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The PLA Blog | Official Blog of the Public Library Association

This week the New York Times ran an article “Ask about the New York Public Library”. It gives NY Times readers a chance to ask Paul LeClerc, President and CEO of NYPL whatever they want. Well, needless to say, the comments have blown up. In NYC libraryland and probably all over the place, this article is the talk of the town.

I’ve taken all of the comments from this article and removed names, numbers, the terms “NYPL”, “library”, “libraries”, and “public” and used Wordle to create a cloud of the most popular words written in by NY Times commenters.  What better way to determine the public perception and their issues with the public library? Well, reading the comments and thinking about them is pretty important, but this offers another way to think about it.  Readers of the NY Times, fans and critics alike of the NYPL: in your own words, here are your issues.  Enjoy.

wordlenypl

Comment Pages

There are 18 Comments to "“Ask about the New York Public Library” visualized"

  • Gary says:

    Hey Nate…this is really great. Thanks!

  • nate says:

    @Gary @Jason: Thanks for your kind words, guys!

  • [...] A reader Wordled the questions asked by City Room readers about the New York Public Library this wee… Cool. [PaBlog] [...]

  • [...] A reader Wordled the questions asked by City Room readers about the New York Public Library this wee… Cool. [PaBlog] [...]

  • jenny says:

    I am going to guess the Drop is as in Book Drop, the lack of which at the NYPL makes me curse the skies. I wonder what least is from?

  • nate says:

    BPLer Molly Phelan had a great idea re: book drops- you guys should have an open competition for industrial designers to create the perfect book drop solution. You set up the parameters for the contest, then the designers go to work. Would be awesome.

  • Lauren M. says:

    This is pretty cool, Nate. Thanks.

  • Gary says:

    The perfect bookdrop…that would be cool. Would have to be fire-proof, bomb-proof, gentle on the books. And would need to somehow block people from dropping sodas, coffee, cigarettes, and infants in them. (This is a subject of immense debate in the library world. they are such a valuable service, but destroy more books than any other source…and have destroyed a few buildings as well when people drop firebombs and the like in them) Oh, and cats. Read a book about a kitten being left in a book drop, although that would be kind of cool.

  • nate says:

    @Gary: Its like the PEREFCT design challenge. Designers love this kind of thing. Maybe worthy of attention in the wonderful NYPL/Designsponge “design by the book” series?
    http://www.designspongeonline.com/2008/11/video-debut-design-by-the-book.html

    Oh and my bad- the idea should be credited to Emily Nichols at the library in Beverly, Mass. I mixed up two awesome librarians. It happens.

  • Jill says:

    That was interesting, thanks.

    It would be neat if there was an easy application to drop them into that would color code or graph positives and negatives onto these concerns, or some other way to clarify at a glance what’s going on. Like “books” gets darker blue with each complaint and more red with each praise.

    On the bookdrop note – Given the poop, pee, condoms, hot chocolate, and dirty diapers we find in the bookdrops inside the building, and the groups that hang out outside our building causing trouble, I shudder to think what would happen if you put these things together, but it would be really fun to see what designers come up with. There should be a librarian-made fantasy bookdrop design contest, with things that squirt back.

  • Nate Hill says:

    @Jill Yes that would be neat- I’m a fan of Many Eyes, which has some of that functionality.
    http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/

    I’ll be theres other things like that available, and if any readers have suggestions it’d be great for them to share.

    Bookdrops- yeah- seriously- so vile. Thats exactly what makes it an exciting design competition! How do you make a drop box that only accepts library material, and will not accept my banana peel? I wonder if you could adapt some of the technology from dollar bill accepters on coin changers in laundromats or something. Who knows. A great challenge!

  • Heather says:

    Interesting to note that ‘books’ and ‘branch’ seem to be the most prominent words. One wouldn’t know it from the allocation of resources in the system.

  • Dale says:

    Fascinating. As I read the post, I kept thinking that books were, indeed, what most people were mentioning.

    Of course we know there’s always a tension in public service between what people say they want and what they actually use. And it’s important to remember, I think, that some of the things wanted but not used should probably be there.

    I have a lot of thoughts about book drops. (And I have actually arrived at work, in a southern city library, to find 5 tiny kittens–alive–in the book drop box.) But I think there may be a good way to provide this service and keep the library–and kittens–safe.

  • Nate Hill says:

    @Dale

    re: “Of course we know there’s always a tension in public service between what people say they want and what they actually use. And it’s important to remember, I think, that some of the things wanted but not used should probably be there.”

    Best example: classic literature. Those time-tested tomes that we all had to read in 9th grade, that kind of thing. Nothing makes patrons more angry then seeing that we don’t stock all of the most obscure classics. But what cracks me up about a great number of those patrons is that they are not borrowers of those books as much as they are shelf-checkers. They don’t want the book themselves, they want to know that it is there for someone else. I mean what am I supposed to do with that, when dollars are scarce and circulation of materials is the way we define success?

  • Dale says:

    Many years ago, completely as a joke (I was in my 20s), I made a display “save a buckram bound book”. It was just that: buckram-bound books on a display (which I covered with some buckram I got from a book-binder). When asked, I would tell customers that if books didn’t circulate, we didn’t keep them. The books flew off the shelves. Maybe we sometimes just need to motivate people to check out the classics. (I say this about half seriously.)

    In that same branch library (I was the manager), I often spoke about circulation when I did outreach visits. I told people that if books they found interesting didn’t circulate, I couldn’t really justify buying more. I also always asked for suggestions and promised to buy at least 3 books suggested at every talk. While some fairly odd books were suggested–odd only in that I wouldn’t have suggested particular groups to suggest particular books–circulation greatly increased.

    And for those who don’t like the idea of judging library success by circulation, I encourage you to think about what high circulation really means. It means that you’ve educated the community about how the library works, you’ve encourage people to have library accounts, you’re buying materials people want to check out, and people are actually using the service that they’re paying for.

  • Nate Hill says:

    @Dale

    I can’t say I disagree with any of this, but I do think that circulation of materials is only one component of the library’s mission. High circ is great, and indeed it does mean that we have educated the community about how the library works and has always worked. I just want to be sure that we are still making room to educate the community about how the library CAN work for them in the years to come. Isn’t the community supposed to tell US how the library works? This is a two way conversation, right? Wasn’t that the point of LeClerc taking questions via the NY Times?

  • Jill says:

    Another note about judging the library by circulation-

    Every day in my library there are large groups of nannies and parents reading books to their young children, older children browsing through non-fiction books to pass time, and of course, everyone looking things up for homework. While none of these activities result in higher circulation, they do mean materials are being used and the library is appreciated.

 

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