A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online
Author photo of David Nicholls

David Nicholls on the Fond Embarrassment of First Love and Community Theater

In David Nicholl’s hilarious and tender Sweet Sorrow, the impending marriage of thirty-eight year-old Charlie causes him to look back on his formative first relationship, a summer romance with the ebullient Fran, a fellow cast member in a community theater production of Romeo and Juliet over twenty years earlier. As the present-day Charlie recalls the highs of falling in love and the many embarrassments of his first foray into acting, he also recounts the darker moments of that summer: the loneliness of being left behind as his school friends prepared to leave for university and his recently divorced dad grappling with the collapse of his beloved record shop. The result is an emotionally rich look at a man reckoning with his past and the relationships that guided him to his present, one that stands proudly alongside Nicholls’ previous books, which include the beloved One Day and Starter for Ten.

a woman with a laptop attending an online meeting

Libraries Launch BLM Book Clubs

As indicated by the ALA’s response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, libraries have an obligation to act on behalf of racial justice with genuine systemic change, not just statements or book lists.

image of four hands holding gears to the sky

Encouraging Computational Thinking for Young Children and Families From a Distance

Development of computational thinking skills can begin in very early childhood, helping to foster creative problem solvers capable of solving 21st century challenges. By intentionally incorporating, modeling, and making computational thinking skills accessible in your programs and services during this time and beyond, you can empower and support families in this realm.

library shelving

Rising to the Challenges

Like many of you I am struggling to adapt to the new world in which our branches are empty and quiet.

Public Library Association Call to Action for Public Library Workers to Address Racism

The Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), calls on public library workers to commit to structural change and to taking action to end systemic racism and injustice.

Author Photo of Sameer Pandya

Sameer Pandya on Digging into the Everyday Lives of Characters and Opening Up the Campus Novel

Sameer Pandya’s Members Only charts a calamitous week in the life of Raj Bhatt, a charming middle-aged anthropology professor at a South Californian university. As part of his tennis club’s membership committee, Raj has long sought to diversify the club’s lily white makeup. He’s thus delighted to meet Bill Brown, a charismatic Black doctor who is applying to the club. Yet during Bill’s membership meeting, Raj makes a racist joke in a disastrous attempt to bond with Bill and his wife. From there, Raj’s week only gets worse. His white colleagues at the club demand to dictate the terms in which Raj should apologize (while blithely ignoring their own past racist comments), while a cohort of Raj’s white students rise up to protest his “reverse racism” in the classroom. Through it all, Pandya navigates Raj’s world with insight and grace, making Raj’s miserable week very, very funny in the process.

Social Work in Public Libraries

Fostering Resilience via Libraries/Library Work

As I continue to report to work during shelter in place, I have witnessed people linger at the front gates of the San Francisco Public Library anxiously asking when the library will open again.

Author Photo of Diane Cardwell

Diane Cardwell on Surfing, Falling Over and Over Again, and the Danger of Saving Yourself for a Future that Never Comes

Diane Cardwell was in her mid-forties when a chance visit to Rockaway Beach altered the trajectory of her life. A successful journalist for The New York Times, Cardwell was at Rockaway for a story, but found herself transfixed by the surfers on the beach. That fortuitous encounter caused her to sign up for a surf lesson, and soon Cardwell was spending every spare moment at the beach, forging friendships with other surfers, and eventually buying a home there so she could more seriously pursue her newfound passion. Her memoir, Rockaway: Surfing Headlong into a New Life, charts Cardwell’s journey of self-transformation through surfing, providing not only a bighearted exploration of Rockaway, but also exquisite sports writing that plants the readers on top of the surfboard.

Gerard Koeppel Author Photo

Gerard Koeppel on the Clash of Cultures that Turned Deadly on the High Seas

In Gerard Koeppel’s engrossing Not a Gentleman’s Work: The Untold Story of a Gruesome Murder at Sea and the Long Road to Truth, Koeppel investigates a murder trial that captured the attention of the late nineteenth century but is now largely forgotten. In 1896, six days into a twelve-week voyage to Buenos Aires, crew members […]

illustration of a kid with a mask on

A Covid-19 Digital Archive

Participatory digital archives allow libraries to collect community responses to the pandemic in real time.

Ivy Pochoda Author Photo

Ivy Pochoda on Emotionally Resonant Endings and the Character Who Broke Her Book Open

Ivy Pochoda’s extraordinary These Women dives into the inner lives of disparate women in the West Adams neighborhood of Southern Los Angeles, whose worlds are upended by a shocking murder in their community. Dorian runs a local restaurant, mired in grief over her daughter’s horrific murder over a decade earlier, while Julianna spends her nights working at a club and her days exploring her newfound passion in photography. As Dorian fights for justice not only for her own daughter but the two most recent victims, unexpected connections emerge among the women, hurtling the reader to a devastating and unexpected conclusion.

photograph of a brownish colored dirt road with trees on either side winding off into the distance

Bookmobiles Navigate New Terrain

Amid a public health crisis and a host of new safety considerations, mobile libraries are finding creative solutions to continue bringing services to communities that need it most.


six kids reading on the floor of a library

Rethinking Summer Reading Rewards

If we sincerely want to encourage reading, then we should look at the evidence. Data supporting the use of SRP incentives to increase reading performance is sorely lacking. However, there is ample evidence to demonstrate the detrimental effects of rewards on just about every endeavor. When rewards are involved, people tend to do the bare minimum to obtain the prize, do it poorly, and enjoy it less.

Social Work in Public Libraries

Prioritizing Staff Mental Health When Reopening

Now more than ever, our libraries must prioritize not only the physical safety of our staff members but also their mental health. I see this as both compassionate workplace policy and a customer service issue. As libraries and our community partners attempt to do more with less, as stability in our lives decreases, we must do what we can to take care of one another so that our libraries may then take care of our patrons.

March/April 2020 feature article

Even in the Worst-Case Scenario

What are public libraries meant to do for their communities? How does the changing nature of our community also change our mission? And when crisis strikes, disrupting the assumptions, routines, and procedures of “business as usual,” what is the impact on the social role of our institution?