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<<January 2021>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: library buildings, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 4 of 4
1. The Giraffe in the Room

I promised I'd let you know what was going on with our room rearrangement. For the past twenty years, our desk had us facing a boat (patrol duty) with our backs to 80% of our service area.

Now our desk faces the public and we have a view of the entire area. The giraffe proudly helms the front of the boat (complete with travel posters that we "inserted" a photo of him into) and other animal characters reading in the front nook. The back of the boat is still there for kids to read in.

Staff Reaction? Overall, we love it. Still some tweaks (wires we need to get safely hidden - hence the old SLP banners) but having a view of our entire service area is revelatory (imagine years of facing four red doors). The space is more open and the new carpet's slightly more subdued colors seem to bring down the crazy level.

Patron reaction? Not bad. We point out that the ancient giraffe is now protected and we now can see the whole area to help serve everyone better. There's been a grumble or two but that is the vast minority. We find if we address the change in a cheerful, friendly way as families come in, we get a more positive response.

Most kids are good about the change. The preschoolers are a bit taken aback. But Brooke came up with a great way to navigate them through the change. She shared with the team:  "I’ve started calling it our animal boat.  Because all of our animals decided they needed a place to live, so they picked the boat. The other side is our “people boat”. If they say they want to go up to the giraffe I just ask, 'Are you an animal? No, you’re a person, silly!' "

Of course this is just the first week. We still have a heavy first few months of "Wha?!?!?!" and a good year ahead of people who come in less frequently being startled by the giraffe's new exalted no-kid area. But the team is ready to meet and greet to get our community through the transition.

The story of our adventure is here and here. And below are a few more pictures (think panorama) of what we see in our service area now.

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2. The Wandering Librarian

Yesterday, a pleasant person stopped by our desk, introduced herself and handed us a slip of paper with an url for a blog called Every Library I Can. Ellen works part-time at a branch of the Ramsey County MN libraries but it is her avocation to visit libraries everywhere and share her thoughts and observations about them.  Yesterday, it was our turn.

As an inveterate library visitor myself, I loved getting a chance to meet and talk with Ellen. We chatted on our feelings about the behemothy boat that is a signature piece as well as an anchor around the neck of the staff.  Most visitors fall in love with this thing...understandable but it is a director's/architect's dream that in reality has been a nightmare in the library. Well, at least the outside.

We were able to show our guest the inside of the boat which is truly and nautically delightful and might be one of the most perfect program spaces I have worked in or observed. The walls are almost all bulletin board; the carpeting is wonderful; there is a small tiled area for messy crafty, goopy stuff; there is a sink and seeming miles of closets, cupboards, drawers and hidey-holes to contain our program materials and props. Ellen was justifiably delighted. As we've talked about re-purposing the boat over the years, we always assure the public that the true boat -the inside -will always be there for them.

And we have made some progress over the past few years in making the outside of the boat more reader-friendly: comfy chairs; books on display everywhere; signs that indicate it is a Reading Boat. Staffers have become masterful at keeping reading the prime focus and running and climbing slightly less prevalent.

So it meant alot to us when Ellen introduced herself and we had a chance to talk about the good and bad on the boat. And it was fun to read her post and see her thoughts about what is truly special about that piece of nautica.  Her blog is on my feeds now - not because she stopped here; but because she has a bright and lively eye and a clear love for the way each library adapts; solves and does uniquely fun things to create a special space for the community.

I want to join her journey and talk with her all day. Since I can't, I will content myself with being an armchair observer of her adventures.

8 Comments on The Wandering Librarian, last added: 3/29/2013
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3. The Elephant in the Room


How many of us have been victimized by the "bright" idea of a director, architect or board president who thinks it would be a swell idea in the building project/remodel/re-do, to put a giant something in the middle of the Children's Area?  "It will be a centerpiece, a signature piece, a piece de resistance," they coo.  "It will bring people from miles around who will remember our library forever."

No matter what the children's staffers say and suggest (how about a wall mural; perhaps a small reading nook shaped like a boat or train; maybe a sculpture that climbs a pillar; could we have a stuffed bear chair), the project plods on and soon there is a ginormous elephant or boat or dragon or wooden climbing wall or structure that is just the perfect size for little children to climb, run, roll, leap, jump, scale, and cavort upon.  Goodbye sanity.

I speak from experience. We have a boat facade with deck, wheelhouse and aft house (or whatever) that spans over half the wall on the long side of our room.  I knew we were in trouble when I interviewed for the job three years ago and I saw that rather than the service desk facing the room, it faced the boat. Yep. When we serve our public our backs are to them because the boat and patrolling behavior is the most important part of our professional work. I took the job anyway.

Our desk facing the boat
Computers and collections behind us
More collections and computers behind us
The boat forced desk staffers to be negative constantly (stop/no/don't/can't) or simply ignore the scrum and be beat down by the nuttiness. For the first time in my long and non-sto

4 Comments on The Elephant in the Room, last added: 4/29/2012
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4. Fewer libraries, more locations?

Eric Hellman has an interesting post on his blog "go to hellman" (great name, incidentally).

He postulates that by 2020 "the number of public libraries in 2020 would be half of what it is today. (And) the number of public library locations would increase by 50%." He goes on to describe a world with smaller, cheaper to run library outlets in different locations, and shuttering of some of the larger edifices. He thinks that the e-content revolution and the need to consolidate public services in times of restricted funding will help bring this about.

Hellman makes a pretty good case. We have already seen a lot of constriction in library budgets during the past few years, and given the state of the economy and the big black holes in government budgets, things aren't going to be rosy for a while.

So is the big box library a tool or a principle? If the building is a way to create a hub in your community, any space where people are willing to gather and share could work as a tool. If the building is a secular monument, a tourist attraction, or a way to keep a small town from sliding into oblivion, then the principle is a lot different.

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