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This article is about a children’s book, Buster’s Sugartime by Marc Brown, that has been challenged in the Union School District in Tulsa.  Luckily the Union school board voted to keep the book on the shelf.  The book includes some children who have same-sex parents.  Dr. Van Fleet posted this on Desire2Learn in our Evaluation Methods class forum, and I shared it on our class Facebook page for Young Adult Services.

The parents challenging the book apparently object to the ALSC core competency to maintain “a diverse collection, recognizing children’s need to see people like and unlike themselves in the materials they access.”   Children living in non-traditional families deserve access to books that reflect their reality, just like every other child.

Imagine removing everything from the library that mentions an illegal activity…  There goes the mystery section…  Whaling is illegal in the Arkansas River, so I guess Moby Dick would be out…

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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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Field testing and the site visit went well yesterday, I think.  First I met with Louix Escobar and Doc Martens, and I showed Doc Martens my pathfinders and explained my process for resource selection and field testing.  Despite my getting a little nervous and tongue tied, I think this was fairly well received.

Next I went to the children’s department to distribute my pathfinders while Doc Martens observed.  I had given a data collection sheet to Buddy, head of the Children’s Dept., earlier that morning to show and explain to the children’s staff.  I made sure each person working the children’s desk had a data collection sheet and understood how to record the data.  A few days earlier I had explained my field testing and data collection process to all the children’s staff, although I didn’t have the data collection sheet with me at that time.  Louix was looking out for me and made sure to “check for understanding,” ensuring the staff understood the process.

I had planned to simply sit back with Teen Teamer near the Storytime Room, expecting a steady stream of children and parents to be flowing that direction as they so often do.  However, I ended up starting my field testing in the lull between storytimes, so while there were a number of parents and children browsing in the children’s dept., they weren’t exactly flowing my direction.  Therefore, I decided I should modify my plan and try walking around and offering my pathfinders to customers, rather than being stationary.  Doc Martens observed as I roamed around and asked customers if they would be interested in my bookmarks with lists of good books about, pirates, princesses, hamsters, etc.

The vast majority of children present were under age 8, perhaps partly because the storytimes offered Wednesday morning were tailored for younger children.  As I distributed my pathfinders, I addressed parents and children, but I primarily addressed the parent when the children were clearly too young to understand what I was offering.  Had more than one or two children older than 6 been present, I would have addressed these children more directly.  It’s important to direct attention to the children, to make children feel that their input is valued.  When addressing parents, librarians should endeavor to make children feel included in the conversation as much as possible.

Only one parent said she wasn’t interested in my pathfinders.  All the others took between one and four of my pathfinders.  Most of the adults present were women, mothers or grandmothers, although there were two fathers present.  Two women who were either Hispanic or Latina did not speak much English, and while I gave them several pathfinders, I’m not sure they understood what they were.

Because of the number of pathfinders I created (15), it was difficult to market all of them equally as I engaged with customers.  I assumed customers would get impatient if I listed all 15 of my available pathfinders.  I assumed that customers would not be particularly interested in pathfinders for winter holidays in the middle of July, although I did try to offer the Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah pathfinders to a few people.  I took some cues from the gender of the children with the parent.  I carried a handful of the pathfinders around and asked parents and children if they would be interested in a book mark with lists of good books about pirates, princesses, hamsters, summer, back to school, books to read after Harry Potter, etc.  I mentioned princess and pirate pathfinders when addressing girls and parents with little girls, but I mostly did not mention princesses when addressing boys and parents with little boys.  I held out an array of pathfinders to parents and children regardless of gender, including pirates and princesses, so they could pick out any they wanted, but I did not want to potentially offend little boys by offering them a list a books about princesses.  This might have been the wrong thing to do.  Ideally, all pathfinders should be made equally available to all customers without any kind of judgement or expectations about their selections with regards to the customer’s gender or other characteristics.  In any case, I’m afraid all my pathfinders did not get equal emphasis during distribution.

In addition to approaching customers, I also spread out my pathfinders on a small table next to the Teen Teamer’s station, so that customers passing by could pick them up if they wished.  As I walked around offering my pathfinders to customers, the ones most requested were for pirates and princesses, followed by hamsters and American Girls, then Harry Potter, and lastly one or two requests for books about summer.  I do not believe any of the holiday, back to school or tree/animal track identification pathfinders were taken, unless customers picked them up from the table while I was elsewhere.

One child requested a pathfinder featuring books about dogs.  Although I did not have a pathfinder on this topic, I directed her to a pathfinder with books about animals, including dogs, on a stand near the door.  I did not see her go pick one up however.  Because she was quite young (probably younger than 8), I think now that I should have picked up the animal books pathfinder and physically handed it to her.  That would have been a more effective way of meeting her information need.  In any case, the fact that children want books about dogs is valuable information.  This would be another valuable topic for a pathfinder.

In the 45 minutes or so dedicated to field testing, we did not collect much feedback from customers.  Only three adults responded to the question “did you find the booklist bookmark helpful?”  Two adults said no and one said yes.  There was no feedback from children (most likely because they were too young to understand and respond).  I believe that the period of time between receiving the pathfinder and checking out was insufficient for customers to assess the usefulness of my pathfinders.  Ideally, these pathfinders should be tested over a period of several weeks or months, to give customers ample time to use these tools.  I told Louix this, and he said this was exactly the conclusion that he hoped I would reach.  Nonetheless, he said this field testing was valuable as a learning exercise for future field research later in my education and career.

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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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Baby Bookworms

Baby Bookworms

Reading with my brother

Reading with my brother

My First Summer Reading Medal from the Library

My First Summer Reading Medal from the Library

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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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This post continues the discussion from my previous posting, explaining the various changes instituted by TCCL and Hardesty in policy, procedure and facility design since my early days of library circulation work (1998-2003).

TCCL now provides a number of important and valuable resources for staff on its Intranet.  The Intranet provides access to the TCCL policy manual, staff contact information, an online timesheet for clocking hours worked, and information related to health insurance, dental insurance and insurance coverage for various prescriptions.  Templates for printing CD labels and labels for boxes of magazine back issues are available on the Intranet.  Librarians can access listservs to discuss issues with other TCCL staff, such as children’s services or outreach issues.  Also, the Intranet provides forms frequently required by staff, such as vacation request forms, accident forms, incident forms, donation forms, forms for customers who want to request that TCCL purchase a book not currently in the system, and forms for customers who want to request that TCCL remove a book from the system.  Gone are the days when library staff had to rummage through the backroom filing cabinets for these forms.  Now staff can easily access and print these documents from any staff terminal.  I’m sure TCCL had an Intranet in my early circ days, but I don’t remember anyone showing me how to use it.  In the old days, we only had paper time sheets to log our work hours and paper vacation requests.  I remember reading many pages of library policies, but I only had a paper copy, which wasn’t always easily accessible if you needed to refresh your memory on a specific point of policy.  The new Intranet makes a wealth of information and documents easily accessible to all library staff.

TCCL’s children’s website has been expanded significantly in the last six years.  It allows children to search the catalog by text or by picture, and it provides a number of helpful resources like pathfinders, reliable websites for homework research, games, children’s attractions in the Tulsa area and local libraries, and resources for parents and teachers.  There are some navigational features missing that would enhance usability if added, such as links to allow users to navigate from a submenu to a main menu.  The word on the street is that TCCL is preparing to redesign the children’s website soon, so I am sure a number of improvements will be made in the process.

During my internship hours spent in the children’s department, I have not seen any children using the children’s catalog.  I’ve seen them playing games on the computers, and I’ve seen parents using the general catalog at the two kiosks in the children’s department.  Mostly I’ve seen parents and children asking the librarians when they need help finding something.  I asked Buddy, the head of the Hardesty Children’s Department, if they had ever offered a class to show children how to use the children’s catalog.  He said they had tried to offer classes before, but attendance numbers were very low.  At one such class, parents dropped their children off, and the kids didn’t seem to absorb the information very well.  Buddy says they are going to try to offer another class where parents and children can sit at the computer and learn together.  The children’s librarians are anticipating better results with this set-up.

The library has also created a new Tween fiction collection for children and parents who want longer, more advanced books without the adult content that appears more often in young adult and adult fiction collections.  As more and more parents have asked librarians for help in locating challenging reading material without sexual content for their children, the Tween collection was developed to meet this need.  The TCCL catalog reflects the location of these books in the Tween section, just as it reflects the location of books in the Juvenile fiction section.  Tween books are identified by a T sticker on their spines, just as juvenile fiction has  J stickers on their spines.  This collection is located just inside the children’s department, right next to the door, since tweenage customers are almost ready to graduate from the children’s department and to move on to the young adult department.

Another change in the Hardesty children’s department involves the arrangement of the story time room.  When the story time room was originally designed, there was an erupting volcano in the midst of a jungle scene painted on the north wall, and steps carpeted in orange and yellow, looking like lava flowing down a hill, for children to sit on during story time.  A short stairway outside the story time room led up to a child-sized door that opened up at the top of the carpeted stairs inside the story time room.  This arrangement was very visually appealing, and the children enjoyed climbing up the steps and having a special place to sit.  However, the story time room did not have continuous adult supervision when story time was not in session.  The steps inside the story time room were feared to be unsafe for children to climb on without adult supervision, so they were removed, and the child-sized door was sealed.  The jungle painting was expanded to cover where the steps had been, and the room looks very nice despite the changes.  But this situation demonstrates the importance of carefully planning and thinking through facility designs when refurbishing or building new library facilities.  It’s very difficult to foresee all the possible flaws in a plan still in blueprint form, but it costs a lot of money to have to go back and change things later.

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TCCL is working hard to polish and update the image of the library, to dust off the collections and make things look shiny and new.  In support of this effort, Mr. Escobar and his staff have been weeding heavily.  When checking in library materials, staff are encouraged to set aside items that look ragged—books with broken spines, ripped pages or covers, water damage, pages falling out, broken media cases, etc.  Covers and media cases can be easily replaced, but if the item itself is damaged and ratty, it is placed in a tote in the workroom so that a librarian can assess it for withdrawal.  Like new library materials and magazines, withdrawals are processed daily.  Since the catalog shows books in the withdrawal box as being available for check out until they are withdrawn from the system, processing withdrawals daily reduces the amount of time staff must spend looking for items that are not on the shelf because they have been set aside for withdrawal.  Hardesty’s shelves are no longer crammed with old ratty books that never circulate.  This makes it easier for shelvers to do their jobs and for customers to browse without feeling overwhelmed.

A number of libraries have book sale areas, where books and other media that have been donated or withdrawn from the library catalog can be sold for a dollar or less.  Hardesty’s book sale used to be located just inside the front doors, next to where the coffee shop used to be.  However, in the interest of maintaining the library’s new and shiny image, Hardesty’s book sale has been moved upstairs to the southwest corner of the library.  This shift means that the first library materials that customers see upon entering the library are the new items, rather than the old, faded, sometimes ragged donated and withdrawn books of the book sale.  True, book sales have decreased, but the money collected is all profit.  Because volunteers organize the book sale, the library incurs no cost by providing it.  Moving the collection to a more discrete location supports the library’s clean and revitalized image.  And as customers find the book sale’s new location, hopefully sales will increase again.

Computer usage policies and maintenance procedures have also changed a bit in the last few years.  During my early circulation days, TCCL had to institute time limits for customer computer usage in order to ensure that a few customers didn’t monopolize the computers while others were denied access.  I was there when librarians tried instituting sign-up lists for the computers, but that didn’t work so well.  Some customers signed up but didn’t show up on time while others beged and pleaded for more time.  Now every customer with a library account can use the computer for 60 minutes per day at branch libraries, and for 90 minutes per day at regional libraries like Hardesty.  Before 2 pm and after 5 pm, customers can request to have their computer time extended if they need it.  The librarians can remotely add time to a customer’s account, without leaving their station at the desk.  This is very beneficial when the staff have a long line of customers to serve.  At the end of the day, the computers are automatically and remotely shut down by the Central Library IT Dept. 10 minutes after closing time.  In the old days, the librarians had to walk around shutting off each computer in the library, and occasionally had to try to extract customers who didn’t want to relinquish a computer.  Now librarians can simply tell these customers that if they don’t save their work and log out, their work may be lost as the computers are remotely shut down.  This setup saves a great deal of time at the end of the day.

I was surprised to learn that the magnetic security strips in library materials are being phased out, and that all library materials are already receiving RFID tags.  I hadn’t really thought about how the magnetic security system and the RFID system would work together, and I didn’t expect TCCL to already be RFID compatible.  I thought that shift would still be a few years down the road, for some reason.  I remember back in 1998 or 1999 when the libraries shut down for a week in order to apply the magnetic security strips to the collections.  It was a time-consuming process, and we only had enough resources to tag every third book or so.  Although the staff terminals still scan items for check-in and check-out via barcode readers, the self-check machines are able to scan the RFID tags in library materials.  According to Mr. Escobar, the magnetic security gates had no discernable effect in reducing the number of stolen library items.  I wonder if one day there will be no need to check out books to customers by hand—perhaps scanners will read the RFID tags on library items as customers walk out the door?

As you can see, Tulsa area libraries have come a long way in just a few short years.

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