Saturday, 25 February 2012

Relationship Advice

I'm afraid it's not that sort!  I have been intending to write a blog post for about a week but struggling with a topic.  Today I trekked to Petit Library to pick up a DVD that was on hold for me and I ended up having a great conversation with one of the librarians.  On my trek home, in between taking pictures of the snow and snow mobiles, I decided that what she had said had inspired me to blog so here goes.

Exciting snow probably didn't appreciate me taking a photo of him
As the regular readers of my blog will know, I have been involved with the Syracuse Little Free Library Project and I am happy to tell you that it is going very well - there are over 120 books in circulation from the first one alone and we are planning the next two libraries in the Near Westside already.  During my conversation today, which progressed from my enquiry regarding their library garden project to the role of modern libraries, the librarian expressed the opinion that Petit should become a 'community hub' since information does not just come from books any more.  I brought up the Little Free Libraries Project and she was thrilled to hear how successful it was, especially because children in that area have difficulty using the library due to holds on their or their parents' accounts.

This recent article on phone booths in NYC being turned into little libraries and James Econs' 'phonebox' in Kingston, London slotted into our discussion well and the topic of community involvement was brought up.  I explained that a main focus of the LFL project had been to get the community involved from the start and to ensure that they had a vested interest in the finished library.  We have gone some way to ensuring this with the community steward and book plates to show by whom they were donated.

Inside of the 'phonebox' (image from here)
The librarian was at pains to emphasise the importance of relationships in her experiences within and outwith libraries.  If people feel that they are borrowing books from a community-organised project then they will be more likely to participate than if it was associated with a larger institution.  It is necessary to build relationships wherever we are and whatever we are doing, you never know how beneficial they will be.  It is by bridging the gaps in society with communication that we can improve the communities in which we live and there are many ways in which libraries can assist in this process from St Patrick's Day craft activities to Little Free Libraries to reading gardens.  It was encouraging to chat with a librarian so in tune with what we are studying at Library School and I am heartened that what I am learning will be perfectly applicable in the field.

And in other news...

Book clutches by Olympia Le Tan (image from here)

My Mum sent me a newspaper article about these cute clutches, which are currently taking the red carpet by storm.  If only I had a spare £1,400....

Monday, 13 February 2012

Shared Spaces

Last night I listened to a programme on the BBC World Service entitled 'Thinking Streets'.  The focus was on the concept of 'shared spaces', first coined by Hans Monderman in the 60s when he implemented the idea in Drachten, Netherlands.  In essence, 'shared spaces' are traffic calming areas where the kerbs, traffic lights, sign posts and road markings are removed in order that all road users (pedestrians, cyclists, drivers etc.) have an equal right to use the road and are encouraged to consider one another's safety.  This creates a shared sense of responsibility and has been proven to lower road accidents.  It is in direct opposition to what town planners usually do when faced with a dangerous road layout - they normally pile on the signs and barriers.  An interesting comment was made on the programme: Ben Hamilton-Bailie (a UK town planner advocating 'shared space') asked what the sign below means.


According to the DVLA this means 'Warning: Cattle' but if you are in the country side then you can see, hear and smell the cattle and so this sign is simply demeaning to road users' intelligence.  He believes that entrusting safety to the road users will result in fewer accidents - this whole process can seem counter-intuitive but really it is an exercise in trusting common sense.

The main issue with this concept is how the blind and visually impaired road users can safely use the scheme.  A variety of road surfaces are used, such as ridges, bumps etc. to indicate where they can and cannot cross but there are still many groups up in arms about this seemingly backwards step in road safety. I will not go into too much detail but you can read about the evolution of shared space here and about the implementation of the scheme in Bohmte, Germany here.  The video below is a BBC London article on shared space in London's Exhibition Road, a busy student and tourist area, and voices some concerns of the blind and visibly impaired.

And here is what Exhibition Road in Kensington looks like now:

Exhibition Road

You are probably wondering what this has to do with libraries.  Well, it is tenuous I admit but I felt that 'shared space' is something that libraries are and should be considering when taking their library spaces forward.  In various talks I have been to on library design, the focus has been on moveable furniture and being 'future-ready'.  We do not know what our users will want to do with the space in libraries in 10, 20 years so we should make our spaces as welcome and adaptable as possible.

I think that the 'shared spaces' concept with its trust in people's common sense and encouragement for them to be responsible for their own actions can be applied in the library sector too.  Libraries are guilty of patronising and irritating users with a plethora of signs and fines - with these we are really shooting ourselves in the foot.  If we are to encourage users to stay with us and enjoy using our amenities then we shouldn't make it so difficult for them - we need to make them feel welcome and appreciate that they are intelligent human beings.  Instead of trying to guess what the future holds or shoe-horning our community into spaces designed for what we think they want, perhaps we should offer open space available for the community to make its mark on as it sees fit.  This more organic approach to space may take some time to catch on and not develop as expected but it will suit the community better.

This may well be old hat to many of you, but it is something that suddenly clicked for me as I drifted off last night.  It ties in well with my group's 613 project, which is focused on planning a Green Space for Fayetteville Free Library.  While researching reading gardens for the literature review I was surprised by how out of touch the architects and even librarians could be with the community needs.  The community meetings held to canvas ideas for the gardens revealed that the community's knowledge of how local space is used is second to none and is a valuable source when considering redesigning a public space.

So, to conclude, we should trust in our community.  They are whom we are serving after all!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

[Library Day in the Life Round 8] Day 5

I have made if to Day 5 of blogging for Library Day in the Life Round 8 and today was as busy and tiring as I had anticipated but a fantastic end to a tight-packed week!

I've got that Friday feeling

This morning I did the old e-mail etc. checking and wrote up some of my interview for yesterday before heading off for a game of squash/an hour of hysterics.  Then I and two of my group members had a meeting with one of the librarians at the Fayetteville Free Library to discuss our 613 project on planning, marketing and assessing a proposal for green space outside the library.  We had a really insightful meeting and are now much further forward in our plans for the project.  The library already has a grant and an architectural plan of what they want the space to look like - including a reading garden, music concert area, gazebo, picnic area etc.  The actual space is much bigger than we were expecting and we were all really inspired to provide this already very community-based library with an outdoor community space to bring people of all kinds together to learn and have fun together.  We are pretty much being given free reign over the plans so it will be fun to just let loose and see where our skills learned thus far will take us!

The green space at the moment

The sort of thing we are aiming for


On my return home I worked some more on my interview write-up.  I also attempted to de-lint my washing machine (apparently there are lint traps in washing machines(?!) and I'll be damned if I can find it!)  So, my washing is covered in oose....again.


This evening was the official launch of the Syracuse Little Free Libraries Project and it was a fantastic success.  We got there early to set up the community space for the party by sticking up the brainstorming sheets from the initial meeting, setting up the table of books with book recommendation sheet and book plates ready for all the donations.  

I paid a visit to the little library on Gifford Street and then had the chance to be one of the first to stock it with books.

Mother Earth, Darren and me with our first Little Free Library

I have to admit that it looks fantastic and the etching on the front is beautiful, good job VPA folk!  There were loads of donations tonight but there are still plenty of books needing to be donated so feel free to check out the book list and pledge one if you haven't already!  There were many students from SU present but also a healthy number of community residents who came out to see what was happening and were really enthused by the idea so fingers crossed this catches on.  In the short time between stocking the kiosk and coming out for a photo some books had already gone - words seems to spread fast.

Front of the converted phone kiosk

Several of the people donating books were from pro-literacy campaigns and schools and were keen to work in tandem with us to promote literacy in this area.  We have been asked to present at a high school to encourage students to donate and to help them with community studies that they are undertaking.  It has been great to be involved in a tangible project, something that we can carry through to fruition and feel a part of - library school can sometimes feel rather detached from real life and quite theoretical but today has really shown me that, no matter what your age or degree of qualification, you can make a difference.

Gifford Street Little Free Library
Now I am off out to celebrate the end of the week!

Friday, 3 February 2012

[Library Day in the Life Round 8] Day 4

And it's Day 4 of Library Day in the Life.


This morning I went to interview Gregg Tripoli, the Executive Director of the Onondaga Historical Association.  I met Gregg last semester when my 632 class (Management and Organisation of Special Collections) visited the OHA to discuss their research facilities and museum.  I thoroughly enjoyed the visit (blog post here) and Gregg had such an original vision for the Association that I was keen to interview him for an assignment for my 614 class (Management for Information Professionals).

The interview was intended to acquaint me with the general day-to-day business of a manager.  It was very interesting to discuss the mission of the OHA and how the focus has shifted since Gregg joined the team 4 years ago.  I won't go into details here but, as I was leaving, we got onto the best bit of the interview - how he, as a retired management consultant and successful businessman, was received by the historical experts at the OHA.  Initially he had difficulty getting the existing staff to understand that the association needed to earn money in order that they could afford to undertake the tasks that they want such as conservation and research.  This aim to earn money can mean that the puritan streak in historians clashes with the more savvy business minds.  Take as an example some of the company-centred exhibitions that the OHA creates - all companies will have events in their past that they do not want to advertise but historians will show all aspects of the history of a company in an exhibition while a businessman will show what the company wants to show i.e. how the company has contributed to the success and longevity of the community in the surroundings.  At the end of the day, the company is the one paying and you need to pander to their wishes in order that they fund your projects.  This is a very different outlook to, say, archives and it was interesting to see how business and special collections can rub along together.


Work today involved more commencement date work as well as the processing of a small collection of the SU Drama Department's Off Campus Productions.  There were lots of programmes from the 1940s and black and white photographs of the productions with rather over the top outfits and pouts.  I also encapsulated a massive photograph - good practice for my Preservation class on Monday!


We had 613 (Planning, Marketing and Assessment of Library Services) tonight.  We have been working on brainstorming and 'wearing' different hats in line with Dymer's "Six hats to manage your next meeting" to see how we can get more out of group work.  This is the class for which we are working with a real life library, Fayetteville Free Library, to plan a green space for outside the library, such as a reading park.

Hats by stopherjones, on Flickr
Colourful hats

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  stopherjones 

This class focused on how we should go about writing our literature review, how we find out information about demographics near our libraries, how we get the most out of meetings with peers etc.  It was quite interesting to discuss marketing and whether a library should target marketing towards certain demographic groups (as usual, as the token foreigner, I had to stand up and be stared at).

I spent the rest of the evening working on the write-up of my interview, making sure that the Little Free Libraries book list for tomorrow is up to date before sending it to the organiser and answering some more talking points for my online classes.

(Apologies but my blogging steam appears to be running out as I get to the end of the week!)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

[Library Day in the Life Round 8] Day 3

Day 2 of Library Day in the Life Round 8 and Erin is sitting in the Library cafe ('Pages', fractionally less geeky than the Cafe '641' at Loughborough - and how many people have I alienated already?!)

Pages cafe in Bird Library

My laptop charger has decided to stop working again so no checking of mail and news with breakfast.  I had work until 3 today and was working on the numbers of graduates at commencements from 1871 onwards.  It has been quite interesting, especially with the fluctuation in numbers of commencement and students after WWII with all of the returning GIs and the GI Bill.

The IT men are still working their magic and correcting several issues that we are having now that our hard drives have all been replaced.


I have been lucky enough to have been offered an internship over summer, which is full time for 15 weeks.  It will be paid and this has thrown up many issues with my visa.  So, this afternoon I attended one of the fortnightly CPT (curricular practical training) seminars at the International Office to find out what the deal was.  Basically, all international students have to get a CPT form before they can work - that was news to me.  Within term time, internationals can only work 20 hours a week but outside of term they can work 40 hours.  Apparently summer does not count as a term, even though I will be taking 11 credits, and so I am legally allowed to work full time for 15 weeks as long as I get a CPT to cover my internship.  YAY!

So now I have to fill in around one hundred forms and get letters from faculty and work - rather unnecessary if you ask me but what do I know?  I'm just a foreigner.



(I am being a tad naughty and writing this at 5pm so my evening has yet to come)

fencing by mikescia, on Flickr
That will be me!
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  mikescia 

Firstly, I will be going to my fencing class - I have no idea what to expect (does one wear gym gear to such a thing?  Do they have the white costume things?  Do I need a pointy stick?)  After that, I will be working on the Little Free Libraries book list and splitting it up into categories as well as adding some Box Office books.  I need to go to the mall and have it out with some Apple men.  I charged my laptop using a charger loaned from the library (how handy) and, almost annoyingly, my charger has decided to work again.  I'll still try to get a new one on doubt an issue since I bought it in Scotland!

I am interviewing Mr Gregg Tripoli, CEO of the Onondaga Historical Association tomorrow morning for my management class and I need to have a look at the questions I want to ask him (and plot my route there and back).   So that will mean an interesting post tomorrow I imagine!