Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spreading Christmas Cheer at the Library

I thought this was fun and entertaining! A flash mob rang bells and sang Jingle Bells at a library in Kansas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Engaging Our Community

I had an opportunity to sit down with a former employee, now PhD student to talk about community engagement and what that means to the Plainfield Library. In subsequent letter to the Library Board of Trustees, she quoted me:

“A successful library lives beyond its walls. It engages people in ways that are meaningful in their lives.”

This concept has driven the development of services at our Library. You can see it in the programming and Outreach to the community. As the Library enters into a strategic planning process to set goals and objectives for the next several years, engaging you, our community members, in a dialogue about services and what is meaningful and useful to you, is imperative to ensure responsive service.

As a part of the strategic planning process, the Library will be seeking community input, to engage you in a dialogue about what you want and need from your Library. Look for those coming up in the new year, as we plan some focus groups to inform the planning process!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Plans, Plans and More Plans!

Whew! Lots going on with our Library and the regional library systems!

The merging of the five northern Illinois regional library systems and the four southern Illinois library systems is proceeding apace. If you're interested in this process, you can follow along at the web sites: Merger 2011 and Cooperation Today. I am serving on the Future of Systems Sub-Committee for the northern Illinois merger group. This sub-committee is working toward a vision and plan of action to guide the evolution of regional library systems. It is building on the work of the Illinois Library Association's Future of Illinois Library Cooperation Task Force.

Meanwhile, back in Plainfield, we have three big planning projects going on simultaneously: strategic, expansion and internal space. The new Strategic Planning process will update the long range plan for our Library, setting goals for the next 4-5 years. The expansion planning process will examine options for a future expansion referendum, for approval by the voters no sooner than 2012. The internal space planning is yet one more look at space use within the current building and possible reallocation of space in order to allow collection and service growth over the next 4-5 years. Through a "design-on-a-dime" concept, the Library's architect will help the Library Board and staff determine if there are any remaining options for allocation of space that would net additional collection shelving and workstations.

As we continue in these planning processes, I'm sure I will be blogging more about them. For now, we are gearing up for planning, gathering and reviewing background information and making decisions on the planning processes and timelines.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Regional Library Systems' FY2010 Final Payments

The State of Illinois has authorized the final FY2010 payments to the regional library systems! FY2010 ended on June 30, but the State of Illinois is more than six months behind on payment vouchers to service providers like the regional library systems.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our call for action on the Library web site, in the last Library newsletter, on Facebook and in the print media. It is the contacts from constituents to our Governor and Comptroller that bring about action.

We are awaiting reports from the regional library systems on how long services can be maintained without FY2011 funds being released. Regional library systems support libraries of all types with services like email hosting, shared catalog systems and delivery of materials among libraries. Delivery service is the backbone of interlibrary loan, moving books and other materials efficiently from one library to another and back again. Without delivery service, local libraries like Plainfield will have to make the hard choice to pay for delivery out of local funds (and cutting some other service or program to pay for it) or lose access to quick and effective resource sharing for our community. With already slashed budgets getting tighter locally, you can help us avoid that fiscal conundrum by continuing your efforts in support of funding for the regional library systems.

Contact the Governor and Comptroller today and ask them to release the FY2011 funds for regional library systems!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

10 Years at the Plainfield Public Library!

This month marks my ten year anniversary as the Library Director at the Plainfield Public Library. That ten years have held some of my biggest professional challenges and opportunities. When I interviewed for the job in late summer of 2000, the official population of the library district was tallied at 18,882. Today, it's 66,139! During my tenure, the Library has grown to one of the busiest in our area with over 3/4 of a million items circulated last year. Though the expansion referendum failed, the need continues to grow.

While this Library may be a challenge in terms of funding and space, I am honored to work with all of the individuals who care about this Library and community. The fantastic staff meet the needs of the community to the best of their ability every day. The Board of Trustees set the policies, budgets and goals while being mindful to act as good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars. The Friends of the Library and Library Foundation volunteer their time and energy in support of the good work the Library does. There are too many others who dedicate themselves to serving our community to list here, but I am grateful for each of them.

Thank you, Plainfield, for ten amazing years! I can't wait to see what the next ten will bring.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What's with Facebook?

The link on the Library's web site that goes to Facebook is not working. Facebook made a change to the Library's account that has not been for the better. It has made posting to the Facebook account more difficult for the administrators, broken that link and the Wall is now showing old posts on the first page. Very strange!

Please be patient as we figure out what was done and how to fix it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Rain Has Ended

Thankfully, the HVAC technician was able to get to the Library quickly. He determined that gasket on pipe in the boiler system was leaking and would have to be replaced. The pipe was isolated and heat restored, pending replacement of the gasket tomorrow since that's apparently a two-man job.

The elevator is working fine after its earlier bid for attention.

Early next week, I hope to announce our new Head of Maintenance. He can't start soon enough, in my opinion.

It's Raining in the Library!

A pipe is leaking in the lower level lobby. We know its boiler system water because it smells like anti-freeze.

I shut off the pumps and water to the system at the boiler per the instructions of our HVAC maintenance company. An HVAC technician is on his way.

Plus, just to pile on the problems this morning, the elevator was acting up again. Thankfully, it continues to "park" itself at the lower level so anyone aboard may exit.

Acting as Head of Maintenance while we are searching for one, I can tell you that I understand more fully than ever the extent of the issues with this building. We cannot get a new Head of Maintenance started soon enough!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Question of the Day: Can you create a "no cell phone zone" in the Library?

Thank you to the resident who took the time to request this via our Suggestion Box (upstairs near the Welcome Desk in case you haven't seen it). This individual commented on noise in the Original Library Room and made the suggestion that we create a "no cell phone zone."

The Library Code of Conduct states: "Be aware of noise levels and do not disturb others. When using headphones, set the volume so others cannot hear it. Turn cell phone ringers off." Please let Library staff know if someone is not abiding by the Code of Conduct.

The space constraints of this Library building, the volume of use it supports and collection it houses necessitates that each space in the Library serve multiple functions. For this reason, it is not practical to enforce a cell-phone free zone at this time. The Original Library Room houses the Local History and magazine collections and acts as a small group study area. As the location of the majority of group study tables available on the upper level, it is not a quiet space.

There are two options available for those seeking quiet space in the Library: the Study Room and the bay window area on the upper level. The Study Room, across from the Welcome Desk, is available on a first-come first-served basis. You may request to use this room by stopping at the Welcome Desk. It is the only quiet study room available but is also used as a staff meeting space. The bay window area, which now contains the last remaining study carrels in the Library, tends to be one of the quieter areas of the Library, particularly during the day on weekdays. However, it is open to the main areas of the Library and quiet cannot be guaranteed.

This suggestion will be used to inform planning process for the Board of Trustees as they look to the future of our Library.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Planning for an Uncertain Future

Planning for the future has been on my mind. With the Library Board looking at modifying its expansion plans and updating our Long Range Plan for the next 5 years (particularly in regards to keeping this building functional) and with my appointment to a committee planning for the future of Illinois' regional library systems, it's to be expected that this is at the forefront of my thoughts. The only thing for certain in all of these planning processes is uncertainty. With economic uncertainty splashed throughout the media, shifting demands and needs in a community that is increasingly diverse, and a changing political landscape, creating a plan for the future is a challenge. Our plans must be flexible, scalable, efficient, responsive and responsible.

But how can library service evolve in a way that incorporates these concepts? The next evolution of our local Library and our regional library systems are set in the context of this uncertain future. It is an opportunity to shift our paradigm, to rethink the traditional model. Prioritizing needs will be crucial to finding a new model to meet the most immediate educational and informational needs in our community and our state within the means available.

Three planning processes with the uncertain future in common. That's quite a set of tasks ahead.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rethinking Illinois' Regional Library Systems

In 1965, Illinois pioneered a model of multi-type library cooperation and resource sharing with the creation of regional library systems. The 18 regional systems created by the state statute supported library development, collections, interlibrary loans and reference services. Training and consulting were key services provided to help libraries develop and meet the needs of their individual communities.

Over the past 45 years, those regional library systems have merged and evolved. Shared catalogs that allow instant access to the holdings of multiple libraries became the primary means of resource sharing, replacing the traditional interlibrary loan with a more efficient process. Delivery of items among libraries grew into the backbone of resource sharing as the regional library systems supported it with the means to physically move items from one library to another. Other states looked to Illinois as the leader in library resource sharing and cooperation, the standard by which other states measured their success.

Today, the 10 remaining regional library systems will become three by June 30, 2011. With the State of Illinois more than eight months behind in payments to the regional library systems, each regional library system slashed services according to the Illinois State Library's top three priorities: shared catalog, delivery and the talking book centers that support the federal Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The five northern systems and four southern systems took the radical step to begin merging earlier this year. The Chicago Public Library acts as its own regional library system and is not involved in the merger process.

For librarians, the next evolution of the regional library systems brings an opportunity to continue Illinois' leadership in library resource sharing. What will the new model look like? What services are the most vital to library development and resource sharing? How can we meet the needs of residents as efficiently as possible and within the limited means of the State of Illinois? The challenge before us is daunting. But we begin from a position of strength, with a strong tradition of responsive service that meets the needs of our unique communities through cooperation and sharing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Boilers, Compressors and Head on Maintenance Candidates

The saga of the Library building's systems issues continues. The boiler is down and awaiting repairs. The HVAC compressor on Unit 1 is down and awaiting repairs. The parts for both repairs have been ordered. The HVAC repair should occur this week, according to the estimated arrival date for the parts. The boiler parts will take 3 more weeks. In the meantime, ambient temperatures in the Library will depend on the weather. The advice we are giving staff and customers is to dress in layers for the next 3-4 weeks when you come to the Library!

On a positive note, the first interviews for Head of Maintenance are underway. We received over 160 resumes for the position, many from highly qualified candidates. From the great pool of applicants, I am confident that a Head of Maintenance will be hired within the next month and working within the next six weeks or so.

Personally, I am looking forward to having someone other than me climbing the ladder to the roof to look at the HVAC unit and crawling on the floor of the Boiler Room to peer into the boiler with the contractors.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

HVAC Issues Again

The aging Library building and its systems strike again:

The HVAC problem is with the valves that control the flow of refrigerant in Unit 1, which cools the northeast quadrant of the building. This is one of four units that cool the building. The Library's HVAC contractor is working to isolate the issue and hopefully replace just the valves rather than the whole compressor unit (which would entail a crane and huge expense). Of course, this is not under warranty.

In the meantime, Unit 1 has been bypassed for cooling but the fans/blower will continue to run. That should keep the affected areas at a reasonable temperature until the full repairs can be made. With the weather forecast for tomorrow, I'm grateful for that.

The ongoing expenses of the aging building and its systems are having a negative impact the operating budget. The boiler needs repairs prior to the beginning of the heating season. Keep your fingers crossed that the elevator doesn't break down again too...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Head of Maintenance Needed

Our Head of Maintenance, Chuck Peterman, has resigned. The Board and staff appreciate his years of hard work on behalf of the Library and the community. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

Now the search begins for our next Head of Maintenance. The job ad is posted on the Library's website and linked here.

An experienced supervisor with a variety of skills is needed, to do everything from hanging signs to maintaining the right balance of chemicals in the boiler system to mowing the lawn. Positive attitude and customer service skills are essential. With ever-increasing Library use by the community and our aging building, the job has no shortage of challenges - and a competitive package of salary and benefits.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bursting at the seams - yet again

It's that time of year. With Summer Reading at an end and kids back in school, the books, DVDs and CDs begin to overflow the shelves. I've said it many times before: the only reason this Library can own as many items as it does is because about half of the collection is checked out at any given time. But there are cycles to this, and a few times a year, Library staff struggles to find places to put it all. Sure, there's an empty range at the front of the Fiction side in the Adult area, but that's the shifting project waiting to happen to provide more space throughout the collection for exactly times like this!

This building was designed to hold a maximum collection of 67,830 items, plus all of the required seating for library users and staff. Today, the Library owns 132,915 items.

So help us out - stop by and check out a stack of books today!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tornado Commemoration Program Misprints!

Well, both the Joliet Herald News and the Chicago Tribune had misprints about the Tornado Commemoration Program scheduled for 10:00AM and 1:00PM tomorrow. Both are being held at the Village Hall, not the Library.

I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this causes. The correct information was published in the Library newsletter and the Enterprise.

You can still register for these programs here:

Tornado Program with Fox News Meteorologist Amy Freeze at 10:00AM

Tornado Program with Fox News Meteorologist Amy Freeze at 1:00PM

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Farewell, Libraries? Not Likely!

This blog post was forwarded to me by one of my staff: Farewell Libraries?

The rise of ebooks brings up the question of the future of libraries, one that has been asked since the first personal computers hit the market. Libraries have evolved along with technology. While most people's first association with a library is still a printed book, library users today find a wide variety of resources available to them: books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, computers, online databases, ebooks, downloadable audiobooks and more. Librarians have the expertise to search beyond the first page of Google hits to help you find information to answer complex questions with reliable sources.

Libraries bridge the "digital divide", the gap between those who can afford gadgets and computers and high-speed Internet access and those who cannot (or whose PC crashes at an inopportune moment). In most communities in the US, the one place you can go to use a computer for free is the public library. If you don't have the means to own a computer or ebook reader, libraries can provide access. Yes, as libraries continue to evolve along with technology, they will change. They already have. Ten years ago, public access computers were not a core service at the Plainfield Public Library. Today, over 135 people per day sign on to a public computer at the library.

Sure, ebooks are more popular now than ever before. That's why the Plainfield Library offers ebooks and downloadable audiobooks! Like public computers, access to ebooks is just one more service we offer as the library evolves to meet your needs.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The State Library Weighs In

Thanks to my friend Laura Barnes and other librarians who love social networking for plastering that last post all over Facebook et al.

I received a phone call from an Illinois State Library staff member. Unfortunately, I was busy bailing water out of my basement at home, not in the office to take the call but that's another story. The State Library wanted to clarify that LSTA grants and construction grants are separate. The State funds the construction grants. Apologies if I was unclear about this. It is the State's funding of construction grants that has dried up in recent years. They are, however, working on funding a new round of construction grants late this year or next fiscal year.

So my statement that there are no construction grants for Illinois public libraries this year may not be true. The State may yet fund some. Keep your fingers crossed!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Second Year in a Row - No Competitive Grants

The Illinois State Library announced in their e-newsletter last week that, like last fiscal year, there will be no competitive grants for libraries. This means no special project grants, construction grants, etc.

Grants for public libraries are not easy to come by for us. Many foundations that fund grants for service organizations will not give to governments entities like public libraries. Those that do, like the Gates Foundation, tend to focus on poor and/or rural libraries. Plainfield falls into neither of those categories by the funder's definitions.

The primary funders for public library grants for us have been the state and federal government. As you probably are well aware, the State of Illinois has slashed grant funding. Competitive grants funded by the State were cut years ago. The federal grants, the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), are administered by the State. Well, with the State funds drying up, LSTA, which used to be used for competitive grants (such as our digitization project with the Plainfield Historical Society and Will County Recorder of Deeds two years ago) are now being used to lessen the blow to non-competitive grants cuts.

The Illinois Public Library Per Capita Grant is, by statute, supposed to give every public library $1.25 per person residing in the library's service area every year. It has not been fully funded for many years. Last year, it was slated for a 47% reduction. To mitigate the cut, the Illinois State Library eliminated competitive LSTA grants and used the funds for Per Capita grants. The overall cut was only 16% once the LSTA funds were included.

But for your local public library, the end result is the same: less money to go around at the time libraries are the busiest and the most needed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Not Again! Elevator Problems Continue.

While the fix from June last for several weeks, the intermittent problems have cropped up again. After finally making in in before the Library opened this morning, the technician was able to diagnose the problem: overwork!

Our elevator is not designed for the constant use it receives. With over 500,000 visits last year, that is a lot of trips up and down, especially since you cannot get a stroller into the Children's Department without it. Apparently, the constant use causes the oil to overheat which cause the shut-down. I guess that answers the "why does it always happen when we're busy?" question.

On to the next fix: retrofitting with a cooling system for the oil. Our biggest roadblock is that it would need to be vented outside the building. Let's hope they can find a clear (physically, as in no pipes in the wall, etc.) and simple means of doing so.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

3/4 of a Million - Incredible!

With the Library's fiscal year ending on June 30, the statistics for the year are starting to come in. We knew it was a busy year for us, but the numbers are amazing! This year, the Library circulated 756,936 items.

This is absolutely astonishing, with only 131,550 items in the Library's collection. That means every item in the Library was checked out an average of nearly 6 times in the past year. Use of PCs in the Library rose almost 20%, with over 50,000 sessions for the year, averaging 46 minutes per session. That's over 38,000 hours of computer time for our community in the past year, not counting those who brought their own wireless devices and enjoyed the Library's wi-fi!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gwendolyn B. Krahn Memorial Garden Dedication

Thank you to all of our friends and colleagues who came out on Saturday morning to honor the memory of Library Trustee Gwen Krahn. We dedicated the new memorial garden, in front of the Original Library.

A butterfly fluttered through during the proceedings and alighted on one of the bushes for the remainder of the ceremony. Outreach Assistant and Master Gardener Judi Deszcz noted that she designed the garden to attract butterflies. In the future, we may add a bench or seat wall to create a true reading garden in memory of Gwen Krahn, who served as a Trustee for 31 years and many of those as Chair of the Building and Grounds Committee.

I miss you, Gwen!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Unattended Children and Safety in the Library

Recently, we have had a rash of unattended children incidents at the Library. A small child was found wandering alone upstairs. Two children were left alone in a car running in the parking lot. Thankfully, all of the kids in these examples were returned to their parents care safely. Staff located the child's father downstairs. Two other patrons kept an eye on the running car until the parent returned.

But it brings up a good point:
While we all like to believe that the Library is a safe environment, the reality is that the Library is a public place, just like the mall, gas station or grocery store. It is busy, with lots of people in and out. While staff does their best to keep an eye on what's going on, it is impossible for them to watch every child as closely as a parent or caregiver should. Parents and caregivers must remember to watch their children closely, even at the Library. The Library does have several policies in place to help protect kids in the Library. No child under the age of 9 can be in the Library without a parent or caregiver. Any adult not accompanied by a child may not loiter in the Children's Department. Be these cannot assure the safety of your child. Only you can do that.

Be safe. Make good choices for you and your children.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Elevator, Windows and Summer Reading

The good news: Summer Reading registration is going phenomenally well, with over 1,000 more people signed up by the close of business Wednesday than the previous year.

The bad news: The elevator has been acting up intermittently for over two weeks. the repairman has been here multiple times, trying to figure out the issue. We've replaced relays, tracked down the original plans for the system (which had gone astray during a changeover in vendors) and tried a new overload assembly. Problems persists. At least when it stopped working, it was going to the lower level and parking there, usually with the door open. Finally, this morning, it failed again while the repairman was on site. Fingers crossed that this will lead to the full resolution of the problem. But the age of the building and its systems is an issue as costly repairs of aging systems become a regular budget item.

The hopeful news: The windows that were rotting (poorly sealed during installation 20 years ago) are being patched and mended. The company doing the work is having good success with the temporary fix that should last 3-5 years. At about one-tenth the cost of replacement windows, the temporary fix was determined to be the correct course of action for the short-term, since plans for future expansion would replace all of those windows.

Never a dull moment...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Summer Reading Begins June 7!

Summer fun is at your Library! "Scare Up a Good Book" registration begins Monday morning. Register online or in person.

Attend fabulous programs all summer long: magic shows, science wonders, drama clubs, crafts, movie marathons, storytellers, family game nights, music, puppets, and more! If you didn't find something that interests you, you didn't read the whole schedule of events :-)

Join us for the Grand Finale on August 7 when we celebrate with games, contests, sundaes and music from Grammy-nominated children's recording artist Dave Rudolph.

Prizes are provided through generous contributions from local business and the Illinois Public Library Per Capita Grant. Look for the Scare Up a Good Book banners for a full list of our contributors.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fascinating stuff about the evolution of the web!

Web 3.0 from Kate Ray on Vimeo.

And the irony is that it all comes back to one of the basic questions of Western philosophy! So where do libraries fit in this? How can we help people deal with information overload?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Having Trouble Deciding What to Let Your Child Read/View?

The Plainfield Library can help you with resources to make those decisions! Unlike a school library, public libraries serve all ages, reading levels and a wide range of interests. That does mean that there is likely something in the Library's collection that would shock or offend you - and it most certainly means that not everything in the Library is suitable for children. While it is your responsibility as a parent to decide what is appropriate for your own child, we can help by providing the resources to make that a little easier.

The simplest way the Library does that is by the way books and DVDs are classified. Their location says a little something about their content!

For DVDs, the Library classifies by MPAA ratings and intended audience. DVDs in the Children's AV area (purple shelves) are all G or PG. Anything PG-13 will be found in the Teen AV area (red shelves). Anything R rated will be in the Adult AV area (dark grey shelves). That does not mean that PG movies will not be in the Adult AV area. Especially for classic films, if the intended audience is adults, the DVD will be located in that collection. So you can let your middle school "shop" the teen DVD area knowing that anything she chooses will be no more than PG-13.

For books, Easy and Easy Readers (E or EZ) are for very young children and emerging readers. Topics may include things like divorce or non-traditional families, but are presented in a manner appropriate to young children. Juvenile (J) runs the gamut from readers just delving into independent reading to older elementary student levels. Young Adult (YA or Y) begin to introduce more adult subject matter, but in a way most middle school students can handle. The most sensitive topics are in the Teen section - and, of course, upstairs in the Adult areas.

Library staff can direct you to resources that can aid in the decision-making, without you, as the parent, having to watch every DVD or read every book before they do. Readers advisory resources like the online database NoveList Plus K-8 can help you choose appropriate reading material. Even the Library's catalog may have reviews that can help you make an informed decision. For DVDs, they can show you online resources like which includes a parents guide that states the content of the movie for sex & nudity, violence & gore, drugs/alcohol/smoking and frightening/intense scenes.

In the end, what your child checks out of the library is up to you because anyone under the age of 18 cannot get a Library card without parent or guardian's consent.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Question of the Day: Can I use my Plainfield Library card at other libraries?

The short answer: yes, you can!

In Illinois, public libraries cooperate through a program called "reciprocal borrowing." The program allows anyone with a library card in good standing to borrow items from another participating library. Most public libraries participate, as do some community colleges and other types of libraries.

Here are a few things to know before you drive off to another library to check out their selection:

First, your account needs to be in good standing as defined by your home library - because the lending library will check on your account before allowing you to check out. At the Plainfield Library, "in good standing" is less than $10 in fines,fees or bills per card and less than $50 in fines, fees and bills per household.

Second, the lending library may place limits on what you can check out and for how long. For example, reciprocal borrowers may not be able to check out DVDs or other audiovisual items directly from another library or you may not be able to renew an item. Those rules are set by the lending library.

Third, you can return your items to any library - but it might not get checked in until the item reaches its home library. Let's say you check out a book at the Naperville 95th Street Library and return it at the Plainfield Library. Because the two libraries use different catalogs and check out systems, the book can't be checked in when you turn it in at Plainfield. The book will be routed through library delivery, likely taking several days to travel to Naperville 95th Street Library where it is checked in. Be sure to leave some time for delivery if you choose this method of return!

Last, be sure to return the items! The lending library will share information with your home library if you don't. You may not be able to check out anything else from any library until you clear up any fines or bills with the lending library. If you don't pay, your home library is required to pay the lending library for the unreturned items.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Employee Compensation is Key to Responsible Budgeting, Library Style.

Between this article and all the time I have recently spent on the budget, I've been thinking about employee compensation. On the local level, the Library has struggled with equitable pay and keeping up with demand for services. With personnel as the largest expense for Library, and indeed for any service organization, it is critical to keep employment costs under control. Increasing demand for services makes that a difficult proposition.

While the Library's circulation has quadrupled in the last decade, the number of staff has doubled. Each employee is asked to do more every year. As we find innovative ways to use technology to help relieve workload, management and oversight of those technologies continues to add to employees' duties. Just as in the private sector, as companies downsize, maintaining employee productivity is not an option - productivity must increase to meet demand. Unfortunately for the Library, increased productivity does not mean increased revenue. Only voter support of a referendum can do that. Increased revenue from new homes and businesses coming onto the property tax rolls only works only during a boom economy. Eventually, as now, the boom ends, the revenue stream becomes flat while employer costs continue to rise. But for libraries, the boom in use begins when economic crisis hits.

A few years ago, the Library was hemorrhaging employees to the school district and private sector because base pay had not kept pace with the job market. When this was addressed by the Library's Board of Trustees, they examined both public and private sector jobs to help them determine an equitable base pay structure and benefits package for the Library. Creation of a compensation system that benchmarks base pay to a community standard and recognizes employee merit in alternating years, the Board of Trustees struck a balance in employee compensation that helps control cost while allowing the Library to attract and retain good employees.

While federal and state government operate with deficit spending, local governments like the Library do not. Today, the Library has no debt since the 1990 building bonds were paid off earlier this year. When building bonds are issued on the local level, voter-supported referenda ensure the revenue stream to fulfill those obligations. Pension obligations are met every year through a pension fund that operates responsibly. Your locally-elected Board of Trustees would not tolerate a deficit budget. The Library operates within its means, given to the Library by you, the taxpayer. For this Library, employee compensation that is fair to both the employee and the taxpayer is the basis of responsible budgeting, meeting today's demand for service without spending tomorrow's tax dollar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

American Dream Starts @ Your Library

Plainfield Public Library District is one of the seventy public libraries in 21 states selected by the American Library Association (ALA) to receive $5,000 grants as part of “The American Dream Starts @ your library®” literacy project. This initiative is funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. For more information about the grant, click here.

Assistant Library Director Lisa Pappas and Head of Outreach Services Ceil Carey wrote the grant application to secure additional funding to support the Library's programs for adult English language learners. While our local schools help the children of our resident immigrants hone their English language skills, there is no single organization dedicated to supporting our adult English language learners. The Library is bridging that gap, just as we bridge the "digital divide," providing technology resources for our residents who cannot afford to have access to computers and the Internet in their homes. Through cooperation and partnerships with other organizations, the Library can help connect these residents to resources and opportunities for these residents to achieve their American Dream.

Thank you to Dollar General and the American Library Association for giving us the means to help our adult English language learners!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Drafting the FY11 Budget

It's a good news/bad news situation.

The good news: the Library is doing 20% more business! We're up double-digits across all measures for use statistics, about 20% overall. More library cards, more PC uses, more questions answered, more people attending programs, more more more...

Then comes the bad news. With just 1% more money, we need to keep up with demand that has hit double-digit increases over the prior year for a 10 years in a row! Unlike a business that receives more money when business is good, our income is not tied to how much use the Library is getting. Most budget lines will be frozen at their FY10 level.

It is not as bad as it could be. Unlike many of our neighbors, our Library is not facing a huge deficit or layoffs or the like. By the same token, it is a challenge to keep up with the demand for services that our residents are making. Conservative fiscal management and planning have served us well, helping us to keep up and make do through years of the increases in use outstripping any increases in funding.

Bottom line: Fiscal Year 2011 will not have cuts to services, staffing and hours at the Plainfield Public Library. In these times, that's about as good as it gets.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Head of Youth Services Joins Staff

Veronica Schwartz De Fazio joined the Library staff today as Head of Youth Services!

Veronica is an experienced department head, having served in the same position at the Des Plaines Public Library for nearly a decade. As a participant in Synergy: the Illinois Library Leadership Initiative and on committees at the regional and statewide levels, she has demonstrated leadership skills. Her energy, enthusiasm and professionalism make her a great fit for our Library team.

Welcome, Veronica! We're happy to have you with us.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's All Synergy (the Illinois Library Leadership Initiative) at the Plainfield Library!

With the addition of Head of Youth Services Veronica De Fazio and Trustee Terry Cottrell, the Plainfield Library now has what has to be a record number of Synergists!

Started in 2002, Synergy: the Illinois Library Leadership Initiative trains and supports librarians to become leaders in the profession and in their own organizations. Each year, up and coming leaders from all types of libraries throughout the state are selected to participate. The Plainfield Library now has eight Synergists between its Board and staff:

Julie Milavec (yours truly), Library Director (2003)
Lisa Pappas, Assistant Library Director (2007)
Michelle Roubal, Head of Reference and Resders Services (2002)
Veronica Schwartz De Fazio, Head of Youth Services (2002)
Louise Svehla, Reference and Readers Services Librarian (2009)
Lauren Offerman-Vice, Reference and Readers Services Librarian (2009)
Sue Parsons, Youth Services Librarian (2010)
Terry Cottrell, Trustee (2006)

Terry Cottrell Appointed to the Library Board

I am pleased to announce that at the March 17 regular Board Meeting, the Board of Trustees appointed Terry Cottrell to serve until April 2011. Terry was sworn in at the same meeting. As the Director of the University of St. Francis Library and active member of the library profession, Terry brings a unique perspective as both a librarian and a resident.

Over the past week, the Board Development Committee interviewed four candidates for the vacant Trustee position, left by resignation of Rick Martin. In appointing a Trustees, those already on the Board have an opportunity to determine the character of the Board for a set amount of time that they do not have during a regular election. Choosing among the four excellent candidates, the Committee deliberated over the best fit for the Board today. They unanimously agreed to recommend Terry Cottrell to the full Board for the appointment.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From the Suggestion Box: More Music CDs

We received this suggestion:

More CDs (music). More diverse music, not only "Michael Bolton" and other not-so-great "classics." Over near the CDs, leave a donation/suggestion box for new CDs.

Music CDs are some of the most-frequently checked out items in the library, along with DVDs. With the high volume of check outs, the item you are looking for may very well be checked out by someone else. Just the other day, a patron checked out 180 CDs at once!

If you don't see what you are looking for while browsing, be sure to look in the catalog for the item. If we don't own it, another library in our catalog consortium might. You can place a hold from the catalog that will bring the CD here for you. It may take a little more time, but it makes maximum use of the resources the library already has.

Suggestions of particular books, CDs, DVDs and other items are always welcome. They can be placed in the suggestion box on the counter near the Check In Desk. At the moment, there is not a good location for a second suggestion box near the CDs, but I will bear it in mind as we shift furniture around upstairs. There may be an opportunity to create a space for it in the future. Donations are also welcome and can be dropped off at the Check In Desk. Please, no copied CDs or DVDS! The library cannot put them into the collection.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Not Your Grandmother's Library" Strikes a Cord with Some

Its seems that the title of the lead article on the Library's latest newsletter has struck a cord with some residents - and not in a good way! We have received phone calls from two grandmothers who found this title offensive to them as grandmothers.

The newsletter article title is intended to be interesting and catchy - a subtle encouragement to find out more by reading the article's content. With the wide variety of services and collections available today that did not exist even ten years ago, I wanted to highlight how library services have changed. Many of the library's 21st century services, like Text-a-Librarian, were not even possible until recently.

I sincerely apologize to our community members who found the title to be derogatory. That was not the intent. My own grandmother, herself an avid library user, reminds me of the importance of being respectful of the different points of view of others.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

From the Suggestion Box: Workmans' vehicles in the parking lot

This was in the suggestion box recently:

"It would be nice if outside vendors, such as Inland Steel trucks, Windows & Siding, could park in the back lot or on street and leave front parking for patrons & visitors, elderly & small children."

I completely understand and concur with the sentiment: in a perfect world, we would always leave the closest parking spaces for the patrons, particularly for the elderly and parents with small children. However, the Library staff are doing the best they can with what we have.

In general, outside vendor vehicles are parked in staff spaces - most frequently those directly adjacent to the staff entrance on the side of the building. Remember - there is no loading dock or service entrance on this building, only the staff and main entrances. One of the reasons that the staff spaces extend as far as they do is to be able to utilize the nearest spaces for loading and vendors.

Second, the back lot, regardless or whether you are referring to the Illinois Street or Route 59 lots, do not belong to the Library. We cannot designate Library parking in either lot. This summer, the Library is contracted to purchase the Route 59 parking lot from the Village, allowing the Library to designate spaces for staff.

Lastly, Inland Steel has not done work for the Library in the past year, nor have we had windows or siding replaced. The Library does request vendors doing work for the Library park in designated spaces. The roofing contractors used staff spaces during their project. Keep in mind that the Library is a public building - and people who drive work trucks use it too.

I understand that the parking at the Library is not ideal. We're doing the best we can with what we have.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trustee Applications Due March 1

March 1st is the deadline to apply for the vacant position on the Plainfield Public Library District’s Board of Trustees. This fun, exciting (unpaid) public service opportunity gives you a chance to help the library serve the community. The Board of Trustees meets regularly on the third Wednesday of each month. Additional meetings are set as needed.

Authorized by state law to fill a vacancy by appointment until the next regularly-scheduled Trustee election, the Library Board seeks applicants for the position to fill the unexpired term until April 2011. Applicants may be interviewed by the Board Development Committee in March.

Any US citizen, 18 or over and residing in the Plainfield Public Library District, may apply. Interested parties are asked to submit a letter of application and a resume of any pertinent experience and interests.

You can mail it to us at Plainfield Public Library District Board of Trustees, 15025 S. Illinois Street, Plainfield, IL 60544 or email it to me directly.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Going High Tech the Low Cost, Low Tech Way

Thanks to our smart and savvy staffers at the Library, we are going high-tech on Library signs without the high cost!

We'd seen the wonderful digital signs at other libraries and businesses, with scrolling signs and information on big plasma TVs. Just a little research showed that those systems were way out of our price range. But the staff didn't take that to mean it was impossible to do.

The Marketing Committee took it as a challenge. How do we get the scrolling digital signs without the high cost? Digital picture frames! With inexpensive memory cards, the Committee could change out the signs scrolling on each weekly without a lot of cost for the signs or in staff time maintaining them. The catch was finding inexpensive digital picture frames large enough to make this work.

Staffer Cindy Caswell just happened to be in Staples on her own time and noticed a great deal on large digital picture frames, which she immediately reported to the group. And it just so happened that the Library's Foundation received a $1,000 gift card from Staples last year. Though most of that gift card was used to purchase a new laptop projector for the Large Meeting Room, there was a bit leftover. Four 12" x 9" digital picture frames were purchased. The Library already owned one smaller frame from a previous use. Memory cards were purchased to make the updating of the frames easier. Our Head of Maintenance, Chuck, and the Committee brainstormed the perfect way to mount them on the Check Out Desk upstairs and near the Self-Check Outs on the lower level.

The whole project came together for a cost of just $200 out of the Library's coffers! Stop by and see our digital signs! There are five located at different service desks in the Library.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wanted: Head of Youth Services

For the third time since 2007, our Head of Youth Services position is open. As my hilarious sister-in-law commented "Well, you're at the level of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, but not as bad as Spinal Tap drummers." Nice. The bright side is, at least there has not yet been spontaneous combustion. Instead, there seems to be a link between this job and the desire to move to a new region of the country.

The job ad is here on our web site and some other library job sites.

If you know any great Children's Librarians - send 'em our way! But only if they aren't planning to move out of state in the near future.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trustee Rick Martin Resigns, Board Seeks Applicants

Richard Martin tendered his resignation for his position as Trustee at a special meeting of the Library’s Board of Trustees on January 11. Martin will no longer reside in the district after January, making him ineligible to serve the rest of his term. He indicated in his letter of resignation that he will be taking a one-year contract in China to teach English to Chinese students. The resignation was officially accepted by the Board of Trustees and a vacancy declared at the regular meeting January 20, per the Bylaws of the Board. The Library Trustees and staff wish him well as he embarks on his new adventure!

The Library Board is seeking applicants for the position of Trustee to fill the unexpired term until April 2011. Any US citizen, 18 or over and residing in the Plainfield Public Library District, may apply. Interested parties are asked to submit a letter of application and a resume of any pertinent experience and interests. Please send to: Plainfield Public Library District Board of Trustees, 15025 S. Illinois Street, Plainfield, IL 60544. For more information, please call or email me at the Library!

This is a great opportunity to "test drive" a Trustee position without the full four-year commitment of being elected.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Library in the News!

Fox News Chicago's Kori's ShoutOut segment Featured Plainfield Library's winter glove, hat and scarf drive!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Library Visits Up 17% Over Previous Year

The latest in the long line of record-breakers! You visited the library 17% more in the last half of 2009 than in the end of 2008. Nearly 275,00 visits from July-December!

That figure is straight door-count. Now, anyone who knows me well knows that door-count is my least-favorite statistic to quote, since those door-counter devices are notoriously odd about counting. However, we've had the same one for years, so I figure there's at least consistency year to year. Bottom line is that more people are coming to the Library each day than ever before. They're checking out more books, signing up for more programs and classes, and generally using all that the Library has to offer.

Come visit us! Everyone else is :-)