Friday, November 28, 2014

Five Beautiful University Reading Rooms

The beautiful library reading rooms at these university libraries from across the world are motivation alone to go back for that doctorate degree. Just think of all the studying you can get done surrounded by antique lamps and musty old-book smell!

A. D. White Reading Room Cornell Library

North Reading Room of Doe Library UC Berkeley

CC Credit: Reid Beels

Carolina Rediviva Reading Room Uppsala University in Sweden

CC Credit: Mirko Junge

University of Graz in Austria

CC Credit: Tony

Suzzallo Library Reading Room University of Washington

CC Credit: Michael Matti

You may notice how many students have laptops in this last picture. One important function of academic libraries today is internet/database access for students. Today, even the grand, historic reading rooms have outlets for charging laptops and provide free wifi. What comes next for enabling students for 21st century reading?


Saturday, November 22, 2014

3D Printing Programing Ideas

I just went to the Washington Library Association's Children and Young Adult Services (CAYAS) Fall Workshop and was inspired by the 3D printing demonstration by the Kitsap Regional Library (KRL). KRL, with their STEM programing, is doing some really neat things with their 3D printer. Their philosophy, for the most part, is to let the participants figure out projects for themselves. This led to a project to create a chess set for the library and other projects.

Here is Seth Ciotti demoing the 3D printer at the workshop.

On my Pinterest exploration of 3D printed objects, I came across some really neat things. One thing I found was a 3D printed chess set, coincidentally. Other items included jewelry, book covers, cookie cutters, and shower heads. If you do an open 3D printing program, you could show your participants some of these great ideas. You can check out the Pinterest board here

If you are interested in running a more structured program, I've thought up some things that would be fun to run with a 3D printer.

Design Your Own Board Game 

CC Credit: popmayhem

Have some cardboard, markers, and design game pieces using a 3D printer.

Survival of the Print-est

CC Credit: Creative Tools

Have a survivalist party in honor of the new Hunger Games movie or under a general Dystopian theme. One challenge can be that teams have to print three items that they think they would need to survive. 

Printable Accessories 

CC Credit: Shapeways

Let your participants find and design jewelry and other accessories with the 3D printer. 

If you have one, what have you done with your 3D printer? Have you found it better to run programs with or without structure?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Five Ideas for Library Holiday Programs

The holiday season is in full swing and we are all feeling quite festive, right? Here are five possible festivals or programs libraries could celebrate for various holidays. Some of these have already passed for this year, but it's never too early to start planning for next year! Maybe these ideas will inspire you to start a new tradition at your library.

Diwali Festival of Lights

CC Credit: Ravikiran Rao

Diwali is a Hindu festival celebrated in the fall that celebrates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The holiday, which can take place over a five day period, includes prayer, fireworks, and feasts. The library could host an event in conjunction with a Priest from a Hindu Temple that had a lecture about the holiday and/or traditional food and dancing. Children could be encouraged to use sidewalk chalk to create colorful designs, or Rangoli, like the one pictured above.

Here are some libraries that host a similar program:
Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz, NY, News Story here.
Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. News Story here.
Maple Ridge Public Library in Maple Ridge, BC. New Story here.

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead, or Dia de Muertos, is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the memory of the dead. This is a three day festival that takes place on October 31, November 1, and November 2. Families create altars and decorate the graves of loved ones. This holiday is filled with vibrant color and joyous celebration. Your library could have face painting, space for altars, sugar scull crafts and more to celebrate this holiday.

Here are some libraries that host a similar program:
San Juan Capistrano Regional Library in San Juan Capistrano, CA. News Story here.
Grand Rapids Public Library in Grand Rapids, MI. Website here.
Saint Helena Public Library in Saint Helena, CA. New Story here.

Fall Festival

CC Credit: Carrie Nelson

A fall festival is a celebration of fall and the harvest. Typically you will have pumpkin carving contests, fall comfort foods, and hay rides. Many libraries also include Halloween into their fall festivals with hunted mazes and costume contests. Ideally, the library could partner with the Parks Department to have the festival in an outdoor space.

Here are some libraries that host a similar program:
Dallas Public Library in Dallas, TX. News Story here.
Bowlby Public Library in Waynesburg, PA. News Story here.

Gingerbread House Competition 

CC Credit: Betty B

A great way to celebrate Christmas at the library would be through a Gingerbread House competition. Have families bring their own materials and build their houses at the library. Add a time limit of an hour to create urgency. The friends of the library could sell fresh baked gingerbread and hot cocoa to spectators.

Here is a library that host a similar program:
York Public Library in York, ME. News Story here.

Chinese New Year Festival

CC Credit: IQRemix

China and a few other East Asian cultures celebrate the New Year of the Lunar Calendar. The New Year is typically celebrated on a day in late January - mid February. In 2015, Chinese New Year will be February 19th and it will be the year of the Sheep according to the Chinese Zodiac. The library could do crafts, reach out to local Chinese markets, and host a Lion Dance.

Here are some libraries that host a similar program:
Harrison Public Library in Harrison, NY. Website here.
Los Angelos Public Library in Los Angelos, CA. Website here.
Harris County Public Library in Texas. Website here.

I hope this events have sparked ideas for your library. Find out what holiday your community celebrates and provide a space for the community to come together.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Library Profile: Everett Public Library

As I explore this new home of mine, I'm exploring nearby library spaces. This series that I'm calling 'Library Profiles' will show off those spaces. Which means, basically, I'm just showing you pictures of awesome libraries. Today I went to the main branch of the Everett Public Library (EPL) in Everett, WA. It's about a 30-40 minute drive north of Seattle.

Even before you go inside, you get the feeling that this place is magical because of the giant book sculpture out front.

You can enter in through the Bookend Coffee Co. that is attached to the library.

This was the first time I ever got a fortune cookie with a cappuccino. It was amazing. And you know what? I will dance as if no one is watching.

The children's area is spacious and colorful. The thing that caught my eye was the fish tank. Just keep swimming, Dory and Marlin! I know Nemo's around here somewhere...

The first floor has a high celling with great natural light.

The view from the second story window was beautiful as well. Why, yes. I will gaze upon the beauty of the sound as I reflect upon historical texts from your Northwest Room.

If you live in Seattle or King County, you can get a library card with EPL for free. I suggest checking this library out (unintentional pun, I promise) and grabbing some coffee from Bookend. For more information about the library or it's history, go to their website

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Epic Children's Spaces

Reading often transports us to other worlds full of magic. As a kid, nothing is cooler than feeling like you are a part of those other worlds. This is why we have Disney World and LEGOland. It's also why we have, yes, the public library! For this post, I would like to highlight some really great children's spaces in libraries that make you wish you were a kid again.

1. Rockwall County Library

The children's area to this county library in Rockwall, Texas has this amazing arch along with a huge children's materials collection. The area also has a children's programing room that children can enter through a hidden portal. Parents can opt for the doors if they would like. :)

2. Cerritos Library

In addition to this awesome entryway, the Cerritos Library in Cerritos, California has a giant lighthouse, a fabricated tree, and a 40-foot long T-Rex replica named Stan. 

3. Brentwood Library

You've got to love this amazing entry into the Brentwood Library Story Room in Brentwood, Tennessee. The library's children's area also has several fabricated indoor trees, at least one of which you can crawl through. 

4. Cuyahoga County Public Library

Cuyahoga County Public Library branch in Warrensville Heights, Ohio has this amazing play center in their children's area. Play is so important to early learning. I love it!

This library in Colonia Obrera, Monterrey, NL in Mexico certainly has a unique design. Children are encouraged to climb and play on the bookcases. The library is located in the Fundidora Park which also has an arena, several museums, and tons of public art. 

What I love about these spaces is that they clearly have the user in mind. I think they've nailed making children's spaces fun and functional. Do you know a great space that didn't make the list? Let me know in the comments below. 


Monday, November 10, 2014

Grace Lin Lecture - UW iSchool

One of the things that makes a library a destination for many people is, of course, the books. Many of us have that one author that we love almost everything they write. Last week I went to the iSchool Spencer G. Shaw Lecture at the University of Washington by the author Grace Lin. I am ashamed to say I have not read any of her books, but I feel like I need to now! The lecture was amazing and insightful. Grace Lin is the author of picture books, early readers, and chapter books for young children. One of her most famous works is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a story about Minli, a young girl who goes on an adventure to change her family's fortune. The story incorporates Chinese folklore and mythology.

Grace Lin talked about her journey to embracing the title of 'multicultural' author. Growing up in America in a predominately white neighborhood, Grace Lin often tried to forget about her Chinese culture to fit in. It was later in life, at art school, that Grace Lin decided she needed to take a look back at her Chinese culture. She looked to folktales and folk art from China and let it shape her art. Early on in her career, Grace was told that being 'multicultural' meant that she would not have broad appeal. Now she is an award winning author and illustrator.

Her lecture was particularly interesting to me. As the wife of a Chinese-American man and, some day, the possible mother of American children with Chinese ancestry, it helped me understand that experience. It makes me happy to know that Grace Lin and others are writing books about their culture. It is so important for children from all backgrounds and cultures have stories and characters that they can relate to. It is also important for children to read stories outside their cultural norms. Grace Lin's stories may be multicultural, but they also have broad appeal.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Running a Library Book Club Like a Social Book Club

I have helped run book clubs at libraries for kids, teens, and adults. Some of them went better than others and I think it comes down to how the book club dynamic feels. The ones that seemed the most successful were the ones that felt the most social. What makes a book club social? A lot of factors, actually. Before we get to that, let's take a look at the different types of book clubs to choose from first.

1. Assigned Book

From: Pelham Public Library in Pelham, NY

This is where you choose a particular book for each meeting, often having the list well ahead of time. Everyone comes together having read the same book to give thoughts and interpretations. The advantage to this kind of club is that you can be more prepared with discussion topics.

2. Assigned Genre

From: Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas

This book club picks a genre or category and let's the participants read anything in that genre. You can have a mystery book club, young adult book club, etc. This might be a good way to attract similarly minded people to a book club, thus increasing the likelihood that friends will form within the group.

3. Open Book Club

From: Fort Worth Public Library in Fort Worth, Texas

Read all the books! Any book is fair game, although sometimes a broad theme can be nice. The advantage to this is that you won't deter anyone who doesn't like the book choice. It also circumvents the need for buying multiple copies of one book. This kind of club may be hard to moderate, though.

All of these seem to work fine. I think the trick to success is in how social a book club feels. Does your book club:

1. Come preloaded with a small group of gregarious people who know one another?

People often, though not always, come to book clubs alone to make friends. This can be intimidating. If you see people (who have arrived a little early) already at the book club talking to one another, it seems more inviting. Just make sure your starter group is friendly to strangers too, asking them questions and getting to know them.

2. Have food and/or drinks?

CC Credit: Jordan Johnson

Sometimes this is tricky in public libraries due to weird policies, but I think this is essential. I ran a teen book club called 'Books and Brownies' that was very well attended. And, before you ask, yes the teens actually talked about books. So have food or, better yet, make the event a potluck. For social adult book clubs, wine and beer are often a part of the equation. While I'm not suggesting we put an open bar in the library (that's a bad idea, right?), this might be a good opportunity for a library to team up with local businesses.

3. Encourage participation with the group online?

You could have blog posts about the book club online after each meeting, letting the different members take turns writing them. You could do an online poll for future books to read. You could have a Facebook group/event or start a Goodreads group. You could add group members as contributors to a Pinterest board.

4. Have semi-regular special events?

CC Credit: Joe Haupt

I love the idea of the book club bringing in local authors, hosting a read-in, or some other big event once or twice a year. During the summer months you could take the book club outside to a park. You could have a book club Christmas party. The picture, by the way, is from an awesome book club Christmas party I found on Flickr in which they decorated the tree with the titles of the year's book club list.

For those of you planning a library book club, I wish you luck! It can be stressful and hard to not take it personally when people don't show up for your awesome club. Hopefully some of these ideas will help. What have you done for a library book club that was super successful? I'd like to know. :)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Time as a Tech Tutor at KCLS

Today's post is about my time as a volunteer at the King County Library System as a Tech Tutor. Before I get into what exactly that is, I would just like to say that KCLS has excellent volunteer management. They use volunteer2, which is an online volunteer management software used to track and schedule volunteers. We used this at the Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas so I am very familiar with how it works from the staff side (and it works really well). It's just as awesome on the volunteer side. It's really easy to log hours and view upcoming sessions.

Even with a nice tool like volunteer2, libraries can really drop the ball on volunteers. It's easy to do if there is not a staff member only devoted to volunteers and you are so busy doing a million other things. The worst thing you can do is not respond to a volunteer. Well, okay, you can do worse things if you tried, but then you would most likely be fired. When I was managing volunteers, I never turned anyone away and I always tried to maintain good communication. This is because 1. If you can't think of anything someone could do for you for free, then you are wasting a valuable resource. 2. If you don't respect your volunteers enough to give them the time of day, they will not be back. I've found the KCLS staff friendly and responsive, which is what you need to create volunteer loyalty.

Tech Tutor, the program I volunteer for, is exactly what it sounds like: tutoring people in use of technology. I've been manning the One-on-One table for a particular library branch. People come in with their own devices and ask the Tech Tutor for guidance. This is kind of brilliant in that it addresses the need for a free agent to handle complicated technology questions that would otherwise be handled at the reference desk. I've been in that position as a librarian at the desk. A lines starts to form and people get impatient when you spend 10-20 minutes helping someone configure their Kindle Fire.

My first and most successful One-on-One session had about four people in the span of two hours asking how to do various things on their laptops and phones. While the program attendance seems to be starting out slowly, I think the concept is really great. I'm not sure how the program is fairing system-wide, but I think once people find out about this service, more will come.

What is your library doing to create volunteer loyalty? To meet the needs of digital literacy education in your community? Hopefully the KCLS program gives you some ideas!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What Makes a Good Digital Branch?

The digital branch for most libraries is their website. The library's main website serves as a portal to online databases, eBooks, and other resources. The way that this digital information is organized determines how successful a digital branch becomes. Too many times I've been navigating a library website and thought 'why on earth is this laid out this way?'

I'm guessing the answer is 'because this is what we are used to, which means it is what our patrons are used to.' I find that an unsatisfactory answer. If there is a way to make something better, why don't we?

The major driving force behind the organization of a digital branch is making information easy for patrons to access. To do this, we have to think like a patron. What information do I want when I go to a library's website? I feel like there are a few must haves:

1. Quick information about the physical library.

This includes address, phone number, email, hours, etc. You have no idea how frustrating (and how common) it is to not have this information in an obvious place. Most commercial websites have this info either at the very bottom or off to the right. If this information is not in either of those places, you are frustrating the navigator. If your library has various locations, PLEASE have a Locations tab. Don't make me go into the About and then into Contact and then into other subcategories. This guessing game is no fun and, while it only takes me a a minute to find, it may take your patrons longer and they may give up.

2. Catalog search bar.

Chances are, this is what your patron is after. I've seen this hidden under many tabs such as About, Library Services, Library Materials, and sundries. Why not just have the catalog search bar at the top of the page clearly labeled?

3. Library calendar.

From: Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas

Library websites are notorious for terrible calendar features. One sure fire way to confuse your patron is to have multiple ways to access the calendar or to have multiple calendar views. Pick one, simple calendar and put it in an obvious place, like, say, a calendar tab.

4. Digital collection.

From: Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas

This is the big one. So many times I've heard people say 'I didn't know the library had eBooks' or 'I didn't know that library had online language learning' and so on. Looking at most library websites, I can see why. Where is the big, obvious tab that says DIGITAL RESOURCES or EBOOKS?

If a library website has at least those things, hooray! But there is more you can do than just make a website that works. To create a useful digital branch, there should be other features.

1. Online reference chat.

From: Arlington Public Library in Arlington, Texas

I am a huge fan of the online reference chat. It brings the reference desk into people's homes and allows them to get information seeking assistance from their digital branch.

2. A bibliography of the databases and electronic resources organized by subject.

Listing the names of the databases from A-Z is not terribly helpful. If you organize by subject and list a brief description of the resource, people might actually use them. Screen captures of the resource or maybe the resource logo would also draw attention.

3. Patron e-resource user guides.

From: Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas

So you now have a big obvious link to your eBooks. Great! Confused patrons are now on Overdrive's website and not sure how to proceed. While Overdrive has a few guides of their own, it could be useful to find or make better ones that are more specific to your library. Videos are great and so are step-by-step pdfs with screen shots.

4. Videos, videos, and more videos.

Have a youtube account with book reviews, technology training, and early literacy tips. My suggestion here would be to find your most tech savvy staff member and have them be your 'video specialist'.

There are plenty of cheap and free video editing software, but as a librarian with a BFA in Video, I can't help but insist that you invest in something good-ish. I use Final Cut, but I wouldn't suggest that for libraries because I think it has too many features you would never use.

Adobe Premier would be my suggestion (and really if you can get the whole creative suite with Photoshop et al, that would be best). If this is too pricey for your library, Windows Moviemaker or iMovie will do for the basics.

For equipment, I think it is brilliant to use iPhones or iPads for everyday videos like book reviews. And screen capture software like Camtasia is best for software and database training (a free option is Screencast-O-Matic). However, I highly recommend renting nice equipment for important videos. Say your library is having an Open House or you want to make some killer Summer Reading videos. is a good place to get the latest camera equipment shipped right to you. This way you don't drop $1,000 on a nice camera that becomes obsolete in two years. I've used them before to get equipment to shoot by cousin's wedding video and I highly recommend. Just make sure you have someone who knows what they are doing order the equipment. You wouldn't want to forget ordering the actual camera lens or get the wrong microphones.

Here is a video I helped them make at the Frisco Public Library:

In conclusion, let's make library digital branches more accessible. But don't just stop with these ideas (or start with them if think they are a bad fit for your library). I'm a huge fan of assessments. Poll your patrons. Gather analytics from your current website. Create a better digital space for your patrons.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Coworking Spaces

Seattle is on top of the coworking trend with dozens of places that charge for innovative work spaces. These coworking spaces are designed for those who work on their own projects or work remotely but would like to work in a more collaborative setting. Here are a few of my favorite about town:

1. Ada's Technical Books and Cafe - The Office

This coworking space lives upstairs from Ada's Technical Books and Cafe in Capitol Hill. This quieter, family friendly section of Capitol Hill is perfect for coworking and is near some really great restaurants and shops. You can rent your own workspace and have access to their wifi and cafe downstairs. 

2. Metrix Create:Space

Metrix is a maker space and coworking space that specializes in prototyping and fabrication. With machining tools, engineers can work on projects and test out ideas. Metrix also runs programs and classes to teach all skill levels how to use the tools. 

3. Makers

Maker's is a large coworking space in downtown that offers meeting rooms, workspaces, and large common areas such as kitchens and lounge spaces. It has the feel of working for a large Amazon type tech company, but is used by many different people for different projects. 

4. Impact Hub: Seattle

This company has many locations all over the globe. They make coworking/event spaces. The Seattle location is in an historic building in Pioneer Square. They have many levels of membership, but the highest level gets you a desk, an unlimited Orca card, and a mail box. 

5. Office Nomads

This coworking space in Capitol Hill offers a variety of work spaces. It has special membership options for students and offers a coworking visa that allows you to take advantage of coworking spaces in other parts of the world for free.  

Public libraries have not done a lot yet with the idea of coworking. They have been chasing after the idea of the 'marker's spaces' with fervor by purchasing 3D printers and preparing more programs that focus on creating and making. Most libraries are not focusing so much on creating a real space, however. They keep tools in closets and cart them out for programs. This is understandable considering space limitations in libraries. Coworking spaces, on the other hand, are all about the idea of creating a welcoming space for people to come together and work on projects. Here are a few libraries that have embraced the coworking trend by providing dedicated spaces:

1. Richland Library - Reserve a Coworking Desk

2. Phoenix Public Library - Hive @ Central

3. Brooklyn Public Library - Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons

Even if the library doesn't designate a space as 'coworking' you can still find areas that act similarly. Meeting rooms and study rooms could easily be seen as cowork-friendly. My local library in Capitol Hill has a 'quiet study space' that I have used to set up my laptop and write.

I really like the idea of supporting local entrepreneurs by creating a welcoming and free space where they can work. The important part to remember is that these spaces are designed to bring people together. Quiet study spaces won't cut it if you hope to create a coworking space. The library needs to host events, provide tools, and make a space that is conducive to collaboration. More libraries should be doing this!