Articles

Ron Charles, reviewer and editor at The Washington Post’s “Book World,” is taking the art of book reviewing from the ivory tower to the viral contours of internet streaming. Earlier this year, Charles won the Louis Shores Award for excellence in reviewing from the Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. He chatted with American Libraries about summer reading, feminist dystopias, and his run-ins with the Secret Service.What do you do to make literary criticism approachable?I try to pick books that I think people would enjoy reading, so that’s a start. I try to write about them with enthusiasm and clarity, and I do a few odd things to try and bring in people who are sick and tired of book reviews. For instance, I do a series of comic, satirical videos that make fun of book reviewing, the publishing industry, and sometimes even the authors. READ MORE
Constance Wu, star of the small and big screen, is lending her support to our nation’s libraries with special video messages recorded for the American Library Association (ALA). In the Public Service Announcements (PSAs), Wu shares her love of libraries and discusses how they advance inclusion and education for people of all backgrounds. The PSAs can be viewed here. Wu will appear in the highly-anticipated release of the movie adaptation of “Crazy Rich Asians” later this summer. Wu is also featured in a new celebrity READ® poster, which is currently available for purchase at the ALA Store alastore.ala.org. Wu is best known for her roles in the web series “EastSiders” and ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat.” She has also had supporting roles in “Law & Order: SVU,” “Torchwood,” “Covert Affairs,” and “One Life to Live.” In 2017, she was named one of the TIME 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. READ MORE
Libraries have always had a broad educational mission, yet many of us associate libraries with a single specific tool of education: books. For us to fully appreciate the value of libraries, our public discourse needs to move beyond that image and recognize the full spectrum of services and programs that libraries provide.This past Saturday, Forbes published – and quickly removed – an op-ed by economist Panos Mourdoukoutas arguing that Amazon has made libraries obsolete and irrelevant. Tom McKay at Gizmodo responded that libraries and stores are “entirely different ways of providing access to things.” And in the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham pointed out that an awful lot of people still use libraries, but he focused in part on library cards and thus, by implication, on circulation. Both responses were spot-on, but neither corrected the over-emphasis on books. READ MORE
Eric Lyon scrambled for and found bottles of glue — you know, the kind that "squishes out" — after a little girl asked for them late Tuesday morning at Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City (MO).Lyon, the children's programming coordinator at the library, dashed about gathering parts and picking up after children.  It was a typical "Trash to Treasures" morning at MRRL."Welcome to the madhouse," he told adults who entered the gallery room, where dozens of children ran about grabbing cardboard toilet paper sleeves, boxes, buttons, feathers, beads and other bits of recyclables staff has been gathering since last year. READ MORE
A new book by a University of Illinois expert on rare-book crimes tells the story of the theft of valuable antique illustrations and the destruction of rare books from the University of Illinois Library.Travis McDade, the curator of law rare books at the U. of I. law school, wrote a recently released book about the crime spree. “Torn from Their Bindings: A Story of Art, Science, and the Pillaging of American University Libraries” was published by the University Press of Kansas. It is the fourth book by McDade, whose training both as a librarian and a lawyer gives him a unique perspective on rare-book crimes.Robert Kindred ran “the art world equivalent of a chop shop,” McDade wrote, cutting prints from academic libraries across the country during the summer of 1980. He was caught at the University of Illinois and prosecuted for the crime in central Illinois.Academic and public libraries were particularly vulnerable to thieves like Kindred, McDade said, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, when libraries invested little in preserving or protecting their rare books. Thieves could easily sit in a remote corner of a library and cut illustrations from such books undetected. READ MORE
by Shawnda Hines, courtesy of District DispatchOne of the best things about working in ALA’s Washington Office is the opportunity to attend celebratory events like the presentation of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Medals, the nation’s highest honor for libraries and museums in service to their communities. Over the award’s 24 years, 182 museums and libraries have received the honor. This was my first year to attend the annual ceremony, which was held at the U.S. Institute for Peace. The five library honorees for 2018 are Orange County (Fla.) Library System; Pueblo (Colo.) City-County Library District; Reading (Pa.) Public Library; Rochester (Minn.) Public Library; and Georgetown (Texas) Public Library.The distinguished speakers at the ceremony expressed sincere appreciation for the role that libraries and museums play in society. It was especially gratifying to hear U.S. Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) call libraries and museums “critical infrastructure” and recognize the services to underserved students who wouldn’t have access to such enriching extracurricular opportunities otherwise. The charismatic president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayor Stephen Benjamin of Columbia, S.C., boasted about the two IMLS medals won by Columbia’s Richland Library and the Columbia Museum of Art as his city’s pride and joy. Mayor Benjamin also praised libraries and museums for “building cities for all people” and “opening up the halls of the past to inclusion for all.” READ MORE
The San Carlos Institute in Key West, Florida was designated a Literary Landmark on January 14th, 1994 in honor of Cuban poet and patriot José Martí. The Institute was founded in 1871 as a shrine to Cuban heritage aimed at preserving Cuban culture. It was one of the first bilingual schools in the United States. Martí loved the school so much he often referred to it as “La Casa Cuba” or the “Cuban House”.At the San Carlos Institute, Martí united the exile community and formed The Cuban Revolutionary Party in his campaign for Cuban Independence. His actions eventually led to the establishment of a free Cuba in 1902. Martí died in 1895 fighting in the war for Cuban independence. READ MORE
With 1.4 million volumes in more than a dozen languages, the Harvard-Yenching Library (MA) has become the third-largest library at Harvard, after Widener and Harvard Law School’s. It is also the largest academic library for East Asian studies in the Western world.Nearly 140 years after a Chinese scholar gave the small collection of books that established the collection, today the Harvard-Yenching’s holdings include 836,523 works in Chinese; 348,873 in Japanese; 179,169 in Korean; 23,979 in Vietnamese; 53,367 in various Western languages; 4,265 in Tibetan; 3,455 in Manchu; and 494 in Mongolian. READ MORE
by Danielle Gamble, courtesy of Olean Times HeraldFlo Leeta, covered in a sparkling white jumpsuit and a pastel wig swirled into a prominent unicorn horn, looked up from the book she had been reading — “Jacob’s New Dress.” She had just gotten to the part where Jacob was being told by his classmates that boys can’t wear dresses.The Buffalo-based drag queen peered at the more than 70 children in front of her at the Olean Public Library with a thoughtful expression under her hot pink eyeshadow.“There are all sorts of ways to be a boy,” she said. “Right?” READ MORE
by Phil Morehart, courtesy of American LibrariesWhether to charge fines for overdue materials is a hot-button topic. The issues are many: Some libraries have halted the practice, citing concerns that fines keep patrons away, while other libraries have kept them in place as vital revenue streams. Fines are also used by some libraries as a method to teach personal responsibility, while other libraries consider that lesson outside the realm of librarianship. We spoke with a librarian on each side of the debate. READ MORE

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