It’s nearing the end of the school year here in central New York and that means it is time for school visits. As the teen librarian at a public library, I reached out to the middle and high schools trying to arrange either for me to visit the school or for the students to visit the library to learn about what resources we have and to talk about the summer reading program. Ideally, I would love to collaborate with the local schools on our summer reading program. In all, I was able to arrange for four 6th grade classes to visit the library. That’s it. I will be trying harder much earlier next year. So anyways, at these visits, Heather gets up and talks about responsibilities of library card ownership and then together we talk about the fun and awesome things you can do in the library over the summer (and all the time).
The four classes that visited the library came to the library knowing about books and dvds and music, but they left knowing they can use a 3D printer, play video games, volunteer, borrow an iPad, and play Minecraft. Mission accomplished: 107 minds blown. I know this is a little weird, and a lot of other librarians and human adults in general will not believe me, but, I like middle school aged teens. They are so cool. They have so much potential for enthusiasm without being too weighed down with the politics of student social hierarchies.
They also really loved the idea of earning badges by participating in our summer reading program. More on that later…
I am, at last, exactly what I want to be: a full time public librarian. As the Director of Innovative Family Services at the Fayetteville Free Library in NY I manage children’s and teens fiction and graphic novel collections, plan teen programs, oversee volunteers, and basically get to be very very cool all the time. So far, for my job I coached a First Lego League team who won an award at our very first competition, went to NY Comic Con, trained patrons on how to use our Makerbot 3D printer, and designed some amazing new programs for middle schoolers. In 2013 I will be presenting at my first professional conference, running the teen summer reading program, making decisions, rearranging spaces, and making some very good things happen.
As I am becoming comfortable in my role I’ll be using this blog to talk about my successes, failures, ideas, excitements, disappointments, and learning experiences. I will also be posting reviews for children’s and YA fiction and graphic novels.
So stay tuned for good times and general library geekery (because that is just how I roll).
Indulge me for a moment while I geek out. When I was living in Japan, I bought myself a Kindle because of the high cost and extremely sparse selection of books in English. But when I came back to the US to be a graduate student, I didn’t have the extra cash to be buying books to read on my Kindle, so I borrowed books from the library instead. Today, I checked out an ebook from my library to read on my Kindle. It’s an excellent merge of two reading experiences: my Kindle and my library book. The Kindle is smaller and lighter than the print book would be and also holds all of the PDFs and both of the textbooks I am using for classes. Talk about lightening the load!
In the ongoing move to a Dewey-free nonfiction collection, the first part of the project is completed. All of the nonfiction books were removed from their shelves and organized by topic. About a third of the books have been put in new record sets according to topic. Here’s the temporary workstation where I was processing today. The stacks are also being rearranged to make use of the maximum amount of light possible. Today they got taken down and the base frames were reassembled in the new orientation. Tomorrow I imagine the shelves will be replaced and perhaps some of the processed topic sets will be shelved. I’m really excited to see what the final product will look like.
Today, the library where I work began a (hopefully) week-long project to transition our nonfiction collection to a Dewey-free layout. First, all of the books need to be removed from the shelves and sorted by topic. We will affix stickers on the spines of each book identifying the topic and update the library catalog with the new information. Then, the shelves are being moved to maximize the lighting. Finally, we will begin the process of re-shelving the books accordingly. Today, we took down about half of the collection, sorting as we go, and tomorrow we will hopefully finish that first phase.
I am interested to see how it all turns out. I’ve heard of Dewey-free libraries but I have never seen one myself. I think it is a great move in terms of patron usability. Browsing will be easier and the topic groupings will be more intuitive than Dewey’s designations. And when searching for a particular book, the library catalog will still be able to direct patrons to the specific place they need to look.
Does your library do Dewey?
I’ve spent a whole week trying to think of a coherent way to express my thoughts about last week’s IST511 class, particularly my thoughts on the value of archives and the importance of the library as a place. I can’t really explain why I feel the way I do, but I will try and if I ramble too much I apologize. Firstly, I’ll talk about archives. In class, Prof. Lankes offered the argument that an archive only has value if the community places a value on it. It seems like common sense to me that anything is valueless until someone decides to value it. We even have an idiom for that: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. But as Prof. Lankes was filling out an argument against preservation (why do we need three first editions of Alice in Wonderland when the content is the same?) I could see the enthusiasm for special collections we all felt after the previous week’s tour slowly fade. I don’t think Dave was really arguing against preservation and archives, though he has very futuristic ideals for librarianship, but because #daveheart said it I know some of my classmates changed their opinions about special collections and archives.
Archives, preservation, and special collections will always be an important part of libraries, not only because of the content of the books, but because the actual physical objects can teach us so much about history. Dave mentioned the man who was sniffing manuscripts as a way of studying the spread of the plague in Europe. By knowing the physical condition of the manuscript and then analyzing the content for source, one could make a map of the areas affected by the plague at various times. It was a great example of how the physical object coupled with the textual content can reveal important historical information. You could argue that archives like that belong in museums and not libraries. Well, partly I think they belong in libraries because I think they can be more accessible there. But, to tell you the truth, when it comes to preservation of books, documents, and manuscripts, I can’t really tell the difference between the museum setting and the library setting (because librarians work in both!).
So, back to the “a thing only has value when people place value one it.” I believe the same argument can be made for libraries (duh!). How do you measure the importance of a library? If nobody visits a library I think you could safely say that it is a failure. I think there are three main factors that affect the importance of the library: the place, the collection, and the community. Just to specify, I mean place as both the physical location and the atmosphere created by librarians and library staff. The most important of the three factors is the community. If the community doesn’t value the library then what is the point of having one? One way to create value, is to convince the community to feel pride in their library. This can be done in two ways, one is to have a beautiful and comfortable place and the other is to have an excellent collection that perfectly appeals to the community. It is important to find a balance between the two because a visually stunning library will lose a lot of appeal if the shelves are empty or the collection uninteresting, and the greatest collection in the world will still be avoided if the place is uncomfortable and unattractive. You will never hear me argue against improving a collection, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration. I’m not arguing that we need to put stained glass windows in the libraries with the economy as it is now, but investing in good lighting and having an approachable reference desk would be a good start.
I can’t tell you how excited I am about today. Last week in Professor Lankes’ class we met Meg Backus, an librarian with amazing ideas, who invited us all to participate in a new project she is starting called the Library in the Library (here’s some more info). The first meeting is today at 3pm and I will be there. Then, after the Library in the Library, we have class at Bird Library where we will tour the preservation labs and the Special Collections. I am SO excited about that!
I think the only drawback to meeting so many types of librarians and learning about so many kinds of libraries is that I am finding it hard to choose just one…