Outreach, Engagement & Other Splendid Stuff

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Last week, I attended the Kettering Foundation's Virtual Learning Exchange to discuss how libraries and our community partners might work together in times of crisis to facilitate democratic problem-solving and decision-making. The annual Deliberative Democracy Exchange is part of the Kettering Foundation’s broader commitment to researching what democratic practices look like on the community level, and how citizens choose to work together, or why they don’t.

We had a wide-ranging conversation over the two days explored the importance of collaboration and being willing to convene difficult conversations about race and racism in our libraries. We discussed the importance of resilience and building the relationships you need before you need them. We grappled with big questions: What makes us human beings? What is our role as a citizen, as a constituent, and as a congregant? And, we looked at the challenges and opportunities in building community during a time of the pandemic.

So what can public libraries do? We have an essential role to play in convening authentic (and possibly uncomfortable) conversations about things that matter to our communities. We have some soul-searching to do, as we consider what our institutional and personal histories have been with equity, and create plans for what we’ll do today, tomorrow, in 90 days and beyond. We can help people take agency by providing citizen leadership training for our communities, and provide space for people to organize. We can remove barriers to service, including eliminating fines and looking at our policies and procedures through a racial equity lens. When we hire, we can use situational-based questions, like: What’s your definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion? How are they different? Name a time when you worked with someone who is a different nationality or race?

And finally, we can focus on meeting people where they are, listen to and honor their lived experiences, and ask: What do you want for yourself and your family? What would it take to get you there? As we move forward, we have an opportunity to rethink what we do, how we do it, and who we want to be. We have a chance to confront institutional ghosts and build relationships with individuals to create the healthy, deeply rooted foundations we’ll need to thrive into the 21st century and beyond.

Advocacy Alert

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Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Andy Levin (D-MI) are sponsoring legislation calling for $2 billion in economic recovery funding for America's libraries through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Library Stabilization Fund Act would allow libraries across the country to retain staff, maintain services, and safely keep communities connected and informed. Please take a moment to let your representatives know how important libraries are for your community. Thanks!

Adult Program Swap

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Although our buildings may have been closed, library services have continued during the COVID-19 pandemic -- including programming. Adult programmers are invited to share their triumphs, challenges, and everything in between during the next Adult Program Swap from 10 to 11 am Thursday, July 23, on GoTo Meeting. We look forward to catching up!

Equity Matters

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The CDLC CATS (Cataloging and Technical Services) Interest Group will hold a virtual meeting from 2 to 3 pm Wednesday, August 26, to discuss Change the Subject: A documentary about labels, libraries, and activism, an engaging documentary about the Dartmouth students who challenged a divisive library cataloging term and joined the immigration debate on Capitol Hill.

The film is available to stream at

Questions to consider:

  1. Have you made changes like this locally in your catalog? What headings have you changed?
  2. If you cannot make these changes to the catalog, what might you do to address these problematic subject headings?
  3. Is your library working toward a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion? In what ways?
  4. If you've implemented changes, what has been the reaction from your stakeholders? Were there any unforeseen consequences as a result of the changes?

Feel free to come with suggestions and ideas for any other topic you'd like to discuss at future meetings. Meetings are open to all and there is no cost to attend however, registration is necessary to receive a link to the Zoom Meeting.

Moving Forward

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Strong libraries — and a well-supported library workforce — are essential to the recovery of communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This collection of tools, developed and updated by units across the American Library Association, will help communities, library workers, and library supporters plot the best course forward for their libraries.

Accessibility Rules!

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The American Library Association Accessibility Assembly has released two new toolkits, Accessible Communication Styles, and Virtual Accessibility. These new topics are part of the Library Accessibility Toolkits: What You Need to Know series.

Accessible Communication Styles provides guidance for choosing Inclusive language to celebrate the diversity of experiences. The toolkit discusses the use of "people-first" and "identity-first" language to address the concerns of disability advocacy groups while promoting human dignity. This toolkit offers current best practices that promote an inclusive library environment.

Virtual Accessibility includes tips and resources to ensure that library events are welcoming and accessible for everyone interested in participating. The Virtual Accessibility toolkit offers specific suggestions for video meetings and presentations, webinars, group discussions, accessible documents, and handouts.

Inspiration & Innovation

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Who among us has not cursed the Google suite of projects? Some, rather than curse the darkness of long-forgotten group projects and shared documents, found a way to get creative using Google forms to build virtual escape rooms. Themes have ranged from Harry Potter to space to fairy tales, but all have successfully engaged people in learning while having fun. Way to go, amazing librarians!


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Have you felt stressed out, have problems sleeping, or focusing on things like work? You are not alone. Some thoughtful, tech-savvy souls designed an app that lets us scream like no one's listening into the Icelandic wilderness. *Warning: Could be habit-forming.
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Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to Climate Change is an ALA pilot program made possible by support from a private donor. The program supports public and academic libraries in efforts to engage their communities in programs and conversations that address the climate crisis.

The goals of this project include:

  • Raising awareness and providing accurate information about the climate crisis to the public through libraries
  • Designating libraries as Climate Resilience Hubs, positioning them to provide ongoing public education and community support during extreme weather events
  • Engaging library staff in local partnerships and environmental justice efforts that emphasize bottom-up organizing, shared community leadership, and the centering of those most impacted by climate change, particularly communities of color and underserved communities
  • Creating space in libraries for communities to engage in conversation, mobilize for the initiation of sustainability policies and practices, and build more resilient communities
  • Identifying and documenting relevant, replicable programming models for future national distribution

ALA will select twenty-five (25) public and academic libraries to receive a Resilient Communities grant.

Applications open online: July 1, 2020
Deadline for submission: August 28, 2020 by 11:59 pm (CDT)
Award notification date: September 21, 2020

Improving Digital Access

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Community Connect: Digital Access at Home, an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) and Capital One Bank, offers grants and resources to help support digital access and financial capability in rural communities nationwide.

Twenty rural public libraries will receive five Wi-Fi hotspots (including service contract) for lending to patrons; a $2,000 stipend to support implementing financial capability programs; curated book lists and more. Participating libraries will be selected through a peer-reviewed, competitive application process.

Public libraries are eligible if they serve a legal service area population of 25,000 or less and are in a rural community at least five miles from an urbanized area, per the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) definition.

Learn All the Things!

When You Least Expect It: Helping Library Patrons Manage Life’s Financial Twists and Turns

Tuesday, July 28th, 2pm

This is an online event.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, libraries have been hard at work helping to inform their communities about the many ways we can prepare for the economic aspects of the uncertainties in our future. As the pandemic continues, addressing both the immediate and future financial education resource needs of our users remain paramount.

Join the RUSA Financial Literacy Interest Group for a free webinar about financial education, sponsored by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

As trusted community education partners, libraries play an important role in starting the conversation about life-changing events that are made easier through informed financial decisions and planning.

Our panelists will share reputable resources for helping your community manage the unexpected and be resilient in challenging circumstances, especially in times when patrons cannot physically visit the library.

Whose Turn is it Anyway? Online Board Gaming and Libraries

Tuesday, July 28th, 3pm

This is an online event.

Closed buildings and social distancing don’t need to mean the end of engaging and fun board game groups hosted by libraries. Using popular and free online board gaming platforms (Board Game Arena, Yucata, Tabletopia, Tabletop Simulator, and Boitejeux), communities of gamers can continue meeting safely online. This webinar will explore how to make the transition to online board gaming, moderate meetups, and facilitate discussions among participants. The session will apply to those looking to move online, and anyone interested in starting their first gaming group.

Presented by: John Pappas, Head Librarian, Elkins Park Free Public Library, Cheltenham Township Library System (PA), and author of the Board in the Library series on WebJunction; and Bebo, author, photographer, video producer and founder of Be Bold Games

Legal Issues and Reopening: The Saga Continues

Wednesday, July 29th, 1pm

This is an online event.

Many libraries are now months deep into their process of re-opening. What have we learned? What have we had to re-tool? Stephanie Adams will present concrete tips and legal guidance based on our experiences to date, including: use of signage, de-escalating legal threats, reliance on CDC and OSHA guidance, and use of policy and law to support thoughtful operations.

In order to make this as helpful as possible, attendees are welcome to share not only their questions, but real examples of challenges they are facing!

Learning About Cultural Humility & Implicit Bias – Understanding Our Responsibility

Monday, Aug. 17th, 10am

This is an online event.

Cultural humility urges us to engage in critical, consistent self-reflection and critique to understand that being patron-centered is vital to moving through an equitable profession. This webinar will provide an overview of cultural humility, understand the importance of cultural humility in librarianship, adopt a cultural humility framework, delving deeper into how implicit bias affects how library staff perceives and interacts with patrons, and how to mitigate biased responses.

About the Presenter:

Twanna Hodge (she/her/hers) is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Librarian at the University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries. She holds a BA in Humanities from the University of the Virgin Islands and an MLIS from the University of Washington. She is the National Conference of African American Librarians XI Conference Programming Committee co-chair, Spectrum Scholarship Juror, Association of College and Research Libraries Residency Interest Group – Social Media and Communications team leader and more. Her research interests are diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility issues and efforts in the LIS curriculum and workplace, library residencies and fellowships, cultural humility in librarianship, and the retention of minority library staff in librarianship. She is a 2013 Spectrum Scholar and 2018 ALA Emerging Leader.