Archive for January, 2009

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Build a better library…and the world will beat a path to your door

January 29, 2009

At the beginning of every year library directors tend to pause to take a breath and reflect on the previous year.

It’s probably not surprising but I can report that we did experience a significant increase in use just as has been widely documented all across America.  It really is true that during difficult economic times people turn to their libraries.

Our increase in circulation was over 6 percent in one year.

Additionally, the number of library visits grew 6.5 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Those numbers don’t necessarily sound like much but, trust me, it is a challenge to our staff to keep pace with the increased usage, adapt to the technological and work flow changes, and attempt to provide the highest quality library service with ever more limited dollars.

A couple days ago I decided to dig up the annual reports going back to 1983.  I chose that year because that was when the library last expanded.

I entered the number of library visits per year into the spreadsheet, used the tool to create a chart, and sat back to review the resulting image.  Wow.  The first thing that popped into my head was the old saying:

Build a better mousetrap…and the world will beat a path to your door.

In 1983 we recorded 35,047 library visits.  In 2008, we tallied 192,744 visits which translated to 636 people every day we were open and an increase of 450% (from 1983).

The next thing that entered my mind (after deleting the slightly distasteful mental image of the mousetrap and replacing it with an image of our library) was that the staff deserves so much credit.  After all, a library building is just the framework.  Excellent library service cannot be achieved without people committed to making it happen.  And this staff is committed.

I believe this place has always been incredibly special, a combination of stunning architecture and outstanding people.  Before the 1983 expansion this library was special.  After the 1983 expansion it was even better…more able to accommodate the many needs of our citizens.  We are looking forward to the next round of improvements and know that our community will demonstrate just how much they value their community library..by beating a path to our door (which, by the way, we plan to move down Merchants Avenue).

So here’s a picture of the path of the last 25 years…

library-visits-chart-cropped

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*See* the change that has already happened

January 21, 2009

Every once in awhile, life forces you to see with new eyes, to take another look, reframe your mental image.

I had this experience just the other day.

I arrived at my daughter’s basketball game, studied the team enroute to my seat and silently wondered why she wasn’t there.  As a mother will do, I immediately began ticking off the possibilities on my worry list. She was getting a drink of water. She was still suiting up. She’d missed the bus. She’d been kidnapped. (As you can see, the seriousness ratchets up quickly.)

Within moments I spotted some parents who might know her whereabouts. Naturally, I inquired, “Have you seen Meredith?”  Much to my surprise they replied with, “Yes, there on the floor, number 13.”  This was accompanied by puzzled expressions and fingers pointing toward a girl standing in line to shoot.

“No,” I said [emphatically], “That’s not her.”

The parents then began attempting to convince me it was Meredith.  Their insistence eventually elicited from me, “Don’t you think I’d know my own daughter?”   (I’ve watched the movie The Changeling; I felt like the mother being told that some imposter was her child.)

Moments later Coach was called over and consulted on the whereabouts of my missing daughter.  He pointed at number 13.

She waved at me.

I could barely speak, could find no voice  as the realization (and complex set of emotions) came sweeping over me.  I was a mother suddenly aware that my daughter had changed, right before my very eyes, seemingly imperceptibly, but in reality, profoundly. I knew she was taller than me now. But when had she grown up? When had her face taken that shape and her hair, now pulled completely off her face, turned adult-like?  When had she changed beyond my recognition?

I cannot describe, in words, the feeling inspired by the revelation that I’d been looking at my daughter with such old eyes that I couldn’t even find her on the basketball court that day.  Time for a new mental image.

And that’s really the way it works I think.  You get a picture in your mind’s eye and it is stuck there until you update it.  Sometimes you are forced (by life events) to see the change!  Sometimes you make a concerted effort because you know it’s essential.

People sometimes tell me that the library of their youth is the definition of a library.  While that’s an extremely pleasant and personal memory, it is not truly an accurate picture of today’s library.  Libraries have changed a lot.  The world has changed a lot.

What is your mental image of a library?

If you’ve been to any library lately, your view is probably different than someone who hasn’t been to a library in years.  If you have visited libraries in other communities, it’s likely you have some images in your mind that are far different than the Dwight Foster Public Library snapshot. Your mind’s eye might even show you a “dream library”, a synthesis of a whole group of the best libraries that you’ve seen, anywhere…at any time.

Now is a great time for you to look and see, with new eyes, our own local library.   Look at the beauty of what we have, being mindful of the improvements we really need to make, so that we can foster important, vital growth for our community’s future generation.

See the change that has already happened.  Envision the change to come.

 

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Small investments with major returns

January 12, 2009

Most of us are feeling the financial squeeze.  So what to do about it?  I am not a big fan of get-rich-quick ideas.  I tend toward thinking that there is never a free lunch in life.  But still.

I decided to do some thinking about saving and budgeting and was looking for some ideas on ways to make the most of my assets.  So I clicked on the link to an article written by Brett Arends in the January 5, 2009, Wall Street JournalSmall investments (that’d be the kind for me) with major returns (that’d be the kind I want.)

I scanned through the ideas first to see what kind of interest rates were listed as expected.   #3 jumped out at me.  It said:  “Return: Infinite”.  Shoot, I wanted in on that.  Who doesn’t want an investment that yields unlimited benefit?

Guess what investment yields infinite returns?

That’s right.  A library card.  Here’s what it says:

  • Take out a local library card. Cost: Nothing. If it saves you $10 a month on books, that’s $120 a year. Return: Infinite

There are many good ideas in the article.  But, in my opinion, that one is really the best.

It also reminded me that investing in the library itself, by donating to the library’s capital campaign, yields a community-wide investment whose return is also actually…infinite.

(Okay, you knew I’d get back to that, didn’t you?)

smartest-card

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