Sunday, July 31, 2011

What happened to last year's programs?

As summer begins to merge into fall, librarians start gearing up for a new school year. You may breath a sigh of relief that the summer reading program you spent so much time designing has been a huge success, but next summer will you remember what you did? One of the problems with putting so much of our work online is that digital materials often get erased, pictures of programs are scattered and lost, outlines of storytimes are passed around by email and eventually deleted and forgotten. Do we really want all of this history to disappear? Librarians are experts at preserving information, and the digital materials in our libraries are essential parts of our information. Let's make an effort to preserve the best of what we do.

At least twice a year, someone in the library should go through the materials that have accumulated--pictures, program plans, videos--and assess them for preservation. You'll find a wealth of information on how to do that at the Library of Congress's digital preservation site. LC has prepared a short video outlining the steps to take to preserve your digital files:
1. identify the files you have created
2. decide which ones you want to save
3. organize an Archive folder perhaps with sub-folders for different types of material
4. and then backup your files

Probably the best place to backup your archive files is on an external hard drive which can be stored in a location outside of the library. LC suggests making two or possibly three copies of the hard drive and storing them in various locations.

All this is extra work on top of your already busy days, but it will pay off when you find you have a record of the highlights of what your department has been doing. You can retrieve materials that can be used again. You can find pictures from years ago that form the basis of an exhibit of how the library has grown and changed. And individual librarians can find records of the professional work they have done. These are all valuable results. We don't want our work to disappear leaving no trace. Try setting up a system now so that future librarians can appreciate the past they are building on. It's well worth the effort!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fewer books for more children

The closing of Borders bookstores across the country will affect not only adults, who are the major purchasers of books, but also many children who have been introduced to the world of books in the big box bookstores. Many communities, even large cities, will now have very few bookstores accessible to most people. It’s time for libraries to step up their publicity about the books and other materials available in children’s departments. Although public libraries try to present themselves as a family-friendly destination for weekends, very few of them are able to attract the large numbers that mall-based bookstores have done.

In the mall that housed my now-dying Borders store, I used to see many family groups browsing through the children’s books, sipping drinks in the café, and crowding the aisles of the graphic novel section. Will libraries be able to attract these people to the library? What is it that makes big box bookstores so popular?
• Proximity to other shopping facilities
• Presence of an in-store café
• Large, colorful stock of books arranged for comfortable browsing
• Chairs and tables to sit and browse
• Noise and movement and a feeling of freedom of action

The biggest advantage that a library has over a bookstore, of course, is that it offers free materials and services, but many residents don’t even know about these. Can a library seize the opportunity presented by the disappearance of Borders? One way would be to advertise the library in space close to where the bookstore was located. Nearby stores might be willing to post flyers about the library in their windows. The mall website might post a notice as a public service.

A few libraries might be able to establish a presence in the mall where Borders used to be. A kiosk or small storefront operation might be set up. If the mall has a meeting area, library storytime programs could be presented on weekends. Library staff or Friends-of-the-Library volunteers might be recruited to pass out flyers about library collections and services.

The important thing to remember is that children and families are being deprived of one of their important sources of books and information. Public libraries should do their best to step in and fill a need so that the next generation of children will learn to know and love the books and other resources we are pledged to provide to them.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My book is out at last!

It's a great day when the mail includes a package as exciting as the author copies of my new book From Boardbook to Facebook: Children's Services in an Interactive Age, published by Libraries Unlimited-ABC-Clio. Just turning the pages and seeing how it looks in print is exciting, and it's out as an ebook too, although I haven't seen that yet. If you want to order it you can go to the website or of course, try

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Do you follow the golden rules?

Librarians were among the first to embrace the usefulness of technology in helping our patrons find the information they need. Still, it's useful to remind ourselves every once in a while that it's easy to be complacent about the computers and databases that we have offered the children in our libraries and schools. Technology has gone far beyond the computer lab and shelf of DVDs in the corner of the library. The interactive Web is here and it is important to let our children use it. Read this important article from Media Shift about the 7 Golden Rules of Technology in Schools. It is important to allow children access to the social media they will be using in the real world outside the school and library. Perhaps the most important rule of all is the one about the "F--- Word" That word is FEAR--fear of offending some teacher or parent by allowing a child to stray off the tried and true tools of print. Some of the reason for this fear is the exaggerated sense that the Internet is filled with evil sites designed to hurt children. The truth is that this fear is overblown. Occasionally a child may stray into a site that shows some nudity or uses some inappropriate language, but almost all children react by giggling and pointing it out to their friends. They are not injured or offended by it and young children are usually not terribly interested. Of course, we have to keep an eye on what the kids are up to in the library, but we don't want to repeat the errors of librarians in mid-20th century who tore pages out of the "National Geographic" or worse still banned the magazine so that children would be protected from seeing an occasional indigenous woman wearing less clothing than would be seen on Main Street. Children are resilient, we need to trust them and to help them find their way through the new digital media, because this is the world we all live in now. The more we embrace change, including changes in technology, the more we help our children grow into the strong citizens who can face the new world fearlessly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What about textbooks?

One of the many blogs that librarians in both public and school libraries will find useful is the one posted by David Warlick in which he covers new trends and ideas in education. Recently he has posted two takes on what textbooks will be like in the future. He proposes that they will be far more interactive than current textbooks. No longer will they strive to be "Centrally-Authoritative" and error free but will accept the fact that errors occur and will be self-correcting through social interaction. It's worth looking at the posting for June 26, which lists the characteristics of old and new textbooks. Now, some librarians may be shrugging off the idea of changes in textbooks as having any relevance to library books for children, but I think they are wrong. As the idea of interactivity--the importance of looking at books and other media as joint productions of writers and readers--grows, the changes will affect trade books as well as textbooks. And they will especially affect librarians who are the mediators between trade books and children just as teachers are the mediators between textbooks and children. As children become used to sharing ideas and giving input into their digital (surely these new textbooks will have to be digital) textbooks, they will want to have the same input into the books they read for pleasure. The importance of forums where children can react to their reading, post their responses, share opinions, and ask questions should not be underestimated. More and more libraries are moving into the 21st century as hubs of interaction rather than collections of static materials. Instead of seeing ourselves as offering objects to children, we will see ourselves as sharing with children the imaginative offerings of authors and illustrators. It's an exciting prospect and both adults and children will change and grow in the exchange.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Will they tweet to the President?

President Obama startled many pundits today by holding a twitter forum on TV. He answered some of the more than 50,000 questions that were tweeted for him. The content was similar to press conferences and other political commentary that we've heard for the past few years, but the method and media should make librarians think about process. The children who are in our libraries and schools these days are learning to communicate through social media as much as through traditional writing and talking. The time for arguing about what has been won and lost in the changing, whirling media world is over. It doesn't matter whether the skills of handwriting and public debating are being lost because most of the children of today will rarely or never need to use those. Librarians are naturally conservative when it comes to culture. We know the value of preserving literary and other intellectual content in book form, but we are living in today's world. We should help children to react to older artifacts like books through every technique of the digital world. We should help them feel at home with tweets and blogs; ebooks and vbooks. Today's children almost certainly will not be tweeting to whoever is president in 2024, but they will have been able to use the skills they develop today to adapt to new media in whatever form it takes. As librarians and teachers we will help them get there.