The first time I encountered the Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) was nearly 30 years ago. Almost miraculously, PLG has survived from just after the Reagan era through the Clinton and Bush years until Obama. It is still small but manages to publish Progressive Librarian (PL), a journal that combines rigorous scholarship with a strong ideological sentiment.
In Fall 2015, the Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) strategy team gained two codirectors, David Giles and Story Bellows—urban innovators with strong backgrounds in government policy. Giles joined the library as chief strategy officer in November 2015, after serving as research director at New York’s Center for an Urban Future (CUF), which in 2014 published Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries, a report examining the physical and economic challenges facing the buildings that make up New York City’s three library systems. In his new role, he will provide strategic leadership around program development, partnerships, advocacy, and capital planning, among other aspects of BPL’s mission. Leading the strategy team with Giles is Bellows, who became BPL’s chief innovation and performance officer in October. Before arriving in Brooklyn, Bellows cofounded and directed the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in Philadelphia, an in-house research and development lab aimed at supporting innovative approaches to civic problem solving.
The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries (DPL) unveiled its newest publication at a session at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting. The Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library, a set of resources to be used in connection with DPL’s report Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries, was released simultaneously with the session on January 10. On hand to launch the Action Guide were DPL director Amy Garmer; DPL advisor (and ALA past president) Maureen Sullivan; and John Palfrey, author of the recent BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More than Ever in the Age of Google (Basic Books) and a 2011 LJ Mover & Shaker (among many other roles).
The American Library Association’s (ALA) 2016 Midwinter Meeting, held January 8–12 in Boston, was pleasingly free of snow—even if the temperature did fluctuate enough, from nearly 60 rainy degrees on Sunday to well below freezing Monday evening, to make packing light impossible. But weather uncertainties took a back seat to the overwhelming atmosphere of positivity at the Boston Convention Center and Exhibition Center and surrounding venues during Midwinter’s 2,400 scheduled meetings and events. There was a strong sense among attendees, panelists, ALA officials, and exhibitors of libraries being poised to step into the next phase—whatever that might be. Below are some of the event’s highlights; more detailed coverage will follow.
In Michigan, a new law that if signed by the governor will restrict the sharing of ballot information prior to voting has alarmed librarians and allies, who are calling for action. In a surprising last-minute vote on December 16 in Lansing, the Michigan house and senate acted in concert to send several bills to Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI). Among them was an amended version of Senate Bill 571, a finance reform measure, which included new language prohibiting libraries and other public resources from transmitting information about local ballot initiatives for 60 days prior to an election.
Public libraries in the United States have traditionally relied on local support for the vast majority of their revenue. While this is still largely true, the funding landscape is getting more diverse, and there is a greater need for libraries to be increasingly creative when it comes to balancing base funding with new sources. Money allocated at the local level rarely stretches far enough to cover staffing, operations, collection development, and programming, let alone experimentation to invent or test innovative new services. Local funding is also subject to political winds as administrations change.
During the week of September 13–19, 2015, libraries around the world took part in Outside the Lines (OTL), a grassroots celebration devised to reconnect communities to the “creativity, technology, discovery, and all of the fun and unexpected experiences happening in libraries today.” More than 270 public, academic, and K–12 libraries—from 41 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, and Australia’s Melbourne Library Service—participated with a week of innovative, unexpected, and just plain fun programming.
Librarians have MUCH to be proud of in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The long-awaited rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, most recently also known as No Child Left Behind) sailed though both the Senate and House to arrive in front of President Obama, making it one of the few signs of functional bipartisanship in a rough year for getting stuff done on the hill. As the president signed ESSA into law on December 10, he referred to its arrival as “a Christmas miracle.”
Library officials across Kentucky exhaled with relief on Friday, March 20, after the state Court of Appeals ruled that systems in two northern counties correctly and legally set their annual tax rate based on a decades-old law that allows revenue to be raised without voter approval. The decision reversed two lower-court verdicts and means the Campbell and Kenton County systems will not have to roll back their tax rates 35 years or more, which would have triggered staff layoffs, branch closures, and other draconian cuts.
One of the joys of teaching is reconnecting with students years later as they pursue their careers. I recently had lunch and a long discussion with Patti Foerster, who had been a student a decade ago in my class at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library & Information Science, River Forest, IL.