Fun with Library Website Redesigns in Drupal


At my library we’re in the midst of redesigning our entire website in-house using Drupal, and I’m learning tons from our esteemed web designer (and Karaoke maven) CourtieBeeds.  User experience, information architecture, navigation tests, designing for mobile-first, etc.!

As a content writer first and a web designer pretty much dead last, it’s fun to play around with how my skills fit into the mix.  My latest project has been figuring out what content we want to display on our “About Us” page. How do we make it informative but also super fun to read?

In these situations it’s always really helpful to prowl around for inspiration on the internets (which, by the way, are AMAZING guys) and I found all the inspiration I needed right here:

Just scroll down and look at the staff profile in the lower right corner.  Pause to appreciate its beauty. Then, mouse-over said profile and die from the magic of it all.


Twitter Book Chats in Libraries

I think it all started because I wanted to annoy my Library School professor.  She’d assigned us to write an academic paper about a digital information tool like the Google Art Project.  I picked Twitter. Today, Twitter and Facebook are still a huge part of my library career.

Twitter Book Chat: Winter's Bone

For the past two years, I’ve been building a social media presence at Lawrence Public Library that Matt Anderson liked enough to put on both his 100 Libraries to Follow on Twitter and 100 Libraries to Follow on Facebook lists.  Now I’m applying the same treatment at my new library, and I’m pretty excited about how it’s going so far.

All this has gotten me thinking about some of my favorite uses ever of Twitter in libraries. Continue reading

Eating Deer With Daniel Woodrell

Please excuse a little bit of a braggy post today:

Oh, what’s that?  You can’t quite make out what it says?  No, don’t be silly, of course I don’t mind: “To Rachel, Great to meet and eat deer together in Lawrence. Dl Woodrell.”

Just a few weeks ago, my library played host to the phenomenal Daniel Woodrell and his wife, author Katie Estill. Continue reading

What Would You Name Your Creative Lab?

Hacker Spaces

We’re renovating our library right now, and one of the most exciting new features will be a creative lab with fancy computer software, a soundproof recording studio, keyboards, videocameras, green screens, even a scanner / fax (how innovative!). This is extra exciting to me since creation in libraries is so near & dear to my heart.

I think my library director said it well when he told our newspaper that libraries can be creation hubs where we provide “precious and expensive resources” to help the people in our community grow vibrant local arts and businesses.   I’ve  long been a fan of Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia project and Skokie Public Library’s Digital Media Lab, and Barrington Library has a great media lab, too. (Hey, all these libraries are in Illinois!)

We’re envisioning this space as a combo artsy / techie / entrepreneurial space, and have been trying to strike just the right balance in our planning and especially in the name.  Today I trolled the internet looking for inspiration in Hackerspaces, which are known for often clever, sometimes terrible names.  I think I’m gravitating to “Collaboratory.”  I’m also morbidly attracted to “HackGyver,”  “Hammer Time” and “Curious Forge.” Check out some other examples after the jump!

What do you think would make a good name for a library creative lab? Continue reading

In Three Acts

Since I’ve been contributing to everyone else’s blogs lately, I thought you all deserved a little update, too.  Here it is, in three acts.  Happy birthday!

act i: what I’ve been reading

scene 1: Fifty Shades of Grey

This book really is as terrible as everyone says it is.  But I still loved reading it and would do it again; here’s why.  For the cynical take, you’ll have to check-in with twitter friends @knsstxs (“reading that book is my own red room of pain,”) and @theluckynun  (“I could write better one-handed reading with one hand tied behind my back & some gross dude spanking me.”)  I also enjoyed Chip’s ostentatiously lazy review.

scene 2: Love is a Mix Tape

Gawd, what a great piece of pop culture writing.  I heart Rob Sheffield, and this book made me cry like a baby, even though (or perhaps because) it was about Duran Duran and Missy Elliott.  I’m going to cheat by linking to my brand new review for Lawrence Public Library — this review isn’t officially published until tomorrow.  Doesn’t it feel exclusive?

scene 3: 2666

Roberto Bolaño is totally freaking me out, in that way that only the best writers know how.  I loved Savage Detectives, but 200 pages in and I’m already calling it: 2666 is Bolaño’s masterpiece.  I’m crawling along, reading just a few pages at a time, because it’s too much to take in.  This business with Amalfitano and the geometry textbook is KILLING me.

Continue reading

Bunnies with Moustaches, and Nine Other Things I Love About the Library

Plush bunny with moustache

There have been too many things to love about the library this spring.  At least five of them have to do with beer:

1. Reading Terminal Market and the Fabric Workshop and Museum

In March I headed to my first ever PLA conference, in adorable Philadelphia.  I roomed with my boss, and we watched “Friends” reruns in our hotel room.  So, it was pretty rad.  These Amish women at the Reading Terminal Market made the best sticky buns I’ve ever had in my life. Beer was consumed. But my favorite was the Fabric Workshop and Museum, where I met the very awesome Chicago librarians Vicki Rakowski and Ben Haines, and scored some pink plastic tentacles and a bunny with a moustache.  Then we saw Betty White.

2. The San Jose Public Library

Nate Hill, web librarian at San Jose Public Library, is my new favorite librarian — I saw him speak at PLA in Philly.  Imagine: self-published books by library patrons that could be instantly cataloged and then vetted by upvoting, like on Reddit.  And check out that sexy color coding on their website.  These are some of the brain children of Nate Hill, who makes jokes about dogs and burritos.

3. Erotic Fiction workshops

Also a Philly highlight: talking about smutty books with about 100 fellow librarians at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.  I learned that many erotic novels have purple or red covers, and I placed a hold on Fifty Shades of Grey.

Continue reading

Eating Meat is Lifelong Learning

One of my favorite Kansas colleagues is headed to San Fransisco next month to give an “ignite talk” on lifelong learning in libraries.  I have no idea what an “ignite talk” is, but I already love it!

To prep for her talk, she put a call out to Kansas librarians to share ideas about how lifelong learning happens in each of our libraries, whether it’s programs, events, spaces, training, web events, materials, etc.  She’ll be turning our feedback into a word art slide show that shows all the different ways we’re getting at this key library function.

Meat and Greet

As I sat down to answer her question and shoot some photos her way, I was just really proud of what my library’s been working on.  Our Thrifty Gifter series, which taught our community about hands-on DIY crafting, upcycling, frugality, metalworking, and knitting.  Our recent “Meat and Greet” Kansas Day celebration which ditched the butter churning and anthems, and instead introduced community members to local ranchers, who talked about animal husbandry and sustainable food while the audience enjoyed free tasting portions of their meats.  We’ve had fun teaming up with local foodies to offer events like Coffee Tastings, where we talk about how coffee is grown and techniques for tasting, roasting, and brewing.  And currently we’re in the middle of a series of Financial Wellness Clinics, which cover budgeting, saving, investing, love & money, and more.

Meat and Greet

The more I hone the practice of librarianship, and especially events and programs, the more I’m convinced that libraries thrive when we offer what our communities actually want to know, instead of what we think they ought to know.  In my community, that means arts, local foods, sustainability, civil war history, basketball, and lit… and the weirder, the better.

What event have you loved at your library, lately?

658 point 8

While I’ve been taking a mini-breather from the virtual world, my colleague and fellow beer-drinker Susan Brown has just launched a swanky new blog: 658point8.


658.8 is the Dewey Decimal number for books about marketing, and that’s what you’ll find at her site — practical marketing advice for public libraries, from branding and advocacy to the cutthroat politics of moving bulletin boards in the library lobby.

Susan would actually never call it cutthroat — her blog is so much more pragmatic and genteel than that.  Stroll on by when you get the chance!

A Year of Librarianship.

My job at the public library is fun, and sometimes hard, just like any job.  This March, I started a new position as my library’s Adult Programs Librarian, which has been rewarding, satisfying, challenging.  Sometimes I lose track of what’s up, exactly, and just how much we’ve all accomplished.  As my library school advisor would say, it’s because I’m working in “The Swamp” (does he think that’s supposed to make it better?).

But, here and now, on December 30, this is my chance to step back from the murky stuff right in front of my face, and look back to see just how far we’ve come.  We really have been up to some pretty neat stuff.


Authors Candice Millard, Charles Shields, Bill James, Stanley Lombardo, Tessa Gratton and Nancy Pearl all stopped by to speak at my library.  Maybe you met them.  They’re all amazing.


I threw a big library party with Cathy Hamilton (desserts!  European cruises!  tour guides!), and learned about the Manic Mouth Congress.


I wore my banana suit to a block party. Hearts of Darkness played hip hop, and babies danced with Yogi Bear.


I tried to help Lawrence win a $100,000 energy efficiency grant, and was taken down by Manhattan (KS)’s EcoKat.  I did win a $25,000 grant for my library from the Kansas Health Foundation.


I collaborated with Lawrence Magazine and Jason Barr to create a giant version of their John Brown Paper Doll and Disguise Kit.  We installed it in the front lobby of my library, and our community played giant paper dolls. Continue reading

Gonzo Art

Gonzo Library

So, this is happening tomorrow.  Stoked!  My library just finished processing Watkins’ book, and I’ve been having fun flipping through its gorgeous silkscreened pages.  Propaganda?  Freak Power??  Check.

The best part has been going around to museums & galleries in town to tell them about the event.  They unfailingly say something like: “Oh, I remember DJ’s lawn mowing service from when he was a little boy!”  “Our community watched DJ grow up.”  I love it when people come back home.  Welcome home, DJ — we’ll see you tomorrow night at the library!