Librarian certification by the numbers

It has been a busy quarter for the Certification Department at the Indiana State Library. In July, the Professional Licensing Agency on ISL’s behalf sent over 900 renewal notices to librarians with certificates that expire Sept. 30, 2018. As of Sept. 18, here is a tally of some of the activity that has taken place as a result:

  • 47 notices were returned as undeliverable
  • 23 libraries contacted the ISL about notices for 63 people they no longer employ
  • 6 former librarians contacted ISL directly to say they had retired
  • 175 people have renewed online
  • 192 renewals submitted by mail have been processed
  • About 40 people due to renew have upgraded their certificates instead.

There are currently 2,479 active certified librarians in Indiana. So how did we end up with well over a third of all librarian certificates expiring at the end of this month?

Indiana has a long history of certifying public librarians with the goal of maintaining the integrity of public libraries and the quality of services provided to public library patrons. Our current certification program began in 2008. The first step of that process involved issuing 2,277 grandfathered certificates to all staff working in positions requiring certification, regardless of whether or not they held the necessary credentials. This eased the transition to a new set of certification requirements by protecting those people already employed by libraries from losing their jobs due to the new requirements.

Grandfathered certificates have one significant limitation in that they are not portable. They only remain in force if the individual holding the certificate stays at the same library and in the same job classification held when the certificate was originally issued. Because of this limitation, over the years when the time came to renew most grandfathered librarians have applied for regular certificates instead.

To maintain certification a librarian must earn a prescribed number of librarian education units (LEUs) and renew their certificate every five years. This is true regardless of whether the librarian holds a grandfathered certificate or a regular certificate. Because this five-year certification cycle began by putting all librarians into the same renewal period, certification statistics ebb and flow significantly from year to year with a pronounced increase in both new certifications and renewals every five years.

The first big wave of renewals came in 2013, when 466 people renewed their certificates. We are now experiencing the second wave of renewals for that initial group of librarians certified in 2008. Though some members of this group have retired or left the profession, as of January 2018, our database still included over 400 grandfathered librarians. Many from this cohort have upgraded to regular certificates, but still fall in the same renewal cycle.

Here is a look at our certification numbers over the past ten years:

The number of new librarian certificates each year includes grandfathered librarians moving to regular certificates as well as those who are new to the profession or new to Indiana and those who have earned the credentials to move to a higher level of certification.

Librarian certification rules can be found in 590 IAC 5. They are officially promulgated by the state, but they are actually created and periodically reviewed by teams of Indiana librarians for relevancy and appropriateness. They were last reviewed in 2016, by a committee of librarians representing various professional levels and different-sized libraries throughout the state. The committee recommended some changes, but they overwhelmingly supported maintaining professional standards for Indiana librarians to ensure the public’s information needs are being met by appropriately qualified librarians.

Written by Cheri Harris, certification program director/legal consultant at the Indiana State Library. Find more information about certification on our website here.

Helpful online legal resources available from the Indiana Courts website

Many, or perhaps even most, public librarians in Indiana know that forms for filing for a divorce in Indiana are available at the Indiana Supreme Court Self-Service Legal Center. The forms are divided into four categories: with children with an agreement on all issues, with children without an agreement on all issues, without children with agreement on all issues and without children without an agreement on all issues. But, did you know resources for a number of other legal issues can be found on the Indiana Courts’ website, either at the public courts portal or at the self-service web page?

In addition to divorce, the Indiana Courts web pages also provide helpful information about child support guidelines. Furthermore, parenting time guidelines, a calendar and a child support calculator are available. The Self-Service Legal Center also contains sample forms for expungement and links to help with mortgage foreclosures. A page on small claims court provides a video to watch before making a decision to go to small claims court without an attorney, as well as a link to Marion County Small Claims Court (damages limited to $8,000) rules and forms and a handbook on how to handle small claims court cases outside of Marion County. Information on how to apply for a marriage license is also available.

When you share these resources with patrons seeking assistance with legal research, remember to steer clear of practicing law. Avoid telling the patron your opinion or what you think they should do by using an appropriate disclaimer such as “I can’t offer you any advice. You would need to see an attorney to get legal advice on your individual situation.”

Additional resources:
Indiana Child Support Hotline
(800) 840-8757
Automated payment information is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Customer service representatives are available from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.

Indiana Parenting Time Helpline
(844) 836-0003
Help is available from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. Staffed by licensed attorneys who can provide education about parenting time guidelines, information about visitation questions and relevant referrals for assistance.

This blog post was written by Cheri Harris, certification program director/legal consultant, Indiana State Library. Cheri can be reached by email.

How to approach a library employee who may have an invisible disability

Most guidance on employer communication with an employee about a disability starts from the premise that the employee has requested accommodation and the employer needs more information in order to provide appropriate accommodations. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance document states that an employer may ask for disability-related information, including information about psychiatric disability, when the employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions is impaired by a medical condition. However, best practices suggest focusing on performance or behavior (i.e., what is happening) rather than trying to determine the underlying cause (i.e., why it is happening) because an employee without a disability may have a cause of action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if evidence shows that the employer perceived the employee as having a disability.When the employee self-identifies a mental disability – follow the ADA
The ADA applies to local public libraries. The ADA, Title I, prohibits an employer from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, job assignments, pay, benefits, job training and other employment practices. The employer must provide reasonable accommodation for a known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an “undue hardship” on library operations.

Does the employee have a mental impairment under ADA?
The ADA defines “mental impairment” to include “[a]ny mental or psychological disorder, such as… emotional or mental illness.” Examples of “emotional or mental illness” include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders (e.g., panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder), schizophrenia and personality disorders.

To be considered a disability under the ADA, an impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities. An impairment is substantially limiting if it lasts for more than several months and significantly restricts the performance of one or more major life activities during that time.

Interacting with others is considered a major life activity. An individual’s ability to interact with others is substantially limited if, over the long term, due to the impairment, he or she is significantly restricted as compared to the average person in the general population.  Some unfriendliness with co-workers or a supervisor would not, standing alone, be sufficient to establish a substantial limitation in interacting with others. An individual would be substantially limited, however, if his or her relations with others were characterized on a regular basis by severe problems; for example, consistently high levels of hostility, social withdrawal or failure to communicate when necessary.

Confidentiality
Employers must keep all information concerning medical history of employees, including information about psychiatric disability, confidential under the ADA. This includes medical information that an individual voluntarily tells his or her employer. A limited exception to the ADA confidentiality requirements allows you to tell supervisors and managers about necessary restrictions on the work or duties of the employee and about necessary accommodations.

If other employees ask questions about a coworker who has a disability, the employer must not disclose any medical information in response. Nor can the employer tell other employees it is providing a reasonable accommodation for a particular individual, as that discloses the existence of a disability. In response to coworker questions, an employer may explain it is acting for legitimate business reasons or in compliance with federal law.

Reasonable accommodations
An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability unless it can show that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations might include modifying the person’s work schedule, modifying certain non-essential policies with regard to the employee or adjusting the level or type of supervision provided to allow a more helpful structure. Reassignment may be considered as a reasonable accommodation under some circumstances.

When the employee has not self-identified a mental disability – focus on job performance
From a legal standpoint, an employee thought to have a mental disability must be treated like any other worker. You must focus on the individual’s job performance and behavior without making assumptions about underlying medical conditions or trying to diagnose the person. Approach conversations with the legitimate goal of finding the best fit between people and jobs, independent of the possibility of a psychiatric disorder.

Questions you can ask include:

  • Is there anything you need to be able to keep doing your job?
  • How can we support you in improving your job performance?
  • How can we help you become more effective in your job?
  • Is there anything preventing you from performing your job?

When you hold a conversation based on job performance, the employee may reveal the existence of a disability or condition covered by the ADA. The employee doesn’t need to identify the specific diagnosis, refer specifically to the ADA, or use the term “accommodations” in order for ADA protections to kick in. If an employee says “I have a condition and I need time off to get it under control” or to “regulate my meds” that is enough to be considered a request for accommodations under the ADA. The employer may then ask for reasonable documentation concerning the employee’s disability and functional limitations.

Some employees will choose not to disclose a disability. Other useful information, not related to a disability, may also surface in response to questions about job performance.

Employees may be more likely to disclose their needs, if not the diagnosis, if they know about your nondiscrimination policy and what will happen if they ask for an accommodation.

A library specific example from EEOC guidance
A reference librarian frequently loses her temper at work, disrupting the library atmosphere by shouting at patrons and co-workers. After receiving a suspension as the second step in uniform, progressive discipline, she discloses her disability, states that it causes her behavior and requests a leave of absence for treatment. The employer may discipline her because she violated a conduct standard – a rule prohibiting disruptive behavior towards patrons and coworkers – that is job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. The employer, however, must grant her request for a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation, barring undue hardship, to enable her to meet this conduct standard in the future.

EAP referrals
If your employees have access to an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) you may want to refer the employee to the EAP. Be careful to word the referral in terms of “discussing workplace problems.” Do not refer the employee for “counseling” or for “personal problems” as this type of referral suggests you believe there may be a disability. The EAP can broaden the focus to disability related issues without the liability that you, as an employer, could potentially face under the ADA.

If you have additional questions specific to this situation I encourage you to contact your library’s attorney.

Resources:
EEOC Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities
Human Resource Executive On Line
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a free consulting service from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy providing individualized workplace accommodation solutions, as well as information on the ADA and services related to employment for people with disabilities. Call 1-800-526-7234 (V) or 1-877-781-9403 (TTY) for more information.

This blog post was written by Cheri Harris, certification program director/legal consultant, Indiana State Library. Cheri can be reached by email.

Interstate Library Compact

An interstate compact is an agreement among member states that addresses a common issue. In the case of the Interstate Library Compact, the issue to solve was how to provide the best library services when the distribution of the population makes it more practical for a library to serve residents of another state.

A real world example of what this looks like follows:

Indiana’s Union City Public Library serves the residents of Union City, Ind. Union City also extends into Ohio. However, Indiana’s library card law only allows the Union City Public Library to provide library cards to out of state residents when there is an interstate compact agreement in place. Otherwise, Indiana libraries may only provide library cards to Indiana residents, and they must charge for the cards if the Indiana residents are not part of the library’s tax district. Indiana’s Union City Public Library is the closest public library for Union City, Ohio residents. However, without an interstate compact agreement, the Indiana library could not serve the Ohio patrons.

Images courtesy of Pixabay (https://pixabay.com)

The Interstate Library Compact establishes standards and procedures for providing library services on an interstate basis. States become part of the Interstate Library Compact by enacting legislation that mirrors the language of the compact. Then, member states, or public libraries within the member states, can enter into cooperative agreements with the libraries of other member states.

According to the National Center for Interstate Compacts, there are 34 states that are a part of the Interstate Library Compact. See the list of member libraries who have chosen to enact the Interstate Library Compact into law. Indiana and our neighboring states Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky have all chosen to be part of the Interstate Library Compact. If you have questions about interstate compacts, please contact the Indiana State Library (317) 232-3675 or toll free at 1 (866) 683-0008.

This blog post was written by Sylvia Watson, library law consultant and legal counsel, Indiana State Library. For more information, email Sylvia at sywatson@library.IN.gov.

Duty to report child abuse

Periodically, the Indiana State Library receives requests for information about whether library staff have an obligation to report suspected child abuse. This Q & A attempts to address the most common questions regarding this subject.

Image courtesy of Pixabay (https://pixabay.com).

Are library staff required to report suspected child abuse or neglect?
(See IC 31-33-5-1 through IC 31-33-5-4)
Yes, an individual who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect is required to make a report to the Department of Child Services (DCS) or local law enforcement. Furthermore, if an individual is required to make a report in the individual’s capacity as a member of the staff of a public institution/agency, the individual is required to immediately notify the person in charge of the institution/agency (in this case, the library director) or must notify the library director’s designated agent. The library director, or the director’s designated agent, must make a report (or cause a report to be made) to DCS or local law enforcement. The staff person who personally observed the child who is suspected to be abused or neglected is only excused from making his/her own report if the staff person knows the director or the director’s designee made the report.

How should such reports be made? (See IC 31-33-5-4)
Reports must be made orally and immediately to either DCS or local law enforcement. Currently, DCS operates a hotline that is staffed 24-hours a day for the purpose of receiving such reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. The phone number is 1-800-800-5556. You could also call directly the local DCS office for the county in which your library is located.

Our library has a patron privacy policy. Doesn’t reporting suspected child abuse or neglect violate our patrons’ privacy?
The law always trumps local policy. Suspected child abuse and neglect must be reported. The library could consider amending the privacy policy to address that patron privacy is automatically waived in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect.

Children fall and hurt themselves all the time, it is not unusual to see children come in with bumps, bruises and scratches. What signs should I be watching out for when making a determination to call to report suspected child abuse or neglect?
Click here for the Indiana Department of Family and Social Services guide on identifying risk factors. Click here for the Prevent Child Abuse Indiana list of signs to watch for with the various types of abuse and neglect. Click here for the laws defining what constitutes children in need of services. Also, feel free to contact your county DCS office for further guidance.

What if I am not sure if the child is being abused or neglected? (IC 31-9-2-101)
You don’t have to be sure. Actual knowledge is not required by the law, nor do you have to have a high level of certainty. If you have reason to believe a child may be abused or neglected, make the report and let DCS determine if the report is substantiated. “Reason to believe”, for the purpose of the child abuse and neglect reporting laws, means “evidence that, if presented to individuals of similar background and training, would cause the individuals to believe that a child was abused or neglected.”

Is the library or library staff at any risk of legal liability for reporting suspected abuse or neglect if the report is later found to be unsubstantiated by the Department of Child Services? (See IC 31-33-6-1 through IC 31-33-6-3)
Unless a report is made in bad faith, individuals who report suspected child abuse or neglect are immune from civil or criminal liability relating to their making the report. The law presumes a person making such a report was acting in good faith.

Are there consequences for not reporting suspected abuse or neglect?
(See IC 31-33-22-1 & IC 35-50-3-3)
Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

I am concerned about retaliation from the family I reported, should I be concerned?
(See IC 31-33-18-1; IC 31-33-18-2; IC 31-33-18-5)
The names of individuals who report suspected child abuse or neglect to DCS are not supposed to be divulged by DCS. Library employees are not required to inform the parents that a report was made to DCS about the parents’ child. The audio recordings of calls made to the child abuse hotline are confidential and may be released only upon court order. Additionally, according to the DCS website, people who make reports of suspected abuse or neglect to DCS may remain anonymous.

Update: As of July 1, 2017, the following changes have been made to the child abuse and neglect reporting laws:

  • Previously, reports of suspected child abuse or neglect were required to be made orally. Now, reports of suspected child abuse or neglect may be made in writing or verbally.
  • The law now prevents public institutions, agencies, schools and other entities from establishing a policy that restricts or delays the duty of an employee or individual to make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect.
  • The law slightly modifies the reporting process when someone makes an “on the job” report as an employee of a public institution. Previously, the employee was required to notify the individual in charge and the individual in charge had an obligation to make the report. Now, the report must be made by the employee first, and then the employee must notify the individual in charge of the public institution, agency, school, etc.

Additional resource: Choosing the Best Inpatient Child Abuse and Addiction Recovery Center

This blog post was written by Sylvia Watson, library law consultant and legal counsel, Indiana State Library. For more information, email Sylvia at sywatson@library.IN.gov.