Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Last night I attended a program at the East Lyme (CT) Public Library about the future of public libraries presented by John and Louise Berry. John Berry is the former editor of Library Journal (now editor-at-large) and his wife Louise is the Executive Director of the Darien (CT) Library, ranked as one of the top 10 public libraries in the country for its size, according to Hennen's American Public Library Rating. Much of the discussion was about familiar topics: the challenges of funding public libraries, which are busier than ever, in the midst of economic chaos, and the uncertainty posed by rapid technological changes. I was pleased to hear Louise mention customer service, reader's advisory, children’s services, community and cultural programming, and the idea of the library as a “Great Good Place”* as keys to the Darien Library’s success, as these are things the Lyme Public Library already strives to provide and will be able to do even more successfully in a planned new building. I was surprised (and delighted), though, to hear Louise say something to the effect that the future of public libraries is Twitter! The Lyme Public Library has had a Twitter account for several years, and I am always telling people how much I love Twitter but am usually greeted with blank stares or the comment that they don’t get it. Louise went on to talk about Twitter as a tool to engage the community, as a great reference source for local, community information, and as a way to encourage and foster reading through ideas such as #fridayreads.** If you’re curious or interested, why not open a Twitter account and follow us at @lymepl. You’ll get all the latest library news as well as links to interesting articles about authors, books, reading, and libraries, and you can find out what everyone is reading on #fridayreads. Give it a try!
*This idea comes from the book The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community by Ray Oldenburg. He defines the concept as safe, comfortable community gathering places.
**#fridayreads #FridayReads is a hashtag on Twitter. Every Friday, thousands of people post what they are reading with the FridayReads hashtag (#fridayreads) Find out more by visiting http://fridayreads.com/about/
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Word came today that funding for Connecticar, (the statewide delivery system that delivers library materials and Interlibrary loan items to libraries around the state) and Connecticard (the program that allows a library user with a valid public library card from his or her hometown library to borrow materials from any public library in Connecticut), has been restored in the budget that was passed late last night and has been sent to the Governor for his signature. The loss of these two programs would have been a crippling blow to library service in our state. Thanks to all at the CT State Library, the Governor's office, the General Assembly, the CT Library Association, library users around the state who voiced their support, and everyone who worked to save these critical programs.
It’s not entirely good news, though. Because of the state’s dire financial situation, funds to maintain Connecticard and Connecticar were taken from other areas of the State Library budget including Grants to Public Libraries and reimbursement to public libraries for serving non-resident patrons. We in the library community know that we have to do our part to help solve the state’s fiscal crisis, and I for one am willing to accept a smaller state grant and lower Connecticard reimbursement to save the Connecticar and Connecticard programs. But it doesn’t change the fact that these cuts will further burden public libraries that are already struggling to meet the increased usage demands caused by the sagging economy.
One of the things I love about the library profession is that it is a cooperative venture not a cutthroat one. I’ve spent 25 years working with colleagues who are always finding ways to do more with less as budgets shrink, who help each other out, boost each others' spirits, and inspire a love of learning and reading. We’ll keep trying to meet the needs of our communities as best we can, and we’ll keep advocating that funding libraries is one of the most efficient and effective ways to benefit society as a whole. In the meantime, state government, the legislature, and the library community all worked together to save Connecticar and Connecticard. And that’s a good thing.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Saturday, January 08, 2011
At a meeting of public librarians last week, it became apparent that many of us have a love/hate relationship with many of the technologies we are offering these days, especially eBooks and downloadable audio books. There are many issues that make it really difficult to satisfy our patrons. Availability is a big one. While patrons are willing to put their name on a waiting list for a new print book or book on cd that is in demand, they seem to want the digital version to be available immediately. Yet most companies that offer the services only allow one person at a time to checkout a title. One colleague at the meeting was bemoaning the fact that as she tried to get a patron excited about checking out an eBook, she couldn't find any titles that were available. (One company does offer always available downloadable audio books, but they are mostly older titles and not the latest bestsellers that people want to read now.) The number of people who own eBook readers is increasing rapidly, and most of us can't afford to buy every book we want to read on our Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, iPad, etc. The demand for free eBooks from the public library is going to keep climbing, and availability will become even more of an issue if the single user system remains the norm.
Another big issue is compatibility. Because of Digital Rights Management, many downloadable audio books are not compatible with iPods, and they only work on certain models of mp3 players. We get lots of calls from patrons who have downloaded audio books and can't get them to play. With eBooks, the publishing industry hasn't completely come to terms with the technology yet so some publishers will not publish their titles in digital format. Amazon will not allow it's titles to be downloaded to any device except its own Kindle unless it is through their own Kindle app, and eBooks downloaded in .pdf format do not display well on some devices. Some libraries are buying eBook readers and lending them out. But deciding how that will work is also difficult. Do we buy the eBooks that the patrons request when they check the devices out, or do we preload them with titles selected by the library staff?
It's going to take some time to resolve all these issues, and most libraries are struggling just to keep our eBook and downloadable audio book collections going while our budgets are shrinking. Here at the Lyme Library, we offer downloadable audio books and are hoping to offer eBooks sometime this year. Much depends on whether the funding is available. In the meantime, we'd like to hear from our patrons. Do you prefer eBooks or audio books? What do you like best about them and what frustrates you? What percentage of your reading is done by audio or an electronic device? The answers will help us determine which programs our patrons will use and benefit from the most.