Posts tagged ‘news’

What you can do for libraries

There’s a lot that libraries can do for you including providing fun programs, a quiet place to read or study, homework help, tax forms, technology training, free Internet access, and volunteer opportunities. But there’s something you can do for libraries–and they need your help.

I recently wrote about the trouble Indiana libraries are facing due to property tax caps and the cuts school libraries are facing in Monroe County. But yesterday delivered stunning, devastating news about New Jersey libraries: they’re facing a 74% reduction in funding.

The cuts, which add up to $10.4 million, could also cost New Jersey access to $4.5 million in federal matching funds which, among other things, currently provides internet access for roughly two-thirds of the state’s 306 public libraries.

That’s right: No Internet at the library. Never mind that the public library is the only free internet access in 78 percent of communities, according to the New Jersey Library Association; or that many state agencies have moved their forms on-line.

It’s especially disheartening that this news comes at the beginning of National Library Week. Especially through Internet access, technology training, and database access, libraries are becoming more important, not less. And while everyone needs to make cuts when state budgets get trimmed, libraries are being disproportionately targeted.

Yet another irony is that, of all the villains that have pushed New Jersey to the brink of financial oblivion, libraries simply aren’t one of them. Librarians aren’t represented by powerful unions. Their pay hasn’t escalated at 4 percent to 6 percent a year. Library funding at the state level has been flat for twenty years.

“We have never fed at the trough like public safety and education,” said Robert White, executive director of Bergen County Cooperative Library System, which represents 75 libraries across four counties. “And now we’re being punished for it.”

If you’re in the area, there will be a rally in Trenton on 6 May to demonstrate support for New Jersey libraries. You can also contact legislators, send a letter to the paper, or join supporters on Facebook at Save My NJ Library.

And since it is National Library Week, be sure to tell your own legislators that you support your library. If you’re in Indiana, you can do that online via the Indiana Library Federation. You can also take national action via the ALA website, where they’re asking you to talk to your senator by 14 April (that’s this Wednesday) to express your support for libraries before the Senate Appropriations Committee meets to determine funding for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (ILTSL) program in its FY2011 budget.

You can also use the ALA’s Library Value Calculator to see how valuable your local library is to you as a patron–or to your community if you’re a librarian trying to defend your institution.

And finally, if you haven’t yet sent in your Census form, please do so. The number of people in your community determines how federal funds will be allocated, and your library is one of the organizations that will be affected by that funding. While it may not seem like one person really matters, when it comes to the Census, you do.

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April 12, 2010 at 10:44 AM 1 comment

News: property tax caps and Indiana libraries, microfilm art, and YALSA mentoring

About two years ago, the Indiana legislature voted to institute a property tax cap of 1% for residential homes effective in 2010, and Governor Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law. This is bad news for libraries because in Indiana, most of the library’s income is from property taxes (about 80%, in fact, according to the director of the Allen County Public Library). Budgets were cut, hiring was reduced, and cost-saving measures were introduced. The St. Joseph County Public Library said it’d cut all its Saturday hours. A year after the tax caps were announced and revenue cuts had begun, most of the library branches in Vigo County were closed. This fall the Anderson Public Library cut its hours. And yesterday, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library (IMCPL) announced that they’d likely be closing six branches and cutting 55 jobs. Back in January one poll showed the governor’s approval rating was about 65% across the state with his highest rating (around 70%) in the Indy area, and about 73% of people approve of the tax caps. Libraries provide things like story times and recreational reading and fun programs, but we also provide absolutely essential resources like computer and Internet access and assistance in filing for unemployment online. I’m really hoping that when library services, hours, and staff get cut, people reconsider their approval of property tax caps, but since even cutting fire departments by about 30% hasn’t convinced people that the tax caps are a bad idea, I just don’t know how hopeful I can be.

In more cheerful news, IUPUI’s University Library recently got rid of about half of its microfilm collection and the librarian in charge of the weeding project, Mindy Cooper, was determined to keep it out of the landfill. According to Mindy, a lot of it went to students at the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI, Indiana art teachers, and the Eiteljorg Museum, and one of the things it was used for was to make this collage by Alisa Nordholt-Dean at the Eiteljorg. What a neat reuse of discarded library materials!

Finally, the application process for YALSA’s mentoring program began on Monday (here’s the official blog post). They’re looking for librarians who’ve been working with teens in public or school libraries for at least six years to be paired up with new librarians and graduate school students to form a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship. The application forms are due by 30 June and reference forms should be submitted by 7 July. Participants will be notified of their selection in mid-September. I’ve applied and I’m hoping to be selected, but regardless of whether or not I’m invited to participate, I think this is a really cool program and I’m glad YALSA is offering this opportunity not only for new librarians to have guidance, advice, and a source of encouragement, but also to give more seasoned librarians a chance to pass on some of their wisdom and learn new things themselves.

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April 10, 2010 at 4:02 PM 1 comment

Links: girls on book covers, a Twilight novella, and the Lambda Literary Awards

I wrote a little earlier on the depiction of larger female characters on book covers and touched on the “disembodied parts” look that seems popular on books intended for girls. Karl of Txt-based Blogging wrote a post on the depiction of boys vs. girls on YA book covers (inspired by Codes of Gender, which I watched earlier this year!), concluding that, as in most media depictions, girls and women are shown as passive and off-balance whereas boys and men are given more active, strong poses. He posted a link to this post on YALSA-bk and it generated quite a bit of discussion. What do you think?

Last week it was announced that Stephanie Meyer would be releasing a 200-page “novella,” THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER, in June. One dollar of every $13.99 purchase will go the American Red Cross. If you’re reading this for yourself and not buying it for a library, I second Leila’s suggestion at Bookshelves of Doom to read the free downloadable version and donate more than $1 to your charity of choice instead. She suggests Kiva and I encourage Heifer International, but mostly I just want our money to go somewhere meaningful, wherever you decide that is.

Did you see OCLC’s announcement earlier this week about an iPhone app, pic2shop, that lets users scan book barcodes and then see which local libraries have the book. I know that this won’t benefit all library patrons and that the digital divide is very real, but it’s still a neat way to get people who do have iPhones to consider the public library when they’re looking for a book–and for libraries to keep their WorldCat records up to date.

The finalists for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award were announced earlier this month; since 1989 the award has recognized “the finest lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literature available in the United States.” Miriam at Feministing has a writeup with some thoughts on the categories in which awards are given.

April 4, 2010 at 11:25 PM Leave a comment

Disappearing school libraries

I received an email today via the IU SLIS listserv about the continuing struggle against school funding cuts in Monroe County. An independent group is planning a rally on 10 April to recruit volunteers to pass a funding referendum. I haven’t been able to find freely accessible news posts about the rally, but most of the information is reproduced on the Bloomington Moms Meetup Group. The proposed funding cuts would, among other things, eliminate all elementary and middle school librarian positions, leaving just one high school librarian.

And Monroe County is not alone. It’s happening in Connecticut, in New Jersey, in Arizona, and in California, too. In fact, all across the country, school library services and staff are being cut or professional librarians are being replaced with paraprofessionals. This Google Map (created by someone listed only as Shonda) shows “a nation without school librarians”–places where certified school librarian positions are to be eliminated or where librarians will have to work across multiple schools. If this is happening near you and it’s not represented on the map, be sure to update it. And stop by and tell Edi of Crazy Quilts what school libraries have meant to you.

But most importantly, be sure to tell your local government and school board why school libraries matter. Start with “Young Learners Need Librarians, Not Just Google” by Mark Moran for Forbes and Sara Scribner’s “Saving the Google Students” at the LA Times (thanks to Eilir for the links) and “Student Reading Skills Improve With Library Funding” by Jack Humphrey in the Indy Star. When funding gets tight, cuts are going to be made–but we can try to protect our schools and libraries for the demonstrable benefit they bring.

March 31, 2010 at 10:08 PM 1 comment

Links: book spine poetry, Hilary Duff as author, and a defense of gaming

Some of this is sort of old (in Internet time, at least), but I’ve been trying hard to get all of my work for the next week and a half done before I leave for PLA and neglecting my RSS feeds, so it’s all new to me!

100 Scope Notes had a great post earlier this month with book spine poetry. I love these!

Just Ask Marlene announces that Hilary Duff has signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster beginning with ELIXIR. “Hillary tells her fans that she loves reading great adventure books, especially ones like Elixir that feature a strong, inspiring female character.” Look for ELIXIR this October or preorder at Amazon now.

And finally, Amanda Gardner at BusinessWeek writes that “boys who own a video game system don’t do as well academically as their non-playing peers,” but the study author, Robert Weis, clarifies:

“we can never say with 100 percent certainty that it’s playing video games that causes kids to have delays or deficits in reading and writing performance, but … we can be pretty confident that it’s the game ownership and the amount of time they spend playing that causes these academic delays.”

I feel the need to rise to video games’ defense. Lots of things from chess to rock music has been branded the downfall of our youth and video games are just the latest form of entertainment to add to the list. Any hobby–sports or gaming or even reading–will take away from academic study time. Should kids give up all of their hobbies just because it’d give them more time to spend on school? Hobbies are beneficial for so many reasons (they help us develop socially, they help us develop other skills, and they give us something to do to get a break from our work at the very least) and in fact, the Department of Defense published a news item earlier this year about the benefits of video gaming.

Furthermore, the study population was boys whose families didn’t own video game systems, so it’s possible that the time the boys spent on gaming would level off as they played for a while and having video games in their own homes wasn’t an exciting new thing anymore. The study also found that reading and writing scores dropped, but that math scores remained consistent, so it’s not just a matter of time spent on video games that could be spent on studying.

I’m not saying that playing video games is always good or that there are only benefits and no drawbacks, but knee-jerk “gaming is bad” reactions and headlines to studies with more nuance drive me crazy. The truth, as usual, is probably not in one extreme or the other, but rather somewhere in the middle.

March 23, 2010 at 1:09 PM Leave a comment

The Chinese cover of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

On Sunday Neil Gaiman tweeted about the Chinese cover of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.

The Chinese cover of Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. A black circle with the white silhouette of a boy's face dominates and moving in a diagonal line from the lower left to the upper right corner are swirls, touches of color, and ghosts. The extreme bottom left corner shows a black grave marker with a white cross.

The Chinese cover of Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

I love the selective use of color and the texture. It’s interesting to see what got carried over from the American cover, most notably the silhouette of Bod (confession: it took me ages to see that in the headstone). Actually, check out all of the different covers at Gaiman’s official site. Some are more graveyardy, some are more Victorian, some are more fairy tale, some are more spooky. What a great variation. I especially like the Italian cover. Although the one from Poland is pretty great, too. Honestly, I think the American cover is sort of boring in comparison!

Anyway, back to China. In the summer of 2007, the Chinese government banned the depiction of skeletons in the MMORPG World of Warcraft. The Chinese company licensed to operate WoW in China complied, adding flesh to the undead characters and replacing the bodies of players with graves. Given this, I think the Chinese cover of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is even more interesting. The ghosts shown are cartoonish, very different from the spooky figures on the Polish cover, and there is no knife like the one in this sketch Dave McKean did for the original cover selection process or even the Italian cover.

But what is curiously present is a cross on the grave marker in the lower left corner. While restrictions on religion have loosened since the 1980s and Christianity may be on the rise in China, religion in general is required to operate within strict boundaries. Both the Catholic church and the Protestant church in China are run by government-approved organizations and worship or Bible study outside of those approved churches is illegal. One of the girls from my residence hall in college spent a summer evangelizing in China and had to be very careful about what she included in her emails home. (Please note I am not supporting illegal proselytizing in China, just mentioning it as something that happens.)

While THE GRAVEYARD BOOK takes place in England, and in a Christian cemetery specifically, I was still surprised by the presence of a cross on the cover. Are you?

March 4, 2010 at 9:41 PM 1 comment

Hunger Games book 3 cover announced (and more on book covers)

The cover and title for the third book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, MOCKINGJAY, was announced today!

The cover for the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, which will be released in August 2010. The cover depicts a purplish-grey bird with wings spread over a blue background with an abstract design of breaking rings and lines. The title and the author's name, Suzanne Collins, also appear on the cover.

I was a little disappointed with the second book, but I’m really excited to see how the trilogy wraps up. I like that the three covers tell a story themselves of darkness, rebellion, and… hope? victory? but I’m not sure about the color. It seems a little too cheerful, and I wonder if the cover as a whole will look girly to teen boys. In any case, though, I am super-pumped for the end of August to arrive! (There won’t be ARCs at Annual because Scholastic doesn’t need to promote the book or the series–at least, that’s what Dean Irwin reported to us after going to Midwinter.)

I’ve been thinking about book covers a lot recently. There was a lengthy discussion on the listservs recently about the whitewashing of covers at Bloomsbury, there was a recent post over at The YA YA YAs about that mentioned dystopian novels having covers with girls’ hair flying around on them, and last spring I came across a blog post by the person who designed the cover of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND talking about his thought process during the design and showing some of the ideas he didn’t use. And of course, there’s always Jacket Whys for frequent pictures and thoughts on children’s and YA book covers.

Books circ better when they’re displayed face-out (this comes up a lot in class discussions when someone mentions bookstores) because people do judge books by their covers, and seeing the cover lets you get to know the book better than just seeing the spine. But beyond that, I’m interested in what about book covers makes a book more popular, or more likely to get checked out, or just more likely to catch someone’s eye, and how those characteristics have changed over time (remember all those horrible “realistic” covers on historical fiction from the 80s and 90s?).

February 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM Leave a comment

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