Notes from the back room of a small rural library

I am the back room of a small rural library in Colorado. OK I am actually a person, but working in a small (did I mention understaffed) library means my job is all things associated with the back room: cataloging, accounting, book processing, acquisitions, technology, toilet plunging... Yup. Jack of all trades. To make the most of our limited situation, we try a lot of things. Some succeed, some never take off, some fail miserably, some revolutionize how we do business. Most of what we try is either Open source or free (or both). I know what you're thinking, "Quit stalling and just tell me what works!" I will, I will, trust me. But I am also going to talk about what hasn't worked... or hasn't fulfilled our expectations. The over arching thing I have found is that folks do their job in their own particular fashion. The organizational system that works for me, won't necessarily work for you. So, when I started doing some acquisitions at my library, the white slips of paper in ziplock bags made me want to run away screaming. One ziplock for requested, one for ordered, one for approved... little slips of paper being put on my desk... yeah...not a good idea for me! I asked the staff to put the requests for acquisitions on a wiki. The conversation went something like this, “A what-i?” “A wiki!” This was back when our library still had cards in drawers as a catalog and patrons signed their names on cards to check stuff out... In other words no acquisitions module. Two ILS's later and we still like our wiki for acquisitions, but only for media (DVDs, music, video games).   So what are the advantages of a wiki as an acquisitions module and how do we use it? Well, with a wiki, no little pieces of paper are littered onto my desk, misplaced, lost in the shuffle or otherwise abused. For me this is essential, but if you are good with handfuls of paper all over the place, well I could send you our old ziplock bags if you want. Any staff person can enter the item on the wiki page (the page itself is nicely organized by media type.) When I order the item, I type the PO# or cart name next to the title. That way, any staff member can answer the question, "When is it coming? When is it coming! I ordered it MONTHS ago,... or was it yesterday?” When the item arrives I put the requester on hold and erase the entry. Basic. Easy. Key word - organized. Stay tuned to this blog for more exciting adventures in free software to 'git-r-done' in libraryland. Kieran Hixon John C. Fremont Library Florence, CO NOTE from Sarah Washburn: keep tuned to Kieran's corner of this blog, as he share his Notes From the Back Room tales. If you'd like to hear more straight from Kieran, don't miss his upcoming Free Friday Forum, hosted by BCR: Rocking the Sandbox: Big Ideas from a Little Library.


Kieran, Any way you could post a screen shot of what the acquisitions page looks like on the wiki? That would be very helpful. Thanks, Gail

Coming your way!

Hey Kieran and Sarah, I was very jazzed to see Kieran was doing one of BCR's Friday forums, but you are a popular guy -- BCR is no longer accepting registrants for this forum. Any chance of a repeat?

Actually, the forum was postponed, and will now be held on Friday – April 30th, from 10:00-11:00 MT - as I am stuck in a snow storm in Mississippi. (yeah snow in Mississippi -who knew!)

hey folks - it is true that Kieran's Free Friday Forum is filled, but it's also true that he's doing two for BCR in the coming months. Sucker! ha!

He and I were supposed to do one this morning covering a few open source tools - and that's the one that has been rescheduled for April 30. That's Part 2 in the Hot Tools for Tough Times series - "Strange But Free."

In addition, I suckered him into doing one that focuses more broadly on how his tiny library manages to do so much cool stuff. That one's part of an occasional series called "Libraries that Rock!" and will take place on Feb 26. Both of these are currently filled up, but it's always worthwhile to get on the waiting lists!

In addition, they'll all be archived, and you can find those links (when they come available) at

AND - last but not least, I would invite anyone to email me with ideas for other libraries that rock! (Sorry, Kieran, for highjacking your first blog post for BCRish stuff!)