Ask A Librarian: Getting News to Our Patrons

black and white photo of Man sitting in a disarrayed newsroom, with newspapers scattered about

From our local librarian mailing list: Is it possible for library patrons to have free access to newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and those other big, famous ones? Or even little, non-famous ones?

I took this as a bit of a question about paywalls, though our State Library did chime in to say that there is some access available through Gale OneFile, specifically “the New York Times is available, while the Washington Post is not. USA Today looks to have a 3-day delay, and the Guardian has a 1-day delay.”

Paywall stuff is complicated! There are two basic answers to your question: an ethical one and a technical one. The answer to “Can I do this technical thing?” is quite often “Yes but you have to know how, and it might not be ethical.”
Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: Getting News to Our Patrons”

Oral testimony for the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries

fred rogers testifying before a senate subcommittee

After submitting written testimony to the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries, I was asked to come to the meeting to give oral testimony. I decided that instead of summarizing my written testimony, since there was only ten minutes, I’d do a bullet point style summary. This is that. I should note that while I do refer to the State Library, technically is is the Department of Libraries under the Agency of Administration. Below are my four points. Continue reading “Oral testimony for the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries”

2021 in Libraries

a dim afternoon-into-evening shot of an empty library circ desk with a book drop slot and a small shelf next to it with books on CD

Only my regulars this past year. I picked up shifts at my local library and did a few months at Chelsea Public Library while they searched for a full-time librarian. While I taught some classes virtually for Rochester I only went inside the building once, really just to say hello. Forty-four visits, but only three libraries.

  • Kimball (20) – The library was open to the public for a while. I stopped in an occasionally worked a sub shift or met people here.
  • Chelsea (23) – I was the W/Th librarian for a few months
  • Rochester (1) – stopped by to say hello before teaching some online classes

Previous years: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and some reviews from 2003.

Ask A Librarian: Prison furniture?

image of a sturdy library tabl that was built by iowa prison industries.

We have discussed whether it is ok to contract with [prisons] — is it possible that it means people who are incarcerated are learning actual useful skills that they can use to get decently paid work when they get out? Or are we kidding ourselves? Do you have any idea? I’m wondering how I might find out if it actually translates like that. I guess I could try and get in touch with someone at the Department of Corrections. What do you think?

The prison furniture thing is really a pickle. I see it as “of a kind” with discussions about library pay rates. Some libraries are just so small that they can’t pay reasonable wages and if it’s between that and being closed more hours, I think it’s important to make the decision that is best for the community. At the same time, the prison labor situation is… a problem and it’s worth trying to not contribute, but I am also cognizant of the fact that yes, building nice furniture is actually a job skill and a real one, as opposed to, say, making license plates.

So I often think, for myself since I am not in a decision-making capacity, how could I still serve my community but also make the world more just? So thinking about ways in which the library could try to balance the situation either by doing something like making a donation to people who are trying to address inequality or incarceration issues (I realize this is not necessarily simple for a library) or maybe finding a way to Zoom with some of the people who made the library’s furniture, either currently incarcerated people or people who have gotten released to let people know how the situation really works. Alternately, working with restorative justice organizations within communities to try to keep people out of prison, or getting a subscription to Prison Legal News for the library. Or working with the prison that makes the furniture to see what their prison library (if any) is like and how you could help. I know Johnny Flood at Vermont Humanities has been doing some of this work.

https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/

Obviously it’s a difficult choice, but I’m not sure it’s entirely practical for libraries to entirely eschew prison labor. But they can assure if they do engage with the prison industrial complex I think there are ways to do it mindfully and acknowledging that any time you engage with the capitalistic system–as we have to!–there are ways to mitigate damage, a little.

Vermont Libraries in the Time of COVID

Cover slide for this talk which says "Public librariesin the time of COVID" with a little cartoon library beneath it and the URL of the talk

I’ve had my head down and have been staying home for the most part, no news here. A pleasant surprise is that there’s been work, talks to give, things to write about. Also: a lot of Wikipedia work. I did a presentation for the Vermont Humanities Council, an organization which I love but will also love to be cycling off of the Board of Directors of, about what Vermont libraries have been up to this past… year. I’ve excerpted it for an upcoming Computers in Libraries article, but as I was updating my talks page, I thought I should maybe mention it special here. If you’d like to read it or watch me giving it, you can go to this page here: Public Libraries in the time of COVID.