“We needed to change the conversation about libraries,” says Gina Millsap, CEO of Kansas’s Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL), the 2016 Gale/LJ Library of the Year. Millsap refers to her ongoing work with the Aspen Institute, an international leadership development nonprofit that has turned a lens toward public libraries. In October 2014, Aspen sparked a conversation about the future of libraries with its release of a report titled “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries.” TSCPL served as a case study. “The report gave us a framework and concepts to take out to the community,” Millsap tells LJ. As libraries engaged with the report, it became clear that many wanted more hands-on guidance about how to take recommendations from Rising to the Challenge and turn them into practical, achievable goals. In response, Aspen developed a new toolkit featuring 12 chapters of “ACTivities” covering topics such as “The Library as Civic Resource,” “The Library as Literacy Champion,” and “Jobs and Economic Development” to help libraries dig into the work of transformation, released in January as the “Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library.”
Digital signage has become a familiar sight in retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. With large flat-panel televisions now relatively inexpensive, many libraries have jumped on board with this trend as well, using digital signs to display a rotating series of regularly updated images, such as announcements, book covers, or information about upcoming events.
Few libraries are better positioned to host a daylong conference than the Nashville Public Library (NPL). NPL’s elegant Main Library opened in 2001 and still feels new, in part because its style, which designer Robert A.M. Stern described as “modern classical” and which features Ionic columns, Georgia marble floors, and Alabama limestone facing, doesn’t date as quickly as something intended to look state-of-the-art. Its 300,000 square feet include a large, self-contained event space that was perfect for attendees from around the United States to do a deep dive into library design informed by, but not disturbing, the surrounding library business as usual.
Since before Ellis Island became the gateway to the United States for many, libraries have served immigrant communities with language classes and learning materials that can help ease the path toward employment and citizenship. Today, those services have expanded to include referrals to city and health-care services, cultural events honoring countries of origin, legal aid, small business and entrepreneurship assistance, and much more.
Last month, Yale University hosted “Terror on Tape: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the History of Horror on Video.” Cheap slasher flicks from a bygone era may seem a bit lowbrow for the Ivy League, but David Gary, Yale’s Kaplanoff Librarian for American History, writing for the Atlantic last summer, made a compelling case for the university’s collection of 3,000 VHS horror movies from the 1970s and 1980s.
The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL), KS, is engaged in every discussion in its community. In fact, it is usually leading them. The library is central to local deliberations and changes; creates leaders; and uplifts the community it serves. The way the library has become a major force for its constituents in the city of Topeka and throughout Shawnee County sets a bar for all libraries and has earned TSCPL the 2016 Gale/LJ Library of the Year Award.
Kvetching about the location of the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference is practically a rite of passage. While the meeting has been held in many unquestionably great American cities, the association’s quest for affordable conference and hotel space in quantity tends to drive it to cold places in winter and hot in summer, and a certain amount of transit snafus and frayed tempers inevitably result. Objections to the location of this year’s ALA, running June 23–28 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, however, are on a completely different level.