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James J. Hill Center Statement Regarding Current Closure

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Introducing: Lindsey Dyer

Lindsey Dyer is the new Director of Library Services at the James J. Hill Center, and comes with experience from both public and academic libraries, as well as Target, Corp. and the Minnesota Historical Society. Lindsey lives in St. Paul with her husband and is the mom of three kids.  We took a few minutes to chat with her about her new position at the Hill.  Come in and join us at the Hill next week during National Library Week to meet Lindsey and her team and participate in free programming.

How did your journey with the James J. Hill Center begin?
The Hill Center inspired me to pursue a career in libraries back in 2005, when I worked here as a volunteer. It is easy to see why – the building draws you in and speaks for itself. Though I had since moved on to new professional opportunities, I maintained an admiration for the mission and staff – particularly the Hill Papers Archivist, Eileen McCormack, whose job I aspired to at the time. I am honored to be back!

What do you want people to know about you?
I am very interested in how library services fit into the broader user experience landscape when it comes to looking for and using information. Libraries have an important task, especially now, to be conduits for authentic and unbiased information that we use every day in business decisions. I think we’ve lost sight of why this is important to talk about. At the Hill Center, we have a unique opportunity to narrow that down to information that entrepreneurs in particular need to get to the next step in their business planning. It’s exciting and inspiring when our information becomes the turning point for a startup.

What has made the biggest impact on your career so far?
Working for both Target and the Minnesota Historical Society gave me a unique perspective on service and management. I like to think that I took the best from both worlds, specifically non-traditional approaches to what accessibility looks like, and have been working to implement some of these things at the Hill Center.

What has been the largest hurdle and success you have experienced in your career?
I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some talented entrepreneurs, and have had some real conversations about what they need to be successful. I am working towards the hurdle of transforming reference services at the Hill Center to best fit those needs. I want the library to not only give entrepreneurs information – I want us to be the difference between success and failure.

What is it about Minnesota and more specifically Saint Paul that keeps you here?St. Paul – or “Small Paul” – has been my home for 13 years, and it’s the ultimate charmer. I am especially drawn to historic homes, and in fact used to be the Site Manager of the James J. Hill House – the historic house museum to rival them all. This city has a rich history, and it shows.

The Hills’ mission honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century. We offer research, programs, and networking for each stage of business development. Our efforts also include services to the broader community through the hosting of cultural and artistic programming and events.

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The Hill Reference Round-Up

Blue Prints to Business Plans…
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September at the Hill was buzzing with visitors from students to entrepreneurs researching blue prints to business plans.  It is a prefect example of the vast amount of resources our Reference Specialists have at their fingertips.

Here are some examples of who, what and why people visited us! 

  • Over 110 researchers welcomed in September.
  • Most researchers were from Minnesota, and a few traveled from Wisconsin.
  • Several researchers this month came to use our resources to help them develop their business plans.
  • The majority of our visitors in September self-identify as entrepreneurs.
  • A student from the U of M studying architecture viewed historic building blueprints for a course project.
  • One researcher explored sales data and patent information related to exercise equipment.
  • We often welcome job seekers, but had one unique researcher this month, who works to support individuals with severe mental illness and conducted job searches on behalf of those individuals to locate potential workplaces near their homes to accommodate transportation limitations.

We look forward to seeing you at the Hill.  Contact a Reference Specialist today!

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To the Dreamers…

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“Great things never come from comfort zones”

Next week is Twin Cities Startup Week a celebration of the “startup capital of the north,” Minnesota. A great time to recognize innovation, creative thinking and economic empowerment.  After reviewing some of the startups that have presented at 1 Million Cups St. Paul (every Wednesday 9AM at the Hill) we were impressed by the variety of individuals who made up these organizations, and the creative implementation of each idea.

We started to wonder what characteristic these entrepreneurs possess…these ground breakers, these innovators.  We were surprised to find it was not the usual traits that often define a successful business person (i.e. professional, competitive, ambitious).  The traits instead were holistic, passionate and creative – not typically the words used in day-to-day corporate environments.

Entrepreneurs are described as the artists of business, the breakers of the mold and the dreamers of our time. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and races.  Their services and products vary from small to large, specific to broad, for niche groups or the entire world.  They are for profit and not for profit (some profitable, some just surviving).  But all of them have one thing in common.  They all start as a dream.

These risk takers go beyond their comfort zone and strive to create a new world.  They are the inspiration behind new ideas and revolutions that shape our daily decisions and define our economic future.

After reading about these innovators of change, we wanted to thank them for their willingness to jump, to believe in an idea, to keep an open mind, flexible heart, a passionate belief AND the confidence to persevere when it doesn’t work the first time.  We all can learn from them.  We all can be a little more entrepreneurial every day.

“If it is still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk”
– Paulo Coelho, lyricist & Novelist-

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There Are No Stupid Questions!

Many sticky notes with questions like who, what, when, where, how and why, and a question mark, all posted on an office noteboard to represent confusion in communincation

You can imagine the vast array of questions a resource library gets asked in one day.  In my brief time sitting at the JJ Hill Centers front desk on a Wednesday afternoon I was asked, “Can I look up every address I ever lived at?” and “Do you have a book that would show me where to find all the award emblems that can be given to student in school?” Our reference librarians can almost always find an answer and if not, they can point you in the right direction.  We are a business reference library and we cover every business imaginable, which leaves us with a vast database of facts and details that people quickly discover can connect them to more information than they may have thought.

But, is there ever a question that is too off the chart to answer?  In short, no. In December 2014 the Gothamist reported on a discovery found at the New York City Library.  A reference librarian was cleaning house and found a large box of old reference questions from the 1940s and 50s.  Questions varied from “What is a life span of an eyelash?” to “What percentage of bathtubs in the world are in the US?” to “Where can I rent a beagle for hunting?” Amazingly enough the system back then was the same as today and a reference librarian called them back with an answer.  There were of course question where answers could not be found, but the fact that people asked gives a wonderful nod to the trusted resource a reference library held then and still does today.

Here at the Hill we believe there are no stupid questions.  So, if you can’t find it when you search online and you want to dig deeper, contact us.  As the esteemed and highly respected Carl Sagan once said “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every questions is a cry to understand the world.” Come learn with us!

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What did people do before Google?

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The first patent filed under the name “Google, Inc.,” was on August 31, 1999 – 17 years ago.  It was initially started as a research project for “watermarking systems and methodology for digital multimedia content.”  It has since become the primary tool for all things people question, wonder and need to know,   BUT what did we do before Google and is there a human need to reconnect, be certain and have a trusted “human “source?

The James J. Hill Center is considered the oldest free reference library in the nation and still holds some of the most relevant business research in the country. Reference desks did not become a service until the late 1800’s.  The Boston Public Library in 1883 was the first library to hire librarians whose primary purpose was reference and research.  Over this century reference services grew to be a trusted direct personal assistant to readers seeking information. The invention of the computer, web and Google has drastically shifted that perspective but not eliminated it.  As more time is spent in front of our computers and listening to automated voicemail there has been another shift.

A recent article on the New York Public Library (NYPL) proves reference desks are still a vital and growing way to find out anything from the odd and mysterious to the most challenging. The NYPL receives 300 inquiries per day and one of the number one comments is “Thank God I’ve reached a human being.” At the Hill though the numbers are smaller, the reaction is the same.  Business researchers have access to databases and materials that are not easily accessible.  This is not to say that reference librarians do not use the web to search for answers but they are experts at sifting through content, picking what is relevant and getting a trusted response, backed up with facts and put in one place.

So the next time you jump on Google and type in “Business Plan Templates” – why not consider coming to the Hill to ask an expert or research some of the most successful businessmen in history figured out.  Reference libraries hold the backbone to our past and are the seed for our future.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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