Library Matters

Library Matters is a podcast by Montgomery County Public Libraries exploring the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning.
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Library Matters is a podcast of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) in Montgomery County, MD. Each episode we explore the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning. Library Matters is hosted by Julie Dina, Outreach Associate, Lauren Martino, Children's Librarian at our Silver Spring branch, and David Payne, Branch Manager of our Davis branch and Acting Branch Manager of our Potomac branch.  

Feb 20, 2019

Listen to the audio

David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with your host, David Payne.

Julie Dina:  And I'm Julie Dina.

David Payne: And actually this is a podcast with a different -- differences we're doing double duty today.

Julie Dina:  Yes we are.

David Payne: And we are the hosts, we are the guests. So this is a new format and today we're going to be looking at library lovers’ month. February is more than candy hearts, chocolate and Valentine's cards it's also Library Lovers’ month. So Judy, let's start with the why and the what of library lover’s month. Library lover’s month is basically a month long celebration of libraries of all types, public, academic, school, special and for MCPL. The celebration of libraries lover’s month throughout the month is being facilitated by our friends of the library, Montgomery County. And if you go to their web page or their social media sites, you'll see all the things you can do to get engaged with that. Also we should mention that in each branch, there are postcards that are available. And if customers would care to write down all the things that they like about the library, they will be forwarded to our friends’ group and then sent to the Montgomery County elected officials. So a good chance to say why you like the library and express your feelings about the very wonderful things that MCPL does. And there is a link on the Montgomery County library's website which will take you directly to all the library lover’s month related programming. So that should be very easy to access. Now, why have library lover’s months?

Julie Dina:  Just like people show their love for friends, their kids, their spouses, why not show your love for the library that you frequently visit.

David Payne: Right and all the great things that libraries do and have.

Julie Dina:  I mean we've got a ton -- we've got tons of resources that are heavily used by our customers. And having library lover’s month is one way for the customers to actually not only show the library how much they love all the services and all of the support that they actually get from the library, but it's also a way of them -- how can I put this? It is just their way of showing how much they love using the library and that they're glad that they actually have a library they can count on.

David Payne: Which if you think about it is a great resource. If you think about the power of library card which is free.

Julie Dina:  And I say don't leave home without it.

David Payne: Absolutely. And it's really a passport to all kinds of wonderful things opens our eyes to the world beyond our front doors.

Julie Dina:  Yes.

David Payne: Also they connect people to people, see some of the many events that go on in our meeting rooms. They basically offer more than just book line lending.

Julie Dina:  They also bridges the gap if you really think about it. There are a lot of -- I personally being an outreach person I've seen people, immigrants, refugees, I've seen them at all of our branches at different times. And why are they there? They tell me because they're hoping to find books that are in their languages that otherwise they would have to go buy or not even find at another place. Like you said earlier we provide a space, most people charge to utilize these spaces, but we actually offer it for free.

David Payne: Right. And you talk about languages we have the word language collections throughout the system.

Julie Dina:  We've got Mango languages.

David Payne: We have got Mango Languages and we have got Rosetta Stone so 

Julie Dina:  You can't go wrong.

David Payne: If it is a language you want to learn or read it's there somewhere in the county all accessible with a library card and really libraries offer more than just book lending. Many people think that it is the book lending that is what the libraries are about, public libraries are about. And while they're known for their collections of books and magazines really they and we offer a whole host of other community services, quiet reading and writing spaces, computers with internet access, laptops for use in the library and in some branches to take out.

Julie Dina:  Go kits.

David Payne: Go kits for our younger readers.

Julie Dina:  CDs, DVD.

David Payne: Help with workforce matters, job searches, resume writing, story times.

Julie Dina:  Printing services.

David Payne: Printing, audio ebook options, programming we really promote literacy that's the bottom line so all reasons to support the library and express your like of the libraries this month.

Julie Dina:  And mind you that's not even half of what we even provide.

David Payne: That’s right. So perhaps we should tell the listeners a bit about us, a bit of background. Julie you are in outreach, and I'm the Branch Manager of the Aspen Hill library. How long have you worked with MCPL and what have you done in the various stages of your career here?

Julie Dina:  I actually was just thinking about it. I can't believe it's actually been over 17 years. So I actually started as a volunteer because I loved coming to the library. I would always stop at both desks, the information desk and the circulation desk I would talk to the librarians, I would ask about books. And lo and behold, one of the managers actually asked if I would like to volunteer. I said, “Oh, of course I would.”

David Payne: Little knowing what that would lead to.

Julie Dina:  Little did I know that I will be talking about this years later. So I started as a volunteer as I mentioned earlier and then within six months I found out that there was a vacancy with the circulation desk. I got promoted to work in as a library assistant, I think that's what it was called. That's how far back. And even while I'm supposed to be checking out books, I'm talking with customers and we're discussing the books they're checking out. I'm telling them about services that we offer or did they know if you get this – this is also something that you might like. And then after that I left once I graduated from college, I left and went to go work elsewhere. But I loved the library so much I came back after a couple of years and then I started working, at this time I started working with the information desk as a library associate.

And this way I was able to suggest books for customers, I could actually help do research for my customers since I already love talking to them. I would go out you know, in the stacks and see what people might need help with. And best of all, I am now an Outreach Librarian which means I get to go out not only wait for the customers to come to me, I go out to them. And that's the part I love the most because I love talking to people. I not only love staying in one place, I like to go to different places. And this way I can see all our customers from all different walks of life in different places, talk about services that we offer which is an array of resources and I can never list them all. But in a nutshell that's what I do.

David Payne: Great, and we'll come back to outreach in a bit.

Julie Dina:  Sure. How about you, David. 

David Payne: Well, I've been with MCPL what, a year and a half now. I've been at the Aspen Hill brands managing there since June 2018 before that I was manager at the Davis library and Potomac as well. So I already seen a bit of the county. Most of my working life has been in public libraries across the country. I worked in Florida; in Ohio; Philadelphia where I was a branch manager as well for many years and then federal county libraries and then here. So it's been a big change.

Julie Dina:  So now that we've actually talked about that, let's move into bringing into an international perspective. David, you mentioned that you used to work as a library assistant in Britain. Can you also tell us about if you've had any experience as far as public library experience in Britain is that something you can share with us?

David Payne: Absolutely. I mean, the Public Library movement in Britain really parallels that of this country. It goes back to the 19th century. And had -- you know there has been or was a fairly robust network of public libraries. Growing up for me growing up as a boy in London in the 1970s the local public library was rather nondescript plain building as far as I was concerned. But it was one of the focal points of my growing up there. I remember as a boy I was really into two things trains and football or soccer as you call it here. And so I think I went through every single book on trains and soccer in my local branch. And that used to be the thing I used to look forward to the most of the weekends after school. And actually I always remember that I was able to combine my like of trains and soccer by traveling all over the country the length and breadth of Britain supporting my favorite football team.

So I used to go into library and to the reference section where they used to keep the national, British National train timetable. So I used to spend hours poring over that and used to be a running joke that perhaps it should have been shelved under fiction. But so that was my recollection as a boy, but when you look at the Public Library Movement in Britain now it really reads like a horror story. And there's a tail in there that really relates to why things like library lovers month is so important. Over the past decade or so due to local government budget cuts the Public Library Movement or network in the UK has been savaged. And over the past 10 years or so, probably well over 500 libraries have been closed. Many of them have, the ones that haven't been closed are now staffed run by volunteers or community groups.

Many staff have lost their jobs. I think I read looking over the figures which I researched before this broadcast, about 8000 jobs have gone in public libraries over the past 10 years, 500 libraries cut number of books held by libraries have dropped by 14 million, which is quite staggering. And you can imagine the effect that has on everyone in terms of literacy; in terms of the economy and really the whole country. And it's not to say that people there, people in Britain don't rally and support their libraries they certainly do. But I think the message is this is why showing your support matters. And obviously in this country, there being cuts and libraries up and down the country have had challenges, but not on the same scale. But again, library lovers month an opportunity to express the reasons why we need libraries and why that's so important.

Julie Dina:  Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

David Payne: That's quite a -- quite a sobering tale.

Julie Dina:  Yes, I hope things turn around.

David Payne: Well, hopefully.

Julie Dina:  For the good.

David Payne: hopefully, hopefully. And perhaps Julie, you can talk about your background from Africa.

Julie Dina:  Specifically Nigeria. So although I don't remember a public library experience specifically, as far as libraries are concerned, what's more prominent back home are university libraries. And I do remember that some elementary schools and this is something that teachers come up with because libraries are generally funded by the federal government of the country. And so when there's not enough funding, that means libraries will not function as they're supposed to be. So I do know some teachers in certain schools do something called an invisible library, which means parents and teachers donate books, then the teacher assigns each person to a particular book, and then they give a certain amount of timeframe for you to read that book. You come back to school after that timeframe is over. Everyone talks and shares their experience about the book they've read and then she reassigns.

So typically the book is not being shelved in school because there is -- you can't get an account for it. So it's just -- it's just a change of hands but it does exist. And so I know there's the National -- I mean, the National Library of Nigeria and the goal originally when they were only 36 states were to have a branch in each state. But so far, I think it's still only 16 as much as they do aspire to run the library as frequent as they would just like in the Western world economy is what it boils down to. So like you mentioned, it's good to show your support for libraries lovers’ month here in the States because there are parts of the world where people don't get a free library card. They certainly do not get free resources and more importantly, the vast array of resources that we have here is nowhere near what they have back home.

David Payne: Right and I think it is important you mentioned the word free. I mean even in Britain today the libraries that have survived for many years now while taking out books remains free if you take out a CD or a DVD you pay a nominal fee so again, a big difference.

Julie Dina:  Yeah, so that really matters so keep loving your library.

David Payne: So obviously the Public Library has a place in the community, a big place. Where do you see MCPL in the community from your viewpoint in outreach?

Julie Dina:  I actually see MCPL as a glue factor. The library connects a lot of people to a lot of things. You mentioned earlier that we are a space for people to meet and to me, that's enriching the community. People look forward to come into the library to meet other people who they're working on the same project, the same goal. People are meeting for Lego groups. People are meeting here for knitting groups, book discussions. We've got immigrants who when they come here as an outreach person, when I tell them come to the library, you're going to get this service for free. And it's like I have to keep saying free, free, free like the commercial because they can't believe it. But the library is very prominent in the fact that we provide a lot of -- these are not just services that are luxurious service – these are basic need, who doesn't need to learn a language?

And they need this language in order to have conversations with other people who can provide a service that they need. So I think MCPL is very prominent in our community and we've got, may I also mention, we have partnerships with a lot of organizations. We have partnership with the Rec department. We've got partnership with the JCA, not only the JCA. And for those who are wondering what it means it means the Jewish Council of Aging. Not only that we also have a huge partnership with HHS. If you look in the community, especially in the HHS departments you'll see a lot of deposit collection in the community and these are books that MCPL provides.

Not only that we also have partnerships with a lot of the barber shops in the areas. So not only are you waiting to get your hair cut, or to get your hair washed while you're there, you get to read one of our books or have one of our resources, which is right there in place for you. So that's just -- that's just a minimal amount of what I've mentioned. But people know who we are and they rely on us for a lot of things.

David Payne: And I think from my viewpoint as a branch manager you see the larger picture and the impact of the branch of the library in the community. You mentioned some connections. I think there's also the fact that the library is an anchor for economic development and neighborhood revitalization, the Wheaton library for instance, part of that work down there. We really help to strengthen community identity.

Julie Dina:  That's true.

David Payne: We are free. We provide a place for me people to meet each other. We hear about the third space, that mix of first and second space the home and work or whatever it is work and home. Home and work.

Julie Dina:  I think it is homework.

David Payne: Homework and the third space that mix that fusion between –

Julie Dina:  I was just talking about that earlier.

David Payne: So it's that's a safe space. I mean really as you mentioned identify and fill gaps in community services, early childhood education, lifelong learning and the work we do in in technology literacy.

Julie Dina:  Which is very huge.

David Payne: Which is very huge.

Julie Dina:  And we have -- I know we promote a lot of early literacy especially the big one that's coming up 1000 books before kindergarten. People just can't believe that there's such a program and it as big as the summer reading program. So we've been going into the communities; we've been going into daycare centers and parents as well as caregivers as well as teachers are all excited about it.

David Payne: Right. So tell us about 1000 books –

Julie Dina:  Before kindergarten.

David Payne: Before kindergarten.

Julie Dina:  So this is sort of reading program that's parallel to our summer reading program where our goal is to get both parents and kids to read or perform any educational activity, 1000 before kindergarten. So basically how it works is you go to any of our 21 branches just like you would with summer reading and sign up for this program. And for every milestone, there's a very wonderful gift waiting for you at the branch. And not only that, when we say 1000 books people are like, “Oh my gosh, how do I read 1000 books?” Don't you fear because it's not just limited to books it could be a trip to the grocery store and you and your child you're singing along that's an activity.

You can log that has an activity or you guys are driving in the car and you say, “What shape is the stop sign?” That's an activity. So even with the one sentence I just made you've already done two activities. So we want a lot of -- and we've actually, the outreach team, we've been covering a lot of daycare centers, we've been going into headstart schools, and we have been letting all caregivers know that this is a wonderful program. And I think the community is actually excited about that.

David Payne: Absolutely. There have been great response. And we should also mention, you can read a book more than once.

Julie Dina:  Oh, yeah that’s true.

David Payne: You read it multiple times and get to a 1000.

Julie Dina:  So if it's your favorite book this is your time to utilize it.

David Payne: So Julie you mentioned -- you talked earlier about your work in outreach. Outreach does what exactly; what do you and your team do and what part of your work do you think would most surprise people the most?

Julie Dina:  So let me start from the back. What would surprise people the most is people just can't believe that we actually do pop up libraries which means we're not at a branch. It could be a festival sort of like Poolesville day or Potomac day and we would have our table there. And guess what, people just can't believe we're actually given out library cards. So that's one thing that surprises people also the fact that we do pop up story times. We now have a partnership with the Lake Forest Mall. And people in my team actually would do story times and sometimes even crafts. That's not something that you know libraries are known to do in the past, but we do do those and we also do dance parties and I know I did a couple of them this past summer and had fun doing it. And that was my -- that was my cheaper way of going to the gym.

So as far as what we do outreach, just like the name outreach, we go out into the community and tell our customers about all the wonderful resources and services that MCPL has to offer. We tell them about our educational resources. I mean, I've been to a lot of events where we have a table and just a few flyers that I have in front of me. People just can't believe that we're actually offering these for free. I'll tell you about a particular one which actually has over 300 professional video courses. And this is that these are actually taught by the industry experts and which your library card, this is free. Believe it or not, if you were to subscribe to it and I'm sure some of you are going to test it as you're listening to me you will be paying money for it. It's not free.

David Payne: Big money.

Julie Dina:  A lot of money.

David Payne: And it's a great great resource.

Julie Dina:  It's a great resource. Those customers who actually know about when they see it on my table, although I'm telling them it's free, they still tell me what's the discounted price because they know the value of it. So if you're someone who has been thinking about a career change, you know, you're someone who has certification in your career. Some of the courses that are actually taught are actually certification base. So imagine how much you will be paying for that. So that's one thing I love going out to do. We go to festivals, we go to schools, a lot of schools, we do presentations about resources that we offer, which is also a way when we go into high schools we tell high schoolers who are always looking for SSL hours that the library is one place they can start their search.

Also, outreach team does a lot of -- as I mentioned earlier story time. We have that at the branch but also for those who can't come to the branch, we go out and give them exactly what they love. We give them story times I mentioned we do dance parties. So it's not just limited to the branch. I feel like the outreach team is MCPL on the move. So we go out there, give the customers what ordinarily you would get at the branch.

David Payne: And how many do you have on your team?

Julie Dina:  It's four people right now.

David Payne: Four people doing all that work.

Julie Dina:  There used to be eight of us, but now they've got the Fantastic Four.

David Payne: Now can customers contact you to request your participation in events? Or do you just choose which–?

Julie Dina:  There's actually a form on our website when you go on our website, which is actually attend your events, whatever your event is, you fill out that form and of course -- one of our – one of our outreach member will get back to you. And at the show notes of this program will actually include the link to that form. Now, David, you being an agency manager, and you mentioned at the Aspen Hill library, what do you think will surprise people most about the work you do, especially in a busy public library where you are?

David Payne: I think what I don't do basically, I have many people who have asked me why do you need a Library Manager? Why do you need a branch manager? And many people are surprised that you actually need a branch manager really the fact is that libraries don't run themselves and as a branch manager over the years, not just an MCPL I actually often been amazed myself for some of the things that I've done many of them less glamorous.

Julie Dina:  Such as?

David Payne: Being on my back fixing leaking toilets. And one of the great things about the job is literally don't know what each day will bring.

Julie Dina:  That's exciting.

David Payne: That's exciting in some way. But many people don't realize what the scope of the job is. And again, each manager approaches it differently. For a hands on person like me I chip in wherever needed. I was helping set up a room for a program last Saturday at my branch and the customer popped ahead and and said, “Wow, you do everything.”

Julie Dina:  You are wearing different hats.

David Payne: Yeah, basically with different hats. And really my job is really to make sure that the branch is running and that involves work with the staff, with scheduling, you have to make sure the building, the facility is as it should be as work with a collection. There's programming, work with community groups, friends groups, library advisory committees. It is really no end to it. So it's really almost a jack of all trades. And that's what I really like about it. And I think like I say, most people don't realize the actual scope of the job in really making sure that the branch runs as it should be from day to day.

Julie Dina:  So what you're saying is that a lot of people should start applying to be agency managers?

David Payne: Oh sure. Sure if you like adventure there you go. So Julie, when you do your outreach visits, what are the most popular services that you highlight?

Julie Dina:  Artists’ works which is also a great resource where you actually are able to learn any of the different musical instruments that they offer for free. And not only that, it's also the instructors are actually Grammy and Emmy Award winners, which is really cool. And more importantly let me tell you what people cannot believe that's a surprise and this is a recent resource that we just acquired for our customers. It's called canopy and with canopy it works sort of parallel to Netflix. You're able to stream hundreds of movies and guess what guys, it's for free.

David Payne: It is so free and these movies are actually from all over the world I think.

Julie Dina:  I just found that out last week yeah, because they sent me a suggestion. So imagine I could actually go on and on. People also love Mango Languages because I come across a lot of people who may not necessarily be from here, or even people who are from here like myself, I want to learn French and the fact I have Mango language and I don't have to go pay a specialist or someone who actually would charge me that's unheard of. And I'm so thankful to my MCPL for making that possible. So if you want to hear more, or if you want to know more about services and resources that we offer, I suggest go on our website go under -- actually you can go through A through C resources and see every and all of the resources that we offer or you can come to one of my events. So David, this is a question we usually ask our guests and since we're being both today I've got ask you this. What are you currently reading?

David Payne: I'm actually reading a new book by Frederick Forsyth, that great writer of thrillers and intrigue, it's called The Fox came out last year and it's a slightly different approach by him about -- the story about a 18 year old computer hacker and the havoc he wreaks in terms of hacking and technological espionage. Forsyth to me is a great writer and this is certainly a good work perhaps not his best without going into details. It is slightly humorous it's a parody of current politics in this country and in Britain. So there's a touch of humor and irony in there which may not be for everybody and again it's not -- perhaps not his best work but certainly great Forsyth read. And then I return to you Julie.

Julie Dina:  Well, I'm currently reading and I not even halfway into the book, but the book it's called Ghana must go. And I remember having to display this book when I still worked at the Wheaton Library branch. And at one point, I had to place a hole because it was very popular. And it's by the author Taiye Selassie. And it's basically about a father who lives in Accra, which is the capital city of Ghana and he's a known surgeon and he suddenly dies. And at this point all his kids are scattered in different parts of the world of which I think United States is one of them. But because the death of this man has rippled through the whole world, his kids get to find out and one of the reasons why they all moved part was because of family secrets and crimes. And I think at some point their dad failed them as a father. But because of this death they're all coming back together and they're revealing things that we didn't know about in the beginning and at this point I'm going to say I have not finished a book. So I do know we have copies in our catalog so if you would like to come along this journey with me check -- check it out from one of our branches.

David Payne: And the same of the Frederick Forsyth book many copies of the fox in your local branch.

Julie Dina:  We do know how to pick them.

David Payne: We do.

Julie Dina:  Well well well this has been a very interesting program.

David Payne: It has been different.

Julie Dina:  It has been different but I'm glad we were able to tell you or give you are you know opinion as far as what we love about the library and our experience in libraries from different parts of the world. With that, I would like to say let's keep this conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcasts we’ll love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.



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