Libraries and entrepreneurs

In this season, politicians at all levels of government seek votes by talking about our weak economy and what they’ll do to create jobs. Meanwhile, libraries are quietly (or perhaps not so quietly) doing something about this problem. I have already written about library services for the unemployed. There are a couple of paragraphs there about supporting local entrepreneurs, and in fact, many people use unemployment as a spur to start their own businesses instead of looking for a new job. The topic deserves more careful attention. The importance of entrepreneurs Some of the nation’s most successful companies have started … Continue reading

Teenagers, libraries, digital media, and learning

To many grownups, teenagers always seem to be goofing off with various electronic toys: cell phones, music players, game consoles, portable computers, and the like. Teenagers certainly consume a lot of digital media. Libraries are discovering that this same passion for digital technology can help develop creativity and critical thinking skills. In November 2011, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, along with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, made grants of $100,000 to twelve museums and libraries across the country to develop digital learning laboratories for teenagers. They will announce another round of grants in November 2012. … Continue reading

They asked the librarian what??

Reference librarians are in the business of answering questions, whether helping someone plan a major research project or pointing the way to the drinking fountain. Most questions are pretty routine, but some patrons ask funny questions. They have no idea what they really want, and occasionally appear not even to understand that they’re in a library. Some patrons want a particular book. They just can’t remember the author or the title. They might ask by color, but often as not, they’re wrong about that, too. Here are some memorably funny reference questions, along with the eventual answers. … Continue reading

Libraries nourish creativity

“One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out” — Jeff Bezos So how to you go about inventing your way out of a tight box? It requires curiosity and creativity. Libraries themselves have been in a tight box lately. For centuries, they have functioned mostly as repositories of information. Rightly or wrongly, society seems to be coming to the conclusion that it does not need repositories any more. For the past several decades, libraries have been reinventing themselves into idea factories. Why did society start building large collections of books … Continue reading

Helping the reference librarian help you

[ad name=”Google Adsense 468×60″] Do you need help answering a question? Ask a librarian. Specifically, ask a reference librarian. You’ll usually find at least one at the library’s reference desk. Now, some libraries are starting to do away with reference desks as a special service point. In some cases, at least, that means they have decided to have the librarians roam the library, or parts of it, looking for people who need  help. If you see a librarian at a desk who seems to be busy with paper work, go ask your question. You will not be interrupting anything important. … Continue reading