Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What can you learn through LSSC?

Today Sylvia Bowers, SSD member-at-large, answers a couple questions for us about her experience with LSSC - Library Support Staff Certification.

Which one class have you liked the most and why? How has what you've learned in your favorite class influenced your work?

These are very good questions. My favorite class with the most usefully applicable information was the Library Technology class I took from Northern Kentucky University. The class started with very basic computer use information, ended with document and internet security, with a lot of practical projects in between.

The class lasted from late August through early October. Some of the projects included creating Google docs and Google presentations, and scheduling online meetings. One project entailed pricing and "purchasing" computer systems and furniture for a fictitious library of my choice. Another fun project for this class was planning how to automate a small branch library.

A large portion of time in this class was spent learning how to cope with technology change. This is a very common challenge. We explored resources that are available and strategies that you can implement that will help a person working in a library keep up with these changes, as well as how to make good use of that technology in your job right now.

In addition to the larger projects, I learned much I can use in my job on a daily basis. For example, I learned beyond-basic internet search skills, standard computer trouble-shooting skills, and I certainly gained an appreciation for the complexity of computer networks.

I appreciated the support I got from the instructor and the institution. It was a very satisfying learning experience and I would recommend this class to anyone.

Thanks, Sylvia!

Are you curious about getting certified? Ask Sylvia questions about the LSSC program by posting in the comments section below!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to handle difficult situations

Jennifer Steward, a Circulation Analyst with Multnomah County Library, is posting today about dealing with difficult patron situations. She and Lisa Canavan presented on that topic at the 2011 OLS-SSD conference.

"There’s a problem with my library card!"

Does that make you cringe or prepare for battle?

Perhaps there is a third option? What I try to do is guide the patron to a place where we can work things out together. Here are two things you can do to guide interactions toward collaboration and not let them spiral into real problems.

Set the tone.
Your goal is to be calm, polite and helpful - even if the patron isn’t. The patron will usually rise to your standard. Try not to absorb any anger/fear/anxiety that comes your way. By setting the tone, you are also teaching the patron how to treat you.

Be aware of feelings – both yours and the patron’s.
Think about your feelings. If you seem fearful, some people may bully you. If you are dismayed that patrons get fines, you may seem judgmental. If you are determined to prove that you are in the right, you may seem combative. What do you need to do to get into a collaborative place?

Think about the patron’s feelings. What looks like anger is often fear. Does the patron think she’s "in trouble" or fear that she won’t be able to use the library? Does she need to connect with you emotionally – by being listened to or reassured - before she can hear the practical options available to her? What does she need from you to move from conflict to collaboration?

While some patrons may be too upset to follow you into collaboration, you may be surprised how many will. For me, it is also important to know that even if things don’t end well, I know that I remained polite and respectful, even under pressure. Woo-hoo!

For more information on customer service and collaboration, try Great customer connections by Richard S. Gallagher and Radical Collaboration by James W. Tamm and Ronald J. Luyet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A janitor discovers a cache of rare coins in the State Library of Passau in Germany

Tanja Höls, a janitor in a library in Germany, discovered a box full of coins that may be worth millions. The staff think the box may have been hidden in the library in the early 19th century by local prince-bishops who wanted to dodge some taxes.

Tanja will be promoted to the curating department of the library and will receive a reward.


What have you found in your library lately?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oregon Library Architecture

Aalto Mt Angel Library 13
Photo by BrianLibby

The gorgeous Mount Angel Abbey Library is one of the libraries featured in this Cubed story on Architectural Libraries. Seattle, Baltimore, and Oslo are definitely worth a look, too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I hope I don't ever do this...

One of our past presenters, Sam Wallin from the Woodland Community College in Woodland, WA, has some absolutely hilarious videos on his YouTube channel .  They are called "Libraryland!" and are "little shows about working in the public library."  If you hit play after following the link, it will play the entire series for you. Most are under a minute and well worth watching. Sam was part of the Marketing Your Library: Strategies for the 21st Century presentation at our 2011 conference.

It was hard to choose just one for an example, because they're all good, but I 've heard people do this before:


Which of these videos made you laugh the hardest? For me, the laughs were cumulative - the more I watched, the funnier they got.

Have any of you used YouTube as a marketing tool for your library? How has it worked for you? What strategies have you implemented from this conference session?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

There's more!

Paper sculptures - the end!

Photo by chrisdonia

More anonymous paper sculptures have appeared in Scotland libraries and museums, this time with a tantalizing farewell letter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

LSSC stands for Library Support Staff Certification

Today's guest post is from Sylvia Bowers who has worked at the Baker County Library District for 7 years. She manages the magazine and newspaper collections for the main library, branches & bookmobile. She also works on the circulation desk, processes books and helps with interlibrary loan. "It's a wonderful job and I love it!" she says. She started the LSSC program in January 2010, and is partway through her fourth class.

I am about 1 ½ years and 3 ½ competencies into the Library Support Staff Certification process. We all know that growth and change are challenging, sometimes difficult and often exciting. I decided to begin the LSSC program because after having worked at my library for 6 years, I felt there were fundamental gaps in my understanding of what libraries were all about (mission) that I wanted to fill, and I wanted to gain library-specific skills that would help me do my job better, such as helping a patron with a reference question. It was time for me to find a way to grow and learn and change.

Even though the LSSC program is very flexible in allowing you to choose your own path - portfolios or classes - I’ve chosen to take classes exclusively. This works really well for me because it keeps me on a schedule and keeps me focused. I’ve completed three classes and am in the middle of the fourth one right now. I really enjoy the online learning experience. I’ve taken “Reference” from Infopeople, “Communication, Teamwork and Decisionmaking” from Fresno Pacific University, “Library Technology” from Northern Kentucky University and am currently taking “Foundations of Library Services” also from Northern Kentucky University. Each class has provided a balance between practical skills I can use every day and foundational knowledge about the library profession.

The benefits I’ve experienced from pursuing certification have been numerous.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Beautiful Retro-Styled Library Posters

I stumbled on these posters from Nate Koehler today. They remind me of the illustrations in books I read as a child. They really are gorgeous. You can find the whole set at Nate's website or at design work life .

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why you should attend a book repairing session

Today's guest blogger is Melinda Williams with Multnomah County Library. Melinda has been both a Library Page and Clerk during her tenure at MCL. We are pleased to have her writing about Basic Book Repair for Libraries.

I left the conference full of energy and excitement about how I can apply the information I learned to my library life. On of the key things I wanted to review were my experiences in the book mending workshop. My main goals for the conference were to gain a more in depth understanding of book mending, learn more about how other libraries function, and network with support staff outside MCL.

The book mending workshop was educational and entertaining. My expectations were that we would specifically focus on the how-to and not the why of book mending but I was pleasantly surprised. I appreciate that the instructors, Carolee Harrison and Kristen Kern from PSU, spent time explaining book preservation theory and gave us preservation resources. A few key repairs that I think will be useful on a daily basis at the branch are reattaching loose pages and repairing a loose book cover or back. The workshop focused mostly on repairing hardback books and the materials needed in a repair kit. I was curious about repairing paperbacks but the instructors mentioned in passing that paperbacks are generally created from low quality materials and therefore repair is not cost effective. I would recommend the book repair workshop to anyone who is interested in the preservation of books in a broader sense.

I was also excited about the opportunity to network with other support staff about their experiences in their library systems. I was able to do this by volunteering to staff the registration/raffle table during lunch as well as chatting to people in my book mending workshop during breaks. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to learn about how people came to be clerks, pages and library assistants and their duties on any given day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why it's good to create a triangle in your workplace

Today's guest blogger talking about our recent 2011 Conference at The Oregon Garden is Rinny Lakin, a Library Clerk with Multnomah County Library (MCL).

Did you ignore the announcements for this amazing conference because you assumed it was another exclusive club for librarians? Read on! Oregon Library Association’s Support Staff Division is here for support staff (us page, clerk and LA types) from all over Oregon! Now that you know this conference was meant for us and our statewide equivalents, did you know you have missed the last 17 of them?

SSD is here to serve us paraprofessionals all year long. In addition to the yearly conference, SSD provides viable options to stretch your wings outside your role at your library, if you so desire. You can become involved and really shine. I was dazzled to see so many MCL staff involved in organizing and presenting at the conference and beyond. There are over 80 current members, yet 140+ people were at conference!

Director of Tualatin Public Library Abigail Elder gave the keynote address titled Growing Optimism. I found it really encouraging to be reminded that I have the power to become an expert on a topic, digging roots deep, seeking mastery. What really appeals to me about improving my professional offerings this way, is that I do not need to ask permission. I don’t need to win the approval of every co-worker and boss ahead of time nor navigate red tape. These are value-added hobbies I can education myself about (she used knitting as an example, she knows which co-workers can answer knitting questions and recommend knitting resources). Why didn’t she use gardening instead? I have dabbled with my genealogy hobby, but it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could become a resource!

Managing Stress for Healthy Workplaces
presented by Philip Mandel- Communication & Stress Management Expert
This dude wrote “Getting Things Done” and “Nuts & Bolts.” We talked about ways to manage stress that we probably have all heard. Breathing out for 6 seconds and inhaling from the soles of your feet up to your collar bones creates the quieting response. Acupressure stress relief points; getting enough water and sleep etc. He also talked about altering our perspectives while being criticized and different ways to work on our brains. Work on our brains!? Yes. People respond to their maps of reality. If you change your map or reality, you change your emotional state. I hope to remember his suggestion to put this on your map “behind every behavior, is a positive intention”.

The most useful thing he showed us was when talking to a patron, to create a triangle (physically and subtly in your choice of words, especially if you are on the phone). You are one point of the triangle, the patron is another and the focus becomes the third point (be that the computer screen, a physical item, or even use your hand to represent an abstract or non-present point of focus). Now you are side by side, working together on the third point. Most of us have already experienced how much better that dynamic is when we help a patron at the check out stations, rather than opposing sides of a desk. I also learned that “Eustress” is the word for positive stress and dysponesis he used to describe “making it worse without wanting to.” Is that the correct usage?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do you have a library question today?

Today's guest blogger talking about our recent 2011 Conference at The Oregon Garden is Jay Hadley, an Operations Supervisor at the historic Central Library in Multnomah County, where he supervises the work of support staff. He was also our 2011 Conference Committee Chair.

"That's very interesting and thank you for telling me that.  Do you have a library question today?"

Thus was the refrain of the "What to Say: Customer Service in Difficult Situations" session at the 2011 OLA SSD Conference. The room was electric with energy and laughter, as about 80 support staff from libraries all over Oregon shared tales of their customer service experiences and practiced new techniques. Presenter Jennifer Steward played the role of a staff member trying to help a patron, and Lisa Canavan played the role of a difficult patron who kept interjecting all kinds of distractions.  Jennifer kept coming back to the refrain, of "Do you have a library question?" and the participants nodded in approval as they saw different situations handled.  Jennifer and Lisa, both staff at Multnomah County Library, also covered tips on body language and how to deal with potentially dangerous situations.  Two are better than one, so always work with your teammates for safety.

This was just one of my highlights from this conference.  It was a great day at the Oregon Garden in Silverton, with the weather reaching nearly 80 degrees.  124 attendees enjoyed the day and many had a lunchtime tour of the gardens.

Another highlight was Abigail Elder's keynote address.  As the director of Tualatin Public Library, she has worked very hard to build inroads to her community.  She says her best reference time of the week is the hour she spends washing dishes on Fridays at the nearby senior center.  She gets all kinds of questions and has built great relationships.

That's what working at a library is all about for me, building relationships with the people in our various communities.  That way we get the chance to make someone's day, which just might change someone's life!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I'm a Child of the Lib'ry...

Here's another "save our libraries" effort...

You can find more information about this at Piers Cawley's blog and feel free to spread it far and wide!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mysterious Paper Sculptures

Have you all seen the amazing book sculptures left in libraries around Edinburgh?  They are really quite stunning.  And such a thoughtful and generous way to show appreciation for these essential institutions.

We get some lovely gifts from our patrons who sometimes bring us flowers or baked goods, and always hand them directly to us and get a big "thanks!".

The things we tend to receive anonymously are more on the weird side.  I swear I heard a story about someone finding teeth in the bookdrop one morning, but when trying to track down the source of that story, no one had heard it but me.  I'm sure I didn't make it up, though! Was it a misguided attempt to contact the tooth fairy?  A late night brawl in parking lot?

I know we've definitely had a kitten put in our bookdrop overnight. Quite the surprise for the morning crew! Fortunately, the kitten was not injured by books coming in on top of it and eventually found a good home.

What fabulous anonymous gifts has your library received? Or, barring that, what's the weirdest thing your library has received?

Friday, September 23, 2011

"There is not such a cradle of democracy on earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration." Andrew Carnegie 1835-1919

This past Monday I traveled from Eugene to Hood River for the SSD Board Meeting at the library there.  What a thrill and privilege it was to visit the Hood River library, recently reopened after a year's closure due to loss of funding.

The library is in the original Carnegie building with an addition built on at a later date.  Taking a brief walk around the building I spotted a delightful sculpture near the trees.  Taller than I it had a small brass plaque identifying it as "Stoniferous Pine" and was made entirely of rocks and flat stones in the shape of a tree.
They were fitted into place with no mortar, held together by their careful, complicated placement.

From the Hood River County Library District's website: "Hood River County's first publicly-funded library opened on September 13, 1912."   "Hood River County Library District recently became a member of the Libraries of Eastern Oregon, LEO, an organization dedicated to helping the many small, rural libraries across Oregon deliver great services to their users." 

The library reopened this July thanks to enthusiastic community support, generous monetary donations, and grants; and thanks to their library Foundation which used imaginative fund raising dinners held in local homes with themes based on books, in addition to their further dedicated efforts to solicit stable funding.  The Hood River library stands as a testament to those grass roots movements that often achieve what bureaucracy can't or won't.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Not Getting What You Don’t Ask For

A non-faculty member recently asked for a library carrel, in order to take an online class. I’ve been here for twenty-three years now, and we’ve almost never have support personnel ask for a study carrel, which is rather sad. It’s not that people don’t know the rooms are there – at one time, when we had a rash of newborns, we set one carrel aside for nursing mothers, and the room got brisk use.

Thinking about this reminded me of another event. Some years ago, I arranged a noon-hour tour for support staff around the science center—people from all sorts of departments, not just the library—we took a “dock walk” and learned to identify different types of fishing boats. The woman who coordinated the program told me that she had been arranging these tours for over ten years, and she had never given herself permission to go on one of the tours until our event.

It got me to wondering, how often in life do I “short” myself? Do I lack the imagination, courage or energy to carve out some time to stretch and grow some new skills? Or to have a new experience? Are there services I think are just for faculty/management because I have never asked? How often do I say, “I’m worth it” and mean it?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In Praise of Standing in Line

I was only able to attend the first two hours of the SSD conference last month. Even in that relatively short time, I ended up standing in a couple of lines.

Queuing up is a standard activity at pretty much every conference. (A notable exception was Online Northwest several years ago, when the conference planners had designated one of the men's restrooms as a women's restroom for the day). We line up to get food, to visit the rest room, or visit a popular exhibitor. We frequently complain about it while we're doing it, and mention it on our conference evaluations.

Standing in line has its good points, though. Since I was at SSD for a short time, I never would have seen many of my SSD colleagues if I hadn't encountered them in the line for breakfast or the restroom. It was great to have a chance to catch up with folks I hadn't seen for a while (over a year, in some cases).

Standing in line is also a good way to meet new people. Don't be afraid to say "hi" and introduce yourself as the line snakes slowly toward the desserts. You can find out about other libraries and maybe make a new friend. At the very least, the line seems to move faster when you've got someone to talk to.

Friday, July 22, 2011

OLA SSD Officers for 2011-12

We now have a new slate of elected officers for 2011-12 :

Chair : Sean Park (Coos County Library Service District)

Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect : Margaret Harmon-Myers (Eugene Public Library)

Past-Chair : Susan Bacina (Valley Library, Oregon State University)

Treasurer : Rea Andrew (Newberg Public Library)

Recorder : Eugene Newbill (Oregon State Library, Salem)
Archivist : Margaret Harmon-Myers (Eugene Public Library) -- Yes, Margaret now holds two posts. She wanted to and there is nothing in the SSD by-laws saying someone can't do so. So thank you doubly, Margaret, for your double duties!

The SSD Board also consists of the following unelected but no less important members :

Member-at-large : Elaine Bortles (Pacific University)
Member-at-large : Sylvia Bowers (Baker County Library)

IT Team :
SSD Website : Sean Park (Coos County Library Service District)
SSD Blog : Rebecca Roth (Multnomah County Library)
SSD Facebook : Kate Schwab (Multnomah County Library)

Continuing Education Committee Chair : Carrol Barton (Lane Community College -- semi-retired)
2012 Conference Committee Chair : Anybody interested??

If anyone is interested in becoming more involved with SSD, the Continuing Education Committee or the Conference Committee are good places to start.

Please consider becoming more active in SSD... It's a great professional development opportunity! We welcome all OLA/SSD members. Not a member? There are SSD scholarships for first time joiners!

Please contact me, Susan Bacina (Valley Library, OSU), if interested :
Email : Phone : 541-737-7328

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Report on the 17th annual conference of the Oregon Library Association’s Support Staff Division
July 15, 2011 – The Oregon Garden
By Susan Gilmont

I just got back from the 17th annual “Gateways” conference of the OLA Support Staff Division. It was a wonderful experience. You couldn’t have a better setting than The Oregon Garden, and our attendees were quite pleased by the venue.

One of the great things about support staff is that we have long memories. We don’t forget who helped us along the way. Thus, the conference began with a tribute to retiring State Librarian Jim Scheppke to thank him for his consistent support of support staff. Two of our past chairs, Donetta Sheffold and Jey Wann, as well as Susan Bacina, our current Chair, saluted Jim. Susan gave Jim an orchid and a loud, vulgar, gaudy trophy inscribed, “Thanks, Coach!”

The keynote address was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Conference 2011
Growing Together: Support Staff in Action

Friday, July 15, 2011 | 7:30 am - 4:30 pm
Oregon Garden Resort, Silverton, OR

Cost of attendance is $70 for OLA members and $85 for non-members.
We are pleased to announce our keynote speaker is Abigail Elder, recently-elected OLA Vice President/President-elect and Tualatin Public Library Manager.
Don’t miss out on this great value for important and timely sessions. Registration includes free admission to the Oregon Garden and a boxed lunch to take on a garden stroll.

Basic Book Repair for Libraries, an all-day workshop* capacity reached! Please contact Rea Andrew for upcoming book-mending workshops.
What to Say: Customer Service in Difficult Situations
How to Get the Training You Need: Professional Development Options for Oregon Support Staff
A Day in the Life of A Library Assistant
Marketing Your Library: Strategies for the 21st Century
Technology Petting Zoo including e-readers, iPads, iPhones and more!
Managing Stress for Healthy Workplaces, a presentation by Phil Mandel

Registration is now open.  The link to the registration form is below

Registration deadline is July 8th.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Single Voice Can Make a Difference

In many areas of the world today, citizens are taking serious risks to speak out against their government. People have been imprisoned, even killed, for daring to speak up. Despite the danger, the protests continue.

In the United States, it can be easy to take our right to freedom of speech for granted. The US constitution guarantees our rights. Oregon's sometimes controversial constitution is even more liberal when it comes to freedom of expression.

It's safe and legal to express yourself in public in Oregon, but that doesn't mean it's easy. And it's not just the big political arena where this is true. It's also true within our professional organization, the Oregon Library Association.

At the annual OLA conference a couple of weeks ago, the membership voted on a number of changes to the by-laws.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Barriers to Participation in Library Associations: a Quick and Dirty Literature Review

Susan Gilmont (Past Chair, OLA Support Staff Division), March, 2011

I tried to look at works on barriers to participation in professional associations for librarians and library workers. There is a dearth of literature on this subject. I did find some work on the broader topic of professional development, including professional development in libraries, in which library associations were mentioned. Some rewarding insights may be found in these writings.

I found two studies that addressed release time and travel support for committee meetings and other activities associated with library associations. A 2001 study of small colleges (125 respondents) showed that 63% of librarians received travel support for committee meetings of national associations while 14% of “non-professional staff” received similar support. 78% of librarians received support for committee meetings for regional associations, while 42% of “non-professional staff” received support (Gaskill and Morrill, 2001) A study of academic librarians in Oklahoma found important correlations between employer-provided funding and/or release time and meeting attendance, association membership, committee service, and other professional development activities. (Havener and Stolt, 1994)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting to Work

A few days ago, during an impromptu conversation about the pros and cons of telecommuting, a co-worker said, "anyone would like to work from home if they could." I was surprised at the sentiment, because I definitely wouldn't. There are several reasons for that, including the fact that we already have one works-at-home person in our household & there's not room for two, and the fact that I'd find it hard to concentrate on work at home.

According to my co-worker, the reason most people would like to telecommute is to avoid their commute. But my commute is a positive thing for me. Most of the time, I commute by bicycle. In the unusual times that's not possible, like when the streets are icy, I ride the bus (which requires walking nearly a mile). I occasionally walk for a change of pace, or if my bike's in the shop for repair. On the few days that I have to drive to work, I don't feel I'm as alert as I should be when I arrive. Walking up two flights of stairs doesn't have the same invigorating effect that biking 3 1/2 miles does.

Several years ago, I wrote an article about alternative transportation for the Going Green issue of the OLA Quarterly. Library staff shared their experiences getting to work without driving, or without driving much. It was inspiring to hear how much people enjoy their commutes.

Re-reading the article just now, I'm sad to note that some of the things state employees on the capital mall used to enjoy are no longer true: we no longer get unlimited-use bus passes for a one-time $8 fee, and "smart commuters" not longer get coupon books. I'm not so sad about the loss of the coupon books, but the fact that a monthly bus pass can be nearly as expensive as parking has caused some to give up the bus and start driving to work.

I know alternative transportation isn't for everyone, for any number of reasons. I also think telecommuting is a great option for folks with appropriate jobs. For me, though, I'll continue getting to work under my own power, and consider myself lucky that I can.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

OLA Participation Survey

The Oregon Library Association and Support Staff Division Executive Boards are interested in why support staff would not join, or if they join, not actively participate in, the Oregon Library Association and the Support Staff Division. To that end, we would like to pose a couple of questions --

Have you experienced any barriers to your participation or involvement? What are they?

Also, have you had to write up a justification for your participation or involvement in professional organizations?

We'd be grateful for any additional comments you'd wish to share, as well.

Please send any responses to me at :

All responses will be kept confidential and are for compilation purposes only.

Thank you,
Susan Bacina

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Life After Zeno

Last weekend, I put a symbolic finish on my Zeno yard project (see my November post) by getting the final bunch of brush into the yard-debris cart, and thus out of my yard. That leaves me free to consider other yard projects that have been languishing in the months since I started the Zeno project. Because I have a big yard, and my yard-work attention span isn't always very long, this means that I pull a few weeds, collect a little kindling, pull some ivy, rake some leaves, etc., but don't concentrate on any one thing.

Seems like something similar has been happening at work. After a quiet week between Christmas and New Years, when I could work on a few off-beat special projects, the new year brought an unusual number of deadlines and multiple priorities. It's hard to sit down and concentrate on any one thing for very long, and I find myself multi-tasking a lot.

This is probably reality for many, if not most, of us in the "doing more with less" library world. It's not a totally bad thing; after all, variety is good, and I wouldn't want to have a job in which I did exactly the same thing, day after day.

Now, what is it I was going to do after I finish writing this?