Infopeople rolls out staff help on Affordable Care Act

Today at noon, Infopeople presented a well attended webinar to kick off efforts to bring California library staff information about the Affordable Care Act and and assistance in identifying the role of public libraries in the enrollment process scheduled to open on 1 October. If you weren’t able to attend the webinar live, be assured that, like all Infopeople webinars, it will be archived shortly for your access. Be sure to download the speakers’ PowerPoint slides and the two-page document of Resources for Libraries collected to date.

Three speakers addressed the webinar topic of Get Covered @ the Library: Affordable Care Act Resources for Libraries: Oakland Public librarian Barbara Bibel gave an outline of how the health insurance marketplace fits into the 2010 Affordable Care Act rollout; UC Los Angeles librarian Kelli Ham presented the organizing principles and details of the health insurance exchange as well as great resources for staff to access and use; and Covered California’s Diane Stanton was on hand to respond to questions specific to the California health insurance exchange.

High on the list of important take-aways from the hour are clear steps libraries need to be taking now:

  • Make an inventory of resources – staff, computers, time for training
  • Decide types and levels of service
  • Maintain neutrality; act as information providers, not insurance experts or advisors
  • Become knowledgeable about appropriate resources and services

And for library administrators as well as supervisors in information/reference, IT and other specific services: “communicate with staff; ongoing communication between management and staff is key” to any library functioning well during this initial enrollment period.

In the next few days, look for Infopeople’s announcement of free, online independent learning about the Affordable Care Act and the public library connection. A series of six modules will go deeper into the context and content of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance exchange for individuals and families, the Small Business Health Insurance Options Program, Medi-Cal changes, educating your community about health care and health insurance, and planning programs and partnerships around enrollment.

There will also be future webinars, posters and bookmarks to help alert your library users to enrollment and where to find authoritative information on the Affordable Care Act, and other resources you may need in order to assist your community during this initial enrollment period.

Stay tuned!

Webinar-based Affordable Care Act training for California library staff

If you are getting the sense that there is a whole lot of variation in the format, content and provenance surrounding essential library staff-specific information about the Affordable Care Act, then you have read the scene accurately!  Before you throw up your metaphoric hands, reach for your mine pick and/or shovel, or take to your bed with an affordable headache, let’s break this down into approachable chunks. Today we’ll look at webinars:

Yes, there are webinars surfacing in abundance online. And yes, you and public library staff with information and referral duties are going to have to attend more than one or two in order to get your Affordable Care Act (ACA) knowledge skills up to your library community’s needs.

So, start with what we already know is out there and has California library staff’s viewing name on it. Oh, and mark your calendar:

September 9 will arrive with an essential and California library staff friendly guarantee.  At noon that day Kelli Ham and Barbara Bibel will bring us all timely and well evaluated information on how to Get Covered @ the Library: Affordable Care Act Resources for Libraries. As with all Infopeople webinars, if you absolutely can’t make it to the live webinar, you will still be absolutely able to view the archived presentation very soon after the live broadcast (or as soon as you get back to your desk).

Both the Federal government, under the auspices of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the California state government, under the auspices of  the California Health Benefits Exchange, offer library staff accessible and helpful webinars as well.  Here’s what you can expect to tap from these resources:

CMS offers three webinars specifically geared to the audience of “in-person consumer assisters.” While being called an “in-person consumer assister” isn’t exactly either a friendly or transparent title, rest assured that the term as used here does include library-based community and general information providers (I call ’em library reference staff). These webinars are, of course, national in focus and so references to regulations and mandates are at the national federal level of regulation and policy. They are archived on the referenced site page and there are some upcoming live sessions still scheduled.

ACA  has a lot of Federal-State flexibility built into it. That means that a webinar from a federal government resource can’t address the particulars California is applying at some of those points of flexibility. However, these webinars from CMS go far in introducing the basic underlying structure of both healthcare consumer and  small business employer responsibilities and rights. There are no scary math formulas but there are clearly presented illustrations of such new healthcare insurance terms as “metal levels” (No, this term refers to neither Van Halen, nor to lead and mercury). These webinars are also where you can begin to refine your understanding of how applying for government subsidized healthcare coverage is changing.

And then, from California’s government and quasi-government agencies charged with fulfilling ACA’s programmatic details, Covered California (coveredca.com/) and the  Health Benefits Exchange (http://www.healthexchange.ca.gov/Pages/Default.aspx) are important resources for library staff who need to learn our stuff. By the way, a librarian word of caution: two commercial domains have already done excellent jobs of mimicking the California government URLs in this paragraph, so double check your address box and make sure you aren’t relying on Coveredcalifornia.com or Californiaexchangeplans.com.

It’s at the Health Benefits Exchange, for instance, that you can start getting up to speed about what small business employers in your area may be asking. You might also want to choose some new features for a library page you have to serve such small business information needs.

All in all, there’s a whole lot of webinar-ing going on. Kelli and Barbara’s is a great place for you to begin!

Lots of training news!

Is there really a slow time around Infopeople training roll outs?  Nah! And so far, this August is proving to be busy for those of us creating lots of new content areas and formats for library staff training and development!

Here’s an overview of what’s happening, and a glimpse ahead, too:

With the Affordable Care Act approaching a new stage, that of health insurance enrollment, libraries and library staff have been called upon to prepare to assist our community members to accessing information and the tools needed to expedite individual and family enrollments. There is a humongous amount of information for us all to recognize and absorb–and we know you are already busy. So, upcoming very soon is Infopeople’s online resources page dedicated to leading you and your staff to the most urgent Affordable Care Act news and resources. By “soon,” you can think “end of this very week.”

Also in the hopper related to the Affordable Care Act is a webinar featuring our excellent Kelli Ham, along with the ever knowledgeable Barbara Bibel, and another panelist from Covered California. The one-hour webinar is scheduled for noon, on Monday, September 9. Kelli, besides being a librarian at UCLA, is Infopeople’s link with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region. Barbara has been certified by the Medical Library Association and regularly provides training to public library staff around health and wellness materials.

As of Sunday, the independent online learning series Infopeople has hosted for UC Davis, titled Health and Wellness Competencies, has moved to Infopeople’s direct aegis.  Any generalist who wants to gain a better understanding of how to deliver health and wellness information to his or her library community, making use of best practices, can enroll in this six-module wholly asynchronous series by registering on the Infopeople training site. While this series does not address the Affordable Care Act, we have another series of independent online learning rolling out in September, titled Affordable Care Act @ Your California Library.

And speaking of independent online learning series, what had been called CORE 2: Subject Area Reference is now titled Subject Area Reference. We’ve returned its layout to that of a single strand with six modules, one evaluation and one certificate of completion.

With two fully developed independent online series already underway and a couple more in development, this is a good time to remind everyone that these series are low cost ($25 for Californian library staff, with free registration for rurals, and $50 for out of state participants). Each series is available for registration any time and each one runs all the time. A participant has two months to work at his or her own rate on any of the modules within the series for which he or she has registered.

Now, if you would like to receive such updates in breaking moment and perhaps more specifically concise way, here’s a reminder that you can follow Infopeople on Twitter (@infotweets), receive updates on Facebook by “liking” us there(facebook.com/infopeople.org), connecting your RSS feed to Infopeople’s home page, and/or making sure you are subscribing to this blog.

 

 

Google’s news your staff needs to know

Many library staff members who work directly with the public continue to have less than timely understanding of how the World Wide Web is used and can be used, how search engines function, and the roles of software and browser settings in their own and their library computer users’ searching and search results. With those realities in mind, it’s important to make sure that your library staff understands the meaning and import of the announcement made by Google on Saturday.

The subject of child pornography is certainly a difficult one to discuss in a constructive manner. However, a discussion of it is pertinent to the provision of library services that are relevant in terms of social and political realities (on an international as well as a local scale), the functionalities of internet browsing and image searching, and the management of both in library user behavior and staff roles related to user behavior.

Certainly the announcement from Google provides a platform for such discussions with staff. The possibilities for outcomes well beyond staff member understanding of the implications of the announcement on their work is enormous.

To aid these discussions, please refer to the Flipboard magazine linked here for a collection of online resources addressing definitions, basic browser setting information and news discussions of Google’s announcement. [Note: some relevant resources contained in this resource guide are British and are not intended to be used as legal information, but rather because they outline an illuminating array of considerations, staff knowledge and awareness needs, and international concerns that may be an aspect of a local situation.]

The Art — and Act — of Listening

For twenty years, I’ve been teaching library staff best practices in reference and information and referral interviewing. It’s been way longer that I’ve been practicing reference work, and “practice” here comprises both repetition for the sake of skill building and working with comers who want and need the service (think medical or legal “practice”, just two other professions which require constant improvement while consistently providing skills in the aid of others needs). It’s been an era of huge changes in available tools, the requirement to learn new methods, and landscapes of information.

All these changes have also increased the attention reference workers need in what some might identify as a personality trait: listening, rather than simply hearing.  The kernel of reference work remains authentic, useful response to another’s stated need for information. The statements vary widely in degree of articulation (thus the demand on the practitioner to be a skillful interviewer), but  remain the true focus of the interaction. The capacity to listen is the germ within that kernel; without its presence, our work is sterile and our efforts to reach the needs bound up in the query don’t reach fruition.

To provide quality reference assistance, we do need to have appropriate tools as well as familiarity with their practical and meaningful uses. But to turn to those tools with the expectation that the best response lies within them or through our use of them bypasses the art of understanding what and when and how to connect this seeker with the most useful resource of assistance.  What must come first, and what must remain as we engage with that seeker, is our own capacity to listen.

To listen, we need to suspend our suppositions of what the seeker needs. We need to be able to hear what the key words are for the seeker, not concentrate our hearing for clues that hit on resources we know. The artful listener can interview the seeker in a conversational manner rather than in imitation of a punch list. Listening is about the speaker (in reference work, the one seeking assistance), rather than about connecting the dots between what we know of our resources with generalities ascribable to the “real” question. Remember, another truism of library work, and reference work, is specificity over generalities.

Listening isn’t an ears only activity. We listen with our eyes to body language, when the seeker is physically present.  The telephone introduced a layer of complication to understanding through listening; video chatting has helped assuage listening across space. Email listening may be the most difficult of all as it occurs in a milieu devoid of shared, visible space  and also of shared time. For practitioner purposes, email is more hazard than convenience (Imagine trying to diagnose via email). Texting improves upon the chances of written back and forth leaving room to listen in real time.

Are you comfortable with listening? Are you aware of when you aren’t listening but simply hearing (noise) while cruising your own inner dialog for tools to suggest?  Do you know a model listener, someone who seems to be able to suspend that inner dialog to attend to what you are saying or trying to say? That art of listening isn’t silent–the best listeners determine which questions need to be asked for mutual understanding. Are you a model of artful listening yourself?  How do you build others capacity to practice the art?