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Christie Hefner shares her thoughts on libraries

In this latest in a series of library stories, Christie Hefner, the former chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, talks about her love of reading. She mentions especially how her proudest possession was her library card and speaks about her admiration for the library profession.

Hefner’s appearance as the Opening General Session speaker was one of the highlights of the 2009 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago.

An ardent defender of First Amendment rights, Hefner created the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards in 1979 to honor individuals who have contributed significantly to the vital effort to protect and enhance those rights for Americans. In 1993, the Playboy Foundation established the Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival to honor those documentary films that best educate the public on issues of social concern.

Hefner also visited with American Libraries, which produced the following video. In this video, she remembers the late Judith Krug, the longtime director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

“Wicked” author discusses value of libraries

Gregory Maguire has entertained millions with his fresh take on L. Frank Baum’s world of Oz, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” which was turned into a hit Broadway play. This prolific author has written several books for both adults and children.

In this video interview, Maguire speaks about libraries and their meaning in his life.

According to Harper Collins Publishers, Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University. His work as a consultant in creative writing for children has taken him to speaking engagements across the United States and abroad. He is a founder and codirector of Children’s Literature New England, Incorporated, a non-profit educational charity established in 1987. The author of numerous books for children, Mr. Maguire is also a contributor to Am I Blue?: Coming Out From the Silence, a collection of short stories for gay and lesbian teenagers.

ALA Annual Conference a media magnet

The American Library Association’s 2009 Annual Conference in Chicago continued to attract heavy media attention as the conference rolled into the weekend.

The extensive coverage continued on Friday with an interview with author Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball great Jackie Robinson, on the ABC 7 morning show. Robinson appeared at the conference, participating in a program focusing on the feats of Negro League players. “Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience,” hosted by the ALA’s Campaign for America’s Libraries and Public Programs Office (PPO).

ALA President Jim Rettig was a guest on WBBM-FM’s “Chicago Connection.”

ALA President-Elect Camila Alire was featured on WGN Radio’s The Nick Digilio Show.”


National Public Radio did a story on Sunday on the Library Book Card Drill Team Championship.

Chicago’s CLTV, aired a feature, “Libraries Build Communities,” on Friday.

Several articles appeared in both the library and the mainstream press, including:
ALA 2009: Despite Downturn, Attendance Solid, on Pace for Record

ALA Conference 2009: Librarians are the Spine Connecting Authors

Meet a hardboiled Chicago columnist

ALA Conference 2009: Even with Democratic Control in DC, Libraries …

ALA Conference 2009: At Low-Key Opening General Session, Christie Hefner…

ALA Conference 2009: Science in the Library

ALA Conference 2009: Charging Disabled Attendees Daily Scooter Fees

Lauren Barack

April Kelly on Chicago Book Tour with Gratitude at Work

ALA Conference 2009: Best Books for Young Adults List to Get the Axe

Chicago plays host to nation’s library leaders as library use soars

ALA Conference 2009: Registration Neck and Neck with Chicago 2005

Annual Library Conference in Chicago

Librarians in town, recession on the agenda

Annual library conference to be held in Chicago

Latino Authors and Illustrators Honored for Outstanding Works in …

Text a Librarian at ALA Annual

ALA Nonfiction Book Blast–Lisa Rondinelli Albert joins panel to …

The annual ALA Conference approaches

ALA Annual Conference kicks off with extensive media coverage

The American Library Association’s Annual Conference hit the Windy City with a heavy blast of attention from Chicago media that began on Monday and continued into Thursday.

On Monday, July 6, the Chicago Sun-Times published an op-ed written by ALA President Jim Rettig and Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey, “In Web age, libraries as important as ever.”

Much of the focus of subsequent coverage was on the surge in library use in today’s recession, which was mentioned in an Associated Press story carried in the Chicago Tribune.

WBBM radio interviewed ALA President Jim Rettig, who said he was struck by two things. “The dramatic increase in use of libraries across the country as the recession has deepened, and the other is, as tax revenues have shrunk the threat the funding for libraries – even though we’re offering these vital services at a time when people need them more than ever.”

In addition, the conference has received coverage in the Spanish-language press.

On Thursday, Rettig appeared on “The Noon Show” on WGN radio with news anchor Steve Bertrand.


Beginning by noting that 25,000 librarians were descending on Chicago, Bertrand asked Rettig what constituted a typical librarian, Rettig replied that the typical librarian has earned a master’s degree and has “an incredible commitment” to connecting people with information they can use in their lives.

When Bertrand asked what librarians do for fun, Rettig said a number of them will probably be visiting Wrigley Field.

Bertrand then touched on some of the speakers who will be featured at this year’s conference, noting that he plans to interview Neil Gaiman.

Rettig was then asked about a statement he had made about librarians being on the front lines in today’s economic crisis. Rettig described the role of librarians as “first responders,” providing free Internet access, books and CDs. He also noted that libraries provide small businesses with free access to databases for which people would normally have to pay a fee. These databases, he emphasized, could be accessed online at home by the user.

Bertrand touched on funding, which Rettig said was “becoming more tenuous,” especially with the drop in home values and the resulting decline in revenue from real estate taxes.


Rettig talked about school librarians, saying they “lay the foundation for lifelong learning,” serving people from infancy through their entire lifespan.

He also noted that school libraries are places where teachers and librarians collaborate and students learn how to collaborate with each other.

On the subject of book challenges, Rettig said, “It never wanes. There are always people who think they know better than others what they should read.” He also noted that very few challenges are actually successful.

Rettig pointed out that it’s the young adult authors who are most subject to challenges. These books are important to youths, he said, because they often help them solve personal problems.

An allusion was made to the upcoming appearance of Judy Blume at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Freedom to Read Foundation.

Bertrand said he kind of likes it when people challenge books, saying it forces people to confront issues and often acts as a cohesive force for the community.

Rettig, however, said it can be a polarizing force in the community, bringing up the recent attempt to ban books in West Bend, Wis. He said, though, that Mark Twain loved it when his books were banned because it boosted sales.

“The important thing is that everybody has the right to read what he or she chooses,” Rettig said, adding that while parents have the right to choose what their children read, they don’t have that right for other people’s children.

Op-ed carries important message about the value of libraries

Jim RettigMary Dempsey

On July 6, this important op-ed appeared in the online edition of the Chicago Sun Times by Mary Dempsey, commissioner of the Chicago Public Library, and ALA President Jim Rettig. Please share it with your lists and anyone who you feel should read this important message about the value of libraries.

In Web age, libraries as important as ever

July 6, 2009


A century ago, legendary urban planner Daniel Burnham, in the “Plan of Chicago,” recognized the public library as a vital civic institution. The plan called for a central library building in the heart of the city, alongside such cultural beacons as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum.

One hundred years later as more than 20,000 librarians and library supporters arrive in Chicago for the Annual Conference of the American Library Association July 9-15 libraries remain among the city’s treasured institutions. In fact, libraries in Chicago and nationwide are playing a highly visible, vital role in American life as the recession drags on and people look for sources of free, effective help in a time of crisis.

Library loans at the Chicago Public Library increased 26 percent in 2008 and have already experienced a 40 percent increase in the first half of 2009. People visit the library to research new careers, scan online job listings, create resumes, set up e-mail accounts to apply for jobs and seek financial advice. America’s libraries have been first responders to the nation’s economic crisis.

At a time when Americans are relying less on their credit cards, library-card use is climbing. More Americans hold library cards today than at any time in history. The Chicago Public Library hosted more than 12 million visitors in 2008 and is on target to exceed that number this year. Americans recognize the value of their library cards a key that unlocks the door to knowledge, learning and even entertainment, a balm for the spirit in hard times.

According to the ALA’s 2009 “State of America’s Libraries” report, 76 percent of Americans visited their public library in the past year, compared with 65 percent two years ago. Polls indicate that a substantial number of people visit their libraries to borrow CDs, DVDs and computer software or take advantage of free Internet access. They don’t even have to visit the library physically; they can access information not available on the free Web, download materials, or reserve books online or, at many libraries, send an instant message to get their questions answered.

Chicago’s public library is also doing its part to help residents avoid potholes in the long road to economic recovery. Several branches host programs on using e-mail to help in the job search, as well as programs on starting a small business and even one on getting good deals on everything from having one’s hair done and buying shoes to pre-movie dinner options. The Chicago Public Library offers free passes to 12 of Chicago’s other cultural institutions.

Library users include Richard, who lost his job after an injury at work and was eager to learn about computers while depending on his disability checks. He has been working with the Chicago Public Library’s CyberNavigators, people hired by the library with funds from its foundation to assist people in using the Internet.

A CyberNavigator also helped a job seeker who had been unemployed for three years after retiring from his 35-year job with the U.S. Postal Service. They helped him update his resume, set up an e-mail account, post his resume online and e-mail potential employers.

Every library in the Chicago area, indeed, every library in the country, has similar stories. Libraries are helping America’s workers return to work.

But even as thousands of people rediscover the value of their local library, libraries face the same economic challenges as the rest of the country. From coast to coast, shrinking budgets have forced libraries to eliminate proven library programs and cut staff. While Chicago has continued to support its library, many library systems have been forced to reduce hours or even close branches.

As Chicago celebrates the centennial of the “Plan of Chicago,” it is clear that libraries remain an essential community resource, especially during these challenging economic times. But they require the financial commitment of their communities in order to fulfill their mission to meet the intellectual, cultural and educational needs of the people they serve.

Mary Dempsey is the commissioner of the Chicago Public Library. Jim Rettig is the president of the American Library Association, based in Chicago.

suntimes.com Member of the Sun-Times News Group

To see op-ed on the Web, please visit: http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/1653032,CST-EDT-open06.article

Recently, the PIO also worked with NBC’s “Today” show on a segment entitled “Libraries lend a hand in tough times,” which ran on June 11, and encouraged other NBC affiliates to run the story. The segment highlights the increase in public library use and the role libraries play in helping American’s find work. It can be viewed at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/31237988#31237988.

Other stories include the following: NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News on Dec. 31 and Feb. 2, CNN as it appeared on Los Angeles’s KCAL-TV, National Public Radio (NPR), Chicago Sun Times, Washington Post, Parade Magazine, Huffington Post and The New York Times blog Freakonomics,

The PIO also has developed tools to help librarians publicize the surge in visits in their communities. Press releases, talking points and an FAQ can be found in the “Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit” at http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/advocacyuniversity/toolkit/index.cfm

Mark Gould, Director, Public Information Office, ALA