SDC recap and the origin of the Public Library Annual Report questions

If you’ve had the “pleasure” of filling out the Public Library Annual Report on behalf of your library, you know it can feel like every question that could ever be asked about your library, short of carpet colors, is included. Weighing in at around 800 questions, it’s easy to assume that questions are added indiscriminately; easy, but wrong.

Turns out, those questions have been argued about, agonized over and analyzed down to the syllable. Discussions of semantics and statistics are at the heart of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Annual Meeting of State Data Coordinators (SDCs). For three days, SDCs from each state and American territory are invited to discuss the process and methodology behind the Annual Report in an attempt to maximize the value of the survey.

Functional and decorative; a tiny sample of notes from sub-group meetings

This year’s meeting of minds took place December 5th – 7th in sunny Phoenix – except it wasn’t all that sunny. The home-state SDC was more than happy to let the visitors know that the streak of 100-plus rain-free days ended with our arrival. After kicking off with a morning session aimed exclusively at SDCs hired within the last year, the meeting began in earnest with the afternoon arrival of the remaining SDCs. Introductions made and pens and laptops at the ready, the group settled in to listen to updates about the survey collection tool and forthcoming data element reviews.

And what reviews they were. From the 8 a.m. working breakfast straight through until 5 p.m. quitting time, breakout groups discussed problematic data elements. “Is it accurate? Is it relevant?” became our mantra. We threw back the coffee. What was unique about the data each question generated? Was it clearly understood? Was there more coffee? Did this question generate information used by librarians and stakeholders? Is there seriously only decaf left right now? Were we collecting what we thought we were? How is decaf supposed to help us get through this? When the dust cleared, we were left with mountains of compiled notes and a plan of attack for those who would ultimately decide which elements remained, which were eliminated and which needed tweaked.

Because our libraries are evolving, our survey needs to evolve to reflect the changing services. The SDC meeting is a direct response to the challenge. Those 800 questions aren’t as static as they first appear, we promise. Might I suggest coffee to help you get through it?

This blog post was written by Angela Fox, LSTA and federal projects consultant, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Library Development Office at (800) 451-6028, or via email.

How would you like your coffee?

Ah, yes, coffee, that marvelous drink so many of us have in our hands at some point in the day. It is such a pervasive part of our lives and our society that we not only drink it, we also cook with it. The book “Coffee Cookery” by Helmut Ripperger has a wide variety of food and drink made with coffee: Mocha pudding, mocha cupcakes and coffee cream pie. The following recipe is for hot coffee rum. Now doesn’t that sound lovely for a snowy night in front of the fire?

Have you ever wondered, even for a moment, how coffee and even coffee houses came to be so important? The Indiana State Library has a number of materials on the history of coffee, how and where it’s grown, as well as its influence on society.

One such book is “All About Coffee” by William H. Ukers, an in-depth work on the historical, technical, scientific, commercial, social and artistic aspects of coffee. The book contains numerous illustrations of historical London coffee houses as well as the following “Picture Coffee Map of the World.”

A current book in our browsing collection is “Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage, and the Industry” edited by Robert W. Thurston, Jonathan Morris and Shawn Steiman. It contains articles submitted by researchers on areas not only including the history of coffee, but also special chapters on producer country and consumer country profiles, the quality of coffee and coffee and health.

The idea that coffee is beneficial to your health isn’t new. The following image is of the first coffee broadside of 1674 speaking about how coffee was not only a “sober and wholesome drink,” but also was great at “preventing and curing most diseases.” There is a passage in the material that mentions another book entitled “Advice Against the Plague” by Gideon Harvey that recommended coffee as a way of warding of the contagion. There is also the story about a man named Pepys, who after being warned that his health was in danger if he continued drinking alcoholic drinks to excess, started frequenting coffee houses as a way to socialize without spirits, even though he wasn’t particularly fond of coffee as a drink.

Broadside from “Penny Universities: a History of the Coffee-Houses” by Aytoun Ellis

Just as with taverns and tea houses one of the most important aspects of coffee houses is and always was the opportunity to socialize. There were coffee houses that were infamous for being places where gambling was abundant, while others were places that business men would meet to read and discuss the news from that day’s papers, to simply discuss business or to grumble against their current government. In 1675, this last aspect brought about a royal “Proclamation for the Suppression of Coffee Houses” because of “the defamation of his majesties government” being spread by coffee house customers. Most, if not all, of these social activities can be found in today’s coffee houses making them a vibrant part of modern society and why coffee, no matter where it is served, is such a big part of people getting together.

To find out more about the history of coffee and coffee houses come to the state library. We’ll be happy to pull a few books for you.

This blog post by Daina Bohr, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Collections at (317) 232-3678 or email