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Observing National Library Week

Once again it’s time to celebrate National Library Week, which is the week when the ALA wants everyone to celebrate public libraries while ignoring all the other kinds of libraries and librarians.

The boilerplate is always the same:

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. All types of libraries – school, public, academic and special – participate every year in National Library Week.

An “observance.” Let us all bow our heads for a moment of silence. 

And how do all the libraries help us? “From free access to books and online resources for families to library business centers that help support entrepreneurship and retraining, libraries offer opportunity to all.”

How many academic, school, or special libraries offer either of those things? Maybe free access to books if it’s a public university and you’re a state resident and you’re anywhere near the library. Maybe.

You can also download a poster with a soccer player on it. That one says, “Libraries and librarians transform their communities by opening a world of possibilities through innovative programming, maker spaces, job-seeking resources, and the power of reading.”

Again, very public library.

This year is especially exciting, because the ALA wants us all to “take action” for libraries this week. In particular, it wants us to take action to save IMLS funding. Usually when the ALA supports something, Congress votes the other way, but maybe that won’t happen this time.

Why should we do this? “Libraries of all types are part of a delicate ecosystem that supports the transformation of communities and lives through education and lifelong learning.”

Oooh, libraries of all types. I like those. Does the IMLS give many, or any, grants to academic, special, or school libraries?

IMLS funding helps support literacy programs for youth, small business service centers, services for veterans and technological resources and services like 3-D printers.

Doesn’t sound like it.

From the cradle to the grave, libraries provide invaluable resources that serve as a lifeline for billions of users for access to technology, early and digital literacy instruction, job-seeking resources, social services and small business tools.

That all sounds very public library again, except for maybe the early literacy instruction, which presumably some school libraries participate in, at least in the places they still have school libraries.

“Our hope is that advocates will fight for libraries by making at least five calls to their legislators to ask for full support of IMLS funding.” Maybe when there’s also a week that celebrates other kinds of libraries. Is there ever a day of calling legislators to make sure entire cities don’t go without school libraries?

Nothing like that is mentioned here, but we are told that “In Philadelphia, federal funding is used to support print and digital collections, databases and business resources.” Philadelphia, by the way, is one of the cities where school librarians are in danger. Can we get them some of that federal money?

Then it gets weird, as things like this often do.

The ALA and its more than 57.000 members will continue to work to encourage patrons to contact their local legislators to safeguard IMLS funding; foster library tours for legislators and local leaders to see business research computer classes in action, or veteran’s support groups learning about online resources to assist their families with financial wellness resources; and to provide advocacy tools to Fight for Libraries!

That sentence sounds an awful lot like fake news. All 57,000 members will work to encourage their patrons to contact their legislators about IMLS funding and give library tours? I’d be surprised if the actual figure was more than 1% of that number.

And maybe while they’re at it, those 57,000 members can foster tours to all the closed down school libraries in the country.

If that’s not exciting enough for you, then you can print “oversize ‘expert in the library’ badges to use as props for an impromtu photo booth in the library.” “My librarian is an expert in…showing people where to sign in for the computers.” Won’t that be exciting?!?!

As an incentive, everyone who posts to Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #expertinthelibrary between Saturday, April 8 at noon CT and Saturday, April 15 at noon CT will be entered in a random drawing for the chance to [sic] a $100 gift card.

A random drawing for a chance to [sic] a gift card by posting of a photo of yourself online with an oversized badge on. Are there any librarians who get really excited about stuff like this? If so, that explains a lot.

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Comments

  1. I never heard before that National Library Week was the propaganda push it is. Thanks AL.

    As to SaveIMLS, that is a propaganda push, only it uses children to unwittingly astroturf for ALA. And no wonder. ALA has gotten almost $10M from IMLS. I list all the awards from the IMLS site at the post linked under my name. Some of them just look like more self-promotion.

    I’m so happy you write about these topics, AL. Few if any voices such as yours remain.

    • “Propaganda push”. Oh. I guess that’s what others call marketing and “getting the word out”. Perhaps it doesn’t bother you that the never-read-a-book-in-chief wants to gut IMLS. Perhaps you should stop obsessing about the ALA so much and actually read about the other grants comprising the majority of IMLS grantsd. Making libraries accessible – physically – to all? Statewide provision of reference and informational databases for homework and other help to level the playing field in terms of access for all? Teeny tiny amounts that wouldn’t buy a brick in a wall but which are optimized to provide incredible learning opportunities for a community?

      But I see it’s easier to spend your life ranting about the ALA than it is to actually build something constructive – or to actually work in a library. I can’t imagine being constantly against everything, but that’s the difference between you and most librarians, thankfully.

    • Creating a website, which is a disaster area but a fully accessible disaster area, to tell people to use alt tags on their imgs: half a million dollars

  2. Your point about the ALA’s focus on public libraries is a good one, and it’s a useful reminder to me to read ALA’s press more critically and think about who they are excluding.
    You can find answers to the question “Does the IMLS give many, or any, grants to academic, special, or school libraries?” on the IMLS website. There’s a search box there, and if you type in “academic”, you get quite a few matches: a few grants given directly, and then details of how each state allocated funds. (One could do a more refined search, I’m sure, but the one I tried got me what I needed.)

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