SJCPL – Study tour 2007

Marianne Kruppa is Web Development Librarian at St Joseph County Public Library (SJCPL) and I have just spent a wonderful day with her, discovering their main library and all the great things that they are doing there. SJCPL is made up of the main library, 8 branches (plus one under construction) and a read mobile and services St Joseph County in and around South Bend, Indiana. Check out my photos on Flickr.

Their equipment comprises a web server, an external server for public access and an internal 4 staff, a mail server, their ILS server, PC management server, with an IT department to support them. The difference is that at SJCPL, 85% of their machines – staff and public, are Macs. They also have a development server where they can develop and play with applications etc before they go live on (wow, I want one of those!)

As at other libraries I have visited, they have some impressive public art in the Main Library too.

Their Sights and Sounds area on the third floor has all of their AV collection – from audio to DVD and video, from children’s to adults. Here is where they also lend out iPods with audiobooks they have purchased from iTunes. They have 30 iPods to lend, which come in satchel with earphones, adaptor, charger etc. They can have a maximum of 5 books downloaded onto it. Their list of titles is kept in a folder, patrons choose what they want and staff download the content, and when returned after the three week loan period, the iPod is wiped, ready for the next user. Patrons can also bring in their own iPod and have content downloaded to it. All iPods were out when I visited. They chose the iTunes option as the uptake of iPods is about 70% as opposed to other MP3 players.

They use Word Press loaded onto their server for the blogs and Marianne also uses a nice web tool, Feed2J to generate feed summaries from these for their homepage (very nice!) They have a public SJCPL blog, which is a free for all and has contributors from all branches and departments. Their teen page is blog based, managed by Marianne and their teen librarian, where teens are also able to submit book reviews, through a form in the blog page.

They also have 2 blogs relating to their building projects, one for the staff and one for the public, keeping everyone updated on progress. The Rewards and Recognition Committee also have an internal blog, which they use to recognize staff achievements and promote staff events.

For the staff, they use the content management system (CMS) Drupal, an open source products, which operates as their intranet – called Leaf-let and has a blog like front page, which several people post to. The Website itself is HTML based, no CMS is used, but it can be tweaked easily. Marianne uses Feed2J to put the feeds on the homepage.

The most popular blog is the Game Blog which is used to promote gaming events in the library and other gaming news. This is where they have built their gaming community, with approximately 60-70 kids now coming to their gaming events. They have done 138 posts and had 658 comments from the kids, it really is a case of creating a discussion on this blog. They also have a forum called GameBoard using PHPBB – open source software, for discussing gaming related items. Pedro and Marianne moderate it, but not too strictly. This is huge with the teens, who can start their own discussions.

They have the facilities to do podcasting, but wish to sort out copyright issues before going ahead. Would love to do movie reviews, with clips included, storytimes and more. They have a Flickr account with library photos and a MySpace page also.

They offer IM reference, as an extension to their in-house use of it as a communication channel between staff. It has not been widely publicized, but they still get 5-6 queries a day on average. They use Macs with the occasional PC, so IM on Macs uses Adium and on PCs uses Trillian. Non-staff queries are monitored at the Reference Desk, so a staff member is always there or close by.

Wikis came about at SJCPL after a Computers in Libraries. They used a server as a sandbox to play with the wiki, which then became a staff wiki, with the circulation team using it for their circulation procedures and more. It now includes manual type info and more from circulation, reference, branch information, handouts and more. It offers staff the option of feeding back training ideas and more.

Their links list was reviewed after they realized it was offering information that by-passed the great resources the library had. They used Media Wiki with a template created from input from all departments to cover content on a wide variety of topics, with the emphasis first on library held information and then external websites.

In the future, Marianne says SJCPL will be doing more videos – self-promotion, commercials etc, especially using the new Adobe suite, which incorporates video editing into Photoshop. They also want to start their podcasting and are moving to RFID.

Their gaming set up is something to behold and I did when they set some of it up for me to play with in the afternoon. (Pedro and Marianne kicked my butt in both game types). They have 8 Games Cubes with a TV and controllers each, 2 good quality Dance Dance Revolution platforms and accompanying signal boosters and projection equipment to show some of the action on the big screen. They mainly use 2 games – Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart. They set it up as a LAN, with fast match changes, automatic character selection (so no fighting over characters) and the equalization of tracks. It runs under professional tournament mode.

They have 1 open play session a month and 1 tournament play, both at the Main Library. They spotlight one game on the big screen. Kids also bring in their Nintendo DS’s and use the libraries WiFi to play against each other on their own devices. The tournaments always run on a Saturday from 9am-5pm in an open space in the basement of the library, away from the collections. Kids queue from 8.30am. They also have Dance Dance Revolution available and kids also come and play cards and more.

They discourage kids from bringing their own games or equipment (besides the DSs) – because it raises expectations and there are safety issues involved. Gaming gives the library relevancy to the teens, making it a Third Place for them. They don’t push library promotions on the teens, but make the information available if they want it. However they do get gaming kids at library events if they know one of the gaming library staff will be there.

Pedro runs every session and is assisted by Marianne on the tournament days and another staff member on open days. They have pizza for lunch on tournament days, with more staff on hand at this time to help out.

They recommend having a person in charge of gaming who is very enthusiastic about it. Gaming teaches social interaction, good sportsmanship and gamesmanship – they have seen the change in a quite a few of their kids. Not one piece of library equipment has been stolen at these events, although some personal belongings of gamers has gone. The kids will even stay to help clean up.
This is their only means of gaming as they don’t have consoles in their libraries, but hope to in the near future.

Thanks especially to Marianne who took me through all the great stuff happening at SJCPL throughout the day and particular thanks to Pedro who set up all the equipment so I could experience their gaming hands on. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot – THANKS!