Why are all the newspapers talking about libraries this weekend?
February 28, 2009 10:26 PM   Subscribe

Why is the (supposed) story about libraries and the recession seemingly spontaneously appearing in every single newspaper this week?

I understand how wire services work, and how newspapers often "borrow" stories from one another, but why is it that suddenly every newspaper is running a story about how libraries are affected by the current economic situation? Each story seems to be sourced uniquely but written with similar storylines. Examples: 1 2 3 4 5

There are a lot more available on google, but almost all are dated in the past three days. This seems WAYYYYYY to coincidental to me. Is there a single PR agency at work here? Jessamyn, can you weigh in on this?
posted by crazyray to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Omnibus Pork Bill that passed Congress week before last had a clause in it that said that none of the money in it could be used for libraries. (Don't ask me why.)

I suspect that the people responsible for libraries are pissed about being excluded from the public feeding trough, and are trying to fight back by placing "Boy, are we in massive trouble, and you'll be too if we die" stories in hopes of getting that changed.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:31 PM on February 28, 2009

I couldn't tell you exactly what day, but I saw a version of this story in a local paper well over a week ago.

In answer to your question, it could be because this is something that is occuring in lots of cities and towns that are being affected in similar ways by what we are for now calling a recession, and it is being noticed and reported on by people who write news.

I'm not trying to be snide, I'm just suggesting that this could be occuring "organically."
posted by longsleeves at 11:09 PM on February 28, 2009

I don't think it's just the last three days. This story seems to be a staple judging by Google News results.

The three days before the last three days





I know our local paper's reporters have been tasked to write more "how are people coping?" stories.
posted by dhartung at 11:16 PM on February 28, 2009

Sometimes media outlets search for stories to print. AP and Reuters are examples of sources that medias pick up stories from. Since the recession is a big issue, newspapers look for recession-related stories, and apparently that one struck a chord.
posted by Piscean at 11:17 PM on February 28, 2009

It might be a coordinated effort by the American Library Association. Call up some of the people responsible for public outreach and ask them. Organizations like this often encourage members to recite talking points to local reporters, resulting in a flurry of similar sounding stories.
posted by benzenedream at 12:35 AM on March 1, 2009

I don't know if it's relevant, but freedom to read week was the last week of February. Although it looks like that may just be a canuck thing (?).
posted by juv3nal at 5:51 AM on March 1, 2009

Best answer: The Omnibus Pork Bill that passed Congress week before last had a clause in it that said that none of the money in it could be used for libraries. (Don't ask me why.) I suspect that the people responsible for libraries are pissed about being excluded from the public feeding trough,

Cite? I found this story from the ALA (the first hit on Google for stimulus libraries):
The $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (PDF file) signed by President Obama February 17 includes several economic-stimulus provisions that could directly benefit libraries, notes the American Library Association’s Washington Office: ...

Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff cited librarians’ role in shaping the legislation: After an amendment was introduced in the Senate that would have stripped the broadband funding for libraries, an alert from ALA generated over 1,200 phone calls in three hours, helping convince legislators to retain the provision.

Explaining that governors will have great discretion in how to spend the stimulus, Sheketoff told American Libraries that librarians “need to start talking to their governors to make sure the governors know to direct funds to libraries.” She added that the Washington Office has set up a website to provide information on how librarians can benefit from the stimulus.
So that attempt to specifically strip broadband funding for libraries failed, and there is no mention of any early or current attempt to exclude libraries from getting any funds from the Act. I would have expected to hear a HUGE outcry from librarians if the situation was as you originally described, and there is no such outcry.

In answer to the original question: I agree with benzenedream: the ALA is running a tough, smart campaign in Washington and in the media to get some of the money. My fingers are crossed for them.
posted by maudlin at 5:57 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a media blitz by the ALA's PR people and lobbyists.
posted by gjc at 6:38 AM on March 1, 2009

Best answer: Jessamyn, can you weigh in on this?

Yep, assuming that it's got to do with the stimulus package. I've been getting plenty of URGENT updates about it over the past few weeks. Otherwise I think it's a slow news week. There have been a lot of these articles since people officially got the idea of the recession "hey in a recession people need libraries more than ever!" Sort of a "duh" statement in my opinion but maybe people need reminding?

Also in Vermont it's town meeting coming up which means our librarians have to justify their budgets to a bunch of people which, if I were seeing these articles in my local papers might explain some of it.
posted by jessamyn at 11:30 AM on March 1, 2009

I note Kevin Costner's movie, The Postman, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic America. In one scene, a group of hard-core bandits stones the shack projecting a movie when it plays the violent movie Mad Max instead of the more hopeful Sound of Music.

It's the end of February and the start of March. People in the northern climes are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and missing the sunshine. It's been a snow-filled winter and many people have the winter blues.

In addition, bad news hits week after week not only about international and national hardship, but also about local hardship. So many people have either lost their jobs or are in fear of losing their jobs.

In a time of prominent bad news, good news sells. It's good news that even if the economy is tanking, it's at least good for libraries. This makes us feel good because we like to think that we're literate and working to improve ourselves. That's really what the American dream is about, and right now it feels as if that's been lost in some way. The library story is a reassurance that all is not lost.

For these reasons, I agree with longsleeves that these stories could be happening organically. I think a lot of people everywhere are looking for hope and the bright side.
posted by SocialArgonaut at 6:44 PM on March 2, 2009

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