The Reference Department’s involvement with patron questions and needs covers all types of patrons and interest levels. We are continually offering services from technical help for the Internet to genealogy and local history assistance.
The end of 2007 brought changes to the Reference Department with the welcome addition of a second Reference Librarian, Jen Searl. Our goals, activities and plans have been expanded with this addition.
Due to the Middle Street fire, our entire Active Storage collection of reference local history materials was moved out of its’ location and cleaned. This gave us an opportunity to examine and evaluate our collection. The section was expanded and reordered to make finding materials easier for staff. The city directories, birth, deaths and marriages, and yearbooks (“Flickers”) were all moved to locked cabinets in the Reference Department, due to frequent usage. We are also working on acquiring new furniture to house our antique rolled-up maps, as well as our large atlases.
Our newest microfilm reader-printer, purchased in July 2007, is getting a lot of use. It replaced machines that were not functioning. Patrons use the machines to access issues of the local newspapers going back to 1827. The new machine has digital capabilities. It can be attached to a computer and files can be emailed or saved.
An internet subcommittee consisting of Jen Searl, Helen Freeman, Cindy Williams, and Cathy Talty, with input from Judy Oski, was formed to address the Reference Department’s concern with excessive computer usage, and frequent waits, amongst other issues. A two hour daily time limit was suggested, and approved by the Board. An immediate difference was noticed in the amount of patrons on the waiting list.
A flash drive was purchased due to the increasing number of patrons who needed to save a document but did not bring a flash drive. This allows a patron to save the document and then email it to themselves. Since the library computers do not allow materials to be saved to the hard drive, in the past, a patron would lose their entire document. We have used this several times and patrons have been very appreciative.
We began offering informal private computer lessons instead of computer classes on certain topics. This way we could address the specific need of the patron. Topics ranged from setting up email accounts to navigating certain online databases.
We continue to evaluate online databases regularly. In July, we lost the popular Rosetta Stone language program. We evaluated other language databases, such as Tell Me More, but have yet to find a suitable replacement. We decided to continue our three Proquest databases and to try and promote them to get higher usage statistics. We are currently working with the library webmaster to reorganize the web page with our online databases to make it easier for patrons to access.
Interlibrary Loan is steady and ongoing and generally increasing in volume. We transfer materials to and from our NOBLE network, Massachusetts networks outside of NOBLE through the Virtual Catalog, and libraries from all over the country through the Interlibrary Loan Center.
Two groups came to the reference department for assistance, a group from the Compass program and one from Wellspring. The Compass group was a small group of teens from the alternative education program. They wanted to know about the library’s resources, especially the periodical databases and reference books to use for writing a paper. The Wellspring group was a small group of women who also needed assistance in locating resources for writing a paper.
The Reference Department donated 13 antique scrapbooks of local newspaper clippings to the Cape Ann Museum. We hope this is just the beginning of many collaborations between our two institutions.
We have submitted news releases to the Beacon newspaper to promote our collections and services, such as our private computer lessons, and genealogy databases.