Thursday, May 17, 2012

BPA Is Found in Paper Receipts

If your library has a policy that the self-service checkouts have to print a receipt for each patron, here is another reason to reevaluate that policy or feature or however it works. Check Your Receipt: It May Be Tainted "BPA is an endocrine disrupter, mimicking the body’s hormones. Studies on animals have suggested that it can have harmful effects on the reproductive, developmental and other systems, causing neurological problems, for example, or stimulating obesity." and to the Facebook commenter saying the natural food store where she worked only uses BPA-free paper: "Although chemical concentrations were higher in South Korea and Vietnam than in the United States, 100 percent of the receipts collected in the United States contained BPA — even some marketed as “BPA-free.”" It's bad enough the paper spits out without giving the patron a choice, once upon a time at a library system in another state I was told there was a legal requirement to print a receipt for patrons who were not asked by a human (as opposed to a computer) if they wanted one or not.

Monday, May 14, 2012

One Desk Model, Digital Versus Physical Staff and Patron Search Needs

I was floored when I went in for an interview recently when they asked me what I thought about the "one desk model". I'd never gotten that question in a library interview before.

I realize I spent years as an associate before I became a librarian, and worked in circulation after I became an associate, I know there are plenty of people like me out there who are perfectly capable of handling the job. Managing the transition though, how to go from being a librarian to sharing duties with paraprofessionals...that's difficult. I was thrown into it once, and I had very rusty circulation skills and the circulation staff had no reference training, and I'd describe it as a disaster. The librarians did not have in-depth training on managing patron records because we'd been sending all the questions to circ, and circ had no concept of what a reference interview was or why it was important. No one has talked about if this means having one person on the floor answering all questions, if it means having librarians and circulation staff working together at one place in the library, or if librarians just handle more circ tasks at their desk (ie checking books out for someone if they bring them to the desk) and circ handles more basic reference questions instead of sending them to the librarians. I don't think I've seen a hard and fast example of what people mean when they say "one-desk". I've seen it implemented several ways.

When I think about how the library could restructure to better serve patrons, I've come to a conclusion (for 2012 at least).

We need staff for physical items and we need staff for digital items, and maybe those people should be separate jobs.

Digital staff would help patrons manage their own library accounts, help patrons use the online catalog, help patrons use the internet computers, order digital items, manage the website, blogs and social media accounts, help patrons with e-books etc.

Physical staff would help people find physical items in the library, do research in the reference collection, shelve, catalog, repair items, order physical items, run story times/book clubs, check books in and out etc.

I think this would make people much happier than a generic "one desk" solution. At the core of this issue is the patron, and patrons seem to be interested in either physical or digital resources, but rarely want to hear about both. There are librarians and paraprofessionals who are doing an excellent job working both sides of this skill set now, but I think patrons would understand "the computer person" and "the stuff person" better than "that desk person might be someone who is an expert in managing library records or might be someone who is a research expert".

Think about patrons who come in looking for Consumer Reports...aren't some happy to hear "you can access it at home, here's how" and others who say "no, I'd rather use the magazines"?

This isn't a definite opinion...I'm working on the edges here, but "one desk" seems to put all patrons into the same box of search behaviors with a total disregard for staff expertise. We need to look at systems that serve both the patrons and the re-organization of the library.


Monday, August 15, 2011

101 Low Budget No Budget Teen Activities

I'm working on a book! Right now I'm calling it 101 Low Budget No Budget Teen Activities, but 101 Safe, Cheap and Sane Teen Programs is another idea. 101 arts and crafts, games and programs for teens that you can do with barely a budget. You'll raid the children's arts and crafts closet, learn how to score free supplies online, turn community events into goldmines of leftover materials, up and most importantly, be ready for all the drama and danger of running programs.

Of course teen programs are drama and danger! How many cool things can you make without scissors, needles or hot glue guns? Well, we're about to find out, as I'll present alternatives for as many projects as possible.

While I'm making a list of programs and instructions, I'd love to have some "testers" to give me feedback on the projects. If you're interested, please contact me at librariancourtneybennett at gmail and let me know if you want a project involving

1. Office Supplies (and library supplies!)
2. Fabric (and suggestions on where to get free fabrics!)
3. Recycled Projects
4. Children's Craft Closet (felt, construction paper, glitter, safety scissors etc.)

Also tell me about your local safety level- are your teens allowed to cut with adult scissors, use hot glue guns, sew with needles, use a stapler etc.

I'm willing to send multiple projects IF you provide me with feedback on the ones I send.