Saturday, August 14, 2010

Boulder Library Commission Reviews Alternative Funding Methods

Link to August 14 Daily Camera article, "Boulder library leaders look for sustainable funding".

Excerpt: The commission will make its pitch for more money at a joint study session with the City Council on Sept. 14, but a dedicated sales tax won't be the only option on the table.

The commission is also reviewing more than a dozen alternative ways for the library -- which has often been at the top of the list for budget cuts -- to receive more stable, long-term funding for capital improvements and library services.

Among the ideas is a plan to create an independent library district, funded by a mill levy increase that would raise property taxes. The district would remove the responsibility of administrating the library from the city and would create a new governmental entity.

Another proposal would create a regional library authority that would be funded through a combination of a mill levy and a dedicated sales tax.

Mayor Susan Osborne said she is looking forward to reviewing the different options and that the council generally agrees the library needs to become more sustainable

Rocky Mountain Land Library

Link to August 14 Los Angeles Times article, "Creating a unique library in Colorado".

Excerpt:     It lies about two hours from Denver, in the high mountain grasslands that have recently been designated a National Heritage Area. If all the details are worked out with local officials, the Buffalo Peaks Ranch, founded in 1861, will become home to the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Land Library.

Jeff Lee and his wife Ann Martin, longtime staff members at the famed Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, are behind the Rocky Mountain Land Library project. They were inspired by St. Deinio's Library in North Wales to create a space for scholarship, contemplation, reading and writing, all in connection with the land itself.

Lee and Martin have collected more than 20,000 volumes focused on nature, the environment, history, literature, western land issues, archeology and the cultures that have passed through the region. If plans go forward, they will be housed in a library constructed with and around the ranch buildings and barns on the site

Santa Fe Springs Library Renovation: Living Within Imposed Limits

Link to August 9 LPA blog, "The Re-Birth of the Santa Fe Springs Library".

Excerpt:     In 2007 the City of Santa Fe Springs hired LPA to renovate the library. Everything had changed from 1961: technology, energy efficiency, demographics. While the City was unsuccessful in obtaining Library Grant Funds from the state in 2004, they were determined to give their citizens a better tool for learning. There were, however, a few constraints.

We could not add square footage.

We could not change the exterior.

We could not go over the budget.

And since the majority of the City Council had gone to the library as children and teens, we needed to ‘weave the new with the familiar’ in order to have their blessing, and their votes.

Not a problem. LPA’s expert library design team of Rick D’Amato and Chris Lentz had done this before

Back to school at the Manhattan Public Library, Manhattan KS

A Look Inside Topeka Shawnee County's DVD Dispenser

Gail Borden Public Library District officials recently claimed that their DVD dispenser "is the only one of its kind in the United States."

Retiring Guy isn't so sure. the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library.

Gail Borden allows a non-cardholder to browse, however.

Here We Go Again....Another Library Flash Mob

Definitely a below-average effort in concept, execution, and cinematography in Retiring Guy's (re)view.

Elgin Branch Library Celebrates Its 1st Anniversary

Link to August 14 Daily Herald article, "Elgin library branch celebrates a successful year".

Excerpt: Steven Wleklinski visits the 24-hour, external DVD dispenser at the Rakow Branch of the Gail Borden Public Library about once a month.

This week, it was to pick up a last-minute "Ben 10" DVD to help entertain his visiting nephew.

A year ago, this little trip might have required the 10-year South Elgin resident to drive further or even make a jaunt to the local video store.

"It's very convenient," Wleklinski said of the Rakow Branch. "It's a nice setting. It suits my needs."

From September 2009 through July 2010, 45,738 DVDs and games were checked out from the dispenser, which library officials say is the only one of its kind in the United States,

Wondering what the 45,738 number means? It's about six items checked out from the library every hour of every day, around the clock.

The DVD dispenser is just one successful aspect of the west side branch, which library officials designed to accent the services offered at the main Gail Borden building in downtown Elgin.

The $4.2 million, 10,000-square-foot branch will celebrate its anniversary Sunday with an open house from 1 to 3 p.m., as well as the unveiling their gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and an announcement that branch will be open on Thursdays this fall

News from the Stoughton Public Library in Massachusetts

Link to August 13 Patriot-Ledger article, "Young Stoughton environmentalist creates green logo for library reading shirt contest".

Excerpt: When Natalie Falco’s mom heard about the theme for this year’s Stoughton Public Library summer reading program, she knew her daughter had the skills and ideas to create a perfect logo to accompany the campaign.

She was right.

Last month, Falco’s design was selected as the winner of the Go Green at Your Library summer reading T-shirt design contest.

Falco already had some great design ideas because she recently helped her sister create some environmental sketches for a project. Using that insight, the 18-year-old spent less than an afternoon creating the 8 ½” x 11” design which consists of a light bulb, a tree, a book and a butterfly

But remember folks, there is only one Waunakee in the world.

Doctors' Orders: Prescriptions for the Body, Prescriptions for the Mind

Link to August 12 New York Times article, "Eat an Apple (Doctor's Orders)".

Excerpt: Doctors at three health centers in Massachusetts have begun advising patients to eat “prescription produce” from local farmers’ markets, in an effort to fight obesity in children of low-income families. Now they will give coupons amounting to $1 a day for each member of a patient’s family to promote healthy meals.

“A lot of these kids have a very limited range of fruits and vegetables that are acceptable and familiar to them. Potentially, they will try more,” said Dr. Suki Tepperberg, a family physician at Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, one of the program sites. “The goal is to get them to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables by one serving a day.

Retiring Guy figured --correctly -- that some type of 'prescription for reading' program is in place.

From the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Studies newsroom.


Link to February-March 2003 Reading Today article excerpt, "Prescription for Early Reading: Reach out and Read Program Enlists Pediatricians to Encourage Parents to Read to Young Children."

Excerpt: This prescription for reading is being dispensed by an ever-increasing number of doctors' offices across the United States. Reach Out and Read (ROR) programs currently serve 1.5 million children each year and distribute 3 million free books.

ROR now operates at more than 1.400 clinics, hospitals, office practices, or other primary care sites in all 50 states, and more than 14,000 pediatricians, nurses, and other clinicians have been trained in the ROR strategies of early literacy. The program serves all kinds of people, but focuses on reaching families living in poverty.

The Reach Out and Read program began as a collaboration between pediatricians and early childhood educators at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) in 1989. Since then the program, which is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has grown steadily

Public Library Funding Landscape

Link to American Libraries Summer 2010 digital supplement.

In the current economic environment, I suppose that the good news is that more than 50% of libraries anticipate an unchanged operating budget.  No cuts is the new increase.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Only Marlib Upload on YouTube

Fitchburg (WI) Public Library Construction Live Webcam

Related articles:
Library bids come in under budget.  (7/2/2010)
Library groundbreaking.  (4/13/2010)
City set for library groundbreaking.  (4/11/2010)
Library receives anonymous $1 million matching donation.  (2/3/2010)
Geothermal heating encouraged for new Fitchburg library.  (1/12/2010)

Rockford Public Library Considers District Status

Link to Rockford Register-Star article, "Library trustees weigh split from city control".

Excerpt:   Rockford Public Library leaders say a financial analysis would help determine whether the library should seek becoming a taxing district independent of the city.

Trying to plan for a more stable financial future, the library district proposal is one of many ideas the library is discussing in a 2012 strategic plan

Related articles:

Wisconsin Department of Revenue Releases Equalized Values

From the news release:   Equalized values are calculated annually to ensure statewide fairness and equity in property tax distribution. An equalized value represents an estimate of a taxation district's total taxable value, and provides for the fair apportionment of taxation district levies (including school districts and counties) to each municipality. Changes in equalized value do not necessarily translate into a change in property taxes.

Changes in Equalized Value for Selected Cities.

Best performers.

Worst performers

Troy (Michigan) Library Initiatives: Giving Voters More Choices Than They Need

Link to August 9 Detroit Free Press article, "Troy library proposals cause worry:  4 choices will confuse voters, some say".

Excerpt: The Friends of the Troy Public Library and the Citizens to Save Troy Public Library's initiative supports the library, which is to close in July because of budget cuts. It would be run independently and administered by a nonpartisan elected board of trustees. The proposal the Friends drafted asks for 0.9885-mill for 10 years.

The three new proposals ask for millage amounts that hover just above or below 0.9885-mill; they all begin with a 9 and end with a 5.

"We think that this is an attempt to split our vote or make the ballot complicated or confuse voters," said Rhonda Hendrickson, a Friends spokeswoman. "This is an insult to the intelligence of Troy residents."

The residents who submitted the additional proposals -- Kathleen O'Laughlin
(1), Robert Outland and William Redfield -- could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

(1)  From Wikipedia.  (Just assuming it's the same Kathleen O'Laughlin.)

Related articles:
Library threatened with closure, part 2.  (5/19/2010)
Library threatened with closure, part 1.  (4/25/2010)

Michigan's Ferndale Public Library Digital Makeover: "Think Jetsons"

Link to August 3 Detroit News article, "Ferndale library sheds light on $4.8M makeover".

Excerpt: The Ferndale Public Library officially abandoned its 1950s image Monday and revealed its $4.8 million digital-age makeover.

"Think Jetsons," said library director Douglas Raber in his modernized office. "We didn't want it to be a traditional-looking library with dark woods and a business-like atmosphere because that's not Ferndale. We wanted something modern but tasteful."

The library, at its original location at 222 E. Nine Mile, nearly doubled its size, from 11,000 square feet to 21,000 square feet. It also is firmly rooted in the 21st century by going completely wireless and adding 27 computers.

The 16-foot ceilings highlight the nearly-floor-to-ceiling windows. Natural light bathes every book. Cobalt blue cylindrical lights hang from the ceiling, while a gas fireplace surrounded by a bamboo wall soon will warm those seated near the courtyard.

In the original library, children had a choice of only a couple of small tables off to the side. Now, they have their own section decorated in bright orange, greens and blues with plenty of computers

Library Tax Passes in Warren Michigan, Branch Libraries Reopen

65% of voters approve.

Link to August 4 Detroit News article, Macomb: Yes to Warren library tax, no to budget help in Eastpointe, Mount Clemens".

Excerpt: Voters in Macomb County communities responded with mixed results to millage hikes and tax renewals on Tuesday.

In Warren, voters approved by 65 percent an increase to the millage that funds operations at the city's main library and its three branch locations. " The 'yes' vote means that residents realize the value of the public library and what it contributes to the community," Warren Library Director Amy Henderstein said. "We are securing the future of the library system for generations to come."

The branches closed July 1 after money ran out, but officials say the 0.85-mill increase could enable them to reopen by Aug. 16. The 20-year tax is expected to bring in $3.4 million each year. It'll cost the average Warren homeowner $45.50 per year

Related article:
Branch closures likely.  (2/13/2010)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Google-Verizon Proposal Pumps Up the Net Neutrality Debate

Link to August 12 New York Times article, "Web Plan is Dividing Companies".

Excerpt:All of our life goes through this network, increasingly, and if you can’t reach your boss or get to your remotely stored work, or it’s so slow that you can’t get it done before you give up and you go to bed, that’s a problem,” said Allen S. Hammond IV, director of the Broadband Institute of California at Santa Clara University School of Law. “People need to understand that’s what we’re debating here.”

Decisions about net neutrality rest with the Federal Communications Commission and legislators, and full-throated lobbying campaigns are already under way on all sides. The Google-Verizon proposal was essentially an attempt to frame the debate

Related links:
Verizon-Google Legislative Framework Proposal.
Electronic Frontier Foundation:  A Review of Verizon and Google's Net Neutrality Proposal.

Ebooks Now Comprise 8.5% of Book Sales

Up from 2.9% from a similar period in 2009. (Maybe it's time to think seriously about state funding for this service.)

Link to August 12 New York Times article, "Quick Change in Strategy for a Bookseller".

Excerpt:    But the threat that has the industry and some readers the most rattled is the growth of e-books. In the first five months of 2009, e-books made up 2.9 percent of trade book sales. In the same period in 2010, sales of e-books, which generally cost less than hardcover books, grew to 8.5 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers, spurred by sales of the Amazon Kindle and the new Apple iPad.

For readers, e-books have meant a transformation not just of the reading experience, but of the book-buying tradition of strolling aisles, perusing covers and being able to hold books in their hands. Many publishers have been astounded by the pace of the e-book popularity and the threat to print book sales that it represents. If the number of brick-and-mortar stores drops, publishers fear that sales will go along with it. Some worry that large bookstores will go the way of the record stores that shut down when the music business went digital

Wisconsin public library circulation increased significantly from 2000 to 2009.

Year-to-date totals at the Middleton Public Library indicate the years of big increases may be over.

2010 year-to-date circulation at LINKcat members libraries is up 0.3%, compared with 4.75% in 2009.

Anyone else seeing this trend?  

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Smash Opening for Vernon Hills (Illinois) Library

Link to August 9 Daily Herald article, "New Vernon Hills library a big hit".

Excerpt:  The ample sunlight is one of the many things visitors love about the Vernon Hills library, which has been attracting patrons in record-breaking numbers since its July 10 opening.

Through the end of the month, more than 600 patrons applied for library cards at Aspen, officials said. That's more signup business than the Cook Memorial Library District typically does during an entire month, facility manager Colleen Koebel said.

Circulation has gone through the roof, too. From July 10 to 31, Aspen Drive patrons checked out 43,266 books, DVDs and other materials, officials said.

That's a 36 percent increase over the 31,691 items checked out at the former temporary library in the basement of Vernon Hills' village hall during all of July 2009, said Lauren Cerniglia, Cook Memorial's assistant director of support services.

"We all knew that Aspen was going to be busy, but we had no idea just how popular it was going to be," she wrote in an e-mail.

The Aspen Drive library took more than a year to build at an estimated cost of $7 million. Simultaneously, the historic library in Libertyville's Cook Park has been undergoing a $7 million renovation and expansion that should be completed by November

Obviously, not everyone has purchased a Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

Fairbanks' 33-Year-Old Library Facility Showing Its Age

Link to August 10 Fairbanks News-Miner article, "Maintenance problems piling up at Noel Wien Library".

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Maintenance problems piling up at Noel Wien Library

Excerpt: Plastic sheets cover bookcases in the Alaskana and adult fiction sections at the Noel Wien Public Library because rainwater is leaking through clefts in the roof.

The building’s pipes are corroding. The trees in the lobby are diseased. Electrical outlets in the facility are scarce.

“When this building was built,” Library Director Greg Hill said, “there was no Internet.”

The building has two separate heating and cooling systems from different eras, and the temperature in parts of the building can vary by 10 degrees.

In all, the library needs about $17 million for maintenance plus a new multi-purpose room and lobby.

Pew Research: Broadband Adoption Slows Considerably

Link to August 11 Pew Internet & American Life summary report, "Broadband 2010: A Big Slowdown".

Excerpt: After several consecutive years of modest but consistent growth, broadband adoption slowed dramatically in 2010. Two-thirds of American adults (66%) currently use a high-speed internet connection at home, a figure that is not statistically different from what the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found at a similar point in 2009, when 63% of Americans were broadband adopters.

The lack of growth in broadband adoption at the national level was mirrored across a range of demographic groups, with African Americans being a major exception. Broadband adoption by African Americans now stands at 56%, up from 46% at a similar point in 2009.

Retiring Guy found the responses to the following question particularly interesting:

In this survey, Americans were asked: "Do you think that expanding affordable high-speed internet access to everyone in the country should be a top priority for the federal government, important but a lower priority, not too important, or should it not be done?" The majority chose the last two options:

■26% of Americans say that expansion of affordable broadband access should not be attempted by government.
■27% said it was "not too important" a priority.
■30% said it was an important priority.
■11% said it should be a top priority.
Those who are not currently online are especially resistant to government efforts to expand broadband access

One more item:

A fifth of American adults (21%) do not use the internet. Many non-users think online content is not relevant to their lives and they are not confident they could use computers and navigate the web on their own.

The full report is here.

Camden New Jersey Squeeze Play?

Link to August 11 Philadelphia Inquirer article, "County takeover looks set to save Camden's libraries".

Excerpt: Frank Fulbrook, a library board member in the audience at the news conference, called the county takeover a land grab.

For more than a decade, there have been rumors and reports that Camden County officials sought to put an expanded county jail or courthouse on the site of the library's main branch on Federal Street downtown. The current jail and courthouse, both in need of expansion, are adjacent to the library.

"This was all a cynical ploy," Fulbrook said. "The county and mayor manufactured a fiscal crisis for the city libraries by giving us only $281,000, knowing we would have to shut down."

Redd's offer to the board for fiscal 2011 initially was about $281,000, $108,000 less than mandated by the state for municipal library aid

According to Lousi Cappelli Jr., Camden  County Freeholder Director, the takeover does not rule out closing one or more of the Camden Public Library branches -- or laying off all city library staff, for that matter.

To continue the baseball metaphor, that's marked as BS -- a blown save -- on your scorecard.

Related articles:
Camden mayor plays an odd game of library advocacy.  (8/9/2010)
The library dumpster solution.  (8/6/2010)
Mayor proposes 70% cut in library funding.  (7/19/2010)

Reaching Out to Reluctant Young Male Readers

Link to August 11 AP story in Green Bay Press-Gazette, "Authors get creative to catch the attention of young male readers"

Excerpt: Can fart jokes save the reading souls of boys? You better hope so. Boys have lagged behind girls in reading achievement for more than 20 years, but the gender gap now exists in nearly every state and has widened to mammoth proportions — as much as 10 percentage points in some, according to the Center on Education Policy.

"It certainly should set off alarm bells," said the center's director, Jack Jennings. "It's a significant separation."

Parents of reluctant readers complain that boys are forced to stick to stuffy required school lists that exclude nonfiction or silly subjects, or have teachers who cater to higher achievers and girls. They're hoping books that exploit boys' love of bodily functions and gross-out humor can close the gap.

"It's like pulling out fingernails. He absolutely does not want to read," said Muscle Shoals, Ala., dad Todd Thompson of his 13-year-old, Hunter. "I read constantly growing up. So did his mother. So does his 8-year-old sister, but he's a go-go kid. To him, books are a waste of time."

Growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich., the 47-year-old Thompson loved two things: football and books. His mom encouraged regular trips to the library. His dad inspired him to dig into the Chip Hilton sports novels written by legendary basketball coach Clair Bee

(Retiring Guy was a big fan of this series once upon a time, long before he would have automatically associated "VF" with "vertical file".)

Related articles:
Op-Ed: High School Teacher and Mom on Why Boys Read Less Than Girls. (7/31/2010)
So that's why they don't have time to go to the library.  (12/09/2009)
Getting boys enthusiastic about reading.  (4/10/2009)

Options for Parental Supervision of Reading at Fond du Lac School District

LINK (to well-designed site)

Link to August 11 Fond du Lac Reporter article, "FdL school libraries implement monitoring system".

Excerpt: Parents of students in Fond du Lac Schools will be notified during the first week of school that they can monitor what their child is reading.

Although means to block library reading materials has been in place since the days of card catalogs, a new state-of-the art software program makes it that much easier, said Fond du Lac School District Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator John Whitsett.

During a work session held Monday, the Fond du Lac Board of Education got an overview of the new Alexandria Library Automation software program. Blocks can be put on authors, book titles and certain subjects, to an extent.

"It can be used as an alert system if parents want to tag authors and book titles they do not want their children to read, but it will not be a content filter," said School Board President Eric Everson.

Related articles:
Fond du Lac School District Book Complaints:  "Enough is enough".  (7/14/2010)
Reconsideration committee votes to keep another book on library shelves.  (6/15/2010)
Reconsideration committee votes to keep book on library shelves. (6/8/2010)
Reconsideration committee to meet.  (6/2/2010)
Yet another book challenge in Fond du Lac.  (5/20/2010)
Wentworth motors on. (5/3/2010)
Ann Wentworth gets fan mail.  (4/29/2010)
School board upholds decision to keep book on shelves.  (4/13/2010)
School library challenge moves to next step.   (4/5/2010)
Parent appeals decision to keep book.  (2/28/2010)
Fond du Lac School District: Update on Remaining Book Challenges
. (2/24/2010)
Sonya Sones Letter to Fond du Lac School Superintendent. (2/23/2010)

Libraries at the Heart of our Communities: Town Hall Meeting Edition

Headline news: "Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor Mark Neumann schedules town hall meetings in Fond du Lac, Oshkosh and Appleton", Appleton Post-Crescent, August 11, 2010.

...Neumann will swing through Fox Valley public libraries today...

Nomad Editions, the 'Mobile' Magazine

Link to August 11 New York Times article, "Magazine Will Cater to Mobile Readers (and Freelancers).

Excerpt: An avid reader of books on his iPhone, Mr. Edmiston said he started batting around the idea of providing high-quality magazine journalism for mobile devices in spring 2009, before the iPad reached the market, but well after the Kindle and other mobile devices began to steal readers away from print. The venture has been financed largely by friends, family and a crop of angel investors; the company has raised $600,000 so far.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fortunately, Sea Atwood Didn't Win a Seat on the City Council

Link to August 1 Aberdeen (South Dakota) News article, "Aberdeen library healthy contributor to community".

Excerpt:    In many cases, it's need vs. luxury. And libraries are trying to prove they belong on the need side.

At least one Aberdeen man thinks they don't.

"(A library) is something that's nice to have, but it's not necessarily a need," said Sea Atwood, an Aberdeen man who runs his own business and ran for a spot on the City Council earlier this summer. "It does provide a lot of great things for the community, but if it comes down to making a decision on what we can afford and you put all the budgets up there, I think the library is somewhere you could trim the fat from ... The library, in my mind, is the low man on the money totem pole."

Luckily, for Aberdeen, it hasn't come to that. And City Manager Lynn Lander doesn't expect it to. Conservative spending over the years has put Aberdeen in a healthy position, he said. The library has a city budget of about $1 million - about 70 percent of which is salaries and benefits.

While many communities nationwide struggle to balance the budget by cutting services, Lander said he doesn't expect that to happen any time soon in the Hub City.

Now....what to make of this paragraph?

That's not the case in states like Montana, New York and Wisconsin, where big and small libraries have closed or slashed budgets to stay open. In New York, for example, public libraries have lost $18 million in state budget cuts since 2008, according to a story on

Roll call, please.

It's big, it's beautiful, it lasts a lifetime...a public library

Milwaukee Public Library Green Roof: How They Did It

Related article:
Milwaukee Public Library installs green roof.  (5/8/2010)

Learning Library Lessons from a Company That Sells a Certified-Organic, Vegan, and Kosher Frozen-Dessert Product

Can't be done, you say?

Take a look.

OK, quit your drooling and take a look here.

Lessons Learned.  (From "Case Study:  How a Mom-and-Pop Operation Turned Itself into a Cult Brand".  MarketingProfs, August 10, 2010.)

Get personal: 
People feel a closer connection to products when they know and like the people behind the brand. So get out there, get acquainted, keep it real, build genuine relationships with people, and let your contagious passion shine through.  The library's management team -- and that might be just one person, in some cases -- needs to be involved in a variety of community activities.  (No reason why Board and Friends members can't help out, no matter what the size of the library.)  After each election, the director should invite new officials to the library for an informal tour and discussion -- and provide reports to all officials on a regular basis.

Empower your advocates
Help your fans to help you grow by offering the tools, motivation, and support they need to demonstrate demand and get your message out to others.  The South Central Library System's Online Advocacy Tool Kit offers numerous suggestions for improving the effectiveness of your library's advocacy team.  And use the resources found at the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation's Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries webpages.

Befriend your distributors, too: 
Get on the good side of the people who directly interact with customers on a daily basis, and find ways to make them enthusiastic about your product and brand.  The library's front-line staff -- the distribution of good will starts at the service desk(s) -- need to feel that their input in policy and planning decisions, particularly at the initial review level, is welcomed and appreciated.

As for the cult-like status, better to strive for your library to be at the heart of its community.

Magazine Newsstand Sales, Circulation Continue to Fall

Link to August 10 Wall Street Journal article, "Magazine circulation falls further".

But there are a few winners:

140,000 copies per month average
Available at 1 of 49 LINKcat locations.

Available at 37 LINKcat locations.

Available at 15 LINKcat locations.

Available at 2 LINKcat locations.

Available at 1 LINKcat location.
Retiring Guy remembers the day when Rodale Press
was more Earth-Mother, 'hippie-dippie' in its orientation...
and without the exhortations to body image.

The Mirro Company, Manitowoc Wisconsin

Link to August 8 Herald-Times-Reporter editorial, "Take that first step".

Looming over a working-class neighborhood

Excerpt:   Everyone — except perhaps those who vandalize it — agrees the former Mirro building in Manitowoc needs to come down.

The behemoth has been sitting idle since Newell Rubbermaid left town in 2003, and it's turned into a 900,000-square-foot eyesore. Many of its windows are broken and it's a fire hazard.

A few half-hearted attempts have been made to revamp portions of the building into usable space, but they've all fallen by the wayside. The building needs to come down — period.

That's why it is encouraging that the Manitowoc City Council voted on Monday to expand an existing tax increment finance district to include the building. Such a move would make it possible to set aside tax money from the TIF to help pay the estimated $6 million cost of razing the building should the city be forced to acquire it, which seems likely.

"Displaced Manitowoc, Wis., Steelworkers Are Part of Manufacturing's Downturn", by Joel Dresang.  Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, January 18, 2004.

The wood floor creaks in the empty union hall where Gary G. Miller sorts through the names of members of Steelworkers Local 6499, workers who were among the 900 whose jobs left here when Mirro closed its cookware plant last year.

Miller, the union's president, considers the fates of his co-workers. Many remain unemployed, he says. Some have taken retirement. Some, like him, are using government assistance to go to school. Some have found jobs, including a few, he says, at Wal-Mart

"People frown on that," Miller says, because some people blame Wal-Mart for pushing Newell Rubbermaid, Mirro's parent, to move manufacturing to cheaper countries. "But hey, you got to do what you got to do."

Some of the steelworkers are unaccounted for. Miller hasn't heard what has become of them. Some have had their phones disconnected.

The displaced Mirro workers are unwitting players in a historic decline in manufacturing work. Federal estimates for December show the United States lost manufacturing jobs for 41 months in a row. U.S. factory employment has fallen each of the last five years, the first time that has happened since at least 1939 -- as far back as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks.

When state data are reported Thursday, they're likely to show that Wisconsin, which relies on manufacturing employment more than any other state but Indiana, will have lost factory jobs for the fourth year straight.

Nationwide, 2.9 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the past five years, exceeding the decline in the early 1980s. Wisconsin manufacturing is down nearly 80,000 jobs.

Ask where that work has gone and economists talk about improved productivity, diminished demand and increased output from lower-cost countries. Ask where the workers have gone and the response gets more involved. Among the answers:


State labor economists say that Wisconsin averaged about 174,000 unemployed people a month in 2003. That's up from a usual range of 90,000 to 100,000 a month. The difference is pretty close to the number of manufacturing jobs missing, says Terry Ludeman, chief labor economist with the Department of Workforce Development.


Between 40,000 and 45,000 Wisconsin workers retire each year. Manufacturing accounts for about one-fifth of all the jobs in the state, suggesting that 8,000 to 9,000 factory workers could be retiring a year. It's probably higher than that, though, thanks to early retirement packages and because factory workers tend to be older.


Older, more established workers are less likely to move for jobs. A survey of 504 dislocated Mirro workers by Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis., found 73 percent unwilling to relocate for work. Only 15 percent said they'd be willing to commute more than 35 miles.


While goods-producing jobs have fallen, service-providing jobs have grown. Those who work with displaced workers say the ones who get jobs right away mostly take pay cuts and many times settle for work that tides them over until they can retire or that provides them health insurance. "The biggest, biggest problem we've had to deal with is benefits, the loss of health insurance and how expensive it is," says Sandy Destree, who assists former Mirro workers for the state Job Service.


Last year, almost 120,000 Wisconsin workers from all industries qualified for dislocated worker services, ranging from job counseling to training benefits. Wisconsin spent $43.6 million in federal funds on such services. Of those eligible, 18 percent used the services, and 73 percent of them got new jobs at about 74 percent of their previous wages. State officials don't know how many former factory workers received dislocated worker benefits, but manufacturing accounts for about 60 percent of the mass layoff notices in Wisconsin.

Trouble finding work

At Manitowoc's Job Center, behind the new Wal-Mart, oldies music plays in the waiting room. A young man scowls. A woman sighs as she reads through some paperwork. A preschool girl pages through a magazine, cheerfully singing her ABCs.

Times have changed since Destree helped set up the dislocated worker program here 21 years ago. She remembers the rampant factory closings of the early 1980s. Then, Destree says, the emphasis was putting workers back in jobs as quickly as possible, which wasn't as hard to do.

"I think in the past, we were always able to absorb," she says. "We had so much manufacturing in the northeast corner of the state. If one company went down, another picked those workers back up."

Now, few manufacturers are hiring. The workers losing their jobs tend to be older. And the factories are more automated, requiring more technical know-how. A few years ago, even as local employers spoke of labor shortages, discharged factory workers had trouble finding work, Destree says. Many of those who landed employment have since been unemployed again.

Miller, the union president, has the meaty hands of a man raised on manual labor. He grew up dairy farming. After high school, he worked at a sauerkraut factory with his mother until he moved to Manitowoc to work at Mirro with his sisters' husbands.

He bounced around Mirro for more than three decades as production shifted and plants closed. He wound up as a hot mill operator in the rolling mill, preparing sheets of aluminum to be shaped into pots and pans.

Since his last day at Mirro in September, Miller has been brushing up on his math and English at the Job Center. At 49, and more than 30 years since he last attended school, he started classes last week at Lakeshore Technical College to become a computer numeric control operator. His wife, Karen, who worked at Mirro for 28 years, is taking courses to become a medical assistant.

Miller and his wife have set aside their severance pay and plan to live on their unemployment benefits as long as they can. They've warned their sons, ages 20 and 16, that they have to cut back on cable TV service, eating out and traveling to visit relatives up north.

After 34 years at Mirro, Judith Helke couldn't see going back to school. So when she heard about an opening at Kohler Co., she chased after it.

"When you get the rug pulled out from under you and you're 56 years old, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth," Helke says. Kohler has been training her on the job since November to run computerized machinery.

Her pay and benefits will be comparable to what she left at Mirro, she says, and her commute is only three miles more.

"I guess it sucks, but I consider myself extremely, extremely fortunate to get hired at Kohler," Helke says. "Everywhere I turn, people are losing their jobs."

A lime-colored sign in an unattended guardhouse at the vast, abandoned Mirro complex says, "Koenig & Vits is now accepting applications for future employment."

In an upstairs office at the site, partially closed off from the smell of cutting oil and the whir of exhaust fans, Bob Fuller recounts how it took him 10 months to find another job after Mirro eliminated his position as manager of engineering.

At 59, Fuller suspects employers scrutinized his age but not his qualifications. Eventually, he ended up with a decent job in Milwaukee -- but at a 30 percent pay cut and the added expenses of commuting.

"Very frustrating," Fuller says of his ordeal.

Keith Hinz, a senior engineer who's 44 and had 20 years with Mirro, took a temporary assignment with a local manufacturer and then sold cars for five months.

"I have not taken one day of unemployment in my life," Hinz says.

Both men know professionals and managers who still aren't working two years after Mirro discharged them. Others have relocated for lower positions and less pay. Others have gone back to school to get out of manufacturing.

Fuller and Hinz now work at Koenig & Vits, a local start-up named for two entrepreneurs who founded the precursor to Mirro.

With a $1 million loan from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, local investors have bought the 160-acre Mirro campus, complete with equipment, and are negotiating for additional financing. The hope is to become a contract manufacturer with more than 300 employees by 2006.

Jim Ross, a former Mirro manager who's president of Koenig & Vits, says the new company is committed to employing Manitowoc County residents and building on the work ethic and experience of generations of Mirro workers.

Lacking cash so far, the company has been offering stock as compensation to its 40 workers, Ross says.

"We're all teammates," Ross says. "We're all going to survive together."

Back at the Job Center, Destree shares in the optimism.

"We may come back looking different, but I think we'll come back," says Destree, who has watched the coming and going of jobs here for two decades. "We've recovered before. I'm sure we'll recover again."

All photos by Retiring Guy. Taken Sunday, May 16, 2010.