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The Library: A Safe Port in Troubled Times August 27, 2012

Posted by cclddirector in Community, Director's Comments.
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I’ve had several conversations with many of our patrons over the last few weeks, and we seem to agree on one thing- these are hard economic times for many of us. There are a variety of factors, ranging from the price of such staples as eggs, milk and bread to the lack of “disposable income” for such niceties as movies or lattes at our favorite coffee shop. We keep reading about unemployment and foreclosure rates and shudder as we look at gas prices.

I read recently that bad times in the economy means good news for libraries as use increases. As home budgets shrink, patrons come in to loan what they used to buy, or to read job ads, or to work on their resumes, or to meet people who also find themselves at liberty. It’s frustrating for us in the library profession as we know the demand for library services is going up while the actual buying power of our budget is going down.

I have to agree with the article as our monthly circulation has kept rising. We’ve seen many new patrons come in to get library cards. What surprises me most is the increase in the number of seniors, teenagers and younger adults getting library cards, many of them for the first time.

We have suffered along with our patrons as we try to stretch our dollars in order to provide the services so many of our patrons need in this current economy. Patrons coming into the library will note that we are attempting to do little things to stretch our budget.

Please understand, I’m not trying to plead poverty- well, not on a “public” level. Like everyone else who has had three kids go to college I know how to work with a tight budget. Since I have been here at CCLD, we have tried to work smarter, do more with less, form new partnerships, and reach out to the community and those wonderful philanthropists within it.

In times of crisis, Americans look to their enduring institutions to provide a certain level of stability. I just want to let our community know that we are here for them, always have been, and will continue to meet their needs as best we can.

Ronald W. Shaw
Director

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A Musical Library August 20, 2012

Posted by cclddirector in Community, Director's Comments.
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Pretty soon I’m going to have my fifty-fifth birthday and as I sit here thinking about things I realized that I feel good about myself when I’m learning something new. So my goal is to complete my second Master’s degree in Ancient and Classical History. Although my kids will tell you I’m the one who is ancient- I prefer to call myself a “classic.” I enjoy interacting with my classmates, especially as many of them realize I’ve got kids their age- and shirts that are even older.

For my fiftieth birthday I took some dance lessons with my wife, alongside our youngest daughter and her friend. I understood the basics of the dance steps, but had a little trouble keeping the beat and remembering which foot goes where and when. By contrast, my daughter and her friend picked up each step quickly, and in no time my daughter became the instructor’s “go to” girl for demonstrations to the class.

Something else I tried was keeping my French and Arabic skills up to speed. The only problem was the fact that having no one to talk to on a regular basis has meant my skills have eroded to the point where I can order a coffee and ask where the train station is, and that’s about it.

By contrast I watch my daughter dance around the house years later and she looks like Ginger Rogers. She’s also taken to correcting my French grammar- a few years of high school has a way of making your child feel superior.

My other goal for the next few years is to learn how to play an instrument. I’m trying to learn to play the mandolin as I hope the skinnier neck of the instrument will be affected less by my arthritis then a guitar would be. As everyone knows, there are eight strings on a mandolin and there are certain chords that are used extensively in most popular music. I figure by learning the repetitive patterns of the chords, scales and arpeggios, I just might have it figured out by the time I’m 75.

I’ve noticed that when I watch music videos, or listen to music, I find myself listening for the individual notes, and trying to separate out the individual instruments that join together in each song. I listen over and over again to the same song trying to hear “how” it is played. I find it exciting to look at something that’s been a part of my entire life in an entirely new way. Plus repeating songs has the added benefit of irritating my kids.

Something I’ve realized from all this is that the more senses a learning experience engages, the more interesting it is. Whenever I go to a new place, I find it much more exciting to try the local cuisine, or go for a walk outside the tourist areas, and try to speak the native language.

I’ve also realized that I learn best when there’s also some kind of visual aid. So when I’m trying to learn mandolin, I watch an instructional DVD, or I check out the latest YouTube video. I also sit there and draw diagrams of chords with the individual notes, I’m hoping that these mental tools will help me get better, and learn faster. By constructing a “mind map” I hope to eventually get all the steps down. I’ve found this approach useful for all kinds of things.

By now you’re probably wondering how this applies to the library. You have to look at a library the same way I do- it’s a living organism that is most alive when the people in it have the opportunity to explore, discover, try, and grow. The richer and more varied we make our environment, the more we incorporate a range of bodily, emotional, social, and intellectual tasks and settings, then the more involved, and better balanced our staff will be. Inevitably, that translates to better service.

This being said, we need to thoughtfully develop a mix of tools and visual aids to teach our staff, and to help our patrons find their way around our facilities, collections, and services. We need to address patron concerns in a timely fashion, keeping in mind our goal- an organization that is constantly adapting and growing. In musical terms, a library that rocks.

Ronald W. Shaw
Director

Our Landscape August 7, 2012

Posted by poppendeckc in Community.
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One of the first impressions I had upon moving here to the Southern Tier was the feeling of immersion in the surrounding countryside. Nature cups us in its hands here in the Chemung valley, making its 360 degree presence known.

Accompanying the tree-saturated terrain are the numerous species of animals coexisting in these foothills of Appalachia. Where I am from, common animals such as deer, woodchucks, skunks, etc. are seen frequently, but here, we enjoy the addition of fox, coyote, bear, porcupine, beaver, and my thrilling favorite, bald eagles. It makes a huge impression on a city girl such as myself, and brings the deep-woods world of nature that much closer.

Many populated areas may be big on city savvy, but the tradeoff is a lesser exposure and therefore less awareness of the natural world. Critter spotting becomes a sport. Here, most folks have enjoyed the privilege without realizing the treasure they claim – a front row seat into the natural world.

Next time you see a big piece of nature present itself to you, recognize it for what it truly is – a rare gift others would trip over themselves to enjoy in equal measure.

Caroline Poppendeck, Librarian
Head of Youth Services
Steele Memorial Library

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