Banned Books Week Reflections…


Last week ouklr school celebrated Banned Books Week. I am lucky enough to work at an arts high school that prides itself on intellectual and academic freedom, creativity, and instilling the value of the humanities within our students. Since our school opened its doors fifteen years ago, Banned Books Week (BBW) has been celebrated.  It is so well embedded in our school that even our President proudly supports our events and the openness of our institution. But none of this happened overnight.

Prior to BBW, I met with the graphic design teacher in August to discuss an ongoing annual project where seniors design BBW posters that are displayed in the library. In my opinion, they always do a better job than anything ALA will sell me (see above artwork). Throughout BBW I went to four high school U.S. Government classes to discuss the 1st Amendment, prominent case-law involving students’ rights, and how this ties to BBW and their rights as young adults. Each day in the library we held trivia contests distributed via email to our students where they could win Banned Books, posters, buttons, T-shirts and other anti-censorship prizes in addition to Amazon gift cards, all displayed on tables in cauldrons in the front of the library. Our library director did a program on the controversial opera “The Death Of Klinghoffer.” Mid-week we held our annual BBW Read Out at lunch in the courtyard and had a great group of students and teachers reading from their favorite banned books. I was proud to see our Dean & VP in the amphitheater observing.

sbAlthough many places don’t offer the support that I receive, there is nothing more patriotic than celebrating Banned Books Week. My father is a vet and retired Air Force and my sister-in-law is an Iraqi War Veteran. If you’re concerned about a backlash, invite service members into your BBW library program. My sister-in-law is a huge fan of fantasy literature and would proudly state “you’re damn right I fought for your right to read Harry Potter or any other book.” Hearing that from a service member in uniform with an American flag backdrop helps take away the politics and allows us to celebrate as united Americans.

apI have always believed that libraries are about relationships. I love getting to know all the students, teachers, administrators, and staff at school. The best relationships take time to build. It took years to build up trust before Creative Writing, History, Government, and Visual Arts teachers let me into their classrooms and collaborated with me for BBW. It was through informal conversations that they gained a sense of who I was and what was motivating me. I hope that everyone is out there building quality relationships that give them the support they need to celebrate BBW.  The best part of BBW this year? When a 12th grader I didn’t know visited me in the library and thanked me for coming to his class because he thought the discussion interesting.  It is the beginning of a new relationship.

5 Non-Library Websites You Should Be Reading Right Now

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

If you are like me, you have probably got a whole slew of blogs and websites about library work. However, in my experience, if you want to see the big picture or find the next big idea, you will need to look outside our circle of library people. Here are some websites that I put on my reading list.

Ask a Manager

Alison Green is a former manager that answers questions on everything from resumes, interviewing to being productive on the job. Every library supervisor should read her stuff religiously. Even if you have no aspirations for management, Ask a Manager, puts problems in context and also helps you manage “up”. Job hunters will love the advice on cover letters, resumes and interviewing.

My personal favorite: 10 Worst Holiday Party Disasters

Evil HR Lady

This one is one of my favorites! Evil HR Lady is Suzanne Lucas, a former human resources manager. Like Ask a Manager, Suzanne answers questions on everything human resources. I can’t tell you how many times I have used her for my “reality” check. Not sure something is legal? ethical? or practical? Evil HR Lady has you covered. Even if you are just a minion out there in the working world, this blog will tell you what to expect from an employer (beyond a paycheck).

HBR (Harvard Business Review)

HBR is one of the best places to get your head around big ideas in leadership, work performance and strategic thinking. The format is a bit longer, but worth every paragraph.

Recent Favorite: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To


Like HBR, this is where go for more big picture articles about leadership and management. On the left hand top right menu pick the Leadership category and you are good to go. Job hunters: there are some really good tips for writing resumes and great advice for interviewing.

Recent Favorite: Leadership Lessons from Animal House


I can already hear everyone saying that this isn’t really a business blog or management blog. It’s a blog about tips, strategies and shortcut in everyday life. I always think this is a great source for what I will tactfully call “getting your crap together”.

Even if you don’t like my favorites, try expanding your library reading to the non-library world. Hanging with “civilians” can be illuminating.

Homebrews and Jousting: Building Community with Hilary Savage

photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

Libraries and beer are a match made in heaven. Earlier this year I was blown away by an awesome program at Belleville Area District Library (BADL). The owner of a great local microbrewery, Original Gravity, explained the brewing process, passed around samples of raw ingredients, and explained how he changed careers to follow his passion for great beer.

The beer talk was part of the BADL Homegrown Knowledge series, where residents (or former residents) of this small Michigan town share their interests at the library. The peer-to-peer talks make the activities (from jousting to living in a foreign country) incredibly accessible to a novice audience. In a slowly recovering economy, a program offering exposure to new interests, hobbies, and potential careers holds great value for library patrons.

I recently caught up with Hilary Savage, the librarian who plans the series, to ask about the value Homegrown Knowledge brings to the Belleville community.

Photograph of Hilary Savage

Hilary Savage of Belleville Area District Library

What’s your job at Belleville Area District Library?

As one of four full-time librarians for a community of just over 40,000, I do a little bit of everything. I handle collection development for the bulk of the adult collection, including media. I’m in charge of the adult programming. I work at the reference desk and I’m on the OverDrive Support team for our consortium. I also update our library website and try to keep our Facebook page interesting.

I think my adult services philosophy can be boiled down to one idea: the library is a place of enrichment. My job is to facilitate our patrons’ search for enrichment.

Tell me about the Homegrown Knowledge program. How did it get started?

Our Homegrown Knowledge series consists of monthly programs featuring local people talking about what they know. It grew out of a couple of unrelated programs we were arranging in the summer of 2011 and the desire of the Friends of the Library to sponsor a program series. I believe our Director Deb Green came up with the theme which nicely tied everything together and gave us a lot of possibilities for future programs.

We’ve just completed our second full year of the series, and have scheduled speakers for September through the end of the year.

What kinds of skills or knowledge have been presented?

We’ve had a huge range of presentations and presenters. They’ve covered topics from local history to river ecology to travel and living abroad to art to beer brewing.

The most unusual was a presentation given by a competitive jouster on the historical origins of jousting and the modern international sport. He also works for an organization called the WEC Institute that recently reverse-engineered a piece of 16th century technology called Maximilian Exploding Armor for a Canadian TV program. Because he has personal experience of jousting in addition to studying historical accounts of it he was able to add immediacy to a subject that most people think of as something that only happens in history books.

How do you find presenters? What kind of persuasion does it require?

The job of finding presenters was originally up to the Friends, but as time has gone by it’s become more of a shared responsibility. We find a lot of presenters through word-of-mouth, and have encouraged program attendees to suggest people that they may know with a skill, passion, or interesting experience to share.

So far, we haven’t had any difficulty convincing people to present. Once I explain the series everyone has agreed to speak. I imagine this is partly because the series appeals to their sense of community. But I think it’s mostly that we are asking people to share their passions – because who doesn’t want to share their passions with an appreciative audience? All presenters have participated free of charge, and generally stay and talk to audience members until we close for the night.

What do you think is the community value of the HGK program?

The programs can be inspirational. We’ve had several speakers who have turned their (at times unusual) passions into viable careers.

I think that these programs have helped to foster a great sense of community. Belleville was once a small town in a rural corner of Wayne County, and has undergone enormous population growth in the past twenty years. Program attendees have been introduced to the awesome accomplishments of their neighbors, to the work of local artists and businesses, and new groups of people with similar interests. After a presentation on Little Willie John by journalist Susan Whitall, it felt like half the audience took their conversation to a local bar when we closed.


That’s Daft!

Daft-Punk-Helmets-Columbia-Album-artworkThe story behind this summer’s biggest song, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk is a lesson library leaders should download.  During a time in which immediacy is the norm, the French duo decided that the release of the song would be set to a “slow simmer.”  The campaign started in February with a simple image on the band’s website.  Over the next few months snippets of the song would be featured on commercials and billboards with the bands’ iconic helmets would pop up in major markets.  Daft Punk did not use online marketing.  Instead they left it up to their fans to use social media to turn up the hype machine.  The band’s manager Paul Hahn states:

The song’s success was really about the audience’s response to our marketing, more than the marketing itself.  The mystery lets the audience’s imagination fill in the gaps.  What it tells us is, there’s a great unexpressed desire in audiences worldwide to be active and to participate and not be spoken to as just a passive entity. You have to engage an audience in a way that inspires their imaginations. You have to invite them to participate. (

“Get Lucky” is an amazing song because Daft Punk used a stealthy marketing plan to engage their audience in the process of making it a hit.  They did not spoon feed them a lame online marketing campaign, the duo selectively set free parts of the song and images that inspired the world to respond.  Have you check YouTube for how many fan created videos have been posted in the past few months?  Most importantly the song would not be playing on millions of iPods and radio stations if it wasn’t a well-crafted pop masterpiece.

Libraries will better succeed when they discover how to tap into the “unexpressed desire” in their community that will encourage their patrons “to be active and to participate and not be spoken to as just a passive entity.”  Our job as library leaders is to provide staff with the resources to discover what will get patrons dancing into our buildings.  Staff then need to use these tools to provide quality programs and market the library as a place of participation.  Often this process can take time, but sometimes you may get lucky and find yourself with a certified platinum hit.

Pinterest Logo

Pinning Down Your Audience

Pinterest LogoWhether we’re ordering materials, planning programs, generating publicity, or even selecting furniture, it’s pivotal for us to know the folks we’re attempting to serve.  “If you build it, they will come”… but only if it appeals to them!

I’m lucky enough to host a ‘tween knitting circle once a week during the school year.  Because I see the same knitters week after week, this group has become an unofficial advisory board; I often run ideas past them or ask them, “Which would be cooler?” when deciding between potential programs.  The patrons in this group are honest, hilarious, and extremely helpful.  As much as I hate to admit it, many years have passed since my own ‘tweenhood, and the things I think will appeal to this age group are often way off base.  Having a group of actual ‘tweens who are willing to tell me what they like is invaluable.

A few months ago, a couple of the ‘tweens in our knitting circle started following me on Pinterest, and I followed them back.  My Pinterest account functions almost entirely as a way for me to organize library-related links, so although it is a personal account, I consider it an extension of my professional life.

Pinterest has allowed me to get to know a few members of my target audience in a whole new way, by seeing their pins and the way they organize items.  It has also given them the opportunity to have a sneak peek at projects I’m considering for library programs and let me know what they think.

This fall, our knitting circle will be starting up again– but only for five weeks.  For the following five weeks, we’ll shift our focus to making little felt animals, a project that I had been considering for a while but was confirmed as a solid choice when I noticed the prevalence of cute little animals and soft sewn crafts on the ‘tweens’ Pinterest boards.  I’m looking forward to more Pinterest patron inspiration in the future!

Dr. Rajeev @ Idea Mornings

Idea Mornings

I am a big fan of finding inspiration in the non-library sector. Whether it’s the merchandising techniques of book stores or this idea, which I picked up from an old high school friend who now lives in Kentucky.

Jason D’Mello is a an entrepreneur and educator in Louisville, Kentucky, and in 2011 he helped create Idea Mornings, a TED-ish style monthly event to stimulate ideas and discussion before normal business hours.

Dr. Rajeev @ Idea Mornings

Dr. Rajeev @ Idea Mornings

Recently, I asked Jason to share the back story of this totally awesome program idea with the Library Lost & Found audience. Here is what he had to say:

I moved to Louisville in July of 2010 to start a PhD program at UofL’s College of Business. The focus of my study has been in entrepreneurship, especially social innovation. While exploring Louisville, I discovered that it was the host to an annual event, 10 years in the running, called Idea Festival. Similar to TED, this conference brought speakers from all around the world to share ideas, but included a powerful Q&A session that elevated the discussion. It seemed to be a shame that such a dialogue only happened once a year, and as a result, Idea Mornings was born.

Several PhD students and I started planning how we could bring creative people together early in the morning to carry on the spirit of the festival each month. We launched in September 2011 in a brand new coffee shop called Please and Thank You, in the NuLu district of Louisville. Our monthly event started at 7:30am, with free food and coffee, and was an open invitation to the city to attend. The event was set up so that it would replicate the traditional salon, no powerpoints, just a room full of people gathered around a person with an idea to make Louisville better. Our stage is very portable, it is simply a directors chair that says “IDEATOR.”

The first speaker was Ari Cowan who inspired Louisville to sign our own charter for compassion as a city and join his international network of “compassionate cities” proposed in a TED talk a few years prior. Other early speakers included JK McKnight, founder of the Forecastle Music, Arts, Activism Festival that was recently acquired by Bonnaroo’s company. He spoke on his foundation that aims to protect the few remaining biodiversity hotspots around the world. Heather Howell, C ‘Tea’ O of Rooibee Red Tea spoke about the important issue of a lack of diversity on corporate governance boards, and shared how she was helping getting more women into such positions. We’ve had a judge speak about an innovative restorative justice approach to keep youth out of juvenile courts, city planners propose much needed public transportation plans, and other leaders discuss how we need to “re-think” our education system.

The first year of events at our little coffee shop were very well attended, so much so that we out grew the space. Also my friend and co-founder moved, and I was alone in running the event. With the event temporarily homeless and a lack of a team, I had the good fortune of finding George Parker Jr and his team at Parker Lane LLC. George stepped in as a collaborative partner and technology support that allowed us to film and document each event professionally. He also offered his office, which moved the event to the rooftop of a LEED certified building in NuLu with a beautiful view of the city skyline. A few weeks later, I met an incredible artist named Sloan Showalter who came on board and has since surprised each of our speakers with a live painting portrait, now a tradition. We also received a generous sponsorship by Heine Brothers Coffee, a great local company in Louisville that continues to support entrepreneurs and local businesses.

We ended our rooftop series in September by hosting an official Idea Festival event that brought together a panel of organizational leaders who share an interest in bringing the community together around innovation. This was one of my favorite events because it allowed us to be a part of the event that was the initial inspiration for Idea Mornings. We had a tent up that day for the Nulu street festival (Nulufest). In it was a giant board that Sloan painted with our logo, a stack of cards and markers, and a hammer and nail. People who walked by wrote their ideas for making the city better and then got to nail the card to the board.

The winter was spent in the new entrepreneurship co-working space called the i-Hub. These events were extremely well attended, with some hosting over 100 people at our early hour. Aaron Marshall, founder of the popular app Over gave a great talk on how he used Lean Startup methods to grow his company to over 1 million users and a top 10 app on iTunes. Other topics ranged from bringing an NBA team to Louisville, a movement that has been a huge issue since, to sharing the story of a cancer survivor who started a nonprofit called Hopescarves, that send scarves of other survivors for support to women who are battling cancer around the country.

This year Idea Mornings is taking on a new challenge rather than expanding to other cities, we decided to go on the road and explore neighborhoods within the city. We traveled to a hackerspace in Smoketown called LVL1 to talk about 3D printing with Chris Cprek, Catholic Charities in Portland Historical Neighborhood with Dr. Bais who founded an incredible refugee program called the Survivor Clinic, and last month to Churchill Downs to discuss starting a niche business in a down economy.

Next month I’ve invited a speaker who founded a creative nonprofit called We’re Cool….in response to Mike Jeffries (Abercrombie CEO) controversial statements about who they want to wear their clothes, a Louisvillian named Richard Hudgins stood up and decided to take action by organizing clothing drives of used Abercrombie clothes and giving them to homeless kids in the city. He has some big ideas to help battle bullying.

The Summer and Fall for 2013 are already booked, and we keep getting referrals for new speakers to fill the “tourdates” on our calendar. Last month, someone from my hometown approached me to discuss starting an Idea Mornings chapter in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which made me incredibly proud of where this event is going. We will continue to keep the organization small, grassroots, free and inclusive, while seeking creative ways to help spread ideas.

For the longer, un-edited version of this post, click here. Jason has some really wonderful stories and examples, well worth worth the length, but in the interest of the blog format had to be edited down. Thank you so much for sharing, Jason!