Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Librarians take no holidays

For the holidays I went to visit a college friend and her family in the Philly/NJ area. It was a great weekend trip and I left just in time to miss the big winter storm. It also ended up being an opportunity to talk about what I do with new people. As one of her in-laws or other people married into the family would ask what I do for a living, I told them I was the head of a campus library. I'm still getting used to that part, now an entire three months into the job. My answer was always met with the response that I must sure like books. I smiled, and noted I like books, electronic information, and so much more. Oh, and I also like people, another important component of my job and the profession. During one of these conversations I was asked about how devices such as Kindles were impacting my library. I noted the timeliness of that question, briefly highlighting the challenges and opportunities of providing books and other content for Kindle/Nook/e-Reader devices as well as providing the devices themselves to someone who might not own one. Add to this the challenges I anticipate Penn State will face in a "one university geographically dispersed" environment. It's going to be a major issue. My conversation companion was concerned about the rising cost of access for all library materials, and the ways piracy might impact funding and use of all libraries. He wished me luck in dealing with these issues.

It was a great conversation.

Fortunately others far wiser than I'll ever be are already thinking about this and related issues. On the ALA side, A Resolution to Insure Equitable Access to All Formats of Electronic Content Through Libraries was passed during the 2010 Annual Conference and a Task Force was formed. On December 31, 2010, the non-profit Library Renewal will launch. Library Renewal " works to secure new models of electronic content access and distribution infrastructure for libraries everywhere through research, advocacy, outreach and also through the development of strategic partnerships."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Last work-related road trip of the year (I think!)

I was asked to attend a meeting on December 10 to discuss virtual reference services across the University Libraries. Sixteen librarians and staff from nine of the twenty-four Penn State campuses attended. In the morning we had breakout sessions where we discussed how we offer reference services at Penn State and to identify the top five priorities/features for virtual reference. During the afternoon breakout session, we considered all the results from the morning sessions along with three questions: how do we assess user needs, how do we get questions to the right people, and what are the next steps particularly for administration to consider? It was a productive first step.

This meeting was also the perfect opportunity for me to show our library intern another Penn State campus and library. Sarah is currently in the LIS program at the University of Pittsburgh and participating in a Pitt coordinated internship program at our library. Since she does not have classes this semester on Thursdays and Fridays, she was able to easily fit the road trip into her schedule. We drove east to Harrisburg the afternoon of December 9 and stayed overnight in one of the scholars apartments. It was a two bedroom apartment with a living room, dining table, and full kitchen.

While I was in the virtual reference services meeting all day, Sarah met with two librarians on campus and did other work. We were fortunate that Glenn McGuigan was available to give Sarah a building tour and talk about his role as the coordinator of reference services and business reference librarian. Glenn is also a Pitt graduate, so he enjoyed an opportunity to meet with a student from his program. Sarah also met with Heidi Abbey and learned about the special collections in the library.

Sarah and I had a successful road trip. We had great weather for driving, great music, and great conversation. There was a fair amount of laughter which is a must when I'm involved. I think it was useful for Sarah to see the similarities and differences between Penn State locations. Hopefully by the end of her experience with us she'll have a better perspective on the "one university geographically dispersed" concept. It was also beneficial for Sarah to interact with other Penn State librarians. Of course, Rachel and I think she's not doing too shabby with the two of us on a weekly basis.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cue the Mötley Crüe

Cue the Mötley Crüe
Originally uploaded by courtly
The past month we've had problems with someone smoking in our library building. This is a new experience for me. In all my years of working in libraries (and this goes back to my first job as a shelver at a branch of the St. Louis Public Library), I've never encountered a patron smoking in the library.

This is another example of why you never say never, especially in libraries.

Anyway, my staff have been alerting me to the smell of smoke in our stairwell and in the ladies room. I consulted with Police Services and suggested installing smoke detectors in the bathrooms and the hallway. The smoke detectors were installed sometime this week. This morning our reference librarian, Rachel, asked me if I'd seen the sign in the ladies room. After she told me about the sign, I did what any reasonable person would. I grabbed my camera and went to take a picture of "the sign". Despite my urge to change "Whoever" to "Whomever", I am glad to see the community announcing their displeasure with our female smoker. I'm also happy students are taking ownership of their library. It will allow me to be more effective in my role as the head librarian.

I couldn't have said it any better.

Friday, December 3, 2010

WebJunction Conference: Serving the 21st Century Patron

Wednesday and Thursday afternoon (for those on the east coast) featured WebJunction's Serving the 21st Century Patron online conference. This free conference (thanks WJ!) "focused on the changing needs, approaches, challenges and opportunities related to customer service in your 21st-century library."

I was able to attend most of the sessions. While all the content was good, the session I found most thought-provoking and motivating was Pat Wagner's "Staying Committed to Great Customer Service When Your Library is in Chaos". Her session was focused on how library employees can provide great customer service when your library is in chaos. Pat encouraged us to take notes during her session. Here are mine.

- plans take the drama out of work
- let people who work with you and for you know what to do; instill them with decision making confidence

Focus on details of your own behavior

Customer Service
- welcome: smile, nod, say hello and goodbye
- play fair: no exceptions for folks you like
- stay consistently positive
- manners are rituals of respect
- competent follow-through

Learned optimism

Hire for attitude, train for skill

Six steps to build momentum:
1. create momentum
2. establish vision
3. know current status
4. develop priorities
5. focus on aligning
6. track and share progress

The other highlight was Battledecks! It was highly entertaining thanks to the the audience commentary on the slides. Definitely check it out!

"Changing Reference Services to Meet Patron Expectations" was another useful discussion I took notes.
- engage committees to assess their needs
- learning new skills
- changing delivery modes for reference services
- role of coaching: consider your abilities and limitations
- information services as customer development

need present -> define need -> assess customer -> provide assistance -> follow-up -> repeat

I spent more time listening to "Morale Issues in your Library" than taking notes. I did jot down a few items that were key for me.
- improve communication to improve morale
- sometimes it is not about you
- develop your skills
- leave work stress at work
- leave home stress at home
- find joy in other parts of your life
- find success and motivation in other parts of your life

"2-1-1 and Library Partnerships" was a session featuring a service that was completely new to me: 2-1-1. It is a one stop shop for social services referrals. It is supported by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems and the United Way. 211 provides
- basic human needs
- physical and mental health
- employment support
- support for senior citizens
- children and families
- volunteers and donors
- advocacy and legal services
- emergency and disaster services
2-1-1 is not available in this part of Pennsylvania.

Other blog posts on the conference:
21st Century Library Ideas