Last year was our first summer launching Range, an app that helps libraries, community leaders, and other trusted referrers locate free summer meals for youth.
We learned a lot. We learned who really used Range and how referrers shared information with youth and families. We learned that public librarians tended to print our posters to share Range with their community, we learned that food bank staff were using Range to refer youth and families to free meal sites, and we learned that app users wanted Range to also include information about safe places for youth.
And because we know libraries, we knew they were the perfect safe place.
Ten years ago, I started my current public library job in Takoma Park, Maryland. Soon after I started the job, several Hurricane Katrina refugees arrived at my public library. It's scary to lose your entire city to a hurricane. When you show up in a new city, it's vital that the people you meet welcome you as valued members of their community.
One of these refugees, Desiree, was a wheelchair user. When she asked me for help in obtaining a donated computer, I put her at the front of my list of waiting recipients. When a donated Dell desktop came in, I set it up for her in her apartment and told her to contact me when it wasn't working.
Over the years, I visited her apartment to provide tech support, but I didn't feel the burden of tech support as being heavy – until she obtained a Google Chromebook.
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.
"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?
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:
- Dina Abramson, the disability information & referral coordinator at the Texas Talking Book Program and Texas State Library
- Nancy Murillo, director of the Pittsburg - Camp County Library (TX) and a TechSoup member
- Clay Ragan, director of the Computer Training Bridge at the Forsyth County Library (NC) and also a TechSoup member
Did you know that 98% of public libraries offer some form of technology training? And 95% offer employment and workforce development programs? Of course you do.
Libraries know all about how libraries support access to and use of technology. Unfortunately, in many cases the same can't be said of your legislators, local voters, the mainstream media, and others who may influence public library funding and support.
A well-designed, up-to-date website is critical for a library of any size. Your patrons rely on your website for basic information about your library, such as directions to a branch or upcoming events. They also may go to your website hoping to search an online public access catalog (OPAC), download an e-book, or browse an online exhibit. A content management system, or CMS, can help you provide these services and manage them effectively, whether you have a volunteer managing your site or an entire department doing so.
A CMS is essentially a software package that lets you create and edit website content — including text, pictures, menus, and more — without having to know how to write code.
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