The new Ideas Box from Libraries Without Borders/ Bibliothèques Sans Frontières is fun, smart, and inspiring. The comprehensive vision behind it and the resulting design hold lessons for anyone interested in library outreach. It takes a significant step forward in framing an ideal outpost library that can reach into the gap as an element of humanitarian aid in the wake of a disaster when basic services and cultural institutions are unavailable or inactive.
There’s something wonderful and seemingly simple about the photograph on the cover of this issue that I don’t want you to miss: the mayor of Wichita, KS, and the director of the library—Carl Brewer and Cynthia Berner Harris, respectively—standing side by side in a group of civic leaders and key staff. This coalition is “activating” Wichita with strategic thinking that is informed through an open town hall–style forum that taps solutions from the community. If your library isn’t part of such planning, and gathering a similar group in your library would be a no-go, you have work to do.
When LJ revealed the first group of Movers & Shakers back in 2002, we knew we were onto something special. This Class of 2014 brings the total cohort to 650. Reading about them together is like taking a whirlwind survey of the expansive potential and impact of library work. Together, they make an exciting case for the profession.
Grappling with the literacy gap has long been at the heart of library work, and several conversations I had at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia got me thinking that we need to be more creative about how we address this persistent problem. Then, the Turn the Page initiative rolling out in New Orleans hit my email inbox, and it struck me as a fresh and much bolder strategy.
Now is the time to find, create, or build the will to secure net neutrality, instilling in policy the equitable access to the Internet we have come to rely on as a society. Last month’s ruling against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied the body’s authority to regulate Internet service providers (ISPs) as if they were common carriers without designating them as such. The decision releases ISPs to do as they please in developing commercial interests and threatens to allow the usurpation of the essential public resource the Internet has become.
The very concept of a “living library” captures the imagination. To serve the over 8,000 people in its district better, the Pine River Library in Colorado has made the idea a reality. There, the library literally embraces life in its program, with a vibrant 17,000 square foot outdoor space put to use as a community garden, learning space, greenhouse, and straw bale toolshed. It’s almost a green thumb version of a Maker space. It engages the community anew in the library—from the construction itself to the ongoing maintenance as the year turns. It exemplifies a holistic approach to service deployed inside and out to create a community hub for all seasons. Talk about vision.
Next month, after 35 years at the helm of the Darien Library, CT, Louise Berry will retire. Under her guidance, that little library has redefined the relationship between the library and its patrons and has become a model for libraries worldwide. “I like to say that before Louise, the attitude at the library was ‘keep the people out and the books in.’ With Louise, it is ‘keep the books out and the people in,’ ” former longtime library trustee Ann Mandel tells me. “Of course, now there is so much more than books on offer.”
Back in 1917, two librarians from the Missoula Public Library wanted to bring library service to the remote lumber camps that peppered Montana’s vast mining range. One of them, Ruth Worden, was from a very powerful Missoula family. When she brought the idea to the man in charge of the camps, Kenneth Ross, she didn’t know if it would work—if the lumberjacks would actually use the books—and neither did Ross. In fact, he expected they would not, notes a story in the Missoulian (ow.ly/qmqA0). But Ross felt he couldn’t say no to Worden, so packets of books started to arrive in the camp office in Bonner. A year later, 4,000 books had been checked out—and the case was made.
t’s rare to get to talk with five of the top thinkers from the library field all at once. I got to do that as moderator of the keynote panel that kicked off the virtual event “The Digital Shift (TDS): Reinventing Libraries,” held October 16. Participating in a group webcast from all over the country were Dan Cohen, founding director of the Digital Public Library of America; Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS]); Deborah Jacobs, director of the Global Libraries initiative for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Barbara Stripling, assistant professor at Syracuse University and president of the American Library Association; and John P. Wilkin, university librarian and dean of libraries, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.