Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Click My Link: September 2, 2014

Good morning and Happy September!  If you're like me, you'll use this as a little reminder to flip your paper calendars.

Samsung is for real (right now) about books. First, announcing it was going into the reading device business with B&N and now, sponsoring the Frankfurt book fair.

R.L. Stein to re-boot Fear Street.

How dark is "too dark" in children's books?

Who doesn't love this year's "Geek of the year"? 

10 of the worst jobs in literature

Florida Polytechnic University opens a "bookless" library. (with ebooks. which are still books....)

The Tim Howard book is coming. (hooray!)

Somehow, I missed that Bruce Springsteen wrote a children's book.

Just for fun:

Firefly funko toys!

How NYC would respond to an actual Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man attack.

You know how much I love the good people at Thug Notes, right?  Here is their take on something more recent: The Hunger Games.

Have a good Tuesday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shelf-at-a-Time Weeding: Sports

At my library, there are nonfiction sections under my purview that are, to put it kindly, overly well-stocked. Unfortunately, many of the books in these sections are at least twenty years old and are not being checked out by patrons. I don't have any good "before" pictures, but will say that unfortunately the shelves were full to the point where bookends were rendered unnecessary. Way, way worse than the "before" pictures in my denewing post.

A little while ago, I got fed up with the condition of the martial arts books (wildly out of order as well as overflowing) and decided to take action. I knew that the books in the sections adjacent to martial arts in the 790s were full of weeding candidates, so rather than generate a list and pull specific titles, I just started pulling off a shelf of books at a time to analyze them, put them in the correct order, and weed weed WEED.

  • Being able to see a selection of the library's holdings for a particular a subject all at once.
  • Being able to handle each book and see its condition firsthand. Some book maladies are not apparent in a cursory shelf examination. 
  • Handling each book also means you can check it in and make sure it's shelved in the right place.
  • Giving yourself a manageable piece of the collection to deal with. If you've got one mostly uninterrupted hour, you can probably get through at least one shelf of books.
  • The circulating and missing/billed/in-transit/repair items are not represented. What if you have 100 karate books, and all but the most terrible of them are currently circulating? Don't assume what's in front of you is everything the library owns.
I recommend this method especially for the parts of your collection in serious need of weeding--this approach leans more toward the heavy hand than the light touch.

What to Look For

When was it published?

If it's a sports book that's more than five years old, there's a very good chance that it's out of date. I targeted travel-related books, especially, as well as general guides more than ten years old. Most sports have new innovations or, at the very least, new big names, and the old ones fall by the wayside.

When was the last time the item circulated?

Before you get started, you should have a general idea of what you think is acceptable for the collection that you are trying to shape going forward. Only items (with perhaps some exceptions, see below) that have circulated in the last six months? One year? Two years? Circulation is the easiest way to measure your patrons' interest in an item, but it shouldn't be the only factor you consider.

From which location did it circulate?

It's all well and good if older books owned by your library are circulating, but where are they actually being checked out? I deleted several items that had been checked out within the last few years, but not by any Springfield patrons. If they aren't relevant to my patrons' interests now (as opposed to when they were first purchased), they don't need to be in this library's collection anymore. This is something I can check with Evergreen that I couldn't necessarily do with Millennium, so your mileage may vary.

Condition questions--is the spine broken? Is there water damage or mold? Are there loose pages?

Some books are just gross and you should do everyone a favor and get them out of the library:

Published in 1991, believe it or not

What subjects seem popular among your patrons (lots of relatively recent circulations from your location)?

At my library, I learned through this process that this includes martial arts, professional wrestling, local hiking guides, and bicycling. My patrons also seem to have a great appetite for books about mountain climbing and climbing disasters.

What subjects are just not circulating at all?  

My patrons are apparently not big fans of NASCAR (despite there being quite a few books to choose from) or hiking books that aren't fairly local. I will use this information, and my updated knowledge about what patrons are interested in, to inform my future ordering practices.

Is the information in the book something that people just don't use books to find anymore? Or is it just crazily out of date?

This problem is particularly evident among sports books, where library shelves were once stocked with yearbooks and guides to individual players' statistics year-by-year, not to mention pricing guides for sports memorabilia. These things are outdated pretty much as soon as they are printed, and the information can now more easily be found online, by patrons on their own or with the assistance of a librarian. I also found several decent-looking general guides from the 90s that included a "helpful" and specific online resources section. I even found one that theorized about the future of internet use:

Oh you crystal-ball gazers
Other items that were out of date in this section? Books that tell you all about how wonderful Lance Armstrong is and how amazing his comeback(s) were. There were also several cases in which I came across both the first edition and an updated edition for the same title. That is not how it's supposed to work; most of the books in the library are not Classics for which we might feel obliged to keep a first edition.

Does the non-circulating, kind of old-looking book in your hand have any special historical or local significance?

Use the Public Library Catalog if you've got it. In the mountain climbing section, I kept books by Hillary on Everest and Herzog on Annapurna, despite the fact that they hadn't gone out recently. I would love to replace our old copies of Hiking the Pioneer Valley: 30 Circuit Hikes in the Connecticut River Valley Region of Western Massachusetts with an updated version, but it's been out of print since 2003, so our copies are staying on the shelf for now.


In a day and a half of work, I pulled and evaluated thirteen and a half shelves of books from the 796.5 (outdoors) through 796.8609 (fencing) Dewey nonfiction range. I returned 357 books to the shelf and discarded 207--more than a 35% weeding rate. In addition, I added about twenty replacement and supplementary items into a cart in Baker & Taylor. Ordering new materials as you weed adds an extra step, but it's much easier to do in the moment than it is to go back to it later and try to remember what you thought was necessary and why.
Look at that! Entirely empty shelves! Room at the end of occupied shelves!
Do I recommend this method for all weeding forays? No. It doesn't help you clean up items with problem statuses, for one thing, although I did locate several items that had been marked "missing," as well as a bunch that had been previously deleted but were inexplicably still on the shelves. However, it does come in handy when you have immediate needs and not much time. I'm sure this section could stand another deep weeding, but at least now there's room to shelve returned books and think about displaying some titles face out. I was able to get through a little more than 10% of the 790s (all of which are my responsibility), and I hope to do another chunk as soon as possible.

Questions? Advice? Leave us a comment.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mix My Media (please!)

Can we talk, for a minute, about things that aren't books? Don't get me wrong, I love books. I do. I always have. And, honestly, I can't even imagine that a day will come when I will disavow them. Not even for a million dollars. Not even for ten mill.....well, let's not go quite THAT far. But, the point remains, I love books so this is not even close to an anti-book screed.

And, I understand that books and literacy are, and have been, the cornerstone of libraries. That's wonderful. Encouraging literacy, and a love of reading, is a fantastic thing to be associated with your organization/profession. I can't think of many people who would argue against these things, and it makes for wonderful, heart warming stories to share with people who hold the purse strings.

But, libraries have been circulating things OTHER than books for a long time. In fact, I don't know that I can remember a time when libraries only had books. Even the tiny library in my hometown had LPs when I was a kid. They also circulated gigantic art prints, but that's another story! LPs, cassettes, CDs, VHS, video games, DVDs, Blu-Ray DVDs, etc, etc. All things that libraries treat as loss leaders. Something they HAVE to circulate, but, hopefully, will bring people in so we can give them books.

Here's a thought, though: Maybe people don't WANT books.  I know, I can hardly conceive of such a thing either, but there's a possibility this might be true. And, you know what? It's fine. No, it's better than fine. It's great. It's great that we are serving this segment of our community in exactly the way they need (and want) to be served.

Maybe that person who never takes books is a book blogger, and has all the books they can handle. But they don't have all the movies and music they can handle, so that's why they come to the library. Maybe they're a parent, whose well-meaning in laws bought the kids an Xbox, but didn't realize the upkeep needed in terms of new games, or how expensive those games would be. Checking them out from the library is the perfect solution. Last Sunday, I helped a guy find a CD with a certain Johnny Cash song so he could learn it for performance. For some, a library success story would be that he took three Cash biographies, a database article and signed up for summer reading! All wonderful things, to be sure. But, for me, it was a success that he came to the library, got what he needed, and left feeling that this place in his community had exactly the right thing at the right time.

Another thing I've learned is that there are MANY kinds of literacy. When people come in with electronic devices (iThings, MP3 players, tablets, e-readers, etc.) and they learn how to load what we have onto what they have, that is a form of tech literacy. Sometimes, they get it right away. Sometimes, it takes them a few visits and a few tries (and some swearing...) And, honestly, sometimes they never get it. They like the convenience, but they will always need someone to help them load their device. For the most part, though, people leave knowing something they didn't know how to do before. Tech literacy badge unlocked!

And there is cultural literacy. I can use my sister as an example here because she doesn't read the blog. A few years back I got her hooked on the show Monarch of the Glen. It's a great family show, set in the highlands of Scotland. A complete cultural shift from what my solidly Midwestern sister was used to. While she was happy to watch any period BBC drama thing, she wasn't too much in to shows about modern Scottish life. Not only did she devour all the seasons, she learned about modern, everyday life in the highlands. At the beginning of episode one, the thick Scottish accent, and the quick, conversational pace, was difficult to understand. It wasn't long, however, before she'd trained herself to hear it perfectly.

It isn't always just about entertainment, even when that's all a patron may intend for it to be. Sometimes, you don't even realize you're gaining a new understanding for someone or something different than what you're used to. But, even if you don't have that same experience, satisfying the needs of the community (educational AND/OR recreational) is its own reward. I promise, it really is.