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……


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.

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.


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……

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.


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?

Blog every day of June – Libraries are about….. – Sun 15 June

Studies have shown that people relate libraries to books.  I am not complaining about that – books are a great brand to be associated with.  But too long now, libraries have been about more than books.  We have been about collections, programs, literacy, learning, technology, community space and so much more.

So if the library brand is all that and more, it can’t be summarised as books.  It’s not even about information, which used to be what I thought it was. No, the best way to sum up libraries for me is Access.

We provide people with access to:

  • physical collections, such as books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, audio and more
  • online collections, such as information, e-books – e-magazines – e-music, learning programs and more
  • space – to study, to meet, to learn, to work and more
  • technology – to learn, to play, to work, to make contact, to conduct personal business and more
  • programs – to learn, to have fun, to meet others in the community with similar interests
  • help – for that information that is needed, for that task that needs to be completed online and for so much more
  • contact – physical libraries have staff who meet many individuals needs of just being able to make contact with another human being

If we look at libraries as Access, then having romance books, games consoles and makerspaces is not outside what we provide, its just a different way to that traditionally recognised.

What we provide in terms of Access is decided by our users and of course our budgets.  And some libraries may provide access to unusual things because that is what their users want or need.  Some of the more unusual ones I have come across have been libraries lending tools, baking tins etc and running programs on things like butchering your own meat.  These libraries are providing Access to the things their users want and good on them.

What’s the most unusual thing(s) you know of that a library has given their users access to?

Blog every day of June – Reading professional literature – Sat 13 June

My kids do sport on Saturday mornings and I spend nearly two hours in the car waiting for them, so this is my opportune time to catch up on reading. I used to do the same thing when they were younger and at swimming lessons, but this is better as I am alone in the car with few distractions.

I choose this time to particularly focus on reading for professional development, because I can concentrate more clearly, I can take notes and I can ponder on my reading, more than any other place that I read.  (and that includes the bathroom at home….. my kids don’t understand closed doors, lol).

Why is this important?

Because I learn:

  • what is happening in the world that will affect libraries eg. caught up with the details of the Amazon/Hachette issue today which could affect what we will see published in years to come
  • what is coming that may affect libraries in the future eg. a $199 3D Printer scheduled for release in 2015
  • what is happening in other libraries, which I may be able use in mine eg. being Mac friendly, Lego Clubs, Open Library e-books
  • things that will help me to do my job better – eg. an article of leadership versus management
  • things that will help me to help our staff to do their job better – eg. an idea for a training topic and a good overview of copyright and libraries
  • things that will help me to serve our users better eg. an update on features now available through one of our e-book vendors and information from Stay Smart Online
  • things that are happening in the world that inspire me to potentially translate into libraries eg: AusPosts Digital Mailbox, how can we take those ideas and apply them to our library?

These are the things that have just come up from my two hours of reading this morning.

I also read professional literature at other times, but I likely gain more from this mostly uninterrupted time.

My point in all this – training is fantastic, as is study, but the best thing you can do for your professional development, your job, your library and your users is to read professional literature – library related and more broadly.

There are plenty of blogs still being published and in fact I added two more to my feeds today, that I discovered through my reading. These are where I find a lot of the very up-to-date and topical content.  However, library journals are also important as are the key journals in your area of focus, whether its children’s services, technology, collections or something else.

Libraries are not just about books and neither are librarians. But just like our libraries focus on literacy, so should we, developing our ongoing professional literacy, so we serve everyone, including ourselves to the best of our ability.


Blog every day of June – When big is little – Fri 13 June

On a regular basis I write a list of largish works that need to be completed and tape it to the side of my computer.  These are jobs that I think are going to take a bit of time, need a block of time for focus, but which aren’t urgent.

This week, the list had not changed, bar one or two things, from last week.  Still had those jobs that needed some focus and some time. However, when I actually found the time and focus, found that I didn’t really need that length of time or that much focus.

So how did the big jobs become smaller?  A couple of reasons I think:

  • they weren’t as big as I thought they were – which I think for these roles was part of it
  • I had been thinking about aspects of the work and therefore had it ‘half’ done by the time I came to do it.

Even though I wasn’t deliberately working on any of these tasks, I was thinking about them at various times, so by the time I came to actually do them, they didn’t take anywhere near as long as I expected.

On the other-hand, I do tend to overestimate how long it is going to take me to do something – a habit I got into I suppose because I hate to be late.

Other tricks to make big things small are to:

  • Delegate
  • Reassess – does it really need to be that big
  • Simplify – does it really need to be that complicated
  • Forget it – does it really need to be done at all.

Which makes me think there are a few things on the next list that may not need to be there at all……..

Blog every day of June – Security is the next big concern – Thurday 12 June

Public Libraries Victoria Network has a number of special interest groups, including ICT of which I am a part.  We organise and run one or two seminars a year for public library staff in Victoria and have covered RFID, mobile devices, downloadables, digital content, an unconference and more.

We were talking about organising our next big seminar and decided that there was no ‘next big thing’ that hadn’t already been covered by us or someone else, which brought us around to security.

With everything moving to the cloud, we have decided to focus our next event on security.  This seminar will give a basic background to cloud computing, offer information on security concerns coming from things like near field communications, examine how the National Privacy Principles affect what we do and hopefully hear (briefly) from our vendors about how they are ensuring our data security and privacy.  This is all a work in progress, so likely the outline will change before it is finalised and we go ahead with it later in the year.

Library staff are not the only ones concerned about it, so are insurance companies, governments, big web companies, banks and more.

In order to provide an event keyed to library concerns, I would love to hear what your library security concerns are.  I have already heard of one story where a teens card has been closed to the guarantor who signed for it.???????

Any horror stories, or positive outcomes would be appreciated.  And then when the day is run, I will post my notes from it so that everyone can benefit.