Why Not Above “Above Average?”

You might have gotten the “Staying in Touch” newsletter from the county government this past week.  The big story in the newsletter was the result of a survey of Washington County residents which gave a high rating to quality of life here. 

I agree — we do have a high quality of life in Washington County.  Good schools.  Good parks.  Good roads.  Good libraries.

One of the pie charts caught my eye:  it showed that 61% of county residents surveyed thought the quality of county services was “good.” 18% thought they were “excellent” while virtually the same number (20%) thought “fair.”    It reminded me a bit of the Garrison Keillor line about “above average children.” 

My reaction was, “good” is fine, but why not excellent? 

We believe we have a good (even very good) library system.  But we think it could be excellent. 

That’s why Partners was created:  to provide a way for residents to make a good library system even better.  Tax money alone just doesn’t do it.  Every GREAT library system has a private, fundraising group helping it along.

In our first year, we raised money so the Library could buy an extra 2,000 books (mostly children’s books and some large print books for adults).  Our new campaign is raising money to get tablets into children’s sections of our libraries.  Librarians believe kids will use library services even more — check out books, do research, access programs like “Homework Help” — if there are tablets available.

Making our libraries more attractive and useful for our kids seems like a great investment.  So, we’re hoping to raise $15,000, which would buy 50 tablets for the six branches. 

And we are looking not only for money — but for people who are willing to spend a few hours a month to help make our good library system great.  So, send a check — or send us your thoughts!

Connecting Kids!

40% of all the materials checked out of the Library are children’s materials.  Think about that — 4 out of 10 materials checked out are for our children.    While the Library benefits everyone in the community — it is our kids who seem to need it (and want it) the most.

That’s part of the reason behind the Partners’ campaign for 2013 — to raise enough money to purchase tablets for every children’s section.  The hope is to buy 50 tablets total — and that is going to cost $15,000.

Why tablets?  Because that’s what our children use now and will use in the future.  It’s another way for the Library to reach out to children and keep them coming back for books (printed books and e-books), videos, homework help and all the services libraries provide.  Also, for those children on the wrong side of the digital divide, access to the tablets will help keep them connected.  And, from a practical point of view, it frees up the desktop computers teens and adults use.  (Ever notice how busy they often are?)

Librarians believe the tablets is another way to help keep the kids coming back — all the way until adulthood.

Now What?

My wife recently saw several children’s book at the Wildwood Branch which had stickers on them that said the books were purchased with funds provided by Washington County Library Partners.  It’s great to see visual confirmation of our “2012 in 2012″ campaign. 

But it’s 2013 — so what do we do now?

The Partners board is meeting in February and will start to talk about that.  We already have a meeting with library administration planned, as well.  But we’d like to hear what YOU would like to see Partners do in 2013. 

Should we reprise our fundraising campaign for more children’s books and large print books for the visually impaired?  Is there something else you see the libraries need — or is there some opportunity you think is just waiting there to be seized?

Send us your comments.  Or call board president Ken Stone at 651-338-0299. 

Check delivered!

Washington County Library Partners just handed over a check to the Washington County Library for $14,700 — and they’re already ordering the books!  There are so many people to thank … but let me focus on one.

That would be the person (or, it could be a couple) who provided a $7,000 matching grant.  They requested to remain anonymous — and even I don’t know for sure who it is (only our treasurer knows for sure and she isn’t telling).  But I do know our donor is not a rich person.   But the donor really, really believes in the mission of public libraries — and in particular, the donor really believes our county deserves the best possible library system.

That was true of ALL our donors, who contributed everything from $10 to $500.  And it’s true of what I believe:  Washington County has a very good library system — but it could become great.  The “2012 in 2012″ campaign is just one step towards that great system.

Another step came, by the way, when the county commissioners decided to find the money to reopen the libraries on Mondays.  It’s not a small amount of money to open all the branches an extra day — about $260,000 — but the commissioners heard from enough people that being closed on Monday was simply not the library system we want.

So thanks to all of you — whether you sent us a check or contacted the commissioners — or both!

Give to the Max!

I’m going to be the first to admit “Give to the Max Day” — which you probably have heard about — is a shameless marketing gimmick.  But then again, so is “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving that officially launches the holiday shopping season.

If you haven’t heard, “Give to the Max Day” is part of GiveMN.org — which is a way to contribute money to hundreds and hundreds of local charities.  You don’t HAVE to give on November 15th — but you’re just strongly encouraged to.  Give to the Max Day is the official kickoff, in a way, of the end-of-the-year contributions so many of us make.

Local charities don’t have coupons or early bird discounts or any of those things — but they do have one important thing:  a strong desire and ability to help people in their community.

The Washington County Library Partners would LOVE for you to go to GiveMN.org on November 15th and make a contribution … but not just to us, to ANY of the terrific nonprofit charities that make Minnesota what it is.

For us?  We’re presenting a check for AT LEAST $14,000 on Tuesday, November 20th, to the Washington County Library.  That’s going to be enough money to buy 2,012 books this year — our goal.  Most will be children’s books, which cost between $4 and $9.   Any money we get on Give to the Max Day, however, will be added to that amount.  And — here’s my pitch — LARGE PRINT books for adults are pretty expensive ($24 each) and so the Library isn’t going to be able to buy many of those books with the money we give them.  But any extra dollars will give the Library the flexibility to buy a few more of those more expensive books.  Children’s books and large print books for adults are the two biggest needs for the Library — so we’d love to be able to buy as many of both types of books  as possible.

So … if you’re one of those folks who love to get up at 4am on the day after Thanksgiving — I hope you have a successful shopping day.  And if you could jump on your computer on “Give to the Max Day” (November 15th) — you will help make other Minnesotans just a bit more successful, themselves.   Now that’s a pretty good deal, doncha think?

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