Does Anybody Have New Ideas To Increase Library’s Usage?


This week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate contains an article (“Park Ridge officials consider coffee sales in the Public Library,” December 24) about a suggestion by two Park Ridge Library Board trustees that establishing an on-premises coffee shop might be a way of increasing the number of Library visitors while also generating additional revenue.

New trustees Pat Lamb and Dean Parisi both raised the possibility of the Library’s working with a private coffee vendor. Parisi cited as an example a coffee chain in a Chicago hospital that shares proceeds with the hospital, while Lamb noted the small Starbucks located in Macy’s. That’s pretty outside-the-box thinking for Park Ridge Library Board members, and something the Library needs after years of lethargic, bobble-headed boards annually whining about not having a bigger new building and then rubber-stamping the same old way of doing things, all the while hoping for different results – or perhaps not even caring whether the results were different, or better.

Lamb and Parisi were reacting to the recent marked decline in Library in-person visits (v. “virtual” on-line visits), circulation (i.e., more materials being checked out) and program attendance.

Library visits and circulation in FY2013-14 were the lowest in 5 years, but 7 years into FY2014-15 both visits and circulation are tracking even lower this year.  And year-to-date program attendance is also on track to be the lowest in the past five years, even though the Library continues to offer in excess of 900 programs that are still free of charge and accessible on a drop-in basis with no reservations or advance commitment required.  So if visits, circulation and program attendance matter, that downward trend would not appear to be a good thing.

Staff has tried to blame the decline on “The Recession,” or on the “recovery” from The Recession. Although circulation did increase during The Recession, it actually continued to go up in the first four years following the official end to The Recession – in June 2009, according to the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of such dates. And while Library visits increased precipitously during the 18-month duration of The Recession, until last year they had dropped only slightly from The Recession’s end, while remaining well above pre-Recession levels.

So if maximizing visits, circulation and program attendance are valid goals against which the Library’s effectiveness in serving the community should be measured, “The Recession” doesn’t appear to be a realistic or even useful alibi for the recent decline in the Library’s numbers.

Whether getting a private coffee vendor to come into the Library proves to be do-able remains to be seen. And even if it is, whether such an idea will be successful in significantly increasing visits, circulation, program attendance and revenue is, at best, speculative at this time. Given the recent emergence of “bookless” libraries-of-the-future such as the Bexar County, TX public library and the Hunt Library at North Carolina State University, “circulation” as we have known it might be losing its prominence as a benchmark of successful libraries.

Much as we applaud that kind of creative thinking, it probably should not be coming from the part-time unpaid volunteer trustees – especially from the two newest ones – who are supposed to be focusing on overall Library policy and long-term Library operations from 30,000 feet rather than doing boots-on-the-ground micro-managing.  Such ideas, instead, should be coming from the well-paid full-time library professionals who already are “on the ground” on a forty-hour-per-week basis.

But full-time staff seems content to keep doing basically what it has been doing for years, give or take the occasional nip and tuck like the planned $15,000 “Digital Media Lab” that is intended to provide patrons with free access to hardware and software for creating media presentations, converting digital content from one format to another, and editing photos, music and video – at least some of which we understand are currently available from that local taxpaying business on Northwest Hwy. known as Kinko’s, albeit at a cost to the users rather than at a cost to the taxpayers.

That’s because the stereotypical government approach to increasing usage is with giveaways.  But when you’re the Library and you’re already giving away your visits, circulation and programs, new giveaways need to take the form of new services – even if it means unfairly competing (free versus paid) with an established, tax-paying business.

Which brings us to the title, and point, of today’s post.

We’re inviting you to offer your ideas for increasing the visits, circulation and program attendance of the Library.  And while ideas that could generate revenue for the Library and thereby reduce the funding burden on taxpayers would be preferred, we’ll publish whatever comes in.  As always, however, we reserve the right to criticize and, under appropriate circumstances, ridicule.

But don’t let that stop you…as if it ever has before.

[Note: The editor and publisher of this blog, Robert J. Trizna, is a member of the Park Ridge Library Board of Trustees.]

To read or post comments, click on title.

36 comments so far

It’s obviously news to you, but for most people the recession only started to ease in 2014. Read any financial publication and they’re still puzzling as to why people aren’t buying, speculating on every possible factor except the one that matters:wages are just now starting to creep up by a masterful 1.0 – 1.5% after freefall since 2008. Go figure.So anything the library attributes to the way-more-attenuated-than-you-think recession/recovery is accurate. And to annoy you further with a bolt from reality, former Mayor MaRous was the guy who originally was all about getting a coffee shop like Starbuck’s into the library — when there was still a prayer of expanding it, which we now know will never happen in your or the mayor’s lifetime. So a coffee shop is not a new idea. Not sure where you’d stick it given the current friendly confines. Throw out more books is most likely your solution, to make room for commerce.
Looks like the fight to save the library from the likes of you will be a long one. Sigh.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gee, Prof. Krugman, you’ve never been shy about signing your name to your economic articles before, although maybe you feel a tad awkward claiming that “for most people the recession only started to ease in 2014” when the NBER said it ended in June 2009.

As for Marous’s Library ideas, they had nothing to do with “expanding” the Library and everything to do with borrowing an additional $20 million and building a new one and/or putting retail on the Library Block, with or without the Library. But those darn November 2002 referendum voters nuked that first option 8,948 (60.73%) to 5,786 (39.27%) and nuked his second option 8,720 (60.16%) to 5,775 (39.84%).

Hey, the coffee shop isn’t a forgone conclusion: there’s always a chance that full-time staff might come up with a bunch of its own alternatives to evil “commerce” to improve the Library’s numbers.

I like the idea of the library selling coffee.

The library should consider allowing wine to be served at book club meetings. One would bring their own wine, but a corking fee and (glass rental).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wine at a book club meeting? That should bring the local WCTU adherents out of the woodwork.

My experience in a business of ideas is that we first have to decide what problem we’re solving.

Your question of “increasing the library’s usage” is right, though we should consider virtual as well as in-person usage.

A really key question is what we envision the library will be, what role in the Park Ridge community it will play, twenty years from now.

The easy/lazy answer is that we’ll have fewer books and more online resources, which might be true, but is not enough of a basis to generate ideas for the future.

Do we envision a rental center? A community help desk? A collection of software that augments human thinking — e.g., staff librarians would be research-minded and available to help residents get the most out of our virtual resources? Should the physical space be akin to the Ancient Greek agora — a central location for exchanges of ideas as well as a market for exchanging goods?

I’m purposely going “way out there” to demonstrate that we need to put some parameters around the brainstorming you invite. I believe the library board should indeed lead the way, working with the day-to-day staff.

In the interest of adding some perspective, here is just one of many thoughtful articles I found online:

Full disclosure, I am a regular user of the Library and voted against the recent tax increase because I did not want to demand that my neighbors subsidize my own frequent use of this wonderful resource.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks for the article, Mr. Schildwachter.

But you better wqtch out: not demanding that your neighbors subsidize your use of community resources could get you in trouble with the freeloaders union.

You seem to be asking for idea to increase attendance or usage of what the library is today. I do not have an answer to that question and my gut tells me that there is no answer at all. My feeling is that, as much as I have enjoyed public librarys in my life (including the PR library) it is a dying model. If it remains what it is today it will go away. Over time, there will be no need for it.

Put another way, the general services that people used to rely on the library for are now available at your fingertips in an instant. When I was growing up, if we were assigned a term paper we would have to use a library and all it’s resources to research and document that paper. All of that can be done today by typing in a few search words on google.

Go to the second floor magazine section and take a look at the average age of the magazine readers. There are no people in their teens, twenties or thirties reading magazines. The group who find having all those magazines available is getting smaller and smaller every year. Same with newspapers and (GASP!!) even books. Our schools are now accessing what used to be textBOOKS via Chromebooks.

The challenge for public libraries all over the county is to remain relevant. I think that may involve making some of the technologies that some of take for granted more readily available to all citizens. Of course these would be programs that you currently want to charge for.

In looking back and reading what I have written this really a poor answer but it is the best I have at the moment. I just know that the current model of a library for research and entertainment centered around books is a dying model. This information and entertainment is now available in a more timely more searchable more user friendly manner.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There is always an “answer” – and usually “answers” plural. They might not be easy ones, or great ones, or ones that can be easily and inexpensively implemented. But to say there aren’t any is the easy way, and the wrong way, out.

By the way, I guess I can see what they are getting at with the coffee idea, but the “800bl gorilla” of the coffee world is less that 50 yards across the street. I usually get a coffee at starbucks before going to the library. What are they going to do, ban outside beverages and force us to buy a really bad cup of coffee??

EDITOR’S NOTE: The idea appears to be providing high-quality coffee – Peet’s? Intelligentsia? – because it would be stupid to sell bad coffee.

Offer a tutorial on how to be a pain in the @$$ blogger.
I think I might know of a candidate to teach it .

The library needs to get in sync with the constituents most likely to visit. In our city the children and the retired.
For children the library needs to get in sync with d64 d207 and the private school curriculum and offer events/programs that coincide with programs/events at the schools. For instance during the science Olympiad offer some events that will help the kids get ready for it and offer them at times when kids can attend – after school and weekends.

For the elderly/retired offer events during the day geared around group/social activities to bring them in during the day and in groups.

A coffee/gift shop atmosphere will also help giving a Barnes and noble feel (though it didn’t work for borders).
The library also needs to focus on online Internet based usage as it is the future and brick and mortar often cannot be sustained without a significant online presence of its products and services.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s a gift, not something teachable.

Thank you for being “a pain in the @$$ blogger” who points out deficiencies in what our local governments are doing and not doing. The people who are paid to run the library should be expressing their concern about these numbers (if, as you point out, these numbers really matter) and coming up with ways to improve them.

Unlike one of your commentators, I did vote for the library referendum because I wanted to make sure the library had the resources to be open seven days a week and to get better, not stay the same.

I have been a regular at the Park Ridge Library for the past 15 years. It serves all my needs (I bring in my own laptop so I just use the WI-FI, but I agree that computer usage should have a charge attached). In those past 15 years, however, I have not seen much in the way of improvement that would lead me to believe that anybody is concerned with keeping up with the times, or serving any specific niche constituencies.

Aren’t you the one who goes on about some people dreaming that a department or big store would come to PR?? Getting Peet’s or intelligentsia to open and share revenues at the PR library??? Intellensia has only six locations in all of Chicago (the best coffee by the way!!). Peet’s has more but no locations in any librarys or public facilities.

If these businesses have not gone after the Chicago public library what makes you think they would have any interest in the PR public library. I suppose you could advertise that the PR café sells intelligentsia brand coffee.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t know whether or not any coffee shop (or any Blackhawk souvenir stand or other business) would have any interest in the Library, but we think it’s worth investigating.

As for coffee vendors not doing business with the Chicago public library, consider Park Ridge fortunate that it doesn’t have a mayor, aldermen, or Library trustees who expect several thousand dollars of campaign contributions (or some jobs for their relatives?) just to “consider” a vendor’s proposal; or inspectors and other bureaucrats who expect a gratuity to “expedite” permits.

I think that the staff and board need to expand their thinking. If the library were forced to get revenue from satisfying the patrons’ needs/wants, it would either flourish or die based on how well those needs are met. Instead, the taxpayers provide the revenue so the staff tries to cling to what was successful years and decades ago.

Here are some macro trends to consider:
– Availability of information via the internet means that someone no longer needs to go to a physical location (library, school, etc.) to obtain it.
– People want information, goods, and entertainment immediately, wherever they are. For example, people download music and books from Amazon and Apple rather than wait two days to have them delivered. Netflix has changed from a DVD delivery service to a download service to satisfy the “I want it now” mentality. (It’s also less expensive to provide content this way.)
– People under a certain age (30?, 40?, 50?) have no attachment to physical books or newspapers. They are satisfied with having the content be pushed to their mobile devices. That is, they don’t even want to ask for information more than once. They set up their information requests and then the information arrives with no effort on the users’ part.

So, is counting the patrons who walk through the door an appropriate measure of the library’s effectiveness? Probably not, in my opinion. Even if you could get them to come in for a cup of coffee.

I don’t have access to any demographic information, but I would guess that two groups of people use the physical resources of the library. Older people who have the time to browse and want to feel a physical book or newspaper as well as have some interaction with others. And families with young children who want to get out of the house, especially in the winter. The age group in between these wants information and entertainment on-demand on their mobile devices.

So how do we entertain and inform the very young and very old patrons in a physical location while providing for the needs of others without the need for them to visit the building?

More kids’ programs?
Additional group meetings for senior citizens?
Additional resources that can be pushed to patrons devices?
Better marketing of the resources that are currently available?

It would seem to me that a long-term strategic plan for the library would include a smaller physical footprint and a much larger virtual footprint to satisfy the needs of 21st century patrons. Does the library have a long-term strategic plan?

EDITOR’S NOTE: All good points.

One of the problems is that some of the Library’s data is virtually worthless, starting with the number of “visits” that merely count the number of threshhold crossings rather than the number of unique visitors – so that those 40,000 monthly “visits” might well be the same 4,000 people visiting 10 times per month, with one or more of those “visits” being trips outside for a smoke or to grab a cup of Starbucks.

What exactly do you mean by “a smaller physical footprint”; i.e., are you advocating knocking down the current building and replacing it – on that site or elsewhere – with a smaller building?

Maybe it’s time to sell the library? It really is the biggest cog in getting around Uptown. If attendance is down, why not build a more modern, but smaller building on a cheaper spot in town?

That giant space can be a million things…from a central shopping/parking/ walking spot for Uptown to a true “anchor” for Uptown. You know, an “anchor” that draws people to Uptown.

I know the historical freaks think it’s some special monument, because Hilary once coughed in there, but it’s just a brick building.

I’m not kidding. It seems the use is from older people and young kids, so why does it have to be on a giant parcel in the middle of Uptown???

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because attendance is down you expect the taxpayers to spend $10 million/$15 million/$20 million to “build a more modern, but smaller building on a cheaper spot in town”?

Okay, great…let’s put it to a binding referendum and see how well that trial baloon flies with the taxpayers. And let’s also toss in an advisory referendum on whether those same taxpayers want to blow up the current Library in order to put in “a central shopping/parking/ walking spot for Uptown to a true “anchor” for Uptown…that draws people to Uptown.”

Heck, we’ve already got the blueprint and marketing campaign for that brilliant idea from the last time it was trotted out back in 2003-04: Crate & Barrel, Barnes & Noble and Ann Taylor still work as target retailers, but you’ll need to come up with replacements for some of the others who were big in 2003-05 but no longer with us, like Borders.

Dear Editor,

I’m responding to your question about a smaller physical footprint.

I’m less familiar with the way that government entities operate but well run businesses will have a strategic plan that includes space and facility requirements. Where will the offices be located? How large will they be? How much product do the warehouses have to hold? Where are my customers? How will they obtain my product or service? What are the implications for my facilities? etc.

My premise is that through time, fewer people will want to get physical books and more will want digitized information. The implication is that the library will have fewer books and other materials in stock in physical form and more on computers. This will directly affect the space required.

Off the top of my head, here’s a model to consider for the long term. All books and magazines are provided in digital form. No printed materials are stocked. Kindles and iPads are lent to those who can’t afford them much like books are lent today. Community libraries cooperate to provide digital content for their patrons much like they share books today. The digital content is housed on servers at a business like Amazon Web Services. Most library patrons will access this information from a location other than the library.

This would imply that the library requires space for meetings and programs, a technology department, a resource/research department to show people how to obtain the digital content, and the “back office” work like purchasing, accounting, etc. No space would be required for books and materials. I would guess that this makes the facility requirements smaller rather than larger. Knock it down or renovate? I don’t know.

I have purposely said things like “No printed materials are stocked.” in order to challenge people’s thinking. I don’t think that this change should be made overnight but someone should start to consider the long-term implications of technology.

A good strategic plan requires a lot of effort and a lot of input. I’ve presented an outline on the spur of the moment, so please don’t ask me to defend it. I’m only trying to say that someone needs to be thinking about the current and future needs of library patrons and quit using early 20th century metrics (visits) for 21st century planning.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ve done a fine job of articulating a number of excellent points and considerations.

The two articles about bookless libraries embedded in the post, along with article embedded in Mr. Schildwachter’s comment, address your points and considerations. In this editor’s 3.5 years on the Library Board, no “strategic plan” worthy of that title has been discussed – just the need for more space and regular laments about not having more space, if only for meeting rooms, programs and activities.


To take your concept one step further, why would libraries even have to be responsible in anyway for the digitized content? If that content is already on the web, as most of it is at a cost, all the library would have yo do is provide “loaner” hardware and some subsidy for those who cannot afford it. That would reduce storage and general it costs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Library as portal instead of library as warehouse?

You guys are grotesque. Yes, in a hundred years we’ll all be getting our nutrition from a tube and obesity will be a thing of the past. So let’s get rid of all the restaurants today to be ahead of the curve. The Park Ridge Public Library is much more than a warehouse for books, despite that the rantings of the highly unimaginative Mr. Baldaccino and you for a decade. The fact that you can’t appreciate it doesn’t mean it’s not true. The mayor is complaining that he’s being maligned as a book-burner, but his insistence on having you and your clueless chopshop clones in charge of this precious community resource says residents have a reason to look at him this way. And if anybody ever thought you had a useful idea in re the Uptown retail issue, your idea to add yet another competitive, non-sales-tax-paying coffee purveyor to Uptown when Starbucks and Einstein are literally right across the street, should end your reign as economic development director du jour. Please, please, please think of some way to get us the $150 million we need to fix our antiquated City sewers, and leave off plaguing the one thing in this town that functions and meets many needs on the cheap!

EDITOR’S NOTE: If another vendor wants to invest his/her/its capital to enter into the existing coffee competition, why do you care – unless you’re one of those “managed economy” chuckleheads who applauded the City’s giveaway of multi-millions for the benefit of PRC in the Uptown TIF; or who wanted the City to give the developer of Whole Foods a couple million in sales tax revenue sharing; or who wants to waste taxpayer money bribing businesses to come to Park Ridge or stay here?

Fortunately, we’ve got a mayor who isn’t an irresponsible giveaway artist like his three predecessors who, more than likely, are heroes to somebody like yourself who expects others to “think of some way to get us the $150 million…to fix our antiquated City sewers.” Why not show up at a City Council meeting and ask them to try drilling for oil under the old City Garage buildings?

Yes. Hell there are books in the PR library that I bet are almost NEVER looked at. I wonder if they have any way of tracking that. If you consider that all these libraries (PR, Des Plaines, Glenview, etc, etc, etc) all maintain these inventories, why maintain multiple digital versions when there is virtually no need? Why incur the costs involved? The library would still be fulfilling one of it’s main missions, providing access to information, but simply doing it in a different way. Call it the library cloud.

EDITOR’S NOTE: After the Board meeting on December 16 this editor and the Library Board president found shelves of them just in the room adjacent to the lower level main meeting room – you could blow clouds of dust off them.

One of the reasons I chose to live in Park Ridge was that the library was front and center in the community. To me that meant that the residents valued knowledge and education and that was exactly the kind of place I wanted to raise my family.
I love Pat Lamb and Dean Parisi’s ideas about the coffee shop in the library. There is a lot of precedence for the idea that suggest it would work in a big way.

However, the thinking that libraries should and will go away just because we have computers is ridiculous. They used to use animal skins on which to write the Bible and historical documents; when they went to paper, the smell got less I imagine, but the ideas and words were still around AND the monks were probably complaining about the change. Thank goodness somebody captured the ideas and managed that transition or we would all be held hostage to the truth of blogs. 🙂

On other points…
Google can generate answers but in order to get a good answer, you have to ask an educated question. That’s the talent that trained librarians give an institution. Even one of Google’s directors said it would take Google probably 300 years to catch up with the way trained librarians search reference material.

The physical facility of the library will and should change over the next 50 years but the essence of the library shouldn’t. We still need to provide information and ideas to our citizens so that they are educated enough to make the world a better place for the next generation.

Particular suggestions would be to eliminate some of the stacks and really develop an electronic reading room. There would be screens instead of books and everyone would have access to their own protected flash drive or some sort of electronic storage device to “check out material”. You could preserve copyrighted materials that way and eliminate the storage and cost of books. The technology is out there – we just have to use it. Since new technology is often a barrier to getting a new or better job, there should be a part of the library dedicated to hands-on workforce training for laid-off workers and college kids who need to learn the skills involved for today’s business skills that they don’t give you in school. Although there are classes offered now, my idea would be more of a permanent, always open, part of the library which would stay up to date on every single new electronic way of oapturing information. Kind of a “Geek Squad” for the Library but a huge resource for the community. You could partner with local universities to staff the center and provide valuable internships for the students who do the work.

We all need to think “outside the box” if we want to make our community better.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Winston Churchill expressed two trenchant, and arguably conflicting, views of democracy: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”; and “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Fifty years after Churchill’s death, and with exponentially more “information” available through schools, libraries, the Internet and television that Churchill could have imagined, the second of his quotes seems more true than ever before – thereby challenging the validity of your “need to provide information and ideas to our citizens so that they are educated enough to make the world a better place for the next generation.”

Whether our Library should be a “hands-on workforce training center” and a quasi-“Geek Squad” to make up, in part, for inadequate education – at taxpayer rather than user expense? – suggests a further change in the Library’s mission and a further expansion of the nanny-state. But those ideas nevertheless deserve serious debate.


Please do not take my comments in the wrong way. I LOVE the library. It has been a tremendous recourse for my family.

You call it “the one thing in this town that functions and meets many needs on the cheap!” That is all well and good but it would appear that it is meeting the needs of a smaller and smaller group if the circulation numbers are to be believed.

Are you saying that the library staff, board and all of us should not be considering what the library is and will be in the future inlight of changing technology. Videos, newspapers, magazines, network TV, all are loosing readers/viewers. Most book stores are dying on the vine as people read the latest novel on their kindles. If walk through the library you will find stacks of books, magazines, newspapers and videos that people are using less and less. You want to simply ignore it??

How about you take a deep breath and realize that just because I want to take a hard look at what the library is and can be does not mean I want to kill it off.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Accusing change agents of trying to kill off what they are trying to change CAN be a legitimate position – but in this case it sounds as if it’s a veiled argument for more lethargy and inertia because undemanding patrons and accommodating staff are content with the same old same old.

PS I think we should follow Oak Park’s lead and pay all our bills with an American Express or some other “give back program” credit card and give the money generated to the library.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Worth some consideration.

Random thoughts –

Who is the target audience? It sounds like it’s young children and seniors. At the risk of sounding like a book burner, get rid of the books that aren’t used or can be accessed via inter-library loan, clear out some space for meeting rooms or other gatherings. Charge a fee to groups that want to rent the space. Allow those groups to have food catered in for luncheon or dinner meetings.

I rarely use the library any more, my Kindle serves me well and the library’s digital consortium was just frustrating so I quit using it. I have other resources available. I did support the referendum, though not whole heartedly. I’m glad the library isn’t any larger than it is, I don’t see a need for it to be any larger. Has staff looked at what programs are being successfully marketed in other communities? Are they programs that could work in Park Ridge?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The way the Library operates its programs – especially its children’s programs – is a goat rodeo. No charge, no reservation or commitment required (drop-in if you feel like it, or not), 5-10 attendees for events held in a 90+ person room, and a whole bunch of head-scratching from staff when questions are asked.

And the program attendance figures were produced only after they were demanded by Library Board members in an attempt to understand why program attendance had fallen precipitously since 2013-14 (by over 3,000 year-to-date) to its lowest point in at least 5 years.

Gee there’s a coffee shop across the street.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gee, you noticed! And another coffee/bagel shop a few doors south of it. And another coffee shop a block east of there. And a bakery/coffee shop across the street from it.

Want to count nail salons next?

Not sure that a coffee shop is a game changer for Library attendance, but how can it hurt?

I agree with the commentators who question whether attendance is a true measure of success (and whether, as this editor points out, that measure is accurate on its face) and whether the virtual library is where we should be heading. Somebody needs to start asking these questions, however, and I’m glad our library board members are doing so.

Go all digital and swap spaces with the Police Department. Two problems solved just like that. You are welcome.

EDITOR’S NOTE: But what about all that deadly black mold?

the library probably has its own supply of mold with some of those books…


Or maybe it’s just mildew…


Teri Collins, thanks for signing your name to comments that are thoughtful and useful. I agree it’s kind of a cop-out to just say “oh, computers will replace all this” — and equally a cop-out to defend the status quo.

“Staff has tried to blame the decline on ‘The Recession,’ or on the ‘recovery’ from The Recession.

That would be because staff members live in the real world where the negative effects of the Recession didn’t just end cause the Great Recession supposedly ended in 2009. We were the ones who actually had contact with the community everyday (as opposed to yourself) and heard the stories and saw the effects of it all (not to mention witness the dramatic rise that coincided with those years).

“Although circulation did increase during The Recession, it actually continued to go up in the first four years following the official end to The Recession – in June 2009, according to the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of such dates.”

See comment about the negative effects that came about after the Great Recession was supposed to have ended. It didn’t all just reset the second the pronouncement was made that the Recession was over. You still had people in trouble with their houses, you still have people out of work (or being let go then having to take jobs at a fraction of what they earned before). It’s not hard to imagine at all that the numbers would rise dramatically (as they did across the country at libraries) for years after. It’s normalizing now because conditions are better (nearly ten years after it all went downhill).

I understand for your agenda it’s best to focus on this trope “The Great Recession ended in 2009” but it’s unrealistic not to consider the severe economic damage that was done to the nation and people’s lives by that Recession and that it might take a little while to get over it.

Now one thing that might help the library is to have members of the board who are genuinely concerned with improving the library as opposed to nickel and diming it to death and presenting a very unwelcoming atmosphere with negative attitudes and comments in meetings and on personal blogs. Not to mention the delightful attitude they have toward the staff with comments like this:

“But full-time staff seems content to keep doing basically what it has been doing for years, give or take the occasional nip and tuck like the planned $15,000 ‘Digital Media Lab'”

A Digital Media Lab is a fantastic idea that probably would increase usage (which is no doubt why your so concerned about implementing it). Be that as it may, if you remember, for the past several years, thanks to the need for the city to use the library as a scapegoat, full time staff has pretty much had to concentrate on continuing service with an increase in usage (which you yourself admit to) and a decreasing budget.

But then again, I guess that’s hard for people who don’t use the library to understand.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ah, Ms. Enright, welcome back. We’ve missed your unverifiable anecdotes, idle speculation, outright fiction, and self-aggrandizement.

If you don’t believe the NBER ‘s data-based findings (i.e., not a “trope” in any sense of that word) that The Recession ended in June 2009, please provide your data that the economy is only “normalizing now because conditions are better” here in Park Ridge.

This editor cannot speak for other Board members, but he visits the Library at least once a week, on average. And unlike yourself, neither he nor the other Library Board members are getting paid by the taxpayers to be there.

Not surprisingly, you beef about Library employees “continuing service with an increase in usage…and a decreasing budget” when private sector employees have been doing that for years, without the pay raises and guaranteed pensions that public employees keep getting, and without the security of knowing that their employer can’t move out of state or out of the country for economic reasons.

But we guess that’s hard for people who have made a career of feeding from the public trough to understand.

I have read a number of Ms. Enright’s comments to posts on this blog and to library articles in the Herald-Advocate without hearing any original ideas from her about how to make the library better. She just complains about how badly staff is treated and how low morale is. Maybe she and any of her fellow workers who feel so mistreated should consider looking for other employment where they will be as appreciated as they think they deserve to be.

EDITOR’S NOTE: She has no ideas: The best she can muster is her “Me too!” endorsement of a free/no-charge-to-use (but taxpayer funded) $15,000 Digital Media Lab as being “a fantastic idea that probably would increase usage” – albeit just as “probably” at the expense of the tax-paying Kinko’s on Northwest Hwy.

Based on the limited information readily available to the public – without FOIA requests and fights about them, that is – it appears that none of our local governmental units lose many employees to competing governmental bodies. Over the past 20 years we unaware of any school superintendent quitting to take another job, or a police or fire chief doing so. And the only Park Board executive director to leave (Ray Ochromowicz) reportedly did so to take a bigger and better job in his home town.

The same seems true with lower-level managers and staff people in each of those governmental bodies, so we’re guessing the pay-to-mistreatment ratio must pretty much favor Park Ridge employment.

Addressing the idea of selling coffee inside the library, what would be the point? Beside the fact that there are NUMEROUS coffee places just outside the library doors, where on Earth would you suggest putting it or any other vendor for that matter? There’s not a lot of room for it in there.

There is also a bit of a mixed message here. You have no problem with the idea of adding a coffee vendor to compete with the coffee businesses across the street, yet you have a problem with a Digital Media Lab because it is “at the expense of the tax-paying Kinko’s on Northwest Hwy.” How is that different from the tax-paying coffee businesses? Is the difference for you that it’s not the businesses you have a problem competing with in the library, it’s the fact that the library may be offering the use of the lab for free and the coffee will be paid for? By the way, per the 9/16/14 Library Board minutes p. 4, the Digital Media Lab will be paid for by the Bruce A. Michel Trust fund and is not “taxpayer funded” as you stated in your comments.

As for Ms. Enright’s “unverifiable anecdotes, etc.”, according to a Pew Research Center article dated June 23, 2014, the economic recovery after the most recent Recession, is less than stellar. According to their research, “the current recovery is among the weakest on record, particularly given its duration. Unless the economy’s official scorekeepers change their minds, the recovery already has lasted 60 months — the fifth-longest expansion since the end of World War II.” That being said, along with your link showing Circulation history and Library visits history, it does explain why the library numbers were higher just after the Recession began AND the following Recovery period vs. the numbers before the Recession hit, and why they are now receding. In addition, I have read about your questions regarding the Library visits and the viability of their data. However, I have never heard one suggestion on how you would consider doing it any other way. Unless you wanted each person that visits the library to sign in and out, is there another way?

And lastly, unless the Meeting Room is reserved for another function, what difference does it make if there are only 10 children in attendance for a program? I would dread the thought of there being too many more than that! Filling a 90+ person room with small children would be a nightmare! Be advised, I am not in favor of “more lethargy and inertia” nor am I “content with the same old same old”. (I LOVE Teri Collins suggestion about the American Express program that the Oak Park Library is utilizing…Brilliant!) But I am NOT in favor of digitizing the entire library and using ILL for getting books….talk about expecting OTHER taxpayers to take care of us! The Library is supposed to be for everyone, whether or not they have a device to read with. Everything in the library, including the programs SHOULD be free of charge unless there is a speaker or a materials fee. That’s why I voted in favor of the referendum and pay taxes in this town.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You seem to recognize yet not understand the distinction between the taxpayer-funded, free Library competing unfairly against privately-funded, for-profit private enterprises – as well as the distinction between The Recession and the “recovery.” Also, money from the Bruce A. Michel Trust IS “taxpayer funds” because those funds were already donated to the Library and, therefore, already belong to the taxpayers.

Before this editor got on the Library Board and complained about the unreliability of the Library’s numbers, monthly “visits” were actually labeled as “visitors,” implying that these could somehow be 40,000 unique individuals using the Library every month! But if the Library can’t provide honest, accurate numbers, Staff should stop holding them out to the public without any qualifications or explanations of how suspect and inaccurate they might be. And if Staff really wanted to keep better track of visitors or visits, it should require cardholders to swipe their cards each time they come in; and make non-cardholder visitors sign in.

If programs held in a 90+ person room attract only 10 people, then it’s time the existing space was re-configured or Staff came up with better programs that attract more people – neither of which Staff seems able to grasp. But nobody on this Library Board has ever suggested “digitizing the entire library,” so stop making up red herrings like that.

Finally, if everybody in this town had your attitude and demanded everything for “free” just because they pay taxes, those taxes would be a whole lot higher. And were that to happen, you and your fellow freeloaders would likely be the first ones to bail – but only after you had sucked as much out the public trough as you could.

FYI – A bunch of ideas from an article about the Sacramento Public Library!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Generating revenue through operations is as welcome as the plague to current Staff, as it was to previous Library Board majorities.

Oh, I understand AND recognize the distinctions. But, what I don’t understand is how you can possibly entertain the idea of a coffee vendor inside the library that would directly compete with the tax-paying coffee businesses across the street, yet when the Digital Media Lab is brought up, you state that it is “at the expense of the tax-paying Kinko’s on Northwest Hwy.” How do the situations differ? It seems either way, the coffee or the Lab, the Library would be competing with a tax-paying business.
And I ALSO understand the distinction between the Recession and the Recovery, unless per my links I am missing something. In addition, I also understand the difference between taxpayer funded and donated. By definition, the money was donated into a trust, but is now owned by the taxpayers. That does not mean that the money came from the taxpayers.
As for your suggestion that library visitors “swipe their cards each time they come in” – into what would they swipe their cards? To my knowledge there is no such device that does that at the library. And if you are suggesting the Library purchase this device, how much does this cost and who would pay for it? Maintain it? Track the data? Compile the data? All interesting questions.
Reconfigure the meeting room space? How does THAT get paid for?
And I never stated that anyone “on the Library Board suggested digitizing the entire library”, but a poster on your blog did mention it and I was simply addressing their statement, so please do not accuse me of making up “red herrings”.
Finally, I am in NO WAY demanding that everything should be free just because I pay taxes. I pay for plenty more than just my taxes. However, historically this Library has ALWAYS been free. I have lived here all my life, give or take a couple of years, and have never had to pay for any programs, dating all the way back to the ‘60s, and I resent the fact that because I question that you want to change the rules and start charging taxpayers for Library programs that I am considered a “freeloader”, sucking what I can out of the public trough. If that is what you think, then generations of taxpayers that have lived in this town are guilty of the same thing and I seriously doubt that they would call themselves freeloaders, or any other vile term.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, clearly you don’t – because, if you did, you wouldn’t be asking “[h]ow do the situations differ” between a private, for-profit vendor in the Library competing against other for-profit vendors across the street, and the taxpayer-subsidized Digital Media Lab providing fee services in competition against a for-profit tax-paying Kinko’s.

And you clearly don’t understand that money “donated into a trust” managed by the Library (a/k/a the City) is no less “taxpayer money” than if it had come from the taxpayers through taxes. While it is limited to being spent on technology, it spends the same way as tax dollars.

As for swipe card visitor counting, it would need to be part of a more comprehensive system that would also involve self-checkout of books/materials and other usages. And it would need to be paid for by savings in other areas, such as personnel costs, just as meeting room reconfiguration would need to be paid for by better space utilization that includes rentals and charges for programs.

Finally, those previous “generations of taxpayers” were guilty of the same thing, but primarily because of mayors and aldermen over the past 25 years who neglected infrastructure in order to fund the FREE Library, along with those private community groups and higher employee wages and benefits, etc. but didn’t have the decency or the nerve to tell those previous generations of taxpayers the truth or risk waking them up (and ticking them off) by raising taxes to the level needed to cover all those costs. Folks like yourself, however, have been told all this by the current mayor and City Council, yet you still demand FREE services.

Which is why you most certainly are a freeloader.

“Ah, Ms. Enright, welcome back. We’ve missed your unverifiable anecdotes, idle speculation, outright fiction, and self-aggrandizement”

Oh I think you have a lot on all that, Mr. T.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes I do, Ms. E, and I thank you for being such a ready, willing and able source of it.

Annonymous wrote: “I have read a number of Ms. Enright’s comments to posts on this blog and to library articles in the Herald-Advocate without hearing any original ideas from her about how to make the library better. She just complains about how badly staff is treated and how low morale is. Maybe she and any of her fellow workers who feel so mistreated should consider looking for other employment where they will be as appreciated as they think they deserve to be.”

Uhm…I don’t write articles for the Advocate, Anonymous. I wrote some letters in response to letters with thoughts I found objectionable. I wasn’t aware every letter I wrote had to include original ideas on how to make the library better. Some of those letters addressed how ignorant the attitude of a few of the board members were to the staff. I find it interesting that your solution to this is that those staff members who feel mistreated should get different jobs (as opposed to the board members no longer insulting the staff). It’s a sad attitude, but not surprising. Talk about no new ideas, Anonymous.

“EDITOR’S NOTE: She has no ideas: The best she can muster is her “Me too!” endorsement of a free/no-charge-to-use (but taxpayer funded) $15,000 Digital Media Lab as being “a fantastic idea that probably would increase usage” – albeit just as “probably” at the expense of the tax-paying Kinko’s on Northwest Hwy.”

I’m sorry, Mr. Trizna, I thought you were seeking new ways to increase usage of the library. I repeat, a digital studio would be a great way to increase usage (which of course is what I think concerns you so much, Mr. Trizna, because you don’t actually want to increase usage). Isn’t that what we’re looking for here. A way to increase usage. And since I understand that the money to fund it will come from a trust, it won’t cost the taxpayers. Now I don’t know how much business it will take away from Kinko’s (I suspect not much) but you didn’t seem overly concerned about “the private merchant” when I pointed out business that could be lost by public officials making ignorant statements about nonresidents.

You asked for ways to increase usage. I mentioned that I think the lab would be a great way to do that. And now you’re knocking me for that. I guess there really is no pleasing you, is there?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We subscribe to Winston Churchill’s observation: “My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best.” Actually, this editor would settle for “very good,” only you don’t seem able to come within a $10 cab ride of that standard, either.

As for any allegedly lost “business” due to “public officials making ignorant statements about nonresidents,” no non-resident “business” appears to have been lost – only the “welfare” for those non-resident parasites who previously accounted for roughly 1,530 free computer usages each month but who stopped coming to our Library once they started being charged for the privilege. And while I’d like to be able to give you the “business” figures (a/k/a “revenue”) from the Library’s pay-to-play non-resident policy, executive “Staff” doesn’t seem to want to include those figures in the Library Board’s monthly meeting packets or financials.

The more freebie uses the Library gives away, the more parasitic non-resident “users” the Library can attract; and the more job security (and hours) staff members like you can enjoy – which means more compensation for you that far exceeds whatever few extra dollars those giveaways might cost you as a Park Ridge taxpayer. No wonder you like being garage-kept by the taxpayers.

Finally, this editor would prefer to increase usage AND revenue. Unfortunately, Staff seems to be struggling to do the former, and clearly has no interest whatsoever in doing the latter unless it comes through taxing the taxpayers.

“Also, money from the Bruce A. Michel Trust IS “taxpayer funds” because those funds were already donated to the Library and, therefore, already belong to the taxpayers.”

These funds are given to the library specifically for new technology and media and their use has to be approved by the Michel Trust. They don’t “belong” to the taxpayers quite as completely as you seem to imply.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just because they can only be used for a particular Library purpose doesn’t make them any less the property of the taxpayers.

According to the Minutes of the Regular Meeting of the Board of Trustees dated September 16, 2014, Mr. Egan clearly stated “that NO TAXPAYER FUNDS would be used for this media lab: that the funding would be strictly from the Bruce A. Michel Trust.” By that description, the Trust is NOT “taxpayer money”, and it is NOT a “taxpayer-subsidized Digital Media Lab”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We suspect Mr. Egan meant “tax dollars” instead of “taxpayer funds.” But if not, we have to disagree because the funds in that trust already have been given to the Library (a/k/a, the taxpayers) but are earmarked solely for technology use.

“Just because they can only be used for a particular Library purpose doesn’t make them any less the property of the taxpayers.”

True, but the donors have given the money with certain stipulations regarding its use. Your initial comment suggested that you disapproved of how the money was being used. Have you told the Michel Trust representatives how you feel about this?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Those certain stipulations don’t change the nature of those funds: they still are the property of the Library (a/k/a the taxpayers) but limiited to a particular purpose.

Not sure bringing in a 3rd party to sell coffee/tea/etc is the right call — why not put a Keurig machine and charge a buck a cup?

Why doesn’t the library reach out to for help? The American Library Association/Public Library Association Division is a great resource

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because nobody seems to want the Library to be in the coffee/tea/etc. “business” if no private enterprise sees any opportunity in it.

As for the ALA being “a great resource,” it most definitely is – if you’re looking for unlimited ways to spend as much taxpayers’ money as possible, which should be expected from an organization that is, effectively, a quasi-union for librarians and library staff members. Not unlike the National Recreation Association, the Illinois Association of Park Districts, the Illinois City / County Management Association, the Illinois Association of Municipal Management Assistants, etc.

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