Articles list

Ethan Hawke Shares Why You Should Support Your Library

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In a new PSA video for the American Library Association, actor, writer, and director Ethan Hawke explains why it’s so important to support our nation’s libraries.

“I’m here to talk to you about libraries, one of the most beautiful institutions that mankind has ever created,” he shares. “[Libraries are] a place where people from all backgrounds can join and be submerged in the ideas of the generations before us and the generations that are present right now.”

“If you can, please give to your local public library,” Hawke urges in the clip. “It is desperately needed.”

Check out the full video:

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This Louisiana Library is Keeping Its Community Strong After Devastating Hurricanes

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This August, Hurricane Laura made landfall across southwest Louisiana, devastating communities that had already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic; in October, Hurricane Delta brought even more destruction to the region. With help from a $20,000 donation from the American Library Association (ALA), the Calcasieu Parish Public Library (CPPL) has been instrumental in local recovery efforts, connecting residents to much-needed technology access and information.

The damage from the storms forced several CPPL branches to close, but staff recognized that community members still needed library services more than ever. “There is very limited access to computers, printers, copiers, fax service in the parish as a result of the hurricanes,” CPPL director Marjorie Harrison told ALA. “People need to file insurance and FEMA claims, file for unemployment, find work, and communicate with loved ones.”

To help residents get the digital access they need, CPPL launched weekly pop-up library service in key areas—locals can stop by and use technology in socially-distant tents. “Patrons are very grateful. I watched a patron sit outside for over an hour under a pop-up tent in the parking lot of the Epps branch using one of the library’s laptop computers,” Harrison shared. “She walked over from a house nearby and was thrilled to be able to use a computer at the library.”

A $20,000 donation from ALA’s Disaster Relief Fund will allow CPPL to expand their services to affected communities in the new year. The gift will go toward three portable buildings that will be hooked up to utilities for a return to full, staffed service, as well as technology kits to provide convenient Wi-Fi, printing, and scanning.

“The funds will allow us to provide regular, daily library service in these communities that no longer have a local branch library,” Harrison said. “Patrons will be overjoyed to have their branch and all its services back!”

To support libraries in need, donate to the American Library Association Disaster Relief Fund.


Meet 10 of America’s Favorite Librarians

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Every year, thousands of library users submit nominations for the American Library Association (ALA)’s I Love My Librarian Award—but only 10 outstanding nominees can receive this prestigious honor. This year’s newly announced winners have truly gone above and beyond to serve and empower their communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During an unprecedentedly challenging year, librarians have risen to the occasion, providing much-needed resources to their communities from a safe distance,” ALA president Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. shared in a press release. “Congratulations to this year’s I Love My Librarian Award winners, who have worked tirelessly to assist, engage, and empower the people they serve.” 

Leaders from the library community selected the winners from a pool of 1,865 nominations. The honorees will each receive $5,000, plus a $750 gift to their libraries, both funded by award sponsor Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Here are this year’s winners:

Jayanti Addleman

As director of California’s Hayward Public Library, Addleman has kept her community strong during the pandemic. Her efforts include removing barriers to online library card registration, distributing technology to community members in need and purchasing a bookmobile to distribute resources throughout the area.

Jessica Bell

Bell’s leadership has transformed the Bellack Library at Boston’s MGH Institute of Health Professions into a world-class resource for teaching and learning, offering information literacy training for all students, open access course materials and extensive expertise in instructional design.

Sean Bird

At Washburn University in Kansas, Bird has worked tirelessly to support student success, especially for learners from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds. During 2020’s emergency shift to online learning, he led a technology lending program that distributed laptops to every student who needed one.

Naomi Bishop

Bishop is a champion for social justice at the University of Arizona’s Phoenix Biomedical Campus, raising much-needed awareness about racism in health sciences literature. She has also contributed valuable research and reference expertise to the local medical community during the pandemic.

Jesse Braun

During the pandemic, Braun has been a lifeline for students and teachers at California’s Beverly Vista Middle School, leading online lessons, transitioning clubs to virtual meetings, offering remote reference assistance, and disseminating bags of textbooks to 900 students, all while maintaining social distancing.

Adilene Estrada-Huerta

At California’s Sacramento Public Library, Estrada-Huerta has provided outstanding outreach services to Spanish-speaking families, including bilingual storytimes, a traveling literacy program and a partnership with the Mexican Consulate.

Jianye He

Chinese studies scholars in at the University of California, Berkeley and beyond rely on He for expert assistance locating hard-to-find sources. Her vast network of research contacts, welcoming demeanor and extensive subject knowledge have made her indispensable to the scholarly community.

Jane Martellino

Martellino has created a vibrant culture of literacy at the International School at Dundee, located in Greenwich, Connecticut. Her efforts include launching the school’s Battle of the Books and “one book, one school” initiatives, as well as founding Connecticut’s first K-3 book award program.

Jennifer Newcome

At Northeastern High School in Manchester, Pennsylvania, Newcome has transformed the library into a community hub. Learners of all kinds feel welcome in the space, from struggling students seeking out tutoring to dual-enrollees who need somewhere to focus on college assignments.

Elizabeth Moreau Nicolai

In her time at Anchorage Public Library, Nicolai has helped countless children discover a love of literacy and STEAM. Her accomplishments include partnering with the Anchorage School District to register more than 90 percent of local students for a public library card.

Nominations for this year's I Love My Librarian Awards are open through September 27!


The Mysterious Librarian in Netflix's “Hilda” Finally Gets a Name

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by Burkely Hermann

On December 14, 2020, the second season of Hilda, the beloved British-Canadian animation, premiered on Netflix. The show’s first season introduced one of the most intriguing librarian characters in recent TV memory, and this newest batch of episodes brings even more screen time to the fan-favorite role. Hilda continues to show the value of libraries and librarians, remaining one of the best animated depictions of the profession, alongside all-ages shows Cleopatra in Space and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

In the new season of Hilda, the characters spend longer in their city's public library than in the previous season, and the value of libraries is again emphasized. In the third episode of this season, protagonists Hilda and Frida look for the librarian, who isn't at the information desk, and comment on how she has been supportive in the past. They enter the hidden special collections room, find a book slip, and travel through secret rooms before coming upon a hallway. They see the librarian chanting and follow her through a magic passageway she created. Once inside, they enter the Witches Tower, its walls covered with shelves of books. The librarian comes before three witches who govern the tower; they tell her that she must return a book missing from the library for almost 30 years. She says that the person who borrowed the book is responsible for it and the witches threaten to cast her into a void if she cannot locate the lost item.

Just in time, Frida and Hilda come out of hiding to help the librarian. Later, they all enter a labyrinth to reach the person who borrowed the book. Along the way, the librarian talks about the value of witchcraft, saying it is about knowledge and “knowing the true shape of things” than about powers and spells. The same could be said about librarianship, which is about sorting books, organization, recognizing what is within collections, and addressing the needs of patrons.

The librarian eventually admits to the protagonists, and the old woman who borrowed the book, why she had not tried to locate the missing book until now: she was embarrassed that she could not use the right spell to find it. After their return before the witches, a magical mishap inadvertently opens the void of no return, trapping the librarian, Hilda, and Frida. With Hilda and Frida’s assistance, the librarian is finally able to cast the correct spell, restoring the book to its library shelf at last. In the end, the episode shows the value of libraries, proper organization, and knowledge itself. The episode also reveals the librarian’s name for the first time: Kaisa, possibly an homage to the character’s voice actor, Kaisa Hammarlund.

The next episode that the librarian appears in is markedly different. It begins with Hilda accidentally releasing a group of magical “tide mice” which take over the headquarters of a local company and give one man good fortune. As we learned in season one, tide mice initially bring people fantastic luck but then eventually claim their souls. Meanwhile, Hilda and her friends David and Frida, read books in the local library, as part of Frida’s quest to improve her witchcraft abilities through research. The three witches who inhabit the hidden chambers of the library confront the group and accuse Hilda of releasing the tide mice.

Later that night, the protagonists, and Hilda’s animal companion, sneak into the library on a mission to fix the tide mice problem. Kaisa catches them but decides to help them with their quest. She joins them, leading to sequence reminiscent of Ghostbusters, as each of them attempt to eliminate the tide mice in the office building, who are attracted to people’s greed. In one particularly delightful moment, she uses her magic powers to ride a vacuum cleaner like a skateboard. Coincidentally, Ghostbusters begins with a famous scene in the New York Public Library, which is regarded as one of the best library scenes in film. The enchantment of the tide mice is reversed, and the day is saved just in time. In the end, Kaisa goes beyond her normal responsibilities to aid her patrons, making clear the importance of librarians and libraries.

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“The Great Gatsby” and “Mrs. Dalloway” Just Entered the Public Domain

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Each year, a wide array of copyrighted books, movies, music, and more enters the public domain—which means that anyone can freely use, share, and modify them without paying a fee. Starting on January 1, the copyright has been lifted on works from 1925, empowering countless creators, educators, librarians, and learners to use these important cultural materials without restriction.

“1925 brought us some incredible culture,” Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain, shared in a blog post. “The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. The New Yorker magazine was founded. The literature reflected both a booming economy, whose fruits were unevenly distributed, and the lingering upheaval and tragedy of World War I.” 

“How will people celebrate this trove of cultural material?” Jenkins wrote. “Community theaters can screen the films. Youth orchestras can afford to publicly perform, or rearrange, the music. Educators and historians can share the full cultural record. Creators can legally build on the past—reimagining the books, making them into films, adapting the songs.”

The full list of materials entering the public domain is enormous, but here a few of the most high-profile books featured, curated by Jenkins:

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

In Our Time, by Ernest Hemingway

The Trial, by Franz Kafka (in German)

An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

Manhattan Transfer, by John Dos Passos

The New Negro, by Alain Locke, (collecting works from writers including W.E.B. du Bois, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Eric Walrond)

Arrowsmith, by Sinclair Lewis

The Secret of Chimneys, by Agatha Christie

Those Barren Leaves, by Aldous Huxley

The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham

On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs, by Dorothy Scarborough

The Writing of Fiction, by Edith Wharton

A Daughter of the Samurai, by Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto

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“Shrek,” “The Joy Luck Club,” and 23 Other Movies Join the National Film Registry

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The Library of Congress’s National Film Registry preserves hundreds of culturally important works from our nation’s cinematic history—and this month, 25 titles from the past century have been added to the prestigious list.

Movies were selected for their culture, aesthetic, or historic significance, and range from blockbusters and Oscar winners to art films and documentaries. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden selected this year’s films with input from the National Film Preservation Board, Library of Congress specialists, and thousands of nominations from the general public.

This year’s selections come from a diverse cohort of filmmakers: in a new record for the registry, 10 out of 25 films were directed by women, and seven were made by directors of color.

 “The National Film Registry is an important record of American history, culture, and creativity, captured through one of the great American artforms, our cinematic experience,” Hayden shared in a press release. “With the inclusion of diverse filmmakers, we are not trying to set records but rather to set the record straight by spotlighting the astonishing contributions women and people of color have made to American cinema, despite facing often-overwhelming hurdles.”

Check out the full list of this year’s selections:

Suspense (1913)

Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)

Bread (1918)

The Battle of the Century (1927)

With Car and Camera Around the World (1929)

Cabin in the Sky (1943)

Outrage (1950)

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

Lilies of the Field (1963)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)

Wattstax (1973)

Grease (1978)

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Losing Ground (1982)

Illusions (1982)

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

The Devil Never Sleeps (1994)

Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

The Ground (1993-2001)

Shrek (2001)

Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege (2006)

The Hurt Locker (2008)

The Dark Knight (2008)

Freedom Riders (2010)

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Booklist Names Their Top Reads of 2020

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Our friends at Booklist—the book review magazine of the American Library Association—have spent 2020 poring over countless titles for readers of all ages. As the year comes to a close, Booklist staff have announced nine of their favorite new reads from a variety of genres.

Their annual Top of the List picks represent their most highly recommended titles in nine categories: fiction, nonfiction, audiobooks, and graphic novels for adults, and fiction, nonfiction, picture books, audiobooks, and graphic novels, for youth.

Here are their top titles for 2020:

Books for Adults:

Top of the List in Graphic Novels:

Year of the Rabbit, by Tian Veasna

Top of the List Fiction:

These Ghosts Are Family, by Maisy Card

Top of the List Nonfiction:

Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration, by Morgan Jerkins

Top of the List Audio: 

The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré (writer) and Adjoa Andoh (audiobook narrator)

Books for Youth:

Top of the List in Graphic Novels:

Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang (writer and illustrator) and Lark Pien illustrator)

Top of the List Picture Book:

Nana Akua Goes to School, by Tricia Elam Walker (writer) and April Harrison (illustrator)

Top of the List Nonfiction:

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, by Christina Soontornvat

Top of the List Fiction:

Burn, by Patrick Ness

Top of the List Audio:

Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo (writer and audiobook narrator) and Melania Luisa Marte (audiobook narrator)

For great book recommendations, author interviews, and more, subscribe to the Booklist Reader Update.

This Library-Themed Student Album Makes for A+ Study Music

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In these times of remote learning, many college students have found themselves missing the campus spaces they once called home, including their much-loved libraries. University of California, San Diego undergraduates Donald Liang and Terry Feng have gotten creative to stay connected to their school’s Geisel Library: composing an electronic album inspired by their favorite study spaces.

“I think the idea really hit more during spring quarter, when we were all just at home and it was just hours and hours of Zoom lectures,” Feng told thisweek@ucsandiego. “I missed so much of just being able to hang out with people, even just study together. That’s what college students do: spend long hours at the library.”

“Library of Dreams” features eight tracks, each one inspired by a different floor of the library. From “Floor 1: Memes and Chill” to “Floor 8: Nap Time,” each track musically evokes the unique atmosphere of the space it represents. Liang and Feng, both music majors, drew on their own memories of the library while crafting the album, as well as surveying their classmates on social media.

“It was nice to have those answers to further inform how we wanted to characterize each floor, and to give a little more information about how other people perceived the library,” Liang shared. “Something that I’m particularly interested about is how the music inside our…heads gets shifted onto either pieces of paper or onto a computer program.”

“it’s really interesting and enjoyable work,” said Erik Mitchell, UC San Diego’s University Librarian. “I continue to be amazed by the innovation and collaboration exhibited by our campus scholars, and its projects like this that tell the story of how the UC San Diego Library has remained a source of inspiration to our academic community for the last 50 years.”

2020 has been a surprisingly big year for libraries and music. This summer, Duke University’s “Library Takeout” music video went viral for its synth-pop explanation of COVID safety procedures. And earlier this year, the Library of Congress commissioned 10 original musical compositions inspired the pandemic; the resulting pieces serve as a sonic representation of life during COVID.


Photo by Erik Jepsen, courtesy of UC San Diego Communications. Subscribe to the I Love Libraries newsletter for more great stories about America’s libraries.

Our Favorite Library Stories from 2020

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This has been a year like no other—but libraries have helped us get through it. From offering socially-distant services to bringing much-needed joy to our social media feeds, libraries and their staff have been a constant source of support for countless people.

As an unprecedented year comes to a close, we’re revisiting some of our favorite I Love Libraries articles from the past twelve months. Looking back, here’s how we’ll remember 2020:

Libraries stepped up during the pandemic. 

While COVID-19 meant closing library doors to the public, staff adapted their services to continue meeting community needs. From hosting virtual storytimes featuring celebrity guests and socially-distant outdoor programs to providing parking lot Wi-Fi access to those in need, libraries have truly risen to the occasion in these challenging times.

Libraries responded to Black Lives Matter.

2020 brought much-needed national attention to police brutality and racial injustice, and Black librarians were at the forefront of social justice conversations in their communities. Over the summer, librarians shared their picks for comics and graphic novels relating to Black Lives Matter, as well as social justice book recommendations for youth.

We found libraries in unexpected places.

Did you know there’s a library in the Galápagos Islands? We interviewed librarian Edgardo Civallero about what it’s like working alongside giant marine iguanas. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., we explored another unique library location: a former Indiana supermarket that’s housing biographies in the freezer section during a branch renovation.

Libraries broke the internet.

Libraries took social media by storm this year with creative viral videos promoting their services. Our favorites include Duke University’s absurdly catchy “Library Takeout” music video, Harris County Public Library’s used car ad–inspired “Curbside Larry” commercial, and the Reaching Across Illinois Library System’s “Elders of the Internet” skit starring Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman.

We learned animals love libraries too.

What is it like to be a library cat during a pandemic? We checked in with Cosmo, Socks, Browser, and the Maynooth University library cat (as well as their human colleagues) to find out. We also spoke with Virginia school librarian Rebecca Flowers, who has an adorable library-themed bird feeder in her yard, which she livestreams to thousands of bird lovers online.

We took a deep dive into fictional libraries.

Pop culture has provided a much-needed escape from a difficult year, and we’ve loved exploring the greatest (and not-so-great) depictions of librarians in media. Reel Librarians blogger Jennifer Snoek-Brown gave us the scoop on libraries in cinema, librarian Burkely Hermann analyzed two recent examples of libraries in animation, and Booklist editor Briana Shemroske rounded up great fiction and nonfiction reads about librarians.

Librarians helped us get through the day.

Amid the pandemic, we relied on librarians’ expertise about a vast array of topics, from having challenging conversations with kids and documenting life during COVID to finding great books when you can’t physically browse the shelves.

We heard from you.

Throughout the year, we invited I Love Libraries readers and the American Library Association’s social media followers to share stories and recommendations. Highlights include this inspiring list of reasons why people became librarians, a selection of readers’ favorite library memories, and a round-up of bibliophiles’ top books of 2020.

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Why the Rock Icons from R.E.M. Love Libraries

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In a new PSA video, legendary multi-instrumentalist Mike Mills shares why he and his R.E.M. bandmates have always supported libraries.

“We love literacy,” he explains in the video. “Libraries provide free access to music, movies, and books.”

“Libraries provide a place for people of all backgrounds to discover their creative talents and nurture those creative abilities,” Mills continues.

R.E.M. fans can help spread the library love by purchasing this limited-edition jigsaw puzzle, which features artwork from the 1990 READ poster they created with the American Library Association. Proceeds from the puzzles support ALA’s advocacy for libraries as well as Books for Keeps, a Georgia-based grassroots literacy organization.

Check out Mike Mills’ PSA video below:

R.E.M.'s Mike Mills: Support your public library!