A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

News & Opinion

Public Library Association Call to Action for Public Library Workers to Address Racism

The Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), calls on public library workers to commit to structural change and to taking action to end systemic racism and injustice.

Social Work in Public Libraries

Fostering Resilience via Libraries/Library Work

As I continue to report to work during shelter in place, I have witnessed people linger at the front gates of the San Francisco Public Library anxiously asking when the library will open again.

Gerard Koeppel Author Photo

Gerard Koeppel on the Clash of Cultures that Turned Deadly on the High Seas

In Gerard Koeppel’s engrossing Not a Gentleman’s Work: The Untold Story of a Gruesome Murder at Sea and the Long Road to Truth, Koeppel investigates a murder trial that captured the attention of the late nineteenth century but is now largely forgotten. In 1896, six days into a twelve-week voyage to Buenos Aires, crew members […]

illustration of a kid with a mask on

A Covid-19 Digital Archive

Participatory digital archives allow libraries to collect community responses to the pandemic in real time.

photograph of a brownish colored dirt road with trees on either side winding off into the distance

Bookmobiles Navigate New Terrain

Amid a public health crisis and a host of new safety considerations, mobile libraries are finding creative solutions to continue bringing services to communities that need it most.


six kids reading on the floor of a library

Rethinking Summer Reading Rewards

If we sincerely want to encourage reading, then we should look at the evidence. Data supporting the use of SRP incentives to increase reading performance is sorely lacking. However, there is ample evidence to demonstrate the detrimental effects of rewards on just about every endeavor. When rewards are involved, people tend to do the bare minimum to obtain the prize, do it poorly, and enjoy it less.

Social Work in Public Libraries

Prioritizing Staff Mental Health When Reopening

Now more than ever, our libraries must prioritize not only the physical safety of our staff members but also their mental health. I see this as both compassionate workplace policy and a customer service issue. As libraries and our community partners attempt to do more with less, as stability in our lives decreases, we must do what we can to take care of one another so that our libraries may then take care of our patrons.

March/April 2020 feature article

Even in the Worst-Case Scenario

What are public libraries meant to do for their communities? How does the changing nature of our community also change our mission? And when crisis strikes, disrupting the assumptions, routines, and procedures of “business as usual,” what is the impact on the social role of our institution?

Public Libraries Jan Feb 2020 issue - Feature Article

A Chorus of Voices Doing Important Work

As the PLA EDISJ symposium “Social Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with Us” enters its second year, we focus on the program and its presenters, offering a chance to discover what they are learning as they help move the field toward resistance and solidarity. In December 2019, we engaged with nine of the symposium’s presenters, who were eager to share their insights and experiences.

PUblic Libraries JanFeb 2020 EDISJ Matters column header

The Movement Toward Equity

As PLA’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice (EDISJ) begins its fourth year, Public Libraries is please to debut a new column on EDISJ topics.

Public Libraries march/april 2020 EDISJ Matters Column Head

Hire EDISJ

One of the most significant shifts that we’ve seen in the development of public library roles is the creation of positions with a targeted focus on supporting and moving forward equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice (EDISJ). The development of EDISJ-specific positions provides powerful signaling that centering this work is a priority—a critical and necessary step towards truly embodying the idea that everyone is welcome at the library.

Public Libraries (magazine) March/April 2020 (issue) Opinion

Reader [R]evolution

I’m going to propose what some may see as a radical departure from current library culture, while others may scoff at it as old-fashioned: The most important part of your library is your readers, both on your staff and in your patron base. The symbiotic relationship between the building that provides storage for a host of knowledge and entertainment and the librarians in charge of that building has been lost.

wifi signal image

Digital Access during Covid-19

While library buildings are closed, staff work to extend broadband and Wi-Fi access.

neon open sign

Libraries Contemplate Re-Opening

Months into the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic that has cost thousands of lives and brought the world to a halt, public libraries are doing what we do best: looking toward the future we hope to build together.

person sitting against a wall with head in hands

Implementing a Trauma-Informed Approach

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), individual trauma results from an event, a series of events, or a set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.