Join the $10 x 100 Challenge!

Urban Librarians UNite $10 x 100 campaign graphic, ULU logo and thermometer

Hi! Welcome to the ULU $10 x 100 challenge! ULU is challenging our supporters to get 100 people willing to step up and support us for just $10 a month.

ULU does the stuff the big library advocacy organizations can’t, because we have no one to answer to but YOU. We are doing immediate, impactful work for — and by — frontline librarians and library lovers like you. We are gathering resources for refugees. We’re looking at the opioid crisis and exploring librarians’ rights and responsibilities. We’re advocating for adequate resources, telling truth to power, throwing crazy, awesome conferences, and still giving librarians a space to party together (ax-throwing, anyone?). We are your entrepreneurial library association: fast moving, person-driven, quick, agile, and creative.

Pledge levels

  • Your sustaining donation of $10 a month will cover the costs of keeping up and available.
  • Your sustaining donation of $20 a month will cover a speaking fee for the annual Urban Liobrarians Conference! (A small price to pay for inspiring so many!)
  • Are you a high roller? Your sustaining donation of $75 a month will keep our websites malware free! Yay! (no one likes malware)

Urban Librarians Unite is run entirely by volunteers. All of your support goes to serving you while you serve your community. Currently we have a kick-ass conference, are running the project, are developing a white paper to look at how libraries can help in the opioid crisis, we have a network of mini libraries in NYC, and still do awesome social/networking events. We are doing the work that you became a librarian to do: to democratize information and use it to help the most vulnerable. We accomplish a lot for a small org and we hustle to do it. If we hit our goal we will have a new level of organizational capacity and can expand our work on, well, pretty much everything.

If you have ever come to our conference, attended one of our parties, benefited from our advocacy, learned something from one of our trainings, or just believe in what we do as a tiny independent library organization this is the time to step up. Go here to sign up for your monthly pledge. After you are done there, reach out to some of your friends and get them to sign up. Your support makes a real and significant difference to our organization. 

New Yorkers Deserve Better than Stagnant Library Funding

photo of teh front facade of the BPL central library, with the words "do we only deserve half a library, per capita funding for NYC libraries is HALF the state Average"Did you know that the per capita library funding in NYC is approximately half the state average?

New York City deserves better. Better library funding for operating budgets, better library buildings, increased programming, more technology access, you get the point.

Today at Noon the NYC Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and Intergroup Relations will be holding a hearing on library funding in the FY19 city budget. Once again the budget is flat, and again we are faced with the possibility of trying meet much higher costs with the same amount of money. We all know how this feels. It’s like when your rent spikes but your salary doesn’ of leanard library, with a thermometer showing 87 degrees and teh words "New Yorkers deserve better than broken HVACS"

And that’s just operating funding, All three library systems are still faced with large capital budget shortfalls. They need increased funding to meet the backlog of maintenance needs. There are broken HVACs that cause closures, buildings that don’t meet ADA standards, and did you know that it’s NOT supposed to rain inside the library?

So what do we do?

We fight the heck out of it. Libraries in NYC have been left out of the economic prosperity of the last few years, and that means that our patrons are also being left out of that. They deserve better. So you need to speak up.

Start by Signing a letter

Then write a postcard, share on Twitter and Instagram, call your councilman’s office. Then if you have time, read our testimony below!

Urban Librarians Unite – Executive Budget Testimony
May 18, 2018

As representatives of Urban Librarians Unite, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony today.

Over the last year libraries have continued to open the doors to everyone in our community. Continued to provide access to learning and recreational opportunities, continued to help with social services, immigration issues, NYC continues to be a center for library innovation. As an outside group let us tell you that having three of the finest library systems in the world in the same city in constant friendly competition with one another has wonderful benefits for all of our patrons and the residents of New York City.

An increase of 16 million dollars will allow us to continue that work. With no funding increase in 3 years, it is difficult to maintain the same services, much less expand services. Costs have gone up, but the funding level hasn’t. It is disruptive and inefficient to have this constant worry and concern, sure it is not the budget dance but in some ways it feels like the same old shuffle. Library administration, leadership, and the individual managers of branches all have to devote huge amounts of time trying to compensate for unstable budgets. We thank you for the gains that we have made but if those gains are not built into long term planning than we are just setting the Tri-Li up for more deep issues in years to come.

As an organization made up of front line library staff here at ULU it’s the little thing that that will make the most difference. The minimum wage has increased, but the amount of money available for part time salaries has not. Usually we would be hiring hiring seniors helping them to continue to contribute to their community and to continue to make a wage after retirement. Yes, we would also be hiring the classic teen aged pages who put books on the shelves and it should come as no surprise to you that those pages are the seeds of our profession in the future. We have on our own board a librarian who started off as a teen mentor in the Queens Far Rockaway Library and now provides leadership on library issues at a national level, that’s not hyperbole, we work with the guy, he’s on our board. We can’t do this if we don’t have increased funding at the basic level we need people to shelve the books, teach the classes, run the programs, so that we can do the amazing things that the library presidents have told you about today. You are sitting on a furnace of innovation, why stifle it?

As we navigate what it means to be an inclusive city, libraries are perfectly poised to play a major role. They are one of our most trusted public institutions and they are that way because YOU have made them that way. It’s due to the hard work of supporters like Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Speaker Cory Johnson that our libraries are able to be cost effective, high impact, neighborhood-level embedded catalysts for social good. (speaking of cost effective, do you know what to do if you need copper wire in a library? Throw a penny between two children’s librarians).

If the three library systems which serve Our Fair City have to start making tough decisions, they just won’t be able to contribute the same way. We are growing, we are innovating, we are staffed and we are ready, let us work, let us serve, let us be agents of change, joy and growth in our communities. We will work so hard for you, but you know that, Thank you for what you have done and what you WILL do to support libraries in New York City.

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On Getting Punched in the Face While Working at the Library

(Happy National Library Week!)

How library workers at small urban branches combat the true violence of oppression poverty

Steve Kemple


On Saturday afternoon a man punched me in the face (I’m OK) while I was working at the Price Hill Branch Library in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I’m the manager. (Happy National Library Week to you, too!) I asked the man to leave because he was belligerently yelling profanity and racial slurs at a teenager. The man — who has since been taken into police custody — was clearly agitated and mentally unwell; the words coming out of his mouth were clearly the product of a disordered mind. However, antagonistic words and behavior are unacceptable in the library, and in this case he was in violation of our Standards of Behavior. I proceeded to escort him out of the building, following a few paces behind to make sure he left. Halfway to the door, he spun around and made a lunging gesture at me. When I didn’t flinch, he struck me on the right side of my head with his left hand. It wasn’t a strong blow, but it was enough to knock my glasses off. I was more stunned than anything. I simply gestured to the door: “Leave. Now.”

The rest of what happened isn’t important. There was a police detail on premise, which prevented the situation from getting uglier (although the guy did get away; he has since been apprehended).

I’m sharing this narrative for a couple of reasons. First, in a weird way, there’s a silver lining: a lot of kids were in the library when this happened. One thing I’m constantly struggling to impart to them is the importance of — and power in — not fighting back. When I talk to kids about this, they always say “but what if someone’s attacking you. Are you just gonna let them?” In their minds, there are three options: 1. fight back (win or lose, at least you aren’t a coward); 2. let them beat you up (maybe you’re not a coward, but you sure are stupid) or 3. run away (coward!). I honestly can’t say I was thinking this (or anything) in the heat of the moment, but in retrospect I feel like I was able to show them this lesson in a real, tangible way. I stood my ground. I didn’t fight back. I calmly told him to get out. And he got out.

Later on, looking at the security footage of the event, I saw something I didn’t catch the first time around. There’s a teenager, I’d guess 13 or 14 years old, standing on the other side of the library watching it all go down. He’s someone I haven’t interacted with individually very many times. Sometimes he’s in a group that gets too loud, and I have to walk over and ask them to lower their voices, turn off cell phone music, etc. This is usually the extent of our interaction. When the man punched me, this kid didn’t hesitate: He briskly walked across the library, fists clenched, clearly ready to jump in and fight this dude on my behalf. (The guy who hit me, by the way, was around 6’2″ and muscular). As I’m steering the man towards the exit (keeping my distance, mind you), the kid stops. He looks at me, and then to the man, who is heading out the door, and back to me. The kid’s fists are still clenched, but he stays behind me in a stance of solidarity. He was emulating my body language.

I’m proud to have been able to clearly demonstrate a different kind of masculinity. I hope it made a lasting impression on him and the other kids, and I hope he always remembers the power of nonviolence. There were lots of other kids, too, who came running. Yes, there was an element of spectacle, but it felt like something more. Solidarity. Watching the security footage, I’m humbled.

The second reason I want to share these events is to convey the swift and powerful response of support I received from my library’s administration. Within an hour, two regional managers, my HR rep, and a member of our Senior Leadership Team reached out to see if I was okay and to offer guidance and support. Our HR director personally came out to the branch just to see how I was doing. This was all on a Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive response.

Finally, I want to use this as an opportunity to put a spotlight on the kind of work performed in small urban libraries and the frankly heroic feats that library workers perform every day. Collections of books and digital resources are awesome, but there’s an even more valuable resource that’s shared by every library: its staff. Staff are every library’s most important and valuable resource.

The blocks surrounding the Price Hill Library are among the most densely populated in Cincinnati. The poverty rate on some blocks is higher than 60%, and the eviction rate on the block adjacent to the library is in the top 1% in the nation, at 17.71% as of 2016 (see data on The eviction filing rate is even higher, at 26.04%. That means in 2016 eviction proceedings were filed against 1 in 4 households. I can only imagine living under the constant fear of losing your home, barely scraping by.

Which isn’t to suggest that there aren’t people in the neighborhood who manage a stable life — many are thriving. I’m continually in awe at the resilience of the people I’ve had the privilege of serving and getting to know. But every day I see people walking through the doors desperate for an escape. The people in the Price Hill community rely on the library not only as a point of access to needed information, resources and entertainment, but also a respite from a stressful existence as well as a place to gather. When people walk up the steps and through the door, this is what they cary with them, this is what they seek, and this is what we try our best to provide.

And while it pales in comparison to what the people we serve deal with, it still takes its toll on staff. A major source of work stress is our building — which opened in 1909 and has never been renovated — simply isn’t designed to accommodate the number of people we serve. Our median daily visitor count is more than 400. Many days more than 600 people walk through the door. Price Hill has the highest number of visitors per staff hour per open hour in the entire system. Yet we are one of the smallest branches in the system, in terms of square footage, staffing, and allocation of resources such as program funds. At peak times, we may see 20, 30, or more children and teens in the building, along with a dozen or more adults. Many of them walk in looking for respite from whatever crisis life is presently dealing them. Many of them walk in, un- or underemployed, with un- or inadequately-treated mental or general health issues. Many of them are hungry. They may come in fresh from having lost their job, or been served eviction papers, or witnessed a friend or family member overdose. They come in with burdens saddled upon them by the life of systemic poverty and oppression. The staff at Price Hill and other small urban branches are there to help in any way we can.

I do want to to shy away from portraying library staff as saviors, which is obviously problematic. But the work performed, the emotional labor, the environment endured, is worth highlighting.

While it’s frustrating to see how urban branches serving the city’s most vulnerable populations have been allowed to languish over the decades — even as more and more people are displaced into those neighborhoods and the need for library service becomes greater and greater — I believe there is cause for optimism. The recent past has seen a slow reversal of this trend. New positions have been created (we’ve had a Teen Librarian for a month now, and other small urban branches have been getting new TL positions as well). There are other initiatives in the works that will help level the playing field for the small urban branches. I can feel the tide turning.

Most crucially, however, is the upcoming levy, Issue 3 on the ballot May 8th. The primary purpose for seeking this levy is to fund a much needed facilities plan, central to which is repairing and updating the branches whose buildings are unable to accommodate the needs of their communities. For Price Hill, this means:

  • Becoming handicap/ADA accessible (which would also entail completely redoing our vile public restroom, hallelujah!)
  • Sidewalk replacement
  • Update electrical wiring (more outlets!)
  • Flooring repairs
  • Interior paint and plaster
  • Furniture replacement
  • New lighting
  • Exterior painting
  • Etc.

This means that, for the public, the branch will be much more comfortable. We are going to be looking at the layout and thinking about how to best accommodate the number of people who use the branch. For staff, this will mean a better work environment.

For those of you in Cincinnati, voting starts April 10th and Election Day is May 8th. If you value the important and inherently radical work that library workers perform every day, I urge you to publicly share your support for Issue 3, and, of course, VOTE!

So, as we enter into National Library Week, consider going to a small urban library and thanking the staff for the challenging work they do. Just please don’t punch anyone in the face.

Steve Kemple is the manager of the Price Hill Branch Library in Cincinnati, Ohio

Posted with permission from Medium

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#InvestinLibraries for #SOTC2018

In the current NYC FY 2018 – 22 February Plan, the TriLi will receive flat levels of funding that leave no room for increased support, increased or new resources, or improvements to infrastructure.  

Join us on Twitter as we raise awareness for libraries during the Mayor’s State of the City Address! Follow #SOTC2018 and @ULUnyc and let our Mayor’s office know that we want to #InvestinLibraries.

Please feel free to copy & Paste these tweets or customize them!


  • Making NYC the “fairest big city in America” can’t happen if improvements & support for libraries aren’t adequately budgeted. We deserve more than flat funding levels. @NYCMayor #SOTC2018 #InvestinLibraries
  • Libraries provide services in every aspect — education, immigration, employment seeking resources, youth engagement, — for all New Yorkers. #InvestinLibraries for stronger services. #SOTC2018 @NYCMayor
  • Libraries are the cornerstone of every community. #InvestinLibraries  and invest in all New Yorkers. #SOTC2018 @NYCMayor
  • Libraries are a safe haven for many teens and young adults, with dedicated teen spaces all throughout the NYC. #InvestinLibraries #SOTC2018 @NYCMayor
  • Successful NYC businesses got their start at the local library. #InvestinLibraries and invest in small businesses of NYC. #SOTC2018 @NYCMayor
  • Across the 5 boros, NYC Libraries play critical roles in providing services to new immigrants, from English Conversation hours to providing tangible resources on citizenship. #InvestinLibraries #SOTC2018 @NYCMayor
  • NYC libraries are often the only place that households have access to internet. Flat-funding leaves no room for infrastructure repair or tech replacement. #InvestinLibraries #SOTC2018 @NYCMayor
  • NYC libraries continue to make integral steps toward leveling the playing field for all, regardless of income or background — and waived fines for all youth so they can have unencumbered access to books, tech, & more.  #InvestinLibraries #SOTC2018 @NYCMayor
  • Libraries are one of the few places where all people and generations can be and work together. #investinlibraries #SOTC2018 @NYCMayor

Net Neutrality and some FCC BS

The FCC is set to vote to eliminate net neutrality this December. Urban Librarians Unite joins the dozens of organizations denouncing this action.

Open access to information and the unbiased dissemination of information is critical to democracy and education. The “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposed rulemaking of FCC Chairman Pai focuses on how the Internet flourished for two decades of “light-touch regulatory framework.” It didn’t flourish for Americans. During those two decades we saw the exponential increase in the digital divide that left rural Americans disconnected and we saw Internet Service Providers (ISP) interfering with their customers’ access to certain information.

We are just weeks away from an FCC vote tokill net neutrality. Only Congress can stop it.

If you’re a relatively moderate consumer of news and occasionally take a peek at social media, you may see a lot of threads and posts about #NetNeutrality, or #SavetheInternet — and it’s a big fucking deal.

So here’s the deal with Net Neutrality – the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently requires internet service providers to treat all online data equally. As in, they can’t charge more for highly trafficked sites, they can’t slow down service to others, provide preferential treatment to certain sites, or prioritize access to others — if it’s an ISP, they have to provide the same level of connectivity that is being paid for across all of the internet. This ensures that there is a level playing field for everyone on the internet.

(Disclaimer: that last statement is very generally speaking and in reference only to Net Neutrality — lots of other advantages do exist to companies and content creators online, but at the very damn least, access to their site and to another site that has less attention would be equal.)

Led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the Republican majority FCC now wants to roll back this order; they’re set to vote on it by December 14.

K. Not cool.

Want to know what that may look like?
Business Insider already drafted that up for us, with a bit of an in-depth look into how Portugal allows mobile data providers to handle their business. Basically, Meo, Portugal’s wireless carrier, charges for access to different apps on a tier

Portugal customers of MEO’s tariff pay for the proprietary apps, but for varying big name social apps, they have to cough up additional costs per month.

And all these big name apps? Our Net Neutrality ensures that they can’t pay off a provider to monopolize the market. Our Net Neutrality ensures a fair market for others to rise up and compete against these big names. Our Net Neutrality also ensures that people/consumers can access other avenues aside from these apps that tend to dominate the market.

It happened here. Without net neutrality, our access to applications varied with the network we were connected to. In 2012, AT&T blocked Apple’s FaceTime application for users connected to its network. Users were allowed to access the application once they connected to a different network. FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in re: Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet at 41.

And that’s just one example of how it reversing this order can turn out.

What if ISPs decide that certain sites don’t align with their political/religious/social views?
Without the Net Neutrality order, they could theoretically block access to sites like YouTube, Facebook, or even your own blog where you spew of these radical ideas of how libraries are important as fuck.
Or your digital portfolio, or your online resume…. Or your LinkedIn because there are certain companies there that they don’t agree with or haven’t paid a fee to them…
And on and on and on and on.

Net Neutrality means no blocking, no paid prioritization, no cherry picking which sites or apps get ‘fast lane’ access.

And for those assholes that say that this is all theoretical? Remind them that they’re eliminating the power of choice and they are basically making it legal for companies to silence your free speech and the free speech of others.

Don’t let this corporation-dominated FCC pull one over you.

Save the fucking internet.