Referenda roundup 2021

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Referenda Roundup

Ahead of Election Day, American Libraries and the Public Library Association partnered to track library referenda from across the country. This list includes 42 ballot measures that have appeared since last year’s report—including many wins for libraries in Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Texas. Check back for an updated list of referenda, including results from the November 2 elections....

AL Online, Nov. 1

Niles library advocate, Photo credit: Niles Coalition

Cass Balzer writes: “On March 18, 2021, the Niles–Maine (Ill.) District Library held a candidate forum for its April board of trustees election—a forum that got widespread attention for all the wrong reasons. When a reporter asked candidate Joe Makula how to make the library welcoming to a diverse community, he answered, ‘Instead of stocking up on books in seven different languages, if we got people to assimilate and learn English better, I think we would do more good in that area than increasing our inventory of foreign language books.’ The comments of Makula illustrate a trend unfolding in library boards across the country. Public libraries are facing a wave of trustee candidates whose goals challenge intellectual freedom, community service, and other core values of librarianship.”...

American Libraries feature, Nov./Dec.

Small business, Illustration credit: Gaby FeBland

Claire Zulkey writes: “When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, it exposed the precarious financial situation of many small businesses in the US. About half of these businesses were operating with fewer than two weeks of cash reserves at the time. Though federal Paycheck Protection Program loans were available to help them weather mandated closures, many minority and non-English-speaking small business owners found that these funds could be difficult to secure. While the pandemic has had an outsize impact on small businesses, it has also led to creative solutions from the librarians who serve them. Libraries have adapted by expanding their small business programs, bringing them online, and helping people navigate federal and local aid, specifically focusing on people of color, immigrants, and other groups underrepresented as business owners.”...

American Libraries feature, Nov./Dec.

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ALA President Patricia "Patty" M. Wong

ALA President Patricia “Patty” M. Wong writes: “Climate change will disproportionately impact those who are under-resourced and historically affected by systemic racism and practices that hinder generational wealth accumulation, such as redlining. Librarians’ core values include a commitment to social responsibility, sustainability, and equity. It’s not just essential we step up at this crucial juncture—it’s our job. Libraries have important roles to play in preparing our communities for the impact of climate change, and we must pledge to center sustainability in our operational practices.”...

American Libraries column, Nov./Dec.

Executive Director Tracie D. Hall

ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall writes: “Associations have long been among the most effective catalysts, carriers, and counters of evolving social thought and political development. They serve as a ‘powerful instrument’ when ‘applied to a wider range of purposes,’ as French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in the early 1800s in Democracy in America. It is that potential and ability to shift public policy—and inform practice and attitudes at the service level—that make ALA so necessary.”...

American Libraries column, Nov./Dec.

Texas Library Association logo

State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, has launched an investigation into Texas school districts over the type of books they have, particularly if they pertain to race or sexuality or “make students feel discomfort.” In a letter to the Texas Education Agency and unnamed school superintendents, he sent a 16-page list of and asked school leaders how many copies they have and how much money the districts paid to purchase them. The that it opposes efforts that restrict the freedom to read through banning, removing, or other forms of restricting access to books or other materials. , Texas Governor Greg Abbott decried so-called “pornographic or obscene material” in schools....

Texas Tribune, Oct. 26; Texas Library Association, Oct. 26; NPR, Nov. 2

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Penguin Random House logo

Elizabeth A. Harris, Alexandra Alter, and David McCabe write: “The Biden administration on Tuesday sued to stop Penguin Random House, the largest publisher in the United States, from acquiring its rival Simon & Schuster, as part of a new drive in Washington against corporate consolidation. In a publishing landscape dominated by a handful of mega corporations, Penguin Random House towers over the others. It operates more than 300 imprints worldwide and has 15,000 new releases a year, far more than the other four major US publishers. With its $2.18 billion proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House stood to become substantially larger. The deal, announced a year ago, has been under review by the government, which is increasingly scrutinizing the power wielded by big companies like Amazon and Facebook.”...

The New York Times, Nov. 2

LGBTQ+ books

A prosecutor won’t charge library employees for making sex education and LGBTQ-themed books available to young people in a deeply conservative city in Wyoming coal-mining country, saying he wouldn’t have a case. A couple brought the books to the attention of the sheriff’s office in September. The books are This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, How Do You Make a Baby by Anna Fiske, Doing It by Hannah Witton, Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, and Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy by Andrew P. Smiler....

AP News, Oct. 28


Media Twitter may be full of people threatening to cancel their, for instance, New York Times subscriptions over some recent op-ed, but Nieman Lab wondered how many people actually went ahead with their threats to cancel news subscriptions. The team asked readers for their cancellation stories and received more than 500 responses. ....

Nieman Lab, Oct. 28

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Old books

Jude Stewart writes: “Old books smell like a constructed forest: ancient and druidical, exhaling to make their own atmosphere, a forgotten primordial home. The smell of old books stems from their slow chemical decomposition. Books are largely paper, and paper is largely plants. But the materials from which books are made have shifted over the centuries—and those shifts, in turn, have influenced how different generations of books smell.”...

Lit Hub, Oct. 27

Justice statuette and books

Jordan Rothman writes: “Even in the modern era in which research of printed materials is not that common, law librarians still have immense value. Everyone knows how to use computerized research platforms to search for cases and statutes, but not everyone is skilled at culling the more uncommon resources on such platforms. Not every lawyer may be able to search model jury instructions, form offerings, and other resources that are used less often by lawyers. Law librarians can help lawyers access these materials and get to relevant information and materials as quickly as possible so they can get back to billing the most billable hours.”...

Above the Law, Oct. 29

Curbside pickup sign

Just as the language never stops evolving, the dictionary never stops expanding. New terms and new uses for existing terms are the constant in a living language, and the list of 455 new additions to Merriam-Webster includes COVID-era terms such as super-spreader, air fryer, vaccine passport, and curbside pickup....

Merriam-Webster, Oct. 27

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