Monday, July 26, 2010

Library day in the life ... (Rideau style) day 1

I put "day 1" up there, thinking positively, but I make no promises that I am going to do this all week. I can promise today, and I can promise today will be thorough. Beyond that, we'll see!

It's kind of neat that last time I did this I was at St Laurent - fun to compare and contrast.... It was also summertime. Somehow I missed round 4. Anyway.

For the new arrivals to this blog, welcome! Here you will find the ramblings of a public librarian in a small urban community branch (serving a population of approximately 24, 000, seeing 2000 patrons a week). My CV is here. My passions include readers' advisory, outreach, services to children and teens, and social justice. I have also been known to get riled up about collection management (i.e. weeding!), library architecture, and censorship, .... and to get excited about literary awards, library conferences, and excellent customer service.

Today is not entirely typical, in that it is summertime and quieter, in general. Also, two of my colleagues are away: one is my Children's programming and public service assistant, and the other is the branch's supervisor of circulation. On the bright side, I replaced myself off the Info desk from 1 pm onwards today (and most of this week), so I do have some off-desk time, which is rare. The theme of last week was meetings (various OPL committees, plus a visit by the City Librarian and four new senior managers last Friday), so it was nice to know I would be in the branch all of this week.

9 - 10 am: I began my day with the usual e-mail and blogroll reading. I actually almost unplugged entirely this weekend, firing up the computer only once to log a run, post a link to FB, and check brunch plans. So my blogroll was clogged (I clear-cutted 280 news items Sunday evening, and another 130 this morning: skimming, skimming, skimming). Some things I did pause to read included:
  • "Public Libraries Nourishing the Mind" by PC World's Phil Shapiro: OK, I likes the food as much as anyone else, but seriously, culinary arts in the library? This may be going too far....!
  • A lovely review of Folly, which reminded me to reserve it.
  • Annoyed Librarian's rant about the Dominican study of summer reading club programs: I confess I hadn't had time yet to read the Dominican study, and when I read excerpted text from it in her post ("While not definitive in addressing the additive effect of summer library reading programs, this study has been helpful in demonstrating the need for more rigorously controlled research studies") I was a little dismayed, too. She is kind of right that "the kids participating were self-selected from the group of children who already read more and had more money and access to books, so of course they have higher reading scores. They participated in summer reading programs because they like to read already. [The study] does NOT show that the students who most need summer reading programs are the ones participating in them. On the contrary, it suggests that the ones who need them least are the ones who participate the most." That's why there are no SRC studies out there: it's really hard to show that the students who really need SRC programs are the ones benefiting the most.
  • My cousin's blog post of a few of his poems, "Selections from Flying on the Lucid Fringe." Librarians, take note: Sim writes in the notes for his book that he thinks poetry should be shelved "in the reference section. Right there, next to the Cape Town map [...] and the dictionary and the what to do in an emergency type book. Where you can pull it out and intuitively (with a little help from the angels) turn to the right page to: inspire your dreams with a poem before bed or your day with a poem after bed, hit a deeper note with your dinner guests, share some words for your spouse's birthday or for your granny to dance to, take you beyond the daily playback routine while waiting for that train, find the real news that you won't find on CNN or even Facebook."
My boss stopped by the Info desk as I was reading and drinking my coffee, and we had a little convo about the vending machine article that came out in our local paper over the weekend. Specifically, he said, "hey, so your Facebook friends don't like our vending machine, eh?" and we laughed ruefully. Alas, my friends are not the only ones. The vending machine makes people panic because I think they believe it is intended to replace a library branch, which it is not; the idea is that it allows communities in which there is no library (at least, currently, but vending machine stats would be a good argument for building one, wouldn't they?) to have some service for pick-up and drop off of materials. Rudimentary, granted, but again, better than nothing! Also, what if the vending machine, placed currently in a community centre, generates interest about the library from non-users (I'm thinking thick-headed sports fans) - wouldn't that be cool?

Before we opened I also looked into some items I want us to buy (I placed some suggestions to purchase like the rest of you plebs), checked in my own holds (including this, which I'm excited about, and this, which did not impress me, honestly), and did a headcount of SRC supplies (sent surplus back to Main to be re-distributed).

10-10:35: Swear to God, I did not make this up. These are questions I received in the first 35 minutes after opening at 10 am:
  1. Where is the washroom?
  2. Phone call: can I reserve this book? I can't remember my PIN.
  3. I heard about this book on the radio - do you have it?
  4. Login dispute over 15 minute express computers (which was kind of funny, as we had been open 10 minutes...)
  5. Are there any computers on another floor? (Honey, we don't have another floor!)
  6. Do you have any maps?
  7. Can you help me? I think I cancelled my computer booking...
  8. Do you carry Architectural Digest here?
  9. Do you remember that book you reserved for me? (Suuuuure I do.....) Is it here yet? (Turns out our copy says on shelf but is not, so I marked it missing)
  10. Where are children's DVDs?
  11. Request: Michel David's new book
  12. Request: Elizabeth George's new book
  13. You told me last week about an online dictionary website - what is the url again?
  14. Staff q: where are the extra rolls of masking tape?
  15. Copy-specific hold (patrons can't do this themselves yet in many cases, so for items with multiple volumes - eg. Great Courses - they have to come to us)
  16. I can't find this book.... (turns out it was in our PB section, which both Philip and I wanted to get rid of, but had to keep because of shelf space available).
  17. I can't find my hold....
  18. Where is the public printer?
  19. Do you have a public telephone?
So, do you think I saw the vast majority of those 2000 patrons a week this morning? 'Cause it kind of felt like that.

In between the madness, I also tried to get two kids to join SRC (they turned me down) and checked if a newborn had received his 123 Read with me book (he had; I gave his dad info about family storytime in the fall @ Rideau instead) . Gertrude from A Company of Fools came by to pick up her Midsummer display ('bye, donkey!), so I helped her a bit and cleared up the books on the display after she left. Crap. Had to fill that space, so put up a "books made into movies" display (DVDs and books). Filled other displays (new books, etc.) on the way by.

10:35 am - 1 pm: Other random morning questions:
  1. Oh, those die-cut animals for SRC are nice. I work for a daycare - can I bring in paper and cut shapes on the die-cut machine? (Um, no).
  2. Tracking packages in the U.S. mailed from here (this fell between "rant" and "reference question" - sorry your package is lost, lady!)
  3. A woman dressed in full-on Mad Men-era clothing (right down to Betty Page hair and bright red lipstick painted over the edges of her lip line) inquired about volunteering.
  4. You know what I really hate? Patrons who come up to you and throw down their item (in this case, a package rec'd in the mail) and make demands with no preamble. So this woman tossed her grimy mail on top of the time sheets I was verifying, and said, I want to watch this. I was like, well, good for you (and what is it?)! Also, personal space! No, I was very pleasant to her, but I kind of felt invaded.
  5. Can I reserve some museum passes?
  6. I want to get my Chamberfest souvenir guide. Is the Chamberfest office open today?
Our volunteer who is helping out with SRC came early, and I was still printing out monkey body parts for her (we are doing this craft this week). We decided she would cut out the cardboard and the kids could decorate their own monkeys. I also chose a video to watch during the activity (I really want to watch "Hot hippo," but this week is about monkeys, so no go).

I gave a patron an eviction notice. He left, swearing loudly.

I was overjoyed to see a patron I made a library card for during outreach last week come in. I am terrible with faces, but luckily I remembered he is deaf. Through charades, I figured out he wanted time on a computer, so I logged him into an Express terminal. I need to learn sign language (well, beyond "Twinkle, twinkle, little star"). Five minutes later, another patron from the same outreach came in to use a computer!

I faxed the branch time sheets to our city payroll department (full-time staff do this stuff online but for part-time and casual staff, we still use paper time sheets): this process involves checking the hours worked and making sure everyone got the cost centres (and all other info, including sometimes their own names!) right. Usually our branch circ supervisor looks at these first, and I double-check and sign off, but with her away, it's all on me. Today, there were nine of them. Check, check, sign, sign, fax, fax! While checking, I lent someone masking tape to fix a broken high heel.

I also inputted SRC statistics for last week into the shared Excel sheet. We are up to 151 kids registered at Rideau for SRC 2010, and so far, they have reported 525 books read. In the past week, we signed up 31 new kids for SRC 2010, and kids reported 261 books read.

1:15: A few more quick questions (CD drive on one of the PCs not working, etc.) and then, LUNCH! At long last! I thus shook off the shackles of the Info desk until 4 pm.

My current lunchtime book is Holding still for as long as possible, because it is the next Algonquin Reads pick, but so far it's nothing to write home about. My lunch was interrupted 22 minutes in by a vision from the attic staff room of two women dumping our dying (well, dead) mugo pine beside the dumpster in the parking lot. Hmmmm... Out I went to investigate! Long story short: the lovely peeps at the Horticultural society donated our garden; a volunteer (not ass'd with the Horts) maintains it once a week. Some of the plants suffered damage over the winter (esp. due to salt-filled snowbanks), especially some small pines near the staircase. The two lovely ladies here today were removing the dead pine and replaced it with some pink and white rosebushes they assure me are hardy breeds. Seriously, most of what I know about gardening I have learned from talking to the people from the Horts, our volunteer, and our facilities operator in the past few months.

2:15-4: I made the most of my off-desk time! I managed to:
  • E-mail my boss about the garden
  • Scan an issue of Public Libraries that came for me via routing (it was May/June 2009, so no news there; we have since decided to no longer route professional journals here at OPL, which I think is a good idea)
  • Do some research for Fall programs for adults at Rideau (I know I keep promising you updates on what I have up my sleeve... soon, my pretties!)
  • Send some e-mails and create a new distribution list for some of my latest outreach contacts to send them info about adult programs at the library
  • Spend some time fighting with the laptop so I could preview the Anansi tale with a King Monkey (Anansi and the talking melon) on DVD for Wednesday's program. Every time your network password changes (every few months?) you have to re-connect the laptop to the network to be able to log on. Annoying... Also, the voice of Anansi in this DVD is oddly Brooklyn accent-y (slight nasal tone!) and King Monkey sounds very pukka. Weirdness. Hope I can watch it with a straight face!
  • While on break, responded to more comments via FB re. the vending machine library. Apparently my friends aren't as scandalised as I thought. Also, positive byproduct: more comments means the story will move to the top of people's FB feeds. Hmm.
  • Tried in vain to read "Immigrant Readers: Feeling "at Home" in Library Reading Programs" before going back up to Info but failed and brought it up with me.
4-5: I handled:
  • Printing up the weekly bestseller lists (Main Library's Collection Management Department kindly generates these lists of the Globe, New York Times and Librairie du Soleil (local bookstore) lists, with what we own and have on order written in).
  • Checking out the several (heavy and oversized) books about Carnegie and his libraries that came in for me (for an article I am writing for a CILIP group).
  • Read the new Laura Vaccaro Seeger book, What if?, which is a great pick for dialogic reading in storytimes with younger groups. Even if the basic scene repeats throughout the book, you could have a different child in the group describe it each time, for instance. Lovely art, too.
  • Helped a guy on the Internet who had clicked on "sign in with a single-use code" in Hotmail and was totally confused.
  • Perused a book about animal crafts for SRC ideas (while walking up the stairs - I am nothing if not a multi-tasker): I found a great Haida raven craft but nothing good for Destination Jungle.
  • Looked over a proposal for an event from a committee meeting last week.
  • Read I'm the best, the new Lucy Cousins book. Verdict: super cute story about bragging, being a show-off, appreciating your uniqueness, and saying you're sorry, plus great illustrations (as always).
  • Handed out a flyer about fall storytimes to a regular patron and her son.
Plus the following questions:
  • Do you have Jaws 2? (Oddly, no, so I e-mailed our AV selector)
  • Do you have books about evolution?
  • Where are your materials about learning languages?
  • How many times a day can someone use the Express computers?
  • Where's my dad? (Located behind stacks in annex)
  • Could you reserve Season 1 of Slings and arrows for me?
  • Where is your non-fiction section?
  • Wouldn't it be great if you had movie viewing stations here? (NO!!!! But film events at the library would be a fun idea - with PPR films, of course.... Added to my adult programming list).
  • Can I use your desk to sort through these DVDs?
  • Où sont les livres sur CD? (Wow, just realised that was my first French q of the day. That's really atypical.... Or did I just translate some of the above ones without realising? I do that. Definitely the Michel David q this am was in French, obvs).
  • It says you have a Museum pass for the War museum here.... Where is it? (Looked everywhere. NOS. Filed as missing).
And then I went home! Well, first I went to the basement to my desk to drop some stuff off, make some notes, and approve a sick day for one of my staff. While down there, I got caught by another staff member wanting advice about an ethical dilemma involving computer time on the public PCs. Wheeee.

I never did finish that immigrants and reading programs article.....


  1. Wow. I took the day off and after reading about yours am really glad I did. ;->
    Like the poetry view from your cousin. I do a "poem of the day" email for a select group of friends and family myself. It helps me to inject poetry into my own day.
    Hope you have a relaxing evening.

  2. What an exciting day! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. thanks, ladies! and Shonna, I told Sim about your poem of the day thing!