Beefing Up Your Events Calendar: Successful Programming for Smaller Libraries

At the Ohio Library Council’s 2016 Convention & Expo I had the pleasure of co-moderating the UN-Program, “Beefing Up Your Events Calendar: Successful Programming for Smaller Libraries,” with Tom Dillie of Minerva Public Library. In case you’ve never attended an UN-Program, the focus is to allow folks to share information in a very casual fashion, and hopefully walk away with at least a new idea or two.

Our UN-Program was well attended and flushed out many varied program ideas. I typed up a list of the program ideas and respective library that hosted the program, with the hope that folks could take the notes off the OLC Convention & Expo site post-conference, but wanted to again share them here, in the event that folks didn’t get to see them while they were available online.

Listed are the names of the program and hosting library, some also have a name attached too. Feel free to contact the library to get more information on how you can borrow their idea for your library!

  • Puzzle Exchange: Norwalk, Monroeville, Sandusky
  • March Madness (w authors instead of basketball: Lane Library (Fairfield), Amanda
  • Transform Your Life (Unplugged – 8 weeks of programs): Sandusky
  • Zentangles Coloring: Green Co.
  • Spotlight on ___ series (includes things like Religious Tolerance or Heroin Addiction): Lima Public Library, Dani
  • Seed Library: Williams County Library
  • Cursive Writing Competition: Paulding Co. Library
  • Cookbook Club: Lane Hamilton (? Can’t read my writing)
  • Build a Better World (cook food based on your ethnicity): Warren Trumbul
  • Fun for Foodies Cookbook Club (recipe and recipe card to share): Sandusky
  • “Ada Chats” (local speakers share passionate topics 10-15 minutes, based on TED Talks): Ada Public Library
  • Amazing Race: Way Public Library
  • Pokemon Walk: Sandusky
  • Masking Tape/Painting/Monograming canvases: Monroeville
  • Goodwill Upcycle art: Sandusky
  • String Art: Monroeville
  • Archery Programs: Milan Berlin Library
  • Pop Culture programs (Walking Dead, International Dalek Day, Dr. Who): Milan Berlin Library
  • Family Yoga: Delaware Co. (Powell)
  • Lunch w/ lyrics (music in park featuring diff. bands) Birchard Library (Fremont)
  • Sports for Dummies: Birchard Library
  • ODR Hunters Education: Highland Library
  • Beer Tasting w local bar: Highland Library
  • Book Brunch: Highland Library
  • Murder Mystery: Highland
  • Women’s Self Defense (Sheriff’s Dept): Paulding Co. Library
  • Book Discussion @ Local Bar: Cleveland Heights
  • Haunted Library: Williams Co.
  • Staff Readers Theater: Coshocton

 Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library

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Two Interesting Studies

Two Interesting Studies

Pew Research just released two studies dealing with reading and libraries. Both are quite enlightening. Following are some highlights and links to the studies if you want to read them.

Book Reading 2016

Highlights

  • Americans are reading at the same rate as they did in 2012.
  • People are more likely to read a print book over an electronic book.
  • 65% have read a print book in the last year, while only 28% have read an ebook.
  • 38% only read print books, while 6% only read digital books. 28% read both formats.
  • Young adults (ages 18-29) are more likely to read print books than seniors.
  • College graduates and women are more likely to read in general.

Libraries 2016

Highlights

  • Most Americans feel the library is an important part of the community.
  • 80% feel libraries should be teaching digital skills.
  • 57% feel libraries should offer more comfortable seating for reading, studying, etc.
  • 24% felt that books should be removed to make space for other uses, while 31% said books should remain.
  • 77% say the library has resources they need.
  • 69% see libraries a safe place.
  • 58% feel the library opens up educational opportunities for all ages.
  • 53% of American have interacted with their library in the past year, with 48% visiting the physical library (or a satellite location)
  • Young adults (ages 18-29) are more likely to visit the library than seniors.
  • Borrowing books is by far the most popular service offered by libraries (64% of library users have checked out a book in the past year).
  • 55% see the library as a place to get service during a crisis.

What stands out in these two studies is that books are still an integral part of our lives, despite competition from the Internet, streaming services, and gaming.  I suspect that the widespread use of mobile technology probably increases the potential for someone to read versus doing some of these other activities.  Although it looks like people are still more inclined to read print books, having access to ebooks on a tablet or smartphone definitely does not hinder reading.  Rather, mobile technology makes books more accessible and convenient.

Likewise, it’s fascinating that a large portion of people think libraries need to create more space for reading, studying, etc., but don’t think books should be removed to make the space.  This response indicates that our users still value our physical collections, which is further demonstrated in the fact that borrowing books is still the most used service.  So we shouldn’t be quick to remove print in favor of ebooks.  A balanced approach to collection management is needed.

Finally, it is encouraging that most Americans find libraries to be an important part of their communities and utilize our services.  I often am disheartened when someone says, “why do we still need libraries with the Internet,” but these results demonstrate that most people understand our mission and appreciate our services.  Nevertheless, with such positive responses to libraries, reading, and etc., there is a challenge that we do not become apathetic in our profession.  We need to continue adapting to the needs of our users.  We need to listen to our users and constantly evaluate our services and ensure that we are meeting their needs.  Additionally, we need to be aggressive about sharing what we do to our communities, so they understand our mission and goals.  We also need to demonstrate our value, so people can see that their positive opinion of us is not unfounded.

These are just a few of the insights I got from reading these Pew studies.  There are many more, so take some time to browse through them.  Understanding how people use the library and behave in regard to books and information can only empower us to better serve them.

-Chauncey Montgomery,
Community Library, Sunbury, OH

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Lessons from Ray Bradbury

“The night was sweet with the dust of autumn leaves that smelled as if the fine sands of ancient Egypt were drifting to dunes beyond the town.”

-Ray Bradbury in Something Wicked This Way Comes

If you work in a small library it can be a struggle to find the time to do all that needs done.  Leading the library and doing “director” type things like strategic planning, staff training, and performance evaluations must be balanced with day to day tasks like covering the desk because someone called off sick or unclogging the public toilet.  It can be overwhelming reading Library Journal or American Libraries and seeing all the innovative things larger, wealthier libraries are doing. I have found that “Keeping up the Joneses” can be a cancer to the soul.  We must balance staying relevant and battling complacency with serving our communities in the best way possible with the budget and resources we have available.

As I write this, I think about why I got into librarianship. I think about the simple joy of finding a good story in the library stacks and losing myself in that world.  When the stresses of the job get to me, I sometimes grab a cart and a stack of books and go into the stacks and shelve. The order and logic of shelving soothes my mind.  There is something fulfilling in simple tasks like shelving that is akin to the joy that people who work with their hands often feel.  I never fail to find a treasure in the stacks when I shelve. Sometimes it is a classic that I reread and sometimes it is something that I take a chance on.  Recently, I discovered Ray Bradbury’s autumn classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Written in 1962 and taking its name from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes), Bradbury’s tale is a magical concoction of the surreal and supernatural with the nostalgic sameness of small-town American life.

Set in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois, Bradbury’s tale tells the story of two 13 year-old best friends, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who get sucked into a battle between good and evil, light and dark, when one October night right before Halloween a traveling carnival show steams in by rail and sets up shop in a clearing on the edge of town.  “In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare,”(William Morrow Publishers).

Ray Bradbury is famous for his rich word choice and Something Wicked is no exception.  As a librarian, I was captivated by how the public library played such a central role to the story.  As library regulars, both Jim and Will use the library to feed their endless curiosity and their penchant for mischief.  “Jim and Will grinned at each other.  It was all so good, these blowing quiet October nights and the library waiting inside now with its green-shaded lamps and papyrus dust.”  Will’s father Charles, the custodian at the town library, regularly wanders the darkened stacks of the library long after closing time, reading and dreaming from the ancient books on the shelves.

Although Disney made a film version of Bradbury’s book in 1983 starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce, the librarian in me must say that Bradbury’s tale is captured much more powerfully in print than on film.  It all begins with these words….”The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm.  He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day…”  To find out what happens to Will and Jim and the denizens of Green Town then don’t be afraid to wander in your stacks for a copy of Bradbury’s classic.

Sometimes all you need in life is a good story.  Don’t be too busy to remember why you fell in love with your job in the first place.  Take a moment to get lost in the stacks and to take a chance on a book that finds you.

-Jim Gill, Director
Dover Public Library

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“We salute our robot overlords!”

So if you’re looking for something different to worry about, how about the future of work in a time of smart machines and artificial intelligence.  Here in Ohio we all are well aware of how computers and robots in combination with rapid overseas industrialization changed manufacturing forever and drastically reduced the number and kinds of jobs that were the basis stable blue-collar work.  Now the machines are coming for the clerical and white-collar jobs.  Pew Research has done some work on this topic, Public Predictions for the Future of Workforce Automation    takes a look at public attitudes this year, and  AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs collected opinions of various experts in 2014.  Lee Rainie from Pew gave a talk this year in Australia that touched on this topic as well other questions about the future role of libraries in The Puzzle Librarians Need to Solve.  A cover story in The Atlantic last year, A World without Work, starts with the collapse of the steel industry in Youngstown and goes on to discuss what how the same disruption is happening in many other parts of the economy.

For a deeper dive, take a look at several recent books:

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by  Martin Ford

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in an Age of Artificial Intelligence by Jerry Kaplan

Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines by Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby

While these books each take a somewhat different tack, all pivot on the question of with the question of what effect the increasing automation of work will have on society.   If the service and manufacturing sectors can produce the same output more profitably and cheaper with ever fewer workers, what are people going to do?  OLC is asking us to submit stories of how we are helping our communities and individual patrons with improving job skills and workforce.  In the short term, there are many useful things we can do, and are doing.   But, the future seems more uncertain.

Tom Dillie, Director
Minerva Public Library

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A Healthy Reading Reminder

There was an article in USA Today the other day that discussed several recent studies about the benefits of reading books.

We probably all are familiar with the general findings. Reading books makes you smarter. Reading books gives you a larger vocabulary. Reading books makes you more empathetic. Reading certain books can help with certain ailments. (Although there is some debate about that one.)

Nothing in the article is actually all that new, except maybe for the fact that reading fiction books is actually “better” for you than nonfiction books. And at least the suggestion that reading printed books has healthier effects than listening to audiobooks or reading eBooks.

What makes the article important in my mind is just its appearance in a major publication. I get the feeling that people are reading books less and less. I know they are in the community we serve.

Libraries are doing a lot of different things these days to remain relevant. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this. I understand the need to change with the times, to be on the cutting edge, to be able to survive in a world with Amazon and Apple and Facebook, to try to keep giving people a reason to come back.

But I think our most important responsibility sometimes gets lost among the attempt to keep up with the flashy. We need to be promoting the importance of reading books. People need to read for all of the reasons mentioned above. People need to read books so we are not stuck with a Presidential election like this year. People need to read books to make the world a better place.

And if libraries do not promote reading books, who will?

Chris Owens
Blandford Public Library

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Library Feel Good

I’m coping out of writing a blog post this month, but it’s the middle of Summer Reading ’16, and like all of you, we’re super busy here.

So, here it is: a TEDx Talk to remind you why you became a Librarian, why libraries are awesome, and most importantly, why libraries continue to be relevant in the 21st century.

So, when the kiddos have cleared out of your Library, and you can find a quiet moment among the craziness of Summer Reading, put your feet up, grab a cool beverage, and watch this:

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Making Library Conferences Better for Small Libraries

I am very fortunate that I am able to take my employees with me to our OLC Chapter Conference every year. It is always a great day to gather new information, network with other librarians, and get out of the library together as a group. We usually take two cars full of people, and it’s interesting to listen to the conversations on the way home.

There is always a common sentiment after spending the day getting new ideas: the presenter/presentation was great, but I don’t see us being able to do that in our small library. I do not hear this from only employees. I have sat with fellow directors during presentations and when mention of cost or staffing comes up, you can usually see the small library directors look at one another and make the same expression that says “Yeah, right!”

There is no mistake the OLC Conferences we are attend are some of the most valuable experiences in our careers. We learn from one another and we always come back to our libraries with new ideas, more confidence, and renewed friendships. We wish to see more sessions with the “small library” focus.

Apparently we are not alone in our feelings. Here is some feedback from this year’s Chapter Conference in our area:

  • Some would not apply to smaller libraries, but great ideas.
  • Could you make the presentation more applicable for small libraries?
  • From a small library standpoint, it was not worth it.

And when asked for topics attendees would like to see in the future, there were numerous votes for small library information.

We are all doing great things in our libraries. Even if we feel as though we are only doing our job, we are doing our job really well. You can help make the Chapter Conferences better for attendees from small libraries.

  • Reflect on what you currently do. What good ideas do you have? What good things do you do?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What programs at your library have had positive feedback?

If you were able to think of answers to these questions then you can help contribute to your Chapter Conference. As a disclaimer, I am not on a Chapter Conference Action Council; I am not soliciting anyone to contribute. I simply know we are all doing great things, and there is no reason why we cannot take part in conference presentations.

There are a few ways you can help. Perhaps you have great ideas, but you do not like to speak in front of a crowd. That is okay. You can contact anyone on your Action Council to give them your idea. You can also contact any of us on the Small Library Division. If you do not want to present then we can go with your idea and look for those who could present on the topic. You could also suggest your topic and let us know that you would be willing to contribute, but you do not want to speak. Naturally, the final option would be for you to actually give the presentation yourself. Bonus: You attend the conference free of charge if you are a presenter.

Two years ago I gave a gentle nudge to employees wanting to see more for small libraries. Two employees got together and made the decision to present their programming/outreach ideas at the 2015 Conference. It has been one year, and they both get excited to talk about the experience. I asked them to sum up the experience in one word. One said it was “exhilarating” and the other said it was “exciting.” I attended the session; the room was packed and more chairs had to be brought in. They also received very positive feedback because they were reaching out with ideas that were feasible for a small library. The best part is they were able to present on a topic that was exciting to them. Their love for what they do was shown in their presentation.

We love attending the Chapter Conferences and Conventions. We love hearing ideas from all sizes of libraries. We hear you when you say you need more sessions for small libraries. If you have an idea for a conference session, or you are excited about what you do in your own library, you can help make the conference even better than it already is.

Betsy Eggers, Director
Napoleon Public Library

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