Posted in Cataloging, Collection Development, Poetry

Poetry on the Move

We’re trying something crazy and new at my library: we’ve broken poetry books out of the 800’s nonfiction! Is that crazy? Is it new? Well, when asked in an informal Facebook poll on the Library Think Tank group, 114 people responded that at their libraries, poetry is still in nonfiction. Two said they have a separate section. So…maybe?

Libraries that have completely ditched Dewey could say, though, that their poetry has its own section. We’re not going that far. My catalogers would revolt. But they are up for trying this new home for poetry, especially since the way we’ve chosen to do it didn’t cause a ton of work. It was actually accomplished in less than a few hours!

First, why are we doing this?
Our selector for the adult collection has long wanted to better highlight poetry, and he thought breaking it out of the 800’s would accomplish that. When he brought it up about a year and a half ago, we weren’t quite ready for it. However, we came up with a compromise and added purple labels above the spine labels so they would stand out better on the shelves.

Earlier this year, we visited the offices of Andrews McMeel, a publishing company based in Kansas City that specializes in poetry. You may be familiar with their best seller, Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. They said poetry is kind of having a moment and libraries could take advantage. That got us thinking again.

Dewey, or don’t we?
When our selector suggested phasing out our MP3 audiobook collection, he brought up breaking out poetry again. Since we’d have the space, we thought why not? But part of the discussion was whether we would keep poetry organized by Dewey or relabel the books and shelve them by the last name of the poet, like in fiction.

We had arguments for both. People who just want to browse poetry or are looking for a particular poet might find it easier if everything was under the poet’s name. Dewey, however, provides extra organization, breaking the collection into geographic regions and time periods. But wouldn’t it be confusing to have this random Dewey-organized section outside of the nonfiction stacks?

Ultimately, it was the fact that we’ve broken other collections out and then later refiled them in the past that helped make the decision. If, say, five or ten years down the line, a new selector or collection management team wants to refile poetry back into the 800s, it would be much easier if we keep the Dewey. So we did.

A quick and easy move
Since we already had the purple poetry labels on the books and we opted to stick with Dewey, we weren’t going to have to do another relabeling project. It would just be an easy update in the ILS using a global item modification wizard where you can quickly update location and classification codes.

We pulled all available books with poetry labels off the shelves, scanned them through for the update, and shelved them in the new location. Then our cataloging librarian used the new location and classification to single out and export the MARC records, edited the local call numbers with MarcEdit, and overlaid the edited records with a special report that also updated the item call numbers.

For everything that’s currently checked out, our Materials Handling team will send down any item our sorter doesn’t send to the proper bin, and a cataloger will manually update the location, classification and call number.

Here’s to the road less traveled
So far, at least on the Facebook and Twitter posts announcing the move, we’ve had a positive response. But that’s just social media. I’m sure we’ll get some feedback once our poetry regulars wander into the stacks where it used to be and realize things aren’t as they once were. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Posted in Poetry

The end of a month long celebration of poetry

Dr. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg typing
a poem to send out into the world

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting the charming and brilliant Poet Laureate of Kansas, Dr. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. We invited her to do a reading at the library to celebrate the end of National Poetry Month, and she shared new and old work with an engaged audience for about 45 minutes and took questions at the end. I was certainly impressed with her eagerness to share especially her most intimate and personal titles, which included self portraits and reflections on her experiences with cancer.

At one point in the reading, she asked for the audience to give her a number of words, to which we responded with “inland,” “South America,” “transcendence,” “middle school” and several others that seemingly had no relation. She then improvised and recited an impressive poem using each one – this was my favorite part of her presentation. In her question and answer session at the end, she shared her thoughts on the creative process and her own writing techniques. She compared it to any art form and explained that as you practice, you’ll find that you’ll improve and develop your own style, and the more you practice, the more easily the language of poetry will come to you.

Miss Conception’s awesome poetry
slamming skills won her the grand
prize – an iPad 2!

I’m really glad hat I had the opportunity to work with the programming librarian and the Lawrence Arts Center to develop the Poetry Off the Page series of events. On Wednesday the 11th, I taught a few poets how to create a chapbook using Microsoft Publisher in our computer lab. I had hoped that they would be able to finish and print out a copy, but we ran out of time. Those who participated, though, were grateful that they now knew a much easier way to put one together. Later that evening we hosted a Poetry Slam. We had 9 poets – from teenagers to older adults – compete for a couple of gift certificates to The Raven Bookstore and the grand prize, an iPad 2.  The most coveted prize, though, was the bag of frozen burritos we gave away to the audience’s favorite slammer not included in the final three! Mark Hennessy volunteered to come back and sit in as our semi-famous guest judge, and he even donned a gorilla suit! I sent him out to the lobby of the library to slam some poems, and I guess I should have given some forewarning to the rest of the library – someone from circulation called the security guard on him!

The following Wednesday, we had our normal, monthly Poetry Social. This didn’t draw a very big crowd – three poets – but we had a good time creating, sharing and discussing work focused on the theme of “Transcendence.” Last night’s reading by Dr. Goldberg was the final program in the series, and I’m happy to say it was a great end to our month long celebration. In talking with her afterward, she expressed how great she thought it was that the library worked with the arts center on these events, and I think everyone who attended and participated in them felt the same way. I’m looking forward to next April and great things we can do then! Here’s to poetry!

Posted in Poetry

Off the Page off to a great start!

If you walk in the Lawrence Public Library between now and the end of April, you’ll find two interesting installments in our front lobby! Our programming librarian tracked down and set up a 70’s style typewriter and a mailbox for patrons to type out a quick poem and send out into the world. These poems will show up in random locations around town–in a bathroom stall at bar, in a restaurant menu, in a library book–and who knows where else! Also in the lobby is a “poetree”–thought up by one of the children’s librarians. Bare branches provided by Kansas Tree Care will “grow” poetry leaves throughout April made by kids who attend poetry related story times.

The Poetry Off the Page series of events got of to a great start with last night’s performance by local poet, Mark Hennessy. Before launching into his performance, he expressed his gratitude for inviting him to the library and said that if he managed to sell any of his poetry books that he brought along, he would first pay off his library fines. What I initially imagined to be a simple reading turned out to be an engaging audiovisual performance including slam poetry accompanied by a bass, girls hula hooping, video projection and a full band performance. In between recitations, Mark, bringing the symbolism of one of his poems to the audience, even passed out apples to people in the crowd. He concluded the 40 minute set list by inviting two guitarists and a couple of percussionists up to the stage for two folksy songs, led by his vocals. Altogether, it was a fun performance and I’m glad we invited him to kick off our National Poetry Month celebrations at the library.

I’m really looking forward to next week’s Poetry Slam, especially since I talked to Mark and he has agreed to sit in as a guest judge! What’s even more exciting is our grand prize–the programming librarian said we have enough funds for us to give away an iPad 2 to the best slammer! The first ten poets to sign up next Wednesday will compete in three rounds–five will make it to the second, and the top three will slam for the iPad. We’ll also be giving gift certificates to local businesses to the first and second runners up, as well as a bag of frozen burritos to the audience’s favorite poet not included in the top three. When planning the slam, I was initially concerned that there may not be much interest, but I’m thinking now that an iPad is up for grabs, we’ll get a good response!

Posted in Poetry

Looking forward to National Poetry Month

The month long celebration of verse is just two months away, and as I’m planning events for the library, I’m getting more and more excited about it. As a poetry enthusiast, I’ve recently been trying to find ways to incorporate poetry in the library setting. Besides a display I created a couple of years ago, this is the first year that I’ve worked at the Lawrence library in which I think a lot of attention will be brought to it. The programming librarian and I are working with the Lawrence Arts Center on a series of events titled “Poetry Off the Page,” which will include readings, Speed Poetry installations and “guerrilla poetry” sightings.

For presentations and poetry readings, I’m looking forward to bringing KU doctoral candidate and self-proclaimed “poetry freak,” Mark Hennessy, and Kansas Poet Laureate, Dr. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, to the library in April. These events will be in addition to our normal monthly Poetry Social and a Poetry Slam. I’m also working on developing computer lab classes that will teach patrons and poets how to make a chapbook using Microsoft Publisher and where to find places to publish their work on the web. Once we get all the details figured out, we’ll have the list of events on the Lawrence Public Library’s web site.

For the April display I put up two years ago, I made a pretty simple sign and pulled poetry related titles from the collection. Then, with the help of our foundation director, we borrowed a couple of mannequins from the nearby Gap location, dressed them up in “hispter-ish” clothing and stuffed their pockets full of poems we encouraged people to take for Poetry in Your Pocket Day. Though I’m unsure of how many poems were actually taken, I do know that the mannequins attracted lots of double takes and attention. I haven’t taken the time to think about this April’s display, but I’m hoping I can come up with something just as eye catching!

Posted in Poetry

Poetry Social: Renewal

Though there were only six people in attendance, I have to say last night’s “Renewal” themed Poetry Social was a major success. I began the evening with a writing prompt, as usual, using the soundtrack to the movie, Map of the World. After every few minutes, though, I instructed everyone to pass what they had written to the person next to them, and informed them that their neighbor would continue creating their poem. I could tell a few of them had never done a writing exercise like this and were a little hesitant or nervous, but everyone was willing to participate. After three or four times passing, we developed some nice verse and took turns around the room sharing what we had come up with as a group.

The second part of the evening was the “open mic” reading, in which I opened it up to the participants to share whatever they had brought. I was impressed with the eagerness and the vulnerability with which some of the participants read. One was hesitant to share some poetry that she thought was sad, but with a little encouraging push from the group, she opened up her laptop and read. This, I think, has been one of my goals and purposes of the Poetry Social–to provide a place for people to share, not just their poetry, but themselves and to meet people with similar interests and passions. As a closing to the evening, we were treated with song–one of the participants volunteered to sing a song he wrote, “An Inconvenient Truth.” (The title, he explained, was inspired by Al Gore’s reference to global warming).

I’m really looking forward to next month’s on the them of “Passions.” In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite “patchwork” poems we created:

The Circle

Eyes open for the first time,
wide and seeing,
into the newly unknown.

I’ve been here once before,
longing, learning—though
now I am grown

and my heart keeps on yearning
for people I’ve known and
things of the past.
I dream of them often,
these people of love,
these people of light,

but I must go on and complete the circle
as old and ingrained
as the passage of time
so someday people I know now will
think of me

as they touch the things I’ve owned
and yearn
and see.

     Poetry Social participants

Posted in Poetry

Poetry Social: "Traditions"

I’m really fortunate to work in a place that allows me to utilize my talents and passions in my job–one of those passions being poetry. About four months ago, I started hosting a monthly poetry event at the library. A college town, Lawrence is kind of known for its artistic community, and I figured there would be a large audience for something poetry related. I approached my colleague, the adult programming librarian, about developing the event, knowing she was looking to increase the number of adult programs. I had originally envisioned an open mic reading each month, and maybe inviting a professional or published poet in every know and then. My colleague suggested we give it a unique name–the Poetry Social–and come up with a theme for each reading to inspire the participants. Our first Poetry Social was held in September with the theme, “Migrations.”

Each month, while I’m sitting in the gallery waiting for people to show up, I admit I get a little disheartened as the clock ticks closer and closer to the start time while only a few people walk in. However, by the end of the event, I’m always impressed with the works and conversations shared. There’s a core group of people that have come to each one, and I can tell that they appreciate an outlet for their creativity. Some of them drive twenty or more minutes to participate, and I always make sure to express my gratitude for their presence. Tonight’s Poetry Social on the theme “Traditions” was no different. A last minute scheduling of an author visit bumped the event from its original location in the gallery, and I thought that might deter some attendees, but my faithful regulars still showed ready to share.

I started tonight’s social by showing the participants some of the poetry resources we have at the library, having pulled some collections and the current Poet’s Market before the event began. Then, to spark some creativity, I played a winter meditation video from Youtube and instructed the participants to use the music and visuals as a writing prompt. When that ended, I invited the participants to share, and even though there were only five, we were there for about 45 minutes enjoying each other’s poetry and thoughts. I appreciate how fitting the name we came up with for the event, Poetry Social, has come to be. Each poem sparked conversation, and we shared in a discussion on when each of us began writing. When we ran out of work to share, I thanked everyone for coming and closed the evening with my own product of the writing prompt:

Winter Meditation

All around me
naked trees stretch their limbs
in directions akimbo,
bearing testimony to
winter’s harsh touch.

Icy cold fingers
dance and trip
down the notches in my spine
as my breath
heavy and moist
escapes my lips
like fog lifting into
the blue and endless expanse
of a frost bitten sky
above me.

A leaf in the snow,
my mind frozen
as I lose myself in
the season’s
white noise.