Friday, February 12, 2016

Plans are shaping up!

As we move in to the heart of winter, plans are being completed for sprucing up the library! We will be working on the children's story time room, the children's bathrooms, doing a little work on the children's entrance, and a lot of work on the Main Street entrance. The Main street part of the project will include a new second floor reading area. If everything stays on track, we plan to have a bid opening for this work in early March and have work started later in the spring!

But wait, there's more! We are still taking suggestions for regarding what to do with the large bequest that was left to HPL. Our goal is to do something that will have the biggest impact possible on the lives of our patrons and the life of the community. We're trying to think big. We're looking for something amazing, unique, and potentially life-changing for our users.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bicycle Book Delivery

Oakland Public Library's effort
I think this is just fantastic! This article talks about libraries that are bringing mini-collections of books to book-poor areas of their cities and towns by bicycle.

Hutchinson, KS is an extremely bike-able town, size-wise. I'm not sure what we'd do in winter months here, but you could easily bike a trailer of books to Third Thursday or to a city park or a community center with very little effort. I think even an out-of-shape old man like me could do it!

The article seems to indicate that most of these libraries are using targeted collections for the event or area they are visiting with their pedal-powered bookmobiles. This seems like a great way to do some major good will in one's community while helping a literacy issue that just doesn't go away - the inability to get books in to some people's hands simply because of a lack of availability or access.

Friday, February 5, 2016

e-Books vs. Print Books

[Insert maniacal laughter here] I find a sense of shadenfreude in this New Republic article about reading.  The person being interviewed has been gathering evidence, other than anecdotal, about reading and the use of electronic books versus paper (or "traditional") books.

Turns out that there seems to be a host of component factors to reading that are unsatisfied by reading on a screen. There has been a slowing of ebook sales in the past 5-6 quarters that have puzzled publishers, pundits, and others alike. Why haven't ebooks continued their meteoric rise?

I've wondered about this before and it's good to see someone look at this issue with a certain amount of diligence. I've always thought, with nothing empirical to back it up, that people become distracted when using a device to read versus a paper book. As the article above states, the book provides immediate feedback AND you can't just "quickly" check Facebook.

Anyway, maybe it will turn out that "I told you so" and ebooks will be just another medium for delivering information. They have shortcomings and strengths just like any other medium. To me, it makes sense that ebooks will fill the needs better than paper for some purposes and vice versa. And the best part is that libraries will still be here to help you find what you need. [Insert more maniacal laughter].

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

This is where we are as public libraries...

The long, painful dismantling of the USA's social safety net is hitting still-functioning public institutions like public libraries right in the gut. This Washington Post article shows us what the end result of our war on poor people is going to look like.

Public libraries are not public health care providers. Public libraries are not homeless shelters. Public libraries exist for an entirely different sort of public service for all - life-long learning and entertainment.

I am strongly in favor of access to library services for ALL - rich or poor; old or young; homeless or gated-community dwelling. However, libraries are not set up for, designed to handle, or in any way truly capable of handling what they are increasingly being forced to deal with. Libraries on the whole are not always even funded to a level to effectively perform their main function. Asking libraries to be medical facilities, mental health providers, and more is the sign of, in my not-so-humble opinion, a nation that has given up and given in to stingy, hard-hearted sentiment.

The Post article states that the solution many of these not-lavishly-funded libraries came up with is to hire social workers, nurses, etc. This is a ridiculous diversion from the mission of public libraries. At least in Hutchinson Kansas we have organizations like New Beginnings to help people in housing crisis and the Salvation Army and many other groups to help with homelessness.

So, what is the role of public libraries in this crisis of poverty? I think it is to be in the second tier of support - helping people find jobs through providing access to resume help, application help, and providing access to training and coaching. Libraries should be places for moving forward. Forward movement can only be achieved once the basic needs of housing, food, and health are met.

Should libraries not be part of this process of change? Of course we should be active participants in this vital conversation, but we should not allow ourselves to be substituted for other institutions and services. We are being taken advantage of because of our collective urge to help people. We should never give up our desire to help people but we should also stop letting ourselves be used as a convenient rug under which bigger societal problems can be swept.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Talk20 Rocked!

This was our 5th Talk20 at the Hutchinson Public Library. Through the hard work of Kari Mallioux and Patsy Terrell, we have been lucky enough to provide a forum for 50 Hutchinson / Reno County residents to tell their interesting, funny, sometimes poignant and almost always surprising stories. Talk20 is a forum for introducing people to their fellow Hutchinsonians (Hutchinsonites?) to each other through sharing. It's amazing the conversations 6 minutes and forty seconds will spark!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Cool! I think this is probably an indication that librarians are NOT obsolete:

newsworks article

Is it the same job Ida Day had when she was here at HPL in the 1940s and 1950s? Nope. And thank goodness!

As that article states, Google hasn't made us obsolete so much as it has off-loaded some of the more routine questions (what we used to call "ready reference") and allowed us to focus on the more in depth questions. We can help match people with tools that will get them straight down their research paths rather than possibly wandering around on a digital snipe hunt.

I have high hopes for the future of my younger colleagues. I may be one of the old, stodgy library administrator crowd now, but I haven't lost (I hope!) my inquisitiveness, my love of the hunt for the next cool thing, or my ability to recognize a good idea when I or one of our staff sees one.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Where are ebooks headed?

I don't think anyone really knows what's happening in the ebook world. The sales of ebooks plateaued in 2015 and no one really knows if that was a pause or the peak. My thought is that with about 1/4 of the total book sales, ebooks probably haven't reached their peak yet. I do think that the future for them is very uncertain, as is the future of ebooks in libraries.

I say this because the big, mainstream of the ebook publishing world seem to be satisfied with selling ebooks as if their potential to be something more than their paper counterparts isn't worth pursuing. Think about what you could do with ebooks. At the very minimum, like digital versions of movies, you could have added features, interviews with the author, etc. Things that are not possible in paper.

Libraries need to figure out ways around the stranglehold ebook publishers have on them. After all, history has shown that libraries are one of the main places for people to try out, with very low or no risk, new authors, new media, etc. I maintain that publishers are shooting themselves in the foot and driving the growth in the the independent and self-published ebook explosion by making library acquisition of ebooks so clunky and restricted.

Libraries could be the biggest and cheapest sales force a publisher could want. Librarians like reading, we like sharing, and we promote by word-of-mouth the good stuff, the new stuff, the overlooked stuff. It's like having an army of volunteer sales people. Because readers buy the books they like. If they find a new author in a library and they come to love that author, they'll start buying that author's new material rather than wait to borrow. It happened years before ebooks were even remotely a thing.

What got me ranting about this old topic again? This article, which is a pretty good article from American Libraries magazine with the opinions of four experts in the field. I'd recommend a read.