So yesterday I had the extreme good fortune of keynoting at Allen County Library Camp. There are some slides.There will be video, at least of an interview I did afterward, maybe also of my talk — in the meantime you can watch their series of conversations with previous speakers (which includes a lot of awesome names you will recognize, so believe me, you want to check this out).
But enough about that. Let me talk for a while about their library. Because wow, their library.
First off, everyone I met in Fort Wayne was unfailingly gracious and pleasant, starting with the free cookie in the airport (!) and including hotel and restaurant staff as well as the library. And then, that library.
So it’s the size of multiple football fields. Huge. The main corridor is positively cavernous, but light-soaked and shiny and new. They have a Lincoln collection with thousands of original documents and photographs about the president, including a signed original Emancipation Proclamation. And a lot of the collection is digitized, so you can have fun with that.
They have the first teen department in the country — 1952. Admittedly it was founded not so much as to give the teens a place as to keep them out of everyone else’s way — proto-James-Dean hoodlums, oh no! But now it is huge and welcoming, with space for classes, a collection of teen-centric nonfiction as well as the usual novels and manga, and a sweet living room (for teens only) with big colorful chairs and programmable colorful lighting and sound cones that let a group of you huddle around someone’s iPod playlist without bothering anyone else. And the teens and their librarian clearly had good rapport.
They have the biggest geneaology collection outside of Salt Lake. Remember how I said the building is the size of multiple football fields? The genealogy section has a football field all to itself. They had to run multiple enormous specially-reinforced columns up from the foundations to keep the weight of their passenger lists and filing cabinets from collapsing the building. And the place was packed — they get geneaology tourists — the wonderfully personable young man from the hotel who drove my airport shuttle told me they regularly get people from, say, California, in town to do genealogy. (And the librarians clearly love them back — these are the people who will ask killer reference questions and spend hours thrilled that you have microfiche for them to pore over.)
They have a television studio. A television studio! It’s the local public access cable channel, but they can also use it for library programming (like that conversation series), and internships and helping community members create stuff, and when I say “a television studio” I really meant “multiple studios” with a bewildering array of cameras and lighting options.
They have a theater. It seats 250 and has a stage suitable for drama or (as is immediately apparent) local political debates. This was where I gave my speech, with two cameras trained on me, a giant screen behind me for the slides, a pile of lights, a lavalier.
This library, people. Amazing. All those things we talk about — have unique collections and push hard on what you can do with them? be a place for your community to create stuff? build on your location and its history? Yeah, they do that. Impressively.
And I haven’t even mentioned their wonderland of a children’s room. Or that they make donuts.
(Or the part where the other keynoter was Eli Neiburger. Eli Neiburger! I got to be on the same stage as Eli Neiburger! Who, let me tell you, ups the ante for how good your presentation needs to be, and is a lot of fun to talk to. And whose library is doing some wicked cool gamification stuff.)
So: thank you Sean and Deb and Melissa and Katie and everyone else who made my first Indiana experience completely awesome. I have a list in my head of the libraries one should make pilgrimages to, and yours is now on it.