IFLA 80th World Library and Information Congress recap; 2021 update

Back on Aug. 24-27, 2019, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions held its 80th World Library and Information Congress in Athens, Greece. Filled with pre-conference events, sessions, meetings and exhibits, the IFLA World Library and Information Congress attracts thousands of library and information professionals from around the globe each year. The 2019 conference theme was “Libraries: Dialogues for Change”.

Sessions of interest included the “OCLC Symposium,” “Data Mining and Artificial Intelligence,” “Strengthening the Global Voice: Securing the Future of Libraries,” “The Migration of Books: Cultural Heritage (Objects) and Ideas on the Move,” “Gatekeeping to Advocacy: Government Libraries” and “Technology as Gateway to Inclusivity: Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities.”

In addition to conference sessions, attendees took advantage of the conference’s various library and site-seeing tours and experienced the culture of Greece on “Cultural Night.”

Held throughout the week, the site-seeing tours included visits to the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, ancient Corinth, the Monastery of Daphni, Cape Sounion, Old Athens, Olympia, Kolonaki, Kalamata, Messini, Koroni, Methoni, Mystras, Monanemvasia, Santorini, Hydra, Poros, Aegina and a food tour.

Also held throughout the week, were library tours to the Bank of Greece Library, the Infant and Toddler Library, the Institut Français de Grèce – Médiathèque Octave Merlier, the National Library of Greece, the Hellenic American College Library, Law Library of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Parnassos Literary Society’s Library, the Academy of Athens Library, the Library of the Hellenic Parliament, the Greek Comics Fun Club (Lefik), the Athens Comics Library and several other libraries.

In addition, attendees could visit various archives: General State Archives of Greece, the Dora Stratou Greek Dances Theater, Archives and Publications, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Archive and the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive.

On “Cultural Night,” held at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center, conference attendees experienced Greek food, performances by Greek dancers and musicians. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center houses the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera, the Agora, the Lighthouse, the Canal and Stavros Niarchos Park.

The IFLA WLIC 2019 ended with an announcement of the locations of IFLA WLIC 2020 and 2021. The 2020 conference was scheduled to be held in Dublin, Ireland but due to COVID-19, it was cancelled. A recent press release relayed the following update regarding the 2021 conference:

…our 2021 Congress will take place virtually, with the welcome support of the Dutch National Committee.

The physical conference previously planned in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, will move to 2023, and take place in a hybrid online/in-person format. We continue to plan for an in-person conference in Dublin, Ireland in 2022, with a strengthened online element.

For more information about IFLA, its conferences, publications, webinars, events and projects, please visit the IFLA website.

This blog post was written by Michele Fenton, monographs and federal documents catalog librarian.

Restarting resource sharing

As Indiana libraries closed their doors this spring during Gov. Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, resource sharing between libraries ground to a halt. As libraries across the state closed, the Indiana State Library made the difficult decision to suspend interlibrary loan delivery service. In fact, no delivery service was provided by the statewide courier during April and for most of May.

As public libraries began reopening their doors as early as May 4 – when allowed per the governor’s Back on Track Indiana plan – delivery service resumed shortly after on May 11. With academic libraries reopening later this summer, nearly 90% of our libraries are now back on InfoExpress and sharing books via Evergreen Indiana and our numerous resource sharing services.

During the shutdown, books in transit were safely held either at the borrowing libraries or at NOW Courier’s statewide hubs. Most materials have since been returned to their home libraries, but the company’s staff is still working to sort through a backlog of parcels, while working to accommodate libraries’ shifting schedules and reduced hours.

In response to the virus, and following industry best practices, NOW Courier has implemented safety measures for handling and delivering materials including wearing face masks and gloves and limiting contact with library staff. Additionally, safety precautions are being taken at libraries such as hand washing and quarantining of shipped materials and books. While some research suggests the COVID-19 virus cannot survive on most print materials for more than 24 hours, many libraries are opting to quarantine items for 72 hours or longer. Liquids and other disinfecting methods like heat and UV light are not recommended as they may damage materials. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared in a March 30 webinar for library staff that they do not believe library materials are a transmission route for COVID-19.

Now that most libraries are back to sharing, we encourage Hoosiers to take advantage of the resource sharing options offered by their library. If your library doesn’t have a book you need, ask circulation staff if it is available electronically or via interlibrary loan. Finally, all Hoosiers have access to INSPIRE.IN.gov, a free online library that includes research materials, news publications, eBooks, and K-12 resources.

A fall resource sharing update for Indiana library staff is scheduled for Oct. 2. Additional information and a link to registration can be found here.

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.

The struggle is real: Reaching teens

One of the most common questions I get from library staff is “How do I get teens into the library?” For many libraries, it may seem as if it’s feast or famine – either they are swamped by after school crowds or they never see any teens step foot in the door. The crowds can be dealt with, but how do you get teens into the your library?

My go-to answer for the above question is, “Don’t expect them to,” meaning don’t expect them to come into the library, with expect being the key word here. Why would they come into the library? There’s a lot working against it – whether or not they can get a ride, what their friends are doing, how many after school commitments they have – the list goes on.  Going to the library has to be a conscious decision they make and then they must have the transportation and support to actually get there.

 Photo by Nicole Berro from PexelsSome better questions to ask might be, “Why aren’t the teens in my library?,” “What are the barriers to service?,” “What is structurally in place that stops them from coming in?,” and most importantly, “What can we do to overcome those barriers?”

The answer to these questions will be unique to each system and branch. Start by taking a close look at the culture and atmosphere of your library. Do teens feel welcome there? If no, what is causing them to feel unwelcome? Do your co-workers or administration understand why it’s good to have teen patrons, rather than becoming frustrated by them? I do staff day trainings on this topic and am working with the Young Adult Library Services Association to offer more workshops on teen services. The short version of the message I share in these trainings is that we can help teens gain important life skills through our programs. Well-rounded teens make for well-rounded citizens, and teens with positive library experiences make lifelong library users.

If transportation or busy schedules is a major issue, consider going to them. Where are they gathering? Is school the best place to reach them in a non-pandemic year? Could you reach them during lunch or after school at an extracurricular? Of course, COVID-19 has created an even bigger barrier. The answer to “where are the teens” right now is hopefully “home.” Even schools that are opening this fall will likely limit who can enter their buildings and public library staff may not make the cut. So, what can you do?

Look for other community groups that might help you reach teens. Connect with organizations in your area, such as social justice organizations, church youth groups, YMCAs or Boys & Girls Clubs, to arrange for on-site book pick-up and drop-off services, kit lending or even virtual programming. They may also be able to put you in touch with teens who are interested in particular topics – like gaming or STEM – or those who would make great teen advisory board members.

Figuring out who to partner with in your community is your first step. Take a look around. Drive through your streets and make note of organizations and businesses you might contact. Ask co-workers with teens what their kids do after school. Does your library have teen shelvers or pages? What do they suggest?

If you are from a community so tiny that you don’t have any groups or organizations to work with, might delivery be an option? Come up with a project that will benefit a charity, like making blankets to donate to your county’s Humane Society. Then offer to drop blanket making kits off at the homes of your teens. If that’s not feasible, reach out to your school librarian, or any other teacher with whom you have a relationship, and ask them to recommend teens for the aforementioned teen advisory board. Make it an honor that requires a teacher recommendation and will look good on their college applications! The board can meet via Zoom.

If you already have a pre-COVID established group of teen patrons, this may all be *slightly* easier for you. Zoom meetings and book clubs, YouTube craft tutorials and using Discord for chatting or gaming with your teen crowd have all been common ways to reach out to existing teen patrons. One example of a library using Discord with teens come from the Pendleton Community Public Library. Their teen librarian, Matthew Stephenson, had an established group of teen patrons before the pandemic and has stayed in touch with them using Discord. See my interview with Matthew below and check out this Discord tutorial, recorded by Andrew Laverghetta, a librarian from Eckhart Public Library.

Ultimately, what you do will depend on your unique community and what it needs. What works at one library may not work at yours. This is a time to reevaluate our library services and determine what is essential, and to refocus on quality over quantity. If you can have an impact on the lives of even a few teens in the middle of the pandemic, that’s significant.

**********************

Interview with teen librarian Matthew Stephenson, Pendleton Community Public Library:

How have you been reaching teens during this time?
As we moved our teen programs and services to Discord, the teens who were already using Discord embraced the “new normal.” However, we have a significant portion of teens who rely on places outside of their home for high speed internet that makes Discord, Zoom and other resources possible. Because of that, I think some teens who would enjoy and embrace our virtual services are unable to find a time or place to do so.

Did you already have a pretty solid group of teen patrons?
I had a very solid group of teens who would be in the library multiple times a week. Some have made a similar commitment online since March. Others I haven’t heard from since then.

Have you reached new ones?
A few teens have discovered our virtual programs and services through our summer reading program, which incentivized joining the library’s teen Discord server.

What other methods have you used, besides Discord?
I have used Netflix Party to watch and talk about anime as a group. I’ve had a few teens who want to watch a whole movie that way. I’ve tried to use Zoom, but most of the teens who have attended are leery of being on camera. Lastly, I recently used Kahoot! to make a quiz competition. A few of the teens really enjoyed it, but thought I made the quiz too difficult, which I am, admittedly, prone to do.

Examples of any virtual programs you’ve done?
I’ve converted our in-library video and tabletop game programs to virtual versions done through Discord. They can get five to ten participating teens on a regular basis, but can accommodate up to 50. Our Teen Quiz had several participants and was asynchronous, which seems to be more popular with teens since COVID-19 and our building project began in the spring.

Is the library open to teen patrons yet?
Most of the library is currently closed for renovations, but we are offering essential services, such as copying, faxing and circulation of materials in our community room. All computer sessions are limited to one hour and patrons are encouraged to not linger in the limited areas open to them. We hope to open the library to next phase of reopening, which we call ‘Grab and Go,’ in August.

Thoughts on how you have/might work with schools this fall, pending your area’s school reopening plans?
We are launching our “One Card One Student” initiative at the beginning of the school year, which will give every student in our school system a special library card to use our databases and check out e-books. I believe that will place the library as an even more important complementary element to improve e-learning for our community’s students. This is in addition to offering Tutor.com to our residents and placing our Student Portal front and center on our library’s homepage.

***************************

This blog post was written by Beth Yates, children’s consultant for the Indiana State Library.

 

Keeping clean: Methods your State Library takes to make sure your library experience is safe

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about sweeping changes to the way we live, work and interact with one another. Tasks we take for granted, such as going to the grocery store, meeting with friends and even going to the library to find materials for research have been made somewhat more challenging to carry out. Here at the Indiana State Library, we do a lot to keep everything clean and to ensure that both patrons, and ourselves, have a fun and safe library experience.

Several studies, such as the one illustrated in this comprehensive American Library Association article, have noted that the virus survives on hard surfaces for about two or three days, and up to 24 hours on paper. Sanitization is top priority at the library, and the staff makes sure to clean and disinfect all surfaces as often and thoroughly as possible. In the case of books, which understandably do not do well to be soaked in cleaners on a regular basis, they are placed in isolation for a set period of time until it is safe to return the materials to the stacks.

Patrons are welcome to come inside the building, but to encourage social distancing and personal safety, that library is operating on an appointment-only schedule. If you are a walk-in patron and didn’t make a prior appointment when you stop by, don’t worry. If we have appointment slots available, we will still be able to help you with your research needs. Seating arrangements to encourage social distancing are available, hand sanitizer is provided at the information desks and also next to each elevator in order to keep things clean, and to reduce the spread of the virus and other bacteria. Are you unavailable to come to the library personally? Patrons can chat with a librarian through Ask-a-Librarian, with no charge.

As per county mandates, face masks are required for entry into the library facility. Don’t have a mask? No worries. We provide free paper masks at our circulation and information desks. Simply ask the librarian or desk attendant and we will be happy to give you one. If you live in Marion County and you’re seeking something a bit more permanent and portable, the city of Indianapolis and IndyGo have partnered to provide free cloth face masks that can be picked up at the Julia M. Carson Transit Center in downtown Indianapolis. Masks can also be ordered online.

We hope that these procedures and precautions allow to you to fully utilize all the services the Indiana State Library has to offer, all while keeping you safe and giving you peace of mind.

Please call 317-232-3675, email or use our Ask-a-Librarian service to schedule an appointment.

This post was written by Damon Lawrence, library technician 2, Indiana State Library.

What is a library roundtable?

Roundtable defined
What comes to mind when you hear the words “library roundtable?” Is it a round table in a library? No, that’s not quite what I’m talking about. Does it have something to do with King Arthur? Not really, but the symbolism of the legend of King Arthur’s famed table could lend itself to our modern idea of a library roundtable.

So, what are library roundtables? Generally, a roundtable is defined as “a conference for discussion or deliberation by several participants.” In the library world, not unlike the table in King Arthur’s court, all members of a roundtable are of equal status and no one is at the head of the table.

Library roundtables have been going on for many years throughout Indiana. Traditionally, library roundtables are discussion groups that meet in person. Members of these groups are comprised of library staff with similar jobs.

Benefits of library roundtables
There are many advantages and benefits of being a part of a library roundtable group. They’re a great way to network with your professional peers. These connections can be beneficial to your current and future career opportunities. These groups are also effective for discussing ideas, problems and plans. They can act as a pseudo support group if you need a sympathetic ear, as sometimes there are private and sensitive issues that you don’t want to put on a public forum. Roundtables should be a no judgement zone where you can hear differing opinions and views. Insights and experiences from your peers are invaluable. They also provide an opportunity, in an informal setting, to share knowledge, ask questions and discuss solutions at a deeper level than in a formal training or conference setting. It’s a wonderful forum for brainstorming, connecting and sharing programming ideas.

An extra bonus of library roundtables are visiting other libraries. This is a wonderful opportunity to see how other libraries are set up and organized. I love visiting libraries to see what furniture they have, what colors they chose, what their displays look like. You can get awesome ideas to take back to your library.

Who can attend a library roundtable?
Pretty much anyone working in a library can attend a library roundtable. There are roundtables for library directors, branch managers, children’s, circulation, IT, reference and teens. Before attending, check with your department head or director first to make sure that your current job could benefit from participating and that attending works with staffing considerations. There are established roundtable groups all over the state of Indiana. The Indiana State Library has a list of most of the roundtable groups that are currently meeting. If you have a question about roundtables, you can contact your regional coordinator or children’s coordinator and they can connect you with a group.

What if I’m not able to leave my library to attend a roundtable?
Many library roundtable groups have been meeting virtually using networking software such as Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Google Meeting or Microsoft Teams. Some networking software is free – with time restrictions – and others are subscription based. Equipment recommended for virtual roundtables include a device with a camera, microphone, keyboard and speaker. The camera and microphone are not entirely necessary, but essentials are a keyboard, to be able to participate in chat and a speaker, to hear what others are saying. Whatever virtual networking software you have access to, you should be able to use them on a tablet, laptop or smartphone. Along with your discussion, maybe think about adding a virtual tour of your library.

There have been quite a few new virtual roundtables established recently: adult services, bookkeepers, children’s, library directors, games and gaming, marketing, programming, teen and a new webmasters group, which is currently in the works. A grievance I’ve often heard is, “I wish I could attend the roundtable that was posted on the Listserv, but it’s at the opposite side of the state.” With the virtual meertings, you no longer have that travel barrier. We have compiled a new list of the virtual roundtable groups.

LEU information
Library Education Units may be earned by attending roundtable discussions. If your library job is classified to earn LEUs, page 12 of the Indiana State Library Certification Manual for Public Library Professionals spells out the parameters:

  • 1 LEU per roundtable attended.
  • LEUs are capped. Earn up to 10 LEUs per five-year certificate period attending professional roundtable meetings.
  • Professional roundtables do not require prior LEU approval from the Indiana State Library.
  • The host library shall create and award LEU certificates for all attending library professionals

Note: Only individuals holding a five-year certificate are eligible to count LEUs from professional roundtable meetings.

Click here for a sample roundtable LEU certificate. If you have further questions about certification, please contact Cheri Harris, certification program director.

Interested in hosting a roundtable?
If you’d like to start or join a roundtable that doesn’t already exist, you can contact your regional coordinator or children’s coordinator from Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Office. They will assist you with getting a roundtable started.

Being a meeting leader does not require a lot of time, and Indiana State Library staff are here to assist with organizing and publicizing the first meeting. Roundtables are usually a collective effort with everyone contributing. Often, attendees take turns hosting.

Your primary responsibilities would include:

  • Setting the first meeting date.
  • Setting up the meeting in your meeting software.
  • Setting a general topic of discussion for the first meeting.

Articles about roundtables
Finally, here are some articles you might find helpful in your roundtable research:

“How to Run a Successful Roundtable Discussion”
“The Roundtable discussion: What, When Why”
“13 Tips for Planning and Hosting Successful Roundtables”

You can also find this information on the newly-created Indiana Roundtable Discussion Groups for Library Staff page on the Indiana State Library website.

This post was written by Northeast Regional Coordinator Paula Newcom, Professional Development Office.

Reducing barriers to access: Fine-free libraries

If you’ve ever accidentally kept a stack of books for an extra week, or needed an additional few days to watch a borrowed DVD, you’ve felt the pinch of the resulting library fines. While fines might be as little as a dime a day for a book, they seem to accrue exponentially. Not only are fines an annoyance, but they can be a legitimate barrier to service. Every day at circulation desks across the state, public library users are denied borrowing privileges, sometimes years after accruing fines, because of balances owed for overdue or long-lost items.

There are many reasons patrons acquire fines. For some, it’s simple forgetfulness. For others, it’s a larger issue stemming from life circumstances like a lack of transportation, work schedules or changes in housing. For example, when moving between families, foster children may forget to return borrowed books from their previous library. Or when packing up and leaving a precarious living situation, people may need to leave their library materials behind.

What if there was a way for library users to start over from scratch? Or what if there was more leniency for people who needed to keep books an extra week or so? Luckily, over the past years, there has been a nationwide push toward eliminating library fines, and the push isn’t only coming from library users, but the librarians themselves.

In Indiana, over 20 public library systems have opted to go fine free. This includes but is not limited to: Kendallville Public Library, Evansville Vanderburgh County Public Library, West Lafayette Public Library, Monroe County Public Library, Vigo County Public Library, Owen County Public Library, Morgan County Public Library, Anderson Public Library and more. Many more library boards are considering the move, especially after the Chicago Public Library boldly made the move in October 2019. The Indianapolis Public Library recently stated that in an effort to provide equitable service they are suspending the accrual of all fines and fees until further notice. Each library’s policy varies, and some fees may still exist for extremely overdue, damaged, or lost items, so please check with your local library for more details.

But don’t libraries need the money? While the public might perceive library fines as a major source of income for the library, they’re not. In Indiana, about 87% of a library’s budget comes from local sources like property taxes.1 Of the nearly $400 million in total revenue Indiana libraries received in 2019, only $6 million – about 1.5% – was received from fines and fees. Additionally, many systems have practiced writing off “uncollectable” fines over the years. At times, the cost of recovering materials or lost items can cost more than the materials are worth in staff time and collection service fees. Losing materials has always been a cost of doing business.

Some opponents to the fine-free library movement believe that fines and due dates teach “responsibility,” and not having them will encourage patrons to ignore due dates and hoard library materials. What some libraries are finding is the opposite. When fines are eliminated, not only are older materials are being recovered, and most items are still coming back before they are considered lost.

As a patron, what should you do if you have a large amount of library fines, but your library hasn’t eliminated fines? Try reaching out to the director or circulation manager at your library. While each library’s policy varies, some libraries offer the ability to reduce or waive fines and lost book fees in some situations. Some libraries periodically offer “amnesty” weeks where the fines on any books returned are forgiven. Some even offer opportunities to pay down fines with canned good donations or by tracking time read to “read off fines.” Some libraries write fines off as uncollectable over time, so the fines you thought you owed may have already been eliminated years ago. Please don’t let the $17 in fines you racked up in 1993 deter you from checking out all that’s happening in today’s public libraries.

1. 2018 Indiana Public Library Annual Report

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.

Axis and Allies of uncertainty

Board gaming clubs and events circa 1995 were often a half a dozen kids gathered around an Axis and Allies™ board. I remember these events well. While those gathered were typically my friends, and I enjoyed the social time, I was never a great fan of Axis and Allies™. Aside from never being very good at it, the tediousness of moving the pieces and spending four-ish hours playing just to end up losing was never something I particularly looked forward to doing.

Board games, clubs and events have come a long way since then, and now many libraries are getting into collecting, lending, programming and promoting with games. In these uncertain times, it’s my hope that board games in libraries don’t suffer. I feel, as I shared in a webinar last year, that they can be a subtle and powerful tool to help players to learn and improve on many of the soft skills that employers covet in new hires. Throughout the history of the profession, public libraries have made materials available to all they serve. As a material type that can be a bit pricey – and where every game does not meet every player’s needs – libraries are uniquely positioned to help introduce games to a wider audience, while helping people find something they can enjoy. At the same time, we are helping improve the employability of those players. Currently, I am unsure when we will be able to get back to using our collections in these ways, so what better time to plan than now?

At a recent Indiana State Library update meeting, Director of Statewide Services Wendy Knapp shared some insights into Amy Webb’s “axes of uncertainty” method for planning for the future as explained Webb’s article “How Futurists Cope with Uncertainty.” While I myself am still digesting this method, I thought it might be fun to try it in relation to my fear – losing support for board games in libraries – and see how we, as a profession, might prepare.

First, what is the fear and uncertainty? Libraries will cut back on, or eliminate, board games from their collections.

Next, what is the opposite of that fear? Libraries will not cut back on, or eliminate, board games from their collections.

To continue the model, a second fear or uncertainty is needed. Here, I’ll use the example from Wendy’s presentation: People will continue social distancing.

Finally, the opposite of the second fear: People will return to libraries in droves.

Here is what we get:

Now we have a grid, or a continuum of possibilities, for these two uncertainties. We just need to figure out how to plan for the four basic quadrant outcomes. Basically, we would plan for the extremes for each possible combination. As an example, if budgets get tight and community pressure builds for libraries to cut back, it seems logical that board game collections wouldn’t grow if you have them, or they wouldn’t get started if you don’t have them. While I would personally love for this to not be the case, it’s a reasonable outcome. If that outcome was paired with continued social distancing, those lucky enough to have an assemblage of games could increase collection promotion to aid circulation, which would be a positive way to combat the negative community pressures. If you don’t already have a collection, then beginning to lay the ground work for the positive outcomes of a possible future collection might be the best use of time and effort.

The top half of the matrix  – the fiscal pressure side – suggests that people will return in droves. Planning for this might be trickier, but I would consider focusing on circulation or focusing on games that require less synchronous action around a table. I would also focus less on game nights and programs and more on collecting your players’ stories that could be shared with non-players. A community bulletin board – either physical or virtual –  to promote the games could be a great idea.

I would love to be in a situation where the bottom half of the matrix is closer to reality and libraries don’t cut back or eliminate board games – and maybe even invest more. One can dream. In this situation, if my community was continuing to social distance, I would look at creating materials about games, gaming and the collection. Maybe create a site to teach the community how to game online, or create marketing materials about existing services around games and gaming. The other extreme is that the people come back and libraries get to keep the collection strong. Here, possibly even more than the social distancing side of the lower half, I would look at ways to promote safe gaming. Maybe increase the number of games to better facilitate circulation or host virtual game discussion groups if you are able.

Here is what my final matrix might look like. Yours, I’m sure, will be different:

This method of planning for uncertainty was helpful to me and has gotten me thinking about games in libraries, especially here in Indiana. As some of you may know, there was a question on this past year’s annual survey to indicate if your library has board games in the collection. It may be a while before I can fully look at that data, but I do know that I want to begin curating more resources to support the libraries in Indiana. If anyone would be interested in a virtual round table for games and gaming in libraries, let me know. My email address can be found below.

This post was written by George Bergstrom, Southwest regional coordinator, Professional Development Office, Indiana State Library.

Considerations for reopening if the library board or staff still have concerns

Once the current COVID-19 public health emergency is over and the executive orders limiting movement have expired, some library board members or staff could still have concerns. It is imperative that if additional restrictions remain in place, the library enforce those restrictions universally. Some of the things a library could continue to do to encourage social distancing for the public without risk of legal recourse are as follows:

1. Rearrange or remove some of the seating to limit how many people are congregating in the seating areas and to keep the tables spread a good distance apart from each other. This might draw some criticism from taxpayers but would not be discriminatory if seating was first come first serve.

2. Meeting room reservations by the general public could technically continue to be temporarily or even permanently discontinued. Neither the law nor public library standards require libraries to provide meeting rooms. Again, this is a move that might draw criticism but wouldn’t be discriminatory if no one has access except the library staff or board.

3. Libraries could continue to request patrons stand six feet apart at the check out and reference desks by marking the floors with tape – or something else – and posting signs, similar to what retail stores are doing. Requiring everyone to do that is not discriminatory. Family members and small groups that come in together should not be required to be separated from each other.

4. Libraries can use plastic sneeze shields at the check out and reference desks to protect staff from patrons similar to what the retail stores are doing. This seems impersonal but would be a non-discriminatory safety measure.

5. Libraries could rearrange their computer areas to provide some distance between each terminal. However, if rearranging isn’t practical, they could have only every other computer terminal operational to force some distance between the users and perhaps limit the amount of time each user may be on the computer. Computer users can put their name back on the waiting list to have another turn if they don’t complete what they need to do on the computer the first time. The library could sanitize the terminals between users.

6. Libraries could limit story time and other programs to X number of people, first come first serve and make sure they are holding the programs in a large enough space that individuals are not on top of each other, and so on. Maybe those turned away because the program filled up could get to be first on the list for the next program. Or, maybe the program is repeated multiple times so everyone can have a chance to attend since smaller groups will be allowed to attend each time. Don’t pass around objects to be touched by multiple people at story time  or programs; continue to keep puzzles and games put away out of reach or require that they be checked out and checked in even while using on the premises so they can be sanitized between users, etc. Capacity limits for story time or other programs should be stated on the program description. For example: “This program is limited to X number of attendees and is first come first serve” or “Attendees may register via X or Y.”

7. Libraries could still post a sign at the library entrance and have a policy requesting that those with communicable illnesses refrain from entering the library. However, trying to kick patrons out if they are coughing or have a runny nose could be problematic for multiple reasons. Library staff don’t know if the patrons might have allergies, asthma, lung disease, cancer, etc. Additionally, with COVID-19 and other communicable illnesses, sometimes the person is contagious before they even show symptoms and sometimes a person may still be coughing after they are no longer contagious.

8. It is possible for libraries to set a lower maximum capacity threshold for their buildings that will allow for six feet between every person in the library to try to prevent against overcrowding but this could be difficult to enforce unless the library stations someone at the door to do head counts of everyone coming in and out. This would obviously draw criticism if people are forced to wait to come in until others have come out but would not be discriminatory if enforced consistently. Libraries will want a policy in place for this and should expect to have to address complaints. This will likely not be a popular move.

Wherever the general public gathers, whether retail or grocery stores, the mall, restaurants, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the public library, there will always be some risk of being around others with communicable illnesses. However, as stated above, there are measures that can be taken to help reduce the risk of spread of such illnesses and make public places safer for all.

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

7 ways to cope during tough times – from someone who’s been there!

Today we welcome guest blogger Jenny Kobiela-Mondor, assistant director at the Eckhart Public Library.

I’ve worked at Eckhart Public Library for almost seven years, and for more than a third of that time, our library has been coping, in one way or another, with really tough situations.

Early in the morning on July 2, 2017, someone threw a large mortar-style firework in the book drop connected to our Main Library building, starting a fire that destroyed the interior of the building, including every single book and DVD we had there, artwork, furniture, computers and more. We spent 987 days with our Main Library building closed, operating out of our Teen Library and Genealogy Center buildings, as well as a storefront we rented. On March 15, we reopened the Main Library to the public, and were opened for service for a whopping 12 hours before we closed due to COVID-19.

To say that the past 1,000 days have been tough is an understatement. However, during these difficult years, I’ve learned some great techniques for coping – and even thriving – through tough times!

Slow down, you move too fast
The instinct when an emergency happens is to act. And, it’s true – there will be urgent matters. For example, only a few hours after our incredible firefighters had put out the fire, our director, Janelle Graber, went in and grabbed important financial documents from her office. When we decided to close for the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to notify staff and patrons as soon as possible. But once a situation has been stabilized, put the slow clock on and try to be as calm and methodical as possible in your response. Take time to sit down and make a plan. It will feel wrong, because you will absolutely want to do something tangible to try to make the situation better, but it’s not helpful to rush around without a plan, or with only a vague plan.

Throw a pity party!
When times are tough, some of us try to put on a brave face. It’s important, particularly if you’re in a leadership role, not to seem like you’re losing it when something bad happens, but it’s also vital to feel your feelings of grief, anger, fear or whatever else you’re feeling. One of my favorite techniques for working through those feelings is one that my mom has used over the years, particularly when she’s had tough medical issues such as cancer – I throw myself a pity party! When I start to feel like I want to cry, or rant, or pout – or all three at once – I look at the clock and give myself 15 minutes to do just that. It’s very cathartic to give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling, and it’s helpful to have a time limit to avoid getting into an unhelpful cycle of grief or anger. If you’re in a leadership position, make sure your staff also has access to the tools to help work through their feelings – whether that’s bringing in someone who specializes in grief, someone to lead a meditation or relaxation session or just a sympathetic ear. That was something we missed in the immediate aftermath of the fire, and it made it harder for all of us to move forward.

Flex your flexibility muscles
Being flexible is absolutely essential when dealing with an emergency or a tough situation. Making plans is very important, of course, but those plans must be able to change when the situation warrants it. Especially in an emergency situation, flexibility will get you far. As we got ready for our reopening and realized how the COVID-19 pandemic would affect it, we had to scale back our celebration, figure out how to protect the staff and patrons, and prepare for the possibility of closing the library completely. Everybody needs to be poised to be ready to react to changing situations.

Communication is key
Honestly, communication is always key in an organization, but there’s no time that it’s more important than in a difficult situation. Our management team struggled with wanting to have solid answers after the fire, and sometimes that caused us to wait until all of the pieces were in place before we told the rest of the library team what was going on. However, in such a scary situation, some information is better than no information. Members of your team don’t necessarily need every detail, nor do they need a constant trickle of information, but updates, even updates that are simply, “We’re not sure what the next step is, but we’re working on it,” are soothing. Remember, too, that communication is a two-way street. Library leadership need to listen to what staff are saying, and try not to get defensive if staff are confused or upset. Sometimes they just need to know that a leader in your organization knows what’s going on. And if you’re not part of that decision-making process, have patience for the people who are. Remember that everybody, at all levels of the organization, is stressed out and trying to figure out what to do.

Call in the cavalry!
No matter how amazing your library is, you can’t do this alone. And don’t feel like you need to! Call on your partners, volunteers and advocates to help out! After the fire, we needed places to meet and to hold programming. Our Community Foundation building became a home-away-from-home, particularly for meetings during those early days. Our grand finale of our Summer Reading Program was two weeks after the fire, and we were able to switch it to a local park, borrow lawn games from other libraries and have partner organizations bring games and activities. Talk to your supporters about what they can do for you, and what they can do to boost morale at your library. Even something as simple as a batch of chocolate chip cookies from a friends group member or $5 gift cards to your local coffee shop for staff can go a long way to making things look brighter in a dark time.

Take a break
During a tough time, your coworkers and patrons need you for the long haul. That means that your mental and physical health is extremely important. It can be hard for those of us who are passionate about our libraries to take a vacation, or sometimes even just a lunch break, in the midst of a difficult situation, but burnout is real and exhaustion can make you sick – and that doesn’t help your organization, your coworkers or your patrons! Everybody needs time to recharge, so don’t be afraid to take the time that you need. You’ll end up being more productive and better able to deal with challenges when you’re well-rested and healthy.

Always look on the bright side of life!
Our biggest challenges can sometimes also lead to unexpected wins. After our fire, we were able to sit down and really consider what our patrons need from a 21st century library. We had been starting to work on weeding, and suddenly we were able to work on building an incredible collection. Even the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to expand virtual programming, work on professional development, and bring more attention to our digital collection. You don’t have to be relentlessly positive – again, it’s good to spend some time grieving or worrying – but there are silver linings to nearly every difficult situation.

And finally …
Hang in there! This is an incredible and unprecedented challenge, but Indiana libraries – and libraries all over the country – are doing an amazing job responding! You’ve got this!

This post was written by Jenny Kobiela-Mondor, assistant Director at the Eckhart Public Library.

Novel coronavirus COVID-19 resources for libraries

The following blog post is intended to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice.The author relied on federal law and Indiana law, but did not research any other jurisdictions. Due to the rapid changes of this evolving public health emergency, the most appropriate information and recommendations will likely change daily. The information below is up-to-date as of March 18.

Libraries throughout Indiana are now embracing the dual challenge of meeting community needs while protecting the safety of staff and patrons during the current outbreak of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, as well as other pandemic diseases in the future. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

The COVID-19 outbreak provides an opportunity for local public libraries to educate the public using reliable and accurate sources for medical and public health information. See the National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s webpage A Guide to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) for Public Libraries for a list of resources. The geographic spread of the virus also creates an opening to reinforce libraries’ traditional values of inclusion and non-discrimination.

Libraries are asking about their obligations to staff and patrons during a pandemic. The Indiana State Department of Health advises public facilities to take “every day preventive measures” to help contain the spread of COVID-19. These include:

  • Ensuring adequate hand washing facilities and supplies are available.
  • Posting signs encouraging proper hand washing and respiratory etiquette.
  • Encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • Encouraging patrons not to enter the building if they are sick.
  • Performing routine environmental cleaning (cleaning all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace).

See the health department’s COVID-19 Information for Public Facilities and Organizations information sheet for more details.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that employers create an infectious disease outbreak plan in order to be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations. See CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers for more information.

The U.S. Department of Labor suggests employers review their leave policies and consider providing increased flexibility to employees and families. Because flexible policies can open the door to discriminatory practices, DOL reminds employers they must administer flexible leave policies in a manner that doesn’t discriminate against employees because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age (40 and over), disability or veteran status. Read more here: Pandemic Flu and the Family and Medical Leave Act: Questions and Answers.

Some of the measures that libraries are already taking include:

  • Increasing the frequency of sanitizing public computer keyboards.
  • Cleaning public contact surfaces twice per day.
  • Making hand sanitizer available in numerous locations (e.g., public computers, circulation desk and staff area) with signs encouraging use and encouraging patrons to use hand sanitizer both before and after using the computer.
  • Encouraging staff to wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Cancelling programs; either some or all for a temporary period.
  • Removing toys or other touch-heavy objects from children’s areas.
  • Curbing outreach to at-risk populations, such as retirement communities.
  • Temporarily suspending requirement of a doctor’s note for an extended staff absence.
  • Closing temporarily, reducing services or changing the services provided.

The following resources provide additional suggestions and information:

Indiana Library Federation: About COVID-19 and ILF Response
Every Library: Resources for Libraries on Coronavirus
Library Journal: What Public Libraries Need to Know about the Coronavirus
National Libraries of Medicine: Coronavirus: Library and Business Operations Planning
OSHA: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic (Steps Employers Can Take)

Libraries do not need to start from scratch in designing new policies and procedures to address COVID-19 or other pandemic diseases. We urge you consult your library’s attorney before proposing changes or additions to your library’s policies, but the following resources can serve as templates to help you get started:

As we move through this ever-changing public health crisis, it is reassuring to discover so many organizations sharing freely of their time and resources to help us all figure out what we need to be doing.

Written by Cheri Harris, certification program director/legal consultant at the Indiana State Library