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    Starbucks in the Library??

    Hi there!

    I think Barnes & Noble started the whole thing.

    Back in the old days, you just couldn’t READ in a bookstore. That was just far too dangerous. If you allow people to read a book, in a place that sells books, then what motivation would you possibly have to actually BUY one? Bookstores weren’t free. In the more dictatorial bibliographic establishments, they’d actually remind people of this:

    Hey! This ain’t a LIE-BERRY, pal!“.

    But then B&N did something to change all that.

    Coffee shops.

    They started to include tasty beverages and sweet confections. Comfy chairs were provided. At first, some patrons were perplexed. “What are the comfy chairs for?” they’d ask. The friendly Barnes & Noble staff would inform people that yes, the chairs were for sitting. The coffee was for drinking. Patrons were allowed, nay encouraged, to sit and enjoy a caffeinated drink while reading a new book. It was a new experience for most of us.

    Some people would  go on to actually purchase those books that they had perused while in Barnes & Noble, and some would not. But by cultivating a more welcoming atmosphere, Barnes & Noble began to style itself as a “third space”; A place where people would go to just “hang out”. For years, this was a successful business model for them, and some other large bookselling chains began to follow suit.

    So where do libraries fit in to all of this?

    Libraries have always been styled as quiet places of contemplative study. Loud social behavior was never something to be tolerated in such austere institutions of self-education as these. How do you think librarians got that whole shushing reputation? But in recent years, librarians have begun to work at the cracks in our mold. We’ve begun to fight the stereotype. If bookstores are beginning to emulate the community center feel of a library, librarians have followed suit by recreating the free, shopping-mall atmosphere of a bookstore. We sell coffee and tasty treats now. We offer free wireless. We host video-game nights, film nights, and other community-driven activities. We host art and culture events that have very little to do with reading or education.  Libraries are transforming right before our eyes, whether we like it or not.

    Some people don’t like it. 😦

    When the Kean University Library opened it’s full-scale Starbucks, there was opposition. A lot of it. Some people complained about the noise from the espresso machines disrupting the peace of the main lobby. Some complain that by introducing food into a library, we’re endangering our precious tomes with the threat of coffee stains and greasy fingerprints. Others complain that by opening up a Starbucks in our educational facility, we are exposing ourselves to corporate interests. Some librarians (such as myself) see the introduction of a Starbucks as a clear and present danger to the integrity of our waistline.

    ... and clearly I need to watch my girlish figure ...

    From an administrative standpoint, this Starbucks has become a shining jewel in the crown of the campus. The University President rarely hesitates to bring visitors to our coffee bean mecca. The fact that there is a library connected to the Starbucks is very nearly incidental. We seem to have become a footnote to the campus image. Tragic as this is, having a Starbucks in the building has greatly increased our foot traffic. Although some students walk directly into the store and then right out of the building again, many others stay, sip their beverage, and actually find a quiet corner to study. (away from the espresso machines)

    But my question is, does this increase in foot traffic come at a price? Are we “corporatizing” our library by letting Starbucks do their business here? Is there a conflict of interests in working so closely with such a business? If someone were to write a book-length scathing expose of cafe chains, (the way that Eric Schlosser did with Fast Food Nation) would we be disinclined to carry this book?

    Personally, things like noise and coffee stains don’t bother me. There are plenty of quiet spaces in our library, and after all, we let people take their books home, where they might potentially spill coffee and/or confections on them. But when people begin to wonder if libraries are giving too much corporate control to our beloved institution, I have to sit up and listen. I actually love our new Starbucks, and I have been utterly seduced by the siren song of their venti white chocolate mochas [mochae? mochii??] But has that turned me into little more than corporate shill?

    The other side of the argument, of course, is that this is actually the goal. As more and more libraries get nickel-and-dimed from fiscal budgets,  some librarians begin to wonder if corporate sponsorship is the way to go. Do we owe it to our patrons to partner our libraries with corporate interests, if it will help to put books on the shelves and patrons in the building? How long is it before your municipality hosts the “PNC BANK Memorial Library”, or the “Time/Warner Media Center? Is that the goal?

    And it’s not like we don’t do business with private companies anyway. We all do free advertising for names like EBSCO, ProQuest, and Innovative any time someone uses a catalog. What’s one more brand name?

    I’m not too sure. I’m just going to sit here and eat my red velvet whoopie pie until I figure it out. 😦

    That's totally NOT an evil sneer that I see on those delicious little monsters, right? Riiiight ...??


    Teacher of the Year Award

    Hi there!

    So there’s this scene at the end of the 1997 movie In & Out …

    For those few of you who haven’t seen the movie, it plays out like this: [spoilers ahead] Kevin Kline plays a small-town high school English teacher. He is an inspiration to his students and a beacon of the community. At the beginning of the movie, the small town is brimming with excitement because one of their native sons has gone on to fame and fortune as a Hollywood Actor (Matt Dillon) and is now up for an Academy Award.  Matt Dillon wins the Oscar for playing a gay soldier, and during his acceptance speech he thanks his old English teacher Kevin Kline for inspiring him to pursue his dreams. After an eloquent speech, Matt Dillon decides to add: “… and he’s GAY!” to the end.

    I swear I am going to link this to Library Science.

    This causes an uproar in the small town, as Kevin Kline, despite being the most effeminate guy in town, denies being gay. He’s getting MARRIED in a week for cripes’ sake. Turns out, that it was just an honest mistake on the part of Matt Dillon, and that he didn’t mean to out Kevin Kline’s character at all. He just assumed that the guy was gay. Apparently this becomes a correct assumption as Kevin Kline, after a lifetime of denial, finally realizes that he is, in fact, fruitier than a Hawaiian salad. He drops this bomb on his lovely fiancee as they’re standing at the altar. (probably not the best time) This hurts his family and friends, and causes him to get suspended from his job as a high school teacher.

    Library comparison, coming up, really, I promise …

    So it’s at the graduation, and Kevin Kline is there, despite having lost his teaching job, and there is a “Teacher of the Year Award” being given to this annoying doofus of a colleague. The colleague prepares to give his Teacher of the Year acceptance speech, (something about “Hoosiers”) when Matt Dillon shows up and rallies the community in honoring the teacher who gave so much to their community and is an inspiration to their students.

    Okay, here it comes …

    “Ahhh … but he didn’t get the Teacher of the Year Award!” Kline’s idiotic colleague says smugly, “I‘ve got the Teacher of the Year Award!!”

    Watch the scene here:

    I’ve always loved that scene, but I’ll admit that the “Bad Guy” teacher always seems to come off as a little bit of a schmuck. Intentionally, I’m sure. I mean, yeah, he’s got every right to be happy about his “Teacher of the Year Award”, and he’s probably a great instructor if he came in second after: “The teacher who inspired his student to give an Oscar-winning performance in a major motion picture”. But for the purposes of the narrative, he’s just a little bit douchey.

    That’s what scares me about the future of Library Science.

    (What?! Library Science!? What the Holy Blue @#$% does that have to do with Library Science?!)

    It’s just … sometimes when the clueless public brings up the obsolescence of librarians, and they start talking about the efficiency of Google and the growing reliability of Wikipedia and the immediate gratification of the Internet in general; I feel like librarians are saying: “Ahhh … but that doesn’t help patrons get peer-reviewed resources! We’ve got peer-reviewed resources!!”.  Well yeah, Google Scholar has peer-reviewed resources; and it’s getting more every day. “Ahhh but the patrons can’t effectively assess reliable resources from biased and dubious claims! We can evaluate the resources based on our experience and knowledge!”. Well patrons can pretty much do that already. Oh sure, you’ve got dumb patrons who are still using the 1979 World Book for their country study on Russia, but a lot of patrons know how to at least get to the CIA World Factbook online. [pause] There, I just checked, it’s the #2 hit on Google when you type in “Russia”. I’m willing to believe that there are patrons who are clever enough to check the second Google hit when doing a research paper. Doing a book report on “Coraline”? No problem, I’ve got Neil Gaiman friended on Facebook, and now Google+.

    Patrons are smarter, more critical, and better at finding information than we give them credit for. Many librarians know this, and aren’t trying to be wizened sages of the stacks, dispensing information from on high like some kind of outdated oracle. We GET it.

    But I don’t think we should necessarily dismiss the threat of a smarter caliber of patrons joining forces with the enhanced capabilities of the Internet attempting to push us into obsolescence.

    Not even with our Teacher of the Year Awards. 😦


    Video Librarianship for fun and profit.

    Hi there!

    Very Recently, Google unveiled the newest contender in the great Social Networks Wars. Google+ has broken out on the scene with all the fanfare of the season’s Rookie of the Year, finally breaking out of the Minors with a very promising career ahead of him. Google+ is what you get when you take Facebook out of the dog park and send it to obedience school.  What Google+ will become, however, remains to be seen.

    But this post isn’t about Google+, it’s about videoconferencing.

    One of Google+’s most interesting features is something called the “hangout”.

    The hangout is a videoconferencing feature that you can use to communicate with any of your G+ friends. You can limit your conversation to certain circles, you can videochat with only a certain person, or you can just expose yourself to the world of Google+ at large, like a shameless video exhibitionist.

    Shady Character

    Would YOU trust a shady character like this?

    Google+’s new video communication format, much like Skype and TokBox before it, provides a shining example of exactly The Future[tm] that we were promised as children. Whenever we would talk to Grandma on the phone as kids, or to our girlfriends/boyfriends as teens, we knew that we were confined to an audio-only format. The very concept of “telephone” was that it was sorely lacking in visual. Being able to see the person on the other end of the line was something for the Future. We just weren’t there yet.  That was something for the The Jetsons, in their far-off 21st century existence, full of rocket-cars and hi-rise glass-covered condos in the stratosphere.

    Notice that Jane had a Roomba before they were even invented! 😉

    Welcome to the Future!

    Now we have several different ways to communicate by video, we can chat on the phone with people anywhere in the world, complete with a video feed. Webcams have become standard issue on most laptops, and it’s pretty simple to set up an account on Ustream, or any number of video chat services. After Google+ demonstrated that “Hangouts” were viable, Facebook initiated its own video chat service accessible to all users. Video chat is all around us. We can have Grandma tuck our kids into bed at night with a reading from Dr. Seuss, we can have a business conference from the privacy of our home, we can videochat with any number of entrepreneurial young women who use their webcam for … er, business purposes. [blush]

    So why don’t we have video librarianship yet?

    I’m pretty sure that I’m in the minority here. Personally, I would love to be able to chat with patrons over a video feed. As a veteran of virtual reference chat, I enjoy meeting patrons online and sending them links to fulfill their information needs.  But I can’t help but to feel that there’s something missing from text chat.  Without the friendly smiling face of a happy human librarian, the reference interview takes on a different tenor. Oh sure, there are shortcuts and clever IM techniques to use to avoid aliening your patron. (use of smileys, constant flow of information, etc) But I’ve always felt that it might be helpful for a patron to actually SEE the person that they’re chatting with. Yet for some reason, we’re simply not doing this. Why the heck not? I think Miss Felicia Day might have a clue …

    ”]There seems to be a prevalent fear of one’s own image when seen in an online format. People who think nothing of walking up to the local fast food joint in a ratty old t-shirt, gym shorts and [shudder] Crocs; suddenly become very self-conscious and image-aware when faced with the judgmental eye of the webcam.  It’s as if “being seen” takes on a whole new level of scrutiny when it’s a camera’s gaze. Of course, “camera-shyness” is nothing new. The eyes of the general public are not nearly as frightening as the unflinching eye of “The Camera”.

    But a webcam isn’t at all like a “spy camera”. Unless you subscribe to some bizarre conspiracy theories, it is the user who controls exactly what the camera sees. It isn’t a patron cornering you in your kitchen unawares. A video librarian would most likely use the webcam at his or desk, while dressed for work, with hair and makeup presentable. Even a videolibrarian working from home could take steps to set his or her workspace up so that it would be presentable to the most casual viewer.  You could even set up stage lighting.

    The benefit to this would be a human face presented to the patron. No need to worry about the vocal cues and inflections that are lost in text chat. The ability to use gestures and facial expressions to the patron would enable you to convey a greater range of information to the hapless user on the other side of the monitor. Additionally, the use of visual aids would assist communication in other ways. Sometimes the only way to explain something to someone is to draw them a picture. This works both ways of course. If a patron needs to show you something to illustrate what they are looking for, they can do that with video chat.

    And yet video reference just hasn’t caught on. Perhaps it’s just something that the patrons haven’t been receptive to. Maybe I’m just an attention whore and most librarians prefer the anonymity of their own little corner of the reference area. Perhaps some communities just have more stalkery patrons that don’t need the encouragement. What do you all think? Have any of you TRIED videoreference with less-than-optimal results? Or is it just not worth the time and energy? Let me know! Maybe we can discuss it on a Google+ hangout! 😉

    Or maybe it's just bad memories from Back to the Future 2?? 😦