Sunday, January 20, 2013

Car in the Lobby

Last Friday (January 18) the person who does public relations for the College stopped by the Library to ask about the car on display in the College first floor lobby. I passed by the car many times and since it had no sign or plaque, I never paid too much attention. She wanted to know more about the car and the story of how it came to the College. She knew the car once belonged to the school’s namesake, Malcolm X.

The car is a black, four-door hard top Oldsmobile Ninety-eight. The Ninety-eight was a top of the line car with many advanced features (for its time) such as padded dash, safety spectrum speedometer, air scoop brakes, dual-speed windshield wipers, Safety-Vee steering wheel, parking brake lamp, power windows, windshield washer, electric clock, Roto Hydramatic transmission, power steering and power brakes.

Picture from

In our investigation we wanted to know the year this car was manufactured. In the 1960’s the vehicle identification number (VIN) is not clearly visible. Initially we couldn’t find it because we didn’t know where to look. Manufactures put the VIN on the engine in some cars, but this car had the engine and all the under hood parts removed. Later in the afternoon, the PR person found a passer-by who knew to look at the right rear tail light for the date of manufacture. This car was made in 1963. Malcolm X died Feb. 21, 1965.

The College archives didn’t help with the quest for information about the car and the story of how it came to the College. We looked in the Library databases for a story about the car and how it came to the College. We couldn’t find anything in the Chicago or national newspapers.
I did find references to Malcolm X driving an Oldsmobile. He owned several in his life time. The challenge is the one described in print was blue, not black. The car in lobby was not repainted. Below are some sources:

From Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention / by Manning Marable. (New York, Viking, 2011)
Malcolm picked up James and drive to Morningside Park pulling his blue Oldsmobile Ninety-eight to the curb …
From: The Autobiography of MALCOLM X with the assistance of Alex Haley, New York: Grove Press, 1965.
Malcolm X promptly did begin to pay me two- and three-hour visits, parking his blue Oldsmobile outside the working studio I then had in Greenwich Village. He always arrived around nine or ten at night carrying his flat tan leather briefcase which along… page 423

When the blue Oldsmobile stopped, and I got in… page 450

After that telephone call, Malcolm X drove on into Manhattan and to the New York Hilton Hotel between 53rd and 54th streets at Rockefeller Center. He checked the blue Oldsmobile into the hotel garage… page 469
From Curry, G. E. “1995, the last days of Malcolm X” Emerge, 6, 34-34.
That night [Feb. 20, 1965], Malcolm drove his blue 1965 Oldsmobile to the New York Hilton Hotel in Rockefeller Center, parking the car in the garage and taking a room on the 12th floor.
These quotes raise more questions than I can answer. Did Malcolm once have a blue 1963 Oldsmobile? Did the writers make a mistake about the color? Perhaps the car in the lobby is not really his? If someone can find the VIN it may be able to trace the ownership.

My task as a librarian is done after I pointed the person in the right direction. Perhaps some day we’ll find the documents in the archives with the answers?
Nov. 1, 2015

In anticipation of the College's new campus, the car was moved to the new building on Oct. 24.  The car was moved with the help of several cranes and lifts.  The wheels never turned.  There is no motor under the hood.  The car will now have a predominate place in the lobby.

Since the ceiling is not complete. this wooden "house" was built to protect the car.

I found out from Oldsmoble sites, that the VIN is probably on the driver side door.  I found this information after I left for day.  Sometimes the metal plate with the VIN falls off because the rivets corrode.  I leave this investigation for another day.

Received from  Doug Kitchener Gaithersburg MD on Jan 23, 2013.  Included with permission.

I've been an Oldsmobile enthusiast for many years. The car pictured is a 1964 model. Can't tell you much more than that. At one time there was an Oldsmobile History Center but I think it's been merged with the GM Heritage Center and I doubt that they have much comprehensive information about any one specific vehicle.

A good reference / "spotter's guide" for Oldsmobiles is _The Cars of Oldsmobile_ by Dennis Casteele, Crestline Publications. Crestline also has other similar publications concerning the other GM lines.

 Interesting story, thanks.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

He Gave me a Smile

Last month I wrote about requesting a smile from a crying toddler.  Last week I had the reverse experience.

I had to return some books to college book store.  When I was about to knock on the door of the office, a little boy of about 6 or 7 got my attention.  He said, “I’ve got a name tag.”  He beamed with a big smile as he showed me the tag, “Follett’s Book Store. “  I said, “Mr. Bookstore, I’m so glad to meet you. I have a name tag, too.  Would you like my business card to remind you of my name?”

He was the son of the person I was planning to see.  He smiled and I smiled back.

Thanks for sharing the smile.

What is the Proper Size for a Library?

A librarian in Wyoming asked her colleagues on lm_net, a list serv for school librarians, about the size of a new library for school’s remodeling project. The current building (according to their web site) was built between 1924 and 1941 and the school itself claims to be more than 100 years old. Any building that old should have many remodeling jobs done between 1941 and today. The library is open before and after school.

The administration says that the purpose of the library is changing and the school no longer needs the current sized library. They wanted a library 1/3 of the current size.

It is impossible to answer this question without knowing what the situation of the school is. I will attempt to raise some of the questions that need to be addressed before anyone can give an informed opinion.

The first questions are: What is the school and library’s mission statement? How does the library and its programming fit into the curriculum, school day, and post-school day? According to their web site the mission of the school is: “committed to preparing responsible and life-long learners who value themselves, contribute to their society, and succeed in a changing world. ” [fn 1]

Since this questioner’s library has no published mission statement, below is a generic one that I created, based on the published mission statements from other schools.
The mission of the High School Library -Media Center is: 1) Teach students to be effective users of information from all sources; 2) Prepare students for the next step in their educational careers; and 3) Prepare students to be life-long learners. To accomplish this mission the library and it staff will:

 •  Provide a timely collection that supports the curriculum and recreational reading needs of students and faculty. The collection will include periodicals, print and electronic books and non-print materials.

 •  Provide instruction in information literacy that will teach students how to find and evaluate information

 •  Provide physical and electronic tools to access resources and materials in the library, in other libraries, and library databases.

 •  Stimulate interest in reading, knowledge and the quest for information and ideas

 •  Promote the use of the library by students and faculty through programs, publicity and other outreach activities

 • Partner with teachers to develop educational strategies that meet the information needs of students and to augment teaching

• Provide an atmosphere that contains a welcoming physical space with current technology resources for a variety of learning styles and activities
The second set of questions revolves on the space needs of the library. How many students are in the school and how many can be expected in the library at any given time period? Does the library act as a computer lab? Does the school have a computer lab outside of the library where students can do their homework and access library resources? Does the library have study or meeting rooms? Does the library have a faculty work room? Does the school offer wi-fi for students to do their work from other places in the building or campus?

If the school’s use of space will move some of these tasks to other rooms, then the library will need less space after remodeling. If the library will take on new roles, more space will be needed. Here are two articles that deal with the questions of space design in greater detail that I can in this column, “Space Matters: Designing a High School Library for Learning” by Bryce Nelson and Lorne McConachie. In Educational Facility Planner Volume 44:1 (2010). and “Divine Design: How to create the 21st-century school library of your dreams” by Margaret Sullivan. In School Library Journal April 1, 2011

Basically some of the space considerations include: The space must be flexible. Furniture and fixtures must be able to be moved to accommodate variable sized groups, purposes and needs. Space is needed for reading, writing, collaborating and creating video and audio. The library space should support the ideas of collaborative education. That means the librarian is a partner and collaborator with faculty, students, and staff.

The library is not a warehouse for books and materials. Materials need to be merchandised, displayed and promoted. Include e-books and digital devices in your space planning.

Insist on an electronic infrastructure that can grow or mutate to changing needs. Nothing looks like lack of planning more than unsightly and unsafe wires. Make sure to work with the IT and physical plant departments to be sure the library has the ability to meet today’s power and data needs and those that we can’t even image will exist in 5, 10 or 20 years.

The space should be inviting, inspiring, and attractive, but must be functional and livable over beauty. [fn 2] You and the library users have to work in the library everyday. Make sure the lighting, walls, windows, furniture, computers, etc. are proper for their designed purpose and are not just for show. Imagine the library is your school’s place for research, creativity, and work where “information meals” are assembled. The library needs a variety of seating and spaces to meet the student, faculty and staff needs. The library needs quiet spaces, places for movement, conversation, and group work. The library should be grand and not resemble any classroom in your school or your imagination. This will give the message that the library and its programs are important parts of the school.

Don’t forget the school hallways and outdoor areas. Use them as extensions of the learning space.
I can’t give exact advice for the number of square feet or seating a library needs because each library needs to figure that out. There should be enough room for at least one class to be meeting with a librarian and/or teacher while others in the library can do what they need to do. Seating for between 10% and 25% of the student body should be a goal of the space planning. Adequate work areas are needed for the processing of materials and administrative purposes.

The third set of questions concern the collection development policies. Does the library have a written current well defined policy? What is the current size of the physical collection? Is the collection current? How many books need replacement because they are worn, outdated or no longer fit the curriculum? What is the circulation? How much space needs to be devoted to the circulation and reference areas? Does the library need a special collections or restricted circulation room or area? Will the physical collections grow or be restricted to one item in; one item out?

Electronic books are on the radar of everyone. Some people say electronic books will replace print books. They are mistaken. Many students will embrace e-books while many will refuse to read them. The library needs to offer choices to accommodate the differing needs of the students and tasks. Electronic books are great when it comes to instant access to millions of books, that the library could never afford to house and circulate. E-readers weigh less than a paperback book and can be read anywhere. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “REVIEW --- Don't Burn Your Books -- Print Is Here to Stay --- The e-book had its moment, but sales are slowing,” Nicholas Carr [fn 3] reports that while electronic books are gaining is sales, people still read physical books. The possibility of choice is what is important. The article gives statistics on the sales of electronic books. It reports that at least 89% of active readers had read a print book in the last year. The growth of e-books sales has slowed. The results of e-book sales are skewed toward fiction and recreational reading. Those who buy e-readers and tablets want to be able to take the devices wherever they go for pleasure reading. The booksellers don’t report on e-books sold for research or other scholarly purposes. For example my library has about 3500 electronic medical books. We could not afford the space to keep a collection of that size. Electronic books available at all times. If a library user wants a printed copy, they can order it for a reasonable cost of printing.

We also can’t afford the space costs for the periodical collection. Electronic databases have taken the place of shelves full of back issues. Does the library office access to databases?
Electronic books have some amazing features, but they will always be a part of the collection, not THE collection. Several turn-offs (pun intended) for electronic books are: they require a device to read them. If the device is not available or loses power, the book can’t be read. Electronic books generally can’t be loaned, borrowed, or sold when you are done. (I know libraries lend electronic books, but I talking about consumer bought e-books.) When I have searched a library catalog for a recreational electronic book or file, the search seems to take a lot longer than browsing the physical shelves. On the other hand, I have about 100 public domain books in the Google account. I can read them or not read them without the need to pay for space. Some of these electronic books duplicate print books on my shelf.

Conclusion: There is no right size for a school library that can be found in an article. The right size depends on an analysis of the current situation, future needs of the library, and the future of the school. The interested parties need a self study to figure out the best course of action, but in the end the library needs to be a grand, livable space that will accomplish its mission, the mission of school, and the mission of education in our society.

1. I see a problem with this statement. It uses a gerund rather that an action verb. A better version would be: To prepare responsible life-long learners, who value themselves, contribute to society, and succeed in a changing world.” However, even the revised version is too vague to me meaningful. A mission statement should form a basis for creating other policies. Sample mission statements and other resources for school libraries may be found at the website “Resources for School Librarians.”:

2. Art work may be included to enhance the beauty of the library. There should be a distinction between art for the sake of beauty and art interfering with functionality of the space and furnishings.

3. Carr, Nicholas. "REVIEW --- Don't Burn Your Books -- Print is here to Stay --- the e-Book had its Moment, but Sales are Slowing; Readers Still Want to Turn those Crisp, Bound Pages." Wall Street Journal: C.2.

Comments received

Jan. 14, 2013

I think this is a subject that we should discuss.  I work currently at a middle school in Southern California, after 18 years at an elementary school in the same district.

In 2004, the California School Library Association came out with a comprehensive guide to what exemplary school libraries should look like, K-12. There is a large section devoted to what the library space should contain, and how large it should be. It is titled "Standards and Guidelines for Strong School Libraries".  I believe it is still in print.  Contact for a copy.

Here in California, the state recommends 28 books per student - with my school of 1134, I should have at least 31,700 titles - I have 10,300, and at least 60% are over 15 years old. (So I have just started a massive weeding project.) I could no more get 32,000 titles in this space than I could fly to the moon!

Of course, this is California and there is no money for materials, so I am writing grants which will (hopefully) garner $35,000 for next year. However, just knowing the recommended number of books per student would give the school a basic idea of how many line feet of shelving would be required, and that in turn would give the planners an idea of the space requirements just for books - I bet if the librarian found those figures, she'd have an argument against cutting her space to 1/3 of its current size!
Candace Bratmon
Toll Middle School
Glendale, Ca 91202

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New President Interview -- Part 15

Leadership When We Need It*

Q: Recently I read an article by Marc Schiller [fn 1] about leadership in IT (Information Technology) departments of businesses. He observes that many IT professionals don’t understand the nature of leadership. They frequently say that they don’t even know why they need to attend leadership training classes. How does leadership fit into the world of academia? What exactly is leadership?
A: Schiller reported that IT professionals could not even define leadership in more exact terms than, “when I see it I’ll know.” Leadership is based on a principal most succinctly stated in Sayings of the Fathers (2:6): “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” One never knows when you will have to take charge of situation. You do not need to be a formal supervisor of employees to need and use leadership skills. In academia every faculty member is a manager and supervisor. A class and its learning program is led and directed by the teacher. In some ways the teacher has to task of creating a time and task limited organization. The teachers bring the students from knowing little about the subject to a mastery of a body of knowledge assigned to the course. Teachers understand that leadership is required at all levels and we even want to help our students develop their leadership skills.

In addition to their role as classroom teachers, faculty members take part in committees and groups that help in the management of the college and its activities. Faculty have major roles in the short term and strategic planning of the College. Business people outside of management have very little to say in the governance of the organization. That is one reason business people have such a hard time comprehending the role faculty play in the academic organization outside of their teaching duties. Even teachers in elementary and high schools do not understand the role college faculty play in how the college or university is managed. Because a college answers to several layers of supervision, there is much activity required outside of the classroom for student success. These supervising agencies include the school boards, the state boards of higher education, licensing agencies, and the accrediting agencies. For example the Illinois Board of Higher Education has set these goals that are designed to eliminate barriers and help citizens achieve their educational aspirations.

1: Increase educational attainment
2: Improve college affordability
3: Strengthen workforce development
4: Link research and innovation to economic growth

We need to include these goals with the local, specific goals of the college. Professional organizations set standards for training programs and those who want to members of their organizations. The accreditation process includes some sort of self study to measure the success of the program, nature of continuous improvements, and promote trust within the communities serves.

Q: How do we teach leadership?

A: Leadership is a component of every career program and every science and humanities course. In the humanities we teach a body of knowledge that students need to master. The students learn their role in the world of knowledge. In the career program we teach the theoretical background, the practical training and the soft skills for success on the job. Leadership means taking a stand for what is right and acting in a professional manner even when the supervisor is not present. We teach by example, with cases, and practical exercises.

Q: What can a leader do integrate individual needs and organizational goals?

A: There is a kind of competition between the satisfaction of individual and small group needs and the goals of the larger organization. The big picture view of the larger group conflicts with the smaller view of the small group and the individuals. The upper management must constantly be reminded that strong individuals make a strong institution. A child has minimal control over his/her everyday activities; is expected to be passive, dependent, and subordinate; have a small view of their world; and expected to produce results with little individually and creativity. This is not what a mature person in the organization should be doing. As employees become more mature and experienced in their job and organization, their responsibilities and rewards are increased. Leadership needs active and independent action. The whole organization needs communications up and down the hierarchy to help people learn each other’s view of the organization and its tasks. By increasing the role of the individual and increasing the participation in small and large groups, employees feel more in control of their destiny.

It can be shown that job enlargement and employee centered (or democratic or participative) leadership are elements which, if used correctly, can go a long way toward ameliorating the situation. [fn 2]

As you can see participatory management principles are not new.

Q: Dr. William Bowen, president emeritus of Princeton University wrote that it is impossible for a university president to succeed without help from a team of talented individuals. How does your view of leadership connect to the building of a team? [fn 3]

A: Recruiting and hiring the right people who have the talent to lead the college is a priority for any president – university, college, non-profits, or business. The skills of the team need to complement each other. I have always needed to surround myself with people who could do the jobs and tasks that I could not. If I knew everything and had infinite time and energy I would not need the help. That means I need to hire people I trust will get the job done. The relationships with the provost and vice-presidents are critical. The college has an academic/instruction side and a business/administrative side. While I want the provost to have a record of scholarship and teaching, I want to vice-president for administration to have business and administrative acumen. Much of the time we don’t go to the same meetings so that we could be more efficient. We have to agree totally on the college’s mission, but the ways we ascend to the goal is not always the same.

For example there are times I just want to get the job done and the provost wants to make sure the job is done “right.” Sometimes the roles are reversed. We didn’t need to debate whether the job should be done; only the best route to accomplish shared values and commitments. When I arrived at the college about 19 months ago we had many discussions about the best ways to share ideas and responsibilities. We reviewed goals and mission of the college and made sure to publicize out commitment to the college’s mission. Now we work as a team and encourage teamwork within every department.

The vice-president for administration is involved in the both the administrative tasks of the college and the physical plant. He came to the job some 15 years ago with background and experience in how to run the business and physical plant parts of an organization. The financial and physical plant departments answer to him. I depend on him to know how to run things that I have only superficial knowledge. For example when we build or remodel new buildings he knows more than I will ever know about the process, but we worked together to make sure the mission to serve the students and others who use the facility is implemented.

Recruitment is a two way street. Sometimes the college goes after people we think the college needs. I learned that if someone says the job is not a good match, believe them. People know more about themselves, than you or I will ever know. I need people who believe in themselves and the mission of the college. In the recruitment process I will talk to people who work with the candidate and those who supervise. Understanding how they deal all kinds of people gives us clue me how they will work in our environment.

Q: How would you deal with the situation when someone who leaves the college because of an obvious deficiency?

A: In some places they would recruit someone without that deficiency or problem. This is not always the answer because we may ignore the whole package. We need to examine the whole set of skills and perhaps revise the job description before hiring a new person. People come in “packages” containing their genetics, skills, education, training, personality, etc. Some aspects can improve with experience, but totality of the package rarely changes. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, but sometimes the signs are hard to read until after the fact. I have learned that leaders need to take chances. An organization that never takes chances or risk will never grow or have an entrepreneurial spirit. People can be super stars in their current job and just not fit into the role our college needs. Every member of our team has parts of their “package” that we value, some parts that we tolerate and the parts in between that we hope will develop and change over time.

Q: Thank you very much.


 *Part fifteen of an imaginary interview with the president of the College. Note this is just for your information and edification. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental.


1. Schiller, Marc J. Schiller. “ IT Leadership: Overcoming Three Career-Limiting Myths” in CIO Insight. Posted Jan. 20, 2012. (Retrieved Nov. 25, 2012)

2. Argyris, Chris. “The Individual and Organization: Some Problems of Mutual Adjustment. in Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Jun., 1957), p. 23 (Retrieved from Jstor)

3. Bowen, William G. Lessons Learned :reflections of a University president. Princeton, New Jersey : Princeton University Press, 2011. Chapter 3