Tag Archives: Librarians

Replacing School Libraries with Makers Spaces – a worrisome tale


I want to preface this post with a disclaimer: Though I spent 2 years in charge of a school library in the early days of my career, I make no claim to any special expertise in children’s services or school media centers beyond the general knowledge I have gleaned during my time in the library profession.  In addition I do like to ‘stay in my lane’ and, as a result, have rarely if ever weighed in on issues specific to school libraries. When I began reading about the Makers Movement in school libraries, I left the issue alone as it was outside my wheelhouse. However, as this picks up momentum nation-wide it will come to affect us all in time, not just as public libraries but also as a society looking to an educational system to develop our next generation.

I have previously mentioned that I was slow to embrace the Makers Movement shift in public libraries.  It simply didn’t speak to me right away; so I was a bit of a hard sell. I believe libraries, while we continue to innovate, must make decisions based on the ‘long-haul’ from a position that respects public trust and our over-arching missions that withstand the tests of time.  It is human nature to jump on the new exciting thing. However, I have been completely convinced that these programmatic spaces and innovative offerings in public libraries are an exciting component of lifelong learning and essential to bridging the digital divide just as books were in the early 20th century.

So as much as I am a proponent of Makers Spaces in public libraries, this same movement in school libraries is worrisome.  Is the school library really the appropriate home for a ‘makers space’ (3D Printer, sound studios, sewing machines, etc)?  I may be working from an old model- let’s admit- it’s been awhile since I was in elementary or high school.  But wouldn’t the 3D printer be more logical placed in the computer science department or the Technology/Computer Lab?  And the sound studio in the Music Department? And the sewing machine….what happened to Home Economics?

If you do agree that the school library should embrace the ‘movement’, then comes the question of “To what degree?”.  Where is balance in a school library setting between reader advisory, digital literacy, bibliographic instruction, etc and the cutting edge technology we are seeing in Makers Spaces in public libraries?  In at least one school district in Kansas it appears the scales are far from balanced and it has many worried:

School libraries shift toward innovation areas, but librarians fear for what’s lost,

by Rick Montgomery of the Kansas City Star June 24, 2016

(Edited for brevity- follow link for complete article)

Librarians in the Shawnee Mission School District are making way for “the maker movement,” and some worry where that story is going… at least four Shawnee Mission grade schools have hired “innovation specialists” to run their libraries when fall classes open.

That’s the language of the maker movement, which seeks to convert once-quiet school spaces — usually in the libraries — into hands-on laboratories of creation and computer-assisted innovation….In fact, the word “librarian” didn’t come up in the job description for an innovation specialist at Merriam Park Elementary. “Stories” wasn’t there, either. No mention of “books,” “literature” nor “shelves.”

[Jan] Bombeck [of Ray Marsh Elementary] said. “It’s like they’re avoiding people with library certification.”

District administrators say that’s not the case. They do acknowledge, however, that grade schools haven’t much need any more for the libraries of 20 years ago — when they stocked books, gave research help, suggested age-appropriate literature and provided a cozy corner in which kids could turn pages.

Wow…Really? That is quite a statement “haven’t much need any more for the libraries of 20 years ago”…so no middle ground? School libraries must either be an arcane model  or makers space?

 Today all Shawnee Mission pupils are issued an electronic tablet or MacBook, providing them many times the information once squeezed on library shelves.“Now that they have those digital resources in hand, no longer do I have to get up and walk my class to the library,” said Michelle Hubbard, assistant superintendent of leadership and learning.

It is excellent to hear that these technologies are being made available to students on this scale.  It is equally distressing to hear a school administrator diminish decades of school library efforts to this degree of irrelevance.

 This past weekend at Union Station, hundreds of area kids demonstrated what it’s about at the sixth annual Maker Faire: They programmed 3-D printers to craft sculptures. They used laptops to help Lego robots complete assigned tasks. They showed off sewing, gardening, electrical wizardry and consumer products of their own making.

In this worrisome movement I see a computer lab, tech center, science innovation, music education enhancements and home ec (with even a little bit of ‘shop class’ thrown in).  What I don’t see is a library.  If we need these innovations in our schools- and I would ABSOLUTELY argue that we do- let’s place them in the appropriate department.  If we need sewing machines and we wish to teach this skill, bring back those amazing Home Ec & Shop teachers who taught us how to make great pillows, bird houses, balance a check book and even cook! But don’t use them to replace Librarians. These are two different things and both are necessary!

 …Leslie Preddy, president of the American Association of School Librarians….“To call yourself a librarian, you need to have that training and to be certified,” said Preddy, who works in a school district near Indianapolis. “If you replace a certified librarian with someone who’s just an expert in technology, you’re losing half of the role that school libraries are supposed to be serving.

“You still need someone who is a champion of reading.” She cited the research of Keith Curry Lance (much of it funded by librarian groups) that shows higher student scores in reading, and in some cases even math, at schools where certified librarians are present.

The shift has many worried and they are speaking out.  Hoping to encourage the school district to seek a balance between library and makers space.

…Bombeck…took a stand. At the May 23 meeting of the Shawnee Mission school board, the librarian stepped up to an open mic …“Several elementary principals have expressed a desire to turn the library into only a makers space without any library curriculum,” Bombeck said. “I have never ‘just read stories’ and checked out books. I have taught digital citizenship, copyright law and internet safety. I have taught research skills and database use.”

Ellie Seemann, who just finished her final year as the Merriam Park librarian, said that offering maker spaces and traditional library services shouldn’t be viewed as an either-or proposition. “I hate to hear it talked about as one or the other,” she said. ….

But, unfortunately there may be more at stake than the library-advocates can rail against…

District officials say part of a $233 million bond referendum that voters passed in 2015 directed funds toward remaking school libraries. They say the innovation goals were well-communicated at the time.

As for staffing, assistant superintendent Hubbard said: “It’s really more about the skills that an individual brings to lift kids to that level than it is about certification.”

Whether or not educators have completed a master’s program in library science, which is one route to certification, Hubbard said that “all great teachers can teach kids to read and teach them research skills.” She said she would expect those skills to be highly considered whenever maker-minded teachers are hired to replace retiring librarians….

$233 MILLION! Towards ‘remaking’ libraries.  As I lay in bed in the dark of night and ponder these shifts perhaps I am becoming more cynical with age, but I do wonder: In an educational system that has spent the past decade downsizing and marginalizing school media centers and the role of Librarians, is this shift to makers spaces simply another step to further that agenda but with a more palatable flavor? From the success of the bond referendum and the resulting organizational changes to district libraries and hiring practices, one could certainly draw that conclusion.

They say “you can’t fight city hall” and I think the same sentiment could be applied to school districts.  But I do hope that the professionals, the public, the parents, and groups like ALA and AASL will continue to fight the good fight and raise issues with the worrisome path school districts are choosing.  I certainly believe a balance between library and makers space can and should be found that will provide the most educational   opportunities for students.

If not, in 20 years when our “libraries” are full of sewing machines and 3D printers, we may find ourselves reading articles about a revival movement to add “Reading Spaces” to schools…where will those go…the band room?

 

 

 

 

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What Future Will Watson and DPLA Make for Libraries?


It was January of 2014 since I last wrote a post about IBM’s “Watson” cognitive computer. That’s actually longer than I expected before hearing news about this revolutionary computer. In that post I wrote:

Just as historic as Bell creating communication over wire, Marconi making it wireless, and Perotto creating the desktop computer, IBM has broken through technology to the holy grail of computing by inventing Watson – the cognitive computer.

Would you rather “Ask a Librarian” with human limitations and biases with limited resources at your local library, or speak to a computer with almost infinite knowledge who will recommend resources and even tell you how confident it is that it will satisfy your question? Would you rather go to the Only Vanilla Ice Cream Store, or to Baskin & Robbins 31 Kinds?

Combine the threat to libraries from “e-book and digital media retailers” that Brantley addressed with the threat from Watson toward the reference role of libraries and it is obvious that libraries MUST reinvent themselves NOW! As I wrote last February; “This is by no means the first or even a new call to action, but … time is running out for libraries to find their place in the community they serve. I for one seriously wonder what it will take for library leaders to recognize the future challenges and adopt a vision to overcome them and save the library. Traditional librarianship is a relic of the past century. Creative and innovative thinking with visionary leadership and bold action is the only approach that will save libraries” in the 21st Century.

The “What Is Watson” website:
IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data

How Watson answers questions
First Watson learns a new subject
• All related materials are loaded into Watson, such as Word documents, PDFs and web pages
• Questions and answers pairs are added to train Watson on the subject
• Watson is automatically updated as new information is published

How Watson learns
Then Watson answers a question
• Watson searches millions of documents to find thousands of possible answers
• Collects evidence and uses a scoring algorithm to rate the quality of this evidence
• Ranks all possible answers based on the score of its supporting evidence

I recently reviewed the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) to see how that is progressing, since there is an obvious match-up between the two – super smart computer that needs an extensive database to learn! They have hundreds more contributors than last time I checked, and are now at about 2.5 Million volumes, so obviously they are growing exponentially. DPLA is still frequently in the news.

So, what does a merging of Watson and DPLA mean for librarians? Twenty years ago librarians thought that the proliferation of the Internet would put an end to their usefulness. Well, it did and it didn’t. In the beginning of this new century libraries experienced a decline in users, those people who actually came into the library to check out books. However, as the first decade passed, users became new types of customers. They could get digital and audio materials from their local library, and libraries started to adjust to offering more customer-centered services and became less library-centric. Libraries began reaching out to users, rather than being the stoic institution that users had to come to for unique services. Libraries’ services, at least in terms of collections, were no longer unique.

I still agree with the saying that “Closing libraries in an economic crisis is like closing hospitals in an epidemic.” And, of course, “Now that we have Google, why do we need libraries?” is answered by asking “Now that we have WedMD, why do we need doctors?” Having said that, let’s consider how a marriage between Watson and DPLA affects librarians.

As the volume of published materials also increases exponentially, it becomes like the air – IT’S EVERYWHERE – and thanks to DPLA and Watson it’s as easily accessible as air. Way back in September of 2010 I wrote about the new high school curriculum standards that 12th grade students are expected to meet before graduation – 21st Century Skills in Action in School Libraries

7e. Benchmarks to Achieve by Grade 12

Standard 1: Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.

Strand 1.1: Skills

Indicator 1.1.1:  Follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life.

·Independently and systematically use an inquiry-based process to deepen content knowledge, connect academic learning with the real world, pursue personal interests, and investigate opportunities for personal growth.

Indicator 1.1.2:  Use prior and background knowledge as context for new learning.

·Explore general information sources to increase familiarity with the topic or question.

·Review the initial information need to develop, clarify, revise, or refine the question.

·Compare new background information with prior knowledge to determine direction and focus of new learning.

Indicator 1.1.3:  Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.

·Recognize that the purpose of the inquiry determines the type of questions and the type of thinking required (e.g., an historical purpose may require one to take a position and defend it).

·Explore problems or questions for which there are multiple answers or no “best” answer.

·Review the initial information need to clarify, revise, or refine the questions.

Indicator 1.1.4:  Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.

·Identify the value of and differences among potential resources in a variety of formats.

·Use various search systems to retrieve information in a variety of formats.

·Seek and use a variety of specialized resources available from libraries, the Internet, and the community.

·Describe criteria used to make resource decisions and choices.

Indicator 1.1.5:  Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.

·Evaluate historical information for validity of interpretation, and scientific information for accuracy and reliability of data.

·Recognize the social, cultural, or other context within which the information was created and explain the impact of context on interpreting the information.

·Use consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information from other sources.

Indicator 1.1.6: Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.

·Restate concepts in own words and select appropriate data accurately.

·Integrate new information presented in various formats with previous information or knowledge.

·Analyze initial synthesis of findings and construct new hypotheses or generalizations if warranted.

·Challenge ideas represented and make notes of questions to pursue in additional sources.

Indicator 1.1.7:  Make sense of information gathered from diverse sources by identifying misconceptions, main and supporting ideas, conflicting information, and point of view or bias.

·Create a system to organize the information.

·Analyze the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods.

·Analyze information for prejudice, deception, or manipulation.

·Investigate different viewpoints encountered and determine whether and how to incorporate or reject these viewpoints.

·Compensate for the effect of point of view and bias by seeking alternative perspectives.

Indicator 1.1.8:  Demonstrate mastery of technology tools for accessing information and pursuing inquiry.

·Select the most appropriate technologies to access and retrieve the needed information.

·Use various technologies to organize and manage the information selected.

·Create own electronic learning spaces by collecting and organizing links to information resources, working collaboratively, and sharing new ideas and understandings with others.

Indicator 1.1.9:  Collaborate with others to broaden and deepen understanding.

·Model social skills and character traits that advance a team’s ability to identify issues and problems and work together on solutions and products.

·Design and implement projects that include participation from diverse groups.

Seriously, can any public librarian read this list of expectations of what the high school graduate will soon know about information literacy and NOT question their own role in the library profession? School librarians have always supported the curriculum, faculty and students, but the public librarian role is NOT so clear cut.

Presuming that a high school graduate has actually become competent in all the Standards described above, how many librarians (MLS or not) can say they are MORE proficient than that? Maybe these standards should be the new standards for librarians. Public librarians have the opportunity and the challenge to become more than they ever thought they could be, or …………….. The alternative is not enticing!

That was five years ago. How much progress do you imagine schools have made in the graduating classes in the past five years? Add this level of information literacy to the explosion of availability that Watson and DPLA can create and anyone in this profession MUST question what the future holds for librarians – especially reference librarians in the public library.

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ALA’s Vision for the Library’s Future is Not Even Its Own


The Libraries Transforming Communities vision is not even a vision that ALA created. It appears to be a vision adopted from one of The Harwood Institute’s programs with whom ALA is partnering to transform America’s libraries. What were they thinking? Obviously grasping at straws, but buying magic beans? SERIOUSLY?

ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2014 includes a disturbing revelation that has actually been brewing for a couple of years, and is well along the way to indoctrinating new librarians. The Executive Summary espouses a vision of the library’s future, if you follow all the links to the source.

The ALA has made transformation a top priority. As libraries continue to transform in 2014, they deepen engagement with their communities in many ways, addressing current social, economic, and environmental issues, often through partnerships with governments and other organizations. Moving forward from being providers of books and information, public libraries now respond to a wide range of ongoing and emerging needs.

That “transformation” link goes to another article about ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), “groundbreaking libraries-as-change-agents initiative.” Read that again. Libraries-as-change-agents!

Through LTC, ALA will help the public library profession become more focused on and skilled at convening aspirational community conversations and more innovative in transforming internal practice to support fulfillment of community aspirations, and ALA will mirror that change internally, in its own processes. This work will help librarians become more reflective of and connected to their communities. It will help libraries to build stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations. It will yield greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health, and well-being.

ALA is working with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to develop and provide training opportunities and learning resources to support community engagement and innovation. The Harwood Institute has a vision of “turning outward” that emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external.

Libraries Transforming Communities is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. [BTW: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped make EDGE Benchmarks possible.]

Professor R. David Lankes and Barbara Stripling presented a webinar on March 8, 2012 “designed to stimulate conversation about harnessing the evolving role of libraries and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception.” Barbara Stripling was Co-Chair of ALA (now Ex-) President Molly Raphael’s Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities task force, and is now ALA President for 2013-2014.

When Professor Lankes published “The Atlas of New Librarianship” in 2011 it was the greatest thing since sliced bread in library circles. Unfortunately, librarians were not reading it closely and really understanding what Lankes advocated. My critique was not so accepting of his advocacy of radical social activism. (Book Review: R. David Lankes – The Atlas of New Librarianship and Final Review: The Atlas of New Librarianship) To repeat my original critique; I was still hoping for something practical and useful in “The Atlas” when I came to the Knowledge section in the Facilitating Thread (which includes access, knowledge, environment, and motivation) where Lankes begins to develop the foundation for an argument in favor of all kinds of literacy. When I read it, I was shocked and appalled at the ideas he was advocating for librarians.

For librarians “To be ‘literate in’ means to be able to use something to gain power.” (pg. 75) Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? Unfortunately, YES! Lankes then continued on down a path I could not have imagined, and hopefully, neither could the vast majority of professional librarians. The lengthy quote that follows is essential not to break context and to fully understand the role he advocates for librarians. The role that ALA has adopted and is now advocating through The Harwood Institute.

Librarians can impart all the instruction they want on how to search and evaluate sources, but if we don’t also facilitate the knowledge of transforming all of that new knowledge into an effective conversation …, we have created a closed loop with limited benefit to the community in general. So information literacy must include the idea of conversation literacy. Indeed, concepts of new librarianship call for a host of expansions in all sorts of literacy.

… Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a handbook written by a far left radical during the unrest of the 1960s … is a fascinating read.

What I want to point out, however, is Alinsky’s take on the word “power.”

    There are a number of fundamental reasons for rejecting such substitutions [for the use of the word power]. First, by using combinations of words such as “harnessing the energy” instead of the single word “power,” we begin to dilute the meaning; and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life.


Power is not bad or evil. Alinsky would say the evil is when you don’t have power. Without power you don’t make decisions, things are decided for you. Librarians need to be powerful. They need to be able to shape agendas, lead the community, and empower members to do the same. We seek out power not as an end but as a means to make the world a better place. To serve, to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.

Why this trip through radicalism and political protest? Because it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship. If we see the role of librarians as supplementing other educational processes (teaching reading in schools or literacy organizations, or supporting parents), then literacy is a somewhat limited concept. …

However, if we look at literacy as empowerment, literally to gain power, then we have a different take on literacy altogether. Librarians, I would agree, need to view literacy as a means of acquiring power – more often than not, power for the powerless. (pg. 74) [Emphasis added.]

Lankes admits that he is trying to shape ALA’s vision of the librarians role as social activist. His mission statement for New Librarianship reads; “The Mission of Librarians is to Improve Society….” He actually justifies his “trip through radicalism and political protest” because “it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship.” SERIOUSLY? Since when does radicalism or political protest have any place in librarianship? And, he also advocates that librarians “seek out power … to make the world a better place. … to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.” is arguably the most arrogant attitude any profession could conceive. Then couple that power with Lankes’ idea that librarians should be present for ALL knowledge creation within the community and you have what sounds like something that is certainly not librarianship!

Now, what exactly is ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative that they are partnering with The Harwood Institute to sell to librarians? Harwood’s “Turning Outward” states;

Turning Outward makes the community and the people the reference point for getting things done.

Turning Outward impacts:

1) Engagement – Shifting who you see and include in your work and how you engage with them to create change.

2) Partners – Helping you gain clarity about the partners you need to move forward – and those that are holding you back.

3) Priorities – By understanding what space you occupy within the community, you no longer struggle to be all things to all people. Instead, you focus on what you can and should impact.

4) Strategies — How you develop and implement strategies that reflect the context of your community and people’s shared aspirations – and not to get so entangled in programs and activities.

5) Communications – Reframing how you talk about your work and impact, so that it is relevant to people and their concerns – and how you can contribute to a more productive community narrative.

6) Organizational Culture – By Turning Outward you can align and drive internal efforts around shared aspirations and shared language, which makes it easier to work across departments and get things done.
[Emphasis added.]

Sprinkled throughout their six-point approach to transforming librarianship are innuendos that are contradictory to everything that libraries stand for. Changing who we include in our work so that we can change society? Aren’t libraries supposed to be all-inclusive? And change society into what? Into some librarians idea of what their community should be? Only partner with organizations that can help the library and avoid any that might “hold you back”? And, who might those organizations be that would hold back the library from serving ALL the citizens within their community? We should no longer struggle to be all things to all people? SERIOUSLY? So libraries should only serve some select tax payers, and ignore the interests of ALL its taxpayers? And, by all means let’s STOP getting entangled in programs and activities!

What in the name of S.R. Ranganathan has gotten into ALA? Since when has librarianship been about radical activism, or totally focused on “changing society”? Since when has librarianship been about gaining power in the community and deciding what improvement society needs? Since when has librarianship been about exclusivity?

If this is where 21st Century librarianship is headed, I want no part of it. I will not be the librarian that ALA’s visions and programs are espousing. I will not impose my personal biases (and don’t think for one second that you don’t have any, because everyone has them) on my community and judge what improvements it needs. Especially not when it is paying my salary to serve it.

If ALA has any perception that librarianship is lacking a clear identity, then they are clearly clueless about what it should be. In fact, they are so clueless that they are willing to buy some program from The Harwood Institute and adopt Professor Lankes’ New Librarianship, both approaches that will surely destroy any resemblance of what librarianship is in favor of creating a library workforce intent on changing the world. Change the world to what?

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Pros and Cons of Outside CE Trainers


At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I earned a PhD in Adult and Continuing Education over 20 years ago. Since then it’s hard for me to sit in CE classes on any topic and not critique the development of the subject, the presenter(s) style, visual materials, exercises, virtually everything that goes into creating a CE event. There are two reasons for my assessment activities. One is that I’ve either taught it or learned it before (several times in some cases) so I get a little bored. Two, I like to improve my own knowledge and skills by assessing what is being done well and what is not. Yes, I’ll admit that makes me a bad student, somewhat like MDs make bad patients. But it makes me no different than the other attendees who aren’t all there mentally because of issues back at the library, or at home, or where ever they’d rather be.

Another element of these CE events regards the trainer him/herself, and whether or not they are a librarian. I recently attended a workshop on a topic relevant to librarians who work directly with the public, or with their customers, but it was presented by a non-librarian “professional” trainer. The person had their own firm of consultants, had a fairly good resume of national presentations and significant customers. But I still watched and listened and wondered – How? Why?

Frankly, the presenter was so much like me in terms of mannerism, demeanor, voice inflections and rate of speaking that I was even more puzzled how they got this contract to present, let alone earned a living and employed other consultants. The words “uninspiring” and “bland” came to mind.

But the thing that really puzzled me was Why are librarians being presented with “generic” material, rather than “library specific” examples and framework for this topic? I immediately thought of two well qualified and highly capable “career librarians” who could have done a much better job, AND also provided that librarianship credibility, which I think is essential in librarian CE, while presenting a much more effective and entertaining workshop.

After some reflection, I reminded myself that there are two essential elements that make an effective teacher/trainer. One is knowledge of the subject, and the other is skill as a teacher/trainer. Often times many people have one or the other in unequal proportions, but not both in equal proportions and adequate levels of strength to be really effective. On a balance scale it should look like this.

teaching scales

This is where the decision to go with a non-librarian comes into consideration. Presumably, the “professional librarian” has the necessary Subject Knowledge, but may not have the necessary Teaching Skill. That presents a dilemma. Does one choose abundant Subject Knowledge combined with weak Teaching Skill, or does one choose abundant Teaching Skill over weak Subject Knowledge? My bet is we have all been recipients of both types of CE workshops.

What do you think?
Which is more important; great Subject Knowledge, or great Teaching Skill?
Would you rather sit in an all-day CE workshop with someone who knows all about librarianship, but is an ineffective trainer, or sit in one where the trainer is very entertaining, but has very little grasp of librarianship and tries to make their topic generic enough to fit the library?

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Some Libraries Resist Assisting ObamaCare – Some Librarians Express Concerns


While I’ve been busy with other things, I let this issue raised at ALA slip past unnoticed. Issues in library world don’t go unnoticed for very long, especially when they deal with government intrusion. Apparently, during ALA 2013 Conference a video was played in which there was a White House appeal to public librarians to help Americans understand the new Affordable Healthcare Act insurance system that goes into effect whenever – maybe. This federal initiative to get public libraries involved in assisting people to sign up goes into effect October 1.

As much as I dislike relying on news media for any valid information, a Washington Times online article “Librarian foot soldiers enlisted to help with Obamacare enrollment” published June 29 states:

CHICAGO — The nation’s librarians will be recruited to help people get signed up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to get information and crucial computer time to the millions of uninsured Americans who need to get coverage under the law. The undertaking will be announced Sunday in Chicago at the annual conference of the American Library Association, according to federal officials ….

Libraries equipped with public computers and Internet access already serve as a bridge across the digital divide, so it made sense to get them involved, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Libraries will be particularly important in conservative states that are not making much effort to promote the health law’s opportunities.

In Texas, the Dallas library system’s home page has linked to HealthCare.gov — the revamped federal website that is the hub for health law information. Embedding the widget on their sites is another way some libraries may choose to get involved, said Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Some libraries may decide to set aside some public computers for people seeking health insurance or extend time limits on computers, Hildreth said. Some may work with community health centers on educational events. Those will be local decisions with each library deciding how to participate.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is contracting with the Online Computer Library Center to develop an online toolkit and training webinars for librarians, Hildreth said. Librarians are likely to get questions on the health law from the public.
“Frankly whether we’re prepared or not, it’s going to happen, so the best way for us to serve the public is to prepare ahead of time,” Hildreth said.

Lissa Staley, a librarian in Topeka, Kan., specializes in health information, and already is helping people figure out their insurance options.

“I talked to a woman this morning who said, ‘I’m a single mom. I make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and my employer will only let me work part time.’ I gave her my card and we’re going to sort through some of her options,” Staley said.

“It’s never just a straightforward question,” Staley said. “It’s always a life story and we help sort through the pieces of where we can help.”

There are several disturbing issues raised by this report, and several unanswered questions about how and how much.

I understand that IMLS is a federal government agency that is required to carry out whatever mandates they are given by the White House, but is it really a local public library’s or librarian’s role to become an insurance counselor to the public? If the Topeka librarian was quoted accurately, she is assuming that role. Good for her. If that’s the way she chooses to serve her library users, and her boss, Board and community agree then that’s great for them to devote library resources to that project. But that’s just one library. What about the 17,000 other libraries who supposedly are being enlisted for the cause?

Is this federal program any different than when libraries used to provide federal tax forms? The IRS provided libraries with the forms to make available to library users. Everybody knew they could get forms “at the library.” But that’s all it was!

Librarians were not and were not expected to be tax advisors. Organizations might come to the library to offer tax filing assistance to citizens, but NOT LIBRARIANS!! If the IRS – still the culprit agency in charge of ObamaCare – wants to provide healthcare insurance information to libraries, fine, no problem. But the White House and the ALA teaming up to encourage libraries and librarians to roll out this new federal program is wrong.

At the LISNews blog the issue was posted on July 2, and some discussion followed. I suspect the discussion was so resistant to helping the White House that it has already dwindled off now. Some of the comments were:

I wouldn’t have the foggiest clue as to how to tell people which insurance they need to sign up for. How much training are we going to be given on this? Because I can just tell you right now, the people who are signing up for insurance aren’t going to know what insurance they will need and will expect us to figure it out for them. Sorry, but considering how confusing health insurance is, I wouldn’t know where to tell them to begin.

Have a set of useful websites with additional information on them (often to be found on government websites to help people) and steer people onto those sites. Providing information and access time doesn’t have to mean sitting there with them doing it.

‘Finding books about “rashes on their crotch” is far different from someone filling out complicated online health insurance forms which might require hours of work.’

Indeed. One is part of our job and one isn’t. We can do what we can for them but we are not specialists so it’s madness to think we should even try to be.

The chances are there will not be the computer resources available in public libraries to fill out the forms required under the new health care law. Librarians can not answer questions about which coverage options a patron may need, anymore than they can answer income tax questions. Was the ALA consulted? Not all public libraries are wallowing in computer resources.

All of these issues are valid and demonstrate a serious impact on public library resources. Did ALA or IMLS or anyone else even stop to consider this fact? Maybe it just doesn’t matter to those who are rolling out this federal program. “Just do it and make the best of it.” How typical of federal demands on public resources that don’t belong to them. Is IMLS providing funds for libraries to implement this program? Of course not! Is IMLS providing and training to implement this program? Of course not! What is ALA doing to provide funds or training? Well, I see one webinar being offered by one organization – Webjunction is offering one webinar on the impact of new healthcare laws and the library. But it’s already full, so better luck next time.

SafeLibraries blog posted some information and posed pertinent concerns on July 5, “Librarians Refuse ALA Obamacare Push; Wanted: Video of President Obama Speech at ALA Conference; Lenny Kravitz’s Message for Librarians.”

Despite the American Library Association’s [ALA] support for equal access and free speech, ALA agreed to allow the President to make a video statement to hundreds of librarians at the annual ALA convention, then to never display nor distribute it ever again. Some librarians bristle at this and related ALA problems with mishandling the message;….

The Sellout: American Libraries to Promote Obamacare,” by Lindsey Grudnicki, National Review Online, 1 July 2013:

So the public library – the institution whose foundational principles are the preservation of intellectual freedom and the unbiased promotion of learning – will become politicized to advance the Obama administration’s agenda.

This agreement between the ALA and the Department of Health and Human Services violates the so-called “Library Bill of Rights,” which declares that “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues” and that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” The partnership essentially dictates that librarians blindly lead those seeking healthcare to the welfare fountain and encourage them to drink – no matter the consequences, and no matter the myriad of concerns raised about the program. “All points of view” about the Affordable Care Act will not be represented; the proscribed materials (HealthCare.gov, marketplace.cms.gov, etc.) will clearly not offer true “health care literacy.”

What does ALA have to say to all this negativity toward helping the federal government implement new laws?

ALA PRESS OFFICER JAZZY WRIGHT
2 JUL 2013 3:14 PM

Hello everyone,

I want to apologize for the confusion. The partnership between IMLS and the Center for Medicaid Services means that both groups will work in the next coming months to prepare librarians for the number of patrons who will need help enrolling in the Affordable Care Act. ALA is only providing resources on the health law so that libraries can fulfill their mission to make information available to their patrons.

Many of you have attended the ALA Conference “Libraries and Health Insurance: Preparing for Oct 1” on Sunday. The session was recorded and will be available for sale soon. We’re sending updates to all of our ALA Washington Office subscribers: http://capwiz.com/ala/mlm/signup/ You can also get Washington Office news at http://www.districtdispatch.org.

Additionally, IMLS announced that they will work with Webjunction to host online educational seminars about the new health enrollment requirements (see this press release http://www.imls.gov/imls_and_centers_for_medicare_and_medicaid_services_to_partner_with_libraries.aspx).

Warm regards,

Jazzy Wright
Press Officer
American Library Association, Washington Office

Bottom Line: I agree with StephenK who commented on LISNews blog, “Alas I don’t see this ending well.”

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Who Do You Think You Are?


Many librarians, and non-librarians alike, know the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” because “… a star takes a globe-spanning journey of self-discovery to uncover the mysteries of his or her ancestral history. Their familial stories in turn shed light on events in American and world history.” The first three seasons were on a major network, which then cancelled the show, and it has now been picked up by The Learning Channel. The fourth season premiered last Tuesday, July 23d on TLC.

I wanted to inform all my readers that my daughter Kimberly Matthews, Director of the Trenton (NJ) Free Public Library and co-author of our book Crash Course in Strategic Planning, will be featured in the next episode of the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” this Tuesday, July 30th. Her celebrity was Christina Applegate whom she helped find her ancestral history in the Trenton, NJ area. Watch the 10 second video clip below from a commercial in which she is pictured. If you miss the broadcast, you can watch the episode online at TLC.

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The great thing about this television series is the bright spotlight in which libraries are placed that emphasizes the other valuable services we provide beyond just books and Internet access.

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21st Century Libraries Look Like: Something Unexpected – Part 2


The 21st Century Library just looks different –

OUTSIDE
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and INSIDE
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The 21st Century Library offers different “spaces”…
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… with new faces…
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… and different faces…
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and, different places…
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… and new ways of embracing old traditions.
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Is your 21st Century Library something unexpected for your community?

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