Letters to the editor from the February 1, 2014, issue of Library Journal
It took me a FEW years in a public library to acknowledge that I had entered a career and wasn’t just doing a job. It was a long time ago. I had finished college with an AB and what we called a “gut” major in history. I applied for and won a job in the small Reading Public Library, MA. Despite my lack of credentials, I was given the title of Youth/Reference Librarian. Relieved to be employed, I started to learn what a public library does, or did in those predigital times.
This past December, LJ teamed up with Electronic Resources and Libraries (ER&L) to dive deep into the use of data-driven decision-making in academic libraries in a series of three free webcasts. The series, moderated by Bonnie Tijerina, head of e-resources and serials at Harvard Library and ER&L conference coordinator—and made possible thanks to sponsorship by ProQuest, Springer, and Innovative Interfaces—explored a range of strategies academic libraries are deploying as they use data to serve their customers more effectively.
THE One Book, One Community pick for 2013 at the Darien Library, CT, was David Benioff’s City of Thieves, in which the two main characters are charged to collect a dozen eggs in the starving city of Leningrad during the Nazi invasion. The penalty should they not complete this outrageous task is to forfeit their lives. As soon as I knew City of Thieves was the choice, I knew that we had to do a townwide scavenger hunt. It also seemed like a great opportunity to partner with and support local businesses.
Does your library offer a readers’ advisory (RA) service? If so, you’re in good company—and a lot of it! All of the public librarians who answered a survey recently developed by LJ with NoveList and the RUSA/CODES Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends Committee said that they conducted personal RA in-house. Methods varied, however.
The very concept of a “living library” captures the imagination. To serve the over 8,000 people in its district better, the Pine River Library in Colorado has made the idea a reality. There, the library literally embraces life in its program, with a vibrant 17,000 square foot outdoor space put to use as a community garden, learning space, greenhouse, and straw bale toolshed. It’s almost a green thumb version of a Maker space. It engages the community anew in the library—from the construction itself to the ongoing maintenance as the year turns. It exemplifies a holistic approach to service deployed inside and out to create a community hub for all seasons. Talk about vision.
“Lots of libraries are there for the community, but here in Bayfield, the community built the library,” says Amy Dodson, director of the Pine River Library (PRL), CO, selected as LJ’s Best Small Library in America, 2014, cosponsored by Library Journal and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and recipient of the award’s accompanying $20,000 prize. Hired by the PRL trustees in May 2013, Dodson was awed by not only the support for PRL in the very diverse Bayfield community but also the community’s willingness to donate hours of volunteer work as well as lots of important gifts in kind and then vote the funds to pay for a strong staff and an experienced and innovative director.
While every library hopes to see good news for its budget, of late, many will happily settle for no bad news. The year 2012 was marked by modest gains in library budgets and a stemming of the bleeding caused by cuts in the wake of the collapse of the financial sector and accompanying recession. As the economy continues its slow recovery, libraries, too, are managing to claw back some of the losses they’ve been asked to endure over the past few years. While gains are being made, though, they’re small ones and often hard fought.
Of Ohio’s 251 public libraries, only three have presented levies since 2009 without success. Some might believe that those three might as well give up, that the necessary level of services simply can’t be met without such local funding support. However, Holmes County District Public Library (HCDPL), one of those three, is challenging the way that funding happens and, with a bit of cross-cultural cooperation, succeeding.
The turn of a calendar year is a good time to remember reflective practice, whereby you take a moment, think about what you’ve learned, the experiences you’ve had in your workplace and career, and pull all of those things together as you encounter more choices. This process is cyclical.