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.

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