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As we transition from the old year to the new, our thoughts naturally turn to contemplation of the future and what it holds in store for us. For those of us working in public libraries, it is a good opportunity to ask, “What should we be focusing on?”, and in order to help us make that determination, we need feedback from the communities we serve. That’s where you come in.

First of all, I’d like to invite you to participate in a short (roughly five minute) survey being conducted on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries Initiative.

The purpose of the survey is to help the Global Libraries Initiative identify opportunities to focus their current support of public libraries in ways that foster innovation and dramatically accelerate positive and lasting change in libraries throughout the U.S. and around the world.

To participate in the survey, click here.

Secondly, I’d like to invite you to provide your valuable feedback on a more local level. Currently DCPL is in the process of developing a strategic plan, and is soliciting input through public feedback sessions to help the Library set priorities for the next three years. While the majority of the sessions have already occurred, the final session takes place on Tuesday, January 8 from 7:00-8:00 p.m. at the Hairston Crossing Library, and we’d love to see you there! For more information, call 404.370.8450, ext. 2228.

Have a happy new year!

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Oct 24 2012

Haunted Libraries

by Jesse M

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it appropriate to share Ellyssa Kroski’s excellent write-ups about haunted libraries, both in the United States and around the world. Each list features ten spooky libraries with a brief description of each, as well as a link you can follow to find out more information. Some of the libraries even offer “proof” of their paranormal inhabitants:
The Old Benton Library (formerly the Saline County Library) in Arkansas was investigated by a team of ghost hunters, and you can view their findings, including a video of them purportedly communicating with a ghost using the flashlight method; while the The Willard Library in Indiana allows prospective ghost hunters a chance to hunt for spirits themselves by viewing webcams located in the Children’s room, Research room, and Basement Hall.

Want a list of haunted libraries a little closer to home? Check out this page on library ghosts in the Southern US. Astute readers may notice that there aren’t any Georgia libraries on the list, however, according to the Shadowlands Haunted Places Index, Chestatee Regional Library in Gainesville has experienced its share of spectral happenings:

After hours the apparition of a young brown haired girl is seen. Books also tumble off the shelves. The library was built on the site of a hotel where a murder may have occurred.

Scary stuff!  Although generally speaking I’m skeptical of reports of paranormal phenomena, this blogger is happy to work in a library that isn’t haunted.

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Sep 12 2012

Why Support Your Local Library?

by Jesse M

Take a look at this useful infographic detailing why it’s so important to support your local library. While it may seem counter-intuitive, library budgets need to be expanded during tough economic times rather than reduced, because demand for our services increases. Click the “read more” link to see the graphic.

[read the rest of this post…]

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Aug 8 2012

On the menu…

by Dea Anne M

I’ve always enjoyed reading what I suppose you could call culinary history. Books like The Food of a Younger Land, The Big Oyster: history on the half shell, and Something from the Oven: reinventing dinner in 1950s America are all favorites of mine. I think it’s fascinating to learn about the cooking, dining habits, and available ingredients of people in other times and places. Did you know that at one time the lower estuary of the Hudson River was home to over half of the world’s oyster supplies or that the first frozen dinner was a Thanksgiving type meal of turkey and dressing?

Of course, restaurant menus can provide an important window into the dining preferences of particular people and times. The New York Public Library boasts what sounds like  an impressive collection of menus with its strongest focus on those dating from between 1890 and 1910. Currently NYPL is inviting the public to participate in its What’s On the Menu? project. Participants transcribe menus dish by dish in order to create a wider base of data available to historians, researchers, novelists and anyone else who needs specific information from the menu collection. Right now, the collection’s only searchable information are details such as the name of particular restaurants, geographical location and the like. Imagine though that you are a novelist and you need to find out how much your character would have paid for a plate of oysters at a Cavanagh’s in 1918. Thanks to the Menu Project, you can have your character choose, with complete historical accuracy, either the Lynhavens for 35 cents or the Pan Roast for 45 cents. Maybe your character wants to treat his paramour to pheasant at Delmonico’s on March 11th in 1916. Sorry, it isn’t on the menu, but it will be on April 19th two years later.

The website for the Menu Project provides easy to follow instructions for transcription or review of the menus and their various dishes and you can do as much as you like. It looks interesting to me as well as fun and I’m thinking to give it a try. You can too by simply visiting the web site. No registration is required. In the meantime, I might pursue my menu interest by paging through these titles featuring recipes and stories from some of this country’s historic restaurants:

Manhattan’s 21 Club opened in 1922 as a speakeasy. Featured in many movies and books, 21 is maybe best known for the row of painted lawn jockeys that line the balcony above its entrance. You can read more about the restaurant in The 21 Cookbook: recipes and lore from New York’s fabled restaurant by Michael Lomonaco.

Delmonico in New Orleans opened in 1895 as an off-shoot of New York’s famed Delmonico’s. Purchased and refurbished by Emeril Lagasse, it reopened in 1997. Read all about it (and check out vintage back and white photographs) in Emeril’s Delmonico: a restaurant with a past  by Emeril Lagasse.

Closer to home, Mary Mac’s Tea Room holds a treasured spot in many Atlanta hearts. Opened in 1945, the restaurant serves classic favorites of southern cuisine. Find them all, along with stories of the restaurant’s history in Mary Mac’s Tea Room: 65 years of recipes from Atlanta’s favorite dining room by John Ferrell.

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Nov 15 2011

Libraries of the Past

by Greg H

A week or so ago one of my colleagues wrote an entry about The Libraries of the Future. I find that I have enough trouble wrapping my head around the Libraries of the Present, so I started to think back, fondly, to the library of my past I grew up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and our library was the Adams Memorial Library, located at 1112 Ligonier St. where it intersects with Chestnut St.  My grandmother lived on Fairmont, just a few blocks from the library. The day I got my first library card I remember lying stretched out on her sofa reading the first book I ever checked  out, Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling.

At that time the library was under the management of  the “legendary”, to quote the library’s webpage,  Sara McComb.  She was a tiny, spinsterish woman with slightly hunched shoulders and could be seen daily, walking through town to and from  the library in her very sensible shoes. She never came off as menacing but the old Victorian house she lived in, the one surrounded by the pointy black wrought iron fencing, certainly did.  It very much resembled the type of house that trick or treaters told scary stories about and avoided and, I think, added to Miss McComb’s mystique.

My library of the past even had a technology that has made a lasting impression on me, maybe because even then I understood it.   While checking out I would watch the library staff process each book, making their notations with a pencil and then tilting that pencil forward to stamp the due date with this gizmo attached above the pencil point!  It struck me at the cleverest labor-saving device I’d ever seen to that point in my life and I guess it’s still in my top ten.

All in all, my hometown library probably was little different from most anyone else’s. Still, it will always be a special place to me, as is any place that has enhanced my love of books and reading.

The following books about libraries are available through the DeKalb County Public Library system:

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Nov 7 2011

Libraries of the Future

by Jesse M

Are Automated Book Delivery Systems (ABDS) the future of libraries?

At many libraries throughout the country, space is at a premium. The problem of storage and access to library materials, especially rare and/or rarely used collections, has been approached in a number of different ways. Some libraries choose to simply store these less frequently utilized materials in massive warehouses, sending couriers to retrieve them as needed (in some cases, such repositories are shared between multiple branches in a given region). Other institutions have embarked on mass digitization projects to transfer their bulky print collections into electronic formats which are easier to store and access. And then there are libraries such as the University of Chicago’s new Mansueto library, which have taken advantage of technological advances to create automated book delivery systems.

This New York Times article provides some details about the operations of the Mansueto library and other ABDS like it. Materials are kept in steel cases roughly 50 feet below ground until requested, at which point a complex system of cranes and elevators retrieve the needed text and delivers it to library staff.

At this point, you might be wondering, “But what about the serendipitous experience of browsing upon the perfect book by happenstance?” Luckily, many of these ABDS come equipped with some variety of virtual browse feature such as that found at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at NC State University (a description of their virtual browse system appears about 1:20 into the linked video). Additionally, ABDS exist partially to free up space on the cramped bookshelves of the main libraries which they are associated with, so the traditional browsing experience is still available in most cases as well.

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Oct 19 2011

Friends indeed…

by Dea Anne M

This week, October 16-22, is National Friends of Libraries Week. Library Friends groups across the nation will be promoting their libraries and libraries themselves will be staging special events and other appreciations of  the Library Friends who help them so much. DCPL branches will be offering patrons the chances to show support by purchasing a “leaf of support” for $1 each. We also have many events planned. Go to our own Friends of the Library page for more information.

I’ve known people who take the existence of public libraries for granted but, as recent economic news has shown, it’s best not to take too nonchalant an attitude, that is if you value your library and what it can provide to you and to your community.

How long have public libraries existed in the United States? As early as the 1600’s, churches and private individual established libraries in towns and parishes through donations of books. In 1731, Benjamin Franklin helped establish the Library Company of Philadelphia which was a subscription library lending to those who paid to become a member. True public libraries, as we know them, began emerging in the 1800’s when New Hampshire establishing the first tax-supported public library operating under the motto “open to all and free of charge.” However, it wasn’t until 1881, with the establishment of Andrew Carnegie’s legacy, that the U.S. saw the vast expansion of the public library system that so many of us enjoy and benefit from today.

If you’re a library buff in general, be sure to check out The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World (mentioned in a previous post by fellow blogger Jesse). There are some truly spectacular libraries featured in the book including two of my favorites: Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland and the New York Public Library. Also, don’t miss Library: the drama within another book of photographs presenting a variety of libraries—from the grand national library in Paris, to prison libraries, to tiny branch libraries in small towns.

For a very readable history of libraries and the important role that they have played in history, try Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battle.

What’s it like to actually work in a public library? Free for all: oddballs, geeks, and gangstas in the public library by Don Borchert is an amusing account of life on the front lines of a public library in Los Angeles told by a man who has truly seen it all.

Remember, this week is your chance to come out and show your support for your local branch and the wonderful Friends groups who provide so much of their hard work year round. Buy a leaf for a dollar at any branch of DCPL and show your love!

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Of course, we all know that library collections have long circulated all sorts of  items that aren’t books, but check out this article: Seed Lending Libraries Bloom.

That’s right…it’s a seed lending library! Patrons “borrow” seeds and then save the seeds from those plants to return. I think this is a great idea and sounds like a wonderful way to encourage gardening within communities. The article specifically mentions the Potrero branch of the San Francisco Public Library but there are similar programs in place at the Richmond Public Library in Virginia and in Connecticut at the Fairfield Woods branch of the Fairfield Public Library.

What type of items would you like to see in a lending library? The public library in Rochester, IL offers a crafts supply lending library and the Berkeley Public Library in Berkeley, CA has a tool lending library.  Also, did you know that at one point, we at the DeKalb County Public Library lent out framed paintings for people to put on their walls?  And that today, as you read this, we are lending out free family passes to Zoo Atlanta and Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites?

Getting back to seeds, it isn’t too late to get them in the ground whether that ground is your yard, a raised bed, or a container. Think you need some help?

Try Growing Herbs and Vegetables: from seed to harvest by Terry and Mark Silber

or check out Gardening With Heirloom Seeds: tried and true flowers, fruits, and vegetables for a new generation by Lyn Coulter.

(Thanks to my colleague Jessica for the link that inspired this post.)

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Strahov Theological Hall in Prague, Czech Republic

I’ve posted about beautiful library buildings on the blog before, but I’ve recently stumbled across another set of fifteen stunning library structures that I’d like to share. These buildings are awesome in the truest sense of the word, and the money and manpower expended to construct them is a testament to how important and well-regarded libraries are worldwide. Go here to view the complete list of images.

If you enjoyed that, you might also be interested in checking out the following titles, available through the DCPL catalog:

The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World, which profiles over 20 library institutions worldwide.

The Library: An Illustrated History, which presents the history of libraries from ancient to modern times along with illustrations and photographs.

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Dec 29 2010

Why We Borrow

by Dea Anne M

One of my favorite non-fiction titles is Paco Underhill‘s Why We Buy: the science of shopping.  As someone who spent a number of years working in bookstores,  I have always been interested in what might be called the“science of shopping,” and Underhill’s book does a great job, I think, in illuminating the many ways, some quite unexpected,  in which our shopping experience can be, and is, manipulated to get us not only to spend more money, but to be happy about it.While public libraries are not in the business of selling books, it occurs to me that we are (or should be) interested in getting patrons in the door and providing them not only with an enjoyable library experience but also to encourage them to take the fullest advantage of the resources that we have to offer. I suspect that during tough economic times people might turn more and more often toward libraries to provide not only research, literacy, and job search assistance but as a source for entertainment that might at one time be purchased.

I think it’s interesting to consider how libraries can effectively utilize some of the “rules” that Underhill lays out for compelling design of space as well as other ways of helping patrons feel informed, welcomed, and satisfied. Here’s just a few:

1. Don’t put anything important (signage, displays, baskets) in the “transition” area. This is the area 10 feet or so around the entrance. The idea is that patrons (customers) don’t actually “see” anything until they get this far into the library (store) so anything put there is more than likely to go unnoticed.

2. Provide chairs. People will spend more time in places where they are comfortable. In the absence of formal furniture, people will improvise and sit on the floor, on window sills, on top of shelving units…you get the picture.

3. Provide the patron with what she or he needs. For libraries this might be items as basic as step stools, baskets, pencils and scratch paper, and staplers.  I think things like photocopiers and catalog computers fit in this category as well.

4. In terms of interior design, a basic, but often forgotten, factor is simply providing enough space for patrons to move in comfortably. Planning for this needs to involve considering patrons who move with walkers or wheelchairs as well as patrons pushing strollers.

5. Another design consideration has to do with the exterior of the building. Underhill’s belief is that a well-designed building is an advertisement for itself and invites you to step inside. One iconic library design is the 5th Avenue branch of the New York Public Library (at right) and check out these views of the Dublin, CA public library ( below).

What do you think of treating the patron’s library experience as similar to a shopping experience? How does a child’s happy library experience differ from an adult’s, or a teen’s?

If you’re at all interested in what motivates a shopper, then I think you’ll find Underhill’s book an absorbing and amusing read. Or check out these titles:

Shoptimism: why the American consumer will keep on buying no matter what by Lee Eisenberg.

Buy-ology: truth and lies about why we buy by Martin Lindstrom.

Treasure Hunt: inside the mind of the new global consumer by Michael J. Silverstein with John Butman.

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