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Call for Submissions — Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice, Fall 2020 Issue

July 10, 2020

Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice (PaLRaP.org) is accepting submissions for research, practice, feature, and commentary articles as well as news items for the Fall 2020 issue (vol. 8, no. 2).

Research, practice, feature, and commentary manuscripts are welcomed at any time; however, for full consideration for the fall issue, please submit your manuscripts by August 15, 2020.

News item submissions (staff changes, awards/recognitions, events, initiatives, etc. happening in PA libraries that may be of interest to other libraries) are also welcome at any time. However, for full consideration for the fall issue, please submit your news items here by October 1, 2020.

See the submission guidelines and section policies at palrap.org for more information.

For more information about PaLRaP, visit http://www.palrap.org.

PaLRaP is a peer-reviewed, online, open access publication of the Pennsylvania Library Association’s College & Research Division. This journal provides an opportunity for librarians in Pennsylvania to share their knowledge and experience with practicing librarians across the Commonwealth and beyond. It includes articles from all areas of librarianship, with a special focus on activities at or of interest to Pennsylvania’s academic libraries.

Published biannually: May and November

Co-Editors: Bryan McGeary & Danielle Skaggs

Peer reviewers: Members of the Pennsylvania library community

#palrap

Coping with the Crisis and the “The Little Free Libraries®”

July 9, 2020

assorted books on shelf

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Villanova University has been functioning virtually during the COVID crisis, but this week started offering contactless curbside pick-up and fair use scanning services. Efforts like this and more are being made by academic and public libraries across the commonwealth, “Checking in, not out: How libraries are moving from closed toward reopening.”

The Little Free Libraries (littlefeelibrary.org) however have also played a role during the pandemic as a limited temporary surrogate.

The organization even has a webpage for stewards on “Best Practices at Little Free Libraries During the Coronavirus Outbreak.”

The Little Free Library.org® movement, however, has not been without its controversies and critics. In 2017 a Bloomberg News feature entitled, Against Little Free Libraries: Does that birdhouse filled with paperbacks on your block represent an adorable neighborhood amenity or the “corporatization of literary philanthropy”? referenced an article by librarians who took issue with them, and backed up their critique with data. See, Schmidt, Jane, and Jordan Hale. “Little Free Libraries®.” Journal of Radical Librarianship, vol. 3, Apr. 2017, pp. 14–41.

So why are they being promoted by other nonprofits, such as the United Way in Erie County. Because the Little Free Libraries have shown that they can be a vehicle for more than ‘corporatized literary philanthropy,’ including by PBS Newshour’s “Little libraries become food pantries during COVID-19.”

And other news outlets across the country:

WordPress for Academic Libraries

July 7, 2020
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The cloud based website creation software WordPress is highly popular across the web and with libraries as well.  My Library, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College Mangarella Library, has recently begun the process of moving our website from our college’s portal system and into a WordPress site of our own design.  Our hope is that by designing the website ourselves we can create something specifically for students doing research.

WordPress is approachable for most tech savvy librarians.  It requires little to no coding ability to make a site.  The process starts with the selection of a theme, or template, for how you want your site to look and function.  Some themes are free but the more flexible options have affordable costs.  After selecting the theme you can begin the process of customizing the website to your own needs.  This is where you can really begin to implement a design that caters to your users.  What terms will you use that people will immediately recognize?  Can you organize content so that students can get to it with a minimum amount of clicks?  What content will you offer and what will be removed to streamline the site?  How can you make your site easily navigable?  How can you create a site that is useful for teaching during information literacy instruction?   If you maintain your own website, perhaps not an option for every library, you can update it regularly to meet new needs and opportunities.

With so much activity occurring online right now any library would be wise to look at their website.  Are you happy with your website, both for users and for yourself to administer?  Tools like WordPress and similar services can give you more flexibility and control over how you present your library online.

If anyone has any questions about creating a WordPress website for their library please contact me.

Going Green… and Back to “Normal”

July 3, 2020

As of Friday, June 26th, the county of Lehigh officially moved into the green phase. It was one of the last of the counties in Pennsylvania to transition to the green due to our proximity to Philadelphia (as well as Montgomery and Delaware Counties), New Jersey, and of course, New York City. More and more restrictions have been removed. Restaurants can now offer indoor dining for the first time in over three months, but gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited. My parents went to the Wind Creek casino for the first time since March, but by invitation only. Hair salons are re-opening. And my place of work is going “back to normal” (in nearly every sense of the word) come July 6th.

There has been a lot of resistance among the college’s employees to this transition back into the workplace. For the sake of this blog, I will only focus on what our library will be doing to take precautions against COVID-19 while remaining committed to maintaining excellent service to our students, faculty, staff, and administration. (Our college will be closed to the public for any events such as orientations and job fairs through December 31, 2020.) Our library is comprised of two levels. Our lower level is where the majority of our physical collections are housed along with an information service desk and three study rooms. For the time being, we are roping off this level to students to help maintain social distancing and to contain touching of highly used surfaces to the upper level. Our upper level features the main circulation and reference desks, three more study rooms, our new releases, a reading room of fictional works, and our computer lab. Our circulation and reference desks are equipped with plexiglass shields. Social distancing will be enforced come Monday to make sure there are at least six feet between students on the computers. Curbside service will still be offered to those patrons who do not wish to enter the library. Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer will be made available and students will be strongly encouraged to wipe down their work stations before and after each use. We have agreed — more or less — among our staff and librarians that we will not be the “watchdogs” when it comes to disinfecting surfaces and commonly used surfaces, although I have volunteered to gladly do such tasks. Others feel like that is not their job to do so, but I kind of have an “all hands on deck” kind of mentality when it comes to battling and containing COVID-19. I am not sure how I can provide reference help while maintaining social distancing. I wear my mask religiously, but I find that our students are very nervous when it comes to asking for assistance and are technology-shy. They are reluctant to grab the mouse and enter in search terms which I recommend to them, so I often myself leaning over them or reaching across to type search terms for them. Unless we use laser pens (which remind me of playing with cats), I do not see how I can maintain six feet between me and a patron. Does anyone else have any suggestions?

No doubt, it is going to be a challenge returning to the way things used to be but with the necessary precautions. The option for us to work remotely is now completely off the table, and I am not too happy with that executive decision, as are a lot of my fellow employees. It almost seems like there is a total lack of concern for the health of the college’s employees as well as the students. Under the guidelines for operating in the green phase, Governor Wolf has stipulated that remote work is still strongly encouraged. Why our college is not adhering to this guideline is not clear, and the question has straight out been avoided and left unanswered when addressed to those in charge. I see a return of the students, faculty, staff, and administration at 100% a recipe for disaster and an open invitation for COVID-19 to make an appearance. Couple that with the startling fact that should any of us at my college get sick with the virus or be exposed to someone who has contracted the virus and who must be quarantined for fourteen days, is now only eligible to receive two-thirds of their pay during that time off-campus, and you can get a glimpse of how irritated we are by this unfairness. I question why there was really no extended “buffer” period to ensure that we could transition slowly and safely as we grew steadily in occupancy and why those who are most vulnerable could not continue to work remotely if they did not feel safe returning to campus. In my opinion, it would be safer to have the students return in the fall.

Since becoming a librarian, I have never been wary of Mondays. I do not mind them. I have found my niche in this world and time and I enjoy my profession. However, come this Monday, I might be operating in a completely different mode and state of mind. Thank you for listening to my rant! I am concerned about a spike in COVID-19 cases once we are all back on campus and it is not going to make the college look good. I know of no other college in the area doing the same thing and returning to 100% occupancy at this time in the green phase. I am hoping that we can take the necessary precautions with disinfecting surfaces and with wearing masks, but I do not see this as enough protection. The best option would be to allow remote work whenever possible. Contrary to what the higher-ups might think, many employees are just as, if not more, productive when working from home. I can honestly say that my three and a half months working from home have been productive, as I have felt calmer and certainly less interrupted. I am just hoping that it will be worth the risk of being back onboard at full capacity.

PA Forward Resources for Academic Libraries

June 21, 2020
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If you are interested in learning more about PA Forward and how your academic library can get involved, see the resources below from the Pennsylvania Library Association and Academic Gold Star PA Forward Libraries. Feel free to reach out to the librarians from these libraries for more information about their programs and resources.

Academic PA Forward Gold Star Libraries Showcase

General PA Forward Resources 

 

Academic Library Resources

Pennsylvania College of Technology PA Forward LibGuide

Gold Star Libraries and Librarian Contacts

Pennsylvania College of Technology
Joann Eichenlaub

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
Amy Snyder

Penn State Harrisburg
Emily Mross

Shippensburg University
Aaron Dobbs