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Brendan Dowling Author Archive


Email: bdowling@ala.org  


Adelia Saunders Author Photo

Adelia Saunders On How Her Adventures In Archives Shaped “Indelible”

Adelia Saunders’ Indelible centers around Magda, a young Lithuanian woman who possesses a burdensome ability: she’s able to read the major and minor events of people’s lives on their skin. She copes by not wearing her glasses (rendering her barely able to see at all), but she’s jolted out of her routine when she reads her own name on the face of Neil, a young American graduate student studying abroad in Paris. Meanwhile, Neil’s father Richard has also traveled to Paris to research the life history of his mother, a prolific and influential author who abandoned him as a toddler. As the novel progresses, Saunders deftly reveals the different secrets that comprise all three characters’ lives and shows how they are inextricably linked. Adelia Saunders spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone on October 19th, 2016.

nov-dec-2016-column

The Revolution Will Be Musicalized

How much fun has it been for librarians to watch everyone get excited about a piece of US history, the American Revolutionary War? And it’s all thanks to a peppy piece of musical theatre named Hamilton. It may be the music that’s moving folks, but the subject matter is sparking renewed interest in America’s birth story. Here are some suggestions in various formats to satisfy patrons ranging from musical theatre geeks to history buffs.

nov-dec-2016-column

Preparing for the Challenges Ahead

If the election has taught us anything, it is that standing quietly on the sidelines simply emboldens those who oppose our values. Join me and PLA as we ensure that public libraries are a safe place—free of intolerance for our communities and our staff.

Author M-E Girard

M-E Girard On Gaming, Rewriting, And Creating Her Multifaceted Main Character

M-E Girard’s Girl Mans Up tells the story of Pen, a gender-nonconforming high-school student, as she navigates a tumultuous year that involves breaking free from her domineering friend Colby, staking her independence from her overprotective parents, and embarking on a romance with her alluring classmate Blake. Pen’s vibrant and funny voice will draw readers in […]

Lit Sparking Community Connections with Dynamic Book Programming

In October 2015, Alberto Manguel wrote a fascinating editorial in The New York Times arguing for “reinventing the library.” Among those of us in the profession, and especially those of us who have passionately embraced and argued for libraries as community-centered institutions, such a title would have led us to expect an article focused on the many ways in which libraries, through creative programs and services, are establishing new relevance for themselves in the digital age. In Manguel’s essay, though, the reinvented library isn’t about makerspaces, concerts, yoga classes, or PokeStops. The reinvented library is about . . . books?

Measuring the Impact of Public Libraries

Success today is judged by the outcomes displayed by those who attend our programs. Please join us as we seek to document how we make our communities better. Get more information at www.projectoutcome.org or email info@projectoutcome.org.

Candidates for a Fun-Filled Fall

This summer, the Republican and Democratic parties held their quadrennial proms and crowned a king and a queen, and in the months that followed, the rest of us endured their frenetic campaigning for supreme ruler of school. It’s kind of like winning the Hogwarts House Cup.

Why Make? An Exploration of User-Perceived Benefits of Makerspaces

During the last decade, technology has provided us with tremendous individual power, and this has encouraged the development of what is being called the Maker Movement. This movement is having a profound effect upon the manufacturing sector as well as the individual’s ability to explore and share creative ideas using computer-aided design and an online network of collaborators. In response to interest in participating in self-directed projects that utilize digital tools and knowledge, libraries and other community-based organizations have created makerspaces. These facilities provide users with the physical tools and space to pursue their interests and collaborate on projects. Educational research shows that this type of activity can facilitate learning, but little is known about what the users themselves perceive to be the benefits of access to makerspaces. This exploratory study examines users’ perceptions of their experience in public library makerspaces.

Going Inside the Box The Wired Library

As learning is the point of libraries, it is time to consider the best ways to serve our communities. That means we need to do more to learn how people learn. There is an incredible amount of well-researched, well-documented learning theories. Two theories that we are currently drawn to are experiential learning and connected learning.

New Directors Reflect

The Merrimack Valley Library Consortium (MVLC), a consortium consisting of thirty-six public libraries welcomed ten new directors in the past two years. While consortia, the Massachusetts Library System, and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners rushed to welcome the new directors and provide them with additional training, they often found themselves confused and unsure of how to deal with deteriorating buildings, dwindling budgets, staffing demands, boards of trustees, friends groups, and public perceptions. Two new library directors, Peter Struzziero and Alex Lent, started a New Administrators Forum, where new directors could meet up, discuss challenges, and brainstorm solutions. This May, they held a program at the 2016 Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference. Several established library directors, including me, were invited to attend the session to share their wisdom. Following the program, a listserv was established so that the group could stay in touch. What follows are those experiences.

Author Photo: Jade Chang

Jade Chang On “The Wangs Vs. The World”

Jade Chang’s novel The Wangs Vs. The World traces the rollicking road trip of a brilliant family. The story kicks off when Charles Wang, a wealthy industrialist, loses all his money in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. Left without a place to stay, he gathers up his two youngest children: Andrew, a college student who dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian, and Grace, a death-obsessed teenager with a thriving fashion blog. They pile into an ancient Mercedes station wagon to drive cross country to the home of the oldest sibling, Saina, a conceptual artist reeling from a devastating break-up. As the characters adjust to their diminished financial means, they also navigate new territories in their personal lives as well. The New York Times praised the book as “unendingly clever” while Newsday called it “a firecracker of a debut.” Jade Chang spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone on October 27th, 2016.

Imbolo Mbue Author Photo

Imbolo Mbue on Being A Reader Who Writes and Redefining the American Dream

Imbolo Mbue’s transfixing debut novel, Behold the Dreamers, details the lives of Jende and Neni, two Cameroonian immigrants who have moved to New York to pursue the American Dream. The story begins in 2007 when Jende takes a chauffeur job with Clark Edwards, an executive at Lehman Brothers. More financial opportunities arise as Neni begins to work for Cindy, Clark’s wife, and the two families’ lives are soon deeply intertwined. When Lehman Brothers collapses, all four characters’ ways of life are threatened and they each begin to buckle under the financial pressure. Mbue’s lush and compassionate prose makes each character come to life and forces the reader to reexamine the notion of the American Dream. The New York Times Book Review hailed Behold the Dreamers as a “capacious, big-hearted novel” while The Washington Post praised Mbue as a “bright and captivating storyteller.” Mbue talked with Brendan Dowling via telephone on August 29, 2016.

UNDER THE RADAR | The Power of Story

At the time of this writing, many of us are angry and sad and frustrated, if the news and social media are any indication. And for many of us, books serve as a refuge when life becomes difficult. Yet while books can provide an escape from harsher realities, they can also provide a lens through which we can better view and understand what is unfolding around us.

PERSPECTIVES | Literacy and Parents

This column represents the final mining of a batch of submissions about establishing and revivifying the habit of literacy. Our contributors swing through a graceful arc, beginning with a thorough, best practices approach to early literacy, and extending even unto that dark, dark land of adulthood.