February 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, May 1 2012

Chaos: just one voice

I read Michael Stephens’s Office Hours every month and am a big fan. Per his columnin LJ (“Embracing Chaos,” Office Hours, LJ 3/15/12, p. 78), from my experience the “negotiated transaction” works the best if there is accountability, teamwork, and openness. The question is not whether “everybody’s coming” but whether everybody can find their way or have the directions. Chaos can often leave folks behind. In many ways, the current world with “multitasking” explains why Apple’s simplicity rules. Libraries need to bring focus to the chaos through channeling the voices. Chaos is just one voice. The real problem is understanding the need for constant change/adaptation and “rechanneling” to get everyone to the library….

­—Randy Robertshaw, Dir.,
Parker Memorial Lib., Dracut, MA

Charlotte on the way

John Berry’s message (“Run It Like a Library,” Blatant Berry, LJ 3/15/12, p. 10) about the challenges of running a public library is informed and provocative. As a trustee of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, I’d like to make it clear that the “board” he refers to that cut funding here was the Board of County Commissioners, not the library Board of Trustees. The sharp, sudden economic downturn hit everybody who relies on county funding, and unemployment here is still at ten percent. But public reaction to the deep library budget cuts, as demonstrated in outspoken political support and a doubling of volunteers, sent a strong message of community commitment to excellence for our library…. One good thing is that our library has learned to sharpen its business practices, strengthen important relationships, and focus its efforts…. The pace of our recovery will depend in large part on the economy, but the commitment and talent are here. We’re on the way.

—Ed Williams, Trustee,
Charlotte Mecklenburg Lib., NC

Why like a business?

Right on John Berry (“Run It Like a Library,” Blatant Berry, LJ 3/15/12, p. 10)! I love your suggested response (“That just isn’t good enough for a library”) to the statement that we should run libraries like a business. I’ve often wondered why people think business is run so well. My son is a bankruptcy attorney and has been wildly busy the past five years. Why would we want to run our libraries like a business?…

—Christine Lind Hage, Dir.,
Rochester Hills P.L., Rochester, MI


“What do we call them?” is an on-again, off-again thread on the PubLib discussion list (Aaron Schmidt, “Membership Has Its Benefits,” The User Experience, LJ 4/1/12, p. 22). PubLibber emeritus Joe Schallan, now retired from the Glendale PL, AZ, coined the portmanteau word custopatronomers. It requires too much explanation to be practical, but it has a pleasant ring for the cognoscenti.

—Nann Blaine Hilyard, Dir.,
Zion-Benton P.L., Zion, IL

Changing library lingo

Thank you, Aaron Schmidt! (“Membership Has Its Benefits,” The User Experience, LJ 4/1/12, p. 22) is excellent. It makes sense to call the people who use public libraries members. You make a good case for choosing a word that evokes belonging, ownership, and participation. And developing a member benefit statement is a great idea, especially if we focus on people instead of stuff….

—Peggy Barber, Consultant,
Library Communication Strategies, Inc.,

Closet Republican?

Regarding the “Change ALA’s name,” (Feedback, LJ 3/15/12, p. 11) writer, you read my mind! It’s OK to be somewhat conservative as long as you don’t ever share your views at work! I have found out the hard way that a conservative librarian should never let anyone find out his/her political views. If you do…you’re likely to notice a chill in the air. Our system recently had mandatory diversity training. If I had announced during the session that I’m a registered Republican, I guarantee there would have been a collective gasp. I would sooner announce that I joined a motorcycle gang, not that there’s anything wrong with that. There is “diverse” and then there’s diverse.

—Name withheld to avoid hassle

Money’s worth in LJ

I love the “Best Small Library in America” (“Transformed by Teamwork,” LJ 2/1/12, p. 20–23). I grew up in one, and my whole family benefitted, especially my wonderful Greek immigrant mother. The editorial on Mary Dempsey (Francine Fialkoff, “A Hard Act To Follow,” LJ 2/15/12, p. 8) reminded me of Gertrude Gscheidle, Chicago PL director way before you were born. She was unappreciated in her efforts to bring library service to the neighborhoods but was criticized for her failure to delegate responsibility. Who had “teams” back then? Dempsey will be a hard act to follow. I’m sorry Brian Bannon is male (somehow men eventually fall into corporate thinking)…. I get my money’s worth with every issue of LJ!

—Name withheld upon request