Libraries, Relevant at Any Size

Relevant at Any Size: We Want To Hold Your Hand

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Technology is a difficult thing for many people to grasp, especially the people who grew up in a world where computers, the internet, and mobile phones did not exist. A lot of folks these days say “oh kids these days, they can pick up technology so easily…I wish I could do that!”. The reason that kids these days can pick technology up so easily is because it’s all around them in their day to day worlds. It wasn’t around the older adults and seniors of today and that’s a big reason why picking up and being fluent in technology doesn’t come as naturally for them.

The public libraries of today are in a very unique position when it comes to technology and the gap between those that get it and those that struggle to get it. We’re seeing our worlds reshape and reformat themselves right in front of our eyes because of technology. Older library buildings were spaces built primarily for books. Over the years they’ve grown to include magazines, vinyl records, have become spaces for events, and a lot more. All of these changes have had huge impacts on public libraries, but nothing has had the impact that technology has had. We’ve had to reshape our buildings, rewire everything behind our walls, and most importantly reformat our services.

When technology became such a big player in our day to day world, libraries had to stop and think about who they were and what they did. No longer were we the real life Google that could answer your questions. No longer were we the place that everyone would stop to get information. Who would we become in this new technology driven age? We’re still discovering the answer to those questions, but we’re almost there. We’re now community leaders. We’re now seen as individuals who the community knows and trusts to lead them the right way. Information sherpas is a phrase that was kicked around ten or so years ago and it still holds up a bit. We are the people in every community that will be there for the others. We are here to help you answer questions, connect you to the resources you need, to listen to you talk about your life, and ever increasingly in this technology driven world, help you figure out how you can best use that technology in your life.

And that’s where the topic of this post comes from today. Our recent efforts around local history & genealogy at my library have been very technology driven. When you’re dealing with one of a kind documents and physical items from years past you really don’t want to be handling the items too much. Technology, in my opinion, has allowed libraries to be a part of a golden age of local history & genealogy. Nowadays with the aid of technology, we’re able to bring the past to the front of people’s lives with greater ease. You can see those old photos and videos without having to wear white gloves to protect the items from the oils on your hands. You have a closer connection to the past without all the hassles. Technology has made that possible.

Technology is scary though, and what we’ve found with our Scanning Station and our VHS Digital Conversation Station was that people didn’t want to go hands on with it unless there was some guidance from a library staff member. I get it: no one wants to break the thousand dollar scanner and heck even when everyone had a VCR they couldn’t even set the clock on it let alone use it to convert those VHS tapes to digital. What the people wanted was an information sherpa to help them uncover history.

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Our Local History Days program was our opportunity as a library to be there for our community and help them hands on with the technology we have. For three days in June (and coming up in July) our staff Historian Jess Hilburn sat in our Local History area and worked one on one with patrons to scan photos, convert VHS tapes to digital, learn how to use a microfilm machine, and more. This was the key to unlocking community interest in this technology and these library services. Once we set up camp in the area and offered our help, the community came out to use the services. In three days, 43 community members used these tools to preserve their past. This was quite a wonderful achievement and we hope the positive experiences that came out of this program will spread through the community and lead to more.

When it comes to technology, we want to hold your hand. The modern librarian offers community members a patient and kind approach when it comes to technology. We’re all learning how to live in this new world. Let’s learn something about technology together.

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Libraries, Relevant at Any Size

Relevant at Any Size: You Just Have To Do It

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You just have to do it. 

I think that in every situation it is good if you have a mantra, and for me the mantrathat comes with working in a small rural public library has been that you just have to do it. There’s no way around the work that needs to be done in small rural libraries. You see it when it comes through the door in the people that you serve. In a small town, people have planted their roots and change comes hard to the community. When the world shifts, the big cities are often at the forefront of the excitement and energy that comes with this kind of change. The small towns, tucked away in blanket of trees shielded from highways and the hustle and bustle, see these shifts as a hassle, a threat to the easy going life they’ve crafted in their small town. The residents in these towns just got to where they needed to be and now there’s a change? It’s not an easy thing for these people to process.

So you open your doors as a small rural public library and in comes the community. They’re wandering, a bit lost in this modern world. They very much belong in this world, but they’ve yet to find their footing and steady themselves on this new ground. That’s where these small rural libraries come in. You just have to do it. It may not have been your ultimate goal in life to grow up to work in a public library, only to day in and day out help folks figure out how to successfully navigate setting up a two factor authentication on Gmail when they don’t have their own computer and their cell phone is one of those prepaid limited minutes & data kind of a deal. No one wants to waste their data getting 6 digit authentication codes from Gmail, especially when that data costs money and they’ve got very little money to start. You just have to do it. As a librarian, you take a deep breath in, pull up a chair, and navigate through the entire process with the library guest. The ability to have and trust in your patience is a must. Eventually you get through the entire process. It either works out and the library guest is happy or you just blame it on Google. They can take it.  🙂

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You get some texts at 6am saying that you’re Youth Services Librarian is gonna be out sick on the 2nd day of Summer Reading. But you know what?You just have to do it. You know it’s gonna be a very busy day but sick people always need to stay away from healthy people in a work setting, so you figure out the plan and you make it work. You just have to do it. You take some time yourself to sit back at the Summer Reading Sign up desk and help people out. Eventually a few other employees will trickle in and staffing will be OK for the rest of the day. You get through it. With a smile and a friendly voice, you welcome every child into the library, chat with their parents or grandparents, and you sign them up for summer reading. You help them get to wherever they need to be at that point in time. You just have to do it. There’s no other option. You do it, you make it work, and you put positivity out into the world through your work.

This is the mantra for the small rural library. As I read the mantra once again, it feels like it’s this mashup of mantras and American “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” ideology. I hate that ideology, but for some reason it works here. In the small rural public library, you know that your job is to make good things happen for the residents of your community. You know they’re struggling with the massive shifts happening in our world right now. You know they feel left behind and that they can’t keep up. They feel like everyone has forgotten about them. So you know the work you have ahead of you and what needs to be done. You go to your library every day and you say this to yourself: You just have to do it.

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Video Games, Video Games in Libraries

Nintendo Switch Games at the Library

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Nintendo Switch games are now officially part of our circulating collection at the Benson Memorial Library. Our circulating video game began (from what I can tell) in around 2015 and since then has grown to 43 titles which have circulated a total of 891 times since January 2015. Don’t be deceived by 891 circulations in 3 years and 5 months. At my library, that amounts to about 20 circulations per month. We average around 5,400 total circulations a month, so while this collection is small it does cater to a specific audience that appreciates there being video games available to borrow at their local public library.

That’s the key thing to remember about circulating video game collections: circulating video game collections will never be your biggest circulating collection, but they will cater to a specific audience that appreciates there being video games available to borrow at their local public library. One of the things you have to remember about a circulating video game collection is the excitement they bring to the public library. When a video game fan comes to the library and sees a circulating collection, they’ll react in a positive way. They will be overjoyed by the fact that not only can they borrow games before they may purchase them (and video games are expensive!), but they will also be overjoyed because you are paying attention to their interests and by having a video game collection you are showing them that you care about their interests. This is something public libraries can do really well if they set their heads and hearts to it. When we as public libraries cater to everyone in our community, a positivity springs up that spreads throughout our community. Keep adding to that positivity and over time you will see not only the popularity of your library grow but you will also see positive change in the community. And that’s what it’s all about.