Pandemic pivot does not dampen enthusiasm or participation
The Rhode Island Library Information Network for Kids (RILINK), the statewide consortium of K-12 school libraries, held its twelfth annual conference in July—this time with a virtual twist. The unusual circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic necessitated either cancelling the event entirely or switching to an exclusively online platform. The former option was out of the question, and RILINK staff felt ready to handle the challenges of the latter.
With great thanks to the RILA Conference Committee for lending training materials and providing advance support and guidance, RILINK presented “Standard Bearer: Library to Classroom” on July 14, 15, and 16. The event was free to all, featured keynote speakers and 20 sessions, and was broadcast using Zoom.
Professor Mary Moen of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (GSLIS) joined librarian Marianne Mirando of Westerly High School to present a keynote address that introduced attendees to the new Rhode Island School Library Curriculum Guide.
Marianne Mirando co-presents the keynote session on July 14
According to Moen and Mirando, the development and implementation of the Guide was 4 years in the making and involved a committee of several School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) members. Taking its foundation (with permission) from similar work done in New York, the Rhode Island School Library Curriculum is “aligned with the 2018 AASL National School Library Standards and includes grade level benchmarks, lesson plan ideas and graphic organizer assessments.” Anchor Standards and Indicators establish a framework for guiding school librarians through the curriculum and scaffolding information literacy and research instruction across all grade levels.
The Rhode Island School Library Curriculum Guide is hosted on the RILINK Schools site and may be viewed at guides.rilinkschools.org/riproject.
Other conference presenters included school and public librarians and library staff, members of AskRI and the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS), professional consultants, and vendors. Topics included using social media for library advocacy, capturing library usage data, navigating Google Classroom, and connecting students with #OwnVoices fantasy novels. Members of the Rhode Island Children’s, Middle School, and Teen Book Award Committees (RICBA, RIMSBA, and RITBA, respectively) presented the latest nominees and award-winning titles. RILINK staff offered a variety of sessions on consortium member benefits and services.
From “Advocating for the Library with Social Media”
Initial conference feedback was very positive, and RILINK anticipates increased demand for future virtual sessions. Jackie Lamoureux, one of RILINK’s Member Services Librarians, stated that she “missed personally meeting and networking with colleagues [but that] the virtual conference format had a lot going for it. More people were able to attend, and presenters didn’t have any travel issues.” Donna Good, RILINK’s eResources specialist, was impressed that “through the monitoring of the invaluable 'Chat' [feature in Zoom], we were able to observe the participants' enthusiastic comments, questions, sharing, and the resulting flow of their creative juices.”
Attendees had similarly enthusiastic remarks about both conference topics and the virtual platform, with one who stated that “the Zoom conference was the next best thing to a live conference,” and another who “felt very comfortable with [the technology] and might even prefer this to an in-person conference in the future.”
Sharon Webster, who served as the primary conference project manager and is RILINK’s Professional Learning and Technology Support Specialist, was energized by the "positive feedback from participants” and pointed out that “the almost flawless execution of our first virtual conference is testament to the hard work of the entire RILINK team."
View complete RILINK Summer Conference 2020 details at guides.rilink.org/sc2020.
by Stephanie Mills
School librarians are no stranger to collaborating with teachers within their buildings, but this past school year found them relying on their professional colleagues for ideas. When students and teachers went to distance learning, school librarians immediately tapped into their creativity to continue offering services to students in different ways. From driving house to house to deliver books, as Meredith Moore did, to creating fun Tik Toks to keep their students entertained (we are looking at you, Tasha White), school librarians tried to keep their students at the heart of their plans.
As a giant question mark looms over the upcoming school year, Melanie Roy and Stephanie Mills, both middle school librarians, have been brainstorming ideas for how to continue to meet the needs of students. Many schools have already said that traditional library visits will not be allowed. Here’s a list of what they hope to accomplish this year!
Collaborate with our incredible public librarians to ensure we are providing every possible opportunity to our patrons.
Hold a public library card application drive to promote that a library card is an essential “back to school” supply, just like a pen or pencil! Also, provide a link to apply online as another viable option for families. Ask our faculty to put a “public library card” on their back-to-school supply list they provide to students and families.
Plan an online orientation for students, with a focus on accessing digital platforms for reading and research. What we realized in the Spring is that creating short videos for students, teachers, and families to access is just GOOD teaching practice. Plan a place to store these videos for later use by our patrons - preferably on our library websites.
Devise a weekly system to provide readers with book recommendations. Promote ebooks and audiobooks, particularly through BookLynx and Overdrive as a priority. We are unsure about ILL delivery, so finding ways to get books we do not have in the hands of our readers is of utmost importance.
Curate and share up-to-date resources available to students, teachers, and families as well as video tutorials on our library websites. Create a library Google Classroom students and staff can access for login information that cannot be posted publicly.
Devise creative ways to get books into readers’ hands - pod bins for 6 weeks, longer patron checkouts, deliver and pick up books at homerooms.
Be good models of copyright adherence for students and staff by sharing Kiera Parrott’s SLJ Publisher Directory widely, in order to properly implement online read alouds for our students. Perhaps create a video about copyright adherence for our staff to access as well.
Provide “Reader’s Advisory” via a Google Form. While students may be able to use RICAT to log in and place a hold on a specific title, many students will still need to be guided to new reading choices. Having an open-ended Google Form allows students to give examples of books and authors they have enjoyed or topics they would like to know more about, giving the librarian more opportunities to provide personalized titles. Also, be sure to promote AskRI.org’s NoveList to teach students how to advocate for themselves.
Post photos of books and book displays to school social media to provide as many opportunities as possible for our patrons to virtually “browse” the library.
Create ways to keep students engaged in the content-fun distractions like trivia sent out in Google Classroom, “Where’s Waldo” pictures with your Bitmoji hidden, weekly resources featured, ask for student input to establish weekly hashtags to engage the larger community.
Provide online office hours to give staff and students opportunities to see you and learn outside of regular lessons.
Establish a weekly time for students who would normally want to chat about books, life, etc. (your library regulars) a time to Zoom and connect. Create a shared Google Slideshow that they can add book recommendations to and refer back to later for ideas. Consider a blog for students (Thanks, Heidi Blais!) to submit book recommendations! (Here's a middle school example).
Above all, try to think of this as “one difficult year.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the uncertainty and the knowledge that we aren’t able to teach how we normally do. However, librarians are always a mix of creativity and ingenuity, and this can be a year to show all our stakeholders that we can shine, even in the face of adversity.
By Juliann Cerrito
I had a simple objective: to revisit the village where I was a Peace Corps volunteer and, perhaps, to see if the library I created still existed and to find a former co-teacher or two. Was it that difficult? Apparently, yes, it was.
Thirty-seven years ago, I was a senior in college and pondering my future after graduation. A small poster in Emerson Hall at Western New England College caught my attention. It was for the Peace Corps, and I decided to inquire. I ended up applying and, boy, what a process! It took 7 months to receive an acceptance letter. I departed in September 1984 for San Diego, then Manila. I then spent 2½ years living and working in the Philippines; I met my husband there.
After a 3-month training, I ended up in a simple town where rice and corn were its main crops. First I reported to the rural health unit in town, and then I made my way from there. Health educators in the Peace Corps have no job descriptions, and the job is as “loosey-goosey” as it comes. I met the doctor that led the clinic, and she was lovely. I also met her midwives and health technicians. Crying babies, frail elderly folks, and the like lined the room on sturdy wooden benches. I noticed that people would show up at 8:00 am, hoping the doctor would arrive at 9:00 am, only to finally be seen by 1:00 pm. Many times, they waited until late in the afternoon to be seen. There was a carinderia (a small outdoor restaurant) outside the clinic where patients and staff could get cold drinks and lunch.
I began visiting nearby barrios with the midwives, hoping one would catch my interest and had a need I could fill. I knew I would not stay in town and live the rather luxurious lifestyle of color TV and maid service that I had in the home I was then occupying. I knew the Peace Corps meant sacrifice and aiding others. I finally chose a village, called Aromin, which was led by a woman and was located in a corn-growing region. The village was reachable by public transport—though “transport” meant 25 minutes in a jeep, then a boat ride across the river, then 1 hour on foot…in the hot sun! I did use a parasol. The village was very poor and didn’t have electricity or running water at that time. My home, which was built for me, was constructed of bamboo and had a grass roof. Beautiful as it was, it was fragile and blew away in a typhoon about 20 years ago.
Very slowly, I assessed the needs of the community and, as a health volunteer, I determined that dental education in the elementary school and basic health classes at the high school would be my objectives. In addition, I taught mothers’ classes on Saturday, which included dental care, nutrition, family planning, and potable water projects. The high school was one village over and, after speaking to the principal, we agreed I would teach the juniors and seniors three times per week, half in English and half in Tagalog (the medium of instruction in the Philippines). I had my own lingua franca, if you will. The school had a tin roof and no doors. Oftentimes, I would sweat profusely trying to teach and, yes, wonder why I was there.
Children in Aromin
My first observation was that there was no library anywhere. I’m not sure why I was surprised. The entire town did not have one; neither did the local university. The closest libraries were at the prestigious University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de la Philippines, two upper-crust schools. I had grown up privileged, but didn’t know it: my hometown in Rhode Island had a lovely library, as did the surrounding towns. I used to bike to the East Greenwich Public Library to be greeted by Mrs. Rice and Ms. McPartland. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were my favorites. After being in the Philippines for 4 months, I learned that comic books were one of the only reading sources. The Manila Times was available and read in town, but it never made it out to the village. The paper was considered a luxury.
My peers were equally distressed to find out there was no library. After sharing resources with each other, we learned that the US Navy had a book sponsorship program. Books could be mailed to San Diego, and then the Navy would transport them overseas. I proceeded to ask friends and family to put together cartons of books they were not using and mail them out to California. They were happy to oblige. The Navy also contributed books.
Approximately 6 months later, a small truck arrived at the high school with many crates of books. It was extremely exciting. I was given a room in which to set up a library. It took a few days! My biggest concern was the security of the books, but I had to let that go. There was no way a building with few doors and no locks could keep a library safe. The rule was that students could read the books during the school period, before and after school, and during lunch. I had chosen elementary-level books for the collection. Although the local children and teens had only a basic knowledge of English, they still enjoyed the pictures and the challenge.
My contract expired in December 1986, and I headed home in January of 1987. I decided to return in 2020. My two sons and I had planned this trip for 9 months, and we planned to leave on March 3rd. We discussed the pandemic carefully ahead of time, but we decided to go through with the trip--my sons’ grandmother, Carmen, is 95 years old, and we did not know if we would ever see her again.
We were puzzled to find the JFK airport virtually empty. Our flight to Seoul was 75% empty, which was alarming as well. We arrived as the Philippines was experiencing the very early stages of the pandemic. Every store we visited had a temperature taker at the front door, and people were wearing masks. Patience was the only way to endure the visit.
One evening at Grandma Carmen’s home, there was a knock on the door. We opened it to find three local health officials. Rumors had circulated that foreigners were in town, and the officials wanted to ask us questions about our health and take our temperatures. It was odd, to say the least. We had a lengthy discussion and because I’d had a cold the week before, we were labeled “suspicious.” We were instructed to visit a hospital the next day for blood tests to see whether our white blood count was elevated; COVID-19 tests were not available.
This didn’t go over very well with me or my family. I wanted to proceed to my village the following day, not visit a local hospital. In fact, I was told I couldn’t visit my village. I was beside myself. The people in Aromin had planned an enormous party for me, because they hadn’t seen me in 33 years. The following day, we had to visit two hospitals to get the travel clearance we needed in order to go home the following week. The hospitals were basic, with no gloves and no COVID-19 tests. After getting clearance from hospital number two, the doctor asked to take photos. I thought that was odd. While the doctor took photos, I noticed a sign on the wall announcing that cleft palate surgery was now free and that next week was “Leprosy Prevention Week.” I was perplexed that leprosy was still a problem there. I was glad that cleft palate surgery was now free. What a difference between here and home.
Juliann and her Family Visiting the Hospital
After visiting the hospitals, my family was still considered “under suspicion,” but I was given permission to travel to Aromin. I went the next day, but was only able to stay for 4 hours. We had to leave the next morning for Manila, because the capital was closing in so many days and we would have missed our flight back to the United States.
I learned that the library I’d established no longer exists. All the books were taken into peoples’ homes; that is fine by me. There has never been another initiative in 33 years to develop another library. Think of this, and love your library.
The Rhode Island Library Association (RILA) condemns the actions of police brutality in Minneapolis that led to the horrific death of George Floyd, and stands with the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) and the American Library Association (ALA) in condemning violence and racism towards black people and all people of color. For far too long, we have witnessed the destruction of lives and communities at the hands of those who feel that people’s skin color determines their worth.
We affirm libraries as champions of democracy and a free society and will continue to stand up, with, and for people of color in our profession and in our community.
RILA commits to work towards anti-racist education and will use our collective voice to speak against biased behaviors that limit the rights of people of color to equitable treatment in local, state, and national policies. In the darkness, we will bring the light.
The Rhode Island Library Association is a member organization and includes the following sections: Cornucopia of Rhode Island (CORI), a library community of color, the Coalition of Library Advocates (COLA), and the School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI).
Warwick Public Library Children’s Staff Gets Creative
What Happens When Children’s Librarians Are Put on a Stay-at-Home Order?
In addition to recorded story times and Zoom book group meetings, the Children’s Librarians have brainstormed other activities that do not revolve around screen time. The Spring Reading Program started on April 1 and uses the Beanstack reading program tool. In addition to reading, participants are encouraged to complete various activities to earn badges. So far, 303 participants of all ages have logged over 28,000 minutes of reading and activities. Participation is not limited to just Warwick residents—interested patrons from all over the state may join in.
This summer, WPL will be using Beanstack in place of its usual Summer Reading Program. Activities will include visiting various historical sites in the city, performing Daily Acts of Kindness, and finding different ways to enjoy a book, such as reading to family members or pets. Department Manager O’Brien is working with the Warwick School Department to train teachers on using Beanstack for summer learning assignments.
“Librarians are naturally resourceful and masters at finding the tools they need to provide the best possible services to patrons,” says Jana Stevenson, WPL Deputy Director. “There are many valuable resources online, but our librarians are also working to provide access to experiences offline. As we move forward to plan for a Summer Reading Program that will be like no other, I am confident the librarians of Rhode Island will provide a reprieve in a time of chaos.”
The Rhode Island Library Association highlights the work done libraries that continue to serve their communities
The Rhode Island Library Association (RILA) will virtually celebrate Rhode Island libraries’ innovative responses to continue to meet community needs while protecting staff and patrons during COVID-19 as part of the American Library Association’s National Library Week, April 19–25, 2020.
National Library Week is a time to highlight the valuable role libraries, librarians, and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening communities. While nearly all Rhode Island libraries are closed to the public, library workers continue to provide services in inspiring ways. This year’s national theme was originally “Find your place at the library,” but due to the global pandemic, the American Library Association decided to flip the wording on the theme to “Find the library at your place.”
“Typically, RILA celebrates National Library Week with Rhode Island Library Day, a day-long celebration that includes special events and fine forgiveness,” said Julie Holden, president of the Rhode Island Library Association. “This year, we are celebrating the incredible amount of online activities and virtual services that library staff are providing as a way to connect to the public during this time of social isolation.”
RILA will promote several programs and activities from libraries throughout the week using the hashtag #RILibraryWeek2020 on social media. These activities include live story times, sing-a-longs, virtual book club chats, writing sprints, and senior social hours. Libraries across the state have been promoting all the digital resources that are available from home to Rhode Island residents, some of which are accessible without a library card. In addition, many library staff are hard at work using their maker talents to create personal protective equipment needed during COVID-19.
Rhode Island residents can learn about upcoming library events through a centralized calendar on the Office of Library and Information Service’s website: https://olis-ri.libcal.com/calendar/rilibrary/ or by following RILA on Twitter and Facebook @rilibraries.
The Rhode Island Library Association is a professional organization that serves its members through career development, education, advocacy, networking partnerships, and legislative action. RILA believes in:
• Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
• Equal Access for All
• Intellectual Freedom
Rhode Island Library Association warns that Big Publishing’s e-book restrictions disproportionately threaten Rhode Island library users’ ability to access new releases, sets a dangerous precedent of exclusion
CRANSTON, RI – The Rhode Island Library Association (RILA), the American Library Association, local neighborhood librarians, and Rhode Island library patrons gathered today at Cranston Central Library to speak up against Big Publishing’s unfair, unconstitutional, and anti-competitive practices that limit libraries’ ability to provide residents, taxpayers, and library patrons with full access to new publications.
“Library support in our state is high, and our patrons know the intrinsic value of being able to freely access books, movies, music, high-speed internet, educational classes, cultural programs, and more. Rhode Islanders particularly value our access to e-books,” said RILA President and Cranston Assistant Library Director Julie Holden. “When Big Publishing blocks libraries from buying e-books, they’re obstructing Rhode Islanders’ constitutional right to public libraries. Librarians are speaking up loudly against these unfair and unconstitutional practices, and we urge Rhode Island elected leaders to take action that forces Macmillan and Big Publishing to end their anti-library and anti-competitive practices.”
Senator Mark McKenney (District 30 – Warwick) has filed legislation that would prohibit publishers setting any limits on the number of e-book and audiobook licenses a library can purchase.
“The bill I have filed simply requires publishing houses to offer libraries reasonable terms on electronic books and digital audio books. No more, no less,” said Rhode Island State Senator Mark McKenney. “Specifically, it precludes a publisher from limiting the number of e-book licenses libraries can obtain when new books come out. Libraries should be able to get these books in the same way as the public. It’s that simple.”
In November 2019, Macmillan Publishers put in place a new policy limiting libraries’ ability to purchase new e-books. Macmillan now sells only one copy of a newly released e-book title per library system. After eight weeks, libraries may purchase unlimited copies of the e-book for a two-year license. Because Rhode Island provides e-books to libraries through the Ocean State Library consortium, that means Macmillan limits one copy of a new e-book for the first eight weeks after publication for the entire state.
“The national response against Macmillan’s anti-library e-book policy has been overwhelming, and we are proud to stand with the Rhode Island Library Association to urge action that holds Macmillan accountable,” said ALA Senior Director of Public Policy Alan Inouye. “Rhode Island is a unique state with a single library system, a structure that provides library users with many benefits. But Rhode Island library users are disproportionately hurt by Big Publishing’s unfair and potentially unconstitutional e-book practices. ALA sees Rhode Island as a model for the rest of the nation on how to stand up against Big Publishing and work toward restoring library users’ equitable access to e-books.”
The Rhode Island Library Association signed on to the American Library Association’s #eBooksForAll campaign last year. At the press conference today, RILA spoke out on the Big Publishing policies to educate lawmakers and other elected officials, public advocates, library users, and the general public. In the weeks ahead, RILA will continue to speak out and inform library users about Macmillan’s and Big Publishing’s unfair and unconstitutional practice. Through their outreach, RILA aims to inspire a broad coalition to take a range of actions blocking Macmillan’s and other publishers’ unfair practices directed toward libraries.
In February, RILA held a roundtable meeting with U.S. Representative David Cicilline (District 1) to discuss steps Congress can take to ensure that publishers cannot discriminate against libraries and library users. Following that meeting, Congressman Cicilline said he “look[s] forward to continuing our work together as the investigation wraps up and legislative fixes are introduced later this year.” In addition to meeting with Congressman Cicilline, RILA board members will meet with the Office of the Attorney General in the weeks ahead to discuss Macmillan’s potential violations of Rhode Islander’s constitutional rights and individual RILA members will request meetings with mayors and town managers to encourage local leaders to sign on with #eBooksForAll.
“The United States’ public library system is considered by many to be our most democratic institution, providing the public equitable and full access to information. Cranston has a rich history of public libraries with our first, the Auburn Public Library, opening in 1888,” said Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. “Cranston is fortunate to have six vibrant branches, which provide access to library services throughout the city. The limitation of the licensing of e-books to libraries would undermine the basic mission of the library to promote and provide free literacy, access and opportunity to all Rhode Islanders.”
For more information on ALA’s #eBooksForAll campaign, visit https://ebooksforall.org/
The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss recent changes in the ebook publishing industry and communicate to the Congressman how these changes are negatively affecting the library patrons in his district and across the country. Congressman Cicilline is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law (ACAL) Subcommittee, which is conducting a bipartisan investigation into competition in digital markets. RILA thought it fitting to have this discussion with him and bring to his attention how these publishers’ policies are affecting libraries and the public they serve.
Congressman Cicilline then spoke about his efforts in Congress and the bipartisan investigation that the ACAL Subcommittee is conducting into digital markets. The investigation began last June and the Subcommittee has been holding hearings and producing documents focused on three main areas: identifying and documenting competition problems, assessing whether dominant companies are engaging in anticompetitive behavior, and determining whether existing laws, policies, and enforcement procedures are adequate to address any issues uncovered by the investigation. The Subcommittee has already held five hearings looking at the free and diverse press, innovation and entrepreneurship, the role of data and privacy in competition, perspectives of the antitrust agencies, and competitors in the digital economy.
Stephen Spohn, Executive Director of Ocean State Libraries (OSL), provided an update on the current state of electronic materials purchasing and the challenges the state-wide consortium faces. Stephen used blocks to illustrate how, unlike with print materials, where a library or library consortium may purchase as many copies as it likes at the same price as the average consumer - or even at a discounted price - the consortium is only able to purchase licenses to electronic materials at significantly higher prices. Despite the increase in price, the library or consortium still doesn’t own the material - they only own the license to use it for a specified amount of time, after which they must purchase another license. In the end, libraries end up paying three times more than the average consumer for ebooks and six times more for audiobooks. The result of this purchasing model is that, while ebooks make up only 3.2% of the OSL collection, they make up about 15% of the budget. Embargoes, such as the one Macmillan has employed, only exacerbate this problem.
Following these opening statements, the floor was opened for discussion by the roundtable members of how these digital sales practices are affecting patrons directly. For example, Jill Smith spoke of her son, who relies on OSL’s ebook and digital audiobook collection, and her mother, who is visually impaired and uses the state’s Talking Books program as well as OSL’s digital audiobook collection. She also stated that, as a licensed therapist, she often refers her clients to ebooks and digital audiobooks on mental health topics that they can access privately on OSL’s eZone. She expressed concern over the effects of the Macmillan embargo on her family’s and patients’ abilities to access digital materials. Charlotte Toolan spoke of the frustration of wanting to read a new series, only to find that the third and fourth books in the series were available on the eZone, but the first two books were not. She discussed this with OSL staff and learned that, because of low circulation, OSL had decided not to repurchase the licenses to the earlier books in the series - but then that means that the money spent on the later books has likely been wasted, as no one wants to start a series midstream. Karen Mellor, Chief of Library Services for Rhode Island, described an example in which a young student would have to wait 6 to 8 months for the next ebook in a popular series - she would be in different grade by the time she was able to access that title.
Throughout the discussion, Congressman Cicilline was engaged and asked a lot of questions. At the end of the session, he requested copies of statements and examples of the effects discussed in order to weave them into the ACAL Subcommittee investigation. He remarked that the concerns raised during the roundtable discussion provided great examples of why issues of digital market dominance matter to regular people.
EAST PROVIDENCE, RI - On Monday, February 3, the Rhode Island Library Association hosted U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01) at a roundtable for library staff and library patrons from around the state to discuss current unfair terms of availability and pricing in the e-book market.
The roundtable, which took place at the East Providence Public Library Weaver Library in East Providence, provided attendees the opportunity to voice their concerns to Congressman Cicilline about the increasing difficulty in gaining access to e-books and other digital content from the library.
“We are thankful to Congressman Cicilline for taking the time to listen to our concerns, as recent market changes in the publishing industry have put libraries in an unsustainable position,” said Rhode Island Library Association president Julie Holden.
The discussion was initially prompted by Macmillan Publishers’ eight-week embargo on sales of new e-book titles to libraries, a policy that went into effect on November 1, 2019. The Rhode Island Library Association denounced the publisher’s change in terms and joined the American Library Association’s #eBooksForAll campaign calling on Macmillan to reverse the embargo and restore full access to its complete e-book catalog.
“Last fall Ocean State Libraries made it clear that we strongly oppose Macmillan’s attempt to delay access to e-books for our library patrons,” said Holden. “This embargo stands in the way of our mission to provide information in a fair and timely manner to everyone who uses our public libraries. The purpose of today’s discussion was to make sure our Representative is aware of how the practices of Macmillan and other players in digital markets are hurting his constituents and library users across the country.”
The #eBooksForAll campaign, with nearly 250,000 petition signers, has broadened its scope of interest to other digital content providers, including Amazon publishing, which does not sell any of its e-book titles to libraries. In a report to Congress, the American Library Association identified “practices by companies like Amazon and Macmillan Publishers that threaten Americans’ right to read what and how they choose and imperil other fundamental First Amendment freedoms.” The report was submitted in response to an inquiry from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, which is chaired by Congressman Cicilline.
“As the Chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee leading a bipartisan investigation into the state of competition in the digital marketplace, I’m particularly interested in potentially anticompetitive practices harming libraries and their users, especially in Rhode Island,” Cicilline said. “I’m grateful that the Rhode Island Library Association put together today’s roundtable so we could discuss these issues in detail. I look forward to continuing our work together as the investigation wraps up and legislative fixes are introduced later this year.”
The Rhode Island Library Association is a professional organization that serves its members through career development, education, advocacy, networking partnerships, and legislative action. RILA believes in:
· Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
· Equal Access for All
· Intellectual Freedom
An enthralled crowd of mostly public librarians from all over the state attended a day-long Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) training, “The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness,” at the Central branch of Cranston Public Library on December 11, 2019. Presenter Ryan Dowd is the Executive Director of the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois and is well-known both nationally and abroad for his expertise on the topic.
Dowd, who toured the U.S. with filmmaker Emilio Estevez to promote “The Public,” the 2018 movie about the intersection of library services and marginalized patrons, brought plenty of experience, compassion, and humor to his presentation. He runs a “low-threshold shelter” that will accept “just about anyone” and sees a great deal of colorful behavior on a daily basis. During Dowd’s many years of working in the field, he has observed that people experiencing homelessness frequently struggle to follow the rules wherever they are, for a variety of reasons that were made clear during the session. His training program is designed to educate library staff about the need for “empathy-driven enforcement” of the rules in the face of such complex circumstances.
Ryan Dowd addresses a rapt audience; photo courtesy of Sarah Bouvier, CPL Communications Manager
Dowd divided the day into four parts: (1) understanding how the lives of people experiencing homelessness are very different from others’ lives, (2) examining when and what kinds of punishment works and doesn’t work, (3) the “psychology of voluntary compliance,” and (4) practical advice for synthesizing elements of parts one through three by using “tools of empathy and psychology.”
Empathy took center stage in every discussion and is the driving force behind Dowd’s “pennies in the cup” concept. His premise is that by earning goodwill (represented by those metaphorical pennies, which also can be called “positive relationship credits”) in advance—by going out of their way to be kind to all patrons but especially to marginalized ones—library staff are much more likely to see voluntary compliance from those they serve, including from patrons who may have nothing left to lose and who otherwise may be prone to exhibiting aggressive reactions to any kind of confrontation.
Ryan Dowd explains the three types of homelessness; photo courtesy of Sarah Bouvier, CPL Communications Manager
The complexity of the homelessness issue and how libraries can and should respond to it was not lost on the organizers of the event. In fact, this “was an easy decision,” according to information provided by OLIS staff member Nicolette Baffoni, because Dowd’s “training addresses the root causes of cyclical poverty and trauma that many people experiencing homelessness face, while also providing a vast array of tools to build relationships, increase empathy and, as a result, increase compliance with rules.”
Attendees seemed to grasp the value of the training and gave it high praise. According to Baffoni, “86% of [evaluation] survey respondents strongly agreed that they learned something and were more confident in applying what they learned.” “It was the shortest 7-hour training I think I’ve ever sat through,” wrote one participant. Another commented that the “staff from [my library] who took the workshop continue to bring up what they learned in almost every meeting I have attended since the training.” Someone else pointed out that Dowd’s “techniques can be used to smooth over relations with any kind of patron.”
Appreciative CPL staff members with Ryan Dowd; photo courtesy of Sarah Bouvier, CPL Communications Manager