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Posts Tagged ‘libraries’

CLA 2010 Conference: Day 1 Highlights

In libraries, library associations, library profession on November 13, 2010 at 6:00 am

I’m tweeting from the California Library Association’s annual conference, “Navigating the New.” Follow along @bannedlibrarian

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Nick Merrill Speaks Out Against NSLs

In law, libraries, privacy on August 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Readers, so sorry posts on bannedlibrarian have slowed down. A new job and book writing have kept me a little too busy, but I plan to get back to blogging soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this news story:

“Gagged for 6 Years, Nick Merrill Speaks Out on Landmark Court Struggle Against FBI’s National Security Letters” (Democracy Now, August 11, 2010)

The program also features George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, a consortium of libraries in Connecticut that sued the government after receiving their own National Security Letter in 2005.

From Glenn Beck to Your Backyard: Targeting Gay Books

In censorship, gender, intellectual freedom, LGBTQ issues, school libraries, youth on April 11, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Tomorrow, April 12th, a special review committee** in Mount Holly, NJ, will determine the fate of three books challenged for gay-themed content. One of them is my queer youth anthology, Revolutionary Voices. (The other two are: The Full Spectrum and Love & Sex). A local group has called the books pornography and wants them removed from Rancocas Valley Regional High School.

While the legal standard on pornography will not help their cause, school book challenges like these have been successful. It is my sincere hope these books won’t be removed — both on merit and legal precedent. Island Trees v. Pico held:

“Local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.'”

Unfortunately, political and religious objections to LGBTQ-themed material are old news. But, what’s newsworthy here is who’s behind this challenge. As American Libraries reported, they are connected to Glenn Beck’s 912 Project.

Beck is known for his alarmist and inaccurate commentary. He admits that he doesn’t check his facts. With millions of viewers, however, he’s not to be underestimated.

Last Fall, Beck began attacking Kevin Jennings, former director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).* Picking up the torch, local chapters of Beck’s 912 Project are now requesting the removal of books that appear GLSEN’s book list. Mine included.

This particular chapter is in Burlington County, NJ. According to its MeetUp page, the chapter boasts 350 members (called “freedom’s foot soldiers”). If you have any doubt that their motives are political or religious, you might look at 912’s Principles. Number 2 is: “I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.” A perfectly noble belief, but not a good reason to withhold well-reviewed books from the entire student population.

Luckily, community members and library media specialists at Rancocas Valley High have been proactive in defending students’ freedom to read. They are also warning other libraries to be on the lookout for challenges backed by other 912 chapters. Last week I wrote a letter to the Board offering “my full support to the media center staff who judiciously select materials based on local policy and reliable reviews.”

I wrote in my letter, as well, about the young people for whom these books have made a difference. In the decade since Revolutionary Voices was first published I have received hundreds of comments from readers. In almost every case, they convey how the book inspired them or taught them something new.

One letter came from Lewis W. in Ann Arbor, MI, who was 15 when he found the book in his teen center library. He wrote,

“My friends and I passed around a single copy of this book for weeks… I was fascinated and relieved that there were other people out there who shared elements of my identity. At the same time, it was really important for me as a pretty sheltered young person to see that I was by no means identical to other LGBTQ youth, that there was a wide diversity of voices within the community. This was an illuminating and strengthening part of the book for me.”

While book challenges can become a battle of the most vocal, I hope the Board takes perspectives like Lewis’ into account. Queer students may not feel safe speaking up when LGBTQ books are challenged. But, they certainly deserve a chance to discover the “diversity of voices” that make balanced library collections so crucial for the health of our communities and democracy.

**This is corrected information. I previously wrote that the local Board of Education was meeting Monday. The Board will not meet until late April. This special committee is tasked with making a recommendation to the Board.

* Side note: There’s been criticism of the content of specific GLSEN safe sex workshops that I will not get into here. If you want to look it up, search for “fistgate,” or better yet “kevin jennings and revolutionary voices.” You can see where Beck got his information from.

Key Takeaways for Libraries from FCC National Broadband Plan

In broadband, community partnerships, information policy, library funding, open access, telecommunications reform on March 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts (here and here), the FCC’s National Broadband Plan came out this week. The 360-page document is a worthwhile read. Below are some key takeaways related to libraries and our constituents.

The FCC writes, “If this plan succeeds, every American community will have affordable access to far better broadband performance than they enjoy today. To do so, the plan makes recommendations about reforming the E-rate and the Rural Health Care support programs. Second, non-profit and public institutions should be able to find efficient alternatives for greater connectivity through aggregated efforts. … Schools, libraries and health care facilities must all have the connectivity they need to achieve their purposes” (See Chapter 2, Goal 4).

Of particular note is the reminder that, “Over half (51%) of African Americans and 43% of Hispanics who use the Internet do so at a public library.”[1] The three primary issues inhibiting equitable Internet access are affordability, digital literacy and relevance. All three of these issues impact library services. And as more and more basic social services move online, libraries must continue to address the literacy gaps and whittle away at the perception (by 19% of people surveyed) that the Internet’s merely a “waste of time.”

To this end, the plan calls for capacity-building among community partners stating, “…public computing centers provide more than just free access to the Internet. They provide supportive environments for reluctant and new users to begin to explore the Internet, become comfortable using it and develop the skills needed to find, utilize and create content.[2] Patrons of these centers overwhelmingly express the value of the personnel who staff them and can offer one-on-one help, training or guidance”[3] New LSTA grants and training programs for library personnel are key components of the plan.

The plan also calls for the creation of a “Digital Literacy Corps” to support programs that close the digital knowledge divide. Chicago Public Library’s CyberNavigators program is one successful example. Libraries across the country should harness this opportunity to shape new local programs and promote existing models. The plan asks Congress to increase funding for IMLS, which, if accomplished, will open incredible avenues for community partnerships, literacy programs and equipment upgrades.

Other highlights include recommendations to ensure greater affordability and speed, increase competition and consumer protections, restructure the E-Rate program, expand rural broadband access, and improve public safety and communications access for people with disabilities. The FCC found that, “An important and cross-cutting issue is accessibility for people with disabilities. Some 39% of all non-adopters have a disability, much higher than the 24% of overall survey respondents who have a disability.”[4] Major barriers include the lack of accessible websites, software, equipment and the connection speed needed to use crucial adaptive tools like VoIP. As any librarian will tell you, many people with disabilities only have access to basic adaptive equipment at their libraries. The plan concludes, “The federal government must promote innovative and affordable solutions to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to communications services and that they do not bear disproportionate costs to obtain that access.”

The Broadband Plan was shaped by input from all corners of the U.S.; yet, it was a broad grassroots effort that assured rural and Indigenous communities, people of color, low-income residents and small businesses were heard. These groups collected stories from digital “haves and have-nots,” met with FCC Commissioners, hosted teach-ins, and garnered media attention to educate the public.

There are a number of outstanding issues and next steps to ensure this plan is implemented. Libraries should not miss the opportunity to partner with these community-based groups and localize our policy advocacy work. Our local communities will be better served for it. One step in this direction: yesterday the California Library Association’s (CLA) Intellectual Freedom Committee signed the grassroots Digital Inclusion Pledge. Representing 3,000 members in California, CLA joined dozens of other state and local groups. I encourage other local libraries and associations to do so as well.
NOTES:

[1] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 77, Jon P. Gant et al., National Minority Broadband Adoption: Comparative Trends in Adoption, Acceptance and Use, Jt. Ctr. for Pol. & Econ. Stud. 3 (2010) (Gant et al., National Minority Broadband Adoption).

[2] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 89, American Library Association Comments in re NBP PN #16, filed Dec. 2, 2009, at 3.

[3] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 90, Dharma Dailey et al., Broadband Adoption at 27–28.

[4] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 10, Horrigan, Broadband Adoption and Use in America at 24, 7.

Informing Innovation: No More Technolust

In academic libraries, digital reference, education on October 23, 2009 at 9:32 am

Today I’m blogging from a conference on student (and generally young adult) library users hosted by LAUC-B. I’m about to go into a breakout session with e-learning specialist Char Booth on community-centered research. Here’s a great new book:

Booth, Char. (2009). Informing Innovation: Tracking Student Interest in Emerging Library Technologies at Ohio University (A Research Report).

In it Booth presents practical tools for getting to know what tools and technologies local communities actually need and want. Yes, “research is where it’s at.” No more technology for technology’s sake. While Booth’s writing about academic libraries, the concepts and tools in this document offer valuable insights for public libraries and for nonprofit information centers. Speaking personally, this has been an area of my work for a long time — first, trying to select appropriate new technologies for then-Web 2.0 novice staff and community members (at a grassroots nonprofit), and later, researching and sequencing reference tools for public library users in Contra Costa County, CA. In all instances we need more models for thoughtful community research.

“This book by Char Booth examines one institution’s efforts to move away from technolust and towards a ‘culture of assessment.'” Read it.

Add ons:

Informing Innovation: Survey Instrument (PDF 268 KB): Download a template library/technology survey instrument, which can be adapted to customize a local environmental scan similar to the Ohio University Libraries project

Dynamic Webcast (Flash Video – Streaming): View a dynamic webcast of Char Booth and Chris Guder’s 2009 ACRL National Conference presentation, “If You Build It, Will They Care?”, which summarizes findings and practical applications of the Ohio University Libraries student environmental scanning project.

Sustaining Libraries & People Who Love Them

In activism, art, libraries on October 9, 2009 at 12:03 pm

In light of not so nice news in the world of libraries and social justice, here’s two nice things about today:

1) Someone told me I ‘looked’ like a librarian (without knowing I am one) as I sat researching away on my computer, which they followed with the exclamation, “God, I love libraries!”

2) I visited one of my favorite art blogs for some web/graphic design inspiration, and I saw this:

by Mary Tremonte, www.justseeds.org

by Mary Tremonte, http://www.justseeds.org

God, I love artists who love libraries.

Philadelphia Libraries Saved

In activism, labor, library funding, public libraries on September 21, 2009 at 7:55 am

logoflpUpdate on my previous post about Philadelphia library closures:

On September 17th legislators in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania voted to save the Philadelphia Free Library system along with jobs for 3,000 city workers. Thousands of letters and phone calls poured in from PA voters, library users and advocates across the nation after it was announced all 54 library branches would close October 2nd.

The Senate vote was 32 to 17 in favor of House Bill 1828, which temporarily increases local sales tax and defers city pension contributions to remedy a $700-million budget shortfall. If the bill hadn’t passed other critical city services would have been reduced including trash collection, court operations and the fire department. According to the Senate roll call, all democrats supported the bill. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans opposed and 41% supported.

Philadelphia: Stop Library Closures

In information access, library funding, public libraries on September 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

Repost from About.com: Cities & Towns:

When Mayor Michael Nutter suggested slashing funds from the city budget late last year by closing 11 of Philadelphia’s 54 libraries, waves of shock and outrage rippled through the city. Now, as state budget negotiations continue to drag on in Harrisburg, the entire Philadelphia library system is threatened. The Free Library has posted an announcement on its website stating that “without the necessary budgetary legislation by the State Legislature in Harrisburg,” Philadelphia will be forced to close all of its libraries – including the main branch – on October 2nd. Earlier today the Inquirer further reported that “layoff notices could go out on Friday if the Legislature does not approve the city’s request for a temporary sales-tax hike and a two-year deferral of payments into the pension fund.”

The Free Library is encouraging Philadelphians to contact their elected officials and ask them to help keep the libraries open.

Call for Submissions: Gender & Sexuality in Librarianship

In critical pedagogy, gender, LGBTQ issues, libraries, library profession on December 6, 2008 at 11:42 am

Library Juice Press seeks book proposals and manuscripts for a new series, Gender and Sexuality in Librarianship, edited by Emily Drabinski. This series will publish works from both practical and theoretical perspectives that critically engage issues in the LIS field related to gender and sexual difference. Potential subjects include:

  • Queer and feminist approaches to traditional library topics including classification, pedagogy, collection development
  • Works that address gender and sexuality issues in conjunction with other articulations of difference including race, class, nationality, etc.
  • Practical approaches to developing community-based GLBTQ collections
  • Materials addressing library needs of specific populations, e.g., GLBTQ youth, elders, etc.
  • Workplace issues, e.g., ‘coming out’ at work
  • Historical perspectives on GLBTQ and women’s issues in the library
  • Works that bring library issues into conversation with contemporary theoretical debates in feminist, queer, and gender studies

Please submit queries, proposals, and manuscripts to Emily Drabinski, emily.drabinski@gmail.com.

Reposted from Library Juice, published November 26, 2008.