Sullivan Free Library's Blog

July 18, 2010

This Book is Overdue

Libraries have an advocate in Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All (Harper, 2010).   While some question the need for libraries with the development of the internet, Johnson, a former  editor and staff writer  for Life magazine, has written about the continuing importance of libraries and librarians as a way to bridge economic divides in our society.

To read an interview with Johnson and read excerpt from the book, visit:

The book is available through the MidYork Library System.

Johnson also wrote an editorial that appeared in today’s Utica Observer-Dispatch:

Nation’s libraries checking out?

THE U.S. is beginning an interesting experiment in democracy: We’re cutting public library funds, shrinking our public and school libraries, and in some places, shutting them altogether.

These actions have nothing to do with whether the libraries are any good or whether the staff provides useful service to the community. This country’s largest circulating library, in Queens, N.Y., was named the best system in the U.S. last year by Library Journal. Its budget is due to shrink by a third. Los Angeles libraries are being slashed, and the doors will be locked two days a week and at least 100 jobs cut. And until it got a six-month reprieve, Siskiyou County almost became California’s only county without a public library.

Such cuts and close calls are happening across the country. We won’t miss a third of our librarians and branch libraries the way we’d miss a third of our firefighters and firehouses, the rationale goes. But I wonder.

I’ve spent four years following librarians as they deal with the tremendous increase in information and the many ways we receive it. They’ve been adapting as capably as any profession, managing our public computers and serving growing numbers of patrons, but it seems that their work has been all but invisible to those in power.

I’ve talked to librarians whose jobs have expanded with the demand for computers and training, and because so many other government services are being cut. The people left in the lurch have looked to the library, where kind, knowledgeable professionals help them navigate the government bureaucracy, apply for benefits, access social services. Public officials will tell you they love libraries and are committed to them; they just don’t believe they constitute a “core” service.

But if you visit public libraries, you will see an essential service in action, as librarians help people who don’t have other ways to get online, can’t get the answers they urgently need or simply need a safe place to bring their children.

I’ve stood in the parking lot of the Topeka and Shawnee County Library in Kansas on a Sunday morning and watched families pour through doors and head in all directions to do homework or genealogical research, attend computer classes, read the newspapers. I’ve stood outside New York City libraries with other self-employed people, waiting for the doors to open and give us access to the computers and a warm and affordable place to work. I’ve met librarians who serve as interpreters and guides to communities of cancer survivors, Polish-speaking citizens, teenage filmmakers, veterans.

The people who welcome us to the library are idealists, who believe that accurate information leads to good decisions and that exposure to the intellectual riches of civilization leads to a better world. They represent the best civic value out there, an army of resourceful workers who can help us compete in the world.

But we’re handing them pink slips. The school libraries and public libraries in which we’ve invested decades and even centuries of resources will disappear unless we fight for them. The communities that treasure and support their libraries will have an undeniable competitive advantage. Those lucky enough to live in those towns, or those who own computers, or have high-speed Internet service and on-call technical assistance, will not notice the effects of a diminished public library system — not at first. Whizzes who can whittle down 15 million hits on a Google search to find the useful and accurate bits of info, and those able to buy any book or article or film they want, will escape the immediate consequences of these cuts.

Those in cities that haven’t preserved their libraries, those less fortunate and baffled by technology, and our children will be the first to suffer. But sooner or later, we’ll all feel the loss as one of the most effective levelers of privilege and avenues of reinvention — one of the great engines of democracy — begins to disappear.

Marilyn Johnson is the author of “This Book Is Overdue!” She wrote this column for the Los Angeles Times


June 4, 2010

Going Juvenile

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sullivan Free Library @ 10:46 pm
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Many adult authors have successfully branched out into children’s books.   Carl Hiaasen, author of humorous mysteries for adults has written several for children as well: “Hoot” (made into a movie), “Scat” and “Flush”.   Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have teamed up with the popular “Peter and the Starcatchers” series.   John Patterson’s “Maximum Ride”, “Daniel X” and “Witch and Wizard”  series are  read by both juvenile and adult readers.  Alice Hoffman, author of “Practical Magic” has successfully branched out with young adult fantasies.

John Grisham is the latest author to “cross over” with “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer”.  A suspense thriller aimed at the 9-12 age range, it features a 13 yr old with a passion for the law who gets caught up in the middle of a murder trial.

Given Grisham’s popularity among adult readers, it’s a sure bet that this book is going to be snatched up by all ages.

To read an excerpt from “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer” visit:

April 29, 2010

One Book, One Twitter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sullivan Free Library @ 9:34 pm
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Social networking has just expanded into yet another area–book discussions groups.  Librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl began the “One Book” reading movement in 1998 when the Seattle Public Library initiated the “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book” program featuring “The Sweet Hereafter” by Russel Banks.  Since then, communities all over the US have followed her lead in choosing and promoting a book in an effort to encourage community-wide reading and discussion.  Locally, the Sullivan Free Library and the Chittenango Central School District sponsored a “One Community, One Book” discussion of “Balzac & the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie in 2008. The MidYork Library system has coordinated two “Regional Reads” featuring “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman.

A few weeks ago, editor of Wired Jeff Howe initiated a campaign to have Twitter users choose one title for a discussion this coming summer–over Twitter.  His blog caught the interest of NPR  who included it on “All Things Considered”:

Today, he announced that the winner is “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman:

Gaiman, a British author, is popular among adults and children.  He wrote the book “Coraline” which was made into a 3-D movie in 2009.   In “American Gods”,   an ex-con who is offered a job as a bodyguard for Mr. Wednesday, a trickster and a rogue. Shadow soon learns that his role in the man’s schemes are far more dangerous and dark than he could have ever imagined.

If you are interested in reading this book along with the Twitter community, you can join the group by searching twitter for: #1b1t

The book is available in both print and audio format in libraries throughout the Midyork system.

Karen Fauls-Traynor, Library Director

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