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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Let’s Flood Them With Cash

fl2lgI know the economic times pull on everyone’s purse strings.  What I’m hoping is this will pull on everyone’s heart strings and maybe release a few purse strings as well.

Can you imagine coming home to your computer, books, TV, furniture and other beloved items under more than 3 feet of water?!  That is exactly what happened to the Louisville Free Public Library.   Fellow IT and Library friend, Greg Schwartz alerted us to the very devastating news via Twitter updates and Twitpic.  Their data center, mechanical room (for HVAC) and holding area for the books was just obliterated.

Library Society of the World is trying to raise $5,000 by September 1.  To find out more about and to contribute please read Steve Lawson’s blog post.

My heart (and my wallet) go out to all the employees, customers/ patrons/users of this library.  I hope you can come back even bigger and better than you were before.

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Day 1 CIL2009 Or What the Wind Blew In

Had to take a later train than normal since I dropped my son off at high school.  Luck would have it they had just recently changed the Dorsey MARC station over from a manned (or womanned) ticket taker to a kiosk.  Well I must say the kiosk wasn’t very user friendly.  It wasn’t just me but several I saw struggle with it.  Literally was the last person to jump on the train.

As Stuart Ragland, from Enoch Pratt Free Library, and I are finding our seats I look to the left to see a very familiar face.  Sean McGovern a friend who works in DC was also on the same train.  Small world.

Rush through Union Station to the metro then the fun of trying to remember which side of the track you need to get on to go in the right direction.  Finally emerged from Crystal City station to a very windy Virginia.  Literally I think the wind blew every inch of curl out of my hair while it pushed us this way and that down the street to the Hyatt Regency.

After receiving my conference pass, with speaker and blogger ribbons (whoo hoo first year for both) I made my way downstairs to hear a bit of Lee Raine’s keynote speach.  Wireless is living up to it’s reputation like last year – took about 5 tries to connect.  Can’t remember how many wifi access points they had last year but they have at least 8 going this year.

Now for a brief moment to catch my breath before diving head first into a busy day of attending, blogging, and networking (f2f and virtual).

Photography Leads to Micro-Blogging

Last night I volunteered to help my photography mentor with a class she was instructing in how to use Flickr.  With a hands-on class it always helps to have an extra set of eyes, hands and legs to walk the room and help students.  I was more than happy to help.  Not only did I coerce…umm, suggest that she teach the class but it gave me yet another chance for her to impart her years of photography experience on me.

When the class was over I wound up talking to several people and registering them for her next class (sure sign things went well).  She had billed me as “the web 2.0 guru”, a name I wear proudly and several ladies asked me when I was going to teach my web 2.0 class.  One woman in particular wanted to know if I would teach about Twitter.  I was thrilled to hear that word (one of my favorite web 2.0 sites that I feel has such potential).  So when I got a tweet from Mashable, I thought how timely.

10 Ways to Build Your Blog Community with Twitter stressed many of the points I would have made.  The first 3 bolded paragraphs are just a start but each of the ten bullet points bring home good reasons to use Twitter as well.  I’ll be passing this blog post along to my photography mentor.  Why you may ask?  Because she is also the editor of our readers advisory blog at the Library, Highly Recommended.

Social Networking – Friend or Foe?

As a socializer, social networking sites are just a natural extension of my being.  Yet I was struck today, after attending a meeting which included representatives from many (but not all) of the counties in my state, by the feeling that I was more connected to the library folks on FriendFeed and other social networking sites than I am in my own state.

So is social networking friend or foe?

Friend – positive:

I’ve been exposed to different library folks in different states from different types of libraries with different job titles.  Exposure to different situations and different view points helps to broaden my horizons. Even if I had a great rapport with everyone in our state it wouldn’t afford me the same benefits as reading comments, blogs and web sites from other library folk in other states with different viewpoints.  Mainly because Kansas or California or Michigan isn’t Maryland and even if they are from a public library these folks have a different take on things that perhaps can give me some insight.  This is not to dismiss the value I place on my fellow Maryland library folk – just that sometimes an outside, unbiased opinion is needed.

Foe – negative:

Feeling as if I have more kindred spirits in the library world virtually than I do in reality.  I guess I’m missing what I get from the virtual world in my work world.  I miss the flow of ideas, the support, the differenting opinions (said with respect), the fun little give and take that I get from the social networking sites.

I’m not giving up on social networking by a long shot.  I just need to find a way to incorporate the positive side of social networking in a virtual world into my daily work life.

Deserted Island Reads

Most people have a list, or in some cases an actual tape/cd, of their favorite songs they couldn’t do without if they were stranded on a deserted island. ABC.com and Lost have done it one better – Lost Book Club. Inspired by my addiction to Lost, I created a display at the Central library.

Using the letter from Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (posted on the ABC.com web site) as the basis for my sign, I then divided the cube into 3 seasons. Using the top layer for the DVDs of Lost, I then arranged the books below them that corresponded with the appropriate season.

I’m honored that they allowed me to set this up directly in front of our circulation desk. I’ve been told this is the equivalent of the candy/gum rack at the grocery store. Except I’m hoping that kids of all ages will check out items from my display.

Just a few more pics of my handy work. I’m a bit proud as this is my first book display, ever!