More Thrifty Gifts

Metalworking Books

I wanted to tell you all about my library’s Thrifty Gifter workshops all in one shot, but then I blew it last week when I got too excited to hold back any longer.

Library Metalworking

Last Tuesday and Thursday we had our third installment of crafty events: Metalworked Bookmarks!  This was the largest of any of the Thrifty Gifter workshops, with 40 total students sawing, punching and hammering all at the same time.  We made some serious noise.  Lessons learned?  My library’s auditorium is surprisingly soundproof.  Also?  Although the class worked well and most people wrote that they loved it, next time I would keep the size down to 25 or 30.

Metalworking Father and Son

This was our most diverse group yet, with teenage twin sisters, fathers and sons, little old ladies who were best friends. Continue reading


Thrifty Gifters: Keeping It Real

Last month’s 10,000th blog visitor called for a bit of a bananasuit vacay.  Besides, my little running joke lately is that I’ve become an indentured servant here at the library.  Only 8 more years til my student loans are forgiven!  Ha… Ha.

Seriously, this month I’ve been working like crazy on our super fun, super thrifty gift-giving series, Thrifty Gifter.  Spectacularly talented artists from the Lawrence / Kansas City area have been donating their time to teach community members how to sew upcycled pillowcase totes, knit simple accessories, make metalworked bookmarks, and wrap wreaths in pretty yarn at the library.

I could pretend that everything is always perfect, but my intent is to keep it real here at Librarian in a Banana Suit.  Guys, we blew out the circuit breakers in the library auditorium the first night when we powered up all the sewing machines and irons.  Did you know that irons can draw as much electricity as a refrigerator?  Neither did we.  Thankfully, my volunteer that night was a Navy vet, and took charge of re-rigging the extension cords.  15 minutes later, and it was nothing a few pieces of chocolate couldn’t smooth over.  Thank goodness for a renovated library in the works.

Continue reading

Pop-Up Library

Readers, the idea I’ve been completely consumed by lately is this:

Uni Portable Reading Room

For several months now, I’ve been plotting a “pop-up library” to sprout up at venues and events around Lawrence.  Why not check out some DVDs featuring street performers while at Busker Fest!  Books on brews at the Replay!  Jayhawk vanity publications at Allen Fieldhouse!  The idea is that an LPL librarian will curate a small collection of great titles for the occasion and then haul them out food-truck style in a tiny cart via book van.  Don’t have a library card?  No problem — we’ll get you signed up for one on the spot!  Our library already offers remote services at select retirement communities to serve seniors, but this would extend that model, taking the library out guerilla-style into the thick of the action at the most unexpected times and places.

So, that seemed like a pretty good idea.  And then my colleague introduced me to the Uni “portable reading room”.  Uni is a project based in NYC, funded by Kickstarter donors, and built at f-ing MIT.  I want one.  And I’m going to get one.

I’m in love with the idea of the portable reading room, because it takes the pop-up library one step further.  The concept becomes more than just a way to get books and other materials into the hands of a new audience, but morphs into a public space for community members to come, stay, and sit for awhile.  As my library school mentor would say, it shifts the library from a “bibliographic” to an “educational” model; a “third space” away from home and work where people can be together and read.  Hopefully even talk a little.  We’ll see.

Kickstarter, here I come.

I’m Gonna Change 5, And Then I’m Gonna Shake the Mayor’s Hand

Remember the heinous energy efficiency mascot K-State unveiled last month?  Well, Ecokat’s infamy has caused Lawrence plenty of distress, too.  She was so badly famous that she’s been featured on the front page of the Huffington Post, and Manhattan has subsequently vaulted ahead of Lawrence in the Take Charge Challenge.

Today Lawrence launches the #CHANGE5 campaign, which asks every single resident of Lawrence, students included, to change just 5 more bulbs in your home to CFLs, and then register them here.  It’s one of the ways for us to win the $100,000 energy efficiency grant that’s up for grabs, and probably the most important at this stage in the game (the challenge ends next week).

Short on light bulbs?  That’s OK!  We’ll give you one for free at the Lawrence Public Library tonight.  I’ll be giving away free CFLs at our finale Take Charge Challenge event, which will feature a presentation by GouldEvans architects about energy upgrades to the new library, as well as a few remarks from Mayor Aron Cromwell.  Hope to see you there!  But if not, do make sure to at least #CHANGE5.

Librarians on the Big Screen

Lawrence Public Library is hosting a shhh-ing, spectacles-wearing, bun-touting film series next month dedicated to a long lineage of Hollywood librarians!  Featuring happy hour specials across the street at the Eldridge when you show your library card from 4:30-6:30.  Hope to see you there — buns, glasses, and all!

Librarian Films

Holy Vampires, batman! Noah Wyle’s uber-popular, campy, Indiana-Jones-esque Librarian series returns for a third installment with “Curse of the Judas Chalice.” Librarian Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle) is drowning his sorrows in New Orleans after retrieving the philosopher’s stone but losing his girlfriend. There he encounters the guardian of the Judas Chalice, which is capable of resurrecting vampires! Vampire chaos ensues, including an army of the undead with Vlad the Impaler at the helm. Continue reading

Choosing a Book Lawrence Will Love

Book Love

In just a few hours I get to hang out with a great group of librarians who are working on choosing a title for next year’s Read Across Lawrence series.  And although picking a title that pretentious beer-guzzling hipsters will love is one thing, picking a book for the whole community feels like a whole different animal.

This past spring, our community read To Kill a Mockingbird, which set the bar pretty high.  Amazing events were held all over town, including Theatre Lawrence, KU Libraries, Liberty Hall, Signs of Life, Watkins Museum, and the historic downtown courthouse; and twitter buddies @larryvillelife, @THERaymondMunoz and @nuthousepunks even used the hashtag #TKAMB to explore the hipster dilemma: “what can Atticus and Boo and Scout still tell us about ourselves, as contemporary scenesters?

Next year, we want to make sure we do just as great… maybe even better.  To accomplish this, of course, we set some goals!  First, we want our selection to be a title that our community will instantly recognize and love.  Second, we hope our selection will have inter-generational appeal.  Third, we want it to grapple with challenging, timeless questions while tying-in to current events or issues.  Also on our wishlist is for the author to be living, and for ample stage, screen, and audiobook adaptations in order to support and celebrate multiple literacies.

I don’t want to give too much away, but so far we’re considering over 35 titles, replete with zombies, apocalypse scenarios, local food, and dysfunctional families.  There are even a few pretentious postmodern titles in the mix.  Check back soon — can’t wait to share more!

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!