Head Librarian’s Report – February 2011

Note from Nicole – Related reading you may find interesting: the MCLB FY2012 Legislative Agenda, and this piece from the School Library Journal on the importance of teaching young library patrons basic computer programming skills.

Head Librarian’s Report

Youth Services Division

On January 14, Manga for Teens 2010, a collection of original work by members of the WPL Teen Manga Club, was delivered to the library.  Copies of WPL’s latest teen publication are being distributed to contributing Manga artists and writers.  In addition, copies of the volume are being added to the library’s collection, both circulating and reference.

Worcester Arts Council announced their support of both WPL programs for creative teens, the Teen Manga Club and the Teen Writers Group.  Plans are underway to spend the grant of $2610.00.  These monies will underwrite production costs for a 2011 publication for each group as well as teaching fees.  The teens and YS staff are thrilled with the recognition and support from the Worcester Arts Council.

WPL Children’s Librarians started a new series of storytimes that are scheduled to run until the last week of February.  Babytime on Wednesday mornings, Lil’ Todkins on Thursday mornings and Preschool StoryTime on Friday mornings are fully subscribed.  Attendance is excellent, weather permitting.

Frank Sestokas initiated a Legos Club for children 4 and older.  On alternate Saturday mornings, children and their parents are invited to build using Lego building blocks that are supplied by Friends of WPL and donations.  The first meeting of the Legos Club brought 50 participants to the Children’s Program Room on January 22nd.

The Children’s Room and Frances Perkins Branch hosted a Legos Robotics Workshop presented by Ellie Lin, a homeschooling mother and leader of a Legos First Robotics Team.  The libraries provided space and PR, Ellie shared her expertise and robots.  Both programs were well attended.

Three Valentine-making Workshops were presented in conjunction with Worcester Historical Museum and the annual Valentine contest.  WHM staff helped participants make their own Valentine cards at all three library branches.  Participants had the option to take home their creations or submit their work for the contest.  Winning Valentines will be displayed in the Children’s Room display case.

WPL is sponsoring an Interactive Qualifying Project for 4 WPI students.  John Flynn, John Pearsall, Mike Pettiglio, and Yiming Wu are developing and piloting curriculum for a series of workshops to teach the use of Scratch, a free computer program developed at MIT that provides a graphical system to create video games.  Using the staff computer lab as their office, the WPI team is creating sample games, a slide show, a video program and lesson plans.  A pilot series of workshops will be offered to teen participants during the last week of February, WPS school vacation week.  The WPI team will also provide some training to WPL staff.  Scratch is being used successfully in numerous libraries to encourage the development of both technological skills and creativity in young library patrons.

Technology Services Division

Preparing for Migration

C/W MARS (Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resources Sharing) consortium is changing its Online Catalog System from Innovative’s Millenium product to the open source Evergreen system.  The plan is to bring the academic libraries online in July and the public libraries in October.  Since we are one of the very few libraries using full functionality of acquisitions mode, we will actually join the academic libraries to use the Evergreen acquisitions system on July 1st.

Before the system migration, it’s our golden opportunity to clean up and restructure our data for the greater use in the new Evergreen system.  A series of action plans has been discussed, assigned and been carried out by all departmental staff under the Division.  How could we absorb these extra tasks besides our daily routines?  Bearing with this change in mind and determining to have a smooth and fluid workflow in place, the departmental supervisors came up with creative means to work collaboratively and efficiently.  We had IT staff reconfigure the Circulation Desk computers to allow Periodicals or Technical Processing staff working down in the Circulation area where the items had been checked in and sorted y Circulation staff.  Periodicals staff were pulled to work inTechnical Services office to ease off the workload if necessary.  Technical Processing staff also work at the Periodicals Desk to cover the shortage when needed.  Kudos to the leading role of each individual supervisor and the diligent work attitude of their staff members!

It is also a good time for the subject specialists to go through their collection to either weed the outdated/damaged items, or re-order those that are missing.  Several inventory reports were generated in-house to assist this process.  Large numbers of withdrawals and to-be-fixed items were flooded in to the backroom office – Technical Services, but were dissolved and disappeared within no time.

Circulation Department

  • All the departments in the Division began working cooperatively on a project involving materials with dual barcodes.  It was learned that any item with a dual barcode will not migrate from Millenium to Evergreen.  Circulation staff are pulling all items with dual barcodes and organizing these items for TS staff (aided by volunteers and Periodicals) to change items to a single barcode.  This project involves 117,000 items in the Library.
  • A cover letter was written by Anne White to go with all outgoing bill notices.  The language used will help patrons understand why they have received bills and explain more clearly how simple it is for them to have clean records and continue using their library.
  • Museum Pass information was completely updated by Anne White in Tixkeeper.  Now the information under More Info link that is connected with each museum pass stays current.
  • Circulation staff members are in the process of reviewing six draft Circulation Policies.  The staff inputs are valuable for the final formation of these policies.  The goal is to have them ready before ILS system migration.

IT Department

  • A standalone OCS Print Station was set up at the Frances Perkins Branch Library.  The printing from the public computers will actually go through the upgraded photocopier instead of a standalone printer.  It’s a beta testing project to relieve staff from spending time to collect the print job fee manually and to ensure a consistent procedure across branches as well.
  • Wowbrary, a weekly new library materials notification service, was configured and uploaded on the Library’s website.  The widget features the library’s newest books, movies & music, etc. on a weekly basis with cover art image displayed.  Patrons can get a first glance at what has been ordered and to place a hold for their favorite items.  Compared with the one we currently have, this subscription service does not require ongoing staff time involvement, which is a big savings here.
  • IT staff began the process of replicating the C/W MARS-connected computers with new Dell Optiplex 280 models to keep up with the minimum requirements of C/W MARS specifications.  These new computers make the jump from Windows XP to Windows 7 for staff.
  • Mike has migrated the staff home page to the new virtual environment by upgrading from Drupal 6.9 to the new Drupal 7.0.  Drupal is a free content management system that we have been using for over 4 years now as our intranet.
  • Ming used an open source tool called Vanilla to create an online discussion forum for Circulation staff to share their comments when reviewing the draft circulation policies.
  • 12 Computer Lab computers were upgrade with the latest software to meet the AARP tax season requirements.  The Online Tax Scheduler software that IT created is now open for taking appointments at all public service desks.
  • All OPACs have the latest registration code for continuing using the Public Web Browser, an application to securely manage our public computers in kiosk mode.

Periodicals Department

  • Staff finalized the newspaper and magazine title selections for the FY2012 renewal list in collaboration with selectors.  All of the Periodicals staff have been working here for more than ten years; they are very excited to have this opportunity to contribute their field experiences in the title selections.
  • Staff assisted the technical services department in working on the extraneous item barcode project.
  • Even though the Periodicals department consists of 4 paraprofessional staff, they have quite a huge floor space to cover when working the desk.  They are not only assisting patrons on newspaper/magazine inquiries, using the microform format, locating biography items, but also monitoring the Computer Lab and Study Room.

Technical Processing and Cataloging Departments

  • Jeremy produced inventory reports for a few subject specialists for collection weeding.  He also ran statistical report on ESL collection for grant application by the Foundation.
  • Mass database cleanup project for the following categories: 1,398 missing items were withdrawn, 200 items with invalid barcodes were corrected, and 800 items of government documents were updated, plus all items without barcodes.
  • Began project to correct all items with extraneous barcodes, and a total of 4,928 items were fixed this month.
  • A total of 800 young adult items have been changed due to incorrect item fields, such as call numbers, location, etc., to form a consistency among youth materials.
  • It’s already the second half of this fiscal year.  Jeremy worked with Wendy, Doreen and Ping to come up with accurate appropriations for all departments, with the exceptions of the branches.
  • Jeremy began efforts to work with our materials jobber to automate ordering for the adult fiction and non-fiction at the Frances Perkins Branch Library.  This can be an ordering model to apply to all subject areas to have profile created based on materials acquisitions criteria to streamline the collection development process.
  • Art, the page, cleaned out old order slips from the acquisitions files, and he also joined the database cleanup team to work on the order status of the corresponding items.
  • TS staff processed items to be presented in honor of two outgoing members of the board of trustees in honor of their years of service.

Reference Services Division

Virtual Reference

It has never been easier to get reference help.  Two services, Text a Librarian and Chat with a Librarian, are available at all hours the library is open.

WPL launched its own Text a Librarian service in the new year.  It’s easy — if you are on the go and need an answer, simply text your question to 508.335.2396 and get an answer delivered to your cell phone.  This number is exclusively for text messaging.  Standard text messaging charges may apply.  THe Library has professional librarians providing this service using an iPhone for picking up the messages.

Beginning in 2011, the Worcester Public Library extended its Chat with a Librarian service from limited hours (3:00pm-5:30pm) to all hours when the library is open.  This chat service lets patrons and library staff ask questions and get answers from WPL reference librarians.  Simply go to the website and click on Ask A Librarian to see the familiar instant messaging box.  Mobile users of iPhone, Android and Palm can also download an app directly onto their phone.  See also the WPL Ask A Libarian website.

E-reader Devices

The Library staff is learning about new tools and delivery systems and now public services has acquired a Kindle, a Nook, and an iPad and is learning the features of these new gadgets.  The goal is to have all public services reference staff acquianted with these devices and know how to use them effectively.  A so-called “Technology Petting Zoo” and other programs in the future will help patrons of all ages to get the most out of these “toys”, as they are sometimes called.

Last month, the Reference Division reported that work was continuing on the Worcester Area Writers Project.  This is the first time the staff is experimenting with creating an online digital book using Worcester Library equipment.  The object of interest is the title Worcester Area Writers, 1680-1980, by Michael True.  Joy  Hennig is the WPL Local History and Genealogy Librarian, and is in charge of the Worcester room which houses the Local Author Collection.  She has been working with Michael and other members of a committee including community members to bring out a new edition of the book since 2008.  Now that updates have been readied, it is the plan of WPL to make the original book together with the updated essays available online.  Since commercial digitization is so costly, the Reference e-WorkGroup librarians led by Pingshen Chen and including Priya Subramanian, Jillian Parsons, and a new intern, college student Eric Rainville, are scanning the book and are working on getting Googlesites, a free wiki, to host the project.

Also, Joy Hennig reports that her monthly Thursday morning Genealogy program was postponed until February due to a storm.  The Library uses an online registration system for these programs and patrons who have signed up can be notified easily of any changes.  The topic Introduction to the US Census will be held on February 10.

Moira McAvey, Foundation Center Librarian, did not get snowed out for her Grants Seeking Workshop, held on Thursday, January 13.  The basic course in grants research introduces specialized databases and other resources and is held in the computer lab.

On January 23, 75 people turned out to hear a new and upcoming local author, high school student Eamon McCarthy, speak on the topic of his newest (!) book about the Wachusett Dam.  His interesting slide show and candid remarks about his research made him a popular author.  The book entitled Wachusett: How Boston’s 19th Century Quest for Water Changed Four Towns and a Way of Life, is for sale in our Friends Bookstore.  This program may be repeated at a future date.  He will be scheduled for another appearance TBA.

Expanded Resume/Job Counseling Help

Our dedicated volunteer, Dr. Terry Chapman, continues his Tuesday morning resume help sessions from 9:00 to noon, but now has expanded his services to include taking reservations for sessions to give more help to those ready with their resume.  A walk-in person can be seen between 9:00 and 10:00 and then half-hour sessions can be reserved by calling the Reference Desk at the Ask A Librarian number.  This help from a career counseling professional has been praised by the many patrons who have benefitted from Dr. Chapman’s help over the last three years.

OurStory Productions presented “Happy Birthday Martin!  A Celebration of the Life and Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr” on Saturday, January 15.  The program included a song, a film, and a narration of the I Have A Dream speech.

The same afternoon, January 15, the WWHP (Worcester Women’s History Project) presented a talk by a professor from Yale about Abby Kelley Foster.  William Casey King’s discussion, Abby Kelley Foster: the Unsung Hero, was in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Abby Kelley Foster, a Worcester woman important as an abolitionist and civil rights activist in her own time.

A major production at the library was a totally spectacular Taiwan Sublime event.  This multifaceted program, combination art reception and cultural celebration, was presented by the Taipei Economic Council in cooperation with WPL.  The all-afternoon program included music, dance, and a delicious feast of Chinese specialties for over 200 people in attendance.  Taiwan Sublime comprises four series of photographs taken by Taiwanese photographers who for many years have crisscrossed Taiwan and its smaller sister islands with the aim of creating a record of its natural and human wonders.  Taiwan Sublime includes an additional meeting on Tuesday, February 8, from 2:00-3:00pm.  The exhibit ends February 10.

On February 5, from 2:00 to 4:00, the Mulan Arts Group will present another spectacular program that celebrates the Chinese New Year on Saturday afternoon, and will bring back the popular singers, dancers, and performers who were at the Library last year.  Refreshments will include traditional Chinese foods as well.

On Wednesday, February 8, and on consecutive Wednesdays, there will be a Black Culture Movie Night as part of a series running through the month.  Rabbit Proof Fence, Sarafina, Imitation of Life, and Souls of Black Girls will be featured — brought to the Library by a guest group.

Also coming up is another Birthday Celebration. On February 12, OurStory Productions will do a Bob Marley Birthday Bash to celebrate the legacy of this reggae singer.  This is another repeat annual event.

In March, yet another popular annual event is the Women in Print program arranged by the WWHP (Worcester Women’s History Project).  This will feature a panel of local authors including Eve Rifkah, Janette Greenwood, and Jessica Bane Robert.

Coming up, there will be a Civil War 150th Anniversary Movie and Discussion Series. Each month there will be a showing and discussion of a classic Civil War movie to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.  The First Tuesday of the month the movie will be shown and the second Tuesday there will be a discussion of the movie and related topics led by a person of distinction.  Movies will include Andersonville and Gone With the Wind among others, and will continue into November.


Last but not least, there is another staff loss of an accomplished librarian.  Elaine Lovely, a career librarian, retired after more than thirty years with the Reference Department.  Recently, she was the woman behind Bookletters, our website source for highlighting new books and serving up email booklists.  For many years, she ordered for the Literature section and lent her expertise to many areas.  She is sorely missed by patrons and staff.


  • Worcester Talking Book Library Update.  As previously reported the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners submitted an FY12 Budget that called for a 21% reduction in WTBL funding.  The Governor’s Budget which was delivered to the Legislature on January 30th restored funding for this vital service to FY11 level service in the amount of $421,000.  We would like to think that our advocacy efforts has an impact on this outcome.  It remains early in the budget process and we will continue to monitor events as they unfold.
  • We have attended several meetings around the planning stages of the Main South Promise Neighborhood Grant initiative.  The initial application submitted by United Way of Central Massachusetts and Clark University scored fifth in the nation out of hundreds of proposals.  There is great optimism for the ultimate success of the grant and the possibility of establishing library services in Main South.
  • We continue to have conversations about the concept of returning Bookmobile Services to the City.  In addition to supportive actions from the Mayor, the Worcester Public Library Foundation and John Monfredo from the Worcester School Committee are lending their considerable support.  We have also had an interesting dialogue with the Worcester Cultural Coalition in regards to joining efforts to support Bookmobile Services.  We will keep you informed of our process.
  • We have submitted a draft proposal of our LSTA grant application to the Board of Library Commissioners.  We are requesting $30,000.00 to establish a two-year citizenship attainment program with the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester.  The final version is due in March.
  • We are working with our Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Worcester to secure a $5,000.00 “environmental studies” grant.  This grant will complement this year’s Summer Reading Program by providing additional resources for Youth Division Staff.  The CFGW has been encouraging our efforts to attain this funding.
  • As previously reported, the City has agreed to provide $35,000.00 to correct the deteriorating stairs on Salem Street.  The course of action that we have decided to take will involve permanent closing of the end stairs and a complete rebuild of the central staircase.  The end stairs are in close proximity to the ramped inclines and therefore realize little pedestrian traffic.  Once the deteriorated stairs are removed, appropriate facing and railings will be installed for a seamless appearance.
  • We have had several productive meetings with the Friends of the Library to support replacement of the exterior banners around the Main Library.  We intend to have a plan in place so that new, colorful banners would be erected in the Spring.  We are appreciative of the Friends support of the 150th Anniversary banners that have graced the building for the past year.  The new banners would continue to add color and liveliness to the building.
  • We are currently working on a “Digital Display” initiative that would enhance our efforts to better market library services.  We will be including the Talking Book Library in our implementation schedule.
  • We will be working closely with the WPLF Board in the search for a new Executive Director.  We wish Maria Lockheardt great success in her new position at Wellesley College.  Maria made lasting impressions in her five years leading the Foundation and promoting the work of the Library.  Maria will be missed by all who have had the pleasure to work with her.