Interpol-biometric-1The plastic library card is a dinosaur. It needs to go. It’s an embarrassing relic of what-we’ve-always-done. Nostalgia aside (that took me a second), I look forward to the day when libraries join the rest of the world, get rid of the card, and move towards a username/password system (or something better).

Let me go out on a limb here: nobody wants another plastic card in their wallet or purse or hanging from their keys: another thing to remember, another thing to lose, another thing to clutter our end tables. From a customer service perspective, the library card has no benefits whatsoever. But it does have an array of annoying features. First, it’s not important enough to remember. Let’s drink a tall glass of humility on this. People care about their Driver License, their credit cards, and that’s about it. I’ll speak for myself: all I want in my perfect minimalist wallet is one credit card, one debit card, a driver license, and some money. Even for someone on the inside, a librarian who goes to the library every single day, having a library card is not a priority that deserves real estate in my wallet (I memorized my number).

Working at a library, I see this all the time. People don’t remember their library card. When helping people over the phone, people don’t have their library card on hand (“Can I have your library card number please?” “Oh, shoot, let me go find it,” they say). Hint, hint: they don’t care. Second, it comes with a stupid, outdated, lengthy number on it – a 13 digit library card number. Mine is 120242015…oh, never mind. The number is so long it gets printed with spaces between it, so it’s easier to read!

But it gets worse. Not only is a 13-digit number holding us back from accessing our account, but a 4-digit “PIN” too. What? Are you serious? As in… “personal identification number?” Is this an ATM machine (pun intended)? Not surprising, we have to explain to grown adult people every single day what “PIN” means (turns out, it actually means ‘the last 4 digits of your phone number’….what? OMG. LOL).

Hypothesis: a lot of people use libraries when they need to, at certain points in their life, in stages, not all the time, like the local grocery store. Not everyone is a lifelong power user. The library card, therefore, is dispensable, disposable, and short lived. John needs to print something. He thinks: the library has computers! He goes to the library. The library puts him through the ceremony that is getting a library card (proof of address? ID? email? phone number? preferred way to contact you?). He’s getting annoyed. He prints his resume and visits the library in 5 years. Yet even if people consistently used the library for several years (which they might), the library card still has no place or relevance.

One Problem with My Argument – the Barcode

When I said the library card has “no benefits whatsoever,” I lied. It has one. Libraries like mine have self-checkout machines, which are tied to barcode scanners, which allows you to enter the 13 digit number by scanning the card itself. That saves time, assuming you have your stupid card with you to begin with. In fact, different library technologies are in bed with the barcode (we have a mobile app that saves your barcode, for example). With a username or email, on the other hand, we would need a different solution.

Finger Scan to Check Out Library Books? Yes, Please.

Call me naive, but I think biometric technology should seriously considered for checking out materials (and getting on a public computer). Scan your finger, check out, and go – fast, easy, convenient. The technology is here, cheap, and….creepy? Maybe.

Maybe not. A word about privacy. For some this brings to mind dystopian sci fi movies. Calm down. First, biometic technology doesn’t really scan your finger print, like the police would do. It’s not a scan. It takes certain measurements of your fingerprint and converts them into numbers, which distinguish you from another library member. Second, and most importantly, the library protects your privacy more than anyone. We are not some greedy corporation. Not only do libraries actually care about your privacy, we have to. According to the Library Privacy Act, we cannot give out patron information unless the police has a warrant for it (and I wonder if that ever happens). Third, this would be an optional service, patrons could opt-in. Do you want to check out items faster? Yes? Then give us your finger. No? Okay fine, use the old way weirdo.

Email Etiquette

kathrynabergeron —  July 25, 2017 — 1 Comment

iStock_000003795732_crop380wI struggle a lot with writing emails. My emails are too long; I cc: too many people; and it is too hard to figure out what the point of the email is.

Recently, to combat that, I’ve been drafting my emails and editing them later before I send them. This is a little bit like my theory for essays when I was college freshman except I’m not finishing the emails at 4:30 am and proofreading them in 5 minutes before I leave for my 9 am class.

What am I trying to fix in those emails? I’m taking my advice from the Harvard Business Review’s website, and I think that you should, too: How to Make Sure Your Emails Give the Right Impression by Shani Harmon

internship-imageOne of my very favorite parts of my job is working with Interns. My library employs three Library Science students as Interns. They work both independently and jointly at the Reference, Readers Advisory, and Youth services desks, and they participate in a variety of projects around the library. For example, they create displays, participate in outreach like school visits, help plan summer reading programs, teach computer classes, lead story times, and a pretty much anything else that interests them.

Interns report to me, the Head of Adult Services, as well as the Head of Youth Services. We manage their schedules and projects and make sure they are offered a variety of opportunities throughout their internship. That said, it is everyone’s job to mentor the Interns. The Librarians work with them at the service desks, share tips, techniques, and advice, and even turn over full projects to Interns. It is beneficial to both the Interns, who get to experience a wide variety of library services and programs as an employee and to the Librarians, who get the fresh perspectives and infectious enthusiasm of new professionals.

When projects are turned over to Interns, we let them make decisions with enough guidance so that they can be successful and also uphold the library’s standards. They often observe computer classes and other events before they lead them, talk about collection philosophy before making weeding and selection decisions, and look at bulletin boards and displays before creating them. We give them all the tools available and then let them run with their ideas. We genuinely want them to be successful, and of course, we want the library to be successful, so we share our experience and knowledge with them without holding back their creativity.

This is often Interns’ very first library job, so we do our best to minimize the fallout of hellomynameistheir failures. They will fail in all the ways Mary mentions in her post Everyone Needs a Librarian in Their Corner, so it is up to us to make sure that those failures are not because we didn’t warn them or stop them from making a mistake we saw coming. Part of the lesson is that “you win some, you lose some” and it is ok to fail. Failure, where Interns are concerned, usually comes in the form of no attendance at a program they planned, a patron asking for a book they weeded right after they weeded it, a typo on a bookmark, or an awkwardly-presented storytime or computer class. (In other words, the same things that we all fail at from time to time!)

Being an Intern is as much about learning to do the job of a professional Librarian as it is about learning to be a good employee. We teach them the importance of showing up to work on time, thorough communication, and asking for help when help is needed. They are never treated as “minions” or “lackeys.” They are our future colleagues, and we respect their input and appreciate their drive. We provide them with as many learning opportunities as possible, and we also provide moral support for both their graduate studies in library science and the projects they take on at our library. There is no “us and them” between the professional staff and the Interns – they are “us!”

We provide them with networking opportunities as well. They are encouraged to attend conferences, workshops, webinars, staff in-services, and cooperative level meetings. When they go into the library world for their first professional job after their Internship, they will have already been introduced to our colleagues and shown an interest in an area of specialty. Internally, too – anything they see happening at the library that they want to get involved with is fair game, no matter what department it comes from. Any idea they have for something new will be considered the same way any new service, program, or collection is considered from other staff. We hope that they will form relationships with staff members across departments to become well-rounded professionals when they finish their internship.

It is crucial that we spend time supporting and mentoring the next generation of professionals. Our library is fortunate to be in a position where we can pay for three student Internships at any given time. We are honored to give back to the profession! Interns bring so much to us, keeping us updated in trends in librarianship that are being taught in library schools, inspiring us to do our very best work as good role models, and just generally being helpful.

pile-of-booksLibraries have different ways of dealing with extra copies. After these books are 6-8 months old, they’re ready to retire to the regular stacks. But how many copies should we hold on to? And for how long? At our library, we keep two copies and hold onto them until they get weeded (which means no checkouts in 4 years). So, browsing through our regular stacks, it’s hard not to notice the many copies of older Patterson’s, and Baldacci’s, and [any popular author we get more than two copies of]. Many are newer, but many are old – really old. Like over 10 years old. Do we really need two copies of a Patterson novel from 2002? That’s a lot of real estate, after all.

Turns out, yes.

Focusing on our Central (downtown) Branch, I recently ran an experiment in CollectionHQ tracking the performance of (a) books we had two copies of and (b) that were at least 10 years old. I scanned a large sample of these books into one experiment, a total of 281 books – from Child to Connelly, Cussler, Evononvich, Kingsbury, Koontz, Macomber, Patterson…you get the idea.

And then I waited.

In four months, 102 of those books had circulated (35%). Not bad. In six months, 129 had circulated (46%). That’s a lot, and doesn’t count renewals, which accounted for 291 circulations. And in many cases, both older copies were checked out (not just one of them).

Don’t sleep on your older but popular authors.

This Library Lost & Found series dissects job ads for library leadership positions. We analyze library job postings from the perspective of building your career. We’re also interested in how to write a great job description that will attract the best candidates.

The Story Center Director – you guessed it – directs the Story Center at MCPL, supporting digital, oral and written storytelling for Kansas City and beyond.

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