My favorite library conference tchotchke of all time is a button I received from the PLA membership booth several years ago. It reads, “Ask me why I love my job!” Considering the fact that I would have proudly worn that button the first day I started working in a public library thirty-two years ago and would still do so today makes me feel very fortunate. Of course those who dare to ask the question need to be prepared to cut me off at some point (luckily for you, there’s an end to this column).
September/October 2014Volume 53, No. 5
When most people think of parolees, their first thought probably isn’t to sign them up for a library card. But in Tifton (Ga.) that’s exactly what we do. Since October 2012, the Tifton-Tift County Public Library (TTCPL) and the Tifton Day Reporting Center (DRC) have developed a working relationship that has allowed the library to expand outreach activities in the community and has given the DRC one more resource to offer their clients.
According to a report published by the Schott Foundation, the national African American male high school graduation rate is 52 percent compared to 78 percent for white males and 58 percent for Hispanic males. In addition, many urban environments have suffered a transition in their economies due to globalization. Many manufacturing companies have relocated to rural and foreign countries where labor costs are much lower. The collapse of the industrial infrastructure in inner cities has had a devastating impact on black males living in urban communities. Consequently, many inner city residents have increased hardships due to instability in employment, which adversely affects the black community. Research suggests that urban teens who are engaged with positive activities such as mentoring and who receive social support from family, school, and community are more likely to avoid juvenile delinquency, especially if they are from low socioeconomic communities. Public libraries can counter the negative social problems associated with urban youth, and with males in particular, by offering an environment that is safe, nurturing, and that provides positive exposure to “experiences, upbringings and literacies of urban youth.” Libraries can play an important role in countering the many challenges poor urban youth have to overcome to have the best opportunity to succeed in life.
The desire to share what we learn with others is an integral part of our culture. Many Americans relish opportunities to discuss the latest book they just read or movie they just watched, but there is a segment of our population that has limited opportunities to do that. These individuals also are at high risk for unemployment and have a higher rate of poverty than the rest of the population. They are the developmentally disabled, who are often on waiting lists for any type of educational activity once they become adults. The public library can be a place for this group to continue pursuing their natural desire to learn, experience stories, and share opinions and feelings. The Johnson County (Kans.) Library in suburban Kansas City has a long history of serving this population, winning an award in 2006 from the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), for services to the disabled population.2 In this article, we share three examples of programs that have been well received by this population: (1) a film discussion program, (2) a craft program called “Create!” and (3) a partnership with the local county agency that serves the developmentally disabled. All of these programs were created by frontline staff through conversations with agency personnel that provide services to the disabled.