Social Purpose Corporation T160k recently launched “Cataloging the Timbuktu Libraries,” a crowdfunding effort to help train local staff in Mali and help librarians in Timbuktu’s Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library catalog and preserve more than 400,000 ancient, fragile manuscripts.
The award-winning Library of Birmingham (LB), which garnered applause and approval across the U.K. when it was built in 2013, is about to fall on hard times. After opening to great fanfare a little over a year ago, the library has been finding it hard to keep up with costs, citing a lack of private sponsorship and the Birmingham City Council’s (BCC) failure to raise promised money from land sales. Then at the end of 2014 the BCC announced a round of austerity measures that will cut some £72 million in funding for the arts, parks and recreation, care services, cemeteries, and children’s care services for 2015–16. Approximately £1.5 million will be cut from LB’s annual £10 million operating costs, meaning that 100 of the library’s 188 staff could be eliminated, and its hours reduced from 73 to 40 per week.
Last week, President Obama announced his proposal for America’s College Promise, an initiative aimed at making community college free for all students who maintain a grade point average of 2.5 and make steady progress toward completion. The proposal also requires community colleges to offer academic programs that would transfer fully to public colleges and universities or provide occupational training in areas of high demand by employers.
Since the American Library Association (ALA) announced its collaboration with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, for ALA’s the Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities, in 2012, the organizations have provided a variety of venues for libraries to engage deeply with the question of how they can and should enable change in their communities. At the upcoming ALA Midwinter Meeting, the Institute will lead a series of four hands-on workshops on Turning Outward To Lead Change in your Community. However, Harwood is also leading this charge beyond the conference circuit, holding longer, more intensive Innovators Labs for libraries. The first took place Oct. 8–10, 2014, at the Loudermilk Convention Center in Atlanta. Michael Casey, Division Director, Information Technology at Gwinnett County Public Library, GA, and an LJ Mover & Shaker, attended the lab and reports below, giving Midwinter attendees a hint of what they might find in the sessions.
Rich Harwood is an author, public speaker, and the founder and president of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to change in the public sphere. Since its establishment in 1998, the institute has worked with such partners as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, and the United Way Worldwide, as well as civic groups across the country, to help them develop innovation strategies guided by community engagement.
When documentary filmmakers Lucie Faulknor and Dawn Logsdon were evacuated to Baton Rouge, LA from their home in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, they were struck by the essential role played by the library in the days following the disaster. Staff at the State Library of Louisiana worked long hours to help people locate missing family members, friends, and pets, fill out FEMA forms, communicate with insurance companies, and use the library computers. “They had an assembly line to give everybody a library card,” Faulknor said, “and we realized that librarians were also first responders.”
Opinion | From Vicious to Virtuous: The collapse of U.K. libraries and unbreaking the cycle of library support
Earlier this month, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) released its annual statistics on library use in the U.K. CIPFA found that the number of patrons borrowing books from U.K. libraries has halved since 1997. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who has been following the ongoing financial crisis that’s engulfed those public libraries across the pond. It demonstrates what happens to libraries when they’re not supported by the communities they serve.
One of the many reasons Alberta’s Edmonton Public Library (EPL) was chosen as Gale/LJ Library of the Year for 2014 is its commitment to community services. In particular, EPL’s outreach program to support the city’s homeless population is a necessary initiative in a rapidly growing urban center—Canada’s fifth-largest municipality—where temperatures rarely rise above freezing from November through March. Not only has the program survived the loss of its province-based funding, with the library system itself stepping in to cover costs, but this winter EPL’s outreach will expand to five additional branches on a pilot basis.
Acting on a complaint from a Mecklenburg County (NC) commissioner, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (CML) officials last week removed signs providing information about a referendum on a proposed sales tax increase, which would benefit the library, from all 14 branches serving as early voting locations.