Category Archives: librarianship

Thanking those who were the soul of this Carnegie Library

A collection of good books, with a soul to it in the shape of a librarian, becomes a vitalized power among the impulses by which the world goes on to improvement. Justin Winsor

Putting a soul in any building is a worthy challenge.   In the words of founders of the East Side Freedom Library it is “librarians who brought life and commitment to our historic building.”

And it is those librarians who will be celebrated on Tuesday, August 8, 7:00 p.m. at the ESFL as appreciative community members gather remember and “to honor the women and men who have worked in this building.”

The celebration is part of the ESFL celebration of the centennial of the historic Carnegie Library building, once the home of the Arlington Hills Library.  Read more about the history and evolution of the Carnegie Library here:  https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/east-side-freedom-library-gives-new-life-to-carnegie-library-st-paul-neighborhood/

There will be a short program, refreshments and a reunion of library supporters, neighbors, bibliophiles, library lovers and history buffs.  The evening is free and open to all.

The East Side Freedom Library is at 1105 Greenbrier Street, St Paul.  Info@eastsidefreedomlibirary.org   651 230 3294.

 

 

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Subversive thoughts on National Library Week 2017

Librarians are subversive. You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them.” Michael Moore 

As usual, Michael Moore sees beyond, behind, through and inside the exterior of things, events, buildings – and people.  Which is why this quote got me thinking about this National Library Week post.

National Library Week matters because if only because the theme gives us pause to think about how or whether “libraries transform lives,” as this year’s NLW theme asserts. (http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/factsheets/nationallibraryweek)

For most of us the word “library” prompts visual images of stately buildings of days gone by, rows of neatly shelved tomes, acres of accessible technology, children’s reading corners and quiet carrels.  For some nostalgic bibliophiles, there’s even an old book smell….

And yet, libraries are not just places.  What the library user sees is the physical manifestation of an intricate collaboration of library workers who breathe life into what is a truly human process.   It is human beings who select the library’s holdings, organize the collection, know how to locate resources through a maze of interlibrary connections, maneuver their way through print and digital reference tools, read to children, deliver resources to the homebound, partner with researchers, and otherwise link a unique bit of recorded information – a book, database, video, story or archive — with a seeker who has a need and right to know.

My thought is that NLW should be re-branded, maybe as National “Libraryness Week.”  Though obviously that’s not going to happen, rebranding would shine the light on the essence of the whole, the countless roles that committed library workers play – when they’re plotting not a revolution but a path from seeker to source, unlikely source to ready seeker.

The sometimes rugged path is laid by a team of library workers who shape the reality that comes full circle in the physical library setting – whether that’s an iconic Carnegie public library, a laboratory, law firm, elementary school, university campus, hospital or church basement.  Physical settings are essential but inert – human beings plot, then create, the settings, the flow of information and ideas, and the path that leads to learning.

Michael Moore nails it – those library workers aren’t just sitting there, or shelving or cataloging or reading to a group of six-year-olds or delving into a rare tome or deciphering a reference question.  Toiling in back rooms and endless meetings, they are, in fact, plotting a revolution, a revolution built on an informed democracy in which people seek truth, embrace wisdom, learn from the past, and share the intellectual legacy of a free people.

One of my favorite high school memories is of a beloved teacher with a mission who would dash down the hall declaring with gusto that she was “on her way to combat ignorance!”  That’s how I think of library workers who 1) design and share an integrated system that assures that every voter, student, inventor, parent, historian, new American, researcher, educator, caregiver or avid mystery reader has the opportunity to exercise the inalienable right to know, and 2) go to the max to see that truth-seekers have the skills, attitudes and awareness to make the information and ideas their own.

Though I wish I had a more poetic word for it I’m stuck for now with the idea of “libraryness” to express my commitment to this democratic – and increasingly essential — role of librarians and libraries – the port in the storm engulfing this nation’s truth-seekers.  The whole of libraryness is far greater than the sum of its parts; the strength of libraryness rests not only on ready access to recorded resources but on the creative vision and commitment of library workers.

Yes, we celebrate library buildings, library books, digital resources, archives, photos, magazines, devices, games, information collected, produced and consumed in ever-changing formats.  For me, this library quote “puts a face” on the wholeness and outcome of libraryness – an outcome impossible to measure, essential to preserve:

Librarians are just like search engines, except they smile and they talk to me and they don’t give me paid-for advertising when they are trying to help.  And they have actual hearts.

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P.S. When/if you’re at Minneapolis Central Library visit the NLW exhibits that  include some lesser known treasures  that tell the story of libraries and librarian.  While you’re at the Central Library visit special collections to check out the excellent exhibit of digital resources that give reveal the treasures of the Library’s special collections: https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/opening-library-archives-from-the-outside-in

Honor library workers of yore who paved an early path on which today’s information highways are constructed by clicking on this NPR broadcast: http://www.npr.org/2017/04/13/522606808/file-this-under-nostalgia-new-book-pays-tribute-to-the-library-card-catalog?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20170413

 

National Library Week – Information, transformation, appreciation

It’s Spring!  You’ve stashed the boots and parkas, gathered the tax information, and got out the seed catalogs.   Do you feel the need to transform yourself, your life, your surroundings, political system, your outlook?  Have you thought of a visit to the library?

Turns out that National Library Week 2017 is Sunday, April 9 through Saturday, April 15 – and the theme is “Libraries transform.”  Though I guess you can interpret that any way you wish, as I see it this era of alternative facts suggests transforming our ways of seeking and appreciating truth might be an appropriate transformation….

And libraries, particularly those that value an informed public over stats and optics, are actually an essential resource.  And yet I would  suggest that it’s not libraries but the multitude of people who support, work in and value libraries that do the transforming.  That includes staff at every level, library boards, Friends, volunteers of every stripe.

As with every institution, libraries themselves are being transformed, largely because of information and communications technology – basically by the ways in which people seek, acquire and assess information.   In an earlier era some thought technology would replace libraries.  As time has demonstrated, the role that libraries play is more essential than ever.  The challenge is well-nigh overwhelming for all involved.

Which means that a pause to recognize and celebrate is more than ever timely.  One starting point may be the American Library Association’s annual “State of America’s Libraries Report” scheduled to be announced on Monday.  On Tuesday, April 11, focus is on the people who connect the resources of the library with seekers of information, ideas, inspiration, real facts.

Wednesday, April 12, is National Bookmobile Day.  Though it may sound anachronistic it’s important to bear in mind that broadband access is far from universal and that there are far too many people with disabilities, lack of transportation or other challenge for whom bookmobile service is their only option.

The American Library Association, sponsor of National Library Week 2017, provides written and graphic promotional materials in abundance.  To download free NLW tools and resources visit http://ala.org/nlw.  Or check other sources, including Pinterest, for library-related graphics.

Finally, bear in mind that transformation takes time, so focus on the long view on the “Libraries transform” theme.  Libraries have been transforming  users and their communities of interest since about 2600 BC.  No rush – just a pause to appreciate and celebrate.

 

UPDATE:  What’s happening at the U of M Libraries – from Consortium

National Library Week 2017

April 9 through 15: Come join us!

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The University Libraries invites you to join us for National Library Week, an annual event occurring this year from April 9 through 15, which celebrates libraries and the people they serve.

“Libraries Transform” is this year’s theme, and the U Libraries will be hosting events that help transform lives on our campus.

Activities include:

  • Providing resources at pop-up libraries and sponsoring a food drive
  • Helping our staff and students meet basic needs through a food drive that assures everyone can focus on lifelong learning, rather than where their next meal is coming from.

In addition, the Libraries transforms by providing our campus with resources and services that address the needs of today and tomorrow — from publishing services, systematic reviews, data management and immigration history to a new researcher collaboration studio opening in Wilson Library fall 2017.

Pop-up Libraries & READ Posters

The University Libraries will be outside across campus during National Library Week! Stop by our booth to check out some great reads, and see what else is going on at the Libraries!

You can also get your own limited edition National Library Week bookmark and stickers. You’ll find us from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the following locations:

  • NLW17stickerTuesday, April 11: Coffman Union
  • Wednesday, April 12: West end of the Washington Ave Bridge (rain site: Willey Hall)
  • Thursday, April 13: St. Paul Student Center

Food Drive

On behalf of the Food Group, the University Libraries will host a donation site for non-perishable food items. Donation sites include: Wilson, Walter, Bio-Med, and Magrath Libraries from April 9 through April 15.

Share How Libraries Transform Your Life

You can also join the fun from home! Share your library story using #nlw17 and don’t forget to tag the University Libraries (@umnlib). Share how libraries have transformed your papers, research, projects, and perspectives. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see our events and resources that help transform the lives of our faculty, staff, and students.

Please contact Jamie Hoehn (jlhoehn@umn.edu) or Kristen Mastel (meye0539@umn.edu) with questions.

Cataloging community resources: A writer’s experience

Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services,  great libraries build communities. –R. David Lankes

Given Lankes’ definition of library greatness, the East Side Freedom Library (eastsidefreedomlibrary.org)  is a great library-in-progress! Even better, the day-to-day narrative of the life, growth and strength of the ESFL is being chronicled and shared.

Victoria Blanco spent several months as a resident artist at ESFL, recording her observations and opinions as she experienced the day-to-day community under construction at and through ESFL.

One beehive of activity that Blanco came to understand and appreciate during her residency at ESFL is the work of the volunteer catalogers whose painstaking efforts are expanding access to the rich collections of the ESFL. She vividly records the work of volunteer catalogers going about their professional tasks as “books, records, art, movies, instruments, and textiles arrived by the boxful.”

Tedious work, perhaps, but Blanco appreciates the goal of the catalogers: “Like planting, there’s a repetitive rhythm to cataloguing. Open the book, find it in the World Cat system, enter the essentials in the electronic system, print out a slip with a call number, and shelve the book, in the correct place. Do this for weeks, months, years, until the library is complete.” (Not that any library collection is ever truly complete!)

Blanco’s experiences at ESFL range from observing the work of volunteer catalogers to conversations with the library’s patrons to exchanges with young scholars hard at work on their History Day presentations.

Blanco will share her impressions on her ESFL experience on Thursday evening, July 28, 7:00 p.m. at the ESFL, 1105 Greenbrier Street, St Paul. The community event is free and open to the public.

Come early to experience the abundant energy and commitment that are transforming a proud Carnegie library building into the nucleus of a living, thriving community-in-progress.

 

 

In the digital age the question remains: Whadya need?

Ask any good salesman the rhetorical question “Whatya sellin’? and you’ll get the stock answer, “Whatya need?”   The old story comes to mind often, including on a day this week when I read three contrasting – and complementary – library-related stories.

The first was from my favorite day brightener, the Writer’s Almanac. A birthday tribute to Malcolm X (nee Malcolm Little) shed this ray of light on the early life of a complex man whose ideas continue to influence the nation’s struggles with race-based challenges. (http://writersalmanac.org/note/may-19-birthday-malcolm-x/)

Following a childhood marked by tragedy, Malcolm Little in the mid was arrested in the mid-40’s for larceny. The WA editors tell us that, while Malcolm was in prison,

An older inmate encouraged him to use his time to educate himself. Little began checking out books from the prison library, and when he found his vocabulary too limited for some of them, he copied out an entire dictionary word for word.

The story engendered a sense of loss when I reflected on abandonment of library services once provided through the state’s correctional facilities. Though I appreciate that committed volunteers, including the Women’s Prison Book Project (https://wpbp.org/, are helping to fill that gap, it is a sad reality that today’s prisoners are deprived of the learning options that transformed the trajectory of Malcolm Little’s life.

On a lighter note, I then skimmed the data-driven piece in MinnPost in which Greta Kaul as data cruncher tabulates the hot reads du jour as reflected in circulation data collected by area public libraries. (https://www.minnpost.com/arts-culture/2016/05/which-books-are-most-popular-twin-cities-libraries) Though I enjoyed the snapshot I know well that circulation stats, though quick and easy to collect, are the least meaningful indicator of public good.

Next I was brought up short by a hot-off-the-press thought piece with the alluring title Virtual memory: the race to save the information age. The challenging article raises these disturbing questions:
Are we creating a problem that future generations will not be able to solve? Could the early decades of the 21st century even come to seem, in the words of the internet pioneer Vint Cerf, like a “digital Dark Age”? … It is becoming increasingly clear that the migration of knowledge to formats permitting rapid and low-cost copying and dissemination, but in which the base information cannot survive without complex and expensive intervention, requires that we choose, more actively than ever before, what to remember and what to forget. (https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#sent/154ce5746f3d442a)

In some ways, libraries and librarians can be viewed as sparrows in the unknown cavern that is the Information Age. Throughout recorded history libraries have offered a safe haven in which the past, the present and the future live as one. With the dawn of the Information Age realistic visionaries embraced the premise that information is a resource like no other, an idea early articulated by Harlan Cleveland (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/harlan-cleveland-properties-of-information-revisited/  Over the years, libraries have crossed bureaucratic and technological borders to sate society’s unquenchable need to know.

Malcolm Little’s unmet need was for a port of entry into the world of ideas he could access through his prison library. The high stats cited in Kaul’s piece reflect busy readers’ need to grab a quick read for the LRT ride. Of equal import is the fact that tomorrow’s researchers will need to know what we’ve been doing in these times.

As a society struggling to shape this democracy and the role of this singular institution in the Information Age, we are challenged to ponder the public good implicit in the prevailing question: Whadya need?

Genevieve Casey – Imagining the possibilities for 21st Century libraries

Though the name Genevieve M. Casey may not be a household word, there are many beholden to her for her lifetime of contributions to her chosen profession of librarianship. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, she spent much of her youth in Detroit, returning to St. Paul to receive a Masters Degree in Library Science at the College of St Catherine (now St. Catherine University.)   After a year of service in many roles Genevieve Casey retired from Wayne State University as Emerita Professor, where she was honored with special tributes including a scholarship in her honor. She died in 2012 at the still vibrant age of 96.

More important than the statistics is her legacy in a changing profession.

Her first professional position was in the early 60’s with the Detroit Public Library where she introduced the idea of an urban bookmobile. Though bookmobiles were originally designed to provide library service to rural communities, the bookmobile idea caught the fancy of Casey who saw the potential of a mobile library to share books and library service with urban readers in neighborhoods throughout the urban Detroit area.

Casey’s commitment to flexibility – meeting the needs of a changing population – was at the core of her professional service, a commitment she demonstrated when she was appointed by the Governor to serve as the State Librarian of Michigan. Those must have been some turbulent years for Casey. Two of the Governor’s budget recommendations that year were for the construction of buildings, one that would house the Law Library Division in a new Supreme Court building; the other, a new facility for the State Library. His vision was years in fulfillment.

In 1963 a state reorganization moved administration of the State Library from the State Board of Libraries to the Department of Education. That same year a former manufacturing building was remodeled as the headquarters to house offices for the State Library. In four months, library staff moved over one million volumes…. The new facility housed the Library for the Blind, a resource that continued to serve a public demand that rose from 635 items in 1960 to 280,347 six years later.

Looking to the future, Casey collaborated with Western Michigan Library to sponsor a professional trainee program through which library students could earn an accredited degree for working at the State Library, with the proviso that they would continue to work at the library for two years after graduation. During her tenure Casey was also called upon to deal with internal problems, including a pervasive rift as school and public libraries were pitted against each other, to the certain delight of others at the public trough.

Casey resigned from the State Library Agency in 1967 to join the faculty at Wayne State University in the Center for Urban Studies.   The 70’s saw a more inclusive approach to meeting the information and recreational needs of the nation’s library users. Once again ahead of the clock in 1974 Casey published The Pubic Library in the Network Mode, a prescient study on the possibilities.

As a faculty member at Wayne State Casey rose to the expanding opportunity to “reach out.” A priority for her was libraries’ inattention to the specific needs of an aging population. In a scholarly piece written in 1973 Casey lamented the fact that there had been scant involvement of libraries in the 1971 White House Conference on Aging. She raised the question: “What is the reason for the indifference on the part of libraries to the aging who constitute 10 percent of the present population, and whose number and percentage are generally believed will increase in the future?” Responding to her own question she quotes the National Survey of Library Services to the Aging, conducted by Booz, Allen and Hamilton:

The absence of special programing for the aging is a result of the traditional philosophy of library service held by most librarians – namely, that the library should provide services of universal scope and appeal. The result of this approach has been to submerge the needs and requirements of a particular group or segment of the population that might have a unique claim on the resources of the library.

That did not satisfy Casey who went on to write a major piece on “Staffing Library Services to the Aging”. It remains a hallmark study. Her ideas about the topic are best preserved in Library Services for the Aging, published in 1984 by Library Professional Publications.

Casey decried the fact that “library services to the aging have not developed at a pace consistent with the increase in the number of 65+ persons in the nation and commensurate with the increase in national interest in the needs and problems of the aging.” Always a systemic thinker Casey envisioned and offered concrete recommendations to train new professionals and to retrain existing staffing and administrators, basically to restructure public institutions.

Though times and technology have changed, Casey’s vision matters today as public institutions address 21st Century challenges. Genevieve M. Casey made a difference for her profession, for her students, and for the needs of a changing population.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Access to justice – Law Librarians Define Their Critical Mission

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.

Aristotle’s words ring true as justice seekers cope with a host of sometimes violent challenges to law and justice. The words take on practical meaning in a recent publication Access to Justice,  http://www.aallnet.org/mm/Publications/products/atjwhitepaper.pdf

an insightful white paper written and adopted by the American Association of Law Libraries. This is a how-to guide to walking the walk for law librarians and for those who may not yet understand the role that law librarians play in the pursuit of access to law and justice for all.

Sara Galligan, Director of the Ramsey County Law Library, is the principal author of the white paper. The thrust of the paper is the powerful idea that “by pushing their own boundaries, law librarians can gain meaningful perspective on access to justice and can boldly assert their own unique contributions.”

For law librarians, Access to Justice presents a challenge and a road map. Not an end but a means, access to information is paramount. For those who cling to a stereotyped image of librarians the white paper offers enlightenment. A strength of the paper is the clear description of the diverse roles that law librarians play depending on their work setting; the paper presents a sort of “work plan” that expands the image and outlines the possibilities. For those outside the field the paper presents a “who knew?” overview of unrealized potential.

The strength of the white paper is the focus not on tasks but on mission – Access to Justice. Towards the shared goal of access to justice law librarians choose different paths, ranging from supporting the information needs of pro se litigants to building skills and values of law students to lending their information management skills to law firms that know more about the law than they know about how to plumb the depths of relevant legal resources.

The white paper also suggests ways in which law librarians can blend their skills with agencies whose forte is outreach – to legal aid agencies, partnerships with public libraries, to acquainting practicing attorneys with current resources essential to informed practice of the law.

Collaboration, currency of resources, expanding access and sharing the intellectual wealth are means to an end in this significant paper. The prevailing theme of Access to Justice informs the white paper and thus the work of law librarians who daily get up and do what needs to be done to assure access to justice for all.