I’ll bet you know somebody who goes to a bookstore to read, relax and drink coffee. Millions of Americans do that regularly. So why not create that same kind of coffee shop experience at your local library?
According to the American Library Association, a number of libraries already have their own coffee shops. They tend to attract younger patrons; 40 percent of 18-to-24 year olds and 54 percent of 25-to-39 year olds drink coffee every day. These are just the kind of users we need to keep our library systems vital.
Great libraries are essential to the quality of life in our communities. Here are five reasons why:
- Libraries promote literacy. Governments spend tremendous amounts of money on public education, and especially in the current school testing environment, our grade schools are trying every kind of gimmick to improve literacy. But there has always been one best way to promote reading: provide easy access to books, stories and articles that people want to read.
- Libraries provide a peaceful place to study. In urban areas, and especially in low-income neighborhoods, there aren’t many places residents can go to sit and study in relative quiet.
- Libraries encourage a sense of community. They are an excellent place for both formal and informal meetings. It is common for established civic and educational groups to gather in libraries on a regular basis. But they can also be a perfect impromptu meeting place for friends.
- Libraries promote citizenship. Libraries routinely promote voter registration, encourage civic engagement, and often serve as polling places. Getting people to go to libraries also tends to get them involved in their communities.
- For low-income residents, libraries are often the only place people can go online. Nowadays it’s hard to look for a job or opportunities for advancement without a computer. Today, everyone needs to be able to access email.
Over time, a library coffee shop will likely break even or turn a profit for the library whether it’s run by the library itself, by a non-profit friends of the library organization, or outsourced to a chain.
What’s holding back most libraries is the fact that almost every business loses money at first. Elected officials can kick-start library coffee shops by making available grants or loans to help with the start-up costs.
Getting a coffee shop for your own constituents in your local library has got to be great politics. Books and coffee go together! Let your friends and neighbors savor the experience.
Most restaurant guests think that when they tip a waiter their money is going to that employee, or at least is pooled among the workers. But in 43 states, that’s not really the case. Much of that tip is—indirectly—being pocketed by the restaurant.
Here’s how. Most states have a lower minimum wage for tipped employees than for everyone else. On the federal level, the current minimum wage is $7.25/hour but for tipped employees it’s only $2.13/hour. Part of our tips subsidize the restaurants for the missing $5.12/hour and only part increases the overall wages of the servers.
Why are corporations allowed to skim off employee tips? Why has the federal tipped minimum wage remained stuck at $2.13/hour since 1991? The National Restaurant Association (called the “other NRA” in Washington) has convinced Congress that waiters make enough money. But, as you surely know, that’s not true.
When President Obama presented his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, progressives applauded on the outside but grumbled on the inside. Lipstick on a pig notwithstanding, our federal government is hopeless. Last year we saw a do-less-than-nothing Congress, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. The President will continue to cajole, congressional right-wingers will continue to obstruct, and almost nothing positive will happen in Washington.
But there is little-noticed good news. Real progress is being made in states and localities across America. Progressive legislators, council members and commissioners are leading the newest policy debates and enacting a wide range of innovations, protections and reforms. These lawmakers are at the vanguard of the progressive movement and we need to recognize their accomplishments.
The Public Leadership Institute, in collaboration with ALICE, recently published a report, Progress in the States and Localities, which features 177 significant victories and 44 defeats in 2013. Here are the highlights of that report, the top ten most important progressive victories of the past year:
Last week National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis VanRoekel announced a series of initiatives which mark a significant milestone in NEA’s history which will directly and indirectly impact education in your state or locality.
He described the transformation the country's largest union is going through to prepare the next generation of teacher and educator leaders and create concrete solutions for our nation's public school students. While these efforts are far-reaching, they share a common thread – leadership, partnerships, and investment:
The mainstream news media, which is supposed to deliver truthful information to the public and call out lies by officeholders and political actors, actually causes bad political behavior. News reporters aren’t the only players at fault, but they’re probably the only ones who can change America’s toxic political environment.
Over the past 20 years, the mainstream media has altered the “rules” of journalism to substitute balance for truth. In just about any political news story, the reporter will quote one side and then the other, making it seem like there is an honest difference of opinion. But this technique sacrifices the truth when just a modest amount of independent research would find that one side is fabricating “facts.”
Because of this reporting method, right wingers know there is no penalty for lying. Average Americans have no idea who’s telling the truth in a typical he-said-she-said political story. Reporters could remove the incentive to lie by ignoring those “stories” or by covering them with some version of “Smith said [whatever] today but it’s simply not true.” And yet, the mainstream news will almost never state an obvious truth or point out an obvious lie.
You may have noticed that every time a new gun law is enacted, or even seriously considered, the media reports a gun-buying bonanza. They make it seem like more and more Americans are arming themselves. But that’s not true. Instead, a small percentage of people are building larger and larger arsenals of guns. Because the gun lobby blocks all reasonable oversight, we can only estimate the numbers—but they are astonishing.
The purpose of IdeaLog is to explore new, different, or forgotten ideas about public policy and political communications. The blog posts are opinions intended to get you to think and to stimulate dialog. They are not intended as "official positions" of the Public Leadership Institute. Our primary bloggers will be the Public Leadership Institute's President Gloria Totten and its Senior Advisor Bernie Horn. We also welcome submissions or topic ideas—you are welcome to email to firstname.lastname@example.org.