Serving our unique communities

In an effort to drum up focus group participation for our strategic planning process, I wrote an Open Book column for the Arlington Advocate and the Robbins Library blog discussing how public libraries are unique from one another, and need to be unique to serve the specific needs of their communities: 

When I am traveling, whether around New England, across the country, or even internationally, one of my favorite things to do is visit the public library in the community I am visiting. I do this for a lot of reasons, sometimes to take advantage of free internet access, and sometimes to learn more about the place I am visiting. However, the main reason I visit these public libraries is because I am fascinated by how all libraries are so unique from one another in so many different ways. For example, you just never know what you will encounter inside a library. I will never forget when I visited the Provincetown Public Library for the first time and discovered a half scale replica of a fishing schooner inside!

Sometimes you will discover a library pet in residence, such as a cat, guinea pig, dwarf bunny, hermit crab, or fish. Public library buildings are often so interesting, and they vary greatly from one another. On one end of the spectrum, there is a refurbished 1960’s English telephone booth that has been converted into a library in Clinton Corners, New York. On the other is a former Walmart that has been converted into perhaps the largest single story public library in the country located in McAllen, Texas, complete with a full snack bar called “The Hungry Scholar”.

You can create a beautiful library out of an abandoned Walmart!

Many libraries have unique collections; items that various public libraries across the country circulate include such things as musical instruments, telescopes, cake pans, fishing gear, and even seeds. Think the only types of programming you will find at public libraries across the country are storytimes for children and book clubs for adults? Think again. From hog-butchering demonstrations to libraraoke (karaoke at the library) to competitive LEGO robotics competitions, there are certainly some unique programs you can discover at public libraries everywhere. Many public libraries offer services like technology help or job search assistance, but a growing number offer digital media labs where patrons can share and create videos, music, and other digital projects. Other public libraries have opened makerspaces, like the Westport Connecticut Public Library MakerSpace, where people can collaborate and create art and inventions using high-tech tools like 3D printers.

Oak Park Public Library has turned an abandoned library space into an “Idea Box”, which they describe as “space that each month provides a new and dynamic participatory community experience”.

Why are public libraries so unique from one another? Sometimes, it is out of necessity, but more often than not, public libraries create their uniqueness in order to best serve their unique communities. How do public libraries know how to serve their unique communities? Through learning about their communities by soliciting feedback and listening to the people in their communities. At both the Robbins Library and Fox Branch Library we always welcome feedback from our community, and we provide several ways for individuals to provide feedback. In fact, there have never been more ways for you to provide us feedback. Whether you want to come by and talk to us directly, give us a call, send us an e-mail, send us an instant chat message, post on our Facebook page, send us a tweet, or anonymously drop a comment into our suggestion box, you certainly have lots of options. Next week, we are providing another way for you to provide us your feedback, feedback which will help shape the future direction of our Libraries. As part of our strategic planning process, we are holding a series of focus groups next week on Monday, October 28th and Wednesday, October 30th. You can find more details on the times and locations of these focus groups here. Your participation in the focus groups next week would really help us better serve you in the future.

So please, consider taking a little time to help us out and provide your feedback on what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong, and what we might do to improve. Maybe you think the library is perfect and doesn’t need to change anything at all, or maybe you think the library needs to improve by adding a seed lending collection and a full snack bar. Either way, we want your feedback! And remember, the next time you are traveling out of town, stop by the local public library and have a look around. You never know what you might discover!

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Our eBooks/eContent challenge and what we are doing to address it

Here is a column I wrote for our award-winning “The Open Book” Arlington Advocate column recently that discusses the challenges we face with eBooks/eContent (including challenges with pricing, access, and dealing with growing demand). It was originally published in the Arlington Advocate and can be seen on their Wicked Local Arlington website here. Check it out below:

Recently, I received an e-mail from a patron concerned about the limited availability of ebooks in the Minuteman Library Network.

He did an investigation and discovered that the Boston Public Library has more library ebooks available than Minuteman, and he also discovered that several bestsellers weren’t available from either Minuteman or the BPL in the ebook format.

His observations are absolutely correct, the state of electronic books, and eContent in general, isn’t as good as it needs to be in the Minuteman Library Network. Unlike the collections at our individual libraries, all the Minuteman libraries go in together as a group to purchase our ebooks collection although there is an exception to this which I will mention momentarily.

Despite the tremendous increase in library ebook usage we have seen over the past three years, finding the funding to keep up with this growing demand is a major challenge. Unfortunately, ebooks for libraries are expensive. Douglas County Libraries in Colorado release a report each month that illustrates library pricing versus consumer pricing for ebooks. You can view the report by visiting

Libraries often pay four times what consumers pay for ebooks, and in some cases, even more. Additionally, many publishers don’t even allow libraries to purchase ebooks in the first place. Thus, the two major reasons that there are not more library ebooks available for patrons are: 1) many publishers don’t allow their ebooks to be purchased by libraries, and 2) ebooks are very expensive for libraries.

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of the American Library Association and institutions such as the New York Public Library, the major publishers are starting to come around and are slowly starting to make their ebooks available to libraries. However, the existing model for library ebook purchasing, which perhaps I should be calling library ebooks licensing, because libraries can only license ebooks at this point, is broken and needs to be fixed.

Here are some of the things were are doing to address our challenges with ebooks:

1) The service that provides ebooks for Minuteman, the Boston Public Library, and most other libraries across the country is called OverDrive. Even though Arlington goes in with the other libraries in Minuteman and makes a group purchase of ebooks, OverDrive has provided an option for individual libraries to opt into called OverDrive Advantage, which is the exception I referred to above. The way OverDrive Advantage works is that individual libraries can purchase ebooks and downloadable audiobooks that only their residents can access. To see what OverDrive Advantage titles we have, you first need to log in to your library account at, and then you can see the titles we purchase that are available exclusively for Arlington residents.

2) The Massachusetts Library System is working on a statewide ebook platform project which will hopefully address some of the cost and availability issues libraries have with ebooks. You can learn more about this project by visiting The Robbins Library is serving as one of the 50 beta libraries for this project.

3) We are also a partner library of a grassroots nonprofit called Library Renewal you can learn about by visiting Library Renewal wants to build a new platform to help libraries acquire eContent at sustainable prices.

4) We always like to remind our patrons that there is another library ebooks collection they can access to expand their options. Residents of Massachusetts can sign up for an eCard with the Boston Public Library. This eCard provides access to all of the Boston Public Library’s electronic resources, including ebooks. You can learn more about the BPL eCard by visiting

Libraries across the country are struggling with the challenge of satisfying the growing community demands for ebooks and eContent. We are actively addressing these challenges and I am optimistic that we will do a much better job of meeting the ebook needs of our community in the future.

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Getting that first library job

Did you just graduate from library school? Congratulations! Hopefully you have found a job, but if you haven’t, I am here to help! Inspired by PubLib, the LinkedIn ALA Discussion Group, and my fellow craft brew loving colleague the BeerBrarian, I thought that I would share some advice for newly minted library school grads looking to land that first library job. It is such a competitive job market right now and I continue to hear or read about some really obvious mistakes that new MLS/MLIS graduates make when applying for jobs or going on interviews, so I really feel compelled to share some advice and try to help. Our profession needs bright, young talent with enthusiasm and fresh ideas, and I want you to get hired!

When applying for jobs…

1) Please, please, please, focus on that cover letter and resume!

This should be obvious, but you need to be sure that your cover letter and resume are flawless. You want your cover letter and resume to stand out, but not in a bad kind of way. Yeah, I know you are applying for multiple jobs, but please focus the cover letter on the opportunity with my organization and don’t just copy and paste stuff from another cover letter. And if you do, please, make sure that you aren’t copying and pasting the wrong information about the organization! If the director’s name is Raymond Santiago and you address your cover letter to Ginnie Cooper, you are instantly eliminated right there. If you are an out-of-town candidate, explain to me why you are applying for a job here. Originally from the area and moving back in with your parents after you graduate? Great, but make sure you tell me that in the cover letter and don’t assume I will figure that out on my own. For more cover letter advice, check out this link that BeerBraian mentioned in this post.

2) Do your research on my organization!

Why do you want to work for us? Because we are the only library hiring in your area? Well, maybe, but don’t tell me that! Give me a reason you are interested in this position that will catch my interest. Show me that you have done your research. Look at the website. Read newspaper articles about the library. Read the Board of Trustees meeting minutes (they are almost always online, and give you fantastic insight into what is going on at the library). Look at the library’s statistics. Use this information to guide you with crafting your cover letter.

3) Tell me why we should hire you…sell yourself!

Use the information you know about the library and sell how you can help us. Remember, this isn’t so much about you, this is about what you can do for us.

4) If you are still in grad school, intern at a library. If you have already graduated, find some way to get library experience.

You need some experience. Get it. Anyway you can. Volunteer at your local library. It might even lead to a paid position there down the road, you never know. If nothing else, you will gain valuable library experience (there are just some things you can’t learn about working in a library without on-the-job training) and add to your professional network.

5) Be active with professional development.

Join professional associations. Can’t afford to join ALA (join the club!), try some local associations. And don’t just join them, be active with them! Read librarian blogs, follow library professionals on Twitter, get active on LinkedIn (there are some great library-related groups you can join on LinkedIn), join listservs, and read professional journals. And start a blog! One of the ways my library’s YA Librarian stood out during the job application process was that she had a great YA books blog and she told us about it. If I had any doubts about her knowledge of YA literature, I certainly didn’t after checking out her blog.


This guy is totally going to get the job after listening to my advice :-)


When you get an interview…

1) Dress up!

Unless you have an interview with Google, wear your best business attire. Looking great, in and of itself, probably isn’t going to get you a job, but it will help you make a great first impression, which is huge. This is very basic and very common sense, but it still amazes me how casually people dress for interviews.

2) Be sure to do your research!

Oh, wait, I already mentioned this. But it is important! You are probably going up against candidates that have more experience than you do, so you need any extra edge you can get. If you have done your homework on the library and the other candidate hasn’t, this will definitely help your cause.

3) Do a practice interview (especially if you haven’t done it for a long time).

Yeah, I know, this is not the most comfortable thing to do. But, it really helps to find some sample interview questions for the job you want, get a friend to be the interviewer, and do a practice interview. Practice makes perfect!

4) Sell yourself!

I mentioned this above as well, but be sure to do it in the interview. Tell me why we should hire you and what you can bring to the organization. Also, sell your personality. Everyone that I am interviewing can probably do the job, so keep in mind that I am also looking for someone that would be a good fit for our team and our culture. Be professional, but not so formal that you don’t allow your personality to shine.

5) “Do you have any questions for us?” Of course you do!

If you have done your homework (and I know you have), you should have plenty of things to ask us. Don’t close the interview by telling us you don’t have any questions!


Good luck!

Remember, no matter what, try to stay upbeat and positive! Working at the library is awesome, and all the hard work and effort you put into getting that first job will be totally worth it!


Photo credit: morgueFile


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Promoting events with Xtranormal

Ever since I saw my first Xtranormal video I wanted to make one. And I finally did get around to making an Xtranormal video to promote 1book4summer. Check out the final result:

Making videos with Xtranormal is easy.  If you can type, you can do it! It probably took me about two hours to make the video above, and most of that time was spent writing the script! Of course, now that I have made one, it will go much faster the next time. Either you can make one online directly through their website or download Xtranormal State and create the video through this program on your computer. After you register as a new user, you get 300 Xtranormal points that allow you to unlock certain scenes and characters. If I had been willing to purchase more Xtranormal points, I could have unlocked some really fun characters and scenes. However, I think the ones available with the free initial 300 points will serve most users just fine. After I created my little movie on Xtranormal State, I did add a title page and credits to the video using Windows Movie Maker.

Want to make an Xtranormal video but think you will need some help? The Daring Librarian has a great detailed overview on her wiki how to create videos with Xtranormal. Additionally, she has created this sweet At-A-Glance Comic Tutorial!

I had a blast making this video. If you haven’t used Xtranormal before, you should do it. It is a great tool for making videos to promote library events.  I think it would also be an awesome tool to use for a children and/or teen film making program.  What other ways do you think libraries could use Xtranormal?




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1book4summer: read, share, and discover great summer reads!

Today I want to share with you a project that I co-created with my colleagues: 1book4summer! And hopefully I can convince you to get involved!

Looking to take your summer reading program to a new level this year? Do you want to be part of a book group that your users can participate with wherever they are on the planet? Would you like to share your thoughts on great summer reads with others around the world or discover other great reading materials for yourself?

Check out 1book4summer! Inspired by Nancy Pearl’s “One Book” movement and Jeff Howe’s One Book, One Twitter and 1book140 Twitter book groups, 1book4summer is a global summer reading group which will vote to select a book to read this summer and discuss it entirely on Twitter. Additionally, participants will be able to share what they are reading at through an interactive map with others around the globe and help people discover other great reads by location.

How does 1book4summer work?

The 1book4summer team, consisting of some of the world’s finest librarians and booksellers, has narrowed it down to a shortlist of four novels that are in the running for the inaugural 1book4summer book selection. Voting on Twitter will begin on June 7, 2011 to select the book title. Voting will end on June 21, 2011 at Noon (EST) and the book title will be announced. Then, the real fun begins! Not only will participants be able to read and tweet all summer, but also they will be able to share their favorite titles from around the world at And for those avid readers looking for other books to read this summer, they can discover great, new summer reads at as well.

How can I participant in the book discussion?

When the discussion begins on June 21, it will be done entirely on Twitter. Dedicated hashtags will be used for each chapter. #1b4s_1 will be used for chapter 1, #1b4s_2 will be used for chapter 2, #1b4s_3 will be used for chapter 3, and so on. There is no set schedule and you can read and discuss the book as you’d like. There are no hard or fast rules, but please use the chapter hashtags to avoid any spoilers.

How can I share some of my favorite summer reads with everyone and find other great summer reads?

In addition to interacting with other 1book4summer participants through Twitter, visit to share your favorite summer reads and discover other great books by location through an interactive map.

Join the team!

Come join in on the fun this summer! Follow @1book4summer for updates and #1b4s for the discussion. Visit to share your favorite summer reads or to discover something new.  Become a fan of 1book4summer through our Facebook Page. Questions? Feel free to contact us through Twitter or e-mail us at 1book4summer at gmail dot com.

1book4summer logo designed by Jane Bleakley

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Library programming ideas: don’t ignore the obvious!

When it comes to library programming, many public libraries tend to do the same kinds of things.  Most libraries do storytimes, host book groups, and invite in authors.  Several others do additional programming like host gaming tournaments, teach computer classes, and help people learn job search skills.  These programs are a very important part of what we do, whether we are teaching children early literacy skills or helping the unemployed with their job search when they have no place else to turn.  These are all excellent programs, but they aren’t necessarily the most creative, innovative, and fun programs out there.  If we are going to truly make the library the third place in our communities, the community gathering place between home and work/school, we have to create some programs that are going to generate some buzz in our communities.  But how do we come up with cool and clever programming ideas?

Storytimes have been around for a long time. They still totally rule, but what else can we be doing?

Well, for starters, how about seeing what is hot on Twitter, turning on the television, or reading the newspaper (if you really want to go old school)?  Sometimes the coolest programming ideas are the most obvious ones.  For example, check out the event that the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library held very, very early on Friday, April 29, 2011…a Royal Wedding viewing party!

Here is the report that Andrew Porteus of the Niagara Falls Public Library gave of the event on PubLib:

“We had 47 participants – one took a taxi from a nearby town & arrived at 3 a.m. (doors opened at 4:30) – she sat in the nearby doughnut shop, and met a lady who had taken the last bus & had arrived just after midnight. Talk about dedication!  It was very festive – lots of comments on the processions, but turned really quiet during the service. The local cable company was there, the TV station from Hamilton stayed all morning & broadcast at various times with interviews & comments. The papers were there also. We received a tremendous amount of good publicity from this.”

Sure, there were some costs involved in organizing this program, but any library could have held a Royal Wedding event like this.  And the idea for a program like this was totally obvious!  What completely obvious yet cool and buzzworthy programs have you had at your library?



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Hi, I’m Ryan Livergood.  Welcome to my new blog!  I decided to start this blog as a way to connect and collaborate with other librarians across the country and ultimately discuss how we can work together to lead our libraries into the 21st century and beyond.  Like many of you, I have some concerns about the field of librarianship.  What are some of these concerns?  I am concerned that there are not enough librarians stepping up as leaders in our field.  I am concerned about the people we serve, about our communities, about providing the best possible customer service possible.  I am concerned that too many libraries across the country are losing the battle to keep libraries as an essential community service.  I am concerned that many libraries are behind the curve in embracing technology, more specifically, mobile technology.  I am concerned about the lack of Common Sense Librarianship.

This is a blog by a librarian for librarians, but hopefully it will appeal to anyone interested in leadership and mobile technology as well.  I am looking forward to connecting with you all!

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