Originally about any matters of interest to public librarians (see posts before July 2010), this blog has evolved to become mainly virtual tours of public libraries in the US and other countries, so I welcome guest posts from anyone who’d like to showcase their library or ones they’ve encountered on their travels. If you send me the text and any photos you want to include, I can format it for the blog with you listed as guest writer – just contact me directly at email@example.com
About me –
My name is Justine Shaffner.
As the daughter of a librarian, I strongly resisted following in my mother’s footsteps, but after a number of years working with for-profit businesses in finance and administration (wonderful use of my English and Psychology bachelor’s from Boston University), I finally broke down and got my MLS from Simmons College in December 1995. A lifelong trivia buff, I took Reference from the late, great Allen Smith and was hooked. But living in New Hampshire, a state without income tax, meant library jobs that paid a living wage were scarce, so I became the director at the small and rural Sandown Public Library, at the same time as I started training the staff from a consortia of twelve of the state’s largest libraries on the Dynix ILS.
By 1997 I was anxious to start my true calling and was lucky enough to find a job as a reference librarian at Douglas County Libraries in Colorado. I was in heaven – wonderful customers, challenging work and fascinating questions every day, plus the satisfaction of knowing I was really helping people, as well as constant (and often undeserved) thanks from grateful patrons – who could ask for anything more? And to top it off, I am an avid hiker, so living in Colorado with its myriad mountains and trails is literally Nirvana for me.
Along the way I also became intrigued with the idea of serving customers online and helped create AskColorado, Colorado’s 24/7 virtual reference service. While starting the service, we relied heavily on knowledge gleaned from existing VR projects to determine everything from policies and procedures to software features and vendors. It made everything so much easier and took away a lot of the guess work. Using this process made me a huge fan of cooperation and collaboration as it would have been impossible for most public libraries to have created such a successful service on their own.
In 2003 I became the head of adult services at DCL’s Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. Working in a well funded public library made me aware of how incredibly important public libraries are and how lucky Americans are to have these free resources. But here too I realized how essential it is that we combine our knowledge and efforts. I know everyone loves their libraries, but realistically, we are facing some tough times ahead economically. Voters may be less likely to increase our budgets when they have to scrimp and are uncertain about the stability of their jobs. Sure, we know that nothing provides more value to them than their local library, but they may forget this at the polls – after all, no one likes paying taxes. So we must work harder and smarter and try to provide more materials and services with less money and I’m convinced that resource and knowledge sharing is the best way to do that. In 2008 I went to work for BCR (a long lived library services non profit supported by ten state libraries in the west) as their public libraries person. It was a great job, but economic constraints made it more practical to combine many regional service organizations so I am now looking for a job while continuing to write about public libraries and report on the ones I visit.
(Also, since BCR is now gone, some of the links and pictures in posts written prior to July 2010 may be dead, but I do still have many of the materials I refer too, so if you’re interested in something with a dead link, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thanks for reading the blog, and I hope you have time to contribute a post sharing what you love about your library!