Sometimes the news makes you want to crawl under your bed and stay there for a while. Even bookish news can be upsetting, especially in light of an increase in book challenges and censorship. But just because scary headlines get more clicks doesn’t mean that only bad things are happening. There are lots of people working to make the world a better place, and there are plenty of good bookish news stories every week that doesn’t get the same reach as the rage-inducing ones.
So here are some of the best bookish things that happened this week, whether it’s libraries going fine free, literacy initiatives getting funded, or new bookmobiles hitting the streets.
Research Proves Libraries Lead to Healthier, More Equitable Communities
In news that will likely not come as a surprise to anyone reading this, new research has proven that libraries (and museums) play crucial roles in communities and are “positively associated with multiple dimensions of social wellbeing — in particular, community health, school effectiveness, institutional connection, and cultural opportunity.”
The study is Understanding the Social Wellbeing Impacts of the Nation’s Libraries and Museums, and it outlines that libraries deliver social services, are trusted by their communities, and promote racial equity and inclusion. You can read the whole 100+ page PDF, including how libraries adapted to the pandemic.
The services the institutions provide, the collections they maintain, and the interactions that happen (intentionally and fortuitously) through their spaces and through their community networks are crucial threads in the broader social and institutional fabric of places that promote human flourishing. They curate knowledge, collective history, and cultural heritage honoring human achievement; they facilitate access to public knowledge and learning; they provide a place for children to learn and play; and they facilitate access to resources and services to get things done — from basic support for personal health and security, to building and maintaining your bicycle or garden, to starting your own recording studio.
Positive Change Being Made
While it’s easy to get bogged down in the bad news, there’s also progress being made on justice in the book world, and here are some of the positive steps that happened this week!
- Windham County had their first Drag Queen Story Hour! This article has lots of great photos, quotes from appreciative parents, and absolutely no backlash, which I appreciate.
- Guntersville Public Library in Alabama has eliminated late fees. Hutto Library in Texas and the Marshall Public Library in Idaho are accepting food pantry donations in place of fines.
- The Ocean County Library in New Jersey just had a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Sensory Space room, which includes a music touch wall, a canopy of moving magnetic fabric, a fiber optic color-changing light waterfall, and more. These spaces allow people with sensory sensitivities to self-regulate, which makes the library a more accessible place.
- Prince William Public Libraries in Virginia are offering an online program where residents can earn a high school diploma. More than 10% of the adults in the county don’t have a high school diploma.
- Parma Heights Library in Ohio is starting a Mobile Pantry for food distribution.
- The Dayton Metro Library in Ohio is continuing with the steps outlined in their equity audit, including training a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Committee and diversifying their collection.
It makes sense that we spread the news when a library system gets gutted, but what about when literacy initiatives do get the funding they deserve? Here are some examples of money getting spent in the right places: on promoting literacy.
- Scotiabank is donating the five titles shortlisted for the Giller Prize to hundreds of Little Free Libraries across Canada.
- The Free Book Bus stopped by Buford Middle School in Georgia, where they could pick out a free book each!
- This 3-year-old raised $100 to buy books to donate to Little Free Libraries in town. He and his family made and sold chocolate-covered pretzel for the fundraising effort.
- Yum Yum Buses got a $3,000 donation as well as hundreds of books donated by a realtors association. The program has converted school buses that travel around the city in the summer, allowing kids to come on board, eat a free meal, and read books in the air conditioning.
- The Times Colonist in BC, Canada, raised $164,000 for literacy funding this year, despite not being able to put on their usual giant annual book sale because of Covid restrictions. Instead, most of this year’s money came from donations, including several individuals and organizations who donated over $10,000 each.
- Cub Scouts in Oceanville, New York, donated more than 500 books to Hindi’s Library, which supplies hundreds of organizations around the world with book donations.
- The Dearborn Heights City Libraries in Michigan received a $25,000 grant to expand their resources for Arabic-speaking patrons.
Cool Things Libraries Are Doing
I’m always so impressed with the creative things that libraries do to support their community. They’re so much more than just books on shelves. Here are some of the fun, interesting, and inspiring things libraries are up to this week.
- Mount Royal Public Library in Minnesota just unveiled a new mural by Ojibwe artist Sarah Agaton Howes. Howes shared that having works like this displayed publicly serves as a type of land acknowledgement.
- This university library has hobbit doors.
- Bristol, Tennessee, 1st graders got their books delivered by a librarian on horseback! The book was That Book Woman by Heather Henson, about packhorse librarians.
- Virtual reality technology will be coming to 15 United Kingdom libraries next year. The Reading Agency will provide an “immersive storytelling experience,” and it will reimagine stories for a VR format, with 50 creatives working on stories.
- Some of the changes Belleville East High School in Illinois made to adapt to the pandemic are here to stay, and they’re improvements! The school has eliminated fines and was able to get rid of most of the computer lab now that students have laptops. Instead, the space is being used for audio and video labs for podcasts, movies, and other projects. They also genrefied the library, leading to record-breaking checkout numbers. The library won the 2021 Exemplary School Library Award!
- Lewiston Public Library in Maine is offering book binding workshops.
- St. Louis County Library in Missouri was selected as a NASA’s My Library partner, and they will be offering space-themed programs in November.