Category: Cultural institutions

Why more public libraries are doubling as food distribution hubs

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank held a distribution event at the LA county library’s headquarters on Jan. 22, 2021. Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group via Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

by Noah Lenstra (University of North Carolina – Greensboro)

In the summer of 2021, public libraries everywhere, from Idaho and Oklahoma to Tennessee and Arizona, will offer free meals to families with children in their local communities.

What might look like a new role for libraries builds on their long tradition of serving as innovation spaces, community centers and sanctuaries for people who are homeless or mentally ill.

I’ve been researching how public libraries address food insecurity – what happens when households can’t acquire adequate food because they can’t afford it or can’t access it for other reasons. Across the board, these efforts emerge from community partnerships with organizations that include school districts and food banks.

As Kristin Warzocha, president of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, explained in 2016, “We have the food, and they have the patrons who need it.”

Libraries have been fighting food insecurity for years.

Lunch at the library

The earliest example of this kind I’ve found dates back 35 years. In 1986, the Nelsonville branch of the Athens County Public Library in southeastern Ohio began serving federally funded lunches in the summertime to children to ensure that they don’t go hungry.

That county has one of Ohio’s highest food-insecurity rates, which helps explain why librarians there sought to provide food access in tandem with summer learning activities.

By 2019, over 2,000 U.S. public libraries – about 1 in 10 – served summer meals.

This practice has largely remained below the radar. The official magazine of the American Library Association didn’t mention this trend until 2008. Since then, though, growing state and national recognition and support has begun to emerge.

The COVID-19 pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic got underway, public libraries and their staff continued to fight food insecurity, even when their doors were closed.

Some library workers were reassigned to food banks to help process and distribute donations. Others worked with food banks to hand out grab-and-go meals in library parking lots.

Still others established emergency food pantries at libraries.

In St. Louis, the county public library system took part in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families program. Libraries everywhere, from Kentucky and Vermont to California and Georgia, participated in the emergency national food distribution program too.

Many libraries have started to host small food pantries located outdoors, in little boxes with doors. These sharing boxes are modeled on the “little free library” movement. These micro-libraries are usually simple cabinets fastened to posts and stocked with books anyone passing by can take for free. The little free pantry movement, which began in 2016 and seems to have expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead seeks to dispatch food to those in need.

In 2021, by the middle of May, at least 491 libraries in 28 states had made plans to serve meals to schoolchildren during their summer vacations. This number is only preliminary and will rise once more states report their data to the USDA.

Noah Lenstra, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science, University of North Carolina – Greensboro

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Brown County, Indiana library considering switching to solar energy

Read the full story in the Brown County Democrat.

The Brown County Public Library is exploring the possibility of erecting an array of solar panels in the median of the library’s lower parking lot in an effort to take advantage of utility incentives and renewable energy technologies, and to cut electricity expenses by up to 98 percent.

Which flowers bloom first and why?

Read the full story at JStor Daily.

The time of year when a flower blooms is influenced by many factors, including genetics, weather, and pollinators. But climate change is causing bloom times to happen earlier across ecosystems. According to several Boston-area scientists and curators at the Arnold Arboretum, over the past hundred years the temperature has risen 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the city. This is not just making the city a hotter place for people to live—it’s getting warmer for the plants, too.

Abraham J. Miller-Rushing and a team of four researchers at the arboretum wanted to determine if the city’s increasing temperatures were affecting flowering times. As they note, “The most convincing evidence that living organisms are responding to global warming comes from flowering plants, which are especially responsive to warm weather in the spring.”

The team used the arboretum’s extensive collection of herbarium specimens, which include dried flowers and harvest records alongside their living specimens, to analyze the effects of climate change on plants in Boston.

Meet the activist archivists saving the Internet from the digital dustbin

Read the full story in Discover Magazine.

Websites die constantly. The sheer size of the internet makes it feel like a permanent fixture, but individual pages only live an estimated 90 days before they change or vanish. At the same time, every single page has potential historical value. Maybe a future scholar will want to read a local news article that disappeared when the paper redesigned its website, or a political candidate is purging troublesome old statements. Perhaps someone will just want to revisit a video that made them laugh decades ago.

That anything (and everything) might someday prove valuable is why extensive internet archiving efforts exist. Those include the aptly named Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library that launched in 1996 with the humble mission of providing “universal access to all knowledge.” They’ve since digitized millions of books, videos, audio recordings, and software programs, while their Wayback Machine has saved snapshots of an estimated 544 billion webpages. Here, for example, is what the front page of Discover looked like on June 14, 2007.

The Wayback Machine is an incredible bulwark against websites that die slow deaths wrought from neglect, technological changes, mergers, and other ravages of time. But some websites have their plugs abruptly pulled, and that’s where the Archive Team steps in.

Gear-lending ‘library’ opens door to new generation of outdoor adventurers

Read the full story in the Durango Herald.

Vanessa Saldivar was 5 when her father hiked her up the bunny slope at Mt. Hood Skibowl in Oregon. She didn’t have a fancy jacket. She used socks as mittens. Her dad gave her a nudge. And she was hooked.

“All these barriers just broke down in that moment,” said the new executive director of Get Outdoors Leadville!, which last week opened a new gear library that lends outdoor equipment to Lake County residents. “The gear library is addressing those barriers. How big of a difference would this have made in my community growing up? I could have had gloves!”

Five years after the Get Outdoors Leadville! – or GOL – coalition secured $3 million from Great Outdoors Colorado’s Generation Wild initiative, the long-planned gear cache is opening its own facility on the Colorado Mountain College campus.

Call for co-creators for Next Library Festival 2021

Next Library Festival 2021 will be a free online event. It will run 24 hours on June 3 starting at 8 am (UTC+2) following the sun around the planet to the next morning 8 am (UTC+2). 

There will be keynotes, inspiration talks, participatory sessions, ignites, online happenings, The Next Room (drop-in-talkshows), singing, announcement of the winner of the Joy of Reading Award, surprises and much more. 

The program is co-created with you. And we are looking for 

A: Ignites: 5 minute talks (live or pre-recorded) 

B: Participatory sessions: Live workshops where we co-create and play together (45 minutes online sessions) 

C: Tour Your Library (live or pre-recorded): The Next Library Community can come visit you. What do you want to show? 

D: Wildcards: Ideas for online happenings, new rituals or social events 

Show us what you’ve got! Be brave and surprise us!  

The overall themes  of Next Library Festival 2021 are:   

  • Democracy   
  • Library as space for Playful Learning and Creativity  
  • Sustainable Development Goals  

We are looking for sessions, talks and happenings that could inspire, explore and share ideas related to these themes. 

How to  send a proposal?   

Please send us a short proposal of your initial idea and answer these questions:  

  • Who are you?  
  • What organization do you represent? 
  • What do you want to do, and in what format? Synchronous or asynchronous? If it is a jam session: how many participants can attend your session? 
  • What time zone are you in? 

Make it short and write in English and send it in MS Word or PDF to info@nextlibrary.net  

You may enclose or link to photos or short videos to explain the format or idea. 

Language?  The  language is English, and there will not be any interpretation services available. 

Timeline   

Send your ideas as soon as possible. Shortly after we will get back to you! 

Explore More Illinois

Explore More Illinois is a free service provided by your library that provides instant online access to free and discounted tickets to museums, science centers, sporting events, zoos, park districts, theatres, and other fun and local cultural venues.

Simply log in with your library card credentials to browse for passes by date or attractions.

Scientific Specimens Are Going Online, But Much Remains Hidden In Storage

Read the full story from NPR.

More than a billion biological specimens are thought to be stashed away in museums and universities and other places across the United States — everything from dead fish floating in glass jars to dried plants pressed between paper to vials of microbes chilling in a freezer.

Until recently, it’s been hard to for researchers to locate all the potentially useful stuff scattered around in storage, even though caretakers say these treasures are like time machines that offer an unrivaled opportunity to understand global change.

“I can go into a shelf and grab a jar off the shelf and look at a river in someplace in southeast Asia in the 1800’s,” says Randy Singer, who is in charge of the fish collection at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology, which has over three million preserved fish. “I can know exactly what the fishes were eating. I can know about the chemical composition of the water they lived in.”

For scientists to pull out detailed information like that, however, they first have to know that a particular specimen even exists. In 2011, the National Science Foundation started handing out grants as part of a ten-year push to bring old-fashioned collections into the Internet age. One of the goals was to put specimen records online and into a searchable portal called iDigBio.

State to outfit four southern Brooklyn libraries with solar backup systems for emergency use

Read the full story at Brooklyn Paper.

The Brooklyn Public Library is outfitting the roofs of four southern Brooklyn literary emporiums with solar energy backup systems that guarantee the lights stay lit — and providing the area with much-needed safe havens during emergencies.

Evanston Public Library hosts virtual Climate Resilient Communities Series

Inspired by the  ALA Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to climate change Grant that was awarded to the Evanston Public Library in the last quarter of 2020, this series of presentations, film discussions, community conversations and hands-on learning kits focuses on the causes and effects of climate change, as well as its intersection with race, gender and other identities.

The goal of the series is to inspire participants into climate action by providing participants with a better understanding of the science behind climate change and the social, ecological and political consequences of its impacts, while offering effective tools to work towards solutions

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