Build Community

Libations in the library

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Sipping in the stacks. Boozing amid the books. Whatever you call it, libraries and Friends groups are doing it: serving alcohol after hours, usually as part of a fundraiser, and usually with great success.

The idea of alcohol at a library-sponsored event may strike some as unusual. But supporters say that serving alcohol increases event attendance, particularly among younger adults, and cultivates a public image of the library as a hip, up-to-date social setting.

“People are used to relaxing with a beer or a glass of wine,” says Marcy James, programming coordinator for Jefferson County (Colo.) Public Library (JCPL). “When was the last time you went to a big fundraiser or a wedding without alcohol? I think people see libraries as a place to take your child for storytime, which is wonderful, but not as a place to kick back with other adults. If we’re going to change that view, I think alcohol is part of that.”

Emilio Estevez loves libraries

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Actor, director, and writer Emilio Estevez shares his passion for libraries in his new video Public Service Announcements highlighting the crucial role libraries play in our communities and in our democracy, and we couldn't be more excited about it!  

Estevez is an advocate for libraries and encourages others to join him, and plays a librarian in his new movie “The Public,” which he calls a “love letter” to libraries. “The Public” will open in theaters April 5—right in time for National Library Week (April 7-13).

Bees abuzzing: Redwood City Library home to two hives

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Redwood City’s (CA) downtown library is buzzing with activity.

Its roof has been home to two honeybee hives since summer, and a hands-on educational display about bees in the children’s section will be unveiled at the “Bee Jubilee."   The event features bee-themed live music by local band “Corner Laughters” and honey-flavored snacks will be offered.

The “Bee Wall Interpretive Center” will educate children about the various types of bees, their life cycles and how they collect pollen. The center also includes a cabinet full of books on bees, beekeeping tools, samples of dead bees and a screen will live stream footage from the inside of the rooftop hives.

“Bees are important to our society because one of every three bites of food we eat is produced by honeybees,” said beekeeper Kendal Sager, who manages the library’s bee colonies. Humans also rely on honey and beeswax for various household products, including lotions, lip balm, soaps and furniture polish, Sager said.

Bees typically don’t generate much honey within the first year, said beekeeper Kendal Sager, but she did manage to harvest a modest 40 pounds of honey in September — one hive can produce up to 150 pounds in an especially productive year, she said. The honey from the rooftop hives will be for sale starting Feb. 5 in the library’s store — 6 ounces are priced at $10.

Teen volunteer corps helps run the library

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Greenwood Public Library (IN) has started a Teen Library Corps. For the past year, the teens have been doing tasks around the library that have plugged them into coming to the library, which makes sure it is offering programs teens will want to participate in, teen librarian Jessica Smith said.

About 20 teens help clean the library, set up new exhibits and help guide what classes and curriculum the library will offer for teens.  They shelve books and dress up as the Easter bunny for community festivals.

And librarians hope that the teens will help outreach to the community, will help them show that the library is for more than checking out books and will give the teens leadership and social skills they can use when they are adults, she said.

“We want to create leaders; that is the real reason,” Smith said.

Fighting for our local library

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In York, Nebraska, a town of almost eight thousand residents, a staple of the community is the Kilgore Memorial Library.  York’s library provides abundant and fruitful programs to an active community.  Dedicated and passionate staff welcome visitors of all ages and from all walks-of-life with smiles and warm greetings.

2018 brought about drastic change within the community of York.  Due to a severe budget deficit, the library lost significant financial funding. This brought about a burning passion and drive within the community to take action in effort to ensure the livelihood of this beloved library.

  Initial efforts began prior to the finalization of the city budget.  Individuals throughout the community voiced their concerns in letters to the editor of the local newspaper and to city council members.  Social media also became a platform for creating awareness of the budget issues.  Upon attending city council meetings, citizens addressed the mayor and city council members directly regarding the proposed budget cuts. As the individual efforts continued, invested community members became aware of one another and formed a network of collective wisdom and zeal for the library.

The yellow sub-basement in Houghton Library

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The Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library’s main exhibition space, usually resembles a 17th-century sitting room — the walls are robin-egg blue, gold chandeliers hang from the high ceilings, and a framed portrait of a regal-looking man sits above a fireplace. But for Rachel Howarth’s goodbye party in December 2015, the room was adorned with donkey piñatas and holiday decorations. And among the festivities were six librarians who, in their white button-down shirts and black bowties, could be easily confused for waiters. But that night, they were neither waiters nor librarians — they were The Beatles.

Emilie Hardman, a Houghton librarian, had gathered a band of colleagues to give Howarth a surprise musical send-off. Michael Austin played the guitar, Micah Hoggatt the banjo, and Emily Walhout the viola da gamba. Heather G. Cole was on drums, but because they couldn’t bring a full drum set into the library, that meant “a snare placed on a stool,” as Cole recalls in an email. James M. Capobianco ’99, a classically-trained tenor, was lead vocalist, singing a parody of “Penny Lane” with new lyrics about their departing friend. Hardman, who had written the lyrics, rocked a tambourine. Together, they formed the Yellow Sub-Basement.

Advocacy and the power of narrative

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In 1990, when it was ranked one of the worst libraries in Colorado—open only four days per week, the lowest number of books per capita, minimal reference, and no children’s services—Douglas County Libraries (DCL) won 66% of the votes in an election to create a better-funded, independent library district.

By 2007 (and after I had served as DCL director for 16 years), 84% of households in the county had an active library card. Its annual circulation per capita was 27, and gate counts exceeded those of any local business by a wide margin. In June 2009, right after DCL decided to go back to the voters for a tax measure to keep up with community growth, the library earned the number-one spot in Hennen’s American Public Library Rankings for libraries with populations of 250,000–499,000 (based on 2006 government data).

Confident of a win, DCL campaigned to little resistance and many compliments. But the library lost the election by only 1% of the vote.

Shortly thereafter, OCLC unveiled its first From Awareness to Funding study in 2008, exploring the relationship between the public’s perception of a library’s role within the community and success with levies, referenda, and bond measures. It was a revelation, and it underscored the DCL experience: Use does not equal support. Douglas County, like most libraries, had been marketing its services, not its value.

Dungeons and Dragons rule fantasy corner at library

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Every Tuesday evening, a small corner of the Blount County Public Library (TN) turns into a land of fantasy, dragons, enemies and magic for a group of more than a dozen young Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts and adult gamers.

First published in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was developed as a fantasy tabletop role-playing game where each player is assigned a specific character to play. The characters embark upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting refereed by a dungeon master.

Characters join together to solve problems, engage in battles and gather knowledge and treasure. As the characters achieve goals, they become increasingly more powerful and able to tackle bigger challenges and adventures.

First-generation, low-income lending college library opens

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Students in the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership have teamed up with Barnard librarians to create a lending library for first-generation low-income students at the recently opened Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning.

The library, an extension of the lending library in Butler Library, currently holds close to 500 textbooks available to either be checked out for two hours or rented for an entire semester, and FLIP plans to continue to add more textbooks over the course of the semester. Students who identify as first-generation or low-income must fill out a Google form to obtain access to the books.

“The goal is to have books for all schools in both libraries,” FLIP co-president Destiny Machin, SEAS ’19, said. “We're just making sure we can get as many course texts and that each student who needs books has what they need.”

For Machin, who identifies as first-generation low-income, this initiative was deeply personal because of her past experiences purchasing textbooks.

Treasures of the library — according to those in the know

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With millions of volumes in its collections, the UC Berkeley Library (CA) is a virtual treasure trove. But we had to ask the people who know the Library’s materials the most: What are your favorite items in the collections? Answers ranged from larger-than-life tomes to an eye-popping novel, from an early writing by Mark Twain to an original musical sketch by Beethoven. Here’s what we learned:

“If you go down to (Level D) in the folio section (of Main Stacks, in Doe Library), you will encounter undoubtedly the largest books in our collection,” says Claude Potts, romance languages librarian. Folios are unusually tall books, often used to highlight the intricate details of maps, art, and architecture. Some folios, such as double elephant folios, can measure up to 4 feet long.

“I don’t have so much favorite items as I do favorite happenings,” says Bob Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project. Thirty-five years ago, Hirst was flipping through the Clemens family Bible, which Twain’s mother had used as a kind of filing cabinet. In it, Hirst stumbled upon a scrap of paper that he believes Twain printed as a young typing apprentice. “If that’s correct (and I believe it is) it became the oldest piece of paper we knew he had actually ‘written’ anything on,” Hirst says.