Why isn’t the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library’s budget like other public libraries’ budgets?

I’d like to respond to some questions comparing this Library’s budget to other public libraries’ budgets in Kansas. First, not all public libraries are the same. Governance, services offered, service levels, population served, number of registered library users, types and means of service deployment, size of collections, circulation and many other characteristics vary enormously. The degree to which communities choose to use and support their libraries varies too.  And Kansas public libraries are no exception.

Unless those variables are taken into account, comparisons aren’t really meaningful. Here’s just one example. Most public libraries in Kansas and in the United States are part of larger units of government. They may be part of a city, county or even a larger unit of service. With respect to their budgets, this means that costs for certain activities ranging from facilities maintenance, utilities, administrative services (like human resources), financial and accounting services, vehicles, capitial improvements, etc aren’t included in the library’s overall budget figures because those services are provided by the city, county, etc. The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library is a separate entity from city or county government. All activities needed to manage a public library and provide services to the community are reflected in the budget figures you see on our Digital Branch.

Stay tuned for more information on why we will begin charging library users a late fees for overdue books and other library materials…….

Babies and Books

I’m a grandma, twice now. Austin, who is 3 years old, and Allison (Allie) who is 7 months old. Just as I did with my son Nick, I’ve inundated them with books and read to them since they were fetuses. As a librarian, mother and now a grandmother, I’ve always known how important it is to read to children from birth, but science is confirming those instincts.

This is from an article from our Digital Branch  in the Consumer Health Complete database under Health and Wellness. It’s called “Baby Steps” by Anita Sethi from the December, 2006 issue of Baby Talk magazine.

It’s never too early to start reading to your baby. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud daily to your child starting at 6 months, there’s no reason why your newborn can’t enjoy a good book, too. Research indicates that by age 2, children who were read to at an early age had better language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive scores. Here’s how to start your baby’s love affair with books: get cozy. Curl up with your tiny tot and hold the book so she can see the pictures. Babies love to hear the sound of their mom’s voice, so not only read the story to her but comment on it (“That’s so funny!’). Turn off distractions like the radio and TV, and devote your attention to her. feed her senses. Babies especially like stories with rhythmic patterns, such as songs and nursery rhymes. Board books with clear, high-contrast illustrations will be most appealing. They also love pictures of other babies. Try relating the pictures to her life (“Here’s a rubber duckie. You have one in your tub!”).
Schedule a daily story time. Build books into your routine now. Set aside a few minutes every day to read aloud when she is rested and alert. Start by reading a page or two at a time and gradually add more as she becomes engaged. If she gets restless or fussy, put the book away and try again the next day.

As I visit with customers in the library, I frequently approach young parents with babies, ask if they’ve visited our children’s area and if they’re reading to their little ones. It’s wonderful to hear how often they’re taking advantage of the expertise of our youth services librarians and participating in our Born Learning program, but if not, my goal is to get them there and to walk out the door with that first board book for baby.

I just returned from a visit with my grandchildren in Iowa. And once again I’m reminded of how important and fun it is to read to young children. My husband Ried and I did lots of things with our grandkids. We went to the park, participated in an Easter egg hunt, helped Austin ride his brand new Spiderman bike, played on the floor with Allie and practiced waving bye-bye. And we read to both children. For Austin, it was The Cat in the Hat and Are You My Mother? For Allie, it was The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which she actually tried to chew – she’s teething at the moment.) I noticed when I picked it up that there was already a bite-shaped section taken out of the top of the book. Evidently Austin thought it was tasty too.

Remember that reading is a feast for all the senses – that’s how we develop that lifelong love of books and reading. If there’s any doubt about how babies love books, take a look at Allie. She not only loves stories, she thinks they’re delicious!

For more info. and lists, check out Babies Need Books; Sharing the Joy of Books with Children from Birth to Six by Dorothy Butler

Great first books for babies: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

We have hundreds of board books for babies and toddlers in the children’s area. Every child is different. Find the right one for the baby or young child in your life. And let me know what worked for you and the baby or child that you love.

What is your baby’s or grandbaby’s favorite book?

Birds Do It, Bees Do It….. Why Does the Library Do It?

You may have heard about the recent controversy at the Library. A community member challenged four titles, The Joy of SexThe Joy of Gay SexThe Lesbian Kama Sutraand Sex for Busy People. The Library’s Board of Trusteesvoted to restrict them for minors at its February board meeting. I’m not going to comment or editorialize on that decision. If you’re interested in learning more or commenting yourself, you may go to the Expression of Concern on our Digital Branch.

I want to talk a bit about why this library or any public library has information on sex or any topic that might be deemed controversial or challenging.

The role of public libraries has changed quite a lot in the past 40+ years. Our role in society is a pretty important one. Fundamentally, we exist to provide open access to information and stories in all forms—books, film, music, art—you name it. Our goal is to ensure that anyone in our community who uses the library finds something that speaks to him or her. That openness and accessibility is essential in a democracy.

Our mission says it all, “Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library: Your place. Stories you want, information you need, connections you seek.” We understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for how people think or feel about anything. For this truly to be your place, you must be able to find what you want and need. In the process of finding that, you’ll find things you don’t want or need. In fact, you’ll find things you may find shocking or distasteful. We say somewhat facetiously that if you don’t find something to offend you in the library, we’re not doing our jobs.

Life doesn’t stop at the doors of the library and our collections, services and programs attempt to address the human condition and experience. A recent example is the Girl Culture exhibit in the Sabatini Gallery, cosponsored with the Junior League of Topeka. It is a powerful and challenging exhibit of photographs portraying the experiences of and pressures on girls and young women in our society today. I hope you visit and enjoy it, but if not, remember that there is a not just a world but a universe of information and stories here at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Let me know what you think. What should the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library do to be your place?