The Cockles of My Cold, Black Heart

A rare middle of the week update!

There is one thing that makes me as happy as an evil, little clam: tuition rise.

No sooner does the University announce that the tuition is going up do people (students, parents, and anyone who has no stake in tuition what so ever, go figure) start complaining like mad. And my cold, black heart is warmed.

Now, I want to make it very clear that not one cent of tuition pays my salary. At no time can any student say that they are my boss because they pay tuition.

Why does it make me so happy? Because student tuition rises in proportion to the amount of time, energy, and money students waste. All student tuition pays for is the electric bill and faculty wages. For the large amount they pay (the most in the Big Ten), that amount is small potatoes compared to how much a student's tuition actually costs. Every student is heavily subsidized by state, grant, and donor funds. When tuition goes up, it indicates that wastefulness on the part of the students has driven the actual cost of the tuition up and the monies that subsidize them is not enough to cover.

Penn State operates on a very lean system. We have the fewest amount of people necessary to do highly complex jobs that we pay them very little for. People work for Penn State, not because of pay, but out of loyalty and prestige. Many believe that Penn State doesn't want salaries revealed because of high pay. It's actually that our pay checks are so low that making them public knowledge would kill our competitive advantage in the work place and it easier to poach our great staff than it already is.

I digress. Back to student wastefulness:

So how do students waste their own tuition monies? By misusing and abusing systems put in place to make the lives of University Staff easier. I will give you an example, using the libraries specifically.

Student A sees a book they want at the Library. The book is available. All Student A has to do is grab the book off the shelf, and in doing so, see the massive amount of help that can be provided just by looking at the shelf. Student A does not. Student A clicks the 'I Want It' button. The wastefulness begins:

Amount of Staff members involved: 7
1 person to handle the computer systems that allow the 'I Want It' button to work
1 person to handle generating the report
1 person to search for and pull the book from the stacks
1 person to process the material
1 person to person to get it to the Personal Reserve Shelves
1 person to make sure the emails go out properly to alert the patron
1 person to pull the book from the shelf and check it out to the patron

That's a minimum of SEVEN people to handle ONE book! A MINIMUM! If the system fails at any point, it takes a whole lot more people to figure out what's going on. Let's assume the minimum amount of people are working at the most basic pay rate: $10.50/hr.

That's $73.50 spent on retrieving ONE book. ONE BOOK! It's insane, but it just goes to show how wasteful the student population is. Now, I'm sure you're saying that we could tighten the whole process up and make the person who generates, searches, and processes the materials the same person. That would be nice, but the report, by necessity is generated by one department. The search is handled by another and we are searching for an average of 1200 'I Want It' holds a day. The process is handled by the department that generates the report, but by the time that book actually gets to us (remember, there are 1,200 of these), the person who generated the report is long gone for the day.

But let's not stop at the man power: there's the cost of library systems and running them, the cost of safety and ergonomic procedures to be followed, and the cost of worker's compensation when those staff members our injured. It's a lot of money.

Heck, of the six years I've worked here, I spent three of them in physical therapy for totally preventable injuries. All of them caused by student wastefulness.

So when tuition rises, I smile. When the students wail, I dance. When the students dig themselves deeper into debt in order to pay, I sing. Because there are a hundred things students can do to keep tuition low and, in their refusal to do so, deserve every hike.

Man, I'm vindictive.

Other things students can do to lower there tuition:
  • smoke away from buildings (and air intake vents) and deposit butts in proper containers
  • recycle glass, aluminum, plastic, and newspapers
  • no eating food in class
  • no eating food in the library
  • throw trash away in trash bins
  • clean up trash before leaving a classroom
  • turn off the lights when they leave a room
  • stay off the grass
  • keep the restrooms clean (throw the waste paper in the basket, dammit!)
  • flush the toilets in the bathroom (come on people!)
  • spit out gum into the trash (gum in the wrong place actually costs us a lot of money)
  • turn off the water in the bathroom and make sure it's off
  • keep your dorm room clean
  • don't trash your dorm room
  • use the self checkouts (seriously! even the library has them!)
  • don't use the Cata buses to go one or two blocks
  • do not venture out anywhere when the University closes for a weather emergency (It's a rare occurrence and when it does happen, keep your butt at home, for God's sake!!!)
  • don't have sex (think about it: AIDS, STDs, pregnancy worries and tests, multiple trips to Ritnour, cost of contraceptives, and it's the flu season anyway. You save yourself, your sanity, your self-esteem, your dignity, and your tuition bill a whole lot of money by keeping your pants on for a few very short years.)


No Complaints

I'm not in Dilbert-ville yet. God willing, I never will be! :)
Our tech-serv staff, they must suffer...

The 'Winners' of the Saddest Cubicle Contest


Great. Just Great.

Stop feeding the squirrels!

Position Information Questionaire (PIQ)

We are currently in the process of writing personal PIQ's for our jobs, heretofore to be known as 'Career Paths.'

The PIQ, at it's most basic, lists your job duties and how much time you spend on them. It came as a total shock exactly how much time I spend doing what patrons 'see' me do. I spend only 5% of my time checking out and discharging books. Wow.

I spend the bulk of my time on my project (40%) and on committees (25%).

The rest of my time is spent cataloging, handling privacy issues, providing staff support, and teaching patrons how to use the library (30%).

The PIQ also gives you the chance to tell Human Resources, in so many words, exactly what you do and how it impacts the rest of the University. They like to know what the most typical decisions you make everyday are and the most complex. It's scary when the two lists look like you just hit copy and paste.

The hardest part of writing the PIQ has been not selling myself short. When you do something that's complex everyday, it seems very simple, so you write it down very simply. End result: the exact nature of how complicated the task is, is never put across. So I took a step back and looked at what I did from the perspective of someone who had no idea about libraries. You sound a whole lot better when you write out what you do with a sense of wonder about it.

I also stepped back and thought about how my job impacted the University. Library drones like me spend our entire days working with everyone from local residents to board members. We just don't always know it. We forget that we work with VIPs. Sandra Spanier one day and Sue Paterno the next. But how does this impact the University? Everything I do impacts whether or not a student will become a donor later in life. My project impacts all levels of the University when a faculty member realizes a TA borrowed a book on a proxy card and never returned it.

That's a lot of impact when you become the soothing balm of administrators ready to pull their hair out.

Tips for getting the PIQ together:
  • List all your job duties and group them under sub headings
  • Bullet points make life easier
  • Write your descriptions for someone who has no clue what you do (because they don't)
  • Think about your impact on the University in terms of the people you see everyday


Information Literacy and You

A rare weekday post!

But this is too cool to pass up:

Information Literacy and You

This is an awesome resource for learning how to research!


PaLA aftermath...

The keynote speaker at the PaLA conference had a few interesting things to say.

Things like:

"If you are scared that a ten year old knows more about technology than you, get out of my profession."

"If you don't want your patrons to call your support staff librarians, get out of your office and do a librarian's job."

The Old Guard swooned!

Well, the speaker was blunt and to the point. Baby Boomer academics are scared of the massive changes and want to rest on their laurels. They can't. Not and keep their jobs. We need to keep up with the technology. We need to keep up with our users' needs. We need to come down off the pedestal and spend time in the pond water. (It's really nice down here! Promise!)

If you can't relate to the patron on the other side of the desk, you've lost a future donor.

Here is how you can help yourself keep up:

Learn HTML. Just the basics. It's easy and it gets you in the computerized mindset. One workshop and thirty minutes of practice will help you understand a lot about computers and demystify a big chunk of how they work.

Read Slashdot. It's high tech news. It will keep you up to date on what matters to the younger set.

Relate to the user. Dress for the audience. If your users wear suits, dress nicely. If they don't, jeans and a t-shirt make you appear non-threatening. My dean sees donors all day. She wears what they wear: suits. I see students all day. I wear what they wear: jeans and a t-shirt.

Know your collection intimately. The ENTIRE collection. Seriously. There are people who get paid a lot more than I do and know a lot less. They are not going to keep their jobs if they don't catch up. Don't just know how to read a call number, know how to shelve books. If your library has a special department just for that, train with them. There is nothing that will tell you more about your collection than shelving books.

Create library study groups. Get together with other library drones and learn new skills together. Have a meeting once a month were someone teaches you a new technique and you discuss what you learned from your patrons since last meeting. Yes. What you learned from your patrons.

Good Luck!


PaLA is coming to Town!

And the first debacle is: (drum roll)

The conference starts at 11am and the attendees cannot get into their rooms until 3pm when the home game fans leave!

If the event planners had even asked, we would have given them a game schedule so they could have planned around football. We are a football town.


This is the first time PaLA has held its big conference in a place that actually has conference facilities. For the first time, the conference presenters don't need to scrounge around for equipment. Penn State is bringing it all. Including the print jobs.

The presenters were told to send the things they needed to be printed off to us early and not to send them on floppies.

We meant this:

They thought we meant this:

I kid you not.

I've heard people say that Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh and Philly with Alabama in between. This is not only inaccurate, it is unfair. Our 'podunk' libraries in the middle of nowhere have digital catalogs, internet access, and fully automated branch library loan systems.

The libraries that have the trouble are the ones that get a lot of community use, but no community support. Long after the 'ugly sisters' over the mountain had digital catalogs, libraries like Camp Hill public were still struggling with a card catalog.

Ed Rendell hasn't helped with the slashing of the public library fund and asking libraries to give back funds that were already donated.

I digress.

A lot of the libraries in the boonies have state of the art equipment. We farmers know our libraries are important and support them heavily. More affluent areas expect tax dollars to care for libraries they might use. And so, 'Pennsyl-tucky' brings us CDs and DVDs. Big name area libraries bring us floppies...

And ask us if their five year old macs are okay to bring.



Scavenger Hunts

Every year we deal with rowdy greek pledges who must participate in a scavenger hunt as part of their initiation.

This has spread, in a good way.

This year, to force reluctant students to use the library and learn our crazy ways, professors have been designing group scavenger hunts. These scavenger hunts have been taking them all over the library and even into remote places to find great study areas and unique library services. They've been asked to find places like "Siberia" (the 3rd floor of West Pattee) and things like "A Day at the Beach" (a mural of The Addams Family).

The Libraries highly approves of these unique teaching techniques! However, we've found some resistance among the troops who find the whole thing 'silly' and 'unprofessional.' We had an instance of staff members refusing to answer directional questions as simple as "Where is the Business Library?" when the question is being asked by a group. Luckily, our young student workers have caught on and are giving our patrons the help. ;)


Back! Or something similar...

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Honestly, I've been busy.

October is never to early to plan for our annual In-Service Day in January. This year, I am tormenting myself with teaching a class, helping out with another class, and doing a poster session. Apparently, I'm crazy.

My class will be Tarot 101. I've been doing tarot readings for years, so I thought I'd give anyone interested the low-down. If they film the class, I'll post the link.

The class I'm helping out with is a Craft class where I'll do a crochet portion. The poster session will be on my project.

If tarot reading and crafts sound like un-library subjects for classes, you need to step back. One of the purposes of the in-service day is to share individual expertise with the library community. What one library drone is an expert in may have nothing to do with the library in a direct way... until your patrons start bugging you about that subject.

Also, our in-service is geared toward learning new skills that interest us in general. Every year we have library drones (male and female) flocking to craft classes so they can make something to donate for the United Way sale.

Part of any library drone's day is the answering of hundreds of questions on hundreds of topics. Being able, at the very least, to direct your patron to the right resource, is the most valuable thing you can do for them. Not having the right information because you didn't have a class on it while getting your MLS is no excuse anymore. The library drone must be a jack of all trades.

That said, I can't wait to see what crazy offerings we will get this year!


The Stacks

A short film about my library. Why am I not surprised that it's about someone getting freaked out?

Gorilla Marketing for Libraries

As a gamer, I find this ingenius!

Now if only we could get people to market the self-checkout so ferociously, they wouldn't have been such a waste of money.


Post-Vacation Post

I had a great time on vacation. I am, in fact, wearing the beautiful silk skirt that is my souvenir! ;)

I spent twelve hours on the road to get home from North Carolina and each hour was spent with an eye on the exits... specifically the ones from which you could see a book store or Wal-Mart. My father and I resisted... somehow. I was rewarded with a copy of the Deathly Hallows when I finished grocery shopping and, yes, I've finished it.

I'm not going to say anything about it other than it's brilliant!
And if you've resisted the 'Potter Craze' get over it and read it (Jimi).

I got back to work and found my email crammed. No surprise.
Only three of the emails applied to me. Again, no surprise.

I finished the first edit of the first part of our new Training the Trainer manual for our unit. It's not quite a first draft since it's only eleven pages.

While I was gone, a coworker who has been working while suffering a very aggressive cancer has finally retired. She's going to spend the rest of her days painting and traveling. I hope those days are more comfortable than the last ones here at work.


Vista and Libraries... Again.

Yet another reason for libraries to hold off, if not totally forego, Vista.

20+ Windows Features and Services that Harvest User Data for Microsoft

With Vista, how can we assure our patrons that their information is totally confidential?

We can't.

Besides compatibility of programs, library systems, and peripherals with Vista, we have to wonder how much patron and staff personal information will fall into Microsoft's greedy little hands to be "shared" (read: 'sold') with vendors. Libraries can no longer promise that an email address won't be collected by Microsoft and given to a third party along with a list of books associated with that email. Patrons will end up with email inboxes filled with junk based on books they have checked out.

That's a big invasion of privacy.



Our special collections has a new exhibit on the various utopias humanity has created in literature, film, and art.

Check it out on the What's New Page.


Stupid People



Part of our building is under construction. It is a authorized personal only, hard hat area. So what should we find in the construction zone?

A student studying. That's right.

He seemed to think that because it was after five he could go into the construction zone.

You'd think that the many barriers he had to go through, at least five signs saying "Do Not Enter," and the fact that there was NO electricity (therefore: no lights) would have given him a clue that he was not to enter.



Totally Behind

So here's what's going on at my lib:

In-Service Day for branch libraries:
This lets the staff at other libraries visit the main hub for information sessions, classes, and general fun.

In between sessions, the Drones are entertained by the masses of librarians who can't find their way around our library.

One of them latched onto me yesterday just to get around.

Unlike the big In Service day over winter break, they don't put up enough signage for the summer one.


I love Joe

Paterno that is.

Joe, Joe!
He's are man!
If he can't save us,
No One Can!


Title of the Day!

Love Notes

"Love Notes" are the interesting bits of information patrons leave for us on pieces of paper and email print outs. These notes are meant to convey information to us. They are meant to let us know that the patron thinks we are morons.

Thankfully, this doesn't happen often. Most of the time, we don't even recognize it.

But then it pops out at us, and raises are urge to kill.

So how do we deal with these situations?

We have two responses, both of which depend on frequency of the notes.

You don't receive these notes often and the ones that do happen are from patrons who generally think everyone is a moron anyway.

Ignore it. It's not worth the time and effort to be angry over. Just be thankful that they remembered to bring in the required info at all. Many patrons are writing the "love note" because they think it's helpful.

These notes happen all the time and from all walks of life.

Very politely ask the patron what their experience of the library is. Find out if they've been frustrated by service, the collection, or the general disposition of the staff. Ask them to talk about what they would like to see to have whatever occurred fixed. Document what you've learned and refer the patron to another staff member further up the chain of command if necessary. NEVER mention the 'love note.' It may have been unconscious, but it is a sign that something is wrong and we should take the time to correct it.


Penn State Proud

A friend asked me why I didn't blog on Virginia Tech. I said, "I could be blogging or praying. Needless to say, my rosary and I have been cozy."

That said, I am proud of my alma mater's response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Penn State shirts in V-Tech colors litter the campus. Ribbons for those lost are pined to back packs and taped to computer terminals.

But what I am most proud of is this: President Spanier's remarks.

May no act of ours bring shame to the glory of her name.


Are Refence Desks Dying Out?

A great article from The Chronicle of Higher Education by Scott Carlson.

So here's the conflict: Face to Face vs. Virtual.

What do students want?

They want both.

The problem: They don't know they can have either.

I went through my entire four years of undergraduate work and the only librarian I ever met at the library was the one I worked for. Even now, as a library employee, I can only tell you the names of the librarians who feel contact with the public is a necessity.

My library offers virtual service but finding a librarian after 5pm is difficult. Often, your virtual questions are answered by the highly trained staff. Librarians have banker's hours and papers to write for tenure. That's not helpful.

I've done more reference interviews in the last week than most librarians have seen all semester. The head of my department received a letter from a student extolling my virtues in helping her with all things library.

The students are there and they do need help. Sometimes they need it in the oddest places.

Unless you're at the circulation desk, a student isn't going to ask you a question. They'd rather wander around lost than ask the stuffy librarian for help. Some of the best service I've provided for a patron is in the stacks, where they wander around.

The older you are, the less you look like them; the less they are going to speak to you. That's not ageism. That's comfort. I sit at a desk in a t-shirt and jeans and students are writing letters about how much I've helped them. With the current generation, that takes a lot effort.

Students want both virtual and face-to-face. Give it to them. Be there for the students. Our tech help roams around the computers, answering questions with text messaging on a cellphone and answering questions face to face at the same time. Give the students what they want.

Actually, think of it this way:

You will never cure cancer or give us world peace. The student on the phone, on instant messager, in front of your face might. Give them the tools they need.

Gruesome Library Stuffs!

Not for the faint of heart!

"Narrative of the life of james Allen, alias George Walton, alias Jonas Pierce, alias, James H. York, alias Burley Grove, the highwayman. Being his death-bed confession, to the warden of the Massachusetts state prison"

Creepy, Creepy!

User Centered(?)

Last friday, I attended a Library Conference on interior design for libraries. While there, we discussed the fact that the libraries must be user centered. Of course, the opinions of the librarians in the discussion weren't very user centered at all.

Libraries are set up for librarians. We sort and catagorize books based on a system that makes sense to us, but not the man on the street. We organize a catalog (online or original card) based on our preferences and not on what makes sense to a user. Considering that our users are also our donors, it doesn't make sense to confuse them.

We are long past the days of the library savy patron. Most people never set foot in a library, let alone know how to use the resources that their taxes often pay for.

My university asked the business majors redesign the business library to be marketable.

These are the original specs: 150,000-200,000 books, 75 journals/periodicals, one student lounge (food enabled), 40 double backed carrels, 20 tables for group work, 20 random comfortble seats, 25 computers (5 public accessable), one reference desk (medium sized), WiFi, 100 laptop ports.

This is what the business students came up with: 5,000 books, no journals, 40 double backed carrels, 30 tables for group work, 50 computers in their own section (set up computer lab style), WiFi, 100 laptop ports, 50 comfortable chairs in arranged seating pattern, 30 low coffee tables, one reference desk toward the back (tiny), portable cafe, entire floor food enabled.

Basically, they wanted Barnes and Noble. In fact, our entire user base wants Barnes and Noble and that shouldn't surprise us. Barnes and Noble is a book seller. Profit is the bottom line. How do you create profit? By making your store buyer(user) centered.

For a long time, libraries have been fighting this. As an academic library, we need the amount of books and journals we have to serve a university community. However, most of our community doesn't even know that we have $4 million in research materials to help them. Google and Wikipedia are our greatest enemies.

But our users don't want all the research. What they actually want is a comfortable place to study and do group projects with others. In a "me" centered world, they don't understand that the book they don't need, someone else does.

Of course, the entire point would be moot if we got rid of outdated or unused (i.e. never checked out) materials. We might be able to cut back the amount of actual books on the floor and give them a compromise on what they want. Give them a little more of a Barnes and Noble feel.

So, what does this have to do with the opinions of the librarians at the conference?

Librarians are a very opinionated lot. They get ideas stuck in their heads and never understand that the general idea they have is taken to extremes. For example: The librarians in my library have been told that too much signage is a problem. End result: no signage for a very confused user base.

Let's touch on some other crazy ideas:
  1. If you have self checkout, that's all you should have. (Because no one would need real human help.)
  2. You should never have self checkout. (Because all those supermarkets are totally wrong.)
  3. Libraries are supposed to be totally quiet. (Especially during the busiest hours.)
At some point, you have to let go of your notions and ask your users what they want. And then use what you learned.

We gathered a bunch of students with the offer of free pizza and asked them to fill out two surveys for us. This is what we learned:
  • The 'Library Without Walls' is a myth. Library users want and need a facility.
  • Quiet areas are a must.
  • Group study rooms must be available and plentiful.
  • Off campus electronic access is essential.
  • Night long hours are desperately needed by day long students.
  • Library Computer workstations are a must.
  • Electronic Periodicals trump physical copies.
  • The library website is must be available and 'live' at all times.
These are the top 8 responses in no particular order except for the first one. A library facility came first 96% of the time. Considering that a physical library was at the bottom of the actual survey list, it's amazing that it received the highest marks.

And yet, our numbers coming in the door are dropping.

And now we go back to the original conference purpose: Library Interior Design.

The interior of your library must attract patrons. The nonverbal communication that your users receive starts the moment they step in the door. The use of real color, rather than whites and creames, brings any room to life. Your flooring should be designed to move traffic the way you want it to move. Furniture should be welcoming and (this is very important for universities) look 'academic' and 'distinguished.' (Look, Ma! I'm at the library!) Lighting also directs traffic and can give a sense of comfort. Ceiling design can make an area "pop" without it being immediately visible as to why.

To demonstrate, we saw a public library that was housed in a former bank. They did their best to hide the fact that the library was once a bank. The library specialized interior designers said: "No Way!" And proceeded to make the 'bank' a motif. The open vault became the children's room. The drop ceiling was torn out to reveal beautiful semi-circular windows that brought natural light into the room. Chandeliers from the old bank were re-installed. The typical oak wood furniture was tossed out for sophisticated cherry. Office walls were torn out and glass installed. End result: 300% in library usage in the first month after the remodeling and that number has been steady.

Remember those windows they were hiding under the drop ceiling? The public loved them so much that the library turned them into the library logo. And that's what we call branding.

When we say a library must be user centered, we mean totally user centered. Small changes can make a big difference. Our basement student lounge needed a serious overhaul. A lick of paint, some posters from a previous exhibit, and some new tables and chairs recycled from elsewhere in the university and suddenly everyone is down there to snack and study. And it only took us 4 days: a day to paint, two to dry, and one to move the new stuff in.

It really works.



KidsClick! is a metacrawler designed by Ramapo Catskill Library System for kids to make surfing the net easy, relevant, and age appropriate.

KidsClick! doesn't block inappropriate sites.

It does rank age appropriate sites higher than inappropriate ones.

So how does this keep kids safe from the wrong websites? Psychology.

When searching the web, 90% and more of web searchers only use the results on the first search page for answers to their questions. Rarely does anyone go to the second page. Since Libraries cannot block mature sites, they use web crawlers that ranks sites for mature audiences lower than sites built for kids.

It's ingenious.


Airline Stupidity

Read this and jump back over.

Poor kid. He has none of the warning signals, just a book that, had it been stripped of its cover, would never have caused any alarm.

I totally understand wanting to be safe. What we have here is alarmist. When it became obvious that he was a kid going home to see his parents, they should have stopped the fuss.

God... Are we really this stupid?

Sun Salutation

Yes! Library Drones love yoga! We actually have physical fitness courses through the university for staff members on the go and yoga is one of them. I use the same Sun Salutation as Rachel Brice, since it helps me strengthen my muscles for belly dancing.

New to yoga? The Sun Salutation is a good place to start. Observe:


The Importance of 'Thank You'

You hear this occasionally from people and it sounds like wisdom, though it's terribly deterimental to any cause. Last night, while nursing my sick husband, I heard it again on a television show:

"Why should I thank you for doing your job?"

Why? Let's start with the obvious:

When someone does a good job, the best way to encourage them to do it again is to thank them. It doesn't matter if they are paid to do it or not, a simple thank you can mean the difference between a good job and a bad job in the future.

The biggest complaint among employees at any job is that the job is thankless. If you can change that with two simple words, why not? A fancy award ceremony months off means nothing next to a thank you that happens the moment it's needed.

And you never know when someone is going out of their way for you. That person on the other side of the counter may in fact be bending over backwards and doing hand stands for you. You just don't know. Say thank you.

When I worked a cushy job at a gift shop, I though the manager said thank you, the owner almost never did and tended to be sour. At the same time, I worked at a Wendy's where the owner (who literally made a million and more a year) worked the lunch and dinner rushes to help cover. She made a point of telling everyone thank you and made sure you knew your help was appreciated. I loved working there, as bad as food service can be, because I was thanked for my efforts.

I was sad the day I left, because a simple thank you is hard to come by in the 'real world.'

Thanking someone for a job well done can turn a bad day into a good one in seconds. And if everyone said thank you to another person at least once today, by the end of the day, we'd have a happier world.

So remember to thank the people around you. When your supervisor gives you hand, say thanks. When a subordinate leaves for the night, say thanks and tell them what a great job they've done. When a coworker does you a favor, thank them. When out to eat, don't just tip them and walk away, thank them verbally. When a loved one does something for you, even if it's only the smallest thing, say thank you.

It honestly does make a world of difference.

Self Checkout

A new round of sickness is making its way through the library, but it's actually a mutated strain of an older flu bug from january. Yuck. So between dropping like flies and staying home to take care of loved ones who dropped like flies, we've been pretty short. Thankfully, the weather's been nice, so everyone wants to be outside.

That makes this the perfect time to pimp out the self checkout machines.

Who wants to stand in line? No one. But most of our student population doesn't know that we even have a self checkout machine, let alone five of them.

The admin has given us these nice, bookmark sized, advertising flyers for the self checks, which are placed neatly around the desk. The only problem is that no one is picking them up.

If your in business, any kind of business, you know that this is bad advertising. And so we, the drones, are being much more agressive in our tactics. (After all, more self check use means less repetetive injuries for us!)

First, we've been sticking the bookmark/flyers into the backs of books as they are checked out.

Second, we've been reminding patrons stuck in line that the self checks are available.

Interestingly enough, we have met some resistance to the self checks. These are the three biggest issues:
  1. "I'm afraid I'll break it." - Well, that'd be a feat in itself. The self checks are immobile and pretty indestructible.
  2. "I never see anyone using them." - Of course not. That's how fast they are.
  3. "I believe people should do their jobs." - Well, I believe in not wasting money and the university pays out a nice chunk every year in workers compensation and physical therapy charges because of just such an elitist attitude. Where did your raise go? The left wrist is $60 a session and the right is $125 (it doesn't respond well to treatment).
Our self checks come from Libramation. Here's a pic of the model we chose.


The Beauty of Humanity

The search for "paint" in a world full of dollars.

How is this library related?

Simple. Libraries collect fines.

Sometimes, the bills have messages written on them.

Sometimes, we respond.


Gaming at the Libraries

Everyone knows I'm a gamer. Though a lot of libraries are experimenting with gaming on site, here's a library that is renting them out like books. They are also implementing their own system to help parent's choose appropriate titles for their children. They are also going to keep innapropriate games out of a minor's hands by not purchaing games rated M.

Smart cookies, ne?


PowerPoint not all that powerful after all

You know how you sit at a powerpoint presentation and afterward you felt like you learned something, but couldn't put it into practical use later? Yeah, apparently, we need to fix that.

The University of New South Wales did a study on how PowerPoint overloads our brains and makes learning new information difficult.

This spells bad news for library faculty and staff who love powerpoint. During our inservice day, the powerpoint was the all-mighty tool for teaching.

Powerpoint presents information to an audience while a presenter reads the information or repeats the info in a different way. End result? The audience has their attention split in two. They are trying to pay attention to the screen and the presenter at the same time which makes the learning even more difficult.

Effect use of a powerpoint involves having two or three important points on the screen while the presenter talks about them. This makes sense when you think about the program's name: PowerPoint. It's not meant to present vast quanities of information. The presenter is.

Instead, we often use Powerpoint as a crutch. We put everything we want to say on the presentation rather than having seperate notes. Instead of presenting, we end up reading aloud. Good for story time, but not when an audience is trying to pay attention to two things at once.


More Pet Peeves

The weather is getting nicer, which means that patrons are in more of a rush to get out into the sunlight. This also means that patrons are not paying attention to the signage.

Everyone hates standing in lines. We're always afraid that one line will move quicker than the other. To relieve that tension, we have one line to the desk with a BIG sign that says 'Please Enter Here.'

So what do they do? Enter the wrong way.

When its late in the evening and there isn't a line, it's no big deal. But, in the middle of the day, at our busiest, its a nightmare. The patrons will fight over who was there first and argue with staff.

Case in point: A patron was unable to find a book on the shelf. Instead of going to the help desk on that floor (which he had to walk by to leave the floor), he came all the way down stairs, and tried to cut in line by entering the wrong way. When told to enter the other direction, he argued that he was there first. The poor girl who'd been standing there for the past five minutes let him go first. After finding the book on the shelf (in exactly the right spot), I check it out to him.

He's still fuming about the entire situation when he leaves, which would have been avoided entirely if he'd slowed down, asked for help on the floor, and checked out at the self checkout station.



Stumble Stuffs!

Here's some of the cool stuff I recently found on Stumble Upon!

Unique, interchangable, plastic rings.

Extremely tiny knits.

Russian Greeting Card Maker
It is in Russian. Very intuitive and easy to figure out, but it did take me a few clicks to find the "Send" button.

Very cool desktop images that combine nature and abstract art.

Gummy Bear Chandalier
I kid you not. From Craftzine.

Born Talking
Interesting site about baby speech.

Drop Spots
An interesting community project treasure hunting site.

Megamouth Sharks

I love biology! Here's a well researched look at the Megamouth and a timeline of sitings/catchings.

Harry Potter Final Cover Revealed!


Sugar Bowl

I think I have to start a new feature called "Guess where I found a library book?"

Yeah, a sugar bowl.

Technically, a sugar basket and the sugar was packaged. But still...

What is wrong with our patrons?!


Catastrophic Disaster!

Well, the floor hasn't fallen in yet on the third floor of the west wing, but the shelving took a tumble. It seems that who ever installed the temporary shelving for our T collection didn't think bolting it into the floor was all that important. Several hundred pounds of books later, the entire thing collapsed into a twisted metal mess that resembled the lower intestine.

Thanks to the quick action of the collection maitenance staff, no one was injured and the books (about 2,500) were cleaned up in 24 hours. Rather than re-install a whole new set of temp shelving, we rolled out the Sampsons.

Sampsons are book trucks designed by our amazing collection maitenance staff and commissioned to a local book truck maker. They hold 280-300 books, move with the push of a finger when full, fold up when not in use, and make as much noise as a church mouse. They are freakin' amazing!

So now that they are temporarily keeping our T collection in order, we seem to be set until the construction on that floor is done.

Strange, but Very Relaxing

Sandcastles Exploding in Reverse Part 1

Sandcastles Exploding in Reverse Part 2


MIT Webinar

MIT hosted a great little webinar about using, not just library space, but all space around the campus as learning centers. Here are the interesting concepts they've been applying to their campus:
  • Campus wide Wifi - Okay, we all know wireless is important, but MIT tracks where it is most used all day everyday to ensure that those spaces get prime attention for informal learning spaces. Check it out at iSpot.
  • Classroom porch - This is an area immediately adjacent to formal classrooms where students can meet faculty for office hours right after a class, thus eliminating the "scary office" meetings.
  • Seredipitous Seating - This concept follows the Wifi. Students need places to park their butts and work on papers with laptops and other wireless devices. Serendipitous seating means a wide range of chairs and benches matching the immediate surrounding that invites a student to park and work. Wide planters, counter tops, and low rise walls become a part of the seating arrangement. Seating is also put into human traffic flow areas to give students more places to sit that are near walkways, cafes, restrooms, and classrooms.
  • Coffee shop enabled - Students tend to be highly caffinated. Mobile coffee shops are used to help a student settle in an area.
  • Balance formal and informal use - A room with three massive TVs is used for a seminar at 3pm and a Halo tournament at 6.
  • Augmented reality - Today's students want the technology as their environment, hence the wifi. But this also bleeds over into virtual world interection (instant messenger/Second Life), classroom uses (touch boards), and experimental learning tools.
So how do we take all this and use it in the library?
  • Install WiFi. (Done and Done.)
  • Install a wide variety of seating and make it appropriate to the area. Put comfy seating in front of windows for lounging. Put hard chairs at tables and desks. Arrange space around plants and artwork that qualify as areas to plant your butt. Put unusual seeting choices in high traffic areas to invite students to sit for a spell.
  • Advertise unused space in the library (such as auditoriums and assembly rooms) for student use, especially student club and group use.
  • Since our classroom space is not conducive to it, install a "Library Porch" for faculty to hold office hours here and away from the 'scary office.'
  • We have a coffee shop, but better signage explaining food policies would help us a great deal. Due to rodent and insect problems, we can only have food in designated places. A coffee area and staff that serve as well as enforce the food rules would help us a great deal.
  • Open up 'closed' spaces. The entrance to the central stacks is hidden behind a display wall. Take away the wall.
  • Add new technologies and new technology hook ups for powering and use.


Google and the Libraries

We are noticing a terrible trend in the library. Here we are, the paragons of research!

And students are googling everything.

Even with the large amount of dubious research just lying about on the internet, students would rather use google than take a quick walk over to the library to get the real scoop.

The Business Library alone spends $7 million a year to get the best information, journals, and resources for our patrons. And that doesn't count the amount spent on physical books.

When we ask a student how much they spent on a Google search, they say, "Nothing."

Well, You get what you pay for.

Though student tuition does NOT pay for any part of the library, the money spent is to make the resource available to you.

So what would you rather have? A free google search that get's you a hundred different answers to one question. Or $7 million spent on getting you the right answer?

If you chose google, you don't deserve to be in college.

Why Don't Our Students Think?

That's the title of a presentation one of our research librarian candidates is giving. I'm sad that I'll miss the presentation, but I can the answer to the question:

Age of Entitlement

There are two distinct and separate types of individuals in Generation Y, and each are a reflection of who they were raised by. Roughly half of Generation Y was raised by their grandparents: the Greatest Generation and the oldest of the Boomers. They're hard workers, but they only work to fund their adventures outside the office. The other half were raised by mostly absent parents, the kind who were too busy with work to be with their children and substituted siblings and emotional support with expensive gifts. They believe everything will be given to them without their even asking for it.

The end result is two extremes in one generation. Even though I can honestly say that half of the people I deal with everyday in the library are hard working and diligent, my human brain only really remembers the half that refuses to even check their email let alone do their own work. This is not helped by the massive amount of staff and faculty who, because they work for a large university, have their own sense of entitlement as well.

This sense of entitlement has led to functional illiteracy. Half a generation of kids know how to read, but refuse to. A sign that says 'Enter Here.' An email subject line that says 'Library Notice.' A map that says 'You Are Here.' All of these are ignored. They expect someone to tell them what to do at all times without even asking for help.

This has led to a new customer service paradigm where we treat the customer like a child, because emotionally and intellectually, they are children. We ask if they need a hand and we never, ever ask them if they need help.

Try this. Ask a student if they need help. The answer is no. But if someone else asks the same person if they need a hand, they will say yes.

Getting a hand means that subordinate person is being of assistance. Getting help means that they are incapable of doing soemthing on their own and is an insult to their intelligence.

It doesn't take a PhD in psychology to understand that this is a major problem and one that leads to bullying.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that catering to these students will cause major problems in the future, especially for libraries. Half of a generation, with an over inflated sense of entitlement demand services that suck library resources dry and leave us without future donors.

What we need to do is switch gears. Don't cater to these kids. They aren't going to be future donors. We need to cater to the other half of the generation, the ones who do the work. They will be our future donors. They are the ones who we need to leave big impressions on so that they look back to us later in life and give us the funds we need to run.


Drunk Squirrel

If you work for a university, the squirrels are a source of endless amusemest... Especially when they go after a student with food!

Here's a drunk squirrel.

I kid you not.


Condoms Cause Cancer

Condom companies have known this for years. You should too.

Condoms Cause Cancer.


Holy Crap Mother!

Here is the answer we've been waiting for in computing technology. How do we build a truly interactive kiosk from which our patrons can find what they need?

With this.

All hail technology!


Pet Peeves

One of the biggest problems we have at the library is addresses. Not that the students don't know where they live. They do. They just don't know their address.

For some reason, the students think that the name of their apartment building IS their address.

"I live at 123 Regency Square."
"I live at 123 Meridian."
"I live at 123 Greenleaf Manor."
"I live at 123 Holly House."
"I live at 123 Marion's Place."

Well, they don't say the last one. Marion's Place is 'I make a hundred thousand a year' apartments.

Each of these places has a street address, but the students often don't know what that address is and in most cases they don't care. To counter act this negligence, we have a list of all the apartment buildings and town houses in the area with the correct street address and zip code. The zip code is necessary because most of them couldn't tell you their zip code either. That's not their fault though, zip codes around here are confusing.

But that's no excuse for not knowing your street address. Some of them are surprised to find out they have a street address at all.

What is up with that?


Snow Days

Last week saw some snow major enough to shut us down on Valentine's Day.

Mind you, the library opened back up at 5pm. This is one of the very not cool things that have been happening in university libraries across the nation. During bad weather conditions, a previously shut down library will reopen because 'the students can walk there.' The staff needed to run the building, cannot get there because weather conditions are still too dangerous, but don't have a choice or they waste vacation time that those higher up the totem pole get in oodles and don't have to spend anyway.

Beware the library policy that says the they will reopen in bad weather!

So how many students showed up that night? Lots. Remember, it was Valentine's Day. Polling the students (which we did), we found that 14 out of every 15 people were kicked out of their dorms, apartments, houses, and homes by roommates looking to 'get it on.' *shudder* At least these poor students got some sleep in the quiet stacks.

The one out of fifteen who was there to study were, you guessed it, international grad students. The international grad student is a lonely creature. Despite the hundreds of programs to get them involved with groups and other internationals on campus, these programs often fail. These students are often kicked out on the street during dorm closures on holidays because they can't go home and they have no one to stay with. These people spend most of their waking moments in the library, their home away from home. When the library closes at Christmas every year, these students will break down and cry over the phone to us. Rather than take a look at the flyer offering free food and fellowship with tons of campus and off campus groups and clubs, they will trudge to the library and sit inside the vestibule until we open. Some of them will try to rush the doors as staff enter to go to work before the building opens.


Here are some staff photos, some of them really good, from the snow fall.


Video on Demand at the Library

No, we don't have it at Penn State.

But it is a budding service offered by a few public libraries. Recorded Books and PermissionTV are the sponsors, and though the current selection leaves something to be desired, they are making some big promises about future availability.

Half Hollow Hills Community Library is one of the early adopters of the program. They posted about it on their library blog.

The premise is simple, offer movies and TV shows to the public using technology similar to Wal-Mart's downloadable movie service. Though Wal-Mart made their service to compete with NetFlix, copy cat services for libraries will be a boon to library users everywhere.

Library Gauntlets

What's the biggest complaint among library drones?


Often, preservation of materials requires a low temperature to keep condensation from forming and mold from growing. It also keeps acid filled brittle paper from falling apart. To help us keep warm in cold library buildings, we wear layers (even in summer) and keep a healthy supply of shawls, scarves, and sweaters on hand. Library people tend to be crafty people and most of our layers are hand made. Here's a simple crochet gauntlet pattern to keep hands warm and fingers free to type. It uses thick yarn and whips up fast.

Library Gauntlets

2 balls of Swerve by Moda Dea (one for each gauntlet)
1 size P - 16 hook (or size needed to obtain gauge)

This pattern is worked vertically. Add to the number of chains to make the gauntlets longer.

Chain 14, sc in second chain from hook and sc in each chain to the end. (12 sc plus 1 chain = 13sc)

Row 1: ch 1, turn, sc in front loop of second st and each stitch to end. (WS)
Row 2: ch 1, turn, sc in back loop of second st and each stitch to end. (RS)
Row 3: repeat row 1
Row 4: repeat row 2, ch 5, turn
Row 5: sc in second ch from hook, sc to end in front loop
Row 6: repeat row 2
Row 7: repeat row 1
Row 8: repeat row 2
Row 9: repeat row 1
Row 10: repeat row 2
Row 11: repeat row 1
Row 12: repeat row 2
Row 13: repeat row 1
Row 14: repeat row 2

Right sides facing, slip stich four times down the fingers.
Bring the thumb edge over and slip stitch that edge together (13 slip stitches).
Weave in ends.
Turn inside out.

For smaller hands, drop row 14.
For a medium sized brace add one row: repeat row one.
For a large sized brace add two rows: repeat row one and then two.


Squirrels + College Students = Dumb College Students

Campus Sqirrel Goes Nutty for Food

A perrenial problem on campus is the still wild, yet hand fed squirrel who will come after you if they get a whiff of food. I had a squirrel leap off the ground and go for the sub in a plastic bag I was carrying. A squirrel crawled up a coworkers leg while she talked to a friend, going for the food in her back pack. They are aggressive when hungry, and especially aggressive on campuses where students will toss them food constantly.

Sitting there when an aggressive squirrel is going after your food is just dumb.

Don't say to yourself, "That doesn't happen everyday." Get up and GO! A squirrel brave enough to crawl up on you is not to worried about you hurting him. Get away quickly. Or end up like the poor girl in the article: getting rabies shots.


So You Wanna Work in a Library?

A few days ago, I hosted one of my little sister's friends for a job shadow. Originally, a job shadow was easy: you followed the person you shadowed around all day and watched what they did. Now, job shadowing is a more complicated affair with forms to be filed and time requirements fulfilled.

One part of the form asked the shadowee to identify the education and experience needed to work in a library. So you wanna work in a library? This is how:

First, volunteer at your local library. This a major step to getting your foot in the door later. As a volunteer, you will learn about basic library processes and call number systems. If you apply yourself, you'll get to help out with larger programs, giving you even more experience.

Second, decide what you want to do in a library. Specific jobs in a library require different types of education and experience. Here is a list of the jobs to be found in libraries and the education/experience needed to get them.  Keep in mind, some of these jobs will change in scope depending on whether or not you work in a public or private library.

Library Technician and Library Asisstant
  • Description: handles the day to day tasks of running a library: check out, discharge, patron account handling, fine collection, sorting, filing, shelving, processing, and special projects
  • Requires: keyboarding skills, researching skills, a second language, and HTML
  • Education: bachelor's degree (any liberal arts) or equivalent experience
  • Description: enters bibliography information for books into the library cataloging system
  • Requires: keyboarding skills, multi-lingual
  • Education: bachelor's degree (any special research topic or library science)
Library Specialist (an advanced version of Library Assistant)
  • Description: full on, single project specialist.  All LA's have one very specific job though it might not be what they do all day.
  • Requires: keyboarding skills, massive writing skills, and awesome sauce customer service skills
  • Education: bachelor's degree or master's (library science preferred) or previous experience as a library technician
  • Description: run day to day business of a library
  • Requires: management skills
  • Education: Master of Library Science (MLS)
  • Quick Note: once you have an MLS, you are a librarian, regardless of job title.
Research Librarian

  • Description: assist students, staff, and faculty in their research, head large special projects, write research papers, handle grants and fund raising, teach classes
  • Requires: management skills, heavy research skills, interpersonal skills, and teaching skills
  • Education: MLS and a masters in another field
Library Supervisor
  • Description: over sees the work of a specific library unit
  • Requires: Management skills, keyboarding skills
  • Education: bachelor's degree
Library Manager or Specialist
  • Description: over sees the work of several similar library units
  • Requires: Management skills, keyboarding skills
  • Education: bachelor's degree
    Department Head
    • Description: over see the work of several library units that work together, teach classes
    • Requires: Management skills, interpersonal skills, networking skills, and teaching skills
    • Education: bachelor's degree at least, some positions require an MLS
    Preservationist/Preservation Specialist
    • Description: preservation of library materials
    • Requires: heavy technical skills
    • Education: bachelor's degree or more in preservation, fine arts, history, architecture, etc.
    Scanning Technician (a.k.a. Scanner Monkey)
    • Description: digitally preserve library materials
    • Requires: heavy computer skills
    • Education: bachelor's degree and serious computing experience
    • Description: collection and preservation of artifacts the library collects
    • Requires: book keeping and preservation skills
    • Education: master's degree or doctorate depending on specific position
    • Description: running a large library system, teaching classes, fund raising.  LOTS of fund raising.
    • Requires: years of library experience
    • Education: doctorate in library science at least
    I'm sure you noticed that a great deal of the positions require advanced degrees in Library Science. This is changing. Many people with technical skills and degrees in technology based programs (such as computer and information science) are making their way into the library. In recent ALA and other library conferences it has been noted that as computers take the place of paper, an MLS will no longer be required to become a librarian. This is reflected in many universities where the Deans of the Libraries, while having the work experience, are becoming far more diverse in educational background.


    Card on the War

    I don't normally listen to my favorite authors (or actors or musicians) speak out about politics, and for good reason. It's often not their particular forte, hence they are writers.

    Orson Scott Card, on the other hand, will get my attention and make me think twice about anything. Here's his article for The Ornery American on the Crisis of the Islamo-Fascist War.


    Over Population Myth

    I hear this so often that it makes me want to pull my hair out.

    Room for More: Population is Declining

    So many morons have us convinced that the Earth will die under the weight of humanity.

    The truth is, there isn't enough of us to support our ageing population. The real horror, isn't an overpopulated Earth. It is millions of people whose lives have been extended by modern medicine without descendants to help care for them, or even keep them company in their old age. The bulk of Baby Boomers and most of Generation X will grow old without family.

    Take a moment and think of all the people you know who said they will not have children or have actively eliminated children from their lives (through contraception and abortion). Who will look after them when they are older? If Social Security fails, which it surely will, how will they survive? They will outlive their retirement savings.

    Of course, by that time, they Culture of Death will have caught up with them and they'll probably be euthanized. After pushing so hard to be rid of the responsibilities associated with children, they also push to be rid of the responsibilities associated with helping their parents. If they're lucky, Generation Y, who by and large seem to be wise in the way of the world (most of them having been raised by the Veteran Generation or the earliest Boomers) may put a stop to that.

    Provided that their are enough of them to do so.


    It's Not All Bad

    At libraries, especially big, academic and research libraries, we all have the same problem: patrons who, on their own, over burden the entire system. We do everything we can to discourage them, but it never really works.

    Sometimes, they do recognize our hard work. Here's a list of things given to us:

    Home made Cookies
    Sticky Buns
    Cinnamon Rolls
    Wine (really good, expensive wine)
    A Cappuccino Machine (yes, a real, honest to goodness cappuccino machine)
    a thank you card

    The thank you card was last, but certainly not least. Saying thanks goes a long way. Even with all the other things we got and enjoyed, it was the thank you card that made it into the staff newsletter (with pictures) to be circulated far and wide.

    The next time you are at the library, let the people behind the desk know you appreciate them.

    Crazy Awesome Sculptures!

    Hub Cap Creatures!


    Comic Books and Libraries

    Our Diversity Studies Room has a new exhibit: Graphic Novels: Comics as Art, History, and Literature. As always, we have a note book there for guests to comment. What was the first comment?

    Are comics really an appropriate exhibit?


    They are.

    As an avid comic book reader, I have had the pleasure of reading some of the most insightful, beautiful, and poetic works of fiction (and non-fiction) the world has ever seen. I'll pick three comics displayed in the exhibit and tell you why they are so important. I'll start with:

    1. Watchmen by Alan Moore

    Set in 1985, Watchmen follows the lives of costumed superheroes around the mysterious murder of one of their own while the United States edges closer and closer to nuclear war with the Soviets.

    Heavy symbolism, multi-layered dialogue, and innovative adaptation of cinematic techniques to paper make Watchmen not to be missed and not to be left where the kids can find it.

    Here's an online annotated guide to this grand work of Moore's.

    2. Sin City by Frank Miller

    Sin City is a series of stories done in film noir style. Sin City is the nick name of Basin City, a town so rife with crime that the police are little more than SWAT units. The stories revolve around the police force, it's heavy corruption, and the various locales within the city proper.

    Each story builds upon the from the last, often in subtle ways that reveal their depth later on. Winner of the Harvey and Eisner awards, Sin City is a great read. But, again, not one for the kiddies.

    3. MAUS by Art Spiegelman

    We call this "Required Reading" at Penn State. In MAUS, Spiegelman recounts the tale of his father, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. In MAUS, we watch Art's father, Vladek, through his trials in the camps, become the type of person that the Nazi's said Jews were: stingy and difficult. The story deals with those who lived through the Holocaust and those who can never escape it's deadly grasp.

    Unlike the two above, let your kids read this one. In fact, buy copies for everyone you know.

    In 1992, MAUS won the Pulitzer. 'Nuff said.

    These are just three of the great comics that appear in the exhibit. Here are a few of my favorites (besides MAUS).

    Death: the high cost of living by Neil Gaiman

    Death, once every 100 years, must take on a human persona and live like a human being for a day so as understand the people she takes to the afterlife. Loving, perky, and attractive, Gaiman's take on the actual person of Death has become a staple in comic bookdom, appearing as a cameo everywhere.

    Appropriate for the kiddies, Death: the high cost of living won the 1992 Comic Buyer's Guide Award.

    Kabuki: Circle of Blood

    Going round and round, Kabuki: Circle of Blood raises the circle to it's own mythic form. From the circular scythes the anti-hero uses to the circular dialogue and plot, Kabuki: Circle of Blood is one of my favorite reads.

    The series follows a government backed assassin as she navigates her memories, dreams, nightmares, thoughts, reminiscence, and philosophy in a search for identity. Not for the kids.

    Sandman: The Dream Hunters

    A curious tale of love, The Dream Hunters follows a kitsune (fox spirit) and a Buddhist monk who travel into the realm of the King of All Night's Dreaming to find each other. Layered with meaning and illustrated in dream like quality by the fantastic Yoshitaka Amano, this is a must read for everyone and a good bed time story for adults.

    Too many people think of comics as something for children with no menaing for adults. Comics, in their original form, were never meant for children. Even today, parents would be shocked by the content in most comics. Lenore, Strangers in Paradise, Milk and Cheese, and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac are not for children, but entries such as Bone are comics the family can enjoy together.

    Comics have gotten shafted for too long due to public ridicule. Bring on the comics!

    More good comics:
    Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
    V for Vendetta
    Fruits Basket

    Librarians Love the Onion!

    Headline of the Day!


    In Service: Clever? Sly? Crafty!

    This was less of a class and more of a whole lot of networking. All of us library crafters got together and showed off our stuff. The Pink Orchid Invitations link to the side is the sight of one of the many crafters in the library.

    Two of the women showed off stamping. Several showed off scrap booking, cropping, altered books, and artists trading cards. Some of us came in wearing our creations: crocheted and knitted sweaters, scarves, and hats. Some of us made jewelry and some of us sewed.

    The sum total of the whole thing was that we got to meet other crafters and network our abilities.

    See? We do more than just read books.

    In Service Day: Remove the Barriers

    My first actual class at the In Service (having taught one during the first session) was Remove the Barriers with Susan. Susan works with all of our disabled patrons so that they have equal access to all the materials at the library. Her presentation showed us the many technologies used in the Disabilities Center.

    She started with a few stories to illustrate that not all of her patrons are physically challenged. Some have learning disabilities and need special tutoring. Some have psychological handicaps that prevent them from attaining everything they need at the library. Some of them simply have a few vision problems and need help seeing their books.

    Dealing with such a wide range of individuals results in the use of a myriad of high and low tech approaches to help the patron.

    Susan started with the low tech equipment. She had VERY large ruled paper, magnifiers, a Braille machine, and a cue recorder.

    Braille machines cost an average of $600. They aren't used very often in the Disabilities Center because our older patrons with sight impairment prefer the high tech approach. Assignments and syllabi are often typed on the Braille Machine. Books are just too big for Susan to handle, but if it is absolutely required, there are prisons in the Midwest where the inmates are trained in Braille and are able to produce entire books for small fees.

    The cue recorders are one of the two ways that sight impaired patrons read books without Braille. It is simply a tape recorder that allows our volunteers to add paragraph and page cues to a document they are reading aloud. Sight impaired patrons can then go back and forth in a document to find exactly what they need quickly and easily.

    Susan also showed us tables that move up and down at the touch of a button. This may not sound like much, but when you have hundreds of different sizes, shapes, and styles of wheelchairs, scooters, and regular chairs, moving tables help a lot.

    The first of the high tech approaches to helping the disabled is the Kurzweil 3000, produced by Kurzweil Educational Systems. The Kurzweil 3000 is a program that scans an entire book. It then reads the book aloud while highlighting the words. This not only helps our sight impaired patrons, but our patrons with ADHD love it. It keeps their attention trained solely on the book. You can change the speed and highlighting effect to match your own preferences. Susan told us of a student that is sight impaired, but able to listen to the Kurzweil program at speeds so high that it sounds like jibberish to her. The only draw back to Kurzweil is that it can only read Kurzweil files.

    The second high tech, and very ergonomic, approach to equal access is the Maltron equipment. We have a Maltron Left hand key board that allows our patrons with missing or disabled right hands to type one handed. Patrons who need to use this keyboard are trained in the Malt Method and taught key commands for a regular keyboard as well.

    Jaws 6.0 provides web access to the blind. It reads everything on the screen aloud and accesses everything through keystrokes on a normal keyboard. Our tech staff like to come into the Disabilities Center and double check the accessibility of their websites by testing them on Jaws.

    Zoom Text is another program that helps the sight impaired. It changes the magnification of the screen and reads aloud.

    The Clearview 500 is a closed circuit TV that enlarges the text on books, maps, and other material placed under it's scanner.

    We also have a tactile enhancer that allows the blind to read graphs and 'see' pictures.

    Susan also told us about the digital cameras some of our students use that allow them to see the black board up close, even from the back of a class room.

    These are the things we use to help out patrons get equal access to the libraries.


    In Service!

    Today is our In Service day at the library. I'll post on the different classes I attended (and taught) later today and tomorrow. But for your reading enjoyment:

    Checked Out by John J. Miller

    In this article, Miller questions the role of libraries in today's easy access world to inexpensive books and how it is changing the way we read.