You Might Be Working From Home If…

By Tish Calhamer, Sarah Vetter, Marianne Nelson, Tracy Hanson, Phil Schneider, Ben Bahl, and Danny Rice of Gail Borden Public Library District

Not every library gets to say they have their own comedy troupe, but Gail Borden Public Library District in Elgin is one exception. “The Thespians”, adapting to their new work-from-home routines, decided to create a video greeting for their colleagues that is too enjoyable and relatable not to share. If you’re looking for a laugh while working from your kitchen table–or some vindication that you’re not the only person rocking daily athleisure–you can check out the video here.

Writer and director: Tish Calhamer
Editor and producer: Sarah Vetter
Thespians: Marianne Nelson, Tracy Hanson, Phil Schneider, Ben Bahl, Danny Rice

Positivity While Under Quarantine

By Olivia Buck

Right about now, I feel like a lot of us are feeling a bit…overwhelmed. Everyone is talking about COVID-19 and many of us are sheltering-in-place. This whole thing is pretty scary, but I think some of us are looking for even small things to help us keep a positive attitude. One way that I’ve tried to keep my positive attitude going has been to be careful about how I think about the quarantine and working from home. It would be really easy to get frustrated that I can’t work on certain projects right now or that I’m stuck at home all day everyday. But instead, I’ve been telling myself, “Look at this opportunity to work on projects you never have time for!” I’ve been putting together a digital copy of our home delivery patrons’ requests so that they’re easier to keep track of and I’ve been able to research and brainstorm ideas for new ways to connect with and serve my home delivery patrons. And this is just week one for us.

I’ve also been able to devote more time to some non-home delivery projects that I’m part of. These have included:

● Working with my fellow Bookmobile Drivers on a new project for our Bookmobile, Big B.
● Working on clearing up various lists and reports.
● Following up with presenters that were scheduled for our Bloomington Reads program which was scheduled for late March and early April.
● Working on projects for our Spirit Committee which creates events that contribute to staff morale and working together.

Finally, I’m seeing many of my coworkers try to connect with each other using Microsoft Teams so that we can all learn how to do this whole “work from home” thing together. I think we’re all just wanting to stay connected and keep a smile on our faces while we’re working from home. So, sometimes this means that people are sharing links on how to stay productive while working from home. And sometimes it’s people sharing their quarantine playlists for their work hours, posting about the delicious foods they’re making, or posting pictures of their new office mates. Here’s a couple pictures of mine:

Finally, I’ve been thinking about my favorite patron interactions that I’ve had since becoming a library employee. I’ve been thinking about all the wonderful moments I’ve gotten to have by serving our community. This is the one that always brings a smile to my face:

A boy came up to the Circulation desk with a stack of books to check out. He was probably around six or seven years old and his face barely reached the top of the Circulation desk when standing on his tiptoes. He watched me as I picked up his books and placed them on the scanner. His eyes grew wide and his whole face lit up when he heard the ding of his items getting checked out.

“How does the computer know that [the book] is there? And how does it know which one it is?” He asked, waving a hand at the book with excitement.

“There are special tags inside the book that tell the computer what book it is and that allows us to check it out,” I explained as I opened the book up and showed him the RFID tag inside the book. While I continued to check out his books, the little boy watched, completely entranced by the computer that knew the names of the books and that he wanted to read them. Finishing up with his books, I passed them over to him and a grin spread across his cheeks.

As he left with his mother, he cheered, “Librarians are magic!”

The way that I think about this crazy period of time when the library is closed and I’m working from home makes a huge impact on my attitude. So I keep reminding myself that libraries are magic.

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.