Jun 25

Blog every day of June – From whence we came – tech version – Wed 25 June

One of our managers is retiring.  We have worked together in the same library for decades and as both our roles have had a technology focus, we have seen a wide range of changes in that time.

As she has been cleaning out her files and organising things for the new manager, she has discovered many interesting things that have been good at reminding us of how far we have come.

The first was a 3 1/2 inch floppy disk.  I brought it home to show my children, who couldn’t believe it was so big (well compared to a USB stick to them, to me it was so small compared to a 5 1/4 disk) and that it held so little in terms of capacity.  They were also intrigued when I then took it apart to show what it was made of and it reminded me of all the stories of people who had discarded outer covers down to the magnetic tape, who had folded or cut disks to fit them into drives etc.

Then today she showed me an article that I had forwarded to her in 1997, on cable modems and whether they were worth waiting for.  One of our biggest concerns now is ensuring we have speedy and reliable Wi-Fi – cable modems were off the agenda for us a long time ago.

We have all in one PCs now at ridiculous screen sizes, compared to our old drives and monitors that were twice the size of the hardware that was using them.  Mobile phones were suitcases and now disappear into your hand. We had VDU’s for our library system and OPACs, and although they were as dull as dishwater, they never broke down or were hacked or got viruses.  Well most things have improved anyway, lol.

I love where we are now with technology in libraries – we just got our first touch tables, we have mobile devices and specialist computers and software for people to use in the library and that is just scratching the surface.

We have seen a lot of progress in technology in libraries, but it is good to be reminded occasionally just how far that is.

What is the most fascinating ‘blast from the past’ technology that you have come across?

Jun 24

Blog every day of June – Finding inspiration – Tue 24 June

Was sitting at my computer looking for a topic to blog about today, basically looking for inspiration, when I realised the irony, because that was to be my topic.

So where do you find your inspiration with your library work?

I find it in the most amazing places. In an offhand comment by a colleague at work, in the conversations and emails that I have with colleagues in other libraries. I have also found it in the expected places – conferences, journal articles, books (and not always library related ones) and book reviews, Twitter and Facebook.

But I also enjoy the unexpected delight of being inspired by something totally unrelated to libraries.  For example, a brochure from Australia Post got me thinking about how we could make our online services more streamlined for library users (still thinking on that one).  I love movies and more than one idea has come out of watching them.

What has been your most unusual source of inspiration for your library work and where do you find regular inspiration?

Jun 23

Blog every day of June – Future of libraries – Mon 23 June

ALIA has produced a series of reports entitled Future of the Library and Information Science Profession.

The project aimed to answer the following questions:

  • How will libraries remain relevant for users?
  • What changes will institutions and individuals in the sector experience?
  • Will ‘library and information professional’ continue to be a necessary and desirable occupation?

I say series, because there seven reports:

Future of the Library and Information Science Profession Report Action List

Future of the LIS Profession: Professionals Report

Future of the LIS Profession: Collecting Institutions Report | Summary

Future of the LIS Profession: Public Libraries Report | Summary

Future of the LIS Profession: Special Libraries Report | Summary

Future of the LIS Profession: School Libraries Report | Summary

Future of the LIS Profession: Tertiary Libraries Report | Summary: University | Summary: VET

If you haven’t read the one for your sector at least, you need to.  They are a very interesting insight into where ALIA and its members and partners see libraries going.  I have read the public library report and plan to do so again.  I will also be taking a sneak peak at the other reports, because there is always value in cross-sectoral sharing.

Happy future viewing.

Jun 22

Blog every day of June – Celebrating achievements – Sun 22nd June

We are very low key in libraries and besides major anniversaries of our library branches, or are introducing a new whiz-bang service, we rarely make a fuss.

But we need to.  We need to celebrate our achievements – our personal ones as well as our organisational ones.

I was looking back at last year’s Blog every day of June posts and came across my goals looking forward.  I was quite pleased to discover that I had achieved them all:

  • This blog got a new look and I’m still writing
  • I wrote an article on Events Booking service online, which was published in Online Currents
  • I had a paper and a workshop with a colleague accepted for VALA and both were favourably received
  • I have survived our big year at the library and am already planning for the next big year.

We get acknowledgement in our annual appraisal process which is nice, but I think it is just as important to acknowledge your successes to yourself.  We can be our own worst critics, so even as we berate ourselves for when things go wrong, we should congratulate ourselves for our successes.

Regardless of what form that congratulations takes, we all need and deserve to “take that bow” when we achieve. As I am sure we have all had successes in this last year, I applaud you all – so take your bow and remember your successes, especially the next time you berate yourself.  Job well done!

Jun 21

Blog every day of June – Mobile device friendly libraries – Sat 21 June

We all know how much tablets, smart phones and similar devices have penetrated our society.  A look around you when you travel, when you’re in a cafe or even in your library, will show many different people working on many different devices.

How easy do we make it for our users to use library services on these devices?

I have to admit I am torn with library service online.  We have nearly ten apps related to services that we offer online, from language learning to event booking, from our catalogue to downloading and reading e-books, there is an app to cover each of these items.

But that is where I am torn.  It is an app for each of those items.

The library website covers some of it, to the point where you can at least start the process of borrowing an e-book or booking an event before being taken off-site.  But more often than not we have to point to services off-site.

Will there come a day where the library website will be the whole one-stop shop?  We are working towards it.  Our ILMS vendor is working with e-book providers to give us plug and play type access to our e-books through the catalogue, where discovery, borrowing and downloading all happen through the one site.

Although this is our ideal, it is not going to be possible with everything we offer, definitely not in the short term and maybe not even in the long.  And whether an app could even cover it all is also in some doubt.

And that’s not even getting to the point of preference…. would our users prefer an app or a website or a combination of both? For mobile devices there is limited choice – in most cases its one or the other, irrespective of the user’s preference.

So we manage with what we have and make the most of those things that are available and wring our hands at knowing that there is so much more that our library users are missing, if only they visited that part of the website, or read that flyer, or saw that poster.  If only……


Jun 20

Blog every day of June – Clearing the deck – Fri 20 June 2014

I had an awesome day at work today.  Today I finished lots of little jobs that has been on my to-do list for a while and I also got started on some bigger projects that have been taking more mental energy than physical.

So as a reward to us all, for a job well done, here’s a funny library related video – Confusing Library from the Two Ronnies.  A colleague and I enacted this at a recent staff dinner, to much acclaim.  I hope you enjoy it.

Jun 19

Blog every day of June – Book reviews as professional development – Thu 19 June

I believe in taking responsibility for your own professional development and not relying on your employer to provide all your training.  There are other things, besides attending training, that you can do to help you develop as a librarian.

One of those ‘other’ things is writing book reviews.

I love writing book reviews for a few reasons:

  • they keep me writing
  • they make me aware of titles that are relevant to me, that I can follow up through ILL or buy
  • I get a copy of the titles that I write reviews for, which means I have in hand all the great ideas and information they contain
  • they keep me in touch with what’s important across different library sectors and library fields of expertise

Writing a book review is kind of like writing the essays you used to write at high school, but easier. The same because its around 400 words and different because you are writing about things you are sincerely interested in. Its also interesting writing about what impressed you (or didn’t) about a title you have for review.  Kind of like a written conversation with colleagues.

I am fortunate in that I receive and am able to keep the titles that I review.  Being big on professional development, I have donated them to my public library for their library science collection. This makes them accessible to library students and library staff alike (and occasionally someone in a related field).

Australian Library journals are always on the lookout for reviewers.

Want to develop yourself professionally, whilst giving back to the profession?  Book reviews may be one way you can do exactly that.


Jun 18

Blog every day of June – My e-book vision for our local community – Wed 18 June

Library users have loved our e-book products and staff spend quite some time helping the not so tech savvy users to get started with our e-book collections. Fortunately, both our products are relatively straightforward to use and once we get them started, library users are generally happy to go and off and explore further themselves.

Its very satisfying to have this service for our users and apart from being able to download our e-books to Kindles, I do have a bigger dream for e-books.

My dream is that all those self-publishing or small publishing run authors in our communities, could upload their titles to our e-book platform and library users would be able to discover and help promote them to others in our community.  This is nothing mind blowing, we often get copies of locally written books for our collection, so this would be an extension of that.

The dream could be taken into other digital titles such as zines and graphic novels as well.  I don’t know how much publishing is being done locally, but I could see the local library as a place that could encourage such endeavours by making this content available.

To take it further though, I would envisage it being minimally managed from the library side (just to ensure its suitable for a public audience), but otherwise would let library users and their use/lack of use determine its longevity on our server – much as use is a key requirement for managing our physical collections.

Doesn’t sound like its too hard, but once you start thinking about where its to be hosted, agreements for hosting and lending these titles (which would be managed by the library instead of the e-book vendor), managing the authors and the access to their titles, its not as simple as it sounds.

I can dream though……

Jun 17

Blog every day of June – Can there be too much customer service? – Tue 17 June

Librarians are all about customer service but there are differing levels that can be found at different libraries and even from different staff within the staff library.

I have come across this with staff in the past.  A staff member would spend quite a length of time helping one library user.  That library user thought the library was wonderful and they received the best service imaginable. The only problem was that everyone else received a lesser service, because that one staff member was tied up with that one user for that entire lengthy time.

The staff member could still have provided excellent customer service, but in a shorter time span and without it being to the detriment of other library users, who had to wait longer for service and who couldn’t get as much time as library staff would like to have given.

That’s a staff management issue and you deal with it as it arises.  After all, all library users should receive good customer service. But today I read about a new service being offered by a public library in the US, which made me wonder whether there can be too much customer service.

Columbus Metropolitan Library has introduced a new service, where all non-digital items are automatically renewed at the end of their loan period. There are exceptions for items that are on hold, where the user has over $10 in fines and when the item has reached its maximum of 10 renewals.

Wow, was my first response. That’s an amazing service, which was what the article I was reading about it was also saying, but then came the but…..

  • Where is the personal responsibility of the library user?  Our library users get a receipt when they borrow, can login to their account online or call us to check on when their items are due and many receive courtesy reminders three days before they are due, so they are given opportunity to return on time or to renew.   Having said that, I don’t know if Columbus does these things as well, and their CEO has stated that they have introduced it to make it “easier for….. customers to keep the items they enjoy” and “minimizes the potential for fines.”  So do our courtesy reminders. We find that often items are renewed because the user hasn’t even looked at it yet – not always, but often.
  • 10 renewals?  I don’t think that would work for us, because although we have a lot of people placing holds, there are many more that just want to pick something up off the shelf and if its out for over half a year, they are never going to see it (there is still room in the library for serendipity).  Columbus may have a different experience however.
  • Stewardship – we have a responsibility for our collections and are required here to keep an accounting for where our items are.  If items are renewed automatically and potentially could be out for between 11 and 33 weeks (Columbus loan periods very depending on item format, between 1 and 3 weeks), then how can you realistically report that you know where library items are.  With automatic renewals and up to 10 of them, you won’t learn about any loss, moves or changes. until many months have past.

Columbus has said that it will be particularly beneficial to users who are housebound, with limited access to transport (including teens).  We have solutions and services in place for these users and libraries which are located close to public transport, as well as a mobile library service which goes to outer areas and a housebound service which delivers and collects items from individual users.  There are many options already for those who need a different kind of service, so maybe having those things as well, negates our need for it.

I am sure there are many of our library users who would love this type of service.  But there are many others who would be disadvantaged by it as well.  And the library would not be able to satisfactorily serve all its users and meet its accounting responsibilities if it were to offer it.

However, our users may be very different to those in Columbus. So what may be too much customer service for my library right now may be right on target for them.  And who knows what the future will bring – it might be right for us in the future as well…….

Have you come across library services which you thought might have been “too much”, either as a library staff member or as a library user?  If so, I would love to hear about them.


Jun 16

Blog every day of June – Indispensability is not all its cracked up to be – Mon 16 June

I like the idea of being indispensable at work, it appeals to my ego.  Unfortunately, it doesn’ t work in reality for my workplace, for my work and for me, for a couple of big reasons.

  1. Everyone will come to you for everything that you are known for being indispensable for.  This gets very tiring after a while and also affects how much work you can get done. After all if you are busy helping everyone else, you have no time to get your own work done.
  2. What happens with your work when you are away?  There will be days when you won’t be in the office, or you will be sick or away on leave.  If you are the only one who can do it, what happens to your work when you are away.

My works requires me or someone else to be doing something with it pretty much every day.  The every day part is related to online customer service, so if I am not around, someone else needs to know what to do.

So I have an accomplice, who knows how to do all the important things and then I have extensive documentation so that if neither my accomplice or I are around, someone else can do it.  And those who have that responsibility for picking up that task in our absence, have had some basic training and know where to find the documentation if they need it.

What are you going to make yourself redundant?

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