6/28/17

LOCAL HISTORY AT THE LIBRARY by Jon Walker

Our community enjoys a rich and diverse history.  This is the story of the people and events helping to shape the saga of this region over many generations.  It is the multi-stranded narrative of the indigenous and the immigrant, the pioneer and the settler, the mover and the follower, the women, the men, and the children who have lived and visited here throughout the years.  PCCLD is pleased to help preserve record of this past for study and review by scholars and investigators both today and for the future. 
The Rawlings Library has a special role in this endeavor with highly qualified professionals working there collaboratively in preserving and organizing access to local primary source materials.  These archival pieces include eyewitness accounts, statistical data, audio and video recordings, writings and speeches, art objects, and more.  They encompass important secondary and tertiary historical resources, too. 
All this is principally collected on the third floor of the Rawlings Library.  We call these our Special Collections.  It is a name given for good reason.  This remarkable area of the Rawlings Library incorporates a singular vault, which serves as a secure room to protect many of the rare and significant documents and artifacts.  The area also has other distinctive furnishings and equipment to better safeguard the precious materials located there.  It should be noted that selected items of this type also are part of more modest holdings located in many of the branch libraries of the district. 
The cultural heritage represented by this collection assures its vitality to researchers and students today and likely so for years to come.  PCCLD cherishs its role in helping to guarantee this legacy is thoughtfully maintained and curated.  We invest heavily to continue to ensure it is so.  This duty is one key part of the library district’s strategic vision of service to our community.  Not only do we employ qualified and well-trained staff dedicated to the stewardship of these materials and maintain apt environmental conditions to better secure their appropriate preservation, but today we also spend funds on modern computer technology critical to this effort.  PCCLD in recent years is working evermore diligently in just this manner.  The results show with new digital copies now available of many high-value historical treasures from our collections.  This provides for both better conservation yet more widely available access via the library district’s website.  A great example of this type work is found here: http://pcclddigitalcollection.contentdm.oclc.org/
It requires dedicated time and expertise for PCCLD to collect and curate our history plus digitize and provide online finding aids for these materials.  More than 25 skilled librarians work throughout the library district.  We also engage professionals who have earned certifications and/or advanced degrees with emphasis in archival management, museum science, genealogy, and more.  This unique group of individuals, along with the aid of able support staff, focus meaningful attention to help preserve and support public access to local materials chronicling our past.  Under the capable leadership of Maria Sanchez-Tucker, who oversees the library district’s special collections and museum services, the list of PCCLD contributions in recent years to local history conservation and promotion efforts is notable.  Charlene Garcia-Simms, who serves as PCCLD’s special collections librarian and genealogy expert, also is key to this effort. 
The achievements are significant.  Here are some important recent examples:
·         Archiving a recent donation of the full collection of the bound editions of the local newspaper of record—today’s Pueblo Chieftain—dating from the middle of the nineteenth century, and digitizing significant portions of this resource in collaboration with the newspaper’s ownership, a local foundation, the Colorado State Library, and History Colorado

  • ·         Promoting PCCLD collection artifacts for statewide recognition (such as the library’s original copy of famous American frontiersman Kit Carson’s Last Will and Testament)
  • ·         Sponsoring scholarship and publication of noteworthy books like Spanish/Mexican Legacy of Latinos in Pueblo County (2012) and Images of America: Pueblo (2017)
  • ·         Commissioning Corazon del Pueblo, an artpiece located on the Rawlings Library second floor visually depicting local latino history in the Mexican Muralist tradition
  • ·         Collecting a gift of the full range of the Colorado Rock Art Association archives
  • ·         Producing community history walls for the Greenhorn Valley Library, the Giodone Library, and the Lucero Library
  • ·         Hosting the Pueblo West history collection at the Pueblo West Library
  • ·         Supporting local programming in partnership with nationally-prominent organizations like the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the American Library Association, and many more
  • ·         Collaborating with numerous local organizations on this work, which includes, but is not limited to, Colorado State University-Pueblo, the Steelworks Museum of the West, the El Pueblo History Museum, Colorado Humanities, Pueblo Archaelogical & Historical Society, and the Pueblo Heritage Museum. 
PCCLD’s investment in helping to preserve and educate the public about our past is weighty, ongoing, and growing.  The archives and local history efforts here are in good hands now and should continue to grow and improve for the forseeable future. 

4/8/17

EDUCATION AND THE PUBLIC LIBRARY by Jon Walker

A vital part of the public library’s mission is ensuring support for lifelong learning among the individual members of our community.  PCCLD’s education basis is important.  This has never been clearer than now.  In the past year, we further emphasized our commitment to help our local public schools via  ConnectED, an initiative which better guarantees local K-12 students have convenient access to the resources of the public library (for more information on this important project, see www.pueblolibrary.org/connected).  PCCLD’s role in this regard also extends to higher education.  This is important.  Studies show greater levels of formal education attainment correlate to positive outcomes for long-term economic and social success for individuals and the broader prosperity of communities. 
College takes lots of effort to complete and can be expensive.  There are many benefits to college education justifying both of these.  College graduates earn more money on average during their working lives than people with high school diplomas.  The U.S. Census Bureau reports that people with bachelor’s degrees earn about one million dollars more over the course of their individual careers than do those whose formal education stops with high school.  Individuals with more advanced college degrees beyond baccalaureate enjoy even better wage outcomes.  Attending college should be viewed as an investment that pays off later in life. 
The economic benefit is one good reason to earn a college degree.  There are others. College graduates experience significantly lower rates of unemployment and poverty than high school graduates, and they are generally healthier, boast increased awareness of social issues, realize greater success in switching jobs and relocating based on lifestyle preferences, and have more time for recreational activities and hobbies.  College graduates also generally realize broader knowledge of world history, geography, and culture plus improvement in critical thinking skills relevant and useful throughout a lifetime.  
Research shows overall education levels parallel a community’s welfare. The upside includes greater tax receipts for the common good, more participation in important public policy matters, and higher levels of employment with better paying jobs.  College-educated parents are more likely to raise children who obtain a college degree as well.  Research indicates college graduates enjoy healthier lifestyles and the children of college graduates often receive a better start in life as they are aware from an early age about the importance of good nutrition and exercise. This in turn improves the general quality of life and life expectancy rates for college graduates and their entire families.
PCCLD seeks to contribute to local higher education efforts.  Our librarians are prepared to assist in numerous ways, whether it is helping individuals select just the right college or major field of study, looking for college financial aid, or plain old studying and preparing for course projects and exams.  We also provide special research resources to assist with all of this and more.  We know this makes a positive difference both for individuals and for society at large. 
In order to further improve upon this, PCCLD recently created formal relationships both with Colorado State University-Pueblo and Pueblo Community College in order to better assist their respective campuses with access to the public library.  Now you will see in the academic libraries on both campuses PCCLD services available to complement the learning experiences there.  We call these projects Library @ the U and Library @ PCC, respectively.
Our community is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.  PCCLD’s mission is more fully accomplished through its support for our local K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.  

2/21/17

NEWSPAPERS AND FAKE NEWS by Jon Walker

I am a librarian.  I spend a lot of time considering and working with information in many of its various forms, such as print, online, video, audio and so on.   This helps at least partly explain my keen interest and love for daily newspapers.  After all, as famed historian Henry Steele Commager noted about the social value of newspapers: “This is what really happened, reported by a free press to a free people.  It is the raw material of history; it is the story of our own times.”
Commager and I are not alone in appreciating newspapers.   Millions of Americans habitually browse their local daily paper.  For me, this also involves regularly perusing local, regional and national publications, like the Pueblo Chieftain,  Denver Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  Such reading meaningfully shapes my views and beliefs about our local community and the world around me.  This no doubt is influenced notably, too, by books and magazines, television, radio and conversations with friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances.  But the newspaper has held sway because it is such an affordable and handy means for accessing information about current events of interest and worth.
All this is changing.  Evermore often I now find myself turning to the Internet for news and information.  This includes websites hosted by well-known names such as NPR, BBC and other customary news sources.  It also is Facebook, YouTube, Google and the like.   Online information is readily available and the content is timely, both of which are valuable traits when it comes to news.   The convenience and ubiquity of tablets, smartphones, WiFi and high-speed mobile data service only further encourage foregoing traditional print in favor of online news. 
I am not alone in my changing routine.  The Pew Research Center points out that print newspaper circulation is declining overall in recent years across the country and consumers are increasingly accessing their news online (http://www.journalism.org/2016/06/15/newspapers-fact-sheet/).   Columnist and humorist Dave Barry put it this way: “Newspaper readership is declining like crazy. In fact, there's a good chance that nobody is reading this column.” 
The newspaper as an institution in this country is precious.  This is especially so due to the reporters’ adherence to a well-established code of ethics.  These professional values—independence and impartiality, accountability and the public interest, truth and accuracy—have shaped our reliance upon daily papers as a trusted resource.  Today, these standards are more important than ever as online fake news has become a topic of recent real public concern.
Newspapers are not immune to fake news.  We only need consider yellow journalism controversies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as today’s tabloid journalism.  These infamous approaches to news rely on hyperbole to sensationalize, exaggerate and even sometimes pitch questionable stories based more on fiction than fact in order to rile or unjustly sway public opinion.  These distasteful reporting styles can use overly aggressive and mean-spirited tactics to smear, defame or denigrate.  Importantly, great journalists and prominent newspaper publishers recognize such pitfalls and seriously consider how they report the news.  They thoughtfully adjudge their customary social role as the “fourth estate” with proper emphasis on the independence and truthfulness of the press and its contribution to a functioning democracy.  This lends legitimacy to newspaper reporting.
It also makes what is happening online today important to comprehend.  The capacity in the modern electronic ecosystem to disseminate information, including misinformation, is unprecedented.  This is why fake news is worrying.  There is valid concern that journalistic values, which help assure (but, importantly, do not guarantee) veracity, are lost amongst the online chatter, and valid news becomes indistinguishably mixed with Internet-disseminated half-truths and downright lies.  Fake news websites publish hoaxes and propaganda to drive web traffic inflamed by social media. They intentionally mislead and profit from readers believing the stories to be true when they are not. 
Most reasonable adults turn to trusted experts for guidance on matters of most gravity.   When I am seriously ill, I see a medical doctor.  When my automobile quits running, I consult an automobile mechanic.  When in need of legal counsel, I seek out an attorney.  And so on.  Most of us ask qualified authorities for help and advice when it really counts.  But for our news are we to put our full faith in Facebook “friends” and the links from the first page of Google search results? 
Online purveyors of fake news stories know how to ensure their falsehoods are embedded among the outcomes we first and most readily find online.  What they publish is made to look and read as if it is bona fide when it is not.  This problem has drawn numerous headlines in the wake of last year’s national election and now is more commonly recognized as an issue of public concern.  It is why Internet and information gurus, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are seeking strategies to try to stop fake news and tools like Hoaxy (http://hoaxy.iuni.iu.edu/) are under development now to help resolve this problem.
A complicating factor is the First Amendment of the American Constitution.  It guarantees adults the right to read, view, listen to, and disseminate constitutionally-protected information, even, in most cases, when it is offensive, upsetting or just plain wrong.  This liberty is fundamental to our democracy and rightfully cherished.  It also means that citizens are obligated to take individual responsibility to try to discern what is true from that which is not.   This ability is known as information literacy.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson famously espoused the conviction that a well-informed citizenry is vital to our survival as a free people.  This notion is grounded both in the First Amendment and information literacy.  The latter of these two, information literacy, amounts to the proper exercise of the skills necessary to effectively evaluate information.  This is an individual’s capacity to assess information for qualities such as relevance, authority, suitability, significance, currency, accuracy and merit. 
Reporters have historically played a critical role in delivering reliable news stories.  Our confidence in newspapers in some large measure arises from their championing a body of professional ethics that encourages accurate and honest reporting.  We have learned to trust the newspaper press to provide candid and reliable coverage of things that affect our lives.  As newspapers recede as a predominant medium for news, we must be concerned about the online forum newly filling this role. 
Can we depend upon the Internet to reliably report the news?    The loss of newspapers puts us at risk of losing touch with the journalistic standards that help ensure the news we consume is legitimate.  This is why newspapers matter and why Internet fake news is a weighty issue of public interest.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

LOCAL HISTORY AT THE LIBRARY by Jon Walker

Our community enjoys a rich and diverse history.  This is the story of the people and events helping to shape the saga of this region over ...