Archive for Programming

Crazy Day

What is normal for a programming day? What’s crazy?

Saturday, along with every other library, I’m sure, we presented a Mother’s Day event. We decided to build on an idea we had last year of doing a Mother’s Day Tea, but instead of spending $200 to serve 26 adults and children fancy tea, scones, tea sandwiches, and sweets, we opted for an all-day “Drop-in” version. It would cost about the same and we were sure we’d have at least 100 people. After all, the Farmer’s Market was open down the street, the church next door was having a craft fest outside on the sidewalk and it was a beautiful day.

The Friends were great and made most of the food although I was stuck with most of the tea sandwiches. So, at 5:00 a.m., I was slicing cucumbers for marinating, boiling and cutting eggs for egg salad and spreading salmon salad on frozen bread. By 7:00 a.m., I was cutting off crusts and filling Tupperware with my 200 triangles.

By 8:30 a.m., I was at the branch with my daughter, putting on the hot water, adding food to the buffet, and decorating. Fortunately, we had already wheeled in the round tables from the branch floor the night before. One of the pages helped me set the tables with colorful spring cloths, folded napkins, luncheon plates, matching cups and saucers, and silverware, as well as small bowls for sugar cubes, nuts, and lemon curd. We had the three tier servers loaded by 9:45 and the artificial daisies & bows were affixed in the nick of time. By 10 a.m., the music was playing and we were ready to go.

Great fun actually, even though we didn’t have 100 (more like 50), we were still running back and forth washing dishes, refilling serving dishes, refilling coffee urns with hot water, and chatting up the library all day long. Everyone agreed, the day was a success, but a long, long one.

So, we closed up the Tea Room a little early. We washed all the dishes and put them away in our storage tubs and collected and doled out all the leftover treats. My teenage boys came in and rolled all the round tables back into the library main room, lugged everything out to my car for the trek to the storage room, and folded up the other tables. I even had the wherewithal to give a yellow rose to all the staff and helpers (including my teen daughter) who worked all day.

Then, in the last 30 minutes of the day, the craziness started:

  • I couldn’t find the storage key. Solution: It must be at home, 15 minutes away.
  • But, the car only has room for 2 people with the boxes and I had 2 teens to cart home. Solution: One stays at the branch.
  • There are 4 men standing outside the men’s restroom waiting to get in. How long have they been there? One of them pounds on the door. I check with staff: how long has the john been occupied? Answer: 10 minutes. Solution: I go and get the master key to make sure there is someone actually in there.
  • A new lady comes into the branch, fully decked with multi-colored bags and a big flower-studded straw hat. She starts walking around the branch having conversations with the books, loudly. Solution: I walk over to her and gently ask her to lower her voice and she apologizes and shushes the books.
  • The men’s restroom line is getting rowdy and I suggest they use the ladies’ room and provide the key. I knock on the men’s room and open the door with my key. I hear a man scream at me, “I’m havin’ a bowel movement in here!” Solution: I tell the line to all use the ladies’ room.
  • One man refuses to use the ladies’ room and starts pounding on the men’s room door. Lots of expletives are traded between the men on opposite sides of the restroom door. Solution: I ask the man to try and be patient, after all, the other man is using the facility more or less appropriately.
  • A staff person comes to tell me the police are outside talking with folks in our parking lot. Solution: I go out to see what’s happening and apparently an anonymous caller phoned the police and reported someone drunk in our lot, but they couldn’t find anyone drunk. Was it the woman in the hat? Solution: Leave it to the police.
  • The BM man from inside the restroom finally storms out without looking back. I follow and call out, “Sir, sir, excuse me, but we need the men’s room key.” In reply, and in between expletives, he tells me he left the key inside the restroom. Solution: retrieve the master key again and let the other long-suffering man enter.
  • Oh yeah, still have to rush home to get the storage locker key to put away the tea supplies.
  • 5:00 o’clock, time to close up the building.

At 6 pm, all is put away, the building is quiet and dark and I sit out in the parking lot and take ten deep breaths.

These are the times I’m glad we’re not open on Sundays. And next year, I may go on vacation on Mother’s Day weekend.


Going to the Dogs

Generally, when people think of librarians, they think of cats! Lots and lots of cats. And it’s true, I am no different. My family has four cats at home and most of my librarian friends have cats a-plenty. Cats and reading, they go together like Baker & Taylor.

But today, I want to talk about dogs. On our staff, there are lots of dog lovers, from big dogs to small dogs; each one is treasured and many are rescued from the local humane society. We are a conscientious group.

In addition to owning and rescuing dogs, the next level of canine appreciation at the library is dog programs. We’ve had rescue dog programs, police dog programs, and obedience dog programs. (I confess, we have not had any cat programs whatsoever.) Most recently, we’ve had the Karma Dogs in residence. These are primarily rescued dogs who are trained to listen to children read. The kids take this quite seriously. One little girl was overheard asking if we thought her dog would enjoy “Green Eggs and Ham.” He did. Another little boy challenged the handler, saying the dog was asleep. But the boy was assured that the dog was concentrating. The reading continued. The Karma Dog experience also teaches children how to be safe with dogs, how to be good owners and how to socialize with their pets. Several of our librarians are getting their own dogs certified.

And yet, as much as we love dogs, the library still has rules about patrons coming in with dogs. Unless it’s a working dog or performing in a program, dogs simply aren’t allowed in the building, particularly free roaming or on a leash. (Disclaimer: we do tend to look the other way if the dogs are small enough to carry.)

Not long ago, a woman came into the branch with her medium-sized dog prancing along in front of her. As gently as possible, the librarian in charge explained that dogs are not allowed in the building.

The woman stopped short. “What? But you must let her in. It will mean so much to her. I promised her that she could visit the library today.”

Again, the librarian apologized, but insisted that the dog remain outside.

The woman stood for a long moment and contemplated her options. In the end, she looked at the librarian quite calmly and said, “But it’s her birthday.”

Apparently, birthday dogs should be given their heart’s desire and this one, in particular, was looking forward to her dog day afternoon in the stacks. Ah well. Some rules are made to be broken every once in awhile.

Finding Closure

We just finished our annual Winter Reading Program geared for adults and teens. Adults must read five books from January to the first week in March and teens must read three. The program has gotten more popular with each year and for some reason, a good number of our patrons look forward to the annual incentive: a branded Winter Reading Program coffee mug.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got two shelves in my kitchen cabinets full of mugs, a drawer in my office with mugs, and a shelf above my credenza loaded with library mugs and Folkmanis puppets. And yet, of course, as a librarian, I continue to read my five books each year and add to my collection anyway. (One year, we switched incentives to a branded post-it note cube but the “haters” came out of the woodwork. We went back to mugs the following year, to say the least.)

Anyway, here’s the problem. We always run out of mugs. Most people who have been participating in the program know this happens and if they are hot for the mugs, they read early and pick up the mug in February.

Last week, on the next to last day of the program, we had a patron come in who was so excited because she had completed her reading.

She confessed, “it was a major effort to read all those books. I can’t wait to get my mug.”

Unfortunately, we were out. Everyone was out. There wasn’t a single mug to be had anywhere in our system.

(I suppose I could have given her my mug. . . did I say I was a librarian? You know, the kind that goes to Library conferences and picks up pens, tote bags, posters, and twinkly things?)

Well, our patron was dismayed. She asked, “Since, there aren’t any mugs, how about a pen?”

We give out branded pens in January to the folks who sign up. No pens. Then she asked if we had ANYTHING to give her for completing the program and truthfully, we didn’t.

She was silent for some moments. “But, I need closure.”

Naturally, we apologized, but what else was there to say?

Later that day, I bought a bag of chocolate bars just in case we had anyone else who really needed closure.

P.S. We collect the book lists our WRP completers create and provide the list as a Reader’s Advisory tool. Here’s a sampling from our “closure” patron:

  • The Monster in the cave : How to face your fear and anxiety and live your life;
  • Be happy without being perfect; and
  • The confident woman.

Go figure.

Positively Chocolate

Our library has just initiated our annual Winter Reading Program. Although it is geared for adults, we also encourage teenagers to participate. In our little branch, historically, one of the librarians has gone to the high school to book talk and plug our winter and spring programs.

With the recent change in personnel, the task of overseeing teen programming and selecting materials for teens has fallen to me. Yikes! The last time I faced a classroom of teenagers, I was a substitute teacher. And that was a regular nightmare!

I was really sweating bullets as I thought about the kids and how I could possibly keep them engaged for twenty minutes while I talked about books and the library. My own son said he would cut class and even take a cut slip before he’d sit through it. That was encouraging. Not!

So, I devised the age old trick: chocolate.

It worked! I spent two days at the high school, talked to 20 different classes of English students, from AP and Honors to the lowest levels, from Seniors to Freshmen, and the chocolate was my foot in the door. As I walked from classroom to classroom, I’d hear kids say, “Hey, chocolate lady” or “There’s the Library lady with the chocolate.” And not just little Hershey kisses either, I was giving out the big chunky Hershey kind as well as Snickers, Butterfingers and Nestles’ Crunch. It was play. And it was fun. I had a great time and so did they. And for me, it was worth every penny.

I tossed out chocolate for every time they could answer the questions correctly about the program start and end dates or how many books they had to read or if they could name the titles I had chatted up after I put them away in my “green bag.” Of course, they also got chocolate if they could figure out who my son was… when one group of sophomore girls figured it out, the hormones hit the ceiling, “That’s your son? Oh man, he is HOT!” [Girls, girls…I’m his mother for crying out loud.]

Oh, and what about our numbers? Not bad, I think we’re up to 68 registered teens. But you know what I like the best? The kids who come in now and just talk to me like they know me. Of course, I’m thinking, maybe it wasn’t the chocolate at all but the notoriety that comes from being the mother of a “player.” Oh well, whatever works.

Day After the Event

OK… here’s the good news: the speaker showed up, he was charming, cordial and interesting.

OK… here’s more good news: we had more than 10 people. Altogether, we had 33. The room was full and the participants were engaged and interested.

OK… maybe this is the best news: both a local reporter and the paper’s photographer were there and we’ll probably get a nice article.

So, here’s the question, was it worth all the work? Out of curiosity, I should have logged my time in promoting the event. Do librarians really consider ROI? How do we measure the pleasure of the few vs. our own time? There are so many intangibles.

And then, just to round out the day, our electricity went out at 6:10 pm. Apparently, about 2000 households in the center of town were without power. It was really interesting to watch our customers try to figure out what to do: wait (because the electricity usually comes back) or call it a night. In the end, all but one patron left… he was still hopeful. We waited an hour (fortunately, we are still on “summer light”). The lights came back up by 7 pm and we were back in business. Within 6 minutes, the computers were maxed out again.

I guess our lights were like beacon… or the local lighthouse… here! Come here!

Special Event at the Branch

Here’s what happens when you have a special event in a small branch:

  • Everyone is nervous because we may only have ten people show up.
  • Everyone is nervous because we may have 200 people show up.
  • What if the speaker doesn’t show?
  • What if the speaker is boring?
  • What if it turns into a political nightmare?
  • We’re having the state’s attorney general here today from 3:30 to 4:30 pm. We have put out over 100 posters, 200 postcard size flyers into the hands of patrons, and sent out two e-news letters, one to the entire system (16,000 emails) and one to the local set (400 emails). We even have flyers taped to the bathroom stalls. This is an all out effort.

    Check back tomorrow to see what happens! 🙂