Trend watching is always fun, but it becomes an annual exercise when the New Year arrives and outfits large and small seize the moment to attempt to encapsulate the forces at work in their spheres. With the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting held so early this year, the 2016 trends deep dive dovetailed, for me, with the many conversations I had in Boston, which as usual ranged from essentially functional to highly aspirational, pinging between today’s pressures and tomorrow’s promise. It struck me that our collective work balances in that space, sometimes more precariously than others.
Librarians have MUCH to be proud of in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The long-awaited rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, most recently also known as No Child Left Behind) sailed though both the Senate and House to arrive in front of President Obama, making it one of the few signs of functional bipartisanship in a rough year for getting stuff done on the hill. As the president signed ESSA into law on December 10, he referred to its arrival as “a Christmas miracle.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about libraries as infrastructure and why we—as voters and taxpayers—don’t demand that our dollars be used for their upkeep and refurbishment to meet changing needs and help spur community growth. Libraries usually do well at the polls, and this year is no exception, with the majority of bonds passing. The local nature of libraries obscures the larger view: a varied patchwork of support for a national treasure. Several things have me thinking there may be a way to reshape the local conversation against the national backdrop.
The ALA’s new public awareness initiative is a savvy approach to the broad challenge libraries face as they continue to evolve and must communicate what they actually contribute to their communities. Much more than talk, Libraries Transform is an actionable toolkit you should put to work now to help your constituency understand the real life of libraries.
Like so many who have been stunned and saddened by seemingly constant instances of gun violence, I have been reflecting on what can be done to create a culture with less danger from firearms and less chaos in the discourse about them. It seems we have lost our moorings when it comes to talking about guns and creating laws and practices to manage them. In the meantime, people are getting hurt.
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.
Five years ago, a burning question evolved into what is now the ongoing New Landmark Libraries (NLL) project. Often in conversation with librarians on the verge of construction, I was asked which libraries should be on a “must see” list. Beyond the go-to, big name projects, we at LJ had our favorites recently opened, but our lists were personal and not comprehensive. Hence, the New Landmark Libraries. The national competition was designed to bring forward the excellence in library buildings for celebration, as a tour planner for those approaching a capital project, and as a road map for the next generation of libraries still not even on the boards.
It’s easy to see why students want to camp out at the new library at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI. I had the opportunity to see it in person last month when I attended the Re-think It: Libraries for a New Age conference on campus. The space itself is incredible—as is the response to the critical questions that drove the design and programming of services delivered at what is now the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons.
The American Library Association (ALA) took a crucial step when it passed the Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries at the association’s annual meeting in San Francisco. Now we as a profession face the complex work ahead to make the goals of the resolution real. We have this collective articulation to lean on to make it a priority in a holistic sense—across strategic planning, space design, community engagement, and educational outreach. It is critical that we redouble our efforts.