Virtual Symposium: Exploring the Semester in Podcast Form!


Mindfulness and Compassion: The Importance of Being a Well-Rounded Librarian

During this week’s readings and lecture, we explored the idea of compassion and how for most, being a good librarian goes beyond how well you can research something or how well you can put together a top-ten themed BiblioCommons book list of recommendations. This is a component of librarianship that is not talked about explicitly as much as it should. If I’m being honest, it’s what kept me in libraries after I got hired on. There is something genuine about the work we do in libraries and one work at my colleagues and I already know we are in it to provide a good and a service for our community.

The NHS Strategic Intent from 2013 has a really nice section that reads, “without the compassion to care, then we will have failed the needs of patients.” (2013) I am by no means comparing the work that we do in libraries as even close to important to the work that is done in the National Health Service or any part of the healthcare, I have too much respect for those who work in that field to insult them like that. My fiancée is a nurse, so I best put respect on her name. But I do think that there is an element of selflessness that goes into any kind of public work, including being a public servant in libraries. I’m of course strictly talking about public librarianship here.

1 on 1 tech help now available at smcl

As we start off week nine of WFH in my library, I look at all the workgroups that I am a part of. Although we are providing some excellent and really creative services to our customers (we have moved away from calling them patrons) I can’t help but to think that the reason a lot of us are able to jump in and say yes is because we (paridoxically) don’t have enough time to second guess ourselves. “Doubt. The things you say to yourself when you know you can get by but feel as if you don’t know what you’re doing.” (Stephens, 2018)

There is a sense of doubt that would normally arise from me when starting any big project. Normally I would maybe think through what my next move is going to be, to a fault. Right now, there is no time to be fearful. It is the best time to experiment and try all the new things. So, I am proud to be on the team that provides immediate text response, longer form email, and as of last week, phone calls as if we were at our home branches. It’s nice to hear from the public we serve again.

Works Cited

NHS. (2013). Introducing Health Education England Our Strategic Intent January 2013. Retrieved from

Our-Strategic-Intent-web-Jan2013.pdfStephens, M. (2017, September 20). Librarian Superpowers: Office Hours. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2018, January 7). Champion of Confidence: Office Hours. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. T. (2019). Wholehearted librarianship: finding hope, inspiration, and balance. Chicago: ALA Editions.


Director’s Brief

Food insecurity is an issue in the United States that affects 1 in 9 Americans. San Mateo County Libraries in partnership with The Y has been providing free meals at 2 library branches. This brief presents an argument for putting in place a meals service at all 12 branches.

Meals at East Palo Alto Library


Covid-19 has brought us some very interesting times indeed and we have been forced to rethink our library offerings without a physical space. I touched on this in the last post. But now truly, even though at SMCL we are proactive about being at the forefront of new ideas, we do not have a physical space to carry out many of the main functions of the library. I always tell people that helping patrons check material out is only a small portion of what I do at in my position and now that we do not have access to the branch, patrons are more and more finding this truth out as well. Log-in Page

Through our many digital resources, which are by no means unique to my library system, patrons are able to check out books, watch movies, listen to audiobooks the same as if they had access to the building, albeit with a more limited selection. In the lecture for Library Everywhere Module, Professor Stephens said, “People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.” Now more than ever, this rings true. From home, patrons are learning their way around the technology that scared them, mostly out of need.

I spoke in the last post about the text service we were about to launch ( and happily, I can report that it has been a tremendous success. We receive tons of text messages a week and we help patrons with any myriad of question from “My book was due but I can’t return it. Will I be charged a fine?” or also, “My hotspot has been disabled but I can’t return it. What can I do?” We are able to help them resolve most of their issues and 9.9 times out of 10, the answer is to their satisfaction.

Hopefully we will soon return to the branch and once again be able to begin providing patrons with the full range of services we normally provide.

Curiously, the KQED article, “What Does the Next-Generation School Library Look Like?” touches on one of the major pain points that we as staff have experienced as we opened the new Half Moon Bay Library, back in 2018. The article talks about how staff were finding their footing with the local teens and managing their behavior in the newly remodeled space. The article mentions that although the initially had troubles pacifying the teens during the first two years of the remodel, they were eventually able to rely on the students to keep each other in check, “Students police each other if they become disruptive to others.”(Vangelova, 2014) This year we would be entering our second year in the new building and we were developing plans for how to help the teens hold each other responsible to maintaining the peace.

The idea we were about to implement was to close the teen space until after the High School let out. Our building is right next door to the local middle school and we are inundated with preteens. The High School has later dismissal and so by the time they can come to the library, they usually don’t want to because the pre-teens have taken over their space, effectively making the Teen Spot a Pre-Teen Spot. All of this is moot though if schools won’t hold physical classes for the foreseeable future and the library, if and when we re-open, will see limited library service until normalcy is restored.

It’s really hard to gage how to implement big ideas when you literally don’t have the space.

One last thing about why the library system I work for is not “your dad’s library,” so to speak. Along with a designated team of staff and myself, I have been assigned to help our county health department print out PPE with our branch 3D printers. You may have already seen other maker groups out there making 3D printed ear saver straps or make face shields for frontline healthcare workers. Essentially, our task is exactly that, make as much PPE as possible with the PLA we have on hand, while following the guidelines given to us to make safe and effective equipment.

Professor Stephens in the lecture said “The heart of libraries, then, I think, is supporting learning and our users’ curiosity through every means possible.” (Stephens) In this scenario, I think the curiosity that’s being supported is really my own and that of my curious tinkering coworkers. I got involved with the group because when we closed the library, I took a 3D printer home to tinker around with. Word came across the right people and eventually this group was assembled. It’s because I have been very fortunate in having managerial and administrative support, that I am able to be part of this group and print out PPE.

Works Cited

Have a Library Question? Text Us! (2020, March 23). Retrieved from

Human “Book”. (2019, August). Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Library as a Gateway to 21st Century Skills. (2017, March 13). Retrieved from

Vangelova, L. (2014, June 18). What Does the Next-Generation School Library Look Like? Retrieved from


Emerging Technology Planning

Portable Reference Devices: ILS in the Palm of Your Hand


A little while back, I attended a workshop put on by CLA out in Berkeley. One of the presenters was the Library Administrator for Downey City Library, where he spoke about the challenges that his team faced when their branch began a lengthy remodeling period. Staff was notified that they would not be getting a temporary location and so they began to think of clever ways to continue providing their patrons with library services. Outdoor storytimes and partnerships with local theaters and museums for author and performer visits, these are some of the ways they managed without a physical location. This led staff to reconsider ways they could take what they learned and apply it to their new building and the idea of a mobile ILS terminal was born.

Purpose and Benefits

The Half Moon Bay Library is the current newest building in the San Mateo County Libraries System. The library is a two-story LEED Platinum certified building that is innovative as it is beautiful. Being the newest building in the system has led to piloting of devices, services, and policies, to see if they would be a good fit for the rest of the system. HMB is the only library in the system to implement the concept of roving staff. We still have a laptop with Sierra for basic library services, but it lives on a bulky medical cart. It is not very mobile.

To fully realize the dream of roaming library staff, I propose to implement a portable version Sierra through a handheld device that would allow the staff member to carry out functions such as searching the catalog and checking out items right in the stacks. By implementing such a device, staff members can provide essential library service at the point-of-need. In a similar program instituted at the University of Manitoba, Katharine Penner said, “rovers can provide quick access and on-the-spot reference all while grabbing the attention of the patron.” (Penner, 2011)

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

  1. Respect our patrons time by providing on the spot reference help, to find the materials they are looking for in the stacks or at a different location in our system.
  2. Respect staff by making sure there is no one keeper of all information. Democratizing our ILS to all staff and allowing everyone to have the same access to all the tools at all times.
  3. Fully realize the roaming “librarian” model by going a step further and getting rid of the laptop cart. All staff currently use and are comfortable using walkie talkies, having a fully functional mobile version of Sierra device would complete the goal of having fully roaming staff.  

Description of Community

I wish to engage both library staff and patrons of San Mateo County Libraries, specifically the Half Moon Bay branch, with a potential to expand systemwide in the future.  

Action Brief Statement


Convince staff that by using the mobile ILS terminal they will be providing the best service possible which will save both patron and staff time because they will meet the patron at their point of need.

Library Administration

Convince Library Admin team that by purchasing and developing the equipment necessary to aid the roaming model they will be helping to achieve their customer care philosophy goals which will lead to more customer satisfaction because their needs are being met at the point of need.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

  • Barnhart, F. D., & Pierce, J. E. (2012). Becoming Mobile: Reference in the Ubiquitous   Library. Journal of Library Administration, 52(6-7), 559–570. doi:       10.1080/01930826.2012.707954
  • Hibner, H. (2005). The wireless librarian: Using tablet PCs for ultimate reference and     customer service: A case study. Library Hi Tech News, 22(5), 19-22. doi:
  • Miao, H., & Mia, W. B. (2007). Embracing customer service in libraries. LibraryManagement, 28(1), 53-61.doi:


  • Mirtz, M. (2013). The second half of reference: An analysis of point-of-need roving        reference questions. Retrieved from
  • Stellrecht, E., & Chiarella, D. (2015). Targeted Evolution of Embedded Librarian           Services: Providing Mobile Reference and Instruction Services Using    iPads. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 34(4), 397–406. doi: 10.1080/02763869.2015.1082372

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

The following is the current internal San Mateo County Libraries Customer Care Philosophy:

We make using the library easy  

We are convenient, easy to use and accessible. We offer the items, experiences, and technologies you want. 

We love to help you maketinker, and learn new things 

We inspire curiosity, learning, and growth by supporting you to accomplish your goals. 

You will feel welcomed and cared about in our spaces 

We create warm, inclusive spaces where people of every background create community and access free, shared resources.

Taking guidance from the Customer Care Philosophy and the experience that the Half Moon Bay branch staff has with roaming, the Library Administration team can take these things to make guidelines and expectations for roaming staff equipped with these ILS enabled iPod touches.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service

As stated above, Half Moon Bay is the only branch in the SMCL system to currently utilize roving reference. Being that the branch is a testbed for many other pieces of equipment and policy, I would like to propose that the branch be used as a test for the iPod touch as a reference device. San Mateo County Libraries regularly holds a yearly Staff Development Day, where staff from all 12 branches and the admin team, take a day to come together and do teambuilding activities. (2015)

Aside from the training, bonding, and learning that is done during Staff Development Day, there is a portion of time that is dedicated to “Pitch-It”, which is a program where staff can suggest new ideas for new library offerings and the winner gets a small budget to put their plan into action and test for the rest of the branches. Our most recent winner was for the “Book-A-Bike” program, which lets patrons check out a bike for a day over at the Belmont Library. (Vargas, 2019) A future Pitch-It would be the ideal place to present this new idea.

Action Steps & Timeline: (Can your target Technology or Service be prototyped? What’s a reasonable timeline for this project? What are the project flow dependencies? Who has to say “yes?” What are the planned alternatives if there is a “no.”)

SMCL currently has a public facing app (Miranda, 2018), which allows users basic library functions such as checking out books from select eResources, placing holds on items, and checking account status. The app itself is built on Bibliocommons using Sierra APIs. Along with guidance from Downey City Library, who upon their re-opening will implement a similar version of what I am proposing, has offered up their app for other library systems to use as a base level from which to build upon their own version of a handheld ILS.

  1. Preliminary Information Gathering (1 Month)
    1. Propose idea to manager for initial approval and to gage interest
    1. Work with IT to get a quote for materials cost
    1. Prepare and present Pitch-It presentation with material and staff cost for this initiative
  2. Purchase Materials (1 Month)
    1. iPod touch, RFID and 2D Scanner case to be ordered and shipped.
  3. Create App (3 months)
    1. Current app will be used as base from which to add more functionality for reference, for checking-out, and for fast library card sign up. APIs from Sierra will be added and bug tested.
  4. Testing Roll-out (2 months)
    1. iPods with the new app will begin small batch testing. First with IT staff. (1 month)
    1. Combined testing with a few staff members and IT (1 month)
  5. Main Roll-Out (1 Year)
    1. Staff will be given the iPod touches for a year of real-world use.  
    1. Every 3 months, IT will ask for an evaluation to see what issues arise and if there is anything that can be implemented
  6. Evaluation for Major Distribution (3 months)     
    1. After testing phase has concluded at Half Moon Bay, IT will evaluate success or failure and decide to implement at other locations, with possibility to be extended to whole system.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service 

San Mateo County Libraries is a centralized organization with an administration building that houses material sorting for the Peninsula Library System, Administrative offices for SMCL, and IT. IT currently manages the public facing SMCL app. This would be an extension of responsibilities for the staff members assigned to that task. 3 of the 4 total staff members are full-time employees. This app could provide enough hours to allow the 4th staff member to also become a full-time employee.

On the branch side, the In-House Techs would be the ones responsible for any questions and troubleshooting the hardware and software. Any issues that the IHT cannot resolve will require a Help Desk ticket, SMCL’s internal tech request system.  

Training for this Technology or Service

The full concept of truly roaming staff member has already been halfway accomplished at the Half Moon Bay Library. Currently, the second floor of the library is serviced by roaming staff members equipped with a walkie-talkie. There is also a laptop on a mobile nurse station cart, that is equipped with a scanner for library cards and library materials, as well as Sierra.

Training for this particular service would be specifically for how the device and the mobile version of the ILS. All staff members who are on the floor would be assigned an iPod. The training in theory could be done in a quick 30-minute run down of how the device works, this could be done in a class style where all staff members would get a chance to get acquainted with the ins and outs of the iPod and the accompanying RFID reader and 2-D Scanner and the mobile ILS.

Another option for training would be hands-on, in the stacks, learn as you go. The app is written in a simple enough manner that reference work and regular library questions about accounts can be quickly found through the easy-to-use interface.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service

Internally, iPods would require very little buy in or promotion, as roaming is already implemented at the branch. There would be a small adjustment period for staff to get used to carrying their mobile ILS onto the floor.

Externally, a big marketing push could be made for this new service at point of need. The website could have a banner promoting the new service and a staff member could write up all the great new things patrons could look forward to, such as being able to check out on the spot, making new library cards on the spot, and a full suite of reference solutions such as finding books in the collection from other branches or even Link+ (“LINK+”) Promotional posters, flyers, bookmarks, could all be ordered for in branch display and to promote the service at other branches to gain interest.

A successful past Pitch-It


The success or the failure of the service hinges on number of positive interactions. The way to measure this is if more patrons are able to satisfy all of their needs that they would normally have to go to the circulation desk for. We could measure data within the app how many times the service is being used and how many checkouts or books are being placed on hold. We could see how many cards have been made on the go and compare those numbers to the interactions that happen on desk.

Success or failure of the devices themselves is reliant on two key components. How successful the hardware is at completing its function of scanning ID cards for fast field population and fast library card creation, how fast or successful it is at scanning library material either through RFID or barcode. The back-half of this success is measured on how stable the mobile app is. If there are too many crashes or bugs, it may need more time for the code to be worked on. At this point it will be about 2 years after inception and at which point it may be a lost cause. However, if there are minimal bugs and the software is stable, then we may begin to look at a bigger rollout for the system.

Stories that I envision being able to tell are stories of quickly being able to scan someone’s ID and being able to make them a library card in 10 seconds as advertised by the Downey City Library. If this program is a success, we could look at implementing patron checkouts on the public facing app, similar to Apple Store in-app in-store purchases. Find the item you want in branch, scan, and go. I hope that I will be able to lessen the burden of having to stand in line to ask a quick reference question. More than anything, I hope that we can tell stories about lowering boundaries and further democratizing the use of all library services.

Works Cited

Askew, Consuella. (2015). A Mixed Methods Approach to Assessing Roaming Reference Services. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 10(2), 21-33.

Bremer, P. pbremer@morris. umn. ed. (2017). Librarian on the Loose: A Roving Reference Desk at a Small Liberal Arts College. Reference Librarian58(1), 106–110.

LINK . (n.d.). Retrieved from;jsessionid=34FE4B2C8A6596CFECC63C0D4F41CDBC?lang=eng

MacDonald, J., & McCabe, K. (2011). iRoam: Leveraging Mobile Technology to Provide Innovative Point of Need Reference Services. Code4Lib Journal13, 1–7.

McCabe, K. M. 1. mccabek@unbc. c., & MacDonald, J. R. W. 2. macdonaj@unbc. c. (2011). Roaming Reference: Reinvigorating Reference through Point of Need Service. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice & Research6(2), 1–15.

Miranda, C. (2018, April 30). Library on the Go! Download Our New Mobile App. Retrieved from

Penner, K. (2011). Mobile Technologies and Roving Reference. Public Services Quarterly., 7(1-2), 27-33.

Peters, T. (2011). Left to Their Own Devices : The Future of Reference Services on Personal, Portable Information, Communication, and Entertainment Devices. The Reference Librarian., 52(1/2), 88-97.

Renovation. (n.d.). Retrieved from

San Mateo County Library Joint Powers Authority Operations Committee Agenda April 28, 2015, (2015). Retrieved from

Vargas, D. (2019). Book-A-Bike at Belmont Library. Retrieved from


Mobile Devices and Connections

I don’t think it is possible to overstate just how much the pandemic has affected our daily lives.

In truth, I have been having a really tough time reeling it in and focusing on school and work, even though those are basically my only responsibilities nowadays and also helping not contribute to the spread of the disease. In any case, it seems that this topic of the hyperlinked library is as relevant as it ever will be.

In the MOOC videos, Jan Holmquist says, “Technology is never thing to be used because it is new and smart, it must be used in a way to enhance library services.” In a time when the only services we as a library can provide are through the use of technology, this quote seems most fortuitous and appropriate for the times. We have been scrambling to try to find ways to continue providing programs for our patrons and as most of our colleagues in public libraries have started to do, we are starting a Monday through Friday Scheduled and mapped out Zoom video series. Things like copyright rules for broadcasting staff reading books, exploring different types of programming like cooking and musical sing-alongs are some of the things we have been actively testing and looking to implement.

We have also started looking at providing virtual tech help for our patrons through the use of Zoom. This might actually end up being the main project I end up heading up during this time away from the branch. I already have plenty of experience both with helping patrons with random tech issues and I’m not too bad with Zoom and Teams. As Professor Stephens said in this week’s module, “The Hyperlinked Library offers collections and access everywhere.” We really are putting this idea to the test with our new and soon to arrive services for our patronage in the San Mateo County service area especially with the Zoom programming and the newly released TextUs service, something that in all honesty should have been implemented a long time ago. Still, constraint breeds innovation and I’m hoping from all of this that we will bring some really creative ideas into our wheelhouse.


Jan Holmquist Mooc. (2013). Retrieved from


Book Reflection

            My first exposure to Fallout 3 was with a trailer shown at a press conference that took place during E3 2008 (the world’s biggest and most important video game trade show at the time). The trailer teased a post-apocalyptic version of Washington DC, where you got to explore and learn the mysteries of the nuked-out Capital Wasteland. The game brought a whirlwind of excitement and while I had never played a role-playing game besides Pokémon, I decided I would also preorder the game. I started playing, excited to see what all the fuss was about. As I trudged through dialogue trees and skill-point charts, I started realizing that after 4 hours, I was not having fun with the game and that it felt like a chore to play it. I returned it the next day for a full refund.

            As the years went by, Fallout 3 piled on the accolades and Fallout New Vegas came and went with an even greater reception. So, what went wrong? I played videogames, surely that would be enough for me to just know how to enjoy this game? As I later discovered, I was RPG illiterate. I did not understand the basics of playing an open world game, I did not understand what inventory management was, and I did not understand how to use the quest and map system. Without understanding how to use and interpret such essential components, it’s no wonder I gave up so early.

            James Paul Gee in his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy talks about how videogames give the players a perfect plane for learning new skills. He breaks down different games into their basic mechanics and explains them into learning principles, or the basic components of how a person can learn. One key component that he highlights the “Psychosocial Moratorium Principle: Learners can take risks in a space where real-world consequences are lowered.” (Gee, 2009) Having a space where learners can feel like they can take risks without harsh consequences they would normally experience in a real-world setting is key for learners to explore and learn through failing or through experimentation.

            My library is a place for exploration and learning. We offer many programs and services where patrons can come in and learn something new. One such service we offer is through a two-pronged tech support system. The first is through twice a month topic-based tech classes I call Tech Talks. My colleague and myself will prepare a subject and PowerPoint beforehand and try to become experts in an app or a library resource that patrons may be interested in. The second is through one on one tech support, Tech Sessions. Patrons bring in whatever tech issue or curiosity they may have and schedule an appointment with one of the available tech savvy staff members. While the Tech Talks have brought consistent (albeit low) numbers, the Tech Sessions are what our patrons really gravitate towards. The comments that I have frequently received about this service is that patrons feel comfortable with us learning through whatever issue they may be facing. On the rare chance that we do not resolve their problem, they usually come away feeling less afraid of their tech.

            Gee goes on to talk more in depth about other important skills video games can teach people, such as understanding story structure, the Achievement Principle which says “For learners of all levels of skill there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner’s… ongoing achievement’s” (2009), and also more philosophical elements such as cultural models and how players understand ethical issues and how to deal with them. For many naysayers of what videogames have to offer, this book offers many answers.

I eventually did go back to Fallout with a new perspective. I spoke to a friend about how to deal with the immensity of the world and all the mechanics it throws at you. He told me to not worry, “Just pick a direction and keep walking. Just explore and have fun with it. The world will unfold to you and you’ll find your way.”

Ad Victoriam.

Works Cited

Gee, J. P. (2008). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

(2008). Rockville, MD.

(2010). Rockville, MD.


Reflection Post #1

The lecture assigned for this reflection post carried with it a theme of constant change in a field that has a connotation of being stagnant. For a lot of people and even for the patrons that visit the library that I work at, the library Is a place for books, reading, and silence, when that could not be farther from the reality of working in a public library nowadays. I work at the Half Moon Bay Library, which has the system’s first Makerspace. While this public service is not new to libraries, it is surprising how many members of the public don’t realize all the amazing things we offer beyond books.

I’m currently on a trip in New York City. It’s my first time going further east of Arizona. The first thing that caught my attention how well the old and the new seem to mesh here. You have old things such as the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller building, and the ny subway, all intertwined and in perfect harmony while at the same time, not fighting new ideas. At their inception, all of these advancements had pushback from people who thought the old ways were better, but with perseverance and time, people understood adapted and learned to embrace the changes. A similar thing I think is happening with libraries. There was a news report a couple weeks ago that said more people visited libraries than went to the movies. From both perspectives, it’s a staggering headline, because on the one hand if you’re a taxpayer, why wouldn’t you use this wonderful service you’ve paid into? On the other, why would you patronize a seeming decrepit old institution. It all comes back to how things are perceived and how we understand what change is and how progress is understood by the masses. Although I have a heavy bias towards libraries and the many wonderful things they offer, I do find that there is a legitimate arguments to be made for keeping them around. The numbers that have come out have done nothing more than prove my point, but why wouldn’t you want libraries to be a place of good?


Here we go

Hello Everyone!

My name is Abraham Escalante and this is my second year in the MLIS program. I am a Library Assistant with San Mateo County Libraries at the Half Moon Bay branch, where I help with the day-to-day of running the branch as well as help to run some of the programs we offer our patrons. I am originally from San Francisco and I lived in the Central Valley for 10 years before moving to San Jose for my undergrad and I am still here today.

Growing up in the city I had access to some wonderful libraries, which is partly what drove my interest for pursuing a career in the field and why I felt going after the MLIS would be a logical next step. I’m excited for the new semester and look forward to working with you all!