Annoyed Librarian
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Banned Books in Prison

There’s a news article about prison libraries that makes me wonder what stance the ALA would take on the matter. In almost all ways it’s an exemplary tale of how New York city libraries are trying to provide library service to the local prison populations. This is a great thing to do unless the goal of prison is merely to provide prisoners with unrelieved misery. And given the amount of time prisoners have on their hands, reading is a popular activity. The main problem is a lack of books and service. For example, at the prison the Brooklyn Public Library is working with, the “library” consists of a cart that can hold 2-300 books, which is wheeled around like the meal and medicine carts. That at least implies that reading material is as essential to life as food and medicine, which I suspect many librarians would agree with. However, a wheeled cart is hardly like a decently stocked library that prisoners can browse. It’s even worse than a bookmobile. The libraries also ...
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The Closing of British Libraries

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned what bad shape some British and Canadian libraries were compared to American libraries. Apparently I got only part of the story, because the British situation seems to be getting even worse. According to this column arguing for libraries as public spaces that don’t need to make a profit for someone, “it is estimated that cuts to local authorities will force 100 libraries to close by the end of 2015, with another 200-300 becoming reliant on volunteers.” If we extrapolated that to the population size of the United States, that would be like 600 libraries possibly closing and 1200-1500 becoming reliant on volunteers. Something like that already seems to be happening with school libraries, but public libraries haven’t faced anything like this sort of devastation. The column argues that it’s ideology that’s crushing the libraries, not any sort of budget issue, since Britain has plenty of money compared to most countries and it’s not ...
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Essential Nonessential Services

Someone “sounding off” in Potsdam, NY has some interesting comments on public libraries. In response to “Potsdam Public Library Asking For More Taxpayer Support to Keep Open Hours” by Mix96, taxpayers should only be mandated to fund essential services. The Potsdam Library may be nice, but it is not an essential service. If it is not, or cannot be, funded by user fees close it! Close non-essential services that cannot be funded by user fees including Pine Street Arena and the Potsdam Museum. Taxpayers are broke and can no longer carry the burden of these non-essential niceties. People can support them by choice through user fees or donations. I’ve never been to the Potsdam Public Library, but I’ll assume for the sake of argument it’s much like any other public library, and that there’s nothing special about it that screams non-essential any more than other libraries. There are really two issues here, whether libraries are essential services, and whether taxes ...
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Canadians Fighting Stereotypes

In addition to all sorts of bad things happening to their government libraries, some Canadian librarians have also fallen victim to the most popular and risible genre of journalism about librarians, the Stereotype Busting genre. As usual, the article lives up to the stereotype of journalists thinking everyone who works in a library is a librarian, since I think two of the four “librarians” profiled aren’t actually librarians. On the other hand, if journalists actually knew what they were talking about, then we’d lose half the fun of reading them. I found this one kind of weird. It begins by bringing up the two stereotypes the author believes are stereotypes, the old shusher and the sexpot. That alone is odd, because the sexy librarian isn’t a stereotype so much as a fantasy. Maybe a stereotypical fantasy, but still a fantasy. The other weird part of the opening is the last sentence, saying that regardless of whether she’s a shusher or a sexpot, the librarian is ...
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An Idea for a Resolution

I have a confession to make that will probably come as a shock. I’m not a small town girl, or even a small town woman. Small towns are those places I sometimes pass through on the way to somewhere else, unless I can just fly over them. Thus, I’ve never given much thought to small town libraries, although I knew that with 16,000 public libraries in the U.S., lots of them must be in tiny places. After reading this article about library funding in small Pennsylvania towns, one question is, how do they survive? Or at least, how do some of them survive? The library in Mount Jewett, PA got $4,308 to spend from the state of Pennsylvania. What the heck do you do with so little money? $3800 has to be spent on books. I’m assuming it’s pretty easy to spend that little bit. And because of the way Pennsylvania state funding works, the low amount also means it’s not getting much support from the community, at least through taxation. That’s not too surprising, considering hardly ...
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The Library as Third Place

Inspired by this article in the Chicago Tribune hailing libraries as “havens on earth,” I wanted to write about libraries as Third Places. A Third Place is somewhere other than home or work, the first two places. From the Wikipedia article summing up Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, we find the following characteristic of third places: Free or inexpensive Food and drink, while not essential, are important Highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance) Involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there Welcoming and comfortable Both new friends and old should be found there Depending on the community, lots of public libraries could count as third places, especially those with cafes and open spaces outside the normally quiet stacks areas. People generally don’t sit around the reference section merrily conversing, but there’s often space for that sort of thing. This is even perhaps what a lot of public librarians want libraries to ...
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