Conference report by Kim Gurney

Conference: Unlocking the 21st Century Library
Atlanta, GA, Nov. 8-10th, 2012

The conference started off with Warren Graham talking about library security, an ever increasing concern in public and academic libraries across the country. He advocates simplicity, clarity of rules, administrative back up and training. He uses the “any behavior that is disruptive to the use of the library” as the rule of thumb. He pointed out that your co-workers lose credibility if you let the rules slide or give preferential treatment to some patrons. Another point was “just because you pay does not mean that you don’t have to follow the rules. Warren created his 30,30,30 rule; take 30 seconds every 30 minutes to observe the library for 30 days, you’ll learn a lot about the ebb and flow of the patrons and what goes on in the building. Over all it was a great start, the speaker clearly knew his stuff. He described some of our patrons as “reality impaired.”

Several workshops focused on customer service and working with students. The University of Michigan has developed a video training program for their student and staff who work in circulation. This came out of the need to have consistency across different buildings with multiple access points, with staff working different shifts. The video has a movie theme, the staff being the actors learning their parts. They also serve popcorn when doing a screening to complete the ambiance. This approach has worked well for them; other departments are asking for help to creating their own training videos as they run into the same challenges with location and different shifts.

Texas A&M is a huge college, over 50,000 patrons of various types. The access services manager created a program called; Get it for Me. They’ve refined and tuned the service, sent out surveys to gain information, and have been given an A+ rating from their constituents. The presentation of the system was really top notch, one of the best at the conference.

Technology in the library and our patrons using technology was a hot topic. In general it was noted that continued training for circulation staff was a must and that patrons like convenience, eBooks being a good example. Access services teams should regularly discuss the future of their team and what they can do to improve and stay informed. One thing the University of Seattle did to simplify was to make just two patron types, those affiliated with the college and those that were not. That may not work for us, but I did notice that we have many types of patrons; maybe we could simplify a little.

Virginia Tech came to the conference to discuss what they did after a shooting to respond to a lock down or an evacuation of the library building. Working with law enforcement they have devised a plan that works so well they can evacuate the building in about 5 minutes, it’s a big building so this is a feat. The library has four different entrances, one half of the building has 6 floors and the other half has 4 making it awkward to lock down quickly, but they were persistent and can also lock the building down in under five minutes. All staff members have a part to play in both scenarios and they regularly have drills to keep them sharp. It was clear to everyone that Virginia Tech totally revamped how they respond to emergencies; they are well trained and are passionate about protecting themselves and their patrons.

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