I just finished Carson Block’s article, If Books Are Our Brand, in Public Libraries magazine. It’s yet another look at the changing world of libraries and how e-books have shaken things up. Block says, “I would love our brand to be ‘access to the resources and tools in an ever-changing world.’ That means access to e-everything, including the tools and training needed for content creation, and in physical spaces. Places to gather and discuss ideas. Places to learn, and places to teach.”
I agree with Block when he says we need places to gather, learn, and teach. But, Block’s statement made me think more specifically about our reference collections. For years, we have been shifting to an e-reference model. Many print reference collections have been shrinking as they’ve been replaced by subscription databases. In the past year, my library’s reference collection has been weeded by close to 50%. Our pushback on doing so came more from internal sources than from the patrons.
I think it’s interesting that libraries have been able to successfully shift to online database usage, but we can’t seem to find a common ground with book publishers on making a transition to e-books. I’m not saying I want to make a complete and total transition to e-books. I still am very much a print person, but I hope we can give the people what they want in whatever shape that may take.
-Post by Carrie Straka, Tame the Web Contributor
Yesterday, a patron came to me for help with finding a book. She said she thought it was checked in, but she wasn’t sure. I looked it up, found it was checked in, so we went to the shelf and got the book. On our walk through the stacks, she said to me that libraries are intimidating. I simply reassured her, and said that they’re really not.
WHAT?!?! That was the wrong response. I should have asked her “How can we make the library less intimidating?” I could have gained a lot of insight had I just thought to ask that question.
The moral of the story: Never stop questioning. When you hear something you don’t like, ask why. Or ask how we can do things differently. Much understanding can be gained by just asking a few questions.
–Post by Carrie Straka, Tame the Web contributor
Recently, ALA retweeted a tweet that originally came from @FSG_Books. It was a library haiku that read: A library card / is a 100% off / coupon for great books. This is a misconception throughout libraries everywhere. A library card isn’t a 100% off coupon. A library card is a tool that allows users to take advantage of the services and materials that have already been purchased for them. People who use the library and borrow those books have already paid for them. They’re not free books when the people borrowing them have already paid for them.
Many users believe that the services and materials we provide are free. As all library staff knows, this is a misconception. The services and materials we provide are not free. In fact, they are far from it. Librarians work within a budget and use all money provided to us through taxes, tuition, or other means.
Librarians should be challenging our users’ beliefs about the library every day. Let’s start by challenging the belief that library materials and services are free. When users ask, “Is it free?” or “Is there a charge?”, try responding by saying “No, your (tax dollars/tuition/company’s expenditures) have already paid for it.” I bet you’ll be greeted by confused looks. I think users forget that they’ve already contributed to the library with their taxes or tuition. We can encourage library usage by showing people that they can take advantage of something they’ve already paid for.
By Carrie Straka, TTW Contributor