Archives For circulation

Displays, man. I love em’. I just came back from Portland, where I drank IPAs and visited Powell’s City of Books, the largest Independent bookstore in America. My takeaway from Powell’s was not how many books they have, but how many displays they have. They have a ton. Not only in the main areas, but even in the back areas. Almost every large bookshelf had physical displays on the endcaps, whether it be “featured” of “staff picks” or whatever. I would have appreciated them more if my 3-year-old son wasn’t having a fit, but that’s another story.

Working on the Reference Desk, we’ve all gotten this phone call: “I heard this book on NPR…forgot the title…it was about housing in America…” Now I’ve talked about my book display philosophy elsewhere, but I had a sneaking suspicion that a permanent NPR book display would do very well at my library. So, although these displays are a lot of work on the front end –  build the table, create the location, find the books, add the stickers – I gave it a try.

NPR book display

I was right.

Four months ago, I placed 48 books on the display and began tracking them via CollectionHQ “Experimental Placement”. Four months later, those 48 books have generated 323 circulations (including renewals), which is as successful as any display we’ve ever done. But that number – 323 circs – is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve added several books since then, feeding it like a bonfire really. Today, although the physical display only holds about 50 books at a time, there are currently 265 NPR books in our system, 210 of which are checked out, generating circs and renewals as we speak. That means 79% of that collection is checked out, which probably means the turnover rate (circ/books) is insane (well over 6, according to the experiment). As a comparison, our other highest performing collection is the “New Books” section, which has 50% checked out at any given time. Urban Fiction and Graphic Novels are around 25%.

People love popular displays, but they also love carefully curated and interesting displays. People want recommendations from people they trust. Librarians, for example. That’s why “Staff Picks” are a slam dunk and that’s why our Library Reads display is popular. NPR is essentially the same concept – expert picks from author interviews that make the books come to life. Indeed, my personal reading list has expanded!

Logistical FAQs
What does the catalog say for these books? “On NPR Display”. In our ILS, we give them a special location, so everyone knows where they are – especially for patrons. It’s work, but I think it’s worth it.

How do shelvers know where to put them? The ILS says “DISPLAYNPR,” but we also put a small sticker on the spine. The sticker tells the shelver what display it goes on. There are alternative ways to do that.

How do you get the list of NPR books? RSS feed that goes into my Outlook mail every day, into a special folder actually. See NPR’s books site. Tracking the books down is a bit of work, no doubt. Sometimes they are in Cataloging, On Order, checked out, or in the stacks. Luckily, I can do most of this remotely, from my desk.

What happens when the display gets too full? This happens, but not as frequently as you might think.



graphic of library shelves with text "a day in the library life."My mom has no idea what I do all day at work.

It’s not her fault. My job is unique to libraries. As the head of access and public services at an academic library, talking about my work gets quirked eyebrows and, “Access services – what’s that?” from  family members.

Even within the library community, jobs with the same title vary from library to library.

Even my job is different every day. My role is to coordinate circulation, interlibrary loan, reserves, and basic information help at a combined service point in the library. A day can bring anything from sticky customer service situations to long-term strategic planning.

The mystery and changeability is common to a lot of people in library leadership. I’m so curious about what’s happening today for a small town library director, a director of development for a metropolitan library, or a library user experience director. Like my mom, I want to know what everyone does all day!

So here’s the first in a new Library Lost & Found series: Day in the Library Life. I’ll tell you what I did today at my library. Want to contribute a day in your library life? Drop us a line.

8:30 a.m.

Arrive at the library and try to figure out where to temporarily store an AV cart with VHS conversion equipment, which had to come out of deep storage because of our renovation. Start drinking coffee.

9:00 a.m.

Head to the conference room to conduct a mock interview with colleagues for one of our graduate assistants, who has a real interview lined up for a professional gig. We ask just four questions and then give some feedback. She nailed it!

10:00 a.m.

Go around the corner to the library classroom for a meeting with my fellow department heads and our associate director. We talk about a hiring plan and creating departmental goals that align with the future scenario plan we developed collaboratively this summer. I take notes in our shared agenda.

11:00 a.m.

Scoot to our public service desk for my shift. We provide circulation, basic reference, and technology help at a single service point, so an hour on the desk goes by quickly. My favorite reference question this hour is about finding books with realistic pictures of birds for an art student.

12:00 p.m.

photo of librarian using a computer at a study tableI like food. Food tastes good. I eat lunch at my desk while checking emails from the morning.

12:30 p.m.

Gather the equipment for beta user testing of our newly redesigned library resources log in screen. We want to make sure it works well before rolling it out next semester, so we’re asking users to try it out and give us feedback. They’re willing to give the two minutes as long as they get good snacks out of the deal.

2:00 p.m.

Our monthly library faculty meeting has a packed agenda and goes by Robert’s Rules. We had a great opportunity to discuss: how to spend professional development funds awarded to the library.

3:30 p.m.

Address my email inbox. Total stats for the day: 33 emails received, 12 emails sent.

4:00 p.m.

Weekly one-on-one with my boss. I ask her about how to prioritize professional development opportunities for my staff, update her on next steps for a collaborative, cross-departmental reference service modeling exercise, and talk about scheduling visits to other libraries in the area.

4:30 p.m.

More emails! We’re seeing some challenges with construction blocking the entrance, so I ask my access services staff to be on the lookout for any issues.

5:00 p.m.

Head to the bus stop only to see the bus pulling away as I round the corner. I grab a table at a coffeeshop across the street and get cozy with a coconut mocha before editing the loan rules for new DVD locations, then catch the next bus home.

This wasn’t a typical day for me. I usually spend more time talking directly with my staff, since I have a one-on-one meeting scheduled almost every day. I was also a skosh more scheduled than usual: usually just 2 – 4 of my working hours are booked, rather than 6+.

This meeting packed day is indicative of a shift I noticed in moving from an entry level librarian position to a middle management position. Libraries are full of committees, which generate meetings – and the more oversight you have, the more committees you join.

Share a day in your library life!