Fox Chicago News recently asked “Are Libraries Necessary, or a Waste of Tax Money?”  Really?  The article by Anna Davlantes goes on to talk about how libraries “eat up millions of your hard earned tax dollars” and as proof of the irrelevancy of libraries, an undercover camera crew recorded library visitors for an hour.  During that hour, they recorded 300 visitors with most of them using the free internet.  Hmmm…

This is your proof that libraries are irrelevant?  Three hundred visitors with “most” of them using the free internet?  Did you ask them why they were using internet access at the library instead of in their homes?  Could it be that they can’t afford internet access?  In case you haven’t noticed, the economy has tanked and internet access is a luxury that some people truly cannot afford.  Did you ask the computer users what types of sites they were accessing?  How many of them were applying for jobs?  Many jobs now require that you apply online.  Were some of them looking for continuing education opportunities?  And so what if they were just spending an hour or so surfing the web?  Escapism helps people cope, no matter what form that escapism may take.

Libraries are more than book repositories, they are gateways to information and entertainment.  Just ask any librarian what he or she does all day and you’ll find that more often than not we’re not just pointing out the latest best sellers.  We’re helping people put together resumes, we’re showing them how to care for loved ones, we’re introducing children to books and creating lifelong learners through story time and we’re demonstrating the latest in technology.  And, yes, we’re helping people find books.

Rather than trying to point out how libraries “eat up tax dollars,” how about taking the time to get to know your local librarian and see how their services help those in need?

Senator Joe Lieberman has proposed a bill that would give the president the power to kill the Internet in cases of national emergency.  Also known as the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA), the bill would require that private companies such as broadband providers, search engines and software companies immediately comply with any emergency requirements put in place by Homeland Security.  If they don’t comply, the companies would face enormous fines.

The bill also allows for the creation of a new department within Homeland Security called the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC).  This agency would control any private company that relies on the Internet, the telephone system or any other component of the U.S. “information infrastructure.”  They would also be required to engage in “information sharing” with the NCCC.

Lieberman defends the bill by essentially stating that there may be a time when there is a national security threat that requires the government have the ability to order companies ISPs to shut down portions of the Internet or search engines to restrict access to and from certain countries.

The biggest opponent to the Internet “kill switch” is TechAmerica, which sees this move as having the potential to silence free speech under the guise of national security.

While I understand the thinking behind the bill, I worry that there is the potential for abuse.  If access to the Internet is restricted or cut off, then the American public is at the mercy of the U.S. government for all of its information.  As much as I love this country, I enjoy being able to access different sites for information.  That is part of what makes this country great.

I have to go back to the only frame of reference that I have ~ September 11th.  What if on that day the government had shut down the Internet or restricted phone calls?  I would have been at a loss and I know many of you would have been too.  Not only was I relying on television coverage for my news but I was also checking various websites for information.  I also used the web to check on some of my online friends.  Had there been an Internet kill switch I would have been loss.

So tell me, are you comfortable with giving up some of your freedoms in the name of national security?  How much is too much to sacrifice?

For nearly a year I’ve been blogging almost exclusively as a “mom blogger” and during this time I’ve learned a lot about social media, branding and networking that can benefit archives and libraries.  Archives and libraries, like many mom bloggers, tend to view themselves as “just moms” who blog for free products, a few links and the promise of traffic.  However, more and more mom bloggers are beginning to see the value in what they do and how their words can either help or hurt a company.  If you pay attention to social media, you’ll see how many companies are starting to court mom bloggers and hire them as brand ambassadors, consultants and social media professionals. Anyway, back to the topic at hand ~ did you notice the keywords here?  They are:  value, hurt and help.

Archives and libraries need to take cues from mom bloggers and put themselves “out there.”  So how do mom bloggers do it?  They:

1.  Know their worth – Some mom bloggers have started to profit from their services.  They know that their voices carry weight and companies are starting to recognize their power.  And like mom bloggers, archives and libraries need to recognize the power of their voice.  We offer free services and in this economy, people love free.

2.  Market their services – use Twitter and Facebook, create a blog, etc and keep it current.  Mom bloggers post on average three times a week (some post once a day, some several times a day)  Too many times I see blogs, Twitter accounts, etc started by libraries and archives but not maintained.  Use these FREE services to promote your services.

3.  Engage the community – If you look at some of the mom blogs, they actively engage their readers.  They ask them questions and they respond in the comments (often times following up with email).  Some moms have even created communities around their blogs so they can get to know their readers.  Similarly archives and libraries need to talk to the people in their communities and find out what they want from the library and then supply it.

4.  Brand themselves – I recently had a travel mug made with my image and the name of my blog on it and I use it everywhere (I’m a BIG coffee drinker).  People are always asking me about my mug and my blog.  If you promote your services and engage your community, people will come.  Every library and archives has a mission statement, use that mission statement to create a tagline and then promote, promote, promote.  Put your tagline on t~shirts and offer them as prizes for kids in summer reading programs.  Or sell travel mugs or flash drives with your logo on them.  People will be proud to carry your products if you are serving them well.

5.  Have fun – One thing mom bloggers seem to do a lot of is laugh.  Even when their kids are ripping off dirty diapers or eating dog food, they’re laughing about it.  When patrons walk into your library or archives make sure your staff looks friendly, there’s nothing more intimidating than having to ask for help from someone with a frown on their face.