Library reading programs

I was lucky to attend the Reading Agency Seminar held at the new Library at the Dock in Melbourne.

Debbie Hicks, Director of the Reading Agency, opened the seminar with a presentation about the reading programmes offered in the UK. They offer UK public libraries tools for reading activities under a sustainable strategic framework that is benchmarked nationally for ensure continuity.

Their programmes include:

  • Summer Reading Challenge
  • Chatter Books
  • Reading Activists with volunteering opportunities for youths.
  • World Book Night
  • Reading Groups
  • Books on Prescription
  • Mood Boosting Books

Dr. Jacinta Halloran talked about the gap between the early stages of anxiety and depression and the need for prescribing drugs. She talked about the sinking feeling she gets when she prescribes drugs for depression, knowing that bibliotherapy could help at this early stage. Jacinta is the author of two novels: Dissection, andPilgrimage. Jacinta works with Susan McLaine and more information about their work can be found at the Bibliotherapy Australia website.

Lisa D’Onofrio showcased the ‘Go Goldfields project. Part of this included a Literacy Strategy “read all about it”, that involved collaboration across sectors using the National Numeracy and Literacy Framework in order to adopt a common language.

Bec Kavanagh spoke eloquently about the Stella Prize which seeks to highlight gender inequality in literature for children and teens.

Rosie Cirrito from Brimbank Libraries talked about their Reading Buddies program that matches volunteers with readers. A reward system uses stickers, etc , to acknowledge milestones.

Sarah Hopkins and Karyn Siegmann of Bayside Libraries talked about the reader experience in libraries. They aim to support a reading culture by maximising library spaces, displays, and collection usage trends (Collection HQ). “The book is the hero.”

Sue Wootton of Eastern Regional Libraries talked about their Read with the Reading Dog program that incorporates dogs for reading practice for children identified as needing extra help by local schools.

Robyn Childs from Moreland Libraries talked about their Read More program that encapsulates all of their reading activities: from author talks, displays, writing competitions, workshops, etc.

Shirley Bateman of Melbourne City Libraries facilitated some reflections on the presentations. These were:

  • Value of partnerships to be “courageously collaborative”.
  • National Literacy and Numeracy framework
  • The value of families in the reading journey
  • Diversity of content and the danger of the single story. This story was referenced and I recall loving it when I first watched it: 

Paula Kelly, Library Manager of Melbourne City Libraries reminded us about the SLV/PLVN Statewide project READ (yet to be completed).

Debbie Hicks of the Reading Agency said that “libraries are unifque community spaces for the delivery of interventions for wellbeing.” Books on Prescription offers a book list of self-help books that are professionally selected using a book selection protocol, and made available through public libraries in the UK. A user leaflet is also provided that offers further information.

Susan McLaine talked about the power of literature to move and heal, saying that “in the library is healing for the soul,” and that “there is often wisdom within the story. Our aim should be to enrich life quality, life spirit, and nourish connection.” Susan’s website is Words That Heal and she is currently working on her PhD at RMIT on the topic of “creative bibliotherapy” while continuing to facilitate session within a prison.

Dr. Louise Roufeil is a psychologist that provided an overview of mental health in Australia. 45% of Australians experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. 20% had a diagnosed mental health disorder in the last 12 months. The high prevalence of anxiety impacts on productivity across the board. Early intervention is not readily available. Bibliotherapy can fill this gap and libraries are well positioned to do this.

Lisa Lang of Melbourne City Libraries read an excerpt from a Tobias Wolff novel that left us hanging… A great example of their Story Lounge programme that runs monthly at Library on the Dock.

We finished the day with a practical planning session that only served to reaffirm the need for collaboration amongst library services in order to provide similar programs. What do we do already? What more can we do?

Back to busyness

I have been back working in public libraries for a few weeks now and it’s great to feel useful and able to help people with their questions. In general the level of sophistication in regard to technology related questions is notable. Many in our population have become quite adept at using and navigating the Internet and all of the associated technologies. The days where it was assumed that the older generation did not ‘get’ this stuff are behind us. Many people are curious about things like ebooks and will ask about them, even if they decide not to give them a try – just yet.

The busy libraries where I work require an agile mind that can handle a day of mental gymnastics, able to negotiate the barrage of unique questions in quick succession.

portsea_pier_01042014This week I was lucky to work some shifts on the mobile library truck. I took this photo near one of our stops, during a short break.

I have been reacquainting myself with the different Library Management System, as well as the different procedures and work-flows associated with a large and multi-branch public library service. I feel very much welcomed back and I am appreciative of that.

Time rolls away

Wow! Two months of 2013 have disappeared already. And it’s been busier than ever. What can I tell you about my work at the library so far this year?

We installed new movable shelving for our non-fiction collection in our main branch which entailed a team effort of unloading, loading, reloading, unloading, reloading books by hand. But the end result is very pleasing and we have just ordered the display fittings that go along with this new configuration. The plan is to rearrange the non-fiction books from Dewey to shop-style subject categories. Then we will need to get some new signage to suit.

We have also embarked on the RFID implementation. At present we have completed one small branch and almost finished the second small branch. Then it is just the tagging at the main branch to go. Another team effort is required to get this job done, and everyone is stepping up to the plate. This new technology will allow customers to check out their own items giving them more privacy and independency. It will also free up our staff so they can provide some deeper and more meaningful conversations with the customers.

I have completed and passed two subjects for the Master of Information Studies and have just two to go. I have started Social Networking for Information Professionals.

Next weekend is a long weekend here in Victoria and I will be going along to the Annual Port Fairy Folk Festival for the fourth year in a row. Last year I had the pleasure of seeing a band called Tinpan Orange and just love their song Every Single Day.

Time rolls away, it rolls away, every single day it rolls away…”

My youngest son was married last month and that was a fun event despite my mother passing away the week before and her not being there (in body) with us all.

The Tomorrow’s Library discussions continue.

Our current open art exhibition is ‘Sunflowers” and we have received many bright works of art from local people. It is always such a privilege to receive and hang these creative pieces. I totally love the idea of inclusive community art, because after all we are all creative to some extent.

Sunflowers_group_04032013

Yesterday (on a Sunday) I attended a workshop Social Media for Small Business and the Arts presented by John Paul Fischbach and Criag Lambie of Auspicious Arts Incubators. It was a really worthwhile session and these guys really know their stuff. I got a lot out of it and wrote my notes to Twitter until my phone battery went dead. It really gives me a better perspective for revamping the social media presence of our library.

I am currently reading Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (this is my favourite genre – true travel stories with a twist or quest) and Face2Face by David Lee King. I am listening to Little Stories by Harry James Angus and podcasts of the Midday Interview with Margaret Throsby and This is Your Life by Michael Hyatt.

The popular response

We ran a survey. It was part of the requirement for establishing our “Collections Management Plan”. We had to ask our customers and community what they want their public library to supply in terms of resources. We intentionally made the survey brief and open-ended. We did not want to lead them into assumptions we might make. Some questions required a tick of a box, whilst others asked for comments. These were available online and in print. It was prepared and executed in a rush and only given eight days to run; not even the time frame of a loan period of three weeks.

Our response rate was 1.4% of members; not really a great field result for assessment and comparison. However, we can tick the box that requires “public consultation”.

Photo by Kristy Hill for the Portland Observer

Despite asking open-ended questions that asked specifically questions regarding our collections and resources, we received typical responses referring to services, staff, facilities, and programs. So it seems “everyone” wants to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee while they read in the public library. And they want more large print books, and more DVD’s. We anticipated these responses. There are also niche areas of personal interest that always get mentioned – everyone has their niche. We were asked for more Christian books, more manga novels, specific car manuals, access to the latest copy of favourite magazines. We already offer all of these things, but like most public libraries, the latest copy of any magazine will either by “not for loan’ to be read in the library, or out on loan for at least the first two months after publication. Car manuals get borrowed once and never return to the library shelves unfortunately. We try, but a small minority of our community selfishly take hold of property that should be shared.

Managing a library collection is a fluid and dynamic process of attention that responds to the ebb and flow of the culture of the society it serves. So the request for more large print books reflects our increasing aging population; and the request for more DVD’s tells us that commercial TV is being ditched in favour of the freedom of viewing what our customers like and when they want to watch it. Perhaps also, that many people prefer to watch a video than read a book?!

The responses that we received that were outside our collections/resources questions requested a cafe, quiet study areas, and more children’s programs. It is my experience that the resources already applied to children’s programs in public libraries far outweigh the resources committed to all other demographic areas of our community. The importance of instilling a love of reading and books in children can’t be over-estimated, but I think libraries in Australia do that well already and how people can ask for more is hard to comprehend. And therefore “quiet study areas” are almost extinct in our busy public libraries. The “ssshhhh” factor disappeared with the popular acceptance of Dewey, hair-buns, and the ability of adults to discipline children running around noisily in public spaces. Mobile phones too have changed our culture for the worse, I think, and public libraries share the problems that many service industries experience with people speaking loudly and inappropriately.

Personally, as a Librarian, I love the DDC system. Without it we would be left with arbitrarily organised collections dependent on the quirks of the mind of the individual responsible; and that would vary 6 billion times – give or take a few billion. It would look sort of like the pile of documents called the Internet. (tongue-in-cheek)

The value of the free public library by the community can be weighed by the funding dollars provided to allow this service to continue and to continue to be well resourced with new and relevant items. Luckily in Australia, generally, we see the necessity for these services to continue in order to foster literacy, freedom of thought, speech and expression, self-development, and equal opportunities.

It is still a valued service and one comment across the board from our survey, to a question we did not ask, was about the “great staff” we have. And I agree. Libraries are full of them.

Too many clicks

How much does a click cost? How much are you prepared to pay per click? What is your information worth?

Public librarians find ourselves with a dilemma: do we continue to pay for expensive information databases that don’t get used despite consistent, clever and targeted promotion? As information specialists we appreciate the value of these types of information resources, but our customers don’t seem to be easily converted.

I feel treasonous to my profession by even asking this question. At a recent meeting of librarians who work in public libraries to discuss this topic, this question did not even arise. The academic peer-reviewed scholarly articles that are stored in these locked databases and therefore not freely available on the internet are gold, in the view of librarians and academics, and therefore beyond question.

People doing formal study have access to hundreds and thousands of these databases through the libraries of their tertiary education institutions. Victorian residents also have access to hundreds of these databases freely via the State Library of Victoria with a free membership.

To access one of these information databases as a public library member all you need do is have a current library membership, go to the library website, find the webpage where the online databases are located, select the database you want, put in your membership details, then hopefully you will arrive at the search screen (but not always – there may be a few more clicks yet). The search screen is often unlike a well-known Google key word search box; you may have to think a little to put a sensible search together. In regards to Boolean searching, Librarians know that Google assumes “and” when putting in keywords while most information databases don’t so you will need to add your own “and” “or” or “not”.

OR you can go to Google and put in the key words and cross your fingers. So ONE click compared to a likely minimum of FIVE. And many of these information databases are slow to load so you also have to wait.

Ask most librarians how they search online and many will say that depending on what they are searching for, they might first go to their own library catalogue, then Google, maybe Wikipedia, (or vice versa),and then delve deeper into the information databases once they have defined the information needs fully and if it is required by the customer.

There are a few information databases that the public customer does ask for and get real value from and these are Ancestry for family history research and perhaps a newspaper archive such as Newsbank. There are also some really great free information databases available online such as Picture Australia, the Better Health Channel, Law 4 Community, the Internet Movie Database, and dare I say Wikipedia.

So as a member of a public library what do you think? What do you want? Are these expensive but valuable specialist information databases a necessary resource that public libraries should be buying and offering with your free membership? Or are you happy Googling away, taking your chances with information that needs verification? Where should we be spending the public funds responsibly?

Microsoft mayhem

Microsoft has us at their mercy. We live in a Microsoft networked world. Sure I know about the alternatives but many businesses operate with Microsoft products for their chosen mode. They offer great products that we are all now well trained to use effectively. But did we really need a new file format of ‘.docx’? Microsoft Office 2007 is incompatible with anything that has gone before. Why would Microsoft do this other that for acquiring more wealth? Do they realize the impact this has on businesses? And what about document archiving? Preservation for future reference is an issue as not everyone is aware of why file formats differ and that alternatives are available such as .txt and .rtf formats.

 

So work in a public library that uses Microsoft products for its network and office tools can become impossible when automatic Microsoft updates are regularly sent out across the network. Seamless service is interrupted and our customers become understandably frustrated and angry. The public pc’s are “frozen” to protect these pc’s from random downloads the customers may choose. This freezing also blocks the automatic system updates and the result is constant interruptions and system crashes, often when people are in the middle of writing long emails. They lose everything as the updates try and fail to take effect. The only way to fix this is to unfreeze the pc, run the updates, and then refreeze the pc. At five minutes per pc and 12 pc’s this take a large chunk out of the limited opening hours. And when this happens without warning, organizing busy staff to handle the problem is difficult to manage.

 

Two of us dealt with this problem yesterday after the automatic system updates crashed out network totally, everything from the internet to our electronic library management system.