The results of the 2016 presidential election caught many by surprise. With the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and his immediate remaking of American policy through executive orders, public and academic librarians began to mobilize. From book displays addressing resistance and inclusivity, to graphics proclaiming that all are welcome in the library, to topical LibGuides, to online groups organized by discipline or principles, library staff and supporters across the country joined forces with like thinkers to do what they do best: share information where it’s most needed.
Leveraging TV white space (TVWS)—unused, license-exempt portions of the radio spectrum that have been traditionally allocated to television broadcasters—could expand broadband Internet access in rural areas. The San Jose State University (SJSU) School of Information, in partnership with the Gigabit Libraries Network (GLN), has been assessing ways to do so through the Libraries WhiteSpace Project.
Since the last of Canada’s Indian residential schools closed in 1996, the nation has been attempting to shape a response to the legacy of abuse that the residential school system—which removed native children from their homes and families—inflicted on its Indigenous Peoples. Saskatoon Public Library (SPL), Saskatchewan, has become the first public library to incorporate a space permanently dedicated to truth and reconciliation. On November 21 SPL’s Frances Morrison Central Library opened the Read for Reconciliation reading area, which includes a full set of the reports compiled by the TRC over five years, plus a variety of books about Canada’s history of residential schools, as well as an extensive reading list on the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada on its homepage.
Starting in 2017, 15 small and rural public libraries from across the United States will participate in the Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces project, an 18-month training program aimed at reimagining and reconfiguring libraries to support active learning, foster social connections, and be places of continued discovery. The project will lead participating libraries through four stages of training, help them to develop an online cohort, and connect their work to the profession at large. Led by a project team of WebJunction, a program of OCLC Research, the project is funded by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in partnership with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL). Participating libraries will receive $5,000 toward their space redesigns.
In the weeks since the 2016 presidential election, librarians across the United States have taken actions to foster dialog, confront intolerance, and reaffirm public libraries as safe spaces for all patrons. Whether as a reaction to the need to initiate community conversations or as a response to incidents taking place within the library, library employees are looking at ways to get people talking—and listening.
When youth specialist Mary Shortino at the Johnson County Public Library (JCPL), a suburban system near Kansas City, KS, read Tanner Colby’s Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America (Penguin Bks.), she got excited. About a quarter of the book is about Kansas City, where racial real estate covenants first began, and the specialist, who is in her 50s, remembered when the city’s schools were first integrated. Shortino pulled in Angel Tucker, youth services manager of JCPL, and the two went to see Colby speak nearby in Kansas City, MO. Colby’s response to meeting them, says Tucker, was, “ ‘I should’ve come to your library,’ ” and with that, a collaboration was born.
Police bias against people of color, particularly black people, has been one of the most heated issues of the past few years, with killings by officers of unarmed black people in cities across the country serving as the impetus behind the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Some might think there’s not much role for libraries in fixing this problem, beyond helping users find reliable data and texts that address it.
In 2014, the American Community Survey reported that an estimated 19.4 million veterans were living in the United States. Libraries, both public and academic, are well positioned to serve the unique needs of this population by offering programming and meeting space, sharing veterans’ stories, and providing the community connections necessary to transition successfully from military to civilian life.