Archive for the ‘Library Values’ Category

Politics and the Library of Congress

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

President Obama’s nominee for Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, testified and took questions for an hour yesterday during a Senate hearing.

The general tone of the hearings were polite but underneath were simmering concerns related to the U.S. Copyright Office and the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Asked if she would support a move to establish a copyright office separate from LC with its own director reporting directly to Congress, Hayden displayed what The Washington Post calls “polished political skills,” subtly indicating that she would work to find another solution, “I’m not able to at this point say that that would be the only way to accomplish what we all want.”

Author and copyright activist Cory Doctorow summarized the conflict on BoingBoing, pointing out:

“[the Library of Congress] Supervises the Copyright Office and sets the nation’s de facto IT policy … The RIAA [the trade group of the U.S. recording industry] has already gone on record as opposing Hayden’s nomination. The Hill people I know have told me that there’s concerted movement underway to rip the Copyright Office out of the LoC and put it under the supervision of Congressional committees whose members owe their position to generous contributions from the entertainment industry.”

Another hot button issue is the CRS. Dr. Hayden called the staff who work in that office “special forces” librarians but declined to commit to making public their reports to Congress public. They are currently available via private fee-based databases used by lobbyists. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Amy Klobuchar were particularly concerned about the practice of taxpayer-funded documents being withheld from the public.

Less contentious but still a hot topic is the library’s IT infrastructure, with several of the Senators, but most pointedly Senator Angus King, raising the issue around user experience issues. Dr. Hayden responded to most IT inquires by sharing that LC had recently hired a new Chief Information Officer, Bernard A. Barton Jr., who served as chief information officer and deputy administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). She also shared her plans to improve digitization and access technology and her goal of making the collections more widely available to everyone regardless of geography. The Washington Post notes that “a federal report last year found widespread failure in [LC’s] technology, causing problems for the Copyright Office and services for disabled readers and wasting millions in taxpayer dollars.”

Finally, in a move that seems designed to make conservative Senators more comfortable about confirming Dr. Hayden, she was asked about ALA positions related to The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and The Patriot Act. Again, her answers were carefully crafted. She responded to the CIPA question that there had “been quite a bit of just misinterpretation of [ALA’s] position during that time” pointing out the problems with early filtering technology and turning the question to her early career as a children’s librarian. Her response to the Patriot Act was that the library community was “concerned that in the quest for security and making sure that we were all safe that the public’s rights were also considered as well.” She continued that ALA “is very pleased at the progress that’s been made to balance security and personal rights.”

The committee is expected to vote on the nomination in the coming weeks and if it goes to the full Senate, that final vote would likely occur before the summer recess.

C-Span live-streamed the hearing, along with a transcript. Dr. Hayden’s opening statement is available online.

Melanie Townsend Diggs Wins Lemony Snicket Prize

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Snicket-Lanie Headshots-2 (3)In recognition of her efforts to aid the citizens of Baltimore during the 2015 protests that followed the death of  Freddie Gray while in police custody, Melanie Townsend Diggs, Pennsylvania Avenue Branch manager of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library is the recipient of the  2016 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity, announced yesterday in a press release.

Ms. Diggs will receive $10,000, a certificate, and an “object selected from the personal collection of author Daniel Handler,” aka Lemony Snicket.

In the ALA press release Diggs says :

“in some ways it was a typical day, with people coming and going. But you also would have seen customers and community leaders coming in and thanking us for being open. A woman bringing us flowers, pastries. The media coming in to charge up their batteries, use the restrooms. You would have seen a young man coming in to fill out a job application online, and then coming back the next day to say that he had an interview scheduled for May 5. All of these things happened. If we had not opened our doors, we would have missed all those things.”

Handler adds, “During troubled times, we need open minds. Open minds need open books. Open books require an open library, and the work of Melanie Townsend Diggs provided such a necessary and hopeful beacon.”

Last year’s prize winner, Scott Bonner, was honored for keeping the library in Ferguson, Missouri open during protests there, and the 2014 winner Laurence Copel, was honored for her work in the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library of New Orleans.

Charles W. Robinson, Keeping the Public in Public Libraries

Monday, April 11th, 2016
Charles Robinson in1996, the year he retired as  Director of BCPL.  Credit: Sean Kief

Charles Robinson in1996, the year he retired as Director of BCPL.
Credit: Sean Kief

It seemed sadly fitting that, as the successful PLA Conference was in full swing in Denver, news arrived that Charles W. Robinson, former director of Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL), had died. Many of us had felt his absence at the conference, even as his ideas about public service continued to be fundamental to most of the meetings and conversations.

Charles relished getting together with colleagues at PLA. He enjoyed nothing more than taking a contrarian point of view and then proclaiming he “didn’t give a rat’s ass” if others agreed, all the while doing his level best to change their minds.

He was a bundle of contradictions. A man who passionately advocated for serving the people, he didn’t suffer fools gladly and would have been a disaster on a public service desk. Ready to go with his gut and implement any idea that struck him as smart, he also believed in long-range planning, creating and following dozens of carefully thought-out multiple-year plans. A strong believer in the intelligence of the library staff (one of his favorite sayings was “never try to bullshit the staff”) and in the importance of training and recognizing achievements, he was personally anything but warm and fuzzy.

One of his major achievements was to get local government to understand the importance of libraries, launching persuasive arguments based on data. He taught other directors to do the same and helped establish PLA’s Output Measures for Public Libraries, Planning and Role Setting for Public Libraries and the annual Public Library Data Service, Statistical Report. 

After his retirement, Charles continued his influence as the editor of Library Administrator’s Digest, a roundup of news along with his inimitable comments, a monthly dose of Charles.

But it’s the personal memories of Charles that can be the most revealing. I have dozens, but the one that made the biggest impression occurred even before I met him. He hired me without an interview, based solely on my letter of application. Trying desperately to distinguish myself from crowds of applicants (under the influence of What Color is Your Parachute?), I wrote about my part-time job in the U. of Michigan Undergraduate Library’s Fines and Overdues Department, saying I particularly liked trying to help students work their way through our often draconian rules. I even bragged that one student I  helped not only sent a check for his overdue fines (thus allowing him to get his degree on time), but a separate check for me, to buy myself a beer to thank me for my efforts.

Charles read the letter and immediately yelled to the Human Resources Director, “Hire her!” When I got the call, I couldn’t quite believe it, but figured a place that could make decisions like that was a place I wanted to work. I took the job sight unseen.

When I joined BCPL, I thought I was lucky to get a job, little did I know I was embarking on a profession that became, as it did for Charles, a lifelong obsession.

I would love to hear your memories of Charles (by the way, while the rest of the profession knew his as “Charlie,” those of us who worked with him called him by his more formal name). Please enter them in the comments section below.

Donations can be made in Charles’s name to:

The Foundation for the Baltimore County Public Library 320 York Road, Towson MD 21204

Church of the Holy Comforter,130 W. Seminary Ave, Lutherville, MD 21093

Plans are under way for a celebration of Charles’s life at ALA Annual in Orlando, Fla.

Best Library-friendly Click Bait Ever

Sunday, March 20th, 2016
ALA's recently re-released David Bowie poster

ALA’s recently re-released David Bowie poster

In a refreshing change from the usual click bait stories, the website Bustle posts “6 Scientific Reasons Reading is Amazing For Your Health.”

We already knew that that reading is good for
our well being, reduces stress, is therapeutic
and increases attention spans. It turns out that
it is also improves memory, brain function, and longevity.

So, stop going to the gym and settle into your favorite reading spot.

The Librarian MAD MEN Connection

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 10.12.27 AMReaders who geek out on Mad Men already know Billy Parrott, the Managing Librarian of the Art and Picture Collections at the New York Public Library, from his contributions to #MadMenReading, his blog, The Man Men Reading List, and Pinterest board, all dedicated to the books featured in the series.

Now Parrott is partnering with AMC to create an official reading list and is capturing the attention of the media as the final season of Mad Men airs. The Guardian features Parrott in a lengthy piece on the key books of the series – including works by Frank O’Hara and Dante – while New York magazine asks Parrott to provide a run down of the best literary scenes from the show.

Taking the opportunity to plug the library profession, he tells The Guardian,

“This is what librarians do on a daily basis. Every morning, on the subway on the way to work, I look to see what others are reading, and I think about what else I might suggest for them if they came up to me in the library and asked for a recommendation.”

Ferguson Librarian Honored

Friday, December 19th, 2014


BookRiot named Scott Bonner of Ferguson Public Library the “Book Culture Hero of 2014” today, highlighting the library’s role of creating “a significant force for good in the community.” He tops the list that also includes authors Roxane Gay and Jacqueline Woodson.

As the national news media has reported, Ferguson Public Library stayed open during the riots over the decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown. The library offered space for classes to be held when schools were closed, provided free WiFi, and, as the library phrases it on their social media accounts,”a place for rest, water, and knowledge. ”

Donations to the library have been pouring in, almost matching the library’s annual budget.


Thursday, May 9th, 2013

World's Strongest LibrarianSalt Lake City librarian Josh Hanagarne is interviewed in today’s issue of USA Today for his book, The World’s Strongest Librarian,  (Penguin/Gotham. 5/2/13). Both weight lifting and books have helped him deal with his Tourette’s. About being a librarian, he says, “As a breed, we’re the ultimate generalists. I’ll never know everything about anything, but I’ll know something about almost everything and that’s how I like to live.”

Hanagarne announces on his blog that the book has sold out of its first printing.

Below, he describes what libraries mean to him.

Francine Fialkoff Leaves LIBRARY JOURNAL

Friday, August 31st, 2012

With her typical grace, Francine Fialkoff signs off as Editor-in-Chief of Library Journal with her “Farewell Editorial” today, giving most of the credit to others for her many accomplishments.

As a colleague and friend, I know how passionate she is about the importance of libraries and librarians. Her awe at the many creative ways librarians serve their communities is always fun to see. One of her greatest joys is shining a light on talent, which led to the invention of LJ‘s annual “Movers & Shakers” awards.

Under her leadership, the magazine has evolved, becoming more vital to the library world, while continuing to promote the principles it has long advocated; defense of the first ammendment and readers’ rights, dedication to public service and a belief that libraries are essential to creating communities.

She promises that she will continue to work with libraries in some capacity; we’re looking forward to what that will be.

Holds Alert: MONKEY MIND

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Anxiety can be a healthy reaction to stress, but Daniel Smith suffered anxiety attacks so severe that he was unable to leave his house.

He writes about his experience in Monkey Mind, a memoir that has been called a classic in the making by the Psychiatric Times, and named a People pick. It’s been moving up best seller lists (currently at #6 on the Indie Hardcover Non-fiction list. Curiously, Los Angeles seems to be a more anxious place than New York; it reached #5 on the  L.A. Times’ list, but only #21 on the N.Y. Times‘).

Smith appeared on The Today Show yesterday.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Libraries in areas of high anxiety (you know who you are, Hennepin!) are showing heavy holds.

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety
Daniel Smith
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster – (2012-07-03)
ISBN / EAN: 1439177309/9781439177303

Blackstone Audio

As Others See Us

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Libraries are the public places where we bring our most private selves; Cammie McGovern -- Photo by Ellen Augarten

Author Cammie McGovern gets what librarians are about. In her keynote speech at the annual AAP Librarians Sneak Peek Book Preview 2011, last week, she spoke about libraries being “the public places where we bring our most private selves” and thanked librarians for managing to be helpful without being judgmental during times of personal crises.

Librarians continually work to develop this skill and to help develop it in others. McGovern gives witness to the importance of that effort.

We’re grateful to McGovern (author of Neighborhood Watch, Viking, June, 2010) for allowing us to post a version of her speech on EarlyWord. Use it with beginning staff; it’s more effective than a hundred lectures.