i was thinking about the weirdest phone calls i got when i still worked at the public library and i remembered this one phone call. it was probably less than 20 seconds long, but it still makes me laugh.

anyways, this woman called and without even saying hello after i said the usual “public library, how can i help you?” spiel, she said, “i have a very important question: when you shelve books, do you push them all to the front of the shelf or all the way back?”

it took me a second to process the question and then i answered that, at the library, we always shelve them so that they are even with the front edge so they’re easier to grab and see. she was obviously delighted by this answer and then, as if an afterthought, she asked, “okay, what about you? what do you do at home with your books?” i said i did the same thing. she hummed in obvious agreement and then just like that she said “thank you!” and hung up.

i never heard from her again. i hope she won whatever argument she was having.

“Welcome,” she said. “Welcome, and thank you for agreeing to be a volunteer with Multnomah County Libraries. We are so grateful for you and your commitment to our community. For the next hour, we’re going to go over some important information that you need to know as a volunteer, no matter what role you play.”

I expected that we were going to learn about things like policies for canceling our shifts, or maybe where to find first aid kits. We probably did talk about those things. But the part that I remember most vividly is the first thing she talked about.

“We’re going to start with the Library Bill of Rights from the American Library Association,” she said, and she projected the text of the document onto the screen. “Everyone who works for libraries, including volunteers, helps to support and uphold the Library Bill of Rights.”

This was new to me. I’d been a regular patron at my local public library for years, graduating from Dr. Seuss to The Babysitters Club series to, most recently, my fixation on books about neo-paganism and queer sex. No one had mentioned this whole Bill of Rights thing. It was a short document with just a few bullet points.

“Libraries support free access to information,” Bess explained. “One of our core values is intellectual freedom. This impacts all of you because when you’re volunteering for the library, we expect you to support the rights of library users to find and read whatever they want, even if you don’t agree with what they’re looking for.”

She continued, “For example, let’s say that a small child came up to you and asked where to find the Stephen King books. You might think those books are too scary for someone that age, or that he shouldn’t be reading that kind of stuff. But that doesn’t matter. No matter what, we help people find the information they want, and we don’t censor their interests. Does that make sense?”

Heads around the room nodded, and I leaned back into the wall, letting her words sink in. It was absolutely, positively the most radical, punk rock thing I had ever heard in my life.

I can read whatever I want. No one can stop me.

I can help other people read what they want. And no one can stop them.

“This is core,” Bess added, “to a functioning democracy. We believe that fighting censorship and providing free, unrestricted access is key to helping citizens participate in the world. And, most importantly, we keep everyone’s information strictly confidential. So, even if you know what books your neighbor is checking out or what they’re looking at on the computer, you don’t share that with anyone.”

As someone who kept carefully guarded notebooks full of very personal thoughts, I was especially excited by the library’s emphasis on privacy. All of this sounded great. I wanted more. I wanted in. I wanted to be a crazy, wild, counterculture librarian-witch who would help anyone read anything from The Anarchist’s Cookbook to Mein Kampf. I would be a bold freedom fighter in the face of censorship. I would defend unfiltered Internet access and anatomically correct picture books. Maybe I was only in the eighth grade, but I was ready to stand up to anyone who tried to threaten the ideal of intellectual freedom. Fuck blink-182. Libraries were the real punk rock.

— 

LIBRARIES ARE THE REAL PUNK ROCK by Zoe Fisher

“Poi ti trovi che un giorno sei tu ad avere l'arma ma non spari, perché di colpire chi ti ha ferito non te ne importa più nulla.”

-Alda Merini.

President’s budget proposal to eliminate federal library funding

Originally posted by icicesttouslesjoursmercredi

Do we need to tell you we aren’t thrilled about the President’s budget? Didn’t think so.

This is just the first of many calls to action we’ll be posting, but for now here’s what you can do:

  1. Call your Members of Congress and ask them to publicly oppose wiping out IMLS, and ask them to commit to fighting for federal library funding.
  2. Share your library’s IMLS story using the #SaveIMLS tag - tell us how IMLS funding supports your local community.
  3. Sign up to receive our Action Alerts - we will let you know when and how to take action, and send you talking points and background information.

If you need some background information about IMLS or the appropriations process, you can check out this IMLS database or our most recent blog post on the subject of LSTA and IAL..

"Bendy books" is the thing apparently

So back to work and the kids, having their weird requests…

Boy, age 9: Do you have any bendy kinda books?
Me: ??? (I guess I even looks like a question mark because then the boy asks me a new question)
Boy, age 9: Don’t you know what a bendy book is? ( Here he takes out one of the books from the nearest shelf and tries to show me what a bendy book is like - i.e. you can bend it, except the books he is demonstrating with is not a ‘bendy’ book).

A little while later he comes up to the information desk with a paperback, shoves it under my nose and says proudly: this is a bendy book whereupon he begins to bend the whole book, back and forth, demonstrating it’s bendiness…

Inner me: You’re not supposed to do that…my poor books..my babies…

Me: Aha, that’s a bendy book huh…

Action Alert: Protect Federal Library Funding

Originally posted by cooliambatman

The Trump Administration recently released its proposed federal budget for FY2018. The Institute of Museum of Library Services (IMLS), the independent agency that administers the bulk of federal library funding under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA),is included in the list of independent agencies whose budgets the proposal recommends eliminating.

There’s an easy way for you to help - call your Senator today and ask them to sign the Dear Appropriator letters supporting LSTA and IAL.

These letters support $186.6 million for the Library Services and Technology Act, which goes to every state in the country for them to decide how best to use it, and $27 million for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program that buys books and other supplies for kids from the poorest communities across the country. For more information about these programs, check out our other posts about appropriations.

Members of the Senate have only until May 19th to sign the separate LSTA and IAL “Dear Appropriator” letters now circulating.

Use ALA’s Legislative Action Center today to ask your Senators to sign both the LSTA and IAL letters. Many Members of Congress will only sign such a letter if their constituents ask them to, so it’s up to you to help save LSTA and IAL from elimination or significant cuts.

Five minutes of your time could help preserve over $210 million in library funding now at risk.

Want to do even more to protect libraries? Sign up to participate on National Library Legislative Day or sign up for our Thunderclap.