Massachusetts and the nation wrestle with book bans, challenges, and protests in libraries

According to the American Library Association (ALA) Library staff in every state are facing an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons. Recently, ALA submitted comments about the impact to the House Oversight Committee.
Massachusetts has also seen a dramatic surge in book challenges and disturbances. Combined formal and informal challenges, objections, disruptions have nearly quadrupled since 2021, going from combined total of 20 in 2021 to 78 in 2022.

Below are issue-related *articles. The most recent are listed first.

Massachusetts based news stories:

Groups urge schools to resist book bans
January 24, 2023
(The Salem News)  BOSTON — Civil liberties groups are urging state and local education officials to push back against “coordinated” efforts to ban books, warning that pulling any controversial titles from libraries could run afoul of anti-discrimination laws.
In a letter to the state’s public school districts, the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders cited a recent uptick in library book challenges from parents and conservative groups targeting titles related to LGBTQ issues, communities of color, and other marginalized groups.
Read Full Story

White supremacists protest Taunton drag queen story time, police say
January 16, 2023
(ABC, News6) Police said over two dozen members of NSC-131, a white nationalist group, gathered outside the library Saturday to protest the event.
The protesters dressed in black masks and khaki pants waved a painted banner that read, “Drag queens are pedophiles.”
This group is also believed to be responsible for the racist flyers that have been dispersed throughout Rhode Island in the recent months.
Full story

Chelmsford Public Library reinstates ‘pastor story hour’ after church claims rights were violated
January 12, 2023
(Boston Globe) The Chelmsford Public Library has reinstated a pastor’s story hour that was planned for Friday morning but abruptly canceled Thursday afternoon after library officials said the church that organized the event misrepresented its plans.
A lawyer for The Shepherd’s Church had claimed the library bowed to public pressure after it became known that the event was planned in response to drag queen story hours.
Read full story

Neo-Nazis disrupted a drag event in Fall River. Organizers said they won’t be discouraged.
December 15, 2022
(The Herald News) FALL RIVER — A group of organized neo-Nazis disrupted a children’s event featuring a drag artist in Fall River this past weekend, with organizers vowing to not be discouraged from putting on future events.
“It was the most unsettling thing I’ve seen with my own eyes in a really long time,” said Sean Connell, President of the Fall River Pride Committee. “I think it’s so imperative to stay out here in the face of hate like this.”
Read full story

Christmas tree dispute at library has pitted ‘neighbor against neighbor,’ Dedham officials say
December 9, 2022(Boston Globe) “Unfortunately, a recent social media post expressing disagreement with the decision to display a holiday tree at the library has quickly evolved into a polarized environment and has led to the harassment and bullying of town employees,” the town said in a statement Thursday. “We wholeheartedly condemn this behavior as it tears at the fabric of our community and cannot be tolerated.”
Read full story

Book challenges on rise in Mass. amid culture wars
November 27, 2022
(Eagle Tribune)Massachusetts librarians are fielding a dramatic uptick in the number of book “challenges” from parents and outside groups who are upset about what they view as inappropriate content on sexuality and racism for younger readers.
A recent survey conducted by the Massachusetts Library Association found that informal challenges, disruptions and objections “quadrupled” between 2021 and 2022.
More than 100 libraries that responded to the group’s annual survey reported at least 78 book challenges so far this year — up from only 20 last year.
Read full story

National news stories:

America’s culture warriors are going after librarians
December 21, 2022
(.coda) It’s a tale playing out in cities and states across the country, as a book-banning fever courses through the country’s body politic. Nationally, attempts to remove books from school and public libraries are shattering previous records. The effort is being driven by a loose collection of local and national conservative parents’ groups and politicians who have found a rewarding culture war battle in children’s books about gender, diversity and sexuality. The majority of these groups were created during the pandemic as part of a broader “parents’ rights” movement that formed in opposition to Covid-related masking and remote learning policies in schools and that has since widened its focus to include challenging library and classroom books about race and LGBTQ issues.
Read full article

Kirk Cameron declares a ‘win’ over two public libraries that denied him story hours but now have ‘caved’
December 19, 2022
In comments to Fox News Digital over the weekend, actor and writer Kirk Cameron declared that he has “won” against two public libraries in this country that previously denied him the space and opportunity to hold a children’s book story hour program in their facilities — and that now are offering to work with him on room bookings after he challenged their denials and threatened to “assert” his “rights in court.”
Read full story

Kirk Cameron is denied story-hour slot by public libraries for his new faith-based kids book
December 7, 2021
(Fox News) With a new children’s book out that celebrates family, faith and biblical wisdom, actor-writer-producer Kirk Cameron cannot reach scores of American children or their families in many U.S. cities via the public library system because over 50 public libraries have either outright rejected him or not responded to requests on his behalf.
Read full story

A Fast Growing Network of Conservative Groups Is Fueling a Surge in Book Bans
December 12, 2022
(New York Times) Some groups are new, some are longstanding. Some are local, others national. Over the past two years they have become vastly more organized, well funded, effective–and criticized.
Read full story

Opinion: The school library used to be a sanctuary. Now it’s a battleground
October 31, 2022
(CNN) In September 2021, protesters ambushed the board meeting of the New Jersey school district where I have worked as a high school librarian since 2005. The protesters railed against “Gender Queer,” a memoir in graphic novel form by Maia Kobabe, and “Lawn Boy,” a coming-of-age novel by Jonathan Evison. They spewed selected sentences from the Evison book, while brandishing isolated images from Kobabe’s.But the real sucker punch came when one protester branded me a pedophile, pornographer and groomer of children. After a successful career, with retirement on the horizon, to be cast as a villain was heartbreaking.
Read full story

After Her Book Displays Drew Criticism, Librarian Elissa Malespina Lost Her Job. She’s Here to Say “I’m Not OK with This.”
October 13, 2022
(School Library Journal) Elissa Malespina was shelving books in the library at her new school. She started with the biography section, arranging titles to make the shelves more appealing to students at Union (NJ) High School, where she is the new school library media specialist.
Barack Obama. Rosa Parks.
She paused and debated which book to select next.“I better go with Colin Powell,” she thought. “Because then it’s a more conservative approach.”
That decision was not wrong, says Malespina, but the creeping doubt is new.
Read full story

Links provided to external (non-MBLC) news stories are done so as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by the MBLC. MBLC bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.


Book challenges up Nationwide and in Massachusetts Libraries

According to American Library Association (ALA), there have been a record number of book challenges across the nation. In 2021 ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Between January 1 and August 31, 2022ALA documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources, and 1,651 unique titles were targeted.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), the Massachusetts Library Association (MLA), and the Massachusetts Library System (MLS) are working together to understand how local libraries are affected, support libraries, and respond in a united way. In September a short survey was emailed to librarians to get a better understanding of the formal book challenges and informal objections or disruptions happening in Massachusetts libraries.

The survey asked:
Has your library experienced a formal book challenge (in 2021 and in 2022)? Which titles?
Has your library received informal objections from patrons or experienced disruptions related to books, displays, or programs (in 2021 and in 2022)?

The response:
103 libraries responded; Combined formal and informal challenges, objections, disruptions have nearly quadrupled since 2021, going from combined total of 20 in 2021 to 78 in 2022.

In 2022:
10 libraries reported 16 formal challenges
55 libraries reported 62 informal objections/disruptions (estimated count from included comments)

In 2021:
1 library reported 1 formal challenge
12 libraries reported 19 informal objections/disruptions (estimated count from included comments)

Challenged titles include:

  • It Feels Good to Be Yourself
  • Jay’s Gay Agenda
  • Camp
  • Gender Queer
  • Lawn Boy
  • People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present [Comment included with this title: (the person challenging it completely misunderstood what the book is about)]
  • Girls of Fate and Fury
  • My Heart Is On the Ground
  • Razzmatazz
  • Hot Dog Taste Test
  • Not My Idea

MBLC, MLA, and MLS continue to meet regularly to discuss ways to support libraries including training, support during a challenge, and potential statewide activities.

Construction Program Update and Proposed Changes

by Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist

This is a very busy time for me and Andrea Bono-Bunker, the two Library Building Specialists for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP). The MBLC offered seven new provisional grants in July, and we are working with those communities on the process to secure local funding and start the contract process. In addition, we are working with three projects in the design process, three projects currently under construction, and eight projects that are completed but still working on final reporting and/or LEED certification.

With so many projects in their final stages and our waiting list down to only seven projects, we are planning for our next round of grants. We have been working hard on some changes to our program, which are intended to reduce the very long waiting list we had in the current round, and with the goal of making our grants more predictable and regular.

How the program will be different

  • There will no longer be separate application processes for planning & design and construction. Instead, a town or city will apply once, and we will take them through a planning & design phase and a construction phase. We estimate that this will eliminate about 2 years from the timeline of our projects, reducing escalation and eliminating the need for redesign caused by changes in library services.
  • The financial outlay for municipalities will be much less prior to receiving funding from the MPLCP. No design work will be done before receiving a grant.
  • Municipal officials must participate in the application process.
  • Applications will be evaluated based on three major factors:
    • Community need, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion
    • The current library building’s ability to meet the needs of the community.
    • The capacity of the municipality and the library to undertake a major capital project, including financial capacity and staffing capacity.
  • Applications will be reviewed by independent reviewers based on three tiers or categories – Large Library (30,000+ sf), Medium Library (15,000-29,999 sf), or Small Library (6,000-14,999 sf). A Library Building Program is required for application, and the square footage is determined by that document.
  • A concurrent grant round will be conducted for Small Population Libraries (in towns under 2,500 municipal census population). This new project type is informed by our Small Library Pilot Project, now underway in Shutesbury. Early planning documents, such as the creation of the library building program and conditions assessment, will be part of the planning and design phase.
  • The grant round will be competitive; only as many projects as can be funded within our projected annual cap for a limited number of years will be awarded or placed on a very short waiting list. Applicants not accepted are welcome to apply in subsequent grant rounds.

How the program will be the same

  • The MPLCP’s goal is to improve library services through improvements to library facilities
  • The Library Building Program, developed with extensive community engagement, is the basis for all design decisions and determines the size of the building.
  • Grants are calculated based on eligible costs and a funding formula, with smaller projects receiving a higher percentage of eligible costs.
  • Applications are reviewed by independent review teams; Designs for grantee libraries are also reviewed by independent review teams prior to securing local funding for construction; reviewers are chosen for specific types of expertise and objectivity.
  • Library Building Specialists are available to help at any time in the process.

We are tentatively planning to announce the grant round in the first quarter of 2023, with an application due date about a year later.

Where we are now

The first step in making these changes official is to amend our regulations. We are holding regulatory hearings in early November. For more information and a copy of the revised regulation, please see our regulations page (https://mblc.state.ma.us/programs-and-support/construction/background.php), or contact Lauren at lauren.stara@mass.gov or Andrea at andrea.bunker@mass.gov.

The MBLC Celebrates Digital Inclusion Week

This year marks the sixth annual Digital Inclusion Week, a national event taking place this year from October 3-7 that highlights digital equity work happening throughout the country.

Digital inclusion efforts address three main areas: affordable internet, access to appropriate devices, and digital skills training – basic necessities that millions of Americans are living without.

In Massachusetts, the MBLC and libraries are working to close the digital divide. This has become especially important since the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the lack of reliable internet connections throughout the Commonwealth.

The MBLC responded by creating the outdoor WiFi map which shows which libraries in the state have connections that can be used both during and after hours outside of the building. Libraries, including the Somerville Public Library, created spaces for internet users to sit comfortably to use the WiFi access when the building is closed. Outdoor WiFi has been especially popular in the western part of the state where broadband is not as readily available. The MBLC sponsored an introductory Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)  webinar by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to highlight how libraries can help underserved residents obtain low cost or even free internet access and a discounted tablet, Chromebook or laptop for the household.  Applying for ACP is hard; libraries will play a critical role in raising awareness, referring unconnected users to community helpers, or “navigators”, or even stepping up to directly as ACP navigators themselves.

The MBLC used federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to lend out WiFi hotspots through public libraries and other local organizations  . Nearly 3000 hotspots were distributed to 220 public libraries for loan to library users.

Libraries across the Commonwealth, sometimes partnering with other community-based organizations, provide devices and offer digital literacy throughout the year.  For instance, the Westhampton Public Library partners with the Council on Aging to provide twice-monthly trainings. The MBLC statewide calendar of virtual events shows similar training opportunities across the state.

The MBLC is joined by organizations across Massachusetts, including the ,  and the country in celebrating Digital Inclusion Week which is organized by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance ( ).

“As we see federal law turn into actual funding for digital inclusion, it’s our time to start ‘Turning Our Moment into Movement,’ which is our theme for Digital Inclusion Week 2022,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of NDIA. “We invite advocates, policymakers, community leaders, educators, researchers, and others to come together this week – and all year long – to advance digital equity nationwide.”

The observance of Digital Inclusion Week seeks to increase public knowledge of the importance of digital equity and encourage digital inclusion efforts across our city to improve broadband access, foster adoption, and promote digital literacy.

#MaDigitalEquity

Massachusetts Center for the Book Celebrates the 22nd Annual Letters About Literature Awards

The Massachusetts Center for the Book has announced the winners of the annual Letters About Literature (LAL) program, a reading and writing initiative that invites students from Grades 4 to 12 to write letters to authors about the books that have had profound effects on them. The student honorees were celebrated in a virtual awards event on May 25.

As one of the most robust LAL programs in the country, the Center receives thousands of letters from all corners of the Commonwealth each year. The fifteen Top Honor and Honors students collectively represent the top 1.5% of this year’s submissions to the 22nd annual program in Massachusetts.

Representative Natalie M. Higgins welcomed the honored students, families and teachers in attendance. “Congratulations to the 2022 Letters About Literature honorees for showing us how books moved and delighted them, expanding their personal and world views,” Higgins stated. “Let’s all celebrate our love of books and reading!”

Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director of Mass Center for the Book, underscored Representative Higgins’ tribute, noting the remarkable personal letters submitted to the 2022 program. “This event celebrates one of the first programs we established when we were founded in 2000,” Shaloo noted. “In addition to the strength of the writing it always prompts, the students’ reflections reassure us that the young people in our commonwealth will be articulate and thoughtful contributors to life in Massachusetts and beyond.”

Commonwealth judges in the 2022 program were Patrick Borezo, Director of Hadley Public Library; Meena Jain, Director of Ashland Public Library and Chair of Programming for Massachusetts Library Association; and Martha Pott, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University and member of the Board of Directors of Massachusetts Center for the Book.

The Top Honors and Honors writers in Massachusetts Letters About Literature 2021

Level 1 (Grades 4-6):

Picture of Top Honors winner Asma Al Ashabi
Top Honors winner Asma Al Ashabi

Top Honor: Asma Al Ashabi of Hopkinton, a 6th grader at Al-Hamra Academy of Shrewsbury, for her letter to Pam Muñoz Ryan about Esperanza Rising

 

Honors: Aliasgar Mufaddal Bhagat of Reading (A.W. Coolidge Middle School); Annabelle Butler of Arlington (Lexington Montessori School); Jasiri Cash of Hyde Park (Wellesley Middle School); Sasha Gardella of Marblehead (Village School)

 

Level 2 (Grades 7 and 8):

Top Honor: Daniel Ng of Arlington, an 8th grader at Lesley Ellis School, for his letter to Gene Luen Yang about American Born Chinese

Honors: Anna Grace Goodman of Newton (Newton Country Day School); Eliana Gunn of Wilbraham (Wilbraham Middle School); Jojo Jané-Leonardis of Watertown (Newton Country Day School); Karolina Robles-Maurer of Wilbraham (Wilbraham Middle School)

Level 3 (Grades 9-12):

Picture of Top Honors winner Felicity Zhang
Top Honors winner Felicity Zhang

Top Honor: Felicity Zhang of Concord, a 9th grader at Concord-Carlisle High School, for her letter to Gene Luen Yang about American Born Chinese

Honors: Dilara Bahadir of Lexington; Kasey Corra of West Roxbury (Montrose School); Zaynab Khemmich of Attleboro (Al-Noor Academy); Jemella Pierson-Freedman of Berlin

 

 

The Massachusetts Center for the Book, chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is a public-private partnership charged with developing, supporting and promoting cultural programming that advances the cause of books and reading and enhances the outreach potential of Massachusetts public libraries.

For more information, contact info@massbook.org or call 617-872-3718.

How Two Mass Libraries are Approaching Accessibility

Public libraries are for everyone, right? As we gain more knowledge about the needs of neurodiverse patrons, libraries are implementing new ways to serve this population. Here are two inspiring stories from our libraries in Royalston and Medford.

ButtOn Chairs Fidget in the Phinehas S. Newton Library (Royalston)
By Kathy Morris, Library Director

 Monty Tech students with their instructor Michael Dion.
Left to right Monty Tech students Simon Hoover Joe Besette Jake Cherubini with their Cabinetmaking instructor Michael Dion.

If you’ve never heard of ButtOn chairs, you are not alone. In the spring of 2021, Tom Musco, a Royalston timber framer, let me know about a TED talk by Dr. Turner Osler, a trauma surgeon who had left the operating room to become an epidemiologist and spent more time sitting. He got back pain. So, he began to look for a chair that would help and when he didn’t find one, he invented one. Wanting to share his idea, he made the plans available for free. Tom looked at the plans and asked if the Library would be interested in having some. One look at the chairs and the story behind them elicited an immediate yes.  He then spoke to the Cabinetmaking instructor, Michael Dion, at the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School who was interested in the project for some of his students. Due to the pandemic, the price for the plywood had increased so that the original $5 price increased to $13 each, but that still seemed like a bargain. By the middle of June 2021, we were the recipients of some really cool chairs in two sizes. Kids were mesmerized by them and spent as much time squirming around on them as they did looking at books (sometimes more).

So, what do the chairs do? They allow ‘active sitting.’ As the QOR360 website states, active sitting refers to the idea that your spinal reflexes are free to adjust to your posture from moment to moment while in a seated position. About 80% of all Americans suffer from back pain that requires medical attention. If we can change the way we sit and move, we improve posture and strengthen the back.

ButtOn chair with non-slip tape
ButtOn chair with non-slip tape

This type of chair allows children to squirm as much as they want without leaving their seats. Perfect for the classroom where sitting is enforced. And even more beneficial for children diagnosed with ADHD. Osler sites research that there is evidence that a deficiency in sensory modulation may be the root cause. “The idea is that students who carry the ADHD label simply need additional sensory input, such as fidgeting, to appropriately respond to the world. In this view, facilitating additional sensory input by encouraging movement while seated in class could allow children and their families to avoid more onerous treatments such as stimulants.” The hyperactivity associated with ADHD can be channeled into chair motion.

Because we have preconceived notions of what a chair should look like, Osler felt the place to start was with children. Because of a patron, the free plans, and Monty Tech students and instructor, we were able to introduce them into the children’s room. Kids love them. Ours were slightly adapted from the original plan, in that a lacrosse ball was used instead of a tennis ball, and in emailing QOR, it has also changed to a lacrosse ball. The other thing we observed was that it is definitely active sitting. Both feet need to be on the floor or the child is on the floor. The seats are slippery and when I called the company, they told me that they had created a pad they attach to the seat. We decided that we would use a tape like you use on slippery steps. Many were like sandpaper and but we found one at the local hardware store, 3M® Safety-Walk Gray Indoor-Outdoor Tread – 2”, that felt rubbery. We cut different shapes and attached them and found it solved the slipping problem. My only regret; I didn’t order one for myself.

Sensory Room in the new Charlotte and William Bloomberg Medford Public Library
By Sam Sednek, Head of Youth Services

“We are not a quiet library” is an oft-repeated slogan at Medford Public Library, and we are decidedly not. There’s a particular level of noise that comes with joyful play and discovery and an abundance of children—we welcome it and promote it. However, noise impacts everyone differently and while we want jubilant toddlers to freely express themselves in the playspace, we also want our patrons with sensory sensitivities to find their place in the library too.

When we were designing the new Charlotte and William Bloomberg Medford Public Library, we made it clear that we needed a quiet space—not a study room (we have those too!) or a hall in which stern proctors glare out at anyone who dares to shuffle too loudly (do those exist still?). We needed something a little different. We wanted a smaller space that could be used by a family that wanted to snuggle up with a good book. We thought there should be a place where a nursing parent could snag a few extra moments with their child. And, of course, where our neurodiverse patrons could dim the lights and exist in our space with a little white noise, a lot less distraction, and a chance to rebalance.

Sensory spaces aren’t designed to be busy and sometimes less is more. The window in the sensory room looks out over a big tree, so the view is very peaceful. We have two soft, lightly rockable chairs and a small nook that allows someone to get away, feel contained, and have a space to themselves. The truly remarkable piece is the LED Bubble Tube— a light changing white noise machine that has truly captivated everyone. The stuffed animals move in and out of the room, but we have found that most of our stuffed animal collection definitely prefers the quiet space to the play space!

Our “Quiet Room” is still a work in progress as we find out how different people use it and how to support users who need it most, but we are so glad that it was a priority in our new library. We hope prioritizing accessibility will help us make an awesome library space for patrons we were unable to serve before. It has been amazing to watch and learn that everyone is enjoying a little quiet in the middle of our Not Quiet Library.

New Toolkit helps Libraries Serve Veterans

During the Fall of 2021, over 250 librarians from academic, public, school, state, and VA libraries who had experience in providing services and programs that serve veterans met during the Libraries and Veterans National Forum. The purpose of this meeting was to help libraries learn how to better serve their local military communities.

Now, as part of this project, a toolkit is available to Massachusetts librarians that provides tools and resources to bring the findings of the forum statewide. Sharon Public Library Director Lee Ann Amend has been involved with the project since the beginning and has been crucial in making these resources available to all librarians in the state.

“The Libraries and Veterans National Forum was begun with a desire to serve the veteran and military communities,” says Amend. “The toolkit provides librarians with a list of lesson plans, exhibit ideas, program outlines, collection development ideas, tips and best practices, and much more.”

The toolkit is now available on the MBLC website as a free resource for any library looking to do outreach or programming for veterans, active military, and their families.

The Libraries and Veterans National Forum is a nationwide project and was funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Libraries Take on Cybersecurity

Seven Massachusetts public libraries have been awarded Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness grants from the state to “help local government to improve overall cybersecurity posture through end-user training, evaluation and threat simulation.” The program is overseen by the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTTS) and the Office of Municipal and School Technology (OMST).

Each municipality that receives the grant trains staff to recognize and thwart cyber-attacks to keep library and municipal infrastructure safe. In total, 121 staff across the Commonwealth will be trained.

“Last fall, we were very excited to discover that this grant program is available not just to municipalities and schools, but also directly to libraries and even to the automated resource sharing networks.”, commented MBLC’s Paul Kissman, Library Information Systems Specialist.  “Libraries are recognizing that they must take proactive measures to reduce the risk of, and be prepared to recover from, a cyber-attack.  Along with resources provided by MassCyberCenter, especially the ‘Minimum Baseline of Cybersecurity for Municipalities,’ libraries can begin to get a handle what otherwise might feel like an overwhelming task.”

The Forbes Library in Northampton is training 20 members of its staff. Director Lisa Downing says, “We are participating because cybersecurity risks are not a matter of if but when,” adding that the library is “requiring all of our regular staff to complete 2 assessments and 4 assignments.”

The assignments take about an hour to complete, and the assessments take an additional five to ten minutes. Forbes is asking the staff to complete one assignment a month and will offer meetings for staff to talk about cybersecurity in relation to the library and to ask any questions they may have. As an incentive for the training, all staff that participate are being entered into a drawing for a gift card. Downing says, “We are already hearing from staff that they have a better understanding of the risks and best practices which makes not only our employees safer from attack but also our library, our patrons, and our network.”

For more information about the Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Grant Program, visit the EOTTS website.

Morrill Memorial Library Eliminates Fines for Overdue Materials

Postcard of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood

In Norwood, overdue fines were made history by an unanimous vote of the Trustees of the Morrill Memorial Library when they approved a revised borrowing policy at their meeting on December 14, 2021. This policy change removes barriers and increases access to the library’s resources.

For many years Norwood’s senior citizens have enjoyed fine-exempt status., and at the beginning of the Covid-pandemic the Morrill Memorial Library stopped collecting overdue fines. The Morrill Library joins a growing list of libraries permanently eliminating fines, including many in the Minuteman Library Network of which they are members, the Boston Public Library, and the New York Public Library in Manhattan.

“We know busy parents who have told their children they can’t check out books because they don’t know when they will be able to return to the library and are afraid of getting charged late fines,” says Library Director Clayton Cheever. “People with limited economic means are most adversely impacted by fines that many of us would consider trivial and insignificant. That’s why we’ve been happy to waive fines for seniors for so long. I’m very grateful our Trustees have voted to eliminate this barrier for everyone.”

Historically less than one percent of the library’s annual revenue came from overdue fines. In recent years this has been more than offset by the library’s revenue from passport fees, which the Federal Government mandates be collected.

Research has shown that collecting overdue fines is expensive and ineffective at getting people to return items to the library faster. Libraries that have eliminated fines get materials back at the same rate or sooner. The Morrill Memorial Library will continue to email overdue notices and charge borrowers for items not returned.

Libraries are experiencing worker shortages, too

By Celeste Bruno, MBLC Communications Director

Does it seem like there’s a lot of job openings?
You’re not imagining it. According to a recent CBS news report, the labor force remains 2.2 million people short of its pre-pandemic size and many people aren’t returning to work because of long COVID, symptoms that affect people even after they’ve recovered from the disease.
Education is one of the hardest hit industries. In fact, it’s one of the industries with the highest number of workers quitting.
At the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), we wondered if libraries are like other industries experiencing labor shortages during the pandemic. So, we asked. At the end of January, we did a quick poll. Currently 60 of the 167 respondents are experiencing staffing shortages.

Are you currently experiencing staffing shortages due to COVID-19, or have you in the past?

Paul Kissman, Library Information Systems Specialist at the MBLC, dug deeper and looked at the number of job postings on the MBLC’s job board. He pulled data for public, school, academic, and special libraries as well as automated networks into a tableau visualization, which reflects the pandemic rollercoaster. Public libraries had the most openings, followed by academics, special, and schools. Openings in public libraries, hit a high in July 2021 and were a whopping 227% higher than July 2020. While openings have settled a bit since then the number of openings in January 2022 was still 37% higher than in January 2021.



With so many openings and so many people starting new positions (think of all you had to learn when you started your current job!), it may be safe to say that Massachusetts libraries will be feeling the effects of COVID even after cases decline and restrictions are lifted.