Tag Archives: Library Users

Support for Innovative Public Library Projects


This blog has spent considerable time forwarding the belief in the necessity of a common mission for Public Libraries:

“To provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.”

It is wonderful to see news of efforts supporting the development and enhancement of this fundamental mission in Public Libraries!

The Knight Foundation Awards $3Million to Libraries for Innovation!!

Winners of the Knight News Challenge on Libraries were announced Friday, awarding projects from across the country that create new and innovative ways to improve city libraries and communities.

Launched by the The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the challenge will award 22 projects that “leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities.” Eight projects will receive investments of $130,000 to $600,000, and 14 early-stage ideas will receive $35,000 each through the Knight Prototype Fund.

“There is a growing demand for libraries to evolve their role and become more dynamic, living platforms, responsive to community needs,” said John S. Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation. “The winners are working to reinvent the ways in which people experience the library, and providing citizens with the tools and information they require to contribute and strengthen our democracy.”

This is solid affirmation of the idea that Public Libraries must continue to focus on providing access to information and the tools that allow citizens to become “informed” and able to participate in society and the democratic process!

Some of the winners:

The Community Resource Lab by District of Columbia Public Library (Washington, D.C.): Advancing the library as the primary anchor of an open information system that connects residents to essential health, human and social services.

BklynShare by Brooklyn Public Library (New York): Enabling people to learn new skills through a service that connects knowledge seekers with experts in their own neighborhood

Book a Nook by Harvard University metaLAB (Boston): Activating library public spaces for diverse community uses by testing a software toolkit that streamlines the exploration and reservation of physical library spaces.

GITenberg by Project GITenberg (Montclair, N.J., and Somerville, Mass.): Exploring collaborative cataloging for Project Gutenberg public-domain ebooks using the Web-based repository hosting service GitHub.

Journalism Digital News Archive by University of Missouri Libraries and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (Columbia, Mo.): Ensuring access to digital news content through development of a model for archiving and preserving digital content that can be used across the country.

Your Next Skill by Seattle Public Library (Seattle): Helping people acquire new skills or expand their knowledge by creating a librarian-led, referral service that connects users with materials, classes and instructors that will help them meet their goals.

Space/Time Directory from the New York Public Library: Working with local communities and technologists to turn historical maps and other library collections into an interactive directory for the exploration of New York across time periods.

Open Data to Open Knowledge from City of Boston: Turning Boston’s open data collection of everything from building permits to potholes into an accessible resource by working with Boston Public Library to catalog it and make it easier for residents, researchers and public employees to navigate.

The Internet Archive: Helping people create and share global collections of cultural treasures on the Internet Archive, one of the world’s largest public libraries.

The list is lengthy and you can see it in its entirety here.  It is amazing to see so many worthy Public Library projects (or projects that will impact Public Libraries access to information) getting the money they need to make headway on this important mission.  (Its equally unfortunate to see that a few of the ‘big money projects’ seem to stray a bit from the clearly stated mission of the Challenge…)

Congratulations to the Knight Foundation and the winning Libraries!

 

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21st Century Library and Open Government


With a degree in English Literature and advanced education my parents have so generously funded…along with decades as a librarian and an Administrator…I like to think of myself as “well-spoken”.  I occasionally even relish the notion that I might sometimes rise to the level of “eloquent”:  However, I read an article today on the “IMLS Blog” that purported a notion that was so obvious- but presented as NEW- that it left me with none of these attributes.  My only response was… “Duh?!”

Be that as it may, I still felt it was worth sharing.  The ideas presented (clearly new to the researchers and participants of the work) are, in my opinion, simply reaffirmations of what many of us in Public Libraries already know and work toward every day.  Their findings also reaffirm my belief in the necessity of a common mission of Public Libraries:

“To provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.”

“A Demand-side Open Government Planning Model for Public Libraries”

 

The question of the project detailed in the article:

What role can public libraries play in the highly visible and expanding domain of Open Government?
The project answer:
Public libraries are the best-positioned community anchors to address the demand-side of open government. In addition, with a bit more strategic vision and planning, they can play a key role in helping ensure that open government activities align with community aspirations and that citizens have the capabilities to contribute to the opening of government in useful and meaningful ways.
The author goes on to write:
One of the most revealing things I learned was that public libraries have a long history of supporting the opening of government through many of the services and resources they provide. However, this role was hidden in plain sight due to the lack of common language and understanding both within the public library community and between public libraries and open government experts.
Adopting a focus on the demand side of open government will provide public libraries with a much needed common language and a strategic planning platform to help match their programs and activities to their communities’ needs and capabilities. Focusing on the demand side of open government will assist public libraries in developing key partnerships with government and other entities, helping government officials, government agencies, nonprofits, and private organizations have a direct resource to the community and its needs. It will also allow them to play a significant role in and benefit from the open government trend.

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ALA’s Vision for the Library’s Future is Not Even Its Own


The Libraries Transforming Communities vision is not even a vision that ALA created. It appears to be a vision adopted from one of The Harwood Institute’s programs with whom ALA is partnering to transform America’s libraries. What were they thinking? Obviously grasping at straws, but buying magic beans? SERIOUSLY?

ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2014 includes a disturbing revelation that has actually been brewing for a couple of years, and is well along the way to indoctrinating new librarians. The Executive Summary espouses a vision of the library’s future, if you follow all the links to the source.

The ALA has made transformation a top priority. As libraries continue to transform in 2014, they deepen engagement with their communities in many ways, addressing current social, economic, and environmental issues, often through partnerships with governments and other organizations. Moving forward from being providers of books and information, public libraries now respond to a wide range of ongoing and emerging needs.

That “transformation” link goes to another article about ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), “groundbreaking libraries-as-change-agents initiative.” Read that again. Libraries-as-change-agents!

Through LTC, ALA will help the public library profession become more focused on and skilled at convening aspirational community conversations and more innovative in transforming internal practice to support fulfillment of community aspirations, and ALA will mirror that change internally, in its own processes. This work will help librarians become more reflective of and connected to their communities. It will help libraries to build stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations. It will yield greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health, and well-being.

ALA is working with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to develop and provide training opportunities and learning resources to support community engagement and innovation. The Harwood Institute has a vision of “turning outward” that emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external.

Libraries Transforming Communities is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. [BTW: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped make EDGE Benchmarks possible.]

Professor R. David Lankes and Barbara Stripling presented a webinar on March 8, 2012 “designed to stimulate conversation about harnessing the evolving role of libraries and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception.” Barbara Stripling was Co-Chair of ALA (now Ex-) President Molly Raphael’s Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities task force, and is now ALA President for 2013-2014.

When Professor Lankes published “The Atlas of New Librarianship” in 2011 it was the greatest thing since sliced bread in library circles. Unfortunately, librarians were not reading it closely and really understanding what Lankes advocated. My critique was not so accepting of his advocacy of radical social activism. (Book Review: R. David Lankes – The Atlas of New Librarianship and Final Review: The Atlas of New Librarianship) To repeat my original critique; I was still hoping for something practical and useful in “The Atlas” when I came to the Knowledge section in the Facilitating Thread (which includes access, knowledge, environment, and motivation) where Lankes begins to develop the foundation for an argument in favor of all kinds of literacy. When I read it, I was shocked and appalled at the ideas he was advocating for librarians.

For librarians “To be ‘literate in’ means to be able to use something to gain power.” (pg. 75) Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? Unfortunately, YES! Lankes then continued on down a path I could not have imagined, and hopefully, neither could the vast majority of professional librarians. The lengthy quote that follows is essential not to break context and to fully understand the role he advocates for librarians. The role that ALA has adopted and is now advocating through The Harwood Institute.

Librarians can impart all the instruction they want on how to search and evaluate sources, but if we don’t also facilitate the knowledge of transforming all of that new knowledge into an effective conversation …, we have created a closed loop with limited benefit to the community in general. So information literacy must include the idea of conversation literacy. Indeed, concepts of new librarianship call for a host of expansions in all sorts of literacy.

… Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a handbook written by a far left radical during the unrest of the 1960s … is a fascinating read.

What I want to point out, however, is Alinsky’s take on the word “power.”

    There are a number of fundamental reasons for rejecting such substitutions [for the use of the word power]. First, by using combinations of words such as “harnessing the energy” instead of the single word “power,” we begin to dilute the meaning; and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life.


Power is not bad or evil. Alinsky would say the evil is when you don’t have power. Without power you don’t make decisions, things are decided for you. Librarians need to be powerful. They need to be able to shape agendas, lead the community, and empower members to do the same. We seek out power not as an end but as a means to make the world a better place. To serve, to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.

Why this trip through radicalism and political protest? Because it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship. If we see the role of librarians as supplementing other educational processes (teaching reading in schools or literacy organizations, or supporting parents), then literacy is a somewhat limited concept. …

However, if we look at literacy as empowerment, literally to gain power, then we have a different take on literacy altogether. Librarians, I would agree, need to view literacy as a means of acquiring power – more often than not, power for the powerless. (pg. 74) [Emphasis added.]

Lankes admits that he is trying to shape ALA’s vision of the librarians role as social activist. His mission statement for New Librarianship reads; “The Mission of Librarians is to Improve Society….” He actually justifies his “trip through radicalism and political protest” because “it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship.” SERIOUSLY? Since when does radicalism or political protest have any place in librarianship? And, he also advocates that librarians “seek out power … to make the world a better place. … to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.” is arguably the most arrogant attitude any profession could conceive. Then couple that power with Lankes’ idea that librarians should be present for ALL knowledge creation within the community and you have what sounds like something that is certainly not librarianship!

Now, what exactly is ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative that they are partnering with The Harwood Institute to sell to librarians? Harwood’s “Turning Outward” states;

Turning Outward makes the community and the people the reference point for getting things done.

Turning Outward impacts:

1) Engagement – Shifting who you see and include in your work and how you engage with them to create change.

2) Partners – Helping you gain clarity about the partners you need to move forward – and those that are holding you back.

3) Priorities – By understanding what space you occupy within the community, you no longer struggle to be all things to all people. Instead, you focus on what you can and should impact.

4) Strategies — How you develop and implement strategies that reflect the context of your community and people’s shared aspirations – and not to get so entangled in programs and activities.

5) Communications – Reframing how you talk about your work and impact, so that it is relevant to people and their concerns – and how you can contribute to a more productive community narrative.

6) Organizational Culture – By Turning Outward you can align and drive internal efforts around shared aspirations and shared language, which makes it easier to work across departments and get things done.
[Emphasis added.]

Sprinkled throughout their six-point approach to transforming librarianship are innuendos that are contradictory to everything that libraries stand for. Changing who we include in our work so that we can change society? Aren’t libraries supposed to be all-inclusive? And change society into what? Into some librarians idea of what their community should be? Only partner with organizations that can help the library and avoid any that might “hold you back”? And, who might those organizations be that would hold back the library from serving ALL the citizens within their community? We should no longer struggle to be all things to all people? SERIOUSLY? So libraries should only serve some select tax payers, and ignore the interests of ALL its taxpayers? And, by all means let’s STOP getting entangled in programs and activities!

What in the name of S.R. Ranganathan has gotten into ALA? Since when has librarianship been about radical activism, or totally focused on “changing society”? Since when has librarianship been about gaining power in the community and deciding what improvement society needs? Since when has librarianship been about exclusivity?

If this is where 21st Century librarianship is headed, I want no part of it. I will not be the librarian that ALA’s visions and programs are espousing. I will not impose my personal biases (and don’t think for one second that you don’t have any, because everyone has them) on my community and judge what improvements it needs. Especially not when it is paying my salary to serve it.

If ALA has any perception that librarianship is lacking a clear identity, then they are clearly clueless about what it should be. In fact, they are so clueless that they are willing to buy some program from The Harwood Institute and adopt Professor Lankes’ New Librarianship, both approaches that will surely destroy any resemblance of what librarianship is in favor of creating a library workforce intent on changing the world. Change the world to what?

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Pew Research Defines Library Users – Yet Again?


Pew Research Internet Project has released the third in its series of research “on the topic of public libraries’ changing role in Americans’ lives and communities.” From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers–and beyond “serves as a capstone to the three years of research the Pew Research Center has produced…”

The focus of this report is the creation of a new typology of Americans’ public engagement with public libraries, which sheds light on broader issues around the relationship between technology, libraries, and information resources in the United States. …

By creating groups based on their connection to libraries rather than their gender, age, or socio-economic attributes, this report allows portraiture that is especially relevant to library patrons, library staff members, and the people whose funding decisions impact the future of public libraries in the United States.

The impact of digital technologies on public libraries is particularly interesting because libraries serve so many people (about half of all Americans ages 16 and older used a public library in some form in the past year, as of September 2013) and correspondingly try to meet a wide variety of needs. This is also what makes the task of public libraries—as well as governments, news organizations, religious groups, schools, and any other institution that is trying to reach a wide swath of the American public—so challenging: They are trying to respond to new technologies while maintaining older strategies of knowledge dissemination.

While interesting that Pew Research findings support this conclusion; this is not news to those in the profession. So, let me state right up front that I found this report lacking in really useful, although critically needed information. They have re-named demographics, re-conglomerated social groupings, and generally rehashed the same information already available. AND, they took three years to do it, which makes their findings almost obsolete by 21st Century standards.

Having said that, there are a multitude of library professionals who may find interesting and possibly useful information in this latest Pew report.


By creating groups based on their connection to libraries rather than their gender, age, or socio-economic attributes, this report allows portraiture that is especially relevant to library patrons, library staff members, and the people whose funding decisions impact the future of public libraries in the United States.

Among the broad themes and major findings in this report:

Public library users and proponents are not a niche group: 30% of Americans ages 16 and older are highly engaged with public libraries, and an additional 39% fall into medium engagement categories.

Americans’ library habits do not exist in a vacuum: Americans’ connection—or lack of connection—with public libraries is part of their broader information and social landscape. As a rule, people who have extensive economic, social, technological, and cultural resources are also more likely to use and value libraries as part of those networks. Many of those who are less engaged with public libraries tend to have lower levels of technology use, fewer ties to their neighbors, lower feelings of personal efficacy, and less engagement with other cultural activities.

Life stage and special circumstances are linked to increased library use and higher engagement with information: Deeper connections with public libraries are often associated with key life moments such as having a child, seeking a job, being a student, and going through a situation in which research and data can help inform a decision. Similarly, quieter times of life, such as retirement, or less momentous periods, such as when people’s jobs are stable, might prompt less frequent information searches and library visits.

Most of the report reminds me of OCLC’s 2008 in-depth Report to the OCLC Membership, From Awareness to Funding A study of library support in America, except without the extraordinarily detailed information and recommendations. It’s nice to know there hasn’t been much change in the past six years in describing library supporters, and non-supporters.

At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, I have to respond – DUH!?!? Anyone with any degree of library experience and common sense knows that “library habits do not exist in a vacuum” and that “life stage and special circumstances are linked to increased [or decreased] library use and higher [or lower] engagement with information.” SERIOUSLY? That’s the best Pew has to offer to explain the 21st Century library user environment?

I stated essentially the same things in August, 2011 – Customer Targeting – A New 21st Century Library Skill, and in a series of 21st Century Library Customers posts in February, 2011 covering all the generations that libraries serve today. [21st Century Library Customers – Greatest & Silent] For libraries to provide such a wide range of services and technologies makes their mission difficult, to say the least.

While Pew tries to impress readers with cool graphics and simple organization of extensive information [kudos], the content just is not impressive. It’s mostly a rehash, like I’m beginning to do in this post. My assessment is – nothing new from Pew. Maybe some enterprising marketing expert can translate the findings into a strategy to move the Solid Center to Information Omnivores, so be sure to share if you do.

ADDENDUM:
Are you a ‘Digitarian’? Look what one public library was able to discover about its users. “According to a city report, the information will help Phoenix libraries better understand customers and tailor resources and services to meet their needs.” Imagine that! Highly useful user information essential for local library decision making.

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The Librarian’s Role in the “The Battel of the Books(‘ Readers)”


Do you remember Jonathan Swift’s account of “the terrible Fight that happened on Friday last between the Antient and Modern Books” in St. James’s Library? That was last Friday some month in 1697, but it could easily have been an account of the biblio-fisticuffs between Antients and Moderns any day on the Web in the last twenty years or so.

Jonathan Swift 1704

Jonathan Swift 1704

As in Swift’s day, our Antients and Moderns come in several stripes: Textbook Antients and MOOC Moderns, Printed Antients and Kindled Moderns, Copyright Antients and Open Access Moderns and so on. One stripe to have taken the field recently is the humblest of the lot but nonetheless passionate: the Antient and Modern Readers, that is you, Dear Reader, not the e-reading device. Were you aware of this pugilism by proxy on your behalf across the expanse of the Internet? No? Then, … allow me to provide you with “a full and true account” of the actions of certain of your avatars. ….”


If you are a lover of books and reading, I strongly encourage you to read the entire thought provoking article at “The Battel of the Books(‘ Readers)”

What is our role as 21st Century Librarians in this future of “reading“?

Or, is being a librarian only about ACCESS?

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21st Century Librarians Look Like: Game-changing Creativity


60 Minutes” recently aired a segment on a young man named Jack Andraka who is the Intel International Science Fair Grand Prize winner for his project to find a reliable, cost effective diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer.

Not only did this 15 year old beat out 1,500 other really smart young people, he has presented a TED Talk, which is seriously impressive.

Jack Andraka was so passionate about his desire to accomplish something worthwhile that he petitioned 200 biotechnology science labs to allow him to pursue his research, but only one accepted his proposal. It only takes one.

Being interviewed by “60 Minutes” reporter Morley Safer, Andraka says of his genius idea;

But really I don’t think it’s that I’m really smart. I mean, I know people that are way smarter than me. You can be a genius, but if you don’t have the creativity to put that knowledge to use, then you just have a bunch of knowledge and nothing else. I mean, like, then you’re just as good as my smartphone. [Emphasis added.]

Another impressive part of the interview came when Safer told about Andraka speaking to “the renowned Royal Society of Medicine about his test and the problems with current cancer diagnostics.” The video showed a large room full of doctors and researchers totally engaged in their young speaker’s ideas.

THAT is where the game-changing creativity comes into play, not only by Andraka, but by the adults open to listening to a new idea about how to approach an old challenge. The fact that the idea came from a teenager may have been incidental, or maybe not. But, the point is we all must be open to new ideas, new perspectives, new approaches to old challenges in our libraries.

Librarians have been pounding away at “librarianship” for decades in the same way it has always been done. The reason the old way doesn’t work is because the environment has changed drastically, conditions have changed drastically and library user’s expectations of libraries have changed drastically. (Read 21st Century Librarianship – Revisited)

21st Century Librarianship does the unexpected!

21st Century Libraries Look Like: Something Unexpected)

Library’s ‘Hatch’ space appeals to visitors’ creativity

Open-mic night encourages creativity, benefits library

Augmented reality. What is augmented reality?

The Maker Movement Finds Its Way Into Urban Classrooms

Free lending libraries sprouting on front lawns in D.C. area help create neighborhood bonds

Miami Public Library provides videoconferencing equipment

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Affordable Care Act – Librarians’ Dilemma


On August 1 I posted Some Libraries Resist Assisting ObamaCare – Some Librarians Express Concerns and echoed some librarians concerns about essentially “promoting” ObamaCare to library users. Recently, I participated in a teleconference call hosted by HHS addressing issues and questions about implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

This third in a series of three calls is intended specifically for stakeholders in Utah where there will be a Federally Facilitated Marketplace for the individual market and a State Based Marketplace for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). The call will feature HHS and CMS Denver Regional Office officials and an Avenue H official followed by time for Q&A. Speakers are:
• Doyle Forrestal, Acting Regional Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
• Jeff Hinson, Regional Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
• Patty Conner, Executive Director, Avenue H
Questions about the event? Contact ROReaORA@cms.hhs.gov

The first 30 minutes was a “canned” presentation literally read from scripts (you can always tell) about a lot of government acronyms that describe the many layers of bureaucracy that will bring this program to the public, while protecting your private medical information, containing lots of declarations of privacy protection, safeguards against fraud, etc., as well as a progress report on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Region 8 being ready for the October 1 deadline to go live. Once a listener gets over the $68 Million in federal grants to 51 community-based organizations in 11 states to train an unknown number of “navigators” to help people apply for healthcare, some of what was outlined seemed good – especially the requirement for Certified Application Counselors to be certified through training, be bonded like company treasurers and accountants, and licensed by a state’s department of insurance. It all generally sounded like a good thing, assuming that one can believe everything they are told by the government. [NOTE: Training for Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, and Agents and Brokers will be web-based.]

During the second 30 minutes devoted to Q&A, I was able to ask a question. In a few words I asked what they saw as the role of librarians in “promoting” this federal program. Of course I prefaced my question by assuming they all knew about the President’s video presentation at ALA, other agencies promotion of libraries becoming partners in advocating the program, etc. The answer I got, in a nutshell, mostly from Ms. Forrestal, was that libraries and librarians were not expected to be “navigators” or counselors to help people fill out online applications for healthcare, but, as I suggested, they simple provide access to information like they have always done with federal income tax forms. OK, after that I was fairly satisfied.

However, the caller immediately after me was a guy who was at that moment conducting training for a county library system in my state. He thanked me for the segue and told listeners that the librarians he was training were very enthused and interested in becoming Certified Application Counselors – the people who have to be trained, bonded and certified. My reaction was not one I care to share publicly.

My reaction to librarians who embrace this “service” on such a personal level is that they must be wearing blinders to forget what libraries and librarians have been doing for the past 3-4 years – HELPING MILLIONS OF LIBRARY USERS FIND JOBS.

Remember the economic downturn that put so many people and companies out of business that unemployment became the number one issue in America? Remember the gut-wrenching library closings of 2009, 10 and 11 because the local economy was so bad? Remember the ALA and PLA and every library organization extoling the value of the local library BECAUSE IT WAS THE MOST VITAL RESOURCE HELPING PEOPLE FIND JOBS?

Are you not listening to the impact that the Affordable Care Act is and will have on businesses and jobs? Are you not aware that labor unions are no longer supporting the Act? Are you not aware that normal healthcare insurance costs are already rising? Are you not aware that Congress is debating not funding the program because it does more harm than good to the economy? Are you not aware that employers are cutting employee hours even further to get below the 29 hour level so they don’t have to provide healthcare benefits that will bankrupt their business? Are those of you who are currently working less than 40 hours a week in your library prepared to work less than 30 hours a week because your school district, city, county, state, or university can’t afford the outrageous cost of healthcare?

Do librarians not understand the dilemma they are now being forced into? First we “do more with less” and help millions of our neighbors try to find employment. AWESOME!

Now we’re being asked to become “Champions for Coverage” (yes, I had not yet mentioned that advertising hooraaraa incentive for libraries) and to again be good public servants – regardless of the impact. Before librarians jump on this latest “public good” bandwagon, I strongly encourage them to research the impact of this program, rather than simply keep the blinders on and follow the parade down the new path toward more joblessness.

Remember that the “service” to jobless library users was not a government program. It was something that libraries understood was in the best interest of all concerned. Libraries were not asked to endorse or promote a government “program.” Being asked to endorse the Affordable Care Act is not in the best interest of libraries, or librarians. We are not government pawns to be sacrificed for some greater good – especially when there is no clearly identifiable “good” in it. I still agree with commentor StephenK who commented on LISNews blog, “Alas I don’t see this ending well.”

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