Posted in Accessibility, PLA Conference

You never know…

When I approached the microphone following a PLA Conference session on making your library more accessible, I never thought what I would have to say would actually have an impact.

The session on accessibility that I attended at PLA was very thorough and talked about how a library has made their space and programs more accessible to users. I was glad to see at least one session on this topic at PLA, but I think there should be more. Nineteen percent of the US population has a disability and our nation is aging with 10,000 people turning 65 every day. Based on the number of attendees at this session, it is clearly a topic people are interested in.

Back to what I said at the microphone. During the Q&A period, I went up to the mic and thanked the presenters for providing the session’s content and then I let everyone know about this amazing conference called the ADA Symposium that is offered every year, with it being hosted in Pittsburgh this June. I shared how I was the only librarian at the ADA Symposium in 2017 and I thought more of us should be there.

Three months later…

I’m in line at a Downtown Pittsburgh hotel waiting to check into my hotel room for the ADA Symposium. I’m telling someone in line that I’m a librarian and it’s my second time attending the conference. And then this person says, “Were you at PLA?” And I said, “Yes…” You will recall that in 2017, I was the only librarian at this conference of 850 attendees. She goes on to say that she saw me at PLA and that I inspired her to attend the ADA Symposium. She also brought her colleague along! What was once a conference with just one librarian, there were now three.

I took this picture of Sarah (below) who is the librarian that saw me get up to the mic in Philadelphia at PLA and was now next to me in Pittsburgh for the ADA Symposium. Sarah, you inspired me to write about this and the importance of sharing information and knowledge.

I’m so glad Sarah was there and I hope to see more librarians at the ADA Symposium in the future. Mark your calendars for June 16-19, 2019 in Grapevine – Dallas, TX. More more information, visit

Sarah, Northbrook Public Library (IL), at ADA Symposium in Pittsburgh

Posted in Accessibility, Partnerships, Program, Teens

Take Summer Reading to the Streets

Program Description: Too often the best library programs never reach the kids most in need. We may be from Iowa, but we know that “if you build it, they will come” isn’t always true. So we found a way to go to them. Discover how the Cedar Rapids (IA) Public Library moved beyond its walls to reach children with barriers to traditional library access through strategic partnerships and volunteer support. Adapt this award-winning program to fit your community.


Jessica Link, Volunteer Coordinator , Cedar Rapids Public Library , Cedar Rapids , IA. Jessica coauthored an article in Public Libraries Magazine’s March/April 2016 issue about summer volunteer engagement.

Kevin Delecki, Programming Manager, Cedar Rapids Public Library, Cedar Rapids, IA

Handouts: Handout 1, Handout 2

My notes: 

The equation goes something like this. Partners have access to the kids + volunteers have the legs that bring the program to the kids + the library has the resources.

  • Created custom, personalized, tracking logs for each child and sheets were put into binders at the center. Extra logs in the binder if the center needed them.
  • Provided on-site checkout. Had a mini library at each center on a book cart.
  • Offered a weekly program.
  • It was about meeting the kids where they are at


Many returned from year one to participate again. Also utilized the Summer VISTA program It added a lot of diversity to the program.

Partner research (see handout 2): 

  • Are the right people at the right table?
  • Where is your target audience congregating?
  • Who is working with the kids you want to work with? For example, the food backpack program. Where do these kids go in summer?
  • Community data
    • Poverty mapping
    • Food desert mapping
    • School level – free & reduced lunch
    • Registered Section 8 HUD housing. You can search your community within the spreadsheet. Many partners have already done this work for funding so ask first!
  • Take a hard look at what your library is already doing well. Can you take what you do well and modify it for outreach? As they were modifying, they had to keep in mind that everything needed to fit in Rubbermaid containers!

Your Resources:

  • Who is your coordinator/champion that will run with it?
    • Volunteers
    • Stuff-space, staff, supplies, books

Lessons Learned: 

  • Flexibility and adaptability are key for all parties
  • Determine how you feel about lost materials. Communicate early and often to internal and external parties. Decided they didn’t really care if the books didn’t come back. Circulated 1000 books and three books didn’t come back. Kids also took home books to keep as part of the summer library program.
  • Meet with all levels of partners-from planning to training and everything in-between. Worked directly with summer staff at the YMCA at a granular day-to-day basis. Have conversations early on.
  • Share the load of work.
  • Streamline when possible – mail merge reading logs with kid’s names, duo-enrollment form (checkbox on YMCA summer camp form asking parents to enroll the child in summer library program). Also gave the data digitally for mail merge of personalized reading logs.
  • Talk about what you are going to do, do it, and talk about what you did.
  • Survey – had four questions and asked the kids one by one.

Advice for Librarians & Centers:

  • Get involved. Great investment in the library, the community, and the kids.
  • Steve Pemberton, PLA BIG IDEAS speaker, spoke about sneaking into the library. What if we sneak books to the kids? Make the library accessible to them. Bring the library to the kids.


  • Did you clear out your library stash? Secured a grant to buy 350-400 books for this program. Developed a core collection. Didn’t have to make a decision between who got the books – kids at the library or the centers.
  • Did you renew the books? Renewals depended on popularity. If they had a copy in the regular collection, they would bring that copy to the center so the child could finish reading the book.
  • Did you bring tech to the centers? Brought Launchpads (20#) and Google Nexus (10#)
  • How many centers did you partner with? The first year, they partnered with two different YMCAs. One camp was located at the YMCA and another was offered at the elementary school, but run by the YMCA.
  • What about prizes? Stepped away from the traditional prize model. Received a prize when they registered and at 600 minutes (a journal and a coupon for the Friends of the Library sale). When the kids completed the program, teens and younger got to pick a new book. Or teens could pick a coupon for the Friends of the Library sale.
  • Do the kids at the centers have to have a library card? Not necessarily. They would issue an express card which doesn’t require a parent signature and allows for e-resources and limited checkouts.

See Handout 1 for the PowerPoint used during this presentation.

Kevin Delecki and Jessica Link seemed very open to questions. Email addresses are linked above.

Posted in Accessibility, Inclusivity, Program, Staff Training

Moving from Compliance to Inclusion

Presented by: Cristen Williams, Library Service Manager for Customer Experience
Arlington Public Library, Arlington, Texas

Program Description: What started as a simple task of making our buildings more accessible became a movement within our library to change the way we see patrons with disabilities. From accessibility projects to programming, we will discuss how our library system identified areas in our service model that needed to change and worked together as a team to make our libraries more inclusive for all patrons with disabilities.

  • Mayor’s Committee on People with Disabilities-is an organization of citizen volunteers dedicated to helping Arlington become fully accessible for all people with disabilities. Their charge began with secret shopping the libraries.
  • handicap-2059210_640Secret shopped the libraries-The libraries were provided with suggestions for easy fixes that included things like moving the step stools from under roll under stations and placing a sign nearby that says “Place stool here.”  It took the staff and patron some time to get the hang of it, but now the stools get put in their proper place. It was also noted that the lines for handicap accessible parking needed to be re-painted. All changes made to the libraries were paid for by the city (Arlington, TX).
  • Confirmed that library staff are knowledgeable about programs and services

Following the secret shopper experience, a customer service committee was created to evaluate current services, with a focus on technology for the buildings and to create specialized programming for people with disabilities. As they were plugging away on this committee work, they realized that they were developing programs based on what they thought their community needed rather than asking patrons what they wanted.

The committee decided to take a step back and start with some community conversations. They met with 55 groups and over 200 individuals and asked what they wanted from their library. What they learned during these community conversations led them to a change in focus. Listening to what the community had to say, they realized that they could integrate elements into existing programs:

  • For children’s programs, like the Touch-A-Truck program where emergency vehicles are available for kids to climb in and touch. To make this event more accessible, it was suggested that they add one hour without sirens and lights; they offered a summer reading program for those with visual impairments; held Robotics and STEM club for kids on the autism spectrum; and offered a special needs storytime, which is geared toward kids with special needs but is open to all.
  • For adults, they started offering job coaching at independent living centers, held a vision fair, and offered seminars to parents and caregivers
  • Staff training. Staff would ask, “Why are you making us do this?” Explained compliance – what we have to do vs. what do we want to do. Explain to staff why you are making changes. Current training includes ableist language awareness. Ableist language is any word or phrase that intentionally or inadvertently targets an individual with a disability. Examples of ableist language include “crazy,” “insane,” “blind,” and “deaf.”
  • Volunteers included persons with disabilities. Volunteers logged 652 hours in 2017.

What can you do?

  • Discover. Ways to see your library through different eyes
  • Question. Talk to your community to find out what is needed
  • Adapt. facilities, equipment, programs, and services (and attitude!)

For more information, visit the PLA Conference page for this session: Program handout available here.

Posted in Accessibility, Cultural Compentency, Inclusivity, Program, Staff Training

PLA 2018 Highlights – a webinar

PLA 2018 Conference Highlights (webinar recording)
Thursday, April 12 at 10 a.m. CST

PLA 2018 Highlights initial screen for webinarWisconsin was well represented at the Public Library Association Conference in Philadelphia. Several of us will be sharing some of our experiences and we’d love for you to join us.

You’ll hear from Jean Anderson, Continuing Education Consultant for the South Central Library System, Cindy Fesemyer, Director of the Columbus Public Library; Leah Fritsche, Director of the Deerfield Public Library; Heidi Cox, Director of the E.D. Locke Public Library in McFarland; Erin Williams Hart, Adult Services Librarian for the Sun Prairie Public Library, and Angela Meyers, Coordinator of Youth and Inclusive Services for Bridges Library System and the PLA Liaison to WLA.

Posted in Accessibility, Cultural Compentency, Inclusivity, Program, Staff Training

PLA in a Nutshell

With the WAPL – PLA Chapter Liaison position, I was asked to present at the Wisconsin Library Association Board Meeting on April 6, 2018, about my PLA experience.

Here’s my re-cap:

WAPL – PLA Chapter Liaison Report, April 2018

My name is Angela Meyers and I am the Coordinator of Youth and Inclusive Services for the Bridges Library System. I applied for the PLA Liaison position because I love attending our own state conference and could only imagine what a nationwide conference would be like. I was so excited to learn that I was selected as the WAPL – PLA Chapter Liaison for the next two years.

The PLA Liaison position is fairly new; I was given some guidelines but also the freedom to make it my own. From what I gathered, the position involves a lot of information gathering and dissemination. I decided to blog about my experience at Diary of a PLA Liaison: (click on the follow me button on the right hand side of the blog to sign up for e-mail notifications).

The trip to Philadelphia was good, albeit a little stressful with the Nor’easter on its way. Fortunately I arrived on Tuesday, the day the snow was just starting to fall and missed the flight cancellations that affected travellers across the country. I shared a hotel room with Jean Anderson, from SCLS, which was not only a huge cost savings but also fun.

Approximately 6,000 people attended the PLA Conference in Philadelphia. The conference started on Tuesday with pre-conference offerings and ran through early Saturday afternoon. There was always something to do including the choice between 100 concurrent sessions.

Wednesday kicked off by attending Book Buzz to learn about the newest adult titles dropping soon, then off to a luncheon sponsored by Ebsco. I attended the Opening Session with former U.S. Deputy Attorney General and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and finished up the workday with the Exhibit Hall Grand Opening. One of the requests for the PLA Liaison was to talk to vendors about exhibiting at the WLA Conference. I talked to a lot of vendors and have since sent any business cards I collected to Brigitte at the WLA office. I finished the day by attending a dine-around with a local Philadelphia librarian and then I went to the Library Journal Author Party.

Thursday started with an early breakfast sponsored by The table conversation was great and I plan to follow-up with a librarian from Texas about a few outreach ideas he shared. The first BIG IDEAS program kicked off with author Elizabeth Gilbert. This was phenomenal. I hit up the exhibit hall during the no conflict time and then I went to my first concurrent program called Talking is Teaching which was very much about the importance of partnerships and branding. Following this session, I attended a luncheon sponsored by Innovative. I went on a library tour of the South Philadelphia Health and Literacy Center branch. Upon my return to the convention center, I caught a portion of a talk at the PLA Pavilion on Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) Through Play. I attended Libraries Aren’t Neutral, which was a session about offering civic engagement programs for your community. PLA offers something called Spark Talks, which is an hour long program comprised of five-minute talks. Following the Spark Talk, I attended the Audiobook Publisher Association’s Dinner and the Overdrive Billion Books Bash.

Friday started with the second BIG IDEAS speaker and author Steve Pemberton. Steve talks about visiting the library often as a young foster child and how reading helped him escape into another world. He reminded the audience members that the work that we do matters and that we do have impact on children’s lives. Following the BIG IDEAS talk, I attended ECRR Storytime Challenge: Encouraging Adult Engagement presented by early literacy expert Saroj Ghoting. Following this was a How To session on Hosting a LGBTQ Club. Next on my schedule was to attend a session titled Take Summer Reading to the Streets: Partnering to Reach Children with Barriers to Library Access. I had my first Philly Cheesesteak at the Reading Terminal Market. Yum! Following lunch, I found floor only seating for a PLA Pavilion talk on How to Supercharge Your Library Staff. Following this I attended MakMo, a LA County program on their maker mobiles. I also attended the session Inquiry Based STEM Programming. The day was running long and my energy was running low but I managed to attend the Spark Talks II, one hour of rapid fire talks on various subjects. Afterwards, I dropped in on the PLA All Conference Reception.

Saturday was the final day in Philly. I was sad that my time at the conference was coming to an end but also was looking forward to going home. The day started off with the final BIG IDEAS speaker and author, Tim Wu, who spoke about net neutrality in terms that I actually understood. The first session I attended was titled Moving from Compliance to Inclusion Within the Library. This session detailed a library’s accessibility journey. And finally, the last concurrent session I attended was called How to Start Training Your Staff to be More Culturally Competent. The closing session was by comedian, actor, and writer Hasan Minhaj. Blog posts are in the works for all sessions I attended. Stay tuned.

Attending the PLA Conference in Philadelphia was a wonderful professional and personal experience for me. I was always hesitant to go to a national conference due to anxieties of traveling alone but this trip helped me overcome some of my worries. I hope to attend PLA in Nashville in 2020.The Virtual Conference sessions were just released to all PLA attendees and I plan on blogging about a few of those sessions as well. To read more about the above experiences, be sure to check out my blog, Diary of a PLA Liaison. And if you are attending WAPL in May, be sure to swing by the PLA Posthaste! session at 1:45pm on Thursday.