Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PLA 2012: Concerts, Virtual Training, and Practicum Students

There are two more PLA ’12 programs that I want to share. I’ll combine them into one post.

Backstage Pass to Concerts at Your Library

Kelly Bennet, Ferndale Public Library and Kevin King, Kalamazoo Public Library shared how their libraries have created successful concert series.

Kalamazoo hosts monthly concerts on Wednesday evenings during library hours. They are usually folk, bluegrass, alt. country and the like. People of all ages attend. Kevin gave some great suggestions for booking both local and national acts. For example, bands who are on their way from one place to another may be willing to stop and play a library if it is on the way there. Kalamazoo is half way between Chicago and Detroit, so they often host acts that have a day or two off between gigs in those cities. He also suggested that many bands may be willing to do this to both pass the time between shows and to make some money along the way. He often gets a contract for 1/3 less than their usual asking price by catching them en route between shows.

Ferndale’s concert series is aimed more at the 20-30-somethings in her city, though all ages are welcome. Ferndale is somewhat more liberal, with lots of young “hipsters” who follow local bands. She hosts lots of rock, punk, and alternative bands that are very loud. Her concerts are after-hours and she relies on volunteers to help her out when needed. Her advice was to plan well-ahead and make your expectations very clear to the bands (ie. No drinking of alcohol on premises.) She makes nice concert posters and markets in various social media as well as hangs posters around.

Also on the panel was John Wesley Harding, a musician and author. He spoke about the difference between a music gig and a reading, and how to work with agents. He also read from his upcoming novel and played a few songs too. He was fantastically entertaining!

My library has a very successful concert series as well. We host the Plymouth Symphony, as well as other local music acts like Gemini. We even had a drum circle recently, which was very well-received. Our concerts are often on Sunday afternoons, and attendance is always near 100 people. Our concerts are funded by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, as well as the Friends of the Library.

I really loved Kelly and Kevin’s program and had a great time listening to them and to John Wesley Harding. Based on what they had to say, I think that the librarian who facilitates our concert series is doing it just right. I wouldn’t change a thing! The style of music we host is perfect for our community, people show up regularly and we don’t really have to worry about attendance, we’re marketing it in various places, and the musicians are treated very well. I think that our concert series promotes our music collection nicely, too, which is a nice connection of programming and collection.

Creating a Virtual Orientation for New Library Staff
The Baltimore County Public Library has a really cool, interactive web site for training new staff members. It was written by library staff, and includes videos, pod casts, and games, as well as policies and procedures to be read. This is beyond anything I think our library needs (BCPL has hundreds of staff members, so the scale is really for large libraries), but the program did give me ideas on how to put some of our training materials online. We currently have a reference services manual uploaded to a Google Docs account, but I'm looking for a way to bundle training in a day-by-day way. I'd like to have new staff go to a "day one" file or page and have all the information they need there. Our new employees, like BCPL's, get one-on-one attention when they are new, so the virtual orientation is mostly for review. It helps new employees be able to pay attention to a tour and ask questions without feeling like they have to write everything down. Most of it IS written down in the online files that they can refer back to later. I would like a more interactive and interesting way for new staff to use these online materials, but I don't think BCPL's way will work for us. We can, however, add more videos and podcasts to our online materials.

Practicum Students: Worth the Effort

Two women from Omaha Public Library in Nebraska talked to a small group about how they work with university practicum programs. I haven’t had a practicum student in a few years, but I thought what they had to say might apply to our intern program too. It did!

For example, there is a list of 101 practicum project ideas on the University of Illinois library science program web site. I definitely plan to take a look and see if any of them are projects our interns could do.

Practicum students, like interns, require time and attention. Their experience at our library should be mutually beneficial to them and to the library. It is time well spent because they bring ideas and fresh enthusiasm to the permanent staff, and because it is an opportunity for our staff to share our expertise and our love of librarianship with them.

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