From a Vermont librarian: VPNs are really important and I’d like to remind our patrons about them, but it gets confusing pretty fast. My sense is that patrons (and people in general!) want bullet point answers and specific steps to take when it comes to tech. I don’t have any experience with VPNs other than I just turned it on through my Dashlane password manager today. I see that Wirecutter recommends IVPN and TorGuard for $60-70/year. Do you have a VPN you recommend or, short of a recommendation, use?
It’s super confusing isn’t it! Wirecutter suggestions are good ones. I do not use one. Some of it will really depend what they need.
For people who don’t want to stream content, for example, something like TunnelBear has a free option for low-bandwidth use.
Nerds I trust also suggest PIA and talk about easy setup.
So maybe you want to give people a little chart and show people options (low bandwidth, best rated, loved by nerds) but maybe not too many.
And then you can use this chart if your patron has some HUGE important thing (like privacy is the most important thing, or cost or whatever) that can help you choose one more tailor made. (you can download the chart so you don’t have to page through it ten items at a time).
From the email box: One of my book followers is doing something very brave for her, volunteering at her branch library. Itâ€™s a little branch with a lady running it, who is something out of the 1950â€™sÂ â€”Â and not in a good way. Itâ€™s quiet. Itâ€™s serious. And itâ€™s falling apart without any new visitors at all. So, this lady is asking her new one-day-a-week volunteer to â€œdo somethingâ€ to get new people to come into the library.
Iâ€™ve been giving my friend lots of ideas, based on what I see at my own very vibrant branch library – including mothersâ€™ clubs, reading hours and clubs, tech training, etc. But I wonder if you are aware of some source of inspiration to help library workers that are very low on the ladder, yet eager to invite new energy to a branch? Maybe you have a clever list of the easiest and most successful types of library programs? What seeds can they plant and how often should they be watered?
I think that is a good idea. First off: Five Minute Librarian is made for your friend
http://www.5minlib.com/ Continue reading “Ask a Librarian: How to engage a community with limited volunteer hours?”
An old one from the inbox about starting as a new, youngish library director in an established library.
Here are some quick links and things to think about:
1. How to manage smart people.
If your staff is smart, they mostly need you just to help them with resources and support to help THEM be awesome and don’t need a lot of top-down guidance. If they’re not as smart, you have a different set of issues.
2. Know the work.
A friend make this list. You’ll have to view this large but it points out all the different parts that go into library directorship in a smaller place and even though all those jobs aren’t going to be yours, many of them will be SOMEONE’s
I think the biggest thing that libraries do is they sort of hang their OPEN sign out and wait for people to come in. That doesn’t help or affect the people who aren’t coming in. Reaching everyone or as many people as possible in your service area is mission critical, to me, they spend money on the library so how do you help them. Populations that often get ignored are
- the elderly who may have mobility/cognitive impairment
- teenagers (people think they’re annoying, want them to come back
when they’re less annoying)
- the disabled who may need accommodation
- the computer illiterate
Basic improvements in signage, accessibility, staff training (for friendliness, usefulness, etc) can go a long way towards helping ALL these sorts of people without sort of unhelping other people at the same time. I really think every library needs to take a good look at their website, OPAC and other tech services to see if what they do is working for the patron, not just the staff. I mean you have to make the staff happy too, but reworking so that you’re visibly helping the patron is also good for funding and general satisfaction levels.
4. Eating your own dog food.
Make sure you’ve done a Work Like a Patron Day yourself and,at some appropriate point, for your staff.
Question from an author who recently learned that her library is requiring proof of citizenship for patrons to get library cards. She wanted to know what she could do about that.
I’m sorry the library where you’re from is doing this. We’ve been seeing a lot of boldness recently in terms of how people are treating people with any sort of issue in their citizenship or country-of-origin status. It’s undemocratic and lousy. Everyone should be allowed to use the public libraries and everyone should be welcome. I’ve been personally working with my Senator (Leahy) to try to get the Bill of Rights as it appears on WhiteHouse.gov to be accurate and show that the rights in the bill of rights are for EVERYONE in the country and not just citizens.
So as you write your letter it might be worth a few things
1. Consider writing to the library board to let them know this. They may be on board with what the library is doing but they also may not be and can change library policy.
2. Consider speaking with your state library association. I looked at your website and it looks like you are from Illinois? Apologies if that is not correct. If that is correct you could contact the Illinois Library Association.
Advocacy page: https://www.ila.org/advocacy
Elizabeth Marszalik is the chair of the ILA Cultural and Racial Diversity Committee (CARD) and a Polish American librarian. I can’t find her email offhand but she’s reachable at her library and could probably let you know what the state rules are concerning citizenship status.
Illinois is also home to the American Library Association (in Chicago). They have a lot of resources on the subject of the rights of immigrant (and undocumented) Americans but it can be a little daunting to dig through here.
Your best bet for people to speak to within ALA might be the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table
These are all librarians from all over the country who work on this project under the ALA banner, committee members. They have a staff liaison at ALA proper who works for the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services
Phone: 800-545-5433 x4294
If I am wrong and this is NOT about Illinois, please do let me know and I can find you some local resources. You can check out some of the stuff here for more national-level stuff, not quite the same populations but not unrelated. I think it’s important to push back on this sort of thing where we see it. Libraries are for everyone and no one should be made to feel unwelcome. If I can help more let me know.
One of the things I do a lot lately is write email to people who ask me librarian-type questions. Sometimes the answers are more widely applicable and I figured I should note them somewhere. This was a reply to a question from a Drop-in Time student who wanted to know about ways to learn “new skills” for older students who might need to learn tech for work or just know what’s out there. How does a librarian know where to point people?
Hey there — yeah the 23 Things stuff is a good place to start exploring. The other things I mentioned that I think you wrote down
– Universal Class through the library
– Khan Academy
– GCFLearnFree for basic skills
The other things that is a bit more on the “fun” end of the spectrum but can get some tech interactive experience AND feel like you are part of a project is looking for crowdsourcing things that people do online to help enhance cultural institutions digital data. So I think of things like this…
Citizen Archivist at the National Archives
Text Correct Cambridge Newspapers at Cambridge Public Library
Smithsonian Digital Volunteers at the Smithsonian Institution
These don’t always help people who need paying work, but can give people more familiarity interacting in an online environment which can translate into better skills which they’ve learned in a more interesting and engaging environment than just “Watch this video, now try this stuff” Because of Vermont’s unusually low tech saturation (for reasons we discussed a little) there are very few, if any, of these tech projects based in VT or centered around Vermont resources. And RSVP doesn’t have as much of a hold here as it does in other places.
You can poke around this list here and see if anything else piques your interest.