Public Library: A Day in the Life

Hello! I’m Heather Love Beverley, and I’m a Children’s Librarian for a large public library district in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. This is my day- Welcome!

10:45am-11am: Today’s a late start day for me- I work one evening a week, and today’s my day!  I have a late morning meeting first thing, so I arrive 15 minutes before the start to do a quick check of my email. I’m glad I do, because I discover that a second meeting I had planned for the day- set to start immediately after my first!- has been canceled and moved to another day. Continue reading


What our Patrons Value

by Emily Hamstra

Every time a new Pew Internet report comes out, I’m likely to stop everything I’m doing to read it. Yesterday, Pew Internet & American Life released the fascinating report Library Services in the Digital Age. The report is based on surveys and focus groups asking public library patrons what they value in library services, and how they use the library. The findings in this report greatly affect our daily work as we think about services that meet the needs of our patrons.

What captured my attention the most about this report is “main reasons patrons cite why their use [of library services] decreased.” 40% of patrons stated they “can get books, do research online and the internet is more convenient.” How many times have we all been asked about the role of our profession, collections, and spaces now that we can just “Google it”? We spend a lot of time as librarians building awesome electronic collections and services, enhancing our community’s access to quality resources from databases and downloadable ebooks to librarians through chat reference services. We often don’t have time to market these services to our patrons, teaching them how the library can enhance their digital lives. Many of our patrons might think finding information online is “more convenient” than using the library because they might not know what we have to offer. One participant in a focus group for the report says about the library, “they do so many fabulous things, [but] they have horrible marketing” (full report, pg. 38).

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Keeping the end in mind (also: public libraries and cross-country travel)

by Sarah Elichko

Whether it’s how librarians talk to library students, tired approaches to library activism, or even what is posted on social media sites, attitudes (both negative and positive) have gotten a lot of attention in the library blogosphere lately.

Granted all of the very real challenges facing our profession (and society at large), I think it’s essential to keep the larger point in mind.  We’ll accomplish more if we pause to remind ourselves why we do the work we do, or why we’re trying so hard to obtain a position where we can do said good work.

Sometimes a personal approach to this question is more readily grasped than statistics and other objective measures of impact, so to that end, my post today will focus on the many ways in which public libraries helped me and my friends during a 3-week trip across the US.  (And later I’ll get back to talking about keeping the larger goal in mind.)
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Lexiles, Genres and Page Counts, Oh My!

Like most librarians, we at Chasing Reference love to read- just take a look at all our What We’re Reading posts. Reading and sharing books is one of the joys of librarianship, and the art of Reader’s Advisory (RA) is a vital part of nearly every librarian’s position. RA can be a wonderful puzzle, carefully pulling together the threads of a reader’s interest to find just the right book for them.  When you work with children, as I do, RA becomes a fascinating blend of both reference and RA, as children sometimes need help finding a book that meets certain homework and school criteria. Continue reading

Library Hours: CLOSED FOR JULY

by Amy Barlow

Providence Community Libraries (PCL), a private not-for-profit branch system with nine location in Providence, RI, is outraged over the city’s decision to cut 10% of its funding. The city’s budget meeting has been postponed several times, but should take place tonight. As a radical coping strategy, PCL is considering the closure of all library branches for an entire month (July, September, or December/January holiday season), in the event that the city passes the budget, as is. Instead of limiting hours during the day, or shaving days from the week, it is hoped that a drastic closure plan, during one of the busiest months, will cause public uproar and demonstrate the value of the branches in the communities that they serve.

I spoke with PCL’s Andria Tieman, an Adult Services Librarian, about the budget shortfall.

  • Andria, briefly summarize how the city’s fiscal decisions will impact the operation of Providence Community Libraries.

Andria: The reduction of PCL’s budget by 10% represents a reduction of $355,000 for a library that already operates on a shoestring budget.  Last year’s annual report shows that the bulk of our money was spent on staffing the libraries with little else for materials purchasing or any extras. All of our media collections are donated materials. Presently, according to a study funded by Broadband Rhode Island, 30% of Rhode Islanders lack basic computer skills. Add to that the high unemployment rate in the state, and that means we need libraries more than ever, but a 10% reduction in services would force libraries to slash hours and lay off staff.

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Summer is coming…

When the days begin to get longer, the temperature starts to rise, and June begins to peek at you from just around the corner, you know what that means: Summer is coming! Summer:  that delightful season of sun and fun! And for public libraries, summer is also the start of Summer Reading. What is that? It can be many things: It can be that pile of delicious books you’ve been saving to read on the beach; it can be the list of required reading students are given to tackle before the fall semester; and it can be, as is the case for many public libraries across the country, a season-long celebration of our love of reading.

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Travel Reading

Back in my very first post, Public Librarian: Day in the Life, I mentioned that my public library has two branches, and I often work and travel between the two. Doing so necessitates the art of traveling light, and therefore, as much as I love my review journals (oh, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, Library Journal, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, I do love you!), I often have to leave them behind in my office while I am traveling.  What, then, is a librarian to do in order to stay current on all things book and library related? I found the answer in my trusty blog reader, Google Reader. It has become my preferred traveling resource for all things library and book news related. All I need to access it is a computer with internet access (AKA: a reference desk!) to read some of my favorite blogs and stay well informed of what’s going on in the library-world.

Although I follow many different blogs, there are some that have risen to become my favorites, and I consider vital to staying well informed. To begin with, many of ALA’s associations have wonderful informative blogs. ALSC’s blog is a must-read for any librarian working with children. From inventive programs and storytime ideas,  thought-provoking articles on library practices, to fantastic book recommendations, they cover it all. If you are a librarian working with young adults, YALSA’s blog  is full of informative articles on YA services and interesting tech insights and trends.

School Library Journal hosts a variety of blogs, all of them interesting and insightful, but I find myself again and again turning to Elizabeth Bird of the New York Public Library’s blog, A Fuse 8 production. Written with wit and grace, A Fuse 8 covers new books and library news.

100 Scope Notes, written by school librarian Travis Jonker, contains a wealth of interesting reviews and insights into children’s literature. The feature, Morning Notes, collects fascinating news and links of all things book and library related, and is a feature not to be missed.

A fantastic resource, one not to be missed, is Cynsations. Written by author Cynthia Leitich Smith, this blog extensively covers all things in the publishing world regarding children’s and YA literature, focuses on free speech advocacy, provides inspiring author interviews and much more.

With the help of these blogs, and others like them, I am able to stay well-informed and up-to-date, while still traveling light between locations. Yet the wonderful thing about blog readers is that there is always room for one more blog. So tell me, dear readers, what blogs are on your must follow list?

Public Library: A Day in the Life

Hello, I’m a librarian for a large, suburban Chicago library. Primarily, I’m a children’s librarian, but I am also one the library’s webmasters. Welcome to my day!

Today is a double desk shift day. Our library schedules the reference desk in four hour shifts, and today I have two shifts back-to-back, but at different locations, which makes for a very lively day. With that, here we go:

1pm-4:45pm, Location #1

– My shift starts with the traditional Changing of the Guards- chatting with the librarians I was replacing, finding out what had happened during the morning shift.

– Email! 96 unread emails are waiting for me to answer.

– 3rd email reveals that there are several glitches on our newly upgraded website that need fixing. I start investigating what needs to be done, find a solution, and email the website team my findings.

– Finished reading email. In the process, I added two new meetings, plus a possible third, to my schedule, in addition to one new tween program. I forwarded an interesting program idea to our Children’s Program Coordinator, and was amazed at the awesome graphics our designer created for some upcoming events.

– More trouble with website glitches- this time I need to contact our computer support time. I spend an agonizing 15 minutes trying to explain to our computer support company just what is going on. In the midst of that, a repair person for our color printer arrives and I try not to get the two issue mixed up!

– During a quiet period, I helped a co-worker set up a Facebook Ad for the library. While doing that, we did some reference for ourselves to find out what an “Auto Intender” is. The answer? Someone who intends to buy an automobile within the next 6 months.

– Back to the website glitches! Had a brief, on the spot conference with a fellow webteam member where we filled each other in on various issues and what needed to be done.

– Perpetuating the myth that a librarian can actually read on the job, I had my personal copy of The Hunger Games with me on desk. I’m trying to re-read it before the movie comes out. It’s a great conversation starter, and I have several patrons and co-workers stop and talk with me about the book and upcoming movie. By the end of my shift, my personal copy has a hold on it for a fellow staff member since all 30 copies in the library are checked out with over 100 people on the waiting list.

– Throughout the four hour shift, helped multiple patrons find books: humor books, adventure books, picture books, realistic fiction, and reluctant readers. All left with armfuls of books. Hopefully, they find a few new favorites in their stacks!

– Congratulated three different children on getting their first library card!

– Did some computer troubleshooting for patrons. Computer troubleshooting always means that I have to crawl around on the floor, checking cable connections.

– After leaving the desk, on my way to my second shift, stopped to talk to a co-worker and had a quick 5 minute brainstorming session on future programs for teens. The Hunger Games featured prominently in our planning ideas.

4:45pm- 5:05pm, Driving in My Car

– Drove to the second location. Due to rain, the traffic was slow. Due to the double shift, I ate dinner in the car.


– Take two for the Changing of the Guards! The afternoon was busy at the second location, so there was lots to share and know for the evening shift.

– Changing of the Guards turned into a discussion about an upcoming tween program (Duct Tape Crafts!) and the logistics of it. That, in turn, evolved into a discussion of summer program for tweens. It’s just around the corner, even though its only March!

– The desk is hopping! The library is a popular place tonight, and I spend the evening answering questions about Pokemon, Native Americans, the Louisiana Purchase, the Dave Matthew Band, and more.

– Took a moment to check my email and discovered a department scheduling crisis. Sent off emails to resolve the problem and managed to fill the gap.

– Went back to the web glitches and began to re-code some of the more troublesome areas.
– Problems abound with the public computers, printer and copier! I fixed paper jams, solved browser errors, refilled paper, and then some.

– Registered a person to vote.

– Took a breath, and realized it was near quitting time. Began closing procedures: cleaning up abandoned books, shutting of computers.

– With everything all cleaned up and ready for the morning, headed out the door, done for the day, and ready to start all over again tomorrow!