Share, Collaborate and Build

Lead the Change: A Library Journal Event. Seattle Public Library

I just spent a wonderful day with colleagues at an all-day seminar presented by Library Journal. “Lead the Change” presented how libraries can empower, encourage and transform relationships within libraries and outside their communities. It was about how we can develop leadership skills and build strategies that will enhance the relationship with our community.

David Bendekovic led us through specific steps to clear a path to effective actions. But the bonus was the insights provided by Marcellus Turner, Seattle’s City Librarian and Bill Ptacek the Library Director of King County Library. The main points were:

  • Focus on the community – be externally focused on the customer. What can we do to improve the customer experience with our libraries?
  • Be engaged with your community – Get involved with your community’s needs; “To be interesting you must be interested.”  A case in point was the effective response of the San Diego County Library to needs of their communities.
  • Know the Library’s Purpose – what’s the guiding mission and vision statement of your library? How is it buttressed by the daily work environment?
  • Steal (borrow) ideas that work in other libraries and adapt them to your library. Develop accountability and transparency in strategic plans and outcomes. Share, collaborate and built partnerships to strengthen strategies.
  • Focus on outcomes – develop an Outcome Orientation not a Problem Orientation.  Choose to create and not dwell hindrances.  Get to Yes!
  • Engage the Community – “Community is the collection; focus on Connection Management over Collection Management.” R. David Lankes. Strive to position the library in the center of the community, make it the focal point of the community’s daily life.

All in all, great points to keep in mind when thinking about library challenges.  In the seminars I’ve been to I’ve found librarians to be like booksellers in the fact that we all want to share stories and strategies about problems we’ve faced and meaningful solutions. Because of our chosen profession we naturally want to create a strong bond with our community. We need to discover effective connections with our communities.

As Marcellus Turner pointed out, libraries need to fit seamlessly into our patrons’ lives.  Be it ready reader’s advisory through social media, celebrating summer reading programs through celebrating the reader or placing ourselves at the point of need for our customers.

I was lucky enough to have conversations with librarians, supervisors and directors about collaborating strategies and leading employees into uncharted waters. It was heartening to discuss solutions to problems.

This was also my first time visiting the stunningly beautiful Seattle Main Library. What a building! I was struck by the tone that was created there – respectful and user centric. Chairs and tables sprinkled throughout and obvious areas for events.  The glass exterior walls really supported the idea that libraries are vital places in their communities. Seattle was right there, outside each of the four walls, visually connected at all times with the library environment inside. Perfect!

Posted in Libraries | Comments Off on Share, Collaborate and Build

The Theft of Libraries

Robot and Frank is a wonderful movie of an uncommon friendship between a man and his new robot “butler.” The story hinges on the reawakening of Frank from his slow descent into dementia as the robot renews his interest in one more cat burglary, Frank’s old occupation.

The burglary is on the new library coordinator. The coordinator is determined to reinvent the library as a “community center” because he believes getting information from libraries is old school and inefficient. The books will soon be gone. Frank enjoys his library visits and seems to get a great deal of pleasure from his interaction with the librarian in finding new books to read.  It’s an easy choice for Frank which house to hit for his next score.

Mitchell Library, Glasgow

Besides the heartwarming story I enjoyed this movie because it reminded me of a discussion I had in Scotland with the Dean of my library school. We talked about a presentation from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and how they were lumped into a consortium with the Arts and Parks Departments called Glasgow Life. What this consortium did was enable Glasgow to reduce overhead costs for each of those departments by sharing employees where needed most between libraries, museums and parks.  Our discussion didn’t so much hinge on the practicalities of the arrangement, it made fiscal sense (although we wondered how they got union buy-in) but rather we wondered about the long term effect on the perception of libraries going forward.  Shouldn’t the library be partnered with education and schools instead of museums and parks?

By aligning the library with the Arts and Parks Departments you place the library in the entertainment realm. This coincides with some current thinking about turning libraries into ‘community centers’ because of the perceived notion that future libraries will hold fewer books.  It’s a given there will be fewer books in libraries in the future but focus should remain on education. We thought a better fit for libraries would be under an education umbrella along with schools.  Libraries shouldn’t lose the educational importance of their missions.

The work libraries maintain with developing early readers goes hand in hand with primary education. What libraries need to work on is continuing that work with lifelong learners, people returning to libraries after their children have grown and who have time to devote to themselves. Or those patrons who need to relearn new skills to pursue new employment. By focusing on education libraries have a more substantial argument in fiscal discussions going into the future.

Posted in Libraries | Comments Off on The Theft of Libraries

Edinburgh’s book sculptures go on tour

The mysterious and beautiful book sculptures that were anonymously left around Edinburgh are finally doing a tour together. Starting in Aberdeen then ending up back at the Scottish Poetry Library during Book Week Scotland.

This is a fabulous chance to see all ten sculptures together at one time. The anonymous gifts celebrated the place of words, books and libraries in each of our communities.

As was written on notes left with each gift, “We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)”

Here are a few of the sculptures that were left for discovery. I hope they make  a tour here in America. Not only are they wonderful to look at, the story of how they appeared out of the blue is a reminder that art can be found anywhere.

I was lucky enough to visit Scotland this year and spent some time tracking down each sculpture.  This allowed me to discover places and talk to librarians and booksellers that I might not have uncovered in Edinburgh.

Posted in books, Libraries, reading | Tagged | Comments Off on Edinburgh’s book sculptures go on tour

Surf Fiction for Dog Days

There’s something about diving into a surf mystery that relieves the dog days of August. It just fits and I’ve finished a great surf mystery by Don Winslow, The Dawn Patrol.  There are few things more potent in literature than accurately described physical endurance and Winslow captures what it’s like to be held under water after a big-wave wipe-out. I’ve spent enough time being bounced along the ocean floor disoriented in which way is up and wondering if my breath will last longer than the set of waves holding me down to know how that feels. Winslow perfectly describes the disorienting combination of fear and calmness that envelopes surfers when they’ve hit bottom.

Set in San Diego The Dawn Patrol balances the power and beauty of surfing with a mistaken murder, illegal border importation and a nasty arson trial. Filled with great dollops of San Diego history this is a classic tale of P.I. Boone Daniels, ex-San Diego cop, who’s the focal point of a morning surf crew calling themselves the Dawn Patrol.

Daniels gets involved with a Samoan drug lord, a reptilian strip club owner (is there any other kind?) and cops who need help with anger issues. Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach crash into the mansions of La Jolla until the whole mess ends up in the ancient strawberry fields of outer San Diego County. Add this novel to the line up of Southern California mysteries in the vein of Ross MacDonald’s The Goodbye Look and T. Jefferson Parker’s Laguna Heat. The Dawn Patrol starts in the surf but ends up in a completely different rip adding another worthy title to surf fiction.

I grew up in San Diego wasting far too much time on Mission Beach, PB, OB, and D Street (with its vicious shore break.) I enjoy books that capture the essence of a place and surfing holds a place in the imagination that almost matches the power of catching a gnarly ride. Here’s some surf fiction worth considering when waiting for your next set to come in . . .

Fast Times at Ridgemont High, by Cameron Crowe. While not an essential surf novel Crowe’s novel about Redondo Beach High School in the late 70s perfectly places the angst and confusion of those dreadful years at the losers table. This is a fast paced look at teenage cliques which naturally includes surfers. This book’s included because Fast Times certainly has the most famous fictional surfer (at least on screen, he isn’t quite so prominent in the book): Spicoli Lives on. . . .somewhere, dude.

Breath: A Novel, by Tim Winton.  Winton captures Australian surf with rich lyrical language exploring a rivalry created by a surfing guru. Lives are transformed unexpectedly as Winton weaves a perfectly pitched dark tale.


Tapping the Source, by Kem Nunn.  The first of several surf novels by Nunn which centers on the surf center of Huntington Beach, CA. This is Nunn’s first foray into the surf genre and the story explores the effect of the ocean on a young man’s search for his sister’s killers. A classic of surf mysteries.

The Dogs of Winter, by Kem Nunn.  A photographer chases down a legendary big wave rider trying to tame a remote beach break in Northern California. A death involving a local boy pushes this novel into metaphysical examinations of the dark side of interlopers. Is this where the Heart of Darkness catches the last wave?

Tijuana Straits, by Kem Nunn.  Damaged lives, lost souls and environmental wastelands make up the latest of Nunn’s surf  titles which centers on the border between San Diego and Tijuana. There is beauty here in characters looking for redemption among the toxicity of the landscape, both human and natural. The image of the border fence sinking into the sea is indelible.

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey.  From the non-fiction side of the surf aisle this is a mesmerizing look at big wave riders and the scientific study of waves. Casey deftly weaves the physics and the astounding power of large waves through historical phenomena and showcases world class surfers in pursuit of the ultimate ride. A book filled with delightful surprises.

Posted in books, Libraries, reading | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Surf Fiction for Dog Days

Wayzgoose drops in again at Kings Books

Kings Books and Springtide Press once again provided another great day at the annual Wayzgoose. In it’s eighth year sweet pea and Jessica Springs have grown this into an event not to miss. Some of the finest artists of the region show off their latest creations in book arts and hand press broadsides.

Along with Beautiful Angle, Anagram Press and Montford Press among others there were returning artists from University of Puget Sound, Charles Wright Academy and Stadium High School providing hands experiences.

The steamroller was back pressing the large prints from Stadium High School among others. And this year there was a fully functional mobile letterpress studio.

The weather was great, the crowd basking in the inspiration and Tacoma was treated to another wonderful Wayzgoose. I don’t think there’s a better community connection that’s growing into a regional hallmark quite like this event. Here’s looking forward to next year’s Wayzgoose.

Posted in Libraries, Tacoma | Tagged | Comments Off on Wayzgoose drops in again at Kings Books