The past month (and in almost any “past month”), tech media stories have been awash with a few high profile stories that cry out for library-level responses. The pair selected for highlighting here involve a collection-oriented concern and one related to community information needs.
The We Need Diverse Books Campaign became solidified and systematized across the past couple weeks, although the concerns it addresses have been real and compelling for a century. Major publishing houses, the work horses that supply our libraries with books for youth, have a lot of responsibilities: finding, editing, publishing promoting works of fiction and nonfiction comprise a gargantuan job, undertaken by those who work as editors, editorial assistants, agents and other proposal and manuscript readers, cover designers, packagers, sales jobbers, reviewers…and only then do new works reach the point of audience discovery, and individual reader enhancement or rejection.
When a panel planned for 2014’s Book Expo America was first revealed to be exclusively white and male, years of discontent with this long outmoded staging of how-we-show-kids-their-world erupted into a groundswell of activist author, editor, librarian, bookshop staff, and reader response. Social media, including most particularly Tumblr and Twitter, became the stage for days of concentrated demonstration, and helped to establish a presence of alternatives. To catch up with how swiftly such a demonstration of needs can foment, articulately and cogently, serves as an ancillary lesson for library staff who have been slow to credit social media with relevant and awesome power.
This story, then, offers two bottom lines: no matter what you think your community looks like/identifies with, they (and you, in service to that community) need diverse books; and you, in the position of learning quickly and authoritatively, need to engage in linking to what is happening in the publishing world, now that it can be altered in direction by skilled social mediators.
The second story is one that originates with the discovery of the devastating breadth of the Heartbleed bug, news of which began to reach the general public at the end of the first week of April. What has developed across the six weeks since this news broke is a secondary story that implicitly addresses us as library staffers: a month after Heartbleed’s reported presence and publicity about how to mitigate its damages at the personal online security level, a majority of American computer users were not taking the steps required to rid their online presence of this security flaw. That is where we need to step up our game, taking a proactive stance toward educating, coaching, and actively supporting good online hygiene in our communities, instead of waiting to be asked for guidance.
We can be information sources for our communities. However, doing the informing, doing information, is a far more powerful and valuable approach. And to take that on, we need to address our own never-ending need to know and understand how big news doesn’t happen in a silo: we have a role in connecting news and our community in ways that enhance and promote the community’s interests.