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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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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the sixth year, Devon Libraries in the United Kingdom offers Active Life, Active Mind programming series. This year features over 250 events across the county. Their slogan is “take a step in the right direction and try a new activity this January at your local library.” Meanwhile, here in the U.S., dozens of libraries planning “New Year, New You” programs
Why not opt to get out of the library and meet the teens where they are already at?
As community driven institutions, libraries should focus on removing all possible barriers to achieve equality of access for every member of our communities.
The issue of Lapham’s Quarterly that I saw on my friend’s table was about music and it is a treasure trove of information for general readers and researchers alike.
The Roosevelt collection is the largest presidential archival collection held by the LOC, at 276,000 documents, which have been scanned into 461,000 images. The bulk of the collection was a personal gift from President Roosevelt to Herbert Putnam (Librarian of Congress 1899-1939).
By not specifically highlighting how the work of public libraries impacts disadvantaged populations we’re simultaneously selling ourselves short, reinforcing the idea that libraries are for some and not all, and slowly but surely digging our own grave. Our advocacy must start getting real about who is using our libraries and for what reasons. A public building is intended for public use, and not just the version of the public that people feel comfortable being around. Our facilities, services, programming and materials should be able to be used by even the most marginalized in our societies. Otherwise we’re not doing our job and assisting in its demise.
Why not host an adult book club focused on picture books?
A few months back, while planning for the next few issues of this column, I penciled in the topic “Cool Things I Heard About at PLA.” Then a snowstorm, a full day in the Houston airport (I started in Chicago), and no PLA conference for me. Instead of things I heard, here are some tech trends that I imagine would have come up in conversation.
The simplicity behind gathering to talk about a shared story softens feelings of self-doubt. The book and its storyline are the vehicle allowing club members to listen, and be listened to. It is meant to expose feelings through difficult ideas and opposing viewpoints. While talking about fictional characters, real experiences bubble up to the surface. There’s an opening to relate first to the story and then to each other. There is no better way to spread great ideas then when people meet face-to-face. A bookclub is neutral ground, which makes it subtly powerful and influential.