Friday, February 27, 2009

Diversity: What is Your Comfort Level?

I'm excited that next Saturday, March 7, Appleton will host a Diversity Conference. Our library will be a participant at the event, held at Appleton North High School and sponsored by the Fox Cities Rotary Multicultural Center -- of which the library is a member.

I have long felt that public libraries have a natural affinity for diversity efforts. Inclusiveness and opportunity for the entire community are part of our core values, and our continuing focus on intellectual freedom means we are bound to seek out and include all points of view. So I'm glad we'll be participating in this conference, which "is to provide ideas, resources and inspiration to educators and community members to make a difference", with a focus on
  • Enhancing a Multicultural Learning Environment
  • Eliminating the Achievement Gap
  • Fostering Social Justice/Activism
  • Promoting Multicultural Education in the 21st Century
Sessions will include, among others:
  • Eliminating the Achievement (Opportunity) Gap through Multicultural Education: Shifts of Consciousness and Practice
  • Societal Trends Affecting Education
  • Mental Health Issues in the Classroom and the Community
  • Integrating Multicultural Literature Into Curriculum: A Space and Place For All
  • Closing the Knowledge Gap is a key to Eliminating the Achievement Gap
  • Honoring our Common Differences: Creating Inclusive Classroom or Workplaces
  • Disparities in Poverty and Race: Closing the Achievement Gap
  • Promoting an Inclusive Environment for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender Individuals in our Schools, Workplace, and Community
  • Diversity Resources at the Appleton Public Library
  • Lawrence University ArtsBridge: A Successful Model for Integrating the Arts with the Contemporary World Studies Curriculum
  • Our Impoverished Notions of Poverty: Toward an Authentic Understanding of Education and Class
  • Community Dialogue on Unity and Diversity
I'm glad our community is intentional about this conversation and look forward to the increased awareness that will result. I'm proud we can be a small part of it. Get a brochure for the event here.

Library building study 2009

There's more unemployment. The world's economy continues to degrade, and is not likely to significantly improve before next year. Appleton voters defeated two school referenda. Is this any time to be planning to grow the library?

Emphatically, yes.

There are three reasons this is a good time for planning. First, to plan is not to build, but to be ready to build when the time is right. Second, the need to do this was well established years ago, and strongly demonstrated again in the study done last year, even before the economic downtourn. Third, the worsening economy has made the library even more important in many lives.

The library's volume of business has been growing steadily for years, but in recent months has grown in leaps with the economic problems. The added library use gives us a preview of how crowded we will continue to be without more space. The poor economy has re-emphasized our need to find new efficiencies in operations, even while it reminds us that we need to plan for brighter days.

Our 2008 study, involving about 1,000 community members in surveys, focus groups, interviews and town hall meetings, reaffirmed that our library needs a larger space designed to efficiently provide 21st century services. This year, we will work with architects to roughly lay out spaces to do this work. We'll plan sizes, adjacencies, and functions. We'll look at cost options for a new building vs. remodeling current space. We'll get a vision of what could be.

When that vision will be realized may be uncertain. But it is certain that we need to be ready for a better future and move in that direction. The staff and Board of our library will keep talking and will keep involving the community. We won't go forward until this city is ready to go forward, but this is a good time to plan: realistically and hopefully looking toward the future.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Post Crescent coverage of Prime Time

Reporter Cheryl Anderson from the Post-Crescent did a nice article:
Cheryl Anderson: It's Prime Time again for library's literacy program
February 10, 2009

Each Wednesday evening, 31 children and parents gather at the Appleton Public Library to share a nutritious meal and then a story at the multilingual, multigenerational Prime Time Family Reading Time. ...
I posted a story about this program last month, and I continue to be proud of our children's staff and thankful for the grants and volunteers that make this program possible. We've seen some of the families participating in the Summer Library Program, so we have reason to think the program is effective. I'm hopeful we'll find the resources to make it a regular service.

Building on our support

[my before-dinner speech at the I Love My Library dinner, Feb. 8, 2009]
There are a lot of people to thank for tonight, starting with all of you who came here in support of our library.

The best way I can show my appreciation is not to talk too long, because I know we're all waiting to enjoy a good meal. But I need to thank all the people whose names you see in your program: it takes a lot of work and not a few dollars to make an evening like this happen. So I first want to thank all those who sponsored, who solicited and donated silent auction items, and who did the work to prepare for tonight. Volunteers and staff have worked together so we can enjoy this evening.

Librarians are frequently asked questions, and a question I hear often is "What's happening with the Library building?" And to briefly share the answer with all of you, we're still looking at questions and making plans. We know that this is hard time for the economy of the whole planet as well as Appleton, and this is not the time to spend millions of dollars. But we also know that as things are difficult, libraries become more important to more people.

My job is to look at the long-term library service needs of our community. Most of what we do, libraries have been doing for millennia: collecting knowledge, organizing and making it available in service of education, commerce, spirit and community. More recently, public libraries are devoted to self improvement, helping people make informed decisions, family literacy, assistance in making productive use of online resources and providing open gathering places in a world where communication and learning uses electronics but depends on human interaction.

We know that libraries change lives and provide gateways and tools for transformation. We are fortunate to enjoy community support from donors, elected officials, volunteers and library users. We are fortunate to be part of a community that values learning and is rich in resources, with opportunities to collaborate with schools, community groups and other libraries in programs like Project Promise, Fox Cities Reads and the Fox Cities Book Festival.

What does that mean for the library building? Last year's study told us that we need more space for library users and materials. But even more, we need a facility that's designed to let us deliver service efficiently, that aids in security, that offers opportunities to access adequate electronic resources, that offers readily available spaces for gathering and programs. And so this year, we're going to look at some alternative layouts and costs. We're not ready to design a building, or to decide on location, until we first design some spaces and arrangements to provide the services the community needs from us. We'll be doing that this Spring and will keep everyone informed of the discussions, so the decision-makers on the Library Board and City Hall can determine next steps and a timeframe.

Neither last year's study nor this year's could have happened without funding from our Library Foundation. This effort has truly been a public-private partnership and I'm grateful that all of you have gotten us where we are. We know that as we go forward, we will continue to need community support on many levels. The staff will do our best, but the decisions about the library belong to all of you.

Thank you -- and now here's Rev. Will Bloedow to say grace for us.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Grace for the library: a wing and a prayer

At last night's Library Foundation fundraiser, the "I Love My Library" dinner, Library Board member Rev. Will Bloedow offered the following:
In 1943 Harold Adamson and Jimmie McHugh wrote a patriotic song which tells of a damaged warplane barely able to limp back to base.
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
Though there’s one motor gone
We can still carry on
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer.
This image and song came to mind for me on January 15 of this year when US Air Flight 1459 came in on a wing and lots of prayers as it landed in the Hudson River in New York City. The image of 155 people standing literally ON A WING speaks to where we as Americans and Fox City residents stand at this junction of history. On that day the people of the world witnessed how a potential tragedy was averted by TEAM WORK (pilot, crew, air controller and rescuers working together, helping all to live to see a new day).

Tonight we gather to celebrate our library, an important wing on which we stand together (community, city government, corporations, patrons of the library, library staff), all part of a great team that not only hopes but believes that we will live to see many new days as we live into the future.

So with this in mind, let us pray as we gather together:

To you who is the guide for love and life, we give thanks for the wing of community and support.

We give thanks for the wing of teamwork and collaboration. We pray for hope, understanding, new vision and the courage to take risks.

Bless our fellowship, our food, and give us a continuing appreciation for the Appleton Public Library which provides sources of uplift for the people of the Fox Cities and beyond.