Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seth Godin on the Future of the Library

Best-selling author Seth Godin recently posted on his blog about the Future of the Library. Specifically addressing the question of public libraries, he expounds on the why print books are giving way to electronic versions. But the end of his post mirrors my own thoughts - and the direction of our library

"The next library is filled with so many web terminals there's always at least one empty. And the people who run this library don't view the combination of access to data and connections to peers as a sidelight--it's the entire point.

Wouldn't you want to live and work and pay taxes in a town that had a library like that? The vibe of the best Brooklyn coffee shop combined with a passionate raconteur of information? There are one thousand things that could be done in a place like this, all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value.

We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime."

Our Library's mission Educate - Captivate - Connect speaks directly to this concept. Connecting you to information, to resources and to each other is what we do. Now more than ever, those connections create the value of the public library in our community.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Public Comments Sought!

Make a difference in the Library’s plans for the future! Before the Plainfield Public Library District’s Board of Trustees approves the Strategic Plan 2011-2015, all residents are invited to review and comment on the draft plan, now available on the Library’s web site.

The draft of Strategic Plan 2011-2015 is the result of six months examining the current status of the Library and community, gathering input from residents and creating a plan to guide the Library's programs and services in its efforts to meet the library needs of the community. A summary the February focus group responses held by the Library is included in the draft. The parameters of this plan will allow the Plainfield Public Library District to nimbly respond to community needs and its environment through 2015.

Comments can be made in writing by mail or placed in the Suggestion Box near the Library’s Welcome Desk, by email to, by texting “askppl” to 66746 or by instant message through the Library’s web site. A copy of the plan is also available for viewing at the Library. Public comment is open through June 3.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Parable for Libraries by Storyteller Bob Kanegis

Recently, the Albuquerque city council heard comments from the public on a recommendation that their libraries be cut by 8 full time positions, on top of 8 vacancies not filled the prior year, on top of other cuts dating back to 2000. The recommendation represented a real reduction of 25%, compared with the goal of cutting the overall city staff by 8%. Bob Kanegis, a local storyteller, used his two minutes on the following parable:

A farmer had a wonderful horse that he worked 12 hours every day. One day he arrived in the fields and realized to his chagrin that he'd forgotten to feed the horse in the morning. Nevertheless, the horse worked the full 12 hours and all the work was accomplished. The farmer was surprised but also intrigued. Perhaps the horse could get by with less food.

So the next morning, the farmer fed the horse, but a little less than usual. Again, the horse finished the day and finished the work. And so it went. Each day the farmer continued the experiment. With each passing day the horse ate less and less and accomplished all the work.

Then on the 30th day, just as the experiment was going SO WELL, the darn horse up and died.

We have fabulous libraries here, and people who love them and use them often and well. A city staffer mentioned alluded to a survey that 70+ % of people here think the libraries are doing a great job even though the vacant positions were not filled. (So everything must be fine, right?)

He forwarded his parable and comments to a library professional organization with these words: "If you find this little parable useful, or perhaps too close to the truth, please feel free to pass it on in your advocacy work. One member of the city council alluded to the 'truth' and warning in the story, in strong comments he made in defense of the libraries. And thank you for your work and for being the bridge to the future and culture keepers that you are."

Here in Plainfield, the story is a little different. Our budget has increased, but nowhere near as much as library use and the population size! Per capita, the Library's budget has not changed since the early 1990's - and that's not adjusted for inflation. Our horse is being fed, but is working 24 hours a day!

Thank you, Mr. Kanegis, for supporting your local public library. Librarians are good at doing more with less. But that can lead to the assumption that we can continue doing more with less indefinitely.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Proud to Be Public!

A friend and colleague (Thanks, Paul!) posted a link to "All Hail the PUBLIC Library" about the Fort Worth Library's decision to take the word "public" out of their name. Part op-ed piece, part public library history, this discusses everything from the roots of the public library as an inherently American institution to relevance of public libraries today - and the challenges faced by all public libraries.

To me, "public" is the word in our name that says that this library serves everyone. Being "public" means anyone and everyone can come in. And they do. Hundreds of people everyday. Heck, we had over 150 2nd graders from Central Elementary come in just this morning! It is, at once, the most challenging and rewarding part of the job - and I, for one, wouldn't change it for the world.

FTR - the kids from Central were beautifully behaved. Kudos to them and the Central staff.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Do You Like the Friends of the Library?

The Friends of the Plainfield Library are now on Facebook! Our Friends are a wonderful group of volunteers who work locally to support the goals, services and resources of the Library. Organizing fundraisers, like their cookbook project, used book sale and flea market, allows the Friends to support special events and equipment at the Library. They are the core of volunteers who help out with Summer Reading registration and Grand Finale event. Past donations include the cozy book furniture outside the Storytime Room. They also provided this year's Staff Appreciation Luncheon, which had been cut from the Library's budget. Their Facebook page includes some great pictures of the Friends at work.

Look for event information on the page, like the Flea Market/Garage Sale, coming up on May 21-22. The Library's Used Electronics Sale will be held on May 21, in conjunction with the Flea Market.

I hope you'll "like" our Friends on Facebook, because they are great Friends!