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Library responds to a community’s natural crisis

11 Jun

In a time when so many libraries are trying to redefine themselves or rebrand their services, stories like the one of the Arlington Public Library in Texas, which is helping tornado victims find lost family photos, goes a long way to show how the request of one person can act as a catalyst for new service projects that have strong community appeal. I know unfortunately too many librarians who would react to this situation with “It’s not my job” instead of seeing the amazing opportunity to help preserve the community’s heritage and bring new people into the library.

I strongly salute the staff at the Arlington branch libraries who looked beyond the obvious hard work involved and are now viewed as community heroes to the people who are rediscovering their lost photos! Based on the comment on their Arlington Public Library website, people are extremely excited about the service the library is offering.

Visit the Eagle to read the whole article: Library helps tornado victims find lost photos.


Going to be a librarian? Don’t forget your screwdriver!

9 Jan

During library school students were told that librarians must wear many different hats and that we should be prepared for whatever diverse responsibilities might come our way. Since becoming a library director at a small public library I am confronted with this reality every day.


Before the 2010 budget year came to a close, I had the pleasure of making a few new furniture purchases for the library. I spent a lot of time taking measurements of available space, looking through library supplier catalogues and websites, and considering both the usability and esthetical requirements for a new DVD display case as well as tables and chairs for our kids’ activity room.


This week my staff and I enjoyed a second Christmas as we excitedly opened the large delivery boxes sent to us from Brodart Canada Library Supplies. I was happy to see that the chairs had been sent well wrapped and with no assembly required. Likewise the DVD display spinner was easily assembled in a few quick steps. The two tables however were another story…


Now I am not one to back away from furniture assembly. I have bought my fair share of IKEA furniture and am therefore used to the challenge of trying to coincide strange pictograms with basic design common sense. My infamous leaning tower of Pisa wardrobe that I put together during my first year at SIS became somewhat of a joke; though to my credit, despite its wobbling, it never fell in the two years that I used it while living in Montreal.


One of the reasons why I chose this particular model of activity tables was because of its adjustable height. I thought it was an extremely clever idea to adjust the legs of the table so that younger kids could have a table closer to the ground and the older kids wouldn’t feel like they were sitting at a little kid’s table. Well after I spent the better part of a morning with a manual screwdriver and multiple screws per leg per table, I can tell you that the height of those legs is not going to be readjusted any time soon. Admittedly things did go faster once a male user pointed out that I was not using the most efficient head for my screwdriver. Now I ask you, why did I never learn during my MLIS the value of using a Phillips screwdriver head?  Well all is well that ends well. The tables look awesome and I can’t wait for our regular programming to start this week so that the kids will be able to use the new tables. I just wish that I’d had the insight to include an electric screwdriver in my 2011 budget. I guess that’s what you call learning on the job!

Library Revolutions Video

25 Sep

I am totally a sucker for cheesy library-related videos. This promotional video for the University of Kansas’ library is a spoof of the Matrix and definitely has a professional quality to it! I’m not quite sure who its target audience is though because it seems a bit too long to hold the attention of busy students. Nonetheless it is really well done and it would be cool if McGill had a video like this! The director of this video is Emmy-winner Chris Martin who was a film student at the University of Kansas. He has also produced another pretty awesome library spoof video called Lord of the Libraries.

Very cool stuff!

Biblioblond takes on libraries in Ireland and England Part 1

12 Aug

Linen Hall Library Belfast

I’ve only been back at work since Monday and already my mind is overwhelmed with the end of summer reading club, the compilation of summer statistics, and the organizing of activities and programming for Fall 2010. My memories from my vacation to Ireland and England are unfourtunately quickly fading fast into the back of my mind. I did however really want to share the geekier librarian moments of trip. Luckily I was travelling with a fellow enthusiast for libraries as tourist destinations and so in total we visited 5 libraries during our 9 day trip. Since I enjoyed these visits so much I’ve decided to write a post about each library we visited.

In Belfast, I particularly enjoyed visiting the Linen Hall Library,Belfast’s oldest library (originally known as the Belfast Reading Society) LinenHall Library logoand home to some fairly recurrent paranormal active. When we were there we actually saw the Paranormal Ulster’s team working in a library meeting room (they all had t-shirts on that said “Paranormal Ulster”). This was especially exciting because we had just gone on a Haunted Ghost Tour of Belfast the night before!

The Linen Hall library is a subscription library that has an impressive collection with many new releases but also has definitely succeeded in preserving its historic caché. The Troubled Images exhibit displayed in the new section to the library was extremely educational and I can imagine quite controversial since it presents political “propaganda” posters from Northern Ireland’s recent violent past.  When talking with our Irish hosts, I assumed their usage of the term “the troubles” was their own euphemism for the violence in Northern Ireland but it seems to be the official term. I found the most interesting poster to be an image of a soccer ball with the slogan “Does it Matter which Foot you Kick with?”. This slogan uses a typical Ulster idiom that refers to the myth that while farming Catholics dig with their left foot and Protestants dig with their right foot. Therefore the idiom to ‘dig with the other foot’ means is to be of the other religion. Likewise in soccer, someone of the opposite religion becomes one who ‘kicks with the other foot”. This poster was used in 1996 by the Community Relations Council to encourage cross-religion relations. I thought that this exhibit was well done and I found the brochure with explanations of the context of the posters to be especially helpful. There was also a prominent display in this area on U.K. author Joan Lingard, who wrote the Kevin and Sadie series about star-crossed lovers, a Catholic and Protestant teenage couple during the Troubles. These books have been reprinted several times so I am hopeful that I will be able get my hands on a copy in North America to read more about the Troubles from a fictional perspective.

What can I say? I love learning new things even when I am on vacation.

The prominence given to history at the Linen Hall Library has got me thinking about how the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library could incorporate more its rich Acadian history in the form of displays or exhibits.

Stay tuned to my next post I will write about the Belfast Central Library.

Internet Filtering in Libraries

25 Jun

In my most recent issues of both Library Journal (June 1st 2010) and School Library Journal (June 2010), there is discussion of the recent decision of the state of Washington’s Supreme Court to allow libraries “to filter the Internet without being required to disable the filter when an adult requests access to websites with constitutionally protected materials”.  I especially appreciated Brian Kenney’s editorial on this matter in School Library Journal when he compares Internet filtering to outdated collection development policies where librarians select only the “best material” for their users.

My opinion on filtering has changed quite drastically since I began library school two years ago. In fact, I remember being surprised during a library school trip in the first year of my MLIS to the new Greenboro branch of the Ottawa Public Library. The librarian conducting our guided visit proudly talked about their no-filtering policy and their computer privacy screens. At the time, I thought “What, they don’t filter and they use privacy screens? Are they asking for trouble?” I have since developed the opinion that access to information entails access to all information without discrimination. It is ironic then that I have experienced filtering at my new library since arriving only a few weeks ago. I’m proud to say that our public access computers have no filtering; however, there are sites that I, as library director, am not authorized to access on my staff work computer since it technically belongs to the provincial government. Now we enter into a weird grey area because I do completely understand and respect the difficulties of managing the technical support for an entire network of provincial computers. From what I’ve been told viruses and bandwidth problems for such a large network cause major headaches for everyone involved especially the tech support team.  The public access computers are set up to be wiped every time someone logs out. This eliminates whatever software/viruses might have found their way onto the computer when it was being used. However, the settings for the staff computers are different. I smile weakly at the irony of the public having better internet access than the library personnel.

I am fairly certain that I will be so insanely busy in my new director position at the library that I won’t be tempted to browse the internet for fun while at my job. However, yesterday I was on our Intranet looking for sites with free clip art/images for a poster when I discovered that a link to Flickr was blocked.  It seemed like false advertising to post a link on the Intranet only to block its access. I have discussed the issue with our regional tech guy and he completely agrees with me that there should not be blocked links on the Intranet and he is working to fix that problem. He has informed the “powers that be” at the provincial level and either the site will be unblocked or the link will be removed. Flickr is a site on which you could possibly find questionable photos but there are also a lot of great images with creative commons licences that could be useful for all sorts of library use. It’s like the Internet; you have to take the chance of there being some bad in order to access all the great stuff that is available.

Instead of adding filters, I think libraries and government bodies should be more focused on educating users about internet security. Teaching users how to identify and avoid the dangers of the internet from viruses to internet fraud to damaged reputations (posting indecent photos) is a valuable investment of an organization’s resources. If organizations like libraries were to provide training sessions on these issues then they might save a lot of the time they currently spend on surveying and modifying their filters. Not to mention, they would be empowering people by providing them with more knowledge instead of disabling them by censoring their access to information.  What do you think? What do you do in your library?

Libraries as Learning Places: Reflections from ABQLA’s 78th Annual Conference

11 May

Less than a week had gone by since returning home to Montreal from the LWB Guatemala Trip and I already was already back into the swing of Montreal libraryland. This past weekend was the 78th annual ABQLA Conference on the theme of “Libraries as Learning Places”. I was especially excited about this conference because many of the presentations related to issues of great importance to library directors such as marketing and communications that I felt were not covered in library school classes.

The first keynote speaker was Lori Reed, a librarian trainer from North Carolina. She addressed the hard financial situation faced by many libraries and encouraged participants to promote their libraries as educational institutions in order to highlight to users and policy-makers the importance of libraries within a community. Unfortunately I had to miss the talk of another keynote speaker Mitch Joel’s. However from what I heard, it sounded like it was very similar to talks I’ve heard at Web 2.You, where Web 2.0 technologies are promoted as promotional tools to strengthen the users’ experience with their library.

I did enjoy the talk by Pam MacKellar, the Accidental Librarian, who emphasized the importance of perspective when facing difficult situations. I felt that her talk was extremely relevant to me as a soon-to-be library director. She spoke about the damage caused when people only focus on obstacles instead of seeing potential opportunities. Although a lot of what she said was common sense (negativity breeds negativity), it was nonetheless important to hear this reiterated especially since I will soon be responsible for tough situations that will require that I maintain my most positive attitude.

The last keynote speaker and without a doubt the most entertaining of the conference was Paul Huschilt. Anyone who has not seen Paul Huschilt at a conference does not know what it is like to laugh non-stop for an hour. Tying in perfectly with Pam’s presentation on the importance of positive thinking, Paul Huschilt demonstrated the “Seven Humour Habits for Workplace Wellness” and had everyone laughing out loud. Yours truly even got to participate as a volunteer during his talk which was a lot of fun. Although Paul Huschilt really had nothing to do with libraries, I applaud the conference organizers for inviting such an entertaining speaker who reminded us all how therapeutic laughter can be.

The most interesting regular session that I attended was by Tanya Abramovitch, the Library Director of the Cote-St-Luc Public Library, who discussed “Library University” an initiative that offers courses on a variety of topics including Readers’ Advisory 101, Delivering Sweetheart Service, Searching for Movies workshop, etc. These courses mostly taught by staff are offered during work hours for other staff to develop their expertise in various subject areas. Allowing staff to take classes on subjects outside of their departmental responsibilities encourages the understanding of the library’s “big picture” which helps to better motivate them in their work. It was extremely obvious by Tanya Abramovitch’s enthusiasm the positive impact of this staff development initiative on the Cote-St-Luc library. Her enthusiasm was extremely contagious and everyone left this session motivated to better develop their own knowledge and skill sets in order to provide the best possible service to users.

My absolute favourite moment of the conference was during lunch on the Saturday when the convenor was attempting to get the attention of the crowd. In order to quiet down the half of the conference-goers who were still chatting away, the other half of the group spontaneously shushed them. It was the most delightfully hilarious sight to see such a large group of librarians shushing in unison. I could not help laughing out loud and this was even before Paul Huschilt took the stage!

This was a truly a wonderful conference. Thank you again to all the organizers and the speakers.

Weeding a library is like weeding a garden

23 Jan

I’ve done a lot of garden weeding in my life. One summer, I worked maintenance at a golf course and I got stuck weeding all of the flower beds around the club house and the tees for the whole summer. This was an incredibly tedious job and I realized that you could either be a perfectionist (picking every last weed) or just get the most obvious ones. Either way, you are never truly finished weeding because almost as soon as you are done, more weeds spurt up. This past week, I have been working on a project to weed the Reference Collection at the Education Library. This section has some really fantastic resources in it, however, mostly you can’t see the flowers for the weeds. Just like weeding a garden, this is a tedious job going through the individual titles to determine their current relevance to the collection but in the end it can be rewarding. This library collection has obviously not been weeded for years and it was in dire need of a good clean up. If you are entering a garden or a library collection that has not been weeded in a long time, there is temptation to just pull everything in sight. The problem with this of course, is that in your haste, you are potentially removing valuable plants/documents. I am cautious and try to think of the potential interest for a document before it is weeded but it also gives me great pleasure to rid the library collection of documents that are of no value to our users. These are the titles of which I am most proud to say are no longer a part of the Reference Collection :

New Career Options for Women : a selected bibliography (1976),

Personnel des Commissions Scolaires et des Cégeps (1978-1979),

The Black World in Literature for Children Vols. 1-3 (1975)