Merchandising is pretty. Service is meaningful.

After spending half of a lunch hour searching through the “well merchandised” half acre of Barnes & Noble looking for a particular book (and never finding one staff person to assist or a self-serve computer terminal to search the inventory) I firmly say this: merchandising is not service. We’re confusing ourselves if we think so and tangle this up with the core of what we do. Merchandising is a very obvious thing to do and you can see the nice results. It’s not the answer to meeting needs of resource seekers.
Should we better merchandise our collections and resources? Yes–of course. Will it make a huge dent in customer service? No. It’s pretty. It makes the place look nice. It may increase circulation. But it is not service. People give service. This is what the big chains still don’t get. A user likely won’t remember that all the yellow books about travel were neatly stacked together on face-out shelves. She will remember a staff member who helped her search for what she needed or made her feel welcome or offered her an alternative. It’s the meaning behind the merchandise that is remarkable.

Family Portrait Day @ the Library

What do you get when you take friendly and daring staff, mixed with a talented on-staff graphic designer (who just happens to be a wiz at photography) and add in the holiday season? It’s Family Portrait Day @ the Public Library! The story is this simple and this extraordinary–giving our users a wonderful, free opportunity to have their portraits taken on a Saturday at Independence Regional Library (this means a 15 minute fun photo session and a disc of their photos less than a week later) plus allowing staff with special talents and skills to shine in new and meaningful ways!
Guess what? I bet you can do this, too in your Public Library. Willing to throw down less than $100 for supplies and a few hours of time giving your community a chance to have an unexpected experience at the library? Then you’re well on your way to stealing this idea. I’ll post more photos when they’re ready. (Yes, we had community members give us permission to use the photos in library promo). We also had families pose with their favorite books (or ones we had in the prop station, just in case).
The next Family Portrait Day will be at Plaza-Midwood Branch during the “Holidays in the Hood” Art Crawl that the community is sponsoring. Come on out for it…or, better yet, create Family Portrait Day at your own Library or civic organization.
Thanks, Ian, Emily and Erin for helping this idea come to life!

Email Free Friday Update

It’s been about 3 months since we went email free on Fridays in my department. I promised I’d let you know how it goes…and it goes great! What we’re finding is that being email free on just this one day a week is helping most of us be more conscious of how many emails we send during the rest of the week. It also makes me aware of how much information is really necessary and how much is just noise.

Here are 3 quick ways you can turn down the volume on your inbox:

1. Don’t hit the “reply all” button to any email, especially ones that list more than 2 people in the “To” field.

2. Unless your question needs some sort of “documentation,” pick up the phone and call the person.

3. Turn your computer speakers off and minimize your email window so you’re not tempted by the new messages popping up.

Below are some comments from staff in my department on how they feel about Email Free Fridays:

  • …it opens up a dialogue we might never have had.
  • I really like the e-mail free Fridays. It allows me to catch up and clean up my messages and be prepared for the influx of messages for the upcoming week.
  • I think having a day without the constant demand of e-mails that have to be dealt with free us so we can catch up with paperwork, put together reports and… have extra precious time for planning, which is the heart of what we do in our department.
  • Please–YES–email free Fridays

Take the plunge–go email free on Fridays! It may sound scary, but you’ll love yourself (and others) for it!

Power & Stumble

Looking for an image to illustrate a post earlier tonight, I came across this image in flickr. It stopped my keystrokes in their trax. OK, what does this say to you?
Who’s got the power?
Plug it into the Web, the Real World, the Virtual, the Smart, the Keyed-in, the Old School, the Ren Gen?
What we stumble upon is sometimes worth A thousand words…

Design, Form, Function, Story

What does the creator of the design savvy $100 laptop have to think about his approach to product creation? “I’m a futurist…in the sense that I integrate new technologies into areas where they haven’t been integrated before,” Yves Behar says in an article in the current issue of Men’s Vogue. This sends shivers up my spine! Isn’t this what the 2.0 Librarian works to support everyday? Another shizz-shivering moment–when I looked up his design studio’s web site and saw that the major tag line (and link to get into the site) is “Design Brings Stories To Life.” The gist of the mission of ImaginOn–one of my own design, and planning projects is –get this–“to bring stories to life.” Shiver with me, folks. Design, form, function, service, awareness, community identity…you name it…it’s all connected. All the cloud colors mix to create the horizon. Design is dreaming in action, in reality. Life and libraries…excellent things! Note to self: Add Yves Behar to contemporary visionary heroes list.

Microtrends & Individual Tastes

Yesterday during the course of an excellent conversation with my colleague Helene, we discussed the idea that likely many of the “core values” of most human beings could be boiled down to a handful of statements that ultimately feed into all missions, goals, you name it. If we (the library, your org, agency) aren’t appealing to those core values or real driving needs of the community we’re often missing the point. One of those core needs is the need to feel “ownership” over things. We want to have our individual tastes, ideas, and products of expression represented in the world we inhabit.
In his book Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes, Mark Penn discusses the “niching” of our culture. This makes me think of the need for the individual to come out, to be heard or seen. By watching these niche movements we can tap into what’s coming down the pike before it hits us head on. What microtrends are you seeing in the community? Your library? How do we appeal to “the individual” when we’re also serving a larger community. It’s all connected…and quite fascinating (and intense) to look for the weave in it all. But look we must!

Giving Kids Choice, Power & Fun

Yesterday was Webkins Day at the Library! This meant a whole bunch of fun, chat and getting to know a group of kids in a very new way. Matthews Branch Library (Thanks, Trish!) here at PLCMC hosted two back-to-back Webkins Club programs for kids. I went with my colleague Emily to check it out. What a wowee moment! I got far more than I bargained for from these programs. One 4th grader, Samantha, became both my guide and teacher through the world of Webkins. All I had to do was ask her if she’d show me how to do something on the Webkins site. Any question I asked, she was able to answer. “How do you chat with friends?” With a slick click on the cell phone icon she showed me. “You can only do ‘dictionary chat'” she informed me and then continued to show me what that looked like. “Oh, look I got mail from my sister!” With a few swift mouse clicks she had opened her mail and responded. We later played a round of Webkins mini-golf. I played as one of her Webkins pets Taylor the Monkey. “You came in second at 7 points,” she told me politely when we finished. She had 22 points.
One of the things that was so subtly wonderful about these programs is that they were vibrant and cheerful and filled with learning moments–but they practically ran themselves! Trish would say something like “So, who has found out something new about Webkins games?” The hands would fly up and then a kid would continue on to explain her or his new discovery and then the beat would go on. Kids had a chance to make new buddies–both IRL and in the Webkins world as they would exchange Webkins buddy info at the end of the program.
Will Webkins continue to grow? Will this be just another fad that will fade as tastes and technology advance? It doesn’t really matter. Right here, right now we have the opportunity to meet kids (read: our whole community) where they are by reflecting their delights, their fancies–how about even their concerns. It creates connections, makes “our” world and their world collide in meaningful, deeper, and yes, FUN ways. That’s what this Webkins craze and these Webkins Club Days remind me of.
Later after the program when I had chatted with staff at Matthews Branch and was getting ready to leave the library with my equally satisifed colleague Emily, Samantha came running up to me to ask me if I’d share my Webkins info with her so that we could be buddies. Imagine my deflation when I had to tell her I didn’t have a Webkins. But I will soon. And Children’s Departments and Libraries everywhere else, spring for the $15-20 to get one for your staff to play with, explore and make some connections with the Samanthas and Evans and Scotties in your own library worlds. You’ll be glad you did! Posted by Picasa

Real Pencils, Revisited

It’s time for an update on the pencil thing! Way back in February when I voiced my first big phat “why?” about golf pencils and their use in public libraries, we’ve had some shift. I ordered personalized pencils–REAL pencils for PLCMC…enough to replace all the golf pencils that float around (and then into the trash cans) the library system.
I’m going to make like a golf pencil and keep this short–sleek black pencils replaced the short stubby ones this summer thoughout the Charlotte region. And we’re hoping they were used and then walked out the door. They are printed with 3 messages:
“Where’s The Point: At Your Public Library”
“Want To Know Something: Go To Your Public Library”
“Reading 20 Minutes A Day Can Change Your Child’s Life”

Please feel free to steal these messages…and pass them around…on real pencils or in any fashion that is handy!
Oh, and this has gone a bit viral since my first rant, but just in case you haven’t seen it, someone else decided to question the short pencil…check out the Short Pencil Saga.

Hatzoff! Award–It’s Official! My hat’s off to Warren Truitt ( and then you and you…)

There are so many people out there in the big, wide world doing incredible work, people like Warren Truitt at New York Public Library (and creator of the rockinest Cool Kids Music blog around) . What is even more awe-inspiring is that so many of these folks–like Warren–are simply doing what comes naturally to them with results that are nothing short of remarkable. They’re moving with the intuition, truth and daring actions that are trying to move through them with the work they do…and because of it lives are made better, kids are enchanted, communities are brightened and the world is a kinder, smarter place to live.
So often we never hear about these folks. We see their work or it may be lauded quietly in small circles. And ultimately, that is the way that is best…to do great work, great things happen and then they move on to more great things.
Lately I find myself often thinking or saying “Hat’s off to you!” to the folks I see making the world a more golden place by just doing what they do–deeply, with commitment, and with joy. That “hat’s off” often becomes a “hatzoff!” when I am so moved by the enormity of the drive and commitment of one person’s effort or vision.

Having said all that, I am now taking the hat off my own head and offering up the the Hatzoff! Award to people who are doing what they do best with magnificent results.

What this means is just what I said…You get the hat off my head mailed to you when you receive the Hatzoff! Award. I’ll send this at my own expense with a note and any other little sumthing, sumthing I may be able to muster up to say a whole-hearted “Thank you, for the quite (and often quiet) incredible work you do.

Yep, you heard me right. Most people who know me know that I wear a whole bunch of different hats (yes, in both senses of the phrase). I can think of no better way to say “here’s to you” than this simple little gesture.

Here’s how it works:

1. Anyone can “nominate” anyone else who they feel is doing plain-old-simple-but-tremendous work that achieves remarkable results by simply emailing me at (There is no form or application needed, just send me a few lines and tell me about what this person is doing out there in the world and why they deserve a big ole “Hatzoff!”) For instances, it may be the librarian who created an incredible program that met the needs of an unserved group; it may be the neighbor who took it upon herself to make sure older members of her neighborhood got the information they needed; it may be someone that spoke up when no one else would and made a difference in their community; it may be the originator of an super-sizzed-out virtual discussion. You get to decide. I just need to hear about it. Tell me the gist of it by emailing me at .

2. I’ll consider every email “nomination” I get and take every nomination seriously. I will get back in touch with you if I have any questions and to ask how and where to best be able to send this well deserving person their “Hatzoff Award!”

3. In case you’re wondering: This thing could really take off, you are saying…how will you pay for all the postage and–,more importantly–how will you be able to replace your hat collection? Well, I thought about this all afternoon. I figure that if it comes to it, I can just let go of a few of my hurried lunches that I often have each week (because I forget to pack my lunch) and see if this takes care of it. I did the math today and it’s staggering what these 2-3 convenient, but often less-than-thrilling lunches can cost each week! I’d much rather spend the money on recognizing someone great than have another wilted overpriced salad and iced tea.

4. I’ll mail the repient their Hatzoff! Award (yep, the hat off my head and my sincere appreciation) and then post information about them and the great work they are doing right here at

5. Their is no limit to how many nominations or Hatzoff Awards that can be made. I’ll do this on an ongoing basis. I’m ready to do a little (or lots) of celebrating all the great people around me and finding out about all those I don’t yet know about. The only limitation comes in how fast you can send the emails and how fast I can get hats in boxes and postage slapped on.

The Hatsoff! goes to…

Now, you may see that I already let the cat out of the bag last week when I posted the first Hatzoff Award in an earlier blog.

With great joy and appreciation, I again announce the first Hatzoff Award goes to Warren Truitt, Children’s Librarian extraordinaire and creator of Kids Music That Rocks !

Warren will be receiving the very hat below (being tipped in his honor) along with a box full of appreciation.

Now, it’s your turn to let me hear who deserves the next Hatzoff Award!

"Hatzoff Award" Goes To: Kids Music That Rocks

There are many reasons to love Librarians. Even more reasons to love Children’s Librarians. They are the shizz and they cause the sizz. No one shows this more than Warren Truitt at New York Public’s Donnell Central Children’s Library–librarian extraordinaire, music lover and rockmarketeer and creator of KIDS MUSIC THAT ROCKS!
KMTR showcases perhaps the most articulate and hearty reviews of music that really really really rocks for kids–and their adults–in the universe. Warren keeps us on our toes with sporatic carefully chosen, stardusted book reviews and retro-spiced posts that remind us that the public library and the world-of-being-a-kid is pretty drippin’ deep.
Hats off–Hatzoooooooooooof, I said, to Kids Music That Rocks.