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'Dummies' for winners: Library system rewarded with set of books

Photo: David McGregor. Karen Harris, the Norcross Library Branch Manager, works to code a stack of "For Dummies" books that was awarded to the Gwinnett County Public Library on Wednesday morning in Lawrenceville.

Photo: David McGregor. Karen Harris, the Norcross Library Branch Manager, works to code a stack of "For Dummies" books that was awarded to the Gwinnett County Public Library on Wednesday morning in Lawrenceville.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Liz Forster doesn't know what biometrics is, but she will soon find out.

The book "Biometrics for Dummies" was on her reading list, just because she was curious.

"I love information. I'm a nonfiction, information person, and a frustrated reference librarian," said Forster, the deputy director of the Gwinnett County Public Library system.

Forster has no reason to be frustrated any longer.

On Wednesday, she joined volunteers and leaders as they unloaded a shipment of one of the nation's most popular reference collections -- 1,850 titles of the "For Dummies" books.

The 15-branch library system won the collection through a contest gathering the most Facebook likes for a Dummies Fan Page -- a site Forster created, of course, using "Facebook for Dummies."

The project was the brainchild of Diem Huynh and Deborah Jones, library associates at the Suwanee branch, who discovered the contest by John Wiley & Sons, publisher of the how-to books.

Gwinnett's page was launched when a Michigan library system already had 2,000 likes, Jones said, but the whole community came together to garner Gwinnett 5,002 likes by the April 30 deadline.

"It was a lot of fun. It showed the community getting behind us," Jones said. She told stories of teachers giving extra credit, librarians passing out fliers at church and even "channeling Bear Bryant," for a come-from-behind victory, the Alabama fan said.

While the kids at her branch are probably excited about algebra and calculus guides, Jones had her eye on "Ancient Greece for Dummies," while Huynh wants to read the how-to reference to learn about her new camera.

"It's been such a positive shot in the arm. We've been working so hard to keep our funding," said Gwinnett Public Library Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam, who said her 11-year-old son has requested she bring home "Mixed Martial Arts for Dummies."

Facing another $2 million budget cut, library officials have trimmed the system's $3.5 million materials budget by several hundred thousand, so board Chairman Philip Saxton and other have turned to companies and contests to try to add more books.

"This is like Christmas," Saxton said of the excitement as volunteers placed gift stickers and ID tags on about $45,000 worth of new Dummies books.

"We'd like to see more help in the legal area, health and medicine, engineering and mathematics ..." he said, pointing to the eclectic mix of topics on the books before him. "We need more books in areas that will meet the needs of a very large population, whether we are talking about young people or all the way up to professionals."

After processing, Materials Director Deborah George said the books will likely be on shelves next week, joining about 700 Dummies books the library already owned. About 150 books will go to each branch, but all of the titles will be available throughout Gwinnett through holds.