It’s been a while since I talked about my library visiting in earnest. Vermont has a 251 Club, a pretty informal group who have the aim to visit all of Vermont’s 251 towns. I love the idea (I’ve been to all the towns, now going back to photograph them) and have extended it to libraries. The Passport to Vermont’s Libraries project that VLA did for three years was basically an outgrowth of this. But now it’s just me and my list and map and car.
Yesterday I gave my Practical Privacy talk in Richmond Vermont (pop. 4000-ish) and had the day free beforehand. I figured I’d go for a drive. I started with VLA’s map of all the public libraries in the state, then used a new tool I’d just made, a list of all the public library websites in the state. From there I made a list of which libraries would actually be OPEN (this is more challenging than it might seem in a library where some libraries are only open 14 hours) and charted my course. I managed to see seven libraries in one long day, had two meals with interesting women–Mary the director of Fletcher Free, and Julie a techie powerhouse who does coding and coaching and public speaking–and gave my talk in the big upstairs room of the Richmond library which had previously been both a church and a basketball court. Here’s where I went. Continue reading “Back at my Vermont 183 project”
An old one from the inbox about starting as a new, youngish library director in an established library.
Here are some quick links and things to think about:
1. How to manage smart people.
If your staff is smart, they mostly need you just to help them with resources and support to help THEM be awesome and don’t need a lot of top-down guidance. If they’re not as smart, you have a different set of issues.
2. Know the work.
A friend make this list. You’ll have to view this large but it points out all the different parts that go into library directorship in a smaller place and even though all those jobs aren’t going to be yours, many of them will be SOMEONE’s
I think the biggest thing that libraries do is they sort of hang their OPEN sign out and wait for people to come in. That doesn’t help or affect the people who aren’t coming in. Reaching everyone or as many people as possible in your service area is mission critical, to me, they spend money on the library so how do you help them. Populations that often get ignored are
- the elderly who may have mobility/cognitive impairment
- teenagers (people think they’re annoying, want them to come back
when they’re less annoying)
- the disabled who may need accommodation
- the computer illiterate
Basic improvements in signage, accessibility, staff training (for friendliness, usefulness, etc) can go a long way towards helping ALL these sorts of people without sort of unhelping other people at the same time. I really think every library needs to take a good look at their website, OPAC and other tech services to see if what they do is working for the patron, not just the staff. I mean you have to make the staff happy too, but reworking so that you’re visibly helping the patron is also good for funding and general satisfaction levels.
4. Eating your own dog food.
Make sure you’ve done a Work Like a Patron Day yourself and,at some appropriate point, for your staff.
I tracked the libraries that I visited this year, like every year. Previous years: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 (and this little list of reviews from 2003)
I went to thirty-six different libraries in seven states and two non-US countries for eighty visits total. A bunch more than last year, but some were just for ukulele practice or tech planning sessions at a friend’s library. Hereâ€™s the short annotated list of what I was doing in libraries last year. Top three libraries are: my local public, my local academic and my summer local.
- Kimball – my local and also the place that hosts Ukulele Club
- Hartness at VTC – the best academic library anywhere near here. Good hours, great place to hang out.
- Carney – UMass Dartmouth – probably my favorite library building of all time
- Chelsea VT – helping with tech planning, I go here often
- Somerville West – did a talk and stopped by here another time. Lovely upstairs.
- Goddard – did some VLA website work here
- Fairfield/Millicent – One of the most amazing looking libraries in MA with some cool local lore
- Aldrich/Barre – Went to a few meetings, my favorite local library renovation story
- Mackinac Island MI – small and lovely with a great book sale and classic furniture
- NYLP/SIBL – keep waiting for them to close this but they haven’t yet
- Southworth/Dartmouth – they have a harpoon display here!
- Pierson/Shelburne VT – went to a meeting, small with a great puzzle collection
- St Ignace MI – killing time while stranded here, this is a great building where you wouldn’t expect it
- Atwater/Montreal – my favorite Canadian library
- British Library – got an awesome tour from Stella Wisdom
- ULU Senate Hall UK – got a great tour from Simon who no longer works there
- Rockingham VT – dropped off some things, stuck around to take a peek at this great place
- Guilford UK – one of the smaller local publics, nice with a watch museum next door
- Roxbury VT – helped with the automation project
- Artizan St UK – community center, small and busy
- John Harvard Library UK – had an odd section for Black Titles and a security guard
- Sunderland MA – great place to pass the time en route to or from Amherst
- Somerville MA – the other little library
- Boxboro MA – wifi to check email if you are early to visit Mom
- Boston Public – got a great tour by Tom Blake and saw some great stuff
- Sun City AZ – hanging out while visiting Jim’s folks
- UM – Duluth – Chihuly sculpture!
- NYPL/Epiphany – I always love the huge staircase in here
- Duluth MN – bizarre design but fun to hang out in
- Westport MA – great DVD collection, sort of an odd place
- Barbican UK – inside the funky Barbican, lots of great UK history books
- Varnum, Cambridge VT – stopped by randomly, folks were so nice and friendly
- Ashfield MA – gave a talk, enjoyed getting to see the place
- NYPL/Kipp’s Bay – small and in need of renovation but warm and welcoming
- City University, UK – stopped to check email en route to dinner, nice place, square dancing outside
- Vicksburg MS – neat renovation, fun kids area
Did not get to as many Vermont libraries as I had wanted to as part of my 183 project. Working slowly on maybe getting a statewide 183 project up and running with other members of the VLA. Looking forward to another year of library visiting.
Apologies for putting Duluth in MI accidentally. Now fixed.
I tracked the libraries that I visited this year, like every year. I have also done this in 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009. Ten years ago I did a short list of library visits where I actually reviwed the places I’d been. Ah to have that much free time!
I went to thirty-eight different libraries in eleven states for fifty-six visits total. Just a little more than last year. I’m sure I have forgotten some. Hereâ€™s the short annotated list of what I was doing in libraries last year. Top three libraries are the same as every year: my local public, my local academic and my summer local. All great places.
- Hartness/Randolph VT – have not been here so much in the latter part of 2012, but this is still one of my favorite academic libraries.
- Kimball VT – my local, I don’t work here as much but still go here all the time.
- Westport MA – summer library, good for DVDs and other vacation-style stuff.
- Plymouth State NH – gave a talk, saw the library. A neat looking place, with a cool clock in the entryway.
- JoCo – Desoto KS – a tiny town with a great library where I checked my email while there was a rainstorm.
- Ashtabula Public OH – stopped by on a road trip and saw a lot of people with fishing poles. A quirky big library.
- St. Johnsbury VT – was here for the Hug the Library event during the unpleasantness.
- Minneapolis MN – hadn’t been here since the redesign. Enjoyed its shininess.
- Natick/Morse MA – killing time between friends and dinner, this was a great place to hang out.
- JoCo – Lackman KS – said hello to Josh Neff here!
- Beloit Public WI – lovely library, stopped in on a road trip and enjoyed myself. Fancy and shiny and new.
- St Paul MN – met a really nice librarian who told me some great history of the place.
- Harwood HS, Duxbury VT – my friend Meghan works here, stopped by the say hello.
- Manhattan KS – the public library when I was in town to hang out with my friend Donna.
- Beebe/Wakefield MA – such a neat place with a great bee-themed marketing campaign.
- Giamatti research center NY – Baseball Hall of Fame! My friend Paul worked as an intern, was fun to look through scrapbooks.
- KState KS – Donna gave me the grand tour and we got to see the basement.
- Nebraska Library Commission NE – said hi to the terrific Michael Sauers and gave a talk here.
- Brookfield VT – first time in a tiny library so close to home.
- Omaha Public NE – big and beautiful and got to meet the woman who does programming there.
- Roxbury VT – another favorite one-room library, haven’t been there since they got a bathroom installed.
- Somerville MA – killing time before the movies, this library is always busy and has a lot going on.
- KANEKO-UNO Library NE – an arty, somewhat private library, we took a brief look around. Very cool space & collection.
- Brown/Northfield VT – lovely merging of old and new buildings.
- Chelmsford MA – saying hi to Brian!
- Boston Public MA – a nice place to chill on a chilly Boston day.
- Providence RI – Surprised I hadn’t been here before. Neat old building, oddly underused, it seemed.
- Lawrence KS – in an old Borders building while they renovated. Quite busy.
- Windsor VT – checking out the seed library, great photos of local residents.
- Hartland VT – stopping by because I was in Windsor, before Amy got there, I think.
- New Bedford Pl MA – amazing building and we got to peek at some of the artwork they were restoring.
- Topeka/Shawnee KS – a great tour by David Lee King, consummate friend to librarians everywhere.
- Lincoln Public NE – stopped in before dinner with Michael, busy and overtaxed.
- Merriam Park – St Paul MN – smaller neat suburban library.
- Union/Tiverton RI – so cute, so small! Librarian so friendly!
- Ashland NE – stopped by when I was on a drive. Neat old building, soon to be renovated, amazingly friendly and helpful librarian.
- Carney/Dartmouth MA – gosh I love this weird place and I want to go back there all the time.
- Monmouth/Manalapam NJ – doesn’t look like much from the outside but has a lot going on.
I had such a good time visiting all of these places. I can get sort of schmaltzy sometimes but I think the public library system in the US is a truly terrific thing. Here’s to another great year of library visits.
Greetings Seven Days readers. For folks who are not Seven Days readers, you might enjoy the article that was written about me this week: Jessamyn West Documents Vermont Public Libraries. I’ve had this idea kicking around for a while, to do my own version of the 251 Club where I visit and photograph all the public libraries in Vermont, all 183 of them (stats from Department of Libraries). It’s one of those this is going to take me several years projects which is AOK with me. I’ve gotten some interest from the Vermont Library Association–no surprise there–and just maybe we’ll be able to make a little Vermont Library Passport book with a list and a place you can get a date stamp marking your visit. For now though I’ve just got the big wall map that I made and some highlighter pens and my trusty Gazetteer along with this online map which I can probably improve. Of course holidaytime is not a great time to start any non-holidaytime project so it may be a bit before I get this all consolidated into one place but since the article said to check out this page for more, I thought having a little something here might be a good idea. Thanks for reading.