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Who can use a library? A public library director's comments

  • Posted on July 29, 2009 at 6:48 PM

I was chatting on Facebook with my former college roommate Shirley who is a library director in Iowa and I asked her to comment on the recent posts on the Dominic Phillips/Colbert video and access to libraries. She provided such interesting information that I asked permission to share with you. These are Shirley’s comments:

Not sure if you want me to post. Over the years, we have become very strict about who can use our library – and it is very hard to turn people away.

The issue is that people who pay taxes are paying for the service that is presented as "free". But when your funding body looks at you serving everyone the same, they wonder why they should contribute money / allocate a budget that provides a service for those outside.

There are a lot of ways to look at this. Our situation is somewhat unique because we are part of a county wide agency. There are communities in the county who have chosen NOT to provide library service for their citizens. 

It took me a long time to get to the point where this doesn’t bother me.  Libraries should be available to everyone and equal for everyone, but libraries are not equal.

The amount a city budgets for a library directly effects what kind of services, collection, etc. that library can offer. Through a state program, if they provide library service – through a contract or directly to a library – they are eligible to use any library in the state.  But when they choose not to dedicate tax dollars to support library service, they aren’t.

Cities cannot afford to subsidize use by nonresidents unless there is some "payback". In some cases this is economic – they come to town and shop so using the library is a fair exchange. It took me a long time to get to the point where this doesn’t bother me.

If a resident of a city that pays $10.00 for service doesn’t think that is enough, he needs to advocate for better budgets so his city library can provide better service, not go to the library down the road where the tax payers are paying $100.00 so that they have exemplary service.

It is a tough argument but until libraries are state funded or federally funded – or supported by something other than property taxes, it is hard for me to argue that nonresidents should receive the same services as residents.

In our situation, we allow anyone to use the library – look at things, attend programs, etc. If they are eligible for the state program, they can also check out materials the same as residents. If they want "full services" they can purchase a prorated membership card for $24.00 per year for an individual and $48 for a family. If not, they have to pay $1.00 to place holds, $1.00 per half hour to use the computers are are not eligible for ILL services. Residents of communities that are not eligible for this state access program (don’t support libraries in any way) are not able to purchase a card either.

It hurts to turn them away (especially the children who don’t understand) but doing otherwise undervalues the services libraries offer.

Shirley Vonderhaar
Library Director, James Kennedy Public Library – Dyersville, Iowa

What do you think, readers?

Donating and Packing books for fun Box #1

  • Posted on July 29, 2009 at 6:04 PM

I’m enjoying packing books to send to my hometown library. In many ways giving is so much better than getting. I’m so happy as I put each book in the box that I felt the need to tell someone about these books.  I won’t be there when the librarian opens the box but maybe she will read this and know how much I loved these books as I packed them. 

Margaret Hillert’s Beginning-to-Read books. These books are classics, beloved by teachers and students in kindergarten and first grade. Schools that have programs like Accelerated Reader need books like these for students to practice and accumulate points. All schools who like to watch students read quickly and succeed should have these for their little ones’ hands. These new sports-themed titles are updated with illustrations by David Schimmell.

Beginning to Read - It's a Good Game, Dear DragonIt’s a Good Game, Dear Dragon
I Did It, Dear DragonFire Up With Reading! Book
Touchdown! Dear Dragon
Play, Play, Play, Dear Dragon

Fire Up With Reading! written by Toni Buzzeo illustrations by Sachiko Yoshikawa. One of my favorite librarians with the coolest accessories is back to fire up students for their school reading program. I love my dragons!

The series  I Like Weird Animals including 

Hair-Shooting Taratulas And Other Weird Spiders
Flying Geckos and Other Weird Reptiles
Weird Birds
Leafy Sea Dragons and Other Sea Creatures
Bomb-Factory Beetles and Other Weird Insects Maybelle Goes to Tea

illustration - I Need My Monster-Front cover for book published Spring 2009 - McWilliam, HowardI Need My Monster by Amanda Noll.  What a fun bedtime story! I can just picture the children curling up listening to this title.

Maybelle Goes to Tea by written by Katie Speck  and illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos. I love those cockroaches.
Nature’s Baby Animals from Enslow Publishing including:
Baby Animals of the Ocean
Baby Animals of the Woodland Forest
Baby Animals of the Desert 

I particularly like Baby Animals of the Desert which includes simple explanations of an Arabian camel, meerkat, burrowing owl, gecko, desert bighorn sheep, African desert elephant, sandgrouse, and a kit fox. These books won’t answer intense research questions. They are intended to introduce the youngest of listeners to fascinating animals in their biomes. Every early elementary library should include nonfiction like these.  Parents who are new to reading nonfiction aloud will appreciate these interesting comments on cute, adorable baby animals. <gasp> I did use the cute word, but reviewers can’t resist using that word when they comment upon it.

Holidays – Count and Celebrate! series by Fredrick L. McKissack and Lisa Beringer McKissack. These are not simple counting books. While they share facts in a 1-2-3 manner, their subjects range in Cinco de Mayo from presidents to zapateado to cannon fire during the re-enactment of the day when the Mexican army beat the French army.

Cinco de Mayo  

Counting in the Biomes by Fredrick L. McKissack and Lisa Beringer McKissack
Counting in the Oceans
Counting in the Taiga

Count the Critters from Abdo’s Magic Wagon
Hiding Hippos: Counting from 1 to 10 by Amanda Doering Tourville . Unlike the Enslow series, these are drawings instead of photographs. These titles are definitely intended for parents to read to preschoolers. The hippos wear clothes like people, but the text is true to hippo behavior. For example, we read 

"Hippos live together in African rivers. Seven hippos call to the others with a grunt. Count them: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven."
The illustrations show hippos wearing glasses, innertubes and bathing suits. Non-threatening pictures for preschoolers. (Only we adults will know that more people die from hippo attacks than lion or crocodile attacks in Africa. Shhh! That fact isn’t in these books)

What Lives in the Arctic? Abdo Super Sandcastle Animal Habitats series by Oona Gaarder-Juntti. I do have a complaint with the Abdo site. I want to show you all the covers in the series, but the site only has one title. ARGH! Ignore that and pretend the picture is the book I’m packing. 

I really like the title What Lives in the Arctic? It has full-color photographs inside, lots of good details. Intended for emerging readers, this book will take a stronger reader/listener, but it is worth it. The title has pages on each of these animals — Atlantic puffin, Arctic fox, Snowy owl, Harp seal, walrus, Beluga whale, Musk ox, and Polar bear. I’m particularly fond of the list of additional animals that students can research: arctic hare, arctic tern, caribou, collared lemming, Dall sheep, ermine, gyrfalcon, moose, narwhal, reindeer, rock ptarmigan, ruddy turnstone, snow bunting, snow goose, and wolverine.  Excellent list!

So for this box of books, if the library had to pay full price (and no one I knows does that) the books would be valued at $399.39. Wow! That’s just one box of many to send. I’d better get busy and get them on their way.

Facts from Nazareth Library Director regarding Dominic Phillips & the Colbert video

  • Posted on July 29, 2009 at 1:35 PM

In response to my post on the Colbert video clip with Dominic Phillips and his family, the director of the Nazareth Library wanted to share some facts. Funding in Pennsylvania (and in many other states in this country) is very confusing for public libraries. Here are


The Library Board and staff are well aware that some residents of municipalities who do not reside in our service area desire library service.

Those who serve on the Library Board and staff do so because of a strong belief that communities should provide library service to their constituents. Because the Library Board is committed to fair and equitable local funding of our Library, the Library issues membership cards only to residents in those municipalities that support our library services as part of responsible and responsive municipal government. Some of our surrounding communities do not feel that its citizens have expressed enough interest in having library services as part of their municipal services.

Libraries in Pennsylvania are supported mainly through local funding municipalities. (75% of our finding is local funding.)  The following municipalities support our Library as a part of responsible and responsive municipal government: Nazareth Borough, Bushkill, Lower Nazareth and Upper Nazareth Townships. 

Our Library does not sell individual cards because it believes that the local support we receive should not be jeopardized by the sale of individual cards[1]. Area libraries that we are aware of which do sell individual cards include: Easton Area Public Library and its Palmer Branch, Mary Meuser Library and Bangor Public Library.
Healthy local support is at the heart of our funding and any state subsidy we receive is directly tied to the amount we receive from our local funding municipalities.

Our Library receives no funding from the Nazareth Area School District. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries assigns public libraries to District Centers. Library District Centers do not correspond in make up to School Districts. Our Library is assigned to the Bethlehem Area District Library Center. Tatamy and Stockertown are assigned to the Easton Area Library District Center.

Our Library receives no funding from the District Center.
The Bethlehem District Center does not sell individual cards.
Our Library receives no funding from the County.

Our Library participates in the Access PA statewide direct borrowing program. The program is a program of reciprocity. To be eligible to participate, an individual’s municipality must establish and/or maintain a local library. As a result ACCESSPA stickers may not be attached to cards purchased at area libraries. Purchased cards are valid only at the library issuing the card.

We have always acknowledged that residents of a town without library services are the catalysts to change that situation. Anyone wanting to use our services including: internet access, story hours, subscription database searching and programming are welcome to do so. However when they wish to check out an item from the collection then we must require that they have a valid library card. We have also advised the residents of surrounding communities that should they wish their town to provide library services to its citizens by supporting our Library, they would first have to do the following:

· Agree to contribute the same per capita amount as our current funding municipalities.
· Contact the Easton Area Library District Librarian Jennifer Stocker regarding a change in their municipality’s District Library assignment.

The citizens of the municipalities we serve enjoy library services because their government leaders believe libraries are a vital service to their constituents.

We strongly urge residents of a town that does not currently support library services to contact their local officials and let them know you are interested and committed to having them support library service as part of responsive and responsible municipal government. As a citizen you have the power of the vote and it is the answer to the change you seek in this situation. 

If you need assistance with information about our services that you feel would be helpful to you when speaking to your local officials we would be glad to provide it.

Lynn Snodgrass-Pilla, Director
Memorial Library of Nazareth & Vicinity, Nazareth PA

[1] The Board has the jurisdiction to set policy for non-residents. The Memorial Library of Nazareth operates under the Pennsylvania Library Code. 

Back Home by Julia Keller – Guest Blogger Becky Jackman

  • Posted on July 29, 2009 at 5:45 AM

Recently at ALA, I was reminded that sometimes the best things happen to you when you deviate from your Back Homeplan. I was in the Exhibit Hall in Chicago, looking for some specific booths. I was walking past Egmont USA’s booth and it looked like they had an author signing going on. I glanced at the stack of books and read the cover. The title was “Back Home” and the cover read “Julia Keller–Winner of the Pulitzer Prize”. I thought to myself, that sounds like an adult title and I didn’t stop to get in line. But, as I was walking by, I overhead just a snatch of the conversation that the booth representative was having with one of the librarians in line.


That snatch of conversation made me actually pick up the book and read the back cover. I was hooked by the first sentence in the publisher’s blurb. “When Dad comes home from Iraq, Rachel doesn’t recognize the man with a prosthetic arm and leg, sitting in the living room day after day.” That one sentence caused me to take the book and get in line to have it signed because my high school library had over 1800 students last year and 50-75% of the students have one or both parents who were/are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan during the year. 


I waited my turn and got to meet Julia Keller. We talked for several minutes after I told her why I was excited to see a novel written about this subject. We had a really good conversation and she even asked me to let her know what I thought about the book. 


I had a little bit of time that evening with nothing scheduled (my roommates were all at the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet, lucky ducks) so I started reading Back Home. I didn’t stop reading until I was finished. I thought the book was excellent. The story deals with the changes in Rachel’s family, school, and friendships. The feelings expressed by Rachel were totally believable. The book moved me and informed me at the same time. As a reader, I learned about the technical/medical aspects of Rachel’s situation as Rachel learned so many of the new words that became a part of her family’s life after her father’s return.


Back Home will be available in September fromEgmont USA. I think everyone from upper elementary to adult would enjoy the book. I really think this book should be a part of everyone’s collection, especially if the library serves a military community or has a National Guard/Reserve component nearby.

From Julia Keller’s website: "For more information about brain injury, and about how to help American service personnel who are living with brain injuries:,

Becky Jackman, School Librarian for Northeast High School in Clarksville, TN is also the Tennessee Association of School Librarians President-Elect. You can email Becky here

Nailing a reader for daring to use a public library he's not entitled to

  • Posted on July 28, 2009 at 10:14 AM

Dominic Phillips gets nailed by someone in the public library. What? He is banned and can’t use the library because some library employee snitched on him! I understand that public libraries serve only their patrons and their tax-payers. Where is the appeals process when you are dealing with nonresidency fees? Why does his zipcoded area library insist upon a $5 membership fee that doesn’t provide access to all of Pennsylvania libraries? What exactly is Access Pennsylvania if it doesn’t provide access?  

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Nailed ‘Em – Library Crime
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Mark Sanford

Public libraries only serve their tax-paying citizens. School libraries serve only their students, plus every homeschooled child in the area who requests access. How do you feel? Should Dominic have an advocate on his behalf? Do you punish children for glitches in the system right in the middle of summer reading programs?

View the video from Monday, July 27, 2009 Colbert Report.

June 22, 2009 update stating Dominic can use his card until the end of the year. 

Maybe I am disturbed by this portion of the newspaper article from Sunday, June 21, 2009: 

"A female employee at the Nazareth library then called Easton Area’s main library to complain that a mistake had been made, said Stephanie Supinski, manager of the Palmer branch, who later left the message on the Philips’ answering machine. Supinski said she didn’t know who made the complaint with the main library.

Nazareth library cards are not available to Tatamy residents because the borough does not contribute funding to that library system. Dominick Philip can now receive a paid subscription for $5 annually to the Easton Area Public Library, but that subscription permits the use of only Easton Area facilities, Supinski said."

The Annoyed Librarian wrote about this on the Library Journal blog back in June and the comments continue to come in. 

Okay, I have a confession to make. I live in Wilson County and my family has library cards for the Mt. Juliet, TN, library. Because I teach in Metro-Nashville, I also am "entitled" to get a library card from the wonderful Nashville Public Library system. I confess that sometimes when I check out books from NPL, my children read them, too. Are the Nashville police going to come and arrest me for stealing? I don’t think so.

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown – a guest blogger review

  • Posted on July 28, 2009 at 6:36 AM

Becky Jackman writes today:   Hate List by Jennifer Brown is an amazing book. I cried while I first read it and I cried again a week later when I reread most of it. Valerie Leftman tells her story by alternating between the present and the past, and through newspaper articles. The newspaper articles are about the school shootings that Valerie’s boyfriend, Nick, committed and for which Valerie may or may not have been responsible.

Valerie is wounded during the shootings, but the story is about her emotional healing. Valerie struggles with coming to grips about what happened and her part in it. Her family, her friends, and her school all have to deal with some of the same issues that Valerie is working through. The story is emotionally gripping in several places and once the story grabs you, you can’t put the book down.

I wholeheartedly recommend the book to all young adult librarians and I would like to thank Lisa Von Drasek from EarlyWord Kids and Victoria Stapleton from Little, Brown Young Readers for the wonderful opportunity to read this story. Hate List will be available in September 2009 from Little, Brown Young Readers. Please add it to your collections.

Becky Jackman, School Librarian for Northeast High School in Clarksville, TN is also the Tennessee Association of School Librarians President-Elect. You can email Becky here

Other reviews available online:
Carrie’s YA Bookshelf
LibrarillyBlonde blog
Tara Lazar’s blog
Sarah Miller’s blog
Hate List facebook page
Dog-Eared and Well Read blog

Note from Diane: I would love to have chimed in with my comments about this book, but, readers, I am still waiting for a copy. See… not all of us get every book before it’s published. Sometimes we have to pine away for the book, listening to the buzz, and waiting for publication day. I appreciate Becky’s writing this review since she couldn’t stop telling me how much she enjoyed the book. I have forgiven her for lending her ARC to everyone else she knows before me. Well, maybe there is still a little pouting on my part, but I promise, Becky, that you are on my happy friend’s list.

14 Cows for America

  • Posted on July 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Fourteen (14) Cows for AmericaWritten by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, and beautifully illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez, 14 Cows for America is a picture book that prompts reflection, sensitivity to others, and appreciation for each individual’s place in our interconnected world. View the book trailer here.

14 Cows for America is the true story of Maasai tribesman and Stanford University student Kimeli Naiyomah who witnessed the events on September 11, 2001, while visiting the United Nations headquarters in New York. 

Returning to his home in a remote village in Western Kenya, he brought the story of those events to his Maasai villagers. He felt compelled to give of something dearest to his heart, one of his cows. Carmen Agra Deedy does an excellent job conveying the importance of cows to the Maasai people so we understand the significance of this gesture. When the US Ambassador answers a call for a visit, he witnesses a blessing ceremony by hundreds of Maasai who ultimately give to America their tribute of life – 14 cows. 

During ALA Midwinter I wandered by the Peachtree Publishers booth to sniff out what’s new. I was delighted to see loose pages for Carmen Agra Deedy’s newest book 14 Cows for America. In May I received a galley copy and yet I couldn’t wait to possess the final hardcover picture book. 

Finally it arrived in late June. I don’t know why it has taken me so many months to write about this book because it has greatly impacted every person I have shared it with all along its development. Everyone who has read this book has demanded more information. They’ve read all the publisher information, reviews, internet stories, and personal accounts. I have witnessed people praying and simply pausing to think about their role in the world after reading this book. Carmen Agree Deedy has written many funny stories, but 14 Cows for America is a heartwarming tale to cherish.

Let's start demanding our favorite authors get their books published?

  • Posted on July 25, 2009 at 4:07 PM

Okay, I apologize, but I’m going to rowse the rabble for a moment. I have been waiting a LONG time for one of my favorite Iowa authors, Donald Harstad, to release a new book. He had a bunch of them with Deputy Carl Houseman then nothing. Rumor has it he has more written, but no publisher. ARGH! I need my latest fix of Iowa police procedures.

How many of you are waiting for your favorite authors to publish books? I understand the economy is rough, but I’m waiting for my new books. What are you waiting for?

Helping other school libraries

  • Posted on July 25, 2009 at 10:46 AM

Have you noticed the wide variety of ways to help other school libraries popping up on the internet? Amy Bowllan posted about the Jericho Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, needing books to build a library. Cynthea Liu hosted a Take the Dare, Show You Care event to help schools in Tulakes, Oklahoma. I want to help my hometown school library in Washta, Iowa.

This summer I returned to my hometown of Washta, Iowa, for my 25th high school reunion. While I was there, I visited the local public library which is housed in the elementary school. I spoke with the principal, Debra Bagenstos, and she graciously allowed me to tour their school library housed in the same room, but divided by shelves. Due to travel schedules, I was not able to meet with the school librarian, but I hope to see her in December. Mrs. Bagenstos shared that their school librarian begins her day at the high school for a couple hours then comes to the Preschool-Grade 4 elementary building daily. I’m happy the students have access to a librarian at the elementary level since Judy Brown who was an elementary teacher also took care of the "library" when I was a student.

I feel great affection for my hometown and I want the students there to have the same opportunities to read new, current titles as I provide my students in Nashville, TN. I was surprised to encounter many of the same books I read when I was an elementary student there in the 70’s. For this library of 260 students, they are relying upon the four internet computers for reference materials. As I spoke with the principal and advocated that she provide more funds for the school librarian to update the collection, I pulled out a couple titles to show her why weeding was essential. We were browsing shelves while I reminisced.

I went to one of my favorite areas – the rocks & minerals section – and showed her the 1954 copyright dates of many titles. I compared it to the few newer titles they had so I could show how the full-color photographs and improved layout of pages actually encouraged today’s students to read. We chatted about how the older titles were actually tricking people into thinking they had an adequate collection when in reality if the shelves were weeded, there would be few titles left. We chatted about Karen Lowe’s collection development process and how it is essential to develop a plan to focus on the main areas of need. I appreciated the principal’s spending Reading First grant money on classroom collections, but my heart ached to see how much was needed in the school library. This principal really cares about building a fine collection and was a delight to chat with. She wasn’t offended by any suggestions I made, but let me share my desire to help.

I’m not trying to take over a collection or tell anyone what they are doing wrong. I simply ache to provide new titles to these students. So, this is what I have decided. When I am reviewing elementary titles that are too young to put in my middle school collection, I am going to ship them back to the River Valley Elementary School library. Principal Debra Bagenstos actually offered to reimburse me for my postage in appreciation. I know this would come out of her own pocket and this made me teary to see how much she cares for providing access to new books for her students. 

River Valley Elementary School Reference collection
Newest Encyclopedia in the school section was the 2002 World Book Encyclopedia.
Reference materials
Reference Materials

This elementary school serves four communities – Cushing, Correctionville, Quimby, and Washta in two counties. I took some quick photographic notes of the reference collection to remind me why I care. I know I can help this library right away. If you decide you want to send them titles, here is the address:

River Valley School District
100 South 5th Avenue
Washta, IA 51061
(712) 447-6318

Some quick photos of the Washta Public Library:

I loved reading series fiction as a child from the Washta Public Library and see some of my favorites from then – Trixie Belden, the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, etc.
These are the encyclopedias available to the public library patrons. Yes, their copyright dates are 1991 and 1977.
These comfortable chairs look welcoming to me. There were many new ficiton titles I’d like to read available in the public library.
I found the old photographs of each class from the schools that are now part of River Valley: Washta and Willow. I hope none of you ever see my high school graduation picture. It would keep rodents out of your house!
I like the note on the desk about patrons returning videos. My sons love using the video collection when we visit. You can see the adult collection to the left.
Public Library shelves for the adult fiction and nonfiction.
The children’s section of the public library. The hours have improved beyond the 2-4 Wed and 2-4 Sat when I was growing up.

Intellectual Freedom Library Bill of Rights interpretations impacting school libraries

  • Posted on July 25, 2009 at 9:50 AM

Helen Adams, an ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee member, shared this information on the AASLForum today and gave me permission to pass it along to you. Sometimes people ask why they should be members of the larger umbrella of ALA, and I want to point out that all types of librarians on the Intellectual Freedom committee, plus the members of ALA council and all divisions, seriously undertook a study of these positions and interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights as it impacts youth and school libraries. From Helen:


During the American Library Association Conference in Chicago in July, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) worked on the following documents and all have relevance for school library media specialists:


  • Minors and Internet Interactivity: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (new)
  • Importance of Education to Intellectual Freedom:An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (new)
  • Access to Digital Information, Services, and Networks: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (revised)
  • Labeling and Rating Systems: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (revised)

All the documents were approved by ALA Council on July 15, 2009 and can be located in alphabetical order at