Friday, May 30, 2014

SLRC Fall Conference 2013

Fall 2013 SLRC Conference
October 16, 2013

Program Description:
With more than a dozen learning opportunities available, attendees can register for topics like STEM, grantseeking, storytelling, fine arts, E-readers and e-books, and collection development. There will also be department showcases and the option of taking a tour of the building which includes visits to all of SLRC’s subject departments.  The day will conclude with keynote reflections by Joe Thompson, Associate Director of Western Maryland Regional Library and VP/President-Elect of ALA’s Reference User Services Association.

My Summary
 In the morning session, I attended the STEM program where we performed the "Dancing Colors" milk experiment. Several STEM activities were shared. Their was also presented a brief discussion of the GlaxcoSmithKline Science in the Summer program administered by AAAS. I also attended the "First steps in genealogy" which was useful to help patrons get started, with several suggestions on how to start. During the afternoon session, I took the tour of the building. Some notable items were a "Food for Fines" campaign in the YA department, and the ability to ILL foreign films from their collection.  Very interesting and worth while conference.

How it fits in the bigger picture
After the conference, I contacted AAAS, and WCFL will be hosting Science in the Summer at 4 branches and down town in the summer of 2014. I was also able to have a "Kitchen Science" program with the dancing colored milk and soap souflees. 

Books for the Beast 2013

Books for the Beast
October 19, 2013
Sponsored by Enoch Pratt Free Library
Keynote Speaker: Robin Wasserman

Program Description:
“Books for the Beast” is a biennial conference devoted to showcasing and discussing the best in Young Adult Literature.Participants meet in small groups to discuss current YA books by genre.

My summary
This year the book group discussions I participated in were:

      D is for Dead
  • How they croaked: The awful ends of the awfully famous by Georgia Bragg (non-fiction, very interesting account of the deaths of famous people)
  • Everybody sees ants by AS King (Viet Nam War tie in, coming of age story)
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness(Story of a teen boy dealing with parents terminal illness. Great illustrations. I highly recommend)
  • Jasper Jones (Another coming of age with a murder mystery thrown in, also Viet Nam War tie in)
  • Orchards by  Holly Thompson (story of a Japanese American teen set to her Japanese relatives for summer after the death of her best friend. I liked this book very much and would recommend)

      E is for Excitement
  • Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal (non-fiction account of prohibition and the doomed attempt to stop alcohol consumption. Good read)
  • The Raft by SA Bodeen (A teenage girl lives through an ocean plane crash and must survive on a raft with no provisions. Predictable story, but I enjoyed it.)
  • Kegend by Marie Lu (Violent futuristic story of heroic teens a la Hunger Gamed, Divergent, etc)
  • Trapped by Michael Northrup (Teens are trapped in their High School during an horrific snow storm)
  • Au Revoir Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber (Teen becomes involved in the espionage world of the seemingly quiet exchange student living with his family. I didn't like this book-far fetched to the point of being stupid)
How this fits in the bigger picture
I don't normally read YA books, so each time I am able to attend this conference, I am usually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the books. It also allows me to make better YA reader advisory recommendations.

Dancing Like a Scientist

Dancing Like a Scientist
April 8, 2014
Presenter: Amanda Layton, Wolftrap Master Teaching Artist

Program Description
How can dance promote the natural scientist in all children? Dancers use many of the same skills to explore their world as scientist--observing, classifying, predicting, experimenting and communicating. The natural connections between dance, movement, and science can empower children to learn, understand, and apply scientific inquiry process to all areas of learning.

My summary
Through many interactive exercises, Ms. Layton showed the audience how dance could be used to teach pre-science skills to even preschool children. Some of the exercises were too involved, or would require more time or space than I usually have available. But encouraging "observational language" is something easily incorporated into all programs. And her magic wand was wonderful and I want one.

How it fits in the bigger picture
By encouraging the children to approach any activity using observation, classifying, predict, experimenting and communicating in a fun way, you help prepare them to use these skills throughout their lives.

Dancing Like a Scientist

On April 8, 2014, I attended the Dancing Like a Scientist workshop presented by Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist Amanda Layton Whiteman.  The workshop was sponsored by the Children's Service Division of the Maryland Library Association. 

Amanda taught us about the six components of pre-school scientific inquiry: observation, classification, experimenting, predicting, drawing conclusions, and communicating ideas.  She also taught about observational language, or terms describing lines, size, spatial relationships, and body part relationships.  She then combined all of these aspects and presented possible ideas of how to use them in storytime. I realized that, although I am not necessarily scientifically inclined, there are still fun things that I can do in storytime to introduce science concepts. 

My favorite idea, which I really want to try in storytime is to cut pieces of fluffy white yarn for the children to use to make their own cloud shapes.  The pre-schoolers would go wild, but would have fun doing it.  Everyone who attended also coveted Amanda's metal chime wand- we need to get one for storytime!

Abigail Andrews
Children's Dept. in Hagerstown

Libraries and Autism: We're Connected

On November 14, 2013, I attended the Libraries and Autism: We're Connected conference sponsored by the Maryland Library Association.  The presenter, Catherine Creighton Thompson, is the mother of a child with autism, so she was able to use personal experiences to good effect in her presentation.  I learned what autism is, a neurobiological disorder originating from complex bran development.  Catherine Creighton Thompson also talked about the restrictive behaviors but also the strengths of individuals with autism.  I also learned about strategies to use when helping autistic patrons and about adapting materials to better serve individuals with autism.

At the end, several librarians were talking about their sensory storytimes geared towards autistic patrons and others with special needs.  Hopefully we'll be able to incorporate those ideas into new programs at our library.

Abigail Andrews
Children's Dept. in Hagerstown

Kids Are Customers Too 2013

On October 10, 2013, I attended the Kids Are Customers Too Conference sponsored by the Children's Services Division of the Maryland Library Association.  The first session discussed Common Core and provided a good overview of what Common Core is and how it affects the school systems.  Since I only had a vague understanding of Common Core, this was very helpful.  Katherine Lyons from Wolf Trap presented a session about finding math hidden in books.  Some of the ideas, although geared towards older children, could still be used in Pre-School Storytime.  One idea focused on Caps for Sale and identifying shapes and sorting them by color.  Another session focused on technology in storytime.  Although they showed some apps that could be useful, they didn't do as good of a job introducing the topic to individuals such as myself who don't use technology (i.e. how do you make it work for big groups).

My favorite sessions were Music in Storytime, where I got lots of good ideas for music I can use, and Kevin Sherry's book signing (author of I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean).

When I attend this conference, I always enjoy the time to network with other librarians throughout Maryland and come back with ideas for new programs, storytimes, etc.  I feel that it was very worthwhile.

Abigail Andrews
Children's Dept. in Hagerstown

Webinar-Floating Collections

Floating collections include materials that move among branches based on where the materials are returned, holds placed, or new books distributed. Materials remain at the library where they are returned. When necessary, items are moved to another branch due to lack of shelf space or too many items on a topic. Having a floating collection gives smaller branches a wider range of items. Less time is spent sorting and handling a delivery. Depending on the policy of the library you can decide if all items should float or if you have a special collection that you don't want to float.
I have information dating back to 2008, about floating collections. Maybe it's time WCFL started floating.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

MLA/DLA 2014 Conference: Coping with Mental Illness

Coping with Mental Illness: Strategies for Staff and Supervisors
Presenters: Erin Kelly, Enoch Pratt Free Library
Lea Ann Browning, Deputy Director, Mental Health Association of MD

Program Description
According to NIMH, over a quarter of the adult population in the United States are diagnosable for one or more mental illnesses. The prevalence of these conditions can be seen in both our interactions with customers on the front lines as well as behind the scenes with co-workers. With such a wide variety of conditions and considerations, it can be overwhelming for a librarian, and especially a supervisor, to know how to work with someone in a effective and compassionate manner.

My summary
This session was very interesting and helpful. An overview of the most common types of mental illnesses was presented which included how to recognize (the common behaviors of) the illnesses. Be calm and patient. Expect to spend more time than usual when helping these patrons.It may help to assign seats to patrons-try to place at the end of a row if possible. Routines are very important to these customers. Try to let them know ahead of time of any changes. Unfortunately, I had to leave this session early. There is training available from the Mental Health Association of MD called 'Mental Health First Aid" to provide the initial help for people developing or who are in a mental health crisis.

How it relates to the bigger picture
I think it is important for staff that works with the public to recognize different mental illnesses, and to be prepared to work with those people when possible. I think WCFL should look into the Mental Health First Aid training for frontline employees.

MLA/DLA 2014 Conference: "It's not my job"

"It's not my job": Convincing staff why it is their job
Presenters:  Brian Hissong, Finksburg Branch Manager, Carroll County Public Library
Anita Crawford, Finksburg Circultation Manager, Carroll County Public Library

Program Description
Times are changing, libraries are changing, and that means our jobs are changing, too. Accepting a new model of customer service is far from easy. How do we convince our employees to take on new tasks, some of which may traditionally have bee perforemed in other departments? How do we calm fears about taking on new roles? Join this discussion on how Carroll County Public Libraries have dealt with evolving staff responsibilities.

My summary
At the new Finksburg library, the circulation staff and the reference staff share a desk. In order to provide better customer service, staff from each area was crossed trained to more quickly meet their patrons needs. During the session, the audience was divided into two groups. One group were Aqua-librarians who had special powers, including breathing water, swimming, etc. The second group were Super-librarians, endowed with x-ray vision and super strength. The challenge presented was how to convince the other group they could perform well in the new environment. I found it to be a useful exercise.

How it fits in the big picture
In our branch libraries, everyone does everything to some extent, so the problem is not as acute as it may be at other libraries. However, it is important to keep the idea of providing the best customer service at the forefront of any customer interaction. Good customer service is everyone;s job.

SLRC Conference

I attended the SLRC Conference in Baltimore at the Enoch Pratt Free Library on October 16, 2013.  I really enjoyed the MD Room session.  They have such a unique collection.  I looked at everything they had on Sharpsburg.   I found two very old unique maps.  Both of which they gave me copies of  and I have shared with several patrons! 

Book for the Beast

I attended Books for the Beast on October 19, 2013.  I read ten YA books from two different categories.   At the conference we met and discussed the books.  I enjoy returning from this conference and discussing the books with my YA patrons!  We also heard two YA authors speak. 

MLA/DLA 2014 Conference: Common Challenges, Simple Strategies

Common Challenges, Simple Strategies: Advice for New and Aspiring Supervisors
Presenters: Debby Bennett, Executive Director, Caroline County Public Library
Dolores Maminski, Associate Director, Frederick County Public Libraris
Anita Crawford, Circulation Suptervisor, Finksburg Branch, Carroll County Public Library
Bryan Hissong, Finksburg Branch Manager, Carroll County Public Library

Program Description
As a new supervisor, the list of talents you are expected to quickly cultivate seems endless-being diplomatic, guiding people through change, motivating a team, staying confident and negotiating politics (office or otherwise). Trial and error is a part of any new job, but you can save yourself a lot of bumps and scrates by talking to people who have been there before. In this highly-interactive session, you will have a chance to ask questions and our paellists will share the strategies they used to overcome common leadership challenges, what they learned along the way and what they'd do differently, if they could do it all over again.

My Summary
Even though I have supervisory experience, I am always looking on ways to improve. I did not find this session helpful at all, and was disappointed. It began with a presentation of how the circulation staff and reference staff have begun cooperating more closely at the Finksburg Library and quickly deteriorated into a gripe session from several members of the audience.

How it fits into the bigger picture
Supervisors at other libraries and library systems have similar, and worse problems than we face at WCFL.

MLA/DLA 2014 Conference: What do the want, When do they want it

What do they want, When do they want it: Increasing circulation through merchandising and Collection 
Presenter: Sharon Lauchner, Library Collections Coordinator, Frederick County Public Libraries

Program Description:
Think of the hours we spend considering community need and interest, the hours selecting and purchasing just the right materials, the hours to process and get them onto the floor. By contrast, we spend very little time thinking of innovative, truly creative ways to organize and merchandise our collections. The result, for many, is declining circulation, but it doesn't have to be this way. Sharon Lauchner leads this fast-paced session, sharing best proctices and roven merchandising strategies to help you connect people to the material this is currently hiding in your stacks.

My Summation
This informative session discussed ways of making the library collections more inviting and browsable following some of the merchandising practices used by book stores. By organizing the collections using the BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communication) scheme, libraries can make their materials more available to library users. Still, librarians (and patrons) must be able to find a particular item, so a combination of Dewey and BISAC may prove the most useful strategy. There was a discussion of library floor planning, creating a "Power Wall" (adult) or "Discovery Wall" (children), using tables for timely topics, and other tips for increasing circulation. Some easy to implement tips were to place impulse items at the checkout (DVDs), and to place read-a-like bookmarks right in the books on the shelves.

How it fits in the bigger picture
This re-arrangement of library materials make perfect sense to me, and I would like to pilot some of the suggestions to see if it would increase circulation as I suspect it would. However, I have found that patrons do not like it when things get moved around, so any changes must be well thought out before implemented.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thinking Like a Business: Merchandising

A public library is not a business (which is one of the many reasons I like working here!) but we can be more successful in our non-profit mission by learning some lessons from the for-profit world.  The value of merchandising – that is, designing the physical environment to encourage sales (or in our case, circulation) is one such lesson that was emphasized in a recent MLA/DLA conference program.  Sharon Lauchner, the Library Collections Manager in Frederick County, had lots of great ideas, not to mention very contagious energy and enthusiasm.  Her slides, notes, and handouts are at  I’ll just hit a few highlights here.

     Displays don’t always need a rotating theme.  A permanent “power wall” of appealing non-fiction books can be a big draw, boosting their visibility and circulation.  Sharon’s example shows a small library that put their entire non-fiction collection on one big wall, with face out displays above and regular shelving below.  In a larger library, this could be done for just a portion of the collection, say cookbooks, or health and wellness.  One big advantage to having display and regular shelving together this way is that when the face-out display books are taken, replacements are right there, ready to fill in with.

     Mixing media can boost circ.  Why not have non-fiction DVDs shelved with or near the non-fiction books?

     Have some of the good stuff in the back.  Supermarkets keep the milk in the far back corner to encourage people to walk through the whole store, where they can be tempted by impulse items.  Likewise, we could have some popular part of the collection (Maybe the hold pickup shelves?  Or the new books?) located further into the building, so people will pass by other appealing items on the way, and maybe do some impulse checking out.

     Speaking of impulse items – why not keep some of these types of books right at the checkout desk, like the candy in the supermarket?  Maybe how-to or self-help books?  Celebrity bios?  Romances?

     We can promote e-content in areas with print content: posters for Zinio in the magazine section; a bookmark or poster for Overdrive in the fiction area.

     When all the copies of a big blockbuster are absent from the new books shelves, you could put a small poster or bookmark display in their place with read-alike suggestions.  In other words – “Sorry we’re all out of Such-and-such by Nora Roberts – see the info desk to request a copy.  And meanwhile, have you tried these other authors?”

     Kids’ picture books can be displayed in face-out bins, like LPs in a record store.  (For my colleagues under 30, LPs are an antique form of music storage from before you were born.)  Storing the picture books this way does make more work for shelvers, but Sharon reports that kids love browsing in such bins.

     So – those are just some of Sharon’s great ideas.  Contact me, or see her notes and handouts, for more! 

Bill T. - Tech. Services - WMRL / WCFL