Circulating Unusual Items with Alex Lent

Tuesday, 2/7/2017
  • 11:00 AM (Eastern)
  • 10:00 AM (Central)
  • 9:00 AM (Mountain)
  • 8:00 AM (Pacific)

There is a growing trend of adding “unusual items” to libraries’ circulating collections. Circulating cake pans, post- hole diggers, ukuleles, soil testers, bread machines and more is exciting and impactful, but challenging. This talk introduces and contextualizes the trend, discusses best practices, addresses common questions, and suggests a plan for adding unusual items to your own library.

One thing that makes unusual items so appealing is that they are chosen by specific libraries based on the needs and interests of that specific library’s specific community. In the presenter’s library, ukuleles and soil testers do very well, but cake pans do poorly. In city libraries, kitchen equipment does better than at the presenter’s suburban library because his patrons live in houses with more storage space than city patrons with smaller apartments. In a library with a large immigrant population, electronic translators might be successful. In a library with a low income population, WiFi hotspots might be successful.

This webinar is relevant to the membership of ASCLA because they work with specific populations with specific needs. By experiencing this webinar, they will be able to take what they learn and apply it to their populations, allowing them to serve their populations more fully and in new ways.

Online Courses

Dates to be determined – Stay tuned for more information!

An Introduction to Correctional Librarianship with Sara Krouse

“An Introduction to Correctional Librarianship” is an interactive six week course designed for those interested in pursuing prison/jail librarianship, correctional personnel tasked with assisting or running a prison library or community librarians interested in collaborating with their local institution. It focuses on providing a full insiders look at the field and the requirements for success through three different avenues:

  1. basics of corrections, security, and the inmate population;
  2. mental health issues in prison, the importance of emotional intelligence and self-care;
  3. an in-depth look at the public library service model in a prison setting which includes cataloging, programming, budgeting, marketing, law library, advocacy and censorship.

This course is designed to introduce prison librarianship to participants who have little or no prior knowledge of the field. This course will feature content that is not widely offered to library students or professionals in the field, and will be of interest to those in the field and those with merely a curiosity who wish to know more about institutional librarianship.

This course supports ASCLA’s mission by providing networking and educational opportunities for individuals working with the incarcerated or detained, whether they are in public libraries, state libraries or institution libraries. It offers a chance to connect with other librarians who may or may not be in the same field, but offer different perspectives based on their experiences, as well as a chance to step outside of their particular library and learn about a very different way of providing information and library services.

– Specifics of working with offenders and targeting their needs for service
– Challenges of working within corrections system
– Advocating for library services within the walls and on the outside
– Best practices for library and law library services
– Need for self-care and emotional intelligence skills for personal success
– View of typical day in correctional librarianship

The Reader-Friendly Library – evaluating the visitor experience

This course offers learners a range of reader-centered research tools, supporting material and background theory and puts them all to use in the learners’ own libraries. Learners will use their findings to identify appropriate and effective small-scale changes that actively improve the experience of targeted groups of visitors to the library. The course introduces reader-centered observational techniques which help learners to measure how different areas and features of the library are used and by whom; what library patrons see and what messages the library welcome is giving new visitors. The techniques can assess the average length of a visit and whether people in a rush find something they want. They help staff see which features encourage browsing and borrowing, and which are failing to attract any attention – and why.

This course adapts customer-facing retail research techniques to the specific needs of library readers, spaces and collections. The techniques will help staff who are very familiar with their workspace to take a step back and look at it from the viewpoint of a range of visitors. Library spaces are often organized to meet the needs of the collection and the staff and this can create unwitting obstacles which prevent patrons exploring the space. Libraries are not shops and have nothing to sell but a good read. However, libraries need to tempt visitors to try something new to them, widen reading choices, increase footfall, gain new members and build return visits just as retail does.

The course will give learners experience in planning and carrying out different approaches to using observational research in their own library. The network of learners will share the evidence they collect, the insights they gain and help each other identify creative solutions through interactive discussions.

The course takes a distinctive approach in that it offers an alternative method of understanding the visitor experience beyond the opinions of the confident regular users; staff anecdotes; customer complaints; footfall counts; or circulation statistics. The tools we introduce will result in objective evidence and measure the difference a practical change has made. These are tools that can be used again and again because they are applicable to any area of the library and are useful to inform and test future decisions about layout or staff practice which aim to widen the use of the library and the enjoyment people get from it.

This course would be of particular benefit to ASCLA members because it will support learners to use the assignments to research the needs of targeted groups of visitors with the aim of increasing the accessibility and inclusiveness of their libraries through practical and achievable steps. In this way the learners who serve particular groups of excluded readers will find the tools of direct and ongoing use to widen access to the library collection. Six weeks of assignments and online interactivity can offer a good introduction observational research and experience in recording and collating the findings. The changes tried out and monitored during this time will of necessity be small-scale and experimental but will offer a sound platform, confidence and skills to take the work further in the future.

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