Reach out to community-based experts

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to learn from an organization that has a lot to teach California public library staff about their comunities. WhileHealthyCity primarily focuses on public health related matters concerning communities who are frequently untapped as information resources (and underserved by bureaucracies), both their tools and methodologies have much to offer us as information facilitators. Currently HealthyCity is providing onground–and free!–training around the state; their website, however, has a deep and wide suite of practical guidance for those who can’t leave home or work.

One of the huge take aways I have from the in person training is a set of new skills for working collaboratively with community specialists. Nope, I don’t mean reps from other community serving agencies. The trainers made the (correct) assumption that those of us gathered felt comfortable collabrating across agencies: librarians with social workers, child caseworkers with nutrition advocates, community organizers with civic government. Instead, they offered modelling of inclusive collaboration with the very community experts so many librarians aren’t sure how to approach, let alone might forget that they have essential and pertinent insights we can’t conduct true community research without. Instead of taking expertise to the community–and expecting it to be recognized–we learned how to allow community members to share their onground wisdom of community assets and disconnects. We can sit inside the library and see that there is a large park on the map of the community. We can go to the regional park website and read about the park’s amenities. However, by asking those who live near the park to join us there to take a walk and record what we see and then ask questions of the locals gives us a more expert and honest view: the basketball hoops aren’t used because the court is littered with glass that the park service cleans only weekly; the kids’ playground has excellent water fountains–but it’s the only point in the park where the plumbing works reliably; there are picnic benches in attractive areas, all noting “No alcohol,” but the only stores on the edge of the park are liquor stores….that’s a scenario, but you can see from it, I think, how much more we have to learn from the community as experts than we do from our own library-vetted resources.

To get a better idea of the technical learning that came out of the onground training, you can scanInfotweets for remarks. Or you can jump right into the video tutorials on the HealthyCity site. Just one caveat: approach community expert research humbly. As library folk we know how to find out just about anything. Yes, we are a community asset. And yet, we don’t necessarily live the experiences of the community where we work; the community’s members are the experts about that.

What course do you take when choosing courses?

Infopeople has a generous slate of soon-arriving online courses this fall and winter. If you subscribe to our Training page, you know that these are just some that are on the approaching docket:

And those are just November’s online courses that give access to fine instructors, practical assignments, and other participants with whom you mix, mingle and trade ideas! Who decides at your library–or in your professional life–which course or courses to take? How do you make the decisions about where to spend training money when you see a slate like this?

Those are genuine questions and it would be excellent to see responses from you, the library learning world. Since moving this Infoblog to Drupal, the Comments field isn’t yet functioning the way we need, so please post your thoughts on Infopeople’s Facebook page.

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!

Irons in the fire

In spite of some public appearances, Infopeople isn’t limiting our scope of activities to the various projects required in order to get library staff up and aware of the Affordable Care Act. Here are some other initiatives that have us busy—so that we can better help library staff with the variety of training and information needs we face:

The Infopeople website is being updated with the latest Drupal release and with an always improving interface for users. If your interest in coding and content management systems is limited, your attention to this project need not be: presentation of upcoming trainings and webinars are better displayed and the new registration interface should make it easier for would-be training participants to make their selections and go through the enrollment process.

Eureka! has been rolling along for some years now. One effect of that is a growing number of Eureka Fellow cohorts working on specific projects and celebrating reunions. You can dig into the archived webinars Fellows have provided as well–another way to harvest great library leadership info or to access when you mentor someone else in the library field.

And on the topic of webinars, tomorrow (20 August), we have a much needed and welcome one on the boards at 12 Noon, Pacific Time, when Kathy Middleton, Noelle Burch and Alison McKee address Inclusive Library Programming for People with Intellectual Disabilities. As with all Infopeople webinars (including 9 September’s Get Covered @ the Library: Affordable Care Resources for Libraries), there’s no registration fee and the session will live on the webinar archives page after production.

We also have a mostly developed–and rich–slate of online course offerings for the Fall. There are eight online courses now open for registration,  You can also use the Calendar tab on the training page to get a view into September, October and even November. Whether you’re planning your personal professional development, or formulating the training calendar for staff you manage, it’s not too soon to look ahead!


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 ( and the  Health Benefits Exchange ( 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 or

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!