So What’s Up With Mindcraft?

First thing I learned: It is Minecraft NOT Mindcraft. When you work in the public library and you see kids obsessed with playing this video game on the library computers you have to stop and wonder.

First, the game has very bad graphics and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to what happens on the screen. At my small public library we see kids arrive in packs to play the game and to interact virtually with each other, which is funny because they are usually sitting right next to each other. I admit they can get rowdy sometimes, and a bit loud, and yes, annoying, but I then think that at least they are at the library in a safe environment.

So, what is Minecraft all about? Did you know that Minecraft, since its inception in 2009, is the third most popular video game of all time behind Tetris and Super Mario Brothers? Players create virtual worlds in Minecraft and basically dig holes and create blocks worlds. Our Teen Librarian and Technology Manager recently put together a “Minecraft for Parents,” program to clue moms and dads in a bit about the video game that is currently king of the mountain. We also recently did a Minecraft Party that allowed the kids to stay after hours in the library and get as loud as they wanted and play Minecraft and eat pizza.

So, in my book the jury is still out. I like the fact that the kids are using their imaginations and not virtually blowing each other up, but to be honest it disturbs me that they spend so much time playing a video game while real life is happening all around them–if they could only look up from their glowing digital screens. And in the end that is the real challenge for me at a small library: How do you stay relevant when so much changes so quickly? How do you balance the traditional views and roles of the public library with what it has become and is becoming? It is a challenge for us all but that is why I like the small public library.

Jim Gill
Dover Public Library

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Where do you get your programming ideas?

We’re all looking for program ideas for adults and families, and we’re all familiar with the usual suspects: neighboring libraries, the newsletter from the nearest metro library, some idea you remember from an OLC Chapter Conference or Convention. But there are other sources to consider.

Event Calendars:  Online event calendars are an easy way to find out what programs other organizations are hosting or presenting.  Calendars may be hosted by a Convention and Visitors Bureau:;; , etc.  Local newspapers may host an event calendar:;;, and either manage it themselves and link through a commercial service. Then there are commercial aggregators such as and which have postings from all over but can limit geographically and by type of program; they might not list events for your specific area, but they both cover much of Ohio. Basic posting to any of these services, including the commercial ones, is free, and it’s a good way to advertise your own programs. In addition, many newspapers have cut back staff, and draw from the newspaper’s online event calendar to generate content for the print edition.

Programming Librarian:  The ALA Public Programs Office completely reconfigured its website in May to create a place for libraries of all types and sizes to share program ideas, take part in webinars, follow programming news, and keep track of ALA-sponsored program opportunities.The program idea database can be sorted by budget, library type, topic, program type and age group. Libraries submit their own program ideas, so the amount of detail and description will vary; contact information is always included so one can follow up with the librarians who submitted the ideas. Webinars are ALA-sponsored, are archived, and almost all of them are free. The website does not require a log-in or ALA membership.

–Tom Dillie, Director
Minerva Public Library

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Customer Service

Customer service is key – on the road and in the library I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about customer service.

The topic is hard to avoid when you are driving in rural North Carolina on the way home from the beach and discover a slow-leaking car tire. We were lucky to find Bert at our first stop, a garage in a small town that triggered thoughts of Mayberry. Bert helped me find the small slit in the tire, which couldn’t be repaired, and helped me put on the temporary spare to get us to the next larger town 30 miles down the road.

This town actually had a tire store, but it was open only from 10:30 to noon on Saturdays. And my plea to the gentleman on the phone that I could make it there by a couple minutes after noon did not earn any sympathy. The next best option was a car dealership that ended up not stocking any tires, but two employees we dealt with did everything they could think of before pointing us toward a Wal-Mart about 30 minutes out of our way.

Never being so happy to see a Wal-Mart, we were able to get a new tire and eventually get on the road again.

The topic of customer service also is hard to avoid when patrons come to you with complaints about your staff. Providing quality customer service has been one of the top priorities in my nine years at the library, but we still have a few staff members who tend to lapse occasionally.

Libraries obviously need to continue to evolve to meet our communities’ needs, but I have a feeling our future success depends upon an even more basic tenet – especially in small libraries – our ability to provide quality customer service and develop strong relationships with our community members that make them keep coming back.

Of course, you can find an abundance of literature regarding customer service. But Mary Rzepczynski, the Assistant Director at Delta Township District Library in Lansing, Mich., sums up the topic quite nicely in her column “Ten Common Customer-Service Mistakes” for the January/February issue of Public Libraries. (I was unable to find the full-text article online, but I would highly recommend it.)

I may be able to condense the topic down even further than Ms. Rzepczynski. If someone called and asked if you could something that would require you to keep the library open a bit later than normal, what would you do?

Chris Owens, Director

Blanchester Public Library

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Getting things done

If you’re anything like me, you have a lot to get done and never enough time to do it. As library employees we have many tasks and must be able to multitask like no other because you never know what is going to happen next. I remember being told to never keep a to-do list because it would only lead to frustration at the end of the day when nothing is checked off.

To help with organization, which is not my strongest quality, I do make a list, but it is more of a weekly to-do list. Every day I try to get at least one item checked off the list with the goal to get to most of it by the end of the week. As I think of new tasks that need to get done I add them to the master list. Usually, my goal is to have everything off my desk by the end of the week because I like coming back to a clean desk and desk bin on Monday morning. If most of the items end up getting checked off the list then I am satisfied.

I have also learned to delegate. When I first started as Director I understood that the employees were working hard with many responsibilities. I was very hesitant to ask for help. Now I know the employees better and I am able to ask for assistance when the task suits the strong points of an employee. This applies to all employees of the library. No matter what your position is, do not try to do everything yourself. If you are working on a project and you know another employee would be great in that area then do not be afraid to ask for help.

The most important thing I have learned is that it’s okay if everything does not get done. Tomorrow is another day. Just try your best to get your workspace clean by the end of the week to help keep you organized and at least feeling like you are top of your to-do list.

Betsy Eggers
Napoleon Public Library

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the 500 hats of library staff

In the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, the protagonist is ordered to take off his hat before the king, only to find that another hat sprouts in its place, until (you guessed it!), Cubbins gets to the 500th hat…and I will stop there, as I’d hate to ruin a wonderful story! In much the same way library directors and staff at small libraries may sometimes feel like Bartholomew–constantly switching hats to meet the demands of our jobs.

We are called upon to work the CIRC desk, catalog new materials, run programs, clean up messes, handle patron complaints/concerns, offer ready reference, and the list goes on…It is therefore imperative to our staff that we offer as many opportunities for continuing education as possible, so that we don’t just wear our 500 hats, but we rock the look!

I am encouraging folks to consider attending the Ohio Library Council Chapter Conferences or regional conferences in your home states! Here are just a few reasons to consider:

  • Lasts only one day, making it easy(ier) for library staff to get away. Consider closing the library for a Staff Training Day–tell your Board that continuing ed is a way for your staff to better serve the public!
  • Much of the content tends to be geared more toward smaller libraries, which means many ideas can be changed to fit your needs; smaller numbers also makes it easier for you to ask more questions
  • Courses offered are on a variety of pertinent topics
  • Great opportunity to network with professional peers

Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library

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A Guide to Not Ending up in Jail For Stealing Digital Images

If your small library is like mine then there is a very unlikely chance that you have one of these job titles on your staff roster: Digital Initiatives Team Leader; eContent Specialist; Digital Asset Specialist; Digital Library Services Manager; Electronic Resources Specialist; eContent/Metadata Strategist; Attorney at Law; Supreme Allied Commander. Woops, that last one was Eisenhower’s title during World War II. You have to admit that IS a cool title!

My point is that in small libraries employees wear many hats. As a director in a small library, my day consists of selecting materials, unplugging toilets, shoveling snow, going to Rotary and other community meetings, checking materials for bed bugs, working on the budget, writing press releases, and taping magazines. The list goes on and on, but that is the way I like it. In our neck of the woods the title Librarian is as good as it gets because a librarian can do it all. Now that we all live in the digital age where it is expected that all libraries have a vivid website and a hip social media presence, it can be challenging to know how to handle the legalities of copyright, plagiarism, and fair use. Am I allowed to raid Google Images for a picture that I need for a library poster? It is Christmas Day. Can I search the web for a Christmas picture and plop it on our library’s Facebook page to wish everyone a Merry Christmas? Can I use that funny library eCard on our website?

I will stop you right there. If you are looking at me to give you a hard and fast answer then you are out of luck. Depending on the situation and who you talk to, the legality of using an image you did not create in the public library can be very hazy. The only true advice I can give you is this: If in doubt, do NOT use the image. You can use me as an example. A year into my position as library director at Dover I tried to set up this tech service called “Ask the Computer Guy.” The idea was to have a tech person on hand on Saturday mornings that was available in case the public had any tech related issues. Patrons would come in with eReaders, smartphones, laptops, etc., and Rob would sit down with them and help them out. The problem was that I pulled an image off of Google to use in promoting the service. The image had no copyright or trademark, so I thought I was in good shape. One day while browsing the library’s Facebook page, I noticed a comment by an outraged man, (who claims he was the artist who came up with the image I was using), stating he was appalled that a public library would “steal” his image. I, of course, changed the posting restrictions on our Facebook page, contacted the man and apologized, and smoothed things over. Moral of the story: I learned my lesson. I knew I had to get a better grasp on the use of images that I, or my staff, did not create.

Therefore, in the absence of a copyright attorney or digital images specialist, I will provide some links for those who want to know more about what they can and cannot use:

Good luck and choose your images wisely!

Jim Gill, Director
Dover Public Library, OH

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Santa!! I KNOW him!

In recent conversations with fellow library directors, a good and timely question came up: How do you find a Santa for your Christmas events at the library? We are very fortunate to have a professor from Ohio Northern University (just across the street), who is a member of the Buckeye Santas, and who does all of the events in the area, and who is kind enough to do our Library’s event free of charge. So, I went right to the source and asked Santa himself for some tips on picking a GREAT Santa. When picking a Santa:

  • Ask for a background check first!
  • Depending on your Library policy–ask if they are insured
  • Ask for references (are there other places around town who’ve hosted this Santa that would refer him?)
  • Ask for a photo (recent)
  • Talk with the Santa before the event, preferably in person, or via phone or Skype
And most importantly: anyone can put on a red suit, but not everyone can be a Santa!!!
Amanda Bennett, Director Ada Public Library, OH

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