Calling All Library School Students in NYC!

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Essay Contest Worth $200

Due Date September 21st 2012.

What is the role of the librarian in the city?

1000-1200 words

Urban Librarians Unite (ULU) is holding an essay contest to award $200 to go towards books and supplies for one brilliant libraryschool student who has ground breaking ideas and is ready to speak to the work of the library in the city.

Hit us with the good stuff, let’s hear wild ideas and big big thoughts. Students are a vital voice in library theory and scholarship. We want to hear your biggest boldest thoughts and grandest aspirations.

OK, having said all that, we gots some rules, that is fair right? We are librarians, we LIKE rules.

ULU Essay Contest Rules
– All entrants must either live in New York City or attend a Library/Information Science program at an accredited library school based in New York City.
– All entrants must be enrolled in a course of study pursuant to postgraduate education in Library/Information Science (“Library School”)
– Essays should be 1000 – 1200 words
– Essays should be on the topic/question given for that semester only
– One essay per person, per semester
– No repeat submissions of the same essay in different semesters
– Winners may compete again in subsequent semesters
– All essays will be considered anonymously
– Please follow formatting rules
– Winning essay will be published on
– Runner up essays will be published on at the discretion of the organization and the essay author
– Contest winners shall receive a $200 cash prize for use in purchasing books and supplies for the pursuit of postgraduate library and information science education

Formatting Rules
– Please submit all essays as MS Word 2003 documents
– Please put your name and the name of your institution at the top of the first page of your essay
– Do not put your name in the header or footer of the essay
– Use APA formatting for text and citations

Think Big! Knock Us Out!

They Spin for Us, We Flip for Them

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After the hottest spring and summer on record, it’s hard to even remember what passed for our most recent winter here in Brooklyn. But many months ago, we partied with the library crowd at the fine Bell House, sipping lit themed cocktails, dressed to the nines in some old-fashioned Noir splendor. Biblioball 2011 was the latest of the Desk Set’s dance parties, and over the years we’ve engaged the (100% volunteer) services of some of NYC’s best and loveliest DJs. Whether at DDLR or Biblioball, these gals and guys have been so great to us over the years, making sure we get funding into the hands of amazing organizations like Literacy for Incarcerated Teens and Books Through Bars.

Matt Fiveash at Daddy's, Mardi Gras 2009

Good news, friends: you don’t have to wait for the next Desk Set bash to catch some of these fine purveyors of classic soul, rock, boogaloo, alt-pop and nearly every other genre of music you love. They’re all quite busy doing their thing all year long. Here’s where you can catch of few of them this summer, online and in real life.

  • Mr. Matt Fiveash can be found on the first Wednesday of every month at our favorite Graham Avenue haunt Daddy’s. And for the agoraphobic (or anyone else who enjoys listening from home), tune in on Thursdays from 1:00-3:00 PM on WFMU’s Rock & Soul Ichiban Stream.
  • Rob Dyrenforth DJs a regular gig in Greenpoint at NoName bar, 597 Manhattan Ave every 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sunday every month from 10p to 3a. And, you can find him playing records from time to time at Hotel Delmano on Berry St.  This month, he’ll be there on the 14th (tomorrow!) and 24th.

Check back next week for more details about some of our other favorite record spinners and their whereabouts!

Announcing the Radical Librarian Reading Group

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Here’s a cool opportunity to read some radical library texts and discuss them with fellow lib types. From some MLIS students at Queens:

Hi there,

A Radical Librarians Book Club will be starting on Sunday, July 22, at Bluestockings Bookstore on the Lower East Side. We will be meeting at 2pm, on the 3rd Sunday of every month.

Our book for July 22nd is Questioning Library Neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarians and is available for sale at Bluestockings. The book for our second meeting, on August 19, is Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist and Queer Activism in the 21st Century.

The Radical Librarians Book Club is a group of aspiring and current librarians, anyone in the information science field, and people who are invested in re-envisioning the traditional library.  We seek to examine issues of librarianship from a radical, politically-focused perspective, and build community within the field. We look forward to reading such texts as Radical Cataloging, Revolting Librarians Redux, and more.

Feel free to come check it out, and bring your ideas for future books/discussions.
Email us at with questions, or to get on our mailing list (1 email per month, announcing the upcoming books).

Hope to see you there,
Elvis Bakaitis, Erica Saunders, and Sarah Rappo
(Current students in Queens College LIS program)

UniRead Rocked, More to Come

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The UniRead this past Saturday was an incredible, vibrant, and unique event. The weather was gorgeous, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, it was an utterly marvelous day for a library protest. The event hinged on this idea of having multiple readers recite the same text translated into different languages simultaneously. We chose the first chapter of the first Harry Potter as the text as there are so many great translations available and there is a built in audience/fan base both in the library world and in the wider public. The Unisphere is a great backdrop and it could not have been a more Queens event.

Getting the texts was a task in itself and we were fortunate in our contacts there. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has been translated into over 80 languages. While you would think that the libraries of New York City would offer these up in the blink of an eye we only found about ten languages available on the shelves in circulation. Our good friends the dauntless workers of ILL were able to come up with another half a dozen or so as well. In the midst of the prep we came across a reference to a professor of Russian at the University of Calgary, Nicholas Žekulin who had a complete set. On an outside chance we reached out to him and he leaped to help. He has been an utter delight to work with, furiously scanning languages to match readers for us turning text around overnight. Thank you Professor Žekulin!

On the day we had readers in: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Irish, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Russian, Spanish, and Thai. The readers started off together and it was an incredible babel brought to life. It was just a jumble of language, a tumble of tone and inflection. You would hear the words Dursley, or Dumbledore, pop up occasionally but mostly it was just a wonderful welter of linguistics.

This event also marked the first appearance of Bonnie the Bookworm and her nemeses the Budget Birds. Bonnie is a hard working library professional just trying to do her job, help people, and hang out with her boyfriend Carl the Caterpiller (he’s in a band…so hot). Those Budget Birds keep pecking at her, messing with her storytimes, keeping the books away, and generally stressing her out. Bonnie doesn’t want to get a pink slip and neither do you!

This was the first stunt of the season but there are others in the works, big ones, fun ones. We would love to have you come out and join us. Our events are fun, lively, literary activism. We would love to see you there.

Libraries have taken a serious hit in the budget, let’s not forget that. There is a feeling in the air that “the money will be restored”. While we should all hope for the best at all times this is no reason to be complacent. We got cuts restored for the last two years due to a lot of hard work by a lot of people. If we don’t get out there and fight for our slice of the budget pie you can bet that someone else will be trying to take it right off our plate.

Don’t let the Budget Birds peck poor Bonnie. Please join us, get a postcard in, get lots of postcards in, come out, get active.

The third 24 Hour Read In to protest budget cuts will be held on June 9th & 10th from 4PM to 4PM at the Brooklyn Public Library Central Library in Grand Army Plaza. Please join us there.

To volunteer please contact, or

Field Trip Permission Slip

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Tomorrow the Desk Set ventures behind the scenes at the Fales Library and Special Collection, with a guided tour of the Downtown, Fales, Food & Cookery, and Riot Grrrl collections. Space is limited, but we still have room for a few of you. Please email to reserve a spot.

Wednesday 6/15, 3:45 PM – 4:45PM

Fales Library, on the 3rd Floor of NYU’s Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South

Here’s what we’re about to learn more about, thanks to the librarians and archivists at the Fales who will lead the tour:

The Downtown Collection

The Downtown Collection, which began in 1993, is an attempt to document the downtown arts scene that evolved in SoHo and the Lower East Side during the 1970s through the early 1990s.  During this time, an explosion of artistic creativity radically challenged and changed tradition literature, music, theater, performance, film, activism, dance, photography, video, and other art practices.

Read more

The Fales Collection

The Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature was given to NYU in 1957 by DeCoursey Fales in memory of his father, Haliburton Fales. It is especially strong in English literature from the middle of the 18th century to the present, documenting developments in the novel.

Read more

The Riot Grrrl Collection

The Riot Grrrl Collection is an attempt to document the evolution of the Riot Grrrl movement, particularly in the years between 1989 and 1996. Because Riot Grrrl was (and is) both a political and a cultural movement, its output was diverse, including writing, music, performance, film, activism, photography, video, and original art, as well as documentation of activism and performance. This research collection will provide primary resources for scholars who are interested in feminism, punk activism, queer theory, gender theory, DIY culture, and music history.

Read More

The Food & Cookery Collection

The collection of food and cookery materials at the Fales Library documents the evolution of cuisine and food practices in 20th century America, with a particular focus on the food habits and activity of New York City. These materials support the research of undergraduate and graduates students, faculty and other researchers working within disciplines such as food studies, food management, nutrition, performance studies, American studies, and history. Due to the nature of this collection, these materials are also of use to professionals outside of the university who work as writers, journalists, chefs or food professionals.

Read more

Big thanks to Maria Falgoust for curating this event, and to the librarians and archivist at Fales. We hope you can join us, but don’t forget to RSVP:

Over-Caffeinated Librarians Read to Save Jobs, Libraries, Communities….the World?

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Last year, fearless librarians and the people who love them gathered together at Brooklyn Public Library’s Grand Army Plaza location to do something totally radical: We read. Yes. For 24 hours straight. There were no introductions, no pontificating, no “I’m Councilman Blenderferg! Vote for me!”, no “Here’s my new YA novel about bisexual changeling vampires living in a post-apocalyptic Steampunk America, coming out this Fall. Buy 20 copies!”. None of that. Just a bunch of concerned book-loving citizens reading in 15 minute or so blocks of time. Budget cuts were out to devastate a great institution and the 24 Hour Read-In was our way of saying that we weren’t going to stand for it.

We read Gossip Girl and kid’s books and socialist manifestos and anything else that struck our fancy. This was our big old statement to let Mayor Bloomberg know that, yes, New Yorkers still read and that they desperately need their local libraries.

It was our first 24 Hour Read-In, so we had no idea what to expect. Here are some things we spotted in front of the library:

1. Pink Slip Buttons. Lots of them. Many of the people participating in the Read-In were NY librarians who had been given notice that they would soon be losing their jobs. Many of those pink slips were rescinded, though over 40 librarians lost their jobs last year. This year? It seems we’re in the same boat.

2. Dogs. Lots of them. Who knew canines were so passionate about literacy and freedom of information? If you like dressing up your dog in socially relevant outfits, the Read-In is right for you!

3. Surly looking librarians. Lots of them. Take away their funding, and no smiles for you. Do you really want these ruffians to be unemployed and roaming the streets?

4. Cots and tents. Because it’s 24 hours and even librarians need a nap.

5. Press! Lots of it! Some of it was published in languages we don’t even know how to read. We hope they said nice things.

Who knows what we’re gonna see this year? Anything can happen when librarians are sleep deprived and fighting to keep libraries open. All we know is, you’ve GOTTA be there. If you haven’t seen Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch, now is the time.

We’ll be starting tomorrow, Saturday, June 11th at 4 PM and we won’t stop until 4 PM the next day.
We’d love for you to read with us, and there’s still time to sign up. If reading aloud in front of strangers isn’t your bag, you also have to option to volunteer for us in other ways. Yes, we need people to hand out petitions and postcards and maybe get us some more coffee. Or, just show up and watch a truly unique and weird event. Don’t you need a little advocacy in your weekend?

Libraries Cannot Live On Love Alone (But a Little Love Helps)


New York City Public Librarians are having a hard time turning our frowns upside down. We’ve been running on fumes for a while now. This economy is in shambles. Hard times mean more unemployment, more people looking for jobs, and, sadly, more homelessness. The library acts like a beacon, drawing in those who need us. Let me be a jerk and speak for all librarians: We’re happy to help. This is our job. Most of us are committed to community service and manage to do our jobs despite budget cuts and short-staffing.

Lately, though, it’s unclear how many of us will be around to deal with the needs of our increasingly demanding patrons. Mayor Bloomberg’s recent budget announcement will devastate many New York institutions, including the public libraries. You may have noticed that your local library isn’t open nearly as much as it used to. Long standing hiring freezes mean less staff, making lines longer. There’s a huge queue for that new book you’re desperate to read because we’re just not ordering as many copies. But the proposed budget cuts would make things so much worse. Hundreds of employees across New York, Queens, and Brooklyn Public Libraries would be laid off. Library hours would be further cut. Even fewer new materials would be coming into the branches. Some branches may close entirely. It would take libraries years to bounce back from what this budget has in store for us.

Luckily, in addition to being brilliant, innovative, and devastatingly attractive, library workers are a scrappy bunch. We’re going to fight until the bitter end. It’s just that we’re not going to get very far without your help.

Enter Brooklyn Public Library’s Love Your Library Day. It marks the beginning of a seriously intense advocacy season. Here’s the good news: Though the road ahead is kind of rough, Love Your Library Day is a fun and cheerful event. First of all, it’s held in front of BPL’s Central Library. If you haven’t seen how pretty this building is, now is the time. It’s all golden and shiny and welcoming and lovely. There’s a large patio area where you can peruse a giant book sale while listening to an all-librarian band, Lost in the Stacks. You can buy this amazing Brooklyn Industries I Love BPL T-shirt. All donations and proceeds will go towards the purchase of new library materials. Then, listen to elected officials, librarians, and dedicated patrons sing the praises of public libraries. You’ll also be able to contact your elected officials, sign petitions, and write postcards. It’s time to get riled up for the fight ahead. Please join us.

We’d love to see you on Saturday, May 14, from 10 AM – 3 PM at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central location at Grand Army Plaza, BUT, if you can’t make it, there’s so many other ways to help right now. Brooklyn, New York and Queens libraries have online petitions that are quick and easy to sign. In addition, you can write Mayor Bloomberg a postcard, letting him know that laying off library workers and closing libraries is not an option for New York. Postcards can be sent to our good friend and fierce library advocate City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, 47-01 Queens Boulevard, Suite 205, Sunnyside, New York, 11104.

The libraries of New York City don’t stand a chance unless we make it absolutely clear that they’re essential. If you’re a librarian, an MLS student, a library patron, a lover of literacy, or just someone who cares for your community, we’re asking you to help us. Please, love your library. And then get ready to fight for it.

Start Advocating!

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It is time to get started. Library advocacy season is upon us again and it is time to tool up. It is going to be a tough year. The budget looks worse than ever. The numbers are still in flux but right now we are looking at massive cuts across the board at all three public libraries in New York City. There will be hundreds of layoffs EACH at Brooklyn, New York, and Queens Public Libraries if the projected budget goes through. There may be over a thousand jobs on the chopping block in the city libraries this year.

What would it mean if they went through? Let’s examine it as a library science problem. Libraries in the city have been in a hiring freeze for years now. They have however been losing staff during that time due to retirement and attrition. There are potentially hundreds of jobs on the books at libraries. All you library school students who read that and salivate, don’t. They are not being filled in order to retain the staff that are there already and avoid layoffs. There will almost assuredly be further job losses this year.

Currently staff on the ground at libraries are stretched thin. There are a lot of long desk shifts going on in the city. Staff illness impacts people more than it should since one person missing a shift dominoes into a huge issue. Management at the libraries has been doing a lot of scrambling to keep the lights on, the doors open, and the books going in and out.

On the doors open thing, we’ve been losing hours. They’ve been clawing to keep them but the losses are happening. Yes the three library systems are open seven days a week but honestly even six day coverage is thin on the ground these days. The less libraries are open the less people use them. The less they use them the less they value them. The less they value them the less they will fight for them. The less they will fight for them the less money the libraries get in the budget. The less money they get in the budget the less they will be open. It is a cycle and it is vicious.

Which brings us back to the current situation. Right now all those tired staff and stressed management are still keeping the doors open. Lose that staff, can that management, and the doors close, the lights go off, the books sit on the shelves or are carted out. Three years of budget cuts have carved the libraries down to the bone. The libraries are on track to possibly lose as much as a third of their staffs. That bears repetition, a potential third of their staff. This will break us for a decade at least, maybe longer, if it goes through. That is not hyperbole, it is fact.

The libraries will have to go onto split shifts. This will have one staff working two libraries. They will each be open for half the week. That means that on any given day of the week there is a good chance that your library will not be open. It might be open Mon., Wed., Fri. or Tues., Thurs., Sat.. If you are a kid with a test tomorrow there is a 50/50 chance your library will be shut. If you use the library for internet access you are now on half time and checking your email every other day at best. If you swing by the library to pick up a book or a movie you might well find yourself out of luck. If you use the library to keep warm/cool you’re fucked but are probably used to it by now.

This has happened before, in the 70s. People who worked it hated it. It took about twenty years for the libraries to get back to the same levels of staffing and service hours. This time around it might be even more sticky. Nowadays, in the age of Google and e-readers, plenty of people doubt the need for libraries at all. What if a generation, the kids who are say 8-14 now, grows up with the library only open now and then but with a smart phone on their hip every second? If we shut the doors will they ever wander the stacks, take home a big pile of books, or have a great conversation with a librarian whose every atom is focused on getting their answer? Will this generation drift away from us? When the libraries start to drift and fade away altogether will they even care?

You know what to do people. Cynicism, burnout, and apathy are not options for us. Grab a stack of postcards, go ahead, do it now. Then take those postcards and work the room, any room. Put a mess of them together in an envelope and send them to our pal on the City Council Jimmy Van Bramer. He’ll make sure that people see them and that each tiny little card of paper you get in adds weight power to our message.

Let’s bury them. Let’s give them a postcard roar. Start now. Immediately. Go!

Jimmy Van Bramer
47-01 Queens Boulevard
Suite 205
Sunnyside, New York 11104

Voices from Outside: Saturday 3/19

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Saturday, March 19th, 7 PM
JustSeeds & Books Through Bars present…

An Art Exhibit & Benefit Auction to send books to prisoners

Voices From Outside: Artists Against the Prison Industrial Complex

created by the JustSeeds Collective for the 10th anniversary of Critical Resistance.

At the Not An Alternative/Change You Want To See Gallery
84 Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg Brooklyn
L to Bedford, J to Marcy, or G to Metropolitan


Artworks by:

Bill Mazza

Chris Cardinale

Vikki Law

Vandana Jain

Audrey Dantzlerward

Mac McGill

Elizabeth Hamby

Antonio Serna

Mónica Félix

William Wulff

Eric Doeringer

Luis Martin

Priska Wenger

Sevonna Brown

Laura Whitehorn

Carey Lamprecht

Megan Books

christina armas

Kelly Savage

Kevin Hong


Guest speaker from the JustSeeds Printmaking Collective

Music by Avani Mehta & DJ Duncan

Refreshments available

Doors at 7PM, bidding ends at 9pm, party till 10pm.

View the portfolio.

All funds raised will be spent on postage to send books to prisoners.

RSVP on Facebook here.

Bibliobeat March 13 / 2011

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More than Just Green Beer

The Irish and Irish American contribution to our culture is particularly felt in the literary world. As it turns out, there are better ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s expulsion of the snakes than dressing up in green and getting your drink on at an Upper East Side douchebagary. Reading books, for example. Or better yet: passing out free (!!) books to passersby.

The Irish Arts Center celebrates Irish Book Day 2011 by distributing literature by Irish and Irish-American writers, and they need your help. Here’s what they tell us:

Irish Arts Center is in need of a few good volunteers for our first annual Book Day event on March 17th.  We’ll be sending teams of volunteers to each of the five boroughs to greet the public and distribute 10,000 free books by Irish and Irish American authors.  That’s a lot of books so we’re going to need a lot of help.

Volunteers are still needed at select locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx.

Essentially you’ll be an ambassador for a day, handing out books, chatting with the public and Book Day and the Irish Arts Center, as well as promoting Irish arts, culture, and literacy on the whole helping us reach New Yorkers of all ages and ethnicities.

Interested in helping out? Please call the Irish Arts Center at 212-757-3318 x 202, or e-mail Jen Browne at

Beware the Ides of March

March 15th approaches, and it has me thinking of old Julius Caesar, which makes me think of Shakespeare, and that reminds me that the Royal Shakespeare Company is coming to NYC this summer. Which is cool under any circumstances, but the fact that they’re performing at the Park Avenue Armory makes it infinitely cooler. No, of course the tickets aren’t remotely affordable. But if you’re looking to splurge on live theatre, it sure beats Spiderman.

Check it: RSC at the Armory

Follow the Debate, Be a Part of the Solution

No matter your personal opinions on digital media, if you’re buying eBooks for a library collection, you need to understand the implications for your users. The recent decision by HarperCollins to limit eBook checkouts to 26 got me following Alycia Sellie’s take on it all, which lead me to learn more about her work on The Readers Bill of Rights for Digital Books. Alycia says:

We will be presenting the Readers Bill of Rights for Digital Books on April 1st at ACRL annual in Philadelphia. We’ll be discussing all of these issues and more. Right now we’re considering actions that could be taken then, and ways that we as librarians can collectively battle oppressive restrictions upon our right to read. I hope many librarians will be able to attend!

If you’ll be in Philly for ACRL, check out the April first presentation and report back. In the meantime, share your comments.

Image released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Next Week: Just Seeds and Books Through Bars Present:

An Art Exhibit & Benefit Auction to send books to prisoners
Saturday, March 19 7PM
At the Not An Alternative/Change You Want To See Gallery
84 Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg Brooklyn
The Desk Set loves Books Through Bars, and we hope you will support their work next Saturday.
For more information:

Stacks and Shelves and Rooms of Our Own

I like reading about libraries in journals and magazines meant for practitioners of other arts, particularly when they draw from our namesake movie for inspiration. For example James Murdock’s recent article from Architectural Record celebrating the past and future of library design.

In the past, a central aisle offered the only way to navigate through these buildings. In the future, users must be allowed to make their own paths. But rest assured, books will always be there in both paper and digital form. In a world where everything is digitized, there is knowledge to be gained from the simple, tactile act of holding a printed work.

Oh, and don’t miss the slide show.

Austrian National Library

Got something to include in the next Bibliobeat?


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