15 College Town Library Trends

What philosophies, goals, and practices give heft to other public libraries’ programs and special events?  And how can my library tap into that, too?  I recently set out to tackle these questions by chatting with administrators at several nearby Kansas libraries, as well as public libraries in other Midwest university towns.  Besides getting to talk to some awesome librarians, I learned volumes about how my peer libraries are fulfilling their mandate to become a public forum, classroom for lifelong learning, and community living room.

You didn’t seem to mind the nerdiness of last week’s post, so I thought you might be ripe to handle a little bit more.  Here’s what I found out!  Synthesized from verbal and written answers, strategic plans, and programming policies from Midwest college town libraries, I bring you:

15 Programming Trends in College Town Libraries

(The fine print: this data  was collected by visiting 3 libraries and emailing 62 to interview them about their programming practices and policies.  I received feedback from 20 libraries total, for a 32% response rate.  16 provided substantial feedback.  Scroll to the end to see the full list of contributing libraries.)

1. Programming is a Core Function of the 21st Century Library

  • Programming is one of the Library’s three core services, along with collections and services.
  • Programs foster community, meet the educational and entertainment needs of the community, promote the collection, cultivate lifelong learners, and give citizens the opportunity to interact with their fellow residents.
  • The purpose of programming is to recognize and respond to current issues facing the community, and to encourage cooperation and collaboration within the community.

2. Programming Supports Exploration and Lifelong Learning, Stimulates the Imagination, and Facilitates Community Engagement

  • Library programs can satisfy community members’ needs for successful lifelong learning, everyday information, and exploration of topics of personal interest. Support and nourish the community’s spirit by offering programs that stimulate imaginations and enrich lives.
  • Create a safe, comfortable, and welcoming hub of community living and culture, providing a forum for social connections, civic engagement, and the exchange of ideas.
  • Promote the Library’s meeting facilities to government and community organizations as a neutral place to hold hearings and meetings.
  • Cultivate a philosophy of open access to information and ideas by offering non-discriminatory programming; refrain from excluding topics, books, and speakers that might be controversial.

Continue reading

Above the Fray: Tangents on a Philosophy of Librarianship!

Sorry, guys — today I’m taking a break from my usual fare of silly library stories to reflect on something just a little bit bigger.

A few days ago I gave a presentation in front of our library board.  Preparing it was a great opportunity to step back from day-to-day ops and reflect on the big picture of what I do.  I got to share my philosophy of public librarianship, which, in a nutshell!, is that public libraries are spaces for community-centered learning & dialogue.  And when I say learning, I mean it in the lovely Freirean sense of praxis: true peers coming together to act and reflect upon their world in order to transform it.  For me, public libraries can and should be all about the discovery, exploration, and creation of ideas that happens when people have access to information.

And from environmental action to LOLcats (or John Brown Paper Dolls…), this takes the shape of whatever’s meaningful to the community. Continue reading

The Big Poetry Reveal

A few weeks ago I posted a teaser about upcoming poetry events at my library.  A few of you even weighed in on what it should be called (and by a few, I mean one, and he’s mostly a fictional erotic persona).

Lobster Phone

Having little to do with poetry, this Lobster Phone is for your viewing pleasure.

And so now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: what will the library’s new monthly poetry night be called?  Not a Mixer, or a Collective, or a Congress (sorry, Chip) — but… a Social!  Somewhere between a Square Dance and a Soiree, it somehow seemed sexy enough for Lawrence without being too sexy.  The first one’s coming up just around the corner in September, and will feature “Migrations.”  Sharpen your pencils, Lawrence: Continue reading

Curating Important Cultural Resources, Like John Brown Paper Doll & Disguise Kits

Remember a few months ago when I got really excited about hanging out with Civil War buffs?  It’s about to get real next week.  And there are John Brown Paper Doll & Disguise Kits involved.

What Would John Brown Do?

This is a tale of how our library mined a rich social information network to discover an amazing piece of local history and local art that had converged and was  just begging to be curated by the public library.  From a librarianship standpoint, I’m completely geeking out about this.  Hello there, Important Cultural Resources.

A few weeks ago, Lawrence Magazine  sent out a tweet with a link to download your own John Brown paper doll and disguise kit.  This tweet showed up in our @lawrencelibrary feed, and we loved it.  We often retweet Items of Cultural Importance, which is exactly what we did with the John Brown Paper Doll tweet:

In short, this initiated a dialogue between Lawrence Magazine, Lawrence Public Library, and the artist Jason Barr, which ultimately led to a John Brown Paper Doll giveaway that we’re doing in conjunction with three Civil War events at the library next week.  Even better? We’ve produced a giant version of the paper doll, cut out & with velcro, that is now an interactive, hands-on display in our lobby that celebrates and curates our local history.  Win win win win win.

This is all part of Civil War on the Western Frontier (CWWF), a neat slate of annual community events organized by the Lawrence Visitor’s Bureau. Cultural historic landmarks like the Eldridge Hotel, Watkins Community Museum, Theatre Lawrence, and Black Jack Battlefield have all got neat things up their sleeves this week and next.

And of course, everyone’s invited to come on down to the Lawrence Public Library on Aug. 17th (John Brown’s Raid lunchpail lecture), 18th (Dark Command film screening) and 20th (Thomas Ewing Jr. book signing) to commemorate CWWF and get your very own John Brown Paper Doll & Disguise Kit.  See if you can spot me in my John Brown disguise!

Photo Evidence: Yes, I Really Am a Librarian in a Banana Suit

Bananasuit CloseupSo this little blog became a self-fulfilling prophecy last week, when I finally wore my banana suit in a professional capacity.  As a librarian.  And what did I learn from this experience, professionally?  People will come sign up for stuff when you are dressed like a banana.

Banansuit and SwagIt was our Last Bash of Summer, the annual party to celebrate the end of summer reading.  Hearts of Darkness performed their new afrobeat song “Read a Book Every Day,” and there was lots of Tiger Blood shaved ice and kettle corn to go around.  Yogi Bear also came, which was adorable. Continue reading

Guest Column: The Larryville Chronicles

Are you ready for the big Poetry reveal?  Too bad!  I’m going to make you wait until later this week.  Today instead I offer you a little guest column I contributed to my friends over at The Larryville Chronicles, the finest in Lawrence, KS, arts & culture criticism.

The rest of my perfectly lazy Sunday afternoon was spent as all Sundays should be: with a cold beverage, a book, and some of Beethoven’s weirder string quartets.  I also put up some new reviews on my Goodreads page, including an indictment of an overly theoretical book on Graphic Design, praise for the fine-tuned yet wholesome sarcasm of Ms. Sarah Vowell, guilty pleasure over the classic liberal-arts-girl fantasy, and some polyjuice potion.  Enjoy, and we’ll meet again later this week!