How the Disabled Benefit from Libraries

Guest post by Helen Mainwaring. Learning, even under the best of conditions, can be tough. In a world that is still reeling from financial meltdown of 2008, it often seems that it is education – and all the resources it needs to thrive – that is the first public service to get taken away from a society that badly needs it. More often than not, the first arm of education that is taken away is funding for libraries. Libraries are the easiest targets when those in charge need to save some pennies. In the eyes of those who don’t know their true value, … Continue reading

What do librarians do?

Reference librarian and patron

It never ceases to amaze me how many newspaper and magazine articles I see almost every month proclaiming that “the library is more than books.” That’s public libraries. Newspapers and magazines don’t seem to acknowledge academic libraries, special libraries, or school libraries very much. I don’t see nearly as many articles that acknowledge that librarians do more than sit around reading books all day, but that’s another long-standing misconception. Library collections have been more than books for more than a century. Every new technology in information or entertainment becomes a new part of library collections. But libraries have always been … Continue reading

Do diligence is a must: more misused pears

misused pears

When I saw that comment in a forum thread I wondered, “How due you due do diligence?” Someone (or someone’s fingers) was having trouble with homonyms. I suspect hasty typing accounts for that neglect of due diligence. Many losing battles with homonyms seem to result from using the more common word when the less common is correct. A Christian devotional advised readers what to do in the throws of temptation. Throe, most often used in the plural, can mean a violent spasm of pain, or as a metaphor, a condition of agonizing effort or struggle. Against temptation, for example. A … Continue reading

Kids & Family at the Library of Congress website

As I have written before, the Library of Congress website contains such a wealth of information that it will take multiple posts even to begin to do it justice. Even the Kids & Family page is difficult to describe fully. It comprises links to 14 other pages, some intended especially for young readers and others not. The link to it on the library’s home page does not stand out. It is on the line of links below the 9 thumbnails. Pages intended for young readers The Young Readers Center is not a web-based collection. It is a room on the … Continue reading

Chicago Public Schools vs school libraries

Elementary school library

Harold Howe, author of Thinking about Our Kids, has said, “What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it thinks about education.” They must not think much about education in Chicago these days. They have taken school librarians out of the library and assigned them to classroom teaching. I learned of the problem from a report on National Public Radio. I lived in the Chicago area for more than 20 years, and during the last 15 years or so of that time, I was married to a suburban elementary school teacher. We lived through a strike. … Continue reading

Digital divide: broadband, the underserved, and libraries

digital-divide-circle

Education and economic well-being depend more and more on electronic information and communication. Not everyone in the US has equal access to computers and Internet service. Not everyone who does can use it through wireless devices (wi-fi). The difference between the haves and have-nots is known as the digital divide. In partnership with the Federal Government and private foundations, public libraries take a leading role in closing the gap.

5 more unusual and unexpected library services

Drones in flight

All public and academic libraries offer the same basic services. Many offer unexpected services. In some cases, they are the library’s response to unique local needs. In others, one library has seen how it can address a common need, and other libraries may start something similar. At least some of today’s more recent basic services started out as one library’s experiment. I reported on 3 unusual and unexpected library services a while ago. Here are 5 more.

Wastes: Government websites you should know about

waste and recycling truck

Do you ever throw anything away? Then you are participating in a major social, economic, and environmental problem. We talk about throwing stuff away, but there’s no such place as away. We can’t leave dealing with waste entirely to the government, either. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency website has a many pages devoted to Wastes. They provide a lot of useful information to help us make the best choices for our own waste management. The index page has links to four major groups of articles as well as a “Wastes Quick Finder.” If you recognize the topic you want in … Continue reading

Queue the violin music and other misused pears

misused pears

I subscribe to several email newsletters. A couple of them are valuable for more than the information they convey. Their authors have a delightfully hard time choosing the right word from a pair or more of homonyms. One of these authors admitted to being stressed by something and apparently figured most of his readership wouldn’t be especially sympathetic. So he added, “queue the violin music.” “Queue” is a much more common word in British English than American English. It means a line of people waiting, say, to buy a concert ticket. As a classical music lover, it saddens me that … Continue reading

Academic libraries and how they differ from public libraries

academic library exterior

In a sense, a library is a library. It exists to connect people with the information they need. Once upon a time, that information was all printed, except for libraries that owned manuscript collections. The explosion of new formats—sound recordings, film and video recordings, and all manner of electronic media—has affected every kind of library. Still, there are important differences between public and academic libraries. The following two lists by no means adequately describe either public or academic libraries, but they serve to show the contrast.