Friday, April 28, 2017

My first outreach event

Today I went to a resource fair at a senior housing complex to talk up the library. When I wasn't talking to people I was eavesdropping on the interactions at the nearby booths. The poor woman to my right had her hand in a cast and was having to answer "How did you hurt your arm?" over and over. She had broken up a fight between two dogs. She told this to one visitor and he immediately replied "Was it two Chihuahuas fighting over a taco?"

People are weird.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Real reference questions

Some legitimately challenging reference and reader's advisory questions I have been asked lately:

Why is the AIc test for diabetes called that? Is 'A1c' some kind of acronym?

Can you find me a print source that discusses anything about the light rail line they are building in downtown Detroit?

I need a recipe for making prune juice from dried prunes.

I'm trying to find out the failure rate of new businesses in the mid 1980s and how it compares to today's.

Can you help me find a book that will tell me what to expect when I have my total hip replacement? Preferably a new one, no more than a few years old.
Can you help me figure out if books by Stuart Woods will be too scary for me?

Friday, April 21, 2017

My new boss

Photo credit: Kumar Appaiah:

I had a meeting with the new boss of Downtown Library today, my previous boss having recently retired. My new boss was previously at West Side Branch so I already know her and am one of her fans. You will see why. I met with her because I am going to an outreach event next week and we were talking strategy.

New Boss on not using flyers as a substitute for personal connection: "Paper is a substitute for conversation and action, it doesn't do anything...except maybe if it's a warrant."

On having something interesting at your booth to get people's attention: "People aren't just going to come over because you're pretty. Well, maybe some are, but those aren't the ones we want."

She began her tenure at Downtown Library by trashing our typewriter, which Past Boss wouldn't get rid of because a couple of times a year people came in wanting to use it to fill out forms. She sent an email out to all staff announcing its "retirement" with the subject heading "Sad news."

Two-minute accessibility quiz

Is your library accessible to people who face more than the typical barriers to using it? Find out in with this quick quiz!

Add one point for each of these:

1. A wheelchair-accessible computer station

2. A way to get into the restrooms that doesn't require manually opening a door

3. Large print materials that are distinguished physically in any way (a separate section, with stickers, whatever)

4. Text-to-speech software of any kind on public computers

5. A website that has any of the following features: alt-text over images, text in a language other than English, the awareness that color blind people exist

Subtract one point for each of these:

1. Any piece of assistive technology (large print keyboard, trackball mouse, magnifying glass, etc.) that is kept behind the desk and not advertised anywhere

2. Any non-English materials that are labelled only in English

3. Any policy or sign using the words/phrases "disabled," "wheelchair-bound" or "the handicapped"

4. A "No dogs in the library" sign

5. No provisions for people who cannot travel to the library to access library materials

Three to five: Congratulations! Your library is actually doing okay!
Negative two to two: Your library is average, but "average" as in "only as bad as a typical library," not as in "okay."
Negative five to negative three: Do you work with me?

What do you think, readers? Anything you would add to make the five-minute version?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A disagreement

Two patrons, both middle-aged, came up to my desk.
Patron 1: I'd like to get him a library card. He needs one so he can get on the computer.
Patron 2: No, I don't. I don't want a card.

More on the best job ever

In the last 24 hours, I was paid to...

Write a review of an Arabic music CD

Build a motion detector from a Snap Circuits kit

Make a poster of "Library facts you might not know":
1. A library card is FREE
2. You do not need a card to visit the library or use the wifi
3. If you had a card as a kid, any fines on it were removed when you turned 18

Help someone figure out why the online game website she likes wasn't working very well

Recommend a new author for someone who likes J.D. Robb and Clive Cussler

Sign a form certifying that one of our disabled patrons can't read regular print and should thus be able to receive services from the Braille and Talking Book Library

Look for a book about "how satellites work" for an adorable little girl

Read about how other libraries handle it when a famous author dies and someone else continues their book series

Tell someone that audiobooks exist!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Librarian, reader, CAD user

This isn't a typical shift, but I wanted to tell you about it to illustrate how great my job is.

Normally I'm not paid to read (a common public misconception about librarians) except that I do host a monthly book club at Small Town Library, so I am paid to read one book per month and come up with discussion questions about it. I spent the first 90 minutes or so of my morning doing that, plus 30 minutes or so of catching up on emails, dealing with things that I found in my mailbox, etc.

Then I came down for a quiet shift on the reference desk, where I spent the first hour designing a sign holder in a neat program called Tinkercad. My library recently acquired a 3D printer, and my boss got the idea that we could use it to print replacement sign holders for the end of each row of shelves. We essentially have something like this:

Picture source:

I started on Thingiverse, which is a collection of designs for CAD objects, trying to find one that someone else had made and shared which I could use as a starting point (the 3D printing community is very big on sharing their work). Either there wasn't one out there or I didn't know what words to use to find it, so I built one from scratch. After a lot of experimenting, I created this: 

Nothing too fancy, but an accomplishment for an amateur like me (it can be stretched vertically to make it the right width if this segment turns out to fit our signs okay).  Now to either find time to fire up the printer and test it out, or, even better, lean on a colleague to try it using the set of step-by-step instructions I wrote for printing and find out of they are easy to follow.

I still have an hour left on my shift. Maybe I'll actually get to answer some reference questions today! I do seem to be on a roll.