Monday, July 30, 2007

Ministry of Truth

Allison’s previous entry on control got me thinking about all of the tongue biting I have to do as a librarian. Every now and then I might be asked for books on astrology, or anything written by Sylvia Browne, and right then my rational thought process is screaming to take some jabs, but as a decent librarian, I must forfeit over the Dewey decimal numbers – tongue in teeth. It’s hardest, though, when ideology and morality become an issue. Recently, a patron asked me to help him find articles about counseling bisexuals into heterosexuality because he wanted to do exactly that. Sirens went off in my head immediately; I couldn’t agree with that practice any less.

I had a few options:

A: Give him a piece of my mind.
B: Pretend to do research and say I couldn’t find anything.
C: Find articles for him.

I went with option C, and developed a speech impediment. After all, I am a librarian working for the Kankakee Public Library, not the Ministry of Truth. My job is to allow access to information even if it is used for delusional, misguided, or misinformed purposes.

-Mitchell Haug

Disclaimer: This message has not been approved by the Ministry of Truth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


A problem I have always had is giving up control. I am...a...control freak. It's true. From personal experience, on both the giving and receiving ends, I can assure you that control freaks are hard to work for. My director is not a control freak and that's one of the many reasons I love working for her. My staff, on the other hand, does not have that luxury with me. I have had to work very hard to delegate and let my staff be...well, fabulous.

And they are fabulous. Nowhere in Mitchell's job description does it read that he can create documentaries for the library. But after he shared some of his youtube videos that he'd made like this and this I realized that there was some serious untapped KPL potential there. Mitchell is now Video Lead and currently working on a documentary local history project. Mitchell has also produced music for KPL podcasts.

Nowhere in Nick's job description does it read that he should be taking pictures. But after learning of his incredibly sensitive photography skills illustrated here I'd be foolish not to try and thread this talent into his daily KPL activities. Nick is currently working on "A Week in the Life of the City of Kankakee" with photographs that he and others have taken around the city as a library project.

Mitchell and Nick have had to give up control of their own talents somewhat, as well. Whenever an artist creates something for work, they're always giving up a little (or big) part of it – not only with copyright – but also with trust that we won’t abuse the integrity of the art. Mitchell and Nick have both trusted me and KPL with their talents. Thankfully, I’ve given up control to them, too. If I had not done so, they may not have been able to grow as creative library staff in this institution. That's control worth handing over.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's All About People

When I ask patrons what it is they like about visiting the library, the first response I get is almost always the same - the staff. When I ask library staff what is it that they like about working at the Kankakee Public Library, the answer is always the same - the patrons. It's no surprise what a patron-staff Mutual Admiration Society we've got going on here considering how much the staff here goes out of their way to do things for people. Last week, for example, Vicki in Adult Services was taking flyers around the area for an upcoming library concert and in our parking lot an older, confused-looking gentlemen approached her, "can you help me? I'm not from here and I need to find a phone." It turns out, sadly, he was in town for his daughter's funeral. She brought him inside the library to the Circulation Desk so that he could use a phone and helped him to find the bus schedule. It was a small gesture on Vicki's part, but a big deal to the gentleman from out of town during a stressful time in his life.

I think that non-library people may be surprised that the word "books" wasn't used here. But is it books that brings patrons back time and time again? Of course books have something to do with it - but certainly not everything. I've been approached by would-be library students who have asked me why they should be a librarian. I always ask "do you like people?" If I don't get an emphatic "yes!" then I am hesitant to urge them to go into the profession. I even committed what I am sure some people would consider Library Heresy by pleading with one library student to *not* continue with library school because of his blatant dislike of people.

It's all about people. You don't have to be an avid don't have to be a techie geek...but if you don't like people - you're not going to be happy or successful working in libraries.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services