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

Being a Librarian in a Book Club

Readers, I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret.  Today’s librarians cringe a little when you talk to us about books and reading.  Come on, guys: it’s the Information Age, and all of your librarians went to “Library and Information Schools.”  Maybe even just an “Information School.”  Many of us came into librarianship because we liked to read, but left “professionalized” with all these fancy ideas about how our core calling is to bring Information to the people.  That’s what happened to me.

These days, I am what I’m beginning to think of as a rehabilitated reader.  Sure, my heart still palpitates over social media, government docs, and information literacy.  But there’s one thing you just can’t shake when people find out you’re a librarian.  They really wanna talk about books.

A few months ago, my buddy Nog and I formed a little book club on a lark.  If you want to witness the saltier side of your friendly neighborhood Librarian in a Banana Suit, head on over to our PBR Book Club blog.  It’s a group for bookish hipsters, and we are actually mostly boys.  That’s what happens when you combine books with beer.  At our inaugural meeting there were only five of us, and we were discussing David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.  We started by shotgunning a few PBRs to ease any tension, and then Nog — who teaches college English courses — cleared his throat.  “Umm, I don’t really know how to do a book group.”  And then he turned expectantly to me.

“Oh my god,” I realized, “they expect me to know what I’m doing because I’m the librarian.”

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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.

Pinterest and Zombies

Aside from meeting the fabulous Nancy Pearl at Wednesday’s Staff Development Day, I also got to sit in on a couple of sessions by two of Kansas’ hippest librarians: tech wizard Heather Braum, and Matt Upson, mastermind behind the Zombie Guide to the Library.

HEATHER BRAUM is Technology Librarian at NEKLS, and she introduced us to 5 tips, 5 resources, and 5 tools to help manage professional information overload.  Heather started out by reminding us that “information overload” is as old as information itself, and that we have to dip in and out of the ocean instead of trying to drink it all in.

A few of my favorite librarian goodies of the session included American Libraries Direct, Dropbox, Mashable, and Lifehacker.  Lifehacker has showed me how to make a fridge out of a flower pot before, but now I’m inspired to try using it as a fun, user-friendly interface for approaching DIY library projects, too, like learning Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Continue reading

Nancy Pearl Admits She Plays Angry Birds

Our guest speaker at my library’s Staff Development Day yesterday was none other than world-famous librarian Nancy Pearl!  You may already know her from the “Shushing Librarian Action Figure.”  Or, for you more literary types, NPR’s Morning Edition. Yep, my library’s pretty hip.

At our staff day, Nancy described herself as a “reader” who comes at books from both a library and a bookstore background.  But public librarianship is near to her heart — she calls it one of the only two democratic institutions left in our communities, the other being public schools. They remain places where people from all walks of life and all ages can come get the information they need.

And Nancy is all about her readers.  When I was first initiated into the field of librarianship, I really loathed the idea of “Readers’ Advisory.” Too prescriptive and authoritative, gross!  But Nancy and her peers call it “Readers’ Services,” and she describes her work as collaborative: a conversation and a relationship between readers.  Ooh, I like that — sounds a little more Freireian!  And, argues Pearl, “people are desperate for ANY kind of direction about what to read… and that’s the role librarians can fill.”  Consider me a convert.

The heart of Nancy’s talk was the so-called Three-Legged Stool of Librarianship. She identifies three functions that are so important the stool will wobble unless they’re balanced: Continue reading

Marie Antoinette: Royally Frocked

(This post originally appeared in the Lawrence Public Library Spotlight.)

From the masculine equestrian outfits that made her Louis XV’s favorite, to the regal counterrevolutionary gowns in green and violet that exposed her as an enemy of the state, Marie Antoinette’s fashion statements were always unfailingly both fabulous and controversial. In Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, Caroline Weber paints a comprehensive portrait of the fashion icon, from Dauphine until death. Weber is not only a brainy Barnard scholar, but also a fashion connoisseur herself, and her fastidiously researched political fashion memoir satisfied both my inner Vogue subscriber and my inner history nerd.

Anyone who’s watched Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette as many times as I have can easily rattle off the basics of her biography: born an Austrian, Marie Antoinette disavowed her native country in a political alliance with France to become its eventual Queen. A newcomer to the highly ritualized and chic court at Versailles, she navigated her tepid political reception as a suspect foreigner in the best way she knew how — in impeccable style. And although it all started out as fun and games, eventually it cost the Autrichienne her head on the guillotine.  From her powdered, sky-high hairdos to her divine selection of costly satin footwear, Marie Antoinette won over her adoring public at first, but quickly became a lightning rod for criticism of the French monarchy’s decadence during a national economic recession (… sound familiar?). Continue reading

Captain Ahab’s Fine Seafood & Other Library Marketing Tips

I recently attended a Mid-America Library Alliance (MALA) workshop called Marketing at the Point of Contact.  The class was taught by Kasey Riley, who is Communications Manager at the award-winning Johnson County Library and was previously faculty at Avila University.  You may already know her work from JoCo’s new book truck campaign:

Always a sucker for a good Moby Dick joke, I came away from the workshop with a refreshed outlook and focus.  Kasey made several chewy points that are worth pondering — and maybe even debating:

  • Libraries often try to be all things for all people… but can that dilute our message and confuse our patrons about what we can offer them?  Focusing your message (and your overall goals & strategy) can help.
  • “AIDA” is a gold standard of the marketing industry: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action.  Patrons probably won’t “act” unless you’ve gotten them past the other 3 phases, first.
  • Use quantifiable goals and objectives to plan your promotional strategy.  If you want 5 more people to join your regular monthly group,  plan a strategy that will help you accomplish that specific goal.
  • “Shoot ’em Straight!” Kasey recommended using simple, positive, more customer-centric language when we communicate with our patrons, such as “Questions?” instead of “Reference,” and “Teen” instead of “YA.”
  • Another simple, positive patron communication: name tags! Aliases can be used if staff safety is a concern.

My biggest takeaway of the morning was Kasey’s multi-faceted approach to moving patrons to action, including:

  • professional & consistent signage
  • a website presence
  • social media posts (e.g. library and personal facebook & twitter pages)
  • blog posts (library and personal blogs)
  • targeted emails
  • word-of-mouth

One trick she uses is to formulate 3 bullet points about the service or event she’s promoting, and then she asks her colleagues, friends, and family to share those 3 bullet points throughout their networks, to create a ripple effect of awareness.  This is so easy to do, and I’ve already started including “please share this with your friends and family” in all of my promotional communications.

Kasey’s workshop inspired me to remain focused in my work goals and planning, and to avoid spreading myself so thin that I can’t adequately promote each special event.  I’m also excited to be developing a “promotions toolkit” for anyone at my library who hosts a special event for adults, to help demystify the process of promoting it.

Library folks: if you ever have the chance to take a workshop with Kasey Riley, I recommend it!

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.