A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Brendan Dowling Author Archive


Email: bdowling@ala.org  


Author Photo of Paul Tough

Paul Tough on College Admissions, Social Mobility, and the Common Sense Solutions to Current Inequities in Higher Education

Paul Tough’s The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us builds on the extraordinary journalism of his earlier work, How Children Succeed, and dissects the current state of higher education. Tough dives into the the various components of the college world, introducing the reader to high-priced SAT tutors, admissions directors striving to achieve the perfect balance with incoming freshman classes, and College Board officials facing uncomfortable truths about who the SAT actually benefits. Yet the heart of the book belongs to the students Tough profiles, intelligent and resilient teenagers who courageously navigate the ever-changing college landscape. By combining rigorous research with compelling personal narratives, Tough crafts a work that is not only a status report on the changing world of higher education, but also a revelatory look at how social mobility works in America.

From the President July 2019

The Importance of Civic Engagement

As I was reflecting on the message for this column, I was reminded of a recent anniversary celebration at a branch library in San Antonio that clearly illustrated how public libraries impact so many lives on a daily basis. To celebrate such a milestone—fifty years—members of the community were invited to join the program that kicked off the celebration. I know the experience in San Antonio reflects what other public libraries throughout the country are doing to advance civic engagement; but it served as a good segue to this column.

The Wired Library 2019

Introducing Virtual Reality to Your Community

Once viewed as a bleeding-edge technology, virtual reality (VR) has seen explosive growth. A three-billion-dollar industry in 2017, virtual reality is currently forecast to surpass $50 billion in market value by 2023, driven by commercial VR headsets.1 Despite the increasing availability of VR technology, the cost can still present a barrier to access for many library patrons. Additionally, as with all emerging technologies, there can be a hesitancy to try something new. With this in mind, how can libraries work to introduce VR technology to our communities?

Magazine Feature July/August 2019

Issues That Matter: Forums Build Civic Engagement

Sno-Isle Libraries (SIL) debuted Issues That Matter forums in 2010
as a series of community discussions and debates. These forums convene
residents from communities across the entire two-county library
service area (Snohomish County and Island County, WA) to engage in
important community conversations on relevant, high-profile topics.
Through these events, the library extends its neutral stance to enable
civil, open discussion on controversial topics with the guidance of
several panelists and a program moderator. Sessions are recorded
and streamed live on Facebook. The forums connect citizens in the
communities we serve with local experts, stakeholders, and community
leaders.

Magazine Feature July/August 2019

A Civic Initiative About Information: The Civic Lab At Skokie Public Library

Since its inception in summer 2016, the Civic Lab has offered information and thought-provoking activities to support dialogue and engagement on issues that affect our community. At its heart, the Civic Lab—a team of library staff members from a variety of departments, working in a variety of positions—is about connecting community members of all ages with the information and resources they need to first understand issues that they care about and that are impacting the community, and then, with that foundation of understanding based on reputable information, make up their own minds about how they feel about an issue, and whether and how they want to act as a result.

Magazine Feature July/August 2019

Welcome to the United States: Naturalization Ceremonies at Your Public Library

The Hillsboro (OR) Public Library (HPL) has spent the past five years rebranding itself as a community center, a welcoming place for all. As inspired by HPL’s new mission statement (For Everyone, Para Todos), the staff have embraced and implemented a service model in which the library is a place where the entire community gathers, connects, and explores. As part of this new service model, we strive to create relationships with, and within, our community, as well as to provide an environment where our patrons may have significant interactions and experiences with HPL staff and with each other. And what better way to have a significant experience in one’s life than to take the new citizen’s oath of allegiance at the public library!

Bridgett M Davis Author Photo

“You Don’t Know How Unique Your Own Mother is Until You’re Out in the World” — Bridgett M. Davis on Her Heartwarming Memoir

In The World According to Frannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, Bridgett M. Davis traces the extraordinary life of her mother, a glamorous businesswoman who ran a thriving Numbers enterprise in Detroit for over thirty years. Frannie Davis arrived in Detroit in 1958 as a young mother with little prospects to support a growing family. She quickly transformed a $100 loan from her brother into a prosperous Numbers venture, serving as a de facto banker, bookie, and counselor for her neighborhood. With luminous prose, Davis delves into her mother’s life, providing an insider’s look at the Numbers world and a sweeping look at Detroit’s evolving landscape in the sixties and seventies.

Maureen Stanton Author Photo

Unlikely Mentors and Cultural Malaise: Maureen Stanton on her Powerful Memoir

Maureen Stanton probes her dark teenage years with compassion and insight in her new memoir, Body Leaping Backwards: Memoir of A Delinquent Girlhood. Stanton grew up in a boisterous family in 1970s Walpole, Massachusetts, a working-class community where the local prison loomed large in each citizen’s life. Yet when her parents divorce, Maureen and her family find themselves reeling not only from the seismic shifts in their personal lives, but from the political and cultural changes in the country as well. Maureen’s mother, a devout woman who puts herself through college as a single mother, soon finds herself resorting to shoplifting in order to put food on the table. Maureen, meanwhile, experiments with angel dust and dabbles in delinquency, skipping school and breaking into nearby homes. Stanton combines rigorous historical research with acute perception, crafting a memoir that takes a clear-eyed look at adolescence.

Casey McQuiston Author Photo

Casey McQuiston on Nora Ephron, History Nerds, and Full Circle Moments at her Library

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue spins an irresistible premise— what if the son of the U.S. President fell in love with the Prince of Wales— into one of the summer’s most pleasurable reads. Alex Claremont-Davis breezes through life as the son of the United States’ first female President, but he’s brought up short by a contentious relationship with the straight-laced Prince Henry. After a disastrous run-in involving a Royal wedding cake, both men must pose as friends in order to rehabilitate their images. This false friendship soon uncovers very real feelings, and the two men unexpectedly find themselves falling in love. What follows is equal parts swoony romance and adept political comedy that has delighted critics and readers alike.

Heidi Diehl Author Photo

Heidi Diehl on How History and Krautrock Shaped Her Beautiful New Novel

Heidi Diehl’s Lifelines tells the story of the brilliant Louise, bouncing between her life as a burgeoning art student fresh out of college to 2008, when she is in her late fifties with two grown children. In 1971, Louise moved to Germany to pursue her career as an artist. In short order, she fell in love with Dieter, a brooding musician, and had a baby with him. In 2008, Louise lives in Oregon, married to an unassuming professor of urban design, and has been unexpectedly retired from her job as an art teacher. When Dieter’s mother dies, Louise’s now-grown daughter, Elke, asks her to return to Germany for the funeral. Louise reluctantly agrees, reasoning that it will give her a chance to see her other daughter, Elke’s half-sister Margot, who’s touring Europe with her band. From there, Diehl orchestrates a marvelous family comedy as the different members are forced to confront long-buried secrets and unexamined facets of their relationships.

Gordon H. Chang Author Photo

Gordon Chang on the Amazing Accomplishments of the Ghosts of Gold Mountain

Gordon H. Chang’s Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad is a phenomenal work of historical research, giving readers an unprecedented look at the daily lives of the Chinese workers whose ingenuity and perseverance led to the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Chang dives into the workers’ lives both in China and in the U.S., providing insight into what motivated the workers to move across the ocean as well as the unimaginable working conditions they faced once in the States. Critics have heaped praise on Chang, with The Wall Street Journal stating that “he has written a remarkably rich, human and compelling story of the railroad Chinese” and Publisher’s Weekly calling his work “vibrating and passionate.”

PUBLIC LIBRARIES MARCH APRIL 2019 FEATURE ARTICLE

If You Want to Figure Out What America Is Go To a Library – An Interview with Jose Antonio Vargas

By BRENDAN DOWLING, Assistant Editor of PublicLibraries Online. Contact Brendan at brendowl@gmail.com.Brendan is currently reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas made headlines when he came out as an undocumented U.S. citizen in 2011. In his recent memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (HarperCollins, 2018), he details […]

public libraries nov dec 2018 feature article

We Are All Welcome in Libraries – A Conversation with Eric Klinenberg

By BRENDAN DOWLING, freelance writer living in LosAngeles. Contact Brendan at brendowl@gmail.com.Brendan is currently reading Middlemarch byGeorge Eliot. Sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s Palaces for The People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (2018) persuasively and forcefully argues that the strength ofcommunities is in direct proportion to the strength […]

Jason Barron Author Photo

Go Make Something Great Happen: Jason Barron on How Doodling Helped Get His MBA

Jason Barron combined entrepreneurial skills with artistic panache to create The Visual MBA: Two Years of Business School Packed into One Priceless Book of Pure Awesomeness. Barron used sketchnotes, a visual note-taking process, to retain information in his MBA program at Brigham Young University. The result turned to be so popular with professors and students alike that Barron turned the notes into a book, first through an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign and then through a publisher. The book is designed for anyone with a passing interest in the business world, and Barron’s lively illustrations make the most complex principle accessible to the lay person.

Esther Wojcicki Author Photo

Esther Wojcicki on Parenting, Teaching, and Why its Okay to Smile Before Christmas

In How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results, Esther Wojcicki distills the techniques she’s developed for over fifty years as an educator and parent to help readers raise self-reliant children. Combining research and reflection, Wojcicki’s outlines how her method, TRICK (for Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, and Kindness), empowers children to develop skills to be resilient members of society. Wojcicki is the founder of the Media Arts programs at Palo Alto High School as well as the CEO of Global Moonshots in Education, a non-profit which aims to instruct teachers and business leaders in the TRICK methodology.