I want to know some of your best practices in community engagement. Following up on Hilary’s last post, share what has inspired you, but also share what you have done to inspire others outside the library field. When was the last time you changed a library stereotype? Do you participate in the community outside your role as librarian? My library is in a very small community, so I am involved in just about everything, from being secretary of the business association to playing in the pool league. Everywhere I go I am conscious of how I am portraying librarianship, because the town is small enough that a lot of people know who I am. For me, it is important to represent the library no matter what I’m doing. I try to market the library to the people that may have never met a librarian before. The owner of the gym now knows that he can learn computer skills for free at the library, the guy playing pool at the bar knows he can order geometry books through interlibrary loan to improve his bank shots, and the kids watching the homecoming parade know that librarians don’t just sit behind a desk. (Sometimes they dress up like princesses).
I’m curious about how librarians in larger communities get involved. Our field always talks about how to get the non-users into the library, but what are you doing to show them what the library can do for them personally? One of the sessions at ILA talked about conducting phone interviews or surveys of non-users to find out why they don’t come to the library. That is a great idea, of course, but to borrow a phrase from Dawn Mushill, we should be “library ambassadors” all the time. Get out there and tell people what they’re missing by not coming to the library. Write an article for the newspaper, tell your yoga class about the new book club, and make sure your waitress knows she can bring her kids to story time. Stop expecting new patrons to come to you. Go find them!
Hinckley Public Library District
While many of us dutifully read our library blogs and journals, we are often talking to ourselves. What has inspired you lately outside of our own profession? Have you gotten a great programming idea from a sports team? How about picking up on promotional tactics at the grocery store? Or thinking about a new library layout based on a well-designed web site?
Do you actively expose yourself to ideas outside of our field? Are you reading publications other than those in your subject areas? Are you attending classes or events on topics you know nothing about?
Has inspiration ever hit you as you go about your daily life? What were the circumstances? Have you found a way to increase the odds of adding new and creative ideas to your repertoire?
Even more difficult than generating lots of shiny and new creative ideas is the daily work of continuing to improve current offerings. How do you keep some of your most basic library offerings fresh and relevant? Academic librarians: Are you continuing to tweak your information literacy sessions each quarter? Public librarians: Are you reassessing summer reading programs each year? Special librarians: Are you ensuring you are continuing to meet the information needs of your patrons?
Your fellow Illinois librarians want to learn from you. Share the most off-the-wall thing that has inspired you, and how you translated that initial spark into a successful service or offering for your patrons.
I ran across an interesting article this month that discussed recognition in librarianship–Micah Vandegrift’s “Rewards and Recognition in Librarianship,” which led me to Valerie Forrestal’s “The In Crowd, or Fear and Loathing in Library Land,” also published this month.
Though many of us consider the library profession a calling, it can be difficult to maintain a high level of enthusiasm and passion year after year strictly from internal motivation alone. What motivates you to do your best work? How have you been recognized, or recognized colleagues or staff, in a meaningful way? Good performance reviews, raises, and promotions are all wonderful, but what about public recognition within the library and beyond? What kinds of things does your library do that you particularly appreciate? Are teams recognized as well as individuals?
I’d love to hear from librarians of all types, including those in management.
Like many libraries now, we’ve invested in a number of online learning tools: Mango Languages, Atomic Training, Lynda.com, Testing & Education Reference Center, Learn4Life, Tutor.com etc. You may have things like Universal Class, Learning Express Library, Brainfuse, etc.
Like many libraries, we put these under the Research > Databases section of our site, under a tidy little category called “Online Learning.” Fair enough, I suppose.
But they’re really not of a sort with the Ebscos and Morningstars of the online world, are they? They’re not really research. They are explicitly skill-building tools and I expect most of our customers either won’t look for or discover them under “Research.” In the long run, I’ll be looking for a way to improve their visibility on our site, but I’d like some comments about your own libraries’ practices in presenting this new breed of online product. Does the “Research” option work for you? If not, what top-level menu category do you put it under? Do you perhaps have a top-level menu entry just for those products?
Also, are there any libraries (Illinois or elsewhere) you think are doing a great job of highlighting those products on their sites?
When I asked a similar question on the Dig_Ref listserv back in 2012, it was suggested that I take a look at two particular sites:
- Atlanta-Fulton PL: Note the eCampus link mid-homepage.
- Scottsdale PL: Note the Research & Learning menu item, although they don’t have a specific catch-all category within the R&L categories.
Also, it’s easy to just say we should put our online learning tools front and center on homepage, but clearly, lots of products and services fight for that visibility. How do you fit online learning into your website priorities?
Also, I see this through the lens of a public librarian. How do academic/special/school libraries deal with these products?
I look forward to the discussion!
–Bill Pardue / email@example.com
Arlington Heights Memorial Library / ILA Best Practices Committee
Like lots of public library staff, the we at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library like to make book/DVD/CD recommendations as part of a “Staff Choices” blog. We’re on the way to opening that up to quite a few more staff members, so we thought we should try to have some consistency in our entries, while still allowing for posters’ personal perspectives to shine.
Our main concern is that we wanted the posts to be fun and engaging, not merely plot summaries followed by read-alikes, etc. Still, we need to balance that sense of personality and fun with a degree of professionalism. With that in mind, we came up with the following blogging guidelines (which are posted on or staff wiki).
Do you have something similar at your own library? How do you approach shared blogging?
“Staff Choices” Blogging at AHML
The Staff Choices blog is a dynamic virtual destination designed to help customers discover, learn about, and engage around books, movies, TV shows, music, and games. A variety of bloggers will lend their unique voices to describe materials in ways which identify the library as a credible source, invite engagement, and ultimately promote circulation. While there is a focus on popular materials and current topics, bloggers may also introduce lesser known items which may attract community interest.
- Focus on books, movies, TV shows, music, games, and other popular materials in our collection. Topics should be of interest to you and your potential audience.
- Be positive, friendly, and conversational. Write as if you’re talking with a friend without being too personal. Express honest opinions without bashing a book or author. Humor is always good!
- Political and religious viewpoints of your own should not be expressed (no agendas) and posts should be free of any potentially offensive stereotypes (racial, ethnic, sexual). Stay clear of endorsing or taking a stance on controversial topics, but you can state the facts in order to tell people about an item.
- Capture the reader’s interest immediately with the title of the post (not necessarily the title of an item) and your first line.
- Be as concise as possible. Keep your blog post under 400 words. Bulleted lists help break up long paragraphs and make it easier for readers to see a lot of information at a glance.
- Make links meaningful. Do not use “click here” or use an entire URL as your link text. Link to specific items and searches in the catalog.
- Add images and videos when appropriate. Include one cover image, even if mentioning several items.
- Choose at least one “blog term” to help organize your posts and make them findable by readers.
- Use bold and italics sparingly; do not use underlining for emphasis. Do not capitalize “library” unless starting a sentence with it.
- Proofread before you publish. Make sure your post is grammatically correct and free of typos.
Arlington Heights Memorial Library
Last month I attended the second incarnation of the Chicagoland Library Unconference, aptly named Chicagoland Library Unconference #2, at the RAILS Wheeling Building. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I hadn’t attended the first (un)conference, and the notion of describing something that is what it is not was intriguing, but also a bit Magritte-esque.
The day began with a panel discussion (innovators from other industries to inspire us) but quickly evolved into an action-packed hands-on workshop. We were divided into teams and given the task of defining a big problem facing libraries today, and devising an innovative solution.
Teams then pitched their ideas to the group at large and were peppered with tough questions from the audience. As described by the Unconference organizers, the experience was similar to an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, as fellow attendees eagerly, and quite effectively, took on various roles (library board members, members of the public, fellow librarians, teachers, parents, corporate partners, etc.) while challenging the teams’ ideas.
In addition to leaving with some good ideas, the experience was educational in two distinct ways:
1. The ideas themselves are only part of the story. It is vital to quickly and effectively communicate and sell your idea to a diverse audience, and to be prepared for inevitable critiques.
2. The “unconference” was a great way to flip a traditional idea on its head. Instead of passively watching standard panel discussions and keynote speakers, attendees better accomplished traditional conference goals of meeting new people and learning about cutting edge ideas in our industry through active learning, participation, and content creation.
What examples have you seen of flipping a traditional idea on its head? What works, and why? What else can we take a second look at that has just “always been done that way”?
Last week I had the opportunity to visit one of the companies that we purchase a limited number of books from each year. It was a really fascinating experience. The owner of the company as well as the regional manager and the vice president of sales met our group of twenty library staff members then proceeded to spend the next four hours with us. They gave us a tour of their facility, answered a myriad of questions and gave us time to wander around the warehouse. It was a librarian’s dream come true. This local company has always been family owned, has several green initiatives in effect and places customer service as one of their highest priorities. In addition, they highly value children’s literacy and donate as much as possible to children who may otherwise never own a book. Sounds like the perfect company, we should use them for everything, right? Well, the thing is, their materials are more costly than those we get from the big book jobbers. And that is where the conundrum lies.
In this age where our time is at a premium, more and more demands are being placed on us, and our budgets may not be as big as they used to be, where does the personal touch come in? Are we willing to sacrifice excellent customer service from a company where a live person always answers the phone for a 40% discount somewhere else? Do we stop seeing book representatives for the simplicity of standing orders and the ease of a selection process that only requires a computer and can be done at any time of the day or night? And conversely, should we still value that face to face time with representatives even if they no longer have the love or interest in their products but are just trying to reach their quota?
As we being this new year, is the personal touch still important?