Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanks to libraries...

...for providing some interesting conversation this Thanksgiving.

I was forced to confront the fact that every clerk who wields a date-due stamp is considered a librarian, and their knowledge seems to represent the whole of profession, however the miniscule collections and occasional the open hours of the institution. "Well, the township library is only open one afternoon a week, and there are always buses from the senior center and day cares then, so the librarian can't help me with my geneology..."

And school librarians are not mandated by the state of Pennsylvania and are thus vulnerable to being cut, warned one cousin.
Another cousin, looking for electronic resources for homeschooling, reminded me that we all could do a better job of publicizing state-funded databases. She also opened my eyes to the tremendous potential homeschoolers represent for niche curricular marketers.

I remembered that classification is really what separates the amateurs from the professionals. Its inherent messiness was intuited by my husband's aunt, involved in cataloging a 4,600 item church collection. I shared methods of Dewey-snatching from World Cat and the Library of Congress catalog.

Wait lists for popular new materials seem insurmountable to an aunt living in South Carolina. Rather than be 40-something in line for a title, she gets her friend to borrow them from another county system. I go to great lengths to describe interlibrary loan processes -- go to the reference department, I stress, not the circulation desk -- only to have her produce a limp list of Nora Roberts titles. Do libraries ILL Nora Roberts? I did try to emphasize that many libraries scrutinize hold queues to order additional copies, that she shouldn't abandon all hope. Also, she seemed to be il fait with exact copy statuses -- "awaiting processing," or "in transit."

Their patron satisfaction seems to all boil down to better customer service, better communication. The collections and databases are useless if the library users don't know about them.

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