According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, an estimated 650,000 children in Uganda have been orphaned by AIDS. The majority of them are now cared for by their grandmothers. The adult literacy rate reported by UNESCO is 73.9 percent, and only 66.9 percent among women; these discrepancies are particularly acute in AIDS-affected populations. In an effort to address these issues, the Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project (NAOP), a nonprofit working on behalf of AIDS and HIV orphans in rural Uganda, has recently established two libraries for HIV- and AIDS-affected communities with support from the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), a Canada-based nonprofit.
Two library systems in the Kansas City, MO, area have found themselves at the center of challenges to free speech. An event last spring at the Kansas City Public Library (KCPL) resulted in the arrests of a both patron who spoke at a public lecture and the librarian who defended him. And in August, at the nearby Grandview branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL), two security guards resigned in protest of a book display originally titled “Black Lives Matter,” although the library changed the title. Both incidents, while different in tenor and outcome, highlight the role of libraries as defenders of free speech and safe spaces for dissent.
Last year, our library director brought a futurist to meet with the Board of Trustees to help us better understand the future of the library. I vividly remember the first point in his presentation: the vast majority of services the library will provide will stay the same. One question he didn’t address was our future as trustees. It never occurred to any of us to ask. After all, someone has to set policies, advocate for the library and budget, hire the director, and be responsible to the public. However, just as libraries themselves will undergo significant changes, so will boards.
The Johnson County Library, KS, hosted its first Debate Watch Party in 2012, but for the 2016 election the Library’s Civic Engagement Committee wanted to make sure the event was really memorable. On September 26, 2016, we watched the debate with 135 excited and engaged library patrons over pizza and popcorn. In order to make the event as robust as possible we created a more social feel: we had tables with table cloths set up cafe style to encourage interactions between patrons who might have differing views and interests. We provided live fact checking, debate bingo, and partnered with the League of Women Voters to help with on-site voter registration and information about the voting process.
The average American life cycle has changed dramatically in recent decades–people are marrying later, waiting to have children, and living longer. This presents interesting challenges to health-care professionals—how can medical practice keep up and help people live healthfully throughout every stage of their lives? Frank Maletz, an orthopedic surgeon in New London, CT, established the Healthspital foundation, which explores ways to overhaul health care in America.
The trend of circulating “stuff” other than books and DVDs is not new, but a few libraries have begun to embrace it more fully. For example, the “Library of Things” at Hillsboro Public Library, OR—inspired partly by tool libraries like Berkeley’s and the Library of Things at Sacramento Public Library, CA—offers patrons access to musical instruments, tools such as infrared thermometers and thermal leak detectors, gold panning kits, bakeware and kitchen appliances, karaoke machines, and even commercial-grade popcorn and cotton candy machines.
Iowa City Public Library (ICPL) prides itself on welcoming all members of the community, and recently found a way to extend that service by introducing an Autism Accessible Browsing Hour for all ages. The library’s bright and inviting children’s room plays host to a variety of kids of all abilities, including through its Sensory Storytimes for children on the autism spectrum, but the boisterous atmosphere can be too loud, too bright, and too busy for some children with sensory issues.
Human-centered design, a highly creative approach to problem solving, is gaining popularity in libraries as they plan for what lies ahead. Also known as design thinking, it focuses on defining and then resolving concerns by paying attention to the needs, aspirations, and wishes of people—in the case of libraries, not only a library’s patrons but its staff, administration, and members of the community who may not be library customers…yet.