library

Telling Our Story, Even in Uncertain Times

When the going gets tough do the tough stop caring? This is a thought that came to me after I read Patricia Martin’s post Cause Marketing’s Fate Tied to Economic Woes. The idea that economic uncertainty brings causes or issues we’d normally stand tall for to the bottom of the heap is a bit jarring. Is this a reaction born of selfishness or simply the way we humans are hardcoded?  A couple of weeks ago, papers and library conversation were sprinkled with the “news” that there seems to be an upswing in library usage as the economy begins to get a bit crunchier. Would these same users attend a community forum to discuss the future of their libraries? Would they give to a library’s annual fund? Ulimately times of uncertainly are ripe with opportunity. How are we considering telling our story during this particular time? How are speaking of our value when “value” begins to have several meanings?

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Easier to find, easier to serve

In the past couple of days, Boulder Public Library has migrated to a new web address. This is both small news and great big news–all at the same time. What we know is that things that are easy to remember are easy to find. Locations with actual street addresses, companies with memorable and sharp names (Target!) and web locations that don’t require googling each time to find them will receive more traffic. It’s that simple. I am happy to say that Boulder Public Library can now be found at www.boulderlibrary.org.  That’s pretty easy to remember. Pretty easy to find. BPL’s former web address (http://www.boulder.lib.co.us/) will also still work by redirecting you to the new URL, so no worries there. Here’s to making ourselves easier to find and ultimately more ready to serve.

Boulder Public Library has several more good and useful creative and efficient innovations coming down the pike…keep your eyes peeled (notice the new mission tagline?) . Here’s to a great city, a great library, and useful-and-quick movement (real life innovation!).

Thanks, Ray, for nabbing this URL in anticipation years ago!

Teens!

Today I had the pleasure of attending a meeting with the Boulder Public Library Teen Advisory Board.  One of the things I realized during the meeting is how far Public Libraries have come in the past 10 years or so with their commitment to the Teens in our communities. The very fact that I was sitting in a meeting room chatting with this vibrant group of Teens talking about libraries, podcasts and how to make the library a better place for them is quite wonderful. Salute to BTAB!

Check out what they’re up to at www.boulderteens.org

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.

Form & Structure

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about form and structure lately. The literal form and structure our libraries take on is a strong indicator of the presence we have in the community. It says much about our community itself–a reflection of the community mind and intent, if you will. There is another type of form and structure that is not so literal. It is what holds up all that is tangible, but is seldom seen in an obvious way. You can call it our mission, vision, core values. I often like to speak about it as our “commitments.” And let me tell you, these are felt and are as real as brick and mortar. What is the structure that holds our organizations together?  What is the form that we build around, that gives us some since of balance in uncertain times or when we need to remember who we really are?

The entrance to the Main Library in Boulder is a stunning glass and metal conoid that is an abstraction of the grande Flatiron Mountains that watch over the city. I find myself thinking much about this conoid and how it is a strong symbol of the structure and form that makes up community mind (aka, libraries). It is an obvious structure, reflects the familiar and  yet still makes one wonder and imagine all the sky that can be seen through it. I think this is much the way the form and structure libraries and community organizations can (and often strive to) be.

Can you feel the structure you’re working and developing within? Is your structure and form still allowing room for glancing the sky beyond?

Hello, Charlotte; Goodbye, Charlotte. Let the Dreamsicle Roll.

Dreamy things can come true. Look at the picture above. This is a real example of it. When my Charlotte colleague, Karen, came to me back in April and told me that there was a possibility of getting funding through Mecklenburg County Government for an “innovative and creative” project  that focused on reading for underserved neighborhoods during the summer–and that we only had a few days to pull together a proposal–it was time to pull out the dreams. What was there to lose? So the dreams came out. You know, the ones that you hold onto that are usually only unleashed in a rush of laughter or possibility? So here’s what I thought: What if we created an incredible combination of a summer favorite (the ice cream truck) with a library icon (the bookmobile) and made it possible to give thousands of books away to kids who likely have no books in their houses? What if we did this in a very visual way (making a beautifully loud ice cream truck-turned-bookmobile) AND offered wireless access on laptops, programs and friendly staff available to create a library-on-the-spot? The what-if  has become a reality. Yesterday, it all rolled out to the Allenbrook neighborhood of Charlotte. And again today…and on into the summer and beyond! We have 8 laptops with internal air cards (this fell out of the sky through a generous grant from IBM right at the same time) , thousands of books to give away, programs, an outdoor cafe-like set-up for around the truck and so many staff and community members excited and overjoyed to see it drive around the corner.  We have formally called this the “Mobile Literacy Project.” What we have wound up calling it is the “Dreamsicle.” And that feels right. Libraries can help dreams come true. It feels very good when there is an obvious manifestation of this. What is your personal “dreamsicle” idea that you hold back?  How can you “give it wheels?” We took an almost-retired delivery van and turned it into a sight to behold that will serve up the library with fun, meaning (and sometimes real ice cream) ! A little dreaming can go a long way (and it doesn’t have to be this big or loud or have wheels at all).

I write this post on my very last day of work in Charlotte at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County as I prepare to move to Boulder, Colorado. It’s been a very intense day–filled with dreams-come-true and the lovely sorrow of saying goodbye to my work loved-ones. I am very grateful that I’ve been able to work with some of the freshest and most vibrant minds and hands of the library world! Thank you to all of you you-know-whos. Please keep dreaming on and know that the library is a very expansive entity and that our circles are going to cross again, and again…exactly as we dream it!