Wednesday, March 14, 2007

California Dreamin'...and Delivering!

Joan Frye Williams and I did 2-1/2 hours on the changes in the library world this morning at the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library. We had some terrific discussion, especially when a trustee from one of the area public libraries challenged us about dumbing down libraries.

After Joan and I wrapped up, six local librarians talked about some initiatives their institutions were taking.

Erin Pawlus of the Burbank Public Library talked about the very entertaining blog she and some of her colleagues have done. She also included some principles her team put together for what and why they would blog.

Terri Maguire from the County of Los Angeles Public Library discussed a consultancy Paco Underhill (author of Why We Buy and The Call of the Mall) is doing for the library. Watch for the results of this work to be published: it could be incendiary. One key finding: only 9% of library users ever use the OPAC there.

David Campbell from Palos Verde Library District talked about a staff training opportunity the library had launched. Everyone who completes the training gets an MP3 player and is entered into a drawing for a digital camera, an iPod or a Wii. The training consists of 10 exercises, including starting a blog, posting a photo album to Flickr, and create an RSS feed.

Nanette Schneir of the Santa Monica Public Library demonstrated the Vocera communication system her library uses. It is extremely cool---it allows staff to range throughout the building while still being able to handle reference calls or back up the desk.

Karen Schatz described the new Help Desk that replaced the old reference desk at the Oxnard Public Library. It's staffed by trained (but not-MLS) employees, it's placed in a very visible, highly strategic location, and it allows the reference librarians to provide more quality and quantity time with customers who really need help.

Finally, Danis Kreimeier and John Legree (whom Danis referred to as her library's "IT Bad Boy") talked about some of the outstanding innovations they have added to the Yorba Linda Public Library web site. The "Book Feed" is includes a constantly updated list of the books that have been returned to the library, the list of the Top 10 requested items in the collection, and a real time list of materials on order, for example. They also have a section where teens can review books, and a dynamic reader's advisory system.

So I learned a heck of a lot more than I taught today. A fine finish to my too brief visit to Southern California. (Photos of San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point coming as soon as I can dump my photos to the album.)

1 comment:

Genny said...

Regarding the consultancy for County of Los Angeles Public Library:
I'm kind of surprised that as many as 9% use the OPAC in the library. The vast majority of all our systems use by patrons comes from outside the library. They go to our web servers to get event calendars, reserve their books, etc. Then when they arrive at the library, they pick up the books they already reserved online from home.

It seems from my experience that most of the people who physically come into the library to start their search for a book either (a) browse a known section such as their favorite author in Fiction or (b) ask library staff to point them to a Dewey range to browse.

My theory is that there is very, very little overlap between the in-library book-browsing population and the online-at-home population. Trying to develop a single web or OPAC system to serve the needs of these divergent audiences (not to mention the needs of the staff) may be a completely futile undertaking.