I am usually a librarian without a library. This despite the fact that I’m working actually IN a library this month until they hire a permanent librarian, and I’m also paid by my local library to do tech drop-in time work a few hours a week until the library opens up. My main thing besides technology work has always been outreach; if I am not trying to get people into a single library, I can always try to get them into libraries generally. Last October, in response to a local mailing list post, I decided to sponsor a racecar driver, a young woman from my community whose dad also drives. When I mentioned this online, the response was not only positive but also “Take my money!” So I did, and together we pooled our money and came up with some slogans. I wrote a check in February and kind of forgot about it. I just checked back in to the Chambers Racing facebook page and hey hey there’s the finished car and it looks great! The cost of this advertising is less than a quarter-page newspaper spot and probably is seen by more non-library-goers than the newspaper. Pretty tough to determine any real return on investment on this one, but it makes me happy to look at.
From the email box: One of my book followers is doing something very brave for her, volunteering at her branch library. Itâ€™s a little branch with a lady running it, who is something out of the 1950â€™sÂ â€”Â and not in a good way. Itâ€™s quiet. Itâ€™s serious. And itâ€™s falling apart without any new visitors at all. So, this lady is asking her new one-day-a-week volunteer to â€œdo somethingâ€ to get new people to come into the library.
Iâ€™ve been giving my friend lots of ideas, based on what I see at my own very vibrant branch library – including mothersâ€™ clubs, reading hours and clubs, tech training, etc. But I wonder if you are aware of some source of inspiration to help library workers that are very low on the ladder, yet eager to invite new energy to a branch? Maybe you have a clever list of the easiest and most successful types of library programs? What seeds can they plant and how often should they be watered?
I think that is a good idea. First off: Five Minute Librarian is made for your friend
http://www.5minlib.com/ Continue reading “Ask a Librarian: How to engage a community with limited volunteer hours?”
There’s an ongoing theme in library programming: trying to find stuff that isn’t the stuff that’s already been done. While there are aspects of “Just play the hits, man” in a lot of the work we do, that doesn’t mean we can’t find new, original and/or interesting things to do with the huge amount of local cultural content that we have at our fingertips but that might not be common knowledge in our larger communities. The Library as Incubator Project is a site full of great ideas, lovely photographs, sharp writing by three UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies (and guest bloggers) outlining ways that libraries and artists can work together. Good ideas, well-presented.
“The Vermont Department of Libraries has been publishing Good Ideas irregularly, beginning in 1988. Each edition includes the contributions of many public libraries. This blog was set up to continue the tradition but make it easier for librarians to search, use and print the resources.”
I’m visiting family before I head back up to Vermont. Yesterday I convinced my dad to go get a library card in the town he’s lived in for ten years. My dad is one of those “Hey, why borrow it when you can buy it?” people but we trundled over to his library anyhow because I wanted to see it and while we were there, I suggested he get a card.
Let me first mention that even though the experience at the library wasn’t great, I totally understand why that was the case, and I’m not trying to do any public shaming thing here (hence no link). I just think that there’s a sense in which we’re always saying “Hey libraries are more popular than ever!” but there are also people who just plain old never use the library — one of the big challenges of outreach is to identify these people and see if there are ways to make the library appeal to them — and I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad is one of them.
So, we went to the library. The library is being renovated so it’s a bit of a challenge to get inside, lots of uneven sidewalks and unclear signage. My dad is seventy and doesn’t really like being outside of his comfort zone so we were already a little confused when we got there. We went to the circ desk which was being staffed by one obvious volunteer and one person who may have been circ staff or may have been a librarian or who may have been both. No one had name tags. The woman at the desk was doing the typical multi-tasking thing, helping a lot of people at once, and asked my dad “Can I help you?” He said he was there to get a library card. She went off to get the forms he needed to fill out. Actually I knew that was what she was doing. To his mind she just turned away and started answering someone else’s questions and left us standing there.
She came back and asked for some identification and my dad gave her his driver’s license which showed that he lived in the town. At this point I sort of expected a “Oh you’re not a summer tourist!” awareness but that didn’t happen. She handed us a form and told us to fill it out and meet her at the reference desk (about five feet away) when we were done. The form was your standard one page application. This is a photo of my dad filling it out. We waited for her to come back to the reference desk for about five or ten minutes while she continued to answer other people’s questions (someone needed to use a computer, someone couldn’t find the phone books). At one point she got up to show someone where to find something and then she came over to us and said to the circ staff “I’m going to help this man because he’s been waiting so patiently” which I found a little odd. The library had what seemed to be a normal amount of people for a Monday afternoon, and yet it seemed chaotic for whatever reason.
We then stood by the reference desk while she retyped what my dad had written into the computer. She had trouble reading my dad’s email address (he writes in all caps) and made him read it out loud to her a few times. His email domain is tomandcindy.com and she crossed out what my dad had written and wrote it out underneath with an ampersand in it. My dad had to politely point out that email addresses don’t have ampersands, ever. I couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t see what his email address was by reading it, maybe I’m just attuned to his writing. After doing this, she handed us a card and asked “Can I help you find anything?” We said no and left. No welcome brochure, no “welcome to the library!” nothing.
Turns out the library had sent us a welcome email which we got when we got home a few hours later. It included a link to the catalog and some information about the library network and, of course, my dad’s library card number and PIN in plain text (libraries are not alone in this terrible practice, but it makes me cringe nonetheless). My guess is that my father will never go back to the library. There was some good-natured ribbing about this when we got home. I’m aware that it’s not the library’s job to make all sorts of different people feel like it’s their very own place and cater to their every need and personality tic, but then again it sort of is, isn’t it? I’ll be thinking about this some more while I think about how my library welcomes new people to the community.