Fall Into Art at the Library with Guest Blogger Tabitha Washington

Fall Into Art at the Library with Guest Blogger Tabitha Washington of the Gadsden County Public Library

Painting with a Twist has been a popular adult activity for several years. It’s a fun and creative activity to do with friends and family for celebrations, birthdays, or when you’re just looking for something to help you unwind.

This fall the staff of the Gadsden County Public Library hosted our own edition of painting with a twist, Fall Into Art. We are blessed to have an artist on staff to assist with the project as far as recommending supplies, drawing the canvases, and assisting patrons with painting.

We started our planning phase for the program back in June of 2019 during our fall brainstorming session. Staff wanted to do an activity for adults that was relaxing, engaging, and creative. Being in a rural part of Florida, there are not a lot of extracurricular activities for adults; our library is one of the main sources of entertainment. Staff also wanted an activity that was either low cost or free for patrons.

Over the next couple of months, staff members on the Fall Into Art committee collected donations for paint brushes, paint, aprons, and canvases to help supply the class. Our local Friends of the Library group supplied the refreshments for the event. Fall Into Art was advertised on the library’s website, Facebook, and in the local newspapers. Patrons needed to register for the class so staff could ensure we had enough supplies.

The class was held on October 29, 2019, at the William A. “Bill” McGill Library in Quincy, FL. There were 10 participants in the class. Each student was provided with an apron, a palette of paint, a set of brushes, water, and a canvas. Refreshments and mocktails were provided for the students, as well as music to lighten the mood. The class duration was about an hour and fifteen minutes, and library assistant Tonisha Harper was there to assist.

Overall, everyone had a wonderful time, and we are looking to expand the program to our branch libraries. We are already planning a special Valentine’s Day painting event for next year.

I Am Not Rapunzel: Breaking Out of Your Library Ivory Tower

It is time to escape! Librarians need to realize that you can’t be a librarian all the time. What do I mean? How I can talk about the profession in that way? Librarianship is a calling and all of those other statements that we are guilty of when talking about our work. Yet, the longer I have been a library director the more I have realized that being “the librarian” can be isolating and dangerous to not only your survival but your library’s survival. Too often we think of ourselves as librarians first. Why wouldn’t we? After all, it is the reason that we went to graduate school. However, it is not how our employers necessarily see us. I work for a county government. While I run their library system, a librarian is not what they think of when they look at me. To them I am just another county department head. One of many that should be taking care of my department and contributing to the county’s forward progress.

I didn’t suddenly, magically figure out that I was supposed to be a department head first, then a library director. It evolved over the years. I work for a small, rural county. There are not a lot of department heads but there is plenty of work that has to be done. I was green as Kermit the Frog when I became a library director for the county. I didn’t have a lot of experience working for a government entity and the way I have always combated my ignorance on subjects was to dive into as much information that I could get my hands on. This led to a lot of saying yes to things that even Jim Carrey in that movie we all have seen (but wouldn’t admit to) would have turned down. As a result, I ended up on committees and workgroups that I had no clue about. I was definitely not the most knowledgeable at those tables but I learned a lot. As time passed, I continued on my way attempting to educate myself on how the county operated.

Then one random board of county commission workshop (meetings are for voting, the real action is always at the workshop!) as I was sitting in the audience listening to my commissioners discuss the latest county business, I had an epiphany! In actuality, it was really just a question by a commissioner. I was asked about the status of a grant construction project. I answered the question, the workshop continued, and then 3 days later the lightbulb came on. That question had nothing to do with libraries and everything to do with being a county department head that wasn’t living in a library ivory tower. So today, I challenge you to break out and be more than just “the librarian.” After all this isn’t a fairy tale and I am not Rapunzel!

Communities and Libraries Side by Side by Guest Blogger Linda Thompson

By Guest Blogger Linda Thompson, Coastal Branch Manager, Walton County Public Library

How fast can you adapt to change? Consider this idea. Public Libraries continue to remain viable today when their communities and librarian professionals are asking “what if?” scenario questions, are willing to be an active “unlearner” and remain in a state of continuous pursuit. Effectively, having adaptability to change.

Natalie Fratto; Venture investor and writer delivers 3 Ways to Measure Your Adaptability — and How to Improve It on TED, Ideas Worth Spreading. She suggests by measuring ones adaptability, you also measure how successful your future. Begin by asking “what if?” questions, be an “active unlearner” and “never fall in love with your wins” for the measuring sticks of adaptability, says Fratto.

If you are an individual, a business, or a non-profit, Fratto believes we can exercise are ability to adapt with practice, with brain stimulating ‘what-if?” questions, by forcing exploratory ideas, by challenging personal ideas and knowledge, and, if I may suggest, walking side by side with your community measuring adaptability while challenging the models and methods of current library operations.

Are you ready to explore and press towards the “adaptability to change” for the continuing furtherance of the public libraries successful role in your communities for today and tomorrow?

What if books could no longer be printed because of the short supply of paper? What if libraries had to start charging to gain access to information? What if there was a major shift in how libraries operate and the only access available was via the internet? What if all books and items on the shelves were the last ones available as printing has halted worldwide? What if we don’t presume to know the answers?

These are viable questions that force human thought into our ever increasing world of speed and change. Because of the nature of the questions seemingly larger than our surrounding walls, they also force conversation with others allowing different perspectives into our conversations.

May you also consider that if we as librarian professionals can “unlearn” as Natalie Fratto suggests, we may effectively experience or potentially “tap” into these new ideas, potentially exercising ability to experience personal growth as well? May we as library staff have the ability to become ever more viable in a world where physical books may not even exist? What if we are always asking questions so we don’t settle with the world as we know it but push ourselves to seek more? What if every day we practice at setting ourselves back to empty, “unlearn” thus, allowing contemplation of many different versions of ideas, on new environments and possibly gain new understanding suggesting an appreciation for others ideas to stimulate are thoughts?

We may discover how remaining in this state of wonder of “unlearning,” how remaining open to change by constantly looking for improvements, how, as Fratto says, ‘to never fall in love with your wins” may be excellent guides we may subscribe to for a healthy, viably “organic” library environment and for all its staff, community and friends. One that is diverse.

One that asks “what if?” questions to its community. One that embraces the ideas, perspectives, talents, abilities and potential skills the community offers. One that is open to the different knowledge sets, recognizing how there isn’t one “right way” but potentially many “new ways” once we reset ourselves back to empty, “unlearn.” This is attainable.

Adaptability takes a concerted effort that needs nurturing and time to develop. It is a chosen process. It is, as Fratto points out, potentially a tool to measure for one’s individual success or an organization’s future success. It is potentially a means to secure the viability of the Public Library along with the library profession in its community.

How fast can you adapt to change?

Helping Staff Build Customer Relationships by Guest Blogger Stephen Efird

By Stephen Efird, Head of Circulation, Northwest Regional Library System

[This article originally appeared in Learning Exchange, Volume 35, Number 4, June 2019, American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.]

It’s easy to overlook the customer when you’re in the middle of completing a transaction. It might sound silly to think, but it happens all too often. At any given time we are going a million different directions that can make the current moment little more than muscle memory. We get locked into action and motion without giving the most important part of a transaction – the customer – the attention they deserve. The trick to putting the customer front and center is to focus on key areas and exercise our customer service muscles to build up our customer relationships:

Treat everyone with respect. This can be established by picking up a couple of habits. Never underestimate the power of the hello. Greeting a customer politely, quickly, and in a pleasant demeanor sets the tone for our interaction, and builds the foundation for everything that comes after that moment. Use the words please and thank you. These are quick and easy words that get missed in our daily interactions, that can go a long way toward building successful relationships.

Listen, Listen, And Listen. Giving the customer your attention should be one of the main things you do with any transaction you complete. It‘s easy to be lost in the daze of your own life, or the task you were working on right before the customer arrived. When you’re with a customer, take a few moments and pay attention to what they are communicating. This gives them an opportunity to feel like they are being heard. It also provides a chance to hear clues to what a customer wants even when it isn’t clearly expressed. Roleplaying exercises are a great training point to practice this. Play through scenes where information is indirectly asked for and see if clues within the request provide the information that is missing.

Take opportunities to go above what is expected. If a customer is completing a transaction and you have a service that you can provide that matches, offer it. Ask if they need a stapler after printing off a set of papers or if they found what they were looking for.

When you can, walk a customer to the area they need instead of pointing or giving directions. Giving the customer more than what they expected can create a special moment that customers will remember and keep them coming through the doors on a regular basis.

Don’t try to prove that the customer is wrong and that you are right. There will be times when a customer says something outrageously wrong and be insistent upon it. It’s natural for a part of us to want to let them know how wrong they are, maybe even with a little victory dance afterward. Proving ourselves right offers internal satisfaction but it isn’t going to help keep a customer as a customer.

Take a moment to repeat back the request or statement in a different way. Asking the question back provides a chance to verify the customer is understood correctly. It also gives a moment to see the situation from the customer’s perspective. Most importantly it allows the customer another attempt at explanation, while giving a moment to remember they aren’t always wrong and that we aren’t always right.

Provide alternatives when you are unable to meet expectations. Customers expect to have their needs met. The reality is that not every customer that comes through the door will have a request that we can address. This doesn’t change what the end goal should be, to help provide the customer what they are requesting, or find them another option that will accomplish that task. Learn the needs of the customers and be ready with information that can guide them to where those needs can be met. Giving a customer an alternative solution will stick with them and encourage them to return.

Focusing on these areas with a few exercises and establishing habits can have exponential results in turning routine exchanges into great customer relationships. These relationships are powerful tools in making the library a community hub that feels like family and home to those we serve.

Disruptive Library Model

Regina recently wrote about the use of the term “community center” versus the term “library.”  Then I read a blog post entitled “Why Your Company Needs a Disruptive Business Model,” which seemed to echo the point that Regina was making.  “The reality of the economic landscape demands that a business must either figure out how to create new markets for its products and services or reshape existing ones to stay relevant.”

Of course this is going to take some work on the part of library staff.  What are the unmet needs in our communities? What is our niche? Who are we not reaching? How can we broaden our customer base? We are going to have to observe trends, especially in technology, and embrace change.

Change is scary.  It can also be risky, especially when resources are limited and we are not sure that something new is going to work. That is the reason that PLAN developed its Innovation Projects. This program allows member libraries to try new ideas and services, without investing their own limited resources. Based on the results of an Innovation Project, libraries can determined if a new program is worth continuing.

Contingent upon Library Cooperative Grant funding, PLAN is accepting applications for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Now is a great time to start planning what disruptive changes your library is going to make.

Random and Slightly Irreverent Thoughts on the Word “Library”

According to Merriam-Webster, a library is “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.” I think we can all agree that the term “library” no longer adequately describes what we are, especially as it relates to public libraries. Sure, we have books and reference materials. Some of us also have films and artistic materials. But we are so much more than just a “library” as defined above.

So why are we still calling ourselves libraries? The term “library” itself comes from the Latin “liber,” meaning book. If we are more than just books (and we are!), why limit how our patrons see us with our name? (Patrons, users, customers – that’s another issue altogether!)

We say that we are more than just books, that we have become community centers. So if we are going to be a community center, then let’s call ourselves that. Let’s embrace what is, instead of what was. According to Merriam-Webster, a community center is “a building or group of buildings for a community’s educational and recreational activities.”

Doesn’t that sound more like what we are?

Chalkboard with "the next step" written on it and footprints on boardBut I know that totally divorcing ourselves from the term “library” would be too abrupt, so I propose we combine the terms: library and community center. Disappointingly, I am not the first person with this idea, which severely restricts my ability to trademark the phrase.

Some organizations are already calling themselves library and community centers. In New Orleans, the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center is a partnership between the New Orleans Public Library and the Broadmoor Improvement Association. While I would love to give you more information on how this partnership works, the website is not forthcoming with information.

[Sadly, like many library websites, it is not well-designed. Did I mention that we offer training on what your website should include? For instance, tomorrow Laura Solomon is presenting “Work with What You’ve Got: Practical Tips for Redesigning Your Library Website” at 2 p.m. CT, 3 p.m. ET. Register for the live webinar or to receive a link to the recording. I’m not calling you out; I’m just suggesting that we could all use this training.]

There’s also the Kraemer Library and Community Center in Plain, Wisconsin; the Embudo Valley Library and Community Center in New Mexico; the Newport Library and Community Center in Newport, Minnesota; the Emma L. Andrews Library and Community Center in Newburyport, Massachusetts; and the Magnolia Library and Community Center in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 2017, the trustees of the Highgate (Vermont) Public Library officially changed the name to Highgate Library and Community Center.

As far as I can tell, none of these organizations are doing anything more or less than what public libraries throughout Florida are doing.

And while I know that the term “library and community center” is long, unless someone can come up with a cool, short name that everyone knows means “library and community center,” I think it’s the best option we have.

And, who knows, a few years down the road, maybe we could delete the term “library” altogether.

[Oh, no, she didn’t!]

After all, other non-library organizations are co-opting the term “library” for themselves. For instance, did you know that Little Free Libraries have nothing to do with libraries? And that if an actual library wants to start a Little Free Library, they need to pay for the privilege of calling it a Little Free Library? Yep.

And the Human Library? Not a real library. Well, duh, of course, it isn’t, but it wasn’t even started by a librarian. It does have one librarian on its board, I think. But if you want to have a Human Library event, you have to request permission. That’s right – permission.

I’m not saying that either of these two organizations are not great – they are! Getting books into more hands and getting humans to listen and learn from each other are excellent goals. But why did they have to steal our word? (Yes, I’m whining.)

Now they’re even stealing our ideas. (More whining.) The Chicago Tool Library will open in July to loan out sewing machines, slow cookers, power drills, and more to the Bridgeport neighborhood. But there’s a catch — there is an annual membership fee, based on your income. Granted, they say that members who cannot pay will still be allowed to check out tools. Sure, until the third time you’re late bringing back a staple gun and your fine is too high to pay so no more tools for you!

My main point is that we should embrace our image as community centers, call ourselves library and community centers, and use this to maintain and increase funding. Even those public officials who persist in believing that “everything is freely available on the internet so we don’t need libraries” can get behind funding for a library and community center.

The Robots Are Coming! by Guest Blogger Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster

By Guest Blogger Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster of the Valparaiso Community Library

Back in March, I had the privilege of attending the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, D.C., thanks to a scholarship from PLAN. It was an eye-opening experience for many reasons: I got to visit our nation’s capital (imagine that being spoken in a Forrest Gump impersonation); I crashed an electric scooter, breaking my wrist, which was as embarrassing as it was painful; and I learned a lot about the technology that is emerging in libraries. The most fascinating to me, though, were the humanoid robots.

Photo of robot

Some of the new tech was super fun and totally rad! The Roanoke County Public Library in Virginia actually has a four-foot-tall robot concierge (it actually does more than just greet people and answer basic questions, but that’s the best description, in my opinion) named Pepper! Pepper, in addition to being absolutely adorable, provides patrons with directions and answers the standard questions about the library. The staff also have started allowing teens to program the robot in order to teach young people how to code.

In the vendor area, Misty, a toddler-sized robot, rolled around charming anyone who came by. Far from being creepy or appearing as a threat, Misty made everyone tilt their heads and say, “Aw!” More importantly, though, Misty is equipped with an advanced camera that is used for 3D mapping. “She” can detect changes in environment, be a mobile version of a smart assistant/speaker, and has useful applications in eldercare. “Her” applications in libraries have been outlined as a greeter, item runner, and game host; however, librarians being the creative geniuses we are, there are probably many more opportunities for Misty to be involved!

Then there’s Dewey from the Palo Alto Public Library. Dewey is more of a bot of the people. The staff at Palo Alto utilize this mid-sized robot mainly with children and teens. Dewey is involved in story time, playing games with the small children like “tickle-the-robot,” and he is also the programming subject for the teens and young adults who come in to the Robo Dojo. We got to see some of “his” mad dance skills in the handler’s presentation, and they were awesome.

Seeing these robots at the conference and hearing about their presences enriched the lives of the patrons who visited their home libraries really struck a chord with me. Most people, especially here in Valparaiso, will probably only see technology of that sort in movies or on television. These pieces of equipment are costly and require advanced understanding of coding to operate correctly, so for the everyday person, they’re not accessible. Except in the public library! Getting to see and interact with these machines was thrilling for me, and I immediately imagined how incredible it would be for our patrons to see them in action. Libraries truly are the great equalizer, bringing opportunities that might otherwise only be available to a few select individuals to everyone who walks in the doors.

It really is an exciting time to work in our field.

Upcoming Continuing Education Opportunies

PLAN has scheduled a variety of free continuing education opportunities for you in the upcoming months, including conferences and webinars. Remember, if you can’t attend the live webinar, all of our webinar recordings are available on our website.


Panhandle Academic Libraries Conference
July 12, 2019
Keynote speaker: Elijah Scott of the Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative
Breakout session on ACRL’s Project Outcome initiative
More breakout sessions to be announced soon

PLAN FLA Mini Conference
August 23, 2019
Keynote speaker: Tom Vitale — Connecting the Dots: Community Library Collaborations
Breakout sessions on compassion fatigue and positivity with Linda Bruno; the 2020 Census; and more!


Why Your Library Should Include a Press Room with Kathy Dempsey
May 21, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET

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Tools & Strategies for Critically Evaluating Fake News with Denise Wetzel
May 22, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET)

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Overcoming the Email Avalanche: The Secrets to an Empty Inbox with Doug Crane
May 22, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Delegating Effectively: When, How, and To Whom? with Linda Bruno
May 23, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Work with What You’ve Got: Practical Tips for Redesigning Your Library Website with Laura Solomon
June 4, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Creating Video for Beginners with Diana Silveira
June 6, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET

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PLAN Quick Class: Words, Places, and Dates: The Advanced Search on Twitter with Brian Crowell
June 6, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Managing Employee Performance: A Simple Formula for Talking with Staff with Doug Crane
June 12, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Emotional Intelligence: What It Is and Why It Matters in Your Workplace with Linda Bruno – 2 parts
June 13 & June 20, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Writing for the Web with Laura Solomon
July 2, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Lessons for Lifelong Learning with Linda Bruno
July 9, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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The Art and Science of Marketing Communications with Kathy Dempsey
August 6, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET

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Handling Negative Feedback Online: Strategies for Your Library with Laura Solomon
August 6, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Will the Real You Please Stand Up? Dealing with Impostor Syndrome with Linda Bruno
August 13, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Developing Motivated Cultures: Six Simple Factors that Shape Your Organization with Doug Crane
August 14, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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PLAN Quick Class: Google Arts & Culture 101 with Sarah Burris
August 22, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET

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Work/Life Balance: The Key to Real Success with Linda Bruno
September 5, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Also, we have scheduled the PLAN Annual Meeting so save the date: November 1, 2019, at the Niceville Community Center. In addition to our regular business meeting, we will have an interactive workshop on user experience with Aaron Schmidt.

Digital Resources

Are you taking full advantage of digital collections to meet your patrons’ information needs?  There are so many resources available to assist patrons and library staff with Genealogy, research, school projects, etc.

Here are just a few:

  • Hidden Treasures is a collection of historical and genealogical documents from PLAN member libraries. It contains items unique to the Florida Panhandle, including newspapers and local history materials.
  • The University of West Florida Historic Trust shares the history of Northwest Florida. Click the “Random Images” button to serendipitously browse the collection.
  • Florida Memory contains the archival collections in the State Library and Archives of Florida. There are even resources for teachers.
  • Publication of Archival, Library, & Museum Materials (PALMM) is a collaborative effort of the public universities and colleges in Florida. It provides access to special collections like the Florida Heritage Collection, the University of Florida Herbarium or the World Map Collection.
  • The Florida Electronic Library is a gateway to digital magazines, journal articles, newspapers, almanacs, encyclopedias and books.
  • In addition to a multitude of digital materials, the Library of Congress website has a special section for teachers.
  • The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) provides access to the materials held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions. The site also provides curated collections on topics such as history, literature, and culture, developed by educators — complete with teaching guides.
  • The Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN) is the Florida Hub for DPLA. Visit their website to learn how your library can be a part of DPLA .

These are just a few of the collections available to library staff and the public.  What’s your favorite digital resource?

Panhandle Academic Libraries Conference – July 12th

We are pleased to present the first annual conference in the Panhandle for academic libraries. Our theme is Making Connections, Building Bridges.

We would like to invite proposals for the first annual Panhandle Academic Libraries Conference on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Tallahassee.

Libraries have long been places of connections—connections between people, ideas, and the community. Libraries are safe places on campus for students to discover new thoughts and ideas by interacting with fellow students and faculty. The academic library has been called the heart of the university or college, and as the center of the campus connecting learning and human interaction, this statement is as true today as ever.

The planning committee seeks session proposals for the conference, which will be held at the FLVC Tallahassee Office (1753 W. Paul Dirac Dr.) on Friday, July 12, 2019.

We seek proposals related to the conference theme in the areas of:

  • Subject Librarianship
  • Collaborations
  • Collections and Funding
  • Instruction
  • Technology
  • Innovation

Share your experiences, both successes and learning opportunities, with your Panhandle colleagues. We will accept a maximum of TWO proposals per presenter (including individual and panel presentations).

DEADLINE: Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, May 13, 2019. Applicants will be notified about their proposal status by May 20, 2019.

Submit proposal here.


Panel Discussion
40-minute discussion with 10 minute Q&A
Two to four panelists will provide multiple, diverse perspectives on a topic or theme, followed by 10 minutes of question and answer from the audience. Proposal abstracts should highlight practical takeaways for attendees.

40-minute presentation with 10 minute Q&A
Presenter(s) will speak with the audience for 40 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of question and answer from the audience. Proposal abstracts should highlight practical takeaways for attendees.

Interactive Workshop
50 minutes
Presenters will engage attendees in active, hands-on learning. Proposal abstracts should present a clear description of the activity as well as highlight the practical takeaways for attendees.

Roundtable Discussion
50 minutes
Attendees are encouraged to participate in informal group discussions on topics of interest. Proposal abstracts should include sample questions that facilitators plan to use.

We are excited for this first conference, and hope you will join us.

Your conference organizing team:

  • Michael Meth (Florida State University), Conference Chair
  • Melissa Davis (Pensacola State College)
  • Mike Lane (Pensacola State College)
  • Alvin Lee (Florida A&M University)
  • Valerie Boulos (Florida State University)
  • Jenni McKnight (Florida State University)
  • David Russell (Gulf Coast State College)

Submit proposal here.

You may register for the conference here.