Friday, September 29, 2017

8 Lessons Learned from the 2017 Eclipse

Last August, the hottest topic of discussion in the library world revolved around the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. For many librarians, this was the first time that they held a library program connected to it and handed out special glasses to safely view the natural phenomenon. Now that we have survived this experience, it is time to take a step back and see how it went.

Mostly because, if you are in North America, another one is coming on April 8, 2024. Right in the middle of tax time, yippee! And for our international librarians, partial Solar Eclipses are coming in 2018 for South America, Antarctica, and Australia. The next total solar eclipse is coming July 2, 2019 for southern North America and South America.

So, what do we know now that we didn't know before that we can share with future librarians?

1. It Was Wildly Popular

When word got out that libraries had free solar glasses, libraries were inundated with phone calls and visits. (And, unfortunately, this was inaccurate information. Not all libraries had solar glasses.) Hundreds of people turned up at viewing parties. People were lining up HOURS early for the viewing program. It didn't matter to people if they were in an area with full coverage or partial coverage, this was a popular program all across the U.S. Many libraries were caught off guard when a surge of interest in the glasses appeared two weeks before the event. (However, it might be important to note that this year's solar eclipse was during summer vacation for most students. Many families made a special day of it and parents/care givers took off work to experience this special event together. If school was in session, I wonder how many parents would have kept their kids home.)

2. Desperation for the Glasses

It wasn't uncommon for libraries to receive over 100 phone calls in one hour asking about the glasses. Some patrons got ugly when libraries ran out or wouldn't hand out glasses earlier than the viewing event. There were bangs on windows trying to get staff attention when libraries weren't open to the public just to double check they were out. Some libraries asked for a $1 donation if they had paid for the glasses and people were willing to do that. This may have also worked as a Friends fundraiser for the libraries who can't charge or ask for donations.

3. Where did the glasses come from?

Some libraries were able to get grants for the glasses and bought their own from these reputable dealers. (Be wary about Amazon -- a few libraries were told the glasses they ordered couldn't be verified to be legitimate so their order was automatically cancelled.) Star_Net also gave out 2 million free glasses (and 4,000 educational kits) to over 7,000 libraries.

4. Might be a Great Way to Get People Back to Libraries

Some libraries required registration to participate to the viewing event and receive solar glasses. Others only handed out glasses to those with a library card. Many didn't require anything at all... So many pros and cons to each one. One county with four branches had 1,000 glasses. They only handed them out to card holders, so they issued 70 new cards, 7 reissued cards, and brought in $200 in fines. This event could have been played as a great registration drive the month up to the big day... Of course, if you only have a small amount of glasses, it may not be worth all the effort of requiring registration. Some libraries held an eclipse event/presentation a week or two early and handed out the glasses then to avoid the mad rush of people at once.

5. Sharing Worked Well

People were happy to share glasses! In fact, most people didn't stare at the eclipse the whole time, so it makes sense to stretch your glasses supply and only give out 1-2 per family (more if the family is larger), etc. And many people did share at the viewing parties, so don't feel like you need to limit attendance to how many glasses you have.

6. Lots of Waiting

While the whole event happened over a few hours, there wasn't a lot of exciting things going on. You might want to encourage your patrons to bring chairs, blankets, and picnic lunches to help pass the time. This is also a great time for patrons to make pinhole projects, use a colander, wrapping paper tube viewer, and hear a presentation on eclipses. Some libraries tried to show live streams of the event on the NASA website which worked well for some, kept buffering for others, and, for a small amount, it didn't work at all. Some have found NASA's Facebook page supported the traffic much better than their website. One library gave out moon pies and Sunny D. Another library collaborated with the local Boy Scout troop who came to the library viewing event with their telescopes with special solar filters so patrons could look directly at the sun.

7. What to do with the old glasses?

There were so many things libraries could do with the old glasses. According to NASA, the ISO 12312-2 safety standard compliant glasses last forever if they aren't scratched, punctured, or torn. So, libraries could have collected the glasses back and saved them for a future eclipse. Or, they could have donated them to the Astronomers Without Borders who would send them to another country to be reused. For the ones that were damaged, the filters can be popped out and the frames recycled. Filters can be recycled as camera film, so you can contact a local camera shop.

8. What changes would librarians make for future events?

A) The clear response across the board was buying a whole lot more solar eclipse glasses - double to 5x the amount you expect. Again, this might not be wise if your solar eclipse is held during school hours, but this could also be a great opportunity to collaborate with schools.

B) People also talked about limiting glasses to only a few per family since it was easy for everyone to share. Others planned to keep more glasses on hand for their event since many people were willing to come to the viewing event.

C) There were also suggestions of getting porta-potties, offering food, telling patrons to bring their own chairs/blankets, and planning more events during the program.

D) The media also didn't always give out the correct information, so make sure to keep them updated with how your library is participating. If you are part of a library network, it might lessen confusion if you all agree to start handing out glasses on the same day, etc.

E) There are disagreements about whether or not a library card should be required to get the solar glasses. This will have to be for each individual library to decide. Some people felt it was a success just getting new people to walk into the library but others felt that it was a missed opportunity to get people to become patrons. (Some libraries were dismayed to learn people had driven long distances to visit them and get glasses because their own library was out or never had any.) One library not only made it a requirement to have a library card, but required that they checked out at least 5 items to earn their free pair of glasses.

F) Lastly, while the weeks leading up to the event might be insane, the day of the event has been very rewarding to many librarians. Coming together as a community to learn and witness a natural phenomenon was an amazing experience.

Please note: 

Many of the specific situations cited in the post above came from Facebook Discussions here and here last August. If your library participated, what did you learn from the experience?

Friday, September 22, 2017

3 Quick Banned Books Week Ideas

It's Banned Books Week on September 24th-30th. While many of us celebrate this as one of the library world's most important holidays, it's also true that it's not for everyone. If you're just not a fan of huge flashing-lights displays and caution tape banners but would like to celebrate anyway, this article is for you! Kat has compiled some quick Banned Books Week ideas to help you quickly and easily celebrate.

Mad Libs

Remember how much fun Mad Libs were when you were a kid? You fill in the blank spaces of a pre-written story with a word with their correct part of speech, thereby taking an ordinary paragraph and making it very silly. We thought, what better way to have fun with Banned Books Week than by redacting parts of classic banned books and making our own Mad Libs? Please feel free to download (just right click the pictures below and save!) and print these samples for your patrons! We'd love to see any that you make yourself, too; I used Canva to create them, so the hardest part was choosing which passages to use.

Covered Books

I always love the Blind Date with a Book displays that are done for Valentine's Day. Why not cover books and write on them why they can't be read? It might be surprising to some people to unwrap a book that is labeled as "CAUTION: Contains inappropriate language!" and find Harriet the Spy. (Harriet, incidentally, was also challenged because she liked to wear boy clothes, and therefore might be a homosexual.) You can even, as in our sample here, simply mention that "this book is dangerous!"

Mini Protest Signs 

Teen Librarian Hallie Fields recently posted about these great mini-protest signs on her blog, Book Loaner. (She also had the covered books idea! Great minds think alike!) These are so easy, it would be a great way to get your Teen Advisory Board involved. All you need is cardstock or index cards, craft sticks, and markers. What a brilliant idea! Thanks, Hallie, for giving us permission to share your idea.

We would love to see how you're celebrating Banned Books Week. Please let us know here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ready to Go Book Display: Librarians

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. For librarians and their fans, here's some books for you.

Recommendations for Adults:

A famous author returns to his hometown and is murdered. It's up to Charlie Harris, the town's librarian and his cat Diesel, to find the killer before the wrong person is arrested for the crime. The trouble is, every last one of Charlie's friends and coworkers had a score to settle with the novelist.
The World's Strongest Librarian by Joshua Hanagarne (May 2013)
Traces the public librarian author's inspiring story as a Mormon youth with Tourette's Syndrome who after a sequence of radical and ineffective treatments overcame nightmarish tics through education, military service and strength training.
Killer Librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin (Nov 2012)
While on a literary tour in London that pays homage to mysteries, librarian Karen Nash is faced with a real-life mystery when another guest at the B&B where she is staying is murdered and her ex and his new girlfriend turn up.
The Librarian by Larry Beinhart (Aug 2004)
University librarian David Goldberg begins a side job as a conservative activist, a position that lands him in hot water with a conspiratorial clique of wealthy right-wingers who want him gone.
Lending a Paw: A Bookmobile Cat Mystery by Laurie Cass (Dec 2013)
Bookmobile-driving Minnie Hamilton investigates after her new cat, Eddie, lead her to the body of a murdered local resident.
Small-town librarian Kathleen Paulson discovers that the two stray cats she has taken in - Owen and Hercules - are truly special when she, the prime suspect in a murder, gets some unexpected feline help in solving the crime and clearing her name.
Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum (May 2003)
A collection of the daily Unshelved comic strips set at the Mallville Public Library.
Newly single Lindsey Norris, the director of the Briar Creek Public Library, tries to help her best friend Beth, a children's book author, prove her innocence when she is accused of murdering her boyfriend Rick, a local celebrity.

Recommendations for Teens:
Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen (Sep 2014)
Feeling suspicious about a gorgeous high school librarian who has become the object of her best friend's affections, Cynthia discovers that the man is actually a demon who is sucking the life force from the entire student population.
Sparrow by Sarah Moon (Oct 2017)
Fourteen-year-old Sparrow Cooke struggles with emotional issues and suicidal feelings following the death of her school librarian, who was the only person who seemed to understand her.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (Jul 2015)
In a world where the Great Library of Alexandria governs the flow of information to the people, Jess discovers that those who control the Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than human life after his friend inadvertently commits heresy.

Recommendations for Children:

I'm a Librarian by Brian Biggs (Mar 2017)
Presents a day in the life of a librarian in Tinyville Town.
Librarian's Night Before Christmas by David Davis (Jan 2006)
In a parody of the famous poem by Clement C. Moore, a harried librarian and her facility get a surprise holiday visit from Santa and his bookmobile.
The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey (Apr 2014)
Dorrie and her brother Marcus accidently open a portal to Petrarch's Library, where they discover a secret society of warrior librarians who travel in time, protecting the world's greatest thinkers from torture and death for sharing knowledge and ideas.
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen (Jul 2006)
A lion starts visiting the local library but runs into problems as he tries to both obey the rules and help his librarian friend.
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough (May 2013)
Examines the story of how librarian Ann Carroll Moore created the first children's room at the New York Public Library.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Creative Ways to Handle Fines

We're here today to talk about overdue fines, which can be a surprisingly divisive issue. I've worked in a few different library systems, and every system (heck, every library!) deals with fines differently. In some libraries, having even $0.25 in fines can result in a blocked library card; others will have a cap (one place I worked had the cap at $30, another at only $5), at which point you can no longer borrow items or use online systems. Some places don't have fines at all, which can cause some issues in and of itself (such as, a patron having a book out for months at a time and not feeling the need to return it).

The pros of having fines:
  • Incentive to bring books and other materials back in a timely manner.
  • Raising money for library services (sometimes).
The cons:
  • It causes unnecessary stress on library patrons and staff.
  • Patrons with very overdue books know they owe money, and won't return to the library because they either don't want to or can't pay the fines, or they're embarrassed about money owed.
  • Some libraries don't even get their own fine money - it goes to the town. (In one library where I worked, the director would have to go to Town Meeting every year and ask for the fine money back, and would hopefully be granted a "special one-time money transfer" for the funds.) 
Okay. So, that's what we have going on. It's not a perfect system, but it works fairly well. BUT - is there a better way? Some libraries have creative ways of dealing with fines. Perhaps one of these could work for you!

These might be an easier sell to your Director and Trustees if your library doesn't get the collected fine money anyway, but just the act of getting patrons back into your library could be a huge selling point. (Of course, these only apply to overdue fines, and not lost book replacement costs.)

Creative Ways to Handle Fines

Amnesty Day/Week/Month - Some libraries will have Amnesty/Forgiveness during certain times of year - usually the first week of summer vacation, or around New Year's. Bring your items back and, no matter how overdue they are, they will be checked in without fines. I used to work in a library that had Fine Free Wednesdays every single week, and let me tell you, it brought in tons of people who hadn't been to the library in far too long - sometimes years! Since it was all checked in fine free, there was no issue with being embarrassed, because we wouldn't even know how overdue the items were. Plus, Wednesdays went from our slowest days, to our busiest!

Food for Fines - Often done for a week or sometimes the entire month of December. Patrons bring in food/non-perishable items for the local food pantry or homeless shelter, and we waive any fines that have accrued on their account (or, in some libraries, clear $1 off for every food item). I've also seen this done in partnership with animal shelters, with donations of canned cat and dog food.

No Fines for Special Populations - Fines will accrue on items until they are returned, and then they will be waived for whichever people qualify. I've seen this done for senior citizens, children under 12, military service members and veterans, and patrons with special needs.

No Fines at All - As above, fines will accrue on patron accounts until materials are returned. This prohibits people from keeping items indefinitely, because if an item reaches "Lost" status or the fine cap, they can no longer use library services until materials are returned - at which point, all fines are forgiven.

Fines Waived After a Certain Time - I haven't seen too many libraries do this, but there are some out there in which fines will be cleared after a certain time - generally a few years, so a book that was checked out to a 6 year old will no longer be on their account when they are in high school.

Work It Off - Some libraries will take volunteer time in lieu of payment for fines. This can be problematic for libraries, because we prefer our volunteers to make a commitment to keep coming back for a certain amount of time (at least a year), and because they need to be trained before they can work/shelve for us. However, if a teen patron wants to work off fines they accrued by cutting out shapes for storytime crafts, this may be a good work-around.

Read It Off - In some libraries, children under 12 can reduce their fines by reading (usually $1 waived per hour read) - but they have to be reading while in the library for it to count.

We'd love to hear some ideas that work for your libraries. Please let us know in the comments here, on our Twitter page, or on Facebook.

Friday, September 1, 2017

You Can Now Link Your Facebook Page to a Group (and why you may want to do this)

Facebook recently announced that ALL pages can now link their page directly to their group. How awesome is that? This is so exciting for many reasons:

1. It Is Hard to Find New Groups on Facebook

Unless you know the exact name of the group you are looking for, it is hard to find them in the Facebook search. Now that you can connect your groups directly to your page, this will allow patrons to easily locate your groups. All they have to do is visit your Library Page, and go to the left side. (For how to link your groups to your page, visit this handy article from Grytics!)

2. Groups Work Differently than Pages

If you ever considered making a group for your library patrons, now is the time to do it! It could be ideal for many reasons:

  1. Groups get higher priority in the news feed than pages (so, patrons are more likely to see your posts).
  2. It'll allow you to divide your followers into appropriate groups. You can make a group for teens, another for parents/caregivers, another for adults and only post the relevant information into each section. It may also provide a way for patrons to connect with each other -- a local community with people they wouldn't normally have a reason to reach out to (especially if your town/city DOES NOT have a special Facebook group for residents).
  3. You will have the ability to comment and like as your page in your groups, which will help patrons know it is "the library" that is responding.
  4. Facebook acknowledges that it can be time consuming to accept people into groups, so they added a filtering feature where you can easily sort the requests by location and accept/deny at once. You can also add a questionnaire with up to 3 questions that new members must answer before they apply if you want to expand your reach beyond what locations they have listed on Facebook.

3. Bump Your Post Reach With Targeted Marketing

Not only can they easily find the link on your page to your group, you can also easily share your relevant posts to this group. Targeted Marketing! When people respond to your post in the group, it'll bump up your post reach on your page as well. And, as we all know by now, when your current post gets interactions, it'll do better and increase the reach on your next post. That's a win/win!

4.  Group Analytics

With targeted advertising, you'll be able to see what posts are working for your specific groups: the demographics as well as the days and times they are active online. This is valuable info that you cannot parse from a generic Facebook Page which all patrons follow. And new to Groups: Admins and moderators can create and schedule posts to publish at a specific day and time!

Do you have a successful Library Facebook Group? If so, please share in the comments! We'd love to hear what types of groups have worked for you.

Additional Info:
Our First Communities Summit and New Tools For Group Admins
3 Reasons Why Facebook Groups May Offer New Opportunities for Brands
How to Link Your Facebook Groups and Pages
Facebook Groups Can Now Screen New Members With a Questionnaire