e-Books and more

eReader Open House sign My internship continues to roll along…

Katie Wheeler Library held an e-Reader Open House on Tuesday, April 3rd, between noon and 2:00 pm. The children’s floor was used for this event since it would be quieter at that time of the day. There were sections set up for the iPad, Kindle, Kindle, Nook, and Android devices. Patrons could bring their own devices, or they could play with the demos the library had on hand in order to decide which one they would like to purchase. At the end of each training session, the goal was for each patron to walk away with an e-book successfully downloaded from the library’s digital library.

It was interesting to note that the iPad and Kindle sections had the most participants, and that many patrons had more than one kind of device (generally an iPad in combination with an e-reader). I really thought most people would be older, but there was a fairly wide range of people who came. I helped greet and direct traffic to the appropriate tables. Although my internship isn’t focused on programming, it was extremely informative to watch one being planned and set up, especially since it dealt with e-reader devices and instructing patrons on how to download library e-books. The key is to remain flexible and be prepared for anything! As the result of what I learned about e-readers from this event and from my internship supervisor, I created a video on how to download a library e-book to the Kindle that I used as an artifact in my e-portfolio:

I used the principles I learned from teaching ESL students back in the day, and from instructing patrons one-on-one, in order to make this video user-friendly for beginners. My internship supervisor forwarded this to OCPL’s information systems training coordinator and apparently she liked it enough to post it on their training site!

I asked my internship supervisor if she had a policy about facing out the books in the new book section. She said she only had a few “rules”:

  • display an assortment of genres in the fiction area or subjects in the non-fiction
  • promote titles that people may not immediately be interested in
  • try to vary the colors of the book covers (e.g.rather than displaying all blues or all reds)

I’ve also been working on selecting materials for purchase. Selection criteria is really important here. I’ve been keeping track of transfer requests coming into the library the entire time and the data has proved very useful. Although keeping track of the information on an Excel spreadsheet isn’t practical over the long run, it can be something that can be done for a short period of time (say a month) in order to gather data on what patrons are requesting, especially those materials that the library do not carry or does not have enough of. I’ve found this data to be very useful in the selection process. Since we are a county system, there are evaluators at headquarters who have already preselected a list of titles that they are purchasing for specific branches. Other individual branches have the opportunity to purchase copies from this list through headquarters from the money in their budgets. I was asked to select a few titles for purchase, and I based my decisions on the transfer requests data, price, circulation statistics for the subject heading (these titles are already cataloged, so I can check their subject headings and see how well titles under these subject headings circulate at the branch and throughout the county, as well as when they last circulated), whether there are any holds for that particular title (and for which branches), what I knew about the community, and Amazon reviews. The most important consideration appears to be what the public wants. This was also something that was stressed in my collection development class. If there are patron requests for titles not on the evaluators’ lists and not in the system, the library can ask the evaluators to consider them.

I found the selection exercises to be fun but particularly difficult since I am working off of someone else’s list. Also, how do you know when you have enough titles (for the time being) on a particular popular subject? For example, autism is a popular subject at my branch, and we have a good number of titles for our library’s size already in our collection. But since they circulate extremely well, most titles are not available for browsing at any given moment. Do you buy more on this subject, or do you try to balance the collection with other purchases? The money only buys so many! I guess you learn from experience. Baby steps!

Learning by Doing

I continue to work the reference desk for both Adults and Children’s Services, which is my primary focus, and I’m learning little “tricks” all the time. I’m finding that sometimes it’s best to go with intuition rather than formal knowledge—real life does not always adhere to rules!

I’m doing a much better job searching our computer system for titles in a particular subject.For example, in the past, I would just search the title or subject field. For the title field, I would only input actual titles or their close approximates, but now I’m learning that if a subject search does not turn up what the patron needs, I could input keywords in the title field and that could turn up relevant titles that I can then use to find appropriate subject headings. (Whew! That was a mouthful.) I’m learning not to be so rigid and to be more creative and experimental. I guess this is all part of becoming more comfortable on the job.

Headquarters has put out a directive about tracking the use of reference resources for two weeks. I believe they are trying to decide what to do with reference books county-wide. At some of the branches, reference books are intershelved with the general collection that circulates. It sounds like headquarters is trying to figure out which shelving system would promote a greater use of reference books. Anyways, my supervisor asked me to read the memo and think about how I would implement a way to track the use of reference books at our branch (we have a separate reference collection). I’m pleased to say that my idea was pretty much what she had in mind—to place a small cart by the reference with signage directing patrons to place reference books on the cart once they are done using them. What I didn’t think about were the reference books that would be left on the tables and circulating carts. So pages and other staff members would need to be informed of the procedure. Communication is key! It will be interesting to find out the results of the tracking county-wide. I would imagine that reference books that are shelved with the general non-fiction collection would get more use due to more patrons browsing the general collection, but we shall see.

I worked on weeding movie DVDs to make room for new ones. The general criteria were low circulation and a last check-out date of at least 3 months prior. I was amazed at how well movies circulated. Even titles that were really old and which I’ve never heard of circulated well and recently. Of course, discs that were terribly scratched were discarded. I also worked on adding and processing donations to our collection. I checked the computer to see if we have the title, and if we don’t, check other branches to see if the title is circulating well elsewhere. Of course, current best sellers get added no matter what because there is usually a long waiting list county-wide for them!

In my collection development class, we learned about merchandising books to promote their use. There isn’t a lot of space to do this at Katie Wheeler, but we make the space for new and rental books. Just like in retail (my previous career), merchandising books makes them fly off the shelf, no matter what the subject is. I am constantly replacing books to face out because patrons keep taking them. There was one business book that sat in the new shelf area for days. I decided to face it out and it was checked out that afternoon. Coincidence? Maybe not.

I have a couple of interesting projects coming up. One is the e-book reader open house next week. The other is a selection project for Chinese books. My supervisor has ask me to help select new Chinese books for our Chinese collection because I know a little Mandarin. We have a list of books that our regional library has selected for their collection and we will need to chose from that list. The description of the book is in Chinese, so that doesn’t help anyone at my library. More on these in the next post.