Libraries and Their Patrons: What Can Your Library Do For You?

By Michelle Magnotta

Librarians are the representatives of libraries. They make a lot of decisions about the libraries as well, like which books to order, which to keep, and what computer programs to have available to their patrons. The patrons are the ones who keep libraries alive and vibrant. It’s all about them, really, and how community libraries can serve them.

So how can librarians, and other people who work at and for libraries, like the Library Board, make the library appealing to the patrons? By advertising and marketing to groups of patrons. For example, young people are attached to their cell phones and social media. The library could have a Facebook page and Twitter account to get information out there. For those not on Facebook and Twitter, a simple weekly e-mail can get a lot of information about programming and events going on at the library.

Some examples of library programs are film showings, author lectures and book signings, international music and dance, computer classes, book clubs, and book sales. Fliers about these events are posted on websites, in elevators, and at Circulation Desks in local libraries.

A Suggestion Box is always welcome, too. Patrons can fill out a slip of paper after checking out their books, and put it in the box, for staff to later go through and pick which suggestions seem doable. This is how libraries become more appealing to long-time patrons, as well as new ones who have taken an interest in the library.

Libraries have been there for the military as well, as far back as World War I and beyond, according to Donna Miles’ article, “Libraries Remain Centers of Morale, Warfare Programs.” The article states:

“The [American Library Association] service committee raised a whopping $5 million in public donations, distributing more than 7 million books and magazines, erecting 36 camp libraries and providing library collections to over 500 sites, including military hospitals…The Navy established the first official military library program in 1919, Nellie Moffitt, the Navy’s general library program manager, told American Forces Press Service. The Army followed with its own program in 1920, and the Air Force quickly stood up its own library program when it was established as a separate service in 1947.”

Another thing libraries do for their patrons is have therapy dogs come to visit. The article “Therapy Dogs’ Presence Steadily Grows in Libraries” by Meredith Schwartz, talks about the Oshkosh Public Library in Wisconsin, which has a program called “Read To a Dog” to improve children’s literacy skills. In the article, Sandy Joseph, the children’s librarian said, “It is unbelievably motivating. I am amazed at how well they read after five or six times. That’s what the research is saying: five to six consecutive visits will raise them two reading levels.”

The Mamaroneck Public Library in Westchester County, New York, has a similar program called “Paws A While To Read.”  According to the article “Mamaroneck Librarian Enlists Her Dogs In ‘Paws A While To Read’ Program,” by Suzanne Samin, the head reference librarian at the Mamaroneck Library, Lori Friedli, brings her Bernese Mountain dogs Charly, Nettie and Olivia. They are certified therapy dogs who attend story time with children at the library.

The library is very useful for all kinds of things, from programs to computer use to good old-fashioned research, or just to read James Patterson’s latest crime novel. John Dewey talks about communities’ use of libraries at length in his work “Search for the Great Community.” Libraries will continue to serve their communities in any way possible, and librarians will lead the way the entire time.


Dewey, John (1984 [1927]). “Search for the Great Community” in The Public and Its Problems

A Day In The Life of a Children’s Librarian

By Michelle Magnotta

Recently I was able to observe Meghan, a children’s librarian at my local library. First, she invited me to Baby Time, a story time session in the Program Room for babies aged 16-24 months. I sat in the room waiting for the session to begin. Babies and caretakers were sitting around the room, reading board books, playing with stuffed animals and snapping photos with their smart phones.

Then Meghan got started. She sang “If You’re Happy And You Know It,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”  While she did this, Meghan had a Cabbage Patch Doll on which to demonstrate. She pointed out body parts on the doll, so the caretakers would know to do that on their baby as well.

One book she read to the kids was called Baby Goes Beep.  It was a story about all the sounds babies make. For example, laughing, crying, burping and clapping. Another story was read about the children’s body parts, and the Cabbage Patch Doll was used once again. After that, Meghan sang “Where Is Thumpkin” to teach the name of each finger.

After the Baby Time session, we went upstairs to the Children’s Room for further observation. I saw a map of Westchester and part of Connecticut with books placed in various locations. For example, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was placed on the map in Tarrytown (Sleepy Hollow). Meghan told me that they had chosen books that take place locally and displayed them for people to learn about.

I also saw their book displays. They had a Fall Books section, about the change of season and fall activities. The display next to that was Banned Books, complete with caution tape in front of the shelf. Some of these books included the Harry Potter series and the Diary of Anne Frank.

Since I observed at the beginning of October, Meghan decided to take the Banned Books display down and put up a Halloween one in its place. We pulled books off the shelves having to do with Halloween. It was fun to be able to look up books up the database and find them on the shelves. It was a nice taste of something a reference librarian does.

The shelves were organized by category and book type. There were skinny books, chapter books, fiction, foreign books and graphic novels. I counted five computers and one iPad for patrons’ use.

Then Meghan explained the other jobs of a reference librarian. She said they have to pull books that people have requested off the shelves and scan them onto their accounts, decided which books to keep or not, based on when they last circulated, and keep a record of all the programs for each month for statistics. She showed me how she makes a chart with each program, the time date and place of each one, as well as who ran it.

One term that came to mind after doing the observation is burnout. Burnout is defined as mental exhaustion, not being able to deal with people anymore, loss of energy, and having a negative attitude. This is discussed at length in Marcia Nautatil’s book, The Alienated Librarian. I don’t believe Meghan has any of these symptoms or problems, and is very energetic and happy with her job.

E-books and Advanced Technology: How They Affect Today’s World

By Michelle Magnotta

E-books: everyone has an opinion on them. Some say they will never read a book on a screen, loving the feel and smell of printed books. Others won’t go back to typical books again. I personally own a Kindle and love it. However, most of the books I want to read aren’t available on OverDrive, my public library’s domain for borrowing library e-books for free.

There are several article blurbs on the online Library Journal site which discuss the good, bad and the ugly concerning e-books. One article, “Penguin Drops Side Loading Requirement for Kindle Lending,” by Matt Enis advises that Penguin, the publishing company, has just changed their loaning terms and conditions for downloading e-books using OverDrive.  In the past, patrons have had to download books to their computers first and then transfer them to Kindles, but now they are able to download titles directly onto Kindle using OverDrive.

Another article, “Q&A: Recorded Books VP Matt Walker” by The Digital Shift, advertises a workshop called “The Digital Shift: Reinventing Libraries,” to be held on online on October   The program will discuss how libraries have changed in the digital age.

Will libraries go 100% digital in the near future, leaving no need for “real” books, or—gasp—librarians? Some already have. For example, Gollis University in Somalia has a digital library which opened last year, featuring thousands of books in soft format. The first all-digital library in the United States is Bexar County, Texas and is called the “BiblioTech”.

Another article which touches upon these issues is “Stepinac Goes All Digital” by Gary Stern. Archbishop Stepinac High School is a private, Catholic all boys school in White Plains, New York. It is one of the first schools in the country to have all digital text books. Each student buys an iPad and uses it throughout high school, the article explains. The cost of textbooks adds up to about the same amount in the long run, so it is well worth it for families to invest in this piece of equipment. Another benefit of having an iPad for school is the apps which are downloaded onto it, such as an app for grading student essays for grammar, as well as repeating ideas throughout the work. It suggests how the essay can be improved as well.

Having things like digital libraries and iPads will make doing research much easier. Nowadays, we use libraries to search the Web for research projects or for other information more than we read books. When our parents were kids, they relied heavily on encyclopedias and other printed resources to do their homework. In the future, the more abundant all-digital libraries are, the easier it will be to find information. J. McGrath’s paper, “Methodology Matters: Doing Research in the Behavioral and Social Sciences,” discusses research methods in depth. In the near future, perhaps these methods will change because of advanced technology.

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