Archive for April, 2010

There is a bit of discussion going on round here about how moving to a learning commons model changes the model of service from librarians as The Sage to librarians as A Knowledge Guide.  Or something like that.  One of the comments made during this discussion was “We should not employ people who don’t like customer service.”  Which seemed a fair comment at the time.

So it interested me to see this post from the Swiss Army Librarian reporting on a presentation entitled MLA2010: Black Belt Librarians: Dealing with Difficult Patrons.  Some good advice in here don’t get me wrong.  I do note however, that the presenter states a library must have rules.  This is one of the Must Have rules.

A word on “Welcoming Rules” – which sign works better:

  • No cell phones allowed (with cell phone inside of a red-slash-circle)
  • Welcome to the library, for everyone’s comfort, please do not use your cell phone in the library

The first one works better – people just need to know the information. It is clear and concise.

Ok got that.  So customer service story here is that no cell phones in the library means good service?

So then I head over to Michael Stephens Tame the Web blog where he has on many occasions talked about library signage.  For eg. Ten Signs I Hope I Never See In Libraries Again which includes signage like this one by Aaron Schmidt

Sign in a library photographed by Aaron Schmidt of Walking Paper (http://www.walkingpaper.org/286)

So customer service story here says cell phones are good and should be allowed.

Then I look outside at our students and see this:

And this:

In fact, all the tables I look at have students, laptops, textbooks, notes and yes – a cellphone.  Or, (to poach Mr Collin’s words from Pride and Prejudice), I should say cell phones as there are several.  The reality for us is that almost all students here seem to be an extension of their phones.

What is the best customer service story to tell?  I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle road.  But you can understand why I’m feeling a little polarised today.


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In an example of how much library services are changing , and how their role in the communities they serve are changing, comes the following story.

Check It Out: Get Your Groceries At The Library by Donna Marie Owens

On a bright spring morning in Baltimore, retiree Gwen Tates goes over her weekly grocery list — oatmeal, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, pea soup. But it’s where she’s shopping that might surprise you: at the public library.

Under a new city program, patrons can order groceries online and pay with cash, credit or food stamps. The orders are filled by Santoni’s supermarket, a longtime Baltimore grocer. They deliver the items to the library the next day. Tates says she loves the convenience.

“I pay with my charge card. They swipe it right here. I come back to the library tomorrow and they’ll have it all bagged up and ready to go,” she says.

The Program

The Virtual Supermarket Project is part of a city push to make healthy food more accessible in communities where major supermarkets are scarce. Baltimore’s health department launched it last month at two of the city’s public library branches. They’re located on opposite ends of town: one neighborhood is mostly African-American and working-class, the other racially and economically mixed.

These areas lack large, competitively priced supermarkets within walking distance — sometimes called “food deserts.” Both communities have plenty of fast-food and corner stores, but many tend to offer less healthy fare.

“In Baltimore, where we’re working at with the libraries, you see that the mortality burden from diet-related causes like diabetes, stroke and heart disease are among the highest in the city,” says Ryan Petteway, a city epidemiologist.

Petteway and other health department staffers spend a few hours each week helping patrons order their groceries online. One is Jackie Coles, a single mother of three who works as a custodian.

Like most in this neighborhood, she doesn’t own a car.

“The market around here has been closed for a little over a year,” Coles says. “And you have to go so far to get to another market. You know, you have to pay somebody to take you. Or it’s a long walk.”

But Coles is now a regular at the library. She gets books, plus easy access to healthier food options.

“Fruit is fresh. The vegetables are fresh. I get the butchered meat and all. It’s really good,” she says.

Getting People To Try Something New

So far, about two dozen people have signed up for the program. It’s currently funded by a $60,000 grant from the federal stimulus package.

It’s too soon to determine long-term viability, but organizers are hopeful.

“It’s just a matter of getting people to overcome the barrier of trying something new,” says Pooja Aggarwal, a medical student at Johns Hopkins who’s taken a year off to tackle public health projects like this one.

Baltimore’s new mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, thinks the project is an innovative solution until more major supermarkets build in these neighborhoods.

“I think at a point when we are doing what we need to do to make our city better, safer and stronger, we’ll attract that investment,” she says. “But I’m so proud that we have the use of technology to fill in that gap till development catches up.”

Baltimore library officials say other cities have inquired about possibly replicating their system. If the program is successful, the goal is to partner with additional stores and possibly expand to other parts of the city.


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I think I have mentioned it before, but I read and write in the Science fiction/ speculative fiction genres. One of the core elements in this genre is the question “What if?” This question has been coming to the fore of my thinking in regards to public libraries recently.

With the pressure on budgets, the Auckland Super City merger, reading charges being reintroduced, the launch of the Ipad and the emerging ebook market amongst other events I have been pondering the long term viability and nature of the public library. For me, the public library should and must have a place in the future community but what shape and form will it take?

After my post this morning on South Taranaki’s library charges Paul Reynolds on Twitter posted this “Is it time to canvass and lobby for a national public library offer with statutory protection? I think it is. Thoughts invited.”

I too have had thoughts on this. We are a small country population wise, but large geographically. Is a National Public Library service viable? What form would it take? Who would pay for it? What would be advantages? Disadvantages?

So here are some thoughts:

A single national public library would have a single membership database. No longer would you need to join different systems if you work in different councils. Nor when you shift.

A single national public library would have a single LMS. This would be bad for vendors, but good for libraries. The merge buying power would be able to produce/buy a top of the line system.  

There would also have ramifications for EPIC. One system would mean one subscription to the resources. Potentially the combined buying power would mean a lot more resources available.  

This could potentially result in saving across the board.

A single LMS would mean that there would be a lot less cataloguers around the country. You would only one team. It would also impact on the scope of how District Librarians work.

It would also have ramifications for the Interloan system, as all public library systems would be the one and the same. Thoughts would have to be put into how to manage demand and reserves from around the country.

Overall there could be some serious benefits for such a service, there are also a large number of potential pitfalls and problems. Getting all the councils country wide on board would be a huge undertaking.

Is Paul right though? Is it time for this discussion?


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This is a story for those of you out there like me who find some elements of the new paradigm of everything been stored out there on the web for free a worry.

When Google Owns You – A New Chapter

Almost two years ago, I wrote When Google Owns You, about what happened with Nick Saber was cut off from all his Google applications. It’s worth taking a quick read now. Now, it’s my turn. I woke up this morning in Montreal to find that my access to my Google accounts has been temporarily disabled due to a “perceived violation of either the Google Terms of Service or product-specific Terms of Service.”

Don’t ask why. I haven’t found out yet. I can’t just yet. I’m in Canada.

So, here’s the list of things I can’t do without my Google Account:

  • Use my phone properly – it’s an Android phone.
  • Access my primary calendar.
  • Access my Google Wave (for collaboration projects).
  • Access all my RSS subscriptions (Google Reader).
  • Access my documents (Google Docs).

For anyone who wants to write in the comments “you should have a backup for everything, etc,” save the ink. We all know we should have more than one system, but, look again. That means carrying another phone, using a synced calendar platform, and then for the last three, a lot of document sync.

But my thing is this: my access to several core functions are downed in one shot.

The only upside: it *appears* that it’ll be easier to fix this once I’m back in the States. I simply have to give them my phone number to receive a text message. Note that I say “appears.” I use a Google Voice phone number. Will it even be able to receive my text message from Google helping me open my accounts?

People outside of the United States should take note of this.

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In the last couple of weeks I have heard rumours and heard second hand that South Taranaki Library was having library charges, including adult rental charges, reintroduced. For many years now South Taranaki has been the library services most envied by many in small town public libraries. They had no overdue charges, no reserve charges, even their DVD’d were free. Any change to that is going to come as a big shock.

I have been waiting to see some sort of news reporting, or announcement from LIANZA on this development. Maybe a bit like when the Tauranga charges hit the front pages. So far I have seen nothing, and I find that disturbing. I know that in Tauranga there has been public meetings, and protests, yet I have heard nothing coming out of South Taranaki.

This morning I decided to see if I could find anything on the Internet and all I found was this:

South Taranaki Library Users Face Shock $1-A-Book Charge / Taranaki Daily News; New Plymouth, New Zealand, Apr 14, 2010 by Loney Kelly

LIBRARY users in South Taranaki may have to pay library rentals of $1 a book as the council finds ways to keep rates down.

The shock moves also include higher fees for rubbish and selling off town halls.

The possible sale of pensioner units and shorter swimming pool seasons are also in the mix, but rates are set to rise significantly.

Despite that, the council’s proposed annual plan for the 2010- 2011 financial year is warning average residential rates could rise by about $200 a year.

All that was revealed at a council meeting in Hawera on Monday, when the proposed annual plan was adopted and made available for public consultation.

I was horrified by the thought of $1.00 adult charges. It makes the silence over this even more worrying, especially since the consultation period for Draft Annual Plans is rapidly coming to a close.. If that is introduced the impact on the library service in South Taranaki will devastating.

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It looks like some of the technical issues with the new website seem to have been resolved, which is a good thing.  And while I am trying to sit on my hands and not be too critical there is a non technical issue that quite frankly bugs me. That issue is why I am posting this here on the blog and sending to nz-libs and not posting to the forums on the new site.

It is to do with membership, groups and forums.

The way the new site is being structured, there is going to be a blog (happy days), where anybody will be able to comment on posts put up by those given posting writes.  That’s a good thing. The blog will be moderated.

When you signup for a profile on the website, that profile will be matched against your membership. This will allow you access to members only content and to posting on the forums in an un-moderated fashion.  

Each group will have its own forum, and that the ability to access that group will depend on your membership. I.E. unless you are a member of cat-sig you will not be able to join the cat-sig group or join in their discussions.  

There is also no general forum for all members to post new content to or to enter discussions. Where could a whole profession discussion of the structure of the site like this occur? Nowhere as far I can see.

I can sort of understand that structure, but I don’t think it is the best one.

I would have had one forum, with each group having it’s own segment. I also wouldn’t limit participation to membership of the groups.  I may be on my own there though, but it just doesn’t sit right with me and the community I would like to see built around the website.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, most New Zealand librarians will have received this message one way or another.  For the benefit of librarians around the world or even under-rock-living members of our illustrious profession* I hereby post this.

At the Edge – Te Matakaheru – LIANZA Centennial Conference, 28 Nov – 1 Dec 2010, Dunedin, New Zealand

Call for Abstracts Now Open

The LIANZA Centennial Conference 2010 Committee invites abstract submissions for oral presentations, workshops, poster or “other” presentation formats for the next LIANZA Conference. Submitted abstracts will be reviewed by the Programme Committee to decide who will be invited to present at the Conference. Deadline for submitting abstracts is Friday 25 June. Review criteria include relevance to the Conference theme, originality of ideas, significance of results, accuracy and quality of presentation. Authors should submit abstracts online and as early as possible, but no later than Friday 25th June. For more details please go to LIANZA Conference 2010

or contact

Helen Shrewsbury, the Conference Secretariat:

Helen Shrewsbury Conference Innovators

Tel: +64 3 353 2822 Email: helen@conference.co.nz

*No Subrock Librarian offence intended

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