Valentine’s Day (February 14) and Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 13–19) is one month away. In our January/February issue, we offer stats celebrating the platonic, romantic, and civic love found in books and libraries, including the percentage by which romance book sales increased after the pandemic struck (24%); the number of valentines that Shaler North Hills Library in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, received after putting out a call for its “Valentines for Seniors” program (902); and the number of years Valentine (Neb.) Public Library has served its community (101).
American Libraries Trend, Jan./Feb.
Athlete, activist, and author Colin Kaepernick will appear as the closing speaker at ALA’s 2022 LibLearnX conference on January 24. He will discuss his first children’s book, I Color Myself Different, a joyful ode to Black and Brown people and communities and a story based on events from his youth. In August 2016, Kaepernick made headlines when, before a preseason NFL game, he chose not to stand during the “Star-Spangled Banner.” This action sparked a movement, and he has become widely known for his work challenging anti-Blackness and systemic oppression.
ALA, Jan. 13
Cass Balzer writes: “Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, libraries have served both informally and officially as public health partners, from 3D-printing personal protective equipment to serving as vaccination sites. Now, as the country continues to ease masking and social-distancing restrictions, libraries are again stepping into the role as a point of care—this time by helping to distribute rapid, at-home COVID-19 testing kits. Joel Mantey, adult services manager at Findlay–Hancock County (Ohio) Public Library, says the tests were sorely needed in their area: ‘It’s been a boon for the community.'”
American Libraries Trend, Jan./Feb.
Farah Javed and Reuven Blau write: “The book was closed at 25 libraries throughout the city on January 10 due to staffing shortages, forcing some New Yorkers to stand outside in the cold for Wi-Fi. The city’s three public library systems—New York, Brooklyn, and Queens— have scrambled the past two weeks to keep open their 207 branches across the five boroughs as scores of librarians and other support staffers called out sick with COVID-19 or related quarantines.” A renewed wave of pandemic closures and limited operations is happening across the US and Canada, from York County (Pa.) Libraries to Fairfax County (Va.) Public Library to Toronto Public Library.
The City, Jan. 10; York Dispatch, Jan. 7; WTOP-FM (Washington, D.C.), Jan. 10; Globalnews.ca, Jan. 4
Cass Balzer writes: “Libraries have been experiencing First Amendment audits for several years, but there was an uptick in reported cases in 2021, according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). And while the format of these audits is familiar, libraries are reporting more aggressive, targeted, and organized operations than in years past. There is now a clearer mechanism for First Amendment auditors to profit from their videos, either through monetizing YouTube channels or using crowdfunding tools like Patreon and GoFundMe. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of OIF, also notes the potential impact of pandemic-induced shutdowns. ‘We’re living in a time where there is a little more contention over politics, and some of it may be coming from that,’ she says. ‘But there may also be a relationship to the fact that libraries are open again.'”
American Libraries feature, Jan./Feb.
The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced $24.7 million in new grants to support 208 scholarly projects and exhibitions at cultural institutions, museums, libraries, and archives. Awards include nearly $45,000 to University of Virginia, toward the creation of a database of 18th- and 19th-century North American weather records; a $100,000 grant to Northeastern University in Boston, to support its Digital Archive of American Indian Languages Preservation and Perseverance, which gathers handwritten materials in the Cherokee syllabary; and $30,000 to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, New York, which will support a digital mapping project exploring the history of jazz and hip-hop in the borough. The awards are part of the agency’s regular cycle of grants; last year, the agency also distributed more than $140 million in additional grants supported by the American Rescue Plan Act.
The New York Times, Jan. 11, Nov. 16, 2018; National Endowment for the Humanities, Jan. 11
Nia Thimakis writes: “The last year, especially the last few months, has seen a dramatic increase in book challenges nationwide. The timing of such an organized push repeats the censorship wave of 1981. The 1970s saw schools become more secular, the women’s liberation movement, the gay rights movement, the continued civil rights movement, the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973, and fear of the loss of the traditional family unit. With these supposed attacks on the morals of the country, the Moral Majority was formed in 1979. Groups based in Texas, Utah, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania threw their hat into the fight to ‘curate’ what children have access to in public spaces. More often than not, the parents objecting had not read the materials they were protesting or cherry-picked parts taken out of context to prove their point. If this sounds familiar, it should.”
Intellectual Freedom Blog, Jan. 10