Bigger Circles, Tricycles & Library Success

Tricycle Fest Image.                                              For some time I have been advancing the idea of drawing bigger circles in the library community. One way that we can draw these bigger circles involves sharing our large initiatives and ideas from the inside out and working to replicate these in libraries that may or may not be in close by. The inspiration, ideas and learning through the success of one library can set a firm foundation for a successful program or initiative in another.  A terrific example of this idea is happening this very weekend at San Francisco Public Library when Tricycle Music Fest West rolls forward. Trike Fest West builds out of the enormously successful Tricycle Music Fest that started back in 2007 at PLCMC in Charlotte, NC. The idea of connecting the dots between literacy, libraries and great kindie rock music was a hit in Charlotte for 3 years. It is incredible to see it evolving in a city all the way on the other side of the country. I’m cheering for all the members of the audience who’ll be rocking out at the library as well as the incredible staff who take ideas and make them come to life (Christy, Jason, Angela!)! Are there ways that you or your library are working to draw bigger circles? I think that more of this kind of activity is not only beneficial, it really is one of the directions we need to go as a large library community showing us that we don’t always have to reinvent the wheel (especially with tricycles).


Touching the Meaning

If you know me well at all, you have likely heard me talk about the “Two Ms” that I think are important to the work we do…I usually phrase this as “Maximize with Meaning.” The “maximizing” is often cause for much hard work and is likely to be more obvious: a higher door count, more program attendance, impressive stats. The “meaning” part is generally a bit more allusive…and still it goes deep. Today I had a long moment where I touched on the meaning, and in some way it had shifted and tugged at me and I stand in awe at the very nature of the work that libraries do and the depth we can reach. The short version of the story:

Last week a library user asked to have an appointment with me. I checked my calendar, we made the appointment and I thought that perhaps this was a community member wishing to discuss a concern or perhaps even a local vendor wanting to make sure the Public Library knew about her service. Instead, when I walked out into our administrative office area, I was greeted by a gentleman who wished to share a story of gratitude with me.  I sat down beside him and he told me that his homeland is Iran and that he is Muslim. For many years he tried to gain his American citizenship unsuccesfully. He began coming to Boulder Public Library’s public program on citizenship as well as the Conversations in English programs that run throughout the week. He gained both knowledge, confidence and belief in himself. He reached into his small canvas briefcase and brought out a navy blue binder. It was slightly bent on the edges from wear. He opened the binder to show me his certification as an American Citizen. With joy and gratitude in his wise eyes he said “welcome” and “thank you” to me (me, who has been in this wonderful city for only a month). He continued to tell me that one of our strong and dedicated librarians (Laura) who had witnessed his long desire to become an American citizen had written a letter of recommendation for him to receive his citizenship. Our Outreach Librarian Ghada had helped arrange for him opportunities to strengthen his English. He pronounced the library as the very cause for the certificate of American citizenship he held in his hand. I stood in awe and mutual gratitude. This long moment touched on the meaning that we all seek to find in our work as we plow through the paperwork, troubleshoot the new technologies, rally the strong and faint at heart on a daily basis.

As this kind and gentle man put his beloved certificate back in his bag and stood to leave, I was speechless with my heart pounding. “I welcome you and thank this library,” he said. I stood in a moment of meaning so gloriously quiet and deep. This is why we do it.

The photo above is from Free Use Photos Group. Check it out. Join. Use.

We learn from what we love.

Those things that we love, hold dear or find fascinating enough to say they have meaning to us are very often a source of learning and growth.

How do we tap into what our community loves? Do we ask them? Are they telling us by the patterns they create in usage and requests?

Can our thinking and evaluating shift if we consider this for a guideline: We learn from what we love.

Ask: what do you love to do? To hear? To see? to experience?

Then ask: how can we create learning opportunities around this love?

A Re(a)d Letter Day

Today we kick off our freshest effort yet at PLCMC here in NC–Paint the Town Read! The Paint the Town Read initiative all started with a couple of key thoughts: What if we morphed the idea of “family literacy” into “community literacy?” And if we did that how could we make it very obvious? Mental gears started turning, and finally the day is here where we launch all of the other thoughts, actions, planning, dreaming and doing out into the Charlotte & Mecklenburg area. If you live in the area, look for these signs to start popping up. Anyone in the world can see images that community members have posted of themselves with their “We helped paint the town READ!” signs on the Paint the Town Read Web Page! Check out all the programs, experiences and events we’ve developed around the commitments to support reading, build community connections and learn & play together. You can do this in your community, too. I’ll gladly share all the planning info, vendors used, program ideas, you name it. Now back to “painting…”

3000 Signs

Ever wonder what it would look like if 3000 yard signs promoting the love of reading (and libraries) might look like if they were stacked in your office area? Probably not. But, here is an image that can give you an idea.
These signs (all 3000 of them–some of which I couldn’t get in the shot) are the centerpiece for the “Paint the Town Read” initiative that kicks-off next week on February 14! It’s a rather massive undertaking when all the stuff comes in, but knowing that these signs will be popping up all over the county to promote the idea of “reading is fun and important” is worth it.
Find out more about this big and fun inititative on the Paint the Town Read Web Page.
Thanks, Em, for helping bring this idea to life!

Drop Everything And Learn

This idea has received enough buzz from the Library in Action blog that I also administer that I thought it would have a good audience on Yes To Know as well…

For the past several months the YO Team (the department I direct) has re-energized its commitment to personal and professional learning through a concept I call “Drop Everything And Learn”. We call it DEAL for short. In a very small nutshell, this idea encourages staff to stay curious and follow-up with what inspires, intrigues or makes them wonder by learning more about it. How they go about that is up to them on an ongoing basis.
At times, however, “DEAL challenges” are thrown out for staff to dig in and discover more about a topic, idea or something they’ve noted in their DEAL notebooks. Recently, The YO Dept. had another Learn & Play Experience (our version of team building and staff enrichment with a slant toward making it fun). Knowing that the light rail in Charlotte had just opened to the public, we decided that we should know more about what the experience is like so that we can talk to our community about it. So, the whole team boarded the light rail, took it down to Southend and we had a great lunchtime together while learning the ins-and-outs of this new transportation system in Charlotte. Along with this trip there was a DEAL Challenge: Find out 3 new things about Charlotte or something else from the experience.

Here are 3 things I learned:

1.Low country food CAN be low fat, low sodium. Try
Woods on South to find out how.
2.The light rail goes much slower than I imagined from uptown to Southend
3.Atherton Mill (now a high-end design & consignment complex) was one owned by the Lance Co. (yes, think: Lance Crackers)

So, what have you learned lately about the community you live in?

By the way: I encourage managers and supervisors to have “Learn & Play Days” with your staff. It is a great experience, you learn more than you’d ever expect by taking this approach, and it builds a stronger team. (Do away with the terms “in service” and “staff development” if you want to help staff perk up to learning and growing)

How many people can you fit in a library?

Many many many! It’s really hard to keep up as we continue to rock out with Gustafer Yellowgold here at South County. You can do this to at your library or location! Why wouldn’t you want to? This crowd of at least 200+–many who came just for this experience and many still streaming in to find something far more than they expected at the library.
The point-and-snap camera I’m using can’t get an image of all the kids, parents, adults and–yes senior adults, too–that are sprawled all over this library! Right-on!

What we can learn from the weather

This morning it snowed in Charlotte. As I was walking up the street to my office at Main Library, I snapped this picture of the ImaginOn sign on this cold January morning. You get the picture.

So, in the bigger picture, what does this bring to mind for me? Just like the weather, we have to be ready to revolve our presence, add a layer of newness, something meaningful (even if temporary) to our space, our brand, our philosophy. Think of it like the weather. It moves and shifts and–remember this–people repond to that.

How can libraries really ROCK?

Music and Libraries are like cake and ice cream. Great on their own. Delicious and memorable when put together. For a prime example, take a look a Gustafer Yellowgold coming to the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
To find out how to make this happen at your library or location, ask me: Tony, massive Gustafer fan and library lover extraordinaire …reach me at yestoknow[at]
Rock on…I know you are already!