Why I Love Libraries: Celebrate National Library Week

It’s National Library Week!  As a librarian, of course I am going to encourage everyone to visit their library this week and share the love with friends and family.   The American Library Association is also recognizing several other areas of librarianship during the week with special events:

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Join the conversation on Facebook with atyourlibrary.org

Aside from loving books, reading, stories, the written word, and being a librarian, etc., I would not be able to call myself a bibliophile without being a library patron.  Many would argue I’m a bibliomaniac, which is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as someone with an extreme preoccupation of collecting or admiring books. Yep, that sounds like me.

When I tell people I am a librarian and I went to graduate school to become a librarian, I often get that inquisitive look back with the question, “what did you learn?” or “I don’t read” or “I haven’t been the library in years.”

If you haven’t been to a library in years, months, weeks, days, hours, go and take a 30 minute visit this week!  Not only are you positively supporting your city services and seeing your tax dollars be used for great use, you are telling the world that libraries matter!  It is more than just a building with books.  You say you don’t read but do you watch movies?  Check out a DVD for free.  Are you doing genealogy research about your family?   Talk to the reference librarian for better resources than just Google and learn how to effectively use Ancestry.com.  Many libraries even have subscriptions to sites like Ancestry.com that you can access with your library card.  Do you have children and want to help them make friends or find activities other than homework?  Bring them to storytimes, playtimes, craft sessions, video gaming programs and more for free.

The library is also a place that is no longer managed by the stuffy, old, grumpy lady with her hair in a bun and ugly shoes and glasses.  That’s quite a bit of negative adjectives to describe such a person, and it’s unfortunate so many people still associate the library with this image.  Most likely, it’s because of a bad experience they had while in school and so never went back to the place.  So you say, you don’t read and haven’t been to a library in years.  Could it be because you were one of these kids?  Hopefully most of the libraries in your area have moved to a friendlier, warmer, and more inviting atmosphere with librarians who know their ‘stuff’ and have a passion for helping people embrace their inner bibliophile.  It probably wouldn’t hurt if they have really cool glasses and trendy shoes.

Why do I love libraries?  I love to read. I love to explore.  For bibliophiles like myself, I love going to the library and just wander through the non-fiction stacks looking at the titles.   Dewey Decimal is a great invention because it organizes subjects according to interest.  Yes, libraries still use Dewey Decimal, mostly for non-fiction, and I hope they continue with this grand tradition because it works!  If I had a dog, I would probably name him Dewey.  I absolutely love the wander, it helps me dig deeper into topics I may have thought about but never really explored.  In fiction, the wander is a little tougher for me because I want to read everything on the shelves so I tend to get lost.

Why do I love libraries?  I love to bring my laptop and surf the internet, perhaps do some writing or reading in a completely different environment than the coffee shop or my living room.  It’s quiet, but not annoyingly silent, with just enough distractions.  People are usually friendly and I have unofficially joined the ‘reading room newspaper’ club at my local library.

Why do I love libraries?  I love that such a simple concept became such a unique place in our world where you are granted permission based on the honor system to borrow books, movies, music, and the internet.

Why do I love libraries?  I love that my local library is a place only 5-10 minutes from my house.  I love that I can ride my bike there or drive.  I love that it is the best way I can ‘go local’ in every sense of the word.

Why do I love libraries?  Somehow it became trendy, popular, and cool to be a nerd.  I love libraries because I can embrace my inner nerd.  I can admit to reading the encyclopedia at home when I was a kid because I had read everything else we owned.  I think we are all nerds at some point in our lives and the library is the best place where we can all just be ourselves with no judgements and no apologies for what we enjoy.

Check out this site for even more information on why people around the country love libraries. 

Embrace your inner bibliophile.  Embrace your inner nerd.  Embrace what makes you YOU and check out your local library this week.   Help celebrate National Library Week with one small visit, and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  I would love to hear why you love libraries in the comments!

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Going Green With Your Bookshelf

April is Earth month and being conscious of the environment has become a bigger priority in people’s lives.  I can remember when it seemed a complete fad that no one would take seriously.  Thankfully, our world and issues such as global warming have become mainstream.

Libraries often face the dilemma of unwanted books, those that have become damaged beyond repair, those that are out of date and no longer factual or relevant, and sadly, those books that no one really wants to read and are taking up space for books that are more desirable to check out.

It is a subject that readers also find in their own personal bookshelves.  Books that you picked up on the bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble because they were only $2 and then hated the story, books someone may have given you, but that you have no interest in reading, or maybe you found yourself simply with books you’ve read, enjoyed but don’t want to keep anymore.  Myself, I had a stack of cookbooks that I just never used and tons of non-fiction and novels from that bargain bin, and I now understand why were in the bargain bin.   In college, I  was sometimes stuck with textbooks for gen-ed classes and had no idea what to do with them once class was over, and I couldn’t sell them back because a new edition came out every year.

Try one of these ideas if you are drowning in books! Photo from pteittinen on Flickr.

What do we do with all these lonely, sad, unloved and unwanted books?  There are many options that are friendly to the environment, the reader, and the book too!  Instead of just dumping the book in the garbage can so it can fill up a landfill and never find its true reader love, consider one of these options:

Donate.  Places such as Goodwill, AmVets, and Vietnam Veterans will take used books and magazines, and you can get a receipt for a tax write-off.  Plus, you’re supporting a worthwhile cause.  I would encourage you not to donate to your library unless you know they will end up in the book sale room, should a library have one.  Libraries are often trying to find places themselves  to rid their weeded materials.

Sell them!  Places such as used book stores take books off your hands and sometimes will pay you for them!    I always take my cash and instead of running, end up buying books.  (More books!)  One of my favorite bookshops called Half-Price Books is an independent seller, has stores around the country and buys used books, cds, games, etc.  I’ve also found several smaller local used bookstores and thrift stores that may not necessarily buy them for more than 25 cents, but the shop owner will put them on the shelves for someone else to discover.  Having a garage sale this spring or summer?  A box of books is often the first place I go and I’ve scored some steals for a dollar or less, sometimes even free because the seller just wants them gone!  Ebay and other sites like CraigsList are decent resources for selling, but I’ve only had luck with series of magazines.  Ebay and other sales sites seems to work better when you have a hot collectible that you know is worth money or a very expensive textbook that is in good condition.

Recycle.  Unfortunately, the big question of what to do with your old set of Encyclopedias may be as simple as recycling them.  I know, it pains me to write that because I love them!  Yet, unless you can find a museum or historical society of some kind that will want them for archival or preservation purposes, the material in them is not always useful to an everyday user.  When all else fails, and you don’t know what to do, don’t dump your books in the garbage to end up in a landfill.  Recycle.

Pass Them Along!  Hospitals, nursing homes, gyms, hair salons and other places with waiting rooms or reading time often love free magazine and books! Just make sure you ask before you dump a pile of Martha Stewarts on the end table.  Not everyone appreciates the act of sharing.  Sites such as Paperbook Swap, BookMooch, and BookCrossing are also fun ways to trade books with other readers and join a community of readers.  They are often free or have a small nominal fee to cover postage and shipping charges.  When buying books, check out sites such as Better World Books who then donates a book to someone else across the world!

Be Creative.  Books as arts and crafts are ever so trendy and fashionable!  There are tons of ideas online and on Pinterest for turning old or unwanted books into works of art!  I thought this blog post was pretty interesting and had some great ideas.

Have you found yourself stuck with a pile of books and don’t know what to do?  Have you tried any of these and found successes or failures?  Do you have any resources you’ve used other than those shown here?  I would love to hear them in the comments.

Recap: Community Outreach Events

I had the pleasure over the past month to take part in two community outreach events through my internship.  What a rewarding and wonderful experience to bring the joy of the library to kids who otherwise may not be able to either visit the library or have access to books and learning outside the classroom.

The groups of kids we visited were both in the local neighborhood, one was in a community clubhouse and the other a school.  All the kids were about 3rd through 5th grade, although I’m sure there were some younger ones too.  What was amazing is that these kids were as my colleague said, “hungry” for books!   They literally attacked the books when it was time to choose new ones to take home.

Both programs were essentially the same format and highly successful.  Attendance is volunteer, so these kids want to be there! The theme was tied in with the summer reading program and began about 4 weeks ago.  While there were new children in attendance, many had been attending each week and were familiar with the flow of the program. Each program began with an educational session in which we interacted with the children about knights, princesses, castles and medieval weapons (to go along with the Midsummer Knights Read theme). Many hands went up when questions were asked and they were excited to hear what the topic for today would be which was court jesters!

There were lots of smiles and wide eyes as a story was read and then the children worked hard on a craft.  There were also crossword puzzles and coloring sheets.  The kids loved all the activities.  For an hour long program, it was packed full of fun.

One of the two groups gets to choose books to take home and return ones they’ve read.  It’s done on an honor system and they were all very respectful of returning the books.  It seems to work similar to a bookmobile model where we bring the books to the kids because there is really no feasible way for them to get to the library.  The community these children live in is essentially an immigrant neighborhood, with lower income families, where there is no bus service and it’s a bit of a long walk, especially in the hot Chicago weather.  To be able to bring to them a “mobile” program each week and feed their strong desire for learning and books is what will keep them hopefully interested in learning throughout their childhood.  It also brings them a positive experience of reading and learning that they may not be getting at home or in school.

When I saw these children run for the books, attack the stacks we had, and search for something particular because they liked a series or a subject it was a event I never saw before!  I loved it!  What was disappointing to me and them was when we didn’t have enough of a subject or the next in a series for example because of the limited resources.  Yet, once I knew what they liked, I could find another book in the piles that would probably appeal, and except for one or two instances, they took it home.  I wanted to make sure these kids, who were so incredibly “hungry” for books to not find one they would like!

I can’t think of a more rewarding experience as a librarian then to see these young people RUN for books and learning opportunities!

Spark and Spirit

Old Books taken from Wikimedia Commons

Sparked by the love of books and reading, a spirit for knowledge, and a quest to continually find truth in matters both mundane and controversial, librarians have found themselves at the center of a new world unlike one they have been historically trained to uncover for the people. Guided by a much different principle of service, one that is free of any profit or personal gain, librarians hold a unique desire to give of their skills and knowledge, perhaps a gift to those they serve.

Enthusiasm and excitement are two words that come to mind when I think of my experience in graduate school.  My professors embraced such feelings in a very genuine way and it has certainly influenced my decision to enter the library world.  I hope to become the librarian that acts as a conduit between the world of knowledge and the expanding social world surrounding our everyday lives.  What I remember most about the library as a child is that of the summer reading program and wandering the stacks to find a new book to read.  A self-proclaimed booknerd, I found the library as a place where there was always a new discovery.  As a librarian, I hope to be able to create or influence that same feeling in patrons, one of spark and spirit that engages them in a way they perhaps didn’t know existed and provide my gift of skill and knowledge, enthusiasm and excitement.

Perhaps my goals are idealistic, but I have to believe that we as librarians entered this profession because of an underlying desire to learn and teach in a way that reaches all people of a community.I am so thrilled to enter such a profession where ideals and ethics are valued, where service is for a greater good, and where a librarian can make a difference.

Philosophy of Service

An important, almost gallant aspect in librarianship, is that of service, to the patrons and to the community it serves.  Below is an example of two outreach programs. These programs not only create access of information to those that may otherwise not have it, but also displays how the librarian embraces a philosophy of service to their community.  It is this philosophy that make such a program useful and helpful, to what is often an underserved patron group.

Program Outline:  Outreach Program to Teens

Theme: Teen Pregnancy, address the needs of pregnant teenagers, their parents, and those who are already teenage parents.

Statement of problem and need

The program is necessary even in the wealthiest communities because every year, an estimated 750,000 adolescents 15-19 years become pregnant according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Washington DC.  According to the Illinois Department of Public Health and Human Services, Teen Parent Services, 4,100 Illinois women younger than 19 draw public assistance every year.  Illinois is also ranked 18th out of all 50 states in teenage birth rates and above the national rate of 56.8 out of 1,000 births at a rank of 60. In addition to such statistics, sex in general, especially sex education, is often a taboo topic.  The library is needed to address teenage pregnancy because the library is a neutral informational facility where parents and teenagers can go together to get information or guidance without judgment and maintain privacy.

Statement of a solution or answer

If there is a program in the library addressing teenage pregnancy, it would promote public awareness, including teenagers, of the increasing situation and provide another educational opportunity other than school, on the consequences of unprotected sex.   The program would also provide education for future pregnant teenagers on their options and also for those young teenage mothers that need parenting advice.

Project Description

The target audience is teenage parents, pregnant teens, and their parents needing information and advice.  In the library, a pathfinder of books relevant to sex education, teenage pregnancy, adoption, abortion, parenting will be available for checkout.  The pathfinder will detail where the books can be found.  Each month, a different counselor or professional whose focus is teen pregnancy will be at each session to facilitate.  Materials will be available from the agencies presenting.  These agencies we partner with will also cooperate in assisting with promotion of the program to their teenagers.

Best Information Resources

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org/

Medline Plus from the US National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

The Illinois Department of Human and Health Services http://www.hfs.illinois.gov/

The Rural Assistance Center’s Guide to Teen Preganancy http://www.raconline.org/info_guides/teenpregnancy/

The American Pregnancy Association http://www.americanpregnancy.org/links/#TeenPregnancy

Positive and negative issues and/or concerns

The biggest issue or concern we have is the controversial nature of the topic and the appropriation of funds to an underserved or challenged group of people.  The library staff would need to be educated on teenage pregnancy, statistics, and the local agencies.  In addition, the staff would need to be able to answer the challenging questions, and especially for those that don’t agree with the program being held.    In choosing materials, we would need to ensure they are as objective as possible and offer a variety to satisfy all options of the teenager in need.  The groups or agencies involved would need to be screened and approved by the head of teen services to again ensure objectivity and privacy of the participants.

Overview of budget

  • AV equipment already held by the library
  • 1 staff member present for the hour program, greeting before and closing after
  • $150 per speaker each month includes all their costs and handouts
  • $30 each month for pizza, pop and paper goods
  • No charge to attend, but registration will be required

Overview of timeline

The program will be promoted through in the library through the website, social networking tools, newsletter, and through flyers and signs in the teen department.  The program will also be promoted through signs and flyers at the speakers’ agencies and at hospitals and other health facilities such as free clinics and doctor’s offices.  We will also reach out to local high school nurses and health educators for librarians to speak to classrooms announcing the program and encouraging attendance.  A press release to announce the program to the larger public will also be distributed to local newspapers for inclusion in their community events or calendar.

Promotion through these outlets will be on an ongoing basis once the program is approved to move forward.

Evaluation will be done by providing quick surveys after each session to attendees.  A once-a-year survey will be done for those that attended several or all sessions.

One example of some demonstrable aspect of the program

The librarian will close the program with a book talk of a useful book offered in the library, which each of us will demonstrate.


Program Outline:  Outreach Program to Older Children

Theme: “Choose Your Own Display”; Bringing creativity outlets to kids.  The theme of the book display is chosen by the children and voted on through a form from the library.

Target Audience: Children ages 9-12, approximate grades 4th, 5th and 6th.  If used in a public library setting, these children will ideally have some interest in art whether it is through painting, drawing, photography, scrapbooking, etc.   If used in a classroom setting, the children would then be part of a specific class or as an after-school club activity.

Program Basics and Format:

The children will be given the opportunity to decorate and create a book display, and choose the books in the display.  The book display will be in the juvenile section of the library and overseen by the youth services department.

The program while ultimately ending in the public library, can also be executed at the local community center, park district facility or as an after school activity by involving the local school librarian.  If used in a school setting, more thematic approaches or specific types of artistic methods could also be used to correspond with the class curriculum of either art class or language arts/reading class or a combination of the two.

The logistical format of the program will be kept simple to allow for the arts and crafts to take center stage.  Voting sheets will be available at the youth services and circulation desks for children to circle their favorite theme from a variety of topics.  The form will also have write-in spots for favorite authors, series books or other topic not listed.  The theme with the most results after the deadline noted will then be the display theme that month!  The display will run for 1 month, with the voting and actual arts and crafts creation to be done in the previous month.  The first display will require a longer timeframe so as to setup the schedule with voting to take place for 1 month and the arts and crafts to commence the second month.

Rationale, Goals and Objectives:

The purpose of the program is to provide a venue for those children interested in art living or going to school in an area that does not support an art program.  It also offers a free venue for children who cannot afford art classes through the park district while still contributing their community.  The ultimate goal of the program is to provide young artists a place to grow in their artistic talents, exhibit their work, and have fun!  The program would serve different displays each month giving multiple children the opportunity to contribute regularly.

Materials used:

These will change each month, but a set budget should be in place to determine the amount and types of materials.  Basics would include crayons, markers, construction paper, poster board, glue and enhancements such as glitter and ribbon.  Materials would also be needed to create promotional flyers and posters in the library and/or school classroom.  Flickr would be used to provide initial ideas of displays until actual photos of the library’s own displays could be used.

Promotion Plan:

The program will be promoted in the library through the website, newsletter and its own “arts & crafts” display.  The program will also be promoted at the local community centers and park district art classes through flyers and posters. Further promotion can happen at local bookstores, arts & crafts or ‘pottery painting’ stores where children and adults may go together.   The public librarian and the local elementary school librarians and art teachers will also work together to tell students about the program and encourage participation, perhaps even adding it to one or two class’s curriculum.  The display will be photographed and promoted each month through the library website and newsletters to show children and parents how creative and fun the program is to encourage more participation.

Evaluation:

Do the children participate?  Do more children participate each month?

Are there enough votes gathered each month to facilitate different displays?

Do the children comment on the new displays or ask how they can get involved?