¿Hablas español?: Serving Spanish-Speaking Patrons at Bloomington Public Library

By Olivia Buck

It can be difficult for libraries to reach out to the members of our communities who speak a language other than English. Not all staff members can communicate with patrons who speak other languages, the patrons may not understand the speakers at our programs, documents can’t be translated into every language we may need, etc. As someone who minored in Spanish in school (and someone who is passionate about languages in general), I have spent time trying to think of new ways to reach out to those who primarily speak Spanish (or other languages). I am always excited to hear about the ways that we can serve these members of our community.

I talked to several staff members at my library to create a list of all the various ways we reach out to non-English speaking members of our community. Below you will find a list of the various methods our library has used in order to try to engage with the non-English speakers in our area.

  • Self-Checkouts have a Spanish language option available.

Patrons can tap a button that allows them to use the self-checkout in Spanish. This way they can easily checkout, view their accounts, and renew their items.

  • Spanish Checkout Guides and Marketing

At BPL, we have had a Spanish Checkout Guide for many years. The guide introduces new patrons to our services and library card policies. When signing up new cardholders, I have used this to help me explain the card in a way that will make the most sense to Spanish-speaking patrons. We have also translated some of our Summer Reading Program documents into Spanish.

  • World Language Collections

Our World Language Collections include a variety of languages including Spanish, French, German, Hindi, Tagalog, and several others. We have materials for patrons of all ages which include books, movies, music, and audiobooks. We also have e-books and e-audiobooks available in Spanish for our patrons to check out online.

  • Language Learning Resources

Our library has a variety of language learning resources available to our patrons. In addition to books, movies, and audio CDs, we have online resources available as well. These include: Duolingo, Mango Languages, Sign Language 101, and Transparent Language Online.

  • Programming

Our library has hosted various programs that may appeal to those of other cultures and backgrounds. Examples include the following: Celebration of India, Día de los niños, and the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

Our library’s Outreach Library Associate also attends various community events that reach out to groups of people the library may not have contact with otherwise. She has attended meetings with a group called Conexiones Latinas de McLean County and signed up library cards for ESL students at the nearby community college.

  • Spanish Book Club

In February 2019, Bloomington Public Library started a Spanish Book Club (club de lectura en español). As the name suggests, the selected book is written in Spanish and the book discussion is largely in Spanish as well. Discussed titles have included Mi negro pasado, Más allá del invierno, and others. The club is facilitated by a Spanish Literature professor from a nearby university. The Spanish Book Clubs have been well attended, by both native speakers as well as a few attendees who were learning Spanish. The participants come from all different backgrounds including patrons originally from Columbia, Guatemala, Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries. Attendees have expressed excitement about the book club. In fact, they have organized their own meetings outside of the library and have put together a Facebook group to keep up with members of the book club. At the first meeting of the book club, approximately 50% of attendees had never had a library card before, and signed up for a card that day.

  • Foreign Language Contacts

On our staff webpage, we have compiled a list of staff members who speak other languages. The staff members volunteered to be a point of contact for patrons who speak various languages. Currently these languages include Spanish, Italian, and German. It has been a helpful resource. As a Spanish language contact, I have been called upon to help Spanish speakers sign up for library cards, inquire about lost or damaged items on their accounts, assist with computers and printing, and a variety of other topics.


Public Libraries Versus the Echo Chamber

By Don McKay

The provocatively titled book Bowling Alone uses declining participation in bowling leagues to illustrate the erosion of in-person social intercourse in America. The author blames this development on technologies like television and the internet that make it easy to spend our leisure time alone. Since the book’s publication in 2000, social media and our ability to curate what we read, watch and listen to when and where we want have accelerated expectations for individualized experience. We are increasingly aware of the consequences, good and bad.

One consequence that may be personally satisfying, but socially harmful, is the “echo chamber,” that popular metaphor for a closed system that amplifies or reinforces a certain, often narrow, point of view. The term may be new, but echo chambers are not—they seem part of that tribal mentality inseparable from the human condition. What is new is the social influence exerted by echo chambers that are nourished by the internet. Echo chambers are designed to exclude and polarization naturally follows.

Public libraries are an antidote to echo chambers. They are inclusive institutions—they literally welcome everyone. They have a democratizing influence by providing access to resources we may be otherwise excluded from by lack of income or social status, resources that help us better ourselves and our communities. By design, public libraries have resources for all but the most extreme interests and points of view.

Unlike the exclusivity favored by echo chambers, public libraries embrace individualized experience to foster inclusivity. This has not always been obvious. Post-war libraries were designed as homogenous environments that differentiated between children, teens and adults only in the types of collections found on the shelves. Just as post-war educational models gave way to new models intended for the digital age, so did public libraries’ services and environments evolve to meet new societal needs.

Today’s public libraries feature differentiated environments that support individualized experiences for children, teens, adults and the elderly, for school students and the home-schooled, for businesses and the unemployed, for book clubs and artists, for readers and makers. In light of the loss of in-person social intercourse cited by Bowling Alone, public library environments offer a significant, if unanticipated, benefit—they are physical places, settings for in-person social interaction.

Public libraries seem to have intuitively recognized the advantage of being a public place, but they have struggled to explain it. ‘Community center’ is one popular characterization that public libraries have used to rebrand themselves, but this, while true, fails to distinguish libraries from park district and other facilities that claim a similar role. The recent characterization of public libraries role in our ‘social infrastructure’ comes closer to the mark, adapting the widely understood concept of physical infrastructure to a less tangible, but equally important type of infrastructure.

The more we embed ourselves in virtual social worlds, the more we may appreciate the value of real places. As algorithms increasingly guide us to everything from music to dates that fit safely within our comfort zones, real places like public libraries will become more important for in-person social intercourse, often unpredictable, that is necessary for a healthy and civil democracy.

Libraries & Leaky Data: Part 1

By Aaron Skog

The ILA Best Practices Committee has recently been tasked with studying the issues of patron privacy around the use of printed hold wrappers in public areas. It is good to see a focus on the most obvious aspects of protecting patron’s privacy since having a patron’s full name stuck on a book in a public area is just an outright problem when you think about it. If we attempt to square this practice with the widespread acceptance that a patron’s reading habits and their history of checkouts must be protected from other prying eyes (such as government agencies or various Freedom of Information requests) we see the difficult balance between providing convenience and adherence to privacy. There are however, other areas within library services where the patron data being “leaked” is not as easy to see as a hold wrapper printed with a patron name. These sources of data leaks can be found within the software ecosystem used commonly throughout libraries.

What are these potential sources of library data being leaked? Below are some of the more widely used pieces of library technology which potentially have your library patron data or require accessing your patron data at some point within their functions.

  • Integrated Library System
  • Discovery OPAC
  • Self-checks
  • Computer Reservation
  • Print Stations
  • Automated Material Handlers (AMH)

All of these software systems either by design or through its back-end structure may collect patron information within their databases or software logging process. These systems can run for years, quietly collecting data, as they sit somewhat inconspicuously on the library network.

The worst culprit within the library software ecosystem for leaking patron information into your library network is the Standard Interchange Protocol, otherwise known as SIP2. The widespread use of SIP2 was due to our need for standardization of data exchanges between library software systems. This led somewhat innocently to the SIP2 protocol being used far and wide in library technology. Nearly every software vendor that wants to sell a software services to any library will use or work with SIP2. Any library software service that queries the ILS can do this through the use of SIP2, so the adoption by libraries of SIP2 on their networks is near universal.

How bad is SIP2 in terms of data security? Pretty bad in terms of how it is typically deployed “out of the box” within library networks. Here are the 10 patron fields of information shared within a single SIP2 patron authentication query.

  1. User’s barcode
  2. User’s PIN/password
  3. User’s full name
  4. Address
  5. Email address
  6. Phone number
  7. Birthdate
  8. Gender
  9. Age category
  10. Fines owed

A single query to see if a patron can gain access to a library computer or to a service will send all 10 fields of patron across the network regardless of only needing to verify if the patron is in “good standing.” It doesn’t matter if the service only needs to see one of the fields: SIP2 sends all 10 fields of data in response to a query.

With the widespread use of SIP2 protocol within library networks and the preponderance of various systems within the library such as multiple self-check stations or print stations, all of which likely use SIP2 to talk to the ILS, you have a lot of patron data being sent around the library network. Making this problem worse, all of these data fields are sent in plain text, which includes the patron’s PIN/password. Many systems software logging processes will save every SIP2 transaction into a file that can easily have hundreds of patron’s passwords and potentially thousands of transactions showing a patron checking out an item. These computer stations typically utilize local logging or small-scale databases for the purposes of providing libraries statistics on usage at the individual stations. Unless active measures are undertaken to purge logs and remove data collected, libraries have patron data stored throughout library desktops and servers beyond the typically more secure ILS.

It is usually at this stage of describing the problem where there is some questioning  on the severity of the issue. Some folks will minimize the likelihood of this data getting hacked or stolen from the library network. Or they will take solace in the library being a small, unworthy target for any malicious intent. While it is true we have been largely helped by the fact we are a small, perhaps less juicy, target of a data hack, the network data attacks have now reached a more ruthless level. These ransomware attacks simply do not care who their target is and go through an automatically scripted series of software exploits to hijack any computer or server and steal/password encrypt its local data for ransom. This has occurred at the National Health System in the United Kingdom, dozens of countries government networks, and more recently the Baltimore City’s servers. It has even happened to public libraries.

We can no longer sit idly by and wait for the data to be stolen under this scenario and the ensuing PR and financial liability nightmare to befall us. If this were to happen to a library, wouldn’t it be better to know that the only source of patron data available was at a single point on your network rather than dozens? Or that it was understood precisely where this patron data resides and to take better efforts to protect the data on that device? Over a series of blog posts, I will outline the steps to take to help libraries understand the network protocols, ILS configuration strategies, network design, storage and logging that should be considered when undertaking an overall audit of your library’s leaky data problem.

Shannon’s Season’s Readings

By Shannon Kazmierczak

So, have you been binging on Hallmark movies until your teeth ache because of the saccharin sweetness they provide you? Yep, me too — and I’m loving almost every minute of it.  (No, it’s okay, they aren’t everyone’s jam. If they’re not yours, you can skip this post today).

Having a break in December from my book club also offers me the opportunity to turn this yearning for as much Christmas corn into reading all of the festive holiday books I can get my hands on. 

Some of the books are typical, turned-into-Hallmark-movie type of plots, and others have a little bit more of an edge to them. But if they have “holiday” or “Christmas” in the title or if they even mention snow, I’m there!

These are some of my tried and true favorites from over the years:

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

A train ride to the true meaning of Christmas for a curmudgeonly reporter.

Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle

A dead Santa, a hot cup of joe, and Christmas in the Big Apple. How cozy!

Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Mix-ups and mistletoe for a sweet holiday romance.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

A serial killer who leaves a sinister snowman as his calling card.

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin

Scotland in a town built just for Christmas and a reunited romance. This one will melt the snow for sure.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

If you only read the memoir about his time as a Macy’s elf, it’s worth it.

College of DuPage LTA Student Interview #3

By Amanda Musacchio

This is the third 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 musacchioa@cod.edu.

This interview features current student, Cooper Dague.

College of DuPage LTA Student Cooper Dague

1) What would you like to share about yourself?

My name is Cooper Dague. I am twenty years old and I have worked at the Homewood Public Library for over a year now. I started as a page and was quickly promoted to a clerk at the circulation desk. I also have experience as an aide in my high school library. I really love my job and definitely want to pursue a career in library science, so the same week I started at the Circulation Desk I applied at College of DuPage for my Library Technical Assistant (LTA) certification. I enjoy applying what I learn in class to my work at the library.

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

Currently, I am excited about “libraries of stuff” – in Illinois and worldwide! I created a blog about libraries of stuff as a final project for one of my classes last semester, and now I am excited that Homewood Public Library (where I work) recently announced we are starting one of our own. I think a library of stuff is great outreach to the community, especially for residents who may not typically visit the library, and may not realize that libraries are so much more than books. Homewood Public Library is starting a seed library soon, too.

3) What is something interesting that you have discussed in your classes?Something interesting that has been discussed in several of my classes at College of DuPage throughout my three semesters so far is the need for librarians to have 21st Century skills, and ways for libraries to use technology to remain relevant and to connect with their communities. Something as easy as the #bookface hashtag on Instagram is a good way for libraries to visually connect with their communities and to let their patrons know the library is a fun place!

4) How do you see yourself contributing to the Illinois Library world in five-plus years?
Customer service is something I really pride myself on, so that is one way I see myself contributing to the Illinois library world, now and in the future. I am sure that providing good customer service to patrons will be something I continue to do in whatever role I may have in my future career in the Illinois Library system.

5) What do you like most about the College of DuPage Library and Information Technology Program?
I am an out-of-district student at College of DuPage because my local college does not offer a Library Technical Assistant program, so one of the things I like most about the College of DuPage Library and Information Technology Program is that the program at the College of DuPage is accredited by the American Library Association (one of only a few in the state) and that it is entirely accessible online for distance students like myself. Even with my job at my local library, this semester I was able to take three classes at College of DuPage because of the time I save by not commuting back and forth. Although the collaboration in my online classes is remarkably effective, I also appreciate that there are opportunities for field trips and other in-person events scheduled into the semester, so even distance students like me have a chance to further build and enhance our connection with classmates, teachers, and campus – and feel more of a true “college experience”.

Libraries as Community Sustainability Leaders

By Laura L. Barnes

My previous posts focused on ways to integrate sustainability into library operations. In this post, I’ll show you how to use your library’s sustainability efforts not only to teach the public about green practices, but also inspire them to begin using similar techniques at home, at work, and in the community.

As you put together your library’s sustainability plan, work with your staff and your green team to identify opportunities to not only publicize your efforts, but also demonstrate how your patrons can do similar things in their homes or businesses.

  • Add a sustainability page to your web site to not only highlight your library’s efforts but also to connect people with local sustainability resources.
  • Do displays of practical books and DVDs on sustainability-related topics like living simply, building green homes, native plants, or residential renewable energy systems.
  • Incorporate sustainability tips and information about the library’s green activities into your digital displays.
  • Investigate the Library of Things movement. Start lending tools, kitchen equipment, or science kits, toys, and games. 
  • Use your library’s programs to draw attention to environmental issues and sustainable practices. Your options are only limited by the creativity of your programming team. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
    • Host a sustainability film series and have community conversations about each film.
    • Work with local groups to bring in speakers to address local environmental issues or sustainable practices.
    • Develop a speaker series targeted at helping local businesses and organizations or homeowners improve their environmental practices.
    • Work with with your community’s arts organization to host a local artisan’s festival.
    • Display local art made from salvaged materials in the library.
    • Partner with other community groups to host a community tag/yard sale.
    • Do crafting programs that focus on using found or salvaged objects.

If you’re planning a major remodel or a new building project, use the opportunity to incorporate sustainability into every part of the design and building process. You can then use your building project to show your public the effectiveness of green technologies.

If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability in libraries beyond what I’ve written in this series of posts, please reach out. I’ll be happy to connect you with speakers or brainstorm ways that you can make sustainability an integral part of your library and community culture.

That’s The Policy: Explaining the Rationale

By Olivia Buck

Communication is key in customer service, there’s no question about it. How we frame our interactions often directly correlates with how patrons respond. If we come at an issue focusing on what we can do instead of what we can’t, the conversation generally goes much smoother. When working at a service desk, especially one where dealing with fines, lost items, and damaged materials is so common, it can be easy to slip into the mode of giving what I like to call the “policy speech.” It sounds something like, “I’m sorry, our policy is x,” or “I cannot do y because of our policy.” However, I know there have been times when I wasn’t satisfied by the “that’s just our policy” response. I think in those situations, I would have really appreciated understanding why the policy worked that way and what effect that policy would have. Yet, I think we’re all guilty of saying “That’s our policy” at some point or another.

Once, soon after taking over as the Donation Day Coordinator, a first-time volunteer came up to me with arms full of books. They were in nearly-new condition, hardly even dusty.

“I think we should keep these; they look like they’re in great condition,” he said.

Upon giving them a closer look, I discovered that they were a set of encyclopedias from the 1970s. As a library worker, I have had to learn to squash my instinct to save every book that comes my way. Sometimes books come back to the library with various maladies, from torn-off covers to being scrawled on with permanent markers; sometimes there’s just no saving a book. At first, it felt wrong to pitch the books, but after a book came back covered in an unknown, oozy, sticky slime (complete with hair, crumbs, and another book stuck to it), it started to hurt a little less to discard damaged books. Often, my Donation Day volunteers also have to squish down the impulse to save all the books coming in, and they have much less time to get used to the idea of getting rid of books that the library cannot keep. This is especially difficult when the books seem like they are in good condition, but are too old or are items that become outdated very quickly, like the encyclopedias this volunteer wanted to save.

Understandingly, I explained, “Unfortunately, the library cannot keep encyclopedias because they become outdated too quickly.”

“But they’re like new!” he exclaimed, eyes widening in surprise. “We should definitely keep these.”

Again, I explained to him that the library wouldn’t be able to keep these. Our policy during Donation Day was to send on all encyclopedias to another facility to be recycled.

“But that makes no sense. Look at them. They’re like new. Somebody should keep them.”

Occasionally, I get volunteers who struggle to get rid of something, so this was already familiar territory for me. However, he was steadfast in his opinions and insistent. I tried not to feel impatient when he wouldn’t accept my answer, and clarified, “Unfortunately, the library can’t keep these books. Lots of things have changed since these books have come out and they are outdated. We wouldn’t be able to add them to our collection or sell them in our Book Shoppe.”

Again, he insisted that someone would want them.

I replied, “If you’d like to purchase them, you may do so. Otherwise, the library will not be able to keep these books and they should be sent on to be recycled.”

“Well, I don’t want them. What use would I have for them? But the library should keep them.”

At this statement, I was a bit at a loss for words. I’d used all the responses that had worked for me in the past, and I still hadn’t been able to convince him that these books could not stay at the library. I shuffled through all of the knowledge that I had about Donation Day and racked my brain for something that would help ease his conscience about letting these poor encyclopedia volumes go onto the next chapter of their lives. Eventually something sparked in my brain.

“Did you know that the library actually gets money back from the books that go on to be
recycled? These books would be best helping the library by going to the other facility.”

And there it was. The fight in his eyes faded and, with a grimace, he acquiesced. “Alright, I suppose that’s okay then.”

Reflecting on this incident afterwards, I realized that I had fallen into the trap of explaining policy instead of telling him how this was actually the best course of action. I walked away knowing that I had to find a new way of approaching this type of situation with volunteers. As a result, I implemented a new training plan which included explanations for why our policy is what it is and how that works out best for the library.

I have found that using this same approach in other situations has been helpful all around. Even if I say what the policy is, following it up with an explanation has made a huge difference in my conversations with both patrons and volunteers. My conversations often look more like “We handle it in this way because x,” or “Because of y, we have to do this.” I have found that most people appreciate hearing the whole story, not just the policy.

The Great Recession Impact on Illinois Public Libraries: Part 2

By Aaron Skog

US public library usage during the 12 year window of the Great Recession show a dramatic increase between the 2009-2011 years. The Illinois public library usage in the areas of visits, circulation, and program attendance also show evidence of the Great Recession. This impact is primarily seen in the 2009-2011 years. The totals for the Illinois public library metrics for library visits, circulation, and program attendance are below. However, a closer look at data shows that not all Illinois public libraries appear to have been impacted equally by the Great Recession.

Illinois public library visits peaked in 2010, and for the seven years following the visits have fallen, and by 2017 are below the 2006 library visits total.

Illinois public library circulation totals also show 2010 as the highest year for this metric, as it was for library visits in 2010.

Library program attendance has largely defied the Great Recession impact, showing a modest increase over the 2008-2017 period. While this metric is a sign of success, it is worth pointing out that program attendance represents 0.4% of the total public library visits.

Chicago Public Library visits during the 12 years of 2006-2017 reflect the national trend of library visits peaking in 2009 and then falling each year after the Great Recession.

For the libraries serving large populations over 100,000 other than Chicago Public Library, the visits for the 2006-2017 period reflect the Great Recession trends, but not as clearly. The use of a graph also highlights some data anomalies, such as the Naperville Public Library visits in 2016 (see the top blue line which falls in 2016). Schaumburg Public Library also has a steep decline for the 2017 year, but this is the first year since 2008 in which visits data is not rounded to a broad number, which may reflect some change in how visits are recorded at the library.

For the libraries serving a population between 60,000 and 100,000, the visits do not reflect the Great Recession trends overall. There again are some indications of data anomalies, such as the Arlington Heights 2016 library visits reported to IPLAR, but overall the trend for this group of libraries shows visits are holding steady compared to the other public libraries within this population group.

For the libraries serving a population between 50,000 and 60,000 there is a strong indication of the Great Recession in the 2011 year for the Oak Park Public Library. The visits for Oak Park Public Library are strong for this population group—showing this library is consistently is “punching above its weight.”

There are 583 Illinois public libraries under the 50,000-population threshold. Their combined library visits reflect a 2011 peak in library visits, two years after the US public library national trend.

In conclusion, the IMLS data for Illinois during the 12-year range of 2006-2017 shows the Great Recession impact for the Chicago Public Library, Oak Park Public Library, and those 583 combined libraries under the 50,000-service population. Those libraries above 50,000 population served (excluding the Chicago Public Library) do not show a Great Recession impact as dramatically.

A Brief Guide to Sustainability Planning for Libraries

By Laura L. Barnes

My previous blog posts dealt with specific ways to incorporate sustainability into your library’s operations. In this post, I’m going to show you how to put it all together into a plan that you can use to integrate it into your library’s culture.

Just like a strategic plan, your sustainability plan helps you define short, medium, and longer term goals, as well as how you’ll allocate resources to implement specific parts of the plan. In fact, many of the steps of the sustainability planning process will be familiar to any library staff person who has participated in strategic planning.

These steps include:

  • Form a green team
    • Identify people in your library that are familiar with major operations and services, including operations/facilities and purchasing. Find staff and board members who are enthusiastic about promoting environmentally responsible practices in the workplace. Ask for volunteers and look for people at all levels and responsibilities. Correlate the number of people on the team to the size of your staff and have them choose a coordinator.
    • The team must have authority to set goals and implement actions to achieve them.
  • Calculate your current environmental footprint by gathering baseline information about your impact. In my post on how to make your building more efficient, I discussed some ways to assess your current performance. The chapter “How Green Are We?” from How Green is My Library? has more detailed checklists and suggestions for establishing a baseline.
  • Identify your long-term sustainability vision and goals, as well as the data you need to measure progress.
    • Set short, medium, and long-term goals. Rethink your practices and make yourself stretch. Be realistic. Ask yourselves how you can do things more efficiently. Make your goals specific and measureable (e.g. “We will reduce energy use by 30% in two years.”
  • Develop an action plan based on your long-term goals.
    • Compare what you’re already doing with your long-term goals. Develop a list of potential projects, both small and large. Consider what you would do if you had to do something tomorrow, as well as things you would change if you did a major building remodel. Research what other libraries are doing. Look at best practices from government agencies. Brainstorm within your green team and ask for suggestions from your staff, your board, and your patrons.
    • Prioritize your list by asking the following questions and giving highest priority to actions with the most yes answers:
      • Will the project have significant environmental benefits?
      • Will the project result in cost savings over the life of the action/project? If yes, how much? Use simple payback as a measure (total cost of project/annual savings=number of years until payback).
      • Is the time frame and ease of implementation manageable?
      • Do you have control over the action?
      • Is the issue of significant concern to your staff and/or patrons?
      • Does the action have high visibility and/or educational value?
  • Track your progress, publicize your results, and keep improving.
    • Break each project down into discrete tasks with measurable goals, when practical. Assign staff/team members that will be responsible for completing each task and give them a deadline. Document responsibility and deadlines and hold people accountable for completing tasks on time.
    • Bring your staff and the public on board. Educate your staff through free or low cost workshops or in-service training. Post reminders. Change them up to keep them fresh. Keep it fun. Provide updates on progress to your staff, your board, and your patrons. Include updates in newsletters, on social media, on your web site, and in your reports to your board. Translate dollars saved into metrics they understand (e.g. x number of DVDs added to the collection, y number of new staff hired). Encourage new ideas.
  • Revise your plan as you determine what does and doesn’t work and as you meet your goals and identify new projects. Don’t file it away and forget about it.

The following are handy guides to sustainability planning:

Don’t just think of your sustainability plan as an internal library document. You can also use it as part of a larger effort to position your library as a community sustainability leader. I’ll talk more about that in my next post.

It’s In The Details

By Shannon Kazmierczak

We have all read articles about eye catching displays and fun ways to market our collections in the public library. These are as important of a part of the library as just having the materials themselves.

We know they work, too!  We have had our Staff Picks display up and found that our patrons really do value our opinions. We also have a Fresh Finds display, which is a book shelf that showcases our recently returned items which is a popular pick. We have award winners in our Youth Services and YA section, and of course seasonal displays of books in Adult Services and DVDs/records/cds in our AV section.

If we can’t come up with original ideas there are so many resources out there to use, like Pinterest boards devoted to displays where we all steal–I mean, borrow–ideas from one another. We want to entice our patrons to come into the library and give them passive suggestions about what to read, because shockingly, there are people out there who don’t want to talk to us…?

The library where I work does a pretty good job on keeping these displays fluid and interesting and doable. They are not over the top, but just eye-catching enough and easy-ish to put up and take down.

We do have one area in our library, though, where we don’t hold back – we refer to it as: the ceiling.

When our library was renovated and added onto more than a decade ago, the architect thought it would be a great idea to have the first floor lobby open up to an atrium that the second floor overlooks. They might not have thought about noise levels, air flow, etc, but it does make for a dramatic entrance and large space that draws up the eye. Which used to be nothing.

Then a few of my very creative, crafty and hard working coworkers saw opportunity! They saw the possibility of adding something to fill the void, and they were able to make some really magical things happen.

We have had real umbrellas with sparkling drops of rain fall down in the spring; we have had giant candy canes and treats (pictured) floating amongst life size scales of gingerbread men during the holidays; we have had large word bubbles highlight comic book “zaps” and “pows” during our annual Fan Fest; and our summer reading program always is thematically in sync.

What the ceiling displays have done, other than welcoming patrons, is created a sense of consistency with an element of surprise. Patrons come in each season, wondering: what’s next?  And, “how on earth were you able to get those all the way up there?” The best sounds to hear when up on the 2nd floor are when the littlest patrons come in to “ooh” and “ahh” and yell “pumpkins” while pointing to the ceiling.

Creating a welcoming environment through these non-book displays became even more valuable knowing that there were several people cross-departmentally who made it happen.  The designer had to make sure the size and scale was correct, the maintenance person needed to make sure the air lift was working on the designated day, and the originator of the concept had to make sure that all of these little pieces were going to fit together! 

I’m not going to sit there and say my co-workers are better than yours. . .but this community is pretty lucky.