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

Stuck at home? Enriching activities to do with all ages from the Indiana Young Readers Center

Looking for extra activities to keep children busy? Explore some of these activities put together for you by the Indiana Young Readers Center, located in the Indiana State Library. Remember, children of all ages can benefit from play and reading. Keep your kids engaged with some of these resources.

Ages 0-5
Parents with very young children have a big challenge. Little children will not understand what is happening in relation to the current COVID-19 situation. They might sense the fear and anxiety in their parents and react to that by being cranky and unmanageable. Keep them engaged by trying some of the activities listed in our Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award Program Guides. We have three guides from 2018, 2019 and 2020 all chock-full of fun, developmentally-appropriate activities for little kids. Even if you don’t have the books listed in the guides, you can still do most of the activities.

For children ages 0-5 the best thing to do is to talk, sing, read, write and play with them. We know little kids can’t really write yet, so anything you can do to get them using their hands to work on fine motor skills is a good thing. Examples are block play, crafts, finger painting, playing with pots and pans and so much more.

Ages 6-9
Children in this age bracket are more independent and may be missing their friends and social connections. Involve them in planning out your day of activities. They can do so many things, and many of them independently. Have a game tournament. Start a reading challenge. Keep them involved in the world from inside your home by talking about nature. The Indiana Nature Conservancy has put together a guide for sharing with children to get them more connected to nature. Most of the activities in the guide can be done right at home.

This age group might enjoy many of the ideas in the aforementioned Firefly guides as well. The 2020 guide in particular has activities appropriate for older children on topics like Africa, optical illusions and pirates!

Ages 10 – 14
Even though your preteens might be the group most likely to tell you that they are bored, they are also developmentally ready for more mature thinking. They will have a better understanding of what is going on than little children and can brainstorm with you about how to spend the days in productive and balanced ways. Kids in this age group are often passionate about their interests and may be missing their friends.

Genealogy
The Indiana Young Readers Center has put together a genealogy program for children in this age group. Take this time to talk about family and the practice of genealogy. What is it anyway? Share family stories and history. Work through the program guide and learn about the kinds of documents that genealogists refer to when filling in their family trees. Do you have any documents in your home right now that you can examine?

Indiana History
If you are looking for more academic resources, take a look at this video about two of the murals located in the Indiana State Library. They discuss the history of Indiana Statehood. Talk to your school age students about how the United States was created. Who lived here when settlers arrived in Indiana? If you’d like to have a more robust conversation, take a look at the discussion questions that we use during our fourth grade field trips.

Still hungry for more history content? Explore the Indiana Historical Marker Program coordinated by the Indiana History Bureau. Every Indiana county has at least one marker. Choose an Indiana social studies standard for your student to work on. Fourth grade standards are especially relevant to Indiana history. Find a marker that relates to that standard. Take it further by researching a little more using Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections. This project could fill a whole morning and introduce your student to great online resources.

Keep a Journal – Good for all ages
Encourage children in all age groups to keep a journal about how they are feeling and what is going on around them. This is a historic time. Researchers in the future will be fascinated by primary resources like journals and diaries written by Hoosier children. Those future primary resources will not exist unless we create them now. Someday, your child could donate their journal to the Indiana State Library!

Letters About Literature  – Grades 4-12
Do your kids like reading and writing? Every year the Indiana State Library hosts a writing contest for students in grades 4-12 called Letters About Literature. Students write to an author, living or deceased, about a book that changed how they see themselves or how they understand the world around them. Students write to us every year about how books help them understand topics close to home like family and school or more sophisticated topics like racism and war. The contest for 2020 is closed, but students can always get a jump on working on their letter for next year. Visit the Letters About Literature website for more information about the contest. Your student could get published!

Ages 15-18
High schoolers are more likely to be able to fill their own time, however they may be in need of resources to help them with their existing school work. Be sure to get familiar with INSPIRE. INSPIRE is Indiana’s virtual online library, a collection of online academic databases and other information resources that can be accessed for free by Indiana residents. INSPIRE includes full-text magazine and journal articles, images, historic newspapers and much more. If students are frustrated about not finding sources for a paper or project, have them try INSPIRE.

Explore Old Journals
The Indiana Young Readers Center has put together a packet for teens interested in reading old diaries. Work through the packet to learn about the value of writing journals and researching old diaries. The diaries in the packet are written in cursive! Does your student know cursive? Take this time to teach your student the basics of cursive writing. Why is it important for students today to be able to read and write in cursive? Explore this question with your student. Fun fact: One of the diaries is from 1896 and the writer talks about playing euchre with her family!

Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections
Still looking for something to do? Take a look at some of the interesting things that the Indiana State Library has in our digital collections. From car racing to dogs to historic documents. We’ve got something for everyone:

Indianapolis 500, between 1926 and 1957
Artistic family tree (featuring President James Polk)
Pre-Photoshop trick photo postcard
Studio photos of Chow Chow dogs
South Shore Line broadsides featuring the “Workshop of America,” 1926
Miami Treaty of St. Mary’s, 1818
Preserved ivy taken from Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train 
Letter from D.P. Craig, a soldier with the 14th Indiana Regiment to his family, 1862
Awards given to African American WACs at Camp Atterbury, 1943
Women’s suffrage pamphlet with map, ca. 1915
Susan B. Anthony letter to Grace Julian Clarke, 1900-01-11 
Locks of hair presented to John. M Conyers (March 29, 1865)

In these unprecedented times, we hope these enriching activities will keep children of all ages engaged and busy.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

2020 LSTA grants for libraries

Once again, the Indiana State Library will be the recipient of over $3 million dollars in Library Services and Technology Act grant funding through the Grants to State Library Agencies program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In IMLS’s latest budget, the federally-funded Institute received $6.2 million more for the LSTA program than the previous year, the largest increase in 12 years. These funds will be divided among all states and US territories based on population – a great reason to participate in the 2020 census.

To see how Indiana used grant funds received during the 2018-19 grant year, check out the following video created by Angela Fox, public library and LSTA consultant:

While a majority of the funds received for 2020-21 will be used to continue support for statewide services like INSPIRE.in.gov, Evergreen Indiana, SRCS and the Talking Book and Braille Library, a portion of the money will be available for 2020 LSTA grants for libraries. Two types of grants will be offered: A technology grant of up to $8,000 and a digitization grant up to $15,000. These grants are available to most libraries, including public, academic, institutional, special and school libraries.

Proposed projects should have demonstrable benefits to the library’s users and community members as a result of new products and services offered through the grant project. Library staff considering applying for a grant should reach out to LSTA consultant Angela Fox. Angela is available to answer questions about proposed projects and even provide a cursory review of applications before they are submitted.

All grant applications will be reviewed by a panel of State Library staff and external reviewers, which will be assembled from public, school and academic libraries across Indiana. Grant applications are due Mar. 20 and award announcements should be made by May 2020.

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

2020 Census outreach

The U.S. Census Bureau held a kick-off for the 2020 Census ad campaign Tuesday, Jan. 14. For each decennial census, the Census Bureau hires an agency to conduct research and distribute messaging to encourage participation in the U.S. Census. The 2020 campaign, according to a Jan. 14 press release, “employs multi-language ads, partnerships and trusted voices.” The Census Bureau’s tagline, revealed in 2019 is “Shape your Future. Start here.” Examples of the new ads are available here. Census partners are encouraged to have local organizations use the national campaign materials in news media, social media and other outlets.

Efforts to publicize the census have been underway in Indiana for the past several years. The Philanthropy Alliance of Indiana made it a priority to connect its members with census resources early on in the state’s efforts. The Indiana State Library’s State Data Center has worked closely with the Indiana Business Research Center and the Indiana Department of Administration to coordinate efforts at the state level. The IBRC maintains the Census in Indiana website, a “for Hoosiers by Hoosiers” resource for digital and print materials promoting the 2020 census.

New on the site is a Promotional Tool Kit section which includes images and widgets for your websites. For librarians, there is a 2020 Census Toolkit containing important dates in the census, talking points and FAQs for Indiana libraries, an online resource list and ideas for displays and programs. The Census Bureau’s Facebook and Twitter pages contain daily updates about 2020 Census promotion. The State Data Center’s Facebook and Twitter pages post national, state and local updates about the 2020 census.

In mid-March, most U.S. households will receive an invitation to fill out the census online. A series of mailings will follow until each household completes the census online, by paper form or via telephone.

Please contact the library’s State Data Center for questions about the 2020 Census.

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

Professional development in the new year

The Professional Development Office is excited about the new year and all of the things we will be offering to Indiana librarians. We are starting a new series of webinars called What’s Up Wednesday?, which are scheduled for the last Wednesday of every month – except December – at 10 a.m. EST. The first one will feature one of our own Indiana librarians, Jennifer Taylor, from Hagerstown Public Library and the webinar is called “Quick Play Gaming for Teen Outreach.”

The next thing we are doing is offering the first Indiana online conference, “Hot Topics for a Cold Winter’s Day.” It will take place online Monday, Feb. 17 from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. EST. Our keynote speaker will be Julius Jefferson, Jr., ALA’s 2020-2021 president-elect. Also speaking will be Cyndee Landrum of IMLS, Pam Seabolt of MCLS, ILF President Susie Highley and Kelly Krieg-Sigman, retired director of the LaCrosse Public Library in Wisconsin. Stay tuned for registration information.

The Difference is You conference is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18 at the Indiana State Library and is in the early planning stages. This year we will also present our 2020 Indiana Library Leadership Academy on Oct. 28-30. Participants are selected through an application process so keep your eye out for the application. This opportunity is open to librarians from all types of libraries – public, academic, school, special and institutional.

We are also happy to announce that we have hired a new Northwest regional coordinator, Laura Jones. She will be working remotely from Argos. Laura has experience in both public and school libraries.

We have updated and added to our Face to Face Training options. There are several new options: “Teambuilding 101,” “Soft Skills for Librarians,” “Developing Community Partnerships” and some new subject-specific INSPIRE trainings. We are excited that we have been able to redo our tech kits with new choices and we will have three kits now instead of two. We have added the littleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, Squishy Circuits, Dash Challenge cards and the Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity set. Checkout for the updated tech kits will begin in February. Please talk to your regional coordinator if you would like to reserve one. In addition, we purchased two Breakout EDU kits which we will also be circulating this year.

Of course, we will continue offering webinars at various times throughout the year so please check our calendar so you don’t miss out. I hope you are as excited about 2020 as I am! It’s going to be a great year!

This blog post was written by Kara Cleveland, Professional Development Office supervisor at the Indiana State Library.