Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Prop. 300 creates obstacles for pupils, schools

Good article on the effects of Prop 300 in Arizona.

"There are some private donors that are willing to help out," said Josh Bernstein, director of federal policy for the National Immigration Law Center. But undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most private scholarships, he said.

Many undocumented immigrants now see their only hope for attending college in the federal DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants who grow up in the United States and graduate from high school to attend public colleges for in-state tuition and eventually gain citizenship.

It's usually the "best and the brightest" of undocumented immigrant students who pursue higher education, Bernstein said. He argues those students would provide a positive contribution to the country's economy."

Read the whole thing HERE

Censorship, Wireless, and HPoL

Librarians think about things differently than the general public. The freedom to read, the freedom to access information, and most recently, to access both of those items wherever the public wants it. To a librarian, someone surfing wireless internet from his car after the library closes is a good thing. Hey, it's like 24 hour library services (just like you would advertise on a library webpage), but when a cop busts the guy for being there, the library takes the bad rap. On censorship, the library takes pride in having a diverse collection that challenges people to think and to grow their minds. So, when someone requests a book be removed (especially one that has the anatomically correct word), the library looks bad for providing such a horrible and deviant book.

In both of these situations, the library takes the bad rap for doing its job, but the community perceives it as pushing its agenda. It is a perception issue that the library needs to address. At my library it is ok if someone is outside in their car using free wireless internet. It is even ok if they sit on the side of the library and plug into the outlet for power and use the wireless. It certainly doesn't run up the electric bill or cause problems with the wireless. However, to a police officer, this looks suspicious. "What is this guy doing out here at night in his car all by himself?" If they had known that there was wireless internet, it may not be a problem, but I bet they would still get the guy out of there for one reason or another. We see a library patron enjoying the service, the police see a potential crime. Censorship issues can have the same effect.

Censorship usually ends up increasing circulation and purchasing of said censored book. As Hermione said in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the best thing she could have done to get people reading it is to ban it. I don't think most authors fear censorship. They become champions of intellectual freedom, people write articles about them, and even more people buy or check out his or her book. I am sure the Higher Power of Lucky sales are going through the roof, both because it is a Newberry Award winner and because it was banned. I think authors fear anonymity worse than censorship. This book may have been another Newberry that many do not read. Just because it is critically acclaimed doesn't mean anyone will read it. However, the combination of both will make it fly off the shelf.

I have my own censorship story to tell that involved my predecessor. This is a legendary story and even though it has been several years since the previous manager worked at my library, the story is still recounted at conference by librarians. A woman came into the library and found a bad book on the shelf. It was a dirty joke book. She immediately took it over to the police station and reported it. The policeman CONFISCATED IT! Instead of saying talk to the library director or even "Why are you wasting my time with this I have ACTUAL crimes to deal with." he took the book. A controversy raged for a long time over whether the library should have this book. The library ended up winning and the book was placed back on the shelf. The manager had articles written about him and was a champion of intellectual freedom. It has been a story recounted to me several times.

What makes this story funny is that several years later when I worked at the same library, I weeded the book. No I didn't find it offensive and there was no controversy. The book had not circulated in several years and I needed the space. I did not the story that had made the book so famous. In fact, when this story was first recounted to me, I realized I had weeded that same book. It was funny to me that such a great story about intellectual freedom would not go out with a bang, but with a whimper. I think many authors would fear the whimper.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Programming rhythm or making it a habit

When I first was a librarian at my place of work, we had no adult programming, we did not run collection development reports, our catalog was still in DOS and not on the internet, and we provided no reference service. Surprising?

After I made all the changes after one year it felt like a computer commercial I saw. It was in an office building where an older gentelman was showing this young woman around. She has just started working there. He told her of all the innovation and when he started there they didn't have this and they didn't have that. After the conversation, she asks him, "How long have your worked here?", to which he replies "About six months". It shows how fast our world is changing and how as a library, you need to change to keep up.

You can create patron habits through library programming. Just have a regularly scheduled program weekly, or the same time each month, and you will see the same patrons every month, reliably checking out materials, using computers, and asking reference questions. Programming gets them in the door to make them realize all the value you have to offer. It is amazing how the ritual can be acquired so quickly.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cough it up or Library fines are good for you

See the wonders of the public library

The library wants you to use their services. We try very hard to get patrons' attention, to get them to read, to use our resources, after all, it is free (and good for you). You have free access to an education, to a new job, a better life, and free entertainment, all at your public library. However, there is a price to free, you have to share. Unfortunately, some people do not like to share or are otherwise inconsiderate. In order to encourage these users to share, libraries have fines. Libraries would prefer not to do this, as previously stated, we would prefer you to use our services and high fines block patrons from doing that. Furthermore, when surveys go out to non-library users (as we scratch our heads as to why they wouldn't use a FREE service) the top two reasons are they didn't know about us, or they had fines:

"Surveying non-users, Sarah Houghton-Jan points to a library who is trying to figure out who is NOT using their library. I did a little bit of this during National Library week. I set up a library card sign-up table outside of Wal-Mart and met a LOT of non-library users. The main reason people didn’t go back to the library? Fines, especially for younger patrons. "

Many patrons rack up fines, or realize their materials are so overdue that returning them would cost the same as keeping them. This can often happen when the patron is younger and the parents couldn't get the items back on time, so they never returned. Then, several years later, the child returns, very sheepish, assuming that we are going to smack their wrists with a ruler for having fines. Then they realize we have no record of their activity since its been five years. They happily get a new card and go about their way. Often, these people just don't make the effort to come back and that is a tragedy for that person.

Play nice, or it will cost you

Then there is the flip side of that. The fiduciary responsibilities libraries have to their taxpayers. A good post this week by the PVLD Director's blog, states about their struggle with fines.

"At this morning's meeting someone asked "Why don't we charge a fee for placing holds on items that are on the shelf rather than a fee for uncollected holds?" This is an interesting question as it really relates to customer service philosophy."

The director further discusses the differences between a fee and a fine. A library charging a fee for placing a hold is different than a library creating a fine for not picking one up. In the first case, the patron is paying for extra services, and in the other they are penalized for causing extra work. In my opinion, as far as fees go, there should never be an impediment or fee to access materials. A fee on holds creates a tiered system whereas a person with $2 will get the book faster, the others may not get it at all.

There is a line between creating fines to encourage users to bring back their items and punishing them for making mistakes. We all want patrons to use the library. If there were unlimited resources we could just say, "Keep all those books, we'll just get more." Of course with the tight budget of libraries, it just doesn't work that way.

However, whether we collect fines or fees, over time both become a fee to use our services. Even the best patrons will have fines from time to time and have a running total on their account. We can tweak the fines and fees system to encourage more use, but trying to find a balance is not easy.

Our Plan: The Tiered System

We found that we had user drop-off from fines. We had a threshold of $10 before we stopped allowing patrons to check-out. What ended up happening was that people would rack up $9.99 on their account, check out four videos, realize that they kept them too long, and with the fine they racked up then, they would never return. What that fine threshold becomes is the fee to use our services. In order to combat this, we decided to lower the threshold, but provided a little give.

After $5, patrons were restricted to only two items and now audiovisual materials. Not providing audiovisual means no movies (which carry a heft fine of $1 per day as opposed to $.10 for all other materials). The idea behind this was that patrons would be able to continue to use the services longer since they would more readily provide $5 over $10.

Even though it seems we were punishing them, we were not, we were trying to keep them in good graces longer so that they will continue to use the services. There is nothing like going to do some PR at a major event or at a Walmart (as Jessamyn did) with your bookmobile advertising the library's services with the reply, "Oh I think I have fines". They will also remember trying to get out of the fine to continue to use the library, but the library (dedicated to its fiduciary responsibility) said no way. So we shouldn't be surprised when they give us the same cold shoulder.

As a way to further help patrons remain in our good graces is to provide Food for Fines. Patrons can bring in one non-perishable item and we count it towards $1 on their fine (which is a great deal since you can buy Top Ramen 10 for $1. It seems like a rip-off toward the library, but the food banks love it. You can't always find a can opener, but you can always find water and a microwave somewhere.)

So did lowering the fine threshold work? Circulation went up during 2005 when we first implemented the system. From 2004-2006 here are the collection rates of the library:

2004, $64,000 in charges, $32,000 recovered (50%)
2005, $62,44 in charges, $58,000 recovered (92%) (woo!)
2006, $126,596 in charges, $46,000 recovered (25%) (What?)

What happened? It seemed like it was working right away. However, instead of people saying, "Great only $5 and I get full services back." they simply adjusted to the lower fine rate, but did the same procedure. In fact, we ended up fining people more and they paid less. Part of this was a result of an increase in DVD selection and circulation, resulting in higher fines because of the $1 per day late charge. So the theory didn't work. I think it has its benefits for the good library users, but the same users that had problems at $10, ended up having the same problem at $5. Worse, most of the time this threshold didn't matter since they racked up $25 from a lost book right off the bat, making the whole process negligible.

Going to Collections

After the dismal performance last year, we had no choice but to with a collection agency to recover our materials (they just ding your credit). I know we need to keep our users, but when they flagrantly keep our stuff, that goodwill ends. We never had a problem with theft (people walking out the door with our stuff), but we have always had a problem with people checking out our items and not returning them. In a way, it is the same problem.

So far, the collection agency has worked. We began the service last month. In January 2007, we had $12,000 in charges and $4,000 in payments, this month we have $$4800 in charges and $2800 in payments. So far, it seems to have knocked down people accruing fines, people are bringing back their books instead of keeping them, and people are paying what they owe. It is a drastic step to go with a collection agency, but if gone with the right company. It can be very effective.

We want patrons to use our library and we can do that by trying to help them keep their fines low. A tiered system works somewhat, but not well enough on its own. The collection agency puts the message into many patrons' heads that they need to respect and value the library if they want to continue to use it. The realization that they can get into trouble for not returning materials makes them more honest and keeps them using the library (plus it makes it so they can't get away :) I guess it is a form of tough love. By making patrons pay their fines we are keeping them using the library, and that is good for them, even though it doesn't seem so when they cough up the money.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Successful Saturdays: Keeping in good with the press

What is your perception of libraries?

Is it this?

or this?

In some communities, you can ask the question, when was the last time you visited your public library. The reply can sometimes be, "There is a public library in town?" I remember when I first interviewed for a job at my library, I didn't know where the public library was. That is still one of the things that I don't like about my library, its location. A library should be located off the main street so it can be seen driving by. In addition, the library is the old city hall building so it doesn't look like a library.

Often, the perception of public libraries are that they are a throwback to the 1950s. You can insert the obvious antiquated references here (you know the glasses, the hair in a bun, shushing, dusty old books). It seems that many people have not entered into a library in quite some time. The obvious perception of libraries are the first two pictures. However, you want the perception to be the third picture. People at the library enjoying everything the library has to offer. It is not just about books, or computers, it is about a sense of place. It is somewhere to take your family to get an education, entertainment, and a great experience.

The younger generation that never has entered a library are stuck with stereotypes from the media. They will see more saturation from television and the internet's perceptions of libraries, than from actual libraries. In order to combat this, you need to take an active approach in getting attention for your library.

When I first started working at my library, we had no programming and some technology classes (in which attendance was dismal). Circulation wasn't bad, but it seemed that most of the community did not know where the library was. After doing some research, I realized, there was no way we were telling the public about us. No articles in the newspaper, no press releases, no calendar of events, nothing.

I began to write press releases for the local newspaper. It began to get some attention, but the articles were placed irregularly and usually not in enough time for people to be aware of the program. Most of the attendance for programs (if anyone showed up) was between zero and seven people. It was hard to continue with such low attendance. It wasn't until I had a big series of programs in February, did things begin to take off.

The library was conducting a focus group on the direction of the library. It was mostly a defensive maneuver to ward of cuts to the library budget. (It was post-9/11 everyone was getting cut.) I had a series of cultural events I was planning for February. Most of them came from the Arizona Humanities Council. I hoped to get all of the events together at the beginning of the month in a big spread. The paper did one better by getting images to put in the paper of the performers, a full page spread, and well ahead of time. I ended up getting 45 people for the first program, 30 for the second, and 20 for the third. It was a huge success. So when the focus group was asked if they knew about library programs, they said yes and that they checked their local paper for it.

In this vein, I developed a weekly library news section in the paper. Every Tuesday, we were able to have the paper run the library news for the week. Now people can expect when to get the news and were informed well ahead of time of programs. However, it gets better.

Over time, we began to get reporters from the local paper to cover library news. They came to library board meetings. Some of the first articles they ran were not positive and the information was incorrect or out of context on many occasions. The worst one was when they identified someone else as running the library (grr!). So when the library began its strategic planning process, it was a golden opportunity to change the perception of the library in the newspaper and the local community. I asked the paper to send me a reporter to cover the event and to participate in the process. They sent me the same reporter who made the mistake in the paper (double grr!)

The strategic planning process changed the communities perception of libraries. The reporter wrote a wonderful article about how libraries are not what you thought them to be. That classic, libraries are not about books article, it was great. The community's perception of the library was beginning to change. This is exactly what we wanted.

The best part came just last year. We had been receiving consistent positive coverage from the local paper. However, the lead reporter had never written an article about the library. We received coverage from the valley life reporter and other reporters, but nothing front page, no major article.

In April, I gave the library's annual report to City Council which described our efforts toward fighting adult illiteracy, creating a place for teens, and creating opportunities for workforce development. I was hoping for a big article because we had just started our adult literacy program and were accepting tutors. It was a big step. However, a week went by and no article. I was very disappointed. I had worked so hard, but I still did not get anyone's attention. Then, after a week, the article showed up. It was FRONT PAGE ABOVE THE FOLD! It even had a picture of the chart I provided showing the adult illiteracy rate in the community. We received a dozen calls from the public wanting to be tutors for our program. It was fabulous.

Ever since then, whenever I make a presentation to city council, there is a good chance there will be an article and for that article to be on the front page. If I apply for a grant, request a council action, or described progress on a library issue, it gets great coverage.

Furthermore, since we were receiving such good press, attendance at the library shot up. The April article resulted in twice as many sign-ups for summer reading, circulation, computer use, reference questions, and more are all up double digits. We get coverage in the local paper, the local magazine, and free monthly newspapers throughout town. If there is an event in the library, everyone in town knows about it. Just this week, we had two articles and one photograph of our new bookmobile in the paper. We have market saturation. Oh, and the third picture above, that is a local politician who came to the library for a photo shoot for her campaign advertisement.

Some tips on how to get your marketing started:

1. Find out how people get information.
There is always a source of information. A local newspaper, magazine, radio or television show, and sometimes even word of mouth works. We receive coverage in the paper and magazine. When we did some planning for our Spanish language outreach, we talked to the right people since usage of our Spanish language materials shot up right afterward.

2. Get to know your local media.
Who covers the big stories? Who covers the valley life? Who handles the calendar of events? These are all essential to drum up business for your library.

3. Get to know your local photographers for the local media.

Sometimes a photograph is just as good as a news article. Get your name out there. Call the photographer and ask them to come to your next storytime. Have them take a picture of you with your 20,000 customer of the month. Do something creative, just remember, they don't like talking heads. The shot needs to be framed.

4. Create a calendar of events.
Always have library events or library news. Even if you don't have any events there is something going on in the library that no one may know about. Did you get a new database? Did you get a bunch of new books in? Libraries are happening places, just talk about it.

5. Write press releases.

You always need a snazzy headline. It needs to get the reader's attention. Make sound (music) @ your library, Fight the harsh summer sun @ your library, do something creative. People will most likely go to a good program, but you have to fight the many headlines of other events going on at the same time.

6. Create newsworthy events.

Sometimes a good angle always helps. If you are having a storytime, you can advertise getting your child ready to read at your library. Talk about the increase of people using your computers to apply for jobs.

7. Use your monthly reports.

If you are using a strategic plan, then you probably need to report on its progress each month. This is a time to shine. Show how much the library is being used, demonstrate your impact by how you are accomplishing your goals. Have lots of pictures and charts and use bullet points to make your messages clear and succinct.

8. Find out what stories interest the paper.

If they are pro-library, great, if not, change their perception. There should be a theme that the library likes. Read anything written by the editor and show your library's accomplishments in the same light.

9. Always find an opportunity.

There is always an opportunity for a news story. When our library broke 20,000 circulations in one month, I found out who had the 20,000th circulation, threw some stuff in a bag and presented it as a gift. I called the photographer and they had a small thing in the paper about it. It was a great press opportunity for the library and make the patron's day.

10. Be everywhere.

Usually, you can combine your events with other events in town. You can combine your outreach with your marketing by making your outreach stand out. We plan to paint a mural on our bookmobile so that we are easily identifiable. Whenever we go out, if there is a picture of a general event we are at, you will be able to see us.

Marketing is everything. You can have the greatest program ever and no one will show up if no one knows about it. That is the only way to test the popularity of the program. If everyone knows about it and no one shows up, it is not a popular program. Libraries are fantastic concepts. Free books, free music, free movies, educational and recreational programs, computers with internet access and its all free!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Why Arizona struggles with education

Every person deserves an opportunity to excel. In 1968, the Bilingual Education Act was passed. If you are an intelligent person, but don't speak English, opportunities were provided in that language. Opportunities also existed for that person to acquire English. This ends up producing a strong workforce since you are taking someone who is very intelligent and adding them to the workforce in the United States simply by giving them an opportunity to learn more in their native language and then acquire English as well. I would consider that a win for the local economic development, and a win for that individual.

On the flip side, when those opportunities are not given, and people are given jobs with little or no training and have no opportunity to learn the language you have higher accidents rates as seen here,Hispanic workers suffer during boom (The Arizona Republic Feb. 13, 2007). Even ignoring the fact that the person in this article has been hurt, or that many others have been hurt because instructions were not properly relayed, this hurts business. Any perceived profit from underpaying this population goes away if there are high accident rates or poorly performed work due to poor instruction.

However, many people do not see it that way. They would prefer to have as many deterrents as possible to prevent someone from coming into this country, and then for those who are already in this country to make it hard for them to stay. This strategy doesn't work. If people are determined to come here for opportunities, they will come regardless of how many fences built, programs thrown at them, and opportunities denied them and for one simple reason, a job. If there is a job opportunity, they will go for it to feed their family. Hopefully, they will be able to get better jobs and provide more opportunities for their family, a sustainable future. Most people in this country would prefer for them to not have this opportunity. When blocks are created to keep these people down, that is where they will stay, however, that doesn't mean they will leave, or that it helps the economy.

What ends up happening when doors are shut to this immigrant population is that they are kept in that same place much like slave. They will come to the area for the job, live in substandard housing, and take their paycheck to send home to their family or try to use it to get their family here. However, when they cannot get the education or have the opportunity to learn the language, they will stay in that situation forever. Instead of becoming part of a healthy workforce in that community, they end up becoming a drain. They are kept poor and uneducated and not because they are not intelligent, but because they are blocked from learning English. This doesn't make them leave, partially because they become too poor for mobility, but mostly because it is still better than where they were. They will stay here and send their children to school here and use the medical facilities here, and use the many resources available to them here. They won't be able to pay back what they used because they don't make enough, and if they are not given the opportunity to make more to give back to the system, the drain gets bigger, until you get a system wide, or even a state-wide problem, both in schools and hospitals.

In a recent article, Arizona was last education-wise of all 50 states, and the chances for an Arizona student succeeding are dim. Why? Is it because public education is underfunded, that the cost of education is skyrocketing, or is it because this state believes in English only education?

Of course it is all of the above, but let's look at the last reason. Arizona is now the fastest growing state in the nation. Much of that comes from immigration, mostly Spanish speaking. A great deal of money is spent on helping Spanish Speakers learn English, but the process is wrong and often humiliating. Often, employers will send Spanish speakers to programs for them to learn English. After six weeks, they think they should be able to understand English. Realistically, they are no closer than they were six weeks ago. It take seven years to learn a new language, SEVEN YEARS and some people think it can be done in six weeks, or that English can be learned by osmosis, but this simply isn't true. This misunderstanding of how language is acquired hurts not just immigrants, it hurts everyone.

Perfectly intelligent students immigrate to this country for its opportunities, but don't know the language before entering. In school, they are given English immersion and not assisted in learning the material or subject. A student could be brilliant in math, science, or literature, but if they don't know the language, they may as well be a dunce. We used to have bi-lingual education, but with English immersion, no child left Behind, and prop 300, we have ensured that we will never tap into this intelligence and use it, and we are just wasting it. Proposition 300 will ensure that this population never gets an education, but that doesn't mean they won't stay here and it doesn't mean they won't come here. It just means that they will stay poor here and until opportunities for them are re-instated, you will feel that in overwhelmed schools, hospitals, and general services because this population cannot pull themselves up when everyone is pushing them down. However in the end, we all fall down by doing this.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why I Became a Librarian

From Blog Pictures...
This is why I became a librarian!
I have always been a reader. My first full length book that I read was the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I chose it because the cover of the book featured a huge spaceship that reminded me of Star Wars. I was 11 years old and going through the Star Wars craze. It seems to be something most American males go through, almost a requirement to have an obsession of Star Wars.

As a child, I did not have the calling to go into libraries or public libraries. However, I did use libraries as a child. Libraries were how I got hooked on Harlan Ellison, was able to catch up on 50 years of Isaac Asimov's writing, and discovered my love for science fiction. However, most of my elementary school years were spent participating in the local Parks and Recreation programs like Flag Football. And so, even though I was a reader and used public libraries, it never occurred to me to become a librarian until I moved to Arizona.

I grew up in California and played football in high school. I was a good student with good grades, though nothing fantastic. In fact, in order to pay for college, my plan was to get a football scholarship, which I almost did. The school told me that if I started, then they would pay for my tuition, not a full ride, but tuition. That was good enough for me. I ended up starting center for a division IAA college team at 250 pounds. If you follow football, that weight is rather anemic, and so I had to try really hard to get that position. However, even though I started, they didn't give me a scholarship. In fact, they pulled me and wanted to red shirt me. That was the kiss of death. (A red shirt means you can't take more than 6 units of school. This is so the college can keep you longer and beef you up.) I was NOT going to sacrifice my education to play football. Football was supposed to pay for college. I quit and moved back home.

I still felt the urge to go away for college. The colleges where I lived were either not very good, or were very expensive. And so, when my father offered for me to move in with him and go to ASU, I went. In order to get in-state tuition, I had to establish residency for six months. It was the longest six months of my life (well, almost.) I couldn't stand just cooling my heels; I needed to find something to do.
Luckily, my father lived a few blocks away from the Ironwood branch of the Phoenix Public Library system. Everyday, I would walk over there and check out books to keep myself sharp. Even though I had previously been using libraries for quite some time, it had been a while before I had stepped into one.

I remember the first time that I set foot in there. I remember the whoosh of the automatic sliding doors. I remember the smell of the books. I felt like I wanted to live there. I spent hours there everyday, mostly in the history section. I checked out Will Durant's Story of Civilization. It was fabulous! I was a history major as an undergrad, and I have loved studying history since junior high school. The storytelling in these books was amazing. Every single aspect of history, culture, and social life was discussed in these books- the way civilization was interconnected from one region to the next. I studied these books intensely, carrying half of the volumes home in my arms in the few blocks to my house. (If I wanted to be more dramatic, I could say it was five miles and it was snowing, but it doesn't snow in that part of Arizona, and it was less than a mile. :) It was not the only set of books that I checked out. I went home with new books almost daily, but that particular set made an impact on me. I was able to keep sharp in my history studies. It gave me a background of civilization and filled in my cultural memory so that when I was finally able to register for college and take classes, I was ready.

A few weeks ago, my library weeded part of the set of the Story of Civilization. It had not been checked out for some time, and of course over time a book set written from the 1930s to 1975 becomes out of date. So when I saw a few of the books from the set on the floor to be weeded, I asked for them. I was so excited to have these books which had such a profound impact on my life. It was the core of the reason I became a librarian. The experience of these books, and the Ironwood library, made me realize how one could learn, become educated, or keep sharp by using the public library. Any public library, no matter how small, can educate in so many ways. I also realized how much I just wanted to be around books all day. I was all set to go on ABEbooks or E-bay to get the rest of the set, but someone beat me to it.

This past Monday, I came home after work and my wife asked me, "Will you look at the bookcases? I think there might be something wrong with them." Now, the bookcases had been having problems; they were inexpensive and really cannot stand the weight of the books. When I walked over to the bookcase, I saw the above picture, the whole set of Will Durant's Story of Civilization. The antique set, in pristine condition. What a wonderful Valentine's gift. It is one of the most special gifts anyone has ever given to me. (The most special is when my wife creates art for my birthday, Valentine's Day, or Father's Day). My wife is an amazing person; I love her so much. Thank you and Happy Valentine's Day to you!

Public Service Announcement: The Librarian know it all

I once had a idea about creating a public service announcement about libraries and librarians. With the advent of youtube, it may come to reality.

It tells the story goes with a person going to a bookstore, then a movie rental, and finally a music store, all with the customer not finding what they need, but a mysterious stranger keeps helping the person find what they are looking for. At the end of the journey the person asks, do you work here, to which the stranger replies, no I'm a librarian.

It is great that so many libraries are doing this same thing. They parody commercials to advertise their services, they create their own movies to change patron perceptions about libraries. Anything that will change patron perceptions is a good thing since much of the population have the wrong idea about libraries. Either the last time they came into one was when they were eight and used a card catalog to find a book, or they have never been in one and have to rely on their friend's experience when he or she was eight.

So by creating these librarian videos and commercials, we are changing those perceptions, and by using tools such as MySpace, blogs, podcasts, and youtube, we are showing them what we have in spaces they always visit.

And this one is also funny: March of the Librarians

Just doing a search on Youtube for public library results in 621 hits, for library 7,321 hits. (Public Library is more by libraries our about public libraries, Library includes everything from Mr. Bean, to the cookie monster, to the UCLA student who was tasered.)

Then there are great projects like this at Denver Public Library where teens are challenged to create a unique video about their library.

Now there is even advertisements for library capital campaign for New Vestavia Hills Library

And of course there is a blog just for library videos like those founds on youtube called LibraryTV

I think any library can put short films of their library programs. YouTube only allows ten minute chunks, but you can categorize it by highlights or subject areas. For instance, if a genealogy program included something special on Federal Census Schedules, then you could cut the film just to include that segment the presenter talks about. It certainly would reduce the amount of patrons that say "Gee was that last month, I would have loved that!" These are ways we libraries can change perceptions.

I could probably put something together based on my original idea on youtube, but I think I would have to be more creative to keep up with all these great ideas. Plus, I would have to find some volunteers that aren't camera shy :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How to create and host a podcast for free

How to create and host a podcast for free

1. Write a script
Find what you want to record and create a script.

2. Find a voice
You can try to recruit people with radio voices, but you may need to do it yourself. Be sure your voice is upbeat and that you sound excited about your topic.

3. Record your voice
Most digital recorders record your voice in a .wav file. I use my office phone since it is equipped with a televantage client. I record my podcast like I would a phone greeting and import the file to where I am working.

4. Add music
This step is optional, but it adds some interest to have an opening theme, or background music. You can get royalty and copyright free music anywhere. I used Incompetech, Try to pick music that is real music and not musac. You can splice music with your podcast together at Just upload the music then upload your podcast and then you can mix the two together. The program is intended for DJs, but it works great for this purpose.

5. Host your podcast can host your podcast for free. You can download your podcast from SpliceMusic and upload it to Odeo. You can just link to splicemusic, but you don't have as much functionality. You have to use the Odeo player on your webpage, or you can just add the link wherever you want. I would choose the player. Odeo inserts a three second add at the beginning of your podcast without it. Your podcast may not have as high a quality, so the comparison between professional and amateur would be obvious.

(A trick for getting the odeo script minus the ad or player is to click on their provided link, which will launch your windows media player, right before that happens, the url changes. If you are able to stop it or copy the url before that happens, you can post it without interference.)

6. Create a podcast button
You can find a webpage to copy a button image that says podcast. You can search here You can host the image on your webpage, however, if you don't control the webpage, you can post the image to photobucket, then link to that host. Either way you need to link the button to the podcast link. For instance,

a href=" img src="" border="0"

7. Find a prominent location on your webpage
My podcasts are just for library events right now, so I placed the podcast link right under the link to that program section webpage. When I develop them for our library news, I will place the button and link there.

8. Advertise your podcast
Make sure you tell people about your podcast. Advertise in your newsletter, webpage, newspaper, email, etc.

9. Create a subscribe in itunes button.
You can find some examples here. The podcast you host on Odeo shows up in itunes, so it is a neat way to advertise since everyone has heard of itunes.

10. Say how often you update and stick to it
Monthly or weekly is fine. Don't overextend yourself and end up with an irregular podcast.

Always have fun with it. Podcasting adds a neat and personal feature to your website. It is one thing to have general text information, another to have a blog, and especially a podcast. It provides a personal touch to a usually impersonal webpage.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Successful Saturdays: The Townies are coming

Before we had an automated computer management system, many library patrons came into our library, never looked at a book, asked a question, or engaged the library in any way except to sign up to use a computer. Once we began to require a library card to get online, we found usage everywhere beginning to increase. Circulation, walk-in business, reference questions, (of course computer usage), and more were used heavily.

New patron cards doubled from the same time from the previous year. The curious thing was that it was not from new residents moving into the area (even though that is a part of it). It was all the people that have lived in this town their whole life, but never used the library. Once we began to require people to get a library card, they began to use all of our services. We extracted the patrons from the database, removed the names, and put them on a map. The result was a giant blob with most new users living within a five mile radius from the library. It is amazing to see that once you begin to advertise services and require people to get a library card do they realize all the things you can do in a library. You can increase you library's usage by just adding computers. Very interesting.