Friday, March 24, 2017

Inside Toronto: Two Toronto libraries casting light on depression

Pilot program at two library branches casts light on depression

By Justin Greaves
February 14, 2017

Ensar Sehic uses a light therapy lamp at the Toronto Public Library Malvern branch on Monday, Feb. 13. Toronto Public Library is conducting a pilot project to allow library users to use two light therapy lamps on a first-come, first-served basis at its Malvern branch in Scarborough, and at its Brentwood branch in Etobicoke. The lamps are used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Canadian Mental Health Association research indicates two to three per cent of Ontarians have SAD, while another 15 per cent have a less severe experience.

Gabi Kresic eagerly basks in the bright lamp’s light at her neighbourhood Brentwood library branch.

Toronto Public Library (TPL) is shining its own light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by introducing light therapy lamps at Brentwood branch in Etobicoke and Malvern branch in Scarborough, as part of a pilot project launched last week.

The lamps mimic natural sunlight to treat SAD, a type of depression related to lack of sunlight, particularly in winter.

“It has been an impossible winter,” Kresic said, of Toronto’s dark and dreary days throughout January and into February. “I think everyone suffers from SAD. Some of us, it affects us more.”

In Canada, millions of people suffer from a degree of SAD due to lack of sunlight. Between two and three per cent of the population has full-blown SAD, with symptoms that include fatigue, decreased energy, sleep disorders, weight gain, irritability, and feelings of anxiety and despair. Another 15 per cent have a less severe experience, the Canadian Mental Health Association reported.

Daily, Kresic sits beneath the bright lamp for half an hour, ever since reading a newspaper article about it last Friday. Normally, she visits the library monthly.

“For me, it’s not about the winter; it’s not about the length of the days. It’s the sunlight and the blue sky,” Kresic explained of her need for sunlight. “You may not have sun on 40 C days in summer. For me, sunlight is essential.”

Kresic is such a fan — she once had a light therapy lamp at home — she has offered to purchase and donate a third lamp to Brentwood branch.

Each library branch has two lamps. After a three-month pilot and feedback from users, the lamps could be expanded to other branches, TPL officials said.

Kresic suggested library staff start a sign-up sheet, and consider hosting public lectures given by experts “not just about light therapy, but also other things you can do (to combat depression)”.

Lillian Galati is also a fan of the lamps, and urges TPL to expand the program.

Since Friday, Galati has trekked twice to the Brentwood branch to read beneath the lamps, despite the fact her neighbourhood library is Richview branch. She plans to make use of the lamps twice a week.

“It’s nice to get the heat and the light on you, especially when there is none (outside),” Galati said, while reading The Nest, a novel by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

Dr. Robert Levitan, a professor of psychiatry and physiology at the University of Toronto, who is the depression chair at U of T and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, welcomes the idea.

Last year, TPL reached out to Levitan to inform him of the proposed service. Levitan told TPL officials no such service existed in Toronto, and that he supported the idea, said Alex Carruthers, manager of learning and community engagement for TPL.
TPL paid $240 for each therapy lamp, giving people who might not otherwise afford one to try it out.

Information is available at each library branch outlining the therapy lamp's use, who should avoid it and how to use it. It is recommended users sit or read in front of the lamp between 20 and 30 minutes. Users should sit two feet away and not stare directly into the light.

People with retinal disease, macular degeneration or diabetes, and those taking melatonin, thioridazine or lithium, should consult a doctor before using light therapy lamps, TPL advised.

Although the program is only in its second week, Tiziano Vanola, who heads the Brentwood branch, said users’ feedback has been positive. Some people have asked if the program will be expanded and even if they can donate a lamp to the branch.

“Some people actually said they experience the ‘winter blues,’ and they plan on using the lamps on a regular basis,” Vanola said.

It is the first time the light therapy lamps are being used in libraries in Ontario.

TPL considered the program after learning of the lamps’ use in libraries first in Edmonton, then in Winnipeg.

In 2014, Robin Mazumder, an occupational therapist and MacEwan University instructor, donated three light therapy lamps to the Stanley A. Milner Library in downtown Edmonton.

The Awesome Edmonton Foundation had awarded Mazumder a $1,000 prize for his bright idea to bring light therapy to public spaces. Mazumder found a willing partner in Edmonton Public Library.

TPL selected the Brentwood and Malvern branches because both are busy locations, Vanola said.

The pilot program runs until the end of April. Library staff encourage users to provide feedback by filling out a form at each branch or online

“At the end of the pilot project, we’ll collect all the data, see what feedback users gave us, and evaluate if we continue the project, expand it to other branches, and if we do expand, to which branches,” Vanola said.

Source: Inside Toronto

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Toronto Star: Toronto libraries extend hours — but not staffing — for pilot project

Swansea and the Todmorden Room branches, which have the lowest number of open hours in the city, will extend hours, but will use video technology to connect customers to staff.

As part of a pilot project Swansea and Todmorden Room branches, which have the lowest number of open hours in the city, will be staff-free during the extended hours, but will still have staff during their regular hours.  
By Azzura Lalani
March 20, 2017

Two Toronto libraries will be the subject of a pilot project that will leave them staff-less part of the time in a bid to increase community access.

Swansea and the Todmorden Room branches, which have the lowest number of open hours in the city, will be staff-free during the extended hours, but will still have staff during their regular hours.

“These are two very small branches and they’re only open 28 hours a week, so this is really to extend service to the community beyond what they’re already open,” said Moe Hosseini-Ara the branch operations and customer experience director for Toronto Public Library.

Both locations are in community centres and will only be open during their hours, said Ana-Maria Critchley, the stakeholder relations manager for Toronto Public Library. They could be open for a maximum of 65.5 hours per week under the pilot program, which will begin in Fall 2017 and will run for a year.

The program will work by having libraries monitored in real-time with video surveillance to connect customers to staff when needed. Staff levels will not be impacted.

Customers will be able to pick up holds and books and use the Wi-Fi, but it is not meant for research, said Hosseini-Ara.

It’s a move that’s divided librarians.

“We believe that if library hours are to be extended, it should be the comprehensive library service and money should be found to support that,” Toronto Public Library Union president Maureen O’Reilly said. “We don’t believe that it (provides) a true library service.”

Increased library hours have been demanded by Torontonians for years, said O’Reilly, and modest gains have been made by using technology and stretching staff.

“This model just entirely eliminates the staff as a cost saving measure and we believe the library staff is an integral part of the library service and library service is more than just a building,” she said.

Hosseini-Ara agreed library staff are one of the “key resources,” but said, “This is really an opportunity for us, without expending additional dollars, to try to provide those other services.”

“I think that we’re very lucky here in Ontario that we have a library culture that is willing to try new things . . . and I would say that sometimes what drives that is budget cuts,” said Shelagh Paterson, the executive director of the Ontario Library Association.

But, she added, innovation can only go so far in the face of budget cuts.

“I think you may not actually see the librarian in your visit to the library, but there is a librarian behind the scenes putting it all together and delivering a really excellent service.”

And beyond providing essential services in the library, library staff are also there in case anything unexpected happens.

A recent spate of violent incidents — there was a stabbing and two assaults last month — in Toronto libraries and any possible medical emergencies are also a concern for O’Reilly.

“If something like that happens in one of these buildings that is open, you’re depending on somebody viewing it on a camera and depending on a response time,” she said.

Hosseini-Ara said due to the layout of the libraries — both are small rooms within community centres — this is less of a concern, but that the model may not work for all libraries.

If the pilot project is successful, Hosseini-Ara said it will continue.

Source: Toronto Star

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

American Libraries: Our Futures in Times of Change

How values guide our understanding of trends and transition

By Miguel Figueroa

March 1, 2017

For many futurists and trend spotters, “futuring” is fundamentally about the study of change.

“We can learn a great deal about what may happen in the future by looking systematically at what is actually happening now,” wrote Edward Cornish, one of the founders of the World Future Society.

We study change so we can prepare for the many futures that might happen. We start seeing what’s coming next. We study so that we won’t be surprised. And we study so that we’ll be better prepared to start creating the future.

That’s good news for library and information professionals. We are expert in finding, organizing, processing, and prioritizing information. From wherever we are in our organizations, we all have opportunities to observe changes in our communities and consider the implications over the long term.

But observation is simply not enough. One of the biggest lessons my colleagues and I have learned while developing the Center for the Future of Libraries is that studying change is useless without considering values. We need to look at trends and changes with consideration of our own professional values (confidentiality and privacy, diversity, equitable access, intellectual freedom and expression, preservation) and the values that we seek to provide to our communities (a civic commons, democracy, discovery, education and literacy, public discourse).  And so, looking at changes, we need to ask ourselves what they might mean for intellectual freedom, for education, for equitable access, or for any of the other values that drive our work.

As we bring together our observations of change with the constancy of our values, we can begin to exert influence. We can learn which trends advance our work and which might challenge our work. And we can plan accordingly, using some trends to our greatest advantage or doubling down on our values to stem the tide of problematic trends.

Collected below are highlights from a conversation with three librarians, each demonstrating how her commitment to library values has helped her pursue library futures in times of change. The interviewees are:

How do values help you think about and envision the future of libraries?

EMILY DRABINSKI: I got into libraries because I share the core values of the profession. I believe in democracy, equity, access, privacy and confidentiality, diversity, lifelong learning, and the right to read. I understand that those values haven’t been fully realized—libraries have histories of segregation, have struggled to diversify, and have sometimes shared patron information with authorities. Values are things to aspire to and to return to in order to guide the actions we take in the present that make the future we’re all going to be living in tomorrow and the next day and the next.

We often imagine futures where libraries do entirely different things, serve entirely different purposes. I am more interested in a future where the core functions of libraries continue—where libraries continue to select, acquire, organize, share, and make accessible information resources of all kinds, and instruct users in the use of those resources. I think of a future where we integrate our values fully and completely into those core functions. Examples might be knowledge organization schemes that reflect differences among us and resource collection models that both select and enable the creation of materials from all perspectives.

SARAH HOUGHTON: I come back to the core ethics and values of the library world with every professional decision I make, every project I pursue or reject, and every idea I support. As director of a public library, I think about how the values I promote to our team will affect the future of library services to our community. Likewise, when I decide what to publish, what to raise awareness about, and what to say publicly about our field, I come back to those same core ethics and values. I want a future where the values of library workers matter, where we recapture our steadfastness and passion for privacy, social equity, and freedom of information. Libraries serve our communities. The moment we forget that, we forget ourselves.

CHARLOTTE ROH: Like many librarians, I entered the profession because I wanted to help people. I see libraries as places of helping, and librarians as people who help. Libraries are not neutral spaces. But they are quite often perceived to be neutral, and in that perception of neutrality—and in the library as sacred space—we can achieve a lot of good if we ourselves strive to be self-aware. Social justice is a moving target and means different things to different people at different times. This means we must continue to grow and strive toward better librarianship and better libraries so that in crucial moments, libraries can be heroic, like the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s service as sanctuaries in Baltimore and the Ferguson Municipal Library’s role in Missouri. One of the best aspects of librarianship, which makes me hopeful about the future of libraries, is that professionally our soft skills—compassion, kindness, and true listening—are valued just as much as our abilities in search, instruction, or knowledge organization. These values and skills are universally acknowledged and appreciated so that librarians and libraries are beloved around the world, and that makes me feel very positive about our future.

What trends or changes do you see right now that might be most useful for advancing our professional values and the services we provide to communities?

HOUGHTON: Now is an excellent time to remind our communities that we are not just about books. We are about preserving the cultural and historical record, regardless of which way the political winds blow. We are about access to all information for all people. We are about evaluating the credibility of information to strive to be the rational and thoughtful population we all want to be a part of. People are craving something to do, something to stand up for, something to fight for. Libraries can serve to remind them how to stand up successfully and fight for the future we want.

ROH: Many people are finally internalizing the reality of the lives of people of color in this country, particularly on the heels of so much photographic and video evidence of violence and injustice. The US presidential election has been a real turning point. Over the past few years, in no small part due to the influence of Black Twitter and internet publishing, I have been encouraged by a growing awareness of bias and the need for alternative narratives in all forms of communication, from Hollywood to news journalism, from scholarly output to political punditry. Citizen journalism, or community-generated information like the Charleston Syllabus, has been amazing in its impact, and these efforts are an opportunity for libraries to collaborate with communities in providing resources.

As a scholarly communications librarian on a university campus, student protests have been important news over the past year. I wrote in C&RL News that the number one request was for more faculty of color, but what has really been change-making is that students are not satisfied by routine answers from administration. It’s more than just students—across our communities, people are demanding cultural competency from people traditionally considered experts: journalists, educational administrators, professors, and yes, librarians. As librarians, it is important that our cultural competencies are on par with the depth and breadth of our critical knowledge-seeking behaviors.

DRABINSKI: I try to think of times of crisis as times of great potential. When everyone is angry, everyone has the potential to organize and resist. One of the things LIU Brooklyn librarians learned during the lockout was that “management is the best organizer.” When attacks are made on all of us, all of us can come together to organize and fight. When I look at the present, I see more people calling Congress, joining local political organizations, and stepping up for our union phone banks than I have in the last decade. That’s as positive a spin as I can put on a future that looks quite grim to me. My hope is that assaults on values like privacy, equity, and democracy, assaults that are not new but are newly bold, will mobilize more of us to fight for the future we want.

What trends or changes do you see in the world right now that might pose the greatest threats to our professional values?

ROH: What has been scary for me as a librarian and a citizen is to see the ways in which misinformation—or fake news, propaganda, half-truths, or the framing of stories—has become such a powerful tool in the United States and abroad, and how major decisions are being influenced by misinformation. In the United States and globally, this devalues the knowledge and resources that libraries commit themselves to providing to the public.

In my specific area of scholarly communication, one issue is how global or international academia is bent toward the priorities of the North American and European world. In Latin America and Africa, the scholarly communication platforms and structures that have been built for regional research and publication are being undermined by the commercial forces of big publishing—and even big universities—in ways that are destructive to much-needed local knowledge in our increasingly global world.

DRABINSKI: I am most concerned about apathy in the face of continuing erosions of our core values. Diversity, equity, democracy, and privacy all seem like areas that have long been under attack, and will continue to be so. It’s important for librarians to continue to organize on behalf of ourselves as workers, our patrons, and our institutions. My hope is that we’ll turn to models of organized resistance and change that already exist—labor movements and political organizing in communities of color against police violence and mass incarceration—to inform the field’s efforts and make connections to work that have long been underway.

HOUGHTON: We must be ever-vigilant—fact-checking, educating our communities, defending the rights of free people to learn freely, and welcoming everyone with open arms. Ultimately, we are stewards of our communities’ trust, be that our residents, our students, our faculty, or our clients. With corporations owning information about our users and distributing that to other for-profit entities, we must preserve our users’ privacy at all costs. We must demand privacy protections from every entity we contract with. We must audit our own activities to ensure that we are protecting our users. We must reiterate to our communities that we are here for access to all information, not just that which is in vogue or politically popular. We must make clear that not all information is valid information. And we must hold true to the inclusivity and diversity that has made libraries, learning, and entertainment the trifecta of strength that it is.

How do values and trends help you innovate or communicate change within your library or with library colleagues?

DRABINSKI: All my work returns to the core values I hold not necessarily as a librarian, but as a person trying each day to make the world I want to live in. I want power to be built among people and shared equally. That means things like inviting my colleagues into projects, being consistently transparent about decisions I make and actions I take, trying to listen more than I talk, and asking questions. I also center myself and my colleagues as workers in the library. We are always thinking about student needs, but the learning conditions of our students depend on the working conditions of their faculty and staff, including those of us in the library. The future brings unprecedented attacks on an already-weakened organized labor movement. Donald Trump and the Republican Congress have been explicit about a desire for a national right to work law that would mean a future of gutted unions. That drives my work as a labor activist on my campus, and I use that to communicate the importance of efforts, from petition drives to rallies on campus. I try to communicate that urgency as well as a sense of hope—that things could be different, and we could make them that way.

HOUGHTON: I am much less concerned with trends than with core library values and ethics. Virtual reality and book bikes may be trendy now—and we do both in our library—but we do them because they mesh with our core values, namely economies of scale (buying something once so the entire community can use it) and service to all, regardless of location or mobility. When I am pitching a new service idea to my city manager or working with our library staff toward a new project, it always comes back to values. How does this thing help us be better, help our community become better, and reward the immense trust that our community has placed in us to do well with the investment they made in their library?

ROH: I’m fortunate in my job at the University of San Francisco to have an explicit social justice mission driving the campus. My colleagues are well informed and aligned with my interest in the intersection of social justice and scholarly communication. In this space, I can say up front that colonial systems and biases in academic research and publishing persist, that they influence what gets published, who gets tenure, what research gets funded, and what scholarship and knowledge is prioritized in the world. My colleagues engage with me on very practical questions like: What does publisher bias mean for our information literacy sessions? How does this change how we purchase databases, and how we acquire open access publications? How do we make sure open education resources are reliable? Change happens when ideas turn into action, and I am fortunate to be in an environment that is already oriented toward changing the world, starting from the library.

9 Takeaways for the Future

Librarians and speakers shared successes and concerns during a futures symposium at the 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Atlanta. Dozens of people offered ideas, tips, and projects that showcased a wide variety of future themes for libraries. Here are nine highlights:

1. Entrepreneurship
Getting access to capital, mentoring, coaching, and workspace needs are key issues that face black and Latina women starting in tech entrepreneurship. A network of support can help. Using metrics, says Darlene Gillard of Atlanta’s BIG Accelerator program, can get the funding faster and helps confirm success.

2. Civic engagement and innovation
Amy Koester and Amita Lonial’s “Building Civic Engagement with a Civic Lab” session covered their experiences with the Civic Lab at Skokie (Ill.) Public Library, a pop-up library. They highlighted six areas of civic engagement via microcollections, resource lists, and interactive activities, like a passive voting wall and postcard writing station, as well as community conversations with elected officials and others.

3. School libraries as global educators
From Skyping with Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter to facilitating a video conference between a professor from Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology and a budding middle school ornithology expert, librarians can open the classroom learning experience to conversations with established and emerging experts, as speaker Andy Plemmons has. Plemmons, school library media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens, Georgia, says he invests time cultivating in-person guests, including children’s authors and illustrators. He has also experienced the serendipity of social media—sharing news of what his students are learning in the school library and having his conversations reach big-name speakers.

4. Sustainability
Sustainability expert Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, coordinator for library sustainability at Mid-Hudson Library System in Poughkeepsie, New York, says by using a “triple bottom line” test—asking if something is environmentally sound, economically feasible, and socially equitable—librarians can ensure that the most important bases are covered as they make decisions about services, buildings, and the community beyond library walls.

5. Virtual reality
Matthew Boyer, codirector of the Digital Media and Learning Labs at Clemson (S.C.) University, and copresenter Stephen Moysey, codirector of Clemson’s Center for Geospatial Technologies, have been working on projects to test whether virtual reality will become the next content delivery platform. They are interested in using virtual reality to support immersive, interactive game-based engagement within a contextually rich learning environment. Virtual reality allows for place-based learning that moves beyond the traditional field trip.

6. Welcoming communities
Several libraries participate in National Welcoming Week, a project of Welcoming America, which helps bring together immigrants and US-born residents in a spirit of unity. Welcoming America’s Isha Lee emphasized that true social innovation requires consideration of the whole person’s needs, not just his or her perceived economic value or benefit.

7. Accessibility
One in four adults will have a disability at some point in his or her life, which should encourage everyone to view accessibility as benefiting “us,” not some vaguely defined “them.” Accessible features like curb cuts and closed captioning expand benefits beyond any single audience and improve experiences for all. That was the focus of the presentation by Patrice Johnson of Chicago Public Library, Pat Herndon of the Georgia Library for Accessible Statewide Services, and Jill Rothstein of New York Public Library’s Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. A universal approach develops innovations that integrate and include all.

8. Academic tech focus
Jeffrey Martín, founder and CEO of honorCode, a program that aims to integrate coding into the K–12 curriculum, says that media specialists and librarians play a role in incubating these programs—and other STEAM programs—and making them successful. He sees them taking on responsibilities as teachers and instruction partners who stay up on computer science and technology trends; as information specialists who provide leadership and expertise in acquiring and evaluating information; and as program administrators who guide activities and work collaboratively with the community to define the program and build partnerships.

9. 21st-century ethics
San Rafael (Calif.) Public Library Director Sarah Houghton used the framework of ALA’s Library Bill of Rights to revisit what librarians say about their own ethics and apply them to current situations. One rallying point for most libraries is fighting censorship in all its forms. As professionals look ahead, new technologies like digital rights management—which allows content creators to “lock” content that can be opened only with a special digital key—or concepts like net neutrality—which champions an open internet free from “fast” and “slow” access channels based on cost or providers—will require professionals to consider their values as a means of navigation.

Source: American Libraries

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chicago Tribune: Local libraries look to combat 'fake news' with media literacy programs

The Lake Forest Library will host a a series of events later this year that will facilitate conversations around "challenging topics." (Mark Ukena / Pioneer Press)
Lee V. Gaines
March 6, 2017

Nate Gass, an emerging technology librarian at Cook Memorial Public Library District, said he's a little nervous about hosting a program at the Libertyville library next month about how to spot fake news because he fears the event could raise partisan hackles among attendees.

Prior to the last presidential campaign, which put a spotlight on an explosion of misleading, false and inflammatory information online, Gass said he never could have predicted sorting fact from fiction in the news cycle "would become a politicized thing."

"It makes me anxious about the program, to be honest, because we don't want it to be a political thing," he said. "But, overall, we felt as a library that it was still a risk worth taking because this is a service that needed to be provided."

Cook Memorial is among several local libraries either currently hosting or planning to host programming focused on media literacy.

"There's just a general assault on information and how it's shared and how it's accessed," said Chad Clark, new media services manager at Highland Park Public Library. "It seems completely obvious to me that librarians should be in this conversation and reminding people what we've always done."

Clark said, historically speaking, libraries have helped patrons access and interpret the information. He said librarians learned through experience that verifying content across multiple sources is an important strategy when looking for accurate and truthful information.

The Highland Park Library has already hosted several media literacy forums dubbed "Consider the source: Not all information is created equal," Clark said. The program is designed to educate patrons about the tools and strategies librarians use to fact-check information. The effort pinpoints what clues or red flags to look for when determining the credibility of a website in addition to providing lessons on general digital literacy, he said.

Though the issue of misleading information and false news has existed for decades, the internet has allowed for a proliferation of fake news, which has made it difficult for some patrons to parse out the fact-based signal from a cacophony of inaccuracies online, according to both librarians.

"I do see a lot of patrons talking to me about things that have clearly been shown to be false or fake, but they are still holding them as truth internally," Gass said. "A lot of that has been troubling over the past few months."

Clark said he shows patrons at these forums how easy it is to make a website and tout it as a credible source of information and how Google can be used to confirm a preconceived notion whether or not it's accurate.

These media literacy efforts are not unique to Illinois libraries, nor are they unique to libraries within the United States, said Bob Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Association of Libraries. Libraries and librarians across the globe have launched similar events to help the public "navigate the explosion of information and separate the true from the fake," he said.

Librarians are non-partisan and neutral public servants, Doyle said. If they're on the side of anything, it's "fact-based information and helping people find that and helping people think critically."

"They've been doing this for decades where they've been encouraging the collection of diverse thought so that people don't remain just in their own little echo chambers seeking confirmation of what they already think," he said.

Good-hearted people have fallen prey to fake news, said Catherine Lemmer, director of the Lake Forest Library, because social media has made it easier for us to confine ourselves among our own opinions than to engage in a respectful debate with someone who disagrees with our views.

"Everybody just wants to be right and the way you get to be right is to only read the Facebook feeds that come into your stream," Lemmer said. "And those streams are pre-selected unless you are very diligent about seeking out information across the spectrum, which is challenging."

While the Lake Forest Library includes media literacy tips on its website, Lemmer said the library will tackle what she sees as a bigger issue: An inability for people to have conversations around "challenging topics."

The library will host a series of panel events tentatively titled "Common Ground Conversations" this fall, she said.

The plan is to invite speakers in to discuss topics including women's issues, race and immigration in a non-politically charged manner, Lemmer said. The goal is to "reengage the community with civil and thoughtful conversations."

The proliferation of fake news has undermined the public's ability to engage in respectful debate, she said.

"Part of media literacy, I think, is bringing people back to the understanding that real conversations take place when both parties, both people or a group of people are interested in understanding the basis of the other side's viewpoint," Lemmer said.

Source: The Chicago Tribune

Friday, March 17, 2017 Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women

Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women
By Ellen Scott

As John Waters once said: ‘If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f*** ’em.’

Truer words have never been spoken.

But personally, I’d like to add an addendum to that rule: if they don’t have any books written by women, don’t f*** ’em either.

In an age in which there is so much brilliant literature written by women, it’s unforgivable for anyone to exclusively be reading men.

Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women
(Picture: Sophie Davidson for Birdsong)

Not just because they’re missing out on all the amazing books written by women, but because they’re blinding themselves to a different perspective, only seeing the world through the eyes of men.

Which is a massive bloody shame.

Fashion brand Birdsong wants to change things.

Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women
(Picture: Sophie Davidson for Birdsong)

They’ve just launched a campaign to get more men reading more books by women, creating a handy reading list for all men who only read books written by other dudes.

Boys With Books was inspired by a situation anyone who’s ever been on a dating app has likely experienced: seeing man after man listing off the same male authors as their favourites. ‘The lack of female authors was astounding,‘ wrote Sophie Davidson for Birdsong’s blog. ‘The lack of diversity amazed me.’

Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women
Picture: Sophie Davidson for Birdsong

‘Obviously I have no idea what else these men have read, maybe 90% of the other books they read are by women, but I doubt it. ‘It just seems that the books that are classed as ~respected literature worth showing off about having read on a dating site~ are mainly by white male authors.

‘For all I know they haven’t even read them, they’ve just read the bio for ‘Infinite Jest’ and had a quick scroll through David Foster Wallace’s Wikipedia page (I’m sorry to say I’m beginning to think that’s a thing people actually do.)

Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women
Picture: Sophie Davidson for Birdsong

‘Books, along with film (consistently lacking in diversity) and art, (in which women were pretty much written out of history,) are perhaps the best way to explore different experiences to our own.
‘If a high percentage of the population isn’t attempting to experience how the rest live then it seems like an increasingly difficult task to create equality.’

True that.

So, with that in mind, Birdsong created an alternative reading list for all men who’ve been struggling to get into literature written by women.

Oh, and all the photographs accompanying the campaign show men wearing Birdsong t-shirts and tops hand-painted by migrant mothers in Tower Hamlets for a living wage. Which is nice.

Birdsong’s founder, Sophie Slater, told ‘As a women, or for any cultural “minority”, you’re always forced to step into the shoes of male characters as they are the prevailing “default being”.

Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women
Picture: Sophie Davidson for Birdsong

‘To add to what Sophie Davidson said in our blog, a huge part of developing empathy is to take that imaginative leap into someone else’s reality.

‘How can we expect young men and boys to empathise with women if they’ve never immersed themselves for a few hours in a women’s perspective? ‘A book is the perfect way to do that.’

Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women
Picture: Sophie Davidson for Birdsong

The shift can start small – with all of us recommending books by women to men, and men making the effort to diversify their reading lists.

But hopefully, one day, it’ll grow bigger. Because I’m tired of hearing about students heading to university to be greeted with reading lists predominantly made up of books by men.

‘I think schools should be doing more to promote diversity across all their curriculum,’ says Sophie Slater. ‘I worked with an amazing girl called Jessy once who campaigned to get more women composers on the A Level music course, so public pressure definitely works.

Why this fashion brand is encouraging men to read more books by women
Picture: Sophie Davidson for Birdsong

‘In lower schools where there’s less restraint on curriculum, teachers could do more to encourage children to read about characters from different backgrounds to them. ‘Maybe even get kids to do a world book day character swap with each other.’

See? It’s simple. If we want to change the world, it can start with a book. A book written by a woman.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

New York Times: Teenagers Who Vandalized Historic Black Schoolhouse Are Ordered to Read Books

February 8th, 2017
by Christine Hauser

After five teenagers defaced a historic black schoolhouse in Virginia with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti last year, a judge handed down an unusual sentence. She endorsed a prosecutor’s order that they read one book each month for the next 12 months and write a report about it.

But not just any books: They must address some of history’s most divisive and tragic periods. The teenagers can read “Night,” by Elie Wiesel, to learn about the Holocaust. They can crack open Maya Angelou’s landmark 1969 book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” for an unsparing account of the Jim Crow South. They can also dive into “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini, a captivating tale about two boys from Afghanistan.

Those books were among the 35 works of literature that the judge, Avelina Jacob, ordered the unidentified teenagers, ages 16 and 17, in Loudoun County to choose from last week after they pleaded guilty to spray-painting the Ashburn Colored School, a dilapidated, one-room 19th-century schoolhouse that had been used by black children during segregation in Northern Virginia.

The teenagers’ sentence, known as a disposition in juvenile cases, also includes a mandatory visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington and the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History’s exhibit on Japanese-American internment camps in the United States.

The graffiti sprayed in September on the building in Ashburn, a community of about 43,000 people northwest of Washington, included swastikas, dinosaurs, sexual images and the phrases “brown power” and “white power.”

Two of the teenagers are white and three are minorities, the commonwealth attorney’s office said in a statement announcing the decision last week. They were arrested in October, and each pleaded guilty to one count of destruction of private property and one count of unlawful entry. At least one of the teenagers said he did not know the symbolism of a swastika.

Alejandra Rueda, a deputy commonwealth attorney who came up with the idea, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that it was the first time in her 19-year career as a prosecutor that she has assigned a reading list as part of a disposition.

“It occurred to me that the way these kids are going to learn about this stuff is if they read about it, more than anything,” Ms. Rueda said. “Yes, they could walk into court and plead guilty and get put on probation and do some community service, but it wasn’t really going to bring the message home.”
“I just thought maybe if they read these books, it will make an impression on them, and they will stand up for people who are being oppressed,” she added.

Ms. Rueda said she had been inspired by her own history growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the 1980s, when her librarian mother handed her Leon Uris’s books “Mila 18” and “Exodus” to learn about Israel and the Holocaust while she was participating in a model United Nations project.
She later went on to read Alan Paton’s “Cry, the Beloved Country,” which touched on race and injustice in South Africa.

The teenagers will also be required to write a paper about the impact swastikas and “white power” messages have on African-Americans and members of the broader community. The paper must include historical references such as Nazism, lynchings and discriminatory laws.

They must also listen to a recorded interview of Yvonne Neal, a Virginia woman who described her experiences as a student from 1938 to 1945 at the Ashburn Colored School, its official name in tax records.

“We are seizing the opportunity to treat this as an educational experience for these young men so they may better appreciate the significance of their actions and the impact this type of behavior has on communities and has had throughout history,” the commonwealth’s attorney, Jim Plowman, said in the statement.

Some of the books on the list have been banned or challenged in the past: like “Black Boy,” the 1945 autobiography by Richard Wright; “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood; and Ms. Angelou’s book, according to the American Library Association.

Ms. Rueda said she first gave the list to defense lawyers to make sure there were no objections from the boys’ families on religious or other grounds.

“Given how fractured our country is right now,” she said, “the more people who are open minded, the better our country will be.”

Probation officers will check the work of the youths, who are public school students.

Deep Sran, the founder of the Loudoun School for the Gifted, a private school that owns the Ashburn Colored School and is renovating it to use as an education museum, said of the vandalism: “It was just profoundly disappointing. Profoundly disappointing because this building is evidence of the worst story in American history: swastikas, white power. I teach history, and at some point you think the story will end.”

Dr. Sran said in a telephone interview he was told about the vandalism in an email in October from a man who rents space on the grounds of the old schoolhouse to smoke meat overnight for his barbecue food truck business. Dr. Sran and his colleagues raced over to the school to find spray paint on the windows and the sides of the building, a sight that was particularly upsetting because students had raised money to upgrade the windows a week before.

He said the school worked with Ms. Rueda on suggestions for the book list. One of the school’s English teachers balked at the idea of using literature as punishment, inspiring the inclusion of Ms. Neal’s interview, he said.

Eventually, Dr. Sran and his colleagues pitched several options, including Wright’s “Black Boy” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoir, “The Beautiful Struggle.”

“If things like this are still happening in 2016 in a very diverse county with all the resources in the world, it’s an indictment on teachers, if a 16- or 17-year-old thinks this is how you should spend a Friday night,” Dr. Sran said.

He added, “If any good can come out of this, it has to be through an effort to educate.”

source: New York Times

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Guardian: World Book Day: Without libraries we are less human and more profoundly alone

World Book Day: Without libraries we are less human and more profoundly alone

Councils threaten libraries with closure and then rely on volunteers to keep them open. But professional librarians are the key to a healthy library

by Nicola Davies

When I was little I loved everything about public libraries. The echoey floor, the ever so faintly dusty air, the ritual and rhythm of book stamping.

We had plenty of books at home, but home books all came to me through my parents. They were already chosen, domesticated. Library books felt different, wild as tigers. They came to me straight from the world. When I walked into the library I felt I was walking across the tundra or the steppe, into the jungle or under the sea. I could roam the shelves, choose whatever I wanted, and find out about anything. I could live inside any story. It made me feel powerful and free.

Back then I had no idea that librarians did any more than wield the ink block and tell noisy children to be quiet. I imagined that the books flew onto the shelves, like birds coming to roost.

I didn’t realise that the intoxicating diversity I so adored was carefully created, and made accessible and attractive to me by talented librarians.

Librarians are far more than stackers and catalogers. They are creative curators of their book collections. They review and renew their flocks of books, adjusting what they have to fit their readers, highlighting certain sections and topics to reflect the world. They are on hand to guide and encourage, to foster relationships between books and people. Subtly, quietly, inexorably, they weave individuals into a community. They make a library shimmer, as if the books were the scales of a dragon flexing as it folds and flies.

A healthy library, like a healthy habitat, is diverse and dynamic. Like species in a rainforest or fishes on a reef, the books on the shelves shift and change, with time and season, so that every week there is something new to discover. A healthy library invites the eye and mind to wander round.

This book habitat does not happen on its own – it is created by librarians. Librarians are the keystone of good libraries. Without them, dust gathers, book collections are not refreshed, readers do not feel enticed and beguiled, relationships between books and people dwindle into nothing.

We’ve all seen libraries like that. The places where you walk through the door and a sepia tint descends on your soul. The very idea of choosing a book from the dingy shelves seems the epitome of pointlessness.

Libraries get like this because they have lost their keystone. Someone with a spreadsheet decided that the internet was now a library so librarians were not needed.

Community libraries can be wonderful places, and volunteers do tremendous work stepping up to preserve them in the wake of government cuts. But libraries are a public service. They must be properly funded, properly resourced and properly staffed, with trained and expert full-time librarians. Councils cannot assume that they can threaten libraries with closure and then rely on volunteers to keep them open. Without librarians and the libraries they make we are less alive, less human, more profoundly alone.

Nicola Davies is a children’s author and former presenter of The Really Wild Show. Her latest book is The White Hare.

Source: The Guardian