In which I share the results of my library card survey.

September was Library Card Sign-Up Month so I decided to do a survey on social media about library cards. I queried my acquaintances on Facebook, set up a Twitter poll, and asked people who read my previous blog post to simply let me know if they had an active public library card. The results were very interesting and I will share them.

But first, I want to make it clear that this experiment was just for fun and my own curiosity. I’m aware that my method of surveying people was completely unscientific and can in no way be considered a random or unbiased sample of the actual population. (Several people on Twitter were very keen to tell me this, as if I didn’t already know.) So, if you want, you can take the results with a grain of salt. I still think it’s cool to see how people responded.

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On my blog
Five people responded and 100% of them have active public library cards. 

On Facebook
103 people responded.
93% have active public library cards.
6% do not.
1% did not know.

I wonder if these results are skewed by the fact that Facebook responses are from people that I know, and I tend to know a lot of book-lovers who tend to also be library users. Also, I wonder if the non-anonymous nature of responding to my question means that people without library cards were less likely to respond for fear of being shamed somehow. (Let me be clear: there should be no shaming of people without library cards! Encouragement, maybe, but no shaming.)

On Twitter
55,132 people responded.
66% have active public library cards.
31% do not.
3% did not know.

This poll was anonymous and not limited to just people I’m friends with, so I suspect the results are a bit more representative of the American public as a whole (although the poll was certainly not limited to Americans.)

In fact, according to a 2017 American Libraries article, approximately 2/3 of Americans have a public library card. (Although I don’t know where the magazine got its data from, I assume it’s from a reputable source.)

What Else Did I Learn?
One of the things that pleased me most in looking at the survey responses was how dang proud public library card holders seem to be. Clearly, their library card is a valuable item. As a future librarian, it warms my heart to know that public libraries’ services are being used by so many people.

I also got a kick out of the fact that so many people do not just have one public library card, but multiples from different library systems. (I myself have 2 library cards – one from the MidYork Library System where I live and one from the Onondaga County Public Library System where I used to live and currently go to school.)

On Twitter, I learned that in Germany you have to pay 15-20€ per year to use the library, depending on the library’s size. And in some European countries, there’s no such thing as a separate library card, one just uses one’s national ID card to check out books instead.

So what do you think about these results? Is it what you expected? If you had to poll your own group of friends, what do you suspect the answer would be?

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In which I ask you to answer one easy question.

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month and it’s got me wondering how many people I know actually have library cards. So, I’ve decided to do a fun (and very unscientific) survey to find out.

If you’re reading this, please comment on whether or not you have an active public library card.

I will reveal the (completely anonymised) results in a future blog post at the end of the month.

library card sign up month

In which I must (sigh!) revise.

Last time you heard from me, I was happy that an article I wrote about library documentation was accepted for publication. What I didn’t mention at the time was that I had also written a paper about public libraries supporting health and wellness and sent it to a different online journal, hoping to be published there as well.

I was pretty proud of my paper and submitted it with no doubt of its being chosen for publication. However, over the summer I received word that although the paper “shows considerable promise” it would “require major revisions for acceptance.”

What do you mean, major revisions?!?!

Grunge Textured REVISE Stamp Seal with Ribbon
I’m the sort of person that likes to do everything perfectly the first time. When writing a paper, I’m used to the fact that minor revisions are always necessary. But when I submit a finished product, I secretly expect its excellence to be confirmed by all who view it. (What? That’s unreasonable, you say? Phooey!) “Major revisions” are not part of the plan.

Yes, I know I need to get over myself.

So instead of viewing the journal’s response as a sign of unacceptable failure (as I might have before I became a research assistant at the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative) and letting it affect my self esteem, I’m instead learning to embrace the research publication process and become more realistic. I’m taking the editors’ suggestions seriously and working on the difficult, sometimes painful, process of hard-core revision. It may not be fun, but it is necessary for my personal and professional growth.

Please wish me luck and fortitude. And please share any experience or advice you have on the topic of not getting what you want the first time around.

In which I am accepted for publication.

There’s an article I’ve been working on for a while about how libraries do (or sometimes don’t) document their programs and services. A few weeks ago, after lots of good suggestions from my colleagues, I finally whipped the article into shape and submitted it to an online journal, hoping that they might want to publish it.

Last week, I got an email informing me that my article has, in fact, been accepted for publication. Hurrah!

accepted
I don’t know all of the details yet, like exactly when it will be published, though I will be sure to share that information once I do know. Part of me still feels I will jinx myself if I talk about it too much, that the editors will change their mind and decide that the article is no good, and that they don’t want it after all. (That is my Impostor Syndrome talking. Shut up, Impostor Syndrome!)

But I do want to share my good news in this short post. It’s a nice feeling, knowing that one’s writing has been deemed acceptable by total strangers (as opposed to friends and family who are likely to be overly complimentary in their feedback.)

I will share more about the article once it has been published. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ve submitted a different article to a different journal and am still waiting to hear whether or not that one is accepted, too.

In which I get some good news.

So, I want to do a thing. But I needed to get permission to do the thing. And yesterday I got permission to do the thing!

The thing I want to do is interview some public librarians about innovative public library programs that happen outside the library building and don’t have to do with books.

“Haven’t you already done this, Heather?” I hear you ask, “I remember you writing about this last semester.”

Yes, I have done some exploring on the topic of innovative non-book-related public library programs outside the library building. But when I researched it last time, I didn’t have permission to do proper interviews with the librarians overseeing the particular programs and services. All I could do was ask them for documentation and basic details.

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Now what I want to do is find out about even more of these kinds of programs and services. I’d like to have longer conversations with these librarians to learn more about how they run their programs and what makes them successful. (I have a list of 13 questions.) I plan to combine the interviews into an article that I will submit to a library professional journal or share through the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI).

Before I could do any of this, however, I needed to run this by my school’s Office of Research and Integrity Protections, which oversees research compliance. I filled out a not-too-long and not-too-scary form called the “Application for Research Designated as Exempt” – for projects that don’t fall under the oversight of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) – and described my proposed plan.

And yesterday they sent me an email saying that my proposal “does not meet the definition of human subjects research… and does not require IRB oversight.” So many negatives in a sentence may sound bad, but it’s actually very good. It basically means that even though I’m doing research and talking to human beings, it doesn’t really count as “official” research on human beings, so the IRB doesn’t need to be involved.

Long story short: I can go ahead with my project.

My next step is to revisit the library programs and services I’ve already investigated to see if the librarians involved are interested in being interviewed. I’m also on the hunt to locate new innovative programs and services.

I can’t wait to see what I find!

In which the answer cannot be “everything”

I’m a lucky girl. In addition to going to library school, I get to work with the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI), which was launched last fall at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. IPLI is described very well in this article as “a discovery zone for public library innovation, a hub for student inquiry on librarianship topics, and a means to circulate new ideas and research findings to public library professionals.”

So what does this mean for me? Well, it means that I get to participate in research surrounding public libraries. What’s even better is that I get to choose the sorts of projects I work on. Pretty sweet, right?

But therein lies the problem.

When asked by my faculty mentor what I’m interested in working on, the answer is very often, “I don’t know.” Not because I don’t have any ideas but because I have too many.

ideas

“What are you interested in?” she asks me, “What do you want to learn?”

“Everything!” is my frequent response during these conversations, and then my faculty mentor exhibits great restraint by not rolling her eyes at me.

Unfortunately, “everything” is not really a reasonable topic when doing public library research. Of course, librarians of all types are doing research about all sorts of things, so almost anything you can think of is probably being researched by one person or another. But for the individual graduate student hoping to make a contribution in the field of public librarianship, “everything” is not an achievable goal.

So I have to narrow things down, and I’ve gotten better at it. Instead of focusing on “everything,” I have instead:

  • worked with IPLI colleagues to learn more about public library funding models across the U.S.
  • investigated innovative public library programs that happen outside the library building and don’t have to do with books (see previous blog posts here and here)
  • explored how public libraries are promoting health and wellness in their communities (see here, here, and here)
  • written an article about the aforementioned topic and submitted it to an academic journal (fingers crossed that it will be accepted)
  • begun the process of getting permission from my university’s Office of Research Integrity and Protections to conduct interviews about one of my topics of interest
  • started learning more about emotional labor, burnout, and self-care in the library profession

There are still other things I am interested in when it comes to public librarianship — I have a whole nerdy spreadsheet full of possibilities to delve into when the time is right — but it seems wiser to concentrate on just a few at a time instead of fruitlessly trying to tackle all of them at once.

I’m really grateful to be working as part of the IPLI team. Having the opportunity to research public libraries is fascinating and incredibly rewarding. Now, if only I can remember that important life lesson “You can do anything but not everything.”

You can do anything but not everything.

In which I confess an apprehension about the future.

(Content warning: image of drug paraphernalia and mention of opioid overdose.)

In my research on how libraries promote health and wellness in their communities, I’ve encountered numerous stories about how libraries have become involved in combating the opioid crisis by offering training opportunities to staff in administering Narcan (a.k.a. naloxone), a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

Yes, I’ve read a lot of stories on this topic. A lot.
Like this one from American Libraries.
And this one from the New York Times.
And this one from the Times Union in Albany.
And this one from Public Libraries Online.
And this one.
And this one.

In fact, the intersection of the opioid crisis and libraries has become so urgent that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has recently awarded a nearly $250,000 grant to OCLC, a global library cooperative based in Ohio, to help libraries and their partners respond to the opioid epidemic.

When I picture myself as a future librarian, I see myself answering reference questions, organizing community events, collaborating with other local organizations, and even doing more mundane tasks like preparing budgets or writing grants. I’m getting into the library profession because of my desire to serve the needs of the community, and I don’t think that everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows. I don’t imagine a sedate 9-5 job in hallowed hall of books. I am mentally prepared — ready and willing, in fact — to encounter issues relating to homelessness, poverty, and other difficult life circumstances that patrons may encounter.

16574438 - hypodermic syringe on a black background

But there’s something about the thought of dealing with opioid overdoses that kind-of terrifies me, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe because it’s a life-or-death situation and “librarian” does not strike me as the sort of profession that deals in life-or-death situations. Maybe it’s because I’m inexperienced in dealing with drug-related issues. (I once helped someone locate a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and contact a rehab facility, but that’s the extend of my experience.) I’m usually pretty calm in a crisis, but I’ve never encountered a crisis involving an overdose before.

For whatever reason, the thought of future me having to administer naloxone (especially via injection) to an overdosing patron is nerve-wracking. This is not something you’re prepared for in library school. What if I do it wrong? What if I make a mistake and the person isn’t really overdosing, but something else is the matter? What if…?

After taking a deep breath, I managed to locate some reasons why I should be less worried:

  • According to this article, “If Narcan is given to someone who is not experiencing overdose, nothing will happen; there is no potential for harm.” That’s reassuring, because I would never want to hurt someone while trying to help them.
  • Naloxone is available as a nasal spray, not just as an injection. Nasal sprays seem safer and more manageable to me.
  • Training is available to learn how to assess the signs of opioid overdose and to administer naloxone. No one would expect me to do it without training.
  • In fact, the Central New York Library Resources Council (CLRC) offered a Narcan training workshop for librarians in December, and I expect they will do so again.

narcan

In spite of my apprehension, and perhaps as a way to combat it, I do intend to pursue training in this area since, according to all the articles and news stories I’ve read, it’s something I may very well encounter as a library professional. In fact, a pharmaceutical company recently announced it would supply two free doses of Narcan to every public library in the U.S. so the chances are good that I will someday work at a library where Narcan training will be essential. (It would probably also be a good idea for me to get certified in First Aid, CPR, and the use of an AED, too. Patron emergencies are by no means limited to opioid overdoses.)

I truly believe that libraries and librarians can change lives, and I hope, by the time I become a librarian, I will feel more confident and capable of dealing with this particular kind of challenge. I’d like to think I will be ready to help save a life if need be.

In which I reveal what you think about “librarian”.

Way back in November 2015, I wrote a post asking people what came to mind when they thought about the word “librarian.” I got lots of wonderful answers and have finally gotten my act together and created a word cloud with the results. Behold!

Librarian

In my word cloud, as you might expect, the size of each word corresponds to the frequency of the replies I received. So, as we can see, the word that most people who responded to my (informal and highly unscientific) survey thought of was “helpful”. The second most common answer was “knowledgeable” followed in popularity by “dedicated,” “intelligent,” and “well-read.”

I was pleasantly surprised by so many positive attributes being associated with librarianship. Of course, I think most librarians are the greatest thing since sliced bread. And chances are that someone who’s reading my blog probably thinks the same way. However, I’m always prepared for the possibility that people have had negative experiences with librarians and don’t automatically think of positive words. This was reflected in my survey with one response each of “cranky” and “intellectually superior” (although with that last comment I can’t tell if it means “think they’re smarter than everyone else” in a bad way, or actually means “are smarter than others” in a good way.)

So, what do you think? Are you surprised at any the words or phrases that appeared in this little experiment. If you were to play this word-association game today, what adjectives would leap most readily to mind?

In which I discover libraries supporting health and wellness – Part 3.

In Part 1 and Part 2, we’ve heard about numerous ways that libraries support the well-being of their communities. But one of the biggest ways that libraries encourage health and wellness among their patrons is through the programs they offer. In this post, I’d like to offer just a sample of what I’ve found in terms of health-themed programming at public libraries.

Libraries are known for their commitment to literacy, whether of the reading-and-writing variety, or information and digital literacy. However, some librarians also feel that kinetic or physical literacy and food/nutrition literacy can and should be supported in their library community.

Because-FamilyHealthy_Twitter-cover

In a study of movement-based programs in American and Canadian public libraries, Noah Lenstra discussed the popularity of these programs for all age groups. In the sample of 1,157 public libraries that participated in the “Let’s Move in Libraries” survey, it was found that yoga classes were the most frequent program offering, followed by movement-based early literacy programs, gardening, dancing, and StoryWalks, as well as outdoor activities and fitness challenges.

In a 2016 article on fitness in public libraries, Public Libraries Online reported on the Sonoma County Libraries in California, which received federal grant money to offer programs like cardio kickboxing, yoga, meditation, and healthy cooking. Also in California, a branch of the Sacramento Public Library provided Punk Rock Aerobics and Zombie Survival Fitness classes to their patrons. In 2018, the same publication highlighted the success of a Couch-to-5K Runners Group organized by the public library in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts in partnership with a local running store.

A bit more recently, and closer to home, I can report that my local public library in central New York has offered Dance Exercise classes for adults. The nearby Hamilton Public Library offered Chair Yoga and a meditation class in October. And it’s not just in the United States. Last month, British libraries celebrated their annual Libraries Week focused on the theme of wellbeing with some libraries taking part by offering yoga, Tai Chi, belly dancing, and a Smoothy Bike (which is a bike that, when pedaled, powers a blender that makes healthy fruit-based beverages.)

28863045 - diverse hands holding the word wellbeing

Speaking of healthy foods, culinary literacy is another way that public libraries are promoting wellness in their communities, often using mobile kitchens to help teach about nutrition, safe food preparation, and more. The Free Library of Philadelphia has opened a Culinary Literary Center, a “commercial-grade kitchen that serves as a classroom and dining space” and helps teach “skills that help parents make recipes fit their families’ needs and emphasize nutrition and health literacy to help with disease prevention.” But it’s not necessary to have expensive equipment to provide these types of programs. Right here in central New York, the small but charming Smyrna Public Library has partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango County to offer healthy home-cooking classes which demonstrate easy-to-make vegetable-based recipes.

Whether supporting health and wellness by means of physical fitness or food literacy, thousands of public libraries — large and small — are now providing health-based programs to support community wellness. Their aim is not to replace other fitness or healthcare providers, but to offer the community free access to opportunities that might lead to better health.

What about your local library? Does it offer yoga, Tai Chi, or other fitness classes? How about programs on nutrition or healthy cooking? If not, what sorts of healthy programs would encourage you to visit your public library?

In which I discover libraries supporting health and wellness – Part 2.

In my previous post I wrote about librarians answering health information questions and libraries that hire social workers, nurses, and other professionals to assist patrons in their health-related needs. Now let’s talk about what else libraries are doing to support the physical and mental health of their patrons.

Inviting in visiting health services is one way that libraries can address the health needs of their communities even if they can’t afford to hire a nurse or social worker as a full-time member of the staff. Through partnerships with local healthcare organizations, many libraries are able to offer health screenings and vaccine clinics, with flu shots and blood pressure checks being among the most frequently offered services.

Earlier this year, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle published an article about the Rochester Public Library’s partnership with Rochester Regional Health to facilitate periodic visits of a mobile dentist unit to the central library “to provide homeless patrons with cleanings, extractions and other needed dental procedures.” The Central Library also works with University of Rochester medical students to offer health screenings such as glucose checks and eye exams.

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Testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is another service that has become increasingly popular. In Nebraska, testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea was offered to library patrons at ten library branches in Omaha by members of the Douglas County Health Department. During a four year period, more than 2300 tests were administered in the library branches and researchers found that this was a good way to reach a younger (under age 19) asymptomatic segment of the population, who might not visit traditional STI clinics. In New York, a partnership between Albany Public Library and the Albany Medical College resulted in free rapid HIV testing being offered in five city branches. In California, Pasadena Central Library recently hosted free HIV and hepatitis C screening, in partnership with local health organizations, as part of National Coming Out Day.

Physical health is not the only focus of wellness-themed services. Mental health is another area in which libraries are offering support to their communities. In Sacramento, California, many library staff have completed a “Mental Health First Aid” training program to help them identify the signs of mental illness and substance abuse in order to better assist patrons. This training “aims to ‘demystify’ mental illness and teach staffers how best to approach people in crisis and guide them to professional help.”

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Other libraries offer more casual mental health assistance. Luck Public Library in Wisconsin offers a weekly mindfulness program hosted by a library staff member. The program, called “Breathe,” is a guided practice that requires no prior experience and is open to everyone. Many libraries use the services of therapy dogs – canines that are specially trained to provide psychological support – as a calm and friendly listening ear for young readers, although other libraries have extended their therapy dog programs to reach teens as well.

You may be asking yourself why libraries are getting involved in areas that may seem more appropriately handled by medical or psychological professionals. Certainly, libraries are not trying to be hospitals or doctors’ offices or take over the responsibility of community health from healthcare providers. But libraries are one of the few indoor spaces in society that are free and open to everyone, and host more than 1.39 billion visits per yearAccording to a Pew Research Center survey, 73% of people aged 16+ believe that libraries are important to people looking for health information. It makes sense that libraries, which are trusted  institutions that specialize in meeting community needs, would be involved as local partners in health and wellness promotion. In some situations, libraries may be one of the few community spaces where vulnerable populations feel welcome and safe, which makes them good venues for health and wellness outreach.

Are you sick (pun intended) of hearing about libraries supporting health and wellness? I hope not, because I have one more post coming on this topic. Next time, we’ll explore the wide variety of health and wellness programs (especially movement-based programs) that libraries offer their patrons.