The Virtual Library

I’m giving a presentation at the COSUGI (Customers of SirsiDynix Users Group, Inc.) conference the first week of March. This is the software helps us manage library operations.  The library’s online catalog is part of that system.  The presentation is called “Keeping It Real: Strategies for Planning and Implementing the Virtual Library.” I’ll post it after the conference.

Library websites have grown right along with library users. What drew people to the web 2 years or even 6 months ago isn’t necessarily what they’re using now. User expectations grow along with the new experiences technology offers and that’s certainly true of library customers.

400 million people are using Facebook. At the end of 2009, Twitter had 75 million twitterers (or tweeters) with 49,000 of them online at any hour of the day. 28 million of us use the iPhone application to connect with Facebook friends; over 3 million of us are reading an eBook on our IPhone right now. ( Me included.)

How do libraries operate in this dynamic and ever-changing environment? Partly by doing what we’ve always done – focus on our customers and deliver services, programs and collections they want and need. In the web environment, it also means using different resources, skills, tools and partnering with other information professionals to deliver the goods.

The most important part of the virtual library, just like the physical library is people. It’s the people of our community who use and support the library and those of us who are privileged to serve them. Things have changed a bit since I was a reference librarian in the previous century. As you’ll see, what hasn’t changed is librarians’ commitment to connecting to library customers and providing great service. Here’s an interview with one of our rock star librarians, Lissa Staley. We talked about how librarians work in this virtual environment and how she sees her role as a 21st century librarian.

Why isn’t the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library’s budget like other public libraries’ budgets?

I’d like to respond to some questions comparing this Library’s budget to other public libraries’ budgets in Kansas. First, not all public libraries are the same. Governance, services offered, service levels, population served, number of registered library users, types and means of service deployment, size of collections, circulation and many other characteristics vary enormously. The degree to which communities choose to use and support their libraries varies too.  And Kansas public libraries are no exception.

Unless those variables are taken into account, comparisons aren’t really meaningful. Here’s just one example. Most public libraries in Kansas and in the United States are part of larger units of government. They may be part of a city, county or even a larger unit of service. With respect to their budgets, this means that costs for certain activities ranging from facilities maintenance, utilities, administrative services (like human resources), financial and accounting services, vehicles, capitial improvements, etc aren’t included in the library’s overall budget figures because those services are provided by the city, county, etc. The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library is a separate entity from city or county government. All activities needed to manage a public library and provide services to the community are reflected in the budget figures you see on our Digital Branch.

Stay tuned for more information on why we will begin charging library users a late fees for overdue books and other library materials…….

Babies and Books

I’m a grandma, twice now. Austin, who is 3 years old, and Allison (Allie) who is 7 months old. Just as I did with my son Nick, I’ve inundated them with books and read to them since they were fetuses. As a librarian, mother and now a grandmother, I’ve always known how important it is to read to children from birth, but science is confirming those instincts.

This is from an article from our Digital Branch  in the Consumer Health Complete database under Health and Wellness. It’s called “Baby Steps” by Anita Sethi from the December, 2006 issue of Baby Talk magazine.

It’s never too early to start reading to your baby. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud daily to your child starting at 6 months, there’s no reason why your newborn can’t enjoy a good book, too. Research indicates that by age 2, children who were read to at an early age had better language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive scores. Here’s how to start your baby’s love affair with books: get cozy. Curl up with your tiny tot and hold the book so she can see the pictures. Babies love to hear the sound of their mom’s voice, so not only read the story to her but comment on it (“That’s so funny!’). Turn off distractions like the radio and TV, and devote your attention to her. feed her senses. Babies especially like stories with rhythmic patterns, such as songs and nursery rhymes. Board books with clear, high-contrast illustrations will be most appealing. They also love pictures of other babies. Try relating the pictures to her life (“Here’s a rubber duckie. You have one in your tub!”).
Schedule a daily story time. Build books into your routine now. Set aside a few minutes every day to read aloud when she is rested and alert. Start by reading a page or two at a time and gradually add more as she becomes engaged. If she gets restless or fussy, put the book away and try again the next day.

As I visit with customers in the library, I frequently approach young parents with babies, ask if they’ve visited our children’s area and if they’re reading to their little ones. It’s wonderful to hear how often they’re taking advantage of the expertise of our youth services librarians and participating in our Born Learning program, but if not, my goal is to get them there and to walk out the door with that first board book for baby.

I just returned from a visit with my grandchildren in Iowa. And once again I’m reminded of how important and fun it is to read to young children. My husband Ried and I did lots of things with our grandkids. We went to the park, participated in an Easter egg hunt, helped Austin ride his brand new Spiderman bike, played on the floor with Allie and practiced waving bye-bye. And we read to both children. For Austin, it was The Cat in the Hat and Are You My Mother? For Allie, it was The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which she actually tried to chew – she’s teething at the moment.) I noticed when I picked it up that there was already a bite-shaped section taken out of the top of the book. Evidently Austin thought it was tasty too.

Remember that reading is a feast for all the senses – that’s how we develop that lifelong love of books and reading. If there’s any doubt about how babies love books, take a look at Allie. She not only loves stories, she thinks they’re delicious!

For more info. and lists, check out Babies Need Books; Sharing the Joy of Books with Children from Birth to Six by Dorothy Butler

Great first books for babies: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

We have hundreds of board books for babies and toddlers in the children’s area. Every child is different. Find the right one for the baby or young child in your life. And let me know what worked for you and the baby or child that you love.

What is your baby’s or grandbaby’s favorite book?