Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Introduction and Thesis

Libraries in Times of Disaster

--by Rachel Stock

A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center has shown that many Americans still believe that libraries play an integral role in their community (Horrigan).  Yet, libraries are often overlooked as a resource in times of crisis.  In fact, discussion about the role of public libraries in times of disaster recovery has largely remained “in the library literature,” rather than in the public discussion (Veil and Bishop, 2014) Despite the fact that libraries are often left out of disaster relief planning, studies have shown that in times of community stress, people do seek out the services libraries provide.  For example, the day after Hurricane Sandy ripped through Princeton, New Jersey in 2012, traffic in the public library increased by 2,000 patrons seeking Internet access and electricity (Veil and Bishop 2014).

Understanding the role that a public library can play during community crisis is the first step to identifying ways public libraries can become actively involved in better serving their communities.  There are three specific ways that libraries are able to provide relief to the citizens they serve.  First, libraries can act as a source of accurate information.  In times of disaster, patrons would be able to find information on the nature of the crisis, where to go, what to do and where to find supplies.  Often media coverage focuses on “sensationalizing” the disaster, which can “exacerbate a crisis”, rather than providing “instructional messages” (Veil and Bishop, 2014). 

Second, libraries can provide a physical space for organizations such as FEMA, Red Cross, the National Guard and Army Corp to coordinate efforts.  Libraries can also act as a home base for community leaders such as fire, police and public works (Will, p. 76).  In addition, they can act as a place for community wide informational meetings.  Not only do libraries provide a centralized meeting area for officials but often serve as one place that citizens can feel a sense of comfort and normalcy throughout the crisis (Veil and Bishop, 2014).

Finally, libraries are an invaluable resource because they are often able to maintain access to the internet.  Not only does this provide patrons with a way to connect with loved ones but they are also able to use internet access to obtain government forms related to the disaster.  Assisting patrons in properly printing and filling out forms such as those required by FEMA is one of the key ways that librarians are able to maintain their presence on the front line of post-disaster relief (Veil and Bishop, 2014).

By expanding their role during times of crisis and laying plans for disaster relief, public libraries are able to fulfill their role as a place that is “uniquely primed” to serve their community in times of crisis (Bishop and Veil p. 721).  By working with community leaders and officials before disaster strikes, public libraries can be much more than “a passive repository of information” and step into their role as a leader in times of community upheaval (Will, 2001).

Here is an example of the services public libraries can provide in times of community crisis:

Types of Literacy

--by Bobbi Galvin

Here we discuss literacy with regard to children, information, health and technology.

Children’s Literacy

Is there anything more fun than library story time?   If done well, story time incorporates all styles of learning so that every child benefits.

There are challenges to getting every child ready to read.  Economic status, language barriers, parent literacy levels, and availability of books can all be an influence. 

Libraries can address these community issues.  For example, libraries can offer ESL classes for adults and children, GED classes, family reading times, and reading programs that encourage participation.  
Another step libraries can take is to work collaboratively with schools and other agencies to identify at-risk youth, then create appropriate programs.

What are some needs in your community that could be addressed by the local library?

Information Literacy
Finding just the right piece of information can be crucial in certain instances; legal information, for example.  While librarians are not qualified to give legal advice, it is the responsibility of the information professional to direct each user to reliable, current resources so that users can make an informed decision.

Quite often, students have not received information literacy instruction in school.  It then falls onto higher education faculty and librarians to instruct students in the best way to do research, which includes “the ability to determine the extent of information needed; access the needed information effectively and efficiently; evaluate information and its sources critically; incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base; use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally” (Elmborg, 2010).

For further information, watch this video from the Seminole State Library:

Health Literacy
Sometimes research can be a matter of life and death.  Just as with legal information, librarians are not qualified to give medical advice.  They can, however, provide current and factual information so that the patron can make an informed medical decision.

Not only do librarians and patients need to be skilled in health literacy, so do medical professionals. Doctors and nurses interact with many different populations and audiences. Their expertise and credibility are always at stake, so they must be able to access and evaluate many different sources such as general web searches and medical databases.  As health educators, they must question known information, and know the agendas behind the various sources of information. The true key to understanding is to also be able to present this information clearly and responsibly to various audiences.

Technology Literacy

As information professionals, assisting patrons bridge the digital divide is part of the job description. 

This includes helping a parent decide which app is good for their child, helping a teen download music from Freegal, showing a new college student how to connect with classmates using Skype, or helping a little one on the age appropriate learning stations in the youth area.

As a professional, how do you keep up with technology?  How does your employer support your learning of new technologies?

One excellent example of how library administration keeps the staff constantly learning is the Shawnee Branch of the Johnson County Library.  They offer each staff member, from pages to managers, a “happy hour” once a week.  During this time, the staff member can watch webinars, practice on technology gadgets, or explore anything that sparks their interest (McNair, 2016).


Here are some other types of literacy that could require more in-depth research and patron training.

        Business and financial literacy
          Political literacy
          Career and job searching literacy

          Critical literacy

The list could go on indefinitely.  What other types have you encountered?

The Importance of Community Partnerships

--by Sara Mcmullen

It is becoming increasingly important that information centers garner partnerships with other community institutions for a multitude of reasons.  Collaborations with learning institutions create opportunities for ongoing education in unique and creative ways that are vital in our world.  Partnerships allow both libraries and schools to increase the number of students with whom they positively engage in the community.  Creating partnerships with local organizations allows for community growth and development that would otherwise be unobtainable. 

Patrons involved in various types of partnerships are given the great advantage of coming into direct contact with a librarian who can give them invaluable skills that can be put into use for the rest of their lives. Ake Nygren (2014) states the following concerning libraries working with learning institutions:
At the core of connected learning is the conviction that web literacy, together with reading and writing, are the literacies of the future and that we need to prepare efficient learning pathways for youth that are relevant for a society where coding is as important as writing. (p. 6)
Technology surrounds us and it is essential to become fluent in this new language if we are to thrive and be successful.

An aspect of the digital world that is growing daily is coding.  Two examples of coding collaborations include the Orange County Library System and the Denver Pubic Library.  These collaborations have attracted the attention of local technology companies and they are now giving internships to some of the participants (Enis, 2016).

Interested in coding in libraries?  

Another great example of community collaboration is the Hartford, Connecticut Library partnering with their local police department.  The library staff asked what the main concern of the community was, and they stated, “public safety, community violence, and their relationship with the police” (Public Libraries Online, 2015).  As a result of the ongoing collaboration and programming, the residents felt heard and that their concerns were addressed, resulting with a better relationship with local law enforcement.

Want to see more wonderful examples of library partnerships?  

Building a connection within your community can help your library pull patrons back in who may not have used the library in a while and may also draw in new users.  It will remind your community that the library is still relevant.  Partnerships may also improve the relationships with local organizations making advocacy for future needs easier.

Interested in starting a collaboration in your community?  WebJunction and the California Library Association have some ideas to get you started!
Watch this for even more inspiration:

What kind of collaboration would benefit your library service area?  Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Increasing Teen Traffic in the Library

--by Jennifer Nails
Last school year, I taught a poetry elective at the private school where I am now the librarian.  During a class on “freedom of expression,” students came up one at a time and “ranted” about a topic that they felt strongly about.

A string of students began talking about how they felt that sometimes school is a waste of time.
Why do we need to come to school?
Everything that we need to know, we can find online.

As librarian this year, I feel similarly to how I felt that day in class. Why do we need to come into the library to research our senior thesis projects? We can find everything we need online.

In her response to a 2013 Oxford University study that states that 47% of occupations are in danger of automation, Anya Kamenetz posits that there are still three major skill sets that computers are incapable of performing:

                      Giving a hug
                      Solving a mystery
                      Telling a story

Based on my experience as a teacher and librarian, I will break each of these down.

                Hug:  There is something to be said for human interaction. When teens visit the library to take advantage of community programming or to browse and mingle, or when high school students participate in group work at school, they are practicing interpersonal skills which are impossible to simulate via their laptops.

  If students are able to “find all of the answers online,” they must also practice generating the questions. Once graduation passes, they will step gingerly into the “real world” where they must navigate their way toward not only the right answers and choices, but also toward the right questions to ask along the way; in the “real world” self-motivation is the key.

  Yes, the Internet is an ocean of information, and no 21st century library would be complete without access, but students must also master the skills necessary to decode that data, to weed through to find meaning and purpose.

It is important to recognize and validate for some teens their perception of the library (and the classroom) as being archaic. They have grown up in the Internet age and know nothing else. It is our duty as information professionals to find ways in which we can heighten the concepts “hugging,” solving mysteries, and telling stories together with our communities.