oh. my. god." because it doesn't feel like any of it will get done and I'm so mentally exhausted I could fall over.

So I started trying to think of what was bringing on the fatigue, aside from just the normal "wednesday crash" of a work week and adjusting to a new workplace, job, etc.

Aside from one person at my job, nobody knows me personally. So there's no real chit chat. I'm still gauging my co-workers and trying to figure out where I'll be on the social totem pole, who hangs out with who, what cliques there are, and I haven't had much time (nor really put forth any effort) to do any of that. Anyways. I miss my people at the old job. They all were with me through the tough personal stuff. I could tell them if something in my personal life was ticking me off. They all asked about my baby and genuinely cared and asked to see new pictures.

I can't expect people to be all that interested in my personal life at this point in the ball game. I just started, and it took me four years to develop the relationships that I did at the old library. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm a pretty social being, and I like the collaboration of connecting with people and ideas and right now I'm feeling a little isolated. I knew that would happen- and I'm fine with it for now. I just hope that down the road, I can create some lasting friendships with the people I now work with...

and I need to be sure to stay in touch with those I used to work with.

On the upside- I withdrew roundabout 50 books today, many of them older than me, and that was quite cathartic. The plan is in action, and that makes me feel good.