Awesome Somerville Public Library

Harvard Library and the Somerville Public Library:

Innovation and Collaboration

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Best of Publib received the following press release from the Somerville Public Library in Somerville, Massachusetts:

Matt Phillips and Annie Cain

Matt Phillips and Annie Cain – Creators of the Awesome Box

The Somerville Public Library, in a partnership with the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, launched the “Awesome Box” project at all three SPL branches in early February. This endeavor will allow patrons to give fellow users suggestions on what book/CD/DVD they found to be “awesome.”

“Somerville is the first public library to get on board with the ‘Awesome Box’ project,” says Maria Carpenter, Somerville’s library director. “We are always looking for dynamic, innovative and creative approaches to library service, and this was certainly one of those.”

Awesome Box

Awesome Box

Here’s how it will work: When a patron particularly enjoys an item, he or she will return the book into the “Awesome Box,” which will be clearly labeled with appropriate signage. Then, a library staff member will scan the book twice – once, checking the book in as usual, then another time to list that item on the “awesome” page, which can be found here: http://somerville.awesomebox.io/.

Patrons can then visit the page and see what others have found notably enlightening, mind-blowing or helpful recently. There is also a “most awesome” section, which shows the items that were most thought to be awesome. Users can also search for items that are listed as awesome. When patrons click on the media’s icon, it takes them to the item’s listing on the Minuteman Library Network catalog, so that they can read more about the item and its availability or place it on hold.

For more information about this project, call Maria Carpenter at 617.623.5000 or email her at  mcarpenter@somervillema.gov.

Awesome Somerville

Awesome Somerville

Somerville’s commitment to innovation and collaboration can be emulated by any other public library.  The Harvard Innovation Lab provides excellent documentation along with step-by-step instruction.   The Awesome Box project is just one direction they are exploring.

The great thing about this sort of project is that it capitalizes on patron momentum.  Whenever a patron returns a book or media, they either put it in the regular book drop or express their approval by putting it in the Awesome Box. Either way, the same energy is expended with an added value to the library as a book or media review.

There is an added value to the patron with their likes and preferences registered and noted. There is also an added value to all of the other patrons who might not otherwise know what gems the library contains. The only extra step is checking it in – scanning a second time  to register in the Awesome database.

Awesome Box - a simple, elegant idea.

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Best of Publib – January 2013 in Review

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Best of PubLib – January 2013 in Review

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Best of Publib January 2013

Best of Publib Word Cloud
January 2013

This edition of Best of Publib covers the month of January 2013.  Hot topics for the month of January included:

  • Cataloging Local Textbooks ~
    • Debra Bashaw of the McMullen Memorial Library in Huntington, TX asked:
    • How do you catalog cookbooks from local organizations?
  • Lending E-reader devices ~
    • Lucien Kress of the Multnomah County Library asked regarding the DOJ settlements over e-reader accessibility queried:
    • Are you loaning only accessible e-readers, which readers do you loan and other pertinent questions.
  • List Problems ~
    • Amy Mullin of the Austin Public Library wanted to know:
    • Are there technical problems with the list?
  • Playaways ~
    • John Richmond of the Alpha Park Public Libray District in Bartonville, IL pondered and ruminated:
    • “I’m wondering if anyone Out There has changed policies re: what they/you provide with Playaways. And if you took something away, did people holler? (Which, of course, they shouldn’t do, because they’re in a *library*.)”
  • Surveys for the Public ~
    • Elizabeth Thorson of the Laramie County Library System in Cheyenne, WY asked:
    • “Has anyone surveyed the public when facing budget cuts?”
  • Requests by Parents for in loco parentis services ~
    • Beth Hudson of the Walla Walla Public Library in Walla Walla, Washington wondered :
    • Does anyone have a written statement which they provide when a parents asks that you not check out certain items to their child?”.
  • Worst Marketing Idea(s) Ever ~
    • Dierdre Conkling of the Lincoln County Library District reported on ALA OIF’s plan for a sweater vest day to support intellectual freedom:
    • “I think this sounds like fun but I don’t own a sweater vest. Just shows once again that I am not cool. ;-)”

On January 10th The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom announced their ‘Wear a sweater vest on Sunday, Jan. 27, in support of intellectual freedom!‘ campaign.  If librarians attending Mid-Winter ALA would wear a sweater vest on that day, it would demonstrate their commitment and support of intellectual freedom.

In jaw-dropping, dumbfounded awe I asked:

I am trying to imagine how Judith Krug would have reacted to perhaps the worst marketing idea I have ever seen and the dynamics of a meeting where this idea was proposed and validated. Did no one dare to speak truth to power?

What does a ‘sweater vest’ represent? How the heck does a sweater vest  correlate to *any* form of ‘intellectual freedom’? Perhaps what is most appalling is the obvious lack of intellectual effort it takes to say you *support* intellectual freedom by wearing a sweater vest.

Maybe this will take off along the same lines as ‘Geek the Library’, which seriously detracts from the library mission. Bad ideas, once they are validated, tend to gain their own momentum.

The Emperor's New Clothes

Emperor’s New Clothes

This touched off two discussions on the list – one about the efficacy of sweater vests as statements of intellectual freedom and the other about the importance or impotence of the Geek the Library campaign administered by OCLC.  And, there were the anticipated reactions from some readers who were simply aghast that I would question poorly made decisions by established bureaucracies. :)

Emily Weak who had been promoting a librarian employment site/ blog on Publib asked:

Somewhat off your topic, but I am curious as to how “Geek the Library” detracts  from the library’s mission? Isn’t it about the diversity of resources one can find at the library (i.e. whatever you have a crazy passion for, you can find  materials about it at the library)? Is it that you feel geek has negative connotations?

The Side Show Honoré Daumier

The Side Show
Honoré Daumier

The Geek the Library campaign has evolved into its own bureaucracy supported by grants by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by OCLC.  I have found no empirical evidence that Geek the Library is more effective than any other course of advertising or promotion. In fact, there may be many, much more effective methods.  Anna Cangialosi with the Chelsea District Library did provide a link to an anecdotal case study on Publib.  However, there appears to be no clear data regarding effectiveness. The press release branded by OCLC seems to be yet another self-serving validation for people who self-identify as being a ‘geek’.

Professional librarians have spent years trying to separate themselves from the stereotype of anti-social professional clerks.  The movement to create a new stereotype by branding librarians as Geeks may result in many more years of trying to live down that stereotype.  Why not continue what we were working towards => a stereotype representing professionalism along with informational and intellectual excellence?

Saving Our Public Libraries

Saving Our Public Lbraries

Rather than blindly accepting that a terrible marketing campaign is in your interest and the interest of your library – why not read a book about how you can promote your library? Why not do a critical assessment of what works and what doesn’t? Why not re-engage in library science as a fundamental set of skills?

Janet Jai has written an excellent book that investigates success stories, expert advice and innovative ideas that support library marketing. If you haven’t ordered it yet,  you should order it for your library today: Saving Our Public Libraries  Why We Should. How We Can.

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The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins –  A Book Review

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The Woman in White - Cover from 1890

The Woman in White – Cover from 1890

Walter Hartwright, a young drawing master, takes a late evening walk along a London bound road.  Suddenly a young woman dressed in white approaches behind him. Despite the late hour, she asks if she can still get transport into London. This is done. Before she goes, the young woman asks Hartwright not to tell anyone about seeing her.  Later on, Hartwright learns who she is and how she came to be on the road at such a late hour…It is this story of the woman in white which made Wilkie Collins famous.

The Woman in White appeared as a serial in “All the Year Round” magazine in November 1859 and was published in 40 installments. It was published in three volumes in 1860; a single volume edition followed the next year. The story was widely read by British society and related promotional products were sold. (Quite like what we see for popular book or TV series today!)

Wilkie_Collins_(Waddy,_1872

Wilkie Collins – caricature by Frederick Waddy, 1872

The story is told by a few different narrators. We hear from Marion Halcombe in her diary, the Fairlie family attorney Vincent Gilmore, Count Fosco, household servants among others. With each character’s narrative, the reader sees how events unfold. Murder, greed, deception, romance, and marriage–these are just a few elements in the story. The investigation of Anne Catherick’s (the name of the young woman attired in white whom Hartwright met on the road) past is an early example of the mystery solving element Collins would later further develop in his 1868 novel The Moonstone. Once I started reading the novel, I didn’t want to put it down! The narrations flow well from one character to the next.

Each character tells their respective part without restrictions so there are times you may doubt the veracity of the individual’s account.  I read the novel in two days on the bus ride during my vacation in France.

I was introduced to the novel watching an adaptation of it on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater” on Sunday evening years ago.  It featured Tara Fitzgerald as Marion Fairlie and Simon Callow as Count Fosco. I watched with interest–the story line was great. One of the scenes I remember best is Sir Percival Glyde demanding his young wife Laura to sign a document and refuses to answer what are its contents. When Sir Percival presses her, Count Fosco interrupts by saying he refuses to be a witness. Later Marion discovers Count Fosco isn’t someone to be trusted after all.

The_Woman_In_White_-_Illustration

I bought a Penguin Classics edition of the novel at Gibert Jeune, a French bookstore chain, in Paris during my group travel tour last month.  (There was a floor for foreign language books)  The edition I own includes notes and introduction by Matthew Sweet, appendixes, chronology of Collins’s life, and reprints of prefaces Collins wrote to the 1860 and 1861 editions. Penguin’s version was published in 1999 followed by a 2003 update.

Because of the success with The Woman in White, it has been performed on stage and screen. Collins wrote the stage version that was first performed on October 9, 1871 at the Olympic Theater. Today it can be seen as a musical.

Several TV adaptations have been made. The most recent was in 1997 by the BBC and was broadcasted on “Masterpiece Theater” for US audiences in March 1998.  Then host Russell Baker provided the commentary.  (Scroll down to see a short biography of him)

The novel is still available in print and online.

I wish PUBLIB readers a wonderful holiday season and plenty of reading!

Link of Interest

Wilkie Collins Information Pages: website about Collins and his works

Frederick Waddy

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American Experience : New York

American Experience: New York : A Documentary Film by Ric Burns – A Video Revue

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1848 New York Mitchell Map

1848 New York Mitchell Map

Although David Faulkner is still compiling his Favorite Books for 2012 – Library Inspired Selections I am taking the liberty of endorsing one of the best video documentaries I have ever seen.

Ric Burns American Experience: New York should be required viewing for every student of United States history.  The delivery is excellent. The subject matter is superb.

It is well worth the investment of $89.99 with PBS ~

http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=1863460

However, those of you with Amazon Prime can view the entire series for free and a Prime Account is available free for one month ~

http://www.amazon.com/New-York-Country-City-1609-1825/dp/B006CCOIZI

What a deal!

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France: Travelogue, History, & Music (Part 2)

France: Travelogue, History, &  Music (Part Deux)

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Before my second trip back to France, I did some reading before I went. For my listening pleasure, I have a small collection of French music at home.

Below are a few books and music CDs I’ve enjoyed about France.

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Books

  • History of France by Lucien Bély, English edition trans. by Angela Caldwell. Concise history of France until recent times by a French history professor at the Sorbonne. I bought the English translation in France 8 years ago.
  • The Road from the Past by Ina Caro.  Written in 1996, Caro writes about a travelogue about French history.  Her journey (with her husband, noted biography Robert Caro) begins in southern France and progresses through the ages.  She also offers some of her local experiences in the places she visits.
  • Paris to the Past by Ina Caro.  Companion to her previous book, Caro continues her time travels through day trips with Paris as a starting point.
  • The Greater Journey by David McCullough.  Best seller about Americans who went to Paris in the 19th century and how it influenced their career and later lives. It provides a fascinating history of Paris as well.
  • Discovery of France by Graham Robb.  In the 19th century, France was an unknown country to its own citizens. What guidebooks available for foreigners didn’t provide helpful information. French wasn’t widely spoken outside of Paris; locals spoke local dialects and regional languages.  Robb explores how the country came to be mapped out; he took a cycling trip as part of researching this book.

Music

  • Rough Guide to the Music of France–Musical tour of France with tracks in regional languages. The country has a rich heritage.  To hear the sounds of Paris, Rough Guide offers 3 CDs on the city–scroll down a little to “Related Albums” on the right side of the page.
  • A Night in France–Part of the “A Night in” series, this CD features contemporary music.
  • Putumayo Presents: Québec–If you go to St-Malo, you’ll see the Québec flags flying there on the ramparts.  What’s the connection?  Explorer Jacques Cartier is the town’s native son.  Although the CD is no longer available on the Putumayo site, you may be able to find it in stores.

~ Elisa Babel ~ DC Public Library

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Favorite Books of 2012

Favorite Books for 2012 – Library Inspired Selections

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On November 15, 2012 David Faulkner david.faulkner@austintexas.gov via listserv.oclc.org announced on Publib :

What is the best book you read this year? The book could have been published any year as what matters is that you read it in 2012.

Let me know either through Publib or via my email david.faulkner@austintexas.gov and I’ll compile the results and make them available early in the new year – you are free to nominate as many books as you want..

All genres and forms of books are open so nominate your favorite:

  • graphic novel
  • children’s book
  • romance novel
  • audiobook, etc.

This will be the 10th year I’ve compiled this list so if you’d like to see previous lists you can find them all on Best of Publib ~

David
Austin (TX) Public Library

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Gene Kelly – Singing in the Rain

Gene Kelly would be 100 years old today.  

Singing in the Rain by Freed and Brown has been incorporated in animation and even the dark movie A Clockwork Orange.  But, the screen version with Gene Kelly should put a smile on your face and get your toes tapping and deserves a place in any library media collection.  Enjoy ~

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