NY City Library Attendance Exceeds all Major Venues Combined

According to a recent article in the New York Times , the city’s libraries have more users than all of the major professional sports, performing arts, museums, gardens and zoos — combined! The city’s libraries had 37 million visitors in the last fiscal year, said Angela Montefinise, a spokeswoman for the New York Public Library, which runs branches and research centers in Manhattan and the Bronx and on Staten Island.

The article’s author, Jim Dwyer, also commented on the quality of the libraries’ offerings, noting that, “No one who has set foot in the libraries — crowded at all hours with adults learning languages, using computers, borrowing books, hunting for jobs, and schoolchildren researching projects or discovering stories — can mistake them for anything other than power plants of intellect and opportunity. They are distributed without regard to wealth.”

150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Funeral Train Passing through Poughkeepsie

On April 25, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train passed through Poughkeepsie, pulled by the same locomotive which had led President-elect Lincoln’s train through the city in February 1861. According to Lincoln chronicler Victor Searcher, “The sun was sinking as the train pulled into Poughkeepsie, casting a mellow glow over the historic event. The steep hillsides were carpeted with twenty thousand persons, perhaps more. Guns roared, bands sounded, the throng stood still for fifteen minutes as the travelers detrained and partook of a hasty buffet supper. Ten minutes after eight, when movement was resumed, stars twinkled and night lights dappled the smooth-running river.” At Albany, the casket was carried to the Assembly Chamber, where mourners paid their respects throughout the night until the train continued westward the following morning.

The Changing Perception of Libraries

As the nation observes National Library Week (April 12 – 18), the American Library Association (ALA) has just released a report that documents the shift in how libraries are perceived by their communities and society. In a press release, ALA noted that, “No longer just places for books, libraries of all types are viewed as anchors, centers for academic life and research, and cherished spaces. From offering free technology workshops, small business centers and 24/7 virtual access to e-Books and digital materials, libraries are transforming communities, schools and campuses.”

The State of America’s Libraries Report concludes that, “As society continues to change the way it consumes information, public libraries and librarians are viewed as change agents by addressing unique needs and identifying trends that impact the community.”

Good News for Libraries in NY State Budget

The New York State Legislature has passed a budget that recognizes the valuable contributions made by public libraries to their communities:

Library Aid will be increased by more than $5 million – the largest increase to library aid in seven years.

$1.3 million was appropriated to rebate those libraries that paid the MTA Tax last year and libraries and library systems now have permanent MTA tax exemption.

The budget includes $14 million in library construction aid so there will be another round of State Aid for Public Library Construction Grants for 2015-2016.

Oscar-Winning Actress Promotes Libraries

Academy Award winning actress and bestselling author Julianne Moore recently recorded a public service announcement as part of the 30th anniversary of School Library Month. In the PSA, Moore speaks to how librarians empower students to succeed in school and beyond. The PSA can be viewed at www.ala.org/aasl/slm/2015/psa.

“School libraries make a difference,” said Moore. “I moved around a lot as a young child, and the first place I would visit in a new place was the school library. The librarians guided me, encouraged me, and set the stage for my lifelong love of reading. As educators, school librarians have a tremendous impact on our students’ personal and intellectual growth. School libraries foster creativity, innovation, play, and experimentation and offer a nurturing, and safe place for children to learn. I have a lot of love for librarians.”

Library Usage Increases in New York

A Siena College Research Institute poll conducted in January found that public library usage is up 10% statewide over the last three years, with usage up nearly 20% among those households making less than $50,000 annually. 94% of respondents said that public libraries are “very” or “somewhat” important to our state’s educational infrastructure, while more than 80% of women, African-Americans, Latinos, and households making less than $50,000 say public libraries are “very important” to our educational system.

Meanwhile, in a press release announcing the results of the poll, Jeremy Johannesen, Executive Director of the New York Library Association, pointed out that library funding is nearly 20% less than what is mandated in state Education Law, and is currently at 1997 levels. He called on Governor Cuomo and library supporters in the State Senate and the Assembly to recognize that public libraries are at the core of the state’s educational infrastructure and must be equitably funded.

Harper Lee Causes a Stir!

Libraries everywhere were abuzz on Tuesday when Harper Lee announced she would be releasing a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird this summer. News of the publication of Go Set a Watchman stunned fans of the 88-year-old author, who have waited for a second novel from Lee since 1960, when she released her debut tale of racism in the American south.

The new novel was written by Lee before To Kill a Mockingbird, but is set some 20 years later. It features Lee’s beloved character Scout as an adult, returning to her home town of Maycomb from New York to visit Atticus, her lawyer father, along with many of the other characters from Lee’s debut.

The Library District will enter the title into the collection in April and measure demand before placing an order. HarperCollins has announced that the novel will be published on July 14.

Discovering the Joy of Books – at a Garbage Dump

This week, the BBC reported on a huge garbage dump in Brazil and some of the valuable items found by the people who scavenge there. One of those people, named Gloria, described some of the horrors of working at the dump, including being buried under a mountain of garbage, only surviving after her friends dug her out.

But, the report says, “the same dump that was causing her such sorrow and despair brought her salvation – in the form of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Over the years Gloria had carefully curated a small library of books salvaged from the dump. And she credits a passage in The Brothers Karamazov for teaching her how to love her daughter. ‘It was the books that helped me. They saved me,” she says. “That was my way of living other lives, of travelling. I was a compulsive reader, I would read four or five books a week, and in the midst of that hard life I was high on books!’”

The dump has been replaced by a recycling plant and Gloria is now the coordinator of the facility.

Libraries and Freedom of Speech

In response to last week’s attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, American Library Association (ALA) President Courtney Young released a statement which included the following:

“The American Library Association condemns in the strongest possible terms yesterday’s attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the deaths of the twelve people there. Libraries and the press are the bedrock of democratic societies.  Free expression is essential for librarians and journalists to do their jobs.  Free speech is integral to the ethical values and best practices for both professions.  Such attacks are counter to the values of access to information with diversity of views—and to the values of civic engagement, which encourages people to read and discuss these views without fear.”

“The American Library Association reaffirms our support of the freedom to publish, read, and discuss.  This horrific attack violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which ALA has endorsed.”

Study Finds Value in Reading to Children of All Ages

According to a new report released on January 8 by Scholastic, the children’s book publisher, reading aloud through elementary school is connected to a love of reading generally. In the survey of just over 1,000 children ages 6 to 17, there were some consistent patterns among frequent readers. For the younger children — ages 6 to 11 — being read aloud to regularly and having restricted online time were correlated with frequent reading.

“A lot of parents assume that once kids begin to read independently, that now that is the best thing for them to do,” said Maggie McGuire, the vice president for a website for parents operated by Scholastic. However, the report supports the idea of continuing to read aloud to children through the elementary school years.

Some literacy experts state that when parents or teachers read aloud to children even after they can read themselves, the children can hear more complex words or stories than they might tackle themselves. Last summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy recommending that all parents read to their children from birth.

NY Times Book Review lists Best Non Fiction of 2014

CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT?   By Roz Chast

Cartoons, it turns out, are tailor-made for the absurdities of old age, illness and dementia. In Chast’s devastating and sublime graphic memoir…she describes helping her parents navigate their final years.

ON IMMUNITY: An Inoculation   By Eula Biss

In this spellbinding blend of memoir, science journalism and literary criticism, Biss unpacks what the fear of vaccines tells us about larger anxieties

PENELOPE FITZGERALD: A Life   By Hermione Lee

The life and times of that elusive, original miracle worker, the English novelist and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald, have been brilliantly captured by Lee.

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: An Unnatural History   By Elizabeth Kolbert

Kolbert reports from the front lines of the violent collision between civilization and our planet’s ecosystem — from the Great Barrier Reef to her own backyard

THIRTEEN DAYS IN SEPTEMBER: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David  By Lawrence Wright

In 1978,… Sadat, Begin and Carter hammered out a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt that remains the most profound diplomatic achievement to emerge from the Mideast conflict.

At Bedtime, Printed Books are Best

Use of an eBook in the hours before bedtime can adversely impact overall health and alertness according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who compared the biological effects of reading an eBook compared to a printed book.

“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” said Anne-Marie Chang, PhD. “Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.” The findings of the study appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 22, 2014.