Tax up close and personal

In November of 2008,  56% of Minnesota voters approved what has come to  be known as the Legacy Amendment. The goal of the Amendment is to appropriate money from constitutionally dedicated funds and provide for policy and governance of outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage purposes.

The Amendment raised the state sales tax 3/8 of 1%, starting July 1, 2009 and lasting 25 years. Libraries were included in the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of the legislation, which will receive 19.75% of the sales tax generated each year. This Fund will be divided among many recipients, including the following:

  • Board of Arts (with opportunities for partnerships with libraries and schools)
  • Regional Public Library funding for arts and arts education programs (will receive $4.25 million in FY 2010 and $4.25 in FY 2011)
  • Minnesota Digital Library (will receive $500,000 in FY 2010)

Public Library funding for arts and arts education programs is allocated to the 12 regional public library systems according to the current regional library basic system support (RLBSS) grant formula.  In addition to our local programming, ECRL will participate along with the other regional public library systems to fund a state project to bring arts and culture into libraries.

Libraries will be good stewards of this money. As the center of our communities, we are looked to as cultural leaders. The Legacy Amendment funds will enable us to bring even more cultural experiences to communities from the metro area to the rural areas commonly referred to collectively as Greater Minnesota.

I’ve been planning with my staff and board for how we can best use this money. Little thought has gone to where it comes from — after all, it’s only 3/8 of 1% sales tax. That’s hardly noticeable at all.

That’s what I thought until this morning. Almost every day on my way to work I stop at the local Holiday station to feed my addiction with a large Diet Coke. I run into the station store with a dollar and a nickle clutched in my hand to pay for the 99 cent drink. Trouble is, today when I stopped to pay on my way out the door and held out the dollar bill and nickel in my hand, the clerk said $1.06. I must have looked puzzled, because she quickly added, “that’s that new culture tax.” The tone in her voice indicated she didn’t share my positive view of the “culture tax.”

Hmmm, a tax no one’ll notice? Not exactly.  So now I carry in a dollar and a nickel and a penney.

Happy Father’s Day

Today is the longest day of the year – or the shortest night. Depends on how you look at it. In short – it’s the Summer Solstice. Couldn’t tell it here . . . thunder storms obliterated this evening’s sunset.

It’s also Father’s Day (for one father), or Fathers’ Day (for many fathers), or Fathers Day, but nobody seems to spell it that way. I’ve missed my dad for over 14 years, since he crossed over. I visited my wonderful father-in-law yesterday.

I have lots of pictures of my dad, all dressed up in a suit, or positioned exactly behind my mother by an unseen professional photographer. But it’s photos like this, in his Oshkosh overalls, that I like best.  This is vintage, Dad posing for a child taking an imaginary photo, playing with the dog. Posing in front of a shed my mother wanted torn down, beside a rusty barrel that she wanted thrown out.

Smile, Grandpa!

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

Beatles – In My Life

Tremors at Rapid City Medical Library

A story today in the Rapid City Journal (South Dakota) deserves notice. I copy it here, to preserve access to this sad event.

Hospital library closes to public, goes electronic

By Mary Garrigan, Journal staff

Medical librarian Pat Hamilton is out of a job on Friday as Rapid City Regional Hospital transitions to a self-help electronic medical library for internal use only.

For the past 24 years, Hamilton and her staff of volunteers offered medical library resources to doctors, hospital employees and medical, nursing and pharmacy students. The library’s consumer health section also was available to the general public to do research on their medical conditions. Those materials have been donated to the Rapid City Public Library. The electronic library will no longer be available for public use.

Dr. Robert Allen, RCRH’s vice president of medical affairs, said the library and its computer access will remain open for internal use, but it will be staffed partially by volunteers and by medical staff services personnel.

“With electronic advancements, health care facilities are increasingly moving to this type of library,” Allen said in a statement. “Rapid City Regional Hospital will maintain some books and journals in its library.”

The amount of money saved by the move is not known at this time, he said.

Library volunteer Joyce Herbst, who works her last shift in the medical library today, called the transition a closure that she doesn’t understand or agree with.

“They can put whatever spin they want on it, but brass tacks is that they’re closing the library,” she said. “I guess I just don’t understand how you can take that resource away from a teaching hospital. How can it be a teaching hospital, without a resource library and someone to run it? I just think it’s not a very smart thing to do.”

Herbst said the library was always well utilized by students and doctors looking for medical articles or just some quiet space.

“Most of the time, there’s somebody in there doing research,” she said. “I have never had a day when I wasn’t busy.”

After two and a half years as a weekly volunteer in the hospital’s library, Herbst, who is moving to Sioux Falls, said her last day will be difficult, knowing that Hamilton’s job is ending, too.

“This is particularly hard because Pat is such a wonderful person to work for. … But leaving knowing that she’s going to be without a job is horrible,” she said.

Rapid City Regional is a teaching hospital for the University of South Dakota. Pat Hamilton, a most excellent professional medical librarian has assisted residents in their research as well as the public who used the hospital library for medical information. After this coming Friday, the library will be a self-help electronic library for internal use only. According to the article, print materials are now at Rapid City Public Library, although according to one commenter, only some of the print materials.

I am sorry for Pat, who is now unemployed. We were colleagues through the BHUG (Black Hills Users Group) when I worked in South Dakota. I worry for the doctors and residents (and the care they provide), who no longer have the services of a librarian to assist in research. I am sorry for the patients of Rapid City Regional Hospital, who no longer have a medical library to find information about their medical conditions. What is even worse is that many of them do not have access to a public library, since South Dakota does not provide for public library services for all residents, much less the reciprocal borrowing arrangements we enjoy in Minnesota. Already this evening 22 comments have been left on the news article, all critical of the ill-advised act of the changes made in the medical library.

This is the sort of thinking many of us are hearing as threats against our libraries — that if everything is electronic, why fund libraries or professional librarians. I fear that this rash act by the administrators of Rapid City Regional Hospital is a detriment to the medical care and support they provide and a harbinger of things that could come.

In memory of song


In memory of Edna (age 90) and Inez (age 95) – 2 artists at the organ, who both passed over this week.

The Organist in Heaven
by T.E. Browm (b 1830)

When Wesley died, the Angelic orders,
To see him at the state,
Pressed so incontinent that the warders
Forgot to shut the gate.
So I, that hitherto had followed
As one with grief o’ercast,
Where for the doors a space was hollowed,
Crept in, and heard what passed.
And God said:—
” Seeing thou hast given Thy life to my great sounds,
Choose thou through all the cirque of Heaven
What most of bliss redounds.”
Then Wesley said :—
” I hear the thunder
Low growling from Thy seat—
Grant me that I may bind it under
The trampling of my feet.”
And Wesley said:-” See, lightning quivers
Upon the presence walls—
Lord, give me of it four great rivers,
To be my manuals.”
And then I saw the thunder chidden
As slave to his desire ;
And then I saw the space bestridden
With four great bands of fire ;
And stage by stage, stop stop subtending,
Each lever strong and true,
One shape inextricable blending,
The awful organ grew.
Then certain angels clad the Master in very marvellous wise,
Till clouds of rose and alabaster
Concealed him from mine eyes.
And likest to a dove soft brooding,
The innocent figure ran ;
So breathed the breath of his preluding,
And then the fugue began—
Began ; but, to his office turning,
The porter swung his key;
Wherefore, although my heart was yearning,
I had to go ; but he
Played on; and, as I downward clomb,
I heard the mighty bars
Of thunder-gusts, that shook heaven’s dome,
And moved the balanced stars.

As I’ve blogged before, when something comes up twice in a short period of time, it’s appropriate to take notice of what the universe would like me to hear or learn. These 2 ladies had great influence in my early passion to play organ. Not because they were my teachers, but because they inspired me with their passion for sharing their music. I’ve played all my life, but the last few years other things have taken precedence, and sometimes weeks go by without the feel of ebony and ivory. There is no balance in my life, and I feel like I’m not whole without my music. Thank you for the memories, dear friends, and for leading me back to my center.

WalMart’s moment in the sun

Whether you love ’em or hate ’em . . . there’s one undeniable fact. As Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins’s News Cut reports this morning, “The worse the economy gets, the better for WalMart.” He also says that WalMart reported this morning that they’re adding 22,000 jobs.

Libraries are a lot like WalMart. With no cash changing hands at the point of sale (that all happens at tax receipt time), we have an even better bang for the buck than Walmart. We are seeing huge increases in business as people look for the lowest cost services possible. And, as WalMart remodels stores and diversifies product lines to improve their image, so are we struggling to do the same.

The News Cut piece links to a Forbes article that says about WalMart “The retailer has cleaned up its stores, upgraded its customer service and spruced up its merchandise. It’s hoping that an improved shopping experience will keep its new customers once economic conditions improve.” Here too is another analogy I ponder. While it seems only a short time ago that we (libraries) were struggling to demonstrate our relevance (that is irrefutable for many), with the economic downfall there is recently little doubt of the value of libraries for a steadily increasing group that couldn’t afford to pay for the services we provide. Will they continue to love us and give us headlines when things get better? Or is the popular vote a fickle but fleeting affirmation?

With WalMart we need to pay attention. Here is our golden moment to give our new visitors the best sales pitch ever. Good merchandise, well displayed , with competent sales and service will keep them coming back.

Not going to cave

Well, it’s been 5 days since I became a Twitter quitter. Withdrawal has been minimal, maybe even non-existent. My staff is quite amazed that there is something 2.0 that I haven’t dived into, and if the truth be known, they’re most likely relieved that this something I haven’t tried to cajole them into. Life is good, and I haven’t felt the least bit left out.

That is, until this afternoon. I received an invitation to an online webinar, sponsored by Polaris entitled Consider the Source: The Integrated Library System Marketplace. I filled out the online registration, and there it was, the last data field “Twitter handle.” OUCH.   Good thing it wasn’t a required field.

Twitter quitter

I just deleted my Twitter account, and I feel great. I’ve made a valiant attempt to Twitter for well over a year. I’ve been a fairly early adapter in almost everything 2.0, and I have found many tools very useful. Other tools I’ve cast aside, but my judgment has pretty much paralleled that of others. However, while the world is ga ga for this Twitter thing, it just isn’t me. I’ve tried – honest. But every time I get another E-mail that someone is following me (most of them, other Twitterers with sleazy sounding names) I get the creeps.

My daily life is pretty dull, a lot of the mundane stuff of management. Other more interesting stuff that I could write falls under privileged information that I don’t even tell my walking partner, and she’s a furry yellow lab. And as for my daily life, it’s just plain boring. . . bought flowers, planted flowers, tried to run over rabbit that ate my flowers.

I’ve tried following some people. During the political campaigns (were they only a year ago?), I tried following candidates to learn something about them. All I got in my Twitter collector was well-crafted sound bites, probably written by staff members. And tweets from other lesser known folks are definitely TMI! As for other tweets, at best, I just plain don’t care. While I’m looking for something professionally, or even culturally enlightening, I find out that “the cat threw up.” Ewwwww.

So, I guess for now I’m just not one of the hip or cool kids. But, just in case I have a change of heart, I followed Twitter’s directions for preserving my name ;^) And maybe I’ll be back.

Now, if I could just find a support group for casting off Twitter guilt.

Memorial Day

A charcoal-grilled hamburger (no gas cooking here), potato salad, a cold beer, rhubarb crisp — ah, now it’s summer. All on our newly built deck. I doubt that nowhere in the world does anyone glory in a sunny warm day more than in Minnesota, and especially after this past winter, the longest the natives remember for a long time. I remember previous years that we hoped for at least one dry cookout-worthy day during the Memorial Day weekend, since this part of May is typically rainy. Not so this year — the lawn is already crunchy dry, and we’re hoping for rain. Not a good omen for the farmers!

According to the History Channel site, Memorial Day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. In my memory, while we celebrate the memory of veterans’ sacrifices, we also decorate family graves on Memorial Day. And so, this weekend we ran between multiple cemeteries, placing decorations and flowers.

There are two constants in almost all small towns around here . . . a library (of course) and some kind of park that memorializes local war heroes. Just across the state border in my hometown, there is a bench remembering my cousin, killed in Vietnam. Also a wall, that looks not so strangely like one in Washington D.C., that honors all local guys and gals who’ve served in the military service.Mirror Lake Park, Mondovi WI

Help is on the way, call 9-1-1

May 10-16 is National Police Week. In public libraries, we are so confident that a call to 911 will make it all OK, and law enforcement personnel have never let us down. In the last year my librarians have called for assistance from local law enforcement for injured persons, unwelcome animals, a car crashing through the wall, a broken window, a gas leak, unwelcome advances to children, inebriated visitors, unidentified smoke, and these are only the ones that were reported to me. For all the assistance from city police, county deputies, and yes – even state troopers I and my staff are so thankful.

In rural areas across the country, many library staff members work alone, and they are backed up by the telephone on their desk and the dispatch center only 3 digits away — 9-1-1.

While my law enforcement friends tell me that interactions at libraries are some of their easier calls, I’m well aware of the danger those LE folks regularly face. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, thus far in 2009, 50 Officers have been killed. In all of 2008, there were 136 LE deaths.

Heavy on the hearts and hopeful is my community for the condition of hometown high school standout and now Mahnomen County Deputy Chris Dewey. The Deputy was shot in the head and abdomen and has suffered several setbacks during his therapy for traumatic brain injury. All of his and his family’s suffering because he answered a call one fateful night in February.

While thus far the police calls to libraries have been quickly resolved, I know that there is the potential for both my staff and the responding officer to face threats. I thank those officers for every time they rush to the aid of libraries to protect my staff and the public from potential danger.

Social network is mainstream

It totally amazes me how quickly Web 2.0 or social networking has moved from a gee-whiz cool tool to part of the fabric of our lives. One of the best uses of a social networking tool is any of the blog-like sites that facilitate communication for families when they are at the lowest point of their lives.

Not so long ago, a friend of mine was dying. It was 6 years ago that he was diagnosed with a cancer that had no cure. His family and friends were scattered far and wide. While they all cared deeply, my friend had lots of living to do in his last year, and spending his remaining year writing and calling everyone on a regular basis didn’t seem like the best use of his time. So we created a website just for him, documenting his doings with the photographs that were taken of the places and people with whom he spent his last year. It was quite novel to most people, and they loved it! The hours I spent writing the html code for the site were a labor of love for him and his family.

Fast forward to the present. Another one, this time a very small person who is very dear to me, receives a potentially terminal diagnosis. His family and friends are scattered far and wide, and desperate for information, a morsel of hope that he will beat the big C (or in his case ALL). But mom and dad and the close army of defenders that surround him are totally engaged in providing for his care. How to keep his wider supporters informed without spending hours in physical individual communication. Another website? Not this time; now we have a ready-made tool, and broadcasting regular updates (both the speed bumps and the triumphs) is so simplified that almost anyone with an Internet connection can do it.

So commonplace are new tools that when my little darling got sick, everyone I knew asked “what’s his CaringBridge site?” Not “does he have one?” And yes, on day 3 following the frantic medevac flight to save his life his dad (following the hospital’s suggestion) had posted the first CaringBridge post. Since then his parents have posted 99 entries, 14,336 visitors have read the site, and 504 messages of hope and love have been left for him and his family. All that positive energy can’t hurt — he is doing very well!

Another CaringBridge link with which I have a peripheral connection is that of a law enforcement officer who was shot in the line of duty 2 1/2 months ago. A nationwide support network follows his struggles and is praying for him. As of tonight there have been 430,980 visits to his site.

So many people have told us how much they have appreciated the updates. In order to find the site, one must know the directory name, which gives a modicum of privacy. One gentleman related that some time ago when he had a family member gravely ill, the family spent all their time on the telephone updating relatives. Likewise, when I was a pre-teen, my father was in intensive care for quite a while. When we got home from the hospital the phone rang steady, until my mother couldn’t stand it any more and assigned us kids to give the daily update. These networking sites facilitate communication, saving much effort and energy for caretakers.

CaringBridge has been around since 1997, when Sona Mehring’s friend had a high-risk pregnancy. According to the CaringBridge website: With extensive experience in the information technology industry, Sona’s vision was to build upon that formative and deeply personal experience – combining the capabilities of technology with the personal needs of people facing a crisis. In the years since, Sona and CaringBridge have become widely known for the creation and implementation of Compassion Technology™ that facilitates personal and convenient communication for individuals receiving care.

A similar social network type service was founded by Eric and Sharon Langshur in 2000. According to their CarePages online community site: When their son, Matthew, was born with a heart defect in 1998 and needed surgery, Eric and Sharon struggled to find a way to keep in touch with family and friends about Matthew’s condition. Sharon’s brother set up the first CarePages patient website to help. Today, Matthew is a healthy, happy child, and CarePages has grown to reach millions of families across the globe.

Around here (in Minnesota) CaringBridge is the dominant site – could be because it’s based in Eagan MN. CaringBridge derives 80% of its support from donations of users. I’m a little disappointed at the number of ads on the CarePages site, but they gotta pay the bills, I guess! Something else I found while researching for this post (librarians do their research, you know) — Yahoo’s Goodsearch donates to CaringBridge for every search run through its Yahoo search utility. From now on, that’s where I’ll start my searches ;^) (sorry, Google). Just enter “caringbridge” in the box designating who you want to benefit. There’s also a goodshop site that donates portions of sales (I’ll have to check that out — a good excuse to shop).

We’ve come a long way in a short time. Social networking and online communities are part of our lives, and I’m glad to be part of it.