October 2011, Volume 3, Issue 9
Check Your Calendars!!
SDLA Annual Conference
SD Festival of Books
National Friends of Libraries Week
Teen Read Week
AASL National Conference
National Gaming Day
Featured e-Resources of the Month
What’s new in State Library eResources
Take your community’s pulse
When local newspaper editorials praise your library twice within three months, you’re doing something right. LeAnn Kaufman, Freeman Public Library director, takes her community’s pulse and adjusts library services to maintain a healthy relationship between the library and its patrons.
The library scored very well in the city of Freeman’s survey of residents about all city services. Still, Kaufman and her staff saw room to improve. Citizens commented that they wanted more open library hours. For three months, the library conducted its own survey in hard copy at the library and on the library’s website. Library staff also tracked foot traffic to find which times and days were the busiest.
These studies led the library to offer more patron-friendly hours without increasing their budget. This was accomplished by adjusting staff shifts. The result satisfied patrons and city management. “That reflects a commendable attitude that recognizes the ‘customer service’ nature of city-operated services and city employees… the library serves as a model of what we should expect from all city departments, officials and employees” (“Editorial.” Freeman Courier. 27 July 2011, Freeman.)
Since 2007, Kaufman has added equipment and services, including more classes, events and computers. The most recent service added is OverDrive downloadable ebooks and audiobooks, a popular addition for patrons. “It was just another way to ‘expand our hours’ and services,” she said. She keeps her eyes open for new ways to serve the public, such as offering more author events. “You might try something that doesn’t work, but then again it might,” she adds.
Kaufman takes her community’s pulse by doing the following:
- staying current by reading blogs and thinking about how new things can serve patrons
- listening to patrons’ suggestions and comments
- being willing to change and take risks
If your community’s pulse indicates a need for change, Kaufman’s tips might be the right prescription.
See these resources for information on how to conduct surveys and what free tools are available:
- “August Net2 Think Tank Round-up: Conducting Community Survey.” net squared. TechSoup, Aug. 2011. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. [www.netsquared.org/].
- Idealware. “A Few Good Online Survey Tools for Your Nonprofit.” TechSoup Learning Center. TechSoup, 1 March 2011. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. [www.techsoup.org].
Research staff updates the South Dakota Grant Directory
Over the summer months, the SDSL research staff spent many hours updating the information in the South Dakota Grant Directory. The directory was created by staff members at the State Library. Interest in creating the directory grew out of the State Library activities as a Cooperating Collection of the Foundation Center. The SD Grant Directory is designed specifically for use by South Dakotans.
The directory contains information about:
- Foundations and corporate giving programs located in South Dakota.
- Foundation and corporate giving programs located outside of the state which have shown an interest in funding SD organizations within the past ten years or have some connection with SD (i.e., board members are from SD, parent company has business interests in SD, etc.).
- Programs or grants administered by the state of South Dakota. These are government monies, awarded competitively at the state level.
- Grant seekers are urged to review carefully the restrictions listed for individual foundations and submit grant requests only to appropriate foundation programs.
Although the directory attempts to be all inclusive, it is not a complete listing of all funds that might be of interest to South Dakotans, nor does it contain all sources from which funding may be obtained.
The directory is located online: South Dakota Grant Directory. A log-in is not required to search the directory. Contact the State Library research staff with any questions.
Board Talk: “To Fine or Not to Fine… that is the Question!”
By Daria Bossman, Asst. State Librarian for Development Services
Some libraries these days are—shocking I know—eliminating their fines. Some have looked at their policies and made a deliberate decision for various local reasons to continue. Others of you just do it “because it has always been done.” Shame on you if you are in the latter category! All policies and procedures need to be reviewed on an annual or at least semi-annual basis.
In a May 25, 2006 online article entitled “Is the lifting of library fines long overdue,” Christian Science Monitor staff writer Marilyn Gardner wrote, “As libraries face competition from the Internet, Amazon, and bookstores, some are looking for ways to be more customer-friendly. At the same time, book-lovers point to Netflix and Blockbuster, which have eliminated fines for overdue movie rentals, and suggest that libraries do the same.” [www.csmonitor.com]
It is an excellent question. Why do we impose those silly penny and nickel fines? Why do we “nickel and dime” our customers in an era of $30.00 books?
Those libraries which have eliminated the fine policy point to convenience, being more customer friendly and time as factors they considered before eliminating the age-old symbol of “librarian crankiness.” Kathy Killeen, a public librarian in Dover, Mass. said in the same article, “It takes an incredible amount of staff time to collect 50 cents, to monitor it, and send out notices. We weighed the actual costs of collecting fines against the revenue brought in and decided it was kind of a wash.” Others defend the practice, like former ALA president Leslie Burger who sees it adding value to the privilege of borrowing a publically owned book and deciding to keep it longer than the agreed time period. It is like “paying a fee” to keep it longer. She has a point. Ms. Burger even suggests that we change the name from fines to “fees.” It’s another good idea—anything to keep our interactions with our patrons (and the source of our existence) as positive as possible.
The important thing as a library board and staff is to routinely consider the needs of your local citizens and the environment in which your library is located. If fines are a hindrance to using the library, seriously consider dropping them. If you are not sure, ASK your patrons! Perhaps in place of fines, institute a policy where individuals who do not bring back books cannot check out additional books until the materials are returned or fully paid for.
In South Dakota we have a mix of policies and opinions on this topic. (Yes, I will get email from both sides!) We don’t ask on our Public Library Survey who collects fines or who have chosen to eliminate them so I can’t toss out some statistics here. However, I do know that a few libraries consider it a main source of collection development revenue. Some have chosen a clever middle ground—it is called a “guilt jar,” and they will take donations from the wayward book loaners. Thus, a small (or large) “donation” gets them out of hot water with the librarian and instantly restores their borrowing privileges! It might be worth an experiment. I have heard that some libraries think the donation approach garners more public interest and good will as well as funding than the old “pay up or else” policy.
Anyway you deal with the issue of lost or missing materials, just be sure it is a well thought-out policy, written down and clearly communicated with your patrons. Review these policies on a regular basis and don’t forget to ask your patrons what they think of the current library policies. You might get some surprising feed-back that is informative, helpful and creative. Remember, it is their library too!