thoughts on the stapler

My small post about the reference desk stapler solicited some hilarious and insightful comments both here and at a pic of the stapler on flickr.

Highlights include Richard Ackerman’s comment:

Of course we let our patrons use staplers! We just require they take training in the use of advanced stapler features first

and Jenny’s response. As usual, she’s spot on:

And we call it a collation tool that you have to reserve in advance and show a library card to use. Then we make you use it in the designated collating area, where no more than two people can be at any one time. Removing the collation tool from the collating area will result in an immediate suspension of all collating privileges.

Users are allowed to collate up to 30 pages or 10 sets before they must surrender the tool to the next patron in line. If no one else is waiting, the patron may continue to use it for an additional 15 pages or 5 sets. Patrons may not exceed 60 pages or 20 sets in any one 24-hour period. Failure to observe these rules will result in the immediate suspension of all collation privileges. Staff will refill staples in collation tool within 24 hours of the first written report of an empty cartridge.

Collation tool hours are 9:16 a.m. – 8:44 p.m., Tuesday – Thursday. Classes in basic and advanced stapling are offered in January, June, and October.

JanieH links to a post on “Library Garden” which asks the great question, “Have you considered the price you are paying by punishing the majority of your good customers to deal with a few of the bad?” It also links to an amazingly titled bit from “Pop Goes the Library:” Red Tape = Patron Kryptonite

All of this is feeding into what I decided was going to be my theme for this year: Let’s Make Libraries Easy. I’m not a big fan of when people throw their arms up in the air and proclaim, “Libraries can’t be everything to everyone” because, duh, it’s a totally obvious statement. What I really dislike about the phrase is that it seems to discourage innovation and prevents us from striving to do the best we can. Right? “We can’t be everything to everyone so we probably shouldn’t try this new service.” “It might be nice to have IM clients installed our our PACs, but we can’t do everything.” Concentrating on the fact that we can’t be everything to everyone will lead us to become nothing for nobody. So instead, let’s think locally. We can be, and often are a heck of a lot to our communities. And I don’t mean communities in just the geographical sense.

We can’t maximize what we can do for our communities unless we stop with the passiveaggressiveness and make nice library signage, reduce barriers to service and think about our libraries from a non-librarian perspective.

Here are five things you can do this week to make your library a better place:

  • Let people bring drinks into your building. Let that group of high schoolers studying together eat the cupcakes they brought in. They might even offer you one. If they do, take it. It’ll make you seem human.
  • Communicate with your users who IM.
  • Let patrons plug their digital cameras into your computers.
  • By your DVD collection, have hold slips filled out with the info for popular films. They’ll just need to write in their name and hand it to you.
  • Allow kids to bring their skateboards in the library

The next time you’re involved with making a decision in your library, please consider the needs of your users. My thanks go out to all of the library workers – shelvers, administrators, IT geeks, janitors, catalogers and everyone else – who are working to make their libraries easier to use.

10 thoughts on “thoughts on the stapler”

  1. Thanks for linking to my brand new sign. I can happily report that in just under a week I have noticed a marked difference in the volume.

    I am surprised that it took so long for you to have a stapler readily available. We have at any given time three staplers, a stapler remover and tons of scissors at the circulation desk. Yes, I do have to replace the staplers and buy new scissors every 3-4 months, but it makes the students lives easier and it makes them happy. You should see the looks on the faces when we give out paperclips and tape!

  2. My fav part of this post… “My thanks go out to all of the library workers – shelvers, administrators, IT geeks, janitors, catalogers and everyone else – who are working to make their libraries easier to use.”

    Thanks Aaron, for realizing that people of ALL departments of the library are who make it what it is. :)

    We should all remember not to discount ideas of staff who ‘don’t work with the public,’ they might just be open-minded enough to see beyond the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ and have some valuable ideas. Most of all, they are users too!

    I’ll never forget the day our cataloger said she had been “reading a website called walking paper.”

  3. That’s it… I’m buying a package of notecards. Outside of “where’s the restroom?” that’s the most popular question that our YAs ask – “do you have any notecards?”

    I’m not sorry for taking away a piece of OfficeDepotMax’s revenue by wantonly passing out those cards!

    Seriously, Aaron, it was a great reminder of what our goal should be – SERVE people, no matter what. And I AM going to buy a package of notecards.

  4. “Libraries can’t be everything to everyone” I love your comments about what results from this kind of attitude. And your short list of suggestions, particularly using IM to reach users. Some of my co-workers and I are also using Facebook as another avenue to reach students where they are.
    Lastly, rock on in your battle against passive-aggressiveness in all its library guises!
    It can’t help but make the world, and libraries, better places to be.

  5. If this single stapler is enough to keep up with your users, than your problem is on a completely different magnitude than ours. Our stable of staplers is kept near the reference desk, and is the source of a huge amount of consternation. It includes several electric models, several regular Bostitch-Swingline types, which have all been broken beyond repair at this point of the year, and a large capacity manual that jams whenever people try to staple documents of less than 15 pages, which they do all the time despite the pepto-bismol pink sign warning against this. This week’s crisis is that our pliers have gone missing, so we can’t fix the jams.

    This is all a trickle down problem from the massive amounts of printing students are doing, along with a growing consumer mentality among students who expect us to provide a range of office supplies in addition to staplers. I do believe that we need to provide a means to collate the documents that students are printing, but we’re not able to keep up with the rate of breakage. At this rate, I would rather provide a stapling service than deal with all the broken equipment. As it is, when I’m fortunate enough to get an in depth reference question, it’s guaranteed that it will be interrupted with stapler questions.

    I talked to a student who went on study abroad to Oxford last semester, and she said the library she used there charges for printing (we don’t) and provides combs and covers free of charge for spiral binding. The combs and covers are apparently distributed from a service desk, but the machine is self serve. I’d like to investigate this, but I doubt the college will send me to England for a site visit, alas.

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