Monthly Archives: September 2013

Here We Go Again – Now Librarians Are Immigration Advisors

Has the librarian finally devolved into an information advisor, as well as an insurance salesperson? According to LJ, Hartford Public Library Nation’s First to Be Certified by Bureau of Immigrant Appeals, Hartford (CT) Public Library staff are now immigration advisors – not just immigration information specialists, but advisors.

The Hartford Public Library (HPL) is just across the street from the United States Citizenship and Immigration services office, making HPL a common destination for immigrants who need computer access to bring up information and fill out online forms—access they often don’t have at home. To ensure that HPL staff can serve the needs of this community, HPL has become the first public library in America to have staff members accredited by the Bureau of Immigrant Appeals (BIA), so they can assist immigrants with the often confusing paperwork and online forms they need to fill out to get on – and stay on – the path to permanent U.S. citizenship.

wysmapIs this the future of librarianship in America? Are public libraries becoming an extension of the federal government? If West Yellowstone community needs more forest rangers for all the area parks and camp grounds, should the library have its employees qualified as rangers to help out?

Again, according to LJ, HPL’s multicultural services director sees the new service as being totally in alignment with the core mission of libraries everywhere – to help people access information. She reportedly says that with common fact based information so readily available on the Internet, libraries have to change the kind of services they provide to stay relevant. “We work for the community, and the community needs this service,”

So, if the community needs more DMV offices because the waiting lines are so horrifically long and the service is legendarily bad, a library should step up and start a motor vehicle registration service? If a community needs more health care professionals, the library should train its staff to provide health care services – like becoming “Champions for Coverage” for the new Affordable Care Act? Oh wait, those librarians aren’t health care professionals, they’re insurance salespeople.

The most egregious part of this situation is explained in this paragraph.

Complicating the situation is that, legally speaking, folks without training in immigration law aren’t supposed to offer such assistance, though the line between helping someone operate a browser and helping them fill out important paperwork can become murky, especially in a busy library that helps to serve a significant immigrant population. “It’s really easy to practice law without intending to. Once a person tells someone this that and the other thing about immigration forms, that person is practicing law,” said Rafael Pichardo, a lawyer who works part-time at HPL, providing low-cost legal assistance to immigrants seeking aid. “Getting BIA accreditation for the staff provides the legal authority to do it and legitimizes the institution.”

“Getting BIA accreditation for the staff provides the legal authority to do it and legitimizes the institution.” SERIOUSLY?!?! Now the library being legitimate depends on federal government certification, and librarians are not only allowed to offer immigration assistance but immigration advice! Is that what librarianship has devolved into? Do librarians want the legal responsibility or liability of giving bad advice?

The article goes on to elaborate on how appropriate it is for librarians to be counselors.

Among library staffers who see the demand for this kind of assistance daily, there’s a sense of relief that trained help will be on-hand at HPL. After all, said [multicultural services director], “for a librarian, there’s nothing worse than being behind a service desk and not being able to help someone.”

Or even worse, giving them incorrect information, an all-too common pitfall in legal services for immigrants, said Pichardo. And since immigrants who get poor or incorrect advice can often find themselves deported, they have little recourse if they’re given poor advice, the bills for which can run into the thousands.

It is totally shameful to play on librarians’ desire to help people by twisting the rationale for providing reference services into providing counseling advice. Where do librarians draw the line? What happened to the unbiased delivery of information? Is there no more distinction about what is “the core mission” of libraries? Once the norm for librarianship becomes giving “advice” to library users, will libraries be totally unrecognizable in the future?

When you add to this non-mission personal service the implication in the report that the “community demand” for this service is from people who are not even residents of Hartford and don’t pay taxes in Hartford, one has to seriously question what influences prompted the library to actually pursue this “service” at no small cost to legitimate Hartford tax payers. If I was a Board member, I would certainly not have voted in favor of such a proposal for this library service, unless the incentives for Hartford and the library were extremely lucrative. Makes one wonder, doesn’t it?

Somebody in this profession had better wake up and realize that the profession is becoming totally diluted from what librarianship was supposed to be – universal access to information – NOT counselor and advisor for personal services.


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21st Century Libraries Look Like: Augmented Reality



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Affordable Care Act – Librarians’ Dilemma

On August 1 I posted Some Libraries Resist Assisting ObamaCare – Some Librarians Express Concerns and echoed some librarians concerns about essentially “promoting” ObamaCare to library users. Recently, I participated in a teleconference call hosted by HHS addressing issues and questions about implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

This third in a series of three calls is intended specifically for stakeholders in Utah where there will be a Federally Facilitated Marketplace for the individual market and a State Based Marketplace for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). The call will feature HHS and CMS Denver Regional Office officials and an Avenue H official followed by time for Q&A. Speakers are:
• Doyle Forrestal, Acting Regional Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
• Jeff Hinson, Regional Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
• Patty Conner, Executive Director, Avenue H
Questions about the event? Contact

The first 30 minutes was a “canned” presentation literally read from scripts (you can always tell) about a lot of government acronyms that describe the many layers of bureaucracy that will bring this program to the public, while protecting your private medical information, containing lots of declarations of privacy protection, safeguards against fraud, etc., as well as a progress report on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Region 8 being ready for the October 1 deadline to go live. Once a listener gets over the $68 Million in federal grants to 51 community-based organizations in 11 states to train an unknown number of “navigators” to help people apply for healthcare, some of what was outlined seemed good – especially the requirement for Certified Application Counselors to be certified through training, be bonded like company treasurers and accountants, and licensed by a state’s department of insurance. It all generally sounded like a good thing, assuming that one can believe everything they are told by the government. [NOTE: Training for Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, and Agents and Brokers will be web-based.]

During the second 30 minutes devoted to Q&A, I was able to ask a question. In a few words I asked what they saw as the role of librarians in “promoting” this federal program. Of course I prefaced my question by assuming they all knew about the President’s video presentation at ALA, other agencies promotion of libraries becoming partners in advocating the program, etc. The answer I got, in a nutshell, mostly from Ms. Forrestal, was that libraries and librarians were not expected to be “navigators” or counselors to help people fill out online applications for healthcare, but, as I suggested, they simple provide access to information like they have always done with federal income tax forms. OK, after that I was fairly satisfied.

However, the caller immediately after me was a guy who was at that moment conducting training for a county library system in my state. He thanked me for the segue and told listeners that the librarians he was training were very enthused and interested in becoming Certified Application Counselors – the people who have to be trained, bonded and certified. My reaction was not one I care to share publicly.

My reaction to librarians who embrace this “service” on such a personal level is that they must be wearing blinders to forget what libraries and librarians have been doing for the past 3-4 years – HELPING MILLIONS OF LIBRARY USERS FIND JOBS.

Remember the economic downturn that put so many people and companies out of business that unemployment became the number one issue in America? Remember the gut-wrenching library closings of 2009, 10 and 11 because the local economy was so bad? Remember the ALA and PLA and every library organization extoling the value of the local library BECAUSE IT WAS THE MOST VITAL RESOURCE HELPING PEOPLE FIND JOBS?

Are you not listening to the impact that the Affordable Care Act is and will have on businesses and jobs? Are you not aware that labor unions are no longer supporting the Act? Are you not aware that normal healthcare insurance costs are already rising? Are you not aware that Congress is debating not funding the program because it does more harm than good to the economy? Are you not aware that employers are cutting employee hours even further to get below the 29 hour level so they don’t have to provide healthcare benefits that will bankrupt their business? Are those of you who are currently working less than 40 hours a week in your library prepared to work less than 30 hours a week because your school district, city, county, state, or university can’t afford the outrageous cost of healthcare?

Do librarians not understand the dilemma they are now being forced into? First we “do more with less” and help millions of our neighbors try to find employment. AWESOME!

Now we’re being asked to become “Champions for Coverage” (yes, I had not yet mentioned that advertising hooraaraa incentive for libraries) and to again be good public servants – regardless of the impact. Before librarians jump on this latest “public good” bandwagon, I strongly encourage them to research the impact of this program, rather than simply keep the blinders on and follow the parade down the new path toward more joblessness.

Remember that the “service” to jobless library users was not a government program. It was something that libraries understood was in the best interest of all concerned. Libraries were not asked to endorse or promote a government “program.” Being asked to endorse the Affordable Care Act is not in the best interest of libraries, or librarians. We are not government pawns to be sacrificed for some greater good – especially when there is no clearly identifiable “good” in it. I still agree with commentor StephenK who commented on LISNews blog, “Alas I don’t see this ending well.”


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