Friday, October 25, 2013

On This Date in 1998

We “fell back” last night, reverting to Central Standard Time after returning home from a family outing: 5 o’clock mass at St. Bernard’s (granting Mom her wish), dinner at Old Chicago, dessert at Michael’s Frozen Custard, and video rentals at Blockbuster. The boys and I used up our extra hour right away, Andy and Eddie staying up until ten o’clock (eleven o’clock officially) watching a video in the family room while I read in the living room. The movie they were watching, The Bushwhackers, a misadventure starring a way-too-manic Daniel Stern (the tall, skinny bad guy in Home Alone) about kids at a summer camp, was so lame that I couldn’t tune its nonsense out. JoAnna decided to add her hour to a good night’s sleep.

Back to the present. JoAnna just left for work. (It’s a few minutes before 9:00.) The boys are watching TV, and I’ve already been able to check off a few chores on today’s to-do list. No big plans for today. I’ll probably take the boys shopping to buy Halloween costumes. Party City had a glossy flyer in today’s paper showing their entire inventory, or so it looked. Target is next door and I have a short list of purchases I want to make there.

Our beautiful weather continues. Yesterday was ideal – clear sky by the early afternoon, temperature in the low 60s, just a slight breeze, thin cloud cover every now and then, with scattered showers in the forecast. Our late-October warm spell is supposed to continue through Wednesday.

The Orioles, Andy’s football team, tied their final game of the season yesterday, 6-6, which gave them an 0-6-1 record for the season, excluding an exhibition game they played under the lights last Tuesday evening against the 5th graders in the Middleton recreational football program. (They lost bragging rights, 24-7.) Andy played fullback and tight end, positions he had played mostly in practice. He did a great job, catching two passes for a total of about 25 yards. On the second reception, he was a single defender away from running 50 yards for a touchdown. I don’t understand why the coach didn’t put him at this position more often, especially since it was one that Andy expressed an interest in from the first week of practice. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that, in yesterday’s game, Andy accounted for half the Oriole pass receptions for the entire season. The offensive line was generally so ineffective that pass protection was not a term in their vocabulary. I had planned to bring along my camera to the game but, unfortunately, left home without it. Watching the game along the sidelines, I was positioned for a great shot. Andy showed no fear. He held onto the ball tightly and charged ahead for as much yardage as he could mange until he was tackled, seemingly not worried about being hit.

From football to basketball. Tonight Andy has try-outs for the 5th grade team in the Tri-County league, which would be a step up for him: more games, travel to venues beyond Dane County. If he doesn’t make the cut, he’ll play in the recreational league as he has done for the past three years. Eddie decided he wasn’t interested in playing basketball, but we did, with his permission, sign him up for indoor soccer, which starts in early December.

I was the featured speaker at the Friends of the Library annual meeting yesterday afternoon, which was scheduled to start one-half hour before the kickoff of the Wisconsin-Iowa game. This was the first time the Friends had attempted a program of this nature, and I was pleased at the turnout. About 20 showed up for a short business meeting and my presentation on how the library will eventually expand into 10,000 square feet of unfinished space on the lower level. Even though the library is only 8 years old, Middleton’s service area has grown dramatically in that time and it shows no signs of abating. Use of the library has more than doubled since 1990, and we’re actually running out of space in some areas. I just bought some shelf extensions for the adult audiovisual collection (videos and books on tape, specifically), but this purchase is only a short-term, stopgap solution.

Our current long-range plan for library service covers the years 1997 to 2001. It is here where we address the development of a plan to use the unfinished space on the lower level and a reconfiguration of the main level. Our plan for years 2002-2006 will address the implementation of this plan. Ten years ago, when we were putting the finishing touches on the original building program statement, we thought we’d have sufficient space for 20 years. In fact, some futurists would have told us that we’d have much more space than we needed, since library as they were then configured, shelves filled mostly with books and other print materials, were becoming obsolete. There was, and still is, much talk about virtual libraries, where the connection between people and information is exclusively through computers. I would have predicted then, and I stilt predict now, that this revolution will never happen. Books have been around for 500 years and are not going to suddenly disappear. The participants in the focus group discussions a consultant conducted for the library last year made this fact very clear. As much as people appreciate the improvements that technology has made possible in libraries, access to information that would have taken weeks to obtain through our traditional interlibrary loan channels, they still expect the focus to be on books.

Earlier this year, the library board hired the architectural firm that designed the library to create a public service floor plan for the lower level and recommend a better means of access between the two levels. I shared the 3rd revision of this plan with the group yesterday. We based our reconfiguration of library services on one of the most frequent complaints we have heard since day one – “The library is so noisy.” And you probably recall from your visit in 1990 that the current plan is a very open one; except for a change in the color of the carpeting, there is no physical division, for example, between the children’s area and the rest of the library. The reality of supervising a space three times the size of the previous library with a very small increase in staff dictated the need for this openness, for using shelving and other furnishing to set off the various sections of the library. As a result, the library is indeed a very noisy place at certain times of the day: during story times, after school, and into the early evening, practically all day on Saturday. Based on our collection and staffing size, we are the most heavily used library in the state. Libraries in Middleton’s circulation range of 350,000 to 500,000 items annually, generally own twice the number of books and other materials and have 50% more fulltime equivalent staff.

Seeing the need to create a quiet study area in the library, we have decided to move the following pieces of the library’s service program to the lower level: the reference desk, the reference collection (including special collections for consumer information, careers and education, personal investments, and business directories), CD-ROM databases, internet computer stations, back issues of magazines and newspapers, and the adult nonfiction collection. This area will also include a variety of small clusters of seating: tables, study carrels, and upholstered chairs, similar to what we already have now. The lower level will also include a small meeting room, two study room, and a Middleton local history room. In a separate area, we plan to create Friends of the Library store out of the unfinished space that they currently use for their book sale room.

How to connect the two levels? Well, we currently provide access to the lower level via an elevator and stairwell from the main lobby, but since this route bypasses the circulation desk, we needed to consider an alternative. What we plan to do is create an additional stairwell where the reference desk is now located and add a second elevator at the east end of the building. (I hope I remember to include a photocopy of the floor plan. That might help you visualize what I’m describing to you here.) The reconfigured library will still have just a single circulation desk. Creating a second one on the lower level would make the library’s operative too staff-intensive. A self-service checkout unit will be provided on this level, though. (We introduced this service in August. People who have no fines or other stops on their library cards or items on hold to pick up are now able to check out books, magazines, and videos on their own. The machine doesn’t accommodate books on tape or compact discs yet. Self-service now accounts for 8% of our monthly circulation. Some people are intrigued by the new technology; others use it to avoid waiting in line to have a staff members check out their materials. )

Those in attendance at yesterday’s Friends meeting responded positively to the plan. I felt a sense of relief as the other staff members working on this project, as well as the members of the library board, feel that we are very close to a final plan. The next step will be to reconfigure the main level. In this space, we will be able to expand our children’s area and provide more space for the display of our popular materials: new books, paperbacks, and audiovisual.

With JoAnna planning to work yesterday afternoon, Andy agreed to watch Eddie while I was at the library. Then Meaghan showed up, and I didn’t want to leave the three of them at home. Twenty minutes before I needed to leave the house, Joey Kracht invited Eddie to play at his house. The Krachts, whose son Alex is Andy’s age, used to live down the street from us, and the boys would play together all the time. Since they moved to another neighborhood in Middleton, their play dates have been more infrequent. Eddie is usually content to entertain himself or join Andy and his friends at school to play with him. I encourage him to invite one of his friends at school to play with him. (Picking up where I left off five hours ago.) This is another example of how different Andy and Eddie are. In his free time, Andy always has to be in the company of friends.

Like today. As soon as we returned home from buying Halloween costumes – the Grim Reaper for Andy, a Star Wars stormtrooper for Eddie – Andy called Meaghan. (Party City was a popular place. In spite of their huge selection, many costume styles were either out of stock or not available in a particular size.) The kids have been playing street hockey on rollerblades for most of the afternoon. (Most of their playing surface is limited to the driveway, actually.) Matt Ziegler just stopped by to join the fun.

I’ve tackled a variety of chores today. I spent a couple hours outdoors, the sky a gray dome by the time, pulling up annuals, cutting down the peonies, sweeping off the patio, and reorganizing the shed to make room for some patio furniture. I started packing for the WLA conference, for which I plan to depart early Tuesday afternoon. My first commitment, the WLA board meeting, is scheduled to begin at 6:00 I washed or cleaned off Andy’s football gear – pants, jerseys, pads, helmet – and put most of it into a grocery bag with this Thursday’s schedule for equipment check-in, which Grandpa Richard will have to drive Andy to, since I’ll be out of town and JoAnna not doubt working late. No school on Thursday and Friday, by the way, due to Wisconsin’s annual teachers’ conference. Traditionally, it has been held at the same time as the library conference.

I still need to go grocery shopping, but that can be postponed until tomorrow, if necessary. I don’t mind leaving Andy and Eddie at home together but feel very strongly that either JoAnna or I have to be here when any of the boy’s friends are present. That’s especially true right now, when one false move – stumbling over our uneven driveway or some other version of wipeout – could result in a serious injury. Fortunately, the kids don’t seem to lose sight of safety issues during their games.
You asked for gift suggestions, Mom, and maybe I can append a few to the end of this letter. I won’t be able to get the boys’ attention for another hour or so.

While working outside this afternoon, I started to listen to the book on tape version of The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, another classic novel, like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that I previously had no interest in reading. I can see why it’s such a popular books; the story is a very compelling one.

Eddie just walked into the room.

“Aw, I want to go on the computer,” he whined. “You’re always on the computer.”

I guess it’s time for me to close.

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