The End of the DVD Collection? by Guest Blogger David Russell

By Guest Blogger David Russell, Gulf Coast State College

The 92nd Academy Awards was a notable event in many ways: it was the second year presented without a host (or were there two?), the first year where the top prize went to a non-English-language film, and the first time Eminem performed “Lose Yourself” for elite Hollywood attendees. The 2020 Oscars were also notable in that it was the first year where Netflix earned more nominations than other media companies. With 24 nominations, including 2 for best picture, Netflix has made it clear that the streaming service is serious about making good content. Kudos to them, but if this trend of award-winning electronic media continues, it may have serious implications for collections librarians.

The Streaming Era has finally arrived,” and it may mean the end of the DVD collection in libraries. While Netflix has struck up a deal with The Criterion Collection to release three Oscar-nominated films later in 2020 (The Irishman, Marriage Story, and the documentary American Factory), no plans have been announced for a physical release of The Two Popes, which was nominated for best actor (Jonathan Pryce), best supporting actor (Anthony Hopkins), and best adapted screenplay. If it is the case that Netflix is keeping their award-winning content exclusive to their streaming service then it is highly unlikely that their recent, extremely popular, original television series will make it to a physical release. Stranger Things has a laundry list of award nominations and wins and has been frequently requested by GCSC library patrons to be added to our collection. Unfortunately, if they want to see it, they have to subscribe to Netflix, have access to a device capable of streaming video, and have access to an internet or mobile data service with decent bandwidth. And that’s just Stranger Things: While Hulu has done a good job releasing DVDs of their exclusive content like Handmaid’s Tale, Amazon keeps its original programming like The Boys and Transparent exclusive to Prime subscriptions.

There has been some online discussion from film critics calling for physical releases of streaming-exclusive content, particularly for the sake of high-resolution director’s cut editions with audio commentary and the usual DVD extras. The Criterion Collection releases are good news to cinephiles, however: Amazon has recently released a 4k version of their media device and Disney+ is leading the way by providing all of the bonus features you’d ever want alongside feature films. For the casual consumer more interested in the experience of viewing a film rather than owning and maintaining a collection of discs, these features might just be the icing on the on-demand cake.

For an academic library, these developments pose an additional snafu: how can instructors incorporate these films into their curriculum without requiring that students subscribe to multiple streaming services? In an ideal world, Hulu, Netflix, and HBO will develop academic-use licenses or special educational performance events for films, especially for exclusive documentaries. Or, academic streaming services like SWANK Digital Campus will collaborate with major platforms to provide academic licenses. At Gulf Coast State College, we’ve already begun to incorporate SWANK into our collection development plan: faculty are able to request streaming licenses for films that they’ll use for their curriculum, many of which might be well-suited for their class but would not circulate otherwise. The library doesn’t have to purchase physical copies of films that might only be viewed for one semester, and we can keep our expensive theft-proof cases for more popular titles.

DVDs aren’t going anywhere. Collectors, as mentioned, still exist and are unlikely to convert streaming services, instead upconverting to the latest format. Redbox still exists (!), DVDs rent for $1 a day and they make no suggestion of stopping, although they have thrown their hat into the streaming service ring. DVDs are also the most egalitarian of video formats: any library patron can easily get a DVD player for $30 and watch as many DVDs as they want (local circulation restrictions apply) without having to subscribe to multiple streaming services. This was the case when I wanted to rewatch the Star Wars films in preparation for the latest installments. Before Disney+, the only option for streaming them was to purchase a $19.99 digital copy of each film. Instead, I acquired a cheap DVD player and rented each film from the library. Problem solved!

Maybe the DVD isn’t going anywhere after all. The recent trends are, however, providing a good opportunity to reexamine collection development policies and explore ways of hybridizing a film collection.

It’s Your Night to Shine; Let’s Celebrate Our Differences! with Guest Blogger Rebecca Mills

By Guest Blogger Rebecca Mills, Library Media Specialist, Kingsfield Elementary, Escambia County School District

“EEEEEEEK!” Sierra said over and over as she danced and flitted around all night long. The happiness could be seen all over her face and with everyone she grabbed to come and dance with her. Sierra was my buddy at Night to Shine. This amazing event is Tim Tebow’s sponsored prom for special needs. She never stopped, other than to eat a piece of cake with her newfound friends, those cute Marines! Needless to say, we both danced the night away, and I have a new friend for life.

As a librarian, I am so lucky to be able to work with all 791 of the students at my school. Kingsfield Elementary in Cantonment, Florida is home to a diverse student population. We have 8 full-time ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) classrooms and 13 ESE inclusion classrooms.  Making them feel like they belong is part of my job. So when I was asked to be a buddy for The Night to Shine Special Needs Prom, I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait to meet and dance the night away with those who have a love for life!

I teach several of our autistic classes weekly. It has been a challenge, and I have learned a tremendous amount about the disorder and how amazing all children with disabilities really are. At Kingsfield, we have tried to create an atmosphere that is open and celebrates all children.  Our autistic and inclusion population is mainstreamed as much as possible into all academic areas. We are building a community that celebrates all children. Every child is a gift, and they should be celebrated in every possible way. Tim Tebow’s Foundation does amazing things, and I was blessed to be a small part of it.

Librarians create an atmosphere that becomes the heart of the school. Getting to know your population is one of the hardest but best parts of our job. I love talking to students about what they like to read, what their interests are, and what they want to see new and exciting in the library. Keeping the lines of communication open, celebrating our differences, and allowing our students to have ownership in the library program is essential. I learn something new every day, and am so thankful my students love to come to the library!

I am also so grateful to have met Sierra. She has Angelman Syndrome which is a rare congenital disorder characterized by mental disability and a tendency toward jerky movements. It is caused by the absence of certain genes normally present on the copy of chromosome 15. I had never heard of it before. It is very rare. One in 12,000-20,000 are diagnosed with Angelman’s Syndrome.

As an educator, librarian, and mother, I always jump at opportunities to help, love and spend time with those who need a little extra helping hand. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Why OERs Make “Cents” with Guest Blogger Becky Nation

By Guest Blogger Becky Nation, Avalon Middle School (Santa Rosa County)

Due to limited funding and lack of supplemental resources, classroom teachers and teacher librarians increasingly turn to online sources such as Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) and Pinterest for lesson ideas. I’ve both fallen down the Pinterest rabbit hole and paid for lessons from TPT many times, so I’m certainly not saying these sites are bad. Quality materials can be gleaned from both sites; however, many vetted Open Educational Resources (OER) exist that can be used for free. In fact, the list can be quite overwhelming once one begins to explore everything available.

So what exactly is an OER anyway? An OER is any teaching, learning, or research source that is either in the public domain or is available through an open license. Being familiar with copyright laws and public domain materials, I will admit that hearing the first part of this definition was a bit of a turnoff for me since I felt like a lot of public domain materials harbor a few cobwebs that my middle school students struggle to disentangle. The second part of the definition sparked my interest and prompted further investigation. Open license materials differ from public domain materials, because the creator still holds the copyright. Typically, these are newer products that the creator has granted permission for no cost usage, adaptation, and redistribution. A creator can grant an open license for any type of created product:  online courses, textbooks, lessons, simulations, videos, images… The list is endless.

Although many individual websites exist, I have found that the best place to start is at OERCommons.org. Curated by digital librarians, the site has become a hub for vetted OER resources, making the search for quality materials an easier, less daunting task. Video tutorials introduce resources and functions such as setting up profiles, searching the website, creating groups for sharing resources, and becoming a resource contributing author. Through the creation of groups, professionals have the power to collaborate to create curriculum, discuss resources, and harness the creativity of others at no cost.

While on the OERcommons website one day, one of my students asked me what I was doing. In explaining to her the concept of open educational resources and the idea that they are vetted, she got this “Aha!” look on her face. She then told me it was just like when I taught them to use the databases instead of just searching Google when doing research, because someone had already done the evaluation for them.  That’s why this tool is so incredibly valuable. It’s a free resource that saves times, offers quality teaching materials, and just makes “Cents.”

Digitization of Cultural Heritage Materials with Guest Blogger Matthew Hunter

By Guest Blogger Matthew Hunter, Digital Scholarship Librarian, Florida State University Libraries

White 3D scans of human figures on a 3D printer bed

Over the past several years, the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) in the Florida State University Libraries has explored applications of exciting new technologies and how they can be used for teaching, learning, and research. One branch of DRS’s exploration focuses on the application of these technologies in 3D printing and Virtual Reality. We are interested in exploring the development of library services that cater to a field commonly described as “digital cultural heritage.” As part of my work as Digital Scholarship Librarian, I am interested in this field as a form of scholarly research output, but beyond that I am just as interested in the opportunities this technology allows in terms of educational opportunities for a wide variety of audiences.

In the past, digitization of cultural heritage materials (such as architecture, artwork, or archaeological finds) was achieved through the documentation of the objects in question through photography. However, this method renders the rich physical information some objects exhibit as flat, owing to the 2-dimensional nature of photography. With certain technologies, software, and modern techniques, we can move beyond this flat representation and provide a new way of engaging with cultural heritage, allowing for a wider appreciation of the physical aspects of our shared history. More complex examples of this technology include efforts to portray the world, or even preserve it, through 3D printing and Virtual Reality. These tools allow those engaged with digital cultural heritage to convey the sense of scale of a large building through Virtual or Augmented Reality, or allow for users to “hold” and more closely inspect the fine detail of fragile pottery, coins, or similar objects through 3D printed recreations. The applications of this technology are therefore ideal for public institutions such as libraries and museums, since they already serve as gateways to learning through their collections.

Woman using an Oculus Rift

For our part in DRS, we are exploring ways of engaging with current endeavors that try to document objects in new ways, to capture the rich 3D data of physically complex objects. For our work, we are attempting to more faithfully recreate objects with a sense of scale, embodied experience, or detail, so that we can share the objects through 3D printing and virtual reality. These efforts are intended to help students at FSU better understand the aspects of material culture they are studying in their humanities classes – particularly in the context of art and archaeology. At FSU, we are part of a larger group of researchers that have begun to experiment with this idea, producing digital recreations of materials from ancient Etruscan pottery, to the recreation of colonial Puerto Rican architecture. These projects have involved processes of 3D shape recreation using high-tech scanning equipment, or using a process called photogrammetry wherein a computer interprets the shape of an object from a series of photographs depicting different angles. The digital surrogates created through these processes are displayed via virtual reality experiences and through the reproduction of objects with 3D printers.

In 2018, I had the opportunity to exhibit the initial results of some 3D prints we had been working on at the “Backstage Pass” event hosted by The Women for Florida State University, a celebration of innovative research projects currently being undertaken by faculty members that exhibit the creativity and world-class research happening on campus. In partnership with Classics department Assistant Professor Andrea De Giorgi and Ph.D. candidate Allison Smith, I had the opportunity to work with 3D files generated from the excavation of the Roman bath complex at Cosa, a project led by Dr. De Giorgi. Digital recreations generated at the site of the dig in Italy, and crafted in DRS, allowed attendees to the event to interact with the excavations in both Virtual Reality and 3D printed capacities. This project has been one of the first truly comprehensive examples of the development of DRS’s services in the realm of digital cultural heritage, and taught us an enormous amount about working at the intersection of technology and humanities research.

Woman using a 3D scanner on an object

Over the course of 2019, DRS branched out to explore other avenues of digital cultural heritage in partnership with other interested researchers across campus. Particularly, several faculty members in the Art History department, who coordinated a symposium based on 3D data, virtual reality, and the research possibilities they enable. The other group was the talented members of the FSU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives team. For these projects, we began exploring how to use some new 3D scanning equipment and photogrammetry software that would allow us to begin digitizing physical materials for wider dissemination to interested audiences.

This project is still in the exploratory phases, while we determine the best way to digitize and share our physical special collections. So far, the results have been promising! As we gain experience and better understand the complicated technology required to generate faithful 3D models, we are excited to begin sharing the materials held at FSU to wide audiences. However, we also understand that it is vital to share  these models to our patrons in a way that is contextually appropriate, and intellectually stimulating. We are excited to continue developing our processes further, and sharing our results with other institutions. This project ties into many other broader digitization efforts going on around the world, and we will be sure to learn from some of the top producers of digital cultural heritage objects.

Finally! Relationships Where You Get More Than You Give! with Guest Blogger Laura Hobbs

By Guest Blogger Laura Hobbs, Media Specialist at Lincoln Park Elementary in Pensacola

If you are like many librarians today, you find the number of duties you are required to perform multiplying each year. Cutbacks in funding have many of us writing grants to cover the renewal of our current collections, as well as the inclusion of new materials that reflect our changing society and schools. In addition, you may find yourself doing the work of two people or more, lugging books home to process, writing grants on vacation, and using your off days to explore and learn about new technology or makerspaces for patrons. Some days it may seem like you are alone.

As much as we would all like to be wise to the new policies adopted by our state legislature, the current trends coming down the line in collection development, available grants, software, and so on, there is not enough time in the world to keep up with it all. It seems like removing something from our to-do list would be helpful; however, sometimes adding the right thing can save time and effort.

What we all need are some like-minded people to share the load: to help advocate for libraries in your district or city, to share ideas and knowledge of current trends, to share lessons that work, and experiences with companies, vendors, or technology that you may be planning to incorporate. Your local or district Library Association can be that support for you.

Usually Library Association meetings are after hours, and monthly, so there is a minimal time requirement. Association dues may also be a consideration. The minutes from meetings are a valuable resource for planning and executing your program. More experienced librarians can become unofficial mentors to new librarians. In addition, participation in a professional organization can be documented as part of your professional evaluation. Benefits can be diverse, both professionally and personally.

As a bonus you will meet some incredible people who have the same goals. Differences in experience from one library to another help us all to see and develop solutions to issues in practice, advocacy, and resources. Other librarian’s experiences can save a lot of effort and stress. Along the way, you may even pick up a few good friends.

Fall Into Art at the Library with Guest Blogger Tabitha Washington

Fall Into Art at the Library with Guest Blogger Tabitha Washington of the Gadsden County Public Library

Painting with a Twist has been a popular adult activity for several years. It’s a fun and creative activity to do with friends and family for celebrations, birthdays, or when you’re just looking for something to help you unwind.

This fall the staff of the Gadsden County Public Library hosted our own edition of painting with a twist, Fall Into Art. We are blessed to have an artist on staff to assist with the project as far as recommending supplies, drawing the canvases, and assisting patrons with painting.

We started our planning phase for the program back in June of 2019 during our fall brainstorming session. Staff wanted to do an activity for adults that was relaxing, engaging, and creative. Being in a rural part of Florida, there are not a lot of extracurricular activities for adults; our library is one of the main sources of entertainment. Staff also wanted an activity that was either low cost or free for patrons.

Over the next couple of months, staff members on the Fall Into Art committee collected donations for paint brushes, paint, aprons, and canvases to help supply the class. Our local Friends of the Library group supplied the refreshments for the event. Fall Into Art was advertised on the library’s website, Facebook, and in the local newspapers. Patrons needed to register for the class so staff could ensure we had enough supplies.

The class was held on October 29, 2019, at the William A. “Bill” McGill Library in Quincy, FL. There were 10 participants in the class. Each student was provided with an apron, a palette of paint, a set of brushes, water, and a canvas. Refreshments and mocktails were provided for the students, as well as music to lighten the mood. The class duration was about an hour and fifteen minutes, and library assistant Tonisha Harper was there to assist.

Overall, everyone had a wonderful time, and we are looking to expand the program to our branch libraries. We are already planning a special Valentine’s Day painting event for next year.

Communities and Libraries Side by Side by Guest Blogger Linda Thompson

By Guest Blogger Linda Thompson, Coastal Branch Manager, Walton County Public Library

How fast can you adapt to change? Consider this idea. Public Libraries continue to remain viable today when their communities and librarian professionals are asking “what if?” scenario questions, are willing to be an active “unlearner” and remain in a state of continuous pursuit. Effectively, having adaptability to change.

Natalie Fratto; Venture investor and writer delivers 3 Ways to Measure Your Adaptability — and How to Improve It on TED, Ideas Worth Spreading. She suggests by measuring ones adaptability, you also measure how successful your future. Begin by asking “what if?” questions, be an “active unlearner” and “never fall in love with your wins” for the measuring sticks of adaptability, says Fratto.

If you are an individual, a business, or a non-profit, Fratto believes we can exercise are ability to adapt with practice, with brain stimulating ‘what-if?” questions, by forcing exploratory ideas, by challenging personal ideas and knowledge, and, if I may suggest, walking side by side with your community measuring adaptability while challenging the models and methods of current library operations.

Are you ready to explore and press towards the “adaptability to change” for the continuing furtherance of the public libraries successful role in your communities for today and tomorrow?

What if books could no longer be printed because of the short supply of paper? What if libraries had to start charging to gain access to information? What if there was a major shift in how libraries operate and the only access available was via the internet? What if all books and items on the shelves were the last ones available as printing has halted worldwide? What if we don’t presume to know the answers?

These are viable questions that force human thought into our ever increasing world of speed and change. Because of the nature of the questions seemingly larger than our surrounding walls, they also force conversation with others allowing different perspectives into our conversations.

May you also consider that if we as librarian professionals can “unlearn” as Natalie Fratto suggests, we may effectively experience or potentially “tap” into these new ideas, potentially exercising ability to experience personal growth as well? May we as library staff have the ability to become ever more viable in a world where physical books may not even exist? What if we are always asking questions so we don’t settle with the world as we know it but push ourselves to seek more? What if every day we practice at setting ourselves back to empty, “unlearn” thus, allowing contemplation of many different versions of ideas, on new environments and possibly gain new understanding suggesting an appreciation for others ideas to stimulate are thoughts?

We may discover how remaining in this state of wonder of “unlearning,” how remaining open to change by constantly looking for improvements, how, as Fratto says, ‘to never fall in love with your wins” may be excellent guides we may subscribe to for a healthy, viably “organic” library environment and for all its staff, community and friends. One that is diverse.

One that asks “what if?” questions to its community. One that embraces the ideas, perspectives, talents, abilities and potential skills the community offers. One that is open to the different knowledge sets, recognizing how there isn’t one “right way” but potentially many “new ways” once we reset ourselves back to empty, “unlearn.” This is attainable.

Adaptability takes a concerted effort that needs nurturing and time to develop. It is a chosen process. It is, as Fratto points out, potentially a tool to measure for one’s individual success or an organization’s future success. It is potentially a means to secure the viability of the Public Library along with the library profession in its community.

How fast can you adapt to change?

Helping Staff Build Customer Relationships by Guest Blogger Stephen Efird

By Stephen Efird, Head of Circulation, Northwest Regional Library System

[This article originally appeared in Learning Exchange, Volume 35, Number 4, June 2019, American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.]

It’s easy to overlook the customer when you’re in the middle of completing a transaction. It might sound silly to think, but it happens all too often. At any given time we are going a million different directions that can make the current moment little more than muscle memory. We get locked into action and motion without giving the most important part of a transaction – the customer – the attention they deserve. The trick to putting the customer front and center is to focus on key areas and exercise our customer service muscles to build up our customer relationships:

Treat everyone with respect. This can be established by picking up a couple of habits. Never underestimate the power of the hello. Greeting a customer politely, quickly, and in a pleasant demeanor sets the tone for our interaction, and builds the foundation for everything that comes after that moment. Use the words please and thank you. These are quick and easy words that get missed in our daily interactions, that can go a long way toward building successful relationships.

Listen, Listen, And Listen. Giving the customer your attention should be one of the main things you do with any transaction you complete. It‘s easy to be lost in the daze of your own life, or the task you were working on right before the customer arrived. When you’re with a customer, take a few moments and pay attention to what they are communicating. This gives them an opportunity to feel like they are being heard. It also provides a chance to hear clues to what a customer wants even when it isn’t clearly expressed. Roleplaying exercises are a great training point to practice this. Play through scenes where information is indirectly asked for and see if clues within the request provide the information that is missing.

Take opportunities to go above what is expected. If a customer is completing a transaction and you have a service that you can provide that matches, offer it. Ask if they need a stapler after printing off a set of papers or if they found what they were looking for.

When you can, walk a customer to the area they need instead of pointing or giving directions. Giving the customer more than what they expected can create a special moment that customers will remember and keep them coming through the doors on a regular basis.

Don’t try to prove that the customer is wrong and that you are right. There will be times when a customer says something outrageously wrong and be insistent upon it. It’s natural for a part of us to want to let them know how wrong they are, maybe even with a little victory dance afterward. Proving ourselves right offers internal satisfaction but it isn’t going to help keep a customer as a customer.

Take a moment to repeat back the request or statement in a different way. Asking the question back provides a chance to verify the customer is understood correctly. It also gives a moment to see the situation from the customer’s perspective. Most importantly it allows the customer another attempt at explanation, while giving a moment to remember they aren’t always wrong and that we aren’t always right.

Provide alternatives when you are unable to meet expectations. Customers expect to have their needs met. The reality is that not every customer that comes through the door will have a request that we can address. This doesn’t change what the end goal should be, to help provide the customer what they are requesting, or find them another option that will accomplish that task. Learn the needs of the customers and be ready with information that can guide them to where those needs can be met. Giving a customer an alternative solution will stick with them and encourage them to return.

Focusing on these areas with a few exercises and establishing habits can have exponential results in turning routine exchanges into great customer relationships. These relationships are powerful tools in making the library a community hub that feels like family and home to those we serve.

Random and Slightly Irreverent Thoughts on the Word “Library”

According to Merriam-Webster, a library is “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.” I think we can all agree that the term “library” no longer adequately describes what we are, especially as it relates to public libraries. Sure, we have books and reference materials. Some of us also have films and artistic materials. But we are so much more than just a “library” as defined above.

So why are we still calling ourselves libraries? The term “library” itself comes from the Latin “liber,” meaning book. If we are more than just books (and we are!), why limit how our patrons see us with our name? (Patrons, users, customers – that’s another issue altogether!)

We say that we are more than just books, that we have become community centers. So if we are going to be a community center, then let’s call ourselves that. Let’s embrace what is, instead of what was. According to Merriam-Webster, a community center is “a building or group of buildings for a community’s educational and recreational activities.”

Doesn’t that sound more like what we are?

Chalkboard with "the next step" written on it and footprints on boardBut I know that totally divorcing ourselves from the term “library” would be too abrupt, so I propose we combine the terms: library and community center. Disappointingly, I am not the first person with this idea, which severely restricts my ability to trademark the phrase.

Some organizations are already calling themselves library and community centers. In New Orleans, the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center is a partnership between the New Orleans Public Library and the Broadmoor Improvement Association. While I would love to give you more information on how this partnership works, the website is not forthcoming with information.

[Sadly, like many library websites, it is not well-designed. Did I mention that we offer training on what your website should include? For instance, tomorrow Laura Solomon is presenting “Work with What You’ve Got: Practical Tips for Redesigning Your Library Website” at 2 p.m. CT, 3 p.m. ET. Register for the live webinar or to receive a link to the recording. I’m not calling you out; I’m just suggesting that we could all use this training.]

There’s also the Kraemer Library and Community Center in Plain, Wisconsin; the Embudo Valley Library and Community Center in New Mexico; the Newport Library and Community Center in Newport, Minnesota; the Emma L. Andrews Library and Community Center in Newburyport, Massachusetts; and the Magnolia Library and Community Center in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 2017, the trustees of the Highgate (Vermont) Public Library officially changed the name to Highgate Library and Community Center.

As far as I can tell, none of these organizations are doing anything more or less than what public libraries throughout Florida are doing.

And while I know that the term “library and community center” is long, unless someone can come up with a cool, short name that everyone knows means “library and community center,” I think it’s the best option we have.

And, who knows, a few years down the road, maybe we could delete the term “library” altogether.

[Oh, no, she didn’t!]

After all, other non-library organizations are co-opting the term “library” for themselves. For instance, did you know that Little Free Libraries have nothing to do with libraries? And that if an actual library wants to start a Little Free Library, they need to pay for the privilege of calling it a Little Free Library? Yep.

And the Human Library? Not a real library. Well, duh, of course, it isn’t, but it wasn’t even started by a librarian. It does have one librarian on its board, I think. But if you want to have a Human Library event, you have to request permission. That’s right – permission.

I’m not saying that either of these two organizations are not great – they are! Getting books into more hands and getting humans to listen and learn from each other are excellent goals. But why did they have to steal our word? (Yes, I’m whining.)

Now they’re even stealing our ideas. (More whining.) The Chicago Tool Library will open in July to loan out sewing machines, slow cookers, power drills, and more to the Bridgeport neighborhood. But there’s a catch — there is an annual membership fee, based on your income. Granted, they say that members who cannot pay will still be allowed to check out tools. Sure, until the third time you’re late bringing back a staple gun and your fine is too high to pay so no more tools for you!

My main point is that we should embrace our image as community centers, call ourselves library and community centers, and use this to maintain and increase funding. Even those public officials who persist in believing that “everything is freely available on the internet so we don’t need libraries” can get behind funding for a library and community center.

The Robots Are Coming! by Guest Blogger Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster

By Guest Blogger Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster of the Valparaiso Community Library

Back in March, I had the privilege of attending the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, D.C., thanks to a scholarship from PLAN. It was an eye-opening experience for many reasons: I got to visit our nation’s capital (imagine that being spoken in a Forrest Gump impersonation); I crashed an electric scooter, breaking my wrist, which was as embarrassing as it was painful; and I learned a lot about the technology that is emerging in libraries. The most fascinating to me, though, were the humanoid robots.

Photo of robot

Some of the new tech was super fun and totally rad! The Roanoke County Public Library in Virginia actually has a four-foot-tall robot concierge (it actually does more than just greet people and answer basic questions, but that’s the best description, in my opinion) named Pepper! Pepper, in addition to being absolutely adorable, provides patrons with directions and answers the standard questions about the library. The staff also have started allowing teens to program the robot in order to teach young people how to code.

In the vendor area, Misty, a toddler-sized robot, rolled around charming anyone who came by. Far from being creepy or appearing as a threat, Misty made everyone tilt their heads and say, “Aw!” More importantly, though, Misty is equipped with an advanced camera that is used for 3D mapping. “She” can detect changes in environment, be a mobile version of a smart assistant/speaker, and has useful applications in eldercare. “Her” applications in libraries have been outlined as a greeter, item runner, and game host; however, librarians being the creative geniuses we are, there are probably many more opportunities for Misty to be involved!

Then there’s Dewey from the Palo Alto Public Library. Dewey is more of a bot of the people. The staff at Palo Alto utilize this mid-sized robot mainly with children and teens. Dewey is involved in story time, playing games with the small children like “tickle-the-robot,” and he is also the programming subject for the teens and young adults who come in to the Robo Dojo. We got to see some of “his” mad dance skills in the handler’s presentation, and they were awesome.

Seeing these robots at the conference and hearing about their presences enriched the lives of the patrons who visited their home libraries really struck a chord with me. Most people, especially here in Valparaiso, will probably only see technology of that sort in movies or on television. These pieces of equipment are costly and require advanced understanding of coding to operate correctly, so for the everyday person, they’re not accessible. Except in the public library! Getting to see and interact with these machines was thrilling for me, and I immediately imagined how incredible it would be for our patrons to see them in action. Libraries truly are the great equalizer, bringing opportunities that might otherwise only be available to a few select individuals to everyone who walks in the doors.

It really is an exciting time to work in our field.