Grant-Seeking 101


By Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

shutterstock_326576381Someday, when flying cars are rusting away in museums and the last sword has been beaten into whatever a plowshare is, there will be plenty of money available to libraries and librarians. Until then, librarians and the organizations that support them will probably have to keep looking everywhere for the funds needed to fix leaking roofs or buy 3D printers.

But the money is out there. It’s just a matter of knowing where—and how—to apply for it.

Show Me the Money

In addition to being a member of Brodart’s Collection Development team, I’m a librarian at Foundation Center South in Atlanta. FC is a nonprofit, headquartered in New York, which researches philanthropic giving, including grants awarded to libraries. Here are a few examples:

  • In 2017, in Vandalia, IL, the Charles Ruemmelin Foundation gave $750 to the Evans Public Library for “Children’s section shelving.”
  • In 2016 in Connecticut, the Thomaston Savings Bank Foundation gave $1900 to Morris Public Library for a color printer/scanner.
  • In 2015, in Los Angeles California, the Cathay Bank Foundation gave Friends of the Chinatown Library $13,000 to “Develop community awareness…” and “Raise funds for capital improvement….”

shutterstock_583376662That money can come from grants made by foundations and government agencies. Some foundations announce grant opportunities with deadlines. The ALA keeps a running list of such grants here: The blog is run by two librarians who wrote a book about getting grants for libraries: “Winning Grants: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians with Multimedia Tutorials and Grant Development Tools.”

Proposals: Prepare Your Outline and Find a Grantmaker

But there’s more money available to enterprising librarians who learn about the giving priorities of grantmakers and use that knowledge to craft proposals. Grant proposals are well-organized, well-researched arguments that say, in essence, “Here’s why you should give us a specific amount of money, and this is what we’ll do with it.” You can view a sample proposal outline here:

shutterstock_500238862So how do you identify grantmakers with money to award? Many of you work in libraries that offer a richly gratifying database called Foundation Directory Online. Libraries all over the country make this resource available for free. Plug a zip code in here to find the nearest library to you: FDO, as users call it, is produced by Foundation Center.

Foundations award grants to nonprofits. Most local library foundations and “friends of” groups are nonprofits. Foundations also give grants to government agencies, including schools and libraries.

Further Preparation and Tips

How to get started with that grant proposal? Use the database mentioned above. Read up on tips from successful grant writers like this librarian in Florida. Check your holdings for books on grant writing and check out these two free classes you can take in person, live online or recorded from Foundation Center’s Grantspace web site:

There are plenty of additional resources on FC’s website.

Here are a few additional tips on securing grants:

shutterstock_113190907Start local: Most people believe you’re more likely to get a grant by hitting up foundations in your city, metro area or state.

Study up: Your grant proposal should send certain messages like, we read a lot about you, we know what you stand for, here’s how helping us helps you. Follow all of the grantmaker’s stated rules.

If at first you don’t succeed: Don’t be surprised or discouraged if your first proposal doesn’t get the green light. If possible, ask what you could have done differently. Try again with the same or another grantmaker.

So find those grantmakers, write your proposals, and don’t give up. The future is waiting—flying cars and all.

Richard Hallman, M.Ln.


Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.

Pull, Pop, Pet, Bite… How Do YOU Board Book?

By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

shutterstock_384472549.jpgSelecting board books for public libraries can be tricky. Every time I am asked to work on a collection aimed at babies and toddlers for a library, I have to pose detailed questions. Do you want pull tabs? Pop-ups? Lift-the-flap? Only sturdy flaps? Die-cuts? Wheels? Padded cover? Finger puppets? Lap-size board? Noises? Touch and feel? Scratch and sniff? (Just kidding about that last one, but they DO get published sometimes!) When selecting, we can include or exclude certain features, using terms like “novelty” and “pop-up,” but those filters only address a limited number of details. Many libraries I work with automatically say “yes” to flaps but “no” to fuzz.

Here’s the thing: collection development philosophy dictates the kinds of board books a library selects—even those intended for babies. Many libraries choose to exclude all of the features listed above, which is certainly the way to go if the goal is to make those board books last. Or so you’d think… While interactive features are generally considered to shorten the shelf-life of board books, they can be critical for stimulating and capturing the attention of young children.

Book-ImageIn her wonderful book Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos, Susan Straub writes, “The importance of touch and feel to an infant cannot be overemphasized.” She goes on to explain, “Dragging your baby’s hand across a ‘bunny’s’ fur or a ‘chick’s’ feathers is a lovely feeling for you both. Each furry or feathery swatch prompts you to say something about it. What do you tell your baby?” We emphasize to families that talking with their babies is part of reading and a critical early literacy skill, and these kinds of books can be an important tool. Some parents, especially those with infants, tell us they are at a loss for what to say to their babies. Books like these invite conversation and help develop vocabulary. Parents can teach their children words prompted from their own experience, even in a language other than the one in which the book is written.

Lift-the-flap, tabs, and pop-ups offer the interactive excitement of making something happen in the story. Whoa, autonomy! Magic! They also provide the very young an opportunity to practice patience, manual dexterity, and fine motor skills.

shutterstock_222765934In my opinion, many of the bestselling picture books that publishers choose to release in board book form are not at all geared to the audience. Maybe your three-year-old can’t be trusted with paper pages and picture books offer a sturdier alternative. Okay, I’ll give you that. But otherwise, many of the titles that don’t include interactive features are not actually suitable for babies. This puts caregivers in the position of trying to make storytime stimulating, while using books that aren’t up to the task. Worse, caregivers who don’t have access to interactive titles often give up reading to their babies altogether, bemoaning the inability of their little ones to sit still for a book. Our job as librarians is to encourage parents and kids to find the books they love, so we need to offer them engaging experiences that encourage reading and learning.

When I was a children’s librarian at a public library, our general rule of thumb was that a board book gets about five circs, after which it’s trashed. It didn’t matter if the title was smooth and featureless; it got chewed up by happy, teething readers. So if you’re shutterstock_27090169-with-invisible-borderanticipating such a short shelf-life, you might as well get something fuzzy, or otherwise tactile, to entice and interest the babies for whom the stories are intended. In the grand scheme of a library’s overall budget, board books are a small-ticket item.

At the same public library, we also had a large, rotating collection of Book Babies storytime tubs, with lots of these sorts of books that were non-circulating. Each tub contained 30 copies of a board book title. Three tubs went to each branch each week, allowing for communal reading of interactive books during storytime. This allowed the librarian to demonstrate different ways of using these special books. And, wonderfully, the library had more interactive titles available for families to take home.

shutterstock_311950931Speaking librarian to librarian, my advice is if a library is really embracing programs for babies and the ALA’s Every Child Ready to Read program, it’s worth considering interactive titles.

How does your library do board books?


Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3


After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.


What is the weirdest thing you’ve encountered or had to do as a librarian?

By The Brodart Librariansshutterstock_26690845.jpg

Given that librarians are service-oriented professionals, we encounter our fair share of strange behavior and offbeat requests. For your enjoyment and to start the year off on a lighter note, we have compiled some of our favorite memories of odd people and odder situations that we have encountered over the years in the libraries we have served.

Some of the anecdotes are slightly off-color, so proceed at your own risk… And please share your own stories in the comments section! (Login not required)


Melissa Perkins: “A guy walks into a bar…”

Melissa Perkins - 2.5 x 3This happened when I was completing my internship at a public library. One night while I was manning the reference desk during the evening shift, a man who seemed drunk wandered in. Apparently mistaking the library for a pub, he approached the “bar” and ordered a Bacardi on the rocks. I started smiling and said, “Well sir, we don’t have that, but we do have some books on rocks.” He looked dazed and confused for a few moments until he suddenly realized that he wasn’t at a bar after all. He began laughing. He and I chatted and laughed together in a neighborly fashion, as I quickly but politely escorted him to the nearest exit.


Lauren Lee: “Dangerous Material & Reading Aloud”

Lauren Lee - 2.5 x 3The weirdest request I ever received for reconsideration of materials: Ruth Krauss’ The Carrot Seed. A concerned parent was up in arms because she thought the book in question encouraged toddlers to eat raw carrots, and as we all know, “That’s dangerous!” (It should be noted that The Carrot Seed is a classic—and harmless—children’s book.)

The oddest printable public service request I ever received from a patron took place by phone: “Go get Volume 4 of The Oxford English Dictionary. Go to page 216 and read me the thirteenth entry on that page.” This happened more than once with the same patron, who always claimed that he had forgotten some detail that he needed to confirm. The entries were invariably words you wouldn’t want to read aloud—I’m sure you can hazard a few guesses. Volumes, pages and entry numbers have been changed to protect the innocent.


Stephanie Campbell: “The Expanding Role of Librarians”

Stephanie Campbell - 2.5 x 3In my first job at a public library, I was approached at the reference desk by an elderly woman who asked if I could remove a scratchy tag from the back collar of her dress. Somewhat taken aback but eager to please, I followed her into the stacks for some privacy and cut out the tag with a pair of scissors. She was then able peruse the large print section in comfort.

A few years later, I fielded a similar request while at the desk of an academic library. Still surprised, but rather unfazed since this was the second such occurrence, I went right for the scissors. This time around, the younger female patron simply grabbed the back of her elastic waist pants and stretched, granting me access to the rear seam and we took care of the offending bit right there on the spot. She then happily returned to her seat at the computer, itch-free.

So what’s weirder, that I was asked this not only once, but twice… or that I complied? Clearly, I take the role of “removing obstacles to library usage” VERY seriously!


Laura Young: “Ghostly Movements & Pranks Gone Wrong”

Laura Young - 2.5 x 3I worked as a student assistant at the reference desk in the main library of a large university. The floor containing the reference area was closed and locked every night at midnight, leaving only the 2nd floor open to students. One year during finals week, we came in to find that someone had defecated on the floor in front of the reference desk. This happened every night during finals week. We never figured out how the person got into the locked floor overnight, and never found out who did it.

In a separate incident, as part of hell week, one of the university fraternities required its pledges to perform a prank in the library. The pledges had to dress up in three-piece suits, cram themselves into a single elevator, and ride from the first floor to the sixth floor and back again. As luck would have it, the elevator malfunctioned and the pledges were stuck in the elevator between floors for four hours—dressed to the nines—before anyone could get them out.


Ann Wilson: “Evil Books”

AnnWilson - 2.5 x 3Back in the Dark Ages (i.e., the 1980s) I was the librarian of a combined high school/public library in a very small, very conservative community. Obviously, both school students and the public (children and adults) used the collection, which sometimes created interesting issues with respect to the collection. One day I received a call from a member of the library board who had just gotten a phone call from an older lady after she returned home from her weekly library visit. The elderly patron had expressed concern to the board member that the library was promoting “devil poetry.” The patron said this topic was not acceptable to the public and certainly should not be promoted to students. The board member was quite amused but asked me to please try to figure out what had upset this lady. I explained that I was quite certain we had no such books but I would of course look around. I could not imagine what the library patron had seen to prompt this outraged phone call, but I soon found it in the New Book section, where we kept the “hot” best-sellers of interest to adult readers. As it turns out, we had just put out Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.


Fern Hallman: “Can you help me make…?”

Fern Hallman - 2.5 x 3When I was a new librarian, a man approached me at the reference desk with a crumpled up piece of paper. This was long before Google. He told me someone had given him a chemical formula and he needed to know what he could make with it. The note on the crumpled paper read “C21H23NO5.” Since chemistry isn’t my specialty, I told him that if he thought he knew what the substance was, it would be easier to work backwards. After he hesitated a bit, I assured him I wouldn’t tell anyone. He finally told me he thought it was the chemical formula for heroin. Turns out he was right. I did tell him that he probably wasn’t going to be able to smash together a bunch of hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen atoms and go into business.


Suzanne Hawley: “Scary Monsters & a Scarier Mother”

Suzanne Hawley - 2.5 x 3A fourth grader in one of my schools fell in love with a book about movie monsters. The pictures in the book were horrific and full of gore—in other words, the kind of things young boys love to read and look at. The kid had checked it out about seven times and at that point it was overdue. His mother, presumably when going through his book bag, found the overdue notice and asked him to show her the book. When he did she immediately grabbed it and started ripping out pages. She stormed into my office the next day with the torn pages and told me the book was disgusting and she couldn’t believe I had such material on the shelf. She further informed me that it was her duty to examine all of the books in the media center. She said she’d be there early the next morning. She actually arrived at about 2 p.m., went through the books on one shelf and I never saw her again! Her son came in regularly after that and searched for the scariest possible books to check out. Not a word from Mama after that.


Gwen Vanderhage: “Hazardous Activities & a First-time Chef”

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3I’d say one of the weirdest incidents that ever happened during one of my librarian shifts was when someone, for some unknown reason, decided to disassemble a large battery in the library. Not surprisingly, the acid from the battery dripped onto the floor and started eating through the carpet. The whole building had to be evacuated as a HAZMAT team moved in to clean up the mess.

One of my favorite questions came from a young woman who desperately needed advice about how to bake delicious cookies to impress a new boyfriend. “Can I use a blender?” she asked. “I have a blender.” Oh, dear… After looking over the recipe she had selected, I gave her my tips and offered advice on suitable appliances to use. The next week, she returned to report on her success and express her heartfelt appreciation. Librarians do change lives! Ha, ha!


Kat Kan: “An Unconventional Library Visitor”

Kat Kan - 2.5 x 3I was still an “emergency hire” librarian (month-to-month temporary hire) in Hawaii, my first library job after graduating from library school. I worked as a technician (paraprofessional) in the Arts, Music & Audiovisual Department of a public library. One afternoon while I was on duty at the reference desk, an older gentleman came out from behind the book stacks and proclaimed, “Young lady, there’s a cat in the stacks.” I started to giggle—it sounded so much like a Dr. Seuss rhyme—but he was very serious and took my hand. “Young lady, I’m not joking. There’s a cat in the stacks. Come and see.” So I walked over to the book shelves with him, and he pointed down; this was a double-sided shelf in the middle of the room. And there, on floor level, between the books, there was a little gray and black tabby kitten. I thanked the man, picked up the kitten, and called for one of my co-workers to bring a box for the kitten. After my shift, I called around to all the staff in the library that I thought might take a cat, but they all refused (most already had a cat, or multiple cats). We also had a cat at home, and a toddler; but I called my husband and asked if we could take the cat home. And that’s how we adopted Persephone, who lived with us for 20 years and traveled with us from Hawaii to Indiana to Michigan and then to Florida. She crossed the Rainbow Bridge 14 years ago, and I still miss her.


Paul Duckworth: “Analog Wikipedia”

Paul Duckworth New - 2.5 x 3Many years ago, before the Internet, I was staffing the reference desk at the main library where I had been employed for a few years. A colleague told me I had a “call on line 1.” I dutifully answered it and identified myself. Before I heard any voice on the other end, I detected the background noise of laughter, a song playing faintly, and muffled conversations. Then a man came on and asked me if I could settle a bet he had placed with his friend. They were at a bar and his request was important. He maintained that hummingbirds migrated from the southern United States across the Caribbean each year by hitching a ride on the backs of other (presumably larger and stronger) birds. Was he right, he asked me? I took down the number of the drinking establishment and assured him I would call him back shortly. Between chuckles, I wondered where in the world I could find a printed source that addressed whether or not this type of migratory behavior was utilized by hummingbirds. All the while, I restrained myself from phoning back and saying, “You idiot, of course they don’t hitch rides to migrate such a long distance. That’s absurd!” I quickly came to the conclusion that I was not going to find a printed source to refute his claim and so I needed to contact an expert. I called the local office of the state conservation department and found my answer. Then I called the patron back at the bar and broke the bad news to him. All in a day’s work—and never provide an answer without a reliable source to back it up!


Happy New Year from Brodart!


Shelving, Collection Usage, and Your Library

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

Have you ever wondered how your collection “stacks up?”

The following figures, which represent how most Brodart customers approach opening day collections, are the target proportions you should aim to achieve when building a collection from scratch.

Pie Chart #1 - NEW

Pie Chart #2 - NEW

Pie Chart #3 - NEW

Of course, every library is different and should reflect the wants and needs of the community it serves. But chances are, your usage reports, re-shelving carts, and catalog searches will mirror the same general ratios shown above.

So how do general collection ratios influence strategies for displaying your materials? Good question! In short, your existing shelving should support how the collection is being used. In the absence of the space or money required to install more shelving, you can move collections around the building, which both highlights individual collections and frees up space in the stacks for areas that need to grow.

shutterstock_108584921Although slatwall and display kiosks are better for merchandising your collection, the fact remains that most libraries still rely on stacks—rows upon rows of shelving units—to arrange the bulk of their materials. The above guidelines are great when you’re planning a new space, but what if you want to rework an old one? How should you juggle the competing needs? How do you do justice to every subject area while growing those areas that enjoy the most traffic? At the end of the day, our primary goal as librarians is to help patrons find the titles that interest them.

Arrangements need to make sense so that patrons can self-direct. That said, fixed shelving units and the layout of your building may dictate the sizes of the collections and how they are arranged. Aside from weeding, how can you make more room for those popular 600s and 700s?

Breaking out collections is one way to overcome shelving obstacles. Here are some examples.

  • Biographies and classics can stand alone; they need not be housed in the physical rows where they belong according to Dewey classification
  • Reclassify and move your short stories to fiction, or vice versa
  • Pull out your paperbacks for a dedicated commuter collection
  • Interfile all books by a particular author, regardless of bind
  • Pull all the language learning materials, test prep, or travel guides into a special section
  • Dedicate stand-alone locations to mysteries and/or sci-fi/fantasy

There are pros and cons to all of these approaches. However, the needs and preferences of your patrons should guide your decisions.

shutterstock_394779487Once you’ve determined your priorities, sketch out a new layout. As the saying goes, “measure twice and cut once.” What type of material do you want to move? Do your materials and shelves follow standard dimensions? Take into account the measurements of both where the materials sit now and their future location. You don’t want to get halfway through a move only to find that a collection won’t fit in its new destination (i.e., those art books that are too tall and/or too deep) which would require reducing the number of shelves. Be prepared with signage to alert patrons about temporary locations until the dust settles.

Don’t be afraid to make major changes or be daunted by major moves. With a little pre-planning, shifting projects and relocating other materials can progress smoothly and manageably. And your collections can meet traditional expectations while embracing current usage.

Here are some resources to help you with measurements and standards:



Before joining Brodart in 2016, Stephanie Campbell worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

A New Color-Coding System for Children’s Books

By Suzanne Hawley, MLS

shutterstock_448281532.jpgBefore joining Brodart I was the librarian at an elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia. At that time, Fairfax County’s School System had a robust, active library community. We met regularly to share information and best practices with each other, and sometimes hear from guest lecturers.

During one session, a PhD candidate from one of the local universities told the group about a project she was working on for her doctorate. Specifically, she was trying to develop a unique method for organizing picture books to help children find titles on their own without supervision. The concept included using numbers and colors, both of which are appealing to youngsters. After being introduced to this concept, I began thinking about how I could adapt and implement a similar system in my library.

I knew that revising the categorization for all of our picture books—nonfiction as well as fiction—would be labor intensive and time consuming. I did a lot of begging for help and managed to secure commitments from several volunteers to assist with the effort. We developed a plan and made the change during the summer months when school was out. Staff and parents looked upon the project as a labor of love.

We decided upon a classification system with 10 color-coded categories and 10 numbered sub-sections for each category (with the exception of the Easy-to-Read Titles). Shown below is a rundown of the categories.



On the title page of each book I placed the number of its predominant subject. We purchased small, round, colored labels for each of the eight overall subjects. The correct number for each book was written on the label with a black Sharpie. Then the label was applied to the book’s spine and covered with clear tape. For example, both Martha Rustad’s nonfiction All about Christmas and Karma Wilson’s fiction Bear Stays up for Christmas had tan labels with the number 38 on them. We also changed the corresponding location of each title on the computer record.


Large, prominently-displayed posters served as directional aides. There was a poster for each of the eight colors with the corresponding numbers and their subjects. The title of each poster was the overall category. For example, “General and Reference” was the title on the white poster. On the side of the poster were the 10 numbers with their matching subjects. Here’s an example of a poster:

The new organizational structure for nonfiction and fiction picture books was an instant hit with students. In fact, it was so successful that I instituted it in two more libraries in Florida schools—again with the help of staff and parents. In all three schools, teachers, kids, and parents frequently mentioned how glad they were to be able to find books so easily.

I’ve been gone from the schools for a while and I’ve often wondered if subsequent librarians reverted back to the traditional classification system: by author’s last name for fiction picture books and Dewey classification for nonfiction picture books.

shutterstock_746904463Recently, I ran into a couple of primary grade teachers I used to work with and asked if the revised system was still in place. One asked, “You mean the colors and numbers for elementary kids?” When I nodded, she said, “The teachers would mutiny if they changed that system. Makes it so easy for us to do our units. When I do the community helpers unit, I go right to the red section!” I laughed and asked, “Well, how about the kids?” “They love it. Really cuts down on their frustration over finding the right book,” she replied. “Of course, it means that every little boy knows that the dinosaurs are in yellow 41 and spends lots of time there.” That’s what changing the traditional approach was all about!

Although I implemented this particular system in a school library, it could easily be adapted for public libraries as well. Do you use an alternative system? If so, I hope you’ll share.




In addition to selecting children and young adult materials for library collections, Suzy Hawley spends her days interfering in her children’s lives as much as possible, wheedling her husband into cooking dinner just one more time, and walking on the beach. Click here for more.

Self-Publishing & Instant Printing

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

shutterstock_268054271As librarians, we know that technology has changed the way we provide service to our patrons—it’s a no brainer. Some of us, myself included, have been around long enough to remember being a part of the beginning waves of change: the introduction of the MARC record, the advent of turnkey automation systems, followed quickly by the rise of personal computers, and the transformation of card catalogs into scrap paper. For years, prior to using the Notes feature on my smartphone, the backs of my library’s catalog cards served as shopping lists.

None of us really knows how technology will transform the way we interact with our customers in the next five to ten years. But there’s one particular area that I’m especially excited about: the advent of instant publishing. Gone are the days when the publisher imprints of Vantage Press and a few others were stigmatized as “vanity presses” and scorned by librarians. Today, any title can be easily published with only a modest financial investment and made available worldwide through standard online retailers, as well as a wide variety of other websites, including,,, and

Why am I excited about this? Furthermore, why should librarians care?

Fifty-ShadesFirst, instant publishing completely bypasses the gatekeeping function of traditional publishing, designed to maintain profitability. It is now possible for anyone who has a good story to tell—or an underrepresented nonfiction topic to explore—to publish their work, be it via print or e-book. Thanks to new publishing alternatives, hot titles like Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy went from initial self-published e-books to having its rights acquired by St. Martins. After being rejected by major publishers, E.L. James self-published her first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, both as a paperback and an e-book. Ever heard of it? I didn’t think so…

Second, books can make it into finished form and into the hands of readers much faster than ever before. That’s undeniably a good thing.

Third, local authors in our communities have many more shutterstock_348765254options now for getting self-published and getting their books onto our shelves. I could go on and on, but the benefits of self-publishing are clear for authors, readers, and libraries. An added plus for collection development librarians is that it has become easier for publishers to bring titles back that had moved to O.S.I. or O.P. status when their inventory was exhausted.

Self-published titles do present challenges for libraries. Lack of reviews and cataloging records, competition for limited materials budgets, and acquisition challenges are not insignificant. I have often wondered how my library could offer an e-book to users if it isn’t included in titles offered by ProQuest, Overdrive, hoopla, or other content aggregators. But in my experience, libraries (and opportunistic new businesses) always find ways to shape new technologies into expanded services for patrons.



Today, Espresso Book Machines are installed in public libraries and other locations. This ingenious device makes it possible to purchase a book from among thousands of available titles and have it printed and delivered (i.e., dispensed from the machine) in a few minutes. Biblioboard makes it possible for individual e-books to be easily added to its database of titles that are available to libraries (MARC records included). Also, its partner, SELF-e, offers a means for people to produce their e-books and distribute them through their public library.

These are exciting times when we librarians can say “yes” to more people and encourage access to more titles.

shutterstock_222267694At one time, the LP record was THE format for music and spoken word. Its replacement, the cassette tape, is long gone and now CDs are beginning to be phased out. The emergence of Beta and VHS videotapes led to forecasts that movie theaters would disappear. Instead, theaters continue attracting audiences, Beta and VHS are gone, formats unimagined at the time have replaced them, and video materials have the highest turnover in public libraries.

Similarly, the development of e-books sparked fears that the traditional book format would fade away. So far, the physical books are holding their own quite nicely and libraries now offer access to far more titles in formats far improved from the original Rocket eBook. No doubt self-publishing will trigger predictions that traditional publishers will crumble. More likely, as with so many other developments, it will simply add yet another format or option to the mix. I predict that we librarians are going to enjoy choices and service opportunities that even the brightest of us can’t predict. How’s that for a prediction!

shutterstock_255656932.jpgWhat do I see when I gaze into the crystal ball? Change. It’s just a hunch, but I think libraries will remain part of that mix so long as we don’t latch onto particular formats as sacrosanct or reflexively try to resist the pace of change, only to make ourselves redundant in the process. Instead, we must continue to embrace new opportunities and technological adaptations in the name of service for our communities.


Paul Maya party


Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.

The Library of Things: “Can I Borrow That?”

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.shutterstock_421041232

Libraries across the country have begun to circulate more “things” than you might expect. The traditional emphasis on books and audiovisual materials still remains, but imaginative lending programs for other types of materials are cropping up everywhere.

Following are some examples.


Ann Arbor District Library (Michigan): Art prints, die-cutting kits, games, tools, etc.

The Ann Arbor District Library is more progressive than most about expanding borrowing options, and was an early adopter of the idea. The library began circulating art prints 40 years ago! Now it allows patrons to borrow die-cutting kits for making art at home. It also has circulating collections of games and tools, as well as telescopes and musical instruments. Click here for more.



Arlington Public Library (Virginia): Dolls, electrical equipment, and garden tools

American Girl dolls are expensive and not everyone can afford them. Several libraries, including the Arlington Public Library—a leader in interesting collections—have started lending programs for these popular dolls. The program was originally funded by Arlington’s Friends of the Library group. The Washington Post featured this collection when it was first assembled.LED-Box-of-Bulbs-slider

Arlington also has an Energy Lending Library that includes thermal cameras, electricity usage monitors, Rethink Energy books, and LED Bulb Sample Kits. And if that wasn’t enough, it has a Garden Tool Lending Library as well.


Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library (Kentucky): Bicycles

This library has joined with a local physicians’ group to provide access to bicycles in their community. The Book-A-Bike program launched with eight adult bicycles and six bikes for kids, available at a small fee to library card holders. Users can ride around town or explore the Hopkinsville Greenway rail trails. Click here for more.



Daviess County Public Library (Kentucky): Musical instruments

I recently attended a bluegrass festival in Kentucky, and was impressed to learn that the local library system had a big presence on site, documenting the event for all to see. The library helps to inspire future musicians by letting them check out guitars, mandolins, keyboards, and banjos.


Recycle Those Solar Eclipse Glasses!

Libraries across the country served as distribution points for the glasses needed to safely view the historic solar eclipse in August. Some libraries even collected the glasses for recycling after the event. A program like this reminds citizens that libraries are a great resource, hooking them up with things they need, in addition to information and entertainment. Click here for more.


Many More Things!

This roundup from American Libraries covers many innovative lending programs from libraries across the country. Find out where library patrons can borrow snowshoes, a Roomba robot to vacuum your house, bubble machines, Santa suits, and fondue sets.


And even more things! Read this one if you want to borrow a dog (yes, an actual therapy dog) or a fishing pole.


Far-Reaching Benefits

Libraries attest that innovative lending programs help establish deeper relationships between libraries and their communities. They also improve access to the arts and sciences. While the primary goal of such programs is to get people into the library, upon arriving, patrons might just find themselves checking out some books! These ideas may inspire you to explore the perfect idea for your library.

Tell us about the non-traditional lending programs you’ve tried.




Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.

Presidential Libraries

By: Richard Hallman, M.Ln.1200px-Seal_of_the_US_Presidential_Libraries.svg

As librarians, we naturally follow the ups and downs of libraries. Are budgets flat-lining? Are we having a mini-boom? If you build it, will they come? One kind of library seems certain to continue enjoying a slow and steady growth curve: the presidential library. We’ll probably keep electing presidents, and plans for new presidential libraries will probably continue to come along every four to eight years.



Model of The Obama Presidential Center

Many presidential libraries and museums have been built over the years, mostly with funding from foundations and private citizens. Herbert Hoover and every president since has had an official library. Richard Nixon has two libraries, one in Maryland and one in California. President Obama’s library is still in the works, but will be located in Chicago.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) manages all of the official presidential libraries, but there’s always a foundation involved in the development phase—conflicting agendas are not uncommon. This Politico article about how the Obama library will be different explains the complicated NARA-presidential library relationship much better than I can. Click here for article.

Why do we have presidential libraries? In addition to being museums and tourist attractions, they are repositories of all sorts of historic documents that are of interest to researchers. They can serve as a base from which a former president chooses to do whatever he (and, maybe someday, she) wants to do in his (or her) post-presidential life. NARA is most concerned about preserving presidential history and documents, but others involved may be more concerned with managing the president’s legacy and public perceptions.


Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum

Presidential libraries share a number of common features. In addition to the customary official displays, there are usually permanent and temporary exhibits about the presidency, history, and the First Lady. There are artifacts that you can look at but not touch, and often a replica of the Oval Office. This article reviews some of the more exotic holdings of these specialty libraries. Click here for article.

A visit to a presidential library could be a good way to get some ideas about new displays in your own library. You may not have the same budget to work with, but at least ideas are free. Politicians are prolific book writers, so perhaps there’s an opportunity to feature some tomes from local pols. What about displaying some non-literary items? Does your library have any kind of special collection? Maybe there are artifacts you could feature in a display case.

Let’s look at a few titles about presidential libraries:

Pres Libraries & Temples 2 Cover Combos

Presidents get to decide where their own libraries are built. Texas has the most presidential libraries with three. President Johnson and both Bushes have Lone Star State libraries. California is home to two, representing Nixon and Reagan. All the other states with presidential libraries are only home to one each for now, but one would assume that a Trump library will arise somewhere in New York someday, joining the Franklin Delano Roosevelt library, which is in Hyde Park.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, conveniently located near my house in Atlanta, has beautiful gardens, frequently hosts author events, and is even home to a Saturday morning farmers market.  They do not they sell peanuts.


Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum

Take some time to visit a presidential library in person if you get a chance.  And if you don’t find one nearby, this site from the National Archives includes a guide to all of the presidential libraries and museums.  It details their holdings and programs, provides links to their websites, and provides virtual visits. Click here for website.


Richard Hallman, M.Ln.


Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.

Fandom Programs

By Katherine L. Kan, MLIS

Stranger ThingsLibraries have long conducted special programming for patrons of varying ages. Fandom-related programs are relatively recent, but more libraries these days are trying them. Many librarians are fans themselves — of science fiction, of comics, of particular series of books, TV shows, or movies — so it’s relatively easy to create and run these programs. A fandom program is not as large-scale or complicated as a full-blown comics convention. The nice thing is that a library doesn’t have to spend too much money, especially if it can rely on the talents of staffers, a Teen Advisory Board, or willing library volunteers.

Why consider fandom programs? First of all: to attract fans, whether they love Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Sherlock Holmes, Stranger Things, or any other series. Some of these fans may not otherwise think the library has materials they’d like to borrow. These programs also help publicize the library and make the general community aware that the library is more than just a place filled with books. The increased foot traffic generated by programs can immediately lead to greater circulation, and libraries can see other positive results, as well.

library-card1A fandom program might be just the thing to get a new family into the library and encourage them to apply for library cards. Also, when people come to think of the library as a place for community and to have fun, they tend to be more likely to support the library as a valuable resource. Teens especially enjoy fandom programs, and librarians can generally harness their creative energy to help plan and present the programs.

Following are three fandom programs conducted by my local public library: Bay County Public Library, in Panama City, Florida. Bay County has seen increased usage by families over the years, thanks to these and many other programs presented by the staff and volunteers. I’m a longtime volunteer for the Youth Services Department and have helped with programming for more than a decade. The ones I’ve helped with have been half-day or one-day events.


Doctor Who in the Library: September 10, 2016

fandom-photo-set-1aa.pngThis was a great family event, with activities for all ages. Staff members constructed a TARDIS out of large cardboard boxes — even painting the interior — and people had loads of fun going inside and having their photos taken. I ran a perler bead craft activity. In over 30 years of conducting activities like this, I had never had more than 20 people make something during any one-hour workshop, so I put together 74 kits for a three-hour program. Much to my surprise and delight, they were all gone in under two hours. Good thing I brought my extra beads. People started counting out beads to make the item they wanted, and in between heating up and fusing the finished designs with my handy iron, I put together a few kits as well. More than 100 people came in throughout the afternoon. I estimate that people made around 90 perler bead items.



Fandom-photo-set-2Star Wars vs. Star Trek: July 11, 2017

Bay County Public Library’s Teen Advisory Board chose this fandom program and helped to run it along with the YA Specialist. I brought my button maker and helped attendees make buttons using Star Wars and Star Trek designs. The program included a trivia contest, crafts, and fun science experiments. Many of the teens came in costumes.



Harry Potter Day: July 22, 2017

Harry Potter Day was another family event, with costume contests, games, crafts, Harry Potter-themed snacks, a photo booth, and lots of fun. Librarians and other staff at the library loved cosplaying Harry Potter characters. One of the activities was the Potions class — staff had fun making props for the displays.


None of these programs costs a lot of money, as long as library staff, their families, and community volunteers of all ages are willing to do some work. Any library can put on a successful fandom program. Choose your own fandom theme and have some fun!





If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

The Collection Development Conundrum

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

5934882 - student looking at empty book shelves in libraryAlmost ten years ago, David Feldman penned a series of “Imponderables”: books with catchy titles such as Why Do Pirates Love Parrots?, When Do Fish Sleep?, and Do Penguins Have Knees? They moved well in public libraries for a few years, and then people seemed to lose interest in those questions. There are bigger questions, though, that people never seem to tire of pondering:

  • How did life begin?
  • Will we ever cure cancer?
  • Are we alone in the universe?
  • Why do we dream?
  • What makes us human?

Certainly, the shelves of our libraries are replete with titles that attempt to answer each of these quandaries. I want to single out a different question, though— one that we librarians chew on from time to time: “What’s the best way to select new titles for our collection?”

After many years of practicing the art of selecting new materials for public libraries, I have learned many things but I don’t intend to imply that I have all the answers. Nor does anyone else—and I recommend you not allow yourself to be bamboozled by anyone who claims their modus operandi is numero uno. What I’m suggesting is that the question “What’s the best way to select new books for the collection?” is a classic imponderable.


Oops… I have let a clue slip into the previous paragraph: Art. Selection of new materials is an art, not a science. Says who? I say it is. Ah, yes, art vs. science, another timeless conundrum—and also the name of an Australian electronic dance band that is raucously frenetic, IMHO. But I digress.

Before getting into the art of selecting titles, let’s look at the various triggers that prompt us to select. “How do we decide what gets added to the collection? Let me count the ways.” (Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.) 

  • The powerful influence of media presence
  • The appeal of cover art: it goes without saying that poor design or the lack of text and colorful graphics will dissuade most if not all patrons from checking out the book
  • Physical size, or the Goldilocks principle (not too big, not too small)
  • Binding
  • Patron requests or to meet the needs of a particular audience
  • School assignments
  • Local interest or tie-in
  • Library book selector says, “It’s my favorite area of interest and my library can never have enough _____ books.” (Fill in the blank: knitting, backpacking, Indian cooking, Scandinavian mysteries, etc.)
  • Fill a gap or special need
  • Amazon customer comments
  • Expeditions to bookstores
  • Donations
  • Bestseller lists
  • Anticipated demand for a title
  • Author popularity
  • It’s the next one in the series
  • A particular title is selected to provide balance in the collection
  • Self-promotion by author
  • Publisher catalogs
  • “Let George do it”—or, in the library’s case, outsource selection responsibilities to a vendor
  • Vendor promotion/customized selection lists
  • Vendor buying levels
  • Vendor list of “best” books
  • Visit from sales rep
  • Print run
  • Price
  • “Whoops! Look, we’ve got some funds we need to encumber by the end of the week.”
  • “The computer made me buy it,” a.k.a. suggested titles generated by software programs
  • Blanket orders or standing order plans
  • Television shows (get ready—Oprah is returning to the air this autumn!)
  • Did I mention the influence of media presence?


7338274 - book. word collage on white background.   illustration.What haven’t I listed? Reviews, of course; book reviews. But do they really matter these days? While that’s a completely separate topic in itself, I won’t hesitate to jump in and firmly state, “Yes, reviews matter!” Librarians have many excellent sources of professional reviews from which to choose.

It comes as no surprise that our public expects new books. Not a travel guide from three years ago and not a hot author’s thriller that has been available for a few years. Every survey of our customers says “We want new books,” and every public library’s circulation statistics bear this out. We have our marching orders from patrons: “Make our collection fresh, new, appealing, and up-to-date!”

But consider this not-too-far-fetched example. While we are evaluating a brand new title that discusses the history of yodeling in Tasmania — to replace our worn-out, aging title on the topic — we may find reviews suggesting that this new title is poorly edited and full of inaccuracies, or that it is an unstated reprint of a title originally issued in 1957. Here’s how “art” comes into play. Perhaps we will serve our patrons better by purchasing a well-reviewed title on the topic that was published two years ago, as opposed to one published this month. Also, we may have to stand our ground when other staff members question why such a limited-interest title would be selected at all. We know our clientele, and we see the circ. stats for that old, worn-out tome on the shelf, and we employ what is so aptly described by the phrase “professional judgment.” This is the art of selection!

Selecting books can certainly be informed by science, but I’m of the firm opinion that simply letting the computer do the work is not the way to go. Humans can make judgment calls and handle nuances and shades of gray in ways that software simply cannot, no matter how sophisticated the algorithms may be.

11293717 - young smiling female librarian handing a book to a customerAs professional librarians, we have access to respected journals that offer us reviews of forthcoming and recently-published books. Amidst our efforts to respond to media saturation, vendor buying levels, tweets, emails, phone calls, and blog posts, let us not neglect the art of reading reviews, using good judgment, and knowing our community. Hippocrates said “Art is long, life is short.” I interpret this to mean that it takes us an extended period of time to develop and perfect the craft of selecting books for our library and community of users.

So, where are we now, dear reader? Are you reconsidering your book selection process? My motive was to raise a question, get you to think, and encourage you to ponder possibilities. How do you and your library select? How is it working for you?

And now, forward! Ahead into these times of turmoil and changing tools for publishing and selecting! Having begun with the imponderable question of how to best select new books, I now suggest you be forewarned to never lose the art of your foresight—and to never forebear.

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit


Paul Maya party


Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.