The talent at work in libraries should make anyone optimistic for the future—not only of libraries but of the varied communities they serve. As the latest class of LJ Movers & Shakers demonstrates, the field is rippling with energetic, committed, innovative people addressing issues to create ever better service. It’s important that today’s leaders guarantee an institutional dynamic that will keep up-and-coming visionaries like these happy in libraries, allow them to flourish, and enable the best to step forward into larger roles.
We know it’s critical in library work to connect to community priorities—and that extends to all library types, with the community in question shifting accordingly. But just how do we put a finger on the pulse of those needs? A new offering takes a unique and useful approach to answering that question.
On April 1, the people of Oregon’s Douglas County will see ten of their 11 libraries close. The last, the main, will soon follow. This decision by the county Board of Commissioners, announced January 9, is a sad outcome to a long battle to keep the system open. For those who live there, it will mean a devastating loss of a key cultural hub along with the access to information, expertise, technology, stories, voices from around the world, a book-rich environment, and all the skill development, inspiration, and aspiration these resources offer. It’s a loss the community at large should not take lightly.
I wrote recently that the rate of media illiteracy is the information crisis of our time (“Faked Out,” School Library Journal, 1/17, p. 6), but now that very real issue has nonetheless been trumped by a full-on deliberate assault on the flow of information—from journalism and scientific research to dissemination via social media and traditional channels. There is no such thing as an alternate fact, but there is certainly an alternate reality: a chilling, censorial, obfuscating one being offered as a threatening new normal by the new federal administration in the first days and weeks of 2017.
San José’s Jill Bourne, LJ’s Librarian of the Year 2017, has accomplished so much in her career as her roles (and her innovation within them) grew, from time in Seattle through San Francisco and in 2013 to the San José Public Library (SJPL) as city librarian. There she has turned an anemic system into a vital, valued, and expanding city resource. If that were not remarkable enough, even more exciting is all that lies ahead for Bourne—and points the way for the rest of the profession.
It’s time to ignite a movement in libraries, one that faces head-on the pressing threat brought by climate change and addresses every way we can help to secure a better future, or, in more stark terms, a future for the generations to follow. This seems more imperative every day, but the functional response is limited.
The community served by the Birmingham Public Library, AL, this October gained three new programs targeted to branch-level needs—Vintage Memory Making, with an eye to sewing and crafting; After School Writing, keyed to supporting penmanship, including cursive writing; and New Parenting, focused on helping caregivers through the first years. All three ideas stem from staff participation in the library’s recently launched Innovative Cool Award initiative, which interconnects the organization, including trustees, and helps the library be responsive to the community.
A new era has begun for the Library of Congress (LC), and if Carla Hayden’s first gestures in her role as Librarian of Congress signal sustained momentum to come, the LC of the future might just live up to the hopes of so many. Since her swearing in, on September 14, Hayden has set a compelling tone, one that is purposeful, inclusive, and infused with an important balance between the awesome responsibility of, and a sense of joy in, the work to come.
Libraries and LEGO have gone together for ages, but libraries made of LEGO bricks are much more rare. So when I received a box containing a little library constructed of LEGO bricks, it got my attention. That alone is a win for any marketing initiative—getting someone to tune in. Good marketing is hard to do, and harder for organizations such as libraries that do so much already with limited resources. When it’s done right, however, both the community and the library benefit.