New Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden

Carla Hayden librarian of congress history

Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden has recently been sworn in as only the 14th Librarian of Congress in history. Most reports emphasize that she is the first woman and the first African-American to hold that position.

Those are important milestones to be sure, but attention to them obscures some others. Carla Hayden is

  • The first Librarian of Congress with a limited term of appointment
  • Only the third professional librarian appointed to the position.
  • Fully backed by the American Library Association (ALA), which opposed some of her predecessors.

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What do Americans think of libraries? Poll results

Bookmobile--library users

Bookmobile. Monterey (California) Public Library

Do you know all the educational services your library provides?

According to a recent Pew Research poll, many American’s don’t. A majority thinks libraries offer acceptable service for their communities’ educational needs; 37% answered “very well” and 39% answered “pretty well.

Most people, library users or not, are satisfied for themselves, their families, and their communities.

If you are among the people who think libraries do a good job, but don’t know what all they offer, you can be even more satisfied.  Continue reading

What’s new? Innovative library services revisited

library signThere’s nearly always something new at the library. Librarians are imaginative people.

They know offering innovative library services will entice more people in the door. Or let more people use the library without coming in the door.

So I offer an occasional series on creative ways librarians find to serve their public. Here are four new ideas. Maybe some library close to you offers similar services.  Continue reading

Rime thyme

Spelling is hardA wicked witch long ago cast a bad spell on the English language. Now there are hardly any common words that don’t rhyme with other words that have a very different spelling. Some people get confused.

George Hearst, father of journalist William Randolph Hearst, ran for governor of California in 1882 despite having almost no education. In defense against the jeers of political rivals, he said,

My opponents say that I haven’t the book learning that they possess. They say I can’t spell. They say I spell bird, b-u-r-d. If b-u-r-d doesn’t spell bird, what in the hell does it spell?

“Burd,” by the way, used to mean “young woman” in Middle English (800 years ago). But how was Hearst to know?

What would happen if all these rhyming words decided to trade endings? Would anyone be able to figure out what a sentence says? Can you? Try these. Continue reading

Travel information: government websites you should know

luggage travelIt’s election season. Want to get away?

The federal government can help. Really!

Government websites offer a great deal of travel information. They won’t book your flight or find a hotel, but some of them can suggest great travel locations.

They’ll give you safety tips and help you decide what to do if something goes wrong.

Do you have a 4th-grader? The feds offer a special deal to save you money—and maybe your sanity in years to come. Read on. Continue reading

31 tips to improve your writing skills

student writingHow long have you been a writer?

Since about first grade. As soon as you started to learn to read, you started to learn to write.

First you wrote letters, then words, then sentences, then paragraphs.

Do I need to remind you of term papers? Many people look forward to graduating as much to turn in their last paper as for anything else.

And many people, I suppose, look for jobs where they don’t have to write much. They have no faith in their writing skills.

You may have to write a lot more than you anticipated when you started your current career. But if you write nothing more than emails to friends or Facebook updates, why not make them worth reading? Continue reading

What happens when you need to look it up?

Research using a laptopI wrote this post for anyone who doesn’t know everything off the top of their head. You have to look things up from time to time, don’t you?

Once upon a time, we all looked up addresses and phone numbers in a phone book. We probably all still have them.

You can still use print to find a wide variety of information, but nowadays, you most likely look things up online more often. What happens between you typing your search query and the results appearing on the screen? Continue reading

The school librarian: an endangered species?

School librarian

School librarian

Every good school has a library. And a school librarian. Too many school districts have decided that having good schools is too expensive.

School librarians, like other librarians, have a master’s in library science They must also have a valid teaching certificate.

Unfortunately, many school districts are getting rid of their librarians. I wrote earlier specifically about Chicago, but the problem is nationwide and has been building for years. Continue reading

Treasure trove: New York Public Library Digital Collection

Miniature of annunciation, New York Public Library Digital Collection

Miniature of Annunciation, initials, linefillers, and border design, 15th century

The New York Public library holds many rare and valuable materials. The new New York Public Library Digital Collection makes them easily available.

Before the Internet, if you wanted to use them, provided you knew they existed, you would have had to travel to the library and consult them in person.

When the library first began to digitize them and put them online, you could have seen and downloaded a low-resolution images. You would have had to pay for, and wait for, a high-resolution image. Discovery and access were still difficult.

Perhaps its description of one of its major collection is representative of the library’s own concerns: Continue reading

22 ways to use the library

library signDo you know what’s going on at the library? Even if you’re a regular library user, you may may be missing something interesting.

Libraries represent a kind of “third space,” which is neither home nor work. Unlike many others, they are not a business. They don’t carry with them the expectation that you will pay for something.

Of course, libraries offer numerous services you can use. You’re paying for public library services with tax dollars. You’re paying for academic library services if you are part of a college/university community.

For most purposes, then, you never have to dig out cash or a credit card in the library. That makes a library suitable for a multitude of activities you couldn’t comfortably do in other third spaces.

Plenty of libraries offer unique services, but here are some that nearly all of them will have. Let’s consider the library as a building, a set of services, a collection, and a place for activities. Continue reading