Friday, April 18, 2014

Tussle Erupts Over Libraries In Northern Colorado

by: Donna Bryson

DENVER (AP) — Libraries are sedate and quiet — nothing like a tussle over control of a library system that has erupted in northern Colorado.

This week, elected leaders from five Weld County towns and from the county commission agreed to move ahead with an effort to oust the entire High Plains Library District Board, which some librarians in rural parts of the county accuse of trying to take over their libraries. A sixth member of the tax district, the city of Greeley, has not joined the campaign.

The district and its independent libraries partners have been sharing resources since 1985, when they banded together to survive in the face of cuts in federal funding that had supported a range of local services. Issues that have been rankling for decades may seem minor — such as who should decide how many books can be checked out at a time, or how much to charge a library patron who wants to use the copying machine. But Don Warden, who helped draft the library district’s rules when he was Weld County director of finance in the 1980s, said the local library is “part of the identity of their community” for many in rural Colorado.

“It’s a sensitive issue that goes beyond libraries,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. “They want to maintain control.”

The library tussle is part of a larger reaction to a demographic shift from rural to urban. Last year, Weld County elected officials were the first to raise a secession question. Weld was among the six counties where voters rejected breaking away to form a rural 51st state in November. Five counties passed secession measures, seen as messages from prairie towns to urban centers that they see as arrogant and aloof.

Now, the six members of the High Plains Library District Board, who deny any takeover intentions, are getting the message.

Kelli Johnson, spokeswoman for the embattled board, told AP she’s heard the charges the board was attempting a takeover of local libraries when district officials approached their partners across Weld County to talk about how to implement a centralized computer system and other changes aimed at improving efficiency. It underlined a sense felt for years that rules were unclear on how the district board and libraries with their own boards are to work together, she said.

Johnson said the board sought input on operational matters. The board includes members who have worked for libraries in the region for years and are committed to cooperation and serving all patrons, she said.

But Jerry Krois, library director in Eaton, one of the communities pushing to oust the board, told AP he was left feeling he was “not being listened to, not being respected at all by the board.”

In 1985, six municipalities, a Weld County school district and Weld County formed what would become the High Plains Library District Board. Local libraries get two-thirds of the funds generated in their service areas by mill levies, and the rest goes to a district fund for shared services, such as book mobiles and an inter-library loan system. The district serves more than 200,000 residents in Weld and parts of some neighboring counties. Over the years, the district has opened branch libraries in growing communities that did not have their own libraries in 1985.

Over the next month — if they are not slowed by a court injunction the district board has said it will pursue — community leaders in the district will be voting to ratify the board members’ ouster and name elected officials such as mayors in their place.

Warden, who is semi-retired and now working as an interim Weld County finance director, said he worries a protracted legal battle is ahead. “That’s probably the heartbreak of the whole thing,” he said.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Library Welcomes Its First Innovator in Residence

Expert Derek Quenneville introduces patrons to 3D printing at the Toronto Reference Library.
by: Megan Marrelli

Derek Quenneville shows guests how to use the Makerbot 3D scanner at the Toronto 3D Printers MeetUp in March (Photo by Toronto Public Library).
If you don’t know how 3D printing works, you’re not alone. Derek Quenneville, a Toronto-based expert, says it’s kind of like a glue gun. Controlled by a computer. Except the glue is plastic. And the plastic happens to build up one layer on top of another.
“The mechanics of it are quite simple,” he says.
Quenneville is well known in the world of 3D printing and fabrication art. He creates his own projects, runs Toronto’s 3D Printer MeetUps, and now he’s also a Toronto Public Library guinea pig: Quenneville is its first official Innovator in Residence thanks to a new six-week program launched with the TPL’s Digital Innovation Hub.
Quenneville’s duties as resident innovator involve running 17 3D-printing sessions—ranging from drop-in Q&As to formally led classes—over the course of six weeks.
Now in his fourth week, Quenneville says turnout has been amazing.
3D printing “kind of chose itself” as the first medium for the residency, says TPL’s Ab Velasco. “Out of all the technology we offer, 3D printing is the one that’s considered really cool, cutting edge.”
TPL offered 300 spots for a 3D-printing certification course, which sold out in three days.
Quenneville has been pleasantly surprised by the number of people coming to his classes. “A lot of people who are not computer savvy at all are totally happy to be playing with the software,” he says. “I guess it makes sense, because the library is a safe space to learn.”
The crowd is also older than he’d expected—many Torontonians in their fifties and sixties are looking to learn about 3D printing.
He says—get ready for this—there’s nothing he dislikes about his job. “Just seeing people’s faces light up when they look at something that was in their brain, and half an hour later they’re holding it in their hands—it’s an incredible thing to see,” he says.
The Digital Innovation Hub is aiming to host an innovator twice a year. Velasco says that they’re currently leaning toward someone working in film; however, future innovators could specialize in “anything from web design to graphic design to electronics and computer programming.”
Quenneville’s residency will wrap up on May 2 with a closing party, but you still have time to drop by and ask him all your questions about the creative and practical applications of 3D printing.
from: Torontoist

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Future For Public Libraries: Specialized Features Not Starbucks

by: Michael Lierberman

South Korea libraries

My head is still spinning from Panos Mourdoukoutas’ post at Forbes last week suggesting that there should be a Starbucks in every local library. Granted it appeared in Forbes and they slant corporate but it might just be the most near-sighted, wackiest story I have read in some time.

Of course he starts out proclaiming his love for his local library but before it’s over he says “Simply put, Starbucks and local libraries supplement each other nicely—they are both “third places” with different rules of conduct, catering to different community segments. That’s a good reason to have a Starbucks store in every library.”

Why not put a jail in every library for it also has “different rules of conduct, catering to different community segments.”  They would compliment each other nicely by providing literacy services and job training to inmates while scaring the pants off the kids so they won’t go astray of the law.

Thankfully, I recently ran across a story at the Korea Joonang Daily that alerted me to some of the awesome features that South Korea is adding to its public libraries.

Over half of all the public libraries in Gyeonggi, a city northwest of Seoul “offer some sort of specialized features” with close to 100 “dedicated to some other function than book lending or reading”

south korea libraries 1

“The main purpose of specialized libraries is to encourage a “reading culture,” which these days is losing the public’s interest. They encourage people to read books and enjoy cultural institutions at the same time.”

“Adding cultural elements to public libraries meets the demand,” said Cho Hyun-yang, professor of library and information science at Kyonggi University. “The spread of specialized libraries plays a positive role by increasing citizens’ satisfaction with life.”

Oh, and the government covered all the costs of constructing these specialized libraries.

from: Seattlepi

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The great writers inspired behind bars

by: Jane Ciabattari

Legend has it that Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote was conceived and at least partially written in prison – “where every discomfort has its place and every mournful sound makes its home,” according to its opening lines..

Stripped of freedom and with his vision acutely attuned to the ironies of his circumstances, Cervantes broke through the literary conventions of his time. Can prison be a muse? It hardly seems desirable, when freedom is the condition most of us would choose. Yet history shows that lasting work can be inspired by the horrors and deprivations of incarceration. Authors with the intellectual grit to endure have been rewarded with exceptional insights into human behaviour and psychology. The tension between freedom and captivity has led to unexpected creative breakthroughs.

Don Quixote contains “practically every imaginative technique and device used by subsequent fiction writers to engage their readers and construct their works,” writes Edith Grossman in the preface to her 2003 translation. Cervantes anticipates realism, modernism, post-modernism, the frame story, the mixing of genres, and more, all while maintaining that ironic wit.  His device of characters commenting upon the text in which they appear is centuries ahead of its time.

Cervantes’ masterpiece seems to have been inspired by the physical and psychological pressures of confinement, linking the first modern novel with the prison experience. And Don Quixote has endured, interpreted by critics from myriad angles, shaping the work of scores of writers in succeeding generations.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky credits Don Quixote as a precursor to his portrait of a positively good man, the naive epileptic  Prince Myshkin in The Idiot. “Of the good figures in Christian literature, the most complete is that of Don Quixote,” he noted in 1868 while working on the novel. “But he is good only because at the same time he is ridiculous.”  Prince Myshkin, whose goodness blinds him to the subtleties of deceit and betrayal, is unable to function in society.  Like Cervantes, Dostoyevsky presents the state of goodness as verging on madness.

Dostoyevsky, too, was profoundly changed by his prison experience. He had already published his first novel, Poor Folk, when he was arrested in 1849 for involvement with a group of leftist St Petersburg intellectuals. After months in prison, he was sentenced to death, carted with others in his group to Semyonovsky Square and prepared for the firing squad. At the last minute the Tsar stayed his execution but  Dostoyevsky spent four years of hard labour in the Siberian gulag, where his educated status inflamed other inmates. “They are a coarse, irritated, and embittered lot,” he wrote to his brother. “Their hatred for the gentry passes all limits.”

Dreams of freedom

Dostoyevsky’s prison experience ushered in an awareness of the irrational and of a sense of communal suffering. His best novels, including Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, are gems of psychological insight. James Joyce wrote that Dostoyevsky “created modern prose, and intensified it to its present-day pitch.” Mikhail Bakhtin identified the ‘polyphonic’ qualities of Dostoyevsky’s work, which expanded the novel to include many conflicting voices rather than a single vision.

His 1861 novel From the House of the Dead, or Prison Life in Siberia, written as fiction from the point of view of a man who has killed his wife, documents his own prison experience. “Money is coined liberty, and so it is ten times dearer to a man who is deprived of freedom,” he writes. He explains the prison trade in vodka and tobacco, the compulsion to steal.  His fictional inmate dreams of freedom relentlessly, as did its author.

This yearning for freedom while enduring the hardship of prison is a thread through Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s literary lifework, which began during his eight years in Soviet labour camps. He was arrested in 1945 for making disparaging remarks about Stalin in a letter.  After finishing his sentence in 1955, he was exiled to southern Kazakhstan. In solitude, beset by harrowing memories, he composed his first novel, not expecting it to ever be published.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, set during one bitterly cold day in a Siberian labour camp in 1951, was published in 1962, nine years after Stalin’s death, to global acclaim.  It was the first literary work to expose the degradations of the Soviet regime’s gulags.

Solzhenitsyn wrote a series of novels, including The Cancer Ward, in which he asked, “A man dies from a tumour, so how can a country survive with growths like labour camps and exiles?” His masterwork The Gulag Archipelago, completed in 1968, is a massive three-volume indictment of the regime’s forced labour camps. Subtitled An Experiment in Literary Investigation, it moves in excruciating detail through the process of interrogation, transportation, imprisonment and aftermath, including the massacre of inmates.

Solzhenitsyn drew on his own experience, hundreds of interviews and historic documents. He distilled them into a shattering narrative that reveals the inner workings of a murderous state within a state. His polyphonic form was noted in the citation when Solzhenitsyn won the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature: “each person becomes the chief character whenever the action concerns him. This is not just a technique, it is a creed. The narrative focuses on the only human element in existence, the human individual, with equal status among equals, one destiny among millions and a million destinies in one. This is the whole of humanism in a nutshell, for the kernel is love of mankind.”

Clear vision

Examining the relationship of the individual to the state and the question of goodness was also a theme of the 19th-Century American political thinker Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was deeply affected by the night he spent in prison for refusing to pay a poll tax.   “I saw yet more distinctly the State in which I lived,” he wrote.

This episode inspired his 1848 speech Resistance to Civil Government, later published as Civil Disobedience.  “A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority,” he wrote, “… but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose.” The insights Thoreau developed from witnessing first-hand the power of the state to jail citizens, had far-ranging consequences.

His thinking about the obligation of the individual to question the actions of the State influenced generations of future thinkers from Leo Tolstoy to Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr.  King’s 1963  Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he noted, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here,” is a classic document in the civil-rights movement. King credited Thoreau with convincing him that non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as co-operation with good. "No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau,” King wrote. “As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest."

It could be argued that Cervantes, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn and Thoreau might not have written so brilliantly without being inspired by prison. Confinement is onerous, but there can be redeeming aspects.  As these writers, and countless others have shown, prison, in tandem with the spacious human imagination and the dream of freedom, can inspire literary masterpieces.

from: BBC

Monday, April 14, 2014

Books Behind Bars: A Volunteer-run Prison Library Service in Winnipeg, Manitoba

by: Kim Parry
  • In Brief: Beginning the summer of 2012, a group Canadian librarians in Winnipeg came together to discuss the lack of library services in the prison system in the province of Manitoba. The newly formed Prison Library Committee started a weekly drop-in library service at the Winnipeg Remand Centre (WRC) located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This article will explore the importance of prison library services in the current context of prisons in Canada through our grassroots voluntary prison library service.


    As I sit down to write this article my mind floats back to a conference I recently attended on the topic of literacy and incarcerated youth. The focus was on increasing awareness of low literacy levels among “at-risk youth” in Canada and what changes would support these youth in developing literacy skills. A panel of people in executive positions in justice and non-profit organizations lamented the lack of communication between organizations, the lack of funding, the startling numbers of Aboriginal and new immigrant youth being incarcerated in Canada, and the enormous costs. While I left that panel without any solutions, it did provide me with insight into the types of discussions that are happening at high levels.
    What is being talked about by many people is the need for change in the Canadian justice system.  The prison library project explained in this article is not an answer to these big questions.  It is simply a response to the fact that there was no library service in a prison located in downtown Winnipeg. This article will explore our grassroots prison library project and touch on some of the complex issues surrounding working with people who are serving time.

    Prison Libraries in Canada

    I would like to provide some context around the prison system in Canada and who is being incarcerated in our society. Statistics from the Office of the Correctional Investigator state that a third of inmates have a need for mental health treatment and three out of four have substance abuse issues. According to the report by Sapers, Aboriginal people make up 22% of the federal prison population but make up only about 4% of the general population. Aboriginal women make up 33.6% of federally sentenced women (Office of the Correctional Investigator, 2013). In addition, the number of Aboriginal people in Canadian federal prisons has gone up by more than 40% over the last 10 years, are over-represented in solitary confinement, and are kept behind bars for longer periods than non-Aboriginal inmates (2013). An inquiry into this unjust situation was conducted in 1999 (led by Justice Murray Sinclair) but 15 years later the number of Aboriginal people in prison has continued to increase, suggesting that the structural racism of the system has not changed.
    In 2001, a national survey of libraries in federal prisons was undertaken by Ann Curry of University of British Columbia and colleagues Kris Wolf, Sandra Boutilier, and Helen Chan. The survey found that overall, prison libraries were meeting the needs of people in prison, however there was a great deal of variation among the sample and all of the libraries could use more resources and funding (2003). Since this survey, funding for libraries and for the staff to run them has been slashed. Despite the common perception that prisons have fully functioning libraries, many in Canada do not.
    Many prisons do have a room with books in it or a small collection of books but do not have an information professional working there. This is often due to budget cuts or assigning the library work to a teacher who is already working in the institution. There is a directive by Correctional Services of Canada for the institution to provide library services which reflect the services provided in the community including computer resources (2007). In the news we hear of prison libraries closing and anecdotes from other librarians that demonstrate that this directive is not being adhered to.
    When our committee first approached the Remand Centre in Winnipeg, there was no library in the building and just a few copies of books floating around brought in by prison staff members and from outside prisoner support organizations such as John Howard Society and Elizabeth Fry Society.

    Winnipeg Remand Centre Open Library Project

    Every day on my way to work in a downtown public library I walk by the Winnipeg Remand Centre. Every day thousands of downtown workers pass by the Remand. It is a tall building with dark windows which reflect the sky. Many of us don’t think about the hundreds of people inside.
    The Remand Centre is a maximum security prison built in 1992 to hold approximately 290 people. The Remand has been consistently over-capacity for year and the average number of people serving time there has risen from 329 in 2005 to 406 in 2012 (CBC, 2012). This increase in numbers is disturbing. Overcrowding is a real issue for those who are incarcerated. Effective library services within this institution would provide some distractions from the very difficult situation people are being forced to live in. A small but eager group of librarians and library technicians (public, academic and special) decided not to ignore those people in the Remand.
    For two hours every Saturday evening we turn the room usually reserved for people to meet with their lawyers into an ‘open library.’ We open up two cupboards full of books organized by genre and bring in a large cupboard on wheels which is also stocked with books. We pull out a sign that says “Welcome to the WRC Library,” tape it up on the wall, and rearrange tables and chairs. We use the tables to create book displays depending on what books are in stock.
    Once we are all set up, we let the guard know they can bring groups down. The Remand divides people into men’s and women’s units and then into units based on gang affiliation to keep tensions lower. The unit the guards refer to as ‘trustees’ are those who get the privileges of doing work such as helping prepare meals, do laundry, and clean. We never see those who are in solitary but sometimes are asked to send a book or two up to them. The different groups cycle down based on a schedule. Sometimes the guards will come back and tell us no one feels like coming or there are family visits happening at the same time. Sometimes we will get up to 4 groups of 10 people in a row-half an hour per group.
    When the patrons come into our open library they browse the displays, sit around and chat with us or each other, and choose three or four books each. We don’t track anything being taken—people can simply take the books with them. Even if they end up leaving or moving to a different institution, we tell them they can take the book if they aren’t finished with it. Otherwise, they can send it back to the library. It is a very basic service and has the primary goal of connecting readers with books they will enjoy. Within the grind of prison life this has the possibility to be a powerful connection.


    Our collection is made up of items that were weeded from the public library’s collection, brand new or used books bought with donations from individuals and a small grant from the Manitoba Library Association, and books donated by supportive community members. Led by a dedicated collection development volunteer who is an experienced public librarian, we come together to sort by genre and label the books with a series of coloured dots to represent popular fiction categories such as mystery, science fiction, and romance. We base our collection development on the requests of our patrons tempered with the restrictions placed on us by the Remand. We scour used book sales to find copies of In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton Mosionier, our most requested book. Biographies, mysteries, and thrillers are very popular with patrons, as are works relating to self-help and addiction. As librarians, we work to get these books into our patron’s hands and constantly bring in new books in good condition.
    One of the barriers prison librarians face is censorship. Longtime prison librarian and author Brenda Vogel terms collection development in prison libraries as a “collision with the absurd” (p. 42). There are many items which are not allowed into prisons and these restrictions are often based on antiquated ideas of what books those serving time “should” be reading. We have never been shown a guide to which books aren’t allowed past the Remand doors, but staff go through the books as they arrive in their weekly delivery. We base the collection on what we have been told during our orientation: there are no magazines allowed at Remand and no hardcovers. As a rule, books that fall into the true crime genre are not allowed, despite the fact that these books are often told from the perspective of victims of crime and may actually be insightful. Generally, our collection development volunteers follow a user-driven collection model. We take suggestions from our patrons at every open library and build off of these to create a collection that is appealing to them within this structured environment.
    Many of our patrons have a love for reading, some are looking to learn new skills, and some are just bored. Many of the members of the committee have a love for reading and have had that magical experience of the right book at the right time—that book that you can identify with and takes you away or allows you to more fully investigate your own life. This is what we seek to provide for inmates through our collection.

    Creating Space

    The purpose of this article is to describe the library service I and other volunteers have worked on. This project, however, cannot be taken out of the context of historical and contemporary colonial trauma collectively experienced by Aboriginal people in Canada and systemic racism and the myriad forms of resistance. The justice system, as was shown in the Aboriginal Justice Report and by many other prison activists, is working against Aboriginal and racialized people in Canada. This can be seen on a global level as well—justice is not blind.
    In the past year, we have started to use our two hour time slots for author talks and writing workshops, the first of which involved Niigaanwewidam Sinclair – a local Anishinaabe (Ojibway) academic and activist. For this event, Sinclair chose to read an excerpt from the book “Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water,” a collection of writings from Indigenous people across Manitoba. Over the course of an evening, the book was discussed with two groups of patrons, many of whom knew some of the contributors within the book, creating a personal connection within the context of the session. Sinclair made known to those in attendance that these stories were their stories—a potentially life changing thing to hear while incarcerated. For our patrons at the Remand, this brought a new and exciting dynamic to the open library experience, and because of the success of this session, we are looking to continue to host writers and speakers as we develop this project.
    Still, I am not tragic
    Not even in my addicted moments
    A needle hanging from the vein of my creased arm
    I was not tragic
    Even as I jump from a boat in a vain attempt to join my ancestors
    I am not tragic
    Even in my disconnection from song, from dance,
    I am not tragic
    Even in seeing you as privileged,
    As an occupier of my homeland in my homeless state
    Even as men abduct as I hitchhike along these new highways
    To disappear along this lonely colonial road
    I refuse to be tragic
    I have included an excerpt of Indigenous writer Lee Maracle’s Poem Blind Justice. I strongly encourage you to click through for the full piece. Maracle’s words point to the difficult relationship we can encounter as a volunteer in the prison system.  On a basic level, our committee opens a couple of cupboards filled with books and we wait for people to take them out and talk about the books with them. Prison librarian Brenda Vogel writes about the possibility to make a difference: “You are guaranteed to make a difference in the life of anyone who lives in a prison or jail by opening the door to a room filled with books or by distributing free reading material to someone sitting in a cell or lying on a bunk in a housing dorm” (Vogel, 175).  Niigaanwewidam Sinclair referred to our committee as a group of “brave librarians” who provide this library service in the prison. I appreciate this, as I think he meant it in the sense that we brave the often complicated and bureaucratic system in order to provide books to people who are seeking a connection, whether it is to a story or a conversation, or both.
    Being involved in the prison library project has provided many insights for volunteers and we have received many gifts from working with people serving time. For those of us who are white and able bodied, we experience being inside of the prison in particular ways. Many of us are identifiable as “helpers” coming in and we would never be mistaken for inmates. It is easy to get stuck on thinking only about our successes and see our project as something that is “better than nothing.” We are offering a very limited service using volunteers for something that prison librarians should be funded to do. This is the nature of the system we are working in. The underlying power dynamic is always present but sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking we are all equal. But we aren’t, some of us in the room aren’t able to leave. However, as Maracle so beautifully says “Still, I am not tragic” and to see the people we are working with as tragic is to accept the dominant narratives around those in prison. It has also been an incredible gift to work with some of the people who are inside who are so resilient and are survivors of things many of us can’t even imagine.

    Looking Ahead

    Currently the Prison Library Committee is working on building a library service at the Women’s Correctional Institution in Headingley, Manitoba which is about a half hour drive from downtown Winnipeg. This facility will require a different model to get the books to the women. There is a library space, however, we are not allowed to have the women come up to the space to check books out due to some internal issues within the prison. Instead, we will have bi-weekly book talks, with volunteers bringing books to classrooms for women to choose from. We also plan to offer author talks in this institution. In addition to our volunteer projects in the prisons, a number of librarians from across Canada are part of a newly formed network under the Canadian Library Association. We will be communicating and sharing information about our challenges and successes through an email list-serve.
    In a time of “tough on crime” legislation, increasingly harsh sentences for property crimes and drug offenses, and the stripping down of services to the incarcerated, librarians such as ourselves need to be speaking out about these realities. Our volunteer run open library is something, but it is not enough.
    For more information on the Winnipeg-based Prison Library Committee:
    Disclaimer: Not everyone on the Prison Library Committee may share the same views expressed in this article.
    Many thanks to Sarah Clark whose work this article is based on. Thanks to Ellie Collier as my In the Library with the Lead Pipe editor for her dedication and expert editing to help me create this article and to Kathleen Houlihan for her thought provoking and insightful comments as an external editor. Thanks to the Prison Library Committee for enabling me to explore this project through writing and to Syrus Ware for inspiration.


    CBC News (2012, Feb 7). Winnipeg Remand Centre well over capacity. Retrieved from:
    Correctional Service Canada (2007). Education programs and services for offenders. Retrieved from:
    Curry, A., Wolf, K., Boutilier, S., & Chan, H. (2003). Canadian federal prison libraries: a national survey.  Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 35(3), 141-152.
    Maracle, L. (2013). Blind Justice. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 2(1), 134-136.
    Office of the Correctional Investigator (2013). Annual report of the office of the correctional investigator: 2012-2013. Retrieved from:
    Vogel, B. (2009).The prison library primer: A program for the twenty-first century. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press.

Friday, April 11, 2014

How US libraries are becoming community problem solvers

From Obamacare to getting kids reading, libraries have a bigger part to play in local communities than ever before
by: Larra Clark

As a librarian, it'll probably be no surprise that I like to do my homework. I've followed conversations about the future of UK public libraries with a mixture of interest and dismay.

Developing public libraries as community hubs and problem-solving partners is a top priority at the American Library Association (ALA), so the incredible work of my UK colleagues and the Arts Council is of great interest to us. Recent South by Southwest and ALA conferences show that US public libraries are evolving in this role as well.

We must fundamentally change how we view libraries and move from a historical idea of libraries as merely physical repositories to seeing them as an opportunity for proactive community engagement.

One example of this is Princeton Public Library in New Jersey, which has become the home of more than 2,000 Tech Meetup members. Entrepreneur Venu Moola and librarian Janie Hermann have shared here how the library is successfully connecting the most techie of entrepreneurs in dozens of networking events, supporting research and development and enabling greater levels of co-working. Moola demonstrates that public libraries can be powerful players in supporting the start-up economy, as the Enterprising Libraries initiative also recognises.

ALA believes that libraries can be community problem-solvers, helping us to fully use our spaces, our people, and our technology resources. Or, to put it another way: "What can't librarians do?"

As Americans have begun to research and register for new health insurance options enabled by ObamaCare, they are turning to their libraries for internet connections and help navigating the necessary online information and forms. Similarly, libraries quickly stepped up during the recession to help employment offices assisting those seeking work or looking for new skills for the digital economy.

Libraries also have a vital role to play in education and learning, starting with helping every child ready to read and succeed in school. Adults tell us that their top priority for libraries is that they should co-ordinate closely with schools and support early literacy for young children. In Howard County, Maryland, the library's science, technology, engineering and maths learning lab has seen more than 2,000 students participating in classes such as robotics, mobile games, and nanotechnology.

A new report on the future of libraries and teens puts it this way: libraries used to be grocery stores; now we need to be kitchens and our libraries are adding new ingredients to best serve readers.

Over the past three years, the ALA has supported and worked with publishers to ensure all people have access to books in all their forms through libraries. We've rejected the absurd idea that readers should be forced to physically visit a library to download digital content.

Today, all major publishers provide some kind of US library lending of ebooks. Last year, six libraries topped 1m in ebook circulations each. This is progress, but still short of the pricing and terms that best serve libraries and readers. Unfortunately, our UK colleagues still lack access to a huge number of popular ebooks, and no one – including publishers – wins under these circumstances. People who borrow also buy, but people who don't read do neither.

We must look to the larger ecosystem that includes authors, publishers, distributors, readers and bookstores to find answers. There is an immediate problem around ebook licences, but the issues are more profound than that. All of our roles in this ecosystem are in flux, from self-publishing to bookstore lending, and reading is on the decline. This disruption demands innovative responses and collaborations.

The technology revolution has created more interdependency and blurred lines around old roles. There is a pressing need for us to reach out, network and figure out where libraries can best contribute. We should expect more – not less – from our libraries in the digital age, as technologies both expand and limit who has access to information. But this won't happen in isolation, and it won't happen without keeping libraries open, staffed and connected to our community partners.

Larra Clark is director of the American Library Association's project to develop US libraries for the 21st century 

from: Guardian

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Libraries and bookshops unite against twin threat of austerity and changing reading habits

by: Chloe Hamilton

Libraries and bookstores are holding talks on ways they can work together as they battle to survive austerity and changing reading habits - amid fears from independent bookshops that they could be put under more pressure by libraries deciding to begin selling as well as lending in attempts to stay open.

The Booksellers Association and The Society of Chief Librarians have held a number of meetings to discuss how the two bodies might be able to collaborate in order to tackle the current difficulties facing their members.

But Tim Godfrey, CEO of The Booksellers Association, criticised the spectre of competition from libraries, saying they should not try to compete with high street stores.

“The BA Council strongly believes that libraries should not be funded by the taxpayer to sell books and compete against commercial booksellers,” Mr Godfrey told The Independent.

Mr Godfrey had previously revealed to the Bookseller trade magazine that the prospect of libraries selling books keeps him “awake at night”.

There are now less than 1,000 independent bookshops left in the UK - while up to 272 libraries are thought to have closed since 2010 according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, though the Government insist the number is in fact less than 100.

Morag Watkins, co-owner of Chorleywood Bookstore, an independent bookshop in Hertfordshire, agreed that any decision by libraries to begin offering books for sale could be dangerous for stores like hers.

“The whole point of a library is that their books are free for people who can't afford them,” she said. “If they start selling books it sort of negates their purpose.

“I would certainly feel we'd be in competition with the local library if they started selling books, it would have a massive impact on us. This is a very small town, it does well to support one bookshop, I don't think it would support two.”

However, president of The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), Janene Cox insisted that although she was aware that some libraries now have a bookshop, the numbers for now are still low.

“There may be some but certainly it's not something that's widespread,” she said. “A number of libraries in the past began to sell new books but realised that that wasn't possible.”

Ms Cox also said she didn't consider bookshops and libraries to be in competition, adding that there were natural synergies between the two and it was in everyone's interests to work together.

Following their meetings, the two bodies plan to work together on country-wide literacy initiatives, such as World Book Day and The Reading Agency's Summer Reading Challenge, with booksellers encouraging people to visit libraries and librarians encouraging readers to buy books from independent and high street bookshops.

“The next stage is to continue the dialogue, have more focused meetings about events, and take this forward and gather momentum,” said Ms Cox.

“If we're all shouting together on one day about one event then we're all more likely to be heard. If we can engage booksellers as well it becomes even more powerful.”

from: Independent