Monday, October 20, 2014

MLA Conference 2014 Report

By Steve Harsin

What a change in MLA in recent years! So many of the old guard leadership that has been very powerful in shaping our profession over the past several decades have retired or died, and at this conference, I really noticed their absence. By the same token, it’s apparent our profession is blessed with a great bounty of youthful enthusiasm and energy, so I’m very hopeful for our future.
I attended a number of sessions that were very good.

One session about the emerging category of New Adult materials was quite enlightening. New Adult material is defined as being written for the post YA reader. In other words, post-high school up to age 30. The defining characteristics of New Adult are:
  •  Protagonist between 18 and 30
  • Protagonist is facing, and dealing with a major life issue for the first time
  •  More explicit than YA, but generally not as explicit as adult romance fiction
  • The experience of the protagonist gains them insight (the distinction from YA material)
  •  Anticipated audience is 20 somethings
  •  Also enjoyed by adults of all ages

Types of issues covered:
  • Identity
  • Sexuality
  • Marriage
  • Going to college
  • Drug & alcohol abuse
  • Depression or suicide
  • Buying a first car
  •  Almost any topic one might imagine dealing with for the first time in your 20s.

The genre emerged in the publishing world around 2003, but didn’t really meet with success and faded away. Revived again in 2009, but still didn’t really grab hold. In 2011, with the advent of e-publishing and smashing success of self-published materials, the publishing world revived the concept again, and it has really taken off. New Adult materials, if you look them up at Amazon, commonly have hundreds of reviews and also, even with so many reviews, have 4+ star ratings, even 4.5 and up. The readership of the genre tends to be rabid in their dedication to the category, and prefers PAPER over ebook. Shocking. But true.

I found it interesting that one of the first books in the 2011 revival of the concept was a book titled Easy. When that book appeared on my radar, it was still pretty new, but had tons of good reviews on Amazon, and lots of people reviewing it. So, I took a chance and ordered it for Cook Public Library. When it arrived, I was kind of disappointed, because it looked kind of like something I might consider “junk material.” But I cataloged it anyway and put it on the shelf. The darned thing went out immediately on interlibrary loan, and I don’t think we saw it back for about 3 months. Furthermore, once it did return, it seemed to rarely sit on the shelf for a few days before it went out again. A few readers cropped up in Cook, but to be honest, Cook doesn’t have a huge population in the demographic for this kind of material. Even so, local users as well as ILL users did check the book out. Repeatedly.

One interesting characteristic of New Adult material is that often older romance readers find they really like this new category. Typically, the reason is that it doesn’t contain as much explicit sex as adult romance. So, if you have that type of reader in your library, you might try to steer them to New Adult.

The recommendation was to catalog New Adult material for your adult collections, but to mark them with some kind of spine label to indicate they are New Adult. The logic here is that these readers will gradually transition away from being “just” New Adult readers into adult material, and that housing them together allows users to make that transition on their own timeline. (Kind of like keeping YA material next to the Juvenile, it seems.)

You can find examples of New Adult material at by searching “new adult” and there is also a category for the genre in Baker & Taylor. Already review sources are starting to feature New Adult material. This is a category that is likely to grow, so you may want to look at it.

Another interesting session was titled: Planting Seeds

In this one, Carla Powers and Jocelyn Baker from the Duluth Public Library talked about their experience starting a seed library at their library. There are probably a number of libraries in our region that might find a warm reception to such a thing in their community. Spoiler alert! There are some issues here!

But first, DPL did a FANTASTIC job of establishing and programming for their seed library. They fostered a huge amount of public involvement, and what I feel was an immense amount of programming, commitment, effort, and what I felt was truly excellent support for kicking off the seed library. They even coordinated with the City of Duluth grounds crews to plant seeds from the library in flower beds around the library. The city workers, commendably, embraced the program and really helped make visible contributions to the success of the program.

Ok, so here’s the bad news: Minnesota statute precludes the sharing of seeds. Period. So, for instance, if you have some descendant of an immigrant in your town, whose ancestor brought seeds over from the old country, and who has now been growing those seeds on the Iron Range (or other community) for generations, and that person decides to share some of those seeds with their neighbor, those two individuals have just broken the law. The law was written a long time ago, presumably to protect the Minnesota seed industry. Obviously it has not been enforced, because frankly, pretty much everybody shares seeds with someone at some point, whether giving or receiving. Well. It’s illegal. And that means that almost by definition, seed libraries are breaking the law as well.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture visited the Duluth Public Library, and could have shut the seed library activities down, but instead has offered to work with DPL to come into compliance with the law. The requirements are pretty stringent, and may not be feasible, but DPL is exploring what they need to do.

My opinion: This is a law that has outlived its usefulness, and all we are protecting now is Monsanto and their GMO patents. I feel we all need to talk to our legislators, who PROBABLY HAVE VIOLATED THIS LAW THEMSELVES, call that to their attention, and ask for an amendment to this statute that specifically exempts individuals and seed libraries.

In the meantime, it seems to me that seed libraries are a great idea for our current era, and with the homesteading, grow your own, off-grid mentality we’re seeing, it’s something that would very much be embraced by many in our communities.

We Go Together, on the topic of LGBTQ services in libraries had a lot of really interesting, and really useful, information. A couple items really stood out – the age demographics for readers of LGBTQ materials run the gamut from young to elderly. One of the presenters did extensive surveys across the demographics of these readers. What she found was that among those groups, the young have an extremely strong preference for PAPER (again!) over electronic, while the retired strongly prefer e-books. The latter group like that you can increase the font size, but particularly care that nobody can see what they are reading, whereas the younger audience really don’t care about either one. What do the young readers value the most about paper books? Portability and the “new book smell.”

And people laughed at us 20 years ago when we said such things….

Anyway, those two items were so thought provoking, that even though I enjoyed the rest of the presentation, I can’t remember what else was discussed!

The last event of the conference was a keynote address by Josh Hanagarne, the World’s Strongest Librarian. If your library doesn’t have his book already, you should consider getting it. Josh delivered one of the most moving keynote addresses I’ve heard in many years. He literally was in tears at three different points during his presentation, and I believe the audience was as well.
Josh has Tourette’s syndrome, and, against great odds, works as a reference librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library. He talked about what it was like to grow up as a youth with Tourette’s, how it affected his life, how libraries and librarians were the one place and the one group of people he felt actually helped him confront the challenges of his journey. He expressed his gratitude on several occasions, for how he had been treated, for how librarianship had welcomed him to the fold, and for how he has been treated as a working professional.

Really. Go buy the book.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Minnesota History Day - Start at your library!

History Day is an inter-disciplinary research project for students in grades 6-12. 
Students choose a topic that relates to an annual theme, research that topic, and develop their research into one of five presentation categories: research paper, exhibit, documentary, performance, or website. Students may then enter their projects into History Day competitions at school, regional, state, and national levels.
History Day teaches students to:
  • Conduct in-depth research
  • Use primary and secondary sources
  • Read a variety of texts
  • Analyze and synthesize information
  • Write and present historical content
The library play a vital role for in supporting students as they research their projects, watch this video to learn more:
And statewide Legacy funds are available to provide transportation from schools to libraries. For more information contact Chris Magnusson
For more information or to get involved in History Day, request more information online or contact the History Day staff.

How to Host a How-To Festival

By Renee Zurn, Duluth Public Library

The last session I attended, How to Host a How-To Festival, was very interesting and also informative.  Four librarians from three different public libraries reported on their How-To Festivals, hosted this year and last.  The presenters were Anne Lundquist (Watonwan County Library), Stacy Lienemann (Waseca-Le Sueur Regional Library System), Anissa Sandland and Tosha Anderson (St. Peter Public Library).

In late 2012 Stacy Lienemann read an article in american libraries about the Louisville Free Public Library in Kentucky hosting a series of short, how-to programs as part of a larger day of programming called The How-To Festival.  Following their model, Stacy hosted the Watonwan Country Library’s first How-To Festival in 2013.  It drew on local businesses, members of the public, library staff and volunteers to present on very diverse topics, such as “How to make balloon animals”, “How to draw a dragon”, and “How to be a roller derby queen”.  There were two-three programs running at the same time and each program lasted less than 30 minutes.

This year Anne Lundquist hosted her first How-To Festival, following Stacy’s example.  She started with their staff and Friends group for program volunteers and offered two- three programs every ½ hour.  She found that parenting, library related and part II of a program series weren’t very popular but that cooking programs were very popular. 

Anissa Sandland and Tosha Anderson also hosted their first How-To Festival this year at the St. Peter Public Library.  They started with the Chamber of Commerce list of businesses and brainstormed about what short program various businesses could offer and then contacted them.  Brainstorming program ideas is very important for this form of programming.  They hosted a new program every ½ hour, one program at a time.  Two of their more popular programs were “How to protect your identity” and “Arranging store bought flowers”.  They advertised the participating businesses not only at their program but also in the publicity for the event.  They offered a $50 honorarium to their presenters to help cover material costs as each presenter supplied their own materials.  Many of the businesses refused the honorarium.  

All the librarians said How-To Festivals involved lots of work but that it was well worth it.  They stressed starting early with your planning and getting lots of volunteers.  They also said the festival should feature fun, off-beat and unusual programming and that you need to keep them short, 30 minutes or less.  They received many enthusiastic comments about the festival from their patrons. 

This type of programming is a great way to bring a community together by showcasing the wide variety of skills found in the community and a way to highlight local businesses in a casual setting.  Library staff made new community connections and spotlighted lifelong learning.  By holding multiple sessions at once, libraries offered an all-ages, fresh festival atmosphere in which to learn a variety of skills without a major time commitment.  They stressed over and over again that the programs must be short, interesting and fun.

Diversity! Books for a Better Today

By Nancy Maxwell

I sometimes forget what an interesting and diverse world we live in.  Happily, the conference panel  members of the Diversity and Outreach Round Table were there to remind me!  Each of the five member panel spent 10 minutes giving book talks on a variety of book genres highlighting diversity in the community.  Picture books, adult fiction, graphic novels, authors of color and new releases were featured.  The books reviewed were for a variety of age groups and reading levels.  I appreciated having the wide variety of differences brought to my attention, especially the books for teens and children. I came away with a list of books and ideas to create and maintain a collection that will support diversity in our community. An annotated bibliography can be found at:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Readers Still Prefer Paper (Infographic)

To read the entire article, please click on the following link:

Get to Know the Finalists for the 2014 National Book Award!

Click on the following link for more information on these great titles!

“Customer Service is Dead: Long Live the Customer Experience” #2

By Carla Powers

OK, so this was covered in a previous blog post put together by Nicole, but it was by far my favorite session for the MLA 2014 conference.  So, think of this “Customer Service is Dead 2.0.”  Or “Long, LONG Live the Customer Experience.”

This session was taught by St. Catherine University’s Dr. Anthonly Molaro, and as Nicole mentioned in her excellent recap, the difference between customer service and customer experience is that customer service is reactive and focuses on transactions, while customer experience is proactive and based on … well, the whole experience of using the library.

I think the best way to illustrate the difference between the two is with an example of something that happened in my conference hotel.  On the second morning of conference I went to the hotel lobby in search of some much-needed coffee.  Alas, the coffee urn was empty!  I tipped it toward me in hopes of salvaging at least a few sips, but it was REALLY empty.  Disappointed, I headed for the elevator with the intention of returning later.  Good customer service taught me that the staff probably would fill the urn in a few minutes.  Imagine my surprise – and delight! – when a hotel staffer chased me down on my way to the elevator with a carafe of coffee in hand.  She had noticed me trying to coax coffee out of an empty urn, and she took it upon herself to find a carafe of coffee from the restaurant, catch me before I left, and fill my cup.  THAT is customer experience.  She anticipated my need and went above and beyond to make me happy.

Customer experience looks at the customer not just as a consumer but as a participant.  It has grown out of the participatory culture that began in the early 2000’s and has been embraced by many successful companies – think Apple, Starbucks and Zappo.  Customer service, in contrast, has become cliché and is no longer trusted – think Comcast.

In the 20th century, Molaro explained, libraries were predominately informational.  Library staff were the gatekeepers who preserved and provided access to information.  In the 21st century, however, Molaro believes libraries are predominately social.  They need to create spaces around tasks, and provide places for people to be alone and together in many different configurations.

So how does a library without the deep pockets of Apple or Starbucks begin to introduce customer experience into its culture?  Molaro offered a few practical tips.  Make your spaces as simple and beautiful as possible.  If you are putting up a lot of signs to tell patrons how to navigate your space, think about removing the signs and rearranging your space to make it more intuitive.  Never give verbal directions, and never point to a location.  Walk there with the patron.  If you patrons have to wait in line, make waiting enjoyable.  Give them something to browse, or take a page from retailers and put your high-demand items in these areas and watch the books fly off the shelves.  And, as Nicole mentioned, when you hire new staff, hire people who are passionate and aligned with the library’s core values.  You can train for everything else.

Molaro ended by pointing out that people long for a personal and positive connection.  By taking the next step from responding to their needs to actually anticipating their needs, he believes we can ensure that libraries remain a vibrant, beloved hub of the community no matter what changes the future brings. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Little Free Library coming to the ALS Region

Last week, the Minnesota Library Association (MLA) held its annual conference in Mankato. Marge McPeak, President of the ALS Governing Board, was the lucky winner of the Little Free Library pictured below. She has pledged to find a good home for it, so watch for it in the future somewhere in the Tower-Soudan area. Congratulations, Marge McPeak!

Customer Service is Dead: Long Live the Customer Experience

By Nicole Miller

This October, I attended the Minnesota Library Association’s annual conference in Mankato. It was an interesting learning experience. I got some great ideas for teen programming and brought home some great information for our Library Foundation to raise funds and awareness about our library to potential donors. But the most relevant and poignant session for me, the thing that I think will have the greatest impact on my library, was Dr. Anthony Molaro’s session “Customer Service is Dead: Long Live the Customer Experience.”

            Molaro explained the difference between customer service and customer experience. The former is a point of contact, reactionary based system which has become somewhat of a cliché in recent years. The latter, however, is a more holistic experience that includes a patron’s perceptions of our websites, our overall interactions with them, and our ability to recognize potential problems and take steps to forestall them before they happen. He explained that people who have positive customer experiences with an organization are much more willing to forgive mistakes when they happen because a bond of loyalty has been built. Think of Apple and the latest iOS 8.0.1 glitch that froze phones. Despite the poor quality update, Apple has created such a positive overall user experience that they have a very loyal following of device users who forgave the glitch and plan to continue to use their devices.

            When we make the experience participatory, in addition, people will feel that their voices are heard and valued. We can do this by creating an advisory board or committee for every age group, even if nobody shows up. As Molaro explained it, even when people choose not to participate, they appreciate having those avenues of communication open so they can express their opinions to us. And if only one person shows up at the meeting, that one person can share with us what others might be thinking or what their needs are. And then our role is to try to meet those needs proactively.

            One way that I know many of us work on building that positive customer experience is by greeting our patrons whenever they walk through the door and greeting them by name. As Molaro said, people love to be remembered and they love to hear their names (at least, as long as they aren’t in trouble!). This is relationship-building. When we build positive relationships with our patrons, by greeting them by name or even purchasing books with them in mind, they remember these things and they are more willing to forgive our mistakes. This is also the avenue toward garnering more support at budget time when our budgets are threatened because some of our patrons whom we have nurtured may have some political clout. This is one point I hadn’t actively considered before.

            Another way for us to create a more positive customer experience might be to try to rethink our physical spaces. This means to create a variety of spaces based on tasks more than age. For example, provided we have adequate room (which I realize is not always feasible in some of our libraries), we could divide our spaces for quiet work/reading, loud work/reading, and anywhere on the spectrum between the two. This is an area which I constantly work on in my library and it is a struggle. I feel that, with observation and feedback, I may eventually get it right.

            I think the absolute most poignant point that Molaro made was that we need to get staff on board to create the best customer experience we can. This starts with smart hiring. We’ve probably all worked with someone who was very unpleasant with patrons and coworkers, who insisted on performing the bare minimum of duties, and acted as if s/he didn’t even want to be at work. Those people are toxic to the customer experience. They are the people who turn away our patrons and possibly make those people (especially the kids and teens) decide they hate libraries and will never walk into one again. Do we really want that to happen? I’m sure the answer is a resounding NO! So Molaro believes in hiring for core values (yes, look at your mission statement and define your library’s core values) and passion, but train for skills. Because ultimately, if your new hire has all the skills in the world but is an unpleasant person who doesn’t want to try anything new, that person’s unpleasantness will spread. Attitude is contagious! Skills can be taught. His two favorite interview questions are “Are you nice?” and “What are you passionate about?” I think those are interesting questions that can get to the heart of a potential employee’s future with your library. In know that I’m adding those questions to my repertoire of interview questions!

            I like also that Molaro suggested building staff morale by monthly get-togethers outside of the library. I know other industries do this because it builds rapport and a stronger team attitude. I think it’s a nice idea, but should never be made mandatory. Employees can’t always make it to socials, but they should make an effort to attend some of the time. I think that employees who don’t participate in these get-togethers might also be toxic because they aren’t team players, but that’s my take. It could be my sports background, but team efforts are important to me because everyone does their part to get the job done. But that’s a thought for another day.

Figuring out that LSTA Grant…

by Katie Sundstrom
Session covered: LSTA Grantee Panel: Building Capacity through Partnerships & LSTA

The LSTA grants are federal funds that are requested by, and administered through, the MN Department of Education, to support library projects across the state.  However, it isn’t just one big grant pool that is awarded out once every year – they also supply mini-grants, such as “Playful Learning in Libraries” and “Expanded Learning in Libraries,” (applications due November 5th), for more narrow goals, such as projects working in collaboration with schools.  Applications, information, and more can be found on the MN Department of Education website:

The process that the Department of Education uses to sort through the grants is as follows:

     1.  Once the applications are received, they are sent out to reviewers and scored.  These reviewers are regular library workers, our colleagues, who have volunteered their time for this, and they score the applications based on a 100 point system.  Each application is reviewed by more than one person at this stage.  (If your library has not received an LSTA grant previously, you automatically get 5 extra points)
     2.  The official grants team reviews these reviewers’ reviews, because the more reviews, the better. 
     3.  Now there is an official review session.  The multiple reviewers for a particular grant get together and argue over why they assigned the scores they did, and try to come to some kind of agreement (he said 40 points, she said 60 points, so they finally settle on 50 points…)
     4.  State Library Services of the MN Department of Education reviews these final reviews and scores, and money is assigned to the top scorers.  In fact, the money has to be given to the top scorers, so if the top scorer is asking for all of the money, then that person is the only person to receive the grant that year.  However, if the 10 top scorers all only asked for a little bit, and all ten added together equal the amount available for that year, then all 10 top libraries will receive the grant.  That is why different numbers of libraries receive the grant each year.

      Some of the things that the LSTA Grants committee is looking for are as follows:

      1.  The application is complete
      2. The application was submitted on time
      3.  The application uses words and phrases directly out of the LSTA 5 year plan.
      4. The project looking for funding has a sustainability plan
      5. The project creates partnerships and connections, especially between public libraries and schools when possible
      6. The project provides opportunities for students experiencing barriers to information access and educational experiences  (prove that need)

      LSTA grants can be applied towards a wide variety of programs as well.  Of course, there is all that fancy technology, with tablets, laptops, ereaders, ebooks, and more.  Then again, it could also be applied towards hiring a consultant, such as when SELS did their “eBooks for Southeastern Minnesota Schools” study; it could be used to train and hire local artists and purchase art supplies to begin hosting regular art classes for senior citizens, such as Austin Public Library’s “Creative Aging in the Mower County Libraries” program; it could even be used to purchase toys with an educational purpose, such as South St. Paul Library’s “Indoor Play Space.”  If you are concerned about the extra time and effort required to set-up a program once you’ve received a grant, know that funds can be applied to staff salary and benefits to cover extra hours as well.

      If you have already submitted an application and were turned down, don’t be too discouraged yet.  This year alone, they had grant applications for nearly $2,000,000, but nowhere near that much money, so you aren’t alone in not receiving a grant.  If you are planning on trying again next year and want to give yourself a bit of an edge, you are allowed to request the full application of any of the previous winning recipients, then base your work off of that; after all, if it sounded good enough to get them the money, then with some minor tweaks, it might sound good enough to get you some money.  Perhaps even better, particularly if you have a special and unique project in mind, you can request your previous grant application back, complete with all the reviewers’ comments and scores, so you know exactly what to edit before re-submitting it again the next year.

So now you have an overview of how the LSTA grant application process works, some tips on how to make it look better, an idea of what you can use funds on, and the secret knowledge of being able to get real and direct feedback for future applications.  Use this information, and turn in your best application ever.  I hope at least one of us up here can procure some extra funds!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Treasure at the end of the rainbow? Why, a library of course!

ALS Bookmobile staffer Lindsay Engel took this shot in Hermantown, MN on Thursday, October 2. Your local library (or bookmobile) really is the treasure at the end of the rainbow!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

October Legacy News

This month we have two programs scheduled - 

Master Accordionist Mario Cianflone will be touring area libraries sharing the history of the accordion and playing a variety of French, Italian, classical and even Latin American music on the accordion. 

321 Art Studio will also be visiting area libraries presenting a cartooning workshop designed for K-6 grades but also a great opportunity for families to get creative together.

For the full schedule of both programs go to:

Two public art projects have been completed at the Cook and Moose Lake Public Libraries. 

A dedication is scheduled for October 10th at 11a at the Moose Lake Public Library. Here are some "in progress" photos of the clay sculpture reflecting the areas of cultural diversity that helped to shape the vision of the Moose Lake Public Library created by Ken and Pat Larson.

Ron Benson created a number of glass panels celebrating Cook’s key artistic, cultural, and historical attributes. Here are photos of a few of the panels created. The glass panels are difficult to photograph well so stop by the Cook Library and see the display in person for the best view!



Monday, September 29, 2014

New Interactive - Minnesota Writers Map

The Minnesota Book Awards is very pleased to announce a new, online version of the popular Minnesota Writers Map which was first launched in the spring of last year. Now featuring interactive information on each of the 112 authors listed, the online project is intended to be an ever-expanding effort. In the coming months, additional authors will be added, with more audio and video resources continually being incorporated to make it a truly living and breathing representation of the state’s literary legacy.