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Social Work in Public Libraries

Guidance for Social Work Positions at the Library

While a library/social work partnership may seem like a no-brainer, there is much for a library system to consider before partnering with a social work professional. We’d like to share some of those considerations to help you determine if a social work program could be a good fit for your library.

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Jo Hamya on Virginia Woolf, The Worst Bits of Twitter, and The Smell of Library Hand Soap

Jo Hamya’s perceptive and acidic Three Rooms springs from Virginia Woolf’s observation, “A woman must have money and a room of her own,” chronicling the year in the life of an unnamed British scholar as she shuttles among three rooms while attempting to launch her career. From the room in Oxford where she finishes up her academic career, to renting space on a couch while she ekes out a precarious existence as a copywriter at a society magazine, to a room in her childhood home, Hamya charts her protagonist’s attempt at financial independence with wit, compassion, and uncompromising insight. The result is a rich exploration of a character’s inner life as well as a sharp social critique of early twenty-first century Britain. Critics have met Hamya’s debut novel with universal acclaim, with The New York Times Book Review saying it “invokes the reality of living in a world where a reasonable demand is resolutely categorized as unreasonable” and The Boston Globe calling it “an excellent evisceration of contemporary life.” She spoke to us about Woolf’s influence, treating the internet as a physical space, and how poetry helped shape her narrator’s voice.

barbed wire and high fence

Serving the Incarcerated During the Pandemic

Libraries have been providing service to the incarcerated for many decades. While this past year has challenged the ability to serve the general public, many library systems continue to reach out to jail and prison populations. Here are examples from three large library systems that reflect the variety of creative programs and the outstanding efforts […]

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Elinor Lipman On How The Secret Service, An Optometrist, and Shirley Maclaine Helped Craft Her Delightful New Comedy of Manners

In Rachel to the Rescue, Elinor Lipman’s effervescent new novel, the astute and observant Rachel finds herself in a dead end job in the White House Office of Records Management, archiving the various paperwork President Trump rips up by painstakingly taping them back together. One night, made over-confident by too much alcohol, Rachel inadvertently sends an all-staff email eviscerating her job’s pointlessness and tediousness. The next morning, Rachel is promptly fired. Yet when she crosses the street she’s hit by a car, the driver of which is a mysterious figure en route to a clandestine meeting with the President. Recovering from her concussion, Rachel finds herself thrust into a new world, working for an inept investigative journalist, fending off overprotective parents, and navigating a new relationship with the charming proprietor of the wine store near her apartment. The result is a delightful comedy of manners that mixes political intrigue with deeply felt relationships.

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Working Paper Seeks to Quantify Library ROI

Study shows correlation between library capital investment and student success.

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Library Spaces and Well Building Ideals

According to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend about 90% of their time inside buildings. Based on data for the 20-21 fiscal year, the total number of computer sessions in my library system was 77,769, with each session lasting, on average, forty minutes. This means that the residents spend more than 50,000 hours at the public library in a given year, making the public library one of the most popular indoor spaces

illustration of a bike with a library sign

Library Book Bikes Gaining in Popularity

Book bikes — a portable, eco-friendly, and relatively low-cost investment — are experiencing something of a renaissance as public libraries find creative ways to take their collections and resources outdoors.

Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi on Intense Friendships, Memory, and the Alchemical Quality of Language

As a teenager, Arezu, an Iranian American teenager, visited Marbella in an attempt to reconnect with her estranged father. Her father failed to materialize, however, instead sending Arezu money via his new wife’s nephew, Omar, a forty-year-old Lebanese man. Two decades later, Arezu still grapples with the aftershocks of her complicated relationship with Omar that summer, one which shadows every other aspect of her life. When she inherits her father’s apartment, she returns to Marbella with her best friend, Ellie, an Israeli American professor. Confronted with the physical space of her most traumatic experiences, Arezu attempts to reconstruct the events of that summer from an adult perspective, in hopes that she can finally give words to a relationship that she has never been able to describe. In Savage Tongues, Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi plumbs the depths of a character’s psyche, while giving the reader a thrilling glimpse of the political, religious, and philosophical components of women’s friendship. Critics have heaped praise on Savage Tongues, with Vulture calling it a “a love story of the most fevered, brutal order,” and Refinery29 hailing it as “a hauntingly beautiful depiction of the way past traumas grip at our insides, threatening to tear us apart years after we’ve experienced them.”

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From Alone to Together Again: Using Data to Deliver Value

Meet Patron 11. Let’s call her a super fan! She’s a 35-44 year-old white woman with a husband and two children. They use many of the library’s services – they max out their borrowing, they spread out in the space, they rattle off the new services the library rolls out, and they are strong advocates […]

IFLA Public Library of the Year Award Finalists

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has announced five finalists for the sixth annual Public Library of the Year award, with the winner to be announced on August 19th during the IFLA’s annual conference, to be taken place virtually this year. The Public Library of the Year award goes to a library […]

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Local PBS Stations Help Libraries Plan for the Year Ahead

WQED/Pittsburgh’s Inquire Within Network offers a model for collaboration between public libraries and public television stations. Libraries should ask their local public television stations these questions and get resources to kick-start, reimagine, or build upon community-responsive programming.

Image of the "Cursed" book cover

Cursed — A Conversation with Karol Ruth Silverstein

Since 2004, ALA’s Schneider Family Book Award has honored an author or illustrator for a title that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.  In 2020, the “teen” category prize went to screenwriter and first-time novelist Karol Ruth Silverstein’s Cursed, published in 2019 by Charlesbridge Teen. Readers meet 14-year-old […]

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Act to Ensure Libraries Part of Infrastructure Act

Within the next two weeks Congress will make historic decisions about how to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. ALA is asking advocates to act to ensure libraries aren’t left out.

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Nicole Glover on Pocket Diaries, Floating Books, and Creating the Fantastical World of her Debut Novel

With The Conductors, Nicole Glover creates a fascinating alternate reality—a Reconstruction-era Philadelphia where magic exists and is regulated by the government—in which readers will want to get lost. Hettie Rhodes, a former conductor on the Underground Railroad, spends her days working as an in-demand seamstress and her nights as a detective, tackling the cases that the white police force ignore. Hettie is aided in her pursuits by her husband, Benjy, a former Conductor like Hettie but now a gifted blacksmith. When an acquaintance is murdered, Hettie and Benjy dive into an investigation that causes them to explore the many facets of Black Philadelphia, while also confronting dormant issues in their relationship and events from their past. In her debut novel, Glover confidently creates a complex world rooted in real-life history, as well as a gift for empathetically delving into the interior lives of her characters. She talked with us about filling in the lives of her supporting characters, her research process, and what the future holds for Hettie and Benjy.

Author photo of Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman

Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman on Co-Writing a Novel, Google Doc Etiquette, and Creating the Most Unexpected Relationship of the Summer

Ava Simon has insulated herself from the trauma of the death of her girlfriend by throwing herself into her job at STÄDA, a minimalist Scandinavian design company in Brooklyn. Her ordered world, however, is thrown into tumult when her charismatic new boss, Mat Putnam, wiggles his way into her personal life. Overconfident and gregarious, Mat appears to be everything Ava is not, a Golden Retriever in human form. The two strike up a surprising relationship, and for the first time since her girlfriend’s death, Ava surprises herself by developing romantic feelings for another person. Yet Mat contains secrets of his own, and as Ava begins to pull at the threads of his facade she threatens to unravel her hard-won happiness. Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman’s A Very Nice Box is a gleeful satire of relationships and start-up culture, as well as an incisive examination of grief and male entitlement, one that has earned plaudits from critics. The New York Times Book Review raved about the book, stating “the book’s authors, Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman, are linguistic magicians, and their sparkling debut manages to expose the hollowness of well-being jargon while exploring, with tender care and precision, how we dare to move on after unspeakable loss.” Blackett and Gleichman talked to us about their unconventional writing process, creating the richly detailed world of their novel, and creating one of the most unanticipated relationships of the summer.