The Week in Library Land: August 18 to August 24
Seven libraries? Is that all? Well, yes, that was all we were able to visit - but what we missed on quantity we sure made up for in quality!
We started the week with a meeting with Zane Razzaq, a reporter for the Metrowest Daily News. We met at the Hopkinton Library and had a really good conversation about what we’ve seen and learned since starting the Library Land project. It was a good visit to a pretty amazing library. There have been a number of phases to the library’s development over time. We met in one of the relatively new and comfortable (though kind of loud) study rooms. From there, we toured around the library, marveling at its large meeting room (which was once the sanctuary of a church) and its trustee’s room, which features a really cool Egyptian-revival grandfather’s clock. Library Land Score: 4.45.
The article, based on our visit with Zane appeared the next day. It does a really good job of capturing our thinking about libraries. The story appeared not only in the Metrowest Daily News but also in a number of Wicked Local regional papers.
After meandering around Metrowest a bit, we ended up at the Millis Public Library. It’s been visited a few times over the course of the Library Land project and it’s one we really like. There were two special things from this visit that should be noted. First, we had a really excellent conversation with Sandra Elaine Scot, president of their Friends group. She’s rightly proud of the library and has spearheaded a number of programs and special events (including the recent Royal Wedding celebration, complete with red carpet) that have strengthened the library’s services and community engagement.
The other thing that should be mentioned is that fact that Adam checked out a Roomba from the library of things (LoT). We’ve seen and written about LoT collections often, but this was the first time we actually used an item. Even though Adam lives in Arlington, he was able to use his Minuteman network library card to get his hands of the lean, mean, vacuuming machine! Library Land Score: 4.73.
On Tuesday afternoons, we have a standing SharpOrange client meeting in Burlington. To get ready and to get some work done in advance, I visited the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington. Every visit reinforces the strength of this library. It’s amazing that following our first visited we gave it less than stellar marks in the past! Library Land Score: 4.36.
On Thursday, we went to the Ames Free Library - a really fun place. Before the library, we visited Easton Community Access TV, where we recorded a 30-minute interview about Library Land with Executive Director Jason Daniels. While we were there, we bumped into Uma Hiremath, the director of the Ames Library. She asked if we’d like to read for storytime later that morning. Did we ever!
As fast as we could, we raced to the library, our tires squealing as we went around corners at top speed! Arriving in a cloud of dust, we ran into the library! We were a little early, so we got a tour of the library from Hiremath. First, we got a lay of the land in the children’s section to see where we would be reading. We also choose our books, which was totally fun.
One of the things we really enjoy about Library Land is the opportunity it provides to see some one-of-a-kind buildings and amazing architecture. That is definitely true of the Ames Free. The building was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, a real architectural heavyweight of the nineteenth century (of Trinity Church in Copley Square fame). The detail in the library’s main reading room is pretty amazing. Hiremath pointed out the the library also includes a fireplace designed by Stanford White and a stone and bronze decorative panel by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The grounds were designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead. All together the space - both its interior and its exterior - display some of the finest work from this disparate team of designers.
Following our tour, it was time for reading. I chose, “Don’t Copy Me!” by Jonathan Allen. It tells the story of a Little Puffin that’s followed and copied by a flock of baby seagulls. It’s a fun book and the kids really seemed to enjoy it. I know I sure did!
Separate from the library, a part of the library, is the Queset House. This building, which was started in 1854 and expanded in 1872, was originally the home of the Oakes Ames (of shovel fame). Today, the Queset House serves as a “learning common.” This is a really cool idea that extends the programming - not just in terms of space, but also in terms of what’s possible. For example, there’s a great podcasting studio, plenty of meeting rooms, and multi-use spaces that serve the library and the broader community. Library Land Score: 4.18.
We have not visited as many libraries in Southeastern Massachusetts as we’d like. It’s something we’re aware of and actively working to improve on. The Dighton Public Library was our destination. We were visiting to participate in a Mass Library Association (MLA) PR committee call. We’ll get to that in a second, but first, a few words about the library itself.
It’s a smallish, oldish space that is *extremely* packed with materials. Stacks of books and other items are on virtually every flat surface on the library. The staff is well-aware that the physical space needs attention and they’re working with the state and the community to find potential solutions within some very real site constraints. Those constraints don’t stop the library from offering some really important services - including serving as a passport acceptance facility. Library Land Score: 3.73.
The PR committee call was interesting. Adam and I are both long-time PR veterans and so we’re old hands when it comes to discussing communication needs, challenges, and activities. This meant that the call - and the issues raised - were familiar ones for us. We always start with our two questions: “who do you want to reach?” and “what do you want them to do?” In this case, the audience is members of the MLA and the goal is to make them aware of all the things going on in libraries around the state, resources they can use, and other relevant information they can use.
It was an interesting glimpse into how communication is conducted within the Association. What was perhaps most striking about the call was the earnestness and commitment the committee had for the task. Over the course of our careers we’ve seen comms teams that seem to be going through the motions or running out of gas. That wasn’t the case with this group. Everyone seemed to be contributing and excited about the tasks at hand. It was encouraging and refreshing.
Our last visit of the day was to the beautiful Stoughton Public Library, where we met with some kindred spirits. We’ve been trading emails with Janell Scannell and Lisa Walker - the duo behind Pop Up Art School - for a while and wow, was it great to meet them in person. They have found a way to marry their passion for teaching kids, teens, and adults about considering and creating art with public libraries and the results are amazing - and really inspirational for Adam and me. We’ll be writing more about this pair and their great work in a future post but check out what they’re up to - it’s awesome.
Our final library activity for the week was super fun. Harry and the Potters (check out the interview we did with them a few weeks ago) played their last show of the Lumos tour on the steps of the Boston Public Library. It was a warm and sunny afternoon and a large crowd was on hand. I’ve seen them many times and can say that this show was pretty exceptional. They’ve added a lot more stage and audience antics, some silly and some really helpful.
For example, during the song, “The Economics of the Wizarding World Don’t Make Sense,” they had someone on stage with a big pad and easel illustrating the fact that Ollivander has to be losing a ton of money on each wand. On the sillier side, they had a really effective way to show the cloak of invisibility in action, as well as old favorites like the basilisk passed around the audience for the song, “We’ve Got to Save Ginny Weasley from the Basilisk.”
This was a pretty political show and that was a good thing. One of the songs from Lumos, “On the Importance of Media Literacy Under Authoritarian Rule," was especially fitting to sing at a library. It encourages people to look at media from a meta perspective and to ask themselves, what is the narrative and who it benefits. These are really important questions and the library is the perfect place to have conversations around topics like these. It’s cool that a band like Harry and the Potters can use the wizarding fandom and the public space of libraries to encourage people to think about these issues.
That’s the week in Library Land for you, we’ll be back soon with a recap of more recent travels and visits to libraries across Massachusetts!