Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Meet Your Bloggers: Liz Burns

Alert readers will recognize Liz Burns as the author of several shrewd & well-written posts from PGL's unofficial NJLA Conference coverage of the last two weeks. She's also staying on with PGL as a regular contributor, and I'm so glad. I'm glad because she's such a good writer (so clear! such a good connection-maker!) and such an unapologetic & enthusiastic popular culture consumer & critic.

I'm also glad because I need other voices here -- I can't be The Lone Expert on All Things Pop. Pop is such a huge concept, and I've found that I'd prefer to specialize in two areas: music & magazines. Which leaves TV, movies, books, and so on. It just so happens that Liz, who I met through the YA Services Section of the New Jersey Library Association, is a total TV fanatic.

The third reason I'm glad to have Liz on board is personal: my husband & I are having a baby in September, and though others I read & admire have done it, I can't really see myself blogging & breastfeeding at the same time. I can't see allowing PGL to lie dormant for months on end, either, so I'm recruiting contributors. If you are a pop-culture obsessive, if you see every movie the weekend it comes out, if you have all the fall book releases memorized, if you can't get enough of The Sunday Stew, if you track trends in popular culture & religion, and if you can tie it all together in a loose bow that can fit libraries, their collections & services, I'm interested in hearing from you: sophie[dot]brookover[at]gmail[dot]com. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway, because I like things spelled out) that being able to write like the Dickens (though not actually like Dickens -- we don't pay by the word, here. Or at all, in fact!) is also required.

And now, ladies & gentlemen, I give you Liz Burns, in her own words:
I'm a Teen Services Librarian for the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library. I've been a librarian since 2001; before that, I was a lawyer. Why the switch? Well, there are overlaps between the two: helping people, researching, communication skills. And, just as important: libraries are a much nicer worker environment; and librarians much nicer and happier people.

Before I met Sophie, I was reading her blog and thinking, oh man! I wish I'd thought of that. [Awwww, thanks! -- Sophie.] My primary pop culture area is television. And I'm proud of it!! TV Turnoff Week is something that I do not understand. That we attract people to books by telling them not to do something they enjoy (watch TV), doesn't make sense to me. We attract people to books by finding out what they like (certain TV shows), and match them up with some good books? Now that makes sense.

I like movies (of course I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly), but I wait till the DVD so I'm about 6 months behind in what's good. And celebrity gossip is always fun, whether its found in People or Vanity Fair. (Vanity Fair: it's People, but with longer articles.) For most music, I'm sadly out of touch. My favorite band is The Pogues. I can try to blame being out of the music loop on living in the suburbs, with only regular radio to listen to.

What else? I like trying different food; I like talking; I like traveling. I like reading, varying from teen books to non-fiction to romance to horror. My total number of books read for 2005 is 94 (take that, TV Turnoff week people!!) I like writing; like any good wannabe author, I have half finished novels all over the place. Perhaps I need to be a bit more disciplined or less lazy. (Or maybe turn off the TV?) (Oh, shut up, TV Turnoff people!)

Sweet, Sweet Vindication

TV Makes You Smart! Take that, "Oh, pop culture is so low-brow these days" naysayers! I know, just because it's published in the Times, it doesn't make it automatically true, but I am thoroughly tantalized by this excerpt from Steven Johnson's forthcoming book, Everything Bad Is Good For You (does the title remind anyone else of They Might Be Giants' early song Everything Right Is Wrong Again? No? Just me? Okay, then.) and now it's at the top of my to-read list for the summer.

Although the excerpted article was a little low on the kind of close readings of more recent shows like Lost and Deadwood that I would like, and all but ignored shows for the teen audience (Buffy, anyone? How about Veronica Mars?), I was really excited by this comment [emphasis mine]:

If early television took its cues from the stage, today's reality programming is reliably structured like a video game: a series of competitive tests, growing more challenging over time. Many reality shows borrow a subtler device from gaming culture as well: the rules aren't fully established at the outset. You learn as you play.

I'm really pleased to see gaming getting some positive mainstream press, and am even more curious to see the results of longitudinal studies on brain development in gamers of all types.

California Libraries Flooded With Lame CDs

What do Jessica Simpson, Ricky Martin, Crazy Town, Everclear, Samantha Mumba, 98 Degrees, and Eagle-Eye Cherry have in common? They're all chart toppers -- or they were, in 2003 -- whose remaindered albums from that year are now flooding libraries in California (and elsewhere) under the terms of a 3-year-old antitrust settlement with price-gouging record companies.

Steve Sloan, Supervising Librarian at Sunnyvale Public Library, notes, "It's like what you'd see if you walked into a used-CD store and went to the dollar bin. It seems like the record companies are going through their warehouses and donating what won't sell." I'd say it's worse than that. I rarely see more than 5 or 6 copies of any particular used CD (even ones that were huge for 18 months or so, like Hootie & The Blowfish's Cracked Rear-View or R.E.M.'s Monster) at the used-CD stores I frequent. But this: 405 copies of Ricky Martin's Sound Loaded at the LA County Public Library? And the RIAA is scratching its collective head about why record sales are down?


I wonder how many of these CDs are added to libraries' collections, and how many are being sold, for $1 or less, at library book sales? Hey, libraries who've received lackluster settlement shipments -- what are you doing with your 16 copies of the thoroughly misnamed Irresistible?

Thanks to Christine for the link.


The Electrifying Conclusion

Of NJLA Conference 2005 coverage, that is. My heartfelt thanks & appreciation to my fellow bloggers for their tireless and comprehensive coverage of the sessions they attended:

Liz Burns, Teen Librarian at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library;
Cathy Delneo, Adult Services Librarian at the Bridgewater Branch of the Somerset County Library;
Amy Kearns, Reference Librarian at Clifton Public Library;
Jessica Unger, Reference Librarian at Monmouth University.

Blogging the conference wouldn't have been half as effective or nearly as much fun without you!

I have a dirty little secret to share with you, gentle readers: there are two more sessions I am intending to blog. They are Judy Seiss's excellent Visible Librarian preconference workshop and Lives Are At Stake, a moving, funny, and informative double-session on GLBTQ literature in collections for and the lives of teens, with teen lit heroes Michael Cart and David Levithan. I'd wanted to keep all NJLA Conference 2005 posts together in one long run of conten, to make it easier for you to find them, but it's just not going to be possible. I need to get back to Pop Goes the Library's regularly scheduled posting. I will blog the remaining two sessions, though, so keep an eye on your Pop Goes the Library RSS feed in the news aggregator of your choice for those posts.


Get Out From Behind the Reference Desk

Get Out From Behind the Reference Desk

Presented by Maxine Bleiweis, Westport Public Library, Westport, CT (http://www.westportlibrary.org)

Is the public service desk a barrier to good service?
In many ways, Maxine believes yes.

One of the most surprising and eye-opening aspects of Maxine's presentation was that she doesn't just mean to get out from behind the reference desk within your library and walk around within your own walls.

She means to get out from behind the desk in a BIG WAY! Get out of your building even! Get out there and promote the library!

This idea of physically going outside of the library was unexpected for me and really gave me a lot to think about.

Basic Prinicple #1
In order to be relevant and compete, librarians from all types of libraries have to become proactive!

Basic Principle #2
Unless we come out from behind the desk, we will die a slow death!!

So, coming out from behind the desk means coming out in more than just a physical way!

The presentation offered THREE WAYS TO EMERGE:

  1. Create work schedules other than around service desks! (people not desks)
  2. Be present in the community
  3. Partner with others

The edge we have is that we know local things - local people, places and things.
And, we can personalize things for our users.

Getting out from behind the desk within the library

We may need to change our terminology.

We should be willing to walk the floors, be a shelver, and we should be armed with confidence, tools, and give-aways on the floor!

In order to "get out from behind the desk" within your library, you will need:

  • An open face (smile!)
  • Willingness to walk and stand (be where people are and are comfortable being)
  • Confidence to do it (and permission from those in charge, i.e., schedules)
  • Something to do when it is not busy, or you are not helping someone (i.e., a way to account for your time - can be shelving, weeding a small section, merchandizing, etc.)
  • Log what hapened while you were out there when you get back

The department store model was suggested. Shoppers do not think they are "bothering" or "interupting" the employees there - that is their job and they know their merchandize and want to see you (the shopper) coming - they smile!

Within the library we can be like a concierge and bring people to the desk rather than wait there for them.

We may have to change our interior space.

Getting out from behind the desk outside of the library

  • Survey the possibilities - use people's talents and seperate them out
  • March in parades!
  • Attend meetings of other organizations
  • Work with other groups
  • Just be present (infiltrate!)

Who Would Welcome Me?

  • Human Services Dept
  • Arts Center
  • Historical Society
  • Health Dept
  • Travel Agents
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Economic Development Agencies
  • The Business Community

Within the Business Community there are:

  • Home Businesses
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Those planning for retirement
  • Small Businesses
  • Stores in your community
  • Anyone juggling a busy life at work and at home!

Also suggested: Get out an walk the community. Become a mini-chamber-of-commerce.

Visit the local stores, government offices, and business offices in your area, introduce yourself and give out your business card.

Market and Partner

  • Identify succesful organizations who could use your assistance
  • Become indispensible to them and let them spread the word!

Possible Results:

  • Better work situation
  • Higher profile
  • Possibly more funding!

Of course, there are challenges:

  • Freeing up staff
  • Some people not comfortable with it/good at it (Directors, take the lead!)
  • Changing paradigms to self-service (moving toward automation while personalizing service)

But, if we don't:

  • People will remain underserved
  • They will go to others (pages, shelvers, maitenance, security! - the ones on the floor)
  • They will go to bookstores, Internet, etc.
  • Our services will be under-utilized and we put good money into them!

I thought the presentation was informative and inspiring!

I'm ready to get out from behind my desk for sure!

Right Click!

Right Click! It's Easy to Copy Cool Graphics
for Your Library Web Page.
Can it Lead to Legal Trouble?

Presented by Mary Minow, Library Law Consultant and Co-author of The Library's Legal Answer Book, http://www.librarylaw.com and http://blog.librarylaw.com .

This session was set up to help us:

  • identify what is in the public domain
  • decide what qualifies as "fair use"
  • and provide samples of email requests for permission when necessary

Mary has been kind enough to provide her presentation online for us (available only until April 30) at http://www.librarylaw.com/NJLAcopy.html . (Her other presentations are also available at http://www.librarylaw.com until April 30).

Some other useful resources were mentioned such as:

This is a joing project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Standford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law.

From their home page, "Chilling Effects aims to help you understand the protections that the First Amendment and intellectual property laws give to your online activities."

American Library Assocation Copyright Issues page at http://www.ala.org/copyright

Complete Copyright: An Everyday Guide for Librarians, a book by Carrie Russell


Copyright in Cyberspace, by Gretchen McCord Hoffmann (which seems to have been updated by Copyright in Cyperspace 2: Questions and Anwers for Librarians).

The main, most useful points from Mary's excellent presentation were:

  • If you are sued and lose, you will pay copyright damages, lost profits of copyright holder, or $750 - $30,000 per incident
  • Familiarize yourself with the "Fair Use" policy (for the purposes of criticism, comment, scholarship, research)
  • If something is in the Public Domain, it is fine to use (facts, recipes, ideas, dedicated works, government, and expired)
  • Ideas are not copyrightable
  • If the item is not in the Public Domain and you cannot justify Fair Use, request permission to use - Determine copyright holder, Identify the rights you need (exclusive/non-exclusive), Put the agreement in writing (email is okay) and keep on file
  • Sample Forms are located at http://www.librarylaw.com/perm.htm

Mary is super-knowledgeable and I think that NJLA was very lucky to have her come and make such wonderful and useful presentations!

How to Influence the Workplace with Pat Wagner

On Tuesday, April 12th at NJLA, Pat Wagner (pat@pattern.com and www.pattern.com) presented a practical workshop program to address the health of the workplace, called How to Influence the Workplace. The purpose was to cover some key strategies that anyone can use to improve the workplace.

This program's ideas are based in the psychological idea of the brain/body effect.

Basically, our choices, or the belief or ability that we can make choices, have a big effect on our bodies and how we feel.

Those who feel they have choices and feel some sense of "control" (or influence) over their environment will be in a more positive place than those who feel no sense of choice or control (influence).

Behavior has consequences and when you can choose your behavior, or your responses to others, you can have some control over the consequences of those behaviors.

The program went over three foundations of a healthy workplace:

1. Transparent Communication

Basically, everyone knows who is doing what - there are few exceptions to full disclosure.
Transparency breeds trust - go on a "gossip diet"!

Communication is "give and seek," not "give and take" - if you are out, find out what happened while you were gone.

Negative complaining to co-workers is not productive - create memos to share your opinion and document your ideas.

  • Support your library's governance: serve on committees
  • No gossip or secrets
  • Write things down and share them
  • Support and reward transparent communication
  • Reward the messenger

2. Healthy Community

People are "hard-wired" to have a good time and we need to do that at work too.
Joy and fun bond a community together.

  • Invite everyone to celebrate
  • Treat everyone as an equal, no matter how they treat you.
  • Come to work a positive performer
  • Encourage communication 360, 365, 24/7
  • Invest in workplace relationships

3. Realistic Cause and Effect

  • Write and keep agreements
  • Manners: Please and thank you
  • Seek feedback and promote consequences
  • Set goals and achieve them
  • Admit mistakes publicly

Pat's presentation was entertaining and informative and her handout included the above bullet points plus a useful list of "How We Make Things Worse," which included:

  • Generalizing (always, never, all, every)
  • Repeating the same negative stories or information
  • Assuming the worst of people you don't like
  • Ignoring or not being able to see and hear positive change
  • Telling new people only negative things about the workplace and other people
  • Exaggerating bad news and minimizing or discounting the good news
  • Distorting meaning through negative filters

So, if we can include some more aspects of the three foundations of a healthy workplace, and minimize the ways we make things worse, we can influence the workplace to be a better, more positive and product environment.

Come to think of it, it would probably work in our personal lives as well! ;-)


Employee Evaluations

[Many thanks to Ellen J. Eifert of the Camden County Library for writing this program summary!]

Presenter: Beth J. Hisdale, Esq.

Attendees were standing room only at Ms. Hinsdale’s presentation. She stated that evaluations are a tool to bring employees up to standards and to do a better job.

Here are some interesting points discussed:

  • Medical information should be kept in a separate, confidential medical file;
  • Keep written records of all counseling sessions with an employee;
  • There is a distinction between documented verbal communications and a verbal or written warnings;
  • Let the employee know what is going in the personnel file.

Performance evaluations are an investment of time. All employees are to be treated the same. Evaluations and methods of evaluation should be consistent throughout the organization. Preparation for evaluations takes place throughout the year--issues should be an ongoing discussion with an employee; one recent event should not skew an evaluation. The evaluation document itself should provide generous space for comments.

Remember, in any organization, employees’ job performance is like a bell curve—there should be many average employees with a few expected to be below or above average.

From audience response, it is evident that this topic is of great interest. There was not nearly enough time to give proper attention to everyone’s questions and material presented. Similar workshops in the future would be most welcome.

It’s Not Just About Books: Using AV Collections to Serve GLBTQ Populations

Laura Baldwin, a collections librarian at Ocean County Library, presented on serving the GLBTQ population. Sadly, I had to run out about half-way through the presentation to help set up for the Garden State Luncheon. The portion of the program that I saw had some really great tips for developing services for GLTBQ patrons.

The session started with an icebreaker: Laura distributed a piece of paper with two columns of famous names and asked the audience to identify the one person on the page who did not self-identify as GLBTQ. The audience had a tough time of figuring out who the one person was!

Laura spoke about the GLBTQ community as one of Ocean County’s “invisible communities”. This invisibility arises because library staff can’t easily recognize patrons as belonging to the GLBTQ community. Ocean County decided to focus on service to GLBTQ patrons as part of their Diversity Committee efforts. Their efforts with reaching GLBTQ patrons were evident in their programming, outreach, staff training, and collection development.

Laura spoke for a bit on the importance Cultural Awareness Training for all staff. One of the handouts she distributed, “Gay Life-Style Myths” from Whole Person Press seemed like it could be very useful for a staff workshop. Another handout, “What Do You Do?” gave concrete tips for dealing with patrons who are upset by materials they find in the library. This handout would be especially helpful to all library staff as it gave ways to speak with the patron without apologizing for the content of the material in the collection or getting into a heated debate.

I had to leave at this point, but from what I understand Laura spoke a bit about specific outreach projects OCL undertook (like going to a Gay Pride parade and setting up a library table) and programs. There were two handouts with film annotations that A/V selectors or those interesting in good movies would find helpful – GLBTQ Filmography and LGBTI Roundtable Top Picks for Feature Films. Laura also distributed a Vendor List because some of the films are a bit more difficult to find through traditional sources.

Wireless Access & Laptop Lending in Your Library

Monmouth University has been lending laptops with wireless cards to library patrons for use in their library, which has a wireless network. Hugh Holden presented the results of surveys conducted at Monmouth University. The feedback from the surveys was interesting and important for libraries that are considering lending wireless laptops. (While some of the surveys didn’t have enough respondents to be statistically relevant, the information collected is still interesting). Click here to see Hugh Holden’s presentation. Click on surveys to see the survey results.

A few words about the surveys and the data from Hugh Holden himself (vie e-mail and with minor editing):

I must offer a few caveats:
1. Though the web site served its purpose for my NJLA thing, as a data source, it's incomplete. Yes, the survey data is ALL there, but not all of it is in readily analyzable form - as you may have noticed. I'm working on that - slowly. As all research done by organic life forms, this bit of research is subject to errors. In other words: Use the data at your own risk.

2. Though nothing's been filed with the Feds, the content of this gaggle of web pages, like both the best and worst of its cyber-ilk, is copyrighted. I feel like a publisher's thug saying so, but must because I have squeezed a publishable article out of it ('Library Hi Tech,' later this year) and have a second in the works. So, could you please make a note to this effect:

If you use any significant bit of it in any creation of your own, please acknowledge the source. (That way, if all laptop lending creation laughs at you, you can use the "Presidential Defense", viz, "I was fed bad data.")

3. Should YOU, Ms Delneo, or anyone you know, make an original observation, trenchant inference or funny deduction from it, I'd really like to hear it. And, in the event I use said idea in my writing, I will certainly give full credit to the creator. In fact, if said same idea tips the scales at BRILLIANT, I'll ask first.

Garden State Book Awards Luncheon

The GSBA Luncheon was a delight from start to finish. Though some honorees could not be present, those who did come were showered with praise, and seemed genuinely delighted to be among friends, while those who could not attend sent kind remarks in their stead. Photos from the luncheon follow this post.

In the Children's book categories, the winners were:

Paula Danziger, for Get Ready for Second Grade, Amber Brown
Alyssa Capucilli, for Biscuit Goes To School
Jerry Spinelli, for Loser
Christopher Sloan, for Bury The Dead: Tombs, Corpses, Mummies, Skeletons and Rituals.

In the Teen categories, the winners were:

Cornelia Funke, for The Thief Lord
Meg Cabot, for All-American Girl
Lauren Manoy, for Where To Park Your Broomstick: A Teen's Guide to Witchcraft

Keynote speaker Sharon Dennis Wyeth spoke movingly about the power of stories to heal broken relationships, and Paula Danziger's brother Barry picked up the thread in his gracious and touching acceptance speech on Paula's behalf, urging everyone to celebrate Paula's birthday this summer by reaching out to an estranged or long-lost friend or relative. Unfortunately, I missed Lauren Manoy's acceptance speech -- I hope Cathy Delneo, who was also present and on the dais that afternoon, can fill readers in on Lauren's remarks.

GSTBA winner Lauren Manoy (right) and incoming YA Section President Cathy Delneo smile pretty for the camera. (They were very good sports, sitting patiently for long minutes while I figured out what settings to use.)
Posted by Hello

Barry Danziger, brother of the late, great Paula Danziger, accepted Paula's Garden State Book Award in her honor. His speech was touching, sweet, tear-inducing (there was not a single dry eye in the house), and unexpectedly funny, particularly when he took a call on his cell phone from his plumber.
Posted by Hello

Ocean County Teen Librarian Jeri Triano waits for author & GLBTQ-lit hero David Levithan to sign her copy of Boy Meets Boy
Posted by Hello


The Accidental Library Manager

[N.B.: This article will appear in a forthcoming issue of The One Person Library Newsletter, published by preconference speaker Judith Seiss.]

When librarians make lists of professional goals, the phrase “Get a managerial job” often does not make the list. And that’s a shame, says Rachel Singer Gordon, because often, librarians with no managerial aspirations become managers themselves, with little or no training to help them settle into and thrive in their new roles.

What can accidental library managers do to ameliorate their situations? Gordon provides a handful of practical tips for managing the managerial experience:

  • Realize managing is all about people: communicating effectively with your fellow administrators, staff, board members, and higher ups will be the key to managerial success.
  • Understand that you’re not alone: a majority of library managers didn’t intend to manage, so you’re in good company.
  • Trust yourself: even if you haven’t had any formal managerial training, you have probably acquired skills that apply to managing a department or even an entire library. These include committee work, event planning, project management, child rearing, team captainship, and more. Don’t be afraid to mess up – if you admit your mistake and learn from it, people will respect you.
  • Be the manager your staff should emulate: armed with the knowledge that Generation X & Y workers are more loyal to people than to institutions, think about how to earn that loyalty if you want to harness and nurture their energy.
  • Be your own job coach: Ask yourself the tough questions, like “Do I want to stay in management? Do I want to move up? Do I want to move back to a non-managerial position?” Take charge of your own career, so that you can be open to happy accidents, and take advantage of interesting opportunities as they arise.


Developing Technology Based Youth Participation Activities with Teens by Linda Braun

Linda Braun, of Librarians and Educators Online (at http://www.leonline.com ), presented a three and a half hour pre-conference program on teens and technology based projects in the library. She created a website to go along with the presentation, available at http://www.leonline.com/tech_involved/

As was mentioned in the post about Linda's other presentation (Electronic Communication and Teens), Linda is a wonderful speaker. She began with a discussion on youth development and youth participation, including Hart's Ladder of Youth Participation. The 40 Developmental Assets of healthy adults was also included and discussed; they are available at http://www.search-institute.org/assets/forty.htm (more about these 40 below).

Anyone working with teens should be familiar with this ladder, which sets forth the different degrees of youth participation. It's available at http://www.mcs.bc.ca/yps/hart.htm It ranges from the lowest rung (manipulation) to the highest degree of youth participation (youth-initiated, shared decisions with adults).

Audience participation was actively encouraged; we broke into different groups to try to determine different library examples along the ladder. Examples can vary; be on multiple rungs; or even change as time changes. For example, Reader's Advisory from a librarian may be "manipulation" because you are telling the teen what to read next; but if you have teen volunteers who are creating your book displays (including selecting the topic for the display), then the participation is further up the ladder.

The goal of teen participation is to be at the top: youth initiated, shared decisions with adults. But Linda stressed that first, this wasn't always possible; and second, sometimes a project or a group works its way up the ladder. For example, your TAB group may have begun doing things you suggested (ladder rung "consulted and informed" or "adult initiatives shared decisions with teens") but as time passes and the ideas and leadership comes from the teens, the group evolves to the top of the ladder.

One of Linda's current projects is with the teens of New York City Public Library and their library at Teen Central. http://teenlink.nypl.org/teencentral/ Linda shared with us the evolution of Teen Central and the teen participation. The content, the colors, the design -- all teen initiated.

Next we looked at the addition of technology to teen participation (including the various online examples at Linda's website). In looking at technology, examine where the options are for teen input: maybe the librarian may come up with the idea for a TAB blog, but the rest can come from teens: what is the content of the blog? the appearance? who can post and when? Etc. Also, a big plus to using technology you will reach different teens -- teens who may not normally be "library kids."

As you think of technology based teen participation, you may be wondering about getting approval or funding. This is where those 40 Developmental Assets are important; as you review these, you can see which of these Assets fit into your project. By including specific developmental ssets in your request / grant application / etc., you are providing a solid base to get approval.

Linda provided helpful worksheets for getting started and staying focused: What are the youth participation components? Why would teens want to do it? What is the technology involved? And what developmental assets does it meet? What tasks are involved? Who is responsible: teen/librarian/other? And where will the task take place -- on site? remote location? Will training be necessary?

Linda also provided some good technology tools for working with teens (again, these are all at her website.) Picasa, a free download, lets you (and more importantly, the teens!) do all sorts of cool things with photos. Great for teen participation in websites, posters, newslettters, etc. Camtasia, which costs money, is for making movies; and Alxnet (free) provides tools for creating polls.

This was a great presentation, with a good mix of practical tools and ideas.

NJLA 2005 Awards & Honors

Here is a complete list of the NJLA Awards & Honors recipients for 2005.

Trustee Recognition Award: Eleanor Owens, Piscataway Public Library (Nominated by Molly Newling, Assistant Director, Piscataway Public Library)

NJLA/EMAnj Partnership Award: Patricia Vasilik, Clifton Public Library (Nominated by Michelle Kowalsky and HRLC Youth Services Members)

Library Service Award to an Individual: Ceil Leedom, South Brunswick Public Library

Library Service Award to a Library Group: Mfusion Musical Group, South Brunswick Public Library (Nominated by Christopher Carbone, Assistant Director, South Brunswick Public Library)

Public Relations Awards
Total Operating Budget of $500,000 to $1,000,000
Fundraising Literature: Boonton Holmes Public Library
Service Brochure: Paterson Public Library

Total Operating Budget of $1,000,0000 and over
Newsletter: Princeton Public Library
Program: Weiner Library, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Service Brochure: Princeton Public Library
Website: Plainfield Public Library
Fundraising Literature: Middletown Township Public Library

Library Champion Awards: Dorothy Scott Jones & Aline Moss (Nominated by Doreen Shoba and Members of the Scholarship Committee); Stephen Wiley, Morristown & Morris Township Library (Nominated by Susan Gulick, Director, Morristown & Morris Township Library); The Karma Foundation (Nominated by Patricia Tumulty and Carol Phillips); Michael J. Scheiring, Thomas Edison State College (Nominated by Norma Blake, State Librarian); The Honorable Wayne Bryant & The Honorable Louis Greenwald (Nominated by Beth Egan, Gloucester City Public Library)

Susan G. Swartzburg Preservation Award 2004: Elizabeth (Betty) Steckman (Presented by Alan Delozier)

President's Award: Patricia Vasilik, Clifton Public Library (twice honored! Way to go, Pat!)

Librarian of the Year: Kathy Schalk-Greene, Mount Laurel Library

A hearty congratulations to all of the winners & honorees! And many thanks to Meg Kolaya, Chair of the Honors & Awards Committee, for sending me the full list, reproduced above.

By the way, if any of you NJLA members are interested in joining a committee, the form to fill out is handily available, right here! Committee work is fun, interesting, and brings NJLA members from all over the state together to set & meet goals of the organization. It's a great way to network, and really gives you an up close view of how our professional assocation works. I highly recommend committee work as a very valuable & worthwhile investment of your time.


More Gaming @ Your Library

Still more follow-up on an earlier post -- check out what they're doing in Michigan & talking about in Illinois! Erin & Eli, will you come to my library & give the same presentation? Pretty please?

Privacy Issues in Libraries - Mary Minow

Materials from this presentation will be available at librarylaw until April 30th.

Mary Minow launched straight into a discourse on Section 215 of the Patriot Act as soon as the program started. She seemed to assume that the audience was familiar with specific details of the law - which I am embarrassed to admit that I am not. During the course of the presentation, details became more clear, but I think I'll be visiting her blog to see exactly what is what. In fact, I'm going there now to see what exactly the first few minutes of the presentation was about! (there were many sound issues and she glossed over many details)

According to the testimony given by Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary hearing on April 5, 2005: No library records have been retrieved using Section 215 orders. That said, in the footage Minow showed Gonzales stated that the FBI has had the cooperation of libraries to date - which implies that they're getting what they want without having to rely on Section 215.

So what happens if the police or the FBI do come to your library (please remember that I'm just reporting on what Minow told us and that she's not giving legal advise, either)?

Verify the individual's identity
If a police officer or an FBI agent comes to your library requesting information, make sure they are who they say they are. Look at their badge (don't touch it, apparently that bothers them). Call the local police. Call the FBI. (Check the phone book for the number of the place you're calling - don't call the number the individual provides.)

Ask for a copy of the warrant or subpeona.

Get the copy of the warrant or subpeona to your attorney.

Ask for a brief delay until your team arrives. You should have a team made up of the library director, a tech person who is capable of extracting the necessary information from the system, and the library's lawyer. You should also have notetakers who are not on the team.

Only provide the information that is specified in the warrant.

Search Warrants vs Subpeonas

Search warrants are immediately executable. You might be able to delay the officer or agent by asking them to wait until your team of responders arrives (lawyer, director, tech person) but you cannot refuse to give the information.

Subpeonas can wait
- in many cases up to five days. If someone gives you a serach warrant you definitely have time to call your director.

Records vs Observations

Library staff should not give records but may provide law enforncement officials with observations. So telling what Ms. Smith checked out last week is not okay, but saying that she was wearing white before Memorial Day is okay. Got it? That said, lots of people can't seem to stop talking once they start talking so encouraging staff to keep their thoughts to themselves so that they don't accidentally say, "Yes, officer, you can access our complete database" might not be a bad idea. Remember: No-one is allowed to stop you from speaking with the law enforcement people if you so desire.

[edited by Sophie to fix rassin' frassin' html.]

Information Services in a Larger Context: What in the world is affecting the work we do? - Wagner

Innovating for Success – Pat Wagner
Okay. These notes sound like a motivational speech. But consider this: they're the notes of a skeptic so how exciting must the speaker have been?

Pat Wagner started out with some responses to George Needham's presentation. She was a really exuberant presenter and it is a bit hard to make a cohesive report but here goes:

Just because you’ve experienced something doesn’t mean it is true – just that it happened. You need to look at statistics to get any idea about what reality is. That said, just looking at stastics doesn't always give a great picture about the specifics so it is good to couple the broad overview of statistical data with the specificity of individual interviews.

This quest for quickness in product delivery emerged as a trend in the 1950s. We're still struggling to deliver products and services with great speed.

2004 – now more money in interactive games than in movies. Games adaptations of games are in development three or four years before movies come out. Collaboration is a key element of gaming culture - what can libraries learn from this? What about true collaboration with library users? Can we put actual decision-making power in the hands of the public.

Another feature of today's world is the shift in status
Out – age and years of experience
In - knowledge
People respect those who earn respect not those they're told to respect. How does this impact us in libraries? The public expects results (speed, acuracy) and respects
us when we deliver. Staff doesn't automatically respect the almighty MLS.

People are bypassing degreed professionals – pharmacists, doctors, lawyers and librarians

Customer Survey
What do customers want? (not from their library - from their life)
Who are their competitors?
What do they spend most of their time doing?
What do they want to spend more time doing?

Leave the building with the survey, don't just ask the people who are known users. Ask potential users, ask invisible users. Immerse yourself in the culture of the people you’re serving. Try to get into their heads. When you know what is important to people you'll know what they want from your institution and you'll be in a better position to deliver what they want to them - in the way that they want it.

Prepare for the future now. Preparing for new tasks means abandoning old tasks. Pat used the analogy of pioneers who were using wagons well suited to flat plains regions. Those wagons worked perfectly in their original context. As the pioneers travelled west they would encounter new terrains. The wagons wouldn't work well in mountains. If they waited until they were in the mountains to refit the wagons, they'd be out of luck. Sometimes you need to fix something that isn't broken so that you can continue to provide a service in the future.

Preparing for the future probably means giving up some things we hold dear. What might your library have to give up? Could be concrete things like books, the Dewey decimal system, reference desks, programs. In most cases giving patrons decision making power means giving up control.

Look at what you’re doing – How is it working for you? For the patrons?

Information Services in a Larger Context: What in the world is affecting the work we do? - Needham

The OCLC Environmental Scan – George Needham
This presentation was really great! Here are my notes on the program. I noticed when I was typing them up that they start out with sentances and move to just ideas. The presenter had so many salient points it was hard to write everything down, I guess!

The Scan identified dominant patterns: self-service, disaggregation, and collaboration. The Scan also identified five landscapes in which to look at the dominant patterns: society, economics, technology, research and learning, and libraries.

Self-sufficiency, satisfaction, and seamlessness all play important roles in people’s ideas about self-service.

Information consumers are showing us how they want to use information – we need to respond to what they’re doing. Analogy of sidewalks at universities – the students walk where they want to walk and only then are sidewalks paved. We need to base services on the paths (known behaviors, desires) of our clients or we will be obselete. Look at successful companies to see how they have responded to consumers. Ease of searching, making things fit nicely with existing services (credit cards or drivers licenses as library cards?).

Role of librarian in self-serve environment:
Recent PEW study showed that internet users believe that they’re finding what they want – even if their beliefs are unfounded.

Information scarcity has given way to information ubiquity. Earlier, librarians head to search and seek out infomration. We’re now pathfinders sifting through mounds of information. Current information sources (webpages, blogs, message rooms) strip information of its context (Who wrote this? Where did they get their information?). Librarians need to provide context for information. Annotations, pathfinders, lists of reliable sites (and why they’re reliable), guides to evaluating.

More and better self-service:
Put libraries where customers are (like banks with atms on every corner)
good is sometimes good enough (try new things even if they’re not perfect yet – a response is critical, waiting until everything is perfectly ironed out can make a cutting edge move into last year’s news – i.e. im reference, wireless libraries)

Convergence: The average US consumer spends 10 hours per day using media of all types. The number of hours we spend with media is expected to grow.

Recommended article: “The toll of the new machine” by Charles Fishman (Fast Company, May 2004)

We live in the time of the least publishable unit. Microcontent available immediately, consolidated later. Because people can publish whatever they want on the internet, they don’t wait until they’ve got a nice finished, cohesive product (books).

On demand purchasing –
instead of ILL (Columbus Public Library). Staff time and money better spent on just buying what patrons ask for.

Disaggregation of facilities-
Collections built on electronic resources. In-house collections that are not redundant with other libraries in a system or consortium. The “terse conclusion”.

Recommended article: “The long tail” by Chris Anderson

If a book is mis-shelved it might as well be gone. If a library doesn’t show up on the web it might as well be gone.

Gamers as model for librarianship – First they compete against each other but after the competition is over they collaborate and share strategies with peers – and with developers. (Over 10,000 new characters for Sims came from users.) Gamers expect collaboration.

A. Gamer is always the hero of their own story.
B. There is always a solution the gamer just has to find it.
C. Failure is a part of success.

Recommended article: “Gaming the system: What higher education can learn from multiplayer on-line games” by J C Herz

Libraries as “The third place” -
(not home, not work, minimal comercialism)

Libraries should be community focal points and community builders. Utility for users is paramount (teen spaces, coffee shops, wi-fi).

Almost Famous: How Your Library Can Get In The News

The three speakers at this session were Gretchen Vanbensusen, editor of Whatever, the weekly teen section of the Asbury Park Press; Andre Butts, the program director at NJN, and Nancy Dowd, director of Public Relations for the Ocean County Library.

Each had very useful advice for libraries interested in developing relationships with their local media outlets & getting coverage of their events.

Whatever is published each Tuesday, tabloid-style, and is written by & for the teens of Monmouth & Ocean Counties. Whatever includes articles about movies, books, and music, and always runs a weekly calendar of teen-friendly activities. Gretchen had the following words of wisdom for would-be PR gurus:

  • Give your local paper advance notice of library programs (i.e., not the week of, but a month ahead of time!), so the paper can assign someon to write stories about the events.
  • Know who to direct your e-mail to: contact your Features Editor first.
  • Gannett papers have a mandate: Real Voices, Real Paper, which means they're actively seeking stories about and from the people in their own back yard.
  • Know your paper's deadlines, know what the paper wants, be specific & to the point, using bullet points, and providing the Where, When, and What of your story. Hold the adjectives, please.
  • Good candidates for advance coverage: events that attract lots of people (100+) annually.
  • When soliciting print media for coverage, think now about next year's coverage and take photos of an event you're thinking of repeating next year.
  • Know what format & resolution newspapers want the artwork you provide to them -- JPEG? TIFF? How many dpi?

Andre Butts of NJN related the following:

  • NJN is very interested in what libraries are doing, and what their users' interests are.
  • He schedules NJN's prime time programming 3 months in advance, so if you're looking to dovetail your programming with theirs, make sure you contact the station far enough in advance to make it worth your while.
  • Andre suggested getting in touch with Donna Goldberg, NJN's Outreach Coordinator.
  • Andre also recommended accessing PBS Teachersource and PBS Parents for activities that create links between NJN's programming and potential library events.
  • NJN is unlikely to cover library events because the News Director understandably prefers to cover issues that have major statewide impact rather than local news. However, a really great, newsworthy event at a local library could get coverage.

Nancy Dowd shared some really creative tips for cultivating long-term relationships with local press:

  • PR isn't so much Public Relations as Practicing Relationships.
  • There's no need to cover exhaustively every media outlet in your area -- let each person on staff develop & build one relationship with one member of the media, ensuring that each relationship is a strong one.
  • Think about pre- and post-event coverage, and which would work best for your events.
  • Post press releases to your library's website -- in fact, have a separate area just for press releases!
  • Create pages of quotes on each event -- these are testimonials from staff & audience members (ask them for permission to be quoted in the paper first), provide names & telephone numbers, and then hand the sheets to the reporter -- you've just done a chunk of work for them!
  • Include links in your press releases to a visiting author's webpage (first making sure the link is a live one) -- one librarian in the audience, Tim Niland of Old Bridge Public Library, mentioned that his library's blog has been really useful to reporters writing stories about events at Old Bridge.

Next year, I'd love to see a hands-on workshop on writing effective press releases!


Handouts Available for Pat Wagner & George Needham's Preconference

Courtesy of Peter Bromberg at the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, here's a page with George Needham's handout, presentation, and and a host of links related to the NJLA Preconference on Information Services in a Larger Context. Pat Wagner's handout is available upon request. Thanks, Pete!

Jessamyn Blogs NJLA, Too

Jessamyn West, who blew my mind a tiny bit by having a such a lovely sense of humor and a very gracious way about her (not that I didn't think she'd be either of those things, just that upon meeting someone whose work you've read and admired for six years, you might be a little nervous about how she'll turn out to be in person) presented at this week's NJLA Conference, and has written a couple of posts about sessions she attended or hoped to attend. I'm linking her posts here here for your convenience.

Mary Minow spoke on Privacy Issues in Libraries, and has posted her talk at her blog.

George Needham & Pat Wagner provided a pre-conference talk on Information Services in the Larger Context, and George has followed up with a really insightful post about dynamic & non-dynamic libraries at It's All Good (which I also highly recommend adding to your regular reads). Rochelle has a very interesting follow-up post connecting libraries that embrace change with media convergence issues. I am very keen to read a summary of Pat & George's talk, whenever the blogger who attended that session is up to posting it...


The Conference is Over, But the Blogging Ain't

Stay tuned for many more posts on many more sessions from many more bloggers! Posts will cover (among others): 10 Tech Tools with Jessamyn West, Booktalk Makeover, The Accidental Library Manager, Bring Your Own Tech Tool Brown Bag Lunch, Getting Out From Behind the Reference Desk, Almost Famous: Getting Your Library In the Newspaper, the Garden State Book Awards, and Lives Are At Stake: GLBTQ Literature. Whew!

Great conference -- I was often torn between attending two sessions, which is a first for me (and which is a big motivation for having a collective blog of the conference). It's so nice to be home, though, that I am very done with looking at the computer for the night.


NJLA Business Meeting Report

Incoming NJLA Officers:
Vice President/President-Elect: Joan Bernstein
Secretary: Margery Cyr
Members-at-Large: Anne Ciliberti, Mary Malagiere, Susan O'Neal

Congratulations to the winners!

Other news:
Dues increase proposal (increasing dues slightly at upper levels of membership to allow members to join as many sections as they want at no extra charge) -- passed with an overwhelming majority. One "nay" vote was recorded.

Executive Director Pat Tumulty reported on membership of NJLA:
1700 members (including 100 more personal members than 2004)
200 student members (students can join NJLA & ALA jointly for a mere $25 -- such a bargain!)
1030 people registered for the conference, to date

The 2005 Leading Through Reading title will be Harry Beckwith's Selling The Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing.

The Scholarship Trust Funds Committee announced the nine scholarship winners: Stephanie Burke, Vicky Chang, Rafael Ferreira, Laura Frantz, Jacquelyn Kiszewski (yay, Jackie!), William C. Kurt, Jacquelyn Oshman, Jessica Vanderhoff, and Amanda Winter.

Congratulations to the scholarship recipients!

"Books are Widgets" - How to Get Published!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005, 3:30 pm

Pamela Redmond Satran, author and contributing editor at Parenting magazine, gave us the real deal on publishing fiction and non-fiction. She talked a bit about publishing magazine articles as well. Her straight-talking, realistic approach was really appreciated, at least by me!

Many aspiring authors think first and foremost about their voice, their vision, their craft. Pamela was quick to point out that publishing is a business, and a successful book makes money. An author’s response to this harsh reality might be something like “That’s not right – books are not Widgets!” But, Pamela said, “books are widgets,” at least to agents and publishers.

So how do you get a book published in such an industry? Pamela admitting that publishing “has gotten harder and harder” and, to make it, an author needs to “be smarter and smarter.” It’s tough these days to figure out exactly which niche needs to be filled at any particular moment. French Women Don’t Get Fat, for instance, is an example of a book that Pamela would not have predicted to be such a success. It had a lot of strikes against it – it’s a diet book, but there is no prescribed diet; it’s not written by an expert in nutrition; she knew from working at Glamour that American women don’t care much about what French women do. But it just worked.

One way to find out what kinds of books are getting published at the moment is to read Publisher’s Lunch, which provides a daily list of closed book deals. A free version is available.

So how do you get started?

First, you should ask yourself why you want to get published. This can really affect the focus of your efforts. For instance, if you are set on making your living being an author, you essentially need a business plan for yourself, and you need to promote yourself early and consistently.

You might think that the key to getting published is having that one great idea for a book that no one else has thought of before, but that really isn’t the case. The chance that an idea is completely original is slim-to-none anyway. A good proposal is what will attract an agent.


To publish non-fiction, you need to approach an agent with a proposal (and it is nearly impossible to get published without an agent). Your proposal should be written in the style in which you intend to write your book and should contain an introduction and a sample chapter. You should include an outline or plan for the entire book and explain why you are especially suited to write it. And a great title is key.

Pamela pointed out that agents and publishers love to hear evidence, even anecdotal evidence, of what readers want to read. As librarians, we are certainly tuned-in to what kinds of books are popular with readers and why they like them, so share this information.


In the fiction world, you really need to write the whole book. A proposal used to be enough, but this not the case anymore. This, of course, makes writing fiction a riskier business, since you have to invest so much time in the project without knowing if it will ever get past an agent. You can take classes on writing fiction, but according to Pamela, they are only helpful some of the time. They can often just cause you to delay the actual work. Books are also helpful sometimes. She recommends Write Away by Elizabeth George, with the caveat that it’s a bit weak on plot construction. You can supplement Write Away with Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, which is great for learning about plot. Pamela pointed out that some of the books on writing that sell very well are not actually very useful. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird will lead you astray, and the master of plot, Stephen King, “flakes out on plot” in On Writing.

Get an Agent

Your proposal must be polished when you present it to an agent. Hiring an independent editor might be worth the cost. There are several web sites and books that list agents. One way to find the right agent for you is to look at the acknowledgments in books you admire.


Pamela didn’t have much time left to talk about publishing articles in magazines, but she did say that you can usually find the name of a senior editor or articles editor in the masthead of the magzine you wish to write for. Send a 1-page proposal that lays out your story. Again, the proposal should be written in the tone you intend to use in the article. Let the editor know about how long the article will be (in words), and send clips for local publications or newsletters if you have them.

Free Books!

Best of all, Pamela gave every audience member an advance copy of her new book, Younger.

Games, IM, and Literacy

Okay, the synchronicity of Jenny's latest post about her 9 year-old son is giving me the most wonderful chills. It's 70-odd degrees in this gorgeous hotel lobby and I have goosebumps. Here's why:

One of the big motivations for Brent learning to read has always been video games. He played Playstation before he could read, and when I used to tell him it was time to shut down, he’d pull up the options screen and ask how to save his game. My response was always, “You tell me. Find the one that says ‘save.’” Runescape has helped him learn to read faster, because the text others type can scroll by pretty quickly.
So now he’s learned to read (certainly faster), learned to type (certainly faster), and now he’s learning IM slang, all thanks to Runescape. Interesting literacy lessons there.
Of course, I wonder what else he’s learning….

If that's not a testimonial to the positive power of games & the new forms of literacy intertwining with technology, I don't know what is.

Electronic Communication & Teens With Linda Braun

Linda Braun, of Librarians & Educators Online gave a whiz-bang 50-minute tour of a host of emerging & popular technologies, how teens use them, and their applications for school & public libraries. High points are bulleted below, and Linda's own excellent workshop resources are available here.

Major introductory points:
  • Literacy & technology are completely intertwined -- librarians need to acknowledge this & gain facility with thinking about technology in a new way.
  • Teens overwhelmingly use the Internet most for communication -- e-mail, IM, chat, blogs, message boards -- this is something they're passionately interested in right now, and will likely remain so for some time to come.
  • If we don't educate ourselves about & use these technologies to our advantage, we're toast.


  • Totally democratic, on-demand radio via the web.
  • Listeners can have them delivered to their iPods (or other mp3 devices) or cell phones or computers automatically via RSS feeds.
  • Library applications -- library staff can create podcasts to keep teens up to date on new programs, new materials & so on. Better still -- teens can create podcasts containing reviews of new materials!


  • Started out at just personal accounts of one's day -- now quite communal (see: Livejournal.com), wildly popular, and a very teen-friendly mode of self-expression.
  • Bullying issue -- it was fascinating to me to see how focused many of the sessions 70 attendees were on this -- Linda pointed out that although this is a serious problem, bullying has been around for far longer than the Internet, and that the Internet is really just a different venue for bullying. Do confront the problem, but don't reject the idea of blogging simply because it can be problematic!
  • In the library, we can help teens use this technology successfully, by empowering them to write posts (or even update the library's teen blog themselves), by using the technology in which they are literate to communicate with them.

Cell Phones

  • 97% of teens have cell phones.
  • This is an older technology that we can use in a new way.
  • Cell phone reference is a natural outgrowth of regular old phone reference -- now people can call us from anywhere -- movie theater, grocery store, water ice stand, music store, even from within the library.

Text Messaging

  • SMS or Short Message Service -- cell-to-computer queries. A person sends a text message to the phone number a library has set up specifically for the purpose of SMS reference. The library receives it as an e-mail and sends the reply as an e-mail, but the recipient receives it as a text message.
  • Software chunks the reply into smaller messages (b/c a text message can only contain 160 characters) and can convert standard English to textese (converting with to w/, for example).
  • Potential teen queries: It's snowing like crazy -- it's tonight's program still on? I'm coming to your library from far away -- how do I get there? Do you have this book in? Can you put it on hold for me? I think my friend is bulimic -- how can I help her? ...and so on.
  • Benefits of text/SMS reference -- instead of calling and risking being overheard with a potentially embarrassing query, teens can send text queries privately.
  • Reasons teens like this service -- as Jeri Triano of the Ocean County Library put it, "as a teen, if you don't have to talk to a grown-up, why would you bother?" Also, it's a new technology, and therefore fun, and something to play with.


  • This is internet telephony, and it's free.
  • The interface is very similar to instant messaging services like AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger & Yahoo! IM -- you downolad it, you set up a buddy list, and go from there.
  • You place a call to someone via your computer, they answer via their computer, and you talk using the microphones in your respective computers.
  • If your connection is broadband/T1, there 's no delay at all.
  • If you have a computer but your friend has a phone, you can still use Skype to contact them, but there's a small charge.
  • Up to 5 people at once can talk via Skype, making it very useful for conference calls (grown-up application), TAB/TAG meetings (teen application), or author chats (another teen application), among others.

Linda's major point was: Just try these technologies out. See how they work. Get comfortable with them. Don't wait around for policies & procedures to be finalized by bureaucracy-loving higher-ups (no offense meant, higher-ups), because if you do, you miss the opportunities and fall further behind.

This program was really well-attended, with close to 70 people in the room. Linda's informal poll at the workshop's start revealed a large number of us among the ranks of bloggers, blog readers, IM, Skype, and podcasters, so according to Linda, New Jersey officially rocks.

Games @ Your Library

[Thus far, all attempts to blog directly from the sessions as I attend them have failed. Although there is lovely, free wifi access here, it's vexingly unavailable in the program rooms, and even more vexingly unreliable anywhere other than my room (so far). ]

This morning's Games @ Your Library program provided views from a school library which hosts quarterly computer game nights in the cafeteria, and a public library that's been collecting electronic games for 16 years.

Ginny Konefal, school librarian at North Hunterdon Regional High School (see link for presentation slides), has been holding game nights at her school for two years. Through trial & error, and with lots of input and organizational help from students in the school's Technology Service Club, these game nights have become extremely popular & smoothly run diverse social events. Some standout points:

  • The entire program (with the exception of the LCD projectors, owned by the school, which project the games onto cafeteria walls) is BYO: students bring their own computers, game consoles, and games with them.
  • The entire program is teen-run -- teens are in charge of mapping out appropriate use of electricity & plugs (thereby eliminating the possibility of blowing fuses), setting up all video, sound, and controller connections, soliciting discounted food from local delivery services, preparing sign-up sheets for tournament play, and clean up afterwards.
  • Both team & individual play is encouraged.
  • Contrary to popular misconception about games -- that they appeal only to loner antisocial guys, that they are dangerous -- Game Night at this high school attracts over 100 students from diverse social groups (we're talking all races, both genders, sports aficionados, computer whizzes, quiet kids, loud kids -- you name it) all of whom play nicely with others. Kids who felt like loners find a crowd they never knew existed, and teens who are quieter take leadership roles.

Moderator Cathy Delneo (soon to be contributing to this very blog) made the point that even without LCD projectors, public libraries can hold similar programs -- invite teens to bring their own monitors & consoles & games, and away you go.
The second presenter, Susan Sclar, is the Media Services Department Manager of the East Brunswick Public Library. Susan spoke about her 16 year-old electronic games collection, which comprises the following formats:

  • Gameboy Advance
  • Sony PlayStation
  • Sony PS2
  • XBOX
  • GameCube
  • Computer software for IBM/MAC-compatible computers
  • PSP (yay!)

Major points of Susan's talk:

  • EBPL's collection (annual budget for games: $30K) circulated 13,800 times!
  • EBPL uses a locking disc for security -- it locks onto the disc in its case; if a patron tries to remove the disc, it will break.
  • EBPL uses a variety of security formats to keep smaller, non-CD based games from walking, and to keep the collection browsable.
  • The Entertainment Software Rating Board, which rates electronic games the way the MPAA rates films, provides an informative, free flyer that libraries can distribute with the games to inform parents & other caregivers about the appropriateness of games for their families.
  • EBPL loans games for 2 weeks at $2/game -- the small charge contributes to keeping the collection funds. Games are renewable three times.
  • There's a great crossover to the music collection -- musical artists (often without contracts to record labels) license their songs to certain games. If the games become popular, suddenly the artist is popular, too, and there are CDs available of game artists.

Advantages of a gaming collection, as laid out by Ginny, Susan, and Cathy:

  • In a public library, you draw a whole new clientele who wouldn't ordinarily come to the library.
  • The cool factor -- people who use games and see the library as engaged in & responsive to their interests will be more inclined to come to librarians at that library with other, non-game questions.
  • The good service factor -- libraries that provide collections their users want are by definition good libraries in the eyes of those users.
  • The only real danger of games is ignoring them and not getting involved with them -- don't get left in the dust.

Promoting Libraries Through Newsletters

Tuesday, April 12, 2005, 9:00 am

Anita O'Malley, NJLA Newsletter Production Manager, began this program with some great, practical, professional tips for creating an effective newsletter. Anita produces the newsletter for the New Jersey State Library, as well as several corporations. She has been teaching newsletter creation techniques for about 20 years. The following are some highlights from her talk:

  • Reading level is inversely proportional to font size: the lower the reading level, the higher the font size should be. The standard font size is 10 pt.

  • Don’t use more than two fonts throughout the newsletter.

  • If you have long stories, use few columns (a two-column layout is recommended). If you want to use some short stories and photos, use a three-column layout.

  • Full color is nice, but black plus one color is also very professional. Printers call this a “two-color press.” The one color should have 10 different shades available. Consult your printer about this.

  • Anita says to “create a nameplate that sings.” Use action words in your newsletter’s title and try to give it a graphical appearance.

  • You can get good clip-art from clipart.com, though there is a subscription fee. You can also create fun graphics by enlarging Wingdings (it’s a standard font – check your word processor’s font menu).

  • Some photo tips: Crop out objects in the photo other than your subject. Don’t use pictures of people stiff at their desks. Try to use action photos or an unusual angle. You can get royalty-free stock photos for $2 each at istockphoto.com.

  • ”Use space like a pro”: leave 20% of each page white; use a consistent number of columns throughout the newsletter; eliminate clutter.

Some overall tips:

  • Start simple. You can start with one 11x17 sheet (folder in half – that’s four pages) and see how easy or difficult it is to fill that.

  • Use restraint. Professionals do not use ten different fonts and four clip-art images per page. Use these effects sparingly and meaningfully.

  • It might be worth it to pay a professional to create a template for you which you can just fill in with content each time you do your newsletter.

Jane Crocker, chair of the NJLA Editorial Board, shared some key concepts to keep in mind as a newsletter editor:

  • Purpose: Think about what you are trying to accomplish and apply that to selection of content.

  • Audience: Who is your audience and what is their attitude toward your purpose? Think about their needs when you create the newsletter.

  • Tone: Think about what kind of tone you’d like have. Remember that humor can be difficult to sustain and that you run the risk of offending those who do not share your sense of humor.

Jane also suggests creating or choosing clear and interesting content, doing your best to be accurate and spending some time thinking about the presentation, as this is what will draw readers to the newsletter.

Arlene Sahraie, NJLA Editorial Board member, suggests that you ask yourself: Would someone pay for this? No one is going to pay for it, of course, but it should be good enough to pay for. She also points out that you can try to get your newsletter sent out with something else, such as your municipal newsletter, or the local weekly paper.

Sahraie recommended the following types of content as topics readers seem to be interested in consistently: new products, classesl, cultural evfents, readers’ advisory, title reviews, genre lists, important library information, renovations and fundraising news.


New Jersey Library Association Conference Coverage

Covering ALA Midwinter Meeting was such a good experience, I thought I'd cover this year's New Jersey Library Association's Annual Conference (theme: The Three Rs: The Right To Read, The Right to Learn, The Right to Grow) right here at Pop.

Thanks to free wifi at Ocean Place Conference Center, and to a very generous loaner of a laptop from my library's lovely IT department, I should be able to cover the sessions I attend in real-time, with photos of all the goings-on (if my husband is willing to part with the digital camera for a few days -- note to self: ask him!) in separate posts. Many thanks, too, to Andrea Mercado, who gave the conference a nice plug at the PLA blog.


More on Millenials in the Library

Jessamyn points to an article on the ACRL conference, where, surprise, surprise, Richard T. Sweeney, whose talk & panel of millenials I wrote about earlier was the presenter. Are librarians really shocked to hear that a 20 year-old college student hasn't been to the library in over a year? Really? I'm kind of shocked that they're shocked.

[edited to add: for some reason, this just wouldn't post on Friday. Rar.]

Ludacris: Library Coach?

So, it's my day off, and I've got MTV2 on in the background while I check my blogroll and draft a VOYA review that's due this afternoon. Ludacris's delicious eye & ear-candy video for "#1 Spot" comes on, and I'm bopping along when the following line -- My music sticks in fans' veins like an IV! -- rings out and it hits me: libraries need to Be Like Luda.


Ludacris is always in his fans' faces, and is always gaining new fans: he puts out an album every year. Each album has at least three singles, and each single has an eye-catching and entertaining video, thereby ensuring that he is always on MTV and always on the radio.

Library application: Instead of releasing albums, roll out new programs or services each year. Throw an inexpensive, all-are-welcome party to publicize it, and make sure the press are there in droves. And then keep moving forward -- work out the kinks, streamline the way the service is offered, and then have the press come back to do a follow-up story on you.

Ludacris is superconfident: he never doubts his ability to hit the #1 Spot, as it were. So throws himself wholeheartedly into every song, whether it's his or, say, Usher's.

Library application: Assume you're going to do a good job. And then do it. Form smart, sensible partnerships & alliances with other libraries & local businesses. Don't fuss over who gets the credit for getting it done -- if your patrons like what you're doing, you'll know.

Ludacris is very talented, but he doesn't rest on his laurels: His lyrics are fast, witty, smart (and okay, scatalogical, drug-laced, and sexist, which we can live without) and though the same themes run through his songs (women, money, booze, sex, leisure pursuits both legal & otherwise), you'll never hear a lyric repeated. Ludacris practices. Ludacris is constantly improving his flow and the intricacy of his rhymes. Ludacris works really, really hard.

Library application: Library people know what they're doing, but as we all know, our education doesn't end with the master's degree. Invest in the continuing education & professional development of your staff. Find out about what they're learning and passionate about and let them run with those ideas. Practice. Improve your (work)flow. Work really, really hard.

Ludacris is a huge success because he not only knows his strengths and plays to them, but he lets everyone withing earshot know about them. He is a genius of giddy, effective self-promotion. I wonder if he'd be available to give a workshop at ALA Annual 2006.

How Young Adults Spend Their Time Online

I mentioned Susan Mernit's blog earlier, in the context of drooling copiously over the American Press Institute Seminar where she presented earlier this week. Well, Susan has posted notes from her talk, and the implications for library services to the 35-and-under set are fairly mind blowing. Replace the word "newspapers" with "libraries" in her post and you'll see what I mean. This is one to print out & take with me everywhere.


Happy Birthday to Pop!

How about that? This Sunday was Pop Goes The Library's first birthday, and I didn't even notice. Happy birthday, little blog. I just re-read my first post, and am happy to say that I still believe in all of it. I still think libraries need to embrace popular culture and need to incorporate it into both our philosophies of service, and the services & materials we offer.

My definition of what counts as popular culture has certainly broadened -- I used to think of it as primarily entertainment-based, but now, I see Pop Culture as whatever people are talking, obsessing, or enthusing about. So now, Pop Culture is not just music, movies, and books, but religion, current events, inescapable commercial campaigns, fashion, sports, technology, and whole slew of other things people ponder.

Anyway. Hope you're all enjoying reading as much as I'm enjoying writing.


Leading Communities Through Info Technologies

Amen, amen, a thousand times, amen to Aaron's lucid, detailed post on this subject (via Jenny). There must be something in the air -- I was saying the exact same thing at the blogging & RSS class I taught two weeks ago. From now til a long time from now (I'm thinking 10-15 years at least), libraries and librarians are going to have to be at the forefront of not just adopting new technologies and making them available to our user. We have to go several steps better. We need to adopt and develop expertise in those technologies so we can help our users become expert in using them, themselves.

Aaron's examples of what his library is doing are great. Here are few more:
Don't just make sure your computers have flash drive-friendly USB ports. Teach your patrons how to protect the data they store on their flash drives. If you like to think big, offer to sell smaller flash drives in your tech center.

If your library is going to offer downloadable audiobooks through Netlibrary or a similar service, hold in-library classes, in public areas (i.e., not tucked away in a small room somewhere, but on the main floor of the library), on how the service works. Give your patrons a soup-to-nuts, hands-on presentation on how to search for titles, how to download them, how to share them, how to activate the license, and how to renew them. And then encourage them to download the audiobooks of their choice right there, so you can troubleshoot, if need be.

There's so much to be done in this area, and as Aaron savvily points out, it's great PR for your library.


Teens, Blogging, and Cyberbullying

I doubt most teens need much instruction in using blog technology -- judging just from my sister and her group of friends, all of whom are now in their first year of college and who have been blogging using LiveJournal and Blogger for at least the last year, tweens & teens with computers & Internet access are blogging already -- so what angles could I take on the subject?

Looming large are the dual issues of privacy and bullying, which Anastasia alludes to in her thoughtful post on school blogging bans. Emily Nussbaum touched on this issue, too, in her NYT Magazine piece, My So-Called Blog. Reading a variety of teen blogs, it's easy to see why this is an issue: lots of kids don't seem to have developed a privacy instinct when it comes to blogging. It seems like teens believe that the vast size of the Internet is enough to protect them from harm, that along with humorous or serious rants about school, friends, romantic relationships, and their hobbies, they can also write about personal information like their school name and location, the names of their teachers, friends, and relatives, without fear of being found by someone who maybe shouldn't find them.

If tweens & teens think that what they post online remains anonymous, it only makes sense that they'd be willing to open up. I look at it as a modern, secular confessional, and there's some research which bears this out, courtesy of Georgetown Master's student David Huffaker:

"...not only did teenage bloggers write a lot more than would be expected, they were also using the blogs as a form of 'self-therapy'. Blogs are an area for self expression. It gives them a space to be candid or personal where they don't usually have. I thought at first it was about exhibitionism, but a less cynical view is that they are trying to meet a common human need of finding connection."

(You can read Huffaker's thesis in its entirety here.)

According to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, "81% of parents of online teens say that teens aren’t careful enough when giving out information about themselves online and 79% of online teens agree with this." Yikes. Where's the disconnect coming from? If an overwhelming majority of both parents and teens agree that teens are oversharing deeply personal information about themselves online, and if this oversharing is a major contributing factor to cyberbullying, how are we going to fill that gap?

I might include some of the activities suggested by the MindOH! Foundation at their Cyberbullying Resources page.

I don't think I'd want to focus exclusively on the doom & gloom, though. There are a bunch of other great ways to approach a teen blogging workshop. Teen author Lara Zeises focuses on finding a writing voice through blogging, and Blog Business World has a few things to say about that, too (via unmediated). Teens heading off to college might want to write collaborative blogs, both as a "Let's keep in touch!" tool, and as a method of documenting their experiences for posterity. Really motivated teens could use their blogs as a marketing device -- young entrepreneurs, take note!


Interwebthingy April Fools

There are so many to enjoy, it's hard to pick one favorite from the lot. So I picked two. TeeVeePad: Celebrity TV Weblogs (or check this link if you're reading after April 1) and Go Hug Yourself win my award for Most Effective At Making Tears of Mirth Course Down My Cheeks. Are there any libraries out there with parody sites today?