8/30/11

Libraries and Self-Improvement The role of libraries in the efforts for self-improvement are very interesting to me. It seems to be an issue that plagues children's collections to a greater degree than general public library collections. The public is more concerned that materials in the children's department be educational as opposed to entertaining. It is a common concern when parents select books for their children that they be more than entertainment, that it be educational or impart the parent's values. One of the issues that I've had a lot of experience with is that of graphic novels. I worked at BWI when graphic novels and comics were first making in-roads into libraries. BWI spent a great deal of effort on becoming the best library source for graphic novels, especially those for children. And the concern that graphic novels do not help children read "real" books was often presented as an argument for not having graphic novels in a children's collection. Along with this concern was the fear that all subjects covered in graphic novels had no social, educational, or literary value. This argument is still presented against anything that is too closely related to superheroes. Library Outreach Reading this article (Smith, S. (December 2008). “The library has legs: An early childhood literacy outreach program in Victoria.” APLIS. 21(4).) for 802 has inspired me. I'm so interested in the outreach that the Smith article discusses. One of the annual goals for my library, and specifically for the Children's Department, is to increase our outreach. We already do a lot of projects within the library, and we even partner with some different community groups, like our local zoo. However, most of that activity still takes place within the library. We currently do a limited number of daycare storytimes as well, but not on a regular basis. I've been thinking of places to partner with, like our local Parents As Teachers organization, but I hadn't thought of doctors' offices, nor working with a speech therapist. My daughter was speech delayed, and I worked with the local Infant Toddler Services, so I even have a contact there. I'd love to see what we could set up with them. I'm also interested in how outreach intersects with Rodger's ideas about creating public value. In Smith’s article, outreach provides the community, especially those members that do not regularly utilize the library, with information about the benefits of reading to and with their young children. By partnering with groups such as childcare providers and medical providers that are regularly utilized even by disenfranchised citizens, the library disseminates information that directly addresses an acknowledged need in the community. Educating parents about the benefits of reading with their children addresses the disadvantage many of these low-income children will experience later in life. Further, this education provides the library an opportunity to demonstrate the services it provides to help families avoid such disadvantages. By genuinely addressing the benefits of early literacy for children, it allows the library to meet a need that is perceived by the political leaders and community members, which promotes the library as a valuable community resource. Early literacy outreach fits within Rodger’s discussion (2002) of enhancing public value of libraries. Additionally, such outreach can be evaluated based on Rodger’s questions: “Who uses it? What difference do we want it to make? How do we know what difference it makes in people’s lives? What does it cost?” (p.54).

11/3/11

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What difference do we want it to make? seems to have been answered at the outset of the program: they want it to help families address early literacy. How do we know what difference it makes in people's lives? could be answered from statistics about the program or from statistics following low income participants in their education. Who uses it? can be answered looking at the sign-up information and statistic that the partnering groups and the library are keeping about this project. What does it cost? should also have been answered in the initial set up and the following tracking of the program over the 3 years it was offered.

Now that the project is completed, I would be very interested to see what those statistics reflect about the success of the program. One of our earlier assignments was to show how our library creates value. This project seems to offer concrete ways to evaluate public value that things like charting the number of children involved in summer reading do not. As Rodger points out, just because there are a large number of children involved in summer reading doesn't mean we know its value to the families involved. Rodger, E.J. (November 2002). “Value & vision: Public libraries must create public value through renewal and reinvention.” American Libraries. p. 50–54. Delivering a Great Experience What do you make of the claim that “Organizations with reputations for delivering great experiences succeed at it because of significant investments in experience design” (p. 52)? I think this is definitely true, you can’t provide a great user experience if you haven’t put effort into it. Things like that don’t come without planning and education. I’ve had friends who work for Disney, and I know that they put a lot of effort into training their employees to provide a certain experience. And how would you respond to the challenge to create a “great library experience”? How can a library do this. . .well training would help, as would motivation. There isn’t a lot of motivation for providing a good customer experience in a library except for the love of helping people find the information they need. I think it is assumed that you wouldn’t work in a library if you didn’t have that desire already, but I don’t assume that someone working in a retail environment does so because s/he has a great desire to make sure I find the best shoes for me. Many people choose to work in the library because they believe that it is somehow a better place to work. But frankly, it often doesn’t pay better than retail, and you still have to deal with grouchy customers. Especially those frontline people at the circulation desk and pages on the floor. Most of those people do not have library degrees, nor do they have the training in working with people to the same degree that reference services people have. But, I bet circ employees get asked as many questions as reference or information desk people do. And I know the pages get asked for help all the time. Often, when I'm sitting at the children's desk in the evening, patrons will ignore me entirely but seek out the page to ask her a question. One reason for this could be because she's already on the floor, so they assume she is there to help them or that they don't feel like they are interrupting her work. I have read about roaming/roving librarian studies that show that patrons are much more willing to seek help from a librarian who is walking

10/11/11

through the stacks than from a seated librarian at a desk. That is another way to deliver a great experience, find the patron where s/he needs you, don't expect him/her to come to you. This would also be a good way to put a human face on the library. I recently visited with a librarian friend who gave me some ideas of blogs to watch, and it made me wonder how effective library blogs are at reaching people outside the library. Our library has started a social media team, which I volunteered to be on, so I'm looking for ideas of what to tweet about and ways to make my posts and tweets effective. I think I'll start following this blog for a while and see if I can learn anything: http://www.thehappyaccident.net/. I'm also interested in recording the department storytimes. I've discussed it with my manager, and she seemed open to the idea, as did some of the other staff, but I'm not sure of the actually logistics. I guess I need to discuss this with the social media team and the IT people too.