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The Heart of Maryland Libraries Quilt

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By Karen Trennepohl, retired from the Howard County library system

Originally appeared in the Summer 2009 edition of The Crab, a publication of the Maryland Library Association.

At the MLA Conference, Karen Trennepohl, chair of the Quilt Project Committee, presented The Heart of Maryland Libraries quilt. Margaret Carty, MLA Executive Director, conceived the idea of a state quilt almost 2½ years ago. Karen thanked the leadership of 18 county library systems, two college/university libraries, three county school systems, the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Department of Library and Development Services, the Maryland Association of School Librarians and the MLA leadership for their support of the project. 

Almost 130 individuals representing these libraries and organizations created 27 unique interpretations of the quilt’s title. Additionally, some of the individuals provided stories behind each square – how its design was chosen and what it represents, who completed the stitching of the square and who designed and completed the scrapbook page. Some squares were completed by local quilting groups and avid scrapbookers, both within the library staff and from the communities served. Surprisingly, some squares and scrapbook pages were created by individuals who created a square with no prior experience. When the quilt was appraised, the appraiser commented that she could tell that the quilt was completed by both inexperienced and experienced quilters, and was impressed with the care and deliberate decisions that were taken by all the quilters. She congratulated the group on their production of a beautiful quilt.

Karen also thanked Nancy Evans and Debra Wiggins, members of two quilting guilds from Howard County who provided their expertise during design and when quilt square instructions were written. Nancy Evans, from Faithful Circle Quilters, participated in the Conference program which explained the project. She also worked with Debra Wiggins (Locust Quilt and Craft) to design the quilt top, to stitch the squares together and to arrange for the title block to be completed by Geri Ford. Maria O’Haver machine quilted the entire piece, highlighting each square with unique quilting designs, and embellished the borders with additional hearts to bring the quilt’s theme onto the entire piece. Kim Hazlett also attended and worked with Cheryl Gordon to create the central quilt square, which pictures the historic Enoch Pratt Free Library building now used as MLA headquarters.

Susan Howes, Calvert Library, created the scrapbook, using the pages provided by participants. In some instances, she developed pages using information, photos and fabric scraps provided by the library. She assisted with the instructions for the scrapbook pages and Karen acknowledged her role in the historic telling of the quilt’s story.

The immediate future of the quilt includes visits to each of the participating libraries, the MACO conference in Ocean City and the Maryland State Fair in August. Karen has been asked to provide programs explaining the project at some libraries. A representative of the Delaware Council of Libraries approached Karen requesting assistance to duplicate the project in Delaware. In two years, the quilt will hang at MLA headquarters for all to see and remember Margaret’s vision – “one more example of the spirit of Maryland libraries and the people within their walls.”



Successful Friends Groups

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by Laura Birmingham, Indian Prairie Public Library

Originally published in the Metropolitan Library System’s MLS   E-nnounce on October 7, 2009 in vol. 3, iss. 19

Since my start at Indian Prairie in the role of Assistant Director, I have served as the liaison to the library’s Friends group. The Friends of the Indian Prairie Public Library has been in existence since the library formed in 1996.  They meet the second Tuesday of each month at 1:30 p.m. and hold an annual meeting held on the second Tuesday in January, where election of officers takes place.  To join their Friends they have a membership form (PDF) and dues which range from $5 for an individual to $100 for lifetime membership.

I have been regularly attending the monthly Friends meetings and assisting in their various fundraising projects since 2000.  I have also served as treasurer and acting secretary. This past May, the president of the Friends, who had served for 13 years, decided to step down from her leadership role and pursue other interests.  This left me to step up and serve as president.  It has been an interesting addition to my job duties.

The Friends are an important part of the Indian Prairie Public Library. They not only raise money for the library, but they are also a great volunteer corps.  They host concerts and programs, sort endless book donations, and lend a helping hand whenever needed. The Friends are our greatest advocates – they love the library and work hard because they want to.  But most importantly, they tell friends, neighbors, community organizations, and family members all about the library!

As fundraisers, the Friends have several efforts that keep money coming in.  There is an ongoing book sale in the library’s lobby, which the Friends sort and stock daily.  This brings in approximately $1,000 a month.  In addition, there is a larger Annual Book Sale which typically generates around $3,000.  The Friends participate in Jewel Shop and Share Days, Buona Benefit Days, sell reusable “green” bags, and sell Entertainment Books every fall.

The Friends provide funding for  many “ongoing” expenses such as incentives for summer reading programs, an annual motion picture license, refreshments for movie nights, Lyric Opera series, and holiday poinsettias to name a few.  They have also purchased furnishing and equipment such as shelving and several generations of CD/DVD cleaning and repair machines.

We recently had our first-ever Friends Mixer to raise awareness about the Friends and get new members. It was simple, but effective.  Several of our current Friends members set up a table with refreshments (provided by the members) in the lobby at the front doors and greeted people as they came in. We ran a “membership special” to those who signed up –a Friends bag with every membership.  The mixer was a big hit – we ended up getting 25 new members!  And better yet, since the mixer, new faces have appeared at our monthly Friends meetings.

Although the Friends have over 75 annual members, only a handful attend the meetings.  Although we have tried meeting at different times of the day, the same dedicated 10 members attend every meeting. 

One of my goals as president this year is to develop the Friends as a formal advocacy group.   In short, my “vision” is to train the Friends to be library advocates; they would be “experts” on all the services and programs the library has to offer and they would represent the library at community events.  With a strong group of advocates promoting the library, we may be able to reach out better to our patrons.

Indian Prairie Public Library is lucky to have such a dedicated group of Friends and we are truly grateful for their support, both personal and financial and otherwise.

Questions about this article can be sent to Laura Birmingham at

Laura Birmingham is the Assistant Director at the Indian Prairie Public Library. She holds a Masters degree in Library Science from Dominican University, River Forest, IL, and a Bachelor’s in English Lit from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN. While her passion as a kid was to be a private detective when she grew up, she has worked in libraries her entire life. Prior to joining the Indian Prairie Public Library in 2000 she worked at the La Grange Park Public Library and at the DePaul University Law Library.


Mr. Chapman Goes to Washington

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Dan Chapman

Student contest winner sets the theme for National Library Legislative Day.

Danny Chapman of Lake Forest, Ill., is the proud winner of this year's National Library Legislative Day Student Theme Contest.

The contest, which ran in late 2006, invited students from all over the country to submit ideas for the National Library Legislative Day theme and logo to be used on invitations, briefing materials and decorations. For his winning entry, "Check Out the Future," Chapman won a free trip to National Library Legislative Day, which takes place May 1, 2007, in Washington, D.C. He will be visiting Congress with a delegation from the Illinois Library Association. Chapman shares his thoughts for that day with


Julie Andrews is the honorary chair of National Library Week 2008, April 13–19. Read, watch, listen to, or download National Library Week announcements starring the legendary actor.

"I am personally an avid user of my school and community public libraries. That's why I am so excited to help spread the message of how important libraries are to all of us, because education does not end with a diploma. Beyond that idea, however, was the message I had hoped to create for ALA members when they met with the members of Congress. There is a fundamental link between the free flow of ideas and information that libraries encourage and the principles that the flag represents. That is, those who signed the Declaration of Independence and created the Constitution of the United States?the living documents which the flag symbolizes?would likely have been unable to call upon the fundamental philosophies and doctrines had they not been able to read about them.

Similarly, the flag stands for the freedoms embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution for people to have access to all ideas without interference from government. Without the First Amendment's right to petition the government, the ALA itself would not be assured of the right to have a National Library Legislative Day. Thus, without ideas found in books, there might not have been a country for the flag to symbolize. If there had been no flag, those who would attempt to stop the free flow of information would likely have blocked the ability of people to publish their ideas, leaving libraries unable to fulfill their historic mission."

A senior honors student at Lake Forest High School, Chapman was supported by both his art teacher and Young Adult librarian Kerry Flaherty.

For more information on this contest, please visit:


New Orleans

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Slowly but Surely

Libraries in New Orleans and Gulf region continue their struggle to rebuild.

It's been 22 months since Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Rita two months later, devastated the Gulf Region. After the storms, libraries that were able to reopen did so as quickly as they could. Even with a staff of 19 (compared to the usual 216), the New Orleans Public Library was up and running as best it could right after the floodwaters receded.

And libraries across the country were first responders to the initial crisis, providing essential services to displaced Gulf residents, providing books and storytimes at shelters and extending hours to help locate loved ones through the Internet and finding resources for assistance and support.

So how are libraries in the region doing almost two years since hundreds of them across the region were destroyed or damaged? The Pascagoula Public Library in Mississippi officially reopened on April 16 with the theme "No Place Like Home", but most other libraries are still just beginning to rebuild.

Then - Eight of the 13 libraries of New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) were flooded.

Now - Five branch libraries are still closed and gutted awaiting funds to rebuild. 

Then - 137 school libraries in Mississippi either suffered severe damage or were counted as a total loss.

Now - Rebuilding of the school libraries has just begun, with only a few projects underway. The estimated cost is more than $38 million.

Then - Southern University of New Orleans lost its entire collection of 100,000 books

Now - Operating as a virtual library in a doublewide trailer.

Libraries: An Essential Service

Libraries are an ‘essential’ community service, but according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) they are not, so even though FEMA has been slowly providing reimbursements to many libraries, major assistance efforts have come from nongovernmental efforts to provide funds, temporary libraries and resources.

Led by the American Library Association (ALA), and its state and regional chapters, the library community quickly began raising funds to help their sister locations in the Gulf. Library staff and library users who love libraries have generously contributed more than $500,000 to fundraising efforts so far. In addition, more than 300 libraries have adopted sister libraries in the Gulf.

In addition to financial support, 1,000 conference goers at the ALA Conference in New Orleans in June 2006 volunteered- helping to clean and refurbish libraries, houses, and assist with other community building projects.

A number of organizations and foundations have provided temporary libraries for public libraries in the region.  Thanks to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET) are now setting up temporary libraries in 17 communities such as Waveland and Biloxi Mississippi, and in St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans in Louisiana.  All these libraries should be up and running by July 31.

The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries has focused on helping school libraries and so far has distributed over $2.5 million to 54 school libraries in the region.

Much more help, however, is still needed over the upcoming years as the Gulf communities rebuild their libraries.




Librarians Stormed Congress at Library Day on the Hill

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On June 26, busloads of librarians and library supporters from cross the country descended upon Capitol Hill to call attention to the value of today's libraries, as well as the issues the library community is facing.

At least 1,000 advocates from around the country, wearing red “Support Libraries” T-shirts, lobbied members of Congress on the urgent need for funding libraries threatened by closures, shortened hours, staff shortages, and diminished services; the importance of school libraries to the success of No Child Left Behind; and other critical issues.

"Library Day on the Hill," a high point of the American Library Association's (ALA's) 2007 Annual Conference in Washington, DC, which took place from June 21-29 in the Washington Convention Center.

"Library usage nationwide shows that the library is increasingly vital to communities around the country," says American Library Association Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. "Whether you're talking about story hour or after-school programming, job search help or assistance for small business owners, the library has the help one needs, provided by trained professionals."

In the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building, some 50 Senators and Representatives posed for their own version of ALA's famous READ promotional posters, using a setup provided by Polaris Library Systems.

Bill to improve school libraries introduced

Raul Grijalva speaks on Capitol Hill

Rep. Raul Grijalva speaks about the Skills Act at a press conference on Capitol Hill, June 26. Photo by George Eberhart.

In conjunction with ALA Annual Conference in Washington, on Tuesday U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I., left) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz., right) introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act. The legislation reauthorizes and strengthens the Improving Literacy through School Libraries portion of the No Child Left Behind Act and will ensure that more schools have qualified library media specialists and the resources they need to help students find the right information... Read more

Jack Reed speaks on Capitol Hill
Sen. Jack Reed describes the SKILLS Act at a press conference on Capitol Hill, June 26. Photo by George Eberhart.



Harry Potter - Coming to the Libraries You Love

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows cover

It would be hard to miss the building excitement this summer as readers of all ages anticipate the release of the next – and last – book in J.K. Rowling’s series of books about the young wizard Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Couple that with a new Potter movie coming to movie theatres as well, and it’s no wonder that "Pottermania" has reached an all-time high.

Bookstores and movie theatres are clearly hoping to see record business from these releases, but local libraries are also offering ways for their patrons to celebrate the new book and movie. There are summer reading programs that include Harry Potter themed activities, and even special library or librarian blogs dedicated to Harry Potter (Enjoy the Magic of Harry Potter @ the Norwalk Public Library and Bloggin About Harry Potter from the Louisville Free Library). spoke with Kathleen T. Horning, past president of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), about the Harry Potter phenomenon and its effect on libraries. “Libraries have seen an overall rise in circulation, particularly in the area of fantasy books for children and teens,” says Horning. In addition, she says, “The long waiting period between installments has given librarians the perfect opportunity to suggest other good books for children to read in the meantime. Click here for recommendations from the experts on other books you and your young Potter fans might like.

Featured below are some examples of programs offered by just a few libraries around the country. Check with your local library to learn about Potter programming in your neighborhood.

Note: Response to's original story about Harry Potter themed library events was so great that we've continued to collect links to individual programs that have taken place or will take place in the coming weeks. Click on "Read More" below to read more about the programs libraries have provided or will provide in the coming weeks. Items added after the original release of this article are marked with a red "NEW!" If you want to share your library's events, visit the "Libraries in the News" blog and add your event to the comments.

Harry - Banned!

The Harry Potter series of novels are among the most banned books in history. Judith Krug, the director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom muses on the reasons behind the challenges to Harry Potter, and why she thinks it's more important than ever to read these stories—especially for kids.

Read more here...

The Knight Bus

The Famed Knight Bus, which speeds through the world at night and picks up needy wizards and witches in Rowling’s books, is touring libraries across the United States. Scholastic Books has sponsored an actual triple-decker purple Knight Bus and sent it around the country, stopping in dozens of cities’ public libraries. Libraries lucky enough to be granted a visit are having parties and celebrations in honor of this magical tour. You can visit the Scholastic Knight Bus Tour site to learn about the tour, what libraries have been doing, and whether the Knight Bus is stopping in your town.



Days of Magic

Many libraries are drawing out their festivities over several events. Horning says that “youth services librarians [can] use their creativity and their own knowledge of the communities they serve to enlist local experts to join the celebration.” With more than a week separating the release of the new movie and the new book, there’s time for lots of wizard-worthy public programming.

  • The St. Joseph County Library in South Bend, IN, is planning seven days of exciting activities. Among other activities, “Wizard Crafts” will be available in the library’s meeting room all week, and previous Harry Potter movies will be screened every day.


Late-Night Festivities

Some libraries are throwing fabulous parties late at night to release the first copies of the new book at midnight.

  • The Newton Public Library in Newton, IA is opening its doors at 11:30pm. Patrons on the waiting list can be among the first to check a copy out, but the library is also partnering with a local bookstore to sell copies right there at the party. Everyone is encouraged to come dressed as their favorite characters from the books.



The fun doesn’t end when readers take home the new book. Horning suggests that families can do more at home, and encourages them “to read aloud, or to listen together to the audio-book versions of the series, and to discuss the stories in depth.” Many libraries are hosting read-a-thons for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—so take your whole family to the library.


However you celebrate the literary event of the summer, be sure to make your public library a part of the experience. As Horning says, "There really is no other contemporary author—for children or adults—who commands the same kind of anticipation [as J.K. Rowling]. And don't expect there to be in our lifetime. We have to enjoy it while we can."

   Now that the series is coming to an end, how will you find your next enthralling adventure on the page? Kathleen T. Horning claims that “the series appeals to those who like fantasy, folklore, mystery, adventure, horror, romance, realism, sports, humor, tear-jerkers, animal stories, school stories, and, of course, the classic orphan motif in children's literature.  Whenever I'm asked to recommend a book like Harry Potter, I always have to ask, ‘What is it that you like about the books? The magic? The humor? The quidditch? The school setting?’”

Surely there is something for everyone in the lists provided by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). And for even more ideas, visit your local library.


SKILLs Act Reinforces Importance of School Libraries, Librarians

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“The school library helps me by having the right information at the right time and they have all of the right tools I need for a project. They have taught me to use my brain with info and think more about it and not just grab anything.”

“When you go to the librarian for help, the librarian gets you to explain in your own words the questions you have to answer in your project. She makes sure you understand what you are going to do and then helps you get into it.”

“On the occasions that I did have questions or needed help, the librarians were always able to aid me much more than I could aid myself, and so I ask for help all of the time.”

Supporters Rally for SKILLS Act

As some 50 librarians attending the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., looked on, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives announced the introduction of the Strengthening Kids' Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act. With cries of "1-2-3, support your li-brar-y!" the enthusiastic crowd welcomed the new legislation, all while standing in front of the Cleveland Public Library's bookmobile, known as the "People's University on Wheels." Speaking at the event were ALA President Leslie Burger, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), and Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI). The event took place June 26, 2007 on Capitol Hill.


These are just a few of the thousands and thousands of student responses taken from an Ohio study on the importance of school libraries, and they illustrate just how strongly students feel about their libraries and the librarians who staff them.Raul Grijalva talks on Capitol Hill

Every day, students across the country visit their school libraries (now referred to as school library media centers) for everything from serious research to a little light reading. And they rely on the studied advice of the librarians at hand – similarly referred to as school library media specialists -- to guide them in the right direction. Recently, the U.S. Congress took steps to ensure that students will continue to have this vital resource to their children’s educations: the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act.

On June 27, this bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, which guarantees that students across America will have the library resources they need to succeed.

Sponsored by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) and by Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), the SKILLs Act ensures the presence of highly qualified, state-certified school library media specialists in every school, strengthening a key aspect of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the Improving Literacy through School Libraries program.

The SKILLs Act further ensures that library funds will be available to serve students in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the nation; that appropriate books and materials will be available for students at all grade levels, including those with special learning needs and those learning English as a second language; and that highly qualified school library media specialists will be available to assist and support all students with their learning needs.


The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (LSL) program was designed to improve student literacy skills and academic achievement by providing schools with up-to-date library materials and to ensure that school library media centers are staffed by well-trained and professionally certified school media specialists.

The program is administered by the Department of Education and is the first program specifically aimed at upgrading school libraries since the original school library resources program was established in 1965.

Multiple studies have affirmed that there is a clear link between school library media programs that are staffed by a school library media specialist and student academic achievement. Across the United States, research has shown that students in schools with good school libraries learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without libraries.

Long regarded as the cornerstone of the school community, school libraries are no longer just for books. Instead, they have become sophisticated 21st century learning environments offering a full range of print and electronic resources that provide equal learning opportunities to all students, regardless of the socio-economic or education levels of the community – but only when they are staffed by school library media specialists trained to collaborate with teachers and engage students meaningfully with information that matters to them both in the classroom and in the real world.

Why Care About School Libraries?: Research from School Libraries Work!, a study by Scholastic Research & Results

"A multitude of evidence strongly supports the connection between student achievement and the presence of school libraries with qualified school library media specialists."

"Across the United States, research has shown that students in schools with good libraries learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools iwthout libraries."

"Today's library media specialists are important instructional partners or consultants in supporting and expanding existing curriculum."

"No longer are school libraries just for books, they have become 'school library media centers' with computer resources that enable children to engage meaningfully with a wide variety of information."

"Research has shown that school libraries staffed by qualified library media specialists are needed to have a positive impact on student academic achievement."



Libraries That Matter

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Reaching beyond the buzz of high design, libraries are redefining themselves as community centers for the 21st Century.

By Cynthia Nikitin and Josh Jackson

This story has been reprinted with permission from Projects for Public Spaces.

At their best, these new libraries serve as centers of discovery and communication--places where people gather and where information comes alive through teaching and personal interaction. Indeed, to distinguish themselves in a world where Google is well on its way to digitally scanning most of the books ever written, libraries are learning to take advantage of the simple fact that they are centrally located in almost every community. In other words, libraries now see success being linked to their role as public places and destinations.

While many cities and towns now recognize the importance of re-positioning libraries as destinations, this awareness doesn't always translate into a well-rounded success. The most high-profile new libraries rely on stylized designs to create buzz, feeding a false perception that destination libraries are all about attention-grabbing looks. But when the tour bus crowds stop coming, these libraries will sink or swim based on how well they serve the needs of their respective communities--whether they are truly great places, not just eye-catching buildings.

There are plenty of unsung libraries that embody a very different and more compelling vision of what it means to be a public place. They may fly under the radar as architectural landmarks, but they still garner respect, praise and even adoration on account of their innovative management and programming--as well as design that supports a multitude of different uses. They are taking on a larger civic role--balancing their traditional needs and operations with outreach to the wider community--thereby contributing to the creation of a physical commons that benefits the public as a whole. If the old model of the library was the inward-focused community "reading room," the new one is more like a community "front porch."

Just as libraries are adapting to new circumstances, so too are librarians. Eric Stackhouse, chief librarian at the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, notes that "librarians have to think about our spaces differently. Before we managed book collections, and today we're doing much more management of community spaces. That's where our role is heading--towards more community development skills."

Following a PPS training course in New Glasgow initiated by Stackhouse and fellow librarian Linda Arsenault, Nova Scotia libraries are now incorporating Placemaking language into their standards for facility construction and services. Stackhouse says the new ideas have put librarians at the center of an ongoing dialogue that has grown to include planners, government officials, and other community leaders. "The training raised the whole level of discussion," he adds. "People really want these sorts of places."

Here are three more examples of how this groundbreaking "inside/outside" approach is redefining the destination library. These libraries represent a broad spectrum of settings, from downtown districts to suburban towns to rural counties. They range from large to small, old to new. What they share, however, is a commitment to forming partnerships and creating innovative programs that bring new people into the library and extend the library's role into the community. Each brings to light a truth that all libraries should take to heart: In order to draw people in, first you have to reach out.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Bringing Stories to Life

In downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, the ImaginOn children's library and theater illustrates the critical role that civic partnerships can play in expanding the impact of a community institution. The ImaginOn emerged from the cooperative efforts of the Children's Theater of Charlotte and the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Each organization has a presence in the building, where they collaboratively produce a tightly integrated mix of programs and events. By sharing a building and a mission -- "bringing stories to life" -- the library and the theater complement each other perfectly, creating a critical mass of activity.

"Some people come to the library and find the theater," says Beth Murray, a librarian at the ImaginOn, "Some people come to the theater and find the library."

These overlapping uses set the stage for events you might not necessarily associate with libraries. In true front porch fashion, the ImaginOn produces events that spill into the downtown area. "Wordplay Saturday," for instance, is a yearly event that fills the streets with people. With performances inside the library and activities outside, the festival transforms Charlotte into a giant party for kids. The event is one way the ImaginOn--together with the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Levine Museum of the New South, and several other neighboring institutions--has been instrumental to the emergence of a lively and walkable cultural center in downtown Charlotte.

Murray is quick to credit the people she serves as the inspiration behind the library's success as a destination: "The public teaches us," she explains, "The public helps us rise to the occasion."

Frankfort, Indiana

A Library That Presents Life as a Work of Art

Frankfort, Indiana is a town of 16,000 located in between Chicago and Indianapolis. The Community Public Library has established itself as the focal point of local life by offering a broad range of activities emphasizing art, performance, and creativity.

Library director Bill Caddell cites the life and work of Kentucky artist Harlan Hubbard as the inspiration for the library's mission. Hubbard eschewed consumer culture and lived his life simply, in a house by the banks of the Ohio River, aspiring to "make life a work of art." Caddell interpreted this goal broadly and enthusiastically for the library. "We wanted to make the entire library experience educational," he explains.

He began by honoring requests from local residents for lessons in everything from bread baking to belly dancing. Before long, the library had to expand just to keep up. As Caddell recalls: "We had so many classes that we ran out of room."

So, when Harlan Hubbard died in 1988, Caddell memorialized him by establishing the Hubbard School of Living. The new library wing includes galleries, studios, and a 200-seat theater. Caddell's partnerships with the local art league, quilt guild, and children's theater ensured that the expanded facilities would be fully utilized.

Today, the Community Public Library and its Hubbard School of Living are proof that inside/outside libraries are just as vital in small towns as in big cities. Stroll by during the afternoon, and you might see volunteer gardeners beautifying the library's landscape, while piano melodies float by from the free lesson taking place inside. It is indeed a living work of art.

(For more information on Harlan Hubbard, see Wendell Berry's superb biography Harlan Hubbard: Life and Work, Pantheon, 1990).

Santa Fe Springs, California

Learning in the Heart of Town

The mission of the Santa Fe Springs Public Library is to expand literacy and teach language skills to a diverse population in the suburbs of Los Angeles. It accomplishes this goal with a variety of innovative programs and effective partnerships that extends well beyond its stacks and reading areas.

The library makes great use of its prominent location next door to City Hall and the Santa Fe Springs Recreation Center, offering a varied schedule of recurring activities and larger, seasonal events, all in the civic heart of town. Among the repeat offerings are "First Fridays", which thrill audiences every month with dancing, storytelling, and other entertainment--often with a social or historical emphasis.

In partnership with the neighboring Heritage Park and local museum staff, the library also coordinates and hosts several big civic events. These range from Las Posadas, a traditional Latin American procession that takes place every year before Christmas, to "Children's Day," when kids try their hand at turn-of-the-20th-century tools, clothes, and customs. These activities, which are programmed throughout the year, are one reason why the library is central to community life in Santa Fe Springs.

Another reason for the library's success is the extensive outreach to fellow institutions. Librarian and activities director Joyce Ryan notes that the library works with public schools to "transform the library into a social and historical context" for books that children are reading in school, through a program called "Bringing Literature to Life." Each year this event brings an average of 400 high school juniors into the library. Different clubs and departments at the local high school are involved in making decorations and performing skits, dances, and choral arrangements. The Huckleberry Finn-themed event this year marked the fourth time the event has been held. Previous years' themes have featured Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, and Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Its careful attention to detail and well-executed partnerships set the Santa Fe Springs Library apart.

About the Authors

During her fifteen years with Project for Public Spaces, and as Vice President for Civic Centers and Downtowns, Cynthia Nikitin has amassed a portfolio of more than 150 projects. Her technical expertise stretches from the development of downtown main street master plans and corridor enhancement projects, to the creation of transit station area plans, and public art master plans for major cities. This includes facilitating approximately 40 community workshops, visioning sessions, and public meetings annually.

Cynthia has been instrumental in shaping PPS's Better Buildings Initiative with the U.S. General Services Administration's Good Neighbors and First Impressions programs. The multi-million dollar, multi-year program provides technical assistance for the redesign of federal plazas and public spaces nationwide, as well as research, training, networking and web resources for architects and managers of federal buildings.

Josh Jackson is a writer and planning consultant in New York City. He has worked with the NYC2012 Olympic bid and Alex Garvin & Associates, in addition to Project for Public Spaces. Josh has also written articles for Good Magazine and Lost Magazine, and writes the Built Environment Blog. He'll be enrolling at UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design this fall.


Back To School? Don't Forget the Library!

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The summer is drawing to a close, and many children and adults are beginning to anticipate the start of a new school year. Amidst all your planning – supplies, registration materials, new clothes, arranging the logistics of the commute – don’t forget to make good use of ALL the libraries in your community.

How can my public library help?

For Children and Teens:

What do your children need to be school-ready this fall? Aside from the material objects that will help them succeed, they may also need some help preparing emotionally. Many kids – especially incoming kindergarteners or children and teenagers who are attending a new school for the first time – are nervous about starting school, and your public library can help them find some stories to help them prepare for what’s coming. The Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, IN, publishes this list of “Going to School” books and DVDs for children. A similar book list is published by the Wakefield Library in Wakefield, MA. Teens wanting to go beyond the standard curriculum in their literature classes this fall can check out this reading list compiled by the Carollton Public Library in Carollton, TX. The children’s or young adults' librarian at your public library may have gathered some recommended reading on the subject as well – so take your child to the public library, and together, look for some books to ease this transition.

Also, whether your children are cautious or thrilled about the start of a new school year, they’ll likely enjoy back-to-school programming at your public library. Teenagers in Brooklyn, NY, were invited to a Back-to-School Library Jam at the Brooklyn Public Library, to acquaint them with the library and its services. In Oneida, NY, the Oneida Public Library runs a KinderKids program to acclimate incoming kindergarteners to the pace of the school day. The Shaler Public Library in Glenshaw, PA, offered a July Back-to-School Craft event, and the Jacksonville Public Library in Jacksonville, FL will throw a Back-to-School Bonanza with “board games, Dance Dance Revolution, and more” in August. Once school is in full swing, the Hennepin County Library in Minnetonka, MN will celebrate with a Back to School Carnival, complete with carnival games and homework resources for kids and teens. Contact your local library and children’s or young adults' librarian for information on what they’re doing in your community.

And don’t forget homework help once the kids are back in school! Many libraries offer homework assistance after school. Check with your local library to be one step ahead when school starts.

For Adults:

Looking for information on area community colleges? Want to find out how to get to school via your local public transportation system? Need help finding a good study guide for the GED, GRE, LSAT, or MCAT? Just can’t find that obscure government student loan form? Chances are, your public library’s reference librarian can help. 

According to the American Library Association’s Library Fact Sheet #6, “Of those respondents who reported using the public library in person in the last year, 67% said they had taken out books, 47% had consulted a librarian, 47% used reference materials, 31% read newspapers or magazines, 26% connected to the Internet, 25% took out CDs or videos, and 14% heard a speaker, saw a movie or attended a special program.” There are lots of ways your public library and librarians can help you apply or prepare for continuing education – or, for parents, give you something great to read while you wait for the kids to come home!

What are school libraries doing to get ready for the new year?

School libraries – and the school library media specialists who make them work – are busy right now preparing for the coming academic year. From becoming experts on new technology, to working with teachers on curriculum planning, to assessing and fine-tuning their collections, library professionals in the schools have a lot to do before the students walk through the doors in the fall.

In Westminster, CO, the Witt Elementary School library stayed open all summer to provide summer reading programs to local children. In the fall, they’ll have incoming kindergarteners who already have a place to call home in their new school. Children at another summer reading program in Waterbury, CT, were lucky enough this July to meet one of the most famous librarians in America today – First Lady Laura Bush, who stopped by to read them a story and announce the awarding of $18 million in grants to libraries in struggling schools across the country.

Some schools, however, have more work to do than others. A devastating fire hit the library at Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY, in early August, creating nearly a million dollars in damages and lost books. The school will be working to raise the money to rebuild the more than 100 year old library and recreate its collection.

Want to get involved in your school library? The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) gives parents some excellent ideas for ways to help their childrens' libraries and school library media specialists. Read this article about "What Parents Should Know" for more information.

Whether you find yourself more often in your local school or public library, be sure to take a few moments to thank the librarians and school library media specialists for helping to get your entire community ready for school.


Library schools start the year


The librarians and school library media specialists who work in your public and school libraries are all trained professionals who study for their certifications in accredited library science programs across the country. A masters degree in library science can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take several years to complete. As the school year begins for a new crop of future library professionals, many are facing an uncertain future.

Fortunately, some of them will be getting some help this year from First Lady Laura Bush. A three year grant to twenty bilingual library science students in Texas will provide them with tuition, textbooks, a laptop computer, and the cost of their certification exam. Congratulations to this group of future information professionals.


ALA finds its “Second Life”

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Over the course of the past nine months, both staff and members of the American Library Association (ALA) have been establishing a presence on ALA InfoArts Island in the virtual world of Second Life. After much hard work a Banned Books Week exhibit that mirrors the 2007 pirate theme has been created. It's complete with a “pirates' cove,” pirate ship, seagulls, and the occasional rat scuttling across the docks!

The plans for this event include podcasts, an InfoDesk manned by avatar volunteers, posters, t-shirts, notecards with the history of Banned Books and lists of challenged books, trading cards, guestbooks, and an in-world Read-Out modeled after the Read-Outs libraries across the country are hosting in honor of Banned Books Week. The Alliance Library System located in Southern Illinois offered considerable help in building the virtual event site.

Two screenshots of the site show the wonderful detail that goes into everything that is built in Second Life (SL). ALA plans continued exploration and development in the new paradigm presented by SL, where the growth of libraries and educational institutions is nothing short of explosive. What used to be an expanse of empty water next door to ALA’s plot is now the site of Cleveland Public Library’s virtual counterpart! And there’s more to SL than just a leisure fantasy getaway. Check out the blogs of staff member Donavan Vicha, who wrote about his experiences at the third annual Second Life Community Convention that met in Chicago at the end of August.


What is Second Life?

Second Life is an Internet-based virtual world, where users can select a new identity, known as an "avatar" and live out a fantasy-based life of their dreams.

Users can create their own appearance, dress, join groups, communicate, and interact with other avatars around the world. There are no limits with Second Life: users can fly, teleport from one place to another, die and come back to life.

Second Life is a software program that can be downloaded from Linden Labs for free (you can also apply for a premium account for $9.95/mo). Once installed, it allows a view into a three-dimensional virtual world.

According to Wikipedia, more than 8.9 million accounts have been registered on Second Life, although some are inactive. Some experts believe that Second Life or something like it will eventually replace the World Wide Web. What do you think? Take a look at Second Life and judge for yourself.