Posts filed under ‘Public libraries’
Princeton Public Library will be hosting an Election Night at the Library event for the third time tomorrow night. The library has always been open regular hours on election days and starting in 2004 we decided that as the “community’s living room” we were the perfect venue to host a non-partisan, family friendly election return event. We serve food and drinks, have political commentary, watch the returns on multiple screens, and stay open late — generally until 11 pm, but the year of the hanging chads we stayed until after midnight. Leslie Burger hosts the event and Ingrid Reed of the Eagleton Institute provides the commentary. It really is a wonderful way to spend election night and a great way for the library to prove its value as a Third Place.
I started looking around to see if this idea had caught on at other libraries and I did find that Tigard Public Library in Oregon will be hosting an Election Watch 2008 event and that Towson branch of the Baltimore County Public Library will also be doing an Election 2008: Returns after Dark event. I am sure that there are other public libraries hosting events, if so please comment here and let us know what you are doing!
I was somewhat surprised, however, during my quest to find other library election parties to also discover that many, many public libraries close on election day. I was a little baffled by this, to be honest, especially since Princeton Public Library has always been open and it is the only public library that I have worked at since emigrating from Canada. At first I assumed that some libraries closed because they are polling places. That turns out to be partly true, but it seem that many more close because it is consider a legal holiday in many states, including New Jersey (thanks Wikipedia).
Should libraries remain open on election day and provide a non-partisan forum for their community to gather and participate in watching returns — or should they close in honor of the occasion? I obviously side with the former (even though I am not able to vote, yet) but I am sure there are other viewpoints and I would love to hear both sides.
On the night of October 7th, in the midst of financial calamity, unending war, and an election that is still way too close for my comfort, I was relaxed while enjoying my week-nightly fix of witty satire from the Colbert Report. Suddenly I sat bolt upright in my easy chair, scaring Batman, our snuggly black cat, who was cuddled up on my lap, and my husband Gary, who wasn’t. “Hey!” I shouted, “I know them! It’s Arlene and Jane!”
Colbert was spoofing reports that the current financial crisis was resulting in higher borrowing rates at libraries which were having a negative impact on market capitalism by providing free books and internet use. Colbert’s segment called “Communist Library Threat” was filmed at the highly regarded Rutherford Free Public Library and featured Jane Fisher (Library Director) and Arlene Sahraie (Library Services Director).
I’ve known and respected Jane Fisher, a Library Journal “Mover and Shaker,” for several years, first meeting her when she was at the New York Public Library and asked me to do a workshop on:“Everyday Assessment” for librarians (see more on the Library Journal blog post from 10/13/08). Several years’ running, Arlene Sahraie has been my worthy opponent, as a member of the “Library Goddesses,” in hot competition against my team, the “Alumni Avengers,” in the annual “SCILS Bowl” trivia championship at Rutgers.
The clip features first Arlene and then Jane in dialog with the overdubbed and menacing voice of an unseen Colbert, who interrogates them on library policy for providing free resources. He urges viewers to take out library books, not return them, and pay the fee for lost books in order to set the free market back on track.
If you haven’t seen the Colbert clip:”Communist Library Threat” posted on You Tube, here it is: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvX1VLejk-0
I woke up last week—to steamy, sticky, humid NJ weather. After a month of rain, finals, several graduations and birthdays for my friends and family, I had completely missed the fact that Memorial Day had passed. Suddenly it was summer. I was not prepared—too hot, no knitting, and nothing to read. I knew what I had to do—get to the library.
First get my house cooled off: My house is old and does not have central air conditioning. The window units do ok, but they could not keep up with the temps last week in NJ. Plus, my bedroom unit was so loud that even when I was cool, I could not get a decent night’s sleep. The the “2008 Consumer Reports Buying Guide” gave me the information I needed to find a quiet, efficient, and inexpensive air conditioner that has me sleeping like a baby. And of course, all of my research took place in a delightfully air conditioned building!
Next, what to knit?: You may not know this, but if I am around, somewhere close by are two sticks and some string. Yup, I am a knitter. Not just a casual knitter, but a constant companion knitter. Summer is the perfect time to get a head start on those wonderful fall sweaters and afghans you want to make for Christmas presents. However, having a huge mound of thick wool draped over your legs is a serious summer don’t. I wanted something small, portable, and preferably not wool. I found the solution: “No sheep for you : knit happy with cotton, silk, linen, hemp, bamboo, and other delights” Amy R. Singer (746.432 Sin). This delightful book is filled with loads of projects that are perfect for summer—even a few sweaters I can wear come fall!
This was the first I have been to my public library as a patron since I began working in public libraries. I forgot how great it is (and how great the air conditioning is). Three of my neighbors were getting their new book club selections–we stopped and chatted about what the heat was doing to our gardens. I took out a chick-flic DVD that my husband would never put in the Netflix queue. It was a wonderful way to spend my afternoon.
When you are a librarian, it is easy to find that all your library experiences are now work experiences. I encourage library employees to go to your hometown public library as a patron. It is a great experience and one that is easy to forget.
As some of you already know, I am a career changer—after ten years as a financial analyst, I returned to school (Rutgers) to pursue my MLIS. It was time to follow my childhood dream to become a Librarian. I continued to work at Dow Jones at first, then left in the fall of 2007 for library work. I now juggle two part-time adult services positions at Princeton Public Library and Mary Jacobs Library (part of the Somerset County Library System). I love my jobs–love working with the public, love hunting down information, love teaching people to use library resources, and love providing reader’s advisory help. From the very first moment I began my public library internship, I knew that I had made the right choice!
Last week I did a quick review of the job posting lists on-line (NJLA, Rutgers SCILS, Somerset County, Mercer County, Ocean County, and Middlesex County). There was exactly one full-time Adult Services position in New Jersey public libraries posted. This has been the case for months now–a job here, a job there, but never more than three at a time, usually less. Many folks tell me you have to put your time in working part-time. No problem! As I noted above, I love my part-time jobs. However, there is one very difficult issue—health insurance.
To put this in perspective, the cost of my health insurance each month is:
$60 more than my car payment.
Over 25% of my take-home pay.
64% of my mortgage payment (not including property taxes, after all, I live in NJ!)
When I lament my lack of health insurance and the bleak outlook for any full-time employment in NJ public libraries, I get a very disturbing response: Can’t you get insurance from your husband’s job? This has been the response of both co-workers and classmates. This is generally the first response. Has the library profession become one available only to married people? Why does everyone expect some other employer to insure me? Why do so many people in the library field think this concept of not getting benefits from your employer is perfectly ok? Am I the only person who finds this attitude disturbing?
I am about to graduate in May. This means I have to start thinking more about full-time work. I am not actively looking at the moment–I hope to have my part-time work turn into full-time work. However, I do keep my eyes open for interesting posts just in case. What I have noticed is that I am now looking at postings for jobs in the corporate area again. I don’t want this, but I know it may be my only chance to have affordable health insurance. At some point, that will become critical. Now, each time I look at online postings, I hit the old finance lists after I finish the library ones.
I will leave you with one last thought–When all the semi-retired, part-time, adult services librarians retire, will there be anyone left to take their posts? Or will they have left for full-time positions outside the library field?
New Pew Report Looks at How America Solves Everyday Life Problems Using Libraries, the Internet, and Government Agencies
With interesting timing to those of us who are into holiday parties, hanging out with friends and family, and looking forward to the New Year, on December 30th, 2007, Pew Internet & American Life Project (PIAL) released their latest major report. Information Searches that Solve Problems: How People Use the Internet, Libraries, and Government Agencies when They Need Help studies the problem solving strategies of American adults who are 18 years old and older as they deal with 10 everyday issues. These issues included addressing health concerns, investigating school finance or enrollment, improving their work skills or changing jobs, and wrestling with problems involving government related programs such as Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and tax issues.
PIAL has become a leading source of research for up-to-date and reliable information on how Americans are using the internet and libraries. Once again, this latest report does not disappoint. Leigh Estabrook of the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, Evans Witt of the New Jersey based Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI), and Lee Rainie, Director of PIAL have crafted a well-written and highly readable report. From June to September 2007, PSRAI conducted 2796 phone calls yielding 2063 usable interviews with a deliberate over-sampling from African-American, Latino, and 733 households with “low access” to computers and the internet.
The full 42 page report Internet Searches that Solve Problems that chronicles the results of these interviews is well-worth reading, but if you want to just hit the high points, check out the first 6 pages of executive summary.
Some findings I’d like to highlight:
- Public libraries and government agencies got high marks from the respondents when among the choices for their information seeking when faced with everyday life problems, but (of course!) the star was again the internet. 58% of respondents said they used the web when they recently (within the past 2 years) encountered everyday life problems.
- When faced with the above problems, the age group that reported visiting the pubic library the most was Gen Y (18-30 years old) with 62%. Trailing Boomers (43-52 years old) were second with 57% and Leading Boomers (53-61 years old) had an even lower percentage of 46%. This finding surprised me since I think of the Gen Y group as being more oriented to online resources and less likely to visit “brick” libraries.
- The most frequently encountered problem reported (45%) was a serious illness (either themselves, or someone close to them). This finding confirms other studies that find health concerns to be among the top reasons people use the web when addressing personal matters as opposed to school or work-related searching.
- Regarding privacy issues, Pew found that only 20% of the respondents “were concerned about privacy disclosures as they hunted for information” and “they were somewhat more pronounced for the low-access group” (p. viii). Since some of these issues were very personal in nature, I would have expected this number to be much higher.
There are many more intriguing findings from this report, take a look – perhaps when you recover from New Year’s celebrations! Happy Hols to all!
Quote of the Day:
The library is like one big smorgasbord. It’s easy to pick up something and try it out.
It is a short article that does an admirable job of pointing out the value of a library to a community — and it even includes a link the Maine State Library’s really great library calculator – a really useful tool that demonstrates how much money can be saved by using a public library.
I also love this marketing idea that the Kenton Public Library will rolling out shortly:
In September, the Library offers cardholders even more value. Libraries in Kenton, Boone, Campbell and Grant Counties have joined with local businesses to offer a discount to anyone who presents a library card. This partnership was formed to encourage residents to use of obtain a library card. More than 50 local businesses including Snappy Tomato Pizza, Golden Corral, Sherwin Williams, Mad Cup Café, and Pawsitively Perfect Grooming understand the value the library provides to the community and local businesses.