Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Improving the Library Experience

I have been thinking a lot about customer service lately. Two of my favorite places to eat and shop are Publix and Chick-Fil-A. If you're not in the south you may not be familiar with these two chains, but I love them. Publix's slogan is "Where shopping is a pleasure." And for me I can say it is. One of the only things I miss from my previous home is a nearby Publix grocery store. The employees are so nice and they do not act irritated if you ask a question. Chick-Fil-A is the same. The employees are friendly and go out of their way to help you. After ordering they usually say "It's my pleasure." There's that word again.
The way these two businesses treat their customers and the way they train their employees does make visiting a pleasure. How can I translate this into the library?
Do I help every student and teacher with a smile? Or do I act annoyed if I'm interrupted?
I consider myself a patient person, but I know there have been times when I've probably acted annoyed. I think I'm going to put a little Publix and Chick-Fil-A logo somewhere near my computer to remind me how much my attitude can affect those that come into the library.
Are my library helpers pleasant to visiting students? Do I need to spend more time training them to be helpful and friendly?
We should all ask ourselves these same questions. Is your library a pleasurable place to visit?

Another customer service experience I've noticed in my family's life has been a more personalized shopping experience. In the last few months we've signed up for three different personal shopping subscriptions. I purchased a Birchbox subscription for my husband, my husband purchased a Surprise Ride monthly activity kit for my son and I signed up for Stitch Fix personal shopping for myself.
You're probably wondering what all of this has to do with the library.
The appeal of these services is personalization, delivery, packaging, fun and whimsy. How can I incorporate more of these qualities into library services?

I want library visits and programs to be more personalized. I love Nikki Robertson's personal book shopping program.  I'm already recruiting teachers that will let me give this a try with their class. If I can't find a willing teacher I may just leave out the surveys and tell the library visitors about it when they come in. I especially love the thought that went into the packaging with little tags that Cathy Jo Nelson created when she tried this idea.
We already have a frequently used holds process. My library helpers regularly check holds and deliver them to the students in class. I routinely put books on hold for students if I know they will love the book. They are usually pleasantly surprised when I deliver the book and tell them that I think they will like it. Maybe I can make the delivery even more special by including a book mark or a little note telling why I think they would like that book.
Another way to make the library more personalized is to have a way that students can request books then hold that book for them when it comes in. I usually keep this written on a sticky note on my desk, but I could find a more whimsical way to keep track of requests. I had a Google form on my website, but none of my students ever used it so I took it down. If we go 1:1 next year I have a feeling it would be utilized more often so I plan to put it back on the library site and have a QR code near the circulation desk so that they can go to the form easily and make a request. For those high demand books like the new Wimpy Kid I've seen librarians have a drawing or another fun way to chose the first person to check it out. I would like to try this.
I wish that I could add features to our catalog system. It would be so cool if a search came up with no results, the site would automatically link to the request form so that students could request the book right away.
If we go 1:1 I need to think of fun ways to deliver content to the students such as a recommended book lists based on different themes, holidays or events, links to book trailers, library program news, etc. I need to brainstorm ways that this would be possible with devices. From my conversations with 1:1 librarians it seems that I will need to work even harder at enticing students and classes into the library.

I would love to hear your ideas on how we can make the library more whimsical, fun, pleasurable, and personal.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hour of Code and Mustang Makerspace

Last week we participated in the Hour of Code, sponsored by We shared the introduction video on our morning news and invited everyone to try coding activities in the library during lunch. I had the free tutorials from the site pulled up on the computers in the library, Lightbot app on the library iPods and cups for the non-tech coding activity from the site.
I was pleasantly surprised at the turn out of students and enjoying seeing them explore the tutorials and activities.

One of my super smart tech genius students asked if he could stay and help through all three lunches. I made arrangements with his teachers and he proved to be a big help. I asked him to explore all the tutorials beforehand so that he could help the others. Now I know who to go to when I have computer questions.

On Wednesday of last week I tied our first Makerspace event in with Hour of Code. I promoted the activity with the Hour of Code kids. Our first Makerspace event was Legos. I created a Smore to explain the concept to my administration and teachers. I have lots more activities planned and I'll be sure to share here. The first event was great. I had many visitors that are not my normal crew, which was exciting. The hallways were abuzz with students talking about the events so it was well worth the time and energy. I have lots to learn about makerspaces and room to grow, but it was a successful start.

Aurasma Endangered Animal Projects

I had the pleasure of working with our gifted and talented students on endangered animal research. Students created a children's book in Book Creator after researching their South Carolina species. Upon completion of the book, students received a brown paper lunch bag and access to construction paper and other crafting items. Using only those items, they had to create their animal. I loved this mix of high and low tech creation and was so impressed with their animals.
The teacher and I had originally discussed using QR codes to record each student describing their animal, but after hearing about Aurasma I showed her the app. She was excited to give it a try.
I showed a few students in each class how to record the video and connect it to the image and they took over from there. They loved seeing their videos pop up when the animal was scanned. We used pictures of the paper bag animals to create a bulletin board near the front office to highlight and share their presentations. It was fun to see the reaction of other teachers, parents, and school visitors. We even had district administrators come to take a peek.

I plan to create a book cover bulletin board with student book reviews using Aurasma after our break. I have a few iPods in the library that I can loan out to students that would like to watch if they don't have their own device. I've heard others have success with the Layar app so I might look into that as well.
Have you tried any augmented reality apps yet?