Friday, February 17, 2012

Observations of libraries – common features and comments

It was fascinating to read all your observations about a library near you.  Many of you went to your local library and systematically toured the building, looking at the various departments, layout, services, and staffing. In some cases, it was the first time you actually focused on the library & the services it provided. Children’s libraries were a big hit, as were computer labs. A few of you went to academic libraries. Alas, none of you observed the goings on at an historical society or a special library. I hope you will take the opportunity to interview a professional at an institution you don’t know well or in an aspect of the field that is foreign to you.

Few of you commented about librarian / patron interactions although some mentioned experiences at the circulation desk, with self-checkout machines, or registration for new cards. This is a great method to employ when contemplating how someone new to a community sees your institution. First impressions are so important. We almost never have the opportunity to correct poor impressions.

Lack of or poor signage seems to be a serious issue in almost all libraries. How are our patrons supposed to find anything when the stacks and areas are poorly labeled or there is not signage at all? What does it mean to a community when a library neglects signage? Or lets the website go out of date with stale links and year old events?

There were lots of summaries of activities and detailed tours of buildings and collections. Some of you were very creative asking questions and setting up scenarios as first time patron to get the feel for the culture of the library. Very commendable!

One of you talked about a “gadget” gallery, where the library had various e-book readers and electronic devices that patrons could try out. What a great idea! That combines ERI and serves the patrons who are curious about what to acquire or how to use a piece of technology.

What I found most lacking was a discussion of how the literature we have read so far, or listened to, helped you set the library into context in a community. A few of you brought in references to the literature, but a very few. Pulling in the literature was an integral part of the assignment. I expect you do to so for the journal article review and for the interview.

Think about how the readings provide background to the field, to the profession or specialty.
How does the institution you visited compare with what you read about? Is it typical or different? What is offered that was surprising or revolutionary?

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