Articles list

Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month This May and Every Day

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Each May, we celebrate the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history and culture of the United States.

To mark the month, I Love Libraries rounded up recent articles from American Libraries that shine a light on the experience and art of the AAPI community.

 

Newsmaker: Gene Luen Yang

Honorary chair of National Library Week 2016 Gene Luen Yang talks graphic novels and libraries: “I’m kind of jealous of kids today because my local library now has a better and more diverse graphic novel section than my local comic bookstore does.”

 

Newsmaker: Hasan Minhaj

Comedian, actor, host, writer, and self-described “fake journalist” Hasan Minhaj talked about the parallels between his style of humor and modern libraries: “In a weird way, my experiences at the library are similar to what I’m trying to do with comedy. You’re in this information universe, and you don’t realize you’re learning because it’s so fun. Maybe it adds something of value to your life or adds a perspective that you didn’t consider before.”

 

Newsmaker: George Takei and podcast

George Takei, best known for his role as Sulu in the 1960s cult-classic TV show Star Trek, has found even more fame later in life thanks to his prolific social media presence and activist work. His graphic novel, They Called Us Enemy, details Takei’s childhood years spent in internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II.

 

Newsmaker: Adrian Tomine

Cartoonist and illustrator Adrian Tomine reflects on the role of libraries in his family’s life: “Along with bookstores and coffee shops, they’ve been my escape, my hangout place outside the home. Both of my parents were university professors. A lot of my childhood was spent in campus libraries, roaming free. Discovering anything I wanted on my own—sitting there and diving deep into it. I’ve tried [to replicate that for my kids] because I feel like maybe now, even more than in a bookstore, a library is one of those places where you can let your children roam and browse and discover things that you might not have thought to put in their hands.”

 

Newsmaker: Kazuo Ishiguro

The beloved author is British, but his work and contributions resound with many here in the US, so Kazuo Ishiguro deserves a mention here, too. Ever wonder what it’s like to win a Nobel Prize? He can fill you in: “Things go completely crazy for a while. And the odd thing is, nobody warns you about it. You don’t know that your name is up for consideration, there’s no announcement of any short list. It just comes completely out of the blue. You’re having just a normal day and then suddenly you’ve turned into a Nobel Prize winner. All the press turn up, and camera crews turn up within half an hour, foreign bureaus and newspapers.”

 

Podcast interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose confessional thriller The Sympathizer, is set in the years following the Vietnam War, talks about why he chose to tell his story as a spy novel and how he conceived his main character (“I thought of him like a bad James Bond”). He shares how growing up as a refugee in San José, California, influenced the book, and why, in researching his novel, he wanted to learn as much as he could about the making of the film Apocalypse Now.  In 2016 The Sympathizer won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

 

Oh, and the wonderful illustration at the top of the page is a poster created by award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat. Santat won the Caldecott Medal in 2015 for his children's book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. He partnered with author Minh Lê in 2018 to illustrate Drawn Together, which received APALA’s Asian/ Pacific American Award for Literature. Santat and Lê joined forces again in 2020 with Lift, which takes readers on an adventure through entire realms of possibilities with the push of a button.

Buy the poster for your Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations.

ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness and accreditation programs for library and information professionals worldwide.

 

Urgent Action is Needed to Support Libraries this Infrastructure Week

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There’s been a lot of debate on the Hill and in the media about what constitutes infrastructure. As the Biden Administration begins its push to pass a $2 trillion package designed to reshape and rebuild the economy – and the country – library supporters like Eric Klinenberg are asking: why aren’t libraries a part of this bill? Writing in the New York Times in April, Dr. Klinenberg said:

Mr. Biden’s proposal makes disappointingly clear, adequate investments in civic and social infrastructure are less common… Our gathering places are overrun and dilapidated. Parks and playgrounds need updating. Athletic fields need new surfaces. Public libraries have an estimated $26 billion in capital needs, according to the American Library Association, and the costs of safely operating them at full capacity are likely to exceed what states and local governments can afford. None of this, sadly, is explicitly addressed in Mr. Biden’s proposal.

We know that libraries are fundamental to our communities. But as Dr. Klinenberg notes, the physical spaces they inhabit are not up to 21st century standards.

Change is necessary  — and urgently needed. At current levels of funding, it would take decades to meet the assessed needs. Based on the average capital expenditures from the five most recent years for which data is available, ALA says it would take more than 20 years at current funding levels to meet the estimated national facilities’ needs – not accounting for the future needs that would occur during those lengths of time.

Congress is going to make key decisions about the scope of an infrastructure package, including whether libraries will be in it or left out.

Now is the time to get involved. May 10 -14 is United for Infrastructure Week, an opportunity for libraries and their supporters to position themselves as critical infrastructure. The Build America’s Libraries Act (BALA) does just that — including funding upgrades to the nation's library infrastructure to address challenges such as natural disasters, COVID-19, broadband capacity, environmental hazards, and accessibility barriers. This groundbreaking legislation would pave the way for new and improved library facilities in underserved communities across the country.

As United for Infrastructure Week commences, join us in the effort to support this bill and #BuildLibraries. Here's how you can help.

Contact President Biden and Congress to ask that crucial funding for libraries is included in the upcoming infrastructure package. ALA’s Action Center makes it easy.

 

TAKE ACTION NOW!

 

Want to do more? Take a moment to tell your community how important it is that we pass this legislation and #BuildLibraries. Use our social media graphics (Facebook graphic / Twitter graphic) and sample posts to spread the word or craft your own message and tag your legislators. Don't forget to follow @LibraryPolicy and #BuildLibraries on Twitter for more updates

  • Every community deserves a fully-funded, modern library. The Build America’s Libraries Act would help us get there, with $5B for library construction and modernization in underserved communities! Urge your Senators to #BuildLibraries: bit.ly/BuildLibraries | TWEET
  • Libraries across [your state] need funding for construction and modernization - @[your Senators] please support this legislation and #BuildLibraries! Join me and ask your Senators to co-sponsor: bit.ly/BuildLibraries  | TWEET
  • Library access is a critical lifeline for so many - it’s time to expand that access. It’s time to #BuildLibraries! Urge your Senators to support $5B for library construction & modernization in underserved and low-income communities: bit.ly/BuildLibraries | TWEET

As advocates across the country utilize this week to communicate the importance of infrastructure in our communities, library advocates can share their personal stories to amplify the need for library facilities to be fairly recognized as a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure. The example Tweet below from Blue Island Library in Illinois shows one impactful way to illustrate the need for this designated funding for infrastructure upgrades in your library.

Check out the Build America’s Libraries homepage for more special templates and resources to help spread the word, including an informative template on how to craft compelling social media posts during United for Infrastructure Week.

May the Fourth Be with You – and with Libraries

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Star Wars and libraries go together like R2D2 and C3PO, like Luke and Leia, like Mando and Grogu. After all, when you can’t explore a galaxy far, far away...why not explore your library?

Check out these literary Star Wars tributes and explore a universe of reading and adventure.

Baby Yoda Poster

 He has many names: Baby Yoda, The Child, Grogu. But the newest title of this little green guy is: Star of a READ® Poster. After slurping up frogs and riding shotgun across the universe with his bud the Mandolorian, he loves to kick back with a good book. Baby Yoda, he’s just like us! (Also, check out Master Yoda, too!)

Droid Poster

Before there was Grogu, droids ruled the Star Wars Universe. Join the OG crew – including C3PO, R2D2, and BB-8 – and explore the galaxy through your library.

Dark Side Posters

Even bad guys need a break. And when you spend your days wearing heavy helmets, audiobooks are probably the way to go. What do you think this Clone Trooper is listening to? The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Servants of the Galactic Republic? Maybe Darth Vader needs to check out something on anger management.

 Three READ posters from ALA Graphics: Baby Yoda holding a book (Read, this is the way), Origami Darth Vadar holds a light saber poster (Read, it is your destiny), C 3 P O and R 2 D 2 robots (explore the galaxy at your library)

And if you are still not sure what to wear to your May the Fourth party, visit Out of Print for tons of Star Wars and READ® inspired clothes. And this week only, they are running a special: Buy one Star Wars tee, get one Star Wars tee free from May 4 – 8.

Screenshot from Out of Print online Store: Tshirts featuning Star Wars characters on READ posters

Check out the full selection of READ® products at the ALA Store.

This Nickelodeon Show Features a Magical Secret Library

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by Burkely Hermann

What if I told you that there was an all-ages animated series where a special and magnificent library was so central, it even surprised the series creator? There is such a show—Nickelodeon’s Welcome to the Wayne, created by Billy Lopez. It features a library that exemplifies the series’ quirkiness.

The role of the library in the show goes beyond positive depictions of libraries and librarians in recent years in animated series such as Too Loud, Mira, Royal Detective, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Hilda, and Cleopatra in Space. In Welcome to the Wayne, the chief librarian of a magical library, called the Stanza, is a Black woman named Clara Rhone—one of very few librarians of color in popular culture). She is voiced by Harriett D. Foy. In the first season, the library and its non-human employees are central to the series, a theme continued in the second season, emphasizing the value of libraries as places of knowledge, and understanding.

In the show's first episode, one of the three protagonists, Saraline, is unable to find the secret library in her apartment complex, the Wayne. Her friend and new apartment resident, Ansi Molina, stumbles upon the library by accident, as he tries to retrieve his John Keats book taken by a squidlike creature he nicknames John Keats. In the meticulously organized library, which contains information on the inhabitants of the Wayne, he meets Clara, who is re-shelving books. While she is unsuccessful in getting Ansi to become a library member, he later helps her shelve books and uses a magic guardrail to travel to various parts of the library. Information from the library helps Ansi aid his friends and sets in motion coming adventures, like getting a shiny, and strange, card.

The second episode begins with the library. Ansi's new friend, Julia Wilds, travels with Saraline and her brother, Olly, to the library, as they continue to try to unravel the mysteries of the Wayne. While Julia appears to be overwhelmed, Team Timbers (Saraline, Olly, and Ansi) are successful in fending off the mysterious masked man, Tony Stanza, keeper of the Stanza archives, who is trying to seize a card Ansi received from the library in the previous episode. Despite the fact he appears to be a villain, near the end of the episode, Tony surprisingly Olly and Saraline cards of their own, telling both of them, and Ansi, to return their cards before “time runs out.” This sets in motion the events of the next episode. 

Eight episodes later, in episode 12, a new character, a vampire named Andrei, is informed that his book is overdue and that he must return it. He and Team Timbers follow a creature to the library that snatched his book. The episode that follows highlights the issues of underfunded libraries and the value of knowledge, even as they fight off a library ninja voiced by Charnele Crick. Clara sends the ninja to kill the vampire, because vampires attacked residents in the Wayne in the past, and drive Team Timbers out of the library. As the whole library mobilizes against Team Timbers, the ninja, who happens to be Clara's granddaughter, is trapped between card catalogs. Andrei uses his superhuman strength and agility to save her. At one point, Olly jokes that the catalogs are attacking them because they are "angry about being replaced by the internet" as he continues to film everything for a viral video. The role of librarians as gatekeepers is emphasized when Clara warns Team Timbers that if they leave with Andrei, they can never return. Ansi, who loves the library, accepts this, even as he later laments his inability to access the library as a result.

A few episodes after this, the library ninja helps Team Timbers and introduces herself as Goodness, officially becoming part of the team defending the Wayne from evil forces. In the show's 19th episode, Goodness and Saraline break into the library, catching a creature that looks like a running nose and spot Clara shelving books. In the season one finale, Clara offers her help to the eight-person team of protagonists, which has expanded beyond the original members of Team Timbers to form what is known as the Gyre.

In the show's second and final season, Saraline describes the library as one of the quietest places in the Wayne in one episode; this library is also where her friend Annacile/the Arcsine goes to find out who has received her magical powers. A few episodes later, the show emphasizes the importance of the library as a quiet place for contemplation and study. Katherine Alice travels with Goodness to the library, with Clara shushing Goodness, telling her to use her "Stanza voice." While this corresponds with the shushing librarian stereotype, Clara makes up for this by showing them the Wayne Cyclodex, a book that records "everything that has ever happened" in the Wayne. This book becomes central in the episodes that follow, her words becoming a warning to those in the Gyre. In the penultimate episode of the series, the characters briefly return to the library, which is described as a place where time stands still, before they enter a trap set by the show's villains. While the characters do not travel to the library in the final episode, Clara is briefly possessed by rainbow gas and is shown, in the ending montage of the episode, doing exercises on the balcony of her room in the Wayne.

Although the series ran from 2017 to 2019 and likely will not return in the future, all 30 episodes can be purchased online. This short-lived but memorable series makes clear the value of libraries and librarians to society, as places of knowledge and diversity, more than most animated series.

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Meet the Athlete-Turned-Archivist Preserving Olympic and Paralympic Stories

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After more than a decade on Team USA, wheelchair racer Amanda McGrory is starting a new chapter with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). As the organization’s staff archivist, she’s drawing on personal experience as well her professional expertise to preserve and share the nation’s athletic history.

McGrory has been competing at the highest level of her sport for fifteen years. Representing the United States, she’s earned seven Paralympic and 13 World Championship medals; she’s also a fixture on the international marathon scene, taking first in high-profile races like the London, Paris, and New York Marathons. In 2018, she added a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois to her roster of accomplishments.

McGrory fit her graduate studies in between training and competitions to ensure a smooth career transition after eventually retiring from athletics. “You cannot be a professional athlete forever. That is a career that has a pretty strict expiration date,” she told I Love Libraries. “My biggest fear was getting caught in a position where I hadn't planned for the future.”

When she first started library school, McGrory had no idea she would end up as an archivist for the team she’d dedicated so much of her life to. She considered specializing in public and academic libraries before falling in love with special collections—and when she found an internship posting for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Archives in Colorado, everything started to click.

“It's absolutely amazing how perfectly everything came together,” she shared. The internship was magical: one day, she was sifting through boxes of artifacts and pulled out Serena Williams' signed tennis shoe from the 2008 Beijing Games. “That is the moment that it hit me: these are amazing pieces of history from some of the most incredible athletes in the world, and I'm just holding it. It was like, ‘this is what I want to do.’”

After her internship ended, McGrory returned to Illinois to train for the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Paralympic Games, her final competitions before retirement. Just as she was looking for a post-athletics job, the USOPC archivist announced her retirement, creating a unique career opening for McGrory’s skills and interests. When COVID-19 postponed the Tokyo Games and upended McGrory’s racing plans, she packed up her life and moved back to Colorado to lead the archives.

Being the only full-time staffer at a world-class archive like this one is no small feat, but after years of intense competition, McGrory feels at home in daunting situations. “A lot of being an archivist is about being self-driven, with collection development and accepting artifacts,” she said. “In my experience working as an athlete, I rely a lot on my independence. I'm very confident in my instincts.”

Working for USOPC while maintaining a spot on the Team USA roster has been a singular experience for McGrory: “I have the fun distinction of being the only current athlete ever to be on staff at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. It's been really interesting to be able to see things from both sides.”

McGrory’s plans for the rescheduled Tokyo Games are still up in the air—the Paralympic trials for track and field take place this June, and she’s making peace with the possibility of not qualifying. “I feel fortunate that I've already had the experience of going to the Games and winning medals. I was lucky enough to take six years to just be a professional athlete and get paid to travel around the world. I have no regrets there,” she explained. “If it's time to walk away and to be finished, I'm OK with that. I'm ready to pursue some other passions.”

Either way, McGrory will use her role in the archives to champion better representation for the hundreds of Paralympians on Team USA. Her work fits into the USOPC’s broader push for inclusivity (including adding “Paralympic” to its official name in 2018), and McGrory has both personal experience and academic expertise to contribute—her master’s coursework focused on the history of adaptive athletics and wheelchair sports.

“It's been great to be in a position where I'm able to help elevate those voices and add information about Paralympians into everything we do as an organization, whether it's physical displays, artifacts, or stories that are being told,” she shared.

“There's a great opportunity with the Paralympic Games to showcase the skills of these athletes as athletes first, beyond being individuals with disabilities. There’s been a big change within the past couple of years—the Paralympics aren't just for people with disabilities to watch,” she continued. “These are incredible athletes that have mastered amazing skills, competing at the absolute highest level.”

Subscribe to the I Love Libraries newsletter for more amazing stories about libraries and librarians.

Photos courtesy of Joe Kusumoto and The News-Gazette.

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Lights, Camera, Library: Behind the Scenes at the Motion Picture Academy Archives

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may be best known for its annual Oscars ceremony, but the organization’s work continues year-round. Its efforts to uplift the medium of cinema are aided by a team of expert librarians and archivists, tasked with preserving and sharing the history of film.

About 70 staff work at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, named for the groundbreaking librarian who went on to spend two decades as the organization’s executive director. The library’s collection includes millions of archival items, including everything from books and scripts to photographs and posters.

The library is (usually) open to the public; while it’s currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff are still providing research and reference services through email. Many of their visitors are cinema studios scholars, but they also often work with filmmakers doing research for upcoming projects—for example, someone making a Hitchcock-inspired movie might turn to the library’s Hitchcock materials for inspiration.

While you may not see library staff onstage at the Oscars, they do play behind-the-scenes roles in the star-studded ceremony. Reference librarians research the historical fun facts you hear while a winner is walking up to receive their award, and photograph archivists provide the images for the annual “In Memoriam” tribute segment.

One of those archivists is Megan Harinski, whose work in the photograph department brings together her passion for cinema and her professional expertise. “I’m a lifelong film lover, so I really enjoy being surrounded by history,” she told I Love Libraries. “My dream when attending library school was to eventually be in a collection like we have at the Margaret Herrick Library, so I consider myself very lucky to be able to go to work every day.”

For cinephiles, the library’s archives are a treasure trove. “One of my favorite photographs in our collection is from the film North by Northwest. It features Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint filming the famous scene at Mount Rushmore, but in the top corner you can see where the backdrop ends,” Harinski shared. “Off-camera photographs give us a peek at the magic that goes into filmmaking and, in my opinion, are usually more interesting than the scene stills.”

Safeguarding these pieces of movie magic is a major part of the library’s—and the Academy’s—mission. “I would watch old Cary Grant and Fred Astaire movies with my mom when I was a kid, and that was only possible because someone somewhere thought it was important to preserve the reels for the future,” Harinski explained. “Being part of an institution that works to preserve the history of film making so future generations can see how it has evolved over time is really special.”

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Photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, Margaret Herrick Library.

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10 People Share What Their Libraries Mean to Them

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All throughout National Library Week, readers, learners, and educators have been reflecting on the countless ways libraries support their communities.

The American Library Association’s #MyLibraryIs campaign invited social media users to share why they love their libraries. Here are a few of our favorite responses:

“My library is the core of our city! The amenities available help citizens get jobs, pay taxes, build bonds of community, share knowledge and ideas, invent, build, create, plant, feed, understand, learn, grow, and more! Our city wouldn’t be the same without our library!”—@AlysonGerwe

“Some of my best memories as a kid took place at the Meade County Public Library. I was just telling my hubby today about Summer Reading Pizza Parties. I hope that my toddler grows up to love libraries too! I'm taking him to the library tomorrow!”—@TheGreatKaysby

“My library is the heart of the school. Our librarian’s passion for reading is evident in every corner of our library.”—@SCastillo_DWS

“Sacramento Public Library is my source for new and favorite old books, movies for my kids, great online learning resources, and an all-around great community center. Support your local library!”—@Choonghagen

“My library is a great place to find new book releases! I have so much fun browsing and our librarians are the best!”—@TonyaDEllis

“My library is currently my adventure, my meeting place, and my solace. At my high-school library, it was my refuge where I could sort of unwind, and also casually talk to the librarian who became one of my close friends.”—@PenPartlow

“My library is a place of safety. A place where I can be myself, and read for pleasure. My library is vital, a place that inspires me; a place that pushes me to be better. My library is necessary, a place where the community gathers and shares ideas.”—@JSalinas_DWS

“My library is making a difference by allowing my 9-year-old son a way to still enjoy reading while he is away from school by making audiobooks available for him.”—@TonyaAtki

“My library is the most beautiful building in my area. Looking forward to getting back in soon. Rooftop is fantastic! I studied there for months to get my Project Management Professional certification in 2018 and have been picking up books there at the front desk during the pandemic. The staff is awesome!”—@judycohall

“My library is a place where we come together to learn, access information and knowledge. My library is my safe haven!”—@DW_K8S

Subscribe to the I Love Libraries newsletter for more great stories about why libraries matter.

Dan Rather Explains Why Libraries Are Cornerstones of Democracy

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Venerated journalist Dan Rather is a longtime supporter of libraries. His recent book, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, includes a powerful chapter about libraries as “temples of learning,” where people of all backgrounds can come together to access information.

On Thursday, April 8—in honor of National Library Week and Take Action for Libraries Day—Rather will join the American Library Association, United for Libraries, and Booklist for a live conversation about What Unites Us and the value of libraries. In advance of the event, he spoke with I Love Libraries about his favorite library memories, what’s next on his reading list, and more.

How did you use the library growing up?

During my youth, growing up in Houston Heights, I had the great fortune to know a wonderful librarian, Jimmie May Hicks, at the Heights branch library. Through her guidance, I learned of the value and knowledge that the library held. My use of the library—seeking out information, checking out books, broadening my world view—was established and enriched because of her. I can only imagine the countless other stewards of information who have changed lives across our nation.

How do you use the library now?

Technology has given us great advances over the years. As we receive wonderful tools like laptops and smartphones, that means “screen time” has skyrocketed. When I want to give my eyes a break and read things “the old fashioned way,” the library has never let me down. There’s nothing quite like setting down and letting the outside world melt away—no pings or electronic beeps, just the sounds of the flip of a page between your fingers and the story unfolding. However, for those more digitally-inclined, it is important to note that libraries are also great technological centers. Libraries truly provide the best of both worlds: access to equipment when gadgets are needed, and a space away from the noise when quiet study is wanted.

Do you have a favorite library memory?

I have many fond memories of the library but my favorite would have to be the day I got my library card. As a young boy, the card was my prized possession. To think that the son of an oil field worker could hold a key to unlock the endless stacks of knowledge that lived within the most spectacular building I had ever seen, was an amazement. It was a special moment that helped define my path in life.

What’s next on your reading list?

The Fake News Panic of a Century Ago: Reflections on Globalization, Democracy, and the Media by Lee W Huebner; Children Under Fire: An American Crisis by John Woodrow Cox; This Is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism by Don Lemon; The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson; and A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib.

Why are libraries so important in today’s society?

Libraries have a transformative effect on lives of all ages, the communities in which they reside, and the country as a whole. They were, and still are, civic institutions that welcome anyone who wishes to become a more informed and independent citizen. There is no other public resource that so well encapsulates this aspirational notion of democracy. Through the library, through books, through knowledge, through access to technology, we all can improve to become better, more learned, versions of ourselves and, in turn, be better neighbors to those around us.

How do you support libraries in your life and work?

For whatever, if any, platform that I have, I use it to sing the praises of libraries (and, in addition, local bookshops). You’ll sooner see a centaur driving a hybrid down the freeway than hear a negative word about libraries from my mouth.

Subscribe to the I Love Libraries newsletter for more inspiring stories about the power of libraries.

This Is What 2020 Was Like at America’s Libraries

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2020 was a year like no other—and libraries were no exception. Amid the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, libraries had to act fast, transforming their resources and services to meet the rapidly changing needs of their communities.

The American Library Association’s State of America’s Libraries Special Report: COVID-19 sheds new light on the challenges libraries faced in 2020. The picture it paints is clear: libraries never wavered in their commitment to literacy and digital access, even while battling public health threats and major budget cuts.

“Libraries also extended necessary lifelines to community members facing job losses, healthcare crises, and remote work and learning during an unprecedented and uncertain time,” ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. wrote in the report’s introduction. “Library professionals answered the call to serve amid multiple emergencies and again proved to be essential ‘first restorers’ or ‘second responders.’”

Here are some of the report’s key highlights:

  • Readers went digital during the pandemic. Libraries using the digital lending service OverDrive loaned out 289 million ebooks in 2020, a 40% increase from 2020.
  • Public, school, and academic libraries developed innovative services to keep their communities engaged and entertaining while social distancing, from online scavenger hunts to a book club hosted on kayaks. They also addressed the digital divide by loaning out internet hotspots and leaving their Wi-Fi on for people to use in their parking lots.
  • With the nation reeling from COVID-19, police violence against Black Americans, and a high-stakes presidential election, libraries developing resources and programs to support and inform their communities.
  • Voters showed up for libraries at the polls. Of more the 100 library-related referenda on local ballots last year, 90% passed, providing much needed support to libraries and their staff.
  • On top of the pandemic, many libraries and schools found themselves fighting censorship, with community members attempting to ban books relating to racial justice or LGBTQIA+ stories. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 book challenges in 2020; these are the ten most targeted books.

To learn more, check out the full State of America’s Libraries Report.

Lead photo courtesy of Delray Beach Public Library.

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From Bookmobiles to Outdoor Pop-Ups, Libraries Keep Their Communities Connected

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Today is National Library Outreach Day, a celebration of the amazing work libraries do to connect everyone in their communities with resources and information. With physical library buildings closing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, staff have gone above and beyond to distribute books, provide internet access, and more.

“From virtual storytimes for children to online programming for seniors to STEAM take-home activity kits, pop-up libraries, and outreach vans bringing Wi-Fi to underserved areas, outreach has been essential in connecting libraries to their communities across the United States,” David Kelsey, president of the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services, told I Love Libraries. “Outreach helps meet patrons at their point of need while libraries have been closed during COVID-19.”

With community needs rapidly changing during the pandemic, libraries have adapted and expanded their outreach services. Last summer, New Hampshire’s Manchester Public Library used their bookmobile to do far more than just hand out reading material: staff made weekly visits to areas around the city, including major public housing sites, and hosted storytimes and crafting lessons as well as distributing free lunches. Meanwhile, the Southern Oklahoma Library System has taken on the digital divide by converting a library van into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, providing much-needed internet access to the many residents who don’t have broadband at home.

Outreach services like these can have a major impact for people who might not typically have access to library services. “What I love most about working in outreach is the meaningful difference and positive impact that I get to make in the lives of underserved patrons and communities,” Kelsey shares. “From visiting seniors residing in facilities, to bringing books to food pantries and storytimes to homeless shelters, outreach has the power to change people’s lives.”

You can join the National Library Outreach Day festivities by following the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as the celebration’s official Facebook page. They’ll be sharing inspiring photos and stories all day and throughout the year.

Lead photo courtesy of Wailuku Public Library.

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