Library service for military families

Minnesota National Guard troops will be home this summer, according to almost every news source in Minnesota. The Minnesota division has served almost 2 years, longer than any other state’s Guard division. As a former military librarian as well as a military spouse and mom (retired USAF), I feel the excitement with every one of those families.

While my family went through numerous deployments, we always lived on a military installation where the infrastructure provided lots of support and the families around us shared the same experiences as we did. Guard troops will return directly to Hometown Minnesota after a short demobilization period at Fort McCoy.

All troops don’t live near their Guard units and most hometown communities don’t have a very experienced long-term support structure to help military families. Most military families will attest to the fact that coming home is only the beginning of stressful family times, as they re-acclimate to life back together, sometimes more different than the same as it was before deployment.

Community libraries are well placed to function as an information source to military families to help them through the next period, reintegration. I encourage library staff members to familiarize themselves with the information on these two resources. You never know when you’re working the desk and can offer something of value to military families.

Library Speakers’ Bureau – just like Rochesterfest

Here’s a great idea from Marylaine Block’s weekly e-zine (#299, 22 June 2007). In her newsletter article today, Knowledge Pushers, Marylaine says that libraries are more than books. She cites the value of the knowledge of librarians. She says:

We know how to get grants, how to track our ancestors, how to digitize precious historical and family photos, and how to entice children to read. We know how to find trustworthy factual information on political candidates and important public issues. We’ve done the research and can tell anxious parents about the capabilities and limitations of various internet filters; we can also suggest other ways to keep kids safe as they explore the net.

She suggests that the reason the public doesn’t know is that we don’t tell them, that libraries wait for people to come to us, when we could go out to the community. Marylaine says that as the director goes out (I hope that’s so, but I fear too many times it’s not), so could other library staff.

All this reminded me of Rochesterfest — where I’ve found wonderful food the last couple of days (why cook?). At Rochesterfest, there is a row of food stands, run by our great local restaurants. People who go to the festival find great food from vendors whose restaurants they may never have thought to try.

So, just like the restaurateur, who comes to meet new customers where they are, the library will bring valuable information to people where they are through the library speakers’ bureau.

While I don’t work in a library that provides direct service to end users, I do get the chance to speak to groups (as do most of the librarians I work with) – and really get charged up when I invited to do so. I’ve spoken to church libraries, Rotary, groups of teachers and librarians, led a book discussion for a tea, and am looking forward to this fall when among other meetings I’ll be doing a presentation for the Friends of the Mabel Public Library.

No threat at DDR

All the kids who hang out at teen night at the Chatfield Public Library have nothing to fear from me — I’ll never beat them at DDR (Dance Dance Revolution.) It was fun to try it, though. Monica, the Chatfield PL Director set up DDR as a demonstration for the other librarians as a warm up for their regular meeting yesterday. A few tried it, more watched. But what a great thing they’ve got going in Chatfield for the kids. Now here’s another one of those “if I had a library posts” . . . .

Of course, if I managed to keep my feet in the center of the controller, I’d have done a lot better.
Monica and Barbara

However, 2 of my colleagues have it down to “perfect” — Congrats AJ and JP! How cool is this?
Aurora and Jonya

Pimping library carts

From the Racine Report blog of the Journal Times . . . . yesterday the Racine Public Library (in Wisconsin) had a “Pimp my Cart” contest for teens. Sounds like the 12 kids who participated had a lot of fun. The contest was based on the MTV show “Pimp My Ride.” The kids tricked out library carts, and the library has pledged to use the book carts, although it sounds like one of them, dubbed “Road Kill” and made out of parts from an old Honda motorcycle and two wheels from a Chevrolet Camaro, will have trouble cruising the aisles in the stacks. All the carts will be displayed outside during Monday’s Hot Rod Power Tour in Racine.

Racine Public Library joins many other libraries in trying novel ways to appeal to kids and get them to the library. Good for them!

What I find remarkable is the public comments (21 of them at the time of this posting) that follow the blog post — many of which miss the point of the activity and use the opportunity to bad mouth the library. Here are some examples (exact quotes):

  • Computers and the internet have reduced library use! Millions of books are being “digitized” and will soon be available on the web! Libraries are offering many new services and gimmicks in their attempt to “survive”! Unsupervised internet access for children, coffee shops, DVD rentals, travel tours, gimmicks like this! The libraries know in the years to come, they face extinction!
  • This is sad. The library sets the bar for our youth so low that MTV can make it over. It is insulting to the teens of Racine. They should have more respect for our youth!
  • Will the library director eventually concede this was a dated, contrived, and somewhat demeaning promotion?
  • Honestly, I’d prefer my kids stay away from the libraries– with no limits on the content the patrons can access on the internet, no limits on what kids can check out (R rated movies included), and the declining quality of juvenile literature (did YOU know that your 11 year old is considered a YOUNG ADULT? The YA designation references a great number of books that contain graphic teen sex, violence, drug use, many of which are NOT in any way appropriate for 11 year olds, or most teens in general, if you care at all what your kids are exposed to).
  • I think the library needs to grow a pair and impose appropriate limits on what kids can check out and what adults can access on the internet. How simple is that? Apparently not simple enough.Until that happens, I’ll discourage my older kids from hanging out at the library. We’ll teach them about sex and drug use and the wiles of internet porn in our own time, thank you very much.

Uff-da! Here’s a public relations challenge for the Racine PL director. Here’s hoping for a turn in the comments trend.