Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another Year Over -- What Have We Done?

There are many polls and stats that label certain professions as being the most stressful or the least appreciated. Librarians is hardly ever on those lists. There's plenty of reasons the omission on these lists. One very important one is that it almost always ranks high in job satisfaction. As the year draws to a close and a new one is just beginning, it's time to consider as John Lennon asks of us each year around htis time, "What have we done?" Librarians have been at the forefront of the information age when it began in the late 80's and zoomed into the 1990's with the Internet taking society on the virtual road trip. The places we have been and yet to go on this information highway is surreal at times. The internet has made patrons comfortable on finding things out on their own. It should have been a wonderful moment for libraries, yet the potholes on the information highway proved to be more troublesome than anticipated. For example, too much information, too little attention to accuracy and too much time spent on gaming, chatting and other time wasters. Librarians continue to struggle with copyright issues and validating a persons' work. In the era instant gratification it seems that the Internet has created he illusion that real research is as easy as a few keystrokes. In reality, research on the internet requires boolean searching skills, patient to go beyond the initial first searches to validate data and a professional librarian who can help and teach how to find the back roads of the information highway. There has been much done on teaching about the information highway but there are still problems that continue to nag the profession. The constant need to prove the value of libraries in a digital era is just one out of many that pops into mind. E-readers and tablets like iPad have significantly changed the way librarians deal with the printed word. Many librarians believed that the day would never arrive when patrons would prefer downloading a book to checking a hard cover out. Thankfully there were librarians who saw the opportunity to serve other patrons by providing online databases and digital contents. With all opportunities there are some strings attached. First and foremost the many different brands of e-readers. Librarians are finding that on a daily basis they are working more with electronic gadgets and becoming techie geeks whether they want to or not. Putting that aside, which is really quite a small detail when considering digital content is chewing up more budget dollars than any library director would like. There continues to be a battle for the library to provide patrons with quality information sources while still holding down the bottom line. It is with fingers crossed that librarians are hoping that a compromise can be reached between publishers and libraries. Could authors jump into the fray of the conversation and defend their library friends? Once could hope. One last note on what has been done this year is the role of the librarian in each library. It is a sad to see many young grads coming out of library schools without the opportunities to work in libraries. Budget are tight to be sure but there is something else that is happening that is being ignored entirely by the profession. There are too few full-time jobs and to many part-time positions. On top of that, many of the smaller to mid size libraries are quite comfortable with clerks and non-graduates with a Bachelor's Degree or less do the work required of a librarian. It is dismal and disheartening. While these libraries who follow this practice may not have the funds to pay a professional and mean well. However, for the people that they serve this is a disaster. It cheapens the profession, library services and libraries in general. It would be far better if state libraries and library associations withhold the credentials and state aid of these libraries until they have at least one Library Science graduate on staff. This may seem harsh but in the long run it will strengthen libraries across the board. For those who would argue that every community deserves a library, the response should be that every community deserves access to a library. It's not the quantity of libraries that's important, its the quality. There is good news for the library professionals in the way of finding opportunities to work. Librarians are realizing just how versatile their education has helped them to become. A librarian is at the core knows the value of the commodity called information. Bring people and information together is done at a public library everyday. Yet, that's not the only place this can happen. Not only that, with a little imagination and creativity, there's no telling what librarians can conjure up to help our fellow man and child. Yes, the good news is that we have accomplished much this year. The better news is that the world is waiting for librarians to take charge in navigating the digital information maze. The best news is that there are so many talented librarians who can take this challenge on successfully and creatively! Here's to an exciting 2013!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 12 Big Items On Librarians' Christmas Wish List

This is the season where wishes and dreams come true. Where little ones hop onto a jolly old man's lap and give a list of all the things they dream about all year long. Librarians are no different. Yes, its true many may be older and wiser. The case can be made that librarians share the same child like curiosity and wonder as those little ones who sit in storytimes. Of course, the "real" Santa does not normally grant wishes to grown ups but perhaps this might be the year where the jolly old man from the North Pole might find it in his heart to grant a wish or two from the dozen presented here. (By the way for the little ones who are wondering who the "real" Santa is, here's a hint: He's not at your local mall.) So Santa, for librarians everywhere who are hoping for a little Christmas miracle in their libraries, here is a list of Christmas gifts that is sure to put a smile on every librarians' face and for their patrons too. 1. A big spacious library that offers everything for everybody. A spacious children's room for youngsters to explore or find a quite spot to read. Plenty of study and meeting rooms for group discussions. Programming facilities that provides good views from any seating area and comfortable seating to boot. 2. Two great conferences for the library professionals to grow, exchange ideas and bring back to their communities a whole host of exiting ideas that will help their patrons receive the very best library service possible. 3. Three wise and wonderful library advocates that represent the community either locally, statewide or nationally. Yes, librarians would love community leaders such as mayors, state representatives, and congressmen to not only understand the challenges of libraries today but also be the voice needed to represent libraries on every level. It would be wonderful if the entire legislature were pro-libraries but at this point, librarians aren't greedy. Three to start with would be wonderful. 4. Four more hours in the day to read all the wonderful books that stir the imagination and make reader's advisory a joyful part of the profession. As it is now, reading book reviews are the closest that librarians get to reading the actual books. As the saying goes, so many books so little time! 5. Five incredibly awesome Author visits that can make any dull book discussion group rock! Many authors are the best advocates for libraries. Having them visit libraries is like having Madonna go to a music store to promote music appreciation. 6. Six publishers (and they know who they are) who finally see the light that libraries are not their foes. Libraries are indeed their friends. The gift that would be best here relates to e-books and pricing. If all six publishers would re0think their pricing for libraries and make it economical for everyone involved what a much nicer world it would be to see print and electronic text coexists in the library. 7. Seven generous philanthropists who would not only donate funds to help libraries meet the demands of a changing digital information driven world but help in annual fundraising campaigns also. 8. Eight weeks of Summer Reading Programs that are wonderful, creative, inexpensive and suited for every age. Who wants to cut summer short because the funding was not there? Rhetorical question but if anyone is still trying to figure out the answer they are not a true library lover. l 9. Nine teens leaping to get to computers that have all the resources plus the opportunity to "like" their favorite library on Facebook. Maybe they might even retweet a librarian or two? 10. Ten year millage that is renewed every ten years without fail and with full community support --- and that would be for every library in every city in every state. Well, that may be extreme but perhaps settling for our own communities would be acceptable. 11. Eleven pipers who daily sing the praises of libraries and help with free positive PR that every library needs on a daily basis Social media has made getting the positive word out about what libraries offer. Get those eleven pipers pipping away in the real world as well as the virtual one 12. Twelve months of library programming that keeps the patrons begging for more. Which in turn, will inspire the librarians to come up with twelve more months of wonderful programming for the the next year. Without a doubt, Santa can handle these requests. As Christmas Eve approaches, librarians will hang their stockings with care, snuggle up with a good book and wait for Santa to arrive at their library. Hopefully with at least one of these big items in his bag.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Resources For Helping Children Deal With Tragedy

The shootings at Sunny Hook Elementary School has shocked not only the community it served but the country as well. Who hasn't heard the horror stories and shed a few tears over the lost lives of the innocent children and the faculty members who gave their lives in trying to protect them? This act of violence has changed this nation greatly and the consequences of the change are yet to be seen. Whenever a tragedy like this occurs, parents and educators look for answers on how to explain the unexplainable to the children in their lives. The hardest part of finding the answers is looking for the right material that isn't preachy but not too practical that it ignores the emotions and struggles of the reader. There are few books that find that balance and here are a review of some to the titles. As with any book, it is strongly suggested that parent and child read together. Especially when many questions will be raised by the child. When I Feel Scared by Cornelia Maude Speilman touches on the range of emotions children feel when they are insecure. This book is perfect for the younger child in its simplicity and soothing suggestions of what to do to cope with the feelings. It also is a good reminder for children that it is okay to feel scared sometimes. For older children a simple book like Speilman is obviously not going to help them. Nationally known commentators Rabii Mark Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman have written a book which helps children deal with the headlines in our media-centric world in a positive, sensitive, and sometime humorous way. Bad Stuff In The News: A guide to Handling the Headlines deals with the many different story lines such as terrorist attacks, senseless violence as well as other topics that may be unsettling for children. What is also very helpful in this book is the discussion of simple acts of comfort that help in the process of healing. Quite frankly, this should be the go to book for educators, librarians and parents who deal with children on a day to day basis. Eve Bunting has written eloquently on many topics that are sensitive and hard to explain. In The Memory String Bunting tells the story of a little girl who has a string of buttons, each button is a connection to someone she has lost in her family. While the story is one of personal loss its message of dealing with grief and finding hope to carry on is right on target. This story may inspire readers to find their own way to "honor" the memories of the innocent children and heroes that died on December 14 2012. These are just a few books that can help adults help children in tragic situations when answers are not easily found. Each title mentioned here are available at a local library or bookstore. The main important ingredient to helping children deal with loss is a good dose of hugs, reassurance and love. Children can never receive too much love. Also as adults, it is hard to remember that its okay not to have all the answers. If a tough question from a child comes your way, be honest and say "I don't know." Children will appreciate the honesty. At the posting of this blog a complete list of books to help parents, educators and children is being produced. For a complete list of books please contact

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Libraries' Give The Gifts That Are Lasting & Priceless!

With the jolly holly Christmas season coming ever so closer. Now would be the perfect time make a list of the many gifts that libraries give to their community and patrons all year round. To be honest this list could be one hundred items long but for the sake of time and attention span this list will contain the most important items. Not only that but the list is easy to remember because it is categorized using the dewey decimal system. Life couldn't get easier, could it? Beginning with the 000, the area affectionately known as "general knowledge". The everyday mundane questions are answered here. What is the average size of a Bengal Tiger? Look that up in the World Book Encyclopedia (030 W). How does one figure out Windows XP? Tons of books for that in 005. So why need to go any farther than that? Seriously simple life questions are found here. However, everyone knows that libraries often go above and beyond the call of duty. If the question of life and it's meaning can be found anywhere it would be in the 100 section of the library. Yes, general answers as well as the deeper meaning of life can be found between the hallowed stacks of the library. Not to mention if one were to drift farther down the stacks they would find the world religions and might find the ultimate answers to life's deep questions. Either that or at least find their a spirituality that is uniquely uplifting. Okay corny but true. Libraries can be very inspiring and uplifting. Consider that gift number two and three. Moving along into the 300's libraries offer the gift of understanding complex organizations, rules and laws. Without libraries political think tanks would not be able to complete their research. It goes without saying that these bookshelves in this area would be bare if political figures who had the desire to run for President didn't pen their tomes. Could this be a blessing or a curse? Let's consider it a blessings for now. Language opens up communications and understanding between people. Libraries have always been about communicating, understanding and bring people together. In the 400's the dictionaries and grammar books of all languages are available for self study. If one is lucky enough, some cultural groups will gather at the library to not only teach the language but also the customs at library programs. Who needs the UN when the libraries can bring the world together through books and programming? Our modern world not have been possible without the advances made in Science and Technology. All the complex issues of the day such as understanding the functions of the human body, fixing a car or getting a view of the inside of a space rocket can all be found here. What is even more amazing is that all of these wonderful discoveries are in print for anyone to find at the library. Following the theory that all things are connected by a common thread. It is quite possible that the world would not have known the genius of Einstein if had not been for libraries. It's all here in black and white, libraries are responsible for the discovery of many wonderful scientific and technological advances in our times. What an awesome gift! The arts and literature have often held a mirror to society for the purpose of introspection. Great paintings plays and novels all contain the "view" of how society behaves or in some cases misbehaves. Whether the picture is rosy or bleak the library has kept these treasures for the next generations to enjoy. Libraries have given their community the beauty of art and appreciation of the wisdom in words. It's quite possible that Shakespeare and other great writers would never had been known if it weren't for libraries. Perhaps the most valuable gift of all is found in the 900. History. The past is a tool that can not have a value placed on it. History tells us who we are where we have been and hopefully can direct us on the right path to follow. Presidents have relied on history books to aid in decision making. One president that comes to mind Lincoln loved reading so much that it could be said that he read his way into the White House. Would it be too boastful to say that libraries have contributed to the education of some of America's finest Presidents? No not really. Somewhere in Lincoln's life there had to have been a library or two that held the books that helped Lincoln be the president he was. It isn't that much of a stretch to believe that he may have had helped from resourceful librarians. As a way of summarizing the grand list of Libraries' gift to the community if not the world The list is as followed: general knowledge the meaning of life, uplifting experiences, understandings of complex government and laws, communications and understanding of cultures, advances in science and technology, safeguarding treasures in art and literature and finally the keys to the past and the future. These are many and priceless gifts and one can honestly say, a community would surely be lost without their library.

Monday, December 10, 2012

E-Readers: The Future of Reading

Reading is a very personal activity. What motivates a reader to finish a book or not is a mystery. Was the story lacking a plot? Was the writing style too flowery or just too plain? Where the characters engaging? All of these questions are valid to be asking from a publisher's and author's point of view. Even valid from the standpoint of a librarian who is considering whether a book is a worthwhile investment for the library. How are these questions answered? Before the digital era, publishers relied on sales of books to determine popularity and prosperity of an author's work. There was also the opportunity to have prominent reviews to promote the book before the publication, but by and large sales have always driven the market. For librarians determine what will circulate based on bestsellers and reviews. With e-readers things have changed slightly. Publishers now have the ability to track the reader's habits by gathering information digitally. They types of information they gather can be how many times an author's work is downloaded or how quickly do readers read through a book. This may seem innocent enough in the e-reader digital friendly era, but should there be some concerns for librarians about protecting the privacy of their patrons? Perhaps now is the best time to explore these issues. If the information that the publishers are receiving from e-readers download is simply to find out how popular an author is by then number of downloads, that is not a serious issue. That action in itself is not violating the readers right to privacy. However, what if the publishers were doing more than just seeing the number of downloads. Is there a possibility that other information could be obtained such as the types of books downloaded? Nonfiction? Fiction? Titles that deal with sensitive health issues or political views? Most readers might say that its okay for publishers and authors to find out what they are reading. After all this might motivate publishers to continue working with authors to write and publish the stories people like to read. Could there be a time when this information could be sold? Could this information get into the wrong hands where it could be used against the reader? Not to sound like an alarmist who believes that Big Brother is beginning to control all aspects of life, but it does seem a little creepy that reading habits could be monitored. After all, as stated previously, reading is an activity that is purely personal. There was a time, not too long ago, when getting an email required that a user subscribed to an internet provided such as AOL. Not true anymore. If users don't mind their email scanned for key words used for marketing. An email address is as simple as signing up for one in a matter of minutes. What has this got to do with digital reading? Plenty. Just as there are row away email addresses and disposable cell phones what would stop publishers from marketing e-readers that are one time use only, very cheap and to keep the cost down companies like NIke can advertise on the e-readers through pop-up ads. Don't think this would happen? It could especially with magazines and newspapers trying to find ways to stay afloat these days. Never mind the fact that more throw away gimmicks and technology will fill up garbage trucks faster than landfills. The ability of a company to "bother" the consumer while reading is enough to make any lover of print book to scream "I told you e-readers are awful!" Who would want to be interrupted during a pivotal part of story with an pop-up ad from Amazon? Frankly, this is another invasion of privacy but more annoying than intruding. One other thing to consider is that everything it seems is on the internet. Personal information work history, pictures and just about anything under the blue moon. There are times when searching the net or social media where the TMI moment happens more often than not. Librarians have always been at the forefront of protecting the privacy of their patrons. In the brave new world of digital access this will be harder to achieve. Libraries that are offering the Kindle or Nook for checkout to their patrons should be considering how "private" those devices are. Would a patron have the ability to see what other books were downloaded by the previous patrons? Amazon has a wonderful way of keeping track of what has been downloaded and suggests similar titles for the reader to consider. Would this not come up when Patron X checks out a Kindle after Patron Y? Libraries should not be loaning these items out until an e-reader is made specifically for the library market that allows for libraries to control content and history of downloads. E-readers like any other computer device, can be manipulated for purposes that might not be so noble. Certainly, this is an era where libraries are approaching with a mix of caution and excitement. The possibilities that technology has brought forth are fascinating. However, there continues to be the small black cloud of worry that follows the profession. Can library professionals continue to protect privacy and information of their patrons? It is a loaded question to be sure but it needs to be addressed and discussed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Will Schwalbe: A Librarians' Author

There are very few books that seem to be tailored just for the library professional. There are always a title or two will come up that librarians will fall for and instantly recommend for their peers as well as their patrons. Rarely,however is there a book that talks exclusively about books and how the readers respond to the stories. The End Of Your Life Book Club does just that. Schwalbe writes a touching tribute to his mother and their shared love of books in his recent best selling tome. However, it does more than that, it inspires anyone who comes across this book to read and think more deeply. It is a definitely a book for the librarian in all of us. The thought that comes across first after reading this book is whether this title would be a good catalyst to begin a book club. It's not. Not because it is not well written. It is. Also not because it is a sad story and talks about death. It is sad but hopeful in a way that can't be explained. As a book club reading it delves deeper into the books and sometimes into the minds of the authors who wrote them. At times, it felt a little like a English lecture about the writers and their works. This is not a bad thing. It was wonderful indeed. However, in thinking about the books, the authors, and their words, it all came together that this is a very intimate book about how stories affect our lives and thoughts. This is truly meant to be a book club for two not six or ten or more. Having said that, there may still be a way to use this book for the purpose of a book club. Use the appendix. The appendix provides an alphabetical listing of the books,poems and plays that were mentioned. This handy list is perfect for the reader to search out the gems discussed at their local library or bookstore. For the librarian who is looking to start a book club, this is where to begin. (The Irony of starting at the end is not lost here. More than likely, Mary Anne Schwalbe would have done the same.) It is a wonderful mix of old and new titles. Will Schwalbe is a talented writer and clearly loves the written word as his mother did. It is touching to see that his mother's passion for reading extended outside the United States to Afghanistan. One of her last projects in life was to help raise money to build a library in Kabul and along with that a traveling library to go to the remote parts of Afghanistan to reach children who are in need of books. It warms a librarian's heart. Perhaps this is why the book is truly meant for librarians. It touches the core of what our profession strives to do everyday: connect people to stories that teach us about ourselves and our world. Nicely done Mr. Schwalbe nicely done.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Good News From the Pew: Reading and Library Habits Are On the Rise

There is good news out there in the reading world. Could anyone have guessed that young adults are reading and using their libraries? It really shouldn't be a surprise to those working in libraries and bookstores. With the slew of writers in the Young Adult genres that keep producing compelling stories that has readers begging for more this certainly not a surprise. Every generation no matter if the times are good or bad, everyone loves a good story. When the Pew Research recently presented their findings on the habits of young readers there were a couple of surprises. (Younger Americans Reading and Library Habits, October 23 3012) One surprise that instantly leaps out of the report is the format usage for younger readers. It is interesting to note that young adult (16-29) who read books in the past 12 months, read a print version more often than an e-book or audio book. This seems to be odd coming from the generation that basically grew up with the Internet, gaming systems and cell phones. Why would the numbers be so lopsided? There could be many reasons which can start with economics situation at home to a child's school policy which prohibits all types of electronic gadgets in schools, including cellphones and e-readers. This is not to say that this age group is not adapting to technology, it simply just may be that print is still an acceptable format for books. As the e-readers grow in popularity and usage it should be interesting to revisit how reading habits will change yet again. High school students are more likely to use the library more frequently than any other age group. This can be attributed to the need for completing homework assignments. High schoolers are also open to receiving book suggestions from a librarian. In the same survey, over 50% of high schoolers said that they did not think that libraries were that important in their lives. Looking at the overall picture of the survey this isn't necessarily a bad view. It simply means that the young adults today will more than likely support the library as adults. To take it a step further, the stretch can be made that they will be the patrons that will embrace technology changes within the library. Libraries will always have to compete for every tax dollar from the citizens. If they are not up-to-date with technology or simply serving a small population seeking to stay with a "print" majority, the library will lack relevance not only directly to the community they serve but in their counties and states. It's not a bad idea to begin a program called No Library Left Behind to help smaller libraries keep up with the technological trends. Thus keeping them relevant in the eyes of their community. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the survey is that high schoolers did not know that e-book borrowing was available at the library. Could it be that they are walking into a library and are following the adage what you see is what you get? Changing this perception may take time since most teens hate asking "What services do you offer?" for fear that they may look silly asking the question. As the library begins to shift towards to digital reading, the progress will be gradual. Keeping this in mind it will have to be every librarians' duty to promote e-contents and help patrons discover and use them effectively. This comes from the top down. This includes the Library Directors who should promote the technology to local officials and agencies to the circulation clerk when assisting patrons to check out books asking the question "Do you know you can borrow e-books at this library?" The whole survey is good news for libraries. It is a good indication that the support for libraries is strong across all age levels. That should make the "Year" if not the "decade" for every librarian. This study definitely points to the need for libraries now and twenty years from now. Once again proof that libraries are not dead yet. In fact, it should be said out loud, libraries are not even on life support. Given the right leadership and willing tho grow with the challenges of new technology there should be no reason for any library to have to close its doors ever.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What Is Appropriate In Chidlren's Literature

The age old question of what children literature should discuss and shouldn't is about as old as the bible itself. Many public and school libraries have had to deal with concerns from parents over the years about suitable topics for children in books. Thus the American Library Association (ALA)provides support for libraries dealing with patrons challenging a particular book in the library's collection. Books from Are you there God, it's me Margaret (Blume) to Harry Potter Series (Rowlings) have survived the parental questionings and remained on the shelves. This may seem to be a Win for the library's advocacy of children's rights however, it may also be a reasons why some claim that librarians are not flexible and deaf to parents concerns and needs. The child, it seems, is the only one who has rights that are to be protected. Perhaps, this is as good as time as any to examine the concerns that parents have about topics that are controversial and sensitive. To get this topic out of the way, we will begin with discussing the "outing" of famous people in history. In the children's Biography Series Giants of Science, author Kathleen Krull is not shy about tackling topics such as Issac Newtnn's sexuality. suggesting that the brilliant scientist who discovered Calculus, may have been gay. If parents object to this book, (on a personal note: I have worked at a library where it was challenged.) there is good reason for them to do ask that it be removed. Why? There is no documentation that supports Newton's "sexuality" nor is it relevant to his contributions to science. In addition to that, nine year olds do not need to be side tracked with what Newton may or may not have believed in a book that is marked as "true". Children need to understand the difference between fact, fiction and it could be. At nine years old, let's make it easier on the child and stick with the facts and the facts only. Librarians who insist on leaving the book on the shelve on the basis that it had good reviews do a disservice to the community and to the profession. AS librarians, we are not to discriminate about the viewpoints of books on the basis of whether we agree or disagree. Having said that, librarians should also demand accountability from the author and publisher that what they put in print it accurate. If it is a personal opinion of the author that a historic figure may have been gay, then that should be disclosed as such. Also, as noted before if it is information that is essential to telling the story of a person's work, then by all means put it in the book. One question that never gets asked it seems is this: would a nine year old doing a paper on Great Scientists like Newton need to know that the scientist may have been a homosexual? Let's reverse that, would it be important to know he was heterosexual? Sex has always been a sensitive topic between adults and children. When is it too early to talk about the topic? There should be a common sense approach here. Not all children are the same. Not all parents think the same ways about sex. Librarians are to merely help locate information for the patrons not demand that all parents allow all children to read whatever they want. Parents often times feel as though they are looked down by "professionals" who think they know children better than parents simply because they have a degree. The gray area of the profession is leading patrons to the information they want and not necessarily what librarians think is a better and alternative information. Is this suggesting that all librarians have an agenda and steer patrons to information that may be misleading? No of course not but if the professional journals and publishers are any indication that all topics are on the table, controversial or not, there is a distinct possibility that protests against certain titles will continue. Librarians must be able to have the freedom to say that not all books are worth defending. Some truly have an agenda that is simply blatant propaganda. Again, harking back to the need for documentation. Another topic that ways heavily on parents mind is the topic of suicide. Should young adults novels delve into the topic and explore what happens when a friend decides that suicide is their only answer. Again it's touchy subject and one that should be treated with sensitivity. One of the complaints that parents may make is that these books may "glorify" suicide and tempt their children to see this as a way out of their problems. One of the best books that deals with this topic very well and does not glorify the act of suicide is Thirteen Reasons Why. It is a haunting book about a girl who has committed suicide and leaves behind an audio tape to her friend to listen to after she was gone. As the title suggests, she gives her friend thirteen reasons why she choose to end her life. It is sad, compelling and makes the reader think about the words that they say and how they affect their friends. Should this book be off the shelf? Yes, as in checked out by parents and their children. Dealing with difficult topics such as these does require some adult handling. It's not a bad idea for parents to read the books their children are reading and have an open discussion about the topic. Books can be a great communication. It is with great reluctance to leave the discussion with a sense that any books about homosexuality, drugs, suicide, sex or rape are topics should never be brought into books for children. There is a time a place to introduce sensitive topics to children. Sexuality does not belong in a picture book or chapter books written for children in lower elementary. For that matter, the other topics mentioned shouldn't be discussed to the young ones either. As a child grows older and a serious discussion can be held with them about sensitive topics than it should be up to the parent to decide when and how the topic will be discussed. Certainly there is a role for librarians and teachers to play here but it is a small part. Children's minds are inquisitive, imaginative and inspiring. It's the professional's responsibility to handle it with care and help them learn. Parents must handle their child's learning experience with care as well. Where professionals teach, the parents responsibility to help their children , take what they have learned and apply it to make life better. In the case of social cultural issues, it is important to trust that parents will do the right thing and help children deal with sensitive topics in positive ways.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Continuing The Discussion: Libraries and the Future

It seems that the future is on the minds of our profession. Could it be that it is the end of the year review when it is a good thing to step back to see what has been accomplished and what can be accomplished? That could very well be true. Perhaps more likely, it is due to the fact that libraries are feeling the pressure to "prove" themselves to the world. Let's face it, if the Internet didn't bury the library neither will e-readers. Is this a fact? Not yet, but time will prove again that the library survives if for nothing else the human race is in love with seeking knowledge. More importantly, the love a good story. Where is the best place to find that? Yes, the library. California State Library addressed the issue in a document that is designed to cultivate discussions about libraries future. In a publication entitled "The Emerging Story of California Public Libraries", , a storyboard depicts the path that libraries have taken. It is a very brief and quick overview that touches on the seven reasons why libraries matter. At the end of the document, the committee encourages readers to help them tell the bigger story. ( The story of the California libraries is shared by all libraries. It is what binds the profession together. While it is admirable that the California State Library too the initiative to begin the conversation, it has missed at least three reasons why libraries are relevant. Actually four if counting the fact that number one and three in their list are the same reasons only worded differently. Libraries have been the model for a place to learn, to read or just to relax. Bookstores chains like Borders and Barnes and Nobles try to duplicate the "library" look and were successful. They were so successful in fact that at one point librarians were beginning to wonder should bookstores be the "model" for libraries. (A bit like the dog chasing his own tail) Yet, even with the feel of the library, customers still checked out books, sought information from a reference librarian, and engaged in programs at the local libraries. In other words, attendance at libraries around the country did not dip. It remained steady. What became a concern were the take off of the e-readers. Libraries were not too sure if the e-readers where a fad like the PDA or if it were to take a firm hold on the market. It turned out to be the later, but once again library patrons demanded to be able to borrow books just as they have always done for years. Once again bookstores had to concede that there is no place quite like a library and it can not be replaced. The second reason for libraries relevance is that is has a proven track record. No matter the economy, no matter the culture libraries have proven time and again that they dependable in providing accurate, and documented information. Professional librarians are trained to know what sources are not only reliable in it's content but also in tracking down first and secondary sources. What makes libraries and the librarians who work in them even more valuable to the communities they serve is teaching the community how to be better library users. Libraries have always tried to adhere to the "ideal" that every side of the story should be considered when providing quality reference services. That is to say, libraries judge information based on the needs of the community and provides information supporting both sides of the issues whenever possible. All thought, one may disagree with an author's conclusion based on certain facts it does not constitute the removal of the book. As a matter of fact, libraries are the first to defend the First Amendment: The Freedom of Free Speech. Fourth, and this may seem simplistic, but libraries have been the symbol for years of a culture that has progressed. When a culture embraces knowledge and exploration, it spurs growth it spurs imagination and it certainly leads to the continue success of a culture. The future of the library is bright indeed. While discussing the future is important, it is also a time for action. It's time to get busy implementing all the wonderful changes that are in store for libraries. As an old saying goes, "there is no time like the present to work on tomorrow's dreams."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thinking Out Loud: The Library of the Future

On a Saturday afternoon most libraries are buzzing with activity. Children are exploring their areas and favorite books. Computers are constantly on and the printers are just as busy. Adults casually browse books or movies for something to with the family or for quite time. The scene as it is played out here is similar in every public library. It's a very nice scene but a nagging question keeps turning up like a bad penny, What happens when everything goes digital? Will citizens want or need to go to a library? To put it bluntly, how will the library survive? This is by no means a gloom and doom post. It is merely observing the changes that have come about in the past ten years, taking note at the technology of today and predicting what may become a reality ten years from now. For example, the iPod gave music lovers the ability to carry all their favorite tunes with them everywhere they went. The demise of audio cd was close at hand. Are they still used today? Absolutely, but iTunes has made purchasing and downloading painless. How long will physical audio CD be around? Hard to say but it would be a guess that it won't be much longer before children today will be telling their kids what a CD looked like and how it was used. Another example that pops to mind is the GPS systems that help drivers navigate their way through unfamiliar areas. Again, a tool that has made life simpler but has not destroyed all print formats of maps. At least not yet. Books too have become questionable in the next several years. Frankly, it is hard to believe that e-readers and tablets have made it at least conceivable that printed books are on the way out. So again the question remains how will the library survive? Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to think about the needs of the typical public library patron. They need and want information as quickly as possible. Entertainment, whether it is reading, viewing or listening, is also important. They like to be self-reliant in retrieving their information yet on certain occasions when they've hit the proverbial brick wall, they seek the advice of a library professional. Put all of this together and it becomes a very interesting future indeed. Indulge these questions for just a moment: !. Will the "physical" library card be needed in or will it be a digital card? 2. When will publishers stop printing books switching totally to digital form? 3. When the majority of the library's collection is digital, will patrons still need or desire hard copy editions of books? 4. More importantly than questions one to three: Will patrons still come to library for their information or entertainment needs? These questions are quite loaded to be sure, However, they are important to explore. Taking on the library card issue, there will always be a need to issue a identification number for each patron in order to give them access to the library's resources The question here is whether the library card will be an e-reader encoded with the library's information and GPS given to patrons to use to download materials they desire. First reaction is that e-readers/tablets are very expensive. Yes, they are now but in five to ten years there could an economical e-reader produced just for the libraries purpose to buy in bulk and provide them to their patrons. Especially those who do not have the means of purchasing their own e-reader. Books are still be printed today obviously, but go to any bookstore and check out their inventory on display. Just as with the library, there is a mix array of books in the traditional forms, e-readers and the accessories that go with it, games, toys, and stationary products. The book areas are getting smaller due to the fact that technology is claiming more space. This is especially true in the libraries. At the moment the collection development budgets of most libraries are split down the middle to pay for databases, subscription to services like Overdrive, and printed books. It won't be long before the printed book budgets will be smaller due to the lack of printed books to buy. This lumps in to what the patrons will desire. Sales of e-readers are increasing, not decreasing. Sales of printed books, are not on a decline at the moment but as more readers get comfortable reading digital books, will they still want the printed. Think of the die hard vinyl record fans. There are those who claim they would never go to a CD, the music didn't sound the same. That's true, it didn't sound the same, it was better. Once audio CD were accepted, the rest is history. There will be those who will cling to the pages and hardcover books, and to be sure there are plenty of them out there. (Myself included) As time rolls on, even the diehard fans of books will be looking at e-readers as an acceptable evolution of the written word. If everything becomes digital, it may be a harder sell to get patrons into the door. This is where library programming will have to become the top service they provide. Storytime, book clubs, discussion groups and other programming will be the only reason why the community will come together at the library. In essence, the library will become a social gathering place. However, that is not as bad as it may seem. Books and stories have always had the ability to bring people together and libraries will always be the conduit for authors to get their message out. No doubt that the staffing of libraries will be greatly effected by the change. This is not the time to fret over what's the come. This is the time to plan to make the future what librarians' envision it to be in order to serve future patrons. If the profession as a whole ignores the planning process, and goes along with the flow then surely the libraries will fall into the pages of history as a really wonderful place that use to be there for everyone. For the librarians, who are not afraid of what the future holds, than this is the time to plan. Whether you are in a position of leadership or not, the moment is ours to carve out the future and make it a good one. Think of it this way, future library lovers are depending on this generation of librarians to bravely go where no librarian has gone before. The devoted library patrons deserve no less than the very best planning now for the future.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Education and Politics: Keeping Communications Open

The political season is over for a while. The President has gained another four years to add to his resume and to continue with his policies. It is always a "mixed" feelings for librarians around this time of year. The support of one candidate over another is usually toned down in front of patron due to the fact that librarians are to be neutral and not offend their fellow citizens who support the library with tax dollars. However, this is not always easy to do. Librarians and library advocates must become politically involved now more than ever. If for no other reason to protect their libraries from budget cuts that seem to lurk about when the economy is bad and even in some cases when they are good. It's a harsh reality that libraries live and die by the "support" they receive from the community. The very first place to go for that support is city officials state representatives and anyone in government positions who can aid the library when times are lean. Many politicians, if not all will claim that education and libraries are very important to the community when campaigning. However once they are in office, excuses are made at every turn why there is a lack of support and interest in the libraries. Perhaps its because politicians lump libraries in with the schools and education. (That is the case in Michigan, where they are an agency of the Department of Education) This is well and good in some ways but it fails to see the unique roll public libraries have in communities. The challenge for library advocates is to be "heard and seen" by elected officials throughout the year. Even when it's not time to go "vote." There are state library associations that are very good at connecting legislators with the profession. Typically there is a library "legislative" day when the two sides come together to talk about the issues and concerns of libraries. This is a wonderful event and idea. This is where the conversations start but it should be by no means where it ends. Library advocates should not miss the chance to invite local officials to the library to see first hand the great programs and services libraries provide to their constituents. This is where the conversation not only continues but turns into a lesson of what makes a library important to the community. Why libraries are the life-lines for so many users? Why legislators should look to libraries as the place to keep the community thriving. Officials just like the citizens need to be educated on what the library does and how they serve the public. This is not a one time lesson to be learned. it actually a lesson that needs to be repeated and expended over the years. If libraries are fortunate there will be those who not only remember the lessons but will pass on what they have learned to family and friends. This helps the library community tremendously. If the legislators to share what they know it's akin to striking gold in the library world. Taking baby steps is the best way to begin. Start the conversation, invite officials to the library and last never let them forget that the library exists. Give updates on what is happening at the library, show statistics on the great programs, let them know how businesses have been served and are supporting the library. Politicians, no matter the party love to hear good news from their area. Thy also want to share the news and in some cases take credit for it too. That's okay let them. If they feel that this will make them look good then it looks good for the library too. It would be a wonderful day when a Presidential candidate adds to his platforms that all libraries are protected by the U.S. Constitution and they will never close. There is no need to hold one's breath for that. It won't happen. Nor should it in many respects. However it couldn't hurt to have a law enforced that all communities, large or small, should have a library. Could it? Something to continue to strive for in the future.....

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Series Are Wonderful, But.....

There is so much that can be celebrated about books and reading in general. Stories written today are fast paced, feature interesting characters and plots that keep the reader begging for more. Librarians in general love this. After all, without great writers and their stories, the bookshelves would be bare. (That includes the virtual bookshelf too.) For every "great" idea there is a side effect that can be considered the "down" side of the idea. Yes, with all the wonderful authors there is a down side. Serials. It seems that this is all that publishers want to put out these days. Look at the children's books, Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson and not to be forgotten, the one who may have started this crazy trend, Harry Potter. Adult titles have gone the same route with canned series from such authors as James Patterson, Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton. This blog may cause authors, librarians and avid readers alike to scream in unison that serials are good because they cultivate readers. While this fact is not being disputed, another viewpoint is being offered to be considered. To put it delicately, serials are to the mind what sitcoms are to the eyes. They are great for entertainment but eventually the excitement fades. From that point, everything is stale, from the plots, to the characters and to the style in which distinguishes the author's work. Rarely is there an author who can keep a readers attention with the same character and story line for an extended period. Many will point out that Evanovich's Stephanie Plum has managed to entertain her audience through eighteen stories, (Number nineteen will be out soon) and there does not seem to be an end in sight for Stephanie Plum. While this may be true, one has to ask themselves how long can Ms. Evanovich be able to keep things fresh and new? The publishers and the author may be hoping through number one hundred but it just doesn't seem "logical" that readers would hang around that long with one character. Series that must be read in order can deter a late-comer from picking up the series to begin with. Classic characters such as Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes never required the reader to begin with their first story in order to enjoy the series. All one had to do was to pick up one story and be introduced to the characters. It was simple, quick and a wonderful way to meet a new fictional friend. In modern serials, it almost feels as though the reader has made a contract with the series that they will be involved from book one all the way to the end. Can this be a stretch? An exaggeration? Yes. Should all libraries protest these series and ban them? Nope. As a cheerful capitalist once stated: the market will decide when the characters should fade into the reader's memory. Indeed that is true. Harsh reality but true none the less. So why complain about series when there really doesn't seem to be a great big problem? Consider this a plea to the publishing world and the authors who write wonderful novels, to create a nice balance of series and stand alone stories. There are readers who will follow a series just for guilty pleasure,(Try Vampirates, its a wonderful trot into a world that is unique and it is definitely a pleasure that will not make one feel guilty.) and that's a good thing. However, once in a while it would be wonderful if there is a story that entertains the reader with only two covers and the pages in between. Once the last page is turned, there should be a sense of closure. Series just don't provide that. In this hectic world of ours, sometimes a perfect ending is what a reader really needs and wants.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Library Planning to Cultivate Tech Confidence Patrons

The question of whether libraries will survive the digital age is spoken about reviewed and asked in library professional journals, conferences and among librarians all around the world. It seems that the digital age seems a little frightening but exciting at the same time. The possibilities of endless avenues of information seems endless. Yet a times a bit overwhelming. Where does a librarian begin to shift through the maze of digital text to find that right balance to satisfy every patrons needs? As any wise librarian will tell you it begins with the community in which the library serves. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on the community. The trick is to find that even pace that brings everyone along. The issue of "digital divide" is not an unfamiliar topic. it began with the age of the Internet when librarians rightly pointed out that not everyone would have access to the web and not everyone is computer literate to understand how to delve into the web of information. As the decades have passed there are more households with computers than without. There are schools that can not and will not function without computers, even in the poor school districts. Children have become more tech savvy than the adults in their lives. Even though all of this may be true in many respects there is still a need to widen the bridge over the divide to assist everyone in connecting to information that can make a difference in their personal life. Which by the way, in helping the community become digitally strong and savvy, libraries keep the community sustainable and growing. Will everyone come along? No but the majority that will need the librarians in their community to lead and teach them how to use the tools of tomorrow. So what should every library, whether big or small, do to keep up with the digital wave? First and foremost be informed on the different ways in which people are gathering information today. The tools that are used today are not the same as ten years ago. Patrons will use everything from cell phones to laptops to traditional books, it almost seems that libraries must offer everything to everybody that walks into the door. That is not only overwhelming but costly. Obviously, libraries can not afford to offer everything. The compromise lies in planning for what will come down the pike to secure ways to keep patrons informed and tech confident. Tech confident? Yes every new technology brings with it excitement and nervousness. As long as librarians are at the forefront of technology changes and advances, patrons will have a mentor that can guide them in using the tool effectively. Which takes away the nervousness and fears. This brings about the confidence that allows everyone the freedom to experiment in using the "tech" tools and make it work for them. The next step is planning that allows the new technology to be woven into what the library currently offers. If done correctly, patrons, once they begin using the technology, will wonder how they ever got along without it before and they may not want to ever let it go. Remember don't let go of the oldies and goodies too quickly. There is room for the old and new tools to work together. Third, most importantly is training and informing every member of the library administration and staff on advances in technology that will change the way patrons will be using information. Without this technology plans fall flat and miss any targeted goals. Without this there is a missed opportunity to be creative with technology and finding ways to help the community grow. Unfortunately, this is the biggest risk that all libraries face. Lack of vision to see how new technology will fit into the library's current offerings. If there is a lack of planning or vision than this can lead to only to the closings of more libraries. One of the big questions to ask your library community: Do you want to risk their library closing? This discussion can turn into how technology has changed the landscape of libraries good or bad. Even how technology has the opportunity to take the place of the "physical" library building and employ fewer library professionals provide reference services. These are valid concerns however it is a discussion for another time. The most important discussion is how to use this technology to keep libraries relevant, reliable and ready to serve the community. This is just the first step, there is so much more to come.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Evolution of "Geek" In The Library

Back in the day, about thirty or so years ago, a college student spending a Saturday night at the library would have been labeled a geek. Translation of that label would mean that the student was too smart to know that they should have life like the other students who are at an afterglow party of a football game. Spending the Saturday night at the library did not fit the "normal" student's weekend plans. It's sort of ironic that the I "geek" the library theme would become popular years later. It seems that the library marketers thought it was time for everyone to "embrace' their inner geek. Is this the best marketing approach to take? At first, the answer from this blog was no. However, after viewing how some library communities took this theme and made it their own, there can be a positive outcome. When a library community embraces an ad campaign such as the "I Geek" it takes on a life of its own. How can this simple phrase include the community? By asking patrons what they "geek" and displaying their response for the community to view. The concept is simple: Who doesn't love to talk about themselves and their hobbies? Virtually everyone that comes into the library has a reason for coming but now with the "I Geek" theme they have a reason to share what they know, what they love and why the love it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if several patrons responded with "I geek mysteries" and from that they decide they would love to form a mystery book discussion group at the library. It's a librarian's dream come true to have a program started without that much sweat and pain! It's almost as simple as just add water and watch the program grow. Professional marketers will tell you the success or failure of a campaign depends on all around support from the employees, to the consumers (for the library, that's the patrons) to the executives of the organization. Libraries who found success with the campaign had the same things in common, support for the library administrators who encouraged employees to display their "geek" with geek t-shirts and jeans day, support from staff who were creative with programs that revolved around the theme and an enthusiastic patron base who not only shared what they geeked but spread the word to others in the community about the great programming at the library. Without this chain reaction, the campaign may not have caught on. If that were the case, library administrators would have to evaluate why it did not catch on in their community. Perhaps, this is just an idea in draft mode, the next campaign from ALA should be "My Library Rocks " and have patron fill in the blank as to why their library is so awesome. It is something worth looking into especially during this economic down turn when library usage is up. Libraries rock for so many reasons from providing computer usage to story times for the young ones and information for the upcoming election season. Yes, I geek was a good marketing tool but it's time to tweak it to evolve into another campaign. Frankly, "My Library Rocks" has a nice ring to it. Don't you agree?

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Human Connection At The Library

It isn't a radical thought to believe that libraries are the places that can be described as "connectors". Every library has one similar goal in common, connecting people to information. Many librarians will say that libraries "brand" in terms of marketing is books. That's may be true, however going into the digital age where computers are becoming increasingly important tools to everyday life, how does our brand, "books", help us or hurt us? How will libraries respond to the digital age to remain relevant, reliable and resourceful assets to the community? One of the main concerns that should be in the forefront of the library profession is the role that the digital world plays in human interaction. Take for example, how teens interact today with their friends. It is not uncommon to walk into the teen area of a library and catch them texting to their friends. Where are there friends? Are they at home? At school? Nope. Their friends that they are sharing a text with is likely next to them or down the next isle. Sadly the art of a good spoken conversation may be lost. The blame can not be placed only on the teens, adults are just as guilty. How often has it been said that it is "easier to email someone than call them"? For everything that technology affords us to do in the way of freely choosing how to communicate or accomplish our tasks, there is a growing sense of isolation. The computers have created a world where humans can "artificially" connect but in reality they are only connected the tools they use. Namely gadgets that "connect" the community to the internet 24/7. In many cases, the role of the library may be to be fill that gap and bring a "human" side to the computer age. It's a natural role for librarians to play. How often have libraries been the bridge that brings information and people together. Too many to count. There are many examples to site, but one very important one to begin with are the story time programs that have become a staple of library programs. In story times, librarians introduce reading not only as a means to learn but also to enjoy the written word. These programs also serve to help parents become proactive in helping their child learn. Parents who take their children to story times are most likely read to their children too. Can the digital age remove story time programs from libraries? Everything is possible with YouTube and Skype. However, that would be forgetting that the main ingredient of a good story time is human contact. The interaction between children and librarian can not be replaced by a digital world. One other glaring example is reference services that are provided by librarians. This is the one service that is often overlooked and seen as irrelevant to many patrons. Who needs a reference librarian when finding out the capital of Florida? Even before the internet, basic library skills taught students to look it up in an encyclopedia or atlas. With the advent of the information age, almost every home has access to basic information through Google or Wikipedia. When it comes to bigger research questions that require analytical skills to review information, the skills of a reference librarian is not only helpful but time savers. There have been numerous books where authors in their notes to readers will often give credit and praise to the librarian who helped them with research for their books. Again, the library puts a human touch on finding information in a fast past digital world. The constant challenge for librarians in the next few years is to preserve the human connection in this fast changing world. If we loose the human connection the process of learning, sharing and communication will at the very least slow down at he very worst halted. At the risk of sounding a bit "touchy feely", perhaps its time to promote "hugging" a librarian. If the bridge between informatton and people should collapse, then every community will suffer. This is precisely the reason why every community should have a library or at the very least access to one. This is how libraries will stay relevant, reliable and resourceful, it all starts with one human being helping another.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What if .....?

It is one of those days when a veteran librarian sits back and ponders on the question of What if....? The mind begins to go in various different directions with no particular goal of discovering a new idea or saving the world. With any luck inspiration might strike by just posing the question of What if.... ? What if libraries were gathering spaces for people to meet and talk about whatever interests them. this seems like a natural progression since libraries are often the place to find, search and explore new ideas. However, it is the reverent silence of learning that made libraries the original home school support system. So is silence really golden? Have libraries given up on the silence because that would mean giving up new technology? Should children be seen in libraries but not heard? Disturbing indeed if silence would creep back into the library. It would seem to the younger generation that the library is a graveyard. What if libraries could partner with businesses and the community to share what would be good for the community and how the libraries can play an instrumental role in helping communities grow. That growth won't be evident in the first couple of years of partnerships but realistically it can show fruition years down the line. One more important fact is that these businesses can become allies when funding for the library shrinks. What if it were a perfect world and every resident visited their local library at least once a week. Some communities are lucky to have the core dedicated patrons but sometimes that is not enough. Libraries need to strive on a daily basis to help non-library users to find their reason to come into the library. Of course, the pitfall may be that the library will lose it's "brand" when trying to be all things to all people. That is a trap to avoid when being open to the possibilities of new programs. What if hardcover books cease paper publication within five years? Will libraries be prepared to assist the community to accept the change to digital or will they lag behind Would it be so bad that few books would be shelved or damaged due to weather or overuse? Are librarians resistant to change? If the answer is yes, the community in which they serve will suffer. Not only that, the library itself will suffer due to fewer patrons finding use of it. The doors will be closed for good. If the answer is no, the other questions are irrelevant. The landscape for learning and growing will be rich and inviting. What if when the digital age is in full swing, libraries would be the leaders in directing the next step of technology and struggling to keep up with the latest and greatest. This is a difficult one to think through since many librarians are not technology geeks but have become so due to the many gadgets that retrieve and gather information. Will there be a mobile library in the digital era that will allow users to download information anywhere, anytime and anyhow? Of course this is already happening but consider what could come next? A TIVO like app on your phone that will automatically download the newest books from authors that you have previously read and liked. If it's not already here, and instincts say that it is, it will be soon. The world seems to be changing faster then ever. It's the old adage that comes to mind that says if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen. Fortunately, there are many librarians on the forefront of the "heat" who are willing to test the boundaries of where libraries can and should go, while the rest of us watch with awe at the new services that could be provided for our patrons. One thing libraries should never lose is the human touch. Libraries have that unique ability to change lives in subtle yet remarkable ways. Perhaps this is where the inspiration of the What if... has lead. How do librarians keep the human touch in their work when technology can potentially take the place of interacting with humans? Something to ponder for next time.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Evolution Of Librairies

It seems that libraries are going through growing pains at the moment. The one piece of technology that seemed to be light years away from reality has become a reality. It never seemed possible that books would be replaced with sterile, flat screen computers that are almost as light as air. Yet they have put publisher, writers and libraries in a curious position. All three groups want to get the published works into the hands of readers but how to make this possible without leaving anyone behind in the digital age has become quite a challenge. The e-readers have made their mark on libraries in noticeable ways. However, it may be the "barely noticeable" habits that have a longer and more lasting effect in our libraries. The transitioning from paper to digital format is beginning to take hold. What seems to be most surprising are the users of ereaders. One might guess that younger library users are hooked on the eraders. Not necessarily. In many cases the older patron (40 and above) like the devices because they can manipulate the size of the text, the tablets are lighter and the screens often are brighter than some pages of printed books. Surprising even still is that it's not just the techie geek males that are attracted to the device. In surveys, it is found that women prefer them more than their male counterparts. Pew Institute conducted a survey on libraries, ereaders and patrons not too long ago. What they found was that the majority of library users did not know that their library had That in itself is not a surprise. When thinking of a library "brand" people automatically think of a book. Why? Ever since Guttenburg developed the "printed" book in mass production the library has offered the books a place on their bookshelves. Is this image ingrained in the public's mind to the point that it will harm future growth of the library? Not necessarily. Three was a time not too long ago that patrons were saying the Internet will eliminate the need for the library. Quite the opposite has become the reality. If libraries are to remain open and librarians want to continue in the profession, the need for marketing the digital resources that the library can make available to the community must be stepped up a notch. Not only that, librarians must be prepared to become techie gurus. Digital devices are testing the boundaries of traditional publishing theory. The conventional way for a new author to get their works published is to write the manuscript, sell teh manuscript and wait for critics' review of the work. In today's world of eraders, anyone can write, publish and promote their own tome. Some are very successful at this while others scramble for an audience. In either case, libraries know have the opportunity to explore new authors and talents that they might have never been privy to meeting just a few short years ago. This is also a great opportunity for avid readers to discover new talents too. Frankly, it is a win win situation. These are just a few of the barely noticeable changes in libraries due to the ereaders. What happens from point on remains to be be unfolded. However, one thing for certain is the libraries role has not changed. It is still viewed as the place where people will go to get information. What will change is the format in which that information is provided. Every single survey on this topic points to the "readiness" of the library to embrace the technological change. However, what is lacking is the funding to keep up with the high costs of digital. That will remain to be a challenge for libraries to overcome.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dreamy Ideas For Summer

The best part of summer are the days when children who are bored at home are driven to the local library and told to find something to amuse themselves. This must have been the reason for developing the summer reading program years ago. Of course it has been proven in educational studies that children who read over the summer retain their reading skills. Thus making it easier for them to transition into the next grade level. To adults, this is wonderful news. To kids, all they hear is more of the blah blah blah from well meaning adults who don't understand that summer is suppose to be fun. While reading can be fun, it's not he reason why children will flock into the library for crafts, story times and magic shows. Nope. It's something simpler than that. They want to hang out with their friends. Who can blame them Which is why sneaky librarians (aka the genius behind the book stacks) find ways to educate their young patrons in the guise of fun and mayhem. Okay, not all out mayhem but still fun. This year's theme Dream Big ... Read, is a great theme. If anyone knows how to dream big it's children. Goodness, they never stop and think of limitations. No they just plow ahead in search of the magic that makes their dream come true. With the theme of having children search for their dreams there is one scavenger hunt game that everyone can participate in on a daily basis. Hide the word "Dream" all around the children's room. The word should be displayed differently, for example, stenciled on a rock, magnetic alphabet letters on a file cabinet, or the word scrolling across the computer's screen saver. Each day or week that the young patrons come to visit, challenge them to find the word around the library. How many times did they spot the word? If the number is correct, they win a small prize. However, if they are wrong, they must go back and see where they missed the word. What other possibilities are there? Encourage teens to make a PSA video promoting their local libraries. Would it be wonderful to hear from the teens' point of view, all the things they dream about for their libraries? Perhaps it's more hours. It could even be dreaming of more books, computers and programs. Whatever is their "dream" for the library, have them record it and link it on the library's webpage. Better yet, if the kids do a stellar job, use the video at the next city council or township board meeting. What better way to prove to local officials the important role that libraries play in young people's lives. One of the most inspirational books that have sat on a library's shelf is titled, God's Photo Album authored by Shelly Mecum. In this book, the author who as a teacher at a private school was looking for creative ways to help save their school. She decided to ask Fuji for free film and cameras to distribute to her students. She explained that she wanted the children to capture all the places they see God. When they had accomplished that she would put it together into a book, publish it and sell the students' work to raise money for the school. It turned out to be a stroke of genius. Copying that idea, librarians can solicit children to bring in photographs of the things they dream about. On a bulletin board all photos would be posted. It would make for a great discussions as patrons walk by the board. These are just a few ideas to dream about this summer. What ever programs, ideas or books that are used there is only one thing to remember, no one is ever too old to dream. So dream big! Patrons of the library deserve nothing less!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Getting Lost In A Library

Scavenger hunts are delightfully fun. Especially when it involves children They squeal with laughter, complain they can't find things, compare notes with friends to see who has found items, and by the end of the hunt they cry for more. Youth Services librarians can turn to this easy programming ideas year round. Its inexpensive, fun and brings patrons into the library. Which leads to another train of thought: why not tell public officials to literally get lost? Preferably in a library. How can this leap be made from a fun program for children to reaching out to public officials? Easy. It's called becoming creative in getting noticed by public officials. Public officials, whether on the local level, state or national, rarely understand the plight of libraries. In their eyes it is nice to have a library in the community but not a necessity. Library advocates know that this is a "myth" that has to be broken. This current economic downturn is a blessing in disguise for libraries. It's not a surprise to librarians that services are in demand. People in every community are suffering and looking for resources to find aid, jobs and entertainment on a dime. Libraries fill those needs and more. Which brings back to the topic of inviting public officials to get lost. When politicians campaign the promise the moon and then some. Not to get too political but do the hollow promises of hope and change come to mind. When it comes to libraries, every politician will claim they love their libraries. In their words they sing high praises for libraries and what they do for the community. In their actions, many times they vote against the very same institutions they claim to love. This is where librarians and library advocates must become vocal to educate local officials. In classic scavenger hunt fashion invite local officials to look for clues and materials that help patrons everyday at the library. Remind the participants not to worry if they get lost in the library. A helpful librarian will gladly help them find the path they need. The goal ultimately is to demonstrate to officials and library naysayers that the library has much more to offer beyond books. In many respects the local officials who choose to come will be amazed by the wealth of resources libraries provide on limited budgets. Getting lost in a library is easy. There are patrons who walk into the library everyday to enjoy getting lost between the stacks, surfing on the computer or with their noses in the newspapers. It's time that politicians and decision makers find that same joy. Then they will understand that the joy of getting lost in the library is as necessary as the air we breath. Don't be shy in telling a few local leaders to get lost ..... in the library. It may be the best invitation they receive all year.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You Are What You Read?

Old cliches can provide an interesting ice breakers for starting a conversation or speech. The old adage that a person is what he eats is very true. Staying with the line of "consuming" and becoming that which is consumed, can this cliche be applied to reading? Can a person become what they read? This question was brought up during a "self-help" seminar with the speaker insisting that if people who are motivated enough read books that can shape attitudes, build self=confidence, and share winning strategies for success then a reader will become successful. This causes a thoughtful and deep thinking librarian to wonder if this could be tested. For example, Napoleon Hill's book Think and Grow Rich is a well known title and has been reprinted several times. Wouldn't it be interesting to find out if after reading this book how many readers actually have become rich? Another well known self-help book, and quite possibly the book that set the standard for motivational books to follow, is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People . Again, it would be curious to know how many readers actually have found themselves with more friends and influence after reading the book. The publishers claim that the literary work has helped millions. Yet the skeptics wonder if this could be true. If readers, don't become rich or influential, the authors could point out that perhaps the reader didn't apply what they read to their own lives. Which may be true. One thing is for certain, publishers are still in the business of self-help titles because they sell. Self-help books are not misleading and in many cases can be quite inspirational. The books are very easy to read, and in most cases can be "consumed" quickly. For the business minded person this works well for them. For the serious reader, who enjoys a good book regardless of if its fiction, nonfiction, or biographical, most tomes can teach a lesson, be inspiring or provide pure entertainment. Anyone who has read To Kill A Mockingbird will invariably say that they inspired by Atticus Finch and thought of becoming a lawyer or at the very least, would want a lawyer like him to be on their side. The written word has a way of changing lives and mind. In every book, even if it is badly written, there something to be gained from what the author has to say. A list of classic titles that have changed a person's life could be an arm's length or as short as one. This is what is inspiring about reading and libraries in general. The possibilities are endless. To answer the question can a reader become what they read? Yes of course they can! Doctors read medical books and journals to become better at their profession. Business professionals read books that can inspire them to reach the next level. AS for librarians, all genres are on the table, because any book could become an ice breaker to starting a conversation with a patron. Choosing what the next "ice breaker". title is going to be is tough. Perhaps going through a list of inspiring titles might help. Any suggestions?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why Dream Big Read Is a Great Theme!

This year's theme for the Collaborative Summer Library Program Dream Big Read is a fantastic theme for children. Every sumer program has one goal which is to encourage youngsters to read. This year's theme fulfills that goal in several different ways. It can be viewed as universal, personal, magical, musical, inspirational, attainable, and remarkable. For each of these descriptive adjective there are ways to help children discover a passion for reading and their dreams. Dream Big is a universal message. It appeals to every child, young, old, rich or poor. Children are natural dreamers. They see the possibilities of fantastic tales and accepts them without question. Not only that, they see the value in dreaming. Every child around the world has dreams and it is something that makes us unique and yet similar as humans. To introduce this year's theme, provide bookmarks that remind patrons that dreaming is a pastime in every country. At the same time that dreams are universal, they are also very personal. For each child dreaming is easy but each dream is different. One way that libraries can tap into this natural gift of dreaming is to encourage children to share their dreams at the library. Bulletin boards are a natural place to display these dreams. In bold letters in the middle of the blue board place the words, "I dream of ...." On 3x5 cards, invite children with help from parents to write down what dreams they have. Remind children that no dream is too big or too small. Dreams come in all sizes. Dreams can be magical. They invite every child to look upon a star and make a wish for a dream to come true. That is exactly what Disney taps into every time they produce a movie. Cars that talk. Toys that come to life. Fairies that flutter around Never Never Land. These are all examples of magical worlds that take the child to places where dreams become reality. For a family story time hour librarians can choose books and crafts that embrace this magic. Begin and end the story time with the catchy little verse, "Starlight, Star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may I wish I might have this dream I dream tonight." There are many songs, perhaps too many to count, that speak about dreams. One activity that is quick, easy and cost effective is a quiz that families can take to challenge their memories. This can be one on the website or as handouts at the reference desk. Find ten to fifteen popular songs about dreams. For each of these songs write down one line which contains the word "dream". Challenge your patrons to write down the name of the song in which this line is song. For example, a librarian could use this line, "Merrily, merrily, life is but a dream." Everyone should know that this line is from the classic children's rhyme, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." For every quiz that is filled out a child could win a sticker, bookmark, or candy. Lives of famous people often inspire readers to dream big. For older children, challenge them to read one biography of someone who had big dreams and made them come through hard work, never giving up and believing in their dreams. It is without a doubt that every librarians knows of at least one child that comes into the library wanting to know more about their favorite sports figure. They dream of one day becoming like their heroes and playing professional sports. In other words, inspire young patrons to find out how to make their dreams a reality. Reading how others have achieved their goals is not only inspirational but makes the dream attainable. Speaking of attainable, one craft that is easy to do with children as young as six to teens is making a dream catcher. Native Americans have long had the traditions of ensnaring bad dreams in the net so that they disappear at the light of day. While good dreams pass through the net allowing for a peaceful night for the dreamer. Dreams can be memorable and might even fall into the category of remarkable. Where else but in fiction can elephants fly, robots take over the world or flights beyond the galaxy are made possible. In works of fiction there is the ability of making the impossible become a reality. For example, readers have loved Jules Verne's and H.G. Wells' tales of science fiction that in their day seemed impossible. Time machines, submarines and other mechanical devices conjured up in the mind take readers to a place and time where everything is possible. It is remarkable what the mind can dream and achieve. Granted the time machine has not become a reality yet, but as long as there are dreamers the possibility of creating one that works still exists. This year's theme is full of possibilities. It's tempting to sit back and dream of all the wonderful activities that are possible. However, time is of the essence. Mow it's time for librarians to stop dreaming about their programs and get to work on showcasing the library as a place where dreams come to life!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dare Patrons To Go Between The Covers

It is kind of ironic that the big news in adult fiction is censoring "Fifty Shades of Gray" when this year's Adult Summer Reading program's theme is "Between The Covers". Sometimes fate just happens to makes the statement that everyone thinking but dares not say out loud. So the book has smoking, sex, dirty words and a many things that may offend sensible people. The first question that should pop into a librarian's mind is, "Are we reading this book to children during story time?" Of course not! Hop on Pop is much more fun to read! Seriously, there seems to be an attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Between the Covers theme presents the perfect opportunity to explore titles that have been "forbidden" or "shocking". It may be a surprise to some that Uncle Tom's Cabin was considered a novel of ill repute. Some others titles that are in good company with Stowe's tome are Gone with the Wind, Ulysses, Doctor Zhivago, and Alice in Wonderland. Yes, dear old Alice caused quite a stir in her day and yet here now Carroll's work is known as a classic. Will Fifty Shades of Gray follow suit ast a classic? Who knows, but the media attention about the book is helping it get noticed. A unique summer reading program for adults could include "scandalous" titles as a suggested reading list along with a book talk. Of course, that's the tried and true idea. However, with a little bit of networking and planning a spark of excitement can make an evening program memorable. For example, contacting a college/university English to speak on the history of banned books could is a wonderful opportunity for the colleges and public libraries work together. Another possibility is a costume party. Some libraries have held fundraisers inviting their guests to dress up as their favorite characters from a banned book. It makes for an interesting party night and the money raised for the library is an added bonus. Last but certainly not least, libraries can hold a "dare" program through their website. The object of creating a "I dare you to ..." webpage is to encourage readers to read a book that they may not have picked up on their own. Once the readers have read the book that the librarian (or another patron) has dared them to read, they can then leave a comment on the I Dare page to give their opinion of the book. It can be something as simple as, " I dared to read Fifty Shades of Gray and I'm shocked that I actually liked it." This could bring traffic to the library's website, which could lead to patrons exploring what other events are planned at the library. It's going to be an interesting summer of reading for adults. Who knows what lies between the covers? The reader who dares to look between the covers will not only know what lies there but will be able to make an informed "opinion" about a literary work instead of listening to a second hand account. After all, that is what censorship is about. Listening to one's person's opinion about a piece of work and not bothering to find out for yourself if the opinion is shared or shattered. Be brave! Go boldly between the covers! When you are done with one "adventure", local libraries will be waiting to help you find the next one.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Celebrities' Children's Books!

Children books have come a long way since the 1960's and 1970's. In those days there were classic tales with wonderful artwork, but they were few and far between. Imaginative writers such as Keats, Sendak, Carle, Seuss, and a whole host more filled the stacks with stories that can not be forgotten. So why is it that celebrities think that it is their duty to come into the Children's Literature genre and make it their own? Could it be that they believe that it is easy to write a "kiddie's" book? Maybe it's just a marketing ploy to get their name plastered onto books. Whatever the reason, there are somethings that all children's books must have to be considered a "classic" or need to read. Placing a famous person's name on the cover just doesn't cut it. There needs to be creative text and art, a plot that is simple yet engaging, and never ever talk down to your audience. Children never respond well when adults treat their inquisitive nature as "silliness". The young readers are quite serious about their world. The authors should be just as well. One shining example of a celebrity turned children's author is John Lithgow of 3rd Rock From The Sun. Mahalia Mouse Goes To College is an inspiring, imaginative story of a young mouse who successfully graduates from College. The art work is pleasing to the eye, but it's the text that steals the show. In his trademark of rhymes and whimsical storytelling, Lithgow grabs the readers attention and gets them to root for Mahalia. Lithgow has mastered the ability to tell a story that invites every child to be apart of his world. Frankly, he has earned the right to plaster his name on the cover of children's books. Thank goodness he didn't stop with Mahalia. Check out his other titles at the library. One example of who shouldn't write for children is Madonna. Although this is a book that could be placed on a coffee table, unlike her other attempt at that literary/photographic fiasco, the question would be why would any parent or caregiver want to give it to their children? English Roses is an attempt to demonstrate that "beautiful girls" can be outcasts too. The text is poorly written and the art is less then magical. Not to mention that the story makes he reader wonder who she is talking to or about? It would be an interesting question to ask if any child has ever known someone who was an outcast because they were beautiful. Just a guess, but the number would probably be zero. Perhaps gifted Children's authors such as De Paola, Carle, or Willems should consider forming a rock band or audition for movies. After all, it can't be that hard to do. If Madonna can do it why can't they? Perhaps, they may be as lucky as John Lithgow and realize that they can successfully branch out into other arts! It's just a thought!

Monday, April 23, 2012


This year's Collaborative Summer Library Program theme is Dream Big. Which is very appropriate for libraries all across the country. Seriously, if there were ever a time that libraries needed to dream big, it is now. Too many libraries are experiencing budget cuts, staff layoffs and less hours. Yet this inspiring theme brings librarians back to square one with their young readers and reminds everyone that libraries are the perfect place to dream big dreams. All hope is not lost, so as the strong advocates of reading all summer long, librarians will plan programs that will fill the summer months, but the memories will last long after the little ones are back in school. What should creative libraries do for Dream Big... Read. Well, the ideas are endless but as the theme says, read. That is read further in this blog. Summer Reading Programs don't always have to go along with the CSLP, but this year's theme is just too wonderful to pass up. This is due in part that all children dream. (Don't let the secret out, but so do some adults.) They dream of hitting a home run in the big league, or becoming a world class ballerina or some just dream of a tree house where everyone in the neighborhood hands out. All dreams are important, whether they are big or small. All paths to dreams and how to make them come true can easily be found in the library. With this in mind it is never too early to think of ways to entice children to participate in the summer long programs. It's as easy as giving them a sneak peak to the summer's events. One way to give a hint but not spoil the surprise is to place clues around the library to see if children can piece together what the theme is for this year. For example, pictures of night skies, stars, and other items that are related to dreams. Once the children have found the pictures (four or five) have them fill out a form that asks them what they believe all the pictures have in common. If they get it right, the library could provide a small gift such as a sticker, pencil or piece of candy. Another activity that might take some time, and a little bit of money but it may worth the effort in order to grab children's attention and interest in coming to the library during he summer. Have a craft day before summer where each child could make a dream catcher. Once the dream catchers are made, ask the children if the staff could hang the catchers in the library. Most children will enjoy having their work of art on display. Once the library is decorated, a sign can be placed at the check out desk "Catch your dream at the Library this Summer." If this doesn't generate questions and interest, it would be very surprising. Last but not least, if a librarian wants to generate a "buzz" simply place the word "Dream" all around the library. Patrons who notice the signs will begin to wonder about the placement of the word in the library. When the questions begin to come, answering them will be as easy as, "stay tuned, it's coming this summer." It's a little bit of sneaky way of getting interest,but it's all in fun. The purpose of Summer Reading programs is not to fill the days with long reading assignments. (If it were, kids would take off faster than a tornado.) Have fun with the theme. If the librarians are having fun, the children will too. So get a little creative, but by all means get started EARLY. Children are already DREAMING about summer vacation. Why not help them find their dreams a the library!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Everyone Belongs At The Library! (National Library Week 2012)

The best description of a library it is a place where everyone is welcomed. It is one of the few place where kids and older folks mingle together on a Saturday afternoon and most everyone is content. A librarian on an Internet discussion forum once commented the the library is the community's living room. Yes, it is that and so much more. This year's theme for National Library Week is You belong at the Library. With this in mind where is the one place where everyone feels they belong? At their schools, on the playground, and with their families. Come to think of it, libraries are the perfect home away from oasis. It is the place where there is something for everyone. That is a very tall order to fill, but libraries have managed this task for years. Almost flawlessly. Hey, there are just somethings that are beyond human control. This celebration of libraries comes every year and it is a reminder for every library user, librarian and library administrator, that libraries are an essential part of every day life. This week should also remind library enthusiasts to take a stand and contact their Congressman and Senator to remind them that the library is important to them and their community. If there are no voices to declare the significant role of libraries. , than the silence will be interrupted by library's doors slamming shut for good. That can not happen. The hardest part of any endeavor is getting started. Librarians know this all to well, especially when it comes to working with patrons and asking them to get involved in letter writing campaigns to lawmakers. Quite frankly, some patrons would prefer a root canal than contacting politicians. It would go without saying that most politicians would prefer that the patrons go for the root canal instead of making them read one more letter. The obvious solution is to invite lawmaker to the library so that they can see for themselves how citizens use and enjoy the library. Everyone is happy. Lawmakers have the perfect opportunity to meet and greet the public. The patrons have the perfect opportunity to express their support for the library. It's a win win situation. Many libraries have used this week as an event to bring local officials and citizens together. Others used this week as an opportunity to reach out to old patrons and find new library fans. Both ways of celebrating is good. However, it is important to keep in mind that it's okay to continue the celebrating after the week is over. Librarians' can keep the spirit of "You Belong" at the library when promoting library programs. Why not personalize it when inviting patrons and lawmakers to library events, such as fundraising. The attention getting line could read, "Congressman Brown belongs @ the library" or "Ms. Smith and baby Jessica belong @ the Library." Who could not respond to a warm invite like that. Everyone wants a place where they can call their home, their oasis. Perhaps next year's theme could be "Escape to the Library."