17 December, 2007

Reading and public libraries

Mark Twain famously declared that rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated. It's a bit like that with books and reading - while participation in the online / digital world is revolutionising the way that people access information and entertainment, there are still many people who enjoy reading books for information and pleasure.

On Saturday I was delighted by a recitation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the Spiegeltent at the Arts Centre. Dickens' novels and short stories have stayed enduringly popular and have always been in print. As was the usual format of the Victorian age, Dickens published serialised novels, and each new part of his stories was eagerly anticipated by the reading public. A Christmas Carol was written in 1843, and remains as engaging and entertaining today as it would have been when it was first published.

Two contemporary authors who use a similar style are Alexander Smith, the Scottish author who writes a serial novel in daily episodes through the pages of The Scotsman newspaper entitled '44, Scotland Street'; and Helen Fielding, whose Bridget Jones books had their origins in a column published in The Independent and The Daily Telegraph in 1997 and 1998.

Over the summer holidays we are running two programs - one for children and another one for adults - that promote the love of reading. The Summer Reading Program for primary aged children is themed Superheroes read and there are plenty of activities and ideas for reading.

The Summer Read is a program for adults and features Victorian authors. We are thrilled that Barry Heard, author of Well done those men which is one of the feature books on the Reading Victoria list for this summer, will be visiting Ivanhoe library on Thursday 17 January at 6.30pm - 7.30pm. Barry has had a very interesting life story; his experiences during the Vietnam War have shaped his life in unexpected ways. We are launching our reading wiki at Barry's talk and he has agreed to be our first author of the month. More on wikis soon!
Earlier in the year we developed a Strategic Framework for Reading - where we have outlined our goals in reading and literacy development for the next 5 years. Our main focus is to ensure the collection is matching needs and wants, providing programs and activities that encourage reading and literacy, and develop online tools and social spaces where people can share their reading experiences. We are providing increased support for book clubs and now have dedicated book club collections. Ask at your branch for more details if you are interested in accessing them.

Are you reading as much as you used to? Do you think younger people are? I am interested in your feedback and thoughts.

10 December, 2007

Disability Action Plan

The primary role of a public library is to provide free access to information, and our strategic plan has as its aim informed, connected and inclusive communities. We are very conscious of the need to be accessible and we are also aware of the important role that our libraries play for many people with disabilities.

In order to respond to these concerns in a comprehensive and strategic way, we are developing a Disability Action Plan. We will be working in conjunction with our member Councils to ensure that our buildings, services and programs are as accessible as we can make them.

A recent example is that one of our borrowers is unable to access the genealogy resources at Ivanhoe Library, which is on the first floor of the library and so not accessible to people with mobility disabilities. What we are going to do is to load the CD Roms that are only available for use on one designated pc onto a laptop. This will mean that the resources can be taken to the person, rather than the person having to go to the resources. We will be working on this over January.

Another aspect of the library's role is to promote understanding and connectivity and the People and Icons photographic display was a celebration of International Day of People With Disabilities from December 3 - 10 at Mill Park Library.

We are eager to have community input into this plan and if you have any ideas or comments please post them here or email me at ceo@yprl.vic.gov.au.

03 December, 2007

Exciting new technology @ Rosanna library

This Wednesday morning at Rosanna library we are going live with our new RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) library system. This is a pilot and we want to ensure everything is working as it should before the other branches go live in the new year.
The main change for borrowers is that they will check their own materials out using express check machines. There are 3 units specially designed to make this task very easy. As well as checking out materials, library members can find out what is on their account and renew materials, even if they don't have the items with them.
The reason we have introduced this technology is to make circulation easy, quick and safe. Easy and quick for borrowers, and safer for staff who currently lend out 3.6 million items a year. By reducing the amount of manual handling by this amount our staff will be available to provide more assistance, whether that is running a computer class, finding answers to questions or suggesting a good book to read. Staff are not losing their jobs - but they will be working differently. And there will always be someone on hand to assist if there are any issues.
The way RFID works is that a chip is placed in each item that acts like a smart barcode. The smart part is that it doesn't need line of sight or contact to read - which means that 5 - 6 items can be checked out at the one time. There's no need to line up barcodes - just swipe your new borrower card, place the items on the designated spot and the items are lent out to you and the security bit is switched off. When the items are returned, the security bit gets switched on again. The gates are able to identify the particular item that hasn't been properly charged out.
Implementing RFID is an important step forward for the library service. Libraries are so much more than lending out books, and over the past few years there have been many more programs and activities run in libraries, more classes and more services. Library staff this year have been learning about the social networking technologies that are changing the way people interact on line and there are some very exciting developments in store for next year as we start incorporating these into our library offerings. And its not just about technology - we will foster more book clubs, have more time to implement programs that encourage the love of reading and provide more resources in readers advisory.
This new initiative is about improving our services and about freeing up staff to provide connections to people, information, resources, events and programs. I'll be interested to hear your feedback and comments on the new system.