When COVID-19 struck in early 2020, people across the US found themselves quite suddenly without many essential services—including those offered by their local libraries. When Arlington (Texas) Public Library (APL) closed its doors due to the pandemic, APL community programming librarian Yuliana Aceves stepped up to help her community, leading her to be chosen as a 2022 I Love My Librarian (ILML) Award winner. Awarded annually, the ILML honor recognizes exceptional academic, public, and school librarians.
Colleagues and community members praised the live virtual programs that Aceves led each week on the library’s social media platforms to engage Spanish speakers during the pandemic. Her ILML nominators noted that her Spanish storytimes were the most popular of all the library’s children’s programs, writing: “She has truly been the face of the library for our system and has filmed hours of programs and videos to help us communicate to this audience.”
Aceves’ other programming efforts at APL also received accolades. She helped implement the Stories to Our Children program, which gives parents an opportunity to write and decorate books to give to their children; led the Little Art program, which provides families with an opportunity to explore different art materials each week; and organized two programs to encourage dietary wellness and address health concerns in the community.
“[Aceves’] commitment to community and bringing relevant programs to the community is amazing,” her nominators wrote. “She is truly a gem here in Arlington, and we love that our parents have someone like her as a resource to promote early literacy in the community.”
Aceves and nine other ILML Award winners will each receive a $5,000 cash prize, a $750 donation to their library, and complimentary registration to the American Library Association’s LibLearnX. The ILML Award ceremony will take place virtually during LibLearnX at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 22. Watch it here!
Since the ILML Award’s inception in 2008, library users have shared more than 20,000 nominations detailing how librarians have gone above and beyond to promote literacy, expand access to technology, and support diversity and inclusion in their communities. Information on previous award winners can be found here.
January 18 is the National Day of Racial Healing. In its sixth year of observance, it is a time to contemplate our shared values and create the blueprint together for how we heal from the effects of racism.
Libraries, librarians, and book lovers across the country are participating in the National Day of Racial Healing to help advance a more just and equitable society, using their expertise, collections, and relationships to advance truth for teaching and scholarship, remembrance, community building, and healing. Here are a very few of their efforts to help foster racial healing and anti-racism in their communities and in their own spaces.
The American Library Association (ALA) has joined forces with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation enterprise to engage its members in racial healing to broaden and deepen their personal and joint commitment to social justice in equity, diversity, and inclusion. The Association has a variety of resources available, including reading lists on race and equality for all ages and reading levels and discussion questions for books including Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X, available for free through ALA’s Great Stories Club.
Oak Park (Ill.) Public Library works with a cross-section of stakeholders (including administrators, staff, patrons, board representation, and young adults) who collectively develop new protocols to shape the library’s strategic direction, plans, and policies. They meet regularly as members of the library’s Anti-Racism Advisory Team.
The Anti-Racism Digital Library serves as a clearinghouse for information resources about people, groups, and projects who are building inclusive and caring communities.
Jennifer Sturge, a specialist for school libraries and digital learning for Calvert County (Md.) Public Schools, shares anti-racist resources and books for school librarians and teachers at Knowledge Quest, the Journal of the American Association of School Librarians.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries offers “Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship: A Reading List,” an online bibliography of citations and links to resources focused on race, racism, and disrupting whiteness and white supremacy in libraries.
The Berthiaume family in Homewood, Alabama, started an antiracist library to promote racial justice and the importance of diversity in reading.
The Disney Channel young adult animated series, The Owl House, is known for its LGBTQ representation, voice acting, visuals, animation, and writing. Less recognized, however, is the fact that one of the supporting characters, Amity Blight (voiced by Mae Whitman), is a librarian. The library plays a significant role in the show, as well.
The show follows a teen girl named Luz who stumbles upon a portal to the magical world of Boiling Isles. The public library in Bonesborough, the largest town in the Boiling Isles, appears three times in the show's first season. In the episode “Lost in Language,” Luz travels to the library to return a stack of overdue books. There are signs to stay quiet, and the librarian (Fred Tatasciore) shushes Luz for being "too loud," making it clear that the library is a place for study.
Amity counters these notions. She displays the importance of reading and the library as a welcoming place for everyone by reading to children. The rest of the episode involves Luz trying to become better friends with Amity, even teaming up with Amity's mischievous siblings, Emira and Edric. Luz and Amity later work together to fight off a book monster, which Amity's siblings forced her to create.
The episode has some fun visual gags, like the card catalog for the Demon Decimal System (a play off the Dewey Decimal System). There are also books about cyclops, extinct birds, ancient texts, including those with funny titles like Quacks Eats Snacks, Barely a Duchess, Pride and Pythius, and Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome. There's even a poster aimed at witches, saying the library lets them "get learned at the stake."
The library in The Owl House is organized like other libraries. It has reading and children's areas, a reference section, and books floating in the air, along with sections for manga, graphic novels, fiction, non-fiction, adventure, and romance. Alluding to feelings between Luz and Amity, a hidden hideaway for Amity can be found behind the library’s romance section.
While it is funny to see a librarian get exasperated when he thinks there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction, Luz, Emira, and Edric, are clearly disruptive patrons. Especially when they disturb librarians shelving materials or cause card catalog cards to fly onto the floor. It's no surprise when all three get kicked out of the library, with the librarian claiming that they make reading "far too fun."
The library briefly appears a few more times in the first season. In the episode “Sense and Insensitivity,” a party for the sentient demon King (Alex Hirsch) is held at the library. And a publisher offers Luz a chance to be a writer while walking in the library stacks later in the episode. In “Understanding Willow,” a flashback scene shows Amity and a former friend, whom Amity slowly reconciles with over the course of the series. In “Witches Before Wizards,” Luz and King travel to a castle where a wizard lives with his personal library of many volumes. The library is also seen in the closing credits of the show's first season.
The library returns
In the show's second season, the library returns in “Through the Looking Glass Ruins,” as does Amity, who is now a librarian. Manifesting library energy, she wears a library employee card in a lanyard around her neck. The official description of the episode states that Luz and Amity journey into the "most dangerous section of the library," leading enthusiastic fans to chatter about the episode even before it aired. Some even drew fan art of Amity as a librarian.
In the episode, Luz learns that another human has donated a journal to the library and asks Amity for help finding it. Luz is hesitant to involve Amity, but her friend rejects this and puts her job on the line to help find the book. For Amity, helping Luz is even more important than keeping her job; it is the ultimate sacrifice for a patron. At one point, Amity grabs Luz and declares “We’re getting that diary!” She goes above and beyond her role as a librarian, and acts as a very good friend.
Amity and Luz successfully find the journal, but a mouse —who happens to store memories of book pages it has eaten—has eaten a portion of it. Amity’s boss, a mysterious librarian named after the demon Malphas (Fred Tatasciore), catches them in the act. He eventually fires Amity because she entered the library's "forbidden section," showing the power of library management over rank-and-file librarians.
Feeling bad for Amity, Luz goes through a series of "trials," including fighting monsters, to help get her friend’s job back. Amity is forever grateful and boldly kisses Luz on the cheek, surprising her and bringing them closer together. There is also a cute scene that bucks the shushing librarian stereotype where Luz and Amity shush each other in hopes of not getting caught.
Fans have theorized that the head librarian in The Owl House resembles a character from the video game, The Legend of Zelda. Others posit that Amity resembles an older version of the witchy librarian, Kaisa, in animated series Hilda and that she gives off vibes similar to Star Wars character Sabine Wren. Despite such similarities, Amity, as a lesbian woman, has the distinction of being the most prominent LGBTQ librarian in a currently airing animated series.
There have been other LGBTQ characters who are librarians in animated series, such as George and Lance, who ran a family library in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power; Desiree, a closeted trans woman, inToo Loud; and Mo Testa, a lesbian and librarian with a MLIS degree, in Alison Bechdel's comic series, Dykes to Watch Out For. There are many LGBTQ librarians in anime, as well, such as Lilith in Yamibou, Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words, Fumi Manjōme in Sweet Blue Flowers, and Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!, to name a few.
Like George and Lance, the fathers of a show protagonist in She-Ra, Amity is more than a librarian—she’s a full-fledged character. Her job as a librarian is only one aspect of her life and her portrayal fulfills all three tenets of the Librarian Portrayal Test.
Since that episode, Luz and Amity have made their relationship official, and the pairing was even one of the top ships on Tumblr last year. Hopefully, in the second half of Season Two airing later this year and in the show's upcoming final season, the library will reappear and the show will continue to highlight the importance of libraries and librarians for people of all ages, especially young adults.
New years bring new resolutions. And for many of us, these resolutions focus on health and fitness. Whether it’s a decision to start eating healthier, a vow to exercise daily, or simply a desire to slow down during the day and practice mindful breathing, we use the new year to as a proverbial restart button for our minds and our bodies. And libraries are here to help.
Libraries of all types across the United States are helping their communities get physically and mentally fit, offering everything from fitness classes and tai chi instruction to introductory courses on transcendental meditation. Here are some of I Love Libraries’ favorites:
Prince George’s County (Md.) Memorial Library System partnered with the soccer team D.C. United, specifically team mascot Talon the Bald Eagle, on Talon’s Workout Tapes, a series of free exercise videos that debuted in April 2020 on the library’s website. The videos feature Talon and D.C. United players demonstrating physical activities that kids and families can do at home without equipment.
Students at Monona Grove (Wisc.) High School can enjoy yoga classes before and after school as a part of the school’s yoga club, organized by library media and technology teacher Michelle Schaub. After school classes are held in the cafeteria, but early rising students can enjoy their morning yoga practice in the school library. Schaub also offers mindfulness activities like relaxation strategies, Legos, and coloring books in the library for students, too.
University of Miami (UM) Libraries offers introductory mindfulness sessions for health and well-being. These online sessions—led by Kelly Miller, a certified mindfulness teacher and associate dean in the UM Libraries, and Scott Rogers, director of the University of Miami School of Law’s Mindfulness in Law Program, and Gisele Rocha, a certified yoga teacher and Manager in UM Libraries’ Creative—introduce the fundamentals of mindfulness meditation and movement with periods of guided practice and opportunities for reflection and questions.
Louisville (Ohio) Public Library’sSensory Space was created with the needs of those with sensory processing disorders, autism, dementia, and learning disabilities in mind, but everyone is welcome. The room features equipment and toys that engage the senses with fiber optic colors, interactive sounds, and a variety of tactile experiences. The library also offers teen relaxation sessions and adult chair yoga.
Are you book wrapt? Reid Byers, author of The Private Library: The History of the Architecture and Furnishing of the Domestic Bookroom (Oak Knoll Press, 2021), coined the phrase to describe the intense feeling of comfort that a well-stocked personal library can provide—be it a room stacked to the ceiling with shelves of books or a small, but well-curated collection.
“Entering our library should feel like easing into a hot tub, strolling into a magic store, emerging into the orchestra pit, or entering a chamber of curiosities, the club, the circus, our cabin on an outbound yacht, the house of an old friend,” Byers writes. “It is a setting forth, and it is a coming back to center.”
But how many books does it take to be book wrapt? The number can vary, Byers says. He maintains that 500 books ensure that a room will “begin to feel like a library,” but says that the library he kept at the end of his bunk on an aircraft carrier in Vietnam was “very highly valued, though it probably didn’t have 30 books in it.”
In her feature on The Private Library and the architecture of personal libraries in The New York Times, writer Julie Lasky asks several high-profile bibliophiles about the size of their book collections and how these books impact their lives. The numbers range from around 1,600 (chef, author, and food activist Alice Waters) to 400 (Alexandre Assouline, chief of operations, brand and strategy at publishing company Assouline).
How does your book collection size up? Are you book wrapt? Whatever the size of your personal stash of books, you can always find more (to add to your collection temporarily) at your local library!
Thousands of library users from across the United States submit nominations for the American Library Association’s I Love My Librarian Award each year—but only 10 nominees can receive this honor. This year’s winners from academic, public, and school libraries are being recognized for their expertise, dedication, and impact on their communities.
“Even in these unprecedented times, our nation’s librarians continue to empower their patrons, promote inclusion in their space and collections, and provide essential services for their communities,” said American Library Association President Patty Wong. “Congratulations to this year’s I Love My Librarian Award winners, who impact the lives of those they serve every day.”
More than 1,300 nominations were received for this year’s award. Honorees will each receive a $5,000 cash prize, a $750 donation to their library, and complimentary registration to ALA’s LibLearnX.
After the library closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aceves led weekly virtual programs on the library’s social media platforms, notably her Spanish storytime program for children, keeping library users engaged and connected.
Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina
Cromartie has made the library at Western Carolina University a leader in diversity and inclusion efforts, notably for her implementation of a program that coaches faculty to employ inclusive pedagogy in their courses and provides funding for classroom materials.
Gibbons guides students to academic success through his service at City College of New York and across Harlem, notably with his involvement with Harlem Little League Baseball, his forging of partnerships with local organizations, and his work with the City University of New York’s Black Male Initiative.
Following a devastating derecho that forced Marion Public Library to permanently close its doors, Greenlee provided vital services to the community, including assessing the structural safety of homes, staffing temporary technology locations across the city, and starting a digital archive to collect and preserve stories of how the community was affected. Greenlee is now employed by Vinton (Iowa) Public Library.
Horton has transformed the libraries at Decorah Middle School and High School into more welcoming environments by adding books featuring LGBTQ characters and topics addressing racism and celebrating differences so all students can see themselves represented.
Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland
During his time at Eastern Correctional Institution, Mahofski has introduced programs that have improved library and information services for the prison population, including creative writing, typing, and summer reading programs and a “bookmobile” to deliver books to and from people in the institution.
Octavia Fellin Public Library in Gallup, New Mexico
Through forging partnerships with community organizations and city departments across Gallup, Moe has expanded the library’s reach beyond its walls, offering programming covering historically sensitive topics to the city’s majority-indigenous American community at a variety of local events.
A dedicated historian, Oberle has worked to uncover the hidden racial histories of George Mason University and its namesake through his work establishing the university’s Center for Mason Legacies, which has resulted in numerous educational resources for the campus community, including a memorial recognizing individuals enslaved by George Mason.
After joining Forsyth School, Pillot centered sustainability in the library’s programming and instructional initiatives by adding storytimes that focused on caring for the planet, teaching students to use information literacy strategies to evaluate recycling facts and myths, and planning an educational event focused on single-use plastics and plastic bag usage.
The culture of reading at Sul Ross Middle School has transformed thanks to Talamantes’ programs and initiatives, notably the Rebel Bucks program that implements a bookstore model where students can purchase books using campus currency earned through positive behavior in the classroom.
Since the I Love My Librarian Award’s inception in 2008, library users have shared more than 20,000 nominations detailing how librarians have gone above and beyond to promote literacy, expand access to technology, and support diversity and inclusion in their communities. Information regarding previous award winners can be found at http://www.ilovelibraries.org/lovemylibrarian.
In ancient times, Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors would spread lies and propaganda to thwart foes on the battlefield and in the political arena. The invention of the printing press in 1429 allowed for falsehoods to be spread on a wide scale, with newspapers, magazines, and books being used to push everything from the Green Moon Hoax in 1835 to Nazi lies about the Jews during World War II.
Fake news has become an all-encompassing problem in the 21st century. Social media and partisan media outlets have created echo chambers of thought, where falsehoods often become “truth” that goes unchecked and unquestioned.
Wading through the mountains of information (and misinformation) that we’re confronted with daily to find the truth can be a daunting task even for the most informed and media literate person. Thankfully, libraries across the world have taken up arms in the fight against fake news, creating websites, books, workshops, and more to help people tell fact from fiction. Here’s a selection:
Joanna Burkhardt, fake news expert, professor and director of the University of Rhode Island branch libraries, and author of Teaching Information Literacy Reframed: 50+ Framework-Based Exercises for Creating Information-Literate Learners, discusses the history of fake news and its presence in today’s media landscape in this episode of Call Number with American Libraries.
Librarians at Indiana University East in Richmond have developed an online guide about how to identify fake news, complete with detailed images of what questions to ask while perusing a site.
In American Libraries’“Letter of the Law” online column, Tomas A. Lipinski, a lawyer and dean and professor at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee School of Information Studies, answers legal questions about fake news that may find its way onto library premises.
Nicole A. Cooke, Augusta Baker Endowed Chair and an associate professor at the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina, provides tips for creating a lesson plan to help college students and adults evaluate media in the ALA special report Fake News and Alternative Facts (ALA Editions, 2018).
Belinha S. De Abreu, global media literacy educator at Sacred Heart University, brings together 15 librarians and teachers to comment on media and digital literacy issues in her book Teaching Media Literacy (ALA Neal-Schuman, 2019). She also offers six ready-to-teach lessons, a glossary, and a timeline of media literacy milestones.
Need help trying to differentiate between fake news and accurate information that you may encounter in your day-to-day life? Ask your local librarian!
People turn to libraries for everything, from the latest bestselling novels to access to 3-D printers. And increasingly, people are coming to libraries for help with their most pressing needs. Because many of these challenges—such as access to housing for those experiencing homelessness, among other complex issues—are beyond the scope of what most librarians are trained to handle, some libraries are adding social workers to their staffs.
National Public Radio (NPR) examined this trend on January 3 in "Why Your Library Might Be Hiring a Social Worker," looking at the impact of Indianapolis Public Library’s (IPL) first social worker, Yanna McGraw, on patrons in need. McGraw helps people with everything from issues related to housing insecurity and accessing federal stimulus money to mental health concerns. And she’s had success because people trust libraries, says IPL interim CEO John Helling.
"We're a safe place, we're a clean place, where we try to be a helpful place," Helling told NPR. "And so we do find patrons experiencing just a wide variety of needs that just end up in our building, because we're the only place where they can go."
Why they’re needed
Social workers in libraries often face challenges creating new programs—especially in communities where the problems may not be so obvious. For Patrick Lloyd, community resources coordinator at the single-branch Georgetown (Texas) Public Library, one of the obstacles is getting his city to acknowledge that the community has homelessness and domestic violence. Another challenge is discretion, as not everyone who could benefit from social services is actively seeking them when they come to the library.
"I don’t have an intake form, I don’t have a script," Lloyd told attendees at the Public Library Association’s 2018 conference. "I’m trying to build trust."
Social workers are proving be essential to library staff and the community at large because they can assist patrons in ways librarians can't.
"I'm able to spend that time, pick up the phone, ask the question, send an email to a community partner, if I have that relationship," McGraw told NPR.
McGraw said her goal is to find a balance between seeking out patrons who might need assistance and allowing people to come to her voluntarily. She has an open-door policy at the library, which has helped her build trust and form relationships.
"If my door's open, come on in," McGraw told NPR. "And they do. Not even knocking, but they just come in. And I'd rather have it that way, because I want to make that connection."
If you need help with a personal problem, your library may have a social worker on staff to help. Call or visit your local library to learn more.
Libraries will be beacons of hope and light in 2022, according to the Washington Post.
The newspaper’s Editorial Board ushered in the new year with praise for public libraries, touting the abundance of new libraries that have opened around the world in recent years, their architectural beauty, and the variety of services they offer to communities. In particular, they were impressed with Fayetteville Public Library in Arkansas, with its art and movement room, event center, and a teaching kitchen; the renovated Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, which provides not only ample places to read but also a business center, a podcasting studio, a floor dedicated to children and teens, and a rooftop terrace; Washington D.C.'s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, with its a large auditorium, conference center, rooftop terrace, café, and music production facilities.
Libraries abroad that caught the editorial board’s eye include the Wormhole Library in Haikou, China. Overlooking a river, its stunning mix of windows and concrete resembles a wormhole or cloud; the Stanley A. Milner Library in Edmonton, Alberta, which features 3-D printers, a sewing center, recording studios, and vinyl and laser cutters for special projects; and the award-winningDeichman Bjørvika in Oslo, with its cinema, 200-seat auditorium, cafes, recording studios, rehearsal spaces, and game rooms.
We are experiencing a “golden era for public libraries worldwide,” the Editorial Board wrote. And we wholeheartedly agree: The libraries featured annually in American Libraries’Library Design Showcase and discussed in Call Number with American Libraries’ recent architecture and design episode all address community needs in unique, interesting, and effective ways, from the super high-tech Cybrarium in Homestead, Florida, to the small business-focused unBound branch of Meridian Library District in Idaho.
The newspaper’s Editorial Board concluded its story by stressing the value of public libraries. “Communities that invest in libraries are well prepared for whatever the next chapter brings,” they wrote. It’s absolutely true: In a world of uncertainties related to the pandemic, politics, economics, and much more, we can always count on libraries to help lead the way towards the light.
Don’t miss this new library renaissance—visit your local public library today!
As 2021 draws to a close, readers the world over are taking stock of the books they loved most during the year—including the folks at Booklist. The book review journal of the American Library Association has compiled all of the books featured in its “Reviews of the Day” online column for 2021 and made them accessible for easy browsing by dividing them into four categories (adult books, books for youth, audiobooks, and graphic novels).
You can read reviews for these books and more at Booklist Online before checking them out at your local library.
For those looking to listen to their favorite authors, musicians, and artists discussing their new books and the impact of libraries on their lives, check out the December episode of Call Number with American Libraries, the podcast of American Libraries magazine.
Featured in this installment are never-before-released clips from conversations with Fox Sports analyst and former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho (Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man), acclaimed writer Isabel Allende (The Soul of a Woman), reggae musician and philanthropist Ziggy Marley (Music Is in Everything, My Dog Romeo), Top Chef host and producer Padma Lakshmi (Tomatoes for Neela), bestselling horror author Max Brooks (World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Deevolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre), Dance Theatre of Harlem alumni Judy Tyrus and Paul Novosel (Dance Theatre of Harlem: A History, a Movement, a Celebration), and lawyer and speaker Savala Nolan (Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body).
Listen to the episode on the American Libraries website. And, after listening, be sure to find all of these works and more at your local library!