Chattanooga Public Library – Makerspaces and Walk Up Stations

A number of people were surprised that I was going off the beaten track down to Chattanooga for the last stop of my study tour. However Chattanooga Public Library is led by 2014 Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year, Corinne Hill, who in the past three years, with a team of hand-picked librarians from around the States, has turned the library’s fortunes around quite dramatically. Corinne was brought in as Executive Director in 2012 following an independent consultant report which deemed the library to be failing and irrelevant. Chattanooga Public Library is a big space but it does not have the big budget that some of the other libraries I’ve visited have. It is a challenging 1970s concrete building with large open spaces, the floors are reminiscent of aircraft hangers, but by using the space to their advantage Corinne and her leadership team have demonstrated what can be done, providing innovative new spaces with a limited budget. It is still a work in progress and so far most effort has been concentrated on the 4th floor makerspace and the 2nd floor Teens/Tweens and Children’s areas. Much has been written and talked about Chattanooga’s 4th floor and it has been heralded for it’s creative innovation, however it was the 2nd floor Teen/Tween areas that really caught my eye…but I’ll start at the top.

Changes

I met with Corinne Hill and Assistant Director Mary Jane Spehar, they gave me an insight into some of the changes that have taken place in the last couple of years.

The 4th floor is the best known area putting Chattanooga at the forefront of the makerspace movement in libraries but a lot of other changes have taken place. One of the major changes has been the way the library order’s stock, in the past up to 19 people selected the stock, this process has been streamlined, stock is now ordered by two people and new stock is pre-processed. Corinne’s view is that when a book is released it should be available in the library on the same day. If a new book is popular and there are many reservations for it, additional copies are now purchased.

Corinne introduced a patron request system, the premise being that it is cheaper to purchase a paperback book than pay for the cost of staff time and postage for inter-library loans. The promise is that the library will purchase requests that patrons ask for and the patron will be the first person to borrow that book or DVD. It is not a complete carte blanche, the items requested have to fit within the bounds of the collection policy and be available to purchase. Since 2012 there have been 11,000 patron requests. The library is now finding that by adding to their collection in this way, they are purchasing a broader range of materials that are popular with patrons and may not have been chosen by librarians. The process of actively partnering with the community to build the collection is very popular with patrons, patrons feel that the library is listening to them and requests can be turned around within a week.

They have bought into many online services including several for eBooks and eAudio books and an online film streaming service. Very extensive weeding had to take place to make room for the new areas which was quite controversial at the time.

Other changes that took place were investment in customer service training and practices and changes to recruitment. Customer comment cards are placed all around the building for customers to give feedback, every comment is followed up by Mary Jane. Corinne visited an Apple Genius Bar to get her phone fixed and was impressed with the service and staff so she asked Apple for their job description and application form and had them adapted for the library, they then advertised for ‘smart people’. This gave them some new staff who have different skill sets to complement existing staff with library backgrounds.

There has been an institutional cultural shift underway at the Chattanooga Public Library, not all staff have reacted well to the changes that have been made but the process is ongoing and Corinne believes that to create institutional change takes five years. A forthcoming staff day training will be used to highlight to all staff the different activities that happen on the 2nd and the 4th floor.

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4th Floor

I was shown around the 4th floor makerspace by Mary Barnett (4th floor operations) and Elizabeth Gaffney (assistant). The floor had been used as a storage space prior to Corinne’s arrival, it was completely cleared and now offers 12,000 square feet of public laboratory and educational space.  After trying various hours and days they decided that the best times for the floor to be open are Tuesdays to Saturdays 2-8pm.  The space is staffed by three part-time assistants, it is often single staffed and occasionally double staffed.  The mantra on the 4th floor is that the library is there to facilitate, it is all about self-directed learning, the staff are learning too so won’t do the work for people but can help if needed, the ethos is to allow people to learn themselves. Originally the floor was designed to be a conduit for people to be self-organised, however they are now trying to start some introductory workshops to help people get started in the space. Where possible they ask people in the community to come and share some of their skills rather than relying on staff to learn enough to teach. The focus of the 4th floor is to support production, connection and sharing of knowledge by providing access to tools, facilities and space.

The most popular item on the 4th floor is the 3D printer, the filament is charged at cost ($0.06 per gram) so most items printed cost no more than about $1.50.  Other popular items include a zine making area – essentially cutting, sticking and folding to make small magazines. There is also a fabric making area with a loom and sewing machine, a vinyl plotter and a laser cutter as well as an area with traditional tools.

The floor also houses the GigLab, Chattanooga is the Gig City, one Gigabit per second internet speed is available to every household and business in the city by super-fast fibre optic broadband. The GigLab offers one Gigabit of connectivity throughout the library and through the WiFi, it also offers a 4K extremely high definition screen, an audio visual streaming system and virtual servers. Popular recent additions are two Oculus Rift headsets enabling virtual reality gaming.

Th vast 4th floor space

The vast 4th floor space

3D printer

3D printer

Zine making area - popular cutting and sticking

Zine making area – popular cutting and sticking

traditional tools

Traditional tools

Gig Lab

GigLab

Virtual Reality in the GigLab space

Virtual Reality in the GigLab space

Sewing and weaving area

Sewing and weaving area

Seating and meeting area

Seating and meeting area

3rd Floor

The 3rd floor has more of a traditional library feel and houses the genealogy and local history collections as well as a computer suite dedicated to local studies and family history databases.

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2nd Floor

Teens and Tweens area

The Teens and Tweens area covers over half of the second floor, it used to be the adult non-fiction area but in the last couple of years it has been completely cleared out. Now there are Chromebooks for teens to use in the library and there is no enquiry desk, there are usually one to two members of staff who floorwalk and the space is filled with lots of interesting ever-changing things for teens to do.

Megan Emery is a librarian based on the 2nd floor, she designs the programming for the teen and tween department and also the programming for the 4th floor makerspace. She is currently focusing on parallel programming ideas between the 2nd and 4th floors, making the 4th floor more family orientated and a natural progression for young adults from the teen area. This will enable trips to the library to become a greater whole family experience.

Megan has worked on Etsy’s Entrepreneurship Program for libraries, with her knowledge from this programme she has developed a weekly Saturday teen camp called Camp EtsyNooga, it runs over five weeks and is aimed at helping teens start their own small creative businesses. The teens need to come along with a product that they have made or designed and sessions concentrate on helping them with pricing, replicating their product and marketing. At the end of the camp they attend and sell their products at a craft fair.

The 2nd floor has an interesting range of walk up program stations, these are not operated by staff and again the focus is on self-directed learning. Through a series of focus groups they asked teens and tweens what they would like to see in the space, so the programming is developed with the users’ input.  The stations include a gaming area, Minecraft stations, a MaKey MaKey station (currently glasses of water linked to making music on a Chromebook), science experiments, Spirograph, a tracing table, button badge making and an iPad Instagram photo booth. There are also areas for theatre, art and a big screen for weekend movies. One of the programmes that was on while I was there, which really appealed, was “Let’s take things apart”, old electronic devices that no longer work, e.g laptops, VHS machines, radios etc., are donated to the library and the teens can spend an hour taking them apart. The programme an hour later is “Let’s put things together” here teens and tweens spend an hour making new weird and wonderful things from the items they’ve taken apart in the previous session.

Programming on the 2nd floor is extensive with multiple activities each day, many of them are advertised in the events pages but many are just put on at short notice if teens want them and there are always a range of walk up stations.

There is also of course a book area and some staff recommendations to help teens decided what to read. The manga and graphic novels are particularly popular. Teens are encouraged to sit back and read for 20 minutes if they are spending time on the gaming station and want to change a game.

Megan operates a teen volunteer programme where she has about 180 teens and tweens who help out. There are no set roles and no set times. It is very flexible, they can turn up and there is always an ongoing list of (real) things to do which maybe about developing programmes, designing craft areas, art projects, helping on walk up stations. Volunteers are initially trained to do pop-up programmes, take statistics, engage with patrons. Some experienced teens also provide peer to peer learning, teaching and supporting new volunteers. Over 800 hours were donated in August alone.

Daily programmes

Daily programmes

Gaming area

Gaming area

Minecraft stations

Minecraft stations

I have a go at Makey Makey - walk up music from science activity

I have a go at MaKey MaKey – walk up music from science activity

Makey Makey

Makey Makey

STEM programing

STEM programing

Spirograph table

Spirograph table

Lightbox tracing station

Lightbox tracing station

Button badge making

Button badge making

Instagram photo booth using an iPad in a box

Instagram photo booth using an iPad in a box

Megan shows me the Big Screen

Megan shows me the Big Screen

Make your own floor board game

Make your own floor board game

And some books!

And some books!

Teen staff top picks

Teen staff top picks

Children’s Library

I was shown around the Children’s area by Lee Hope, Youth Services Coordinator. This area had been rows and rows of shelving with no seating, it is now an open space where children and their carers want to spend time. Similarly to the Teen and Tween area there are lots of walk up programme stations, fun things for children to do based on STEAM learning (STEM plus the arts). These include Lego and Duplo tables, sensory pods, hopscotch taped on the floor, postcard writing, a dressing up area  and magnet letters. Story times take place in a separate children’s events room and it was interesting to hear that they also deliver a regular sensory story time, they find these are particularly good for children with autism as well as visually impaired or deaf children.

Children's Library

Children’s Library

Sensory pods

Sensory pods

Hopscotch in the library

Hopscotch in the library

Felt table

Felt table

Write a postcard to your favourite book character

Write a postcard to your favourite book character

Making puppets with paper plates and crayons

Making puppets with paper plates and crayons

Magnet letter board using roasting tins

Magnet letter board using roasting tins

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1st Floor

The entrance of the library combines a coffee shop with the circulation desk, all circulation staff make coffee as well. It is aptly named ‘Circulation and Percolation’. The coffee shop breaks even, it is not there to raise funds but provides an additional service to customers. The rest of the 1st floor houses the adult fiction, non-fiction, 20 public computers, magazines, DVDs and audio books.

Coffee shop entrance

Coffee shop entrance

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Adult fiction

Adult fiction

I’d like to thank everyone at Chattanooga Public Library for their time and the information they shared. There are many inspiring ideas here that can easily be adapted to suit other libraries.

Free Library of Philadelphia – Doing Things Differently

I spent two days at the Free Library of Philadelphia Central Library with a full schedule arranged by Donald Root, Chief of Central Public Services, and his assistant Stephanie. It was great to meet with so many teams and also to meet with Free Library President, Siobhan Reardon, Librarian of the Year 2015.

I will cover my time at the Free Library in more detail in my final report but here I will concentrate on some of the ways they are doing things differently.

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Cafe

The cafe is run by a non-profit organisation which supports the homeless. It offers work skills to formerly homeless people in customer service and catering, encouraging them to progress into employment. The library works in partnership with the cafe and makes no charge for it to operate from the building.

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Business Library

The Central Library is a large historic 1927 building which is due to undergo a major expansion project. They hope to build a new area underground, at the back of the building, which will house the children’s department and an auditorium. Underneath the current building are six floors of stacks. All the stock that was kept in the stacks has been moved offsite to a facility 3.5 miles away and this area will be redeveloped to make a new Business, Research and Innovation Center (BRIC), a Commons and a teen area. The building work is due to start in January 2016.

Charles Smith introduced me to his business team and explained how BRIC will consolidate the many current business areas of the library into one modern space. It will include the Workplace which is an area for jobseekers to find support with CVs, job applications and interview techniques. Another section will be the Regional Foundation Center which supports all levels of nonprofit organisations through research, databases, resources, programming and referrals. The new centre will also provide areas for business mentors, legal advisors and financial advisors to support small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The Business Library partners extensively with the Philadelphia business community to provide a wide range of free, regular, programming for businesses and entrepreneurs. Presentations and classes available include: branding, finance, technology, business plans, motivational speaking, women in business etc. These are very well attended with numbers ranging between 80 and 150, an additional benefit from the programming is that it offers great opportunities for networking.

The business department are also involved with health, they are currently exploring the possibility of having a library nurse to offer basic health assessments. For the last year two social workers, employed by the city, have worked from the library and support patrons in a variety of ways, especially the homeless, older people and those who may have mental health issues.

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Literacy Enrichment After School Programme (LEAP)

Chris Caputo and her team met with me to give an overview of their children and teens educational programming.

Drop-in after school sessions are available at all 54 library branches. The sessions offer homework help but also extensive STEM programming to extend the learning that happens in school. 53 adult after school leaders and about 130 high school students are employed in the LEAP programme, the teens serving as role models for younger children and their peers. College students are employed to support teen after school programmes. The Free Library also buys into an online subscription provided by Brainfuse which offers homework help and online chat to a live tutor.

The library’s College Prep Program provides high school students with workshops and coaching to help them gain college places. The programme includes college fairs, application process, applying for financial aid and exam prep.

Words at Play

The Words at Play project is a community outreach programme for families with children aged 0-5 and focuses on increasing vocabulary through play. Children who are exposed to more words when they are young have a higher success rate when they start school, children in areas of high poverty are not exposed to as many words as their peers in wealthier areas. The library partners with the science museum, an art museum, the performing arts centre and the zoo and the project is funded by a large bank in the area. They target communities in North Philadelphia which are among the poorest in the United States. The project provides community events and play parties in libraries and community locations, the events may have live animals, music or performers but always include vocabulary building activities to help parents and children learn together.

Senior Services

The Senior Services area was the brainchild of President Siobhan Reardon. It is a relaxed area with large light windows, carpeting, comfortable armchairs, newspapers, magazines and books, giving senior citizens a more homely area. Additionally there is a computer area, some of the computers have assitive technology and senior patrons can use the computers for an extended time. There is also a private screened area where advice and one to one sessions are held. Dick Levinson, Senior Services Librarian, provides a wide range of programming for older people which includes computer skills, hobby talks, history lectures, learning new skills, healthy lifestyles and finance planning.

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E-Gadget Helpdesk, TechMobile and Community Hotspots

The E-Gadget helpdesk has been running for over a year in the main foyer of the Central Library, it runs as a drop-in with two library staff, twice a week and they always have people waiting. Originally it was to help patrons use the ebook service but now they help with anything from using selfie sticks to setting up apps on tablets.

The TechMobile is a custom built mobile computer lab, it is fitted out with eight laptops and seven tablets as well as being a WiFi hotspot. The vehicle attends community events, community organisations and groups and is staffed by a Digital Resource Specialist and a driver/assistant. One to one help is on offer as well as workshops.

Three Community Hot Spots are provided by the Free Library in high need areas, these are computer areas set up within community organisations. They are staffed by Digital Resource Specialists and are open access for all the community to use (no library card required) but workshops are also delivered on work skills, computer basics and social media. An additional hot spot is available at the airport for travellers.

Digital Resource Specialists are a new initiative, they are usually promoted from information assistants who are keen to work with technology. The aim is that there will be one Digital Resource Specialist based in each library branch and they will be the go-to person to provide computer or technology help at that library, they will also deliver technology programming.

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Culinary Literacy Centre

The Culinary Literary Centre on the fourth floor of the Central Library is an innovative and inspirational new service from Siobhan Reardon and her team. It is the first of it’s kind in the United States. The centre houses a commercial kitchen, cameras and a large screen as well prep tables and seating. The premise behind it is to connect literacy and cooking. Reading, maths, measurements, conversions, sequencing, are all important parts of literacy and cooking. The centre looks at literacy in it’s widest forms including health literacy and consumer literacy, engaging with the immigrant population and residents with low literacy levels. Additionally the centre provides a wide range of community programming including demonstrations by local chefs, bakers, cook book author events, school visits and workshops, family cooking, preserving classes and cake decorating . Librarians Liz Fitzgerald and Suzanna Urminska have developed multiple literacies progammes with hands-on experiential learning, these have proved to be incredibly popular with the community and local schools. The programmes they offer are expanding and one of the most recent initiatives has been to make mobile kitchen boxes to enable culinary literacy outreach and programming in branch libraries. Each box includes an electric wok, a blender and a safe set of kitchen implements that adults and children can use, so while not every library can have an industrial kitchen they can all take part in some culinary literacy programming.

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There is a great deal more innovation and community engagement happening at The Free Library of Philadelphia including developing neighbourhood library clusters and community councils, strategic initiatives, volunteering and working with friends groups in new ways – but I will save the rest for my report.

NYPL – Bronx Library Center

The Bronx Library Center is the largest public library in the Bronx, it is a modern building of 78,000 square feet, which opened in 2006. I was shown around by Chief Librarian Michael Alvarez.

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The library is open from 9am-9pm Monday-Saturday and 12pm-6pm on Sundays. The opening hours have been extended since it first opened from 8pm-9pm, the library is especially well attended in the evenings and the later opening time allows for more evening programming. Circulation is not increasing at the Bronx Library Center but attendance of programmes is very much on the rise.

There are 130 computers, a mixture of desktops and laptops, the free WiFi is used extensively. Shelving and book stock has been reduced to make way for more tables, seating and study areas, more is now spent on digital resources. During my visit it seemed that the seating areas were well used with people on their laptops, phones, gaming devices and tablets but there were very few people browsing the books.

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Careers Service

The library has a specialist careers area offering classes, help with resumes (CVs), one-on-one coaching for job seekers, online resources, computers and three job fairs per year. The careers centre is open seven days a week.

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TechConnect

Computer classes are delivered by librarians and information assistants and these are supplemented by librarians from the TechConnect programme, a central NYPL team. TechConnect offers over 80 free technology classes from the basics to coding, using Skype to photo editing, business applications to purchasing a tablet and so much more. There are also regular classes on using the catalogue and library online resources. Where possible patrons are signposted to sign up for a computer class if it seems that they need support on the PCs.

BridgeUp

NYPL BridgeUp is an after school educational programme for at risk youth, funded by a legacy trust donation. The Bronx  Library Center is one of the five NYPL sites to host the programme. Partnering with local schools, specialist educators are employed by NYPL to work with selected young people over a five year period.

Adult Learning Centre

The library provides free adult literacy classes delivered by library staff and volunteers. It is the biggest centre for these classes in the NYPL system, the demand for adult literacy classes is extremely high and the library currently delivers 24 classes per week. It has been one of the largest growth areas for the Bronx Library Center. There are also free courses in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to improve speaking and listening in English and a young adult literacy programme.

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Adult literacy class

Adult literacy class

Teen Area

The teen area is popular and welcoming, there are young staff in this area and adults are discouraged from regularly using this part of the library. Teens are consulted on what they would like to see in their library. A monthly teen council group is held and any teen can take part so they can have a voice on future programming and library services.  Current teen programmes include author events, a coding game competition, design a leather bag workshop, grafitti workshop and a travelling zoo in the library. NYPL also host regular TeenLIVE cultural, artistic and technology programmes across the branches, these are funded through a family endowment left to the library for young audiences.

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Children’s Area

The childrens library has it’s own floor. During my visit children flooded into the library at the end of school to do homework and use the computers and WiFi. Homework help was available if needed. The children’s library also has it’s own room for events, story times and school visits and a smaller room for hands on maker programming, both crafts and technology. There are extensive activities available for children including video games (Xbox, PS3 etc), crafts, story times, puppetry, e-book discussions, science Tuesdays, family sessions, computers and board games. The Bronx Library Center also hosts a free after school programme, Innovation Lab, which runs at selected NYPL sites, delivered by staff and volunteers. The Innovation Labs are aimed at tweens and encourage them to deal with issues they may be facing by using blogs, podcasts and technology.

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Auditorium

In the basement there is a large auditorium. This can be hired out to host events for other organisations but there is also a regular programme of events including film shows, concerts, author talks, poetry and presentations.

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Outreach

I met up with Jean Harripersaud, who heads up Adult Services at the Bronx Library Center and also oversees programming, the library has the highest amount of programming in the city. Jean ensures that there is extensive outreach and collaboration with the community. Her team take part in local festivals outside the library but they also continually go out to visit different groups to promote library services. This includes visiting senior centres, nursing homes, schools, childcare providers, detention centres, and community groups. She says that wherever possible she likes to give a quick presentation to groups or at community events as she feels that this is far more effective way of promoting library services than just having a table at an event. A new outreach development Jean is planning for the team is visiting nursing homes to read short stories to residents.

It was great to see such a busy, vibrant library, so well used by all sectors of the community. I found it interesting that although this is a large library, like other libraries I have visited there were very few library staff on the floor, usually only one person on each floor or two at peak times in each area. Peak times are the lunch hour and after school/work.  A lot more of the staff time is spent on planning and delivering programming and Michael says that most of their patrons are fairly self-sufficient when it comes to using the library spaces.

Red Hook – Small Library, Big Ideas!

Red Hook Public Library is situated in Red Hook Village, Dutchess County, New York State, the population of the village is under 2000, the library serves a population of approximately 4000 with out-lying areas. Red Hook Library is run by director Erica Freudenberger and a team of two full time staff, seven part time staff (between 10 and 20 hours) and five pages. Pages are teenage staff, aged 14 + who work 3-5 hours per week, after school, weekends and holidays, they earn the minimum wage. There are also 12-15 volunteers giving a few hours each, they usually help with shelving but may help run or lead activities.

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This small library is based in an historic octagonal building, with limited space the team have found plenty of innovative ways to engage with their community. Red Hook Library has been nationally recognised for the work they have done, it has been designated a five star library by the Library Journal and was a finalist this year in the Best Small Library of America Award.

Although only just over 4000 square feet, there is space for a children’s library, a tween room, a teen area, adult library, study areas, three public computers and a children’s learning garden.

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Red Hook is a municipal library which has a Board of Trustees. The Trustees act as governors of the library, dealing with finance and policies, they are appointed by the Mayor of the village. Erica reports to the trustees at the monthly board meetings. The library is funded by local taxes. The funding system means that residents vote in local elections for the amount they are prepared to spend on their library. This means that in order to secure appropriate funding it is imperative that the library demonstrates it’s value to the community.

Red Hook Board of Trustees meeting

Red Hook Board of Trustees meeting

As one of the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) cohort Red Hook Library have been working hard on their community engagement activities, much of the programming is based on experiential learning. The amount of programming they achieve is truly impressive. On average they put on about 15 programmes per week. Usually the planning is done in 6-8 week cycles. Programmes include:

  • Romp and Stomp – pre-school
  • Toddler FUNdamentals – playing and developing fine motor skills
  • Petite Picasso – art for pre-schoolers
  • Story time – pre-school
  • Spinning yarns – knitters group
  • Libratory – STEM based maker sessions, after school
  • Crafternoon – for grade school children
  • Lego Club
  • Curators of the Lost Art – hands on art history and practice, after school grades 6-9
  • Minecraft
  • Two monthly book groups – adults afternoon and evening
  • Colour Club – adult colouring
  • Teen Tech Help – Saturdays, help with digital devices by pages and teen volunteers 10am-2pm
  • Farmers Market – Children’s craft activities and stories weekly at the village Farmer’s Market
  • Homeschool Discovery Zone – for homeschooled children and families
  • Learn conversational Italian – 8 week course for adults – beginner and intermediate classes
  • Learn Japanese for fun – introductory course for adults and high school students – volunteer led
  • Latin for teens – volunteer led
  • Shakespeare Discussion Group – monthly
  • Job Search Clinic- partnering with local career centre
  • Health Exchange Navigators – private sessions with navigators – partnership
  • After school sessions held at the High school library – currently web design and graphics – weekly partnering with school

In addition to these regular sessions there are many one-off adult evening events usually led by members of the community sharing their skills. These talks and workshops have included bee-keeping, gardening, brewing and maple tree tapping.

Hispanic Heritage Month organised by the library at the Farmers' Market

Hispanic Heritage Month organised by the library at the Farmers’ Market


Children's craft at the Farmer's Market

Children’s craft at the Farmer’s Market

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Erica and the Mayor of Red Hook at the Farmer's Market

Erica and the Mayor of Red Hook at the Farmer’s Market


Erica and some of her team at Red Hook Farmers' Market. LtoR Dawn, Fiona, Erica and Jacob

Erica and some of her team at Red Hook Farmers’ Market.
LtoR Dawn, Fiona, Erica and Jacob

The work that Erica and her team do is inspiring, they work extensively with partners, including the nearby University, Bard College and the High School. There is a monthly meeting with village organisations and businesses “Red Hook Together” where there is an open dialogue and organisations share what they are doing, giving further opportunities for partnership work. Programmes are often held out of the library in community venues because of the limitations of space but this allows extensive outreach work, for all ages, and increases the visibility of the library and their work. Erica is constantly talking with her community and many of the events they deliver have been suggested by community members keen to share their skills.

Red Hook Library is thriving with over 150,000 visits and 11,000 attending programmed events in the last year as well as increased issues. Erica is convinced that the book issues will take care of themselves if you have people attending the programmed events. This library is highly valued by it’s community.

A final couple of points that may be useful for UK libraries when considering activities and events. At Red Hook and the other libraries that I have visited so far, there are no charges for any of the programmed events or courses, everything is offered for free.

The libraries are also open for longer hours, early evening is the busiest time. Red Hook is open 10am-7pm Monday – Friday and 10am-4pm on Saturdays. Many adult events are later in the evening after the library is closed. The staff work flexible shifts to accommodate out of hours programmes. Provision of library services outside the standard working day can only help engage the community with the library.

The Future is Programming!

After visiting Hartford I went home with Erica Freudenberger to her very beautiful house in Catskill. Erica had very kindly offered to put me up for a few days and introduce me to librarians in the Hudson Valley region as well as show me her own fascinating library at Red Hook – which will get a blog post all of it’s own.

On Thursday Erica took me along to the Mid Hudson Library System (MHLS) Future of Programming Workshop, in Ploughkeepsie.

I should start by explaining that library programming has a different context in the States, it means organising events and activities rather than something to do with computers. In the United States many public libraries have Programming Librarians with the responsibility of creating and organising all activities and events run in libraries.

The MHLS consists of 66 public libraries and It was great to be introduced to key library personnel from the area.

In the United States, much like in the UK, there is a downward trend in footfall and circulation. Programming, for all ages, is a growth area and is a way for libraries to further a core activity of facilitating knowledge creation. The workshop aimed to promote increasing community connections through programming.

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The session was introduced by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Co-ordinator for Library Sustainability. Rebekkah explained the importance of focusing on community needs rather than a library’s needs and wants. Libraries need to help build communities by continually looking for new ways and ideas to meet ever changing community needs.

Janie Hermann

The first speaker was Janie Hermann, Public Programming Librarian at Princeton Public Library, New Jersey. Janie told us how adult programming had been minimal at Princeton, however programming for all ages has grown in recent years and the library now offers over 1,700 public programs per year. The programming team is cross-departmental with Janie being the full time lead but 14 other team members each participating for a variety of hours to produce a wide range of events. She said that there had been a culture shift and there was now more emphasis on programming at Princeton Public Library than anything else.

Key tips Janie made were:

  • Just because something is free – you don’t have to offer it. Running events and activities is never free, staff time needs to be considered. Set goals and objectives for events.
  • Find a balance – what is too much and what is not enough? Princeton runs events 5 – 6 nights per week, this offers free entertainment to customers and residents.
  • Princeton sends out a weekly newsletter ‘ This Week in the Library’ at 7am every Monday. This enables people to set their calendars every week,
  • Think thematically, programming in quarters so people can take part in a series of events
  • Check that the collection can back up and support the programme.
  • Work with the collection development librarians, do an author’s books circulate in your libraries?
  • Do some blue sky thinking with your team – nothing is too outrageous, be adventurous, it doesn’t mean that every suggestion has to run.
  • Play Pause Rewind Delete – weed your programmes just like a collection. Look at partnership programmes annually, get rid of what’s not working to make way for the new.
  • You have to be flexible and spontaneous.
  • Take ideas from the community – listen to your community.
  • You need to have good PR, good staffing and a programming budget.

Some of the successful programmes put on by the Princeton team include:

  • Election Night at the Library – big screen
  • World Cup football – big screen
  • Rubik’s Cube competition
  • Royal Wedding guests – dressing up and big screen
  • Opera at Princeton – partnership with University
  • Environmental Film Festival – invite entries, screen films
  • Student Film and Video Festival – children to 24years
  • How to  – skills sharing festival
  • Civic Hackathon – designing apps for the town

Erinn Batykefer

The second speaker was Erin Batykefer, co-founder of The Library as Incubator Project and Programming Librarian at New Canaan Library. Erinn suggested that we need to re-frame what we do in the library, to connect people to information. The purpose of libraries is to exchange information and books are not the only way to do this. The reference section is no longer relevant we now have more up to date information on the Internet but we should also recognise that sometimes information is held in people. Libraries should see the people we serve as collaborators in the information exchange.

Erinn’s view is that programming should be treated as collection development. The events calendar needs to be representative of the community. Libraries should respond to suggestions from the community and provide events in a range of formats. Ideally thematic suites of programmes should be created so people have the opportunity to join at multiple points.

Erinn’s key areas to consider when organising a programme calendar are: Subject, Format and Diversity. Examples at Canaan Library include:

  • Skill Shares – e.g. knitting and crocheting, intergenerational, peer to peer learning, the library acting as facilitator.
  • Workshops – e.g. paper making workshop
  • Classes – e.g. IT, WordPress bootcamp followed up by monthly blogging get together.
  • Lectures – e.g. Birds of Prey, Bee Keeping
  • Author talks – partnering with schools and colleges

Erinn’s tip for ensuring diversity in the programming schedule is to ‘shelve’ programmes in Dewey. She does this simply by putting programmes under subject headings and colour coding the subjects. If the programme calendar is in a range of colours, diversity should be achieved.

Hudson Valley Libraries – early adopters, investing staff time in programming

The final session looked at three MHLS libraries that successfully use extensive programming as part of their core service.

Erica Freudenberger – Director of Red Hook Public Library

Patti Haar – Director of Patterson Library

Sue Ray – Director of Catskill Public Library

Some of the great suggestions and ideas shared by these librarians were:

  • Use your community’s skills – library as a facilitator
  • People like to be asked to share their skills
  • Listen to your community and do it for them
  • Serve the entire community not just those who use the library
  • Use community spaces for events – get out of the library, leave the building and meet people
  • Collaborate – run programmes with school librarians or local groups
  • take story times out of the library – visit local businesses, learn about baking, police, fire services
  • Successful programming takes commitment, funding, time and food – always serve some food
  • Programming is about experiential learning
  • The library is a venue facilitating knowledge creation
  • It will take time to build a public following
  • Don’t charge for anything
  • CANI – constant and neverending improvement
  • Hire the right people with shared vision and values
  • Proper outreach – there is no limit!
L to R Erinn Batykefer, Janie Hermann, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Frances Tout.

L to R Erinn Batykefer, Janie Hermann, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Frances Tout.

Welcome to my Travelling Librarian 2015 blog!

In April I applied for the Travelling Librarian annual bursary jointly run by CILIP and The English Speaking Union (ESU). The award is an opportunity for a UK library and information professional to build professional relationships with their counterparts in the United States or a Commonwealth country through a study tour.

My application was fortunate enough to be shortlisted and last week I travelled to the ESU’s Mayfair offices for an interview. The interview panel asked some tough questions about my proposal and while I could answer them I was not entirely sure that I had managed to get all of the right messages across. I was therefore delighted and amazed to receive an email the next day to say that I had been chosen as this year’s recipient of the award.

I have decided to start this blog early in the process, partly as I have a couple of days off work so it is a good opportunity to build the blog but also to capture some of the planning processes of the study tour.

I will be visiting the United States for three weeks in September/October 2015, you can find out more about the proposal and itinerary in the About and Itinerary tabs. I will be visiting public libraries, both large and small, to learn about their innovative community engagement programmes. I intend to visit some diverse communities to find out how different projects meet the needs of different communities. I am interested in The American Library Association’s ‘Libraries Transforming Communities‘ (LTC) initiative. The work of the programme is designed to support librarians to become more connected with their communities, build stronger relationships and work collaboratively to improve learning, health and well-being through a ‘turning outward’ approach. I hope to visit three of the ten libraries from the LTC cohort. The other libraries I will visit are larger city libraries which have all made recent innovative changes to their buildings or developed new services to meet the changing needs of their communities.

I have been delighted with the welcoming and enthusiastic responses I have had from the libraries I have contacted so far and I am looking forward to firming up arrangements with them over the coming weeks.