The Minnesota Library Association annual convention is always an interesting experience! I attended a variety of sessions, and I’d like to share some thoughts and resources on a few of those topics.
The “Dark Web,” Anonymizing Software, and Patron Privacy
It’s always worth noting that it’s not illegal to access the dark web or to use tools for anonymity—but there are a lot of illegal things that can be done on the dark web or while using anonymity tools. There are a lot of legitimate and important reasons why a patron might want an anonymous access point for the web, because it allows people to do normal things in dangerous situations (hostile countries, abuse situations, undocumented immigrants, trans persons, etc).
As internet surveillance and data collection becomes more prevalent, libraries may want to install tools and browsers that protect patron privacy online, like a Tor browser (which scrambles incoming and outgoing data multiple times) and/or VPN. A Tor browser can also be a good tool for librarians for reference questions, since your search results won’t be affected by previous searches you’ve made for other patrons or library topics. Obviously, these tools also bring their own issues, but they’re worth watching and keeping in mind.
World Language Book Vendors
Here are some vendors with online bookstores that Hennepin County and St Paul Public Library use to find and order books in hard-to-find world languages.
– Sawa Books – Arabic, German, Somali, Hebrew, Persian, Spanish – www.sawabooks.com
– Noorart – Arabic – www.noorart.com
– Actrace – Chinese – www.actrace.com ; www.chineselibrarysolution.com
– Tsai Fong – Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese – www.bookswindow.com
– Multicultural Books & Video – [various] – www.multiculturalbooksandvideos.com
– HmongABC – Hmong, Lao, Thai – www.hmongabc.com
– Tu Luc Mall – Vietnamese – www.tulucmall.com
– Birchbark Books and Native Arts – Dakota, Lakota, Ojibwe – www.birchbarkbooks.com
– Drum Publications – Karen – www.drumpublications.org/bookstore.php
– Mantra Lingua – [various] – http://usa.mantralingua.com/home
– French Books Online – French – www.frenchbooksonline.com
– India for Everyone – Hindi, Bengali, etc – www.indiaforeveryone.org
– Red Sea Press/Africa World Press – Oromo, Amharic, etc – www.africaworldpressbooks.com
For more information or suggestions for working with these vendors, you can contact one of the presenters: Chelsea at Hennepin County Library (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jessica at St. Paul Public Library (Jessica.email@example.com). They also recommend visiting local stores for options and asking community members to see what they’re interested in reading.
It’s also worth noting that Ebooks Minnesota has greatly expanded their collection in the past year! There’s now considerably more general interest fiction for children, teens, and adults. There are also world language books, including Spanish, Somali, Karen, and Ojibwe. These ebooks are available to anyone in Minnesota, regardless of library system, and MARC records are available for integration into your local library system’s catalog. There’s a form to request MARC records here: https://mndigital.org/projects/ebooks-minnesota/faq#marc
Accessibility of Physical Space, Digital Spaces, and Programs
There are some small things that libraries can do to help various patrons feel more comfortable in the library. Some offer accessibility kits for those with overstimulation or attention difficulties that include small items: things like timers, sunglasses, adapted school supplies, disposable earplugs, simple fidget toys, and window reading rulers. Other small (though more expensive) items include adjustable-height tables, balance cushions, and wobble stools. Also worth considering: 35-40% of adults aged 65+ report at least one disability. Surveying your local senior population can help you learn what older patrons need in their library and community. The presenters also recommended partnering with local special education classes or community education.
– Americans with Disabilities Act National Network (adata.org) will provided free accessibility training on a variety of topics for a minimum of 15 people. They also offer consultants.
– WAVE Web Accessibility Tool – https://wave.webaim.org/ – Find out what issues a patron with vision impairment or who uses a screen reader to view your page might encounter.
– WebAIM Color Contrast Checker – https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/ – Check if colors used on the web or in web documents have sufficient contrast with each other to be legible or differentiated.
Library Card for Every Student initiatives
Several libraries in Minnesota have started programs to get public library cards in the hands of public school students. In some cases, students receive full, regular library cards from their local public library system. In others, special card types or formats and lending rules are used for student cards. Here are two examples of libraries that use special cards for students:
Saint Paul Public Library
– Students get “digital” cards with a special prefix and a number based on their student id #. No physical card is given. They receive an index card with info on how to know their number.
– Students get full access to digital materials and a max of 5 physical checkouts
– Students are automatically registered when they register for school, with an “opt out” option for parents.
– Cards expire at graduation.
Ramsey County Library
– Students get special “student access” physical cards, which have a different design than standard cards.
– Students get full access to print and digital materials. Public library cards may also be used in the school media centers. (Follett has a line for additional id numbers, where the public library card number can be entered.)
– Parents can opt in during fall registration. The district sends relevant student data electronically to the public library.
– If students already have a card, up to $100 in fines are waived.
– Cards do not expire and can be used after graduation.
For more information on these initiatives or best practices for data sharing between school and public libraries, contact Emily Kissane (firstname.lastname@example.org ; 651-582-5808)