Notes from the Director
I love springtime. I’ve always thought of spring as a season of renewal. The earth comes alive with her colorful cloak of flowers and greening trees. It’s the time of year when the world is full of possibilities. The days stay lighter longer so there’s more time for working in the dirt, planting new flowers or caring for old ones, tilling rich earth to prepare a bed for vegetables. My front porch swing and my rocking chair call to me, begging me to come enjoy a glass of wine, a good book, and the warm sunshine.
Springtime, really more than New Year, is the time that I look at my life and think about what I want to accomplish, who I want to be. Our library staff starts planning and getting excited about new programs and ideas for the upcoming year. We plan activities for the Summer Reading Program. We start dreaming up cool and innovative events to take place during National Library Card Sign-Up month, and even National Library Week, which just ended. We think about programs we can offer our community that will get them as excited about libraries as we are.
We also take a look at what we have accomplished. At the end of June staff will compile a bunch of numbers that tell how many books we checked out, how many people entered our doors, how many people used the computers. The numbers are great, but what about the stories? How do we tell about the child that was delighted to discover the Origami class offered at Mebane? Or the young woman who got a job because she took our computer classes and now has the skills she needs for the workforce? How do we tell about the young boy who now reads at his grade level and enjoys it because he gets to read to one of the therapy dogs in our PAWS for Reading program? Our libraries make a difference. Our libraries touch lives. Our libraries make an impact.
I hope that you will visit Alamance County Public Libraries to enjoy all that we have to offer and let us touch your life.
May 15, 2013
Director, Alamance County Public Libraries
I am reading The Hidden City by Michelle West, The Rip-tide Ultra-glide by Tim Dorsey and Sarah Susanka’s The Not So Big Life. I am listening to the soundtrack to ”The Game of Thrones”
Thinking the Best
Last year Alamance County Public Library staff read Choosing Civility: the Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni. At our annual staff development day in September, we voted on the 25 practices Mr. Forni discusses to choose 10 that we felt best applied to our perception of how we want our organization to operate. The practice that got the most votes, hands down, was “Think the Best”. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? And usually, I have no problem being positive and upbeat. But here we are, in the middle of cold, dreary weather, preparing requests for next fiscal year’s budget. Staff is overworked, covering for frozen positions and losses to other counties that can pay more, patrons are frustrated at long waits for best-selling titles, slow public computers, and the lack of eBook titles. Quite honestly, I’m tired, frustrated, disheartened and sad.
And here’s why I’m so sad and disheartened. I believe that Alamance County Public Libraries have the very best staff in this state. I believe we have the potential to be one of the very best library systems in the state. We have many talented and creative people who are ready and willing to give all they can to ensure excellent customer service to the public. They are constantly coming up with ideas for ways to better serve the citizens of this county. The creativity on this staff is truly exciting. Our staff has many ideas for programs they want to try. I honestly believe that, with their creativity and talent, we could build one of the best library systems around. But we are all tired and there’s just not enough money to do the things we want to do. We do well just to keep the service desks covered, let alone provide new and innovative programs and services.
I see how hard library staff works to ensure that the citizens of Alamance County have the best possible service. I see the time and energy that go into planning and presenting programs that will spark people’s interest. I see the patience of staff as they are confronted with being asked to do more. I see staff trying hard not to let on how difficult it is to remain positive and upbeat in the face of the current economic environment. I see the disappointment when they are not recognized for their dedication and loyalty. While a raise would be nice, just acknowledging their hard work and their dedication to serving the people of Alamance County would also go a long way. Next time you are at the library, thank a staff member for their hard work and let them know how much you appreciate what they do.
So, I am going to work hard to “Think the Best”. I will encourage my staff to continue to come up with ideas, to brainstorm on ways we can better serve you. I will not let a single week go by without letting my staff know how wonderful I think they are. One day we will be able to put all that creativity and vision into practice. One day we will be able to make Alamance County Public Libraries the crown jewel of library systems. I hope you will join me in thinking the best of our libraries and our library staff.
February 26, 2013
What I am reading: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Change Anything: the New Science of Personal Success by Al Switzler. What I am listening to: The Big Burn by Tim Egan
It’s dark now, when I come home from work. The days and nights have gotten colder and I have to scrape frost off my car in the mornings before I can drive to the library. Many people dread the onset of winter months. I have found that, as I grow older, I enjoy this time of year. The busy rush of filling leftover daylight with errands and tasks is gone until the spring. Dark, cold evenings draw me into the comfort of curling up under a flannel quilt with a good book in my hands, and a cup of hot cider on the table beside me. Now, maybe I’ll have a chance to delve into that pile of “to read” books that has been steadily growing!
I believe I’ll start out with To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’ve read it before, but that was awhile back and I’d like to reacquaint myself with that wonderful story. Plus it’s the title for this year’s Alamance Reads! I’ll follow that with Mockingbird: a Portrait of Harper Lee and I am Scout (the young adult version) by Charles J. Shields. The library is doing so many great programs centered around these two books that I want to be ready to talk about them intelligently!
So what else is in my “to read” pile? I’d like to catch up on the Charlie Parker series by John Connolly. They are set in Maine and are very dark, so they’d match right up with the winter months! I still haven’t read Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden or The Dovekeepers and they’ve been on my list for almost a year! Archer Mayor has a new Joe Gunther book out (Paradise City) but I’d like to catch up on a few of his previous titles before I read this new one. I just hate to read books from a series out of sequence! Catching up on the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz is also on my list. Anne Lamott has a new one out called Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Survival Prayers that I can’t wait to read. Margaret Maron, Patricia Cornwell, and J.D. Robb all have new books out or coming out very soon and I know I want to read them! At least I’m caught up on all of their series.
Don’t these authors know they can’t keep coming out with new titles until I get caught up? At this rate, my “to read” pile is never going to get any smaller! Some crafter friends of mine have a saying. As long as you have a pile of unfinished projects, you can’t die. If that applies to “to read” piles of books, I should live forever!
November 16, 2012
Local libraries make a big difference
Did you know Americans go to school, public and academic libraries nearly three times more often than they go to the movies? Check out these other interesting statistics:
• Reference librarians in our nation’s public and academic libraries answer nearly 5.7 million questions a week.
• There are more public libraries than McDonalds’s in the United States.
• Americans check out an average of more than seven books a year. They spend $34.95 a year for the public library — about the average cost of one hardcover book.
• More than 65 percent of public libraries provide services for job seekers.
• Nearly 99 percent of public libraries provide public access to the Internet.
• Americans spend more than twice as much on candy as they do on public libraries.
These facts are from the American Library Association Office for Research and Statistics, ALA Public Information Office.
Now, here are a few numbers from the Alamance County Public Libraries from last year:
• More than 855,100 books, movies, magazines and music CDs were checked out.
• Some 599,205 people visited our libraries. That’s enough people to fill the Charlotte Motor Speedway more than 3.5 times.
• Almost 140,000 people accessed the Internet in our libraries.
• More than 58,000 reference questions were answered.
• Some 32,792 people attended 1,459 programs at our libraries.
Alamance County Public Libraries did all this with a shrinking budget. Can you imagine inviting 599,205 people to your house for cookies and not having enough to go around?
Each year, the price of books and movies goes up, and the amount of money in our budget goes down. We struggle to keep up with the demand for existing services and the call for new services.
Each year, we look at our budget to see how we can continue to offer our services with less money. The money allocated to purchase books, movies and CDs has dropped by more than 50 percent in the past two years. Many of you are experiencing longer waits as you wait to get your hands on the latest best-seller. Many of you have been asking for eBooks. Yet we have less money to spend on materials for your benefit.
How can you help? Alamance County Public Libraries offers an Adopt-A-Book program, and you can give any amount of money to our libraries through this program.
A minimum contribution of $20 allows us to include a plate in a book that honors someone you’ve designated. Through your adoption of a book, you are providing a gift to your entire county. It’s a terrific way to recognize someone important to you or an important occasion in someone’s life.
When I got married, my staff donated money to purchase 17 books in honor of myself and my husband. We will always be able to go to the library and see our names in these books.
Adopt-A-Book envelopes are available in all Alamance County Public Libraries. If you have any questions about this program, please call your local branch.
We hope that you will adopt a book and discover the joy of sending a lasting tribute to someone you love.
July 29, 2012
Books, Doctors and Desert Islands
I recently had to go to Alamance Regional Medical Center for a biopsy. I was pretty nervous about it, so when the radiology technician took my blood pressure, you can imagine that it was high. She gave me five minutes to calm down and took it again. It had gone up! By this time, the Radiologist arrived and it was time to start the biopsy. As he got started we all started talking about movies we’ve seen and Hunger Games came up. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I read all three Suzanne Collins books last year and loved them. It came out that I was a librarian so Dr. Register wanted to know what my favorite book in the whole world is. Without any hesitation I answered, “Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury.” It is the story of a young boy during the summer of his twelfth year. The images that Mr. Bradbury conjures up are touched with a slight hint of the magical. His use of language to describe the scenes and events are haunting and leave you reminiscing on your own childhood. Dr. Register’s favorite books are the Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry. He said that the prose is absolutely beautiful. I’ve seen the movies, but I haven’t read the books so I added them to my list of “to read”.
His next question is the one that really set me thinking. Dr. Register then asked me what my second most favorite book is. You would think this would be a fairly easy question to answer, but I found it pretty difficult. Would it be Sarah Addison’s Garden Spells? Or, what about Robin McKinley’s Beauty: a Retelling? And there is no way I could leave out anything Tamora Pierce writes, but which one would I consider my favorite? I quickly gobble up anything she writes! But wait! I forgot about Charles de Lint! Then, of course, there’s Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s childhood pal. Anne Lamott’s books on faith are among my favorites. I have the whole Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey, some of which I’ve read and some I haven’t. (My intention is to read them in chronological order rather than in the order they were written in.) I can’t leave off Alice Hoffman or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. And what about Pat Conroy’s Beach Music or The Prince of Tides? How does one choose! So my question to you is: If you had to be stranded on a desert island with a cooler of your favorite beverage, what books would you want with you for company?
Oh, and by the way -- after our conversation about books, my blood pressure dropped. I told you I loved books!
May 3, 2012
Spring (and Budget preparation) is in the air!
Even though it’s only the middle of February as I write this, I have a serious case of Spring Fever. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re having beautiful sunny days that I don’t need to wear a coat for, or maybe it’s because daffodils are blooming. More likely it’s that fact that the paperwork for my 2012-2013 budget proposal is sitting on my desk with the deadline for submission fast approaching.
This time last year I was feeling pretty darn good about the budget. Other Library Directors across the state were sharing their horror stories. Many were facing cutting hours, closing branches, laying off staff. It was a frightening time for many libraries. I was counting my blessings at only having to look at minor cuts. Alamance County Public Libraries had struggled the whole year with staff shortages, but we were able to keep all the libraries open for their regular hours and hadn’t needed to cut staff hours. The budget proposal for 2011-2012 would have to be cut some, and the Library wouldn’t meet its requirement of Maintenance of Effort to get full funding of State Aid, but heck, we were still in better shape than a lot of other libraries.
Then October came. After the sales figures came out and revenue was looked at, Alamance County Departments were asked to make a 5% cut to their budgets, any positions open were frozen (I was one day away from hiring my last open position!) and sacrifices were called for. A proposal before the Board of County Commissioners included closing two branches for the rest of the year and cutting weekend hours at two other branches. This was in addition to the 5% cut to the budget! Thank goodness our County Commissioners are supportive of your Libraries and we didn’t have to make the closures or cut hours. But that 5% was a real hit to us, as it was to all Departments, I’m sure.
This year County Departments have been requested to submit a flat budget based on figures from the budget that included the 5% cut. The reason I’m writing about this, is that the bulk of that cut comes from the money that is used to purchase books, DVDs, and the materials that you can check-out to take home from your libraries. A cut of over $125,000 doesn’t leave much to go towards purchase of materials with the rising cost of books and DVDs and the many requests for eBook services.
This spring and throughout the year next year, you will be hearing a lot about a “Boost For Books” campaign. It was done several years ago when a previous Director faced similar cuts to the materials budget. We hope that citizens of Alamance County will rally behind their library and donate funds that will help us purchase books, DVDs, music CDs, books on CD and playaways – all the things you enjoy using from the library. I will be working closely with businesses and organizations throughout the County, garnering support and funding to enable us to keep providing you with the services you’ve come to expect. I look forward to working with each of you on this project!
February 21, 2012
It’s always seemed to me that the Christmas and Thanksgiving Holidays are backwards. Thanksgiving is spent concentrating on what we have to be thankful for and Christmas is, among other things, giving and receiving gifts. My days after Christmas are spent writing thank you cards to the many wonderful people who have given me gifts. That leads me to look back on the previous year to reflect on the many gifts that happened in my life. Every year I feel there is so much to be thankful for!
Our libraries are facing a very tight budget this year. The money we use to purchase books and CDs and movies for our collections was cut by 5 percent. In addition, we did not qualify to receive the full amount of our State Aid, thus absorbing another cut to our materials budget. You would think that, given this stark scenario, it would be a stretch to find anything to be thankful for. But that is not the case!
Our Friends of the Alamance County Public Libraries increased the money they donate to the library this year, giving more money for us to use on programs for adults, teens and children; money to purchase books and playaways and other equipment. For their generosity, I am truly grateful.
Local book clubs such as the Twin Lakes Book Club and the Mentor Book Club and agencies such as NAMI and the Farm Bureau have sent donations to us for the purchase of new books. Individuals have sent money so that books may be purchased in honor of or in memory of a loved one. Bookplates are placed in those books acknowledging both the giver and the person being honored. Someone even gave money to a staff member in line at the grocery store for us to use to purchase books with! For these groups and individuals, I am also very grateful.
Each of your Libraries makes “Adopt-A-Book” envelopes available to anyone that is interested in donating money to Alamance County Public Libraries for the purchase of materials. Twenty dollars will purchase one title of staff choice. Bookplates honoring someone and acknowledging the donor are permanently attached to the books so that others may see your gift. The “Adopt-A-Book” gift is a wonderful way to acknowledge someone that is special to you or has made an impact in your life.
For all of you who support your libraries and the services that libraries provide, I am truly very thankful.
January 11, 2012
I have been thinking about changes a lot lately. It seems like all aspects of my life are undergoing changes this fall. Some of them I’m ready for and welcome, some make me sad, and some promise to be quite an adventure whether I’m ready or not! All of them challenge me to become a better person and to pay attention to how I am in the world, and that’s never a bad thing.
Earlier this month my soon-to-be-husband and I had to make the hard decision to place his brother in a group home. Randy has lived with us full-time for 2 years and is such an important part of our lives, but we’ve reached a point where we couldn’t give him the care he needs. We are sad that he is no longer a part of our daily-ness and struggled with making this decision. But when I visit him at his new home and see how the wonderful people from Ralph Scott Life Services are caring for him and how happy he is, I know this change was a good thing.
Rick and I are getting married later this month. Many people have asked me if I am changing my name and wonder why when I tell them “yes”. I want the world to know what an honor it is to create a life together with this man. Taking his last name signifies that I feel a great sense of pride at being a part of his life. So on October 22, I will change from MJ Goodrum to MJ Wilkerson.
Our catalog is getting a new look to it that we are very excited about. The front page of the catalog will have what is called a ‘book river’ in which book covers scroll across the screen. We will highlight new titles, a variety of topics, authors and other things in this book river. When you see a cover that interests you, just click on it to get additional information about the book. With this new catalog you will be able to write reviews for titles that you have read so that you can recommend them to other people. You even have the option of tagging titles. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this, it means that you may add words that best describe the book. Some people even use tagging as a way to help them identify whether or not they’ve read a book! Our experience has taught us that simple, one or two word phrases work best! We are also adding a children’s catalog that is user friendly for young children.
Many of you have asked when we are going to begin offering eBooks, or downloadable books for circulation. We are currently in the process of adding eBooks to our collection. I hear the excitement out there even as I write this! We have been getting requests for this service for quite awhile and have finally found a vendor we can afford that will also offer a good selection of what you will be interested in reading. We are still ironing some of the logistics of the service, but I promise, it is on the way!
May Memorial and Graham Public Library will be getting self-checkout units installed in their libraries, hopefully soon after Christmas. This money was designated last year from the Gardner Trust Fund and we have begun the ordering process. We are excited about these and the opportunity to serve you even more efficiently.
Changes are happening. I hope you will join me as we continue to make our libraries an even better place for your lifelong learning in our community.
October 19, 2011
I used to think that summers were the time of year where you moved at a slower pace. School was out and, even though I always worked during summer, life just seemed quieter and easier. If you visited any of your local libraries this summer, you quickly saw that this isn’t necessarily the case! Libraries were hopping July and August as Summer Reading Programs connected children, young adults and grown-ups to a wide variety of programs and reading material. Our themes had us traveling all over the globe as children discovered “One World, Many Stories” and adults read “Novel Destinations”. Young adults found that “You are Here” could be any place on earth when you become immersed in a good book! Nope, no quiet, restful place to be found in libraries during the summer months!Now we’re looking ahead to the fall. The calendar is already full of upcoming events, so I don’t anticipate a slow, quiet time in the near future, either! Do you remember getting your first library card? I was so proud to have my very own card with my name on it. I felt so important carrying it around in my pocket. It was better than gold, as far as I was concerned! September is National Library Card month. Michael Parker, who wrote The Watery Part of the World, will be speaking at May Memorial Library to help us celebrate. A library card is the smartest card you’ll ever have in your wallet and gains you access to a world of information, stories, and services. If you don’t already have one, be sure to come by any library and sign up for your very own library card. When you get your first library card, you can enter a drawing to win a prize.Another big event in September is the 75th anniversary of the Mebane Library. We are busy planning a month of activities including a production by the ever popular Bright Star Theater. Anna Jean Mayhew will be on hand to talk about her new book The Dry Grass of August. Carole Troxler will give us some insight into local history as she shares her new book, Farming Dissenters: The Regulator Movement in Piedmont North Carolina. Keep your eyes and ears out for all kinds of ways to celebrate Mebane Library with us.We have a lot going on at all the Libraries. I hope you’ll join me in the many programs and events taking place at all our branches as we celebrate the joy of reading and having your very own library card.
August 8, 2011
Ahhh, the Perfect Vacation!
Every summer my family gets together for a week at the beach. We deliberately choose a beach with nothing much going on because we like to spend our time working jigsaw puzzles, taking walks, flying kites and catching up with each other. We also spend most of the time reading. Since I’m the librarian of the family, I’m usually the one in charge of bringing our reading material.
All year I have fun looking at new titles and authors I think we might like to read. I’ll snag the newest Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich, some cozy mysteries, the latest hot young adult book (last year it was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). I love to browse the libraries’ shelves looking for new books written by our favorite authors. I also try to match the various members of my family to new books and authors that they might not know about yet. I can’t help it; it’s the Librarian in me! I love introducing people to new authors and stories to fall in love with. I usually end up with one or two huge boxes of books to take with us. Last year my fiancé declared that everyone had to buy their own eReader so he wouldn’t have to haul those heavy boxes around. Now that would be quite a sight, since my mom refuses to touch a computer!
Once we get there and get settled, my days are spent reading. After breakfast, I get all covered up with suntan lotion, get my chair and baseball cap and head down to the ocean with my book in hand. There I’ll sit all day, with my feet in the water and a book in my hands, reading away. I’ll take a break to move my chair back as the tide comes in or follow the water as it goes out. Around lunch time, I’ll mosey on up and fix myself a sandwich and get another book, then head right back down to the sand and the ocean. I’m perfectly content to sit there all day with my book and the sound and feel of the water. Now that’s my favorite way to spend a vacation!
This year, things happened that caused us to miss out on our beach trip. I was really disappointed, because I missed connecting people with books. I also missed doing nothing but reading for 6 whole days. My list of books read this year is going to be mighty short compared to other years! Well, I guess I’ll just have to take the time each evening to sit in my rocking chair on my front porch, imagine I hear the ocean and read to my heart’s content. Hmmm, let’s see what’s in my beach reading box this year….. There’s the latest Harlan Coben book, the next in the John Connelly series, the fantasy series by Juliet Marillier, the next book in the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain, a little Nora Roberts for some light reading, some books to help me in my job, and some Anne Lamott titles I haven’t read yet, that are good for my spirit. Maybe I won’t have such a short list after all.
Pull up a chair and join me. Happy reading to you!
July 13, 2011
Many Services Available at Your Libraries
There’s been a lot of discussion in the papers recently about the Alamance County budget. County Manager, Craig Honeycutt, presented his proposal for the 2011 – 2012 budget to the Board of Commissioners in May. Tonight, the Commissioners will hold a public hearing, allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the recommended budget. With all this talk about how taxpayer money is spent, I wanted to be sure the citizens of Alamance County are aware of the many services offered by the public libraries in our county that are paid for with your taxes.
We read and listen. For instance, everyone knows we loan books and DVDs. We have a collection of over 215,598 books and 18,740 DVDs. We also have a collection of books on CD and books on cassette. Did you know that we also loan music CDs? Yep, you can check out Lady Gaga, or Rhiannon’s newest release on CD at any of your branches.
We talk. Are you a member of a book club or interested in starting one? Your libraries offer a wide variety of book club kits that include 10 copies of one title, discussion questions and information about the author. It’s everything you need to generate an interesting book discussion. We currently have about 145 kits available for adults and for young adults. If you don’t want to check out your own book kit, come join one of our book groups for coffee and some great conversation! We have quite a few groups going on in each of our branches geared around all kinds of topics such as knitting, mysteries, and anime to name just a few.
We start businesses. Interested in applying for a grant or starting your own business? May Memorial Library has a Business Resource center and our very own Business Librarian who is always willing to help you find the information you may need. We have great resources for non-profits, including the Online Foundation Directory database. All of our talented reference staff at each of the branches are ready to answer questions you might have!
We teach. What do chickens, shopping, and German POWs have in common? They are all topics of programs that your libraries have offered, free, to you. This year, we’ve hosted a series on Urban farming, several programs on coupon shopping, and an investment program. Last year, the Friends of the Libraries sponsored a variety of performers and something called a Bus-eum. It was a traveling museum centered around German POWs housed throughout America during World War II. This year we were awarded a grant to start a mobile lap top lab, so expect to see opportunities to learn how to set up an email account, use Microsoft Exel and Word as well as other computer skills.
We help people get jobs. Each of our reference desks makes job listings in North Carolina available. Many businesses now require applications to be submitted online. Your libraries offer internet access on public computers so you can apply for jobs, develop a resume and write a cover letter.
We entertain. Movies of newly released and old favorites are always being shown. We also host a series of independent and foreign movies. In addition, your libraries have guest speakers come in and make us laugh, theater groups put on plays, magicians work their magic before your very eyes, and a whole host of entertainers guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, sing and dance.
I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. We’re a pretty good deal for your money. Just remember, these are YOUR libraries, so come take advantage of the many things we offer!
June 6, 2011
"Leave Your Mark!" in Our Libraries
The theme for National Library Week in April was Create Your Own Story @ Your Library. This theme ties in with the children's Summer Reading Program theme of One World, Many Stories. Alamance County Public Libraries has put together an innovative way for you to share your stories with us. Beginning this past April, we began a collaborative project called "Leave Your Mark". Each branch library has set of blank journals dedicated to a particular topic. Subjects include Family, Happiness, Alamance County, Food and many others. You are encouraged to check out a journal and "leave your mark", sharing with us what that particular topic means to you. It may be writing a poem or a short story or even drawing a picture. It may be sharing a memory of your family or telling why someone in your family is important to you. It could be remembering going to the movies in downtown Burlington and taking a bread wrapper to get in, or that the Sears used to be where part of May Memorial Library is now. It may be passing along a favorite recipe and telling us why it's your favorite. It's your chance to write, draw, glue and be creative in a library book. I had fun thinking about what makes me happy and putting that in the Happiness book. In the Family book I wrote about how proud I am of my family. The Food book is on my dining room table waiting for me to write a funny story about a hard-to-find ingredient in a recipe that has become a family favorite. It has been fun to look through the journals and see what other people have done to express themselves. I hope you will join in this community effort to "Leave Your Mark" in our libraries!
May 5, 2011