Small town public library life and library school topics of interest

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LIBR 204: Week 15: Marketing and Advocacy for the Contemporary LIS Organization

One of the most brilliant marketing campaigns I have come across in the library world is the 2006 “Bringing the World to Wyoming” marketing campaign for the Wyoming State public libraries. The campaign was/is multi-faceted, designed to reach out to non-users, fully embracing Evans and Alire’s (2013) concept of “making potential customers know you exist and providing them, and existing customers, with information on what products and services you have available” (Evans & Alire, p.263). Perhaps the most famous (or in some circles infamous) part of the campaign was the spoof of the mud flap girl (http://s474.photobucket.com/user/Nocturntable/media/Librarians/wyoming-library-mudflap-girl.jpg.html (Links to an external site.)) found on semis throughout the U.S. The mud flap girl was created in an effort for library staff to reach out to the state’s huge number of truck enthusiasts; the image was posted in garages and gas stations state-wide, and was used to promote the library’s online Chilton’s database. This image went viral for a period of time, creating controversy among those who found it sexist, while at the same time realizing its intended purpose as the number of men signing up for library cards increased. The Wyoming State libraries successfully targeted an underserved population of users (car and truck professionals and hobbyists), figured out a key product that they had to offer to them (the Chilton’s database), and marketed directly to them (in garages and service stations); obviously, they had considered the questions raised by Evans and Alire (2013) in their discussion of Target Group Definition (p.272). A second part of the campaign involved billboards advertising various types of media offered by the library system. The use of billboards across the state is an intelligent choice; while there are populated areas on the west and east ends of the state, the vast area in between is open country, cut through by a few highways. Drivers traveling though the state are naturally drawn to anything breaking up the landscape; clever billboards would certainly have a positive impact not unlike the Burma Shave ads of yore. One of the most well-known of these billboards depicted a Trojan horse being hauled across the Wyoming prairie by a pickup truck (presumably sporting mud flaps with the library mud flap girl on them) (http://maisonbisson.com/post/11212/wyoming-libraries-marketing-campaign/ (Links to an external site.)) advertising the popular film Troy along with a stack of other audio-visual materials. The message? “A World of Inspiration Awaits You.” A second billboard promotes the library’s travel materials by illustrating the commonalities between an old-fashioned windmill in a Wyoming setting and the Eiffel Tower (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/177962622749002036/ (Links to an external site.)) . The message? “Bringing the World to Wyoming.” By incorporating the familiar Wyoming setting with historic and cultural icons, this marketing campaign surely spoke to everyone in the state (as well as those just passing through). This use of billboards hits a wider audience than the mud flap girl was designed to reach; library marketers must surely have used a similar process to the one Evans and Alire (2013) define as Differential Marketing Analysis (p.273). Perhaps the most remarkable part of Wyoming’s campaign is their brand logo. Using the iconic cowboy-on-a-bucking-bronco image found on the Wyoming license plate (and more recently on their state quarter), and modifying it to be a cowboy-on-a-bucking-book (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/265149496781981996/ (Links to an external site.)), the designer creates a logo that is at once identifiable as being all things Wyoming, while at the same time implying that books and reading are as exciting as a rodeo. This is an exceptionally smart blending of the traditional library brand (books) and the state nickname (The Cowboy State), embodying “the essence of a product, service or organization” (Evans & Alire, 2013). Not only was this campaign used to encourage new library users, but it helped out the library budget as well. All the library creations were available on merchandise such as coffee mugs, T-shirts (even one for dogs!), messenger bags, etc. Even today, nearly ten years after the campaign was first released, these items are still hot sellers, available online at http://www.cafepress.com/wyominglibrary (Links to an external site.). Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Joyce, Matt (2009) Library’s mudflap girl campaign turns heads. Casper Star Tribune Communications. Retrieved from http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/library-s-mudflap-girl-campaign-turns-heads/article_edd1b798-d162-5613-9253-a29b192b49b5.html (Links to an external site.) Sweetwater County Library System. (2007). Bringing the world to Wyoming. [Data File] Retrieved from http://www.sweetwaterlibraries.com/news/newsdetail.php?nID=264 (Links to an external site.)
Edited by Karen Christiansen on May 5 at 4:29pm

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LIBR 204: Week 14 Library Change and Innovation

I always enjoy listening to Joan Frye Williams speak; she always gives me a slightly different perspective on topics I am considering. This series of podcasts are a great example of this, providing me with several good ideas that I hope to incorporate when I am looking to add new services to our library. At the latest Director’s Forum sponsored by the California State Library, one of the main themes that recurred throughout was the need to look at what outside agencies are doing right and figure out how to incorporate their ideas into what we are doing, or as Williams puts it “steal” from them. I have been trying to be more aware of how others conduct business and how I can use some of their techniques as a result. I appreciated Joan’s advice on how to know if a proposal should be pursued or not, especially the idea of choosing something that had been covered by the mainstream press as a criteria. Although she was speaking to academic library staff and I work in a public library, the same idea holds true: that your idea will be more readily accepted if your customer base is already somewhat familiar with it. I loved Williams’s ideas for making projects fun; at our library, I used to head up the “fun” committee which was in charge of creating monthly social events for staff (off work options to hang out with each other — one of the reasons I think my staff is so close-knit even today). I thought that all four of the work environments described were valid, and I appreciated the recommended techniques for presenting a plan to each of the contingencies represented as expert, accountant, risk-adverse, and consumer; something as simple as changing the order of the bullet points in a presentation — brilliant. The part of the podcasts I liked the best was her discussion about the “thank off.” I work closely with our Foundation Board, and based on her comments, we really need to revise our thank you letters that we send out for donations.

I have to say I did have a couple places where I thought, “that would never fly at my library” — namely when she was discussing allowing food and drinks in the library and when she was discussing having a young front line staff to wait on people. The issue at our library with food and drink isn’t so much about spillage; she is correct when she says that people eat and drink at home when they use our materials. The issue for us is two-fold: we are concerned about attracting vermin if crumbs are left about, and we are concerned about trash cluttering the library. Currently, we do not have janitorial staff for our building. We have one Public Works employee who is responsible for basic cleaning and maintenance of two facilities, but the library staff wind up doing a lot of the cleaning. Because usually only the main traffic areas in the library are vacuumed regularly, there is a real concern that if we allowed eating in the library, food scraps/crumbs would attract critters. As things are now, people constantly sneak food into the library and regularly leave their trash in the stacks, stuffed between the chair cushions, and on the tables (and yes, we have plenty of trash cans throughout the library); the concern here is that if we allowed eating in the library, this issue would increase dramatically. So, until we have more cleaning staff on board, we will not be changing our eating policy. While I get what Williams was saying about people wanting to consult with their peers when asking a question, and I get that she was speaking to an academic library group, to state that all young people feel like they are seeking help from their parents when talking to anyone outside their peer age group is somewhat simplistic. I believe that if (as Williams suggests) an emphasis on customer service skills is the focus when hiring, age is less of a factor. Although I have been working in the field for over 30 years, many young people feel very comfortable asking me for help in the library. On this issue, I think it is more a matter of how the staff approach the public rather than the age of the staff that is of importance.

Finally, one thing that Joan Frye Williams talked about that spoke to me is the topic of the perfectionist culture and a fear of making mistakes. One person I worked for had extremely high standards and was also very rule-driven, both for herself and for those she supervised. Many of those who worked under this person found themselves constantly wondering if they would measure up, and wondering what they would be in trouble for next. Unfortunately, this manager’s style of counseling her staff could be somewhat patronizing, so being called into her office was something like being called in to see the principal. As our library manager, I try to keep an open mind when staff suggest new ideas, and I do my best to encourage staff so they do not have to worry that their judgment will be constantly questioned.

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LIBR 204: Week 13 Emerging Technology

The aspect of emerging technology as presented in the Horizon Report that I found most compelling is the trend for students to become creators. This has become a popular mindset in the public library world as well. More and more libraries are circulating unusual collections such as seeds, tools, and even science equipment in an effort to provide patrons with the information they need to create (Toppo, 2013). Even more important, libraries are providing patrons with a place in which to create, often featuring arts and technology tools which allow them to design works that they can then build and make real. This learning-by-doing method is not new; colleges such as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo have operated this way for years. Leroy Anderson, Cal Poly’s first Director, back in 1903, supported a curriculum in which “learning by doing and earning while learning” was the main mode of operation (Cal Poly, n.d.).

The current form this style of pedagogy is seeing in academia as well as in the public library and business arenas is the Maker Space movement. According to Audrey Watters (2013), the campus makerspace involves discussion and collaboration between students and instructors. It is project-based, using the scientific method of experimentation to achieve goals and thereby learn. While there is a great deal of hoopla surrounding the use of 3D printers in makerspaces, makerspaces do not have to include this technology. The ultimate goal of the maker movement is a new renaissance of manufacturing and creativity. Because this creativity can take many forms, Watters sees it as being democratic; while it is essentially STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) based, there is room for the humanities and the arts as well. The goal of the movement is to make creation across-the-curriculum in the way that “writing across the curriculum” was the popular buzz phrase several years ago. (Watters, 2013)

Brit Morin (2013) takes this concept even further, giving examples of how the DIY culture can lead students to career opportunities. She cites the success of maker events which are increasing in attendance as an example of how “making” has infiltrated the lives of many different interest groups. Websites such as Etsy promote selling what one creates, and other sites such as Kickstarter allow entrepreneurs access to resources they need in order to realize their creative visions. Morin particularly focuses on why millennials (the majority of the current crop of college students) are drawn to the maker culture, stating that the current busy family dynamic combined with a lack of funding and interest in home economics and shop classes in schools leave millennials thirsting for the type of activity provided by the makerspace.

The maker culture goes hand in hand with the current library trend of communities desiring gathering places where they can express their ideas. What better way to express an idea one has than to actually create the object one is thinking about and then show it to others? Because creating crosses many areas of study, libraries are the perfect venue for makerspaces.

Cal Poly (n.d.). Admissions: The history [Data File]. Retrieved from http://admissions.calpoly.edu/prospective/aboutcalpoly.html

Morin, B. (2013). What is the maker movement and why should you care? [Data File]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brit-morin/what-is-the-maker-movemen_b_3201977.html (Links to an external site.)

Toppo, G. (2013). Libraries offer weird things to draw new borrowers. USA Today, March 6, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/06/public-libraries-loaning/1962011/

Watters, A. (2013). The case for a campus makerspace [Data File]. Retrieved from http://hackeducation.com/2013/02/06/the-case-for-a-campus-makerspace/

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LIBR: Week 12 Emergency Plan

I thought it would be of interest to discuss the Paso Robles City Disaster Plan and how it came into play during the San Simeon earthquake in 2003. If you are unaware of the damage to our city, this link provides a review of what occurred: http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/West/12/22/ca.earthquake/ (Links to an external site.)

The most dramatic damage occurred in our historic downtown; the library is located just across the city park from the building that collapsed, killing two women; library patrons and staff had a full view of that occurrence from the wall of picture windows facing the park. The quake happened on a Monday morning during story time, our busiest shift of the week. Everyone was remarkably calm during the quake; some patrons using the Internet computers even stayed in their seats, although most people crawled under the tables throughout the library. Most of the materials in the library were displaced from the shelves, but fortunately no one was injured from falling books. Parents attending story time did a great job protecting and comforting their children. Once the shaking stopped, and staff accounted for the immediate safety of everyone, we contacted Emergency Services to see if we should evacuate the building. We did not immediately evacuate because it is often dangerous to leave a building immediately after an earthquake; in fact, evacuating the clock tower building is how the two women were killed during the quake. Once staff received the go-ahead from Emergency Services, we evacuated to the park across the street from the library. Many patrons had left their belongings in the library, and staff retrieved these items for them upon request. Once all persons were removed from the building, the Emergency Response Plan took effect.

In our city, all paid staff are considered to be emergency services workers in case of a disaster such as an earthquake. When a disaster occurs, staff are asked to take care of themselves and their families first, then report to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for further instructions. In the EOC, Fire Department personnel were taking the lead, forming teams of staff to achieve various goals.

First on the agenda was the basic infrastructure of the city – utilities, water, sewage, bridge and road safety – and the dismantling of the fallen clock tower building. Our town was originally established as a hot springs resort, and an old hot spring that had stopped flowing years before started up again, creating a sink hole in the library parking lot that took up about one-third of the lot. Throughout the city, buildings had been damaged as there were large number of historic buildings with unreinforced masonry walls. The Carnegie Library’s walls had separated from the foundation, and would remain braced for many months afterwards. Library staff acted as logistics staff during this time, keeping track of where personnel were dispatched, making sure paperwork was properly filled out and filed, and keeping track of various staff needs (food, additional equipment and supplies, etc.) needed by the work crews.

Once the infrastructure concerns were addressed, and accounting of various city facilities began. The library was one of the first buildings cleared for the public as it can act as temporary housing for displaced citizens (this did not need to occur during this quake however). Because the building had been cleared for occupancy, the next day, staff and volunteers were able to begin putting the collection back on the shelves. This took about one day, and the library was open again for business.

The repairs to the city took years; it took nearly 10 years to repair the parking lot and Carnegie Library building. There is even an ongoing dispute with FEMA regarding funds they claim were overpaid to the city to this day. The city’s Emergency Response Plan served us well in getting the city operational again. Since that time, the Emergency Services Department has held “mock disaster” trainings for managers and other critical staff such as Public Works employees to review how each employee should function during an actual disaster. This type of training is useful so each employee knows his role should an actual disaster occur.

 Unfortunately our Emergency Plan is not available as a link. Below please see the Basic plan and Earthquake Plan. The city elected to use hard copies of the response plan as they act as working documents during actual emergencies. We do have hard copies available throughout city facilities, including the library.

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Group Assignment



This group project went very smoothly thanks to the dynamics of its members. As the person who brought us all together, I am happy with the results. The criteria I used in selecting the group members were: same time zone, already working in a library, and a variety of different types of libraries. This mix seemed to work well, and I would hope to have the opportunity to use these same criteria in selecting a group to work with in the future. Other aspects of the group that worked well included a mix of men and women, and a wide age-range (from 22 to 54!) of members, allowing various talents an opportunity to shine.

What made this group so great was that everyone just agreed about how to get things done, ALL met the deadlines, and everyone was pretty flexible about honoring varying opinions. This meant NO conflict. Everyone did what they were supposed to do, and it really showed in our final product.

As for any negatives, there really weren’t any. There were a few technological issues regarding the layout of the slides – still not sure why the wording on my “chair” slide didn’t work; it looked fine in the plain PowerPoint and displayed fine on our practice run – but technological issues can arise in “real life” situations too, so even this didn’t really phase any of our group.

All in all, working with this group was an enjoyable experience, and I would choose to work with any of these students again. (I would even be happy to consider hiring them to work at my library!)

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LIBR: Week 10: Trendwatching

Having worked in libraries for the past 30 years, I have seen many trends develop. Technologies have come and gone, but man’s love for the “latest” and the “new and improved” continues. In looking at the future of libraries, I see three trends developing: a desire for the nostalgic feeling triggered by visiting a traditional library, a need more than ever for a community gathering place, and the ability to access library materials anytime and anywhere.

Ask pretty much anyone if they think libraries should vanish, and the answer will be a resounding “No!” Then ask them what comes to mind when they think of libraries, and the vast majority of them will say “Books!” People like to have libraries in their communities. Having a library in one’s community implies a certain quality of life, saying to community members that the community values education, reading, the arts, and the free access to information provided by the library. The library is a place where anyone can go to exercise their mind in the same way they might visit a hiking trail to exercise their body. The average community member may not realize how the library has evolved and what all the services offered in a traditional community library are, but they know that they want a library in their community. I believe this represents a trend for a feeling of nostalgia. This is played out in the marketing world; there is a field of marketing known as nostalgia marketing where “the good old days” are promoted as being something desirable. Even a simple Google search for “nostalgia as a trend” brought back nearly two million hits. Libraries can and should capitalize on this need for nostalgia, promoting the traditional services we provide: professional help with answers to questions, informational programs on a variety of topics, and of course our various collections including Local History, which is nostalgic in itself.

One way that many libraries break from their traditional community roles is that they are no longer places where users are expected to be quiet, never raising their voices above a whisper. The library is now a lively place where patrons can use Internet accessible computers, meet with friends and business associates for discussions, or enjoy experiences such as book discussion groups and children’s story times. Some libraries even offer cafes where patrons can order coffee or a meal. Most libraries still offer quiet spaces for study, but patrons are mostly encouraged to interact, exchange ideas, and learn from each other as well as from books. An example of this trend is in the development of maker spaces in libraries, using everything from craft supplies to Lego robot kits to 3-D printers. Maker spaces allow patrons to use the library as a creative venue; they can interact with staff and other patrons to learn or enhance useful skills.

With the development of home technology options, patrons have become used to accessing information instantly, in a wide variety of media types, and on numerous devices. Savvy librarians are doing their best to keep up with this trend of accessibility. Downloadable collections can be found in most libraries and include all types of eMaterials: books, periodicals, audiobooks, music, and video. Library databases assist patrons with a variety of interests — everything from genealogy to job hunting. Many databases are interactive, and patrons can learn skills such as how to use computers programs such as Excel. Most importantly, these downloadable and database collections are accessible from home and can be accessed by any device (computer, tablet, or phone) with Internet access. Some libraries also offer 24/7 reference service so patrons can get answers to questions from professional librarians without ever having to leave their homes.

These three trends may seem to contradict each other, saying the library is the same old place and is also totally different, and that may even be a trend in and of itself. It is a very human quality to want comfort, the type of comfort that is supplied by the traditional library. It is equally human to desire the last a greatest “thing” which can also be found in libraries with maker spaces and highly accessible collections. Librarians need to find the correct balance between the traditional and the progressive for their particular community.

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LIBR 204: Week 9 budget comparison

Both the San Jose and Hemet budgets are well-organized and easy to follow. Both represent realistic goals for their communities and seem to be fiscally sound. Where these two differ is in their allocation of funds and underlying focus of the budget.

The San Jose budget is highly detailed, providing in depth descriptions of staffing levels and programs throughout the library. In fact, rather than being a straight line item budget, San Jose’s budget is program-based, constructed with large goals (promoting lifelong learning and providing access to information) as main areas for excellence, with various tasks, programs, and staffing needs assigned to one of these broad goals. This budget was obviously created during a time of cutbacks for the city of San Jose, which is reflected in overall budget reduction of 7.4%. In the detailed description of staffing needs, several positions (7) that had been eliminated previously remain so, and additional positions (4) are being eliminated in this budget cycle. The advantage of a program-based budget such as this is that whoever is overseeing the funds allocated for a particular program would be able to make the decisions about how those funds were used. For example, a program such as Books for Little Hands has staff allocated (2.5 FTE) and a budget of $172,883. Without knowing much about the program, one can assume that there will be materials expenses (purchase of the actual books to put into the little hands) and also some programming expenses (maybe preschool story time falls under this umbrella? Or maybe there is a First 5 Program element?). With the money allocated, lead staff can choose how to spend it to provide the best program for their community. Having this flexibility is important when a library is being asked to scale back; staff has more ownership of the funding for what they oversee.

In contrast, the Hemet Library budget is a traditional line item budget. Rather than showing the extensive staffing detail found in the San Jose budget, all staff allocations are under three lines: full-time staff, part-time staff and benefits. Other general areas include the Collection, Supplies, and Staff Development. In contrast to the San Jose budget, Hemet’s budget appears to be during a time of recovery, showing an overall 7% increase in funding. This is reflected in money being allocated for staff to attend conferences and training, which had dramatic increases in allocations, and the addition of a couple new reference databases for the public. Staff training and travel budgets are usually among the first items cut when economic times are tough, and that is reflected in the prior year’s limited allocation of funding in these areas. Although a traditional line item budget is less flexible for staff because the amount in each line is the amount available to spend (so “book” money often cannot be reallocated to “supplies” for example), it is easier for managers to see exactly what is being spent for each type of purchase.

As a library staff person, I prefer knowing exactly how my governing body wants to see funds used. With a program budget, I can see room for staff being surprised if the governing body is not satisfied with the division of funding. For example, if a program had $1000 to spend, and staff chose to spend half that amount on materials and supplies, and half on programs, there might be room for the governing body to say later that this was not the way they would have liked to see the funding spent because they wanted more money spent on public programs. In a line item budget, the funding could already be allocated between materials and programs, leading to less confusion, and less room for interpretation, making it easier for staff to know what is expected of them budget-wise.