Tag Archives: community

Why having friends who write is awesome

Community.I’ve mentioned before how nice it is to have people I can talk shop with, but Midwest Writers Workshop really drove that home for me last weekend. As much as I love my family and friends who don’t write, none of them will truly understand what it’s like to be in the query trenches or on submission or pitching to an agent. R&R is just more likely to mean “rest and relaxation” than “revise and resubmit” to them. It’s hard for them to grasp both how exciting signing with an agent is and how signing with an agent doesn’t mean your book will be on shelves next week.

If you’re a writer who sees writing as your career, I highly recommend you have at least one friend who also considers writing a career. Have someone who gets what you’re going through, someone you can celebrate and commiserate with, someone who’ll swap queries with you and provide honest feedback on what isn’t working. Find your people, and cheer each other on. Celebrate their successes. Be there for them when things aren’t going well.

We all need someone who will pick us up when we’re down, and encourage us to keep going when we’re in a rut. And there’s no greater feeling than celebrating with a friend who’s just signed with an agent or gotten her first ARC or has her first book out in the world.

How did you find your writing community?

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Reflections on library programming

Excited dog.

Photo by Flickr user edanley

When I first started working at my current place of employment, I tried to go for a healthy mix of fitting in with and challenging the conventions and practices in place there. Mostly I fit in, but I’d heard and read enough about new librarians bringing fresh perspectives that I felt it was my duty to examine the way things were done and, if the methods seemed strange or unnecessary or inefficient, ask if there was a better way to accomplish the same goals.

Most of my ideas were not so much changes as additions. The library was fairly light on adult programming when I started, and I sort of took it upon myself to become the programming librarian. I did this for a few reasons. First, I saw that there was more we could be doing with adult programs, and I knew I wanted to be the one to do it. Second, I loved coming up with new program ideas, and my managers seemed to like most of them. I loved (and still love) organizing everything; making promotions; writing press releases, blog posts and social media posts; and learning more about my new community by partnering with various speakers and authors to bring everything together. Finally, I was good at it. My managers liked my ideas, I was getting good attendance, and I’d carved a niche for myself in my new workplace. Whenever a phone call or email came in from someone who wanted to present, everyone knew to transfer or forward it to me.

Lately, the library has fallen into a programming rut. We’ve had exceptionally low attendance, and the device drop-in sessions that our digital services coordinator planned haven’t been popular, despite the fact that we get questions about tablets and eReaders pretty frequently at the reference desk. Part of it may be the weather — snow has closed the library four days this year, it was below zero for more than eight days in January (http://www.noaa.gov/), and even when the weather wasn’t bad the roads often still were. (It still amazes me at how poorly this region handles snow, given the amount that we get. So many roads simply don’t get plowed.) But I’m sensing a trend, and I’d like to curb it.

I’ve graduated from the honeymoon stage of my time as the programming librarian. It’s not all new and easy and fun all the time. I’m working on bigger, more involved programs — a series of Appy Hours whose roll-out was as disappointing as that of healthcare.gov (too soon?), the Adult Summer Reading Program, and (this is still in the development stage) a community read possibly culminating in an author visit. And as exciting as these big projects are, I worry that my co-workers and I may be the only ones who are excited about them.

So what’s the solution? We’ve tried handing out evaluation cards at programs, asking what people would like to see from programs. The response is always vague and unhelpful, if we get a response at all. We could post surveys or polls on our blog and social media pages, but I think those surveys will only reach a fraction of the community. And they’ll reach the fraction we’re already reaching, not the people we’re trying to reach.

Focus group.

Photo by Flickr user Scott Maxwell

After a six-hour college fair that saw three prospective students, my assistant manager and I had an impromptu brainstorming session. I threw out the idea of having a community focus group meet to discuss library programming and services. We would reach out to representatives from local schools, colleges, hospitals, restaurants, and churches; from the YMCA, the police, the local casino, the local gaming store, the local employment center, local banks, and the local government — just to name a few. We would ask all of them what they and the people they work with would like to see from the library — and how we can make it happen.

This is all still in its earliest planning stage, and we’d have to get the right community leaders on board, but I plan to take this idea to my manager and, if she likes it, the Programming Team. I think getting the community more actively involved in library programming could be more effective than just having a group of librarians try to figure out what will and won’t work.

What has your experience with programming and community feedback been?

Thinking Ahead: The Public Library’s Future

I know the Internet is pretty saturated with articles about this right now.  I’ve seen some variation on the phrase “remain relevant” at least four times this week alone in various blogs and professional publications.  But our director has asked each department to come up with ways for our library to continue to provide the services and facilities that will best serve our customers both now and in the future.  Following my department’s meeting, I sat down and made a list of things I’ve seen or read about at other libraries that I think would be successful here.  I won’t bog you down with the whole list (though if you’d like me to send it to you, let me know in the comments section), but here are a few of the highlights.
  1. Genre shelving.  I love the Dewey Decimal System as much as the next librarian.  I have the call numbers memorized for the auto repair manuals, the cookbooks, and the marketing guides.  But how many people come to the desk looking for the 600s?  (For that matter, how many of them even know what the 600s are?)  Nearly everyone who is new to the area comes in asking where the mysteries are, or the fantasy section, or the romance books.  One could argue that in academia Dewey still has its place, but especially as public libraries are becoming the replacement for bricks-and-mortar bookstores as places to browse for pleasure reading, we need to arrange our materials in a way that makes sense to our patrons.
  2. Highlighting our digital collections more outside the library.  A recent Library Journal article discussed library branches opening in Kansas airports which included QR codes that travelers could scan to access digital titles on their eReaders, tablets, or smartphones.  Another article earlier this year covered a partnership between the library and the public transit system in Philadelphia with similar QR codes and the option for those without library cards to get a free trial membership on-the-spot (which they could later extend by providing proof of address at a library branch).  We’re not an urban library, and we don’t have any major airports or transit systems (there are public buses, but most people drive everywhere), but I like this idea of highlighting digital collections outside the library.  The fact that you can check out a book instantly without going to the library is one of the main appeals of electronic collections.  So I thought of some other places people may want that instant reading material, like waiting rooms in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  If someone’s waiting for an appointment, why not display a QR code linking to the library’s free magazines?  They may be more interesting than the six-month-old People sitting on the coffee table.  What about auto repair shops, coffee shops, or cafes?  I think digital collections have a lot more potential for us to meet people where they are and draw in new patrons.
  3. Creating a community display area.  Currently, staff create all the displays in our library, and the only bulletin board is in the staff lounge.  I’ve read about other libraries that allow community artists to sign up or apply for monthly or quarterly exhibits featuring their work.  And I’d like to see a community bulletin board where local organizations can advertise upcoming events.  The board could also be used as another way to engage patrons with things like magnetic poetry, mystery quotes, and so on.  I’d really like to see our space engaging our patrons more than it currently is.

I think that’s enough for this week.  Like I said, if you want the whole list, let me know!  And if you have any ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them.