My Evolving Life

I admit that I am “old”.  I have witnessed and participated in the remarkable changes seen in library services and practices, how students research information, and the ways in which business is conducted online.  In doing our readings I really connected with the “Cluetrain Manifesto” and Buckland’s thoughts on “Redesigning Library Service” because I have been directly involved in the evolution that they predicted.

In high school, college, and my first grad school experience, all of my research was conducted through use of the card catalog and some use of microfilm/fiche.  Those machines were impossible to use!  As a general rule we did not have access to databases or any training in using them if they were available.  Until I began this program in 2017, although I had received training in how to use the databases through our Library System, I had no personal experience in using them and was somewhat “afraid” of them.

My first career is as an itinerant pediatric Speech/Language Pathologist.  I have been working for the same agency, with a merger occurring in 2010, since 1991.  When I first began, all of our paperwork was literally that……all conducted on paper and handwritten.  Our first breakthrough in technology was provision of a fax machine so that we could fax our handwritten reports to the agency to be typed. 

In 1998 I moved into our current residence and began using the library where I am now the Director.  It was there that I first began to go online and set up my first e-mail account.  We first had internet service in our home in 2000 via dial-up.  It was so slow but so wonderful to be “connected”.  In the next decade the way in which our agency conducted business transformed into a online model with all contacts conducted via e-mail, reports being written and shared electronically, and session notes now being entered online.  As this next decade is coming to an end, we are moving into a more fully cloud based system, and as new features have been developed, input from us as users has been essential.  Our home internet service has also evolved.  We traded unlimited use for increased speed when we were able to connect via a “hot spot” and finally in 2016 we were able to have it all. 

So, where does my work in the library fit into this?  In 1998 the library was still checking out books using stamps for due dates in the card pocket.  There was no thought for privacy and we signed our names on the cards for all to see.  The first online system was introduced in 2000 and I was one of the volunteers that placed the barcodes on all the library materials. When the previous Director retired in 2013, after 30 years of service, she had kept this small library up-to-date on many technical advances, however when I came into the position I found some discrepancies that did not make sense. 

Why oh why were we still having books processed with card pockets, with cards included, when we had been automated for 13 years?

Card in pocket – book processed in 2012.

Why were we still filing cards into card catalogs, which were kept behind the circulation desk and never accessed by patrons, when we had an online catalog for patron use? 

Card catalogs now in storage in our basement.

Why was I told to print out the full report for circulation statistics when I could access the report online and just record the current data in my own spreadsheet?

Why did we have 4 separate machines (black and white printer, color printer, copier, and fax) taking up space we don’t have to spare when we could have an all-in-one?

Efficiency – why use 4 machines when 1 will do?

In the past 6 years we have made changes to the ways in which we order materials so that patrons have access to books on day of release and we have been told that “You are better than Red Box” in having new movies available.  We have cut out the unnecessary processing expenses.  We have become much more efficient and moved into a more modern service model and I am working to keep up with trends.

I am now struggling with the trend towards eliminating fines, which has become a primary focus in our library system.  Our fine structure is so low that a full week overdue will only cost a patron .30.  With auto-renew in place, unless a book is on hold for someone, a patron will be able to have an item for 9 weeks before it actually becomes overdue.  We are willing to waive fines for various circumstances but also have patrons who will willingly pay for the book that can’t be renewed so that they can finish it. I have also seen people who “abuse” the privilege of borrowing items that belong to everyone and just don’t return them.  Really, if you’ve had the book for over 2 months, and you still haven’t read it, please just drop it into the drop box when you go by.

My goals as Director are to continue to grow our library both in size and presence, as we offer quality 21st century services to our rural community.  Our circulation desk serves as “everything” so I would also like an office.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “My Evolving Life

  1. diana

    @lisasemenza Beautiful post and beautiful pictures! I would love to visit your library one day! It looks so serene. I love the pic of the old card catalogs too! Brings me back to my elementary school days. 🙂

  2. Lisa Semenza

    We are located at a crossroads in the middle of farm country. We utilize everything to its maximum potential. I love having the side yard in the summer for programming. We have had over 70 people there for Ukulele Camp. It makes people notice that we are vital and doing “something” when we have our programs out there. We have the old card catalogs in storage in our basement. My parents actually has a large one in their dining room that they use as a “liquor cabinet”. Everything is alphabetized. It came from an elementary school library.

  3. Greta Snyder

    Hahaha. Lisa your perspective is so insightful, with a great sense of humor – thank you. I wish you could hire me and I could come help! Also, I couldn’t agree more – if I haven’t read something in 2 weeks it will just start collecting dust and making me feel guilty.

    I love your passion for transition to efficiency and the future. I think having the vision to see how things can be best accomplished is so crucial to success. I think sharing with/training librarians in how to use free applications/services online and even on individual patrons phones is an excellent way to connect users to services at no cost to the library and 100% benefit to patron. For example, I use Genius Scan app on my iPhone all the time to scan paperwork and then be able to email to immediately email as .pdf or fax and never have to go to FedEx or fight with my printer anymore haha. I think sometimes just identifying how patrons use the library (i.e. your point about DVDs) is so important in establishing ability to connect.

    Thank you!

    • Lisa Semenza

      I have an awesome assistant but she is bound to retire one of these days……

  4. Mao Vang

    Love the post! Brings back so much memories as a child! I remember the card pockets and card catalogs when going to the public libraries. I loved the public library i attended as a child and still every once in awhile stop by. I still to this day remember the dial up tone and it was annoying but hey at the end, the internet was worth the wait. I grew up with 5 other siblings and we shared one computer and and the dial up tone was a way to know someone was on the computer. Anyways, I love your passion to move forward and to better your library.

  5. Lisa Semenza

    Thanks for your feedback 🙂 . We are trying to get started on an expansion project. There is so much I want to do here and getting my degree has opened my eyes to so many things we could do if we just had the space to do it.

  6. Wabam! @lisasemenza Thanks for sharing the photos and your evolving library story. I so enjoy those aha moments when we realize we’re still doing something – a process, a service, etc – that has been superseded by something better, easier, friendlier. Wish you the best with eliminating fines. I am become more and more convinced it is the way to go.

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