WBEZ | American Library Association http://www.wbez.org/tags/american-library-association Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Improvising to improve business http://www.wbez.org/news/improvising-improve-business-108914 <p><p>Back in the summer, librarians from all over the country flew into town for the American Library Association&rsquo;s annual conference. On a Friday morning a few dozen of them gathered in Second City&rsquo;s main theater. A big space was cleared in front of the stage.&nbsp;</p><p>Workshop leader Andy Eninger told the group what to expect.</p><p>&ldquo;So, today, is going to be very interactive,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a little like learning to swim, this improvisation.&nbsp; You can analyze it, you can talk about it, but its only when you jump in the water that you realize how it&rsquo;ll work.&nbsp; So we&rsquo;re going to throw you in the proverbial water.&rdquo;</p><p>Before tossing them in, Eninger reassures them with a fable about himself. Once upon a time, in the 1990s, he was a guy with an office job. &ldquo;I worked at an advertising agency&mdash;not as a creative person but as a database administrator&mdash;and was sneaking off at night to take improv classes.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>And the classes, he says, transformed him. &ldquo;The more I studied improv here at Second City the better I got at my job by day, and began to manage people&mdash; not just some servers and machines&mdash; and started to do more and more creative work.&rdquo;</p><p>Eventually, he quit to do improv full time, &ldquo;and have not looked back since,&rdquo; he tells them. &ldquo;Well, maybe a couple of times, for the health insurance.&nbsp; But other than that&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Andy%20Eninger%20workshop%201.png" style="height: 216px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Andy Eninger leads a training for Second City Communications. Participants learn how to use the principles of improvisation — including risk-taking — to be more effective in their work. (Courtesy Andy Eninger)" />Like anybody spinning a fable, Eninger is leaving out some important stuff. Actually, there were some lean times in there. Leaner than lean. When he left his office job in May, 2000, he stepped off a cliff and fell pretty hard.</p><p>He and a friend rented an office and hung out a shingle as improvisers for hire&mdash; doing custom shows and running trainings like the one he&rsquo;s doing today, but entirely on their own.</p><p>&ldquo;We had a few gigs on the line, so we had a few gigs coming up,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But there was this crushing reality that there was no real income. We didn&rsquo;t know where it was going to come from.&rdquo;</p><p>It got worse. Just as their enterprise was starting to pick up steam, 9/11 happened. An agency representing their company on the college circuit scammed them for thousands of dollars. He had three years of negative income, and racked up credit-card debt that took ten years to pay off.</p><p>&ldquo;We had a lot of pitfalls,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Things that, if I had known those things were coming up, I never would have taken that risk.&rdquo;</p><p>And yet: Today, he calls those pitfalls an investment. And risk-taking is a big part of what Andy is here to teach the librarians in the Friday improv workshop.</p><p>Any performance&mdash; especially improvising&mdash; is inherently full of risk: The risk that you&rsquo;ll fall on your face, look like a jerk.&nbsp;<br /><br />In everyday life and in business, we confront the same risk every time we raise our hand in a meeting, propose a new project, or initiate a new business deal.</p><p>Improv training focuses on getting people into the habit of taking those kinds of risks.</p><p>When he first started learning to improvise, it was a lesson Andy Eninger needed to learn as much as anyone.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, I&rsquo;m the person who, in fifth grade, went to the bathroom in my pants because I was scared to ask to go in from recess to go to the bathroom,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I still have that operating, any time I have to raise my hand or speak out of turn. And improv is the thing that makes it possible.&rdquo;</p><p>What he learned from improv, he says, was &ldquo;to risk in the moment&mdash;to say the first thing that comes to mind. Because I was doing it in class, every night and all the time, I couldn&rsquo;t not-do it in my job.&rdquo;</p><p>And so, he became a much more valuable worker in that day job.</p><p>&ldquo;I always would see opportunities, or see systems that were not working,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Like, &lsquo;Oh, you&rsquo;re dealing with this ridiculous spreadsheet. It gave me the confidence to speak up and say, if you allow me to work on this, then I know I can make it better.&rdquo;</p><p>So, he did, and he got noticed. He got promoted. He survived layoffs. He even started to do some creative work.</p><p>&ldquo;But there was a moment when I thought, if I don&rsquo;t disrupt it now, I can see my life laid out in front of me,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>So he saved up some money, and took a bigger risk. He left that cushy day job. And we&rsquo;ve already heard about how tough that was at first.</p><p>But over time things turned around, thanks to Second City. Andy started doing corporate training workshops, got some gigs as a performer, and eventually became head of the writing program at Second City&rsquo;s Training Center. By 2008, he says his take-home pay finally matched the paycheck from his old corporate job. It felt pretty good.</p><p>Andy still makes time for the corporate workshops, which are a big moneymaker for Second City. They charge thousands of dollars per session, to clients including Pepsi, General Electric, and hundreds of others like the American Library Association.</p><p>So, how does it work?</p><p>WIth the librarians, Andy gets everyone into a big circle, and asks a volunteer, Mike, to come to the center. Then he has him strike a pose. It can be anything.</p><p>Mike makes a silly face and holds his arms up.</p><p>&ldquo;Perfect, now hold that for a moment,&rdquo; Andy tells Mike.</p><p>&ldquo;Now, this&rdquo;&mdash;Mike&mdash;&rdquo;is the first half of a statue,&rdquo; Andy tells the group. &ldquo;Somebody come out and show us the second half by adding another pose.&rdquo;</p><p>Someone does. &ldquo;Mike you can say thank you,&rdquo; Andy says. &ldquo;Your job is done, good work.&rdquo;</p><p>Now it&rsquo;s time for another volunteer. And another. The poses are goofy, random, and gone in an instant.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s perpetual motion,&rdquo; Andy tells them. &ldquo;Someone is always coming out to join.&rdquo;</p><p>Volunteers keep coming up, one after another, and Andy eggs them on.&nbsp; &ldquo;If you haven&rsquo;t been out, just urge yourself to go out, trust that gut instinct,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />When it&rsquo;s done, Andy asks a question: &ldquo;If you did not go out, why did you hesitate to go out?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know what pose to do,&rdquo; a librarian answers.</p><p>&ldquo;Right,&rdquo; says Andy. &ldquo;Because how many poses would be wrong in this game?&rdquo;</p><p>The room fills with laughter&mdash;recognition and release.</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah,&rdquo; Andy says, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s a game in which really anything will be right.&rdquo;</p><p>Andy builds on the moment.&nbsp; He asks the group, &ldquo;What does that person in the center want?&rdquo;</p><p>Immediately the answer comes: To get out of there.</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, to get out of there!&rdquo; Andy says, channeling the player: &ldquo;&lsquo;OOOH. come in and save me!&rsquo;&nbsp; And we&rsquo;re all there thinking, &lsquo;Someone should go and help them out.&nbsp; Not us, but someone should go out there.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Andy tells the group that the impulse to help others is one of the things that lets improvisors take risk after risk.</p><p>&ldquo;We find out that that bravery comes not from any brilliance on our part,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;but from: &lsquo;I need to get my idea out there to support that other person.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>After the workshop, library administrator Sarah Dallas reflects.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m kind of a shy person, and this was a real challenge for me to do something like this and I knew I had to be more out there,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And I was kind of going through this and getting through&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>And then came the final exercise: Working in a small group the librarians created a whole scene&mdash; a fake ad for a fake product&mdash; out of nothing and performed it for the group.</p><p>&ldquo;When we got the final assignment, to perform in front of everybody, I just wanted the floor to open up and let me drop down,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;But it didn&rsquo;t. And with the support of the group, I survived, and for me that&rsquo;s a victory.&rdquo;</p><p>She says she&rsquo;ll remember these moments when she&rsquo;s running meetings back home at her job..</p><p>Responses like these are exactly what Andy Eninger hopes for.</p><p>&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t make them pretend to be improv performers,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;For us, it&rsquo;s all about what they&rsquo;re doing&nbsp; It&rsquo;s all about what their challenges are. We want them to have the joy that improv is for us, but we want them to be able to take it away, so they can use it that next Monday.&rdquo;</p><p>That is, he wants to give them just enough risk to help them re-think their routine.</p><p><em>Dan Weissmann is a reporter for <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/">Marketplace</a>. &nbsp;Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/danweissmann">@danweissmann</a>.</em></p><p><em>&ldquo;At What Cost?&rdquo; is made possible in part by the John A. Wing Society, an initiative of the Illinois Humanities Council to improve dialogue about business and the common good.</em></p></p> Mon, 14 Oct 2013 10:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/improvising-improve-business-108914 Not all suburban libraries are created equal http://www.wbez.org/news/not-all-suburban-libraries-are-created-equal-107923 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Cicero%203.JPG" style="height: 347px; width: 620px;" title="In trying to meet the needs of its booming Latino population, Cicero Public Library offers English language classes to patrons. (WBEZ/Adriana Cardona) " /></p><p>The American Library Association just wrapped up its annual conference in Chicago this week. High on the agenda was new technology, creative programming, and helping libraries do more with less. That last one is especially important for towns in Greater Chicago that rely on them for additional services like job training.</p><p>But not all suburban libraries have equal amounts of revenue coming in. WBEZ visited two suburban libraries serving roughly the same amount of people, but with vastly different resources.</p><p>The first is <a href="http://ahml.info/" target="_blank">Arlington Heights Memorial Library</a>. When you walk inside the newly remodeled library the first thing you notice is the light...streaming through large windows and skylights above.</p><p>The space looks less like a library and more like a sleek new Apple store, which is appropriate since patrons can check out iPads from the front desk.</p><p>Jason Kuhl, the library&rsquo;s executive director, gave me a personal tour shortly before the library completed its remodeling last winter.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyone at Arlington Heights really does love the library,&rdquo; Kuhl said. &ldquo;We had 900 thousand visitors last year and I would like to say that&#39;s more than the Blackhawks had, that&rsquo;s more than the Bears drew and that&rsquo;s more than the Bulls drew.&rdquo;</p><p>The library has three different editing suites each with audio and video production software. Local businesses can book conference rooms with projectors. Then there&rsquo;s the fireplace and a fancy coffee bar.</p><p>A few miles south, at the <a href="http://www.cicerolibrary.org/" target="_blank">Cicero Public Library</a> things are a little different. Jane Schoen is the director there and also gave me a tour.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We have a job board here and people are checking it all the time,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We have our public computers that people use to complete resumes.</p><p>Cicero had its own renovation about ten years ago when it was merged with a former warehouse next door. And it&rsquo;s also fairly spacious like the library in Arlington Heights.</p><p>But, that&rsquo;s where the similarities end.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Cicero%2011.JPG" style="float: right; height: 196px; width: 350px;" title="Jane Schoen is the director of the Cicero Public Library. Comparing her funding with libraries in wealthier suburbs like Arlington Heights she says, 'No, it’s not fair but it just is.' (WBEZ/Adriana Cardona)" />While Arlington Heights offers patrons personalized tech help for their gadgets, not to mention in-house iPads, Cicero struggles to maintain basic services (a quick glance at each library&rsquo;s websites is telling).</p><p>&ldquo;We would like to keep up a little bit more with technology,&rdquo; Schoen said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t yet have wireless printing for instance.&rdquo;</p><p>On paper these libraries don&rsquo;t look that different. Both serve around 80 thousand people but their spending per capita is wildly different. As of 2011, the Arlington Heights library had $177.29 to spend per person. In Cicero they had $20.97 per person &ndash; nearly nine times less. [see table below]</p><p>&ldquo;No, it&rsquo;s not fair but it just is,&rdquo; Schoen said. &ldquo;If you live in a poor community you don&#39;t get as many property taxes as communities that have million dollar homes and pay a lot of taxes on their properties.&rdquo;</p><p>Unlike Chicago Public Libraries which have a centralized funding system, nearly 90 percent of the money for suburban libraries comes from their local property tax dollars. The rest comes from public and private grants.</p><p>&ldquo;Some libraries have people that do nothing but look for grants, or that&rsquo;s a big part of their job, and we don&rsquo;t have that resource here,&rdquo; Schoen said.&nbsp;</p><p>Mary Johnson is the executive director of Corazon Community Services, a group that offers programs for youth and adults in Cicero.&nbsp; She said there&rsquo;s little anyone can do about the way funding is allocated to public services, but she feels foundations too often place their priorities in Cicero&rsquo;s next door neighbor, Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;I think neighborhoods like Cicero and Melrose Park and some others in the South Side have kind of become like the forgotten step children of Chicago,&rdquo; Johnson said.&nbsp;</p><p>She said the library makes an effort to reach out to people, but Cicero&rsquo;s increasingly large Hispanic population needs more services.</p><p>&ldquo;I would love to see the library offer late night study cafe hours, we&rsquo;ll love to see more opportunities for parents, so book clubs in Spanish,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>She said the lack of access to technology is also a pressing issue, considering how patrons use libraries nowadays.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/arlingtonlibrary.jpg" style="height: 261px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Library administrators demonstrate an interactive dollhouse in the children's area. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></p><p>Mary Witt agrees. She&rsquo;s with Reaching Across Illinois Library System, a state program that helps libraries with services like book delivery and technology support. According to Witt, libraries could do more for job-seekers.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s in huge demand, that again a smaller library might not be able to afford,&rdquo; Witt said. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s kind of ironic in that some of the libraries that are hardest hit financially are needed the most because they serve areas [with] the highest unemployment.&rdquo;</p><p>In April Cicero&rsquo;s unemployment rate was 12 percent &ndash; nearly double that of Arlington Heights.</p><p>Witt said other libraries in Chicago&rsquo;s suburbs have even more urgent worries. They don&rsquo;t have enough space to hold community events and their old buildings need major maintenance.</p><p>But she said, even the neediest libraries are figuring out how to best serve their patrons.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Libraries aren&rsquo;t just sitting there,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Everyone is trying to find out what their communities need so they are looking for creative ways that they can adapt those technologies and those other trends to serve their customers.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Which, according to Jason Kuhl, is all Arlington Heights Memorial Library is trying to do too.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t be sort of a cookie cutter library anymore,&rdquo; Kuhl said. &ldquo;We are looking to be nimble; we are looking to adjust to whatever our community needs.&rdquo;</p><p>Every library wants to keep up with community needs, the question is, do they have the resources to do so?</p><h2><strong>A tale of two libraries</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Am5Rt8H_U2b1dElVemY3Y0VtZERZeWpRZ212MzRuR2c&transpose=0&headers=1&range=A1%3AC11&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"booleanRole":"certainty","title":"Chart title","legend":"right","hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"width":610,"height":400},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":true,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 2"} </script><p>Source: <a href="https://harvester.census.gov/imls/search/index.asp?&amp;LibraryName=Cicero%20Public%20Library&amp;LibraryID=&amp;Address=&amp;City=&amp;State=&amp;Zip=&amp;Distance=&amp;County=&amp;PhoneAreaCode=&amp;Phone=&amp;LibraryType=&amp;LibTypes=LS%2CCE%2CBR%2CBS%2CBM&amp;StateSelectedIndex=0&amp;ResultSetNumber=1&amp;procqstr=1" target="_blank">Census data</a><span id="cke_bm_483E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_482E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_481E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_480E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_479E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_478E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_477E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></p></p> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 08:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/not-all-suburban-libraries-are-created-equal-107923