It’s Library Card Sign-up Month!

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the American Library Association sponsors Library Card Sign-up Month to remind kids and parents alike that the best resources for homework and life can be found at your local public library.

But you can do so much more than borrow books or look up online references with your library card. In fact, the ALA has this nifty slide show with 60 Ways to Use Your Library Card. Check ‘em out!

It’s National Library Week!

Friends of the blog know I’m a library geek, so it should come as no surprise that I’m thrilled to be recognizing National Library Week, which takes place April 8 – 14.

This is National Library Week’s 54th year, and the theme is “You belong @ your library.” Whether you’re as passionate about libraries as I am or haven’t set foot in your local since books went digital, this week offers a great excuse to visit and rediscover all the resources available there. (See calendar of activities below.) You’ll be amazed!

“The strength of libraries has always been the diversity of their collections and commitment to serving all people,” notes the American Library Association in its press release about National Library Week.

“Today’s libraries help level the playing field by making both print and digital information affordable, available and accessible to all people. Libraries provide cultural heritage and genealogical collections, materials in print and electronic formats, job-seeking resources, English as second language and citizenship classes, and many other creative and resourceful programs.”

Here’s what’ll be happening at many libraries across the country this week:

Tuesday, April 10 – National Library Workers Day
You may want to refrain from hugging your local librarian (unless you know her or him very well), but today is all about recognizing the valuable contributions made by your local library workers. In fact, at the NLWD website, there’s a lovely feature called Submit a Star, where you can honor your hometown librarians!

Wednesday, April 11 – National Bookmobile Day
Bookmobiles have meant the difference between literacy and illiteracy, enrichment and stagnation, in many far-flung communities where residents don’t live near or can’t access the library. Honor the efforts of these dedicated library volunteers today.

For more on bookmobiles, check out this NPR story, “The Final Chapter for a Trusty Bookmobile,” about a Vermont community’s efforts to keep the reading rolling.

Drop Everything and Read DayThursday, April 12 – National Drop Everything and Read Day and Support Teen Literature Day
How cool is it that there’s a day dedicated to putting aside everything else and encouraging families to read together in hopes that they’ll make it a regular habit? DEAR Day is sponsored by the National Education Association, the PTA and the Association for Library Service to Children, among many others.

The Young Adult Library Services Association is sponsoring events to promote teen literacy today, Support Teen Literature Day, and throughout the year. Find out how you can participate on the YALSA website.

Writing that inspired me this week:

“I followed her into the library. The pale light from our chamber below dissipated in the room, but I could still make out – my heart leapt at the sight – row after row, shelf above shelf, floor to ceiling, a city of books. Speck turned to me and asked, ‘Now, what shall we read first?’”
~ The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

The Greatest Stories Ever Told – All Available at Your Local Library

Photo by Vickie Bates.

No secret, I’m a big fan of public libraries.

This week is National Library Week and, while there’s still time to celebrate, the terrific thing about public libraries is that you can take advantage of all the great things they have to offer – from a vast collection of free books for every age and interest and in a wide range of formats to CDs, DVDs, electronic resources, Internet connections, wise and professionally trained reference desk experts, and free heat in the winter and air conditioning in summer.

I happened to visit my local branch this afternoon and found a charming tyke ahead of me in line, picture books, children’s encyclopedia and DVDs piled high in his arms. Seeing him reminded me of how frequently I visited libraries as a child, how they helped me develop a love of reading that became a love of writing.

I’ve lived in large metropolitan areas and spent time as a small child in the remote woods of New Hampshire, and I’ve had a library membership in every corner of the world. My little town in the Granite State is the kind of place where, when I moved back in 2000 and began using the library again, I was handed the library card I’d first used when I was six with the goofy, loopy pencil signature of my six-year-old self. They’d hung on to it for me, as if certain I’d be back – once a library lover, always one.

I was also reminded of how vital libraries can be in helping kids dream (in the first place) and achieve those dreams (in the second). And how they help adults with things like job search and the background research needed to ace an interview.

Whatever stage of life, the library can serve a purpose.

You can celebrate National Library Week tomorrow by visiting your local library with family or friends. Check out what NPR’s Linda Holmes discovered when she went back to her local library here.

What great books or discoveries have you made in libraries?

If it’s been a while since you’ve been, you may be amazed what you find there – and isn’t it pretty cool to still be amazed?

In Praise of Your Local Library

Photo by Vickie Bates.

Have you been to the library recently?

I hope the recession was kind to yours. In L.A., there has been a noticeable change to the collection of beautifully designed, technologically up-to-date “pocket libraries” in neighborhoods across this sprawling city. They’re still here, but the hours of service have diminished significantly, and most seem to be closed at least one weekday, as well as Sunday.

At the same time, the sign-ups for computer usage have soared as people without the means to own home computers or access the Internet depend on public libraries to provide this valuable resource that aids things like schoolwork and job searches.

Now comes another potential threat to libraries: not the ebook, but a new paradigm for access to ebooks through libraries proffered by at least one publisher.

You can read the whole NPR story here, but the essential detail is this: “HarperCollins came up with a new e-book policy that says an e-book can be checked out 26 times, after which it has to be repurchased. Leslie Hulse, a senior vice president at HarperCollins, says publishers have to place some limitations on the way libraries lend e-books.” (Italics mine.)

This seems to ignore the essence, mission and spirit of the public library.

I can imagine many books that may never reach the imposed 26-check-outs limit, but what about books with widespread appeal, such as the Harry Potter and Twilight series? And, these are books that have inspired a love of reading in younger generations.

Monetizing library books is the kind of thinking that lacks an understanding of what libraries are and the great purpose they serve. It’s also extremely worrisome when the purveyors of technology, in their pursuit of better, faster, simpler, cheaper functionality and new paradigms for information-delivery, fail to acknowledge the millions of people in the world – in the United States, even – who can’t afford the price of entry for many of these gadgets.

I applaud the IT director of the Ann Arbor, Michigan, library system, who is quoted in this story, and reasonably notes that part of this approach stems from publishers “still trying to force 20th century business models onto digital content.”

It seems to me the “functionality” of being able to access uncensored information – however erudite or goofy – without fear of being monitored or judged makes the paradigm of the public library system a great example of what it means to live in a democracy. And when designing a new paradigm, it doesn’t hurt to take a moment to think about how it might benefit the broadest possible audience – even those who’ll never use your technology, because there are still places in the world that make it a point to serve people with the greatest need.