Magazine article American Libraries

Midwinter 2014 Libraries as Latalrsts: Attendees Talk Community Transformation, Technology. and Public Engagement

Magazine article American Libraries

Midwinter 2014 Libraries as Latalrsts: Attendees Talk Community Transformation, Technology. and Public Engagement

Article excerpt

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Community transformation and increased engagement between libraries and the communities they serve received major focus at the 2014 Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits. More than 12,000 attendees--up about 1,500 from last year--braved Philadelphia's wintry weather to partake in discussions about libraries' roles in community engagement, transforming communities, and serving as catalysts for innovation.

In response to the lack of certified library staff in Philadelphia schools, ALA President Barbara Stripling, in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia and a loose coalition of library groups--including the Pennsylvania Library Association, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, the New Jersey Library Association, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians--hosted public signings of the Declaration for the Right to Libraries at the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Library Company of Philadelphia. The Declaration is the cornerstone document of Stripling's presidential initiative, "Libraries Change Lives," and is designed to "build the public will and sustained support for America's right to libraries of all types--academic, special, school, and public."

ALA Past President Maureen Sullivan offered an update on her "Libraries Transforming Communities" presidential initiative, which has provided training and community engagement tools to more than 300 library leaders since its launch at Midwinter in 2013.

In the same vein, Cheryl Gorman of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a partner in this initiative, and Harwood Certified Coach Carlton Sears presented "Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community: Aspirations." Gorman and Sears discussed how libraries can leverage their trusted position in the community to engage people on important issues.

As part of the ALA Masters Series, which consists of fast-paced, 45-minute sessions from experts in a variety of library specialties giving insights into hot trends, Pima County (Ariz.) Public Library Social Media Librarian Lisa Bunker presented "The Library as a Catalyst for Innovation." This session served as an upbeat call to libraries and librarians to be active in bringing people together, supporting in--novation. and developing dynamic, community -transforming partnerships. Bunker described Pima County's Catalyst Cafe, which hosts programs on innovation for individuals. nonprofits, and small businesses. One such program was the finale of a two-day "School of Start-Up" weekend, which helped teens imagine and design viable entrepreneurial projects and pitch them to local venture capitalists.

At the Washington Office Update, Guardian (US) National Security Editor Spencer Ackerman discussed the National Security Agency leak and how the revelations have affected the public, legislators, and other stakeholders. Washington Office staff also provided updates on critical information for library advocates, including cyber-security, federal library funding, open access, and the e-rate.

Americans strongly believe in the value of libraries, according to a 2013 survey presented by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project Director Lee Rainie. Among more than 6,000 people surveyed, 91% said libraries are important to the community and 76% said libraries are important to them and their families. Only one in five, however, is fully aware of the services that libraries offer. The survey also detailed shifts in library usage: Compared with 2012, the number of people who reported visiting a library or bookmobile dropped 5%, but the number of library website users increased 5%.

Stripling's President's Program featured Andrew Slack, cofounder and executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a coalition of fandom leaders who are passionate about the power of story to inspire and effect social change. …

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