Staying Productive at Home

By Patrick Maloney

For the first time in my life, there is one singular thing looming in not only the mind of every American, but everyone in the world. Some of us are adapting to changes better than others, but with most Illinois libraries closed to the public or shut down altogether, it can be hard for us in library land to be thinking about anything else. If you’re anything like me, you haven’t stepped foot outside your house/apartment since you got the call that you didn’t have to come into work for three weeks, and you’re going a little stir crazy right about now. It’s hard not to feel useless when you’re stuck at home and not contributing anything, but I’ve found some activities that can help you keep your sanity through quarantine, and can make everything go a lot smoother when we all finally get back to work.

Reader’s Advisory
This one is pretty much a no brainer. If you work in a library, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that you enjoy reading. Naturally, when you have nothing but free time scheduled for the next few weeks, you’re probably going to be reading A LOT. By all means, I encourage you to read that title you’ve been excited about for months and just never found the time, but maybe take this time to step outside your comfort zone a little and get involved with a series or genre that you aren’t so familiar with. Personally, as someone who has worked in Reference/Adult Services for over a decade and has just recently accepted a position in Children’s Services, I’m taking this time for familiarize myself with more YA/Children’s books, and I’m enjoying them much more than I would have imagined. Don’t be caught like a deer in the headlights the next time a patron has an unusual request, get ahead of the curve today.

There are so many resources for library professionals on the internet that you could spend an entire quarantine on webinars alone and you still wouldn’t finish them all before you had to go back to work. Webinars are a big part of continuing education at both of my libraries, but there’s usually a very specific amount that we have to watch in a year, and admittedly, that’s usually where my interest in them stops. I never realized how much knowledge is out there for free, from really niche topics to creative ways of doing something you already do, its out there. A lot of webinars are live streaming events, but you can also find recordings of old ones as well. If there’s a library related topic you’ve always wondered about, now is the time to learn about it.

Group Chats
It can be hard to remember during social isolation that you aren’t doing this alone. Just because you aren’t in the same building doesn’t mean you can’t still collaborate with your coworkers. In my own anecdotal experience, it isn’t out of the question that you have your coworkers phone numbers, why not get a group chat going? You can talk about work, plan things out for when you all get back, or discuss strategies to best navigate these murky waters. It’s also nice just simply having someone to talk to being cooped up alone all day. Even if you don’t have each others numbers, there are plenty of ways to get in touch. Most social media or even an email chain will do. Get creative with it!

Don’t Even Bother
One thing I’ve learned the hard way to NOT even try to accomplish during quarantine is anything to do with programming. Everything is just too up in the air right now, and we don’t really have any concrete idea of when it’s going to be safe for large gatherings to happen again. Most presenters and/or off-site programming locations are not even interested in making any plans for an uncertain future at this time. It’s better to keep your ideas in your back pocket and use them when we have a clearer picture of what the future holds.

Right now the best thing any of us can do is stay home and wait for this all to blow over. Hopefully some of these suggestions will help you pass the time while you do so, with the added benefit of preventing total chaos by the time you finally get back to work. I’ll be once again including the links to the CDC and the Illinois Department of Health in case anyone still has any questions about the virus itself. Stay safe out there, and remember, we’re all in this together.


Illinois Department of Health:


Coronavirus and Home Delivery

By Olivia Buck

With the spread of coronavirus, I think we’ve all been hearing questions like, “What will your library do?” This is especially true for outreach library staff. As the Home Delivery Coordinator for Bloomington Public Library, I know that many of the patrons who use my services are elderly or have health issues that put them at a higher risk for catching this virus. Out of concern for these patrons, I’ve started reading up on the best ways to prevent COVID-19 per the CDC’s most current information and I have been looking into how other libraries are handling their outreach services in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m not an expert on disease prevention, but these are the things that I am currently doing to help the patrons on my service. If you are also an outreach service provider, please share your ideas in the comment section on how your own library is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. Of course, as the situation progresses, my current procedures may change to suit the needs of the patrons on the home delivery service.

  1. I am reaching out to each individual senior living and care facility which have residents that are recipients of this service. I am inquiring about the procedures that they are following regarding coronavirus and if they are currently planning on placing their facility under quarantine.
  2. For home delivery patrons who are living at home, I am writing a letter inquiring whether they feel comfortable continuing to receive deliveries or if they would like to suspend their service until the outbreak has been resolved.
  3. For any home delivery patrons that make the decision to suspend their service, I am extending due dates for two months.
  4. In addition, I am offering my home delivery patrons extra items to be brought on their next delivery date so that they can occupy their time if they decide to suspend their home delivery service.

For more information regarding coronavirus and prevention, please look at the CDC’s website, the Illinois Department of Health website, and your county’s health department website.


Illinois Department of Health:

Schedule B

By Shannon Kazmierczak

An old saying goes, “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.”

Well, the latter rings true this time of year, especially if you are working at a patron-facing service desk in a public library.

The dread of it all seems to set in earlier and earlier. This year I received my first tax related question the week before Christmas. The ink wasn’t even dry on my greeting cards and someone was asking if we had any forms!

We have a standard answer for that here at our library: “We don’t have that form, but if you come in, we can assist you in printing one out.”

I couldn’t even say that because the form wasn’t even live on the IRS website! (Oh, and Illinois forms–forget about it!)

Every year the amount of tax forms sent freely to the public libraries has dwindled to providing just the most basic of forms. This has made helping some of our elder populations and people who don’t have a tech mindset or are tech-phobic very hard. They are frustrated, they are fearful, and we are their first line of defense. Our patience is strong at the beginning, but somewhere around the 10th of April, when people are becoming manic, it wanes to non-existent.

The most helpless moments are trying to help people understand that we can not act as their CPA and we do not have the ability to learn that vast amount of knowledge in such a short time frame, as in, the 5 minutes during which we are having our reference interview. We can share resources, we can share phone numbers of the few free tax services, but what we can’t do is estimate what your taxes will be based on the tax table we just helped you print out.

However, every year there is a story that I like to take home with me and share, much like a war story. We will call this “Schedule B.”

Schedule B called earlier in the morning, asking for their namesake form.

I told Schedule B our gratis answer, “We don’t have that form, but if you come in, we can assist you in printing one out.”

Schedule B didn’t quite understand the statement. He asked if we had the form, and I responded to him we will when he gets here.

The conversation continued though and circled back to the original question, asking what forms we have, which we have just the basic 1040 forms. He asked, “Well do you have Schedule B?”

I think part of the problem was this man was also hard of hearing, and in a quiet library at 9:15 a.m., everyone wondered if Schedule B was available by the end of our conversation.

Well Schedule B finally came in, thankfully when I was no longer on desk, and wondered where his forms were. Thankfully my co-worker, who knew about Schedule B, printed it at the ready with no questions asked.

So all I can say, friends, is that we still have another 6 weeks of tax season to go. Let us be granted the serenity to help our patrons to find the forms they need, the courage to tell them we can’t help them like a CPA can, and the wisdom to find our own tax preparer and not bother our local librarians.

C2E2 Most Anticipated 2020

By Patrick Maloney

It seems that everywhere you look nowadays, comic books and comic culture have seeped into our collective consciousness. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominates the box office, Netflix is busy throwing wads of cash at every indie property that has even the slightest promise of becoming the next big thing. If you somehow live in a town whose mall isn’t a complete and total ghost town by now, comic book t-shirts and accessories are essentially the only thing keeping Hot Topic alive, while dramatic catchphrases and comic book memes have infiltrated our vernacular in a big way. I’ll be the first to tell you that it hasn’t always been like this, but it’s safe to say that this phenomenon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and hopefully your library already has an impressive comic/graphic novel collection. As one of the perks of my job as a library associate, I was given the opportunity to attend Day 1 of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) this past weekend, held at McCormick Place in downtown Chicago. As a comic book enthusiast myself, I loved every second, and made sure to make a small list of some of my most anticipated titles coming out this year. If these titles aren’t already on your radar, make it a point to get acquainted with them. Your patrons will be happy you did.


Rusty Brown by Chris Ware. Pantheon Books, September 2019

As I may have hinted at a little before, it’s only semi-recently that I could even write about comics for adults. Long maligned as a medium for children, it is only semi-recently that graphic novels have begun to be taken seriously as an art form. Leading the pack is a title that has already been available for a few months, but deserves to be on this list arguably more than any other, and that is Rusty Brown. Described as a “fully interactive, full-color articulation of the time-space interrelationships of three complete consciousnesses in the first half of a single midwestern American day and the tiny piece of human grit about which they involuntarily orbit. A sprawling, special snowflake accumulation of the biggest themes and the smallest moments of life”, this isn’t your grandfather’s Sunday funnies. Often described as one of the first truly “highbrow” comics, Rusty Brown will take you on a trip. Anything Chris Ware has ever written should be part of your collection.

Venom by Donny Cates. Marvel Enterprises, Ongoing

Donny Cates is currently one of the most sought after names in comics, and for good reason. Rather than playing it safe or rehashing the same tired storylines, Donny likes to think outside the box and really push his characters to the limit. He is currently doing a run on Marvel Arch-villain Venom, and it is slowly becoming one of my favorite interpretations of the character. The first two issues are already available, with plenty more where that came from as the year goes on.


My Hero Academia – Vigilantes by Hideyuki Furuhashi. Viz, Ongoing

Manga/Anime seems to be the name of the game with teens these days, and My Hero Academia is an absolute juggernaut. The anime is a smash hit all across the globe, and it would certainly behoove your library to have it on DVD, but I would argue that the manga is even better. A lot of action, a little bit of satire, and some subtle jabs at the current political landscape make up one of the hottest manga properties on shelves today. Another title that is already well into the series, with new issues spread out throughout the year.

I Am Not Okay With This by Charles Forsman. Fantagraphics Books, December 2017/February 2020

Fantagraphics was notably absent from the vendor list this weekend, but I managed to finally grab a copy of this gem at the Chicago Comics booth. This is another one that has been out for a while, but has been reinvigorated by a new Netflix adaptation. It’s an interesting look at the phenomenon of having super powers rolled up into a teenage coming of age story. Nostalgic nods to 80’s teen movies abound, but are done really well without any corniness. The combination of strong 80’s nostalgia and the fact that retro fashion and technology is so trendy right now has me halfway through and not exactly sure when the story takes place, which may or may not have been done on purpose, and really highlights the fact that some things truly never do change.


The Adventure Zone – Petals to the Metal/ The Adventure Zone Set by Various Authors. First Second, July 2020/October 2020

By far the biggest and most populated children’s comics vendor this weekend was First Second. You may know them from Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s smash hit Real Friends book series, but 2020 is geared towards their OTHER mega successful property, The Adventure Zone. It’s a podcast, it’s a cartoon, and it’s a comic. It’s family friendly and fun for all ages. Anyone who loves DnD or a good old fashioned fantasy epic will love The Adventure Zone, and if your library doesn’t already have a ton of copies, you’ve got some catching up to do. Petals to the Metal, their latest installment, hits shelves in July, while the full box set with lots of extra goodies is expected in October.

DC Super Hero Girls by Amy Wolfram. DC Comics, ongoing

I would be remiss if I didn’t include any offerings from the other member of “the big two”, and as far as children’s comics go, DC is absolutely crushing it out of the park. Depending on how much time you spend on the internet, the comic community can sometimes feel like a bit of a “boys club”. DC seeks to nip that in the bud as early as possible with young readers by highlighting their female superheroes in their DC Super Hero Girls series. Already a smash hit Cartoon Network series, these comics are a great starting point for young readers just getting into the DC lore. The newest issue hit shelves on March 17.

All in all, these are just a small fraction of the great titles coming out this year. If you are in any way unfamiliar with comics and/or graphic novels, I would encourage you to take a deep dive. There truly is something for everyone in the world of comics, and they will only be increasing in quality as more and more writers and artists push themselves to their limits. It’s a great time to be a comic book fan, and an even better time to be a librarian with a fully stocked graphic novel section at their disposal. Happy hunting, and in the words of the late, great comics legend Stan Lee: Excelsior!

History of the Bookmobile

By Olivia Buck

Since I began my training to become a Bookmobile Driver, I have been a bit Bookmobile crazed. I’ve learned so much about the Bookmobile itself, but I have also learned about the history of our Bookmobile service at Bloomington Public Library. This has included information about the history of Big Bs past and present, as well as stories from other drivers about Bookmobile adventures and mishaps. I’ve put together a short history of our wonderful Bookmobiles.

This photo courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.

Bloomington Public Library’s Bookmobile program began in the fall of 1930. The library, called Wither’s Public Library at the time, bought a motorized book wagon and distributed books at 10 different offsite locations.

This photo courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.

In 1961, the library purchased a used bookmobile from Moline Public Library. This new-to-us Bookmobile could carry 1,500 books at a time.

These photos courtesy of McLean County Museum of History.

In 1965 a new Bookmobile was purchased. However, in 1976, the Bookmobile’s lower panels had rusted and thus the Bookmobile was reconditioned and given a beautiful new paint job. The name Wither’s Public Library was removed from the Bookmobile as the new Bloomington Public Library was set to open in 1977.

These photos courtesy of McLean County Museum of History.

In 1979, a new Bookmobile was purchased. This one came with a slogan written on the back which said, “We Move Our TALES for You.” In 1990, this bookmobile received a new cab, chassis, and paint job. That year, the Golden Prairie Public Library District (GPPLD) began contracting with Bloomington Public Library to offer library services to residents of the Golden Prairie Library District. This means that this Bookmobile was the first to visit stops outside of Bloomington in the townships of Arrowsmith, Old Town, Dale, and Dawson.

This photo courtesy of McLean County Museum of History.

In February of 1999, Bloomington Public Library purchased a new Bookmobile.This Bookmobile could hold up to 6,000 items. It was also the first to be outfitted with staff computers which arrived in 2000. When Bloomington Public Library replaced this Bookmobile, it received a new paint job and moved to Palmetto, Florida where it serves the Kiwanis Club by bringing free books to children.

These photos courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.

After 16 years of service, we replaced the previous Bookmobile in April of 2015 with our current Big B. This Bookmobile visits over 40 stops throughout the Bloomington Public Library and Golden Prairie Public Library Districts.

Over the last 90 years at Bloomington Public Library, we have had 8 versions of Bookmobiles, many drivers, and have served countless patrons in Bloomington and beyond. I am so honored and excited to get to be one of the newest members of the Bookmobile Driver team that we currently have working at Bloomington Public Library.

Young Adult Literature Read-Alikes

By Allison Riggs

I created and maintain a booklist binder that is kept at our Teen Place Desk for use by library staff that may not be familiar with YA literature, for patrons that don’t necessarily want to interact with staff but would still like some reading suggestions, or for those times when your brain freezes up and all of a sudden you forget every book you have ever read/heard of. I have been continually adding titles to the genre lists throughout the year while also making sure they feature diverse titles, and will have the updated ones printed before summer when we get the most readers’ advisory questions. I also make read-alike lists throughout the year based on readers’ advisory questions I get while on desk and popular trends.

Today I want to share some of my latest lists with you all in case you would like to use them for readers’ advisory purposes, displays, or for your own reading! The lists I keep in the binder include a short synopsis of each title along with the book cover and call number to make it more user friendly, but to keep this post from being extremely long I only included the book titles with short descriptors. If I haven’t read the book myself, I used NoveList’s story elements that are featured with each title to help me with the descriptors. NoveList’s The Secret Language of Books: A Guide to Story Elements is a great resource when making read-alike lists and for completing other readers’ advisory tasks. 

If you liked To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, try

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda Becky Albertali (Character Driven, LGBTQ) 

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett (Love/Hate, Summer) 

29 Dates by Melissa De la Cruz (Love Triangle, Character Driven) 

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light (Fake Dating, Family Relationships) 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandyha Menon (Own Voices, RomCom)  

Fake it Till You Break It by Jenn P Nguyen (Fake Dating, Own Voices) 

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West (Fake Dating, Self-Discovery) 

Frankly in Love by David Yoon (Fake Dating, Family Relationships) 

If you liked Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, try

Symptoms of a Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra (Teen Doctor, Own Voices) 

The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Bittersweet, Character Driven) 

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (Mental Illness, Romance) 

Just Breathe by Cammie McGovern (Secrets, Fast-Paced) 

Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz (Chronic Illness, Romance) 

The Stars and Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (Mixed Media w/ Poetry, LGBTQ) 

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider (Character Driven, Romance) 

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (Character Driven, Mixed Media w/ texts and illustrations) 

If you liked One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, try: 

Little White Lies by Jennifer Barnes (Fast-Paced, High-Drama) 

Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau (Multiple POVs, Fast-Paced) 

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston (Plot-Driven, Investigation) 

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (Boarding School, Mystery) 

People Like Us by Dana Mele (Boarding School, Psychological Suspense) 

We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott (Multiple POVs, Fact-Paced) 

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas (Nonlinear, Fast-Paced) 

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban (Suspenseful, Nonlinear) 

College of DuPage LTA Student Interview #4

By Amanda Musacchio

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with College of DuPage Library and Information Technology students. These interviews were conducted by myself, Amanda Musacchio, Program Chair and Instructor at the College of DuPage. The Library and Information Technology Program includes a 30 credit Library and Information Technology Certificate as well as a 64 credit Associate in Applied Science Library and Information Technology Degree. For more information, please contact me at

This interview features current student, Jean McDonough.

Jean McDonough

1. What would you like to share about yourself?

I am currently a preschool-eighth grade elementary school librarian at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Cary, Illinois. I have also taught middle school art and language arts in public schools, as well as creative writing at universities in Michigan. In addition to my experience as a teacher and school librarian, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry Writing. Because I have so many different interests, librarianship is my perfect calling, encompassing my life-long love of learning.

2. What are you excited about that is happening in Illinois libraries (and beyond)?

I am excited that many libraries are embracing the STEM movement in Illinois. A couple of years ago, I created makerspace kits where students can experiment with robotics and electrical circuits. Students collaborate with these kits in small groups, using their critical thinking skills as well as their knowledge of design principles. My library is not always quiet, but it is creative! I am also interested in the growing realization on the part of school librarians that students must be taught more robust information literacy skills in order to help them effectively evaluate the credibility of information they find online.

3. What is something interesting you have discussed in your classes?

In my Reference and Information Services class, we have been discussing the evolving nature of reference in light of the prevalence of patrons relying on online information for their research. In many ways, reference service has become more important due to the changing nature of patron questions. It has also become more challenging to find accurate facts when there is so much misinformation and fake news available.

4. How do you see yourself contributing to the Illinois Library world in five-plus years?

I hope to become involved in a larger network of school librarians. In the past few years, I have collaborated with the Cary Area Library and Cary Junior High in order to offer a city-wide Battle of the Books after-school program. Collaboration between librarians is important, not only to share resources but also to inspire each other with ideas.

5. What do you like most about the College of DuPage Library and Information Technology Program?

Because I am taking my classes entirely online, I appreciate the flexibility I have to complete assignments. I also enjoy hearing the perspectives of my peers during online discussions; they have so many different educational backgrounds and library experiences. Finally, my instructors are very good about presenting relevant and current content as it relates to the function of libraries in the 21st century.

Preparing for the 2020 Census

By Allison Riggs

The 2020 Census is almost here! Why should libraries care? To put it simply, the 2020 population numbers gathered from the Census will shape how political power and federal tax dollars are shared in the U.S over the next 10 years. We want to help make sure the communities we serve are getting accurately counted so they get the appropriate funding and representation in Congress and the Electoral College. Libraries across the country are preparing to help make sure everyone gets counted in this year’s Census, and the library where I work, the Schaumburg Township District Library, is no exception.

How is the Schaumburg Library preparing for the Census?

An Interactive Display: We will have a Census 101 display along with a true or false lift the flap interactive component to help clear up common misconceptions about the census. The display will also include a sticker-by-number mosaic for patrons to complete that will reveal a “Be Counted” message.

Library Swag: We’ve created bookmarks that will be available at all locations, and we’ll have buttons for staff to wear to promote the census.

Print and Social Media: The Library sent press releases to local media and will discuss the census during one of our monthly columns in the Daily Herald. We will also be using our social media pages to encourage our patrons to complete the census using eye-catching graphics.

Discussions During Regular Programming: We will be highlighting the census during our regular programming. Our librarians have already begun familiarizing patrons during our ESL Conversation Clubs about what the census is, why we do it, and what to expect throughout the process. They showed them copies of the online census invite and the paper form, so they know what to expect when they receive it.

Designated Computer: Since the census can be completed online, we will have a designated computer in Youth Services that will give parents the opportunity to fill out the census while they are at the library with their children.

Library Website: We have a dedicated page about the 2020 Census that is highlighted on our homepage for ease of access.  

Informational Drop-In Sessions: These two-hour long staff-led sessions will be held at three different times every Wednesday during the month of March, once at our central location and once at each of our branches.

Staff Awareness: The Library has been preparing staff for the upcoming census since November by providing us with a PDF that explains why we should care, how the census will work, what questions will be asked, what won’t be asked, and more. This guidance has helped us to feel confident in answering patrons’ questions.  

Working with the Community: We have three staff members that are on the various Complete Count Committees in our service area. The Schaumburg Library is also co-sponsoring a movie night with the Hoffman Estates Village Hall and Hoffman Estates Complete Count Committees, hosting recruitment events with local field offices as they look to hire census workers, and will have an informational program titled Census 2020: Be Counted! that is sponsored by Schaumburg-Hoffman Estates Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

2020 Census Resources

ILA’s Census 2020 Resources Page

RAILS Census Toolkit for Libraries

ALA’s Libraries’ Guide to the 2020 Census

United States Census Bureau Website

Go Where The People Are

By Patrick Maloney

Before I transitioned into full time library mode, I played bass in a punk band that frequently toured the country, and often received a lot of really bad advice on how to “make it big” from hordes of people who thought they had it all figured out. Out of the never ending stream of industry insiders and fellow musicians spouting nonsense at me, it was an old biker guy at a dingy dive bar in Nebraska who finally told me what I needed to hear.

“Go where the people are.”

On the surface, it sounds nonsensically simple. If anything, he was pointing out that maybe the middle of a cornfield wasn’t the best place to be if we were actually trying to make any money. He was also very drunk. But in that moment, something inside me clicked. I knew he was onto something, and while my music career has long been over, I still go back to those words on a regular basis. If your end goal is to create unique and engaging programming at your library, the answer IS nonsensically simple. Go where the people are.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me ask you this. What exactly is the purpose of library programming? I find myself asking the same question nearly every programming cycle, and the two answers I tend to land on are generally what I will eventually sculpt my programs around. One of the answers coincides with what I believe to be a core tenet of librarianship, and that is service to one’s community. There are a myriad of ways in which your local library serves its community, and I could write a blog post on every one of them, but programming is unique in that the returns on investment are usually immediate. Whether its device help for the technologically impaired, storytimes that kick start a child’s love of reading, or the ever looming tax prep help some libraries are currently offering, you can literally watch a patron leave the library quantifiably better off than when they entered. Personally, that is one of my favorite parts of what I do.

The second conclusion that I always seem to come to…and the one we will be focusing on today…is that programming serves to generate interest in the library itself. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? People need to already have an interest in the library to have an interest in the programming it offers, but in order to garner interest in the library, we need a strong number of engaging programs that get people excited enough to take the plunge and sign up for a library card. Luckily, ALL of the aforementioned services the library offers are working towards this goal as well, so you can usually be sure you’ll have at least some sort of built in audience, but a great program can accomplish these goals like no other. The Joliet Public Library’s (where I am currently employed) annual blockbuster event Star Wars Day has consistently drawn nearly ten thousand people for the past several years. An event like this certainly serves the community with a free and family friendly source of entertainment on the first Saturday in June, but the exposure the library receives each year simply cannot be overstated. Every single year our circs spike up around this time, library card signups increase, and there’s just generally a whole lot of momentum heading into summer reading, our busiest time of the year. I have personally overheard children begging their parents to bring them back to the library after discovering it for the first time at Star Wars Day, and that is the type of reaction we should all be striving for with our programming.

Of course, bringing in ten thousand people, a good portion of which are not regular library goers, on any given weekend isn’t usually feasible by any stretch of the imagination. Luckily, there are still quite a few other ways to use your programming to get new people into your library, my favorite of them being off-site programming. Aside from being an easy way to circumvent the headache of getting whatever license you may need to serve food or alcohol, most of the time you are working with a business that likes making money, and therefore has a vested interest in making your event a success, so you’ve already got some built in promotion. This is an integral part of why off-site programming works so well, because with enough promotion from the venue, there’s no limit to how many fresh eyes will be on your program that wouldn’t otherwise be. Add in some current library patrons who would have come regardless of the location, as well as attendees who are interested in the subject matter but for whatever reason have no desire to actually step foot into a library, and you’ve got all the makings of a successful off-site program. Be sure to dole out as many program guides, fliers for specific and targeted upcoming programs, and general information and pamphlets about what services your library offers as you can physically carry to the location, along with a boatload of free swag. You only get one chance to make an impression on the newcomers, so you’re going to want to get it right. No pressure or anything.

That being said, not all off-site programs are created equal. You’re still going to need to put on a great program that people are going to be interested in. I’ve certainly found success by tapping into some more niche markets…both an open mic night and a poetry reading that took place at a local record store as well as a collaboration with a local comic shop on Free Comic Book Day were huge hits…but sometimes just a fun change of atmosphere will bring out the masses in droves. One of our biggest

events was a trivia night at a local brewery, so much so that we decided to do three more, all of them just as successful as the last. People are going to drink beer and play trivia on their own time anyway, why not introduce them to the wonders of the library while they’re at it?

At the end of the day, this isn’t rocket science. No one is asking you to reinvent the wheel or even do anything particularly groundbreaking. Your community is filled with people who could benefit from using your library and they don’t even know it yet. There’s only one thing you have to do to find them:

Go where the people are.

The Training of a Bookmobile Driver – Part 1

By Olivia Buck

At the end of January, I moved into a new position at Bloomington Public Library. I became an LTA, the Home Delivery Coordinator, and a Bookmobile driver all at once. Of course, when I started the position, I did not have a commercial driver’s license. Therefore, my Bookmobile driver training began!

A little background about our Bookmobile (lovingly called Big B by many library staff members) at Bloomington Public Library. We drive to over forty locations throughout Bloomington and the Golden Prairie Public Library District. In addition to our regular stops, the Bookmobile also makes special appearances at various community events.

Although some mobile libraries are built on the frames of former-school buses, our Big B was custom-built to be a Bookmobile. The Bookmobile weighs 33,000 pounds, is 32.5 feet long, 8 feet wide, and is 12.25 feet tall. It is stocked with materials for all ages, totalling at approximately 3,000 items for each stop that the Bookmobile visits. Those who come onto the Bookmobile will find a variety of fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, magazines, music, movies, and videogames.

Big B!

With the help of the six Bookmobile drivers at Bloomington Public Library, I have started my training. These are the steps of the process that I will going through in order to get my commercial driver’s license:

Step 1: Read the Illinois CDL Study Guide (AKA study, study, practice test, study)

Step 2: Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) Test & Air Brake Endorsement Test

Step 3: Practice driving with other Bookmobile drivers

Step 4: CMV Pre-Trip Inspection Test

Step 5: CMV Basic Vehicle Control Skills Test

Step 6: On-Road Driving Test


I have been working on Steps 1 and 2 of my Bookmobile-Driver-To-Be To-Do List. When I received the guide, the Circulation Supervisor (and fellow Bookmobile Driver) had highlighted important sections and showed me what I needed to learn in order to be ready to take my tests. Thus commenced Step 1. For the past couple of weeks, I have been studying the Illinois CDL Study Guide. I have been scheduled for at least 2 hours of study time each day in order to learn all of the technical details of the various systems and parts of a commercial motor vehicle, all the laws that CMVs must obey, safety measures to take while on and off the road, etc. I’ve had writer’s cramps in my hand from penning page after page of notes.

The reading has been slow going. Partially because I am a very slow reader and partly because the material can be so technical. When I finally finished reading a section, I would answer the practice questions included in the guide and then review any areas that I felt weak in. After completing all the sections of required reading in the CDL Study Guide for a Class B license with the air brake endorsement, I started using other study methods to reinforce the knowledge that I had learned from the CDL Study Guide.

I used our library catalog to locate two books in our Test Prep collection for CDL test preparation. The book that I found the most helpful was CDL: Commercial Driver’s License Exam by Matt Mosher. It had practice tests for the Core Knowledge Test as well as tests for each CDL endorsement (including air brakes). Each test came with easily copyable fill-in-the-blank test sheets that I could use. In addition to an answer key, the book included a “Detailed Explanations of Answers” section after each test that helped you learn your weak points and why your answer was incorrect. After taking each practice test, the detailed explanations of answers sections really helped me.

In addition to the books in our catalog, I also went onto good old Google and searched for Illinois CDL practice tests. I found a handful of practice tests for both the Core Knowledge test as well as the Air Brake Test.

This morning, I went to the DMV and took my Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) Test and my Air Brake Endorsement Test. I waited in a line, got my photo taken, and took my tests. For each test, you can take it up to 3 times before you have to wait for several days before you can retake the tests. When I sat down at the testing computer, I had nervous butterflies in my stomach. Tapping through question after question with growing confidence, I realized I really was quite well prepared. Finally answering the last question, I instantly got my test score. I passed! I now have my CLP.

Starting next week, I will be moving on to the next phase of my Bookmobile Driver training: Driving Big B!