Visiting other libraries

As part of my so-called research & development plan for preparing to start a new teen department this summer, I traveled to Charlotte this past weekend to visit the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. I visited both Virtual Village and ImaginOn.–especially The Loft and Tech Central/Studio i.

There were a couple of reasons for visiting. One, of course, was to see all of the cool, cutting-edge things that PLCMC is doing for teens. The other was to take a look at basic, traditional teen services at their best. I was fortunate to be able to hang out with some super-friendly librarians and Loft staffers who were willing to answer my annoying questions about programming, the collection, staffing, you name it. I also got to play around with Teen Second Life, make a bracelet out of cut-up computer motherboards, and see hilarious teen-created animated films that had been shot in front of Studio i’s fantastic blue screen.

I collected all of the literature I could about PLCMC teen programs, including calendars and flyers. This is a great way to get a sense of what’s really happening in a library.

Back in my hotel room, I made a HUGE list of some of the things I’d learned. Here’s a sampling:

  • use laptops instead of desktops — eliminate wires whenever possible
  • make things portable — put them on wheels, have traveling kits
  • displays that teens can create — chalk boards? white boards? magnetic letters?
  • staff training — staff have to have time to play with stuff in order to learn how to use it
  • get expert to consult on software, etc. (for movie creation, animation, music making)
  • offer workshops and classes — freeware (picnik, Picassa, flickr, etc) and others
  • self-serve kiosks with information about how to use the library (maybe use touch-screen technology?)
  • use teen interns to manage computing areas
  • create myspace or facebook page with links to other online presences — flickr, youtube (figure out what social networking the kids in the community are using)

If you’re starting a new program, starting out as a new teen librarian, or looking for a shot in the arm, I highly recommend visiting another library. I was lucky to be able to go to Charlotte, but you can also check out local libraries that are doing a great job with teens. Everyone I met at PLCMC was so open about things they were happy they’d done, things they would have done differently, things they were still working on…and it got my mind racing.

I really appreciate the people of PLCMC’s hospitality and friendliness. If you’re reading this — thank you!

About Sarah Ludwig

I am the Academic Technology Coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, CT. Prior to that, I was the head of teen, technology, and reference services at the Darien Library in Darien, CT. I started my library career as a school librarian at a small boarding school in Western Massachusetts.
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3 Comments

  1. great post. and it makes perfect sense that seeing how someone else does things just changes your perspective entirely. same is true for online presence and fortunately that’s very easy to do!

  2. Thank you Sarah. Thank you for visiting and encouraging other librarians to visit libraries as well.

  3. Sarah Zobel [Visitor]

    Hey Sarah–

    Can you get in touch with me through regular email?

    Thanks.

    Sarah Zobel (sometime Bedford/St M’s freelancer)
    sarahzobel@verizon.net

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