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News & Opinion

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Supporting Autonomy while Setting Clear Boundaries

As library social workers, we are often asked how to address behaviors in the public library setting. Sometimes this is framed in the question, “How do we address homelessness (insert other social issues) in our libraries?” Despite the fact that people would like an easy answer to that question, there isn’t one, because wrapped up in the question itself are human beings — individuals, people with personal histories they’ve brought to the place they are now, inside your public library.

computer keyboard with padlock and key

The Drawbacks of Two-Factor Authentication

John Doe wanted an email address so that he could get a job. According to DMR Business statistics, as of October 26, 2018 there were 1.5 billion Gmail accounts, making Gmail one of the most utilized free email services available. In order to create the Gmail account, he needed to enable two-factor authentication. He borrowed his girlfriend’s cellphone to set this up.

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PLA 2019 Early Literacy Activities Calendar

Based on the Every Child Ready to Read practices of reading, writing, singing, talking, playing (and now counting), each download contains twelve months of learning activities, book lists, nursery rhymes, and more.

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New Podcast! Whole Person Librarianship

Our guest for this episode is Sara Zettervall. Sara is the founding consultant and trainer for Whole Person Librarianship, which applies social work concepts to library practice. She also works at Hennepin County Library as the community engagement librarian for East African refugees in Minneapolis.

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Libraries Lead with Digital Skills

ALA and Grow with Google launched a national tour of public libraries this week as part of a new partnership to expand resources and services promoting economic opportunity in cities and towns across the country.

children looking at a book

Figuring It Out

I’m good with teens and I know why. I listen to them and I don’t talk down to them. I treat them as whole people with complex emotions. I like to joke around with them and I enjoy making them feel like someone is listening. But how do I do this with children? How do I share library space with them in a way that is authentic and in a way that recognizes them as a whole person – even for those who don’t have language yet.

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To Engage or Not to Engage? Social Media in Public Libraries

Many see social media as a panacea – connecting libraries with the people we serve. However, social media done right takes time, effort, strategy and planning. Social media in libraries done right can reach users in new ways. Maintaining social media accounts for an organization takes a level of expertise often underestimated or taken for granted.

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New Podcast! Guests include Library LoveFest and Author Juliet Grames

PLA’s Brendan Dowling hosts a conversation with Lainey Mays and Christopher Connolly of the HarperCollins Library LoveFest team, and an interview with Juliet Grames, whose first novel, “The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna,” will be released in the Spring.

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Providing Social Service Resources in a Library Setting

When people discover I am a social worker at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) Main Library, the first question I often hear is, “Really? Why provide social services at the library?!” I understand this response, but in truth, many patrons experiencing homelessness access the library for refuge and assistance for basic needs. And that is where I enter the picture.

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Expect the Unexpected at Library Programs

After three decades as a librarian, I’ve learned that the unexpected is to be expected during most library programs. Like libraries across the country, the Miami-Dade Public Library System caters to all ages. Any topic can be a potential program. Success can be anything from impacting a few grateful ESOL students at a Conversation Circle to a full-on children’s festival for thousands. However, our best intentions about a dream program can emerge into a difficult to predict reality. Thus, my staff has learned “on the fly” to be flexible for whatever comes. Here are a few examples:

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Never Shut Up About the Awesome Programs at the Library!

In every conversation that I had with event attendees, they all said the same thing, “I didn’t know that the library had/did that!” In fact, if I had had a dollar for every time I heard it, I would have made more money than the breakfast cost to put on. Libraries are integral to their community and provide a wide array of services, so why are so many patrons in the dark?

cover of teaching early literacy to teen parents book

New Quick Reads – Teaching Early Literacy to Teen Parents

Using Every Child Ready to Read principles and programming tips from San Antonio Public Library’s “Little Read Wagon,” this guide will show you how to create a program that meets the needs of your community’s teen parents.

photographic image of xmas lights

Why I Am Still Not Decorating My Library For Christmas

After much thought, I find myself in the same place. I will not decorate my library for Christmas, because Christmas is not a secular holiday. I will not decorate my library for any religious holiday. I feel that this is alienating for those who do not celebrate these particular faiths.

black and white photo of a library orange banner in upper left reads 'social work in public libraries'

The Public Library as a Protective Factor

Fundamentally, I see the goal of public libraries as the empowerment of the citizenry. Historically, libraries have empowered individuals primarily through the distribution of information. However, we offer so much more than that. I encourage you to consider the ways in which your library functions as a protective factor for the members of your community and to build upon those strengths so that all our patrons, both privileged and vulnerable, are empowered to reach their full potential.

Illustration of two people holding a baby and suitcases with a boat filled with people in background

Library on the Border Acts as Haven for Immigrant Families

One public library offers a safe space for immigrant families to gather. The Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which straddles the U.S. – Canada border, has become a safe haven and a commons for immigrants.