In Wake of Allegations, Does ALA Have a Sherman Alexie Problem?

After months of whispers, the story broke this week that National Book Award–winning author Sherman Alexie has been accused of sexual and general misconduct.

As PW’s John Maher reported this week, the accusations—which have only been made anonymously thus far—first appeared in the comments section of a January 3 article in School Library Journal, but have since been repeated on social media, causing journalists to scramble to find sources willing to speak on the record about their experiences with the author.

Following PW’s report this week, Alexie released a statement in which he generally apologized for past conduct. “I have made poor decisions and I am working hard to become a healthier man who makes healthier decisions.”

The revelations, meanwhile, could put ALA in a difficult position.

In January, Alexie won the ALA’s Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction for his memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir. The Carnegie winners typically accept their medals and address librarians at an awards reception at the ALA Annual Conference (a true highlight of ALA—if you’ve never been to one, they are always outstanding events, increasingly known for great speeches).

The question now is, in light of the allegations, whether the ALA will extend an invitation to Alexie to speak at this year’s Carnegie reception?

In a statement Jessica Hughes, the executive director of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), the division of the ALA that administers the awards, told PW: “ALA only recently learned of these concerning allegations against Sherman Alexie. We take this matter seriously, and we are looking into it.”

New York Times Article Looks at How Libraries Are Saving Lives Amid the Opiate Crisis

In addition to stocking books, providing computers, WiFi access, and other vital services, public libraries around the country are increasingly stocking Naloxone, the drug used to reserve the effects of an opioid overdose.

An article in the Metro section of the New York Times earlier this week provides an excellent overview of the dilemma facing many public librarians nationwide as they grapple with of their role in the country’s opioid epidemic.

“It’s a perfect example of how time and time again, the government turns to libraries to step up and fill in,” Jeremy Johannesen, executive director of the New York Library Association, told the New York Times.

Some librarians, like Bambi Pedu, the director of the library in Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks, understandable have their reservations. “You’re opening a can of worms,” she told the New York Times. Matt Pfisterer, the director of the Middletown Thrall Library echoed her concern in the article, noting that if other patrons know the library staff is on high alert for drug overdoses, the fear is it will deter them from coming to the library.

For Chuck Thomas, however, the director of the Newburgh Free Library, the decision is clear for his staff. Libraries respond to the needs of the community, he told the New York Times. “Those are their needs now,” he said. “Later, they may need Shakespeare. But those are their needs right now.”

Dolly Parton Joins Carla Hayden to Celebrate ‘100 Million Books and Counting’

On Tuesday country music star Dolly Parton joined Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden at the Great Hall of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to mark a special milestone for Parton’s nonprofit Imagination Library: the donation of its 100 millionth book.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a childhood literacy program that mails free books to children age 5 years old and younger.

Parton launched the effort in 1995 to foster a love of reading among the preschool children in her home county in East Tennessee. As of Friday morning, the donation count is 100,897,416.

Meanwhile, Parton is teaming up with the Library of Congress’s Young Readers Center to host story time on the last Friday of each month from March through August. According to the press release, each event will include musical guests and others and will be available on livestream through the Library of Congress’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

New Book Celebrates the Library of Congress

Over at the Washington Post, Ernsest Hilbert offers a brief review of the “sumptuously illustrated” America’s Greatest Library, by John Y. Cole, the official historian of the Library of Congress.

Hilbert says the book offers “a new look at its inspiring but sometimes troubled” history.

“While the Library was first meant to serve at the pleasure of Congress—its access limited to members along with the president and vice president—in time it came to broaden its role as ‘a repository of knowledge for the entire country.’

For the first half of the 19th century, that role was severely limited. Funding was likewise tentative, being frequently subject to congressional indifference. It is only in the Gilded Age that the Library undertook a growth that paralleled that of the rest of the nation.” Suitable for every librarian (and book lover’s) coffee table.

New Librarian Named at University of California San Diego

Officials at the University of California, San Diego, this week announced that Erik T. Mitchell has been appointed university librarian, effective April 16, 2018. Mitchell currently serves as associate university librarian of digital initiatives and collaborative services and associate chief information officer at UC Berkeley.

In a release, UC officials touted Mitchell’s digital experience. “Dr. Mitchell has been at the forefront of integrating new information technologies in libraries to find, use and create knowledge,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “So, I am confident that his expertise will continue to help transform the way our academic community tea ches, learns and conducts research.”

Mitchell will manage the UC San Diego Library’s four locations and 235 librarians and professional staff. He will also oversee the Geisel Library Revitalization Initiative, a major effort “to transform and revitalize the most heavily used interior public spaces in Geisel Library—the university’s flagship building.”

Mitchell succeeds Brian E.C. Schottlaender, who retired in June 2017.

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