Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

This video pretty much shows the spirit of librarians and their commitment to libraries – they will survive. But we need libraries that do more than survive. Libraries are vital to our democracy (blah, blah, blah, if you’ve read anything I’ve written on this blog, you’ve already heard all of my arguments so I’ll not bore you further.)

The point is…BECAUSE libraries are vital to our democracy, shouldn’t they do more than survive? You are still surviving as you take your last few breaths. How close to the thin line between surviving and dying do we want to push our libraries/democracy?


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Below is an e-mail I received from a friend and former student who is the library director for Palisades Park Public Library in New Jersey. Many of the services that will cease to New Jersey residents are similar to those we receive in Texas. Thus far the Texas State Legislature has only requested a 5% budget reduction from state agencies, including the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, but there is no guarantee that this will be the last of the budget cuts to libraries. Read below for an example of what will happen if states are no longer able to fund the statewide institution that enables large and small public libraries to pool resources and enjoy economies of scale.


NJ Gov. Christie’s budget calls for a 74% decrease in funding for statewide library services. 

This cut includes the elimination of ALL statewide library programs and services.  This will affect all types of libraries in New Jersey. Once state funding is eliminated, NJ will lose $4.5 million in federal funding.  Once state and federal funding are lost the impact will be felt by all residents.

Have you ever requested a library item that was sent to your library from another library?  Delivery of materials is severely threatened in Governor Christie’s proposed budget.

  • NJ resident’s access to electronic databases such as RefUSA and EBSCO will cease
  • Statewide interlibrary loan and delivery of library materials will cease.
  • Libraries will lose 50% of state aid at a time when demand for services is increasing dramatically.
  • More than half of public libraries will lose access to the Internet.
  • Many libraries will lose email service.
  • Many libraries will lose their websites or access to them.
  • The Talking Book and Braille Center (known as the Library for the Blind and
  • Physically Handicapped) will close.
  • Group contracts which bring down the cost of other electronic resources purchased by libraries will cease.

At the same time the state is eliminating funding for library programs. Assemblyman John DiMaio has introduced A2555 which eliminates the minimum local funding requirement for municipal public libraries.

The library programs eliminated from the Governor’s budget represent little more than $1 per capita in state funds.  Library programs have been flat funded by the state for 20 years so it is hard to believe these programs have caused the state’s current fiscal crisis.  Fatally weakening these programs will not solve the failures of legislative and executive decision-making of more than 30 years.

If you have not already become a Library Champion for the library and automatically a BCCLS champion, please consider doing so. Click on this address for the registration form. http://www.bccls.org/champions/

For lobbying at the state level go to http://capwiz.com/ala/nj/home/ This will plug you directly into your elected officials at the state level

Help the statewide lobbying effort specifically by using the Facebook Save NJ Libraries Group.

Thanks again for all your past support and continuing use of one of democracy’s greatest inventions: the public library.

Your help is crucial for keeping New Jersey’s libraries funded.


Palisades Park Public Library
257 Second Street
Palisades Park, NJ 07650
…encouraging a lifetime love of learning

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The American Library Association is hosting a webinar on how libraries are using social media tools (puhleeze, let’s get away from the Web 2.0 talk – we’re way beyond that!) for advocacy.

But what about using these tools for authentic community engagement? (i.e., the members of the social network actually contribute knowledge, are a part of the community, have equal status, and are engaged in working on something meaningful together)

I can’t attend this seminar, but I’d love for someone to attend and report back on the possibilities. How can we use the ability to connect people to institutions and to each other online to foster relationships, interactions, group information-sharing, group problem-solving?

See details below. If you can participate, please add your insights to this blog.


Believe it or not, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and other Web 2.0
applications are becoming more and more effective tools for library advocacy
efforts. Join Dr. Curtis Rogers (South Carolina State Library), Kristin
Murphy (ALA Washington Office) and Stephanie Vance (Advocacy Guru), for this session on how libraries can use social media techniques to capture the
attention of policymakers and the public they represent ? from townhall to
Washington, DC! If you?re wondering how to use Web 2.0 to get heard on
issues that matter to your library, this is the place to

*When: *Tuesday, October 27, 2009 ? 4:00 PM ? 5:00 PM EDT

Register Now: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/132869762>

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Watching the CBS evening news last night, I was pleased to hear President-elect Obama refer to library closures as an example of how this economic downturn is hurting communities in his remarks to the National Governors Association.

“Jobs are being cut,” he said. “Programs for the needy are at risk. Libraries are being closed. Historic sites are being closed.”

The American Library Association didn’t miss a beat and immediatly applauded him for “recognizing the effect library closings have on communities” in the Washington Office’s blog, District Dispatch. The blog cites library contributions to the economic health of communities. For example:

  • 73 percent of libraries nationwide report that they are the only provider of free Internet access in their communities
  • that number is even higher in rural communities where 83 percent of libraries are the only free provider
  • Libraries offer job search workshop, skill development, small business development classes, and technology training.

If you don’t think Internet service is vital to jobs, consider this. Last year (according to Camila Alire, ALA President) only 40 of the top 100 U.S. retailers accepted paper applications completed at the store. Next time you are in Home Depot, ask for an application and you’ll be directed to a computer kiosk. Suppose you are an ace fork lift driver – perfect for the job they’ve advertised, but you are new to computers. Imagine how much easier it would be to have a trained librarian guide you through the online application process at the library. Actually, without computer skills or a librarian to help you conduct an online job search, you probably wouldn’t even know about that fork lift driving job since Home Depot only takes applications online and doesn’t advertise.

Libraries make other economic contributions to their communities. People who are feeling the pinch in their pocketbook are saving money by using their library. The LA Times reports today that while bookstores and publishing companies are suffering losses and sluggish sales, library circulation is up over last year – 12% in San Francisco, and a whopping 35% in Chicago! Books and DVD’s are flying off the shelf in libraries across the country. When commercial entertainment becomes too expensive for folks, the library is your place to go. It wouldn’t be a huge stretch to argue that libraries may be a safety valve for communities facing plant closures and the pressure of disappearing 401k plans.

It wasn’t lost on me that the LA Times article about library usage was posted in their Penny Wise section, “a street-level look at how Southern Californians are stretching their dollars in a sputtering economy.” (I also appreciated that one avid library user cited in the article is a television journalist. Get your news at the library!)

But the article goes on to report an increase in the number of libraries under threat of closure because… “Since they’re not selling anything, libraries don’t profit directly from the increased traffic.” Ironic, ain’t it. When the economy goes to pot, libraries are more necessary and valued and USED by the public, but they still end up on the chopping block.

But what if, instead of looking at library closures as a money-saving tactic, we looked to libraries as a tool against economic woes? What if we poured more money into libraries and let librarians do what they are good at: helping communities work through difficult times?

For example, back to my earlier reference to a community facing plant closures…Libraries could provide information about other industries and local jobs. They could be the convener of community forums where the public could work together to identify community assets and develop strategies for working through the tough times together (in the short-term) and a new vision for the community (for the long-term.) And they could be the convener of community resources helping match those in need with those able to provide.

These are not just hypothetical roles. Within ALA, hundreds of librarians have come together to form a membership initiative group called, “Libraries Foster Civic Engagement”. This committee is in the process of compiling the results of a survey of what libraries are doing to foster civic engagement, but here’s a sampling:

  • A library in a community with a rich history is working to bring the railroad depot back as a historical museum that will attract tourists.
  • A library in school district where the community was divided over how to educate its children developed a discussion guide and brought people from all sides of the issue together to share their concerns.
  • Another library brought in federal, state and county agencies to answer questions from veterans and families members of service men and women who are currently deployed. They also provided free blood pressure screening and backpacks (donated by a local insurance company) filled with health information.

These are important contributions in rich times. They are crucial in times of economic stress and personal distress.

Bill Gates gets it. And he knows a thing or two about money – at least he has a lot of it and knows how to give it away wisely. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnered with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) after ICMA released a report demonstrating that “libraries are not being used to strategically address community needs.” They recently announced a joint project with to provide $500,000 in Public Library Innovation Grants to multiply innovative library practices and to demonstrate the value of public libraries in supporting sustainable communities. Hey, I like the sound of sustainable communities!

(The grant is due January 9, 2009, which should not be a problem since so many of us are curtailing our holidays anyway!)

From the ICMA site (emphasis mine!):

Public libraries can play a dynamic role in communities. Once an institution devoted to book circulation, today’s libraries provide citizens and businesses with Internet connectivity, career development, childhood literacy, immigration assistance, and other important services. However, many libraries across the country are struggling to take on a larger role in meeting their community’s needs and require increased support from their city or county administrator.

So, here are some possible program areas ICMA suggests that libraries and communities could address:

  • Creating a sustainable community
  • Workforce development
  • Emergency management and public safety
  • Health and active living
  • Immigration and language
  • Education
  • Youth and teen services
  • Civic engagement, community building

Surely I’m not the only one who thinks that these sound like smart things to do in communities that are hurting. (Note to all librarians in Michigan: STOP READING THIS BLOG AND DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION NOW!)

President Roosevelt got it. Much of our country’s infrastructure can be attributed to the New Deal and the Works Progress Administration. “Almost every community in America has a park, bridge or school constructed by the WPA.”

But did you also know that in addition to putting men to work building bridges, dams, parks, roads, schools, and health clinics, the WPA also put women to work as librarians.

One such program was the Book Women of Eastern Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project. Yep, libraries on horseback! The WPA funded the salaries for librarians and they scrapped together reading material from magazine clippings, recipes and newspaper articles. These “cobbled together scrapbooks” became so popular that patrons made their own scrapbooks. Librarians circulated (literally) this homemade reading material featuring favorite recipes, family histories, sewing patterns and child-rearing advice from household to household. These patrons were early self-publishers and the librarians traveling to remote households were the community connections. Think (fill in your favorite social networking site) Twitter on horseback.

On a side note: For those who have the mistaken notion of the mild-mannered librarian, consider this. These women traveled 50-80 miles a week on horse or mule through rocky creekbeds, muddy footpaths and steep cliffs to deliver books to homes without access to reading materials. If the house was too remote to get to on horseback, they walked or rowed as the situation demanded! (See full story by the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.)

The following is a description of the Packhorse Libraries by Mr. Clarence Bingham of the Louisville Public Library in a letter to Marguerite Smith Westerfield quoted as part of her master’s thesis in 1938 entitled “A Study of the Services of the Kentucky Library Commission”:

“…Each one (Packhorse Library) is organized with a librarian who stays in the headquarters to collect, classify, and mend the books and magazines; and four to six carriers who travel up the mountain trails to carry these books and magazines to lonely mountain cabins and isolated schools.

AND they brought in money to increase their services! The Penny Fund Plan which called on every PTA member in KY to donate a penny to the book fund increased the book collection and funded eight new pack horse libraries.

Now I know that there are New Deal skeptics out there. And I know that we have to put matters into context. Sure, things are different today than they were in the ’30’s. I’ll just have to let smarter people who get Nobel Prizes for Economics and write for the NY Times address those questions as Paul Krugman did on November 10. I’m not an economist. Nor am I an historian so I am not in any position to advocate a Roosevelt-style economic stimulus.

But one thing I will advocate without reserve. Libraries are good investments especially when the economy is bad. They can help put people to work. They can provide access to information unavailable any other place. They can help communities come together to work out solutions. They can give people a place for escape from their economic trials. They can be centers for social events. They can build civic capacity. They can support civic discourse during a stressful time. They can hold communities together.

But let me recap the current narrative. Libraries support sustainable communities and meet community needs. Librarians have done this before. Libraries are struggling to meet community’s needs. The economy sucks. Community needs are growing. More people are using libraries. Libraries are being closed.

But that doesn’t have to be our story. We can write a different story with an ending that shows our wisdom and creativity. This is a charge to librarians who are wringing their hands and fretting about the future. Now is the time to be visible. Now is the time to make yourself indispensable to your community. Make your library, your expertise, and your services the centerpiece of your community’s economic stimulus and civic health.

This is a charge to those elected to manage the budgets that fund libraries. Use them. They are one of the best things you can do for your community when it is hurting.

And to our President-elect…

Got libraries in your economic stimulus plan?


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As I’ve mentioned before, I am very curious (but at the nascent stage) of thinking about the blurring lines between journalists and librarians. Certainly the two fields have much in common – information professionals whose institutions have to change dramatically because of technology, the glut of information, the increased ease for ordinary people to have an audience, and the growing ability for people to get information from other “non-information professionals”. (I check out the amazon reviews, send out a twitter asking for feedback, read blogs to make sense of emerging news stories, ichat with my brother when I’m having trouble with my computer, and send text messages to my husband when there are home maintenance issues during the day.)

Lately, I’ve been digging around one of my favorite citizen journalism web sites (also a Knight project) and am struck by how similar the language and offerings of the site are to what libraries do. Someday, I’ll write a journal article about this, but in the meantime, Here are some of my random thoughts…

Knight Citizen News Network is particularly relevant to the field of Community Informatics. They have created a “self help portal that guides ordinary citizens and traditional journalists in launching and responsibly operating community news and information site.” They further state, “Citizens like you can learn to use digital media in ways that enrich community, enhance public discourse, and enliven democracy as we know it.”

This site is rich with resources for librarians who want to help people in their community to become community reporters, find local metroblogs (see for example, Austin MetBlogs) or citizen media outlets, get funding to start a micro-local news service, make us of widgets like google maps, learning modules with online reports like “How to Survive and Thrive: A digital literacy guide for the information age“, stories from people who have a particular expertise (e.g., a backdoor biologist shares his photos and info on finding rare birds), information about fair use and copyright…the list goes on.

But more importantly, I don’t see anything on this site that could not also be done by “the other” information professionals – librarians. In fact the paragraph describing “Why support KCNN” sounds very much like it could be part of a library’s brochure about upcoming workshops:

Citizens like you can learn to use digital media in ways that enrich community, enhance public discourse, and enliven democracy as we know it.

Wouldn’t that be a great thing to learn at your local library? Use technology to increase your ability to participate in your community and learn it at the library?

The Rondo public library in St. Paul is doing just that! Last Spring e-democracy invited me to Minneapolis/St. Paul to meet with several libraries and to keynote a regional library meeting. One of my favorite visits was to the Rondo Library which is housed in a low income neighborhood on the first floor of an apartment complex with over 90 apartments and 6 townhomes. E-democracy works closely with the library and with library users to provide in impressive array of E-democracy Online Tools Workshops.


Young people need only go downstairs to the library to take computer classes on how to upload video online, build a website and produce a podcast. Parents can learn how to use the e-democracy site to contribute their opinions, AND it’s a site that as become a trusted source for local politicians to monitor and use for making policy. But here’s what’s really impressive. These classes and many of the other activities it takes to make this program work are done by members of the community. When I was there to speak at their open house, a thirteen-year-old volunteer (actually, he might have been even younger) did the videotaping. Prior to the event, he taped residents talking about their concerns and ideas for the community and that video was uploaded online.

The official name of the library is Rondo Community Outreach Library, but it should be Rondo Community Engaged Library. Perhaps their tagline should be “the library of the people, for the people and by the people.”

What are some examples of libraries that are providing this kind of community portal – physical or virtual? How are libraries enabling citizens with digital media skills in order to build community?

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This just in via Twitter from David Cohn, who will be a guest speaker on citizen journalism for my Community Engagement course: first community funded report published! This report explores the question: “What happens if, all of a sudden, you need to change the entire energy infrastructure on which California’s transportation system runs?” Check it out.

Here’s what David says in his introduction to this article.

[Editors Note: This is the first example of “community funded reporting” here at Spot.Us. To learn more about Spot.Us read this NY Times article. To fund another investigation – check our pre-beta wiki which still has two actionable items. As this content is commissioned by the public it is free to any news organization or blog to republish. Thank you to the donors who made this possible. At the bottom is a non-exhaustive list of other publications that have run this material.]

How cool is that? It’s commissioned by the public so it belongs to the public. (I personally contributed a small amount of money to a news story that will fact check political advertisements. Now isn’t that a great service?)

Gee, what other public institution might use this approach to decentralize reporting on local issues?

What if libraries provided the infrastructure for this kind of reporting to take place in their own community? (See the spot.us wiki) It might not be “community funded” but it could be “community based”. Citizens could make a pitch for a story they want to write about their community and be posted on the library’s wiki. Other people who share an interest could contribute content and resources. Obviously the library could support the reporter’s information needs and perhaps even provide training on how to do community-based research. When the reporter is finished, the library could provide editorial review and publishing support.

What about opinion pieces in addition to straight reporting? Last night my husband and I were reflecting on the editorial pages in our weekly village newspaper. They are dominated long articles written by a few individuals who often rant ad nauseum. (I’d like for my local library to host a workshop on how to write concise letters to the editor. At least my newspaper could refer them to information about how to write a letter to the editor!) I wonder how many thoughtful people in our community have something to say (op-ed or newsworthy) but feel shut out by the cacophony of a few. What if the library were the vehicle for people to have a voice?

hmmm, what else????
Any downsides????

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