Friday, November 13, 2009

Two Great Library Events

I had not one but two gratifying library experiences yesterday.

The first occurred in my tiny local library in West Harrison, NY, a place I often go to clear my head after I've finished writing for the day. As I sat reading a newspaper, I couldn't help but overhear an older gentleman tell the desk clerk he would like to get a library card for his nine-year-old grandson. I idly looked up to see the man standing at the desk, the boy beside him ogling the DVD rack next to them. The librarian explained the simple form and showed the grandfather to a table near me to complete the paperwork while she gave the boy a brief tour of the library.

When the grandfather finished filling out the application, he glanced at me and our eyes met. I smiled and nodded. He did the same and said, "It's a great day, isn't it?"

I looked out the window at the cold, gray rain that had been falling all day, then turned back to him just as his grandson came up to the table with an armful of books and videos. "Yes it is," I answered. "It's a great day."

A few hours later, I had a gratifying library experience of a different kind. It was the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting of the Westchester Library System, a consortium of 38 public libraries serving Westchester County, NY. While I knew this was a special occasion, I was astounded by the turnout: well over 200 library lovers packed the venue!

In addition to the WLS staff and trustees (myself included), there were dozens of library directors and staff members, friends' groups, board members, and just plain folks who had gathered to show their love of libraries and the people who make them possible. Even though election day was more than a week past, we even had an impressive array of county and state legislators. It was truly heart-warming to see a diverse group of this size gathered for such a cause.

Three awards were given out by WLS Director Terry Kirchner and Board of Trustees President Patricia Fontanella. The Service Award was presented to Jean Reidy, nominated by the Somers Public Library for her years of dedication to the library community. The Support Award went to The Friends of the North Castle Public Library, which sponsors the fabulously successful Armonk Outdoor Art Show each year, raising thousands and thousands of dollars for the library. The Innovation Award was presented to Greg and Pat Keenan, owners of the Uno Chicago Grill in White Plains. They came up with a weekly--free--pizza party to reward young readers that has been hugely successful.

The program also included several pertinent speakers including Bill Ryan, President of the County Board of Legislators, Mitch Freedman, WLS Director from 1982-2005, and Siobhan Reardon, WLS Director from 2005-2008 and now President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The keynote address was by Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
and The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries (P.S.).

As Marilyn spoke about the magic that happens in libraries, I couldn't help but think of the small bit of magic I'd seen earlier in the day when the boy and his grandfather came for the first time to the West Harrison Library. Like every day, yesterday was a great library day.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Insurance Companies Have A Lot Of Gall

As Congress continues to flip-flop like a beached mackerel over the public insurance option and health care reform, I received notice today of my new health insurance rates for 2010. The increase was enough to give me heart failure, but I stopped and pulled myself together when I realized I really couldn’t afford to get sick right now. Taking deep, calming breaths and trying to think happy thoughts, I did the math just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I can’t afford mental health care, either.

Yep, I was right. The increase in my premiums for next year is a smooth 18%. Thank goodness I didn’t have any serious illness this year…can you imagine how much my rates would have gone up if I’d had any claims? At least I can get insurance, unlike a whole bunch of other Americans who can’t afford it or are too sick to get coverage.

Maybe my insurance company is struggling, I thought. Maybe they are on the brink of collapse, a disaster that would be precipitated by competition from the public insurance option they so vehemently oppose. They are publicly traded, so that information is pretty easy to find. Next step: the financials.

How about that? 2009 quarterly revenues for the first nine months are substantially ahead (+7.6%) of the same period last year, which was up from 2007, which was up from 2006, which jumped substantially over 2005 (due to an acquisition), which was up from… get the picture. Earnings per share aren’t bad either, increasing 35% for the first nine months of this year from the same period in 2008. Guess their health isn’t so bad.

While the insurance companies continue to block the public option and Congress continues to cater to them, though, my heath is deteriorating fast. Deep breaths...deep breaths...deep breaths.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the