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Author Photo of Sameer Pandya

Sameer Pandya on Digging into the Everyday Lives of Characters and Opening Up the Campus Novel

Sameer Pandya’s Members Only charts a calamitous week in the life of Raj Bhatt, a charming middle-aged anthropology professor at a South Californian university. As part of his tennis club’s membership committee, Raj has long sought to diversify the club’s lily white makeup. He’s thus delighted to meet Bill Brown, a charismatic Black doctor who is applying to the club. Yet during Bill’s membership meeting, Raj makes a racist joke in a disastrous attempt to bond with Bill and his wife. From there, Raj’s week only gets worse. His white colleagues at the club demand to dictate the terms in which Raj should apologize (while blithely ignoring their own past racist comments), while a cohort of Raj’s white students rise up to protest his “reverse racism” in the classroom. Through it all, Pandya navigates Raj’s world with insight and grace, making Raj’s miserable week very, very funny in the process.

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.

Author Photo of Diane Cardwell

Diane Cardwell on Surfing, Falling Over and Over Again, and the Danger of Saving Yourself for a Future that Never Comes

Diane Cardwell was in her mid-forties when a chance visit to Rockaway Beach altered the trajectory of her life. A successful journalist for The New York Times, Cardwell was at Rockaway for a story, but found herself transfixed by the surfers on the beach. That fortuitous encounter caused her to sign up for a surf lesson, and soon Cardwell was spending every spare moment at the beach, forging friendships with other surfers, and eventually buying a home there so she could more seriously pursue her newfound passion. Her memoir, Rockaway: Surfing Headlong into a New Life, charts Cardwell’s journey of self-transformation through surfing, providing not only a bighearted exploration of Rockaway, but also exquisite sports writing that plants the readers on top of the surfboard.

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.

Ivy Pochoda Author Photo

Ivy Pochoda on Emotionally Resonant Endings and the Character Who Broke Her Book Open

Ivy Pochoda’s extraordinary These Women dives into the inner lives of disparate women in the West Adams neighborhood of Southern Los Angeles, whose worlds are upended by a shocking murder in their community. Dorian runs a local restaurant, mired in grief over her daughter’s horrific murder over a decade earlier, while Julianna spends her nights working at a club and her days exploring her newfound passion in photography. As Dorian fights for justice not only for her own daughter but the two most recent victims, unexpected connections emerge among the women, hurtling the reader to a devastating and unexpected conclusion.

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.

Steph Cha author photo

“Exploring Innocence in its Many Forms” — A Conversation with Steph Cha

In Steph Cha’s compassionate and devastating Your House Will Pay, a shocking crime uproots the lives of two very different Californians. Grace Park exists in a world of ordered routine, living with her parents in the Valley and working in their family-owned pharmacy. In nearby Palmdale, Shawn Matthews’ quiet life of family contentment is forever […]