Posted in kansas library association, Librarian, libraries, Library Conferences, Uncategorized

#KLAC2019: Join the Conversation at Conference!

It’s Kansas Library Association Conference time again! This year’s theme is Libraries Build Communities – Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, and it will be October 23-25 at the Overland Park Convention Center. The KLA Conference Planning Committee has been hard at work putting together speakers, sessions, and activities, and we hope you have a valuable time learning and connecting with fellow Kansas librarians this year.

As chair of the Publicity Committee, I’ve had the fortune of sharing conference news and updates on KLA’s social media channels. I’m now looking forward to engaging with conference attendees through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Not sure where to start with all that? Come to the Social Media User Group at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday!

Why should you use social media during the conference? It’s definitely not a requirement, but here are five benefits:

Keep up with conference news and updates
Social Media is the quickest way for the publicity committee to share news and updates about the conference. Follow KLA on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook. Also, keep tabs on the official conference hashtag #KLAC2019!

Connect and engage with conference attendees
Hundreds of librarians attend the KLA conference. That’s hundreds of colleagues you could potentially connect with, but only three days to do so. Who has the time to do that in person? By following the #KLAC2019 hashtag, you can easily discover and connect with attendees who may be out of your normal conference scope.

Learn what’s happening in sessions you don’t attend
We’ve all been there. Two (or more) sessions you really want to go to are in the same time block. You can only choose one. Not a problem if someone’s live Tweeting! Monitor that conference hashtag to see if others are attending and Tweeting about the session you’re missing. Bonus points if you’re returning the favor and Tweeting about your session!

Take notes for future reference
Did you know a Twitter thread is a great method of note taking? A thread is a series of Tweets connected by replies to subsequent Tweets. Since you’re limited to 280 characters, it helps you keep notes concise, and you can easily refer back by linking to the original Tweet in the thread.

Capture conference memories
If anything else, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are perfect for capturing conference memories. Share photos, Tweet your positive experiences, create an Instagram story as you wander through the exhibits. Don’t forget to use that hashtag!

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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!

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Three Things I’ve Stolen from the Grocery Store

image was originally posted to Flickr by Seattle Municipal Archives at
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.

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Getting Shift Done

Yesterday, my staff and I completed a major re-cataloging, labeling and shifting project. A long time ago, the library had a separate biography section, and at some point, one of the directors decided to interfile them into the nonfiction. We’ve had a number of patrons recently request, though, that we have a separate section again. We certainly don’t have a huge nonfiction collection, but this was one of the biggest projects I’ve done since I started as director.

I began by going through the collection pulling the biographies. One of the previous directors had the cataloging staff start putting biography stickers on new titles, but they didn’t go through the collection and put stickers on anything already on the shelf. This made the process a little more complicated than it could have been, because I had to go through each volume on the shelf, especially in the 900’s, 800’s and 700’s.
What also complicated it was staff was directed to put biography labels on anything that had subject headings of biography or memoir. To me, there’s a definite difference between the two, and I only wanted biographies in my new section. Many of the titles that I considered memoirs were by obscure or not well known writers that I didn’t think people looking for biographies would be interested in. For example, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven had a biography label on it.
The next step was re-cataloging and labeling (or un-labeling) the volumes. We decided to organize the titles by the last name of who the biography is about, and if there were multiple biographies on one individual, they would be organized by the last name of the author. (I borrowed this idea from the Lawrence Public Library, who completed a similar project before I left. I also went with the same labels!)
My cataloger made quick work of changing the classifications in the system, and a library assistant made sure each new label looked nice and neat. We then started placing the biographies in their temporary location – empty wooden shelves along the wall at the end of the stacks. This would have been a nice way to use these shelves, but they’re kind of hidden and are too low.
The permanent home for the biographies is between the large print and nonfiction stacks. This meant that we had to shift the entire nonfiction collection back to accommodate them. With the help of my staff and the local high school robotics team who volunteered their time, though, we accomplished this within three days. We now have a biography section!
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Create & Innovate: Post-It Note Pixel Art

For our monthly teen crafting program, we invited teens to decorate the library with Post-It Note pixel art. You basically create giant mosaics with the Post-Its!

A very simple activity, you just need various colors of Post-Its and window or wall space. We did this program a year ago, and we found out the Post-Its don’t adhere to our painted walls very well. Large glass surfaces work best. Otherwise, a large roll of butcher paper comes in handy.
It’s helpful to have a few examples or guides, or even provide graph paper so the teens can plan out their art before putting it up. We’ll be leaving these up through Teen Tech Week – they’re perfect decorations!
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Teen Tech Week: Libraries are for making…

Last year I had so much fun with Teen Tech Week, I couldn’t wait to start planning this year’s events at the Oskaloosa Public Library. We’re still about a month out, but I’ve gotten everything finalized and the promo posters are off to the printer! Not wanting to do the exact same thing as last year, my youth librarian and I worked with our Teen Advisory Board to see which programs were worth repeating and what ideas they could come up with. I like to go all out, so we’ve got something planned for every day of the week:

Tech Tear Apart
This program was so popular last year, we had to do it again. Over the summer, we had to switch out our entire lab of computers which were running on the now outdated Windows XP. I saved a few, so we have plenty of PC’s for teens to tear into. We’ll pretty much give them the tools, let them tear them apart, and then have a discussion about what each of the parts do. It’s a great opportunity for those who may not have a spare computer lying around to see what makes them tic.

The Science of Doctor Who
We have a core group of teens who are big fans of Doctor Who. It was our original intention to have a professor of physics come in an speak to teens about space time continuum and quantum mechanics, but I could never get a response from anyone at the local college. Instead, we’ll be watching the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know? and making sonic screwdrivers and TARDIS.

YouTube Request Hour
Sort of a last minute, easy program, we’re planning to hook up YouTube to one of our big screens and let the teens request their favorite videos. Music, parodies, silly cat videos – anything PG thirteen. I was hoping to do another Skype chat with an author, but again, no responses to my emails and I was getting pretty close to crunch time.

Classic Video Game Day
Between my youth librarian and myself, we’ve got a good collection of vintage video game consoles. Another simple program, we’ll hook the systems up to a few old tube TV’s and let the teens play video games from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. And what’s a video game day without snacks?!

Robotics Demonstration
Our local high school sponsors a pretty successful robotics team, The Sock MonkeysI’ve invited them in to give a presentation on what they do and to give a demonstration of their robot. Many of the teens who come to our programs are already involved, but it also gives The Sock Monkeys some needed volunteer time.

Back to the Future Part II
We’ll be ending Teen Tech Week with a showing of Back to the Future Part II to give teens an idea of what the folks in 1989 thought technology in 2015 would look like.

I have to give a big shout out and thank you to YALSA from whom I borrowed some graphics and a few ideas. To see some of their ideas visit their site at Teen Tech Week is a great way to promote the library’s technology resources and get teens excited about using the library. The teens who participated at the Oskaloosa library last year really enjoyed the programs we offered and are looking forward to this year’s.

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Create & Innovate: Giant 3D Snowflakes

We have a small group of teen regulars at my library who are hardcore crafters. When I took over/started helping out with teen programming, I started a monthly crafting program called Create & Innovate (that’s edgy, mature and modern right?). Each month I plan either a specific craft or go very general and open the craft cupboards and let the teens go at it.

This month’s craft was giant 3D snowflakes. My Youth Librarian made these with her K-5th grade after school kids, but I thought teens would enjoy making them too. All that’s needed is paper (I had an assortment of colors), scissors, glue (or tape) and staples.

This tutorial on Youtube was super helpful:

I only had a few teens, but they enjoyed the craft. We even had the local newspaper come by and take a photo. Eight inches of snow had just fallen the day before, and he was looking for something non-weather related to print…ha!

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Love Ain’t For Lovers Anymore

I have to admit, a part of me secretly wants to be a teen librarian – mostly because I really enjoy planning programs. This past week, my Youth Librarian and I collaborated on an “Anti-Valentines Day” party for teens.  She came up with the idea, and I said “Let’s do it!” My thoughts being, there’s plenty of opportunity for those who celebrate love and all that gooey stuff this month, but what about those teens who are focused on other things?

The first activity that came to my mind was candy sweethearts – or, for our party, “not so sweethearts.”  I baked about two dozen sugar cookies and planned to make frosting from powdered sugar, milk and food coloring. (Then I discovered premade cookie decorating packs with frosting from WalMart, which I grabbed just in case I didn’t have enough of my homemade cookies.) We laid these out and told teens they could decorate their own hearts with messages like “Go away” or “Bite Me” (and asked them to avoid vulgarities, of course).
Most of the teens who talked about the program beforehand were looking forward to the next activity, making their own voodoo dolls. We have a ton of felt and stuffing (left over from previous programs dating back who knows how far), I bought a simple sewing kit, and I printed a pattern. We dug out some buttons and other embellishments from the craft cupboard too. I thought it might be above some of the teens’ skill levels, but those who tried it had no trouble at all.

Finally, the activity I had the most fun planning and preparing for was Mad Libs Lyrics. On the promotional poster, we said teens would get the chance to write their own Taylor Swift break up songs.  I pulled a few Taylor Swift lyrics, and a couple of Miley Cyrus lyrics (by request) and turned them into Mad Libs!

The biggest draw, though, was the snacks! We kept it simple – popcorn, cookies, soda and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. One teen, though, asked, “Is this dark chocolate? Why did you get dark chocolate?!” to which my response was, “Because it was wrapped in purple, and it’s dark and moody. This IS an ‘Anti-Valentines’ party you know!” We only had seven teens in attendance, but they all enjoyed themselves, which is the most important part. Oh, and the local paper did a write up on it too!
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The "B" word…

Like with many cities, January is budget time here in Oskaloosa. That means as director I get to put on my number crunching, library advocating hat and do my best to justify the library’s request for funding for the next fiscal year. January, I’ve also noticed, seems to be the time when I get the most calls from vendors of all types trying to push their products. They know we’re working on the budget and will try anything, it seems, to convince us to buy, upgrade, replace! Thus, it’s an ever more important time to pay attention and realize what’s necessary and what’s not.

The local listservs are abuzz, too, with the chatter about budgets as colleagues request ideas for making the library’s case, figures to compare against, and much needed moral support. Some are dealing with board of trustees or council members who believe things like “many libraries rely solely on their Friends Groups and Foundations for materials funding” or “the library could be efficiently operated by volunteers.” That’s enough to ruffle my pages! It’s during this time that I keep a few things in mind when preparing to discuss the budget with board and council members:

Money spent on library materials means money saved for the community.
Just and example, the current hardcover price on Amazon for M.D. Sedman’s bestselling novel, The Light Between Oceans, is $18.14. Since we added it to our collection, this title has circulated 19 times. Assuming our patrons would have to buy the title to read it if they didn’t have access to it at the library, that’s roughly $326.52 that remains in the community’s pocket because library patrons aren’t spending it at places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other non-local retailers. Considering the number of new titles purchased against the total circulation of all those items, a $30,000 investment in library materials could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for the community.

Money spent on library materials and staff is an investment in the community’s future.
Up to date exam and college prep books are expensive. Resume and cover letter guides are expensive. Internet access can be pricey too, especially if you live in a rural area. For those new to computers, filling out applications online can be a confusing and frustrating endeavor. A well trained reference librarian can make the task much less so. People who lack the skills needed to find a job may not be able afford to spend money on the resources needed to do so. The library gives people access to these resources and services, which can increase their chances of getting better educations or obtaining work, which in turn would benefit the community. But the library cannot rely on donations and volunteer work alone.

Librarians deserve to be paid!
Cataloging and processing items, planning programs, organizing information, completing in depth research, managing collections, interacting with patrons and helping them find the resources they need – and that’s just the beginning! Not just anyone can walk in from the street, offer their time for free and be successful at all of these tasks. It takes time, skill and training. Yes, some of the more general tasks could be completed by volunteers, but, believe it or not, reliable, skilled volunteers are hard to find. And don’t forget to factor in things like the cost of volunteer insurance (which some cities, like mine, require), privacy issues and consistency. (This definitely isn’t to say volunteer work isn’t valuable and appreciated, though!)

All of this, of course, isn’t new to the library think tank. However, these are things of which sometimes board and council members and other government representatives need to be reminded again and again as we argue the case for library funding. If you’re in charge of budgeting for your library (or even if you’re not) what other arguments can and should be made? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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D&D: Adventures in the Stacks

This past summer, with the suggestion of a few Teen Advisory Board members, my Youth Librarian and I started a Dungeons & Dragons group at the library. Now, the only experience I had with Dungeons & Dragons was from my college years, and the story involves me excusing myself to use the restroom and never coming back. That being said, I honestly didn’t have too much faith that the program would go very far. I’m happy to say, though, that I was wrong!

If you don’t know what Dungeons & Dragons is, that’s okay – it’s only been around for years and years. A role playing game, each player creates a character, choosing from a plethora of fantasy species and races. One person designates him or herself as Dungeon Master and dictates a story that the other participants’ characters play along in. Different denominations of dice are used to determine variables in the game, like damage points in battles and strength checks.

Thankfully, the few teens who asked for the program had TONS of knowledge and experience with the game and gladly volunteered themselves Dungeon Masters. For the first few weeks, we had a small gathering of middle school students, and I sat back and watched. At some point, my Youth Librarian created a character, which I ended up adopting as scheduling conflicts disallowed her from chaperoning the program. As I got involved, I’ve had the chance to both learn more about the game and understand and witness the passion the teens who are coming to the program have for it.

Now whether it’s the free snacks or the game itself, the program has developed quite the following. Over time, our little D&D group has grown to 16 teens ranging from 13 to 17! Every week, everyone in attendance – though sometimes distracted and a little over excited – are actively engaged. It has been great to watch those who Dungeon Master develop their skills. Now I look forward every week to the program, and I’m excited to see it – and hopefully other teen programs – grow.