Behind the Library Curtain

John Clark helping celebrate National Library week with some behind the scenes stuff from the Maine Library listserv Melibs-l which has over 1200 members from all over the country. It’s where we discuss vexing issues, tap the collective wisdom to help patrons looking for books the want to reread, but can’t quite remember, give away stuff and share really cool programs and innovations. I added a few pictures of Maine libraries that came from the directory Ellen Wood set up on the state library page You can see all of them here:


Balancing revenue needs with service: I’m wondering what requirements you all have for registering new patrons that are summer employees, or summer visitors (not property owners; people potentially with no leases). If you’d be so kind as to share; I’d be grateful.

When we’re asked to be surrogate parents: If you have an Unattended Children policy could you please share it with me? We are looking at updating our policy. Specifically, I’m interested in knowing if your library staff are REQUIRED to stay after closing if parents don’t show up? Paid or unpaid? For how long? What liabilities or other legalities should we be aware of in terms of unattended children? Our current policy involves attempting to call parents and/or police if the parents cannot be reached but that still involves unpaid staff time to wait for those folks after closing time.

The list is great when we need fast help for eager patrons: A query about sports books for grade 6-8 sporty girls netted these titles: Stealing Parker, Catching Jordan, Breathe, Annie, Breathe, Pretty Tough Novel series, Lorimer Sports Stories, Soccerland by Beth Choat, Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff, The Kicks by Alex Morgan


Another example: I am looking for fiction and non-fiction titles for young adults on addictions. Specifically, I need books that deal with addictions to gambling, hoarding, playing video games, and food.

There are a lot of cool technical opportunities in Maine and libraries are a great place to find them:  The Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance is once again hosting Maine Scratch day Saturday, May 14. They would love to involve more libraries this year and encourage everyone to join. “Scratch Day is very easy to do and is great for libraries, schools, afterschool programs, and other groups. It’s Saturday, May 14, this year, and there are great resources that make it easy to host an event. Events can be a few kids or a large group, a couple hours or a half-day. It’s a great way to continue what you started with Hour of Code, too. We really want to help get more sites in Maine involved this year, and list the participating sites on our website and at Interested?


We excel at determining the answer to very fuzzy questions: A puzzle for you slueths out there. Patron doesn’t know the author or the title. Not even the color of the bookcover! A series (at least three, maybe five books) about a family who moved from the Scottish highlands to Virginaia. Takes place from the 19th century to early 20th century. Is told from the viewpoint of the women who married into the family. This was solved as follows: I would say it’s not a move to Virginia but Texas. Perhaps it’s “My Name Is Falon: One Woman’s Saga from Scotland to the Texas Frontier” by Kim Wiese

A patron has asked for help in finding this book. Here is her description I read it probably 20 years ago and I think it was old at the time. It is either a Maine Indian tale or perhaps a folklore tale from Quebec. It takes place in a forested region where the men work logging. The subject is a lady who would prefer to be an animal, a quail if I remember right. She only retains these properties if she lives in that region. She becomes a quail during the day and a woman at night. On the ever popular topic of delivery bags comes this St. Patrick’s Day (I answered this because I’d read the book. Maine author. Can you name it??)

The Statewide van service is an amazing resource, but there never seem to be enough bags to go around, so librarians get creative with their pleas:
The Eternal quest for delivery bags used for interlibrary loan

Limerick There once was a library in Maine

To pack all their items, a pain

‘Cause bags, they were low.

Have M and L ones? No.

But surely some would come before they completely ran out because the other Maine libraries will take pity on us…

We are strong supporters of local authors: Tamra Wight, the author of Cooper and Packrat: Mystery on Pine Lake (an MSBA nominee) and Cooper and Packrat: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest is launching a fun book trailer contest in honor of the April 26th release of her third book in the series, Cooper and Packrat: Mystery of the Missing Fox! This could be an awesome project for classes and/or individual students and a chance to win great prizes!
Check out Tami’s website for more information on this book trailer project:

Another example of very cool stuff happening behind the scenes: Here are the results we gathered for Maker/Hacker spaces in Maine. We’re happy to add if you know of any that are not currently listed. FYI we didn’t include meet-up groups. It wasn’t specifically the type of resource we were trying to quantify, and was challenging to assess without more research. Thanks to all who contributed.


Modern flashers in the library: Since the dawn of man (and floppy disks), we have had a policy of no outside storage devices allowed in our patron computers due to the danger of bad doobies introducing viruses and/or other nasties into our pristine network. I am now wondering if this is still a necessity. Many folks have mentioned that this is a real problem for them as they need to save a copy of their edited resume, or meeting agenda, or secret spy documents (to a flash drive) and therefore cannot use our computers and, occasionally in a huff, take their business elsewhere…darn you Dyer and McArthur. My questions are these 1) how many of you have a policy similar to ours and 2) for those of you who do not, and allow flash drives, etc, have you ever had a problem due to that?
Thank you in advance for the wonderful wave of knowledge I know is headed my way!

Libraries look out for more than kid’s brains: Libraries Can Help Prevent Child Hunger This Summer!
Hungry children cannot learn. Lack of proper nutrition during the summer months exacerbates the phenomenon known as summer learning loss. The Summer Food Service Program, also known as Summer Meals, is designed to fill the gap between school years and give children the fuel they need to play and grow throughout the summer and return to school ready to learn. Libraries are trusted and safe community hubs and a natural place for children to congregate. In Maine, there is limited participation in Summer Meals because there are not enough sites and many families are unaware of the program. Your library can help by becoming a meal site and promoting the program.

Your library can help by becoming a Summer Meals site!
The Summer Meals program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas. It is federally-funded by the USDA, state-administered by the Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition, and locally-operated by sponsors. Sponsors are often school districts, local government agencies, or private, non-profit organizations. Sponsors prepare the meal and are financially responsible for the program. Sites are the physical locations where the food is served and consumed. Each site works with a sponsor and sites are managed by site supervisors.
New Library Sites in Summer 2015 Share Their Stories: From rural to urban, there is a consensus among new library sites in 2015 that Summer Meals was a successful program they were happy to offer their patrons. They all would like to participate again in Summer 2016 and strongly recommend it to other libraries. They found the paperwork and responsibilities to be very manageable and the children will well-behaved. Many pair the meal with their summer reading program and the Children’s Librarian assumes the role of site supervisor.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Behind the Library Curtain

  1. Thanks for the peek, John! It is great to know Maine’s librarians have a backchannel method to share good ideas and discuss the many challenges they face.

  2. MCWriTers says:

    Thanks for this, John. So amazing and enlightening. I just heard about scratch as I was driving to the Pittsfield Library last night, and wish I could attend scratch day.

    People don’t realize how lucky they are to have librarians working so hard on their behalf.


Leave a Reply