A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Magazine Feature

Feature Article

Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action Applying the OODA Loop Concept to Libraries

As we know, technology continues to redefine how we perceive the communities in which we participate. The perils and promises of machine learning shape our world around us in knowable ways. Social media allows us to participate at arm’s length as never before. It has transformed how we form and nurture our affinity groups so that we experience increasingly more closed systems that reluctantly absorb outside information. The world has become more entropic and arguably less connected to traditional institutions because of social media’s absorbing and disruptive influences. It has become hard for public institutions such as libraries to build upon traditional patron allegiances and support, and more perilous to depend solely on them. Moreover, in our attempts to nurture these allegiances, we struggle to comprehend the directions of change in our environment. Is it any wonder our pursuits often seem an endless cycle of chasing new purpose and self-justification while lurching toward new ideas that sometimes seem ill suited to our core principles?

Feature Article

Ready, Set, Negotiate! Preparing for Successful Contract Talks

The first day of contract negotiations is approaching and members of both teams are getting a little nervous. Will talks be smooth or disagreeable? Do both sides know what’s coming or are surprises in store? What is the best way to prepare for successful negotiations? Both sides can do plenty to come to the table prepared to create a contract that meets everyone’s needs.

Feature Article

Librarians, Meet Your Motherboard

Motherboards, CPUs, and RAM, oh my! In the twenty-first century, libraries are dependent on these easily confused or misidentified hardware components and terminologies. Modern information systems—ranging from library OPACs to electronic research databases—all require machines that have a motherboard beneath their shiny plastic hoods. Library skills, including Boolean searching and complex taxonomic classification, also rely on computer technology. Librarians regularly make expensive decisions about the hardware in their facilities, but it is easy to get tongue-tied by the acronyms and technical names for the hardware in these machines. A basic grasp of hardware components has the potential to greatly enhance our awareness of our information systems. Libraries can also save money by making informed technology decisions. It’s time we met our motherboards.

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.

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.

November December 2017 Public Libraries Feature Article Header

Visual Merchandising – Applying Bookstore Insights to Public Library Collections

Looks at bookstore display ideas that can be implemented in libraries.

November December 2017 Public Libraries Feature Article Header

Efficient Librarianship – A New Path for the Profession

Author shares productivity and efficiency practices and explores how utilizing these ideas can positively impact librarianship.

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?”

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.