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Alan Mask Author Archive


Email: a.mask@lacrosse.lib.wi.us  

In 2003, I accepted my first position as a cataloger at a liberal arts college. Ten years and several positions later, I am now the Technical Services Manager at La Crosse Public Library. During my lunch, I read John Le Carre's A Delicate Truth


library program

Maintaining Library Services During Hard Economic Times

This past summer we were in the midst of the how-are-we-going-to-fund our library discussion. It’s an age-old library question: how do we maintain our services, or (dare I suggest) how can we increase our services with a flat or reduced budget? The fear was real: do we reduce services at (or close) a branch or do we make drastic cuts at the main location?

pointing finger

Librarians Work Hard and Everyone Should Know That

It’s deceiving, the library world. After a recent tour of my public library, an individual stated, “I had no idea how much work you guys do.”

counting coins

Making Hard Choices During Budget Cuts

When I go back to my favorite restaurant growing up, I find it pales in comparison to my memory. What I’m experiencing-currently-is not what I remember. Life is about change. The library is an organic entity with a life of its own. No matter how much we cling to our memories, what we recall in […]

image of an infographic

Data-Driven Decisions

At a recent user’s group conference, there was a dominant theme: the importance of querying and retrieving data. As we know, library-as-place is important. Library-as-place-with-only-books is becoming less important and is an outdated model. This is not a new concept, but it was obvious, at least at this convention center, that library staff are interested in more than books. Several conference sessions were not talking about how to best display or circulate books, but rather about libraries actively removing collections to make space for people to do things. Their materials are still available and findable in the ILS, and the patron will get what they request. But it’s not important where that material is housed (online or in a storage facility).

brown library sign

It’s About the Patrons

Our ILS migration is complete—meaning, the data has migrated and we are actively live on the new system. Even though we are tweaking and learning and listening to patrons, a couple of things stand out about the process and why this was still a good idea.

question mark

What A Librarian Does

My son often says, “You’re not a librarian, dad, you just sit in your office and work on your computer.” What is interesting and troubling is that I have been a librarian for his entire existence. If I can’t make him understand what I do—when I live with him!—how can I make the average citizen understand what a librarian does, how librarianship is changing, and why they should support their local library?

Vancouver Washington Library with Sign

ILS Systems are Awesome

Looking around, there are so many options for everything. Besides the exact brand of ice cream my children like, cold medicine was the latest product I needed help selecting due to an over abundance of choices. Library automation systems are no different. We can argue over relevance and retrieval algorithms or how logical (or not) the staff client works. Does it text notices or only call patrons? Regardless of these issues, whatever library automation system you have, rejoice because it is an awesome product.

dvd in a case

Library DVDs versus Netflix Streaming

Every time I sit down to write this, I stop to consider whether I have given it enough time and thought. While I am a Netflix subscriber, and I do not see that changing, I have become disillusioned with their service. Here are five reasons why my library is so much better than subscribing to the Netflix streaming service.

brown library sign

Tech Services Departments are Changing

My first crisis in charge of a public library’s technical services was not an inter-departmental revolt against the new guy. It wasn’t passive-aggressive undermining, which can happen when the boss is the youngest person in the department. It wasn’t even learning a new ILS or mixing up someone’s name (it only happened once and I apologized). The first crisis was actually an opportunity to make my first major decision on the future of my department. My first crisis was a retirement.

children playing

The Connection Between Reading and Play

The children’s section of our public library has a boat. And, as much as my boys would like to think otherwise, it is not a pirate boat to do battle or make your enemies walk the plank. It is a reading boat. The other week I met them after work and helped coral them out the door. Before we left, I helped my youngest son retrieve books from the cabin of the boat and place them in the shelving area. (Their Star Wars collection is amazing.) Upon arriving at home, my oldest asked me, “Where are my library books?” I replied, “We put them back because you weren’t reading them.” “But dad,” he said, “I wanted to read them at home.”

cover of a vintage book about librarianship

What It Means to be a Librarian for the Community

While attending graduate school for library science, I have a distinct memory of not wanting to work in a public library. I had no reason to think this, having never worked in one. So why, after nearly ten years of academic librarianship, am I doing exactly what I thought I never would? I blame my two sons.