Scholastic has published the fifth edition of its popular Kids & Family Reading Report that gauges how children and their parents view reading in their daily lives. Of the children surveyed, 51% were currently reading a book for fun, and an additional 20% had recently completed one. 31% of the children polled identify as frequent readers, down from 37% in 2010. The report suggests that the reason for this decline is, “the increasing prevalence of other activities…, most notably, spending time using devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.” One positive finding was that children are far more likely to enjoy reading when they are given the freedom to choose their own books.
The New York Times reports that Mary Badham, the actress who played the young Scout in the 1962 movie adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” will give voice to that character again to celebrate the publication of Ms. Lee’s second novel, “Go Set a Watchman.”
Ms. Badham will appear at the 92nd Street Y’s Poetry Center in Manhattan on July 14, when the new book goes on sale. She will read from both “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is narrated by Scout and set in Depression-era Alabama, and “Go Set a Watchman,” which features Scout 20 years later, returning home from New York. The event, which will be streamed at 92Y.org/harperlee, is one of dozens of “Watchman” celebrations taking place in bookstores, theaters and libraries across the country on July 14.
Eyes around the world were recently focused on the city of Baltimore, where the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody sparked protests. Across the street from the CVS drugstore that was burned down is the Pennsylvania Avenue Branch Library. Apart from a few hours at the height of the riots, the library stayed open, a decision that has received a lot of attention and praise. When the rioting first started, branch manager Melanie Townsend Diggs locked the doors and kept the patrons inside. Later, everyone was able to leave through the back door. That night, she told library administrators, “I really feel at a time like this, the community needs us, and I want to try to open.” The library opened next morning and remained open. Later, Ms. Townsend Diggs reflected on the experience. “I’m proud that we were able to carry on,” she said. “The gratitude of the public has sustained the staff. It’s like they knew they can count on us. I’ve never been prouder to be a librarian.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”