Wednesday, September 30, 2009

TTDNTMiLS #6: Buildings and Grounds

The property the library actually occupies was rarely, if ever, mentioned in library school. Shelves, desks, reading areas, study rooms, meeting rooms, and many more interior aspects of a library were discussed, but the outside... not so much. Consequently, upon becoming Director of the fine Mukwonago Community Library, I was surprised to learn that I was not only responsible for the inside of the library (including, restrooms, HVAC units, wiring, light bulbs and... well, you get the idea), but that I was also responsible for the outside of the library.

Now, the village does do our lawn mowing and snow removal and they do help with many other routine maintenance tasks, but they don't help with garbage enclosures. Honestly, I had never once thought about garbage enclosures at libraries before becoming the director of one. But we all have them, and they need to maintained and updated just like everything else. So, we're in the process of getting a new enclosure. The old one was too small, too rickety, and hard to access for both the staff and the disposal guys.

The new one, by comparison, is a virtual mansion. Over twice as large, much sturdier and much easier to access. Plus, it will be comparatively inexpensive because the industrial arts program at the Mukwonago High School is providing us with the labor needed, meaning the only cost is the materials themselves. Good experience for some enterprising students and a lower cost for us-- super!

Another thing they never talked about in library school: landscaping. Fortunately, our entirely volunteer Garden Committee does most of this for us, and they do it exceptionally well. Here are a few samples of their work:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Economic Impact of Libraries

Many people love their local library. We love the books. We love the smell. We love the movies and the programs and the computer access and the magazines. We love studying there, researching there, and going to storytimes and other programs there. For us, the library is a wondrous place, full of fun, full of adventure, full of opportunity.

But what about those folks in the community who don’t love, or even use, the library? It’s important to for them to know just how valuable a good local library really is—not just in societal or cultural terms, but in cold, hard economic terms. A recent survey we conducted indicates that over 90% of the people that visit the Mukwonago library do other shopping and business within the village during their trips to the library. Additionally, in a 2007 survey of Wisconsin residents, 29.7% of respondents list access to a good library as a strong factor in deciding where to live. Another 31.7% list it as a contributing factor—nearly two-thirds of those surveyed consider the local library in deciding where to live.

Finally, it should be noted that the Mukwonago Community Library is not only an economic asset for the community, it is also an incredibly efficient municipal entity. We have the lowest cost per circulation in the county and among the lowest in the country. For every tax dollar that goes to the library, nearly six dollars worth of materials and services are made available to our patrons. So tell everyone you know how economically valuable the library is!

Monday, September 28, 2009

We're on Facebook

The Library has three places to visit us on Facebook. There's the main Library page, plus both our Adult Services and our Teen Territory departments have joined the web 2.o revolution. Not tons of content as of yet, but we're working on it. Join our legions of fans! Okay, okay, join our dozens of friends.

Plus, I have a profile there now, too.

If you're a Facebook fanatic (or even casual user), check us out, write something on our walls, let us know what you think. Photos and other stuff to come.

The Dogs Are Back In Town

Actually, they never left, but just as a reminder-- the library now has four therapy dogs that stop in for our Paws to Read program. The dogs are excellent listeners, providing a safe, non-judgmental audience for young kids unsure of their reading skills or older folks learning English as their second (or third) language. We have Scooby the Golden Retriever here from 7-8 pm on Monday Oct. 5 & 19, Navarre the Samoyed here from 7-8 on Tuesday Oct. 6 & 20, B.J. the Rottweiller from 6-7 pm on Wednesday Oct. 14 & 28, and Cinnamon the Afghan Hound on Thursday Oct. 15.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Disturbing... Yet Funny

In one sense, this article in The New Scientist is profoundly disturbing. That papers should be published, thus tacitly endorsed as scientific and accurate, that are complete gibberish is worrisome. As is the trend of charging authors to publish their work-- as noted in the article, the very definition of vanity publishing, and it certainly does not reflect well on the potential validity of such "science".

But the actual submission is really amusing. I think my favorite line from the "paper" is this one: "On a similar note, we show a novel application for the study of semaphores in Figure 1." Semaphores, you say? Wow, that actually sounds a lot like Terry Pratchett's satirizing of the World Wide Web in recent Discworld books. Gotta love a good semaphore.

The whole thing is a hoot. Another high point is the opening to the Implementation portion of the paper:
Our implementation of our methodology is pseudorandom, wearable, and collaborative. We have not yet implemented the centralized logging facility, as
this is the least private component of our method.
Absolutely love a wearable implementation. It's an experiment and a stylish, yet comfy garment! What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rant or Rave: The Colour of Magic

The Colour of Magic is Terry Pratchett's very first Discworld novel. There have been more than 30 since that one. I love them all. They very in their flavor and overall enjoyability, but that range is from good to absolutely fantastic. At his best, Pratchett is in my top five favoritest authors. At his worst, he is still better than the majority of authors I have read in my life. Oh, and as you might guess from the spelling, he is British.

But this isn't a Rant or Rave about the book, which is frankly one of the weakest of the Discworld books, but of the made for TV movie of the book, also British. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I haven't read the book in many years, so my enjoyment wasn't overly colored by my perception of the movie's "accuracy", but it definitely captured the feel of Pratchett's world and it's overall satiric and ironic over- and undertones.

The heart and soul of the Color of Magic (American spelling) is the Luggage, Twoflowers and Rincewind. And the movie pretty well nails all of those quite nicely. The acting is very good, the CGI and other effects are good, occassionally great, and the script and pacing work quite well.

So, a big rave for The Colour of Magic. An even bigger rave for Terry Pratchett and the Discworld books. If you haven't read them and enjoy British humor (along the lines of Monty Python or, perhaps, Eddie Izzard), then I strongly recommend them to you. They are all extremely funny, and the best of them are also highly satiric, lampooning such things as Death, the Cinema, Anthropology and Mythology, Economics, Race Relations, Police forces, Art, Music, War, and... well, probably a little bit of everything else as well.

Monday, September 21, 2009

About That Poll...

Initially I was discouraged by the results of the poll in last week’s Mukwonago Chief, but a few things reassured me. First, it was only 125 votes, hardly representative of the Mukwonago community. Second, online polls are notoriously imprecise and, as noted in The Chief, unscientific. But here’s the most interesting fact about it—it is still open. Go to and you can still vote. As I write this entry, the vote had changed considerably—55% in favor and 45% opposed, with 215 total votes. So, a huge thank you to everyone that voted in favor of expansion.

We have a tremendous library, but it is too small and too old to best serve the community. We need study rooms for all our students, traditional and returning; we need another, a larger meeting room to meet the needs of our growing, inter-connected community; we really need a bigger, separate children's area so that kids can be kids (with apologies to Chuck E. Cheese) and have some fun while they read and learn at the library; and we need more shelves to hold our collection, so that we don't have to pull a book off the shelves every time we add a new one.

A Slightly Different Poll
The library surveyed 265 of our patrons two weeks ago, and 83% of them shop or run other errands as part of going to the library. This number is even higher for out of village patrons, with nearly 95% doing other things in the village when they visit the library-- shopping at the grocery store, visiting the pharmacy, eating lunch at one of the many restaurants and fast food joints in town, going to Ace Hardware or Home Depot, etc., etc. Which reassures me that the library is a strong component not only of the social and cultural life of Mukwonago, but also of its economic well-being.

If the library doesn't expand and the inevitable age and space constraints begin to take their toll on our ability to serve this community, we could easily start to lose our patrons to other libraries. And if they go to another library to meet their information, reading, viewing and other library needs, they'll go to some other community's grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, restaurants, bike shops, hardware stores... well, you get the idea.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rant or Rave: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I enjoyed the Harry Potter series quite a bit. I don't fully embrace them as enthusiastically as some, and exactly why Harry was such a HUUUUGGGEEE hit is still unclear to me, but they are very well written, the characters develop extremely well during the series and the general tone and character of the books got better as they went along.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, book #6, was probably my favorite of the series. I loved the gradual revealing of Voldemort's past, the interaction of Harry with Dumbledore, and the ending was absolutely riveting.

But I approached the movie version of the book with considerable reluctance. Overall, the movies had failed to live up to the books. Not that surprising, most movies fail to live up to their books, but the thing that always made the Potter movies at least pretty good representations of their written originals was the absolutely terrific casting of the movies. With one, glaring exception. When Michael Gambon took over the role of Dumbledore in movie three after the death of Richard Harris, that casting went from just about perfect to pretty darn poor.

Gambon never fit the role in movies 3, 4 and 5, alternating between abrasive arrogance and fidgeting impatience. He never conveyed the sense of quiet confidence and compassion that is so central to the Dumbledore personae and which Harris achieved seemingly effortlessly.

Which was the central reason for my concern over movie #6. The Half-Blood Prince involves Dumbledore far more often, and more signficantly, than any of the previous books. With that in mind, and my serious reservations over the casting of Gambon as Dumbledore, I really wasn't expecting much from the movie.

So I put off going to The Half-Blood Prince but this past weekend, finally broke down and went to see it. I was pleasantly surprised when Gambon seemed rather more like Dumbledore than I had ever imagined possible. He was actually quite good in the role. And the movie itself found a good pacing, rolling in enough of the multiple plot lines of the book to make it a rich experience without losing the overall flow of the story. The cinematography reflected the darker, more somber atmosphere of the sereis by book number six, but there was enough of the book's good humor to leaven the darkness and dread. As always, the acting was stupendous.

And then came the finale. And I was sooooo disappointed. The rest of the movie had well captured the tone and tenor of the book, so by the time the climax came around, my initially lowered expectations had begun to rise. This was a good movie, one that was not always "true" to the book in literal terms, but was a very good big screen adaptation of it, along the lines of Peter Jackson's treatment of The Lord of the Rings.

So, I was really looking forward to the conclusion since, as I mentioned above, I thought the ending to book six was just riveting. But they CHANGED it. I won't go into detail, but I can't figure out WHY. There was no reason to do it, and the changes they made weren't insignificant ones. Rather, they were substantial changes, and not a single one of them made the movie better. Dreadfully disappointed.

Rant or Rave? I really liked the first 90 or 95% of the movie. Big raves for it, with only a few minor complaints. But the ending... urgh. I left the theater thinking, "Boy that could have been a really, really good movie. Why'd they have to screw it up at the end?" So, a big rant against the changes made, for no discernably good reason, at the end.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are You Ready for some Football?!

Okay, okay, this is pretty much completely un-library related, but I am a passionate sports fan and have been an enthusiastic Packer backer for my entire life. With that comes a life-long disdain for the Chicago Bears. So, Sunday night's hard fought, frequently ugly but ultimately beautifully ending 21-15 victory over the Bears was a fine, fine event.

What was most encouraging was that they managed to pull out a close game-- the Packers lost 7 games last year by 4 or less points-- and the defense looked good. Really good. Granted, the Bears offense isn't going to remind anyone of the brilliant San Francisco 49'ers offense under Bill Walsh, but they should be at least average this year.

Also encouraging is the fact that they won even with Aaron Rodgers and Donald Driver having off nights. Rodgers got rattled a bit early when his right tackle kept wiffing on protecting him from getting smacked by 260 pound Adewale Ogunleye, and Driver dropped a couple of tough passes, but the type he nearly always catches despite their difficulty.

In addition to the football itself, the return of the NFL also signals the return of one of my very mostest, favoritist, bestest sports writers, Gregg Easterbrook, and his always interesting, often funny, and usually very enlightening weekly column, Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

Can the 2009 Packers bring the Lombardi trophy back to Wisconsin? I sure hope so-- and I'm looking forward to watching the attempt, one week at a time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Guitar Hero: Bassoon Edition

Okay, not really. But this little gem of a YouTube video does capture what classical music might be like on Guitar Hero or Rock Band. It is fascinating to watch, and really gives you a sense of the depth and richness of that most famous of all symphony openings. How Beethoven managed to hold all that in his head is amazing. But then, I suppose most geniuses are amazing in their realms of expertise.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Workshop Completed

We had our second two-day workshop with Uihlein-Wilson Architects yesterday and Tuesday. Very good sessions, lots of information. I'll try to post a more substanative summary in the near future, but there is a lot to digest. Sorry for the light blogging. Okay, non-existent blogging.

To fill the void a little, what could be more appropriate than celestial bodies in the void of space.


These are only a few of the amazing images you can view at the Hubble Site. If you like space, the final frontier, you can spend much happy time at the Hubble web page.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When did Monopoly become a franchise? Even more peculiar, when did Scrabble? I stopped at Toys R Us with my son tonight, and I couldn't believe how many variations of Monopoly and Scrabble they had. No exaggeration: 16 versions of Monopoly and 10 versions of Scrabble. Star Wars Monopoly, Classic Monopoly, Monopoly Jr., Dog Monopoly, Travel Monopoly, New and Improved Monopoly with fully Irridiated Chance Cards (ok, maybe not, but sheeeesh).

Several versions of Operation, including a Hulk version. A new and improved Game of Life. Three or four different Risk variations, Disney Sorry, Simpsons Clue.

Apparently the major toy manufacturers have totally run out of ideas for games and are simply sticking other merchandising properties onto existing games. How pathetic.

Fortunately, there are some good games out there. They are more expensive, take longer to play and you have to go to a speciality game store or buy online to get them, but they are out there. I happened to like the Empire Builder series, but the Formula Deux racing games, Settlers of Catan and other Mayfair Games and Steve Jackson Games offerings are a lot of fun.

Actually, this fall or winter, I hope to start a game evening at the library to highlight some of these great games. They really are a lot of fun. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

School's In For Autumn II, Humor Edition

Doesn't seem like summer can be over, but there you have it. Part of the problem is that it rarely got warm enough to seem like summer. Which was great in many ways-- I'm a big fan of temps in the 70s and lower humidity, but June, July and August really did feel more like an extended spring rather than actual mid-summer.

At any rate, if you now have some more time on your hands with the kiddies off to school, feel free to waste some time at the Museum of Animal Perspectives' flickr site. Truly a mind-bending experience-- who would have thought sticking a camera on an animal's head or back could be so fascinating?