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From the Director

Library Gifts Yield Tax Benefits

As the year ends, many organizations solicit donations for a wide range of good and worthy causes, some of them here in our community, some nationally or even internationally.

Kalamazoo Public Library does not conduct an annual fund raising campaign nor send solicitation requests but, of course, we always welcome and greatly appreciate gifts from grateful patrons.

The State of Michigan encourages donations to public libraries by offering a tax credit. If you itemize deductions, you can claim a 50% of your gift (up to $200 for an individual or $400 for a couple) to a Michigan public library as a credit on your state taxes. That means that giving $200 / $400 to KPL can save you $100 / $200 in state taxes... a good deal!

You may designate your donation for a specific collection, such as large print or children’s books; a location, such as your neighborhood branch; or a service, such as Ready to Read, Reading Together, or teen programming. The library directs undesignated gifts where they are most needed.

Thank you for thinking of the library as you consider year-end giving.


Support the Library

Belated Thanksgiving Greetings

We’ve been upgrading the software that runs our website. Updates and new blog posts have been limited for the past week or so.

Even though I am a bit late, I want to thank you for your continued support of the library. The passage of our millage last year and the strong increase in usage and program attendance confirms that we are providing the services you want.

All households in our service area should have received the December issue of LINK by now. The articles, Strategic Plan, and Director’s Note summarize our priorities. During 2011, we plan to seek more input from patrons. Periodically we’ll be asking you about your library visit, how well staff helped you find information, how quickly you were able to use a computer or access our wifi network, how much you enjoyed an event, and more.

With the decrease in revenues this past year and anticipated decline in the next few years, we need to focus our services on the highest priorities. Your input will be useful and appreciated.

I hope your Thanksgiving was enjoyable. Thank you for your support and interest in KPL.

Come visit soon.


Library Link

Networking With Others

Several KPL staff members attended the last week’s annual state conference of the Michigan Library Association. Much of the conference was programs, many led by library staff sharing their experiences and successes with each other. Two KPL library staff presented programs: “Re-Imagining the Circulation Experience” about the redesign of the first floor circulation area at Central Library and “Not Everything Requires a PowerPoint!” with advice on instruction within the library setting. Both were well attended with good feedback from participants.

In addition to the more formal programs, there were many opportunities for informal networking. I talked with directors from other libraries similar to KPL and heard about their budget challenges, an increasing emphasis on early childhood literacy, heavy use of AV materials most everywhere, concern over state funding, and uncertainty about the role of ebooks within libraries and their impact on print.

The theme of the conference was “Yes we can!,” an attitude shared by everyone I happened to talk to. We all acknowledge the challenges facing our state and libraries of all types, but we remain determined to listen to our communities and response with the services most needed and wanted. Many libraries, including KPL, have undertaken strategic planning to set priorities that response to community needs.

I’m glad I’m in a profession in which folks share freely and learn from each other. We aren’t in competition with each other.


Michigan Library Association

Numbers and More Numbers

Our society likes numbers and we seem to accept that numbers can be used in various ways to tell a story from any perspective. Certainly we saw a lot of numbers in the results of last week’s election: number of votes cast, percentage among the candidates, percentage of citizens who voted, and on and on.

Some recent library related statistics that came to my attention are interesting:

  • 764,448 - book titles self published or by micro-niche publishers in 2009, double the output in 2008
  • 288,355 – book titles from traditional publishers in 2009, 1,374 fewer than 2008
  • 234,000,000 – websites at the end of 2009, up 47 million from 2008
  • 1,967,000,000 – internet users worldwide

These numbers show trends that are good for us to have in mind as we implement our strategic plan and set specific goals for the next year. Fewer books are being published by traditional publishers, more people are using the internet. With this in mind, we are expanding our digital offerings, putting more and more information on our website, posting to Facebook and Twitter, sending email newsletters to patrons.

Come visit us in one of our five buildings or online through our website.


About the Library

Happy Belated National Reading Group Month

I just realized October was National Reading Group Month as declared by the Women’s National Book Association. They first started this designation in 2007. They endorse reading groups at a time when there is much talk about the decline of the book and reading.

I’m in two book groups – a traditional one in which we all read the same book and talk about it and a second one with library colleagues in which we share whatever we are reading as a way to learn about titles we wouldn’t have time for or be inclined to read ourselves.

The library supports reading groups through our Book Club in a Bag service and recently convened a Book Club Soiree to share titles that inspired good discussion. Many such titles can be found on our website. We are also working on a list of staff reading, viewing, and listening favorites for the year and will post those near year end. Stay tuned!

The sponsoring organization for this national celebration, the Women’s National Book Association, has chosen 12 novels and one memoir as their “great group reads” for this year. They have the list on their website too.

Maybe next year I’ll remember this October designation within the month, but if not, oh well!

Come visit soon. I’m sure we have titles that will work well for your book group or for you alone. Our librarians are available to offer suggestions too.


National Reading Group Month

We Celebrate Our Very Good Friends!

This week, October 17–23, 2010, is the fifth annual National Friends of Libraries Week. The celebration offers libraries an opportunity to thank their Friends and encourage membership as a way to show support for the library.

We have more than “friends” at KPL—we have very good “friends”, officially known as The Friends of Kalamazoo Public Library. They celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2009.

KPL’s Friends manage and operate the Friends Bookstore on the lower level of the Central Library where they sell “gently used books, very gently priced”. Most books are $2 or less!

The work of many volunteers who sort, price, and sell the books results in an annual gift of $50,000-$60,000 from the Friends to the library. In recent years, their gift has funded KPL’s summer reading games for all ages and helped support Ready to Read, Reading Together, and other programs.

Anyone can join the Friends as a way to support KPL. Although there are volunteer opportunities, it is not a requirement of membership!

Come visit the Friends Bookstore at the Central Library, join the Friends, help support KPL. And, of course, thank the very good Friends of Kalamazoo Public Library for their financial support and advocacy.

Enjoy your special week, Friends!

Happy 138th Birthday!

This week, Tuesday, October 12, Kalamazoo Public Library celebrates its 138th birthday!

We opened to the general public on October 12, 1872, not too long after the Civil War, with 2,800 books. The basis for this collection was 123 volumes given to the local school district in 1860. We continued to be a school district public library and governed by the school board until 1990 when citizens voted to form an independent district library with its own board of trustees.

An essay outlining KPL’s development from these humble beginnings to being named National Library of the Year 2002 is on our website, along with a photo gallery from 1893 onward.


Those of us to whom the library is currently entrusted, are well aware of our long history. Those who came before us made solid decisions, adapted library services to changing times. We strive to do likewise—continue the solid foundation on which KPL has been built but recognize that patron needs and expectations have changed too. We need to be relevant to our times, just as our predecessors were to theirs.

Come visit soon. We’ll have something that is relevant to you.


Kalamazoo Public Library History

Freedom to Read Whatever You Want

We just concluded our annual celebration of “Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read.

Booksellers, publishers, and libraries co-sponsor this event to highlight the benefits and importance of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books from libraries or schools, across the country.

Once again, we partnered with the local branch of the ACLU and held a banned books reading and art contest during Art Hop last week. Artists were invited to create original art inspired by one of five frequently challenged or banned books.

The winners:

  • Adult : Sandy Olsen (Illustration for: “To Kill a Mockingbird” - pictured above)
  • Honorable mention: Ann Marks
  • Student: Marissa Morgan
  • Honorable mention: Katy Munn
  • People’s choice adult: Beverly Fitzpatrick
  • People’s choice student: Destine Price

Congratulations to these winners and thanks to all the artists who participated, both for their submissions but also for helping to call attention to the importance of our First Amendment rights and the freedom to read. 

Exercise your freedom – come visit soon and read whatever you want to read! Don’t take that freedom for granted.


Illustration for: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Sandy Olson

You Are The Reviewer

Almost every magazine or newspaper I pick up seems to have an article about e-readers, often combined with the author’s viewpoint that books are going away, print will be obsolete.

Some studies show that reading overall is on the rise, be it on e-readers or traditional books. Some believe that the ease of sharing reviews about books is contributing to the increase.

Technology is allowing the casual reader to share the joy of reading, the discovery of a new author or an overlooked author. Previously major newspapers had separate book review sections; few of those still exist. Instead readers, rather than professional book reviewers, post their reviews on Amazon, bookstore websites, Twitter, Facebook, LibraryThing and Goodreads websites, and within library catalogs. Some sites provide for a rating system, usually a number of stars.

Then the dialogue begins! Other readers chime in, some, of course in agreement, others in strong disagreement. Some readers wonder if such comments are really reviews, but others say “who cares”. I’m in the group of “who cares”. I like to know the opinion of other readers; it often helps me decide to read or not read a particular book.

Book reviews may be added online to our catalog. Click on the “add a review” icon and share your opinion with others. As more readers contribute through public libraries with the same library catalog system, the number of titles with patron comments will grow.

Come visit, get a book, share your opinion.


Write a Review

Statewide Library Statistics

The Library of Michigan has just released the 2009 edition of Michigan Public Libraries Data Digest, a compilation of activity in our state’s public libraries. The data is pulled from the annual reports we all submit to the state and covers fiscal year 2008/2009.

The digest includes a brief five year comparison between 2003 and 2008. Numbers / usage is up in all areas: items available, hours open to the public, programs offered, use of computers. This growth, during a time of reduced budgets for many public libraries, is encouraging. Many libraries, including KPL, have reduced hours, tightened materials budgets, and reexamined programming.

In other interesting, fun statistics:

  • Michigan public libraries hold over 35 million books, almost four for every resident.
  • Each resident checks out an average of over 8 items per year.
  • Public libraries entertained and educated over 2.5 million people with our programs.
  • We received 52.7 million visitors, double the number of visitors to our state parks.
  • Combined, Michigan public libraries encompass more than 5 times the size of Ford Field Football Stadium!

Come visit soon – check out “your” four books, attend a program, use a computer, ask a question.


Michigan Public Libraries Data Digest

I Don’t Dislike the 800s

I have a reputation around the library of not liking the 800’s, meaning books that have a Dewey number classification in the 800s: plays, poetry, essays, literary criticism, satire and humor, literature.

When I made the comment that has earned me that reputation, I was referring to the amount of shelf space we devote to the 800s in comparison to the number of times books in these categories are checked out in a year. It was in the context of a discussion about books needing to “earn” their shelf space and a comparison to retail – more retail shelf space is devoted to items that sell. In our case, “selling” generally means circulating, although some books, of course, are used within the library and not checked out to a patron.

In the case of the 800s, we devote much more space to them than the circulation percentage would warrant, but we aren’t in the retail business either.

Collection maintenance, ordering new titles and discarding old ones, is a delicate balance within libraries. We want to have the new, hot titles; we want our shelves to look inviting; we want patrons to check out our materials; but we also want to have that old, favorite title a patron wants to reread or a title someone wants to browse, but not check out.

Our librarian staff is experienced at finding this balance, using a variety of tools, including circulation statistics, lists of standard titles, and their experience helping patrons. We also keep current on old titles that might have a new life through a movie version or renewed attention to the author.

Come visit soon; I’m betting we will have what you want to read next.

P.S. I really don’t dislike the 800s, actually I read quite a few books of essays, but I admit, I don’t read poetry very often.


800s: plays, poetry, essays, literary criticism, satire and humor, literature

Show Support for Literacy - Sign the Scrolls

“The Declaration for the Right to Literacy” scrolls are in Kalamazoo as one of their last stops before heading to Washington for presentation to President Obama on Sept. 22.

The scrolls were drawn up at a national literacy conference last year and have already been signed by thousands of citizens from 31 states. The scrolls are here through the efforts of Dr. Juan Olivarez, president of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and a strong, vocal literacy advocate on the national and local level. We are pleased the library was asked to host the event to celebrate their arrival here and to kick-off the community signing.

About 100 representatives of education, businesses, and nonprofits gathered at KPL. Several spoke of their personal and organizational commitment to literacy before lining up to sign. I briefly outlined our commitment to preschool literacy through our Ready to Read program and storytimes.

Signing the scrolls shows support for literacy as a fundamental American freedom and that every American must be able to read and write to fully and equitably participate in community life.

As one of the speakers said, librarians are the original literacy champions. We are, but we are pleased to see literacy receive the broader attention it deserves. Signing is important, but more important is to do something about it within your own circle. You can start by reading to the children in your life every day or volunteering through our Ready to Read program or the Kalamazoo Literacy Council.

I hope you will have a chance to sign the scrolls while they are in Kalamazoo for a few days. 


Ann Rohrbaugh, Valerie Wright and Lisa Godfrey sign the "Declaration for the Right to Literacy" scroll at KPL

Borrow a Book, Buy a Book

The used book business is booming, according to a recent article in Publishers Weekly. The internet and the economy are driving supply and demand. The internet has greatly expanding the buying and selling opportunities for used books, while economically some booksellers report long-time collectors are selling their collections and downsizing.

Some bookstores report more business in used books than new books, both in their store and on their website and have devoted more floor space and staff resources accordingly.

Of course if you are a public library user, you check out books from us rather than purchase them BUT we know folks want to own some books and have their own personal library. We librarians feel the same way!

As a KPL user, you can have easily have it both ways. Our very good friends, the Friends of KPL, operate the bookstore on the lower level of Central Library. They have only used books and very gently priced, less than on the internet or at most other used bookstores, and to make it even better, the revenue from the bookstore supports library programs and services, such as our just-completed Summer Reading games.

Come visit the library and the Friends Bookstore – borrow a book, buy a book.


Friends Bookstore

Farewell and Best Wishes

Six, long-time, KPL employees will be retiring over the summer; August 31 is the last day for most of them. This is more staff than typically retire in a year, in fact, it is about three year’s worth rolled into one summer.

Prior to 1990, KPL was a school district public library governed by the KPS School Board. Our employees were in the public school employee retirement system. When we became an independent district library in 1990, those employees remained in that system, while new employees joined a different one.

The state is offering a combination of incentives to those in the public school employee retirement system to retire by August 31. We have 18 eligible employees; six accepted the offer to retire this summer.

KPL has been a much better place for the combined decades of service from these six staff members. They answered reference questions, checked out materials, conducted programs, oversaw our personnel activities, coordinated meeting room usage, represented KPL in the community, helped chart the direction of the library.

We will miss them all, as colleagues and work-place friends, but we know they will continue to offer input - now it will be from the perspective of library patron rather than library staff member!

My heartfelt thanks goes to each one for their dedication to KPL and our patrons. My best wishes as they move on to the next chapter in life, hopefully with more time to read all those books that have passed through their hands over the years.



Publishing Changes

It seems as if every popular magazine or newspaper I pick up has an article about ebooks, downloading content, changes in the compensation model for authors and publishers. The professional journals and newsletters I read, take those very same topics and examine them from the library perspective – how will libraries be impacted by these changes, how can we stay current and relevant to our patrons.

A recent issue of Newsweek included an article on self-publishing. One author was unable to find a publisher for his first novel, decided to upload it to the Amazon Kindle Store, sold many copies, attracted the attention of a publisher, his book was published in hardcover. This is the opposite of the usual route.

This nontraditional route is becoming increasingly common. Print-on-demand is also a rapidly developing new model for publishing. One author reports earning more money per ebook than per hardcover – basically the middleman has been cut out in that model.

I like a quote in the article: “The gatekeepers have become who they should have been in the first place: the readers.” We readers decide what we want to read, in what format we want to read it, and if we want to buy it or check it out from the library. Some authors attribute the success of books published in these nontraditional ways to user generated reviews….we readers express our opinions freely and now increasingly widely.

Clearly these publishing changes will impact public libraries. We’ll follow developments closely. As those who read move increasingly into ebooks and downloadable content, we’ll provide more and more books in those formats too, but we’ll continue to have the traditional print books for quite some time.

Personally, I still prefer a traditional book, especially for the beach, but since I wrote my last blog entry, I’ve seen my first e-reader on the Lake Michigan beach.


The self-publishing manual : how to write, print, and sell your own book by Dan Poynter

Beach Reading “Survey”!

Last Sunday, I walked about 45 minutes along the Lake Michigan beach. It was a perfect beach day with lots of folks swimming in the warmer-than-usual lake and sunbathing. Many of the sunbathers were also reading. As I walked, I tried to see what they were reading.

Most were holding mass market paperbacks or magazines. I didn’t notice one single e-reader in spite of the recent e-reader ads that tout how well they work on a sunny day at the beach. I noticed many reading one of the page turners from Stieg Larsson, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Girl Who Played with Fire; Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I could tell from the cover graphics, that many were holding mysteries, but I couldn’t see the titles. People was a popular magazine choice that day.

After my walk, I returned to my beach chair and continued reading Let the Great World Spin, the August title for my book group. I’m looking forward to the discussion – there’s much to talk about in this one.

What are you reading on the beach or in your back yard this summer? And don’t forget to add it to your reading log for the grown-up summer reading game.


Summer Reading

There’s an e-Book in Your Future!

Several times recently, I’ve said or written my prediction that traditional printed books will continue to be our focus for the remainder of my library career. If that prediction is going to be true, it’s a good thing I’m nearer the end of my career than the beginning!

It seems almost every publication I read lately, has an article about e-books. Amazon has announced sales of digital books increased 207% in the first five months of the year and it sells more books for its Kindle e-reader than it does traditional hardcover volumes. Last month they sold nearly twice as many Kindle books as hardcover ones.

Barnes & Noble reports physical books, as opposed to digital ones, will be the majority of its sales for the next five years but their future is bright with the Nook, their e-reader. Publishers still depend on bookstores to display their books and promote authors and they are a destination to test new products. They see a market for both.

Other publications report that authors are now bypassing publishers and posting older works or unpublished works directly on Amazon in exchange for 70% of the sales price. Many authors are reportedly earning more from such e-book sales than from hardcover sales, consistent with Amazon’s overall sales direction.

Of course this all has implications for libraries. Some are proposing inviting authors to share their works directly with libraries in digital format with libraries paying for each transaction. Some suggest a central depository for libraries to draw on and pay per download. All agree such an approach would require a coordinated effort – no individual library could accomplish this to any significant degree on its own.

I still stand by my prediction that traditional printed books will dominate during the remainder of my library career but I certainly see the shift to digital books and their advantages. That shift to a major focus on digital with printed books as almost an aside, could well happen during the career of our younger librarians.

Although we do have e-readers and e-books to check out, traditional printed books are still our mainstay and will be for some time.

Come visit soon; check out a traditional printed book OR an e-book!



Are You Transliterate?

My handy desk dictionary defines “transliterate” as “to represent letter or words in the corresponding characters of another alphabet.”

I’m beginning to see this word more and more in the library literature, usually as “transliteracy” meaning “the ability to read, write, or otherwise communicate across different technological platforms.”

Libraries are increasing acknowledging that our role includes supporting transliteracy as well as the traditional literacy. We provide books for various reading levels in the traditional print format but we also provide them on e-readers and as a digital download to your computer or device. We offer computer classes for the public, we have over 100 computers for public use, and we have informational databases available in the library and remotely.

Through our staff Tech Team we examine new technologies as they gain popularity and determine if there are library applications that are logical. Technology rapidly changes and it is often hard to keep up, but it is important for us to keep pace with technological needs of our patrons. Right now we are looking at music downloads, apps for iPhones/iPads, and user friendly advancements to our online catalog.

Come visit soon. Try these services to increase your transliteracy or just find a good book for the beach!


A ‘Transliterate’ design at Bedminster Library, Bristol. UK. Collaborative artwork by Annie Lovejoy and Mac Dunlop, © 2005

It’s OK to Stop Reading

…a book that doesn’t grab your attention, that is.

Some of us feel an obligation to finish a book once we have started it. We’ve become invested in it and should press on to the end.

Reader advisory expert and book reviewer, Nancy Pearl, encourages readers to give themselves permission to stop reading a book. She even has a “rule”: if you are 50 or younger, read at least 50 pages before you commit to reading it. If you are over 50, subtract your age from 100 and that is the number of pages you should read before deciding to read to the end or give up and move on to another title. Her theory is the older you are, the less time you have to read all the books on your list.

I like this “rule”. Some books just don’t grab my attention or it’s not the right time. I might want a lighthearted book, this one is serious. For those titles, I’ll keep them on my list, but come back to them at another time.

I think it is Thomas Jefferson who wrote “so many books, so little time”, but whoever it is, it makes the point of Nancy’s approach – move on to a book that engages you, ignites your imagination, takes you to new places.

We have many good books, come visit soon.


Nancy Pearl visited Kalamazoo Public Library in 2006

Our “National Novel” Turns 50

To Kill a Mockingbird is turning fifty this summer. Not surprisingly, it’s getting lots of media attention.

One newsletter writer referred to it as “more than a literary classic; it’s a 50-year testament to the ways a well-told story can inspire readers and impact a culture”.

Oprah referred to it our “national novel”. Others have suggested it as a parenting manual, a novel that taught other novelists how to write, the only way to understand racism. Author Anna Quindlen said she can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t get Scout.

Many events are being organized across the country – readings, live re-enactments, showings of the movie, book discussions. A 50th anniversary hardcover edition will be published by HarperCollins.

The enduring interest in this novel is due to the subject – coming-of-age and the trial – as well as the writing itself. It takes on racism with a stand of what is right without, as one columnist has written, a tone of self-righteousness.

With the 50th anniversary, a new generation of readers may discover this treasure. For those of us who read it many years ago, it’s time to reread it.


To Kill a Mockingbird

Business is good!

I just returned from the annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA). It’s quite a gathering of librarians, trustees, authors, publishers, library school students, vendors and others who support or are associated with libraries of all types.

Of course I concentrate on sessions that deal primarily with public library issues and try to network with others from libraries similar to KPL. I came away from the conference with two strong feelings: “we are on the right track at KPL” and “it’s pretty darn good here.”

“We are on the right track” – strategic planning is the norm; most, like us, are using the ALA process. An emphasis on early childhood literacy is seen as the #1 priority for many, same for us. Digital downloads of content is increasingly available, likewise here. Use of computers is strong, circulation is up, traffic is steady – in summary “business” is good!

“It’s pretty darn good here,” especially as compared to public libraries which are part of city or county government. Those libraries have had significant reductions and have closed branches, reduced or eliminated many services, laid off staff. As an independent district library, we are fortunate to have a dedicated millage. Although we have dropped bookmobile service, reduced expenditures in most categories of the budget, and not filled many staff vacancies, our reductions are considerably less than most urban public libraries.

The saying holds true yet again...’s good to go away, it’s good to be home.

Come visit soon.


American Library Association

An eReader Experience

Earlier this spring, I read my first complete book, actually two, on one of our Sony eReaders. I’d only read excerpts previously to try it out.

My husband and I took a driving vacation. Usually I’d take five or six books along; this time I took 30+, all on the eReader and it wasn’t full.

I admit it took me a little while to get used to it – the screen, the page turning, the side light when needed, BUT it sure was convenient.

I read Little Bee, such a compelling novel that I would have kept reading no matter what the format, and a short story collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out.

I’m not a total convert to eReaders; I still like the traditional printed book but it’s a format that has its place and it sure was easy to take an eReader rather than a stack of books on vacation.

We have several to loan; come visit and give on a try.


Audiobooks & eBooks

Summer @ KPL!

We spend months planning for summer and it’s finally here! Summer reading games for all ages kicked off last week with the end of school for KPS students.

As in recent years, kids – preschoolers and school age, tweens, teens, and grownups have their own game with age-appropriate requirements, incentives and prizes. Full information is on our website. Sign up at any branch or Central.

We have an array of events planned too: concerts, Zoomobile visits from Binder Park Zoo and John Ball Park, a musical circus, the ever-popular Bubblemania, cooking, crafts, gardening, and more.

And the “End-of-Summer Reading Party” to be held Sunday afternoon, August 29, will conclude our summer, but we won’t wish summer away….enjoy all the activities over the coming weeks.

On a more serious note, research shows that kids who read and write during the summer don’t lose “ground” over the break from school. Encourage all the kids in your life to read, either through a library summer reading game or books from their own collection.

Thanks to the FRIENDS OF KPL, our very good friends, for sponsoring all of our summer reading games.

Come visit soon.


Summer @ KPL

Staff Recognition

KPL held our annual staff recognition breakfast last week. The Friends of KPL, our very good friends, provided the breakfast and staff recognition awards.

Three retirees were honored; six high school and college graduates were recognized. Six employees from the 58 nominated by their colleagues or patrons, received “staff recognition awards.” It was an impressive group of nominations from appreciative library users.

“Years of service” were also honored: four staff were recognized for 35 years of service! I’m guessing a few of them will make the 40 year mark too!

In addition to recognizing our staff, it was also an opportunity to thank our board of trustees for their dedicated service to the library and the community.


Staff Recognition Awards

Genre Fiction

Most libraries separate mysteries from other fiction titles. Some also pull out other genre – westerns, science fiction, historical fiction, romance, for example. There was a time when it was obvious if a title fit a particular genre, but that’s not so true any longer for many titles.

I recently read an article on the dilemma this is presenting for booksellers. They call it genre-bending and give examples of titles that feature time travel, mystery and historical fiction all in one. Where does such a title belong to catch the eye of a bookstore browser and hopefully lead to a sale? The article’s author wonders if we need extensive testing to determine the genetic genre makeup of some titles!

Libraries face the same situation. If we put the right book in the wrong place, the right reader won’t find it if they are browsing. Some librarians believe genre classifications are going the way of top hat or, to continue to be useful to readers, will need to be even further fragmented. This issue can be addressed through the library catalog when a title is given multiple subject headings, but many readers browse the shelves for a good book they don’t browse the catalog.

I don’t see KPL creating additional genre collections for fiction. However, our staff is always available to help readers find a good book in any specific or multiple genre category. Our staff have varied reading interests and we have reader advisory tools to help to.

Come visit soon. We’ll be glad to help you find a good book or just browse.


Books @ KPL

Friends Booksale Christmas Shopping

I have three hometown friends with whom I exchange Christmas gifts. Regrettably, I am seldom able to gather with them over the holidays – they have been able to return to our hometown, while I have not.

Last year, I mailed them a big box of books – fifteen to be exact, five for each. All of the books were gently used paperbacks from the Friends Bookstore. I wrapped them individually; they were all titles I had read, so I put a post-it note on each one describing why I liked the book and thought they would too.

I hear it was a VERY successful gift; they each left with five books they hadn’t read. They tell me they’d like this gift every year. All of the books came from the Friends Bookstore for $1 - $2 each. What a bargain.

I’ll resume my Christmas shopping on Super Saturday, June 5, 9:00 – 3:30 when the Friends of KPL have their annual sidewalk book sale at the library. The bookstore on the lower level will also be open.

Get a head start on shopping!


Friends Booksale

Librarian Keith Richards??

I recently read that Keith Richards has confessed to a secret longing to be a librarian. Yes, THAT Keith Richards, he of the Rolling Stones, the greatest rock and roll band of all times in the opinion of many! Isn’t that an interesting visual??

He has said he has been “quietly nurturing his inner bookworm” and considered some type of training (that would be librarianship!) to manage the 1000’s of books at his various homes. He says he started to arrange his books in categories but gave up, instead opting to keep his favorites close at hand. He also loans books to friends with little hope of getting them back and leaves books by the bedside for guests in his homes.

Richards’ autobiography, Life, will be released in the fall. According to advance publicity, he will reveal how he found comfort in books before he discovered music.

I expect we’ll be ordering his book for our collection; how could we not when he writes that the public library is one of two institutions that affect one most powerfully! By the way, the other is the church, he says.


Keith Richards’ Library

National Internet Use

A recently released study determined that 77 million people 14 years and older used the internet at their public library during 2009.

Not surprisingly they used it for everything from job searching, education and health research, e-government, to social networking. Somewhat surprisingly, 78% of those public library internet users had access elsewhere but used the library computers for the one-on-one help from a library staff member or from a volunteer, and many users in turn helped someone else, often a stranger.

KPL participated in this study along with many public libraries across the country. The outcome doesn’t surprise us – we know many of our patrons have access elsewhere but appreciate the high speed connection, the help from our staff, our wifi, and a comfortable environment AND we know many do not have access elsewhere.

Internet access will continue to be a high priority for us. One of our five priorities is “connecting to the online world.”

Come visit soon – use the internet, check out a book or AV item, attend a program.


Public Computers

A Favorite Teen Author

I’m not current on teen literature, but as I wrote in a previous blog, I do have three favorite teen authors. Not surprisingly, they are my favorites because they have visited KPL and we had a wonderful experience with them.

I recently noted that Laurie Halse Anderson was the official spokesperson for April “School Library Month,” sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians. I was reminded of her visit to KPL about six years ago and how she quickly moved to my “list of favorite teen authors.”

Laurie was here for our Teen Literary Seminar. She visited English classrooms at K-Central and particularly bonded with one of the English teachers there, a Ms. X, I’ll say. Laurie told me she quickly sensed what a good teacher Ms. X was, how she challenged the kids to read and react to books that might be considered controversial but that had an important message for teens. Some of the books of this sort were Laurie’s, others were by other teen authors often not popular, shall I say, with school administrators and some parents.

As we were leaving a program at Chenery where Laurie had spoken to several high school English classes, she pulled me aside and told me in a strong tone of voice, to contact her if Ms. X was ever in trouble; she’d come back to defend her. I knew Laurie meant that if Ms. X’s choice of books for her students to read was challenged, she’d want to know and be involved. It wouldn’t matter if they were Laurie’s books or those of another author.

Laurie didn’t know that my son was in Ms. X’s class and was having a wonderful high school English experience. Indeed he was reading books he never would have otherwise, was engaged in challenging conversations, and had also totally bonded with Ms. X.

I’ll never forget this message from Laurie. I’m glad I’ve never had to follow up with her. I don’t know if Laurie remembers this specific teacher and conversation, but when I’ve seen her at conferences and reintroduce myself, she always speaks fondly of her visit to Kalamazoo.

No wonder she’s one of my favorite teen authors and a great spokesperson for school libraries.


Laurie Halse Anderson

The State of America’s Libraries

The annual report, The State of America’s Libraries, was released last week, National Library Week, by the American Library Association.

Its findings and conclusions confirm what KPL and most public libraries are experiencing and discussing at our conferences, on email lists, and wherever library staff gather: Americans are turning to their libraries in ever increasing numbers for all types of resources but at the same time funding from all sources is decreasing.

The report addresses public, school and academic libraries; technology; construction and renovation; social networking; legislation; outreach; copyright.

The many statistics confirm that overall use of public libraries is up 23% at over 16,600 locations across the country. Libraries are being turned to in increasing numbers for access to employment resources, continuing education, government services, and the more traditional ones of free access to books, magazines, CDs, DVDs.

The report refers to a “perfect storm of growing demand and shrinking resources”. Half of the states have reduced funding to libraries; a majority of states report a decrease of 5 – 10% in local funding to public libraries. Not surprisingly, many have reduced staff, hours, services.

KPL is not immune; we also expect a decrease in local revenues for next year. As reported previously on our blogs and in LINK, we have made a variety of reductions and are in the midst of strategic planning to determine our priorities and the goals to support those priorities for the next several years. We’ll continue to share the outcomes of that process on our website and in our publications over the coming months.


State Of America's Libraries Report 2010

Vote for Obama @ K-Central!

We join all the others throughout the community in urging you to vote in the Commencement Challenge to have President Obama as Kalamazoo Central’s commencement speaker.

K-Central is one of six finalists in the nation, the only one in Michigan, selected to compete. View the three-minute student-produced video and vote by 11:59 PM on Thursday, April 29, to narrow the field from six contestants to three. President Obama will choose the winner.

(Kalamazoo Gazette photo, John A. Lacko)

Watch as White House staff notify the six finalists.

More information about the Commencement Challenge is available on the White House website, and today’s post by Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the White House blog.

Vote Kalamazoo!


Vote Kalamazoo!


Children’s Day/Book Day, also known as El Dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros, usually shortened to Dia, is the celebration of children, families, and reading held annually. It emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Children’s author, Pat Mora, proposed this linking of children and books, and founded the celebration now commemorated in most public libraries.

This year, KPL will celebrate Dia on Saturday, April 24, 11 AM, at Central Library with stories and songs in Spanish and English. We’ll have a special performance by Fantasia Ballet Folklorica along with crafts, door prizes, treats and, most importantly, a free book for every child for their home library.

You don’t have to be a child or have a child to enjoy this family event.


Dia de los Niños - Dia de los Libros

Happy NLW

…..National Library Week, that is. We join libraries across the country in celebrating April 11 – 17 as National Library Week to highlight the value of all types of libraries and their contributions to our community.

Neil Gaiman, winner of the 2009 Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book, is the honorary chair of this year’s celebration, and the theme is “Communities Thrive @ Your Library.” Learn more... PDF

It’s a good time to remind our community of library services and especially to highlight them during tough economic times. KPL, like most public libraries, provides free access to computers, helps with homework, offers computer classes, and of course, loans books, DVDs, and CDs. We also offer a variety of programs for all ages – leisure and informational.


In addition to the weekly designation, each day will have a special library significance:

  • Monday, April 12 – “The State of America’s Public Libraries” report will be released
  • Tuesday, April 13 – Celebrate “National Library Workers Day”
  • Wednesday, April 14 – Release of the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2009” list
  • Thursday, April 15 – Celebrate “Support Teen Literature Day”
  • And all of April is “School Library Month”, our partners in working with youth

Well, it might not rank up there with some other weekly designation, but those of us in libraries think it’s pretty important and appreciate the attention it brings to us.

And happy NLW to you – celebrate with a visit to any of our locations.


National Library Week

Networking With Other Libraries

About twice a year, several directors from class 6 public libraries, those serving a population over 100,000, get together and talk informally. This informal group currently includes six public library directors from the southern and central areas of Michigan. Some of us have been in our positions or libraries for years and years, others of us are relatively new. We exchange topics in advance and all come prepared to share ideas and advice with each other.

We met last week. Not surprisingly, the first topic we all wanted to talk about was the decline in local revenue we are all experiencing, and how each library is adapting services and staffing. Other topics included the decrease in funding for the Library of Michigan and how it will impact public library patrons, strategic planning being undertaken by several of us, community collaborations, increasing emphasis on self-services for patrons.

Although we are all in the same “business,” many of our services and community emphases are quite different. We have much to learn from each other, much to share. I always return from these gathering with some new ideas to consider for KPL. For me, this is networking at it finest!


Networking; Strategic Planning

Census and Tax Info @ KPL

KPL is currently proactive in helping patrons with two governmental initiatives: the 2010 Census and income tax.

We are an “Authorized Census Questionnaire Assistance Center” for those who need help with their form and we were a site for testing and training of census workers. Our staff are actively encouraging everyone to be counted and are distributing promotional materials.

Census counts affect the number of representatives Michigan holds in the US Congress and the annual allocation of approximately $400 billion of federal funds, based in part, on the census data. When you fill out your 2010 Census from, you help influence our chances for a fair share of funding, services, and political representation.

As in past years, we are also a site for tax information for state and federal taxes. All of our locations are distributing paper copies of some federal and state tax forms free of charge while they last. Reproducible forms, including some instructions booklets, may be photocopied for 10¢ per page.

Information on tax preparation help and links to websites and databases with related information is on our website. If you need further help, contact the information desk at the central library: 553-7801.

It’s important to be counted and to pay taxes! We hope we can make both a little easier and less painful.


Census Information

Women’s History Month

March is “National Women’s History Month;” this year’s theme is “writing women back into history.”

The initiative for this designation started in California in the late 1970’s. In 1981, a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaimed a “women’s history week.” In 1987 it was expanded to the entire month of March and a resolution has been approved each year with bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

Not surprisingly, there has been an increase in recent years of books published with this theme. Currently Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and The Help by Kathryn Stockett are fiction titles on many bestseller lists. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is a teen novel with adult appeal, about a young slave girl in New York during Revolutionary War times. All three of these titles were some of my favorites from last year.

On my list to read is When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins.

Women’s achievements and women’s history are both subjects in which we have many titles in our collection. Staff can help you find a good one to read.

Come visit soon. 


When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present

Authors in Kalamazoo

I just read that two of my three favorite authors of teen books, John Green and David Levithan, are collaborating on a novel about two characters who have the same name. The book, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, will have half of the chapters, one of the Wills, written by John and the other half by David. The book won’t be published for several weeks; I have it on my reading list already.

Not surprisingly, these authors are two of my favorites because they have visited KPL. We bonded with them and I believe they feel likewise. I saw John at a library conference this past summer and as soon as I reintroduced myself to him, he started fondly reminiscing about his visit here. I haven’t seen David since his visit, but I bet he’d feel likewise. He was very complimentary to KPL and our staff when he was here several years ago.

David Guterson in Kalamazoo

This is a week for another author visit to KPL – David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars, this year’s Reading Together book, will be here Wednesday, March 17, for a public program at Kalamazoo Central High School at 7:00. His books, especially this one, are some of my favorites, so I expect I’ll enjoy meeting and hearing him speak.

The Kalamazoo community is fortunate to have many institutions and groups who sponsor author visits and programs. KPL is just one of them. Meeting and hearing an author adds a new dimension to reading their work. You may, like me with John and David, then want to read everything they write!

I hope to see you Wednesday or at some upcoming author program in our community.


Will Grayson

Google Network for Kalamazoo?

As you may have read in the Gazette, Kalamazoo is applying to be a prototype community for a new, experimental network to make internet connections 100 to 200 times faster than current speeds.

Google, the developer of this high-speed fiber-optic system, is seeking nominations from cities to serve as test sites. We fit the population they are looking for— 50,000–500,000.

The City of Kalamazoo will take the lead on submitting the application. Individuals, businesses, and organizations can support the application by completing an endorsement explaining why Kalamazoo should be chosen.

There is information on the city’s website and linked through ours that provides additional details and the link to submit an endorsement.

I imagine there will be steep competition. Let’s make sure Kalamazoo is a strong contender with considerable community support.


Google Fiber Project

Library Numbers

Libraries are usually more about words than numbers, although we do have the Dewey Decimal system!

I recently came across some statistics that claim to represent the global scope of library activity. I suspect that is hard to prove, but the numbers are interesting and fun to ponder nevertheless:

  • 1,212,383 – libraries worldwide
  • 166,041,975,140 – library transactions per year
  • 18,954,563 – library transactions per day
  • 5,265 – library transactions per second
  • 1,596,270,108 – internet users worldwide
  • 3,673,000,000 – internet searches per day, many from libraries, of course!
  • 12,582,962 – number of print books published in the US since 1923

KPL statistics might not sound quite as impressive, but they reflect a strong increase over this time last year:

  • 24% - increase in circulation of print and non-print materials
  • 52% - increase in computer use
  • 56% - increase in use of WiFi

Come visit soon and we’ll add the books you check out and your computer use to our statistics. We might be on course for a record breaking year.


About the Library

Joy of Reading

While looking for some books recently, I came upon an essay on the joy of reading. It reminded me why I was attracted to a library career many years ago – I loved to read and still do. Some of my younger colleagues were attracted to a library career for the technology and informational aspects of library work. Not me, it was all about the books and reading; the other attractions to a library career came later.

I read just about everything from books to magazines to newspapers. It might sound trite, but passionate readers know it is true – it feels wonderful to lose yourself in a book, to transcend your present situation. I’ve been all over the world in all different time periods; I’ve “met” Lincoln, my favorite president; I’ve received self-help advice from experts.

“Never leave home without a book” is my “rule”. You never know when you might need to wait and have a few minutes to read.

Come visit soon. We have lots of good books – you can easily get lost in one of them.


Books and Reading

Remodeling Complete!

If you haven’t visited the Central Library for a while, you’re in for a surprise. We unveiled the new streamlined check-out desk this morning.

The lighter, brighter desk uses less space and its open design makes it easier for staff to leave the desk to help patrons.

Behind the new desk you’ll see a wall of books, movies, and music—all being held on reserve for patrons. You can easily find your own reserved materials and take them to the new checkout kiosk, installed in December.

Three new monitors near the desk show daily library events and information, plus a news channel—we’ll broadcast the Olympics for the next week or so.

A very generous bequest made all these changes possible, starting more than a year ago when we installed Radio Frequency Identification. RFID has increased our efficiency, allowing us to reorganize work and reduce staff positions as individuals retire or resign.

Best of all, with RFID patrons quickly and easily check out their own materials. No more waiting in lines!

We’re very grateful to the anonymous donor whose gift allowed us to invest in this new technology and to remodel the check out desk to serve you better. Come visit soon to see the changes at Central.


Renovation at Central Library

Planning for KPL’s Future

KPL is undertaking a strategic planning process with the help of Sandra Nelson, a nationally known library strategic planner. The process will help us identify service priorities and the allocation of resources based on those priorities.

In these times of declining resources, public institutions need to determine what services the community needs and expects from them, what services are best left to others, what services are of lesser importance.

Our process will involve the public through a “Community Planning Committee,” our board, and our staff. It will result in a recommendation to our board for library service priorities. After the priorities have been approved, the staff will work on writing goals and objectives and the specific activities to accomplish them. It will be about a three to four month process.

This is a challenge, but also an opportunity as we look to the next three to five years. I’ll share periodic updates here on the director’s blog and in Link, our quarterly newsletter.


Strategic Planning

Final 2009 “Best” List

The first month of the new year is not quite over, so I’m thinking I can share one more “best” list from 2009 before it is time to move on. Earlier this week, I shared some year end observations from the New York Times Book Review. Publishers Weekly (PW) summarizes its bestseller lists from the past year also. Not surprisingly, there are some similarities between the two lists, but also some differences. Obviously the lists are compiled differently.

PW entitles its list “longest-running bestsellers” in various categories. The Host tops the fiction hardcover list at 29 weeks with The Help a close second at 28 weeks.

In hardcover nonfiction, Outliers is the clear favorite at 51 weeks; The Last Lecture was on the list for 40 weeks.

Paperbacks are listed separately. The top two spots in the mass market were From Dead to Worse at 28 weeks, closely followed at 26 weeks by Dead Until Dark.

The Shack was on the trade paperback bestseller list for 51 weeks with the popular Three Cups of Tea at 47.

It is always interesting to learn what books others are reading or buying, what is most popular. Although I don’t have our circulation statistics by title at hand, I know many of these books were popular with KPL patrons, too.

Now I’m ready to move on to 2010 bestsellers and new titles. Let the new year of reading begin.


The Host

Different Twist on “Best Of”

It’s about the end of the season for “best of” lists. A recent New York Times Book Review had a different twist on “best of.” Their focus was a year end summary of titles that appeared on their weekly bestsellers lists. I share a few of their observations that I found particularly interesting:

  • The hardcover nonfiction list was dominated by sports, celebrities, and conservatives. Liberty and Tyranny held on to the number one spot the longest, 11 weeks.
  • Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol was first on the fiction list for eight weeks so far. It’s still at the top. The Help, considered a “sleeper hit”, but a top choice on many “best of” lists and a favorite of several KPL staff members, was on the NYT list for 39 weeks – a record for 2009.
  • Girl Who Played with Fire was the first translation to reach the top spot on the fiction list in the last 25+ years.
  • Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was number one on the Advice (how-to) bestseller list, 48 years after it was first published. A movie tie-in can certainly revive interest in a book!

KPL staff have blogged about many of the titles on the NYT lists and they are all in our collection.

Come visit soon. If these titles aren’t on the shelf, put them on “hold” so you are on the waiting list. Staff can help if you aren’t familiar with that process.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking

E-Readers @ KPL

The e-reader choices are expanding – the Kindle, the Sony E-Reader, the recently announced Nook, and the Apple Tablet expected later this month. With each new device, there is more news coverage in the popular press.

Amazon announced that on Christmas Day, for the first time ever, it sold more e-books than regular paper books. It sounds as if lots of folks received Kindles for Christmas.

If you, like me, did not receive an e-reader but would like to try one, visit Central Library, AV department. We have Sony E-Readers to loan. We chose that model as a better fit for library use than the others.

I still don’t think paper books will go away, at least not in my library career, but e-readers certainly have a place and it good to keep up with the latest “gadget.”

Come visit soon for an e-reader or a book….we have both!


Audiobooks & eBooks

New Look for Circulation Area

If holiday activities kept you away from Central Library for the past few weeks, make it a new year’s resolution to visit soon and see all the changes underway.

The first thing to catch your eye will be the big wooden barricade around the circulation desk area. Behind that barricade a smaller, more user friendly desk is being constructed. Book and AV return slots will be relocated from the elevator lobby to the wall behind this new desk, and shelving will be installed on the back wall for self pick-up of holds.

The second thing you will notice is the checkout kiosk, a triangular shaped unit with three checkout stations. Staff are standing by to help first and second (!) time users become comfortable with this equipment. It has been enthusiastically used by patrons when I have been on duty there.

While this work is underway, there is temporary circulation desk by the curving stairs with self pick-up of holds nearby. Registration for library cards is now available from any computer in the library or from home, but there is also a computer dedicated to registration by the temporary circulation desk.

The target completion date is the end of the month.

We are grateful to an anonymous donor who left us a bequest to pay for these changes. What a good friend to the library!

Come visit soon. See the work in progress, then return in a few weeks to see it completed.


Temporary Circulation Desk at Central Library

Fiction Favorites of 2009

I’m impressed and amazed by those who can pick their favorite book, movie, or music of the decade. I’m still struggling to decide on my favorite fiction titles of the year and I’m allowing myself to select several from those I read this year, not necessarily published this year.

I’m glad I waited this long to decide since I just finished That Old Cape Magic over the weekend and I’m adding it to my top five. My other four include Piano Teacher, The Vagrants, Exiles in the Garden, and Invisible Mountain in no particular order.

These five are closely followed by Shanghai Girls, The Lace Reader, The Story of a Marriage, Gardens of Water, and Telex from Cuba.

I’ll stop there and continue to ponder my favorites of the decade. Please share your favorites – the year or the decade.

Come visit soon. All of these favorites of mine are from our collection, along with the many other good books, of course.

I wish you a healthy and happy 2010 and hope there is time for leisure reading and many good books.


That Old Cape Magic