Illustration: Drew Bardana

Special Report: Democracy in Action

November 1, 2019

And libraries are especially well suited to be “democracy coaches,” in the words of Amanda Smithfield, a librarian at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School in Nashville, Tennessee. Open to everyone regardless of political leanings, they serve as voter registration hubs and polling places and provide meeting space for community groups and forums. Our special report … Continue reading Special Report: Democracy in Action


Deborah Doyle talks with California State Sen. Mark McGuire about funding, programming, and new technology at Healdsburg Regional Library. (Photo: Ray Holley/Sonoma County Library)

Connecting with Congress

November 1, 2019

“Building these relationships is one of the most important strategies for a successful advocacy program,” says Bradford Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that helps members of Congress and constituents communicate effectively with each other. “There’s a general wall of cynicism that’s been built up around government. But … Continue reading Connecting with Congress


Linda Neunzig, Snohomish County (Wash.) agriculture coordinator, takes a question from the audience during a discussion titled “­Disappearing Farmland: Population Growth and Food Supply Sustainability” at Monroe Library. The event was part of the Issues That Matter series hosted by ­Sno-Isle Libraries.

Discourse for Democracy

November 1, 2019

In a city of more than 23,000 residents, just 40 miles south of Cleveland, these forums have attracted dozens of attendees and receive significant local media coverage. They are recorded and later posted to the city’s website. Daniel Slife, the library’s director, moderates the forums, which were initiated by former Director Pamela Hickson-Stevenson. Slife always … Continue reading Discourse for Democracy


Civic Involvement, By the Numbers

Civic Involvement

November 1, 2019

These statistics are featured in American Libraries’ “Democracy in Action” special report (Nov./Dec. 2019). 53.9 million Number of citizens of voting age who reported not voting in the 2016 US presidential election. Source: US Census Bureau (2018) 15% Percentage of registered nonvoters who didn’t vote in 2016 because they were not interested or felt that … Continue reading Civic Involvement


llustration: Drew Bardana

Countdown to the Vote

November 1, 2019

National Voter Registration Day In the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, hundreds of libraries participated in National Voter Registration Day (NVRD). Since 2012, the nonpartisan, unofficial holiday has been held on the fourth Tuesday of September with the aim of extending the franchise to eligible voters. Last year, libraries made up 14% of NVRD’s … Continue reading Countdown to the Vote


Graphic: Libraries use tech tools to fight fake news (Illustration: Drew Bardana)

Check Your Facts

November 1, 2019

The Albuquerque Journal’s coverage of the event was headlined “Drag Queens Dazzle at Library Storytime,” while enthusiastic parents voiced support on the library’s Facebook page. Other Facebook commenters voiced opposition, sharing links to conservative websites and articles with headlines like “Parents Beware—Registered Sex Offenders Are Performing for Small Children at Drag Queen Story Hours in Public Libraries” … Continue reading Check Your Facts


Media literacy books

Media Literacy in an Age of Fake News

November 1, 2019

Librarians can ensure patrons make informed decisions in local, state, and national elections by helping them think critically. Libraries of all types can promote media literacy by providing handouts, LibGuides, training, and programs about separating fact from online fiction. The following resources can assist. The National Association for Media Literacy Education, a nonprofit organization based … Continue reading Media Literacy in an Age of Fake News



Nebraska City (Neb.) Mayor Bryan Bequette (left) and his wife and daughter celebrate after solving a puzzle in the Morton-James Public Library’s escape room.

Nontraditional Approaches to Reaching Local Leaders

November 1, 2019

At Manitowoc (Wis.) Public Library (MPL), which hosts a free carnival every August, local representatives such as the mayor and aldermen hop into a dunk tank or serve as targets for the water-balloon catapult. Julia Lee, youth services manager at MPL, says getting local celebrities in the dunk tank helps break down barriers between residents … Continue reading Nontraditional Approaches to Reaching Local Leaders


From the President by Wanda Kay Brown

Welcoming New Americans

November 1, 2019

Libraries have a role to play too. From hosting programs with local legislators and teaching patrons media literacy to offering support for online census questions and assistance with government e-forms, today’s libraries are hot spots of civic engagement. Newcomers to this country, especially, see libraries as trustworthy guides on their path to integrating into their … Continue reading Welcoming New Americans