The courtesy email

Today I’ll share a small gain we’ve made on a rather mundane topic: overdue notices, produced via Destiny.  For years, this has been our schedule:

7-14 days overdue > regular 1st overdue notice emailed

15-21 days overdue > regular 2nd overdue notice emailed

22+ days overdue  > report produced to me for follow-up individually (ie. I’m the heavy)

The 22+ day report produced was usually 3-4 pages long. Which means not only did we often have popular books being held hostage, but it took a good deal of time and energy to follow up.

Until the dawn of the courtesy email!

I’ve lost the thread of where I heard about this (please tell me if it was you so that I can send you flowers). It’s been a huge improvement.

Sending the following email to borrowers who have materials due in the following week has cut that long overdue report from 3-4 pages to less than one:

“Just a friendly reminder that your book (or books) are coming due soon. Please return by the due date or contact us if you wish a renewal. Thank you.”

Students and staff are renewing and/or returning in greater numbers and people have expressed appreciation to us for giving them a heads up – customer service for the win! It’s also opened up more conversation with readers who take a bit more time to read, which is making me wonder if, rather than having a set borrowing period, we should start asking borrowers how much time they’d like (within reason).

Is anyone out there trying user-driven due dates?

“So, what do you DO all day?”

While I am fortunate to have extremely supportive colleagues, every once in a while, someone makes a comment that reminds me not everyone knows exactly what we do in the Library. Particularly when we’re not doing something obvious like working with a class. And to be honest, days can fly by without me even realizing how we’re filling the hours.

So when the unimaginable recently happened ( I had a day that was completely clear on my schedule), I decided to track it to see how an unplanned day played out –

  • Worked the desk for the morning so my brave colleague could dig out & re-organize our supply cupboard:
    • Welcomed students new to library study (reviewed guidelines with them)
    • Assisted innumerable students resolve a new printer glitch
    • Assisted innumerable students set up new Noodletools accounts
    • Helped a student fine-tune her References written from scratch (and then helped her set up Noodletools for future use)
    • Provided reader’s advisory to an English teacher looking for books for her new reading initiative ‘First Chapter Fridays’ (love it!)
    • Scheduled a postponed summer reading book discussion
    • Tried to catch up on professional journals but was reminded how this never works while I’m on the desk
  • Did some book club planning with student leaders
  • Prepped for my next AP Research class
  • Met with 2 advisees (once about a course change; one feeling overwhelmed)
  • Prepped for some upcoming classes about accessing audiobooks
  • Went to school store to pick up school-crested gift for an author visit
  • Reviewed metered titles that had expired in Overdrive, selecting some for re-purchase
  • Submitted an order for Grade 9 Lit Circle books to a local bookstore
  • Met with our school environmental rep about updating training for student reps (based on my housemaster perspective)
  • Confirmed upcoming research visit to Queen’s University
  • Reviewed revised interview forms for Admissions (I sit on the committee)
  • Set up attendance roster for chapel choir attendance (I’m helping with management)
  • Submitted a reference for a former library steward who has applied for a volunteer position
  • Moved ‘update budget’ to another day for the 17th time (I really need to make this priority) and called it a day

This exercise reminded me of one of my best all-time experiences at my school. In advance of fundraising for our new Commons (including a library renovation), an Advancement director met with me to learn more about the library (so he could speak more knowledgeably when approaching potential donors). Not knowing where to start, I opened my planner and reviewed the past 2 weeks of activity. He was literally gobsmacked; “I had no idea”.

It was awesome.

 

 

Pondering post-secondary

While our schools have evolved from solely preparing students for post-secondary to helping them become engaged citizens who carefully and critically use information to meet their needs, I would be failing in my role if I did not make every effort to ensure that our students have mastered some key basics before heading off to college/university.

I find inspiration for this through work done by many members of AISL, offered through this blog and at annual conferences (research conducted by Courtney Lewis being particularly helpful), and also through visits to academic libraries. My family and friends know that if I’m travelling to a new place, I’m going to be reaching out to university librarians in that area. Besides being good fun, being able to reference recent conversations with academic librarians can enhance my ‘street cred’ with students and faculty.

I was fortunate to visit 3 universities on two of the Canadian coasts this summer: Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Vancouver, British Columbia. What I found was immensely ‘do-able’ and reassuring.I don’t think this is because I’m nailing it, rather that despite constant changes in technology, some key tenets remain the same:

  • Arriving at school with the knowledge that support and resources are available from a magical place called a library puts them ahead of the pack
  • Knowing a particular citation style is not as important as them knowing when and how to cite
  • Information/media literacy is key – students who are used to looking at sources critically, considering potential bias, will be best set up for success

What do they see lacking in their first-year students?

  • Having the ability to read deeply, and with intention
  • Knowing how to back-plan for time-consuming reading & research
  • Recognizing that theft in a larger community is real – don’t leave your laptops/phones unattended in the library!

Based on all of this, I’m feeling good about having gotten our long-stalled library orientation off the ground again this year; resuming my winter sessions with grads to prepare them for using academic libraries; and implementing NoodleTools. I need to ramp up my PR on working with teachers on information literacy and continue modelling deep reading.

I remain enormously grateful to be part of a profession which happily blurs “divisions”. I have never had an academic or public librarian be less than enthusiastic about meeting with me to look at how to better support students, and I happily keep a stash of school-crested gifts and thank you notes to show my appreciation.

Low-tech/no-tech…

Our local makers club, Northumberland Makers, held an open house last weekend to celebrate their grand opening in a new, dedicated location (a pretty cool community space, but that’s another story).

It offers access to many tech tools: 3D printers, tool & die cutters, a soldering station, robotics and much more – but what really struck me was that all of the new technology peacefully (and dare I say enthusiastically) co-existed beside their low-tech offerings such as toy hacking, duct tape crafting and collaborative weaving. Below is my duct tape rose and my son’s creation (“I feel like Sid from Toy Story but not as evil”).

I found this very heartening in light of our library’s choice to narrow the focus on our own makerspace this past school year. We’ve seen many inspiring spaces at school and public libraries, but had to face two important facts:

  • our current skillset, areas of interest and budget lies more in realm of crafting
  • our tech dept is ramping up their student space (3-D printer, rockets, robotics, etc)

And so our Tinker Table was born. It lives at the front of the library (although it makes periodic trips to the Commons), and students can find a new craft or activity each week. While we’ve included Arduino in our arsenal, most offerings involve low- (button maker) or no-tech materials (washi-taped thank you cards).

It’s wonderful to be reminded that while we aim to offer something for everyone, it’s okay not to try to be all things to all patrons. Whew (cue sigh of relief). Off to tinker….

A-musing on magazines

I’ve read the recent email thread on print magazine subscriptions with interest; like many of you, I waffle between wanting to honour this format while aiming to ensure budget dollars are well spent.

I’ve felt particularly guilty as we ordered not 1 but 2 magazine cabinets for our renovated library in 2015 (prognostication not on point). Moving them has helped, but we really need to see more traffic to justify renewing subscriptions.

And then we had a thought. The kids always seem shocked to realize that they can lift the lids to find issues – what if we just left the lids open?  So we did. And they’ve attracted more attention so far this week than they have all year. 

Go figure. Shame it took us so long to figure it out…..

A pledge

 

I am fortunate to be heading to #aisl2018 in Atlanta in a few weeks and as I age become more experienced, I’ve learned to apply greater intention to my professional development. I find it easy to become overwhelmed with all that’s possible, and so aim to be more effective and efficient by setting some goals:

  • As in the past, I’ll focus on bringing 3 action items back for short-term implementation (any more and the whole list gets swamped by daily responsibilities; I’ll review longer term possibilities over the summer)
  • I’ll try a new format for my conference report (in the past, I’ve used Animoto and Canva – always good for me to learn something new)
  • I’ll work on balancing time with long-time colleagues (can’t wait to catch up with my roomie!) and connecting with new librarians

This last one is important. I’ve benefitted enormously from the wisdom and guidance of others, and it’s time to pay it forward. While sometimes in denial about the years flying by, I’ve been around for a while and there’s a new and exciting generation with whom I need to connect. As accountability it the key to whatever success I’ve found (clear to those of you who follow my @bookremarks Instagram account), I’m pledging here to sit on the bus with someone new throughout the conference. And I’ll report back on this at end of April.

Shoe or phone?

 

We cannot be the only school library that likes to have power cords available for use by students in need. Sometimes phone but mostly laptop, requests are frequent and desperate, so we’re happy to help.

Except for the fact that we kept losing them. Despite what I thought were some well thought out practices for tracking these expensive accessories: cataloguing and circulating them, attaching metre-sticks to them, allowing use only at our desk. NOTHING WORKED.

Until we started asking for a shoe or a phone. These seem to be the only 2 things that a student will not leave the library without. We haven’t lost a charger since we started doing this 3 months ago.

(Okay – on one occasion, a Grade 9 boy wandered out minus a shoe but figured it out by end of day and was back with the charger. I call that a win.)

Shining a light

While southern Ontario can hardly be considered the Great White North, we do have cold, dark winter months, so we have a number of initiatives to try and keep student spirits up.

Our administration is enthusiastically supporting a few ‘sleep-ins’ (where classes begin at 10am), our prefects have launched some great events for Spirit Week and our library has been experimenting with light therapy. It kept coming up on my radar through professional journals and social media, as light therapy lamps have been shown to help with lifting mood (and in more formal settings than ours, combatting seasonal depression).  With our library open 11+ supervised hours on most days, it offers a comfortable and supervised location for use of a light therapy lamp.  Before purchase, we consulted with both our Dean of Academic & Student Support and our Director of Health Services, both of whom are in full support.

Based on recommendations from 2 public libraries who’ve had light therapy lamps in use for over a year (and found a floor model more flexible), we chose this model http://northernlighttechnologies.com/sad-light-store/flamingo-floor-lamp  We’ve had ours in use for 3 months now, located beside some of our soft seating. We laminated the information sheet that came with the lamp and keep it immediately adjacent. If we notice that someone has turned it on but doesn’t have the light shining directly on their face, we will suggest they re-position (as per the information sheet).

As the lamp is located near our staff desk, we don’t monitor use, although we do notice who is using it regularly. Interestingly enough, it has been exclusively female students who are taking advantage of this resource in our co-ed school. Recently, I sat down with a female boarding student in Grade 11 who uses the lamp regularly:

  • She heard our announcement about the lamp in chapel, and so sought it out, using it
    while doing work during her spares
  • While she hadn’t used one before, she was familiar with light therapy as her mom uses a lamp at home
  • Rather than use it to lift her mood (as I know is the case for at least 2 other users), she finds that it helps her focus better when studying

While it’s entirely possible that there is a placebo effect for those who use it at less than a therapeutic level (ideally a minimum of 15 min/day, every day or alternate days), the lamp does seem to be providing benefit to some of our users. We will continue promoting it: writing this article has made me realize that I need to add a tab about the lamp on our LibGuides webpage (similar to TPL). This would provide us with an opportunity to direct users to other resources at our school that can help with keeping healthy (food services, housemasters, peer support, health centre, etc).

Now to figure out the gender issue….

A eulogy for our local newspaper

Last fall, I read Cecily Ross’ The lost diaries of Susanna Moodie, a fictionalized journal based on the life of a woman who emigrated to from England to the backwoods of Canada in 1830s.

If that hasn’t put you to sleep, know that I am fascinated by Moodie (and her sister Catharine Parr Traill) for a number of reasons, the greatest of which is that they settled in the area I call home. I often walk by the Cobourg wharf where their ship landed, have made the 10-minute drive into the country to see the historic plaque posted where Moodie first lived, and read the daily paper in which she published her poetry.

But no more – our local paper, published since 1831, has been shuttered. Sad but not surprising; many of the people indignant about the cut hadn’t shown their support with subscription dollars, and advertising revenue has understandably declined along with readership.

What will I miss about having the local paper in our library?

  • Reading coverage of school events (and having someone to ask to cover an event)
  • Learning about students’ & colleagues’ non-school activities in the community
  • Keeping up with obituaries of those who’ve passed in our small town
  • Watching someone complete the crossword or Suduko
  • Having a plethora of newsprint for art teachers in need (she says with partial sarcasm)

I am no Luddite, but felt it important to mark the end of this chapter. I’m curious to see what fate lies ahead for our national papers – one has recently changed formats, and I’ve been surprised to see it being read more frequently in our casual seating area. Coincidence? Temporary halt of the inevitable?