September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month for American Public Libraries


catlibrarycardThere is no better time of the year than September to sign up for a library card. All next month, the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries all across the country are celebrating the value of getting a library card. If you don’t already have a library card, then be sure to stop by your local public library sometime during the month of September. If you have one, but know a friend or young person who doesn’t, then bring them to the library to get a card! They will want one to check out books, ebooks, audio tapes, cds, videos, dvds, and access computer terminals, databases and download mp3s—all free!

Live in Brooklyn?

Live in Manhattan, Bronx, or Staten Island?

Live in Queens?



“This Is What a Librarian Looks Like”


Philadelphia based photographer/videographer Kyle Cassidy spoke with and photographed librarians at the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2014 Midwinter conference in Philadelphia and the results are in (see the entire photo essay here). Cassidy’s concept was, “If I can put you in front of 50,000 people to tell them one thing about libraries and librarians, what would it be?” In interviews, Cassidy asked librarians to talk about the challenges libraries face and why now, perhaps more than ever, they’re important. Sure, this is only what some librarians look like. That said, I was happy to hear these voices and honestly, I thought everyone looked fabulous (hi Ingrid!)


Librarians Stand with Wisconsin


Rallies were held across the country Saturday to support thousands holding steady at the Wisconsin Capitol in their fight against Republican-backed legislation aimed at weakening unions. Union supporters organized from New York to Los Angeles in a show of solidarity as the protest in Madison entered its 12th straight day and attracted its largest crowd yet: more than 70,000 people.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has introduced a bill that includes stripping almost all public workers, from librarians to snow plow drivers, of their right to collectively bargain on benefits and work conditions. Walker has said the bill would help close a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the 2011-13 budget. He also argues that freeing local governments from collective bargaining would give them flexibility amid deep budget cuts.

ALA president Roberta Stevens on proposed collective bargaining legislation: “The ALA supports library employees in seeking equitable compensation and recognizes the principle of collective bargaining as an important element of successful labor-management relations. We affirm the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively with their employers, without fear of reprisal. These are basic workers’ rights that we defend for thousands of academic, public and school library professionals.”

Knowledge (as opposed to mere information gathering), Public Space (as opposed to commercial or private space), and Sharing (as opposed to buying and selling)


Below is an excerpt from a speech given by Naomi Klein at the joint American Library Association/Canadian Library Association Conference, June 24 2003. Seven years old and still oh, so relevant. The topic: globalization and a warning to librarians against privatization.

When we talk about free trade or globalization, what we are really talking about is the fencing in, the enclosing, of the commons. This has reached into every aspect of our lives: health and education, of course, but also ideas, seeds, now purchased and patented, as well as traditional remedies, plants, water and even human genes: the privatization of life itself. And as you know, it is also reaching into libraries. Information, your stock and trade, ranks just below fuel as the most precious commodity coursing through the global economy. The U.S.’s single largest export is not manufactured goods or arms or food, it is copyrights; patents on everything from books to drugs…..This is the essence of free trade: making sure that absolutely nothing, whether books or water or ideas, is offered for free. The role of international trade law must be understood not only as taking down barriers to trade,  as it claims, but as a legal process that systematically puts up new barriers, around knowledge, technology and the commons itself, through fiercely protective patent and trademark law. There is absolutely nothing free about it.

The best way you can preserve the state funding you currently receive is to resist the temptation to partially privatize your precious public spaces, whether by letting advertisements into libraries, or co-branding with Microsoft, or outsourcing more of your core services. The more you allow the lines to be blurred between a library and a superstore, or a library and, heaven forbid, Google Answer, the more these multinationals will be able to turn around and claim that you are robbing them of their rightful market share. Partial privatizations will be used as the thin edge of the wedge, the legal precedent, to force more complete privatization down the road. It’s already happening with water, health care, sewers, and energy. Why, when information is so profitable, would libraries be immune?

Book store chains can imitate that feeling with local interest sections and story times, Amazon can talk about community stake holders, but a marketing concept will never be able to replicate the passion that flows from an institution that is truly an outgrowth of the people it serves. That passion, that sense of collective ownership, is your greatest protection in the unavoidable battles ahead. Remember that the next time a management consultant tells you that the only way to save your library is to act more like a corporation, or to turn your library into a bargain Barnes and Noble. Not only won’t it work, it will hurt you in the future when your users don’t fight for you because they can’t tell the difference between public and private space. The best way to stay public is to be public – truly, defiantly, radically public.

Naomi Klein is a leading anti-sweatshop activist, and author of Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate? (Picador, 2002) and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (Picador, 2000). Visit the No Logo website:

Prisoners Right to Read Incorporated Into ALA’s Library Bill of Rights


The Library Bill of Rights are statements of basic principles adopted by the ALA Council that govern the service of all libraries, ranging from the rights of youth to service to diversity in collection development. The Library Bill of Rights can be found in the Intellectual Freedom Manual, Eighth Edition, available online. Newly incorporated to the Bill is the Prisoners Right to Read (Adopted by the ALA Council, July 2010) underlining the following selected principles as guidelines to all library services provided to prisoners:

* Collection management should be governed by written policy, mutually agreed upon by librarians and correctional agency administrators, in accordance with the Library Bill of Rights, its Interpretations, and other
ALA intellectual freedom documents.

* Correctional libraries should have written procedures for addressing challenges to library materials, including a policy-based description of the disqualifying features, in accordance with “Challenged Materials” and other relevant intellectual freedom documents.

* Correctional librarians should select materials that reflect the demographic composition, information needs, interests, and diverse cultural values of the confined communities they serve.

* Age is not a reason for censorship. Incarcerated children and youth should have access to a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, as stated in “Free Access to Libraries for Minors.”

* Correctional librarians should make all reasonable efforts to provide sufficient materials to meet the information and recreational needs of prisoners who speak languages other than English.

* Equitable access to information should be provided for persons with disabilities as outlined in “Services to People with Disabilities.”

* Media or materials with non-traditional bindings should not be prohibited unless they present an actual compelling and imminent risk to safety and security.

* Material with sexual content should not be banned unless it violates state and federal law.

* Correctional libraries should provide access to computers and the Internet.

Congressional Inclusion of Libraries in Recovery Package?


Jeffrey Scherer, board chair of Libraries for the Future in New York and Minneapolis architect (MS&R) who worked on the Alvar Branch renovation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, has sent a letter to the New York Times urging that libraries not be left behind in the federal stimulus package.

He writes, “The proposed language of the $825 Billion Recovery Plan before the House of Representatives today does not include money for our libraries. While it includes roads and bridges to drive across our communities, it must include our intellectual bridges, the public library.”

The American Library Association (ALA) responded that Scherer, “though good-intentioned, has misunderstood and misrepresented the bill,” noting that libraries are qualifying institutions “for the K-12 Repair and Modernization funding and the Higher Education Repair and Modernization funding.” (That does still seem to leave out public libraries, however.)

To this, Scherer told the ALA Washington Office that his reading still indicates “that essentially public libraries are getting shorted in this bill,” from which “the 15,000+ public libraries in our society basically get nothing.” He went on to say, “That does not in any way suggest that the higher education, rural (native American) and school libraries do not deserve all that they can get. I applaud you for pointing this out. However, when a huge percentage of libraries are excluded, the notion that some libraries are included is just not enough.”

New ALA Tough Economy Toolkit


Chicago — A new web-based resource has just been released that will help library advocates make the case for libraries during times of economic downturn (such as now). The “Advocating in a Tough Economy” toolkit is available here.

“With city, county, state and federal budgets under increasing pressure, we need to be making the case for libraries more than ever. All too often, libraries are the first to receive budget cuts. Funders need to understand the essential role that libraries play in our society and economy, with usage up significantly, and increasing numbers of people coming to libraries for job-related services, for access to government assistance programs, and as a way of making their money go further.” says Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director. “The new toolkit will arm librarians and library supporters with the facts and strategies they need to speak out effectively for libraries in this tough economy.”

The toolkit contains information on how to work with decision-makers, ways to work with the media, and talking points to help libraries articulate the role of libraries in times of economic downturn. Talking points on the economic value of libraries, with return-on-investment examples; libraries and the economy; and upswings in library usage are included. Users are also invited to share their stories of how they have successfully advocated. Recent media coverage of libraries is also featured.

This resource is part of the “Advocacy U”, ALA’s new initiative geared to providing tools, training and resources to library advocates achieve real advocacy goals in real situations at the local level. Learn more at

“The Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit” is also a work in process. Updates and improvements will be implemented as new information and new success stories become available.