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Brendan Dowling Author Archive


Email: bdowling@ala.org  


Barbara Lipska Author Photo

Barbara Lipska on Deciphering and Destigmatizing Mental Illness

In January 2015, doctors informed Barbara Lipska that her melanoma had spread to her brain. With her frontal lobe compromised by tumors, Lipska soon began exhibiting schizophrenia and dementia-like symptoms. The subsequent eight weeks were a harrowing ordeal for Lipska, who was unaware of the affects her illness had on her brain, and her family. Yet two months after she was diagnosed, the experimental immunotherapy doctors prescribed had successful results. With her mental health restored, Lipska applied her skills as a neuroscientist to dissect the physical affects on her brain. Her resulting memoir, The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery, co-written with Elaine McArdle, is a moving account of her illness plus an accessible exploration of the relationship between the brain and behavior.

Cris Beam Author Photo

Cris Beam on Empathy’s Ability to be Both Personal and Exemplary

In Cris Beam’s I Feel You: The Surprising Power of Extreme Empathy, Beam brings her formidable skills as a journalist to unpack how empathy is deployed in the 21st century, examine its origins in popular culture, and understand its fluid definitions. Along the way she shows the reader the role empathy has played from the […]

Mario Giordano Author Photo

Mario Giordano on Sicily, the Two Fs, and his Glamorous New Detective

Mario Giordano’s Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions introduces an indelible new detective to mystery lovers in the form of the hard-drinking, charismatic Poldi, a Bavarian transplant who has moved to Sicily to drink herself to death. Her end-of-life plans, however, get interrupted when her handsome handyman is discovered murdered. Poldi soon finds herself thrust […]

Diane Barth

Diane Barth on How Noticing the Small Details Enrich Friendships

Diane Barth’s I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women’s Lives draws on Barth’s extensive experience as a psychotherapist to examine the complexities of female friendship. Barth interviewed a broad range of women about their relationships, discussing how their need for friendship transforms over time and common problems they encounter. The result […]

From the President

Creating Opportunities

Because our culture is so divided now, the role of public libraries as an anchor in our communities is even more important. Libraries are not only the center of our communities. They help us stay grounded. Public libraries are safe zones, places where all people are welcome and included. Places where it is safe to explore different cultures, food, and religions. Places to be introduced to ideas that might be different. Places where it is safe to have conversations with people you might not know and who you might disagree with. Places of civic discourse.

January/February The Wired Library

Towards a Framework for Digital Justice in Public Libraries

In the wake of the net neutrality repeal, now more than ever, public libraries need to rise to the challenge of engaging in digital justice work. As librarians, we know that the repeal of net neutrality hurts all of us. However, in a climate of increasing inequality and opportunity gaps, marginalized communities, especially people of color, low-income households, and rural communities, are primed to be most negatively impacted by the FCC’s egregious party-line decision.

January/February Feature Article

Reflections on Gender Oppression and Libraries

During the past year, the public discourse on sexual harassment and gender-based abuse of power has shifted. Women’s marches, the social media #MeToo movement, and the public condemnation of high-profile individuals accused of sexual misconduct have disrupted the nation’s previously accepted complacency and led to demands for accountability. While the national focus on sexual harassment represents an elevated platform and increased visibility for (primarily white) women speaking out against gender oppression, it has yet to translate into a mass movement for pay equity, improved workplace conditions, increased access to childcare, reproductive freedom, and an end to violence against and exploitation of women. This is a case where the individual actions are receiving a lot of attention, but we are in danger of missing the deeper institutional and structural drivers of persistent and entrenched gender inequity.

January/February Feature Article

Civic Engagement through Community-Led Programming

In 2017, Seattle Public Library (SPL) staff spent the year exploring the social impact of mass incarceration in our city and country. This project marked the second year
that a civic topic was selected to explore through a series designed to empower and center communities throughout Seattle.1 The Criminal Justice Series leveraged traditional engagement techniques that reflect libraries’ “bread and butter” work of information sharing, awareness raising, and enrichment, including public programs, a social media campaign, art exhibit, and related booklists. What made it noteworthy as an instrument of civic engagement was that it relied on a community-led process that placed individuals who are directly affected by criminal justice at the center of program development while library staff played a supporting role.

January/February Feature Article

Social Justice Symposium for Teens

If you’ve worked with young people for just about any length of time, a teenager has likely shared something painful with you and you may have felt momentarily powerless to help them. I experienced a moment like that on an afternoon when I heard a small group of young teens in my library branch discussing police brutality. I sat down with the teens that day and I listened. They were furious, frustrated, and sad. Absorbing their words and their feelings, I felt those same emotions. I also felt helpless. Their pain was so large and I felt so small in that moment.

January/February Feature Article

Quiet Rebels at Brooklyn Public Library

This winter, Brooklyn Public Library partnered with Bard College to invite students who have faced multiple barriers to higher education to enroll in free, credit-bearing classes taught by Bard faculty at our Central Library. Recently, some of us got a chance to meet the new cohort of seventeen students over lunch. It was the students’ second day of classes. The students were excited or nervous (or both) and were talkative and appreciative of the library and how welcoming it was. They all seemed to share a readiness to jump into reading, discussing, and learning about new ideas, and developing and expanding upon their own. This is a group, like other groups of college students, where lifelong friendships are bound to form.

The Wired Library

Fostering a Contemplative Culture

Before we get started, I’d like to settle us on some terms. We hear words such as mindfulness, contemplation, contemplative practice, reflection, and space-making floating around the workplace, and for some they mean very specific things. Reflection may be a specified process one goes through to review past actions. Mindfulness may be an Eastern philosophy or simply a way to be especially thoughtful. For this column, I’d like to flatten them all into the following common definition: “awareness of the present moment.” So, for example, “I’m contemplating,” means, “I’m aware of the present moment.” (As opposed to thinking deeply or ruminating about the past or imagining the future.) For me, these words all point to a way of being instead of doing. And I’m especially interested in how librarians can be more, instead of do more.

Under the Radar

Closing the Books

I struggled with a fitting topic for this final column and tossed aside many ideas that didn’t seem to impart a sense of closure. So I’m going to leave you with a few of my current favorite things and some items that are never off my radar.

From the President

Community Values

PAM SMITH is Director of Anythink Libraries in Thornton (CO). Contact Pam at psmith@anythink libraries.org. Pam is currently reading Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews. This has been the year of strategic planning at Anythink Libraries, where I work. The Anythink Board of Trustees challenged our team to reinvent the library once again, […]

November December 2017 Public Libraries Feature Article Header

Project Outcome Results in Action

PLA commissioned ORS Impact to interview participating libraries and community stakeholders to create five success case studies for its performance measurement initiative, Project Outcome (PO). PO is a free online toolkit designed to help public libraries understand and share the impact of essential library programs and services by providing simple surveys and an easy-to-use process for measuring and analyzing outcomes. What PLA learned from the case studies is that, even with limited survey responses, libraries are able to leverage their outcome data into actionable results. By using Project Outcome surveys, libraries are tracking their impact across time; improving and expanding programs and services to meet community needs; supporting new and deepen- ing existing partnerships; and increasing library championship.

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

How Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi Walked Her Novel Before She Wrote It

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s stunning Z is For Zebra introduces an unforgettable character with Zebra, a 22-year-old literary prodigy from Iran. When Zebra’s father dies, she decides to retrace her family’s journey from Iran to New York. She soon finds herself in Catalonia, where she becomes entangled with Ludo, a hapless philologist who challenges Zebra’s more intellectually insular existence. Steeped in literature, Zebra confidently holds forth on topics such as displacement, war, and sexuality in a manner that is sure to captivate readers. Van der Vliet Oloomi’s was named one of the National Book Award’s “35 Under 35,” and Z is for Zebra was named by a Most Anticipated Title of 2018 by the Boston Globe, Nylon, Book Riot, and The Millions.