HHH: Drones

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Back in late summer of 2019 (remember those halcyon days?), I noticed that May 2, 2020 was ‘International Drone Day’. So I planned a Henry’s High-tech Highlight post for this week on that topic. 


The world is in a different place now than when I penciled that into my calendar. But as the week of May 2 approached, it struck me as still being an interesting highlight for this time.

You may recall that in 2013, Amazon announced plans to start a drone delivery service. I recollect feeling wonder-struck at this futuristic concept becoming real, imagining that our lives would soon become even more like science fiction. I thought the sight of autonomous flying robots zipping about their business above us as we conducted our lives down on the ground would soon become commonplace. Drones weren’t new in 2013; they had become a popular item for consumers a few years before. Once they had cameras attached and could be controlled by our smartphones, people wanted to give them a spin. Many libraries were quick to embrace this exciting new technology and began offering programming to showcase how it worked, as well as checking them out to patrons to try out at home.

Fast forward to today. It’s been seven years and Amazon’s drone delivery service has yet to take flight. Doesn’t it sure sound nice right about now? Many of us are social distancing and having varying degrees of difficulty in receiving even basic supplies like toiletries, pharmaceuticals, and groceries. Although items can be delivered directly to our homes, we rely on human drivers who may be putting themselves at risk. A remote-controlled robot that descends from the sky to drop toilet paper on my doorstep? Yes, please.

To some, drones may seem like they’re passe, a passing fad, part of a hypothetical future that never came to be. But despite the lack of an Amazon delivery highway in the skies above our neighborhoods, we’ve come a long way in the last ten years.  There are a lot of really exciting things going on that I’d love to highlight for you. Drones are still worth buzzing about.

Today’s highlight: Drones


COVID-19 and Drones

It’s been interesting to see how emerging technologies can, well, emerge during times of crises such as what we’re going through now.  Before we get to more general uses for drones, here are some instances when drones have been deployed in the pandemic:

  • To deliver supplies to residents: If you are a resident of Christiansburg, Virginia, you can already experience what it would be like to get your supplies via drone at this time. Google has a pilot project there called Wing launched in September 2019 with little idea they would be testing things out during a pandemic six months later.
Photo of family on doorstep looking up at drone delivering supplies.
Source: Wing via Forbes
Photo of a drone with sprayers attached.


Outside of COVID-19, drones are still taking off. An article in the Wall Street Journal from last October outlined a lot of their upward momentum (sorry, I can’t not make drone puns).

Here’s a rundown of uses for drones you may not be aware of:

Medical

  • Blood
    • In Rwanda, they can cut a treacherous 4-hour road journey to just 30 minutes. Drones delivered 5,500 units of blood to Rwandan regional hospitals over a12-month period, leading to a reduction in maternal deaths and fewer cases of malaria-induced anemia! Source: beautifulnews.daily
  • Medicine

Farming and pest control

  • Drones with crop sensors significantly improve the efficiency of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and water, and improve environmental impact. It saves the farmers thousands of dollars every year. Though primarily used for grains, a recent study is exploring how drones can even help fruit growers by:
    • taking inventory of tree height and canopy volume
    • monitoring tree health and quality;
    • managing water, nutrients, pests and disease in-season;
    • estimating fruit/nut production and yield; and,
    • creating marketing tools (videos for promotion of the orchard, or sale of trees and fruit).
  • Pesticide-spraying to accelerate sustainable farming
  • Eradicate locust swarms ravaging crops to curb hunger crises
  • Planting trees by firing “seed missiles” to restore the world’s forests
  • Dropping baits to poison invasive wilderness pests to support indigenous wildlife and with enough accuracy to avoid endangered species

Drone photos to 3D Print

Here’s a cool idea: Use your drone to take photos of of a subject (like a building), and then make it with a 3D printer.



Other compelling applications

Speaking of swarms and insects…

Check out this recent video from PBS of a camera drone disguised as a hummingbird which was able to capture never before seen footage of monarch swarms:

Source


Libraries and Drones

Anything new going on?


Thanks for asking. Here are a few I found:

  • Scanning shelves to conduct inventories (happening in Japan)


    Source: A librarian monitors a flying drone to scan bookshelves at a library in the Nishifuna 1-chome district of Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, on March 12. (Shigeo Hirai)

And finally, as suggested by our Inclusive Services Consultant Laura Tadena, you can do something right now, even if your library building is closed:

Suggest a drone simulation video game to teens currently at home. They can get started playing with this emerging technology and practice flying one until they get the real thing. Here’s a free one.

Screenshot of a drone simulation video game

What about you? Anything I missed about drones? Send any further ideas, even flights of fancy (sorry), to ld@tsl.texas.gov care-of Henry Stokes.


A big thanks to LDN Office Assistant Tomas Mendez for his help researching links for this month’s highlight!

The Results are in! – 2019 TSLAC Texas Public Library Speed Test

In December 2019, TSLAC conducted its third Texas Public Library Speed Test, which provided a snapshot of public library Internet speeds across Texas. As we had done in 2016 and 2017, we provided an online network speed test tool for public libraries throughout Texas to test the Internet speed at each of their locations on a wired public access computer. The results (download and upload speed in Megabits per second, or Mbps) were automatically recorded for TSLAC to compile. For the 2019 test, 67% of accredited public libraries in Texas participated.  Network speeds from 494 locations were collected, representing 356 main libraries.  

Photo of Fort Worth Library Computer Lab
Fort Worth Public Library public access computers

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) outlined broadband targets for libraries and schools participating in the E-rate program in the recent E-rate Modernization Order. The Order adopted the following targets recommended by ALA (American Library Association):

  • 100 Mbps or greater – libraries serving fewer than 50,000 people
  • 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) or greater – libraries serving more than 50,000 people

In a separate action, the FCC recommended a minimum speed of 25 Mbps per household in 2015.

At the conclusion of the Texas Public Library Speed Test, TSLAC cross-referenced the collected data to the FCC’s broadband targets based on respondents’ population size.

Significant findings

30% of Texas public libraries (152 of 494 respondents) that reported results met the targets set by the FCC and ALA. This is a significant increase from 2016 and 2017 tests, when this percentage was a mere 6%. 

TSLAC’s efforts the last few years to promote high speed Internet and E-rate discounts to public libraries, as well as its successful Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT) program, have had a noticeable impact. But we still have a ways to go. The test results indicate that as much as 70% of Texas public libraries are below national broadband standards for libraries. In addition, 23% of reporting Texas public libraries did not meet the FCC’s minimum definition of broadband for individual households (25 Mbps). The 116 libraries that did not meet this minimum standard serve over 4 million Texans.  Public libraries providing patron computers and Wi-Fi access face greater demands than household networks, requiring faster speeds for patrons to efficiently access distance learning, e-government information, and employment opportunities.

Thank you to the public libraries for participating in TSLAC’s public library speed tests. We plan to conduct more in the future to measure impact and help us determine the current statewide needs for broadband. Collecting this data on regular basis benefits the entire Texas library community and will help us as we work to ensure that every Texan has the Internet access they need.

Next week: New TSLAC Webinar on Library Communication Strategies under COVID-19

Don’t miss next week’s webinar from TSLAC to learn more about library communication strategies under COVID-19, plus the current news on policy initiatives, funding, and available resources.

REGISTER now for a free TSLAC webinar coming up next week on Thursday, April 23, 2-3:30 pm CDT!

Webinar: “Texas Libraries: Planning and Communicating the Library Message and Services under COVID-19

Join Texas State Librarian Mark Smith and Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz for a discussion on strategies for planning and communicating the work of libraries during the current health crisis. Learn more about communications strategies you can implement today (see the resource PDF: “Planning for Libraries: Communications during COVID-19”) and find out about current state and national policy initiatives and funding related to the coronavirus. Also, members of the Library Development team will share some of the newest resources available to you.

When: Thursday, April 23, 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM CDT

Registration Link

CE: 1.5 hours

Hope you can join us!

HHH: Virtual Branch

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If your library has a website, you’ve got a virtual, or digital, branch.

So what happens when all the library’s buildings are closed, the books are locked away on their shelves, the computers and printers are shut down, and the staff are sent home? Is the library gone? Is it really closed?

There may be a “virtual branch” sitting on the Web somewhere for people to find, but does that count? That’s just web pages with the library’s address and hours, maybe some text that no one really reads, right?

I don’t think so. The virtual branch is so much more. Especially right now.

Today’s highlight is the Virtual Branch.


Many might think that library closures mean that the library’s gone away. That the job is over, all the essential services have stopped, that staff will have nothing to do. That the virtual branch, the library’s online website, is merely a sad placeholder, a shuttered, boarded-up storefront, useless and defunct, with a message at the top announcing: “Sorry, we’re closed.”

I want those who think this to reconsider. Here’s what a virtual branch can be, should be, even when the buildings and physical collections are inaccessible.

Photo of a smiling woman
Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

It’s PEOPLE.

Here’s what I hope folks understand: the virtual branch is still the people.

It’s YOU. It’s your friendly, helpful staff. It’s actual living library workers still doing the work they would do in the physical location, but now virtually. Many of the crucial services the library provides continue on. Even when the library is closed, the virtual branch can be actively open. You’re still helping your community..


Here’s a little video I made explaining more about a virtual branch, albeit back in far less crisis-y times:


Right now our communities are going to need help. This is the time for action. Libraries respond.

Picture of determined looking librarian

How will you respond to the various, and sometimes dramatically different, circumstances facing your patrons? For example, in a community for a public library:

  • People will be bored and need entertainment and diversion.
  • People with kids at home will need support for home schooling and parenting.
  • People working from home will need help with remote office technology.
  • People will be learning new skills, for example: finally getting to their home improvement projects.
  • People will be out of work and need help with unemployment filing, job training, job search and applications.

It’s that last one—the area of workforce development—that I believe is the most crucial. Folks in these situations could previously go visit a public library for the needed technology, good connectivity, and digital literacy help from the staff, but now they’ll need it all virtually.

At a minimum, libraries should use their virtual branch to provide up-to-date resources and show their communities how to access the services they need. They should be active users of their existing social media—to promote their digital content but also things like reader’s advisory—or try becoming active on social media for the first time.

There’s also programming that can be shifted to digital, using Zoom, Facebook Live, and other tools . Here are some great examples I’ve seen so far:

  • virtual storytime *
  • virtual book club meetings
  • yoga classes
  • tech training
  • Q&A’s about genealogy research
  • virtual ukulele class 🙂

* Need resources on streaming storytime? Check out the third tab in Youth Services (YS) Consultant Bethany Wilson’s awesome spreadsheet, Texas YS COVID-19 Resources

Don’t forget: We can still talk to our patrons over the phone. Google Voice can provide phone numbers for staff to provide reference services from home. Also, I’ve heard from one library considering playing a recording of an audio book over the phone for patrons to call in and listen to.


I would like to add more to the idea that the virtual branch goes beyond just the phone, website, e-resources, and social media. Now is the time for libraries to partner with other agencies and organizations, get outside the library (not necessarily physically), and join with all the forces on the front line helping your community.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Become reference librarians for other city/county organizations
  • Find other ways to provide patrons with Internet access who have none :
    • Track down those in your community offering free hotspots and circulate a local free WiFi map
    • Share free and low cost options for home Internet
  • Help facilitate access to telehealth.
  • Reach out to hospitals and determine if you can help. Do you have a 3D printer? There’s currently a widespread effort for maker spaces of all stripes, including libraries, to either donate 3D printers so faceguards can be printed, or print the faceguards themselves.
  • One library in Kentucky has set up its computers to run folding@home to add processing power for the study of COVID-19.
  • Assist with the 2020 Census – a critical tool to help support your community and ensure your patrons get counted and are seen.
  • Use video chat to be virtually present while patrons fill out census, do their taxes, get set up for telehealth, etc. Use screenshare if they’re struggling and move their mouse for them – just as you might do if you were sitting next to them physically at a library computer.

Final thought – from David Lee King:

Your library isn’t a building. It’s not a bunch of books. It’s made up of people and content. And interacting with people and content doesn’t have to stop just because the building is closed.

You can hear from him, plus several other library luminaries, in the recording of a free ALA webinar that happened yesterday (March 26) all about virtual services during the pandemic:

The recording is now available:

Recording: AL-Live- Libraries and COVID-19: Providing Virtual Services

Length: 1 hour

Description: Your physical library may be closed, but you can still offer direct services to your patrons. With many resources available digitally, and with the ability to provide reference via phone, chat, and virtual meeting tools, your services do not have to halt at a time when they are more important than ever. Please join our expert panel on Thursday, March 26 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern as they offer practical insights on how to make your virtual tools more efficient and how to get them off the ground if they weren’t being provided previously.



I want you all to know that Henry is here. Please keep in touch, and let me know how you’re doing and whether I can be of help! We’re all in this together and we’re going to get through this. And if you are a Texas public library with a Ploud website and need anything, I’m your man.

.

Help Us Improve the TSLAC Website

Help us improve our website!

Take 5-9 minutes to complete the TSLAC Website Survey.

bit.ly/tslacsurvey2020

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is conducting research to understand how the daily lives of Texans are touched by our work. The survey does not require that you have any knowledge or opinion of TSLAC, and our questions do not make any judgments about you whether you do or don’t. Your honest and straightforward responses will help us the most, so if you don’t know something, feel free to share that.

All responses are completely anonymous. While responses will be recorded to make use the data, we will not be able to track nor identify respondents in any way.

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Reminder: Last chance for public library staff to give TSLAC input on new CE opportunity

The State Library is considering a new kind of professional development opportunity in the future: loaning Emerging Technology Toolkits to Texas public library staff to check out so they can get a hands-on, self-paced introduction to the skills and resources that they may wish to use for future library programming and development.

We have created a survey as a chance for Texas public library staff to learn more about the idea and let us know their thoughts.

If you are a Texas public library staff member and haven’t filled out our survey yet, you have until this Friday, March 20. It should take less than five minutes to complete. We are grateful for your responses, no matter where your library falls on the technology spectrum. And please feel free to share the survey with any staff you have so they can learn about the concept and share their opinions as well.

Here is the link to the survey:

http://txstatelibrary.emergingtechtoolkits.sgizmo.com/s3/

Thank you!


– The CEC Team at TSLAC

HHH: Robots doing Storytime?!

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One of the most crucial, and IMHO, sacred services provided by a school or public library is storytime. I know I don’t need to elaborate on this further for my readership. 🙂

With the technology of artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly becoming more and more sophisticated, it’s no surprise that an AI’s abilities would start to approximate aspects of a library worker’s or storyteller’s talents.

We know the huge value of reading picture books frequently to, and most importantly *with*, preschool children. But what would it mean if AI helped perform this function? Is it an adequate replacement for a parent / caregiver or library staff member reading them a story?

Let’s dig in to the topic! Today’s Highlight is AI and Library Storytime.


I recently learned that local UT iSchool student Julia Sufrin participated in an unusual internship last summer where she helped create an AI that could tell a customizable story to a child. I thought it would be great to moderate a conversation with Julia and ask her some of my questions. Seeing as this is an area where both emerging technology and youth services intersect, I asked my fabulous co-worker Bethany Wilson, our Youth Services Consultant here at TSLAC, to join us.

You can play the video (embedded below) to hear our full, unedited 40 minute conversation, but I’ve also summarized our discussion for today’s Highlight (see below), or if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, you can even read the full transcript. *

* processed into text, I might add, with voice recognition brought to you by an AI using machine learning


Highlights from our Conversation:

Julia has an undergraduate degree in narrative theory and literary theory, and it was this particular background that got her the summer internship with the AI company. She joined a group of software developers and computer engineers to spend ten weeks building a machine that could generate children’s stories based on some preferences that you gave at the beginning and using its artificial intelligence.

Julia explained to Bethany and me that a lot of children’s stories are formulaic in their structure, which might make them possible to teach a computer system how to generate.

(Julia offered a lot more info about narrative theory and how this all worked with the AI tools she used, so if this interests you, please check out the transcript to read more).

Although still in its infancy stage, the potential for such a tool might mean children could use an AI to have personalized stories read to them, which could be especially useful to have if there are no grownups with a talent for storytelling around them.

At this, a skeptical Bethany shook her head and voiced her concerns:

“It takes out the interactivity piece between parents and children. There’s no opportunity for dialogic reading, which really allows the adult to prompt, evaluate, expand, and repeat what the child is saying  – to prompt them with questions, to interact with them so that they’re understanding how a conversation works, the back and forth of the conversation. And [the child is] being asked questions and prompted to speak during the story. I don’t know how you would program the AI to do that. Even the lack of the person’s mouth to see how words are formed is missing as well, if you don’t have another person involved. And that’s important when you’re building those early literacy skills for children before they begin the process of learning to read.”

Photo of a caregiver reading a picture book to an infant.

Julia agreed with Bethany, but didn’t think we should avoid the idea altogether:

“I don’t think that humans will ever be phased out of the storytelling relationship with children. I think it’s just so vital to our species to spend time together… and to help [children] through those periods of time. But I do think that we are seeing children interacting with technology from such an early age now that it’s inevitable that there will be some screen time. Unless you make a very serious effort to keep those things from your children, they’ll interact with intelligent agents just by picking up, you know, mom or dad’s phone… And the way I think about it is, sometimes a kid gets parked in front of a TV screen while the parent has to do something else. And in those instances, wouldn’t it be nice as an alternative [or a supplement] to TV… to have some kind of intelligent agent that’s stimulating the child like, [as] you said, ask questions?”

Julia then pointed out that this interactivity is already being incorporated into existing products such as Alexa’s apps for storytelling – where it prompts you for terms like MadLibs and incorporates them into story for you.

Bethany then asked if the AI would have the ability to answer a question from a child such as, ” What does sad mean?,” because, as Bethany put it:

“…one of the early literacy concepts is taking a new concept or a new word and likening it to something that the child has experienced. So a parent or a caregiver would be able to do that better than an AI would. And then there’s the opportunity for new vocabulary words in books. You’re going to hear dozens more words than you would hear in a daily conversation, like new words, like complex words. And that’s part of the story writing process for authors – it’s to incorporate as many new words and concepts into those storybooks as possible.  I think you could probably program the AI to do that easily. It’s the background knowledge piece that I’m wondering about.”

Julia agreed that it would indeed be difficult to do, as humans have the advantage to draw from their shared lived experience, which the child is a part of. This turned the conversation to talk about sophisticated deep neural networks and the black box aspect of how they work: With artificial intelligence at this deep level, Julia explained:

“…Something goes in, something magical happens inside the black box, and something comes out, and we don’t exactly know how. And so in the stories that we were writing over the summer, if the hero got a sword from the witch in the swamp, I knew exactly why it did that because I programmed it. I wrote the code that taught it that it can go get a sword from the witch in the swamp. With other algorithms that are more sophisticated and they’re taking in a lot more knowledge, what’s happening with the deep neural network is actually it’s observing and learning and teaching itself. And so it becomes near-impossible… for anyone to explain why it did what it did. Coders can’t even look at it. The engineers who wrote the code can’t tell you why it made those decisions.”

We discussed the initiative called Explainable AI which seeks to create AI that can explain why it made its decisions, and then we took a detour to talk briefly about another equally troubling aspect to AI: its current problem of unexpectedly generating misogynistic or racist content because the only data we fed it to make its decisions is from Twitter or the Internet at large – where the most amplified voices are often misogynistic and racist. The AI is only as good as the data it is given. We humans are the ones to blame.

Julia then wondered what would happen if deep neural networks were able to start telling stories themselves. She imagined they would be interesting but also troubling. She mentioned that Google had a visual tool called DeepDream that would render imagery but what it produced came out as weird nightmarish renderings of animals pooling out of each other. Would their stories be equally alien and bizarre?

A comparison that shows a photo after run through a DeepDream filter. Weird animal shapes appear.
Example of DeepDream: A photo I took on the left, and a photo after it’s gone through the DeepDream filter on the right
Photo of realistic human robot to illustrate the concept of Uncanny Valley

She also touched upon the concept of the Uncanny Valley, a phenomenon where humans can sense something is wrong with a simulated human. It’s why she thinks humans won’t really allow robots to be around our kids, that it’s more likely we’ll make them look like teddy bears – something as far removed from being human-like as we can get it.


Julia thought we should exercise a lot of caution:

“There’s so much that we don’t understand. I think about the way technology gets released and I compare it to how.. new medication gets released, and medication goes through several rounds of double-blind testing before it ever goes on the market. And Apple invents a new watch and suddenly we’re putting it on our wrists and there’s no long-term research. We don’t understand what is actually happening. And so when it comes to such a vulnerable group like children, and in a space that’s so special, like the library, I imagine we would want to exercise a lot of caution.”

Bethany brought us back to the topic of AI as a storyteller:

“I think you’re going to run into a lot of issues with AI as a storyteller. I mean, I just touched on a couple of them and I’m not an expert by any means. and the information that I have is from Supercharged Storytimes, which is of course you can take here free through WebJunction –  but it teaches you how to weave the early literacy concepts into your story times or into your storytelling. And I’m seeing issues with trying to do that with AI. Interactivity is one of the pillars of Supercharged Storytimes. And the interactivity that we’re looking for is also related to building a relationship with a parent/caregiver on a child. And that wouldn’t happen with an AI.  But then, on the flip side, you’re talking about the programming pieces, and I see a lot of opportunity for older children, maybe they don’t want to write the story themselves, but they’re really interested in coding. And if they could create a story that way, they’d be totally on board.”

Logo for" Supercharged Storytimes"

Julia agreed that coding would be a fun way to get a young adult interested in storytelling and in character development.

We then talked about the capability of AI to learn social emotional skills, feelings and emotions – which led us to a philosophical discussion of the nature of intelligence, whether its instinctual and programmable, how ethics could be taught to an AI, considering how humans already have so many systems of ethical thought themselves.

Julia mentioned an app called AI Buddy – a set of animated characters powered by AI that give support to kids of military personnel deployed to war. Because these children often have to travel around so much, start new schools, make new friends, having the consistency of AI Buddy provides a level of continuity as it talks to the child, remembers things about her and her family – forming something of a friendship. This possibility of AI to provide companionship was of particular interest to Julia.

Talk then turned about the ethical obligations to protect children’s privacy. I mentioned that we’ve already seen horrifying incidents such as CloudPets, a children’s toy that automatically uploaded the child’s voice recording files, as well as personal photos, to a place online that was accessible to anyone without even password protection. We also discussed persistent recognition systems, how they’re being used as witnesses in criminal cases. Bethany joked that : “This conversation really went all over the place!”

I then envisioned the possibility of a picture book that could not only generate and read a personalized story to child, but also fashion illustrations to accompany the text – all completely on-the-fly, with AI and digital paper.

Photo of an infant reading a book with illustrations.

Bethany liked the idea, and thought it could maybe be incorporated into a storytime, still tying it to and utilizing some of the early literacy concepts. She continued:

“Part of learning about how a book works is to follow along, put your finger under the words so that the kids understand how text works. So even to have the words starting to appear under the finger, [the caregiver could say] “It’s going this way” –  so [the child] can see it visually appearing on the page and [in] that direction… Or to mimic phonetics, the sounds. So sometimes the words are bigger so you make your voice bigger, or sometimes they make the word ‘bounce’ look like something that’s bouncing, [which would help] kids… understand the concept of bounce, for example.”

Julia also thought it would make for a great opportunity to teach children digital literacy – about who exactly is writing and reading them a story, the differences between an AI and a human, and about identity and subjectivity – providing background knowledge, which, as Bethany repeated, is a big part of early literacy best practices.

As an aside, I made the point that AI developers should really be working directly with library staff. So much of this is our domain.

Furthermore, I argued, the best stories will always come from humans anyway.

Julia agreed:

“Over the summer I kept waiting for the system to surprise me… and unfortunately… I wasn’t ever really surprised. It’s coming from the past. It’s coming from the data we gave it before.

I will say that after spending the summer doing this project and thinking really hard about: ‘What are stories? What do they do?’ How do we make them good? What is a good story? What’s a satisfying story?’,  I left wanting to, you know, spend more time writing. It stimulated me creatively, in my own sort of storytelling capacity. And because the entire internship was such a good story: All the people I met and the tools we used. But… I didn’t walk away from it fearing AI would corner the publishing industry and start generating all the new stories. I think it’s possible to generate the way that Babysitter’s Club books are generated – by ghost writers and stuff. Because there’s a formula. ‘[Hey, do you need] formulaic stuff? Sure, AI can do it.’ I think that kids are a little bit more clever. I think kids want new things. They want things that speak to their context and their moment. And children’s authors do that already with picture books and the stuff they include. So I think that AI will increasingly be used as another tool or medium for very talented humans to express their creativity.”

Bethany gave the final thought:

“I think you just nailed it with that. It’s not about the AI, it’s how it can be used to further some things. So it is the tool. It’s the vehicle, the vehicle for creating.”

A big thank you to our special guest Julia for the fascinating talk!

HHH: Library Tech for Victory!

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Hi there, Henry here.This month’s High-Tech Highlight is a special edition for the new year. I wanted to share a fun project of mine where I took three World War II recruitment posters and updated them (via Photoshop) to help highlight some of the new technology roles that modern library staff should adopt today.

You Can Do I.T. logo

But first, some background: The inspiration for this project stemmed from a promotional graphic I created back in 2014 for TSLAC’s You Can Do I.T. (YCDIT) technology training program. For the workshop series’ logo, I updated the iconic Rosie the Riveter image from the World War II propaganda poster. Re-dubbing her “I.T. Heidi”, I made her a TSLAC shade of blue, gave her a library symbol badge, and modified her flexing arm to proudly show off an ethernet cable. For my co-worker Cindy Fisher, who spearheaded YCDIT, I fashioned an action figure to take on the road as a kind of mascot, and we had a lot of fun asking participants to flex their arm, hold up a cable, and strike the ‘Heidi Pose’ for our cameras.

Recently, I was remembering those experiences and how empowering the image of I.T. Heidi was, just like her grandmother Rosie. I began musing about similar ways to encourage library staff to embrace the new technology roles that the profession has been rapidly adopting. World War II recruitment posters, like Rosie’s, encouraged American women to join the war effort by becoming workers in munitions factories, and I wondered if the same patriotic messaging style could be updated for today’s library staff with regard to technology.

Below are three examples with this idea in mind. Note that the ones on the left are the original recruitment posters, and those on the right are my updated library tech versions.


On the left, original poster shows  WOW (Woman Ordnance Worker) holding drill and working in factory. Captions say "Do the job HE left behind" and "Apply U.S. Employment Service." On the right, new poster shows  librarian holding ipad in front of a computer monitor and working in a library. Captions say "Teach Tech" and "Your Country Needs You".

Poster # 1: Teaching technology is a patriotic duty

“Your Country Needs You.”

The Second World War necessitated the recruitment of courageous American women to roll up their sleeves and work in factories. Their contributions and service to the country are irrefutable. Although not to serve a war effort, modern library staff also need to become trailblazers and bravely step out of their comfort zones and take on work they haven’t traditionally been involved with. To ensure the vitality of the U.S. economy, there’s a need to provide American citizens of all ages opportunities to engage with STEM/STEAM programming as well as learn computer and coding skills. Libraries are crucial community partners in this effort and a great resource to support patrons in gaining the tech skills essential to future employment and civic participation. Think of it as a patriotic duty to teach technology.

Further reading on how libraries are currently teaching technology:


On the left, original poster shows  WOW (Woman Ordnance Worker) holding wrench and imagining a soldier in the clouds. Caption below says "The Girl He Left Behind is Still Behind Him. She's a WOW".  On the right, new poster shows determined librarian holding an ethernet cord and a copy of Diary of Wimpy Kid and imagining a family of kids in the clouds.  Caption below says "Get 'em to read, Get 'em high speed."

Poster # 2: Broadband is a library service equal to books

“Get ’em to read, get ’em high speed”

Improving the literacy of a community is a cornerstone of what libraries do, and it always will be. Libraries should unashamedly continue to be buildings filled with books, and library staff should be motivated to put those books in people’s hands to read. Humanity’s future relies on it. But there’s something new added to this already successful, civilization-saving mix that can’t be denied: broadband

For my second poster, I decided to start with the traditional image of a library staff member gripping a gateway book (in my case: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”) and gazing with determined purpose at a group of youth with whom she hopes to foster a life-long love of reading. Then I added an ethernet cable to her other hand to give it equal weight in her objective. Providing free high speed Internet has become an important and critical service for libraries. The Homework Gap is preventing children who lack adoption of broadband at home to succeed in school. Libraries act as bridges, reaching across the divide to connect patrons to the information and services they need, even if it means providing a safe, Internet-connected place to get their homework done. Literacy now takes many forms: digital, media, information, etc. And libraries can boost their signal strength out into their communities in more ways than one.

Further reading on how libraries are getting folks high speed Internet access, and what they can do with it:


On the left, original poster shows determined WOW (Woman Ordnance Worker) with bomb shell in front of her and a graphic showing the different hats of the various wartime roles. Caption below says "She's a WOW". On the right, new poster shows determined librarian with WiFi modem in front of her and a graphic showing symbols of different crises (hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, social unrest). Caption below says "Libraries Respond and Provide Refuge".

Poster # 3: Disaster Response

“Libraries respond and provide refuge”

When disasters, emergencies, and other crises strike, libraries stand strong in their communities as anchor institutions to provide immediate support. Besides acting as safe spaces for people to share news and resources, they are trusted curators of authoritative, often life-saving, information. The free electricity, WiFi, and computer access can be a crucial life-line to those who need it, particularly disadvantaged populations. Libraries also connect the affected to essential services, helping them fill out e-government forms. They help alleviate confusion and disorientation and provide distractions and entertainment so community members can take the necessary steps toward recovery.

It’s also worth nothing that it’s not just in the event of disasters that libraries respond and provide refuge They’re fair weather friends, too, and like Elsa, cold never bothered them anyway.

Further reading on how libraries can develop disaster response:


I will leave you with one more bonus poster, riffing on the idea that libraries are so much more than places to get books; they’re also communities’ technology hubs.

On the left, original poster has women working for the war effort at home with caption "Soldiers without guns". On the right, new poster has smiling librarians holding ipad, ethernet cord, iphone and computer, with caption "Librarians without books"

Apply NOW for E-rate funding with help from FREE consultants

It’s E-rate Season!

That means it’s time for accredited public libraries to apply for big discounts on their broadband services! Libraries are eligible to receive up to 90% on their monthly Internet access costs, plus equipment and cabling, through E-rate, the federal discount program which puts billions of dollars aside each year for schools and libraries.

The Filing Window to submit the second form, the Form 471, starts TODAY (January 15) and will close Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 10:59 PM Central. This means that the first form, the Form 470, should be submitted asap in order to have time for the required 28 days of competitive bidding. The deadline for the Form 470 is February 26

E-rate funding becomes essential in enabling libraries to afford attaining basic national standards of broadband for their communities and to continue providing patrons efficient access to distance learning, e-government information, and employment opportunities.

Take advantage of FREE consultants this year!

This year, as part of TSLAC’s Libraries Connecting Texas project, accredited public libraries in Texas can use the free expertise of E-rate Central who will help them file the forms correctly and on time. 

NOTE: Last chance to get free, E-rate consultant help is Friday, February 1!

For more information about E-rate and getting started with the free help with LCT, please see TSLAC’s E-rate page or contact TSLAC’s E-rate Coordinator, Henry Stokes, at 512-463-6624, hstokes@tsl.texas.gov.

Logo for Libraries Connecting Texas Project



Next Thursday: E-rate Webinar

As a follow up to yesterday’s post about E-rate Category 2 changes and the possibility of public libraries getting significant discounts on cabling and Internet equipment, there will be a free, 1 hour webinar next Thursday, December 19 from 3 to 4 PM Central conducted by the folks at E-rate Central to discuss all things E-rate and Category 2.

It’s true: E-rate and Category 2 can get very complicated. Even if you are brand new to E-rate, the presenters promise to provide a simplified approach in explaining this opportunity for library staff.

Please register for:

Category 2 Funding for FY 2020 and Beyond – for Texas Applicants

Time: Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 3:00 PM Central

===> REGISTER HERE

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Description:

The long-awaited FCC Order on Category 2 funding was released on December 3 making FY 2020 a transition year with extra funding and resetting all five-year Category 2 budgets as of FY 2021.  FY 2020 provides a unique funding opportunity for applicants who have used little or no Category 2 funding.  New Category 2 funding rules for FY 2021 will change how applicants file for these discount.

Category 2 funding is not the only action recently taken by the FCC that will affect E-rate funding for FY 2020 and beyond.  This webinar with also discuss the Eligible Services List for FY 2020, the new National Security Threat rules, the new proposals for suspension and debarment procedures, and other issues for the coming year.