Representative Rush Holt (NJ) Teleconference Addresses Health Resources Demand at Libraries

By Gladstone Payton
Congressional Affairs Officer, IMLS

Libraries play an important role in connecting people to information about their health; in fact more than 28 million people used a library computer for health information in one year. Library staff across the country are making an effort to learn everything they can about quality health information resources.

In fact, on Tuesday, February 18, many New Jersey librarians dialed in on a snowy morning to join their one of their congressmen, Representative Rush Holt (NJ) along with IMLS Director Susan Hildreth, New Jersey State Librarian Mary Chute, HHS Region II Director Dr. Jaime Torres and Cognosante Supervisor Bob O’Hara on a conference call with the goal of helping New Jersey library users navigate the wide range of health information available. Director Hildreth spoke to the intensified demand for information computer services as people looked for health insurance information and also to the partnerships that assisted in managing the increased health care information traffic at libraries nationwide.

Representative Holt’s goal for the teleconference was to ensure that librarians in his congressional district and across the state had the most up-to-date resources in addressing patron needs in advance of the March 31 deadline for health insurance open enrollment. By holding the teleconference, Representative Holt helped to continue connecting federal, local and private sector experts to the New Jersey library community and its customers.

You can find more information on the workshop including a recording and presentation materials on Representative Holt’s official webpage here.

And, you can find more webinars and health information resources at

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How to Boost Your Creativity

By Michele Farrell and Timothy Owens
Senior Library Program Officers, IMLS

We recently had the good fortune to participate in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) workshop for librarians at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. Sponsored by the Library of Virginia with IMLS Grants to States funds, this session brought together over 60 librarians from across the state to learn about STEM resources, get ideas for successful programs, and partner with their museum colleagues.

Presenter Chuck English, Science Museum of Virginia, and Enid Costley, Library of Virginia, holding a kit with activities related to the museum’s Boost! exhibit.

Presenter Chuck English, Science Museum of Virginia, and Enid Costley, Library of Virginia, holding a kit with activities related to the museum’s Boost! exhibit.

Chuck English, Director of Playful Learning and Inquiry at the museum, led a highly interactive session that offered plenty of opportunities for participation. He shared great tips on how to actively engage participants without making STEM intimidating or like formal schoolwork.  It was just what you might expect from someone with his job title.

So how do you get folks to actively learn in a workshop? To be willing to answer questions without fearing that their answers aren’t correct?  One technique is to have each participant write his or her answer on a piece of paper along with his or her rationale, crumple it up in a ball, and throw it into a large tub or basket. Once collected, answers can be pulled out and shared without identifying anyone. You can then discuss the correct answer and why other responses were incorrect.

Participants submit their questions anonymously

Participants submit their questions anonymously

The day was modeled as a program for kids, in this case big kids (adults), and included several “challenges” that made learning fun. For example, we were given a bag of materials and sent off to develop a prosthetic arm for a one-armed monkey. At another point we were handed an iPad and told to make a short video about bones. In another activity, participants were asked to draw the human body. So maybe the workshop could have been called “STEAM,” adding an A for arts. Chuck stressed that one of the keys to success was providing challenges that offered room for creativity. There was no single right way to do something and participants were able to infuse the end product with a bit of their own personality.

At the end of the day, library staff came away with many ideas and resources to offer STEM activities for kids in their own communities. We look forward to hearing their success stories!


Check out a blog post from the YALSA blog about this workshop.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Education Support, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Comments Off

Connected Communities in an Age of Digital Learning

By Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a panel at the New America Foundation that focused on reports from libraries and schools across the country that they do not have necessary broadband speeds and equipment to support the digital learning environment that the public needs today. We talked about both the technological infrastructure (hardware, software, connectivity) and the social infrastructure (trained librarians and teachers, high-quality content) that are needed for truly “connected communities.”

With the President’s ConnectED effort and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s call to modernize the E-rate program, libraries have a unique and urgent opportunity to act. I urge you to take an hour and listen to the webcast of this important discussion.

People sitting at computers at Hartford Public Library.

A job and career center equipped with computers Hartford Public Library.

I was particularly struck by the remarks of former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. He was chairman in 1996 when the E-rate first came into being and he has for a special interest in libraries. He called the E-rate the single largest investment in libraries and schools since the GI Bill. He noted that one-third of Americans do not have access to the Internet. While not diminishing the need for students to have access, he noted the particular needs of adults, especially people who are retired or unemployed.

One of the issues the library community is wrestling with is how to identify a target measure for library connectivity. Libraries report insufficient speeds, but can we know, measure, and report what is needed to get the necessary bandwidth to patrons?  Hundt says we need to know how much bandwidth is needed in the library per user at peak hours.

Most of the national dialogue about the E-rate has focused on schools. I believe there is eagerness at the FCC to hear from libraries. At IMLS we will take a leadership role by holding a hearing to get libraries’ experiences on the record. The hearing will be held in mid-April and will focus on the following:

1) The Vision: What happens when we get it right?

2) The Data: What do we know now and what do we need to know?

3) The Stakes: What is at risk if we are not able to meet public needs for connections in communities and in libraries?

Please look for an announcement about the hearing and take the opportunity to join the conversation.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Broadband | Comments Off

Anchoring Communities at WebWise 2014

By Robert Horton
Associate Deputy Director for Library Services, IMLS

IMLS’s annual WebWise conference returned to Baltimore in 2014, hosting plenary speakers, workshops, and an unconference from February 10-12. The theme was “Anchoring Communities,” and the goal was to provide as many opportunities as possible for the 270 participants to learn about the most exciting and pressing issues affecting libraries, archives, and museums.

Participants of the conference looks on as a presenter points at a screen.

Patrick Murray-John from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University facilitated a session introducing folks to the version control system known as Git and GitHub.

The two-and-a-half-day conference explored digital technologies in museums and libraries through workshops, talks, and demonstrations. The idea that technology provides us with an opportunity, rather than just another challenge or problem, was at the heart of two fantastic plenaries.

Nick Poole, from the UK’s Collections Trust, started the conference with a presentation both eloquent and engaging: “Make it Personal: Developing Services that People Love.” He noted, “This age demands museums, archives, and libraries that are personal, local, emotional, authentic, and relevant. In a time of social, economic, and political change, people need us to be honest, accountable, and unafraid. They don’t need to understand what we do, or how we do it, but they do need us to help them find their place in it.” (Nick posted the transcript of his talk just after delivering it.)

Mary Flanagan, Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College, closed the conference with an eye-opening presentation on the importance of games: “Play with Your Metadata.” One of the most important points she made was that technologies are built with values embedded, intentionally or unintentionally; and that more intent would be better.

WebWise 2014

Andrew Haight, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry; Bill Derry, Westport Library; Tim Carrigan, Institute of Museum and Library Services; Rebecca Grabman, Pittsburgh Children’s Museum; Erica Compton, Idaho Commission for Libraries during a session on makers.

The topics of the workshops and the unconference sessions (called “WiseCamp”) were determined by the participants by voting for topics of interest using the interactive platform IdeaScale and through discussion amongst the WebWise planning committee. Workshops included sessions on digital preservation, makerspaces, badges, oral histories, and more. WiseCamp sessions addressed issues such as gender, technology, and leadership; museums and the Digital Public Library of America; collecting social media; and K-12 and the common core standards. For a review of the complete schedule of WebWise, visit

Throughout the conference, a Twitter feed display encouraged a running exchange of ideas by active tweeters on site and provided context to the events for followers on social media. You can see the Twitter conversations at the conference hashtag #WebWise14.

Every year, the success of WebWise depends on the energy and ideas of IMLS staff, notably, Tim Carrigan and Sandra Narva, and IMLS partners, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and Capitol Meeting Planning. Thanks for joining us for another year of museums, libraries, archives, systems science, education, and many other fields joining together in the interest of high-quality online content for inquiry and learning.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Education Support, WebWise | 2 Comments

A Year of Action

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

In his fifth State of the Union Address on January 28, President Obama called on the nation to make 2014 a year of action. He said, “I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.” The President recognized many people who are doing their part to “speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”

He talked about how important it is for children to have the opportunity to enter quality pre-K programs, and for students to have access to high-speed broadband and to “learn the skills for a new economy– problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math.”

As I reflect on the activities of IMLS during the few weeks since the President’s address, it is clear that libraries and museums are key community institutions that have a significant role to play in spurring innovation and opportunity for all. Let me give you a snapshot:

On February 3, our office was humming with energy as Dr. David Willis, MD, Division Director for The Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) and I, together with First Book, convened a one-day strategic dialogue between public and private national stakeholders to share commitments and innovations that promote early literacy by strengthening parents as first teachers and by building the local communities around them.

On February 4 and 5, I was in Nashville with the MacArthur Foundation to hear from our “learning lab” grantees. We heard exciting findings of the evaluation of the program, which will be released later this spring. For me, the most encouraging finding was that this program has provided opportunities for older teens with significant academic challenges who are often the most difficult to reach.

On February 5, we were watching when the FCC Chairman Wheeler recognized the importance of libraries for access to broadband for students and for adults. He said, “In community after community the library is the only place where students can go after school for free Internet access to complete their assignments… And during the summer, libraries are the only place for many students to go to continue their online exploration and learning. Libraries are also the only place where tens of millions of adult Americans can get access to the Internet for information on jobs, health care and government services.” (See more at:

On February 4, together with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services Agency, we hosted a webinar for library staff who want to help residents on the pathway to opportunity and citizenship. And on February 17 I joined Congressman Rush Holt and N.J. State Librarian Mary Chute on a conference call for library staff who are helping to meet the health information needs of their communities.

And just last week, IMLS hosted our annual WebWise conference, where hundreds of library and museum professionals participated in dozens of programs and demonstrations that showcased innovative libraries and museums. There were sessions on maker spaces that empower young entrepreneurs, helping them to create new products and services and to develop business plans;  tips on finding revenue for digital projects and making smart evaluation decisions; and much more.

So much of what we are working on aligns with the themes of the President’s address; we have gotten our “year of action” off to a great start!  It is an exciting time to be an innovator in a library or museum!  Please continue to share your good work with us.


Posted in Director's Messages | Comments Off