What our Patrons Value

by Emily Hamstra

Every time a new Pew Internet report comes out, I’m likely to stop everything I’m doing to read it. Yesterday, Pew Internet & American Life released the fascinating report Library Services in the Digital Age. The report is based on surveys and focus groups asking public library patrons what they value in library services, and how they use the library. The findings in this report greatly affect our daily work as we think about services that meet the needs of our patrons.

What captured my attention the most about this report is “main reasons patrons cite why their use [of library services] decreased.” 40% of patrons stated they “can get books, do research online and the internet is more convenient.” How many times have we all been asked about the role of our profession, collections, and spaces now that we can just “Google it”? We spend a lot of time as librarians building awesome electronic collections and services, enhancing our community’s access to quality resources from databases and downloadable ebooks to librarians through chat reference services. We often don’t have time to market these services to our patrons, teaching them how the library can enhance their digital lives. Many of our patrons might think finding information online is “more convenient” than using the library because they might not know what we have to offer. One participant in a focus group for the report says about the library, “they do so many fabulous things, [but] they have horrible marketing” (full report, pg. 38).

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“What’s Up Doc?” or my January teaching adventure

by Carrie Dunham-LaGree

This week, Drake began its inaugural January term (J-term). For these three weeks, I’m embarking on the greatest teaching challenge of my career so far: teaching a 3-credit course over fourteen class days (rather than fourteen weeks.) I’ve developed a new information literacy course based around documentary film. As a believer in a catchy, yet informational title, I named it, “What’s Up Doc?”: An Information Literacy Exploration of Documentary Film. I teach from 11-3 five days a week for three weeks (excluding the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.)

The idea seemed obvious as soon as I thought of it: each day, watch a documentary. Then I only have a two-hour time block to fill, and I can do that! I designed the course around a broad scope of films. We then use the films as a vehicle to explore a variety of information resources, examine bias and think critically.

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What We’re Reading: January 2013

On the first Friday of each month, we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

After spending the last month of 2012 frantically reading all of the books that had been lingering on my physical and virtual shelves for months (and years in some cases), I’m devoting January 2013 to reading books being published in 2013. I’m currently enchanted with Level 2, the debut dystopian novel by Lenore Applehans (out January 15th). After that, I’m also hoping to dive into Me Before You by Jojo Meyers and The Midwife’s Tale by Samuel Thomas. –Carrie

This month, I found myself lingering over the delightful book Pinned by Sharon Flake. Pinned tells the stories of Autumn, a star wrestler but struggling student, and Adonis, a model student, and the year they spend circling around each other, learning more about each other and themselves. Autumn knows her way on a wrestling mat, can calculate what moves she needs to make to win on that mat, but when it comes to school, and particularly reading, she feels lost, that her brain just doesn’t work right. Adonis has always strived to be the best; born without legs, Adonis has sworn that it will never hold him back, and he is consistently the top of the class, the most sought after student. As they each deal with private troubles- failing at school for Autumn and overcoming a past trauma for Adonis- they slowly find understanding in each other. Both Autumn and Adonis are richly drawn and fully realized, with unique and distinctive voices, and their stories compelling. I found myself lingering over the pages, enjoying the richness of their voices, the truth of their stories. Truly, a delightful read, and I look forward to reading more of Sharon Flake’s engaging work. — Heather

During the holiday season, I spent a good deal of time entertaining at home with family, friends, and colleagues. I enjoy cooking very much, but what I really love is reading about food. When it comes to food writing, my go-to sources include The New Yorker and Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. However, when I need to get down to the practical business of roasting, sauteing, and baking, I troll my favorite recipe blogs, such as Smitten Kitchen or Lottie + Doof. And, of course, I browse my cookbook collection. One of my favorite new cookbooks is David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert (2012). Yes, the desserts are amazing–I’ve already put about half of them on the table– but also the writing is hilarious; he introduces each recipe with either droll humor or a bizarre anecdote. To ease the burden of cooking all day, the authors of Bistro Cooking at Home (2003) and The Newlywed Cookbook (2011) offer details about how to prepare some of their dishes in advance. Lastly, in 2013, if you find yourself making dinner for foodies or guests of Mediterranean origin, then I would recommend Simone Ortega’s The Book of Tapas (2010) or The Silver Spoon New Edition (2011), a classic! –Amy

Like Amy, I’ve spent a lot of time lately browsing cookbooks and trying out new recipes. Mostly I’ve been baking up a storm.  My two favorites are the cinnamon scrolls from Yvette van Boven’s Home Made and layered biscuits from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.  When not cooking, I’ve been really enjoying Jeffrey Toobin’s The Oath. Toobin’s book focuses on the often contentious relationship between the Roberts court and Obama administration, and between competing ideas about how the Constitution should be interpreted and applied to the legal questions faced today. If you’ve read The Nine, you’re already familiar with Toobin’s accessible writing style and extensive knowledge of the Supreme Court, both of which are on display in The Oath. –Sarah

Over the holiday break, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s page-turner Flight Behavior. The main character, Dellarobia is a smart and young mother of two who doesn’t have the opportunities you want her to have. Her parents died young, she got pregnant in highschool which thwarted her chances at college, and propelled her into an early marriage to a man she never would have married otherwise. Now, the mother of a kindergartener and a toddler, Dellarobia feels trapped. When monarch butterflies migrate to the mountain near Dellarobia’s home in Tennessee instead of migrating to Mexico, her life changes. The novel is equal parts domestic drama and environmental drama. I found myself rooting for the butterflies and for Dellarobia. –Emily

Now tell us: what are you reading in the New Year?