Saturday, December 17, 2005

Any excuse to dress up

Queen Victoria and her ladies in waiting?? Close. Today we launched our new pictorial history of the shire (local government area) and I thought it would be a good idea to subject my fellow staff to yet another episode of fun (humiliation?), by suggesting that we all dress up f0r the occasion. We certainly puzzled the customers! One three year old asked his mother "Why is that lady wearing that funny dress?" and the mum replied, "She's playing dress-ups". Come to think of it, I have been playing dress-ups more or less continuously for most of my career as a public librarian - I've done cats, witches, Rapunzel, pyjama girl, mad professor, Wally (of Where's Wally fame), wizardess (for a Harry Potter theme night) and a Christmas tree. I've actually done Queen Victoria twice - the last time I wore this exact costume was for the 100 year centenary of our main library service in 1997. Who said Librarians were introverts?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Youth Library opens at last!

Here I am looking very tired (very tired) on the day of the grand opening of *YL, our new combined Youth Library/Youth Lounge. (Because this blog is unofficial I can only bring you private pictures - ie ones without other staff members and members of the public - when the more exciting public ones are uploaded I'll make a link. If you'd like to know more please feel free to email me). We opened the doors at 3 pm yesterday and a joyous "crowd" of around 50 young people surged into the new space. While we were initially worried about controlling numbers (this is after all only a "boutique" size area), the numbers were pretty much self regulating with people coming and going and about 50 people in the space at any one time creating a comfortable buzz. Numbers swelled with "oldies" for about half an hour at 5.30 while the Mayor and local invited dignitaries did the official opening, followed by free pizza and softdrinks. Everyone is very impressed with the funky decor, great furnishings, fantastic colour scheme. Free giveaways (hats, t-shirts, pens, bags) to get the "brand" out there worked like a charm. If I were allowed to show you pictures, a snapshot of the space would include: happy friendly teenagers and younger 20s sharing the Playstation and Xbox games with minimal intervention; congenial and self regulating usage of the Internet room; at one point a group of about 8 young people in the big comfy black and orange chairs absolutely absorbed in reading (graphic novels and magazines); girls in party costume looking great, chatting, flicking thru mags and glancing at the big Plasma screen showing continuous music channel (did I mention we have continuous surround sound!). Meanwhile the 2 library staff were furiously signing people up (I just hovered in the background to answer technical questions- I also chatted to a few kids and parents that I knew). By the time I left at 7 pm we had signed up 80 something new borrowers - I'm hoping to hear this morning that we cracked 100 by 9 pm closing time. Not bad for a small community - as a comparison in normal main branch trading we sign up about 100 people a month. Also a brisk trade in DVDs, music CDs and console games going out on loan. It will be interesting to extract the statistics. And we do it all again tonight and Saturday...

Hopefully I will get around to blogging further about reader advisory, I'm also planning a considered blog on book groups, and a much belated blog about my trip around New Zealand last year viewing cutting edge libraries there with John Stanley and Fiona Emberton...but at the moment I'm just so freakin' tired...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rewarding Reading - Reader Advisory Training

Just taking a few minutes to blog about the Reader Advisory training that our library team is doing at the moment. This much waited for event - the luxury of 3 days of dedicated, get away from it all training in this important area of library service - is being conducted for (nearly) our whole library team of 9 (4 of our number have had to maintain a skeleton crew to keep the libraries open, including calling in our semi-retired stand-by, and a staff member especially released from another department because she used to work in the library!) by "Libraries Alive!" a two person library consultancy. For a course overview see their website.

I might blog about this in more depth later, but at the 2 day point od the course these are the off the cuff insights I've gained so far:

1. We know that libraries are all about information. We're pretty skilled up around answering reference queries. But public library users and borrowers, by a far and away huge majority, use their library for something other than information - reading for "pleasure". While I was dimly aware of Reader Advisory as a defined service, now I know it too has a philosophy, practice and structure. And knowing about these things in more depth can help us perform it better.

2. And it's OK to be loud and proud about it! "Reading for pleasure" is not second best to reading for information. It's another highly valuable service that has repercussions for our cultural, social, mental and personal wellbeing. It is just as important to fund the library because of this function, as it is for supplying information. There are heaps of people out there (I invariably meet them at social functions when I mention I'm a librarian) who say "I don't read" and sneer (sometimes literally) at the thought of reading for pleasure. We have to advocate for the equally large number of people who DO value reading.

3. It's a whole of team thing. In a small public library like ours everyone does reader advisory. You don't have to have read everything in the universe to be a great reader's advisor. By pooling and sharing our knowledge we can build on each other's strengths. For the gaps (hey, let's face it we have a bit of a gender imbalance as currently we don't have any male staff!) we can call on the prodigious sources of RA info and tools on the net and developed by other libraries (that's today's session!). And harness perhaps our best resource - our own customers.

4. Being non-judgmental. As an example - you all know them - the fanatical romance readers. The ones who consume Mills and Boons and complain bitterly when you run out of new titles (they only publish 24 a month, give us a break!!), the ones who suggest for purchase whole series of "bodice rippers" with titles like "The Laird returns" , "The Prince's slave" etc etc. I asked one of these ladies the other day (nicely I hope) "But aren't they all the same?" and she replied most passionately that no, they were all unique and fantastic, different authors had different styles, she recommended different ones to her friends and they talked about them amongst themselves etc etc. Well that's her reality, who am I to argue. And she must be right, because every one of the books I have bought on her recommendation have been wildly popular. So rather than being snobby about it (which I admit was my first impulse) now I'm thinking that I could ask this lady to prepare a recommendation list! Or maybe even start a romance discussion group! (I think this has been done in Singapore...)

Anyway that's a start, I have to get ready for work now or else I'll miss the start of the next session...