Like many public libraries, the library district I work for has a Summer Reading Programme for the kiddos and teens. Our branch even has an adult summer reading programme because our Adult Services Librarian is a rock star and that’s the way he rolls. Like all good summer reading programmes, the kids get prizes for the number of books/pages/minutes they read and we use a browser based solution to track those prizes. We do that for two reasons: One, it helps us control inventory. We know exactly how many first prizes we’ve handed out, how many second prizes and so on. That helps us figure out other things like which prizes were the most popular, how far along kids got with the programme, and stuff like that. The second thing the browser tracking does is provide stats. Patrons track their progress online, we track how many participants there are, how many people received what prize, and so on.

Well, every Thursday during the summer, my branch has a big show for the kids. Needless to say this is also a popular time for the kids to pick up their prizes and our summer reading desk gets swamped. They’ve only got two computers on that desk and two people to work them. The rest of the front desk is handling library stuff like check in, check out, and questions. Well,yesterday was especially busy and we had a huge line in prize pickup. There wasn’t much happening on the desk and I wanted to help ease the line, but both computers on the summer desk were in use.

Oh wait, it’s a browser based system and I have an iPod Touch. I wonder if that’ll work?

Turns out, it does, and very well too. I’m always connected to the wireless here at the library so I brought up the website we use to access tracking, logged in, and started handing out prizes and logging it. While the desk worked the front of the line, I worked my way in from the back. While the interface for the tracking system is a little clunky, I could make it work easily on the Touch just by making sure I’d zoomed in enough to tap the little fiddly icons.

We got that line out of there in record time and I saved the link to the page to the front screen of my Touch. I have a feeling that I’m going to be doing that again sometime soon.

So there’s another tip from your Faceless Librarian. Have a look at the tech around you, maybe even your own tech in your own pockets. Keep in mind what it can do and what your needs are. If there’s a chance that you can make something work with just a little ingenuity, do it. Besides, some of the patrons thought I was all high-techy and Star Trekkie with my little gadget. Sure, they all know what iPhones and iPods are, but they never think about how a librarian can use one to help them. So when they see you making use of it in that manner, they really think it’s something special.