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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What's The Most Valuable Thing in Your Wallet? A Library Card, Of Course

It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, but when it comes to savings, your library card packs a wallop. Whether you use your card just to check out books or you're a library super user, chances are you’ve racked up a load of savings over the years. 

No matter how often you use your card, take a look at one of our earlier Library Card Sign-Up Month posts - 10 Free Services with the Smartest Card in Your Wallet or 12 Reasons to Love Your Library Card. You’re sure to find out something new about Fairfax County Public Library to love!

-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Serving the Patrons of the Future

This blog post first appeared on American Libraries' The Scoop, Sept. 14, 2016

Balancing traditional needs with expanded vision in Fairfax County

Fairfax County Government Center hosted the library's 2016 Staff Day events.

During the biannual staff day at Fairfax County (Va) Public Library (FCPL), keynote speaker Miguel Figueroa, director of the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries, posed the following challenge to more than 400 staff members: “Expand your vision. Drop, for a moment, the restraints on your thinking imposed by budgets and other resource caps. Think boldly. Coalesce around a strong idea; then work backwards and figure out the steps to get there. In the midst of rapidly shifting demographics and at a time when we cannot remain static, what active changes can you implement now that will make your library more relevant for the future?"

It’s a timely message for any library in the nation but doubly so for FCPL, with its new library director, Jessica Hudson, having taken the reins of one of the nation’s larger library systems that also happens to be located on the steps of the nation’s capital.

Change is a constant, but Figueroa listed examples of quickly evolving trends that have had a particular impact on libraries, such as short reading (content that can be read and/or delivered quickly), virtual reality, interactive toys, and emerging adulthood (individuals taking longer to move away from home, transition to career, get married, and have children). Figueroa suggested that in many ways “creating a positive future of our library requires that we think less about ‘the user in the life of the library’ and more about ‘the library in the life of the user.’ How do we align our work so that it fits into the needs and directions that our communities are likely to encounter?”

To do this, he suggested putting together a team of six to 10 people across departments or branches. Engage the group in evaluating trends culled from trusted sources like magazines and newspapers, emerging sources like social media or scholarly research, and from their own lived experiences as members of the community. Meet regularly to discuss emerging trends and refine the group’s thinking—and talk with other staff members to test this information and incorporate new perspectives. Ask how the library can respond to this trend, capitalize on it, and leverage it to add value to the customer’s library experience. Make sure you have mixed talents on your team, including those who can dream productively, build partnerships, sell ideas to others, and can get projects launched. Having a team with diverse talents can transform an innovative idea into reality.

Hudson offered her perspectives on how to meet these challenges as she outlined areas of priority for FCPL to increase its relevance and value to the community for current and future patrons. She addressed four areas: technology, collections, youth services, and solid customer service. At a time when all county agencies jockey for scarce funding, the library must be a good steward of its resources so it can provide the high-tech services that patrons can and should be able to expect, Hudson said. At the same time, the library needs to ensure the depth and breadth of its collections to be able to pivot to meet new demands while maintaining traditional resources. And youth services, a particular passion of hers, will require branches to think creatively about the many ways to serve the large and growing youth segment, one that the county survey indicated is a high priority with library users.

Hudson said as the county library embarks on a new strategic plan, they will all grapple with effectively integrating traditional and evolving service models. She believes in doing that, they can be a value-adding bridge to the community.

This is not unique to FCPL. Libraries nationwide are facing the challenge of balancing two different service models: a traditional model that focuses on core or foundational services, such as books, discovery by browsing the shelves, resources and materials for research, reference, study and individual fulfillment, quiet spaces for learning, and rooms for meeting; and the evolving service model that focuses on quick adaptation to changing community needs, experimentation, and partnering to achieve shared outcomes. It uses a demand-based, customer-centric approach, embraces changing technology, delivers services outside the building, provides multimedia resources, encourages discovery via the web and computer research, and seeks to support multiple learning styles. This requires an encompassing vision that can address changing needs and get stakeholders on the same page.

Hudson said the challenge will be to develop an integrated service model that serves both those seeking the library’s traditional core services as well as supporting innovative, changing, and experimental services.

--Nancy Gravatt

Thank you to ALA for allowing us to repost this blog.

Hudson said the library is a bridge to the community.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Books for fans of Netflix's Stranger Things

We here at About Books are big fans of Netflix's summer hit Stranger Things and of its teen and tween stars. Did you see them on this weekend's Emmy's? They completely stole the show.

Why do we love it so much? Stranger Things is the perfect combination of creepy horror, sci-fi, '80s nostalgia and pure awesomeness. If you're a fan, you might enjoy these reading recommendations compiled by one of the readers' advisory services we use at Fairfax County Public Library. If you haven't seen the show yet, watch it. Then check out these books which should tide you over until the Season 2 premiers.

-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Forgotten Classic: A Summons to Memphis

Editor's Note - A Summons to Memphis is a great choice for book clubs. It's an older title, so copies are readily available at many library branches. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987.

When George Carver was born in the early 1900s, the bells rang out and guns saluted welcoming the heir to a wealthy Nashville landowner. That sense of entitlement ran wild in his veins until his last breath.

A charmer from the first, his life flowed through gilded paths. He married a belle of Nashville’s social echelons, sired four promising children and achieved a business partnership with the charismatic Lewis Shackleford – what more could one ask for? Alas, Mr. Shackleford was a bit too quietly ambitious, and the company collapsed in financial ruin.

Rather than face the Nashville music, Mr. George Carver decided to wipe clean the whole slate of his life to that point and move the family to Memphis. Unfortunately, the move distorted the fabric of the family and like the child’s game of upset-the-fruit basket, each one ended up in a different, disquieting position.

Always a man whose thumb was firmly on the control button, George seemed to ratchet up his need for dominance in this new situation. He snuffed out the wills of each family member, particularly in the realm of relationships by jealously winnowing suitors from the scene. The original family circle, with the exception of young George who escaped to his death in the war, remained magnetized in an unhealthy love-hate dynamic. The sisters regressed into a bizarrely adolescence state, setting up housekeeping on their own and flaunting their status by inappropriate dress and behavior. Philip also went to war and on to New York City upon his return. All remained unmarried and when, later in life, George has a chance at re-marriage, the familial chickens come home to roost with a cackling vengeance.

The narrator of the story, Philip, through a journal-like account, attempts to assure us of his ascendance over family problems and particularly his father’s manipulation. He shows us how he has escaped it all by moving to New York City, establishing an antique book business and having a live-in companion. But like a tightly-stretched rubber band, he keeps zinging back to Memphis at every summons by his sisters. And upon return, the good intentions of forgiveness melt away at the first glimpse of his father waving on the tarmac – perhaps greeting, perhaps guiding the plane and his soul into submission.

It is a Southern tale of land, wealth, bondage, manners, dress and social standing. It moves from the acclamation of church bells to total humiliation. It embraces hope, revenge, forgiveness and disingenuous acceptance. Through it all, the reader recognizes that from the best of intentions, humans strive and fail and strive again – loving with heady blends of adoration and revulsion. And through the view from Memphis, Mr. Taylor summons us all to look into a mirror of past, present and imperfect tense.

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Summer's End

It still feels like summer outside, but inside the library we are all focused on fall: back to school displays, library Staff Day training and preparing for the Fall for the Book festival.

About Books is taking a break to celebrate the end of another successful, busy summer reading season, and to make our Fall Must Read lists of course! See you next week.

-The Editors