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.
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.
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.
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 […]
Participatory digital archives allow libraries to collect community responses to the pandemic in real time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 […]