Monday, November 30, 2009

Libraries Are a Bargain

First of all, I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving. For myself, I believe I am fully recovered from the food coma that was Thursday. The Packers smoking the Lions helped.

Now onto more mundane stuff-- it is difficult to pin down the exact economic impact of libraries, but recent studies indicate that it is significant. In Wisconsin, a study done in 2008 indicated that for every tax dollar spent to support libraries, the state's residents got back over $4 in goods and services. The full report can be found here, along with links to other studies.

This echoes findings found in the rest of the country, as well. Studies done in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Washington show similar results. In Ohio, a study showed that nine public library systems generated an annual economic impact of nearly four times the amount invested in their operations.

Libraries draw people to a community, bring people in to shopping districts and downtown areas. We offer job training and retraining help in difficult economic times, and help to those learning the vital computer skills so important in the 21st century. We connect individuals and groups and offer a backbone of knowledge that benefits not just our patrons but everyone they interact with before and after their visits.

The Wisconsin Library Association had a catch phrase a few years back that I think sums it up well: If knowledge is power, than libraries are power plants.

And we are-- efficient, highly flexible and adaptable power plants.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Hours

Well, there aren't any. We're closed tomorrow. But we are open on Friday and Saturday for our normal hours (9-5 and 9-4 respectively).

Happy turkey day everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!

What a remarkable holiday—one dedicated to appreciating all of our blessings and good fortune! I mean, I like all of our holidays-- celebrating Christmas or Valentine's Day or our Presidents or brave soldiers is all good. And the candy and costumes on Halloween is cool. But Thanksgiving is one that really invites us to take a step back and take stock of all that is good and right and, yes, lucky in our lives. It is easy to get lost in the nitty gritty of daily life and lose track of the important things-- family, friends, helping others, appreciating life in all its joys and tragedies-- so having a day dedicated to appreciating all that we have is a tremendous day indeed.

The library is thankful for all of the wonderful volunteers and donors that help us year in and year out. We are lucky to have such wonderful and dedicated supporters, willing to give of their time, talent donors that help us year in and year out. Truly, the library would not be the wonderful, community jewel that it is without the help of the people and businesses that support us year ‘round.

As director, I am thankful for the wonderful staff here at the library—day in and day out they provide great service and do all they can to make the library the best it can possibly be. I am also thankful for the opportunity to serve the wonderful community of Mukwonago. Seeing the range of people who use the library for personal growth, family entertainment, interaction with friends and neighbors... well, it's a wonderful and satisfying feeling.

And there's more to be thankful coming up-- Midnight Magic is next week! Lots of fun family activities, including Applebell the Imp on Tuesday night, the annual Tree lighting on Wednesday night and a variety of great things to do on Saturday, December 5th. Watch the parade, then swing into the Library to do some Christmas shopping at the Friends of the Mukwonago Library bake sale and silent auction, then meet the local authors who will be joining us between 1 and 4.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tree Lighting: Wednesday, Dec. 2

The traditional kickoff to the Chamber of Commerce's Midnight Magic festivities is the lighting of the Village Christmas tree by Santa Claus. The Library is fortunate to have that very tree in our "front yard". Please join us on Wednesday, December 2nd at 6:30 for the tree lighting, followed by some caroling.

We will then move inside, to our meeting room, where Tracy Hein, principal at Prairie View Elementary School, will read A Visit From St. Nicholas, more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas. After that, the children will have a chance to sit on Santa's lap and tell him some of their Christmas wishes.

Last year, the weather was cold but the turnout was still very good and everyone had a great time. Hopefully this year the weather will be better, but regardless everyone will have a good time as we kickoff the holiday season in style. We hope you can join us on the 2nd!

Some photos from last year's tree lighting:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Genre Links

For those of you who like particular genres of fiction-- mystery, romance, SF, etc.-- this post is for you. The Waukesha Public Library has put together a fine list of genre specific websites for your viewing enjoyment. These websites vary in quality, timeliness and thoroughness. Inclusion of a site on this list does not constitute an endorsement by either the Waukesha Public Library or the Mukwonago Community Library.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Expansion-- Preliminary Plans

We had another round of presentations/discussion with our architects last week and things are starting to round into shape. These are all very preliminary, of course, but they at least give a taste of what we're looking at and how it might fit with the existing structure:

Option A (expand west and north)

Option B (expand east)

Option C (expand east and north)

Each option has its strengths and weaknesses, but overall, the consensus was that C was the best of the three. It takes nothing out of the western green space, allowing full development of that area as a park, and is the most efficient to build and operate, saving money during construction and in the long-run.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remember Our Veterans

Today is Veterans Day, a day to remember and honor all of the brave men and women who have served in our country’s armed services. It is held on November 11 in remembrance of the ceasefire on November 11, 1918 that effectively ended World War I. Originally meant to honor the veterans of that war, the day has grown to include all who have served in our country’s armed services.

This year, the Library is honored to have a display of memorabilia from the Badger State Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Currently in our lobby, the display features photographs, equipment, badges and more from Wisconsin 82nd Airborne veterans of World War II.

The 82nd Airborne was organized on March 25, 1917 and is an elite paratrooper unit of the U.S. Army. Members of the unit typically parachute behind enemy lines and work to disrupt enemy supply lines and communications. They were a vital component of D-Day during World War II, as they were dropped behind the German lines with a mission to destroy bridges and railroad lines in order to cut off the Germans ability to resupply their forces in Normandy.

Unlike most units, the 82nd Airborne drew recruits from across the country, rather than being geographically focused. It is truly an All-American force with a long and proud history of service to our country.

The display will remain at the library for the next three months.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rant or Rave: Something Wicked This Way Comes

In high school, Ray Bradbury was one of my favorite authors. I revisited Dandelion Wine a while back and was just as entranced by it as I had been twenty-five years earlier. I'll take that back-- I think it resonated more with me as a nearly 38-year-old than it did as a 16-year-old.

But I had almost no memory of Something Wicked This Way Comes. I know I read it, and I remember the general gist 0f the book-- evil carnival comes to town, two young boys are the only ones who really know what's going on, tension and mystery ensue-- but that was about it. So, when the library got in an Audiobook of Something Wicked, I had to check it out.

What a treat. First off, I read it at just about the perfect time of the year, starting it just before Halloween and finishing it shortly after. Suspenseful, creepy and surprising, the book is made for cool fall evenings filled with falling leaves, and hints of winter. It is a book of contrasts: Good and Evil, Youth and Age, Innocence and Guilt, Day and Night... oh so many wonderful contrasts.

The language is gorgeous. Rich, descriptive yet not heavy-handed or over-wrought ala Anne Rice or Charles Dickens. Bradbury's prose is nearly lyrical, in many ways a poem. Perhaps it is this that makes it sound soooo good read aloud.

The imagery is deep, and beautifully executed, though I suspect some of Bradbury's allusions might be lost on a teenager, or even a twenty-something-year-old. But even if you didn't get all of what he is trying to convey, every reader will get more than enough to be "on the edge of their seat" for much of the book. It also gives a glimpse back through time, to the Depression era and what life in the Midwest was like in the early 1930s.

It is that rare treat of a book that you can't wait to finish, yet you want to last as long as possible because you know there aren't that many books in the world that will delight and entertain you this thoroughly. If you haven't guessed yet, this is most definitely a Rave posting.

Bonus points if you listen to the CD audiobook-- Paul Hecht does a marvelous job narrating the story.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rant or Rave: Angels and Demons

Dan Brown is a talented writer with a creative mind-- but he suffers greatly by being too clever by half, in my opinion. So, a tampered Rant against Angels and Demons. Minor spoilers likely exist below-- read at your own risk.

First the good news-- the drama builds well, the storyline is engaging, and the overall writing quality and storytelling is good. The "treasure hunt" across Italy is quite well done and fairly suspenseful, though the fire in the church scene is a little hard to believe-- Really, the bad guy had time to run everybody out of the church, string the Cardinal up, stack up all those pews and start the fire? And nobody noticed or interrupted him? Really?

Now the bad news-- the characters are rather cartoonish, the dichotomy between church and science is far too black and white, and Mr. Brown's prejudices shine through far too often and in a rather garish fashion. More significantly, there are not one, not two, but at least three separate cliff-hanger endings and not one, not two, but three separate Hitchcockian surprise twists at the end. It's all too much, too convoluted, too over the top.

Oh, and Robert Langdon should've been dead many times over. Long before his completely improbable (I won't say impossible because, well, I guess it could happen) survival from the doomed helicopter, he should've been dead. Seriously, he's a Harvard professor who is a good swimmer against a trained killer. The hassassin had... three, four opportunities to kill Langdon?

The escape in the fountain was pretty good, the others... not buying it. And the whole Pope/Camerlengo back story "gotcha" twist at the end? Also not buying it. Suspension of disbelief only carries you so far, even with some great storytelling.

I won't say Angels and Demons was a complete waste, it had some fine moments and the philosophical questions raised are intriguing ones. But I really do think Dan Brown was being too clever by half. Oh, and he's kind of an academic version of a name dropper-- it would be interesting (or maybe not) to try and count the number of obscure references to academic peculiarities and topics mentioned or briefly described in Angels and Demons. Enough already!

This could have been a fine, intriguing suspenseful book without a good third of the "intrigue" and "surprise!" twists that Brown throws in. Instead, I found myself shaking my head and, on at least one occasion, groaning out loud as the tortured plot device was dragged into the storyline.

As a side note-- The da Vinci Code is better. It too suffers a little from Dan Brown's desire to be extremely clever, but it is less heavy-handed than Angels and Demons.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Goodbyes and Hellos

Long-time librarian Jacquie Hipsman will be sorely missed. She was a dedicated, friendly, and enjoyable professional for nearly two decades to both the library's users and her colleagues. Her laugh was contagious and her curiosity was boundless. She knew all the ins and outs of the library and was always willing to share her knowledge and experience with others. Arizona's gain is most definitely our loss.

But I believe you will all find Kim Blaha, our new librarian, to be a friendly, knowledgeable and helpful presence at the library. Kim started on Monday and is rapidly learning our library.

She comes to us from Indiana, where she worked as a reference librarian in a community very similar to Mukwonago.
In addition to her reference experience, Kim has also done a variety of programming efforts, including developing the Young Adult program at her previous library. Kim is both curious and quick and she has an excellent sense of humor. She has already hit it off well with the rest of the staff and I'm sure she'll hit it off with the community just as readily.

Say “Hi” to her next time you’re in.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This Thing On?

Wow, has it really been that long since I posted anything? Yikes! Sorry about that.

Okay, well some catching up to do then. Expansion plans are still moving ahead, though we did reschedule our final meeting with Uihlein-Wilson into November to allow time for full development of all our options. Depending on the Village and their fiscal situation, we hope to be able to further develop our plans in 2010 and break ground in 2011. We'll see how it plays out.

Jacquie retired (waaah!), but we have hired a friendly, experienced replacement for her, so I think we'll be okay.

The library participated in a variety of Halloween events, including the Rotary Club's inaugural Halloween Haunt. I think things went quite well for a first year effort.

Thanks to the generosity of Jeanne and Bob Romanowski, we have some new, attractive and user-friendly CD racks in the library.

More and more and more, but I'll try to expand on the above and fill in the gaps during the course of this week.

Sorry for the long absence!