The Best Library Possible by Jon Walker

I recently received an email written by a local community member. She expressed concern about the library. In particular, she could not find books of current appeal to her. I am grateful for her interest in the library and will use points from her email to illustrate some important aspects of modern public library service.

Perhaps the single most vital facet of the public library’s mission is to ensure our community enjoys free and broad access to information. In recent years, library resources are evermore online and digital rather than paper in format. This also is the case today for information generally speaking across the United States and around the world. I cite as but one small example the writer’s choice to use email to express her concern about the library rather than a postal letter or some other manner. This ascendency of online information is a primary reason for the library district shifting resources and services. I have both spoken and written about this rather extensively. Here are two relevant citations: “The Ever-Evolving Library” Pueblo City-County Library News & Events, page 2, June 2012, http://www.pueblolibrary.org/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/pdf/newsletters/jun2012newsletter.pdf and “The Fiction Problem” Pueblo City-County Library News & Events, pages 1-2, December 2014, http://www.pueblolibrary.org/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/pdf/newsletters/December%20%202014%20newsletter.pdf.

The writer listed a few exact complaints in her email that can help serve to explain key features of today’s public library. First, she writes that “. . . teachers and other researchers should know that reference material of any sort (except for Special Collections) is no longer available to the public.” Specifically, she reports a shortage of library books on Scotland’s history and the Mexican-American War. The truth is that our local public provides well over two-hundred books on these two topics according to my recent check into available library resources. Many of these now are e-books via library services such as OverDrive, Hoopla, and Freading. Moreover, thorough research via the public library on either of these topics (and almost any other) should include library subscription reference databases specially vetted for their accuracy, currency, and authority. Some recommended sources for Scotland’s history and the Mexican-American War include America's Historical Newspapers (among the most comprehensive databases of full-text newspaper articles dating from 1690), Encyclopedia Britannica (renowned for its expert editorial staff and fact-checking), Gale Virtual Reference Library (includes reference books covering history and many other topics), Heritage Quest, History Reference Center, and World Geography and Culture. Standard library reference resources such as these moved online at least ten years ago or longer. Such digital services have been successful in replacing most of the many volumes of bound paper sources of the past due in large measure to the computer’s powerful capabilities for information storage and retrieval. I recommend using library services like these prior to turning to the consumer Internet via Google, Bing, or the like; which also is available at the public library.

She also writes about “rumors that any book that has not been checked out in six months is removed from the shelf and destroyed. They are not in fact sent to the bookstore to be sold by the Friends of the Library, nor are they offered to other small libraries that might be able to use them.” This is incorrect. Books are removed regularly from the public library collection for a number of reasons, including the information is outdated, the book’s condition is too shabby, or lack of use, among other reasons. But the quickest a book is generally removed due to lack of use is one year. This most often occurs for best-selling fiction where initial public demand might cause the library to procure up to twenty or more copies of a single best seller, but copies are withdrawn as demand shrinks. Withdrawn copies almost always are repurposed in one of the library district’s outreach programs such as Books in the Park or Books a la Cart, or donated to the Friends of the Library for resale via their Books Again bookstore. Rarely do library staff literally throw away a book and, then, normally only when the book’s poor physical condition dictates it. The library district continues to retain almost all noteworthy books and classics. My own recent experience is illustrative. I found in the library’s collection a copy of Soren Kirekgaard’s classic nineteenth century book A Sickness Unto Death (1849) for a library customer who asked for it and the mid-twentieth century American archetypal work of fiction Breakfast of Champions (1973) by Kurt Vonnegut. I also checked out for personal interest the quintessential early twentieth century work The Jungle written by journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair, the 2004 best-selling biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and the 1916 standard by British author John Buchan entitled Greenmantle. The truth is the public library has never offered more books in greater variety to the public than it does today.

Finally, the writer noted this concern: “. . . I would like to know exactly what the library plans to do with that huge space that will be vacated by books.” The total holdings of the library district has never been larger. PCCLD’s collection consisted of 482,786 cataloged volumes as of December 31, 2015, which represents a 6.8 percent increase compared with one year before. Nonetheless, the public library really is not about books. In fact, libraries predate books. The first libraries, some 4,000 years ago, were places where people accessed information via clay tablets in cuneiform script and papyrus scrolls with hieroglyphics. Of course, books play a key role in today’s libraries, and they likely will continue to be important for years to come. But modern libraries are more than warehouses of books. A public library mainly should be a beautiful, vibrant civic space dedicated for people to gather to study, read, view, create, exchange ideas, and learn both autodidactically and together in groups of all sizes. This aspect of the public library is important for the vibrancy of our community, both today and in the future. It also is a big reason people are flocking to our libraries today. They seek a public place in support of lifelong learning. In the library district’s most recent year of operation (2015), we welcomed more visitors who checked out more library materials, attended more library educational and cultural programs and events, and used more library digital services than ever before in the history of local public library services here (“Reviewing the Past Year,” Pueblo City-County Library News & Events, page 2, http://www.pueblolibrary.org/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/pdf/newsletters/PCCLD%20%20Feb%202016%20newsletter_1.pdf).

Despite its current overall popularity, I understand the library is not always easy for everyone to navigate successfully on their own. Our librarians train regularly on the current science of information storage and retrieval in all formats, and how to teach library customers in effective library use. I encourage patrons to ask for expert librarian assistance when they are not successful researching on their own.

I appreciate this writer taking time to express her opinions about the library. I offer mine here in the same respectful spirit. While acknowledging that this does not guarantee everyone will be satisfied with their library experience, I believe we are doing great work in providing the best public library service possible for our community.

The Cloud Library by Jon Walker

The concept of e-books has been around since at least 1930 when a fellow by the name of Bob Brown took the idea of movies with sound or “talkies” and proposed “readies.” Yet, it was not until the last decade that e-books really began to come into their own. E-books have improved a lot in recent years. PCCLD currently provides several e-book options for the members of our community. This ever-more-popular service has been available here for a few years now. The current choices for e-book services via the public library include those from Hoopla, OverDrive, and Freading. Together these provide us locally with access to literally tens of thousands of e-books. Most American adults own e-reading devices and many experts predict that e-publishing will soon overtake traditional publishing. PCCLD now is making a change in our e-book options. A new service for local library e-book patrons became available in June. It is known as The Cloud Library. It was developed by The 3M Company and is coming online here in our community now. Beginning in July, The Cloud Library will completely replace our current offering from OverDrive. I recommend you try The Cloud Library. Visit http://www.pueblolibrary.org/digitalmedia or your local library for more information.

Summer Reading (June 2016) by Jon Walker

Summertime is here! It’s time to read. The library is providing loads of opportunities to support your reading all summer long. I am very excited about this summer’s reading fun for people of all ages that is available at the library. Pueblo City-County Library District is sponsoring activities this summer designed to encourage literacy and celebrate the joy of reading. Everything kicks off in June and continues into August. Our goal is simple. We aim to keep everyone reading all summer long. We don’t focus on assigned reading or reading for study. Instead, we emphasize reading for fun and pleasure. The library’s Summer Reading program has continued to increase in popularity and participation in recent years. Last year, more people were part of our reading program than ever before. 2016 should be another super summer of reading. Look for announcements elsewhere in this newsletter for dates and times of special activities and events designed to make reading all the rage this summer. Information also is available at your local library, on the library’s website, www.pueblolibrary.org, and via local media outlets. I hope you join me in reading a great book this summer. Or, even better, let’s read several. The library’s Summer Reading program is free and it’s fun.

The Public Library Association (May 2016) by Jon Walker

The Public Library Association, with about 9,000 members, is a division of the American Library Association, which is the oldest and largest library association in the world. PLA was founded in 1944 and exists to provide communication, advocacy, continuing education and programming for the advancement of public library service in the United States. The Pueblo City-County Library District has long benefited from its participation in PLA. In early April of this year, thousands of library professionals gathered in Denver for the biennial PLA conference. PCCLD took full advantage of this nearby opportunity with a full complement of local librarians and trustees attending the conference. As a result, we gained from some of the best library professional development courses that you can imagine. The conference also brings librarians into close contact with numerous publishers, authors and current trends from across the country and around the world. One focus of the conference was the evolving role of libraries in the age of technology, perhaps led by the greater and greater demand for digital content like e-books and streaming music and video. But going digital isn't all about computers. Library makerspaces—with focus on learning by doing— was an important centerpiece for the conference, too. Our aim is to provide the best possible public service for our community. Achievement of this goal is well-supported, in part, by our participation in the PLA Conference and other similar PCCLD staff training and development activities. This means PCCLD wins and our community profits, too, with librarians who are at the top of the game in this discipline.

2016 Grants and Gifts (April 2016) by Jon Walker

Pueblo City-County Library District is active in soliciting and utilizing grants and gifts to help provide the best public library services possible for our community. Two recent funding awards can serve as good examples of this. In 2016, we will utilize a Disney/American Library Association grant to develop best-practices for creative learning for older children at the library district. PCCLD was awarded special funding to allow this project to take place in 2016. A second case in point is our current work as an American Library Association/ProLiteracy Libraries in Action pilot program. This will ensure PCCLD uses the most effective methods in its Adult Literacy program. The library district was the recipient of a grant award that allows us to participate in this project. I am pleased PCCLD is able to serve our community even better with these special opportunities.

2016 Goals (March 2016) by Jon Walker

Pueblo City-County Library District aims to provide the best possible public library service for our community. Outcomes in recent years indicate that we are delivering on this promise. We checked out more books and other library materials than ever last year. We also set new all-time records for the number of people visiting our libraries, those attending PCCLD educational and cultural programs and events, and the use of library district digital resources like public-use computers.PCCLD has adopted an important set of goals for this year to help build on our recent success. Our new initiatives in 2016 should place us in a strong position to continue our positive influence in the community. I invite you to review the library district’s complete 2016 plan and budget, which is available online. Here are some highlights of special projects you can expect to see during the course of the year from your public library: Continue the work to convert the earliest editions of The Pueblo Chieftain to digital format. Our local newspaper began publication in 1868 and these initial editions are an important record of the history of our community and this region. Expand support for parents of young children to better ensure early literacy success. PCCLD has been working on this initiative for over a year. We call it SPELL, short for Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries. It is based on programs and research of promising practices for libraries to deliver effective early literacy information and resources to low-income families with young children. Partner with the school districts, arts center, university and other local institutions to increase the public library’s impact in the community. One specific example of this in 2016 is the new ConnectED partnership with Pueblo City Schools and Pueblo County Schools, which should result in a library card for nearly every public school student. PCCLD also will partner with the arts center on an upcoming Ansel Adams exhibit this summer and CSU-Pueblo to increase access to public library resources on campus. Create a Maker Space program at the Lucero Library. Maker Spaces are learning environments where children, teens, adults, and families can design and create together in activities from woodworking to electronics. We are building on the success of our first Maker Space at the Rawlings Library by investing in this at the Lucero Library to support this great way to learn. Consider best e-book platforms. PCCLD is providing a growing collection of e-books as interest in this format increases. In 2016, the library district will examine its e-book service to insure we are offering the best possible platform for our users. Redesign the library district’s online presence for subscription databases. PCCLD provides a robust collection of online research databases. We intend to evaluate this and institute changes to improve visibility and usability. Refresh the InfoZone Museum’s exhibit space. With generous support from the Rawlings Family Foundation, PCCLD is working with an exhibit design firm to update features of the museum’s interactive education displays. Secure a 20 percent off-the-shelf rate for the collections of books and materials. PCCLD adheres to a philosophy of maintaining a dynamic, up-to-date collection of materials that meets the current needs of the members of our community. We carefully track use of the books and materials in the collections in order to ensure that we have the items people seek to read and use. I believe you will agree that 2016 should be another terrific year for PCCLD!

Reviewing the Past Year (February 2016) by Jon Walker

2015 was a striking year at the Pueblo City-County Library District. Our key service results were just about the best ever across the board. We carefully monitor four areas of service. These are circulation (the number of books and other materials checked out), digital use (the number of times customers log-on library computers and access other library-hosted online and wireless services), program attendance (the number of individuals participating in any of the variety of cultural and educational events regularly sponsored or hosted by the library district), and visits (the number of people who come into our libraries to read, study, learn and exchange ideas). We strive to improve these measures in order to ensure PCCLD is meeting its mission to provide the best possible library service for the community. I am very pleased that the library district set new all-time records in nearly every category in 2015: • Circulation—2,918,125 This is a very healthy seventeen percent increase over the previous record year in 2014. • Digital Use—888,346 We are overjoyed that we exceeded our goal of 887,000 digital uses for the year. Digital services continue to have a growing impact on the library. • Program participation—245,500 This is a whopping 35 percent increase over 2014 and is another way today’s library is changing to meet the needs of the modern world. • Visits—1,616,639 This is an all-time record number of visitors to our local libraries, and represents a fourteen percent increase over 2014. PCCLD enjoyed unprecedented success in 2015. We expect 2016 to be another great year, too. Congratulations to our employees and the community for an impressive year just completed. I believe we are poised now for an even more impressive 2016.

Reflecting on the Year Just Ended (January 2016) by Jon Walker

Some say it is good practice at the beginning of a new year to reflect upon what has taken place during the previous months. 2015 certainly marked another notable year for Pueblo City-County Library District, we continue in our efforts to provide the best possible public library service for our community. This is most clearly evident by the increasing number of books and other materials checked out by library users. We checked out around three million items in 2015. This is the most ever in the history of the library district. People also continued to visit our libraries in record numbers. Approximately 1.8 million people visited PCCLD libraries throughout the county in 2015. This speaks well for us as we seek to ensure that ours is an informed community of readers. In 2015, the total number of people attending library-sponsored special events was about 260,000. Library events occur year-round, including such signature programs as All Pueblo Reads, Summer Reading Club, Read OUT LOUD!, special adult and children’s literacy activities, the Hispanic Resource Center, the InfoZone Museum, local and regional archival collections, genealogy, the Idea Factory makerspace, and much, much more. 2015 also marked the first full year for PCCLD’s three new libraries: the Giodone Library east of the City of Pueblo, the Lucero Library in the city’s east side neighborhood, and the Greenhorn Valley Library serving the southern portion of the county. Clearly a lot happened at PCCLD in 2015. This article only touches upon some highlights of the library's many accomplishments, services and programs. Speaking on behalf of the institution, let me simply close by pointing out that it is a pleasure and honor to serve the citizens of Pueblo County.

State of the Library (December 2015) by Jon Walker

I am frequently asked questions like, “How are things at the library?” To sum up recent activities, I’d say things are, in a word, busy. We checked out more library materials than ever in the history of PCCLD last year; and, so far in 2015, our checkouts are more than 23 percent ahead of that record-setting 2014 pace. Our community’s positive response to the library is reflected in Library Research Service data showing we are ranked number one in key areas for a community our size, such as the number of people visiting our libraries per capita and the number of people attending library-sponsored educational and cultural programs and events on a per capita basis. We are preparing now for even a better year in 2016. The new libraries in the Greenhorn Valley, in the county east of the City of Pueblo, and in Pueblo’s east side neighborhood are making positive differences. Our older libraries — Barkman Library, Lamb Library, Pueblo West Library, Library @ the Y, and Rawlings Library — also continue to experience increasingly heavy use. Librarians and employees throughout the library district work in impressive ways to make our buildings lively places dedicated to literacy, lifelong learning and the notion that our free society thrives best when free and open access to information for all is guaranteed.

I Love the Library (November 2015) by Jon Walker

I have a confession to make. I love this place! Don’t you? I mean what’s not to love? The public library as an institution is one of the pillars supporting our wonderful democracy. It stands as a beacon offering free and open access to the human record in all its formats — books, audio, video, online. Libraries represent all points of view — left, right and the middle — and regardless of your age, financial means or standing in the community, we serve you. There are six principles I believe are important for keeping our library moving forward and reaching toward the next level. First, we must articulate succinctly what the public library is and its value to our community. I touched on this value above. Second is delivering excellent service. Service is priority one. The library is a service organization. Service! with a capital “S” and an exclamation point. Every day in everything we do — from the back office to the front line — I encourage employees to ask “How does this benefit the customer?” Third is a commitment to building and maintaining outstanding collections. After all, if service is what makes us, it’s the collection that sets us apart. Our role is linking the patron to the collection — that book, this video, a website, just the right audio CD. Fourth, the library is a place, a physical place — a comfortable place to read, study, and to gather to exchange ideas. Fifth is our online presence. Libraries are service, libraries are collections, libraries are place; but in the modern era we also must be virtual, electronic, online. People expect to be able to click on the library from their home or school or office. Sixth — not last but in this spot only for emphasis — we are people. The employees of the library district are our most valuable and valued asset. Well, this is a little bit about what I think about libraries. What about you? What do you think?

All Pueblo Reads: Celebrate Sci-Fi (October 2015) by Jon Walker

October 2015 marks PCCLD’s sponsorship for the eleventh consecutive year of All Pueblo Reads. All Pueblo Reads 2015: Celebrate Sci-Fi is our effort to help cultivate a culture of learning and discussion in our community by bringing everyone together around reading great books. Reading splendid literature leads us to examine ourselves, our relationships and the world around us. Talking about great literature with friends, family and neighbors adds richness and depth to our lives. The goal for All Pueblo Reads is for everyone to be reading great books at the same time to foster community-wide book discussions. This year, we have selected four wonderful books set in the future: Suzanne Collin’s adventuristic Hunger Games series, Veronica Roth’s 2011 debut blockbuster Divergent, Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi classic Ender’s Game, and Lois Lowry’s awardwinning dystopian novel The Giver. A myriad of events and activities have been scheduled in conjunction with All Pueblo Reads 2015: Celebrate Sci-Fi. These include book discussions, film screenings, musical and theatrical performances and more. Programs begin in October and continue into early November. We also have arranged for plenty of copies of these wonderful books to be available at each of our local libraries for your reading pleasure. Please join in the learning and fun for All Pueblo Reads 2015: Celebrate Sci-Fi

Looking Ahead (September 2015) by Jon Walker

“Here was one place where I could find out who I was and what I was going to become. And that was the public library.”—Jerzy Kosinski
The past 10 years at Pueblo City-County Library District have been noteworthy. The results have been so remarkable this could well be a golden age for our public libraries: beginning in 2004 with the first year of the signature Rawlings Library through 2009 with the reopening of the expanded Pueblo West Library and continuing into 2014 with the addition of three new libraries to the library district. PCCLD today consists of 10 vibrant service outlets, and, in the recent decade, we have seen a dramatic increase in commitment to public libraries as measured by their overall utilization. More people are visiting libraries to use more books and other information resources than ever before. A strong foundation has been established for the future. Now, PCCLD is looking ahead to the coming five years. A new strategic plan entitled Curating Connections: Pueblo City-County Library District 2016-2020 Strategic Plan answers the following question about our local libraries: “What’s next?” Beginning toward the end of 2014, PCCLD stakeholders and members of the community-atlarge engaged in a long-range planning process for our public libraries. This effort has continued throughout the first half of this year. It has included input from a broad range of citizens as well as library employees and professionals. We analyzed county demographics, compared PCCLD with peer libraries in the region and around the country, carefully examined professional standards and trends, and forecast library district revenues and expenditures. From this study, we are able to make several observations about choices for the library district’s future. Our goal is simple. We aim to provide the best possible public library service to our local residents. The people deserve nothing less. I believe this strategic plan will help guide us toward this outcome. The efforts leading to this important document include the work of many people. I thank those citizens of Pueblo County, Friends of the Library, Pueblo Library Foundation, PCCLD Board of Trustees and employees of the library district, and others who collaborated to ensure this plan resonates and promises to build upon a tradition of excellence. I invite you to review the new plan online at www.pueblolibrary.org.

Early Results from the New Libraries (August 2015) by Jon walker

Three new libraries opened here to the public late last year. These three are the Patrick A. Lucero Library located in the City of Pueblo’s East Side neighborhood, the Tom L. and Anna M. Giodone Library located east of Pueblo on the St. Charles Mesa, and the Greenhorn Valley Library serving Southern Pueblo County including Colorado City and Rye. These recently constructed libraries now have been open for use by the public for just over six months. Theses libraries were conceived and constructed due to the vision and efforts by members of the local communities they serve with additional planning, direction, financial and operational support provided by the Pueblo City-County Library District. Each is part of a long-range strategy to expand public libraries into underserved areas of our community. We created a detailed project plan for the new libraries taking into consideration citizen input, financial needs, location and procurement of sites, design and construction of buildings, and the equipping, staffing and ongoing sustainability of the facilities. How are the three doing after six months of use? So far the results are impressive. We measure success by how many people are using a library, how many people attend a library’s educational and cultural programs and events, and how many books and other items are checked out from a library. In each of these three categories, we are very pleased with the early outcomes at the new libraries. Let’s begin with the Lucero Library. To date through June 30 of this year, more than 87,000 people have visited the Lucero Library. This puts this library on track to host a remarkable 175,000 people for the year, which will far exceed our preliminary expectations of approximately 86,000 visitors in its first year of operation. Customers have already checked out nearly 100,000 books and other library materials and nearly 9,000 people have attended library-sponsored educational and cultural programs and events. This places Lucero on course for about 200,000 checkouts and 18,000 program participants for the year, which is significantly greater than our earlier predictions of about 123,000 checkouts and 14,000 program participants. The Giodone Library also has been a busy place. Early on, we anticipated about 81,000 visitors, 118,000 checkouts and 13,500 program participants here in the first year of operation. This library is currently on track to approach 100,000 library visitors for the year and check out 120,000 items. We are particularly pleased that the library is on course to have 20,000 people in attendance at educational and cultural events for the year. The Greenhorn Valley Library is on a path similar to Giodone in overall use to date. Circulation is now projecting to be around 100,000 items for the year, while the library should host up to 80,000 visitors and more than 12,000 people at events and programs. These figures are significantly higher than our original expectations for use of this library set at about 75,500 checkouts, 40,000 visitors and 8,000 program participants. I am excited about the positive community response to the three new libraries. Congratulations are due to all of those individuals and groups who strived to ensure the successful opening of the new libraries and the impressive use of the libraries by the members of the respective communities. The impressive results seen in the early operations of these new libraries mark the fulfillment of a longtime promise to continue to improve in our quest to provide the best possible public library service to the citizens of Pueblo County. b


The library is a learning institution.  First and foremost, the Pueblo City-County Library District (PCCLD) exists to ensure members of our...