Since late summer 2015, Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library (EPFL) has offered its patrons a unique service: through the new “Lawyer in the Library” program, community members may receive free legal advice from Maryland Legal Aid (MLA) attorneys.
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.
Chelsea Dodd remembers learning how to handle money at an early age but later seeing grown-up cousins and college roommates prove terrible with their finances. To her, launching a series of programs at the Montclair Public Library, NJ, felt just as core to her mission as a librarian as helping patrons locate reference titles. Getting people to attend? That was another story.
According to “Libraries at the Crossroads,” a recent Pew Research Center report on the public library habits of U.S. residents age 16 and older, over the past three years in-person library visits have waned slightly despite the public’s marked desire for new and improved library services. These findings, as John B. Horrigan, senior researcher at Pew, writes in his report, suggest that the library as an institution is “buffeted by cross currents.”
The goal of the My Librarian program at Multnomah County Library (MCL), Portland, OR, launched in April 2014, is to create a virtual space that ignites that same spark of connection and delight that patrons experience when they engage in person with library staff about books, thus building relationships and community and providing service at the patron’s point of need.
Over the weekend of October 3–4, Hurricane Joaquin brought record-setting rainfall and catastrophic flooding to the Southeast, leaving South Carolina in a state of disaster. In the central and eastern part of the state, rivers overran their banks, washing out roads, and bridges, breaching dams, and destroying property. To the south, high tides pushed water inland over sea walls. President Barack Obama declared the state a disaster zone, and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local efforts. The storm was what meteorologists call a “1,000-year rainfall event.” As of press time, the death toll for the state stood at 17, and Sen. Lindsey Graham said the cost of flooding could top $1 billion. Public libraries across the state began reopening Tuesday, and immediately began stepping in to help wherever possible—posting emergency information on their websites, helping people contact loved ones and insurance companies, distributing supplies, and serving as a place of shelter and connection.
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.
Colorado’s Anythink libraries are anything but traditional, and that goes for job descriptions as well; positions there include wrangler, concierge, and guide. The work they do also tends to range outside the box, and Hannah Martinez, a concierge at Anythink Wright Farms in Thornton, has been awarded the 2015 Lucy Schweers Award for Excellence in Paralibrarianship for just that kind of creative thinking. Martinez, who has been at Anythink since 2010, was recognized for spearheading AnyAbility—an inclusive set of library programs for adults with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. The activities Martinez has helped to develop include crafts, story time, gardening, and a book club, all specifically designed to accommodate a wide range of abilities.
Library trustees in the tiny Lebanon Public Library (LPL), NH, agreed on September 15 to resume their association with the anonymous web searching service Tor. The project was halted a month earlier after it drew attention from the federal Department of Homeland Security and concern from local law enforcement.