Darien Library 1 – Study tour 2007

So here I am now in New England (sounds so romantic) at Darien Library. Check out the photos I have on Flickr about their current building. They have just broken ground for a new library building, which will be similar to the new Princeton Library with 3 levels, but not quite as big. The inspired building project was written up in a Library Journal article “Library Buildings 2004 – Great Libraries in the making.”

Despite having an overcrowded building at present, with offices in closets and more, they are doing some great things, including a lot of technology based and virtual services. I met with Kim Gabert, Emily Weiss (recipient of the Louise Parker Berry Fellowship) and Mary Freedman from Reference Services and talked about their website, blogs, email newsletter, RSS and IM Reference. John Blyberg left Ann Arbor and starts here on May 1st (I’ll meet him at CIL!), so things will get even more exciting!

At present Kim as webmaster uses Dreamweaver, but John will help them institute Drupal as their content management system, so changes are coming. Darien hosts their own website on a Linux server, as well as those of over 60 local organisations. Talk about building community!

Their newsletter, Connections, which is available online, is emailed out to their users using “Constant Contact“, which is also used for their children’s newsletter. They will look at introducing RSS feeds from the Connections newsletter homepage in the near future.

They have 10 blogs, which are all linked from their homepage, as well as being linked from a combined page with a one line summary of each of the latest posts. They use Movable Type for their blogs on Books, Music and Movies, from the Director, Childrens, Teens, Technology, Front desk, New Building, Events and Community Matters. Each blog has a librarian author, with the exception of Music and Movies which is shared between two reference librarians. They usually post weekly and all their blogs are usually in their top 20 website hits, with the Music and Movies the most visited. Comments are rare, excepting on the Events blog when they poll their users as to which of 3 movies they will show in the next fortnight. A post from each blog is incorporated into the Connections newsletter, which then entices people to go back to the blogs, thus enhancing their readership. Their blogs tap into a wide range of librarian expertise and knowledge whilst enhancing the librarians skills and sharing the load of blogging.

Darien offers IM reference using Meebo online. They have also incorporated a Meebo widget into their website, so users can access the service from within Darien’s website, without having to use an external webpage or software. There are a few issues with this – remembering to login daily and the fact that it can only be logged into on one PC, so sometimes they have to juggle logins to answer incoming IM requests. They receive about 4-5 IM queries a month and about 20-30 email requests. They were very innovative and hosted an AOL IM chat room on Oscars night to discuss the outcomes – did some very heavy promotion and had a lot of staff involved in the discussion, but they believe they had 1 Darien resident attending. They are not doing SMS reference at this stage.

They offer downloadable audio, which started slowly, but is taking off. They use Overdrive through the iConn state consortia and Recorded Books, which is easier for the librarians to use and has more titles. They are offered for download remotely, as there is only one PC in the library that it can be done on and that is usually used just to show people how its done.

They also offer Playaways, which are self-contained audio books. They have the content and player all in one small device. They have about 200+ titles covering adult, childrens and teen fiction and non-fiction, which are very well used. (previous weekend there was only 1 on shelf). Each one is issued with a spare battery and disposable headphones.

Judy Sgammato took me through their Technology Center and tech classes. Their Center has 12 PCs, portable and large sized scanners, B&W and colour printers – using print management software. They circulate laptops, digital cameras, digital video camcorders and MP3 players and have headphones, a zip drive and portable floppy disk drives for use with their Technology Centre PCs. They offer classes on Microsoft products, Photoshop Elements, podcasting, Dreamweaver and more. The center is available for public use outside of classtime with timetables of available times and the availability of assistance posted outside the room on a weekly basis.