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Posted in Library Journey

New Year, New Website

I’m starting 2019 with a fresh new blog and website, and I’m excited to get back in to sharing about my library life! I’ve migrated all my old content, and I’m hoping to share more about my adventures in Cataloging and Collection Development and all my other side gigs. But first, I thought I’d take a minute to reflect on some highlights from 2018:

2018-Leslie-B-Knope-Award-high-res-connectionsELGL’s Leslie B. Knope Best Public Library Competition
A great start to the year, the Lawrence Public Library was nominated for the Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) Leslie B. Knope Best Public Library Award in January. In a bracket style competition that lasted through March, we made it to the Final Four, but were eliminated in our pairing against the Pueblo City-County Library who went on to win the award. What was just as good as, if not better, than winning, though, was all the amazing, supportive comments from the community that were submitted as part of the competition.

Circulating Board Game Collection
After months long planning and exploring a “Library of Things” at LPL, we launched a pilot collection of circulating board games in March. I shared about the concerns we had about the collection, but things have gone very well so far and we’ve only had a handful come back missing parts or damaged (and just two that haven’t come back at all). I still hear comments from patrons who love that they can checkout games.

Librarian Problems in Peoria, Illinois
In early October, I was invited to share my Librarian Problems presentation for the afternoon keynote at the Peoria Public Library staff in-service. Before I spoke, I got to enjoy lunch with the staff and learn about their system. It’d been about a year since I’d done a keynote, so I was a bit nervous, but I got a lot of laughs and had a great time. It reminded me of how much I enjoy speaking and connecting with librarians all over.

KLA/MPLA Joint Conference
This year, I got involved with the Kansas Library Association’s publicity committee and have been helping manage the Facebook and Twitter accounts. A major focus was the joint conference with the Mountain Plains Public Library Association in October. In addition to taking photos and sharing updates for KLA, I ran a user group session for others who oversee their library’s social media pages. After attending several informative sessions and networking with other Kansas librarians, I felt like it was one of the most valuable conference experiences I’ve had.

Chris Traeger List
Finally, in December, I was honored to learn someone had nominated me for ELGL’s Chris Traeger List, which recognizes 100 top influences in local government. I am 100% certain that this is literally the nicest thing that’s happened to me. I promise I won’t let it get to my head, but it’s nice to know I’m making a noticeable difference in the community, and it’s only served to remind me of how much I love my job and being a librarian.

Posted in Uncategorized

Board Games and Things

There’s something new for checkout at my library: board games! We recently launched a circulating collection of popular and classic games, a further step in exploring the national “Library of Things” trend by lending more nontraditional items. We’ve had board games available for in-house use for years now, but letting them leave the library is a brand new endeavor.

We’ve started with 45 games, including popular hits like Exploding Kittens and Cards Against Humanity as well as classics like Jenga and Uno. Patrons can checkout one at a time and have them for two weeks, with a renewal option if no one is waiting.

Why Board Games?
Last Fall, I organized a subcommittee to explore the “Library of Things” concept and brainstorm how we could get started at LPL. We chatted with Brendan at the Hillsboro Public Library who oversees their Library of Things. They lend everything from looms and ukuleles to bubble machines and popcorn makers, and Brendan mentioned that board games and cake pans were the first nontraditional items they lent. He shared a ton of helpful tips and information on funding, circulation periods, replacements, packaging and processing.

From there, we made a wish list of everything we thought would be great to lend at LPL: art prints, VHS to digital converters, video cameras, sewing machines, tools, bicycles, cotton candy makers and – you guessed it – board games. Through a process of elimination, board games became our pilot “Things” collection. With all the little parts and pieces, we thought they would be a great test for staff and patrons.

Counting the Pieces
A major concern in planning for the collection was materials handling. Were we going to expect our circulation staff to count the game pieces every time the games are returned? When we asked Brendan at Hillsboro about this, he said that they don’t. Instead, they rely on patrons to let staff know when there are significant pieces missing, and don’t try to track down who lost them.

We liked this hands-off approach and are implementing it too. When a patron lets our circulation staff know a game is missing pieces, it will be sent to our collection development librarian who’s overseeing the games, and he’ll attempt to track them down or request or order replacement parts from the manufacturers.

The Fine Details
In my current position, I’ve gotten a good understanding of the fine details of launching a new collection: planning, getting approval from the admin team, funding, ordering, cataloging, processing and setting up item types, home locations, loan rules, and mapping to our discovery layer.

Packaging the board games was something we didn’t think too hard on. Some libraries re-package them in locking totes, but we thought we’d try to keep them in their original boxes. To help protect them, we added Velcro dots to hold them shut and some book tape on the corners and edges to reinforce the cardboard.

Then we had to figure out which department would be responsible for reshelving and pulling available holds. Since the games appeal to a broad range of ages, we planned to put them on a mobile Ikea shelving unit in the library’s atrium between the children’s and adult collections. This made deciding who’s going to take care of the collection a bit tricky, but fortunately our Youth Service team was willing to take it on.

How’s it going now?
For all the time and thought we put into it, I’m glad to say it’s been going pretty well so far. Little to no complaints from staff, and patrons responded positively when we promoted the collection on social media. All but 7 of the games are currently checked out, and there’s hold lists on some of the more popular games. Plus, we’ve already gotten several requests for additions!

So where do we go from here? We’ll soon be launching a collection of Starling word counters, which I’m sure will bring its own challenges. And in the fall, I’ll be reconvening our “Library of Things” subcommittee to explore more things!

Posted in Library Director, Library Journey, Oskaloosa Public Library

5 years ago yesterday to 2 years ago today

Every so often I tend to reflect on my library journey on this blog — especially when I’m making a big change or recognizing a work anniversary. Yesterday marked five years since I began as Director of the Oskaloosa Public Library, and today marked two years since I left that position to move back to Lawrence. I remember how nervous and excited I was my first day at OPL — meeting the staff, touring the building, learning the ropes, still wondering if I was really director material. It wasn’t until a few weeks in, after the first staff meeting when my administrative assistant said to me that it was one of the most productive meetings they’ve had in a number of years that I felt confident that I could actually do the job.

And what a beautiful library! Originally built in 1903, the Carnegie building was expanded in 1997 to twice its size. The architects designed the expansion with brick and woodwork that matched the original building. High ceilings, ornate wood columns, a glorious grandfather clock, a reading garden, and a director’s office to die for!

I like to describe my experience in Oskaloosa as the Goldilocks of library directorships. The library wasn’t so large that I was too bogged down with administrative work to be able to do “librarian” things like work the reference desk, select and order materials, put together displays, and teach computer classes. And it wasn’t so small that I wouldn’t have had the resources to plan some of the fun programming and events that we did.From managing staff to working with the board of trustees and city council to overseeing the maintenance of the building and grounds, I was challenged with new responsibilities and situations that only helped me grow. My absolute favorite part of the job was planning events like Teen Tech Week, summer reading programs, a one community, one book program called Mahaska Readszombie crawls, and a presentation on prohibition paired with a beer tasting.


Looking back now, it almost seems like a dream. As time goes on, I know the three years will just be a blip on my library career, but they had a major impact. Though I’m happy and thrilled to be back in Lawrence, I do miss the staff at OPL, the patrons that I got to know, and the beautiful library. I will always appreciate the experience and opportunity I got there. 

Posted in Cataloging, Collection Development

Death to the NEW Sticker!

If there’s one thing librarians love (other than books, of course), it’s stealing borrowing ideas from our peers. Last fall, the catalogers and I took a trip over to the Johnson County Library central resource library to learn how they work with SirsiDynix’s Symphony. We had just migrated to this new ILS, and were hoping for more insight into the strange new world. What we didn’t plan on walking away with was a plan to kill our NEW stickers.

The bane of NEW stickers
This is probably familiar to many libraries that feature their new items on a shelf separate from the rest of the collection. In our experience, one product simply didn’t stick. The edges curled up and eventually they fell off. Then items marked new in our catalog found their way to the regular shelves and caused frustration for those trying to find them.

Another product proved to be exactly the opposite. These were so sticky you pretty much had to scrape them off with a putty knife. Staff responsible for maintaining the new materials shelves noted that removing these stickers was too time consuming, plus we were spending more and more money on these adhesive remover pens everyone preferred. Imagine all the broken fingernails and the tenacious stench of goo gone.

With these frustrations in mind, it was to our catalogers’ delight when they discovered the absence of stickers on the books on Johnson County’s new shelf! Once back at LPL, our lead cataloger immediately began devising a plan to phase them out. It took some time, but with the blessing of our Collection Management Committee and the leadership team, September 5th is our cutoff date!

Two birds, one label
An added benefit in the plan to kill the new stickers is cutting down on the number of labels we print for the books. In addition to the spine label, we have been printing a second call number label with the date of accession for the first fly page. This label was an indicator to collection development staff for weeding purposes. Our lead cataloger came up with the solution of printing a 4 digit MMYY date code on the spine label under the call number. This will help both those who remove books from the new shelf and our collection development staff.

Some sticky situations
Because we use a sorting machine, we had to spend some time thinking about the way new materials are sorted into bins. Currently, new adult books are sorted into a bin on one side of our massive sorter, and new children’s and YA books are sorted into the same bins as the non-new books on the other side of the machine. For the latter, the new sticker is a clear indication that the items belong on the new shelf. The solution was simple though: all new books will now be sorted into the same bin. Unfortunately, this will increase some foot traffic, but our Materials Handling staff was willing to make the change.

Another thing that complicated our plan: new adult fiction titles check out for 14 days instead 28 like the rest of the collection. Up to this point, we’ve been using a “14 Day Loan” sticker, which some patrons have come to rely on — they know which books they should read first. Our Readers’ Services team was rightly concerned about these going away since they work directly with patrons who may express frustration.

Our solution? More of a “let’s wait and see what happens.” We’ll encourage patrons to look for signage on the shelves about 14 day items — new adult fiction books (including genres) are the only new items that are limited to 14 day loans. Patrons do have the option of printing receipts and checking their account online. And we also send courtesy reminders by email before items are due. We’re going to give it a couple of months to see how people respond.

Getting the word out
To get staff ready for the change, we made sure everyone got to see the new spine labels, and I sent out an email with a few anticipated FAQs. For patrons, our marketing coordinator put together this fantastic video (below) and posted it on Facebook and Twitter. It will also get a mention in our weekly newsletter. So far, we’ve had a pretty good response — at least on Social Media!

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Posted in Displays

Look, Play, Listen: Promoting Media Collections at LPL

With streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, do people still check out DVDs and CDs from libraries? At the Lawrence Public Library we’d argue YES! — but that’s not to say we haven’t noticed a downward trend over the past couple of years.
Despite the prevalence of streaming video services, we continue to see strong patron demand for new titles. The latest seasons of TV shows like Game of Thrones and popular movies like Hidden Figures accumulate holds lists into the triple digits. Just as with other collections, we order several copies to satisfy that demand, then the hype dies, and we’re left with several copies on the shelf.
These multiple copies sit alongside much older titles that no one’s checking out because they’re so focused on the new stuff. Our director has compared it to a dying star — as the collection approaches its end of life, it expands and takes up more space. Space we don’t have. Will we see the death of analog media collections? Perhaps not in my lifetime…but it’s probably coming.
This is where the new team that I’ve been asked to coordinate at LPL comes in. Look, Play, Listen is a cross departmental team that will focus on promoting the media collections to combat declining circulation.
Why cross-departmental? Our Readers’ Services team — the Book Squad — focuses on readers’ advisory and the fiction collection, and the Info Services team provides reference assistance and maintains the non-fiction collection. DVDs and CDs don’t quite fit into their areas of focus, and they don’t have the time to squeeze them in. We also don’t have the staff resources to create a whole new department at this time.

So on the Look, Play, Listen team we have two staff from Readers’ Services, two from Info Services, two from Materials Handling, one from our I.T. department, one from marketing, a collection development librarian, and our teen librarian. Here are a few of the things we are or have been working on:

Organizing DVDs Alphabetically
Because it’s a highly browsed collection, our DVD movies and TV shows have always been organized loosely under the first letter of the title and not in exact alphabetical order. We experimented with trying to maintain alphabetical order, thinking it would increase find-ability for browsers and staff pulling holds. What we didn’t anticipate was the time it took. Shelving returns took longer and the hours spent shelf-reading and reorganizing were wasted by browsers who almost immediately shuffled things around, even with signage saying we were trying to keep things alphabetized. So we dropped the effort, with the exception of our TV shows, because having all seasons of a show together does help.

Writing Reviews
The front page of our Bibliocommons catalog features sliders of recently reviewed items. Before our team was organized, weeks could go by without a new title being reviewed and added to the slider. To make sure we have fresh content up regularly, we organized a rotating calendar of staff reviews. Each team member writes a review for a DVD or CD every two weeks, and with 11 members on the team, we’ve got a new review on the slider almost every day of the week. We’ve definitely seen some holds on those reviewed items!

Staff Picks Display
We recently set up a new display of staff DVD picks, borrowing the handwritten shelf talkers I’ve seen at several book stores. Just like the bookstores, we featured movies of which we have at least three available copies. I love the personal touch the notes give to the recommendations. And the DVDs are flying off of it! Info Services staff passed along a comment from a patron who said she always has a hard time deciding what to watch next and thanked us for putting the display up.

Formed Based Watchers’/Listeners’ Advisory
Our next project will be putting together a form like our Readers’ Services team’s personalized reading suggestions request. Basically, patrons can fill out this form and we’ll send them a list of DVD or CD recommendations within 48 hours or so. Readers’ Services has had a good response to their form, so I’m looking forward to seeing how patrons respond to this one.

We just started the Look, Play, Listen effort in June, so it’s a little early to see how these things are affecting our circulation (especially since there’s always a slight uptick over the summer). Other things the team has discussed include “If you like…” posters for the endcaps of our media shelving, discussion groups, and a media themed podcast. I’m looking forward to seeing where else the team goes with this!

Posted in Uncategorized

Three Things I’ve Stolen from the Grocery Store

image was originally posted to Flickr by Seattle Municipal Archives at https://flickr.com/photos/24256351@N04/22608448685
Original image was originally posted to Flickr by Seattle
Municipal Archives under the terms of the cc-by-2.0

In order to make ends meet, I recently served a brief stint as a cashier at a national grocery chain. Before I could even touch a register, I had to spend six grueling, consecutive hours watching training videos and another six hours in a group session taking turns reading aloud from a flip chart with my fellow newly-minted corporate coworkers.

After you get through the repetitive safety courses and cheesy bagging tutorials, you learn how to provide exemplary customer service while not making it totally obvious that you’re trying to move as much product as possible. Along with “The customer’s always right” and “Service with a smile,” you’re taught a number of tips from on-screen employees who you wonder how much extra they were paid to act in these videos.

As a former desk-ridden reference librarian who’s branched out into the world of roving readers’ advisory, I’ve stolen – or borrowed – three of these tips to help me in this new role:

1. Look up! Be ready to help.
While assigned to the floor, I’m responsible for helping patrons, reshelving items, shelf reading, and keeping the stacks neat and tidy. Building relationships with our readers and helping them find new books to read is our main priority, but I can’t do that if my eyes are constantly looking down at book carts or busy scanning call numbers on the bottom shelves. I’ve been training the natural introvert in me to start making eye contact with patrons, and from there, it’s much easier to start the “What are you reading?” conversation.

2. Did you remember the garlic bread?
One of the videos features a cashier scanning items, and she says to the customer, “Looks like you’re making spaghetti tonight. Did you remember the garlic bread?” And lo, the customer did not, but thanks to her suggestion and willingness to go grab it, dinner was saved! It’s not always easy for me to think on my feet, but when I engage patrons and find out that they’ve picked up the latest by David Mitchell, I might mention how The Bone Clocks reminded me a little bit of one of Haruki Murakami’s prolific tomes. If they’ve got the latest by Barbara Kingsolver I might compare it to something by Jane Smiley. I make it a goal to sneak in one or two suggestions that go well with what they’ve already picked up.

3. Offer more than just a rain check.
In another video, a customer gets dramatically angry because there’s no more store brand green beans from the sale ad on the shelf. The smiling clerk who happens to be nearby not only offers a rain check, but gives the customer the name brand at the discounted price as well. Though this is an obvious one, it always slips my mind to make further suggestions when a book someone wants isn’t on the shelf. I can help that patron find something to read in the meantime if I go beyond just placing a hold on the item and moving to next patron.

Now, I realize it isn’t our only goal in readers’ advisory to just move product, but these tips still help me interact and build relationships with patrons and hopefully help them leave the library with a positive experience and a number of good reads.

Posted in Adult Programs

Passive Program: Coloring Pages for Adults

With the recent popularity of adult coloring books that many libraries are taking advantage of for programs, I decided to cash in at my library as well. I had considered purchasing copies of the books that are available, but then was concerned they would come back…well, colored.

To see if there’s actually an interest in my community, I’ve decided to try out a passive program first. This takes very little staff time, and if the coloring sheets disappear, I know I can take it further. I love the idea of a “coloring and cocktails” program!

I found a list of free adult coloring pages available on the web, printed a few off, copied them and now have them out in the reading room with colored pencils, a pencil sharpener and signage explaining the deal. We already have a number of patrons who frequent the room to work on puzzles we set out, so I’m thinking it may go over pretty well!

Posted in Adult Programs

Prohibition & Free Beer at the Library

This past Monday we had a first for the Oskaloosa Public Library: a free beer tasting! What made it greater, though, was the fact that we paired it with a presentation on prohibition. Local author, Linda Betsinger McCann, shared about her book Prohibition in Eastern Iowa, and afterward the awesome folks from The Cellar Peanut Pub provided samples of four Iowa craft beers.

Linda was a great presenter and storyteller. She shared about her research process and her interactions with the people she interviewed about prohibition in Iowa. It was interesting to learn that Al Capone – who I only ever associated with Chicago – had a presence and influence in Iowa during the 13 year span of prohibition.

I could tell that Linda is passionate about history and about sharing the past with younger generations. What I really appreciated was her effort to research police records from the local paper to share with the audience. She cautioned everyone that they may learn something about someone they know, as she experienced at other presentations!

Following Linda’s presentation, I invited the owner of The Cellar Peanut Pub and his pubtender to talk a little bit about the four craft beers they brought for samples. They included beers from Lion Bridge Brewing Company out of Cedar Rapids, Exile Brewing Co. out of Des Moines, and Peace Tree Brewing Co. out of Knoxville.

I’m very grateful that the The Pub was willing to donate the sampling, and hope that they got further business after giving people a taste of what they offer. The owner and pubtender were great, and it seemed like the people sampling the beers really enjoyed them.

Because Oskaloosa tends toward the conservative side, I was prepared to hear some negative feedback about having alcohol in the library; however, I haven’t yet. I did, though, do a bit of investigation beforehand to make sure it was all legal. First, I spoke with the state’s bureau of alcoholic beverages who said that if the samples were under and ounce and served only to patrons 21 years or older, it wouldn’t violate any state ordinances.

Next I checked with the city attorney and the public works director, and they couldn’t find anything in zoning ordinances or the city code that prohibited the sampling. Then I checked with the city’s insurance to make sure it would be covered under general liability. Finally, I made sure it was cool with the city manager. He even said he spoke to a couple of city council members, and they liked that I was doing new and different things to bring people into the library.

The event brought 40 people to the library, which I felt for a Monday evening was really good. Some of them even revealed on the program survey I handed out that it was the first program they had ever attended at the library. Everyone had positive comments too!

Posted in Adult Programs, Displays

Poetry & Arts in April at the Library

If you’ve read past blog posts, you’ll know that I’m a fan of poetry and that April is National Poetry Month. I try to do at least one thing related to poetry at the library, even if it’s a simple display featuring titles from our poetry collection.

In the past, I’ve gone all out and used mannequins for Poetry In Your Pocket Day, featured favorite poets from staff and let a poetry slamming gorilla loose in the library. This year, I kept the display simple, using a word cloud with poetry related words and phrases.

Borrowing an idea from my days at the Lawrence Public Library, I decided to set up a “Poetry Nook” in the entryway of the library. I’ve provided pens and paper, and am encouraging patrons to write a poem and put it in the box. The poems, then, will end up in random places around town – in a library book, in a booth at the local coffee shop, etc.

My major poetry event will be for teens. Members of our Teen Advisory Board requested we do a Poetry Slam again this year. For some reason, whenever I plan one of these, I have to include a bag of frozen burritos as one of the prizes. That bag of frozen goodness is always the most coveted prize – even over a $50 gift card!

Our Youth Librarian also has gotten into the spirit of National Poetry Month and has put together a fun Poetry “Mad Lib” for the children’s area. I’m looking forward to seeing what crazy things the kids come up with!

I was also approached by FACE of Mahaska County, a local arts organization, about planning and cross promoting arts-related programs and events in Oskaloosa for Arts in April. They recently opened an art center in town, and it’s very exciting to see what they’re bringing to this small-ish community. One of the things they’re doing is yarn bombing different locations around the city – including our Reading Garden:

They’ve coordinated with a number of organizations in the community and have put together a calendar of things happening this month. From graffiti installations to a Gallery Hop to one act plays directed by high school students, there’s a lot going on!

Posted in Displays

Put A Bird On It!

My newest display is inspired by my favorite clip from Portlandia, Put A Bird On It! I figured birds would be a nice spring-ish topic, so I pulled pretty much anything that has a bird on the cover.

I thought pulling titles from 598 and 636.6 would be a little too easy, so I also pulled anything from fiction and our movies. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, of course! I also cut out a few silhouettes to make the display pop a little.

And here’s the inspiration: