Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So what would a 2.0 library look like?

I don't think I need to mention the numerous discussions about library 2.0 in the recent months. Many libraries are using 2.0 tools and developing a library 2.0 model. I wonder, in the end, what it would look like when it would be considered implemented. Granted, any movement for change is one, in which, there isn't a destination, but a constant movement towards some sort of "Nirvana" if you will. A goal in which all of what is desired is implemented and working as it should.

What is a 2.0 library?

What do I know about this? Not very much. However, I have some kind of idea of what it could look like and it is not so much about the tools. If we look at the issue in a macro term, we stop thinking about a library and we begin to think about service. We then begin to think about what type of service is best for a community. The 2.0 part is how that service is communicated and implemented. How much control is relinquished so that the individuals in that community decide the best library services?

What libraries are doing now?

Libraries have begun strategic planning, performance based budgeting, and even the Balanced Scorecard. These are all attempts to provide an open conversation so that the library is always aware of the needs and can implement it. What if this piece is removed? Instead of people telling the library what they would want, what if they had direct control in implementing the service?

ILL 2.0
An example of this type of trust can be considered in allowing patrons to order ILLs at will. They have direct control of the interface and can order what they want. The library with the book processes the order, the book is sent to the library, and the patron picks it up. This would require very little staff involvement. The library had the book, the patron orders the book, the book is then available at that patron's library. In order to keep tabs on the system, some libraries have a limit on the number of ILLs a patron can have within a given time period. (I have also heard the term that ILL "sucks the life" out of circulation staff, which is why there are these limits.) There is a project called the Arizona Portal Project that looks to make this process even easier. Using, a patron could log into a general account and search for any type of material. The search would be organized by type of material and then by location. A patron could then choose to go to their local library and pick it up, have the item sent through interlibrary loan (2 weeks), have it send via FedEx overnight (from libraries that would agree to do that), or just order it from Amazon. I will blog more about that project later. However, if all libraries had one entry port, one portal, that would control all library content and location, that would greatly reduce the hassle patrons currently have using their libraries.

Collection Development 2.0

What if you did this with collection development? Allow patrons to order what books they wanted for the library to own? Currently, a library would take a purchase slip, which goes to the librarian, who would order it. Take out that step and have the patron order it directly. Same steps with ILL. It could be done through EDI and the local ILS in conjunction with the library's vendor. This is a little extreme and would need some tabs on the process (like a patron could order only so many books, requires a card in good standing, etc.)

Programming 2.0/Space 2.0
What about programming? A patron wants a program, have them perform the program, or contact the programmer to come down and the library helps with advertisement and other administrative items. Something that is very easy to implement is a community room. Most libraries have a community room that they may use for storytimes or for meetings. Your room should have temporary furniture that can be put away and stored. It should also have Wi-Fiin it. This way, if patrons want to come in and do something on their own, whether it is to have a club meeting, have an impromptu storytime, or set up a Wii tournament, they would have the space to do so. Providing the equipment is another step. Patrons could bring their own and the library can adapt its resources so that is always freely available. (WI-FI is great for tournaments since people can play against anyone anywhere in the world with Internet access) Space is the key, both virtual and physical. A library should be able to provide new technology tools and provide bandwidth to spare.

Reference 2.0
Reference could work the same way, having resident experts that can provide reference help on topics. This is already done on sites like yahoo answers. Either have a micro version in your community, or just integrate it into your service. This is something available online already. Librarians can go into that pool, but we didn't fill it. Unless it is something that is very specific (often a local question or a subject specialty) or something for someone who is not tech savvy(which there are numerous and always will be) the answers are often online.

Equipment 2.0
Tools are the second key part. A successful library should be able to provide and sustain new technologies, provide training of those new technologies, and provide space for collaboration and the ability to play with these new technologies. There will always be the need to provide a simple access point. Libraries provide this now simply by providing computers and bandwidth. It would be nice if, at some point, libraries would be seen as the top place to access and play with new technologies. All that would really require are up to date computers and lots of bandwidth. What is a library, a warehouse of information (and recreational) tools and access tools. Give the public the power to order what they want and arrange the services that they want.

ILS 2.0
The social opac should allow a patron to set-up their account originally using their library barcode number and a pin. After that, they should be allowed to set up their own unique username and password that only they would know. They could set up a profile and make it public if they wish. It can provide items they have tagged or commented upon in the catalog, books they have ILL'd, books they have read, books they have reviewed, books they have requested or ordered, articles from databases they have saved or shared, and other thoughts on how the library can improve their services. Some rewards for participation can be extra services like longer check-outs, increase the amount they can ILL or order, or other type of credits. Of course, this user profile could be found on the open web if the user enabled it. If not, it would just be a regular private account no one could see. This would also have to integrate into current social networking sites like a Facebook app, OR, these social networking pieces could be integrated into the ILS account interface.

What is the difference between libraries that exist now and a library that is 2.0?

The difference between library services provided with current tools (like strategic planning) and ones that provide services in a 2.0 type model is the difference between benevolent despotism and a democracy. Benevolent despotism makes all the decision, but the leader must be nice enough to allow input and provide services needed by the people. A democracy puts all the options on the table and lets the public decide (often by majority).

So what are the barriers? Money and staff time are major barriers. This is often the reply for libraries who cannot implement new technology initiatives. This isn't a simple solution. A library that can create this environment will need to do the following:

1. Have enough money as a buffer to provide this level of service
2. Be able to cut funding in other areas to provide that funding in these areas
3. Provide a long term plan to allow space, equipment, and flexibility to change.

Where to begin or the evolution of the library

1. Get a building (through bonds, renovation, or just use your house), get materials (books, movies, music, etc.), get technology (computers with Internet access).
Most libraries in the United States have those three elements. This is the beginning of library services. In the beginning (and it may still be now), a library consisted of books and a building.

A brief history

Andrew Carnegie began funding of public libraries around the turn of the century. However, all over the country, citizens have used and will use their desire and know-how to build a library and provide the service. Across the country, people will use their own homes, volunteer their own time, and use whatever books they can get their hands on to offer reading materials and more to their community. My library began in 1912, it received no Carnegie funding. The Woman's Club (yes that is how it is spelled) decided the community needed a library. They went out into the desert and collected stones and they built the community's first library. Desire drives that. A desire to have a better community.

2. Over time, a library will need to establish a funding agency.
Libraries are often built by volunteers often through the organization of a Friends group or a trust. In communities throughout my county, a library has been built or renovated with local funds to get started. They are run by volunteers. County money will often buy books or help with projects, but those who operate the library are unpaid. They do it because they are passionate about it, because they love it. These libraries will either establish a tax revenue through a millage or by merging with a local municipality. Thus developing recurring revenue. Over time, this will lead to paid staff, sustained revenue for materials, and reliable technology.

3. The library is sustained
The revenue will increase, paid staff will take over for volunteers, a head librarian, manager, or director will lead the library. Often, in small communities, these paid staff will not have an MLS, but again, they will have the drive and desire to build good services.

4. The library expands
Whether the library is a standalone library, or connected to a larger library agency, the library will need to expand and break off from its origins. This will include a new building, built to be a modern library, with plans for materials, staffing areas, more technology. This can happen through investments over time, revenue from taxes, or a bond measure. The library building expands, or builds additional locations, staff members expand, materials expand, and technology expands.

A brief story
This stage is usually the comfort zone for most libraries. The library has support from the community, the library provides services and collections that are used. If the library's budget is not threatened or cut, there is no desire to improve services. Furthermore, if the library's service level is just newly established, there is a reluctance to move forward (a "wait and see approach"). Steady reliable services are better than taking risks on services or cutting legacy services. If no crisis emerges, a budget cut, or if there is constant crisis (constant threat to services), the library will not want to change its environment. The original goal of the library founders would seem to be accomplished, established library services. This is how most libraries will operate currently.

5. The library is reactive
Not satisfied with merely providing basic services, the library desires to provide improved services that match-up with the needs of the community. This establishes a library as a service and not merely a warehouse of books and materials. The library watches the statistics and provides programs, materials, and services and reacts to the need. Christian living books get high check-out rates? The library buys more. It follows the philosophy that patrons vote with their library cards (and their feet).

6. The library is proactive
The library seems to always be behind the curve. Over time the library has provided good services based on the desires of its patrons, but the services are numerous and spread out. The library needs to focus and understand the general needs instead of just piecing together some reactive services. The library develops a strategic plan by gathering members of the community. Community leaders, patrons, library staff, friends members, and library board members are gathered with an outside moderator to determine the next few years of library services. After its completion, the library develops services to build the needs. This may require reallocating of resources, cutting programs to develop new programs, or in the best case, more funding. The library builds its services based on the needs of the community.

7. The library scans the horizon
Library admin and staff keep up on library trends and are familiar with most library trends and general user trends. They keep up with technology. When service is requested or otherwise needed, library staff should be aware of the service and know how to implement. It should be aware of 90% of the process including cost, staff resources, and amount of time it will take to implement. New items are implemented based on user and staff input.

8. The library experiments
The library is a learning environment. New programs, services, and collections are brought to the attention of admin regardless of their position. Job positions have duties, but there are extra activities and duties that go beyond the job. Any position can plan pieces of library services. This is usually the result of an established program, plan, or environment that allows staff to plan and react for their public. Decision-making is pushed down. All levels of library staff are aware of the objectives of the library and understand the service model. Library decisions and actions are more reactive. Library experiments with reducing as many barriers to service as possible.

9. Library increases user control
Patrons begin to have direct control of some library services. Full staff control of these services must begin before user control. This enables library staff to train the public on how to use these services.
Books and materials can be checked out without staff help (self-check)
Account issues can be resolved without staff help (unless a major issue arises) like paying by debit card online.
ILL's can be placed directly
Collections can be ordered directly
Reference questions are asked and answered by library users as well as all levels of library staff
Programming space is up to the users, an empty room that they can bring their ideas into whether it is storytime, club meetings, or gaming.

10. Superpatrons help guide library services
Library staff provide the vast majority of services, but patrons who have the knack will be permitted extra privileges to decide library services. This is something that is on a small scale as many will not have the skill to get to this level (maybe 1% of the library's patron base). Library will still provide all the same services, but it will enable and empower patrons to take an active role in library services by actually doing some of them.

Does this mean libraries need to follow this road? NO! I believe this is a path to next generation library services. Libraries will be able to serve their patron base by simply offering books and materials plus access to technology. Many libraries do not need to be proactive and can simply be reactive. However, if a library could follow this path, it would be a path to truly outstanding library services.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Five Dollar Flash Drive

I had meant to share this before, so this will be a quick post. I had mentioned in my post about "10 Ways to Hack your Local Library"that we sell flash drives for $5.

For some time, our patrons have had problems saving documents to our computers. They were under the impression that if they saved the document to the desktop, that it would be there when they returned. We began to sell floppy and CD-RW discs, but this created another problem. Some of our computers have floppy drives and some do not. The floppy drive is now an upgraded piece of hardware. As a result, some computers have a cd burner and a floppy drive, some have one, and some have the other. To solve both issues, library staff suggested to only allow flash drives on the computers and to lock up the floppy and cd burner drives. This seemed a bit severe, but I understood why the extreme move. Patrons do not know which computers had floppy or cd available, so just enabling a flash drive seemed like a viable option. However, the technology was not readily available or affordable in town.

Now, I am the type of person that is reluctant to cut off a service that people need. Certainly when cost is a factor. In order to solve the problem, I decided the library should sell flash drives to the public. I remember that Webjunction gave away flash drives as a promotion. They weren't that big, usually 128 mb, but it was a neat marketing trick. They can provide something useful, but it also has their logo and information on it. 128mb isn't much for someone like me, but for the public, it is a huge improvement.

My task was to find a way to order affordable flash drives, that had a good amount of memory, and had the library logo on it.
I found one

Just to be straight, I am going to plug the company that provided the drives. They gave me a good deal and it is a great service.

Here are the rates
Capacity 25 50 100 250 500 More
64MB $17.00 $9.50 $8.50 $7.75 $6.50 Contact us
128MB $18.00 $10.00 $9.00 $8.50 $7.75 Contact us
256MB $19.00 $11.00 $10.50 $10.00 $9.50 Contact us
512MB $21.00 $15.00 $14.25 $13.00 $11.75 Contact us
1GB $25.00 $18.00 $17.00 $16.00 $14.00 Contact us
2GB $33.00 $27.00 $26.00 $25.00 $23.00

We started off with an order of 250 at 256mb. They gave us a deal for $5 each. They even go up to 8GB. You can customize them too, so your library logo and information is on the memory stick. I ordered 250 that I received August 1st, I have 50 left now.

Once we had the drives and advertised them, it spread like wildfire. Even the local schools are telling their students to buy the flash drives at the library. Patrons are buying them four at a time. Some people are coming in JUST TO GET THE FLASH DRIVES.

So I have been able to provide a resource to the community, without cutting off an essential service, plus I have word of mouth marketing that anyone would kill for. Just think of this story:

"I went to plug in my flash drive on my work computer when my co-worker asked what that was. I told her that it was a flash drive that the library is selling. (She holds up the flash drive that has the library logo and url.) Co-worker says "Wow, I didn't know libraries did that."

Next stop for her was the library.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Library Directors put yourself in your staff members' shoes

The continuing transparent director series from Library Journal puts out another gem. I wasn't a fan of the Libraries are too timid piece, but the current one, Going to the Field, has some great advice. I will share my favorite part of the piece and then refer to some other blog posts talking about the same thing. One from another library director.

Read on:
Going to the Field - 9/15/2007 - Library Journal: "We're not trying to turn accountants and administrators into desk librarians. But we do want them to see and comprehend the multitude of issues that branch or department staff and management deal with every day. If support and administrative staff see the processes for what they really are, then, we hope, they'll begin to view their roles in a new light."
(One other fun thing to do is to have your IT staff fix a computer or perform repairs on a down computer while the library is open. People learn really fast that the library is a busy place and the demand level is very high.)
Sites and Soundbytes: Library Directors and Customers - What's Our Role?: "Directors should work the service desks at their libraries. Do you know the feel and service your patrons are receiving? (I am posting this from our library's reference desk while the staff has a department meeting, so this is one I personally do whenever I get the chance.) I find that I get a real sense of our patrons, their needs and how the library inter-relates when I do even a short stint at desk." (click the link to read more)
END SNIP (I posted more about this here.)

Church of the Customer Blog: "# He mingles with passengers in the gate area # He makes gate announcements himself, updating passengers about weather conditions and sets realistic expectations for delays # He uses his cellphone to call United operations to ask about connections for passengers # He passes out information cards to passengers with fun facts about the plane; he signs two of them, whose owners will win a bottle of wine # He snaps pictures of animals in the cargo hold to show owners their pets are safely on board # He writes notes to first-class passengers and elite frequent fliers on the back of his business cards, addressing them by name and thanking them for their business # He personally calls parents of unaccompanied children to give them updates # He instructs flight attendants to pass out napkins asking passengers to write notes about experiences on United, good or bad # He orders 200 McDonald's hamburgers for passengers if his flight is delayed or diverted"

Lastly, (when this presentation posts), you need to listen to Gina Millsap and Rob Banks from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library District, Dump the Org. Chart: Get `Er Done!: Management for a 2.0 Library A wonderful presentation on how to transform your library to a responsive and positive team environment. Or read Rob Banks blog here.

Library directors really need to man the front desk, talk to their staff, and be involved in what is going on. Understanding the problems will result in better solutions and increased morale. The more staff know that you are listening and that you are communicating what you are doing to solve the problem, the better they will feel. This is true even if you don't actually solve the problem. When know that you understand their problems, they will trust what you are doing and trust your decision-making.

So go ahead and try it:

- Work the circulation desk while your staff has a circulation meeting
- Get higher ups over at the library during the rush of post-storytime
- Sit at the front desk and watch what staff have to deal with day in and day out
- Understand the best ways to communicate with staff so they feel they hear you and you hear them

In the end, you will be an administrator that understands the problems and has built trust with staff to move forward wherever you go.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All the technology you can get your hands on or libraries are out of room for more computers

It's nice to see that my library isn't the only one out of space and in need to expand bandwidth. A recent report by the American Library Association, Libraries Connect Communities, examines this issue.

This has been reported by the Associated Press "Despite Demand, Libraries Won't Add PCs" and by bloggers. Here are the major themes:

  • Technology is bringing more – not less – public library use
  • Library infrastructure (space, bandwidth and staffing) is being pushed to capacity
  • Libraries need more technology planning and dedicated technology support

Reports like these two years ago addressed out of date computers. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation remedied that situation. However, with all these new computers, bandwidth is squeezed. Furthermore, libraries must find ways to sustain and support this level of service.

I was in the same boat two years ago. I had 11 old gates pc's that were installed in 2001. These computers were five years old by the time they were replaced. MySpace crashed the computers every time. We also had to manually sign up users on a clipboard.

In 2006, I was able to combine a $14,000 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant, with a $30,000 Capital Improvement Project provided by the city. Later that same year I was able to get an additional grant from the Tohono O'odham nation for $11,000. For $55,000, I was able to replace 11 old pcs with 38 brand new dells with half a gigabite of memory. I could even write further grants for more computers had I the space. To even create the space, I had to weed our paperback collection by half and move it onto the main floor.

Luckily, I have a host of solutions to deal with this issue. My community passed a bond in 2006 for a new library and a renovation/expansion of the existing library. When completed, the library will provide access to an additional 130 computers. A total of 166 computers for a community of 38,000 people. All these projects will be completed between 2009 and 2010. The community is growing, but computer growth should outstrip population growth unless we have over 100,000 people in three years.

What about the short term? My library has the problem of bandwidth. From the time we open to the time we close, we peak out our internet bandwidth. This is with 1.5mbps. High for 1999, but painfully slow today. If you read the July 2007 report "Speed Matters" by the Communication Workers of America. The United States average internet speed was 1.9mbps. By contrast, Japan has 61 mbps and even South Korea is at 45mbps. So it's not just libraries that are lagging, it is the entire nation. My community is trying to expand access from 1.5 to 6, a huge increase. However, I can still fantasize about 60mbps (you can download a movie in 2 minutes).

What else are we doing in the short term? We are expanding access with laptops. We don't have a laptop loan program, but we allow our teen group to use our ten laptops during their weekly four hour program. They are able to get online though our wireless internet access and collaborate. We also received a grant from the Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records for additional computers and help setting up a teen website. It has been a very successful program because we are able to expand computer access.

We also have a bookmobile. It not only carries books and materials to various locations, it also has a satellite dish to provide wireless internet access wherever it goes. My favorite experience with this was going to a youth center and setting up the laptops. The center coordinator said that they didn't have wireless internet, to which I replied, "That's OK, we brought it with us." Again, we can expand access wherever we go and provide ten access points.

We have a long term plan and a short term plan, but what about sustainability? When I came to my library, we had an expired master plan and technology plan. We had technology, but no way to sustain or improve it. I was able to create a strategic plan using PLA's Planning for Results. At the same time the city performed a master plan of our entire department. This helped establish planning goals for short and long term, however, neither of these plans addressed technology in depth. These plans did a wonderful job setting a plan for us for future services. However, the needs were so basic, that technology would be considered an advanced asset. At best, the plan addressed the need to have a technology plan, replace technology after three years, establish wireless internet and create a computer access point for every 2000 citizens. We had to find our own way completely separate of this process.

There are tools to develop a technology plan. Webjunction and Techatlas are both excellent tools. Techatlas provides a way to inventory technology as well as provide a survey for library services to determine a path for great service. It provides a survey for staff to assess their training level. It provides a questionnaire on all aspects of library technology services. The survey helps establish a level of service based on successful libraries and on successful e-rate plans. Using the survey results, combining the library's strategic plan, and hiring a consultant (provided by a grant for the Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records), we were able to create a three year technology plan that was e-rate compliant. This will allow for staff training, replacement of technology, assure quality internet access, and expansion for future technology needs.

Next we addressed technology support issues. The idea of a Service Level agreement was one I received from Andrew Pace who referred to this service level agreement, in March 2006. I was able to use this document as an example for our consultant. Furthermore, I could use it for city IT to demonstrate what we were trying to do. Here are the major themes:

1. Address the views of library users on their Information Technology needs;

2. Maintain an appropriate level of patron IT services to meet those needs;

3. Employ a monitoring process to address changing and evolving users’ needs;

4. Deliver appropriate staff focused IT support services to sustain user services;

You can view the full document here

We also wrapped these objectives with our three year technology plan. Some of the most useful, but very basic pieces of this plan were:

1. Ensure staff were sufficiently trained in technology
2. Ensure sustainability of technology (example, purchase four "imaged" public access computers that can be replaced when one goes down, allowing time for IT to repair but not losing service levels.)
3. Understand what the library can and cannot do. (There must be a point to which the library can refer to the patron's technology equipment manufacturer such as for wireless internet.)

We broke down the library's technology plan into six month pieces. See the document here. See the full three year technology plan here.

I am in a situation where I have all the tools I need and I can focus on the biggest needs such as bandwidth. If I hadn't had these long term plans, I would have to look seriously at our collections to see if we could weed to provide increased computer space. The next few months will involve training library staff so that they can handle the increased technology questions and issues. After that, we plan to perform a full Learning 2.0 program. It takes a lot of work to get to that point, but the most important thing is to begin the process. It is exciting to be able to provide these services and by planning, I am ready for 90% of what is asked of our library.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

10 ways to hack your local library

In the vein of lifehacker and their take on hacking the library, I thought I would pass along some tips on how to maximize your local public library.

1. Check out books

Right now, you are probably thinking to yourself, "Is that really a tip?" or something to the extent of "Duh, I knew that." Many patrons do not fully grasp how important it is to check out books. When you check out a book, it goes right into our stat counter and we realize that you, our patron, like the book. If that book is checked out several times, we buy similar books to that same book. So make sure you check out your favorite books if you want them to stay in the library. Furthermore, the more you check out, the more books we buy to your exact taste. Did you love The Kite Runner? Then we will buy A Thousand Splendid Suns, Diana Abu-Jaber's Cresent, Yasmina Khadra's The Swallows of Kabul, and others. Think about that for a moment. You can build your own personal library in your local public library. Those books can just be sitting there for you and they will always stay in there as long as you check them out.

2. Don't see it, ask us to buy it

The library purchases books for you to use. Librarians rely on reviews and circulation statistics to make decisions on purchasing. We don't always catch everything. We rely on patrons to tell us what books they want not only by the number of times a book or books are checked out, but also by what is requested to purchase. With the thousands of books that are published every year, we may miss one that is important to you. That new book you saw on Oprah (like the Secret), or that book you heard on NPR (A World Without Us), ask us to buy it if we don't have it yet. Our purpose is to buy books for you to use, so if you don't see it ask us to purchase it.

3. The world is at your fingertips with Interlibrary Loan

Did you know that most libraries can almost any book in the United States through a process called Interlibrary Loan (ILL for short)? Need some obscure title that is out of print? We can get it. Looking for some genealogy information and it's only in that one book in New York? We can get that too. If we don't have it, you can even check what library does on The turnaround time is often amazing. My library gets it back to you 10 days from a request ON AVERAGE!

4. Don't know what to read, ask us, or ask us anything, really!

We have many resources and we are trained to draw out your likes and dislikes so that we can recommend books to you. Librarians are here to field just about any questions. Sure if it is simple, you might think using a search engine like Google will get your answer. However, if it is complicated, do you really want to trust a search engine to get the exact information you need? You might be searching for hours, when a call to the local library can get the same information in five minutes.

5. Be our Friend and you get a longer check-out (teachers and homeschoolers too)

Almost every library has an organization called the Friends of the Library. They are there to help support the library for special projects, marketing, and more. If you don't have time to give, you can just pay for a membership. Membership usually entails longer check-out periods. Yes, that's right, it means you can have your favorite book for 28 days instead of 14 often for as little as $10 a year! Another secret is that if you are a teacher or a homeschooler, you can the same privledge, but for you it is free! You just need your teaching certificate or affidavit for homeschooling.

6. Ask us for services

We rely on feedback from patrons, so if you want the library to have certain resources or services, ask for them. Some libraries can even provide services at a cost. For instance, we sell flash drives for $5. It has a 256mb memory and holds the equivalent of 88 floppy disks. Yes this is not free, but it much cheaper and much valuable. Sometimes budgets don't allow for changes, but it doesn't hurt to ask. You may be surprised.

7. Return books

Again, this may seem silly, but we really need the books back. It takes an awful long time to replace the book and we are often so nice we give you the benefit of the doubt even if you have had it for three months. Don't be mean to us, return the book, even if it is late. Late fees are not even that much anyway for books (average is 10 cents a day). Most libraries offer a grace period so even if the book is late, you may not have to pay anything. Libraries often have services like Food for Fines so even if you have late fees, you can pay them off with canned food and Top Ramen and give to charity at the same time. However, we don't allow patrons who have lost items to replace them in this way. Another little incentive to return our stuff.

8. Ask about our services
Many libraries have expanded services, ways to help you keep track of your books (Library Elf), ways to have books sent to you by mail (books by mail) and many other services. We try to market, but if our library brochure had all of our services on it, it would be lost in a sea of text. So ask us about whatever is on your mind. If you are a dedicated bibliophile, you can also keep track of what you are reading through a reading list. Many libraries have this functionality and you can log into your library account to do it. See some books you want to read, you can save a title list in your account. You can also download a title list onto your computer and upload it to goodreads so that you can keep track of what you want to read.

9. Databases are good

Yes you may look at a library website and wonder, what the heck is a database. As Terry Dawson would put it, a database is something with data in it :) A database is a warehouse of online information that you cannot find by using a search engine. Need to rebuild that 1982 Toyota Corolla, the library has a database where you can print out all the instructions and even tips when you get stuck. Looking for that newspaper article from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal and it is stuck behind a pay wall, a database will crack it open for you. Did I mention this was free?

10. In fact EVERYTHING is free
Books, movies, music, online information, even items that can be downloaded from the web. The library may not be the fastest to get a book or movie, but it will get it, and it will be free to you.

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