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23 June 2015 - 4:35pm | by Ginny Mies

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When I heard way back in 2013 that the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) was building a dedicated teen digital media space, I was thrilled. The city of San Francisco is the home of many technology companies, such as Twitter and Adobe, and many residents work for tech companies in the surrounding Bay Area.

11 June 2015 - 1:28pm | by Ginny Mies

How can you organize STE(A)M (Science Technology Engineering [Art] Math) programs for teens — and actually have them show up? At our May webinar, Teens and Tech: Creating Successful STEM Programs in Libraries, we invited three librarians to share practical planning tips and programming ideas.

  • Heather Booth and Jacquie Christen (Robot Test Kitchen) shared ideas for engaging teen technology programs that any size library can do.
  • Amanda Allpress (Shasta Public Libraries) spoke about a successful graphic design workshop for teens that went beyond the technology to also explore creativity and business.

In addition to programming advice and ideas, our speakers shared some of their programs' shortcomings and what they learned from them. If you're looking to try something new when it comes to teen programming, you'll discover some new ideas to put into action.

27 May 2015 - 3:52pm | by Ginny Mies

This post was originally published on the TechSoup.org blog. At the Innovative Libraries Online Conference, we got a lot of questions about Microsoft's Software Assurance and the Volume Licensing Service Center. We thought calling out some of the top benefits will be useful for other libraries that have received Microsoft donations through TechSoup. 

If your nonprofit or public library received donated Microsoft software through TechSoup, you probably used the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) to get your software. But did you know there are special perks from Microsoft, too?

In case you're not familiar, the VLSC is an online tool for managing Microsoft Volume Licensing agreements, downloading products, and accessing volume license keys. Microsoft includes two years of Software Assurance with all Volume Licensing products it donates through TechSoup.

Software Assurance is a collection of benefits included with Microsoft products requested through TechSoup. Here are five — no, wait, six! — great and unexpected benefits you can take advantage of via this program.

14 May 2015 - 12:30pm | by Ginny Mies

Last month in our newsletter, we asked our members how they collected Wi-Fi statistics at their respective libraries through a short survey. This month, we're excited to share those results with you!

A Quick Breakdown of the Numbers:

Before we delve into the results, a quick caveat: this is in no way a broad representation of how libraries gather statistics. There was a total of 27 respondents to our survey, so we can't draw any general conclusions about how libraries gather statistics, but there is still plenty of advice we wanted to share with other libraries.

Fifty-nine percent of our respondents said that they do collect Wi-Fi statistics.

When we asked how they collected statistics, 31 percent of our respondents said that their Wi-Fi hardware has a built-in tool that gets the job done.

But the largest category of respondents, 47.6 percent, answered that they used a different tool than what we listed (see pie chart below).

14 May 2015 - 11:10am | by Ginny Mies

No matter where they're located, libraries help patrons navigate information about housing, employment, counseling, health, and other important human services. To support making these connections for their communities, libraries have been exploring new tools, programming, and staffing options.

For example, larger libraries, such as the San Francisco Public Library, have hired full-time social workers as part of their staff. The Santa Cruz Public Library, a smaller library, has a community information database.

In our April webinar, TechSoup for Libraries partnered with our friends at WebJunction to hear about how three libraries of varying sizes use social referral services, resources, and programs to support their communities. Our guest speakers were:

The wonderful thing about these programs is that they can easily be adopted by other libraries — both large and small.

30 April 2015 - 1:10pm | by Ginny Mies

This post originally appeared on TechSoup's blog. Google's algorithm change to favor mobile sites shouldn't scare you, but it should get you thinking about your library's mobile strategy. Here are a few tips to help you weather "Mobilegeddon."

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When journalists add the suffix "-geddon" to an event or trend, you can usually be assured that it's not nearly as disastrous as it sounds. This is more or less the case with the so-called "Mobilegeddon," Google's April 21 change that gives a boost to mobile-friendly sites in mobile search results.

28 April 2015 - 12:06pm | by Ginny Mies

One of the (many) things I love about the library community is how active it is on social media. I use Twitter both personally and professionally and have discovered a wealth of information through library-related hashtags.

Hashtags were developed by Twitter as a means to build community. In technical speak, hashtags are a form of a metadata tag. When you put a "#" in front of a word, it gets tagged and is searchable on the platform in which it is used. Hashtags were started by Twitter, but are now supported by Facebook, Instagram, and Google+.

Whether you operate your library's official Twitter account or are looking to connect with and learn from with other librarians via your personal account, there's a library hashtag out there for you.

24 April 2015 - 11:33am | by Ginny Mies

Waukesha Library at night

Waukesha, Wisconsin might be most famous for being a "guitar town." It's the birthplace of Les Paul, music pioneer and inventor of the iconic Gibson Les Paul guitar. But the Waukesha Public Library also deserves fame for its innovative programs and dedication to its community. With the help of TechSoup's Refurbished Computer Initiative (RCI), the library is able to provide the valuable service of public access computers to Waukesha residents.

A Dynamic and Diverse Community

Located west of Milwaukee, Waukesha has a population of about 71,000. The library is the largest in a system of 17 libraries, and it serves about 100,000 people. The library supports a wide range of community members, everybody from tech-savvy students (the Waukesha school district has an iPad program) to manga-loving teens (who publish a biannual teen-created fanzine) to those who are homebound.

Waukesha has also increased its materials and services for non-English speaking people and English-language learners. The city has a growing Hispanic community that makes up more than 10 percent of the total population. The library works with local nonprofits, such as La Casa de Esperanza and the Waukesha Hispanic Collaborative Network, to provide Spanish-language programming, such as parenting classes and story times. The library works with the Greater Waukesha Literacy Council to mentor and tutor adults in English as a second language, reading, writing, spelling, and math.

9 April 2015 - 10:58am | by Ginny Mies

E-reader assistance

"I love that I can check out e-books from you … but I have no idea how to make them work."

The other day, my friend and I had a work party at my local library. My friend had another agenda, however: to finally figure out how to check out e-books from the library on her iPad. Despite being tech-savvy, she was having issues getting through all of the different steps the e-books required to work on her iPad.

Turns out, this happens frequently. My colleague Jim Lynch wrote about his personal experience in Why Is It So Hard to Use E-Books from the Library?

8 April 2015 - 8:35am | by Ginny Mies

Assistive technology continues to be an important topic as public libraries strive to become more inclusive spaces for all members of the community. The American Library Association has a clear policy on accessibility:

"Libraries play a catalytic role in the lives of people with disabilities by facilitating their full participation in society. Libraries should use strategies based upon the principles of universal design to ensure that library policy, resources and services meet the needs of all people." 

Accessibility is also a big part of the Edge Initiative, an assessment program that provides libraries with benchmarks, best practices, and resources for public technology services. 

Edge Benchmark 11 states:

"Libraries ensure participation in digital technology for people with disabilities."

Sounds pretty straightforward, but how do you actually implement this practice? We invited three speakers on our February webinar to share their unique experiences with assistive technology:

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