Recently I ENJOYED a long-postponed lunch with two of my closest and most beloved colleagues from these past few decades. My connection with Nora Rawlinson, now running the incredibly useful selection and acquisitions website EarlyWord, began in arguments over whether libraries, through their book and materials acquisitions, should “give ’em what they want”—that is, buy for popular demand—or “give ’em what they need” by trying to select and acquire those items that qualify as classics, or essential information sources. Nora and I also disputed centralized vs. distributed book selection. Seeing Nora again reminded me that debates over library book and materials selection have been with us since the beginnings of the public library movement.
Two keys to success become apparent when you review the transformations so many libraries have achieved in recent years. The most important is community involvement, and that means much more than simple publicity, marketing, and fundraising efforts. It has meant making community leaders and all residents an integral part of the planning and execution of the library’s whole turnabout—from early in the process until it is finished—which ensures their interest, satisfaction with the result, civic pride, and continued participation.
In 2010, two young fathers, Forrest Register and Vince Edge, decided that a direct appeal to local government from citizens of the city of Dothan and its surrounding Houston County, AL, could help transform their community into one in which their children would grow up educated and happy and perhaps even want to stay as adults. Their first priority was to infuse new energy and relevance into the lethargic Houston County Library System (HCLS): at the time headquartered at a downtown branch that few people visited, although it was open seven days a week.
The future of the American public library is taking shape. I see it in all kinds of libraries. The public, politicians, and local and national media are now noticing the relevance and central role of these libraries. These institutions are delivering a trusted set of up-to-date programs and services and that has earned a far more positive public and political reaction than the one enjoyed by most other agencies of the local, state, and federal governments.
In two decades (plus one year) she has moved from work with the very young, through young adults, to dynamically serving seniors at the Hickory Public Library (HPL), NC. Tamara Faulkner Kraus’s passion for providing library service to people in need more than sustains her energy and creativity. That unsinkable spirit is now being acknowledged with the 2015 LJ Paralibrarian of the Year Award, sponsored by DEMCO.
My optimistic aging memory had me waiting for the economy to do what it used to do and recover enough so that the public and private nonprofit sectors by which most libraries are funded would catch up with the already recovered private sector. So I was a bit taken aback when Siobhan Reardon, the president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia and LJ’s 2015 Librarian of the Year, told me that wasn’t going to happen.
Over the last decade, Belgrade, MT, has grown and shifted from a small agricultural town to a diverse community of 12,700 in the exurbs of nearby Bozeman. In tandem, the Belgrade Community Library (BCL) has reimagined library services and aggressively developed new outreach efforts to meet the community’s changing needs. The result is intense engagement and support from the community and an impact that extends beyond Belgrade’s borders through active partnerships and state-level leadership.
There will be more than enough information and action at the 2015 Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits (MW) of the American Library Association (ALA) to make it worth the cost and time for any library worker to attend. It features a sparkling array of celebrities and authors, a massive exhibit show floor at McCormick Place, a pile of jobs and opportunities, a packed schedule of meetings, the fantastic city of Chicago, and, best of all, plenty of chances to booze and schmooze with peers, colleagues, vendors, and new professional friends.
Siobhan A. Reardon engineered the creation of an ambitious, five-year strategic plan, underpinned by a powerful mission to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity through the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP). Her plan refocused the role of the library, outlines a cluster model to streamline and enhance neighborhood library services, and collaborate with community leaders to develop programs and services most needed by residents. Those achievements alone could qualify Reardon, the first woman to serve as president and director of FLP, to be named the LJ 2015 Librarian of the Year, sponsored by Baker & Taylor, but she has achieved much more in a short tenure that is marking a turnaround for this important but embattled library.
The American Library Association’s (ALA)Allied Professional Association (APA) recently sent a message to the members of the ALA Council and other “member leaders.” With the help of Al Kagan, who represents ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table on Council, we saw the message and were reminded that since APA’s founding in 2001, we have never fully understood what it is or does, whether it is a real association or just a tax dodge.