Friday, November 20, 2009

"The Library is no place for children"

Followers of my Twitter stream yesterday will have seen my verbatim quote from an irate library patron:
"The library is no place for children - they should be out roaming the hills. If you keep encouraging them I'll stop coming".

How do you argue with that ... its like arguing whether the sky is blue or not. But as librarians we have to argue because the sad reality is that their truly are people out there who actually believe this.

The complaint was sparked by a change in layout made at her local library. The clients who use the library borrow insignificant amounts of library material, so low that we are seriously having to justify keeping the branch open, situated as it is in its prime Main Street position. Yet visitor counts are up - way up - we are busy, busy, busy. But we aren't converting visitor usage to issues. And maybe thats okay, maybe this community doesn't want to borrow library materials, maybe books just aren't important, maybe homelife is so muddled that library items just aren't safe taken home, maybe people are laughed at if they pull a book out at home. This community is statistically poorer, browner, younger, older and less educated than other communities in our District.

But we are not giving up this without a fight. We have completely turned the collection profile on its head, adjusted the focus on what resources and services are available and have sought help from a successful retailer in terms of marketing and presentation.

We think it is really important to encourage kids into the library and we will be shameless in employing whatever method we think will work.

And if we lose an old biddy in the process then so be it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kete : a job well done.

The Kete Vision

A couple of years ago a bunch of us dreamed of Kete, a digital archive of local arts, cultural and heritage material in a variety of media formats coupled with social media techniques to make it 'zing'.

Our ultimate goal was to get to a point where a user entering a search in Kete Horowhenua would be shown results from other neighbouring Kete who might hold Horowhenua material due to historical boundary changes, plus other databases including Koha the Horowhenua Library catalogue. We also dreamed of being able to draw search results from big national repositories of digital content like Te Papa, National Archives, National Library etc. regardless of what content management system they were using.

Digital NZ
Digital NZ is the National Library site which currently 'harvests' records from 67 contributing organisations throughout NZ. Here is a diagram showing how it works and here is a list of who the current contributors. Incidentally, Digital NZ also have a Kete for collecting content from organisations who don't have their own digital content management systems :)

Federated Searching
Late yesterday the final enhancements were turned on and all of this is now operational. An added bonus is that the new Koha will also pull results from Kete Horowhenua.

A few links to have a look:
  • A search in Kete showing results from Digital NZ,
  • a search in Kete drawing results from another Kete, our Library Trust as an organisation Kete which is distinct from the Horowhenua community one,
  • and a search in our test Koha 3.0 site drawing results from Kete Horowhenua.

The HLT Kete is proving quite useful as a collaboration tool in the Library 2030 work we are working through.

Where to now
This is all very exciting looking ahead. Manawatu Horizons member Councils are working through a project to build a shared digital archive using Kete. This will then be searchable from other Kete thus opening access to the vast wealth of local authority archival material currently held by a bunch of neighbouring Councils.

Kapiti Coast are in the process of starting a Kete collecting the digital resources from all arts, cultural and heritage organisations from within its area, setting up a separate basket with its own theming for each main organisation thus enabling individual identity within a shared database.

Providing that the new Council cemetery records, At Home Care and Youth databases have all been built on open standards then these to will also be searchable through Kete.

I think we can call this a job well done!