Thursday, February 22, 2007

Does Size Matter?

When I learned that two librarians from the Netherlands were coming to visit the Kankakee Public Library I felt a mixture of disbelief, excitement, and ... well, I guess - trepidation. We are use to being a big fish in a little pond. We are the largest public library in the county, and one of the larger libraries in the Prairie Area Library System. But compared to the innovative Delft Public Library and the impressive Gail Borden and Schaumburg public libraries (which serve communities four times larger, and have budgets more than ten times larger than ours) I feared we would look pretty darn puny.

Despite our size, that I nearly spat on them in my lame attempt to say "good morning" in Dutch, and that we took them to Poor Boys for American hot dogs; I think we looked okay. Our guests were quick to point out that the best libraries are the ones that effectively reach their users. I agree. It is not about size, it is about creatively connecting with all segments of the community. Waiting at the circulation desk for people to come to us is just not going to cut it in the 21st Century.

Around these parts Erik and Jaap, like the legendary rock stars Bono and Sting, need no last names. We were impressed by their enthusiasm and passion for libraries, and inspired by the lengths they are going to seek out the very best library practices to effectively reach their users. With librarians like these, it is easy to see why the Delft Public Library is known across the globe for their innovative library services.

Cindy Fuerst – Library Director

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Dutch Invasion

The Dutch have invaded northern Illinois and we are theirs. For those of you who have not already heard of Erik and Jaap on Michael Stephens' blog Tame the Web, they are two Dutch librarians from Delft Public Library in The Netherlands. They were in the area to do a video documentary about libraries that are using gaming to draw teen users. Jenny Levine at ALA recommended our humble (no really!) little library as one of the few they should visit while they were here. To call them simply charming is to damn with faint praise. I was amazed, no flabbergasted, that our library worldviews were in such perfect sync, ours being developed here in Kankakee and theirs in the far off Netherlands. I've struggled as of late for a firm conceptual framework for all this library 2.0 stuff. Erik stated it neatly. Libraries are story tellers. We keep the stories, share the stories and make the stories. Such a concept frees us from any one medium. Stories can be kept in books, on cd or dvd, in podcasts or vodcasts. It won't matter if any of those media are lost and replaced by something else, the stories will remain and thus our purpose. Thanks to Erik and Jaap for reminding me why I went into this nutty business. WOW I have a great job!

Steve Bertrand
Assistant Director