Ask the ALA Library

Customer Service Training

Q. A few weeks ago, I happened to visit another library and was startled by the rude service from the front desk staff.  I'd like to be sure that no one would say the same about my library! Where can I get some information on excellent public service in libraries in order to do some in-service training?

Literary Landmarks

Q.  We were in Hannibal, Missouri on a recent spring driving trip and visited the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum.  I noted that it is a "Literary Landmark."  What is this designation?

Bar Codes in Libraries

Question: Is there a standard library barcode identification system?

Award-winning Libraries

Q. Our library is beginning to think about a major addition.  I recall that the ALA gives an award for library buildings.  I'd like to plan a cross-country trip so that I could see some of these.  How can I get a list of these libraries?

War Service Library book

Q. Today I was going through some books donated to our book sale and ran across one with a bookplate stating "War Service Library" with a picture of a WW I Soldier carrying a stack of books.  This plate was found in a 1918 book.  What is the story behind this bookplate?

A.  The bookplate -- sometimes a label or a stamp with the words "American Library Association, Soldiers and Sailors Camp Library"-- is one of several versions affixed to books furnished to sailors and soldiers by the American Library Association during World War I.

Mobile accessible library websites

Question: We'd like to make our website available to patrons that have "smartphones".  Do you have any resources to help us?

Book Groups

Q. A new resident inquired whether our library had any book clubs.  The library in the town she moved from supports several and she had found hers to be a congenial way to explore books and reading.  What's involved in starting one?

Disaster Planning

Q. There was recently a flash flood in a neighboring town--and it seems like there's another earthquake reported every week.  Our library doesn't have a disaster plan.  Where can I get help in writing one?

A. There are a number of resources available to you. Start with the "Disaster Recovery" resources prepared by members of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services as background material for the first ever Preservation Week, May 9-15, 2010.

Value of Old Books

Q.  One of our regular library visitors is clearing the attic of the family home now that her parents are deceased.  Where can I direct her to learn more about the value of these books?

What is a library?

Q. The word "library" seems to be used in so many different aspects now, from the brick-and-mortar public library to the digital library.  Is there a good definition of what a library is?

A. We're glad you asked.  The Whole Library Handbook offers this definition:

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