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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Extreme weeding

Ever since I started at my library I’ve been weeding. Every 6 months, in every department, a constant battle to make space on packed shelves for the influx of newer books. But, after recent conversations with other libraries–one small library, one large library–about their choice to “extreme weed,” their collections, I decided to give it a go.

When I began weeding at this library, over 3 years ago, I balked at the pull list, (based on circulation stats), at all the materials which hadn’t circulated in more than 3 years (my cut-off for weeding). But, as I began to weed I panicked at the thought of getting rid of over a third of my adult non-fiction section. Three years later, with the same findings, I’ve decided to extreme weed.

To be fair, it should be mentioned that we are part of a 90+ library consortium, so, though we’re a small library, we do have access to many collections outside of our own, a huge reason I felt confident in this decision. If I were at a small library who is not part of a consortium would I still consider an extreme weed? Heck yes! Space is a hot commodity in our buildings, and if something isn’t being used, well, you get the idea…

My 3 simple rules for extreme weeding:

  • Anything that hasn’t circ’d in 3 years or more (or whatever your timeline is) goes
  • Any topic/info that is out of date, i.e. a book about the planets from 2004 vs. one written in 2015, goes
  • Duplicates, or more materials close enough to duplicate info. goes. Does our collection need both an Audubon’s Books of North America and a National Geographic one, if neither circulates much?

I began weeding our adult non-fiction last week and what is glaringly obvious is that the shelves went from packed-to-the-gills, to half full with one to two books displayed on the now open shelf space. It was scary at first, I mean, come on, what if we’re missing that one book from 1987 that no one ever checked out before, but need NOW!? But, no, so far the feedback has been positive, and we’ve already seen the books on display within the non-fic shelves getting checked out. Obviously only time will tell how successful this project will be, but I definitely don’t regret the extra space we’ve created!

P.S. I love the odd gems we’ve been finding and weeding. This was our favorite. Embedded image permalink

Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library

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