After a recent talk I gave in Illinois, a Trustee asked me to help her understand the role of the public library in the 21st century. I said I thought it boiled down to this: libraries build brains and community.
Building brains has two parts. First, and most important, is the total immersion in language that has been proven to develop thick clusters of dendrites in the brains of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Those clusters of nerves are the biological basis of intelligence.
I've been doing a lot of reading about brain development and literacy. The two are tightly connected. Children who hear lots of stories, demanding attention, empathy, comprehension of new words, prediction of events, are not only smarter, kinder, and more competent human beings, they are also prepped for one of the most wondrous accomplishments of humankind: learning to read.
I recently returned from the Illinois Library Association in Chicago, where I had the privilege of giving the keynote address. I was raised in that area and began my career there. So I had the chance to see a lot of old friends, colleagues, and early professional influences.
One of those influences was Dr. Fred Schlipf. Several decades ago now, I took an administrative practicum with him. He was then the director of the Urbana Free Library in downstate Illinois. Recently, he retired, although he still teaches at the university and does building consulting.
I showed up that morning, wearing my only tie (I was putting myself through grad school, and most of my clothes came from Salvation Army), and was told that Dr. Schlipf was in the children's room, downstairs. I went to join him. About halfway down the stairs, I realized that the previous night's rain had flooded the basement.
And there was Dr. Schlipf, jacket off, pants rolled up, a bucket in one hand and a mop in the other. He beamed at me: "Welcome to the administrative life!"
That's a pretty good introduction.
I've been giving a lot of my personal time lately to talking to various community groups about the library's ballot question this fall, question 5A. (And yes, these columns are written on my time, too.)
Let me begin with something wonderful. At every talk, someone tells me about the fine, often extraordinary service they got from our staff. I believe it.
Thank you, oh passionate and dedicated Douglas County Libraries staff! Your service is the library's product.
But some people also have doubts, questions, and concerns, not previously addressed in this space. I thought I'd speak to some of them here.
* The county has grown through the years. Haven't library revenues grown with it?
Yes, our revenues have grown (although not nearly as fast as demand!). But here's the bottom line: our annual budget is $20 million. The cost of a new, desperately needed library in Parker is $23 million. The cost of a new Lone Tree Library (and the structured parking it needs for the site) is another $20 million. Our current revenues are enough for our current operations. But they are not enough to build -- or operate -- the larger facilities Douglas County needs.
By Katie Klossner, Community Relations Manager
When people find out I work for Douglas County Libraries (DCL), I am often mistaken for a librarian. I can see the disappointment in their faces when I gently explain I am not able to help them with a reference or research question (or even remove any library fines they may have). I am honored folks think I am a librarian, as I have a great deal of respect for these incredibly bright, educated, and friendly resources that work the public areas of our library world.
I can usually be found working in a small administrative office within another area of the Philip S. Miller Library. Ironically, even though I work within a library, I have always been just an ‘average Joe’ library user. However, due to the challenging economy, my family and I have been using the library more and more within the past year or so. In fact, I made it a budget goal for my family to save money by using the library. Here are some of my easiest cost savings tips:
1. Don’t Buy Books (Approximate savings: $300/year; $25/month)