Get more from Ancestry Library Edition

Ancestry Library Edition is the library version of Ancestry.com, which has one of the largest genealogy collections available online. Their database includes vital records, censuses, city directories and military and immigration records to name a few! Some of the library’s most popular collections are the digitized Indiana marriage certificates from 1960-2005, Indiana death certificates from 1899-2011 and Indiana birth certificates from 1907-1940. Records like these are a goldmine for those with Indiana ancestors.

Ancestry Library Edition is available for free on any of the Indiana State Library public computers. Currently – courtesy of ProQuest and Ancestry – it is also available to many public library cardholders from home until December 2021. Please note that this option is not available through your Indiana State Library card account, but if your public library subscribes to Ancestry Library Edition check with them about getting remote access while it lasts.

In addition to genealogical records, like the Indiana birth, marriage and death certificates, Ancestry also includes an abundant photograph collection to enrich your family history research. Photos bring family history to life and reveal details about our ancestors that we just can’t get from documents. Through pictures we can learn how an ancestor styled their hair, how they dressed, items they had in their home or what their hometown looked like. Here are a few of the unique photo collections you’ll find in the Ancestry catalog:

U.S., Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993

If you like to imagine the various odds and ends that could have made their way into your ancestor’s home, look no further than “The U.S., Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co.” collection. You can page through these catalogs on Ancestry just like you were holding a print copy. With many of the catalogs containing over a thousand pages each, it’s easy to spend an entire afternoon poring through them. Find bizarre products once sold to consumers, such as the deadly sounding “Arsenic Complexion Wafers” or the “Asbestos Stove Mat” for sale in the spring of 1897 catalog. These catalogs sold more than you could possibly imagine like clothing, tools, games, tableware, candy, houses and so much more!

Fall 1921

Because they were so expansive, the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogs are also helpful to date a photo of an ancestor. Flip to the women’s or menswear sections to explore fashions or housewares during certain years and look for similar styles to those represented in the picture.

U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1999

Shortridge 1922

Ancestry is home to the world’s largest searchable online yearbook collection. With over 10,000 yearbooks, you are certain to find a photo of an ancestor included. You can also search for a favorite celebrity or flip through the yearbooks from a favorite era. Did you ever wonder what Indiana native John Mellencamp looked like in his high school yearbook photos? Search the collection for his name to find out!

Many of the yearbooks contain details that offer us a glimpse into our ancestor’s personalities. In this Shortridge Annual from 1922 Rezina Bond is described as, “A cute little girl with bobbed hair, who doesn’t like very much to go to school.” Like the Sears, Roebuck, and Co. catalogs, these images and details are useful for dating family photos. One advantage they have over the catalogs is they depict what people actually wore in a specific time and place, rather than the idealized fashions in catalogs.

U.S., Identification Card Files of Prohibition Agents, 1920-1925

Prohibition agents were responsible for enforcing the 18th Amendment, which banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages. Their duties included making investigations, arresting bootleggers, closing down speakeasies and breaking up liquor rackets. Sometimes their work even involved run-ins with organized crime.

The collection contains identification card files for prohibition agents, inspectors, warehouse agents, narcotics agents and more. Search for ancestors who worked as agents or browse through the collection to see the faces and names of the individuals who held these positions. Famous prohibition agents such as Isador Einstein and partner Moe Smith, who would wear over-the-top disguises like a gravedigger or opera singer, are represented in this collection.

Motion Picture Studio Directories, 1919 and 1921

1921 Motion Picture Studio Directory

If you are interested in silent film era history, or have an ancestor who worked in the business, the 1919 and 1921 Motion Picture Studio Directories are right up your alley. These directories don’t simply include actors, they also list directors, writers, cinematographers and more. Discover wonderful biographical details like addresses, birth dates, career summaries, physical description and skills. Learn more about your favorite Hoosier actors, such as Pomeroy Cannon from New Albany and Monte Blue from Indianapolis.

U.S., Historical Postcards, 1893-1960

This collection has over 115,000 historical postcards searchable by state, keyword or location. If you are interested to know what your ancestor’s hometown looked like during a certain time you can search here for a postcard of it. This is also an interesting collection to look for historical images of your own city or town. This postcard captures Washington Street, a few short blocks away from the Indiana State Library.

To access these collections and to explore everything Ancestry Library Edition has to offer, visit the card catalog. Hit the search field in the menu along the top of the homepage and select Card Catalog. From there, browse through the collections, use the search boxes or check out the new stuff featured on the page. Filter your results by collection types, locations or dates in the menu on the left side of the page. If you click on Pictures in the left menu, you’ll be taken to most of the collections I’m featuring in this blog post, in addition to the various other photo collections in Ancestry.

I hope you enjoy taking a trip back in time and explore these collections the next time you visit the Indiana State Library or at home while it lasts.

This blog post is by Dagny Villegas, Genealogy Division librarian.

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

The Indiana State Library is pleased to announce that it has received $3,471,810 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act to support libraries and library services in the State of Indiana. The Institute of Museum and Library Services distributed $178 million to state libraries, who were then tasked with putting the funds to good use. The Indiana State Library opted to put more than half of their allocation directly in public and academic libraries’ hands by awarding ARPA sub-grants.

This isn’t the first grant the State Library created in response to the COVID pandemic. Last year’s CARES Act mini-grants helped libraries to defray the unexpected expenses necessitated by the COVID pandemic: masks and plexiglass dividers, stanchions for curbside pick-up, additional e-books and streaming movies for the times the buildings were closed, etc. 335 mini-grants were awarded to the tune of more than $650,000. While CARES addressed immediate needs, ARPA grants ask libraries to look into the future and consider what they can do to welcome back and safely serve the public moving forward.

So, what does that look like? For many, that’s finding a way to increase remote and outdoor access to library services. Some libraries envisioned outdoor areas equipped with Wi-Fi and furnishings to allow people to access the internet even while the doors might be closed, or to offer safer, open-air venues for programming. Others hope for some sort of bookmobile or delivery vehicle to make home services a reality. Many see the value in remote locker systems that would allow the public to pick up library materials after hours or during closures with no staff interaction. There are projects that expand the technology infrastructure, projects revolving around easily sanitized furnishings and better HVAC systems, and projects centered on staff training for a post-pandemic reality. In total, we received 154 applications detailing projects costing anywhere from the $5,000 minimum to even more than the $100,000 maximum possible award.

Now begins the challenging task of reviewing each project and deciding how much to award. While the state library aims to offer at least some assistance for all eligible projects, more than $7 million dollars was requested against the $2.4 million dollars allocated for aid. Grants should be awarded in October – which means there might be some exciting things happening at your local library later this year and through 2022!

All questions regrading ARPA grants may be sent here. The State Library’s ARPA Grants for Indiana Libraries page offers more information on the grants.

This blog post was written by Angela Fox, LSTA grant consultant in the Library Development Office at the Indiana State Library.

Indiana’s Carnegie libraries

“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon this earth as the free public library.” -Andrew Carnegie

One of my favorite parts of my job as a regional coordinator at the Indiana State Library is traveling around to the public libraries of Northwest Indiana. Though I value and appreciate each and every unique library, Carnegie libraries have always been my favorite. It is for this reason that I chose to research Carnegie libraries of Indiana as one of my projects for my library master’s program. I hope you’ll appreciate the interesting history which I discovered during my research.

The state of Indiana received the greatest number of Carnegie library grants of any state. Between the years of 1901 to 1918, Indiana received a total of 156 Carnegie library grants, which allowed for the creation of 165 library buildings. Indiana received a total of over $2.6 million from the Carnegie Corporation. These library buildings were constructed from 1901 to 1922. Goshen received the first grant in 1901, and Lowell received the final grant in 1918. Additionally, Indiana was provided two academic libraries funded by Carnegie, at DePauw and Earlham. Indiana also has their own “Carnegie Hall” located at Moores Hill College. The Carnegie grants received by Indiana ranged in size from $5,000 given to Monterey – a community of under 1,000 residents – to $100,000 given to Indianapolis to construct five library branches. The year that the most Indiana Carnegie grants were given was 1913, wherein 19 grants totaling $202,500 were awarded. One thing Indiana can be proud of is that none of the communities receiving a Carnegie grant defaulted on their pledge to provide for the library building once it was initially constructed.1

Goshen Carnegie Library sign. Courtesy of Groundspeak, Inc.

“A. Carnegie.” 19 October 1912. Bain News Service. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Prior to receiving grants from Andrew Carnegie, the public-funded township and county libraries in Indiana were “limited in literary selection, poorly housed and often meagerly staffed.”1 However, libraries were in high demand by literate, reading Hoosiers. The only public book collections in the state before 1880 were William Maclure funded Mechanic and Workingmen’s Libraries, and most Indiana counties had one. William Maclure was the first library philanthropist in Indiana, providing for 146 libraries in 89 counties by the year 1855.1 However, it is believed that without Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy, many of the smaller Indiana communities would have experienced long delays in establishing public libraries, or not even have had a public library at all. Andrew Carnegie was invited to many of the library building dedications in the state of Indiana, but he never attended any. Carnegie’s library grants ended the day that the United States entered World War I, on Nov. 7, 1917.1 The last Carnegie building to be completed in the state of Indiana was in 1922 at North Judson.1

While researching this topic, I came to wonder why the state of Indiana had so many Carnegie grants; more than any other state. Part of the reason is due to the variations in branch donations. Many communities, including Indianapolis, Gary, East Chicago and Evansville, received grants to divide up among multiple branches. Also, once Goshen received the first library grant – and the General Assembly passed the Mummert Library Law which permitted “local units of government to levy tax for the perpetuation and maintenance of all libraries built in Indiana by Mr. Carnegie”2 – other Indiana communities were able to secure Carnegie grants, while meeting Mr. Carnegie’s stipulations, with not as much tedious effort as Goshen. As more and more communities received Carnegie grants and constructed public library buildings, neighboring towns would take notice and then start the application process for their own Carnegie library grant. From the time period of 1900 to 1929, “a strong public library fervor rolled across Indiana.”1 At this time, Indiana became “culturally ready and geographically positioned for more libraries.”1 The Indiana Library Association began in 1891. Later, in 1899, a legislative act permitted towns to levy taxes for library purposes and also established the Public Library Commission.1 The Public Library Commission, in operation from 1899 to 1925, was paramount in assisting Indiana communities to apply for and secure library funding from Andrew Carnegie during what was known as the Carnegie Era. McPherson writes that “libraries were landmarks of public and private achievement and pride.” Hoosiers especially cherished libraries as “intellectual and democratic institutions that were ‘free to all.'” Women’s literary clubs also played an invaluable role in the amount of Carnegie libraries established in Indiana.1

Very few of the towns requesting grants from Andrew Carnegie were refused, as long as they agreed to his terms. However, there were still some Carnegie grant requests that were denied, and usually for administrative reasons. For example, Greenfield requested a Carnegie grant and received a response from James Bertam, Andrew Carnegie’s private secretary, stating that “A request for $30,000 to erect a library building for 5,000 people is so preposterous that Mr. Carnegie cannot give it any consideration.3

Most of the Carnegie funded libraries were designed to have a community meeting space on the main floor and the library’s book collection on the upper floor. In 1908, the Carnegie Corporation circulated a pamphlet called “Notes on the Erection of Library Buildings,” which standardized the design of Carnegie buildings “in order to prevent costly design errors.”1 Therefore, prior to 1908 when library boards had more leeway on building design and spending, “the more grandiose and elegant building were constructed.”1 Carnegie emphasized simplicity, functionality and practicality in order “to reduce wasteful spending of the earlier years” and in turn had the final sign-off on any architectural plans.1 An Indianapolis architect, Wilson B. Parker, designed over 20 of the Carnegie funded libraries in Indiana, more than any architect of Carnegie libraries in the state. The most widely used architectural styles of the Indiana Carnegie library buildings were the Neoclassic Greek and Roman style and the Craftsman-Prairie Tradition style. The buildings were normally constructed along or near the main street of town, where community members were likely to gather. Intentionally built with steps, Carnegie libraries encouraged “patrons to ‘step up’ intellectually when they walked up the main entryway, entering ‘higher ground’ through the temple like portal into the rooms of knowledge.”1 Once a Carnegie building was completed, the community would hold a dedication, especially around a holiday. Many of Indiana’s Carnegie library buildings have been added to The National Register of Historic Places, as well as the Indiana State Register of Historic Sites and Structures.

Corydon Carnegie Library, 2006. Courtesy of Indiana Landmarks. Accessed through Indiana Memory Database.

As a strong testament to the lasting legacy of Andrew Carnegie, 100 of the original 164 buildings are still in use as libraries today. Many have been renovated or have additions, but continue to serve the community out of at least some part of or all of the original Carnegie funded library building. The buildings not currently serving as libraries have a wide array of purposes, including two restaurants, six town or city halls, museums, three historical societies, four art galleries, condos, a police station, a fraternity headquarters, courthouse, a church, private residences and various commercial offices such as real estate, law and an architectural firm. Sadly, 18 of the original Carnegie library buildings in Indiana have been destroyed through the years; one by the tornado of 1948, three by fire and the rest demolished or razed. Click here to see a list of Indiana’s Carnegie libraries and their current status.

Coatesville Library Destruction from 1948 Tornado. Courtesy of Coatesville-Clay Township Public Library.

Woody’s Library Restaurant, present day. Courtesy of Woody’s Library Restaurant.

Sources
1. McPherson, Alan. “Temples of Knowledge: Andrew Carnegie’s Gift To Indiana.” Indiana: Hoosier’s Nest Press, 2003.

2.Goshen Public Library Beginnings,” retrieved form the Goshen Public Library website.

3. Bobinski, George S. “Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development”. ALA Bulletin, 62.11 (1968):1361-1367.

Carnegies 2009 Update.” Indiana State Library. 6 June 2012.

Indiana’s Carnegie Libraries website, created by Laura Jones.

Submitted by Laura Jones, Northwest regional coordinator, Indiana State Library.

‘The Biggest Little Library Conference’ is almost here! 

The 2021 Association for Rural and Small Libraries conference, themed “The Biggest Little Library Conference,” is almost here!

When:  Oct. 20-23, 2021
Where:  Nugget Resort in Reno/Sparks, Nevada

This year’s conference will be a combination of in-person and select virtual sessions.  The ARSL Conference Committee is in the process of building the schedule and selecting keynotes. Be sure to check the official 2021 ARSL Conference page for the most up-to-date conference information.

Early bird registration begins on Wednesday, July 7

Registration rates are very affordable. If you are not able to attend in person, the virtual price is a bargain. Check out the schedules and program descriptions below:

When I attended in 2018, there were so many presentations I wanted to see and, despite a few being repeated, I ran out of time to see them all. Looking at the preliminary schedule for 2021, there is something for everyone. You might have the same problem of not being able to attend every session you want to attend, because there are so many great ones. The pre-conference workshops look fantastic. They include planning library space; what will be different in a post pandemic library; and effective staff development on any budget. This year’s presentations look to be practical and reflect what libraries are doing and what obstacles they are facing. Topics include: telehealth visits in the library; mental health and libraries; tweens and STEAM; and re-thinking summer reading. There is also a leadership institute track during every session.

If you have a chance to attend in-person, it’s an awesome time to network with other librarians. There are libraries out there that only have one staff person, which is why this group is so important. It can be very lonely working by yourself, but having the support and guidance of this group is amazing. There are many informal times to gather including a welcome reception, dine-arounds and roundtables. When I went in 2018, the dine-arounds were a wonderful time to try out local restaurants along with fellow attendees. I met some very cool librarians from states all over the country, including Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, New York, North Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. There was such an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie among attendees who shared successes, encouraged each other and learned new things from passionate professionals.

In 2020, the ARSL conference was entirely virtual. I was able to attend virtually last year and found the conference app, Whova, to be very nice. You could watch the sessions either on your computer through the Whova website or on your mobile device through the conference app. On this year’s schedule, there are a few sessions which are both virtual and in-person and some are virtual only. A new feature called Spark Talks is included this year. All of the topics look amazing and very relevant. Last year, attendees were able to view the sessions they missed. Hopefully, this will be an option as well for this year.

Whether you can attend virtually or in-person, this is one of the very best library conferences I have attended. I highly recommend attending this conference; you will not be sorry you went. Hope to “see” you there!

In case you want to start planning, the location for 2022 is to be decided, but 2023 will be in Wichita, Kansas.

The Association for Rural and Small Library organization is approved for LEU/TLEUs. Which means their conference is automatically approved for LEU/TLEU credit. If you need further information, please consult the state library’s Approved Training Provider page or contact certification program director at the Indiana State Library, Cheri Harris.

This post was written by Northeast regional coordinator Paula Newcom, Professional Development Office.

Beyond the shelves – library services available to Hoosiers

As an Indiana public library cardholder, you may have access to more than what’s on the shelves of your local public library. Many public libraries in the state participate in services that enable them to borrow or request photocopies from other Indiana libraries at little to no cost to you. Here are some of the services the Indiana State Library helps make available to Indiana residents:

Evergreen Indiana – Evergreen Indiana is a growing consortium of over half the public libraries in the state who share a catalog and lend items freely between their member libraries. Many items on the shelves of other participating libraries can be reserved and delivered to your home library. You can check here to see if your public library is participating.

Interlibrary loan – The Indiana State Library also sponsors a few other resource sharing services including SRCS, the Statewide Remote Circulation Service. By searching SRCS, you can see items in the catalogs of hundreds of public and academic libraries and request them to be delivered to your library. Some libraries participate in the Indiana Share program and can borrow items through the OCLC network, including harder-to-find items held by out of state libraries.

Reciprocal borrowing – Over half of the state’s libraries participate in some type of reciprocal borrowing agreement. Some may have a local agreement with neighboring library districts, and others participate in the Statewide Reciprocal Borrowing Covenant. This means a cardholder at any of the participating libraries can show their valid card at any other participating library and borrow an item. This is helpful if you live closer to another public library than your home library, prefer another local library or travel frequently.

PLAC – Individuals may purchase a PLAC card – which stands for Public Library Access Card – at any public library to obtain borrowing privileges at any other public library in the state. Patrons must first have a valid library card, or paid non-resident card, from a public library before purchasing a PLAC card. The current fee for the service is $65 for a year.

Cards for non-residents – Not a resident of a public library district? You still have the option to purchase a card from the public library system of your choice. Public libraries can serve non-residents for a fee, or possibly for free, per their policy or agreements with neighboring townships. The fee you are charged is based on the cost per capita to serve patrons which is normally obtained through property taxes. That means a card typically comes to about $40-$100, depending on the district. Many libraries issue free cards to K-12 students who don’t reside in the library’s service area but attend a district school. Additionally, some libraries offer a temporary, reduced price for three or six-month non-resident cards for vacationers or temporary residents.

InfoExpress – How do library books get around the state? The Indiana State Library currently contracts with Indianapolis’ NOW Courier who employees a network of independent couriers to provide a special delivery network just for libraries. Every weekday, drivers around the state pick up and deliver library materials to nearly 400 public, college and school libraries.

What about e-books? – Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about which libraries lend e-books to patrons in other districts. We can’t answer that because it really depends on the library, the service and their contract with the e-book provider. Some are able to extend their e-book collections to PLAC, reciprocal or non-resident card holders, while others are not. E-books are also usually not able to be loaned via interlibrary loan due to the electronic rights management that prevents the file from being shared. Are you hoping to borrow e-books or e-audiobooks through one of these services? Be sure to check with the library whose collection you are hoping to access before obtaining or purchasing a card. Please be aware that changes can be made at any time (e.g., due to a contract ending or a change to the terms of service). We also suggest you check out the thousands of e-books available via INSPIRE.

What else should I know?
Not all libraries participate in all of these services. Please speak with the circulation staff at your library for a better understanding of what is available. There may be a small fee assessed for the cost of service, especially if photocopies are requested or a book needs to be borrowed from outside Indiana. Your library staff should discuss this fee with you before borrowing an item or charging for a photocopy. Please also understand that certain items will not be available, due to their popularity, format or condition/age. For example, it would be hard to find the latest James Patterson at any library, and not all libraries lend DVDs to others due to the risk of damage during transportation.

We hope all of these services encourage you to visit your local public library to check out all they have, or all they can borrow, for you!

This blog post was written by Jen Clifton, supervisor, Statewide Services Division. 

 

Federal CARES grants help Indiana libraries safely reopen

Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States in early 2020, libraries began to close as a precaution for their communities and staff. The federal government rushed into action to aid industries affected by the virus and subsequent closures. On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the CARES Act, which designated $50,000,000 for libraries and museums through the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

IMLS distributed these CARES Act funds to state libraries based on the population served and to other library and museum grant applicants based on need. In Indiana, a portion of the funds received were used at the State Library to ensure book delivery and other statewide services could continue. However, a majority of the funds were made available as grants to public and academic libraries to reimburse COVID-related expenses.

Allowable reimbursements through Indiana’s CARES Act grants for libraries included:

Personal protective equipment and facilities supplies and services, including:

  • Masks, facial shields, gloves, sanitizer and wipes.
  • Plexiglass shields.
  • Washable keyboards and mice.
  • Webcams.
  • Curbside service stanchions and signage.
  • And all other items related to preventing and protecting staff and patrons against COVID-19.

Hotspots and digital inclusion supplies and services, including:

  • Mobile devices.
  • Signal boosters and antennae.
  • Wireless routers and corresponding subscriptions for the duration of the grant.
  • Remote learning and videoconferencing platforms for the duration of the grant.

E-content, including:

  • E-books, digital movies and music.
  • Databases.

There was a great demand for these grants and to date the Indiana State Library has awarded two rounds of 336 CARES Act grants to Indiana libraries. Over $200,000 has already been reimbursed to Indiana communities through the program.

These grants will help libraries recover from the unexpected costs of new hygiene and distancing needs, while enabling library staff to try new service models including curbside pickup, delivery and virtual programming. Additionally, libraries were able to expand their e-book offerings to better serve patrons enjoying library services from home.

Many libraries have since reopened their doors to the public and will continue to reintroduce in-person services as the virus wanes. However, many of the items purchased through these grants will continue to benefit libraries by helping them to operate safely and expand their new virtual and curbside services.

Questions about CARES Act grants for Indiana Libraries may be directed to LSTA grant consultant Angela Fox.

This blog post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office.

Merry Christmas from your public library… but wait, can they say that?

This is the time of year for all sorts of celebrations. The most widely-recognized holidays in America during this time of year include Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas.

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem after a successful 165 B.C. revolt against a king who had outlawed the Jewish religion and its practices, and who decreed only Greek gods could be worshiped in the Temple. Hanukkah is celebrated with certain foods, games, gifts and the lighting of a candle for each day of the eight-day celebration. The symbol most widely associated with Hanukkah is the hanukkiah, a candle holder that holds nine candles, one for each of the eight-day celebration and a “helper-candle” which is used to light the others. It is more commonly referenced as a menorah.

Kwanzaa is a seven-day festival that celebrates African and African American culture. Each day of the celebration is dedicated to one of seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. It is not intended to be a political or religious holiday. Kwanzaa is celebrated by festivities that include decorating, singing, dancing, gifts and a large feast on the last day. The symbol most widely recognized in relation to Kwanzaa is the kinara, a candle holder that holds seven candles, one to be lit on each day of the celebration.

Christmas is traditionally a Christian festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus, a person most Christians believe is the son of God. However, in more recent years, Christmas has become a more secular holiday celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians with festive decorations, singing, parties and the exchange of gifts. Symbols most commonly associated with Christmas are the Christmas tree, Santa Claus and nativity scenes depicting baby Jesus.

Undoubtedly, the holiday most obviously on display right now is Christmas. You can hardly leave your house without evidence of the upcoming Christmas holiday on display all around you. Many homes and businesses are decorated with pretty lights, wreaths, garlands and Christmas trees. Many cashiers and salespeople are wishing us Merry Christmas as we conclude our business with them. With Christmas being so popular, what could possibly be the issue with our local public library joining in the festivities?

The dilemma lies in the fact that Christmas is still considered by many in our country to be a religious Christian holiday. The establishment clause – found in the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution – prohibits government from making any law establishing a religion. It is widely established through numerous court cases that the establishment clause further prohibits government actions that promote, endorse or favor one religion over another. Thus, many have argued that taxpayer-funded government entities should not celebrate or decorate for Christmas because it promotes Christianity. Several U.S. Supreme Court cases have discussed the issue of Christmas displays on government property and the result appears to be that government can recognize and even decorate for Christmas, as long as it is done primarily from a secular perspective and not in a manner that promotes or endorses religion.

In the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case of Lemon v. Kurtzman (403 U.S. 602), the Court established a three-part test to analyze if government behavior violates the establishment clause. In using the “Lemon” test to analyze a holiday display, the Court would look at (1) whether the primary purpose of the display is secular in nature, (2) if the display either promotes or inhibits religion and (3) if there is excessive entanglement between church and state. Accordingly, the analysis into whether a particular government holiday display constitutes an impermissible violation of the establishment clause is a fact-based analysis that could result in different outcomes depending on the nature and contents of the display.

The two most commonly-recognized U.S. Supreme Court cases on this topic are the 1984 case of Lynch v. Donnelly (465 U.S. 668) and the 1989 case of County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter (492 U.S. 573).

In Lynch, the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was sued due to the city’s inclusion of a nativity scene in its annual Christmas display at a local park. In addition to the nativity scene, the city’s display included a Santa Claus house, a Christmas tree, reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh, candy striped poles, carolers, cut out animal figures, hundreds of colored lights and a banner that read, “Seasons Greetings”. The city was sued just for inclusion of the nativity scene. The city lost both at the U.S. District Court level and upon appeal and was prohibited from using the nativity scene in its Christmas display. However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned those rulings and held the city’s display did not violate the establishment clause. The Supreme Court held, in part, that when a nativity scene is included as one component of a Christmas display for the purpose of celebrating the holiday and depicting the origins of the holiday, those were legitimate secular purposes. The Court further held it did not believe the display was a purposeful advocacy of a particular religious message which would violate the establishment clause and any benefit to any particular religion was “indirect, remote and incidental”. The Court additionally held that there was no excessive entanglement between religion and state resulting from the city’s ownership of the nativity scene and inclusion of the scene in its annual Christmas display. There was no evidence the city had been in contact with any church about the content or design of the exhibit prior to or after the city’s purchase of the nativity scene. No expenditures for maintenance of the nativity scene was necessary and any tangible material the city contributed was minimal. The Court explained in great detail how church and state cannot and have never been completely separate from each other. As one example, the Court brought attention to the fact that there are government funded art exhibits that include famous religious scenes such as “The Last Supper” and “The Birth of Christ.” Generally, the Court will invalidate government action where that action was motivated wholly by religious considerations and where no secular purpose is evident. (Stone v. Graham 449 U.S. 39 (1980)). The Lynch decision was a split decision, however, with five of the justices believing Pawtucket’s use of the nativity scene was constitutional and four believing it was not.

In the Allegheny case, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County – both in Pennsylvania – were sued due to two recurring holiday displays on public property that depicted religious symbols. The first display was a creche – model or tableau representing the scene of Jesus’ birth – inside the main, most beautiful, public part of the county courthouse. The creche was displayed on the grand staircase of the courthouse and was surrounded by traditional Christmas greens. The creche was donated by the Holy Name Society, a Roman Catholic group, and included a sign stating such. Included in the creche itself was a picture of an angel and the words, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!” which means “Glory to God in the highest!” The U.S. Supreme Court found this to be an unconstitutional display mostly because the creche itself was the focal point of the display and there was nothing to detract from the patently religious (Christian) meaning and message. This is a stark contrast to the Lynch display which included primarily secular symbols.

The second Allegheny holiday display was outside the city-county building and was an 18-foot-tall menorah standing alongside a 45-foot-tall Christmas tree. The mayor’s name was on a sign at the base of the Christmas tree along with the words:

“Salute to Liberty. During this holiday season, the city of Pittsburgh salutes liberty. Let these festive lights remind us that we are the keepers of the flame of liberty and our legacy of freedom.”

The menorah is owned by a religious group but is stored, erected and removed each year by the city. The Court held in this instance that in the context of the display as a whole, the Christmas tree was the primary focal point, not the menorah, and Christmas trees are largely considered secular Christmas symbols. The Court further felt that the sign saluting liberty further detracted from any possible religious meaning behind the display. The Court determined that the display was a culturally diverse permissible recognition that Christmas and Hanukah are both part of the same winter holiday season. Allegheny was also a split Court decision on both issues.

Note that the above doesn’t address the situation where a private individual or group wants to erect a religious display on government property, but rather if the government itself is the sponsor of such a display. Generally, if a public entity allows a private individual or group to erect a temporary display of some kind on public property, a public forum is opened and restrictions on other individuals or groups who want to erect displays in that space must typically be limited to time, place and manner and, for the most part, should not be content based. To the extent restrictions are based on the content of the display, such restrictions must be necessary and narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.

Disclaimer: This blog article should be considered general information and should not be construed as legal advice. The article is a high-level overview of some of the considerations a court will look at when analyzing the constitutionality of religious symbols in a government display. The reader should not act on the information contained herein but rather should act on the advice of his/her own legal counsel.

Resources consulted for this article include:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Kwanzaa
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hanukkah
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christmas
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus
https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/22/us/hanukkah-questions-answered-trnd/index.html
https://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/first-amendment-and-religion
Lynch v. Donnelly 465 U.S. 668 (1984)
County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter 492 U.S. 573 (1989)

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

This blog post was written by Sylvia Watson, library law consultant and legal counsel, Indiana State Library. For more information, email Sylvia.

IFLA 80th World Library and Information Congress recap; 2021 update

Back on Aug. 24-27, 2019, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions held its 80th World Library and Information Congress in Athens, Greece. Filled with pre-conference events, sessions, meetings and exhibits, the IFLA World Library and Information Congress attracts thousands of library and information professionals from around the globe each year. The 2019 conference theme was “Libraries: Dialogues for Change”.

Sessions of interest included the “OCLC Symposium,” “Data Mining and Artificial Intelligence,” “Strengthening the Global Voice: Securing the Future of Libraries,” “The Migration of Books: Cultural Heritage (Objects) and Ideas on the Move,” “Gatekeeping to Advocacy: Government Libraries” and “Technology as Gateway to Inclusivity: Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities.”

In addition to conference sessions, attendees took advantage of the conference’s various library and site-seeing tours and experienced the culture of Greece on “Cultural Night.”

Held throughout the week, the site-seeing tours included visits to the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, ancient Corinth, the Monastery of Daphni, Cape Sounion, Old Athens, Olympia, Kolonaki, Kalamata, Messini, Koroni, Methoni, Mystras, Monanemvasia, Santorini, Hydra, Poros, Aegina and a food tour.

Also held throughout the week, were library tours to the Bank of Greece Library, the Infant and Toddler Library, the Institut Français de Grèce – Médiathèque Octave Merlier, the National Library of Greece, the Hellenic American College Library, Law Library of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Parnassos Literary Society’s Library, the Academy of Athens Library, the Library of the Hellenic Parliament, the Greek Comics Fun Club (Lefik), the Athens Comics Library and several other libraries.

In addition, attendees could visit various archives: General State Archives of Greece, the Dora Stratou Greek Dances Theater, Archives and Publications, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Archive and the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive.

On “Cultural Night,” held at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center, conference attendees experienced Greek food, performances by Greek dancers and musicians. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center houses the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera, the Agora, the Lighthouse, the Canal and Stavros Niarchos Park.

The IFLA WLIC 2019 ended with an announcement of the locations of IFLA WLIC 2020 and 2021. The 2020 conference was scheduled to be held in Dublin, Ireland but due to COVID-19, it was cancelled. A recent press release relayed the following update regarding the 2021 conference:

…our 2021 Congress will take place virtually, with the welcome support of the Dutch National Committee.

The physical conference previously planned in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, will move to 2023, and take place in a hybrid online/in-person format. We continue to plan for an in-person conference in Dublin, Ireland in 2022, with a strengthened online element.

For more information about IFLA, its conferences, publications, webinars, events and projects, please visit the IFLA website.

This blog post was written by Michele Fenton, monographs and federal documents catalog librarian.

Restarting resource sharing

As Indiana libraries closed their doors this spring during Gov. Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, resource sharing between libraries ground to a halt. As libraries across the state closed, the Indiana State Library made the difficult decision to suspend interlibrary loan delivery service. In fact, no delivery service was provided by the statewide courier during April and for most of May.

As public libraries began reopening their doors as early as May 4 – when allowed per the governor’s Back on Track Indiana plan – delivery service resumed shortly after on May 11. With academic libraries reopening later this summer, nearly 90% of our libraries are now back on InfoExpress and sharing books via Evergreen Indiana and our numerous resource sharing services.

During the shutdown, books in transit were safely held either at the borrowing libraries or at NOW Courier’s statewide hubs. Most materials have since been returned to their home libraries, but the company’s staff is still working to sort through a backlog of parcels, while working to accommodate libraries’ shifting schedules and reduced hours.

In response to the virus, and following industry best practices, NOW Courier has implemented safety measures for handling and delivering materials including wearing face masks and gloves and limiting contact with library staff. Additionally, safety precautions are being taken at libraries such as hand washing and quarantining of shipped materials and books. While some research suggests the COVID-19 virus cannot survive on most print materials for more than 24 hours, many libraries are opting to quarantine items for 72 hours or longer. Liquids and other disinfecting methods like heat and UV light are not recommended as they may damage materials. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared in a March 30 webinar for library staff that they do not believe library materials are a transmission route for COVID-19.

Now that most libraries are back to sharing, we encourage Hoosiers to take advantage of the resource sharing options offered by their library. If your library doesn’t have a book you need, ask circulation staff if it is available electronically or via interlibrary loan. Finally, all Hoosiers have access to INSPIRE.IN.gov, a free online library that includes research materials, news publications, eBooks, and K-12 resources.

A fall resource sharing update for Indiana library staff is scheduled for Oct. 2. Additional information and a link to registration can be found here.

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.

The struggle is real: Reaching teens

One of the most common questions I get from library staff is “How do I get teens into the library?” For many libraries, it may seem as if it’s feast or famine – either they are swamped by after school crowds or they never see any teens step foot in the door. The crowds can be dealt with, but how do you get teens into the your library?

My go-to answer for the above question is, “Don’t expect them to,” meaning don’t expect them to come into the library, with expect being the key word here. Why would they come into the library? There’s a lot working against it – whether or not they can get a ride, what their friends are doing, how many after school commitments they have – the list goes on.  Going to the library has to be a conscious decision they make and then they must have the transportation and support to actually get there.

 Photo by Nicole Berro from PexelsSome better questions to ask might be, “Why aren’t the teens in my library?,” “What are the barriers to service?,” “What is structurally in place that stops them from coming in?,” and most importantly, “What can we do to overcome those barriers?”

The answer to these questions will be unique to each system and branch. Start by taking a close look at the culture and atmosphere of your library. Do teens feel welcome there? If no, what is causing them to feel unwelcome? Do your co-workers or administration understand why it’s good to have teen patrons, rather than becoming frustrated by them? I do staff day trainings on this topic and am working with the Young Adult Library Services Association to offer more workshops on teen services. The short version of the message I share in these trainings is that we can help teens gain important life skills through our programs. Well-rounded teens make for well-rounded citizens, and teens with positive library experiences make lifelong library users.

If transportation or busy schedules is a major issue, consider going to them. Where are they gathering? Is school the best place to reach them in a non-pandemic year? Could you reach them during lunch or after school at an extracurricular? Of course, COVID-19 has created an even bigger barrier. The answer to “where are the teens” right now is hopefully “home.” Even schools that are opening this fall will likely limit who can enter their buildings and public library staff may not make the cut. So, what can you do?

Look for other community groups that might help you reach teens. Connect with organizations in your area, such as social justice organizations, church youth groups, YMCAs or Boys & Girls Clubs, to arrange for on-site book pick-up and drop-off services, kit lending or even virtual programming. They may also be able to put you in touch with teens who are interested in particular topics – like gaming or STEM – or those who would make great teen advisory board members.

Figuring out who to partner with in your community is your first step. Take a look around. Drive through your streets and make note of organizations and businesses you might contact. Ask co-workers with teens what their kids do after school. Does your library have teen shelvers or pages? What do they suggest?

If you are from a community so tiny that you don’t have any groups or organizations to work with, might delivery be an option? Come up with a project that will benefit a charity, like making blankets to donate to your county’s Humane Society. Then offer to drop blanket making kits off at the homes of your teens. If that’s not feasible, reach out to your school librarian, or any other teacher with whom you have a relationship, and ask them to recommend teens for the aforementioned teen advisory board. Make it an honor that requires a teacher recommendation and will look good on their college applications! The board can meet via Zoom.

If you already have a pre-COVID established group of teen patrons, this may all be *slightly* easier for you. Zoom meetings and book clubs, YouTube craft tutorials and using Discord for chatting or gaming with your teen crowd have all been common ways to reach out to existing teen patrons. One example of a library using Discord with teens come from the Pendleton Community Public Library. Their teen librarian, Matthew Stephenson, had an established group of teen patrons before the pandemic and has stayed in touch with them using Discord. See my interview with Matthew below and check out this Discord tutorial, recorded by Andrew Laverghetta, a librarian from Eckhart Public Library.

Ultimately, what you do will depend on your unique community and what it needs. What works at one library may not work at yours. This is a time to reevaluate our library services and determine what is essential, and to refocus on quality over quantity. If you can have an impact on the lives of even a few teens in the middle of the pandemic, that’s significant.

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Interview with teen librarian Matthew Stephenson, Pendleton Community Public Library:

How have you been reaching teens during this time?
As we moved our teen programs and services to Discord, the teens who were already using Discord embraced the “new normal.” However, we have a significant portion of teens who rely on places outside of their home for high speed internet that makes Discord, Zoom and other resources possible. Because of that, I think some teens who would enjoy and embrace our virtual services are unable to find a time or place to do so.

Did you already have a pretty solid group of teen patrons?
I had a very solid group of teens who would be in the library multiple times a week. Some have made a similar commitment online since March. Others I haven’t heard from since then.

Have you reached new ones?
A few teens have discovered our virtual programs and services through our summer reading program, which incentivized joining the library’s teen Discord server.

What other methods have you used, besides Discord?
I have used Netflix Party to watch and talk about anime as a group. I’ve had a few teens who want to watch a whole movie that way. I’ve tried to use Zoom, but most of the teens who have attended are leery of being on camera. Lastly, I recently used Kahoot! to make a quiz competition. A few of the teens really enjoyed it, but thought I made the quiz too difficult, which I am, admittedly, prone to do.

Examples of any virtual programs you’ve done?
I’ve converted our in-library video and tabletop game programs to virtual versions done through Discord. They can get five to ten participating teens on a regular basis, but can accommodate up to 50. Our Teen Quiz had several participants and was asynchronous, which seems to be more popular with teens since COVID-19 and our building project began in the spring.

Is the library open to teen patrons yet?
Most of the library is currently closed for renovations, but we are offering essential services, such as copying, faxing and circulation of materials in our community room. All computer sessions are limited to one hour and patrons are encouraged to not linger in the limited areas open to them. We hope to open the library to next phase of reopening, which we call ‘Grab and Go,’ in August.

Thoughts on how you have/might work with schools this fall, pending your area’s school reopening plans?
We are launching our “One Card One Student” initiative at the beginning of the school year, which will give every student in our school system a special library card to use our databases and check out e-books. I believe that will place the library as an even more important complementary element to improve e-learning for our community’s students. This is in addition to offering Tutor.com to our residents and placing our Student Portal front and center on our library’s homepage.

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This blog post was written by Beth Yates, children’s consultant for the Indiana State Library.