Thursday, December 09, 2004

Who knew? Innovation in BFE

Baskets serve as mini libraries
By Dr. Stanley Melburn Campbell

With minimal fanfare the Poseyville Carnegie Public Library in the small rural town of Poseyville, Indiana opened a mini library in the Poseyville dental office of Doctor Alesia Brown on December 8, 2004. Although the dental office is just a few blocks down the street from the library, the staff anticipates a significant turn around for books at the new site.

It is a rare situation when a doctor’s office waiting room is found to have the latest magazines, or anything you have not previously read. On average what reading material is available is months old - considered ancient by magazine standards. But now this particular doctor’s office can boast it has a mini library in the waiting room.

The library is targeting those individuals who are waiting for services. There are three additional mini library sites presently being negotiated in northern Posey County and are expected to open by Spring 2005. Doctor’s offices, hair salons, dental offices, automotive repair shops, and restaurants are just a few of the possible locations being considered as prime mini library sites.

The mini libraries will consist of stylish baskets purchased from a Pier One Imports store in nearby Evansville, Indiana and should regularly contain between ten to twenty paperback books. The books are donated by the public or purchased out of pocket by the staff and include selections from popular authors. A card in each book explains that the reader may take the book home with them and can return it to either a mini library site or to the Poseyville Carnegie Public Library at 55 South Cale Street in Poseyville. Volunteers from the community will be responsible for restocking and maintaining the mini libraries.

Why mini libraries scattered over the county? Although the library covers most of northern Posey County the population is largely rural with a significant population of adults who rarely read books. It was clear that reaching everyone would prove difficult without actually purchasing a bookmobile or adding small library branches. In either instance the cost proved prohibitive.

It is not often that something innovative comes along that can be of service to the community on such a wide scale. The Poseyville Carnegie Public library operates on a minimal budget with one full-time and one part-time staff member and is extremely dependent on private donations for special projects and programs. In this instance, repeated appeals to area corporate contributors failed to stimulate any interest, so the staff decided to fund the program themselves.

Admittedly there will be books that are never returned, but that is of no concern in this instance. Tax payers are not footing the bill for this project because everything is donated by seriously concerned citizens. The objective is to provide some form of reading stimulation for adult minds, not to improve library circulation.

Although the library has become an active gathering place for local children and teens since 1997 there are few adults who can be considered regular patrons. It is not because this 100 year old Carnegie library is afraid of innovation, far from it.

In 2000, the library doubled its floor space with the assistance of a community development grant, and additional grants have significantly increased the book and video collection. Nearly all of the activities and special educational programs offered at the library have been the result of both corporate grants and private donations from in and outside the community.

The library has ten computers with plasma screens available to patrons, and of those nine have Internet capacities. Five of those computers were custom designed and built by local resident Stanley Forzley.

The card catalog database, barcoded checkout system, and computer security system also designed by Forzley were designed exclusively for the library at a fraction of the cost normally required for comparable systems. The card catalog program has been available to other libraries in Indiana free of charge for the past two years.

The library has embraced the technology of the twenty-first century with a vengeance, but the library has not lost sight of the significance of reading books and thus continues to investigate new approaches to increasing literacy in the community it serves. So, it is hoped that these new mini libraries will be that next step in the right direction.