Santa!! I KNOW him!

santa elf

In recent conversations with fellow library directors, a good and timely question came up:

How do you find a Santa for your Christmas events at the library?

We are very fortunate to have a professor from Ohio Northern University (just across the street), who is a member of the Buckeye Santas, and who does all of the events in the area, and who is kind enough to do our Library’s event free of charge. So, I went right to the source and asked Santa himself for some tips on picking a GREAT Santa.

When picking a Santa:

  • Ask for a background check first!
  • Depending on your Library policy–ask if they are insured
  • Ask for references (are there other places around town who’ve hosted this Santa that would refer him?)
  • Ask for a photo (recent)
  • Talk with the Santa before the event, preferably in person, or via phone or Skype
And most importantly: anyone can put on a red suit, but not everyone can be a Santa!!!
Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library, OH

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Being grateful

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I will keep this short and sweet–because as we come upon the holiday season, who has the time?!–and I will focus on gratitude.

As a Librarian I am grateful for:

  • Waking up each morning and being excited for work, knowing that might include a children’s program, paying bills, or working the CIRC desk. I love the not knowing of what I’ll be called to do.
  • Working in a state who believes in its libraries and fights hard for them. And the proof is in the pudding!
  • Getting to serve our patrons! Yes, yes, everyone deals with their fair share of grumpy and sometimes bizarre patron interactions, but just think of the great stories you get to take to the cocktail party!
  • Working alongside community organizations and a school district that are committed to helping us succeed
  • Being surprised by the kindnesses that we sometimes witness throughout our day.
  • Serving on consortium and Ohio Library Council committees where I get to meet lots of other dedicated and cool librarians!

This holiday season I hope you have much to be thankful for too. Happy Thanksgiving!


Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library
Ada, OH

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Libraries as throwbacks (in the best sense of the word)

My family recently attended a Vintage Base Ball Association game. The “ballists” (players) were following the 1858 base ball rules. These are commonly thought of as “gentleman’s” rules, and they would begin changing significantly as the sport’s popularity took off following the Civil War.

The first thing you notice at one of these games is the ballists do not use gloves. The ball was a bit softer back then, and the fielders used just their bare hands. The next thing is probably the fact that the trees, the barn, and the farm implements in the field are all in play. And the batter is “dead” (out) if a fielder catches the ball off of any of these things or even off one bounce on the ground. Then you notice that the “hurler” (pitcher) is supposed to put the ball in a good spot for the “striker” (batter), and there are no balls and strikes.

But the big difference between what we watched that day and the playoff games currently taking place is the integrity, or fairness, of all involved. And that is what made me think about our profession. (Yes, this does have something to do with libraries.)

Those old-time base ball players were playing hard – neither team wanted to lose. But the baserunners were calling themselves out on close plays. There was no need for instant replay, fielders indicated whether they caught the ball on one bounce or not.

Library marketers will cringe when seeing the terms “library” and “throwback” used in the same sentence as we try to remain relevant in a world with Google, Amazon, Apple and the like. Too many people already identify us with the clichéd image of dusty books sitting on shelves.

But I think the library definitely needs to be a throwback when it comes to how we serve our communities: with integrity and fairness.

In a public library, especially a small public library, we have a great opportunity. We get a chance to know many of our patrons. And not just know them by what web sites they visit or online purchases they make. We get to serve them directly, often actually chat with them face-to-face, listen to their problems, assist them with what we are able. And we do that for every single person we can.

In fact, the library is really the only place like that in my community, and likely also in many of yours – one of the few places that (usually) doesn’t require you to take out your wallet. The library is not focused on the bottom line – or trying to take over the world. But all of us in the profession are playing hard and trying not to lose.

So, as we try to deal with all those issues that are constantly circling and move our libraries forward; in order to thrive, we also need to be throwbacks when it comes to serving our communities.

Integrity and fairness — things that play as well in 2014 as they did in 1858.

Chris Owens, Director

Blanchester Public Library

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Think Tank 101

By Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library

For many of us attending larger conferences, like the Ohio Library Council’s Expo or the American Library Association Annual Conference, isn’t always an option—tight budgets and limited staffing lead the list of reasons why. Yet our profession calls us to stay abreast of the latest trends, the most timely issues facing e-books, self-checkouts, and who know can keep track of what all else.
So, how can stay connected with your professional peers and trends within the profession?
HOST YOUR OWN CONFERENCE! Many other librarians are learning the benefits of start-up conferences or “think tanks.” (I have been fortunate enough to attend the Take Five Conference—what a group!)
• When deciding on whom to include it is easier to narrow down your group when you have a theme/topic for your conference, i.e.
“Genealogy & the Small Library,”
“ Summer Reading 2015 on a budget,”
“Adult Programs that draw a crowd”
• Now that you have a topic, who will your speakers be? Consider co-hosting the event with other impassioned peers who are bursting to share everything they know about dynamic children’s programs, or what’s hot with teens! Ask local “experts,” someone from the county genealogical society for your program on genealogy; a guest speaker from the local craft store who might have some great ideas for Adult programs. If you want to have a looser forum of sorts, ask for agenda items when you send out the email, and encourage folks to come prepared to share something on the topic.
• Who to invite? You know your library space best, and how many folks would fit comfortably, which helps you set the number of people to invite; think of other librarians in your county, region, or consortium.
• Request RSVPs from attendees (this is especially important when setting up your meeting space, or ordering lunch).
• If your meeting is running through the lunch hour, warn people to bring $ for lunch at a local restaurant or tell folks to brown bag their lunches—hey, we’re all on budgets!
• Follow up: send out a thank you to all for attending, consider including any helpful follow-up notes; encourage attendees to “reply to all,” with any helpful hints or tips which they gleaned from the meeting. Remind people to respond with the contact information for that great entertainer that such-and-such-library hosted last summer!
And as always, if you can’t make it to things, reach out to online communities, who can provide you a forum for advice and ideas; on Facebook alone I have recently discovered and joined
ALA Think Tank
Storytime Underground
Teen Librarians
Teen Think Tank

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by Chauncey Montgomery, Director of the Community Library in Sunbury, Ohio


Does anyone remember the McPizza? In the 1990s, McDonald’s ventured into the pizza market with the McPizza. Like
most consumers, I can remember being quite confused about a hamburger restaurant offering pizza, and I never purchased
one. Apparently I wasn’t alone, and the product eventually died. At the time, McDonald’s saw potential in expanding their
menu, but in the end, customers were not interested. Some cite the longer cooking time for its failure; however, it has been
suggested that most people did not associate McDonald’s with pizza and so they continued to frequent traditional pizza
shops. Why would a restaurant known for its hamburgers want to serve pizza?
Any organization is susceptible to the same mistake McDonald’s made, even libraries. We are constantly being
bombarded with new ideas. These ideas can be services we envision, recommendations from professional journals,
suggestions made by staff, or needs expressed by patrons. We need to be prudent about how we invest our resources, so
that we do not end up with a McPizza.
One of the best ways to help protect the library against pursuing a service that will not benefit users is knowing the library.
What is the library about in the community? What role does the library fulfill. Just as McDonald’s is the fast food hamburger
joint, the library is the fill-in-the-blank in your community, and that is what your focus should be. In 2005, OCLC reported
that 68% of Americans associate libraries with books. In 2010, that number jumped to 75% [1]. I’d argue that whatever
unique role each library may play in its community, the core brand is still books and everything else should derive from a
culture of books, reading, and communicating ideas and stories.
Another critical step in protecting the library from investing in superfluous services is having a written strategic plan with a
clear, concise mission statement. I firmly believe that each work day should begin with a quick reading of the mission
statement as a reminder of the end goal. Our local school district always recites their mission statement at the beginning of
the board meeting, which I have always thought was an admirable practice. A strategic plan with a clear mission
statement and measurable goals which is based on community feedback can help libraries stay on course and weed out
ideas that can easily distract us from our greater purpose.
As new ideas are recommended, look over the strategic plan and ask if the proposed service fits anywhere within the plan.
If not, move on. If it does somehow fit within the plan, then ask if the library takes on the project, how would it affect other
projects already in the works? Would staff and money need shifted from another project to work on this new one? How will
that shift affect the outcome of both projects? If the result is two marginally implemented programs, then decide which one
needs dropped to ensure one is spectacular.
Several years ago, we had some patrons suggest the library install a splash pad. Our community does not have a public
swimming pool, so the splash pad would seemed like a great alternative. When the idea was pitched to us, we all initially
thought it was a great idea. We would be fulfilling a community need while also pulling in users that otherwise may not
visit the library. Then we started thinking about price, insurance, maintenance, supervision, among other factors. Although a
splash pad would be an awesome addition to the library it didn’t fit within our strategic plan and it wouldn’t really be the
most prudent use of resources; therefore, we decided to pass on the idea. Having a strategic plan in place made it an easy
and obvious decision.
Some think that passing on projects or turning down new ideas is showing a lack of innovation and reveals a fear of
something new and unknown. Saying no to new ideas, simply because they are different, is not what is being suggested.
What is being suggested is a thoughtful examination of those new ideas and ensuring they fit within the overall
organizational mission and goals. Shying away from projects beyond the library’s scope of service is not showing lack of
innovation; rather, it is liberating the library to focus on what it does best and frees up time and money for more suitable
Steve Jobs said, “innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Knowing your organization and having a strong strategic plan
will help you decide what 1,000 things you should say no to. Then you can focus on just the essential services that make
the library a strong, vibrant community resource. If you do not have a plan, the State Library of Ohio offers assistance in
developing plans. We have used the service on several occasions and it is outstanding. With all the changes in our
culture, technology, and the ways we interact with information, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the volume of new ideas
and services. As public libraries, we need to ensure that whatever we embark on is not a McPizza, but a Big Mac.index

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A little Macgyver in all of us!

By: Jim Gill, Director at Dover Public Library

OK, so if you are reading this blog article you probably work in a small public library. One of the things that I struggle with as a small library director is how to keep up with the “Big Boys” when it comes to new and innovative resources, programming, and initiatives. You know what I’m talking about. You open the latest American Libraries or Library Journal and you are both fascinated and inspired by cool new things you see libraries doing across the country. New technology, new digital resources, great programming ideas, etc. At the same time you get frustrated because some of the things libraries are doing are just not in your budget. In a lot of way, small library directors are like MacGyver—you know the guy with the jeep and the mullet and the leather jacket that works for the Phoenix Foundation (what exactly do they do?) and gets into all kinds of jams and ends up using a fifty cent piece or a yard hose nozzle or some other random thing that he happens to have in his pocket to diffuse a nuclear bomb. In essence, small library directors are a lot like MacGyver in that we never quite have the ideal resources for things we would like to do, yet somehow find a way to make it work. I think we can all relate to this. I won’t lie to you: I sometimes get library envy. More specifically, I get library budget envy. Money doesn’t always solve your troubles but I think we can all agree that it would be nice to try!

So how does MacGyver come into play at your library? Sometimes I think we feel the pressure to be “innovative” and to be “early adopters” on the latest widget or electronic resource or format. I would like to caution you! Are your patrons asking for this stuff? Does Mr. Woods come into your library asking if the library uses Second Life? Ooops, that was soooo six years ago. Does Mrs. Cavalena come in demanding to know where your “Maker Space” is? It is OK to be a small library! Embrace knowing nearly every patron that enters your building! Take pride in offering free WIFI to the community and a good (though sometimes small) and well-rounded collection. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Sometimes the most simple program ideas work. Late last year I stumbled on an article detailing how the Lafayette, LA Public Library created a 100 Book Club. In a nutshell, they challenged the community to read 100 books in a calendar year. If a patron completes the challenge they get invited to a special recognition event, a limited edition t-shirt, etc. I loved the idea because it was so simple. So one day I called down to Dixie and spoke with the staff member in charge of their program. I expressed interest in doing a similar project at Dover and asked if I could use their literature, theme, ideas, etc. Southern hospitality is an understatement. They sent me all their promotional material and any info they could gather about how they developed the program. They simply asked that I not use the logos they had specially made and to respect the overall feel of their version of the program. We decided to tweak the program a tad in a few ways. We created a new logo and came up with a different version of a logbook. We also plan to handle the recognition aspect of the program a little differently as well. We were amazed when nearly 300 people of all ages poured into our doors after the local newspaper did a story on our version of the 100 Book Club.

100bookclubretrocolor-2-300x259In the end, all I had to do was ask. I would like to challenge you at your little library wherever that may be to be steadfast against the anxiety caused by trying to do too much with too little. When you get frustrated when you hear what other libraries are doing, take a deep breath and slow down. Chances are you doing something special that may just need a little tweaking. Look around at other libraries and see what they are doing. It is OK to borrow ideas and to respectfully use those ideas in your own way. Be sure to ask permission if you need to, but know that most librarians are very eager to help out. Be a MacGyver and not only make do with what you have, but find a way to make what you have even better by collaborating with other libraries and involving your staff.

OK, $100 bucks to the first small library director who has a patron who comes in unannounced asking for a “Maker Space!”




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Goodbyes and hellos in library land

About 5 weeks ago, my husband started his new job in Bucyrus. And I began my search for a job where I could work with children. How improbable it seemed that I would find a library that was hiring, let alone a library who needed help in the children’s department. As luck would have it, the Mansfield Richland County Public Library had a part time opening for a Children’s Assistant. The ideal candidate would have a BA or master’s degree in library science. Having neither, I figured that I’d apply and if nothing else, I’d get to practice my interview skills and meet some fun librarians. I’m a very casual down to earth person with 13 years of library experience and I don’t always speak or write like a professional. In fact, when I try to memorize information, I tend to stumble over my words during a presentation or interview. So I felt extremely excited and blessed when they offered me the job.
After so many years in a small rural library, I’ve become accustomed to many things. If a patron forgets his card, who am I kidding? In our small town, almost no one brings their card, let alone actually knows the current location of their card. We just ask them their name and look it up on the computer. If the child doesn’t remember the title or author to the series they are reading, I just ask them “What does the cover look like?” I can usually find the right book if it’s in my collection. This talent is acquired by putting AR stickers on most of the collection and putting new barcodes on the entire collection. I will definitely miss knowing exactly where the books are on the shelf. Sometimes a patron asks if I have a title and instead of looking it up on the computer to see if it is checked in, I say ”Let’s just check the shelf. It’s faster.”
I’m so excited to be joining a team of librarians, yes I said a TEAM of librarians, who all work in the children’s department! I will be joining 7 others who are as passionate as I am about motivating children to read. At the Gnadenhutten library I run the whole show with the wonderful support of the library director and 2 part time staff. They are also passionate about children and reading, but they mainly work the circ desk in the adult area. One young lady helps me preview manga and the director helps with book selection and writing grants. They help me with advertising and setting up events among many other things. The list could go on and on…Whatever I need, they are always there to lend a hand!
As I interviewed, I realized that it would be nice to be able to focus on just one age group. If I got the job I wouldn’t have to plan two different summer reading programs. I would never have to plan a zombie event the same day that I’m having Toddler Time. Sometimes it’s difficult to switch gears from blood and gore to sweetness and Elmo.
Today is my going away party. My teen volunteers wanted to have a party for me and suggested that I put all of my favorite books on display. One of them asked if they could bake cookies for the event. My director and the library board will be providing cake and drinks. It’s not really a party unless there’s cake, right? The children and teachers at Moravian Early Learning Center made me a big sign with all of their signatures. I put it on the bulletin board and covered the rest of the board with white paper so that everyone could sign it. I hope they put all the “mushy stuff” on there and don’t make me cry at the party. I’m not a fan of crying in public. Let’s just say that it’s not always pretty.
Tomorrow is my first day of work at the new job and I look forward to a new challenge after being in a small library all these years. There will be so many new people to meet and so many families to welcome with my smile and friendly hello. I can’t wait to see where all the books are so that I can help the children find “just the right book” for them. While updating my resume and looking for job I realized that I really just enjoy being a helpful person in any situation. So joining a team of librarians and helping them at the reference desk and assisting with the summer events sounds like a perfect job for me! Happy Reading!
Carole Courtwright
Youth Services Coordinator
Gnadenhutten Public Library

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