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January 31, 2007

A Starbucks Moment

It will come as no surprise to most everyone that I am a Starbucks users. I've been a real fan of their stores for several years now -- sure there's better coffee in some select smallcoffeeshops around the country, but if you want a consistently good brew then I think Starbucks is your best bet. Yesterday I went to one of my regular Starbucks (Mill Creek Starbucks across from the Mall of Georgia) to find the friendly young womanbarista all alone behind the counter. She had about seven or eight people waiting on the pickup side of the bar and I was third in line to order. I'm always fascinated when I see situations like this. I used to work retail (Barnes & Noble way back when) and I would float between the book and thecoffeeshop side of operations and I remember several times when i was left all alone to server both as barista and cashier, but never did I have more than ten people waiting on me. So I immediately began watching this experiment/display to see how she handled it.

I was amazed. First, she already knew some of the people in line, so as soon as she saw someone she welcomed them by name. Those she did not know by name she gave a friendly hello and asked their name. Then, as she was swinging between the espresso pump and the blenders and syrups I would hear her use the name two or three more times in quick conversation. "How's your day been, Michael?" "What can I start for you, Michael?" All the while she was reassuring the waiting customers, but not in a panicked way. She made quick and light conversation with everyone, never slowing down, never forgetting to balance thebarista side with the cashier side. She would deliver one drink, go to the counter, take the next order, and then go make the next drink on her list. Always using names, often times quietly repeating names in an obvious attempt to remember them.

Watching all of this fascinated me. Here was this young person all alone behind a very busy counter and she was not only diplomatically and lightheartedly handling what could have been a bad customer service experience for the many waiting customers but she was also using the experience to learn new names! She was composed but she moved quickly. Everyone present knew she was working as fast as she could and I doubt anyone felt anything but respect and admiration for the way she handled what otherwise could have been a terrible situation. And what an excellent lesson in customer service.

January 29, 2007


Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Coming to me via Findability, the new Parentography website is "an online community where parents can share reviews of family-friendly places and activities."

January 28, 2007

GCPL Emerging Technologies Team Visits PLCMC

Our Emerging Technologies Team took a roadtrip last week and shuffled off to The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County to tour some of their libraries. Helene Blowers, PLCMC's Technology Director, gave us all a wonderful tour that included their Checkit Outlet, the main library, Virtual Village, and, of course, ImaginOn. We were joined during our visit by Matt Gullett, PLCMC Emergent Technology Manager, and Kelli Czarnecki, Teen Librarian at ImaginOn. You may have read about Kelli because of the great work she's been doing on Teen Library in Second Life. We also got to have dinner with Chris Bates, Senior Library Manager, but he sat at the other end of the table so I'm not sure what he's been up to lately! Lois Kilkka, Library Services Manager for ImaginOn, gave us a truly behind-the-scenes tour of the beautiful ImaginOn complex. Even Charles Brown, PLCMC's Director of Libraries, took a few minutes from his very busy day to greet our group.

PLCMC ImaginOn 

PLCMC is doing so many excellent things, but what really stood out is how integral a part of the community they have become. So many of their services are tied to the community through partnerships and outreach efforts, and many of their services are underwritten with grants. This ability to become a part of the community, to integrate the library's mission with community organizations, has really paid dividends for PLCMC.

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful time.

January 27, 2007

Helene's 3-part guide to project management

Helene's 3-part guide to project management
Originally uploaded by marklarson.

See Helene's explanation here

January 26, 2007

Myth versus What?

Laura Mallory tries to shed some "truth" on her fight to ban Harry Potter.

"Today's generation faces evil like no other in history, with its bombardment by violent, sexual and occult images through our modern mass media. I think perhaps we are so desensitized, we couldn't recognize evil even if it were on the plate in front of us."

"With the deceptive, exciting, children-friendly packaging of witchcraft in the Harry Potter series, our youth today view witchcraft not only as good and fun, but harmless fantasy."

"God has been with me, answering specific prayers and reassuring me of His will and His Word"

"I cannot count the times I have been told that these books are "just fantasy." But if you would like to know the truth, please keep reading and do your own research. Not only is witchcraft a real religion, subtly intriguing and luring our children and teens in unprecedented numbers, but it is also a dangerous one, often leaving its followers in darkness, depression and even suicidal. This was verified by a teenager from Lawrenceville and Mrs. Marsha McWhorter, a registered nurse and certified marriage and family therapist, both of whom testified at the Gwinnett County hearing on April 20, 2006, coincidentally, the anniversary of the tragic shootings at Columbine High School."

"When the Bible and prayer were removed from our schools, in effect, God was expelled. So we've raised a generation not to know him. Now our schools and society are filled with violence, drugs, gangs, addictions, perversions, and we wonder why? We need God in America again. He's the one who says don't lie, steal or murder — for our own good. Likewise, He's the one who says witchcraft, including the casting of spells, is an "abomination," meaning: detestable, repulsive, loathsome, vile, abhorred, (Deuteronomy 18:10-13), and we call it good reading material?

Full text of interview with Laura Mallory.

Learn, Adapt, Scan, Point

Learn, Adapt, Scan, Point
Originally uploaded by libraryman.

January 25, 2007

PLCMC ImaginOn

PLCMC ImaginOn
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

"10 Blogs To Read in 2007"

Blake Carver over at LISNews brings us his top 10 blogs for 2007:
Dr. Stephens was an almost unanimous choice in voting, and Tame The Web is the most popular blog on the LISHost server for good reason. He writes often, he's interesting, and his posts are accompanied by images that help convey his ideas in a way that make complex ideas easy to understand. Michael was an easy choice to head up our list this year. When he's not holding class at Dominican, he's holding it at Tame The Web.

January 22, 2007

Jenny Plays at Contender!

Jenny Plays at Contender!
Originally uploaded by ALA TechSource.

from ALA Mid-Winter

Dance Dance Revolution versus library fines

Via BoingBoing which picked it up from Jenny:

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting a teen librarian who keeps Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) set up all the time so she can invoke it as need be. For example, if a teen has overdue books, she will dance-off against the person, and if the teen wins, the librarian will waive the fines.

In addition, when the kids get into squabbles amongst themselves, she tells them to take it to the mat and dance off against each other. It's a great way to channel some of their energy.

Another librarian talked about using DDR for indoor recess at school when the weather is bad.

Lots of great ways to use gaming in positive ways.

The Shifted Librarian.

I Hope Everyone Is Having Fun In Seattle!

4th Ave. Seattle
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Wish I was there!

January 12, 2007

What Browsers Do People Use to Read My Blog?

What Browsers Do People Use to Read My Blog?
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Monticello Does Anime

The Monticello library in Monticello, Minnesota (part of the Great River Regional Library system), is attracting teens to their library with a great looking anime club.

One of the Monticello Library's newer kids' clubs is luring local adolescents through its doors in droves.

The Anime Club, a Great River Regional Library pilot program, meets once a month to watch an animated film, munch on Japanese candy and bond over a shared interest in a popular cultural sensation that blurs the lines between technology, artistry and cartoonery.

"Anime is geared for children to adults," said GRRL youth services coordinator Heidi Hoks. "It's getting to be a very popular art form. It won a foreign film award at the Academy Awards a few years ago. It isn't just cartoons...

Monticello's club caters to preteens and teenagers, hosting a half-hour meeting for ages 10-12 followed by another for ages 13-18. "

We view a film and the club previews books the library offers," said librarian Deb Lukken, who hosts the club. "They love it."

"It's a place where kids who like anime can hang out," explained Taylor Radike, who was part of Monday's 10- to 12-year-old group.The appeal of anime, club members explained, has to do with its unique combination of art style, action and storytelling.

The club is part of a pilot program launched with the beginning of the school year at three GRRL branches: St. Cloud, Sauk Centre and Monticello.

"It's a way for kids to get together and talk about movies and books," Hoks said. "It's been an extraordinarily positive experience for all the locations, especially Monticello. We were looking for something that would get kids into the library, get them excited about reading, and it seems to be doing that. Kids check out anime materials, and then they check out other materials, too. It's a great way for them to see what's available to them." "

Way to go! Full Monticello Times article here

January 10, 2007

January Issue of Computers in Libraries

This month's Computers in Libraries has two articles I want to recommend:

Janet Balas, in eLearning About Library 2.0, gives a good overview of Library 2.0 where she concludes:

Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 may seem like just the latest technology catch phrase, but what is most important about Library 2.0 is its emphasis on service. As librarians we are all striving to provide the best possible service to our users, employing new technologies to help us achieve that goal. For Library 2.0 to be more than just a catch phrase, it must result in a library that's responsive to the needs of its users.

Ronalee Ciocco and Alice Huff write about a subject near to me in Mission Impossible: Starting an Instant Messaging Reference Service Using Trillian. This is exactly what we did here at MPOW last year when Meg Wilson and I started an IM reference service called AskGCPL. We, too, used Trillian and have found it to be a very usable tool in pulling together the various IM services. Their closing paragraphs sum up their experience and match what we have found in our own local implementation of Trillian-based IM reference:

But students are so comfortable with the IM environment that these drawbacks have not been a problem. In fact, the students have frequently commented on how much they appreciate it. I was teaching an information literacy class a few weeks ago and at the end I was encouraging the students to ask questions later as they were working on their assignment. When I mentioned IM, a student excitedly said, "I love that you do that!" Trillian is now the standard campus chat application and is loaded on all campus machines.

The seemingly IM-possible mission has been a success in our view for everyone involved. Alice and I set up the service with no problems, no software purchase, no server purchase, and quick configuration. The reference librarians have been able to communicate with students in another way and expand our services to reach more of them. And the students have another way to contact librarians-a way they find comfortable and convenient.

The newest Computers in Libraries is available through ProQuest and (soon) online at the InfoToday web site.

and now for something completely different...

Watching the Wheels

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I'm doing Fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball?

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there's no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind,
I tell them there's no hurry...
I'm just sitting here doing time,

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.

-John Lennon

This was off Double Fantasy, the last album Lennon would make.

January 08, 2007

Burger on Keeping Libraries Open

See ALA President Leslie Burger's letter in today's New York Times.

Unfortunately, many of our libraries are continually being asked to do more with the same or less money and staffing. Libraries are a vital “third place” for people of all ages and backgrounds. We must work together to find and fund solutions that balance the range of community needs while keeping our libraries open to all.

New Pew Internet Report on Teens and Social Networks

New from the good people at PEW Internet:

55% of online teens use social networks and 55% have created online profiles;  older girls predominate

To read the full report, please visit:

More than half (55%) of all of online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites, according to a new national survey of teenagers conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The survey also finds that older teens, particularly girls, are more likely to use these sites. For girls, social networking sites are primarily places to reinforce pre-existing friendships; for boys, the networks also provide opportunities for flirting and making new friends.

A social networking site is an online place where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to other users. In the past five years, such sites  have rocketed from a niche activity into a phenomenon that engages tens of millions of internet users. The explosive growth in the popularity of these sites has generated concerns among some parents, school officials, and government leaders about the potential risks posed to young people when personal information is made available in such a public setting.

The data memo, written by Senior Research Specialists Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden, is based on a survey conducted by telephone from October 23 through November 19, 2006 among a national sample of 935 youths ages 12 to 17. The survey asked about the ways that teenagers use social networking sites and their reasons for doing so. Among the key findings:

* 55% of online teens have created a personal profile online, and 55% have used social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.
* 66% of teens who have created a profile say that their profile is not visible to all internet users.
* 48% of teens visit social networking websites daily or more often; 26% visit once a day, 22% visit several times a day.
* Older girls ages 15-17 are more likely to have used social networking sites and created online profiles; 70% of older girls have used an online social network compared with 54% of older boys, and 70% of older girls have created an online profile, while only 57% of older boys have done so.

"There is a widespread notion that every American teenager is using social networks, and that they're plastering personal information over their profiles for anyone and everyone to read," says Amanda Lenhart.
"These findings add nuance to that story - not every teenager is using a social networking website, and of those that do, more than half of them have in some way restricted access to their profile."

Teens say social networking sites help them manage their friendships

* 91% of all social networking teens say they use the sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently, while 82% use the sites to stay in touch with friends they rarely see in person.
* 72% of all social networking teens use the sites to make plans with friends; 49% use the sites to make new friends.
* Older boys who use social networking sites (ages 15-17) are more likely than girls of the same age to say that they use social networking sites to make new friends (60% vs. 46%).
* Just 17% of all social networking teens say they use the sites to flirt.
* Older boys who use social networking sites are more than twice as likely as older girls to say they use the sites to flirt; 29% report this compared with just 13% of older girls.

"Both boys and girls rely on social networks to keep close tabs on their current friends, but older boys are much more likely to use them to meet new friends and flirt in the comfort of an online environment," says Mary Madden. "Older boys are really the ones taking advantage of the true 'networking' features afforded by the sites."

January 04, 2007

Serving Your Community

By Laura Savastinuk 

On Wednesday John J. Miller of the National Review had a scathing editorial on the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal website of the Fairfax County Public Library's weeding practices and what he sees as the general direction of public libraries. Miller is worried that public libraries are struggling to become Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble at the expense of classic literature. While I don't disagree that libraries should be cautious and very sure of what their public needs before jumping head first into a bookstore model, I am particularly bothered by the following statement:

The particulars of this task will fall upon the shoulders of individual librarians, who should welcome the opportunity to discriminate between the good and the bad, the timeless and the ephemeral, as librarians traditionally have done. They ought to regard themselves as not just experts in the arcane ways of the Dewey Decimal System, but as teachers, advisers and guardians of an intellectual inheritance.

As I was taught in library school and as I believe as a practicing librarian, librarians are here to provide information service and access, not to pass judgment on this information or those who seek it. Libraries need to be neutral zones, not a place for librarians to dictate what is worthy information and what is not.

Similarly, libraries must craft their services and collections to reflect the needs of their individual communities. If your community is crying out for the latest in popular fiction or a collection of classics (or likely a combination of both), then by all means that is what you should provide. As librarians we are here to serve our users by providing them with the information and resources they want, not glare down our noses at them because of their reading choices.

Maplewood Continues

Following yesterday's news about the Maplewood Memorial library, a follow-up article in today's Times says that the Maplewood Township Committee has asked the library board not to close the library during the afternoon hours. According to the mayor, the township, which is looking into hiring security guards, will even pay for the security required to keep the library open. But according to a board member who represents the township committee, the addition of security guards is not enough to keep the library open.

Various accommodations with the local United Methodist Church and YMCA are also being considered.

What happened in Maplewood? Why did the township committee either not find out or not act until the news story broke? And, perhaps most importantly, where was the library administration in all of this?

The newspaper articles indicate that there is a great deal of community support to keep the library open and find solutions within the local community itself. A multipronged solution of security guards, local church involvement, and social and civic organization assistance all appear to be readily at hand. Yet, the library board appears to see closure as the only option.

What did the library leadership tell the board that sold them on closure? Why was community involvement never seen as the first and only solution?

Lots of questions remain in Maplewood, but it appears that a solution is at hand if only the board and the library can be sold on the idea. How ironic that the best solution appears not to be coming from within the library itself but from the community that is fighting to keep its library open.

January 02, 2007

Responding to Teens

The New York Times article about the Maplewood Memorial library depicts a problem that many libraries face – large numbers of teens congregating after school hours. Maplewood is not unique in having this “problem”. One of the lines that struck me was this one, “Having as many as 50 young people with nothing to do creates an untenable situation”. I do not know the size of the Maplewood library, but I do know that our own Dacula branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library, which is 20,000 square feet in size, routinely has many teens in the building every afternoon between 3PM and 5:30PM. Door counts of over 1,000 between those hours are not uncommon.

The Dacula library is situated within 500 yards of a middle and high school and about 1/2 mile from an elementary school. Shortly after opening the library began getting between 200 and 500 teens every afternoon. The library soon had a very real problem on their hands with disruptive behavior, noise, gang problems, you name it. The fact that it was a 20,000 square foot building open seven days a week and running on 14 full-time staff only served to complicate the picture. Management and administration worked very hard over the past few months to remedy the problem. Lots of community outreach took place with the schools and parents. The system's first security guard was hired and arrangements were made with the local police force for off-duty officers to patrol the parking lot area where numerous gang-related problems were developing. And staff began holding more and more teen programs to try to direct and mold their behavior. It's not over yet and there are still things to work out, but it is working. And all of this was done without closing the library – a tactic which I find amazing. .

The Dacula branch staff has responded admirably to the problems and in doing so they have made great strides in reaching more and more local teens. Recent events such as the Halloween party, Teen Game Night and the Winter Masquerade party have turned many teens into regular library users and some into members of the branch’s Teen Advisory Board – a group that meets regularly to plan and promote teen outreach.

None of this has been easy or inexpensive. Security guards and off-duty police officers cost money, as do extra staff. The time to plan and present teen programs is also not without a cost. But the return on this investment has been remarkable. The numbers of incidents in the branch are down. Customer comments are far more positive and, perhaps most importantly, the community understands and approves of the library’s efforts because the community has been made an integral part of the solution. While it is never possible to please everyone all of the time, the efforts being made in Dacula are showing very real and positive results. I hope other libraries facing such issues can find the resources to address their teen problems without resorting to closing their doors.

Article: Lock the Library! Rowdy Students Are Taking Over

Every afternoon at Maplewood Middle School’s final bell, dozens of students pour across Baker Street to the public library. Some study quietly.

Others, library officials say, fight, urinate on the bathroom floor, scrawl graffiti on the walls, talk back to librarians or refuse to leave when asked. One recently threatened to burn down the branch library. Librarians call the police, sometimes twice a day.

As a result, starting on Jan. 16, the Maplewood Memorial Library will be closing its two buildings on weekdays from 2:45 to 5 p.m., until further notice.

An institution that, like many nationwide, strives to attract young people, even offering beading and cartooning classes, will soon be shutting them out, along with the rest of the public, at one of the busiest parts of its day.

Full article.