Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review (part 2)

The second half of the year started out with a trip to Chicago for my first American Library Association annual conference. It was big and amazing and everything I’d imagined and more. My favorite memory of the whole experience was my first bus ride to the McCormick Place convention center. I was nervous and excited, and I tweeted that I felt like I was being bussed into the Hunger Games. Other great things included meeting authors like Veronica Roth, Tim Federle, Demitria Lunetta and David Levithan; meeting librarians from all over the United States and learning a ton at the many different sessions.

After the exiting summer wound down, I oversaw the final touches to the library’s reading garden – a three year long project that started before my time at the library. From dealing with issues with our boilers and elevator to planning a few programs here and there, things at the library were pretty calm throughout the fall otherwise. To spice up my life, I decided to accept an offer to teach a section of English Composition at William Penn University, a local private, liberal arts school in Oskaloosa. For those who know me, I once had an interest in teaching, and this was a great opportunity for me to try it out – and earn a little extra money on the side.

Friends of the Library Tea Time in the Garden
October brought my first Iowa Library Association Conference, another opportunity for me to connect with librarians and receive continuing education. And then came the rush of the holiday season. Before Thanksgiving, my Youth Librarian and I hosted a Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Party, and one of the library assistants created an awesome replica of the TARDIS which we then used on the Teen Advisory Board’s float in Oskaloosa’s annual lighted Christmas parade. We also tried out a free crafting program series before Christmas, which I thought turned out pretty well.

All in all, I felt 2013 was a pretty great year and I’m looking forward to 2014. One of the projects that I’m most excited about that I’ll be working on is a Books & Beer club I’m starting with the co-owner of the Cellar Peanut Pub! We had a pretty good response to our initial survey, and many have expressed interest in the club. Our first selection is Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, and we’ll be meeting to discuss the book at the pub at 6:00 p.m. on January 28th!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review (part 1)

It doesn't seem that long ago that I was writing a review post for 2012. So much has happened this year, but you can’t really tell from my posts! I keep promising to update this more frequently, so maybe it’ll be a New Year’s resolution? Then it’d never happen! Anyway, here’s a look at my year:

In January, my husband and I took a two week trip to Hawaii for our honeymoon! We pretty much spent our time playing tourists on the streets of Waikiki, visiting the beach, hiking up volcanoes, buying expensive skin care products from Israeli street merchants and eating at famous places like the Hard Rock CafĂ© and Bubba Gump’s. And what’s a trip without a near death experience? On our last full day in Hawaii, we took a wrong turn on a hike on the Manana Trail to see the Waimano Waterfall and ended up going 3 or so miles on a monster of a trail before realizing we were unprepared and out of water. Thankfully we made it back to the bus and then our hotel safely. We never did get to see the waterfall...but it became my favorite tale from the trip though! If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, I recommend the Circle Island Tour, Germaine’s Luau and a trip to the Ala Moana Center, the largest open air shopping mall in the world!

Once back in the states and the frigid weather of Iowa, I quickly put my nose to the grindstone and coordinated a six-month strategic planning process for my library. My only experience with long range planning was in library school, so I based my plan largely on the fictitious one I contributed to for a group project. I formed a Strategic Planning Committee made up of members of the Library Board of Trustees, library staff, Friends of the Library members, City of Oskaloosa council members, the city manager and myself. The committee gathered data and information about the Library’s resources, services and programs; users and non-users of the library; and the communities of Oskaloosa and Mahaska County through the responsibilities of four subcommittees: a Survey Team, Inventory Team, Focus Group Team and an Outreach Team. You can check out the full plan here.

By the time the plan was completed and submitted to the city and the state, the library’s Summer Reading Program was in full swing. For me, this was one of the most exciting times of the year. We offered three programs, Take Back the Summer for adults, Read It ‘n Tweet It for teens and Dig into Reading for children. I had a ton of fun planning programs and events, and it was inspiring to see how many people in the community registered for the programs, participated and got excited about reading – over 700! To go along with the adult theme, I planned Classic Movie Mondays and showed a classic movie from each decade between 1930 and 2000, downtown walking history tours, and invited the curator from the local Nelson Pioneer Farm to do a presentation on historical women’s clothing. For the teens, we started a chess club, a Dungeons and Dragons club, and our Create & Innovate crafting series. The new Youth Librarian had several great programs for the kids, too, including a visit from Snakes Alive, magic shows, and presentations by a local master gardener.

The second half of the year was a little calmer, but I’ll bore you with another post tomorrow....Until then, Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Make It & Take It: Wine Glass Snow Globes

Last night I hosted the first of four “Make It & Take It” crafting programs we’re offering at the library this holiday season.  The program series invites patrons of all ages to create thrifty crafts – or gifts – for free and take them home.  I borrowed the idea from my days at the Lawrence Public Library and their “Thrifty Gifter” series, which was very popular. One of my crafty library assistants and I collaborated and came up with four crafts to offer: wine glass snow globes, cards, yarn wrapped wreaths, and felt ornaments.

Tuesday’s craft was the wine glass snow globes. I picked up some cheap wine glasses from the local Goodwill store and gathered small ornaments, ribbons, garland, glitter, white confetti for filling and other holiday themed crafting materials that were crammed in the many boxes the library has accumulated over the years. Using foam core for the bases, patrons selected their materials, designed their snow globe scenes and used hot glue to put it all together.

Planning and going in to the program, I didn't know what kind of turn out to expect, and I was definitely surprised and delighted when 15 people showed up! I only managed to get 11 wine glasses, but fortunately, parents were agreeable to helping their kids make theirs.  I gave a few instructions at the beginning, and then gave them free reign over the materials. Everyone had a great time helping each other, and they were so thankful for the program!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I spent the majority of my Thanksgiving weekend with my nose buried in Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, a 784 page tome chronicling the misadventures of a young man who gains possession of a famous Dutch masterpiece, a painting by the same name as the novel.

Captivated by the painting of a small bird tethered to a perch, thirteen-year-old Theo Decker obtains it after a bomb explodes at the New York City art gallery in which it was being displayed, killing his mother. Theo also receives a ring, given to him by a dying elderly man by the name of Welty. After dealing with social workers and the possibility of being shipped off to uncaring grandparents, he ends up under the temporary hospitality of the wealthy parents of a former friend from primary school. 

Trying to come to terms with his mother's death, Theo delivers the ring, as promised, to an antique furniture shop and townhouse where he meets Welty's business partner, Hobie, and Welty's granddaughter, Pippa, who was also injured in the explosion. Meanwhile, Theo's estranged father shows up and whisks him off across the country to Las Vegas to live with him and his lover, Xandra with an X. There, Theo meets and befriends Boris, a Russian burnout who ends up playing a key role in Theo's misadventures. Those misadventures take him back to lavish New York, to Amsterdam, and through the criminal underworld, all for the enrapturing masterpiece that consumes him.

The Goldfinch - the novel - is a masterpiece in itself. Donna Tartt has a penchant for detail that - though leads to a lengthy story - often times provides a perfect visual for the setting. Wading through the detail, the reader comes upon scenes that are gripping and suspenseful. Anger, frustration, confusion, fear - I felt all of these while I followed Theo on his quest to come to terms with his past and set things right in his world. It was a Thanksgiving holiday well spent.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

Well turkey, baked macaroni, mashed potatoes and other Thanksgiving goodies have all been consumed, and I'm getting ready to sit down to watch some holiday entertainment. Movie of choice: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Before doing so, I wanted to update and express what I'm thankful for this year.

I'm thankful for my husband who's currently dealing with the hoards of shoppers at a department store. I wish I could be spending the evening with him, and hope that he knows I appreciate everything he is and everything he does.

I'm thankful for a family of in-laws who have welcomed me to their table this Thanksgiving - and pretty much every Sunday evening for the past year. I'm grateful for their never ending care and support, and I'm glad that I've gotten to know them so well.

I'm thankful for my family and friends back in Kansas who I miss so much. I don't connect as often as I should, but I hope that they know that I love them dearly. I'm sure I'll spend a great part of this evening reminiscing on the many memories I have with them.

I'm thankful for the wonderful job and the great staff I have at the Oskaloosa Public Library. My first year proved to be challenging and stressful, but also rewarding beyond measure. I'm grateful that I was given this opportunity to serve the community and broaden my skills as a librarian.

I'm also thankful for you - dear reader - who ever you are. I hope you're having a wonderful Thanksgiving, whether it be with family and friends or just with a feline companion or a book or a movie. Take care!

Friday, November 22, 2013

D&D: Adventures in the Stacks

This past summer, with the suggestion of a few Teen Advisory Board members, my Youth Librarian and I started a Dungeons & Dragons group at the library. Now, the only experience I had with Dungeons & Dragons was from my college years, and the story involves me excusing myself to use the restroom and never coming back. That being said, I honestly didn’t have too much faith that the program would go very far. I’m happy to say, though, that I was wrong!

If you don’t know what Dungeons & Dragons is, that’s okay – it’s only been around for years and years. A role playing game, each player creates a character, choosing from a plethora of fantasy species and races. One person designates him or herself as Dungeon Master and dictates a story that the other participants’ characters play along in. Different denominations of dice are used to determine variables in the game, like damage points in battles and strength checks.

Thankfully, the few teens who asked for the program had TONS of knowledge and experience with the game and gladly volunteered themselves Dungeon Masters. For the first few weeks, we had a small gathering of middle school students, and I sat back and watched. At some point, my Youth Librarian created a character, which I ended up adopting as scheduling conflicts disallowed her from chaperoning the program. As I got involved, I’ve had the chance to both learn more about the game and understand and witness the passion the teens who are coming to the program have for it.

Now whether it's the free snacks or the game itself, the program has developed quite the following. Over time, our little D&D group has grown to 16 teens ranging from 13 to 17! Every week, everyone in attendance – though sometimes distracted and a little over excited – are actively engaged. It has been great to watch those who Dungeon Master develop their skills. Now I look forward every week to the program, and I’m excited to see it – and hopefully other teen programs – grow.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Author Night (a.k.a. College Night) at the Library

Tip: If you want to ensure your program audience participates in Q&A time, have a college professor offer extra credit to students for attending and asking questions.

Tuesday night, we invited YA/middle grade writers Brian Farrey, Wendy Delsol and Kelly Barnhill for an Author Night at the library. Posters in the library and at businesses around town, press releases, social media - we pushed it as much as we could. We were pretty thrilled to bring these authors to the library. It was a big investment for our medium-ish sized library. We had nine people show up...

I'm not complaining, though, because eight of those people were college students seeking extra credit for a class, and they each had very good questions for the authors. My youth librarian and I prepared questions beforehand, but we didn't have to use a single one! The authors' responses were brilliant, honest and filled an hour and fifteen minutes. I think the students learned a lot about writing and getting published and hopefully gained an interest in the authors' works - which was half the purpose.

So a big THANK YOU to Brian, Wendy and Kelly for coming all the way to little 'ol Oskaloosa for our Author Night!

Monday, November 11, 2013

What I've been obsessed with recently

I've been inspired to resurrect this blog by my youth librarian, Liz, who's recently started a second blog, Library Lore. It's been a while, so I thought I'd update with a few things I've been obsessed with recently:

Library Conferences
My ALA book haul!
In June/July, I had the opportunity to attend my first ALA annual conference in Chicago! Meeting librarians from all over the country, attending sessions, visiting the exhibits - the entire experience was thrilling. I have to admit, I think I spent half my time wandering around the exhibit hall, but getting to meet authors and learning what's on the literary horizon was just as valuable to me as attending the sessions. My favorite part of the trip, though, was the "Set Phasers to Internet" tumblarian meet up - I got to hang out with some great tumblarians!

I also attended my first Iowa Library Association conference in October. A much smaller scale conference, it provided just as much information and opportunity as the national one. It's always great to be surrounded by people who share common interests and passions. I'm looking forward to attending more and working with the wonderful people in this profession.

Teen Programming
When I hired my new youth librarian, I pretty much decided I wanted to partner with her in teen programming. As she's the only staff responsible for youth services - collection development, programming, outreach, etc. - I felt that she would be a little over burdened with programming for 0 to 18-year-olds. I personally feel that services for teens are among the most important when it comes to developing life-long library users. If we're able to get them in the library and see that there's something there for them, it's easier, I imagine, to encourage them to visit as they grow through adulthood.

In the past, teen programming was a monthly advisory board meeting and a few holiday parties. Starting this past summer, we really raised the bar on teen programming. We offered chess club, Dungeons & Dragons, crafting programs and the obvious reading program. We decided to continue a few of these programs into the fall, and I have personally been amazed at how strong a following the programs have developed - specifically D&D. We've got a great group of teen regulars and I enjoy working with them.

October saw the annual Halloween party. Typically we have 10 to 15 teens at our programs. So that's what we planned for. Snacks, music, a few games - nothing too fancy. We must have had 40 kids show up! The food was gone in 15 minutes, and it was pandemonium! We also tried out a Zombie Clinic & Crawl, but with bad scheduling on our part, it was kind of a flop...but the two teens who showed up said they had a good time. I'm looking forward to finishing out the year, and planning for next!

Rainbow Rowell
I JUST finished reading Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl - an adorable coming-of-age story about a fanfiction writing college freshman trying to adjust to her first year at the University of Nebraska. Rainbow has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Ever since I read that she was disinvited by a Minnesota high school and library from speaking to teens about her first YA novel, Eleanor & Park (which I adored too!), I've kind of wanted to invite her to my library. Not for the controversy. But because it just reinforced, to me, how great an author she is and I want to share her with my community. However, when I emailed her, it turned out she was booked through the end of the year. Boo. She did say, though, that she'd be happy to once things clear up for her.

American Horror Story
Thanks to our Internet TV services, my husband and I devoured the first and second seasons of American Horror Story, and now we're anxiously awaiting each episode of Coven. As a child, I had an "unnatural" obsession with witches. I'm pretty sure I demanded to be one every Halloween between the ages of 5 and 10. Needless to say, I'm obsessed with this season. Asylum proved to me that Jessica Lange is brilliant, and now she rules as the supreme. And Kathy Bates! I adore her. Like Misery adore. Well, more like Fried Green Tomatoes adore. I appreciate the mix of history with the imaginative terror of the series, and look forward to much more!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Building a Community of Lifelong Library Users

Yesterday was probably the best day I’ve had so far as director of the Oskaloosa Public Library. It’s summertime, so that means Summer Reading, and we had our Summer Reading Kick-Off party in the library’s new Reading Garden. All through preparation, my staff told me that Summer Reading has always been a big thing in Oskaloosa – families in the community look forward to it. However, it wasn't until last night that I truly understood what they meant.

It was pretty simple, really. A digging station where kids could dig for small prizes, a station where kids could plant a seed in a cup to take home, and a table with bubbles were our activities. We had popcorn donated by First National Bank and orange drink donated by McDonald’s. The biggest draw, though, was registration for the children’s reading program, Dig Into Reading. Throughout the day, we had 212 kids register – the majority of which were registered after waiting through the long line that formed on the first floor of the library during the kick-off party. Total door count for the day was about 780, and my staff checked out over 1,200 items!

What was also thrilling to me was the number of adults who picked up a reading log for the adult program, Take Back the Summer. The library hasn't offered an adult program for a couple of years, but through heavy promotion and pushing at the children’s registration table, nearly 50 adults asked for logs. Now - I’m eager to see the turn out for the series of programs I’ve developed – it has been sort of a challenge to get people in the few programs I’ve offered since I started, but I’m not letting that discourage me. I've got Classic Movie Mondays, author visits, historic walking tours, and a program on the history of women’s fashion scheduled.

The teen program, read it ‘n tweet it, has gotten off to a slower start – not quite as many logs went out. However, we have weekly chess club, Dungeons & Dragons club, and videogame nights planned, as well as a book club, art days and a messy games program at the park. These events will provide opportunities to promote the reading program. I think the grand prizes – a mani/pedi package from a local spa, Kindle Fire, skateboard and 2 hour senior portrait session from a local photographer – will be a draw as well.

Opportunities for children at the library have always been strong, but since I started here, it has been my focus to provide those opportunities to older age groups as well. I’m really pushing – and getting behind – increasing programming at the library for teens and adults. It’s my goal to see a community of lifelong library users, and last night’s kickoff party was a good sign that it can be accomplished.