Libraries are all about access to information in its many forms, and librarians have a long and admirable tradition of striving to increase that access whenever they can. Several recent events have spurred me to think about real-world barriers—visible and invisible—and how seeing them in light of access to the library could influence services.
Libraries across the country provide services to the homeless, but some go beyond standard outreach, throwing their doors open and welcoming those community members in. Among them are the Denver and San Francisco Public Libraries, where unique services aim to bring additional dignity and humanity to library programming for people experiencing homelessness. Both libraries have hired full-time social workers in recent years to help address the homelessness crises in their communities, and that commitment shows through in their creative partnerships and programming.
Colorado’s Anythink libraries are anything but traditional, and that goes for job descriptions as well; positions there include wrangler, concierge, and guide. The work they do also tends to range outside the box, and Hannah Martinez, a concierge at Anythink Wright Farms in Thornton, has been awarded the 2015 Lucy Schweers Award for Excellence in Paralibrarianship for just that kind of creative thinking. Martinez, who has been at Anythink since 2010, was recognized for spearheading AnyAbility—an inclusive set of library programs for adults with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. The activities Martinez has helped to develop include crafts, story time, gardening, and a book club, all specifically designed to accommodate a wide range of abilities.
Library trustees in the tiny Lebanon Public Library (LPL), NH, agreed on September 15 to resume their association with the anonymous web searching service Tor. The project was halted a month earlier after it drew attention from the federal Department of Homeland Security and concern from local law enforcement.
Since its grand opening in February 2014, the Orange County Library System’s (OCLS) Dorothy Lumley Melrose Center for Technology, Innovation, and Creativity has offered patrons access to high-tech tools ranging from 3-D printers to flight simulators. In the past year and a half, the center, located in the library’s central branch in Orlando, FL, has become a locus of creativity within the community, helping patrons connect and collaborate with others who share their interests. Ormilla Vengersammy, Melrose Center manager and Technology and Education Department Head for OCLS, described the center’s growing video game design program as one such example.
When Gale, part of Cengage Learning, announced in January 2014 that it would offer Career Online High School (COHS) through public libraries, the response was enthusiastic. The program, developed by Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE), a Florida-based distance learning company, offers a high school diploma accredited by the AdvancED Accreditation Commission and a career certificate in one of eight specialized areas of study through participating public libraries. Students apply for scholarships and, if accepted, have up to 18 months to complete the program—at their own pace, on their own schedule, from any computer with a broadband connection.
Gerontologist Debbie Dodds developed a tablet-based workshop program with the Santa Cruz Public Libraries, CA, for people with early-stage memory loss. She and library representatives will present on the pilot at LJ’s all-day virtual event The Digital Shift this October 14. In the run-up to the conference, LJ caught up with Dodd to learn more.
On February 3 HarperCollins announced that it would be publishing a sequel to Nelle Harper Lee’s beloved 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird. In the wake of the news, speculation about Go Set a Watchman’s provenance abounded: Is it a sequel to Mockingbird, or a first draft? Did Lee’s lawyer actually discover the manuscript in a safe-deposit box after it was believed lost for decades? Was the timing of its discovery only two and a half months after the death of Lee’s sister Alice, often considered to be her protector, a coincidence?
Early results from two Knight News Challenge award-funded pilot programs indicate that mobile hotspot lending could help bridge the digital divide in city neighborhoods where broadband adoption is low, and home Internet subscriptions are considered a luxury. A capacity crowd was on hand to hear Luke Swarthout, director of adult education services for the New York Public Library (NYPL) and Michelle Frisque, chief of technology content and innovation for Chicago Public Library (CPL) discuss NYPL’s “Check Out the Internet” and CPL’s “Internet to Go” services during their “A Tale of Two Cities: NYPL and CPL Wi-Fi Lending Projects” presentation.
While the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) is largely concerned with policy on the legislative level, an OITP-sponsored program at ALA’s 2015 annual conference, Hacking the Culture of Learning in the Library, focused on what libraries themselves need to know to function as outside-the-school-walls learning zones. Moderator Christopher Harris, school library system director at Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and ALA OITP Fellow for Program on Youth and Technology Policy, began the interactive session by noting that public, school, and academic libraries have a great opportunity to frame a common theme to work around—Libraries Are Education—and set about exploring some of the issues at stake.