A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Su Epstein Author Archive


Email: sepstein@columbiactlibrary.org  

Su Epstein holds a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Connecticut and began her career teaching Criminology, before changing careers to Libraryland.  She is currently the Library Director at Saxton B. Little Free Library in Columbia, CT.  Su is currently reading Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz.


row of brightly-colored houses

Canvassing Conundrum

I would argue that going door-to-door for any reason is an inherent danger. After all, canvassing rules say to never go inside the house, try not to be alone, and disengage immediately if you sense anything amiss. Many locations require those going door-to-door to register and carry a government ID card to identify you as legitimate Some places ban the practice altogether citing safety concerns, for both those inside the house and outside.

team

Leading Tolerance

Back when I was in school settings, first as teacher and later as librarian, I greatly adored the publication Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. When I left educational institutions and entered the public library system, my commitment to issues of diversity, equality, and justice remained strong. Over the years in the public library, I have struggled with how to continue to “teach tolerance” while not in the role of “teacher.” I have tried to pursue these values in different ways for not only the public but also for the staff and my library board. For my community, I have engaged these concepts through collection development, displays, and programming. For staff, I have provided both formal professional development opportunities and informal discussion on the distinctions between difference and danger. For the library board, I’ve crafted policy to support these values and explained the importance of being conscious of these issues and implementing policy.

book-research

Don’t Forget Research Rules

Before I started working in libraries, I taught research methods (and statistics) for over a decade to undergraduate and graduate students. I conducted my own research in the field of social science, presenting it at conferences and in publications. I currently assist two different library publications in their peer review process. I actually like research and statistics. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed an increase in focus on research in library circles. As it has become more necessary to focus on outcomes, progress, and effects–rather than simply usage—research projects have become a focal point. I think this is a worthwhile trend.

library reading room

The Obligation of Libraries

For me, the discussion raised another issue: is the library’s obligation to the existing demographics of the community or to a more diversified perspective? Specifically, consider collection development, programming, and displays. Should we offer only that which applies to our known community’s demographics? Or should we try to broaden outlooks and horizons? Many times our decisions in these areas are shaped by our users. We might put up a holiday display because we believe our community expects or supports that perspective. But are we sure? Should we, in fact, be displaying alternative views as part of an obligation to support lifelong learning? Would we draw more users if we expanded beyond our perceived local culture? Is this not part of obligation, also? While it may be easy to say we should do both–support our community’s demographics and expand on the status quo–the finances and/or politics of many libraries may not allow for such a broad spectrum of activities or materials.

woman holding binoculars

Should Librarians Be Mandated Reporters?

Sadly, abuse and neglect exist everywhere. In some states, librarians are mandated reporters, and they get training and develop relationships with trained state personnel. In other places, the librarian’s view is moot. Should librarians everywhere be mandated reporters? I think so.

painting on stain glass rose

STEM Without Flowers is Pretty Bleak

For a while we have heard a great deal about STEM. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This focus has understandably trickled down to the public library. While I support and see the value in the STEM disciplines, I must point out that a stem without flowers is pretty bleak. It is only through diverse and well-rounded education that true advancement can be made. Aesthetic and creative disciplines are as valuable as science and math. A liberal arts education still has value. It concerns me that as a culture we seem to be abandoning humanities and arts for science and technology, rather than trying to maintain a healthy balance.

forum

Making Sure Help is Helpful

With the increase of internet searches and the dwindling of Reference Librarian positions, have we lost the art of focus?

Bookkeeping

Statistics Season

For those operating on a June year end fiscal year, the finish line is in sight. We are cleaning up our records, gathering our data, and readying our reports. It is Statistics Season. Every year I hear the same thing from someone: ‘statistics lie.’

gemstones

Hidden Gems – Five Lesser-Known Periodicals for Your Collection

As budgets shrink, the quest for quality grows. A while ago my library surveyed patrons about their preferences and how they wanted to see materials collections develop. One item that arose much to my surprise was the request for hard copy periodicals “with substance.” The food and craft titles were fine, but people commented they wanted to see less gossip and more content.

a handshake between two people

Not Only Candidates Are Interviewed

You’ve applied for a job and gotten the exciting call that the library wants to interview you! You’ve done your research. You’ve ironed your clothing. You stand tall and spend a few hours answering questions, perhaps going on a tour. You’re told they hope to make a decision quickly and they’ll be in touch within the next couple of weeks.

Net Neutrality

Net Neutral?

In an editorial in the November 2014 MIT Technology Review[1], the writer concluded that “the open Internet is in danger. But not from lack of neutrality—from the prospect of FCC regulating it like a 20th –century utility.” The article proceeded to provide a brief commentary on “network neutrality.” This refers to the concept that service providers should not block data from particular websites, charge content providers for delivering content, or set paid “fast lanes” i.e. charging extra to some people for faster services while others get stuck in “slow lanes.”

magnifying glass

The Importance of Library Insurance: Investigate It Before You Need It

To be honest, insurance was not something I really thought much about. Of course I held personal insurance (home, auto, etc.), but for the library? I recognized the importance of the library having a basic liability policy.

Clouds

Every Cloud Leaks a Little

A recent media scandal involved compromising celebrity photos allegedly hacked from the cloud via the celeb’s cell phones and then distributed to the general public. Shortly after this story broke, my local weather included rain. The jokes flew: every cloud eventually leaks a little.

Color Pencils

Who Knew? What They Don’t Teach You in Library School

A few days ago, another librarian and I spent an agonizing forty minutes trying to follow the impossible directions for assembling a desk chair. We had both approached the topic thinking it would be a quick and easy task and we’d soon be back to our ‘normal’ work. We ultimately assembled the chair, but with […]

change

Importance of Library Wages

Every spring librarians all over the country go before their Boards and towns to argue their case for their budget. For many of us, that includes an argument for salaries as well. For me, part of this process involves seeing what other salaries are, not only for library staff in my area, but also for other town positions. This allows me a point of reference and comparison and usually a bargaining chip.