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Library Journal’s 2014 Star Libraries in Indiana and Michigan

Congratulations to the Indiana and Michigan Library Journal Star Libraries for 2014!

Interactive chalk wall

Interactive Chalk board wall in Children’s area at the New Carlisle and Olive Township Public Library

Two Michigan public libraries and nine Indiana public libraries have been designated 2014 Star Libraries by Library Journal. The star ratings are based on four types of output measures of per capita use – circulation, visits, program attendance and public computer use.

New Carlisle and Olive Township Public Library

A recent visit to the New Carlisle and Olive Township Public Library in New Carlisle, Indiana revealed clues as to why it achieved an outstanding 5 star rating. Intermixed with quiet, peaceful reading areas are several interactive spaces. A chalkboard wall in the Children’s area asked young visitors what they were thankful for during the month of November. Responses ranged from “my kitty cat” to “the things we need to survive.” A similar question posed in the Teen area elicited the response “wi-fi and Uggs.” “The Blue Room:  A Creative Space” provides room for “Anything Goes Coffee and Crafts” time, and board games are on display to check out. Multiple colorful fish tanks are to be found throughout the library, and a cozy fireplace invites readers. Although covered in snow now, the ample outdoor gathering spaces are sure to be popular in warm weather. This is a library that says “come in, and make yourself at home.”

Outdoor seating area

Outdoor seating area at New Carlisle and Olive Township Public Library

New Carlisle and Olive Township Public Library’s program attendance, at 10.2 per capita, was the highest in the nation in their spending category of Star Libraries, as well as the highest in Indiana and Michigan across all spending categories of Star Libraries. Library Director Lisa Baiz says that quality, family programming and offering an array of programs to satisfy many interests is key. She says “we have several programs a year that are ‘all hands on deck’. This means that all staff are expected to attend and help and we also have help from our Friends of the Library group. The library has a staff of under 20 people, and according to Baiz, “if everyone takes pride and responsibility in large programs, then they are more successful, and our library visitors see the teamwork our staff exhibits.”  Some of the most well-attended programs at the library included a summer reading event with an inflatable water slide and bouncy houses, an annual community picnic, and an annual holiday open house.

A high circulation per capita is also a figure of note for this library.  According to Baiz, DVDs and children’s materials are the highest circulating items.  “We allow reserves on our DVDs (even new releases), and do not charge fees for our DVD loans.” Promotion of new materials is also stressed. “We try to encourage the circulation of all materials by tying them into a program and having them conveniently on display. New materials are promoted even before they are released and that creates demand and awareness of what we offer.” She says they also take patron suggestions seriously. “It is rare if we don’t buy something that is suggested.”

Baiz wants to make clear that credit for this 5 star rating goes to the staff.  “I became Director in March of 2014, so I was not responsible for any of this success. I can only hope to make 2014 and beyond even better.”

Williamsport Washington Township Pubic Library

Outdoor amphitheater

Outdoor amphitheater at the Williamsport Washington Township Public Library

Another Star Library to gain inspiration from is the Williamsport Washington Township Pubic Library in Williamsport, IN.  Among the smallest of the Star Libraries, it serves a population of 5,240 with an operating budget under $200,000. This library features dinosaurs and giant insects in the children’s room, as well as an outdoor amphitheater for programming. Library Director, Chris Brown, attributes their high visits per capita to their role as a focal point of the community. He says, “We are a small, rural community, so there are not many activities going on unless the library offers them.”

The library holds large events, such as a Christmas open house. “One of the things we do best is decorate the library for every season. All the end caps are decorated, and there are special displays featuring seasonal topics.” A favorite program of the staff and the community is their “Zombie Brain Bash.”  “We offer to do make-up for anyone who wants to join in the Zombie Walk through Williamsport and there is a prize for best costume. There is zombie themed food, and games for all ages, such as Zombie Dice Tournament, Zombie Brain Toss, Zombie Bingo, Spider Monte, and for the little ones, Pumpkin Patch Pop.”

Williamsport Director, Chris Brown and giant bug

Williamsport Director, Chris Brown and giant bug

The Library has a small budget, under $200,000. Brown says that they rely heavily on their Friends group and local businesses for support, with partnerships in place with the Parks Department, the local schools, historical society, and social organizations. “Without the support of these organizations, we would not be able to have so many programs.”

Brown’s advice to other small libraries who want to make their library a destination for the community is to be involved.  “Never turn down an opportunity to speak on your library’s behalf. Volunteer to help with other community programs, and partner on events. Be a valuable part of your community. Make positive noise, use social and local media, break down stereotypes of what libraries once were, and show the community that we are now a lively, welcoming, fun, entertaining and helpful place to visit.”

Visit the other Michigan and Indiana Star Libraries for more inspiration!