We made it folks! The end of 2020 is nearly in sight. In retrospect, it feels amazing that Allie and I have been able to still release monthly content in the midst of a quarantine, buying and moving into a new house, dealing with various illnesses, and the emotional labor of just trying to stay alive. With that said, it does feel like a struggle for us to find things to write about since libraries are in survival mode. We know everyone is trying their best and professional development is not a priority at the moment. We are going to take the month of December to evaluate the future of the Cardigan. We hit our 2 year anniversary in November and we were so caught up in life we forgot to celebrate! We love this platform but we want to be mindful we aren’t just producing content for the sake of. Our goal has always been for it to be thought-provoking and inspiring. This month’s newsletter is more of a library news highlight reel! If you have any ideas, or are even interested in contributing – please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, we hope you have a safe holiday season! (Artwork by @jtrenshaw )
Learn: The Social Dilemma
Social media has certainly been a powerful tool for the library during this pandemic, hasn’t it? In a time of lockdown isolation, it has allowed us to stay connected to our communities. We have been able to offer virtual programs, share resources, and attend trainings that wouldn’t have been possible without it. Yet, the creators of the Social Dilemna believe this tool is using us, not the other way around. They are calling for a new agenda for technology, a humane one. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never associated the word humane, or inhumane, with technology; this Netflix documentary changed my mind! By the time I finished watching the exposé by a parade of former top social media engineers, I agreed with them that we face a very real threat that will destroy us if not checked. The second time I watched it, I considered it solely through a librarian’s lens and compared it to what we stand for. It was equally, if not more, disturbing from a professional point of view. Here’s why–
Librarians secure the privacy of their customers. Social media (SM) exploits it. Thousands of strategically trained engineers and supercomputers are tracking, recording and watching our every click. SM companies use that data to make predictions which then allow them to sell our time and attention as a commodity from which they profit.
Librarians embrace diversity and seek to build inclusive communities. SM manipulates users with algorithms. This suppresses and limits exposure to ideas that are different than our own.
Librarians strive to provide accurate information. SM is a platform that fosters the spread of misinformation, which, in turn polarizes and divides people. It is changing what billions think and do, who they are and what they believe; this is de-stabilizing society.
Librarians defend the ideals of democracy. SM has already been weaponized to interfere with elections, and some of its groups have used it to incite violence.
While librarians nurture and protect children, there are no rules or regulations shielding them on SM. No child psychologist is involved in SM design to ensure that content is appropriate for the stages of development. SM is coldly shaping the self-worth and identity of helplessly addicted children. One result is a colossal spike in depression, self-harm and suicide, particularly among middle school girls.
For SM Companies, it’s all about the money, a ruthless pursuit of LOTS and LOTS of money. They are inhuman due to their callous disregard for the negative impacts of the technology they create. Libraries, however, are all about building up humans. We do that by carefully considering what we say and do. SM is a topic that bears further scrutiny. What do we communicate to parents, children and teens about its use? And what actions do we take if we determine it is detrimental? Are we ready to swipe the good fight on behalf of ourselves, our families, our patrons and our world?
Robin Miller, Children’s Librarian in Oklahoma City OK
I appreciate Robin’s take on social media so much because it forces us to ask uncomfortable questions and recognize the inner conflict: we need to serve our customers where they are, but the platforms we are using are in opposition with the values we seek to defend (privacy, notably). Does that mean we discard them altogether? That doesn’t seem right – so how can we strive to use social media ethically?
Plan: Internet Access
We love seeing libraries stepping up to provide internet access! This initiative by the Dallas Public Library is incredibly inspiring. They had already planned on purchasing 900 hotspots, but with the increased need due to the pandemic, they have increased their order to 2100. Each branch will have at least 85 hotspots to loan.
Consider: Armed Security Guards
As libraries across the country are evaluating the role and presence of police and security guards in their buildings, the Cleveland Public Library has taken the step of purchasing Phazzer stun guns for security guards. It takes only a simple hop and skip over to the Phazzer website to see the banner “Because All Lives Matter” displayed across the top. The article explains the decision is in response to staff concerns about safety, and security guards will continue to receive de-escalation training. It still sounds like a recipe for disaster and a traumatic experience for staff and customers alike. It reveals the profound disconnect and aloofness towards systemic racial injustice in libraries: it’s not enough to put together an anti-racism reading list, and then turn around and purchase weapons that will likely disproportionately affect BIPOC. If we have any readers from Cleveland, we would love to hear your perspective on this!
Read: 2020 Favorites
Allie and Katherine
We look forward to the New York Public Library’s Best Of lists every year!
Here are some of our personal favorites from 2020:
- Way Past Worried by Hallee Adelman
- Sometimes People March by Tess Allen
- Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
- We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
- Goodnight Veggies by Diana Murray
- You Matter by Christian Robinson
Middle Grade Books:
- Isaiah Dunn is my Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
- Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron
- Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman
- Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
- Finish the Fight by Veronica Chambers
- Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros
- The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
- A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi
- Twins by Varian Johnson
- Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
- Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
- Chirp by Kate Messner
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds
- Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
- We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
- Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
- This is My America by Kim Johnson
- You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
- What I Carry by Jennifer Longo
- Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez
Follow up about REALM project
“The REALM project has released results from the sixth round of tests conducted in a Battelle laboratory that determined how long SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can remain active on five materials commonly used in furnishings, exhibits, and equipment found in museums, libraries, and archives.”
“Results show that after two days, SARS-CoV-2 virus was no longer detectable on the brass and marble. After six days, virus was not detected on the glass, laminate, and powder-coated steel.”
These results seem to indicate that sanitizing surfaces such as door handles and glass dividers is still a worthwhile task.