Category Archives: USA

Are “Fine Free” Public Libraries Really Better For the City of St Paul?

Up until the new year I was a fine-paying public library patron, as many people in St Paul were.  I paid my fines, it was painful, it didn’t seem fair, but I paid them. This was the case up until recently when St Paul Public Libraries went “fine free”.  The fines I paid over the years happened because had I forgotten or I didn’t have the time to turn in materials. Each time I thought: next time, I would remember to bring my materials in before they were overdue, given the opportunity.  I would change for the better from this lesson. However, there won’t be next time in St Paul, these fine events are something many people will no longer experience. And in being unable to accrue library fines in St Paul, I found out that lack of in-depth research and hopeful positive intentions are perhaps why it is that way.  Let me share with you some research on the topic and you decide on fines or no fines at the public library, what you learn through data from fines studies may surprise you, I was certainly surprised.

The St Paul Public Library’s “Fine Free” webpage asks the question: Why go fine free?”  and they answer: “It’s good for our community. Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to the programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.”  All of these hopes and aspirations may have good intentions, but does ending fines and fees at the public library help our community? Does it make our community stronger and healthier? Does it allow for more programs, services, and materials that patrons need to pursue their educational, career, and life goals?  Let’s look at a few studies and find out.

On the St Paul Public Library’s (SPPL) website (https://sppl.org/about-fine-free/) it states that: “Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. According to “Removing Barriers to Access,” a Colorado State Library whitepaper: “The scant research on the impact of library fines and fees does not indicate a clear benefit to administering these polices and may be costly to enforce.”  This line is directly taken from “Removing Barriers to Access” research which is not a peer reviewed journal, which ironically, provides many references to prove the ineffectiveness of fines while providing zero references on the effectiveness of fines and fees, further suggesting there is more than “scant research” and perhaps exposing an information bias.  

Moreover, SPPL’s “Fine Free” webpage cites this single study on the effectiveness of fines and fees, but there has to be more to the story than “scant research”.  Simply suggesting with a broad generalization that there is a lack of research on library fines does not prove that those fines are ineffective–or effective, especially when citing only one study.  This study proves that one side of the argument might show a result happened in this single study or other case studies under certain conditions, based on other studies with the same opinion, but fail to mention any benefits of fines and fees.  Nothing to change policy on, more information is needed, right?

In an attempt to retrieve more information I found the study SPPL offers is only one of at least a few studies on the topic; each with a somewhat different conclusion, making any decision on eliminating fines premature.   

A study at The Journal of Librarianship (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2013.08.011) shows the opposite may be true about eliminating fines: “The results indicate that fines indeed make a difference in patron book return behavior. Patrons who borrowed books under a fines policy returned books before due dates at a statistically significantly higher rate. As a result of this study, it is determined that a fines policy is an effective tool to ensure that books are returned on time and available to the maximum number of library users.”  The maximum number of library users sounds like a lot of people who would be positively impacted by fines and fees. This data being acknowledged, the debate over library fines is far from a conclusion.

Another interesting point related to financial resources is cited on SPPL’s website: “It’s fiscally responsible. Due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. Money collected from fines and fees has gone down steadily for the past 10 years.”, no source was cited with this information.  Yet, a study from Bowling Green State University, Fine Efficacy: An Experimental Study of the Effect of Daily Fines on Borrower Return Habits  (https://libguides.bgsu.edu/fine-research)  indicates that “eliminating fines caused a 33% decline in revenue generated, despite increasing reserve fines and billing fees to compensate for the loss of daily fine payments  They also saw a small increase in number of books that became overdue, even though loan periods had been extended.” This data is compelling considering modern libraries need all of the funding resources they can acquire to provide the valuable resources and services to our communities.

Now, I ask: to what end is SPPL eliminating fines and fees when there is counter-research that suggestsµ doing so could create a negative outcome?  To look good? Good intentions abound but there is lack of evidence that the practice of ending fines or making libraries “fine free” does anything to improve or expand the community readership, patron satisfaction, or even benefit those who no longer accrue fines at any income level.  What happens when patrons can no longer check out a book because it is drastically overdue or assumed lost, and that higher cost to cover a new book is not paid, what costs will the library incur to replace that material resource and have it sent out in a timely manner, if at all? These are some questions undiscussed, seemingly brushed over.  

When taking an assortment of library fines and fees studies into account, perhaps, it is safe to say that there is more research needed and necessary to responsibly change policy within public libraries, especially if it has the potential to decrease fiscal resources for library functions and increase the number of overdue books, essentially limiting those resources for fellow patrons.  Forgiving fines may remove a great lesson from our society, it may show that punctuality and holding to a plan, and having responsibility, is an outdated practice. But eliminating fines may prove beneficial, and create more access. Either way we must keep learning in order to understand the weight of decisions on such important institutions, both sides have plenty to check out.

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Declutter of Meaningless Associations — There is Only Time For What is Important to You

I am not friends with 99.8% of the people I went to high school with and that is a subjective fact.  As a 31 year-old Millennial dad I find myself only having about three or four  real friends in my life at any one point in time, and I think that calculation is great! This understanding is kind of an amazing thing to consider; it’s beautiful, I love it.  I smile more.  Less of a crowd to impress, less to persuade or be a spectacle for, or to simply agree with to avoid conflict.  Gossip did that, so did a minimalist mindset. 

Moreover, I lost most of my “friends” about two years ago, around election time, around the time I realized that I didn’t necessary absolutely agree with being one of the progressive/regressive herd, or what was said on CNN or Facebook or Twitter et al. and on the mainstream news–which is everything and everywhere.  You could say I like diversity of thought.  At that time, I found myself realizing there is only time for what is important:  MY  individual  beliefs and goals.  I had to declutter my personal life of excess, so I made a plan and followed through.  It just involved being my true self and being able to walk away from things I did not need while amassing more of the essential things necessary to making my future better.  

One is aWOKEn quickly when there are mouths to feed that none of your so-called friends, the ones who don’t really do anything in a give-and-take relationship, will be putting lunch on the table or give you positive ideas and motivations or pay your credit card or student loan debt.  (Not only do they not do those things for you but YOU DO NOT NEED TO GET THEIR APPROVAL TO DO YOUR LIFE.)  I don’t expect them to, but they don’t expect you to either.  That lack of vision and support is stagnation, there needs to be positive diversity of thought in all situations.  Further, those friends may tell you big ideas and wallow, that is anitmotivational.  They may tell you they aspire but don’t have motivation or action to try, that is pro-sedentarism and takes you nowhere.  You could have mannequins around you giving thumbs up and they would do more for your self care purposes.

Realizing this is important: you make you.  Realizing it’s just you and what you make of life is key to the success you find in your life.  Friends I have lost have offered commiseration for a period of time and were necessary, approval that it is acceptable to be subpar.  Not anymore.  I declutter my basement and I declutter my friends.  I don’t need excuses or malarkey from people around me, I need action and awareness and planning, which are qualities some people my age may lack–especially the loudest ones with the biggest dreams and even bigger fingers to point at everyone but themselves.  However, I would agree some people do have these winning qualities and that is a HUGE positive, and they are close to me.  (The quiet ones with winning qualities get to work with their hands and their brains and not their mouths.)  I may be callus and I may be calculated, but only God can judge me perhaps. 

Accordingly, after reading and taking in much Brian Tracy and Dave Ramsey and documentaries on minimalism, I want role models around me, I want people who are flawed that come out better than when they started, human ones, empathetic: ones that make mistakes and come out better by experience.  I want quality not quantity.  I don’t need a bunch of virtue-signalists around me waiting for their big break.  I am flawed but I am striving for better for myself and my family and my future.  I am in debt but I have a plan to become a millionaire if I simply follow that plan. 

Everyone is flawed, so what?  I want to make tomorrow better for those I find around me and myself, so do I complain and blame or make change?  A better me means a better you for all of us.  In the past, perhaps that might have been not so, and I wondered who was around me at that point in time, what encouragement creates.  Which support systems and rules did I follow to get here or there?  Realizing that debt was controlling my life, my work, and my freedom at every moment was important to realizing I needed less of some things and more of others.  That was a great lesson but it would have never been learnt had I not been to the bottom or experienced hardships.  We find ourselves cleansing in times when we feel impure, we find ourselves taking a shower to wash clean our bodies and start new days.  I am cleansing of my student loans of credit card debt to be completely free, that is a part of this metamorphosis.  

We can think on the positive aspects of any negative situation and learn from them and and grow from them.  Every hardship or struggle or tragedy we face is a moment to learn, to come back stronger and better and more equipped to manage the world around you in the future.  We can do this with anything: friends, debt, ideology, religion, identity, etc.  Those are the times we live in; you can be a bobcat, a dinosaur, or an astronaut.

When I have a problem that I can’t solve I wait for a new day and think it over again, new thought may come my way.  This is a new day.  You have a new day now too.  Today I find myself marveling at quality not quantity.  I have friends I truly laugh with daily, truly care about constantly.  I have friends who are thoughtful and listen.  I have friends who hear my ideas and do not judge me for my honesty.  I see that with a plan and positive thinkers around me I can make it, or I can make it by myself with positive thought. 

I believe anyone can make it irregardless of everything.  I don’t have to believe that the world is ending because the television tells me so.  Or that we are going to hell because 100 % of half of the scientists in the smart part of town agree generally speaking on Headline News.  I can believe in the church but not believe in God.  I can believe that Texas Toast is made in Ohio.  I don’t have to hate a politician because everyone else does and says that I must too.  This is America!  I don’t have to show intolerance to those who I don’t agree with and then ask for tolerance from everyone around me so I can look good in my social circles, or on social media.  I can be kind all on my own, to all without being prompted.  Maybe my social circle is broken and that is tolerance.  Maybe forget social media.  Nothing is complete, except for death, probably. 

And if you agree with that and more, then that is perfectly fine, that is so.  You may just be my new friend, like at the beginning.  Perfect, right?  Well, I hope not.  Perfect is complete, ended, finished, dead.  This is just the beginning.  Maybe you will open up and cleanse yourself of the clutter you don’t need, tying you down.  You are all right with that and I am too.  Being all right is good, but it’s not the best.  You don’t have to and shouldn’t be perfect.  I am nowhere near perfect either.  Neither is this idea or this written piece, it’s fluid abstract and important and not and open to new ideas.  Though, I find myself closer to making change daily and seeing where that takes me, with or without every other individual around me who agrees or doesn’t and doesn’t change themselves or have to anyway because of it. 

There is an old saying about who needs friends, but ever better would be saying who needs you?  You NEED YOU.  Those you love NEED YOU.  They NEED YOU TO BE OPEN MINDED AND POSITIVE AND READY TO MAKE CHANGE not complaint.  I think YOU NEED YOU, too, the most because I know I need me the most too.  

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In the Time it Took for you to Talk About It

About halfway through a long-winded conversation about unfounded and baseless dreams, like most other listeners, I find myself having trouble listening.  We live in a culture where it is a good thing to have big dreams, but not a good thing to have realistic plans or have attainable goals.  That’s weird, because you can do anything you plan to do.

Dreaming is a grand activity, a fantastical practice, a fantasy envisioned, and absolutely not real or tangible.  However our dreams are powerful tools.  We dream about wanting something, attaining our desires, then we talk about achieving it, how it would be!  But there is no goal, no pathway to walk directly to it and take.  We are stuck in the talking about it and that is about it.

So, in the time we listen, in the time it took for you to talk about it you could have written up a plan to go and make and create and have.  Made a step A through finished, fruition, success, completion.  I will attempt to listen though I would rather pull out pen and paper and set things in motion to help you do what you want to do, to help you become the dream master.

I am not therapist, not counselor, I am an ordained minister by request, though I feel I could charge for giving advice about planning.  But I learned it for free in books.  Just make a goals list each day and complete those goals.  I do this because it is simple: nothing happens without being planned.  I heard recently: there is no happenstance.  Imagine.  I think you should stop talking and make plans, you should do and show.  Save the tell.

The Persistence/There Factor

Billions of hungry people around the world have been served at Mc Donald’s, capital B Billions.  That said, I will not be discussing food quality in this piece, I will discuss presence and how it as a resource is POWERFUL.

When you see those golden arches you are guaranteed that you can get a sweet happy meal, or some hamburger of some sort, always.  They have the THERE FACTOR: they are there.  Those arches are present.  You are aware that if you drive up to a Mc Donald’s you will be served and get your food.

That feeling, that knowing is persistence.  The feeling their presence gives is relief.  Those arches are almost always there on some traveler’s journey.  That is persistence, Mc Donald’s does it for you and billions others.  Persistence is integrity imagined.  Feeling makes us all feel.  That presence is power.

Understanding this about presence is valuable.

So the next time you want to make a positive impact: Be the first one there and the last one gone.  Every time.  Be those golden arches, show those around you that you can be guaranteed to do what must be done to get the job done.

Also, be that inspiration.  Show up early, do more than you must, stay longer, work harder, and keep coming back for more.  You will win with patience and practice.  You will take it to the top if you keep being there.

And here’s the reality:  others may tire out, they may lose strength.  You are not others.  Go one more.  Keep coming back and never give up.

When the outlook is impossible, prove the outlook wrong.  Stand like those arches and don’t sway.  Have the Persistence/There Factor, everyone’s Big Mac is waiting, you will give it to them.  They will reward you.  You will take it to the top if you never give up and keep trying.  Don’t stop.  Go.

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President Trump Declares Thanksgiving “Trumpsgiving”, New National Holiday in Honor of Himself

In an unprecedented last minute executive order, President Trump declared Thanksgiving as the newly rebranded national holiday, “Trumpsgiving”, according to anonymous high-level sources close to the administration.

The presidential name change took place early this morning, moments before the kickoff of the Macy’s Thanksgiving’s Day Parade. In response many cheered at the news, as others publicly screamed at the sky in agony.

Reports close to the unnamed sources Thursday, described the new holiday as similar to Thanksgiving but tremendously and hugely and bigly better for all Americans everywhere, a great success, like no other. And that people will love it, you’ll see.

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A Vote for Democrats as a Public-Sector Union Member may be a Misguided Vote

On the ballot in Minnesota are two items that public-sector union members should consider very closely when/if voting straight Democrat in the 2018 Midterms: 1) Single-Payer Healthcare and 2) $15 Minimum Wage. These items are directly contradictory of the hard work that has been done to fight for your benefits and your living wage as a public-sector union member, let me explain my thoughts on these two items and how they could be undoing recent accomplishments of public-sector unions.

  • $15 minimum wage for all does not increase your living wage as a public-sector union member, in fact, it may make your wage less livable, more futile. It may also reduce the number of employees in the local workforce, triggering more unemployment, in order to make up for increased wages paid without increased profits earned. This does not benefit you as a public-sector union member and it does not benefit your community. Many Democrat candidates champion $15 minimum wage as a good thing with little evidence to prove their point, it is already being implemented in St Paul, MN (one example of concern about Minimum Wage locally); recently, perhaps, jobs have gone, businesses have and will close and move elsewhere in lieu of this policy change. These items impact us all. Here is a resource on Minimum Wage.
  • A Single-Payer Healthcare System implementation is an item of considerable speculation, ambiguity, and concern. If you have good healthcare/insurance now, one your union fought hard for to attain, perhaps you can kiss that benefit goodbye under Democrats who want a Single-Payer Health Care System. What’s more, not only could a Single-Payer Healthcare System give you theoretical universal healthcare and take away your unique healthcare plan, one based on your individual needs, one that fits you, but it could increase the taxes for you and your community–keep in mind Minnesota has the fifth highest tax burden in the nation, currently. Could you afford to go on a plan that isn’t built for you precisely and that may cost you more? I don’t think I could, and we are all different with special and unique healthcare needs. And what is the quality of Single-Payer Healthcare and is making it mandatory for all even constitutional? I have just a few questions on this topic, you should as well. I am open-minded. Here is a resource on Medicare for All.

These items, and the policies related to them, concern me as a public-sector union member, as a taxpayer, as a dad, as a husband and as a voter, especially when the rhetoric is at a fever pitch and the focus is on what President Trump does personally on Twitter or how bad he is or was as a person or ubiquitous smear campaigns against both political parties and not on actual government policy that change things for you and I and ours.

These policies are paramount to all. But do we all understand them entirely? Do we understand he Bill of Rights or the Constitution? I am not sure I do. Further, do we vote because we hate something or someone, or because we love something or someone, or their ideas are good? Do we vote for what was benign in the past, what might have worked out OK for that moment, or do we move forward and vote for ideas that work for the future, our future?

The items mentioned above, even though mere rhetoric, could have grave impacts on wages and benefits and communities actually. Think about that when you vote, it does matter.

Moreover, when you vote in the upcoming midterm election, don’t think about the party or something far away or some big ideas or some boilerplate talking point, think about your pocketbook, think about the Constitution, think about the law, the Bill of Rights, small changes for positive, and think about your local situation, good or bad, and how you can improve on it. You have the opportunity to say you want better, your voice is your vote. That thought and decision and voice on who you vote for will impact you most. That and recall, maybe the party that claims to represent your public-sector union vociferously is not the party that represents you personally.

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The Media Loves Trump

The new midlife crisis is professing your hatred for the president like a five-year old via social media for his assumed hatred as explained to you by a news media narrated and directed by advertisers. 

 

I’ve been told that in order to understand how a person is truly feeling in a photograph, cover up  their mouth and look at their eyes. The eyes don’t lie. What do you see? The same may be true with the press and  their relationship with Donald Trump; cover up the mouth, the headline, and what do you see? Forget the bad click-bait leads and negative coverage, who’s there: Donald Trump.

Perhaps, if Trump wasn’t in the news people would be bored, many papers wouldn’t be read, journalists wouldn’t get paid, and advertisements wouldn’t get seen. This would change the industry greatly.  Every newspaper and network every day would have to fill that Trump spot with something else, something more catchy. Social Media too.  In relation to that, I don’t think it would be possible.

Now, think back, has any other President of the United States of America ever had the press set a day nationwide to respond to an idea he may have had on any ordinary day, has that happened? What other president had millions out in the streets passionate, screaming about their opinions, beliefs, holding signs wearing hats or tearing down statues, just because they were the president?  I don’t think any other president… Not like this.

It’s amazing what our hatred blinds us to. Perhaps, Trump is making people more political, making people stand up and out for what they truly believe, and making people better because they are doing for themselves. Perhaps he is making each of us greater again.

Mundane, mediocre, and meek leaders would not have people taking such action, would not have us so motivated to make change. That is bold, that is planned. And that is no accident.

Trump is not asking anyone to write these stories or voice their opinion or protest… They are doing it for him, they are doing it in his name, oddly.

Read The Art of the Deal and you will understand your president better.  You will have insight that has been in our universe for the last twenty years. I will share some of that knowledge right now.  Trump says you can pay for good press. You can pay for mediocre press. But bad press is free. And still good.  How much bad press is out there today, for free?  Just Google the name Trump.  What do you find?

Further, the news media and journalists should thank Trump for making writing articles easy again, selling news easy again. Most Trump articles are basically saying Trump did something outrageous, hateful, or both, feel disgusted. They are usually the same format:  click-bait title, something bad about Trump, how you should feel, or what it actually means, etc… There is a cycle. Watch closely. Trump made journalists not try or think again.

We are getting standard boilerplate interpretations from the news media and social media about how we should think and feel about an individual, Trump.  They are not asking us to use our own better judgement, to think deeper on a subject, they are telling us, same.  We must obey and believe he is what they say.  The topic: him, Trump.  We are asked to believe in this idea about this person.

Now I am wondering how do you brainwash people, news media? Repition? Exaggeration? Groupthink? Herd mentality? Say bad things about someone? Who’s the Shepard?  Who’s the sheep?

As unfortunate as it sounds to his critics, the news media, social media, and the world love Trump–they subconsciously seek him out, he makes them money. People buy what people are selling when Trump is in it.  Look at the paper, who is in every paper?  Look at the TV, who is on every channel?  Trump.

He is the ultimate spectacle. People write endless op eds about Trump signaling and professing their obsession, no matter the bias. (This essay is about Trump.)  There are college courses based on him, no matter the persuasion. There are entire talk shows, news segments, and caucuses solely  dedicated to him, no matter the slant. And still he is the main character. That is a HUGE presence created for someone by those who despise him, unaware that visibility, in our great time and great nation is most powerful.

This Trump obsession is apparent, visibly, tangibly, and deeply disturbing. The news story and Trump are interchangeable, and have been for the last two years. We do not go a day without. Now, talk about how I’m wrong about who, you guessed it: Trump. More ubiquity, you can see it right there.

So, don’t be mad at Donald Trump if you don’t like him, be mad at yourself for looking for him, be mad at your news source for pushing his product 24/7. That’s what free will is all about; this is a free market, we live in it.

Don’t go looking for snakes, as someone once said. Ah, but snakes get people’s attention and sell papers, sell stories.

The Trump obsession may simply be supply and demand of the greatest spectacle in human history, Donald Trump. Any conscious media will not miss out on such a payday. Prepare for four more years of it, money talks; networks want to be paid. If you want something different, contact your media and ask for better, sit down and talk to that Letter to the Editor person and let them know they are furthering the problem by discussing it exclusively.  If they don’t change, then you might know what is true and what is not true.

If you want something you have to ask for it, or write for it.  I believe Donald Trump wants it.  He wants America to be great.  He wants to be talked about nonstop.  He wants to be in our minds and in print every day.  He tweets constantly, ad nauseam.  Do you want to help him get it, or do you want to help yourself?  I believe the media knows what they want and what they love to report on, even if their mouths don’t match their eyes.  They want more of Trump, they know he is money.  And he knows it too.
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