Tag Archives: librarians

Librarians and a fish with ick…

I went to visit my hometown library yesterday.  Working there was what made me decide to become a librarian.  The whole staff is amazing.  My friends M and H were on desk and closely examining their fish, Dewey, when I walked up to say hi.

Apparently Dewey has “the ick” and is floating weirdly in his bowl.  (Insert juvenile comment of your choice here…)

Being sarcastic librarians and complete nerds, M and H have decided to start a prayer chain on Facebook for Dewey…let’s all hope no one takes them seriously.  But you know someone will.

I’ll keep you posted.

“This is the librarian call-in hour…”

Here in metro Detroit, everyone is on the very edge of their seat waiting to hear what will happen if the government does not grant a bailout to the Big Three.  It’s not just Detroit that is affected, but everywhere, I know.  However, to give you an idea of how car-centric Michigan is: In the summer people set up lawn chairs on the sides of big roads (Woodward Avenue) and car watch for vintage cars.  By the hundreds.  On any given day.  It’s a car crazy state.

Okay, on with my point…so radio stations are going nuts here.  I mean nuts.  Every morning it’s all you hear about…discussion of the bailout, discussion of how people will manage financially if they lose their jobs, lots and lots of fear and stress on the radio.

Librarians – WE NEED A RADIO SPOT.  Now, I know a lot of libraries have a radio show or a cable show.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  If you are listening to your local radio over the next week or so and they are talking about economic slowdown and what solutions should be, CALL IN.  And don’t just call into public radio because that’s comfortable.  Calling public radio is like preaching to the choir…still a good idea, but they already know the message.  Call your area’s morning disc jockey show with a quick message.

– your name
– your library’s name
– name three resources your library offers (we offer free classes, resume writing books, and computer classes)
– and then as a “bonus” mention a cool resource (oh DJ Sammy Sam, I want to let listeners know that the Census is hiring this month, and you can visit their website at census.gov for more info)
– then close by saying something along the lines of “the librarians in our state are happy to help people out…we won’t even shush you, we promise” (this reinforces the state-wide element of libraries and humor is memorable…)

Don’t feel comfortable calling?  Then email your local DJs.  I just sent an email to a DJ this morning with a link to my article: http://www.ilovelibraries.org/news/topstories/toughtimes.cfm  and am going to listen in to a different show tomorrow morning to see if they are still on the topic.

C’mon guys and gals…let’s do it!

P.S. – Try to call the morning shows and the afternoon/drive home shows…those have the largest listenership and the audience is most captive…stuck in their cars, usually.

A Prayer for Librarians

So I’m cleaning my desk today and I find a book mark that has “Prayer for Librarians” on it.  I am not making this up.

It’s long, but the first few lines go something like:

Lord, You are infinite and with
Your infinity, You are the Word.
Help us then, as Keepers and custodians
of words, to be aware of our profession
in all its depths of knowledge and
wisdom and in all its encompassing of
the past, present, and what is yet to be.

And so on and so on and blah blah blah

I won’t rant about religion, but I would consider myself to be a prayerful, spiritual person.  But what would my version of a librarian prayer look like?  Well the above sure ain’t it.  Here’s mine…

Dear God, give me the strength to not strangle the next person who says “Gee, you’re a librarian, you must get to read alllll the time!”.  Give me the wisdom to know that not all people understand that libraries are not the places to have cell phone conversations at HIGH VOLUME.  Grant me the peace that comes only after all information literacy and story time sessions are done for the day.  And lastly, Lord, grant me protection from the porn dude…you know the one…the guy who looks at porn on Computer 2, all day, every day.

“So that’s 614.23 PAS…”

Ever notice how librarians mutter call numbers to themselves as they’re writing them down or walking away from the desk to look for it?

And always in a very matter of fact tone, as if to say “Well of course 342.3 D.” or “And then I was walking along and 003.2 DAV!”

It’s never a question…always a statement.

Sorry – academic librarians mutter, “And then there’s BL 2525 .R4695 – but it’s 2002.”

Let’s try empowerment

So I posted my rant on customer service, and Glenn at Business Exchange posted to say that he agreed with my thought that customer service starts with management, but only to a point.  He wrote an interesting piece to encourage individuals to focus on the customer service areas they can control.

I love a good discussion!  Yes, Glenn, you are right, but I’m sticking with my original statement regarding service starting at the top.

For a bit of extra cash, I work at a large urban library.  I was recently talking to a fellow librarian after she dealt with a very difficult patron and handled the situation so that both parties were happy with the result.  I mentioned how smoothly it all went and she happened to say “Yeah, it wouldn’t have been like that five years ago…”  Upon prodding, she told me that she didn’t feel empowered under the former management.  She didn’t feel that she could offer the customer service she wanted because she didn’t feel that she had much control.  The outcome of any customer service exchange was either a rebuke by the top brass (either telling her she didn’t handle it well or if it was a difficult situation not providing her with back up on the decision she made) or something along the lines of “you are setting a precedence and people will take advantage of that over time”.

The new management makes her feel empowered.  Even if they don’t agree with something, they provide a united front and then have a reasonable discussion afterwards.  Current management gives her the tools she needs to be great, keeping her informed, and making service a priority.

Another way management leads the way in customer service is by rolling up the sleeves and showing what is expected.  I went to hear a well known director speak about management about a year ago.  Almost with pride, the director stated “I haven’t worked on desk since we started using the Internet!”  WOW.  That’s awful.  Firstly, by being out at the reference or circulation desks, even just for a couple hours each week, you can provide a sterling example of what is expected.  People learn a lot through observation, and many people have never truly seen phenomenal customer service.  By setting that example, you have the power to say “see, this can be done, and we will be doing it”.  I also think that when management gets out there, they observe needs and trends that may not otherwise be addressed or seen by busy staff who don’t have time to create a full report to management.  Plus direct observation is often far more powerful than just hearing it.  (“It is hell on earth when you only order one copy of the newest Tom Clancy”)

A director I know recently sat back to observe the library and noticed the bored kids who were waiting on parents using the adult reference computers.  (The children’s department is far away and it’s a security nightmare to let kids go in there alone!)  So, the director found some small packets of crayons, printed out Dora the Explorer coloring sheets, and handed them out.  It was a simple customer service solution that caught the attention of the staff and made them realize “hey, I can do that too!”

So, Glenn, you’re right.  Individuals can create outstanding customer service moments on their own, but I’ll follow up by saying empowerment by management certainly helps!

Pecha Kucha

So last week, I went to Pecha Kucha in the D. For the uninitiated, using Powerpoint, Pecha Kucha allows presenters 20 slides, with 20 seconds dedicated to each slide on any particular topic.  In one evening, some of the brightest and most creative minds in photography, architecture, sculpture, design, and technology speak.  The quick format provides a brief synopsis of topics and is great for presenting the arts, but if done correctly could fit any profession.

I read about Pecha Kucha in Presentation Zen and as the book states, you can do a 6 minute and 20 second presentation followed by a 45 minutes of in-depth discussion, or a lengthy 45 minute presentation that leaves little time for follow up.  I like the follow up discussion more, myself.

But Pecha Kucha is a bit of an art and to be effective it must be done well.  I think it would be fun to teach this to librarians – it would be effective as a sales pitch at Chamber of Commerce meetings, Town Hall meetings, Board meetings…just meetings.

If you’ve been to Pecha Kucha, what do you think?  Is this something our profession can do and do well?  I hope so…I believe it is boosts of creativity like this that we need!

In Your Personal Collection

Wandering about Chicago Midway Airport yesterday, I spotted the Harvard Business Review Classics series.  About seven slim volumes that cover everything from managing your boss to how to fire people.  Interesting, brief, and informative.

I’ve always thought that librarians need good solid business training too, and while these don’t replace a business education, they certainly lend an understanding to issues faced in most professions, not just us booky-types.

Mentoring Our Profession

I’m going to be doing a program with my buddy E. at the Michigan Library Association Annual Conference in K-Zoo this October.  Specifically, I’m talking about mentorship – how to be a good mentor and be a good mentee, how to forge those relationships, and why mentorship should be important to librarianship, MLA, individual libraries, librarians, support staff…everyone and every division.

If any of you currently are in a library/librarian mentorship program, have participated in a successful mentorship program (doesn’t necessarily have to be a library mentorship program), or have a great mentor relationship, I’d love to hear about it.  If you have had a bad experience, well, tell me about that too…it all helps.

The Planetary Computer

If you get Wired Magazine, then you saw the article entitled “The Planetary Computer” from the July 2008 issue.  If you don’t get Wired Magazine, then click the link because all issues are online…even the most current.  As the article description says, “Want to tap into a 12-million-teraflop megacomputer?  You’ve already got your own terminal.  Check it out – it’s right in your pocket”.  It’s an ambitious attempt to summarize all the info created, how it’s linked, and where it comes from…and it should make librarians think a bit about where we fit into all that information.

The idea that every time we use this megacomputer, we are in essence programming it, is pretty fascinating stuff.

And I enjoy reading the comments people leave on the article…there are some interesting links there too.

Three cheers for Steven M. Cohen

If you don’t get American Libraries direct, then you may have missed this article by Steven M. Cohen, about how Google marketed their way into the library world, then promptly left us in the cold when they got what they wanted from us. Nice.

I will be the first to tell you that I like a lot of Google’s tools. I make good use of them and I tell others. But Google Books is an utter shame and no I’m not going to provide a link to it. The books that Google scans can only be found via the Google or the Google Books search page. That is called limiting access, folks, and it more than whispers the beginnings of turning everything scanned into proprietary information in some way.

Just go to OCA, please, where the Open Library is more in line with our profession.