It’s that time of the year folks – a deluge of books from graduate students, parents, and School for Children classrooms is about to hit the Library’s shelving area. All librarians and support staff will be shelving like crazy for the next couple of weeks, but just a heads-up if you can’t find something in the stacks (and we are talking juvenile non-fiction, and picture books) head for the shelving area, take a deep breath, and search. Below is a photograph of the shelving area in its “calm before the storm” phase, i.e., there’s a few books to shelve but nothing to worry about (yet)!
I recently attended the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington DC and sat in on a presentation I didn’t mean to attend. Although the presentation by Moe Hosseini-ara
(Director of Service Excellence, Markham Public Library, Ontario, Canada) focused on public libraries and C3 classification (customer centered classification), there were quite a few a-ha and yes! moments for me. Below is an edited version of Moe’s presentation, take time to look at it, don’t worry it’s an “easy read.”
Imagine, Fail, Learn, Grow
The first thing I liked was the slogan: “imagine, fail, learn, grow.” Basically it means: take a risk, try something new, although things might not turn out the way you expect, growth and new learning comes out of “failure.”
I look back at a small project to showcase our journal collection. My plan to put a selection of journals based on a particular topic (e.g., early childhood education) in a spinner rack was a disaster. Staff complained and students walked on by… But I was glad I was in a work place that let me “fail…” not all was lost – I did get to know the collection better and there have been times when a patron has asked “What print journals do you have on bilingual education?” And, I’ve been able to say (handing over a laminated card) “Here’s a starter list…”
Library as Third Place
Something else I liked was the concept of Library as third place. Although not a new idea – it was good to think of the Library in terms of :
“a community space outside of home and work where people can go to meet, develop friendships, discuss issues, and interact with others.”
New York City being the hustle-bustle place that it is, our library has to walk that fine line of being the place some people expect it to be (quiet), and as an alternative place where groups can work and discuss freely (somewhat noisily) on a regular basis.
Space at college is at a premium, every nook and cranny serves an official and an unofficial use. We have a “Quiet Room” which has its devotees for private silent study (until recently it was technology free – no laptops) and those who want to use it as a group space (we don’t want to disturb others with our talk). It’s also secretly used as a store room by staff. Is it possible or desirable for our library to become a third space?
We have quite a few prohibitions, here’s a shortlist:
- no food
- no drink (except bottled water with a screw top)
- no computer game playing (by children)
- no unaccompanied children (babysitters and parents must be with children at all times).
What do we have that’s third place?
- A lobby where food, drink, and cellphone use is OK
- A Quiet Room (and yes it’s patronized by those with children and people in studio apartments who need a place to spread out)
- Couches, sofas, desks, little tables, and trendy chairs
What would make the library more third place (for everyone)?
- This might sound silly but remodeling the bathroom. We only have (gasp) one!
- partitions that give the illusion of privacy for group work (the moveable kind)
- more electrical outlets for laptops, smartphones
- setting up computers in the children’s room that allow limited functionality during the hours of 9-5
- An interactive map of the library identifying where needed items might be
- Power walls, easy-read signage (we’ve made a start), end caps and slat walls (if you’ve seen the presentation above you’ll know what I’m talking about).
What are the Constraints?
Our stacks are bolted to the floor and our adult collection reaches up to the ceiling. After some discussion with co-workers the question arose as to “…But a third place for whom? Graduates? Children? Which socioeconomic group are you talking about?” And, then there were comments “I suppose that means letting people eat and drink, then they’ll be using the computers with sticky fingers – Oh Lord there will be spills, fried keyboards, and gum everywhere…”
C3 (customer centered classification)
I like this idea; a simpler classification system would certainly make life easier. When I first started working at Bank Street a previous librarian had used a simple form of C3 on reference books. Small yellow labels were attached to items, e.g., tales, tests, social studies. We decided to abandon this practice as it was difficult to shelve and retrieve needed items. You had to group by label and then re-organize by call number within each label – it was confusing. But having said this we have some very long call numbers which don’t sit well on spines. I’m always having to remind patrons that every number and letter is important, for example 371.90973 T942e6 which is the call number for:
Turnbull, A. P., Turnbull, H. R., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2010). Exceptional lives: Special education in today’s schools. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.
I’m glad I was able to experience good old-fashioned serendipity by stumbling in on Moe’s presentation (food for thought indeed). I especially like the slogan “Imagine, Fail, Learn, Grow,” as a useful mantra for keeping the conversation about change on-going. Will we adopt C3 classification – perhaps not, will we become more third place – I hope so.
One thing you’ll immediately notice about the reference area is the new configuration of PCs. It gives this part of the library more space and at peak times fewer bottle necks.
The south side of the library in the photograph below also has a much lighter feel to it. Gone are the old carrels – you’ll be able to see straight away if a work station is available.
Below is a new area designed for students to use laptops. Thanks to the new improved wifi, getting a signal here shouldn’t be a problem (don’t forget to register your laptop and mobile devices with CIS in Room 703 during office hours).
What a difference the old quiet room tables make to the north side of the library, nice for small group work, and yes they are moveable.
Finally, the teen corner (next to the paperback section) – it’s still a work in progress, but we really like this splash of green!
We’d love to know what you think of the recent library renovation project, feedback is always welcome.
One of the reasons the library’s been closed for the last two weeks is that we needed to clear space for new carpet.
Yippee, while most of us were on break the guys from facilities have been ripping it up and laying it down.
The computers had to be put in storage while renovations were going on. They’re back now but you’ll find them in slightly different places and configurations.
The library renovation project is in full swing. Two offices are being built, the smaller one is a librarian workstation, and the larger is an archivist’s office and storeroom. The walls don’t quite go up to the ceiling, and if you peek inside the color is Benjamin Moore pale straw (2021-70).
On the left there’s a stack of fluorescent lighting racks, and on the right plastic sheeting to protect the library’s print holdings. Stay tuned for more updates on the library renovation projects.
You many have been inconvenienced on Wednesday by having to wait for the elevators – we’re sorry, we’re to blame as materials for the new offices arrived on the fifth floor that way.
We are getting excited now as the much dreamed of library renovation is becoming a reality. In the photograph below you can see some of the materials that will be used in the renovation, there’s also blue tape on the floor outlining where the new offices will be.
We’ve finalized the color for the walls of the main library and we’ve decided to go with Benjamin Moore’s lemon ice OC114, we think you’ll agree that it’s a soothing, sophisticated color.
But, wait! There’s more – we’re also getting new carpet (prolonged applause)… and again we are going with what we have already (see the lobby area), yes it is a little industrial but definitely not distracting – a good choice for letting you get on with reading and studying.
A very ancient microfiche repository (a.k.a the Kardex) has been partially removed from the back of the library. Very quietly, as befits a library our latest renovation project has begun.
It was always quite an event on the rare occasion it had to use it. And, for those who’d like to know the Kardex worked by pushing a keypad to make the shelves move up and down.
The library is planning on using the newly reclaimed yet miniscule space for an archive room and a much needed small office.
You’ve probably noticed how zen-like the library’s lobby is these days. Have a look at the following before and after pictures – what’s different?
If you said there are fewer sale trucks, and three lovely new pot plants you’d be right. And if you said there’s no ficus tree, you’d be right too – what! Where’s the ficus tree!? OK relax, the ficus tree has found a nice new home, and by all reports is very happy and thriving. As you know space here at Bank Street is at a premium, but with the reorganization of the lobby we got a little bit more back.
Next step, install the shelving and bring back the books!
As you can see, the Children’s Room has been emptied as construction begins in the Library. The Children’s Room is getting new carpeting and a sprinkler system.