February 27, 2009

A Happy Little Tale

I thought I'd share a sweet story of excited patrons who visited the library yesterday. It's not every day you meet teenagers so excited about the print collection of your branch.

Three Freshmen I hadn't seen before came up to the reference desk and asked for a Blue Bloods book. We had it on the shelf, so I brought them over to our YA section and picked it out for them. I introduced myself at the Teen Librarian and told them about two upcoming programs - our craft for March (discarded book journals) and Nintendo DS day. Their eyes lit up and they almost squealed.
"Oh my god, that's so cool! I have a DS!"
"Me too! I'm definitely gonna go to the craft thing!"
"Guys, now we have a place to go after school!"
They took my flier for all of March's YA programs. I was thinking to myself, these are the coolest people ever, haha. Then I remembered I should mention RIF to them, aka Reading is Fundamental. For those not familiar, it is a program that encourages young people to read books through incentives - ours being free books, to keep. The young women were almost jumping up and down about that! Haha! Only one of the three had her library card to sign up for the program, but the others promised they'd be back today.

It's a thrill to meet patrons so enthused about reading and excited about programming. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is probably not going to happen every day. It sure beats getting ignored, having your programs called nerdy, or simply having a deserted branch!

If you feel so inclined, post a heartwarming tale of excited patrons in the comments section. Librarians, like everyone else, have to remember and cherish the positive so we can use it to lift our spirits during a day that isn't so grand.

February 24, 2009

MLS programs...barriers to entry?

I attended two parties this past weekend, with two different groups of people and a lot of different ages. Interestingly, someone from both groups posed the same question: Is 'library school' really necessary? Not in the sense of securing a job, but for preparing for that job?

My friend Laura, who recently got her masters degree in Economics from UDel and whose mother is a librarian suggested that the MLS requirement seems more like a barrier to entry rather than an indespensible education for future librarians.

From Money Terms: Barriers to entry are anything that makes it difficult for a new entrant to break into a market. They make companies already in the market more valuable as they reduce the risk of new competition.

As we continued in the conversation, I listed some of my course topics and she argued that most of the skills I've been trained in could easily be taught through on the job training or professional development. Laura felt that the MLS is required mostly to limit the number of applicants to librarian positions... to filter all those interested down to just those who are very interested (and i should add those with the means to begin an MLS program). I had to agree somewhat. However, I do believe in the importance of librarian indoctrination that should be taking place while getting an MLS. The reiteration that libraries are to be user-centered, supplying free and easy access to all is critical.

Web design, systems design..these things are probably best taught in a classroom setting...but does it have to be through a masters program? For collection development, young adult services, cataloging... a hands-on experience seems to me to be of infinite more value than a paper or lecture.

Thoughts? Do you strongly agree or disagree? Besides fulfilling requirements on job postings, what makes an MLS essential?

February 18, 2009

Libraries - the physical space

In my Medical Librarianship class, part of our ongoing porfolio project is to draw up a floorplan for the library we are creating. What an eye-opening task this is! My colleague, Nate Hill, recently blogged a post about an open forum in Philadelphia - "Rethinking the Library" that touched a bit on what I would like to deal with in this post.

If print is dead (or at least tumbling out of the spotlight), if the digital divide is widening, if our nation is welcoming more and more people whose first language is not english, if everything that Pew's Future of the Internet says come true... our roles will be changing. No doubt. What also absolutely needs to happen - our physical spaces and buildings must change as well.

From Frieda Weise's 2004 Janet Doe Lecture: "We must advocate strongly the role for the library beyond the “storage facility,” and even the “access facility,” and focus attention on the many other place-centered activities and services that the library can support"

Now of course, with the poor economic outlook, funds for revamping or rebuilding library space will not be easy to come by. But really, how can we imagine shifting the focus of our collections and succeed in meeting our changing objectives in a space designed for other purposes? Rows and rows of shelving for print materials, a small and cramped programming area (or maybe none at all?), no space for more than a handfull of computers, no high-tech classrooms for demos...the list can go on, I'm sure.

Since the floorplan for my fictional Consumer Health Information Center in Camden, NJ (that'd be the Springsteen Consumer Health Info Center) has not really been designed with a budget in mind, I took the liberty in being very creative with the space. I still based my decisions on what professors, colleagues, and the literature has been predicting about the future of libraries. Surrounded by a community garden (with a huge green house for the colder months), with a totally tech classroom, one floor of simply program space, meeting space, lounge area, ample computer space... even though the project is a dream, it's still exciting to give my fake library the space that those who visit it - and work for it - the space that they need!

I'll be sure to post the floorplan once it is complete. If this post has piqued your interest, leave a comment. Do you think new libraries are including the right spaces and innovations? Are there ways of easily and cheaply modifying old spaces? Did you just read a fab article about this? Let me know. I'm getting pretty into all this!