The Flywheel

Next Meeting: August 20th

John Ziesenhenne

John Ziesenhenne, once the youngest elected official in Richmond, visits Richmond Rotary to tell us why he is again seeking public office in Richmond—this time to become its mayor.

The other mayoral and city council candidates in the upcoming elections will be invited to our club in coming weeks and months.

Last Meeting: August 13th

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

John Nicol led us in the pledge and Herb Cole thought for the day involved a moment of silence for peace and freedom for all.  Henry Kelman thanked Mark Howe for sending out the database link to the Contra Costa Times website that shows what public officials earn annually including overtime but not including the present value of their extremely generous defined benefit pensions – a type of pension plan dropped decades ago by the private sector in favor of defined contribution plans (e.g. 401K).

Visiting Rotarians

Henry Kelman brought his brother Joe, who many of us consider a Rotarian even though he may not be of to snuff technically.

Rotarians with Guests

  • Mark Howe brought again his friend Dr. Ulrich Weisenberg to lunch today.
  • John Nicol brought his brother to lunch.


  • San Pablo Rotary is holding an Oktoberfest Beer – athon at Rockefeller Lodge.  Tickets are $35 and the event will be held on October 2, from 12:00-6:00.
  • The current district governor wants each member to purchase for $7 a picture dictionary and then he will have them distributed to Africa.  See Pam Jones if you are interested.
  • Solano Stroll back cover
    Click to enlarge.
  • This year the local Rotary Clubs—Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, and Pinole (aka “Barsheep”)—will have a presence at the Solano Stroll.

    Karen Nierlich, President of the El Cerrito Rotary, and Nick Despota teamed up to create the back page (read “prime real estate”) of the Solano Stroll program. Great exposure.

New Member:

Joan Davis was inducted into the Club today as a Red Badge Member.  Joan is the new President of the Richmond Children’s Foundation, an entity that was set up to manage the $13 Million received from General Chemical after their Sulfuric Acid spill some years ago.  She gave us a glimpse of her very interesting and accomplished background:

Joan did her undergraduate work in Omaha, where she also completed her law degree. She worked for in the corporate world for IBM and ZEROX before taking the path of community service like many of her family members where public service is considered an honored part of ones career.

Happy and Sad Dollars

  • Henry Kelman was happy Joe could make visit down from Redding. Joe's visited many Rotary clubs and declared "Richmond is the best!!" Someone buy that man another beer.
  • Tom Waller reminded us about the Point Richmond Music Festival tonight where the Wendy Waller Groups was to perform – unfortunately no relation.
  • Don Lau advised everyone to get hurry up and get any money he owed them because his daughter was shopping for a bridal gown and he soon will be broke.
  • Herb’s father-in-law had a stroke but, under Normie's watchful eye, he'is recovering faster than anyone expected.
  • Marku let us know that Gill has served us a club for 22 years.
  • Sid was happy the Raiders could actually win a football game.

Norm's Nonsense

We've enlisted the help of W. C. Fields for this week's profundities:

- A man's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink.

- There we were, crossing the Sahara Desert. Lost our corkscrew. Had to survive for days on nothing but food and water.

- Any man who hates kids and dogs can't be all bad.


The Changing—and Unchanging—Roles of Public Libraries

Library v. FedEx
U.S. Libraries circulate slightly more items per day than FedEx: 5.4 v. 5.3 million. Source:"How Do Libraries Stack Up?", Online Computer Library Center, 2003.

Our very own Rotarian, Monique La Conge, current (but soon to depart) Richmond Library Director and past president of the California Library Association, spoke about the libraries’ role in our modern world—where the synonym for research is “Google it”. It’s a world where Stanford University is closing is physical sciences library because the virtual equivalent is better, faster, cheaper , freeing up valuable space for other uses; a world where Google has the largest virtual library ever assembled, available to everyone in their home 24 hours a day for the price of an internet connection (when there is a price). 

Monique gave a litany of responses to the changing world of information and access to it, responses that were surprising, creative and enlightening:

  • Much of the information you find on the internet is false; librarians have the skills to help find information that’s reliable and accurate.
  • City Libraries are social meeting places – the modern watering hold if you will.
  • At universities libraries are used as a quiet place to study.
  • Public libraries do not charge for their services, unlike like the virtual equivalents run by the Amazons, Googles and Apples of the world. 
  • Public libraries provide valuable services that help its patrons and their communities prosper.  An example: reading time for young children introduces them to the power of the written word while simultaneously providing the experiences essential for healthy social integration.
  • The Richmond Library does not currently offer e-books (currently the cost to the Library is high, while the usage has been small). However, the Contra Costa Library loans e-books, as do a number of internet sites (Enter “ebooks”in your search engine to find them.)
  • Libraries have free public access to the internet, free legal aid, small business star-up classes and many other kinds of information for those that cannot afford it.
  • After 9/11 in New York City there was a spike in library attendance, suggesting that the physical library is a source of stability, reassurance and continuity in the world.

[An editorial comment: I cannot think of an institution more threatened by technology than an old-fashioned brick and mortar, expensive library  In a time when municipal budgets are under strain, more and more municipal decision makers may come to the same conclusion. - M.H.]

Monique offered links to videos that point the direction that modern libraries are taking. Have a look:

What is a Public Library? This 38 second video was created for library support; Parody of what is an iPad?

What is the future of the library? This 2-minute architectural animation explores the question of the role of the public library when digital information is everywhere and is everything.

Your Public Library  Produced by the Gates Foundation, this 8-minute video profiles libraries in Sutter County, Calif., Chicago, Ill., Georgetown County, S.C., and Memphis, Tenn.

And a bonus video: Transformation Lab Prototyping the Future  A 7-minute video about the Transformation Lab, which has produced new visions for the physical library of the future, in Aarhus, Denmark.

– Mark Howe, rotating scribe