Staff changes at TSLAC

We’ve had some changes going on behind the scenes, and two of our staff have moved into new roles!

Bethany Wilson, Grants Administrator

Bethany Wilson
Photo of Bethany Wilson, Grants Administrator

Bethany stepped into the Grants Administrator role on April 1st. She has transferred skills gained from managing the Family Place Libraries grant program in her former role as Youth Services Consultant. Bethany’s keen eye for detail, excellent analytical skills, and her drive for continuous improvement are already serving her well as she implements the CARES Act grant program. Congratulations Bethany!

Kyla Hunt, Youth Services Consultant

Kyla Hunt
Photo of Kyla Hunt, Youth Services Consultant

Kyla moved to the Youth Services Consultant role on May 11th. This role allows Kyla to return to her roots as a children’s librarian. She’ll transfer the skills she developed as the administrator of the Small Library Management Program, including strong problem-solving and communications skills. She has already made an impact on in this role, collaborating with Inclusive Services Consultant Laura Tadena to create summer reading challenges. These challenges will help library staff provide meaningful learning experiences for families without access to the Internet. Congratulations Kyla!

To reach Bethany, Kyla, or any members of the Library Development and Networking team, please contact us at LD@tsl.texas.gov.

Deadline Approaching for TSLAC CARES Grant Program

The deadline to apply for the TSLAC CARES Grant Program is approaching soon! The first round of funding is closing on Sunday, May 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Please be sure to submit your completed applications and all required documents by the deadline.

The goal of the TSLAC CARES Grant Program is to:

  • Fund the expansion of digital access in areas of Texas where such access is lacking, including the purchase of internet-enabled devices and provisions for technical support services in response to the disruption of schooling and other community services during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Fund efforts that prevent, prepare for, and respond to situations arising from the COVID-19 emergency.

Funding is provided by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). TSLAC will conduct at least two grant cycles utilizing CARES Act funds with approximately $250,000 expected to be available for Cycle 1. Funding can be utilized retroactively to cover expenses incurred beginning April 21, 2020. Please note that expenses incurred before April 21, 2020 are not eligible for reimbursement.

Questions?
Please visit our TSLAC CARES Grant Program webpage for more application and more information. If you have questions or need assistance with the application process, please contact Bethany Wilson, Grants Administrator at bwilson@tsl.texas.gov.

Free CE and Training This Week – May 25-29

Weekly listing sourced primarily from Wyoming State Library Training Calendar with free training online, and free Texas workshops, updated as new events are added. See what’s happening on the CE calendar. Confirm the date and time when you register, or follow links for archive information. Events listed in Central Time


Tuesday, May 26 (1-2 p.m.)
Why Futurists Can’t Predict the Future, And How You Can (Pattern Research, Inc.)

Learn 14 principles that can improve your accuracy when you’re peering into your crystal ball.  What are some unexpected factors that can upset the most educated guesses–and remember, when we are talking about the future, it’s all guesswork.

For more information and to register, visit: https://patternresearch.com/calendar/


Wednesday, May 27 (10-11 a.m.)
Pretty Sweet Tech (Nebraska Library Commission)

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

For more information and to register, visit: http://www.nlc.state.ne.us/scripts/calendar/eventlist.asp?Mode=ALL


Wednesday, May 27 (2-3 p.m.)
Braving the Elements: PubChem Resources to Weather any Situation (National Network of Libraries of Medicine)

PubChem is the world’s largest collection of freely accessible chemical information. You can use PubChem to search chemicals by name, molecular formula, structure, and other identifiers. And, you can use PubChem to find chemical and physical properties, biological activities, safety and toxicity information, patents, literature citations and more. In this session, Rana Morris, PhD, NCBI Customer Experience team member and Team Lead for Educational Programs, will provide an overview of PubChem’s key features.

For more information and to register, visit: https://nnlm.gov/training/classes-by-availability-scheduled


Thursday, May 28 (2-3 p.m.)
Online Tools for Content Creation and Virtual Meetings (Mid-America Library Alliance)

This FREE 60-minute webinar presented by Lauren Hays will provide resources for librarians to utilize while working remotely and highlight important tools that no librarian should be without.

For more information and to register, visit: https://conta.cc/2WlI723

COVID-19 & Tech: Artificial Intelligence

Every Friday I plan to spotlight an emerging technology that has been pushed by the COVID-19 pandemic into more mainstream use, sometimes in ways that may seem surreal.


Today I’d like to point out nine ways that ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) is getting deployed to assist with the current crisis.

(For more general info about AI with a focus on libraries, check out my post for Henry’s High-Tech Highlights from last year.)


1. AI TO SNIFF OUT OUTBREAKS

Illustration that shows an AI identifying the COVID-19 disease after scanning various outside information sources looking for signs.
AI scans social media, news reports, search queries, etc. for signs of disease outbreaks

Apparently, it was an AI that sniffed out COVID-19 and sounded the alarm before any humans did at the end of December.

Science Magazine (5/12/2020): “Artificial intelligence systems aim to sniff out signs of COVID-19 outbreaks

“The international alarm about the COVID-19 pandemic was sounded first not by a human, but by a computer. HealthMap, a website run by Boston Children’s Hospital, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scan social media, news reports, internet search queries, and other information streams for signs of disease outbreaks. On 30 December 2019, the data-mining program spotted a news report of a new type of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The one-line email bulletin noted that seven people were in critical condition and rated the urgency at three on a scale of five.”


2. AI TO SEARCH FOR A CURE

Illustration that shows an AI identifying a potential drug treatment after scanning drug industry dat and scientific research papers.
AI scans scientific research papers to identify potential drug treatments.

Wired (4/17/2020): “AI Uncovers a Potential Treatment for Covid-19 Patients

“The company has created a kind of search engine on steroids that combines drug industry data with nuggets gleaned from scientific research papers. Using the software, Richardson had identified a rheumatoid arthritis drug that might dampen some of the most severe effects of the new virus, an illness now known as Covid-19.”

Google’s DeepMind is also working on understanding the structure of the virus’s associated proteins to learn how it functions, and this could lead to the development of a vaccine or cure.


3. AI TO TRACK HOW INFECTION SPREADS

Illustration that shows an AI tracking how the infection is spreading in a region to assist in halting or containing it.
AI can track how the infection is spreading in a region to help in real-time efforts to halt or contain it.

Bruegel (3/23/2020): “Artificial intelligence in the fight against COVID-19

“…In Belgium, datasets from telecoms operators are combined with health data under the supervision of the Belgian Data Protection Authority in order to generate aggregate and anonymised regional-level datasets that can be used to assess how the virus spreads and which areas are high risk. Similar initiatives are underway in other countries. The real value of these efforts is that digital technologies can offer monitoring in real-time, enabling authorities to be more proactive.”


4. AI TO SCREEN POPULATIONS

Illustration showing an AI remotely testing a population of people for fever and potential signs of the disease.
An AI can test hundreds of people at a time for fever.

Bruegel (3/23/2020): “Artificial intelligence in the fight against COVID-19

“Screening the population to identify who is potentially ill is crucial for containing COVID-19. In China, which was hit first, traditional infrared imaging scanners and handheld thermometers were introduced in multiple public locations, especially in Beijing. Chinese AI champion firms have now introduced more advanced AI-powered temperature screening systems in places including subway and railway stations. The advantage of these systems is that they can screen people from a distance and within minutes can test hundreds of individuals for fever.”


5. AI TO IDENTIFY AND REMOVE CONTENT WITH PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC AND DANGEROUS MISINFORMATION

Illustration of AI recognizing a dangerous hoax being perpetuated online and removing it from the view of a susceptible consumer.
Besides the virus itself, another kind of infection spread in society are the

Besides the virus itself, another form of infection spread in society are the harmful scams and life-threatening “snake oils” being pushed by the unscrupulous onto the vulnerable. Companies like YouTube and Twitter routinely remove content that violates their policies in this regard, but with staff out of their offices and social distancing, AI is being relied on to perform this task (and far less accurately than real humans). In the future, we will likely see more and more sophisticated AI taking over this job.

Broadband Breakfast (3/17/2020):

“YouTube will be relying on AI to take down content policy violations as the coronavirus spreads… Google, which owns YouTube and typically relies on humans to identify violating content, is now transitioning to less accurate automated tools as of Monday in an attempt to reduce the need for people to come into its offices. Some of the content that YouTube employees remove are videos that offer pseudo-scientific and dangerous misinformation regarding the spread and treatment of coronavirus. Twitter on Monday announced a similar policy that will use AI content moderators, but that it would not ban any users based solely on that enforcement scheme.”


6. AI TO DETECT THE DISEASE FROM YOUR VOICE

Illustration of an AI hearing a person speaking and determining the person has COVID-19.
An AI diagnosing COVID-19 after listening to a person’s voice.

In my post highlighting persistent recognition systems, I described how these listening AI systems could diagnose conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cardiac arrest – all based on voice dat. Now the same technology is being applied to COVID-19.

Business Insider (4/30/2020): “Do I sound sick to you? Researchers are building AI that would diagnose COVID-19 by listening to people talk”


7. AI TO ALERT YOU TO SEEK MEDICAL HELP

Illustration of an AI alerting someone to seek medical help.
After an AI knows you’ve contracted the virus, it can alert you to seek medical help.

Currently, we rely on people themselves to understand the signs of the disease and determine if they personally should seek help. This helpful tool could potentially save many lives.


8. AI TO GET YOU TO TREATMENT FASTER (ESPECIALLY IN RURAL AREAS)

Illustration showing an AI acting as an assistant to guide COVID-19 patients to the nearest treatment they require.
An AI streamlines the process by connecting patients to the nearest treatment in their area.

Mashable (4/21/2020):

“Clearstep’s app is meant to streamline the healthcare process by giving rural areas quicker access to COVID-19 treatment.”

With so much information need out there regarding the pandemic, there aren’t enough customer support staff out there to handle all the questions. AI can step in and take on this role to supplement providing this crucial information service.

For example, Google’s created AI virtual agents for businesses to utilize.

From Google Cloud blog (5/6/2020): “How Cloud AI is helping during COVID-19

“In early April, we launched the Rapid Response Virtual Agents program to help organizations that have been inundated with customer questions about the pandemic. The program helps businesses quickly build and implement a customized Contact Center AI virtual agent to respond to customer questions via chat or voice allowing customers to get 24/7 support.”


9. AI TO SPEED UP LOAN DISPERSALS TO PEOPLE WHO NEED THEM

Illustration showing an AI making the process to disperse loans much faster for a financial institution.
An AI makes the process to disperse loans much faster for a financial institution.

From Google Cloud blog (5/1/2020): “Business continuity planning and resilience in financial services during COVID-19 and beyond

“Leveraging artificial intelligence, we’ve created an end-to-end solution that speeds up the time-to-decision on loans and helps inform lenders’ liquidity analysis—from the initial application submission to the underwriting process and SBA validation.”

Interlibrary Loan Lending Reimbursement Program and Statistics

As libraries have adjusted and reinvented their services over the last two months, interlibrary loan activity has been put on hold (pun intended!) across Texas and the country. While ILL lending has been suspended of late, TSLAC is still offering lending reimbursements through the FY 2020 ILL Lending Reimbursement Program for lends made during the eligible time period: August 1, 2019 – July 31, 2020. This non-competitive grant program is open in TSLAC’s Grant Management System portal and any Texas Navigator library that provides materials through ILL to fellow Texas Navigator libraries is eligible to participate. I am happy to provide you available statistics, you can also run a report of your library’s lending statistics by month from the Navigator Request Engine (NRE) by following these steps:

  1. Log in to your NRE account
  2. Select Reports from the menu on the left side of the screen
  3. Select Monthly ILL Statistics from the list of Reports
  4. Enter a start date of August 1, 2019 and an end date of current date, click Generate Report
  5. The Responder – Shipped column reflects the lends made to Navigator libraries that are eligible for reimbursement

If you have questions or concerns about participating, please contact me at shayes@tsl.texas.gov.  The deadline to submit the signed participation agreement form is July 24, 2020. The full timeline is:

July 24, 2020: Deadline to submit completed Grant Agreement/Application Certification form in GMS, signed by authorized legal entity signatory.
August 17, 2020: TSLAC will notify libraries of total eligible lends and award amounts and begin accepting Performance Certification forms through the online GMS portal.
August 31, 2020: Deadline to submit completed Performance Certification form in GMS, signed by Library Director.
September 2020: Reimbursement payments dispersed to legal entities (cities, counties, universities).

If this is a time for catching up on training or policy review/development at your library, you may wish to (re)visit the following resources related to interlibrary loan:

The ILL lending reimbursement  program is administered by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) and funded by the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Virtual Storytime and Copyright: Resources

We have received many questions recently about virtual and online storytimes. As we cannot provide legal advice, we wanted to curate a few resources that may be helpful during this time. If you need legal advice, we would highly recommend that you reach out to your library, city or county’s legal counsel if available.

Virtual Storytime Information

Copyright and Creative Commons Information

  • U.S. Copyright Office https://copyright.gov/ The website of the U.S. Copyright Office provides a a plethora of resources on copyright law.
  • Creative Commons: Helping Patrons and Students Find and License Online Content https://onlinetraining.tsl.texas.gov/course/view.php?id=354 In this archived webinar, the Texas State Library’s Kyla Hunt and Liz Philippi explore ways to locate Creative Commons licensed materials and to promote the usage of Creative Commons in your library.

We hope you find this information useful; for further reading, you may also want to view our previous blog post, Copyright and Fair Use Resources.   

Have a safe and healthy summer!

Free CE and Training This Week – May 18-22

Weekly listing sourced primarily from Wyoming State Library Training Calendar with free training online, and free Texas workshops, updated as new events are added. See what’s happening on the CE calendar. Confirm the date and time when you register, or follow links for archive information. Events listed in Central Time


Monday, May 18 (1-2 p.m.)
HarperCollins Adult Fall Faves! (Booklist)

Join Booklist staff and HarperCollins in a special 90-minute virtual book celebration and preview for librarians. The Library Love Fest team will suggest current books perfect for virtual books groups and present a cavalcade of new and forthcoming titles for the summer and beyond. Tune in for special author appearances. Get whitelisted for e-books and audiobooks on e-galley websites. Win virtual visits by favorite authors, and much more. Book love thrives.

For more information and to register, visit: https://www.booklistonline.com/webinars?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1


Monday, May 18 (1:30-2:30 p.m.)
Taming LOC.gov (Idaho Commission for Libraries)

Did you know that LOC.gov, the Library of Congress’ web portal, provides access to millions of items through their digital collections? Join us for this informative presentation to discover the resources available online to support patrons of all ages, learn how to navigate the website, and get tips on using these resources in your library.

For more information and to register visit: https://libraries.idaho.gov/continuing-education/info2go/


Tuesday, May 19 (10-10:30 a.m.)
TexShare Webinar: Maximize e-resource usage via Credo Customization

Join us for a 30 minute presentation on how to customize your Credo Reference account. Credo Reference allows libraries to include pathways to your other library e-resources through Credo’s federated results page. We’ll offer a tour of the possible customization options and walk you through the steps of this free customization process.

For more information and to register visit: https://credoreference.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_g2q7G9ltQM-AMLakH_d6yg


Tuesday, May 19 (12-1 p.m.)
Online Survey Tools and Techniques (IdealWare)

We’ll talk through the tools and best practices for designing a reputable online survey, recruiting participants, and analyzing the data.

For more information and to register, visit: https://www.idealware.org/training-calendar/


Tuesday, May 19 (12-1 p.m.)
Ten Actions for Boards Governing in a Crisis (Propel Nonprofits)

As nonprofit leaders and team members are racing to keep operations open and to be responsive to the needs of their clients, what is the role of the nonprofit board right now? Where is their leadership needed most to support the organization, its employees, and the recipients of its services? Join us for this webinar covering ten actions nonprofit boards can take in this time of unprecedented uncertainty.

For more information and to register, visit: https://www.propelnonprofits.org/upcoming-trainings/


Tuesday, May 19 (2-3 p.m.)
Honoring Infancy: Beyond Baby Storytime (Association for Library Service to Children)

From sign language to dancing and everything in between, libraries are finding ways to engage babies with words, music, and sensory activities that not only entertain them, but provide much-needed mental stimulation. In this webinar, members of the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee with talk about what makes a program appropriate for babies and share some tried and true ideas that are doable at any library.

For more information and to register, visit: http://www.ala.org/alsc/elearning/live-webinars


Wednesday, May 20 (9:30-10:30 a.m.)
Fundraising Tune-up (Productive Fundraising)

Join fundraising master trainer, Chad Barger, CFRE, for a free webinar focused on actionable solutions to common fundraising problems. Chad will reveal the most common barriers to effective fundraising at the small community-based organizations that he serves and provide tips for overcoming them. Participants will also be given free access to document samples and templates which will help to fast track the implementation of these solutions. Ample time will be reserved for questions so that attendees can also pick Chad’s brain for solutions to their “not so common” fundraising challenges.

For more information and to register, visit: https://productivefundraising.com/event/fundraising-tune-up-free-webinar/


Wednesday, May 20 (10-11 a.m.)
Reading for Justice: A Database for YA & Youth Literature (Nebraska Library Commission)

The Reading for Justice Database aims to provide librarians and patrons with better access to YA and children’s literature book subjects centered around social justice. This database began as a project in Dr. David McKoskey’s Database Management course at St. Catherine University. The project then continued to develop through an independent study where the goal was to build a website and user interface for the database. The website includes a search page, report page, and an administrative page for editing. The presentation will cover the initial stages of the database’s development, the challenges of gathering data, preventing a “default” from skewing our data, and the overall process of connecting the database to our user interface. We hope we have created something that librarians and patrons would find useful for identifying books centered around themes of social justice.

For more information and to register, visit: http://www.nlc.state.ne.us/scripts/calendar/eventlist.asp?Mode=ALL


Wednesday, May 20 (11-12 p.m.)
Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA Free Resources (National Girls Collaborative Project)

This Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA (part of NASA’s Universe of Learning) webinar will provide a brief overview of the program and its resources, including a range of computer-based and paper-based activities, along with exhibits and poster series. We will then delve deeper into some Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA activity-based resources. In addition to the content, there will be time for questions and comments in order for the NASA’s Universe of Learning team to best support your program efforts with the Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA materials.

For more information and to register, visit: https://ngcproject.org/events


Wednesday, May 20 (1-2 p.m.)
Shifting Your Events Online During COVID-19 (GrantSpace)

Join Nonprofit New York and Candid to learn how in a short amount of time they have shifted their in-person events to an online format during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In this webinar, the panelists will share how they determined the purpose of events, evaluated different scenarios, selected an online platform, leveraged their talents, and delivered successful events. The panelists will have an honest conversation on how they managed these programmatic changes and what lessons they learned throughout the process.

For more information and to register, visit: https://grantspace.org/training/search/format/live/location/online/sort/time_asc_num/price/free/


Thursday, May 21 (12-1 p.m.)
Programming for Adults with Developmental Disabilities: Why and How (Infopeople)

Join us for this one-hour webinar devoted to an exploration of a range of topics related to programming in your libraries for the adults with developmental disabilities in your community. Presenters Carrie Banks (Brooklyn Public Library) and Barbara Klipper (Autism Welcome Here grant) will cover the barriers and benefits of programming, best practices, and what is meant by a “culture of inclusion.” They’ll also leave you with some sample program ideas you can bring to your library and give you a preview of what else will be covered in the book on this subject they are currently writing for the publishing division of ALA. And, of course, there will be time for your questions and concerns to be voiced and addressed.

For more information and to register, visit: https://infopeople.org/training/view/webinar


Thursday, May 21 (12-1 p.m.)
CryptoClub: Exploring Mathematics in a Playful and Engaging Way (National Girls Collaborative Project)

The National Girls Collaborative Project is proud to be partnering with University of Chicago on the CryptoClub project to reach youth around the nation with this high quality mathematics and cryptography curriculum. The CryptoClub Project develops materials that harness the allure of secret messages to teach cryptography and mathematics. In addition, teachers and informal educators receive training and resources to introduce students to an exciting and important application of mathematics in a playful and engaging way. On this webinar, we will hear from the team at the University of Chicago as well as trainers and educators who have participated in the project. Join us to learn more about CryptoClub.

For more information and to register, visit: https://ngcproject.org/events


Thursday, May 21 (1:30-2:30 p.m.)
Tools Every Nonprofit Needs to Simplify Their Life (Firespring)

The best tools breathe life into your nonprofit’s online presence. The question is which ones do you really need? Evernote? DropBox? Google Alerts? There’s so much coming at you, it can feel like you’re drinking through a firehose. In this session, we’ll introduce you to the tools you need to build an effective online presence.

For more information and to register, visit: https://www.firespring.com/resources/webinars/

COVID-19 & Tech: Robots

Every Friday I plan to spotlight an emerging technology that has been pushed by the COVID-19 pandemic into more mainstream use, sometimes in ways that may seem surreal.

ROBOTS: They’re perfect for doing jobs that are too dangerous for humans to do. So now is the perfect time to deploy them for a variety of helpful tasks and potentially save lives.

Illustration of a robot with the phrase "Onward Robots!" above.
T-shirt design by Chris Ware (Yes, I own this shirt and still wear it.)

Here are some key ways that robots have been, and will continue to be, used during the COVID-19 pandemic.


DELIVERY

To send out groceries and supplies.

Photos of neighborhood delivery robots
Source: ArsTechnica “The pandemic is bringing us closer to our robot takeout future

TELEPRESENCE

To attend virtual graduations:

To conduct live virtual tours of museums

To conduct telehealth visits

A quadrupedal telepresence robot with a tablet for a head, with screen showing a person's face during a virtual telehealth visit.
Source: NPR, “Meet ‘Spot’: The Robot That Could Help Doctors Remotely Treat COVID-19 Patients

ENFORCE SOCIAL DISTANCING

If a drone wasn’t scary enough, how about a creepy headless robot dog shouting at you to go home?

A quadrupedal robot attached with a speaker in a Singapore park; masked people siting on a park bench nearby, listening.
Source: Gizmodo “Pandemic Robots Deployed in Singapore Parks to Remind Humans of Their Own Mortality

SOCIAL ROBOTS

On the much friendlier side of socializing, robots are being used to staff hospitals to entertain, improve morale, and provide information to those recovering.

Photos showing staff robots at a hospital in China.
Source: CNBC “What America can learn from China’s use of robots and telemedicine to combat the coronavirus”

To connect to loved ones in nursing homes:


DISINFECTING

To emit powerful ultraviolet light in hospital rooms:

Robot in hospital emitting ultraviolet light to disinfect the room..
Source: CNBC “What America can learn from China’s use of robots and telemedicine to combat the coronavirus

To spray quarantined and infected areas outside:

Photos of robots capable of spraying outside areas to disinfect them.

CONTINUITY OF WORK

To power people’s mass buying of supplies:

To help workers perform remote operation requiring dexterous manipulation:


ONWARD, ROBOTS!

It is not too late to complete the 2020 census!

Texas’ 2020 U.S. Census completion percentage is 53.5% as of today, which is behind the national average of 59%. The 2020 census will have a major impact on our communities, and the data that is collected will be used to fund essential services, including early childhood education, free and low-cost school meals, highways, and other critical programs that support our communities. It only takes ten minutes to make a difference, so let us work together to ensure that Texans receives a fair count.

2020 Census and COVID-19

Despite the many challenges that we are facing due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), the 2020 census is still underway. The Census Bureau has adjusted the 2020 census operational timeline, which will extend the self-response phase from July 31 to October 31, 2020. Additionally, the Census Bureau also announced that some Area Census Offices (ACO) will resume 2020 census field operations in select locations. For up to date information and press releases related to the 2020 census, visit the Census Bureau’s Newsroom.

One of the many challenges facing libraries across Texas is how to engage with the communities that we serve while following the recommended guidelines from our governing authorities on how to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We understand that every library is facing different circumstances, and how we respond to our communities is going to be case by case. Knowing that, here are a few resources that you can use to help ensure an accurate count of the 2020 census while staying safe!

  • Enhance your social media presence. Keep your website up to date and connect your users with census information. If you are looking for census social media ideas, follow #2020Census and #CountOnLibraries on Twitter. Many census groups are posting resources that your library can safely retweet from inside your library or home!
  • Utilize your curbside. If your library is providing curbside services, consider including census informational material or creating census family kits. You can download Dr. Seuss coloring and activity pages for the children in your community and include them in the kits or check out this list of 2020 census activities for pre-K through 12th graders.
  • Host a virtual event. Some libraries and census groups are hosting Facebook Live parties where they are answering questions and connecting attendees with resources. This could also be an excellent opportunity to invite local leaders to talk about the importance of the 2020 census. Visit the ALA 2020 census webpage for sample templates that can be adapted for virtual events.
  • Send a mailbox greeting. Send postcards or letters to your community and say hello while providing a friendly reminder to complete the 2020 census. You can focus your efforts by learning about your community’s response rates using these tools:
  • Pick up the phone. It is always nice to hear a friendly voice! Consider making calls to your senior communities, check-in with them, and remind them of the importance of the #2020Census! The senior population is growing, and an accurate count can help ensure our state has the federal funding for programs and services that support our special populations like our seniors.
  • Rethink your parking lot. Consider using your outside space as a place for patrons to complete the 2020 census. For example, reserve parking spots specifically for individuals to complete the census. Individuals can park in these spots to connect to the wifi or to ask questions about completing the forms. Flyers with instructions can also be provided on how to complete the census using the phone. Again, depending on your local governing authority, we encourage that libraries adhere to the social distancing guidelines and recommended safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here is a resource that provides helpful technology privacy tips for libraries to consider when setting up kiosks and assisting patrons with filling out the census (see pages 82-92) and be sure to with a local IT staff member or knowledgeable volunteer to implement these to keep your patron’s data safe.
  • Get the word out using signs and banners. Consider making signs for your communities and work with local partners to co-locate signs around town to encourage individuals to complete the census.
  • Use your resources. Connect with your local news and radio stations to promote the census. Invite elected officials to talk about the value of completing the census and help get the word out about the 2020 census while also promoting any upcoming programming your library is offering.

There is still plenty of time to complete the 2020 census, so let us work together to make sure that everyone counts!

For more information and resources, visit our TSLAC Census 2020 webpage at www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/census2020.

Extending Your Library’s WiFi Reach

Interested in learning more about expanding digital access to your community and the library’s technology capacity? Sign up for Friday’s webinar: Towards Digital Equity and Technology Access in Texas Libraries. Register here

Library parking lots were access points for WiFi even before social distancing requirements due to COVID-19 made them essential connection points for internet access. But with many libraries closed or operating on limited hours, boosting your library’s WiFi signal into your parking lot can mean the difference between a patron being able to apply for unemploymentt or not.  Let’s take a look at some relatively easy things you can do to expand access. 

How Much Speed Do People Need?

First, it’s useful to know just how much bandwidth (or the amount of data passing through network cables) is needed for specific types of activities and tools. Three different types of activities generally comprise how we work online: downloading, uploading, and streaming. 

  • Streaming is a type of data transfer that isn’t stored locally anywhere on your device; instead you just listen or view it as it streams continuously from another source. Streaming only uses as much bandwidth as is needed at the time; think of it more like a marathon — a slow pace (bandwidth consumption) but over a longer period of time, which can add up to a lot of data use overall.
  • Downloading transfers data from one place to another, usually permanently saving a copy on your device. Depending on your internet speed, this typically takes up more bandwidth over a shorter period of time; think of it more like a sprint than a marathon. 
  • Uploading is just transferring something you have locally to another data source. Everything from email attachments, uploading PDFs to school classroom platforms, posting pictures to social media, or sharing your own webcam in a video chat requires uploading data. 

The chart below shows the average estimated amount of bandwidth needed for each of these activities. 

Chart showing the amount of internet speed needed for different kinds of online activities. Activities such as email and advanced internet browsing require 1Mbps or less, while more bandwidth intensive activities such as streaming high definition video, online gaming, and video conferencing require 1.5 - 5 Mbps.
Different online activities require different amounts of bandwidth.

Things like email or simple web-browsing are normally low bandwidth, but even during browsing you might be searching websites that have image-heavy pages or come across auto-play videos which will increase your bandwidth needs. Activites like streaming videos or web-conferencing consistently require higher bandwidth.  Additionally, when there are groups of people multitasking between lots of different bandwidth intensive activities, each person will start to notice that their overall speed decreases. That’s why it’s important to have high enough broadband speeds from which your WiFi can assist users in your parking lot. 

How To Strengthen Your Signal

The first step to strengthening your signal is to figure out how strong it is in the first place. Take a smartphone, tablet, or laptop and connect it to your library’s WiFi network. Then, go to various parts of your library’s parking lot or outdoor areas where you are expecting people to use the network and run an internet speedtest.  Keep in mind social distancing policies according to your city or county guidelines when deciding where you’ll test.

An internet speedtest will tell you how much bandwidth you are currently providing to your community — and it’s helpful to know both download AND upload speeds as previously noted that to fully participate in online activities we use both. Here are two reputable sources for speedtests:

Repositioning or Purchasing Equipment

Based on your capacity and your library’s unique needs, follow the step below to boost your library’s WiFi signal.

Step 1: Contact your Internet Service Provider and determine the maximum Mbps your building receives under your current contract or agreement. During this crisis, many ISPs will temporarily offer free speed upgrades, waive overages, or offer other free promotions or services. Ask if anything is available to your library.

Step 2: If no additional funds can be spent: 

Take one of your library’s access points and move it close to a window nearest to your parking lot. The closer your access point is to where people will be using it, the better the signal.


Step 2: If additional funds can be spent
(for example, you have received a grant or donation):  Ensure your current equipment does not reduce your speed.

  • For example, your ISP contract may be for 140 Mbps but if your modem’s maximum rate is 100 Mbps you are losing speed. In this case you should use the first option below.

Step 3: Determine what equipment you need to bring your network to the parking lot or outdoor area. Three options:

  • Easiest solution: Replace your modem and router with upgraded models. If possible, choose a simultaneous dual-band or tri-band router which supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Ensure the devices work with your ISP. Daisy chain your old router to the new router and place it by a window facing the parking lot. 
  • Second easiest: Purchase a new wireless extender or multiple new wireless routers, either indoor or outdoor. An extender simply extends the reach of your wireless network. If possible, choose a simultaneous dual-band or tri-band device which supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Ensure the device works with your ISP. Install it near a window facing the parking lot or outdoors.
  • A little more legwork: Purchase a new wireless repeater, either indoor or outdoor. This device essentially creates a clone of your original network re-broadcasted to a second location and involves more complex setup. If possible, choose a dual-band or dual-radio device. Ensure the device works with your ISP. Install it near a window facing the parking lot or outdoors.

Need equipment recommendations?

Implementation even if you aren’t tech savvy:  

Reach out to your city or county IT department, a trusted volunteer, or even put out a call on social media for assistance and expertise. Generosity abounds when there are people in need. 

Additionally, if you do not have access to local IT support and are located in a rural area, the Fort Worth-based Information Technology Disaster Resource Center is providing technology assistance and connectivity to rural and underserved communities. As a library staff member, simply email them at projectConnect@itdrc.org to see if they can assist you. Their services are free of charge.

Curious to know more about broadband and WiFI networks? Enroll in our free online You Can Do  I.T curriculum that explains these concepts in further detail. 

Additional resources and references:

Many thanks to Liz Gabbitas and colleagues at the Utah State Library for their excellent guidelines on extending Library WiFi.