Monday, April 30, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure Titles Available as E-Books

For those of us who get nostalgic at the mere mention of Choose Your Own Adventure - good news! Ten titles from the classic young-adult series have been released as e-books.

These titles are: Space and Beyond, by R.A. Montgomery; Secret of the Ninja, by Jay Leibold; Journey Under the Sea, by R.A. Montgomery; Terror on the Titanic, by Jim Wallace; House of Danger, by R.A. Montgomery; The Abominable Snowman, by R.A. Montgomery; Cup of Death, by Shannon Gilligan; The Lost Jewels of Nabooti, by R.A. Montgomery; Race Forever, by R.A. Montgomery; and Mystery of the Maya, by R.A. Montgomery.

Available through the iBookstore, the ten digital Choose Your Own Adventure books contain maps that allow you to navigate around the book. Just promise not to cheat!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

1940s Vocational Guidance Film on Librarians

"Are [books] your friends?" asks this film, which was released in 1947 by Vocational Guidance Films. "You may well consider the vocation of a librarian."


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Not to Interact with Library Patrons

All too often, people find themselves face-to-face with an unresponsive or unhelpful librarian when visiting their local public library. As Michael Jourdan told the Washington Post in a letter to the editor (which I've posted below), some librarians are "inattentive and avoid eye contact." Such behavior caused Jourdan's daughter to remark, upon visiting a "new doctor, who sat typing into a laptop instead of looking at her and listening to her, 'Are you a doctor or a librarian?'"
Being inattentive, avoiding eye contact, and not listening are among the behaviors that we were told are unacceptable in my class on reference librarianship. In this class, which instructs us on the basics of assisting visitors to the library, we're learning about nonverbal messages that convey approachability, such as making eye contact, smiling and nodding, and leaning toward the patron. When asked why some librarians don't practice these positive nonverbal skills when dealing with the public, the professor said, "Maybe they're overworked or burned out." Or maybe they're having a bad day? Still, at work it's important to be professional, and librarians are supposed to be welcoming. If, one day, I become a public librarian, I hope not to inspire a letter to the editor like the one Jourdan wrote to the Post.

Above image from:

Washington Post * April 13, 2012
Letter to the Editor

Please Do Not Bother the Librarian

While I have always known that librarians such as myself are stern, horn-rimmed shush-ers, I didn’t realize until reading John A. Galotto’s April 5 letter to The Post [“A flawed medical model”] that we are also inattentive and avoid eye contact: “As my perceptive daughter said to her new doctor, who sat typing into a laptop instead of looking at her and listening to her, ‘Are you a doctor or a librarian?’ ” Very perceptive, indeed. 

Michael Jourdan, Washington

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bookmobile a Perk for 1920s' Hospital Patients

This bookmobile for the sick was wheeled around Los Angeles hospitals in 
1928, a service of the LA Public Library. (Photo and caption:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Awesome Blog Highlights Awful Library Books

At some point, every one of us has come across a ridiculously out-of-date book at the library, whether at the school library or the public library. For me, it was a 1970 copy of Julius Fast's Body Language, discovered yellowing at my school library...nearly 30 years after its publication date.

"Why is this still here?" From the shelf of my school's library.
image source:

Such books should have been weeded out a long time ago. But they weren't, which is fortunate for Mary and Holly, two public librarians in Michigan who started a blog to highlight these often hilarious (and sometimes horrible) holdings. Their blog,, features more than 200 pages of questionable, campy, or just plain creepy books that were found at public libraries.

A guide to hippies for the 21st-century library patron.
image source:

"These books and other materials represent the worst in public library holdings. We all know about a quality collection and the necessity of weeding materials, but please! There is really no excuse for ANY public library to maintain these items," say Mary and Holly in the first post on their blog. The libraries that these odd items are from are mercifully not mentioned by name. But I'm grateful that anonymous library workers and patrons where sharp enough to spot them and had the sense (and sense of humor) to submit them to for the amusement of "librarians, bibliophiles and lovers of nostalgia."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Study: E-Readers Boost Reading Among U.S. Adults

Twenty-four books. That's the number of books read on an electronic reading device per year by the average U.S. adult, according to a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Meanwhile, those who prefer print books to e-books only get through 15 books a year, revealed the same study.

image source: cameron.mantel/flickr

Based on these numbers, it can be said that e-readers boost reading among American adults. Some aficionados of e-readers cite their comfort and convenience. "I never thought that reading a paper book was particularly annoying or inconvenient until I got my Kindle and realized how much more comfortable reading can be," said one commenter of a Consumerist article on the study. Another Consumerist commenter said, "Kindles are so much better for reading during a gym workout than paper books. You don't have to worry about getting them to lie flat or trying to keep sweat off of the pages."

Pew's study on e-reader usage is actually good news for public libraries, which make e-books available for free. More and more users of e-readers are going to the public library primarily to access the free e-books. "I actually re-joined the library so I could check out books online," said one Consumerist reader. Another said, "I bought a Kindle and joined the library very recently. It's been life-changing, having a near-limitless supply of free books to burn through." Perhaps this trend will give libraries an edge in the ongoing conflict with book publishers, which have made fewer (or in some cases, none) of their e-book titles available to libraries for fear of lost book sales.

To read the particulars of the Pew study on the rise of e-reading, go HERE.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Support Brooklyn Public Library by Buying T-Shirt

The Brooklyn Public Library has collaborated with clothing company Brooklyn Industries on a fund-raising effort called the "Support Our Shelves" campaign. Now through May 7, 2012, when you buy the Brooklyn Public Library Graphic T-Shirt designed by Brooklyn Industries, a portion of the sale will go to the library for the purchase of new books, DVDs, and ebooks.

A model wears the BPL Graphic T-shirt, designed by BI.
image source:

The short-sleeved T-shirt, which comes in light navy for men and black for women, is priced at $28. Twenty percent of the proceeds will go toward the Brooklyn Public Library, according to Brooklyn Industries' website. Be sure to buy yours today, for the limited-edition T-shirt is likely to become a collector's item and, more important, you will be supporting a treasured institution that benefits the local community and communities beyond Brooklyn.

10 Things They Don't Tell You in Library School

In library school, I'm learning how to answer reference questions, how to catalog library items, and how to use certain computer programs. I'm sure these skills will come in handy when I and my fellow students enter the real world of library work, but there are some things you just won't be prepared for, especially when working in a public library. These things include dealing with homeless patrons, vandalism, and violence erupting in the library.

A homeless woman asleep at the New York Public Library.
image source: ravengirl1220/flickr

I actually had one teacher who discouraged us from working in a public library, but the reason was the lack of political and financial support that public libraries receive, not the heavy social issues that public library workers have to handle on a daily basis. Eric S. Riley, a branch manager of a library in Washington, D.C., explains what it's like to handle these issues and offers some sage advice in his Letters to a Young Librarian article "Ten Things I Didn't Learn in Library School," which you can read below.

Letters to a Young Librarian * March 8, 2012

Ten Things I Didn't Learn in Library School

By Eric S. Riley

When I first started working for the Public Library in 2007 there were numerous things that came up over the course of my day-to-day work that were just never discussed in library school. If they were, they were not in the classes that I took. But let me tell you, if there was a "getting real" class, it should have been mandatory. So, here's a quick list of things that I was totally unprepared for:

1. Janitorial Work

You learn about reference questions, and about customer service, but let me tell you: no one tells you that you will have to deal with clogged toilets, human waste, vomit and God only knows what kind of trash that will be left all over your floors, walls, flower pots... Sure, there is cleaning staff, sometimes, but when a kid loses his lunch, or the toilet is overflowing, you've got to jump into it. Have the rubber gloves handy, know where the cleaning supplies are, and do the best you can.

2. Mental Illness

When dealing with the public, you will be dealing with ALL kinds of patrons. These include people who are delusional, schizophrenic, obsessive-compulsive, those on missions from God, etc. When working with people who have mental illnesses, it's best to treat them the same as every other customer, give them the help that they need, and make sure that they don't disturb the others around them (or vice-versa). Keep things safe and respectable.

3. Public Health

Perhaps my least favorite thing to deal with, after cleaning up human waste, is to field complaints about a patron with a very bad cough or who has serious body odor. Some libraries have a policy stating that a patron has to have decent hygiene, and can be ejected if they have too strong of a body odor. However, I've always found it difficult to ask someone to leave if they seem obviously sick. You have to weigh the risk to public safety (and your amount of sanitizer) against the needs of the other people in the building.

4. Activism

Local activists can be a mixed blessing. They can advocate on your behalf, but they can also be your biggest most vocal critics. It's best to work with them to the best of your ability, and listen to what they have to say. Don't take their criticism personally. It's not about you; it's about your institution. If you have a positive relationship with your local activists they can really help you out when you need it.

5. Complaints

You learn about book challenges, and intellectual freedom, but what about just general complaints? Especially complaints dealing with things over which you have absolutely no control. You have no idea how many times you might hear, "your computers are too slow," or "story time is too loud." Eventually you'll get into the rhythm of having a steady answer, but believe me, it gets old hearing it. Don't lose your cool, you may have heard it a thousand times, but this may be their first.

6. Exorbitant Fines

Sometimes people will come in and try to check something out even though they owe the library hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in lost materials. Sometimes that person is a child. Do what you can to find a way to mitigate the situation. If it's about missing items, have them bring the items in and give them a break on the fines. If they can't find the item ask them to get a replacement copy or take something else in trade. Fines are there for a reason, but sometimes the rules need to be bent. Use your best judgment when it comes to fines. Keeping someone coming back is better than losing them forever.

7. Sexual Situations

I think we've all heard or seen stories of people who sneak off for trysts in the bathrooms, the hidden corners of the library, the back rooms, etc. Whether it’s for thrills, or it's the only place they can go, sometimes some people will try this in the library. I have no advice on how to deal with this, except to bar them for indecent behavior. If it's really bad, you should get the police involved.

8. Vandalism

Somebody out there think it's funny to be a jerk. They will tag your building with spray paint, use markers on furniture, kick things, break things, all of it intentional. Most of the time vandalism happens when you're not paying attention, or when the facility is closed. If it's gang related or severe enough damage, contact the police to let them know what happened. The best thing to do is to get your cleaning people in there as soon as possible. You can generally clean paint off the side of a building, get marker off of a chair, and windows can be replaced. Be super-careful to not injure yourself with damaged items.

9. Parent/Child Discipline

Some parents still spank their children, or worse, smack or beat their children. When does disciplining the child cross the line in the library? Unfortunately, it's a judgment call. If you feel like a parent's treatment of their child is crossing the line into abuse, you can contact the local police and social services. On the opposite end of the spectrum are parents who just drop off their children, and leave them unattended for long periods of time, sometimes all day. If the children are very young, call the police. It’s not your responsibility to monitor or protect those children. It’s the parent’s job.

10. Violence

Nothing prepares you for when you have a violent incident at the library. Anything could bring it on, jealousy, gangs, theft, property damage, anything. When violence erupts you need to contact the police immediately. If your library has security guards, they should be trained to deal with violence and to fill out reports. If there is an incident, you will be asked to fill out a statement. Write down as much as you can possibly recall, and hand it over to the authorities. Do NOT give any information to the parties involved, any assistance given to them could be construed as aiding and abetting. Keep your cool, and follow the instructions given to you by the police.

Eric S. Riley is the branch manager of the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library, a part of the DC Public Library system in Washington, D.C. He has worked in academic, federal, and public libraries since 1994. In 2010, he was profiled by Library Journal as a “Mover and Shaker” for his innovative work in public programming at DC Public Library. He currently writes the “Librarian Exploring the Future” blog.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Labor Strife at New York's Strand Bookstore

Strand Bookstore is a New York institution, loved by city dwellers and visited by book lovers from all over the world. It has long been famous for its "18 miles of books." But, lately, the Strand is gaining a different sort of notoriety...for giving its employees the shaft.

The Strand, located at 828 Broadway at 12th Street in downtown Manhattan.
image source:

MetroFocus reported that employees at the Strand have been working without a contract since September and that the new contract being proposed would slash wages and the number of sick days and vacation days, increase employee contributions for health insurance, and incorporate a two-tier wage system that may pit older, unionized employees against newer, non-unionized employees, thus weakening the union. Also, older, higher-paid employees are being pushed out, according to MetroFocus. "That's kind of a reflection of how the business wants to go," Strand employee Chris McCallion told MetroFocus. "Shifting from knowledgeable booksellers to an expendable labor force."

To read more about the labor strife that's happening at the Strand, see the MetroFocus story below.

MetroFocus * March 23, 2012

The Strand Bookstore Struggle Continues

Chris McCallion in front his workplace,
the iconic Strand Bookstore near Union
Square. He believes a new contract pits
new and old employees against one another.
Photo courtesy of Sam Lewis

By John Farley

Last week, MetroFocus reported that many employees of the beloved Strand Bookstore believe the retailer is transforming into a worker-unfriendly, corporate-style environment. The employees’ biggest qualm was with a new contract the ownership had proposed. And yesterday, employees say the owners offered them a new version of a previous contract, which they believe would significantly reduce benefits and wages, and pit new workers against old. It looks like this dispute may intensify.

According to employees MetroFocus spoke with, The Strand has hired a large number of new non-unionized managers over the past year, which troubles the 150 or so unionized workers who stock the shelves and work the registers. But their main concern is that their contract expired last September, and both a contract proposed by the Strand’s owners in December and another just yesterday call for a two-tier wage system.

In the new contract they received yesterday, there are “some things that are more beneficial for us. The problem is that there is still a two-tier wage system,” said Chris McCallion, a Strand employee who has become somewhat of a spokesperson for the pushback against the ownership, and is collaborating with activists in the Occupy Wall Street movement toward that end.

Many union members claim the two-tier wage system is designed to produce financial disagreements between new and older employees, and weaken unions, because it stipulates new and old workers get different rates of pay, raises and benefits.

“Any kind of multi-tier system is an attack directly on young workers,” said Harrison Magee, one of the founders of Occupy Your Workplace, who has worked with The Strand employees on their negotiations. “New hires are going to be working less often, working longer hours and getting paid less.”

The Strand’s general manager, Eddie Sutton — a non-unionized employee who has been at The Strand since 1991 — told MetroFocus, “We’re working with the union as we’ve done and that contract is with the negotiating committee and the union. And that’s where it stands, and that process continues as it always has. One of the things that this has been characterized as is a dispute or a struggle, and it’s really just been negotiations on both sides — the union and the store.”

The employees also say they are still frustrated that the new contract calls for their paid sick days to be cut in half, and that it calls for a one-and-a-half-year wage freeze.

“We’re losing things for people already in the [union] membership and at the same time the people who are coming in are not encouraged to stay very long,” said McCallion. “That’s kind of a reflection of how the business wants to go, shifting from knowledgeable booksellers to an expendable labor force.”

Next week, The Strand union members will vote on whether to approve the new contract, something McCallion doesn’t think the majority of members will do. And if they reject it?

McCallion said things will “get hairy,” especially because he claims the union local has not been particularly helpful. He still hopes The Strand’s owners might be willing to offer yet another contract.

But hinting at collaborative work between Strand employees and Occupy activists, McCallion said, “We have resources available to us, where if need be we can escalate our resistance, but only if necessary. It is starting to get tight.”