Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Crank it out!

May is our “crank it out” month. Students may see it as the end of the school year, but we see it as the last chance to get them the word about our upcoming summer programs at the library system. Staff members check with our local business supporters to see if they will help us by underwriting our many entertainers, refreshments, and craft supplies. Schedules are created for each library, and flyers are printed, checked, printed, check, and the final versions are then sorted and distributed to all the schools to go out in the weekly packets to the parents. This year, we printed over 4,400 flyers for the children and teens.

It is also the time of the year that the Friends of the Chambers County Library System summer newsletter is produced. Over 300 of these gems highlight both library activities and the events sponsored by the Friends. One of those major fund raising efforts was held May 17; the first Gently Used Book Sale of the season brought in several hundred dollars to be put to use in our summer program efforts. Winnie has scheduled a sale June 6 & 7, and Mont Belvieu will finish off summer reading with one in mid-July.

Pride in our Young Adults at Anahuac should be felt by all our citizens. For over three months, teens at the library planned and executed "Ana-Con," an Anime & Gaming Conference day, which was held on Saturday, May 10, from 10 am to 10 pm. Over 100 youth attended from as far away as Sugarland; they heard about it through our Teen Blog on the library webpage and through the library MySpace account, as well as through flyers that the teens produced. The event was wildly successful by any account; and once again, we have Valerie Jensen, Assistant County Librarian, to thank for her guidance and encouragement of the teens.

A visit from Lee College Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) director Jane Brody provided her with the opportunity to introduce her new representative to our library service area. Vanessa Kyle, education specialist, will be visiting the Anahuac and Winnie libraries on a monthly basis to provide assistance to adults interested in starting college, getting a GED, finding financial aid, etc. We have been partnering with the EOC since its inception, and we have even recently hired one of the women who went through the program. The EOC offices are located at San Jacinto Mall, and anyone in the area is welcome to visit there anytime, but occasionally, people with transportation problems find it easier to start at the local library.

The end of the month brought a wonderful Houston Area Library System workshop to Beaumont, and Jackie Brookshire, Melba Prinz, and A. Lynette Parsons attended. The director of the Clayton Genealogical Library in Houston, one of the top 10 genealogy libraries in the country, presented the program. As a result of what we heard and learned, we are planning some library field trips for August and September to take local family history buffs into Clayton; we are looking at upgrading some of our basic “how to” materials at Winnie and Mont Belvieu; and we are planning to work closely with our stalwart new webpage designers (Kathy Fielding and Valerie Jensen) to insure that our local genealogy patrons will have excellent access to materials and resources through the webpage. Not bad for some continuing education training; we’re grateful to the County for putting these travel and training funds into the library system budget.


Edible Books!

April 1 may be April Fool’s Day, but in Chambers County Library System terms, it’s the day for the local version of the International Edible Book Festival! Our nearly annual event (last year April 1 was on Sunday) is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, and our entries this year featured a wide and wild variety of thought and execution of items that had some connection to books, and which were, in the end, edible. Staff member Melba Prinz, in her first year of work and her first entry to the competition, ran off with the Vox Populi award with her “A Man, A Can, A Plan” entry, a take-off on a man’s cookbook. We have such fun with these events, and appreciate the Friends for sponsoring them for us. The public enjoys it too, of course, but the staff just can’t wait to see what the next person brings in. It’s part joke, part genius, and all pleasure.

National Library Week, and the Texas Library Association Conference at Dallas occurred simultaneously this year. Assistant County Librarian Valerie Jensen attended, and she had a variety of duties in her committee work with the state as regards Young Adults. In addition to the announcement that the Chambers County Library System picked up three Texas Book Festival grants (one for each branch!), Valerie was recognized for her work this past year in the Young Adult field. And library page Ashli Pingry, and Teen Board member Maritza Hernandez both attended on special scholarships from TLA; they spoke at programs relating to teen activities in the library and helped authors at the vendor areas during autograph sessions. Chambers County was well represented this year.

Movie attendance at the West Chambers Branch, Mont Belvieu continues to prove that the gas price increases are only going to make local event programming more popular. Mont Belvieu is the only one with a regularly scheduled monthly feature film program; the other two branches use the film copyright permissions in other programming venues, and anyway you look at it, having this copyright license as part of our package to provide service to the public has been a great incentive for folks to come to the libraries to take advantage of all the services we offer.


Staff Changes and Technology Tremors

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We had a few personnel changes this month, but with some fast on-the-spot training, our new people have shaken off the first terrors and are starting to recognize the patterns for service in the public library world. We spent a lot of time trying to reconfigure staff hours; we are still so desperately in need of people at all three sites that we are sending folks from branch to branch when our usual people can’t be there.
The continuing updates on our webpage are proving fun to see and generating a lot of comment from the public. Photos taken by the staff now show up regularly, featuring programs and new items at the library. Case in point: our Easter Bunny, who had story hour in front of the new mural at the West Chambers Branch. What a fun picture to show folks about our children’s programs! Staff members continue to work with our consultant on full redevelopment of our webpage.
Technology drives a lot of work we do these days, of course. We’ve added a couple of new statistics: Patron Remote logons and Teen Blog hits. As our patrons get used to using our new (wonderful!) software, they are beginning to make use of their own passwords to alter their accounts and to make the software work best for them. This statistic will be interesting to watch as the patrons doing this increases. Our Teen Blog, which shows as a link on our homepage, has been up for over a year, and is increasingly popular. And our recent cooperative agreement with the folks at Wii provided us not only with equipment, but with the opportunity to have a contest for some Wii software. Needless to say, our young winner was thrilled, and got his photo in the paper to boot!
And finally, on the technology front, Teen Tech Week (March 3-8) provided Anahuac teens the opportunity to read chapters from a book. The end result? A talking book on cd that students in the county will be able to check out.
Several staff members attended workshops on the upcoming summer reading program and on teen programming. Chambers County hosted one session, which allowed more attendance; and Assistant County Librarian Valerie Jensen was the trainer for that afternoon session and for 3 others in the greater Houston area. It’s awfully nice to have a statewide-recognized young adult guru in our library system!
I mentioned staff shortages earlier – a HUGE thanks go to all those who jumped the river or became quick-change artists to keep our children’s programs going this past few weeks. Cat in the Hat, Easter Bunny, and special guest story hour readers came to our rescue so the children would not be disappointed, and that willingness to go the extra mile is what makes the Chambers County Library System staff the best!


Lots of February Busy-ness!

The annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Chambers County Library System was held on February 9 this year. The Friends, as an independent group of library supporters and cardholders, is a vital link for the library system to the community at large. Over 250 individuals and business owners hold membership, and their dues, coupled with fund raisers, make up the bulk of funds used by the library staff for programming supplies. They have also been able to provide us with additional equipment and furniture over the years that could not be purchased otherwise. The meeting was lively, and our new Executive Board promises to be enthusiastic and dedicated.

The Library Advisory Board met the following Tuesday, and an orientation meeting of sorts was held for those attending. Development of library system policies is the job of the Advisory Board, and they are also instrumental as part of the process when challenges are made to books in the collection. Library Board members are nominated and approved through Commissioners’ Court, and are thus a part of the administrative arm of the County. They are strictly advisory, however, as their name implies; execution of the library system and County policies are carried out by the County Librarian and the staff. The Advisory Board meets 4 times a year, and is composed of 7 members residing across the county.

Cheryl Attaway, who serves at both the Anahuac and Winnie branches, completed the fifth of her training workshops to receive her Small Library Management certification. This program is sponsored by the Texas State Library and Archives, and Rhonda LeBlanc, Kathy Fielding, and Susie Davis have now all completed the program. Such training gives the “off the street” library workers a chance for some serious looks at things the “professional” librarians learn in graduate school. Topics covered include the budget process, technology, and reference interview skills. Training for these staff members has been paid over the years with a combination of funds from the County budget and from grant funds through the Tocker Foundation in Austin.

CCLS hosted 20 librarians from libraries in the area on the 21st, for a gathering of the “Southeast Region Small Community Libraries Group”. This semi-annual meeting gives us a chance to compare problems, discuss issues going on at the State Library and the Houston Area Library System, and to work on solutions to daily library operations. The Friends of CCLS came through as usual to provide refreshments for the group.

On the Young Adult Front, this month’s activity at Anahuac included a program called “Pimp My Bookcart”, and the library is now the proud owner of an alligator! The teens used plywood and paint, among other things, to create the new creature. The younger set were involved in a coloring contest to win a new Wii Game, and the winner was D’Shaun Richardson

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