Tag Archives: public libraries

Director’s Thoughts #9 – Telling Stories

17 Jun


I’m trying something new with my staff as of the end of this week. I’ve been asking the question lately, “How do we make people care?” People being our staff, stakeholders, supervisors, etc. I want our staff to know that we’re making a difference every single day, I want our stakeholders to know about all the great things we’re doing and I want the township supervisors to see how we impact our community.

Statistics work great – how many people walk through our doors, how many items are checked out, how many people attend our programs, but these statistics don’t tell our story. So, this week I taped a piece of posterboard to the wall in our staff hallway (we don’t have our own break room). All I wrote on it was “Our Impact” and now I’m asking staff to share patron stories – nice words at the circ desk, a kind comment after a program or a word of thanks for help using the computers.

I’m hoping to show our staff just how much our community values the work we do. I’m hoping for great stories to share on our social media. And I want these strong stories to share with our Board in the hopes that they are not only impressed by our numbers, but also see just how much we do to impact our community in a truly positive way.

How do you collect and share your stories?

Federal Budget Cuts, or What Is the IMLS?

22 Mar

C7Xwd1fU8AAr7bRAs I promised in a previous post, this is not a blog to become political, but it is a blog to be educated about library issues and this issue is too big to ignore. This post is longer than usual, but I really want people to understand what the IMLS is and what it does. The federal budget blueprint has been published and eliminates federal funding to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This may not mean anything to the everyday person, but for anyone in the field its difficult to comprehend what this could mean for the work we do everyday.

The IMLS is an independent agency of the federal government established in 1996. It is the main source of federal funding for museums and libraries and focuses on the following national issues and priorities:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
  • Preservation, Conservation, and Care of Content and Collections
  • National Digital Platform
  • Museum and Library Professionals
  • Communities of Practice
  • Accessibility in Museums and Libraries
  • Access to Content and Collections
  • Community
  • Early Learning
  • Management of Content and Collections
  • Makerspaces
  • Inclusive and Accessible Learning
  • 21st Century Skills

C7XTjTbWkAEwlfwThe IMLS supports 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums in the United States. And more specifically, “IMLS supports the full range of libraries, including public, academic, research, special and tribal, and the full range of museums including art, history, science and technology, children’s museums, historical societies, tribal museums, planetariums, botanic gardens and zoos.” I also have a soft spot in my heart for the IMLS, not only because I’m a librarian, but because I also did an internship at the IMLS office in Washington DC during graduate school.

Many people don’t understand how library funding works – and granted, it’s different for different libraries, but in the public sector libraries are usually funded by some combination of local, state and federal funding. I’ll use my library as an example. The majority of funding comes at the local level with limited funding from the state and federal level. Our budget for the year is about $2.1 million. Of this, only about $85,000 comes from state and federal grants.  That means only 4% of my budget does not come from local revenue.

Granted, a cut in funding at the federal level, does not trickle down to my library and cause major damage. The majority of federal funding for libraries is funneled through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) – the only federal program exclusively for libraries. This money is administered by the IMLS and is given to all 50 states, five territories and three Freely Associated States. The amount received includes a base amount, plus a supplemental amount based on population.  For example, Pennsylvania received $5,467,151 for FY 2016. This money is then spread among the over 450 public libraries and countless special libraries across the state. That’s where our $85,000 comes into play.

IMLS funding also supports state-wide grants and programs that would cease to exist without the financial support from the IMLS.  Over the past 20 years, the IMLS funded over 40 projects in Pennsylvania alone – projects to encourage literacy, preservation of archival material, collaborations with museums, and much more.  Specifically, One Book, Every Young Child, an initiative in its twelfth year in Pennsylvania is funded through an IMLS grant.  This program “highlights the importance of early literacy development in preschoolers and the significance of reading early and often to children, as well as engaging them in conversation and other activities around books.” With a shared book title throughout the state, author visits as well as activities for parents, families, early childhood educators, librarians and museum employees, this program benefits numerous people across the state.

So how are librarians reacting to the news?

The President of ALA responded with, “The American Library Association will mobilize its members, Congressional library champions and the millions upon millions of people we serve in every zip code to keep those ill-advised proposed cuts from becoming a Congressional reality.” Check out #saveIMLS on Twitter and the Facebook badge that you can add to your profile picture. Click on over to everylibrary.org to email your representative about the importance of IMLS.

Oh, and by the way, the federal government saves .002% by eliminating the IMLS, but by keeping the IMLS, we show the world that we value education, literacy, culture, science, technology and so much more.

And I know that the IMLS isn’t the only agency/department affected by this budget blueprint, but I want to educate people about the importance of the IMLS and everything that it does for the community you live in, where ever that may be.



Director’s Thoughts #5

25 Jan


As I’ve mentioned in the past, we’re spending this year working on a 3-year strategic plan for our library. We’re starting from the ground up with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, Technological) analysis and identifying our stakeholders. This project is being done not only by the library board, but also by my department heads as well as any staff who want to participate. I didn’t want to force anyone to participate, but I also didn’t want to work on this HUGE project and at the end of the year hear from my staff that “nobody asked me what I thought.” So I’ve staggered the due dates for each part of this first planning session, we had our fist meeting for anyone who wanted to participate and we’ll have another staff meeting tomorrow as well as a department heads meeting on Thursday.

My staff really surprised me at our first meeting! I had six staff members participate this morning and it was a great discussion and process.  They all had really great and different ideas to share in our SWOT analysis. I can’t wait to combine everyone’s ideas and really get a broader sense of what people see as strengths and weaknesses for our library. And what I’ve been telling my staff, our weaknesses are just opportunities to become strengths!

Search for my library director thoughts posts to get a better sense of how my life has changed since I became a director a few months ago!

Library Pets

2 Jul

There’s been a story crossing my Facebook and Twitter feeds about a cat in White Settlement, Texas (a real place!) about a cat that has lived in the public library for six years.  The city council just recently “fired” the cat and amidst public outrage, the cat is back in the library after being reinstated by the City Council just two weeks after their vote.  NPR is actually reporting on this story, that’s how crazy it’s been!  Petitions were signed, comments being sent from around the world, all for a cat.

I love cats, I do, although I’m much more of a dog person, but I’d have to say that having certain animals in a public library setting is detrimental to people’s health.  Not all people, but some, have severe allergies to cat and dog dander and having an animal living in the library can make their visits extremely uncomfortable.  I have a friend who is extremely allergic to what seems like most of the world – pollen, dust, animal dander, etc.  I have a dog at home and regardless of how much I try and clean the house, vacuuming, dusting, washing our dog’s bedding, he’s only able to come over for a short time before the inhaler and eye drops come out.  It’s an unfortunate situation for everyone involved, but especially for my friend with allergies.

Now, granted, our library does have a library pet, but we have a turtle – a turtle which only staff is allowed to handle.  I’m honestly not sure if you can be allergic to reptiles or amphibians, but I would assume this issue is much less common than your typical dog and cat allergies.  We also have a therapy dog come into the library for reading practice.  This could potentially be an issue for people with allergies, but the dog only comes into the library for a specific amount of time and then leaves.  He even has a bed that is brought in by his owner so he has a place to lay down while the kids read to him.  Can this be an issue for people with allergies?  Most likely, yes, but not as much of an issue as a dog or cat living in the library full-time.

Who am I to say whether a public library should or should not have a library pet?  I think it’s important to think about who you’re serving and how best to do that – with or without a library pet.  Or, as in our case – look for a pet that is much more tolerable for people with allergies – fish, reptiles, amphibians, etc.


Life Without Libraries

18 Jun

Jeff Jacoby, a columnist at The Boston Globe, wrote an opinion piece titled “Life Without Libraries Would Be Unimaginably Poorer” yesterday.  The writer talks about his experience in libraries growing up and how, although technology is important, it doesn’t make a library – books make a library.

I had a similar experience growing up.  We lived only a few blocks from our local library and my parents took us to the library often.  I remember agonizing over which five books I could check out for the week and I couldn’t wait to get home and sit down and read them.  I very clearly remember my mom telling us “to go out and play” and in my world that meant grabbing my book and sitting outdoors and reading.  I was only about seven years old when I asked a librarian how old I had to be to begin working in the library.  Sadly, the answer was 14, leaving me with seven long years of waiting.  But the week I turned 14, I headed to the library and soon began paging.  A year and a half later, I was offered a part-time after school job working Tuesdays, Friday nights, and every other Saturday.  You could say I lived and breathed libraries, and I still do.

Do I believe libraries are all about books?  Yes and no.  I think it’s important for kids and adults to have access to books, especially if you don’t have many at home.  But, I believe, libraries are so much more than books, especially public libraries.  Public libraries have books, magazines, movies, video games, toys, cake pans, technology, music, audio books, seeds, and so much more.  Public libraries offer programs for children from birth to seniors and everyone in between.  Public libraries have crafts, makerspaces, 3D printers, storytimes, knitting classes, ESL conversation groups and more.  Are public libraries about books?  Yes, they are.  But, they’re also about educating the community, bringing people together, and having fun.

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