A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Brendan Dowling Author Archive


Email: bdowling@ala.org  


Feature Article

Supporting Strategic Planning with Project and Data Management

No matter the size of the library or the population it serves, all public libraries are working toward a common goal—providing relevant and impactful services in areas most important to patrons. As we strive to be a data-driven organization at Sno-Isle Libraries in Snohomish and Island Counties, WA, it is our job to make sure our programs are allocating the right amount of resources to our highest priority services and addressing the needs and interests of our communities. And we need the data to show it.

Feature Article

The Library as Scholarly Publisher An Informal History of the Bulletin of the New York Public Library

Several initiatives to develop, support, and enhance the library-as-publisher have emerged in the last few years. As digital information continues to transform libraries, it is useful to look back at the history of the library’s role as scholarly publisher. Understanding the history and significance of the Bulletin of the New York Public Library, one of the exemplars of this role, is particularly illuminating. As libraries increasingly emphasize content and access to unique local collections, this publication serves as an illustrative encouragement and historical guidepost for the future of scholarly publishing by libraries.

Feature Article

The Power of Community Outreach Meeting the Demands of the Growing Senior Population

What exactly does the term “outreach” mean in the library eld? Outreach represents different services libraries might offer— programming, homebound deliveries, bookmobiles, volunteering, community events—as well as collaboration with schools, Spanish speakers, the homeless, the LGBT community, hospitals, senior facilities, and correctional facilities. When I accepted the position of outreach services librarian at the St. Charles (IL) Public Library District (SCPLD) in February 2015, I did not grasp what outreach fully meant or truly appreciate what an exciting field of librarianship I was entering. Not all libraries have dedicated outreach librarians or departments. So why should libraries become more aware of outreach services?

Feature Article

“Excuse Me, Is There a Loss Section?” Readers’ Advisory to the Grieving and Bereaved

They come up to the desk and, for the most part, they do not look particularly sad. Most of them look tired–very tired. I look over or approach and ask if I can help them, and as they edge closer to the desk, sometimes dropping their voices at the same time, they ask: “Do you have books for when somebody has died?”

The Wired Library

Accessing Digital Information

For the past three years, the Queens (NY) Library has embarked on a project to radically improve the way library customers discover and access digital content and information resources (which from this point will be referred to as “digital information”). Queens Library invests with a variety of providers to license a rich array of digital information for our customers, but like most libraries, has been forced to rely on a complex set of proprietary interfaces to navigate and deliver them. Only the savviest customers are able to keep track of a large number of separate usernames, passwords, and website URLs. Even when this barrier is crossed, accessing this digital information (or even finding out what is available) requires them to follow links out of the library’s system and over to the digital in- formation provider’s system.

Under the Radar

Readers for Social Justice

With great book groups comes great responsibility—to be open to tough conversations. Since the 2016 presidential election, many of Kansas City (MO) Public Library’s book clubs have been asking for reading that exposes them to different viewpoints. They want fiction that humanizes the news accounts they read; they want nonfiction that helps explain the issues.

From the President

Being Loved Is Not Enough

I’d like to reveal an important lesson that all librarians need to understand by telling a story that opened my eyes to the power of libraries and of librarians. There are a number of lessons to be learned from this story, but most important may be the realization that we can’t keep underestimating our community’s respect and love for what we provide them.

May/June Public Libraries

Diversity in Public Libraries Strategies for Achieving a More Representative Workforce

This lack of diversity has been lamented as a problem for decades, yet in spite of efforts to increase the diversity of the library workforce, there has been minimal progress. Much has been written about how to increase diversity in libraries, including suggestions for improving every step of the process from library and information science education, to hiring and retaining a more diverse workforce, to developing diverse collections and library programs. Libraries are not the only work setting that faces a problem with diversity. However, given that the public library is a forum that serves a variety of communities and interests, it is critical to develop a public library workforce that more accurately reflects the diverse backgrounds that public libraries serve.

May/June Public Libraries

Antifragile Management and the End of the Annual Performance Review

MARY JO FINCH is Director and AUTUMN SOLOMON is Associate Director of Westbank Community Library District in Austin (TX). Contact Mary Jo at maryjo@westbanklibrary.com. Contact Autumn at autumn@westbanklibrary.com. Mary Jo is currently reading The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work by Christine Carter. Autumn is currently reading Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined […]

May/June Public Libraries

Managing Library Millennials

When I think of my grandmother, I remember the food she always had in her pantry: Honey Nut Cheerios, Ritz Crackers, Folgers coffee, Joy ice cream cones, and Tang. When I think of my own cupboards, I rarely have one consistent item. Sometimes I will purchase brand names and other times I will get the dollar store version. I like to try out different items, different brands, or buy whatever is on sale. This is not what companies like to hear. Millennials’ fickle trends, popular diets, and adventurous exploring do not provide a dependable customer base.

The Wired Library

Tech 2 Go

I was once giving a presentation on circulating nontraditional items. When one librarian stood up and casually mentioned that her library circulated bicycles, I nearly fell over. Others told me that their libraries circulate cake pans, power tools, musical instruments, paintings, and more. I once heard, and I half hope this is not real and half want to hear the assuredly amazing stories, of a library that was circulating costumes.

Under the Radar

My Kind of Town

Chicago was more than ready for the merriment that thousands of librarians brought to the American Library Association’s 2017 Annual Conference. Keep the spirit of Chicago alive this summer with some of these books, films, podcasts, and cultural touchstones.

From the President

The Transformation Will Not be Televised

Now transformation may seem like a strong word, but PLA is clearly transforming the way it serves its members and the way it represents public libraries as an industry. As the PLA spokesperson, I try not to be the hyperbolic salesman, but I’ve had the good fortune of presenting our new initiatives and services for the past year to library staff at all levels.

From the President

The Power of Public Libraries

The Anythink Libraries bookmobile was part of the Memorial Day parade in one of our local communities. I was surprised at how people responded with such admiration and affection as the bookmobile closed the parade. Onlookers cheered, applauded, and shouted out, “We love our library!” I know that moments like this occur for public libraries everywhere. This sense of pride and heartfelt connection brings to mind the respect that public libraries garner in our communities. Public libraries are among the most trusted institutions in the United States. With this trust, I realize that libraries have earned the responsibility—and even the power—to help create sustainable communities.

Under the Radar

Blind Them With Science

Science is having a parsec. It’s one of the most popular trending topics in popular non fiction. Let’s give some credit to Adam and Jamie of the television show Mythbusters (2003–16) for showing us all how to blow stuff up safely, and to Bill Nye for inspiring millions of science fair projects that weren’t boring. It didn’t take long for compelling science non fiction to make its way to print, screen, and airwaves. Science is cool, trending, fun, and interesting. And, no surprise here, infinitesimal. Here is a mere sampling of some new, quirky, fascinating books, movies, podcasts, and more to recommend to patrons seeking an instant chemical reaction.