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.

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DCPL – Collections, Labs and Accessibility

I had a weekend in Washington DC before my meetings at The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (Central Library) on Monday. This allowed me a bit of time to catch up with myself and have a look at some of the city. For a librarian a visit to the Library of Congress is a must, they offer free, hour long tours around the main Jefferson Building. The tours concentrate on the history, art and architecture of the Library of Congress and are led by very knowledgable volunteers. There are other exhibitions and library treasures to explore. I also visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, both of which I can recommend. A walk down the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial and The White House is also a must. The amazing thing about Washington DC is that all museums and buildings are free entry.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (Central Library)

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The 440,000 square ft building was designed by architect Mies van der Rohe, it was completed in 1972 and in 2007 it was designated an historic landmark by the District of Columbia. A major three year renovation and extension programme is due to start in the next 18 months. This will include adding an additional storey onto the top floor. While the refurbishment takes place the library will move off the site. They are currently in the process of looking for accommodation in the downtown area for each different department. I was shown around the building by Operations Manager April King before a series of meetings DCPL had set up for me.

Highlights of the tour, not included later, were:

  • Adult Literacy Resource Center  – Help to pass High School Diplomas, computer assisted learning, help with reading, writing and maths, English as an additional language and conversation circles. The centre runs classes and one to one help delivered by tutors and supported by volunteers.
  • Computer Lab – A wide range of free computer classes are provided ranging from the basics to designing a website. There are usually three classes a day Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays.  Computer classes are delivered by a tutor and volunteers. The computer lab is also used for staff training.
  • Teen Area – Staff work between the Teen Area and the Children’s Library. The area include’s gaming and a small studio, Mac computers, and YA books. Teens can put forward ideas they would like to do e.g. film making. It was interesting to find that they are considering changing some of their Macs for PCs as the feedback they have had is not all teens are comfortable with Macs.
  • Children’s Library – A large area where they provide extensive after school programming. The space includes separate baby and toddler areas, with  a sensory wall. There is also a large colourful story time room, usually accommodating up to 60 children and carers. During holiday periods they can have 150 attending story times.
  • The library partners with a number of local government organisations, this includes the local jail and a room is available for video visits for families of men awaiting trial. A councillor for the homeless also uses the space and a support agency for veterans operates from the library. Advice sessions on ‘Obama Care’ are frequently available. Other civic partnerships include tax office advice sessions and disability benefit – help to fill out forms.

I had lunch with Kim Zablud, Assistant Director of Public Services, we discussed the possibilities and concepts of the new building and what will still be relevant in five years time, when the new building will be open. The current plans are to retain the makerspaces, co-working business spaces, zones for government partner agencies and provide a visible centre for innovation. Book stock may be reduced but there is likely to be more of a book store arrangement, with low level shelving, ‘grab and go’ fiction, a cafe and a visitors’ centre.

Kim explained how a staff visioning study came up with five anchor concepts for the new library.

  1. The City’s reading room – traditional library space
  2. The City’s innovation lab – maker movement and co-working
  3. The City’s gathering place – place for people to meet and public meetings
  4. The City’s classroom – place for learning, all ages
  5. The City’s forum – a place for public discussion about things of importance to the community.

The new space will have a lot of programming space so they will be relying heavily on community partners to deliver programmes. It is likely that that they will have an events co-ordinator to ensure that there are plenty of daily events.

A range of social services are available including a library social worker

A range of social services are available

Computer teaching room

Computer teaching room

Computer Classes

Computer Classes

Children's Library

Children’s Library

Story time room

Story time room

Lego in the Children's Library

Lego in the Children’s Library

Teen Centre

Teen Centre

Teen Centre

Teen Centre

Partnering with local bicycle hire company, making the most of unnused outside space

Partnering with local bicycle hire company, making the most of unused outside space

Special Collections

After lunch I met with Mark Greek, special collections co-ordinator. The special collections is made up of Washingtoniana and a Black Studies Centre. The Washingtoniana is one of the largest local history centres in a public library in the US, it includes a public archive, micro film, newspapers, periodicals, books, photographs, maps, art and sculpture. Most of the collection is donated and the space available will double in size in the new building. One option in the new building will be for the Historical Society to move in with the Special Collections department which will increase the collection size. The department run public programming, a recent programme was the history of murals in the city. They also act as facilitators for community meetings. A lot of programmes are delivered by staff, out in community spaces during the evenings and weekends. Staff work flexibly to enable these programmes to take place and Mark said that empowering staff with ownership of projects helps with this process.

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Memory Lab

Jaime Mears is a resident fellow from the Library of Congress, she has been placed at DCPL for one year to develop a project helping raise awareness of personal archiving and digitising. Jaime’s exciting project is likely to be very popular with the public, it will be ready to launch next February. The Memory Lab will be a space where the public will be able to transfer obsolete formats to digital files, Jaime has researched the formats that were most popular by the numbers that were purchased, VHS, VHS Cs, mini DVs, audio cassettes, photos and transparencies. The public wil be able to do this for free, it will be very accessible and will be promoted as a social activity, e.g. families come to the library with their old home movies, enjoy watching them together, digitise them – staff will show them how.

Jaime has also developed a series of workshops such as archiving your Facebook pages. She will be spending time making sure that she teaches the lab staff how to use the equipment and is also writing detailed workshop lesson plans so that the project can be used by other public libraries. There are plans to develop a picture based wiki with information to help people use the lab, this will be available online and in paper format in the lab. Jaime will also be producing preservation information to help ensure that people have the resources they need to take care of their digital files once they have visited the lab e.g. best practices.

There are currently no other projects like this in United States public libraries but a similar project is already in operation at Vancouver Public Library. Jaime has a blog where she is documenting her project.

Jaime Mears testing phase of the Memory Lab

Jaime Mears testing phase of the Memory Lab

Centre for Accessibility

I next met with Adaptive Services Librarian, Rose Asuquo. The centre tries to ensure that DCPL is accessible for people with all types of disabilities, it includes the DC Library for the Blind which is part of the National Library Service for the Blind. Every state has a Library for the Blind. The National Library Service for the Blind is run from the Library of Congress and provides DCPL with the talking book machines and the talking books for free. There are about 1000 DCPL patrons who use the Library for the Blind service.

A books at home service operates for patrons with short term disabilities, there are only about 50 patrons using this service, books or dvds are posted out to them in zipped bags whenever they require them, the books for the blind are delivered in the same way. Rose said that most of the interaction for the Library for the Blind and at home service patrons is done over the phone, they do not meet 99% of these customers.

The Centre for Accessibility offers many other services including a wide range of assitive technology  hardware and software for computers. Mac has a full range of accessibility features but Rose finds that many patrons are using PCs and while there is accessibility on Microsoft, patrons prefer JAWS screen reader software as it has greater functionality.

Extensive programmes catering for all aspects of disability are delivered by the centre, including:

  • Accessibility networking for web developers
  • Accessibility Hackathons
  • Youth education, independence, employment and technology fairs
  • ASL story hour – stories, crafts and therapy dogs
  • Blind and low vision game nights – Scrabble, Monopoly, Bingo and Uno
  • Braille book club for kids
  • Celebrations of deaf culture
  • Sign language classes
  • Technology training sessions
  • Talking book club
  • iPad and Android training sessions

It was very impressive to see a department in a public library with such a wide range of services and options for people with disabilities.

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Free audio book machines for the blind and visually impaired

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The centre keeps thousand of audio books for the visually impaired. Cassette tape size but USB fittings.

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A wide range of assitive hardware and software is available for patrons

Assitive gaming station

Assitive gaming station

The Labs

Maryann James-Daley is the Manager of the Digital Commons and The Labs, she showed me around these new innovative areas.

The Digital Commons houses public use PCs and  Macs, patrons can use the computers twice a day for 70 minutes. The space includes the Dream Lab co-working space, ‘incubators’ (small glass offices for small business use) can be used as a one off for meetings or may be used regularly by some individuals as office space. Regular nonprofits or start-ups can sign a contract with the library and in return for free use of office space, they agree to deliver one programme per month in their area of expertise, e.g. marketing, design, social media, coding etc.

An espresso book machine is available which can be used to print bound copies of out of copyright books or a patron’s own book or report.

There is also a small booth available for patrons to Skype in.

The Studio Lab offers, for free with a library card, a fully working recording studio, rehearsal space for bands, a green screen, photography programming, photography studio space, interview and podcasting booths.

The Fab Lab is a maker space with seven 3D printers, a 3D scanner, laser cutters, wire bender, traditional tools and soldering equipment. An extensive range of programming is offered, mostly in the evenings. There are two makers in residence who can inspire patrons and deliver programmes. They are funded by the foundation and are in residence for a year.

Regular 20-30 minute orientation sessions are held for the labs, patrons need to complete an orientation session before they can use the labs, it includes health and safety information and expectations. Certification sessions are also required to use specific machines, once patrons have taken these sessions they are free to book sessions to use the labs and equipment. There is no charge to use the labs, customers bring in their own maker materials and there is a nominal charge for 3D printing.

The staff of the labs are not necessarily librarians, although some are (with a keen interest in technology), other staff employed have a technology background. The lab staff rotate so they cover all of the labs and the Digital Commons.

Espresso Book Machine

Espresso Book Machine

paperbacks made from the Espresso Book Machine

Paperbacks made from the Espresso Book Machine

Small meeting rooms/office space for businesses

Small co-working rooms/office space for businesses in DC Commoms

Skype desk

Skype booth – DC Commons

Studio Lab - fully equipped recording studio and practice space

Studio Lab – fully equipped recording studio and practice space

Sound booth

Sound booth

Maker Lab

Fab Lab – Makerspace

3D printers

3D printers

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Laser cutter products

Laser cutter products

My day at DCPL was really interesting and covered a number of different areas. Thank you to all the team for their time. I’ll be very keen to see how the building renovation progresses and what the new space will eventually hold and offer.

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.

Boston Public Library – HOMAGO, programming and so much more!

Background

Boston Public Library was the first publicly funded municipal library in America established in 1848. The Central Library has been on the current site in Copley Square since1895. The older historic building was designed by Charles McKim, originally it was known as the “palace for the people”. In 1972 the library expanded with an additional building adjoining the McKim building designed by Philip Johnson, The two buildings take up one block and cover a million square feet. The Johnson Building is currently undergoing an $80 million regeneration and renovation project funded by the city. The second floor has been completed and the rest of the building is due to re-open in 2016.

The Central Library is many things, it is a historic building – a museum within a library offering art and architecture tours; an exhibition centre; a research library; a special collections library with holdings of 23 million items (second only in size to The Library of Congress); a digital repository for the State of Massachusetts; a business centre; a map centre and a public services library with a wide programme of events, including lectures, author talks, weekly music concerts, technology training, children’s story times and crafts as well as lending and online services. Importantly BPL are proud to offer every service and event for free. The motto Free To All is carved in stone above the entrance of the library.

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Highlights

I started the day off by meeting with Michael Colford, Director of Library Services and Jen Inglis, Chief of Public Services. We discussed funding streams, income generation, state wide collaborative services, staffing, volunteers, partnerships, branch libraries and locations. Many of these I will cover in my final report but here I would like to share some highlights of the day.

Bibliocycle

imageOver the past couple of years there has been a significant shift in focus for the branch libraries towards community outreach. While I didn’t actually see the bibliocycle it is worth mentioning as it is an extremely successful and popular outreach development.

The bike has been specially developed with a fold out cart. Carrying between 50-100 books, librarians and assistants, working in pairs, visit farmers’ markets, fairs, and community events. They can join people to the library, promote library services and lend books.

Working with school libraries

BPL provides cataloguing services for its own libraries and all the public schools in Boston. Children at public schools are issued with a BPL library card by their school librarian. The joint catalogue between BPL and the schools enables the students to request items from other school libraries or a public library, this will then be delivered to their school or made available to collect at a local library.

Johnson Building renovation

Michael took me on a tour of the newly opened  2nd floor space in the Johnson building, which incorporates the Children’s Library, Teen Central and Adult Services (non-fiction).

Children’s Library

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This is a space for the very young up to pre-teens (tweens), each age group has it’s own area. The space includes a fabulous sensory wall for babies and toddlers, a story time area by the large window and a computer and seating area for the tweens.  There is an additional learning room which can be used for crafts and author events. The library is large, cheerful and welcoming. The focus is on children and parents being able to use the space in different ways rather than the book stock which has been reduced    by approximately 50% to make way for the new design.

Teen Central

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Teen Central has a far more urban industrial feel. Teens were consulted on what they would like in their space, so it has become a HOMAGO space with booths to sit and hang out in, a games and films room, laptops and a digital media lab. Book shelves are on wheels so they can be moved out to open the space up for events. Teen Librarian Jessica Snow says that the place is buzzing after school with 60+ teenagers.

Within the digital media lab Youth Technology Librarian Catherine Halpin supports teens and organises workshops on music making, 3D modelling, video editing, programming, photoshop and graphic design. Workshops are often provided by community partners. Technology Librarians need to know enough to get people started but don’t need to be experts. Many of the teens already have skills so peer to peer learning is being encouraged and the hope is that teens will also be able to teach the adults when the new Business Innovation Centre opens in 2016. Jessica has developed a paid programme for Teen Tech Mentors who will work 6-8 hours a week during term time supporting peers with technology.

The pictures below show Jessica’s ideas flip chart for teens to fill in on new activities they would like – such a simple effective idea – and Technology Librarian Catherine Halpin with Michael Colford in the media suite.

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Adult Services

The main adult non-fiction area leads on from Teen Central. This is also an area where people can study, use the WiFi  or sit and read. The window bar seating area is particularly popular with patrons. Simple ideas such as wayfinding boards work well for orientation.

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All three areas have seen a dramatic increase in footfall and usage since the 2nd floor opened in February this year,

Community Learning Centre

When the other floors  of the building re-open in 2016 there will be a Community Learning Centre. Gianna Gifford, Manager of Reference and Instruction Services produces a programme of workshops for patrons with English as a second language (ESL). These include English classes, citizenship classes and conversation circles.

Conversation circles provide an opportunity for ESL patrons to practice speaking English in small informal groups. These sessions take place at the Central Library and a number of the branch libraries. It is one of the fastest growing programmes and also one of the few areas supported by volunteers at BPL.

Gianna also oversees a range of research, technology and career classes and drop in help sessions.

Kirstein Business Library and Innovation Centre

The Innovation Centre will be a major new development. It will be a place where start up businesses and entrepreneurs can research, network and use meeting spaces. It will house a makerspace where businesses can create their own logos or start Etsy craft businesses from the library. It will provide MOOC sessions where people can take online courses together offering peer to peer support. The Centre will provide a very flexible space where a range of  demonstrations, workshops and support can take place. Small businesses will be able to use the facilities for free but it is hoped that in return there will be the opportunity for skills sharing and entrepreneurs may be asked to facilitate workshops to share their knowledge and skills with others.

Retail Outlet

The main floor of the Johnson Building will include partnering with a retail outlet, this will provide some income generation. The process is already underway with a request for proposals issued. The prerequisite is that the type of retail outlet has to be compatible with a public library and library services.

Events Management

Emily Tokarczyk manages a small events team for the BPL, various spaces within the Central Library can be hired for weddings, conferences and other events out of opening hours and it makes a spectacular venue. The team will make all of the arrangements and catering is provided by the library café and restaurant.

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Tour of the McKim Building

At the end of the day Meghan Weeks took me on a tour of the historic McKim Building. Meghan has a museum and architecture background and her knowledge was incredible. The BPL provides a free daily Art and Architecture tour of the McKim Building which over 10,000 people a year take. I was lucky enough to have a one to one tour and the frescos, statues and architecture are really quite magnificent.image

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My day at Boston Public Library was truly inspiring. Thank you so much to Michael and his team for putting aside so much of their time and sharing information and best practice so willingly. I’d love to return to Boston one day to see the Johnson Building in it’s finished state.

Next stop Hartford!