Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School

Your library can help students get started on the right foot this school year. Your library has many resources, both print and electronic, to help students brush up on critical skills, conduct useful research, and develop outstanding creative projects projects.

For example, Contemporary Black Biography and Novels for Students are comprehensive reference materials that are ideal for high school and college students of all ages, and they're available in the Reference Room in your Library - along with other up to date resources. The Teen Zone nonfiction section of your Library also has many items useful to students, such as science experiments; decade books; biographies of musicians, actors, and sports figures; several books on peer pressure; and preparing for college and ACT/SAT prep manuals.

Many books listed on the local school reading lists and AR books are also available at your Library.

Working on Mississippi history projects? The Natchez Democrat on microfilm going back to 1800 is available, so students can find out what was going on in town during the time period they are studying.

In addition to outstanding collections, your Library offers many other conveniences for students. Comfortable study areas are scattered throughout your Library. Public computer areas feature Internet and Microsoft Office, with both color and black & white printers. Wireless Internet access is available throughout the building, public copiers are provided on each floor, and fax services are available at the circulation desk.

As much as we enjoy seeing you in your Library, students don’t have to visit the building to use many of our resources. Check out our research sources on the MAGNOLIA Database page of our website. We've got a great collection of books, periodicals, and more that you can access online from work, home, or school. Armed with your Library card and our website, you can practice for the GED, TOEFL, Nursing and Firefighter exams, and many other tests in the LearningExpress Library. LearningExpress Library not only provides online preparation materials for an extensive array of standardized tests, elementary through adult levels, but also offers skills improvement courses in math, reading and writing for elementary, middle school and high school.

Also available on our web site are customized subject guides created by our librarians, which feature recommended web sites, related databases, materials from our collection and local resources.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Story of a Book

Ever wonder the story behind how a book makes it to the library?

How is a book selected? Ideas for books to place in your Library come from many sources. The most obvious is that you and other patrons request or recommend a book. Also, the staff makes recommendations on what materials they think are needed based on their role in your Library. The national best seller lists give us ideas, and we also read book reviews from several sources. The Library Director makes the final decisions, which are of course affected by budgetary restraints.

How is a book ordered? Books and other materials are ordered from many different suppliers. Some books are sent to us automatically because they meet certain criteria. For example, we always order all Greg Iles's books since he is a Natchez author. Generally the primary consideration is price, although many booksellers provide additional services that may affect the decision. For example, our primary bookseller sends all books with a barcode already affixed and provides cataloging information through a website. In addition, some of our books are donated.

What happens when a book arrives? If the book is donated, a determination is made as to whether it is worth adding to the library collection. If the book was purchased, the first thing is to check to make certain the books in the package match what the invoice says is supposed to be there. Then the books have to go through several steps in the Library:
  1. Cataloging. This is a very important and often misunderstood step in placing a book in your Library. This is what makes it possible for you to quickly find the book that you want. Our cataloger uses several sources to make her decisions. First, materials are categorized by type of media: books, tapes, videos, magazines, newspapers, and microfilm. Books are then divided into categories according to the type of reader: Adult, Large Print, Young Adult, Juvenile, and Easy Readers. Next books are further divided into specific categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biographies, and Reference. Fiction is ordered by author and Biographies by the person(s). Nonfiction and Reference are categorized according to the Dewey Decimal System, which has been used by libraries since 1876. In addition, all materials are coded with the appropriate subjects and keywords, to help patrons find materials. Finally, all this information must be entered into the computer so that patrons have access to the information. At this point, patrons will be able to find the book in our catalog, but it's status will be "in cataloging," and it can't be checked out yet.
  2. Processing. All items have a barcode label which is its unique identifier in the Library and also allows the book to be scanned for checkout and checkin. Books and other materials also have a label, called a spine label, that is easily visible from the shelf and that tells you where they are located in the library. All books must be covered with a special plastic cover, called a dust jacket, to protect it. Several pieces of information are stamped or written in each book: when it was received, which branch library it belongs to, and the warning for misuse. Plus all items are "hotted" which means it will set off an alarm if taken out of the library without being checked out.
  3. Circulation. The item's status is changed from "processing" to "checked in" and is then available to be checked out by patrons. New books are usually placed in the "New Books" section of the library for about 6 months, before they are placed in their permanent location.

Be-Friend your Library

It’s certainly true that one can never have too many friends. Did you know that Judge George Armstrong is on facebook and is ready and willing to confirm your friend requests?

Facebook has proved to be a useful networking tool ever since each of us on staff has gotten our own page. It does sometimes resemble a high school social circle with members competing to see who can accumulate the most friends, but it does have its benefits. I just returned from a week-long trip to New York and Boston, and I checked in on all my friends back home while I was wandering the northeast corridor.

One of my stops in New York was the grand New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. Up on the third floor, where the beautifully painted cloud-filled ceiling soared above my head, the reading room was buzzing and vibrant. Row after row of public access computers were filled with folks doing just what I was doing – checking email and posting their status. Although it is strictly a research library, the pick up windows were bustling with patrons picking up requested books for in-house use.

Everywhere I went on my trip, from the riders on the Amtrak train to the New York City bus driver taking a break from her driving, I saw people reading. As a librarian, I found it very gratifying. I took the opportunity to finish reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It was excellent and deserves all the book club and discussion group attention it has been receiving. I can only hope the movie is up to the book.

Judge George Armstrong is indeed on facebook. Look “him” up, and friend him. That way you will get important updates about the Library, such as the design process of our new web site. We would love input on that subject and on any programs our friends would like to see started.

We're also on Twitter as NatchezLibrary.

Be-friend your Library!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

We're Designing a New Website

We decided we needed a new website. Our address is www.naw.lib.ms.us. We're most interested in making it user friendly, and we would really appreciate some feedback from our patrons. Please send us an email answering any or all of these questions:

  • If you've never visited our website, please tell us why. We need to understand why people don't use it. Maybe you didn't even know we had a website. Maybe the address is too hard to remember.

  • If you have visited it, why did you come? What were you looking for? We also need to know what people want when they visit, so we can provide it and make it as easy as possible to find.

  • When you visit our website, did you ever have problems finding what you were looking for? It makes sense to us, but it may not to the public. So let us know about any difficulties you experienced.

  • One challenge in designing websites is its organization, which helps people find what they want. Would you organize our site differently? Would you add, delete, or change some of the sections we include? Or maybe you might use different words to describe them.

  • Is there something that you wanted that wasn't on the site? Please make any suggestions for additional information that you would like to see.

  • Of course, feel free to tell us what you like, too. We don't want to change something that's working well.

Our website is meant for the entire community to use - so we need your feedback to make sure it does its job well.

PS. Once we have the new design ready, we'll be needing some guinea pigs to test it out. If you're interested, let us know.