Friday, September 24, 2010

The Card Catalog Poetry Project

As the Rooftop Poetry Club celebrates five years of programming, I'd like to take a moment to reminisce about the project which started it all!  In the fall of 2003 (following a summer writing workshop at Naropa), I curated The Card Catalog Poetry Project.  A collection of poems written on catalog cards by poets from around the United States, this project also included 30 artists' books created from discarded book materials.  In April 2005, in celebration of National Poetry Month,  poets from the Buffalo State College community were asked to participate in the continuation of a second card catalog project. Over 50 Buffalo State poets contributed to the success of the project, which was celebrated with a reading event [photos | audio] held at E. H. Butler Library on April 27, 2005.  After the event, a student asked "what's next?" and I thought, "how about a poetry club?" The rest is "Rooftop Poetry Club" history.  If you'd like to do a similar project at your library, the hardest part will be finding old catalog cards (I had to call around to a bunch of local libraries). Once you have a box of cards in hand, start advertising your project to the community. I guarantee that it won't take long to round up enough poets to get the project off the ground!  I would recommend giving 2-3 cards to each poet, with directions to create a poem on the *front* of the card (much more interesting!). Remember to keep track of who is participating, and provide clear submission guidelines. While we created Web sites to archive our projects, a simple blog would also work just fine. If you have any questions, just let me know!
By Irene Sipos
By Kimberly Davis
From the original Card Catalog Poetry Project. Books created by Lisa A. Forrest from discarded materials. Check out more photos at

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Very Bookish

Wow! Talk about frugal...check out the Information Desk at TU Delft made entirely from discarded books.
What a totally cool idea.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

I've been thinking a lot about how we can provide experiences that make the library truly valuable to our patrons.  With that said, I wrote this little piece awhile back and just wanted to share it.  

Wake up and Smell the Coffee: Transforming the Ordinary Library to the Extraordinary through the Guiding Principles of Starbucks 

 by Lisa A. Forrest

The announcement by Starbucks Corp to close 600 of their stores due to economic slow-downs set off a flurry of reaction from coffee lovers around the United States, including letters and petitions to company officials, and an on-line grass roots “Save our Starbucks” campaign.  National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation featured callers pleading, “Please don’t take my Starbucks away.” Callers went on and on about their love for the consistency of the coffee, the variety of choices, the atmosphere, and the stellar service that they receive from the personable staff.  Sitting in my cozy local Starbucks with my half-caff., 1% milk (not all the way skinny), light-on- the- caramel –macchiato, listening to the baristas patiently decipher various caffeine requests, I began to draw comparisons between Starbucks and libraries.  What was it exactly that made people so devoted to a place—and so passionate about a coffee shop closing?  While libraries are certainly not businesses, I felt that there was something to be gleaned from the Starbucks model of customer service.  I began researching the subject and discovered that there are entire books written about the company’s philosophy of human service.  The “guiding principles,” which all new baristas receive during training, are contained in a 16-page pocket sized book called The Green Apron Book.  I inquired of this book to my favorite barista, who energetically returned from the back office with a copy just for me (why can’t all of life be so easy?). “Happy reading,” he said with a smile—“let me know if there is anything else I can help you out with.”   I opened the little green book to the first page, which appropriately read, “Give. Connect. Elevate.”  As I walked away, I did feel elevated--and it wasn’t just the caffeine buzz.  This pleasant, simple interaction with the barista actually made my entire day.   It reminded me that libraries could have the best collection in the world, but if the staff is unmotivated, unwelcoming, or uninspired-- it doesn’t really matter.

With that said, here’s my take on the rest of The Green Apron Book as it relates to libraries and human service:

Why we’re hereThe Green Apron Book states it in one sentence:  “to provide an uplifting experience that enriches people’s daily lives.”  It’s true—coffee can be uplifting…but it’s obviously more than just about the coffee (just as libraries are way more than about books!).  It’s the interactions that occur during the entire experience that have the power to enrich lives.  What would you say if someone came up to the reference desk and asked “why are you here?” Do you have a bare boned philosophy of librarianship somewhere in your back pocket?   For many librarians (including myself), the answer might be to inspire inquiry and a passion for life long learning.  What can be more heartening than being inspired to learn?  Yet I’ve seen libraries lose focus of this time and time again—it’s there, but often hidden under the everyday white noise of the running of the library. We forget that we are indeed in the business of enriching lives. 

How we do it.   We all know that it takes a lot of teamwork to keep a library working smoothly.  According to The Green Apron Book, Starbucks does it “Together. In legendary ways, big and small.”  The next time you’re in Starbucks, just notice how the baristas are communicating all of the time.  Notice the togetherness behind the counter—how one person picks up where the other leaves off (they are all cross-trained to work every station of the process).   Listen to how they speak to one another and to their customers (even when there is a line).  The whole process of ordering a drink appears almost effortless—when in fact, there are actually many steps involved in the “behind the counter” operation.  At my local Starbucks, the baristas often come out from behind the counter to walk the floor and check in on their customers.  It’s not so different from a reference librarian coming out from behind the desk to follow up with a patron.  Does your team of librarians and staff communicate with such transparency, cooperation, and good nature?   Or are some too attached to their specific roles to reach across those invisible lines to make even the smallest operation run smoother?       

Be welcoming.   The Green Apron Book provides some common sense advice on good manners.  Greet people as they walk through the door, make eye contact, start conversations, anticipate the customers’ needs, and so on.  The point of being welcoming is to offer everyone a sense of belonging.”  Of course, most of us do all of these things every day.  But if you’re reading this at the reference desk and haven’t looked up at the patron who just walked in the door…well, we all need reminders now and then, right? 
Be genuine.   Out of the entire Green Apron Book, I appreciated this section the most.  The points that stood out for me in regards to libraries: Remember that communication happens verbally and nonverbally, legendary service exceeds customers’ expectations, and to focus on the positive (what you CAN do, not what you cannot do).  As librarians, how can we get past meeting basic expectations to exceeding our patrons’ expectations?   Can you put yourself back on the other side of the desk to empathize with the patron—or do you find your patience running low?  I appreciate when someone tries to anticipate my needs, whether that is a glass of water at a restaurant or someone pointing out the restrooms.  Perhaps for those working in libraries, that comes in the form of drawing out a path on the library map, or maybe it is taking the extra time to guide someone through the online Inter-Library Loan application.  You need a pencil?  How about a piece of scrap paper, too?  There are many, many ways that librarians and library staff can exceed patrons’ expectations. 

Be knowledgeable.   Starbucks instructs its employees to  “Love what you do.  Share it with others.” It’s true what they say: enthusiasm is contagious.  Why can’t libraries be celebrated in the same way as good coffee?  National Library Week aside, do we really celebrate our libraries, our skills, and our knowledge?  Not only are libraries in the business of finding out the answers; they also serve as intellectual and social cornerstones of the community.  We should take pride in sharing what is most unique about the libraries where we work—everyday.
Be considerate. The Green Apron Book’s main points on the subject of consideration include offering support to colleagues, caring for the environment (think double sided printing and green friendly products), taking initiative as “when you see something that needs to be done, do it” (something as simple as picking up a piece of trash on the floor), and recognizing people for their efforts. How can we develop a greater consideration for our patrons? So often, we look at the library through “librarian’s eyes” without truly considering the perspective of the patron (we think we know what they want).  As the saying goes, “let the sweeper choose the broom.” Consider the use of online polls and focus groups…or better yet, go face to face and just ask your patrons their opinion. 

Be involved.   Libraries and coffee shops have one main thing in common—they both serve as social and intellectual meeting places in the community. The Green Apron Book reminds employees to be become involved in their communities (our local Starbucks has even partnered with the public library), to be aware of the tone and energy of the store in which they work, and to be models of positivism.  These are good reminders to those working in any public service job.  The Green Apron Book also encourages employees to express their views—what better way to ensure involvement than to give employees (and patrons) the opportunity to openly voice their ideas and concerns? 

Make a friend.  Make a difference.  Make someone’s dayIn regards to the library, we’ve all had experiences where we know we’ve really made someone’s day.  Remember, the small things make all the difference.  Just think how different my opinion of Starbucks would be if the smiling barista had told me that he couldn’t give me a copy of The Green Apron Book, or if the staff was not so motivated by challenging drink requests?  The last page of The Green Apron Book states that three things are needed to keep people coming back: products, place, and people. “They come for coffee, stay for the inviting warmth, and return for the very human connection.”  Everything matters.  Simply providing access to information is no guarantee of the library’s use, nor does it instill any lasting dedication.  If our patrons visit for library resources, it’s up to us to provide the personal connections which keep them coming back.         

Monday, September 20, 2010

Collaboration In the Stacks

Poster Design by Dennis Reed, Jr.
Collaborating with partners across campus doesn't have to be complicated.  To guide students to the Career Development Center, we hang this poster in the stacks near the resume writing books.  It's a very small thing that could make a big difference to students who are unaware of available resources across campus.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Girl Power" Reading Club

I'm incredibly excited about this semester's reading club selection and activities.  As part of an on going collaboration with the Women's Studies Program, we'll be reading Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music. I've been planning lots of great activities utilizing library resources. We're also collaborating with campus partners to secure funding to bring reading club members to an upcoming Ani DiFranco concert!  When planning your own club, don't overlook possible funding sources, such as Residence Life.
You might just find they are happy to provide students with copies of the book, or assist with other campus activities.
Poster design by Dennis Reed, Jr.

What's Under Your Nose?

In today's financially strapped times, librarians can be too quick to dismiss innovative programming ideas in their libraries-- even when it comes to professional development opportunities.  When arranging for guest speakers or workshop leaders, it's easy to overlook valuable human resources within your own library.  We all have unique talents and skills!  At Buffalo State, we have "@noon" brown bag lunch sessions; these are informal workshops led by our very own staff.  Today, Ken Fujiuchi led colleagues in discovering the pros and cons of the new iPad.  Don't forget the tea and cookies.
Ken Fujiuchi demonstrates features of the iPad to colleagues.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Scenes from the Health Fair

Our involvement in this year's health fair provided a unique opportunity for outreach and marketing. We were surprised at how many folks were unaware of the fact that we offer health related resources (and really cute children's books!).  We will definitely be participating in upcoming health related events on campus.  For a close up of our posters, see my previous post "E. H. Butler Is Good for Your Health."  
The health books received a lot of attention from browsing patrons. 
My colleague Donna Davidoff with one of her favorite books!
A scene from the table: laptop featuring Health subject guide; basket full of give-aways, handout on services for faculty & staff; free bookmarks from MedLinePlus. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Roving Librarian Service

This week, we're introducing our roving librarian service!  The roving desk (actually a cleaning cart) will be scheduled to sit at the Student Union during the lunch time break. We're still working out a few kinks (we're short staffed...and there are a few issues with wireless strength in the Union), but we are really excited to offer this service to the campus community.  Many thanks to Anita Whitehead (Genesee Community College) for providing the inspiration for our mobile research cart. We love having the capability to take the reference desk anywhere on campus.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Services for Faculty & Staff

It's great to provide so many wonderful services to faculty and staff, but always a challenge to get the word out! We have a really useful Web page devoted to faculty and staff (unfortunately, it's not always utilized, especially by faculty who don't enjoy using the Web). So, we decided to create a one-page handout for library liaisons to distribute to their departments--
highlighting a few services and directing faculty and staff back to the Web page. While this isn't necessarily a programming or marketing idea, I thought it'd be useful to include an example of our handout (created by our talented Web designer, Dennis Reed, Jr.).  There's a lot of frugal things you can do with desktop publishing tools and a little design know-how!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Open Access Week

Did you know that Open Access Week is October 18-24th?  There's a great Web site devoted to the topic which includes lots of handouts, posters, and templates. Also, check out the blog for ideas on how to promote open access on your campus. If you've done similar programming, we'd love to hear your ideas!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Club Collaboration

One of the most successful collaborations we have going right now is our book club, a collaboration between Butler Library and the Women's Studies program. Started to support the Women's Studies program's sponsorship of a visit by Pink Think author Lynn Peril, the club is being continued with a new book selection each semester. This is a great example of collaborating with campus partners to provide unique programming activities.
Poster design by Dennis Reed, Jr. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rooftop Poetry Club Workshops

Student member of the club (now a full-time teacher) runs a great workshop on getting past"writers block."

As many of you know, I've organized a poetry club at Buffalo State for the past several years. No doubt about it--our most successful programming has come from the members themselves.  Student and faculty members have taught everything from reading poetry aloud to writing poems about food.  As educators, we know that career planning and preparation sometimes fall through the cracks for many college students.  Experience in leading workshops, and the evidence of transferable skills which this represents, is a worthy addition to any professional resume (no matter the career).  When students ask me for letters of recommendation for graduate school or employment, it’s easy to comment on their enthusiasm and abilities when I’ve experienced it first-hand myself.  

Poetry club members show handmade journals created in a workshop led by a fellow student.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Green Talk Workshop Series

Go Green In the Library poster design by Dennis Reed, Jr.
It's easy to arrange innovative programming events when you want to be involved yourself!  What are current topics that you'd like to learn more about, and what events are already happening on campus?  What are folks talking about in your community, and what are the student organizations doing on campus?  You don't have to be “the expert” to lead a program or club; you just need to be motivated. Start with a genuine curiosity on the subject, and then do what you do best—gathering and presenting relevant materials!  Contact university and local authorities on the subject, check out books from your own library, and then take the time to explore and learn from these freely available resources.  Most of the time, local organizations are looking for venues to get the word out about their mission, and will jump at the opportunity to present to an interested audience.  For example, our “Green Team” has hosted Green Talks by local experts on earth friendly cleaning (leading to the making of cleaning solutions to use in the library!), city gardening, campus recycling, and reusing old building materials.  Green programming also included an Earth Day poetry contest, paper art display, and the creation of an environmental subject guide.

Got Magazines?

Our library's Green Team came up with a good (and frugal) idea for encouraging environmental stewardship.
We set up three “Magazine Exchange” stations in the library, using old newspaper racks for the display. Students and staff are reminded to drop off “gently used” magazines in any of the racks—and take what they'll read or re-use.  They've been a hit with the students who need magazines for collage projects!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Library Is Good for Your Health

This year, we'll be marketing the library's health resources at the school's annual health fair (poster design by Dennis Reed, Jr.).  We also managed to get some great freebies from MedLinePlus (including cool little sticky notes that say "Information Rx").    

Where In the World Is Your Hometown?

Looking for a creative idea for "Week of Welcome"? We dug out an old bulletin board, found some maps, made a sign, bought some map pins-- and Tada! We also put out some little sticky notes (the page marker kind), and were surprised to see that students not only identified their hometowns, but their names as well. This is a great idea for breaking the ice with students (we put it near the reference desk), and also to distract students when standing in line (this just happened to be near the line that always forms for new I. D. cards). Take a look:

Note: International map on opposite side of bulletin board.
Many students from Western New York!