Friday, April 29, 2016

What Makes a Good Library?

A display in the Teen area at Desert Broom.

Despite budget cuts and a lingering antiquated view of libraries, I still believe this is an exciting time to be working in one. Library professionals are not only passionate about learning and literacy, but we're committed to helping people find what they need, no matter what that is. I think this Read Box display in the teen area is a great example of a simple (though I bet it took a while to construct) engagement that meets a patron where he or she is at. 

The Phoenix Public Library system does a good job of engagement both digitally and in the branch. The website is always topical . At the time of this post Prince is remembered on the website. I'm not sure why the social media buttons (FB, Twitter, You Tube and Instagram) are all at the bottom of the webpage, but they offer another connection avenue. 

My only complaint, and it is a big one, is that the connectivity appears to be one-sided. I cannot support the lack of contact information for library administration. This is a big barrier for me.

The system has managed to add services post-recession based on community needs. A Seed Library was added this year, but service hours have not been restored to pre-recession standards. I reviewed the proposed 2016-2017 budget for the City of Phoenix and the library is slotted for $100,000 to restore digital services to 24/7 levels. The entire city is facing major cuts if a proposed property tax increase doesn't go through. That would affect more service hours. Currently Desert Broom is open only Tuesday through Saturday.

I really wish I could have met with the Branch Manager. Normally I'm assertive, but the cold digital first impression really made an impact on me and in the small world of library service I didn't feel comfortable pushing the issue. I think it's important for any library system to recognize the importance of its digital hello to a new patron.

Computer Use at Desert Broom

The Computer lab at Desert Broom.

Desert Broom has 33 public PC's divided between Youth/Teen/Adult and the Lab (which has 9 PC's). The entire building is wired for free WiFi and I found the reception good throughout the building.

PPL's computer-use policies are much different than Scottsdale's- only one hour of use per branch, per day. (Scottsdale allows 3 hours per branch.) I was a bit surprised by this since I often see people working on big projects or doing online coursework at the library. one hour is not nearly enough time. Policies like these get put in place because of abuse, that's how Scottsdale's policies evolved. I would imagine that there are patrons who branch hop throughout the day to get their computer use in. 

Though I was not able to inquire, I'm assuming the PC reservation system (you must have a library card even for the 15 minute Express machines) has a override to extend time on individual PC's. I would go further to suggest that staff is empowered to use best judgement on granting time extensions in certain cases. 

The PPL still offers community computer classes, but in watching the calendar for the semester, none are offered at Desert Broom. They offered a program on using Shutterfly, a site for uploading pictures and creating cards, albums and other products using your images, and used the lab for that, but overall, I  do not see the lab not being utilized much. One suggestion I'd give is to reach out to Homeschooling groups and see if any of them would like to use the lab as a classroom. 

These are the work stations for adults and when you look at them, the one-hour time limit makes sense. No one could last on those stools that long. I'm not a fan of the circle tables either, there's little room to spread out. I feel like these stations, combined with the policy, aren't serving people well enough. 

Adult computer work stations.

Going forward!

The info desk at Desert Broom. One desk for the entire building, manned by two staff or more.

So I never heard a word from the Branch Manager at Desert Broom. I'm not going to waste time on why, but I am disappointed. One of the aspects of studying other systems is looking at what services/products they provide (or don't) and asking why. Every library in the country faces tight budget restraints, so the decision process on how the money gets spent is especially critical in the every-evolving landscape of library service that demands being on-trend at the minimum, trend-setting as preferred.

Desert Broom is a small branch in the Phoenix Public Library's (PPL) sixteen branch system. Like most smaller branches in a larger system, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that are offered in the higher populated urban areas (like the job center) but its facility is sleek, functional and inviting.

PPL uses Polaris 5.0.616 for its ILS Management System and OPAC. This is the same system my employer uses and it appears both have the same features activated. There are no patron based interactive features for book reviews, staff blogs or comments inside the OPAC. Full Displays on items will offer read-alikes, industry reviews, GoodReads and NoveList links and awards written. Very useful, no doubt, but not interactive. I suspect cost is the culprit- to add the feature and then use staff time to moderate the comments. 

PPL does offer an eCard on its website that provides patrons immediate access to all digital resources. My system doesn't do that. I think this is a great feature because there will always be people who cannot get to the library building. In fact, I see expansion of the digital "campus" as an important trend going forward. (Take a peek at what the Denver Public Library has created for teens online.)

Where Desert Broom excels is in its award-winning design. You want to spend time here.

The back patio off the Early Literacy Area.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Still Waiting....

Nine days ago I walked into the beautiful Desert Broom branch of the Phoenix Public Library in hope of getting contact information for the branch administration for the purpose of this assignment. As I stated in my last post, I didn't like doing a cold-call. That staff was quite friendly and the woman helping me remarked that patrons comment frequently about the lack of contact info made available to the public. (So it's not just me.) However, even after I explained who I was, told her about my assignment and that I'd submitted to Ask-A-Librarian for assistance I still had to ask if there was a business card for the Branch Manager (both she and the Assistant Manager weren't in the building). I asked and received.

So I sent a the Branch Manager an email. I did politely mention the Ask-A-Librarian thing and I complimented the staff. I also made a little desert library joke about the rattle snake that was found while I was there (just outside the front entrance).

I'm still waiting for a reply from her.

And yes, I did check my spam, just in case.

Phoenix, like most cities in the U.S., is prepping its 2016/2017 fiscal budget for approval. There are huge proposed cuts to library service and all city departments if a property tax increase isn't approved. (I picked up a fabulous brochure outlining the proposed budget at the library that day.) Perhaps my timing is off, perhaps the fact that I work for another system is an issue. Who knows?

What I do know is that now I feel determined to complete this assignment, very out-of-the-box, since I can't seem to get inside the library.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Is Anyone Out There?

So imagine that you've been  assigned to interview library staff at a library you aren't familiar with.

As your next step you do what anyone else would do and go to the library's website for contact information to set up the interview.

But there is none.

There's an address, hours and directions, beautiful pictures and a super cool website. All you can find is the Call Center number.

So you dig deeper. You can find the Library Advisory Board member names. You can find their meeting minutes. You see no mention of any library staff there, not even the Director's name.

So you dig deeper. Deep into the bowels of the City's web page you find the library page, but again no names are listed and all the links take you back to the library's main page, which has already proved useless.

So you dig deeper. Now you're looking through public minutes of all committees on a giant list. You're looking at City Organizational charts and discover that while there is a box for Library Director, no name is listed. You even do a search on the City page for "Library Director" and all that comes up is a job description from HR.

This is no joke.

So while running errands one day, you are near another branch of this system and physically go in and ask about the lack of contact info and explain your class assignment. The staff is friendly and sympathetic. You query about calling the Call Center, but learn that staff is on desk at the same time as doing their Call Center hour, so that may not be a good idea. It is suggested you do Ask-A- Librarian.

So on March 29, 2016 you submit an Ask-A-Librarian question. You introduce yourself, the assignment and explain that you want to be respectful of staff privacy and safety by not cold-calling the branch.

On March 30, 2016 you get a reply that your information will be forwarded to the branch.

It's important to note that the branch is closed on your two main days off- Sunday and Monday.

Today is April 14, 2016. You still haven't heard a word from the branch. It's a day off for you.

Time for a cold call.

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2016

I'm back!

Pictured above is the amazingly beautiful Desert Broom Branch of the Phoenix Public Library system. It will be the focus of some new blog posts in the upcoming weeks as I explore what makes this branch tick in terms of technology, programming and patron services in the evolving world of 21st. century libraries. 

Built in 2005, this branch won awards for both environmental excellence and innovation in sustainable design. 

So its pretty, but does that matter more than what's on the inside? 

I'm determined to find out!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Libraries Without Limits: Exploring Alternative Library Models Part 6

I'd like to extend a huge thank you to Executive Director David Court and Head Librarian Colleen Crowley of the Desert Foothills Library for allowing me to come visit and discuss the joys and challenges of library service in the digital age. I enjoyed the fellowship and left feeling affirmed that all libraries are more alike than different, no matter how they're funded.

I'd be remiss however if I failed to extend a thank you to the other staff members and the volunteers I did not meet on my visit. Their hard work behind the scenes is a huge part of why the library and its website are so welcoming and useful. Good library service involves aspects not visible to the patron, like the whirlwind of activity in the backroom as materials come and go. 

I did have the opportunity to meet the volunteers who run the used bookstore Chapter 2 Books and I strongly encourage any book lover to go shop there. Just give yourself plenty of time to browse because it will take a while!

The best part of this assignment is purely selfish on my part because I now have a new library to use and enjoy, mere minutes from my home.