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Book clubs and libraries are a natural fit. After all, libraries promote literacy to patrons of all ages, fostering a love of reading in children and young adults, as well as offering resources to adults seeking to improve their reading skills.By supporting book clubs, libraries expand the horizons of their patrons, while promoting social interaction and community engagement.The Gail Borden Public Library District in Elgin, Illinois explains its support for book clubs on its website – “Book clubs offer readers the opportunity to enrich their reading experience by sharing their thoughts, ideas, and perspectives.”Its library book discussion groups include one focusing on contemporary fiction and another on great books. Another group, the Walking Book Club,  exercises its feet as well as its mind, meeting for a 45-minute walk, followed by a 45-minute discussion.At the Canton (Michigan) Public Library, the clubs include an adult contemporary book discussion group, a seniors book group, a non-fiction book group and a “Book Club-in-a-Bag.” The latter is designed to help patrons hold their own book discussions with friends and colleagues and includes a kit that contains copies of a particular book, as well as additional materials for facilitating conversations. The kits can be held for as long as 11 weeks.Also, Canton offers email book clubs that enable patrons to receive a small portion of a book daily in their email. One can discuss a book with people across the country and even visit the Book Club Forum administered by DearReader.Librarian Kim Brandow said, “I think a lot of times people want to talk to each other, but there are taboo subjects, especially in this day and age, to talk about. This is kind of a safe thing to talk about. A book might touch on some of those things, but it’s in the context of the book. It makes it a safe place to conduct discussions on a variety of things.”Brandow said she is involved in the selection process.“Many of the selections are based on reviews,” as well as book buzz. “They have to be discussable and they have to have at least one librarian from the group that has read the book.”It also has to be a good fit for the group.“All these groups have different personalities,” she said. “We don’t want them not to enjoy the title,” but sometimes it is preferable to choose based on the potential for discussion.The groups, she said, can be as large as 25 and as small as four.“Generally people are just grateful,” she said. “We often get comments about how great the book group is and (how) they hope it never goes away.”Book clubs recently received a boost from the American Library Association (ALA), which has created a new online platform of reading resources, including recommendations, expert book lists and other content for book clubs and their readers. Book Club Central is being designed to provide the public with the very best in reading.Book Club Central Sponsoring Partners are Booklist, the book review magazine of the ALA; United for Libraries, a division of the ALA; and Libraries Transform, the ALA’s public awareness campaign, along with Corporate Platinum Partner Penguin Random House. Other Corporate Partners include NoveList and OverDrive.Award-winning television and film actor, producer, designer, library supporter and avid reader Sarah Jessica Parker is partnering with the ALA to serve as the Honorary Chair of Book Club Central.As honorary chair, Parker will provide a selection of recommended titles for Book Club Central throughout the year.“I can’t think of anyone more perfect than Sarah Jessica Parker to be the American Library Association chair of Book Club Central,” said ALA Immediate Past President Julie Todaro. “Ms. Parker is an advocate for libraries and literacy issues, has served on a Presidential Task Force to integrate literature and drama into schools, has experience starting a book club, is the Editorial Director of a new line of books: SJP for Hogarth, and is –  most importantly – a lifelong reader who shares her love of reading with others. The ALA is lucky to be able to share Ms. Parker’s passion and expertise with book clubs and readers everywhere.”Parker’s first selection is “No One Is Coming to Save Us,” by Stephanie Powell Watts, published by Ecco/an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.“No One Is Coming to Save Us” is an exploration of the American Dream among African Americans in the South. A story about the ghosts of the past and departed, as well as the lives of the living, the novel is a complex, post-integrationist tale that charts new territory. Kirkus Reviews said, “The Great Gatsby is revived in an accomplished debut novel…Watts spins a compelling tale of obsessive love and dashed dreams set in a struggling North Carolina town.” Publishers Weekly wrote, “… [it] hits home—and hard” and “Watts powerfully depicts the struggles many Americans face trying to overcome life’s inevitable disappointments.” Booklist stated, "This feels like an important, largely missing part of our ongoing American story."Powell Watts is an associate professor of English at Lehigh University, and has won numerous awards, including a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize and the Southern Women’s Writers Award for Emerging Writer of the Year. She is the author of the short story collection, “We Are Taking Only What We Need.”Powell Watts said, “Since I was a child, I have spent many happy hours in libraries. The library offered me respite, refuge and an opportunity to experience the beauty and complexity of the world and its people. I am particularly thrilled and honored for my book to be selected by Ms. Parker and the ALA.”Parker recently launched SJP for Hogarth in partnership with Molly Stern, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Crown, Hogarth, Broadway, Crown Archetype, and Three Rivers Press. SJP for Hogarth will selectively publish high-quality works of fiction by both established writers and distinctive emerging voice with critical and commercial promise.Parker said, “From an early age, books were my constant companions and my local library a place I could find a new friend on every shelf. It is a great honor and privilege to partner with the American Library Association and Book Club Central. I’m thrilled to help champion original voices for dedicated readers as well as for a new generation, supporting libraries in what they do best.”Book Club Central can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.For more information, please visit www.bookclubcentral.org and for SJP for Hogarth: www.sjpforhogarth.com READ MORE
On the afternoon of July 16, 1960, eight African-American students bravely filed into the whites-only Greenville County (S.C.) Public Library and sat down in the reading room to look at newspapers and books. One of those students was a young Jesse Jackson—later to become famous as a civil rights activist and minister—who was home in Greenville on summer break from the University of Illinois.Another of the students was Joan Mattison Daniel, a then-18-year-old freshman at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, who recently told American Libraries that “Jesse Jackson was responsible for our getting together to stage the sit-in. He had come home in January and needed a book to write a paper. The book was not at the colored branch library, a small, one-room house on East McBee Avenue.” Librarian Jeanette Smith told him it would take another six days to get the book he wanted, which would have been too late. “So Jackson went to the main library to look for it,” Daniel said. “He was told he could not use that library, and that was the beginning of it.” He vowed to come back in the summer. READ MORE
The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library (IN) will become what is thought to be the first library in the world to host a piece of art by the street artist Banksy.The well-known, stealthy Banksy has created coveted political and social commentary street art around the world. The KHCPL will display a piece Banksy created in San Francisco on the side of a bed and breakfast, titled “Haight Street Rat."The piece features a rat sporting a cap reminiscent of Che Guevara, the late Argentine Marxist military leader. The rat is holding a marker next to a drawn red line, and the other end of the line reads “This is Where I Draw the Line.” The piece that will be on display does not include the phrase.Lisa Fipps, director of marketing and community engagement at the KHCPL, said as far as the library knows, they’re the first in the world to host an actual piece by Banksy. Other libraries have hosted displays with posters or prints of his work, but Fipps said as far as she can tell, the KHCPL is the first to host the actual piece.She added in a press release that the piece, if sold, could bring in more than $1 million. Very little is known about the actual artist, but his work is widely popular.Art collector Brian Greif paid more than $40,000 to the bed and breakfast in San Francisco to take down the wall that “Haight Street Rat” was painted on.  Greif put on the work on tour with the requirement that the host site be free to the public and promote the value of street art. READ MORE
Reshma Saujani is not a coder, but that didn’t stop her from founding Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that has—in its quest to confront the gender imbalance in tech culture—taught thousands of girls in schools and libraries across the US such skills as computer programming, career confidence, and community involvement. Her forthcoming book, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World (Viking Books for Young Readers), will be published in August. American Libraries spoke to Saujani at the American Library Association’s 2017 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, just a few highway exits from where she grew up. READ MORE
On June 1, the Philadelphia Inquirer broke the news that the Free Library of Philadelphia’s McPherson Square Branch had a serious problem with opioid use among patrons. By June 3, everybody from the Washington Post to National Public Radio (NPR) had picked up the story.“As this nation’s opioid crisis has exploded, the staff at the public library … have become first responders,” NPR’s Scott Simon told listeners. “And I gather the librarians there have been obliged to become involved in a way that—well, become involved in a way librarians aren’t usually asked to become involved.”What Simon didn’t say—but what librarians far and wide know—is that the McPherson Square branch is just one of many American libraries struggling with opioid-related issues such as discarded, contaminated needles; drug use in the library itself; and even on-site overdoses and fatalities. Libraries from California to Colorado, Pennsylvania to Missouri, are finding themselves on the front lines of a battle they never anticipated fighting.Of course, opiate use isn’t limited to libraries. Neither is anyone claiming that the problem is more severe in libraries than it is anywhere else. Still, the fact that libraries are open to all, offer relative anonymity, and generally allow patrons to stay as long as they like make them uniquely vulnerable to those seeking a place to use drugs.“It’s just like: What is going on? How can we stem this tide?” says Kim Fender, director of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH). READ MORE
A couple of times each month, lunchtime crowds at the Pop-Up Urban Park in downtown Wichita (KS) can get their food-truck cuisine with a side of literature.The Wichita Public Library, as part of a new outreach effort, occasionally sends “Pop-Up Librarians” to the park at 121 E. Douglas to give away books and tell urban professionals about all the resources the library offers.“It’s about surprising people with what a library is,” said Stephanie Huff, spokeswoman for the Wichita library.  “We give away books for free on a regular basis with loaning. So this is a little different, but it’s in that same vein of just celebrating the joy of reading for fun and pleasure.”At least twice a month during the summer. a staff member from the library’s Central branch packs a few dozen books into a vintage trunk and hauls them the block and a half to the Pop-Up Urban Park. READ MORE
When Cathy Beaudoin started working at the Dover Public Library (NH) in 1975, the building dealt exclusively in books, magazines and other print sources.  A few years later, the library acquired its first computer, an Intel 286.Fast forward nearly 40 years, and Beaudoin is guiding the library through a turbulent technological time by updating how the city department does business, attracts customers and remains a vital part of the community.“People used to come in and ask us, ‘What’s the state bird of Ohio?’” Beaudoin said. “Nobody needs to come here for that anymore. Instead, they come in and ask, ‘How do I set up a Gmail account?’ or ‘How do I download an audiobook?’”Beaudoin said she remembers getting calls from bars asking questions like, “How do you spell Afghanistan?” While spelling has likely not improved drastically in the past few decades, technology has, and answers can easily be found by typing words into a phone instead of using it to place a call. READ MORE
In light of the threatened cuts to IMLS and federal library funding this year, we have seen an outpouring a support and an increase in advocacy efforts by librarian across the country. Over 42,000 emails were sent to the House and Senate during the Fight for Libraries! campaign alone! But many libraries did not stop at phone calls and emails.In April, Manchester-by-the-Sea Public Library decided to showcase how different types of funding (including state and federal) help the library to provide valuable services for their patrons. The librarians tied balloons around objects and materials in the library, using different colored balloons to signify the different funding sources that made the resources possible. The result was a low-cost, eye-catching campaign that got the patron attention they were hoping for! READ MORE
“Béédaałniih: Diné bizaad bídahwiil’aah. Táadoo biligáana k’ehjí yádaalłti’í. Ahéhee’.”These are the first words that visitors see on a sign at the entrance of Tsé Hootsooí Diné Bi’ Olta’, an elementary immersion school that teaches the Navajo language to its 133 students on the capital of the Navajo Nation (AZ).In English, the sign means, “Remember: We are learning in Diné. Please leave your English outside. Thank you.”Visitors coming to the school also see trophies. Lots of them. Two full trophy displays line the halls near the entrance and even more trophies sit on top of bookshelves in the library, or naaltsoos bá hooghan, as students and teachers call it.These trophies are awards that Diné Bi’ Olta’ students have won since the school opened its doors in 2004. Schools on the Navajo reservation compete in annual cultural competitions that include pow wow dancing, singing, Navajo spelling bees and science fairs. Many are Diné Bi’ Olta’ students who have showcased their knowledge of Navajo language and culture, earning the school a reputation well enough to feature previous students in the Navajo-dubbed version of Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” or “Nemo Hádéést’į́į́.” READ MORE
Libraries loaning “stuff” isn’t a new concept. Framed paintings were available for checkout at the Newark (N.J.) Public Library back in 1904. “Libraries were sharing before sharing was cool,” says Miguel Figueroa, director of the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries. READ MORE

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