This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson

“In tough times, a librarian is a terrible thing to waste.”

Here at the beginning of National Library Week, let’s pause a moment and think about libraries. What makes a library? Sure, the building is important, and the computers and systems in it, and the books and information it contains. But what really makes a library is the people – the behind-the-scenes people who order the books and process them so you can find them (it’s not elves or magic that does that, but real people); it’s the people at the desks who check out your books or sign you up for that library card; it’s the people putting books on the shelves and keeping the computers up and working (again, not elves or magic – real people); and it’s the librarians at the reference desk showing you where to find that book or digging up that obscure bit of information you need.

Marilyn Johnson has written a fascinating behind-the-scenes peek into the world of libraries – their diversity, their changing role, their struggles in This Book is Overdue! Johnson is not a librarian, just a long-time library user. Her wide-ranging topics – libraries in Second Life, libraries defending the First Amendment, libraries preserving the past, libraries embracing and leading technological innovations for the future – quickly explode any myths about a staid and passive profession. Yet libraries are facing hard economic times, just at the time when so many people need them and Johnson wants to make sure that we don’t let them and what they stand for disappear:

“In tight economic times, with libraries sliding farther and farther down the list of priorities, we risk the loss of their ideals, intelligence, and knowledge, not to mention their commitment to access for all –  librarians consider free access to information the foundation of the information revolution because they level the field. They enable those without money or education to read and learn the same things as the billionaire and the Ph.D.”

Don’t let your library disappear.

Frugal Librarian #18: Library Ledger

Library patrons don’t often get a chance to see how the dollars and quarters accrue in their favor.  Spend a couple minutes plunking in values on this Library Value Calculator assembled by several libraries across the country to get an accurate representation of the kind of value you as a consumer have reaped.

For example, if you have used the library to answer two reference questions, borrow two books, check out two movies, and use the internet for two hours, count yourself a savvy spender friend.  You’ve just saved 114 dollars.  Before you call these figures inflated and self-serving, go to a doctor, lawyer or body shop and see how quickly their services tally up.

Being a library cardholder is not just good citizenship, it is smart money.

The Library Bill of Rights

billofrightsThe Library Bill of Rights:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 18, 1948, by the ALA Council; amended February 2, 1961; amended June 28, 1967; amended January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 24, 1996.

Did you know?

The Library Bill of Rights states the American Library Association’s policy on Intellectual Freedom and is based on a policy written by Forrest Spaulding, Director of the Des Moines Public Library, put into effect in his own library on November 21, 1938.  The ALA Council then modified the statement and adopted it as The Library Bill of Rights during the 1939 Annual Conference and has since been amended on multiple occasions as libraries continue to evolve with society and technology.

American Library Association, Office for Intellectual Freedom. Intellectual freedom manual. ALA Editions, 2006. accessed via Google Books.

“Libraries Will Get You Through Times of No Money…..

…..better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”

— Henry David Thoreau

Economic downturn getting to you? High gas prices keeping you close to home? Turn to your local public library for free (so long as you return those books on time!) help of all kinds including:

—books on surviving a layoff, writing a resume, learning new skills or learning about saving money by growing your own food, sewing your own clothes, saving energy in your home, even free internet access

—entertainment in the form of DVDs, magazines, newspapers, computer games, music CDs, and – oh yeah – good old books

—keep the kids busy with the multitude of programs at the library – everything from Movie Matinees to puppet workshops – and don’t forget to sign up the whole family (pre-school through adult) for the Summer Reading Program – prizes for everyone!

NBC News ran this story recently about how public libraries are doing all this and more during this recession. What about you – have you turned to the library now more than ever? If so, how? Let us know – and spread the word!

National Library Week — Great Books about Librarians

free-for-all1Some people think that libraries are stuffy, tomb-like places run by bespectacled octogenarians whose primary  function is to go around shhhussshing  others.  Those of us who actually work in one know that’s far from the truth.  One book I found that  really hit the nail on the head as far as how libraries today really operate  is Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert.  Okay, it’s about a library in California, so some things are a little different, but it is still a quick read that’s delightfully funny, yet peppered with some very poignant moments.

down-cut-shin-creekFor a nonfiction take on the subject, check out Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer.  During the Great Depression, this WPA program was started to put women to work and to serve the very poor in remote regions of the country.  These courageous book carriers provided their own horses or mules and were paid  a whopping $28 a month!

miss-rumphius2As far as children’s books, an old favorite of mine is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.  Miss Rumphius, a retired librarian, plants lupines all over her community– in order to leave the world a better place.  The message is touching and the illustrations inspiring — it’s a feel good book that just makes you want to go out and DO something!

Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

One frigid winter morning in Spencer Iowa, Vicki Myron opened the public library’s book drop to discover an abandoned kitten. Starving and nearly frozen to death, Myron rescues the kitten and changes both of their lives forever.

Named Dewey Readmore Books, the kitten quickly settles into life at the library. Myron, who eventually becomes the director of Spencer Public Library, takes care of him and becomes his closest pal, but Dewey quickly makes friends with anyone that comes to the library, from the shyest child to the most preoccupied businessman. His story spreads far and wide – Japanese television made a documentary about him and his obituary ran in more than 200 newspapers when he died at age 19. Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World is Myron’s loving tribute to this charming and friendly cat, but it’s also the story of Spencer struggling through difficult economic times, and about Myron who faced several personal and health crisis’. It’s also a love letter to libraries and their place in a community.

Davenport Library had it’s own library cat many years ago, also named Dewey. A stray kitten that walked in the front door at the Annie Wittenmyer Branch (where the doors were often propped open because of lack of air conditioning), our Dewey made himself right at home. We kept him for almost two years, until we found him a forever home where he lived (and ruled) for the rest of his 14 years.