Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Atticus Rocks

Early arrivals at the luncheon on Tuesday afternoon had the pleasure of meeting Atticus Finch, yes Tom's Atticus Finch, up close and personal. Atticus can teach us all a few lessons in life: keep cool, look good and love the hand that feeds you.

Author Tom Ryan kept his luncheon audience enthralled with his heartwarming and honest story, Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship (September 2011). Atticus kept the audience equally enchanted with the absolute comfort he finds in the arms of his owner and his calm, childlike demeanor. Well, perhaps not childlike. Any child would have been bored to tears and itching to get down on the floor. Atticus snuggled up in the crook of Tom Ryan's arm and laid his head on the comforting shoulder. Both these guys had us entranced and there were many 'awwwwwww'esome moments.

Tom's story isn't just another "man loves his dog" story. Sometimes it is hard to believe that Atticus is a dog. He is truly Tom Ryan's best friend.

Ryan shared many things besides the obvious stories of finding this furry guy and bonding with him. He shared honest and painful stories from his life at home as a child and as a young man,
as a rogue small-town reporter, as a square and awkward peg in a round-hole society, and as a man finding his way in life and on the trails of the peaks of New Hampshire's mountains. Like his articles in Yankee-town Newburyport's newspaper, Tom Ryan pushed the envelope. He hiked all forty-eight 4000' plus peaks. He hiked them as a overweight man not used to the physical strain. He hiked them in the winter. He hiked them twice and with his four-legged friend.

Those who stayed behind also had an opportunity to visit Atticus. Tom inscribed his books with his own signature and with a very special pawprint of one very special dog.
I loved the movie of Marley and Me. Ok. I'm hopeless but I can't wait to watch Following Atticus. Here's hoping Hollywood agrees.

Read Tom's blog and follow them on more New Hampshire adventures. Or Friend them on Facebook at Following Atticus to see where their latest book signing will be.

Charlotte Canelli, Library Director, Morrill Memorial Library, Norwood, MA

Digital Literacy Challenges and Workforce Recovery

This year's New England Library Association conference was my first as a new member of NELA. I was able to attend this year due to a scholarship from OCLC for librarians in geographic areas deemed particularly economically challenged. I thank OCLC for this opportunity first of all, and the librarians and professionals I have met this week have been astoundingly caring and passionate about library and information services.

This year's theme "Navigating the New Normal" addressed in a series of outstanding sessions the rising tide of need for libraries' technical, digital and professional expertise from increasing patronage at the same time that staff numbers are often skeletal at best, there is often a shortage of available computers and devices, and the staff who are there are stretched to the limits of their own technical knowledge and availability.

Librarians from all around New England reported similar concerns:
1. How do I help a patron use a device to download a book that I am just seeing myself for the first time?
2. How do I help patrons file their taxes when the government is telling them they must do it online and they have little or no computer skills?
3. How do I help a patron apply for a job online when I am also the only staff person who is answering the phones, checking out books, troubleshooting computer problems and answering reference questions?

The librarians of NELA did not gather to mourn their changing industry. Their concerns were very patron-centric. The cry was not "Who is going to help me?" It was "How can I better help my patrons?"

The sessions that I was able to attend on Tuesday the 4th addressed these concerns to the best of anyone's ability by addressing the need to help our patrons who are still on the other shore of the Digital Divide, and how to best help with our often limited time and resources the patron who no longer has a job in any industry - changing or otherwise.

Bright and early at 7 am, several representatives from libraries around the region met for breakfast and with LYRASIS to discuss proposed benchmarks for technology in public libraries.
As stated in a press release from their website:

"The benchmarks will be developed by a coalition of organizations that bring diverse perspectives and expertise to the effort, including:
  • Library support organizations, American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy and Public Library Association, LYRASIS, Urban Libraries Council, and Web Junction-OCLC;
  • The State Libraries of California, Oklahoma, and Texas;
  • Two university-based research groups from the University of Maryland and University of Washington;
  • Local government support organization, International City/County Management Association,
  • TechSoup Global, an organization that provides technology support throughout the nonprofit sector; and,
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The development of the benchmarks will include three phases. To begin, the coalition will draft prototype benchmarks and will collect feedback from the library field and local government leaders to ensure the benchmarks will be meaningful and useful to libraries and communities across the country."

This last statement (with my own bold emphasis added) was the purpose of the morning meeting, gathering feedback from library professionals on the draft wording for these benchmarks to help libraries talk to their government leaders about technology demand and needs in libraries.

Jessamyn West led a dynamic and highly popular discussion about reaching our patron populations who are not and might never be online in "Checklist for Digital Divide Readiness." Her presentation and delightfully engaging personal delivery covered 10 steps to address novice users or non-users of digital technology in libraries, and her presentation may be found at http://www.librarian.net/talks/nelavt/. (Hint: Jessamyn REALLY likes Mousercise! :D)

(Below: Jessamyn West helping librarians bridge the Digital Divide)

Lunch with author Tom Ryan and Atticus M. Finch was a moving combination of laughter and tears as he described traversing the peaks of the White Mountains in winter with "a miniature schnauzer of some distinction." This talk was warmly received by the large crowd in attendance.

The post-conference session "Libraries on the Front Line of Workforce Recovery" was the ultimate goal for OCLC's generous scholarship. Other librarians from my home state of Maine who also attended on this excellent scholarship opportunity traveled from Pittsfield and Cherryfield. The room was filled with librarians and information professionals learning and sharing ideas about how to address the growing population of job-seekers visiting libraries for resume, job application and job readiness skills. Encouragement ran strong, and several spoke up with excellent ideas about offering Microsoft Word and Excel training for patrons unfamiliar with these in-demand skills. (Goodwill Community Foundation offers some very good ones at no charge at http://www.gcflearnfree.org/) Other suggestions were a reminder about the availability of resources such as Maine's 211 (http://www.211maine.org/), and the challenges and successes of offering classes and one-on-one help with retired professionals or teens as volunteer trainers. Libraries can find peer support and a treasure trove of resources at http://www.webjunction.org/workforce-resources.

(Below: Library and information professionals collaborate on how best to serve their job-seeking patrons)

On a final and personal note, I would like to dedicate this blog entry at the conclusion of NELA Conference 2011 to Dan Gauvin. Dan was a regular patron of Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library in Presque Isle, Maine, where I am Reference Librarian. Dan started out as one of our "computer regulars," who was often one of the first ones in the door when we opened in the morning, with tousled mop of curly hair, tee shirt and a story about the latest Red Sox trade. Dan was very quiet at first but slowly developed a rapport with library staff, and eventually began to volunteer occasionally by shelving books or helping to tidy up around the library.

Over the past year, due to a most generous private $1 million donation by Mary Smith to expand and renovate our library and add an elevator, matched by additional generous financial input from city leadership and citizens, Dan became a regular volunteer. He helped move books and furnishings, and he learned how to perform circulation duties, joining a growing volunteer corps that helped the library staff and patrons with over 300 hours per month of donated time and effort. Dan was very popular with patrons because of his outstanding knowledge of popular science fiction authors and his gently helpful manner in assisting with computer questions.

On Saturday, October 1, 2011, Dan dressed up in a suit, complete with haircut, and assisted with the library's grand-reopening and unveiling of the new Robert & Hope Akeley Memorial Wing. So handsome and well turned out did he look that I took his picture, despite his laughing protests. The library construction project was officially completed; Presque Isle has a beautiful newly renovated library. The State Librarian spoke as well as the Chair of our City Council and representatives from Senators Snowe and Collins' offices and the head of our local historical society. A large spread of elegant refreshments were laid out, and a show of works from artist Raphael Gribetz opened. In the midst of the bustle and excitement, Dan looked as transformed as the building itself, grinning from ear to ear. He had been most instrumental in bringing this all about.

On Sunday, October 2nd, 2011, after walking home from the grocery store, Dan collapsed on his front door step and passed away.

This - all this, the professional endeavors to do better and better at providing a warm environment and relevant services to the daily "computer regular" patrons who quietly shuffle in every day with their tee shirt and small talk about the latest baseball trade, who find not only a welcome at their public library but a support team and maybe even a second family - this is for you, Dan Gauvin, and the as-yet unknown Dans, from all the librarians who continue to rise to navigating the new normal as you sail into the west.

Thank you.

(Library volunteer Dan Gauvin)

Respectfully and humbly,
Lisa Neal Shaw
Reference Librarian and Friend

Mission Morale: Cultivating a Caring Work Culture

Jennifer Sabatini Fraone from Boston College Center for Work and Family began the conference hoping that we'd bring back some good ideas to take back to our own organizations. BCCWF is a global leader in workforce effectiveness and resources are available. Hot topics for BCCWF are Millennials in the workforce and the role of fathers in the home.

What makes a great workplace culture? Among them are a leadership who inspires, gives trust and autonomy; an environment that encourages teamwork, employee engagement, recognition and reward and loyalty; a climate that values the employee as a "whole person" who gives back to the community and who has an opportunity for advancement.

Creative ideas from the corporate world: speed networking events; leader luncheon; fun atmosphere; volunteer events; small celebration; regular recognition. Fun, caring and collaboration can be wonderful, low-cost, high impact initiatives.

Sarah McGinley Smith from King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT shared that KAF is 100% owned by employees and is the oldest flour company in the world. See website for the video.

Sarah brought a laundry list of ideas from KAF. Cross-company themes of safety, employee stewardships, marketing, surveys, brainfood classes (employees teaching other employees), monthly town meetings, orientations, open book management (think financials), intranet, free classes, snacks and product, Tablespoon (weekly newsletter), brown-bag lunches, kudos, essay contests, community service, teambuilding. Ownership behaviors are important. KAF is proud to be 100% employee owned but is 100% committed to quality.

Mara Neufeld Rivera from Resource Systems Group in White River Junction, VT. The company is focused on producing. It is an employee-owned (ESOP) consulting company that provides high-quality information, analysis and insights for a broad spectrum of public and private clients and have experienced 40% growth in the past year and has been awarded the Best Places to Work in Vermont in 2006, 07, 09, 10 and 11. Casual dress, dog-friendly offices, flexibility, professional development (RSG Institute) including $2000 a year to spend on education, showers on-site, PTO donation bank, and environmental sustainability benefits.

Last up Karen Waylen from Wells River Savings Bank, Wells River, VT with six locations across Vermont on the New Hampshire border. Karen belongs to a writing group and has worked on a novel since 1986. Wells River began in 1892 and is a mutual saving bank - employee owned. 60% of the workforce is 50 and over. WRSB won first place in 2010 Best Places to Work in Vermont. WRSB promotes from within whenever possible and work as a team. The CEO of the bank supports all the initiatives that support high employee morale in these areas: Communication - informal quarterly pizza lunch meetings; an intranet; daily email updates from the CEO; excellent rapport with staff. Recognition - birthdays, milestones, anniversaries. Opportunities - exposure to senior management, interaction with other locations, bank intern and job shadowing opportunities, consistent promotion from within, recognition luncheons and Halloween contest. Flexibility - much like libraries, there are problems with flexibility but it is integrated into the schedules. Paid Time Off - benefits added: one day of service to work at a non-profit organization; paid time for family medical appointments or family meetings; prizes and contests with the awards being time off. Good things flow from the top down and it is apparent to Karen that this is crucially-important to the foundation for high morale.

The panelists opened the discussion to questions from the audience for the last 20 minutes. Participants directed inquiries which included library environments of layoffs and shrinking budgets, employees of retirement age, flexibility of schedules of staff who serve at public desks and succession planning for the event of the CEO or main personality.

Reader's Advisory for Kids & Teens

Monday, Oct. 4th, 8:30 - 9:30
Presented by Cindy Schilling of Wells (ME) Public Library

For something you can print and keep, Cindy provided a handout featuring her presentation in a nutshell, and a handout featuring a list of books and websites about and for RA.

Reader's Advisory (RA) is a conversation with another reader. Not an interview or a stressful test of your librarianship. RA is all about suggesting books, not recommending them. "Recommend" is a word that puts pressure on the reader to like something.

To improve your RA skills:
1) Read
With purpose, and across genres and age ranges.
As you read, think about:
  • the potential reader
  • plot v. appeal
  • how you would describe the book to a child or parent
If you can't, or don't want to, read the whole book, do the 5 minute read. This will give you enough of a sense of the book to be able to suggest it to a reader.
  • Look at the cover
  • Read description, reviews
  • Read 1st chapter
  • Skim the middle
  • Read last chapter
2) Record
Keep track of what you read. Can be on paper or on the computer, but keep track of what you and your coworkers are reading.

3) Rehearse
Practice RA with coworkers and friends. The more you do it, the better you will get.

The RA Conversation:
  • Get out from behind the desk!
  • Don't hand books to the reader, put them on a shelf or desk. This is less pressure for them to decide or react with you around.
  • Make several suggestions.
  • Give them space. Don't hover when they are looking through your suggestions.
  • Follow up. Check in to see if they need more suggestions or would like to see a booklist, website, etc.
Questions you can ask:
  • Are you looking for a specific book or do you want suggestions?
  • Do you read a lot?
  • What's a book you've liked? A book you've hated?
  • Is this for school or for fun? (if for school, get as many details as possible about the assignment)
  • Do you want something fun or more serious?
  • Do you like a fast story or is a slow start ok?
  • Do you like stories that are about action or stories that are about people?
  • Do you like books with a lot of dialogue?
RA Tips
A lot of us get questions from parents who have young children who read at a higher level. How do we recommend books that will be at their interest level but more challenging?
  • Folklore, fairy tales, mythology, and classics are great for this group
What about struggling or reluctant readers? How can we engage them and find the right books for this audience?
  • Ask about their hobbies and interests. What TV shows do they like? Movies? What do they do in their spare time? With friends? This can lead to nonfiction or fiction suggestions.
  • Graphic novels
  • Gaming guides
Displays are great "passive" RA. Mix nonfiction, graphic novels, chapter books, magazines, picture books, etc, around a common theme. They tend to fly off the display.

Best NE Books in Two Minutes or Less!

As the chairperson of the Massachusetts Center for the Book Non-Fiction Award committee, I know the work that goes into reviewing of books in a few short months. The process includes whittling down the pile (nearly 80 in the non-fiction category), whittling down it again, making tough decisions, arguing for your favorites, making concessions and choosing a winner. Long sentence - too short of a process.

Booktalking is an art and some people do it so well. Sticking to two minutes or less takes even more effort and talent. (In one light-hearted moment, Sally Anderson of Vermont backtracked to add more about Jay Parini's Promised Land that had to be said.)

Directors of the New England Centers for the Book began these high-speed reviews of their states' outstanding books at 8:30 in the morning - none too easy an hour for any of us. Sharon Shaloo of Massachusetts, Sally Anderson of Vermont, Karen Valley of Maine, Ira Revels of Connecticut and Mary Russell of New Hampshire. Mary Engels had the unpleasant task of being timekeeper - a responsibility she took seriously.

The Massachusetts Center for the Book awards winners in several categories each year Its website include the criteria for each prize and the lists of books. Several of the other states choose award winners, as well.

Massachusetts 2011 Must Reads: Reading, Discussing & Celebrating Books Published in 2010

Affiliates of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress are a network of 50 state-center affiliates to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries locally, regionally and nationally.

Check the NELA Conference website for the complete list of books discussed.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Displays on a Budget

Make your library shine with the use of creative arrangements and displays. Louise Goldstein from Waltham (MA) Public Library shows how to entice users to check out materials with the creative use of displays.

Louise Goldstein

Displaying is a great way to entire and engage readers - even just face-out shelf displays

You don't need to be an artist, just creative
"Mass Murder" for true crime in Massachusetts
"Anniversary of the first episode of the Flying Nun" do a display on Nuns and religious orders
Use Chase's Calendar of Events

Just get people reading - let them choose the topic (Laura Schessinger, comics, anything)

Use displays as eye candy - patrons enjoy impulse check outs, and use them to promote underused or little-known collections

Display ideas

  • Have a "staff picks" display

  • Beach reads display

  • Have attractive signs/banners for displays

  • Use lights to draw attention - July displays

  • Mix fiction and non-fiction

  • For a "going green" display use plants as props

  • February: romance and relationships

  • For props, bring in little things from home, or check out yard sales - but don't use anything you don't want to lose

  • Use a display case for fragile, rare, or valuable items - also a great way to feature patron art or collectibles

  • Take advantage of the talents of your staff - let them be creative (artists, arrangers, scrapbookers, etc.)

  • Put bookmarks in display books to promote programs, databases, or other resources

Cheryl Bryan - Merchandising your collection

Merchandising requires knowing your target audience - use are they, when do they come to the library, what do they respond to, what do they like? What draws people into the library (curb appeal) - what does it look like from the street, what do they see through the windows, do you use signs/banners? One idea is "Burmashave" signs - a series of signs along the street all conveying a small portion of a larger message.

Know how people use public spaces (study results from Paco Underhill)

  • Sit and watch how people move through public spaces - look for "desire lines" (how people want to move through the space)

  • Watch how people enter and use the library

  • They need a "transition zone" people need a few steps to orient themselves - don't put displays and signs near the door, because they will be missed

  • 80% of people turn right upon entering a new space

  • Every building has a center point - where you can stand and see where everything is - that's what patrons are looking for, so that's where to design from

  • If you have something in the library (chair, table, etc) that you constantly find moved, consider than it's in the wrong place

  • People only have two hands - they can only take what they can carry, so provide bags/baskets for browsing, or a little play area/simple toys for kids to play in while mom browses or checks out

Use the right furniture - slat walls, gondola displays (four-sided stand alone shelving - http://www.franklinfixtures.com), face-out CD displays

Make sure your goals match your patrons goals - libraries are set up to find specific books, but patrons want to browse; our shelving is generally linear/spine-out, but patrons move organically; we try to give equal weight to everything, patrons are looking for a specific collection

Marketplace How-To's

  • Highlight new and popular books

  • Offer books for all ages

  • Use lighting to highlight or draw focus to a certain area

  • Redefine new as last 1-2 years - not everyone is in every six months

  • Keep shelves looking full (encourage people to check out, but be sure to refull holes)

  • Mix spine and face out

  • Use endcap displays

Redesign Children's Room as "Family Room" - have furniture for adults too, and places where adults and kids can sit together and read or play or work

Use slat walls to draw people towards the stacks - highlight older materials or small collections (like "Oprah picks") - the principle of "massing" means put up as many as you can on slat walls, so 15-20, not four. To help staff, make a list of the books that can go on a display and put it on the back of the sign so staff can easily refill holes.

Merchandising how-to's

  1. Tidy first

  2. Turn covers out

  3. Fill in the gaps

Is Dewey User-Centered?

  • You can increase non-fiction circ using "neighborhoods"

  • Pull together subjects people naturally link together

  • Example: Pull books from travel, history, and language learning to make a country section

  • Use display cubes within the non-fiction collection to signify where collections are

  • Books get special stickers and are marked in the catalog

  • Redesign space so collection all fits together

Trends in Technology for Reference

Technology should be invisible and make things easier, not more difficult. There are many ways technology can be used effectively in reference service in any library. Andy Burkhardt from Champlain College in Burlington, VT, Michele McCaffrey from St. Michael's College in Colchester, VT, and Heidi Steiner from Norwich University in Northfield, VT, discuss innovative, cost-effective ways to use technology in outreach, management of reference services and enhancing virtual reference interactions.

Slides at http://slidesha.re/pWSMqE

Andy Burkhardt - Technology for Outreach

One of the most important pieces of tech is: button maker.
They printed lots of different images and had a fun staff day to make the buttons, then put the buttons out at the desk to engage patrons - people will ask what they're for.

The goal of outreach should be engagement (focus on quality, not quantity). You don't need to reach everyone, and no two communities are the same.

Don't be afraid to get patrons to help with outreach - UVM did a photoshoot of students holding an "ASK" sign, and then share the photos online, using bookmarks, posters/signs. Or do a "why you 'Like' the library" contest on Facebook - people will share creative photos. Champlain College using twitter (@champlib) to retweet events and other info to promote sharing, being a good friend and community member - resulted in people asking reference questions via Twitter (either the library directly or their community)

These efforts will pay off.

Michele McCaffrey - Technology for Reference Administration
Zoho - way to track reference statistics

  • Breaks down what kinds of questions, what kinds of patrons, busy times, trends, length of interaction

  • Very easy to manipulate and view data

  • Can also use it to keep track of instruction sessions

  • Has free version, but also pay models - St. Michael's ended up bumping up to the Basic plan ($15/month) because they found it worth the money)

Acuityscheduling.com - way to schedule appointments
Allows patrons to see when appointments are available, choose their librarian to work with (or by subject area, or any available librarian), length of session. Uses email to notify staff to confirm appointments. One drawback is there is no "notes" field to let patron provide specific information, so staff have been asking this question with email confirmations.

Heidi Steiner - How to make the virtual reference experience better

Barriers to virtual reference:

  • Reference interview is labor intensive, if it happens at all

  • Technical problems are magnified and difficult to diagnose

  • Instructions take longer to explain in text

  • You have no idea if they're getting it

Lots of free and flexible technologies available

  • On-the-fly screencasting (not the same as nicely edited videos) - use to demo things in the moment, tailored to their info/question/resource. Free online examples: Screencastle (very simple, no limits), Screenr (a little more advanced, can pause, put in audio), Screencast-o-matic (most advanced of the three)

  • Screen sharing - great for synchronous over chat (sharing what's going on on your screen with someone else). All of them require you to download or run a program - these do not require that of the patron: Join.me [Heidi's favorite] (can be done from their website or download to your computer; patron gets emailed a link and code to view your desktop in their browser; also has internal chat for easy communication, and you can also share control so patrons can practice or interact); Quick Screen Share (same people as screencast-o- matic); ShowMyPC (patrons have to run .exe file); Mikogo (download-and-install type software, and gives the most options and functionality); Skype and Google+ also offer screensharing, but require patrons to already have an account

  • One-on-One research consultations with web conferencing - Adobe ConnectNow - patrons just need the URL for your room, and Flash installed. Has all the essentials except presentation sharing. Big Marker - you need an account, but has no limits - you can do anything (and set your own limits), and seems designed for people doing tutoring (and trying to make money from tutoring). Wiggio - a full shared environment, but no VOIP (does have video chat and text chat). Meeting Burner - still in beta, but one to watch, it seems much faster than other services

Is it risky to rely on free tools, and what are for-paid tools that don't require plugins?
Show my PC has a paid option, and there are things like Blackboard Collaborate, WebX. Other good options are Google Forms and SurveyMonkey for ref stats

How do these companies make money?
They give a little away free, but if you go over their limits they charge you. Also with ads - screencast-o-matic embeds watermarks in the free version. Join.me doesn't seem to have any add ins.