November 21, 2017

Feedback: Letters to LJ, February 15, 2016 Issue

“Patrons have a sentimentalized idea of the library. They look upon us employees—librarians, clerks, pages—as though we’re nuns and saints”

Taxpayer’s lament

Despite your report that Patrick Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH, “spoke on what Columbus doesn’t even try to do, such as jump on the Maker space bandwagon…,” my library is indeed about to jump on the Maker space bandwagon, along with yet another “remodel,” the third since 1999 when the present building was “gifted” to the library district (Lisa Peet, “The New Fundraising Landscape,” LJ 1/15, p. 42–45).

The problem lies with the fact that patrons have a sentimentalized idea of the library. They look upon us employees—librarians, clerks, pages—as though we’re nuns and saints and our directors and board members as though they’re the College of Cardinals, with the Secretary of State (who is state librarian, though sans a library degree) as the infallible Pope. If they only knew—and it wouldn’t take much, just a few people here and there at a monthly board meeting. They’d know that the latest “remodel” is not entirely paid for by funds that were “saved.” No, additional millions have been borrowed to help pay the bill. Meanwhile, since 1999, property values have tanked…and property taxes have risen.

Taxpayers (many of us residents are aging and being saddled with less take-home pay) are up in arms and would certainly not support a library referendum now, which is why the director and the board are using the saved monies (and new loans) for the remodel and “reminding” patrons that they “won’t be taxed more” for the remodeled library, since the money involved came from “savings.”

But the public has yet to realize they’re also going to be stuck (unnecessarily in this taxpayer’s opinion) for those new loans, as well. All so that we can say we’re a “Maker space” (when a survey done a few years ago, preparing for this remodel, indicated people want more books; no one asked for a Maker space). It’s time the public wakes up and looks at libraries as any other publicly taxed entity. Long “overdue,” and that is not a pun!

—Name withheld

Engaging adults

Thanks for Kathleen O’Dell’s “Creating a Level of Comfort” (Programs That Pop, LJ 11/15/15, p. 18) about aspects that can make an adult day-care center more engaging and beneficial to its participants. I liked how you discussed finding ways to engage participants through exploration and learning. Staying mentally active can be an essential part of maintaining mental and emotional health for many individuals. I’ll be sure to keep these aspects in mind when I look for adult day-care centers.

—Adam Bockler, Chapin Home for the Aging, Jamaica, NY

Staying longer

Our library is a slow space (Pauline ­Dewan, “Slow Libraries in a Fast-Paced World,” BackTalk, LJ 11/1/15, p. 46). We recognized a trend in people staying longer at the library, confirmed through half-hourly head counts over multiple weeks at an interval spanning several months…. In general, increased head counts mean people are staying longer. The head count studies also helped us determine which areas were popular at which times of day. What spaces did we need to develop? What did we need more of? How can we schedule activity in the library to assure there is always a quiet space?

We responded to this knowledge in our renovation of the library, addressing the balance of quiet and activity by creating an enclosed children’s area; quiet work and reading rooms that can also be used for community meetings or programs; improved lighting and acoustics; and more comfortable seating in a variety of styles and spread throughout the space. We added a coffee service, a “healthy” vending machine, and a drinking fountain with a bottle refill tap. We made the changes without reducing the collection but instead arranging it more efficiently and balancing it a little differently between our two locations. Response from the public has been extremely positive. The new spaces are being used as we envisioned them.

—Mary Jo Finch, Dir., Westbank Lib., Austin, TX

Zones and signs

Zones are great (Aaron Schmidt, “Positive Signs,” The User Experience, LJ 9/1/15, p. 25). We’re a small academic library…. The bottom floor is the quiet floor, and the top floor is for group study and socializing. We have signs on the stairs indicating [which] floor is for quiet study. Also, what do your signs look like? Are they black letters on white paper, created in Word? I’ve noticed a better response to our signage since I began using the free version of Piktochart. I’ve also found humor a good way to deal with things. I’m taking down our negative “DO NOT RESHELVE YOUR OWN BOOKS” signs and replacing them with signs that say, “We pay people to shelve books so you don’t have to! Please return used and unwanted books here.”

—Milly Allen, Corette Lib., Carroll Coll., Helena, MT

Correction

The correct school district for the ­Albert Wisner Public Library (“Culture ­Convener,” Best Small Library in America, LJ 2/1/16) is the Warwick Valley Central School District. LJ apologizes for the error.

This article was published in Library Journal's February 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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