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June 2024: Executive Director's Report

Happy June NYLA Members! We have much to celebrate this month, including Pride Month, Juneteenth, and the beginning of our first fixed membership year at NYLA. For those who didn’t know, our memberships now run from June 1 – May 31 each year, meaning everyone will be renewing at the same time, which we hope will make it easier to mark on your calendars and plan for. If you haven’t joined the new system yet, it’s not too late. Check the website and join ASAP to make the most of the current membership year. After all, an association is nothing without its members!

During this membership push, and, all year long, I have people ask me what NYLA does…for them, for their libraries, etc. It’s a fair question, and I have spent much of my two and a half years as Executive Director considering this. I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you all.

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June 2024: From The President

Spring has been a busy time at NYLA headquarters and throughout the state in terms of all things libraries. Our advocacy efforts paid off, with a historic increase in library operating aid and public library construction aid. Advocacy efforts are still underway as the session closes shortly, to push forward momentum for an increase in library material aid (currently at $6.25, looking for an increase to $11.00 per student) and legislation that promotes the freedom to read in all types of library settings. Please help us by making sure to use your advocacy voice, and contacting your local legislators when NYLA pushes out those “Take Action” email and phone campaigns – there is strength in numbers!

Committee work has been robust, with programs and keynote speakers being finalized for “Leadership at Every Level” at our Annual Conference, in Syracuse NY this November. The Governance Committee and the Audit and Finance Committee are doing substantial work, updating or creating the policies and procedures needed in response to the NYLA Council approving the recommendations of the Balanced Budget Task Force last year. Other committees are also actively working on member engagement campaigns (Membership and Communications), and our Awards Committee has been busy getting ready for the season to begin, leading up to, the awards reception on the Friday night of the conference. In addition, did you get your “NYLA merch” when the Sponsorship and Fundraising Committee launched its first bonfire campaign? Over 270 items sold, helping advertise the freedom to read!

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June 2024: Keepin' Up At The Capitol

On Saturday, June 8, the New York State Legislature adjourned its 2024 Legislative Session. Before we enter summer and NYLA turns its attention to the development and promotion of 2025’s priorities, let’s take a moment to review what New York’s library community was able to accomplish in the last 5 and a half months.

Budget: After a statewide advocacy push, libraries won significant increases in State Aid for Libraries, State Aid for Library Construction, and a new allocation of $3 million to continue the operation of the NOVELny program for FY 2025. While the fight continues to increase the per-pupil rate that determines school Library Materials Aid, libraries have established a new foothold in the state budget process and will seek to build off this year’s success in the coming year. A breakdown of major library provisions in the FY 2025 budget can be found below:

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June 2024: The Operations Update

Summer is approaching and NYLA is now in its first fixed membership year! We appreciate those who have embraced the new system and joined. We have just over 3,500 active member profiles in our new system!

We appreciate our members’ flexibility as we continue to move through many changes within the organization. The next year is all about trial and error with the new system, so please feel free to email [email protected] with any thoughts, ideas, edits, updates, etc. We will do our best to accommodate!

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June 2024: Members On The Move

Members on the Move is a series of articles celebrating the good news that our NYLA Members have to share! You can submit your good news here to be published in the next issue of The NYLA Voice. 

Heidi Jung, Teen Services Librarian, recently received her 35 Years of Service Pin from the Gates Public Library. Starting her career when she was a Sophomore in High School, she worked her way up from Page, to Desk Aide to Clerk, and then finally, after getting her Masters's degree from SUNY Buffalo, to Adult Services Librarian, then becoming a full-time Teen Services Librarian.

 

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June 2024: Libraries of The Future

Column Description: Looking at the ways libraries are changing to better meet the needs of communities.

One of the largest recent changes in public libraries is increased inclusivity. This looks like libraries not just touting that they’re for everyone, but working to make that statement a reality. While there are many areas we still struggle with here, one I’ve noticed most glaringly is services for the disabled community. I’ve seen libraries aim to do this better, but, many times, they miss the basics.
For example, my library aims to increase our adaptive technology and programming for disabled patrons. Still, we have yet to add accessible seating to our spaces or move our collections off the lowest shelves. We don’t have proper signage, maps of any variety, or single-use restrooms. We have a long way to go. And it’s not just us. I’ve walked into libraries that offer sensory storytimes, but have struggled to locate the elevators. Libraries with accessibility sections on their websites and barely accessible parking lots.
Part of this is also our field. We are, to put it simply, not an inclusive field. We know this when it comes to race, socioeconomic status, gender, and education, but disability tends to get overlooked. Largely because many disabled people cannot work in libraries, so their voices are not typically heard. As someone with health issues that land them in the disabled community, I can explain some of why that is. For one, finding full-time library positions can be difficult. When I was in graduate school and spoke to older librarians for job advice, many wore their long years working multiple part-time jobs as a badge of honor. I knew I could never do that.
Part-time jobs don’t usually come with health insurance. Many librarians also wore moving around the country as badges of honor, and while I could do that, many disabled people could not. Frankly, many people in general cannot. Then when a job is landed, they are not usually the most accessible. Long hours, the expectation to push yourself beyond exhaustion, physical labor. Accommodations are available, but they take a lot of effort. Mostly because upper management does not always understand or respect the need for accommodations. There are so many capable, great disabled library workers out there who will never make it through the door because the job itself is daunting, inaccessible upfront, and hard to obtain. As with all types of diversity, this is a loss for libraries. These are the voices that are needed to make the changes.
An able-bodied person might never consider the need for chairs or benches in the middle of a long hallway, but a disabled person with mobility struggles probably would. A neurotypical person might not consider that fluorescent lights can be overstimulating or painful, but an autistic person might, and, if so, they’d probably have the best ideas for solutions. A lot of my suggestions to our director have come from personal experience in our building. For example, there are chairs I cannot always move or sit in for long periods of time. When books are on low shelves, I cannot always kneel to reach them. Also, there is a lack of spaces to go to escape lights, noise, or other people. Even more, dropping masking mandates harms our most immunocompromised patrons' safety. The list goes on.
The next best step to hiring actual disabled staff is to increase training. This goes for all types of inclusivity, but it is important to repeat. Training that might help libraries avoid certain language or poorly designed programs. Pieces of training that might help libraries create better, inclusive spaces, interactions, and events. That’s not to say that libraries haven’t made changes. It’s not to say that incredible work has not been accomplished. Libraries have found, and continue to find, creative ways to meet the needs of the disabled communities. Sensory storytimes. Book clubs for those with developmental disabilities. Programs designed for autistic patrons. Accessible technology and reading materials. Sensory rooms. Home delivery services. Braille study groups. Like many of the changes I’ve suggested in my series, changes also don’t need to be huge.
My library has partnered with a local group to run a memory cafe for patrons with Alzheimer's. We offer noise-cancelling headphones that patrons can use in the building. We set up our program spaces to make space for patrons who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. We put up signs offering help to those who need assistance accessing materials in the stacks. We offer meeting rooms, when available, for patrons to study, make phone calls, or just retreat to quieter or darker spaces. We also have a good understanding of what disabled patrons need, largely because we have a large disabled staff. Many of us are neurotypical. A few of us have chronic illnesses or physical disabilities. Some of us are getting older. This helps us understand our patrons and understand our space. It lets us bring our own experiences to the table. So even if we cannot do the bigger programs or services, like home delivery, we can advocate for our patrons on a different level. Our imperfect library, with its inaccessible chairs and lack of proper signage, understands what it needs to change and it understands what needs to happen down the line. We demonstrate the need not just for better services and spaces for disabled patrons, but we show the value of disabled staff.

Gillian Friedlander is an adult services librarian at the Broome County Public Library in Binghamton, NY. This is her first librarian position, though she has worked in public libraries for many years prior, beginning as the Albany Public Library’s volunteer coordinator. She received her BA in Sociology from the University at Albany in 2016 and her MS in Library and Information Sciences from Simmons University in 2020 (she graduated from her mother’s kitchen over Zoom!). Her library passions are community outreach, accessibility, and creating safe and inclusive spaces for her community members. She also can’t get enough of asking her director hard questions and pushing her coworkers to have tough conversations to better the work they do. Working in urban libraries is where she thrives, and she loves all the challenges and creative opportunities they offer. Reading-wise, she loves queer fiction (the messier the characters the better) graphic novels, books featuring dark dark humor, and poetry of all varieties. Originally from Albany, by way of New York City, Gillian now lives in Binghamton with her four cats. When not at work she loves to hike, spend time adventuring with her partner, bake gluten-free vegan snacks, dig through record shops & used book stories, drink her weight in coffee, and take much-needed naps. 

June 2024: Brian Brings Board Games - Gaming In The Library

Column Description: In this column, we will explore the benefits of gaming in the library and how it can be an asset to both staff and patrons. We will explore the various types of games that are out there, as well as some ideas to adapt them for people who aren't familiar with the world of hobby board gaming. Other topics that will be covered will include how to build a board game collection for your patrons and creating gaming-related activities to help boost staff morale.

My first year of presenting at GENCON in 2022 was a little rough. The room I was assigned was in the luxurious JW Marriott, and I quickly realized that there was no AV setup. I had to walk around and find someone to speak to, and it took a good 30 minutes to get the room properly set up, leaving me with about 5 minutes to spare to give my presentation.
In my first year, I presented on how to create and execute trivia programs for public libraries. The presentation detailed the process I use to write questions, as well as the many different trivia games I’ve done over the years. I find it important to create an interactive element, so I included some sample questions, and we did a round or two. My first presentation was not very well attended; I had about 8-10 people, and I was a bit disappointed. I was very excited to be given the chance to do my second presentation the following year in 2023. 
My second year, which was last year, went so much better. I had decided to up my game (no pun intended) and do TWO presentations! I decided to repeat my trivia topic, giving it some more content, and then do a topic that I had a lot of personal experience in: raising staff morale through gaming. In my library, I have done a great deal of staff events to boost morale, many of which are centered around various forms of games, including Staff Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Family Feud. This was a topic I was excited to present, and apparently, the attendees were excited about it as well; I had over 50 people show up! I have to say that I was anxious talking to such a large crowd, especially since some of them were teachers and business owners (the Trade Day is an event that is for librarians, retailers, and educators). The talk went smoothly, and I received great feedback. The trivia topic had many more attendees than the previous year, around 15.
I am gearing up to do it once more, repeating my Staff Morale presentation and adding a new one: Turning Reality TV Competition Shows into Programs for the Public. I’m excited to get the chance to do this again and hopefully get an even bigger crowd. In my next column, I’d like to talk about some of the games I’ve done with staff at my library and how they have gone.

Brian Schwartz is currently the head of Teen Services at the Patchogue-Medford Library. He grew up on Long Island, spending the first 10 years of his life in Elmont and the rest in the town of Holbrook. He attended Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's degree focused on English Literature before going on to LIU: CW Post for his Masters. He has worked in libraries for over 25 years, having started as a page at the age of 15. Through various part-time jobs, he has worked in Children's Services and Reference as well. His favorite part of his job is interacting with the teens as well as his coworkers.

His hobbies include aspiring to read 100 books a year, walking 8 miles a day, and gaming. His favorite board game is a game called Suburbia, in which you build your own neighborhood. His favorite video game genre is JRPGS (Japanese Role Playing Games). His favorite color is yellow and he enjoys the music of Tori Amos, Aimee Mann, the Beatles, and almost any artist from the 80's or 90's.

June 2024: Take Me To Your Leader

Column Description: This column is an eclectic exploration of leadership. It acknowledges that leaders and the lessons we can learn from them can be found in the most unlikely places.

I have a question for you. Where is the bathroom?

I’ve worked in public libraries for over 35 years, from Page to Director, and this is the question I’m sure I’ve been asked more than any other. This is followed closely by “What time is it?” (especially fun when the service desk is next to a giant clock), and “How do I make a copy?”

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June 2024: NYLA-FLS Update

June 2024: NYLA-FLS Update

submitted by Terry Mulee, FLS Newsletter Editor

FLS creates a network to connect and inspire Friends groups in all types of libraries to support the New York library community.

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June 2024: Sustainability as a Core Value

Sustainability as a Core Value

by Rebekkah Smith-Aldrich, MLS, LEED AP, co-founder of the Sustainable Libraries Initiative, and executive director of the Mid-Hudson Library System (NY)

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June 2024: Librariana's Trench

Column Description: As library workers, we are expected to have expertise in procuring information both on and offline. This column explores how humans relate to the powerful machines that sit on our desks.

Artificial Intelligence is the hottest topic in librarianship since 3D printers. Bard, ChapGPT, and dozens of other generators regularly go viral both in the news and social media,  often for their humorous content that shows the limits of their power. There are much more sinister applications of AI that are already widespread and much less visible. Advertisements with librarian-friendly products like Grammerly and Canva tote their new AI assistants, promising a you-but-better email, presentation, or product. There are very valid concerns about the widespread adoption of AI in everyday life, not that that will stop the flow of time.
After contemplating a rosy write-up in Public Libraries, I was reminded of all the times a well-meaning individual said "Librarians are like social workers." While it is a flattering compliment, it's not entirely correct. This leads me to wonder, what is the librarian's responsibility towards the public's use of artificial intelligence? Much of the law around copyright and legal use of material created by A.I. is yet to be settled; are librarians the first line of influence? The author wisely suggests educating us with a combination of webinars and workshops led by colleagues with co-design experience. I have never heard of "co-design" and after some perfunctory research, I have no idea how library workers could mobilize stakeholders to influence and generate technologies for the better.
Libraries and library workers exist and try to fulfill the information needs of their patrons in books, internet access, mouse practice, and so much more. Our ability to steward new technologies will be limited. Our drive to respond to our patron’s needs will not change.

Naomi Grace Yamada, MLS, is a senior reference librarian based in New York, interested in technology, digital citizenship and critical librarianship. She previously worked at the New York Public Library focusing on reader's advisory in poetry, nonfiction, and young adult literature. Find her recommendations at Refinery29, Oprah Magazine and the School Library Journal. Full press list on request.

June 2024: Libraries In Motion

Column Description: Libraries and librarians are adapting, always in motion, particularly as the 21st century has extended the mammoth reach of technology and digital communication. Then, this year, we said thank you for the ability to stay home and still be able to communicate with our colleagues. As many librarians wondered how new responsibilities would play out when ‘normality’ returned, it was a daily challenge to prioritize decisions. Technology helped, but the goal remained how to meet user needs and anticipate patron requests. This fall, as libraries slowly reopened, we moved into a hybrid world. Administrators and librarians have worked overtime and collaborated fiercely to match estimated demand with physical distancing and health-related constraints. 

Understanding that libraries remain developmentally in motion is especially true when being nostalgic.  My memories of the lowly call slip and interactions generated by its use were evoked recently as I watched someone handwrite a ticket for a dinner show. It was a slow process observing his handwriting crawl across the paper.  How often these days, do we wait and watch as handwritten ephemera develop?

Time not so long ago, the handwritten call slip was the only way to request books and periodicals inhabiting closed shelves, beyond public display. I remember working as a page in the stacks underneath the NYPL Main Reading Room (now the Rose Reading Room), where a massive reference collection spread throughout seven floors supported by a latticework of iron and marble flooring. 

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June 2024: Adventures In Memeland

Column Description: Being a social media manager can be a daunting task. What's trending? Am I up-to-date on what's relevant and cool? How do I create reels? Is TikTok worth it? So many questions with countless answers. Journey with me into Memeland as I share some of the tips and tricks I've picked up along the way to help you survive the task of being a library social media manager. You can be sure there will also be some pit stops along the way to far-off places like Marketing Mountain and Outreach Beach - so buckle up and prepare for an awesome journey! 

In the busy world of academia, libraries are the go-to spots for all scholarly things, providing endless resources for students, faculty, and staff. Contrary to popular belief, there is so much more to these spaces than just academic materials. Academic libraries can also spark a love for all kinds of reading, including popular and fun books, that – let's be honest – students and faculty alike may need as a break from the rigors of academia. Social media is a fantastic way for academic libraries to spotlight these collections, making the library experience even richer. Here’s how to make the most of social media to promote non-academic collections effectively (and fun!).

1. Broaden the Library’s Appeal: Social media allows academic libraries to showcase the diversity of their collections. Academic libraries can attract a wider audience by promoting popular reading materials such as contemporary fiction, bestsellers, romances (super popular with our students currently), and graphic novels/comics. This approach not only caters to the academic needs of the campus community, but also supports relaxation and personal growth. I cannot count the number of times I have had students come to me just asking to point them in the direction of something fun to read, doubting that the library even contained anything beyond “dusty books on neuroscience or something." Engaging visuals and posts featuring these collections can draw in students who might not typically use the library for academic resources alone.

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June 2024: Good Things, Small Packages

Column Description: Celebrating the good things happening in New York's small and rural libraries.

“I don’t want to ‘do my best’ I want to give a comfortable 60% and have time for my shows”

–an Instagram post I screenshot last week

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June 2024: Interviews Behind The Stacks

Column Description: Take a look behind-the-stacks and meet the people who make the library run. I will be talking to the individuals who do the jobs that we don’t usually see: custodians, pages, clerks, and board members, to name a few, to find out how they got involved in libraries and why they love them!

When the average library user thinks of a public library, one of the first things to cross their mind is likely the Circulation Desk. The Circulation Department is essential to the public’s use of the library for the most basic function of the library, borrowing materials. For many patrons, the Circulation Desk is the source of their first and often most frequent interactions with library staff. The employees and volunteers who operate this department are the “frontline” of public service in libraries.

I conducted the following interview with Emmie Greene, Circulation Department Head at East Hampton Library on the eastern end of Long Island.

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June 2024: The Nerd Is The Word

Column Description: The Nerd Word is here at the crossroads of libraries and pop culture. We’ll be talking about comics, gaming, fandom, and how we’re bringing them to our libraries. We’ll also be talking about pop culture and advocacy: how do you advocate for your communities through a pop culture lens? Do you look for popular materials in different languages? Make sure your collections are diverse and inclusive. Fostering a love of fun and play is one of the best parts of what we do: let’s share how we do it here at The Nerd Word.

Happy Pride, Without the Prejudice. Okay, so I took a page from my library’s Pride tagline this year, but the sentiment holds: June is all about Pride, holding the prejudice. We all know that Pride displays have been under fire more than ever these days; if you’re still able to create Pride displays and host programming, please do: you never know who needs to see themselves in literature and affirmative programming.

That said, remember that Pride is important all year round - you don’t have to dull your sparkle for 11 months out of the year, nor should you wait until June to be an ally or an accomplice.

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June 2024: Nobody Knows The Everything Place


Column Description: We've read about the book bans, the violent threats to library staff, and communities defunding their libraries. Sometimes it can feel like no one knows what we do or why we do it, so it's no wonder we're all feeling a little burnt out. Libraries are not what they used to be, but that doesn't have to mean for the worse! Let's talk about it.

Since I began working in libraries, I’ve heard the same thing hundreds of times: Libraries aren’t what they used to be. This is typically said with a negative undertone, one that hints at begrudging the changes that have happened in the last twenty or so years since most libraries began making the switch to the digital sphere. While print materials have not gone out of fashion – I don’t predict that will happen soon – there has been a notable shift in patron behavior, needs, and interests. More patrons are borrowing digital materials, they’re capable of finding their next read on their own (or are peer pressured by BookTok into reading the next viral title), and they want us to offer fun and educational programs for all ages.

Still, every time I talk about my profession with non-library workers, I invariably hear, “I haven’t been to a library in years!” These years-long lapses are not only disheartening, but can exacerbate the outdated understanding of what libraries do for communities. Most people I talk to about libraries still hold this image of a shushing librarian in their heads. Many think everyone who works in a library is a librarian, and they are shocked to learn we often need a master’s degree to become a librarian. Many think all we offer are books and DVDs. Even my husband, who has only known me as a library employee, is surprised when I tell him that our local library could purchase that expensive book he’s on the fence about ordering or has a program for first-time home-buyers, or provides free access to language learning apps. Sometimes I want to shake their shoulders and scream, “Libraries are not what they used to be!” Instead, I tell them about my job, our Library of Things catalog, our video games, our programs, our community puzzles, meeting spaces, laptop loans, and free Wi-Fi. All the things. We are The Everything Place.


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June 2024: Trusteeing

Column Description: Being a trustee is a great way to be a community volunteer in supporting the fabulous work of the public library. In this column, I will share my personal reflections about being a trustee based on my own thoughts, observations, and experiences. The NYLA Trustees section already provides excellent guidance to trustees in the performance of our duties, so my intent here is to instead write about being a trustee for a wider audience of library folks. My overall goal is to have trustees seen as a useful and visible part of the larger world of public libraries.

Valentine Murder by Leslie Meier is the only novel I have ever read that features public library trustees as characters. It is a “cozy murder mystery” set in Maine that features protagonist Lucy Stone who, in addition to being a library trustee, has fantastic criminal investigative skills. Beyond sheer entertainment, this book led to three big questions for me: What do library trustees do? Why does it appeal to people? And what is life in Maine like? (That last question comes from me having a kid in college in Maine). While this book posed those questions for me, it couldn’t answer them (except for maybe giving me some insight into Maine since the author is a native of that state). It opened a big library door for me, though.

I now find myself in the position of being a library trustee, which is an incredibly interesting place for me to be. I am thrilled to have a space in NYLA Voice to share my thoughts about it here (and thus inflict them on you too!).

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June 2024: Tales From The Youth Services Librarian

Column Description: I am excited to share my knowledge of all things youth services. I have learned a lot and want to help others. I'll talk about the good, the bad, and the hilarious. Because we all have those epic fails that we look back on and laugh about.


Happy Pride! At my library, I have an annual Pride Picnic. This year I am not only having pizza, soda, and ice cream, but two authors will be appearing on Zoom. And how much will that cost you ask? It will cost a total of $0.00!!! How did I achieve this marvelous feat? Well, sit back and relax and read this article!

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June 2024: A Tale of Two Makerspaces

Column Description: A BIPOC Librarian-in-Training 's perspective working in two Public Library Makerspaces; and the experiences, challenges, and superpowers of emerging technology.


 

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