Monday, July 28, 2014

U.S. libraries become front line in fight against homelessness

by: Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - George Brown, a homeless man in Washington, has a simple answer when asked how often he uses a public library.

"Always. I have nowhere else to go," Brown, 65, said outside the U.S. capital's modernist central library after a morning reading sociology books. "When it's hot, you come here to stay out of the heat. When it's cold, you come here to stay out of the cold."

Brown is among the hundreds of thousands of homeless people who have put the almost 9,000 U.S. public libraries, the most of any country in the world, in the forefront of the battle against homelessness.

Moving beyond their old-fashioned image as book custodians where librarians shush people for talking too loud, libraries have evolved to serve as community centers, staffed with social workers and offering programs from meals to job counseling.

Homelessness is an especially acute issue for libraries as the United States slowly emerges from the 2007-2009 recession and deals with stubborn poverty, experts said.

Libraries are magnets for the homeless since they are public, free, centrally located and quiet. They also are safe, a major draw given that 337 homeless people have been killed in hate crimes in the last 15 years, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.

"(Libraries) are on the front line whether they want to or not," said Jeremy Rosen, director of advocacy at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an advocacy group.

The upturn in homeless outreach is part of an overall 47 percent increase in library programs from 2004 to 2011, according to a June report by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Libraries' openness is not without critics. Donald Root, head of the main Philadelphia library, said he has received occasional complaints from patrons about homeless people who are smelly, loud, asleep or who appear mentally ill. Other library officials reported similar experiences.

In online comments in a Yelp review, San Francisco's main library drew complaints from patrons about homeless people who were sleeping, bathing in restrooms, made sexual comments or were monopolizing computer terminals.

"Amazing library ruined by the army of homeless that come to sleep and shower here," one patron wrote.

Libraries can have their own guidelines, like Washington's six-page rule book barring alcohol, bare feet, oversize bags and an odor that can be smelled six feet (two meters) away.

Rules for behavior have been influenced by a 1991 appeals court decision that said libraries were limited public forums, allowing them to put limits on patrons' behavior.


About 610,000 Americans were homeless in January 2013, almost half of them in big cities, according to a one-night head count by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Hundreds of programs to help the homeless have been set up in libraries across the United States.

The Queens Library in New York City offers a summer reading club and is developing an online application to help people find services.

Greensboro, North Carolina, libraries have offered haircuts, meals, blood pressure screening, and job and business counseling, said Brigitte Blanton, director of the city's libraries.

Philadelphia's central library, where scores of homeless people line up before opening every day, features a cafe staffed by homeless people. The homeless also police bathrooms to ensure that they are not used for bathing or washing clothes.

Libraries in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington have hired social workers.

"Someone told me before I started working here, 'Oh, librarians are just social workers.' And I laughed about it, and it's true," said Jean Badalamenti, the Washington libraries' social worker.

A Madison, Wisconsin, library, installed a parking lot for shopping carts and other baggage.

"What some of the libraries are doing is phenomenal," said David Pirtle, who was once homeless and now gives speeches for the National Coalition for the Homeless.

He said libraries were more welcoming than a decade ago, when some sought to limit access for the homeless. The homeless also are more willing to work with librarians and security officers, Pirtle said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Beech)

from: Reuters

Friday, July 25, 2014

Libraries battle bed bugs in books

by: Bethany Barnes

from: Las Vegas ReviewJournal

Thursday, July 24, 2014

NY Public Library Pilots Program to Rent Out Free Wifi

by: NY1 News

Coming up, in addition to books, how the New York Public Library is next working on lending out technology. NY1's Adam Balkin filed the following report.

Libraries are known for lending books. Libraries have recently also become known as a place to use computers and the internet. Now though, libraries are combining the two in their latest effort to try to close the so-called "Digital Divide"—made up of those who do and do not have access to the internet.

The New York Public Library recently completed a pilot project during which certain patrons were able to check out wireless routers giving them free, unlimited internet access at home.

“If you come in and you’re part of a program, an educational program, then you’re somebody that can be eligible to receive a device, if you do not have internet at home or if you do not have access to internet at home. And some of the families, through the pilot program, if they didn’t have any way to access the internet as well they were able to receive laptops as well," said New York Public Library's Paul Lee.

The library says while users are encouraged to use the router to, at least in part, continue online education programs started at the local branch…users are free to surf however they please.

Some of the people who’ve already checked them out say because they don’t use the internet that often, they never realized how useful and, in some cases, necessary it can be, not just for themselves but more so for their children.

One library patron, Maria Rangel, says because English is her second language, she has trouble helping her daughter learn to read and pronounce words properly in English, borrowing a computer and internet access though allows her daughter to log in to interactive reading lessons online.

“They show you how to read word by word and actually I don’t know how to pronounce any word so she’s starting to be my teacher, so it really helps for me and for my daughter because she’s growing, she’s feeling like she can be my teacher," Rangel says.

As for when wireless lending will become a permanent service, the New York Public Library says it plans to evaluate data from the pilot and have the program back full time this fall.

from: NY1

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Librarian transforms school bus to deliver books to kids in need

by: Amy Nile

Seated on the entrance to the Snohomish Book Cafe Bus, Osmar Mendez, 2, looks at picture books during one of the converted school bus's weekly stops at the Three Rivers mobile home park in Snohomish. Ian Terry/The Herald
SNOHOMISH — She's a school librarian turned bus driver.

Jenny Granger is delivering books to kids around Snohomish to beat the “summer slide.” Between tests in June and September, there's a general drop in students' scores. Granger says a big factor is the fact kids don't read as much during the summer.

“We can complain about it or we can do something about it,” said Granger, a teacher and librarian at Snohomish's Emerson Elementary.

She has turned an old yellow school bus into a roving bookmobile. Now she's spending her summer break bringing the library to kids in trailer parks and to places with activities for children.

“These kids are coming from very needy households and they don't have a lot of books at home,” Granger said.

The rolling Book Cafe makes four stops on Tuesdays that coincide with the times and locations of subsidized summer lunch programs. Granger encourages kids to get on board and pick out books.

“I just get out of the way and let them go,” Granger said.

She pulls into to the Circle H trailer park, where more than a dozen barefoot and flip-flop-clad children stand awaiting her arrival. Several run up and give her hugs.

“The kids love it,” Granger said. “It's like hero status.”

Leslie Hernandez, who just finished fifth grade at Emerson, said she found a book she previously borrowed but had to return before she finished it. She was excited to read the rest of the story.

“I love to get new books,” she said. “I don't like reading books twice.”

The kids can take as many titles as they can read in a week. They can hold onto the books or bring them back.

“If they love them, keep them,” Granger said. “The commitment is to read them.”

Inside the bus, the books are shelved in wooden boxes similar to those in a record store. That way kids can see the illustrations on the front as they sort through titles.

“I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover but kids are very graphic,” Granger said.

She made the bus look cartoonish with a set of hot pink eyelashes over the headlights.

Granger volunteers her time for the bookmobile. The school district allowed her to use the bus, which was about to be surplused. Snohomish Education Foundation gave her $5,000 to retrofit the bus, buy supplies and pay for gas. People around town have also pitched in thousands of books.

“This whole thing was Jenny's vision,” said Kristin Foley, a spokeswoman for the district. “It's been her passion and her dream.”

Granger started trying to get students to read more over the summer three years ago. She opened the library for a few hours each week during the break.

“It was great for the kids who came, but they weren't the ones we were worried about,” Granger said.

Last year, she tried the traveling approach in a red van from the 1970s. But more volunteer labor was needed to lug tubs of books in and out at each stop.

“We sweated and died in the heat,” Granger said. “There had to be a better way. It's a little crazy that this is what I'm doing with my day off.”

While the food program goes to areas determined by the federal government, the bookmobile could include more stops in the future.

“It doesn't matter where you live. Some families just don't read,” said Misha Dacy, a librarian at Seattle Hill Elementary.

Granger's next mission is to have ebooks available. She has a plan in the works that will allow kids to download to their devices from inside the bus. She's not sure when the technology will arrive but she is expecting it soon.

“It's an awkward conversation because people say if kids can't afford books then why do they have devices,” she said. “Well, the reality is they do.”

The bus started making its rounds in late June. Granger said interest is strong. She's had to stop her route halfway through to restock books.

“What this bus has done for our community is tremendous,” said Foley, the district spokeswoman. “The kids are so excited. It's heartwarming.”

from: HeraldNet

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

EveryLibrary Launches Fund To Aid Libraries In Crisis

by: Ian Chant

Most libraries know what its’ like to struggle with finding funding. Getting a levy or tax hike passed is hard work. Living through lean times that freeze hiring and stifle collection development can be trying. But when the rug gets pulled out from under you suddenly, it can be even worse. In order to provide some assistance when eleventh hour budget cuts come knocking, EveryLibrary, the political action committee devoted to strengthening the place libraries have at the civic table, is working on a new program with just these sorts of dilemmas in mind—the Rapid Response Fund, a pot of cash meant to give libraries facing sudden budget cuts the tools to rally supporters quickly and fight back.

According to EveryLibrary founder John Chrastka, situations that could benefit from the aid of the Rapid Response fund come up with troubling regularity in libraries around the nation. While city councils and other officials who control local purse strings have a regular order that generally functions to keep funding levels predictable, there are instances where those groups, or just a single member, can disrupt that order and call established budgets into question.

Chrastka pointed to last year’s attempt by a Parish Council member in LaFourche Parish, Louisiana to divert funds earmarked for the local library towards the building of a new jail instead as one high profile example, but said that EveryLibrary was receiving calls for help from libraries in similar predicaments every month.

Those weren’t the kinds of calls EveryLibrary was initially built to field, though. The original vision for EveryLibrary was not to respond to these kinds of sudden funding issues, Chrastka told LJ, saying that the organization has previously concentrated on building strategic plans in the long term for its partner libraries. But when he started seeing situations like these crop up more and more, it became clear that the PAC needed a more nimble arm to offer help to libraries that needed a quick burst of support, rather than a strategic plan rethought from the ground up.

While the Rapid Response fund itself is new, it’s based on a model that EveryLibrary has seen success with in the past in places like Miami-Dade County, where the mayor announced budget changes that would have severely impacted Miami-Dade libraries last fall, near the end of the budget negotiation cycle. EveryLibrary helped to get funds to local grassroots library advocates, and in the closing days, ran a series of ads on social media that helped draw attention to the library’s plight and played a role in securing $7 million in stopgap funding in the budget for libraries. While it didn’t solve the problems in Miami-Dade, Chrastka said, “putting money in fast helped them live to fight another day.”

According to Ben Bizzle, a 2013 LJ Mover & Shaker and director of technology at the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library who also serves as a strategic advisor to EveryLibrary, intensive marketing on social media is likely to be one of the main tools used by Rapid Response, as it’s easy to deploy on the fly and can make a quick, effective call to action. “The best way to reach people at the eleventh hour these days is from social media,” Bizzle told LJ, saying its a lesson taken from the good results many libraries have had goosing attendance with social media reminders in the days just prior to an event.

It’s also a cost-effective means of getting the word out to voters, advocates, and stakeholders. ”It doesn’t take a lot of money from our contributors for us to be able to make big financial differences in these libraries,” Bizzle pointed out. Rapid Response will be funded by individual contributions, as well as assistance from corporate sponsors.

To be eligible for Rapid Response help, libraries will have to meet a series of criteria, proving that their funding crisis was unexpected, that it can still be averted, that there are more than 100 hours until a vote or final decision, and that the library has a legitimate advocacy group ready to ensure the investment of funds will be met with boots on the ground action. It’s also a one-time-only action that libraries can call on in crisis. “If this is blowing up in your face every year, we need to do bigger planning,” said Chrastka.

from: LibraryJournal

Monday, July 21, 2014

Amazon Launches Subscription Service For E-Books

by: Alan Greenblatt

Amazon launched a new subscription service for e-books and audiobooks on Friday called Kindle Unlimited.

The service, which will cost subscribers $9.99 per month after a free initial 30-day trial, offers access to more than 600,000 e-books and about 2,000 audiobooks. The reading and listening experiences can be linked through a syncing service.

Such "all you can eat" subscription models have become common for music and video. Amazon now enters into a space already occupied by unlimited reading services such as Scribd, Oyster and Entitle.

Major publishers commonly charge these services a bulk fee upfront for access to their catalogs, plus additional fees each time a user reads a book, according to TechCrunch. They reserve new releases for single sales.

"Amazon is likely looking for a better deal from publishers, or for greater access to current titles, which could be why they aren't included in these test pages," TechCrunch reports.

Amazon has had contentious relations with publishers throughout the e-book era.

Among the titles Amazon has on offer are Life of Pi, the Hunger Games trilogy and the Harry Potter series. Readers can access books through Kindle or any device that has a Kindle app.

"The company already lets users of its Prime premium service to borrow one book each month for no extra charge," CNN notes.

from: NPR

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Jane Austen waxwork uses forensic science to model 'the real Jane'

Forensic artist Melissa Dring has taken three years to construct the figure, making use of contemporary eye-witness accounts
by: Alison Flood

A sculpture of Jane Austen is unveiled at the Jane Austen Centre, Bath
Criminally good likeness... Jane Austen Centre's new waxword of Jane. Photograph: Alastair Johnstone/SWNS.COM
View larger picture

The Jane Austen Centre claims to have drawn on forensic techniques and eye-witness accounts to create the closest ever likeness of the Pride and Prejudice novelist.
Their waxwork went on display at the centre in Bath on Wednesday morning. It has taken three years to create, with forensic artist Melissa Dring taking as her starting point the sketch done by Austen's sister Cassandra in 1810, the only accepted portrait of the writer other than an 1870 adaptation of that picture. She then used contemporary eyewitness descriptions of the novelist to come up with her own likeness.
Austen's nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, described his aunt as "very attractive". "Her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm, and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation. In complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well-formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face," he wrote in his memoir.
Caroline Austen, his sister, had it that "as to my Aunt's personal appearance, hers was the first face that I can remember thinking pretty … Her face was rather round than long – she had a bright, but not pink colour – a clear brown complexion and very good hazle [sic] eyes … Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally – it was in short curls around her face."
The Jane Austen Centre said its new waxwork had been "created by a specialist team using forensic techniques which draw on contemporary eye-witness accounts", and that it is the closest "anyone has come to the real Jane Austen for 200 years", reported the BBC.
"[Cassandra's portrait] does make it look like she's been sucking lemons," Dring told the BBC. "She has a somewhat sour and dour expression. But we know from all accounts of her, she was very lively, very great fun to be with and a mischievous and witty person."
Dring said the new statue was "pretty much like her". "She came from a large … family and they all seemed to share the long nose, the bright sparkly brown eyes and curly brown hair," she said. "And these characteristics come through the generations."
from: Guardian