Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unshelved Answers

I ran across a neat site today. It is called "Unshelved Answers" and the concept is quite simple. It's librarians doing what librarians do best - answering questions. It is a place for librarians and library staff to go and ask questions of other librarians, thus benefitting from the collective knowledge of the many librarians who contribute to the site. And of course, if you are one of those librarians who just isn't satisfied with how your detective skills were used on the frontline today, you can contribute too.

The site seems to be in a transition phase, but right now, anyone can post questions, comments, tags and answers, so it's easy to participate. And there aren't a lot of rules - it seems to be a casual, friendly site. The more specific your question though, the more likely you are to get a useful answer.

Here are some examples of recent questions posted (and answered) on the site:
  • Suggestions for positive language to use with patrons - received 9 answers, including one library that prohibits food and drink who offers to put patron's beverages in the staff fridge for them until they leave and provide gumballs to replace gum or lollipops that were disposed of as the patrons entered the library.
  • Youth library decorating ideas - one example posted was, "I always have one table covered with a large sheet of paper and a can of markers near by. In large letters, in the center of the paper I post a book related question. "What is your favorite book?", "What was the last book you read?", and others. It doesn't really matter what the question is, before you know it the paper will be full of colorful flowery (the girls particully [sic] like this) writing".

This is a great way to get opinions from a wide variety of other libraries and just see how others are handling tough situations where it's not always clear what to do. One of the most popular uses of the site seems to be questions posted about specific books patrons are looking for but for which they can't remember the title.

Ask your own question, or browse for existing questions and answers using the 'tag' section of the site. You can also subscribe to the 'recent question' feed via RSS (Lauren is teaching an upcoming workshop on this if you need to learn how).

Visit the site at:

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