Making Library Conferences Better for Small Libraries

I am very fortunate that I am able to take my employees with me to our OLC Chapter Conference every year. It is always a great day to gather new information, network with other librarians, and get out of the library together as a group. We usually take two cars full of people, and it’s interesting to listen to the conversations on the way home.

There is always a common sentiment after spending the day getting new ideas: the presenter/presentation was great, but I don’t see us being able to do that in our small library. I do not hear this from only employees. I have sat with fellow directors during presentations and when mention of cost or staffing comes up, you can usually see the small library directors look at one another and make the same expression that says “Yeah, right!”

There is no mistake the OLC Conferences we are attend are some of the most valuable experiences in our careers. We learn from one another and we always come back to our libraries with new ideas, more confidence, and renewed friendships. We wish to see more sessions with the “small library” focus.

Apparently we are not alone in our feelings. Here is some feedback from this year’s Chapter Conference in our area:

  • Some would not apply to smaller libraries, but great ideas.
  • Could you make the presentation more applicable for small libraries?
  • From a small library standpoint, it was not worth it.

And when asked for topics attendees would like to see in the future, there were numerous votes for small library information.

We are all doing great things in our libraries. Even if we feel as though we are only doing our job, we are doing our job really well. You can help make the Chapter Conferences better for attendees from small libraries.

  • Reflect on what you currently do. What good ideas do you have? What good things do you do?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What programs at your library have had positive feedback?

If you were able to think of answers to these questions then you can help contribute to your Chapter Conference. As a disclaimer, I am not on a Chapter Conference Action Council; I am not soliciting anyone to contribute. I simply know we are all doing great things, and there is no reason why we cannot take part in conference presentations.

There are a few ways you can help. Perhaps you have great ideas, but you do not like to speak in front of a crowd. That is okay. You can contact anyone on your Action Council to give them your idea. You can also contact any of us on the Small Library Division. If you do not want to present then we can go with your idea and look for those who could present on the topic. You could also suggest your topic and let us know that you would be willing to contribute, but you do not want to speak. Naturally, the final option would be for you to actually give the presentation yourself. Bonus: You attend the conference free of charge if you are a presenter.

Two years ago I gave a gentle nudge to employees wanting to see more for small libraries. Two employees got together and made the decision to present their programming/outreach ideas at the 2015 Conference. It has been one year, and they both get excited to talk about the experience. I asked them to sum up the experience in one word. One said it was “exhilarating” and the other said it was “exciting.” I attended the session; the room was packed and more chairs had to be brought in. They also received very positive feedback because they were reaching out with ideas that were feasible for a small library. The best part is they were able to present on a topic that was exciting to them. Their love for what they do was shown in their presentation.

We love attending the Chapter Conferences and Conventions. We love hearing ideas from all sizes of libraries. We hear you when you say you need more sessions for small libraries. If you have an idea for a conference session, or you are excited about what you do in your own library, you can help make the conference even better than it already is.

Betsy Eggers, Director
Napoleon Public Library

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Stay Curious My Friends

A few years back there was a beverage commercial that, as I recall, ended with the spokesperson looking into the camera and directing the public “stay thirty my friends.”

As I think about life in a small library, I think one of the things that is very easy to do is to become so engrossed or even overwhelmed with the details of the day, as to lose sight of what I think brought many of us into this profession, curiosity.  Back in the halcyon past, when the public would regularly come in and ask reference questions, one of the things that I liked about the whole interaction was the opportunity to learn something new about the world around me.  No matter how minor, mundane or trivial the information was, I became as curious, or in the case of some school age kids who just wanted to finish an assignment, more curious than they were to find the answers. Once asked, I wanted to know what the capital of Namibia was (Windhoek, by the by).

That level of curiosity carried over in the role of a library director, with a new wrinkle. I wanted to know is there a way that we can do this faster, cheaper or better. Better still, I wanted to know is there something that we’re not doing now, that we could be doing that the public would really appreciate. You can divine some of this information through a sound knowledge of your community, and if you have the means, through surveying or other statistically relevant community analysis. However, before you can go there, one of the things you need to know is what things are possible that you are not doing now.  To put it another way, I have heard told that Steve Jobs once eschewed market research by saying “I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”‘.

You need to know what is possible, before you can even start to think about what you will do tomorrow, and the way to do so is to stay curious. To wonder, to explore and to research.  At the moment I can think of three or four things that I could point to that I or a group of people, both at my library and beyond, are working on to either improve what we do (outreach initiative to non-users), to save money (LED light bulb replacements) or to better our little corner of the profession (proposing to bring a small national-level conference to our region).  All of these things and many more require two things. One, devoting at least a small amount of your time to ask “What’s possible?”
The second is to stay curious.

If this is not a current habit, what I would suggest is to start small.  Look at one area of your library, one thing that your library does and ask yourself “is that the best way to do that?  Is there something we could do differently that would be better?”  Once you’ve had a little bit of time to think about it, ask your colleagues.  As a director, I’ve found few ideas are received better than those that are proposed by my staff that we then run with. Ask folks from other libraries around Ohio, around the country if need be.  Once you’re comfortable with where you are with the first initiative, start a second.  This will be a different place for different people, and that’s ok.  Sometimes you will find a new initiative because of something someone at another library says, or something a member of the public says.  Sometimes, the germ of an idea will come from what you read in a book, or a magazine article, or even from a TV commercial.

At the end of the day, above all else, stay curious my friends.

Joe Knueven, Director
Germantown Public Library

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Making Your Library Mobile Friendly

A recent article, published by eMarketer at http://www.emarketer.com/Article/US-Internet-Users-Rely-on-Mobile-Devices-Digital-Access/1013649, looked at trends in accessing the Internet.  It reports that in 2016, 31 million Internet users in the United State will use mobile technology to access the Internet.  It goes on to show that users are ditching their desktops and instead using mobile devices, with one out of every ten exclusively using a mobile device.

It is evident that mobile technology is here to stay.  As libraries, it is important that we are considering how users access our catalogs, collections, and resources.  If we want to play an integral role in the lives of our patrons, we need to meet them where they are.  That means we need to be exploring ways to make the library’s Web presence more mobile-friendly.  For smaller libraries, it may be a challenge to implement mobile-friendly features due to limited staff, knowledge, and money; however, there are some affordable and sometimes free solutions available to small libraries.

In some cases, ILS vendors and developers have responded to the demand for mobile access and have improved styles to accommodate mobile access.  It is quite frustrating trying to do a search on a screen so small that you can’t read the text or so large that you need to constantly scroll.  The simplified user interface allows for easy navigation and readability.  You may want to check with your vendor or support team to see if your catalog supports mobile devices.  If not, ask if it is in development.

Just like the library catalog, the library website should also be mobile-friendly.  Many patrons may be out and want to check library hours or calendar of events.  A mobile-friendly site will make it much easier for them to get to that information.  If the library is using a content management system, such as Drupal or WordPress, there are many themes and plugins available to make the site mobile-friendly.  If you have built your own site, there is plenty of documentation online, such as W3Schools (http://www.w3schools.com/css/css_rwd_mediaqueries.asp), that provides information on how to format your site for mobile devise.  A search for “css mobile” will bring up many more.  With some simple tweaks to your site, you can be mobile-friendly in no time.

Finally, you may want to consider investing in a mobile app.  An app facilitates easy and seamless access to the library.  In many cases, it can also integrate other features like online databases, ebook collections, and calendar of events, so patrons only need to go to one place to connect to all the great services your library provides.  While libraries can contract with programmers to develop a custom app for the library, a more cost effective approach is using a vendor like Boopsie (http://www.boopsie.com), who specializes in mobile apps for libraries.  Since Boopsie has already developed an app for libraries, they simply need to configure it and brand it for your library.  What is more, through OHIONET (http://www.ohionet.org), you can get a discount on Boopsie.

You may be thinking that your patrons don’t use smartphones or tablets. However, eMarketer reports that 80% of the U.S. will use a mobile phone in 2016, and of those users, four out of five will be using smartphones.  Likewise, the use of tablets continues to increase.  When you consider how more and more people or adopting mobile technologies, it is critical that we at least begin to explore ways to make our small libraries more mobile-friendly.

–Chauncey Montgomery , Director
Community Library, Sunbury, OH

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Introduction to Canva

Designing eye-catching, professional signage can be very time consuming and the software can be costly and difficult to use. Let me introduce you to Canva.

Canva (www.canva.com) is an online program that helps anyone create professional designs in very little time. The program is simple to use and not something that needs a lot of time to master. There is a two minute tutorial that can get anyone on their way to making their first design.

There are three versions of Canva:

When you log in to Canva, the first thing you do its select what kind of design you are making. Once you select the design, the dimensions are preset for you.

You can choose to start from scratch or pick one of the pre-designed templates on the left side of the screen. It is easy to search through all the designs and to adapt them to fit your library’s needs. There are some free images and backgrounds, you can upload your own, or you may purchase different images they provide for $1 per image.

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There is one downfall to the free version. It doesn’t have a way to re-use your creation in a different design template. The “Canva for Work” version does have a magic resize feature that will allow you to use your creation in a different design format.

Examples of a design in three different formats.

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Advanced Features:

You have the option to blur the background or change the color tint of an image. When you click the image and then the toolbar, it will give the option to Filter. In the filter box, you will see “Advanced” in the bottom left. Click on that for additional options.

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You can move fonts and images as one group if you click outside of the image window and hold down the left click on your mouse. Drag the mouse over all elements you want to move. Let go of the click and then use your arrow keys to move the group.

For the non-designers, Canva offers a design school (https://designschool.canva.com/tutorials/) of short tutorials to teach you the basics to make any design look professional. Another great feature is the option to stream designs that you make public. This also allows you to follow other Canva users and view their designs for inspiration.

If you sign up for Canva, feel free to follow our library for inspiration and we will follow you in return. https://www.canva.com/DPLSLibraries

–Jennifer Ziegler
Defiance Public Library

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It’s a New Year. Learn Something.

So it’s almost the end of the month, and your plan to keep up with library news and to really work on professional development this year has already been derailed by snow shoveling, community meetings, covering the desk for sick staff, and all the other work required to keep the doors open and the lights on. Don’t despair. Try furthering your library education in small bites rather full courses.

You may well have stacks of Library Journal, American Libraries, and Public Libraries sitting around that you plan to get to some day; and then some day doesn’t arrive. Or, those rather expensive subscriptions and memberships may be out of your reach right now. There is an alternative. Library Journal publishes a whole list of e-mail newsletters that you may subscribe to for free and without an LJ subscription. LJ Express is a weekly mailing of library current events, and includes highlights of the current LJ as well as reviews of new books and media. There are several review newsletters and Prepub Alert which gives advance notice of high-demand titles. And remember that LJ content is free on the magazine’s website; there is no paywall or print subscription required. ALA provides its print publications and e-mail newsletter only to organization members, but magazine content and the twice-weekly AL Direct newsletter are available for free at the American Libraries website. Public Libraries offers some articles from each issue for free on its website, and there is a free monthly newsletter as well.

Webjunction, OCLC’s free on-line learning site puts out Crossroads, a twice-monthly e-mail newsletter. Each issue summarizes and links to new articles on Webjunction about programs, services, and trends in libraries. The most recent issue included articles on serving homeless teens, transforming public library space at two libraries in Washington, best board games of 2015, a link to the weekly Social Library post on programing ideas, and updates on webinars and online courses. Remember that Webjunction courses and webinars are all free, and the site is a good clearing-house of ideas from libraries around the country.

Publishers Weekly is an expensive magazine, but its e-mail newsletters are free. Keep up-to-date on new books, book awards, media tie-ins, author appearances, current controversies, publishing trends, and more. The links from the newsletters back to Publishers Weekly content are not paywalled, nor for that matter is any of the PW content on its own website. Galleycat is a daily e-mail newsletter about the publishing business and is part of Adweek’s group of industry newsletters. Fewer stories per issue than the PW newsletter, and similar topics; includes a helpful emphasis on self-published authors, including a weekly self-published author bestseller list.

So why wait? A world on library wonder awaits on the web, and much of it can be delivered right to your in-box for free.

Tom Dillie
Director, Minerva Public Library

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Tackling big projects

Do you ever find yourself putting off doing something? No, I am not talking about something like writing a blog post that should have been done a week ago or other daily tasks. (One of my colleagues covered that topic earlier this year.) I am talking about putting off a big project. Like new carpet.

We closed the library for just over a week around the Thanksgiving holiday this year to replace the carpet in all the public spaces of the building. The carpet was nearly 20 years old and probably should have been replaced five years ago. Yes, I tend to procrastinate when it comes to major projects.

There are so many inconveniences: closing, choosing the right company, spending a large amount of money, scheduling, moving, etc. So much easier to put it off until next year.

And, admittedly, none of it was easy. Nothing went quite as planned. Of course, there was an extra unplanned cost.

But we had everything back in place on time to open Monday morning. The carpet looks great. The compliments from patrons were overwhelming. I wish I wouldn’t have put it off.

As a matter of fact, we already are beginning to plan a major makeover of the children’s area so we can replace the carpet there within the next few months. Then there’s the matter of the floor in one corner of the building continuing to settle. And there’s the leaky roof.

I’m looking forward to it – almost.

Chris Owens, Director
Blanchester Public Library

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Strategic Planning

A director of a small library once told me that he never bothered to develop a strategic plan because even if he had a plan, there was no money to implement it. Although I do not think this sentiment is common among library leaders, I do think it is common to find libraries operating without a strategic plan. However, developing a strategic plan can be a great benefit to the library.

First, user feedback typically provides the framework for a plan, and this is critical. When the plan is based on user feedback, the library will be certain it is focusing on the needs of its users. When workshops, collections, and other services are designed around the articulated needs of the community, not only should public use and participation increase, but it should also make demonstrating the library’s value much easier.

Second, a plan provides a road map of where you want to go and what routes to take on that journey. The board of trustees will know why the library is undertaking certain initiatives. Adapting to change among staff is met with less resistance because they know why changes are occurring. The community will be aware of what goals the library is striving to meet. Everyone will be on the same page.

Third, a plan keeps the library focused on what matters. Just like unforeseen traffic conditions, the plan is not infallible; challenges and opportunities will present themselves and will attempt to detract the library from its stated goals. The plan keeps the library pointed in the right direction and helps staff focus attention on the most meaningful activities. While unanticipated situations try to impede progress, if the library adheres to the plan, everything will stay on track.

Fourth, a plan provides a mechanism to measure library effectiveness. Every good plan should have benchmarks to aim for. Throughout the life of the plan, regular assessments should be completed to see if the library is meeting its stated goals. If not, services and activities can be adjusted for better results. Under-performing programs can be cut and resources can be allocated to successful programs or to create new pilot programs. The plan also provides documentation on how far the library has traveled, which again easily demonstrates the library’s effectiveness to the community.

If you have never completed a strategic plan, perhaps put it on your calendar for the coming year. Strategic Planning for Results by Sandra Nelson is an excellent resource, going step-by-step through the process.   If time is a concern or if assistance is needed, contact the State Library of Ohio. Consultants can assist your library at no cost. While the presence of a strategic plan does not guarantee automatic success, you will find it can be an asset to your library.

Chauncey Montgomery, Director
Sunbury Community Library

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