Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Keeping the Customer Satisfied

Reading a post on another blog the other day, I was put in mind of an incident that happened to me more than ten years ago. At that time, I worked in a community college library. We had a regular patron who was clearly mentally ill. Each day he'd come in declaring he'd received another prestigious degree from some Ivy League university. We dubbed him The Reverend Father Doctor International Attorney at Law. One day he came in and asked me to get the Constitution for the Planet Jupiter for him. He knew I would come through for him because I was famous campus wide for my crack interlibrary loan skills. Well, I'll confess this one had me stumped. No matter how hard I tried to convince him that Jupiter had no life, let alone a formalized government, he just kept insisting. Finally, in desperation, I went to the law department and copied a few random pages of the Supreme Court Reporter, then put them in an I.L.L bin with his name on it. The next time he came in asking if Jupiter's Constitution had come in for him, I pulled the pages out with a flourish and handed them over. Thrilled to pieces, he retired to a table and poured over the pages. He was clearly very happy and I never heard a complaint from him. When I related this story to my reference classmates in library school, some thought what I did was unethical. Was it? After all, I kept my customer satisfied. What do you think?

Steve Bertrand
Assistant Director

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Educating or Lobbying

There was a great deal of concern in Libraryland when HB1727 (Internet filtering) narrowly passed the Illinois House. So the Illinois Library Association called for a "Library Day of Unity." They suggested calling or faxing your local state senator, distributing flyers, posting signs, and even turning off public access to the internet for that one day. The goal was for everyone in the Illinois library community to do SOMETHING.

The "something" that we seemed to do the most here at KPL, was discuss what we as public servants could legally and ethically do while on the clock and with public funds and property. As library workers, we know first hand what is actually going on in our libraries. We have an intimate knowledge of our budgets and what we can afford, of our community's standards and expectations for library services; and thanks to persistent sales people, knowledge about the technological products available to the library market. We have a valuable perspective. Shouldn't that perspective be shared with our legislators and patrons? Shouldn't our patrons be informed about how a proposed state law could negatively impact their library and the services they have come to expect? We are doing our duty, educating the public.... or have we crossed the line and begun lobbying our own agenda?

As much as I personally and professionally think that filters are not a good option for our library, I recognize that there are tax payers in our community who just as adamantly believe that filters are the only option. I don't believe that the pro-filter folks want to hurt public libraries, and I certainly hope they believe that libraries are just as concerned about online safety. The facts, information, and education are the key - they also happen to be our job.

Cindy Fuerst
Library Director

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How Much is a Nickel Worth?

My favorite Aunt loved to say that the Lutherans lost her for a nickel. Every Sunday my Grandmother would send her off, with little sister in tow, to the neighborhood Lutheran Church. One Sunday they were serving some sort of ice cream treat. My Aunt went to take one for herself and her sister, but was stopped by a church lady. She didn't have the required nickel; she was so embarrassed and hurt that she never went back.

The next Sunday, when my Grandmother sent her daughters off to church, my Aunt took her sister across the street, to the neighborhood Catholic Church. My Aunt passed away last year. She was a devoted and active Catholic her entire life, as are her children and grandchildren. Imagine how my family history would have changed if that church lady had been empowered to waive the nickel fee for the ice cream treat.

It amazes me how the incidental acts of others can snowball to impact the course of our lives. Is it possible that a smile, a friendly greeting by name, a phone call, a grace period on overdue materials could create generations of library supporters? I think my Aunt would have said yes.

Make it a great day for yourself, and someone else.

Library Director

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Right NOT to Read

I have a confession to make. I am not in love with books. Unlike the librarian's stereotype; I do not thrill to the crack of new binding; I do not sniff the odor of old pages; and I certainly don't stay up all night under the spell of a "page turner." Don't get me wrong. Reading is fun. I do as much of it as I can find time for (all non-fiction for me). But I'm not addicted to reading. I'm more a binge reader, not reading anything for up to a year, and then reading three books in a month. For centuries, most Libraries' only strategy for confronting the non-reader was to devise ways to seduce them to start reading. Those who refused were marked up as "lost souls" and ignored. I have to ask myself, would I frequent the Kankakee Public Library if I didn't work here. I can honestly say yes. I say yes because KPL has faced up to the problem of what to do for people for which reading has not been, nor ever will be a part of their lifestyle. Through podcasts, internet service, public programming, DVD/CD circulation and online streaming of programming we've reached out to those who steadfastly resist the printed text. Libraries must understand that non-readers are a tax paying part of our service group who deserve some kind return on their dollar, without having librarians look down there nose at them. As scary as it may sound, people do have a right NOT to read.

Steve Bertrand
Assistant Director