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!
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.
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?
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!
On Sunday the Public Library’s Tricycle Music Fest officially rolled into the city. The big hoopla? They Might Be Giants hit it hard with 2 shows, 2 packed houses and over 1100 smiling, singing, dancing taking-it-to-eleven rockers of all ages.
What does this have to do with the business of Public Libraries? Everything. Knowing that the library is a mirror and a voice for the community we serve, we also reflect the tastes, aesthetics and desires of our community. What does that more than a rock concert?! These shows were big venue shows at our ImaginOn facility, but we also do smaller–yet real–concerts at many of our other branches. The night before we hosted a concert with the hip, smart and sweet band Lunch Money at Plaza-Midwood Branch. How many families can you fit in a small branch with the guitars blaring? In this case–about a hundred!
You can do this, too, at your library. Contact me and I’ll give you the details. You know I have to say this: Rock on!
Today was a sizzling, sweet and meaningful day at the Public Library. Not only was it the kick-off for all our summer reading programs, the christening of a Book House at Morrison Regional Library, all branches buzzing with kids of all ages fresh out for the summer…we also unveiled a beautiful mural at South County Regional Library. The mural has been a bit of a personal quest of mine for a couple of years. This bright and dreamy piece of artwork by artist Brandon Reese (you have to check out his web site!) fills what has been a large blank white wall in the most active regional branch of PLCMC. The concept behind the mural? Always learning, through all the senses, through all the seasons. I adore what Brandon has created.
There is another special component to this mural. It is dedicated to learners of all ages as well as a very important person in the lives of so many librarians throughout PLCMC and the whole country. Gayle Libberton. Gayle (she is the blonde woman standing beside Derya from South County) was the Children’s Services Manager who opened South County Regional Library. She has also encouraged, supported and mentored dozens and dozens of library staff members to advance their careers, further their education and stay inspired in libaries. (BTW: Gayle was the person who first hired me in PLCMC). Thank you, Gayle!
As a special treat, I asked Brandon Reese to hide several G’s and L’s throughout the mural. There are 10 in all! If you come by South County Regional, you have to hunt for them. I think you’ll find the subtle yet colorful mural relaxing and joyful! Here’s to learning and libraries!
My 3 days at the ACURIL Conference in Jamaica held a few quiet surprises like no conference has for me. There is, of course, the location itself—not the run-of-the-mill convention center we usually spend days in during such events. The level of interest, stories and shared learning between the presenters and attendees was really apparent.
Being in a concentrated environment like a conference can be intense, tiring, intriguing, and ultimately like compressing a year of conversations, thoughts, and learning into a few days. And then there is that little bit of magic in between the presentations and forums that impresses itself on us in unexpected ways. The conversations and personal calls-to-action are very often the deepest reward of the experience—like little bits of magic that spark or flit minds for days. These are what keep us returning, (even though there is the lure of Power Point marathons and the feverish searches to find a good wireless connections).
Sitting here in the airport waiting for my flight back to Charlotte, I feel the resonant glow of the simple—yet propelling—magic of human interaction, connection—a little bit of Jamaican magic I’m taking home with me.
Now, how can we weave the spark and promise of these little bits of magic into those next presentation proposals?
I’ve been intrigued by the 31 Day Comment Challenge that I first spotted on the Library Trainer blog. I’ve been taking this challenge but not following the guidelines set out for the it–I like the inspiration, but not the rules. And that’s working for me. I was flying out comments tonight and thought I’d give myself a really intense challenge. Send out 5 comments in 5 minutes. (I even brought in the kitchen timer to make sure I stayed in the time limit). What I found out was that the act of writing comments goes rather fast for me. Reading posts and actually formulating a meaningful response takes longer. I finished 1 and a half comments before the timer went off. But, I kept right on commenting and made 8 comments total within about 28 minutes. So, the news here is that it takes me at least 28 minutes to locate 8 posts of interest and them write 8 (quick) comments.
This all made me wonder a little bigger. How could my personal 5 in 5 challenge work in other, broader areas? What are 5 meaningful communications or actions we can make in 5 minutes? Is it even possible? I’ve read that time constraints can often assist in bringing forth the best end product (think: Project Runway). Anyone want to take this challenge–or build off of it?
Yesterday I had an excellent conversation with a colleague. He asked me what would I really like to do in the future. My quick response was something like: “I want to build a library from the ground up…well, really from the top down. What I mean by this is not beginning our building with bricks and mortar but with philosophy and commitment so that we are always poised to experiment, ready to adapt and have more limitless thinking and action.” It’s ultimately the invisible that strengthens the visible.
Here are three more questions that can help stimulate “building from the top down” thinking:
1. What if we crafted an entirely user designed library, organization, event?
2. What if our main guide for implementation was “Quick and Effective?”
3. What if we weren’t so concerned with counting resources, people, objects?
What big questions help YOU think (and build) from the top down?
Tonight we had the finale event for the Paint the Town Read initiative that we’ve been running for 2 months now. We hosted 2 great come-celebrate-and-show-you-love-the-library events–one at the Main Library and one at ImaginOn. We had, collectively, over 1,000 people show up to celebrate libraries on this Friday of National Library Week! (May I mention that we were running our events parallel with the Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood sold-out concert at the arena in downtown Charlotte in the same city block?) It was a wonderful, library-loving night!
Here are some thoughts on how to make big library events that people love:
1. People love music, especially live music. Tonight we showcased the rocking & pure lovely music of Lunch Money. If you haven’t booked them for your library, get on it!
2. People love to be surprised. Many folks showed up prepared to see the theatre event only at ImaginOn, not knowing that there was food, drink and goodies waiting for them. Those that came just for the party found that there were welcoming staff, giveaways, music and lots to do!
3. People love to be treated special. Staff roamed among the many hundreds of visitors and welcomed them and thanked them for coming. It is the same as if you were having a party at your house–remember that…treat every guest special. And it will be a special event.
Here’s to Emily and all the staff that helped make the Red, Read Party a Real, Really Special Event!