Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dual Roles

Over the summer I finally decided to do something useful with my off time and joined the brand new local chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.) The chapter was so new, I ended up being treasurer at the first meeting I attended! I'm proud to say our little chapter is growing by leaps and bounds. We started with six regular attendees gathering each month in the basement of a local church. Now we average thirty or more. My problem is balancing my role as an officer of PFLAG with that of Director of the Library. The first issue came up with the local Labor Day Parade. I wondered if I was overstepping an invisible line by appearing in the parade representing an organization considered controversial by some. I recall in college an education professor telling us that teachers can not be seen coming out of bars. He said they have an image to uphold in the community. At the time, I thought he was terribly old fashioned. Then, as I drove in the parade, I suddenly realized what it was actually like to be a "public figure", to represent more than just oneself. I didn't imagine spectators thinking, "Hey there is Steve with the PFLAG folks." I imagined them thinking, "There is the Library Director with the PFLAG folks." Now this enters my mind when PFLAG asks me if they can use our meeting room to host a speaker on gay issues, or if they can put up an informational display. What responsibility does a director have to his/her Library's neutrality when off the job?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Grace(less) Under Fire

Queens's "Under Pressure" could be my theme song these past few months, maybe even year...or two. I have a tendency to take on more than I probably should both at the library, in the community, and at home. I blame this on my mother, who whenever any of the my siblings or I had down time she'd give us a sock drawer to organize. But I digress....Back to the pressure. One of the things that I took on this past year was helping out with the City of Kankakee Labor Day Parade. My job was to coordinate the library's entry in the parade and also generally help with the parade publicity, printing of signs, etc...This was my second year doing this and I know well that the day of the parade is stressful. It is a myriad of walkie-talkie transmissions, deciphering of hand-written parade entry descriptions, dealing with sweaty volunteers who have been suckered into wearing large animal costumes, parking 80 oversized vehicles, floats, and various sundry other things that people think are good ideas to enter into a parade. It is imperative that you keep cool under pressure when you are helping out with events like this. I know this. I teach this to my staff. This is the most important rule of event planning. Remain calm. Zen.

So, of course, you know this is part of my story where I tell you that I completely threw all that out the window for a flyer. A flyer.

A young lady approached the parade registration table with genuine enthusiasm holding a small flyer with some writing on it. The table at this point was in a bit of shambles with some confused and slightly irritated entrants, and the Queen song is blaring loudly in my head. The enthusiastic young lady held out the flyer in front of me and said that she wanted to tell me about an event. I assumed that this was part of the parade and that she wanted to give me her description for the emcee to read. She looked confused - "no, I just want you to know about this basketball event we have coming up." Now, why I didn't just take the flyer and thank her for it so she could be on her way - I have no idea. No, this is the point where I said, "I can't deal with this right now. We are trying to register people for the parade. Show this to someone who's not working." The young lady mumbled an apology to me and walked away I'm sure embarrassed and upset. Vicki leaned over and whispered to me, "Way to represent the library." She was right. That was no way to deal with anyone and I knew it. It's not easy for me to admit that I still make freshman mistakes with events, but I do.

The parade was a success. The library got second place for the amazing entry that Yvonne Croswell, Dantaya Robertson, and Steve Bauman all decorated. And I wish I could enjoy a little more of the success had it not been for that darn flyer.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services

Monday, July 13, 2009

Writing the Music

I never quite understood exactly what was meant by “It’s lonely at the top.” I’m finding out. This or that issue will come up, so I go get advice from my five supervisors. Of course, I get five different opinions. I try to take the best elements from each person’s ideas to come up with a workable solution, but in the end the outcome is on me. It was a lot easier being a member of the choir than it is being the conductor.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What This Library Is All About

I've been basking in an afterglow that has lasted an entire two weeks. What could give such a long lasting warm feeling you ask. Rock the Stacks. Rock the Stacks was a two day musical extravaganza featuring 17 bands, some still together, some reunited just for this event after acrimonious break-ups. Thanks to an anti-trust class action suit, our Library received money to be used for "musical" purposes. Rather than spend all of it on new CDs and such, we set aside some to fulfill a different mission. I'm a strong believer that a public library should be more than a location where citizens get to experience the work of people from long ago or far away, important as that purpose is. This is after all the "KANKAKEE" Public Library. Shouldn't some of the content here be by the people of Kankakee themselves? Of course, some old grumps complained about Rock the Stacks when they saw the posters. To them Libraries are places where ideas go to die. Our target audience is the young and young at heart who want a place where they can see what is vital about this community. We weren't wrong. For days Twitter, and Facebook, and Flickr and YouTube were alive with content about how exciting and forward thinking Kankakee is, not just the Library, but the entire City of Kankakee. When's the last time you heard a 20 year-old in your area say, "My town is awesome"? That is an afterglow that can last generations.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Support Your Local Farmers! (And "Market" at the Market)

I'm not in the "market" of making endorsements (I am in the market of making bad puns), but I am so moved by my local farmers' market that I feel compelled to blog about it. Today was the first day of the spring Kankakee Farmers' Market, where about 15 farmers and vendors from the community and outlying areas came to sell their potted plants, herbs, meats, fresh baked goods, cheeses, and even organic dog biscuits! The summer market starts later in May where there will be about twice the amount of vendors in full swing with produce and much more. These are truly the most amazing people who frequent the market - both the farmers and the customers! If ever I'm feeling down about anything, the local farmers' market is like comfort food for the soul. The kindness and generousity of the vendors is enough to make anyone want to move to the community. And the customers' loyalty to their favorite vendors and their desire to keep their hard-earned dollars in the community is in a word....wonderful. You may be wondering what this has to do with the library and the answer is EVERYTHING! Public libraries should be as much a part of the community as a local farmers' market is. This morning I spent a few hours helping out and passing out market flyers (with strategically placed advertisement on the back promoting a library program for next week). Knowing the local vendors and customers has been tremendously helpful to me in getting the word out about our library programming....not to mention, it's just plain fun. My experience has taught me that the dedication of the farmers' market customers is the same dedication that library patrons have - and they are often the same target audience. So please support your local farmers and shop locally at your farmers' market - and then head to your library (preferably mine) and put your tax dollars to work.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Busy busy busy

I've made several attempts at blogging over the past few months, but the start of every post comes to a rather abrupt end when my phone buzzes, someone comes in my office, or I suddenly remember a whole slew of things I've forgotten to do that day. The point's busy here at KPL. Within the last 4 months, our director has gone on to greener pastures (well, they are likely snowier pastures right now like most of Northern Illinois), our city has instituted a hiring freeze due to the recession, and we've elected Kankakee's first female mayor, Nina Epstein! Steve Bertrand, our assistant director, has been named director now and KPL continues its quest to be fabulous in all ways! Once again, my phone is buzzing and I'm remembering about 15 things that didn't get done today. Until next time....

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lost Upstairs

No. I've not fallen off the face of the Earth. As you might have guessed, I've gotten a bit overwhelmed by my duties as Acting Director. Whereas the days used to go by at a leisurely stroll, now they roar by at the speed of a drag racer. I have every intention of reviving "She Said/He Said" when everything returns to something like normal. I've even asked Adult Services Supervisor Allison Beasley to be the new "She" advertised in our blog title. Of course, I think the only person busier than I am in this library is Allison! Oh well, the Kankakee Public Library is known for one thing above all else, optimism. So do not lose faith loyal readers (both of you), we will be back with more to say about all things library and anything else that enters our odd noggins. Until then, keep your circs high and your fines low.

Steve Bertrand
Acting Director