After the course: Using technology for community engagement

In February 2016 Barbara Alvarez taught a great new c3_fingers_in_circleourse for Infopeople called “Using Technology for Community Engagement.” Participants learned to use readily accessible equipment (such as a smart phone and free or low-cost software) to facilitate the sharing of community stories. Alvarez taught learners to record and upload videos, create podcasts, and virtually broadcast community conversations and events.

As the course wrapped up, learners created action plans in which they outlined their intentions for using technology to engage their communities.  They were enthusiastic about what they had learned and about what they were going to be able to do, “I learned so many things that I could now apply to my job. This course was full of practical ideas and tips on how to get started” and “This has to be one of the most inspiring courses that I’ve taken in a long time. I love technology and social media, so everything in this course: the podcasting, the video production and the broadcasting has set my creativity in motion. There are endless possibilities for Community Engagement.”

A few months after the course ended, we checked in with learners to see what they had done. Here are a few of the sharing_community_storiesresponses we received:

  •  Videos – Jane Dobija, Senior Librarian with the Los Angeles Public Library’s Woodland Hills Branch Library feels “so much more confident” about her awareness of technology’s potential for libraries and community engagement. She’s created a great little video on her tablet about the library’s balcony garden project.
  • Podcasts – Wanangwa Dever, Technical Services Librarian with the Polk County Public Library in Columbus, NC, said that the biggest way the course was helpful for her was with podcasting. She shared information from the class with her co-workers, including programming assistant Amelia Derr, who was just getting ready to start podcasting with teens at their programs. Wanangwa connected Amelia with a classmate who had already done some podcasting with the teens at her library. Here’s a Google Hangouts on Air that Wanangwa and Amelia created to introduce the library’s Teen Scene and here’s a podcast featuring teen book reviews, too.
  • Videos – Katrina E. Laws, Web Librarian at Solano County Library (CA) has created several things since the course.  In March, the library celebrated Women’s History Month by honoring women in the community and Katrina created videos featuring local women, shared on Facebook and on Twitter.  She created a video to promote feminist books in the library’s collection, too!
  •  Podcasts – Pamela Hoppock, Youth Services Consultant at the South Carolina State Library and her coworker are getting ready to start producing two short podcasts every month. They will kick off the series with a podcast talking about summer reading and StoryfestSC (the statewide kick off to summer reading). Hoppock says, “…our purpose is really three-fold:  promote our own services and resources and those of other libraries, educate our listeners—library staff and the non-library staff, and hopefully entertain along the way. We are planning on using social media as the primary way to market our new podcast series.”
  • Social Media – Since taking the online class, Tamara Evans, Digital Services Librarian at the Kings County Library – Hanford Branch (CA), has used social media in order to engage with the community and publicize library events. They recently debuted a Veteran Resource Center and had a successful turnout via people sharing the event from the library’s Facebook page.
  • Podcasts & Live Events & Videos – Crystal Miller, Circulation Manager at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library ID)) says they have added podcasts the library’s long range plan and are also looking into possibly recording more library events and airing them on the local government channel. They are also trying to reinvigorate a Story Catcher program, which collects videos of local oral stories.

Thank you to Barbara for teaching this course and thank you to these learners for sharing the stories of how the course impacted their ability to engage their communities using technology.

(Missed the February course? Good news – it will be offered again in November!)










Libraries and Financial Literacy

April is financial literacy month and Money Smart Week is just around the corner, too. These events make it clear that financial literacy education is an important priority. Recognizing that many libraries want to do more to meet the financial education needs of their communities, Infopeople will be offering a new four-week course, Financial Literacy Programming in Libraries. The course starts April 26th, which is coincidentally during Money Smart Week!

In the course, instructor Jennifer Noble will guide the class through all of the steps jennifer_nobleinvolved in planning financial literacy programming. Building on existing resources, participants will identify the topics and formats that make the most sense for their communities. The importance of building partnerships to support the programming will be highlighted, too. Participants will leave the course with a financial literacy programming action plan tailored for the needs and resources in their own community.

Noble encourages libraries to think creatively about the types of financial programming they could offer. Topics that could be included in financial literacy education include:

  • Saving Money
  • Creating a Budget
  • Planning for Retirement
  • Paying for College
  • Credit Scores
  • Starting a Business
  • And more…

And there are various potential program formats to consider, too:

  • Speakers: Invite an expert to give a presentation on a financial topic, providing time for Q&A, too.
  • Panel Discussion: Instead of just one speaker, consider hosting a panel of experts talking about a specific topic with time for a Q&A afterwards.
  • Instructional Session: This format is perfect for a task-oriented topic (such as filling out financial aid paperwork or applying for a business loan).
  • Workshops: These are like instructional sessions, but may take longer and people leave the session with something completed (paperwork, a plan, etc.).
  • Discussion Groups: In this format, a group of people get together to discuss a topic, often with a facilitator. Consider a book discussion group centered on a financial book.

Consider a variety of target audiences, too. From young children to older adults, almost everyone has financial topics that are relevant and interesting for their current life stage and needs.

Registration for the course is now open. For more information, see




Grant Projects: Learn from Others

In her upcoming Infopeople course Library Grants 101, Stephanie Gerding discusses the value of learning from others as you approach grant projects:

As you are planning your project, investigate similar projects, besgerdingt practices, and lessons learned by others. Make sure you are not duplicating work that has already been done. Contact managers of similar projects and ask them about their experiences and what they have learned. Include this information in your grant proposal to show the funder that you are well informed about what has already been done in the field and that you are knowledgeable about best practices. You may want to build on and extend the work of other projects. Your partners might also have good ideas to contribute.

Gerding’s books, Winning Grants and Grants for Libraries, include grant success stories from libraries across the country. Here are a few examples:

  • The Glendale Public Library received a LSTA grant from the Arizona State Library that included funding for state-of-the-art listening wands for a walking tour of their xeriscape botanical gardens. (Grants for Libraries, p.164)
  • The Laurelton Branch Library of Queens Borough Public Library in New York received a laptop computer lab as part of its Youth Empowerment Initiative, part of a larger, three-year project funded by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services for $470,000. (Grants for Libraries, p. 170)
  • In Maine, Lawrence Junior High Library’s grant project included video journalism, which involved eighth graders creating an informative historical DVD to share with other libraries and students. The $3,500 grant was from the Coburn Classical Institute. (Grants for Libraries, p. 184)
  • Northeastern University Libraries received more than $20,000 for a LSTA grant project for adaptive technology to better serve community members with disabilities. (Grants for Libraries, p. 186)
  • The Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah received a $450,000 grant for digitizing of materials related to Neuro-Ophthalmology from the National Library of Medicine. (Grants for Libraries, p. 192)

Have a grant project in mind? Have you reached out to others to ask about their experiences? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Participants in Gerding’s upcoming course will learn about grant work from start to finish, starting with finding the best funding sources and grant opportunities for your library through planning and writing grant proposals. Registration is now open at!

Take a Break and Be More Effective

There’s no doubt about it. This is a busy time of year! As you work to jugglejuggling the many personal and professional demands the final months of the year bring, it’s important to remember to take breaks, too. Research has shown that taking some time off actually makes us more effective. In her upcoming Infopeople course Managing Digital Overload, instructor Crystal Schimpf discusses the importance of taking breaks from technology, too.

Breaks from technology are beneficial and necessary. Breaks help us manage information better and help our brains to renew and recharge. Research shows breaks can help clear our head, making us more productive and creative when we return. A recent study shows the benefits of taking a short walk once a day at work.

In the course, Schimpf will share a number of specific ways we can effectively take breaks, including tools that can help! Here’s a sneak peek at a few of her suggestions:

Stand Up and Stretch

  • Gently stretch the wrists and hands to relieve tension from repetitive motion.
  • Develop a sequence of stretches to do once daily, such as these stretches from the Mayo Clinic.
  • Download a free app like Big Stretch Reminder to get pop-up reminders on your computer to take a stretch break.

Exercise Your Eyes

  • Prevent eye strain by periodically looking away from your computer and focusing on a distant object. Use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Try using Eyeleo, a free computer app that reminds you to give your eyes a break and offers suggested eye exercises at regular intervals.

Turn Off the Technology

  • If you don’t need your technology, try turning it off (or putting it to sleep) while you work on other things.
  • Freedom is an app that freezes your screen so you have to take a break from technology. The app is free for a basic plan, and additional paid options are available.

Are you a busy task juggler, ready to tackle the challenge of keeping up crystal_schimpfwith all of those blogs to be read, apps to be tried, tasks to be completed, and emails to be read, too? Sign-up for this course to discover strategies and tools… and also for affirmation about the importance of taking a break now and then, too!

Course begins December 8th. Space is still available and registration is open at


Do you suffer from digital overload?

Infopeople instructor Crystal Schimpf says, crystal_schimpf

Digital overload is something we all suffer from to some degree, regardless of age, experience, or level of tech knowledge. In fact, research shows that millenials are just as likely to suffer from digital overload as anyone else, partly because of the fact that millenials have grown up using technology. Digital overload is a result of the amount of technology and information we consume, regardless of how comfortable we are using technology. It is a serious issue, and if we don’t face it our work and our health will suffer.

toomuchinfoIn her upcoming course, Too Much Information: Managing Personal Digital Overload, Schimpf notes eight factors that can cause digital overload:

  1. Quantity of Information

“Technology has afforded us the ability to create information at a much, much faster rate than we can consume it. We must learn to accept that we won’t be able to process all that digital information floating around in cyberspace, and we must start making better choices about what we want to pay attention to.”

  1. Email and Other Online Communication Tools

“Communications make up a major portion of our information. Just think about how many email messages you receive each day (including all the junk email and spam). Having a huge number of messages in our inbox can be a source of stress—especially when we forget to respond to someone or miss a deadline. Without any systems in place, our inboxes go unchecked and grow out of control. We can’t control how much email we get, but we can control how we deal with it.”

  1. Number of Information Sources

“In today’s fast-paced working environment, the sheer number of information sources at our disposal means that it is easy to be overwhelmed with information. Here are some information sources you might currently subscribe to: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, email, newsletters, and blogs, just to name a few. If we were to take all of the information from these sources and try to capture it, we would find ourselves in a virtual sea of information. However, the truth is not all information needs to be captured. Instead of trying to capture it all, look at each channel as a virtual stream that can be visited when you have time.”

  1. New Technologies

“Technology changes very fast. Every day there is an announcement about a new phone, a new gadget, a new software, a new website. How could we ever keep up with it all? It’s unrealistic to think we can learn every new technology. We will be better off if we reset our expectations when it comes to learning new technology.”

  1. Increased Connectivity

“Now that we are able to check our email, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds from our mobile devices, it’s getting harder and harder to disconnect from all this information. We are always connected, always available, which contributes to the feeling of digital overload. Have you ever checked your email at the dinner table? Sent a text message while on a hike? Of course it is convenient to be connected all the time, but it doesn’t mean we have to be.”

  1. Multitasking

“We often think of multitasking as a desirable skill in the workplace, but the truth is that multitasking isn’t actually possible. Research shows that our brains are not actually able to perform more than one task at a time. When we think we are multitasking (perhaps by checking email, attending a webinar, and browsing our Twitter feeds), what we are actually doing is called “switch tasking.” There is a high cost to switch tasking, because every time you switch tasks your brain has to switch gears before proceeding. You are more likely to make mistakes, and it will take you longer in the process.”

  1. Distractions

“Distractions can be a big cause of digital overload, even if they are cute or funny (like that hilarious cat video you got sucked into watching while updating your library’s Facebook page). Distractions come from our wandering minds, from our work environments, and from our personal lives. Many distractions are technology-based, from notifications or from compulsively checking our email and social media. One study found that office workers typically check their email 30-40 times an hour.”

  1. Lack of Balance between Technology & Work/Life

“We often talk about balance between work and home life, with an emphasis on not overworking ourselves. Another type of balance to consider is between time spent with and away from technology—or perhaps the balance of how many different types of technology you choose to engage with. If we are out of balance and have too much technology in our lives, we may find our health and productivity suffering.”

Which of these factors are challenges that you face?

Learners in the upcoming course will discover ways to cope with digital information, learning to prioritize and develop new habits related to technology so that they can be more creative and productive.

The course begins December 8th and registration is now open! There are 2 weeks built into the course during which learners will be able to practice their new technology habits.