Archive for the ‘ Library ’ Category

Library Love: The National Park Service Libraries

I’m starting a new recurring series here at Quintessentially Bookish today.  There are so many great libraries out there that have innovative services, unique buildings, or special collections, but peope who don’t live near them or subscribe to library publications might not be aware of their existence.  I’m going to be periodically featuring libraries that are particularly interesting in some way.  The parameters are pretty loose; if I come across a library I think would be great to share, I will.  So, keep tabs on the Library Love tag for future posts.

For this inaugural post, I’ll be talking about The National Park Service Libraries.   American Libraries Magazine contained a great feature on NPS libraries this month. If you don’t subscribe, you can read the article online here. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that, until reading the article, I wasn’t really aware of the great number of fascinating libraries NPS contains.  I suppose when visiting that I, like many others I’m sure,visited the parks more for their natural beauty than for the materials offered.  However, I will definitely be looking for the libraries on my next vacation.


national park


The NPS website has a section for their library service on their website.  Here you can find links to all the library locations, contact the service desk, search the catalogs, and find more information regarding the libraries.   Here are a few that I am hoping to be able to visit soon.


San Francisco Maritime Park Library

Within the Library itself are over 35,000 book and periodical titles dating from 1536 to the present, 50,000 pieces of ephemera, over 3000 maps and charts covering the Pacific Basin and the West Coast of the United States dating from 1850 to the present, audio, and video materials in multiple formats.

50,000 pieces of ephemera!  Titles dating back to 1536!  Doesn’t that just sound amazing?  In addition to this library collection, the museum on the park grounds also contains an archival collection of papers, recordings, and photos from seafarers throughout the American history, and thousands of items from sailors, including dozens of historic vessels.


National First Ladies Library

As a national archive devoted to educating people about the contributions of First Ladies and other notable women in history, the Library’s holdings fill an informational void that has long frustrated academicians and armchair history buffs alike. The Library fulfills this mission by serving as a physical educational facility and an electronic virtual library, in an effort to educate people in the United States and around the world.

Many of America’s First Ladies have contributed greatly to our country’s well-being, but their accomplishments are often forgotten in the shadow of their presidential husbands.  It’s wonderful that this park and library is so dedicated to educating people about these women and what they did.   Their collection includes such items as photos, artifacts and videos from the First Ladies, books by and about them, and research papers about them.


Yosemite Library

The Yosemite Research Library, maintained by the museum, is a research resource with some 10,000 books relevant to Yosemite, as well as photographs and articles…The Yosemite Archives, located in El Portal, contains National Park Service records, personal papers, manuscript collections, and oral histories.

The Yosemite Museum opened in 1926 and the first National Park Museum.  It now includes hundreds of thousands of items.  It’s truly amazing what they contain in their collection.  For anyone with any interest in archives, history of that area, or National Parks in general, this just seems like a goldmine (and you can even learn about goldmining!)

Oh, Deary

If you have any interest at all in libraries, you’ve probably come across an article quoting children’s author Terry Deary’s opinion* on the future of libraries – namely that there isn’t one.  Unlike the glut of other authors who are supporting the campaign to save libraries, Deary believes that libraries “have had their day” and are  “cutting [the] throats” of authors and that this “is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature.”   Deary claims that he isn’t attacking libraries, but rather the concept behind them.  I would argue that he doesn’t understand the concept behind libraries at all or how they fit into a successful society.


1. Libraries introduce readers to new books, which is good for authors.

I would argue that very few people only find new books by buying them.  Many people end up buying a large portion of the books they own because they have already read that particular book or have already read a book by that author or part of that series and enjoyed it.  Books are expensive to buy, difficult to resell, and hard to judge based solely on a cover blurb.  If readers were forced to purchase every book they read blindly, there would be much more balancing of cost vs. potential enjoyment, which could lead to many readers simply choosing not to buy books.  When readers are allowed to “test drive” books first by checking them out in the library, they are able to explore and learn more about their own reading tastes, therefore making them more confident in buying books.  Deary was the seventh most borrowed children’s author in UK libraries last year.   That means that thousands of children were introduce to his books.  It’s likely that many of those children would not have heard of Deary or read his books without access to a library.  Deary might think libraries are the enemy of author’s profits, but he’s wrong.  Libraries aren’t the enemy, obscurity is.

2. Libraries offer more than books.

Deary’s argument seems to be based on a rather outdated view of libraries.  While the library might have originally starts to connect individuals with books, that is far from their only purpose now.  Libraries offer multiple items, including movies, magazines, CDs, databases, computer programs, and even items like seeds.   Additionally, libraries provide a myriad of services.  They offer job hunting seminars, tax prep, tutoring, crafting programs, movie nights, ESL classes, computer classes, printing and copying needs, access to the internet, game nights, and music programs.  They serve as museums, meeting rooms, art galleries, archives, study rooms, and cafes.  The roles a library can play in a community number in the hundreds and only a part of them have to do with lending books.

Additionally, Deary claims that we do not expect other entertainment subsets to give out their materials for free, but it’s  a faulty comparison.  For one, as I mentioned before, libraries do offer movies, music, and games for lending.  Also, when comparing books, songs, and movies on a strictly cost basis, books will lose.  If I want to see a new movie, I can do so for $5.  If I want to buy a new song, it will cost me $1-2.  If I want to buy a new book, most of them are going to cost me considerably more than that.

3. We do have a responsibility to offer access to information and literature.

Though some might not agree with this claim, I would argue that we do still need to fulfill our responsibility of allowing all users (“impoverished” or not) access to reading material and needed information.  For many individuals, the library is the only way they are able to access the internet, to find materials to read, or to get the information they need.  To deny anyone the ability to do this is incredibly classist.  An informed society is a better society and libraries are needed to keep society informed.  We can’t simply rely on the internet, because the internet isn’t curated or verified.  And, anyway, relying on the internet is pointless if individuals can’t afford to access it and not longer have libraries to do so.

In an era where literacy is much, much lower than it should be, libraries provide a vital service by connecting readers to books and offering tutoring and other literacy services.  American isn’t the only country with this issue; the UK has problems, as well. If 15% of the UK adult population is reading below the level expected of an 11 year old with libraries in existence, how do you think they would fare without them?  If only 40% of England’s 10 year olds have a positive attitude towards reading now, how many of them will have one if they have to pay exorbitant amounts to do so?  Reading and literacy are both linked to education, personal, professional, and societal success more than almost any other factor.  Why would anyone want to make it harder for individuals to do it?

4. The concept of receiving a service for tax money isn’t exclusive to libraries.

Deary argues that libraries are offering a service for free at the expense of tax payers and this is a negative thing.  However, that is the entire point of paying taxes.  We are able to use roads for free because we paid taxes.  The workers who built those roads are paid royalties every time I drive over them.  We are able to receive schooling because we paid taxes.  Teachers aren’t paid every time a student asks a question.  In the UK, citizens like Terry Deary are even able to receive healthcare for free because they paid taxes.  Society is getting a valuable service in exchange for a small portion of the money they make.  In the UK, authors are even paid a special royalty for the books that are purchased by libraries.  It isn’t as if the library is paying $20 for a book and the small percentage that goes to the author is all he will get.   The author receives 6.2p every time one of their books is borrowed, up to a cap of £6,600.

5. Libraries are not killing bookshops.

Deary attempts to back up his claim that libraries are harming bookshops by stealing their sales.  This argument holds very little water considering both libraries and bookshops have existed for hundreds of years side by side.  Independent booksellers are definitely hurting now, but that isn’t because of libraries.  It’s because of chain stores or internet sellers like Amazon.  It’s because e-books are becoming more popular.  And, ironically enough, it’s because book pricing issues caused by publishers and authors makes it difficult for small shops to compete.  Getting rid of libraries will not help those bookshops, but it will hurt the community.


Luckily, there are many other authors, bloggers, librarians, and politicians out there who do not agree with Deary and are willing to fight to preserve the much-needed libraries.  For more reading, check out:

Why Terry Deary is Wrong

An Open Letter to Terry Deary

Why We Shouldn’t Ignore Terry Deary & 5 Ways to Help Your Library Right Now

*Deary has since tried to “clarify” what he was saying, but I’m not buying it.  Those quotes were not mercilessly edited; they were pretty clear.  His response just seems like a lot of backpedaling now, coupled with a very, very outdated view of libraries.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries Initiative Survey

I read over at Stephen’s Lighthouse today that the Gates Foundation is conducting a survey to help them determine how to focus their support of public libraries.  The Gates Foundation has provided some pretty awesome support for public libraries, so I encourage everyone to participate in this survey to make sure they continue to provide that support to libraries that need it.

Find the survey here.

his short survey is being conducted on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries (GL) Initiative. The purpose of the survey is to help the Global Libraries Initiative identify opportunities to focus their current support of public libraries in ways that foster innovation and dramatically accelerate positive and lasting change in libraries throughout the U.S. and around the world.

The vision of Global Library Initiative is one where libraries, world wide, provide public access to information for people who would not otherwise have access, and that this information is relevant to them and used in ways that improve their lives. The GL Initiative has been supporting public libraries for over 15 years because they passionately believe libraries are vital to healthy vibrant communities. Libraries offer access to information and knowledge to all community members and in doing so they bring opportunity to all.

Leadership and staff of the GL Initiative believe that public libraries are grappling with how they can best meet the needs of their communities in a time of extraordinary and rapid change. With this change, comes both challenges and opportunities. The GL Initiative wants to better understand these challenges and opportunities and identify ways in which the Foundation can support – and accelerate – libraries’ change efforts.

The GL Initiative has contracted with an independent consulting firm to reach out to a broad swath of people to get your thoughts and ideas about how public libraries can best serve their communities in a future where e-books and ubiquitous digital content is the norm. Each individual response to this survey will be anonymous, however, the aggregate responses along with common themes will be provided to the GL team to help inform their strategy for the next three years.



Using Social Media in Your Library: Evaluation and Maintenance

For previous posts on Using Social Media in Your Library see this directory.

You’ve now gone through the steps of making your social media a reality, but you aren’t quite done.   To make sure your social media is as effective, you will periodically need to engage in evaluation.  How often you do so depends on your particular needs, but it’s best to do so at least once a year.  There are many ways to do so, depending on the type of platform you chose, but a few approaches will work across the board.

The first and most important is to listen to your followers.  Check both their expressed wishes (complaints about the site, requests for certain features, etc.) and the information you can gain from their interactions.  If a particular type of post is garnering more comments than others, consider why that is and try to implement that information into your other posts.  You can even go so far as to creating  a small survey to evaluate the media.  Ask followers what they like and dislike and for suggestions.  It never hurts to give a voice to those you are trying to reach.

Review the the cost versus the return.  Consider how much money, time, and effort you are putting into the media and whether the results are worth it.  For example, if you are paying a great deal to host your own blog, but that blog is receiving very few hits, it might be time to consider migrating to a free site until your follower count is up.  Social media is a wonderful addition to your organization, but only if you are receiving positive results from your output.

Review your social media policy to make sure it still fits in with your organizations goals and community needs.  The needs of communities and the libraries that serve them are fluid; the social media policy should reflect that. After the policy has been reviewed,  the type and frequency of the posts you are making should also be assessed in regards to the policy.

After the review and evaluation has been conducted, you can make any necessary changes in your media and plan.  This will give you the best opportunity to ensure your social media is as possible until the next evaluation.

This concludes this series on Using Social Media in Your Library.  Thank you for following along!

Using Social Media in Your Library: Creation of the Media

For previous posts on Using Social Media in Your Library see this directory.

We’ve reached the part in the process where you finally get to create the social media. Whether you will be doing the creation yourself or outsourcing to a design professional, here is the part where you get to have a little fun.   You’ve already chosen your platform, so now you will design the look of the site. Depending on what platform you chose, you may have quite  a bit or very little control over the details.  If you are using a blog, you could potentially create a layout completely from scratch.  On the other hand, if you are using a video channel, you might only have control over a color scheme or background image.

Some knowledge of HTML or CSS is helpful at this point, though not necessarily mandatory.   For example, the blog site Blogger has premade templates that even individuals with little or no design experience can customize.  However, for those who would be designing the media themselves and like to learn more about HTML and CSS, there are a few great places on the web to do so:

20 Websites to Help You Master CSS
CSS Basics
30 Days to Learn HTML & CSS Tutorials
Learn HTML in 20 Minutes
Learning HTML

When creating the design, there are a few things to consider. Do you want it to match or coordinate with your current website?  In my previous work in graphic design, I always tended to recommend coordinating all marketing materials to maintain a cohesive brand; however, this isn’t an absolute necessity if you would prefer a different look. What age range will be targeted by the media? For a younger audience, brighter colors and bold graphics are attractive. For older individuals, a more mature or sedate color pallet might be more appropriate.  What is the subject matter or nature of the media? You can match your design to your subject matter.  A site discussing library technology might look more utilitarian, while a page for your genealogy department could have a more vintage look.  Be sure to not get too carried away when designing the site.  Flashy graphics and fun fonts might seem like a great idea, but overuse can make your site overwhelming to view or make it seem dated.  You want the design to complement the content, not distract from it.

Creation of the media also includes creation of the content.  Before launching the site to the public, you’ll want to have some content already created.  At a minimum, this should include an introductory post or video, an about section, and a contact area (generally linking back to the main library site).  A few other posts or videos would be a great idea, if you have them created.

Next time, we’ll discuss the final step, Maintenance and Evaluation.