Thinking about a booksale

Garage sales, tag sales, thrift sales . . . sales of used items have a lot of names. Whatever you call them, they’re lots of work, and often even fun. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and while the seller rejoices in cleaning house, the buyer enjoys a new find – often at a bargain price.

Our library just finished another booksale today – a garage sale of books. Or in our case, a basement sale, since the sale took place in the basement of a library. We haven’t had one in quite some time, and we found out the public really missed the sale. The first day we sold the items at a unit price. The second day was a bag sale. Tonight, there are very few books remaining that will be donated.

Throughout the sale, I watched people pouring over the tables of books, so weighted down I’m surprised they didn’t bend even a little. Almost everyone bought something, and most left with their arms full and smiles on their faces. What they were purchasing has been in the libraries, sometimes for years. They could have checked it out over and over. But there’s something special about taking books home when they’re yours. There’s something magical about owning books, and it appears for lots of folks, the more books the better. Tonight I’m imagining those people, emptying their bags and lining up their books.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about book format and ownership in the last few months. A marketing explosion by E-book vendors has pushed us into a world for which I’m not ready — and our library budget isn’t fully prepared. But here we are, staring E-book service in the face. Buying E-books is at the expense of our print budget. The media and sellers of E-books tell me “don’t worry, all the public wants is E-books anyway.” But as I watched those people, delighted with their purchases, I have to wonder. Is there such a thrill in ownership of E-books? Can I line them up? Can I admire them? Can I feel smarter just by being in their presence? Can I impress my guests by my walls of recorded knowledge? Or even more importantly for me and my family and friends, can I walk to the shelf in my home and pull down a tome and offer it to another person, thereby sharing the joy I found in reading it?

I haven’t settled my mind about the whole E-book phenomenon. It’s probably the first time in the technology revolution that I’ve found myself in the hanging back crowd. I do have an E-reader (of sorts). I have Kindle installed on my Droid cell phone. And I must admit that I’ve enjoyed having a book at hand on my Droid, especially when I was waiting – for a pizza, or a train to pass, or to be called into the doctor’s office. I even liked the backlit screen I could easily read while driving at night (actually, I was the passenger). But all my serious reading thus far has been print.

I’m still pondering all of this. I think the book to be written about E-books is only in its early draft stage. As a library leader, I embrace the challenge of providing what the public wants (today) and marvel at the capabilities of the devices. As a person, I worry over the possible sociological impact of the loss of the sharing of a physical object.

As for me at the book sale? Nope, I didn’t buy any. But, my husband and I made a side trip to our wonderful independent local book-seller. I bought a new book and he bought a used book. Sigh. Need to think about expanding our bookshelves.

Booktalks 2.0

Just in time for back-to-school, Joyce Valenza, on NeverEndingSearch posts a list of podcasts and online booktalks for kids. What a great idea to get kids interested in reading – link this to your library website, and lead the kids to try it out. Hope the kids can find the books in libraries.

Even better, record podcasts for the new books added to your library! They’ll think you’re really cool.

The Dip

I consider a book to have value for me when concepts I read start demonstrating themselves during my daily activities. Such is the case with Seth Godin’s The Dip, which I finished a few days ago. Godin is “a a bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change” – from his Seth’s Blog.

I knew that this book had taken root in my mind when yesterday during a meeting, I heard myself say “do you see the light at the end” (the end being what Godin says you power toward when you’re in “the dip.”)

Here are a few other concepts from the 80 page book that stuck with me:

  • It matters to be number one – people don’t have a lot of time and don’t want to take risks, so they narrow their choices to those at the top.
  • It’s important to be “the best in the world.” Best as in “best for them, right now, based on what they believe and what they know.” In the world is as “in their world, the world they have access to.”
  • Almost everything that matters is controlled by the Dip – the long slog between starting and mastery (after the fun of beginning is over.)
  • The Dip is hard. It creates scarcity (because lots of people quit) and scarcity creates value. Successful people lean into the Dip.
  • The Cul-de-Sac is a dead end. It goes nowhere and uses up your resources.
  • If you can’t be #1 or #2, get out (ala Jack Welch)
  • When faced with the Dip, many diversify, instead of obsessing to be the best in the world.
  • It’s easier to be mediocre than it is to confront reality and quit.
  • Godin lists 8 “Dip Curves.” The “Education Dip” is particularly relevant to our field. Your career starts when you leave school. The Dip happens when it’s time to learn something new, or reinvent or rebuild skills.
  • Quitting at the right time is difficult. Most people play it safe, and try to average their way to success.
  • If you’re not able to get through the Dip in an exceptional way, you must quit.
  • The opposite of quitting isn’t waiting around, it’s rededication.
  • It’s OK to quit if the project isn’t worth the reward at the end.
  • Pride is the enemy of the smart quitter.
  • Decide in advance when you should quit.

Library service for military families

Minnesota National Guard troops will be home this summer, according to almost every news source in Minnesota. The Minnesota division has served almost 2 years, longer than any other state’s Guard division. As a former military librarian as well as a military spouse and mom (retired USAF), I feel the excitement with every one of those families.

While my family went through numerous deployments, we always lived on a military installation where the infrastructure provided lots of support and the families around us shared the same experiences as we did. Guard troops will return directly to Hometown Minnesota after a short demobilization period at Fort McCoy.

All troops don’t live near their Guard units and most hometown communities don’t have a very experienced long-term support structure to help military families. Most military families will attest to the fact that coming home is only the beginning of stressful family times, as they re-acclimate to life back together, sometimes more different than the same as it was before deployment.

Community libraries are well placed to function as an information source to military families to help them through the next period, reintegration. I encourage library staff members to familiarize themselves with the information on these two resources. You never know when you’re working the desk and can offer something of value to military families.

Gulp – no Dewey?

As we strive to make libraries more relevant, some libraries are experimenting with arranging books, CDs, DVDs, etc. like they do in bookstores. A new library to open soon in Arizona claims to be the first in the nation to be arranged entirely independent of the Dewey Decimal System. The Perry Branch of the Maricopa County Library District in Gilbert will be organized in 50 sections, then subsections, from sports to cooking, gardening to mysteries, according to the Arizona Republic. Librarians are quoted as saying that people are defeated in their searching because “they don’t know Dewey.” The article further states that people want to search for books by subject. Hmmmm . . . . I thought Dewey was by subject.

The Perry Library is relatively small, 28,000 square feet, and will have 24,000 items. It is a joint use facility located in a school.

Several Minnesota libraries are experimenting with parts of their collections displayed as they are in Barnes and Noble. I have attended several conference programs on space arrangement and marketing, and whole-heartedly endorse the efforts to merchandise the materials in a more attractive manner than shelving everything so that all that is visible are long rows of dull-looking spines.

The article is unclear as to how the items will be arranged. What will happen when someone wants a specific book; is there a numbering or other classification system to assist in quick location? Are they using RFID? Certainly, library automation systems are capable of keeping track of just about any coding system they devise to designate location.

My most recent experience with finding something in my local Barnes and Noble bookstore ended in a fruitless search for a specific title. Even the salesclerk couldn’t find it (even though the B & N computer said they had several copies). I finally came home and ordered the book online.

The Maricopa innovation will be interesting to watch. Maybe I should take a field-trip to Arizona to research it first hand. ***smile***

Stillwater Library is #1 on BB today

A Monday morning chuckle from the Pioneer Press Bulletin Board this morning.

Will The Library Let You Borrow That Book? It’s ‘TOO SOON TO TELL.’
Pioneer Press, Article Last Updated: 04/01/2007 08:24:35 PM CDT

I finally made it down to the new library in Stillwater yesterday. It’s been open now for an embarrassingly long time, but I haven’t been able to get there.

Anyway, after selecting a few books and chatting about the beautiful new library with an employee, I asked her if she could check my books out for me or if I needed to go downstairs to the main desk to do it. She pointed over to a do-it-yourself scanner and said: ‘You can do it right over there. Let me know if you need any help.’

Being a woman of the ’90s … oops, I mean ’00s … I figured: ‘I should be able to tackle this with no problem.’ So I walked over and scanned my card. The machine said ‘SWIPE YOUR FIRST BOOK,’ or words to that effect (not to be confused, of course, with ‘Steal This Book,’ so popular in the ’60s.)

After ‘swiping’ my book, the machine came back with a prompt that said ‘TOO SOON TO TELL,’ so I swiped it again, more slowly this time, and again saw ‘TOO SOON TO TELL.’ After trying a third time, and coming up with the same prompt, I looked down disgustedly at the machine, then at my book … and felt my cheeks turning red as I noticed the title of my book was ‘Too Soon to Tell,’ by Calvin Trillin. . .

A media specialist’s words about what is important

Who would have thought that the word “scrotum” would cause such lively discussion among librarians, media specialists, the media, some parents, and the biblioblogosphere. In case you’ve missed it, the newly named Newbery Award-winning book by Susan Patron, The Higher Power of Lucky, uses the word on the first page when the book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum. Thus far, there have been praises and challenges for the book nationwide. Fortunately, in Minnesota, we’ve not heard much, although there has been considerable discussion on E-mail lists. The Star Tribune published an article Wednesday, Newbery flap more a ripple with media specialists in state

Media Specialist Tom Ross, Plymouth Middle School in Robbinsdale, wrote an amazing piece in a letter to the MEMOlist (Minnesota Educational Media Organization) about what is truly important to him (and the other wonderful educators I am blessed to work with). I asked his permission to share the piece with my readers, and he said he’s “honored.” Thank you, Tom for these words:

Higher Power of Lucky.

Come on folks… I am not worried about this word. I am worried about my student who attempted suicide twice. I am worried about my student who is falling through the cracks because everybody wants to discipline him, but I think he is so depressed that he will end up like that first student. Everybody is trying to do the right thing, but we are not perfect people. Sometimes we may not cover every child perfectly and yet our heart is breaking over each one. I am worried about the gangs x-ing out each other, I am worried about my principals giving up because they are being worn down by parents who are demanding perfect people handle their children and there are none to be found. I’m worried about my Goth student that thinks that nobody cares about him as a human being and I wonder if he is cutting again. I’m worried about the little girls that come to school with bruises and bumps and social services is working on the problem… but there are not enough of them to cover everybody fast enough… I’m worried about the teachers that are leaving because they can’t handle the disrespect, intensity and pace of their job…Good people who will be lost forever to one of the most important task society has given them. I’m worried that society is abandoning us because they want to pretend the problem is the language in the book and it’s not the kids who are dying. I’m worried about the kids whose mom has 3 part time jobs and no insurance. I’m worried that if one of my students ends up running away, she may end up a street child who will be abused by some evil man for something as fleeting as money. I’m sorry this is a word that just doesn’t worry me. I want my students to live to the next day… That worries me.

Sorry if I have my values misplaced, my heart is breaking for my kids right now.

Tom Ross
Plymouth Middle School

Libraries learn from bookstores

INFOcus is the e-newsletter publication of the Librarian’s Yellow Pages. Today’s issue contains a great textbook on marketing, displays, and signage. It reminds me of my first days working in a library (where I had accidentally landed before I became a card-carrying MLS Librarian). My assignment was to build displays around Chase’s Calendar of Events. For instance, who would have ever thought (without Chase’s) that today is “Belly Laugh Day.” Anyway, it sure made me mad when I worked all afternoon to pull out all the little-circulated books on a particular topic to find the display bunker emptied out following the 5:00 after-work rush. I quickly learned the wisdom of showcasing our wares.

What libraries can learn from bookstores: Applying bookstore design to public libraries gives a whole lot of ideas – new as well as some I’ve forgotten. The article includes an interview with a former supervisor of a Barnes and Noble children’s section. Some great ideas:

  • Everyone is cross-trained. Workers in the cafe area can provide direction to customers.
  • Lists of bestsellers posted in strategic places.
  • Everyone is expected to know the top ten bestsellers and where they are.
  • Staff receive sheets on release dates and expected arrival dates.
  • Everyone works the checkout.
  • Staff spend days in assigned areas shelving new books.
  • Customers are connected with and help is offered.
  • Customers smell coffee & pastries.
  • Music favors targeted customers (B&N targets baby boomers, plays classical music; Borders targets Gen X, plays jazzier music).
  • Barnes & Noble stores have brighter lighting than other stores. Experts say brighter light suggests lower prices.
  • Power aisles lead customers to all parts of store. Displays line the power aisles.
  • Reduce information overload. Shelve by genre, use shorter shelves.
  • Booklists and recommendations

Lots more on signage and displays. Good resource.

Classics, or just old?

Lots of interest today in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial by John Miller, Checked Out, about libraries throwing out books not checked out in the past two years, especially classic literature. One of our library media specialists forwarded it via E-mail lists this morning and my colleague MB wrote about it on Impromptu Librarian.

While I agree with everything said about the role of libraries in the preservation of great thoughts, I am also mindful of the condition of many of these sacred cows on library shelves. Many are as old as their copyright date. Personally, I cannot get past the revulsion I feel in even touching the yellowed, musty smelling things. While some libraries have made a concerted effort to periodically replace the classics, more do not allocate any of their limited budgets to replace a book which statistically doesn’t get read anyway. And, if one truly wants to read one of the classics, they can go to an online or mall bookstore and buy something from the Barnes and Noble Classics Series, many available for less than $5.00 with a member discount.

Additionally, many of the classics are now in the public domain and can be acquired through one of the online repositories like Project Gutenberg, which incidentally also has audio books.

Interesting (and scary) — read the comments to the Miller editorial on For example:

Shut the Doors
Roger Hutchinson – Silver Spring, Md.
Maybe libraries should be subjected to the same scrutiny as its books. If less than 25% of the voters use a library in two years, close the library.