Monthly Archives: August 2013

Big Library Read

OverDrive recently announced the title for the second Big Library Read, to be held September 16-30, 2013. For those of you unfamiliar with Big Library Read, the program provides unlimited simultaneous access to the chosen eBook for a two-week period to all participating libraries. The first program, from May 15 to June 1, 2013, featured Michael Malone’s Four Corners of the Sky. This time OverDrive is highlighting a children’s book — Jane O’Connor’s Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth.
Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth. Why do a Big Library Read? According to OverDrive CEO Steve Potash (in a May Library Journal article), “We want to demonstrate once and for all the enormous influence of the library demographic, and that when libraries put an eBook in their catalog it serves a valuable role in increasing exposure and engagement with an author’s work.”
I think this program is a great way for libraries to highlight their digital collections without having to worry about patrons encountering a waiting list. Participating in Big Library Read could lead to conversations about other electronic materials the library offers, and could potentially lend itself to a library book discussion program. I hope the program also helps improve the relationship between libraries and publishers by providing data on the impact that library promotion of a book has on that book’s sales. For instance, I participated in the first Big Library Read, and when I wasn’t able to finish the book within the two-week check-out period, I looked for another copy of it. (True, I ended up borrowing the print copy from my local library — all the electronic copies were checked out, and there was a waiting list! — but I know many others who would choose to buy a book rather than wait for it to become available at the library.)
I’m curious to see how many checkouts Nancy Clancy gets, and how sales of the title (both electronic and in print) are affected by the program. It’ll also be interesting to compare the second Big Read’s statistics to the first one. Will a children’s book get more or fewer readers than Malone’s novel did in May? Will the changes in sales be similar? (For those interested, The Digital Shift published a nice review of checkout statistics for the last Big Library Read.)
What are your thoughts on Big Library Read? What do you think of OverDrive’s choice of a children’s book?

Defending YA Literature

I spend most of my time interacting with other librarians and writers, often of the teen/young adult variety, so I sometimes forget the skepticism that surrounds the “value” or “credibility” of young adult literature. A  recent post on The Hub, the Young Adult Library Services Association’s blog about teen books, followed by a conversation with a friend who didn’t read YA but loved my recommendation of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, reminded me that there are still a lot of YA skeptics out there.
The Knife of Never Letting Go. So I’m going to pull out my soap box for a minute (something I do so rarely that it was gathering dust beneath discarded drafts of manuscripts) to address those nay-sayers. First of all, young adult is not a genre. Just as “children’s” books vary from Good Night Moon to The Mark of Athena to Bud, Not Buddy and “adult” books range from A Game of Thrones to The Cuckoo’s Calling to Fifty Shades of Gray, “young adult” novels span an array of genres and storylines. YA does not mean Twilight just as romance (or even erotica) does not mean Fifty Shades. Like books geared towards other age groups, you’ll find the good, the bad, and the “how did this ever get published?”.
The Fault in Our Stars. Some of the best writing and storytelling I’ve encountered has been in young adult novels; and I’m not the only one who thinks so. In 2012, Time magazine named John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars the best book of the year. The Hunger Games , The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Divergent have all been made or are being made into movies. And members of the book club I run at the library, who range in age from twenties to eighties, unanimously agreed that Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief was one of the best books they’d ever read.
So what is it that turns people against YA literature? Is it the belief that YA is all vampires, werewolves, and sappy love stories? Or the belief that books written for teens can’t be “edgy” enough? (To you, I recommend Ilsa Bick, Mike Mullin, and Elizabeth Wein.) I’m not trying to turn anyone into a YA reader; I just wish more people were aware of the range and depth of YA novels out there.
As a librarian, I’ll judge you more if you tell me you don’t read than if you tell me E.L. James is your favorite author. I’ll even point you to E.L. James read-alikes without batting an eye. (Incidentally, Sylvia Day ought to be giving librarians royalties for directing Fifty Shades fans her way.) All I ask is that you give my reading preferences the same respect. And if you’re looking for a good book, YA or otherwise, let me know!

Death of the Desktop Computer

As we discussed ideas for our library’s future at a department meeting last week, someone brought up the decline of desktop computers as tablets and smartphones take their place. While I’d come up with ways to incorporate mobile devices into more of our services and programs, I hadn’t considered actually getting rid of the desktop computers we have now. They are our biggest draw — most people who come to the library come not for the books, DVDs, or audiobooks, but for the computers. I have trouble picturing anything else in that space.

However, swapping stationary desks and computers for mobile tablets could allow for increased flexibility. Not only would it open up that space for other uses, but patrons could take the devices to other parts of the library. Students working on group projects could take tablets to a study room so they could collaborate without disturbing other patrons. Parents with young children could bring a mobile device up to the Children’s Department to apply for jobs or complete school assignments while their kids look at picture books. And the once-inflexible lab space could be carved into smaller meeting rooms for individuals or study groups — something we always seem to need more of at our library.

Of course, we’re not dumping our desktops tomorrow. But a few years from now, as technology continues to become more mobile, our spaces and services need to change to reflect this mobility. Do you think I’m getting ahead of myself? Do you want to make a case for the desktop computer?

Thinking Ahead: The Public Library’s Future

I know the Internet is pretty saturated with articles about this right now.  I’ve seen some variation on the phrase “remain relevant” at least four times this week alone in various blogs and professional publications.  But our director has asked each department to come up with ways for our library to continue to provide the services and facilities that will best serve our customers both now and in the future.  Following my department’s meeting, I sat down and made a list of things I’ve seen or read about at other libraries that I think would be successful here.  I won’t bog you down with the whole list (though if you’d like me to send it to you, let me know in the comments section), but here are a few of the highlights.
  1. Genre shelving.  I love the Dewey Decimal System as much as the next librarian.  I have the call numbers memorized for the auto repair manuals, the cookbooks, and the marketing guides.  But how many people come to the desk looking for the 600s?  (For that matter, how many of them even know what the 600s are?)  Nearly everyone who is new to the area comes in asking where the mysteries are, or the fantasy section, or the romance books.  One could argue that in academia Dewey still has its place, but especially as public libraries are becoming the replacement for bricks-and-mortar bookstores as places to browse for pleasure reading, we need to arrange our materials in a way that makes sense to our patrons.
  2. Highlighting our digital collections more outside the library.  A recent Library Journal article discussed library branches opening in Kansas airports which included QR codes that travelers could scan to access digital titles on their eReaders, tablets, or smartphones.  Another article earlier this year covered a partnership between the library and the public transit system in Philadelphia with similar QR codes and the option for those without library cards to get a free trial membership on-the-spot (which they could later extend by providing proof of address at a library branch).  We’re not an urban library, and we don’t have any major airports or transit systems (there are public buses, but most people drive everywhere), but I like this idea of highlighting digital collections outside the library.  The fact that you can check out a book instantly without going to the library is one of the main appeals of electronic collections.  So I thought of some other places people may want that instant reading material, like waiting rooms in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  If someone’s waiting for an appointment, why not display a QR code linking to the library’s free magazines?  They may be more interesting than the six-month-old People sitting on the coffee table.  What about auto repair shops, coffee shops, or cafes?  I think digital collections have a lot more potential for us to meet people where they are and draw in new patrons.
  3. Creating a community display area.  Currently, staff create all the displays in our library, and the only bulletin board is in the staff lounge.  I’ve read about other libraries that allow community artists to sign up or apply for monthly or quarterly exhibits featuring their work.  And I’d like to see a community bulletin board where local organizations can advertise upcoming events.  The board could also be used as another way to engage patrons with things like magnetic poetry, mystery quotes, and so on.  I’d really like to see our space engaging our patrons more than it currently is.

I think that’s enough for this week.  Like I said, if you want the whole list, let me know!  And if you have any ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them.