Friday, January 28, 2011

Getting Digital

After a slight mix up in the seasons – we think that winter took some time off to attend a conference somewhere in the tropics and left spring in charge – the temperature is dropping and the slush is re-solidifying into barely navigable sheets of ice. It’s just a little crazy out there.

But we have a solution!

Well, not a solution to the weather; a solution to the problem of having to go out in it. It’s called Library to Go and it lets you stay at home and check out great books whenever you want.
Library to Go is a provincially shared collection of downloadable audio and e-books. There are thousands of titles to choose from and both fiction and non-fiction are available. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s a great way to put that e-Reader you got for Christmas to good use!

All you need is a current membership at HPL to access Library to Go from your home computer. Members in good standing need only go to the HPL website at and scroll down the home page until the Library to Go logo appears. Click on that and you will be instantly transported to a world of digital literature.

The books in Library to Go can be checked out, just like a book from the library. Once the lending period has expired, the book will too! This is because in many cases there is a single license for a title and so only one person can have it out at a time. There are, however, many “always available” titles with unlimited download capacity.

You will need to install free software on your computer in order to download the books. The links to these downloads are on the left hand side of the Library to Go home page near the bottom. They only take a minute to download and install and, once that’s done, you can check out up to five titles at a time and keep them for up to three weeks. You can also transfer them to compatible devices such as iPods, iPads, MP3 players and Kobo or Sony e-readers. A link to a list of compatible devices is available on the Library to Go home page and each title record shows icons that let you know at a glance what devices will work with it. Full tutorials, also on the home page, will guide you through the process from start to finish.

As digital editions become more and more common, some people fear that print books are going to disappear. Controversy on the pros and cons of digital publishing and what it means for the future of print books has raised debates all across library land. From managing collections to patron education to how libraries, themselves, are going to look, librarians range from excited to dubious to downright concerned about their own futures over it. What will happen is anybody’s guess, but libraries are certain to face some interesting challenges and changes in the coming years.

And not to be left out, HPL will be offering patrons the chance to experience digital books in the coming weeks. We have ordered two Kobo e-readers that will be available to patrons to borrow. Each Kobo comes with 100 classic titles and has the capacity to hold up to 900 more. Patrons will be allowed to download e-books of their own choosing. Upon return of the e-reader any patron-downloaded titles will be deleted. If a patron chooses to purchase a title and download it to the Kobo, they will do so with the understanding that it will be deleted when the e-reader is returned to the library. The Kobos will be lent out for 14 days – plenty of time to play and read!

So stay safe this winter; check out Library to Go and experience digital editions today.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Fresh Cycle Begins

So, the holidays are over and the New Year has begun. It’s back to the grind, or, rather, the grind picks up again after the interruptions.

It’s only the 7th of January and already libraries are receiving information about spring conferences, award nominations, board nominations and, of course, the dreaded annual survey that all public libraries are required to complete each year. It’s a daunting task, collecting all those statistics for the survey, but libraries are statistic-driven entities and library workers are used to collecting the information. If it can be counted, libraries count it, gathering numbers of checkouts, renewals, patron visits, memberships, acquisitions, program attendance, reference questions (asked and answered), ILL’s (lent and borrowed), computer use, database use, funding… You name it and it’s likely that a librarian somewhere is recording a tally of it.

Complicated spread sheets haunt the hard drives in virtually every library in the province and dedicated staff members dutifully input data daily in preparation of filling out the lengthy and detailed survey form. Without a completed survey, libraries do not receive the provincial funding that they rely on to be able to keep counting those stats.

Add to this summer student applications, the even more dreaded Statement of Financial Information (SOFI), conferences, programming and AGMs that all take place during the winter and spring months and you can see how the first part of the year is a whirlwind of activity with strict deadlines and no latitude for slacking off. Plus it’s weeding time again, time to go through the collection and work on cleaning it up and out. (The staff is going to love me!) And it’s that time of year to update the membership list.

This is the stuff of librarianship that gives my job the awesomeness that gets me out of bed every morning with a smile on my face and enthusiasm in my heart. Sure I stress about it, fuss and worry and fret like a mother hen with too many chicks to fit under her wings. But when each of these things are completed, wrapped up and filed accordingly, the sense of satisfaction melts away the anxiousness for a few glorious moments and gives my mind a bit of a rest before the next deadline looms and the frenzy begins anew.

Working in a library is a perfect blend of routine and creativity. There are always problems to solve, decisions to make, patrons to satisfy, programs to organize, books to buy, books to withdraw, reports to write, reports to submit, meeting to attend, projects to plan and myriad other tasks to perform. Library work has its own continuum where tasks rise, fade and blend in a constant stream. Like the seasons, it’s cyclical. There’s the daily, the weekly, the monthly, the seasonal and the annual. And there’s the unexpected. A grant opportunity pops up out of nowhere and that special something the library’s been needing (wanting) for years if suddenly at hand. Or a generous donation from an unexpected source arrives and some piece of much needed equipment is realized. Or the server crashes and the IT guy isn’t available for a week. Or someone breaks in and steals the cash from the front desk income. It’s never a dull moment.

Anyway, a fresh cycle has begun, and ended and is continuing here at HPL. And I, for one, am excited about all the great stuff that is coming our way in 2011. For example – mark your calendars now! – Val Hiliker, a ventriloquist from Calgary, will be here to entertain the community on June 10th. We are partnering with Houston Link to Learning to bring Val here for Family Night. There will be other great events, too, so watch for our monthly calendar/newsletters so you won’t miss out on any of the fun.

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year

Well, Happy New Year, everyone! I trust that you all had a good holiday season. It was peaceful and quiet under here at the library, but that just gave the staff some time to catch their breath and get ready for 2011. It looks like it will be a great year at HPL.

If you go to the HPL Facebook page:!/pages/Houston-Public-Library/176164105732299 you’ll notice a discussion tab. There is one lonely discussion posted there and we are looking for some feedback from our fans. What would you like to see happening at HPL? Do you have some programming ideas? Some promotional ideas? Some fundraising ideas? Well, we want to hear about it. This is your library, people! Tell us what you think would work to promote and enhance the best little library in the North!

Oh, and while you’re there, be sure to become a fan – or a Liker as it were! Please click the Like button on the HPL FB page and help us get those numbers up, up, up. Since we switched to the new FB page, not all the fans have taken the time (mere seconds!) to show their support. And that makes me sad. I’m really a very likable! Heck, some people love me! 2400+ members can’t be wrong!

With the cooler weather hanging around for a while yet, there’s hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate on the go. Enjoy a cup while you browse the shelves or relax in the sitting area. We’ll happily take donations, but feel free to help yourself.

Oh, have you heard the rumor? HPL is this close to having BiblioCommons!

What’s BiblioCommons? Well, it’s been described as the crack cocaine of library services. I guess the best way to explain it is it’s an interactive catalogue that lets users see what is available in their libraries. Patrons can access their accounts to see what they have out, when it is due and if they owe fines. They can even place holds on books they want to read. I know it sounds like what HPL already has, but it’s not the same. It’s like Facebook for library users and it is the one-stop place to get and give reviews, see what’s happening at HPL and connect with library users from all over North America. How cool is that?

Well, I think it’s very cool and I can’t wait to announce the launch - expected sometime this month.

The staff is on pins and needles waiting for BiblioCommons to call and tell them when we’re good to go. Stay tuned and keep checking back either here or on Facebook for the official announcement! It’s going to be good!