Friday, November 28, 2008

King Corn - film discussion

You are what you eat, and we need to talk. Next Thursday, Dec 4 at 6:30PM, we'll have a screening of the documentary film King Corn, and discussion led by Dr. Dubear Kroening, Associate Professor of Biology at UW-Fox Valley.

From the PBS blurb:
Behind America’s dollar hamburgers and 72-ounce sodas is a key ingredient that quietly fuels our fast-food nation: corn. In KING CORN , recent college graduates Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis leave the east coast for rural Iowa, where they decide to grow an acre of the nation’s most powerful crop.

Alarmed by signs of America’s bulging waistlines, the filmmakers arrive in the Midwest enthusiastic about their new endeavor. ... Ian and Curt are increasingly troubled by how the abundance of corn is helping to make fast food cheap and consumers sick, driving animals into confinement and farmers off the land. Animal nutritionists confirm that corn feeding can make cows sick and beef fatty, but it also lets consumers have fast food at low prices. As feedlot operator Bob Bledsoe says in KING CORN, “America wants and demands cheap food.”
Here's the trailer for the film:

Marketing Your Library Final 1

Here's a SlideShare presentation developed as a grad school class group presentation, and published online by Michael Stephens. Although it's developed for a fictional community and has some idealized academic aspects, it would be a good springboard for real world discussions, particularly with regard to electronic marketing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I finished baking the corn muffins, so ... a few seconds for reflection. Beyond the immense gifts of food on my plate, a roof over my head, friends and family, I'm thankful for:
  • having a job
  • the opportunity to do meaningful work, and the many joys of public libraries
  • a society that values the freedom to speak & read
  • having excellent co-workers -- staff & volunteers
  • people that support the library
  • people that use the library
  • people that offer constructive criticism
  • a day off
Hope everyone has a great holiday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Love a (Christmas) Parade

Kids, staff, family, Board members, even a dog and an Alderman. Thanks to the Boldt company for the truck and the help from staff and volunteers, thousands of people saw our float as we rode and marched in the Appleton Downtown Christmas Parade. It's great to hear kids yelling "yay, library!"

Book sale - recycling the collection & donations

Good things about the Friends' fall book sale:
  1. it recycles used materials for fresh users
  2. it raises money to support library services
  3. it makes books available cheaply
  4. it's a community event
  5. it's done with the hard work of dedicated volunteers

Monday, November 24, 2008

Greening the library

Library Journal had a provocative article in the Nov. 1 issue, "Global warming's library challenge", calling for immediate plans and actions. Our library has several times partnered with a local sustainability group to offer programs and discussions. But talk and programs are not enough. We've made substantial strides to recycle and conserve energy, but that's not enough.

We need to be intentional; at the very least, an awareness of sustainability concerns should inform our purchasing and planning. Writing in the September issue of Shambhala Sun, Thich Nhat Hanh noted:
If we continue to live as we have been living, consuming without a thought to the future, destroying our forests and emitting greenhouse gases, then devastating climate change is inevitable. ...

The Chinese, the Indians, and the Vietnamese are still dreaming the “American dream,” as if that dream were the ultimate goal of mankind—everyone has to have a car of their own, a bank account, a cell phone, a television set. In twenty-five years the population of China will be 1.5 billion people, and if each of them wants to drive their own private car, China will need 99 million barrels of oil every day. But world production today is only 84 million barrels per day, so the American dream is not possible for the Chinese, nor the Indians or the Vietnamese. The American dream is no longer possible for the Americans. We cannot continue to live like this. It is not a sustainable economy.
Potential areas for "green library" discussion, planning and action:
  • energy use in current operations
  • building & construction plans
  • library supplies & products used
  • service implications
  • disaster planning
  • cost savings
  • program planning
  • recycling
  • collection development
All kinds of libraries need to step up and engage the issues; there are many resources listed in the LJ article. Maybe we're not going to put solar panels and wind turbines on our roof, but we still need to get staff at our library talking and working.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The last word on "Twilight"

OK, maybe not the last word, but with the release of the movie this weekend, this video featuring two of our teens is timely. Nice job by both of them -- Ryan also represents teen concerns as a representative to the Library Board.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Library Reformation: 95 Edicts You Should Nail to Your Library's Door

Brian Simon, Director, Verona Public Library & Nathan Deprey, Director, Osceola Public Library, gave an interesting presentation at last week's Wisconsin Library Association Conference. Their list is online, and even if you don't want to nail it to your door, it's worth reading and discussing.

Example theses:
2. Above books, subscription databases, story time or ready reference our service is undertaken to improve the community we serve.

55. Libraries have traditionally changed slowly which has created a level of stability. Stability is a good thing except when it is threatened by becoming obsolete. Libraries need to innovate, or at least be up-to-date. Libraries must be more nimble to change.

62. Budget knowledge should be conveyed to as many people as will hear you. Use Friends or Library newsletters; discuss with library staff, elected officials, and other stakeholders in the communities you serve.

75. It makes a greater impact when someone learns that the library helps: conduct market research for a local business, improve ACT scores, fix a car, teach people to read, or provide access to online classes, rather than learning the library offers 16 databases, 66,000 books, or 15 Internet accessible computers.

Cell phones redux

The terrific online comic strip Unshelved hit library cell phone use last week:
Used by permission.
After a spirited discussion at last May's Library Board meeting, our Board upheld staff practices of maintaining our second floor (reference, nonfiction, public Internet) as a cell phone-free zone, while allowing cell phone use on the first floor (circulation, children's, periodicals, media, fiction) and lower level (meeting rooms). This seemed like a workable arrangement -- and a reasonable compromise between those who feel they can use their cell phone any where and those who feel no one should be allowed to use cell phones in the library.

Our practice acknowledges that cell phones are part of people's lives, even at the library, but also that some library users have an expectation of being able to read or study undisturbed. It doesn't eliminate enforcement problems -- there are always some inconsiderate people like the guy in the strip -- but it does manage the situation responsibly. The Board asked us to further study the situation and report back in November. Our Assistant Director, Barb Kelly, presented the following at yesterday's Board meeting.
  • Most staff feel that we have found a good balance between the needs of people with cell phones and the needs of others for quiet. Staff did express concern that there were some good reasons why people might need to use a cell phone on the second floor – mostly having to do with the public access computers there and the possibility that someone working on one might need to consult work or school, etc. The sign expressing the rules for the computer lab includes language that allows staff to make exceptions in such cases. Very few exceptions have been requested or made.
  • We considered whether there might be space on the first floor that could be made off-limits for cell phones. It is our opinion that this would be very difficult to do, and would not accomplish the desired results of creating a quiet area on that floor. There are really no areas on the first floor that are isolated from the main spaces, and it would be very difficult for staff to enforce any such rules.
  • In our recent surveys, 4 people out of 320 results from the in-house survey, and 3 out of 141 online surveys indicated they wished cell phones be banned. That is not a very high percentage, especially given the publicity around the issue.
  • We did feel that our signs could be improved. They were all just a little different, having been created at different times. We re-did all of them using the same colors, fonts, graphics, etc. but mainly retaining the language we were using. We have added a sign in the elevator, as some people who never used the stairs did not see the signs there. And we also put signs in the restrooms on the second floor, as people fail to realize how much their voices carry.
  • We laminated all of the new signs so that they would hold up better and not become shabby as quickly. We will replace them in the event are defaced or worn.
  • Generally, the language on the signs becomes more specific and stronger in tone as one moves from the first floor to the second where cell phone use is prohibited. The sign at the front door is meant to inform people of our rules. The signs in the stairway and elevator instruct people to take action to turn off or silence phones. The signs on the second floor are firm about the rule.
We feel, as you concluded at the May meeting, that this is more of a cell phone user behavior issue than a cell phone issue. We think current practice is properly addressing the concerns.
I appreciate the thoughtful work by Barb and other staff on this issue. Board members had one suggestion: add other languages to the signs. Good idea -- we're on it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Community space

It's freezing outside, but Alex Kahler and his "Big Brother" Chuck Lewis enjoy a quiet Scrabble game in the green library atrium.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I'm sitting in the City Council's budget session. The Council just voted to leave the next phase of our building study in the 2009 budget. Assuming they don't change their minds later tonight, we'll be working on an RFP for program design next year.

The Mayor, Alderperson Baranowski, and several others were eloquent in their supporting remarks. Even several alderpersons who wanted to take the study out of the budget praised the library's importance, work and staff, only questioning the timing. In the end, 10 of the 16 voted to keep the item in the budget.

addendum: the above was posted three hours ago from my cell-phone, since I can't get wi-fi in the Council chambers. Nothing changed for the library in the meeting, which lasted until about 12:30 AM. Thanks to all the Council members who voted for the library, and to all those in the community who supported us. Thanks, too, to the Post-Crescent, which lent its editorial support and was johnny-on-the-spot with an online article, "Appleton library planning escapes budget cuts", posted by 9:30 PM while the Council still debated golf and trash collection issues.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Branding & marketing 2.0-style

Jeff Scott of Casa Grande Public Library made some good references to presentations from Internet Librarian 2008. He particularly highlighted Greg Schwartz's Branding: not just for cows anymore and Digital Marketing from Aaron Schmidt & Sarah Houghton-Jan.

As we become more dependent on technology not only to provide service, but to make people aware of services, we need to be attentive to the many strands of the web that connect to our libraries.

We have opportunities & skills to influence how people see us online, and the responsibility to engage our communities. Jeff highlights some points...

From the Branding presentation:
  • Have a Homebase
  • Own your username
  • Aggregate your lifestream
  • Join the Conversation
  • Follow what others are saying about you (Twitter)
  • Be Authentic
And from the Digital Marketing presentation:
  • Make your library website two-way
  • Show up in searches whether they are library directories, search engines, wifi finders, community sites, library thing local and community sites.
  • What are people saying about you? Search social sites to look for reviews.
  • Find Local Blogs and intereact in a human way.
  • We're experts too, library staff can show up at answer sites.
  • Push the information out: newsletter software, email addresses, etc.
There are some real confluences in these two presentations. This seems to me to create opportunities for a lot of staff to be involved. Marketing needs all hands on deck. So one other presentation caught my eye: Organization 2.0 from Rebecca Dysart. Noting that "Collaborative & connecting technologies are changing the entire concept of where an organization starts and stops", Dysart explores some of the impact of new technology on organizational structure: how we get the work done.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Project Play @ WLA

I'm missing the state library conference -- durn it. But I'm glad to be able to follow some things on the WLA Blog. One presentation I would've enjoyed was the one about Project Play. Not surprisingly, however, Beth Carpenter has nicely blogged the presentation. The whole thing's worth reading as a nice summary of the program, but the slideshow and video are great for a quick overview.

Check out the full post -- lots of great links. Thanks again to Beth, Joy and Stef!

Speaking up for the library

In a week when it seems the world has been focused on our national political scene, I'm reminded of Tip O'Neill's statement: "All politics is local." Municipal politics are the most direct, visceral and accessible, where you can chat with your elected representatives every day, and where they personally know a substantial number of constituents.

Eight days after the November general election, our Common Council will adapt the 2009 City of Appleton budget. This presidential election may have been historic -- heck, when not wearing my library hat, I was involved in some of the state and national races. And we may do a City budget every year -- but I've been stressing more about our local issue than the state and national ones. Our library has a lot at stake.

The issues are not around our operating budget, but on a couple of capital projects: beginning conversion to RFID security and doing program design work for a expanded or new library. RFID got taken out of the budget by Council committee. The next step on a building project got left in --but there are some alderpersons who want to take it out, feeling the timing isn't right.

Last night was the Council's public hearing on the budget, and six people spoke up on behalf of the Library. Some I expected, and some were pleasant surprises:
  • Terry Bergen, Library Board President
  • Dennis Hultgren, Appleton Library Foundation President
  • Sharrie Robinson, Friends of Appleton Library Board member and library volunteer
  • Tim Hoff, banker and President of Appleton Downtown Inc.
  • Carolyn Mewhorter, League of Women Voters President
  • Michael Potter, member of Appleton Downtown's Economic Development Committee and the City Planning Commission
I'm grateful to them. They all spoke passionately and eloquently on the importance of the library to the community, encouraging public/private partnerships to meet community needs, and the timeliness of our concerns. We hope the voters and their representatives agree.

Our stakes are high: I'm hopeful, but not optimistic, that they might put back RFID, but it will be a long process to implement and we'd like to realize the benefits to our patrons and cost efficiencies sooner. But our building issue is bigger, more long-term, and more time-critical: if the Council takes the building design work out of the budget, it makes it nigh unto impossible to begin fund-raising, and effectively stops the conversation for a year.

Barack Obama on libraries

No matter what any of our personal politics are, Barack Obama will be our next President. And so it's good to re-read what he said about libraries when he addressed the American Library Association conference June 27, 2005.

Among other things, he said:
More than a building that houses books and data, the library has always been a window to a larger world - a place where we've always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward.

...libraries remind us that truth isn't about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information.

And so the moment we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold into a library, we've changed their lives forever, and for the better. This is an enormous force for good.

Reading this speech might help us understand what the library community might expect from our next President. And it might help remind us of what people expect from us, and why we do this work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Teen Book Talk Videos

Our awesome YA staff and teens strike again! Check out our Book Talk playlist on YouTube.