Politics and Libraries, part 1

Politics, policies, government, partisan divides…it all matters when we’re talking about the potential and the ability of libraries to continue providing services to their communities today and in the future.

We don’t claim to be experts on this subject…in fact, we are far from it. But in light of recent national news, in this episode Kyrstin, Caroline and I take a stab at grasping and articulating the implications of politics on and in library world. We briefly touch on topics such as gun legislation, funding, collective bargaining and Caroline’s experience at Iowa Library Legislative day.

“Libraries leverage the tiny amount of federal funds they receive through their states into an incredible range of services for virtually all Americans everywhere, so produce what could be the highest economic and social return on investment in the entire federal budget.” –Julie Todaro, President of the American Library Association, 2017

There’s definitely a lot to stay informed about, which can sometimes be overwhelming and challenging to do amidst our busy lives. Still, as professional librarians it’s important that we seek to understand the impact of politics on the work that we do and make an effort to publicly advocate for our libraries. If we do, we will have the potential to help bring about positive change for our communities.

Interning at the U.S. National Archives



Erica examining the watermark on a document while rehousing the oversized collection at the Library

This past summer, the summer of 2016, two of our local SLIS students made sure that they did not waste their summer vacations. We wanted to make sure we captured a little bit of their experiences.Erica Knapp spent her summer working at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. Kara Wentworth spent her summer break working at the National Park Service Headquarters in Washington D.C. in the Tribal Relations and American Cultures department. They were both selected for their positions from an initial pool of applicants from across the country.

In this episode we speak to Erica and Kara about their experience delving into special collections work at the federal level, getting to know individuals through the intimate work of collection processing.

“Eleanor had a pen pal that she met in the early ’30s[…], she called her Tiny. We have Tiny’s half of the correspondence, but Tiny’s daughters [recently] donated Eleanor’s half of the correspondence to us. So I got to go through and read all of Eleanor’s letters.” -Erica Knapp, 2016

That summer, they also participated in special events, learned about the workflow and logistics of a functioning national archives, gained a unique understanding of national archive and federal agency standards, and became familiar with the responsibilities of an archivist at the federal level.


Kara standing in the Main Interior Building, the headquarters of the United States Department of the Interior, located in Washington, D.C.

“I was working in a building with a bunch of anthropologists. I processed a 100-square-foot collection for the chief ethnographer of the Park Service from 1978 to early 2000. They wanted to get an archivist in to go through it [the collection] because they weren’t sure how much of it was personal and had to be removed and redacted. [The job] really appealed to me because I wanted to get an understanding, a working knowledge, of the National archive standard.” -Kara Wentworth, 2016







At Your Local Library


The homepage of a new website created by Rachel Black, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science. The website’s URL is: https://atyourlocallibraryblog.wordpress.com



There’s a new website in town, and we think you should know about it!

Rachel Black, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library & Information Science, has started a new local website project.

“I started a website, called “At Your Local Library,” which I wanted to use to kind of, challenge perceptions of librarians and libraries. When I was doing my research, I realized that a lot of people just don’t see their library as an active agent in their community.” -Rachel Black, 2016

Rachel describes how she got her inspiration for the website from the well known website called “Humans of New York,” and how that type of approach could be used to introduce the community to their local libraries, and more specifically, to the people who work within them.

“I really wanted this site to reach people who don’t really think about their libraries, who aren’t already passionate about them, or don’t realize what a great resource they are.” -Rachel Black, 2016


To gather content for the website, Rachel conducted and transcribed interviews with librarians in the state of Iowa, releasing each interview to the public in segments that gradually reveal how that librarian and their library benefit their local community.

“I wanted the post to be something that the librarian who was talking to me was passionate about. At the end of the day, what is their message? I would take these themes that kept cropping up, and I would try to create an overall story.” -Rachel Black, 2016

In this podcast, Rachel also speaks on some of the logistics involved in putting together a project like this and presenting it to the Library and Information Science faculty. Rachel hopes to one day obtain funding that will allow her to continue this site in the future.

Check out the At Your Local Library website or follow the project on Facebook.

Librarians for social justice

In the midst of a divided society and a controversial political climate, what role do libraries play, and what responsibilities do librarians have to their patrons and collections? In this episode, we chat with Bekah Walker, John Fifield, and Alonso Avila, members of the University of Iowa’s Librarians for Social Justice group, about what social justice is and what it should look like within the library profession and among evolving community values.

“There’s a difference between neutrality and equality, and I think that’s something we need to look at as librarians. […] We as librarians have to hold ourselves accountable to upholding these values of equality.” -John Fifield, 2016

“You shouldn’t have to be neutral and not be advocating for the people that don’t have access to the things that other people do.” -Bekah Walker, 2016

“Through that [the election] people have started to become more aware and realize that we need to work towards building those bridges between communities that we may not have had contacted or connected with previously. So this is pushing us into areas that we need to be in, in order to start affecting change.” -Alonso Avila, 2016

Bekah, John, and Alonso also update us on the current activities of the Librarians for Social Justice group. On an ongoing basis, group members volunteer at the Anchor Center, which  is a prison transitional facility in Cedar Rapids.

In addition, the Librarians for Social Justice group will also hold their annual fundraiser, the Book Brunch, from 10am-12pm on Saturday December 3rd, at Public Space One in Iowa City, Iowa. For $5, attendees will receive a delicious brunch and have the opportunity to participate in a silent auction. Donations of books and crafts prizes for the silent auction will be accepted until Friday December 2nd. Proceeds of the silent auction and the breakfast will benefit The Lisa Libraries. We hope to see you there!

If you have questions about the Librarians for Social Justice group, their fundraiser, or are interested in joining their email list, you can contact them at libs.social.justice@gmail.com.