Archive for the ‘Library services’ Category

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More changes are coming

July 31, 2013

After more than two years in our expanded and renovated library building, we are in the process of making some changes to the locations of some collections and services.  I have always believed that you need to spend some time in a space to know whether or not the design and flow offer you the most effective use of your building.

During the time since our project has been completed, we have paid attention to how the building is actually being used and listened carefully to what our library customers have told us.  For example, we know that for some people, the fact that all of our large print books were on the second floor made accessibility difficult.

Now that we have two years under our belt, we are making a number of changes.  They are outlined below.

We will be making the area that was designated for young adults a “coffee shop” type oCoffee cupf space for all ages and will move the new large print books into that room.   That means that *all* new books will now be on the first floor.  We’re happy to offer our seniors better accessibility to a collection that is important to them.

The teen computers will be moved to our technology center area where we will have better ability to provide technical support since staff is already up in that area.  The young adult collection will move to the second floor area adjacent to the technology center where the books will be very accessible to our teens.  Also, we hope that by making this change, adults will discover a whole new collection of great reading material!

All the youth AV materials will move downstairs into the children’s department.  We’ve had many folks tell us they don’t like having to travel from the youth department to the upstairs just to find a DVD to borrow.   So those materials will be moving downstairs, allowing parents to keep their children in the area designed especially for them.

We hope to have the changes complete within the next several weeks because the changes don’t require any construction, just lots of book carts and strong backs.  (And we haven’t forgotten how to move books!)   If you come in and a collection is in the process of being moved, we apologize for the disruption.  We’ll be happy to help you find whatever it is you are looking for.  Please just ask a staff member!

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We grew (in more ways than one)!

January 24, 2012

Dwight Foster Public Library annual circulation: 2000-2011

As we reflect on 2011 here at the Dwight Foster Public Library, we can know one thing for sure:  we grew!  We grew both physically and in terms of usage.   Our successful Foster Growth capital campaign allowed us to renovate and expand our library, adding 12,000 square feet to our existing 21,000.  That growth allowed us to grow in terms of service to our community.  More people than ever not only visited our library to see all that had changed, but they also checked out more items than any other year in the previous ten…by a considerable sum.

A library’s circulation numbers don’t tell the whole story because, by definition, a circulation is simply a count of a physical item that has left the building.   It doesn’t measure how many people read a newspaper, came to use a computer, asked a question, made a photocopy or used a meeting room.   It doesn’t even count e-book circulations.  (That’s a topic for another day.)   However, a library circulation, limited measure that it is, is still a very good way to compare a library to itself over time.   I think the chart above shows a remarkable pattern of steadiness and vitality, particularly in light of our world’s increasingly rapid move from the physical to the digital world.

If you want to ponder another measure, here is a chart depicting the number of library visits based on our people counter (purchased in 2010 and located at the front entry).

Dwight Foster Public Library visits - 2011 compared to 2010

All in all, it was a year of enormous change and significant growth for our library.  If you’d like to read more, you can find the full 2011 annual report here.

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The joy of receiving a handwritten thank you!

January 11, 2012

Handwritten note (with name removed & permission for sharing)

Every once in awhile something simple can touch your heart.  This “thank you” letter received in the mail at our library right around Christmas sure did that for me.

It reminded me why I entered this profession all those years ago and have never lost the burning desire to provide the best possible library services to all who enter.   Plain and simple: libraries rock.  (You can read more about the importance of public libraries here…and there…and everywhere.)

But more than that, it underscored for me my burgeoning belief that  in this world of instant communication, nothing has more power than a handwritten letter delivered by the United States Postal Service.    As our world shifts and reshapes itself, I’d like to think that the future generations won’t forget that.

The final “take away” for me in this letter is that no matter how grand the building or how excellent the search engine, it’s still the staff that counts the most.

Kudos to our staff for their tireless commitment to the goal of helping people use this library.   Our project was several years of disruption and displacement.  Through it all, the staff made it their responsibility to deliver excellent library service…one person at a time.

As you can see, it’s appreciated.

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ChaCha doesn’t provide answers like this

September 28, 2010

Libraries have historically been known as places of research and information, the place to go when you have a question.  Over the last few years, new methods of getting answers to questions have surfaced.   Many websites exist whose purpose is to provide answers (and profit).  These days you can get answers sent via text message to your cell phone from places like ChaCha.   Sometimes it works.  Then again, sometimes it doesn’t.  I will point out that the answers you get from non-experts should not be assumed to be accurate.  Always consider the source and the citation.

Libraries offer web services to answer questions too.  In Wisconsin you can use AskAway for fast, reliable answers provided by librarians.  Libraries are *still* the best place for people  who seek accurate and complete answers to questions.  If you want more than a sound bite, come on in to explore, discover and reflect.   You can read the research, see the pictures, hear the words, feel the story.  Whatever the question, there’s something more you can learn.

It’s my personal opinion that asking questions is an important part of life.   Here I’m talking about the kinds of questions that will never be answered on ChaCha.   Sometimes it’s hard to ask those questions because you worry that others may feel you are questioning their decision or judgement.   Sometimes it’s hard to ask questions because you are afraid of the answer.   But asking “why” generally yields benefits.

So when Bob Bell walked in to the library this summer, pointed at the building plans on display and asked, “Connie, why are you putting that wall up in the old entryway and not taking advantage of the nice architectural feature of the curved wall?” I listened and said, “Well, we talked about that during the design process.  But I don’t remember the actual reason that wall is going there.  I think it might have something to do with providing structural support for the new floor above.  Or maybe it was budget related.”   Hmmm.  Not the best answer, but an honest one.  I guess I needed to do some research to properly answer the question.

I took the question I was asked and asked a question of my own to the architect and contractor.  “Why is that wall there?”  Followed with, “Does it *have* to be there?”  Followed with, “What would it cost for it not to be there so we could put in windows?”  Followed with, “How much of a priority is this?” [which can be translated to] “Do we have the money?”  And, finally, “Is it too late to make this happen?” (Okay, so that was more than one question.)

I’m so glad the architect, the contractor, the library construction committee, the library board, and the city council all believe in the importance of asking questions.

This week they removed the wall studs and cut the holes for the windows.  We now have natural light in an area that was looking very dark and tunnel-like.   Talk about the transformational power of light.  And the impact on the exterior design is just as significant.

Thanks for coming to the library with your question, Bob.   I can guarantee that a ChaCha answer would not have been the same.

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The bids are in…

February 12, 2010

The bids were opened Tuesday.   They were excellent bids, not much difference from top to bottom.   I’m delighted that the bids met our budget expectations. I know a great deal of time and effort was invested by many people to prepare the bids.  Reviewing the plans and bid documents, analyzing the addenda, scrutinizing the project manual, it’s all a great deal of work within a limited time frame.  I’m grateful to everyone who made the effort to bid our project.   Unfortunately, we can only hire one contractor.  But in the hiring of  one contractor we will be building a library…and that will benefit thousands of people for many years.

The renovated and expanded library will be gorgeous and practical, a unique combination of past and future.  Many people have contributed to the planning process and for that I’m grateful.  I believe the best results are a product of many people’s ideas.   That so many would volunteer to help is testimony to the how important…and needed…this library is to our community.

I can’t remember a time when this library wasn’t important to me.

When I was a 13 year old girl and struggling to find a place in the world and reconcile my own sense of self, I needed the Dwight Foster Public Library.   When I was was considering dropping out of college, I needed the Dwight Foster Public Library.  When I was expecting my children, when I thought I had cancer, when I built a porch, when I went through divorce, when I bought my oven…I needed the Dwight Foster Public Library.

Every day I see how much the library is used and appreciated by folks just like me…whether a person is struggling or joyous…or somewhere in between.   That’s all the inspiration I need.  It engenders a great sense of responsibility in me as we stand at the beginning of the chapter that will allow us to grow and improve and ensure that the Dwight Foster Public Library is able to be that very special place it has always been for all who come after.

Twenty years from now, I’m sure there will be a 13 year old girl trying to figure out her place in the world who will seek answers in our library.  Shoot, we don’t have to wait that long; tomorrow we’ll have one walk through the door.

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Observations from a visit to the Houston Public Library

September 17, 2009
I was in Houston with my kids several weeks ago.  One of my children actually isn’t a child anymore as evidenced by the fact that he went to Houston to stay for a year and I was merely a sightseer.  But that’s another post, in another blog, I think.    (I just can’t think of a way to weave a discussion of a parent’s  complex set of emotions while emptying the nest into a library expansion blog.  Maybe if I wasn’t so tired from my “vacation” I could, but I’m coming up short at the moment.)

Back to the point.  On one of our days exploring Houston, we went to the public library.  (Doesn’t everybody drag their kids to the library while traveling?)

It was great timing to see the Houston Public Library because these days I’m in search of good ideas for our library building. 

With thanks to the Houston Public Library for a great experience and their warm hospitality!  Here is what I observed in Houston:

  • Underground parking onsite…for a price.  It only took three trips around the building for me to realize I wasn’t going to find free parking anywhere.  If I wanted to see the library, I needed to open up my wallet.
  • A large computer area with dozens and dozens of computers for people to use…and a waiting line for booking them.  They looked to be a precious commodity, very well-used.
  • A coffee shop in the entry area, it was very brightly lit and in a great location.  I would have loved to sample a cup of java but my kids were more interested in exploring than sitting.
  • A very friendly staff.   It always make such a difference in a library.  Kudos to the library for remembering how important it is to make people feel welcome…even visitors whose only contribution is a few bucks for the parking.
  • A teen area that had a striking entry wall (as seen in the photo below) covered with the words (in a variety of languages) that meant this was a meeting place and displaying a sign that made it clear it was their meeting place…not a place for adults or younger kids.  (I did peek in, I must admit, and saw some very futuristic chairs that my daughter made sure I knew I wasn’t supposed to try.)
Houston Public Library young adult entrance

Houston Public Library teen entrance

Our staff and board members have visited quite a number of  libraries during our years of planning.  We’ve got a few more left to see.  We’re now far enough into our planning that we have specific things we’re looking to examine in action, including an operational RFID system.  We’re not going to far away places (there’s no budget for that) but it’ll be an adventure just the same!  I’m a firm believer in learning from others.   
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