Sno-Isle Libraries (SIL) debuted Issues That Matter forums in 2010
as a series of community discussions and debates. These forums convene
residents from communities across the entire two-county library
service area (Snohomish County and Island County, WA) to engage in
important community conversations on relevant, high-profile topics.
Through these events, the library extends its neutral stance to enable
civil, open discussion on controversial topics with the guidance of
several panelists and a program moderator. Sessions are recorded
and streamed live on Facebook. The forums connect citizens in the
communities we serve with local experts, stakeholders, and community
Sno-Isle Libraries (SIL) debuted Issues That Matter forums in 2010
Since its inception in summer 2016, the Civic Lab has offered information and thought-provoking activities to support dialogue and engagement on issues that affect our community. At its heart, the Civic Lab—a team of library staff members from a variety of departments, working in a variety of positions—is about connecting community members of all ages with the information and resources they need to first understand issues that they care about and that are impacting the community, and then, with that foundation of understanding based on reputable information, make up their own minds about how they feel about an issue, and whether and how they want to act as a result.
The Hillsboro (OR) Public Library (HPL) has spent the past five years rebranding itself as a community center, a welcoming place for all. As inspired by HPL’s new mission statement (For Everyone, Para Todos), the staff have embraced and implemented a service model in which the library is a place where the entire community gathers, connects, and explores. As part of this new service model, we strive to create relationships with, and within, our community, as well as to provide an environment where our patrons may have significant interactions and experiences with HPL staff and with each other. And what better way to have a significant experience in one’s life than to take the new citizen’s oath of allegiance at the public library!
After a training presentation on dealing with challenging patrons, a young woman who works in our youth services department asked me, “How should I respond when a man says to me, ‘I’m glad I brought my library card today because I’m checking you out?’” Interesting question: I suppose it depends on the context. If she didn’t mind the comment, then fine. If, however, she found the situation frightening or she felt offended, I suggested that she tell him how what he said made her feel. She needn’t smile or worry about hurting his feelings. Being nice about it will only get her more of the same sort of comments.
Your computer has been locked! Computer blocked! Your personal files are encrypted! Oops your personal files are encrypted! These are the nightmare ransomware messages libraries, hospitals, and communities are seeing across the country. Whole municipalities and major state departments are seeing attacks. Mecklenburg County in Charlotte (NC), the city of Atlanta, and the Colorado Department of Transportation are recent victims. Public libraries in Spartanburg County (SC), St. Louis (MO), and Brownsburg (IN) have also fallen prey.
Reaching for Memories: Expanding Services and Programming to Patrons Living with Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease has personally affected millions of Americans and their families. Someone you know has likely suffered from Alzheimer’s disease or will in the future. Whether having served as a caretaker, provided monetary support, or offered comfort and guidance to those in need, your life will be touched by Alzheimer’s. Libraries are uniquely able to provide essential support and services to patrons living with memory loss and their caretakers.
My first library job was working as a page in a mid-sized public library. At that time pages had three main duties- check books in, shelve them, and shelf-read the shelves. There were odd jobs we’d occasionally do, but by-and-large those three tasks comprised the job. Years later, now with a master’s degree and in my first professional librarian position, I found myself in an academic library with a similar structure. Now called student aides, this entry level position had a core set of duties though this time they also included staffing the circulation desk and performing other additional duties. However, over the past three years, the Fulton Library at Utah Valley University has expanded the way it uses student workers with great success. Originally working almost entirely in the Circulation department, the student aides’ jobs were expanded first to include Technical Services, and following that success, to other departments as well. Looking back to my time at a public library, I believe many public libraries could profit from a similar expansion. How this evolved at Fulton Library may help you to integrate entry-level positions to new locations in your own library.
To-do lists that don’t get done. Perfect planners that go untouched for days or months at a time. Important information jotted on scraps of paper and promptly misplaced. Notes-to-self that are incomprehensible. If that describes your current organization system, it might be time for you to try Bullet Journaling. This latest trend in organization and planning is an immersive experience that combines productivity and mindfulness to help you discover the optimum system that works best for you. The best thing about it? Anyone can pick up a pen and paper and get started right away.
Getting out into the community, participating and partnering with other organizations and institutions, requires considerable staff time. As you’ll read later in this article, the reward is most definitely worth the effort. But finding that staff time is not easy, and some libraries will need to get inventive in order to allocate scarce staff resources efficiently.
As we know, technology continues to redefine how we perceive the communities in which we participate. The perils and promises of machine learning shape our world around us in knowable ways. Social media allows us to participate at arm’s length as never before. It has transformed how we form and nurture our affinity groups so that we experience increasingly more closed systems that reluctantly absorb outside information. The world has become more entropic and arguably less connected to traditional institutions because of social media’s absorbing and disruptive influences. It has become hard for public institutions such as libraries to build upon traditional patron allegiances and support, and more perilous to depend solely on them. Moreover, in our attempts to nurture these allegiances, we struggle to comprehend the directions of change in our environment. Is it any wonder our pursuits often seem an endless cycle of chasing new purpose and self-justification while lurching toward new ideas that sometimes seem ill suited to our core principles?
The first day of contract negotiations is approaching and members of both teams are getting a little nervous. Will talks be smooth or disagreeable? Do both sides know what’s coming or are surprises in store? What is the best way to prepare for successful negotiations? Both sides can do plenty to come to the table prepared to create a contract that meets everyone’s needs.
Motherboards, CPUs, and RAM, oh my! In the twenty-first century, libraries are dependent on these easily confused or misidentified hardware components and terminologies. Modern information systems—ranging from library OPACs to electronic research databases—all require machines that have a motherboard beneath their shiny plastic hoods. Library skills, including Boolean searching and complex taxonomic classification, also rely on computer technology. Librarians regularly make expensive decisions about the hardware in their facilities, but it is easy to get tongue-tied by the acronyms and technical names for the hardware in these machines. A basic grasp of hardware components has the potential to greatly enhance our awareness of our information systems. Libraries can also save money by making informed technology decisions. It’s time we met our motherboards.
During the past year, the public discourse on sexual harassment and gender-based abuse of power has shifted. Women’s marches, the social media #MeToo movement, and the public condemnation of high-profile individuals accused of sexual misconduct have disrupted the nation’s previously accepted complacency and led to demands for accountability. While the national focus on sexual harassment represents an elevated platform and increased visibility for (primarily white) women speaking out against gender oppression, it has yet to translate into a mass movement for pay equity, improved workplace conditions, increased access to childcare, reproductive freedom, and an end to violence against and exploitation of women. This is a case where the individual actions are receiving a lot of attention, but we are in danger of missing the deeper institutional and structural drivers of persistent and entrenched gender inequity.
In 2017, Seattle Public Library (SPL) staff spent the year exploring the social impact of mass incarceration in our city and country. This project marked the second year
that a civic topic was selected to explore through a series designed to empower and center communities throughout Seattle.1 The Criminal Justice Series leveraged traditional engagement techniques that reflect libraries’ “bread and butter” work of information sharing, awareness raising, and enrichment, including public programs, a social media campaign, art exhibit, and related booklists. What made it noteworthy as an instrument of civic engagement was that it relied on a community-led process that placed individuals who are directly affected by criminal justice at the center of program development while library staff played a supporting role.
If you’ve worked with young people for just about any length of time, a teenager has likely shared something painful with you and you may have felt momentarily powerless to help them. I experienced a moment like that on an afternoon when I heard a small group of young teens in my library branch discussing police brutality. I sat down with the teens that day and I listened. They were furious, frustrated, and sad. Absorbing their words and their feelings, I felt those same emotions. I also felt helpless. Their pain was so large and I felt so small in that moment.