The New Yorker: “When the Culture Wars Come for the Public Library”
From The New Yorker:
Every public library is an exception. The world outside is costly and cordoned off, but here no one is charged, and no one is turned away. People browse for books and go online. They learn English, meet with friends, dawdle, nap, and play. For children, the public library is a place to build an inner life, unencumbered by grownups. Story time is an invitation to that experience. A librarian reads a book aloud to a huddle of kids seated cross-legged on the floor. It’s part early-literacy tool, part theatre, and looks basically the same wherever it happens. The public libraries in Flathead County, Montana, a region of mountainous beauty bordering Canada and Glacier National Park, offer seven story times per week, for babies on up. Three scattered branch locations—in Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and Bigfork—serve a population of a hundred and eleven thousand people, spread out over five thousand rugged square miles.
On a spring day in 2019, Ellie Newell, the youth-services librarian at the main branch, in a historic post office in downtown Kalispell, hosted a special story time for a visiting class of preschoolers. Newell was raised by librarians and had taken the job straight out of graduate school, drawn to Flathead’s reputation for “doing cutting-edge library stuff.” Several years earlier, the library had rebranded to adopt a new name and logo, as well as an updated, possibly foolhardy mission. The Flathead County Library System became the ImagineIF Libraries and set out to use technology and interactive programs to bring together far-flung residents of the county. This new approach earned ImagineIF a John Cotton Dana Award (the equivalent of a library Oscar) and the title of State Library of the Year.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.