Groceries Delivered to the Library

I am way into this program from the Baltimore City Health Department and the Enoch Free Public Library:

On a bright spring morning in Baltimore, retiree Gwen Tates goes over her weekly grocery list — oatmeal, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, pea soup. But it’s where she’s shopping that might surprise you: at the public library.

Under a new city program, patrons can order groceries online and pay with cash, credit or food stamps. The orders are filled by Santoni’s supermarket, a longtime Baltimore grocer. They deliver the items to the library the next day. Tates says she loves the convenience.

“I pay with my charge card. They swipe it right here. I come back to the library tomorrow and they’ll have it all bagged up and ready to go,” she says.


Libraries can become so much more than content mausoleums by facilitating a suite of useful community services. I do worry a bit about feature creep, however. More about this in a forthcoming post about the Garage Library in Malmö.

Helsinki’s Library 10 & Meetingpoint

I visited some great places as part of my participation in the Gates Foundation’s 2010 Global Libraries Peer Learning Meeting.

The libraries I saw have overcome their addiction to circulating content. Now they’re all about doing, making, publishing, working, and experiences revolving around content. People are still getting print books and CDs for the library, sure, but other stuff seems more important. Here’s a little report.

Finland has two official languages. Finnish and Swedish.

Library 10

The first place I visited was the Helsinki CIty Library’s central location: Library 10. Even though it is the central library it is considered a music library and there aren’t many books. Right now about 70% of the space is devoted to people and 30% to materials. Their next design will expand the space for people to 80%.

Instead of books people check out guitars.

Or record music and edit music videos.

There’s a radio station and the library broadcasts a small segment locally every day, and nationally once per week.

The library is certainly nice looking but it isn’t flashy. That’s a pretty accurate description of Helsinki in general so it fits.

The chairs of this area are often moved out and a stage is set up. They host cultural events and record many of them. They’re interested in the library as publisher of content. One great fact about the events held at the library. Over 80% of them are organized by library users. Librarians just facilitate hosting the events.

Modularity is a big part of the library. All of the big furniture is on wheels and can be easily moved. They’re not limited by outlet placement because there are outlets everywhere in the ceiling. While most of the staff furniture stays put, people rearrange the public’s furniture daily. It is straightened up every morning and staff look for patterns to help plan future layouts.

It is impossible for library patrons and staff to sit on opposite side of a desk. They work together answering questions. Staff were resistent at first but quickly came to fully embrace the arrangement and wondered why they didn’t make the switch 10 years earlier.

Speaking of work, chief librarian Kari Lämsä says he prefers the concept of Library as Working Room rather than the more common Library as Living Room because living rooms are too passive.

There are all sorts of other interesting things about the library. They have a group of people working on cool web stuff. I wrote about their country-wide library searching iPhone app in January.

They have a mobile events van that takes gaming equipment to other libraries. It also travels to music events in the Summer, changing out the content to be event specific. Library 10 tries put the same kind of people on both sides of the desk. Staff aren’t your typical library workers. A bunch of them are 20-something guys.


This Helsinki CIty Library location is across the street from Library 10 in a building full of stores and cafes. There are no materials to browse or check out. People bring in their computers to the Laptop Doctor for repair and for lessons. Most of the interactions are one-on-one but there’s a Laptop Club during which many people gather for instruction.

Other services include Citizen Media Computers with multimedia and publishing tools, a new and popular VHS to DVD setup and a few computers dedicated to finding a job.

Their next project is the Urban Office Workspace for people in the city that need a temporary place to conduct business. Two successful business have already been started at Meetingpoint.

A place like Meetingpoint couldn’t work without an enthusiastic staff. Everything I observed indicated that they’re super stoked on doing what they do.

Nokia World Headquarters

A group of us heard a bit about how Nokia learns from their R&D prototypes and incorporates ideas into their final products. We also got a tour of the Nokia Lounge which is a showcase of their products. They seem most excited about their phones for the developing world and they billed all of their smartphones as being extremely affordable. It almost seemed like they’ve given up on doing anything to combat iPhone-mania.

This was the neatest thing I saw. Wireless charging.

And, just for fun, here’s the first library sign using the Cyrillic alphabet I’ve ever photgraphed!

More Stuff

Library 10 on the HCL webpage

Kari Lämsä’s presentation about Library 10

A presentation with some info on Meetingpoint

Gaming Workshop Handouts from PLA


Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting a preconference workshop at PLA with Eli Neiburger. Even better than listening to Eli talk was getting someone to play a video game for the first time. She liked it.

Here are some resources mentioned during the presentation:

PDF of our slides
the video Eli showed
GTSystem WIki
ALA’s library gaming toolkit
Games in Libraries Podcast
Eli’s book!
8 Bit Library
National Gaming Day

Walking Paper Guide to Portland

If you read this blog there’s a chance you’re coming to Portland for PLA 2010 later this month. I’m happy to call Portland home and thought I’d share some places you might enjoy visiting while in town. I have no idea where people are staying but I hope you can get away from the Convention Center for a bit. It isn’t a terrible area but it isn’t one of the most appealing parts of Portland. Don’t worry if you’re not renting a car. TriMet is a good way to get around town and no matter where you are you can call Radio Cab (503.227.1212) to come pick you up.

Places to Drink

Portland is beverage crazy.

It is a way of life in Portland. Stumptown Coffee is the best known and highest regarded roaster/coffee shop in town. If you’re serious about coffee go to the Stumptown Annex on Belmont for a cupping at 11am or 3pm. I have a slight preference for either location of Albina Press and Barista to Stumptown. Wherever you are you’ll be within a block of a non-Starbucks cafe.

Another way of life in Portland. There are at least 30 craft breweries in Portland alone. Not bad for a city of under 600,000 people. Almost any bar or restaurant will have an above average selection but if you want the most and best selection check out Horse Brass (great fish & chips too) or Green Dragon (though I’m not crazy about the atmosphere there). If you like beer and make it to Hose Brass, walk over to Belmont Station to see over 1000 different beers for sale.

Mixology your thing? Go to Clyde Common (for dinner too), Beaker & Flask, Secret Society Lounge (vaguely Mason themed!) and/or the Teardrop Lounge (though the Teardrop is in the Pearl District. See “Things to Skip” below).

Places to Eat

Breakfast or brunch are the best meals of the day in Portland. Highly recommended are Simpatica (Sunday only), Bijou Cafe, Screen Door, and Gravy. Expect waits for the last two.

For lunch I suggest visiting one of the food cart pods in town. If you’re downtown the main one is on Alder. You’ll find Thai, Mexican, Peruvian (no flutes, thankfully), BBQ and more. Oh, and you could do worse for fast food than Burgerville. They source all of their stuff locally from the Northwest and seasonally too. There’s one by the Convention Center. If you happen to love grilled cheese you owe it to yourself to visit the Grilled Cheese Grill which is housed in a bus.

Dinner options are endless. Pok Pok has great regional Thai food. Toro Bravo is a favorite and serves tapas. Secret Society Lounge (see Spirits above) is above Toro Bravo (and incidentally, across the street from Multonomah County Library’s main office). Clarklewis has a nice happy hour for an early dinner. Go to Laurelhurst Market if you’re in the mood for steak. Olympic Provisions is a new and hyped charcuterie that opens for lunch and dinner on March 20th. For a prix fixe splurge go to Beast (and make reservations). Apizza Scholls is justifiably one of the most respected restaurants in Portland. The pizza is indeed excellent, especially the Tartufo Bianco (Mozzarella, pecorino romano with Truffle Oil and sea salt).

Vegetarians might want to check out the Vita Cafe and the vegan strip mall that includes a grocery store, tattoo shop, bakery and more.

Other miscellaneous spots for dinner and drinks include Doug Fir, Rontoms, and Moloko Plus.

Things to Do

Portland Art Museum. A solidly decent collection usually with interesting special exhibits. A Cy Twombly exhibit is around now!

Portland Japanese Garden. Wonderful. I try to visit once every season and have never been disappointed.

Eastbank Esplanade. A nice path for cycling/walking/jogging along the river. Cross over to the other side at the Steel Bridge and Hawthorne Bridge.

Rent a bike. If you want to get some serious riding in, rent a nice bike from Veloce Bicycles. There are many other places that rent commuter type bikes that’ll get you around town.

Forest Park. A huge park with a ton of trails for walking/trail running/cycling. A convenient place for some quiet time and fresh air. Start at the Thurman entrance or at Pittock Mansion. If you’re into hanging out outside, go to Mt. Tabor Park too. Not only are the views great but it is on a extinct volcanic cinder cone. You can see the crater by the basketball courts.

Laurelhurst Theater. My favorite place to see movies in Portland. Entrance to the movie, a beer (or soda) and slice of pizza costs no more than $10. The Bagdad is similar but has less of a selection of movies (and is part of a local chain that I have mixed feelings about).

Karaoke. What is it with librarians and karaoke? If you must sing, Chopsticks II is always wild and if you want to rent your own booth make reservations at Voicebox.

Ground Kontrol has a large assortment of vintage arcade and pinball games. It is a totally fun way to spend a few hours.

MCL Central Library is a nice, traditional library that is worth poking around.

Historic Columbia River Highway. If you have a car and the time, drive out to the Historic Highway and visit Crown Point, Larch Mountain, some waterfalls, then cross over a bridge to Washington, head back towards town and hike up Beacon Rock on the way.

Ecola Beach State Park. Again, if you have a free day and like the beach, drive one hour out to the coast. It may or may not be sunny, but it will likely be windy and the water will be 50*F. It is guarenteed to be rocky, rugged and beautiful.

Mt Hood. It is very possible to leave town at 7am, get four hours of hiking or skiing in and be back in town by 2pm. Just sayin’.

Places to Shop

Powell’s City of Books is a legendary bookstore for good reason. It is large and has a great selection, including used books. If the topics appeal to you don’t miss Powell’s Books for Home and Garden and Powell’s Technical Books.

Jackpot Records. Good selection of new and used vinyl (and CDs). The main location is within walking distance of Powell’s.

Reading Frenzy is a great place for small and independent publications. There are books, zines, posters, cards and all sorts of great stuff. Also easily walked from the above two. Speaking of zines, Microcosm is the hotspot.

Things to Skip

Multonomah Falls. It’s the #1 tourist destination around here. Sure, it is tall and nice looking but with the crowds and noise from the highway I don’t consider it a pleasant experience. You’re not going to hate it if you go but there are just so many better waterfalls. The best ones, of course, are difficult to get to but if you have a car (or are up for a long bike ride!) and want to see something better than Multnomah Falls check out The Pearl District. In recent years this post-industrial zone has been “revitalized” and is now pretty much like any other shopping district in any other city. There are some unique things (for instance, a Chinese badminton brand store) but this area is the least Portland-like place in all of Portland. You’ll be close by if you visit the main Powell’s shop but I wouldn’t make in depth exploration a priority unless you want to buy some big ticket items sans sales tax.

There you have it. I hope you have a good time in Portland.

This really just skims the surface of what Portland has to offer. Get in touch if you have any questions.