Thursday, November 26, 2009

Innovative Interfaces Incorporated - Millennium

Our library is switching to a One Library One Province mode. One of the first things we are doing is switching from dying DRA to Millennium by III. I have used this at BCIT, Burnay and am looking foward to working on it again. It is more intuitive and user-friendly.

We are the first library to go live with this and then the rest of the province will follow. Staff are understandably a bit stressed with the change, scheduling and the unknown, when it goes live on December 15th.

Did you know that computer systems upgrade is one of the top causes of stress at a workplace? No wonder......

I think most of the fear stems from the fact that patrons will not be patient while we learn this system on the job - they will yell, stomp, throw tantrums.... But wait, we have all this already, don't we? Good luck to us!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Conference in Alberta

I was at Netspeed in Calgary, Alberta last week. This was my first time to Netspeed. Unfortunately I forgot my camera and didn't get any pictures.

The focus was on technology in libraries. I learnt some new lingo like "Vook" which means video book and "digi-novels" which means digitized books. Came back with interesting thoughts and ideas to try and implement here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Light of Swine Flu or H1N1

Everyone here is a bit anxious about this cold season because of this flu. Our City is going to great lenghts to create pandemic alerts, install hand sensitizers in all the popular places, offering advise on washing hands often, creating pamphlets on the subject, etc. They also said there should be a six-feet distance between someone who is sick and coughing and sneezing.

All weekend I worked, we had this guy in the library with a hacking cough, lots of sneezing, sniffling, and was overall unclean as well. Almost all of us had to help him at one time or another and we absolutely had no way of staying six feet away from him. He was using computers and prints which we also had to touch at one point or another. By the end of the weekend there were 3 of us feeling unwell but atleast two of us are here back at work on Monday.

All this rambling has a question. What are other libraries doing in these situations? Has anyone refused service to patrons due to their illness symptoms? I uphold the laws of good customer services at my library but am worried I am going to be sick soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ten Commandments for Librarians - not in any particular order

I was thinking of listing Ten Commandments for librarians. I had to pause for a while but thanks to comments from friends and fellow bloggers I am upto 10 now.

  1. Acquire: as in collect for your library
  2. Weed: can't stress how important this is if you want to acquire new items
  3. Read: Of course you are supposed to have read every book in the world - but kidding aside read, read, read... it can be anything.
  4. Lead: be a leader and come up with innovative ideas - have a vision
  5. Manage: Know when to pull the reigns - budgeting, staffing, etc
  6. Update or be up to date: in terms of what is happening in the technology world, library world or just world in general
  7. Learn: learn how users learn, learn new technology, so you can be a better teacher
  8. Teach: as in teach computer classes, catalog search, database search, etc
  9. Synthesize: anything you read, learn or update yourself with - use it. Example: if you learn of a new computer program or social networking site, see how you can use it to your library's advantage
  10. Listen: this is a very important skill. Without listening we don't understand the question and we cannot have a reference interview.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

More personal favours

Twice last night I was asked by patrons if I would let them use my computer or my email. There are about 25 computers they can use in the library.

The first case was a lady who wanted to send something to her email from the web and then print it (don't ask me why). Alas, she forgot her mail password. So she wanted me to sit with her, send this stuff to my email and allow her to print it from there. Common! I should mention I printed it off the web for her.

The second case was a young man who couldn't download Skype on our computers. We don't allow downloads. So he wanted me to download it on my computer so he could quickly talk to someone!

Would you walk into an office building (say you are in the building for a reason) and ask the staff there to use their computer? Given we are a public service and not just some office building - still, isn't there a limit as to what can be expected of us.

If you are new here you should read my other entries on what people ask at the library.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Conversations with patrons

Me: Good Evening. How can I help you?
Patron: Someone I know died and it is in the paper. My friends found out about this on the computer. I want it.
Me: Where did this person die?
Patron: In Calgary or Edmonton (in another province)
Me: Was it an accident? Was it reported in the paper or was it an obituary?
Patron: I don't know! (with lot of attitude). My friends found it on the computer. Look for it.
Me: Where did your friends find it? (I meant where on the computer - a newspaper site, general website, email)
Patron: On the computer!! Geez! Can you find it or not?
Me: I cannot find it if I don't know what I am looking for? And I don't know where your friends found it? Can you be more specific? Was this information in the newspaper?
Patron: Look! This person died in Calgary or Edmonton and my friends read about it on the computer! That's all I know. Can you please look into your computer?
Me: Sure. Do you know the name of the person who died? I can check the obituaries first and go from there.
Patron: Not really!
Me: ????????
Patron: ???????

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Crazy afternoon

It's been a crazy afternoon and I wasn't even on desk serving patrons!! With two copies of daily schedule floating around any changes I made in the schedule didn't show up and I had to do it all over again. This time it wasn't my fault. I'll leave it at that and not point any fingers :))

I had to register for a conference and the fax machine was acting up. It kept saying "there is a problem with your number. Please check your number and dial again." So after faxing, I had to call the place (out of province) and confirm they got my fax. Gosh! All this technology! It can be useful only when it works! When it doesn't, it is a pain in the - you know where!

I hope the rest of the evening is quiet and I don't have those snarky patrons - what a positive attitude eh? But really on the positive side, I have tomorrow off! yay!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sweetheart Librarian

I had a question over the phone today from a patron who explained the contents of a book - Canadian author who wrote about himself and his son; had to do with them watching movies - now she couldn't remember the title.

It didn't take me too long to find the book as I had heard of it. She called me a sweetheart for finding it so quickly and relieving her of her headache.

A few days ago, I helped a patron (she was about 80 years old) find books on dating and relationships by Dr.Phil. This patron has promised to bring me flowers some day for all the help I offered.

I must be having a good month........Hope this luck lasts.......

In case you are wondering about the title in the first case: Film Club: A True Story of a Father and a Son by David Gilmour.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meebo Me Widget

I am proposing that we have a chat widget on our library's website. Heck I am the virtual reference librarian aren't I? I wanted to play with it first. I couldn't believe how easy it was to do this on my own blog. Try it and if I am online I will talk to you too.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

T as in T and K as in Koffin?

This was the question I had over the phone: Could I have the address and phone number for TK Mechanics in town? I wanted clarification and asked T as in.....?

Patrons reply: T as in T (probably meant "tea" which was still hard to understand over the phone) and K as in Koffin.

Email us your resume?

Okay. It must be a full moon or something. Too many wierd questions and this one tops the list for today.

A patron has a friend who typed his (patron's) resume for him. Now this friend has to send this resume to our patron. I didn't want to know where this friend was. Patron calls us to ask if this friend could send this resume to us because he doesn't know how else he could receive it.

After a chit-chat, it was clear our patron didn't know about emails or discs for saving. He concluded that he was going to ask his neice (who apparently has an email id) to receive this resume from his friend and get it printed. He thanked me for explaining this process too!

Whew! I am glad that was solved and I didn't have to receive strangers' resumes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reference Interview

Reference interview is not just an interview to figure out the problem and/or find out the question. Quite often it is also about dealing with people’s emotions. When something doesn’t work, patrons feel helpless, frustrated and angry. They need to print their resume right now as they are off to an interview and our computers don’t cooperate. It is here that an efficient librarian steps in - not only to help with the issue at hand, but also to diffuse anger. Sometimes unfortunately it is a one way communication - I am trying to communicate and patron isn't listening.

On many occasions patrons just tell me it (computer) isn’t working and from their voice and body language it is very possible they are about to explode with anger. When I ask more questions (reference interview) they are really infuriated - don’t I think they know what they are doing? I find ways to explain to them (politely) that I need to know what the problem is. They point aggressively to the screen while talking.

With all this background yelling, and bits & pieces of information they spurt out, I figure out the problem. Next step is to actually solve the problem. It could be a flicker of a switch, checking cable connections, rebooting, a phone call to our IT department, accessing patrons’ information from my computer to print a copy for them or in worst case scenario sending them to the nearest internet café so they can print their information there. The solution of course, depends on the problem. I must add patrons are not always happy with solutions such as running to the internet café. Understandably, the internet is free at the library. If it is a book or article they need and can’t find, then the approach is different.

It doesn’t matter how many computers, databases and books are available at a library. Without librarians to take the brunt and hunt for the right information quickly and efficiently, there will be chaos.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Librarian, information specialist, computer fixer-upper, social worker, baby-sitters, psychologist, security guard, what else??

At no time in library school did I take classes on human psychology, psychiatry or being social worker. Some days I perhaps should have considered taking some of these classes outside of LIS department.

We had police come in and look for someone we didn’t know. It turns out this person called police from the library's bathroom and threatened to kill herself. They found her of course all in one piece and still breathing. But what a night! Never a dull day at a public library! that is for sure.

Reference Librarian - Me, I am!

Not too long ago I took Facebooks' What kind of Librarian are you? challenge and was labelled "reference librarian." Though I was first surprised by a machine's ability to tell me exactly what I am, when I thought about it, it wasn't that much of a surprise.

I am curious about things, can be a bit too focussed on projects/questions I get, sceptical, lifelong learner, resilient, love change, have technical aptitude and always interested in learning and trying new technology. If you haven't tried this on Facebook go for it.

Glad to know I am what I am...

Project Management 101 for librarians

Librarians are constantly working on projects. The nature of the project, depth, limitations, outcome all vary depending on the project itself and where you work. Nevertheless, project management skills are very important. But don’t despair, you already have those skills and you just don’t know it yet.

Take me for example: In a public library setting and as a fairly new librarian (3 years), my projects are simpler than what a librarian for a huge system might have to accomplish. But I still work with people system-wide: define the project, find people to assist or work with me on the project, collect data, evaluate findings and then take it to my supervisor. I am really simplifying it here of course.

Project management involves change, people management skills, multitasking, knowledge of the project and/or where to go for help, dealing with limitations such as time, money, etc. It involves initiation, planning, implementation, reporting, concluding the project by accomplishing all (or most) of the goals set during initiation and planning, then going back to planning and implementation when something fails. Yup, it is a cycle.

This is a very important skill for all librarians regardless of which type of library we work in. It also goes hand-in-hand with time management and people skills. Good luck everyone!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Down Days

We were switching to a new ISP provider and had no internet for almost two full days at the front desk. What was amazing was that we still had lots of questions and were able to find answers for those questions. This tells me, libraries are still needed and will continue to flourish with our without computers. And we got a chance to brush up on Dewey.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mashup 101

I was recently asked about this and although I had some idea what this was about I had never used it. So I did my research.

You know those remix songs you’ve been hearing – older songs with newer tunes, a few songs blended together, etc. That is Mashup. In a library setting, you can mix things together such as databases, websites, catalogs, front covers of books, etc and call it a Library Mash up. In a one-stop shopping world, library patrons seem to want and enjoy this.

It is a technology that allows communication and information exchange between different applications. It requires API (Application Programming Interface). API comes into action when one software has to communicate with another software and request it to perform some action. So for real estate data and map to work together API is needed.

Mashup can be created by inexperienced users with little or no technical college. End users can combine things in different ways. Google Maps – blends information from maps and real estate data. In a library you can have applications on your web page that shows where from most people are logging into your databases while displaying the map of your city and library locations.

Many websites are already Mashup: They have pictures, websites, text, etc all combined on one page.,

Information literacy is important here as well. You need to make sure all the information in your mashed up Website is coming from trusted sources.

For more information listen to this podcast by Darlene Fichter on Mash Ups

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Valuable Information

A friend of mine wanted a recipe for homemade wax for waxing herself. She went on to Google and typed homemade waxing. Of the 500,000 or so results, she clicked on the first one, got her recipe, printed it off and was content.

Google makes searches look easy. But are the searches good? This was the question on my mind. And what about my friend who performed the search? Did she not want to see what else is out there, who put this recipe up, if this recipe is safe, etc?

It reminded me that this is how most patrons are searching and finding and assuming they have got the best information. They might be educated but are unaware of such a thing as information literacy.

With the ubiquitous www, there is a lot of information out there, some of it effectively managed through proper channels, but the rest of it is just data. Data doesn’t provide accurate information. And now I am worried for all those patrons who don’t come to us, who don’t use the library, who haven’t been to school or haven’t learnt information literacy. They are missing out on valuable information that could be out there!

Friday, April 24, 2009


We have our provincial library conference coming up soon and I am busy working on my presentation for the conference. Hence all is quiet on the western front.

My paper is going to be about diversity in our province with a focus on multiculturalism. We have always had many international students coming to our University, but now there are more people coming with jobs, opening businesses, etc. While the students usually thought of this place as their temporary aboard, the newer immigrants are actually staying. And, of course, the social make up of immigrants has changed a lot since the early 1900's. As opposed to Europeans, we get more Asians, immigrants from middle east and Africa.

Once I finish the conference, I hope to have more time to write for the blog.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Demand or request?

I absolutely dislike it when patrons come in or call and tell me how I should search for their information. I have probably mentioned this before.

I had a call today from a patron who started off with: "I want you to go to the Red Book and....." I could feel my blood pressure going up. He continued, I'll narrow down to the years 2000 and 2001 for you so you know which book you need to look at.

Really! Why thank you! What would I do and where would I be without those friendly!! instructions.

Just ask a question and if I need further information I'll ask you. Deal?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Patrons in a hurry!!!

It amazes and amuses me when a patron comes in with a lengthy question that requires a lengthy answer or some considerable time to search for an answer. But while you start answering or looking for an answer, they remember that their parking meter is running out or they have a bus to catch in 2 minutes.

With computers and online information things are speedy. But not that speedy people. If you have a question and want an answer, consider spending some time finding the answer. When we say answers are at our finger tips (with online sources), don't take it literarlly!

Perhaps they (and us librarians) need long would I have to wait for that I wonder.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

When the computers shut down......

We, the younger generation of librarians are so comfortable with the internet and especially the idea of Googling that when computers are down we have to stop and think about how to retrieve information.

Our computers have been down all morning and I had a question: The address of our Governor General’s Office. I can’t remember the last time I may have used (or was shown) a print item that would have this information. I had to put the person on phone on hold and think for a minute before I realized Scotts! The government directory in Canada! Whew! One of my colleagues was pleased that she got to use the Short Story Indexes for her reference question.

It is a different feeling while having to use just print materials. You take your time finding answers, patrons seem to wait more patiently, etc. But you also get less done in the same amount of time (simply my opinion!). Nevertheless it felt rewarding. I felt like a librarian. (Oops, can I say that out loud)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back from my holidays......

Howdy all,

I was away holidaying in India, the hot, crowded city of Chennai and just got back over the weekend. I got back to the cold snow and zero below weather of Canada. It is a bit of a system shock actually. My plan was to visit some libraries in Chennai while I was there, the ones I visited as a student. But it was hot and I just wanted to be with family and stayed home. So no library pictures from there this time.

Work is busy, I have a paper to finish for my SLA conference in April and there is an indexing job to be completed in the next two weeks.

Hope to post something soon,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Google it Will ya?

As an internet generation librarian I love Google - no doubt about that. When there is something too foreign to me I use Google as the starting point for my search. But don't you love it (as a librarian) when you pick up the phone and a patron on the other end begins their question with: "Go to google and search for yada yada yada...."

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!!