WBEZ | public libraries http://www.wbez.org/tags/public-libraries Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Libraries: Beyond the books http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/libraries-beyond-books-108170 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/117674644" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Shanlie Ann Stead says she&rsquo;s had a lifelong love of libraries and, as she recollects it, she personally experienced how far that love could go &mdash; straight from a library to her own apartment&rsquo;s walls.</p><p>She tells a story of being at the Waukegan library several years ago and noticing stacks of paintings. She says she perked up when a passing librarian said &ldquo;&lsquo;You know, you can check those out.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Shanlie took the library up on the offer.</p><p>&ldquo;That made a huge difference for me,&rdquo; Shanlie said, &ldquo;because &nbsp;I could actually check out paintings and decorate my apartment.&rdquo;</p><p>This nugget of curiosity about libraries stuck with her, and she wondered how other libraries handle checkouts and what&rsquo;s beyond books on the shelves. Figuring that there must be &ldquo;some unique things&rdquo; available for the taking, she asked us:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;What are some of the most curious and surprising things one can check out from a public library?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Well, we talked to staff at dozens of area libraries and posed them your very question, which led many librarians to talk about what role the public library plays for all of us today.</p><p>&ldquo;It used to be about the physical object and now it&#39;s about the knowledge,&rdquo; said Kelly Cuci, head of outreach services in Orland Park. &ldquo;It&#39;s about exporting knowledge to anybody. &hellip; It&#39;s about the knowledge package given to the person or the skill program, rather than the book.&rdquo;</p><p>You can see this principle across our area&rsquo;s libraries. Take the one in Orland Park, which is set to unveil a collection of nearly 200 artifacts from NASA on Sept. 15. The Waukegan Public Library recently inherited the personal library of native son Ray Bradbury. Of course, several librarians brought attention to their e-books and devices like the Nook, which would allow the contents of a basic book to be read in a digital format.</p><p>Nonetheless, the three most curious and surprising things we found available to take home from local libraries are physical &mdash; not digital &mdash; objects. In their own way, these objects can be used to impart knowledge in library patrons, just like books.</p><p><strong>Fishing pole</strong><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fishing rod OUTSIDE FOR WEB.jpg" style="float: right; height: 233px; width: 350px;" title="Nine of the 79 Chicago Public Library branches offer fishing poles for check-out. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></p><p>Out of the Chicago Public Library&#39;s 79 branches, <a href="https://www.chipublib.org/eventsprog/programs/nature_conn.php">nine offer fishing poles </a>with a tackle and bait set. (Worms not included.)</p><p>Unsurprisingly, the nine branches are close to the fishing waters of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River or lagoons.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s important because people who are normally in the inner city don&rsquo;t normally get an opportunity to go fish,&rdquo; said Lala Rodgers, who manages the Sherman Park branch, where 30 poles can be taken out on loan.</p><p>Just like most materials, poles can be checked out for three weeks at a time.</p><p>The poles can be checked out of the following branches: Albany Park, Blackstone, Douglass, Hegewisch, Humboldt Park, McKinley Park, Rogers Park, Sherman Park and Uptown.</p><p><strong>Sculptures</strong></p><p>The <a href="http://www.aurorapubliclibrary.org">Aurora Public Library</a> had spent decades building a catalog of art (all copies, not originals), but for the past dozen years or so, it&rsquo;s been disbanding it.</p><p>Life goes on, though, for the library&rsquo;s 30 sculptures, almost all of which cost less than $100. They&rsquo;re still available for checking out for eight weeks at a time.</p><p>Becky Tatar, the library&rsquo;s audiovisual head, chose the collection based on what she thinks would interest her patrons, both from an aesthetic and educational standpoint.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/STATUE FOR WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 233px; width: 350px;" title="You can check out sculptures at the Aurora Public Library for eight weeks at a time. (WBEZ/Billy Healy)" />&ldquo;There&#39;s things for all interests,&rdquo; Tatar said. &ldquo;People can check things out for their office. They can check things out for their home.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Why do people have art in their home?&rdquo; she asked, rhetorically. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s the same thing for why we would have art in the library. Because it makes people think. It looks nice. It creates interest.&rdquo;</p><p>The sculptures used to be a popular option to spruce up office spaces back in the 1990s. But the sculptures aren&rsquo;t checked out very often anymore. Tatar says just one item &mdash; an angel holding two vases, a copy of a 14th century French original &mdash; has been checked out multiple times this year.</p><p>Other sculptures include busts of Martin Luther King Jr., Beethoven and the University of Illinois&rsquo; Chief Illiniwek. There&rsquo;s also a miniature edition of Rodin&rsquo;s <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thinker">The Thinker</a>.</p><p><strong>A green screen (and other video producing equipment)</strong></p><p>The <a href="http://www.skokielibrary.info/s_about/how/Tech_Resources/DML.asp">Skokie&rsquo;s Public Library&rsquo;s digital media lab</a> is outfitted with the latest tech, &nbsp;from computers to drawing tablets to guitars that patrons can use for their creative needs.</p><p>&quot;It is a really awesome place because it&#39;s a place where people can create knowledge,&quot; said Mick Jacobsen, who oversees the lab. &quot;We create a space where people can use really great computers, really great equipment, really great software and create some amazing media.&quot;</p><p>Much of that gear can&rsquo;t be checked out due to licensing arrangements, but there among the items you can walk out with are: hard drives, audio recorders and simple video cameras. The latter include the GoPro, which can be attached to a person&rsquo;s head or body for action shots.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GREEN SCREEN for web.jpg" style="float: right; height: 233px; width: 350px;" title="In an effort to keep up with the YouTube age, Skokie Public Library has a green screen available for checkout. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></p><p>But perhaps the oddest thing that can be taken home from this lab is the green screen, which costs no more than $80.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&#39;ve got a family photo &mdash; you didn&#39;t make it to Paris this year, you know, you never know what happened &mdash; you can still get to Paris,&rdquo; Jacobsen said. &ldquo;Well, not really, but you can certainly take your picture.&rdquo;</p><p>Jacobsen said in the age of YouTube, his library is stepping into the role of &ldquo;community access television&rdquo; by giving patrons equipment they might otherwise use at most twice in their lives.</p><p>Asked if patrons find a library offering this kind of equipment on loan as &ldquo;weird,&rdquo; Jacobsen replied: &quot;Weird is not really what they say. It&#39;s more surprise like &#39;Really?&#39; We are just branded books and that&#39;s just the way we are seen.&quot;</p><p><strong>How did Shanlie take this?</strong></p><p>After getting a preview of our list, Shanlie Ann Stead called the idea of public libraries stocking sculptures as &quot;cool&quot; and fishing poles as &quot;romantic.&quot; She also recognized the significance of libraries like Skokie moving to offer equipment like green screens for media production.</p><p>&ldquo;I find that very progressive. Personally I think that was a really great thing for them considering the age of technology we live in,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Compare that to a fishing pole. There&#39;s a lot of area in between there.&quot;</p><p><strong>The honorable mentions</strong></p><p>Here are other interesting items available in metropolitan Chicago libraries:</p><ul dir="ltr"><li><p>At the Joliet Public Library, <strong>two American Girl dolls</strong>, Addy and Josefina, are hot items.</p></li><li><p>At the Waukegan Public Library, people can check out <strong>3D puzzles</strong>.</p></li><li><p><strong>Video games</strong> are available at various libraries including Libertyville&rsquo;s Cook Memorial Public Library and in Aurora.</p></li><li><p>Though Aurora has disbanded its <strong>art print collection</strong>, the Des Plaines Public Library still lends out similar art.</p></li><li><p>Aurora also has about 20 file cabinets of <strong>sheet music</strong>.</p></li><li><p>Skokie lends out <strong>animal puppets</strong> to go along with certain children&rsquo;s books.</p></li><li>Along the lines of creation at the public library, Chicago&rsquo;s Harold Washington Library Center recently became home to a &quot;maker lab,&quot; which allows those taking classes to use software to create objects using <strong>3D printers and computerized wood carving machines.</strong></li></ul><p>Did we miss anything Shanlie Ann Stead should know about? Drop a comment below if you&rsquo;ve checked out something notable from a Chicago area library. What was it? Where did you check it out from? When?</p><p><em>Tanveer Ali is a freelance producer who has worked for organizations that include WBEZ, the Chicago News Cooperative and DNAinfo.com. Follow him @tanveerali.</em></p></p> Wed, 24 Jul 2013 14:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/libraries-beyond-books-108170 Reinventing that most ancient of resources: The library http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-05/reinventing-most-ancient-resources-library-98957 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lib1_0.JPG" style="width: 625px; height: 467px;" title="The Sketchbook Project 2012 (Alison Cuddy)"></div><p>The <a href="http://www.arthousecoop.com/BROOKLYNARTLIBRARY">Brooklyn Art Library</a> rolled into Chicago this past weekend. For the second year in a row curators parked their <a href="http://www.arthousecoop.com/projects/sketchbookproject2012">mobile collection/exhibit</a> of this year’s sketchbooks at the <a href="http://www.hydeparkart.org/">Hyde Park Art Center</a>. The concept is simple – sign up for borrowing rights and then check out any number of sketchbooks, which are custom catalogued by theme, artist and location.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lib2.JPG" style="width: 300px; height: 249px; float: left;" title="Morning Meditation on the Number 10 (Alison Cuddy)">I opted for a couple of locally produced sketchbooks and my favorite by far was the work of a young artist who encouraged a 10-minute morning meditation on the number 10. Her variations on the theme were simple but evocative, and offered a very practical way to incorporate drawing into the busiest of schedules.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Unlike a public library you can’t take the artists' books home. But on the upside, you don’t have to secure a publishing contract to add your own work to the mix. For a fairly small fee anyone can order a custom sketchbook, fill it up, and even opt to have it added to the digital library.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lib3.JPG" style="float: right; height: 224px; width: 300px;" title="Circulation Desk, The Sketchbook Project 2012 (Alison Cuddy)"></div><p>The response seems positive – the day I checked out the project, lines for the finished products were pretty substantial. Kids were clustered around a table sketching, adults were reading and sharing – the vibe was right.</p><p>This is just one of many fresh and inventive takes I’ve seen recently on the library, that most ancient of resources. And it comes at a peculiar moment, when our own – and other – public library systems are facing major challenges – or as Jessica Crispin of Bookslut would have it, are "permanently f&amp;*&amp;ed."&nbsp;</p><p>In Chicago we have<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-04/entertainment/ct-prj-0506-brian-bannon-20120504_1_chicago-public-library-harold-washington-library-center-mary-dempsey"> brand new leadership</a> at the top, and – let's not mince words – new reduced hours and levels of service at the branches as well. But mess with the status quo at your peril. When Mayor Emanuel tried more significant cuts, widespread protests derailed his plans and he found a way to <a href="http://www.chicagonewscoop.org/emanuel-changing-course-keeping-chicago-libraries-open-on-mondays/">"scrounge up"</a> some bucks, even if <a href="http://lagrange.patch.com/articles/how-much-water-rates-headed-up-in-la-grange-and-la-grange-park">other budget measures</a> arguably hit residents' pocketbooks in a more significant way. &nbsp;</p><p>Other cities are weathering equally difficult financial storms, but their public collections remain tranquil. San Francisco <a href="http://blogs.sfweekly.com/exhibitionist/2012/05/public_libraries_future.php">has an arrangement</a> whereby a percentage of city taxes goes to libraries. In Los Angeles <a href="http://www.sgvtribune.com/news/ci_20447081/mayor-antonio-villaraigosa-wants-cut-669-city-positions">branch hours will actually increase on certain days</a> - despite Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposals for major cuts and job eliminations to other parts of the budget.</p><p>When it comes to libraries the facts are in: <a href="http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/05/exercises-in-democracy-building-a-digital-public-library/">libraries are incredibly adaptable and resourceful</a>, often ahead of the curve, at least when it comes to the way people consume – or desire to consume – information. Which in part explains why we're seeing a morphing of the idea of the library out of the traditional stacks and into all manner of places, trafficking in all sorts of goods. And that's a great thing because we need libraries right now, if only as a resource for those seeking employment and access to digital technology (and those <a href="http://austintalks.org/2012/05/internet-access-computer-literacy-lacking-in-austin/">onlys ain't peanuts</a>).&nbsp;</p><p>What drives me nuts (and I think is at least partly what makes these institutions simultaneously beloved and vulnerable) is how the same stereotypes of libraries and librarians persist - just Google "the future of libraries" or some such phrase and see how many "shhs" and "shushing spinsters" and "smells" you get. Sure some of these articles rack up these outdated images just to knock them down with their "I'm so on this trend" logic, but please! When's the last time you actually hit up a library, madame tech reporter??&nbsp;</p><p>OK I'm trend hunting myself here, but I'm hoping that my list adheres, largely or loosely, to the community spirit that is essential to the past and future of the library. What follows is an ad-hoc list of inventive or new libraries in Chicago. As always, there's more where these came from. So go ahead – add your own library finds to the comments section below.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/eddie%20fake.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 400px; float: left;" title="Edie Fake, 16th and Blue Island, 2011 (flickr/threewallsgallery)"></div><p><a href="http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/hull/_museum/_exhibits/_UnfinishedBusiness/_ArtLendingLibrary/artlendinglibrary.html">Hull House Art Lending Library</a></p><p>This recent addition to the library scene is at once old and new school, modeled on the art lending library originally set up by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr - reformer, educator and close personal friend of Addams. In the current iteration you can check out a piece of original art (the collection is curated by <a href="http://www.three-walls.org/">Threewalls,</a> a local art gallery), have it hung in your abode, and enjoy it for three months - all for free. The collection focuses on contemporary local artists (emerging and established) and includes photography, painting, sculpture and more, including a screenprint from Eddie Fake and a photograph by Laura Mackin All of the work was commissioned specifically for the library, so you'll also be checking out an artistic interpretation of a circulating library.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FoundationLibrary.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Poetry Foundation Library (Poetry Foundation"></div><p><a href="http://www.poetryfoundation.org/programs/library">Poetry Foundation Library</a></p><p>We live in an infinitely customizable and niche-able world.&nbsp; Think of a site like Pinterest, which transforms the world wide web into something like "my little internet." Likewise the library at the brand new and beautiful Poetry Foundation facility seeks to do one thing and do it well: spread the word of poetry. Poetry libraries are fairly rare, but this collection is bounteous - ranging from a large selection of children's books to rare first editions. This library is non-circulating, but the reading room is so airy and inviting you probably won't want to leave. There are separate rooms for listening to audio or watching videos. Warning: the foundation adheres to pretty traditional library rules – no loud voices or surfing for porn or sleeping. But in a city where spoken word and the weaving of tales is a 24/7 art form? This is a huge resource.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/public%20hotel%20library.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 300px;" title="Public Chicago Library &amp; Coffee Bar (Public Chicago)"></div><p><a href="http://www.publichotels.com/chicago/dining-and-entertainment/library/about-library-coffee-bar/">PUBLIC Hotel's Library and Coffee Bar</a></p><p>Okay let's not quibble: This is more like the essence of a library - all yellowing volumes, overstuffed stacks, quiet coughs and turning pages - distilled into a lounge. Better yet, it's the library where all the traditionally verboten behaviors are encouraged. Modeled after 19th-century Viennese coffee house (to the extent our 21st-century touch can approximate such a culturally specific time and place), you can order a coffee, nestle up near a fire, read a new book or magazine –&nbsp; I bet even naps are tolerated. And most of all you might wind up chatting with your fellow travelers. Most of us may be unable to operate without our personal digital devices nearby, but it turns out we like our information with a side of people.</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 09 May 2012 11:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-05/reinventing-most-ancient-resources-library-98957