Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best "Your Book Has Shipped" Email Ever!

This cinches it. I LOVE Better World Books. First they take our library discards at absolutely no cost to us and pay us a percentage of the money they make off of selling the books. And they recycle anything they can't sell.

Then, I order a textbook for class from them, using a 15% discount card and saving lots of money over what the book was selling for at Amazon or

And now, they send me this absolutely awesome, unbeatable "Your Book Has Shipped" email:
(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note - it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)

Holy canasta! It's me... it's me! I can't believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I've got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can't believe I'm leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already - the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge - so many memories. I don't have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it's time to see the world!

I can't wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol' brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?

I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I've had, I'm ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn't take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I've found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.

But hey, enough about me, I've been asked to brief you on a few things:

[insert shipping information, order number, and other details here]

Eagerly awaiting our meeting,

Case Studies in Abnormal Psychology

Better World Books, you made my day. :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Please Interrupt Me

A while back, I wrote about creating a Please Interrupt Me sign for the reference desk. We've had great feedback. Many people have commented on it, and we've heard "I like your sign" quite a few times, including from the President of the University!

It hasn't been without its drawbacks, however. Occasional abuse of the sign does happen, particularly during summer day camp. Young boys between the ages of 8 and 12 seem to think the sign is an open invitation to annoy the crap out of the librarian. Oh well, you'll have that. We can also choose to take down the sign temporarily if the kids become too obnoxious.

Overall, however, the benefits far outweigh the few drawbacks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Library as "Laboratory of Collaboration"

There was a great article in the Chronicle of Higher Education the other day called A Laboratory of Collaboration (subscription probably required). Thomas H. Benton (aka William Pannapacker) is a professor with a deep love of libraries. In his article he discusses the changing role of libraries as well as the increasing gap between librarians and faculty, the reasons for the gap, and some ideas for collaboration.

Well worth a read. I also hope many professors stumble upon it. It was actually sent to us librarians by a professor, which is always nice.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Primary Source on Dinosaurs

In an academic library, you don't get quite as many humorous reference questions as I'm sure public libraries get, but this one threw me for a loop. A student asked me to help her find a primary source on dinosaurs.

I had to think about that for a bit. First I thought, hmm, there wasn't anyone around during the time of the dinosaurs to document the experience. Then I thought, am I on candid camera?

I asked some questions about what type of information she was hoping to find and finally realized that she probably needed a geological study. After a few more questions, I determined she was in a First Year Science class.

Now the dilemma: how to find a "primary source" (what the professor really meant was peer-reviewed - I confirmed this later) on a geological study that a non-science major in an intro science course could understand. Thank heavens for Science and Nature - both are considered peer-reviewed but have articles that are easier to read than other journals. I think I ended up using EBSCO to search for articles on dinosaurs within Nature.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Good things come from surveys

The graduate students were surveyed at my institution a while ago about their general college experience. Included on this questionnaire were two questions: one about things they really disliked/would change, and one about things they really liked. I don't know the exact wording, but that is the gist of it.

Even though they weren't specifically asked about the library, we still had about 20 comments (all but one in the negative category). Certain disciplines felt that we do not have nearly enough resources for them. This is a common complaint, and it's only partially true. Yes, as a small institution with an FTE somewhere in the range of 1300-1600 (I hear varying numbers, interestingly) we cannot afford more full text access, especially in this economy. However, we do have more than they think we do. They just don't know how to find it. My boss used this as an opportunity to suggest that we really need to get in to see these students. We met with a few of them once, and they were so grateful to know how to find the resources. If only we had more opportunities.

We did also receive one positive comment coupled with a suggestion. The student said that he/she loved studying in the library, but wished we had comfy chairs on the second floor, which is both our only quiet study floor and our only floor without comfy furniture! So, on Friday, one of my coworkers and I took two chairs from the main floor and moved them up to the second floor. We found two tables and put each chair and table combo in a separate location. We assume that since it is quiet study, students will study alone. However, I plan to keep on eye on whether or not these chairs are used. I'm up on the floor a lot anyway because I'm shifting books.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how to spruce up the place. I recently went went around and redid many of our signs, which included consolidating and taking down unnecessary ones (libraries have far too many signs!). This even included bugging IT to let me finally take down their No Food or Drink policy in the computer labs since they never enforce this. I also talked with a few of my coworkers about sprucing up our Individual Study Rooms with vases or pictures taken by the library staff. Not only does the latter add color, it also allows students to get some insight into the staff and our travels. Plus, I like to garage sale, and it would be easy enough to pick up frames and reimburse myself out of fine money. Before I do this, of course, I'll make sure everyone is on board. But it sounds like it could be fun.

Any other easy ideas for sprucing up the library?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rethinking Our Role

As you can probably tell by the last few posts, I'm on a marketing/PR kick at the moment. A quieter library in the Summer means that it's a great time for me to work on these types of projects. I read The Visible Librarian by Judith Siess a few weeks ago, and now I'm working on Marketing Today's Academic Library by Brian Mathews.

I really like this passage from Brian Mathews' book: may be hard for us to break away from the library-centered universe, but there is more to college than academics, just as there is more to libraries than circulation stats and gate counts. We are all part of the larger campus ecosystem. We should not limit our efforts to promoting the reference desk or a new database, but instead be focused on improving the quality of life on campus. (p. 9)
I'm just as guilty as the next person of thinking that we shouldn't be a supplier of paperclips, whiteout, folders, and other items; that we shouldn't be a storage unit; etc. But really, what other options do students have? Can we rethink our various offerings and policies in such a way as to benefit students but also not to dent our budget or clutter up our library? Hmmm....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Public Library Funding

These days many legislators are discussing cutting budgets, and one of the first things to go is often public library funding. Both PA and Ohio are facing this problem. MSNBC did a great segment on how libraries are even more important in an economic crisis.

How many more reasons do they need to convince them to maintain or even increase library budgets?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Suggestion Box Display

We've had a suggestion box for quite some time at my library. All suggestions are seen by our library director. Then, I respond to any suggestions where the person has included contact information. However, most people don't include contact information, and those suggestions just go in a file in my office.

I'm not sure I'd feel particularly inclined to submit a suggestion if I had no idea who even looked at it.

So I decided a display was in order. We have an "art wall" (I use quotes because it's probably never been used as an art wall and is in the most inconvenient location imaginable) near the suggestion box, which the other librarians suggested as a location for this display. On the wall, I taped a number of questions along with our responses with plenty of room for expansion. Someone also left the comment "More cowbell" not too long ago, and we all agreed that should be included. The response is simply a picture of Will Ferrell and the cowbell, with text below reading "We agree!" Humor is always good. :)

I also made the suggestion box slightly more noticeable with an additional sign that says "How Are We Doing?"

Here's hoping we get some response!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Please Interrupt Me

I've had this idea written down forever and only just decided to do it. Goes to show I really need to take action sooner. Earlier this week I created a sign that says "Please Interrupt Me" with a smiley face below it. I can't even count the number of times someone has walked up to me and prefaced their question with "I'm sorry to interrupt you...."

I've had so many positive comments - more from staff than students, because it's Summer and there are few students here, but still. Someone walked in and said something to the effect of "Wow, that's something you don't see very often!" Others have said "Wow, I really like your sign!" And in general, I just notice people glancing at it as the walk in or walk by.

Just a little thing, only took a minute, but it is catching people's attention.

Friday, June 05, 2009

You have an Master's?!

I was reading the comments of a recent post about librarian pet peeve's on the Swiss Army Librarian, and several librarians expressed frustration with people who are surprised that we have advanced degrees, who think we read books all day, or who think that we are also students. I left a comment there but since I should actually blog for once, I figured I'd put my thoughts here as well.

I worked in a public library in high school as a shelver, but until I went to library school (and actually, I would argue, until I became a librarian), I still had no idea what librarians did all day. I'm not sure I'd have guessed they just read books, but I wouldn't have known they'd needed Master's degrees. And for that matter, not all people who make really great librarians have advanced degrees, especially in smaller public libraries.

I currently work at an academic library, and I'm fairly young. Sure, students think I'm a student, but that actually works to my advantage - they are more likely to consult peers than elders. Plus, at 28, I don't mind them thinking I'm 22 or thereabouts. :) Not to mention, I've contemplated getting a second master's here, so perhaps one day I'll be both a librarian and a student.

I've occasionally used comments about reading books all day to explain what it is we do. People may or may not be receptive to that. I've definitely had friends and acquaintances ask what exactly librarians do, and I'm always happy to tell them.

Now, if patrons are being very rude about any of these things, clearly implying being a librarian is lesser than another job, etc, that's a different story. But usually, in my experience, it's just ignorance not rudeness. I'd rather use the opportunity to correct the misconception than to dwell on it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Visible Librarian

Title: The Visible Librarian: Asserting Your Value with Marketing and Advocacy
Author: Judith Siess

Well, I guess the third time is the charm. I've tried to read this book twice before but never got through it before it was due back. Despite being a bit slow going at times, this was a good book with lots of suggestions about how to market and advocate for your library. The author is a solo librarian but makes an effort to include ideas for all types of libraries and librarians.

Some of the ideas I took away include:

1. Meet with new faculty and provide them with a welcome packet.
2. Create displays featuring library services, librarians, comments and photos from students and faculty who have had good library experiences, suggestions made by patrons and responses to them, etc.
3. Cheap giveaways/takeaways: magnets, sticky notes, bookmarks
4. Get out of the library and go to people (something I already knew but certainly don't do enough of)
5. Library open house with food, information tables, takeaways, etc
6. Ideas for our Newsletter: testimonials from satisfied customers, column of sample questions answered recently (shows that the library can provide all sorts of information), and jokes or cartoons (but make sure to have copyright permission!).

Next on the list is Brian Mathew's newly released Marketing Today's Academic Library.