Archive for June, 2008


Books still matter

June 17, 2008

Every summer, without fail, our library is inundated with kids who are participating in our summer reading program. Our program started yesterday and it’s been wildly busy at the library.  It’s a fun time to visit us, you’ll see neat decorations and many excited children.  Youth Services Librarian, Shelly Menzer does an incredible job putting the program together and is ably assisted by her amazing staff members as well as a crew of student volunteers who are second-to-none.

When I was a child, I was thrilled to receive a button that I could pin on my shirt to proclaim my status as a reader.  Kids don’t get as excited about those pins anymore, so the prizes tend toward more “hip” things.  But if you want to know the truth of it, it is still the books that get the kids excited. 

I’m always struck with joy when I see a little child beam about the books he or she has selected.  Hearing teens talk about Harry Potter reminds me of my love affair with the works of Susan Cooper and Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  It probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but I read a lot as a child and teen.  I wasn’t particularly discerning then, I figured if it was in print, it had to be important.  One day my Aunt Loretta came for a visit and found me with a hair dryer in my right hand and a General Motors annual report in my left.   I think her words were something like, “Oh my, Connie, you’ll read anything.”  I think I was about 12 years old at the time. 

I never actually wondered if there was something wrong with me for loving words so much…although, now that I think of it, others certainly may have. (Aunt Loretta, bless her heart, never indicated that she was worried.  My parents encouraged my reading too.)   “Miss Kate”, the children’s librarian at Dwight Foster Public Library at the time, had lit that fire inside me and reassured me along the way by telling me on more than one occasion that reading was indeed a valuable life skill. 

It really is.  You can learn and grow in ways that are unimaginable.  You can be transported anywhere in the world.  You can use your time more productively.  You can simply escape, if that’s what you need to do. 

An intern from the Daily Jefferson County Union newspaper told me today that during our recent tornado warning she finished up the book she was reading.  What a great use of time, tucked away safely in the basement, reading a book!

If you hear someone predict the death of the book, be suspicious.  It’s true that information is made more accessible if it is online (assuming access to the Internet.)  I couldn’t agree more that SOME things are better produced electronically.  But a book is still a cheap, portable way to share a story.  Add great illustrations and a comfy lap and a you have the recipe for a life-long memory. 

When I think of it, a hair dryer in the right hand and a book in the left still works for me. (Only one electrical cord to worry about!)  These days, however, I’m not likely to be found reading the General Motors annual report while drying my hair.  With access to millions of titles via our library’s SHARE catalog, it’s easy to find something a bit more in entertaining and enlightening. 

At the end of the day, as a public library we are all about providing access…whatever the format.  But I do expect books will long have a prominent place on our shelves.  As we get set to plan our expanded library, you can know that we do have a deep commitment to books.   At the library we see, every day, the way people in Fort Atkinson feel about books.  STILL.   


Revolution in the stacks

June 10, 2008

There’s no question our world is changing.  In terms of what these societal and technological changes mean for libraries it is interesting to note what other libraries are doing to respond to the trends.  An interesting article entitled: Revolution in the stacks can be found in the June 2008 Governing Magazine. 

From offering music recording studios to providing a coffee shop experience there are many examples of innovative library services.  The article even discusses the merits of throwing out the Dewey Decimal system.

Now I have to admit, I’m not sure I agree with dumping Dewey!

I’m all for change, but the benefits of a system superior to the Dewey Decimal system would have to be demonstrated before I’d make that change.  (Okay, so maybe I’ve got one or two sacred cows.)

As we get set to plan our community library building we realize it is driven by the services we wish to provide today, tomorrow, and well into the future.  Thinking about the possibilities is just as important as thinking about the history.


What’s been done

June 3, 2008

Library Expansion Project Timeline

Spring 2001 – Library community survey completed (1,000 area residents surveyed)

December 2001/January 2002 – Library Board members and staff visit new or expanded library buildings (Janesville, Sun Prairie, Schaumberg, Gurnee)

Winter/Spring 2002 – Board and staff complete work sessions for Space Needs Assessment

April 1, 2002 – Board adopts final Space Needs Assessment which documents serious building, workflow and service shortcomings (Completed by planner George Lawson)

June 2002 – Architect selection process for Space Feasibility Study/Alternatives Assessment

August 2002Uilhlein Wilson Architects selected to do space feasibility study/alternatives assessment

October 2002 – Team comprised of library board members, library staff, and architectural firm’s staff visit new or expanded library buildings (Sussex, Whitefish Bay, Milwaukee, Waterford)

November 2002 – Community focus groups held for Space Feasibility Study

November 2002 – 3 day space planning workshop for feasibility study (conducted by Uihlein Wilson architectural staff with direction by George Lawson)

April 2003 – Letter to Friedens Church to request conversation about purchasing parsonage property

February 2004 – Letter to Friedens to request conversation about purchasing parsonage property

March – October 2004 – Conversations with Friedens Church

April 2004 – City secures Right of First Refusal on South Third Street property

October 2004Friedens Church informs Library that it is not interested in selling the parsonage property

May 2005 – Community Listening Sessions

Spring/Summer 2005 – Board and staff work sessions for building program

August 2005 – Library receives commitment of a gift of $30,000 to help purchase South Third Street property

September 2005 – Board adopts Library Building Program; City exercises option for right of first refusal on South Third Street property and makes an offer to purchase property; Offer to purchase is accepted by property owner and a closing date is set for January 2006

July 2006 – Library Board members and staff tour public libraries in New Berlin and Pewaukee

October 2006 – Letter to Friedens, Fort Atkinson Community Foundation gives approval to use library funds invested with the Foundation for property purchase

December 2005 – City examines South Third Street Property

January 2006 – City closes on South Third Street Property (private funds were used)

February 2006 – Library demolishes house on South Third Street Property (private funds were used)

2007 – Library board examines alternate possible location

January 2008 – Library Board decides to remain at current location based on detailed analysis of alternative options

April 2008 – Library interviews architects for library expansion project

May 2008 – Library makes decision to hire Uihlein Wilson Architects

Future Dates:

  • Summer 2008 – Program Verification Workshops to determine design/program
  • Fall 2008 – Begin fundraising.
  • Fall 2009 – Complete fundraising. Complete technical specifications.
  • Spring 2010 Begin construction process in January

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