public libraries

Lunch Money Loves Libraries

If Buddha took up guitar and decided to sing music that blurred the lines between age groups, he’d likely be doing back-up for the South Carolina band Lunch Money. There are so many reasons to love this band. And they recently released one more reason to love them–because they love libraries…and they put it in song on their latest release DIZZY!  Read the lyrics, go listen to the track then repeat.  It’ll make you feel good…

I Love My Library

I’m going to the library…to see my librarian…who’ll send me home with 60 things…as if I could carry them (I’ll bring my red wagon)…Passing out the picture books like my granny hands out food…”Leggi, leggi, take all of these…And you might like this one too”…and my brain’s getting fat on stories and facts…and it feels like love…All the librarians…they say come follow me…They’re looking straight at me….They take me seriously….and all the things that I’d never have picked….become my new favorites…I show them to my friends at school…and they get addicted too (to Nancy Drew)…I feel so understood when a story’s this good…Oh, it feels like love…All the things that I could ever wonder about are waiting here for me…All the places I could ever wander to…I have a ticket for free…and guess who tossed me the keys?…Books about boys and girls and magic worlds…Heroic dogs, a toad, a frog…Sleuthing teens and big machines…Hippo friends and astronauts…Freight trains and snowy days…Wind-up mice and caps for sale…Lightning and wild things…I love my library.

Welcoming ‘Thank You’

I’m a real believer in having easy, ongoing ways for our customers to give us feedback (ie, thank-yous). Ahhh, “feedback”what a word…so often a word that means something like “how you did me wrong” or “your people were’n’t nice to me…” Once you open yourself up for feedback you have to be ready and willing to receive  it. Now, I wonder how we get to the good stuff…the good stuff so that we can expand on that. In Dan Heath & Chip Heath’s article I Love You. Now What? we’re asked about what do we do to allow our customers to tell us the good stuff.  They make me wonder why we keep ourselves guarded from hearing what we are doing well. Do you ever feel like we are in flinch-mode when it comes to “customer surveys” or “feedback forms?” I often say “where is the confidence in public libraries?” We are doing really good stuff. Much good stuff. Can we improve? Of course. Do we hear about what we need to improve on? Oh, yes. Do we hear about what we are doing to make lives richer and better? I’d venture to say, not asmuch. How are we making ways to channel the good feelings, the love our customers have for what we’re doing? I don’t have the clear answer to this (and I know we walk a fine line for fishing for compliments in this), but I do know that talking about what is going well is important, necessary and ultimately builds more good. Let’s open ourselves up to hearing the good stuff.

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?

First Impressions

This is the first view of the conference sight for ACURIL (Association of Caribbean University Research & Institutional Libraries) where I am presenting “Innovation Starts with ‘I'” tomorrow. This is generally not the type of view one sees upon arriving at a conference location. It is truly beautiful here.

Here’s what I realized within the first hour of being in this incredible location: no matter how beautiful and extraordinary the location, no matter how many creature comforts are offered, no matter how many photo-moments keep cropping up–it is the human interaction that drives one to love a place, to feel “at home.” .  Good experiences can patch over an initial impression of not-so-good “customer service” (whatever you choose to call it), but still that first impression is strong! It leads me to consider the first impressions libraries and other organizations leave with our customers–especially first-time customers. Most of us don’t have a mythic ocean view to distract from any shortcomings. What do we do to be memorable and to make a customer feel happy to be in our location and want to come back?

First impressions: still very important.

Bake Sales, Bombs and Books

Remember this saying? I think there are still a few station wagons driving around that have it emblazened on their bumper stickers.  I remember this saying and starchy screenprint image again as a former colleague of mine (who is now a teacher) recently sent me a request for direct donor support for her classroom of first graders. She’s using the assistance of DonorsChoose to take matters into her own hands. Although the service was founded in 2000, it recently received a boost because of some mentions on TV (7 years later!). I checked in on my friend’s project listed on the site and decided to help out by funding the project. Hoorah for teachers who work to get the job done by doing all they can to help the kids they work with each day. I wonder how an online service like this could work for libraries. Perhaps there is one already ? Let the “great day” that the old bumper sticker talks about happen!

Brave Enough to Be Silent

Do you know this kid? Likely not. His story has not been told very widely (especially in light of “important news” such as the wedding plans of Jenna Bush–which actually aired during the NBC Nightly News last night). This is a picture of Lawrence King, a 15 year old student in California who was killed by another schoolmate for expressing himself on February 12, 2008.

Today is the National Day of Silence–a day to bring attention to the need to end bullying, mental torture and discrimination, especially GLBT kids who generally have little notable support.  This year’s Day of Silence is being held in honor of Lawrence King, a kid who dared to express himself in this world that is still growing and learning, and often does not see the importance and beauty in diversity.

I find it very interesting that The Day of Silence falls on the Friday before Dia de Los Ninos which celebrates kids, learning and diversity.

Did your library or community group observe The Day of Silence? Mine didn’t. For every child who has ever been taunted, hurt or disillusioned by bullying; for every adult who has the memory of discrimination; for every teen who is afraid to come out or simply express themselves–I envision a world ofacceptance and inclusion. I also know that, generally,  your Public Library is a safe and accepting place. Let this always be (more) so.

In the memory of Lawrence King, let’s start where we are to make this world a more embracing place.