Category Archives: TTW Guest Posts

TTW Guest Post: KidLit ReOrg 2008 at Darien Public Library

by: Gretchen Hams-Caserotti
Head of Children’s Services
Darien Library


When I joined Darien Library Head of Children’s Services we were building a new library. An opportunity to reorganize a library doesn’t come very often. The Adult collection was already being rearranged and Louise Berry, our Library Director, encouraged me to explore some ideas I had about how Children’s Libraries are arranged. I took a leap of faith and committed to the idea of reorganizing the collection with a user-centered approach by considering Function instead of Format. Our KidLit ReOrg was a huge project!

In Children’s Services, we define the population we serve as children from birth to about age 12. Actually, we serve two completely different groups, children who are Readers and children who are Pre-Readers (including those learning to read). When planning the move into our new library, I considered the behavior patterns of people who fall into these two categories when they use the library and discovered two entirely different sets of approaches and needs. We realized that with traditional collection arrangements, the Pre-Readers aren’t actually served well despite being half of our population!

We began to explore how we could improve our service to this group of very enthusiastic library users.  Not just service to just the children who are in their First Five years, but service for the busy adults in their lives, too.

Pre-Readers – a First Five Years (F5) collection

This population is still dependent on the grown-ups in their lives to give meaning to those little squiggly black symbols on the printed page. Their caregivers have unique demands on their time and their approach to using the library is often different than that of parents with Readers. Small children are hard work to take care of. The Picture Book Area, where caregivers choose books for their children, is the area most difficult to use because it is a remarkably large collection arranged by author’s last name.  Since children ask for books primarily by subject, arranging them by author requires adults to spend extra time and effort finding materials, Most parents don’t bother foraging through. They take their chances with random selections or go straight to a Librarian for help.
The most common things parents tell us are their children’s age and interests (e.g. my son is 3 years old and he REALLY loves trains). The Librarians look through literally thousands of picture books to try to find the best match. I began using Free Mind open-source software to visualize the more commonly requested subjects and it was there that I discovered the broad categories that we have used to organize the collection. I laid out a new arrangement that makes our collection more useable for adults. Color-coding the sections enables the Pre-Reading children to be independent users as well.  We pulled out all materials from the Non-Fiction collection that are written for smaller children or adults and moved them to the F5 Collection.

Darien Library Mind Map using FreeMind

Instead of a Picture Books section of the library, we now have the following micro-collections called “glades”:

  • Celebrations – a year round sampling of holiday books including other celebrations like Birthdays, Mother’s & Father’s Day etc.
  • Concepts – books about the alphabet, counting, time opposites, colors, shapes etc.
  • Favorites – popular characters, series and award winners.
  • Folk/Fairy Tales – mostly pulled out from Non-Fiction, the introduction to classics like The Little Red Hen, Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella.
  • Growing Up – books about the child’s experience; emotions (e.g. anger, sharing) getting a haircut, losing a tooth, going to school, getting a “Big Boy Bed”
  • Nature – books about animals, seasons, weather
  • Rhymes and Songs – here Mother Goose can be found along with picture books told in verse or of songs themselves (Hush Little Baby, The Wheels on the Bus, etc.)
  • Stories – this section is for books that didn’t fit into any other category, but is promoted as a fun place to explore your imagination.
  • Transportation – books with Things That Go in them; trucks, trains, boats, bikes, cars, busses, etc.

In order to reorganize the collection according to this structure we literally pulled off the shelf and reviewed each of our 15,000 picture books so we could determine a classification. Then each book got a new color label and new call number to identify easily the item’s location in the library (e.g. F5 Concepts Hoban).

Our new library opened to the public on January 10th, 2009, and the positive feedback from our members has been overwhelming. Michael has already kindly shared the blog post that was written by a local mom blogger about our new Children’s Library. We have more new users than we’ve ever had before & our circulation has been up 25-30% from last year each month we have been open. Some of our members share their enthusiasm about the reorganization with us and others don’t.  They just come in use their new library. I am thrilled because we don’t want everyone to talk about the reorganization, we just want them to use it. Intuitively. Freely. It’s theirs, after all.

Children’s Services is, I think, the most dynamic and interesting area in public libraries at the moment. We are facing not just the issue of integrating technology into our services and way of thinking, but we must be mindful that those early Digital Natives are now becoming parents! How can we stay important and relevant in their lives when the world they have known has always been plugged in and connected? The conversation has to get serious and what we do has to extend much further than just providing storytimes.  In partnership with Linda Braun (LINK), Darien Library will be hosting a KidLib Camp, an unconference for children’s librarians to discuss and explore Redefining Children’s services in the 21st Century on August 13th, 2009.

TTW Guest Post: Love thy Luddite

The Importance of the Non-Techie or How I Learned to Stop Pulling Out My Hair and Love my Luddite
by: Mick Jacobsen

My wife mocks Twitter thoroughly, “You don’t even know these people,” she repeats. She thinks Facebook/MySpace is weird. She considers online gaming to be silly.  She wasn’t sure about this whole “Blog Thing” and renamed my Google Reader an RSS aggravator (which I still find hilarious).  She doesn’t want her images on Flickr.  I think it is safe to say she pretty much dislikes any 2.0 technology on contact.

Last week she started a LibraryThing account and loves it.  She is now using my Facebook account to talk to friends.  She uses Delicious to bookmark webpages.  She has her own RSS aggregator (Google Reader) and iGoogle page.  She even created and wrote for a special interest blog on

What does this have to do with librarianship?  Well, doesn’t that first paragraph (besides the wife part) describe a significant portion of your coworkers?  Wouldn’t it be great if you could move them to the second?

Here is how I do it:

1. Listen.  Never dismiss what your Luddite says.  You may not see how it applies, but it surely does in their eyes. When, and it is most certainly when, not if, they have misgivings about a technology it may be necessary to move on.  You might be introducing the wrong technology at that particular time or you may need to reexamine the technology.  The Luddite may very well have thought of something you haven’t and it may not be as useful as you hope (I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me).

2.  Don’t push too hard (if you can avoid it).  Sometimes all it takes is talking to them at the right time.  Understand their schedule.  Some people are ready to play at the start of the day, some after lunch, some while eating lunch, etc. The first time I introduced my wife to LibraryThing she wasn’t interested.  A few months later she noticed me using it (looking at all my pretty book covers) and asked “What is this and why did you never tell me about it before?”  A minute or two of introduction and away she went. This also has proven to be true with a few of my coworkers in regards to the newly created blogs at MPOW .

3. Respect.  Their concerns are not generated from hate of tech. (well in most cases) or lack of intelligence; it is because they don’t see the point.  Show how you are personally using this new technology, how others are using it, and how they specifically could.  Hypothetical situations just don’t seem to work.

I am sure more techniques are available, but these three are the ones that have worked for me so far. What does everybody else do?

As a side note it is probably better not call anybody a Luddite.

Mick Jacobsen is Adult Services Librarian at the Skokie Public Library.

TTW Guest Post: The Little B


“The Little B” by Mick Jacobsen

Toby Greenwalt, a coworker of mine, came up with a great idea which I wanted to share and, hopefully, spread.  He created a simple, cool looking icon which symbolizes a blog on our website much like the orange box symbolizes RSS feeds.  With the mighty Photoshop kung-fu of Gail Shaw and Ruth Sinker this brave little B is proudly advertising our blogs.

Beyond making it easier for people to find and recognize the six brand new blogs (including the unique style and content of blogs) within the menu structure on the Skokie Library website, it also effectively brands them. The branding is being carried over from the virtual branch to the physical.  Pins were designed with the logo for blog authors of all departments to wear while helping the public, potentially creating opportunities for conversations about the blogs.  We are also planning on using the B on the various slide shows we use to advertise programs.

Best of all, we are making this little B available to everybody free of charge.  Do you have a blog or two as a part of your library’s web presence? Why not brand it with a little B?  If you can improve upon the little B, go for it and let me know.  If you do decide to use it I would love hear about it.  Hey, who knows, perhaps this will be a little online meme that libraries start.

The Princeton Environmental Film Festival – A TTW Guest Post by Janie Hermann

peff2009_logoThe Princeton Public Library is in the home stretch weekend of their 3rd annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival – an 11 day event that has touched upon many topics relating to the environment. What started as 5 day program in 2007 via an idea brought to the library by Kai Marshall-Otto (a student involved with the Environmental Club at Princeton High School) has grown in to an 11 day extravaganza with numerous films, panels, and speakers that touch upon many important topics. Close to 2,000 people have attended lectures, discussions and screenings in the first 9 days and some of the largest events are still to happen. In all, 36 unique programs will be have been presented over the 11 day period. Many of the films have included post-screening discussion with the filmmakers, with the filmmakers being flown in from as far away as Chicago. We were even able to secure an appearance by best-selling author Elizabeth Royte (author of the highly acclaimed Bottlemania) and a panel session with experts from Climate Central. It was our community-based steering committee that provided many of these important contacts.

Kudos go to Susan Conlon, Princeton Public Library’s Teen Services Librarian, as she has been the driving force behind the festival for all three years. Susan’s passion about this project is evident to all who encounter her and, as a result, Princeton Public Library has been able to assemble a community advisory group that has meant monthly since spring of last year to view and recommend films, give guidance and help locate speakers and funding. This year we were able to get significant funding both from foundations and corporations and, as a result, the only cost of the festival to the library is staff time.

It is heartening to see a packed house on a Friday during what some would still consider the holiday season and even more heartening to have 40-60 people showing up for noon time panels  each day during the work week. The amount of networking between sessions is amazing to watch – important connections are being made between people with common interests. Food has been donated by local merchants, environmentally-friendly products have been used throughout the festival and change is happening as a result of this festival. Each and every event has been met with enthusiasm and already plans for next year are being formed. When your community believes in what you are doing and wants to join in the planning then there are no limits to what can be achieved.

The schedule: 

Janie hermann is Program Coordinator and Technology Training Librarian at Princeton Public Library.

Library 2.0 In A Blink: A TTW Guest Post from Chris Oien

deck7743887In Michael’s Library 2.0 class, I had the opportunity to read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and I wrote up the lessons I thought libraries could take from it as they seek to better themselves in a Library 2.0 world. Here’s the condensed, bloggy version of what I took away.

Lesson one: The Aeron chair. This chair was break aesthetically from how office chairs had always looked, but despite some initial outside skepticism, the design team persevered because they knew they had created a great project; the chair came to be the company’s biggest seller. Similarly for libraries, it is important not to reject ideas for fear of disruption or anything being different. Maybe people will grumble about a new website design at first because the way they’ve always gotten to things isn’t there now. But if it adds more features, allows for more interactivity, gets captured better by search engines, etc., dealing with some short-term uncertainty is ok. You set yourself up for more long term success.

Lesson two: New Coke. The disaster that was New Coke came about in large part because Coca-Cola designed it to do well in taste tests where it was sipped. But people don’t drink Coke by the sip, they drink it by the can, and the impression after one sip is much different from the drinking a whole can. Libraries should also be careful about how they get feedback from patrons. Do your survey questions capture how patrons experience the library? If testing your site, maybe they can find the Help section on your website when you ask them to, but will they think about finding it when you don’t explicity tell them to?

Lesson three: The sculpture’s fingernails. They didn’t quite know how they knew, but several art historians could tell that a sculpture purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum was a fake; one of them said something about the sculpture’s fingernails just didn’t feel right. They were right. Just like something can feel fake, it can also feel real, spot-on, exactly right. This post from Sarah Houghton-Jan is exactly what I mean. She says about the Vancouver Public Library front page, with pictures of library users and quotes about how they use the library: “Something about it resonates with me, and all I know is that I like it.” That’s just the sort of reaction we should be going for, with designs like that which immediately hit people and say, this is the essence of the library, this is what we do.

Chris Oien is a library science student at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Going to Google Apps: A TTW Guest Post

by: Robin Hastings

Information Technology Manager at the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City, Missouri


This all started because the employees at the library at which I work, the Missouri River Regional Library, were complaining about all the spam in their email. As the Information Technology Manager, part of my job is managing the email server we had – which used to be a server in our server room running Exchange 2003 with Outlook Web Access enabled, so people could use both Outlook and web-based email, whichever they chose. Trying to keep spam out of an Exchange server is difficult and/or expensive – this was something we were really struggling with! As an option, I began looking at Google Apps For Domains, a service I use for one of my personal domains. Google’s spam controls are impressive, to say the least, and the service level has always been pretty impressive. The more I poked around in Google Apps, the more I liked it!

I started looking at the details of Google Apps and began working up a case to sell it to my director. I pretty quickly discovered that the library, since it is not an actual 501(c)3 entity, wasn’t eligible for the educational version of the service. Google offers 3 different versions, the free version (250 accounts, 6GB of email space, no service level guarantees, ads with your emails), the educational version (free, some ads on emails, 25GB of space, 99% uptime guarantee for email) and the premier version ($50/account/year, no ads, 25GB of space, 99% uptime guarantee, conference room/resource scheduling, postini email policy management and recovery, etc). The education edition is basically the same as the premier, except that it’s free and doesn’t include the Postini email stuff.

Google provides a handy chart ( detailing the differences between free and premier editions, one that I consulted frequently as I was working up my financial case to go to Google Apps. Once I realized we were going to have to pay for our version of Google Apps, I really hit that chart hard to make my business case for switching.

Since we were in a year that included a new email server and server software in the budget, I could show that Google would be just a few dollars ($80 or so) a year more expensive over a 3-year life span than Exchange 2007/Outlook with spam control software added on. After I made the budget/feature/begging case to my director, and he approved it, I started playing. I began by uploading all of our accounts to Google via a spreadsheet in CSV format. That was fun and got me started – until I realized that I couldn’t pay for all of our accounts at once because all they take are credit cards and all of our cards that are given to each manager have a $2000 limit. Our total bill was $3250. This meant that I had to delete about half of the accounts, pay for the ones I had still in the system and wait 5 days to pay for the rest of the accounts with another manager’s card and reupload them (after you delete an account name it can’t be recreated for at least 5 days). Big “oops” #1!

By July 24th all the accounts were paid for and all of the accounts were in place. I took a couple of days to get myself familiar with the system, create FAQs on our staff wiki and start working out the timeline for deployment. On July 25th, I invited staff to log into the system and start to “poke around” to get familiar as well. On July 28th I started face-to-face training sessions for staff to explain the system and answer questions – at least one every day. I scheduled 7 for the week of the 28th and one on Aug. 4th – the day we went live.

The staff were very receptive to the training – they showed up, they asked questions and they seemed to be very willing to change. I had one staff member who informed me that she didn’t like Outlook, but she didn’t like change, either. After the training session, however, she felt far more comfortable with the change and far more positive about it. Wiki-based FAQs and frequent emails updating staff on what is going on “behind the scenes” are critical – but nothing beats real-time, real-live training! In each session, I covered each of the Google services we’d be getting access to (Sites, Docs, Calendar, Email, Start Page and Chat) with a very quick tour of each of them. This took about a half-hour. After that, I opened the floor for questions about Google Apps, the process of the changeover or whatever else came up. Some of my sessions were 1/2 hour long – and that was it. One lasted for an hour and 15 minutes. Everyone had a chance to voice their objections and get answers to their concerns, though!

The actual changeover was fairly smooth – I used the feature that allowed me to use an administrator account that I sat up and then gave it read access to all the mailboxes. With that, I started the migration at 5:15pm on Saturday night, doing all of the full time folks first. When that finished (at 1am Sunday morning), I set the part time employee’s emails to go and went to bed. When I woke up in the morning, it was done. All of the email from all of the staff at MRRL was there… except for 3 staff members who were at the very end of the migration and hit up against the backup that I forgot to turn off for the night. This pretty much hosed the Exchange server and kept those 3 people from getting their emails immediately.

Monday morning, when I got to work, I sent my Computer Support guru, Nikki, over to the administration offices building to help folks who might need it and I started on a round of checking on staff in the main building. The changeover was pretty smooth. Most people chose to use the web-based email interface – very few required the Outlook program any more. Everyone logged on successfully and most people were very positive about the change. Since that first morning, I’ve spent some time sending out daily “tips & tricks” emails to the staff, uploading contacts and calendar data from Outlook to Google Apps and helping with contact management and other little issues that cropped up because of the differences between Gmail and Outlook. The responses from staff, however, have been very positive. I’ve had a couple of people tell me this was the smoothest technological change they’ve experienced (didn’t seem that smooth to me – 3 emails left off the migration and a few niggling issues with getting Outlook and Gmail to play nicely – but I suppose those were isolated incidents…) and almost everyone has mentioned how much easier Gmail is than Outlook to use and understand. The staff are enjoying the ability to chat with each other and are helping each other find new features and capabilities that are now available. And, of course, we are all enjoying the lack of spam in our inboxes!

Flinders University Graduate Trainee Librarian Program – Adelaide, South

I met Chris O’Malley in Australia. I was very interested to hear about the trainee program he’s in. I asked him to write a little bit about it for TTW:

Librarianship is a competitive profession to break into.  Getting that first professional role was a proud moment for me, which felt like the culmination of a lot of study, a lot of thought about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, and even dealing with a little rejection along the way.  This seems to be a reasonably common experience.  Of course, now I have broken through that barrier, there are many more that I have faced and am yet to face.  Maybe another story for another time.

My chance to enter into the profession came through a program run by Flinders University Library (Adelaide, South Australia).  Officially titled the ‘Flinders University Graduate Trainee Librarian Program’, it has been running for about 15 years now, and is still going strong.  The traineeship is 3 years in length, and is specifically targeted at librarians who are newly qualified or who have yet to have their first opportunity at a qualified role.  I’m currently about 15 months into my 3 years, and have recently started my second placement in the library.  My first gig was in Cataloguing, and although at times it seems to be a maligned art, I must admit that I liked it.  It gives a good foundation for a whole realm of librarianship, and has influenced me even when weighing in to debates such as the merits of folksonomical and taxanomical classification.

Non-librarian friends don’t quite get as enthused at times about such things, funnily enough.

Part of the program is that each trainee changes roles at least once in order to gain a diversity of skills and understanding, but some do change more than once.  I am now about 2 months into my second role, which is a dual role in the Law Library and the Special Collections.    

The Law Library aspect has a large reference component to it, amoungst other duties.  The Special Collections is part library, part archive, and if I don’t mention it too much I’ll be able to lure the curious of you out there to check it out at: 

The learning curve again is steep, and the dual job both interesting and rewarding. I’ve found that the traineeship has been a great way for me to enter into the world of librarianship.  The following is the link to the pages which show the history, philosophy and objectives of the program, as well as some past and current trainee experiences.

There are a number of different ways for organisations to think about new librarians.  It will be interesting to see if this traineeship resonates as an option for anyone out there reading this.

Flinders University Library

Guest Post: Library 2.0: Pandemic or Panacea? by Anthony Andros

Anthony Andros wrote this paper for LIS701 at Dominican in Fall 2006. He agreed to post an shorter version here. 

Library 2.0: Pandemic or Panacea?

An Exploration of Old Wine in a New Bottle
by: Anthony Andros

T.S. Eliot said that, “Television…is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.” Technology has indeed found a way to influence civilization in both positive and negative ways. Why is it that twenty-first century Americans have innumerable technologies and novelties to conserve time and effort, yet we all seem to be rushing from place to place feeling one step behind? Today, the process of digitization can be found in such diverse functions as communication, medicine, warfare, transportation, arts and entertainment, cooking, etc. Of all the industries, fields, and institutions incorporating technology, one in particular has been one of the most resistant to embrace this new current – libraries.
Continue reading Guest Post: Library 2.0: Pandemic or Panacea? by Anthony Andros

Do You Trust your Staff? – A TTW Guest Post from Darien Library’s Alan Gray

Darien logoMaybe most libraries think about it differently, but Darien Library is sending more staff members to Los Angeles for BookExpo America, the majority of whom will be Circulation staff, two of them part-time, than to any other conference this year. It’s a major commitment on our part, but for nearly all our staff, this is the most important event of the year. They love it! Now I wouldn’t expect many east coast libraries to follow suit, but how many libraries out there will be sending part-time OR even full-time Circ staff to BookExpo, and when it comes east next year, how many from here will do that? Many libraries will say they can’t, don’t have the resources (though that’s just another way of saying they have different priorities) but nearly all of them will still be sending the same people to attend ALA again and sit in the same tired old meetings, where nothing gets done that has the LEAST amount of impact on the central core of what happens in a successful library: the in-the-moment, one-to-one relationship between an engaged staff member and a committed patron.

We need great people to make our library a success — we just don’t have any preconditions about who they are, or what degree they do or do not have, just what they stand for, and what they can do.

And we don’t limit them in what they can do. We trust our Circulation staff with the responsibility of buying all our adult fiction – they have the budget and it’s their choice. Who knows better what our patrons would like, or is in a better position to react to their needs than the people on the front lines? And who better to “hand sell” an item than someone who participated in the decision to acquire it?

The Library 2.0 question is “Do you trust your patron?” The Library Eternal question is, “Do you trust your staff – all of them?”

Alan Gray, Darien Library

A note from Michael: I’ve blogged about Darien Library a lot because I truly believe in the models they are creating. This guest post comes from some emailing Alan and I did these past few days while I’m prepping my Australia talks. I appreciate his candor, viewpoint and willingness to write this.

TTW Guest Post: Cell Phone Sign at Loyola

Dominican GSLS Student Katharine Johnson writes:

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining LISSA (Dominican University’s library student group) for a tour of Loyola University’s new Information Commons located on their Lake Shore Campus.  In short, the place is incredible.  A bookless extension of their library, whoa!  Three floors of computer terminals, many of which are located on long tables to encourage group study and/or spreading out all your books.  Tall ceilings, bright work spaces, fully wired, completely green, and a breathtaking frozen-lake view.

The first two floors encourage discussion among students, the third floor is considered the quiet floor and asks for all cell phones to be turned off.  I discovered this sign, which I found to be a bit avant-garde for any library, though it fit so well in context.

Loyola Sign