Category Archives: Public Libraries

Librarians reimagine book clubs with the help of technology

Reprinted courtesy of: American Libraries Magazine and

By: Apryl Flynn Gilliss

Libraries have long embraced the reading public and provided public forums for book discussion, long before talk-show host Oprah Winfrey renewed interest in book clubs in 1996.

novelidea4webIn our more modern, connected, and ever-busy age, however, traditional library book clubs have been undergoing a quiet revolution. Lack of time, scheduling conflicts, mobility issues, desire for anonymity, and other factors have moved the conversation online—namely onto social media.

Tech-savvy librarians aware of these trends are using emerging technologies to both enhance physical book clubs and to replace them with online ones.

An online component

Melanie Gibson, a librarian at Bishop Dunne Catholic School in Dallas, Texas, has been using technology to complement her physical book club meetings.

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The Story of Maria’s Libraries

Reprinted courtesy of: Policy Innovations  via

By: Eva Kaplan

They call themselves the Library Ninjas, and they come to the Busia Community Library to watch movies, eat bananas, and drink clean water. The library opens at nine in the morning, and on Thursdays each week a crowd of kids is already waiting.

1.17 F1 These kids live on the streets and make their money begging and running small errands at the border between Kenya and Uganda, which runs through Busia Town. The movies don’t start until 11, but the kids show up early each week, even before the librarians.

For the Library Ninjas, the Busia Community Library (BCL) is the only safe public space they have. Some of the Ninjas attend school, despite living on the street, but for most of them the library is also the only place where they can access books. While waiting for the movie to begin, the kids read and use computers.

The Ninjas are not the only group to have found sanctuary in the library. Currently located in two small rooms in a government office building, the library hosts an average of 30 visitors on a typical day, from a broad spectrum of the community. The patrons come for a variety of reasons—from researching farming practices to checking email to accessing materials regarding government services or laws. One government official comes to the library every day during lunch to read books about human biology, out of personal interest.

During school vacations, the number of visitors leaps dramatically, sometimes exceeding capacity. On those days, library users check out their books and sit in the parking lot.

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All Hail the PUBLIC Library

The public library is a uniquely American creation. Now we have to fight to keep it public.

Reprinted courtesy of: On the Commons via

By: David Morris

“The word ‘public’ has been removed from the name of the Fort Worth Library. 
Why? Simply put, to keep up with the times.” 
From the Media release on the rebranding of the Fort Worth Library.

1.3 f1Fort Worth, you leave me speechless. You’re certainly correct about one thing. The public library is indeed an institution that has not kept up with the times. But given what has happened to our times, why do you see that as unhealthy? In an age of greed and selfishness, the public library stands as an enduring monument to the values of cooperation and sharing. In an age where global corporations stride the earth, the public library remains firmly rooted in the local community. In an age of widespread cynicism and distrust of government, the 100 percent tax supported public library has virtually unanimous and enthusiastic support.

This is not the time to take the word “public” out of the public library. It is time to put it in capitals.

The public library is a singularly American invention. Europeans had subscription libraries for 100 years before the United States was born. But on a chilly day in April 1833 the good citizens of Peterborough, New Hampshire created a radical new concept—a truly PUBLIC library. All town residents, regardless of income, had the right to freely share the community’s stored knowledge. Their only obligation was to return the information on time and in good condition, allowing others to exercise that same right.

By the 1870s 11 states boasted 188 public libraries. By 1910 all states had them. Today 9,000 central buildings plus about 7500 branches have made public libraries one of the most ubiquitous of all American institutions, exceeding Starbucks and McDonalds.

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by Charles Simic, poet, essayist, and translator. 
Mirrored from 

Originally appeared May 18, 2011 on the New York Review of Books NYR Blog.

All across the United States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operations. Detroit, I read a few days ago, may close all of its branches and Denver half of its own: decisions that will undoubtedly put hundreds of its employees out of work. When you count the families all over this country who don’t have computers or can’t afford Internet connections and rely on the ones in libraries to look for jobs, the consequences will be even more dire. People everywhere are unhappy about these closings, and so are mayors making the hard decisions. But with roads and streets left in disrepair, teachers, policemen and firemen being laid off, and politicians in both parties pledging never to raise taxes, no matter what happens to our quality of life, the outlook is bleak. “The greatest nation on earth,” as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.

countrywithoutlibs2I don’t know of anything more disheartening than the sight of a shut down library. No matter how modest its building or its holdings, in many parts of this country a municipal library is often the only place where books in large number on every imaginable subject can be found, where both grownups and children are welcome to sit and read in peace, free of whatever distractions and aggravations await them outside. Like many other Americans of my generation, I owe much of my knowledge to thousands of books I withdrew from public libraries over a lifetime. I remember the sense of awe I felt as a teenager when I realized I could roam among the shelves, take down any book I wanted, examine it at my leisure at one of the library tables, and if it struck my fancy, bring it home. Not just some thriller or serious novel, but also big art books and recordings of everything from jazz to operas and symphonies.