Since the revelation that water in Flint, MI, is contaminated with toxic levels of lead, public and private institutions, individuals, and civic organizations have been stepping up to help across the country. In addition to the infrastructure changes that now need to be made to the city’s water system, much of the immediate relief effort centers around information: on health hazards, residents’ legal rights, and what the city needs to do going forward. The Flint Public Library (FPL) has positioned itself as a source of reliable information, and the remaining libraries in Flint’s public high schools have been instrumental in helping local teenagers better understand what their city is going through.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has issued a $1.2 million grant to remake the Harold F. Johnson Library at Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, as a Knowledge Commons—an integrated, centralized hub of content, tools, and academic support services. While the library’s transformation over the next four years looks to a brand new service model, it also continues the tradition of innovation on which the library was established some 50 years ago.
Librarians, the Gathering: Designing and Publicizing a Personal Librarian Program | Peer to Peer Review
Beginning in December 2013, librarians at Alfred University, NY, began discussing the possibility of creating a Personal Librarian Program, inspired by the work of librarians at places like Drexel University and Yale University’s Medical Library. We have always encouraged students to seek out a librarian for research assistance; now we wanted to add a human touch, providing a name and face for students encountering the intimidating task of using a college library for the first time. The librarian trading card programs of other libraries–such as Penn State and the University of Rochester–gave us the idea of creating unique cards and personas for each librarian. We decided to take the trading card idea, give it a fantasy roleplaying spin, and use these new “Magic: the Gathering”-esque cards to help connect students to their librarians and publicize the program. With this, “Librarians, the Gathering” was born.
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.
In the midst of the ongoing international migration crisis, libraries worldwide are finding ways to support newly arriving refugees. Libraries across Europe are assisting the wave of newly arriving Syrian refugees, as illustrated by recent articles from Public Libraries Online and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). And they’re not alone: as cities in the US and Canada receive an influx of Middle Eastern refugees seeking asylum, libraries are using both traditional and innovative services to reach out and connect with these populations in crisis.
Three years ago, internationally acclaimed urban installation artist Theaster Gates decided that a decayed, hulking, once iconic three-story South Side Chicago building deserved to be brought back to life. His vision, with encouragement and advice from friends, resulted in the Stony Island Arts Bank—a hybrid gallery, research library, media archive, and community center dedicated to African American culture and history—which opened to the public in early October.
Digital Inclusion Survey: Renovation Matters, Help Happens at Point of Need, and Staff Still Do (Almost) Everything
In October, the Information Policy & Access Center at University of Maryland (iPAC) and the American Library Association (ALA) released the results and initial analysis from the 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey. iPAC has gathered statistics on public libraries and the Internet for 20 years, and this report highlights the sea change over that time. Of particular note, this survey looked more closely at the relationship between recent renovations or construction (within the past five years) and the ability of libraries to support a full and robust online life for all of a community’s residents—regardless of age, education, and socioeconomic status—by providing free access to public access technologies (hardware, software, high-speed Internet connectivity); a range of digital content; digital literacy services that assist individuals in navigating, understanding, evaluating, and creating content using a range of information and communications technologies; and programs and services around key community need areas such as health and wellness, education, employment and workforce development, and civic engagement.
Mappamundi is the online web portal for the Global Middle Ages Project (GMAP) based out of the University of Texas at Austin (UT). It links to a series of Digital Humanities projects by scholars from around the world about people, places, and objects from the period of roughly 500-1500 CE. Although many people think of this period solely as the European “Dark Ages,” the project directors are interested in portraying a much more global picture. Many of the projects focus on areas outside of Europe and are interested in cultural exchange between peoples.
At Library Journal and School Library Journal’s October 14 virtual conference, The Digital Shift: Libraries Connecting Communities, “Always Watched: How Being Surveilled Online Impacts Us All and What Librarians Can Do About It” , attendees were reminded that government and commercial surveillance is an issue of increasing importance for libraries and users alike, and librarians need to consider issues of privacy more than ever.
Libraries may be going digital, but librarians still bring—and need—that personal touch. On October 14, Library Journal and School Library Journal’s virtual conference, The Digital Shift, Libraries Connecting Communities, aptly demonstrated this in a wide range of offerings throughout the day-long event.