3 March 2016 - 10:18am | by Ginny Mies

Think about the technology skills of your staff. Are there only a few members of your staff who are especially tech-savvy? Are there some who shy away from anything technology-related? Is there one "go-to" person for any and all technology questions or programs?

As technology programs and access become more of a focus in public libraries, it is important for all library staff to get up to speed with technology. But how do you turn tech-resistant people into tech embracers? Through fun and engaging staff activities!

We invited Diana Laughlin from the Estes Valley Library (Colorado) and Rachel Schmidt from the Sunnyvale Public Library (California) to talk about staff training programs on technology for our January webinar (watch the archive).

4 February 2016 - 1:51pm | by Ginny Mies

Have you ever written an annual report, PowerPoint slide, or article and thought, "This could really use some sort of visual." But then when you started plotting out what you wanted to show and how you were going to show it, you hit a roadblock and thought, "Oh my gosh, I am not a graphic designer." Well, think again, because even the most design-impaired people can make a pretty snazzy infographic or chart with the right tools and some basic design principles.

As a not-so-design-savvy person myself, I recently attended WebJunction's excellent webinar, Data Visualization for the Rest of Us: A Beginner's Guide. The webinar was presented by Linda Hofschire, a research analyst at the Library Research Service at the Colorado State Library. Hofschire's sensible tips and tool recommendations left me raring to start infographic-ing (is that a word?) everything. I recommend watching the full webinar, but here are some of the highlights.

22 January 2016 - 11:24am | by Ginny Mies

Has your library tried Snapchat yet? Over on the TechSoup blog, we scoured the Snapchat world for innovative examples from business, bloggers, and even a few nonprofits. But we couldn't find any library examples. Tell us in the comments if you're using Snapchat or have considered it for your library. 

Two years ago, we asked the question: "Can Nonprofits Benefit from Snapchat?" After using the app and investigating its privacy and security, I couldn't really find much use for nonprofits. It isn't secure enough to send sensitive information to clients or staff, and I could only find examples of businesses using the app.

Recently, after getting more into the app myself and discovering that more than just sneaky teenagers were using it, I decided to revisit Snapchat as a viable platform for nonprofits. I found some creative ways that nonprofits and other organizations were taking advantage of Snapchat's unique features.

If you're not familiar with Snapchat, this is how it works: You can send vanishing photo and video messages (also known as Snaps) to contacts you either add manually or via your phone's contacts. Tapping a camera button takes you into picture-taking mode.

After you take a picture, you can choose how long the recipient can view a Snap before it is deleted (1-10 seconds), add a drawing or text, and then send. Snapchat also has a feature called Stories that lets you share a compilation of your Snaps for 24 hours.

11 January 2016 - 10:50am | by Ginny Mies

After Access

Just before the start of the ALA 2015 conference in San Francisco, the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy invited digital inclusion advocates to discuss the future of libraries and digital inclusion.

The After Access: Libraries & Digital Empowerment Summit participants "affirmed that digital information and skills are now woven into most all library services, that the need for library staff and clients to continue to deepen their skills will only escalate, and that the role of providing free access to information and services for everyone remains central to the mission and culture of libraries."

TechSoup's own Ariel Gilbert-Knight was invited to participate in the summit, along with other leaders and influencers in the library and digital inclusion fields. The participants examined local digital inclusion programs as well as national research findings and developed recommendations for future activities. The ALA has published a report summarizing the presentations, discussions, and resources from the summit.

8 January 2016 - 11:10am | by Ginny Mies

This blog originally appeared on the TechSoup blog. Libraries can use many of these new features as well so we wanted to share it with the TechSoup for Libraries community. Please let us know in the comments if you've used any of these new features or if your library finds Twitter useful.   

Twitter has had a very interesting year. The social media company changed CEOs, going back to its roots and naming co-creator Jack Dorsey to the executive role. It also made some new acquisitions, went throughlayoffs, supported influential movements (such as #BlackLivesMatter and #RefugeesWelcome), and rolled out some new features.

While there was a lot happening this year, these new features are important to address. Many of them are targeted toward making the platform even more accessible for new users, an area where Twitter is struggling. But a few of these new features and enhancements are quite useful for nonprofits, public libraries, and other social good organizations. Let's take a look at the gifts Twitter gave us this year.

4 January 2016 - 12:09pm | by Ginny Mies

Here's a question: how often do you check your personal Facebook a day? In mid-2015, Facebook surpassed 1.49 billion users, and on average, those users are spending almost an hour a day on the social networking site. Here's another question: how often are you checking your library's Facebook account? And is your community actually engaging with it?

Jamie Matczak, continuing education, youth, and public information coordinator at the Nicolet Federated Library System in Wisconsin, shared 15 ideas on improving your library's Facebook page at our December webinar. To give you a peek, I've highlighted 5 ideas Jamie shared. But really, you should watch the whole presentation to get all 15 tips — this was one of our most popular and well-received webinars!

24 December 2015 - 10:56am | by Ginny Mies

A book Christmas tree

Happy Holidays! TechSoup offices and Customer Support (phone and email support) will be closed starting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, December 24, 2015, until we reopen at 7 a.m. on Monday, January 4, 2016 (Pacific time).

11 December 2015 - 11:37am | by Ginny Mies

Making Music at the Ramona Library

There's that pesky stereotype about the library: it's a quiet, noise-free place and any music, noise, or exuberance will be met with a harsh-faced librarian saying "SHHHHHH." We know this isn't true, however, and sometimes learning needs to be a little noisy. And in the case of the Ramona Community Library and the Borrego Springs Library in San Diego County, sometimes learning means making music. 

The Connection Between Learning and Music

Music is actually a pretty normal thing in the library for babies and toddlers. A lot of story-time programs include a few songs at the beginning or the end of the story. There are also dedicated music-making programs for the younger set as well.

Music can teach early learners how to rhyme, new vocabulary words, and numeracy, and improve basic communication skills. A study from the Music-Science Lab at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev shows that young children who played hand-clapping song games are more social, write better, and have better cognitive abilities.

Both the Ramona and Borrego Springs libraries go beyond traditional early childhood programming. The library also offers music programs for older demographics: tweens, teens and sometimes even adults. At the California Library Association's conference, Michael Voss discussed how teaching teens to play music has increased self-esteem and confidence, teaches math, and improves teamwork skills.   

8 December 2015 - 11:30am | by Ginny Mies

At this year's California Library Association's conference in gorgeous Pasadena, I attended a lot of STEM-related (Science Technology Engineering and Math) sessions: STEM for kids, STEM for adults, STEM for babies! And lately, there's been an "R" thrown in for reading and an "A" thrown in for Art. I saw some really exciting and creative examples of STE(A)M programs, from using music to teach math, to science-based art projects.

But the presentation I got the most excited (and envious) about was about the La Jolla/Riford Library's Life Science Collaboratory program. After visiting the La Jolla/Riford Library, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said, "The lab is a game changer for the city. This is the first of its kind, but probably not the last."

Located in the city of San Diego, the La Jolla/Riford Library is a neighbor to numerous biotechnology companies and research institutes, such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and the Human BioMolecular Research Institute, just to name a few.  Therefore, incorporating biology, life sciences, and biotechnology into library programming seems like a natural fit. It also works quite nicely with the La Jolla Library's wonderful statement on its website:

"Libraries are like schools, as they give people of all ages access to lifelong learning."

30 October 2015 - 10:15am | by Ginny Mies

Is your Pinterest account in need of a refresh or new ideas? Or perhaps you're just getting started in the Pinterest world and need some (p)inspiration? Lucky for you, we just had Lauren Drittler, assistant director of the Arkansas River Valley Regional Library System (ARVRLS) and Pinterest expert, on our October webinar, Pinterest for Libraries: Building Community Through Social Media.

Under Lauren's supervision, the ARVRLS has 61 boards and 1,600 followers. She was first inspired by the Sacramento Public Library's tremendous Pinterest account (4,400 followers!). She wrote to the Sacramento library and asked for some tips for building up a Pinterest account. Here's how the librarian, Amy Loseth, responded:

"In general, we aspire to be entertaining, engaging, and educational, just like the library itself."

Here are some of the key tips Lauren shared during our webinar:

1. Create Pinterest Boards That Build on Your Existing Library Programs

Lauren showed us the ARVRLS' Play Date and Lego My Lego boards, which are based on the library's current programs. These boards let your program attendees take their projects or learnings home with them along with related craft ideas or more information on a certain subject. Some other ideas might be a craft board, a computer basics board, or a board built around a book club theme.