A person can never have too many friends … right?! Well, neither can your local public library. In the realm of library supporters, organized library Friends groups play an invaluable role in promoting and fostering the success of public library systems across America. Friends groups can often help with activities that might not necessarily be readily accomplished by library staffers or even library governing board members.
Jeffrey Smith Author Archive
Jeffrey Smith, a resident of Nottingham, Maryland, presently serves as a member of the Board of Library Trustees for the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL). Additionally, he serves as the president for the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library. He has been an active member of ALA, PLA, the Maryland Library Association, and the Citizens for Maryland Libraries. He is presently serving as a member of ALA's Legislation Assembly. Jeffrey is presently reading “Memoirs of Harry S. Truman: 1946-52, Years of Trial and Hope.”
Maryland’s Washington County Free Library (WCFL) is noteworthy for a number of important reasons. It is the second oldest county-wide library system in the United States, having been founded in 1898. Additionally, this library system introduced the very first bookmobile—or to be more accurate, book-wagon—way back in 1905. The wagon stopped at individual houses and made books available to rural families. Also notable is the fact that, about four decades ago, staff members at the Washington County Free Library designed the image that was ultimately adopted by the American Library Association in 1982 as the international symbol for libraries.
Generally speaking, this is the time of year when our elected officials in Washington turn their attention to the crafting of a new budget for the upcoming federal fiscal year. As is the practice, President Barack Obama and his administration have recently released a comprehensive budget proposal for FY 2015. As it turns out, the news for library supporters is good, but not great.
As we approach the end of 2013, I am sure many of you are taking a few moments to take stock of what has happened during the previous twelve months. It seems to me that this sort of “reality check” exercise is a good way to evaluate where we have been, in the hopes of better determining where we really want to go during the year to come.
Earlier this spring, elected officials, library supporters, and families and children from throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area gathered at the Rosedale Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) to recognize an important milestone. Storyville, an interactive early literacy learning center located within this library, celebrated its fifth birthday.
Many people incorrectly assume that large, corporate interests are the only ones that lobby in support of or opposition to various policy initiatives. In fact, there are countless others – community activists, volunteer organizations or just everyday citizens – who share their views with key decision-makers in the hope of influencing the legislative outcome. Although often overlooked, the last words of the First Amendment contained within the Bill of Rights guarantees that all citizens can directly advocate for any causes that they choose.
The growing popularity of e-books and other Internet-accessible information formats has much to do with the convenience that users find in actually being able to download these media pretty much anywhere they happen to be. An innovative partnership that launches this month will allow commuters traveling to and from Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly Love – to make a single stop that will enhance their travel experience.
As public libraries have faced continued budget challenges, many have turned to non-traditional means of generating the revenues necessary to facilitate their ongoing operations. One such tactic that has generated continued discussion is the notion of allowing businesses to advertise within libraries, in exchange for fees that can be used to offset recent cuts in public dollars. Some have viewed this trend as an unfortunate one, in that these purists believe that libraries should be maintained as “no ad zones.”
Most folks choose to patronize their local library because they are looking for convenient access to books and other relevant sources of information. In some very special cases however, visitors to the library are able to utilize these same types of services, all while being surrounded by buildings that possess a grand architectural presence. As it happens, the host cities for both the 2013 American Library Association’s (ALA) Mid-Winter Meeting and its Annual Conference and Exposition are home to such unique structures.
For much of my life, I have had a close association with libraries and with books generally. Ever since I worked at the McKeldin Library Periodicals Desk – during my time as an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park – I have had an evolving relationship with libraries. Most recently, I have been actively engaged as a volunteer for my local library system, the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL).
Across our nation, American state legislatures are convening for their 2013 sessions. A host of policy issues will face this diverse group of elected officials, offering challenges for advocates on both sides of such contentious topics like gun control, state tax policies, and economic development/job creation. Beyond these discussions, legislators will also have to tackle the yearly process of developing the annual budgets for their respective states.
While people residing in many areas of the United States were able to look out their windows and enjoy a white Christmas, my family and I had a much different experience. We spent the holidays at our family’s vacation home in Punta Gorda, Florida. This town is located in Charlotte County, Florida, along the gulf coast of the state between the much larger cities of Ft. Myer’s and Tampa.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Central Branch of the Saint John Free Public Library (SJFPL). This library system – which serves the Province of New Brunswick – has the distinction of being Canada’s very first free public library. Established in 1883, the Saint John Free Public Library and its three locations circulate approximately 300,000 items among its nearly 45,000 library card holders during a typical year.
Everyone knows that our national economy is still struggling toward recovery after the fiscal collapse known as the Great Recession. Not surprisingly, the sluggish economy has negatively impacted funding for a variety of government operations, including support for public libraries.
Even as the dust continues to settle from the election of 2012, an assessment of the final results unearths some interesting trends, especially with regard to ballot initiatives.