Friday, June 2, 2017

Prayer in a Public Library

Earlier this week, I attended a day long seminar. During my lunch break, I began walking around the building looking for a quiet place that I could duck into and pray (for those who dont know, I am Muslim). I ended up walking around the full building 3 times, covering both the downstairs and the upstairs hoping that there was a corner I missed. There wasn't.

Feeling quite a bit of despair I slowly dragged my feet back to the conference room. That is when a thought came to me. I remembered reading in passing that some libraries will have a secluded area for patrons to pray. I glanced over at the library next door. I stood staring at it for a good five minutes. Figured I had nothing to lose by asking and slipped inside.

I approached the circulation desk and asked if they had a quiet corner out of the way of patrons that I could pray in. They shook their heads at me, I said thank you and turned to go. I heard someone ask me to wait, and watched as the staff discussed among themselves the new policy changes their library had recently made.

They turned to me with a huge smile on their faces and one of the librarians told me they had just recently made a change, and if I wanted, I could use their study room to do my prayer. I was ecstatic, to say the least. I quickly followed, did my prayer, said my thanks, and headed back to my seminar.

I found myself in good spirits throughout the day. It really made my heart swell that I was able to go to a library, and find that I was able to pray alone in a quiet place. Not only was I not disturbing patrons, they were not disturbing me. (Trying to focus on your prayer with people walking past can be a tad bit difficult.)

Libraries are such amazing places that often do not get the credit they deserve. Many of them work hard to make sure that members of their community feel welcome no matter what. They are there to serve and to better the lives of their patrons. Yes, that includes allowing them a place to pray.

When I approached the circulation desk, I was rather hesitant and to be honest a bit uncomfortable. I was unsure how my question would be perceived. Yes, I work in a library. Yes, I have read articles and heard stories about libraries allowing space for patrons to pray in. However, it is not something I myself have come across. Nor do I know anyone personally who has gone through the experience. I am grateful that I did ask, that the answer was yes, that I did not allow my hesitation get in the way. Am I more likely to check in a library when I need to pray and cant find one? You bet!

I am often asked why I chose the field that I did. At first, my answer was that I was always surrounded by books. Now? Its because of everything it has to offer while allowing you to continue to grow as a human being.

By the way, the library in question?
Upper Merion Township Public Library

Monday, March 13, 2017

Programming for Millennials

I decided to start programming for millennials back in 2012. I had all these grand ideas about how I would take off running and millennials would love it, and they would all come to my programs. A handful did. But most of them didn't.

I started off strong, for the first two years I was hosting all sorts of programs.

Multicultural Food Nights
Better Than Therapy Book Group
Cupcake Decorating Classes
Movie Nights
Craft Night
Pumpkin Carvings

Just to name a few. And it started off great, LOADS of signups.

And slowly but surely it started tapering off.

People weren't coming. I was lucky if five people signed up, but only one person showed up.

It became frustrating, annoying, and to be honest, completely exhausting. The amount of planning and prep work going into the programs was insane.

And so I cut down on programming quite a bit. Like a lot. I was tired of putting in so much effort and having no one show up.

One thing that remained a constant though was book group. That was my only program that continued to have at least an attendance of 4 people.

Fast forward. I'm getting back into programming. I am getting excited about programming. I have a lot of programming planned for my targeted age group.

Home Organizing and Decluttering
Budget and Debt Management: How to Work With What You Have
Electronic Recycling (while not a program per say, still an initiative I have started at my library)
Money Movie

Programs I am currently working on
3 month gardening series. Topics will include:
1) Container Gardening
2) Cacti and Succulents and
3) Indoor Plant Upkeeping

I am also working on a yoga series. But trying to figure out how I will manage with space.

What programs are a hit at your library? Which programs have failed?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Take me to Atlanta... but don't leave me there

I attended ALA Mid-Winter in Atlanta on Jan 20 - Jan 23. It was a little something different this time since I am not part of two committees. I am part of the IFLA Europe committee and the PLA Continuing Education Advisory committee.

Saturday morning I awoke and in a frenzy rushed to attend my first committee meeting. I had to check out of my hotel (horrible experience, don't go to the Ramada). I sped off to the conference center, remembered that I should be at the Hyatt, quickly drove over only to find out that that was my second meeting and that my first meeting was back at the conference center. SO, by the time I sped back it was near over.

I did get to meet everyone on the IFLA Europe committee and put names to faces from emails. I was also given a summary of what I had missed as well as what would be expected of me. The meeting went a little over time, then I had to wait for the shuttle before rushing back to the Hyatt for the PLA meeting. I was a hot mess that Saturday morning.

I did hit the exhibit hall and got a ton of loot before having to rush off for me 'Money Smart Week' program. This was important to me because I had hosted a 'money smart' program last year and wanted more information. Learn more on the website here to get started on your own 'Money Smart Week.


Sunday was a whole other feat all together. I woke on Sunday had breakfast at our new hotel (Red Lion) and they had the coolest silverware/woodware for eating! So awesome how recycle friendly they were.

I quickly headed downtown with the promise of free picture books and a session I was interested in attending. Only to be hit with five blocks of traffic in every direction. They were having their 5k/10k hot chocolate run. And not only that, the NFL football game was happening. The Falcons against the Packers. 

Long story short, two hours later, lots of frustration and tears, a call to the cops, a 20 minute walk to the convention, missing both our free picture books and my session, we made me. It was a pretty exhausting day.

Finally, Monday arrived with a storm in tow. We were able to stay until 2 p.m. before we booked it to Walmart to purchase two more luggage, before racing off to the airport and our delayed flight. And even with all the delayed time, we made it to the gate as the last people being checked in. Atlanta was a wild ride from start to finish.

My husband came and picked us up from the airport and had flowers as a surprise for me. It was a nice ending to a exhausting yet exciting conference . 


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Group with a Twist

Here is the thing. Millennials have so much going on. And I feel like it's getting harder and harder getting them in the library. Forget offering multiple programs a month. My stats end up going down the more programs I offer. Almost like the more I offer, the more options they have, the more they can't make up their mind which program to come to, so they don't come at all.

It has been such a struggle!

So for 2017 I thought I would try something new. My highest attended program (with its ups and downs) is my Better Than Therapy Book Group. We meet the first Thursday of every month. And more often than not, we end up getting side tracked and talking about stuff other than the book.

For January, we pick a cookie cookbook and people could choose a recipe they wanted to make.

Here is my cookie that I made. Not really a cookie. But still. I made Rocky Road Brownie Bites.


Other members brought cookies as well and someone brought milk. All in all, I say it was a hit.

For February, we are going to be reading 'I Wrote This For You' by Ian Thomas (PleaseFindThis). A rather well known online writer. I also encouraged members to bring poetry they have enjoyed over the years to share with the group. I am very excited about this. Especially since I have been working on building our Modern Verse book section at my library. 

(one of my favorite pieces)

And for March, I figured we could read 'The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up' by Marie Kondo. Seeing how March is our entry into Spring and that is usually the time people get started on their spring cleaning. 

(couldn't agree more!)

I am excited to see how these few changes will affect people coming to book group. Whether the number will go up or down, and whether people will prefer it over continuous reading of fiction books!

Are you offering any programs you are excited about? Care to share?

Friday, January 6, 2017

New Years Resolution

The last time I had a New Years Resolution was... well... never. I mean, I've had the usual thoughts of losing weight, then started the new year eating my weight in food. Or how I was going to change my mindset and then quickly, too quickly, relapsing. Then spending a bunch of years talking about how resolutions were so stupid because I didnt stick with them, and therefore, yep, I was right, they are stupid.

2016 was a rough year for me. But so was 2015. And 2014. And 2013. And 2012. Facebook memeories can attest to that. For some reason, life seems to be getting harder instead of easier. Whether it being that I lost someone whom I loved dearly. Or had a major change. Or having a major setback. There always seems to be something. It is hard. Life is hard. I feel like I am stating the obvious.

But 2016 was so hard. So, so hard. It seemed like it was one hardship after another. As December approached I felt numb. I wouldnt miss 2016, but hey, its not like anything was changing. I was becoming such a pessimist and I hated it. I've always prided myself on being a realist (because that's so much better huh).

So there I was, sitting on my couch, pulling out a scrapebook I've been meaning to start for ages. Gathering pictures, and movie tickets, and flight tickets, and random tokens of things happened throughout the year. And I realized, I didnt give 2016 the credit it deserved.

I did so much in 2016. I advanced in my personal life, my career and the such. I did well. But the overwhelming stress of all that I did and all that I dealt with, my constant anxiety level through the roof as I tried to navigate it all made me feel like I wasnt accomplished. But I was, and all it took was a step back to reevaluate. And the reason I was able to do that was because I was forced to put together a scrapbook. I took my step back, I saw what I did and appreciated the hard work I put in and the results that came in.

So for 2017, I was create a visual board in which I can post things I want to do on one side, and slowly move them over as I do them. Places I want to go, places I went. Career goals and achievements. A reminder that my hardwork is in fact, paying off.

What about you, any New Year Resolutions?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Future is Here: Millennials in the library (a session I went to)

I went to a program the other day about millennials in the library. When I signed up for this session, I was very excited. Finally, someone is going to talk to me about how to get millennials in the library, get them to check out our books and attend my programs. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed.

It was a two hour session, 3 speaks, each speaker given a half hour to speak. During the final half hour, it was opened to the floor discussion/panel style. The first speaker started off giving us plenty of statistics on millennials, stereotypes, etc. She then began speaking about her time volunteering on the Obama campaign and how there were so many millennials there also volunteering. Long story short, we learned a lot about millennials and their politics.

The second speaker spoke about getting millennials into the library to volunteer. She told us that we needed to bring them in and inspire them so that they would volunteer their time and money. She told us the key to doing that was to have a facebook, to have a website, to have a donation page on our website and to make sure that we thank them for their time. There was no mention on how to go about doing so. She then spent the rest of the time telling us about how she was a millennial and went to different companies to help out and how they loved her. Once again, I had nothing to take back with me.

Finally, we had a speaker who talked to us about redesigning our space to appeal to millennials. In order to redesign our space, we needed to redesign our libraries. He showed us projects he was working on, mostly Philadelphia libraries that were going under construction. How, they would now have more natural light, more group seating, more outlets. Because this is what millennials want. But what about those of us who dont have the funding to put our library under construction. What are we to do? Find funding. Okay. Thanks. Where can I find that funding? Lets ask someone in the crowd, maybe they have ideas. Okayyyyy.

Overall, it was a horrible session from my point of view. I went there hoping to steal peoples ideas, create programs, get book titles, get tried and true ways to get this crowd in my library. I went back to my library having learned nothing but having enjoyed the best scones I've ever tasted. There is a bright side to every situation. You just have to find it. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Post-Election: What is this

So many emotions. SO, SO many emotions.

To be honest, I wasn't planning on voting. I didn't much like either candidate. And I voiced my opinion about this. But come Tuesday night, as I sat on my couch watching 'Sons of Anarchy' I couldn't do it. At around 7;30 p.m. I got up, got dressed, and headed out to vote. Along my walk, I saw two deers on someones lawn that froze when they saw me, then went galloping away. It put the biggest smile on my face. I don't get to see deer often. As I continued along my walk, I saw a sign that said 'Smile and Be Kind!', and smile I did.



I continued on my way, I got to the voting place, and I voted. And I prayed that Hilary would prove me wrong when she became president. However, that did not happen. I remember staying up, constantly messaging with friends on our group chat, posting status after status on FB hoping what I was witnessing wasn't true. When I woke up the next morning, everyone I knew was filled with anxiety, they were scared, they were angry, they were restless. Me? I was numb. I was bombarded with emotions on social media with no idea how to comprehend my own. I thought of my life long dream of backpacking through Europe. The next four years would be perfect for that. I came across an article that said that the president of Egypt was the first to call and congratulate our president elect. And the Egyptian blood in me curdled. Ashamed to be an American. Ashamed to be an Egyptian. Top feeling? Remained numb. How was it possible. I am CONSTANTLY surrounded by amazing people. At work, in stores and the many I met online. SO much love and support. SO much unity! And I reminded myself I was still surrounded by these people. That our relationships are about to get stronger as well all stand together. Speak up together. Support each other. We have to remind ourselves that Hilary did win that majority vote. That there are more of us standing together than against us. We have to remember to not let the hate shine through. To not bring us down. We are not alone.