Thursday, November 19, 2020

#NYLA2020 : Part 2 - Notes from the on-demand sessions I watched

The NYLA Annual Conferences included 32 on-demand sessions, which are available to participants through Dec. 31, 2020.  Below is the second of several blog posts of things that stood out to me from the on-demand sessions I watched.

Congrats! You’re a Prison Librarian – Now What?

Program Description: A panel of correctional facility librarians will share their experiences and how they are able to succeed at their job. Topics will include but are not limited to collection development, working with other facility staff, and programming. Leave the session feeling re-energized and ready to tackle the daily challenges that come with working in a correctional facility.

Program Speaker:  

  • Melinda Appleby, Senior Librarian, Willard Drug Treatment Campus
  • Matthew Cassidy, Senior Librarian, Woodburn Correctional Facility
  • Diego Sandoval-Hernandez, Correctional Services Librarian, Brooklyn Public Library
  • Andrea Snyder, Pioneer Library System (Moderator)

Brief Notes: 

  • Willard Drug Treatment Campus and Woodburn Correctional Facility are part of the NYS Department of Corrections. 
  • The speakers began by giving an overview of the facilities they work in/with and then talked about what they wish they had known when they took a position in/with a prison.
  • Cassidy gave an overview of the restrictions they work under in these facilities, e.g, no phones or smartwatches, no Internet access, limited "Internet" access for the incarcerated people through specific devices.
  • Sandoval-Hernandez gave an overview of what going through security is like at Rikers Island (part of the NYC jail complex). He goes through several security checkpoints during his day.  He noted later that most of his patrons at serving shorter sentences or are pre-sentence. This means that this facilities have  a high turnover.  This also means that books often go missing, because people leave quickly.
  • Appleby talked about what typical day is like for her. Some of her day is serving classes that come in (incarcerated people working towards their Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC™) [formerly known as the General Educational Development (GED®)].  
  • Cassidy also talked about his typical day. His library is in the same building as the classrooms and a gym.
  • Appleby's facility is a 90-day program. Because of that, she does not do active programming, but does do passive programming.
  • A program that Sandoval-Hernandez and his team does is "Daddy and Me." They work with parents who are incarcerated and do early literacy training. They are then recorded reading a children's book. They invite the family with kids to come in (if possible) and hear the story. The kids leave with the book and the recorded story. If the family cannot come, the book and recording are sent to the family.
  • Cassidy has done reading groups using public domain books that the incarcerated have access to on their tablets. Because they are public domain books, family members on the outside can read the same books.
  • Snyder noted that in non-pandemic times her system provides books through interlibrary loan to the facilities in her region.
  • They talked about collection development for their libraries/patrons.
  • Cassidy recommended The Prison Library Primer: A Program for the Twenty-First Century (2009).
  • Both Cassidy and Appleby have a background in security.
  • Cassidy encourages any librarian, who is interested in helping others, to consider prison librarianship.  He said it is incredibly rewarding to connect the incarcerated in these isolated communities with the information that they need. Sandoval-Hernandez noted that there are many other opportunities to volunteer in jails and prisons, and make a difference.

Organizing Media Literacy Activities for Prison Libraries

Program Description: Correctional facility libraries are critical sites for adult media literacy education.  United States correctional facilities house nearly a quarter of the world's prison population, many of whom are released after decades-long sentences into a society whose patterns of media engagement are distressingly different from the media landscapes they experienced prior to their periods of incarceration. Over the past three years, more than a dozen graphic novel-based media literacy education program sessions have been successfully conducted within New York State maximum and medium-security prison libraries.  The goal of this presentation is to share information about how these sessions were conducted and explore ways media literacy advocates and prison librarians can organize and facilitate graphic novel-based media literacy activities.

Program Speakers: Drew Emanuel Berkowitz, Ph.D.

Brief Notes:
  • He is interested in media literacy using fiction. His dissertation was How is Fanfiction Framed for Literacy Education Practitioner Periodical Audiences : Media Frame Analysis. He is the author of Framing School Violence and Bullying in Young Adult Manga: Fictional Perspectives on a Pedagogical Problem (2020).
  • Those who are incarcerated need to understand how the media (not just TV as media) has changed.
  • Media literacy in a correctional facility is often taught by simulating what is occurring outside of the facility. However, simulating does not provide the full experience. For example, you cannot simulate all of the aspects of a blogging environment.
  • In a correctional facility there can be restrictions to your pedagogy. You will not, for example, have the same tools available to you.
  • Berkowitz questions what the definition of a graphic novel is. Some are quite serious (e.g., From Hell), which others are more like traditional comic books.
  • He noted that facilities have content guidelines, which can limit what you are able to use with incarcerated people. The visual component may cause a work to not be allowed, but the non-graphic novel version may be permitted.  Very interesting to think about using Watchmen (e.g., Absolute Watchmen) versus Walking Dead, both in graphic novel form. One is more real life, while the other is fantasy with zombies.
  • My takeaways from this presentation are:
    • There is a wide variety of works that fall under the heading of graphic novel.
    • Graphic novels can help someone learn about and understand a topic in a different way. 
    • Because of the appeal of graphic novels, some people may learn about a topic that they would not have otherwise. Berkowtiz, for example, noted that most men have not read a novel about the lives of teenage girls.  A graphic novel could be a way of providing that perspective.
    • Part of what can be discussed about a graphic novel is its point of view. In other words, if it is fan faction, what make it different than the original? What is that point of view trying to teach us or get us to think about?
    • When you use graphic novels in a correctional facility, you need to be flexible. While you may not be able to use the work you wanted, you may find that you can use something else.

Visualizing A More Dynamic Annual Report

Program Description: It is vital, and sometimes mandated, for organizations to produce a document that shows how they are spending money and distributing their resources. Producing a comprehensive report of the library's yearly activity need not be an arduous task, and need not become the dreaded "wall of text." Thanks to modern, inexpensive publishing tools such as Canva, it is possible to create attractive and informative documents - even on a shoestring budget. Well-visualized data can be used for conveying information to key stakeholders such as: elected officials, patrons, and your wider community. In this workshop, we will talk about best practices for turning data points into visuals, software for creative reports, and printing options for the final product.

Program Speaker: Carolyn Bennett Glauda, Southeastern NY Library Resources Council

Brief Notes:

  • Very good presentation for getting you to consider what should go into your annual report and how they might look. It is good to think about what should be in your report, rather continuing to do what you have always done. She quickly reviewed a view tools and showed some reports that she liked.
  • She has been creating the reports with SNYLRC since 2012.
  • An annual report is a document for stakeholders that chronicles the past year.  It can include narrative of the organization's activities, making use of graphics and charts.  It contains detailed financial and operation information. This is different than the annual report your library might submit to the State Library.
  • Questions:
    • Who are your stakeholders?  Make a list of your target audiences, which might include the board, elected officials, future employees, voters, or donors.  You can be specific or general.
    • What do you want to highlight? What were the big events of the year? What made this year special? What are you proud to share with your stakeholders?
    • Where are you publishing this? In paper? Handed out? Emailed? Where will you keep archival copies? Where can you publish it so it is seen to more stakeholders? Do you need multiple formats?
  • Think about what things are worth, rather than what they cost. Convey value, rather than where you spent money.
  • Include data which your audience cares about the most, then connect it to a story. How did it change a life?
  • What was your best work in the year? Let that shine through. Keep track of your wins and successes.
  • Find your best images/photos from the year.
  • Make decisions on how you will publish. Online? Print? Hybrid?  How big do you want it to be? Do you need a shorter version for specific populations?
  • It is okay to look at other people's reports and see what they did for inspiration.
  • Resources:

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

#NYLA2020 : Part 1 - Notes from the on-demand sessions I watched

The NYLA Annual Conferences included 32 on-demand sessions, which are available to participants through Dec. 31, 2020.  Below is the first of several blog posts of things that stood out to me from the on-demand sessions I watched. 

Conversations with the New York State Librarian Access

Program Description: New York State Librarian, Lauren Moore interviews Interim Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York, Dr. Betty A. Rosa about NYS libraries. The conservation is continued with a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Moore. 

Program Speakers: 

  • Lauren Moore, New York State Librarian, New York State Library 
  • Nate Hill, Executive Director, Metro Library Council 
  • Grace Riario, Chief Executive Officer, Ramapo Catskill Library System 
  • Dr. Betty A. Rosa, Interim Commissioner of Education 
  • Arlene Way, Chair, Regents Advisory Council on Libraries 

Quick notes:

  • During this program the group used the word "library" and it generally seemed to mean public libraries.
  • Dr. Rosa comes from a K-12 background, so she thinks about libraries in terms of how they support K-12 education. This may mean that she is not automatically thinking of the breadth of what libraries do.
  • Digital equity is a topic that is important to the NYS Education Department both short and long-term.
  • When school districts turned to online learning, the digital divide became more evident.
  • Moore estimated that 25% of students in NYS do not have Internet access.
  • The need for libraries to have safe spaces for staff to talk with each other about what they are going through. 
  • Libraries have always had challenges, with some more than others.  Staff need to be able to talk about these challenges without fear of losing their jobs.
  • Grace Riario talked about library staff following up with community members who have requested information. They found that touching base with those community members was important, especially for those community members who were alone.
  • Libraries cannot solve every problem. Some problems need to be solved by other groups.  However, libraries do have the ability to connect resources. Arlene Way mentioned partners including the Chamber of Commerce.
  • What is the role of the library in the partnerships it forms?
  • NYSED is planning a digital equity summit for early 2021.
  • Hill talked about building digital collections - and how they are built - as being part of digital equity work.
  • K-12 schools need to reach out to public libraries as potential partners, and not just libraries reaching out to the schools.  I know that some K-12 school administrators don't understand how public libraries (or even K-12 libraries) can support what they do.

Bringing Low Vision Services to Your Library

Program Description: Learn how librarians at Westchester County Library System and Yonkers Public Library planned an executed the launch of VisionLab. VisionLab is a pilot program intended to pave the way towards more low vision services spread throughout Westchester County’s libraries. Staff will discuss the research process used to discover stakeholders, potential partners, and the state of low-vision services in Westchester County.  Attendees will also learn how the NYS Talking Book and Braille Library, TBBL, can be a valuable partner in providing reading materials to individuals who have difficulty reading standard print due to visual, physical, or reading disability.  TBBL staff will discuss eligibility for service, provide an overview of the program, and explain how to search and request audio and braille materials.

Program Speakers:  

  • Shawn Lemieux, NYS State Talking Book and Braille Library
  • Jane Bentley, NYS Library
  • Krishna Horrigan, Westchester Library System
  • Alan Houston, Yonkers Public Library

 Quick notes: 

The NYS Talking Books and Braille Library (TBBL) - Lemieux and Bentley

  • TBBL serves over 1400 patrons.
  • TBBL circulates about 1000 audio books per day on cartridge and 300 braille books per week.
  • TBBL serves approximately 2000 institutions, who serve TBBL patrons.
  • Playback equipment is provided for the audio cartridges (actually a USB drive in a larger cartridge) for free. This equipment is accessible for patrons with a wide variety of abilities.
  • Patrons can also download audio and ebraille books through BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download).
  • TBBL provides additional resources including:
    • NFB-Newsline - This is an amazing free audio service for those who cannot read the newspaper.
    • National Library Service for the Blind and Print-Disabled
    • Commission for the Blind
    • Bookshare
VisionLabs - Horrigan and Houston
  • The need: In the U.S., there are 52 million people who are 65 years old or older. Often people in this group can have difficulty reading print materials. In Weschester County (NY) there over 15,000 people who have difficulty reading print material, even when wearing glasses.  
  • In Westchester County, they interviewed people to understand they need as well as what services currently exist.
  • Learned that seniors often prefer low-tech solutions.
  • Grinton I. Will Branch (Yonkers) has created an initiative to seek out and service special populations.
  • What low vision services could they actually provide?
  • Newly blind adults often never learn braille, so building a braille collection did not make sense.
  • Thinking outside of the box - circulating objects.
  • VisionLabs components:
    • Hardware - sample or borrow accessible hardware
    • Education for patrons and library staff
    • Referrals
  • VisionLabs webpage
  • Accessible hardware is expensive. They were able to obtain grants to help with their purchases. 
  • Make your intentions known to potential partners. They may be able to donate funds or materials
  • With COVID-19, delayed their summer 2020 launch.  Looked at how they could work with this population online. Have been holding online programs.
  • Once libraries re-open, they can begin to acquire hardware and meet with people in-person.
  • A significant roadblock for organizations that serve this populating is marketing. They hope to boost the signal of other organizations,

Assessing Your Library’s Makerspace

Program Description: Since makerspaces appeared in the library more than a decade ago, these collaborative learning environments have grown substantially in number. As their presence has become increasingly common within our organizations, it is vital that we accurately assess their performance. The less-structured, occasionally freewheeling nature of makerspaces can make them notoriously difficult to evaluate. With that in mind, what kinds of data can we collect on our makerspaces, and what questions should we seek to answer?

Book cover

Program Speaker: Nick Tanzi, South Huntington Public Library. He is the co-author of Best Technologies for Public Libraries: Policies, Programs, and Services (2020).

Quick notes: 

  • This slides for this presentation are well-done and Tanzi really provided good content. If you attended the conference, you should watch his presentation.
  • Because makerspaces provide wide-open learning opportunities, they can be difficult to access.
  • Given our current situation in the middle of a pandemic. Tanzi encourages:
    • A flexible collection of statistics is important
    • Think beyond the physical location
    • Plan for tomorrow
  • Often times the origins of a makerspace are:
    • Excess meeting space
    • Downsized media collections or reference collections
  • This decision is made using hard data and anecdotal evidence
  • Assessment is important in creating a makerspace
  • The South Huntington Public Library makerspace sits where the reference collection used to be.
  • The SHPL makerspace contains an amazing assortment of equipment and capabilities!
  • What questions am I seeking to answer about my makerspace?
    • How many people are using my space? There are high-tech and low-tech solutions for gathering this information. How many times is the spaced used? Is the space being used by the same users (power users)? Foot traffic is different than use.
    • What technology is being used? Track machine outputs, equipment "checkouts," software launched, or even self-reporting. Tracking software usage can help you understand if you have enough (or too much) software licenses. Be upfront with your patrons that you are tracking use and why, and that you are maintaining patron privacy.
    • What are our users learning? Think learning outcomes. Are people working towards certifications (even library-specific certifications)? What are people learning overtime? Are you using a badging system, which is a form of self-reporting?
    • What value is being delivered? How can that value be communicated? Compare services to commercial alternatives. You should not be more expensive. Are you covering your costs? Is your value that you are providing critical access?
    • What else are the users interested in? Make your space user-driven.
  • Understand your internal and external customers. Track what staff is doing, as well as your patrons. How are staff using the space? What is being created that the library doesn't have to buy? Staff training has a value.
  • Strike a balance in how to collect data. It does not have to be onerous.
  • Yes, stories help. What stories does the data tell? Use data in the stories.  Package the data as a narrative.
  • Be honest in your data storytelling. Don't force a rosy story if it is not there. Maybe you have learned that you need better marketing or more programming in order to increase usage.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Article: How Controlled Digital Lending Makes an Entire College Library Available to Everyone Everywhere

There is increased interested in expanding access to materials through controlled digital lending (CDL), which I've written about before. Recently EveryLibrary published an article about CDL, its benefits, and how it preserves access.  The article begins:

Books have been circulating for thousands of years and have changed with new technologies and resources. The trends and demands of the digital world — where consumers access materials in electronic forms — means that many books that were published before the digital age are not available online or for e-readers. Librarians across the country are working on fixing this problem.
If you are interested in increasing access to materials in your library, consider reading this article to learn about the impact CDL has on the Marygrove College and its library collection.

Friday, November 06, 2020

#NYLA2020 : TERF Wars - Transphobia, libraries, and trans workers

Program Description: 

Several public libraries have played host to anti-trans speakers, despite community feedback and protests. Those libraries proceeded with events, citing freedom of speech. Trans people are dealing with a constant state of precariousness legally, socially, and in workplaces. How do we align library policies, ideals, the Library Bill of Rights, and our codes of conduct when it comes to speech attacking marginalized groups? How do we uphold freedom of speech without allowing it to be weaponized? What is our responsibility as information professionals to vulnerable members of our communities?

Program Speaker: 

  • Djaz Zulida, Brooklyn Public Library (they/them)

Dumpster fire with the text "breathe with me"
Brief notes

  • Zulida started with a short breathing meditation using the image on the right.
  • What is TERF? Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism
  • Why are TERFs using library spaces? 
    • Space is free/cheap.
    • We are community hubs.
    • Free advertising.
    • Library policies are value.
    • Neutrality and both-side-ism.
    • Free speech.
  • Noted three libraries that held TERF events and three that we able to avoid holding TERF events.
    • Megan Murphy is a person who is connected with several of these events.
  • A silver lining to the pandemic is no library programs, so TERFs cannot come in and use the library space.
  • How do we plug up the holes in our libraries to reduce vulnerability? How do we make sure our patrons are protected from hate-filled groups?
    • Codes of conduct
    • Meeting room policies
    • Union contracts
    • Can you go beyond state or ALA guidelines?
  • Use the time now, when you do not have this as an issue to review and revise your meeting room policy.  Be proactive. If it has been an issue in other libraries, it could be an issue in yours.
  • Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20
  • What does trans inclusion look like?
  • Inclusive restrooms - menstrual products in both gender restrooms, etc.
  • Inclusive language - for example, "parents and guardians" rather than "moms and dads"
  • Pronouns - normalize sharing pronouns
  • What does trans inclusion look like?
    • Beyond Pride Month
    • Beyond Drag Queen Storytime
    • Collection development
  • Trans & Queer Alternatives to Harry Potter - Brooklyn Public Library has lists of books
  • Be mindful of what is happening in your community outside of the library. How can you support trans community members non-library settings?
  • Book list on Goodreads
  • New York Transgender Advocacy Group
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine Transgender Resources


  • Do you have any examples with language we could use to refresh our policy? Look at LGBTQ and other organizations for examples. 
  • What do you suggest we could do to encourage a more inclusive environment but receiving pushback from staff and patrons?  Find allies who can help to advocate for this.
  • I use email signatures & put my pronouns on my Zoom profile, but I still often see patrons, presenters, and colleagues using the wrong ones for me. Is there a constructive way to emphasize these language shifts? Is there an ally who can help to advocate for you and take some of the weight off of you?
  • Does anyone have pronouns attached to patron accounts? Good question!  The information could go into the notes field. Would be interested in hearing from a library that is putting pronouns in the record. You would want patrons to be able to opt-in. 
  • Do ILS's allow for genders other than male/female or pronouns? Don't know.
  • I've heard different perspectives on the relationships libraries should have with Harry Potter due to the author's transphobia. I'd love to hear your thoughts on using Harry Potter in programming/taking up library space and if it can be appropriate. What do you think? Harry Potter is not the end-all or be-all. J.K. Rowling has taken toxic stance against trans people. Her impact does not stop with Harry Potter.  There are other ways of connecting with fantasy and wizardry without using Harry Potter.  Don't throw the books out, but on other works.  Some people will say to focus on the art rather than the artist, but it doesn't hurt to focus on other authors. Be creative.



#NYLA2020 : Author! Author! – Lester Spence

Event Description:

Lester Spence is a Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He specializes in the study of Black, racial, and urban politics in the wake of the neoliberal turn. An award-winning scholar (in 2013, he received the W.E.B. DuBois Distinguished Book Award for his book, Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics) and teacher (in 2009, he received an Excellence in Teaching Award). He can regularly be heard on National Public Radio and the Marc Steiner Show.

Brief Notes:

I could not take notes fast enough! Wow...I will definitely need to listen to this again, since it was recorded.
  • Spence started by asking that we stop and breathe to calm our anxiety.  We need to be prepared for the work that is coming.
  • There are higher levels of inequality than there were in the Great Depression.
  • The New Deal and programs in the 1950s-1960s lessened in inequality for a while. 
  • inequality increased in the 1970s due to inflation and unemployment.  That created a challenge for society and the theories used to problem solve the economy.
  • During neoliberalism (free-market capitalism) efforts worked against lessening inequality.
  • It used to be that wages rose as productivity rose. Thar ended in the 1970s when productivity continued to rise, but wages did not. Wages flat-lined.
  • It used to be that you did not need a high education to provide for yourself and your family.  Now the sectors that are growing which require more education.
  • Unions have been important, but union membership continues to decrease.
  • Welfare benefits have decreased over time.
  • The number of incarcerated have increased, beginning in the 1970s. 
  • Inequality is increasing within racial groups.
  • What does this mean for cities? An increase within cities of privatization, gentrification, etc.
  • What does this mean for libraries? 
  • Some libraries are being asked to function more like businesses. More "profit" focused or being assessed on a cost-benefit analysis.  More space or programming taken up for business like use. Decreased support by municipal spending.  More need for private donations.
  • The function of libraries has changed.
  • Social justice movement - Examples:
    • Occupy Wall Street - people were articulating the wealth gap. He believes this movement had a lasting impression.  
    • Black Lives Matter - There is an interracial aspect. Who is and who isn't worthy of political care. Also a reaction to the rise of the police state. While BLM hasn't generated policy shifts, he believes it is ongoing and that it is helping us think about our racial policies more broadly.
  • What roles do libraries play?
  • These movements were an ideological move. The 1970s was an ideological crisis. Institutions built on those old ideas cannot function.  In an ideological crisis, you need new ideas.  This is where schools and libraries step in. Libraries help us find old ideas and repurpose them.  It is libraries that have space for these discussions.
  • Libraries have been victimized by the neoliberalism era.
  • These movements represent what libraries are fighting for.
  • Whatever happens with the election, we are in the middle of a cultural war about truth. Libraries are not just a byproduct of social movements, they can support them.

Responses to questions:

  • Once you individualize taxpaying and create a taxpayer identity, that means they are more aware of if they are benefitting from their tax payments. Libraries need to be aware of what taxpayers want, but taxpayers cannot allow taxpayers to arbitrate what the library does. We are in a political movement, which means that people do need to take a stance for science and truth.
  • The increased used of algorithms on the Internet - creates personalized social networks and reproduces certain times of disinformation. We need to make a push to re-democratize the Internet, which will mean pushing against several large companies.
  • Are public intellectual spaces in jeopardy? Yes. We need to fight for the rest of our lives for these spaces.
  • Taxpaying isn't about me paying you.  Taxes are paid to provide for public services and the public good. 
  • How should we instruct our patrons to research the truth using the internet or books in print/online when all they have to do is google information which may or may not be factual? Libraries should begin to have programs on how to sift out the truth. Use music, movies, lectures.  Bring people together and not just individual conversations.

Comments on ALA:

Everything ALA is doing is important. Diversifying is important. We don't do that just for the people who are discriminated again, but you are also doing for the people who are in power.  For example, the people who really need to read about Black folk are White folk.

We need to articulate about the resources that libraries have. If you distinguish them by their communities, you will see that some communities have more resources that others.  Structural racism needs to be connected to this community dynamic.