Jennie: Hello and welcome to Circulating Ideas. I’m Jennie Rothschild sitting in for Steve Thomas. In May of 2015 I had the pleasure of talking with librarians at the Maryland and Delaware Library Associations joint annual conference. At this point I would like to apologize. Two of my interviews got lost in technical difficulties and so you’re not going to get to hear everyone I talked to.
Jennie: Who are you? What did you do? Where do you do?
Carrie: I’m Carrie Plymire. I’m a library director at Calvert Library in Calvert County, Maryland.
Jennie: Excellent. So what is one takeaway that you’ve gotten from this conference that you’re excited to take back with you to Calvert County?
Carrie: Corrine Hill, who is the director of Chattanooga Public did a pre-conference on Wednesday and she was just so full of crazy ideas that I feel a little bit liberated to go back and do more crazy things to make customer service better in the county.
Jennie: That’s excellent. What are some of the things that you’re doing in Calvert county that you’re really excited about that are either you’re in the middle of doing or you have upcoming project-wise?
Carrie: We’re just finishing a strategic plan, but it’s going to focus more on teens and on marketing and community outreach and community partnerships. So I think we’re just going to really mobilize our staff to do what they’re really good at instead of doing what their schedule kind of says they have to do. So I’m going to figure out how to make that possible.
Jennie: That’s great. Is there anything else you want to share with the library listeners across libraryland today?
Carrie: Oh, the other great thing was why do we keep saying if we could only mark at our databases better, why don’t we just ditch that and put our money into ebooks and into learning and things that customers really actually want to use. It’s a tough one.
Jennie: It is a tough one. Well, thank you so much for talking to us today.
Carrie: Thanks a lot.
Jennie: All right, so first question, who are you, what do you do, and where do you do it?
Morgan: I am Morgan Miller. I am the assistant director at the Cecil County Public Library, which is a county in northeastern Maryland.
Jennie: Excellent. So you guys just won a big fancy schmancy award, tell me all about it and what did you do to get it?
Morgan: We won the National Medal for Libraries, which is presented by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. And it’s the highest honor in the land for libraries. It recognizes libraries to have extraordinary commitment and exceptional levels of outreach to their communities.
Jennie: Okay, so what are some of the fun projects that you’ve done that showed this extraordinary level of commitment and outreach?
Morgan: We were really recognized in three key areas: economic development, early childhood learning, and then the services that we provide to veterans. I guess I’ll speak a little bit about our services to veterans. One of our branches, it’s situated near the Perry Point VA hospital, which is the largest VA in-bed facility in Maryland, has about 400 residents. And since that branch opened in 2008, they’ve done a lot of things to target, our technology and workforce services to meet the needs of veterans in the community. Some of our veterans have gone from being homeless to now being employed and one of them is going to be going to the White House with us to get the award in a couple of weeks here.
Jennie: That’s so exciting. You get to see you to get your award at the White House. Like that’s how big of a deal this award is.
Morgan: Yes. Yes. I believe our director is going to receive the award from Michelle Obama. Pretty exciting.
Jennie: You can’t see my face right now, listeners, but I just made an OMG SQUEE face.
Morgan: It’ll be livestreamed.
Jennie: All right. Live stream. And hopefully this’ll air before then so we can all watch it. So, what upcoming projects do you have going on in Cecil County that you’re really excited about?
Morgan: Well, something that most libraries do every year. But this is another reason that we are recognized and it’s something we all have to look forward to is the summer reading and learning program. We do ours a little bit differently though. We have really, I think one of the reasons that we’re being recognized and where work is so effective and innovative is we’re very in touch with our community and what the issues and challenges are and where we can connect those and create opportunity for our citizens and we’re able to move the needle with our services. So we have, a lot of kids in Title I schools from low income families. So our program does special outreach to those schools in those communities. For instance, we take our bookmobile into about 15 different low income communities in Boys and Girls Clubs, throughout the community, throughout the county and where students don’t have access to transportation or parents who can take them to the library to participate in the summer reading program. We take the summer reading program to them. So as we did that for the first time last year and 500 children and teens who had never done summer reading before, ended up having access to books and learning over the summer.
Jennie: That’s great. I know you have to go and do some more awards stuff. So thank you so much for talking with us today.
Morgan: My pleasure. My pleasure.
Jennie: Thank you.
Jennie: Okay, so first question is who are you, what do you do and where do you do it?
Emily: So my name is Emily Gamertsfelder and I’m the Planning Projects and Data Coordinator for Baltimore County Public Library in Baltimore County, Maryland. And that means I coordinate strategic planning, project management and data analysis, coordination, all kinds of things with numbers for Baltimore County Public Library.
Jennie: Okay. And can you give some more examples about what type of data analysis and strategic coordinating you’re doing?
Emily: Sure. So, we do quite a bit. We have 19 branch libraries and it’s a very large system. We have over 800,000 residents in the county. So over 11 million circulation, lots happening in our buildings. So I work in our administrative offices and we are working, we actually just completed and got approved our newest strategic plan, which is very exciting. It’ll be in effect for the next three fiscal years. So we’re looking at lots of big projects on the system wide level and also lots of specialization at each branch level within each community and working more on that community level. So I coordinated with the branches, with our communities, gathering data, gathering input, with Friends groups and our board and just about everybody who might want to be involved in what we’re doing, to figure out what we should be doing and what to do. And now we’re going to turn around and start doing it. So that’s my next project for the next couple of years. So I’ll be assembling teams, that’ll be across the system, all levels of positions and coordinating everything to make it happen. And to do all of that, we use a lot of data. So that’s everything that we do that we’d keep track of as well as demographic data, community data, anything that’s out there that we might want to know about. I’m the one who goes and finds it and reports on it.
Jennie: So you don’t have the job one traditionally thinks of when they think of library work. So what are some things that you wish that maybe the general public but also those of us who work in kind of more traditionally library work jobs wish. What do you wish that we knew about what you do and how we can more effectively work with you and use your talents?
Emily: That’s an interesting question. So I did traditional library work first, and then I was very briefly a branch manager. So I had the spectrum of public service first, which I think really helps me in what I do. And then I think on the flip side, there’s a lot of data that I have to collect. And so there are a lot of kind of annoying things I make public service people do that they don’t necessarily want to do or understand why. And I try to explain why, but there are actually state requirements for what we have to report and there are national requirements for what the state has to report. So, there’s a lot more involved in data collection than people know and there’s a lot more data available than people realize. So BCPL is actually really lucky, I think to have a position like mine, not just for me personally because I love it and I love what I do, but because we have somebody who can focus on that and I think it’s something that gets lost. Now it is a trending topic, libraries at the moment. But I think it would be great for librarians in general to be able to think a little bit more about data and think about how they can use it in their daily operations. So for example, I recently came across, within one of our data tools, school test data by school, which – now this is a paid tool that we have, it’s not freely available – but I can now go to each of our branches and say, these are your assigned elementary schools, which they already work with. This is the one that’s struggling the most in third grade reading. This is the one that’s struggling most in eighth grade science. So they can really tailor their programming based on what’s happening in their community. And that’s not something I’ve ever seen done at that level. And that’s directly related to what I’m doing. And I just think that’s amazing. And that’s not something somebody is asking me for. So it’s just because we didn’t know it was there. So we’re going to make it happen.
Jennie: Okay. Now I want that tool because I want that data. I know you said it’s a paid tool, but what tool is it so I can go buy it?
Emily: It is a tool called Policy Map. It’s fairly new. We got our subscription to it last year. It is actually a GIS mapping tool that was not initially meant for libraries. They kind of stumbled into the library market and realized there’s a great application for libraries. So, they actually will have an article published in the magazine, Strategic Libraries in May, with a little bit from me and a couple of other libraries that are using it. But it’s a great tool. It’s really powerful. It’s really easy to use and they let you upload your own data so you can do a lot of mapping. So I’ve done a lot of research into our communities and combining with our own data to get a clear picture of what’s happening. So it’s very exciting.
Jennie: Thank you so much. And then one last question: what has been kind of the most exciting thing that you’ve learned here at the MLA/DLA annual conference that you are looking forward to taking back to Baltimore County?
Emily: So the most exciting thing for me has been the session I just did this morning on visual literacy. So of course with data you have to be able to present it and tell a story in a way that people actually care about. Because the numbers don’t mean anything if people don’t understand them or don’t want to care about them, and I’ve always been very aware of visual presentation, but I was exposed to some tools that I’ve never really bothered to get into and now I cannot wait to get back and start playing and start making my presentations better and my tools, more dynamics so that I can share what I think is very interesting information in a way that will hopefully reach more people and get more people excited about what we know about what we’re doing.
Jennie: Excellent. Thank you so much for talking to me today.
Emily: Thank you.
Jennie: Okay, so first question is who are you, what do you do, and where do you do it?
Joyce: I’m Joyce Valenza. I am the director of the MLIS program at Rutgers University and I’ve been a librarian for 40 years.
Jennie: Wow. And you said you’re getting ready to present. So what are you presenting on today?
Joyce: I’m presenting on hacking library, across libraryland. Hacks, white hat hacking to make things better.
Jennie: Excellent. Are there any quick tips you can share that you’re going to present for those of us who can’t be there or for people listening down the future?
Joyce: Sure, my slides will be up. They are up and I’ll give the address but I don’t think I should do it here. But the notion of the fact that there’s no textbook for current practice and if you’re even thinking about thinking outside the box, you can really believe that there’s no box. It’s all about your users, that your students, your patrons, their needs and what makes sense. It’s kind of blowing up the notion of traditional collection development, of traditional reference, of traditional readers advisories, of traditional research, because the landscape shifted and we need to meet our users in relevant and exciting ways. And what I’m going to do is show stories of how librarians around the country across library land are doing just that.
Jennie: Oh, that sounds excellent. And I think a lot of the listeners will be interested in looking at the slides later. And then what’s one thing you’re really excited about that you’re doing back in your job?
Joyce: I am in my job currently, I am hoping to help train – I don’t like the word train – help inspire young librarians, or people who are going into this field as a new career, to think creatively about the contributions they can make to their communities and to understand that the users at this point may not come in through their doors. How do we engage community? However, we meet the people who are in our areas and understanding that our community may be miles and miles away, but we can reach them by the way we curate content and tools and resources. So the opportunities for us to engage communities are greater than ever before. And I want to ensure that librarians feel that that’s part of their mission.
Jennie: Excellent. Thank you so much for talking to us today.
Joyce: You’re welcome, Jennie.
Jennie: Good luck!
Jennie: Okay. So who are you, what do you do, and where do you do it?
Liz: I’m Liz Sunderman. I work at the division of library development and services, which is the State Library Agency of Maryland, and I’m the Youth Services Coordinator in Baltimore.
Dennis: My name is Dennis Angle. I work at the exact same place that Liz just mentioned. Do I have to repeat it again? And I’m the deputy state librarian for Maryland.
Jennie: Excellent. So that’s very exciting. What are some of the fun takeaways you’ve had from the conference that you’re excited to look at and put into practice when you get back to work on Monday?
Liz: Well, I was looking at a lot of program ideas that people have and it’s my job to sort of synthesize them and then spread them out over the state. So there were a lot of early learning initiatives, a lot of hands on projects that I think people will be able to do with families and young children, and they’re easy things that I can get lots of people all over the state to do without very much money at all.
Dennis: Similar to Liz as far as looking at programs and thinking about it in a state wide perspective. We have, in Maryland, the Library Associate Training Institute, which allows bachelor’s degreed individuals to be certified librarians. And, there was a session where they were discussing some of their past programs and, it was not only gratifying to see the success of the programs that came out of the Institute, but also, to get some ideas of how something at a local level could be taken statewide. One particular one was expungement training for people learning how to, if they needed to clear their records so that way they had more viability and marketability for the workplace. If they had a smudge on their record from when they were 18, that was 20 years ago, they are being trained on how they could expunge that from the record. I thought that was something that was really a valuable training and a lot of the other issues too. They were smaller, but really something that can be modeled where simple seemingly insurmountable problems like not having enough parkings in a library to do a large program is something that can be kind of overcome with partnering with nearby facilities and things like that. So that was a big one. And just kind of, again, thinking about creative problem solving in those more routine situations in libraries.
Jennie: Excellent. I’m a proud LATI grad back in the day, when I worked in Maryland. So you guys don’t have the more traditional public service library jobs that a lot of people are used to. So what are some things that you wish both the general public and public librarians and non-public librarians knew about what you do and the services you offer and what you can do for them?
Liz: We don’t really work for the public, but any librarian and the state is welcome to call us at anytime with ideas. If they have ideas for projects or they want to have a training about something and we find out that other people want to have trainings, we can put one together, we can do a webinar or we can do a local training, and if there’s enough people in the state who all want the same thing, you know, we can try to do, hold a little mini conference around an idea. So we would love it if people came to us with their ideas.
Dennis: Right, and another thing too that we try to serve our customers, which are public librarians, is to most effectively and accurately tell the Maryland public library story, to the various audiences that we are privy to, which is as the federal level, some state government and agencies and things like that, the reports that we send out to the governor and things like that. So, that would be the one thing that I wish that they would know is to share their story with us. You know, having an open flow of communication so that way we have a really clear picture of what’s going on in the state so we can carry that message on to various constituencies.
Jennie: Excellent. Thank you so much for talking to me today. It was great.