Category Archives: Services

Day Fifty Eight of the CMLE Summer Fun Library Tour!


Library staff are often doing great things! Sometimes it’s hard to see in our daily routines, because the things we do in libraries seem so ordinary to us – but still we touch lives and make our communities better places. Never doubt this is entirely true! Your community is a better place because you and your library are contributing to it. (Tell your funders and stakeholders, so they will know too!)

And sometimes it’s easy to see the contributions to a community that a library makes – even when it’s a secret in the moment!

The Librarian Who Guarded the Manhattan Project’s Secrets

While dodging accusations of communism, Charlotte Serber made the nuclear bomb possible.

“Nestled alongside the massive Los Alamos lab—which Lisa Bier in Atomic Wives and the Secret Library at Los Alamos described as emanating an “aura of utilitarian haste” with its unpaved streets and barbed wire gates manned by guards—the library appeared quite bleak. The photos that exist today show a small space crammed with books, shelves, file cabinets, and a Ditto machine (an early copier). Because the library was expected to be demolished after the war, everything was built from cheap wood.

The library had two sections: the main area, pictured at the top, and the document room—a locked vault containing reports and designs from Los Alamos and the other Manhattan Project sites. The library’s all-female staff—a mix of wives and Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps officers—needed to catalog, secure, and distribute thousands of books and manuscripts in a matter of months.

“But if library work was among the most tedious on the Hill, the award for the most unenviable job likely belonged to its head librarian: Charlotte Serber, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, statistician, and freelance journalist who at one point interviewed Frank Lloyd Wright for The Boston Globe.

“Here is a puzzle. You have no library experience, and you are tasked with a) heading a top secret facility, b) devising security protocols to ensure the U.S. military’s greatest secrets stay hidden, and c) importing thousands of documents to a site in the middle of nowhere—all in a vanishingly small window of time as World War II unfolds. How do you do it?

The answer, according to Serber: work over 75 hours per week.

Upon accepting the position, Serber taught herself the Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal classification systems,* and teamed up with Oppenheimer’s secretary to develop a pass system for accessing the library’s secure vault, requiring that each scientist present a “typewritten letter” bearing Oppenheimer’s signature rather than a badge.

Tasked with apprising all of the scientists of any new breakthroughs in the labs, Serber and her staff had to familiarize themselves with obscure science in order to accurately record and distribute news across the Hill.”

(Read the rest of this article here!)

Day Forty Seven of the CMLE Summer Fun Library Tour!

Okay, this video technically has nothing to do with libraries. But – look how cute it is! We can all use a couple of minutes in a busy day to have some stress-relieving panda video fun. And if it happens that these adorable little guys remind you of any patrons, well that just highlights how cute our patrons can be and how resilient library people can be, always with good humor, in getting work done despite any obstacle!

Are you doing some fun library work? Share the video and tell us about it!

Day Forty Three of the CMLE Summer Fun Library Tour!

Book caseShelfies!

Do you take photos of your To Be Read (TBR) pile of books??

This is an excerpt from a teacher’s blog about taking shelfies with her students, and the fun they had! Check out this blog to get the whole thing!

“Thanks to popularity among the Nerdy Book Club-types, shelfies have become trendy. Many of us have even made shelfies something of a habit. Just look at the call for #winterTBR stacks or the unsolicited shelfies we’ve all been posting in anticipation of snow day reading bliss.

So, why is it? What is it about shelfies and TBR stacks that have us all playing along?

When you and I gather up the books off the top of our to-be-read stacks (Let’s not pretend you don’t have multiple stacks, too!) and artistically position the camera at just the right angle to capture their spines or covers and post those shelfies to the social media world, we’re keeping reading lives–our own and each others’–alive.

In this vein, my #winterTBR picture prompted me to experiment with this theory in my school community.

Before Christmas vacation, I enlisted my students’ help to take my shelfie.

And then, I turned the camera on them, snapping pictures of each one with their reading plan for the two-week break.

And we made posters.


Yes, posters. Big, loud, colorful, you-can’t-miss-us posters with printed pictures of the students’ shelfies. And we blitzed the hallways of our school with them.


Then we waited to see what would happen.

What happened was a whole lot of talk about reading.

There was animated book conversation from the start. As students were shopping in the classroom library, consulting the TBR lists in their notebooks, and making arrangements to borrow titles from one another, students were making plans–reading commitments–and talking to each other about books. Then came slogans and phrasing that encouraged others to read as students lettered their posters. And as they shopped for prime real-estate in hanging their posters around the school, my students considered their audience and who they were trying to promote reading with.

But then there was more. We noticed other students and teachers pausing at our posters, looking at the students’ faces and the titles in their pictures. We overheard other students who recognized titles they loved in our pictures, and other students who wondered aloud about books they didn’t know. And the best comment that we overheard? It was the one from a 5th grader in the classroom next door when she pleaded to her teacher, “Can we make TBR posters, too?” “

Being Professionally Lonesome…Together

Interior view of Stockholm Public Library

I loved this article, because I see this issue across our system and in many other areas. A lot of libraries, especially schools and specials, have either one person working there, or one person and a couple of maybe-part-time people who can fill in there and also other places in the organization. So being alone is a real issue -and it’s a tough one!

One of our priorities at CMLE is providing a place where our members can connect with other library people – across the system, across the state, and across the profession. So please, when you feel alone at work – whether you are a solo librarian, or just the only one in your organization who does your thing, or who likes your library-focused area, know that CMLE is filled with members who are right there with you!! Subscribe to all our stuff (newsletter, podcast, online book groups, online discussion groups, and more!), and come to our events, to be sure you are connecting. Never hesitate to give us a call at HQ, or send us an email, or even to stop by to chat! We are your system, and are here to support libraries!

Continue reading Being Professionally Lonesome…Together

Librarians Will Save Us All

Senior Airman Kristofor Pohl, 325th Maintenance Squadron munitions inspector journeyman, volunteers time to read to children July 8 at the Tyndall Base Library during the Read to the Rhythm program. Read to the Rhythm is a program targeted to develop verbal and reading skills of children sponsored by the 325th Force Support Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ty-Rico Lea/Released)

It is not a secret to those of us in the profession that libraries are amazing and wonderful places. But it is always pretty cool when other people (muggles?) notice how awesome we are! This is an article from, by Ellen McGirt with her discussion of the realization of all the great things libraries do to help communities in times of disaster.

Does your library have a disaster plan? Are you making plans to work with your community members – whoever they are? If not, or if  it has been a while since you last updated it, we can help you!

“Years ago, when I wrote for our sister publication, MONEY, I appeared on CNN to talk about how to rebuild your identity if every piece of your identification was lost and your community was in turmoil. It was after Hurricane Katrina, and people were scrambling to get in touch with banks, government agencies, and insurance providers, offering any proof of self they could.

It was advice I would go on to repeat during every storm, fire and landslide season after that: Get yourself to a public library. In a time before apps and consumer-friendly financial websites (things that plenty of people still don’t have ready access to, by the way) librarians were always there to help with everything from connecting people with the right forms to get their bills paid and claims processed, to finding essential health and legal services in their zip codes. Then, they’d give your traumatized kid a book to help them calm down and sort out their feelings. They’ve nailed the safe space thing. Continue reading Librarians Will Save Us All