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Zooming Through the Bean Stack

By Carol Ziese

Imagine waking up to a world without libraries.  Unfortunately, for most Illinoisans, this was not an academic exercise, when in mid-March of this year over 600 public libraries were, in fact, shuttered due to the appearance of COVID-19.  Our larger libraries found staff working from home, remotely connecting to services such as OCLC for cataloging and Zoom for meetings.  Smaller, more rural libraries, which make up about a third of Illinois’ public libraries may have done well just to get the bills paid.  The library as a meeting place was replaced with services via cyberspace.

In a small, informal survey conducted in early June, I heard from staff whose libraries serve populations as small as 1500 to as large as 80,000.  Two things stand out to me: Illinois has dedicated and resourceful people who took up the challenge of continuing to serve the community without reservation; and, the public library will likely be re-tooled and reimagined as a result of this challenge which further highlighted and exacerbated unmet community needs, such as internet access and technology training.

By the time you read this article, about six months will have passed since the arrival of Coronavirus.  We will be reflecting on how well our virtual summer reading programs went with the aid of apps such as Beanstack.  We will be reflecting on how well our curbside-service was received and if it is now, in fact, a permanent fixture.  Are our online book clubs thriving and have we come to terms with virtual programming as a way to stay engaged with our patrons?  The challenges before us are kind of exciting.  We get to solve problems and learn new skills.  Challenges are always opportunities, and, as Joan Young from Germantown Public Library says, “If you keep the idea of service in the front of your mind, I feel you can adapt and make the best of the situation.”

When the numbers come in, what will we find in terms of online resource use?  Did it skyrocket or just gradually increase?  Was it because of dire need or because people suddenly discovered all the resources we had all along.  The virus sweeping the nation has given us an opportunity to rethink how we deliver services.  For example, hardly anyone was talking about how to instruct patrons in technology use via Zoom earlier this year.  Now, it is a viable option for getting our patrons up to speed on everything from filling out an online application to operating an iPad.

One thing we cannot lose sight of in our race to the technological solution is the fact that a significant number of Illinoisans do not have adequate access to the internet or the devices needed to connect to it.  Libraries have stood in that gap.  For those that have devices but no connectivity, circulating hotspots and expanded wi-fi signals have certainly been helpful.  Some libraries put themselves on the map of internet services available throughout the state. 

Mary Aylmer, Director of Chilicothe Public Library says, “I think we can do more to make access as ubiquitous as the internet.”  As the profession that, more than any other, values getting information into the people’s hands, I couldn’t agree more.

And then there are the device have-nots.  In my survey I heard from one librarian who loaned her personal laptop to a patron.  I talked to another one who photocopied hospital documents for a patron whose partner was seriously ill and later came back to get a copy of the death certificate.  These are things librarians did while closed to the public.  None of us in this profession wanted to be unavailable to our communities.  While state orders mandated our closing–and it was the right thing to do–we have been given an unprecedented opportunity (there’s that word again!) to be creative and think outside the box about what libraries become in our, undeniably, changed landscape. Let’s keep the conversation going.


Professional Development Webinar Resources

By Allison Riggs

Times are still tough, and we are all adjusting to the new “normal” of being a librarian during a pandemic. Some of us are back in our library buildings providing curbside services with limited capacity openings, and some of us are continuing to work from home or working a hybrid schedule, but all of us are just trying to do our best and adapt with each new challenge. I just want to remind you that you are not alone. We got this!

Now, today I want to talk about professional development. We didn’t always have time to do this with our old schedules, but with a little more flexibility, I am now finding the time to watch a variety of free online webinars. Although I’m sure I’m not the only one that is getting Zoom fatigue and generally just feeling sick of being stuck in my house, there are still some great professional development webinars that I want to share with you that I think are worth taking the time to watch. These are for the next time you need a break from doing that 50th take of your program video, are feeling stressed about the future of libraries, or need a creativity boost.

Readers’ Advisory

*RAILS: Teen Readers’ Advisory: Beyond Bestsellers and Award Winners – They provide a great list of where to find diverse YA books, and talk about some awesome titles.

Reaching Forward Fridays: #OwnVoices for All Readers: Incorporating EDI Values into Readers’ Advisory Service – The title really says it all, and this webinar was done by RA for ALL.

Virtual Programming

RAILS:Beyond E-Storytimes: Virtual Services and Programs for Youth – This is a must-watch for anyone working with youth.

*RAILS: Virtual Advisory: Online Book Clubs – I absolutely loved hearing what worked, what could have gone better, and a variety of ways to try to reach patrons online with virtual book clubs.


Reaching Forward Fridays: Time Management: Calendars and Task Lists – This was truly helpful when I was struggling to stay on task while working from home.

PLA: Public Libraries Respond to COVID-19: Free Webinar Series – This whole series was nice to watch simply because you got to see what other libraries across the US are doing in response to COVID-19.

Project READY: Reimagining Equity & Access for Diverse Youth – This is a time commitment, but it’s a very informative, helpful, and important free online course. Our entire youth and teen department is going through this curriculum.

If you want a big list of free monthly professional development webinars for library staff, check out WebJunction. They also offer free in-depth online courses on a variety of library subjects.

*Some RAILS webinars require you to have a login. If your library is a member of RAILS, then you can set up a free account. Check the member directory here.

Protecting your privacy during COVID-19

By the ILA Best Practices Committee

When the novel coronavirus pandemic led to Illinois’ stay-at-home order in mid-March, libraries closed and library workers began working from home. This led to a sudden uptick in the use of online meeting software, the most popular of which is Zoom.

Unfortunately, Zoom comes with many privacy issues from Zoombombing to a lack of end-to-end encryption, which allows data to move between devices in a form that is unreadable to anyone other than the recipients. In early April, Zoom announced a 90 day feature freeze to fix privacy and security issues, although some, including end-to-end encryption, will only be available to paying customers.

Below are some links to help you protect your privacy during the pandemic, both on Zoom and online more generally. If you’re concerned enough about Zoom’s security to think about switching, check out this article from the Verge that rounds up the best alternatives.

Make your Zoom meetings more secure

Privacy and online security during COVID-19

Summer Reading and Social Distancing

By Patrick Maloney

The time of year every library professional either waits in anticipation or (depending on how much they enjoy their job) absolute dread all year for is almost upon us. The time of year when swarms of patrons free from the confines of their academic shackles descend upon the public library hungry for knowledge and Domino’s Pizza BOGO coupons. Sure it’s going to be a little different this year, but nothing can stop this juggernaut. Ladies and gentlemen, Summer Reading will soon be upon us.

Summer Reading is already a big enough deal at your average public library that there’s a very good chance I would have written an article about it regardless. But there’s no denying that with the state of the world being what it is today, a lot has changed in library land. At the time I am writing this, most libraries in Illinois are still completely shut down, although most will be opening to some degree in various stages over the next month. When this pandemic was still in its infancy, very few people would have predicted that we would still be in the thick of things come late May and June, but here we are. While libraries may start opening their doors soon, the threat of Covid-19 is still very real, and social distancing will likely be a necessity for quite some time now. This may mean restrictions on how many people can be in the library at once, and interactions with patrons may be limited altogether. Summer Reading still remains the focal point for the next few months, but some changes will be necessary. Many of you have probably already started planning what this means for your library and your programs, but after attending several zoom meetings with my colleagues at two different libraries as well as a myriad of webinars on the topic, I’ve managed to compile some of the best ideas I believe will help both staff and patrons alike navigate this new uncharted landscape.

For starters, prizes are probably going to need to be downsized a bit. A great deal of businesses…especially local businesses…are going through tough times right now and are going to be less likely to donate to the cause this year. Depending on your budget you can offset this a bit by buying prizes, or buying more than you normally would, but it would still be wise to downsize a little bit. Perhaps in lieu of prizes, patrons can choose to defer their winnings to a donation to a charity helping people in need during these trying time. It’s also probably in your best interest to simply have everyone pick up their prizes all at once at the end of the summer rather than every single time they reach a milestone. It is an unfortunate reality this summer that the less people in the library at any one time, the better.

Challenges will need to be repurposed for social distancing as well, and what that means will differ between children and adults. A “visit the library” challenge can now simply be “check out a book from the library online”. Kids can collect points for being read to by their parents or FaceTiming with an old relative who has probably been more isolated than the rest of us and welcoming to any visits with open arms. Adults can be challenged to learn a new hobby, or try out a new recipe, all from the comfort of their own home.

Most in person summer programming will likely be cancelled, but that will vary from library to library. Again, large groups of people are wholeheartedly discouraged, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find other avenues. Many presenters are now ready and willing to present virtually, and there are almost endless online programs library staff can perform themselves, like book clubs, arts and crafts, even cooking classes. My library is even starting an online vinyl swap, where patrons bring vinyl records and discuss their favorites with other music lovers following a little listening party. There are plenty of worthy activities out there, you just need to get creative.

Finally, the one aspect of Summer Reading we’ll all have to ramp up rather than ramp down is promotion. Summer Reading t-shirts won’t go very far if there’s no one in the library to notice them, nor will we be able to casually mention Summer Reading to every patron that stops by the desk if there is no one coming to the desk to begin with. This means we’ll have to spread the word more in our daily lives. It shouldn’t be too hard to get people on board with reading these days when for the first time in what seems like forever they really don’t have anything better to be doing. Online promotion on your libraries website, newsletters, etc are still very important, but word of mouth is key!

In conclusion, we’re all about to embark on a journey unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. It’s going to be different, but never lose sight of the most important aspect of Summer Reading, and that is the reading itself. It may not be as extravagant as years past, but as long as we keep our eyes on the prize and keep our communities reading, we’re doing our part, ready to come back next year bigger and better than ever.

Home Delivery and Teleprograms

By Olivia Buck

Several weeks ago, I devised a plan for how the Home Delivery Service was going to continue serving its patrons during the coronavirus outbreak. I was going to call all of my patrons and have them opt-in to the service. Almost immediately after putting these plans in place, a shelter-in-place order was given and Bloomington Public Library was closing to the public. My plans, as good as they had seemed in the moment, needed to change so I made the decision to suspend the Home Delivery Service until further notice. 

Suspending services indefinitely was a hard decision to have to make, especially after only having been the Home Delivery Coordinator for about a month and a half. However, I knew that my patrons were at a high risk for severe complications due to the virus. So, I rolled up my sleeves, wrote a letter, and called patrons, informing them of the temporary suspension of Home Delivery services. It took time to call everyone. Many of my patrons were disappointed, but very understanding, that we needed to make this decision. Still, I felt that I was letting everyone down. I couldn’t control the circumstances that made this necessary, but I felt responsible for not being able to continue to bring the library into their homes. 

Later, I spoke with my dad about having to suspend the service until further notice. He said, “Isn’t there some way that you can still offer them services?” I told him that the online resources were still available and that I had let everyone know that I was still available to help them learn how to use them. However, I also knew that many of my patrons either didn’t have access to the internet or would have trouble using these services. At the time I didn’t know what else I could offer. 

I kept this question in mind as I began working from home. Eventually, I came across the idea for teleprograms. No internet, no computer, and no smartphone required. All patrons would have to do is dial a toll-free number and then enter the meeting number in order to access a variety of live programs right at home. 

Programs include: 

Wellness programs such as guided chair yoga or meditation sessions. 

Education programs about history, healthy habits, architecture, and more! 

Discussion topics where participants have a chance to join a discussion on sports, movies, and other topics. 

Music reviews in which participants listen and learn about opera, early rock ’n’ roll, and other musical genres. 

Live performances such as a live vocal performance or master storytelling sessions. I came across a company that offers telephone programs to seniors: Mather. I called and spoke with their Telephone Topics representative. Although they usually require registration prior to programs, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they are not requiring registration at least through May. They were excited that I wanted to offer this service to our Home Delivery patrons. The best part? The service was completely free. I got the green light from my manager, and went to work making this service available to my Home Delivery patrons. 

I wrote a letter informing my Home Delivery patrons of this new service and sent a schedule for all of the telephone programs that would be available to them for months of April and May. Each weekday, at least one telephone program was being offered. As soon as the letters went out, I started getting excited phone calls from my patrons. They were so excited about this service and that the library was making sure that they had something to fill their time while they were under quarantine. At this point, the teleprogram service has been available for a couple weeks and will continue throughout the month of May. I am thrilled that the teleprograms have been a success thus far and that even though deliveries are temporarily suspended, the Home Delivery Service is still bringing the library to its patrons.

Bookish Podcasts

By Allison Riggs

 As we continue to shelter in place, now might be a great time to try a new podcast. Whether you are looking for a new form of entertainment, want to work on some collection development, or want to hear about how COVID-19 is affecting the publishing industry, libraries, and readers, this list has a podcast for you!

As an avid podcast listener, I had a fun time curating this list for you. I just want to note that I only featured podcasts that are still releasing new episodes, and that I have listened to at least one episode of every podcast featured. This list could have been much longer, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you with options. If you want even more recommendations, you can check out a few other lists that I provide below. Happy listening!

Book Industry Podcasts

Book Riot: The Podcast – Book Riot has a lot of podcasts for you to check out, but I chose this one because it’s a helpful source for news in the publishing industry.

Professional Book Nerds – Adam and Jill work at OverDrive and share their love of books with reading recommendations, discussing new releases, and author interviews.

This is the Author – This podcast is for audiobook fans. Produced by Penguin Random House Audio, each episode has authors talking about what it was like narrating their audiobooks.

From the Front Porch – A bookseller discusses all things books and the bookstore life. Each episode begins with a quote from a book that matches the theme of the episode.

Library Podcasts

The Librarian is In – This is New York Public Library’s podcast that talks about books, culture, and what to read next.

Well-Read– Librarians from the Beaufort County Library discuss what they are currently reading, librarian reading challenges, upcoming books to keep an eye out for, and more.

Teen Title Talk – Two librarians from Derry Public Library review two YA books every two weeks, and discuss library life.

Dewey Decibel – This monthly podcast all about libraries is brought to you by American Libraries, the magazine of ALA.

General Bookish Podcasts

Currently Reading – Currently Reading is a wonderful weekly podcast run by three ladies who love reading and the library. Each week they share their bookish moment of the week, what they are currently reading, deep dive into a bookish topic, and press a book into readers’ hands.

Reading Women – “Reclaim half the bookshelf.” These podcasters discuss books by and about women.

The Readerly Report – Hosted by Nicole Bonia and Gayle Weiswasser, The Readerly Report is a podcast and website about books and the reading life.

Sarah’s Bookshelves Live – Each week Sarah features a guest and they share two old books they loved, two new books they love, one book they don’t love, and one new release they are excited about.

Want even more bookish podcasts recommendations to try out?

Book Riot’s Podcast List

13 Must-Hear Librarian Podcasts

Stuck in the Stacks: Bookish Podcasts

12 Podcast Recommendations for Book Lovers

Three Easy Ways to Support Your Local Writer Community: from the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project

By the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project Committee

Want to be the new best friend of every writer in your community?

Here are three things you can do right now (even in this stay-at-home world) to help your authors:

1) Promote the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project contest (STBF): Deadline May 31
Now in its seventh year, the contest continues to demonstrate the power of libraries to find the very best reads to bring to their patrons, regardless of source, by identifying, evaluating and promoting high-quality indie-published works. Entries for the contest are now being accepted in both Adult and YA fiction categories through May 31.

This year’s contest features a much easier submission process, and, more importantly, exciting new opportunities for the winners. We’re talking possible national recognition, cash prize and much wider exposure and discoverability. More on this later.

2) Promote “A Conversation with STBF 2019 award winners Jean Rabe and Lauren Eckhardt”

Don’t take our word for how significant this contest is—learn about the impact it has directly from our current winners:

On Wednesday, April 22 at 1:30 pm join STBF committee member Jeffrey Fisher for a Zoom conversation with our two 2019 winners. They’ll discuss their books, the writing process, what winning the contest has meant to them, and much more. Special bonus: During this webinar we’ll reveal the winner of the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project Manuscript Contest.  (Click here for Zoom login information.)

3) Promote makes the seamless journey from first draft through contest entry possible.  This platform, available free to all Illinois libraries and individuals, allows writers to create professional-quality versions of their e-books in various file formats including ePUB, MOBI, and PDF. also guides authors through the process of making their e-book available to readers in three different ways:

  • Indie Illinois: A statewide collection of e-books promoting independently published local authors.
  • Indie Author Project Select: A Library Journal-reviewed collection of self-published adult and young adult fiction available to readers across the country.

So what’s this about national recognition?

The success of the pioneering STBF project has not gone unnoticed.

Last year, 13 states and one Canadian province ran their own state- or province-wide indie author contests modeled after the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project. The winning books from all these contests are being made available with unlimited, multi-user access in the Indie Author Project Select collections on BiblioBoard Library, DPLA Exchange, cloudLibrary, OverDrive, and more. When all the state and province-wide awards are made this year, those books will be added to these platforms as well.

Then a panel of industry experts will choose one overall Indie Author of the Year. Along with the prizes that come with their regional award, the winner will also receive an additional $1,000, professional audiobook production, and myriad marketing and promotional opportunities throughout the year. See and hear Indie Author of the Year, Ran Walker, talk about what this award means to him here.

So, be your local authors’ best friend, and bring some great new fiction to all your patrons by taking three easy steps:

  • Promote the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project on your website and social media.
  • Encourage all your local writers to attend the Zoom conversation with this year’s STBF winners on April 22, 1:30 pm.
  • Put a link to on your website, and visit the website yourself for more free promotional material.

Your writers will love you!

The Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project Committee

Eva Baggili, Chicago Ridge Public Library
Anna Behm, RAILS
Kate Buckson, La Grange Park Public Library
Jeffrey Fisher, Fountaindale Public Library District
Karen McBride, Barrington Area Library
Gretchen Murphy, Wheaton Public Library
Denise Raleigh, Gail Borden Public Library District
Lucy Tarabour, Clarendon Hills Public Library
Nicole Zimmermann, RAILS

Books That Make You Laugh

By Olivia Buck

During the COVID-19 crisis, I have read some articles and watched a couple videos about staying productive and positive while working from home. One of the videos I watched was entitled “Decrease Your Stress With Humor.” It was a short video and the main takeaway was exactly what the title says, when you’re feeling stressed try to find something to make you laugh. They suggested videos and images saved to your phone that you can look at whenever you’re feeling the stress get to you. But I was thinking about the books I’ve read that have made me laugh out loud. This reminded me of when I put together a “Books That Make You Laugh” display a while back. Here are some of the titles that made the cut and some extras suggested by my coworkers: 


1. Felicia Day – You’re Never Weird on the Internet
2. Lauren Graham – Talking as Fast as I Can
3. Mindy Kaling – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
4. Mindy Kaling – Why Not Me?
5. Jenny Lawson – Furiously Happy
6. Jenny Lawson – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir
7. Amy Poehler- Yes Please 


1. George & Weedon Grossmith – The Diary of a Nobody
2. William Shakespeare – Much Ado About Nothing
3. William Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
4. William Shakespeare – As You Like It 

Graphic Novels: 

1. Sarah Andersen – Adulthood is a Myth
2. Allie Brosh – Hyperbole and a Half
3. Noelle Stevenson – Nimona 


1. Grant Ginder – The People We Hate at the Wedding
2. Christopher Moore – Bloodsucking Fiends: a Love Story
3. Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Project 

Non Fiction: 

1. Aziz Ansari – Modern Romance
2. Meghan Mullally & Nick Offerman – The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
3. David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day 

Science Fiction & Fantasy: 

1. Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 
2. John Scalzi – Redshirts
3. William Goldman – The Princess Bride

You Might Be Working From Home If…

By Tish Calhamer, Sarah Vetter, Marianne Nelson, Tracy Hanson, Phil Schneider, Ben Bahl, and Danny Rice of Gail Borden Public Library District

Not every library gets to say they have their own comedy troupe, but Gail Borden Public Library District in Elgin is one exception. “The Thespians”, adapting to their new work-from-home routines, decided to create a video greeting for their colleagues that is too enjoyable and relatable not to share. If you’re looking for a laugh while working from your kitchen table–or some vindication that you’re not the only person rocking daily athleisure–you can check out the video here.

Writer and director: Tish Calhamer
Editor and producer: Sarah Vetter
Thespians: Marianne Nelson, Tracy Hanson, Phil Schneider, Ben Bahl, Danny Rice

Positivity While Under Quarantine

By Olivia Buck

Right about now, I feel like a lot of us are feeling a bit…overwhelmed. Everyone is talking about COVID-19 and many of us are sheltering-in-place. This whole thing is pretty scary, but I think some of us are looking for even small things to help us keep a positive attitude. One way that I’ve tried to keep my positive attitude going has been to be careful about how I think about the quarantine and working from home. It would be really easy to get frustrated that I can’t work on certain projects right now or that I’m stuck at home all day everyday. But instead, I’ve been telling myself, “Look at this opportunity to work on projects you never have time for!” I’ve been putting together a digital copy of our home delivery patrons’ requests so that they’re easier to keep track of and I’ve been able to research and brainstorm ideas for new ways to connect with and serve my home delivery patrons. And this is just week one for us.

I’ve also been able to devote more time to some non-home delivery projects that I’m part of. These have included:

● Working with my fellow Bookmobile Drivers on a new project for our Bookmobile, Big B.
● Working on clearing up various lists and reports.
● Following up with presenters that were scheduled for our Bloomington Reads program which was scheduled for late March and early April.
● Working on projects for our Spirit Committee which creates events that contribute to staff morale and working together.

Finally, I’m seeing many of my coworkers try to connect with each other using Microsoft Teams so that we can all learn how to do this whole “work from home” thing together. I think we’re all just wanting to stay connected and keep a smile on our faces while we’re working from home. So, sometimes this means that people are sharing links on how to stay productive while working from home. And sometimes it’s people sharing their quarantine playlists for their work hours, posting about the delicious foods they’re making, or posting pictures of their new office mates. Here’s a couple pictures of mine:

Finally, I’ve been thinking about my favorite patron interactions that I’ve had since becoming a library employee. I’ve been thinking about all the wonderful moments I’ve gotten to have by serving our community. This is the one that always brings a smile to my face:

A boy came up to the Circulation desk with a stack of books to check out. He was probably around six or seven years old and his face barely reached the top of the Circulation desk when standing on his tiptoes. He watched me as I picked up his books and placed them on the scanner. His eyes grew wide and his whole face lit up when he heard the ding of his items getting checked out.

“How does the computer know that [the book] is there? And how does it know which one it is?” He asked, waving a hand at the book with excitement.

“There are special tags inside the book that tell the computer what book it is and that allows us to check it out,” I explained as I opened the book up and showed him the RFID tag inside the book. While I continued to check out his books, the little boy watched, completely entranced by the computer that knew the names of the books and that he wanted to read them. Finishing up with his books, I passed them over to him and a grin spread across his cheeks.

As he left with his mother, he cheered, “Librarians are magic!”

The way that I think about this crazy period of time when the library is closed and I’m working from home makes a huge impact on my attitude. So I keep reminding myself that libraries are magic.