Why Libraries Rock

3835642932_1981254635In order to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Louisville Free Public Library but libraries everywhere I decided to participate in the Blogathon that Andy Woodworth got started.

So why are libraries awesome or rock or kick butt?   All libraries rock because they allow free access to all information (be it print, audio, visual or world wide webable).   We do a lot more than that but since each library focuses on different aspects of their community I thought I’d blog about why MY library rocks!

My library rocks starting at the top and it works it’s way down through every staff member.

  • Our Library Board is very supportive of what we do and sees that our mission & vision stays current and provides our customer base with what they expect.
  • Our Executive Director and CEO has seen that we are not only aligned with  but synonymous with education.  Education is the corner stone of what we do.  We educate all the time – whether it is a story time class, book promotion, or customer service staff helping a customer log into their account.  Each interaction is based in educating, in training.  This is just one of the many initiatives she has implemented since coming to Howard County.
  • Our Public Relations department that produces an outstanding newsletter every quarter that highlights our classes, events, and seminars.  They have created the Howard County Library brand and oversee everything from our flyers, to our signs, to our social web presence making sure  we are consistently presenting the correct image and wording.
  • Our Information Technology department which not only supports over 300 computers (and more coming)  for our public to use (using a Linux operating system which allows us to save our tax payers money while providing a stable, secure environment on which to work) but also the staff desktops (in Linux, Mac and Windows).  We also maintain the web site, catalogs, and databases so our customers may  self-direct their education.
  • Our Children’s & Teen Curriculum – what can I say about all the wonderful classes our children’s services provide?  I’ve been privy to many (taking photos or just walking by) – the amount of energy, time, thought and fun (while learning) that goes into these classes is second to none.  These instructors really have  a calling and put our youngest customers on the path to lifelong learning.  The teen events are no less spectacular.  Making purses from old jeans,  “Hogwarts Summer School” to celebrate the latest Harry Potter movie, Duct Tape flip-flops and gaming nights give our teens a safe environment to socialize, learn and interact.
  • Our Events and Seminars – the learning and fun isn’t just for our children and teens.  Author visits, book club discussions, classes on technology, health, finances or travel and recreation are just some of the great offerings our adult customers can enjoy.
  • Our Passport facility.  Our East Columbia Branch is now an official Passport Acceptance Facility.  Another great service for our customers.  They can use all the wonders of the library while applying for their passports.
  • Community Education and Partnerships.  No library is an island, we are very  much a part of the community.  Our partnerships – Howard County Public School system, Howard Community College, Lincoln Technical Institute, Leadership Howard County, Choose Civility, Horizon Foundation, Howard County Autism Society, Lazarus Foundation – (PCs4Kids), HC DrugFree, Inc., Girl Scouts, Ubuntu Maryland Local Community Team – are just some of the ways we are out in the community interacting, engaging, and educating our customers.
  • Our Collection.   It’s not just the outstanding materials our selectors purchase but the hard working individuals that catalog, process and circulate these materials so that our customers can get what they want when they want it (whether it’s an in house visit or via our web site and catalogs).
  • Our Customer Service.  We pride ourselves on not only meeting but exceeding our customer’s ideas of what good customer service looks like.  This comes in all shapes and forms – from helping someone at our Information or Customer Services desks, to recommended a book/dvd/cd/or event via our blog Highly Recommended, to answering a customer’s concern via email, to talking to a teen who just needs someone to listen – we believe in going that extra step, that extra degree.

There are many more aspects and departments that I didn’t mention.  They too help to give our customers what they want or support our staff so they can give our customer what they need.  We need ALL the parts of this well oiled machine to make our library rock and to rank first in the nation among great public libraries according to Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings 2008.

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Home Away From Home – Day 2

Ah, day two and it should have started off better.  Knew I had to leave a bit early from home to drop my son off at his Dad’s new house.  Still trying to figure out best routes to and from his house.  This morning with the hazy fog it didn’t help and I was a few minutes late getting to work.

EntranceFirst one in the office this morning.  Dropped my stuff at my work space and scurried to get to the morning duties (I had switched days with a co-worker).  Unforwarded the helpdesk phone and then proceeded to swap the tapes on both the Horizon and Authority Works servers.

This was to be my IT @ Admin day so I needed to focus on the morning duties and get them out of the way.  Once logged into my Ubuntu and Windows machines I did a quick cursory check of email (no dire messages).  I then proceeded to do the morning duties (just like yesterday).

Once they were out of the way I checked the helpdesk tickets and assigned them accordingly to my co-workers (seems some days I get a lot and others I don’t – it all evens out in the end).  Opened Twirl so I can peruse Twitter (both my personal account – @mlibrarianus and the library’s official account @HoCo_Library).  Then I queued up a Tweet for the library’s account using TweetFunnel.

Our Network Administrator came into the office and had mentioned that we had a power outage (clock in the workroom before ours was behind).   PACs were showing red on PACMON (our own montioring system that our web programmer wrote) but luckily the Day End computer finished running Day End before the power outage (having to run day end in the morning before people start logging into Horizon is not a fun thing to coordinate).

I proceeded to work on the email bouncebacks.  I’m still amazed at how many we get.  Are that many people really changing their email addresses and not updating them with us or what?  Still trying to figure out the best way to ensure our customers get notified without this having to deal with bouncebacks.  It is a labor intensive process that should not be handled by IT.  Haven’t come up with the answer as I know that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tweet that made me chuckle.  I don’t normally follow the trends on Twitter but this one caught my eye #verydullbands.  Some were pretty good.  tumour seemed to be on a roll.  Time to head to our Administrative office in the East Columbia Branch and be the IT guru of the day (each of us takes turns spending a day at Admin helping with computer/software related issues that arise).

Home away from homeAfter getting my lunch in the fridge and things settled into the IT cubicle, I logged into the Ubuntu machine we have set aside for us.  Last time I was there I used Good OS – as if Google and Mac had a love child this would be it.  I really liked the operating system and having the Google gadgets.  Alas I was back to our staff desktop version of Ubuntu which is nice too.

Queued up another tweet for the library’s official account (which is approved by our Public Relations dept. and released to the Twitterverse).   Talked to a colleague who had heard I’d been recently to Spain recently and was thinking of going.  So I sent her a link to my photos from Espana on Flickr.

Consulted with fellow IT co-worker about iTouch and our collaborative software, DeskNow.  He had a Blackberry and wasn’t familiar with the iTouch.  Went around the Admin office asking staff if they had an iPhone or iTouch.  Found someone in Public Relations that had an iTouch who was able to help with the question another staff member had asked me.  I won’t mention my extreme jealousy of those with the iPhone or Blackberry (I soooo miss my Blackberry).

Helped another colleague with a PrintNow problem.  Think the delay was due to her Java update message wanting attention.  Once I clicked on that PrintNow printed the screen shot she needed.  Stopped by the cubicle of our Training Coordinator to discuss a request that had come up in my visits to the branches regarding our Staff Intranet.  She was open to the suggestion that the less formal “Lunch and Learns” be part of the training calendar as well as a notice on the Staff Intranet.

ITBack to my cubicle.  Checked on the Merlin site since I was playing admin while Nini Beegan was on vacation.  Cleaned up a bunch of registered users that were clearly spammers.

Consulted with web programmer and network administrator about the best way to get a new image onto our PAC screensavers.  The library’s unofficial (yet very professional and wonderfully talented) photography, Fritzi Newton, had taken shots of each of our 6 branches along with iconic views of our county and mixed them with photos she was able to obtain from Enoch Pratt.  She put these altogether as a screensaver for our public computers.  There was wording on each saying where the photo was taken.  After 2 years of these being out there for the public someone had realized that one of the slides had Maryland misspelled.  Fritzi corrected this and gave us the new image (with correctly spelled state) to use.

Realized I hadn’t really talked to our staff at Admin about the revamping the Staff Intranet.  I had been to all the branches to get feedback so I wondered around the office and talked to different staff.  Along the way I helped with a couple browser settings.  The one feature that I love on our Intranet was one that I pointed out to several folks.  Our web programmer had created a staff directory – the staff search box searches that directory.  So if you don’t know what branch, the phone number, the exact spelling of their email, what title they have, etc you can search for a person (last name or first name or full name) and see all of that plus a picture.  I convinced several people that using the staff directory search was 100 times easier than scrolling through the phone list.  This made me realize that this well used by many but missed by some box needed a more prominent spot on our Intranet.  So I moved that up further on the left hand side along with moving the Quick Links further to the top as well.  These are just temporary stop gaps until we revamp the whole Intranet.

LUNCH!

Assigned to myself and closed helpdesk ticket regarding receiving spam from old email address.  *sigh* The only 100% sure fire way to not receive spam is to not use email.

Played telephone tag with the editor of our reader’s advisory blog, Highly Recommended, regarding a few tweaks and a new idea that had come up in a meeting.  Then I went about interviewing more of the Admin staff about our Intranet and what ideas they might have.

Dealt with calendar settings for two people in Public Relations.  They didn’t have a box checked so the calendar invites were not showing up on their calendars the way they should.

Debunked an Urban Legend that was sent via email to IT.  I love Snopes.com.  I used to hang out on their bulletin board and I do miss the folks from there.

Discussed ideas with the Events & Seminars Manager about the use of voice recorders regarding local authors.  Getting them to read excerpts from their books or interviews with them as part of a podcast.

Answered an email from staff about the spam filtering option setting in our email.  Explained that we use Barracuda, spam filter, on the main email server so there is no need to use the one provided by DeskNow (if you do it actually creates more work).

Decided to make another change to the current Staff Intranet (that was brought up by staff at the branch) and managed to not screw it up.  Deleted code and things still worked properly.  Then I got a little too confident and removed some more – this time I did screw it up.  THANKFULLY, our web programmer who has the patience of a saint with me was able to figure out what I did wrong and fix it.

Way past time for me to go, so I turned off my machine and headed home.  I had to pack and drive to PA that night since I going with my parents the next morning to the hospital.  My Mother was having a biopsy of her lung done.  Here’s hoping it all goes well and the results are good.

Community Partnerships – We Are All In This Together

103_0474Building Community Partnerships: 25 ideas in 40 minutes given by Kathy Dempsey, Editor of Marketing Library Services Newsletter. 2nd live blog attempt so pardon the spelling and grammatical errors.

what makes sense for public may not make sense for government, special – pick what will work for your particular library needs

don’t rely on just money alone – trade for inkind services

join local chamber of commerce, lion’s club, make contact – someone who knows you is less likely to slash your budget

partner with grocery stores – story times love it – book drops – open small branches in the grocery store – not an extra trip to go to the library – they need food

annual book sale at local mall – empty stores gave them spaces for the books

mall was happy because it brought more shoppers in

find groups that are in similar situation – other groups – historical society – what you do someone else is doing it – partner instead of compete

are you targeting support staff? assist to dean? when they need info for bosses they come to you and have some influence with those hire up – same with county commissioners – they are looking to do better work for their bosses

trade deals with small business – local flower shop in kind donations – flowers w/publicity – it is small but building a relationship with another person and business

IT experts – they are busy – want to run ideas or bounce off ideas – or maybe trade some services for personal or library’s needs – do work for you exchange research for them

college professors – even if not academic library – assign class projects that are work for the library – need a new logo – or branding campaign, – helps the teachers as well – helps them not give the same thing year after year – gives the student a real world assignment

scout troups – boy/girls – work to do for badges, build bookshelves, garden, physical tasks that could become an assignment for a group like that – takes heat off troup leader to come up with it all

form alliances with video game stores – grab teens, see what you can trade – give kids credit or coupons – for X number of books they read in Summer Reading Game, gives you more street cred, gaming club at schools – partner with the ones already in the schools – helps both you and the other gaming club to not be afraid you are working togethr ( you may have more space – meeting rooms)

trade training with other trainers – in between conferences do something more local – don’t over look your local experts – anyone who has skills that your staff or customers want – trade inkind – don’t be afraid to ask to trade services

meetings with liaisons w/government officials – get to know the staff members – gives you and in for the legislators – they will ask their aide , put a human face on the library a lot of what partnerships are about

AARP need a lot of information – go to trusted sources – become a trusted source – let local AARP to have meetings in libraries – get on their agenda to help promote yourselves, they think of other groups first – get in there and make sure they think of libraries as well

Choose your influencers – your message will get spread easier

have conversation with them – ask them first

Senior Citizen centers ask them for something in return – volunteers, to do storytimes, help other people, do inventory, writing grant applications

Getting involved w/local politics and staff members – as regular citizen join political action groups, even just the city planners, they have a lot to say about your budget – get to know you as a real person not just a building – never under estimate the power of personal relationships

offering research services to government officials – roads, new intersections – if you know what is going on in the community – offer your services for traffic accidents stats for ___ to help you write your plan

Make alliance with everyone in the community – want to join and do something that matters – don’t always have thousands of dollars but even just 10 will help, sponsor trees (like the angel trees at Christmas) – spell it out for them make it easier

birthday party – book plate – donated then story time around that story – got to feel special – for just $10 that would live in the library for the future

Reporters – they need happy stories – ESPECIALLY NOW – local reporters know you are available not just your press releases – need a quick last min. picture – senior at computer, kid happy w/book, it fills space and put some happiness into the news, offer to write columns about what is going on at the library – you can do research for them too (reporter on deadline – fact checking)

causal advisory boards – get buy ins, best way to make programs/classes instead of guessing is talk to them – never any reason to guess – ask them – don’t make it a formal advisory board – drop ins – you want us to do something for you – what is it? what are the best hours, what interests you? then let them go out into the community they (libraries) are here to serve us – feel ownership and personal relationship with you – parent story time adv. board – what time is best? what craft? do you want to be parental advisor for story time – doesn’t have to be staff time let them work with you (may know other parents and draw in others) building advocates and saving money on glue!

SOCIAL NETWORKS – David Lee King’s blog post – who should you friend and why should you friend others than just other libraries – how to friend people on Facebook – don’t just toss it out there – give them a reason to join you – have a reason to have a page

Parents – are partners – not just sit here for an hour after school – tell them what you have and what the library can be to them as a family or to their children – education

tell as many people the most basic things – what you think they already know – they have no idea

building alliances with k-12 – talk to school teachers, what are the kids working on, what are their plans for the fall- what can we do to help them? conversation – more recognition, align w/education – makes a difference. Howard County Library is considered part of the education budget because our Executive Director and CEO Valerie J. Gross firmly believes that what we do is education and just as important as what the schools do. By aligning ourselves with the schools we have a different budget and more respect in the community.

Consultants – reciprocal relationships where you work for each other – they need information

Approach people – don’t ask like your asking for a favor – we are as valuable as any business out there – start with someone you know or comfortable with – if you know someone from other events start there – role play with colleagues to get comfortable – have a starting line in mind – be the human face of the library – spoof official sponsorships everyone has an “official sponsor” these days – talk to people all the time – on trains, in lines – have some documented facts in your back pocket – use the facts that have already been gathered for you – start at the end and build backwards – what do you want the outcome to be.

Day in the Life – Better Late Than Never

Day in the Life

Day 5 of week of keeping track of what librarians or library workers do so we can see the diversity of the jobs we do.

Friday January 30, 2009

7:25 – arrived at work – unlocked elevator and office

7:29 – swapped out tapes on Horizon and Authority works servers and unforwarded the helpline phone

7:35 – logged on both Windows and Linux machines – logged into email and did a cursory scan since I was out yesterday

7:41 – logged into Horizon and returned my DVDs (hubby is watching Wire in the Blood) and checked to see what reserves had come in for me

7:43 – went downstairs to put returned DVDs in correct delivery boxes, get mega cup of ice for Diet Coke habit and to retrieve my 13 holds

7:48 – checked out my 13 holds including David Lee King’s “Designing the Digital Experience”

7:53 – logged into Staff Intranet, iGoogle, Friendfeed, Facebook and Meebo

8:10 – updated co-worker on husband’s condition after yesterday’s test

8:15 – reading/responding to emails from yesterday

8:31 – posted day 3 of DitL blog post because I was out yesterday

8:32 – caught up with co-worker about Wednesday’s Lost episode

8:37 – tested Sailor link to our Marina page – is working now that they have the correct one

8:47 – updated boss on hubby’s test results from yesterday

8:50 – back to emails

9:00 – bounceback emails are calling me

9:05 – to help with a helpdesk ticket installing Filezilla client on Mac laptop – while waiting I “Dugg” some article from my RSS feed

9:14 – installed and correctly setup FileZilla on Mac laptop and was able to connect – easy install

9:15 – back to bouncebacks more have come in

9:30 – called Public Relations office about their helpdesk ticket

9:44 – uploading PDF’s to ChooseCivility site

9:55 – called Public Relations back and discussed uploading to Joomla’s media manager instead – turns out will probably just wait until the new Choose Civility site is up and running for this

10:03 – more bouncebacks….guess ILL finally generated all the notices

10:10 – discussed with Sys Admin about some errors and concerns over day end process a couple of days ago. Sadly neither of us is 100% sure who messed up what or did the system fail to finish a process.

10:30 – closed helpdesk ticket from Public Relations – will wait for new site to add pdfs

10:40 – emailed class about Picasa3 training and some issues that have arisen around timing and schedule

10:50 – called staff member to follow up on helpdesk ticket follow up that they didn’t follow up on ;)

11:00 – worked on CIL09 slides

11:40 – created collection/set in library’s Flickr account for our new This Is Your Life program so they can start uploading images

11:45 – wrote up instructions so This is Your Life folks can upload to Flickr

12:10 – Lunch

12:45 – spoke with Network Admin about why my synaptic package manager was giving me error message – taught me how to run the command in terminal because an update didn’t get finish – running full updates now – installed FileZilla on Ubuntu machine

12:54 – back to CIL09 slides

2:00 – Called into podcast T is for Training

3:00 – back to CIL09 slides

3:30 – end of day, end of week

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