Friday, March 31, 2017

April Fools' Fun: 5 Ideas for the Last Minute Librarian

Saturday is April Fool's Day. How is your library participating? For those of you who haven't had the time to plan anything, we've rounded up some easy ideas that you can do in your library.

Self Check Out

Photo from Platteville Public Library
What a brilliant idea from Platteville Public Library! All you need is a mirror and a sign. We love that they added (April 1st only!) to help with the joke.

Check out a Kitten, Return a Cat

Photo from American Libraries Magazine
Sacramento Public Library announced that their Library of Things have been replaced by a Library of Cats. Any library can use this idea, though, even if you don't have a special collection.

Decorate Your Return Bin

Photo from Curtis Library

Curtis Library used shoes sticking out of either side of their Return Bin for a funny picture on April Fool's Day. Who doesn't have a spare set of sneakers hanging around? 

Needed: Book Cuddlers

Need an image for around the library or on your social media? Here's a fun one we created. Feel free to download and reuse!

Announce a New Shelving System

Inspired from our post last year, New Library Trend: Organizing Books by Color and Size, is another image that you can print or reshare.  

Happy April Fool's Day!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Presidential Budget Cuts, and How They Could Impact Libraries

Politics, right? We're all tired of hearing about it, debating about it, and fighting about it, but it's so important that we're gritting our teeth and bearing it. We here at the Five Minute Librarian try to be non-partisan, but this is one issue on which we can not remain silent. No matter what side of the political fence you stand on, if you're in the library world, this one will affect you.

Here, as best as we can muster, are the facts of what's going on, and reactions from Julie Todaro, the President of the American Library Association; Greg Pronevitz, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Library System. (Note: We reached out to MLS because Five Minute Librarian is based in Massachusetts, but it's likely that your local libraries will face similar cuts.)

The Facts

President Trump has proposed that the budget for the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be eliminated. Not just cut back - entirely gutted. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the United States' 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. This is $230 million of federal funding that, if this proposal passes, is going to vanish. (This does not include the budgets for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - which will also be completely gone.) You can read the official IMLS statement of response here.

The Institute itself was founded in 1996, but the first federal library grants were given in 1956 (it was part of the U.S. Department of Education back then). There is a long history of federal help to libraries, and we have come to not only rely on the assistance, but, through years of experience, really make the best possible use of the funding.

In addition to the Grants to States Program, one of the biggest cuts will hit the Library Services and Technology Act, funded annually to help libraries provide updated technology, technology training for library patrons, professional development for library employees, assistive technology for patrons with disabilities, and other uses as outlined in the LSTA Grant Priorities and Purposes Guidelines. (Side note: My library had a LSTA Grant last year, and it was incredibly helpful to us, when we had little budget allocated for technology or training.) It has literally helped millions of people.

The Reaction

In an official statement to the press, Julie Todaro, President of the American Library Association, called the proposed budget "counterproductive and short-sighted." The ALA plans to get us - librarians, library users, and the Congress itself - riled up and prepared to fight for what we believe in. She said, "America's more than 120,000 public, school, college and university and many other libraries are not piles of archived books. They're trusted centers for education, employment, entrepreneurship and free inquiry at the core of communities in every state in the country – and in every Congressional district. And they’re staffed by the original search engines: skilled and engaged librarians."

I was lucky enough to be in contact with Greg Pronevitz, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Library System, so we could learn his views on the subject. His words have been included here.

My take on the President¹s proposal to eliminate funding for the Institute for Museum and Library Services ... is that it will be extremely detrimental to Massachusetts libraries. 

Massachusetts is the beneficiary of more than $3 million in federal funds to support libraries.  These funds are used to support grants to libraries, funding for statewide databases and eBooks, as well as other operations and some personnel at the Board of Library Commissioners.  If IMLS and its funding end, a major reprioritization of spending would be required.  Many programs and services will be curtailed or eliminated. It is too early to provide details because MBLC and many stakeholders would need to be involved in the process.

If you want to support IMLS and its work for libraries, please contact your Congressman and Senators and let them know how important libraries are to you and your community.  Ask your patrons to do the same and tell a personal story about the library and ask their elected officials to prevent this defunding of IMLS.  Be aware that many programs and services are at risk in the President's budget and our elected representatives will be defending many cuts.  Please make sure that libraries are fresh in their minds during this process.  The more people they hear from, the better our chances of successfully supporting IMLS.

We also spoke with Deb Spratt, Library Director of the Lawrence Library in Pepperell, MA. She also mentioned a decrease in library services would be likely, and may include "decreases or possible elimination of databases, ebooks, and inter-library loan delivery services" provided by the state's Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and Massachusetts Library System. In addition, because those organizations are grant-funded, there would likely be increased membership fees for libraries to belong to consortia. When so many libraries still haven't bounced back from the budget cuts that happened during the recession, this may mean an increased number of libraries who can't belong.

(Note: In this state, most public libraries belong to one of several consortia. Membership means increased access to ebooks, the ability for patrons to use their library cards at many area libraries, and easier inter-library loan.)

What can you do?

This budget needs to be approved by Congress before it can be official, so there's some hope.  As Mr. Pronevitz said, please contact your elected officials and voice your concerns. Tell them stories about how libraries have made a difference in your life. Don't remain silent on this issue. Not sure who to contact? Many websites, such as, will be able to tell you all of your elected officials. It can't hurt to contact them all.

If you have the approval of your library director, you might be able to have postcards or letters pre-printed for library patrons to mail out, or perhaps a program about local (or not so local) politics. There is a sample letter on the website that can be sent as-is, or used as an example for anyone who wishes to write their own.

It also can't hurt to post on social media, write letters to your local newspaper editor, and otherwise keep doing what you're doing - remind your patrons why what we do is so important.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ready to Go Book Display: March for Science

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go!" Book Display. Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. Here are some books that support the March for Science happening on April 22nd.

Recommendations for Adults:

Former host of Bill Nye the Science Guy challenges common misunderstandings about global warming while outlining the scientific community's potential for solving key energy and environmental problems. Also check out his other book: Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (Nov 2014).
A collection of artworks inspired by the lives and achievements of fifty famous women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, from the ancient world to the present, profiles each notable individual. 
A companion to the celebrated scientist's popular podcast and National Geographic Channel series combines the subjects of his favorite talks with comprehensive fun facts, thought-provoking sidebars, and vivid imagery.
Cites the essential contributions of millions of ordinary people who contribute to the scientific process by volunteering in cooperation with scientists to help collect and discover information, tracing the history of citizen scientists and how they are reshaping scientific awareness.
The Science Book (Jul 2014)
This book is a visual take on astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, and physics with eye-catching artwork, step-by-step diagrams and illustrations that break down complicated ideas into manageable concepts.
A revelatory examination of the political tricks used to subvert scientific progress cites the notorious tactics and debates employed by government leaders to rationalize misconduct or promote non-scientific agendas.
A call to action, exposing the reality of how humankind has aided in the destruction of our planet and groundbreaking information on what you can do now.

Recommendations for Teens:

The Science of Science Fiction by Matthew Brenden Wood (Feb 2017)
Uncovers the real science behind classic and modern science fiction stories, exploring such topics as time travel, cloning, artificial intelligence, and life on other planets.
Other science related titles in the Inquire and Investigate series include: Genetics, Physics, Forensics, Chemistry and The Brain.
The creator of the webcomic provides hilarious and scientifically informative answers to questions that can never by physically solved, but are fun to think about. Also check out Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words.
An introduction to how animals communicate, express feelings, use tools and work in social groups draws on scientific interviews and historical anecdotes to share related insights into the work of famous animal researchers and how modern understandings are revolutionizing old theories.
From lutes and owls to astronomy and evolution, this book explains how fifty scientific geniuses have shaped our understanding - and how they spent their free time.
A summary of today's environmental challenges also counsels teens on how to decode conflicting information, explaining the role of vested interests while identifying the sources behind different opinions and sharing suggested online resources to help teens make informed consumer choices.
50 Things You Should Know About Wild Weather by Anna Claybourne (Mar 2016)
Discusses mundane and extreme forms of weather including sandstorms, blizzards, and ball lightning. Other science related titles in the 50 Things You Should Know About series include: Space, Inventions, the Environment, and the Human Body.

Recommendations for Children:

At the Bottom of the World by Bill Nye (Apr 2017)
Traveling to Antarctica for a science competition, twelve-year-old Jack and his genius foster siblings, Ava and Matt, become caught up in a mystery involving a missing scientist. This is the first book in Jack and the Geniuses series.
A visual encyclopedia for children combines engaging facts and more than 1,200 images to chronicle key developments in the history of science and technology, from stone tools and simple machines to rockets and robots.
Unmasking the Science of Superpowers! by Jordan D. Brown (Sep 2016)
Did you know that advancements in robotics could soon make super-powered suits a reality? Or that some people have a rare gene that gives them superstrong bones? Hold onto your cape, you're about to become an expert on the high-flying science behind superpowers!

Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects by Jack Challoner (Jul 2016)
Presents over two dozen simple science activities using food, common household objects, water and the outdoors.
Gravity by Jason Chin (Apr 2014)
Introduces the scientific principles of gravity using researched, simple, explanations of its essential role in the universe.
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty (Sep 2016)
Ada Twist is a very curious girl who shows perseverance by asking questions and performing experiments to find things out and understand the world.
Baby Loves Quarks! by Ruth Spiro (Oct 2016)
Offers a simplified explanation of quarks, protons, neutrons, atoms, and molecules. Also check out Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering!
I Am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer (Sep 2016)
Presents an illustrated biography of the conservationist and scientist known for her world with chimpanzees and her championing of animal rights. Also check out I Am Albert Einstein.
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson (Oct 2014)
A biography of Carl Sagan focusing on his childhood and culminating in the Voyager mission and the Golden Record.
Full Steam Ahead! by Paul A. Reynolds (Sep 2014)
Twins Sydney and Simon learn about the water cycle and use science, technology, engineering, arts, and math to solve the problem of their stuck window and thirsty flowers.
Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab: A Mystery with Electromagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith (Nov 2013)
This story of tech-savvy siblings Nick and Tesla finds them constructing outrageous scientific devices to assist their brilliant government engineer uncle and rescue their missing parents. First in a series.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Save Hours Advertising Programs: The Beauty of a Template

It took me four years into my previous position to realize that I was advertising my programs all wrong. It was standard at that library to make a flyer for every upcoming program, so I followed it. And for each of these programs, I would make a brand new flyer.

I loved being creative, so it was one of the fun parts of my job. But it was hard to always come up with a great professional design -- and it was time consuming. When I started to try to find ways to be more productive, I realized that I needed to let go of my desire to create and make a template.

Art design was not my specialty, so it took many attempts to come up with a template that worked for all of our programs. Then we realized we needed a logo for our library (which I am proud to say that I did design with the help of my husband) and then my director hired someone with art skills who made an even better template than I did.

An amazing thing happened-- four, actually:

1. I Saved Hours of Work

There are people out there who can whip up an awesome flyer in no time, but that wasn't me. I can make a decent one but it required lots of creative energy and some trial and error until I came up with the perfect design. But with our template, I could make a new flyer in minutes and know I would immediately be happy with it. That's a lot of precious time saved!

2. Everyone Used the Template

With the new design, my coworkers were able to easily use it, too. Now everyone, even those who felt they didn't have any artistic skills, could make a flyer for their own program. (Or I could easily delegate this project to someone else who needed something to do.) There were a few hurdles for us to jump through (I did teach some of them how to use our art program) but the end result was something with which we all could be happy. And I like teaching, so I didn't mind those sessions at all.

3. We Advertised More

Having a template and an easy way to make flyers meant we could bang them out quickly. We also made a template for our website slider, so it was really easy for us to constantly update the website with the current information. Before, we had to constantly change our design to fit whatever medium we were using, but with these templates, it was easy to adapt the designs accordingly.

4. We Established a Professional Library Identity

Once we had a great template and used it consistently, we realized we had established an identity. There was no question what was a library flyer and what was a community flyer. We also gave a united front -- every department used the same template in the same artistic style, so we were providing the consistent message across the board.

Template Example

Below is an example of the template we used at my previous library. The top always began with a short title in the same font. Below it was the date and time. We included an image of what the program would be about, then a short description. In the bottom header is the library location and contact information. I no longer had to worry that I forgot something essential because it was standard on all our templates.

Do you have any templates to share? We would love to see them in the comments.

Like this post? You might want to check out:

     Catch Patrons' Attention with These 7 Easy Flyer Tips
     Canva: Make Easy Designs In Little Time
     5 Secret Tricks to Using Canva like a Pro!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Warning! Warning! Tornado! How to Protect Patrons

Two summers ago, I held a teen program at the local administration building to decorate cupcakes. It was all going well, until my phone beeped. It was a Tornado Watch notification. Suddenly, I was responsible for twelve lives and I realized -- I wasn't trained for this.

Wind whipped through the trees and rain pounded our windows so hard that water was seeping in through the seams. We happened to have a janitor nearby, who kept mopping up the floor. Hail even made an entrance for a brief time. Ten minutes in, a grandfather came bursting through the door, saying there's a tornado coming, and took his two granddaughters home.

At that point, I was trying to make a plan for what I would do if the watch upgraded to a warning. Where would I take the kids? I knew that being near windows was the last place we wanted to be (and we had a wall of windows on both sides of our room), but I didn't even know if the building I was in had a basement nor how to get there. I had to leave the program (luckily, we hired a cake decorator, so no one noticed) to go investigate and learned we didn't have access to the lower floor. Now what? Thankfully, the storm cleared up before the end of our program. We didn't get the tornado, but we had a microburst that left damage around the area. Trees and limbs had fallen, hail left damage on cars, and power lines were down. Parents had a difficult time trying to get back to get their kids but most importantly, no one was hurt, especially the teens in my care. 

But I'll never forget that day and how unprepared I felt. It is rare for a tornado to come through our state, though we get plenty of warnings during the summer/fall tornado season. But I realized that was no excuse for me not having a safety plan in place, in case we do get a tornado warning. So, I did some research afterwards, and I thought I'd share it in this article.

Tornado Warning Signs

  • Mobile Alerts

Many cell phone networks partner with the national weather service to automatically send you emergency alerts that include life threatening weather. You can also sign up with any weather website to get mobile alerts, emails or phone calls for all types of weather. Tornadoes aren't always predictable, but at least you'll be in the know if your area gets a tornado watch (it is possible) or warning (it is in your area, take cover).

  • Large Hail
  • Dark, Often Greenish Sky
  • Loud Roar, Similar to a Freight Train
  • Large, Dark, Low-Lying Cloud (particularly if rotating)

Any of these above signs may happen, or none of them. Tornadoes can be stationary or move up to 70 mph. (The average is 30 mph) If you have a tornado watch in your area, you'll want to be on a lookout for these signs.

What to Do

The Storm Prediction Center has tips they give to school administrators that can work for libraries, too. There is no guarantee place of safety if a tornado comes through, but there are precautions you can take:

  • Go Low

Move patrons to your lowest level. However, note that time might be of the essence, so if the basement is too far (you might have 2/3 minutes, you might have no warning at all), find closer places you can direct them.

  • Avoid Windows, Use Walls

Keep patrons away from windows. The more interior they can get, the better. Closets and hallways are good places, especially if there is no time to go lower. 

  • Flying Debris is Deadly

Instruct patrons to crouch low and cover the back of their head. Going under tables and covering up with any handy material (Rug mat? Cloth? Coats?) may also help protect from debris.

  • No Power

Be prepared that you may lose power, so your electronic announcement system may not work. Have another plan in place for how you will notify patrons.

  • Avoid Large Rooms

If you are in a location with a gymnasium or lunch room, avoid these areas. The lack of roof support make these places a poor shelter.

  • Look for Rooms with NO Heavy Objects Above, If Possible

Pay attention to what is above you. This might be a moot point since libraries have heavy bookshelves throughout, but if you have a section of the library which is below offices, that would be safest place to go if a tornado rips through your building.

  • Plan for All Patrons.

Have a plan in place for disable patrons, parents with kids strapped into strollers...

  • Know Your County/Parish

Do you know what county/parish your library is in? Make sure you know it ahead of time so you can easily follow weather bulletins. You might also want to print out a map of the area if you are unfamiliar and keep it handy in your safety location.

  • Survey Your Building

If you are hosting a program in an unfamiliar location, arrive early to investigate. Where is the lowest part of the building? Where are all exits? How do you get to the bathroom? All the necessities so you are prepared in case you get that alert to take cover.

Please Share!

Does your library have a tornado safety plan? If so, please share in the comments below.