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
Rachel Ivy Clarke writes: “A popular method for quantifying a library’s value is to tally the money a patron saves by borrowing rather than purchasing materials, sometimes even printing a dollar amount on a receipt or offering an online calculator. The problem with these metrics is that they almost always focus on items rather than the intangible services that library workers provide. If we focus exclusively on the retail value of materials, we render the labor that goes into providing services invisible. When a job is done well—a program goes off without a hitch, for instance, or workers successfully introduce a new service like curbside pickup—the labor it took to accomplish it becomes less visible to those who benefit, and thus harder to articulate to the administrators and legislators who allocate resources.”
American Libraries column, Jan./Feb.
John Farrier writes: “Librarian Jeanette Sewell offers her patrons—and us—a LibGuide on The Golden Girls. This is timely, given the recent departure of Betty White. I’m especially impressed with Sewell’s scholarly bibliography on The Golden Girls, which is helpful for both pop culture researchers and casual fans.” White, who played Rose Nylund in the sitcom, died December 31 at age 99.
Neatorama, Jan. 7; Rice University Fondren Library website; CNN, Dec. 31
Chase Ollis writes: “On January 10 the American Library Association (ALA) announced the 10 winners of this year’s I Love My Librarian Award, nominated by patrons for their expertise, dedication, and profound impact in their communities. Three academic librarians, three public librarians, three school librarians, and one prison librarian are receiving the award this year. ‘Even in these unprecedented times, our nation’s librarians continue to empower their patrons, promote inclusion in their spaces and collections, and provide essential services for their communities,’ said ALA President Patricia ‘Patty’ M. Wong in a statement. Each honoree will receive a $5,000 cash prize, a $750 donation to their library, and complimentary registration to LibLearnX. The virtual award ceremony will take place during the conference at 3:30 p.m. Central on Saturday, January 22, and will stream live on YouTube.“
AL: The Scoop, Jan. 10
Anthony Watt writes: “An Iowa Senate proposal to bring criminal charges against school librarians and teachers who disseminate books the bill’s authors consider to be obscene is among the social issues in schools that legislators are expected to address this session. Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, and Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, have said they support bringing charges where they feel a violation has occurred. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, says parents have raised issues about five books that have been topics of debate in districts nationwide, the Des Moines Register reported: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Democratic leaders in both chambers were critical of lawmakers taking a hand in the issue and argued there is a process in place to address concerns about books or other materials.”
Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), Jan. 10; Des Moines (Iowa) Register, Dec. 14
When the Taliban breached the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 15, Liladhar R. Pendse knew he had to do something. Pendse, librarian for the East European and Central Asian collection at University of California, Berkeley Library, initiated a project that same day to archive web content at risk of being taken down under Taliban rule. This included websites, social media posts, and news clips by and about artists, journalists, social activists, and others based in the country. With the help of campus colleagues, Pendse created the At-Risk Afghanistan Website Archiving Project (ARAWA), a seven-week-long project with the goal of preserving and archiving digital cultural content that could be permanently lost.
American Libraries Trend, Jan./Feb.