Blogger Abby Johnson

Steer Around the Sharks #PLA2020

Have you ever seen a Deafblind person surf? Hmm. Neither had the surfing schools that Haben Girma approached about taking surf lessons. But Girma being Deafblind was not her barrier to surfing. What was stopping her from surfing was that people were not willing to try to make surfing inclusive. Until she found a company that was willing to work with her and teach her how to surf. This morning, we had the extreme pleasure of listening to Haben Girma, a disability rights lawyer who was the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law. Again and again, she implored us to break down barriers and make the choice to be inclusive to all. She is a phenomenal speaker and shared many moments from her personal life, from learning how to surf (with a guide accompanying her to steer her around other surfers and sharks) to salsa dancing to insisting…

Blogger Abby Johnson

Books for ALL at #PLA2020

Do you know what the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled has to offer your patrons? Neither did I, really, so I stopped by their booth to get some information to bring back to my colleagues. Residents of your state can apply for services, which include audiobooks and braille books for patrons of all ages. This is a free service and it’s coordinated by local network libraries in each state. In Indiana, ours is run through the Indiana State Library. Find your local network library here! I picked up information and a stack of applications to bring back to my librarians and I’m excited to tell them about this service. We often serve patrons with visual disabilities and it’s wonderful to have another resource to share with them.

Blogger Abby Johnson

You’re Merchandising Whether You Know It Or Not… #PLA2020

Who’s in charge of merchandising at your library? Anyone? Do you realize that you’re merchandising constantly whether you know it or not? Yesterday I attended a vendor lunch where a couple of experienced collection development librarians spoke about the power of merchandising and how to do it better. Wendy Bartlett of the Cuyahoga County Public Library is an expert in merchandising, having worked at Borders for a number of years prior to her library life. She says that merchandising means making first impressions. When your customers walk in the door, they’re forming a first impression of your library. What they see there will influence their use (or non-use!) of your library, so she encourages libraries to think about how they want to merchandise. She advocates for showing your customers what they want to see so that they’ll know that the library has what they want. It’s a common misconception that…

Blogger Abby Johnson

Moved By Their Words at #PLA2020

Teens took the stage as part of the opening session of #PLA2020. Four young performers from Southern Word performed poems and absolutely blew the audience away with their talent and stage presence. This local spoken word youth development program partners with the Nashville Public Library to staff their audio recording studio and to bring programs to the library. I was thrilled to see these teens get their chance in the spotlight. Not only were their performances moving and entertaining, it’s so great to see the positive impact that youth development can have. These teens oozed confidence and looked totally comfortable standing on stage in front of thousands of adults. I’m grateful that the PLA organizers saw this group as important enough to be part of our opening session. It speaks so highly of the value the organization places on youth development and the role libraries play in it. I also learned…

Blogger Abby Johnson

Poking Around NPL at #PLA2020

What’s the first thing a librarian attending #PLA2020 does when they arrive in Nashville? Locate the main branch of the local library system and poke around, of course!* And I have to say, the Nashville Public Library has an amazing space. The children’s area is bright and colorful and has MANY installations that encourage active play. There were so many touches of whimsy throughout and you can tell that the staff there really care about kids and want to provide a space that inspires curiosity. I was especially impressed by the intentionality that permeated every aspect of their space. You can tell that it was designed for a child audience and that a LOT of thought was put into their renovation 4 years ago. And yes, that’s a book drop designed to look like the Nashville Public Library. I loved these little doorways built into the stacks in the picture book area….

ALA Midwinter 2019

How Libraries Can Save the World – Sylvia Acevedo at #alamw19

“It gave me hope. I wasn’t alone.” Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo said those words about her local childhood library in yesterday’s keynote speaker session. Acevedo grew up in a very poor household. Her parents were immigrants from Mexico and Acevedo spoke about the educational and civic opportunities her public library gave her, saying it was her first experience with civic engagement. The library, funded by the community and for the community, is a place where people of all backgrounds come together. Girl Scouts also helped Acevedo become the woman she is today, teaching her that she could make a plan to achieve her dreams. She shared how learning to sell cookies to fund her planned activities taught her perseverance, resilience, and that she could achieve her dreams no matter what anyone else thought. Acevefo said that she wrote her book to share her story, so that kids like her could…

ALA Midwinter 2019

Advancing Racial Equity at #alamw19

Yesterday, I spent the day at the PLA pre-conference Advancing Racial Equity in Public Libraries presented by Gordon Goodwin from Race Forward. It was a really valuable day if learning as we looked at how institutional racism has contributed to inequity and how we can identify implicit racism and fight against it. We discussed whether we agreed or disagreed with statements like “Hiring and promotion decisions should be based solely on merit”, digging deep into what those statements might mean to us and to our communities. And as a group we identified some policies that might have unintended negative consequences for groups of people, demonstrating implicit institutional bias: Only providing outreach services to licensed daycares might miss children who stay with relatives or other caregivers: families who might really benefit from that outreach. Locating all your foreign language materials at a certain branch and instructing your patrons to go there…