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.

13 May 2015 - 11:37am | by Elliot Harmon

This post originally appeared on the TechSoup blog. The Natalia Veteran's Memorial Library has to make hard decisions about how to meet its community's needs on an extraordinarily limited all-donation budget. Here's how the library does it. 

The Natalia Veteran's Memorial Library serves the small town of Natalia, Texas. It's open 25 hours a week, with a staff of one. With extremely limited resources, librarian Amy Edge must make difficult decisions every day about what her library can provide. Whenever she's making those tough decisions, she asks herself which option will do more to improve the lives of Natalia residents.

11 May 2015 - 4:03pm | by Sarah Washburn

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.

1 May 2015 - 5:15pm | by Phil Shapiro

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.

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.

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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