Getting to know Jo

I promised to tell you more about an upcoming visit from State Librarian Jo Budler. But I understand Linn County News reporter Amber Coulter is planning to interview Budler and feature her in an article. That’s exciting and I don’t want to duplicate her information. Instead I’ll tell you how I met Ms. Budler.

At the 2010 Kansas Library Association (KLA) conference in Wichita I was listening to a speaker promoting children’s AWE computers. I realized the presentation overlapped another event I was scheduled to attend. The State Librarian’s luncheon, where our new State Librarian would be introduced was starting at any minute. By the time I slipped into the luncheon most of the seats were taken. People gravitate toward others they know and were all clustered in their groups. I found an open seat at a table where I knew no one at all, but I enjoy meeting new people and introduced myself. It was Jo Budler’s table. We chatted briefly and discovered we were both originally from New York. She is personable, approachable and I liked her immediately.

Because of my current connection to the statewide Friends of Kansas Libraries (FoKL), I have had a number of occasions to visit with Ms. Budler. FoKL holds a yearly meeting and luncheon at KLA and Ms. Budler always attends. She speaks to the audience and often sits with the winners of the awards we present. In addition, the FoKL board held an annual meeting in Topeka at the newly renovated State Capitol and Ms. Budler allowed us to tour her offices and meet her employees. She joined us for lunch on the Capitol floor and we presented her with a check to help fund the state’s membership in United for Libraries. United for Libraries provides information and education to Friends organizations and library trustees.

Just one week later, I participated on a library bus tour provided by our Southeast Kansas Library System. We toured several northeast Kansas libraries including the State Capitol’s library, so I was able to see an additional portion of the State Library and see Ms. Budler again.

We’re so looking forward to having Ms. Budler visit Pleasanton to see our library and show her what can be done with limited funds and big hearts. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and hope she will be impressed as well. You are welcome to visit the library next Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. to show your support for the library, greet Ms. Budler and welcome her to Pleasanton.

Board of Trustees Meeting

The Board of Trustees Budget Meeting will be held Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 5:00 p.m. in the library located at 752 Main St. As always, the public is invited to attend.

Paperless society?

Have you seen those commercials that advertise scanners that can turn your piles of papers into electronic files? I need two of those. One at home and another at the library. We have more papers at the library than we do books! We go through cases of paper each year, printing reports and lists of author’s books, sending faxes and pages of names of borrowers to call with reminders to return materials. Some of these get reused, but many of these printouts remain around for a long, long time. They get sorted into stacks and tucked into files and then they seem to multiply.

We all have important documents we need to save for future reference, right? Well, what about all the other papers that pile up? An organizational tip is to open your mail right next to your paper recycling bin. That way you can toss in the junk mail and envelopes you don’t need to save. You pay your bills with stubs, save the remaining invoice, file it away and forget about it. Until you run out of drawer space. At the end of the year you pull out all the folders and transfer them to a plastic tote. Pretty soon you have stacks of totes. These all take up room, but you never seem to have time to review what needs to be saved and what can be recycled, or shredded.

It would be great to review the year’s assortment of papers in files, drawers of folders and toss them then. But that’s when you’re busy paying year-end bills and preparing for tax season. So, they stack up year after year until you can no longer walk through your office. At least, this has been my experience. If any of you have ever peeked into my office at the library, you’d see what I mean. On top of all these papers to file and folders to tuck away annually, I have Summer Reading materials, prizes and books that have piled up. I also store materials for the Friends of Kansas Libraries in my office.

But, along comes a reason to straighten up. State Librarian Jo Budler is coming for a visit in a couple of weeks. While she may only peek into my office, it gives me incentive to get organized. The same impetus occurred when I was a child and heard we were having company. I’d pick up, put away and polish furniture until it glowed. I was proud of my room and enjoyed showing it off. I feel the same way about the library. It’s exciting to have a visit from an esteemed leader in our library field and all the work to get ready for her visit will be worth it. Stay tuned … I’ll tell you more about Jo next week.

Planning for the future

Each year around this time we prepare a budget for the coming year that we hope will provide funds for all we need to do at the library during next year. This isn’t an easy task as we depend on tax revenues from Potosi Township, and don’t always know whether the needed taxes will be collected. So we compare expenses to the previous year, review expenditures for the current year and then project ahead for the coming year. We watch our pennies carefully, look for ways to save, try to determine what our customers want the most and then hope for the best.

While it’s easy to plan to spend a certain amount monthly on books, movies and computer upgrades, it’s more difficult to plan for unseen maintenance issues like the heavy downpour in June of last year that caused some flooding in the library. While we planned to make repairs and improvements to resolve the damage last year, they didn’t occur until this year. It pays to be flexible and it behooved us to create a capital improvement fund. Of course one can never know what might happen in the future, but we work hard to make the best use of your tax dollars. We look for grants, encourage donations and shop wisely for items we need.

It truly was a godsend to be able to purchase our current building and we’ve worked hard to maintain it and improve it as we can afford to do so. In addition to using a paint additive on floors, exterior walls and ceiling that increases the R-value and makes the library more energy efficient, we’ve replaced the old windows with double-pane, argon gas-filled ones. We initially sealed the metal roof and will be doing so again to increase its efficiency.

All those nuts and bolts aside, we often hear very positive comments from our visitors about how much they like the library. They comment that they are surprised upon entering after seeing the rather plain exterior to find out how warm and inviting the interior has been decorated. After visits to many other libraries, we can’t help but agree. Ours has character and makes people feel at home while they’re visiting. There are no rows and rows of book stacks, cold seating areas and glass windows. Instead there are numerous comfortable seating areas where you can sit and read, a cafe where you can snack while using your laptop, and a more private room for quiet meetings.

It is a good value for your tax dollars and we aim to continue to provide this service for a reasonable cost. Visit us soon to see your tax dollars at work.

I think the couch looks better over there

Have you ever begun rearranging your furniture, and then struggled to make it look any better than your original arrangement? Well, we’ve been rearranging since moving into the “new” library space two years ago. Our basic layout remained the same, but the Friends of Pleasanton Library added a meeting room behind the children’s area earlier this year. That left us half the storage area we once had. Then the Friends members purchased a storage unit and placed it behind the library so we could move lesser-used materials there. It was painted to match the library and now looks great.

Recently, we’ve rearranged the books to fill a shelving unit the Friends members pieced together from salvaged shelves from another library. We also removed some of the book shelves in the children’s area and added book browsers on wheels. This allows little ones to more easily access the books they want, and toys can be stored below. The best part of these units is they are on wheels, allowing us to move them when extra space is needed for programs.

We also installed new flooring in the cafe, using materials donated to us by Brandon Cox. His generous gift was welcomed and made a world of difference in that area. Last Monday, we made a trip to Coffeyville Public Library to pick up some shelves they were donating. This unit will replace the sagging wood shelving in the Teen Area, and make more space for gaming. We are the recipients of a Gaming in Libraries grant through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the only federal program exclusively for libraries. It will provide us with funds to purchase gaming equipment for use by our local teens. In addition, a 32” television has been donated by one of our board members which allows us to connect the gaming console. This will require some more rearranging as we make room on the teen area for the new equipment. Soon we’ll have some different seating to go with the game console, thanks to another library to our north. Lawrence Public Library has been renovated an they are sharing their wealth of items no longer needed.

Another delivery recently received was two recycled picnic tables from Champlin Tire Recycling in Concordia, Kansas. They will be put together soon and installed in the new patio area once used as a loading dock. One of the tables is built specifically for use by those in wheelchairs.

Inside and out, we want to keep improving our library to make it the best it can be. We welcome suggestions and hope you enjoy the changes we’ve already made in your community resource.

A very fortunate summer

Thanks to the support of many generous library supporters, Pleasanton Library had a wonderful season. During our Summer Reading Program, parents, grandparents and caregivers gave of their time to bring children to our events. Many stayed during programs, kept an eye on their children, participated and enjoyed the programs as well. Kids and attendants from SEK Mental Health Alliance visited regularly and were some of our most enthusiastic attendees. With our science theme, home-schooled children as well as Pleasanton school students, learned a lot this summer.

Guests were welcomed even if only attending occasional programs. Some libraries separate children into age groups, but we found a mixture of ages has the effect of a one-room schoolhouse. Older children help and watch out for younger ones. The library’s teen helpers assisted with decorations, crafts and snacks. Frances Marshall provided lively entertainment, disguising the fact attendees were actually learning!

The generosity didn’t stop there. The Friends of Pleasanton Library provided lollipops and made dozens of cookies each month offering sweet snacks to visitors. They met frequently to plan their next fundraiser or event. After a busy school year working on PTO projects, Sherry McCulley and Shirley Smith redoubled their efforts to help the library as well. Along with Rhonda DeLaughder and Maxine Goucher, they scheduled, set up and held a week-long Scholastic Book Fair garnering 500 Scholastic dollars for the library. Library patrons donated money toward the purchase of additional books. Doug and Becky Grant visited and purchased an entire basket of books on our wish list!

A grant from the State Library and the Library Science and Technology Act (LSTA), in partnership with Scholastic’s FACE program, provided $120 of books to give away to children. We also received a grant this past year allowing us to increase deliveries from other libraries from three days per week to five, providing readers and movie watchers quick access to materials. We’ll continue this service, thanks to continued grant funding.

Summer programming was another way community members gave back to our wonderful resource. Amy Coffman, assistant manager of Marais de Cygne National Wildlife Refuge, visited to teach attendees about nature journaling. Jean Winters, The Nutty Professor, led children through numerous science experiments. Buck Kids Productions came for a one-time visit to Kansas to perform a play called “The Smarty Pants Game Show,” to the delight of 50 attendees. Pleasanton schools’ summer coordinator, Robin Bortzfield, invited us to entertain over 70 children and adults with a space-based program. While our program officially ends July 8, we encourage reading to continue throughout the summer. This allows children to “hit the ground running” when they return to school next month. We have plenty of children’s books in our collection, thanks to previous grants received.

Last, but not least, Thank You to Jackie Taylor and her crew at Linn County News for allowing us to include weekly columns about our community service, events listed in Week at a Glance and special features.

Gaming in Kansas Libraries Grant

Recently, Kansas public libraries were offered a sizable grant to purchase a gaming console for their libraries. The non-competitive grant was funded through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). LSTA is the only federally funded program created exclusively for libraries. It’s administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. State libraries use the funds to support statewide initiatives and also distribute the funds through subgrants or cooperative agreements to public, school, academic, research, and special libraries. There is a requirement for a state match, which helps stimulate approximately three to four dollars for every federal dollar invested.

Every fiscal year, Congress provides funding for LSTA in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Federal resources help target library services to people of diverse geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, to individuals with disabilities, and to people with limited literacy skills.

At Pleasanton Lincoln Library, I polled some of our local teens who use the library to learn what kind of gaming console they would enjoy using. I also sought advice from local tech whiz Doug Grant and our technical support employees from the Southeast Kansas Library System in Iola.

Although our summer has been busy with our Summer Reading Program, I managed to send a grant application just under the wire. Priority for these grants was given to libraries without a current gaming console and/or those that serve communities with populations under 10,000. We agreed to purchase an Xbox One bundled with one controller to be covered by the grant. We also agreed to purchase additional controllers. Doug Grant agreed to help us with some video games, and we’ll purchase others as our funds allow.

Last week we learned we will receive the grant and we are very excited to get that news! After ordering the console and controllers, we will rearrange the teen area to accommodate the gaming console and screen. We hope to continue to hear from local teens about what kinds of games they would like to play. We also welcome feedback from parents and grandparents about this new feature at the library.

Portions of this article were drawn from the State Library of Kansas and American Library Association web sites.

Putting the Fizz, Boom, Read! into children’s summer

We’re off to a great start this year, with two programs already under our belt. Our first program, What Goes Up” explored the wonders of science through gravity and motion, with an interactive game, a video about how to balance a coin on the edge of a paper bill, and discussion about Isaac Newton and his apple tree. Children hopped up and down and shouted out answers to questions posed to them by Miss Frances’ pantomiming gravity or motion, with the able assistance from Miss Amanda. I’m sure they all went home to show off their new skill with a coin and a bill to their parents. Hint: it really works! They even tasted the results of two kinds of cookies made with gravity and motion – rolled, wrapped and pressed cookies, and German “Drop” cookies.

Last week, we had another wonderful program, this time discovering our natural world. “Look up, down and all around.” We’d planned to visit the new walking trail created by Travis Laver’s team of teachers and administrators behind the school. But the cool weather and damp conditions kept us in the library. Amy Coffman, assistant manager of the National Wildlife Refuge visited with a van loaded with backpacks packed with tools. She shared them with attendees, explaining how each could be used to explore the natural environment outside the library. Afterward, Miss Frances showed the children a how-to video and helped teach them to whistle for help should they ever get lost in the woods. The kids enjoyed cold water and trail mix as a snack, a reminder to always take something along when you’re hiking.

This week, we take our show on the road and visit the PELP summer program at the school annex. Three of us will split the students into groups and read age-appropriate books about space. The PELP program is focusing on the topic this summer, and it’s near and dear to my heart. I grew up in Titusville, Florida and my father worked at Cape Kennedy for almost 25 years. It was a great place to be raised and students were treated to numerous views of rockets being launched into space. Hard to believe that it’s been almost 45 years since we landed on the moon!

It’s not too late to visit the library for summer programs this year. You can drop in anytime for a calendar so you don’t miss any of the coming events. Keep your children reading throughout the summer to help them retain their skills for Fall’s back-to-school challenges.

Updating your library’s services

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At the recent Southeast Kansas Library System Annual Meeting two of our newly elected library Trustees, Florine O’Rourke and Mark Willard, joined me in representing Pleasanton Lincoln Library. They had the opportunity to hear keynote speaker Joan Frye Williams share her thoughts about the future of libraries. A Library Futurist, Williams explained she does not have a crystal ball. But she’s spent years in the library field, first as a page, then a librarian, and now as a consultant who has traveled to many countries visiting libraries. So she is able to predict what it will take to keep libraries viable.

She asked the audience what makes them take a left turn into a business. Most people will make the most convenient choice, due to their frenetic life styles. They are also affected by customer service, whether good or bad. Both of these can make the difference in whether or not they return.

But convenience, or access, was the most common reason people chose to patronize a business. With internet access becoming more common on cell phones, it’s more important than ever to offer additional services that your public needs. She explained we cannot continue to do more with less. We just need to do different with less. We need to determine what our customers want and need, and discard what is less necessary.

William had many suggestions for attendees, and said we could consider them all but not expect to do them all. Following are some of her suggestions that we’ll be considering over the next few months.

Work with local, state and federal agencies to assist patrons with online services. Provide a book dispenser for after-hours checkouts. Reconsider your hours of access. Provide alternate ways to learn new information, other than reading. Consider outdoor learning centers, like community gardens. Provide cafeteria-style service, for example, create coupons for extra checkouts for those who return items quickly. Consider a self-checkout computer. Provide signage with clear directions instead of library lingo. Merchandise your collections, or in other words, display books in categories rather than just shelving them numerically. Develop your online presence and make it easy for all to use. Provide a neutral front desk that is more approachable. Provide family-oriented activities.

We have considered some of these ideas in the past, and have acted on others. Some may be cost-prohibitive for our budget, but may be possible through grants or donations. Let us know if something appeals to you and your family. In the meantime, we will continue to look for ways to improve our services to make them convenient while providing our visitors with good customer service.

The future of libraries

With all the improvements in technology over the past several decades, many people have written about the possible demise of libraries. They surmised that everyone would be buying ereaders and buying ebooks, or reading the latest novel on their phone. Though library budgets felt the squeeze of the economy’s downturn, library administrators have worked hard to continue to provide what visitors want. Finances are beginning to show signs of improving, which allows us to focus on what communities want from their libraries.

National organizations have led studies on how to keep libraries viable. They encourage those involved in directing the future of their libraries to think differently about its mission and its future. Librarians are encouraged to create the future rather than reacting to it. We are told to aggressively seek the needs of the community from those who live there. Librarians should become embedded in the community, and participate in community organizations to achieve community goals.

Those studies show a need to rebrand the library as essential to the community, helping it become a hub, a public square, a space for people to come together to build community. What is important now is not the stereotypical room full of rows of shelves where visitors are shushed and children are not welcomed. We are now in the business of creating human achievement and community.

So over the next few months, Pleasanton librarians will be contacting those in the community and those who live nearby. We’ll be asking them questions about what they want their library to be now, and what they want it to become. We want to guide it toward increased viability by planning for its future. We ask that you answer questions honestly and thoughtfully. If you don’t use the library, let us know why. If you do use the library, let us know what you like about it and how we can improve it. It is our goal to help it flourish and help the community flourish as well. We hope to preserve the library for the generations that follow us, as those before us worked to preserve it for us.

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