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American Library Association President Roberta Stevens applauds reverse decision on Connecticut film screening

Last week, the Enfield (Conn.) Public Library, threatened with loss of library funding from its Town Council and mayor, canceled a screening of Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko” in the library. Following vigorous debate and strong statements of intellectual freedom principles, notably from the Connecticut Library Association, Enfield town officials will allow the film to be shown at the library after all.

Roberta Stevens, president of the American Library Association, commended town officials for reversing their action and allowing the film screening to take place. “We are delighted to learn that the Enfield Public Library will move forward with a library program intended to generate thought and discussion about the vital but controversial issue of health care in this country,” said Stevens. “We also commend the Connecticut Library Association for its passionate and articulate stance in support of intellectual freedom.

“Public libraries exist as forums for ideas. As a public institution dedicated to providing access to information across the political spectrum, the library’s role is to select materials with the entire community in mind.

“When people find materials or events they disagree with or dislike in libraries, they are free to avoid those resources, or to choose others that are more appropriate for themselves and their families. But attempts to restrict access for others threaten the core values that enable us as Americans to live in a free society. The ALA applauds the public dialogue that took place in Enfield and resulted in a positive outcome for the library and the diverse community it serves.”

Best-selling author defends libraries in UK

The UK’s Guardian has reported the stir created by a speech against library budget cuts by author Philip Pullman (“His Dark Materials” trilogy, the basis of the film “The Golden Compass”) on Jan. 20 at Oxford’s town hall.

At issue was Oxfordshire’s County Council’s plan to shut 20 of the county’s 43 public libraries. But Pullman’s words are just as well suited to the situation with many of America’s libraries.

In his speech, Pullman calls libraries “too precious to destroy.”

Recalling his introduction to libraries by his mother in 1957, he said,

“Somewhere in Blackbird Leys, somewhere in Berinsfield, somewhere in Botley, somewhere in Benson or Bampton, to name only the communities beginning with B whose libraries are going to be abolished, somewhere in each of them there is a child right now, there are children, just like me at that age in Battersea, children who only need to make that discovery to learn that they too are citizens in the republic of learning. Only the public library can give them that gift.”

Comparing the plan to “the fanatical Bishop Theophilus in the year 391 laying waste to the Library of Alexandria and its hundreds of thousands of books of learning and scholarship,” Pullman addressed Keith Mitchell, the leader of the county council, who, he said, “said in the Oxford Times last week that the cuts are inevitable, and invites us to suggest what we would do instead. What would we cut? Would we sacrifice care for the elderly? Or would youth services feel the axe?

“I don’t think we should accept his invitation. It’s not our job to cut services. It’s his job to protect them.

“Nor do I think we should respond to the fatuous idea that libraries can stay open if they’re staffed by volunteers. What patronising nonsense. Does he think the job of a librarian is so simple, so empty of content, that anyone can step up and do it for a thank-you and a cup of tea? Does he think that all a librarian does is to tidy the shelves? And who are these volunteers? Who are these people whose lives are so empty, whose time spreads out in front of them like the limitless steppes of central Asia, who have no families to look after, no jobs to do, no responsibilities of any sort, and yet are so wealthy that they can commit hours of their time every week to working for nothing? Who are these volunteers? Do you know anyone who could volunteer their time in this way? If there’s anyone who has the time and the energy to work for nothing in a good cause, they are probably already working for one of the voluntary sector day centres or running a local football team or helping out with the league of friends in a hospital. What’s going to make them stop doing that and start working in a library instead?”

The text of the speech is available in full at the False Economy site, which describes itself as “for everyone concerned about the impact of the government’s spending cuts on their community, their family or their job.”

College Options @ your library

Each January, the Onslow County (N.C.) Public Library invites college-bound students and their parents or guardians to learn about “College Options @ your library”.

The library, in partnership with the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC), a free service of the State of North Carolina that helps students plan, apply and pay for college, hosts “College Options @ your library” workshops at the main library and two branch locations.

Since 2008, the library has used the Campaign for America’s Libraries’ @ your library brand to market its annual workshop to high school seniors and their families and educate them about the various types of financial aid available to students and how they can use the resources at the library to apply for them.

A regional representative of the CFNC walks participants through the financial aid basics and the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Information about grant programs, college loans and techniques for researching scholarships, grants and career opportunities are also available for both in-state and out-of-state college applicants.

“Using @ your library helps distinguish our program from others in the area,” said the library’s communications coordinator, Marie-José Solomua, “It works with just about everything and reminds people of all the free resources available at your library.”

In promoting “College Options @ your library,” Solomua works with the superintendent of schools and area high school principals to get the word out. While the program is mainly attended by seniors and their families, students as young as sophomores are welcome to attend and learn about getting a jump start on academic scholarships. Participants are also encouraged to use the library’s computer lab to get started on submitting their forms at the close of a session.

The Campaign for America’s Libraries is ALA’s public awareness campaign that promotes the value of libraries and librarians. Thousands of libraries of all types – across the country and around the globe – use the Campaign’s @ your library® brand. The Campaign is made possible by ALA’s Library Champions, corporations and foundations.

Poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz: The Guidance of Librarians

In this interview for atyourlibrary.org, poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz, says, “Librarians have always helped me understand the world I live in, because they really guided me to the books that I really wanted to read.” One of those books, he said, was Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got his Gun.”

According to the biography on his website, Sáenz was born on August 16, 1954 in his grandmother’s house in Old Picacho, a small farming village on the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

While at Stanford University, he completed his first book of poems, “Calendar of Dust,” which won an American Book Award in 1992. He went on to produce short stories and novels, including “Carry Me Like Water,” which won a Southwest Book Award by the Border Area Librarians Association, as did his second book of poems, “Dark and Perfect Angels.”

Of his sixth collection, “The Book of What Remains,” Booklist says, “Sáenz bursts forth as a major American poet, one with an oracular ear to the ground for what moves people today and also an eye for the larger questions in which today’s concerns are embedded. Set in the Southwest, especially near Sáenz’s home in El Paso, the poems descend from the spiritual tradition of the desert fathers, who sought contact with divinity in arid and dangerous places. But where those ancient monks found themselves and God, Sáenz finds people braving the terrain in search of a better life, images of a postapocalyptic world, and even modernist poets in bizarre juxtaposition to cacti. Most of the poems are long and long-lined, which enhances their oral character. Reading him is like listening to a gifted storyteller, for whom every digression is a path to meaning. And like listening to truth, for his motivations are less purely literary than spiritual and moral, as his subjects are civil and environmental rights, social justice, and the gift of kindness. “As Mexicans would have it: / Cada cabeza es un mundo. / Every single mind / constitutes a world— / an ecosystem.” Sáenz seamlessly joins humanity and the natural world through compassion for both.”

Atyourlibrary.org is the public Web site for the American Library Association’s public awareness campaign — The Campaign for America’s Libraries, which promotes the value of libraries and librarians.

The goal of www.atyourlibrary.org is to provide information and recommended resources that everyone can take advantage of at their local library.

The site encourages people to  connect with their local library and librarians.

New articles are uploaded every week and content changes every day through several blogs. We reach out to experts to learn about the latest trends, how-tos and tips for parents, job seekers, teenagers and kids. We write extensively about the arts and entertainment as well.  We also cover  important breaking news.

Where available, recommended resources are linked to the World Cat database, which provides a list of the nearest libraries with the recommended item.

Why I Need My Library teen video contest launches at ALA Midwinter Meeting

As part of her presidential initiatives, ALA President Roberta Stevens launched a video contest for teens at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego.

Why I Need My Library, which runs through April 18, encourages teens ages 13 to 18 to create original videos on why they think libraries are needed now more than ever.

Teens will submit one- to three-minute videos on YouTube. The videos can be live-action, animation, machinima or use a combination of techniques, and teens can work in groups of up to six. Full contest guidelines and information on how to enter can be found on ALA’s advocacy website, ilovelibraries.org.

Prizes will be awarded in two age categories – ages 13 to15 and 16 to18 – to a school or local public library selected by the winners. In each age category, two second place finalists will receive $2,000 each for their selected library and three third place finalists will receive $1,000 each for their selected library. The winning contestant or group of contestants from each age category will receive $3,000 for their selected library. In addition, each member of the winning group will receive a $50 gift card to an online bookseller.

Winning videos will be showcased on ALA websites and at the 2011 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans (June 23-28).

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC), the Public Library Association (PLA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), all divisions of ALA, are co-sponsors of the Why I Need My Library contest.

Questions about the contest can be directed to WhyINeedMyLibrary@ala.org.

Why I Need My Library is one of two presidential initiatives that kick off at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. The other, Our Authors, Our Advocates: Authors Speak Out for Libraries, calls on authors to highlight the key roles libraries and library staff play in the economic, social and educational fabric of our nation. More information is available at www.ilovelibraries.org/ourauthorsouradvocates.

The best of the best: Youth Media Awards prove huge draw

The American Library Association (ALA) this week announced the top books, video and audiobooks for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards – at its Midwinter Meeting in San Diego

The following video delves into the significance of the Youth Media Awards and shows the ceremony’s appeal to authors, publishers and librarians throughout the country.