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Will this plan help to reduce the digital divide?  How can we make broadband Internet access available to families who already struggle to make the monthly bills?   Efforts to increase the capabilities of networks “toward one gigabit to every community in America, through libraries, schools and community colleges” may help to extend access, but I suspect many libraries are going to need more computer terminals to really make a difference in the lives of the lower class.  And maybe more libraries in rural and impoverished areas.  Perhaps a LaptopMobile?

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Is society becoming bound and gagged by overzealous licencing?  Will our culture be hamstrung by copyright?  There’s cause for concern…

Thanks to my friend Catherine Wilson for sending me a link to this article by Lawrence Lessig:

For the Love of Culture: Google, copyright, and our future

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On October 12, the Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL) was closed for Columbus Day and held their annual Staff Development Day at the Hardesty Library.  I have been subbing at various TCCL branches when staff are sick or on vacation, so I was invited to attend Staff Development Day.

The schedule for the event was as follows:

8:00 am – Registration and breakfast
8:30 am – Opening Ceremonies
10:00 am – First Breakout Session
11:20 am – Open Booth and Activity Period
12:00 pm – Lunch
2:20 pm – Second Breakout Session
3:40 pm – Closing Ceremonies
5:00 pm – Dismissed

Breakfast was purchased with budgeted funds and catered by Jason’s Deli.  Lunch was underwritten by the Friends of the Library and provided by Arby’s.  A number of valuable classes were offered during the breakout sessions, and staff could receive continuing education credits by attending.  Classes included topics like where and how to enroll in Library & Info Studies Master’s programs, how to provide library programming for teens, disaster preparedness, how to host a murder mystery program at the library, etc.  During the Open Activity Period, library staff toured booths and displays created by other library staff.  In touring the booths, I learned about TCCL’s proposed floating collection, the many responsibilities of the Collection Development Dept., the many nifty features of various Gale online databases, the activities of the TCCL Staff Association, and the resources of the Beryl Ford Memorial and Oklahoma Collection.  In addition, staff could give blood, receive a free health screening, play video games, attend a yoga class or talk an Urban Wildlife Walk during the Open Activity Period.

I thought the catering for this event was well done in terms of set-up and the vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.  Having the Friends help off-set the cost of food was a smart way to leverage resources and keep the event budget down.  The use of Hardesty Library facilities for booths and classes was well-thought-out.  The Staff Development Day guide was very cleverly designed, and the inclusion of maps for event locations, descriptions of events, and an evaluation form made this publication very helpful.  The theme for Staff Development Day was “Everyday Heroes,” and I thought this theme was very well-chosen in the interest of showing staff appreciation.  Staff were given royal blue t-shirts with a modified superman logo on the chest to wear to the event.  A number of staff wore capes, too!  Decorations included various superhero themed items and were very cleverly arranged.  Staff achievement awards were announced during opening and closing ceremonies, and I was very impressed by the number of hard-working and highly creative staff recognized through these awards.  I think this is another great way of showing staff appreciation by publicly recognizing their achievements.

I believe a few elements could have been improved in the organization of this event.  Hardesty Library is in the process of expanding its parking lot due to space shortage, so a lot of parking was blocked off due to construction.  This caused there to be insufficient parking for staff attending the event.  Perhaps efforts could have been made to encourage carpooling or to identify locations for overflow parking ahead of time.  Possibly such efforts were made, and I was simply unaware of them.  Additionally, I heard a lot of feedback from staff attending the event that the Open Activity Session in the middle of the day was too long.  Apparently this large span of free time was provided to allow staff ample time to view all the booths, give blood and do the health screening.  However, those who did not take advantage of the time-consuming health screening were left with too much time and not enough to do.  Perhaps additional optional classes could have been provided during this period. 

Another small issue was that subs like me that work few and sporadic hours were unable to browse and choose from the list of classes posted on the intranet in order to enroll ahead of time.  Thus I really didn’t get to know about all of the opportunities available at the event–only the activities I stumbled into on my own.  Granted, I may have been the only sub who attended, so this was a very isolated problem.  Having a full list of classes that could be emailed to subs like me ahead of time would have been very helpful.  Of course, it’s easy to identify problems like these after the fact.  It’s far more difficult to predict them ahead of time.

All in all I was quite impressed with the organization and promotion of this event.

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In my Community Relations & Advocacy class, we are currently analyzing and discussing ethical dilemmas.  One of the problematic situations is this:

“A parents’ group, concerned with recently publicized accounts of children being stalked in the library by pedophiles, requests that the Children’s Department of the library be off-limits to everyone except children under the age of 12 and their biological parents.”

The moral dilemma of this situation involves the necessity of choice between either protecting child library users from harm or providing equitable access to library resources and upholding the right to read.  We want children to be safe in our libraries, but limiting access to the children’s department to everyone but children under 12 and their biological parents limits access to numerous people with legitimate needs for children’s resources.  Children may be accompanied by grandparents, older siblings, step-parents, foster parents, legal guardians, teachers, day care providers–must these people be denied access?  What if these adults come to the library alone to check out children’s materials for their grandchildren/younger siblings/step-children/students?  What about adults who are learning to read, or mentally challenged adults that can only read and enjoy children’s materials?  What about grad students who want to be children’s librarians and need to study children’s resources?

From the deontological perspective, allowing potentially harmful individuals to come into proximity with children might be considered evil.  Another deontological perspective might be that denying taxpayers access to public resources and curtailing customers’ right to read is evil.

The parents who have proposed restricting the children’s department may be operating from the teleological theory of ethical egoism: restricting adults from the children’s department would best meet their needs and desires.  However, those holding with the teleological theory of utilitarianism would favor the action that guarantees the most good for the most people.  Since most people are not pedophiles, protecting intellectual freedom by allowing equitable access to the children’s department would provide the most good for the most people.

My professional stance is that restricting equitable public access to any library resources purchased with tax dollars is against the ALA code of ethics and the Library Bill of Rights.  Customers who are following library rules cannot be denied access to public resources.  Librarians should not be acting as the Pre-Crime Dept. in Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report.  The ALA code of ethics states that librarians will provide equitable service policies and equitable access; librarians will uphold intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources; and librarians will not advance private interests at the expense of library users.  The Library Bill of Rights states that a person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background or views.  These fundamental principles of librarianship are diametrically opposed to the proposed restriction.

Besides, the proposed restriction is not guaranteed to protect child library users.  Some pedophiles are parents.  Some children molest other children (usually because they have been/are being molested themselves).  Children could be attacked in any area of the library–not just the children’s dept.  Children are more likely to be safe and protected if their parents/guardians supervise them at all times.  To show the parents proposing restriction of the children’s dept. that the library does care about their children’s safety, the library may institute a rule or a strong suggestion that children should be accompanied by parents/guardians at all times.  The library could have a security guard walk through all areas of the library periodically, or if this is not financially feasible, librarians could rove through the library to offer customer assistance and keep their eyes peeled for suspicious behavior.

Another ethical dilemma posed is this:

“When a library customer overhears a librarian waiving the fines and charges of another customer, he asks that his fines also be waived. His request is refused based upon the fact that he has the resources to pay his fines while the first customer did not. The offended customer files a grievance with the Library Board of Trustees, claiming that the collection of fines by the library is arbitrary, subjective, and capricious. He demands that the policy be enforced in an all-or-nothing manner, with all customers held to the same standards.” 

Clearly this is a very difficult ethical situation, and it doesn’t help that we don’t have all the information we need to understand it.  We know that patron 2 overheard the librarian waiving the fines of patron 1.  We know that the librarian refused to waive patron 2’s fines “based upon the fact that he has the resources to pay his fines while the first customer did not,” but we do not know how the librarian determined that patron 2 can afford to pay fines and patron 1 could not.  If the librarian simply made an assumption about the financial status of each patron, clearly this is not right.  But perhaps the librarian knew patron 1 well–perhaps patron 1 is a repeat customer who talks to the librarian often about their life and their difficulty finding a job…  Perhaps the librarian also knew patron 2 well as a repeat customer.  We don’t know.

We do not know exactly what the librarian said to patron 2 about patron 1’s resources.  Obviously if the librarian disclosed anything to patron 2 about patron 1’s financial status, this would be highly unethical and a violation of privacy.  We do not know if the librarian was following a clearly defined library policy for waiving fines in certain circumstances, or if the librarian did not follow policy, or if a policy exists in this hypothetical library, or if the librarian just made an arbitrary decision.

We do not know the amount of each patron’s fines.  We do not know if each customer’s fines are simply for late fees or if either customer is being charged to replace items that were never returned.  Waiving late fees is not a big deal, but waiving replacement fees is more serious.

We can make recommendations about what should have been done in each situation.  Certainly library policies should be in place about when it is proper to waive fines.  Policies should also be in place as to how to deal with irate customers.  If a policy was in place, and the librarian really did have knowledge about the financial status of both customers, and the librarian was following library policy in waiving one customer’s fines and denying the other, then the next appropriate step would be to explain to patron 2 the library’s policy about waiving fines in certain extenuating circumstances.

But here’s a problem: how can you explain to patron 2 that the library waives fines for customers who cannot afford to pay them without disclosing private information about patron 1’s financial status?  Even if you don’t refer specifically to patron 1, by saying that it is the library’s policy to waive late fines for customers who cannot afford to pay, you have revealed private information about patron 1’s financial status.  I don’t have an answer for that one.

If patron 2 is unhappy with the librarian’s explanation of policy, the patron should be given the opportunity to discuss the situation with the manager.  The manager should be able to smooth things over with the customer while the librarian is freed up to continue helping other customers.

If the manager cannot convince the patron of the fairness of the library’s fine-waiving policy, and assuming patron 2’s fines are simply for late books and not replacement of lost books, I think it would be better to waive patron 2’s fines than to allow the situation to continue to escalate and become a nasty PR issue.

My understanding of this sort of situation comes from a public library perspective, so what works in a public library may not work as well in an academic, school or special library.  I know that in the Tulsa City-County Library, fines for late items do not add up to much money, even if you add up all the late fines paid in all 25 branches in a year’s time.  Waiving a fine now and then is not depriving the community of library materials.  However, fine collections might be a lot more important in a smaller library, so this deserves some consideration.  I think there are legitimate reasons for waiving late fees, such as when a customer has lost his or her job and needs to use library resources to find a new job, create a resume, etc. 

Maintaining good customer relations may also be a good reason for waiving fines.  If a mother is going to stop taking her kids to the library because she can’t pay the fine on her card, maybe it would be better to forgive the fine or part of the fine in order to keep the customers?  I once served a very elderly, hard-of-hearing lady who had a 15 cent fine on her card for some late books.  She was adamant that she had returned the books on time.  I figured it was possible that the library made a mistake, and even if we hadn’t, 15 cents is no big deal to the library, but it was clearly a big deal, perhaps a matter of honor, to this lady.  It seemed more important to me to preserve the library’s good relationship with this woman than to wring the 15 cents out of her.  I also didn’t want to potentially damage the reputation of the library by having a loud discussion with this hard-of-hearing lady about such a miniscule amount of money.  We don’t want the library to be seen as wringing the desperately needed social security money out of someone’s little old grandmother.  Certainly customer privacy and the library’s image is at stake when fines must be collected in a public place, and I’m not sure how to resolve this problem.

Maybe fines could be deferred, so that customers who can’t pay now could be allowed to use library resources in the mean time, and asked for payment again in 6 months?  In terms of public libraries which are most needed by those with limited financial resources, I think flexibility is imperative.

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Here’s an article from MediaShift comparing the usability of the Kindle and the iPhone with regards to newspaper content.  And speaking of news, here’s a book review of Losing the News: The Future of the News that Feeds Democracy, by Alex S. Jones.

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Creating pathfinders has put my blogging on hold for the last week, but I’m nearing the end of my internship path, and I will be field testing my pathfinders tomorrow during my advisor Doc Martens’s site visit.

As it turned out, 30 pathfinders was a lofty project goal for the time allotted.  As of today, I have managed to complete 15 pathfinders, but Mr. Escobar and Buddy, head of the Hardesty Children’s Dept., seem very happy with these results nonetheless.  Mr. Escobar introduced me to a number of excellent resources to help with selecting library materials for marketing.  NoveList is a powerful online resource, providing bibliographic information for books as well as summaries, reviews, lexile range, awards won, etc.  I also used print resources, including Valerie and Walter’s Best Books for Children, Books Kids Will Sit Still For, The Children’s Literature Lover’s Book of Lists, and The NY Times’ Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children.  The Something About the Author series is another valuable resource for collection building and marketing, although I did not get a chance to consult it with regards to my pathfinder project.

The pathfinders I created are as follows:

Books for Little Buccaneers
Shiver Me Timbers
Princesses
Fractured Fairy Tales
Hamsters
Books About Summer
Back to School
Life After Harry Potter
Christmas (Easy Picture Books and Beginning Readers)
Christmas (grades 1 – 3 and grades 4 – 6)
Hanukkah
Kwanzaa
Trees & Animal Tracks
If you like American Girls…
Pura Belpré Award

The Fractured Fairy Tales, Books About Summer, Back to School, and Christmas (Easy Picture Books and Beginning Readers) pathfinders are tailored for parents, while the other pathfinders are tailored for children.  Parent pathfinders contain more and smaller text, while children’s pathfinders contain less text, larger text, more space in between text, and multiple graphics.  Librarians can distinguish between pathfinders for parents and those for children by looking for a small letter P (for Parent) at the bottom of the bookmark.  The variety of pathfinder categories that I chose allowed me to provide access to informational, educational and recreational resources within the TCCL children’s collections.

Comparing TCCL catalog holdings with lists of highly acclaimed books provided by NoveList and the print resources mentioned above allowed me to identify some gaps within the TCCL children’s collections.  For instance, TCCL might only have one copy of a certain award-winning book, or a very limited number of beginning readers on the subject of Hanukkah.  Ideally, library collections should contain materials reflecting all the varied views and experiences of its customers.  Continuous efforts must be made through careful weeding and collection development practices to adhere to this standard.

Tomorrow I will field test my pathfinders by distributing them to children and parents and then collecting feedback.  I will position myself near the Storytime Room and the Teen Teamers dispensing summer reading stickers and prizes, and I will ask parents and children if they would like any of my pathfinders on various topics.  When the parents and children go to the desk to check out their library materials, the staff at the desk will ask them if the pathfinders they received were helpful.  These staff will have a spreadsheet where they can simply check Yes or No, check whether the customer was an adult or child, and list the name of the pathfinder(s) the customer took/used.  This field test will provide quantitative data about the usefulness of my pathfinders.

Qualitative data could be gathered if pathfinders were modified to include the URL for a surveymonkey survey, which parents could complete if they so choose.  It might be difficult to get customers to participate in the survey though.  Perhaps if participants could be given some kind of gift certificate, for a free ice cream or something, in return for completing a survey, we could collect more survey data.

Ideally, the pathfinders I have created would be made available in both paper and digital format.  The children’s TCCL website has pages to help customers find certain kinds of books under Books and Reading, such as award-winning books, mysteries, scary stories, etc.  Ideally, this section of the website would be modified to include the reading lists I have compiled, and should include the capability to print these lists in bookmark form.  Providing pathfinders both in paper format and digital format will make these resources more widely accessible for customers whether they are physically present in the library or searching library collections remotely through the TCCL online catalog.  Individual titles in the digital pathfinders should be hyperlinked so that customers can click on the title to check availability of the item, as is currently available under each list here.

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One of my goals for my internship at Hardesty Library is to develop a project that demonstrates many of the principles and skills I’ve learned through my LIS classes and my internship.  I want a showcase piece that I can include as the keystone of my portfolio.

Mr. Escobar asked me to develop plans for three possible projects: a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C.  The object lesson of this exercise is to understand that your first plan doesn’t always work out the way you expected: sometimes you get partway through a project or study and realize it’s not actually feasible.  Sometimes you can’t get administrative support or funding for your Plan A.  This is why you should always have a backup plan or two up your sleeve.

I asked Buddy, the head of the Hardesty Children’s Department, what the children’s department needed—what would he like to investigate if he had time, or what projects he had on the backburner.  He said the children’s department really needs more pathfinders for books on holidays and frequently-asked-for subjects like pirates, princesses and hamsters.  (Apparently the book The World According to Humphrey has made hamsters all the rage!)  I thought developing pathfinders sounded like fun, so I started brainstorming.

Here are the project plans I developed:

Plan A: Children’s Pathfinders

Goal:  Assist children and parents to locate books of interest on popular and frequently requested subjects, including educational, informational and recreational resources.

Objectives:

  1. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking popular genres of library materials, including scary stories, mysteries, adventure stories, animal stories, funny stories, fantasy stories, historical fiction and sports stories.
  2. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking books similar to popular series, such as the Junie B. Jones and American Girls series.
  3. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking award-winning children’s books beyond the well-known Newberry and Sequoyah award-winners.
  4. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking popular subjects, including pirates, princesses, hamsters, holidays, and tree and animal track identification resources.
  5. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking specific formats of library materials, such as manga and books with movie tie-ins.
  6. Make pathfinder information available in both print and online format to expand access to librarians and customers.

Activities:

  1. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for the 14 categories listed on the children’s website under Books and Reading/ Find a Good Book/ If You Like… (http://kids.tulsalibrary.org/books/like.htm).
  2. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for award-winning children’s books, including those awarded the Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ Literature and the Pura Belpré Award.
  3. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for subjects frequently assigned for school research, including tree identification and animal tracks identification resources.
  4. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for popular subjects and formats frequently requested by children, including pirates, princesses, hamsters, juvenile manga, and books with movie tie-ins
  5. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for holiday books and media, including Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Ramadan.
  6. Include URLs to quality websites for additional resources where applicable.
  7. Create template for website layout of these pathfinders, with links to printable pathfinders.
  8. Distribute sample pathfinders and collect customer feedback via brief interviews.

Budget:

Design of Pathfinders
            2 Staff Hours @ $15/hour X 29 Pathfinders = $870
Paper
            3 Reams @ $4 per ream = $12
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 1,500 Sheets = $45
TOTAL: $972

 

Plan B: Survey of Children 

Goal:  Increase awareness and usage of Books and Reading resources on children’s TCCL website (http://kids.tulsalibrary.org/books/).

Objectives:

  1. Survey children to assess knowledge of Books and Reading resources on the children’s TCCL website and assess children’s comfort using these resources.
  2. Use survey findings to inform possible redesign of this portion on the website.
  3. Use survey findings to inform marketing tactics for Books and Reading resources.

Activities:

  1. Design anonymous, child-friendly surveys with simple words and no more than five questions.  Include at least one open-ended question, where children can suggest ways to make the Books and Reading resources easier to use.
  2. Create parental consent forms.
  3. Request approval of surveys through IRB.
  4. After receiving parental consent, administer surveys to children between ages 7 and 11.  Read questions aloud if requested.  Assure participants that there are no wrong answers.
  5. Analyze results.

Budget:

Creation of Surveys and Consent Forms
            4 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $60
Paper
            6 Reams @ $4 per ream = $24
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 3,000 Sheets = $90
Analysis of Survey Results
            10 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $150
TOTAL: $324

  

Plan C : Children’s Book Talk

Goal:  Increase children’s and parents’ awareness of various genres of children’s literature and tools for locating items of interest.

Objectives:

  1. Cultivate children’s and parents’ interest in various genres of children’s literature
  2. Teach children and parents where to find and how to use tools for locating library materials in these and other categories.

Activities:

  1. Provide snacks, themed to tie in with books where possible.
  2. Create displays of three books for several genres, such as horror, adventure, mystery and humor.
  3. Introduce each genre, noting appeal factors.
  4. Introduce each displayed book briefly (approx. 2 minutes) with descriptions designed to hook the audience.
  5. Introduce paper pathfinders for each genre.
  6. Show location of these and other pathfinders on children’s TCCL website by projecting website on a screen or wall and demonstrating navigation to Books and Reading resources.
  7. Invite questions from children and parents.
  8. Try to limit program to 30 minutes or less, not including Q&A.

Budget:

Planning for Book Talk
            9 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $135
Paper
            50 Sheets @ $0.01 per sheet = $0.50
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 50 Sheets = $1.50
Snacks = $15
TOTAL: $152

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