Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sign up for a library card...

...get access to lynda.com! Ordinarily this tool would require an individual to pay for access to the amazing database of self-paced video tutorials. But because the Hutchinson Public Library has signed up for a site subscription, HPL card holders get access for free! All you need is a current card to get started and you can start learning something new from home, on the go, or at the library.

That isn't what you are looking for? What about free access to powerful business and investing tools? Among our offerings for the independent investor is the powerful Standard & Poor's NetAdvantage - an entire suite of up-to-the-minute tracking and research tools.

Maybe you're interested in learning a new language for that upcoming (or buck-listed) big adventure? The Hutchinson Public Library subscribes to Transparent Languages. Learn 90 different languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu and be ready to travel!

Friday, November 20, 2015

What I'm listening to today

Using our new streaming and download music service over the past month has me back in the habit of listening to music while working. Last week I finished downloading an album for Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, a prolific blues guitar and fiddle player from Texas. I think the album was simply titled "Live in Concert". I saw him play once in Houston in 1999 or 2000 when he must have been around 70 years old. He sat down in his chair on stage, lit his pipe, and proceeded to tear through a jump blues set with such energy and enthusiasm I still get chills thinking about it today!

Today though, I've gone down a classic bluegrass path, listening to 'Tis Sweet To Be Remembered: The Essential Flatt & Scruggs.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Storytime resurgance

An interesting article from the New York Times about the growing popularity of story times in public libraries. This phenomenon is due, I think, to the focus (not everywhere, unfortunately) on the importance of early childhood literacy. Educators and policy makers have been pushing development of pre-k programs to make sure that young children are familiar with the basics of letters, numbers, and the like by the time they hit kindergarten. I thought this quote from a nanny in NYC was telling:

“It used to be, ‘What do you do when the child cries?’” she said. “Nowadays, they’re like, “We would like to have library time.’”

Of course, I'm giddy that people are finding value in a service that all public libraries provide! We are earnest in our collective desire to help children grow up to be the best adults they can be and we think that we have skills and services that are extremely valuable and in many cases quite under utilized.

Here in Kansas we have a Six-by-Six program emphasizing six skills that all children should have by age six. Besides pre-k, toddler, and soon baby story times, the Hutchinson Public Library has created the E.L.F (Early Literacy Fun) area in the Children's Department to support early literacy. This area contains hands-on activities for children based on general topics. The intention is for parents to work with their young children in the area. This activity strengthens bonds and better prepares these little people for the challenges of school.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Importance of Being...

Educated. Not earnest, but educated. In a world where everyone seems to be outraged by everything because it offends them, or a group, or might offend someone, or might possibly contain something that could potentially trigger a person, sometimes (indeed often times) people miss the mark badly.

This is an example so filled with sweet, sweet irony, I have to share it. It involves a Tennessee woman and her attempt to ban a biography. The book in question is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It is part of the STEM curriculum reading list in the school district attended by this mother's child.

Here is a good summary article of the rather disturbing misunderstanding that gynecology does not equal pornography.

The scary thing to me is that even in the face of facts, the person is still trying to ban the book from the school district. From the article, clearly the administration, teachers, and I assume the vast majority of parents, understand that the story of Henrietta Lacks is perverse for no other reason than the fact that ethical considerations for her as a human being were completely shoved aside in the process of scientific discovery.

This seems like exactly the kind of book you want to have being read by young people everywhere. It seems perfectly aligned with the new frantic emphasis on STEM education.

This situation is a textbook example of someone needing to read a little, ask a few questions, or maybe actually read the book in question before "going off half-cocked" as they say.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Libraries, tradition, and the "modern" world

This is a great opinion column from the New York Times. The author concisely states the dilemma faced by libraries today: How to remain libraries, remain relevant, and attempt to fill the gaps in social services all while budgets have been shrunk. This is the crux of the problem:
Librarians today are forced to take on a variety of functions that their society is too miserly or contemptuous to fulfill, and the use of their scant resources to meet those essential social obligations diminishes their funds for buying new books and other materials. But a library is not a homeless shelter (at the St. Agnes library in New York, I witnessed a librarian explaining to a customer why she could not sleep on the floor), a nursery or a fun fair (the Seneca East Public Library in Attica, Ohio, offers pajama parties), or a prime provider of social support and medical care (which American librarians today nonetheless routinely give).
The columnist goes on to say that while these are important societal functions, they will require more, not less funding in order to let us (the libraries) reinvent ourselves.

With this I totally agree. IF libraries are to become the social centers of our communities, libraries need to be funded to meet those demands. But we should also think consciously, deliberately about what the "modern" library should be. There is no sense in throwing money into services that could be better delivered by another entity.

So, let's as a society take a pause, decide what we should have available to people "societally", if you will, and do that well. We will all be better off for not wasting money but using it effectively to create a just, fair, and compassionate world in which to live. Plus, it will help libraries tremendously so that we can do what we do best - curate knowledge and foster new knowledge.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Science Fiction Discussion: Stranger in a Strange Land - Original Version

Our SF discussion group read Robert Heinlein's classic work, Stranger in a Strange Land this month. Actually, we read a newly-released version of the book that included a huge amount of material that was edited out of the original in order to meet the publisher's requirements.

I have to say, while this version was aided by the extra material, I didn't grok it. Just like a director's cut of a movie, this version of Stranger felt to me like it included what Heinlein wanted us to see about our society. However, the extra exposition sometimes felt too heavy-handed. Maybe I just didn't quite get it. I remembered liking it when I read it 20+years ago, but that was the shortened version. Re-reading it, I found much that was familiar but I somehow didn't totally get into it. This might have been because I was distracted trying to remember if this or that was in the version I'd read before. Or, as one of our members pointed out, if it was because I am at a different place in my own life and could relate less to the themes.

There were mixed feelings about it around our table. I think the final thought was that this is a book that would very much appeal to the rebellious, limit-pushing younger age reader. Not the 14-year-old necessarily, but the senior in high school or the college student. I still believe this book is a classic. It had great influence on other SF authors and on the genre as a whole.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Public library for getting work done?

So, the author of this lifehacker article wants to get people to think of their public library instead of a coffee shop as a place to get work done (I assume when on the road or if you don't have an official "office").

I think that traditionally, people think of libraries as places for studying but not for conducting business. There are good reasons for this. If you read the comments after the article, they are filled with opinions that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Valid (IMO) is the idea that conducting business sometimes means making noise, such as by talking on a cell phone and that might not be the most considerate thing to do at a library. Valid too is the idea that a library COULD be a great temporary office, but the facilities need to be there. Any library with small study or meeting rooms for reservation would be perfect. You could make some noise in the enclosed space without disturbing others. Likewise, you could avoid noise if that's your need.

Is this sort of activity possible at the Hutchinson Public Library? Frankly, yes and no. We really aren't set up very well to serve this sort of patron need. A row of 2-3 person study rooms would be ideal, but we don't have that here. we do have larger conference rooms for public use, but those get used for group meetings quite a lot and might not be available if someone wanted a work space on a drop-in basis.

What are your thoughts? Do you mind a conversational volume level of talking in a library? What could HPL do to make itself attractive as a place for the business person to work while not disturbing traditional library services? If you are a business person, are there services or "things" the library could provide to make it an attractive place to do a little work?