Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Prohibition & Free Beer at the Library

This past Monday we had a first for the Oskaloosa Public Library: a free beer tasting! What made it greater, though, was the fact that we paired it with a presentation on prohibition. Local author, Linda Betsinger McCann, shared about her book Prohibition in Eastern Iowa, and afterward the awesome folks from The Cellar Peanut Pub provided samples of four Iowa craft beers.


Linda was a great presenter and storyteller. She shared about her research process and her interactions with the people she interviewed about prohibition in Iowa. It was interesting to learn that Al Capone - who I only ever associated with Chicago - had a presence and influence in Iowa during the 13 year span of prohibition.

I could tell that Linda is passionate about history and about sharing the past with younger generations. What I really appreciated was her effort to research police records from the local paper to share with the audience. She cautioned everyone that they may learn something about someone they know, as she experienced at other presentations!


Following Linda's presentation, I invited the owner of The Cellar Peanut Pub and his pubtender to talk a little bit about the four craft beers they brought for samples. They included beers from Lion Bridge Brewing Company out of Cedar Rapids, Exile Brewing Co. out of Des Moines, and Peace Tree Brewing Co. out of Knoxville.

I'm very grateful that the The Pub was willing to donate the sampling, and hope that they got further business after giving people a taste of what they offer. The owner and pubtender were great, and it seemed like the people sampling the beers really enjoyed them.

Because Oskaloosa tends toward the conservative side, I was prepared to hear some negative feedback about having alcohol in the library; however, I haven't yet. I did, though, do a bit of investigation beforehand to make sure it was all legal. First, I spoke with the state's bureau of alcoholic beverages who said that if the samples were under and ounce and served only to patrons 21 years or older, it wouldn't violate any state ordinances.

Next I checked with the city attorney and the public works director, and they couldn't find anything in zoning ordinances or the city code that prohibited the sampling. Then I checked with the city's insurance to make sure it would be covered under general liability. Finally, I made sure it was cool with the city manager. He even said he spoke to a couple of city council members, and they liked that I was doing new and different things to bring people into the library.


The event brought 40 people to the library, which I felt for a Monday evening was really good. Some of them even revealed on the program survey I handed out that it was the first program they had ever attended at the library. Everyone had positive comments too!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Turning 30 on the Edge of a Cliff

Nervous, thrilled, scared – this is what I’m feeling as I’m leaving my 20’s behind. I’m turning 30 years old tomorrow, and a part of me feels like I’m about the leap from a giant cliff. When I look back at everything I’ve done in the past 10 years, I can only imagine what possibilities await in the next decade. It’s both frightening and exciting.

Final Fling party my senior year at Graceland.
I entered my 20’s a sophomore at Graceland University, having just made the decision to change from education to a triple major in English writing, literature and math. When I told an academic counselor my plans, she laughed and said I would be there for ten years. I finished in four. But I faced challenging 18 to 24 credit hour semesters, long nights reading and writing papers, and advanced topics in mathematics. I proudly left Graceland with a BA honors degree.

I also left with about $20,000 in debt. With that looming over me, I grabbed the first jobs available. I went back to work at the gas station I worked at during high school and continued to work weekends there while doing overnights at a group home and weekdays as a para at a high school. I lived in a small apartment above a liquor store with three cats and spent what little free time I had reading and writing poetry. Romantic, I know. This lasted about a year and a half before I finally applied to grad school for my MLS.

While in library school, I gained my first job in a library and transitioned to Lawrence. I started at the Lawrence Public Library after an assigned reference desk observation which I coincidentally completed just before a part time position opened up. That was my foot in the door.

Pulling a mannequin from my beetle for a display at LPL.
Thanks to the help of my then supervisor, that part time position grew to full time assistant and then officially “librarian” within 2 years. Keeping track of desk statistics, processing inter-library loans and serials, putting together displays, teaching computer classes – I did everything and I really fell in love with being a librarian.

Lawrence is one of the best places to spend your early 20’s. It’s where I really started to come out of my shell, grew professionally and met my husband, Nate. I learned to love myself, and it was possible because of the positive, youthful, progressive attitude the university town generally espouses. But when I was there, I foresaw little chance to move up professionally. So I applied and gained the director position at the Oskaloosa Public Library, and Nate and I moved to Iowa for my next adventure.

Nate and I cutting our wedding cake, 6/9/12.
I was 27 when I started as director. With only three years of library experience behind me, I had to learn how to work with a library board, represent the library at city council meetings, oversee a department budget and manage a staff, a few of which have worked at the library longer than I’ve been alive. Honestly, I briefly experienced a fear of failure – of not being good enough.

Teen Zombie Crawl - one of my favorite OPL programs.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to do all of the “director responsibilities” alongside many of the things I loved doing at Lawrence. I’ve been passionate about my job and library service, and that’s one of many things that have carried me through. Nate and I bought our first home, and we have grown into the Oskaloosa community together. And that’s where I am now.

So here I go. I’m jumping into my thirties. I’m not sure where they’re going to take me, but I’m excited to get there!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Poetry & Arts in April at the Library

If you've read past blog posts, you'll know that I'm a fan of poetry and that April is National Poetry Month. I try to do at least one thing related to poetry at the library, even if it's a simple display featuring titles from our poetry collection.


In the past, I've gone all out and used mannequins for Poetry In Your Pocket Day, featured favorite poets from staff and let a poetry slamming gorilla loose in the library. This year, I kept the display simple, using a word cloud with poetry related words and phrases.

Borrowing an idea from my days at the Lawrence Public Library, I decided to set up a "Poetry Nook" in the entryway of the library. I've provided pens and paper, and am encouraging patrons to write a poem and put it in the box. The poems, then, will end up in random places around town - in a library book, in a booth at the local coffee shop, etc.

My major poetry event will be for teens. Members of our Teen Advisory Board requested we do a Poetry Slam again this year. For some reason, whenever I plan one of these, I have to include a bag of frozen burritos as one of the prizes. That bag of frozen goodness is always the most coveted prize - even over a $50 gift card!

Our Youth Librarian also has gotten into the spirit of National Poetry Month and has put together a fun Poetry "Mad Lib" for the children's area. I'm looking forward to seeing what crazy things the kids come up with!


I was also approached by FACE of Mahaska County, a local arts organization, about planning and cross promoting arts-related programs and events in Oskaloosa for Arts in April. They recently opened an art center in town, and it's very exciting to see what they're bringing to this small-ish community. One of the things they're doing is yarn bombing different locations around the city - including our Reading Garden:


They've coordinated with a number of organizations in the community and have put together a calendar of things happening this month. From graffiti installations to a Gallery Hop to one act plays directed by high school students, there's a lot going on!