Library of Michigan Dispatch Newsletter: September 2019

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Library of Michigan Dispatch Newsletter  -  September 2019

In this Issue:

New MeLCat Search Widgets Now Available

MeL Logo

by Randy Riley, State Librarian, LM

Remember when the Michigan eLibrary (MeL) had a search widget that matched the color scheme? Those days are back. We have created an updated widget in two sizes with what we think is a more modern and attractive look. What's more, you can have your choice of Classic MeLCat with author/title/keyword searching or the new Encore search. Libraries across the state have expressed a desire to have this kind of search capability again and we listened. We know that having this option is important to you and your patrons.

As always, is your one-stop shop for MeL support so both widget sizes are available on the site in the Library Staff section under MeLCat Search Boxes.  There you will find screen shots of the widgets and the code that you can pick up and drop into your own library or school site. The CSS is built in and the images reference back to so you don't need to upload any associated files to your own server, just add the code snippet to your page where you want it to appear. We've made it easy.

Are you one of Michigan's 120+ Ploud libraries? We've got code customized for you. One of the widgets is perfectly sized for the Ploud portlets and you can find instructions and Ploud-specific code in the Ploud Help Desk.

If you have concerns about MeL or any other Library of Michigan (LM) program let us know. Do not hesitate to reach out and start a conversation. Meeting the needs of Michigan’s diverse library community remains a top priority.

Library Lovers Live in Canton

Community Relations staff of Canton Public Library

by Laurie Golden, Community Relations, Canton Public Library

“I know you!” declares a young boy, as he flings his front door wide open to greet a group of visitors. “You’re from the library.”

Donning distinctive, brightly-colored T-shirts, the visitors indeed were from the Canton Public Library (CPL), out making one of many stops in Canton, a community whose residents show their love for the library on their lawns.

“Library Lovers Live Here” signs dot the yards, gardens and apartment windows of Canton. The library’s Prize Patrol cruises neighborhood streets armed with a supply of library swag bags, on the lookout for signs. When they spot one, they spring into action like a SWAT team, pouring out of the vehicle and knocking on the door of the home. Residents are surprised and delighted to answer the door and find library staff with a bag of goodies.

Laurie Golden, Department Head of Community Relations, coordinates the Prize Patrol. She said the library has distributed more than 1,200 Library Lover signs since the program began in 2016, and visits around 75 homes each summer. "The Prize Patrol makes a connection with our community and is a serendipitous way for us to show our appreciation for our patrons," she says. "It’s important for us to get out of our building and demonstrate how the library supports the community every day and everywhere."   

Staff from all departments are encouraged to participate on the Prize Patrol. Heading out in teams of three to five people, they hand out branded library bags stuffed with coupons from community partners, including the Friends of the Library: sunglasses, stickers, hats, water bottles, chip clips, and more. And although the recipients are excited to get a swag bag, staff also takes a lot away from the interaction.

"It feels great to see how much our community appreciates us. They tell us how much they love the library, that their kids have been waiting for a visit from the Prize Patrol, that the CPL is the best library ever. You can see what a difference you make for them."

The Prize Patrol grows in popularity each summer, and the team has a hard time keeping up with visits. “We try to spread the love, but we can’t get to every house,” says Program Librarian Nichole Welz. “But there’s always next summer.”

Announcing Rural Libraries Conference 2020

Conference attendees

by Evette Atkin, Continuing Education Coordinator, LM

Join us at Michigan’s premier conference for small and rural libraries. 2020 is quickly approaching and here at the LM, we are in full swing preparing for the 2020 Loleta Fyan Small & Rural Libraries Conference (SRLC). This year the conference will be back at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa outside of Traverse City April 13-15. This year's theme is Library Leadership: Dream. Believe. Achieve.

This popular and valuable professional development event includes general sessions, author talks, and a wide assortment of sessions in a variety of tracks. Registration opens in Winter 2020. For the most up-to-date conference information, visit our SRLC website.

Need information to supply to your board and/or other stakeholders as to why you should attend? The conference will:

  • Provide new perspectives and encourage you to return to your library with new ideas and new ways of solving problems.
  • Allow you to gain information on how other libraries of similar size, situation and budget handle the same problems you are facing – and maybe give you new ways to address old issues.
  • Encourage a sense of community and collaboration that can benefit your library long after the conference is over.
  • Introduce you to new ideas for fundraising, programming and building community support.

The Call for Proposals is now open. The deadline to submit is Monday, October 7, 2019.

The Call for Awards Nominations is now open. The deadline to submit is January 17, 2020.

The LM Foundation generously supports the SRLC through administration of Loleta Fyan funds from the Library of Michigan Foundation. This project also is supported by the LM with federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

Rabbit Island School Offers Place-Based Arts & Ecology Program for Area Students and Partnership with Portage Lake District Library

Rabbit Island artist's home

by Dillon Geshel, Director, Portage Lake District Library

Developing library partnerships with local non-profits can lead to exciting new programs and resources for your shared patrons. Sometimes, collaborating with these community members can help turn a good idea into a great one. This is where the story starts for Rabbit Island School, a unique, place-based arts and ecology program for area students, created by the Rabbit Island Foundation and the Portage Lake District Library (PLDL).

Rabbit Island is a 91-acre forested island in Lake Superior, located four miles east of Rabbit Bay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The island has never been developed or subdivided, and a conservation easement granted in 2010 assures that its wild ecosystem will remain healthy forever. Rabbit Island hosts an artist-in-residence program that draws more than 300 applications a year from around the globe. About three residencies are awarded every summer.

Last March, I reached out to the Rabbit Island Foundation director, to find out how the library might sponsor a local artist’s stay on the island. The Foundation liked the idea, and it quickly grew into a program that we knew would have a greater community impact. Shortly thereafter, we turned our focus towards grant writing to support Rabbit Island School – a program where a group of young artists spends seven days on the island, participating in an open framework, student led expedition.

This year, funding from the Keweenaw Community Foundation and the LM allowed us to award five full scholarships to area students who spent a week on the island: reading, writing, painting, sketching, carving spoons, creating natural dye from plants, cooking, fishing, identifying local flora and fauna, building an island community, and more. They were joined by two artist mentors and myself as a program administrator. I will never forget their engagement with the landscape, their bond, and their commitment to craft.

Still, the program is only half finished. The students will soon reconvene for a day-long workshop, preparing their art for exhibition at the library this fall. They will share their art and experiences with family members, peers, and the community at large.

Rabbit Island School is an excellent representation of the library’s goal to provide experiential learning opportunities for engagement and recreation. My hope is that we can continue the program for years to come.


National Research on Library Programming

ALA has released the "National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment"

Owen Intermediate School is the 2019-20 Model School Library

Van Buren Public Schools

by Karren Reish, Grants Coordinator, LM

Part of Van Buren Public Schools, Owen Intermediate School Library Media Center in Belleville has won the state’s 2019-20 Model 21st Century School Library (SL 21) Award. SL 21 is the LM’s quality benchmark program for school libraries.

Each year, a Model library is selected to mentor other school districts and model outstanding school librarianship. As part of the program at Owen Intermediate School, school librarian Jonathan Richards pulls out all the stops to introduce a range of experiences to his students. For example, he has done impersonations of historic and mythical figures as part of collaborative Social Studies lessons about Cristopher Columbus and Hades.  For literature lessons based on Chinese American author Lawrence Yee, Richards introduced students to the novel Dragonwings as well a collection of Chinese art and currency to broaden their experience of the novel.

“Learning deeply about people through artifacts, art, and literature helps students understand the world around them," State Librarian Randy Riley said. "Owen Intermediate School strives to give that high-level experience of primary sources to its students."

For the year they hold the honor of being the Model SL 21 library, the library and school librarian promotes the development of high-quality programs initiatives in other schools. The Owen Intermediate School Library Media Center holds Exemplary status in the SL 21 program through March 2020.

The LM staff select the Model SL 21 Library after reviewing applications from school librarians across the state. Applicants provide information such as curriculum, co-teaching activities, community collaboration, and participation in educational associations. Owen Intermediate School staff are available for consultation with and visits from other school librarians and educators who want to learn more about the successful program. Interested persons may contact Jonathan Richards at or Karren Reish at

Tips for Operating a Year-Round Book Sale Without a Friends Group from Sparta Carnegie Township Library

Woman in front of a large shelving unit of paperbacks

by Lois Lovell, Director, Sparta Carnegie Township Library

Sparta Carnegie Township Library was fortunate to have an active friends group for many years. It hosted fundraisers to supplement the library’s budget and was a “security blanket,” so to speak, when funds were needed beyond the library’s budget. But membership fizzled out and the group disbanded several years ago.

One of the services our friends group provided was to facilitate book donations. The donations would be sold at an annual book sale that brought in hundreds of dollars each year. Since the group broke up, we had to come up with some creative alternatives to deal with the donations.

Because we don't have the volume we used to have when our friends group was active, we now must be selective in what we accept. Patrons can find donation guidelines in our online policy. Staffers are trained to evaluate the donations and turn down any that do not fit the guidelines.

Accepted donations are evaluated and fall into one of four categories:

  • General for sale items. These tend to be older but are good titles which we sell for 50 cents each;
  • Newer hardcovers are sold for $1.00;
  • About 3-5% of donations are cataloged and placed on our shelves;
  • The newer and good condition paperbacks are placed in what we call an honor book area. They are shelved according to genre, i.e., mystery, romance, or science fiction/fantasy. We mark these books with our library identification but do not catalog them. Our patrons can choose what they want, but we do ask them to tell us how many they take so we can track the number for our statistical reporting. There is no due date involved, since they are not checked out in the system, and patrons can bring them back when they want, hence no overdue fines. We have found that most are returned, but when we lose a few, we always have replacements. Our patrons love this system as they can take them on vacation, airplanes, to the beach, etc. with no stress.

This system has been successful for us as it helps us manage our donations without a Friends Group and our patrons love it. It’s a win, win situation.

Starting a Successful STEAM Kit Collection at the Wixom Public Library

STEAM fossils kit from Wixom Library

by Andrea Dickson, Director, Wixom Public Library

With the emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) education as well as high attendance at our STEAM-based programs, the Wixom Public Library (WPL) wanted to explore ways we could support these interests outside of the library. WPL serves a diverse socioeconomic population and not all families can provide supplemental learning tools at home. After receiving a $1,000 Public Library Services Grant from the LM's LSTA program, we jumped at the opportunity to start a circulating STEAM kit collection.

To create the initial collection, we purchased materials for 25 STEAM kits aimed at kids 8 and older. Staff ensured that all five concepts were covered and that kits could be replaced at a reasonable cost. Our STEAM kits include an anatomy model, planetarium, telescope, an earthquake engineering game, a bug kit, an electricity and magnetism set, a weather station, SnapCircuits, fossils, a 3D pen, and more. Many kits also contain supplemental books or DVDs. For a full listing of all available kits, visit our STEAM Kit catalog record.

The practicalities of circulating kits took some thought. All items were removed from the original packaging and put into snapping storage containers. Labels were attached to each container identifying the kit and a list of specific pieces for staff to reference. Kits circulate for three weeks and are limited to one per library card. One librarian acts as the point person for issues and also replaces any consumable materials as needed.

Our last challenge was housing the kits in a browseable area, while preventing little kids from reaching their small pieces. A shelving unit between the children’s and teen areas proved to be a great solution.

The kits are extremely popular and we have received only positive comments from our community. Surveys were placed in each kit during the first few months to gather feedback and staff monitor circulation statistics to determine interests.

Our Library Board of Trustees budgeted funds to expand the number of kits offered and to replace any that become damaged with use. In 11 months, the 25 kits were checked out 188 times with the 3D Doodler Pen the most popular. Ultimately, circulating STEAM kits has been a big success and a great opportunity to expand hands-on learning opportunities in our community.

Escape Rooms at Cadillac Wexford Public Library

Escape Room

by Karen Rickard, Cadillac Wexford Public Library

Why an escape room?

Escape rooms are very popular and super fun. But, it can be hard to spend $20-$30 per person for an hour of entertainment. For our patrons, it also requires significant travel time. Libraries to the rescue; our escape rooms are FREE.

Where do I start?

The four key ingredients are: a story that sets the tone, puzzles and locks for your participants to solve, a time limit, and willing participants. The Internet is invaluable for brainstorming ideas, plans, and puzzles. You can spend as much or as little money as you want for your escape room. We started with a Breakout Edu Kit that included several locks and two lock boxes, but anything that can be locked can be used (tool box, tackle box, etc.) Breakout Edu also has ideas and puzzles which can be a great starting point for planning an escape room.

What else do I need?

Puzzles, hidden items, codes, and props. Make the room difficult to start with. Adjustments to make it easier are simpler than adjustments to make it harder. It is a good idea to have a dry run of your room before your patrons participate. We have some of our staff try the room first to see where the kinks are and if the room is too challenging.

What if my room is too hard?

There are several things you can do. The most obvious are removing elements altogether or hiding things in obvious places. More subtle fixes would be filling in portions of a puzzle, or making a code easier to break. You can also give hints. Some examples are: schedule hints for certain times, evaluate what your participants are struggling with and give hints accordingly; or give hint tickets that can be turned in. We never penalize the team for getting hints, but that is an option.

Who can come to my escape room?

You decide. We have done escape rooms for adults only, teens only, and families. If you would like to hit a wider audience to get the most participation, adapting your room to be easier for teens and families is an easy way to do it.

The main thing to remember is that you do not have to be an expert to plan a great escape room. Just jump in and have fun.

Crossroads: Change in Rural America: A Traveling Exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution at Libraries Across the State

Crossroads staff from across the state

by Kay McAdam, Van Buren District Library

“Let’s build this thing” was the mantra of more than 15 librarians, museum staff, and volunteers who gathered at the Old Mill Museum in Dundee to install Crossroads: Change in Rural America.

The exhibit, part of Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program in collaboration with Michigan Humanities, explores how rural communities have changed in the past 100 years. Only six sites throughout the state were selected to host the traveling exhibit through June 2020: The Old Mill Museum, Van Buren District Library, Crawford County Library, Reed City Area District Library, Presque Isle District Library, and Pickford Community Library.

However, the exhibit does not arrive at its destination fully assembled – the reason for the mandatory installation workshop in Dundee. The six freestanding sections are shipped in 16 expertly packed crates weighing up to 350 lbs, with a few being just over 80” tall.

Crossroads arrives with a comprehensive installation guide and floor plan. The only thing a site needs to supply, in addition to adequate floor space, is a small step ladder, extension cords, and four to six persons who can follow directions for about four hours.

Thanks to moral support and guidance from State Coordinator James Nelson from Michigan Humanities and State Scholar Dr. Thomas Henthorn from University of Michigan-Flint, the installers made relatively quick work of their task. The crew experienced only minor obstacles, such as the wrong screws, a missing surge protector, and not putting panels on in the right order.

Upon completion, the exhibit comes alive with illustrations, photographs, thought-provoking questions and interactive sections. Sections include the Introduction, Identity, Land, Community, Persistence and Managing Change. Each host site complements the six-week stay with such localized programs as cemetery history, caring for old photographs, collecting oral histories, and more.

For a complete schedule of the exhibit’s travels in Michigan, go to or contact any of the six host sites listed above.

Building Digital Libraries: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians 
by Kyle Banerjee and Terry Reese, Jr.

Highlights from our Library Science Collection, a circulating professional library science collection available via MeLCat or Interlibrary Loan

library of michigan foundation

Established in 1985, the Library of Michigan Foundation is a 501 c (3) nonprofit charity governed by an independent Board of Directors. The Foundation provides opportunities for charitable giving to support Library of Michigan programs, collections and services otherwise not provided through state or federal funding. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised more than $6 million in private and corporate donations for programs to boost adult literacy, youth and early childhood literacy, special services for the blind and physically handicapped, statewide support for libraries, librarians, library staff and trustees and construction of the Martha W. Griffiths Michigan Rare Book Room.