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?
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?
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?
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.