The Doors of Knowledge are Always Open

Can one access the library when the building is closed?

 KCLS system maintains an extensive website, providing a virtual library presence even when the Libraries are closed.  Kenmore Library is always closed on Sundays and is closed Monday this week for the Presidents Day Holiday.  Since the library wasn’t open for two days in a row,  I decided to focus my research this week on the library website.   KCLS websites receive many more visits than the actual libraries and are a rich source of information.

At first glance the KCLS website can be overwhelming. I chose to begin by looking up “how to get a library card.”   The forms to apply are available both online and at the library branches. The online forms come in 8 languages and can be completed and returned online.  In order to get a card, one needs to provide both picture ID and proof of address.  The proof of address can be a utility bill or something that shows residency in the KCLS service area.  The most important part of the library card is the number, because the number plus a 4 digit PIN is what enables access to both the physical and virtual library.

A library card enables online access to digital materials, such as e-books, audio, and video media. I thought it would be interesting to try to “check out” digital materials without actually going to the physical library.  The library system supports a number of e readers, but generally the first step is to download the material to a pc and then transfer to the desired device. 

Overdrive Media is the platform used by KCLS for digital content.  I decided to try to check out a movie. Overdrive doesn’t give you access to the whole library catalogue, just a limited selection.  My guess the small selection has to do with copyright in the digital format.  I found a biography on Andrew Carnegie. I thought he would be interesting because he was known as a philanthropist who gave libraries to communities. The hardest part about downloading the movie was I needed to update my windows media player to version 2.051 from 2.05 because of the security rights needed.  After a few clicks and a trip to the Microsoft website I was able to download the movie and view it on my laptop. The other item I checked out was an audio book.  Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Again once I had the Overdrive Media Platform in place with the security upgrade it was quite simple.  I didn’t  try moving the audio file to another device, but it looked like it was a possibility.

The most interesting thing to me about  checking out digital media is you never have to worry about returning it to the physical library.  The item automatically disappears 5 minutes before it is due and it doesn’t matter if the library is open or closed.  

Blog-week 8 Interventions

Walking in the City by Michel De Certeau, described walking as a form of speech. He opened the article with looking down on the pedestrian masses from the World Trade Center in New York City.  I was so shocked by thinking about 9/11 and the fact the building is gone along with over three thousand lives it took me a while to focus on the content of the article.

One of the interventions in Place In Place Of: Alexandria was to alter pedestrian patterns by placing black tape at random intervals on the sidewalk to see if people changed their walking patterns.  The students also spray painted on the sidewalk an arrow where an accident took place. It reminded me of the signs along roads with “in memory of…..” .  No one was hurt in the accident in Alexandria.

The excerpt from the Situational Manifesto seemed to be a statement changing the traditional idea of artist to a more interactive/producer/consumer of art.  Place Hacking combined the art of adventure and photography in exploring the underground drains, tubes, and abandon buildings.  From the interviews it seemed like it was both the adrenaline and need for adventure, but also a  genuine interest in seeing things that were somewhat hidden and not easily accessed without taking a calculated risk.

Robert Smithson, in A tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey, gave new focus on modern day monuments. Borrowing from the Roman idea of palimpsest, a layering of the new over the old. Pipes, sandboxes and even empty spaces all “became” monuments when recorded with his instamatic camera.

Art in floor of Kenmore Library

Public art-one of several installations below the library floor

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

Meetings at the Kenmore Library

Meeting Room at the Kenmore Library

Meetings at the Library

Tuesday I attended the Kenmore Library Advisory Board meeting.  I am a participant in the board as a non-voting member.  My role is to be a liaison between the board and the city council. It has been an active role with addressing concerns about pedestrian safety, lighting and traffic in front of the library.

Tonight we have just four members, myself and the cluster manager, Karen Hardiman.  Our meeting is short because we have another one beginning at 7pm.  The main items on the agenda are the traffic, interviewing for the open positions on the board. We also had a lively discussion on the viewing of internet porn in the library because of the recent incident in Seattle at the Lake City Library.

According to the news, a man in the Lake City Library library was watching “hard core” porn in full view of patrons when a 10 year old girl walked by on her way to the DVD’s.  She was so upset by what she saw she ran and told her mom.  Her mom asked the patron to move to a less visible computer and according to newspaper reports was told “5 more minutes”.  According to the mom, her daughter was crying that night because of what she was exposed to at  the library. In one of the follow up stories on the incident, a reporter went to the same library and reported what he saw; the same man sitting in the library watching porn in full view of the other patrons.  It seems to me that this persons “right” to watch porn interferes with other patrons abilities to freely use the library, especially families with children.

The mission of KCLS is Free, Equal and Open Access to information, according to KCLS Cluster manager, Karen Hardiman. Internet is filtered, but patrons can asked to have the filters removed.  Privacy screens on the computer supposedly help with inadvertent viewing. In Kenmore the computer screens are easy to see when walking by the area.  Patrons are not be permitted to view illegal materials such as child porn, but under the current rules other pornographic content is not restricted.  I asked the question, How would the KCLS staff handle a complaint similar to the Lake City situation?  I was told that the patron would be asked to move to a less visible spot (so the child could not see the screen) and if they refused, the staff could ask them to leave under the Rules of Conduct for not following the staff’s instructions.

After the Kenmore Library Advisory Board meeting, Kathryn McGill from the collections department of KCLS spoke on how books and materials are selected for the library collections.  Kathryn gave a witty informative talk on collections. One of her  big challenges in deciding what to  buy is the explosion of content media. In the face of budget constraints, how many formats does the same content need to be in? Her example was the Twilight series, possible options include: book, paperback, e-book, audiobook, CD, and Dvd.  E-books, libraries and publishers are another area of contention. Some publishers refuse to allow e-books rights to libraries.  KCLS uses a system called overdrive for patrons to download e-books.  According to the Library publication “Insights”, patrons downloaded over 95,000 e-books last year. Members of the Mercer Island Bothell, Kirkland and Redmond Library Advisory boards attended the talk.

One of the most interesting things I learned was how many patron requests it takes to get an item added to the system.  The answer: six.  Other ways items are selected; book reviews, best-sellers, popular topics such as gardening, home DIY, crafts. McGill said that books on crafts and other DIY topics have been especially popular since the economic downturn in 2008.

Readings and Reflections

Screens, Stories,  Homelessness and survival.

Paul Virilio in the “Overexposed City” speaks of the screen becoming the city square and “ the cross roads of all mass media”.  He was quite visionary in the impact of a screen, especially an internet connected computer screen transcending physical space and boundaries.

In  “23rd and Union”frankly at first I didn’t “get it”.  Then I read the background of the corner having been a site of violence and trouble and how the artist wanted to tell a different story of the corner through the people themselves giving voice to their stories.  It seemed to have some of theme of “taking back” our neighborhood from the negative image portrayed through  news media.

Finally, talking to homeless people about how they themselves would solve homelessness.  What an expose of the failed top down approaches to end homelessness. Daniel Kerr, “We Know What the Problem Is” should be required reading for all policy makers and homeless advocates.

In the Seattle area, Temporary tent cities have been a challenge for local communities.  A few years ago, as a councilmember we had the members of Sharewheel  (the organization for the tent cities) come and talk to us so we could understand the situation better.  One of the camp spokesman  ran the computers in a tent! When we asked for some data on how long people stayed in the camp-he asked if we wanted a spread sheet or pie chart.  The best part was he was wearing a Husky Sweatshirt. I didn’t ask him if he was a college graduate.
In the book by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games was a chilling story of survival by a young girl in a centrally controlled world. The central part of the story was a massive, national reality game called “Hunger Games”.   She is an unwilling participant with a will to survive.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


Look to your Library…

Look to your Library…
King County Library Campaign 2009

What role does a public library play in a community?

In 2009, King County Library System launched a special project to provide useful information to job seekers  and people hit hard by the recession.  The campaign was an extension of their “Look to your Library” theme, adding the “Especially Now”.  The  award winning campaign, established the role of the library as a source of information  and support for job seekers.

During my time at the library this week I met a woman who is “Looking to the Library” for her  next job.  We met because she saw my UW  Husky pass and asked if I worked at the UW. As I told her, “no,  I pay money to be a student”.  I noticed she was wearing purple and sure enough she was a former UW employee who was laid off from her position because of funding cuts.  G. told me she lives within walking distance of a library, but comes to Kenmore because “it is so inspiring”.  She then proceeded to tell me how KCLS has partnered with Work Source and has a Career Club for job-seekers (meets at the Bothell library).  The group goes beyond just giving information to actual training.  Their first assignment was to create a 30 second elevator speech.  The club format helps provide a social support during the stress of transitioning between jobs.

G. also told me I should come at closing time when they sing to you. “Sing to you I asked?”  “Yes, they have a little song they sing about I know you have been studying all day but now its time to rest…  she added,what an uplifting way to end a hard day of looking of looking for work.” I will look for G. again when I go to the Kenmore Library …and for the guy who sings.

Readings and Viewings:Representation and Seeing.

The You Tube movie: A Day in the Life represented the lives of different people around the world in a “crowd sourced” movie based on thousands of videos sent in about their day on July 24, 2010.  Some of the universal themes were; love, fear, life and death. In addition the movie showed people around the world doing activities of everyday living such as brushing teeth, making breakfast, etc.  Some scenes were more emotional, I found the scenes with mothers and children particularly moving.  In the opening montage, “mommy’ is only a picture her young son say’s “hi” to in the morning.  In another one, the mom just had surgery and the Dad was filming for a family project. The boy’s high energy and emotional upset contrasted sharply with the  mother’s careful, uncertain movements post- surgery.  Both scenes pointed to the fragility and preciousness of life.

Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices continued the theme of representation in visual media by focusing on race.  As human beings our eyes focus on what is different, unique, or unexpected.   People have different skin colors.  While visual appearance is an important aspect of a person, it is not by any measure everything. The Reverend Martin Luther King Junior is often quoted as “ I have a dream”, yet few finish the sentence.  His dream was that “his children would live in a world where they would no longer be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.  Visual images only show skin color, not true character.

Berger’s Ways of Seeing Series again focused on Visual images.  The first was all about nudes and who was looking at who and what it all “meant” using the framework of male-female power.    Artists often had sexual relationships with their models.   I went to the Picasso Exhibit when it was in Seattle.  Picasso had an entire room of paintings of  “Weeping Women”.  Some were wives, some were lovers and quite often the time sequences overlapped. I think it would be interesting to compare the differences between the way artists painted their wives versus a lover or model.   My guess is there would be a difference.

The Second Way of Seeing was about advertising.  I felt like the article revealed “the man behind the curtain” manipulating the great OZ..   Advertising is a largely unrecognized force, driving us to desire, buy and consume what we didn’t really know we needed or wanted.   According to Berger, “ All publicity works upon anxiety. The sum of everything is money, to get money is to overcome anxiety.”  Publicity also plays on fear, “ the fear that having nothing you will be nothing”.

In the last scene of  A Day in the Life, just before midnight, an ordinary girl spoke of her struggle to find something extraordinary to put in her video.  She articulated her fear; that if she didn’t have an extraordinary moment to record, then she herself would be nothing.   As she continued speaking into the camera, she began to realize that she was an ordinary girl, having an ordinary day, and in of itself that was quite extraordinary.

1 Comment

Posted by on February 4, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: , ,

Volunteering and the Kenmore Library

Kenmore's first Library-Volunteers raised money for the barn and the books.

Volunteering at Kenmore Library

The first person I see as I walk into the library is my mother. She is hard at work restocking the Kenmore Friends of the Library book shelf and she is glad to see me. I offer to help.

Sorting books.  Every few weeks a few volunteers sort donated books.  Next, the “sorted” boxes of books are brought to Kenmore Library for yet more categorizing into boxes.  Some books go directly on the Friends of the Library Book Sale shelf and others go into boxes to save for the Big Book sale. Lots of sorting and moving boxes.

My job is to put the books on the Book Sale shelf.  First I am instructed on how to stock the shelves, fiction, non-fiction, big books to little books.  All is well until I get to the bottom shelf-the children’s section. The children’s section is much narrower than the other book shelves.  I try to put books on the children’s shelf and they keep falling off. My mom suggests “balancing” them. I try, but I can’t seem to “balance” the books on the narrow shelf and I still have a whole box of wonderful  children’s books to shelve.

We come up with a solution to my lack of balance. We move the paperbacks from the wider shelf above down to the narrow shelf below.  The paperbacks don’t fall off the narrow shelf and the wide shelf has lots of room  for the children’s books.  After I fill the shelves with new, donated books, there is still more to do.

I am ushered into the staff work area. More boxes of books to sort.  I have the opportunity to talk with staff, some of them have read my blog.   After we finish sorting,  I go with my mom to take the remaining boxes of books to the storage closet off the library parking garage below. Lots of books.

As I begin to leave the library, I notice a patron selecting books to buy off the Book Sale shelf.  Her purchases have left some space on the shelf. My mom fills the empty space with books before she leaves the library.


Readings and Reflections

Words, Nations, and a lot of Books

Without phonetic literacy and the printing press, modern industrialism would be impossible. It is necessary to recognize literacy as typographic technology, shaping not only production and marketing procedures but all other areas of life, from education to city planning”  Marshal McLuhan 1964

Marshal McLuhan also attributes the rise of modern nations to “the explosion of print technology in the 16th Century”.  He asserts “ The printing press, by spreading mass-produced books and printed matter across Europe, turned the vernacular regional languages of the day into uniform closed systems of national languages-just another variant of what we call mass media-and gave birth to the entire concept of nationalism”.

In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson picks up the theme of “print-capitalism” as a key factor in the origin of national consciousness or modern nations. By the year 1500, at least 20 million books had been printed!  He concludes with “almost all the modern self-conceived nations have ‘national print-languages’ in common. Print language may be more standardized than oral language, but the interpretation and the encoding and decoding of the messages adds another layer of  complexity as detailed in Stuart Hall’s article.

Welcome to Pine Point is an online interactive scrap book about a town in Canada that no longer exists.  Told through the story of individuals who grew up in Pine Point, it preserves the memory of a town that was removed from the map after the mine closed.

I think what struck me most about Welcome to Pine Point was how memories are attached to place. When the place is gone-where do the memories go?  In this case the buildings were moved to nearby towns, so one could visit your old house but it would be in a new place. For a while at least residents would go and visit the town site in an annual celebration of fireworks. Maybe now the online book of “Welcome to Pine Point” will become the virtual space to remember a town without a place.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

Rules of Conduct

Rules of Conduct

Why are libraries quiet?  In classic old movies the librarian was a woman saying “shush” to anyone talking loudly. I didn’t see anyone at the Kenmore Library today saying “shush…” and yet no one was speaking loudly.


Was it because of theRules of Conduct Policy posted on the wall?  Or just the possibility of a librarian at the  desk shushing us, if indeed we were a little too loud, because after all that’s what happened in the movies.

Today was my first day back in the Library after the snow and it was quiet, yet there was noise when I listened carefully.  The dull blowing noise of heat circulating. Beeps from items being checked out. Occasional traffic noise from the wet streets outside. Some occasional voices, mostly children, and a dog barking. The dog was outside.

Readings and Reflections

In the reading Panopticism the author writes about buildings designed for surveillance, such as prisons, hospitals and schools.  The main feature of the building design was a central tower, with a view to the surrounding rooms.   Kenmore Library’s design reverses this scheme. According to the architects

As a gesture of civic inclusiveness, the reading room is transparent and open, with continuous glazing on the public facades and a delicate tension-rod roof truss system which clear-spans the 75’ x 90’ space.

Doors are a big part of Bruce Latour’s chapter entitled Where are the Missing Masses? The sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts.  I had never thought about what it would be like to not have doors.  The work it would take to create holes in walls and fix them if we needed to get in or out of a space!   How fascinating to think of all that has gone into designing doors that close automatically and do not need a person or sign to “tell” people to close the door. This is the Kenmore Library meeting room with the glass doors open.  The doors can be shut to separate the space and still maintain a visual connection.

Finally in the movie  “Attack the Block”, a gang of young boys and a nurse all live in the same block (apartment building) only at first they don’t realize they live in the same neighborhood.  The architecture of the building was row after row of cubicles without any apparent common areas or places to meet other than the street.  Nothing like aliens to unite the neighborhood.

Not an alien-detail of a roof truss inside the Kenmore Library.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized


Inside The Kenmore Library

Pictures of the Kenmore Library

There are two main ways to enter the Kenmore Library. The front door is the obvious choice. Another option is to take the elevator up from the parking garage below the Library. That was the way I chose. The elevator opens into the lobby right next to the front door. Either choice ends up basically in the same place.
Parking under the Kenmore LIbrary

Parking under the Kenmore Library

The return slots are right near the entrance, some on the outside and some on the inside. Next to the return slots is the Friends of the Library Book Sale shelf. Donated books are sold to help fund library programs and special events. New books nearly every day.  Next are the restrooms and then a public meeting room.

The children’s section is next to the meeting room. It is delineated by its turquoise walls and tiny furniture. There are even computers on tiny little tables. Excited children running and talking,

In the front of the library along the floor to ceiling windows is the busiest place in the library, the computers.  Twelve computers, in clusters of four are in nearly constant use. Printing is shared.  Near the computers are more Tables for studying, Teen area and Study rooms

Book shelves hold the books and also help define the different spaces in the Library. I noticed when I sat down there was a sense of enclosure.  The library has no interior walls in the central public space so even with the walls of shelves the space still has an open feel.  During the day the large windows connect the space with the outdoors. At night, however, the dark limits the view from outside.

down the row

A row of book shelves

The windows in the back of the library overlook the “rain garden” plantings. A double row of comfy chairs invites the library patron to sit and read. The magazine section is in the back of the library.

Closing time in the Library. The staff makes the announcement, “ four minutes and 40 seconds until closing. There is an almost constant beep, beep, beep as items are being checked out. The library will be closed for the next two days. Sunday and Monday in Honor of  Martin Luther King jr. Day.

Readings and Reflections

According to Hoey in What is Ethnography?, Ethnography is different from many types of research because it relies on an “insiders’ point of view. He also refers to the term “participant observation” or “ a long term engagement in the field setting or place”.  Both are interesting terms in relation to studying a library.

I have noticed there are three main types of library patrons: Runners, Browsers and Sitters.

Runners run in and pick up their items on hold, quickly check them out and leave.

Browsers  come in, may pick up their holds and then browse for more materials to add to their check outs.

Sitters are the ones who come to sit down and spend time at the library, reading, studying or using the computers.

Before beginning this study I was mostly a Runner, sometimes a Browser.  For the next few weeks in order have an “insiders” point of view of the library, I will be a “sitter”. Pictures of the Kenmore Library

1 Comment

Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized



Fridays at the Library is an ethnographic study of a public space, the new Kenmore Library.  I chose the Kenmore Library for several reasons. I love libraries and books. When I was a child I used to skip recess to help out in the school library. I love to read and own many books in addition to my e-reader.  I also live in Kenmore and have been very involved in the community over the years, most recently as a city council member and a Kenmore Library Advisory member.  Getting new library was a long process for our little town and I learned along the way that people really love their libraries.  Perhaps this study will help me to learn some of the reasons why.

I have been blogging about Kenmore since 2008 on

Laurie Sperry

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Uncategorized