Humanities Texas invites Texas cultural and educational institutions that suffered losses or damages to humanities collections as a result of the February 2021 winter storm, or incurred costs related to resuming humanities programming that was postponed or cancelled as a result of the storm, to apply for fast-track Recovery Grants.
All around the state, libraries are promoting the TexShare databases to their students and patrons for research, homework help, genealogy, and more. We at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) think the TexShare databases are worth shouting about. And so are the libraries that are doing the shouting, helping give their community access to its amazing and life-changing suite of resources. We want to give a big TexShare ShoutOut to all the great efforts.
Hondo Public Library
Elsie Purcell, Library Director at Hondo Public Library, had a couple of people comment that they hadn’t known about the databases before, so Elsie wrote several articles about them.
In Hondo, all new members receive three brochures: a basic one about the library, memberships, fines, etc.; one about Libby/Overdrive; and one about the online resources (copy attached). This includes their county patrons who were recently added through COVID funding from their County Commissioners.
Before the pandemic, they used to hold an annual Teacher Appreciation event and share information about the resources available for them and their students. Library staff talk to them about the databases for their students including Learning Express for STAAR test practice but also about Teaching Books.net for the teachers to use in lesson planning.
Twice a year, Hondo holds a 7 week program called Hondo U; citizens apply to attend and each week they learn about one of the departments or divisions of the City. Elsie’s portion of the presentation is limited to 15-20 minutes during our week but she does manage to make a brief mention of the databases to them.
Elsie has done two videos as part of their virtual programming – Friday Facts and Fun. These are posted to Facebook and then uploaded to YouTube.
While Bee Cave Public Library has been closed to the public, they’ve been working on online tutorials for their digital resources. They added a page to their website to explain their digital resources and a page that links to all of their video tutorials. Topics include an overview of TexShare, Explora Elementary, Credo Reference, and Learning Express Library.
They also created a fun video spoofing Dead Poets Society to highlight both TexShare and the work their reference librarians do. TexShare Society tells the story of a teen doing remote learning and his mom trying to find research help for a homework project. The librarian helps them “seize the database” and directs them to the many resources that TexShare offers.
For the first three, they have the bookmarks provided by TSLAC in holders out in the stacks near the Dewey numbers. They did print on mailing labels the website and log-on information so that patrons can easily access.
For the Small Engine Repair database, they advertised it using a flyer.
For the medical databases, they created miniature brochures that they could easily slip into their pocket or purse in case patrons felt discomfort or embarrassment to discuss with staff.
Northeast Lakeview College Library
The Northeast Lakeview College Library, part of the Alamo Colleges District, has been making a huge push to let their students, faculty, and staff know about their databases and how to access them. They have been using weekly blog posts to let students, faculty, and staff know what databases they have access to through the library. In most cases, they are spotlighting a database, showing how to conduct searches, and narrowing results to get their visitors to the most useful information in their research. This has been a successful campaign with more than 450 views from June 2020 to January 2021.
Please send what you or another library are doing to promote the databases and any ideas for the “TexShare ShoutOuts” blog series to: firstname.lastname@example.org
In May 2019, I highlighted the topic of telehealth for my Henry’s High-Tech Highlights blog series. I think it’s high time we take another look. Before this year, telehealth was a fairly new technology that only a handful of folks were thinking about and exploring. With the pandemic, it’s risen to the forefront of people’s minds, becoming more relevant than ever. Suddenly we need telehealth implemented everywhere, on a massive scale, as communities, especially rural ones, are facing a worsening health crisis. Many lack local healthcare facilities to visit and the necessary Internet connectivity to make virtual doctor visits work. Libraries around the country are poised to be the perfect partners in these efforts to bring this critical need to the community, and we just happen to have a pioneer right here in Texas leading the charge.
Today’s highlight: Telehealth at the library
First off, why do folks need telehealth access, especially now?
Rural hospitals have been closing at a catastrophic rate.
Many people in rural areas are located far from any hospitals.
There’s also a lack of transportation options (no public transit) for folks to physically travel to the hospital.
Even when transportation is available, patients are often reluctant to travel outside of their area.
And most significantly, there is insufficient broadband access, a requirement for telehealth, in many residents’ homes.
Additionally, many of retirement age buy homes in rural areas to live, but when they find they need more healthcare, they end up selling their homes and returning to the cities due to the lack of access. Adding telehealth services to libraries means these seniors could receive the healthcare they need, thus allowing them to stay, age in place, and have the quality of life they desire. Libraries have the opportunity to be transformative, helping to maintain the vitality of their communities.
Why are libraries the perfect telehealth partners?
It’s a place already in communities to serve people’s needs that people trust.
It has friendly, helpful staff who respect privacy and are pros at teaching digital literacy skills.
It often has free high speed Internet, faster than many might get at home.
I think libraries and telehealth go great together, so I decided to make another promotional poster based on ones from World War 2 to support telehealth services at libraries.
Despite the great match-up of libraries and telehealth, there are very few examples in the U.S. I’m pleased to report that Texas is leading the pack in this regard.Pottsboro Area Library, a very small rural library an hour and a half north of Dallas, has a new telehealth pilot project in partnership with University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNT-HSC).
Last week, I invited Dianne Connery, former Director (now Special Projects Librarian) at Pottsboro Area Library and Jessica Rangell from UNT-HSC, to present during a monthly Zoom “TechChat” for TLA’s Innovation and Technology Round Table (ITRT) to discuss the facts I’ve outlined above and give a brief update on the pilot.
Here is a youtube recording of the 30 minute chat from 2/25/2021 if you want to watch the whole thing, but I’ve also highlighted the key points below.
During her talk, Dianne described how patrons would come into the library during the early days of the pandemic, reporting that their doctors wanted to talk to them but didn’t want them coming in for appointments for fear of contracting Covid. Unfortunately, a virtual visit wasn’t possible for these patrons since they didn’t have Internet access at home. What were these patrons supposed to do?
Dianne had recently installed fiber at her library in order to support an innovative eSports program, so she knew the library’s Internet was up to snuff for a video-conferencing call. At first, she ended up setting up telehealth visits for these patrons in her office so they could have their doctors’ appointments. This was just a stopgap solution, however. A clear need was being articulated by the community, and Dianne wanted to do more to address the issue.
Investigating further, Dianne discovered a grant available from the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) – South Central Region (SCR). She applied and was awarded funding to pay for lighting (more on that later), health collection development, hardware (webcam, microphone, computer), signage, and marketing materials so that she could set up an innovative telehealth pilot with her partners at UNT-HSC.
How It Works
Step 1: If someone in the community has the need for telehealth, they make a call directly to the Health Science Center to make the reservation. This protects their privacy (library staff never knows the names, only the times of the appointments). This is especially important in a small town where everyone may know each other.
Step 2: Once the reservation is made, the patient can come into the library to a special designated room that is staffed by healthcare professionals. Besides the registration, the payment process and screening for Covid is all handled through the Health Science Center.
Here are a few more points made by the presenters:
Offering this kind of telehealth service is scalable to any size library.
A library doesn’t need to have a separate dedicated room.
It also requires good lighting to ensure clinicians can diagnose their patrons with the same visual information they would have in person.
As mentioned in my intro, many are now abuzz about telehealth due to the pandemic’s highlighting of the ever-widening digital divide. Legislators and funding providers are eager to support projects like this and bring telehealth to communities. So keep on the look-out; funding is coming!
A Community of Practice
With her pilot, Dianne says she’s building the plane as she’s flying it, just winging it really. This is such new terrain we’re all in. We will all benefit from the lessons learned from her attempt, but let’s get the conversation going and develop a community of practice.
Some questions to explore:
What kind of training do library staff need to set up and implement telehealth services?
How should libraries advertise this new service and reach people where they are?
How should libraries implement good workflows to deal with infection control issues?
What are considerations not thought of?
What more can be done in this space? For example, could it be made mobile to visit patients where they are – such as in nursing homes and assisted living facilities?
Are you considering telehealth at your library, or are you already doing it? Want to learn more? Please email me with subject line “Telehealth” if you have stories, ideas, or resources to share – or if you just want to stay in the loop with regard to library telehealth in Texas.
Please join us for a TSLAC update and discussion on the future outlook for Texas libraries.
Learn about statewide efforts to support communities during this time and hear about upcoming opportunities, budget considerations, and how libraries can look to the future. Your questions and thoughts are most welcome!
Program details are below. We hope to see you later this week!
TSLAC Update – Current status and future outlook for TSLAC and Texas libraries When: Fri, November 20, 10am – 11am (CST)
State Librarian Mark Smith, Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz, and the members of the Library Development and Networking team will discuss the current state of library issues, programs, and opportunities.
Attendance at the LIVE program qualifies for 1 hour of Texas State Library Continuing Education credit (CPE eligible for Texas educators). Printed certificates will not be issued. A follow-up email will be sent within 5 days of the event to individuals who attended the live Webinar. Attendees are advised to save and/or print the follow-up email as it will serve as proof of attendance for CE purposes.
This webinar will be recorded; however for maximum benefit, including the ability to ask questions in real time, we strongly encourage you to attend the live session. If you use assistive technology and the format of any material related to this training event interferes with your ability to access the information, please email LD@tsl.texas.gov. To enable us to respond in a manner most helpful to you, please indicate the nature of your accessibility issue, the preferred format in which to receive the material, the date and title of the training event, and your contact information.
I’ve highlighted a lot of exciting technologies in this blog series, but there is one out there right now that I believe libraries should be making every effort to acquire and take advantage of, if they haven’t already. Harnessing it will ensure that both the library and the community it serves will continue to thrive in the future. The technology I’m talking about is fiber optic cable connectivity.
Today’s highlight: Fiber
Social media giant Facebook announced earlier this month that they’ve been collaborating with a number of partners to develop a robot that can deploy fiber optic cables quickly over power lines. This dramatically reduces the cost of fiber construction.
[Nerdy fun fact that I personally love: they nicknamed the robot “Bombyx”, scientific name for a silk moth. Get it?]
Why is Facebook making an acrobatic silkworm robot? Around the world, 3.5 billion people are still not connected to the Internet. And for those who have access, average data usage per person is growing 20 to 30 percent annually, pushing current capacity to its limits. To address these issues, Facebook says, “fiber must be brought from the backbone closer to the end user.” For them, that means pursuing innovations like Bombyx.
I, for one, welcome our new robot fiber deliverers.
What is fiber?
To put it poetically, it’s light-filled glass connecting us to a better tomorrow. I’m inspired to describe it this way because of the book I’m currently reading: “Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution―and Why America Might Miss It” by Susan Crawford. In her book, Crawford sings fiber’s praises and makes excellent points about why fiber deployment is the key to the nation’s success.
On her love of the technology of fiber, Crawford writes:
“Inventors have found ways to encode stunning amounts of information on pulses of light vibrating billions of times per second, and then send that light on its journey through a channel made of the purest glass on earth.”
Fiber, Crawford explains, is a physical connection that needs to be distributed to each individual building for it to be harnessed. The same is true for copper and cable, of course, but fiber is more flexible and doesn’t require recipients to be close to a central physical hub.Perhaps the biggest advantage of fiber is one doesn’t have to dig the existing cables back up to make an upgrade. Those cables can stay where they are, and they last for decades. One just has to “swap out the electronics that encode and power the pulses of light,” which are easily accessible above ground. This means that fiber is almost infinitely upgradeable, and it’s why so many consider it a future-proof technology, unlikely to become obsolete any time soon.
Needed for the future
Many of the emerging technologies I have highlighted for HHH are ones we expect to be a big part of our lives in the future. And here’s the truth: they require fiber infrastructure to work in the first place.
So many of us use our smartphone in the outside world away from our homes, and we might be forgiven for thinking that wireless connectivity is a wholly separate technology from a wired connection. But they’re actually complimentary―WiFi requires a fast wired connection for it to work. Fiber, plus advanced wireless capability, as we’d see with the predicted 5G revolution, is, as Crawford writes, “central to the next phase of human existence as electricity was a hundred years ago.”
5G means that enormous amounts of data can be shipped to whenever and wherever they’re needed. This allows the Internet of Things (IoT) to be implemented in our towns and cities to improve citizens’ lives, solving problems like traffic and the handling of fires and accidents, among many other things.
Fiber also enables Augmented Reality (AR). All that visual annotation occurring in real-time, or the piping in of live video feeds into our field of vision while we are out in the world―these features require fiber-enabled 5G connectivity. In her book, Crawford asks us to imagine an apprentice training in a remote factory using directions from AR, rather than having to go to the physical central training location. It means those in rural areas will have equal access to the same privileges as their urban counterparts.
And of course, telehealth. Crawford writes, “Every part of the health care system could be vastly improved by eliminating distance, bringing data, doctors, and counselors where they’re needed via communication networks, rather than making 330 million Americans travel to where these specialists and databases are.”
Finally, Crawford thinks we may not fully grasp the value of having even faster speeds with fiber―particularly with regard to interacting remotely. Currently when we video conference with one another (an activity many of are having to do a whole lot more of), there are still lags when virtually communicating. Crawford points out that this delay means eye contact between people is not genuine. It’s something we humans actually notice, and subconsciously the interaction doesn’t fully satisfy us. It feels virtual, inferior. With the fiber-enabled higher speeds, we can overcome this dissatisfaction and unease. The closer we make our remote, virtual interactions feel like we are physically present with each other, the better the social connection, which could make a big impact in how we embrace the technology and use it in the future. Crawford writes, “Fiber will allow us to be present in others’ lives in ways we cannot now imagine.”
The truth is we can’t wait for the future to come.
The current crisis is revealing just how much of a digital divide we have in the United States. The alarm was raised long before the pandemic when it was pointed out that students who lacked Internet access at home were unable to complete their mandatory online homework, causing them to lose valuable educational opportunities and fall behind their classmates. Called the “homework gap,” this discrepancy and inequality of access created immediate disadvantages for many people. But in the times we’re living in now, with schools closing and having to switch to virtual classrooms, it means these same kids can no longer even participate in school activities at all. And, it should be pointed out, it’s not just Internet access that’s needed, but fast, affordable and reliable Internet access. Students may have an Internet-enabled device at home, but it may not be connected to the higher speeds needed to handle the video conferencing technology school use for their classes. What we’re seeing is that it’s not just a homework gap any more; it’s a learning gap. And we need a solution now. We needed it yesterday.
When public library buildings closed, similar issues were faced by many adults, who lost access to crucial services and opportunities. So many paths to success in life rely now on having online access: job search and training, healthcare information, communicating with loved ones, etc. Many people’s sole computer is their smartphone, and they must pay for data to access the Internet. Free available WiFi found at public libraries is a way to not only access the needed services but also to save money. Taking away the library’s Internet revealed just how many folks relied on it. Closing the library building and stopping the transmission of its Internet access is self-destructive. The community is stifled and starved, lacking in its source of nourishment to grow. This is why so many libraries are trying to lend out wireless hotspots and extend their WiFi into their parking lots.
It’s not just the schools or libraries. A BroadbandNow report released in February said that only 25 percent of American have access to fiber, versus 87 percent for China’s 1.4 billion population. We are way behind. Everyone has a right to fast Internet speed right now. And those who don’t have it may suffer and become further disadvantaged.
Getting fiber to the library is a good start.
How are public libraries getting fiber?
If a library isn’t receiving fiber, and no service provider is offering it at an affordable cost to the area, consider the following:
Advocate for fiber infrastructure to be brought to your community, either locally or nationally.
Apply for federal E-rate discounts to afford the costs not only for special construction to build out the fiber to the library building, but for the cost of the Internet access itself.
Look for any existing fiber infrastructure in your community that can be leveraged. State appropriated funding in Texas helped support school districts in building expensive fiber rings across the state. We’re now seeing public libraries partnering with those same school districts to start taking advantage of their fiber connectivity. In many cases, the fiber ring was built so physically close that the cost to connect the library is minimal. Often in these partnerships, libraries join forces with the schools as part of a single consortium to apply for federal E-rate discounts.
[Interested in learning more about how libraries are ensuring patrons still get their needs met through library technology in the age of COVID-19? Sign up for an interactive discussion facilitated by TSLAC on August 18, 2-3:30 p.m. CDT: “Texas Technology Chat – Library Technology for Contactless Service” (1.5 hr CE credit). Register here.]
Originally, before the pandemic, new contactless technologies such as self-service kiosks and patron print management tools were developed for use in libraries for two main reasons:
Make staff more efficient at their job
Provide extra convenience for patrons
Depending on a library’s size or situation, implementing these features could be seen as merely perks, even unnecessary frills. They were often just nice add-ons, ways to make the library feel more modern and state-of-the-art.
It wasn’t too hard to level criticism at these particular contactless services back then. They could be considered barriers to connection between the library and the community it served. Using them meant patrons had little to no interaction with staff, thought to be the heart of the library. The concern was patrons might lose that personal touch that should go with library services, and the library itself would become more remote and distant. Soulless, automated machines would serve as the face of the library, replacing the crucial community-building work of friendly, caring, and human staff. Beyond the thinking in this regard, there was the added expense and staff training sometimes needed to implement this new technology. And for many, it was seen as an unnecessary reliance on new technology to perform library services that had traditionally been done by hand (and quite well, thank you) for as long as libraries have been around.
And then the pandemic happened.
We’re seeing now that there is suddenly a new purpose to these contactless technologies: safety! No longer are they nice perks; they’re necessary and potentially life-saving.
One can now add the following reasons to implement:
Prevent close social interaction with staff
Prevent patrons from waiting in line or being forced to gather in small spaces with other patrons
Allow patrons to minimize time in the library as much as possible
Efficiency (reason # 1) is even more important now if libraries are experiencing staff loss or volunteers being let go. With brand new safety measures and pandemic-related services to be performed, staff have less time to handle the basic services of circulation, public access computer management, printing, etc. To list just a few of the added tasks: clean surfaces repeatedly, fill curbside orders, present virtual programs, assist patrons phoning in to make appointments to come into the building, etc., etc.
One big change is there often needs to be less public access computers due to spacing requirements, ensuring patrons stay six feet apart. Having less computers means more demand, so a library needs a new system in place, if there wasn’t one already, that sets reservations and enforces time limits –or needs to include more portable computers like laptops and tablets so patrons can use these devices throughout the space to stay socially distant from one another.
To sum up: self-service used to mean efficiency and convenience. Now self-service equals safety.
Decades ago, with the emergence of computers and networks, libraries had a significant phase of automation to convert their card catalogs to OPACs and ILSs. Now we are entering the Second Age of Automation. It’s not only the catalogs, but every library service that needs to become automated to make it contactless and safe.
To help guide you through this new technological age we’re living in now, Digital Inclusion Consultant Cindy Fisher and I (with the help of our new Continuing Education Support Specialist Tomas Mendez —thanks, Tomas!) have put together a list of products for contactless services.
Reference, patron assistance, information/research help
Third party virtual programming software (by subject)
General building safety
Here are a few of the innovative highlights from the grid that may not have occurred to some:
To make curbside more efficient for staff and convenient for patrons, deploy 24/7 smart lockers outside of the library building for patrons to retrieve their holds.
If a staff member can’t position themselves next to a patron’s computer nor physically take control of their mouse and keyboard to assist them, screen mirroring software can be employed, even on the staff member’s personal tablet held at least six feet away.
For a scenario with the least amount of contact possible within the building, patrons can bring their own device to the library and use an app to not only scan the desired materials for check-outthemselves, but even automatically desensitize the RFID labels/detection strips via the same app before exiting.
With the complete loss of in-house programming, employ third-party, resource-rich online software to help conduct them virtually. This could be for social gaming, crafting, coding, to name a few. There are also services to provide live one-on-one job search coaching and homework tutoring for your patrons at their homes.
If you’d like to discuss the topic of library tech for contactless service further, please join our free interactive discussion webinar on August 18, 2-3:30 p.m. (all library types and sizes welcome!). We hope to see you there!
Fifty library workers from a variety of library types and from around the country will be selected to attend the symposium, with travel and accommodations covered courtesy of the IMLS grant. The Forum is scheduled for June 8-9, 2020 in College Station, Texas.
The Libraries and Veterans National Forum is intended to move forward the conversation about veteran and military-affiliated patrons in libraries.
To that end, we particularly encourage library workers who are actively engaged in working with these communities to apply to attend. We also want to extend a specific invitation to library workers from traditionally underrepresented groups and those who work with underrepresented groups within the veteran and military communities to apply to attend.
I’m excited to announce I’ll be presenting a free 1 hour webinar later this month about Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (XR) in libraries with my colleague Liz Philippi, School Program Coordinator at TSLAC. This is going to be a lot of fun, so I’ll hope you’ll join us. Scroll down to click that registration link at the bottom (or click right here!)
The Future in Your Face: Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality in Libraries
Thursday, October 24 2019, 10-11am CDT
Behind the scenes, in workshops all around the world, powerful wizards are fashioning new realities, tinkering with how we interact with content and our own visual environment, and offering new opportunities to enhance our day-to-day lives. These creators are set to unleash their worlds in a big way, literally making them materialize all around us. The writing’s on the (virtual) wall: The Future is about to get up in your face. Our communities need libraries to hold their hands and help them take the first, bold step into this new world. Join TSLAC’s School Program Coordinator Liz Philippi and Library Technology Consultant Henry Stokes of ‘Henry’s High-tech Highlights’ as they take you through the latest tech trends in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) with a focus on libraries. They’ll start with placing this emerging tech in context with other technologies throughout time, plot out for you the current AR/VR landscape, and describe various use cases they’ve collected. They’ll also outline the important roles libraries can play in the coming Wizarding World, including free to low cost ways to get started. All library types welcome!
As community centers and social connectors, and as providers
of trusted information, libraries can play an important role in helping their
communities heal after mass shootings. In this blog post we share a few resources
and documents that library staff may be interested in using when assisting
community members, co-workers and themselves.
ASPR TRACIE’s Post-Mass Shootings Programs and Resources Overview ASPR is the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. TRACIE is the Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange operated by the ASPR. This document, recently updated in April 2019, contains both programs and resources that are available to communities affected by mass shootings. Please note: Spanish language resources on pages 6 and 7.
APA What Happens to the Survivors “Long term outcomes for survivors of mass shootings are improved with the help of community connections and continuing access to mental health support.” An excellent article that reiterates the importance of community-based events and community connection in healing after a mass shooting.
Colorín Colorado – 15 Tips for Talking with Children About Violence “These suggestions for parents and educators provide guidance on how to talk about school violence or mass violence in a community, discuss events in the news, and help children feel safe in their environment. These resources were originally compiled following the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The article has been updated as new resources are made available.” Please note: links to a downloadable tip sheet from the National Association of School Psychologists on how to talk to children about violence and safety, translated into multiple languages.
The Healing Library “The Healing Library is a series of kits designed to make a family’s journey of healing following a trauma easier to navigate and personalize. Designed with the intention of being lent out by libraries, the materials for these scalable kits are available for free to download and assemble yourself.” In the aftermath of a mass shooting, libraries may be interested in the kit, “The Death of a Loved One.”
SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: Incidents of Mass Violence A popular resource linked from several of the resources cited above, we include this link because it contains more detailed information about the Disaster Distress Helpline for those who might be deaf/hard of hearing and/or Spanish speakers. It also contains downloadable helpline brochures and wallet cards (see the links along the right side of the page).
Please contact us any time with questions about this or any
other topic at email@example.com, 1-800-252-9386,
or 512-463-5465. Libraries are the cornerstones of strong, resilient
communities, and TSLAC is committed to supporting the important work you all do
Regardless of whether you are urban, suburban, or rural, or serve smaller or larger populations, if you work at a library, school, or university, you are a target for ransomware attacks.
Not sure what ransomware is?
You’re not alone. A recent study showed that 64% of working adults don’t know either. And that’s a problem because ransomware is on the rise and getting more and more sophisticated, targeting businesses of all sizes and in all parts of the country. Libraries are no exception.
Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) that takes over your computer system until a sum of money is paid. Usually this means that your files become encrypted and only the attackers know the key. When a targeted organization’s servers are infected, many of the most important services are shut down and held hostage. For a library, this may result in no access to the public computers or WiFi, to the library’s website and ILS to borrow materials, as well as to other digital services that patrons have come to rely upon everyday.
Are people actually paying the money?
Turns out that 30-60% are indeed paying the ransom, but reports reveal the sad truth that 20% of them never get their data back. In these instances, the criminals get paid but don’t end up following through with providing the key. Not only that, but reinfection rates are skyrocketing with even the backups (meant to help safeguard against attacks) getting hit too.
The main defense of antivirus software is often not enough. 94% of victims had the antivirus software running when hit by ransomware. This is because traditional anti-virus software uses blacklisting – a technique to locate malware files and deny them access or ability to install or be run. But this doesn’t work as well as it used to. Ransomware is morphing way too fast with 99% of it lasting only 58 seconds, and even then, it’s only seen once. As a result, the blacklisting antivirus software can’t keep up. So what if it found one and kept it at bay? So many more are popping up, like overwhelming armies of undead, trying to breach the walls. An even more sobering thought is that ransomware is getting easier and easier for the criminals to do; it’s fully automated now with cheap kits and how-to guides readily available on the Dark Web.
Phishing (read my blog post for more info) is usually the culprit, or an infected email message opened by a staff member. The real cause is what’s called the “Human Factor”. The people themselves are the weakest link in cybersecurity.
How do you prevent it?
Here are five ways to defend against the infection and impact of cryptoviral extortion:
Start with staff education. Make sure everyone working at the library has training on basic online security practices such as how to avoid phishing attempts. Need curriculum? There are great resources from the Digital Patron Privacy Project and the Library Freedom Institute.
Strengthen your password policies. Passwords are the main line of defense we use to secure our data. If passwords are weak, one is really opening oneself up to malware attacks. See how strong a password is from a password check site.
Use multi-factor authorization (MFA) whenever it is available. This is the next level of protection beyond the single password. Google accounts, for example, encourage 2-step verification where users must provide both their password, plus an additional code sent immediately to their phone via text or voice call. It’s recommended to use MFA on all administrative accounts.
Keep software, including the antivirus and OS (operating system), patched and up to date.
Have backups and test them fully, not just that the files are restored. You may consider doing backups every night, with an offsite backup every 30 days. This way, if an attack does happen, you are prepared.
Help! My library was attacked with ransomware! Now what?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if the library is attacked and you want to handle it without paying:
Find out what was affected and encrypted. Cloud-based, third party vendors (such as for websites, ILS software) may have data protected from the attackers’ hijacking. If you find that you can still navigate the system and access files, the ransomware notice may just be a fake attempt to scare you and you can ignore the ransom note. If it is indeed encrypting ransomware, ensure that credit card information stored for patrons to pay fines or other sensitive data like Social Security or driver’s license numbers weren’t compromised.
To restore your data, there may be a logistical headache in your future. You may have to research decryptors that can remove your particular strand of malware. You may also have to go analog for a bit while you address the problem and begin checking out library materials the old-fashioned way, with paper and pen.
Be sure to be transparent with patrons about the situation, confirming exactly what information was and wasn’t affected. It will put them at ease and should even generate good will and sympathy towards the library. Also, use good communication. Place signs above the shut down computers, for example, and notify trustees, the county council, media outlets, etc.
Two weeks ago, Daviess County Public Library in Kentucky was a victim of ransomware. One can learn a lot from how they handled it. Check out this one-minute video they made for their patrons, thanking them for their patience. I think it does a great job of communicating the issue (in a fun, not overly-panicky way), as well as showing how much hard work is involved and how good-natured and dedicated the staff is. Well worth a watch!
If you’d like to learn more about the Kentucky library attack, this article includes a description of exactly how much data was lost and how they handled the process of inventorying their entire collection.They were able to piece together quite a lot of their information because they were using vendors that had cloud storage. Their patron information was the hardest hit it seems:
“Because we work with other companies, our data is shared, that was not affected,” she said. “We were able to go to them and say we need that info. We mostly lost the patron account information. Anyone that got a new account or updated their account since April 2018 will have to come back in so we can get them set up in the system. We have change of address forms with the basics. They will fill that out and we will have data entry people setting that up.”
If you are at a Texas library and have more questions about phishing, passwords, multi-factor authorization, backups, ransomware, and digital patron privacy, contact Henry Stokes at the Texas State Library, 512-463-6624. The Continuing Education & Consulting (CEC) team is available to provide in-person workshops on this topic as well.