Library Opens Learning Commons

The Randall Library at the University of North Carolina Wilmington is taking an innovative approach to being a valuable resource for students in the digital age. They recently introduced their “Learning commons“, a designated area in the library that encourages technology-based research and takes the “shhh” out of the traditional library setting.

When walking through the main entrance, it’s easy to identify the learning commons. The area is freshly painted with bright colors and modern cubicles that feature desktop or laptop stations. The room also has a help desk that is staffed 65 hours per week by reference librarians and staff who work in technical assistance.

Students are encouraged to come in groups, plug in their computers, iPods, or other tech devices, and learn about technology. While the entire 2nd floor of the Randall library is reserved for peace and quiet, study groups in the learning commons can talk freely without fear of a staff member shushing them. Students also like the space that the room provides so they can still have their privacy.

Before the makeover, the space was outdated but the new learning commons now boast more than 300 power outlets and 91 computers catering to the digital age that some libraries are having a tough time adjusting to. Students can also check out 50 PC laptops and 14 Mac laptops.

It is no coincidence that students are giving good feedback about the learning commons. The project began as a series of surveys asking students what they wanted and needed out of a library studying area. Listening has been the true key to success. The concept is ongoing too. Collaborating with the students will not stop as the feedback from the students will help evolve the learning commons in the future. The area is designed to change with technology and student’s needs.

Librarian from a Small Town Shows Big Heart

Karla Shafer is the director of Hooper Public Library in Hooper Nebraska: Population 827. She’s also the only employee of the library that’s open 23 hours per week. Showing big heart and determination, Karla has been recognized for her efforts to help immigrants learn English. National grants she has won have financed books and literacy classes at the library. Recently, another grant of $5,000 has been awarded to her so she can continue with the literacy program that she started two years ago.

Her story is inspiring. Being the wife of a retired Methodist minister, Shafer found inspiration by the story of her husband’s grandfather who was a German immigrant who didn’t know English and didn’t get any help until an uncle stepped in to help translate his school lessons. The grandfather then became a Methodist minister which was passed down to his son and then Karla’s husband Ted.

Hooper only has a handful of immigrant families, but Shafer recognized their need for help. The library had no bilingual books and she could empathize with how uncomfortable she suspected those families were feeling- like the German boy- when they walked into the Hooper Public Library.

Shafer, who speaks a little Spanish herself, said the goal of her literacy program was to make sure immigrants did not feel unwelcome at the Hooper Public Library and to help them realize their dream of becoming Americans.

The Hooper Public Library is housed in a former grocery store and also features computers to help with computer literacy, five parakeets, and a variety of Wii video games to make the kids feel at home.

Shafer plans to use some of the recent grant money to expand her literacy program to nearby Nickerson, Nebraska. Some Hispanic families there were unable to get transportation to her first English classes, so she is taking the class to them.

Next month, Shafer is getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington DC where she will share her story of how even a “one-girl show” in a small town can make a huge impact to a national gathering of librarians.

Library Offers Summer Reading Program For All Ages

McPherson Public Library in Kansas is offering summer reading programs for all ages. The programs provide a great opportunity for children and teens to keep their reading skills sharp over summer vacation while indulging in some fun activities. Programs are offered for three different age groups.

The kid’s program called “Make a Splash–READ!” lets them explore the world of water through stories, songs, games, and other activities. They can also earn prizes for completing a summer reading board. All summer long there will be special music performers, magicians, snacks, lunch, puppet shows, etc. What a great opportunity to put children into a fun environment where reading and learning is encouraged.

Teens can sign up for a program called “Make Waves @ Your Library” where they can come to the library all summer to read and take part in special events. They will also be able to earn prizes for reading.

“Dive into Reading” is the adult summer reading program. Adult readers can explore new genres, give book reviews, sign up for book suggestions, join the library’s online book discussion group and receive prizes for each level of participation.

The McPherson Public Library is sponsoring a fun festival for the “Summer Reading Kick-Off on Thursday, June 3rd from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the library.  All ages are invited to help us kick off the Summer Reading Program “Make a Splash . . . READ!”. The library will have free games, art activities, balloon animals, and temporary tatoos.  Children will also have a chance to sign up for the Summer Reading Program during this event.

More info:
McPherson Public Library

World’s Smallest Library

What is being hailed as the world’s smallest library is somewhere between quaint and genius.  This “library” is none other than a salvaged phone box.  Stocking around 100 books it works as a book exchange.  Users simply bring books they have read and then take books that they haven’t.  This little libarary also hosts DVD’s and CD’s and appeals to all ages with a variety of childrens books as well.

In addition to the creativity and sense of community that this library offers there is a eco-friendly factor.  The salvaging of the phone box itself along with the book exchange it facilitates is a great way to be green. It is the epitome of reuse.

For more information please visit:

Baltimore Sun


NaNoWriMo – the Librarian and Writers Friend

National Novel Writing Month (commonly called NaNoWriMo) is of huge importance for many writers, teachers, and librarians.  During this month,  contestants attempt to write 175 pages within the month of November – a one month span.   Hilarity ensues as people try to write as much as they can in a limited amount of time.

Social activities cease, and dinner gets put off for tomorrow.  Writing becomes an all-consuming passion as writers and readers, take on the challenge to write 65,000 words.

Although some people argue that writing quantity over quality doesn’t make for a successful novel, the contestants of NaNoWriMo will respectfully disagree.  Just the act of having a self-imposed deadline allows many gifted writers the courage to write the novel they’ve always dreamed of writing.

Good luck to all of the contestants.

Public Libraries, Not Just for Books!

Recently the New York Public Library announced that they have opened another facility for wireless internet access in the Edna Barnes Salomon Room.

The Edna Barnes Salomon room is by far the most elegant.  You can bring your own wireless enabled laptop and some branches even have laptops available to borrow.

Public Libraries Offer Wireless Internet

All Chicago Public Library Branches have free wireless internet access available for use.  In California, both the Los Angeles Public Library and the San Francisco library offer free wi-fi.

Here in the heartland, all branches of the Minneapolis & Hennepin Public Libraries and Saint Paul Public Library offers free wireless internet access at all locations.

So no matter where you go take your laptop to the public library to surf the internet, check your e-mail, and stay in touch for free!

Library Audiobooks 2.0

Library audiobooks playaway player and casesThe next wave in audiobook technology that libraries are offering are on a small player called a “playaway”. This format developed by leading audiobook publisher, Recorded Books Llc, has an entire book pre-loaded on an mp3 player rather than several CDs.

The tiny players fit in an adult’s palm and are heard through headphones or speakers attached to the player.  They are especially popular with commuters as they are very portable and there is no changing discs.

Library audiobooks The Worst Case Scenario PlayawayReaders like the quality and ease of use, as well as the ability to move back and forth between chapters and within chapters, The device also allows readers to alter the speed of the narrator’s voice and has an automatic bookmark feature that “remembers” where the listener left off.

The players are easier to store since there’s only one unit. Using foam to cradle the players in their storage cases, help to keep them free from damage.

There are over 180 titles in many genres from Stephen Hawkings “A Brief History of Time” to Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic.

Check out your neighborhood library to see this new way to experience reading.

Bookmobile 2.0

Library Audiobook cd caseMost libraries offer a wide collection of electronic media in addition to digital downloads. Collections usually include: audiobooks on disc, movies and tv shows on DVD and music on CDs. In addition, some libraries also offer the audiobooks on pre-recorded players like Recorded Books’ Playaway and via online digital downloads.

A 74 foot, 18 wheeled, high tech bookmobile could be coming to your local library soon. Digital book publisher OverDrive, Inc. has tricked out the tractor-trailer to be the next generation bookmobile.

library digital bookmobileBookmobiles are nothing new. They have been serving communities for decades bringing books to those who can’t get to the library. OverDrive’s Digital Bookmobile is bringing digital books and audiobooks to North America on a coast to coast tour. (Check out the calendar here.)

According to, the tour’s objective is to deliver an engaging download experience where library users can immerse themselves in an interactive learning environment and raise awareness of a public library’s download service of digital audiobooks, eBooks, music, and video.

library digital bookmobile floorplanThe vehicle is equipped with broadband Internet-connected PCs, high-definition monitors, premium sound systems, and a variety of portable media players. Interactive computer stations give visitors an opportunity to search the digital media collection, use supported mobile devices, and sample eBooks, audiobooks, music, and video from the library.

The Digital Bookmobile is hosted by individual public libraries in support of their download services and is operated by OverDrive, Inc. To see if your public library offers download books and more, visit the Digital Media Locator.

The Library: More Than Just a Place with Books

Libraries are becoming a shelter and hangout place for more people than just students and book-lovers.  You see people carrying backpacks overflowing with all of their possessions.  Others are washing up in the bathroom.  Some city libraries are starting to seem like a day homeless shelter.homeless poor economy libraries

Especially in this economy, more and more people are becoming homeless and don’t know where to turn.  They seek shelter at the library in the day for warmth in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer.  So is this a problem or an opportunity?

Some people are turned-off when they see homeless people in dirty clothes at the library.  Different people react differently.  Some are scared.  Some are annoyed.  Some are compassionate.  Instead of turning away, we should be glad they are looking to the library for help.  With the resources available, they can learn many things through reading, get help writing a resume, and set-up an e-mail account.  These are just a few things that could help them get on track to finding a job.  But there are guidelines that have to be followed for health and safety concerns.homeless poor economy reading in library Libraries will not allow themselves to turn into homeless shelters.  They should be a place where everyone can learn and use the resources available, not a place to goof around or sleep.  As long as the rules are being followed, everyone should have the opportunity.

With the economy the way it is, libraries are busier than ever.  People, whether homeless or not, are turning to the libraries free resources for learning and entertainment.  And with the growing number of users and higher circulation rate, a larger selection is needed, as well as durable, replacement packaging that will last.

Libraries Take On New Roles

The job losses and pay cuts experienced by many people throughout the country have brought on new roles for librarians. Libraries are no longer just a place to check out books, music, and videos for free. They are a place for the unemployed to go seeking comfort and help during hard times.

An article in The New York Times described thelibrary books librarian roles new stresses put on libraries.

Without as much money to spend on leisure, more and more people are turning to the libraries’ free resources and entertainment. Many libraries are seeing as much as 10 to 30 percent increases in patronage, as well as double digit increases in DVD, CD, and audio book circulation. This means that a larger media selection is needed, as well as durable, replacement packaging.

Libraries are serving a whole new crowd of users. There have been 40 million visits to New York libraries over the past year, which is the largest amount ever over 12 months. With the unemployment rate up to 8.5% the highest since November 1983 these people are looking to libraries for job-seeking help.

library computers job placementMany libraries are now offering job-search desks, help writing résumés, and workshops to bring hope to the jobless. Librarians are being trained to help with these specific needs, as well as receive counseling from therapists. They are learning how to deal with the stress of dealing with sometimes very emotional job-seekers. At times, depressed and discouraged people may even try to talk to librarians for emotional support. This can be difficult for librarians. In addition, there has been an increase of theft and violence at libraries has brought the need for added security and support.

More than ever before, people are turning to libraries for entertainment, job-help, and emotional support. People are coming in to write a résumé that may have never used a computer before, or may not know how to read or write in English. Librarians need to be trained, in order to perform these tasks for the new roles in which they are placed. With the added help and support, frustrated job-seekers can be given hope for new possibilities.