Friday, January 30, 2009

Wanted: a new Carnegie or new LSCA

Between 1883 and 1929, Andrew Carnegie funded the building of 2,509 libraries. Between 1964 and 1995, the federal Library Services and Construction Act held out the possibility of federal funds to help communities build libraries. Neither of those possibilities exist today.

As Appleton is assessing the need for a new or expanded library building, I'm often asked if there are federal funds or major national grant funds available for library construction. I know of none; there have been a few state programs, though not in Wisconsin. Communities are pretty much on their own for local tax-based or charitable funding of their public libraries. Which brings us to the "stimulus package."

Today I've been on the phone with the offices of both our Senators: Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold. On Wednesday, 28 January 2009, the House of Representatives passed their version of the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" with $819 billion for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, and assistance to the unemployed.

Public libraries are not included.

This is a shame in many respects. Anybody who's been reading or watching the news know that public libraries do a lot in job preservation, education and assistance to the unemployed, and that this has become more significantly more important in the current economic crisis.

According to the American Library Association:
School libraries are already included as a qualifying institution for the K-12 Repair and Modernization funding and academic libraries are also included in the Higher Education Repair and Modernization funding.
So as the U.S. Senate takes up the stimulus package, librarians are asking them to modify their version to allow state governments to allocate some of their funds to public libraries.

Bankers and auto manufacturers seem to be in the game. Schools and academic libraries have a shot. I'd just like us to qualify for consideration: we’d be a great infrastructure investment.

Over 120 years ago, Andrew Carnegie knew that building a library was one of the surest ways to help a community lift itself. Let's hope that idea hasn't been lost.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 State Legislative Day

Every Winter, librarians and library supporters from around the state descend on the State Capitol in Madison for an exercise called "Library Legislative Day." Several of us from APL will be there, with appointments to visit members of the Assembly and State Senate. It's an opportunity to get to know out elected state officials and acquaint them with library concerns.

Let's be real: nobody expects significant funding increases in this environment. Our library does not receive direct state funding, though we benefit from lots of programs. But what it comes down to is making sure first that legislators know what we do and why it's important, and then how the state legislatures actions fit into our services.

The following legislative agenda was developed by the Wisconsin Library Associations Library Development & Legislation Committee, and approved by the full association. On Jan. 20, our Board of Trustees endorsed the agenda, with seven votes in favor, one trustee opposed and one abstaining from the vote.
WLA State Legislative Agenda
For the 2009-11 Biennium

The Wisconsin Library Association (WLA), established in 1891, unites and supports people from all types of libraries to develop and advocate for dynamic, responsive Wisconsin libraries. Our 2,000 members, including librarians, libraries, library trustees, and friends from across the state, share this common purpose.

Legislative Priorities for 2009 Legislative Action
  • Increase state funding for public library system aids to 13% of local library expenditures, as specified in Wisconsin statutes.
  • Support expanded funding for BadgerLink resources.
  • Preserve the use of the Universal Service Fund for BadgerLink and other library services.
  • Increase funding necessary to support traditional service levels for state contracts:
    • Wisconsin Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped
    • Cooperative Children's Book Center
    • Wisconsin Library Services (WiLS) and
    • Milwaukee Public Library/Interlibrary Loan
  • Support funding for statewide delivery of library materials.
  • Support increased funding of the University of Wisconsin System libraries.
  • Support funding for the UW Digital Commons Initiative.
  • Support the statutory use of the Common School Fund.
  • Support the need for libraries to have access to sufficient bandwidth.
  • Support public library district enabling legislation.
  • Support the Wisconsin State Law Library and the Milwaukee County and Dane County Legal Resource libraries.
  • Oppose any proposals that mandate a specific percentage of funding for educational institutions be spent on classroom instruction.
  • Support access to government publications/documents.
  • Support full funding for the Wisconsin Historical Society Library.
  • Support updated standards for school library media centers.
  • Support the employment of at least one full-time certified school library media specialist and appropriate support staff in every school; support additional professional staff and support staff in schools of 650 students or more.
  • Support the employment of at least one full-time instructional technology professional and appropriate support staff in every school; support additional professional staff and support staff in schools of 650 students or more.
  • Continue to promote the importance of publicly-funded free and open access to library materials to all Wisconsin citizens.
  • Support continuation of maintenance of effort funding levels by local units of government as a requirement for public library system membership.
Legislative Policy Statements

The Wisconsin Library Association affirms:
  • That library services address essential informational, educational, cultural, and recreational needs for Wisconsin residents and merit strong legislative support.
  • That the state’s libraries, by providing lifelong learning opportunities, make a significant contribution to the quality of life for all Wisconsin residents.
  • That the state’s libraries through a statewide knowledge network provide essential information resources for the state’s economic development.
  • That the state’s libraries, through multiple cooperative arrangements, serve as models for regional and statewide cooperation.
  • That the state’s librarians provide Wisconsin residents with the essential information services they need to succeed at school, at work, and in their personal lives.
The Wisconsin Library Association supports state legislative policy that:
  • Ensures that all the people of Wisconsin have the broadest possible access to information resources and materials.
  • Preserves the fundamental principle of publicly funded free and open access to library materials and services.
  • Ensures privacy in the use of library materials and services.
  • Strongly supports the development of collections and resources for libraries of all types.
  • Broadens the availability of communications technology for educational and information resources.
  • Promotes regional and statewide sharing of library and information resources.
  • Supports strong statewide leadership for library development and cooperation.
The Wisconsin Library Association opposes state legislative policy that:
  • Restricts access by the state’s residents to information resources and materials.
  • Affects local and state taxing options that could have an adverse affect on libraries.
  • Intrudes on the privacy of library users.
  • Interferes with the right of local public library boards to independently determine local library policy, staffing, and services based on community standards.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Community Read: Michael Perry

We've kicked off this year's community read, with Wisconsin writer Michael Perry and we got a nice article in the Post Crescent:
Fox Cities Reads program hopes Michael Perry gets Valley laughing
Humorist's books chosen for community read

By Cheryl Anderson • Post-Crescent staff writer • January 23, 2009

APPLETON — Three of best-selling Wisconsin author and humorist Michael Perry's works will be featured in the 2009 Fox Cities Reads.

The public libraries of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Kaukauna, Kimberly and Little Chute and the library of the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley kicked off the third annual community read Thursday at the Copper Leaf Hotel. [entire article here]
We're pretty excited, and had not only the newspaper, but three television stations and three radio stations give us coverage. Rev. Will Bloedow, APL Board member -- and with his wife Ruth, co-chair of the Fox Cities Book Festival -- said:
Every library in the Fox Cities is here today, along with two mayors and a village administrator. This shows a sense of community which our leaders tells us we need badly to rebuild our nation and our world. It's an example of working together to build community and efficiency through collaboration.

Websites to check:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Strengthening families with Prime Time Reading

Early on Wednesday evening, 31 children and parents gather in the meeting room of the Appleton Public Library. About half are Hmong and a third Hispanic. They've come to share a meal, spend family time together and to help their children become better readers. Volunteers (shown at right), library staff, a storyteller and a scholar are there to help. It's Prime Time Family Reading Time.

Prime Time is a program originated by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. We've done it here in Appleton before, and our Children's staff has done great work to create multilingual opportunities for non-English speaking parents. Working with the schools and other agencies, we're able to identify and offer the program to families where the children need help with their reading. The program promotes family literacy and parents reading to children, turning families into library users.

Paraphrasing the LEH website: this is a six week program of reading, discussion, and storytelling for children age 6-10 their parents, and younger siblings. The APL program is adapted for families speaking Spanish & English as well as Hmong & English. Several participants have told staff they appreciate the opportunity to practice and sharpen their English language skills in this supportive atmosphere.

In each session, a storyteller demonstrates effective reading-aloud techniques, and a scholar leads discussions. Discussions center on humanities themes, such as fairness, greed and dreams, using award-winning and culturally diverse children’s books. Staff promotes library use by introducing resources: books on parenting and health care, homework help, ESL and GED materials for parents, newspapers and magazines.

LEH notes:
PRIME TIME transforms families into lifelong readers. It creates the precondition for all learning and helps to end the cycle of inter-generational illiteracy.
The APL program is funded by generous grants from the J. J. Keller Foundation and the Doug and Carla Salmon Foundation, and supported by the hard work of numerous volunteers who help welcome families and serve meals.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Building study 2009

APL RFP ASAP: the next phase of our facility study -- program design -- is underway. This week, we sent out a Request for Proposals for design services. A selection committee will review proposals we get and we hope to start the work in February with a report before summer.

What is program design? If we were doing a more aggressive timetable, it would happen as the first phase of building design and lead to construction drawings. In our case, we are moving more cautiously. We need to get better cost estimates and make a decision about, remodeling vs. new construction.

Last year's study gave us an estimate for overall space needs and recommended new construction as best for future library services -- while acknowledging that remodeling would have some advantages. We know that we cannot add more floors to our current building. But in any case, we're looking at a single library building, as branches would not be cost-effective, and that building should be downtown. This study, which will look at building footprint, is a precursor to any serious site discussion

Working with an architect who understands libraries, we'll do some detailed analysis of spaces and spatial relationships. If you were going to build a house, you'd need to decide how many bathrooms, whether the garage would be attached, where the kitchen would sit relative to dining, family and other functions.

The end result should be conceptual plans and drawings for alternative designs, with some better cost estimates. The community will then have better information for the next decisions, and we'll use the information to do some fund-raising. We expect that significant private dollars will be needed in any case.

Comments and questions are welcome!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ten Trends & Technologies for 2009

Provocative as usual, Prof. Michael Stephens has written a lengthy, dense, and intense posting on "Ten Trends & Technologies for 2009." His list was obviously assembled over time and with great detail, including implications for libraries and for library education. Full of examples including nuggets and head-scratchers, this is recommended reading for library planners, technologists and marketers. Noted trends include:
  • The Ubiquity of the Cloud
  • The Changing role of IT
  • The Value of the Commons
  • The Promise of Micro-Interaction
  • The Care & Nurturing of the Tribe
  • The triumph of the Portable Device
  • The importance of Personalization
  • The impact of Localization
  • The evolution of the Digital lifestyle
  • The shift toward Open Thinking
Stephens concludes by deriving:
Five Related Things We Just Can’t Ignore in Libraries:
  • Privacy
  • The Environment
  • The Nature of Information
  • Generation C
  • Telling Our Story Well to Funding Bodies
Download a PDF of Michael Stephens' entire "Tame the Web" post here.

"The best gift to give a child is a book"

A book can make a difference in the life of a child.

Our community is fortunate to have an active and effective Library Friends group, which for the past ten years has worked to gather and distribute books for children at the holidays. At today's Friends meeting, Ralph Dorn, our hardworking Children's Committee chair, shared the following, which he also submitted to the Post Crescent. The staff joins in thanking Ralph, the committee, our Friends and everyone who contributed:

GIFT OF BOOKS: A sincere thank you to those who contributed to the 10th annual Give a Child a Book Drive sponsored by the Appleton Friends of the Library — 3,737 new and gently used books were donated, the second-highest total in our 10 years of collecting and donating books for local underprivileged children. Books were distributed to four local organizations that serve children in need:

  • the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley,
  • Harbor House,
  • the Salvation Army and
  • the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley.

And $952 was donated for the purchase of additional books by the children's department of the Appleton Public Library. Many area schools also participated in the book drive, with Horace Mann Middle School in Neenah, Huntley Elementary and East High in Appleton leading the way in donated books. Thanks also to Jane O'Hagan, DeDe Corbett and Dick and Donna Kilsdonk for helping me count and sort thousands of books. The best gift to give a child is a book. It opens the world of knowledge and understanding for them.

Ralph Dorn,
Appleton Public Library Children's Committee chair,

(reprinted by permission of Ralph Dorn)

Social trends 2009

From Frank Martinelli's Nonprofit Picks of the Week blog comes a link to trends -- as identified by -- that will affect nonprofits, especially "social entrepreneurs." Many of these dovetail closely with our library's planning conversations; all are worth considering.
  • Globally-Engaged Education
  • Measuring Social Impact
  • Mobile Technology
  • Online Action Platforms
  • Blended Value Investing
  • Green Innovation
  • A Partner in the White House
More at

Friday, January 9, 2009

Libraries once a staple, now a necessity

NOTE: The two videos in the last two postings seem to be on auto-play. If necessary. hit the "pause button" on either to hear the other.

Matt Smith of WBAY did not one, but two, terrific pieces yesterday. My only minor quibble is I think we've always been a necessity -- we're just a bit more necessary these days.

"Oh God, it means the world right now"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Great WI library websites

The Wisconsin Library Association Media and Technology Section (MATS) has announced the 2008 "Webbie" awards in the following categories:

Best Innovative Use of Technology in Providing Library Services: LD Fargo Library YouTube Channel
Site designer: Gerard Saylor

Best Reference Site: Project Play
Site designers: Beth Carpenter, Joy Schwarz, Stef Morrill

Best Site for Kids: Monona Public Library
Site designer: Erick Plumb

Coolest Design: Beloit Public Library
Site designer: John Burns

Most Accessible Site: Wisconsin's Water Library
Site designer: UW-Madison, Aquatic Science Center

Best of the Best: LD Fargo Library YouTube Channel
Site designer: Gerard Saylor

Congratulations to all the winners, and a special shout-out to Project Play, which provided a great educational tool for our staff.

Intel's Social Media Policy

David Griner writes on the Social Path blog about Intel's new Social Media Guidelines,
... trust me when I tell you that Intel’s new Social Media Guidelines are barn-burning fare.

Standard business model: No matter how many people work at a company, only a select few employees are allowed to speak to the public. All statements must be approved by the top brass, who will be sure to suck the life out of any comment until it sounds like good-old corporate PR dreck.

The Intel model: Any employee can speak to the public. And the more interesting your perspective, the better.

... there’s no denying that this is an astounding bit of empowerment.

The guidelines, which go on in some detail, would be useful for a library in the process of retooling its website or examining electronic marketing. But they'd be good for any organization trying to get people more involved and reaching out -- encouraging creativity but requiring responsibility. Actually, the guidelines provide a useful perspective for all sorts of uses of the social web.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Best Careers 2009: Librarian

USA Today magazine's list of the 30 best careers includes librarian, noting:

Librarianship is an underrated career. Most librarians love helping patrons solve their problems and, in the process, learning new things. ...

That effort to land a job will be well worth it if you're well suited to the profession: love the idea of helping people dig up information, are committed to being objective—helping people gain multiple perspectives on issues—and will remain inspired by the awareness that librarians are among our society's most empowering people.

Thanks to Jessamyn West.

Library is hot, believe it or not!

Katie Couric and Laura Bush agree: public libraries are great -- as Katie says "believe it or not!" The attention is nice, but it's funny that people are apparently so amazed. It's not like we weren't busy before...
[story follows brief commercial]

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Homeless at the library

The Post Crescent today published a story about a homeless couple who hope to get married. The couple spends a substantial part of their day at our library, apparently using resources to look for work, reading and watching movies.

The responses in the paper's online comments have been coming thick and heavy. In between the personal attacks such online discussions generally devolve to, there's been some good discussion of homelessness and societal response, as well as the appropriateness of homeless people spending time at the library.

Like the post a couple days ago about sleeping at the library, this issue is not simple or one-sided. We know there are people in the community who would rather not have these folks at the library. I imagine these homeless folks would like to have more alternatives -- like a job or a place of their own. But their time at the library is limited only by their behavior: if they want to use the library and they're not interfering with other people's use of the library or bugging the staff, they're welcome.

What follows is my response on the newspaper's website:
Replying to susan1032003 [who said]:
First of all Appleton Public Librairy should not be a place for the homeless to hang out and look for work. That's what Job Service is for! I won't or can't stand going to the public library anymore because it does smell like, dirty socks, and underwear, PU!
The public library is for everyone who wants to use it and can behave decently. In over thirty years here, I've always seen people using the library to look for work -- as well as using Job Service, Workforce Development and other agencies.

The library is a source of Internet, newspaper classifieds, job and career info, and books with tips on resumes & interviewing. And, of course, the library offers opportunities to learn about almost anything.

On rare occasions, we've asked people to leave because they smelled so badly that it interfered with other people's ability to use the library. That's a sad situation, but most of the time, people are tolerant. We get more people all the time -- a broad cross-section of the community, with people from all economic strata. It's important to be available to all.

Terry Dawson, APL

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Yes, we're here for you.

Our December circulation was up 10.3% from the previous December -- we circ'd over 106,000 items. It's not like our use had been going down, but now it's really up. Yesterday, there was a story in the Wisconsin State Journal, As the economy goes down, traffic at the library goes up and today's Boston Globe had an op-ed piece The library - a recession sanctuary, which noted:
"Libraries are shining so brightly in this recession, the nation's politicians - from Obama to the mayors - must keep their lights flickering."
We're thankful for the local support from the community and our elected officials -- and for media attention. The State Journal article got me a radio interview on WHBY and a visit from a TV crew.The embedded video player from, Channel 5, has several stories. To view Angenette Levy's Jan. 2 story about APL, either cycle through the stories or click on the picture of the library bookshelf in the lower menu bar.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Squeeze play

As the economy gets worse, there's one place where business just keeps getting better: the public library.
...the Post Crescent noted in an article last week. Amen -- and just about every library staffer I know can corroborate this. The work keeps growing, even if the staff or the materials budget doesn't. We keep trying to get more efficient, and our strategies have included automation, training, volunteers and alternative revenue streams (grants, printing revenue, donations, etc.). But as the impact of a worsening economy continues to ripple through our community, concerns for the library will grow as well.

Then in a Dec. 30 editorial, the Post Crescent opined:
During this time of economic uncertainty and a projected $5.4 billion state budget shortfall, we should expect across-the-board cuts to state and county programs, to salaries and to jobs — deep cuts in some places. As Gov. Jim Doyle said during the dark days preparing for the next legislative session, "Everything should be on the table." We agree.
So, take a deep breath, folks. It may not matter how busy we get, how much difference we can make, or how much more we're needed -- if the money isn't there. This means lower wage increases for staff, decreases in insurance benefits, and obviously some people are considering other benefit reductions as well. Although our budget for the year is approved, our City Council is looking at imposing a hiring freeze -- and those of us who are ever busier would feel it more.

So what can we do?
  1. Don't panic. Douglas Adams' advice is always good -- we need to stay level-headed to provide the best service we can and deal with challenges.
  2. Keep perspective. We're not in this alone -- there's a global economic problem with particular implications for the public sector here in Wisconsin. We need to own our share. Just because libraries have to tighten belts doesn't mean we're a target. And if we're staying open and not doing big layoffs, we're ahead of many places.
  3. Trust in our value. "Everything is on the table" is hardly the same as"all is lost." We need to continuously re-examine our assumptions and goals, as well as our activities, but our importance as an institution is undiminished. Libraries have been socially vital for millenia; the Internet has, at least so far, increased the value of public libraries.
  4. Stay the course. Our strategies of automation, training, volunteers and alternative revenue streams have been effective, and we can find more ways to apply them. Although the economy has affected many people's ability to give, it has not stopped people from being generous to our Friends and Foundation. There's more work we can do.
  5. Work with the system. Our City Council, Mayor and our City Human Resources and Finance Departments may not have identical interests to library priorities, but our common interests are significantly larger than our differences. We're part of a federated library system and automation network with other significant common interests. We have a great Board and supporters. Together we can do our best for the community.
  6. Seek new efficiencies. 2009 will be a good year to go lean and green. Sustainable green practices can be more affordable in the short run while good for the library and the planet in the long run. And we can make a mindful effort to re-examine activities and processes for more efficiency. Our Technical Services staff is doing significantly more work -- through more efficient work flow and automation -- without significant staff growth. Our Business Manager came up with a plan to use different light bulbs that saves tens of thousands of dollars in utility bills. Our Circulation staff recently worked with our network to change the format of a routing slip in a way that saves a dozen hours a month in staff time. There's more that can be done.
Dang! Did I just do New Year's resolutions for the library director? If not, then here are some for me:
  1. Provide good community value -- ensure that our services are responsive, professional, friendly and efficient
  2. Speak up -- Communicate the library's value to help people make the best use of services, and to help funders understand needs and opportunities
  3. Advocate for our staff -- while helping the staff deal with the real impact of economic problems
  4. Keep planning -- we have a good long range library plan, technology plan and Foundation Plan. City staff is working to revise the City's strategic plan, and we need to do more planning with our Friends group. All our plans should be used, but re-examined to be useful living documents, not stone tablets.

DC libraries waken controversy

There's a tough dance between being a good librarian, compassionate, progressive, inclusive in providing service -- and yet tough-minded and aware that we're always making choices about scarce resources.
Proposed Rules Would Ban Sleeping in Library

By Martin Weil and Elissa Silverman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 29, 2008; Page B03

New rules have been proposed for D.C. public libraries, including a ban on sleeping and a limit on bringing in bags, in what library officials called an effort to make the system more welcoming. [full story]

The coverage is in the Washington Post, but the more interesting story is in the online comments posted, which constitute a fascinating debate about the role of libraries and the problems of homelessness. Seems to be a polarizing issue.

Our approach to date at APL has been to evaluate situations on the extent to which they cause a problem and interfere with library use. The occasional (non-snoring) sleeper has not been a problem, someone passed out in a chair in an alcoholic haze with a booze bottle in his pocket is a problem. If all our chairs were occupied by sleepers it would be different, but where's the line? It's tempting to be black & white: "sleeping is forbidden!", but for now that seems more unjust -- if simpler -- than the more difficult gray of judgement calls.