Tell Us a Story

April 20, 2010

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a good story well told. We all tell stories, and libraries are the best places in the world to share them. With a growing national trend toward taking advantage of the cultural and literary programs, personalized professional learning assistance, and community social hub that good libraries offer their constituents, it’s still all about stories.

In the May issue of American Libraries, Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, explains why libraries have always been at the core of this extraordinary ongoing oral history project. Previewing his AL-sponsored program at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., in June, Isay notes, “If we take the time to listen, we’ll find wisdom, wonder, and poetry in the stories of the people all around us.”

In “A Literature of Risk,” young adult literature expert Michael Cart offers a preview of his forthcoming ALA Editions title, Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism, tying adolescent wellness to reading good stories that inspire empathy.

In “From Children’s Literature to Readers Theatre,” Elizabeth Poe explains how her forthcoming ALA Editions book of the same name fosters readers theater as a tool for librarians in teaching literacy skills and the importance and power of literature to help children develop an understanding of the world they live in.

Major studies and reports released in March and April and summarized in this issue support what we already know about the growing need for library services. The State of America’s Libraries, published by the American Library Association during National Library Week, indicates that research suggests a “perfect storm” of growing community demand for library services and shrinking resources to meet that demand.

Jill Nishi of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reports that a new survey conducted by the foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services indicates “unprecedented demand for free computer and internet access,” a demand that the foundation foresaw over a dozen years ago when it began “to help transform the way patrons access information at the library.” A survey of U.S. college and university faculty conducted by Ithaka S+R, however, suggests that libraries in these institutions of higher learning have some work to do before the library is perceived as the “electronic hub” of information services it needs to be.

Also in this issue, librarian Alan Jacobson explains how volunteers can help fill the gaping holes caused by funding reductions, staff cuts, and reduced hours. Jacobson does not maintain that professional staff can somehow be done away with and replaced by volunteers, but he does argue that a well-managed force of unpaid library lovers can help staff keep services flowing to an ever-more-eager public. And librarian Patrick Ragains looks at “Fixing the Federal Depository Library Program” and explains why new models for delivering government information must be developed.


Joseph Janes

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