epic fail in library public relations

18 September 2009 § 3 Comments

last year i supported several political movements: i believe in change and hope; that homosexual couples deserve the right to marry the ones they love; that former comedians can actually make decent senators; that crazy dudes who crash planes and women who shoot moose and have no concept of foreign policy don’t belong in the white house, and lastly, that if you and your neighbors are rich enough to afford a Tesla, you better give money to your local library. although i don’t live in the jurisdiction, i emailed everyone i knew in palo alto and urged them to vote yes on measure M for their libraries.

thankfully, measure M passed and granted funding for the palo alto libraries to update their aging and overused buildings. that measure M passed is in itself a huge victory in a time when entire library systems face closure. any library supporter should find joy in this victory, as i did. however, i was unaware that the planning commission would say such a thing as this in regards to the redesign of the downtown library branch :

“The program room is such an integral part of the new design,” Commissioner Leo Hochberg said. “Sacrificing that for dead trees — it doesn’t make sense.”

what library commisioner leo hochberg is alluding to is the reallocation of space that is currently available in the main library. while the library was eager to raise the height of shelves to over 80 inches (and even the current 56-inch shelves are often cumbersome to shorter or wheelchair-bound patrons), they refused to budge on the size of the community meeting room.

but let me get this straight: you are on a library commission and you just referred to books–the mainstay of your library’s collection–as “dead trees” ? not kosher. while i do agree that library meeting rooms are vital assets to the community and the organisation as a whole, i feel that referring to your holdings in such a derogatory manner exemplifies the nasty sentiment that libraries are becoming old hat to most people, just a big building full of books and curt old ladies. as an ambassador to the community, you, mr. hochberg, are doing a lousy job of portraying the library in a positive light.

no mention is made in the above article about increasing the number computer kiosks, electronic resources, or up-and-coming technologies yet to be adopted by the library. mr hochberg’s statement makes it seem like the library’s purpose is to house a community meeting place and some silly old books. those “dead trees” are still important, as are the community rooms, online databases, audiobooks, outreach programs, special collections and the reference staff. the library is way more than just books.

in my opinion, the best thing a library can do to enhance it’s environment, bring people in, and serve information to the masses is to have good PR. get word out about your services, your assets, and why people need the library in their lives.

bad move, leo hochberg. you and the palo alto daily news can expect a letter from me.


weekends at bellevue

9 August 2009 § Leave a comment

i just finished reading “weekends at bellevue”, julie holland’s account of the nine years she served as the weekend attending at bellevue hospital’s psychiatric emergency room. my coworker helen discovered the pre-pub copy floating in our midst among the various advanced readers we get every week, but as soon as i saw the subtitle “nine years on the night shift at the psych er”, i knew i had to read it. i’m fascinated by medicine, psychiatry, the human mind, and of course all the strange things our bodies do to us.

helen finished reading the book in three days, and handed it over with the warning that it was “kinda testosterony”. indeed it is, with holland explaining her way through her medical school and residency days as one of the boys with a bravado reminiscent of anthony bourdain. her tales of psychiatric patients–from addicts to murderers to sociopaths to schizophrenics–are completely engrossing in the way that mary roach can make you care about a dead body or a sex change operation. interwoven between these stories is holland’s experience with her own psychotherapist, her relationship with a cancer-surviving butch lesbian from the south, and her coping with the tragedy of 9/11. the book offers a unique perspective on how a doctor treats some of the sickest patients in new york city and how she is treated herself.

i see part of myself in julie holland, the tough, no-nonsense bravado that a girl has to put on to be loved by her father and accepted by the guys, the rock-and-roll exterior and the soft, empathic woman inside. i even considered medical school myself, though i’m sure holland is much better equipped than i when it comes to dealing with a man who murdered his own son or a schizophrenic who pushes a young woman to her death. a residency at bellevue sounds interesting but not worth the medical school bills. stick with reading the book for now.

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