Three years later: How COVID-19 has changed library work

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This March marks three years since COVID-19 brought the country to a standstill. In those early days, libraries grappled with the same issues as everyone else: closed buildings, plans put on hold, and diminished access. With this , American Libraries takes a look at some libraries’ behind-the-scenes decisions to keep their communities connected and missions fulfilled. Stories cover the made by libraries; how those in the profession have changed their approach to ; and the unique obstacles faced by communities simultaneously . (For a deeper understanding of how libraries were affected by COVID-19, read AL’s .)...

American Libraries feature, Mar./Apr.

ALA President Lessa Kanani‘opua Pelayo-Lozada

ALA President Lessa Kanani‘opua Pelayo-Lozada writes: “As we continue to face record book challenges and censorship attempts, I feel empowered by the words of Native Hawaiian scholar and activist Haunani Kay-Trask: ‘Resistance is its own reward.’ Traveling the world on behalf of ALA, I have seen library workers stand up against all that runs counter to our professional core values. I have seen them uphold democracy and social responsibility in the face of hatred and attempts to silence voices.”...

American Libraries column, Mar./Apr.

ALA President Tracie D. Hall

ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall writes: “Having visited, worked or consulted for, and spoken at hundreds of libraries, I don’t believe there is any educational or public service institution that more ably facilitates personal growth and community access than libraries. They place the acts of discovery and changemaking within reach of everyone. The library’s proven ability to stimulate people and ideas into action is what fueled ALA’s new Civic Imagination Stations project, a pilot supported by the Estée Lauder Companies’ Writing Change program, a three-year initiative designed to advance literacy as a pathway to equality, access, and social change.”...

American Libraries column, Mar./Apr.

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Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone

Megan Bennett writes: “Since the release of his 2019 bestseller How to Be an Antiracist, has adapted his guide for specific audiences, including young children and parents. Now Kendi, working with middle-grade and YA fiction author Nic Stone, is bringing his concepts and research to teens to help them understand their role in identifying and dismantling systemic racism. How to Be a (Young) Antiracist was released in January. After , they spoke with American Libraries about how Stone tailored Kendi’s original work for this audience, the dangers of book bans for young readers, and what gives them hope amid recent threats against intellectual freedom.”...

AL Online, Feb. 24; AL: The Scoop, Jan. 28; American Libraries feature, Mar./Apr. 2022

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ALA’s Reference and User Services Association will host its second-annual March 28 and March 30. Under the theme “Reference and User Services Reimagined,” the forum’s two nonconsecutive days of programs will showcase best practices for library workers in reference, user services, adult readers advisory, collection development, resource sharing, genealogy and archives, business reference, and reference technology. The opening keynote will be delivered by Nicole A. Cooke, Augusta Baker Endowed Chair and associate professor at University of South Carolina’s School of Information Science. ...

ALA’s Reference and User Services Association, Feb. 22.

Palmer Public Library sign

Shannon Cole, Tim Rockey, and Lex Yelverton report: “Part of the roof of the Palmer (Alaska) Public Library collapsed Wednesday night. Palmer Fire and Rescue Chief Chad Cameron said that everyone inside the library self-evacuated, including a family of four and three staff members. Library occupants did not suffer any injuries. Palmer Mayor Steve Carrington warned residents to stay away from the library while the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is considering next steps while the library is out of service.” ...

KTUU-TV (Anchorage, Alaska), Feb. 16

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Jodi Fortino and Kate Grumke write: “The ACLU of Missouri is challenging a new state law that bans ‘sexually explicit material’ from schools and has resulted in districts pulling hundreds of books from their shelves. The suit, filed on behalf of the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association, asks the circuit court in Kansas City to find the law unconstitutional. The ACLU filed the lawsuit against Jean Peters Baker in her capacity as the Jackson County Prosecutor and on behalf of all county prosecutors in Missouri. In its lawsuit, the ACLU argues that the law violates educators’ due process rights because it uses vague language that invites government overreach and does not differentiate school employees’ official capacity from their personal capacity.”...

KCUR-FM (Kansas City, Mo.), Feb. 23

Hands holding a cellphone

Chelsey Roos writes: “TikTok is my favorite resource for professional development. That might seem unlikely, if you associate the platform with teens dancing in silly ways to trending songs. But TikTok can be a fantastic resource for storytime songs, reading recommendations, and learning more about childhood development—provided you use it thoughtfully. Here are some of my favorite things I’ve learned from TikTok since I started curating an account around all things library.”...

ALSC Blog, Feb. 16

The word "history" written on a chalkboard

Paisley Rekdal, Peter Bromberg, and Rebekah Cummings write: “Utah is the latest state hit by the . A new public school curriculum bill introduced in the Utah legislature () would ‘prohibit the use of instructional materials and classroom instruction inconsistent with the principle of inalienable rights, equal opportunity, and individual merit.’ Vacuous as this description might seem, the bill is hardly empty of meaning. If passed into law, this bill would effectively shelter students from the past, spoon-feeding them versions of the world that make no one feel uncomfortable about anything, least of all actual facts. It’s not only a paternalistic attitude, but one that would stultify the classroom.”...

The Hill, Feb. 24; The Guardian (US), Feb. 14; Utah State Legislature

ALA news and press releases

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Joshua Kim writes: “Mary Jane Petrowski, associate director of ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries, reached out in regard to . In that piece, I shared some Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) findings that seem to demonstrate a steep drop in academic library staffing since 2012. As Petrowski is ideally positioned to unpack academic library staffing trends, she agreed to help us figure out what is going on.” Petrowski answers whether IPEDS data is adequate for telling the story of staffing trends, contextualizes staff reductions, and shares ideas for how nonlibrarians can be allies to academic librarians....

Inside Higher Ed, Feb. 21, Feb. 12

Pile of tablets with ebooks on them

Juliya Ziskina writes: “With broad availability of digital content, libraries and consumers should have more rights and access, but in fact, they have fewer. In response, that allows libraries to both maintain the benefits of print collections and innovate even further toward providing new methods of access, preservation, and education by creating new lending models, equitizing access for underserved communities, and contributing to a more democratic balance. To that end, we have outlined some approaches to solving this issue through structural, community-based, and technical means.”...

Library Futures Blog, Feb. 14

Three books

Maggie Laurel Boyd writes: “What happens when time doesn’t heal us the way we expect? Is healing possible in the terms we have laid out for it? This reading list features eight books published in the last 20 years, plus one book published 50 years ago (it’s worth the trip back in time, though, I promise) that challenge traditional healing narratives. In the COVID-19 pandemic, discussions about health and healing remain all too relevant; many of us are realizing that illness permeates many of the spaces we exist within, and still more of us are reckoning with our vulnerability to illness. Reading these texts helps us recognize that if our arc of recovery deviates from the template, then at least we’re in good company.”...

Electric Lit, Feb. 23

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