The Human Library-Director’s Brief

The Human Library

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kPDn7PsLImKcft8zBj7zPM899_CSfEM0/view

The Human Library is a participatory program concept that has the power to change how people view and interact with the world around them through the sharing of personal stories and dialogue. The experience will foster connections between individuals who may not otherwise seek each other out and offer perspectives to change the lens through which participants view their world.

Final Thoughts

While I just turned out my final official blog post, I couldn’t just stop there. I have to share just how much I’ve learned from this course and how I’ll be carrying it with me throughout not only my MLIS journey but in my career as a librarian.

First off, I think I have caught some of @michael’s enthusiasm for this subject because I find myself talking about the things that I’ve read or discovered via this class to my colleagues, family, and friends. Probably ad nauseam and they are thankful that this class is ending soon. Listening to the lectures and reading the articles and readings for this course has been so enjoyable and has also got me fired up with ideas for implementing some of the things I uncovered in my library.

Sadly, I think, in some ways, I’m a bit too fired up for my own good. I’ve had to learn that change happens very slowly at my library. We’re still stuck in the “old school” model of reference services in a lot of ways. I am thankful though, that I work with a group of forward-thinking and innovative people who are willing to push the envelope a bit. This class has introduced me to so many concepts and shown how they were successfully implemented that I know there’s hope–slow & steady.

I have been so inspired by what other libraries around the country and around the world are doing to reinvent the wheel when it comes to library services and programming–pursuing a more participatory model. The concept of Library as Classroom is something that I have become really passionate about as the community already sees the library as a hub of information so why not expand on the types of learning that can be found within the walls? And heck, who said it had to be contained within walls–learning is everywhere and everything!

It is just reassuring to me that libraries are not going anywhere because they are flexible and adaptive to change. They listen to their users and give them what they need and want and maybe just a touch of what they didn’t know they did need or want–the magic!

So anyway, this class has been so impactful for me…almost Earth-shattering! My views and understanding of what a library is have been expanded exponentially. Thank you @michael for inspiring the next round of MLIS professionals, we are going to be a creative, inspired bunch!

Reflective Blog: Digital Learning Curve

For my final blog (this truly makes me sad inside), I’d like to explore the concept of Learning Everywhere. I really resonated with “The Library as a Gateway to 21st Century Skills” because this is what my library, and more specifically my department (Adult Services or Reference, two names for the same thing) are focusing on as we rebrand our service and programming offerings going forward, especially during COVID times where we’ve been forced to adopt new online platforms for program and service delivery.

In the article, Chicago Public Library seeks to be the branch to a gateway of digital literacy and adult basic education skills. The library accomplished this by bridging access to technology with a human touch. CPL piloted the CyberNavigators program that trains mentors to be digital coaches. These mentors would help patrons use and understand multiple facets of technology from computer basics like operating a mouse to conducting a successful internet search. They are bridging the digital and educational divide for patrons who otherwise might not have access to these tools and information.

This approach reminds me of a program at my library called Tech Talks. Once a week, patrons gathered (pre-COVID) to listen to a short presentation about an emerging technology trend (past subjects included podcasts, e-books, mobile apps, and Android vs. iOS. After the brief talk, everyone was free to mingle, ask questions, and get assistance with any issues that they had. Frequently, participants brought in their mobile devices, tablets, and laptops for help with troubleshooting various issues. Support was found in the form of their peers and/or that evening’s “expert”. The collective brain of the participants was amazing and it seemed less intimidating and confrontational to ask questions of someone who could be your neighbor than someone behind a counter at a store or even at the library. This program has now gone virtual via Zoom and while the meetings do not attract as many members are before the pandemic, there is still a steady attendance of between 8-10 people per week. Presenters give their spiel and then the floor is open to questions or cries for help via the chat function in Zoom, call-in, or by simply asking over Zoom. Break-out sessions were also utilized so that “experts” could assist other members outside of the larger group.

In addition to the Tech Talks program, my library has also developed other services to help bridge the digital divide as our patrons begin to explore the apps and databases remotely.

It has become a necessity to develop QuickStart guides that cover many topics from how to search our online catalog and place a hold to downloading our e-Book app. We also developed a series of short videos utilizing Screencast o’ Matic to walk patrons through step-by-step for such things as setting up a Zoom account, accessing various databases on our website, and how to validate information found on websites. Emphasis was on making the guides and videos simple to follow and easy to understand since we knew we were dealing with first-time technology users as well as those who were a bit more confident in their skills.

We also adapted our Book-a-Librarian service to a virtual platform with the help of Zoom, FaceTime and Google Meet. Patrons could call or email us to sign up for a live session using whichever platform they were most comfortable and familiar with and have us assist them with a wide variety of questions. Session topics ran the spectrum from troubleshooting a tablet to get Libby or Overdrive installed to piecing together a resume to searching online databases for genealogical information. We utilized screen sharing and mirroring in order to assist the patron.

Patrons didn’t want us to find the information for them or do the task for them. Instead, they wanted to be shown how to do it, how to find it, and to learn a new skill set.

It was a pretty common occurance, where after showing a patron the basics to a task, such as downloading the Libby app so they could make use of the library’s e-book collection, that the same patron would call, email or come in, in-person, to ask a more detailed or follow-up question as they continued to master their new skill.

As CPL learned with their approach to technology, it is important to listen to the user and develop programs and services that match what the users need and where they are at in terms of technology proficiency.

As we forge ahead in the midst of a pandemic, continuing to highlight online programs and services, we must be sure that we aren’t leaving patrons in our “techno dust”. Sure, we want to offer a myriad of exciting, cutting-edge programs and promote the coolest apps and databases, but we need to make sure that our community has the knowledge and tools they use to embrace these things along with us!

Reflections: Redefining Reference

For my CYOA, I dived into Library as Classroom which took a tangent into the role of the reference librarian and went down into the rabbit hole known as reference desk design and traditional reference services.

I have been to enough libraries around Colorado (it’s my thing…go to a new town, have to check out the library) to know that there’s a mix of “old school” reference desks and models of reference service and new, more revolutionary models of both desk architecture and service.

Speaking to the actual reference desk…

In his article Where Reference Fits in the Modern Library, Brian Kenney speaks to this evolving change in reference services by stating, “Desks are being reinvented to be less like impenetrable fortresses and more like non-threatening kiosks”. Kenney’s observation has rung true at two libraries I’ve visited. Wilkinson Public Library in Telluride, CO presents a healthy balance of the two. There is a circulation counter in a prominent place in their main lobby but it is not this huge bemouth monstrosity that one might’ve seen in libraries of old. Upstairs in the adult stacks, I’d almost call the reference desks “stations” or “pods” as they are small and able to be moved around as needed and do not overwhelm the openness of the space. AnyThink incorporates more of a roving librarian model where staff are constantly on the go assisting patrons where ever they happen to be, not requiring them to find a physical desk.

The library I work for, in a small-ish rural Colorado town, leans more towards the conservative reference model where reference librarians sit behind a high desk and are still perceived as the “gatekeepers of information”. Our reference desk is a huge “L” shape and sits to the back end of the reference collection near the public access computers. It is my hope that the friendly demeanor and smiles (you can still tell that someone is smiling through a mask as a plastic sneeze guard barrier, right?!) make approaching the desk less intimidating but, nonetheless, the desk is there and it commands a presence. That being said, I often leave the desk to roam the library and meet people where they’re at. Instead of bringing people back to the reference desk to find materials, I’ll show them how to access the card catalog at one of our kiosks on the floor or on their mobile device. The emphasis is on, as Kenney points out, “being a help desk for the community” and helping patrons cross the digital divide and find the information that they are after.

I think it is critical, no matter what kind of reference desk one has, that we continue to redefine what reference looks like, to broaden people’s definition of what a library is and what it does. We need to move from being gatekeepers of information to embracing “knowledge creation as a model for librarianship”. We need to dispel old perceptions and continue to raise the ceiling on library, and reference, services.

New Models of Service…

As we move forward in the 21st century, outdated service models are rapidly being replaced with community spaces and gathering places. While libraries are still trusted institutions for finding information, we are not the only sources any longer. Now, libraries are centers for learning, cooperation, community, and coexistence. Information is meant to be shared and expanded on. Today’s reference librarian doesn’t sit behind a desk hoarding information but is looking for new and innovative ways to get that information into the hands of patrons from all walks of life. Participatory programs and services are HUGE! We’ve got libraries doing amazingly innovative things from Arapahoe Libraries Beta Tech Project–putting the latest technology right into the hands of children and families to experiment with to librarians showing up at farmer’s markets and other pop up locations to showcase drones, virtual reality and other cutting-edge tech. It’s so amazing to see this shift from the traditional model to something that engages and excites library users.

This approach to bringing information and services to patrons also breaks down the barriers and divides that inhibit some from accessing the treasure trove that is found at their local library. In Chanin Ballance’s article about creative learning movements, a valid point is made that when presenting information, “less is more” and there is an emphasis on microlearning. Instead of overwhelming users with a bulk of information using big words or unfamiliar technology, we present it in “chunks, bits and short modules” which makes learning manageable and easier to retain. Adding a hands-on component makes learning tangible and that much more attainable.

Information, programs, and services in this day & age need to be engaging, relatively simplistic, and right on the verge of the “next great thing”. More and more, library users want help doing things versus finding things. They need assistance with technology, with accessing services and such on their mobile devices or public computers. It is less about “Can you help me find a book about African dung beetles?” and more about helping them navigate an online job application or county county website. Bottom line, it is helping patrons connect with the world around them via a multitude of platforms and services. Librarians have to be willing to adjust their role, almost constantly, to meet the demands of their users and the community…to come out from behind the desk…and to be sharers of knowledge and resources.

Over the past 7 months in my position as an adult services librarian, this trend of connecting patrons to information certainly has been true. I spend a majority of my time helping troubleshoot technology, in helping install software so users can listen to audiobooks or stream movies. We have created ready reference files containing simple resume templates and homeless resources. Our public access computers are almost always full from open until closing. I can count on one hand the number of times a patron has come to me seeking purely the location of books. More common are questions like, “Can you show me all the resources the library has on ____?” No longer are we limiting knowledge to just books on our shelves but we’re branching out to podcasts, TED talks, online articles, and more. The horizons are ever-expanding and it is fun to be one of those at the forefront, embracing these changes!

These changes are amazing and as long as libraries and librarians continue to be flexible and adaptable, libraries will continue to be relevant as a place to connect, learn, and explore!

Reflections-Storytelling via Poetry

Greetings everyone! After listening to our professor’s lecture and exploring the various examples (the couch conversations–LOVE) given to us, my brain went into overdrive thinking about the different ways that the sharing of stories could be or have been incorporated into the library sphere. The sharing of stories is such of a moving and powerful way to foster bonds, connectivity, and relationships. It has been shown that connected people are more engaged and participatory in their communities and the services and programs offered by that community. In essence, one feels like a part of the puzzle.

That being said, I began thinking about ways in which my library has or could begin to incorporate and encourage the sharing of stories at our branches. When I first began working in my current position (Adult Services Librarian), we were working from home and trying to find ways to reach out to and connect with our patrons who were missing their library. One of the things that we did was to create themed posts on social media of links to activities for adults, teens, and children & families. One of the themed posts was simply called: Write, and every week, it featured a different writing challenge. When it was my turn to come up with a unique “Write” challenge, I stumbled upon a very prolific collaborative poetry effort being put together by Wick Communications (owner of our local newspaper) and Kent State University. Residents in cities around the county and worldwide were encouraged to submit poems that tell of the healing power and connectivity of poetry during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were astounding and a network of shared poetry was formed called Some Days.

Some Days is part of a larger initiative entitled Traveling Stanzas where anyone and everyone is encouraged to share their voice and connect with others through writing and poetry. There are several featured projects offering different ways for people to express themselves and find comradery in a world feeling very divided. Check out the awesome mission statement of Traveling Stanzas as I feel it truly speaks to one of the core values of our course which is to link people together and find commonalities.

Through collaborations extending beyond university grounds, the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University is bringing some amazing things to fruition by embracing the power of poetry in so many diverse environments. Projects are sprouting up all over the country from a Create a Stanza Wall at a visitor’s center in Ohio to a poetry makerspace in New York, poetry is reaching out and bringing people together to share their story, a few lines at a time.

The Wick Poetry Center itself is an amazing place! Taken right from their home page is this statement:

FOR MORE THAN 35 YEARS, THE WICK POETRY CENTER HAS BEEN ENCOURAGING NEW VOICES BY PROMOTING CREATIVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR INDIVIDUALS AND COMMUNITIES LOCALLY, REGIONALLY, AND NATIONALLY. WICK ENGAGES EMERGING AND ESTABLISHED POETS AND POETRY AUDIENCES THROUGH INNOVATIVE DIGITAL TOOLS, READINGS, PUBLICATIONS, WORKSHOPS, AND SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES.

Wick Center Mission Statement

I mean, isn’t this what it’s all about?! Utilizing the tools available to encourage the coming together of community members, to let voices be heard, stories and talents be shared, relationships be started, and knowledge passed on…?

Take a look at some other amazing sites and programs that I found while letting my fingers do the walking to see what libraries and online platforms were doing with poems and prose.

  • Power Poetry: A unique site for teens that encourages them to write their story and share it with others. There are groups to join, ways to take action, and examples of poems from across the United States. Pretty powerful!
  • Conway Public Library in New Hampshire did a virtual poetry slam to bring together poetry writers and affectionados.
  • A whole library dedicated to poetry?!
  • The Kent Library in Missouri had a Poetry Creation Station for ad-libbed poem creation.
  • Here is a more simplistic idea from librarylearners.com:
Just some words cut out from old magazines, glue sticks & card stock=poem creation!
  • How about creating a Black-Out Poetry wall or other display in your library. Not sure what exactly it is, read this.
  • Madison County Libraries has a Community Journaling program that could include a poetry sharing journal! As long as the journals are quarantined following library policies, this could work even in a COVID-19 environment.

The opportunities to use poetry to bring together members of the community to express themselves, share their stories, and build relationships are endless! Creating environments for poetry creation and writing can be as simple or complex as imagination and resources allow. During these times where social distancing and restrictions on gathering have made it hard for people to physically meet, it is paramount that libraries discover new ways to virtually foster community and connections, to bring diverse populations together, and to emphasize commonalities. There are so many ways to do this utilizing whatever tools and technology a library has available from postings on social media; creation of an event-specific hashtag, photostream, or event page; to live gatherings on Zoom, Google Meet, or Facebook Live. If there’s a will, there’s a way…and poetry could be the means of creating meaningful and lasting relationships with library patrons.

Wireless Printing @ Your Library

Wireless Printing @ the Library

Wireless printing is coming to a library near you!

Goals/Objectives for Technology Service:

The goal of libraries is to keep abreast of current trends in programming and technology and bring appropriate & compatible new services that will (hopefully) mesh with existing library offerings while still being considered “cutting edge” to the community. Embracing some of these trends and turning them into opportunities is the ultimate mission. Today’s library ‘patrons want to have a library in their pocket’, a concept introduced by author and librarian Meredith Farkas in her article “A Library in Your Pocket” (ALA, 2010).  Without a doubt, mobile services have had a major impact on patrons’ lives regarding how portable information is, how it is located, and accessed.  Library users today are “untethered and free from the limitations of a desktop computer” (Guo, Ya Jun, et al., 2018), and are seeking wireless connectivity and related services from their local library. 

When deciding which technologies and services to embrace, libraries must be careful not to adopt technology for technology’s sake, or because it’s cool,  but rather use this new technology to enhance the current library offerings.  By doing so, the library avoids the pitfall of full-on Technolust and the risk of leaving patrons in the dust. Smart planning, implementation, and evaluation will lead to the successful addition of wireless printing to the library’s lineup. 

In the spirit of “being creative, fearless and curious about everything” (Stephens, 2017), the plan is to go forth and offer a seemingly cutting-edge service to library patrons and the general public and further connect users to the hyperlinked world.. Thankfully, there are several successful models to follow when designing and implementing wireless printing into the library.  The AnyThink library, a frontrunner in library innovation in Colorado has a pretty straightforward offering with an easy to follow set-up guide as do the Mesa County Libraries and Garfield County Libraries.  Knowing that wireless printing is not only on-demand and popular at neighboring libraries but has been successfully integrated, is encouraging news and proof that this is a necessary and needed venture–it’s tried and true.

Adding wireless printing to the library’s repertoire also streamlines what is currently a very cumbersome and frustrating process. One that requires the user to access their document either on their personal device or via one of the library’s public computers and…

  1. Send the document to the network printer which needs to be released using a library card or guest pass OR
  2. Email their document as an attachment to the library’s @ print account which then needs to be accessed by a staff member who opens the email, downloads the attachment, and sends it to the network printer, bypassing the need for a library card or guest pass

Either of these current processes is bound for user and equipment error, especially since the laptop used by staff to access the associated email account is older and running an outdated operating system.

The goal is to introduce wireless printing services to our patrons to enable them to print from their wireless and mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops.  Not only will this streamline the printing process, removing the need for a librarian to manually print materials, this service will also make the library more marketable to mobile users and utilize the library’s current wireless technology.

Description of Community:

The target audience for this service is mobile users who wish to print materials from their mobile and wireless devices. Demographic information shows that the majority of users fall within the 15-45 age group but the service will be available for the general public of all ages in addition to registered library users.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince mobile library users and members of the public that by embracing mobile wireless printing, they will be able to print from their mobile and wireless devices which will streamline the current printing process, saving users’ valuable time. After installing the wireless printing app, mobile users will be able to wirelessly send their documents to be printed to the library’s network printer to be printed, eliminating the need for library staff assistance. Library staff will also not need to dedicate so much time to printing and with printing issues and troubleshooting since the wireless app with be so user-friendly.  In addition, public internet computers will be more available to other patrons wishing to access online resources because users will not need to log into the computer to print their documents, but can do so remotely and wirelessly. 

For users (registered library users and members of the general public): Convince library users and members of the general public that by using wireless printing services, they will be able to take charge of printing their own documents from their mobile devices by utilizing the library’s free high-speed internet and printing application, thus streamlining the current process and saving time and potential frustration. In addition, users will see a decrease in usage of the public internet computers exclusively for printing materials, thus freeing up the computers for those who need them for other purposes. 

For library staff: Convince library staff that by implementing wireless printing technology, less time will need to be devoted to printing user documents which will allow staff to focus on other duties because users will be able to wirelessly print their own documents from their mobile devices without having to email them to the library’s print email account.  

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service

AnyThink Libraries Mobile Printing & Internet Usage Guidelines

Suggestions for iOS & Android Wireless Printing Apps

ALA Grants List 

Provisions of Mobile Services in US Urban Libraries

Example of “How To” Guide for Wireless Printing-Garfield County Libraries

Mesa County Libraries Wireless Printing

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

Implementing this service will help accomplish the library’s mission statement which states that one of the library’s purposes is to provide resources to its users. Wireless printing will prove to be an instrumental resource to the library’s mobile users because this is a service that has been requested and inquired about numerous times, especially in our current COVID climate. 

Consultation and collaboration with the library’s information technology department will be necessary to develop the infrastructure required to implement this service including either establishing an account with a wireless printing app such as PrinterOn, or HP Smart or developing a library-specific application. Also, usage guidelines will need to be developed and adopted. The library’s current internet usage policy will need to be modified to include wireless printing and app usage. These decisions will have to be approved by all levels of management from department heads to the library director and finally, the library board. 

 Funding Considerations: 

Staff will attempt to locate a source of grant funding (utilizing the Colorado State Library, CLA, and other resources) and prepare a grant proposal.  One possible source for grants is through a list compiled by the ALA. Several of the sources apply to libraries seeking funding for technological upgrades. The library also has the Colorado Grants Guide to search for any applicable state grants. The Friends of the Library Foundation will also be approached for financial assistance in application development (if necessary, first consideration should be given to free apps already in existence such as PrintOn) and purchase of a dedicated wireless color printer. Staff time will be needed for application development and/or implementation, printer installation, beta testing, and on-going troubleshooting. 

Action Steps & Timeline: 

The Adult Services, Circulation & Youth Services department heads, library director, and library board will need to give a “thumbs” up to the adoption of the service. Should the service not be approved due to funding, it will be emphasized that grant funding and funds from the Friends of the Library are being sought as to not impact the library’s budget. If it is flat-out denied, the library will proceed using the current email print method.

Timeline:

Assuming that the service is approved at the next possible board meeting following the submission of the service planning documentation, the proposed timeline is below with the target full roll-out of wireless printing in 2 months. 

  • Target for submission of service project planning: 2 weeks
  • Approval from all levels of library management: 1 month depending on the date of the library board meeting
  • Research wireless printing apps and wireless printers (investigate what neighboring libraries are using): 10 business days
  • Purchase and delivery of wireless printer, supplies, and related software: 10-14 business days from service approval
  • Training of staff in Adult Services Department in the functionality of a wireless printer, troubleshooting printer, and printing app: 4 dedicated training hours
  • Beta testing of printer & app to insure connectivity and consistency: 2 days
  • Roll out to library users: 1 week (including promotion and education on app and printer procedures)

**Note that many tasks can be carried out simultaneously** 

Training for this Technology or Service:  

Since the wireless printer will be located in the Adult Services area, all Adult Services librarians will need to be trained in addition to the IT team and perhaps 1-2 staff members in Circulation and the Youth Services department head, for cross-training and coverage purposes. Training can be conducted during the hours that the library is closed to the public with all staff being trained at the same time. If staff are not able to be present, training could be recorded, and/or staff could attend virtually via Zoom. It is estimated that the training will take approximately 3-4 hours with staff being trained in printer and app operation and troubleshooting.  In order to ensure understanding, staff will download the app and test it out on their own mobile device. 

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: 

The new wireless printing service will be promoted using the library’s current public relations avenues which include: creating flyers to be available at all service desks in the library, Google slides will be added to the library lobby; Adult Services desk, and Youth Services story room digital kiosks; posting to the library’s website and social media pages (Facebook & Twitter); ads will be placed in the three local newspapers and on the local radio stations; flyers will also be distributed to various locations in the community.  In addition, a quick guide will be developed to help potential users install the wireless printer app and understand how the service will work. It will be marketed to not only the library users but also mobile users in the community, as a time-saving service.

Evaluation: 

The success of the wireless printing service will revolve around the number of app downloads and documents printed on the wireless printer. As word spreads, via the various media outlets, about the existence of the service and the ease of usage, it is expected that the number of users and documents printed will increase to eventually level out. The service will be deemed successful if it is continuously utilized with minimal disruptions or need for staff intervention. 

The stories shared will revolve around the successful use of the app, its ease and simplicity of use, and how it saved the user time and frustration. Success stories could be posted on social media and told in person to library staff. Word of mouth advertising and story sharing will be an important part of growing this service and in reaching more community members.

If this service is positively received by the community, it could be expanded to include multiple stations within the main library.  Perhaps one station in Adult Services, one in the Teen Space, and one in the Kids Zone.  The library will have to budget for the absorption of paper, toner, and printer maintenance chargers but ideally, the wireless printers will replace the current printers that the library has and therefore, will not result in a substantial increase in financial need.  Wireless printing could also be expanded to the branch library in the neighboring community if grant funding could be secured.  The branch library currently has one printer that does not offer wireless capabilities, so funding would be needed to replace this unit with a similar one purchased for the main library.  Also, wireless printing could be offered at the three sites in the community where the library hosts mobile hotspots if funds could be secured for more wireless printers and supplies. It is hoped that this service will be combined with the proposal for the utilization of CARES grant funding which is providing the wireless hotspots.

Reflections on Program Planning

In exploring the module on Planning for Particpatory Services, I couldn’t help but compare the advice that our esteemed professor gave in his lecture and in the readings with how I’m currently approaching programming in my position as an Adult Services Librarian.

In the world of library staff, I am the quesstential freshman, having just started my position in April. Prior to that, I had just been sitting on the sidelines, absorbing what classmates at SJSU and friends were doing in their professions and observing the newest trends in libraries and programming by reading articles and stalking library websites and social media profiles.

I came into my new position with plans to “change the world” and bring new ideas and innovations to my rural (and somewhat conservative) western Colorado library. After all, if it had been done at other libraries–even if they were bigger, with more substantial budgets, in more progressive cities–surely it could be done in mine. I guess you could say that I was caught up in “library lust”. Not only technolust as described and defined by our professor but in the act of seeing and comparing my library to those around it or even those that I’d only seen through the limited online lens. I wanted to accomplish big things, to make a real impressive mark on my library and department, to bring services and programs into the 21st century. Be gone outdated shelf labeling, hello modern shelf wraps. I wanted to do a plethora of cutting-edge and captivating programming such as online trivia contests, cooking demonstrations, and book talks. In short, I wanted my library to be a part of the latest and greatest.

Reality hit me in the face, partially thanks to COVID-19 restrictions and also in the form of budgetary limitations and established policy and parameters. Not wanting to push the envelope too much too soon, I had to turn down the dial a bit and work within the framework that was available to me. That’s not to say that my superiors weren’t supportive of some of my ideas. An online trivia contest was attempted, and bombed, miserably with only one patron expressing interest. My idea for cooking demonstrations was echoed by a colleague who has since had a very popular set of live cooking events featuring local chefs. Other ideas just weren’t possible given technological constraints and just overall incompatibility with the library’s programming goals and perceived needs of the community.

I have had to embrace my library’s program planning checklist which aims to get one to think about all the steps that go into successful program implementation–from considering time and resources to how best to promote the program. Sadly, even after careful planning and consideration, many of the programs I was super excited to implement have either not come to fruition or have been canceled due to a lack of interest. I came up with the idea to try an online movie club that utilized an online streaming platform, Kanopy, that our library already offered to patrons. My justification for offering this program was that usage of Kanopy had sky-rocketed recently due to COVID closures and users wanting access to movies from home. Seeing the increase led me to believe that there might be an interest in communal watching and discussing movies. My idea was that members of the Kanopy Klub would meet to pick a theme and vote on a movie to watch, everyone would watch the movie on their own and then come together via Zoom to discuss the movie and share a sense of community with others. Great concept, right? And maybe, in a different setting, it would’ve been successful, but in my library’s community, it just didn’t take off. Perhaps it was too much tech for a majority of our patrons (too much too fast) since we librarians spend a good deal of our time helping patrons troubleshoot how to download and use various platforms like Kanopy, Libby & Overdrive and for some, logging into an email from one of our public access computers is almost a foreign concept. Perhaps the thought of meeting online using an unfamiliar platform scared some away. Maybe the event was not advertised well, even if it was advertised across all the usual channels (Facebook, Twitter, library website, event calendar, in-house kiosks, and flyers)–maybe the right populations were not targeted successfully. Not only do we have to try to anticipate the needs and trends in library service and programming, but we also have to be sure that while we aim to introduce the latest and greatest, we don’t lose sight of our users and where they are. The latest and greatest might not be where we’re at, and that’s okay. We can redefine technology and innovations so that they match the community we serve. Not ready for AI? Cool, maybe we can introduce wireless printing, 3D printing, or a makerspace concept. Pacing is super important so that we don’t leave our users behind in our technolust dust. As pointed out by Dr. Stephens, technology doesn’t automatically make a library cool, as much as it might be super cool to witness. Any and all technology embraced by a library should be appropriate, have a mission, a defined purpose, and a goal to enhance the library’s offerings.

I attempted to not to fall into some of the traps of programming by not overthinking my programming idea but instead developing a solid plan and going forward. In not embracing technology “just because” but in tying it to an existing service, I figured I was golden. Embracing not only using Kanopy but also Zoom, I figured it was an opportune time for the library and its users to combine a couple of very popular and widely used technologies.

Even with the best of intentions, the most well laid out plans, doing our best to anticipate needs and trends, things will inevitably backfire or bomb. Still, one has to keep trying, keep embracing the chaos, remain flexible, keep seeking and investigating options for being new and engaging programs to users. Gambling on what will attract users will always be just that…a gamble. We’ll win some, we’ll lose some. As Chris Anderson wisely said, “A future-proof library makes no assumptions about the information landscape of tomorrow”.

So, in summary, go forth…plan, embrace, and adopt technology and introduce some amazing participatory programming ideas. Just be sure to take a breath and evaluate where your community is at and ensure the programming matches where they are or maybe pushes the envelope, just a bit. We want our patrons to continue to think of the library as keeping up with the trends, to offering next-level programs and services and to, to an extent, be in awe of what we’re doing…but, we also want them to “get” what what we’re offering and where we’re going. There has to be a balance…one that is carefully calculated.

Really?! You do that?!

In the midst of a global pandemic, the public library (Montrose Regional Library District) that I work for has had to redefine itself, over and over it seems, in an attempt to give patrons what we *think* they want–especially in a time when we are not offering in-person programming and our open hours are limited. How do you show that you’re in tune with the community while still minding restrictions and budget? COVID has truly brought about some of the most innovative programming and ideas I’ve ever seen! I also believe that due to being “stuck at home” and not able to physically visit the library, virtual programs and eBooks are filling in the gaps and patrons are truly realizing the value of their local library and all that they offer.

That being said though, I am always so shocked when, in talking to residents out & about in the community, very few people knew:

  1. Our library is back open to the public with limited hours (more on that in a bit).
  2. The plethora of programs, services, and products that we offer–no strings attached.

So…yes, our library has been open to the public since mid June. We’re open 6 days a week for 4 hours and limited to 50% of capacity which is roughly 60 people (including staff). Ever since we’ve opened, two things, besides checking out of books, have been the most requested by our patrons.

  • Public computer access
  • Troubleshoot mobile devices and eReaders

Sure, we’re still fielding other reference requests, placing holds on books, doing reader’s advisory and other “normal librarian things” but, these two areas have been the most popular.

In fact, if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say 70% of our interactions with patrons either in person, over the phone or via email have to do with our internet offerings or eMedia.

Staff in my department have been tirelessly promoting apps like Libby (Overdrive) and Kanopy as a way for patrons to enjoy books and movies without having to physically come to the library. We’ve created quick guides to help users access both apps and even created a Kanopy Klub–like a book club, but for movie lovers. We had flyers, Facebook posts, and in-house displays for Read an eBook Day and offered our services to help our patrons set up accounts on Libby or find eBooks/eAudiobooks that they’d love.

This promotion is obviously paying off because, in mirroring the Pew Research study that showed an increase in eBook circulation as well as eReader and tablet ownership, patron usage in our rural library soared! Statistics from Libby show that circulation increased over 130% from this same time period (April-August) last year. Kanopy reports over 4,500 more downloads than in 2019, to date.

Still, despite this increase, I am still finding that a decent chunk of our users don’t know that we offer these services, and so much more! Just the other day, I was helping a patron find a particular book and we were disappointed to notice that our library didn’t have it and neither did our consortium. I did take note, however, that we had the eBook and eAudiobook versions available. Deciding to take a chance, I offered these digital options to the patron. Her response…”Wow, is that something you offer? Is there a fee?” I think it totally blew her mind that she could get an eBook downloaded onto her phone and iPad pretty painlessly, and for FREE! We quickly set up her account and she found several books to borrow. Life was good. Another satisfied user, another service promoted.

In addition to eMedia, my library is also redesigning traditionally offered programs in an attempt to get back in touch with our community. After all, libraries will falter if not community focused. Our book club has gone virtual via Zoom and attendance is steadily increasing in part to a wonderfully written article in our newsletter and cameos done by library staff highlighting their favorite books and mentioning the book club as a resource for exploring great reads outside of one’s comfort zone. The Book-a-Librarian service also went virtual. Patrons can request a session via Zoom with a librarian. There’s no limit on what staff can assist with. Thus far, I’ve helped a patron troubleshoot a Kindle so that eAudiobooks could be downloaded for an upcoming road trip and assisted yet another with updating a resume so she could apply for a job in a new industry after being downsized due to COVID-19.

In another attempt to help patrons find and appreciate (even though Pew says that the majority of users do see the value of libraries) libraries in the midst of a pandemic and to shatter the “depository of books” image, our library, and many others around the county and world, have had to think outside of the box when designing and offering programming. The public library I work at is not offering in-person programming at this time, but we have had several successful virtual programs including an escape room, take away craft kits, a local chef-led virtual cooking series, teen trivia, and book clubs. When patrons see these events and call or email to register, they are so happy to see that we’re offering programs again and amazed at the variety. Soon, we are going to be promoting a storybook pumpkin decoration contest. Patrons will submit photos of pumpkins decorated to resemble a character from their favorite books and votes will be tallied on Facebook. In these crazy, unpredictable times, any programming that we can offer to reach out and connect with our patrons and show them that we’re still here, still listening, we have to do.

That’s not to say that everything is a raving success. Library staff makes their best educated guess, always–pandemic or not–of what they hope will appeal to their populace. I attempted an adult trivia night and it totally bombed as did a Facebook Live event where patrons were encouraged to call, email, or message us with three books/movies/artists, etc that they liked and we would provide them, instantly, with three more tailored suggestions.

Both of these events garnered absolutely no interest–they were DOA. Maybe the community wasn’t quite ready, maybe we didn’t do a good job of promoting them…who knows? But…hey, we tried…and that’s what it all comes down to. Trying to offer a variety of products, programs, and services and constantly changing it up, think outside the box, let the creativity flow–all in the name of reaching patrons, helping them connect to the library…helping the library becoming that sought-after “third space”…helping the library be exactly what every person needs. As long as we don’t become complacent or revert to the old ways of doing things simply because it’s easier and has been successful, libraries will never go out of style. We must keep surprising our community, blow their minds, and make them say, “Really?! You do that?!”

Context Book: Contagious

Libraries today are coming up with some creative ways to engage patrons and ensure that their library experience and interaction leaves a lasting impression…the key to making libraries and the services and programs they offer contagious (or viral). Creating ways for patrons to share their discoveries and recommendations via reviews and ratings is a great way to encourage social interaction and this engagement also provides free advertising for the library. In the first image above, of the book Contagious in a library catalog, patrons have the ability to rate the title on a 5-star scale and also share the title with their community via various social media platforms. In so doing, they are increasing the library’s social presence and their own individual social currency within their social circles. By taking advantage of this social interaction, libraries will see their influence increase in the community and more of their programs and services getting “out there”. When patrons feel connected, that they are valued or even an insider to cool stuff at the library, they are more likely to share this with others and encourage them to visit the library so they can partake in the same experience.

Furthermore, utilizing Jonah Berger’s STEPPS can help libraries ensure that their content, programs, and promotions are reaching patrons in an engaging and lasting way. Nothing is more frustrating, as a librarian, than dedicating time to planning and orchestrating a program only to have no one show interest or sign up. By making sure that the flyer, kiosk slide, or social media post triggers environmentally associated cues, elicits some kind of emotion, memorable response, is easily sharable, specifically targeted in the public eye, and is packaged in a way that patrons can see a practical value, the promoted program, content, or service is almost guaranteed to be a success–word will be spread and patrons will attend. Instead of making an educated guess as to the success of a program or service, Berger provides library staff with a winning and easy to implement formula.

These strategies can be used across so many situations and platforms within the library realm to help make everything from programming to material selection meaningful and successful. These 6 STEPPS should become an essential component of every library’s strategic plan.